March 12, 2018


statista – Proportion Of Female CEOs Is Hugely Overestimated – Niall McCarthy 3/7

Our World in Data – Fertility Rate – Max Roser 12/2/17

WSJ – Daily Shot: OECD – Time spent eating and drinking by Country 3/8

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

A Wealth of Common Sense – The Power of Narrative – Ben Carlson 3/8

Bloomberg Businessweek – Bitcoin Is Ridiculous. Blockchain Is Dangerous. – Paul Ford 3/9

Business Insider – Uber and Lyft drivers are selling candy and snacks in their cars – and it’s indicative of a dark truth – Aine Cain 3/9

Economist – Self-driving cars offer huge benefits-but have a dark side – Leaders 3/1

  • “Policymakers must apply the lessons of the horseless carriage to the driverless car.”

Pragmatic Capitalism – Why is the US Economy Becoming More Stable? – Cullen Roche 3/9

WSJ – Daily Shot: Trump Alienates Allies Needed for a Trade Fight With China – Greg Ip 3/7

Real Estate

WSJ – Mortgage Rates at a Four-Year High Threaten to Roil Housing – Christina Rexrode and Laura Kusisto 3/8

  • “U.S. mortgage rates have hit their highest level since 2014, a new challenge for a housing market that has been central to the economic recovery but remains vulnerable to even modest headwinds.”
  • “The rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.46%, the highest in more than four years and the ninth consecutive week of increases, according to data Thursday from mortgage-finance giant Freddie Mac . At the start of the year, the average rate was 3.95%.”
  • “If the trend persists, it could hamper a sector that represents about 15% of U.S. gross-domestic product. Rising mortgage rates already have crimped refinancing activity and pushed would-be home buyers who are on the margins out of the market as home prices also have risen.”
  • “While the rates remain low by historical standards, millennial buyers, who are often making their first home purchase, could suffer sticker shock. ‘They will be the preponderance of the market purchasing homes over the next 10 years,’ said Ed Robinson, head of the mortgage business at Fifth Third Bancorp. ‘And they’ve never seen 5%’.”
  • “Initially, the housing market often does well when mortgage rates rise. Potential buyers may hurry to complete purchases before rates rise further. Rising rates often signal underlying confidence in the broader economy, which could make some people more apt to buy.”
  • “Historically, there is little correlation between the level of the increases that recently have occurred with mortgage rates and declines in home prices.”
  • “’It takes a pretty big rise in mortgage rates to offset the strength in the economy that causes rates to rise,’ said David Berson, chief economist at Nationwide Insurance and a former chief economist at Fannie Mae.”
  • “Economists expect renters who want to become homeowners will still try to do so, although they may have to look for cheaper homes or make other spending changes. Economists believe mortgage rates would have to rise to roughly 6% before they start to significantly affect borrowers’ decisions about whether to buy a home or what they can afford.”
  • “However, in higher-cost markets, such as New York City and San Francisco, higher rates can have a bigger effect given that loan balances are larger. A 3.5% rate on a $500,000 loan would create a monthly payment of $2,245, according to LendingTree Inc., an online loan information site. At 4.5%, the monthly payment would be $2,533. (That excludes taxes and insurance.)”
  • “Rising rates tend to have a bigger impact on the market for refinancing existing mortgages. The Mortgage Bankers Association expects mortgage-purchase originations to increase about 7% this year. It forecasts the refinancing market, which is smaller, to plunge by nearly 28%, adding to a sharp drop in 2017.”


WSJ – Brokers to Investors: Your Cash Ain’t Nothin’ But Trash – Jason Zweig 3/9

  • “According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, free credit balances — one partial measure of uninvested cash in brokerage accounts — totaled $350.2 billion at the end of January.”
  • “Assuming the average yield of 0.12% that Crane Data estimates for brokerage sweep accounts, investors would earn an aggregate of only $420 million in income on that money over the next year.”
  • “If, instead, investors shopped around to improve their yield and earned an average of 1% on that cash, they would pocket $3.5 billion in income. Overall, then, the cost of that inertia is roughly $3.1 billion.”
  • “If you don’t shop around for better yields on your cash, you’re handing your broker another 1% a year.”

