Credit: 2011 Helen Frankenthaler / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
In love as in equities, we are regularly fooled by randomness
As the year ends, the author of a weekly column should look back and acknowledge the things he got wrong. I made at least one serious mistake. I wrote that if men think about sex on average every seven seconds, the average man last thought about sex three and a half seconds ago. I should have consulted the poet Wendy Cope, who wrote that: “Bloody men are like bloody buses – / You wait for about a year / And as soon as one approaches your stop / Two or three others appear”.
Her analogy is helpful. If a bus arrives at fixed intervals of seven minutes, you will wait an average of three and a half minutes. But, as Ms Cope knows all too well, the interval is unpredictable: two buses come at once and then there is a lengthy wait for the next one. The average frequency of the bus may still be seven minutes. But if the intervals are alternately zero and 14 minutes the expected wait is now seven minutes, not three and a half. If someone is standing at a bus stop, it is more likely that they are victim of a bus which is late than the beneficiary of one that is early.
You may think this does not matter very much. But this summer the UK business secretary Vince Cable asked me to devote an entire year to thinking about equity markets. I discovered that the arithmetic of thinking about share values is the same as the arithmetic of thinking about sex. The average length of time for which buyers hold shares today is very short. But the average length of time for which shares have been held by their current owner is much longer. There are many more high frequency trades than passive investors, but passive investors hold a high proportion of outstanding shares.
The people queuing for a bus are the people whose bus has not arrived, and the people on yachts are those whose boat came in. What we see will always be influenced by the ways in which the sample studied is selected. The traders we interview are mostly successful because mostly it is the successful who are still trading – and this past success may be no guide to future performance. As the essayist Nassim Taleb has observed, we are regularly fooled by randomness, identifying skill where there was only luck, finding patterns in data when none really exist.
The sometimes counter-intuitive mathematics of variation crops up in many different places. If Persil is sometimes on special offer, the percentage increase when it goes back to its usual price will be larger than the percentage price reduction when it goes on special. If that seems an unremarkable fact, it was enough to send several hundred thousand government employees on strike a month ago.
The average of price changes shows an increase even though the price has remained the same. And perhaps you buy more, perhaps even spend more, when the item is on offer than when it is at full price. After all, that is why they put it on special. These issues pose problems for compilers of price indices, and there are different methods of handling them. That is the principal reason why the new European harmonised index of consumer prices generally increases by less than the old retail prices index. The UK chancellor George Osborne is planning to make large savings in public expenditure by shifting pension indexation from one basis to the other.
The same problem arises in measuring benchmarks and portfolio performance in equity markets. If you average a 50 per cent fall and a 100 per cent increase, you show a 25 per cent gain. But if that happened to your shares, you would – just – have recouped your initial investment. Neither method of calculation is necessarily a guarantee to the experience of real investors.
I may have made another mistake in my earlier column. Since it appeared, details have been published of a study by researchers at Ohio State University. They surveyed college students – who, one might expect, think about sex more often than the average of the population. The subjects were asked to make a note each time the topic entered their heads. Men thought about sex, on average, 19 times a day (the figure for women was only 10). Does this mean that we should correct “every seven seconds” to “on average, once every waking hour”? Only if men think about sex at absolutely regular intervals. And neither love nor equity markets are so predictable.
