Tag: Demographics

May 17, 2018

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

FT – How the west should judge a rising China – Martin Wolf 5/15

  • “Advanced countries are hobbled by their inability to manage their own affairs.”

Japan

FT – How Japan’s ageing population is shrinking GDP – Valentina Romei 5/16

  • “With a rapidly ageing population and a shrinking workforce, Japan is one of the world’s oldest societies. Now analysts fear that these demographics are hampering economic growth.” 
  • “Japan’s economy contracted by 0.2% in the first three months of this year over the previous quarter, ending eight consecutive quarters of growth, Japan’s longest period of uninterrupted growth since 1989. It is now the only major economy to start 2018 with a shrinking economy.” 
  • “With the second-weakest performance of major economies last year — Italy had the poorest — Japan is now set to be the slowest growing of the G7 economies this year.”
  • “Japan cannot keep up with the growth rates seen in other advanced economies because ‘Japan’s demographics weaken its GDP growth,’ said Rob Carnell, head of research and chief economist for Asia-Pacific at ING. ‘A rapidly ageing population and shrinking labor force are hampering growth,’ warned the IMF in its latest country’s report.” 
  • “In a separate document, the IMF calculated that ‘the impact of ageing could potentially drag down Japan’s average annual GDP growth by 1 percentage point over the next three decades’.”
  • “Since Japan’s population began its decline in 2010, the country’s population has shrunk by about 1.3m people.”
  • “By 2065, the UN expects Japan’s population to fall by an additional 28m people, corresponding to a 22% drop. Over the same period, the population in advanced economies is expected to rise by 3%.”
  • “Not only is Japan’s population shrinking, but it is also ageing rapidly.”
  • “A shrinking population means a smaller domestic market with fewer people buying goods and services.” 
  • “In 2016, there were about 2,300 fewer kindergartens than seven years earlier as the number of pupils dropped by 18%. Nearly 2,000 primary schools have been shut over the same period while the number of children of primary school age dropped by 8%.”
  • “Far fewer houses are being built as the population, and demand, falls.” 
  • “The shrinkage in Japan’s population means that even with flat productivity growth there would be ‘steady declines in GDP output from one year to another,’ said Mr Carnell. Assuming all other factors remained similar, an economy with an expanding population would see positive GDP growth. ‘A better way of looking at Japan would be as per capita GDP,’ added Mr Carnell.” 
  • “When looking at GDP growth rate per person of working age — which takes into account ageing trends as well as population shrinkage — Japan is in fact the second-best performing G7 country after Germany over the past 20 years.” 
  • “Unless demographic trends are corrected, this is unlikely to be the last time Japan will see negative GDP growth, analysts say. But, given its shrinking labor force, its economy is performing strongly, they add.”

South America

FT – Kellogg latest company to pull out of Venezuela – Gideon Long 5/15

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April 20, 2018

If you were only to read one thing…

WP – Too Many Men – Simon Denyer and Annie Gowen 4/18

  • “Nothing like this has happened in human history. A combination of cultural preferences, government decree and modern medical technology in the world’s two largest countries has created a gender imbalance on a continental scale. Men outnumber women by 70 million in China and India.”
  • “The consequences of having too many men, now coming of age, are far-reaching: Beyond an epidemic of loneliness, the imbalance distorts labor markets, drives up savings rates in China and drives down consumption, artificially inflates certain property values, and parallels increases in violent crime, trafficking or prostitution in a growing number of locations.”
  • “Those consequences are not confined to China and India, but reach deep into their Asian neighbors and distort the economies of Europe and the Americas, as well. Barely recognized, the ramifications of too many men are only starting to come into sight.”
  • “’In the future, there will be millions of men who can’t marry, and that could pose a very big risk to society,’ warns Li Shuzhuo, a leading demographer at Xi’an Jiaotong University.”
  • “Out of China’s population of 1.4 billion, there are nearly 34 million more males than females — the equivalent of almost the entire population of California, or Poland, who will never find wives and only rarely have sex. China’s official one-child policy, in effect from 1979 to 2015, was a huge factor in creating this imbalance, as millions of couples were determined that their child should be a son.”
  • “India, a country that has a deeply held preference for sons and male heirs, has an excess of 37 million males, according to its most recent census. The number of newborn female babies compared with males has continued to plummet, even as the country grows more developed and prosperous. The imbalance creates a surplus of bachelors and exacerbates human trafficking, both for brides and, possibly, prostitution. Officials attribute this to the advent of sex-selective technology in the last 30 years, which is now banned but still in widespread practice.”
  • “In the two countries, 50 million excess males are under age 20.”

Perspective

WSJ – Daily Shot: howmuch.net – Home Insurance Cost in Every State 4/19

WSJ – Daily Shot: howmuch.net – Health Insurance Rates by State 4/19

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

BuzzFeed News – This PSA About Fake News From Barack Obama Is Not What It Appears – David Mack 4/17

  • “Oscar-winning filmmaker Jordan Peele has a warning for viewers about trusting material they encounter online.”

Visual Capitalist – America: An Economic Snapshot of Every U.S. State – Jeff Desjardins 4/19

Wolf Street – Subprime Carmageddon: Specialized Lenders Begin to Collapse – Wolf Richter 4/8

  • “The subprime auto lending business is highly cyclical. For example, according to Bloomberg, citing Moody’s data, 41 subprime lenders filed for bankruptcy during the subprime auto loan bust between 1997 and 1999.”
  • “But unlike subprime home mortgages, subprime auto loans won’t take down the financial system. About 25% of the auto loans written are subprime. For new cars, it’s about 20%. Of the $1.11 trillion in total auto loans outstanding at the end of 2017, about $280 billion were subprime – less than a quarter of the $1.3 trillion subprime mortgages before the financial crisis. Even if the total subprime portfolio produced a net loss of 50%, the losses would amount to only about $140 billion.”
  • “And there are other differences: Vehicles are quickly repossessed, usually after three months of missed payments. Even in bad times, there is a liquid market for the collateral at auctions around the country, and vehicles can be shipped to auctions with the greatest demand. The results are that lenders don’t end up holding these vehicles and loans on their balance sheet for years, as mortgage lenders did with defaulted home mortgages and homes.”
  • “But subprime will take down many more of the specialized lenders. And the survivors will tighten lending standards. This will prevent more car buyers from buying a new vehicles. Many of them will be switched to older used vehicles. Or they hang on to what they have.”
  • “So automakers get to grapple with the loss of these customers. When you lose a significant portion of your customers due to credit problems, it hurts. And this is where it adds to ‘Carmageddon.’ Investors and creditors, including PE firms, get to grapple with losses and bankruptcies. But given the limited magnitude of subprime auto loans, and the limited impact on the banks, the Fed will brush it off and continue its monetary tightening, and no one will get bailed out.”

