A new study from Stanford University communications expert Jeremy Bailenson is investigating the very modern phenomenon of “Zoom Fatigue.” Bailenson suggests there are four key factors that make videoconferencing so uniquely tiring, and he recommends some simple solutions to reduce exhaustion.
In my “Properties of Stock Options” lecture note, a particularly important theorem relates to the notion that derivatives (options) prices must be non-negative. Interestingly, back in April 2020, prices for oil futures contracts actually turned negative; see the Wall Street Journal article entitled “U.S. Oil Costs Less Than Zero After a Sharp Monday Selloff” (an ungated PDF version is available at https://bit.ly/oilpriceshock). Quoting from that article, “The unusually large difference in price between oil for delivery in May and later has traders filling up tankers and setting them adrift.” Basically, if you had the means to store oil in the meantime, (e.g., offshore in a very large crude carrier) it made a lot of financial sense to be paid to assume ownership of the (negatively priced) May 2020 contract, and sell a later dated futures contract at which time you could deliver the goods! Apparently, somewhere off the coast of South Africa was an especially popular place to anchor due to its relatively equidistant access to markets in Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
In closing, the following related video from wsj.com is well worth 95 seconds of everyone’s time!
If you were to read only one book about finance, it would have to be “A Random Walk Down Wall Street: The Time-Tested Strategy for Successful Investing” by Burton G. Malkiel. Malkiel’s book (now in its 12th edition) provides a compelling argument in favor of efficient markets theory and investing in (passively managed) index funds.
The efficient market theory implies that stock prices follow a random walk. These ideas were originally conceived of by Professors Paul Samuelson and Eugene Fama in the 1960s, and subsequently popularized by folks like Professor Malkiel. In Finance 4366, we rely extensively upon the notion that prices of speculative assets (e.g., stocks, bonds, commodities, foreign exchange, etc.) follow random walks as we consider the technical details associated with pricing and hedging risk using financial derivatives.
Individual traders banded together this past week to move markets like never before. But the buildup to this remarkable moment has been happening for decades.
Besides insurance, Tim Harford also features the index fund in his “Fifty Things That Made the Modern Economy” radio and podcast series. This 9-minute long podcast lays out the history of the development of the index fund in particular and the evolution of so-called passive portfolio strategies in general. Much of the content of this podcast is sourced from Vanguard founder Jack Bogle’s September 2011 WSJ article entitled “How the Index Fund Was Born” (available at https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424053111904583204576544681577401622). Here’s the description of this podcast:
“Warren Buffett is the world’s most successful investor. In a letter he wrote to his wife, advising her how to invest after he dies, he offers some clear advice: put almost everything into “a very low-cost S&P 500 index fund”. Index funds passively track the market as a whole by buying a little of everything, rather than trying to beat the market with clever stock picks – the kind of clever stock picks that Warren Buffett himself has been making for more than half a century. Index funds now seem completely natural. But as recently as 1976 they didn’t exist. And, as Tim Harford explains, they have become very important indeed – and not only to Mrs. Buffett.”
From November 2016 through October 2017, Financial Times writer Tim Harford presented an economic history documentary radio and podcast series called 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy. This same information is available in book form under the title “Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy“. While I recommend listening to the entire series of podcasts (as well as reading the book), I would like to call your attention to Mr. Harford’s episode on the topic of insurance, which I link below. This 9-minute long podcast lays out the history of the development of the various institutions which exist today for the sharing and trading of risk, including markets for financial derivatives as well as for insurance.
“Legally and culturally, there’s a clear distinction between gambling and insurance. Economically, the difference is not so easy to see. Both the gambler and the insurer agree that money will change hands depending on what transpires in some unknowable future. Today the biggest insurance market of all – financial derivatives – blurs the line between insuring and gambling more than ever. Tim Harford tells the story of insurance; an idea as old as gambling but one which is fundamental to the way the modern economy works.”