Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Finding a Post-Crash Economic Model - WSJ.com

Finding a Post-Crash Economic Model - WSJ.com:
"In the wake of a financial crisis and punishing recession that the models failed to capture, a growing number of economists are beginning to question the intellectual foundations on which the models are built. Researchers, some of whom spent years on the academic margins, are offering up a barrage of ideas that they hope could form the building blocks of a new paradigm."
Rationality with limits will win. My prediction.

See there can SOMETIMES be benefits of procrastination

There are benefits of procrastination.

A slew of biases thrown together.

BusinessWorld Online Edition: Delaying tactics:
"While deferring gratification may be a good character trait, postponing duties until the last minute is not viewed in the same light....Being late allows the latecomer to learn from the mistakes of the eager beaver whose ideas get shot down first. In a panel discussion, the last panelist has the most brilliant insights, synthesizing or demolishing previous ideas. The first mover in business loses money as his copycats learn the business and avoid mistakes."
Yes! I am redeemed. Well at least partially. Not sure who well these carry over to academia where I have a pile of papers waiting to be corrected.

Death Cometh for the Greenback

This is from Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize Winner and professor at Columbia, and Washington Economist who is not afraid to say his mind. He is a more negative on free markets than me, but regardless of your politics, he makes many important points. Well worth a read.

Death Cometh for the Greenback:
"For the past eight years, the dollar has increasingly become less revered. Its value has been volatile. As the rest of the world saw the United States struggling with a failing war and soaring budget deficits, many who had large dollar holdings began to reduce those reserves (or increase them less than they otherwise would have). All this put downward pressure on the dollar. And thus began the first signs of a vicious circle. The strength of the dollar is becoming riskier and riskier. The growing U.S. deficit and the ballooning of the Federal Reserve's balance sheets leave many worried that in their wake will come inflation, undermining the long-term attractiveness of the U.S. currency.

In this article, I try to explain why the dollar is in trouble, but ask-should we care? What are the consequences? I will suggest that, for the most part, and for most Americans, it is probably a good thing. But the adjustment to a lower value of the dollar will not necessarily come easily. One of the consequences-already under way-is the fraying of the dollar-reserve system. I argue that a move to a global reserve system would be good for the United States, and good for the world."

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Guilty Secret to Giving the Best Gifts - WSJ.com

The Guilty Secret to Giving the Best Gifts - WSJ.com:
"'A good gift is something that someone really wants but feels guilty buying for themselves.' This perspective is interesting because it suggests that the ideal gift is not something that the recipient can't afford or didn't know she wanted. It all comes down to alleviating guilt.
Behavioral Economics at its best: explaining what we know, but somehow have forgotten.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Closer Look at Insider Trading Cases: Prosecutions, Defenses, and What Can Send You to Jail - WSJ.com

Video - A Closer Look at Insider Trading Cases: Prosecutions, Defenses, and What Can Send You to Jail - WSJ.com:
"In the wake of recent FBI raids at several hedge funds, Alan Murray sat down with Joel Cohen, a former federal prosecutor and insider trading expert, to examine the complicated, and often gray world of insider trading law and prosecutions."

Good interview on Insider trading.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Meir Statman: Amateur investors expect impossible - SFGate

Tomorrow (yes on Thanksgiving) I am speaking with Meir Statman on some Behavioral finance issues. Recently he was in the San Francisco Chronicle. His basic investment advice:

Meir Statman: Amateur investors expect impossible - SFGate:
"Q: You pound the drum for index funds. Is that because you think the markets are efficient and therefore unbeatable over the long-term?

A: The market is not efficient. It's crazy, but the fact that it's crazy doesn't make you a psychiatrist. It's crazy like a wild animal. You wouldn't want to go against a wild lion because it's crazy. It's crazy in ways you cannot understand and cannot forecast.

People in behavioral finance and standard finance come to the same conclusion - don't try to beat the market. Whether it is rational, as people in standard finance say, or crazy, as I say, don't try it.

