Sunday, October 28, 2012

A treatise on clocks!

Clocks! If there is anything financial that attracts more ire than multipliers here at Loose Change it is investment clocks. KS has been previously employed in 'financial services' where such clocks are features of the sales pitch.

So it was interesting to see the Parrot for Cairns facebook this week on the fabulous clock presented by the new CEO at the Cairns Chamber:

Photo: I really like this "Cairns economic clock", created by new Cairns Chamber of Commerce CEO Deb Hancock.
It shows where Deb believes our great city is sitting on the boom-bust cycle and reflects exactly what the sentiments I hear around Cairns.
We've still got a long way to go, but continuing the momentum and building business confidence is the key to our rebound.
I'm really excited about Deb's passion and vision for Cairns and look forward to working with her and the Chamber exec.

It was interpreted thus by the King Parrot:  "I really like this "Cairns economic clock", created by new Cairns Chamber of Commerce CEO Deb Hancock.  It shows where Deb believes our great city is sitting on the boom-bust cycle and reflects exactly what the sentiments I hear around Cairns." (sic)

Yes! This man was indeed a professional (sic) journalist in a past life! The clock "created" by Deb is remarkably similar to dozens of such clock versions used in the financial sales spruiking profession:

Same clock really repeated tirelessly on the web and almost the same time on the clock?!?  You may note that there are also a couple of 'creative' additional comments on rental vacancy rates at the bottom on Deb's version to calibrate the clock to Cairns.

Such clock has been originally attributed to the Evening Standard newspaper in London in 1937. An interesting year for anyone familiar with economic history when Roosevelt turned his clock back before going to bed and reversed the US recovery from depression!

The original Evening Standard version did replace 'recession' at the bottom of the cycle bottom with 'depression'. Indeed, 1937 was preceded by an interesting depression period in the economic history of the UK following the return to the gold standard in 1925. The consequences of that decision (Keynes: 'The Economic Consequences of Mr Churchill') are not dissimilar to some of the internal devaluations currently proving so successful in Greece and Spain!

Funnily enough Churchill is the political hero of the King Parrot! May we not repeat the same mistakes in the Banana Republic of Cairns! In our two-speed economy only half the nation is currently on summer time! Clearly we will need our own Far North central bank and currency to drive our clock around (Brett Moller for Guvnor?).

The clock gained most credence in the Post WW2 era of cycles driven by inflation and responsive monetary policy. This clock appears broken by GFC events around 2008. Japan broke their clock a few decades ago and replaced it with  a digital version that just blinks on and off while going backward and forward at random intervals of an hour or two.

Matty Yglesias at Slate recently noted the outstanding economic performance of Australia: RBA shows again that it's the best central bank in the world. So following the last clock cycle and 'recession we had to have' the RBA decided to lock the clock away in the safe, and Australia has managed consistent economic growth for 20 years since. In regional context it has recently been noted by the RBA Guvnor that if anything regional disparity in unemployment may have declined.

This is not to deny the subdued Far North economy in recent years, and Loose Change has in the past always suggested that the views of the Cairns catastrophists were misplaced. Cairns has a positive future and always did even when the catastrophists were crying ruin! However, the clock here doesn't really help understanding our regional economy and may in fact distort perceptions and policy.

The best clock comment I found: "Unfortunately, there's no rule that says the Investment Clock has to go clockwise." Fidelity Investments have developed a stylishly modern square clock where they plot their monthly tea-leaf  readings. As we can see this appears to have turned counter-clockwise in recent months!


However, my  favourite and most useful clock may be the Armageddon Clock from Mr Firstdogonthemoon. At just $50 this may prove a more useful investment than the investment clock:

This 25cm actual clock will happily remind you that the world is ending. At least you will know what time it happens.
 Armageddon clock

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