I leave internet contact for five days, and I get back to find the Ukraine split down the centre, and the Crimea back under Russian control. It seems that Mr Putin was just waiting for the winter olympics to be over as a small precursor to “let the real games begin”.
Anyway, here’s my list of interesting goings-on in the business world:
- Greece is back in bailout negotiations. €9.3 billion worth of Greek debt matures in May, and without some Troika money, the Greeks will be back in default territory.
- Warren Buffett wrote a shareholder letter. In in, he told amateur investors to put their money into S&P 500 index funds AKA exchange-traded funds. Because they’re low cost. I feel vindicated.
- Mt. Gox filed for bankruptcy. The largest bitcoin exchange says that it may have lost all of its customers’ bitcoins after being hacked (about 750,000 of them). And 100,000 of its own. It’s, um, no wonder that they’re filing for bankruptcy.
- China has been punishing yuan speculators. The state-owned banks have been engaged in a steady sell-off of the yuan in order to reduce its value and discourage the bullish yuan-bugs (?!). Fun.
- Freddie Mac reported a $48.7 billion profit for 2013, which is now going to be paid as a dividend to the US government. This is meant to excite US taxpayers, who are supposed to respond by saying “You see? That bailout cost us nothing at all. In fact, we profited from it!” Of course, almost the entire amount came from the reversal of a tax provision – meaning that there was some tax that Freddie Mac thought that it was going to pay, which it turns out that they’re not going to pay, and so now they’re going to pay it to the US government anyway as a dividend. Seems legit.