Greek Lightning Strikes

Much ink has been spilled over Greece's financial woes.   And if you've followed the headlines, you might think Greek lightning was burning Athens to the ground.  While it's true that Greece's finances have been woefully mismanaged (it has the second highest Debt/GDP ratio in the world), in absolute terms things may not be as … Continue reading Greek Lightning Strikes

No Free Yield

Interest rates have moved up this year but are still near historic lows.  This is especially true at the front end of the yield curve where people are basically earning nothing on their savings, money market, and even short-term CD accounts (and even losing money net of inflation). Demand from yield-starved investors and the opportunistic … Continue reading No Free Yield

The Best Policy

Last week JP Morgan stunned the world by announcing that it suffered over $2 billion in losses from derivative trades gone awry.  Ironically, JPMorgan was considered to be one of Wall Street's more responsible banks - one that avoided the derivative disasters of the financial crisis. Even more ironic, JP Morgan's CEO, Jamie Dimon, has been one of the most outspoken bankers fighting against increased regulation of financial services.  Unfortunately … Continue reading The Best Policy

Old Euro Dogs

This morning Euro Zone policymakers announced an agreement where certain private investors (mainly banks and insurance companies) would take 50% haircuts on their holdings of Greek debt.  This is basically a managed default.  And though it runs totally contrary to what policymakers were promising earlier this year (aka that Greece would not default), it really should have been expected. Back … Continue reading Old Euro Dogs

Here Comes the Sink

It was a wild week for US markets. Volatility was off the charts and on Thursday the Dow dropped 512 points - its ninth largest single-day drop in history.  Stocks are down about 7% from their peak in April and are now negative for the year.  Then on Friday, adding insult to injury, Standard and Poors stripped … Continue reading Here Comes the Sink

What’s up with the Debt Ceiling

We are within an arm's length of reaching a "debt ceiling" in the United States.  In other words, the government has basically maxed out the national credit card (based on limits established by US law).  The Treasury Department has indicated that unless Congress authorizes additional borrowing (which only Congress can do through its lawmaking functions), the United States will not … Continue reading What’s up with the Debt Ceiling

The Game Must Go On

This morning Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve (the US central bank aka the Fed), delivered his semiannual report on monetary policy to Congress.  During the report, Bernanke said, “the possibility remains that the recent economic weakness may prove more persistent than expected, and that deflationary risks might reemerge, implying a need for additional policy support.”  … Continue reading The Game Must Go On

Where are the Fed’s Reserves?

The Federal Reserve System, more commonly known as the "Fed," is the central banking system in the United States.  As the term "central" implies, the Fed is the bank for other banks.  As such, it plays a very important role in maintaining the stability of our financial system.  Like other banks, the Fed basically uses a combination … Continue reading Where are the Fed’s Reserves?

Big Trouble in Little Athens

Greece has received a lot of publicity since its financial problems surfaced last year.  And yet it seems like many people still don't think Greece's problems are all that important.  For example, last week I heard a popular financial radio host basically ridicule the notion that Greece's financial issues could affect America.  His reasoning was that Greece's economy is tiny compared to the Eurozone or the … Continue reading Big Trouble in Little Athens