A GroupThink Project: Sectorial Dependencies

[Long report warning: >7,000 words] When someone says the word “GroupThink” I’m sure that there are some negative connotations. But in this morning’s context the term “groupthink” is not a bad thing since we’ll to be using it to help (as a group project for our mutual benefit) to come up with a different way of looking at financial data. Specifically what we’re after is to define interlocking dependencies which can then hone our investing returns not just in the market but also in day-to-day decision-making about life in general. Before starting this new look into mechanistic causality in complex systems though, there’s nothing to starting the day with some headlines as we wait for the idiotic mainstream press to deliver word of the first royal diaper being filled.

How’s Your Weenie?

You know column writing has crashed in the summer doldrums when something as obscure as National Hot Dog Day is our lead item.  Yet with markets stuck in “noise trading” (futures are up a dab, gold’s back to $1,330 and Bitcoins are around $90-something) other than rejoicing that oil is back down to $106) there’s little to write about.

 

Still, it might be worth dropping by a 7-11 or Sunoco to see if they are giving out freebies and buying a drink while you’re there. Dollar dogs at Sonic, too.

 

National Hot Dog Day seems a uniquely American counterpoint to…

International King in the Wings Day – July 23

All of Britain is worked up, or so the mediafest seems, about the arrival of 8-pounds, six ounces of someday king material.

Which gets us back to the problem of writing something clever (heavy on the ‘kraut, please?) to say about Wall Street and somehow tie it in to today’s momentous occasion. 

 

I bet you didn’t know that Los Angeles consumes more hot dogs than New York, but Chicago’s O’Hare plane hoppers eat more dogs than La Guardia and LAX combined.  Here all this time I thought it was the pizza on C concourse.

 

This is also National Vanilla Ice Cream Day and you might enjoy playing Stump the Docent at Monticello by asking when Thomas Jefferson wrote down his vanilla ice cream recipe (mid-1780’s).  Sunday was National Ice Cream Day (all flavors).

 

Maybe this is what an economic “recovery” looks like.

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Coping: Time to Eye the Exit?

The case of the Missouri man who got a $1,000 find for flashing his headlights at oncoming cars to warn them of a speed trap up ahead is just one of the small evidences that America seems to be on the verge of becoming “Police State Lite” [PSL] without even giving the grave nature of events due consideration.

 

You may remember a week, or so back, I mentioned an email from long-time reader John who found fault in my report to you on several counts:

 

“Hi George,

 

You’re slipping a bit. You listed some seriously erroneous info today regarding giving up citizenship. See below.  

 

“Remember Cyprus?  Offshore banks seem to be worse than our own.  And besides, the US authorities claim 10-years of  authority to collect taxes from expats even if you make it out the exits.  Not to mention there goes Medicare and Social Security income, too.

 

Please note that the renunciation tax law was given a major overhaul in 2008 due to the HEART Act. 

 

The 10-year tax regime was replaced with an exit tax on the expatriating citizen, which only applies to people with a high net worth, over 2 million dollars. Thus, you are making a clean break from the system.  

 

Renunciation does not affect your eligibility for Social Security and Medicare, that is, unless you went to a country that is considered an enemy of the U.S.

 

Bye, John (very long time reader, subscriber from both sides of the Atlantic over the years….) “

 

As usual, when I get a correction like this, I make the most of it since it serves to remind me that I’m not (quite yet) invincible and to remind myself that where there’s a will, there’s a way…

 

Which brings me to point #2:  My friend Bruce down in Ecuador has set up a dandy bed and breakfast operation which features friendly amenities and low enough price to live so that a person could hang out in Ecuador for a good long time.

 

HIs place is called Casa Marilla (Yellow House) and it’s located in Vilcabamba, Ecuador.  And it got me thinking long and hard enough about the possibilities to send Bruce a note inquiring as to the price:

 

“Price is $400-450 for 2 bedroom,  $600 for 3 bedroom, completely furnished.    Internet is available for $35 a month. 2 gigabit speed.”

That’s per month, no less.

 

So yes, we are thinking about the exit now and then…

 

Hollywood Accounting

Reader Chris is a little disturbed about the short-term media coverage given to low initial takes on some films…which turn out to make money (lots of it) in the long-run:

 

“Hey G  

 

I Read the Disney Story on The Lone Ranger Tanking.   It seems that accurate Journalism is no longer necessary. Or…only money made in the U.S of A. counts, I’m not sure which.  