在先前的專欄文章中，我可能還出過另一個錯誤。那篇文章發表後，俄亥俄州立大學(Ohio State University)的研究人員發布了一項調查的詳細結果。人們可能認為大學生想到性的頻率比一般人高，於是研究人員就對大學生進行了調查。他們要求調查對象每次想到性時，就在記錄中記上一筆。結果顯示，男生平均每天有19次想到性（女生則只有10次）。這是不是意味著，應該把“每7秒”修改成“醒著的時候平均每小時想到一次”？不見得，除非男人想到性的時間間隔是絕對固定的。而且，無論是預測愛情還是預測股市，都沒那麼容易。
新闻报道 | 2011.12.28
12月28日，中国总理温家宝召开国务院常务会议，听取了关于中国高铁安全检查的报告。据法新社报道，这份备受瞩目的报告认为，今年夏天造成至少40人死 亡，近200受伤的甬温线动车追尾事故主要事故原因是：列车控制中心存在严重的设计缺陷、上道使用审查不严、雷击导致故障之后应急处理不力等人为原因。该 报告还指出，在7·23动车追尾事故发生之后，"在事故抢险救援过程中，铁道部和上海铁路局存在处置不当、信息发布不及时、对社会关切回应不准确等问题， 在社会上造成不良影响。"
这一动车事故不仅造成了严重的伤亡和损失，而且在社会上引起了强烈的批评浪潮。中国政府也不得不暂时控制高速铁路的发展速度。广大网民和微博用户要求查清 真相，为什么在前面一列火车因故障停下来之后，后面的一列动车竟然没有及时得到相关信息。还有很多网民对于官方公布的死亡人数表示质疑。甚至中国共产党的 党报《人民日报》也发表文章呼吁，发展必须安全至上，不要"带血的GDP"。
包括动车组在内的中国高速铁路网2007年才开通使用，但是由于国家投入巨资支持，高铁网以惊人的速度发展膨胀，截至今年年底，全国高速铁路全长已达 8358公里，为全世界之最。2010年12月，铁道部宣布，中国的高速铁路最高时速能够达到486公里，创下世界纪录。但是在高速铁路正式投入运营之后 不久，种种问题就接连暴露：多次出现列车因遭遇雷击而断电停车的情况，而7月23日的动车追尾事故更是造成了严重的伤亡。目前，出于安全问题的担忧，中国 当局决定，将高铁运行速度控制在300公里/小时以内。
By ANAHAD O'CONNOR
Studies have shown that higher levels of lipids in the blood can cause some people to develop raised, yellow patches of skin around the eyelids.
22 (Bloomberg) -- Matthew McLennan, portfolio manager at First Eagle Funds, talks about investment strategy and opportunities in Japan. He speaks with Adam Johnson on Bloomberg Television's "Street Smart." (Source: Bloomberg) (/Bloomberg) Correction: ...
FANUC's businesses were founded in 1956 when it started to develop numerical controls (NCs) and servo systems.
Since its founding, FANUC has always emphasized research and development in its management.
FANUC CNC 系列、FANUC 伺服馬達系列、FANUC 雷射系統
Resetting the Cost Structure at Shell
by Gerard Paulides
A senior finance executive explains how a zero-based cost management effort is leading to significant performance improvements.
Click here to read the full article.
Click here to comment on this article.
(zîr'ō-bās', zē'rō-) or ze·ro-based (-bāst')
Having each expenditure or item justified as to need or cost: "Zero-base budgeting requires its practitioners to justify every dollar they spend" (Wall Street Journal).
Rating agencies under fire from Paris
英國《金融時報》 喬治•帕克倫敦, 詹姆斯•麥金托什, 彼得•施皮格爾布魯塞爾, 休•卡內基巴黎報導
The governor of France's central bank attacked credit rating agencies yesterday, calling them “incomprehensible and irrational” as Paris braces for a potential downgrade of the country's triple A status.
Christian Noyer, head of the Bank of France, said a French downgrade would not be justified on economic fundamentals. On that basis, he added, the agencies should begin by downgrading the triple A rating of Britain, which “has bigger deficits, more debt , higher inflation, less growth than us and where credit is shrinking”.
法國央行(Bank of France)行長克里斯蒂安•諾亞(Christian Noyer)表示，從經濟基本面來看，降低法國評級是沒有根據的。他補充道，從經濟基本面考慮，評級機構應該首先降低英國的3A評級，因為與法國相比，英國“有更高的赤字、債務和通脹，更低的增長，且信貸正在萎縮”。
“We have put in place credible plans for dealing with our deficit – the credibility of our plan can be seen in what happened with the interest rates on our bonds,” said a spokesman for David Cameron, UK prime minister. “The markets clearly don 't agree with Noyer,” added a UK Treasury official. Privately British officials were astonished by the remarks.
“我們已經為對付赤字制定了可信的計劃——其可信度體現在我國債券利率的走勢上，”英國首相戴維•卡梅倫(David Cameron)的發言人表示。 “市場顯然不同意諾亞的觀點，”英國財政部(UK Treasury)一名官員補充道。私下里，英國官員對諾亞的言論感到錯愕。
Despite tensions, Britain, which last week vetoed a new European Union treaty for all 27 member nations, has been given observer status at talks on a new eurozone fiscal treaty.
