Greece has been "sold"; should America be for sale?

A footnote to the Greece default/restructured bonds is a detach-able coupon that pays an amount based on future Greek GDP.

See this article for more details.

Interestingly, Professor Shiller recently proposed (in a recent Harvard Business Review article) that countries should replace their sovereign T-Bills with "shares" that represent earnings of their economies. Read this article. Should other countries go down this path, it will open a Pandora's box of unintended consequences, incentives and problems.But first things first. If the USA does an IPO, will it be a "hot" deal???

And, does it give new meaning to "selling America short…"

Rudolf Hauser writes:

This idea strikes me as very stupid. GDP is not a reliable measure containing many assumptions and imputations. Such an instrument would give governments a strong incentive to cheat and the GDP is an easy measure to manipulate if so desired. It is also a number that is constantly and often significantly revised. How would the instrument handle this. Would investors who were overpaid have to return some of those funds? Aside from more modest revaluations every year, major revisions in the methods of calculation are made every number of years along with benchmarks based on more extensive surveys which are not conducted every year. For how many decades would such adjustments have to be made? Any investor who trusted the honesty of such instruments should have his head examined.

Rocky Humbert writes: 

One notes the large and relatively liquid market for global inflation-linked bonds..which are also vulnerable to gov't tampering and revisions.

I agree that there are many consequential problems with selling what is essentially floating rate debt, with the coupon linked to GDP…too numerous to type on my blackberry…

However, I have total confidence in Wall Street's ability to underwrite, and Mr Market's ability to "value" these securities (just like they did with subprime CDO's based on arcane and idiotic models.)

Gary Rogan adds:

Some day there may even be a pan-european agreement that Greek GDP was actually negative and investors are required to compensate the Greek government for the privilege. If they can rule that a default is not a default but an agreement to pay less, anything is possible.

John Floyd writes: 

In fact there actually used to be. I do not think it exists any longer, a traded market in a few major econ. Indicators such as employment, CPI, and a few others I believe run by some of the banks ( DB and perhaps GS) in para mutual style betting. I don't believe the total payouts ever got very large though.

Rudolf Hauser responds: 

Unlike other economic indicators, the non-seasonally adjusted CPI figures are not subject to revisions. That is what makes them useable in legal contracts. It is true that adjustments for quality changes allow for some manipulation, but it pales in comparisons with the assumptions that are made in calculating GDP. The revision problem alone is enough to make it an undesirable instrument even if the government statisticians are perfectly honest and unbiased in their calculations.

Other traded indicators were in essence just bets on what the government statisticians would report on the next released indicator. That is different than an instrument that will have a life of many years or even many decades. A short term trader has no reason to give a damn about true fundamental values -only about what the price will be in the short term, which only depends in small part on fundamental values. That is not true of a long-term investor. As to the markets knowing how to properly price securities, if that was so you would not have so many major losses (or gains) in securities seen so often in history.


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