 

Here is the author’s statements  

Depp’s recent non-“Pirates” movies have bombed. Not counting “The Lone Ranger,” 

2012’s “Dark Shadows” cost $150 million but grossed only $80 million, 

2011’s “The Rum Diary” made $13 million on a $45 million budget, and that same year

“The Tourist” tanked, recouping $67 million on a $100 million budget.  

 

These are the actual worldwide figures, not including DVD and blue ray sales  

 

Dark Shadow   $238,727,14  

The Rum Diaries $23,947,544

The Tourist   $278,346,189  

 

Hell, and we wonder why media isn’t doing stories on things that count.  It’s because they can’t even Google for a fact.   Remember the days when the boss expected you to back up your figures.   I wish there was a fine for this kind of CRAP. “

 

Fair point, there.  It will be instructive to see how the Lone movie does over time.  One thing that is going on are stories wondering whether Johnny Depp’s career is in jeopardy.

 

Movies always were – and will continue to be – a team outcome.  One big name superstar can’t save a movie with lose parts elsewhere, yet the pile-on crowd seems intent on ignoring team play…

 

Around the Ranch:  Summer Power Failure

Along about  4PM, Elaine wandered into the office.  “I see you’re not effected…nice and cool in here…” 

 

“What, is the power off?”  It was the only question that made sense.

 

Well, one thing led to another and yes, we had a longish power outage which came back on a couple of hours later.  But it’s a reminder that solar power is a good thing when the sun’s still out and it’s 95-degrees outside.

 

I still think investing in insulation and renewable energy will, over the long term, out perform any currency out there, especially if you connect it to some kind of gardening project.

 

Life-Long Learning Note

Here’s an interesting note passed on about a new project called Flooved over at www.floved.com.  The idea is online mentoring/teaching and you can click on the “How it works” tab to learn more about it.

 

Maxa-Cookie Manager

A number of people have inquired as to whether Maxa Cookie Manager works with Windows 8.  The answer, says my friend Manfred at Maxa is yes…and I’ve been running it fine on my laptop with Win8 since I converted it from Win7/64.

 

If you’d like to sample how it works, click here and download it and follow the setup instructions.  Most people are amazed at how much crap there is in the way of tracking cookies on their computers and how much faster their machines run in many cases when the tracking cookies are taken out.

 

They also have some interesting online encryption tools and a nifty Privacy Test you can run to see just how “open to prying eyes” your computer is….

 

Manfred and I are talking a lot about security issues and privacy lately, so one of these days I will write up details for Peoplenomics.com subscribers…

 

Write when you get rich…

George Ure (george at ure dot net)

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A Course in Surveillance Algorithms

An algorithm is simply a set of instructions for a computer system to follow in a particular order.  In the case of Big Data, the steps are capture, organize, integrate, analyze, and act.  Using this approach, we can build a fine example of the many trip-wires an innocent civilian could stumble over in the modern surveillance society.  Plus we have our monthly check of west coast port data with is oftentimes a decent truth detector about the economy and an update on many headlines and our trading model.  You may need a third cup for this morning’s report…

 

 

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Waiting for News, Adios Egypt

The market was set to open a tad higher this morning as last week’s frenzy has had a weekend to wear off or sober up.  The first news out this morning will be existing home sales at 10 AM but nothing exciting until later in the week when Durable Goods come out and that ain’t exactly a heart-stopper.

 

The reality is that genuine news takes a little time to work its way through the system:  We told Peoplenomics readers this weekend that monthly West Coast Port data for June showed a 3% slowing of imports, which is not the kind of thing to see if there’s a major recovery underway.

 

Moreover the price of oil is apparently not coming down. It was over $108 this morning and that means prices are starting to move upward slightly but the full impact won’t be felt until the 60-months of propagation/knock-on effects have time to develop systemically.

 

Behind the scenes?  Oil goes up, and this enables the Saudis to put $2-billion into Egypt to help keep that country from imploding.

 

What’s going on?  You might want to read the George Packer piece in The New Yorker magazine this morning before I tell you.

 

But the short answer is?  The Saudis have just out-bid us while we’re arguing internally.

