December 15, 2017

Perspective

Visual Capitalist: Overflow Data – The U.S. States With the Most Million Dollar Homes – Jeff Desjardins 12/14

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Economist – The choice that could save South Africa, or wreck it – Leaders 12/9

NYT – Trump’s Lies vs. Obama’s – David Leonhardt, Ian Prasad Philbrick, and Stuart A. Thompson 12/14

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Nearly 5 Million Americans in Default on Student Loans – Josh Mitchell 12/13

  • “The number of Americans severely behind on payments on federal student loans reached roughly 4.6 million in the third quarter, a doubling from four years ago, despite a historically long stretch of U.S. job creation and steady economic growth.”
  • “The total number of defaulted borrowers represents about 22% of the Americans who were required to be paying down their federal student loans as of Sept. 30. That figure has increased from 17% four years earlier.”
  • “The money they owe is becoming a bigger share of total outstanding student debt in repayment. Defaulted student loans totaled $84 billion at the end of the quarter, or 13% of the roughly $631 billion that borrowers were required to be paying down.”
  • “The government’s student-loan portfolio now totals $1.37 trillion.”

Energy

WSJ – Daily Shot: US Total Crude Oil Production 12/13

  • “One of the trends spooking oil traders is what appears to be an acceleration in US crude oil production.”

Environment / Science

Economist – A nasty-tasting shellfish could be just the job for cleaning rivers – 12/7

China

FT – China lenders lobby to soften shadow bank rules – Gabriel Wildau and Yizhen Jia 12/13

December 14, 2017

Perspective

Visual Capitalist – Animation: Visualizing the ICO Explosion – Jeff Desjardins 12/12

WSJ – Thousands of Fake Comments on Net Neutrality: A WSJ Investigation – Paul Overberg and James V. Grimaldi 12/12

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

FT – The twin trap for Tesla investors predicting the future – Vitality Katsenelson 12/12

  • “Fear of diluted stock remains, even if the electric carmaker becomes profitable.”

NYT – Quakes and Fires? It’s the Cost of Living That Californians Can’t Stomach – Conor Dougherty 12/12

The Real Deal – The Long View: HNA, Anbang and the myth of low leverage – Konrad Putzier 12/12

  • “New York’s real estate market now grappling with the Chinese debt binge.”

Markets / Economy

CNN – South Korea is going bitcoin crazy – Jake Kwon 12/12

  • “On any given day, South Korea accounts for as much as 20% of all bitcoin trades around the world.”

Real Estate

FT Due Diligence – M&A is the weapon of choice against Amazon for mall operators – 12/12

China

NYT – Artist Flees Beijing After Filming Devastation of Mass Evictions – Austin Ramzy 12/12

December 13, 2017

Perspective

Bloomberg Businessweek – The Bitcoin Whales: 1,000 People Who Own 40 Percent of the Market – Olga Kharif 12/8

  • “Among the coins people invest in, bitcoin has the least concentrated ownership, says Spencer Bogart, managing director and head of research at Blockchain Capital. The top 100 bitcoin addresses control 17.3% of all the issued currency, according to Alex Sunnarborg, co-founder of crypto hedge fund Tetras Capital. With ether, a rival to bitcoin, the top 100 addresses control 40% of the supply, and with coins such as Gnosis, Qtum, and Storj, top holders control more than 90%. Many large owners are part of the teams running these projects.”

WEF – This is every US state’s biggest trading partner – Andy Kiersz 11/16

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Bloomberg Businessweek – What Happens When the Government Uses Facebook as a Weapon? – Lauren Etter 12/7

