Friday, September 14, 2007

A Roundup from The Economist

Damn they're good.
First up, Northern Rock:

Hit by a rock
A CENTURY ago, the depth of a banking crisis was measured by the length of the queue outside banks. These days, financial panics are more likely to be played out through heavy selling in share, bond or currency markets than old-fashioned bank runs.

That makes the sight on the morning of Friday September 14th of a queue of people waiting (patiently in most cases) to take their money out of Northern Rock, a wounded British mortgage bank, all the more extraordinary. A crisis that started in America’s subprime mortgage market where dodgy loans were made to unsound borrowers has shaken the world’s financial capitals since mid-August. Now it has landed on the high street at one of Britain’s biggest mortgage lenders....MORE>

When the stockbrokers and investment bankers are queuing up, well, it gets your attention.

Next, Insurerers and Global Warming:

A flood of claims
IT WAS a very wet summer in much of England. Floods in central and western parts of the country, the worst in decades, resulted in widespread misery: around 60,000 homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed. Insurers, which are facing at least £3 billion ($6.1 billion) in claims, have said they expect household premiums to rise next year.

Amid the long process of drying out and sorting through claims, a group of leading insurers gathered in London on Thursday September 13th to unveil a joint initiative to address climate change.

Hailing what it called “a new era” in industry action to deal with the issue, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) put forth a series of principles—ranging from greater engagement in public-policy making to incorporating climate change in members’ investment strategies—that it dubbed ClimateWise. The goals are worthy, but the likely impact of the plan remains to be seen. The complexity and global nature of climate change calls for long-term, broad-based solutions....MORE>

Finally, Algorithms:

Business by numbers
ALGORITHMS sound scary, of interest only to dome-headed mathematicians. In fact they have become the instruction manuals for a host of routine consumer transactions. Browse for a book on and algorithms generate recommendations for other titles to buy.
Buy a copy and they help a logistics firm to decide on the best delivery route. Ring to check your order's progress and more algorithms spring into action to determine the quickest connection to and through a call-centre. From analysing credit-card transactions to deciding how to stack supermarket shelves, algorithms now underpin a large amount of everyday life....MORE> Home