October 12, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 8:34 PM


When Job-Creation Engines Stop at Just One (CATHERINE RAMPELL, 10/05/12, NY Times)

For more than a decade, start-ups have been getting leaner and meaner. In 1999, the typical new business had 7.7 employees; its counterpart in 2011 had 4.7, according to an analysis of Labor Department data by E. J. Reedy at the Kauffman Foundation, a research organization focused on entrepreneurship.

The lean model bodes well for companies like Leap2 that hope to become power players with much less manpower. With a work force of contractors, Mr. Farmer said Leap2 could "dial it up and dial it down" as business demanded without having to spend money unless it was necessary, improving the company's chances of survival.

But the implications for the American work force are worrisome, and may help explain why economic output is growing much faster than employers are adding jobs. 

...of whether you think companies should create wealth or jobs.  Is their function primarily economic or primarily social?

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 PM


VP Debate: Body Language Expert Sees Big Contrast (ABBY D. PHILLIP, Oct. 12, 2012, ABC News)

If Vice President Joe Biden channeled his inner pit bull, Rep. Paul Ryan brought his inner puppy to the debate stage, according to facial expression expert Chris Kowal.

"I kind of call it the bulldog vs. the puppy," Kowal told ABC News.

"[Paul Ryan's] looks of surprise and the smile that he has...he comes across as very cute and likable," Kowal said. "When you pair it up with the more aggressive bull dog type of Joe Biden, people are going to become more protective of their candidate as a result."

Having gone in with such high negatives, going on the attack could only confirm Americans' dislike of the VP.
Posted by orrinj at 4:11 PM


A new housing boom (Chris Isidore, 10/12/12, CNNMoney)

Barclays Capital put out a report recently forecasting that home prices, which fell by more than a third after the housing bubble burst in 2007, could be back to peak levels as soon as 2015.

"In our view, the housing market had undergone a dramatic over-correction during the prior five years, resulting in pent-up demand for housing purchases that would spark a rapid rise in housing starts," said Stephen Kim, an analyst with Barclays, in a note to clients.

In addition to what Kim sees as a big rebound in building, he's bullish on home prices, expecting rises of 5% to 7.5% a year.

Construction is expected to be even stronger, with numerous experts forecasting home construction to grow by at least 20% a year for each of the next two years. Some believe building could be back near the pre-bubble average of about 1.5 million new homes a year by 2016, about double the 750,000 homes expected this year.

"We think the recovery is for real this time around," said Rick Palacios, senior analyst with John Burns Real Estate Consulting. "If you look across the U.S. economy right now, there are only a handful of industries looking at 20-30% growth over the next 4-5 years, and housing is one of those."

The actual crisis is our shortage of housing stock vis-a-vis our demographics, which is why the credit crunch would not have occurred absent derivative fraud. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:56 AM


Big Banks Hide Risk Transforming Collateral for Traders (Bradley Keoun, Sep 11, 2012, Bloomberg)

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and Bank of America Corp. are helping clients find an extra $2.6 trillion to back derivatives trades amid signs that a shortage of quality collateral will erode efforts to safeguard the financial system.

Starting next year, new rules designed to prevent another meltdown will force traders to post U.S. Treasury bonds or other top-rated holdings to guarantee more of their bets. The change takes effect as the $10.8 trillion market for Treasuries is already stretched thin by banks rebuilding balance sheets and investors seeking safety, leaving fewer bonds available to backstop the $648 trillion derivatives market.

The solution: At least seven banks plan to let customers swap lower-rated securities that don't meet standards in return for a loan of Treasuries or similar holdings that do qualify, a process dubbed "collateral transformation." That's raising concerns among investors, bank executives and academics that measures intended to avert risk are hiding it instead.
"The dealers look after their own interests, and they won't necessarily look after the systemic risks that are associated with this," said Darrell Duffie, a finance professor at Stanford University who has studied the derivatives and securities-lending markets. "Regulators are probably going to become aware of it once the practice gets big enough."

Adding to the concern is the reaction of central clearinghouses, which collect from losers on derivatives trades and pay off winners. Some have responded to the collateral shortage by lowering standards, with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange accepting bonds rated four levels above junk.

Posted by orrinj at 4:50 AM


To Find an Honest Person, Assess Guilt-Proneness (Daniel Akst, 10/12/12, WSJ)

Is there a way to predict who is more likely to lie, cheat, steal or be a louse generally? Try assessing guilt proneness.

That's the message of a new paper  by a trio of social scientists reporting on research in this arena. It turns out that some people are considerably more prone to guilt than others, and their behavior is constrained by this predisposition to feel bad if they do something wrong--even when nobody else knows about the wrongdoing.

Guilt-proneness is measured using the 16 point Guilt and Shame Proneness (yes, GASP) scale, which you can try for yourself (scroll down through the link).  Questions 1, 9, 14, 16 appear to focus specifically on proneness to guilt.

The researchers find that 30% to 40% of adults are highly guilt-prone, and these tend to be nice folks. Guilt-proneness correlates to all kinds of positive traits, including sincerity, fairness, modesty, agreeableness and conscientiousness.