UK Treasury officials say the aim is to “police” the talks to ensure that any issues affecting the single market or London's financial industry are discussed by all 27 member states, but Britain will have no formal role in shaping the new treaty.
Mr Cameron has said he will look with an “open mind” at whether the European Commission and European Court of Justice should be allowed to give the new eurozone fiscal compact teeth. Britain wants to ensure that the EU institutions continue to protect the interests of all 27 member states.
卡梅倫已經表態，他將以“開放的心態”考慮，是否應該允許歐盟委員會(European Commission)和歐洲法院(European Court of Justice)使歐元區新的財政協定具有約束力。英國希望確保歐盟機構繼續保護所有27個成員國的利益。
Separately, a draft prospectus prepared for the eurozone bail-out fund includes investor warnings that the euro could break apart or cease to be a “lawful currency” entirely.
The European Financial Stability Facility, which is creating the products to insure bonds of troubled states against default, is debating whether the “risk factors” should be included in the final version. In the latest draft, a summary of the dangers includes “risks arising from a Reference Sovereign ceasing to use the euro as its lawful currency . . . or the cessation of the euro as a lawful currency”.
Europe's leaders have insisted a euro break-up is unthinkable but last month France's Nicolas Sarkozy and Germany's Angela Merkel accepted that Greece might leave. “If you put something like this in the prospectus you must consider what possible signal effect it has,” said one European official.
歐洲領導人一直堅稱，歐元解體是不堪設想的，但上月法國總統尼古拉•薩科齊(Nicolas Sarkozy)和德國總理安格拉•默克爾(Angela Merkel)承認，希臘可能會退出。 “如果你在說明書中包含這類內容，你必須考慮它可能產生的信號效應，”一位歐洲官員表示。
Now the Franco-German question
Germany will have to learn leadership, and France followship. Both will find it a wrenching experience. The rules of the European game changed for ever with the reunification of Germany. It has taken the euro crisis to spell out the brutal implications.
One has to feel some sympathy for Angela Merkel. Germany's chancellor has been excoriated in turn for absent and for oppressive leadership. At one moment she is said to be standing idly by while the euro burns, and at the next of issuing teutonic diktats about the terms of its survival. Germany, the rest of us have been reminded, has always been too big for Europe.
The new German question asks whether Europe – whether it is the European Union or a more closely integrated eurozone – can find a new equilibrium now that Germany is so visibly the preponderant power. This in turn marks the return of the Franco-German question. Berlin is assuming the role of leader with a mixture of hesitancy and tetchiness. Paris will struggle mightily to accept the place of follower.
The choreography is calculated to conceal this redistribution of power. The euro crisis has been cast as the Angela and Nicolas show – the German and French leaders smiling for the cameras at the Élysée; a jointly signed missive spelling out a euro rescue plan.
This is called keeping up appearances. For France, the survival of the euro is existential. Never mind the initial, enormous economic shock that would follow its failure. The break-up of monetary union would most likely see France slide into the continent's second division . Europe is the engine room of French power. Without it there would be nothing left of its global pretensions.
Mr Sarkozy, of course, has been fighting his corner – pressing for a Gaullist, intergovernmental arrangement rather than a leap to fiscal federalism. France has been attuned to the danger of Berlin's habit of elevating the avoidance of moral hazard above restoring confidence in financial markets .
In the end, however, Berlin has prevailed. As Charles Grant of the Centre for European Reform has observed, the proposals for a stability union presented to the Brussels summit were essentially written in Germany, even if the odd page was edited in Paris.
然而，德國最終佔據了上風。正如歐洲改革中心(Centre for European Reform)的查爾斯•格蘭特(Charles Grant)所言，提交至布魯塞爾峰會的建立“穩定聯盟”的提案基本上是德國編寫的，儘管有幾頁法國進行了校訂。
Assuming (perhaps foolishly) agreement at the summit, the present approach should secure a second chance for the euro: the more so if it provides cover for decisive intervention in the markets by the European Central Bank. But for the very reason it has been written in Germany, the strategy fails to offer a sustainable long-term answer.