Markets / Economy

FT – Sentiment sours for big brand consumer staples – Chloe Cornish 4/18

WSJ – Demand for Batteries Is Shrinking, Yet Prices Keep On Going and Going…Up – Sharon Terlep and Nicole Friedman 4/16

Tech

WSJ – Daily Shot: Bloomberg – IMF Says the Global Smartphone Boom Has Reached Its Peak – Andrew Mayeda 4/19

Britain

Bloomberg Businessweek – Britain Targets Russian Billionaires – Henry Meyer, Yuliya Fedorinova, and Irina Reznik 4/11

  • “As the U.S. goes after a handful of Russian oligarchs with its latest round of sanctions, the U.K. is under pressure domestically and from abroad to tighten controls and shed its reputation as a place to launder corrupt money. The U.K. National Crime Agency estimates that more than £90 billion ($127.5 billion) of such money enters the U.K. each year, feeding a vast industry of property companies, lawyers, bankers, and accountants. A lot of that comes from Russia, and ends up in high-end real estate. About a fifth of suspicious property purchases from 2008 to 2015, £729 million worth, were made by Russians, according to anticorruption watchdog Transparency International. ‘In terms of the levels of financial flows that go through London, it’s likely that it’s one of the biggest hubs of money laundering in the world,’ says Ben Cowdock, the group’s lead researcher on dirty money in the U.K.”

March 23, 2018

Perspective

WSJ – Daily Shot: Cost per Unit – Penny and Nickel 3/22

Maps on the Web: Reddit – Literal Meaning and Origin of US State Names 3/21

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

FT – Anti-Semitism in the age of Donald Trump – Edward Luce 3/21

  • “The west’s largest taboo is creeping back from the fringes, most remarkably in the US and UK.”

Grub Street – The Last Conversation You’ll Ever Need to Have About Eating Right – Mark Bittman and David Katz 3/18

Markets / Economy

Bloomberg – Cheerios Maker Is the Latest Victim of U.S. Trucker Shortage – Craig Giammona 3/21

Cryptocurrency / ICOs

FT – Swiss authorities tread wary path through ‘Crypto Valley’ – Ralph Atkins 3/19

Japan

Bloomberg Businessweek – Japan’s Prisons Are a Haven for Elderly Women – Shiho Fukada 3/16

  • “Every aging society faces distinct challenges. But Japan, with the world’s oldest population (27.3% of its citizens are 65 or older, almost twice the share in the U.S.), has been dealing with one it didn’t foresee: senior crime. Complaints and arrests involving elderly people, and women in particular, are taking place at rates above those of any other demographic group. Almost 1 in 5 women in Japanese prisons is a senior. Their crimes are usually minor—9 in 10 senior women who’ve been convicted were found guilty of shoplifting.”
  • “From 1980 to 2015, the number of seniors living alone increased more than sixfold, to almost 6 million. And a 2017 survey by Tokyo’s government found that more than half of seniors caught shoplifting live alone; 40% either don’t have family or rarely speak with relatives. These people often say they have no one to turn to when they need help.”

 

March 22, 2018

Perspective

NYT – The Population Slowdown in the Outer Suburbs of the East and Midwest – Robert Gebeloff 3/21

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

A Wealth of Common Sense – Headline Risk – Ben Carlson 3/21

Bloomberg Gadfly – The Saudi Aramco IPO Math Problem: Cash > Barrels – Liam Denning 3/15

  • “Getting to a $2 trillion valuation requires some heroic assumptions.”

Bloomberg View – Before You #DeleteFacebook, Try Taking Control – Barry Ritholtz 3/21

  • “A precept from the 1970s, said originally about television (back when TV was free), is applicable to technology and media: If you are not paying for a product, then you are the product.”

FT – Hard-headed deterrence is the antidote to Putin’s poison – Philip Stephens 3/14

FT – The low-paid workers cleaning up the worst horrors of the internet – Gillian Tett 3/16

  • “A new film (The Cleaners) tracks outsourced workers in grim little cubicles watching the depravity that exists online.”

NYT – Trump Hacked the Media Right Before Our Eyes – Ross Douthat 3/21

  • “…the business model of our news channels both assumes and heightens polarization, and that it was ripe for exploitation by a demagogue who was also a celebrity.”

NYT – Fox News Analyst Quits, Calling Network a ‘Propaganda Machine’ – Michael M. Grynbaum 3/20

NYT – Toys ‘R’ Us Case Is Test of Private Equity in Age of Amazon – Michael Corkery 3/15

Pragmatic Capitalism – Why are Money Managers Paid so Much? – Cullen Roche 3/20

  • “Salesmanship. The answer is salesmanship. I’ve been in this business long enough to know that asset management is mostly about selling the hope of superior returns in exchange for the guarantee of high fees.  The problem for the average person is that they don’t actually know enough about the asset management business to quantify whether their investment manager is worth the fees they pay. And in fairness, a big part of that is due to the fact that you have to compare yourself to a counterfactual that doesn’t exist since paying 1.6% per year to invest in a crappy active mutual fund is probably a better result than sitting in cash all the time because you’re too scared to get fully invested. Investment managers, as expensive as they are, at least keep you in the game and you need to be in the game to score any goals.”

Rational Radical – Royal commission shatters housing bubble façade – Matt Ellis 3/21

  • Commentary on the Australian Housing market (read bubble)

The Verge – China will ban people with poor ‘social credit’ from planes and trains – Sean O’Kane 3/16

  • “Starting in May, Chinese citizens who rank low on the country’s burgeoning ‘social credit’ system will be in danger of being banned from buying plane or train tickets for up to a year, according to statements recently released by the country’s National Development and Reform Commission.”
  • “With the social credit system, the Chinese government rates citizens based on things like criminal behavior and financial misdeeds, but also on what they buy, say, and do. Those with low ‘scores’ have to deal with penalties and restrictions. China has been working towards rolling out a full version of the system by 2020, but some early versions of it are already in place.”
  • “The new travel restrictions are the latest addition to this growing patchwork of social engineering, which has already imposed punishments on more than seven million citizens. And there’s a broad range when it comes to who can be flagged. Citizens who have spread ‘false information about terrorism,’ caused ‘trouble’ on flights, used expired tickets, or were caught smoking on trains could all be banned, according to Reuters.”

