Category Archives: The Real World

How government policy exacerbates hurricane-related damage

One year ago this coming Sunday, the article cited below was the cover story for the 9/2/17 issue of The Economist.  The points raised by this article (regarding the “moral hazard” associated with mispriced/subsidized insurance coupled with misguided NFIP claims policies) are (unfortunately) as valid today as they were back then.

Quoting from this article,

“Underpricing (of flood insurance) encourages the building of new houses and discourages existing owners from renovating or moving out. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, houses that repeatedly flood account for 1% of NFIP’s properties but 25-30% of its claims. Five states, Texas among them, have more than 10,000 such households and, nationwide, their number has been going up by around 5,000 each year. Insurance is meant to provide a signal about risk; in this case, it stifles it.”

As if global warming were not enough of a threat, poor planning and unwise subsidies make floods worse.

The Index Fund featured as one of “50 Things That Made the Modern Economy”

Tim Harford also features the index fund in his “Fifty Things That Made the Modern Economy” radio and podcast series. This 9-minute long podcast lays out the history of the development of the index fund in particular and the evolution of so-called of passive portfolio strategies in general. Much of the content of this podcast is sourced from Vanguard founder Jack Bogle’s September 2011 WSJ article entitled “How the Index Fund Was Born” (available at https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424053111904583204576544681577401622). Here’s the description of this podcast:

“Warren Buffett is the world’s most successful investor. In a letter he wrote to his wife, advising her how to invest after he dies, he offers some clear advice: put almost everything into “a very low-cost S&P 500 index fund”. Index funds passively track the market as a whole by buying a little of everything, rather than trying to beat the market with clever stock picks – the kind of clever stock picks that Warren Buffett himself has been making for more than half a century. Index funds now seem completely natural. But as recently as 1976 they didn’t exist. And, as Tim Harford explains, they have become very important indeed – and not only to Mrs. Buffett.”

Warren Buffett is one of the world’s great investors. His advice? Invest in an index fund

Insurance featured as one of “50 Things That Made the Modern Economy”

From November 2016 through October 2017, Financial Times writer Tim Harford presented an economic history documentary radio and podcast series called 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy. This same information is available in book under the title “Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy“. While I recommend listening to the entire series of podcasts (as well as reading the book), I would like to call your attention to Mr. Harford’s episode on a particularly important risk management topic; i.e., the topic of insurance, which I link below. This 9-minute long podcast lays out the history of the development of the various institutions which exist today for the sharing and trading of risk, including markets for financial derivatives as well as for insurance.

“Legally and culturally, there’s a clear distinction between gambling and insurance. Economically, the difference is not so easy to see. Both the gambler and the insurer agree that money will change hands depending on what transpires in some unknowable future. Today the biggest insurance market of all – financial derivatives – blurs the line between insuring and gambling more than ever. Tim Harford tells the story of insurance; an idea as old as gambling but one which is fundamental to the way the modern economy works.”

Postscript: The scene above depicts the early days of Lloyd’s Coffee House in London, England. According to Wikipedia, Lloyd’s Coffee House was opened by Edward Lloyd in 1686 and quickly became “… a popular place for sailors, merchants and shipowners, and Lloyd catered to them with reliable shipping news. The shipping industry community frequented the place to discuss maritime insurance, shipbroking and foreign trade. The dealing that took place led to the establishment of the insurance market Lloyd’s of London…”

Apple Is a Hedge Fund That Makes Phones

This is a fascinating article in today’s Wall Street Journal about how Apple is, for all intents and purposes, a highly levered hedge fund, thanks to its wholly owned Braeburn Capital subsidiary which accounts for 70% of the book value of Apple’s assets.

Quoting from this article,

“Similar shadow hedge funds abound within S&P 500 industrial companies. Most disclose less information than Apple about their activities… in 2012 these corporations managed a combined portfolio of $1.6 trillion of nonoperating financial assets. Of this amount, almost 40% is held in risky financial assets, such as corporate bonds, mortgage-backed securities, auction-rate securities and equities.”

The (gated) Journal of Finance article upon which this WSJ op-ed is based is available at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jofi.12490.

Big companies need to disclose more about their investments.

CFA® Information Session on Monday, August 27th @ 4:30-5:00 pm in FOS 143/144

CFA® Information Session

When: Monday, August 27th @ 4:30-5:00 pm

Where: FOS 143/144

Do you want to be an investor or a financial professional?

Do you want to challenge yourself within the field of investment and finance?

Do you want to differentiate yourself in the job market?

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) program is a globally recognized standard for measuring the competence and integrity of financial analysts, and a valued credential by investment firms, banks, and financial institutions around the world.   If you have unanswered questions about the CFA program and want to find out if it is right for you, come discover its advantages from industry professionals with the CFA designation. Topics will include:

  • Who should pursue the CFA designation
  • The CFA charter and your career
  • Who employs CFA charterholders
  • International recognition
  • Requirements for taking the exams and receiving the charter
  • Exam topics and preparation
  • Scholarships

Stop by, enjoy some food, and learn about the CFA designation.  This session is open to all students. If you have questions, please contact brandon_troegle@baylor.edu.

On the relationship between the S&P 500 and the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX)

Besides going over the course syllabus tomorrow, we will also discuss a “real world” example of financial risk. Specifically, we will look at the relationship between short-term stock market volatility (as indicated by the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX)) and returns (as indicated by the SP500 stock market index).

As indicated by this graph from page 25 of the lecture note for the first day of class, daily percentage changes on closing prices for VIX and the SP500 are strongly negatively correlated. In the graph above, the y-axis variable is the daily return on the SP500, whereas the x-axis variable is the daily return on the VIX. The blue points represent 7,215 daily observations on these two variables, spanning the time period from January 2, 1990 through August 17, 2018. When we fit a regression line through this scatter diagram, we obtain the following equation:

{R_{SP500}} = 0.0587 - 0.1139{R_{VIX}},

where {R_{SP500}} corresponds to the daily return on the SP500 index and {R_{VIX}} corresponds to the daily return on the VIX index. The slope of this line (-0.1139) indicates that on average, daily VIX returns during this time period were inversely related to the daily return on the SP500; i.e., when volatility as measured by VIX went down (up), then the stock market return as indicated by SP500 typically went up (down). Nearly half of the variation in the stock market return during this time period (specifically, 48.4%) can be statistically “explained” by changes in volatility, and the correlation between {R_{SP500}} and {R_{VIX}} comes out to -0.696. While a correlation of -0.696 does not imply that {R_{SP500}} and {R_{VIX}} will always move in opposite directions, it does indicate that this will be the case more often than not. Indeed, closing daily returns on {R_{SP500}} and {R_{VIX}} during this period moved inversely 78.3% of the time.

You can see how the relationship between the SP500 and VIX evolves prospectively by entering http://finance.yahoo.com/quotes/^GSPC,^VIX into your web browser’s address field.

The Finance Industry’s Incredible Ability to Keep the Money Rolling In

Quoting from this article (which appeared in last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal),

“From the era of railroads and the telegraph to that the internet and smartphones, the price charged by the finance industry to turn a dollar of savings into a dollar of investment has mostly remained between 1.5 cents and 2 cents for every dollar that passes through the finance industry.”