Thursday, May 31, 2007


Are you currently studying at university or planning to do so, please answer this survey

Only 10 questions, real quick. Thanks a lot.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

My carbon foot print

Why did they kill Litvinenko?

The who seems to be firm for many with the CPS ordering Lugovoi's prosecution. But why did they kill Litvinenko? If it was Lugovoi why did he do it? Who did he do it for?

The more I think about it less sense does it make. Did the Russians kill Litvinenko in order to get to Berezovsky? Or did the latter kill him to raise his own profile? Why would they kill him in such a stupid way, leaving lots of traces?

Does is matter that Litvinenko had Chechen friends?

Did Litvinenko know more than he already revealed?

Monday, May 28, 2007


The last days we stayed in Vienna, where we enjoyed beautifully warm weather, much different to the sudden outbreak of autumn in London.

Vienna, although at times provincial and overly expensive, is a nice town with a certain quietness and beauty.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Chinese acquire central European hub

The Chinese company LinkGlobal Logistics has bought an airport in NW Germany for €100mn. This is the first time such a deal happens. They will use the airport for freight and passengers.

US net advertising revenue

Recently I reported on UK internet advertising. Here are some US figures:

The Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers released figures for the full year of 2006. Internet advertising revenues in the US continued upward totaling $16.9 billion in 2006, a new annual record exceeding 2005 by 35%.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Immigration impacts

There is a lot of talk in the UK and US blogosphere on immigration. In 2005 Portes published a DWP paper assessing the impact of Eastern European immigrants on the UK labour market. The results
suggest that the primary impact of A8 migration has been to increase output and total employment, with minimal impact on native workers, although higher levels of accession-worker migration do appear to be associated with small increases in the claimant unemployment count.

I think this should silence some of the critics.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Surge in UK internet advertising

Figures published by the Advertising Association reveal that internet advertising has surpassed 2bn pounds in 2006. This is an increase of 48%. The only other medium which has seen an increase is outdoor advertising. Radio has seen the largest drop with 8%. Overall advertising revenue has stayed constant.

Rufus' new album

Rufus Wrainwright has published his new album. He is hailed by many as the best singer-songwriter of his time. I have to say he sounds very much like Radiohead to me. Still an excellent album.

Wanted: Human machines

Did you ever want to do the work of a computer. On MTurk you can. It is a site which pays you cents for answering queries a computer is too stupid to do.

Nonlinear time series model

Galvao of Queen Mary has proposed a new nonlinear model, combining MIDAS and STAR. MIDAS stands for mixed data sampling and was first proposed by Ghysels. It is a model where the regressors appear at a higher frequency than the regressand. STAR stands for smooth transition AR model, which is a basic switching model.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Tribute to greatest Cellist of 20th century

Slava Rostropovich

World's biggest banks

It is quite hard to find recent data on the size of the largest banks in the world. Below is a table I could find, unfortunately it is a bit outdated. Only four of the top 10 banks are non-European. The recent acquisition of UniCredit in Italy will surely bring it into the top 10. The new UniCredit is estimated to have €960bn in assets. A combined Barclays and ABN Amro bank would create another global giant.

Rank Name Country Fiscal Year Total Assets in $B

1 Mizuho Financial Group Japan 3/2004 1,285.7

2 Citigroup United States 12/2003 1,264.0

3 UBS Switzerland 3/2004 1,120.6

4 HSBC United Kingdom 12/2003 1,034.2

5 Deutsche Bank Germany 3/2004 1,014.8

6 Crédit Agricole France 12/2003 992.7

7= BNP Paribas France 12/2003 988.9

7= Mitsubishi Tokyo Japan 3/2004 988.9

9 ING Groep Netherlands 3/2004 983.5

10 Sumitomo Mitsui Japan 3/2004 950.5

Austrian new Siemens CEO

Austrian Peter Löscher who works for Merck will become new Siemens CEO. This decision comes after weeks of speculation after the corruption scandal at Siemens. The appointment of an external manager reveals a new start for the global electronics giant.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

See my items on eBay


One to watch

On 20 June five top private equity executives will appear before the Treasury Committee. This will be a first for such reclusive investors to be questioned by elected officials.

New World Bank Chief

The Times analyses the odds for the new World Bank Chief, Blair comes in at 25-1. I think even if he wanted - which he doesn't - he wouldn't qualify.

Friday, May 18, 2007

SAS conference

The SAS SUGI series has moved to SASGlobalForum. Here you can see the winning papers from the Orlando conference in April. You can download them here.


Today's Economist also features a graph which depicts patents per capita, according to that graph Japan is the most innovative economy, followed by Switzerland, the Scandinavians and Germany. That is all very well, but I doubt that those patents always feed forward into economic growth. I couldn't find Britain in that table though.

