Opinion

James Saft

Investor confidence not too helpful

Feb 25, 2010 13:32 UTC

Once again someone in charge — Mary Schapiro of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission this time –  is going on about how they are making changes in order to “preserve investor confidence.”

As if this were in some way a good thing.

I would feel a whole lot better if instead the SEC were talking about making investors more sceptical.

The SEC on Wednesday moved by a 3-2 vote to place additional limits on short selling of stocks, the practice of betting on a decline in a given stock by borrowing shares, selling them and contracting to buy them back later at what the seller hopes will be a lower price.

The new curb would serve as a so-called circuit breaker for shares that have fallen 10 percent or more in a trading session.

“It is a rule that is designed to preserve investor confidence and promote market efficiency,” said Schapiro, the SEC’s chairman.

Investor confidence not too helpful

Feb 25, 2010 13:32 UTC

Once again someone in charge — Mary Schapiro of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission this time –  is going on about how they are making changes in order to “preserve investor confidence.”

As if this were in some way a good thing.

I would feel a whole lot better if instead the SEC were talking about making investors more sceptical.

The SEC on Wednesday moved by a 3-2 vote to place additional limits on short selling of stocks, the practice of betting on a decline in a given stock by borrowing shares, selling them and contracting to buy them back later at what the seller hopes will be a lower price.

Tightening underway, Fed a passenger

Feb 23, 2010 14:48 UTC

A tightening in financial conditions is under way but its principal architect won’t be the Federal Reserve.

Far from it, the Fed will be pinned down by powerful disinflationary, perhaps even deflationary, forces, making it very unlikely to be willing to raise interest rates any time soon.

Instead the tightening is coming from Asia, where China is fighting a local battle against rampant lending, and from investors all over the world, as one by one they realize that lending to governments isn’t always so risk-free.

Tightening underway, Fed a passenger

Feb 23, 2010 14:48 UTC

A tightening in financial conditions is under way but its principal architect won’t be the Federal Reserve.

Far from it, the Fed will be pinned down by powerful disinflationary, perhaps even deflationary, forces, making it very unlikely to be willing to raise interest rates any time soon.

Instead the tightening is coming from Asia, where China is fighting a local battle against rampant lending, and from investors all over the world, as one by one they realize that lending to governments isn’t always so risk-free.

At least U.S. has Japan to fall back on

Feb 18, 2010 12:33 UTC

(James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

The bad news for holders of U.S. debt, in case you missed it, is that China has sold so many Treasuries that it is no longer America’s leading lender.

The worse news is that there is a new creditor-in-chief, and it is Japan, an aging country with its own government debt bubble to contend with.

China sold about $34 billion of Treasuries in December, taking its holdings to $755 billion, while Japan increased its purchases and now is in the top spot of the Treasury Department’s scroll of merit, with $768 billion. China’s holdings peaked in April, since when the trend has been gently downward.

Greece an ideal Goldman client; profitable, culpable

Feb 16, 2010 15:11 UTC

Goldman Sachs has a lot to be thankful for – huge bonuses, massive taxpayer subsidies, unrivalled political influence – but in Greece they have finally found nirvana: a highly profitable business partner who can also credibly serve as the villain in the piece.

Goldman is widely reported to have arranged a swap transaction for Greece early in the last decade structured in such a way as to provide the country with $1 billion upfront in exchange for higher payments much later.

That later bit is key – it helped to mask over-borrowing by Greece from the euro zone’s budget watchdogs in Brussels, not to mention from Greek taxpayers and the buyers of Greek debt, all of whom have a right to fully understand the risks of a country incurring liabilities which perhaps it may struggle to repay.

Watch banks for clues on Greece

Feb 9, 2010 18:21 UTC

– James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. –

As odd as it sounds, concerns about the effects of a euro zone sovereign crisis on Europe’s still poorly capitalized banks may prove to be the tipping point that leads to a swifter bailout of Greece.

While discussion of contagion may seem very 2008, the problems with Greece, which faces a huge fiscal deficit, are becoming tougher for euro zone authorities to leave uninsured.

Watch banks for clues on Greece

Feb 9, 2010 18:21 UTC

– James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. –

As odd as it sounds, concerns about the effects of a euro zone sovereign crisis on Europe’s still poorly capitalized banks may prove to be the tipping point that leads to a swifter bailout of Greece.

While discussion of contagion may seem very 2008, the problems with Greece, which faces a huge fiscal deficit, are becoming tougher for euro zone authorities to leave uninsured.

Did Asperger’s help cause the crisis?

Feb 4, 2010 19:05 UTC

Did the financial system blow up because it was built and largely operated by people with many of the characteristics of a mild form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome?

As explanations for the crisis go, it’s on the extreme side but forms an interesting counterpoint to the “blame the looting bankers” story line.

People with Asperger’s, a mild form of autism, are characterized by, among other things, a deficit of “theory of mind,” essentially the ability to understand that other people have different beliefs or knowledge than themselves. Nicholas Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan, has written that a lack of theory of mind left many in positions of responsibility without the ability to conceive of and guard against black swans, which are rare, high-impact and hard to predict events.

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