Wolf Street – Then Why Is Anyone STILL on Facebook? – Wolf Richter 3/20

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Daily Shot: Nomura – Valuations of FANG-type stocks 3/20

WSJ – Daily Shot: Bianco Research – Breaking Down US Household Retirement Assets 3/21

Energy

WSJ – Daily Shot: Venezuelan Crude Oil Output 2/28

Finance

FT – John Paulson takes an axe to his struggling hedge fund – Robin Wigglesworth 3/16

  • “Struggling hedge fund magnate John Paulson has taken an axe to his once-imperious firm, with several top executives departing in a ‘rightsizing’ this week after a string of heavy losses.”
  • “Mr Paulson rose to fame after the crisis, when Paulson & Co made billions of dollars from predicting the US housing crisis and astute bets on complex credit derivatives. The hedge fund firm’s assets under management hit a peak of $38bn in 2011.”
  • “But since then Paulson & Co has suffered a string of losses across most of its hedge funds, with its flagship merger arbitrage fund — Mr Paulson’s specialty — losing 18.1% and 23% in 2016 and 2017, respectively, according to the performance update of a mirror fund offered by Schroders.”
  • “Paulson & Co’s assets have now shrunk to about $9bn, of which two-thirds is Mr Paulson’s own money, and this week the hedge fund manager let a string of employees go.”
  • “Since making one of the biggest financial hauls in the industry’s history — Mr Paulson personally made almost $4bn from the financial crisis — the firm has made a series of ill-fated investments, such as on healthcare stocks, banks and gold and by betting against German bonds.”
  • “The most high-profile recent mis-step was a big bet on drug maker Valeant Pharmaceuticals. Paulson & Co is the drug maker’s single biggest shareholder, but the stock has tumbled from a high of $262.50 in 2015 to just $16.80 this week — a loss of more than 93% over the period.”
  • “Paulson & Co’s biggest public holdings, according to regulatory filings, are pharma companies Mylan, Shire, Valeant and Allergan, as well as an exchange-traded fund that tracks the price of gold. The gold ETF has lost about 32% of its value since the hedge fund’s investment peaked at $4.6bn in 2011.”

Health / Medicine

WSJ – Daily Shot: AEI – Geographic Variation in the Cost of the Opioid Crisis – Alex Brill 3/20

Other Interesting Links

FT – Wine’s Wild West: a tasting tour of Arizona – Horatia Harrod 3/16

  • “In Scottsdale’s bars and out on the state’s grassy uplands, an industry wiped out by Prohibition is being revived.”

March 21, 2018

Perspective

AEIdeas – Creative Destruction, the Uber effect, and the slow death of the NYC taxi cartel – Mark J. Perry 3/17

WP – Toys R Us’s baby problem is everybody’s baby problem – Andrew Van Dam 3/15

  • “There are endless reasons a big-box toy store would collapse during a retail apocalypse — and Toys R Us acknowledged a number of them in its most recent annual filing: the teetering tower of debt incurred by its private-equity owners, competition from Amazon, Walmart and Target.”
  • “They even wrung their hands about app stores, labor costs and potential tariffs raising the costs of the imported goods they sell.”
  • “But one risk stood out. Toys R Us said there just weren’t enough babies…”
  • “It may not have been the biggest existential threat confronting Geoffrey the Giraffe (the store’s mascot), but it’s the one with the broadest implications outside of the worlds of toys and malls.”
  • “Measured as a share of overall population, U.S. births have fallen steadily since the Great Recession. They hit their lowest point on record in 2016 — the most recent year for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has comparable data.”
  • “Even adjusted for the aging population and declining share of women of childbearing age, U.S. fertility rates are at all-time lows.”
  • “That’s problematic for Toys R Us, which also operates the Babies R Us stores. The company claims in its annual report that its income is linked to birthrates, and it appears to be right.”
  • “There are, to be sure, numerous other factors at play. The same economic forces that encourage people to have children may also encourage them to splurge on toys, for example.”
  • “But it’s nonetheless apparent that Toys R Us’s fortunes rise and fall with the population of its target market.”
  • “And that’s why the company’s demise should worry the rest of us. Toys R Us focuses on kids, so it’s feeling the crunch from declining birthrates long before the rest of the economy. But it’s just a matter of time before the trends that toppled the troubled toy maker put the squeeze on businesses that cater to consumers of all ages.”
  • “Eventually, unless the country does something significant to encourage larger families or immigration, that narrowing base of the population pyramid will crawl upward.”
  • “In the end, Toys R Us will just have been the first of many businesses of all descriptions facing the same hard demographic truth: Economic growth is extremely difficult without population growth.

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Bloomberg – How Amazon’s Bottomless Appetite Became Corporate America’s Nightmare – Shira Ovide 3/14

Bloomberg Quint – The World Economy Risks Turning Too Hot to Handle as G-20 Meets – Enda Curran and Rich Miller 3/15

CNN Money – Amazon didn’t kill Toys ‘R’ Us. Here’s what did – Chris Isidore 3/15

Economist – Malaysia’s PM is about to steal an election – Leaders 3/10

  • Impunity…

FactsMaps – US News – U.S. Best States Overall Ranking – 2018

FT – Fresh blood: why everyone fell for Theranos – Andrew Hill 3/18

FT – Saudi Aramco: sand trap – Lex 3/12

  • “Justifying a $2tn valuation for the state oil company requires hard persuasion.”

