Felix Salmon

The curious case of Goldman’s disappearing December

As far as its financial statements are concerned, Goldman Sachs’s 2008 ended in November. Its 2009 began in January. In between was possibly the worst month in its history.

Should Bernanke be explaining US policy?

The WSJ leads today with a story on what it calls “Bernanke’s PR Push“, saying that the Fed chairman “is waging a public-relations offensive” and conducting a “campaign for openness”. This is good in the short term, but I’m not sure it’s good in the long term.

Goldman’s hubris

Any interest in buying shares in a highly-opaque financial institution which has been receiving billions of dollars from the US government but doesn’t want to do that any more; which is happily diluting itself in the midst of a hugely volatile and nervous market; and which generally acts in the imperious we-know-best, don’t-ask-questions tradition of all the best Ponzi artists? No? Well, you’re in good company: after the bank sold $5 billion of stock at $123 a share yesterday, the shares promptly plunged to close at $115 apiece, making everybody who participated in the offering feel like something of a schmuck.

Tuesday links get bailed out

Wells Fargo Q1 Profits Packed with Accounting Gain: Cowen comments.

New bond trading rules target disclosure on pricing: In Canada. Doing it elsewhere wouldn’t be such a bad idea either, retail investors often get ripped off in the bond markets.

Do Moody’s downgrades matter?

Can anybody tell the difference between a level and a direction any more? Not at the FT, it would seem, which ran a story yesterday under the headline “Credit quality of global groups at 25-year low”. Here’s how it begins:

Asking questions of Larry Summers

Larry Summers just gave an interview to CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo in which neither side was particularly impressive. Bartiromo managed to go the entire interview without asking Summers about about the fact that he seems to be bought and paid for by Wall Street. And Summers proved himself incapable of even answering Bartiromo’s softballs:

Chart of the day, pirate edition

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(This is doing the rounds, not sure where it started, but possibly here.)

Economic prognosticator of the day

This is my new favorite Amazon page: it lists the top books by Harry S Dent. It’s best read countdown-style, from the bottom up. The top three are great: in third place is “Bubble After Bubble in The Ongoing Bubble Boom: Oil Bursts, the Housing Bubble Fades and Now Stocks Emerge Into a Greater Bubble that Finally Ends in 2010“. That one was published in 2005. Then in second place comes Dent’s 2006 book, “The Next Great Bubble Boom: How to Profit from the Greatest Boom in History: 2006-2010“. Finally is his most recent book, published in January this year: “The Great Depression Ahead: How to Prosper in the Crash Following the Greatest Boom in History“.

Can you stop banks acting like lemmings?

The great Larry Lessig emails me to point to a Newsweek article he wrote back in October, which I missed at the time. It’s entitled “Why The Banks All Fell Down”, and Lessig asks whether there’s a connection between his theory there, on the one hand (properly Lessig ascribes it to Avinash Persaud), and my story about the Gaussian copula function, on the other.