Most accounts of the recent crisis focus on the symptoms and not the underlying causes of what went wrong. But those events, vivid though they remain in our memories, comprised only the latest in a long series of financial crises since our present system of commerce became the cornerstone of modern capitalism. Alchemy explains why, ultimately, this was and remains a crisis not of banking – even if we need to reform the banking system – nor of policy-making – even if mistakes were made – but of ideas.
In this refreshing and vitally important book, former governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King – an actor in this drama – proposes revolutionary new concepts to answer the central question: are money and banking a form of Alchemy or are they the Achilles heel of a modern capitalist economy?
Industry insider John Kay argues that the finance world’s perceived profitability is not the creation of new wealth, but the sector’s appropriation of wealth – of other people’s money. The financial sector, he shows, has grown too large, detached itself from ordinary business and everyday life, and has become an industry that mostly trades with itself, talks to itself, and judges itself by reference to standards which it has itself generated. And the outside world has itself adopted those standards, bailing out financial institutions that have failed all of us through greed and mismanagement.
We need finance, but today we have far too much of a good thing. In Other People’s Money, John Kay shows, in his inimitable style, what has gone wrong in the dark heart of the finance sector.
Between Debt and the Devil challenges the belief that we need credit growth to fuel economic growth, and that rising debt is okay as long as inflation remains low.
In fact, most credit is not needed for economic growth–but it drives real estate booms and busts and leads to financial crisis and depression. Turner explains why public policy needs to manage the growth and allocation of credit creation, and why debt needs to be taxed as a form of economic pollution. Banks need far more capital, real estate lending must be restricted, and we need to tackle inequality and mitigate the relentless rise of real estate prices. Turner also debunks the big myth about fiat money–the erroneous notion that printing money will lead to harmful inflation. To escape the mess created by past policy errors, we sometimes need to monetize government debt and finance fiscal deficits with central-bank money.
They were masters of the financial universe, flying in private jets and raking in billions. They thought they were too big to fail. Yet they would bring the world to its knees.
Andrew Ross Sorkin, the news-breaking New York Times journalist, delivers the first true in-the-room account of the most powerful men and women at the eye of the financial storm – from reviled Lehman Brothers CEO Dick ‘the gorilla’ Fuld, to banking whiz Jamie Dimon, from bullish Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson to AIG’s Joseph Cassano, dubbed ‘The Man Who Crashed the World’.
Through unprecedented access to the key players, Sorkin meticulously re-creates frantic phone calls, foul-mouthed rows and white-knuckle panic, as Wall Street fought to save itself.
Never before have investors and policy makers been beset by so many conflicting messages about the economy and the markets. While most pundits dismiss the conflicts as “noise” in the system, Mohamed A. El-Erian, president and CEO of the $35 billion Harvard Endowment and incoming co-CEO and co-CIO of PIMCO, one of today’s most successful investment firms, avers that those messages signal deep, structural changes and realignments that are radically redefining the investment game.
Written by the man who Fortune magazine refers to as a “Global Guru,” When Markets Collide offers a cogent picture of the rapidly changing world financial system. A book that is sure to become an overnight investment classic, it gets you up to speed on the new economic and investing landscape and provides a detailed blueprint for capitalizing on the phenomenal opportunities now available in that new investment landscape, while minimizing the new and challenging set of risks.
Raghuram Rajan was one of the few economists who warned of the global financial crisis before it hit. Now, as the world struggles to recover, it’s tempting to blame what happened on just a few greedy bankers who took irrational risks and left the rest of us to foot the bill. In Fault Lines, Rajan argues that serious flaws in the economy are also to blame, and warns that a potentially more devastating crisis awaits us if they aren’t fixed.
Rajan shows how the individual choices that collectively brought about the economic meltdown–made by bankers, government officials, and ordinary homeowners–were rational responses to a flawed global financial order in which the incentives to take on risk are incredibly out of step with the dangers those risks pose. He traces the deepening fault lines in a world overly dependent on the indebted American consumer to power global economic growth and stave off global downturns. He exposes a system where America’s growing inequality and thin social safety net create tremendous political pressure to encourage easy credit and keep job creation robust, no matter what the consequences to the economy’s long-term health; and where the U.S. financial sector, with its skewed incentives, is the critical but unstable link between an overstimulated America and an underconsuming world.
