FPS’ Friday Fiver

Hello All! We seem to say this every week, but yet again it’s been a very busy and news heavy 7 days in the world of professional and financial services. This week’s Friday Fiver has a distinct air of gloom about it I’m afraid, though we do find room for a spot or two of humour as always. Thanks as ever to Ed, and Jonathan for their contributions.

CHART OF THE WEEK – GREECE: IN A NUTSHELL…..Stephen Hawking’s follow-up to his immensely successful 1988 book on the cosmos was labelled ‘The Universe in a Nutshell‘. As anyone with a passing interest in physics knows, it would take a forest of nutshells to even begin explaining the wonders of our universe. At times, the complex, ever-changing state of the Greek and wider eurozone crisis can feel pretty similar.

Help is at hand though, thanks to a handy chart unveiled by The Spectator this week. Sadly, upon reviewing it, only the most optimistic person would conclude that the eurozone is heading for anything other than very troubled waters.

The options (or not) for Greece (Chart: The Spectator)

THE DEVIL OF THE DETAIL – BANKING RESULTS…..Hot on the heels of Goldman Sach’s results this week came Morgan Stanley’s trading update. Unlike their rivals, MS were able to report a large profit for the quarter of $2.2bn.

Or were they? As some media outlets quickly noted, the majority of MS’ profits for the quarter were a result of the company reducing the value of the debt it holds. Once the benefits of this accounting manoeuvre were removed, the results looked far less impressive - Iain Dey at the Sunday Times provided one of the best summaries of the ‘revised’ picture.

He wasn’t the only journalist somewhat peeved at the sleight of hand either:

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS…..A “dark pool” may sound like a feature of an exotic health spa and for all we know, it could well be. The increasing importance of dark pools in financial markets however was apparent this week.

In simple terms these are markets behind closed doors that allow institutional investors to trade with one another outside public exchanges like the London Stock Exchange. This week we heard that investors are increasingly using dark pools to access and trade privately owned stock in companies like Facebook before they float.

The emergence of dark pools was one consequence of the European Commission’s MiFID regulation which was in part designed to break up the monopoly of public exchanges. Now however the Commission is looking to take back control of its creation amid concerns about their lack of transparency. Complicated stuff, but as always, the FT [article here] explains developments in simple terms and their graphic below illustrates the overarching trend.

PROOF THAT PLAN A COULD BE OK?…..In amongst the growing concern about the eurozone, and increasing focus on the OccupyLondon movement, the ONS announced on Friday that public borrowing for September was below expectations. In addition, borrowing in August was actually lower than first thought.

Does this mean that the Chancellor’s refusal to adopt anything less his Plan A might be starting to bear fruit? Quite possibly, though as the BBC’s Hugh Pym pointed out, much depends on UK growth in the next few months. The Chancellor hasn’t been proved right yet by any means, but at least he now has a proof point to attack his critics with.

GOOD WEEK/BAD WEEK…..Leaving aside the obvious winners and losers over the last 7 days, it was a good week for the economist and Sunday Times columnist, Irwin Stelzer, who picked up the ‘economics commentator of the year’ award at the media industry’s Editorial Intelligence awards on Thursday.

Or at least he would have picked it up if not for a small error by the normally unflappable Robert Peston who is this week’s ‘bad week’ winner. Regrettably for the BBC’s Business Editor, he fluffed his lines on stage by announcing the wrong winner. And thus, the FT’s Martin Wolf walked on stage to collect the prize, only to have it quietly taken away from him 10 minutes later. If you want to read more on this little tale, Roy Greenslade provides a full commentary here. Mr Peston’s stablemate, Rory Cellan-Jones also clearly enjoyed the incident, as well as his colleague’s fashion sense.


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