Felix Salmon

Adventures in hedging, Barrick Gold edition

September 9, 2009

The best kind of hedge is the one like Agustín Carstens put on in Mexico: he locked in high oil prices, and made billions when the price of oil fell. Sometimes, of course, hedges don’t work out nearly so well. Larry Summers, for instance, thought he was locking in low interest rates, but then saw rates fall even lower, and ended up losing billions of Harvard’s dollars.

Where bank regulation is headed

September 9, 2009

I like Taunter’s idea of splitting the financial services industry into highly-regulated Boring and largely-unregulated Exciting parts, and making it very clear that the Exciting bits could never get bailed out by the federal government. I disagree however with this:

Chart of the day, College tuition edition

September 9, 2009


This chart comes from John Caddell, and it shows the cost of attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as a percentage of US median income. Scary stuff. But not as scary as David Leonhardt’s column today, which demonstrates a nasty ghettoization effect at state colleges, many of which are turning into failure factories:

Chaotic BofA

September 9, 2009

How dysfunctional was Bank of America around the time of the Merrill Lynch acquisition? Dysfunctional enough that it felt the need not only to fire its own general counsel at the very point at which the acquisition was at its messiest, but also to do so in the most abrupt and inexplicable manner. The lawyer in question, Timothy Mayopoulos, is now the general counsel of Fannie Mae: he seemed to get that job quite easily in the wake of his high-profile defenestration. It’s all very odd, and even Andrew Cuomo, armed with subpoenas, seems to be incapable of getting to the bottom of what exactly happened and why.

Greenspan’s apology: Still MIA

September 9, 2009

Alan Greenspan has admitted he was “partially wrong” in deregulating the financial sector. But he doesn’t seem to be able to take the next logical step:

Overdraft fees revisited

September 9, 2009

What’s Eric Dash, chopped liver? He had a great article on bank overdraft fees back in July, but now the NYT has gotten two more journalists — Ron Lieber and Andrew Martin — to re-report pretty much exactly the same article, at greater length.

Carstens’ task

September 8, 2009

Many congratulations to Agustín Carstens, who, according to Javier Blas, has managed to make Mexico $8 billion by putting on some smart oil hedges last summer:

Consumer deleveraging datapoint of the day

September 8, 2009

Straight from the Fed:

Consumer credit decreased at an annual rate of 10-1/2 percent in July 2009. Revolving credit decreased at an annual rate of 8 percent, and nonrevolving credit decreased at an annual rate of 11-3/4 percent.

Why we should beware cheaper mortgages

September 8, 2009

My distant cousin Dominic Lawson (I was named after his grandfather, Felix Salmon) has a column saying that cutting bankers’ bonuses would do more harm than good. He might be right, but his argument is a little bit odd: