About: Herman Brodie

Recent Posts by Herman Brodie

Most Popular Posts of 2013

Investment themes – namely the evolution in the price of gold and stocks – hogged the two top spots in the annual ranking. However, a post about the common regrets of the dying managed to outdo discussions on bitcoins, euros, and a trillion-dollar coin to claim third place. Enjoy. 1)  A Costly Shortage of Gold 2)  Warning: Triple-PeakContinue Reading

Merry Christmas

We would like to thank our readers for following the Unexpected Utility blog. We also take this occasion to wish you all an excellent holiday and a prosperous New Year and above all opportunities to make good decisions.  

A Message That Can Save You Money

I’ve gotten into something of a pickle with this latest trading position. Just a few weeks ago is seemed that all the operational and economic stars were aligned to send this stock into the stratosphere, but things did not work out like they were supposed to. It is not a complete disaster, but there wereContinue Reading

The Next Insider Trader

On the same day I read the investment bank JPMorgan & Co. was in discussions with regulators to bring an end to criminal and civil charges by paying an $11 billion penalty, I also discovered the US Federal Reserve had begun investigating claims that some traders were privy to the information ahead of the officialContinue Reading

The Top Five Crocodile Tears of the Dying

In 2011 Bronnie Ware, a former palliative care nurse, published a book in which she detailed the five most frequent regrets of those she cared for in the final stages of their lives[1]. So what would people on their death-beds do differently if they had their lives to live all over again? Hazard a guess.Continue Reading

The Importance of Attention III: Charitable giving

When we buy things in order to make us happy, the question we should ask first is not how much we like it or how much it costs, but whether it will keep our attention once it is in regular daily use. If it cannot hold our attention, the liking or the price will notContinue Reading

The Importance of Attention II: The Car Buyer

Consider a driving enthusiast who ploughs all his savings into on the shiny new sports car of his dreams. Walking towards the vehicle in the car park, he admires the elegance of its flowing lines, the masculinity of its meaty grill and flared wheel arches, and the promise of speed in its oversized alloy wheelsContinue Reading

The Importance of Attention I: Public Policy

Oscar Wilde defined a cynic as someone who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. The author also pondered on the nature of happiness[1], but he never made this observation on the importance of attention: it knows the value of everything but the price of nothing. If there is a single lessonContinue Reading

How Happy Am I? Don’t Ask

Given the task of predicting how satisfied someone is likely say they are with his/her life, and armed with information about that person’s age, gender, race, income, marital status, education and employment status, the single piece of information that should inform that prediction more than any other is the person’s income[1].

Betting on the Brexit

There is no doubt David Cameron dodged a bullet last month when the House of Commons was called to vote on the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. The vote only concerned a belated expression of regret that a bill to make a referendum possible had not been included on the current parliamentaryContinue Reading

Camp Anticapitalista

The Occupy movement was out in full force in Frankfurt again last week. From an impromptu camp near the city‘s exhibition centre, a sizeable and surprisingly well-organised crowd embarked on two days of protest and disruption around Germany’s financial capital.

Has the Fed No Better Ideas?

There has been so much talk recently about the possibility of the Fed reining in its policy monthly asset purchases, the so-called ‘tapering’ (Word of the Year?). Yet, it shouldn’t have escaped investors’ attention that any official mention of the policy shift is invariably wrapped in pre-conditions: if employment continues to improve; if economic activityContinue Reading

DAX-Sentiment: An Unfulfilled Bearish Dream

29 May 2013. FRANKFURT (Börse Frankfurt). A stock market mini-crash of seven percent in one day, and a hefty sell-off in the bond market, is a dream scenario for sceptical investors. The only problem for the sceptics we discovered in Boerse Frankfurt’s weekly survey of domestic institutional investors was that the equity rout took placeContinue Reading

Gold: Panacea or Placebo

This is not the first time that central bank gold reserves have been evoked as a partial solution to public debt problems. In the depths of the Greek crisis, the sale of nation’s bullion reserves was briefly discussed as a means to bring down the debt burden, but the holdings were too small to makeContinue Reading

Bespoke Austerity

‘Cut one’s coat to suit one’s cloth’. This is the sort of kitchen-table budgetary advice that is often doled out to those who find themselves in a financial bind. When it comes to a debate about the wisdom or otherwise of austerity of the kind currently practised in peripheral Europe, it seems odd that seriousContinue Reading

