The World Bank’s “ease of doing business” report faces tricky questions

HOW many days does it take to correct a misleading newspaper interview? Four, in the case of Paul Romer, the World Bank’s chief economist. On January 12th a surprising article in the Wall Street...

The French government experiments with venture capitalism

Don’t be coy, carp about the foodAS A boy, Antoine Hubert used to catch butterflies. These days, the agro-engineer has eyes only for meal worms. In a demonstration factory near Dole in eastern France,...

A weak market for football rights suggests a lower value for sport

Might Paul’s wages fall?FOR years the cost of rights to broadcast major sports in America and Europe has trended in one direction—up. This gravity-defying law shapes the economics of modern sport: as television operators...

Our Big Mac index shows fundamentals now matter more in currency markets

IT IS usually considered quaint to predict foreign-exchange movements by reference to whether currencies are dear or cheap. Metrics such as The Economist’s Big Mac index, a lighthearted guide to exchange rates, hint at...

Innovative materials from bamboo are helping a new industry to sprout

A bamboo spider rides highFANNING out from the sodden delta of the Yangtze, and southward to the flanks of the Nanling mountains, over 6m hectares of emerald bamboo groves—one-fifth of the world’s reserves—flourish in...

After a huge loss on old reinsurance contracts, GE contemplates a break-up

Flannery kitchen-sinks itDECISIONS made long ago, and often long since forgotten, can come back to haunt. General Electric (GE), an American industrial conglomerate, has discovered that to its chagrin. On January 16th the company...

The hedge-fund delusion that grips pension-fund managers

HEDGE-FUND managers may be feeling quietly smug about their performance in 2017. They returned 6.5% on average, according to Hedge Fund Research, a data provider, their best year since 2013.But those returns do not...

The threat of tough regulation in Asia sends crypto-currencies into a tailspin

IT HAS been another week of vertiginous swings in the prices of bitcoin and other crypto-currencies. This time, the moves have mostly been downwards, with some days seeing falls of over 20%. Views on...

Masayoshi Son may raise yet more cash to pump into tech

AT AN investor briefing in 2015, Masayoshi Son, chief executive of SoftBank, flashed up a picture of a goose. The company is like the bird of legend that produces golden eggs, he explained. In...

Why driverless cars may mean jams tomorrow

THE most distractingly unrealistic feature of most science fiction—by some margin—is how the great soaring cities of the future never seem to struggle with traffic. Whatever dystopias lie ahead, futurists seem confident we can...

Chinese tech companies plan to steal American cloud firms’ thunder

WHICH of the world’s tech giants boasts the fastest-growing computing cloud? Many would guess either Amazon or Google, which operate the world’s largest networks of data centres, but the correct answer is Alibaba. In...

Why the oil price is so high

PERHAPS the most vexing thing for those watching the oil industry is not the whipsawing price of a barrel. It is the constant updating of theories to explain what lies behind it. In March...

Spectre and Meltdown prompt tech industry soul-searching

THE timing could hardly have been worse. Just as the tech industry was preparing for its big annual trade show, CES, held this week in Las Vegas, it was hit by one of the...

Taiwanese bosses are the Chinese-speaking world’s oldest

DESPITE her father’s pleas, Cherry Liu refused to work for the family business, a small electronic-components company founded in 1979 on the outskirts of Taipei. A 34-year-old diamond dealer based in Sydney, Ms Liu...

Companies are moving faster than many governments on carbon pricing

Disney offsets its air milesECONOMISTS have long argued that the most efficient way to curb global warming is to put a price on the greenhouse-gas emissions that cause it. A total of 41 OECD...

Having rescued recorded music, Spotify may upend the industry again

IN JUST a few short years Spotify has evolved from bête noir of some of the world’s most prominent recording artists to perhaps their greatest benefactor. The Swedish company transformed the way people listen...