Maps on the Web – Average ACT score by US State – Reddit 3/19

NYT – Big Sugar Versus Your Body – David Leonhardt 3/11

Markets / Economy

Economist – America’s companies have binged on debt; a reckoning looms 3/8

  • “The total debt of American non-financial corporations as a percentage of GDP has reached a record high of 73.3%”

WalletHub – Credit Card Debt Study: Trends & Insights – Alina Comoreanu 3/8

Real Estate

Business Insider – American homes are more affordable than they’ve been in 40 years – but that could change sooner than you think – Tanza Loudenback 3/19

  • “‘Thanks to low mortgage rates, buying a home is actually more affordable now than in the past 40 years,’ Alexandra Lee, a housing data analyst at Trulia, told Business Insider.”
  • “Mortgage interest rates hit 16.6% in 1981 in response to massive inflation in the US. In 2016, interest rates fell to about 3.5%, and they’re about 4.5% right now.”
  • “Trulia found that the typical household in 1980 could afford only about three-fourths of the median home price, compared with the median household in 2016, which could afford a home 1 1/2 times the median home price.”
  • “Twenty-two US metros crossed the threshold from unaffordable to affordable over the past four decades, according to the data. The markets that are too expensive for the average buyer now, including San Francisco, Seattle, and San Jose, California, were always too expensive.”
  • “Trulia ultimately found that Americans’ homebuying power has strengthened in the past 40 years.”
  • “Take Salt Lake City, for example. From 1990 to 2016, home prices increased 53%, but the affordability index jumped to 131 from 122. That is because interest rates dropped to 3.4% from 10% during that time. Homeownership in Salt Lake City became even more affordable over the 26-year period — and the case appears the same for many of the largest US metros.”
  • “Only the Denver, Miami, and Portland, Oregon, metro areas dropped in affordability during that time, Lee said.”
  • “By the end of 2017, a monthly mortgage payment on the median home in the US required just 15.7% of the typical household income, according to a report by Trulia’s parent company Zillow. Back in the late 1980s and 1990s, a mortgage payment took up 21% of the typical American’s income.”
  • Granted, coming up with a down payment on a house these days is no easy task.

Effect of interest rate rises are starting to bite.

CNBC – Mortgage refinances fall to decade low – Diana Olick 3/14

  • “Interest rates for home loans have risen each week this year, so each week homeowners have had less incentive refinance their mortgages.”
  • “Higher interest rates caused applications to refinance a home loan to fall 2% for the week and 18% from a year ago, when rates were lower. The refinance share of all mortgage applications fell to 40%, the lowest since 2008.”
  • “Housing is more expensive today than it has been in a decade, and a decade ago credit was a lot easier to get. The average monthly mortgage payment is now up nearly 13% from a year ago, according to Realtor.com — a combination of higher home prices and higher interest rates.”

Economist – Asian and European cities compete for the title of most expensive city – The Data Team 3/15

  • “Singapore remains the most expensive city in the world for the fifth year running, according to the latest findings of the Worldwide Cost of Living Survey from The Economist Intelligence Unit.”

FT – WeWork is ‘victim of own success’ as office rivals gather – Aime Williams 3/12

  • “A wave of lease purchases by flexible workspace providers is driving commercial demand in leading cities.”

Honolulu Star Advertiser – Mayor signs bill temporarily banning permits for new ‘monster houses’ – Gordon Y.K. Pang 3/13

  • “Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed into law today a bill imposing a moratorium of up to two years on building permits for ‘monster’ houses, giving the city Department of Planning and Permitting time to come up with permanent rules to deal with the growing phenomenon.”
  • “DPP will, for the most part, not approve building permit applications during the moratorium for houses that cover more than seven-tenths of a lot under Bill 110 (2017). For example, a 5,000-square-foot lot could not have a living space that’s 3,500 square feet or larger.”
  • Another instance of a market where housing prices have gone well beyond what local incomes can support. As a result, people come up with ‘work-arounds’ which tend to overburden the local infrastructure and upset neighborhoods, resulting in blunt regulatory reaction. Honolulu is not unique to this problem.

WSJ – The Next Housing Crisis: A Historic Shortage of New Homes – Laura Kusisto 3/18

  • “America is facing a new housing crisis. A decade after an epic construction binge, fewer homes are being built per household than at almost any time in U.S. history.
  • “Home construction per household a decade after the bust remains near the lowest level in 60 years of record-keeping, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.”
  • “What makes the slump puzzling is that by most other measures, the American economy is booming. Jobs are plentiful, wages are on the rise and the stock market is near record highs. Millennials, the largest generation since the baby boomers, are aging into home ownership.”
  • “A combination of tightened housing regulations, a lack of construction labor and a land shortage in highly prized areas is driving the crisis, according to industry experts.”
  • “Even during the deep recession of the mid-1970s and the downturn in the early 2000s, builders put up significantly more homes per U.S. household than they are constructing now, in the ninth year of an economic expansion. Only at the bottom of the 1981 and 1991 economic downturns were per-household construction levels near what they are now, according to Jordan Rappaport, an economist at the Kansas City Fed. He says the only period when the U.S. might have built fewer homes by population was during World War II.”
  • “The National Association of Home Builders estimates builders will start fewer than 900,000 new homes in 2018, less than the roughly 1.3 million homes needed to keep up with population growth. The overall inventory of new and existing homes for sale hit its lowest level on record in the fourth quarter of 2017, at 1.48 million, according to the National Association of Realtors.”
  • “That, in turn, is pushing up prices at what economists say is an unsustainable pace. The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index rose 6.3% in 2017. That was roughly twice the rate of income growth and three times the rate of inflation.”
  • “Builders cite numerous factors contributing to the construction slump. A decades long push for young people to go to college has driven down trade-school enrollment, depriving builders of skilled labor. Declining numbers of immigrant construction workers have sapped builders of unskilled labor.”
  • “The construction workforce in the U.S. declined to 10.5 million in 2016, from 10.6 million in 2010, when the real-estate market was near bottom, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data by Issi Romem, an economist at BuildZoom, a startup that tracks construction data for building contractors.”
  • “Nationwide, membership in the National Association of Home Builders peaked at 240,000 in 2007, then dropped to 140,000 in 2012, where it has remained throughout the recovery.”
  • “Builders in far-flung exurbs are encountering stiffer resistance from young buyers even as prices ratchet higher for land closer to cities. Economists say that in many large metropolitan areas, suburbanization might simply have reached its limits, as potential buyers increasingly reject long commutes. During the 1950s, buying a home in a new suburb, where land was plentiful and cheap, often meant driving half an hour to a job in the city. Today, commutes from new developments can be several times that long.”
  • “’There’s a tremendous mismatch between the places where people want to live and the places where it’s easiest to build,’ says Edward Glaeser, a professor of economics at Harvard University who studies constraints on housing supply.”
  • “But building remains below historical averages, and economists say it is unlikely to return to those levels before the next recession.”
  • “’It’s hard for me to see on single-family how you can build your way out of this,’ Mr. Rappaport says. ‘Even with these heroic efforts’ to overcome barriers to building new housing, he says, there is little chance ‘that you’re going to get a new stream of single-family homes that can relieve demand.’”
  • “Coastal cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Boston have taken criticism for their restrictive building codes, which make it more difficult to create enough housing to keep up with population growth.”
  • “Even metropolitan areas with more permissive approaches to building are lagging behind their historical construction levels. Housing permits in Memphis, Tenn., were 44% below their historical average in 2017, according to the latest Census figures analyzed by real-estate data firm Trulia, while permits in the Minneapolis metropolitan area were 16% below average.”

