Tuesday, September 28, 2010

South Carolina first state in US to manage its own pension

For decades, public pension funds have bankrolled the private equity industry, investing billions of dollars with large firms like Apollo Global Management and the Blackstone Group.

Now, frustrated by what it sees as expensive fees and a lack of transparency at private equity firms, one state has decided on a do-it-yourself approach, Peter Lattman of The New York Times reports.

South Carolina's pension fund is creating an independent firm to oversee the fund's private equity holdings — doing what it would have paid a private equity firm to do. The effort is similar to the direct investment funds created by two of Canada's biggest pension plans — Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board — but is believed to the first of its kind in the United States.

"It's high time that state pension funds are able to develop structures that have greater transparency and lower costs," said Robert L. Borden, the chief investment officer of the South Carolina Retirement System Investment Commission, which oversees the management of the state's $25 billion pension fund. Mr. Borden will run the new firm under a plan approved late last week.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fed prepares to flood economy with Dollars

"The committee will continue to monitor the economic outlook and financial developments and is prepared to provide additional accommodation if needed to support the economic recovery and to return inflation, over time, to levels consistent with its mandate," the Fed said in a statement.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Doomsday warnings of US apocalypse gain ground


Doomsday warnings of US apocalypse gain ground

Economists peddling dire warnings that the world's number one economy is on the brink of collapse, amid high rates of unemployment and a spiraling public deficit, are flourishing here.

The guru of this doomsday line of thinking may be economist Nouriel Roubini,thrust into the forefront after predicting the chaos wrought by the subprime mortgage crisis and the collapse of the housing bubble.

"The US has run out of bullets," Roubini told an economic forum in Italy earlier this month. "Any shock at this point can tip you back into recession."

But other economists, who have so far stayed out of the media limelight, are also proselytizing nightmarish visions of the future.

Boston University professor Laurence Kotlikoff, who warned as far back as the 1980s of the dangers of a public deficit, lent credence to such dark predictions in an International Monetary Fund publication last week.

He unveiled a doomsday scenario -- which many dismiss as pure fantasy -- of an economic clash between superpowers the United States and China, which holds more than 843 billion dollars of US Treasury bonds.

"A minor trade dispute between the United States and China could make some people think that other people are going to sell US treasury bonds," he wrote in the IMF's Finance & Development review.

"That belief, coupled with major concern about inflation, could lead to a sell-off of government bonds that causes the public to withdraw their bank depositsand buy durable goods."

Kotlikoff warned such a move would spark a run on banks and money market funds as well as insurance companies as policy holders cash in their surrender values.

"In a short period of time, the Federal Reserve would have to print trillions of dollars to cover its explicit and implicit guarantees. All that new money could produce strong inflation, perhaps hyperinflation," he said.

"There are other less apocalyptic, perhaps more plausible, but still quite unpleasant, scenarios that could result from multiple equilibria."

According to a poll by the StrategyOne Institute published Friday, some 65 percent of Americans believe there will be a new recession.

And the view that America is on a decline seems rather well ingrained in many people's minds supported by 65 percent of people questioned in a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll published last week.

"It is true: Today's economic problems are structural, not cyclical," argued New York Times editorial writer David Brooks.

He said the United Sates is losing its world dominance much in the same way the British Empire began to crumble more than a century ago.

"We are in the middle of yet another jobless recovery. Wages have been lagging for decades. Our labor market woes are deep and intractable," Brooks said.

Nobel Economics Prize winner Paul Krugman also voiced concern about the fate of the fragile economic recovery if voters return the Republicans to political power.

"It's hard to overstate how destructive the economic ideas offered earlier this week by John Boehner, the House minority leader, would be if put into practice," he wrote in a recent editorial.

"Fewer jobs and bigger deficits -- the perfect combination."

The Wall Street Journal, usually more favorable to Boehner's call for tax cuts,ran a commentary from another Nobel Prize-winning economist -- Vernon Smith-- that failed to provide much comfort for readers.

"This fact needs to be confronted: We are almost surely in for a long slog," Smith wrote.

And it seems such pessimism has even filtered into the IMF, which warned on Friday that high levels of national debt and a still shaky financial sector threaten to derail the global economic recovery.

