Are consumers ready to spend again?
Black Friday is coming, with expectations of door-buster deals and madhouse rushes. Last year 141 million consumers visited stores and websites between Thanksgiving Day and the following Monday evening, spending a total over $57 billion. That was down 3% from the year before—a fact that worried retailers at the time—but it turned out to be due to the shortened holiday season. Total holiday sales actually increased by 4%.
Continue reading Back in the Black
What can investors learn from Detroit?
Detroit was the worst of the worst. A city whose population had fallen almost 2/3rds over the last half century. A place where whole neighborhoods have been turned into urban prairie. It’s bankruptcy proceedings have been epic. What can we learn?
Continue reading Detroit Renaissance?
Is Japan in a recession?
It is if you believe the most recent news. Japan’s economy contracted last quarter, after falling the quarter before that. Two successive quarters of declining GDP are usually enough to be considered a recession. The bad news led Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to delay another sales tax hike scheduled for next year, and to call for new parliamentary elections as a sort-of national referendum on his economic policies, “Abenomics.”
Continue reading Rising Sun?
What’s up with oil prices?
Or, what’s down? When prices hit $145 / barrel in 2008 there was lots of talk of “peak oil.” After all, prices had risen from under $20 / barrel less than 10 years before and there was no supply-shock driving prices. The impetus was growing demand in China, which had joined the World Trade Organization in 2001. In 2004 prices broke out of their two-decade range. No one knew how high they would go. Global demand was growing faster than global supply. All the cheap stuff had been found, it was thought.
Continue reading Peak Oil, Trough Oil
What do workers want?
A recent study of over 19,000 employees and managers looked at what keeps people from being more satisfied and productive at work. The answer was not surprising: people perform best when their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs are met. When we feel energized, appreciated, focused, and purposeful, we’re happier and more effective in our jobs.
Continue reading R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Why is investing so hard?
Source: South Dakota Department of Tourism
Investors have to wrestle with many issues—economics, financial reporting, asset structure, valuation—but perhaps the most difficult factor they face is their own nature. People are naturally social creatures, something Aristotle noted 2500 years ago. We like to do what other people are doing. Going against the crowd can feel like standing up against a herd of charging buffalo.
Continue reading Herds, Bubbles and Human Nature
Where are newspapers going?
Newspapers have been reduced to a shadow of their former selves. Twenty years ago a couple of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs came to The Washington Post Company looking for money for their search-engine startup—Google. A few months ago the Post itself was bought out by a tech-angel, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.
Continue reading Bad News/Good News
Are investors looking for success in the wrong places?
There’s an old story about a man searching for something under a streetlight. A policeman comes by and asks what he’s lost. The man replies that his keys are missing and he can’t get back into his house. After a few minutes searching together, the policeman inquires whether the man is sure he lost his keys under the lamp. No, the man replies, he lost them in the park. “Then why are we searching here?” exclaims the officer. “This is where the light is,” replies the man, continuing to search.
Continue reading Keys, Lights and Investment Success
Sometimes, there’s no question what something is.
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck. There’s no ambiguity. Yesterday several news outlets reported that a popular foreign exchange trade site had vanished, along with over $1 billion in account balances.
Continue reading Duck Walking
Is this a rabbit or a duck?
Six global banks agreed to pay a total of about $4 billion yesterday to settle charges that they rigged the foreign exchange markets. Regulators claim some traders set up chat rooms, where they would share order information prior to the daily fix. The story has all the elements of a Hollywood blockbuster: big money, secretive clubs, special lingo, and mob-like threats.
Continue reading Rabbits, Ducks & Foreign Exchange