Finance

FT – Private equity groups are calling the shots – Javier Espinoza 3/14

  • “In business, the mantra goes, the customer is always right and should get the best deal.”
  • “The opposite is happening in private equity where investors, including large pension funds, endowments, sovereign wealth funds and family money, face unfavorable fund terms and, in all likelihood, lower returns.”
  • “Private equity firms are clearly calling the shots and that is illustrated by the record amount of money they are turning away.”
  • “Huge institutional investors have so much money burning a hole in their pockets (Singapore’s GIC alone has $100bn of assets under management) they are under enormous pressure to find a home for this cash somewhere.”
  • “Hence their willingness to commit their cash to funds even if managers cut or reduce the so-called hurdle rate, which is the return that is guaranteed before a buyout group can claim a share of the profits. The industry standard is a preferred return of 8% on deals.”
  • “Advent International, the Boston and London-based group, raised eyebrows in 2016 when it announced it was closing a mega $13bn buyout fund without offering minimum returns to its investors. Last year, CVC, the former owner of F1, also said it was cutting its hurdle rate from 8% to 6%. The buyout firm also scrapped early-bird discounts given to new investors.”
  • “Rather than take their money and run from unfavorable terms, investors have doubled down on these private equity funds, which raised record amounts of cash in their fastest time ever. Advent had set out to raise $12bn and received more than $20bn of interest from investors. CVC raised €16bn but closed the door on billions more because demand was close to €30bn.”
  • “Rubbing salt into the wound of poorer terms, private equity managers are also warning them that returns should come down.”
  • “’The investors have accepted the idea of lower returns as OK,’ said the head of a private equity group. ‘It used to be that investors would earn 20% net internal rate of returns. Now they are happy with 14% or 15% net internal rate of returns.’”

Cryptocurrency / ICOs

Visual Capitalist – The Rising Problem of Crypto Theft, and How to Protect Yourself – Jeff Desjardins 3/20

Tech

WSJ – The Battery Boost We’ve Been Waiting for Is Only a Few Years Out – Christopher Mims 3/18

Health / Medicine

NYT – How to Stop Eating Sugar – David Leonhardt 3/18

China

Bloomberg – Xi Gives Stark Taiwan Warning in Hands-Off Message to Trump – Keith Zhai, Peter Martin and Dandan Li 3/20

NYT – Hard-Charging Chinese Energy Tycoon Falls From Xi Government’s Graces – Alexandra Stevenson 3/14

  • The tycoon: Ye Jianming. The company: CEFC China Energy.

India

Bloomberg Gadfly – Ambani’s Jio Triple Play Deserves to Upend This Cozy Club – Andy Mukherjee 3/20

Russia

NYT – Russian Election: Videos Show Possible Fraud – Camilla Schick 3/20

  • Did Putin really need the help?…

March 2, 2018

Perspective

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.”

Energy

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

Finance

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

Construction

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.”

February 27, 2018

Perspective

Visual Capitalist – How Money is Spent by Different Income Groups – Jeff Desjardins 2/25

WSJ – Daily Shot: U.S. Racial / Ethnic Demographics 2/26

WEF – Business Insider: Gun control in four countries around the world – Chris Weller 2/21

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

A Wealth of Common Sense – Now & Then – Ben Carlson 2/25

Bloomberg Businessweek – In Exile, Bannon Sounds the #MeToo Alarm – Joshua Green 2/13

  • “He sees female empowerment as the next great political backlash, which means trouble for Republicans.”

Economist – Why Cape Town is running out of water 2/15

  • “The politics of drought.”

The Registry – Is the 1031 Exchange Panacea or Placebo? – John McNellis 2/26

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Have We Seen Peak Prices for Smartphones – Dan Gallagher 2/25

WSJ – Playing With $100 Billion, Warren Buffett Is Giant Trader of U.S. Treasury Bills – Nicole Friedman and Daniel Kruger 2/23

Real Estate

FT – JPMorgan plans to build massive HQ tower in New York’s Park Ave – Ben McLannahan 2/21

  • “JPMorgan Chase has given a big boost to the old business heart of midtown Manhattan, agreeing a deal to tear down its 60-year-old Park Avenue headquarters and replace it with one of the tallest towers in New York City.”
  • “The biggest US bank by assets had been considering a move from its 270 Park Avenue location to the west side of Manhattan, as an anchor tenant of a new development known as Hudson Yards. But on Wednesday the bank said that it had struck a deal with Mayor Bill de Blasio to stay put, moving staff from several buildings in the Park Avenue area into a new, 2.5m sq ft tower.” 
  • “At 70 to 75 floors, it should be the tallest bank building in the country upon completion in 2024, topping Bank of America’s 55-floor tower a few streets away, on the north-west corner of Bryant Park. It will also surpass BofA’s 60-floor headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, which looms over the 42-floor Wells Fargo Tower.” 
  • “Stuart Saft, head of the New York real estate practice at Holland & Knight, described the deal as a ‘fabulous’ one for midtown Manhattan, likening the threat from Hudson Yards to the development of Canary Wharf in London in the late 1980s. Already, white-shoe law firms such as Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy and Boies Schiller Flexner have agreed to move to the complex emerging by the Hudson River.” 
  • “JPMorgan will expand its floor area by buying unused development credits, known as ‘air rights’, from landmark properties in the area such as St Patrick’s Cathedral, St Bartholomew’s Church and Central Synagogue.”

SF Chronicle – Google’s Bay Area real estate empire equivalent to 14 Salesforce towers – Wendy Lee 2/23

WSJ – Tough Start for Housing – Justin Lahart 2/21

  • “Homes sales slowed in January, even before higher rates and the tax law hit the market.”