Cryptocurrency / ICOs

WSJ – Daily Shot: Bitcoin 3/8

WSJ – Daily Shot: Ripple 3/8


Bloomberg – Toronto Home Builders Just Had Their Busiest February Since 1948 – Theophilos Argitis 3/8

Bloomberg – Loonie Slide Fails to Unsettle Forecasts for 2018 Outperformance – Anooja Debnath 3/8

WSJ – Daily Shot: Canada Housing Starts 3/8

  • “Canadian housing starts exceeded expectations and continue to trend higher.”


Bloomberg – China’s War on Pollution Will Change the World – Jeff Kearns, Hannah Dormido, and Alyssa McDonald 3/9

  • “China is cracking down on pollution like never before, with new green policies so hard-hitting and extensive they can be felt across the world, transforming everything from electric vehicle demand to commodities markets.”
  • “Four decades of breakneck economic growth turned China into the world’s biggest carbon emitter. But now the government is trying to change that without damaging the economy—and perhaps even use its green policies to become a leader in technological innovation.”
  • “China’s air pollution is so extreme that in 2015, independent research group Berkeley Earth estimated it contributed to 1.6 million deaths per year in the country.”
  • “The smog is heaviest in northern industrial provinces such as Shanxi, the dominant coal mining region, and steel-producing Hebei. Emissions there contribute to the planet’s largest mass of PM 2.5 air pollution—the particles which pose the greatest health risks because they can become lodged in the lungs. It can stretch from Mongolia to the Yellow Sea and often as far as South Korea.”
  • “The country had become the world’s No.1 carbon dioxide emitter as it rose to dominate global exports, a process which began several decades ago but got its biggest lift with World Trade Organization entry in 2001. Emissions have started to fall again.”
  • “The government’s war on air pollution fits neatly with another goal: domination of the global electric-vehicle industry. Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc. might be the best-known name, but China has been the global leader in EV sales since 2015, and is aiming for 7 million annual sales by 2025.”
  • “To get there, it’s subsidizing manufacturers and tightening regulation around traditional fossil-fuel powered cars.”
  • “Worldwide, solar panel prices are plunging—allowing a faster shift away from carbon—thanks to the sheer scale of China’s clean-energy investment. It’s spending more than twice as much as the U.S. Two-thirds of solar panels are produced in China, BNEF (Bloomberg New Energy Finance) estimates, and it’s home to global leaders, including JinkoSolar Holding Co. and Yingli Green Energy Holding Co.”
  • “But China isn’t stopping there. As well as wind and solar, it’s exploring frontier clean energy technologies like hydrogen as an alternative to coal.”
  • “The trend towards clean energy is poised to keep gathering steam worldwide. BNEF projects global investment in new power generation capacity will exceed $10 trillion between 2017 and 2040. Of this, about 72% is projected to go toward renewable energy, roughly evenly split between wind and solar.”
  • “Five years ago, Beijing’s ‘airpocalypse’ unleashed criticism of the government so searing that even Chinese state media joined in. Last year, the capital’s average daily concentration of PM2.5 particles was almost a third lower than in 2015, compared with declines of about a tenth for some other major cities.”
  • “The turnaround isn’t just limited to improving air quality. China has stopped accepting shiploads of other countries’ plastic and paper trash, a response to public concern over pollution and a decreased need for scrap materials.”


Bloomberg Quint – Bond Trading Tumbles in India as Banks Stare at $3 Billion Loss – Subhadip Sircar 3/9

  • “If the RBI’s (Reserve Bank of India) reluctance to play the role of savior is any indication, it looks unlikely that Indian bond traders will see their predicament end soon.”