 

If you consider international relations just like you’d assess a leveraged buy-out, many of the same dynamics are in play.  Power of the First offer, for example.

 

When the US talked but then dawdled, the Saudis were patient but in the end, faced with indecision from the Obama crowd, they stepped up, placed a $2-billion dollar down payment and now have incredible street creds for helping keep Egypt from imploding.

 

Like I said:  Outbid.  Signs of crumbling empire, my fellow Roman.

 

Meantime, gold senses this price action and has firmed back over $1,300 and the strong showing by prime minister Shinzo Abe’s part in Japanese elections this weekend mean a continuation of Abe-nomics.

 

Even this little glimmer quickly faded in Europe this morning when things are mixed and so in the interlocking world of linked markets a flat to down day by the end may be expected.

 

The Big Picture problem, the decline of 10-year bond yields since July of 1981 is still the same.  And there’s still plenty of time to  buy inflation hedges for when the long term trend reverses, but patience of a year to three may be required.

 

For now, the velocity of money has remained in collapse so all that new paper being printing up is not yet out chasing goods and services.  When it does sneak out, we look for the kind of inflation such as has never been seen before.

 

It’s just a matter of preserving your lone coin or two and waiting…hardly exciting, but it is what it is.

 

More After This…

 

 

 

ODA: Observations, Departments, and Analysis


 

Quakes Are Back

After leaving our monthly earthquake reports looking lame of late, earthquake have come roaring back this weekend with lots of activity including:

Given that the Sun’s output is undershooting estimates for where it should be for the point in Solar Cycle 25, could the earth’s crust not staying warm/expanded have anything to do with these?  I’m sure the journals will get to this…just given them a year or two.

 

Graphic Evidence

A reader (Anthony) spotted a fine article which I neglected to mention last week called “The Punctuated collapse of the Roman Empire” over here.

 

“I thought I would send this along, just for the hell of it.  Cassandra’s legacy is the name of the blog.  Don’t understand why the study of collapses is not a discipline by this time – with its own math, catastrophe theory? Fame awaits – Ure’s Precipice?”

 

Well, that sure seems an attractive thing, although I’m more interested in a living wage and a few minutes to enjoy it.  Still, I made a note for Peoplenomics readers Wednesday to look at how a shorter-term matchup of the 2007 peak with the 1929 peak would fit, especially given that we have just had new all-time highs in the market.

 

Except, well, of course they weren’t all-time highs on an inflation-adjusted basis (with a string of footnotes half a mile long…) since “the Dow” would have bought you a lot more food in 2000 than it would have a couple of weeks back.  Ditto booze, too (the Pickled Price Parity Postulate).

 

There are a lot of headlines that support the notion of a latter-day Roman fall either in progress, or being down step-wise:

Coping: Marvel’s Franchise/DLT?

Lots of buzz coming out of San Diego where Comic-Con has been going on and with it, word of a new super-hero (Avengers: Age of Ultron) flick to start shooting in February. 

 

I have a terrible confession to make:  I love those comic book movies:  Super Man, Green Hornet, Spiderman…Yessir, that’s one thing America is really, really good at:  Escapist pap.

 

All of which got me to thinking back on my youth because I figure things are pretty much the same for young people today as they were back in the day.

 

When I was a kid (1950’s) comic books were going for a dime…this was in ’55 to ’57, or so.  By the time I finished high school (’67) the price of a comic was up to a quarter.

 

Just for the hell of it, I decided to see what a 1967 comic book should be going for in 2013 dollars.  Turns out the answer adjusted for inflation is $1.75.

 

To be sure, the cost of printing has been backed out, and the price of video distribution clicked back in, but Yessir, this explains how my kids were watching comic book-like flicks for a buck each when the video store down the street was having “Dollar Tuesdays” in the 1980’s.

 

Marvel was acquired in 2009 by Disney for $4.24 billion, but seems to me that when you step back and look at the category broadly that assuming we don’t blow ourselves up in the meantime, Disney’s approach (buying a franchise like Marvel) will continue to play well at the cash register.

 

So, while there are reports that  Disney’s The Lone Ranger” will lose $200-$300 million, seems to me that over time, the mouse is still alive and one of the few things I could put in a portfolio without dirty hands.

 

Besides, new upcoming stars like Zac Efron are generating plenty of ink.

