Money in the news and how you are going to pay and pay and pay
THE skill with which the EU has been managing the wider economy is shown delightfully in these new figures from Greece:
Overall unemployment has risen to an all-time high of 27 per cent, data showed on Thursday, while joblessness in the 15-to-24 age group jumped to 64.2 per cent in February from 59.3 per cent in January.
A 27% unemployment rate is higher than the United States had at the worst level of the Great Depression. And a 64% youth unemployment rate: that’s more like some godawful shanty town in the wilds of sub-Saharan Africa than anything else.
MUHAMMAD Yunus has done some pretty good things in his life: the founding of the Grameen Bank led to a Nobel Prize for example. Yet this really does have to be a silly idea: the idea of having an international minimum wage:
I propose that foreign buyers jointly fix a minimum international wage for the industry. This might be about 50 cents an hour, twice the level typically found in Bangladesh.
THOSE Big Bad Bankies, screwed up the entire world economic system and impoverished us all. Of course, what should happen is much greater regulation of what the banksters are doing with or money.
Which might even be true in fact. However, the problem is that you can’t actually regulate the banking system just by regulating the bankers. Because there are all sorts of companies out there that have money and which can and will step in to do business when we prevent banks from doing it.
Hedge funds using debt-trading strategies honed on Wall Street are expanding at a record pace as they profit from risks big banks are no longer taking.
MONACO is, like Dubai, a country suffering from small-man syndrome. It wants to be bigger. It’s wearing the flashy gold watch, driving a sports car and attracting celebrity friends but it remains small. Monaco is further damaged by being a very small version of France, that venue for scholastic exchanges, romance, booze cruises, burning sheep and car-b-cues. Monaco’s a foreigner’s view of an al fresco French drawing room, a gilded, gaudy, snooty, ultra-conservative bastion of monied minds, opulence, esoteric watch brands and tackiness.
Maybe it can improve if it can grow? The country is taking bids for a six-hectare (14-acre) development project of land drained of the sea. You have until 23 July to design a new district for Monaco’s new district by 2024.
New Monaco will be environmentally friendly and favour pedestrians and cyclists. Residences will be blocks of flats. Can it be that New Monaco will look like an old Russian slum, the locals all emigres recapturing the mood of Stalin’s Steppes, their heads swaddled in Dr Nip ‘n’ Tuck’s scarves as they affect a look of a housewife taking a Siberian winter full in the face – at least until the stitches mend?
Monaco is seeping into the Med like a sewage outlet of greed. It’s good for the little men, of course.
Come on in, the water’s shallow…
WE all know, or at least we should all know, that the browsing and sluicing of MPs is subsidised by the rest of us. Costs us about £5 million a year to provide cheap food and booze for them in Westminster.
However, that’s just the headline number of what we actually spend. There’s also a concept (very important in economics) called opportunity cost. This is the amount that we would have if we put whatever it is to a different use rather than doing whatever it is with it right now.
I AGREE that global warming is a real problem, that it’s one we might want to do something about as well. But that doesn’t stop people from taking the arguments in favour of doing something a little too far. Like this recent bill introduced into the US Congress. Apparently we should fight global warming because more women will become prostitutes:
A group of American politicians has introduced a resolution into Congress saying that climate change (among many other bad things it does) forces women into prostitution, and that as a result the USA should use “gender sensitive frameworks” in battling the scourge of global warming.
Whereas women will disproportionately face harmful impacts from climate change …
… insecure women with limited socioeconomic resources may be vulnerable to situations such as sex work, transactional sex, and early marriage that put them at risk for HIV, STIs, unplanned pregnancy, and poor reproductive health …
SOME people are thundering bozos and will do anything to get noticed. Take for example, the gasping simpleton that works for a New York real estate agency called Rapid Realty. RR are offering their staff a pay rise if they get a tattoo of the company logo. (On your arse? – ed)
In exchange for carrying a logo of a corporation, you get a 15% wage increase. Astonishingly, 40 members of staff have already taken up the offer.
One member of staff says it isn’t about the money. Robert Trezza says:
“I think it’s a good opportunity to show commitment to a company that makes going to work fun every day.”
CERTAIN people are getting rather angry about yesterday’s bond deal by Apple:
As is par for the course, the financial media is telling a story about a major US company from the perspective of the investing classes, rather than the broader public.
