Book Bits For Saturday: 8.20.2011

Extreme Money: Masters of the Universe and the Cult of Risk
By Satyajit Das
Review via The Globe and Mail
Forget the hand-wringing over the United States losing its triple-A credit rating. The real threat to the global economy is Europe. That’s the no-nonsense view from Satyajit Das, a global risk expert based in Sydney, Australia, and author of Extreme Money: The Masters of the Universe and the Cult of Risk. Mr. Das is counted among the few who predicted the meltdown of toxic credit derivatives that fuelled the financial crisis of 2008. Now the former financial industry wunderkind is warning of new dangers that are threatening the very future the 17-country euro zone.

Codes of Finance: Engineering Derivatives in a Global Bank
By Vincent Antonin Lépinay
Excerpt via publisher, Princeton University Press
This book tells the story of a financial innovation from the inside. But one might legitimately ask: Do we really want another insider’s account? Are we not already paying a high price for having left insiders to organize financial markets at their convenience for too long? If financial operators acknowledge that they erred, then the accounts that they give of their inability to control a situation that went out of control are short of illuminating. Threatened as scapegoats of a major financial crisis, those who have attempted to articulate the failure of the financial system usually spend more time shifting the blame over to another group of experts than shedding light on the system’s inherent complexity. When experts are in a bubble, it is safe to burst it open, but not just any tool will reveal its inner complexity. Indeed, who will gain an intellectual grasp of these financial innovations and their ripple effects without a firm grip on the technical mechanisms that triggered the current collapse?
Time the Markets: Using Technical Analysis to Interpret Economic Data
By Charles D. Kirkpatrick II
Summary via publisher, FT Press
In Time the Market, award-winning technical analyst Charles D. Kirkpatrick uses technical methods to analyze key economic indicators and identify useful buy and sell signals for long-term investors. Uncover these powerful signals based on the technical analysis of corporate, industry, monetary, sentiment, and market data to avoid capital loss and become more profitable.
Investing in Collectables: An Investor’s Guide to Turning Your Passion Into a Portfolio
By Charles Beelaerts
Summary via publisher, Wiley/Wrightbooks
Whether you’re looking to make money from your hobby or collection, or you’re a serious investor seeking to profit from your passion or diversify your portfolio, Investing in Collectibles contain all you need to know. Inside you’ll discover:
* tips for making a profit on your collection
* how to buy and sell through art dealers and private sale, and at auctions
* tax and other legislation governing collectibles as an investment
* how to invest through self managed superannuation funds or trusts
* how to detect fakes and forgeries.
This is the ultimate guide to collecting, investing in and making money from collectables.
After America: Get Ready for Armageddon
By Mark Steyn
Review via National Post
The news is catching up to Mark Steyn, and the author is catching up to himself. His rollicking new book chronicles the advanced cultural, strategic and economic decline of the United States. It’s called After America: Get Ready for Armageddon, and it picks up the story that Steyn told in his last book, America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It. The earlier book was about how the West outside America was on greased skids to civilizational collapse; in this book he demonstrates that America has more than caught up. The earlier book made much of the demographic collapse in Europe (and Canada) and, on the same grounds, characterized America as the West’s last, best hope. That was rather too rosy a look at his adopted land, and the intervening five years have brought Steyn around to the view that there is plenty of rot in the land of the feckless and the home of the broke.
Banking and Financial Institutions: A Guide for Directors, Investors, and Borrowers
By Benton E. Gup
Summary via publisher, Wiley
A practical guide to the evolving world of banking and financial institutions. Due to various factors, ranging from the global financial crisis that began in 2007 to new laws such as the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, banks and financial institutions have had to alter the way they operate. Understanding how these institutions function in the face of recent challenges is essential for anyone associated with them. That’s why Professor Benton Gup has created Banking and Financial Institutions. Opening with a detailed discussion of the causes of the recent financial crisis, as well as a look at some lessons we can learn from it and other crises, this reliable resource quickly moves on to put modern banking in perspective. Filled with in-depth insights and expert advice, Banking and Financial Institutions examines the essential aspects of this discipline and shows you what it takes to make the most informed decisions possible, whether you’re a bank director, investor, or borrower.
The Evolution of Great World Cities: Urban Wealth and Economic Growth
By Christopher Kennedy
Commentary on book via author’s blog
One of the basic principles that I set down early in the book is that the wealth of a city should be measured by the net assets of its citizens, which primarily means by the value of residential real estate, business equity and other financial assets. This seems a straight forward measure, although it is complicated in the case of publicly owned housing, as municipal assets are not added in the calculation (as they are already captured through residential property values). Recognizing citizens’ assets to be the basic measure of wealth, it is apparent that establishing property rights and encouraging household savings both directly contribute to urban wealth. Property rights are necessary for real estate to be effectively valued. Despite all the challenges that surround ownership rights in illegal squatter settlements, for example, assigning and enforcing just property rights is fundamental to establishing wealth in cities. Saving is also critical too, and even though it seems tenuous to expect the world’s poorest families to save part of their meagre incomes, successes such as micro-finance schemes of urban poor community associations and savings groups suggest that it is possible