The economic argument at the heart of all this never really changes. Instead it returns again and again to the disagreement that surfaced nearly 70 years ago among policymakers at Bretton Woods.
In 1944 John Maynard Keynes argued forcefully that the planned new exchange rate regime required symmetrical obligations on creditor and debtor countries to deal with any imbalances. If the system was to endure, austerity on one side had to be balanced by growth on the other.
1944年，約翰•梅納德•凱恩斯(John Maynard Keynes)極力主張，擬議中的新匯率體制需要債權國和債務國對半分擔解決一切失衡問題的責任。這種體制要想持續下去，一方的緊縮必須由另一方的增長來平衡。
Keynes lost the argument then, but governments have been returning to it ever since. During the 1980s it was at the heart of economic discord between the US on one side and Germany and Japan on the other. It runs through today's trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.
The big irony, though, is that this very same debate was present at the creation of the single currency. François Mitterrand's effort at the start of the 1980s to pursue an expansionary economic policy ended in humiliation when Helmut Kohl made fiscal rigour the price of the franc's continued place in the European exchange rate system. France resolved never again.
然而，最為諷刺的是，在單一貨幣體系創立的問題上，也有過一模一樣的辯論。上世紀80年代初，法國前總統弗朗索瓦•密特朗(François Mitterrand)努力推行擴張性的經濟政策，這一努力最終以蒙羞的失敗告終，因為德國前總理赫爾穆特•科爾(Helmut Kohl)要求法國推行緊縮的財政政策，以換取法郎保留在歐洲匯率體系中的位置。法國從此一蹶不振。
The outcome was the “franc fort” policy and a push to share economic decision-making between Germany and France. Once the D-Mark had been subsumed in a single currency, the austerity versus growth argument would finally be settled. That was the theory .
Germany is now within reach of the political integration it sought as a counterpart to monetary union when the euro was established. The danger is an assumption in Berlin that the new structure can be built to an entirely German design.
Ms Merkel's stability union will endure only if it acknowledges that Keynes was more than half-right. Any supranational scheme, whether enshrined in treaty or otherwise, that condemns much of Europe to indefinite austerity will not survive the realities of national politics.
If German leadership is to avoid being oppressive, it must recognise that fiscal union cannot be a one-sided affair. It was encouraging this week to hear Ms Merkel talk about the competitiveness problems in the weaker eurozone economies. It would be more so were she to talk about formulating a strategy for growth.
For its part, France must begin to reimagine the political geography of Europe. The Franco-German relationship will always be a pivotal one, but it is now unequivocally unequal. Paris needs friends beyond Berlin – in Warsaw, Rome and Madrid. If Britain's Tory party were ever to leave behind its European nightmare, there would also be a case to revive the old entente.
Radoslaw Sikorski, Poland's foreign minister, recently told an audience in Berlin that the big threat to Europe came not from German power but from German inactivity. Given the two countries' history, that was a pretty brave thing to say. Few would dispute that the survival of the euro now rests with German leadership. There must be more to that leadership, though, than the promise of austerity.
惠譽將美國銀行(Bank of America Co.)和高盛集團(Goldman Sachs Group Inc.)的長期發行人違約評級(IDR)從A+下調至A﹐並將法國巴黎銀行(BNP Paribas S.A.)的評級從AA-下調至A+。
該 機構還將巴克萊集團(Barclays PLC)和瑞士信貸集團(Credit Suisse Group AG)的評級從AA-下調兩檔至A﹐並將德意志銀行(Deutsche Bank AG)的評級從AA-下調至A+。該機構還下調了上述六家銀行的個別實力評級(VRs)﹐並對摩根士丹利(Morgan Stanley)和法國興業銀行(Societe Generale)採取了相同舉措。
Labor Market | 07.12.2011
Berlin's creative community wary of minimum wage
Berlin has long been a hub of European subculture. The city attracts hordes of artists, musicians and creative entrepreneurs, beckoned by the cheap living costs and teeming nightlife. Combined with a huge turnover of tourists, this translates into an incredibly young, transient population with high levels of unemployment. Many young people who migrate to the city find themselves working low-wage cash jobs without employee benefits - and struggling to sustain their creative aspirations.
