Category Archives: MFin

Trade and the global economy

In part of my new MFin elective Understanding the Global Economy and Financial System I explore the changing views of economists on international trade, which has been one of the most powerful causes of global economic growth over centuries. * The traditional view of trade – correct but incomplete The reason why trade works is specialisation. If… Continue Reading

Why are some countries richer than others?

The first part of my new MFin elective Understanding the World Economy and Financial System next term will explore the question, why are some countries richer than others? * One of the most important, interesting but hotly contested questions in economics is, why are some countries richer than others? The world is astonishingly unequal; the life… Continue Reading

Three interesting facts about Chinese monetary history

Former IMF Chief Economist Eswar Prasad’s excellent book Gaining Currency – The Rise of The Renminbi starts with a fascinating chapter on China’s monetary history, the longest by far of any country. The book is ultimately a persuasive answer to the question, will the RMB become a leading international currency? His answer is yes, but only… Continue Reading

What is helicopter money?

The possibility that central banks might resort to extreme monetary measures, including helicopter money, is much debated in monetary policy circles. But what is “helicopter money”? * In normal times, central banks in developed countries try to control inflation and the level of economic activity by controlling the short term interest rate. But since the… Continue Reading

Classifying funds: the type of contract – is it equity or debt?

Another way to classify funds that are provided by a saver to an investor is whether they are in the form of debt or equity. These are the two main forms of contract through which one person or company can provide funding to another. Note that governments, which are very important actors in the financial system, can only… Continue Reading

Key financial concepts: securities

Securities are a very important and useful piece of financial technology, including bank notes, shares and bonds. They make possible a wide range of financial transactions and provide competition to the other main source of funding, banks. * A security is a certificate representing a contract between two or more people which promises to pay… Continue Reading

Key finance concepts: exchange rates

Exchange rates are among the most important macrofinancial prices, influencing many aspects of an economy. This post introduces exchange rates and their importance for macroeconomic adjustment * What is an exchange rate? An exchange rate is a ratio, the price of one currency relative to another. All prices are ratios, but normally they’re expressed in… Continue Reading

David Bowie innovated in finance too

David Bowie, among his many other creative achievements, was an innovator in finance, with the first ever intellectual property rights securitisation. * Nearly everyone seems to have been affected by the death of David Bowie, a uniquely creative and influential musical artist. I’ll add my own personal memories to the list. I think the first… Continue Reading

The IMF includes the RMB in the SDR basket

On 30 November 2015 the IMF voted to include the RMB (the Chinese “people’s currency” denominated in yuan) in the basket of currencies it uses to calculate the value of the Special Drawing Rights, from October 2016. This is largely symbolic but should encourage further international financial reform in China. * What does it actually… Continue Reading