Nearly 11 percent of the world’s population lives on less than two dollars a day, according to the World Bank.

(Image credit: EITAN ABRAMOVICH/AFP/Getty Images)

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Prices are high across a range of assets. Is it time to worry?

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The bull market in everything

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It is not too late to stop the break-up of Spain

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The bull market in everything

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IN HIS classic, “The Intelligent Investor”, first published in 1949, Benjamin Graham, a Wall Street sage, distilled what he called his secret of sound investment into three words: “margin of safety”. The price paid for a stock or a bond should allow for human error, bad luck or, indeed, many things going wrong at once. In a troubled world of trade tiffs and nuclear braggadocio, such advice should be especially worth heeding. Yet rarely have so many asset classes—from stocks to bonds to property to bitcoins—exhibited such a sense …

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The next financial crisis may be triggered by central banks

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When the cycle turns

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Buttonwood

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The spotlight shifts from Germany to France

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AS WITH London buses, don’t worry if you miss a financial crisis; another will be along shortly. The latest study on long-term asset returns from Deutsche Bank shows that crises in developed markets have become much more common in recent decades. That does not bode well.
Deutsche defines a crisis as a period when a country suffers one of the following: a 15% annual decline in equities; a 10% fall in its currency or its government bonds; a default on its national debt; or a period of double-digit inflation. During the 19th century, only occasionally did more than half of countries for which there are data suffer such a shock in a single year. But since the 1980s, in …

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AS EXPECTED, the Federal Reserve announced on September 20th that it will soon begin reversing the asset purchases it made during and after the financial crisis. From October, America’s central bank will stop reinvesting all of the money it receives when its assets start to mature. As a result, its $4.5trn balance-sheet will gradually shrink. However, the Fed did not give any clues as to what the endpoint for the balance-sheet should be. This is an important question. There are strong arguments for keeping the balance-sheet large. In fact, it might be better were the Fed not shedding any assets at all. Most commentators view a large balance-sheet, which is the result of quantitative easing (QE), as an extraordinary economic stimulus. Janet Yellen, the Fed’s chair, seems to agree: at a press conference after the Fed announcement, she said the balance-sheet should shrink because the stimulus it provides to the economy is no longer needed. But the claim that the balance-sheet is stimulating the economy is far from an established fact. The theoretical case for it is weak (Ben Bernanke, Mrs Yellen’s predecessor, famously quipped that QE “works in practice, but it doesn’t work in theory”). While most studies have shown that QE brought down long-term interest rates, it may have worked by …

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This week “The Economist explains” is given over to economics. Today’s is the third in a series of six explainers on seminal ideas.IN THE depths of the Great Depression, more than a quarter of America’s workers could not find employment. There was not enough demand for the goods and services they could supply. Today America’s workforce can produce more than 17 times as much, but unemployment is under 5%. Somehow demand, so inadequate in the 1930s, is sufficient to match a massively increased supply of goods and services eight decades later. This happy outcome would have surprised some economists of the 1930s, who worried about a “secular” (ie, persistent) stagnation of demand. But it would have been no surprise at all to an older generation of economists, led by Jean-Baptiste Say. His best-known work, “A Treatise on Political Economy”, ran to six editions between 1803 and 1841. It contained much of what became known as Say’s law, the notion that supply creates its own demand.Say and his intellectual allies pointed out that people would not go to all the trouble of producing a good or service, unless they intended to obtain something of equal value in return. So each addition to supply is accompanied by an intended addition to demand. Moreover, the act of production creates an …

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Stanley Fischer and the twilight of the technocrat

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Remote control

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Closing in on cancer

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IN 2004 Stanley Fischer described the wonder he felt as an economics student in the 1960s. “You had a set of equations”, he said, “that meant you could control the economy.” Technocracy—the dream of scientific government by a caste of wise men—arose in the 20th century, as rapid change rendered the world unfathomably complex; in economics, it came of age in the Keynesian revolution of the 1930s. On September 6th, after a remarkably distinguished career in public service, Mr Fischer, an intellectual heir to Keynes, announced his imminent retirement as the vice-chairman of the Federal Reserve. It is …

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The Fed prepares for its balance-sheet—and its board—to shrink

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Switching to autopilot

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The Federal Reserve

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Closing in on cancer

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NINE years ago, in the autumn of 2008, the Federal Reserve was fighting a financial collapse. To stave off disaster, it lent aggressively—to banks, to money-market funds, even to other central banks. As a result, its balance-sheet ballooned. At the start of September 2008, the month when Lehman Brothers collapsed, the Fed’s assets totalled $905bn (at the time, about 6% of GDP). By December they had more than doubled in size, to $2.1trn. That was only the start. As its …

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