Twenty-four-year-old Bianca Lean is an Australian visual artist who moved to Berlin in 2009. Since then, she has worked a range of low-wage positions to stay afloat and support her art career. After six months in Paris, she decided to move to Berlin because of its wealth of independent galleries and low cost of living.
She initially secured an internship at a marketing company, plugging search engine optimization keywords into Google for 3.50 euros ($4.70) an hour. She also worked weekends at a bar for four euros an hour. Her hours ranged from none in a week to consecutive 15-hour shifts.
Later, Bianca worked as a baker for two different businesses after quitting her previous jobs. She was paid under the table in cash and was able to pay her rent and live quite comfortably. But working 12-hour shifts, up to six days a week, left no time for her art.
Young artists often tend to work at restaurants and bars"It's a Catch 22 - now I have enough money to go traveling or do anything I want to, but I still haven't created any work out of it. I've had one exhibition and quite a few bits and pieces (…) - but it's not what I expected I would have been able to accomplish," she said.
Stories like Bianca's are commonplace, particularly among artists looking for side jobs while focusing on their true passion. Germany is one of only seven EU nations without a binding minimum wage. Instead, it has a set of union-negotiated "wage floors" for some industries - which vary from state to state - and no minimum at all for others.
Although unemployment as a whole dropped to its lowest level in 20 years in September 2011 - with less than 2.8 million Germans without work - the number of negotiated salaries in low-wage jobs has dropped just as significantly over the past year, according to figures from the Hans Böckler Foundation. This figure is disproportionately represented in eastern Germany, where the wage floors for many industries are consistently lower than their western counterparts.
No standard minimum wage
Currently, the hospitality industry - which employs a large number of inspiring artists - has no set wage floor, but there are enforceable provisions for the rights of employees when an employer holds a voluntary contract with a union. The government has ignored union calls to introduce a general minimum wage, but is currently proposing to facilitate agreements for industries that don't yet have an agreed minimum rate.
Despite the challenges in remaining financially sustainable, Bianca said that an increase in the minimum wage for her industry to 8.50 euros per hour would have a minimal effect on her lifestyle.
Heilmann wants a general minimum wage of 8.50 euros per hour"I don't think it would have much of an impact at all. I'm getting paid under the table anyway, and I make up to 10 euros an hour in tips depending on the day, so I don't think an extra euro or two would help me because I'd have to pay taxes on it - I could end up losing money," she explained.
Bianca is preparing to move back to Sydney, due in part to her frustration at the challenges of supporting herself and remaining productive in Berlin.
Micha Heilmann is head of the legal department for the Gewerkschaft Nahrung-Genuss-Gaststätten (NGG), Germany's food and catering union, which has been a long-time campaigner for a minimum wage across industries.
"If we were to have a minimum wage for the hospitality industry, that would help people if it were, say, 8.50 or 7.50 [euros per hour] to start with, and of course if they always have a sufficient amount of part-time work," he said.
As far as under-the-table work goes, Heilmann believes the existing proposal will do nothing to address the issue. He knows how often low-wage earners are pressured into situations like Bianca's, and believes much stronger regulation is needed.
What's in it for employers?
Matt Kenevin, one of three owner-operators of Berlin's Mexican restaurant Maria Peligro, takes a different view. He said that the NGG's proposed 8.50-euro hourly wage could potentially drive them out of business altogether.
Kenevin and his partners have worked hard to build their business' reputation as a place that gives back to the creative community and treats its workers fairly. He works the bar every day, his chef and kitchen hand are fulltime, and he pays his servers' health insurance, even though he's not required to by law.
But the influx of investment in Berlin's real estate market - the main driver of the hotly debated gentrification of inner suburbs Kreuzberg and Neukölln - has sent rent prices rocketing. Kenevin said that running Maria Pelligro "by the book" means that money is tight, and that competitors don't always take this approach.
"Our staff costs are already through the roof, I honestly don't think it would be worth running a business if the rent goes up again and the wages go up like that," he said. "There's no way they can put the rates up and expect people to pay it. It'll encourage more and more people to keep people off the books. They also have to help out the employers."
For the time being at least, creative types are still flocking to the "poor, but sexy" German capital. But just how long they stay, remains to be seen.
Author: Daniel Bishton
Editor: Kate Bowen
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