The poster child is the New York Times’ Dealbook, in a story titled “To Satisfy Its Investors, Cash-Rich Apple Borrows Money.” It third paragraph reads:
Apple’s return to the debt markets raises a riddle: Why would a company with so much cash even bother to issue debt?
A full seven paragraphs later, the article gets around to the last, and arguably the most important reason:
By raising cheap debt for the shareholder payout, Apple also avoids a potentially big tax hit. About two-thirds of Apple’s cash — about $102 billion — sits overseas in lower-tax jurisdictions. If it returned some of that cash to the United States to reward its investors, it could have significant tax consequences for the company. In some ways, the bond issue is a response to that tax situation.
DID you know that Waitrose raises property prices?
The Waitrose effect: How upmarket supermarket can add 50% to the value of your home
And given that it is the Mail of course they get it wrong. The truth lies in this qualification:
Miss Chick admitted there was ‘no real answer’ to whether Waitrose ‘gentrifies’ areas or if the chain only opens in areas which are already upmarket and so more expensive.
SOMETHING from the other side of the pond to consider today. Obamacare is of course the great hope of the progressive movement in the US. How glorious that finally everyone will be able to have affordable health care insurance!
YOU’LL have seen the story all over the papers. That appalling disaster in Bangladesh where a building fell down killing hundreds.
As a result of which we’ve got the usual suspects crawling out of the woodwork insisting that the UK fashion chains are to blame for what happened. Primark, for example, should be running building inspectors over the factories and offices of all their suppliers.
All of which is really very slightly odd. The Bangladeshi Government itself is indicating that 90% of the buildings in the capital don’t in fact meet even local building codes. Someone in the UK is supposed to do better than this? Bring them up to scratch?
OR, if I’m to be entirely fair, on the new US Guardian’s coverage of economics. They’ve hired some bird called Heidi Moore from one of the public radio programmes to be their US finance and economics editor. And today she said this:
For one, it will be harder for us to know when we’re in a recession. Right now, a recession means several quarters of negative GDP. Getting to negative from where we are now isn’t hard; getting there when we’re 3% higher will be. While it may seem useful to avoid recession right now, that is actually a bad thing: it means that in periods when we do get negative GDP, we’ll be in truly terrible shape.
Oh my word……
TEEN pregnancy makes you fat. That’s according to the latest research at least. Getting pregnant under the age of 19 makes you fat in later life. This research suffers from the same problem that an awful lot of economics research suffers from: getting correlation and causality confused.
‘When taking care of teen mums, we often have so many immediate concerns – childcare, housing, school, social and financial support – that we don’t often think of long-term health effects.’
After controlling for factors such as race, education and background, the scientists found women who gave birth before 19 had a 32 per cent higher risk of obesity than women who had given birth at age 20 or later.
The survey by the University of Michigan of US women aged between 20 and 59 is believed to be the first to identify teen pregnancy as a predictor of obesity.
There’s a problem with this. For we know that fat birds are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviour. Every young man out on the pull understands this entirely of course but perhaps academics don’t.
I DO think this is a lovely little misunderstanding of how the world works from M’Lord Stern. He’s telling us that all hte oil and coal that people have found is worth nothing because we cannot afford to burn it. So, why are all these companies valuing it at more than nothing?
The world could be heading for a major economic crisis as stock markets inflate an investment bubble in fossil fuels to the tune of trillions of dollars, according to leading economists.
“The financial crisis has shown what happens when risks accumulate unnoticed,” said Lord (Nicholas) Stern, a professor at the London School of Economics. He said the risk was “very big indeed” and that almost all investors and regulators were failing to address it.
The so-called “carbon bubble” is the result of an over-valuation of oil, coal and gas reserves held by fossil fuel companies. According to a report published on Friday, at least two-thirds of these reserves will have to remain underground if the world is to meet existing internationally agreed targets to avoid the threshold for “dangerous” climate change. If the agreements hold, these reserves will be in effect unburnable and so worthless – leading to massive market losses. But the stock markets are betting on countries’ inaction on climate change.
THE Wall Street Journal tells us that the ETS, the European carbon trading system, is dead. This is because the prices are so low that no one can be bothered trading:
One of the great policy bubbles of our times has been cap and trade for carbon emissions, and on Tuesday it may have popped for good. The European Parliament refused to save the EU’s failing program, which is the true-believer equivalent of the pope renouncing celibacy.
THE new iphone. It’s coming! Aren’t you excited too? I know I am because it’ll be just fabulous allowing me to pose even more effectively as a cool and in touch sort of person. You know, rather than the fat middle aged man I actually am.
