Sunday, February 28, 2010

Moominvalley January 2010 Report

I finally got the accounts together for January (accounts in USD):

Our spending was again at the low end. February is going to come in around $A4,750 due to car expenses (registration and depreciation - there has been no depreciation for a about a year). As you can see from the accounts we lost lots of money in January - the rate of return in USD terms was -7.34% vs. -4.30% for the MSCI World Index and -3.60% for the S&P 500. In AUD terms it was -6.27%. The largest losses were in Australian stocks and the effect of the strengthening of the USD with the Aussie falling about one US cent over the month.

Moominmama Performance February 2010

Moominmama lost 1.82% in February, mainly due to the fall in Sterling against the US Dollar. The value of Sterling Cash fell 4.81%, while bonds returned -3.70% as the larger part of her holdings are in Sterling bonds. Not surprisingly, US equities were the top performer. The MSCI World Index returned 1.31% this month.

Moominmama has a UK Savings Certificate - a kind of government savings bond - that is still in the name of my father who died in 2002. My brother has started investigating how we can transfer it into her name. The authorities in the UK responded by demanding a list of all assets jointly owned by my parents in 2002. This will be hard to come up with and there is a danger that they'd then demand inheritance tax to be paid on the estate or something. My parents left Britain in 1995, but the British government has very strange tax rules. Being "domiciled" in Britain is what counts not being "resident" there. It looks like we might need a lawyer to deal with this. The savings certificate in question is worth about $US65,000.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Living on One Salary

As this period of receiving two salaries comes to a close, I'm reviewing how our saving vs. spending has been during the last year. Current savings shows savings from non-investment income into non-retirement accounts ("taxable accounts" in American jargon - I don't use the term because retirement accounts are taxable in Australia, just at a lower rate). Since I started getting a salary in March 2009 we have managed to save almost $A50,000 (see the blue line). That's more than I earned in fact. In the period from late 2007 till then when we were living together on one salary, savings was pretty much flat - in other words, we didn't save or dissave. In the last year we managed to save at about the same rate as or a bit higher than I did when I was single and living in the US from 2002 to 2007. Our retirement savings (pink line) accumulated rapidly - at about the rate I managed in the US when earning extra summer pay or when I started maxing out my 403b in 2007 (which brought my non-retirement savings rate down to almost zero).

This shows that we basically live on one salary whether we are earning one or two salaries. But in order to save we need two salaries.

The green and brown lines show that there has been some regain of investment losses. But there is still a long way to go till the losses are entirely recovered.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Career Update

My current contract ends today more or less, paywise. I still haven't actually completed what I agreed to do, but it will be done in the next week or two. There is some vague possibility of getting some follow up funding some time or other. In the meantime I get to keep my office, library access etc. for another six months. The university is prepared to make that investment in me at least, knowing I'm likely to produce stuff they can claim as output. It takes a while to publish things academically. So I published nothing last year. I have one paper now accepted for this year and more will follow. In the meantime my track record helps with their ranking etc. There's going to be no progress on the job I applied for in this department for another couple of weeks, at which point it will be 2 months after the submission deadline. They're not in a hurry it seems. I submitted an application today for a job in NZ, which I'm underqualified for I think and 2 positions in Australia earlier this week. In the end I couldn't submit the grant proposal, much as expected.

In the meantime, some consulting stuff is starting to trickle in. I reviewed a research proposal for a small fee, and just got asked if I'm interested in reviewing a report for a fee of USD 2800. They reckon it's about 40 hours work. They might not pick me, they wanted me to submit all my details to decide. I rejected reviewing a proposal from another country that wasn't in my area of expertise really and had no fee attached. Usually, academics review papers for journals for free. The basis for this is that if you submit a paper you also will get reviewed for free yourself (though a few journals charge submission fees), and as a way of helping shape research in your field by recommending the rejection of bad research and helping improving the better papers. But I have no incentive to review a research proposal from a country's funding agency where I am not eligible to submit a proposal. They need to pay.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Moomin Valley Nominated for Best Economics Blog

Moomin Valley is one of the finalists in the category of "Best Economics Blog" for the "Plutus Awards. Well, I don't think I stand much chance against "Seeking Alpha" and "The Big Picture" :) But please vote for me anyway! Voting starts on Wednesday. If you haven't visited here before, I've been very busy lately and haven't managed to post much. There are many more good posts on economics, investment theory, the housing market, and other topics back in 2009 and earlier years.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Today was the grant application deadline. Realistically, I knew I wasn't going to be able to come up with the matching funding I needed in the end to apply for a grant. So I couldn't submit an application in an attempt to create my own job. I'll have to be less of a non-conformist and get a regular academic job - I'm making several more applications this week. If I was younger or followed a more straightforward career path I might have been able to apply for the 100% funding level for a fellowship. There was some vaguely positive news today about follow-on funding for my current project - we might be able to ask for more money.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Climate Change?