March 9, 2018


WSJ – Daily Shot: Terrorism Deaths vs. Coverage 3/8

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

FT – The rise – and fall – of the crypto-currency millionaires – Aaron Stanley 3/7

Mauldin Economics – Why American Workers Aren’t Getting A Raise: An Economic Detective Story – Jonathan Tepper 3/7

  • “Areas with fewer employers have lower wages.” (Source: Roosevelt Institute)

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Daily Shot: FRED – Total US Consumer Loans owned by Federal Government 3/8


WSJ – Daily Shot: eia – U.S. crude oil exports in perspective 3/7


WSJ – Daily Shot: Credit Suisse – Active & Passive Fund Flows 3/8

  • “February was a rough month, with both passive and active products losing capital.”

WSJ – Daily Shot: Credit Suisse – Equity Flows by Strategy 3/8

Market Watch – CVS’s $40 billion debt deal to fund Aetna takeover puts credit rating in peril – Ciara Linnane 3/7

WSJ – Daily Shot: Largest Corporate Bond Deals 3/8


WSJ – YouTube Hiring for Some Positions Excluded White and Asian Men, Lawsuit Says – Kirsten Grind and Douglas MacMillan 3/1

Health / Medicine

WSJ – Daily Shot: Moody’s – Pipeline for nursing graduates by US State 3/8


WSJ – Daily Shot: FRED – Average Amount Financed for New Car Loans 3/8

  • “The average size and duration of new automobile loans in the US keep rising.”

WSJ – Daily Shot: FRED – Average Maturity for New Car Loans 3/8


Bloomberg Quint – Super Rich Indians’ Love of Stocks Dwarfs Rest of the World – Dhwani Pandya 3/8

  • Super rich being those with net assets of $50 million or more.


March 8, 2018

If you were only to read one thing…

FT Alphaville – China’s household debt problem – Matthew C Klein 3/6

  • “The rapidity and size of China’s debt boom in the past decade has been almost entirely without precedent. The few precedents that do exist — Japan in the 1980s, the US in the 1920s — are not encouraging.”
  • “Most coverage has rightly focused on China’s corporate sector, particularly the debts that state-owned enterprises owe to the big four state-owned banks. After all, these liabilities constitute the biggest bulk of the total debt outstanding, and also explain most of the total growth in Chinese debt since the mid-2000s.”
  • “Chinese households, however, are quickly catching up. This is bad news.”
  • “The simple story of China’s debt boom is that government-backed companies borrow from government-controlled banks to pay for wasteful investments to support jobs and other political objectives. This creates lots of problems for China today and in the future, but it does have one virtue: the losses from centralized credit allocation can be distributed over a broad population over a long period of time.”
  • “Household debt is different. Borrowers are widely dispersed and lack political power. The lenders are often newer finance companies or loan sharks. Worst of all, there is essentially zero chance that additional household borrowing pays for productive investment. Some of China’s additional infrastructure and manufacturing capacity may prove valuable one day. Household debt probably won’t. Atif Mian and Amir Sufi have ably shown that increases in household borrowing tend to predict slower income growth and higher joblessness.”
  • “This chart is therefore cause for concern:”
  • “As of mid-2017, Chinese households had debts worth about 106% of their disposable incomes. For perspective, Americans currently have debts worth about 105% of their disposable incomes, on average. The difference is that American indebtedness has been basically flat the past few years after steady declines since 2007.”
  • “Chinese households have been experiencing rapid income growth by rich-country standards for a long time, but their debts have grown far faster:”
  • “Since the start of 2007, Chinese disposable household income has grown about 12% each year on average, while Chinese household debt has grown about 23% each year on average. The cumulative effect is that (nominal) income has slightly more than tripled but debts have grown by nearly a factor of nine. The mismatch has been getting worse recently, as can be seen in the kink in the pink line towards the end.”
  • “All this is finally starting to affect the aggregate debt numbers. Household debt in China is still small relative to the total — about 18% as of mid-2017 — but household borrowers are now responsible for about one third of the growth in total nonfinancial debt:”
  • “The problem is that households cannot service their debts out of GDP. Instead they have to rely on their meagre incomes. Since 2007 the share of Chinese national output going to households has ranged from as high as 46% to as low as 42% of GDP. (The rest of China’s national income is mostly captured by government-controlled enterprises and their elite managers.) The household share of income has dropped by about 1 percentage point just in 2017:”
  • “For comparison, disposable income in the US has tended to hover between 71% and 76% of GDP over the past few decades.”
  • “The trick for Beijing now is to bring non-productive investment down as rapidly as it can without causing unemployment to rise to dangerous levels. Because it has proven difficult to replace non-productive investment with productive investment (and, I have long argued, unrealistic even to expect it could happen), the only way to do so is to replace it with consumption. But levered consumption obviously cannot solve the problem of rapid debt growth, so rising consumption must be driven by rising household income, even as declining investment causes workers on investment projects to be fired. In the end this may be politically a difficult problem, but economically it is just an arithmetic problem about wealth reallocation.” – Michael Pettis


