Eastern Europe – the calamitous cost of Foreign Currency Mortgages

January 10th, 2012

15 years ago, I went to go and live and work in Luxembourg for what turned out to be a very happy few years in pre-euro euroland. Latterly I was working in the Middle Office of a Corporate Treasury Department where I became familiar with interest rate swaps and how widely debt was priced around the world. I subsequently did a little investigation into taking out a foreign currency mortgage – specifically in Japanese Yen – which back then was paying next to no interest unlike all the other major currencies. Alas, I was politely rebuffed on the grounds of not really being a player !

Obviously, a lot has changed since then. Today, it seems you don’t have to be a player at all. In fact, anyone can get them – especially if you are working/middle class Eastern European and not remotely interested in hedging for averse currency movements. So what happened?

This Economist article from a couple of years ago gets it right by calling it Austria’s very own subprime invention. This table below, also old, sums it up quite nicely.


Since then of course, it’s got substantially worse in nations like Hungary – now with a BB+ rating – as the Swiss Franc has superspiked in value, massively increasing the cost of CHF-based mortgages across Eastern and Central Europe – about 1.7 million in total apparently.

So it’s not just Euroland that is in trouble with the Euro. What Donald Rumsfeld used to call New Europe is in trouble too – but with a quite different kind of currency problem.

Would that our economic life and times be simple and predictable again, with all our living standards gently rising year after year !


Data exclusive to People newsp…

January 8th, 2012

Data exclusive to People newspaper today from our platform UKCrimeStats – 50 worst crime streets http://t.co/TUD6PFPP see paper for detail

Crime still falling in the USA – why?

January 7th, 2012

Posted: January 7th, health clinic 2012  Author:   No Comments »

Of course our site – www.ukcrimestats.com –  is about British crime statistics, stuff but we can’t ignore what’s happening in America. The big picture is that nationwide in the USA, crime has fallen a lot and continues to fall even through the recession and on the way out. The hard question is why?

As this flies in the face of conventional wisdom, with rising unemployment and declining living standards, plenty of academics have got egg on their faces. Perhaps then, in the face of such inaccurate forecasting, criminologists are becoming the new economists?

Well a couple of guests on this must listen to and well-balanced radio discussion programme on America’s NPR on falling crime in the USA have some pretty firm views of why it happened – a couple of which I’ve reproduced here.  You can freely download the mp3 too – so much easier to listen to in the car than sitting in front of your pc.

Bill Bratton weighs in and argues that better Policing in NY and LA should take the majority of the credit because they targeted behaviour rather than “causes” like poverty and weather etc. which he downgrades to partial influences (quite rightly in my view). Charles Lane of the Washington Post points out that in the 90s the prison population grew 5 times faster than the population itself at 6.5% per annum. The challenge for the decade ahead though would be not just dealing with fewer resources dedicated to crime-fighting and law enforcement, but also how to get a large proportion of these inmates back into society and not relapse into crime as they would be released over the coming decade.

Many of us Brits will already have heard of Bill Bratton, his work and quest to become the first foreign-born head of the London Metropolitan Police. For background on Charles Lane, read this detailed piece by him from late last month here that highlights the peace dividend from falling crime.

The discussion came about because  academic criminologist, Franklin E. Zimring, wrote this book The City that Became Safe – New York’s Lessons for Urban Crime and its Control. There seems be to an abridged pdf of 29 pages here too if you don’t want to buy the book – I haven’t read it yet.

It strikes me that the level of debate on crime and more importantly, the freedom of Police Forces to experiment,  is far more advanced in America than it is here. For all that, based on a national arithmetic mean – almost totally useless as that is ! – recorded crime is still generally lower in Britain than America.

New post from our platform UKC…

January 7th, 2012

New post from our platform UKCrimeStats http://t.co/Uk3mrDMX Crime still falling in the USA – why?

Going green isn’t easy when …

January 5th, 2012

Going green isn’t easy when we’re so in the red CityAM: http://t.co/tZ5YcM5d great piece by my IOD colleague Corin Taylor re: our next opus

If only UK could buy nat gas a…

January 4th, 2012

If only UK could buy nat gas at $3 rather than >$8 per MMBTU – imported US shale gas will close the gap – Bloomberg http://t.co/5xgxJ0kr

UKCrimeStats now showing historic street crime data by street

January 3rd, 2012

Posted: January 3rd, cure 2012  Author:   No Comments »

We have just rolled out a new capability to UKCrimeStats – a unique page with monthly history for every street (see our streets page here) that has had a crime on it. Here is London’s Oxford Streetscene of a terrible gang murder right in the middle of the Boxing Day.

As you’ll see from our National Picture page, thus far we have approximately 6 million crimes and ASB events spanning 12 months of data. Each of these are mapped to around 450,000 “snap points” which are the given latitudes and longitudes of on or near a street close to where the event actually took place by the authorities to protect victims’ anonymity and ongoing legal/investigative proceedings.

Population is nearly everything in crime – read this academic paper An Excursus on the Population Size-Crime Relationship. After all, with no people, there is no crime. The trouble is how to allow for the impact of population on measuring crime. One solution is the crime rate which measures crime per static 1,000 residents in a selected area. The limitation of measuring crime by crime rates is both criminals and victims like to move and resident population data is only as good as your last census.

What we don’t know is the actual mobile throughput of population in a given area which would give us a much closer understanding. That’s why Oxford Street stands out as such an interesting example. Despite it’s size and high and mobile population, it has only one snap point and so quite a lot of recorded crime. And just like for all our streets, we have no static resident population data – meaning that a very long road with many residents can’t be compared with a short one with a few village houses. We can nonetheless assume that very few people live on or around Oxford Street as residents compared to the number of visiting shoppers.

It’s a safe bet though that Oxford Street – the nation’s premier High Street, has a phenomenal throughput of bargain and style-seeking consumers which means that if you were able to deflate crime in Oxford Street for the number of people going through it, the level of crime would actually be much, much lower that it would appear – currently no. 8 for November of streets in England and Wales.

New post & capability from our…

January 3rd, 2012

New post & capability from our platform UKCrimeStats http://t.co/OGRMzvb9 – historic street crime data by street