I came into the office this morning after working at home yesterday and found that a ceiling fan had been installed. This building is 50 years old and no-one had thought that necessary up till now. I think it is a good idea as it can get hot in here either due to hot summer days or overheating in winter (and I can't figure how to turn the heating down). Strange thing is the fan won't work unless the light is turned on. That seems a really silly waste of electricity...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Credit Suisse/Tremont Returns for January 2010

Credit Suisse Tremont show a 0.17% gain for hedge funds in January. And in further contrast to HFRI's numbers they show Global Macro returning 1.07%. Managed futures lost 3.81% and long/short equity 1.50%. Fixed income, convertible arbitrage etc. did well.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


You've probably heard about Amy Bishop who shot three faculty members at the University of Albama in Huntsville after she was denied tenure. Turns out she shot her brother in 1986 in an incident that seems like was covered up as an accident but according to police who remember the event said was intentional - you don't shoot someone three times by accident with a non-automatic weapon. I maybe can see why she was denied tenure. She only published 6 papers in OK-ish journals since taking her current job. That's not much in biology. And her teaching evaluations are mostly not that good. Of course, there may be political reasons too. I've seen people with good teaching and research track records denied tenure because they didn't get on with the chairman of the department basically.

Anyway, it's amazing that someone would end up shooting people over this. I had tenure at a US university and gave it up and came back here to Australia. It was never something though that I wanted to get, though. The way the system worked I had to get it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Hedge Fund Performance for January 2010

HFRI reports a 0.71% loss for hedge funds globally in January 2010 while HFRX reported a 0.02% loss. By contrast, stock indices were down by several percent. Macro, systematic trading, and equity hedge strategies all lost money. Most fixed income and arbitrage strategies made money. Credit Suisse Tremont hasn't reported yet.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Epic Grant Fail

After I put a lot of work into developing a grant application to try to create a position for myself (as well as applying for regular jobs) it turns out that I need someone at a university to guarantee a 50% contribution to the salary. If I got a job with them and got the grant then they might receive a 50% subsidy from the funding agency but if I don't get a job but get the grant they'd have to pay out. The expected value of this seems to be close to zero and given that I might get a job elsewhere instead (and take the application with me) the probabilities of either receiving a payout or having to make an equal contribution are quite low. But noone wants to risk it and I can understand them. The amount of money they might have to pay out is significant. It seems that the university as a whole would want to do this - maybe get an extra position half funded by a funding agency. As people leave all the time it's not neccessarily an increase in their outlays. But there is a tragedy of the commons problem here to some degree where each individual department would like to see it happen but doesn't want to put their own money up. I haven't completely given up and just sent out two "last ditch" e-mails.

The real problem here is that the grant application deadline is soon, before the jobs I am applying for will be decided

There is another fellowship I can apply for but I need to submit an "eligibility request" as a priori I'm not eligible. Apparently they make few or no exceptions. So I don't expect that will work either but we'll try.

The effort is not entirely wasted. It has helped me clarify my ideas, learn about this funding agency, and if I get a job I can make an application next year recycling the proposal I wrote this year.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Moominmama Performance January 2010

Moominmama suffered a loss of 0.96% in January following a similar loss in December. This month, though, the MSCI All Country Gross World Index fell 4.3% for the month in USD terms so that's not relatively so bad. Brazilian stocks (other equity) did particularly badly followed by European and US equities. Hedge funds, bonds, and stuff denominated in the local currency made positive contributions. Man-AHL continued to perform poorly contributing to the negative return in commodities.

I don't have much idea of the performance in Moomin Valley this month as yet. Don't expect a detailed report any time soon, as things are crazily busy here. I have an important career discussion/negotiation coming up this afternoon. Maybe when I know the outcome of that (it's not a job as yet) I'll post on where things are now standing career-wise. Also, because of comment spamming I'm turning on comment moderation on older posts.