With an ‘S’ on her Chest

A tweeted link to a story about Margaret Thatcher caught my eye this morning, as it certainly did other readers. It related to an accusation by Australia’s foreign minister that Margaret Thatcher held ‘unabashedly racist’ views. The bold headline about the late Baroness’ xenophobia was well chosen; Bob Carr’s other recollections about the former BritishContinue Reading

DAX-Sentiment: Try, Try Again

A sell decision is never too far from investors’ thoughts  3 April 2013. FRANKFURT (Börse Frankfurt). “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” counselled the US comedian W.C. Fields. “Then quit,” he went on. “There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.” Domestic institutional DAX investors seem to have taken thisContinue Reading

A Costly Shortage of Gold

It’s the end of the quarter and it has not been a good one for issuers of gold ETFs. Since the start of the year total holdings, as measured by Reuters, has slumped at an unprecedented rate. For the ETF providers, who earn fees based on the amount of gold they hold on behalf ofContinue Reading

The Cyprus Shell Game

Given the number of prominent voices that have been raised against the controversial Cyprus bank levy, it was a wonder it found so much support among the troika – the ECB, EU and IMF. Dmitry Medvedev cried foul, Lawrence Summers saw it as an error, and even former Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker criticised it.  WithContinue Reading

Freedom for Me, Myself or I?

A online debate about the merits and dangers of nudging – the ‘soft’ paternalism Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein promoted in their 2008 book, ‘Nudge’, came to the brink of degeneration last week. The detractors criticised the insidiousness of the behavioural interventions. Nudgers, they suggested, use crafty psychological manipulation to rob people of their individualContinue Reading

A Pleasure Shared is a Pleasure Halved

“My book got a great review today,” my colleague announced proudly. “Aren’t you supposed to say ‘our’ book,” I interjected, “there were two of you who wrote it after all?” “Of course, I meant ‘our’ book,” he replied in voice that was fully one octave lower.

It Helps to Look the Part

Strasbourg played host to the 20th Independent Wine Producers and Wine Fair last weekend. It was a great event: it not only gives wine-lovers the chance to sample hundreds of wines from every French wine region, it also provides an opportunity to meet the independents vintners who do the cultivating, the harvesting and the fermenting.Continue Reading

Are We Doing Well with the Euro?

The title of this post was one of the questions an economist from a major French banking group asked the audience during a lecture to Franco-German business group yesterday evening. His answer was a resounding “no” On two measures, he argued, employment and consumption, eurozone citizens have fared far worse than their counterparts in theContinue Reading

No Grexit from London Luxury Property Market

International investors are fleeing former financial safe-havens in huge numbers this year. Compare this to 2012, when fears of a Greek departure from the eurozone prompted its well-heeled nationals shift their wealth into more economically-sound destinations within the zone, like, Germany, Austria and Finland or, better still, into non-eurozone countries like Switzerland and the UK.

Is the Eurozone Debt Crisis Back?

Allegations of a political slush fund in Spain and anti-reform electoral promises in Italy combined to do some meaningful damage on the respective stock markets yesterday. But why?

Coffee Mourning

Cost-cutting measures in one stressed investment bank have reached such an extreme that bankers will have to forego a coffee service during their meetings from now on. Admittedly, the saving is hardly likely to felt on the bank’s bottom line; like cancelling the newspaper subscriptions,

Draghi Unlimited

That Mario Draghi’s name was recently mentioned as a potential Italian prime minister is measure of how much the man is presently revered in politic0-economic circles. His management of the eurozone crisis and, just as importantly, of the ECB’s Governing Council, has rightly earned him high praise – Man of the Year, no less.

What are the chances for a trillion-dollar coin?

It is amusing to see the US, a country that has railed for so many years against minting a one-dollar coin, petition its government to issue one worth one trillion dollars. The monster mintage is simply a ruse to avoid having to negotiate a higher debt ceiling. The idea of creating a platinum coin (theContinue Reading

A Crash Course on Ethics

Although High-Street bank Santander has taken the unprecedented step of suspending 800 of its UK retail investment advisors and sending them off to intensive re-training, angry bank customers are not appeased. Online comments continue to slate the bank’s management for pressuring these ‘advisors’ into heavy-handedly selling products that suit the seller more than the buyer.Continue Reading

DAX-Sentiment: Bullishness still overstates conviction

“For the vast majority of the institutional investors on the panel there has been no change in vote; we had expected none. This is because the principal factor fuelling this bullishness has never been the index price. Since the start of the quarter when overall optimism, as measured by the Cognitrend Bull/Bear-Index, reversed dramatically fromContinue Reading


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