India’s tea industry is going through tepid times

Tasseography in progressBULK tea sales at the offices of J Thomas in Kolkata, which first started auctioning the stuff in 1861, lack the boisterousness of years past. Gone is the noisy trading pit, replaced...

Spotify opts for an unusual way of going public

FOR seasoned bankers and starry-eyed entrepreneurs alike, doing an IPO, or initial public offering, is synonymous with the very idea of taking a firm public. No wonder, then, that the decision by Spotify, a...

Artificial intelligence dominated the Consumer Electronics Show

WHEN the electronics industry meets in Las Vegas at CES, its main trade show, buzzwords abound. But rarely has one been as pervasive as this week. “Artificial intelligence” or variations on the theme (“AI-driven”,...

Natural disasters made 2017 a year of record insurance losses

THAT 2017 suffered from more than its fair share of natural catastrophes was known at the time. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the streets of Houston, Texas, were submerged under brown floodwater; Hurricane...

Accountancy takes root in the inhospitable soil of Afghanistan

Waiting for the auditorWHEN Afghan lawmakers were debating rules of conduct for accountants, some were confounded by their strictness. Why should those found guilty of murder, asked one member of parliament, be struck off?...

Donald Trump’s difficult decision on steel imports

EVERY Tuesday, senior members of the administration gather in the White House to discuss trade. They are divided between hawks, who argue that America needs to be tougher in its defence against what they...

As gyms hit peak season, the market does the splits

EVERY year, like clockwork, swathes of humanity go through the same routine. On December 26th and January 1st, as the fog of cheese, chocolate oranges and champagne lifts, remorse creeps in. Online searches for...

Should internet firms pay for the data users currently give away?

YOU have multiple jobs, whether you know it or not. Most begin first thing in the morning, when you pick up your phone and begin generating the data that make up Silicon Valley’s most...

BlackRock v Blackstone

THE two most successful entrepreneurs on Wall Street of the past two decades work on opposite sides of Park Avenue. Larry Fink, 65, is a Democrat whose hand is glued to a Starbucks cup...

Bitcoin is no long the only game in crypto-currency town

IT STARTED as a joke. Dogecoin was launched in 2013 as a bitcoin parody, using as its mascot a Japanese shiba inu dog, a popular internet meme. The crypto-currency was never really used, except...

A new market for old and ugly fruit and vegetables takes shape

Multiple roots to successNO ONE knows quite how much fruit and vegetable produce never reaches the grocery checkout till. A fifth perhaps—or maybe twice that—is judged to be beneath commercial standards. So it is...

Bitcoin is no longer the only game in crypto-currency town

IT STARTED as a joke. Dogecoin was launched in 2013 as a bitcoin parody, using as its mascot a Japanese shiba inu dog, a popular internet meme. The crypto-currency was never really used, except...

Peter Sutherland, former head of the GATT and the WTO, dies

LIKE the showman he sometimes was, Peter Sutherland, on December 15th 1993, concluded seven years of torturous trade negotiations by banging a gavel. He received a standing ovation. Mr Sutherland, who died on January...

Investment banks’ cull of company analysts brings dangers

THEY are not extinct, nor even on the endangered-species list. But company analysts, once among the most prestigious professionals in the stockmarket, are being culled. New European rules, with the catchy name of MiFID2,...

Masterful salesmanship has pushed Salesforce to ever-greater heights

Benioff’s guide to upsellingVISIBLE from nearly every corner of San Francisco and from up to 30 miles away, the new skyscraper that will be the headquarters of Salesforce, a software giant, stands 1,100 feet...

China’s Ant Financial is obliged to abandon an American acquisition

It didn’t mean jack“THE geopolitical environment has changed considerably since…a year ago.” That was the explanation given this week by Alex Holmes, chief executive of MoneyGram International, a Dallas-based American money-transfer firm, for Ant...

