Saturday, 10 September, 2011

Money Matters : Be Scared, Be Very Very Scared.............


Fragility in the European Banking system.

Are we moving towards end-game?


Cost of Portugese and Greek bonds at record levels vs. the Bunds (extra yields of roughly 5 and 10 percent respectively).

Sovereign CDS prices climb..

And the Oracle of Omaha puts in his two cents worth.

However, the Euro holds on the weakness of the dollar rather than its own strength.


So, will we enter 2011 with optimism on this front?

At least the Economist blog doesn't think so. Here is an extract.

Lately, The Economist has been arguing that 2011 is likely to be a year of financial shocks, with Europe the likeliest of sources for them. Indeed, as Michael Pettis says, 2011 will probably prove to be the year of the euro zone endgame. Amid austerity and continuing crisis, national elections will begin throwing up leaders for more sceptical of the European project than the bunch now in power. The European attitude could move from commitment to stay together but disagreement over the distribution of costs to widespread ambivalence about the euro zone itself. If markets observe such a shift emerging, they'll rapidly bring matters to a head. No one wants to be holding the bag when the end finally comes, and market players will start selling while the selling is still good.

In the context of the disagreement among the EU members on the way forward;

It isn't difficult to understand the motivations of leaders across the euro zone, but they're clearly playing with fire. If they can't bring themselves to extinguish it once and for all in 2011, the single-currency will be lost in the ensuing conflagration.

We enter 2011 with things still on a slow boil.


"Greece is the great experiment, the laboratory of Europe," said Theodore Pelagidis, professor of economic analysis at Pireaus University. "What happens here will determine what happens in Europe. and if the euro breaks up, survives and on what terms it survives."

Not really. That distinction should go to Spain as per Robert Halver, Head of Market Research, Baader Bank. In his words, "If Spain gets into trouble, then we would have a serious problem. Spain is too big to bail, not too big to fail, but too big to bail."

Coming back to the Spartans;

-         Greece asks for extension to repay Euro 110bn of debt from the IMF
-         The Greek deficit was at 15.4% in 2009
-         Public debt projected to reach 160% of GDP by 2013
-         Unemployment to hit 15% next year
-         S&P warns that Greece’s sovereign rating could be further downgraded

The Euro, once touted to rival and overtake the Dollar as the safe haven currency to the world has been having something of a roller coaster ride in the recent past and is for some reason I am not able to fathom climbing against the US Dollar recently. On an average, it moved from 1.43 in January to 1.22 in June and is now in the range of 1.32.

The dollar increasingly will look attractive if the situation worsens, primarily because there seems to be no alternative. The alternatives?

-         The Yen, not with Japan’s current economic position.
-         The Chinese Yuan, too many structural issues.
-         The Pound Sterling, not sure but it has actually weakened against the dollar over the year on an average.

I am no expert on these things but nothing seems to be adding up.

An inside joke but policy makers seem to be in a Chal Daru Peete Hain phase.

30-10-2010 : Satyajit Das on the Europe Financial Stability Fund.

12-09-2010 : Here's a question for you. Let's say that you've borrowed money and are now in a position where anybody looking at your net worth and cash flow position knows that you're almost insolvent. Will the bank lend you some more?

Of course not. That's common sense. Or is it? If, like a big bank or a country you're too big to fail, they will.

This is called government intervention. After all, you can't have Citibank or Greece shutting down can you? So you pile it on.

Don't take my word for it.

Primarily such a move would be due to government pressure. At some level, it would also be returns driven as the spread between the PIGS countries and other EU paper increase. The underlying assumption is that the borrower will not be insolvent. After all, how can an European country go under?

If this isn't Moral Hazard, what is?

06-09-2010 An update from Time Magazine on the Debt Crisis

What effect will a potential default have on the EU? No one knows at this point. It is, however, quite clear that there are disagreements within the member countries on the way forward.

As a German friend put it a couple of months ago, "Maybe system makers should look at the changes required from a Euro re-conversion and get offerings ready!" Alarmist yes, but indicative of the magnitude of the problem? Also yes.

Here is a nice explanation by the NY Times.

Sunday, 31 July, 2011

Movie Review : Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

(Interior, bar in a five star restaurant; Farhan and Hrithik are at a table)

Farhan : So, are you interested in the vacation or not? Spain is a fun place.. we'll go sky diving, scuba diving, run with the bulls, get drunk.. you know.. the works..

Hrithik : (Leaning over to check out his profile in the bar mirror) Arre yaar, nahin hoga.. can't take that much time off... will have to check with the family.. also, this will cost a bomb yaar, doing all that stuff...

Farhan : Nahin yaar, I've got it all figured out.. This is how it'll work.. Me and Zoya will work out the script.. It'll be about three friends going to Spain... We'll throw in the standard stuff about urban angst, searching for meaning and all that bullshit.. I'll speak to dad man, he'll help out and also with the lyrics..Some of this stuff I've already done with DCH but in Goa. I've also spoken to Bobby and he's game so it'll be just us star kids.. Producers will fall all over themselves to get in on it. Think about it, we'll get paid to go on vacation (laughs)

Hrithik : (checking out his teeth using a silver spoon as a mirror) hmm... but yeh picture chalega?