  • “Internet.org was just one part of a decade-long campaign of global expansion for Facebook. In countries such as the Philippines, the efforts have been so successful that the company is able to tout to its advertisers that its network is, for many people, the only version of the internet they know. Repressive governments originally treated Facebook, and all social media, with suspicion—they saw how it could serve as a locus for dissidents, as it had in the Arab Spring in 2011. But authoritarian regimes are now embracing social media, shaping the platforms into a tool to wage war against a wide range of opponents—opposition parties, human-rights activists, minority populations, journalists.”
  • Maria Ressa, co-founder of the country’s leading online news site “recalled that she started as a journalist in the Philippines in 1986, the year of the People Power Revolution, an uprising that ultimately led to the departure of Ferdinand Marcos and the move from authoritarian rule to democracy. Now she’s worried that the pendulum is swinging back and that Facebook is hastening the trend. ‘They haven’t done anything to deal with the fundamental problem, which is they’re allowing lies to be treated the same way as truth and spreading it,’ she says. ‘Either they’re negligent or they’re complicit in state-sponsored hate’.”

Bloomberg Businessweek – Millions Are Hounded for Debt They Don’t Owe. One Victim Fought Back, With a Vengeance – Zeke Faux 12/6

  • “The concept is centuries old: Inmates of a New York debtors’ prison joked about it as early as 1800, in a newspaper they published called Forlorn Hope. But systematic schemes to collect on fake debts started only about five years ago. It begins when someone scoops up troves of personal information that are available cheaply online—old loan applications, long-expired obligations, data from hacked accounts—and reformats it to look like a list of debts. Then they make deals with unscrupulous collectors who will demand repayment of the fictitious bills. Their targets are often poor and likely to already be getting confusing calls about other loans. The harassment usually doesn’t work, but some marks are convinced that because the collectors know so much, the debt must be real.”
  • Americans are currently late on more than $600 billion in bills, according to Federal Reserve research, and almost one person in 10 has a debt in collectors’ hands. The agencies recoup what they can and sell the rest down-market, so that iffier and iffier debt is bought by shadier and shadier individuals. Deception is common. Scammers often sell the same portfolios of debt, called ‘paper,’ to several collection agencies at once, so a legitimate IOU gains illegitimate clones. Some inflate balances, a practice known as ‘overbiffing.’ Others create ‘redo’ lists—people who’ve settled their debt, but will be harassed again anyway. These rosters are actually more valuable, because the targets have proved willing to part with money over the phone. And then there are those who invent debts out of whole cloth.”

The Guardian – Former Facebook executive: social media is ripping society apart – Julia Carrie Wong 12/11

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Daily Shot: Bloomberg – Prime-age male labor-force participation 12/11

Real Estate

FT – New Zealand looks to ban foreigners from buying houses – Jamie Smyth 12/9

FT – Unibail-Rodamco sees 100m annual synergies in $24.7bn Westfield takeover – Jamie Smyth 12/11

FT – Hong Kong investors go defensive in $3bn property auction – Henny Sender 12/11

Finance

WSJ – Daily Shot: Bitcoin 12/11

  • “Bitcoin’s volatility is on the rise as the cryptocurrency hit new highs.”

Health / Medicine

NYT – A Nasty, Nafta-Related Surprise: Mexico’s Soaring Obesity – Andrew Jacobs and Matt Richtel 12/11

  • “Mexico began lifting tariffs and allowing more foreign investment in the 1980s, a transition to free trade given an exclamation point in 1994, when Mexico, the United States and Canada enacted the North American Free Trade Agreement. Opponents in Mexico warned that the country would lose its cultural and economic independence.”
  • “But few critics predicted it would transform the Mexican diet and food ecosystem to increasingly mirror those of the United States. In 1980, 7% of Mexicans were obese, a figure that tripled to 20.3% by 2016, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. Diabetes is now Mexico’s top killer, claiming 80,000 lives a year, the World Health Organization has reported.”

China

WSJ – China’s Clean Energy Future Has a $1.2 Trillion Problem – Nathaniel Taplin 12/11

  • “China’s enormous coal-power debt overhang limits its ability to shift rapidly to cleaner fuels.”