 

Now, if they would just get on with building a theme part on all that land they have acquired here in Texas…

 

There’s been a lot of speculation around the web over the past few years that a 10,000 acre Disney property in Texas would make sense…and a poll over at WDWMagic suggests that the leading site would be near Austin.  There’s good transportation there, nice airport, land is not as pricey as up in Dallas, and the weather less “iffy” than down on the Gulf around Houston.

 

I’m going out on a limb here, but Disney announcing a new park would make sense over the next year, or so for a number of strategic reasons:

  • The interest rates for big projects may never get much lower than it is now. 

  • The price of land has been stagnant in many parts of Texas (down at 2003 prices nationally) so that’s one major cost to consider.

  • Politically, it would be a slam dunk since fair-haired Rick is already running for the White House, you can bet his administration would been over backwards to help Disney – plus it would be a capper for him politically in his “What I have done for Texas” PowerPoint’s.

  • The Texas economy is already leading much of the rest of the country so investment risk would be lower.

  • And…in terms of local/regional visitors, the combined population of Dallas and Houston, both within driving distance from Austin, is somewhere over 6.5 million in the Dallas Metroplex and another 6.2 million in Houston….there’s almost 13-million.

  • Now toss in Austin/Round Rock (1.8 million) and San Antonio (2.2 mil) and you come up with…

  • 16.2 million potential visitors, which means the population density is almost as good as for the original Disney Land.

Mind you, I’m not saying they will make any announcement, but intuitively it seems to me that if anyone really wanted to prove the recession was over and that good times were just ahead, an announcement by Disney of a new US park anywhere would be about as good an indicator as you could find.

 

Sometimes, a short-term hiccup in planned cash flows can be overcome with a bold new vision.  I don’t think anyone would question that and I think it Walt were still alive, he’d be putting down bets about here.

 

Thanks to the liberalized use of “eminent domain” putting the land together shouldn’t be that difficult….but whether Disney is run by visionaries or accountants is what’s on the table.  If interest rates begin to climb (and go up more than half a percent, or so without Disney announcing a vision) I guess we’ll have a hint which faction won.

Less than amusement:  7 people were injured this weekend at the Cedar Point amusement park in Ohio when the log flume ride malfunctioned.

 

And a woman was killed after falling out of the roller-coaster at Six Flags Texas Friday night.

 

Power of the Purse?

Don’t have second-source on this, but here’s some interesting blowback reported by Reader Rick from up in the Dallas area:

 

“Waiters are getting Trayvoned. At restaurants some black people come in, eat, leave no tip with note “No justice, no tip.” Happened to my son THURSDAY night at a 5 star restaurant in Dallas. “

 

Of course there are also lots of white people who also don’t tip based on race but it strikes me as one of those “anyone who stiffs the help is wrong” kinda things.  Bad manners on either side.

 

Coming for Your DNA

Reader Michael, who worries about such things, says buried in the latest Obama HIV initiative is a plan to get DNA samples of everyone in the country.  Or, at least those under 65.

 

Which is interesting, since people over 65 might actual remember the Constitution and the promise years ago that your “Social Security Number wouldn’t never be used as a form of National Identification.”  Yeah, uh-huh, you bet.

 

Lab Notes

One other lab leftover:  Did you see the UK Mail’s report on the biggest virus ever found on earth has been spotted?  And yes….it may have come from (you’re gonna love this…) Mars!

 

OK, that might explain men…we’ll be looking for the Venusian equivalent next…

 

Sure seems like it would fit with the Velikovsky spin-off notion of Venus arriving, ripping up Mars and planting Earth, though…

 

Write when you get rich…

George Ure (george at ure dot net)

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Here are some useful ways to spend your money…

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Now on the

www.peoplenomics.com website ($40/year premium content)

A Course in Surveillance Algorithms

An algorithm is simply a set of instructions for a computer system to follow in a particular order.  In the case of Big Data, the steps are capture, organize, integrate, analyze, and act.  Using this approach, we can build a fine example of the many trip-wires an innocent civilian could stumble over in the modern surveillance society.  Plus we have our monthly check of west coast port data with is oftentimes a decent truth detector about the economy and an update on many headlines and our trading model.  You may need a third cup for this morning’s report…

 

 

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Amazon has free Kindle reader aps for Win 7, Win 8, Mac, Android, iPad, and many others if you don’t have a Kindle.  There!  You have no excuse to keep from reading my stuff…

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If This Ain’t a Depression…

Complexity is a grand and glorious thing:  It enables people to hide the truth right in front of themselves and even go so far as to deny its reality. Against that backdrop, please consider:

  • If you had purchased an item in 1999 that cost $100 (back then) the same thing today would (using Fed figures) cost $140.17.

