“THERE is life after Buenos Aires,” soothed Susana Malcorra, chair of the 11th ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Multilateralism may not be dead, but it has taken a kicking. Expectations were low as the meeting began in the Arg…Read More
The Baumgarten blastCALL it the hydrocarbon equivalent of the butterfly effect. As oil and gas supplies tighten during the northern winter, disruptions as remote as a hairline fracture on a piece of Scottish pipeline, and an explosion in an Austrian na…Read More
TEN years ago this month, America entered the “Great Recession”. A decade on, the recession occupies a strange space in public memory. Its toll was clearly large. America suffered a cumulative loss of output estimated at nearly $4trn, and its labour ma…Read More
FOR all the sound and fury of the Brexit negotiations, it has seemed at times as if the financial markets have been barely affected. But as with the swans that glide on the Thames, a serene surface conceals some frantic paddling underneath.The pound is…Read More
DIAMONDS, they say, are for ever. They can be pricey, too. On December 5th 173 lots of jewels auctioned by Sotheby’s raised $54m. They included several pieces belonging to Sean Connery, known for playing James Bond. The following day a car favoured by …Read More
OFTEN promoted as a way of mitigating risk, futures contracts are frequently more like new ways of gambling. That was true of a close precursor to the instrument, introduced in the Netherlands in 1636, linked to the hot investment of the day—tulip bulbs. Likewise the world’s first two futures contracts linked to bitcoin. One launched on the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) on December 10th; the other was due to follow a week later on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME).
As bitcoin’s price has soared to new highs (see chart), holders may be happy to have a way to hedge their exposure at last. But for many, the contracts are just another way in. Both contracts settle in cash (ie, for the difference between the agreed price and the actual spot price). No exchange of bitcoin is needed; similarly, in the Dutch precedent, no bulbs were involved.
Early trading on the CBOE certainly suggests a speculative market. In the first few hours, prices rose so quickly that trading twice had to be suspended. The contract has so far traded at a significant premium, of up to $2,000, to the spot price. This suggests there are more buyers than sellers—even though selling in the futures market offers a way to bet against bitcoin.Read More
USUALLY politicians pretend that good economic news on their watch is no surprise. But America’s recent growth figures have been so positive that even the administration of President Donald Trump has allowed itself to marvel. “It’s actually happening f…Read More
HOWEVER long a storm lasts, clearing up takes longer. On December 7th Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank and head of the committee that approves global bank-capital standards, declared that revisions to Basel 3, the version drawn up a…Read More
EVERGRANDE, a Chinese property firm, is a big spender. It was until recently the country’s most indebted developer. It also owns a football club with one of the highest payrolls in China. It has extended its largesse to a new field: economics. Having f…Read More
LIKE the ghosts that haunted Ebenezer Scrooge, the scandals of years past—summoned up by angry shareholders—will not let companies rest. In Britain this year, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) paid £900m ($1.2bn) to settle a long-running investor lawsui…Read More