Finance

FT – Private equity ‘secondaries’ deals hit record $58bn – Chris Flood 2/25

FT – Blockchain ‘could save asset managers $2.7bn a year’ – Attracta Mooney 2/21

  • “Blockchain could save asset managers $2.7bn a year if the investment industry shunned the laborious manual practices involved in buying and selling funds in favor of using online ledger technology, according to research published on Thursday.”
  • “Technology company Calastone said blockchain, which is a giant online ledger, could revolutionize the processes involved in buying and selling funds, generating large savings for investors in the process.”
  • “It estimated that based on daily trade volumes of funds in the UK, Ireland, Luxembourg, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Australia, £1.9bn — or $2.7bn — in savings was possible.”
  • “Earlier this year, BNP Paribas Asset Management said it had successfully completed a full end-to-end fund transaction test using blockchain technology. The project involved a tie-up between BNP Paribas Securities Services’ blockchain program, Fund Link, and FundsDLT, a blockchain-based decentralized platform for fund transaction processing.”

WSJ – Daily Shot: Goldman Sachs – ICOs outpacing Venture Capital 2/26

Asia – excluding China and Japan

FT – Top Indonesian bank eyes $50bn of assets stashed in Singapore – Wataru Suzuki 2/25

  • “Indonesians declared more than 750tn rupiah ($52.5bn) worth of assets in Singapore during Indonesia’s tax amnesty program — which gave immunity from prosecution to those who came clean about untaxed wealth and paid a small penalty — ended last March. That is more than the combined total they declared in the next four top destinations — British Virgin Islands, Hong Kong, Cayman Islands and Australia.”

China

Economist – China is trying new ways of skimming housing-market froth 2/15

  • “The party wants people to rent.”

FT – Chinese embrace digital red envelopes for lunar new year – Louise Lucas 2/21

  • “Tencent, a Chinese technology group with an equity value greater than Facebook’s, said 768m people sent and received hongbao, the red packets stuffed with cash, over Weixin Pay, its third-party payments business, during the six-day holiday period. Typically people will hand out scores or even hundreds of hongbao: according to Tencent, one person sent 2,723 while another received 3,429.”

South America

Economist – Fending off the flood from Venezuela 2/17

  • “The rise in migration has alarmed Latin American governments.”

February 26, 2018

Perspective

Economist – Daily Chart: Are alpha males worse investors? 2/20

WSJ – Household Debt Sees Quiet Boom Across the Globe – Josh Zumbrun 2/18

WSJ – Daily Shot: United Nations – Global Population Trends 2/23

  • “The global population pyramid is expected to invert by 2100 as the population gets closer to peak levels.”

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Daily Shot: Credit Suisse – Domestic Equity Flows 2/23

Real Estate

WSJ – Daily Shot: FRED – US mortgage rates 2/23

Finance

WSJ – Daily Shot: U.S. 3-Month LIBOR Exchange Rate 2/20

WSJ – Daily Shot: U.S. Borrowing Costs Among Highest in Developed World – Richard Barley 2/21

Cryptocurrency

WSJ – Daily Shot: Bitcoin 2/22

China

Economist – The rapid rise and fall of the Anbang empire 2/23

  • “China’s government takes control of its would-be financial colossus.”

WSJ – Daily Shot: BMI, Chinawealth – China Wealth Management Product Growth 2/22

WSJ – China’s Communist Party Proposal Sets Stage for Xi to Hold Onto Power – Chun Han Wong 2/25

  • “Proposal would eliminate the constitutional cap on presidential terms.” Currently set at two terms of five years each.

January 19, 2018

Perspective

Freedom House – Freedom in the World 2018 – Democracy in Crisis 1/17

WSJ – Daily Shot: Maps on the Web – Global Fertility Rates 1/17

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

The Atlantic – Raising a Social-Media Star – Taylor Lorenz 1/17

  • “The parents of teen internet celebrities get a crash course in a new kind of fame while trying to maintain boundaries for their newly rich and powerful children.”

Washington Monthly – How to Fix Facebook – Before It Fixes Us – Roger McNamee 1/7

  • “An early investor explains why the social media platform’s business model is such a threat – and what to do about it.”

WP – In Venezuela, money has stopped working – Francisco Toro 1/17

  • “Hyperinflation is disorienting. Five or six years ago, the 500 bolivars on the floor would’ve bought you a meal for two with wine at the best restaurant in Caracas. As late as early last year, they would’ve bought you at least a cup of coffee. At the end of 2016, they still bought you a cup of café con leche, at least. Today, they buy you essentially nothing … well, except for 132 gallons of the world’s most extravagantly subsidized gasoline.”
  • “Prices are now rising more than 80 percent per month, according to the opposition-led National Assembly’s Finance Committee. (The government itself stopped publishing official inflation data long ago.) At that rate, prices double every 34 days or so. Salaries lag far behind, leaving more and more of the country to face outright hunger. Thus, the looting.”
  • “Rule No. 1 of surviving hyperinflation is simple: Get rid of your money. Given the speed with which money is shedding its value, holding on to it means you’re losing out. The second you’re paid you run out as fast as you can to buy something – anything – while you can still afford it. It’s better to hold almost any asset than money, because assets hold their value and money doesn’t.”
  • “I think this is what’s so hard to wrap your mind around if you’ve never experienced hyperinflation. It sounds like it’s about prices rising fast, but it really isn’t. It’s about money breaking down. Under hyperinflation, money no longer works. It doesn’t store value. It just stops doing the basic things people expect money to do. It stops being something you want to have and turns into something you’ll do anything to avoid having: something so worthless you won’t even bend down and scoop it up off the floor while you’re looting.”

