Links 8/12/09

Mobile phone calls lowest in Finland, Netherlands and Sweden OECD. And highest in the US!

Cheesy Collateral Keeps Italian Credit Flowing Amid Recession Bloomberg

ISDA Launches CDS Marketplace Website ISDA (hat tip reader John O). The timing looks awfully sus….

Japan still a major factor in US Treasury market Japan Economy Watch

The Paranoic Impulse in Current Discourse Menzie Chinn

U.S. economy has bottomed: George Soros Reuters

Australia central bank a model for popping bubbles? Reuters. This is 100% accurate. Ian Macfarlane, the head of the Reserve Bank, would regularly talk to the media about how overvalued housing was. He also put through a couple of modest rate increases, I think in 2004, to show he was serous.

China’s Incinerators Loom as a Global Hazard New York Times

Economists Call for Bernanke to Stay Wall Street Journal. The Journal reports near unanimity on this issue. 89% of economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal also though (at the time) that the oil price rise of early 2008 was not a bubble.

Antidote du jour:

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  1. attempter

    Re paranoia and statistics: It's common knowledge that the way numbers like the CPI or unemployment are measured in the first place is politically determined (discouraged workers, substitution, hedonics, to give a few examples of political categories).

    I hadn't heard that there were lots of people going beyond this to say that given the mode of measurement, government agencies were also directly falsifying those numbers as well.

    For example, I know U3 is a political crock, but I never heard that BLS directly lies about what the U3 number is according to that definition.

    So I'm not sure who those conspriacy theorists are.

    Re Bernanke: It should be hard to believe that by now a large majority of economists agreeing on something wouldn't be a counterindication.

    It should be hard to believe, but unfortunately it isn't.

    The status quo is irredeemably rotten.

  2. SB

    I would say the Reuters story on the RBA popping the Aussie housing bubble is closer to 0% correct.

    From 2003-8 prices almost doubled in most Australian cities. The levels of private debt are through the roof and the price/income ratio *now* in Australia is almost double what it was in the US at its peak.

    Additionally, the deputy governor of the RBA in essence fills the role of a part-time property spruiker, quite the opposite of talking prices down. Interestingly, the Oz Prime Minister recently started talking prices down quite actively. But I doubt even that will work through the property-obsession culture in Australia as well as any upcoming debt deflation.

    I suggest waiting a couple of years to see what happens. The Reuters story will look foolish is my prediction.

  3. Anonymous

    Bernanke reappointment? Haven't these people finally fiugred out, after Greenspan, the consequences of printing money like there's no tomorrow?

  4. fresno dan

    It would be nice if we were at the bottom. But I know from reading Calculated Risk that there is a LOT of shadow inventory, both residential and commercial. And although I can't understand the technical details, I think it is apparent that most banks "capital" is worth substantially less than asserted.
    I can only look at my own net wealth – it is down about 30% (house, S&P in an index fund) – I don't expect that money to come back…ever. It was an illusion. But it certainly means less spending and more saving as I approach retirement.

  5. LeeAnne

    "Economists Call for Bernanke to Stay WSJ. The Journal reports near unanimity on this issue."

    These suck-ups have no credibility. TPTB always fight for the status quo; why should economists be any different. Better the devil who rewards them in the circles they've already compromised themselves so much to belong to than observe the needs of real people. I can only imagine the extent to which these people ignore their less fortunate relatives.

    All the years Greenspan went before Congress talking about increasing production and the great economy as the unemployed, underemployed, the totally if not fatally discourage, and those without health insurance also increased, TPTB declared him UNTOUCHABLE.

    An economics professor c. 2001 flinched with disapproval and an admonition 'to say nothing against Greenspan' when confronted with a potentially critical question about Greenspan's policies. It was an unforgettable moment for its knee-jerk worshipful response and lack of critical thinking in a college course -and, insignificantly, he was losing money in the stock market. But that's another subject -the dismal condition of 'higher' education.

  6. Anonymous

    Re ISDAs CDS site.

    What I really want DTCC/ISDA to share is the current value of the positions.
    Net Notionals tells me (practically) nothing. I recall whem Lehman collapsed, DTCC came out and said (effectively) don't worry so much. the net settlement amounts are not going to bring down the system. And the settlement went smoothly.
    DTCC is the only one with this info. and it should make it available.

  7. Hugh

    The widespread support for Bernanke in the economics community goes to show the bankruptcy of that profession. Economics has become the one discipline that makes astrology look factual and reasoned in comparison. Seriously, the guy that never saw coming the biggest financial disaster in living memory and then sat on his hands for a year before the meltdown forced him to act, and even then responded in dubious, opaque, and extremely wasteful ways, this is the guy who deserves another term as Fed chair? My question is: how badly would a Fed chair have to screw up not to get their support? Because I am seeing no upper limit to the ineptitude and failure they are willing to tolerate, and even praise.

    Re: Buffett is a great investor. Soros is a great speculator. Both, however, are mediocre macroeconomists. And too we should keep in mind that it is in their interests to talk up the economy since this enhances their profits, at the expense of all the rubes who uncritically believe them.

    Looking at these stories and the other posts today I can't help but feel that the underlying message of them all is one of inertia. In the presence of massive systemic failure, our elites are obsessed with preserving the system that failed in an unreformed state. In doing so, they are giving no thought as to whether the system is traveling across a vast level plain or lumbering straight toward a cliff. In the past when I would read histories, I often wondered why states and people made such wrong and destructive choices and then persisted in them, when there were many moderate alternatives that were available. We are now living in such a time. I think it is a question of intellectual limitation. Our elites are acting as they are because they can not conceive of acting any other way. More evidence or better arguments will have no impact on them. Their world view is impervious to these. I think we need to incorporate this into our projections, that even in the face of imminent collapse, with reasonable alternatives at hand, our business and political leaderships will opt for failed strategies.

  8. Ed

    As someone pointed out in the Econobrowser comments section, the BLS "Birth/ Death" model is pretty direct fraud, and if we don't think of it that way its because its done openly.

    Adding new construction jobs in the middle of a recession, and a recession caused by falling housing starts? How can you get more fraudulent than that?

    Its sort of like adding ten games to the San Diego Padres win total, because, well, no one watches the Padres so they must have won ten games that we don't know about.

  9. Anonymous

    I also find it hard to understand the economists that are not getting out in front of the situation and explaining how capitalism with a safety net, effective regulation and public education of how the economy works is really best for societies and businesses in the long term. This all or none brinksmanship is keeping society from evolving and will result in pain, suffering and public reactions.

    But maybe most of them are really faith based experts as show by their models and the rapture will solve everything.


  10. William Mitchell

    Maybe US/Canada cellular costs are higher because they need more towers per customer.

    Two reasons why that might be true.

    First, US/Canada are suburbanized, hence lower density, while Nordic countries are intensely urbanized, in part because of the cold climage.

    Second, the US attempted to let free markets decide cellular standards, with the result that we needed separate tower networks for CDMA, GSM, etc.

    This is speculation. Anyone know for sure?

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