Practically speaking, individual investors should treat the market as unbeatable and realize that when they try to beat it because it is inefficient, they are likely to injure themselves, rather than gain at the expense of another.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

FRB: FOMC Minutes, November 2-3, 2010

By now you probably have seen the news story on the Fed lowering their growth forecasts for the coming year. For instance here is how it was reported by the Washington Post:
"Federal Reserve officials expect the unemployment rate to remain around nine percent at the end of next year and eight percent at the end of 2012, according to internal forecasts that drove the central bank to take new efforts to boost the economy three weeks ago.
The 18 top leaders of the central bank expect the U.S. economy to grow at a 3 to 3.6 percent pace next year, which by their calculations will be enough to bring joblessness, currently at 9.6 percent, down to the 8.9 to 9.1 percent range in late 2011."
While the news gets it right, you really only get the headlines.  Therefore I would encourage all of you (especially any students who are in Money and Banking or Financial Institutions), to take a few extra minutes and actually read the minutes from the meeting.

FRB: FOMC Minutes, November 2-3, 2010:
"...information reviewed at the November 2-3 meeting indicated that the economic recovery proceeded at a modest rate in recent months, with only a gradual improvement in labor market conditions, and was accompanied by a continued low rate of inflation. Consumer spending, business investment in equipment and software, and exports posted further gains in the third quarter, and nonfarm inventory investment stepped up. But construction activity in both the residential and nonresidential sectors remained depressed, and a significant portion of the rise in domestic demand was again met by imports. U.S. industrial production slowed noticeably in August and September, hiring at private businesses remained modest, and the unemployment rate stayed elevated. Headline consumer price inflation was subdued in recent months, despite a rise in energy prices, as core consumer price inflation trended lower..."
And later a discussion of why unemployment is recovering slowly:
"Participants agreed that progress in reducing unemployment was disappointing; indeed, several noted that the recent rate of output growth, if continued, would more likely be associated with an increase than a decrease in the unemployment rate. Participants again discussed the extent to which employment was being held down, and the unemployment rate boosted, by structural factors such as mismatches between the skills of the workers who had lost their jobs and the skills needed in the sectors of the economy with vacancies, the inability of the unemployed to relocate because their homes were worth less than the principal they owed on their mortgages, and the effects of extended unemployment benefits on the duration of unemployed workers' search for a new job. Participants agreed that such factors were contributing to continued high unemployment but differed in their assessments of the magnitude of such effects."

There is much much more detail and breadth in the minutes. Well worth the read. 

SSRN-Internal Sources of Finance and the Great Recession by Michelle Barnes, N. Pancost

SSRN-Internal Sources of Finance and the Great Recession by Michelle Barnes, N. Pancost:
"The rising stockpile of cash as a share of total assets at US firms has intrigued economists...We...show that the rise in cash holdings has coincided with an increased willingness to save internally-generated cash. We show that although investment is normally sensitive to externally-generated cash, the increased sensitivity of investment to cash during the Great Recession is driven by cash from internal sources. Smaller firms were also more affected by the recent downturn than larger firms."

Nothing surprising but it does fit the models that having cash on hand for a "rainy day" is a good thing. Also that the cash largely came from internal sources.
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A look at the Eqyptian Stock Market

As It Shifts, Egypt's Economy Retains Some Oddities : The Two-Way : NPR:

"Nearly 30 years in office, Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak has become a strong proponent of a market economy. Only vestiges remain of the state socialism that for decades defined Egypt.

Enterprises like banks that were once state-owned are now firmly in private hands. Foreign investment, construction and tourism are growing and Egypt's stock exchange, said to be the oldest in the Middle East, is thriving."

From the Egyptian Exchange's history page:
"The Egyptian Exchange is one of the oldest stock markets established in the Middle East. The Egyptian Exchange traces its origins to 1883 when the Alexandria Stock Exchange was established, followed by the Cairo Stock Exchange in 1903."

The article tells of past futures and forward markets as well as how some believe that the 1907 Panic that swept the world actually got its start in Egypt.

Here is a Yahoo Chart comparing returns on S&P vs Egyptian Exchange's Index. 

(BTW Picture #8 on the NPR page is of the exchange)
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Video - Is Insider Trading Everywhere? - WSJ.com

Video - Is Insider Trading Everywhere? - WSJ.com: "WSJ's Dennis Berman discusses with colleague Evan Newmark a lawsuit filed by a retailer in Florida alleging that a research house stole trade secrets and published sensitive inside information about the company."

