Surviving Post-Scarcity

I’ve been reading the “Beyond Scarcity” series on FTAlphaville recently, and it’s made some very interesting points. The posts argue that the current economic environment is deflationary with regard to goods. I think that is true, and one of the reasons is because of technology. Firstly technology is constantly making everything more efficient and because of global competition this is both reducing the production costs and making goods cheaper. Secondly technology is causing structural unemployment, which means less people have money to spend and there is less money flowing around the economy. Other factors causing deflation are the tight monetary conditions, the aging population, and potentially the effects of quantitative easing.

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Financial models need more complexity?

A post over at the New York Times is arguing that one of the main causes of the financial crisis was inadequate quantitative models – models that tended to understate risk because they failed to provide a realistic model of the way the world works – neither incorporating risks such as a failure of liquidity, nor the complexities of human behaviour.

I certainly agree that the current stable of models which are in widespread use are inadequate given that the competitive market has made the spreads on trades so tight that there is no longer any buffer to cover the many short-falls in the models. Back when vanilla options were an exotic trade, the trader would incorporate plenty of fat in their options trades. Intense competition, a market that has steadily grown over the past 20 years (notwithstanding small glitches), and increased familiarity with the trades has served to camouflage the risks the traders were running in their options books.

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Comparison of Downturns

A while ago, I created a Mathematica plot comparing the Great Depression, the Tech Crash and the Oil Crisis with the current financial crisis. This analysis was inspired by a chart I saw last year comparing these recessions with our current situation. Anyway, I thought it was worth bringing the chart up-to-date.

[Edit] The original chart I saw was this one.[/Edit]

Comparison of four economic downturns
Comparison of four economic downturns

Lehman Brothers

I just popped down to the Lehman building here at Canary Wharf to see what was going on. There were a few people standing outside, and news crews filming – but overall it seemed pretty quiet.

Papers on the “Credit Crunch”

Some interesting papers have come out on the “Credit Crunch”.

More Financial Blogs

Here are some more financial blogs that seem good:

Financial Turmoil

This past week has been facinating in the financial markets. After a long slide downwards, the markets tumbled at the beginning of the week, and now they are bouncing back upwards.
Initially the market dive looked like it was triggered by worries over the problems with the Monoline Insurers.
The Fed responded by cutting interest rates by 75 basis points on Wednesday. This seemed to have little effect with various indices falling even further. It did however seem to have a dramatic effect on the probability that the US will go into recession.
On Thursday we found out that Societe Generale lost $7 Bln from trader fraud (leading the market wags to dub it “Shock Gen”. This seemed to have little negative impact on the markets with the indices all shooting upwards. They are all up today, albeit not as much as yesterday. It looks like the momentum is leaving the bounce.

So could the massive falls be attributed to Soc Gen selling out of their positions and realizing their losses? Can some of the market euphoria be attributed to proposed monoline bail-out?

I guess we’ll see how next week develops!