March 2007 Archives

Housing Data

I was combing through the Mortgage Banker's Commercial/Multifamily Quarterly Data Book
when I ran across the data below. It shows that the growth in housing units over the last 17 years occurred mostly in the owner occupied segment. In fact, there has been no growth in rental housing units in the 12 years. Not sure what to make of this, but it would appear that a booming owner occupied housing market is a negative for rentals. As far as broad economic implications, it probably doesn't say much.
MBA.jpg

Singapore Math

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The Hoover Institute's Hoover Digest has an article taling about Singapore Maths lack of adoption in the U.S. It is interesting how little attention has been paid to the tiny city-state's math ciriculum considering they are the world's top scorers. My guess is, as the article suggests, that our math teachers are resistant because of their poor math skills and the differences in the way its taught. There aren't a lot of pretty pictures in the Singapore Maths books:

Unlike many American math textbooks, such as Math Thematics, published by Houghton Mifflin, which are thick, multicolored, and multicultural, Singapore’s books are thin and contain only mathematics. There are no graphics (other than occasional cartoons pertaining to the lesson at hand), no spreadsheet problems, and no problems asking students to use a calculator to find the mean number of dogs in a U.S. household. With SM, students are required to show their mathematical work, not explain in essays how they did the problems or how they felt about them. While a single lesson in a U.S. textbook might span two pages and take one class period to go through, a lesson in a Singapore textbook might use five to ten pages and take several days to complete. The Singapore texts contain no narrative explanation of how a procedure or concept works; instead, there are problems and questions accompanied by pictures that provide hints about what is going on. According to the AIR report, the Singapore program “provides rich problem sets that give students many and varied opportunities to apply the concepts they have learned.”
At the end of the article, it notes that people in Washington state are pushing for it to be adopted state wide. If they do it, hope they do it right and not let it be sabotaged by the forces that be.

Speedo

I'd look damn fine in a speedo. O.K., not really, but I'd feel really sexy and could still do math.

LOL part II

You have to laugh at this Roubini post. I'm just wondering who his clients are? Then again, I'm constantly amazed that Stephen Roach still has a job at an investment bank.

LOL

God, I hate Hawaiians:

"I'm very pleased that we got a big, strong majority," said Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawai'i, the bill's sponsor. "But what happened was we ran into ... a particular segment of the Republican Party who is determined to demonize Hawaiians."

The Scourge

IBD has a great article on the implications of Sarbanes-Oxley for non-wealthy investors. It is the non-currently wealthy individuals who are less to become wealthy cause they are going to miss out on some of the early growth phase of companies.

Imagine you had a time machine and could go on a stock-buying spree 25 years ago. Yet you didn't bring that much cash on board.

You could do pretty well investing in the growing firms of Wal-Mart Stores or Apple. But you'd make a killing on this retailer that had just recently gone public with only four stores to its name. Buying 100 shares of Home Depot in 1982 would yield you $1.6 million by 2002.

But time travelers coming back to 2007, even with a fistful of stock market data, probably won't be so lucky. Neither will today's savvy investors who study past trends in publications such as Investor's Business Daily. This is because a law sold as protecting investors from fraud is actually hurting investors' ability to grow wealthy with legitimate firms.

As a U.S. Chamber of Commerce task force this week unveils recommendations for lightening the burdens of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, expect the media to paint the issue as business vs. shareholders.

The truth, however, is that average investors have been some of this law's biggest victims.

Rushed through Congress after the Enron and WorldCom scandals, Sarb-Ox ended up imposing many mandates that greatly encumber honest entrepreneurs. Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus recently told IBD that his company could not have gone public as a four-store firm "in today's legal and regulatory climate."

This means that Home Depot's early investors would also have lost out if Sarb-Ox had been in place.

Stability

If you had to rank the following countries as to the level of political stability according to the ICRG, what order would you put them in from least stable to most stable( data as of 12/06).

Iran
United States
Netherlands
Zimbabwe
Thailand
New Zealand

Here's a description of the index:

Government Stability – 12 Points
This is an assessment both of the government’s ability to carry out its declared program(s), and its ability to stay in office. The risk rating assigned is the sum of three subcomponents, each with a maximum score of four points and a minimum score of 0 points. A score of 4 points equates to Very Low Risk and a score of 0 points to Very High Risk.
The subcomponents are:
• Government Unity
• Legislative Strength
• Popular Support

Answer below the fold

Singapore vs. Hong Kong

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Here's a nice article from Bloomberg comparing Singapore and Hong Kong. Spontaneous Order has a few recent posts about Hong Kong as well, here and here. I think HK died as a bastion of Laissez-Fair capitalism back during the Asian crisis a decade ago when the government propped up the equity markets( but they made a nice profit!!). It should be noted that the direction the city-states are going in seemingly to be the opposite of each other. Singapore is relaxing rules and regulations while Hong Kong seems to want to continue to meddle in economic affairs. Of course there are different dynamics here as Singapore's relaxing social rules as much as economic ones and HK is more meddling in economics than in social issues. So, it's probably a bit strong to say that they are heading opposite directions.

