Monday, August 14, 2017

How Risky Are Synthetic ETFs?

This is the fourth in a series of posts on ETFs with the first three focusing on potential liquidity problems in a financial crisis which was in response to a Noah Smith column, order completion in a rapidly down trending market, and difficulties of ETF market makers.

In 2012, Morningstar did an extensive global study of synthetic ETFs which is a good starting point to understanding the risks in synthetic ETFs. 

Synthetic ETFs do not track an index.  They use swaps with counter-party risk and/or futures contracts which are more difficult and expensive to manage.  They are usually commodities ETFs or

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The CFP Board's Duplicitous Fiduciary Standard

Here is a very good article on the duplicitous CFP proposed fiduciary standard which is really just a marketing tool to protect the millions of dollars in annual revenue on CFP courses, study materials, and testing fees.

I have written extensively on the need of a true fiduciary standard.  In fact, my "Beware"  blog post was linked by Abnormal Returns and Dan Solin.   I have refrained from criticizing the professional designations and organizations, but they are unavoidably a major part of the problem.  I started looking at the CFP in the 1980's when it was two competing organizations (which later merged) and have done so through the subsequent years and every time I looked at the CFP they had an ethical

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Steve Keen's Behavioral Economics Lectures

My firm conviction that education through lectures is epistemologically inefficient but cost efficient, however poor the results, does not limit my openness to critically read or listen to different viewpoints, however new or old, accepted or not accepted.  It is important to understand other positions and ideas in order to know why you agree or disagree.

I first ran across Keen's 2009 lectures on behavioral economics years ago and found them interesting, but I refrained from linking to them, because one lecture was missing and I had hoped it would be

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

What Does the Seattle Minimum Wage Study Teach Us Followup

 On August 5th, I wrote a post on the Seattle minimum wage study data and methodological problems in response to a editorial in the Springfield, Illinois State Journal-Register newspaper.

Here is a new critical analysis published at EconoFact entitled: "What Does the Seattle Experience

Mark Thoma's Econometrics Lectures

Although educational study after study have found that students do not retain subject material, after presenting acceptable regurgitation qualifying as a passing mastering of the subject material as opposed to smaller discussion classes which require oral and written participation in which questioning is a fundamental element in the development of a critical thinking process, colleges and universities find lecture courses extremely cost effective.  You can see the result in the varying quality of professional expertise and competence.

Having said that, Mark Thoma has a series of videos of his whole econometrics course (19 lectures),

Monday, August 7, 2017

Douglas L. Campbell on "Breaking Badly: The Currency Union Effect on Trade"

Douglas Campbell has written a very interesting paper on the effects currency unions have on trade in which the analysis of the data comes to different conclusions than current economic literature.  He explains the paper in his blog post and his concerns that the paper will never be published, because he is going up against big names in the profession.  Basically, his paper tests whether omitted variables in past studies affect the analysis of a large data set.  He looks at each major currency union including the eurozone and appropriate control groups and finds according to the papers abstract: "As several European countries debate entering, or exiting, the Euro, a key policy question is how much currency

Sunday, August 6, 2017

J. W. Mason on "What Recovery?"

I believe J. W. Mason's recent Monetary Policy Report for the Roosevelt Institute entitled "What Recovery?" is a very important paper on employment, wages, productivity and GDP growth.  It should be read by as many people as possible.

The Executive Summary reads:"This paper critically examines the widely held view that the U.S. economy is today operating at close to potential. The paper makes five core arguments. First, GDP

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Seattle Minimum Wage Study Data and Methodologoical Problems

 Today, the State Journal-Register published a Guest Column editorial which cited a recent Seattle minimum wage study, which can actually be found in full at NBER via the link.  The Guest Column is a typical ideological, propaganda mish mash advocating against any raising of the minimum wage ($7.25 nationally, $8.25 in Illinois), which, if the national minimum wage had kept pace with inflation, would be $10.10, which is less than a living wage for one adult in Springfield, Illinois (Sangamon County), which is a relatively inexpensive metropolitan area, as can be seen with this Living Wage calculator from MIT (choose state then county).

While the University of Washington study has stirred attention and deserves consideration, it has also been the subject of critical economic analysis which has raised serious data limitation and

Sunday, July 30, 2017

ETF Liquidity: How Difficult is ETF Market Making?

When Goldman Sachs decided to quit as a lead market maker for ETFs, you have to ask just how liquid ETFs would be in volatile, declining market. Goldman Sachs was dissatisfied with a business that yielded fractional pennies on trades while, as a large bank, it was required to maintain strict regulatory capital requirements for liquidity.  This retreat from the ETF market maker business means that smaller, less regulated firms, which will not have strict capital requirements, will be picking up the Goldman Sachs  ETF market making business and be responsible for the liquidity of ETF trades.

In "ETF Liquidity: A Market Maker's Perspective" and "Understanding a Market Maker's Risk Can Help You Save on Transaction Costs" in this Vanguard publication, there is a discussion of the market maker process.  The articles also advise not attempting transactions at the opening or close of the

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Bond Trading Weakness in U.S. Large Banks

When Goldman Sachs reported its 2nd Quarter bond trading revenue had taken a nosedive, the news caught my attention because I had been reviewing the abysmal short term 2016 investment results, which would include bonds, derivatives, currency hedges, etc., of the three largest State of Illinois pension systems and the total negative returns (one eked approximately 2/10 percent).  This is not unusual for the Illinois pension funds which either have incompetent short term investment traders or contracted investment firms.  But when you see Goldman Sachs under performing, it gets your attention.

The Goldman Sachs loss of bond trading revenue was compounded by  large losses in commodities

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