Goldman Sachs

Lai See

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 February, 2012, 12:00am


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Henry Tang close to his drink-by date

Central government officials must be torn between wringing their hands in despair and splitting their sides with laughter at the mess chief executive hopeful Henry Tang has got himself into. His vagueness over the 2,400 sq ft illegal basement in the property next door owned by his wife, which is four times the size of the average-sized flat in Hong Kong, does not bode well for his candidacy. Henry says it's used to store groceries, which may be true if you consider wine as groceries. Even Miriam Lau, the chairwoman of the Liberal Party that nominated him for chief executive, says she finds his explanations unconvincing and that nominating is one thing, voting for him another. Meanwhile, the administration's efforts to tar the other CE candidate CY Leung over his supposed conflict of interest in the West Kowloon Cultural District doesn't appear to be having the desired effect. The lesson being that if you want a weapon to hurt someone it's best not to use a boomerang. But we wonder how long Henry Tang's campaign can continue. Our leaders in Beijing must be wondering about him. If they anoint him as the chosen one they will be seen to be approving damaged goods. He must, as they say in the wine trade, be perilously close to his drink-by date.

Yau can't fool people all the time

Our Secretary for the Environment, Edward Yau, has embarked on a two-day visit to Beijing, where, according to the government's website, he is to 'exchange views with officials on environmental protection, climate change, transport emissions reduction and conservation.' Oh to be a fly on the wall when he gets round to discussing transport emissions.

Yau: 'Your new air quality targets came as a bit of a shock to us - they forced us to take action or at least look like as if we were.'

Mainland official: 'Well, we felt we had to do something - the people were getting angry.'

Yau: 'Really, we think we can get away with our old out-of-date air quality standards for a few more years without the people getting too awkward.'

And so on. One intriguing question surrounding Yau is what will he do when there is a new chief executive in July. Whether he remains in his post will be an interesting indicator as to the incoming CE's approach to environmental protection. If he stays on, it's business as usual. Knowing the way things work in government, he'll probably be promoted. Yikes.

German work ethic falls apart

In a departure from its usual dry output, the European Central Bank recently published an analysis of global trading patterns during the 2010 World Cup, which provides a fascinating insight into how football matches affected markets. The authors studied activity on 15 stock exchanges around the world and unsurprisingly found that trading declined during matches, particularly when the national team was involved. The authors say the paper 'fits in the literature on limited attention in financial markets, which takes its cue from the idea that attention is a scarce resource'. In other words, there can be a considerable delay before all relevant information is factored into prices despite the availability of the information.

To cut to the chase, though, in England, trading volumes of FTSE 100 shares were 32 per cent below average during matches, but surprisingly, dipped by only 26.5 per cent when the England team was playing. In Chile, where market volumes were 79 per cent below normal levels during other nations' games, the market virtually dried up when Chile played, with volumes down by 99.5 per cent. Denmark, on the other hand, appears to have been the least affected by the occasion and, when the national team was in action, volumes rose by 6 per cent. Surprisingly, Germany, reputedly one of the least work-shy countries in the world, saw trading on the Frankfurt exchange fall 60 per cent when its team was in action.

Tech analysts on high alert

Asia-based tech analysts have been spooked by what happened to Goldman Sachs tech analyst Henry King, the firm's Taiwan head of research. He is being questioned by US authorities in connection with the leaking of insider information to hedge funds. 'The development takes the insider-trading investigation inside the research operation of a major Wall Street firm for the first time,' The Wall Street Journal reports. According to one unverified account, he was whisked away in an unmarked black car while on a marketing trip to the US in December. Industry insiders say Asia-based tech analysts are wondering if it is 'safe' to go on marketing trips to the US given the current inquisitorial environment.