Markets / Economy

Bloomberg – Beware the $500 Billion Bond Exodus – Liz McCormick and Molly Smith 1/17

  • “For years, the likes of Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp. have stashed billions of dollars offshore to slash their U.S. tax bills. Now, the tax-code rewrite could throw that into reverse.”
  • “The implications for the financial markets are huge. The great on-shoring could prompt multinationals — which have parked much of their overseas profits in Treasuries and U.S. investment-grade corporate debt — to lighten up on bonds and use the money to goose their stock prices. Think buybacks and dividends.”
  • “It’s hard to say how much money the companies might repatriate, but the size of their overseas stash is staggering. An estimated $3.1 trillion of corporate cash is now held offshore. Led by the tech giants, a handful of the biggest companies sit on over a half-trillion dollars in U.S. securities. In other words, they dwarf most mutual funds and hedge funds.”
  • “The $14.5 trillion Treasury market, of course, can absorb the selling pressure of even the largest corporate holders. There’s little to suggest multinationals will immediately liquidate their investments. Many analysts say companies, rather than selling, could just let their holdings gradually mature.”
  • “Yet even at the margin, a drop-off in demand could add to the government’s burgeoning funding costs. Not only are interest rates on the rise, but the most sweeping tax cuts in a generation, which could end up mostly benefiting shareholders, risk leaving the government with trillion-dollar shortfalls for years to come — an expense that taxpayers would ultimately have to bear.”
  • “And since Treasury yields are the global lending benchmark, any upswing could also ripple through the real economy in the form of higher rates on everything from credit cards to mortgages. Since September, 10-year yields have climbed over a half-percentage point, hitting a high of 2.595% this month.”
  • “Of course, it’s important to understand that for most multinationals, offshore cash is really only ‘offshore’ for accounting purposes. Under the old tax system, earnings attributed to foreign subsidiaries, often based in jurisdictions with low taxes or lax regulations like Ireland or Luxembourg, could be repatriated and remain earmarked as ‘held overseas’ — so long as it was stashed in U.S. securities. Apple, for example, manages its hoard from Reno, Nevada, where its internal investment firm, Braeburn Capital, is located.”
  • “’The term overseas cash can be a bit of a misnomer, as it doesn’t have to be overseas and in fact a lot of it isn’t,’ said Michael Cahill, a strategist at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. That should limit any appreciation in the dollar related to repatriation over the longer term.”
  • “Big multinationals have good reason to bide their time, according to Richard Lane, a senior analyst at Moody’s Investors Service. Because their debt investments are so extensive, companies could end up inflicting losses on themselves with any large-scale selling.”
  • “’I don’t think there will be a rush to the door by these companies to sell this debt and causing increasing yields and lower pricing,’ said Lane.”

WSJ – Apple Plans to Pay $38 Billion in Repatriation Taxes – Imani Moise 1/17

  • “It also said Wednesday it would spend more than $30 billion to create 20,000 jobs and open a new campus at a U.S. location to be announced later this year.”

Real Estate

WSJ – A Slowdown Is in Store for the Self-Storage Business – Peter Grant 1/16

  • “A flood of new supply is crimping growth in the self-storage sector.”

Finance

Bloomberg Gadfly – Discount Brokers Act Like Wall Street on Fee Conflicts – Nir Kalssar 1/16

  • “One sign of a frenzied stock market rally is a sharp outperformance of retail brokers.” – WSJ Daily Shot 1/18

Bloomberg – Venture Capital Investing Hits Highest Since Dot-Com Boom – Julie Verhage 1/8

Insurance

Economist – Natural disasters made 2017 a year of record insurance losses 1/11

  • “According to figures released on January 4th by Munich Re, a reinsurer, global, inflation-adjusted insured catastrophe losses reached an all-time high of $135bn in 2017. Total losses (including uninsured ones) reached $330bn, second only to losses of $354bn in 2011.”
  • “A large portion of the losses in 2011 was caused by one catastrophe: the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Losses in 2017 were largely traceable to extreme weather. Fully 97% were weather-related, well above the average since 1980 of 85%.”
  • “Last year’s disasters were particularly concentrated in North America (including the Caribbean), with 83% of global losses; half of those were in America alone, hitting that country’s insurers particularly hard. Fitch, a ratings agency, expects the ‘combined ratio’ for American property-and-casualty insurers to rise from 100.7% in 2016, meaning costs and claim payouts just exceeded premium revenue, to 104.4% in 2017. That implies a substantial underwriting loss for the industry. Even Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway looks poised for its first full-year underwriting loss in 15 years. It took a $3bn hit from the three hurricanes and an earthquake in Mexico.”
  • “For all the gloom, the 2017 losses were also proof of the resilience of the reinsurance industry. Insurers have long spread catastrophe risk by taking out reinsurance policies. This time, reinsurers had such ample capital buffers that they are expected to suffer only a small dent, of around 5-7% of capital.”

WSJ – Millions Bought Insurance to Cover Retirement Health Costs. Now They Face an Awful Choice – Leslie Scism 1/17

  • “Battered by losses, long-term-care insurers hit policyholders with steep rate increases that many never saw coming.”
  • “Only a dozen or so insurers still sell the coverage, down from more than 100. General Electric Co. said Tuesday it would take a pretax charge of $9.5 billion, mostly because of long-term-care policies sold in the 1980s and 1990s. Since 2007, other companies have taken $10.5 billion in pretax earnings charges to boost reserves for future claims, according to analysts at investment bank Evercore ISI.”
  • “When sales of long-term-care insurance were ramping up in the 1980s and 1990s, companies thought they had found the perfect product for middle-class families—and that’s how they pitched it.”
  • “The annual premium was designed to hold steady until a claim was filed and premiums then halted, though the rates weren’t guaranteed. Many policies paid out benefits for life.”
  • “Families flocked to what seemed like affordable peace of mind that would save them from draining their lifetime savings, leaning on children or enrolling in the federal-state Medicaid program for the poor.”
  • “Long-term care often costs more than $100,000 a year a person, financial advisers say. The nationwide total exceeds $200 billion, according to analysts at LTCG, a third-party administrator of long-term-care policies.”
  • “Almost every insurer in the business badly underestimated how many claims would be filed and how long people would draw payments before dying. People are living and keeping their policies much longer than expected.”
  • “After the financial crisis hit, nine years of ultralow interest rates also left insurers with far lower investment returns than they needed to pay those claims.”

Cryptocurrency

Economist – Bitcoin is no longer the only game in crypto-currency town 1/13

  • “A new crypto-currency is born almost daily, often through an ‘initial coin offering’ (ICO), a form of online crowdfunding. CoinMarketCap, a website, lists about 1,400 digital coins or tokens, including PutinCoin, Sexcoin and InsaneCoin (worth $7m). Most are no more than curiosities, but by January 10th, around 40 had a market capitalization of more than $1bn.”
  • “Might any of these one day replace bitcoin as crypto-land reserve currency, something insiders call theflippening‘? Given bitcoin’s governance problems (another ‘fork’, or split, may be in the offing) and limited capacity (a transaction now costs nearly $30, on average, in fees), this cannot be excluded. But the others have problems, too. Ethereum’s user fees have soared and the system has again hit technical snags. As for Ripple, some question the extent to which XRPs are actually used.”

