The Economist

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"Exceptional" - USA Is Number 1 In... Gambling Losses





Last week we highlighted just how "rigged" the casino really is (real casinos - as opposed to the equity markets) and while that was shocking, the USA can be proud of another exceptionalism... As The Economist notes, at $119 billion in 2013, the United States was the biggest gambling loser in the world. However, on a per capita basis, Australia and Singapore top the list.

 
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Selling War: The World's Biggest Exporters Of Weapons





One glance at the following chart prepared by the Economist, showcasing the world's largest importers of weapons, and more importantly, exporters, and one could almost imagine why both the US and Russia have an interest in a "contained" (or not so much) regional war...

 
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Three Market Factors Which Citi Says Are Worse Now Than In 2007





"You’re picking up pennies on a train track. You are not getting paid much but you are sure that there will be a very negative surprise at some point. The risk / reward profile is as bad as ’07." - Portfolio manager speaking to Citigroup

 
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Which Are The Best Business Schools For The Buck (Spoiler Alert: Not Harvard Or Wharton)





As the San Fran Fed recently explained, when it looked at the upside of a college education, it found that the average college graduate earns over "$800,000 more than the average high school graduate by retirement age." What was ignored is the offsetting cost to this upside in terms of hundreds of thousands of college loans bearing compounding interest that are just as sticky and in increasingly more cases also remain with the graduate until retirement. But what about business schools? For those professionals who have already picked a career in finance or business, and who are willing to spending even more ridiculous amounts of money for a piece of paper and a rolodex, which business schools offer the best bank for the buck?

 
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Name The Continent: It Accounts For 7% Of The World's Population, 25% Of GDP And 50% Of Welfare Spending





Angela Merkel has a favourite mantra to offer troubled euro-zone countries: they should copy Germany. As The Economist notes, she put it last autumn: "What we have done, everyone else can do." Fifteen years ago, so she says, her country was widely regarded as the sick man of Europe; then it opted for fiscal austerity, cut labour costs and embraced structural reforms, turning it into an economic powerhouse. However, there is another mantra Mrs Merkel likes to repeat to her colleagues: Europe accounts for 7% of the world’s population, 25% of GDP and 50% of social-welfare spending. The Economist, and George Soros believe, Germany’s current course will exacerbate that problem as Europe's biggest economy is backsliding on structural reforms (as she preaches pre-growth reforms but implements anti-growth ones).

 
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The Quest To Freeze "Putin's Billions"





For years, the suspicion that Mr. Putin has a secret fortune has intrigued scholars, industry analysts, opposition figures, journalists and intelligence agencies but defied their efforts to uncover it. Numbers are thrown around suggesting that Putin may control $40 billion or even $70 billion, in theory making him not only the richest head of state in world history but possibly the richest man alive in the world today, period. Now, the quest to track down, and isolate, Putin's billions launches in earnest.

 
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5 Things To Ponder: Smorgasbord





This week's compilation of things to ponder is a veritable smorgasbord of topics that caught our attention this past week. From "The Limits of Growth" to "Peak Profits" and "The Next Bailout", plenty to ponder this weekend.

 
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Guest Post: Piketty's Gold?





With all that has been written in respect to Thomas Piketty's new book "Capital", you would think someone would remark on the odd coincidence of timing of the rapid rise in inequality that the Professor is so upset about. It’s the issue of the hour. Yet when it comes to the timing at which this phenomenon presented itself, nada. Omerta from the liberal intelligentsia. What could have marked 1971 as the year the picture began to change in respect of inequality in America? It turns out that was the year America defaulted on its obligation under Bretton Woods to redeem in gold dollars held by foreign governments and the era of fiat money began.

 
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Howard Marks: "Dare To Look Wrong, It's Not Supposed To Be Easy"





Echoing Charlie Munger, Oaktree's Howard Marks warns today's institutional and retail investors that "everything that’s important in investing is counterintuitive, and everything that’s obvious is wrong." These words seem critically important at a time when the world and his pet rabbit is a self-proclaimed stock-picking export. Be "uncomfortably idiosyncratic," Marks advises, noting thaty most great investments begin in discomfort as "non-conformists don’t enjoy the warmth that comes with being at the center of the herd." Dare to be different is his message, "dare to be wrong," or as Charlie Munger told him, "it’s not supposed to be easy. Anyone who finds it easy is stupid." While Marks philosophically adds that "being too far ahead of your time is indistinguishable from being wrong," he warns the lulled masses that "you can’t take the same actions as everyone else and expect to outperform."

 
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Fed Admits Policies Benefit Rich, Fears For "Nation's Democratic Heritage"





Having warned just 6 weeks ago that high-yield credit and small high-tech firms may be in a bubble, Fed Governor Tarullo, ironically speaking at the Hyman Minsky Financial Instability Conference, suggested that the recuction in share of national income for "workers" (i.e. income inequality) is troubling. Furthermore, he added, "changes reflect serious challenges not only to the functioning of the American economy over the coming decades, but also to some of the ideals that undergird the nation's democratic heritage." His speech, below, adds that since there has been only slow growth so far, expectations for a growth spurt are misplaced and that the Fed-policy-driven recovery has "benefited high-earners disproportionately."

 
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When Even "Erudite" Economists And Journalists Blast QE





Are you saying it took the highbrow economist cadre five years to figure out and agree with what we first said in 2009, and for which we received endless ridicule, abuse and accusations of fringe insanity? Yes. We are saying that.

 
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Russian Spending In Britain Slumps 17% In Feb





February 2013 saw Russian visitors spend 16% more than in 2012 as "investor" visas flowed, property soared, and hot money slooshed into the UK recovery. However, as AFP reports, Russian spending in British shops fell by 17 percent last month compared to February 2013 as the "unstable situation in Russia has shown its effect on tourism spend this year," already. Shoppers from the Middle East (up 31%) and China (up 23%) continue to represent the highest proportion of international sales in Britain, but it is clear, as The Economist points out, Russian wealth has permeated the upper reaches of society in Britain more completely than in any other Western country, with the health of "Londongrad" now at stake if sanctions are extended.

 
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Law Schools Now Paying Their Graduates' Salaries To Improve Rankings





We knew that the legal market was in bad shape last summer when we came across the story that top law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges announced its first mass layoffs in 82 years, but I had no idea it was this bad. As most will be aware, U.S. News & World Report publishes a widely anticipated ranking of undergraduate as well as graduate schools. It appears law schools are so consumed with performing well in these rankings that they are going to outrageous lengths to make it look like their students are performing better financially after graduation than they actually are. One of the most ridiculous ways they achieve this is by paying the salaries of their graduates upon graduation.

 
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Singapore Tops Tokyo





Thank your lucky stars that you don’t live in some places around the world. If you think you are having a rough time getting by, finding enough money to make ends meet and you constantly talk over the increase in prices, then think again. You probably don’t live in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

 
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