The China Bubble

I have maintained for some time that new world orders don’t occur overnight, and that even trends that may appear to be secular don’t necessarily work out if you extrapolate them into the future. Let me explain, in the 70’s everybody said Brazil was going to rule the world by the late 1980’s, they came up with all of the reasons for this, demographic, growth, the education and markets in place etc. then it just didn’t happen.

By the end of the 80’s when Brazil was meant to be the new world power they had been usurped, this time by Japan, now it was the turn of the Japanese to be ruling the world within the next 20 years, then far from taking over Japan imploded and they have struggled ever since.

Today we are told that it will instead be China who rule the world by 2020, and frankly, I don’t believe that this can happen without massive painful adjustment that would set them back years, and it also doesn’t accommodate for the fact that the USA views the …

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Taxing Banks & Taxing Risk

In the first clip, James Galbraith (son of the famous JK), economics professor at University of Texas, discusses whether a new tax on big banks is justified. Ken Bentsen, of the Securities Industry & Financial Markets Association, and Mark Calabria, of the Cato Institute, share their insight as well.

In the second clip Mark Walsh, of ‘Left Jab,’ and Dan Mitchell, of the Cato Institute, discuss taxing banks based on their risk to the system.

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Making money from death, is it moral?

Financial innovation has meant you can make money from many things which may or may not be considered morally correct, there are ‘short sellers’ who make money when the price of a stock drops, some people consider that a bad thing, others feel that it is proof of an efficient market working correctly. Then you have the likes of ‘vice funds’ which invest only in things considered immoral such as weapons manufacturers, liquor distilleries, beer brewers and gambling. Then there are those that literally make money from death and today we will consider that group of investors, the SLS traders [naturally there are other non-market groups such as those dealing in blood diamonds but they are not tradable and fall outside of the remit of our description].

There is a thing called a ‘secondary life settlement’ (SLS), and it is a financial trade where an investor buys a persons life insurance policy from them and continues to pay the premiums on it, then when the seller dies the buyer gets the …

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Banks are not competitive?

Roger Bootle notes that markets do quite well at the end of a recession and at the start of a recovery by drawing the benefits of the future down into the present. Roger has a lot to say on the topic of banks, in particular that of banker bonuses – he states (and we agree) that when banks become ‘too big to fail’ they essentially are oligopolies and hence they are able to pay so well. From an Irish perspective the domination of AIB and BOI put some stock in this theory.

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A phonecall with Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute

Sometimes when I’m having a rough day I decide to reach out to some of the people that I see on TV or read about in the press and talk to them, it’s part of a greater ideal in which I believe people should have as many mentors as possible, spending time around the people whom they hope to emulate, if you can’t meet them in person then call them on the phone. It works (in my opinion!).

Anyway, today I was reading something Dan Mitchell from the Cato Institute wrote and decided that it would be best to give him a call, his receptionist obviously mistook me for somebody important (pigeon American/Irish accent works wonders!) and put me through and all I can say is that in person Dan Mitchell is a joy to talk to, while somehow managing to make a lot of sense in an easy to digest manner. That particular talent is a rarity.

I wanted to talk about taxation, the …

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‘Are we there yet?’…. when will the bottom of the housing market be reached?

The most popular question I am asked as of late is whether or not we are at the bottom of the housing market, and the answer is ‘no…. but perhaps closer than we think’. Today we will consider a few of the things we will need to see in order for ‘recovery’ to occur.

First of all we need to see a reduction in the massive overhang of housing stock, even if the number reduces, they all need to be sold and a degree of scarcity will need to develop in order to make prices go up again, currently supply is swamping demand and that dynamic will leave uncertainty in its wake.

However (and here is part of the ‘perhaps closer’ bit), NAMA will likely take a lot of housing off the market, in particular it will take it off the market and drip feed it back in, if this happens then it will avoid devastating fire sales, it might also lead to stagnation …

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The end of Wall Street

This is an insightful look into the financial crisis, looking at it from the view of how mass borrowing for residential real estate lead to a bubble, the political input into the causes as well as the packaging of these loans and how it ultimately lead to the closure of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers.

This is a great video set, surprisingly the Wall Street Journal are the makers of it, you don’t see that kind of departure from vested interests very often.

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Why removing the state guarantee is a bad idea

I was really disappointed to hear that Jack O’Connor of SIPTU and Sean Sherlock of the Labour party had brought the idea of ‘removing the state guarantee’ into the public arena regarding PTsb in retaliation to their 0.5% hike in the variable rate they are charging their customers. The outcome from a removal of a state guarantee could be catastrophic and in this post we hope to demonstrate this.

Before that though, it is vital to remember that there is no ‘price promise’ with a variable rate, the margin is not tied to the ECB – a mistake many borrowers made when expecting rate cuts as the ECB lowered the base. The margin on a standard variable rate is determined by the lender so this is case of the bank doing what it is entitled to do, they didn’t break tracker agreements or any loans that didn’t implicitly allow it, so on one hand the bank is acting within its rights.

The other thing to remember is the contradiction …

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Hedgefunds, risk, and finding the silver lining of any dark cloud.

Here is a simple question: ‘how do you protect or even augment your portfolio returns when markets are crashing or where there is systemic risk?’ if you have an answer then you can be a little smug because the majority of fund managers, the best and brightest the world of finance has to offer, for the most part didn’t have an answer during the last two years and if they did they didn’t (by and large) act upon it.

The classic definition of a hedgefund is not the ponzi-schemes run by the likes of Bernie Madoff, rather it was a fund that strategically goes long and short to produce positive gains regardless of whether the market goes up or down, that was what Winslow Jones was doing when he started the first hedge fund in 1949, while managed fund managers are happy to post a 20% loss when the averaage is -30% (for instance), hedgefund managers are meant to be able to …

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