January 17, 2018


A Wealth of Common Sense – Updating My Favorite Performance Chart For 2017 – Ben Carlson 1/14

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

A Teachable Moment – The Power of Fee Shaming – Anthony Isola 1/15

Yahoo Finance – Business Insider: China is heading toward a debt crisis that will throw into question everything we think we know about its economy – Pedro Nicolaci da Costa 1/15

Markets / Economy

Bloomberg – The Stock Market Never Goes Down Anymore – Elena Popina 1/12

  • “Up eight times in the first nine days of 2018, the S&P 500 has broken away from a trend line, its 200-day moving average, with a velocity unseen since 2013, the best year for equities in a generation. The benchmark now sits more than 11% above the level, putting it in the 92nd percentile of momentum, data going back 20 years show.”
  • “Something has changed in equities. If 2017 was a slow but steady slog, 2018 has been off to the races, with shares rising at four times last year’s daily rate on the back of Donald Trump’s tax package and gathering signs of economic strength. Forty seven companies in the S&P 500 are already up at least 10% this year, compared with just two down as much.”
  • “Fear of missing out is rampant not just on Wall Street but worldwide. Globally, stock funds saw a $24 billion inflow in the five days through Thursday, the sixth largest weekly total ever.”
  • “The average of 23 strategists predictions is for the S&P 500 to reach 2,914 at year-end. If stocks were to maintain the same upward trajectory they’ve exhibited in the last nine days, it would take roughly two more weeks to reach the strategists’ target.”
  • “At 3.4 times its book value, the S&P 500 trades at the most expensive level since 2002, while its 14-day relative strength index reached a level unseen since 1996. The S&P 500 rose 1.6% to 2,786 this week, pushing the spread between the gauge and its 200-day moving average to 11.5%, the widest in five years.”
  • “To Walter Todd, Greenwood Capital chief investment officer, the optimism over earnings growth could continue to propel the stocks even higher.”
  • “’The fundamentals for the rally are strong, though the higher it goes, the higher the risk of a correction, and the higher the risk that the correction will be steep,’ Todd said by phone. ‘For now, fear of missing out is prompting investors who’ve stayed on the sidelines to jump in, as people say, ‘we missed the rally last year, we’re not going to miss on it again’’.”

NYT – BlackRock’s Message: Contribute to Society, or Risk Losing Our Support – Andrew Ross Sorkin 1/15

  • “Laurence D. Fink, founder and chief executive of the investment firm BlackRock, is going to inform business leaders that their companies need to do more than make profits — they need to contribute to society as well if they want to receive the support of BlackRock.”
  • “Mr. Fink has the clout to make this kind of demand: His firm manages more than $6 trillion in investments through 401(k) plans, exchange-traded funds and mutual funds, making it the largest investor in the world, and he has an outsize influence on whether directors are voted on and off boards.”

Real Estate

WSJ – Daily Shot: Vanguard REIT ETF 1/12

  • “REITs broke out to the downside on higher bond yields.”


FT – Gas and oil producers among hardest hit by US tax reforms – Ed Crooks 1/15

  • “US oil and gas producers are among companies hit hardest by new restrictions on tax relief for interest payments, an analysis of the impact of the reforms has shown.”
  • “The sweeping overhaul of the US tax system signed into law by President Donald Trump just before Christmas cut the main rate for corporations sharply, but will still mean higher bills for some businesses because it sets limits on deductions for interest payments.”
  • “The new law will put pressure on heavily indebted companies to reduce their borrowings, and could push over-burdened companies into steeper decline if their earnings fall.”
  • “Companies in industries including oil and gas, coal mining, casinos and trucking are among those likely to be most affected, according to Greensill Capital, a trade finance firm.”

WSJ – Daily Shot: Brent Crude 1/15


WSJ – Trouble Ahead for the Treasury Market – Justin Lahart 1/15

  • “Inflation, less central bank bond buying, an increase in supply – there are plenty of reasons for Treasury yields to go a lot higher this year.”


Bloomberg Gadfly – Can Hedge Funds Handle a Bitcoin Bust? – Lionel Laurent 1/16

MarketWatch – Bitcoin tumbles to 6-week low as top cryptocurrencies all sell off – Victor Reklaitis 1/16

TechCrunch – Researchers find that one person likely drove Bitcoin from $150 to $1,000 – John Biggs 1/15

  • “Researchers Neil Gandal, JT Hamrick, Tyler Moore, and Tali Oberman have written a fascinating paper on Bitcoin price manipulation. Entitled ‘Price Manipulation in the Bitcoin Ecosystem’ and appearing in the recent issue of the Journal of Monetary Economics the paper describes to what degree the Bitcoin ecosystem is controlled by bad actors.”
  • “The manipulation happened primarily via two bots, Markus and Willy, that seemed to be performing valid trades but did not actually own the bitcoin they were using. During the Mt. Gox hack a number of these bots were able to create fake trades and make off with millions while manipulating the price of BTC.”
  • “’As mainstream finance invests in cryptocurrency assets and as countries take steps toward legalizing bitcoin as a payment system (as Japan did in April 2017), it is important to understand how susceptible cryptocurrency markets are to manipulation. Our study provides a first examination,’ write the researchers.”