Economics data

Today's Economist refers to a new research centre at the University of Groningen EU-KLEMS. The centre has published interesting research on productivity in Europe. The data is accessible for everyone and will - I am sure - inspire a lot of insightful research.

Star spotting

It's pretty amazing how many famous people I saw in London in my short time here. Yesterday I met Andrew Buchan (pic) in a pub, he played in the BBC serial Party Animals. Previously I have met Gascoigne and Lampard in restaurants. Plus I saw Trevor McDonald in the tube.

Don't get me wrong I am not stalking them.

Update: I asked Andrew then, they are not going to continue Party Animals.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Replay your visitors' route

RobotReplay has developed a new tool which lets you track the route of online visitors, just like a customer going through the shelves in a supermarket. The question is if there is added value in this. As a response webmasters might make navigation easier, but the main stats about access of certain sites seems just as useful.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The recruitment market

Demos - the British think-tank- has published a report on recruitment and its future. They find that the
traditional divide between extremely personalised recruitment for highly skilled jobs and relatively standardised recruitment processes for low-skilled jobs looks set to close in the coming years. A combination of new expectations and new opportunities, we suggest, will drive a more personalised approach across the spectrum.

Chinese bubble

This is what they are all worried about. In about a year the Shanghai Index rose from around mid-1000 to over 4000, a two-and-a-half increase. The increase is clearly explained by the large trading volumes.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Need help with econometrics in London?

Please see what I can offer.

Transition slides

The other day I found an entry to a presentation which I gave in my final year at Essex, about economic transition in Russia. The slides now went to Reading.

Brand perception and purchasing behaviour

The Marketing Week has published its most recent BrandIndex for the UK. The top UK brand is google, followed by amazon and many food brands. Earlier a retailer consultancy published its top 100 grocery brands. I wanted to see if there is actually an overlap in the brand perception and purchasing behaviour. While people’s perceptions about certain brands might change on a daily basis, they are probably unlikely to switch away from routinely purchased products.

I matched the top 100 of both series but found only 24 brands matching each other. This is suprising. It is strange that the BrandIndex misses the top grocery brand Coca-Cola, and Nescafe and Andrex which are the sixth and seventh most purchased brand. Nevertheless I derived the correlation between the sales rank, sales annual change, the BrandIndex rank, and the change in the BrandIndex. There is a strong correlation between change in sales and change in brand perception. This leads us to the conclusion that brand index rankings are less meaningful than the changes in brand perception.

However, all the correlations drop once I exclude Innocent which has seen amazing sales and brand growth.

sales rank

sales yoy change

BrandIndex rank

brand yoy change

sales rank


sales yoy change



BrandIndex rank




brand yoy change





Sunday, May 13, 2007

New 7 Wonders of the World

On this website you can vote for the New 7 Wonders of the World. Among them the pyramids in Giza, Neuschwanstein, Eiffel tower, Taj Mahal. The winners will be announced on the 7/7. I am failing to understand what is so new about these sites, especially since Stonehenge is part of it. I though we already had the UNESCO trademark to mark important sites.

Plebicism vs controlism

Gordon Brown talks about giving power back to the people and ultimately the parliament. How does this weigh up against his legacy as a control maniac? Is is it to show that he can change and will be a more accountable PM than Tony Blair? Or is the plebicist move just an illusion?

Robinson Conference attracts big names in econometrics

In late May a small conference in honour of LSE Professor Peter Robinson on time series and other topics will present speakers auch as Phillips and Andrews of Yale, and Newey of MIT.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Gordon's campaign

Gordon Brown's new campaign website lists Britain's challenges. If they are in the order of priority Brown will concentrate on inner issues such as education and health. The big question which new policies henenvisages to prusue in these areas. Green and security issues are towards the bottom of the list.

  • Britain number one for education
  • An NHS that earns the trust of patients and staff
  • More affordable housing
  • Every child the best start in life
  • Stronger, safer, more cohesive communities
  • Tackling climate change
  • Better work-life balance
  • The challenge of terrorism and security
  • Nils Wogram

    Nils Wogram is an upcoming new German jazz trombonist. The 34 year old was born in Braunschweig. You can listen to some of his tracks on his website.

    In the video on his website you see/hear him use multiphonics.

    Mangelsdorff - Godfather of German jazz

    Trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff was the godfather of German jazz. Here are a few clips.

    Another clip can be seen here.

