Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Finance Blogs: What I Read

I looked over my last couple of blog entries and found them, er, somewhat lacking (ahem: boring), so I thought I'd mix things up a little today. My pet project of late of course is tracking PPIP (as readers can tell, I've solidly thrown my weight behind the "it will fail because the banks won't play" theme, a la Roger Ehrenberg). A quick observation here: the ever-cantankerous banks, mewling and whining about the onerous provisions of TARP as they feast at the Fed's trough of cheap funds, seem to be bearing out my prediction. Their attempted smackdown of their regulator during the "stress tests," arguing downwards the amount of capital they had to raise, showed them to be typically uncowed in the face of Washington power. These refractory banks won't be nudged into participating in the Geithner plan. So stay tuned for "Whatever happened to PPIP?" stories. I expect them in, let's say, early June when it becomes clear that nothing is moving forward on the Geithner plan.

But meanwhile ... time for something completely different. Below are the blogs I'm reading now with quick comments about each. My reading is predictably skewed toward the financial crisis, which I think is a once-in-a-lifetime event that we are not ("green shoot" talk notwithstanding) out of at all, but rather as with a roller coaster, we have simply hit one of those short uphill rises before another plunge.

So here's my rundown, in order of preference:

1.
Naked capitalism: Take my food. Water. Roof. But not this blog. Yves Smith is smart and spunky and WON'T be getting invited to the White House as an Obama critic (as Krugman was) because she punches so hard. This blog has meaty, insightful, well-reasoned commentary. Must read.

2.
Zero Hedge: Technical, wonky, but thrilling ... reading it, sometimes you feel like the fly on the wall of a Wall Street trading room. This blog breaks news. Occasionally makes mistakes. But shy it is not (and the authors are so prolific that a grazer can always find something to chew on, amid the scads of technical analysis).

3:
Rortybomb: I really like Mike's style (disclosure: he did compliment my blog once, but that in no way influenced me here because he's just REALLY good). He delightfully mixes wide-ranging subjects (comic books, baseball cards and a whole ton of other stuff) to draw analogies and make financial topics simpler to understand. His posting is a little spotty, but hey: he's probably got a job (or a girlfriend, or a life), so go easy on him.

4.
The Conscience of a Liberal: I like Krugman's writing a lot. He's often devastatingly simple when he argues points: he's like a knuckleballer who throws only 65 miles an hour but the opposing batters all miss the pitch, baffled. I'd rank him higher except his blogging has gotten a bit more lightweight and infrequent and subject to more "warmed-over" pet peeves as opposed to original thinking.

5.
Economist's View: I generally agree with Mark Thoma's thinking and he's on top of the issues of the day. He tends to quote chunks of columns or articles without comment (or with light comment) -- not my favorite blogging style. He also tends to lapse into econ-speak more than seems to be necessary (to be fair, his audience appears more to be academic economists like himself).

6.
Calculated Risk: The go-to blog for the quick number round up: the latest figures on unemployment, retail sales, GDP, housing starts. Of course its forte is the housing market. The author tends to maintain a relatively neutral voice, with a few stinging asides that show where his contempt lies.

7.
Greg Mankiw's Blog: I want to like this blog more than I do. Sure, pilosophically, I disagree with Greg more than with any of the others (he skews conservative, having worked for past Republican administrations). He is an undeniably smart guy though and an effective spokesman for the conservative viewpoint. But he has no comment section (double boo -- no triple boo) and sometimes feels a bit smug, as when he plugs the world's best economics textbook (three guesses who wrote that and the first two don't count).