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Is Volatility Back?

Yesterday was the worst day on the financial markets for about 5 weeks, coupled with an incredibly good day (for no apparent reason) the day before. March was a very boring month in terms of market movements and April has certainly gotten off to an interesting start.

When you look at some of the recent moves in the context of

  • North Korea being the angry kid on the aeroplane who's mother wont give him any sweets so he threatens to be sick on purpose;
  • Europe seemingly blowing up again in the form of reverse bank robbery
  • some extremely poor economic data from around the world and
  • a very high negative-to-positive guidance ratio from companies before earnings season

The Best Sources of Financial News & Commentary

The world today is chock-full of information, far more than any one person could possibly digest or hope to read. For this weeks blog post I decided to give a list of the news sources I use and find helpful, as well as inviting others to share their ideas. So, here goes.

Warren Buffett - The Greatest Investor Ever?

Recently, after posting a gain of over $20bn (14%), Buffett called his performance for the year "disappointing". He has one of the greatest track records in history and an approach that is dictated by fundamental value investing.

The Vampire Squid

Nowadays it seems tough to find a proper financial scandal or controversy that Goldman isn't involved in somehow. Just off the top of my head I've got:

  • European sovereign debt crisis - Goldman systematically helped the Greek government misrepresent its finances in order to gain EU membership
  • Tentacles in government - Many US treasury secretaries have come straight from Goldman, a lot of global central bankers have histories at Goldman, Lloyd Blankfein has even been reported to have visited the White House at the President's request up to 10 times

What To Expect In 2013

I'm going to join in all the other countless people who are making their "predictions" for 2013 and would welcome yours as well! Here we go:

  • Moodys will downgrade the US in the first half of 2013 - Political deadlock and rapidly increasing debt-to-GDP along with a trillion-dollar deficit will cause Moodys to follow S&P and downgrade the US
  • We will be pushed the brink of warfare between Israel and Iran around the summer - Although we will be close to war, I don't believe that Israel will have the backing of the US and will not actually do anything openly, but will continue with it's "covert" war and assassinations

Your Thoughts on 2012

So 2012 is essentially over and it's been an interesting year by all accounts. I think it's been a fairly bad year, both geopolitically and in terms of finance (although for myself it's been quite good!). Some of my key moments of 2012:

  • LIBOR - Global hatred of bankers reached new highs this year with various scandals including money laundering, derivative mis-selling and of course, LIBOR manipulation
  • Heightened tensions in the Middle East - Iran, Israel, Palestine, Syria, all of these have been involved in conflicts of some sort and it seems like this will only escalate further in 2013

Microsoft's Slide To Oblivion

Microsoft has been a behemoth among computing for the past 30 years. Most of us probably grew up with Windows 95 / 98 (Hover! anyone?) and have had Windows as the main part of our computing education. In the last 5 or so though they have become less and less relevant as the computing industry shifts more towards mobile, where MS is failing terribly. Their Surface tablet has debuted with less-than-stellar reviews and frankly terrible sales numbers. Windows Phones are not exactly shifting in massive bulk either.

When you think about it, Microsoft only really has two things going for it nowadays:

    Person of the Year 2012

    For the last 85 years a publication called Time has been running a 'Man of the Year' (recently changed to 'Person') award. Past winners include Gandhi, Middle America, George W Bush and many others. Time is running a feature where users can vote for who they want to be Person of the Year, and then the magazine editors will decide accordingly. Do you know who is one of the top favourites this year?

    Kim Jong Un. Yes you read that correctly, The short, plump, floppy-haired dictator of one of the most impoverished and secretive police states in the world is up for nomination as Person of the Year. Do you know who else joins him in the top 4? Egyptian President-turned-dictator Mohammed Morsi and Syrian president Bashar Al Assad.

    How To Impress Those Who Matter

    We've all been there at some point. You turn up for a new job, bright eyed, fresh faced and eager to show everyone you are the worlds greatest gift to the team. One slight problem though, you're not. Everyone you are working with has more experience and is probably better at the job than you are. This leaves you in a bit of a predicament; you want that return offer / top bonus. Making a great impression with the seniors on the team is easier than you think as long as you follow these key points.

      Should you even be aiming for BB IBD anymore?

      A couple of stories have hit the tapes recently which both make fairly depressing reading for those looking to jump into a new 2/3 year analyst programme at a bulge bracket bank.

      1 - Bonuses are down. Way down. I can only give UK figures here but the average 1st year salary is now around £65,000 all in (20k bonus) which, after tax, is more like 35-40k. Numbers are similar in the US.

      2 - Banks are slimming and trimming faster than an anorexic teenager. First Goldman announces it is cutting it's 2 year programme, then UBS lays off most of it's London bankers. Across the board the bulge bracket are cutting middle-management, promoting less partners and hiring less grads.

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