Felix Salmon

The limits of statistics

I got some very smart responses to my post about statistics in Ontario, none more so than from Reihan Salam. Picking up on my chart of median household income in Ontario and New York, Reihan responds by saying that, essentially, that particular game is rigged: Ontario has more married-couple households, even if it doesn’t have bigger households, and that will help explain at least some of the difference.

Counterparties

An audit says that it’s nearly even money the FHA runs out of cash next year — WSJ

The limits of macroeconomic statistics, Ontario edition

I spent this morning at the release of the tenth annual report on “Prospects for Ontario’s prosperity” — you’re jealous, I know. Ontario, if you read the report, is in pretty bad shape, when compared to its peers.

Krugman vs Summers: The debate

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I’m glad I found myself in Toronto this evening, because tonight’s Munk Debate was illuminating and enjoyable. The motion was that “North America faces a Japan-style era of high unemployment and slow growth”; Paul Krugman was arguing for it, while Larry Summers was arguing against.

Counterparties

Angela Merkel hints at a fiscal union for the Eurozone — Bloomberg

Meanwhile, her party votes to allow voluntary exits from the Euro — Bloomberg

The unemployment debit-card scandal

Few people despise paper checks as much as I do. They’re expensive, insecure, anachronistic, and dangerously reliant on the less-than-stellar delivery record of the US Postal Service. Recently, banks in my neighborhood have been swapping out their ATMs with new machines which read checks — something which must be a hugely expensive investment, for them, in a technology which deserves to be killed off with extreme prejudice.

Europe’s liquidity crisis

I had a long lunch meeting on Friday with a hedge-fund manager with an astonishing ability to navigate the Bloomberg Blackberry app. And there was one chart in particular which he clearly pulled up on a regular basis: the spread on senior unsecured bank debt in Europe. As Lisa Pollack points out, it’s tempting but dangerous to look at the iTraxx Senior Financials index in this context, because it’s an easy index to follow but it also includes non-bank names like Aviva, Axa, and Munich Re. So here’s the 3-month Euribor/Eonia spread, instead, which also has the advantage of going back to 2007. It’s not the best indicator when it comes to measuring banks’ cost of funds, but it’s fantastic if what you’re looking for is a guide to how stressed the Euroland funding market is.

The future of online advertising

I gave a talk on Thursday at the AppNexus Summit in front of a few hundred digital advertising types. The first part of the talk was a macro overview, but when the Q&A session started, all that anybody wanted to talk about was my take on online media. And given how granular the discussions over the course of the rest of the day were going to be, I wanted to push back a bit against some of the unexamined assumptions which I encounter most of the time when I meet online-media people.

Counterparties

Paul Krugman explains the Euro crisis in one sentence — Business Insider

An interesting attack on ECRI’s recession call — Stone Street Advisors