    Thursday, May 10, 2007

    Who is Gordon

    The news of Blair's departure is so old that's it's almost not worth speaking about anymore. Yet many non-Brits will ask who is Gordon Brown. Well, here is a short guide to Gordon: he is a 56 year old Scot, his sign is Pisces. According to Wikipedia:

    Individuals born under this sign are thought to be tolerant, dreamy, romantic, humorous, generous, emotional, receptive, affectionate, and have an honest character, but are also prone to exaggeration, fickleness, passiveness, hypersensitivity, and paranoia.
    Gordon is not tolerant, can be humorous but shows it only once per year, is certainly not generous - how can he be as a chancellor, keeps his emotions inside although they crop up frequently, is not receptive, can be affectionate, loves other people's honesty, is not fickle but stubborn, can be too passive, can be hypersensitive, and is most of all paranoid. He was once compared to Stalin, but that doesn't do him justice. His most portrayed feature is his constant envy for people in front of him - most notably Tony Blair.

    Gordon is the son of a preacher and has only eye one left, he has developed a suite of mannerisms which annoy many. He loves the word prudence. He likes to think that he 'runs' the economy.

    Wednesday, May 09, 2007

    M&A in the UK

    The ONS has published some new data on M&A involving the UK. There was an downward trend in Q1 of 2007. This is quite surprising given the large array of M&A in the press. My explanation is that they have to revise that figure and Q2 will show an upward trend again.

    Tuesday, May 08, 2007

    Bayesian stats

    The current issue of Statistica Sinica is devoted to Bayesian statistics. Xiao-Li Meng claims the dawn of a new Bayesian century. That might apply in China, but in the rest of the world the Bayesian revolution is underway already.

    Monday, May 07, 2007

    Family busines in Germany

    The FT Germany has published a table with the top 500 family businesses in Germany, sorted by revenue. Here you see the top 10. The top four should be known to everyone. Sal. Oppenheim is a private bank. Tengelmann is another retailer, like Lidl. Franz Haniel has a wide portfolio of pharmy, industry, logistics. Celesio is actually partly owned by Franz Haniel. INA-Schaeffler is a supplier for the car industry. Finally, Bertelsman is a media company. Together the top 500 have a revenue of €743bn and employ 3.26 million people.

    Sunday, May 06, 2007

    More people vote for Idol than for President

    135 million people voted in the recent American Idol contest. In the 2004 presidential election only 57% of the electorate, that is 122 million people voted. Probably they should run the next presidential election as a call-in, or presidential candidates should apply to Idol directly.

    Blairites succumb to Brown - Reid to go

    Major Blairites succumb to Brown before he becomes PM next week. Clarke and Reid are not going to stand for the party leadership and Reid will resign as Home Secretary, reports. It seems that Brown's strategy to shy away from confrontation has succeeded as Blairites run out of steam.

    Saturday, May 05, 2007

    Sarah Chang in the Barbican

    We heard American Korean violinsit Sarah Chang in the Barbican performing Shostakovitch. It was a truely magnificient performance. Chang played the piece with such force that the audience was in awe. Midway she had to change her bow because the first was losing its horsehair.

    My 1000th visitor

    My blog just received the 1000th hit, from someone in the Philippines, in the Mandarin hotel (provider) using Windows XP. Ironically, he might also be the first person ever from the Philippines, visiting my site.

    Everyone against Google

    Google is the new Microsoft, except it's not really selling anything. Many people nowadays argue against the google information monopoly. runs a campaign against google, obviously promoting its own search engine in Che-Guevara-style. Football leagues and media conglomerates are suing Google daughter YouTube. Ironically, Microsoft and yahoo are teaming up against google. Even Murdoch is building his own front. What do they have against google?

    On the face of it google is just a search engine, with some added features. Everyone can choose which search engine s/he uses. I use it all the time, because it gets me the best results. Yes, there are cases in which google's search engine can be manipulated, but which search engine is perfect? What does perfect mean in this sense anyway? An example, searching for my own blog wouldn't give me the result. Are they exluding blogspot, because it belongs to google? That would be true hipocrisy given their marketing campaign.

    Look at, which is a free Office program which you can use from anywhere in the world. If used properly it can save us hundreds of dollars or pounds.

    The case with Microsoft was different. Whenever I bought a PC, I had to pay for Windows as well. With google I don't pay for anything. I even might earn some money by joining adSense.

    Who owns the oil

    Commonly when we read about oil companies we think of Shell and BP. But the biggest oil and gas companies are actually state owned. Their reserves belittle those of listed companies. The biggest reserves are held by Saudi Aramco, followed by NIOC (Iran) and Qatar Petroleum. Russia's Gazprom makes it into sixth place. The biggest listed company is ExxonMobil.

    Good bye Lenin?

    Alberto Alesina and Nicola Fuchs-Schündeln look at the attitudes towards the state in the paper Good bye Lenin (or not?): The effect of Communism on people's preferences.