Environment / Science

South China Morning Post – China builds ‘world’s biggest air purifier’ (and it seems to be working) – Stephen Chen 1/16

  • “A 100-meter (328-foot) high air purification tower in Xian in Shaanxi province has helped reduce smog levels in the city, preliminary results suggest.”
  • “The head of the research, Cao Junji, said improvements in air quality had been observed over an area of 10 square kilometers (3.86 square miles) in the city over the past few months and the tower has managed to produce more than 10 million cubic meters (353 million cubic feet) of clean air a day since its launch. Cao added that on severely polluted days the tower was able to reduce smog close to moderate levels.”
  • “The experimental facility in Xian is a scaled-down version of a much bigger smog tower that Cao and his colleagues hope to build in other cities in China in the future.”
  • “A full-sized tower would reach 500 meters (1,640 feet) high with a diameter of 200 meters (656 feet), according to a patent application they filed in 2014.”
  • “The size of the greenhouses could cover nearly 30 square kilometers (11.6 square miles) and the plant would be powerful enough to purify the air for a small sized city.”


FT – China disrupts global companies’ web access as censorship bites – Yuan Yang and Lucy Hornby 1/16

  • “China is plugging the last holes in its ‘Great Firewall’ internet censorship apparatus, hampering global groups’ ability to operate in the country.”
  • “China aggressively censors the internet, cutting off locals’ access to Facebook, Google, YouTube and much more, to control what news and facts reach its population. A study by Freedom House, a US state-funded non-profit organization, in November ranked China last in the world for internet freedoms, for the third year in a row.”
  • “Multinationals have historically used software known as virtual private networks (VPNs) to bypass censorship and protect their communications from hacking and government surveillance. But in recent months, the companies said, they have had difficulty using their custom-built VPNs.”
  • “At the same time, regulators have been pushing multinationals to buy and use state-approved VPNs. The state-approved versions can cost tens of thousands of dollars a month and expose users’ communications to Beijing’s scrutiny.” 
  • “’This is a significant ramp-up from previous measures,’ said Carly Ramsey, associate director of consultancy Control Risks in Shanghai. ‘The Xi administration has prioritized control over all information flows within China, and in and out of its borders’.”
  • “’This is not just about tightening access, but also giving the government more visibility and control over cross-border connections. The government now has many new tools to make cyber space ‘secure and controllable’ on their terms,’ said Samm Sacks, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think-tank.”
  • “’In a society where the government wants to control the flow of communications and information, secure communications and encryption are certainly an ‘enemy’,’ said Sunday Yokubaitis, chief executive of VPN provider Golden Frog.”

FT – China reprimands companies calling Tibet and Taiwan independent – Emily Feng and Edward White 1/15

  • “Chinese regulators have publicly reprimanded a string of foreign corporations, including Qantas, Zara and Marriott, for labelling Tibet and Taiwan as independent countries, in online drop-down menus.” 
  • “’We welcome foreign corporations’ investment and operation in China,’ said Lu Kang, a spokesperson for the ministry of foreign affairs, at a regular press briefing last week. ‘Meanwhile, they should respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, abide by China’s laws and respect Chinese people’s national feelings.’ Officials in Taipei said that China’s actions did not help Beijing earn the trust of Taiwanese people.”
  • “’Taiwan is undoubtedly a country,’ a spokesperson for President Tsai Ing-wen told the Financial Times. ‘Wiping out the name of Taiwan off the internet will not wipe out our existence in the world.’”

WSJ – China’s Hot Housing Market Begins to Cool – Dominique Fong 1/16

  • “While China has seen brief property downturns before, the high debt levels that fueled the boom makes this slump a particular risk for China’s economy and the policy makers trying to manage it.”
  • “Home prices fell 0.3% in November from a year earlier In Beijing and Shanghai, the most recent official data show. It was a small drop but a striking reversal from double-digit price surges that lasted more than a year.”
  • “Prices of advertised new Shanghai homes decreased 8% from October through mid-December, according to Brandon Emmerich at Granite Peak Advisory, a New York research firm that analyzed over 20,000 daily listings from Anjuke, a Chinese property-listing platform.”
  • “Though China’s Housing Ministry has said that property controls won’t be relaxed, the dangers of the downturn are lessened by the government’s ability to reboot demand by lifting restrictions—and Beijing has held off on introducing an anticipated property tax that could curb speculation but damp prices.”


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