Apps for Economics

I found this excellent site in the Journal of Economic Education as I was researching another topic. In that article, the following overview describes the useful content cataloged on the site:

As the digitization of teaching resources becomes increasingly available, instructors can adapt by making course pedagogy more mobile through incorporating “bring your own device” into the course design. The number of available apps can be overwhelming. We identify many of the best apps with user rankings on a 5-point qualitative scale from Awful (1) to Excellent (5).

Why should we use apps in economics? Strategic selection of an app engages students. This selection offers understanding throughout a range of cognitive domains while providing connections to learning styles that link to individual strengths. Apps provide a hands-on study of economics that can intrigue and satisfy. When students have fun engaging economic apps, their learning and retention increases. Our Web site arranges the apps into seven categories: Study Aids, Calculators, Data, Events, Feedback, Quizzes, and Simulations. Study Aids provide resources for better understanding principles of economics. Calculators identify spreadsheets as well as financial, mortgage, and currency calculators. Data apps profile domestic and international macroeconomic data sources. Events allow class members to keep abreast of current events. Feedback offers instructors a variety of mechanisms to gather classroom responses. Quizzes afford students tools for selftesting of economic concepts. Simulations generate a virtual world to put economics into practice. (Cochran, Velikova, Childs & Simmons, 2015).

 The site is authored by an excellent team of innovators, researchers and educators who have a “passion for technology.” This site is an excellent resource and I hope it continues to be updated.

 

Reference:

Cochran, H. H., Velikova, M. V., Childs, B. D., & Simmons, L. L. (2015). Apps for Economics. Journal Of Economic Education, 46(2), 231. doi:10.1080/00220485.2015.1006745

Fed Chairwoman: Trying to Build Consensus Among Disparate Views on Policy

Even with all the discussion of the implications of China’s Move to Devalue the Yuan, it has been widely accepted that a policy of firming easy money would probably still move forward. But this could prove more challenging for the Fed given the variegated opinions among policy makers:

Officials have signaled for months they intend to start raising short-term rates from near-zero interest before year-end. But they have provided no clear sign of having settled on whether to move at their next policy meeting Sept. 16-17. Minutes of their July 28-29 meeting, released Wednesday, underscored why the decision remains a close call.

“Most [officials] judged that the conditions for policy firming had not yet been achieved, but they noted that conditions were approaching that point,” the minutes said.

That passage might be read as a hint that officials saw a September rate increase in the cards, but the minutes showed officials had wide-ranging views about taking that step and several notable sources of trepidation.

The Fed has said it won’t move rates until it is more confident inflation will rise toward its 2% target after running below it for more than three years. “Some participants expressed the view that the incoming information had not yet provided grounds for reasonable confidence that inflation would move back to 2 percent over the medium term,” the minutes said.

The conundrum is self obviating: move too fast, and you are going to tank this forward moving, but tepid recovery. Do nothing, and you might have fueled yet another bubble. And there are voices calling for action citing the need for credibility, confidence and timing, others, for caution:

Other developments are giving Fed officials new reason for caution. At the July meeting they noted China’s stock-market declines; since then Chinese officials have allowed their currency to depreciate, a new source of concern about the growth outlook in the world’s second largest economy.

U.S. crude oil prices hit a six-year low Wednesday and U.S. stocks tumbled, boosting demand for ultrasafe U.S. government debt. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.129% from 2.196% on Tuesday and marks the yield’s lowest closing level since May 29. A gauge of 10-year inflation expectations in the bond market fell to the lowest level since January.

So back to the conundrum. Wait and by implication, call into question the health of the U.S. economy, or move forward and see if the economy “would be able to absorb higher interest rates and that inflation was moving toward the committee’s objective.” That’s life in the big chair.

Fed Capital Requirements: Bearing the Cost that Failure Would Impose on Others

Too big to fail is a narrowing option. And running with riskier assets is going to be costly for larger banking institutions, according to new rules by Federal Reserve as noted in the Wall Street Journal:

The Fed completed one rule stating that the eight largest banks in the country should maintain an additional layer of capital to protect against losses, its plainest effort yet to encourage them to shrink. At the same time, it offered a reprieve to General Electric Co.’s finance unit from more-intensive regulation, after the company promised to cut its assets by more than half.

…Regulators have pushed big banks to expand their capital buffers to better absorb losses, reduce their reliance on volatile forms of funding, improve their risk management and cut back on risky assets. So-called stress tests measure banks’ resilience each year and can restrict shareholder payouts at firms that don’t pass.

For Wall Street banks and their investors, the emerging regime presents a series of choices: specifically whether to pay the cost of new regulation, which will fall to the bottom line, or change their business models by shedding businesses or withdrawing from certain markets, such as owning commodities.

In a quote that I think is one of the best commentaries on the subject,

Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen, before voting to approve the new measure, said financial firms must “bear the costs that their failure would impose on others.” She offered banks the choice of maintaining more capital to reduce the chance they would fail, or get smaller and reduce the harm their failure would have on the financial system.

The big banks of course object to the action stating that it will remove billions from the economy. Below is a graph of the big 8 that will be hit with he most significant requirements (click for larger image):

Bigger Buffer

But it is not size along that determines how each bank will be assessed, “the size of each bank’s additional capital requirement is tailored to the firm’s relative riskiness, as measured by the Fed’s formula, which considers factors such as size, entanglements with other firms and internal complexity. As those factors shrink or grow, so will a bank’s surcharge.”

The Lesson of ‘Good Enough’

Comparing and contrasting the birds-eye view with the worms-eye view

The higher a person ascends the ranks of financial operations, the more imperative it becomes to discern between certain levels of detail, and the need to push work products forward to completion. This is especially true in the budgeting aspects of financial operations versus compliance issues in accounting and auditing which can become exceedingly nitpick at times. Closely related to this is the need to learn to communicate financial information to other business professionals who are not financial specialists. This can proved to be exceedingly difficult for a highly competent analyst who frankly, loves “getting their hands dirty.” In other words, this is not meant in any way to trivialize the value of a highly detail oriented analyst. But it is meant to serve as a cautionary note to those who wish to exercise leadership that is built upon their years of financial expertise. Two quick thoughts may serve to illustrate this: the worm’s eye view and the bird’s eye view, each with its strengths and limitations.

The worm’s eye view will assist with a great deal of detail, but sometimes distorts reality due to its limitations of vision. This is not to in any way demean or devalue the benefits or the work of highly detail oriented people. It is simply to say, sometimes in order to complete certain types of work in a timely manner, decisions of priority must take precedence over the desire to continue with hedgehog-like determination and the quest for perfection that is sometimes not practical.

The bird’s eye view on the other hand, enables a panoramic vision of the whole while simply limiting detail. Both have their function in analytical work. But here is the takeaway. Leaders communicating financial information need to be able to deliver highly summarized, accurate information. Then in an instant, zoom into detail in response to a question, request for clarification, etc. Then zoom back out to high level – smoothly and reassuringly. Listen to a few quarterly earnings conference calls for effective and ineffective examples. For the executive leader, a careful distinction between the two approaches and the timing of the each is essential.