Category Archives: Dubious statistics

Yanis Varoufakis: Why the European Bank Stress Tests Have to be Phony

Yves here. I have to admit I never focused on what turns out is a blindingly obviously reason why the European bank stress tests are an exercise in optics. Even though this website derided the US stress tests as a cheerleading exercise, and earlier criticized the Administration for failing nationalize Citigroup as FDIC chairman Sheila Bair sought to do, the US authorities were in a position to Do Something about sick banks. Consider the European case (note I consider Yanis to be too charitable toward US bank regulators, but keep in mind that he’s comparing them to his home-grown version). And then you have the additional problem, which was widely discussed in 2009 to 2011 or so, that the apparent insolvency of states was the result of and bound up with the overindebtedness of European nations. Perversely, tha is almost never put front and center these days when the topic of seriously unwell European banks comes up.

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Drilling Deeper: New Report Casts Doubt on Fracking Production Numbers

Yves here. We’ve discussed the fracking bubble intermittently, particularly that many of the valuations ascribed to shale gas wells don’t reflect how short their production lives really are. This report by Steve Horn of DeSmogBlog focuses on a related result from the same set of unrealistically high production assumptions: that overall fracking output forecasts are likely to prove to be high.

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Ilargi: Europe Redefines “Stress” in Its Bank-Boosterist Stress Tests

Yves here. As we’ve repeatedly pointed out, bank “stress tests” are officially-orchestrated bank PR. And the reason they worked so well the first time was that exercise was accompanied by all sorts of Administration “we’re fully behind the banks” messaging, including a commitment that any banks that fell short would get a heapin’ helping of new capital. But the effort to talk bank stock prices up worked so well that many, even the weaker ones, were able to float new shares.

The Europeans have tried emulating the Americans, but with more emphasis on the optics and less on prodding the banks to take meaningful steps to shore up their capital bases. Ilargi describes how even this exercise in porcine maquillage is failing to cover up the unhealthy state of many banks.

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Ilargi: 40% of Eurozone Banks Are In Bad Shape

Yves here. While investors remain fixed on how much more the Fed and the ECB will pump into financial assets via QE, Eurozone banks lumber on in their walking wounded state. Deflationary pressures and lousy growth grind down weak and even once-good borrowers. And it’s not as if the banks who lent to them in the first place were good shape themselves.

As we wrote at the onset of the Eurozone bank stress tests, they were designed to be even more cosmetic than the US bank stress tests. Just a month ago, we posted an analysis that showed that many countries in Europe have banking systems weaker than those in Latin America.

Even with the efforts to use the stress tests as a confidence-building exercise, the result of the current exam of Eurozone banks is expected to be less than impressive.

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A Picture Worth 1000 Words: A Sighting from the McJobs Market

One of the complaints too often taken seriously by the business press is employer claims that they can’t find workers with the right skills for open job slots. We’ve looked at some of these stories in the past, and when employers complained, it pretty much without exception reflected that because the economy is slack,they expect to be able to hire workers cheaply, which often includes not being willing to spend time to train someone. In fact, there has been a perverse trend starting more than a decade ago of employers putting out incredibly narrow job specifications. They were effectively saying they were willing only to hire someone who had been in precisely the same role at a similar company.

But even as McJobs look to be the fastest growing employment sector, just because they want to hire workers for as little as possible does not mean that prospective employees will hit their bid.

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“Private Equity at Work” Rigorously Debunks Industry Mythology

I must confess that I have been extremely tardy in discussing a tremendously important book on the private equity industry, Eileen Appelbaum’s and Rosemary Batt’s Private Equity at Work.

In the meantime, the book is getting the attention it deserve via a glowing review by Bob Kuttner in the New York Review of Books, Why Work Is More and More Debased.

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Media Giving Corporate Executives a Free Pass on Their Value Extraction

Executive rentiers and their media lackeys are invoking the canard that they can’t find decent investment opportunities. The truth is that they’ve exhausted the first and second lines of value extraction, that of labor-squeezing and disinvestment, and aren’t prepared to accept the lower but still attractive returns of taking real economy risks.

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Deconstructing Fed Chair Janet Yellen on Unemployment and the Unemployed

I would have liked to see some table pounding and shouting about pseudo-scientific constructs like the “Natural Rate of Unemployment” — what’s “natural” about it? — or a heartfelt plea for a well-funded study to find out how the permanently disemployed actually eat, and find shelter, and stay alive — System D? — or even a dim recognition that regulating the economy by throwing people out of work is just as barbaric and inhumane as the medieval remedy of bloodletting.

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Bank Settlement Grade Inflation: High Bullshit to Cash Ratio in $17 Billion Bank of America Deal

Over the last year, the Administration has entered into a series of bank settlements over various types of mortgage misconduct. The sudden rush to generate headlines from misdeeds that have been covered in the media in lurid detail during and after the crisis looks an awful lot like an effort to stem continuing criticism over the abject failure to punish banks and more important, their execs for blowing up the global economy for fun and profit, particularly since the Dems are at serious risk of losing control of the Senate in the Congressional midterms.

But as much as the media dutifully amplifies the multibillion headline value of these pacts, we’ve reminded readers again and again that all of these agreements have substantial non-cash portions which are ludicrously treated as if they have the same value as cold, hard cash.

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Guitar Center and Private Equity’s Magical Growth Curve

Yves here. We’ve featured Eric Garland’s past posts on Guitar Center, a case study of how a private equity firms (originally Bain Capital, now Ares Capital as a result of a restructuring when the company was on the verge of failure) run businesses into the ground for fun and profit.  Garland stresses that the assumptions that Guitar Center and its owners are touting for growth, given the state of big box retails, amount to an advanced case of magical thinking. Garland also focuses on the broader impact of the Bain/Ares misrule, namely the damage done to employees and vendors.

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“Land Grabs” – Economists’ Justifications of Agricultural Expropriation

Yves here. Robert Heilbroner described economics as the study of how society resources itself. It’s hard to think of a resourcing issue more basic than food. Not surprisingly, food and the means of producing it were the source of traditional wealth (the so-called landed aristocracy). Similarly, expropriation of rights that yeoman farmers had enjoyed, such as hunting rights and access to common pasture land, were the main devices that early industrialists used to end the farmers’ self-sufficiency and force them to sell their labor as a condition of survival. Even though similar land grabs are justified now under the idea that large-scale farming is more efficient than cultivation by smaller operators, Tim Wise contends that evidence is not conclusive, particularly in emerging economies.

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Wishful Thinking About Natural Gas: Why Fossil Fuels Can’t Solve the Problems Created by Fossil Fuels

Albert Einstein is rumored to have said that one cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that led to it. Yet this is precisely what we are now trying to do with climate change policy.  The Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, many environmental groups, and the oil and gas industry all tell us that the way to solve the problem created by fossil fuels is with more fossils fuels.  We can do this, they claim, by using more natural gas, which is touted as a “clean” fuel — even a “greenfuel.

Like most misleading arguments, this one starts from a kernel of truth.

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