Felix Salmon

The incredible shrinking company

August 22, 2013

Christopher Mims has a good piece on Meg Whitman’s Hewlett-Packard today, pointing out that the company’s success (at least as measured by its stock price) over the past year or so is in large part due to her cost-cutting abilities.

Chart of the day, bond-fund edition

August 21, 2013

Josh Brown reports today that according to a recent survey by Edward Jones, 63% of Americans don’t know how rising interest rates will impact investment portfolios, adding that “they’re learning the hard way right now, it would appear”.

The White House’s anti-Yellen sexism, cont.

August 20, 2013

Neil Irwin is not going to have made many friends in the White House with today’s piece on the problems the Obama administration has with Janet Yellen. It makes the White House economic team seem insular, sexist, and deeply mistaken about what the right and proper role of the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board should be. Worse, there’s every reason to believe that Irwin’s piece is entirely accurate.

The twilight of the nepotists

August 20, 2013

The first thing you need to know about nepotism is that it is endemic among the rich, in every country in the world. If you’re the scion of a wealthy family, the chances are that you will end up working for the same company your father works for, at some key point in your career. Most of the time, it will be the father driving the deal; the child will accept the job with a greater or lesser degree of reluctance.

The bond market’s fear of Summers

August 19, 2013


Well done to Matt Phillips for finding this fantastic photo, by Reuters’s very own Kevin Lamarque, of Larry Summers, wearing his trademark mirthless smile, eyeing the chairman of the Federal Reserve as though he were an appetizer at the Four Seasons. The photo is four years old, but it’s germane right now, because, as Phillips says, markets seem to be freaking out that the man on the left is going to replace the man on the right.

Content economics, part 3: costs

August 19, 2013

When I wrote last week about Jeff Bezos and his journalists, I said that “the Boston Globe was sold for essentially a negative sum, once pension obligations are taken into account, while the Washington Post was sold for the price of a nice Cézanne.” It turns out that I was comparing apples with oranges: the Washington Post, just as much as the Boston Globe, was sold for less than the value of its pension obligations. Bezos might have paid $250 million for the paper, but he was also given $333 million to help him meet its pension obligations.

In praise of across-the-board bonuses

August 18, 2013

Quentin Fottrell has a great headline today: “25% of firms give bonuses for incompetence”. Which is shocking — but not in the way that Fottrell intends. Because it’s not really incompetence which is being rewarded here. Instead, it’s simply employees getting a bonus when their employer does well enough to be able to afford to give out such a thing.

Obama’s dangerously heroic view of the Fed

August 13, 2013

The trial balloon, it seems, has floated: Albert Hunt, today, puts Larry Summers’s chances of getting nominated as Fed Chair at 65%, saying that he has the support of just about everybody in the Obama administration not named Valerie Jarrett.

Jeff Bezos and his journalists

August 6, 2013

I’m a huge admirer of Jeff Bezos, and the way in which he has managed to dodge the biggest pitfall facing the managers of public companies: rather than maximize short-term profits, he instead has concentrated — with enormous success — on building long-term value. Amazon is now worth about $140 billion, or more than 500 Washington Posts — more, indeed, than the combined valuation of every single newspaper in the world, put together.