Weekend infoporn

By Felix Salmon
July 3, 2009
click here and then click on "Chapter III: Motion Charts". And then when I tried to post it, it disappeared entirely. So here's the short version: all four of the wonderful Gapminder-style charts (household balance sheets, financial failures, global imbalances, and economic power shifts) are great, but my favorite is the financial failures one, which shows banks' capital, assets, and market capitalization over time.

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Well that’s annoying. I just wrote a very long blog entry about Brad Setser’s wonderful multimedia extravaganza over at CFR.org — click here and then click on “Chapter III: Motion Charts”. And then when I tried to post it, it disappeared entirely. So here’s the short version: all four of the wonderful Gapminder-style charts (household balance sheets, financial failures, global imbalances, and economic power shifts) are great, but my favorite is the financial failures one, which shows banks’ capital, assets, and market capitalization over time.

Check out where that financial-failures chart ends: with five European banks all having assets of more than $2.5 trillion, and none of them looking particularly well capitalized. No US bank is that dangerous, partly because no US bank is that big — and US banks are dangerous enough. All five of those European banks are too big to rescue, and none of them is particularly well regulated. How do we fix this problem? I have no idea. But I do know that it’s a huge problem, and that no one is even beginning to address it.

Update: Thanks to Alea for reminding me that European IFRS accounting standards result in significantly larger numbers for total assets than US GAAP standards. But still, the fact is those European banks are big.

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