Canada frets about anonymously owned firms

WHEN reports surfaced in 2016 of foreign students with no known income buying homes worth millions of dollars in Vancouver, locals said it was yet more evidence that foreigners were inflating prices in Canada’s...

South Korea’s antitrust tsar has a good shot at taming the chaebol

AS KIM SANG-JO was preparing last May to make the switch from snappy shareholder activist to a regulatory role as South Korea’s fair-trade commissioner, he had a simple message for the country’s big conglomerates:...

A bond dispute threatens the future of Islamic finance

STOCKMARKETS in the Gulf do not observe Christian holidays, but still had a generally quiet day on December 25th. Shares in Dana Gas, an exploration business listed in Abu Dhabi, however, did make some...

As China gets tough on pollution, will its economy suffer?

LEO YAO thought he had nothing to fear from the environment ministry. Before, when its inspectors visited his cutlery factory, he says, they generated “loud thunder, little rain”. After warning him to clean up,...

Many happy returns: new data reveal long-term investment trends

DATA-GATHERING is the least sexy part of economics, which is saying something. Yet it is also among the most important. The discipline is rife with elaborate theories built on assumptions that turned out to...

Europe’s sprawling new financial law enters into force

AFTER years of rule-drafting, industry lobbying and plenty of last-minute wrangling, Europe’s massive new financial regulation, MiFID 2, was rolled out on January 3rd. Firms had spent months dreading (in some cases) or eagerly...

After a bumper 2017, will 2018 be kind to the financial markets?

AFTER a bumper year for financial markets in 2017, can 2018 be anything like as good? Much will depend on the global economy. The rally in stockmarkets stretches back almost two years, to the...

America’s bank profits take a hit from tax reform

WHEN Donald Trump won America’s presidential election 14 months ago, banks’ share prices leapt. One reason for that was the prospect of lower corporate taxes, which would both benefit banks directly and (investors hoped)...

2018 will be the year that large, incumbent companies take on big tech

ACCORDING to Ginni Rometty, IBM’s boss, the digital revolution has two phases. In the first, Silicon Valley firms make all the running as they create new markets and eviscerate weak firms in sleepy industries....

New research reveals simmering misunderstanding under the tree

IS THERE any other time of year when good intentions and materialism converge so tightly? The caring, the artistic and the diligent spend their days before Christmas wrapping gifts. Whatever lies inside, their love...

Combustible cigarettes kill millions a year. Can Big Tobacco save them?

BESIDE a serene lake in Switzerland sits a modern glass building called the Cube. Wide-leafed tobacco plants grow in the lobby. In one room machines that can “smoke” more than a dozen cigarettes at...

An experiment with in-home deliveries is under way

AFTER staying at home one afternoon for a delivery of discounted toilet disinfectant that never came, Valentin Romanov, a Stockholm IT manager, installed a special lock on his flat’s entrance. When no one is...

Russia’s dysfunctional funeral business gets a makeover

Stiffer competition is comingTHE calls began shortly after Yulia’s grandmother died. The undertaker offered help arranging the funeral, for 47,000 roubles ($800) in cash. She then travelled to Moscow’s Khovanskoe Cemetery, where she was...

Hard lines

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Have yourself a dismal Christmas

ONLY an economist would think to ask whether Christmas is efficient. In 1993 Joel Waldfogel, then a professor at Yale University, turned a lunchtime conversation with colleagues into a paper entitled “The deadweight loss...

Intangible assets are changing investment

WHEN you work as an equity analyst at an investment bank, your task is clear. It is to comb all the statements made by corporate executives, to scour the industry trends and arrive at...

Countries rarely default on their debts

VENEZUELA is an unusual country. It is home to the world’s largest reserves of oil and its highest rate of inflation. It is known for its unusual number of beauty queens and its frightening...

The Santa clause

DEAR Team, I trust you are looking forward to your vacations and that the spirit of love and generosity infuses your family gatherings. I also hope that this spirit will be left next to...
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