Europe

WEF – Which countries feel they’ve benefitted from the EU? – Niall McCarthy 11/6

Other Interesting Links

Bloomberg Businessweek – This Crowdfunding Site Runs on Hate – Adam Popescu 12/4

December 11, 2017

If you were only to read one thing…

A Wealth of Common Sense: How Does Something Like Bitcoin Happen? – Ben Carlson 12/7

  • The best synopsis of the cryptocurrency I’ve read to date.
  • A taste: “Anyone who tells you they know where this thing is heading, how to value it, where it ends, etc. is nuts. No one has a clue. This is everything you’ve ever read about the markets all wrapped into one — FOMO, supply & demand, human nature, behavioral biases, volatility, booms, busts, uncertainty about the future, etc.”

Perspective

WEF – California is the world’s sixth largest economy. Now is the perfect time for it to step up – Rodrigo Tavares 12/7

WP – Americans are drowning in debt. Here’s where they have it the worst. – Christopher Ingraham 12/8

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Be Inspired: The Power of Morning Routine – Jim Kwik 11/26 (YouTube Video)

Bloomberg – HNA Warning Signs Keep Sprouting Up Over Mounting Debt Costs – Judy Chen and Dong Lyu 12/6

Farnam Street – Maker vs. Manager: How Your Schedule Can Make or Break You – Shane Parrish 12/9

Fortune – Inside Elliott Management: How Paul Singer’s Hedge Fund Always Wins – Jen Wieczner 12/7

FT – Self-driving finance could turn into a runaway train – Gillian Tett 12/7

  • “…at a recent financial technology conference at Michigan Law School, regulators and academics estimated that computers are now generating around 50-70% of trading in equity markets, 60% of futures and more than 50% of treasuries. Increasingly, machine learning and artificial intelligence are being added to the mix, to analyze data, trade securities and offer investment advice.”
  • “What we are seeing, in other words, is the rise of self-driving investment vehicles, matching the auto world. But while the sight of driverless cars on the roads has sparked public debate and scrutiny, that has not occurred with self-driving finance.”

FT – $400m for a Leonardo da Vinci. Has the art world gone mad? – Jan Dalley 12/7

Investment News – Stripped of fat commissions, nontraded REIT sales tank – Bruce Kelly 12/7

  • “The Department of Labor’s fiduciary standard, and new securities industry account statement rules for greater clarity in the prices of products, have forced nontraded real estate investment trusts to slice their commissions. Since then, sales of the product have collapsed.”
  • “No fat commissions on REITs means poor sales by brokers.”
  • “REIT managers and broker-dealer executives are likely reluctant to make the connection, at least publicly. But there is no denying that brokers’ appetite for the product disappeared almost overnight once upfront commissions were cut from 7% on an A share to 3% for a T share.”
  • “When REIT sales were booming a few years ago, the product’s pitch was simple: real estate kicks off an income stream of 6% to 7% annually, real estate is an asset class that is not correlated to the stock market, and with interest rates at record lows, investors needed the yield.”
  • “Those conditions haven’t changed dramatically, but nontraded REIT sales have tanked regardless.”
  • InvestmentNewsreported last month that Robert A. Stanger & Co. expects nontraded REIT sales this year to reach just $4.4 billion, about $100 million less than last year and the lowest levels since 2002.”
  • “If the ‘income, diversify and interest rate’ pitch was accurate back in 2012 and 2013, when REIT sales were booming, why isn’t it working today? There is little change in the narrative.”
  • “Interest rates have risen only marginally, and with the stock market roaring, wouldn’t it make sense for a broker to peel off some clients’ gains and invest in commercial real estate, a hard asset not correlated to stocks?”
  • “With brokers no longer getting juicy commissions for REIT sales, they simply don’t appear interested in selling the product.”
  • “Most brokers who still sell nontraded REITs no longer earn the eye-popping 7% commission, the standard rate paid to brokers who sold the product back in 2013, when REIT sales hit their all-time high and brokers sold $19.6 billion of the product.”
  • “The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. recently put into place a new rule, known as 15-02, that makes pricing of illiquid securities like nontraded REITs more transparent to investors. In the past, client account statements showed illiquid securities like REITs at the value they were bought by the client and did not subtract commissions, which were high.”
  • “‘Now that REITs are getting priced on statements, with Finra 15-02, advisers are having to consider these positions from a total return standpoint, not just income,’ Mr. Rooney said. ‘They are re-evaluating the client’s perception of the product.'”