WSJ – Daily Shot: Ripple 1/17

WSJ – Daily Shot: Capital Economics – Transactions Per Second 1/17

Tech

Forbes – Which Online Platforms Do Americans Want Killed Off? – Niall McCarthy 1/10

China

Economist – How China won the battle of the yuan 1/11

Japan

Economist – A small Japanese city shrinks with dignity 1/11

  • Authorities in the Japanese city of Toyama are encouraging migration to its city center through incentives. The goal being to reduce the cost of maintaining lightly-used infrastructure as its population declines.
  • “About 30% of Toyama’s 418,000 residents are 65 or older, an even higher proportion than in Japan as a whole, where it is 27%. By 2025, the proportion in Toyama is projected to be 32%. In addition to greying, the population is also declining. The city had 421,000 people in 2005; by 2025, it will have 390,000.”
  • “As the population ages and shrinks, the services residents need have changed. The Kadokawa Centre, for example, is built on the site of a primary school that closed in 2004. But overhauling public services is costly, and the declining number of people of working age means there is ever less tax revenue to help pay for the shift. To remain solvent, the city has decided to shrink not just in population, but in size, concentrating residents and services in the center.”
  • “Most of Japan is in a similar quandary. About 400 schools shut every year; some are being converted into retirement homes. In 2016 there were 300,000 more deaths than births. If Japan continues on its present course, it will have shed nearly a third of its population (and four out of every ten workers) by … 2065.”

Economist – Why modern Japan’s founding moment still divides a nation – Banyan 1/11

  • “The Meiji restoration initiated not just modernization, but also militarism.”

South America

CNN Money – You can’t get $1 out of the bank in Venezuela. I tried. – Stefano Pozzebon 1/17

Reuters – Wave of looting shutters stores, spreads fear in Venezuela – Alexandra Ulmer and Anggy Polanco 1/17

November 20, 2017

Perspective

VC – Walmart Nation: Mapping the Largest Employers in the U.S. – Jeff Desjardins 11/17

NYT – A Great Migration From Puerto Rico Is Set to Transform Orlando – Lizette Alvarez 11/17

  • “More than 168,000 people have flown or sailed out of Puerto Rico to Florida since the hurricane, landing at airports in Orlando, Miami and Tampa, and the port in Fort Lauderdale. Nearly half are arriving in Orlando, where they are tapping their networks of family and friends. An additional 100,000 are booked on flights to Orlando through Dec. 31, county officials said. Large numbers are also settling in the Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach areas.”
  • “With so many arriving so abruptly, the migration is expected to transform Orlando, a city that has already become a stronghold of Puerto Ricans, many of them fleeing the island’s economic crisis in recent years. The Puerto Rican population of Florida has exploded from 479,000 in 2000 to well over one million today, according to the Pew Research Center, with the better part settling in Orlando.”

WSJ – Daily Shot: Moody’s – Global Demographic Shifts 11/17

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

A Teachable Moment – If You Are Reading This, You Already Won the Genetic Lottery – Anthony Isola 11/16

A Teachable Moment – 6 Ways to Foil a Financial Predator – Dina Isola 11/17

CNBC – Homeownership doesn’t build wealth, study finds – Diana Olick 11/16

  • Essentially, depends where you live and how disciplined you are with your savings. Further, if you live in a part of the world where home price appreciation has lagged, there is value in having flexibility to move to parts of the country where it hasn’t (which of course further builds on that trend).

FT – Donald Trump’s silence over Roy Moore speaks volumes – Edward Luce 11/16

  • “…Then there is the evangelical vote. Mr Trump appears single-handedly to have changed their moral position. In 2011, 70% of white evangelicals said bad private behavior should disqualify an individual from public office, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. That had dropped to just 28% last year. It is perhaps the most astonishing sea change among any group of voters in recent years. It is also a good example of ‘negative partisanship’ — no matter how bad your candidate might be, he or she could not possibly be worse than the other party’s.”

FT – Prepare to bet against bitcoin as it becomes civilized – Gillian Tett 11/16

  • “If the cryptocurrency ceases to be a ringfenced product, the normal rules of investing will apply.”

NYT – Middle-Class Families Confront Soaring Health Insurance Costs – Robert Pear 11/16

WSJ – Upbeat Moody’s Misses the Mark on India – Anjani Trivedi 11/17

  • “Ratings company’s upgrade is its first in more than a decade, but still looks premature.”

Finance

FT – Investors sue Monte dei Paschi over cancelled bonds – Rachel Sanderson, Robert Smith, and Thomas Hale 11/16

China

Bloomberg – China’s Outbound Investment Plunges as Irrational Deals Curbed – Jeff Kearns and Jessica Sui 11/15

WSJ – Daily Shot: China 5yr AAA Average Corporate Bond Yield 11/16

FT – China tightens rules on asset management to rein in risky lending – Tom Mitchell 11/17

  • “China’s central bank outlined sweeping new regulations aimed at curbing financial risk in the asset management industry on Friday, in the latest signal of its determination to rein in the country’s runaway shadow banking sector.”
  • “The new rules, affecting $15tn of asset-management products, are aimed at unifying regulatory practices across the financial industry and will come into force in June. They will prohibit asset managers from promising investors a guaranteed rate of return, while also requiring them to set aside 10% of the management fees they collect for provisioning purposes.”
  • “Fears about the potential impact of regulatory tightening have contributed to a recent spike in Chinese sovereign bond yields, with the China 10-years rising through 4% this week for the first time since 2014.”
  • “On Thursday the PBoC injected almost $50bn into the financial system to calm investor fears, its largest intervention in almost a year. But Friday’s regulations indicated that Mr Xi’s administration will not back away from the more stringent approach it has adopted towards risk management.”
  • “In a party congress speech last month that marked the beginning of his second five-year term in office, Mr Xi indicated that his administration was prepared to accept lower rates of economic growth in order to defuse financial risks.”
  • “In August the International Monetary Fund warned that non-financial sector debt was poised to exceed 290% of GDP by 2022, compared with 235% at the end of last year.”

South America

WSJ – Daily Shot: Venezuelan Household Purchasing Power 11/17

FT – Exodus the only answer for thousands of Venezuelans – Gideon Long and John Paul Rathbone 11/17