Manila Office Life

24 July 2008

Financial Humor

Here's some financial humor from Bloomberg. Who knew these guys could be funny?

Optimists Buy iPhones While Pessimists Hoard Gold: Mark Gilbert

Commentary by Mark Gilbert

July 24 (Bloomberg) -- Here's an updated version of the Voight-Kampff test from Ridley Scott's ``Blade Runner'' movie. Instead of identifying Replicants, however, these questions sort the financial optimists from the reali...I mean, pessimists.

(1) A Tale of Two Economies

You see a line of badly dressed people snaking along the sidewalk, seemingly oblivious to the wind and rain. A guy with a beard is pouring himself a steaming cup of something from a thermos. You conclude that they are:

(a) outside a bank, desperately trying to get their savings out because they have heard a rumor that the financial system is on the brink of meltdown and there's no way they trust the deposit insurance plan to protect them.

(b) outside an Apple Inc. store, desperately trying to get their hands on a 3G iPhone. And, no, they don't want a white one, or 8 gigabytes of memory; they want a black one with 16 gigabytes. (What they REALLY want is a red iPhone with 32 gigabytes; Apple will introduce that five minutes after everyone has the current model.)

(2) I Have Seen the Future and It Smirks

The price of a tank of gasoline has gone through the roof. Your response is to:

(a) buy a Toyota Prius with smugness fitted as standard, pretending not to notice how darned ugly the thing is and trying not to worry about what happens when it breaks down and your local mechanic has to work out how to fix it.

(b) hand over a $5,000 deposit and join the waiting list for a $109,000 battery-powered Tesla Roadster. The makers claim zero to 60 miles (97 kilometers) per hour in 3.9 seconds, at less than 2 cents per mile. Hey, if it's good enough for the guys at Google Inc.

(c) slap a bumper sticker on your Ford Behemoth that reads ``How Did Our Oil Get Underneath Their Sand?''

(3) Scapegoats and Witch Hunts

Surging oil and energy prices threaten to wreck your economy. You, a U.S. legislator, decide to:

(a) propose lucrative tax breaks to companies that invest in alternative-energy sources such as wind and wave power, excluding ethanol.

(b) propose lucrative tax breaks to drivers who trade in their Chevy Mastodons for more fuel-efficient vehicles.

(c) cry ``speculators!'' Your solution is new legislation to ban trading in parts of the futures market because ``Americans are being taken advantage of not only by OPEC but by speculators right here in our own country,'' as Senator Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, put it. Hey, I believe in free markets, but there has to be a limit.

(4) Cover-Up

The mortgage-backed bond market is dead, murdered by lax lending standards that destroyed investor faith in the quality of home loans. As U.S. Treasury secretary, you decide that:

(a) this is a disaster. We need rules to ensure unscrupulous lenders can't finagle people into buying houses they can't afford by offering introductory teaser rates that reset two years later. That will help to restore confidence.

(b) this is a disaster. We need rules to stop unqualified home buyers lying about their incomes and suckering the mortgage companies into granting loans that will never get repaid. That will help to restore confidence.

(c) this is a disaster. How are my Wall Street pals supposed to generate bonus-boosting fees without an asset-backed bond market to play in? Maybe we could rebrand it? I know, let's create a covered bond market. Completely different! Hey, if it works in Europe.

(5) Naked Cheerleading

The collapse in the share prices of financial institutions, driving both the U.S. S&P 500 Financials Index and the Bloomberg Europe Banks and Financial Services Index down about 40 percent in the past year, is attributable to:

(a) prudent investors who are tired of hearing the worst is over, concerned that there are more huge writedowns to come, and planning to pass the hat around to build a statue of Oppenheimer & Co.'s Meredith Whitney for daring to speak truth to power.

(b) naked short sellers, who are a stain on the integrity of global capital markets and spend their days propagating scurrilous rumors to make money. They must be stopped. What's that? What about the cheerleaders who relentlessly talk stocks higher? I'm sorry, we're busy trying to prosecute the authors of e-mails about the liquidity situation at Bear Stearns Cos.

(6) Tough Love

The housing markets and construction industries in Spain and Ireland are in meltdown. Consumer and business confidence is plummeting everywhere you look in the euro region. The failure to find agreement on the Lisbon treaty threatens political chaos. As a policy maker at the European Central Bank, you decide to:

(a) cut interest rates, recognizing that the economy is staring into the abyss.

(b) leave interest rates unchanged, hoping to calm the euro's increase against the dollar and give exporters a break.

(c) raise interest rates by a quarter-point. We have only one needle in our Bundesbank-designed compass, and it points perpetually skyward.

(7) Shiny, Happy People

Gold is:

(a) a barbarous relic, and has been ever since John Maynard Keynes coined the phrase.

(b) the erstwhile and future money. We need to get back on the gold standard RIGHT NOW and abandon fiat currencies. We wouldn't be in this mess if you had listened to me and kept your tinfoil hat on. Hey, is that a tiny black helicopter I can hear whirring away next to my ear?


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