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Daily Shot: FRED – US Treasury Securities Held by the Federal Reserve 12/8

  • “And so it begins… Quantitative tightening is finally here.”

Real Estate

Business Insider – Here’s where the future of retail is headed in 2018 – Stephanie Pandolph 12/5

  • Industry to top $5.5tn by 2020.

FT – Norway’s oil fund makes first Asian property investment – Richard Milne 12/7

  • “Sovereign wealth fun takes stake in 5 buildings in Tokyo and plans more deals.”

Finance

WSJ – Daily Shot: WP – Bitcoin Rising 12/7

  • “Bitcoin blasts past $15k, $16k, $17k in less than 24 hours.”

WSJ – Bitcoin’s Wildest Rise Yet: 40% in 40 Hours – Paul Vigna and Steven Russolillo 12/7

  • “Bitcoin mania reached new highs Thursday as the price of the digital currency jumped about 40% in 40 hours, smashing through five separate $1,000-barriers and surging past $16,000.”

NYT – Bitcoin’s Price Has Soared. What Comes Next? – Nathaniel Popper 12/8

China

WSJ – Jailed for a Text: China’s Censors Are Spying on Mobile Chat Groups – Eva Dou 12/8

  • If only George Orwell could see the tools at Big Brother’s disposal now.

FT – International investors chase the red dragon – Chris Flood 12/9

December 8, 2017

Perspective

Economist – America’s flat-Earth movement appears to be growing 11/28

  • “I am constantly forced to remind myself that while we may one day hope to conquer ignorance, there will never be a cure for stupid.”Barry Ritholtz

WSJ – Daily Shot: Moody’s – US States that challenged the Clean Power Plan 12/5

WSJ – Daily Shot: Natixis Investment Management – Global Portfolio Risks 12/7

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

FT – Lawsuit shows China losing patience with Venezuela – Jonathan Wheatley 12/6

  • “Subsidiary of state-owned Sinopec files case against PDVSA over unpaid debt.”

FT – US tax reform will benefit shareholders more than workers – Michael Moritz 12/5

  • “During the past year the nation’s 20 largest technology companies have gained $900bn in value in a favorable business climate. As a group, at the end of September, they had about $90bn more cash than they did one year earlier — the bulk being accumulated at Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Oracle, Qualcomm and Priceline. “
  • “But the increase in their cash balances tells less than half the story. There is nothing to suggest in the rest of the data that, if their taxes were cut, they would build more factories, hire more employees or buy more equipment. Quite the contrary.”
  • “Crunch through the data, available through sources such as Bloomberg, and you will gain some remarkable insights on the financials of the giants of the tech sector. Through the first nine months of 2017 these 20 companies paid just over $27bn in taxes. At the same time, they invested almost $55bn in what the accountants label ‘capital expenditures’ — buildings and equipment. But the real message lies elsewhere.”
  • “They generated so much cash that, over and above increasing the cash they held on their balance sheets, they distributed almost $39bn in dividends to shareholders and spent almost $52bn on stock buybacks. That is about $190bn of cash, dividends and stock buybacks compared to $55bn of investment in the sort of areas that might result in more jobs and increased productivity. Even Intel, which operates in the semiconductor industry — an activity which sucks up more cash than internet and software businesses — spent $7.1bn on dividends and stock buybacks during the first three quarters compared to $7.7bn on capital expenditures.”
  • “If someone makes the argument that the corporate tax cuts are likely to change the spending habits of start-ups or emerging companies, forget about it. Investors from around the world are standing in line waiting to invest in young companies, which have all the cash they need. In addition, since most of these companies are losing money, tax payments are irrelevant.”