CNBC – 42% of Americans are at risk of retiring broke – Jessica Dickler 3/6

© GOBankingRates

US Census Bureau – Irish-American Heritage Month and St. Patrick’s Day 2/6

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Business Insider – Underpaying drivers is ‘essential’ to Uber’s business model, according to a new study on low wages – Shona Ghosh 3/7

Economist – How the West got China wrong – Leaders 3/1

  • “It bet that China would head towards democracy and the market economy. The gamble has failed.”

FT – Forget flu, it’s time for your fake-news jab – Hannah Kuchler 3/6

  • “News literacy should be taught like sex and drugs education, to protect individuals and society as a whole.”

Medium – A Lack of Clarity is The Biggest Inhibitor of Progress Towards Your Goals – Srinivas Rao 3/5

Real Estate

WSJ – Daily Shot: Cresset Wealth Advisors – US Housing Price Change from Pre-Crisis Peak 3/7

WSJ – New York Housing Is Getting (Gasp!) More Affordable – Josh Barbanel 3/7

  • “Housing costs are taking a smaller bite out of the typical household’s monthly budget, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau survey that is conducted every three years. The survey also shows a record amount of new housing and the third-highest rental-vacancy rate since the bureau’s first survey in 1965.”

WSJ – That Much Prophesied Commercial Property Bust Still Hasn’t Happened – Esther Fung 3/6

  • “The delinquency rate for securitized loans in the commercial real-estate industry has dropped for eight consecutive months, defying expectations in recent years of a wave of defaults.”
  • “According to real-estate data provider Trepp LLC, the delinquency rate for real-estate loans in commercial mortgage-backed securities clocked in at 4.51% in February, down from 5.31% in the same period a year earlier. The rate hit an all-time high of 10.34% in July 2012.”
  • “Investors had been expecting an increase in defaults in 2016 and 2017 as the large volume of CMBS packaged during the 2006 to 2007 period reached maturity. But rising real-estate values, low interest rates and a surge of debt capital from insurers and other sources have allowed property owners to refinance or restructure their debts.”

Yahoo Finance – Foursquare CEO: There are 2 types of malls that are seeing growth – Melody Hahm 3/6

  • “While consumers are getting lured online by cost savings and the convenience factor, there’s still ample data on foot traffic into physical stores, said Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck. In fact, he’s found that the rise in online shopping has largely affected middle-market malls. Malls serving high-end and low-end customers are actually seeing growth.”


WSJ – The New ID Theft: Millions of Credit Applicants Who Don’t Exist – Peter Rudegeair and AnnaMaria Andriotis 3/6

Cryptocurrency / ICOs

Bloomberg – Bitcoin Dives After SEC Says Crypto Platforms Must Be Registered – Camila Russo and Lily Katz 3/7


WSJ – Daily Shot: Change in Construction Producer Price Index 3/7

  • “US construction firms continue to struggle with rising materials costs. Higher steel prices will exacerbate the problem, especially for commercial property developers.”

