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Wed Jan 30, 2013, 10:30 AM

The Real, and Simple, Equation That Killed Wall Street

“If it weren’t for those meddling kids!” That was the punch line for every Scooby Doo episode. It also is the overly simple narrative that many in the media have spun about the last financial crisis. Smart meddling kids armed with math hoodwinked us all.

One article, from the March 2009 Wired magazine, even pinpointed an equation and a mathematician. The article “Recipe for Disaster: The Formula That Killed Wall Street,” accused the Gaussian Copula Function.

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The reality is much simpler and less sexy. Wall Street killed itself in a time-honored fashion: Cheap money, excessive borrowing, and greed. And yes, there is an equation one can point to and blame. This equation, however, requires nothing more than middle school algebra to understand and is taught to every new Wall Street employee. It is leveraged return.

What is leveraged return? It’s the return on assets using borrowed money.

The equation for the leveraged return, L, is:

Where Y is the return of the asset, R is the cost to borrow money, and N is the “haircut,” or the percentage of money the investor must put down to secure the loan (the down payment).

more

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2013/01/30/leveraged-yield/

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