"The foreclosure backlog in US property markets is large and growing, in part due to the recent expiration of the home buyer's tax credit. When realized, this could further depress real estate prices."

This could lead to "disproportionate losses" for small and medium-sized banks, which could in turn "precipitate a loss of market confidence in the recovery," theIMF warned.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dunning–Kruger effect

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which an unskilled person makes poor decisions and reaches erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to realize their mistakes.[1] The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average, much higher than it actually is, while the highly skilled underrate their abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority. This leads to the situation in which less competent people rate their own ability higher than more competent people. It also explains why actual competence may weaken self-confidence: because competent individuals falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. "Thus, the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others."[2]

The Dunning–Kruger effect was put forward by Justin Kruger and David Dunning. Similar notions have been expressed–albeit less scientifically–for some time. Dunning and Kruger themselves quote Charles Darwin ("Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge")[3] and Bertrand Russell ("One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision."[4][5]). The Dunning–Kruger effect is not, however, concerned narrowly with high-order cognitive skills (much less their application in the political realm during a particular era, which is what Russell was talking about.[6]) Nor is it specifically limited to the observation that ignorance of a topic is conducive to overconfident assertions about it, which is what Darwin was saying.[7] Indeed, Dunning et al. cite a study saying that 94% of college professors rank their work as "above average" (relative to their peers), to underscore that the highly intelligent and informed are hardly exempt.[4] Rather, the effect is about paradoxical defects in perception of skill, in oneself and others, regardless of the particular skill and its intellectual demands, whether it is chess, playing golf[8] or driving a car.[4]


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Monday, September 6, 2010

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More than 400 US Banks Will Fail: Roubini

Even if the US and European economies manage to avoid a double dip, it will still feel like a recession, while more than half of the 800-plus US banks on the "critical list" are likely to go bust, according to renowned economist Nouriel Roubini of Roubini Global Economics.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Kabul Bank on the verge of collapse - Afghanistan

Karzai's brother calls for U.S. to shore up Kabul Bank as withdrawals accelerate

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - As depositors thronged branches of Afghanistan's biggest bank, Mahmoud Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a major shareholder in the beleaguered Kabul Bank, called Thursday for intervention by the United States to head off a financial meltdown.

"America should do something," he said in a telephone interview, suggesting that the Treasury Department guarantee the funds of Kabul Bank's clients, who number about 1 million and have more than $1 billion on deposit with the bank.

Kabul Bank handles salary payments for soldiers, police and teachers. It has scores of branches across Afghanistan and holds the accounts of key Afghan government agencies. The collapse of the bank would probably spread panic throughout the country's fledgling financial sector and wipe out nine years of effort by the United States to establish a sound Afghan banking system, seen as essential to the establishment of a functioning economy.

Action by the United States, said Mahmoud Karzai, would prevent a run on Kabul Bank and protect other banks too. He said Kabul Bank is "stable and has money" but cannot withstand a stampede by panicked depositors.

"If the Treasury Department will guarantee that everyone will get their money, maybe that will work," said Karzai, who holds 7 percent of the bank's shares, making him the third-biggest shareholder. Karzai, who spends most of his time in Dubai - where he lives in a waterfront villa paid for by Kabul Bank - rushed to the Afghan capital Wednesday to join efforts to salvage the bank.

Treasury officials have said they have confidence in Afghanistan's Central Bank, which ousted Kabul Bank's top officials this week and has sought to stabilize the bank's finances.

But those moves may have spurred a panic: Depositors yanked at least $90 million from Kabul Bank on Wednesday, according to people familiar with the situation, and the hemorrhaging of funds accelerated Thursday.

"Yesterday was not too bad, but today is worse," said a Kabul Bank insider. "It is a very bad situation."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Currency trading jumps 20% in 3 years

A three-year report into currency dealing shows rapid growth in trading, with the majority of business happening in London.

Trade has jumped by 20% in the three years since the last survey was conducted by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), which is sometimes called the "central bankers' bank".

But London outpaced the average, with turnover up by 25% over the period.

Some $4 trillion (£2.6tn) changes hands around the world every day.