    They use the post-unification GSOEP to look at how West Germans' and East Germans' answer to state intervention can be explained by age/cohort and other variables. They find that East Germans are much more pro-state. This comes as no surprise as a simple look at votes would reveal. They also estimate that it will take two generations for opinions to converge.

    Thursday, May 03, 2007


    Recently a colleague of mine told me how he read about corporate corruption in Germany and its involvement in economic success. I asked him whether he believed any society could actually work without corruption.

    Don’t get me wrong I hate corruption. I find it extremely unfair and sometimes inefficient. But I might hold that opinion because I am not on the receiving end.

    Using CIA and transparency international data I regress log GDP per capita at PPP on a transparency score. As you can see richer countries are less corrupt, but the benefits of non-corruption at the top end are diminishing.

    The problem with over-zealous countries is that they impose bureaucracies which are highly inefficient. Also corruption depends on the size of a state. More centralist states are a priori more transparent.

    Let's face it corruption starts with the networks in which promotion depends on who you know.

    What is it about hardboiled characters and classical music?

    I am just reading another Chandler/Marlowe novel and researching on Marlowe I find that he likes classical music. Well, that's funny because Wallander in Mankell's mysteries also likes it, and so does Peter Temple's character in The Broken Shore - which I didn't finish since it's too boring. Why do crime writers imagine that detectives would like classical music? Is it to make them look more subtle and interesting? Is it because the authors like that music themselves? Even Charles Bukowsky in one of his trash novels describes his passion for Bach on the radio. Maybe these characters are all a bit outdated, maybe a hip detective today ought to listen to the Arctic Monkeys on his ipod?

    Wednesday, May 02, 2007

    Singapore has the fastest walkers

    British researchers have measured the speed of walking in the world's capitals. People in Singapore need 10.6 seconds for the 60 feet. London comes out at 12, whereas Berlin is seventh. This is suprising since London strikes me as much more hectic than Berlin, but then maybe Berliners have longer legs and are thus faster, or Londoners are constantly drunk and hence a bit slow.

    Wolfowitz memo

    Ken Rogoff published Wolfowitz memo to World Bank officials. In the memo he calls bets on his resignation insider trading. I have to say either Wolfowitz has a lot of humour or the letter is fake.

    Tuesday, May 01, 2007

    How could German pollsters get it so wrong?

    I have analysed UKPollingReport data for the months before the general election in Germany in 2005. According to the polls the CDU should have got around 42% of the vote whereas it actually got 35.2% just ahead of the SPD’s 34.3%.

    According to my regressions Emnid and Infratest under-estimate the projection for the CDU, which would mean that their projections are actually closer to reality. Emnid works with the ARD, whereas Infratest works with N24. This regression controls for the time trend. Forsa, which works with the conservative magazine stern overpredicted the CDU share of the vote even more.

    One reason seems to be that some people switched from CDU to FDP, which was under-predicted. Another observation is that over the months we see a declining share for other parties (except the main five) among the polls, whereas in reality this is about 4%.

    Blog stats



    Here are two pie charts of people visiting my website by country. In both months the US comes out at top. The share of UK has droped from 29 to 22%. Germany has actually increasesd. Australia has replaced China.

    Immigration impact in Britain

    NEP Unemployment, Inequality and Poverty lists three interesting papers on immigration in the UK
    • Immigrants in the British Labour Market by Christian Dustmann; Francesca Fabbri
    • The Impact of Immigration on the Structure of Male Wages: Theory and Evidence from Britain by Marco Manacorda; Alan Manning; Jonathan Wadsworth
    • Return Migration: Theory and Empirical Evidence by Christian Dustmann; Yoram Weiss

    Braguinsky on oligarchic capitalism

    Serguey Braguinsky has written an exciting new paper on oligarchic capitalism in Russia: The Rise and Fall of Post-Communist Oligarchs: Legitimate and Illegitimate Children of Praetorian Communism.

    He finds

    Although the Soviet order was characterized by insider-serving property rights and discriminatory barriers against outsiders, especially Jews, more than half of the first cohort of oligarchs came from new entrepreneurial entrants in market-oriented sectors. Compared to “old oligarchs” who derived their status from insider connections, “new oligarchs” were younger, better educated and were disproportionately Jewish. But instead of changing the rules of the socio-economic game, they themselves were changed by those rules, as the overwhelming majority engaged in asset stripping and rent seeking. Business empires based on politically-protected oligarchic property rights were vulnerable to political risk. The recent backlash against oligarchs took a particularly heavy toll on former new entrants, especially those of Jewish ethnicity.

    He underpins his findings by using a unique data set on which he runs various econometric models.