  • Some things cost more, housing is less:  The uneven serial sectoral; inflations mask the underlying dynamics of the Second Depression.

  • Similarly, more than 6,000 bank  branches have been closed since the IndyMac failure. How soon we forget!

  • However, again, this is “masking” in that a few branches were acquired by other banks and some portion of the shuttered branch business had already migrated to the Internet.  It won’t be back.

  • The Dow Jones Industrials are touted as hitting “all time highs” by the me-too financial press.  Yet this figure is mentioned in the absence of an honest long-term inflation context.

  • The Dow so far this year has hit 15,589.4 yet when one uses the Minneapolis Fed inflation calculator, we see that the January 14, 2000 high of 11,722.98 should be 15,897.07.

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Coping: Reading at the Exit

Let’s start with a reader’s write from Tom in Illinois:

 

“….Your digital madness novel is a great idea, do it if you have the time. However, may have a mildly rhyming plotline, in an old sci fi book, written back in -58 by a guy named Miller, can’t remember the first name. Anyway, without revealing ANY of the plot line, may I recommend “ A Canticle for Liebowitz”, superbly written, and touches on many of the idiocies of mankind, including the absurdity of religion, the insanity of nuclear weaponry, and the propensity of man to keep sticking his weenie in the meat grinder. If you can find it, and have not read it yet, I guarantee you will love it. “

 

I actually (in a vague sense) remember reading it!  Perhaps the plotline was somehow embedded, since when I wasn’t memorizing everything I could get my hands on about electronics as a kid, I was sucking up everything I could in the way of science fiction.

 

The two reasons it jogs something? The name Liebowitz and it was the first time I had run into the world “canticle.”  A Canticle for Leibowitz is still available in paperback from Amazon, by the way.

Speaking of writings and readings:  I keep thinking that if I ever get to the point of retiring, it would sure be fun to go back and reread a lot of the books I read as a kid.  A kind of reboot of data files before the Big Sleep.

 

I remember long ago when I interviewed Louis L’Amour and he told me about how he’d worked as a merchant seaman, reading pocket collections of great literature to other merchant mariners in the focsle at night.

 

Well, that got me to looking into such mini pocketbooks and you can still find the Everyman’s Library on Amazon with a fairly wide assortment of readings.  One, for example is The Stories of Ray Bradbury (Everyman’s Library (Cloth)) while another is Three Novels: Journey to the Center of the Earth, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Round the World in Eighty Days (Everyman’s Library (Cloth)).

 

Mind you, there’s a great many of the older classic books available on Project Gutenberg website; simple enough to download classics and then .PDF them and forward them to a Kindle, or toss them onto a ‘droid and read ’em as text files there.

 

As a Man Thinks

Most people don’t realize the extent to which their thinking is “bounded” by their inputs.  In other words, the number of new thoughts and ideas you’ll have is directly related to how much raw material you pack into your brain.

 

Creativity, seems, may be something of a matrix; which is one of my favorite topics to discuss.  Thus, the more fresh raw material you put in to your head, the more new ideas come out.  Which is why I try to devote an hour or two every day to reading something.

 

Readers have generously sent me a wide selection of readings, which I take up as time allow:  I’m presently parsing in “Astro-Economics: A study of astrology and the Business Cycle” by LCDR David Williams, which fits in many ways with one I’ve been working through from my personal stack (which you can get from Amazon): The Unified Cycle Theory: How Cycles Dominate the Structure of the Universe and Influence Life on Earth

 

That book by Peutz ain’t cheap, by the way:  A shade under $50-bucks.  But the rare booklet by Williams (1958) can still be found occasionally for $20-something from Amazon’s bevvy of used book sellers.

One footnote about those mini pocket books:  The fonts are small, so they’d be something to read before your eyes get too old.

