Sunday, October 31, 2010

Allocation of education

Stefan Collini discusses education reform. The bottom line, he says, is

"We can have the money for a national system of higher education distributed either in accordance with the tastes of 18-year-olds or in accordance with the tastes of a group of older people in London: there’s no other way to do it."

but does not propose an alternative. How else can education be allocated?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Private equity

Malcolm Gladwell looks at private equity and the the rescue of General Motors : The New Yorker:
"That seems about right: car companies stand or fall, ultimately, on the strength of their product, and teaching a giant company how to build a quality car again is something that can’t be done on the private-equity timetable. The problem is that no private-equity manager wants to be thought of as a mere financial engineer."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

You can't buck the market

The FT Alphaville looks at the real appreciation of the Chinese currency from the increase in inflation rather than the nominal appreciation. This is a forgotten channel and one that is exacerbated by the intervention to hold the rate stable. There may be ways of sterilising in a controlled economy but it is likely that the underlying pressure will emerge in some way.

"We’ll quickly note that the Fed’s expected QE2 measures will, if successful in bringing about inflationary pressures, further add to the pressure on China to appreciate."

Alphavile argues that these inflationary pressures will increase the pressure on the Chinese authorities.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Marginal Revolution: Classical economics reading list

Marginal Revolution: Classical economics reading list:

1) Smith
2) Hume
3) Ricardo
4) Early marginalists
5) Malthus
6) Edinburgh Review
7) Mill
8) Marx

The Economist: Junk Bonds

Drexel Burnham Lambert's legacy: Stars of the junkyard | The Economist: "Junk bonds, once despised, are now mainstream. “Milken and Drexel took high-yield bonds from a cottage industry to one of the cornerstones of the financial industry,” says Howard Marks, one of Mr Milken’s early customers and now chairman of Oaktree, a Los Angeles firm that manages around $75 billion in funds, much of it in high-yield bonds and related investments."

Monday, October 11, 2010

Before the bank

Pepy's Diary 10th October 1667. Trying to find the gold that he buried at his father's house in the country.

And he being gone, and what company there was, my father and I, with a dark lantern; it being now night, into the garden with my wife, and there went about our great work to dig up my gold. But, Lord! what a tosse I was for some time in, that they could not justly tell where it was; that I begun heartily to sweat, and be angry, that they should not agree better upon the place, and at last to fear that it was gone but by and by poking with a spit, we found it, and then begun with a spudd to lift up the ground. But, good God! to see how sillily they did it, not half a foot under ground, and in the sight of the world from a hundred places, if any body by accident were near hand, and within sight of a neighbour’s window, and their hearing also, being close by: only my father says that he saw them all gone to church before he begun the work, when he laid the money, but that do not excuse it to me. But I was out of my wits almost, and the more from that, upon my lifting up the earth with the spudd, I did discern that I had scattered the pieces of gold round about the ground among the grass and loose earth; and taking up the iron head-pieces wherein they were put, I perceive the earth was got among the gold, and wet, so that the bags were all rotten, and all the notes, that I could not tell what in the world to say to it, not knowing how to judge what was wanting, or what had been lost by Gibson in his coming down: which, all put together, did make me mad; and at last was forced to take up the head-pieces, dirt and all, and as many of the scattered pieces as I could with the dirt discern by the candlelight, and carry them up into my brother’s chamber, and there locke them up till I had eat a little supper: and then, all people going to bed, W. Hewer and I did all alone, with several pails of water and basins, at last wash the dirt off of the pieces, and parted the pieces and the dirt, and then begun to tell [them]; and by a note which I had of the value of the whole in my pocket, do find that there was short above a hundred pieces, which did make me mad; and considering that the neighbour’s house was so near that we could not suppose we could speak one to another in the garden at the place where the gold lay — especially my father being deaf — but they must know what we had been doing on, I feared that they might in the night come and gather some pieces and prevent us the next morning; so W. Hewer and I out again about midnight, for it was now grown so late, and there by candlelight did make shift to gather forty-five pieces more. And so in, and to cleanse them: and by this time it was past two in the morning; and so to bed, with my mind pretty quiet to think that I have recovered so many. And then to bed, and I lay in the trundle-bed, the girl being gone to bed to my wife, and there lay in some disquiet all night, telling of the clock till it was daylight.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


FT Alphaville discusses the internalising of equity market in large investment banks. This means that the bank nets the buy and sell orders and sends the balance to the exchange.
"As for the proportion of trading conducted this way? According to the last stats seen by FT Alphaville, something like 31 per cent of all US equity orders were being internalised as of January, 2010."

