Weil on Finance, P.M.: Meet Timothy Massad

Here are links to afternoon reading.

It's that time of day again. On with the links, we go.

The mystery man about to take over the CFTC

Jesse Eisinger of ProPublica says there is little reason for enthusiasm with Timothy Massad, the Treasury Department official recently picked to succeed Gary Gensler as head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. But Gensler, a former Goldman Sachs man, surprised his critics when he turned out to have a spine. "Mr. Massad might do so as well," Eisinger writes.

More tea leaves to read from the Federal Reserve

Maybe the Federal Open Market Committee will taper the Fed's bond purchases soon, or not. We'll see. It depends. Or as the minutes released today of the FOMC's Oct. 29-30 meeting say, the members "generally expected that the data would prove consistent with the committee's outlook for ongoing improvement in labor market conditions and would thus warrant trimming the pace of purchases in coming months." No big whoop. It's only the value of every financial asset and the future of the global capital markets that are at stake.

Speaking of the Fed...

Here's a fun blog post from the New York Fed with lots of cool charts for numbers geeks, entitled "Intermediary Leverage Cycles and Financial Stability." It's no great mystery that banks and other financial intermediaries "increase leverage during booms when asset market volatility tends to be low, which in turn forces them to dramatically reduce leverage once volatility increases," as the authors put it. Anybody who was paying attention during the 2007-2009 financial crisis knows that. But the analysis is worth reading: "While some commentators believe that tighter capital requirements are expensive in terms of intermediation capacity of the financial system, others argue that it is cheap — or even costless — for financial institutions to reduce their riskiness by issuing equity. Quantitatively, the tradeoff between the pricing of credit and the amount of systemic risk is not well understood. Our framework provides guidance for empirical research to quantify this tradeoff."

Obama's ode to press freedom

I'm glad somebody out there picked up on this angle. This morning when I heard that President Barack Obama was awarding the Medal of Freedom to former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, I couldn't help but wonder how many of the Washington Post's unnamed sources might have gotten thrown in jail if Richard Nixon had pursued the same sorts of tactics to beating the press during the Watergate era that the Obama administration has of late. Jack Mirkinson of the Huffington Post says "it was impossible not to detect a certain irony in the air."

Where is William Safire when we need him ?

Megan Garber of the Atlantic writes that the English language has a new preposition: "Because."

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