Which get’s me to a very interesting thought about reading.  Seems to me there are two ways a person could look at the topic and structure your life which distills down to two paths:

 

1.  One path would be to “read like hell” until age 30 or so (whenever an advanced degree of some kind is nailed) and then quit reading everything except readings in your field of expertise for the rest of your life.

 

This is easy on the eyes, inexpensive, and minimizes time consumption for inputs.  Toss in the fact that 90% of news is useless in terms of personal action (what are you going to do in your life about last night’s latest Trayvon demonstration, for example?) and you can save all kinds of time to devote to either staying absolutely current in your area of expertise.

 

2.  The OTHER path would be to progress as above, until you have enough knowledge about  something to make a good wage, but then portion off some part of each day to your continued general education beyond what’s in your specialty. 

 

To this kind of approach, last night’s latest demonstrations (Zimmerman) do mean something, and reflecting upon news of such events might lead to insights which, although not specifically useful in a specialty/income area (outside of HR, perhaps) do reveal the current state of affairs in the “hearts of men.”

 

Eventually, one comes to the ponder about whether there’s some kind of existence of a human “essence” after Life as we know it ends.  Since most professional specialties only work in the physical here & now, if there is some kind of after-life, then going there, which is presumably another dimension or way of existing as spirit/essence/whatever, with specialized knowledge about how things “used to work on that plane” would be pointless.

 

What seems more likely to transcend the boundary of death would be the “affairs in the hearts of men” and in this regard, the more general information about the operating habits of other spirit/essences/whatevers would become the entire point.

 

Arguably, no one knows what happens beyond the grave, but there’s been enough information coming back, as documented originally in Dr. Raymond Moody’s Life After Life: The Investigation of a Phenomenon–Survival of Bodily Death wherein a lot of heart attack victims and others who’ve been dead, but just for a while, come back with amazing tales to tell.

 

One of these days, my friend Capt. Midnight has promised to write up a very personal experience with this phenomena of “touching other side” which is quite amazing, revealing, and I think important.  I’ll pass it along when it arrives (which I anxiously await).

 

Whatever IT is, seems to me that the more one reads, and the more one works on the “inner work” the better equipped one will be for whatever is next. 

 

Is television a help of hindrance?  We simply don’t know yet.  However, my personal choice has been to be very careful about that which goes into brain (from where it seeps into heart) which is why I don’t watch much horror or any gratuitous violence on television.

 

Not that the Way of the Peaceful Warrior precludes right action, it’s just that present society places lots of emphasis – too much – on the what can you do for me right now kind of life.  While the large problem is what do we take through the exit safely stowed in heart and consciousness.

 

If, perchance, the after-life is a restitching of all that’s in your head and heart right now, what would you put into it next as important raw materials?

 

I’m always shocked how few people grasp the question.

 

But with the weekend here, come five minutes past Miller-time this afternoon, might I suggest one hour this weekend for a well-chosen book?  One that won’t come back and bite you in the soul down the road? GIGO.  And maybe for eternity.

 

Sci-Fi Note

One other “perchance to dream” note in favor of sci-fi?  Mars Rover discovers more evidence that Mars was once habitable.

 

War on Planned Obsolescence

Reader Shelly has been following our discussion as we seek appliances that can “outlive us” and relates this:

 

“Hi, George: When my dishwasher died the cause was the electronic control board, which was toasted.  It would have been a very expensive repair, almost $300 just for the part.  Shocked, I asked the salesman what a new dishwasher would cost and was told that I could get a low end model for about $500.  Plus shipping and installation.

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Job Seeker Secret: Why Bother?

As every morning, I begin on an economic note since our roots around here are sustainable living, long wave economics, and couple of nickels from from confiscation by government (inflation and taxes) and charlatans in finance (the Bernies et al) who seem to appear at every turn.

 

But this morning’s insight from my daughter Allison tells more about the condition of America that years of schooling and whole reams of economic data.  Best of all, it’s simple for anyone to comprehend.

 

Allison works, as I think I’ve mentioned, in the communications industry in sales in the Seattle area.  She works long hours, trains hard, has encyclopedic product knowledge, and (as is the standard in our family)  is honest as the day is long so consequently she’s doing very well.  Here lately, she’s been working a lot of overtime and I asked her about that.