From the WSJ online:

"Big Lots alleges the firm pried information out of store managers, in effect stealing trade secrets and aiding and abetting employees' breach of fiduciary duty. It has asked the court for an injunction to immediately stop what it calls "wrongfully induced" snooping."

This is clearly one-sided, BUT it definitely does deserve more attention.  To me, if you ask a question and the other party tells you, that is not theft.  Of course there may be more to the story, but this one could put research back quite a ways. 

(Note to Big Lots: I do not think you do not want me on your jury.)
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Monday, November 22, 2010

Do Bonuses Enhance Sales Productivity? A Dynamic Structural Analysis of Bonus-Based Compensation Plans — HBS Working Knowledge

Do Bonuses Enhance Sales Productivity? A Dynamic Structural Analysis of Bonus-Based Compensation Plans — HBS Working Knowledge:
"Key concepts include:

* Bonuses do increase productivity.
* Quarterly bonuses increase sales force productivity more than annual bonuses.
* Sales people tend to give up when far away from reaching a quota, but they don't slow down once a quota is reached-especially if a firm offers commissions for overachievement"

Thanks to SimoleonSense! Good article!

Can Wall Street Justify Its Existence? - NYTimes.com

Can Wall Street Justify Its Existence? - NYTimes.com:

Yes Wall Street does much good, but does it take more money than it earns? That is the question that is asked in this week's New Yorker Magazine and is rehashed in today's DealBook.

"...the question stands: a strange industry exists that mints multimillionaires on the basis of stock movements and bond issues. Can it justify its existence, or will it simply purchase the political favors to continue as before? What does it do for the rest of humanity? And does it cause more harm than good?

John Cassidy, a staff writer for The New Yorker, leads a tour of the uses and abuses of finance, and looks at how Wall Street went from the fund-raiser of corporations to a self-referential trading juggernaut."

One final look-in:

"Thomas Philippon, an economist at N.Y.U.’s Stern School of Business.

“In most industries, when people are paid too much, their firms go bankrupt, and they are no longer paid too much,” Mr. Philippon tells Mr. Cassidy. But recent history shows that people in the finance industry get paid too much, their firms get bailed out, and then they go back to getting paid a lot.

Mr. Philippon says traders, who get evaluated on a quarterly basis, can earn big from short-term bets that ultimately go south. “In most industries, a good idea is rewarded because the company generates profits and real cash flows,” he says. “In finance, it is often just a trading gain. The closer you get to financial markets, the easier it is to book funny profits.”"

Does pay have to be looked at? Yes. Do agency costs play a much larger role than we like to admit? Yes. Is there an easy solution? No.

On idea is to get some semblance of risk symmetry back. Be it via partnerships, or clawbacks, or ???. Short-term orientation is too tempting when win big is good while losing big brings no (or limited) consequences.

For more on this, I recommend going back and watching the middle of the roundtable on executive pay. It focuses directly on Wall Street.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A panel discussion on Executive Compensation

Good stuff.  Has public board members, lawyer, politicans, and a professor.  Very interesting, especially the discussion of how compensation committees set executive compensation  (i.e. what do boards do), and changes that have come up in the last few years.

Excellent even if it drags a bit at the very start.  (it is 86 minutes so you can skip around some ;) )

Here is the link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtH5lMpF6_Q

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Video of the Trillion Dollar Bet in 5 parts

YouTube - The Black-Scholes Formula - 1/5:

The Trillion Dollar bet, which is based on the Long Term Capital Management story (when Genius Failed) , is a staple in my classes. Here is the first of 5 parts of the old PBS video.

HIGHLY recommended! The show is really two separate stories--on one on the history of the Black Scholes formula, and one on the Collapse of Long Term Capital Management.  (FWIW We  usually use the latter mainly in class but the whole thing is good!)