Farhan : Of course man, I've got the sales pitch all figured out... you'll bring in the babes and the gay crowd by taking off your shirt, I'll bring in the intellectual hip crowd.. they've been coming to every movie of mine after DCH hoping against hope, pretty dependable... The hatke crowd will come in for anything that has Bobby and then we'll get someone like Kat. That'll bring in the guys. Maybe we could get you and Kat to writhe in tomato pulp... they have a festival for that in Spain. Will also make a change from the standard rain song or water dunking.. I've also been thinking that we could maybe get some sponsorship : the Spain tourism department, maybe a car company; after all this is almost a documentary.. just one of our vacation huh? (Grins) I love this multiplex crowd man, they'll buy anything as long as they think it's hip enough... I can also read the critics now...  "fresh, funny..." is how they'll see it. Cheers...

Friday, 8 April, 2011

Movie Review : Urumi

Based on the history of Vasco de Gama in Kerala, this film builds around some key events of the period and is essentially a revenge drama. The story pretty much follows any Indian movie built around the historical events involving foreigners.

1. Incredibly evil and greedy foreigners commit atrocities on the poor and well meaning Indian population (dog ears grafted on to well meaning Indian envoy and so on).
2. The hero builds a rag tag, ill equipped team that stand up to the foreigners with much dialogue baazi and musical interludes.
3. Pitched battles are fought with this team overcoming superior odds but the hero (and his irritating sidekick) eventually succumb.
4. A point is proved?

Think Kranti, Mangal Pandey, what have you and this is the framework. No different here. The key to making a good movie out of this hackneyed premise is execution. That, this movie does not have.

First off, there is no character development. Everyone in this movie is two dimensional. In fact so little seems to have been done in this department that you come out feeling for Jagathy's role as Chenichery Kurup, for the sheer effort the man brings to playing the part. As far as the lead actor Prithviraj goes, it looks like the director asked him to continue with the expression used to play the possessed character in Ananthabhadram and sleep walk through the role. The bad to average acting is then made worse by the body language adopted by the actors, seemingly with the intention of making the visuals look attractive. Movements and poses are highly exaggerated, almost resembling a dance ballet at times.

Second, the action scenes are so badly choreographed that they are worthy of any B grade movie. The battle scenes consist of extras running onto fields and contorting themselves to strike pseudo-kalari poses. The climax is in a league of its own with this amateurishness lovingly enhanced by the excessive use of slow motion.

Third, the script is very weak. Character development I have already mentioned but the script or screenplay has no narrative fluidity. The narrative has a jerky, contrived feel as though random events are being cobbled together to fill in the time until the final battle.

As far as technical excellence goes, the sets and costumes are pedestrian at best - a pastiche of papier mache and Fabindia fabrics.

The film has excellent photography and is very lush but can you watch random pretty pictures for three hours?

Sitting at a Multiplex in Bangalore, waiting for this movie to end, I began to wonder when the Indian film industry will ever mature. Santosh Sivan is a classic example. An excellent cinematographer by all standards but a director? If you google this film, you will be hard pressed to find a negative review. Most talk of "fantastic performances, technical artistry" and so on. Santosh Sivan the cinematographer is held in so much awe that no one wants to acknowledge that he is not exactly the best of directors. Come award season, and there will be people falling over each other to fete this film. Granted, I have not seen his entire directorial body of work but the three that I have - Ananthabhadram, Ashoka and Urumi are enough for me to conclude.

Urumi - "The boy who wanted to kill Vasco de Gama." The tagline should have warned me that this one is worth a miss.

Considering what Santosh Sivan did to Asoka in 2001, Vasco de Gama would have been turning in his grave as soon as this film was announced.

As an aside, if you want to watch a good Malayalam movie, watch "Pranchiyettan and the Saint." Great movie even though it could have done with a reduction of half an hour of running time with no detrimental effect on the overall outcome.

Wednesday, 23 February, 2011

Rambling : Viva Le Revolution

So, it happened in Egypt. It's happening in Libya and Baharain. Is it a good thing?

Traditionally, every revolution or mass movement had a leader and more or less an ideology. Take Gandhi, take Mandela and many others. What do we have now? Facebook inspired movements that revolve around what people don't want. This is becoming a game of political dominoes in a region that has an impact on the world far greater than their size or consequence as a global power warrants. Oil.

What happens after they get rid of what they don't want? Is there a leader who will come in and provide what is the unstated need? Doesn't look like. The vacuum will probably be filled by people and circumstances that will be driven by other agendas, whether international or otherwise. Will it lead to good, honest governance? Only time will tell but the odds are stacked against it. Cut-and-paste democracy need not necessarily work.

Saturday, 22 January, 2011

Kid Stuff : Stallions of the Huns

Poetry by my son, Adil.

Thunders rumble and galaxies tumble,
At the sound of the beating hooves.
The Earth quakes and mountains shake,
Due to the monstrous stare.

Buildings fall, both great and small,
As they race across the sky.
With a mighty roar,
The chieftain gores,
The tribe's true enemy.

For it was them,
Who were left alone,
When fled the spirits,
Of the masters.
And as a blast,
Thunders will pass.
Because of the mighty
stallions of the Huns.