 

Well, dad,” she began “We had an ad out here last week to hire some new sales reps.  We had a total of 75 resumes come in.   But then, when we called and basically invited all of these people to come in for interviews only six expressed any interest!  I was talking to a friend of mine in our HR department and she said if we’re lucky three will actually show up and then we will find one…maybe two…that are worth hiring.  And we could hire five….”

 

I trust you see the dynamic at work here?  It’s summertime.  People who are on unemployment in many states need only to demonstrate that they have applied to three or four places per week, not that they actually went somewhere when a potential job called back, did an interview, or actually followed up in a meaningful way.

 

Now, this is just a wild-ass guess on my part, but seems to me that if 75 people were invited in for interviews at least 25% ought to be interested enough to show up.  Historically, in really hard times, the number showing up would be more like 50% or more…

 

No, I’m not arguing that welfare, food stamps, and unemployment comp should change.  But just presenting the data from a trusted observer.

 

Attn. HR Folks: Research Requested

If you know anyone in an HR position, ask them what their current “call-to-interview rate”  and the “interview-to-offer” rate is running.  Then, if they keep good records, ask them what their ratio was, say, five years ago…or better: 10-years ago.

 

My bet is that we have seen a large decrease in the call-to-interview ratio as people have become much, much more selective about the kinds of work they are willing to do, and how much effort they will put in to getting a job.  They can get a subsistence easy enough, so why put forth real effort?

 

Meantime, California is likely to cut extended unemployment comp.  The dynamic there is that if California rolling three month unemployment dips under 9% then 10-weeks of benefits dry up.

 

One other note about unemployment:  Fresh figures are out from the Labor Department this morning:

 

“In the week ending July 13, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 334,000, a decrease of 24,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 358,000. The 4-week moving average was 346,000, a decrease of 5,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 351,250….”

 

With this latest bit of data integrated and with options expiration today, we look for the market to have a reasonably steady day (barring left field events) with volatility to increase next week and a possible down-side bias.

 

Student Loan Deal:

Inflation Forecasting School

There’s some excellent leg-work on what’s ahead buried in the report from the DesMoines Register which reports on a new deal being cut which may resolve student loan rates at least for a while into the future.

 

How so?  How does one infer the direction and magnitude of coming interest rate increases, the return of inflation, and such? 

 

It’s a two-part process.  First you get a sense of where Big Ticket interest rates are presently.  For this, flip over to the Federal Reserve’s Consumer Credit (which is really debt from where you and I sit) and notice the present new car loan rates.  For new cars it is about 4.13%.

 

You might want to make up a basket of rates:  Refi’s of home loans are in the 3.5% rate presently (basis a 15-year loan) and the 10-year US bond yield is running about 2½ percent.

 

Now, flip over to the present student loan rates:  They used to run a modest 3.4% for direct subsidized loans which had a first disbursement date between July 1, 2011 and June 30th of this year.

 

Now, however, a new student loan is running 6.8% (ibid).

 

The synthesis of this morning’s Des Moines Register report and a little common sense gives us two interesting thoughts to mull over.

 

First, the DR reports that democorps won a lifetime of loan cap of 8.25% while the cap for grad students would be 9.5% and for parent loans (PLUS loans) would be capped at 10.5%.

 

Which means – reading between the lines – that econometric modeling by lenders and government off in the back rooms is looking at interest rates going up another roughly 2-3% from current levels in the immediate future.  At least for now.

 

But there’s one other observation that comes into view which causes me a bit of consternation:  The marketplace presently provides more of an incentive to buy a new car than to get additional education.

 

Which, near as I can figure, is not the way to build a competitive country.

 

A number of groups are calling out the Fools on the Hill on this, but they have a track record of being “hard of thinking” when it comes to sacred cash flow cows of campaign-buying banksters.  The global chieslor cartel gets to borrow money from the Fed cheap, mark-up as loans to students, take spreads…

 

The future, seems, still has to be a profit center for the banker-class.  EBM* at work, again.

 

Is there hope?  Maybe: as Jesse Eisinger (NYT Dealbook/ProPublica) notes: “Finally, Bank regulators have had enough.”  It’s a little early to be celebrating…years early.

 

*Everything’s a Business Model

That Signpost Up Ahead?

