The Stingy News Weekly (01/10/2010)
The disposable worker
"When employment in the U.S. eventually recovers, it's likely to be because American workers swallow hard and accept lower pay. That has been the pattern for decades now: Shockingly, pay for production and nonsupervisory workers - 80% of the private workforce - is 9% lower than it was in 1973, adjusted for inflation."
Walk away from your mortgage!
"Mortgage holders do sign a promissory note, which is a promise to pay. But the contract explicitly details the penalty for nonpayment - surrender of the property. The borrower isn't escaping the consequences; he is suffering them."
Chavez devalues Bolivar 50%
"Chavez is trying to maintain spending for his 21st century socialist revolution as South America's largest oil exporter fails to emerge from its first recession in six years. The government is seeking to stem its falling popularity and the highest inflation rate among 78 economies tracked by Bloomberg ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for September."
Technology not always a godsend
"If you're a client of the online brokerage Scotia iTrade, you'll have an idea of what I'm driving at in warning about technology risk. Scotia iTrade is what Bank of Nova Scotia renamed E*Trade Canada after scooping it up back in 2008. Last month, Scotiabank set about merging iTrade's back office record-keeping operation with the bank's own system. Complaints to this column from iTrade customers began rolling in on Dec. 11 and they've continued right into the new year."
The worst footnote of 2009
"Voting for the worst footnote of 2009 ended last night and footnoted readers have chosen the disclosure by Chesapeake Energy (CHK) that it had spent $12.1 million to purchase Chairman and CEO Aubrey McClendon.s antique map collection."
The Iceland rebellion
"In many countries, taxpayers are rightly cranky over the idea that their governments are bailing out banks and others -- including their own regulators and central bankers -- who helped create the 2008 global financial meltdown. Iceland appears to be setting a new standard of taxpayer response that politicians everywhere might want to note."
Crash in China
"James S. Chanos built one of the largest fortunes on Wall Street by foreseeing the collapse of Enron and other high-flying companies whose stories were too good to be true. Now Mr. Chanos, a wealthy hedge fund investor, is working to bust the myth of the biggest conglomerate of all: China Inc."
Improve results with checklists
"What's a low-tech way to improve the performance of everyone from doctors to investors to airline pilots? According to Atul Gawande, it's the humble checklist."
Buffett gets Krafty
"The billionaire's warning against a bid for Cadbury could actually help Kraft nab the chocolate maker."
Government replaced jobs
"In the just-so story of the evolution of our economy, our old manufacturing based economy has been replaced by an innovative knowledge economy. That's not quite true."
"The right-wing hippie is a rare bird, and it's fair to say that most of Whole Foods' shoppers have trouble conceiving of it. They tend to be of a different stripe, politically and philosophically, and they were either oblivious or dimly aware of Mackey's views, until the moment, this summer, when Mackey published an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal asserting that the government should not be in the business of providing health care. This was hardly a radical view, and yet in the gathering heat of the health-care debate the op-ed, virally distributed via the left-leaning blogs, raised a fury."
Our white collar nation
"Farm productivity has exploded, increasing 1.9% per year over the last half of the century. At that rate, every 100 years, the same inputs on a farm produce 6.5 times as much foodstuffs. The percentage of the population engaged in farming dropped from 40% to under 2%, and yet we became a great exporting power in agricultural products. Similarly, manufacturing productivity rose 1.3%, on average, over the course of the second half of the 20th century."
Money for nothing
"Should you really take financial advice from someone foolish enough to write for a living? Run the numbers. If a typical author earns, say, $3 per book sold and the book sells 20,000 copies, then that's $60,000 in gross income -- before costs. But that may be for a year's work. We're talking maybe $30 an hour."
Note to Kevin O'Leary
"Mr. O'Leary likes to say that he wants to put his money in countries that have high GDP growth rates such as China and India, not developed markets in North America and Europe that have anemic growth. Mr. O'Leary should stop confusing economic growth with stock market returns and brush up on the vast quantities of academic research out there that shows that, if anything, the correlation between GDP growth and equity returns is negative"
"Over the past 4 years, XSP has trailed the returns of IVV by an annualized rate of 2.99%. A Canadian investor betting that the C$ would appreciate against the USD and opting XSP over holding IVV directly would have been right on the first count but made no money on the bet. The C$ appreciated at an annualized 2.73% against the USD but the tracking error of XSP wiped out all the gains."
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