The knowledge that the new iPhone is coming is revealed to us by the Wall Street Journal:
TAIPEI—Foxconn Technology Group has resumed hiring assembly-line workers in China after a postholiday freeze, in the latest sign that customer Apple Inc. is gearing up for production of a new iPhone.
THE Grand Old Man of Portuguese politics, too. Mario Soares says:
“Portugal will never be able to pay its debts, however much it impoverishes itself. If you can’t pay, the only solution is not to pay. When Argentina was in crisis it didn’t pay. Did anything happen? No, nothing happened,” he told Antena 1.
WHO really believes that Germany is poorer than Spain or Cyprus? Well, apparently, the European Central Bank does. Which sounds insane but bear with me. They’ve just released some research showing that German households are in fact poorer than households in Spain or Cyprus. The report is here. In the FT we get the following:
Measured in terms of the median, German households occupy the last place among all eurozone countries, with net wealth of a mere €51,000, while the median Cypriot household has net wealth of €267,000. The explanation for this gap is the low property ownership rate in Germany – well under 50 per cent. This means that the median German does not own a house, while the median Cypriot or Spaniard does.
The median is the statistic to quote when you want to say that your typical German is poorer than your typical Spaniard. But that is a meaningless statement because it is based on distributions within countries. If you want to compare across countries, it is better to take the mean. The gap is not quite as dramatic but it is still very large.
If mean German net wealth is €200,000 per household and mean Spanish net wealth is €300,000.
IT does worry me when people propose these sorts of things. It’s as if they are entirely ignorant of why the darn things exist in the first place:
Companies selling products such as toys, sweets, clothes and video games should be prevented from marketing them towards primary school pupils amid fears the trend is undermining children’s natural development, it is claimed.
In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, the group of academics, authors, MPs and charity leaders warned that aggressive advertising aimed at infants as young as two was leading to a rise in “pester power” as children increasingly nag parents for the most expensive brands.
The development also makes it harder for parents to control their children and teach sons and daughters how to manage small quantities of money, they say.
Today’s letter urges the Government to copy tactics employed in countries such as Sweden and Greece where advertising aimed at young children is banned.
It is claimed that the ban could work by placing curbs on advertising linked to TV programmes, magazines and websites orientated towards under-11s and restricting tactics such as the use of cartoon characters in ad campaigns.
THE Telegraph managegs to get itself slightly confused this morning:
Bitcoin passes $200 mark for the first time
Bitcoin, the controversial electronic currency, has passed the $200-mark for the first time, setting new records despite talk of a bubble.
This is not despite talk of a bubble. It is the very fact that Bitcoin has just passed $200 which leads to the talk of a bubble.
I KNOW, I know, we’re forever told that the minimum wage doesn’t in fact destroy jobs. It’s a lovely cuddly policy that has absolutely no bad effects at all. Except, if we consider Amazon’s Mechanical Turk marketplace this simply cannot be correct.
Estimates of what workers can earn on these crowdsourced tasks range from about $1.20 to $5 an hour without any benefits. Employers treat them as independent contractors not covered by federal minimum-wage legislation.
CAN your star sign dictate your wealth? Lordy be, some nonsense in the Daily Heil:
If you’re hoping to make your fortune, it seems your fate may lie in the stars.
A new study suggests those born under the Gemini star sign have the best chance of becoming wealthy, while Scorpios are the least likely to succeed.
The intriguing find was unearthed by researchers who studied the star signs of the top 1,000 richest people in England.
No, just no.
IT will take ten years to get Northern Rock money back. Or, as it should more properly be presented, this is a statement of the bleedin’ obvious:
Taxpayers will have to wait up to a decade to get their money back from the bailout of Northern Rock, according to the man charged with managing the rump of the failed bank.
In an interview with Financial Mail, Richard Banks, chief executive of UK Asset Resolution, said: ‘We expect the majority of the Government debt to be repaid within the next ten years.’
But Banks said he could not be precise about the final date as inflation and the state of the economy could push his forecast off course.
WE’VE had the report out today about how and why Halifax Bank Of Scotland fell over. You can read it in all its glory here. And the important takeaway point to be made about it is that it was nothing at all to do with speculation, investment banking, weird derivatives, high speed trading or any of the other things that people fulminate against. It was, very simply, a bank going bust in the way that banks have always gone bust. Lending too much money to people who didn’t pay it all back.