The moral of the story is that absolute adherence to quantitative models is what frequently gets you in trouble. Models are representations of reality and reality can often vary widely from the model.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3Part 4, Part 5
Thanks to Zvi for the link (and reminding that I had promised to post this!)
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U.S. Pursues Sweeping Insider-Trading Probe - WSJ.com

U.S. Pursues Sweeping Insider-Trading Probe - WSJ.com:

"Federal authorities, capping a three-year investigation, are preparing insider-trading charges that could ensnare consultants, investment bankers, hedge-fund and mutual-fund traders and analysts across the nation, according to people familiar with the matter.

and later:
"The investigations, if they bear fruit, have the potential to expose a culture of pervasive insider trading in U.S. financial markets, including new ways non-public information is passed to traders through experts tied to specific industries or companies, federal authorities say."

We just spoke on insider trading (both legal and illegal) yesterday in class. 
- Sent using Google Toolbar"
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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Video time: Simpsons on flashing, Bubbles, and Monkeys!

The weekend is a good time to catch up on some videos, so here are some. (And
I want my students to watch these, so I better make use a flashy article name!)

Three somewhat fun, but also pretty interesting videos:

The May Flash Crash was back in the news, so we will start off with this. You remember the flash crash. It was when stock markets fell with amazing speed back in May.
Flash Crash. Markets don't move that fast! (One of the theories was that someone with fat fingers just hit the wrong order. Now it may be just a metaphor, but the Simpson's make it interesting.  

For what it is worth, the Wikipedia article on the so-called flash crash is pretty good.

Christ Martensen does a good job with a 15 minute video on Bubbles.

and finally a Ted Talk by Laurie Santos that looks at predictable irrationality and Monkeys. (sorry if you don't like monkeys ;) )

Friday, November 19, 2010

Two videos on market efficiency

These are a bit dated (from last year), but perfectly timed for class...so I will include them.

YouTube - Lessons From the Father of Modern Portfolio Theory:

And Justin Fox:

Update: 6:45 AM Nov 20:

Two other videos that also deserve mention:
* a video asking whether Modern Portfolio Theory is dead from the president of Ibbotson?

* a shorter "trailer" for the Justin Fox book.

A Half-Dozen Essential "Business" Books : The D & O Diary

A former student sent me this. I confess I have not read that many of them, hence this post is a reminder to myself as well as a suggestion to others.

A Half-Dozen Essential "Business" Books : The D & O Diary:
"I figure that no one really needs me to suggest the usual fare from the business section at the book store, like, for example, The Smartest Guys in the Room or Liar’s Poker. If those books interest you, by all means, read them.

The problem with the vast run of business books is that they rarely aim for anything higher. To find anything of more lasting value, you must look elsewhere. So my suggested 'business' books won’t be found in the business section, and in fact may not necessarily meet anybody’s idea of what constitutes a business book. But these books have more to say about the business of life and the life of business than the more conventional fare."

Treasury Takes Initial Public Loss on GM Shares - WSJ.com

Treasury Takes Initial Public Loss on GM Shares - WSJ.com: "The Treasury paid about $40 billion for the 912 million common shares it held at the start of the day Wednesday. To get that all back at once, the Treasury would have had to sell all its shares at about $43.85 in the IPO.

After the IPO, the Treasury Department retains about a 37% stake in GM. The remaining 554 million common shares the government owns have an indicated value of about $18.3 billion at Wednesday's IPO price."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How Companies Use Derivatives for Hedging & Risk Management | CoolAvenues.com

How Companies Use Derivatives for Hedging & Risk Management | CoolAvenues.com:
"Hedging, in simple words, means reducing or controlling risk. This is done by taking a position in the futures market that is opposite to the one in the physical market with the objective of reducing or limiting risks associated with price changes."
Nice introductory article. Good for class!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Women in the Netherlands work less, have lesser titles and a big gender pay gap, and they love it. - By Jessica Olien - Slate Magazine

Women in the Netherlands work less, have lesser titles and a big gender pay gap, and they love it. - By Jessica Olien - Slate Magazine:

More evidence that people maximize utility and not income!
"Dutch women's refusal to seek longer hours has long bewildered economists. In the spring, the United Nations, suspicious that there was something keeping women from full-time jobs, launched an inquiry to see whether the Netherlands was in compliance with the women's rights treaty. A comprehensive 2009 study by Alison L. Booth & Jan C. Van Ours looked at the amount of time women in the Netherlands spend at work compared with women in other European countries. The authors assumed that part-time work was less desirable but ultimately confirmed that Dutch women don't want to spend more time at work."

