Irrational but precious

DEMOCRACY matters. Every issue of this newspaper bulges with news about elections held somewhere around the world; this issue bulges more than most. For economists, however, the question of why individuals turn out to vote in places where it is not compulsory remains something of a mystery.

Early work on the subject looked at

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EUROPE’S biggest economy has its bittiest banking system. Germany’s three-pillar banking sector comprises savings banks, co-operative banks and private banks. Apart from a handful of big institutions, such as Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank and HypoVereinsbank (HVB), which is part of the Italian-owned UniCredit group, the lenders are parochial. That see

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UNLIKE the obligations of firms or individuals, government bonds are backed merely by the issuer’s word. In theory, when states act commercially in foreign jurisdictions, they have no more rights than any other borrower. In practice, the assets they hold abroad—embassies, military equipment, central-bank reserves and the like—are protected by treat

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LIKE miners panning for gold, number-crunchers love the stockmarket. There are thousands of different securities prices to analyse, decades-worth of data to dissect. Academics can make their reputation by discovering an anomaly in prices, such as smaller companies outperforming the index over the long term.

But are these anomalies a route to riches

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AT A time when financial firms will spend hundreds of millions of dollars to settle legal claims as a matter of expedience, Deutsche Bank has done the unthinkable. In response to an order in September from the enforcement division of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), demanding $1.6m in fines and disgorgement for alleged power-market

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MOST people pay careful attention to their wage packets. But they tend to be much less interested in their pensions, even though their financial well-being in the last 20-30 years of their lives depends on them.

That is a great pity, since responsibility for pension provision has been steadily shifting from the company to the individual. Around 70%

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PROTESTING that only fools would rely on your product to make investment decisions may seem a dangerous argument to make. Yet it is one that has served credit-ratings agencies well over the years, allowing them to sell ratings to debt issuers while abjuring legal responsibility for the quality of their work. A ruling by an Australian court this

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SOME big banks do little more than pay lip service to environmental issues. HSBC likes to think of itself as different. It has signed up to many initiatives, including the Equator Principles, a set of social and environmental standards launched in 2003 for project financiers. It was one of the first banks to have its implementation audited by a

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DESPITE its slowdown, China is still likely to be the fastest-growing big economy this year. But what will be the zippiest economy, big or small? According to the IMF, Libya’s economy will grow by an astonishing 122% this year. That would be one of the fastest years of growth anywhere in the past three decades (see chart).

This remarkable statistic

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