• Poor Pickings

    In 2018, a volatile year for markets, just 38% of actively managed US stock funds outperformed their passively managed (indexed) counterparts, down from 46% in 2017, a placid year. Over the past decade, just 26% of actively managed funds beat their index benchmarks. Unsurprisingly, managed funds are … [Read More...]

  • Excellent Energy

    In an amazing turn of events, the US petroleum trade deficit in 11/18, the latest month for which we have data, was just $625 million. As recently as mid-2008 it was a record-high $40 billion/month. What happened? Lower oil prices, down from almost $150/bbl to just $53/bbl, and the fracking … [Read More...]

  • Dwelling Deficiency

    With San Francisco Bay Area housing prices in the stratosphere, the private sector is now planning to raise $500 million for affordable housing. Assuming affordable housing costs $400,000/unit, this will create just 1,250 units! The real problem: since 2010 the region has gained 700,000 jobs and … [Read More...]

  • Matrimonial Money

    While wages of men and women with at least a HS diploma are similar early in life, they diverge dramatically with age. The gap peaks at about age 50 with men earning about $76,000/year and women earning about $49,000/year. However, at all ages there is no gap between single women, single men and … [Read More...]

  • Petrol Prices

    As recently as 2010, cheap oil was great for the US as oil production was low. However, due to fracking, US production has doubled since 2010 to 11.6 million bbl/day. Lower prices reduce corporate investment which leads to reduced employment. But due to productivity gains, oil field expenditures … [Read More...]

Apr
05

Musical Money

The Friday File:  US music revenue peaked in 1999 at $21.5 billion (inflation adjusted). At that time, CD sales comprised 90% of revenues. Revenues bottomed in 2015 at about $7 billion (inflation adjusted), with sales evenly divided between CDs, MP3 downloads, and streaming. By 2017, sales had risen … [Read more...]

Apr
04

Millennial Mileage

While Millennials ride public transportation and use ride-hailing services, looks can be deceiving. After controlling for the impact of the Great Recession and other forces beyond their control, there is little difference in preferences for vehicle ownership between Millennials and prior … [Read more...]

Apr
03

Insignificant Inflation

Inflationary pressures are very weak. Y-o-Y February CPI is 1.5%, with core CPI at 2.1%, both down from January. February producer price inflation was 1.9%, also down from January. Meanwhile, the Fed’s favorite inflation measure was 1.4% in January, the lowest rate since 9/16, while core was just … [Read more...]

Apr
02

Solid Sales

GDP fluctuates dramatically quarter-to-quarter primarily because of three variables: government spending, inventories and exports. Stripping these variables out, one is left with a less noisy sequence that gets at the underlying strength of the US economy by zeroing in on sales to domestic buyers. … [Read more...]

Apr
01

New Names

To reduce the national debt by $30 billion, the Interior Department is selling naming rights to the Liberty Bell to Taco Bell. Henceforth, the bell will be the Taco Liberty Bell. Relatedly, the Lincoln Memorial is being sold to Ford and will be renamed the Lincoln-Mercury Memorial. In DC, the … [Read more...]

Mar
29

Super Skiers

The Friday File: A few months ago, Lindsey Vonn, 34, retired from competitive skiing. Statistically, she is the greatest women’s skier ever, ahead of the great Anna-Marie Moser-Proell of Austria. Her 82 World Cup victories place her second behind Ingemar Stenmark of Sweden. However, at 23, Coloradan … [Read more...]

Mar
28

Trade Tempering

The January US trade deficit was $51.2 billion, down from $59.9 billion in December. Exports rose 0.9% to $207.3 billion; imports fell 2.6% to $258.5 billion. The deficit with China fell 14% to $33.22 billion, primarily because firms raced to get products into the US ahead of a threatened tariff … [Read more...]

Mar
27

Declining Domiciles

Home prices in the swankiest parts of the most expensive cities are declining. In part it’s due to slowing wealth creation; fewer millionaires/year are being minted. Also, stronger capital controls have made it harder to ferry money out of China. Transaction taxes on foreigners have hurt; increase … [Read more...]

Mar
26

Bad Boeing

The Boeing 737 MAX accounts for about 25% of domestic aircraft production. If MAX production is halted, it would knock about 0.5%-point off quarterly annualized GDP growth. For context, 19Q1 GDP growth is currently expected to be 1.5%, ignoring Boeing. If Boeing keeps producing but temporarily can’t … [Read more...]

Mar
25

Inversion Indignation

This past Friday the yield curve inverted; the 10-year rate fell below the three-month rate, the first time in over a decade. This is significant because an inversion has preceded each of the last seven recessions, often by years. Since 1965, there have been two inversions not followed by a … [Read more...]