The Sketchpad: Personal Finance on a Napkin - Interactive Feature - NYTimes.com

The Sketchpad: Personal Finance on a Napkin - Interactive Feature - NYTimes.com:

Some brilliant, some only ok, but DEFINITELY worth looking at!

"In a continuing series of back-of-the-napkin drawings and posts on the Bucks blog Carl Richards, a financial planner, has been explaining the basics of money through simple graphs and diagrams."

Keep it simple!

BBC News - Can brain scans tell us who makes a good chief executive?

BBC News - Can brain scans tell us who makes a good chief executive?:
BBC video that shows how some neuroeconomics tests are done:

"Professor Douglas Saddy of Reading's Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics looks on as the businessman presses a keypad to make various financial decisions by pressing buttons: "In this case," he explains, "what he is being asked to do is make a judgement about whether given a certain set of information a short-term reward would be better than a long-term reward."
While he presses the keypad his brain activity is being measured. The results of this and a number of other scans will be aggregated to try to draw out some lessons."

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George Bailey, the dark side (The Deal Magazine)

George Bailey, the dark side (The Deal Magazine):

While we all know we should not stereotype when it comes to people, many do it all the time with organizations ("Big business is bad business" etc). However, the Deal Magazine reminds us that small banks can have their own problems.

"To be sure, breaking up the banks would certainly solve our mammoth too-big-to-fail problem. But it could also touch off a liquidity crisis and wreak economic havoc. And a breakup is hardly trivial. But no matter. That small banks are better, more virtuous and capable of providing us with all the services we'll ever need is now taken on faith. Small banks have become the proverbial little guy -- a George Bailey-esque figure worthy of reverence and protection.

Is that reverence warranted?...Time magazine decided to investigate.

Time looks at a small bank in Georgia and finds that they too had problems.

GREAT for a Money and Banking, Commercial Bank management, or even a Financial Institutions class.

HT to ResearchPuzzler.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Chicago Mercantile Exchange starts offering rainfall futures and options | Business | The Observer

Almost any article that is on derivatives that uses the word "hitherto" is likely to be mentioned here! Especially one that fits so well with class discussions of why and how firms hedge.

Chicago Mercantile Exchange starts offering rainfall futures and options | Business | The Observer:
"...a hitherto unnoticed corner of the exchange is quietly growing in value by offering futures and options based on the weather. The newly minted rainfall contracts join existing products based on snowfall, hurricanes, frost and unusual lurches in temperature. They allow investors to go long on thunderstorms, short on drizzle or insure against a deluge.

Hedging on the weather is a young business – the first weather derivative was traded in 1997 by a US power company, Aquila Energy. But trading futures and options on climatic conditions has grown to be worth more than $15bn annually according to the Weather Risk Management Association, which tracks activity. The CME says typical customers include utilities, concert promoters, sports impresarios, theme parks and any other businesses with profits highly vulnerable to the elements."
Class: a great essay might be discuss limitations and costs of hedging with these. Specifically consider a small grocery store, whose sales are tightly tied to weather (in a concave type function--the hypothetical store does well in really good or really bad weather). The answer would have to include cost of the hedge, whether the contract was for a site near the location, whether the contract size would "fit" with the size of the store profit fluctuations.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Drive: Daniel Pink on Motivation

Does pay for performance dull creativity?  Slow progress?  Thought provoking.

BTW I HIGHLY recommend reading his book Drive
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The Burden of Choice | Psychology Today