India’s outlook on the economy has turned down in the latest Business Today-C fore Business outlook.  Snip from their press release:

 

“The turmoil in the foreign exchange market undid the gains of the last three quarters and the confidence level of businesses has dipped for the first time in four quarters.

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Coping: A "Number Station" on YouTube?

I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember the early days of advertising, and this maybe goes back to the days when man was not yet fully immersed in online media, but in the early days of rock ‘n roll advertisers often used the “mystery promotion” which involved doing advertising related to a particular date or place.

 

“Stay tuned to the super – 610 because this weekend we’ll…” And there would be somebody interrupting preventing the message from being complete.  Those kinds of promotions on radio increased average quarter hours and TSLs; time spent listening.

 

It’s a classic advertising ploy and one that can often be used in order to develop buzz around an upcoming event, especially if the event is a brand-new one and has no track record to otherwise attract interest.

 

If I told you “Be at the corner of Main Street and Willard Avenue at 10 o’clock Saturday because I’ll be giving away money…” You might be in being there.

 

A more complete disclosure about what my intent was, on the other hand, might keep you away. “Be at the corner of Main Street and Willard Avenue at 10 AM Saturday because I’ll be giving away three cents.” You see how some of the excitement, some of the mystery went away?  Classic American hype.

 

So now what we’ll do, to kick off an otherwise boring Thursday summer workday, is we’re going to combine some good old-fashioned advertising hype with the shortwave radio mystery stations that broadcast nothing more than numbers.

 

What has come to our attention (courtesy of reader Ryan), is a most curious set of YouTube videos which begin with the phrase “how to pronounce…”

 

The first one I found was “How to pronounce 77.” all it says is that “something is going to happen and 77 days.” I have no doubt that it will, since the sun has a high statistical probability of coming up on that day.

 

In the exciting “how to pronounce 76” the assertion is made “I’ve been trying to tell you something for 11783 days. Something is going to happen in 76 days.

 

“I’m awake now, things are clearing up I’m not saying the words now. something is going to happen and 75 days.

 

“I’ve got a minute, let me tell you what I think is going on. Something is going to happen and 74 days.”

 

“Tensions between the districts has spiked in the last few months. Something is going to happen and 73 days.”

 

“You can see it in the markets. Everyone is ready for a storm. Something is going to happen and 72 days.

 

“They’re singing a new song in the streets of the zone. Something is going to happen and 71 days.”

 

“I have plenty of information to keep me company.

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There Goes (or should I say WENT) HAARP

Normally, I’d start up a report with something economic – like this morning’s consumer price report which we’ll get to in a second – but the first thing out of the hopper this morning is to note the report from the American Radio Relay League (the ham radio society I’ve told you about umpteen times) that the “HAARP Facility Shuts Down.

 

According to the ARRL report, the Gakona Alaska facility has been shut down since early May and while a new contractor may come along for some finishing up research this fall and winter, the diesel generators on site no longer meet Clean Air Act requirements….

 

All of which leads to an intriguing question:  What about all the reports on the net about supposed “HAARP signals” impacting the mainland of the USA which seem to still be out there being reported this morning?  I’m not hearing HAARP on my ham rig…

 

It leads to some uncomfortable conjecture about the alternative reality called the Internet.

 

I guess we’ll need to find some other means of constructing a portal for alien reptiles to enter this dimension.  Hey!  Wait!  Isn’t that was CERN is for?  And what about using HAARP for mind control programs?  Does that mean we’ve been running out of control for two months now?

 

Time to double up on the meds….

 

Consumer Prices

OK, they came out this morning and as one might expect the continue to show modest inflation at the retail/consumer level:

 

“The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.5 percent in June on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.

 

Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 1.8 percent before seasonal adjustment.

 

The gasoline index rose sharply in June and accounted for about two thirds of the seasonally adjusted all items change. Other energy indexes were mixed, with the electricity index rising, but the indexes for natural gas and fuel oil declining.

 

The food index increased in June as the index for food at home turned up after declining in May. The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.2 percent in June, the same increase as in May. Advances in the indexes for shelter, medical care, and apparel accounted for most of the rise, with increases in the indexes for new vehicles and household furnishings and operations also contributing.

 

The indexes for airline fares, used cars and trucks, and recreation all declined in June. The all items index increased 1.8 percent over the last 12 months, an increase from last month’s 1.4 percent figure.

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