WP – The world produces more than 3.5 million tons of waste a day – and that figure is growing – Kadir van Lohuizen 11/21

Markets / Economy

Real Estate

NAR – In Which States Do REALTORS Expect Highest Home Price Growth in the Next 12 Months? 12/5

WSJ – Daily Shot: Moody’s – Changes in US Property Values 2007 – 2016 12/7

Energy

WSJ – Daily Shot: US Crude Oil Production 12/6

WSJ – Wall Street Tells Frackers to Stop Counting Barrels, Start Making Profits – Bradley Olson and Lynn Cook 12/7

Finance

WSJ – Daily Shot: Bitcoin 12/6

  • “The cryptocurrency blasted past, $12k, $13k, and $14k in 24 hours.”

WSJ – Daily Shot: Meritocracy Capital – CAPME Chart 12/7

  • “Cyclically adjusted price to median earnings (CAPME) and the percentile rank.”

China

Economist – Chinese cities should stop expelling Chinese migrants – Leaders 11/30

India

Economist – India’s new bankruptcy code takes aim at delinquent tycoons 11/30

  • “Defaulters will no longer be able to cling on to ‘their’ companies.”

Middle East

Economist – How-and why-to end the war in Yemen – Leaders 11/30

  • “A pointless conflict has caused the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.”

December 6, 2017

Perspective

Visual Capitalist – Visualizing the 4,000 Year History of Global Power – Nick Routley 12/2

The Verge – The Winklevoss twins are now Bitcoin billionaires – Thuy Ong 12/4

WSJ – Daily Shot: Global Market Cap as % of GDP 12/5

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

FT – The Republicans’ faith-based tax plan – Rana Foroohar 12/3

Bloomberg Gadfly – 98,750,067,000,000 Reasons to Be Worried About 2018 – Mark Gilbert and Marcus Ashworth 12/4

Markets / Economy

Axios – The U.S. companies with the most cash parked overseas – Bob Herman 12/4

WSJ – Daily Shot: S&P 500 Relative Monthly Performance 12/5

  • “The S&P 500 has not had a down month this year.”

Finance

FT – Bitcoin: an investment mania for the fake news era 12/1

Bloomberg – BlackRock and Vanguard Are Less Than a Decade Away From Managing $20 Trillion – Rachel Evans, Sabrina Willmer, Nick Baker, and Brandon Kochkodin 12/4

FT – Private equity investors are paying through the nose for midsize companies – Matthew C Klein 12/4

China

FT – China banking regulator targets ‘invisible shareholders’ – Gabriel Wildau 12/1

WSJ – How China’s Migrant Crisis Could Hit Alibaba – Jacky Wong 12/5

South America

FT – Maduro’s purge – Gideon Long 12/1

  • “New appointment at state oil company is designed to keep the military sweet.”

November 30, 2017

Perspective

WSJ – Daily Shot: BMO Wealth Management – How I met your Mother 11/28

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Business Insider – It takes $1.7 million to get your kid into an elite college, according to rich people – Abby Jackson 11/28

  • Clearly this is not the only, or even necessarily the best way. But some people take it to this level.
  • “American families pay more to send their kids to college than anywhere else in the world. “
  • “But for wealthy families, the costs start long before that very first college-tuition payment, according to Town & Country.” 
  • “T&C published a list of expenses for getting a child from birth through college based on education costs. The story was a refresh of a 1973 article where the magazine conducted the same analysis and came to a figure of  $300,000.”
  • “The 2017 version tallied to an eye-popping $1.7 million per child. The analysis aimed to show how wealthy families approach the competition to get their kids into the Ivy League.”

Real Estate

WSJ – Daily Shot: BMO Wealth Management – US Cities Housing Price Change from Pre-Crisis Peak 11/29

Tech

FT – Uber accused of running secret competitive intelligence unit – Chloe Cornish and Leslie Hook 11/28

  • “Judge says ride-hailing group withheld evidence in Waymo trial.”

South America

FT – Venezuela accused of ‘systematic’ abuse of prisoners – Gideon Long 11/28

  • “Human Rights Watch says severity of crackdown under Maduro is unprecedented.”