Asia – excluding China and Japan

WSJ – In China’s Shadow, Communist Vietnam Links Arms With Old Enemy, the U.S. – Jake Maxwell Watts 3/2


WSJ – China’s Financial Reach Leaves Eight Countries Vulnerable, Study Finds – Josh Zumbrum and Jon Emont 3/4


WSJ – Daily Shot: FRED – European Central Bank Balance Sheet 3/7

Puerto Rico

WP – Exodus from Puerto Rico grows as island struggles to rebound from Hurricane Maria – Arelis R. Hernandez 3/6

March 7, 2018


Bloomberg Businessweek – Asian Cities Dominate Expat Salary Rankings – Andy Hoffman and Zoe Schneeweiss 2/26

US Census Bureau – Stats for Stories – Academy Awards 3/4

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Bloomberg Businessweek – Anbang Out With a Whimper – Nisha Gopalan 2/22

FT – How the Middle East is sowing seeds of a second Arab spring – Andrew England and Heba Saleh 3/4

NYT – State Dept. Was Granted $120 Million to Fight Russian Meddling. It Has Spent $0. – Gardiner Harris 3/4

Markets / Economy

Bloomberg Businessweek – KFC’s Big Screw-Up Left Restaurants Without Chicken – Christopher Jasper and Eric Pfanner 2/28

WSJ – Big Banks Enter Branch Warfare – Aaron Back 3/5

  • “Banks are entering a new period of growth, bolstered by healthy capital levels, less burdensome regulation and higher interest rates. Branch openings will remain a key competitive tactic for banks. As for Wells Fargo, with the Federal Reserve capping its growth and new sales controversies still emerging, it looks like a sitting duck to rivals.”

Real Estate

WSJ – Daily Shot: BofAML – Genworth Mortgage Insurance: US First-time homebuyers 3/6

WSJ – Daily Shot: BofAML – NAR: US Home Affordability and Mortgage Payment Components 3/6

WSJ – Daily Shot: John Burns RE Consulting – Home Price Relative Values 3/6


WSJ – Daily Shot: John Burns RE Consulting – Changes in American Debt 3/6

Environment / Science

Economist – The known unknowns of plastic pollution 3/3

Economist – Only 7% of the world’s plastic is recycled – Daily Chart 3/6

WEF – The Arctic is sending us a powerful message about climate change. It’s time for us to listen – Jennifer Francis, Jeremy Wilkinson, and Gail Whiteman 3/5


Bloomberg Businessweek – The Car of the Future Will Sell Your Data – Gabrielle Coppola and David Welch 2/20

  • “As smarter vehicles become troves of personal information, get ready for coupon offers at the next stoplight.”


WSJ – China Spends More on Domestic Security as Xi’s Powers Grow – Josh Chin 3/6

South America

Bloomberg – Venezuelans, Go Home: Xenophobia Haunts Refugees – Ezra Fieser and Matthew Bristow 3/5

March 6, 2018


FT – Shadow banking grows to more than $45tn assets globally – Caroline Binham 3/5

  • “’Shadow banking’ grew by nearly 8% globally to more than $45tn on a conservative measure after international rule makers were able to include detailed data from China and Luxembourg for the first time.”
  • “Shadow banking — the parts of the financial system that perform bank-like functions such as lending but do not have the same safeguards — accounted for 13% of total global financial assets, according to the Financial Stability Board, the international group of policymakers and regulators that makes recommendations to the G20.”
  • “The report covers 2016 figures. But since then China has launched a continuing crackdown on its shadow-banking sector.”
  • “China contributed $7tn, or 15.5%, of the $45tn assets comprising the FSB’s conservative definition of shadow banking, while Luxembourg contributed $3.2tn, or 7.2%.”
  • “But defining shadow banking can be a slippery business. The FSB’s exercise starts with looking at the assets of anything that is not a bank, including pension funds, insurers, and ‘other financial institutions‘, or OFIs. That wider ecosystem accounts for $160tn assets worldwide, compared with $340tn total financial assets globally.”
  • “Meanwhile, OFIs grew by 8% to $99tn; a faster level than banks, insurers and pension funds. OFIs now account for 30% of the entire financial system’s assets; the highest level since 2002.”

