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Current Topic: Markets & Investing

National Economic Update, March 2007 - Economic Research Publications - FRB Dallas
Topic: Markets & Investing 3:20 am EDT, Apr  4, 2007

There are several disturbing similarities between the U.S. economy's recent behavior and its behavior in 2000–01, but also some reassuring differences.

I don't feel reassured. You can actually SEE the bubble popping in this chart.

National Economic Update, March 2007 - Economic Research Publications - FRB Dallas

Will Diners Still Swallow This? - New York Times
Topic: Markets & Investing 2:06 pm EDT, Mar 26, 2007

Restaurant chains that want to reduce portion sizes also face considerable skepticism from Wall Street. Investors want to see steady growth in sales from what are called comparable stores, those restaurants that have been open for at least a year. To get that growth, a company has to increase the number of people coming through the door or what they spend.

“If you shrink portion sizes, you kind of have to reduce prices,” said John Glass, an analyst at CIBC World Markets. “A lower check drags down comp-store sales. What you hope is, you offset the check with higher traffic.”

Mr. Glass added: “It’s been a difficult sell on Wall Street. It does work but it takes time, and we all know that investors are focused on the short term.”

I thought I'd highlight this article from PNW's Sunday NYT roundup that offers a sober look at America's obesity problem. It interacts in interesting ways with liberatrian idealism about market economics. Ideally, you'd like restaurants to increase same store sales by increasing the variety and quality of the food they offer, but its much easier to simply increase the sizes. In fact, many retaurants define themselves as fitting a particular quality and genre niche, and can't easily tweak that variable. Consumers are, however, willing to buy more food than they need, mostly because an evolutionary deficiency in our nervous systems fails to rapidly communicate fullness to our brain. Essentially, consumers are irrational with regard to food qualities, and the market has met this irrationality, and the result is a national health problem. Now this article seems to indicate that consumers, after 20 years, are starting to become more rational in this regard, and the market is attempting to respond, but it is finding it difficult, as the maximally efficient solution is not in the interest of shareholders. Is this a market failure that requires government intervention? I'm not convinced that it rises to that level, but at the same time, I think its an interesting illustration for those who think that market failures do not exist.

Will Diners Still Swallow This? - New York Times

Top 10 Myths of Tuesday's Correction
Topic: Markets & Investing 12:37 pm EST, Mar  3, 2007

1. Chinese regulators caused the meltdown

2. It was Greenspan's fault.

3. Blame China's market crash.

4. A Dow Jones Glitch caused the plunge

5. Prices Fluctuate
(And we got fluctuated pretty good)!

6. Stock prices will be higher six months from now.

7. Selloffs such as this are healthy.

8. The Fed stands by ready to cut if this gets much worse.

9. The market is not forecasting a weakening economy.

10. This had nothing to do with anything fundamental!

What makes this situation potentially dangerous is that this was the first day of the selloff, not the last.

The enormous distributive volume and the horrific market internals were anything but healthy. It suggests a major change in underlying metrics and psychology.

This view is far more pessimistic than mine. Its also far better informed.

Top 10 Myths of Tuesday's Correction

Greenspan Warns of Likely U.S. Recession: Financial News - Yahoo!Finance
Topic: Markets & Investing 12:10 pm EST, Feb 28, 2007

"When you get this far away from a recession invariably forces build up for the next recession, and indeed we are beginning to see that sign," Greenspan said via satellite link to a business conference in Hong Kong. "For example in the U.S., profit margins ... have begun to stabilize, which is an early sign we are in the later stages of a cycle."

It seems like the boats have been rising a bit too fast in recent months. I don't know what has been driving it (I really haven't been paying all that much attention), but it felt too good to be true. No one likes a market crash but I can't say yesterday's events were totally suprising. I think people just got ahead of themselves. Greenspan seems to think they may have gotten further ahead than usual.

Greenspan Warns of Likely U.S. Recession: Financial News - Yahoo!Finance

The Big Picture | Canary in the Coal Mine
Topic: Markets & Investing 5:34 pm EST, Jan  2, 2007

This year, I expect the Holiday Retail season could very well end up being the “canary in the coal mine” -- for the economy, as well as the stock market.

A weak consumer spending season bodes poorly for the start of 2007.


The Big Picture | Canary in the Coal Mine

PIMCO Bonds - IO July 2005 - Fire!
Topic: Markets & Investing 5:31 pm EST, Jan  7, 2006

1) The current rather mild U.S. recovery has been driven by asset appreciation/consumption and not employment or capex growth.
2) Future growth is dependent on additional asset appreciation in real estate and stocks if Asia continues to absorb much of our investment and many of our jobs.
3) Recent asset appreciation has been set ablaze by several fiscal/monetary pumps displayed on page 2 with 5-year real rates being the central driver/gasoline can.
4) Tax cuts are a thing of the past and 5-year TIPS yields can theoretically decline only 60 basis points or so more.
5) The reason why intermediate/long TIPS have an interest rate floor is that if we approach potential deflation, investors risk losing money on a government guaranteed investment. The same concept applies to homes, stocks, and other inflation-adjusting assets without government guarantees.
6) The Fed may soon be out of fuel, despite hints of Bernanke-style helicopter money. Stocks and houses are already at low yields and high prices reflective of European economies nearing Japan-style liquidity traps.

PIMCO Bonds - IO July 2005 - Fire!

Prediction Market by
Topic: Markets & Investing 11:56 am EST, Dec 19, 2005

Intrade the Trading Exchange for Prediction Markets. Trade Event Futures on Political, Current, Financial, Weather & Unique Events.

Prediction Market by

Morgan Stanley: Steve Roach on housing
Topic: Markets & Investing 10:25 am EDT, Jun 27, 2005

It seems like yesterday. But it’s only been a little over five years since we were going through the same drill that is playing out today -- bemoaning the excesses of an asset bubble and hunkering down for the inevitable post-bubble shakeout. Five years ago, it was the equity bubble. Today, it’s the property bubble. These are not isolated events. As night follows day, one bubble has spawned the next. And we have the Federal Reserve to thank for this grand continuum and the cumulative toll it is taking on the US economy. Sadly, as America lurches from bubble to bubble, the endgame is looking all the more treacherous.

The debate has an eerie sense of deja vu. Today, there are those who dispute the very existence of a US property bubble. Similarly, five years ago, there were many who argued that US equities were not over-valued...

This is rubbish.

Morgan Stanley: Steve Roach on housing

Angry Bear - When the Bubble Pops...
Topic: Markets & Investing 3:35 pm EDT, Jun 20, 2005

When the housing boom ends, what is the possible impact on the US economy? This is a broad brush look at three major potential problems:

1) Increased Unemployment.
2) Loss of mortgage equity withdrawal on consumer spending.
3) Financial distress.

Angry Bear - When the Bubble Pops...

U.S. Economy Continues to Produce Jobs, At Slower Rate
Topic: Markets & Investing 6:17 pm EDT, Jun  4, 2005

Employers added 78,000 non-farm payroll jobs in May, the smallest gain since August 2003 and a sharp slowdown from the 274,000 added in April, the Labor Department said.

On the matter of last month's jobs numbers...

U.S. Economy Continues to Produce Jobs, At Slower Rate

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