Subprime

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In their Daily email, FierceFinance has a nice roundup of stories concerning investment banks exposure to this sector:

TheStreet.Com

Forbes.com

Here's an article on New Century. It's an Orance County company that I looked into a few years ago and gave a pass. The subprime market always blows up, though this time seems to be bigger than normal. When I was looking at New Century, I laughed at the message board full of people incredibly naive about the market they were investing in. Of course, the news out yesterday that foreclosure rates skyrocket should come as no suprise to those following the data. If you are a renter, you are in the best shape in a decade. That last link is interesting as it shows that the housing market is responsible for any excess debt. Also, check out this data which shows pretty much the same thing that the economy overall looks good but it's the residential market where writeoffs and delingquencies are above historic lows.

Geeks among you might know that UK's Sky One has been airing the latest Stargate SG-1 episodes months ahead of the US's Sci-Fi Channel.

In fact, last night Sky One aired the Stargate SG-1 series finale.

We have had evidence for some time that the decision to delay airing in the US was not made with a deep understanding of the passion or technical savvy of the Stargate SG-1 fan base. Witness to both: already by today, at least two users have uploaded the series finale onto YouTube, in four or five less-than-ten minute segments, to meet YouTube's 10 minute per clip limit.

That's after the biggest Stargate copyright violator of them all -- who was uploading every single new episode of Stargate SG-1 and backfilling earlier ones -- had his account suspended.

At one point, illegal episodes of Stargate were so easy to find on YouTube, I had assumed that the copyright owner was being extremely progressive and tactful -- understanding that core viewership of these shoddy-quality uploaded versions is extremely likely to purchase the season DVDs in addition to watching the episodes online. Let them have their fun, and 99.5% of regular viewers won't even know about it.

But I was wrong: the copyright holders were worried about the impact of the 0.5%, but they were, apparently indecisive, lethargic, or incompetent.

Can it possibly be worth it financially to stop a couple of hundred, or even a few thousand people from sharing these episodes with one another?

And besides counterinsurgency, what can YouTube reasonably do to stop this insurgent community from taking countermeasures: opening up shell accounts for each episode, uploading the videos while misrepresenting the content in words, and distributing links among a trusted network? A loss of one account means nothing if multiple accounts hold identical content, or if files are retained by several seeders who can repost banned content to new accounts within hours.

Free Krugman

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For those of you who have been going through withdrawls the last couple of years( or however long TimeSelect has existed), NYT is making TimeSelect free to those with .edu addresses. Interestingly, I found this via Donald Luskin who I think has a secret man-crush on Krugman

GITMO

I was reading this SI piece by John Ondrasik where I ran across this interesting tidbit:

One of DD's duties is to patrol the American/Cuban border fence here. The NE Gate which was a transit point for Americans and Cuban base workers pre-Castro. After the Cuban Missile Crisis, Castro forbade Cuban citizens to work at Gitmo with the exception of 300 who were already employed at the base. Today only three of the 300 are left, crossing through the NE gate daily
Via Instapundit

IMF Criticizes U.K. Tax Policies

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O.K., The title I really wanted to put up there was IMF gives Brown a smackdown, but that would be over the top. However, it is interesting to note this news article I saw about the IMF warning of tax increases have negative economic effects. Quote:


Gordon Brown has lifted taxes to the highest level for more than 20 years, the International Monetary Fund declared yesterday.

In a hard-hitting assessment, it said the Chancellor's record of hitting families with aggressive tax increases was putting the nation's economic future under threat.

The Washington-based group said taxes must not rise any further, otherwise businesses will be driven away and households could be put under intolerable pressure.

It also warned that property was overvalued and that there may soon be a slump in the housing market.

The IMF pointed out that Britain's tax to Gross Domestic Product ratio - an impor-tant measure of the tax burden - was now at almost 38 per cent, a level it last hit in the mid-1980s.

Though, to be honest, I can't find the actual report on the website so this will have to do.

Where am I?

The real world continues to keep me away from blogging, sorry.

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