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

A Wealth of Common Sense – The Winners Write the History Books – Ben Carlson 3/4

  • “Coming up with explanations for past successes is easy but figuring out who the winners will be going forward never is.”

FT – Venezuela is the one to watch on oil – Nick Butler 3/4

  • “This is Opec’s most unstable country and Maduro could escalate the dispute with Guyana.”

FT – Reports of oil demand’s death have been greatly exaggerated – Chris Midgley 3/2

MIT Technology Review – If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich? Turns out it’s just chance. – Emerging Technology from the arXiv 3/1

  • “The most successful people are not the most talented, just the luckiest, a new computer model of wealth creation confirms. Taking that into account can maximize return on many kinds of investment.”

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Credit-Card Losses Surge at Small Banks – AnnaMaria Andriotis 3/4

  • “Concerns have been mounting in the broader credit-card industry about the recent trend of rising delinquencies. While overall card losses are still relatively low—below the historical average of the last 30 years, for instance—they’ve been slowly climbing in the last two years.”
  • “But they’ve especially surged at smaller banks, those outside the 100 largest by assets that have less than around $10.4 billion in assets. There, the average charge-off rate is near an eight-year high, while the 3.5% loss rate at large banks remains well below the 10.6% seen in 2010.”

Real Estate

MarketWatch – Over a million Americans may have just lost their shot at refinancing – Andrea Riquier 3/5

  • “Approximately 1.4 million Americans lost the interest rate incentive to refinance their mortgages in the first six weeks of 2018, according to an analysis from real estate data provider Black Knight.”
  • “The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.43% during the week ending March 1, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey. That was up three basis points from the prior week and leaves rates nearly half-a-percentage point higher than the level at which they started the year.”


NYT – California Scraps Safety Driver Rules for Self-Driving Cars – Daisuke Wakabayashi 2/26

  • “The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles said Monday that it was eliminating a requirement for autonomous vehicles to have a person in the driver’s seat to take over in the event of an emergency. The new rule goes into effect on April 2.”


FT – China hedge funds suffer in debt crackdown – Gabriel Wildau and Yizhen Jia 3/4


FT – Yen strengthening and trade rhetoric hit Japan exporters – Leo Lewis 3/4

  • “Currency jumps after Kuroda hints BOJ may exit its massive stimulus in 2019.”

WSJ – Daily Shot: USD / JPY Inverted) 3/4

WSJ – Daily Shot: Nikkei 225 3/4


March 5, 2018

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

naked capitalism – MIT Study: Median Uber and Lyft Profits Less Than Half Minimum Wage; 30% of Drivers Lose Money – Yves Smith 3/2

  • “A team from Stanford, Stephen M. Zoepf, Stella Chen, Paa Adu and Gonzalo Pozo, under the auspices of MIT’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research obtained information from 1100 Uber and Lyft drivers using questionnaires and information about vehicle-specific operating costs, such as insurance, maintenance, repairs, fuel and depreciation.”
  • Their main finding:”
    • “Results show that per hour worked, median profit from driving is $3.37/hour before taxes, and 74% of drivers earn less than the minimum wage in their state. 30% of drivers are actually losing money once vehicle expenses are included. On a per-mile basis, median gross driver revenue is $0.59/mile but vehicle operating expenses reduce real driver profit to a median of $0.29/mile.”

Markets / Economy

Bloomberg Businessweek – Harvard Blew $1 Billion in Bet on Tomatoes, Sugar, and Eucalyptus – Michael McDonald and Tatiana Freitas 3/1

NYT – China’s Biggest Deal Maker Spent Billions. Now the Bill Comes Due. – David Barboza and Alexandra Stevenson 3/2

WSJ – Boom in Share Buybacks Renews Question of Who Wins From Tax Cuts – Akane Otani, Richard Rubin, and Theo Francis 3/1

Environment / Science

NYT – Europe Was Colder Than the North Pole This Week. How Could That Be? – Kendra Pierre-Louis 3/1


FT – China’s super-rich lose political clout – Tom Mitchell 3/1

  • “Sharp drop in billionaires at parliamentary sessions as standing falls under Xi Jinping.”

