Felix Salmon

Chart of the day: Greek bonds and CDS


Many thanks to the wonderful Stephen Culp for putting this pretty chart together for me. It shows pretty clearly, I think, that the narrative in today’s NYT piece — that CDS spreads gapped out, with a nasty effect on Greek bond spreads — isn’t really borne out by the facts. What this chart says to me is that both CDS and bond spreads increased pretty steadily over a period of two or three months, as perceptions of Greece’s creditworthiness deteriorated. And that Greek CDS spreads were pretty flat on either side of the introduction, in September 2009, of the iTraxx SovX Western Europe index.

CDS demonization watch, Greece edition

My CDS Demonization Watch has been on the back burner for a while: I thought that the caravan had moved on. But right now, the most-read story in the NYT business section, getting a lot of attention in the Twittersphere, is this one, headlined “Banks Bet Greece Defaults on Debt They Helped Hide”. It’s gaining a lot of traction: Ben Bernanke said today that he’s looking into the issue of whether the CDS market is enabling some kind of run on the Greek government. I sincerely hope he was just being polite to his Congressional overlords, rather than buying in to this theory.

Pricing kindle nonfiction

Yves Smith, of Naked Capitalism, has sent me a note to tell me how unhappy she is about the kindle pricing of her new book, which has a cover price of $30, an Amazon price of $19.80, and a kindle price of $16.50. Her publisher, Palgrave, is part of Macmillan, which just won a fight to force Amazon to sell e-books at more than $10, but part of the fallout from that fight is that books which cost much more than that on the kindle often get one-star reviews on the basis of their pricing alone.


Aaargh! The Obama administration is no longer insisting on the creation of a stand-alone consumer protection agency — Wapo

Has Corker killed the CFPA?

The single biggest question hanging over the future of financial reform in the US right now is what exactly is acceptable to Bob Corker in terms of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Bloggers on the left are pessimistic: Simon Johnson says that “the consumer protection agency is likely to be gutted as the price of bringing Senator Corker on board”, while Tim Fernholz says that bringing Corker along could “cost the Democrats key provisions in the bill — most notably, an independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency”.

Housing: Still very shaky

I’ve been following the CoreLogic data on the number of underwater mortgages for over three years now, and it’s undoubtedly the most reliable time series we have on that front. Which is why this is so scary:


A wonderful meditation on terroir — Doon

“Young women are the market of the future, although it’s sad if they’re especially attracted to shiny floaty gold flakes” — Wine Economist

HSX goes real-money

Lauren Hatch mentions that the Hollywood Stock Exchange, which is to begin real-money trading on April 20, “has been just-for-fun since 1998″. What she doesn’t mention is that the company was sold to Cantor Fitzgerald with the express intention of turning it into a real-money exchange all the way back in 2001; it’s taken nine years to get the requisite permissions.

Monoline datapoint of the day

Bloomberg reports:

Ambac, MBIA Inc. and Assured Guaranty, the three largest bond insurers, have set aside 0.04 percent of the total public finance debt they insure, or $520 million, to pay claims on municipal securities, according to regulatory filings by the companies.