Floyd Norris blogged the Goldman Sachs conference call this morning. For those that don't know, Goldman is in the news this week for making a reported $1.8 billion profit in the first quarter of 2009.
Is the Financial Sector Too Big?
Many think so. Former IMF chief economist Simon Johnson wrote in the Atlantic recently that "from 1973 to 1985, the financial sector never earned more than 16 percent of domestic corporate profits...this decade, it reached 41 percent." He calls it a "quiet coup." Felix Salmon at Reuters complains that "financial services companies are meant to be intermediaries, middlemen.
Breakfast Buffet, Monday, April 13
Scrub Up: The Treasury Department is preparing General Motors for a fast, "surgical," bankruptcy.Earnings Season: Some big names announce earnings this week, including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup.
Rebranding Recession Lingo
As the financial crisis evolves, so does the vocabulary being used to describe—or obscure—it. Looking to neuter some of the most loaded terms, policy wonks and businessmen are feeling the urge to rebrand.
Advice for AIG Executives
It's Friday afternoon and there's little chance you're interested in another probing, insightful blog post, so how about a little satire from McSweeney's instead?
Breakfast Buffet, Thursday, April 9
Green Shoots Turn to Weeds: Or at least that's how the Financial Times interprets the minutes from the last Federal Reserve meeting, which were bleaker than expected.
Dismal Datapoint of the Day: The H-1B Visa Lottery
The H-1B visa is one of those policies that everyone loves to hate. It gives skilled immigrants -- scientists, engineers, researchers, etc. -- the right to live and work in the U.S. for six years, so nativists hate it right off the bat.
Imelda Marcos Agrees: She's "Guilty" of Greed
Two weeks ago our crack digital team released a package on the history of greed, which included a photographic parade of some of the greediest figures of all time.
Is China the New America?
This piece in Foreign Policy says yes. Those that agree like to point out that after World War II, Great Britain, glorious empire though it may have been, was extravagantly in debt; the U.S. was a net creditor to the world, and Britain's most important source of financing.
Breakfast Buffet, Tuesday, April 7
Happy Days Are Here Again?: Obama's still got it: Two-thirds of Americans approve of his job performance, according to a new New York Times poll. And though 70 percent of respondents said they were worried about layoffs affecting their families, the percentage of people who thought the country was on the right track jumped from 15 percent pre-inauguration to 39 percent today.
The Saddest Places in the United States
MainStreet.com (a personal-finance-oriented offshoot of TheStreet.com) just released its Happiness Index, a Prozac-addled tweak on the famous Misery Index.
Why Smoot-Hawley is Like a Melting Glacier
The Smoot-Hawley Tariff has become a bogeyman in economics circles, a piece of misguided, Depression-era legislation that raised tariffs to exorbitant rates and choked the world trade system near to death.
How To Count Hoovervilles?
This is a sentence you don't ever want to read:"The quality of the US census may be undermined because of rising numbers of people living in garages, tents, basements and motels as the financial crisis deepens." That's from the Financial Times, which says that "there is little data on the rise in 'non-traditional' housing, which is something the Census Bureau will generate for the first time as it seeks people out this year." The Bureau will hire 2,000 additional census-takers to deal with...
Breakfast Buffet, Friday, April 3
G20 Recap: The biggest win was an additional $1.1 trillion in funding for international aid agencies, and Jeffrey Sachs said simply that the results were "deeply heartening." Dani Rodrik called it a "a victory for the Europeans." Felix Salmon at Reuters said the resultant statement was "more substantive and harder-hitting" than most.
The Solution to Future Housing Bubbles: Religion
I just came across a fantastically interesting paper from Christopher Crowe, an economist at the IMF. (Hat tip to Zubin Jelveh at Economix.) Citing Robert Shiller's work on "irrational exuberance," Crowe sets out to test the hypothesis that "the housing cycle should be more muted in areas with high concentrations of households whose beliefs or 'values' make them less prone to participating in a speculative mania." And who better to test the idea on than evangelical Protestants, whose fervent...
Breakfast Buffet, Wednesday, April 1
The economy is back on track and economists expect global growth of four percent this year. Happy April Fool's Day!Apocalypse Now: On the eve of the G20 Summit in London, protesters take to the streets. "Four marches, led by representations of horsemen of the apocalypse, converged on the Bank in the Financial Fools' Day protest," reports the Financial Times.
Greenspan: Free Markets to the Rescue!
Often when I turn on CNBC or open the Wall Street Journal I'm greeted with a headline or statement about "how the market reacted to" this or that, with the "this or that" often being a speech by Obama, Geithner, et al.
Readers Head to the Alps
This blog has only been live for two days and already we're getting excellent comments from our readers. We want Wealth of Nations to be a conversation, and when you say something smart, we plan to highlight it.I was pleasantly surprised by the reaction to my post on the end of Swiss banking secrecy.
The Short, Wondrous Life of the International Reserve Currency
We posted a couple times last week on the kerfuffle surrounding remarks by China's central bank governor, Zhou Xiaochuan, that advocated "creat[ing] an international reserve currency that is disconnected from individual nations." To many, this sounded like an attempt to displace the dollar from the top of the currency heap, and a sign of China's growing ambitions.Brad Setser, a macroeconomist at the Council on Foreign Relations, who I quoted in my earlier post, took the weekend to read Zhou's...
Breakfast Buffet, Monday, March 30
Newsweek's daily serving of news and views around the world. Nice Knowing You: The Obama Administration has forced the ouster of Rick Wagoner, chairman and CEO of General Motors.
Shedding Light on the Alps
Pity Hollywood. The credit crunch has killed -- or at least maimed -- one of the favored tropes of spy movies and action thrillers: the secretive Swiss bank.
You probably thought the Jim Cramer vs. Jon Stewart feud was over. And it is, for the most part. But I just stumbled on this video from PBS. It's a clip from an episode of the investigative journalism series Frontline from way back in 1997, and the first couple minutes show Jim Cramer in action as a hedge fund manager.
It's All About the Benjamins
As an American, I of course love the fact that the dollar is the world's reserve currency. I just took a trip to Costa Rica, and was able to pay for almost everything in greenbacks.
Okay, I get it -- you're busy, you've got kids, a job, a mortgage to (hopefully) pay. You haven't had time to navigate the alphabet soup of the financial crisis -- CDO, LBO, CDS, SIV.
AIG: A Backlash Against the Backlash?
The list of most dangerous professions includes jobs like Bering Strait crab fishermen and Pacific Northwest logger. A new contender: AIG executive. After the collapsing insurance giant, which has accepted $170 billion in taxpayer bailout money, announced it was paying out $165 million in bonuses to top employees -- including many in the Financial Products division, the Mordor-like seat of financial evil -- populist rage crescendoed.
Businesses Probe Cell-Phone Location Data
How tracking cell-phone users via GPS could do for the real world what Google did for the virtual world.
Too Much Lending? China Doesn't Have Enough
Too much lending is bad, right? Maybe in the West—but China has the opposite problem.
A Killed Manuscript Might Be Another Bank Casualty
To most publishers, it would've been a touch of golden luck: a manuscript about the worst economic crisis in decades, written by a financial insider and finished months before rivals had even a rough draft ready.
Economy: Slumdogs vs. Wall Street Millionaires
What do Wall Street execs have in common with the world's poorest people? Plenty.
Even In Crisis, U.S. Banks Best Europe's
Everyone is aware—sometimes gleefully so—that the global recession was made in America. Wall Street served as the beating heart that pumped toxic debts into global circulation and almost wrecked the entire financial system.