In my first PHD economics course I remember the teacher (who I could BARELY understand) say that more choices were often bad for the consumer. It was a new idea to me and I at first disagreed, but was persuaded.
This idea is why stores like Trader Joes or Stew Leonard's offer fewer choices (and get higher sales) as a result.
The Burden of Choice | Psychology Today:
"In an experiment examining the effects of choice on happiness, Iyengar and Lepper randomized individuals to either a group in which they could choose from 30 types of chocolate or a group in which they could choose from six types of chocolate. While subjects initially reported liking having the choice of 30 chocolates, they ended up being more dissatisfied and regretful of the choices they made than those who only had the choice of six. Barry Schwartz, the author of The Paradox of Choice, elaborates on this phenomenon, emphasizing that regret avoidance and anticipated regret are some of the most detrimental effects of overchoice. He states, 'the more options there are, the more likely one will make a non-optimal choice, and this prospect undermines whatever pleasure one may get from one's actual choice.'"
Financial Implications:
* Offering more fund choices for 401K plans or insurance options may be detrimental.
* Keep it Simple Stupid
* Heuristics can make sense since they serve as filters to remove some choices.
* We can get overwhelmed by choices and procrastinate and end up doing nothing. 
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Investor Psychology: Your Brain is Hardwired to 'Follow the Herd' | Steadfast Finances

Another great Steadfast Finances post (with some cool videos too!)

Investor Psychology: Your Brain is Hardwired to 'Follow the Herd' | Steadfast Finances:
"This is because herding behavior is a result of not being in the know in any given situation. If you don’t know what’s going on, you begin to rely upon those around you who do. After all, there has to be someone out there who does, so why not follow along with him or her? If they screw up, then you can say it was their dumb idea and you’re not the only sucker who got fooled. Once again, you’re anxiety free since you’re back within the safety of the group a second time.

So it’s fairly commonplace to witness the old adage “there is safety in numbers” rule most daily of our lives."
Which is almost exactly what we have been saying in class. The more uncertainty and the more we are paid for relative performance, the more we are apt to follow the crowd.

Visualizing How the Things You Own, End Up Owning You. | Steadfast Finances

A fascinating look from Steadfast Finances at where money goes by work days in calendar form:

Visualizing How the Things You Own, End Up Owning You. | Steadfast Finances:
"I thought it would be beneficial if I documented exactly how I use a simple monthly calendar and a few personal finance metrics to visually represent how many hours, days, even weeks, I had to work in order to maintain “ownership” of my stuff when I first entered the workforce."

Interestingly (and this may explain why I have such a boring life), I have done this basic idea for as long as i can remember: translate purchases into opportunity costs. For instance, is working an extra hour really worth that new shirt, etc. Now it gets a bit messy on a salary and without overtime, but the basic idea holds.

Deep Rationality II: Conspicuous Consumption as Mating Display | Psychology Today

Deep Rationality II: Conspicuous Consumption as Mating Display | Psychology Today:
"By flashing its brilliant tail, a peacock increases his chances of becoming some predator’s dinner; it’s like he’s turning on a neon sign that says “eat here.” If nature selects those animals that are better at surviving, then how can such a display (what biologists now call a “costly signal”) evolve? The answer is that natural selection is not ultimately about survival, it is about reproduction. Every choice in nature involves a trade-off, and any peacock who wasn’t willing to risk a shorter life would not attract females, hence his careful genes would not get passed on"
Something seemingly irrational (Conspicuous consumption) explained.  What makes it even better is that this conspicous consumption in men is then tied to apparent willingness for a short-term fling. 
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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Ian Ayres: Super Crunchers

I regularly get asked about good books to read, here is one for you that is a few years old, but excellent!

Ian Ayres' Super Crunchers

Southern Finance Association's Annual Meeting

Had a talk yesterday about Southerns whcih is next week. It looks good! Here is the program. If you can make it I am sure you will enjoy it and learn a great deal.

Inside Job Trailer

It looks remarkably (as in over the top-Michael Mooreish) biased, but as a fellow FinanceProfessor said in an email "a must see".

Friday, November 05, 2010

Prospect Theory and the Taxpayer Receipt | Mother Jones

Cool use of prospect theory to looking US politics: both sides are afraid of losing what they now "have".

Prospect Theory and the Taxpayer Receipt | Mother Jones:
"Budget allocations are a relatively zero-sum game in the short term, and both sides would have to believe that the odds of getting the other guy's goodies is overwhelmingly in their favor before they'd agree to anything that puts their existing goodies at risk. So it's not just a matter of both sides mistakenly thinking the taxpayer receipt is more likely to benefit the other side and therefore shying away. Even if both sides are modestly optimistic about their chances of outgunning the other side, the prospect of a loss is still too daunting. So they won't do it."

