Business Spotlight

The colour of money

Das Thema „Finanzen“ist keineswegs eine farblose Angelegenh­eit. Es kann in vielen Farben schillern, wie IAN MCMASTER mit einigen interessan­ten Beispielen belegt.

- Contact: i.mcmaster@

Finance is not always a black-andwhite subject. Indeed, it’s more often a black or red matter. If your bank account is “in the black”, then it has a positive balance, which means you are not overdrawn. And if a person or business is in the black, they are not in debt . The opposite is to be “in the red”. We also use the expression “red ink” to describe a situation in which losses are being made, so a company could be said to be “bleeding/leaking/spilling red ink”. We also talk of a “sea/tide/flow of red ink” if the losses are great or if many companies are losing money at the same time or if many share prices are falling.

If you have a “black hole” in your finances, on the other hand, then you have big losses. And to be “in the pink (of health)” means to be “very healthy” and is used metaphoric­ally to refer to finances. Also, if you are having a “purple patch”, financiall­y or otherwise, then things are going very well for you and you are enjoying a successful run.

To trade shares “in the pink” means to trade them “in an unregulate­d secondary or ‘over-the-counter’ (OTC) secondary market”. Meanwhile, “blue-chip” companies are ones that are regarded as safe, stable and profitable, and whose performanc­e is relatively independen­t of the economic cycle. The term comes from poker, in which the blue chip is the one with the highest value.

Going back to black, the colour plays a key role in government finances in Germany, where there is an obsession with the concept of the schwarze Null. This describes a situation in which the government has a balanced budget, which means its tax revenues are at least as high as its expenditur­e. In other words, it doesn’t need to borrow any new money. The term “black zero” is not normally used in English except in financial reporting on Germany, where it is typically placed in inverted commas.

Finance also often has grey areas, particular­ly in relation to tax liabilitie­s and corporate accounting. The difference between tax avoidance, which is legal, and tax evasion, which is illegal, can be very difficult to define at times.

One colour we haven’t mentioned yet is green. The “greenback” is a slang term for the world’s leading currency, the US dollar. The name comes from the colour of the back of the US banknotes printed in the middle of the 19th century to finance the country’s civil war. In the next issue, we’ll be looking more closely at green investment­s and even green central banking.

Finally, if you ask to “see the colour of someone’s money”, you are asking them to prove that they really do have the money to pay for something.

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 ??  ?? IAN MCMASTER is editor-in-chief of Business Spotlight.
IAN MCMASTER is editor-in-chief of Business Spotlight.

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