May 28, 2011

Review of The Big Short

No economists saw the crisis coming. Well, maybe some did, such as Dr Doom Roubini or Bob Shiller, who had been talking about a housing bubble for a while. But economists didn’t put money where their mouths were. A few people actually did by betting on the collapse of Wall Street. The Big Short recounts their story brilliantly. How did they know it was gonna happen? Well, they weren’t working in huge banks, they were outsiders. One of them was an autistic with only one eye who in 2005 decided to create a fund and invest it all in credit default swaps. He was making a huge bet on the collapse of supbrime loans, like buying a share on a prediction market such as Intrade. These few gamblers were right, and arrogant bankers were ignorant, and some were even more ignorant than others.
All in all, this is a well-written, easy-to-understand, story of the crisis. Michael Lewis, famous for Liar’s Poker but also sports books such as Moneyball and the Blind Side (which became a movie starring Sandra Bullock), makes you understand what happened better than any economist. Bankers and analysts in big banks and rating agencies had no idea what was going on with all those toxic bonds. Because of a lack of market information, mortgage-backed securities were rated way too high and credit-default swaps were priced way too low, failing to reflect the high probability of default and allowing a huge house of cards to build-up. Obvious in retrospect…

May 19, 2011

The Robert Mugabe School of Intelligence

The Zimbabwean reports (via Blattman):
[Zimbabwean] Defence minister Emerson Mnangagwa has told Parliament that the Chinese would channel the money through Treasury for the completion of the Robert Mugabe School of Intelligence. He told the Senate this week that the "$98 million loan" was "for the construction of the college which is ideal for addressing the current global challenges”.

May 18, 2011

Who's to head the IMF now?

Now that Strauss-Kahn has fallen, the race to replace him as head of the IMF has started. As Rodrik explains, "The Germans insist the new managing director should be from Europe [this is the tradition]. Europe's weak periphery wants someone who will be sympathetic to their cause and hit the ground running. Emerging market and developing economies ask for a leader that departs from the usual mold and will reflect their outlook and preferences for a change." He thus suggests Kemal Dervis would be the best candidate. On the other side of the blogosphere, though still in Cambridge, MA, Mankiw thinks Stanley Fisher would do a great job. Other news suggest Trevor Manuel, ex finance minster of South Africa, is also a potential candidate. Only Dervis is European. He's from Istanbul. Will this matter, once again?

May 17, 2011

Brazil to tackle triangulation of goods

Reuters reports (via China Post):

Brazil will take new steps to protect local industries from a strong exchange rate, including an investigation of Chinese imports that come in improperly through other countries, its trade minister told Reuters on Friday. Fernando Pimentel said the probe into the so-called “triangulation” of goods would be the first of its kind in Brazil. The first case will involve blankets from China that were routed to Brazil through Paraguay and Uruguay, with further investigations expected in coming months, he said. The measures come as Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff faces enormous pressure from manufacturers, a key constituency, to slow an avalanche of imports from abroad, especially China. Brazil's currency is trading near decade-long highs, thanks to its booming economy and a flood of capital from the developed world.

ht: the bunk

May 11, 2011

Is Samsumg kicking off the rise of Factory Africa?

"Samsung aims to develop the local industry further by establishing further knock-down plants - where currently there are such plants in Sudan, South Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Senegal," the company said in a statement.
Could this be the beginning of "Factory Africa"? This is pretty much how it started in Asia where Japanese foriegn investment led to a development competition acorss countries and raised millions out of poverty (check this paper on the rise of Factory Asia).

Source: News 24. ht: afro-ip via bv.