Opinion

The Great Debate

from Breakingviews:

German soccer glory was predictable – with luck

By Robert Cole

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Brazil’s World Cup was first-rate entertainment thanks to its many surprising results. For its part Breakingviews, also somewhat surprisingly, predicted that Germany would win the competition as long ago as last Christmas.

Many media pundits, and some respected financial institutions such as investment bank Goldman Sachs or global accountant PricewaterhouseCoopers, also braved the World Cup prediction challenge. They deployed a dizzying variety of sporting and non-sporting criteria. The consensus was that Brazil, the host nation, would triumph.

Breakingviews kept its focus on the numbers, shunning direct reference to the teams’ sporting prowess. We looked for simple demographic and financial factors that, in logic, would produce a winner. So we rated the World Cup teams according to population, participation, fan base and squad value. Why? We assumed that good soccer teams would come from populous countries with a large base of players. And that it would help if the game had produced big stars basking in the adulation of fans. A market-derived view of player quality also seemed sensible.

The model got results right in 27 of the first 48 group-stage matches. It went wrong, embarrassingly, in promoting the chances of Italy, England, and Japan. But it correctly forecast 14 of the 16 second phase games, including the outright winner.

Roll losses swallow up commodity inflows

Total assets under management in commodity-tracking indices and exchange-traded products (ETPs) have stalled over the last nine months, as roll losses swallow up fresh money inflows.

There has been little change in total money committed to index-like investments or its distribution between long and short positions, according to the latest quarterly figures released by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) yesterday, which show positions as of 30 June 2010.

The data is based on a special call sent to all known index operators and firms offering futures and options-based exchange-traded products. It is the most comprehensive measure of total funds under management in the passive sector, but excludes physically backed ETPs such as the popular SPDR Gold Trust .

from The Great Debate UK:

Not much stress, not much test

-Laurence Copeland is professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own.-

Back in the 1950’s, when most women stayed at home while their menfolk went out to work, a favourite trick of life insurance salesmen was to walk into the prospect’s home at dinner time and ask the wife:

“Mrs Smith, have you ever thought what would happen if your husband keeled over and had a heart attack right now?”

Markets trapped between euphoria and despair

“Don’t panic!” was good advice provided by Lance-Corporal Jones to his commanding officer in the 1970s BBC comedy series “Dad’s Army”. Perhaps it should now be directed to central banks and increasingly jittery investors.

The last six months have witnessed a rollercoaster as markets and policymakers have alternated between euphoric optimism and crashing pessimism with bewildering speed.

Many seem convinced the world’s major economies are poised on either the brink of liquidity-induced inflation; a renewed descent into recession and deflation; or perhaps both at different times, with near-term disinflation is followed by an upsurge in inflation later.

China tightening could undo risk markets

saft2.jpgThe key decision for global markets in 2010 will very likely not be made in Washington but Beijing, where emerging inflation and a property bubble may push China to begin reining in expansionary policies earlier than will suit the developed world.

After returning to a breakneck pace of growth with amazing speed, there are already signs that China is weighing steps to curtail the bank lending that has been a huge source of stimulus, helping to drive property and other asset prices sharply higher.

“We emphasize the role of the reserve-requirement ratio, although the ratio was internationally seen as useless for years and it was thought central banks could abandon the tool,” Chinese central bank Governor Zhou Xiaochuan said at a Beijing conference on Tuesday.

from The Great Debate UK:

Light at the end of the tunnel for the U.S. economy?

Kully Samra

- Kully Samra is UK Branch Director, Charles Schwab. The opinions expressed are his own.-

The last year was an unbelievable roller coaster ride in the financial world.  In the U.S. we saw the S&P 500 plunge to 667, a 12-year low, in March, and then rise over 60 percent from that low as the economy moved away from the edge of the cliff and started to recover.

As a result tried-and-true lessons were brought to light for investors, including knowing your risk tolerance, understanding what "long term" really means, and the ongoing benefits of diversification and rebalancing.

Liquidity & inflation, lessons from the 1940s

John Kemp Great Debate– John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

Comparisons between the current downturn and the Great Contraction of 1929-33 have multiplied as commentators and investors have tried to forecast the recession’s likely depth and duration. But as the U.S. economy shows signs of stabilising and attention switches to future inflation the more useful comparison is actually with the 1940s.

The massive build up of highly liquid assets (cash and bank balances) during the Second World War is the closest parallel to the current escalation of bank reserves as a result of quantitative easing programmes in the United States and elsewhere around the world. The relatively modest pick up in consumer prices after the war ended may hold lessons for the outlook for inflation over the next five years.

from Africa News blog:

Time to stop aid for Africa? An argument against

Earlier this month, Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo argued that Africa needs Western countries to cut long term aid that has brought dependency, distorted economies and fuelled bureaucracy and corruption. The comments on the blog posting suggested that many readers agreed. In a response, Savio Carvalho, Uganda country director for aid agency Oxfam GB, says that aid can help the continent escape poverty - if done in the right way:

In early January, I travelled to war-ravaged northern Uganda to a dusty village in Pobura and Kal parish in Kitgum District. We were there to see the completion of a 16km dirt road constructed by the community with support from Oxfam under an EU-funded programme.

The road is bringing benefits in the form of access to markets, education and health care. Some parents say their daughters feel safer walking to school on the road instead of through the bushes. Many families have used the wages earned from construction work to pay for school fees and medical treatment. This is the impact of aid.

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