In Fault Lines, Rajan demonstrates how unequal access to education and health care in the United States puts us all in deeper financial peril, even as the economic choices of countries like Germany, Japan, and China place an undue burden on America to get its policies right. He outlines the hard choices we need to make to ensure a more stable world economy and restore lasting prosperity.
Picking up where Liar’s Poker left off (literally, in the bond dealer’s desks of Salomon Brothers) the story of Long-Term Capital Management is of a group of elite investors who believed they could beat the market and, like alchemists, create limitless wealth for themselves and their partners.
Founded by John Meriweather, a notoriously confident bond dealer, along with two Nobel prize winners and a floor of Wall Street’s brightest and best, Long-Term Captial Management was from the beginning hailed as a new gold standard in investing. It was to be the hedge fund to end all other hedge funds: a discreet private investment club limited to those rich enough to pony up millions.
It became the banks’ own favourite fund and from its inception achieved a run of dizzyingly spectacular returns. New investors barged each other aside to get their investment money into LTCM’s hands. But as competitors began to mimic Meriweather’s fund, he altered strategy to maintain the fund’s performance, leveraging capital with credit on a scale not fully understood and never seen before.
When the markets in Indonesia, South America and Russia crashed in 1998 LCTM’s investments crashed with them and mountainous debts accumulated. The fund was in melt-down, and threatening to bring down into its trillion-dollar black hole a host of financial instiutions from New York to Switzerland. It’s a tale of vivid characters, overwheening ambition, and perilous drama told, in Roger Lowenstein’s hands, with brilliant style and panache.
As Robert Shiller’s new 2009 preface to his prescient classic on behavioral economics and market volatility asserts, the irrational exuberance of the stock and housing markets “has been ended by an economic crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.” As we all, ordinary Americans and professional investors alike, crawl from the wreckage of our heedless bubble economy, the shrewd insights and sober warnings, and hard facts that Shiller marshals in this book are more invaluable than ever.
The original and bestselling 2000 edition of Irrational Exuberance evoked Alan Greenspan’s infamous 1996 use of that phrase to explain the alternately soaring and declining stock market. It predicted the collapse of the tech stock bubble through an analysis of the structural, cultural, and psychological factors behind levels of price growth not reflected in any other sector of the economy. In the second edition (2005), Shiller folded real estate into his analysis of market volatility, marshalling evidence that housing prices were dangerously inflated as well, a bubble that could soon burst, leading to a “string of bankruptcies” and a “worldwide recession.” That indeed came to pass, with consequences that the 2009 preface to this edition deals with.
Irrational Exuberance is more than ever a cogent, chilling, and astonishingly far-seeing analytical work that no one with any money in any market anywhere can afford not to read–and heed.
During his fourteen years as Yale’s chief investment officer, David F. Swensen has transformed the management of the university’s portfolio. Largely by focusing on nonconventional strategies, including a heavy allocation to private equity, Swensen has achieved an annualized return of 16.2 percent, which has propelled Yale’s endowment into the top tier of institutional funds. Now, this acknowledged leader of fund managers draws on his experience and deep knowledge of the financial markets to provide a compendium of powerful investment strategies.
Swensen presents an overview of the investment world populated by institutional fund managers, pension fund fiduciaries, investment managers, and trustees of universities, museums, hospitals, and foundations. He offers penetrating insights from his experience managing Yale’s endowment, ranging from broad issues of goals and investment philosophy to the strategic and tactical aspects of portfolio management. Swensen’s exceptionally readable book addresses critical concepts such as handling risk, selecting investment advisers, and negotiating the opportunities and pitfalls in individual asset classes. Fundamental investment ideas are illustrated by real-world concrete examples, and each chapter contains strategies that any manager can put into action.
At a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to cope with the relentless challenges provided by today’s financial markets, Swensen’s book is an indispensable roadmap for creating a successful investment program for every institutional fund manager. Any student of markets will benefit from Pioneering Portfolio Management.