Monday, October 04, 2010

Networks and liquidity

David Warsh points us to Paul David and an essay on the "flash crash". The end to open outcry may have some effects that allow the transmission of shock or 'catastrophe beyond what would previously have been the case. It is a story of fragmented liquidity and an end to face-to-face dealing.
Still, if it’s the crash itself that is of interest, you’ll do better reading the SEC report. It is the larger dimension of the signal that interests David. He invokes the work of French mathematician RenĂ© Thom, inventor in the 1970s of a formal mathematics of sudden shifts, of qualitative breaks or discontinuities, that he called catastrophes. “To appreciate that quality it is helpful to start from the mathematical rather than the ordinary language meanings conveyed the term,” David writes.

A commonplace physical illustration of a “catastrophic event” – in this formal sense of the term — may be experienced by letting your finger trace the surface of a draped fabric until it reaches a point where the surface (the “manifold” as mathematicians would speak of the shawl or cloak’s three-dimensional surface) has folded under itself; there gravity will cause your finger’s point of contact to drop precipitously from the surface along which it was traveling smoothly – to land upon the lower level of the drapery beyond the fold. That little passage is the “catastrophe.” In the present context, what is especially relevant about this conceptualization of the “event” experienced by your finger is its generic nature: catastrophes thus conceived are not phenomena belonging to a category delimited by some size dimension of the system in which they occur, or according to the severity of their sequelae; nor are they to be uniquely associated with processes that that operate only in one or another range of temporal velocities (whether slow, or fast). Instead, the catastrophes to which this essay’s title refers are fractal, possessing the property of self-similarity.

Similar to what? He compares the conditions that led to the May 6 price break to the phenomenon known as “flaming.” One party breaks off a previously civil exchange with hostile abusive comment. Instead of turning it aside, others sometimes reciprocate. Anonymity is the key part of the process; isolation seems to remove inhibitions that would brake the process if the exchanges took place face to face. Silence ensues, or, worse yet, digital versions of what long ago were called “slam books” – compendia of the faults of others, sufficient to fragment the conversation once and for all. (This is the problem with Glen Beck and much of the rest of Fox News.)

Humans evolved to recognize from infancy the effect of their actions on others – facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, he notes. On the Internet, however, no one knows when they may come across as a flame-throwing tank. It is why humor is so risky on the Web.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Exchange traded fx products discusses the lack of growth in ETP in the FX space. However, there is an interesting product from Deutsche Bank that tries to combine three basic strategies. One case study could try to set the rules for such a product.

"For investors who do not want to take simple long/short positions, an alternative tactical approach to foreign exchange markets is offered by Deutsche Bank and its db x-trackers currency returns ETF. This combines three strategies widely used by traders in currency markets: carry, momentum and valuation. Like a quantitative hedge fund, it uses a rules-based process to take long and short positions in G10 currencies with regular rebalancing of the components."

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Market or command

A comparison of social network and command as a means of organisation.

In a new book called “The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Social Change,” the business consultant Andy Smith and the Stanford Business School professor Jennifer Aaker tell the story of Sameer Bhatia, a young Silicon Valley entrepreneur who came down with acute myelogenous leukemia. It’s a perfect illustration of social media’s strengths. Bhatia needed a bone-marrow transplant, but he could not find a match among his relatives and friends. The odds were best with a donor of his ethnicity, and there were few South Asians in the national bone-marrow database. So Bhatia’s business partner sent out an e-mail explaining Bhatia’s plight to more than four hundred of their acquaintances, who forwarded the e-mail to their personal contacts; Facebook pages and YouTube videos were devoted to the Help Sameer campaign. Eventually, nearly twenty-five thousand new people were registered in the bone-marrow database, and Bhatia found a match.

The broad theme is that command is necessary for real, serious, important and difficult tasks; social networks are broader, more creative and more trivial.