Bank of Japan Introduces Negative Interest Rates

The Bank of Japan’s (somewhat counterintuitive) stated goal for implementing it’s new (negative interest rate) policy is “…to push down borrowing costs to stimulate inflation”. While I certainly do not claim or pretend to be a monetary economist, a policy that punishes savers and rewards borrowers doesn’t seem like a particularly good script for long-term economic success. I think it’s a tacit acknowledgment that the Japanese economy is struggling with deflation.  See https://www.boj.or.jp/en/announcements/release_2016/k160129a.pdf for the official policy statement issued by BOJ…

BOJ Introduces Negative Interest Rates for First Time
wsj.com|By Takashi Nakamichi and Megumi Fujikawa
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Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics

Myron Scholes Forum, October 13, 2015

Richard Thaler, Charles R. Walgreen Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics at Chicago Booth, has spent his career studying the radical notion that the central agents in the economy are humans—predictable, error-prone individuals. He will discuss his latest book—Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics—in a Scholes Forum fireside chat, moderated by Steven Kaplan, Neubauer Family Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance at Chicago Booth.

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As Interest Benchmarks Go Negative, Banks May Have to Pay Borrowers

I never thought that I would ever live to see the day when interest rates turned negative, creating a world where investors pay for the opportunity to lose money over time and banks pay interest to borrowers…

As Interest Benchmarks Go Negative, Banks May Have to Pay Borrowers

“As Euribor, a key benchmark used to set interest rates, seems to sliding toward zero and below, banks in some European countries are looking at previously inconceivable problem: They may soon have to pay interest to customers who borrow from them.”

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Are Shareholders Obsolete?

Corporate Governance

Are Shareholders Obsolete?

In his January 2, 2015 Wall Street Journal essay, columnist Holman Jenkins makes a compelling case for the principle of shareholder value maximization by noting that owners seeking to maximize the value of their businesses end up doing a pretty decent job of satisfying customer and employees along the way. Think of this essay as a 2015 sequel to Milton Friedman’s famous New York Times Magazine essay (published September 13, 1970) entitled “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits” (see http://bit.ly/Social_Responsibility_of_Business for Friedman’s essay; Thomas Coleman provides important context in his recent (2013) essay about Friedman entitled “Corporate Social Responsibility: Friedman’s View @ http://bfi.uchicago.edu/feature-story/corporate-social-responsibilty-friedmans-view)…

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What’s the “future” for price at the pump?

Lately, futures prices for crude oil and refined products such as gasoline and heating oil have been in a free-fall.  For example, the January 2015 futures contract for “RBOB Gasoline” is trading at the equivalent of around $1.64 per gallon.  As shown in the following graph, this represents a price drop of roughly 85-90 cents per gallon since September:

RBOB Gasoline

AAA reports that today’s national average is $2.639 and could fall to $2.50 within the next couple of weeks.  Nationally, the average markup from the near term futures contract price to prices at the pump has averaged 62 cents per gallon since January 2000 (which is when AAA began tracking this information).  Therefore, if futures prices hold at (or fall further from) current levels it seems quite likely that the price at the pump may be headed even lower.

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Terrorism risk insurance

Clearly insurance is an enabling technology; without insurance many if not most large-scale commercial activities would grind to a halt. In a Business Week article entitled “The Unexpected Threat to Super Bowl XLIX“, Wharton professors Howard Kunreuther and Erwann Michel-Kerjan point out that that if Congress decides not to renew the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) (set to expire on Dec. 31), there is a chance that the Super Bowl might not be played. Will Warren Buffet step in as an insurer of last resort if TRIA is not reauthorized?  Also, Gordon Woo raises some excellent points about possible private sector alternatives to TRIA in his blog posting entitled “RMS and the FIFA World Cup: Insuring Against Terrorism“.

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