Three econometricians are out hunting. They spot a stag. Given this is a story about economists let us assume it is a deaf stag.

The first econometrician aims, fires but misses to the left by a metre. The second econometrician takes aim, fires and also misses - but by a metre to the right. 

The third econometrician does not take aim or fire. Exultant, he cries out "Nailed it!"

Visually this joke appears thus:


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This from Goldman Sachs' Top of Mind Global Macro Research report of 25 Jun, 2014:

Although the detail within the GS report is balanced this shorter and sharper piece from the FT's Underground Economist distills the debate with no great loss of message.

(And that Professor Bloom paper the FT cites is here)

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If only Mr. Rogoff had waited a couple of weeks before reviewing Mr. Piketty's opus here the result might have been far more entertaining (as well as thought-provoking).

Why? Mr. Piketty got the R&R treatment from the FT this week (right here, you may have to register to see). Some of the criticism is about data sources; some is about data adjustments; and some concerns data selection. But the underlying question is about the combination of these and their subsequent interpretation.

The New York Times captures that last point when commenting on this graphic from the FT piece written by their economics editor, Chris Giles:

Citing the FT piece the NYT says:

Speaking of Britain, for example, Mr. Giles writes, “There seems to be little consistent evidence of any upward trend in wealth inequality of the top 1 percent.” He further writes that if one incorporates the different British data into numbers for Europe as a whole, and weights by population instead of weighting Britain, France and Sweden equally, “there is no sign that wealth inequality in Europe is rising again.”
That is a damning conclusion, and if it holds up to scrutiny, would significantly undermine the case Mr. Piketty mounts. But Mr. Giles himself writes that “while this post is clear about what is wrong with Piketty’s charts, it is much less certain about the truth.”

Mr. Piketty remains in Zen-mode so far.

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More anti-bank developments reported here by Dealbook featuring, amongst others, Preet Bharara the US attorney in Manhattan. It was Bharara who took down Galleon and saw that Rajaratnam got jail time. 

After that conviction Bharara said:

“The message today is clear — there are rules and there are laws, and they apply to everyone, no matter who you are or how much money you have.”

Now he (and others) are seeking to walk the talk by bringing criminal charges against two foreign banks operating in the US.

Tough ask? Law breaking and deception by banks have only been met to date with non-deterring fines that do nothing to change behaviour.

Citigroup 'misrepresented' subprime exposure ($75m fine); Barclays 'processed transactions' (for over 10 years) for some of the same sanctioned nations BNP is now up for ($298m fine); and there are assorted other US and non-US banking examples that went through the American legal system in similar vein. Limp fines despite reams of emails (for example) incriminating individuals at these banks. 

Removing a banking license is the nuclear option and one that it is hard to see ever being applied in the current environment. So clearly a range of punishments between the nominal fine on one hand and complete crucifixion on the other are needed.

Additionally it would be a pleasant surprise if prosecutors were able, from time to time, to find a human being to prosecute (although some did draw fines too at Citigroup) alongside the corporation. That inability has caused judges in some cases to refuse to sign the settlements (initially) insofar as the law granted them the leeway to so act. But they did make a point of berating prosecutors for negotiating timid settlements.

Now there is an apparent change of heart and strategy. Still, it remains hard not to have the thought that some banks simply have better lobbyists than others.

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Yes, the metaphoric jargon jungle has expanded to include EAGLES and Nests according to BBVA research. Nice graphics tho:

The full Emerging And Growth Leading Economies report with its fearless 10 year forecasts can be enjoyed here.

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Great new leading indicator for literary mood.


For the 20th century since the Depression, we find a strong correlation between a ‘literary misery index’ derived from English language books and a moving average of the previous decade of the annual U.S. economic misery index, which is the sum of inflation and unemployment rates. We find a peak in the goodness of fit at 11 years for the moving average. The fit between the two misery indices holds when using different techniques to measure the literary misery index, and this fit is significantly better than other possible correlations with different emotion indices. To check the robustness of the results, we also analysed books written in German language and obtained very similar correlations with the German economic misery index. The results suggest that millions of books published every year average the authors' shared economic experiences over the past decade.
And visually: note that Mr. Omerod helped that peak result to the LM series circa 1985 with his 'The Death of Economics' book [insert smiley face here].

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