Archive

Reuters blog archive

from The Great Debate UK:

Mental accounting – the jar fallacy

--Ian Bright is Senior Economist at ING. The opinions expressed are his own.--

When Dustin Hoffman was first starting out as an actor, struggling to make ends meet, he managed his money in a simple – but potentially financially dangerous – way.

On a tight budget with little income, Hoffman kept the money he had in separate jars for food, rent and other expenses. The story is retold in Richard Thaler and Cass Sustein’s famous behavioural economics book Nudge.

When Hoffman asked friend Gene Hackman for a loan for food, Hackman asked “why?” given there were jars filled with money. Hoffman apparently pointed to the empty money jar labelled "food". He had no money for food despite having money there in front of him, albeit assigned to other types of spending.

This is an example of the phenomenon known as “mental accounting”, a thinking trap coined by Thaler in the 1980s. It’s a trap that, decades later, many of us still fall into, and it can cost us dearly.

from Breakingviews:

Greek bond fever may do economy few favours

Photo

By Swaha Pattanaik

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Greece’s first bond in four years has met roaring demand. The 3 billion euro deal suggests past bondholder losses and present economic woes are forgiven and forgotten. But the country still has big problems. Excessive investor enthusiasm could reduce the pressure to reform.

from MacroScope:

Greeks bearing bonds

Greece will sell its first bond in four years.

We know it will aim to raise up to 2.5 billion euros of five-year paper via syndication and wants to pay less than 5.3 percent – remarkable since only two years ago it was tipped to crash out of the euro zone and yields on 10-year debt peaked above 40 percent on the secondary market. They dropped below six percent for the first time since 2010 on Wednesday.

Athens has no pressing funding needs but wants to test the waters as part of its strategy to cover all its financing from the market by 2016. It still has a mountain to climb and may well need more debt relief from its EU partners to corral a national debt that is not falling much from 175 percent of GDP. 

from Edward Hadas:

When credit is too much of a good thing

What does credit do after it has finished the job it was designed for? The supply of credit ought to stop at funding productive activity. But the reality is different. Surplus credit fuels dangerous asset price inflation and funds profligate governments. As leverage increases, so too does the risk of crisis and recession.

Credit, otherwise known as debt or loans, is not necessarily monstrous. It can be a most helpful economic beast of burden, carrying resources to the places where they can be best used. Loans from households to businesses fund helpful investments, and loans from rich older households to poor younger ones help spread property, especially houses and cars, more equitably. Even loans to governments can be a useful alternative to taxes.

from Global Investing:

Buying back into emerging markets

After almost a year of selling emerging markets, investors seem to be returning in force. The latest to turn positive on the asset class is asset and wealth manager Pictet Group (AUM: 265 billion pounds) which said on Tuesday its asset management division (clarifies division of Pictet) was starting to build positions on emerging equities and local currency debt. It has an overweight position on the latter for the first time since it went underweight last July.

Local emerging debt has been out of favour with investors because of how volatile currencies have been since last May, For an investor who is funding an emerging market investments from dollars or euros, a fast-falling rand can wipe out any gains he makes on a South African bond. But the rand and its peers such as the Turkish lira, Indian rupee, Indonesian rupiah and Brazilan real -- at the forefront of last year's selloff --  have stabilised from the lows hit in recent months.  According to Pictet Asset Management:

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Osborne: Stealth convert to ‘Keynesian Thatcherism’

Britain’s government budget released this week is not a statement of economic policy. It is a program for winning next year’s general election.

In this sense, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s speech was a natural development from the 2013 Budget, which launched Britain’s current economic recovery. I was one of the few analysts to perceive the remarkable transformation of the British economy that immediately resulted from last year’s budget because what Osborne did was deliberately obscured by what he said.

from Hugo Dixon:

Europe should give Cyprus a hand

Sunday marked the anniversary of Cyprus’ shock plan to raid the tiny island’s bank deposits. The envisaged tax, backed by the euro zone, covered all banks and all deposits, whether insured or not.

Although that unwise scheme was later rescinded, much damage was done to a country already deep in financial crisis. Uninsured deposits of the island’s two large troubled lenders still suffered big haircuts. Capital controls were imposed as well.

from MacroScope:

Sanctions loom for Russia

The European Union, as we exclusively reported yesterday, has agreed on a framework for sanctions against Russia, including travel restrictions and asset freezes, which goes further than many expected. The list of targeted individuals is still being worked on but will be ready for the bloc’s foreign ministers to look at on Monday.

Angela Merkel will speak to the German Bundestag about the standoff with Russia. Merkel has been cautious about imposing anything too tough as she tries to convince Vladimir Putin to agree to a "contact group" that would reopen communications between Moscow and Kiev. But yesterday she said measures would be imposed next week – after a Crimean referendum on joining Russia which the West says is illegal - unless diplomatic progress is made.

from Breakingviews:

Detroit turns bankruptcy precedents upside down

Photo

By Kevin Allison
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Bondholders in Detroit’s $18 billion bankruptcy must feel like they’re in a mirror universe. A restructuring plan filed by the city’s emergency manager would effectively turn bankruptcy precedents upside down by paying equity holders – in this case, ordinary Detroiters – at the expense of secured creditors. Such a shareholder-friendly approach might save the city and anoint Judge Steven Rhodes a hometown hero. But it may yet come at a market price.

from Breakingviews:

Credit chains are China’s weakest link

Photo

By John Foley

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

China’s debts are troubling – and not just because they’re alarmingly big. An equally worrying threat to the country’s prosperity is the complexity of those debts. That’s the trouble with China’s lengthening “credit chains”.

  •