Felix Salmon

Wednesday links reverse their Polish

August 13, 2009

This seems like a lot of work to find out which bloggers make reliably good predictions. In reality, none of them do.

Department of depressing government data series

August 12, 2009

When I visited Argentina in early 2003, the finance ministry gave me, as finance ministries worldwide are wont to do, a printed-out PowerPoint presentation of how wonderfully the economy was going. One slide did stand out, however — the one entitled “Social protest events during 2002″, showing how “crowd concentrations, mobilizations, blocking highways and downtown streets, partial and total strikes, takeover of establishments, and so on” (seriously, that’s what it said) had dropped from over 2,000 a month in the first four months of the year to a mere 847 in December.

Andrew Hall’s $100m payday looks more likely

August 12, 2009

Way to duck the issue:

Citigroup’s contract with energy trader Andrew Hall, which reportedly could pay him up to $100 million this year, will not be subject to rulings by the Obama administration’s pay czar, a source close to the bank said on Wednesday…

Portfolio.com comes back from the dead

August 12, 2009

Portfolio.com is back! And I seem to have recovered my byline on my old blog entries there — although the blogs do seem to lack any useful navigation or even RSS feeds. When the RSS arrives, I’ll be sure to subscribe to Matt Haber’s blog — he’s a great hire. The best of luck to new editor Josh Moss — launching a new(ish) business title in the teeth of a nasty recession can’t be easy. But the fact that anybody’s launching anything at all is surely cause for some celebration.

Dick Parsons datapoint of the day

August 12, 2009

Simon Johnson is quite right: it’s scandalous that Citi chairman Dick Parsons has only about $350,000 of stock in Citigroup — probably the value of a minor farm building abutting his Tuscan vineyard. That gives him every incentive to take outsize risks: his upside is huge, if they pay off, while his downside is barely noticeable for a man of his extreme wealth. It’s long past time for him to get his checkbook out and buy a serious chunk of Citi stock.

The mess at Extended Stay

August 12, 2009

Are you confused by the WSJ article about the Federal Reserve and Extended Stay? If so, then this story, filed in June by Tom Hals of Reuters, might help give some much-needed background. Even then, though, this is a very complicated and messy bankruptcy, so I just phoned Tom to get things clearer still. Here’s how I understand the situation — with the caveat that, as I say, it’s very complicated and messy, and I’m not an expert on this by any means.

The WSJ’s unhelpful aggression

August 12, 2009

The front page of today’s WSJ has a big headline: “A President as Micromanager: How Much Detail Is Enough?”. The lead anecdote?

Why the efficient markets hypothesis caught on

August 11, 2009

Why did the efficient markets hypothesis catch on as virulently as it did? There’s the long answer (HarperBusiness, 400 pages, $27.99), and then there’s the short answer, courtesy of Emanuel Derman: