July 31, 2014

The Markets

Anchors aweigh! Said “anchors” being set adrift are the perception that government bonds are always low risk investments.

Behavioral finance – a field of study that looks at behavioral and cognitive psychology in tandem with conventional economics and finance to explain why investors do what they do – tells us investors have been known to make decisions based on faulty reasoning. In some cases, they tend to classify new information based on experience or knowledge.

For instance, people who adhere to the idea U.S. government bonds are low-risk investments might be inclined to take in stride the news that geopolitical tensions pushed bond yields lower during the past two weeks. Who cares that yields are at a low for the year? Government bonds are not risky investments, right?

Not necessarily. While it’s true that U.S. Treasury bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, they are still subject to the unpredictable changes in the markets. One thing to remember is interest rates and bond prices interact like children on a seesaw. When interest rates go down, bond prices go up. When interest rates go up, bond prices go down. Bond prices generally have been going up since the early 1980s and rates are currently at very low levels. As economies recover and rates start to rise again, bond prices are likely to fall and could have a negative effect on the value of portfolios holding government bonds, particularly those with a longer duration.

Bond yields have stayed low during recent years largely because of the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy. President of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis James Bullard recently said there is a mismatch between our goals and the monetary policy. While this mismatch is not currently causing problems for the economy, it may in the future. This week, Fed officials are expected to discuss when and how to begin lifting rates from near zero – a level they’ve been at since 2008.

The Digital Revolution

‘Video gamer’ may soon join astronaut, athlete, and super hero on children’s lists of what they want to be when they grow up. Those who reach the top of the e-sport may do well financially since video game competitions can be quite lucrative.

Okay, first, let’s tackle the concept of e-sports. If you’re one of those people who have a hard time thinking of chess or poker as sports, the idea of video games as sports will probably throw you for a loop. However, last week ESPN.com featured The International – the fourth annual world championships of the popular video game Defense of the Ancients 2 (Dota 2). The event, which was held in KeyArena in Seattle, sold out. In addition, more than 300,000 people watched the event on the popular video game streaming website Twitch.

Total prize money for the tournament was $10.9 million, a record for video game competitions and all the more remarkable because fans raised much of the prize money. It’s a big step up from the first championship that held in 2011 in Cologne, Germany with a grand prize of $1 million.

The League of Legends championship, another big gaming competition, is coming up in October. Two teams will compete in Sangam Stadium in Seoul, South Korea for bragging rights, the Summoner’s Cup, and $1 million in prize money. USA Today reported last year’s championship “was watched by more people than the NBA Finals, World Series, and BCS (Bowl Championship Series) National Championship [college football].” If that seems like a stunning statistic, consider this: 67 million people play League of Legends every month.

According to PCWorld.com, “Playing PC (personal computer) games has become a bona fide career option and right now business is booming…  A confluence of events occurred at just the right time in 2010 to reinvigorate the PC’s strong legacy of hardcore competitive gaming. Most significantly, the PC’s return as professional gaming’s platform of choice is tied to the economic rise of Asia along with huge missed opportunities by console game manufacturers.”

Weekly Focus

“Ninety percent of each battle is information.”
–Napoleon

Image courtesy Chris Yunker used in accordance with the Creative Commons 2.0 Generic license.

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