BTW there is a nice (easy) description of prospect theory in the article.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Enjoy Today and Save More Tomorrow - Yahoo! News

Enjoy Today and Save More Tomorrow - Yahoo! News:

"In the program, which is designed to be offered by employers, people agree ahead of time to contribute to a retirement plan, and to have their contributions automatically increased regularly, corresponding with when they receive payraises. The first implementation of Thaler and Benartzi's system involved a midsized manufacturing company; over 28 months, the average saving rates of those in the program increased more than threefold, from 3.5% to 11.6%. Interestingly, the minority of employees who opted not to enroll in the plan had originally saved, on average, more than those who signed up -- 5.3% of their income, as opposed to 3.5%. But after the 28 months, the longtime savers only increased that rate to 7.5%, far less than the participants' 11.6%."
This is the article on the Save More Tomorrow program we talked about in class.

Interview with Richard Thaler

Skip in a few minutes. It gets pretty good.

Switching the default rule for an AIDS test

In Behavioral Finance class we frequently mention the importance of defaults. For instance many of you probably have seen Dan Ariely discuss organ donations. If not, watch it, it is good.

Well here is more evidence from the Nudge blog · Switching the default rule for an AIDS test:
"The change to opt-out helped Botswana increase acceptance of AIDS tests from 64 percent to 83 percent in just one year. Test rates in clinics in Zimbabwe went from 65 percent to 99 percent with a similar change."

Again it is one of those things that should not matter, but ends up having huge consequences.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Study Unmasks the Biology of Bluffing

Study Unmasks the Biology of Bluffing:
"Bhatt put it this way: 'We believe the areas indicate that the strategists -- bluffers -- are essentially thinking ahead. Specifically, they're keeping track of how their suggestions are changing their reputation in the seller's mind and are in turn improving or harming their chances at good payouts in the future.'

Paul J. Zak, director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif., was skeptical about the study's worth since it doesn't reveal much that's new about bluffing. It's 'fun and amusing, very well-designed and executed, but of little value I think,' he said."

It does suggest telling the truth is easier, other than that I agree with Zak.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Catching up on some things...

Seems like I am always behind in everything in my life. (indeed I remember after being cut from the Basketball team my freshman year that my mom said that about me--"It always takes you longer than others."  Uh, thanks Mom.)  But anyways, here are a few things that have been accumulating in my inbox:

* Long time FinanceProfessor.com reader  Phil Maybin has started Algorithmic Finance a new academic journal that looks fascinating.  In his words; " Our aim is to bridge computer science and finance, with topics like high frequency finance, agent-based finance, issues of complexity, and some behavioral finance, to the extent it is research on the algorithms of individual investors."

* Phil also pointed me to a very interesting piece on the twitter paper I mentioned the other day.  I think I took the twitter piece more as in interesting article that may not have all that much financial bite, but still interesting to the degree it suggests mood matters.   Richard Warr gives a better (and much more rigorous) analysis of it on his Finance Clippings Blog.

* The use of credit cards by college students is a regularly discussed topic on many blogs.  My take is that every student should have a credit card, but not that every student should use it.  They should be paid off on a monthly basis.  For a more thorough analysis of this see this interesting piece over at CollegeCrunch.

* At the FMA conference a couple of weeks ago had a nice talk with the Unknown Professor from Financial Rounds.  He suggested I point out his videos.  For instance here is one on the time value of money.  Great review for those who need it!

* The Southern Finance Association's Annual meeting is coming up.  If you have not reserved a place, You should soon!  The SFA's are usually very good.  I don't make it to them every year but plan on going this year.

* I am reading What Investors Really Want by Meir Statman.  He will be interviewed on FinanceProfessor December 7th.  It is an interesting look at some lessons from Behavioral Finance.  

*  The Money Management course that I oversee (can't really say teach since the leaders do so much of it themselves) is called SIMM--Students In Money Management.)  The TV commercial has been in high play of late.  Or at least it must be as I hear about it every time I go anywhere in town.  The portfolio is now up to $186,000 and we just started a new twitter account.  Follow us to see what we are up to! 
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