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Financial Theory - Audio

Financial Theory - Audio

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01 - Why Finance?

This lecture gives a brief history of the young field of financial theory, which began in business schools quite separate from economics, and of my growing interest in the field and in Wall Street. A cornerstone of standard financial theory is the efficient markets hypothesis, but that has been discredited by the financial crisis of 2007-09. This lecture describes the kinds of questions standard financial theory nevertheless answers well. It also introduces the leverage cycle as a critique of standard financial theory and as an explanation of the crisis. The lecture ends with a class experiment illustrating a situation in which the efficient markets hypothesis works surprisingly well.

1hr 14mins

25 Mar 2011

Rank #1

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19 - History of the Mortgage Market: A Personal Narrative

I explain how, as a mathematical economist, I became interested in the practical world of mortgage securities, and how I became the Head of Fixed Income Securities at Kidder Peabody, and then one of six founding partners of Ellington Capital Management. During that time Kidder Peabody became the biggest issuer of collateralized mortgage obligations, and Ellington became the biggest mortgage hedge fund. I describe securitization and tranching of mortgage pools, the role of investment banks and hedge funds, and the evolution of the prime and subprime mortgage markets. I also discuss agent-based models of prepayments in the mortgage market.

1hr 19mins

28 Mar 2011

Rank #2

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18 - Modeling Mortgage Prepayments and Valuing Mortgages

A mortgage involves making a promise, backing it with collateral, and defining a way to dissolve the promise at prearranged terms in case you want to end it by prepaying. The option to prepay, the refinancing option, makes the mortgage much more complicated than a coupon bond, and therefore something that a hedge fund could make money trading. In this lecture we discuss how to build and calibrate a model to forecast prepayments in order to value mortgages. Old-fashioned economists still make non-contingent forecasts, like the recent predictions that unemployment would peak at 8%. A model makes contingent forecasts. The old prepayment models fit a curve to historical data estimating how sensitive aggregate prepayments have been to changes in the interest rate. The modern agent based approach to modeling rationalizes behavior at the individual level and allows heterogeneity among individual types. From either kind of model we see that mortgages are very risky securities, even in the absence of default. This raises the question of how investors and banks should hedge them.

1hr 12mins

28 Mar 2011

Rank #3

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11 - Social Security

This lecture continues the analysis of Social Security started at the end of the last class. We describe the creation of the system in 1938 by Franklin Roosevelt and Frances Perkins and its current financial troubles. For many democrats Social Security is the most successful government program ever devised and for many Republicans Social Security is a bankrupt program that needs to be privatized. Is there any way to reconcile the views of Democrats and Republicans? How did the system get into so much financial trouble? We will see that the mess becomes quite clear when examined with the proper present value approach. Present value analysis reveals the flaws in the three most popular analyses of Social Security, that the financial breakdown is the fault of the baby boomers, that privatization would bring young investors a better return than they anticipate getting from their social security contributions, and that privatization is impossible without compromising today's retired workers.

1hr 12mins

25 Mar 2011

Rank #4

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02 - Utilities, Endowments, and Equilibrium

This lecture explains what an economic model is, and why it allows for counterfactual reasoning and often yields paradoxical conclusions. Typically, equilibrium is defined as the solution to a system of simultaneous equations. The most important economic model is that of supply and demand in one market, which was understood to some extent by the Ancient Greeks and even by Shakespeare. That model accurately fits the experiment from the last class, as well as many other markets, such as the Paris Bourse, online trading, the commodities pit, and a host of others. The modern theory of general economic equilibrium described in this lecture extends that model to continuous quantities and multiple commodities. It is the bedrock on which we will build the model of financial equilibrium in subsequent lectures.

1hr 12mins

25 Mar 2011

Rank #5

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08 - How a Long-Lived Institution Figures an Annual Budget. Yield

In the 1990s, Yale discovered that it was faced with a deferred maintenance problem: the university hadn't properly planned for important renovations in many buildings. A large, one-time expenditure would be needed. How should Yale have covered these expenses? This lecture begins by applying the lessons learned so far to show why Yale's initial forecast budget cuts were overly pessimistic. In the second half of the class, we turn to the problem of measuring investment performance, and examine the strengths and weaknesses of various measures of yield, including yield-to-maturity and current yield.

1hr 16mins

25 Mar 2011

Rank #6

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07 - Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, Collateral. Present Value and the Vocabulary of Finance

While economists didn't have a good theory of interest until Irving Fisher came along, and didn't understand the role of collateral until even later, Shakespeare understood many of these things hundreds of years earlier. The first half of this lecture examines Shakespeare's economic insights in depth, and sees how they sometimes prefigured or even surpassed Irving Fisher's intuitions. The second half of this lecture uses the concept of present value to define and explain some of the basic financial instruments: coupon bonds, annuities, perpetuities, and mortgages.

1hr 18mins

25 Mar 2011

Rank #7

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05 - Present Value Prices and the Real Rate of Interest

Philosophers and theologians have railed against interest for thousands of years. But that is because they didn't understand what causes interest. Irving Fisher built a model of financial equilibrium on top of general equilibrium (GE) by introducing time and assets into the GE model. He saw that trade between apples today and apples next year is completely analogous to trade between apples and oranges today. Similarly he saw that in a world without uncertainty, assets like stocks and bonds are significant only for the dividends they pay in the future, just like an endowment of multiple goods. With these insights Fisher was able to show that he could solve his model of financial equilibrium for interest rates, present value prices, asset prices, and allocations with precisely the same techniques we used to solve for general equilibrium. He concluded that the real rate of interest is a relative price, and just like any other relative price, is determined by market participants' preferences and endowments, an insight that runs counter to the intuitions held by philosophers throughout much of human history. His theory did not explain the nominal rate of interest or inflation, but only their ratio.

1hr 14mins

25 Mar 2011

Rank #8

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04 - Efficiency, Assets, and Time

Over time, economists' justifications for why free markets are a good thing have changed. In the first few classes, we saw how under some conditions, the competitive allocation maximizes the sum of agents' utilities. When it was found that this property didn't hold generally, the idea of Pareto efficiency was developed. This class reviews two proofs that equilibrium is Pareto efficient, looking at the arguments of economists Edgeworth, and Arrow-Debreu. The lecture suggests that if a broadening of the economic model invalidated the sum of utilities justification of free markets, a further broadening might invalidate the Pareto efficiency justification of unregulated markets. Finally, Professor Geanakoplos discusses how Irving Fisher introduced two crucial ingredients of finance,--time and assets--into the standard economic equilibrium model.

1hr 11mins

25 Mar 2011

Rank #9

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06 - Irving Fisher's Impatience Theory of Interest

Building on the general equilibrium setup solved in the last week, this lecture looks in depth at the relationships between productivity, patience, prices, allocations, and nominal and real interest rates. The solutions to three of Fisher's famous examples are given: What happens to interest rates when people become more or less patient? What happens when they expect to receive windfall riches sometime in the future? And, what happens when wealth in an economy is redistributed from the poor to the rich?

1hr 10mins

25 Mar 2011

Rank #10