Visual Capitalist – China’s Staggering Demand for Commodities – Jeff Desjardins 3/2

New Zealand

FT – ‘Billionaire bolt-holes’ under threat in New Zealand – Jamie Smyth 3/1

March 2, 2018


Economist – The hidden cost of congestion – Daily Chart 2/28

  • “In rich countries, city-dwellers lose nearly $1,000 a year while sitting in traffic.”

Tax Foundation – Sources of Personal Income 2015 Update – Erica York 2/27

Visual Capitalist – The World as 100 People over the last two centuries – Jeff Desjardins 2/28

WEF – These will be the world’s most populated countries by 2100 – Rob Smith 2/28

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Economist – Black Americans are over-represented in media portrayals of poverty – C.K. 2/20

  • “The poverty rate amongst black Americans, at 22%, is higher than the American average of 13%. But black people make up only 9m of the 41m poor Americans.”

FT – Millennials poorer than previous generations, data show – Sarah O’Conner 2/23

  • “Stagnant wages and rising house prices hit disposable income levels.”

NYT – Is Bitcoin a Waste of Electricity, or Something Worse? – Binyamin Appelbaum 2/28

  • “Money is supposed to be a means of buying things. Now, the nation’s hottest investment is buying money. And the investment rush is raising questions about whether one reason for the slow pace of economic growth in recent years is that the nation is busy distracting itself. While Bitcoin mining may not be labor intensive, it diverts time, energy and capital from other, more productive activities that economists say could fuel faster growth.”
  • “By a wide range of measures, America has a productivity problem. The economy is growing slowly, and almost 20% of adults in their prime working years are neither working nor trying to find work. Americans who do have jobs are less likely to start their own companies. Even the most basic kind of production is in decline. Americans are having less sex and making fewer babies.”

Real Estate

PBN – Hawaii homebuyers top nation with highest mortgage debt-to-income ratio – Janis Magin 2/28

  • “Homebuyers in Honolulu have the highest mortgage debt-to-income ratio in the nation, while homebuyers on Maui have a ratio that’s third-highest in the U.S., topped only by San Jose in California’s Silicon Valley, according to a report by the personal finance company SmartAsset.”
  • “Homebuyers in the Honolulu metropolitan area have mortgages worth 3.959 times their annual income, on average, according to an analysis of data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.” 
  • “The data showed that Honolulu homebuyers have an average income of $131,639 and that the average mortgage is for $521,201.”
  • “Maui homebuyers in the Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina metro area have an average income of $131,681, and the average mortgage there is $468,597, putting their mortgage-to-income ratio at 3.559.”
  • “By contrast, homebuyers in San Jose have an average income of $207,062 and an average mortgage of $740,693, giving them a ratio of 3.577.”
  • California had 17 of the top 25 cities with the largest mortgage-to-income ratios on the list, while Hawaii had two of the top three.
  • “Nationally, the average mortgage-to-income ratio was 2.119.”

WSJ – Retailers Post Strong Numbers – And Mall Shares Keep Falling – Esther Fung 2/27

  • “Prospect of higher interest rates a worry to shopping mall REIT investors.”
  • “While mall landlords generally have shown they are able to keep occupancy levels buoyant, there are growing concerns about pressure on rents and higher capital expenditures as they look to attract and retain tenants, many of which are shrinking their store footprints.”
  • “Recent comments by Starbucks Corp. Executive Chairman and founder Howard Schultz that he expects rents to fall also weighed on the retail property sector Tuesday.”
  • “’Over the last few weeks I have been in a number of U.S. cities and observed firsthand the abundance of empty storefronts across the country, in prime A1 locations,’ Mr. Schultz said in an email to Starbucks senior leadership team on Sunday.”
  • “’We are at a major inflection point as landlords across the country will be forced (sooner than later) to permanently lower rent rates to adjust to the ‘new norm’ as a result of the acute shift away from traditional brick-and-mortar retailing to e-commerce,’ he added.”


