Weil on Finance: The Wolf’s Big Winner

Jonathan Weil joined Bloomberg News as a columnist in 2007, and his columns on finance and accounting won Best in the Business awards from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers in 2009 and 2010.
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Happy Monday, View fans! Here are your morning links.

The `Wolf of Wall Street' client that became a 30-bagger.

John Hempton of Bronte Capital has a great read about what it was like to lose money shorting Steve Madden Ltd., one of the rare success stories among companies underwritten by Stratton Oakmont. Steve Madden himself went to jail, but the man knew how to design shoes that women love, and the company is still going strong. So is its stock: "Every company I short I have to ask myself -- even if I am sure this is dodgy -- how do I know I do not have the next Steve Madden? To me that is the stuff of nightmares."

What to make of the CAPE ratio.

Created by Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Shiller, CAPE stands for cyclically adjusted price to earnings. And there has been a lot of debate recently about how reliable the metric is, now that it's showing stocks to be on the expensive side. Here are a couple of good articles on the subject by Joshua Brown at the Reformed Broker and William Hesler at Hussman Funds, asking whether the CAPE ratio is worth paying attention to. Both say yes, with plenty of caveats.

There are no new bubble stories, only new investors.

James Narron and David Skeie have a fun post on the New York Fed's blog, Liberty Street Economics, comparing the European debt crisis with the Mississippi Bubble of 1720, which was a distant cousin to the South Sea Bubble. Excerpt: "John Law was an interesting figure with a colorful past. He was convicted of murder in London but, with the help of friends, escaped to the continent, where he became a millionaire through his skill at gambling. Like South Sea Company Director John Blunt in England, Law believed that a trading company could be leveraged to exchange the monopoly rights of trade for the ability to make low-interest-rate loans to the government. And like Blunt, in 1719 Law formed a trading company -- the Mississippi Company -- to exploit trade in the Louisiana territory. But unlike Blunt or the South Sea Company, the Mississippi Company made an earnest effort to grow trade with the Louisiana territory."

Federal Reserve gets in on the forex-rigging probe

Add the Fed to the growing list of authorities in the U.S. and elsewhere investigating banks' manipulations of spot foreign-exchange rates. Bloomberg News reported back in June that banks have been rigging benchmark currency rates for at least a decade. So it's nice to see the Fed noticing and getting involved.

Should dogs get high?

It's a serious question. OK, not really, unless maybe your dog has cancer. Here's an article that takes on the burning issue of Fido's time: "As marijuana's once-ironclad restrictions become more relaxed, and researchers begin to find more therapeutic uses for the formerly banned substance, pet owners around the world may be wondering: Is pot good for my pet?"

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Weil at jweil16@bloomberg.net