Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New Books Worthly Reading

Crisis Economics: A Crash Course in the Future of Finance

This myth shattering book reveals the methods Nouriel Roubini used to foretell the current crisis before other economists saw it coming and shows how those methods can help us make sense of the present and prepare for the future.
Renowned economist Nouriel Roubini electrified his profession and the larger financial community by predicting the current crisis well in advance of anyone else. Unlike most in his profession who treat economic disasters as freakish once-inA-a-lifetime events without clear cause, Roubini, after decades of careful research around the world, realized that they were both probable and predictable. Armed with an unconventional blend of historical analysis and global economics, Roubini has forced politicians, policy makers, investors, and market watchers to face a long-neglected truth: financial systems are inherently fragile and prone to collapse.

Drawing on the parallels from many countries and centuries, Nouriel Roubini and Stephen Mihm, a professor of economic history and a New York Times Magazine writer, show that financial cataclysms are as old and as ubiquitous as capitalism itself. The last two decades alone have witnessed comparable crises in countries as diverse as Mexico, Thailand, Brazil, Pakistan, and Argentina. All of these crises-not to mention the more sweeping cataclysms such as the Great Depression-have much in common with the current downturn. Bringing lessons of earlier episodes to bear on our present predicament, Roubini and Mihm show how we can recognize and grapple with the inherent instability of the global financial system, understand its pressure points, learn from previous episodes of irrational exuberance, pinpoint the course of global contagion, and plan for our immediate future. Perhaps most important, the authors-considering theories, statistics, and mathematical models with the skepticism that recent history warrants- explain how the world's economy can get out of the mess we're in, and stay out.

In Roubini's shadow, economists and investors are increasingly realizing that they can no longer afford to consider crises the black swans of financial history. A vital and timeless book, Crisis Economics proves calamities to be not only predictable but also preventable and, with the right medicine, curable.

The Greatest Trade Ever: The Behind-the-Scenes Story of How John Paulson Defied Wall Street and Made Financial History

In 2006, hedge fund manager John Paulson realized something few others suspected--that the housing market and the value of subprime mortgages were grossly inflated and headed for a major fall. Paulson's background was in mergers and acquisitions, however, and he knew little about real estate or how to wager against housing. He had spent a career as an also-ran on Wall Street. But Paulson was convinced this was his chance to make his mark. He just wasn't sure how to do it. Colleagues at investment banks scoffed at him and investors dismissed him. Even pros skeptical about housing shied away from the complicated derivative investments that Paulson was just learning about. But Paulson and a handful of renegade investors such as Jeffrey Greene and Michael Burry began to bet heavily against risky mortgages and precarious financial companies. Timing is everything, though. Initially, Paulson and the others lost tens of millions of dollars as real estate and stocks continued to soar. Rather than back down, however, Paulson redoubled his bets, putting his hedge fund and his reputation on the line. In the summer of 2007, the markets began to implode, bringing Paulson early profits, but also sparking efforts to rescue real estate and derail him. By year's end, though, John Paulson had pulled off the greatest trade in financial history, earning more than $15 billion for his firm--a figure that dwarfed George Soros's billion-dollar currency trade in 1992. Paulson made billions more in 2008 by transforming his gutsy move. Some of the underdog investors who attempted the daring trade also reaped fortunes. But others who got the timing wrong met devastating failure, discovering that being early and right wasn't nearly enough. Written by the prizewinning reporter who broke the story in The Wall Street Journal, The Greatest Trade Ever is a superbly written, fast-paced, behind-the-scenes narrative of how a contrarian foresaw an escalating financial crisis--that outwitted Chuck Prince, Stanley O'Neal, Richard Fuld, and Wall Street's titans--to make financial history.


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