WSJ – Daily Shot: US Total Crude Oil Production 2/23


Bloomberg – Investing in Index Funds Is No Longer Passive – Dani Burger 2/27

  • “Passive has gotten so large that it’s killed everything in its path — including itself. Welcome to the ‘Passive Singularity‘.”
  • “There are now so many indexes that putting your money in an index-tracking fund is a move requiring an active decision, according to researchers at Sanford C Bernstein & Co. The industry’s growth has even forced active managers to focus on selecting indexes themselves — be that to invest in, or to benchmark against.”
  • “It’s the latest broadside from Bernstein’s team, which in 2016 labeled passive investing ‘worse than Marxism’. Investors so far aren’t paying heed: passive mutual funds and ETFs absorbed $692 billion last year, compared to $45 billion in outflows for active funds, according to data compiled Bloomberg Intelligence.”
  • “The Bernstein strategists base their conclusions around the millions of indexes in existence, which far surpass the number of single securities. Do a little math and the madness is clear: with 3,000 easily-investable stocks, the number of possible combinations to turn into an index is a Googol (that number, written out, would be 1 followed by 100 zeros.)”
  • “With nearly half of equity assets managed passively in the U.S., there’s no sign that investors will stop gravitating toward cheaper, index-tracking products. Bernstein’s new research wrestles with a world where passive is larger than ever, and active managers have to fight for the trust of their clients. The team concedes that ‘passive investing has been a great force for democratizing access to capital markets and reducing the costs to society of managing assets’.”
  • “But a massive bull market rally across equities and debt markets has left many investors blind to the risks, which smart asset allocation can help to mitigate, Bernstein said.”
  • “In January, investors added $25 billion to active ETFs and mutual funds while allocating $103 billion to passive vehicles, data from Bloomberg Intelligence show.”
  • “’By all means, investors should save money on implementation by using passive vehicles as part of their allocation,’ the strategists wrote. ‘But the myth of purely passive investment will be exposed by a low-return world.’”

Cryptocurrency / ICOs

WSJ – Daily Shot: Bitcoin 2/28

  • “Bitcoin has been much less volatile in the past few days.”

Health / Medicine

Our World in Data – Causes of Death – Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser Feb. 2018


WSJ – With Lumber in Short Supply, Record Wood Costs Are Set to Juice Home Prices – Benjamin Parkin 3/1

  • “A lumber shortage has pushed prices to record highs as builders stock up for what is expected to be one of the busiest construction seasons in years.”
  • “Builders say the higher lumber costs are making homes more expensive. Lumber prices started rising last year after fires destroyed prime forests and a trade dispute between the U.S. and Canada restricted supplies. Now a shortage of railcars and trucks is forcing builders to pay even more.”

  • “Prices are rising as lumber yards try to stock up ahead of what looks likely to be a busy building season this spring. A strong economy and tight supply of houses are heating up the home-building market. The number of new units under construction in the U.S. rose almost 10% in January, the Commerce Department said, as strong demand kept builders working through the winter. Permits for new homes, a sign of anticipated construction, also rose.”
  • “Material prices now rival labor shortages as builders’ main concerns, a National Association of Home Builders survey showed in January. Prices for common building varieties like spruce and southern pine are at or near records, according to price-tracking publication Random Lengths. March-dated lumber futures at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange hit a record of $532.60 per 1,000 board feet last week after climbing more than 50% in 14 months.”
  • “That run-up began with a trade dispute between the U.S. and Canada, which provides about a third of U.S. timber, leaving many dealers hesitant to restock at elevated prices. The Trump administration eventually instituted tariffs of 20% or more on Canadian sawmills.”
  • “Problems mounted. The worst wildfires on record hit Canada’s Pacific coast. Hurricane Irma temporarily closed mills in the forests of Florida and Georgia. And then came a shortage of railcars and trucks to transport timber from forests in places like the Pacific Northwest. Rates for flatbed trucks rose 24% in January from a year earlier, according to DAT Solutions LLC.”