Friday, November 30, 2007

Fed Charty Goodness

The St. Louis Fed has improved their FRED database allowing you to impose various series on the same chart.

I've recreated one of my favorite charts contrasting unemployment versus housing starts, where drops in housing starts precede jumps in unemployment by 6-12 months. I see unemployment ticking up;

Thursday, November 29, 2007

NAFTA Did Work

I occasionally like to bring the specter of NAFTA up now and again because so many people dismissed it as this horrible thing and the agreement hadn't even been signed yet. A reminder that international trade is indeed a good thing;

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Why the Republicans Will Win the Presidency in 2008

I am fully confident now that whoever the Republicans tender as their candidate for president, they will win. And I base this opinion on two things;

1. Hillary is entitled to the nomination and no amount of common sense or strategy is going to convince democrat caucus goers otherwise. The power brokers of the democrat party are all pro-Hillary (just like all the Republican power brokers in the past were all pro-Bush) and no matter how flawed she is, she is going to get the nomination (though I think Barack deserves it more).

2. Hillary is unelectable to the masses, which to the democrats dismay is not them.

The only reason I recently came to the conclusion of number 2 is this jim dandy chart from The Economist right here;




19% honesty and morality?

The worst, the absolute worst thing to the Republicans the democrats could do is nominate Obama.

Which they won't.

Because (despite me disagreeing with him on every policy) I believe him to be an honest man and to the democrat power brokers he isn't "black enough."

Enjoy your own undoing.

And So It Begins

I always fathomed the glut of property combined with a low dollar would make US asset prices attractive to foreigners;

See story

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Happy Monday Morning!

Saw an interesting chart in Time Magazine (yes, got desperate, was waiting for an oil change and all that was available was Good House Keeping, People or Time. Choose your poison.)

In any case this chart was not only interesting because of the drastic difference between the populations of cities during the work day and not, but that it provides additional support for my call for corporations to fully endorse telecommuting to work. I remember working and living in Chicago and remembering how downtown Chicago was literally a ghost town when the work day was over and how the buildings were effectively fixed assets wasting away for 16 hours a day. You could literally do 55 MPH (sans the local representative of CPD) on city streets and probably drive faster down LaSalle Avenue than most small farming towns. But what I also remember was driving through Chicago and hitting the south side at about 430AM and seeing people QUE UP AT THE STOP LIGHTS ON THE ON RAMP TO THE INTERSTATE. Alas my call for mass telecommuting.

However, the chart also visually displayed something I hadn't thought of before and that was if telecommuting was fully pursued, then not only would the value of oil drop, but the value of another commodity would drop;

commercial real estate.

If massive skyscraper buildings were no longer needed to house millions of cubical monkeys, then their value would plummet like modern day condos.

Alas, this is probably the real reason corporate America doesn't want to endorse telecommuting.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

That's Your Political Platform???

Australia is doomed if a party whose platform is basically "signing the Kyoto Protocol" wins.

Not terrorism.

Not boosting the economy.

Not lowering debt or avoiding recession.

Not life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

No, we gotta sign that damn Kyoto Protocol.

Seriously, how frivolous is your party when you think this is the most important issue your country faces? And how luxurious are the people if they think this is the biggest issue in their country.

I wonder who they'll elect when a real problem faces the country.

My condolences to Frank.

Friday, November 23, 2007

I'm Moving to Taiwan,2933,312629,00.html

How Women Drive Housing Prices and Men Drive Rents

So I was researching different countries in terms of their government debt and obligation to future generations, and as I'm wont to do, I came across some other information completely unrelated to my current mission that I found interesting none the less.

Normally we look at the US and the US "housing crisis." As if the bubble was only relegated to here. However that is not the case. Not by a long shot. Many other countries saw property bubbles occur in the mid-2000's and are facing the same debacle we're about to here. And the best way to measure the degree of a bubble is house price to rents and/or house price to income.

I like house price to rents because it relates the asset (the house) to the true variable that drives and determines its value (rents). I took some of the highest bubbly markets and least bubbly markets to show relatively how bad/good the US' housing bubble was and while housing prices increased 38% faster than rents, compared to Ireland, the UK and our Canuck friends to the north that's only half the overvaluation they're experienced near 75%. Spain outdid us all with a doubling of property relative to rents.

The second ratio compares housing prices to incomes. This affects what I call the "girl factor" of housing. Men can live in dumps. Long as there's a shower stall, a toilet, a couple electrical outlets for video games, and maybe an indentation in a wall somewhere to install a bar, we're pretty set. We don't even need bedrooms as most of us sleep on couches. About the only "luxury" I considered as a guy was installing a urinal in the basement which would be really cool because I could show it off to my friends and they'd say, "Hey, Cappy's got a urinal! Wow! That's so cool!" Alas, if it were only men, all of the housing landscape would consist of slight modern caves furnished with electricity and plumbing. But women they like non-necessities like drapes.

Who the heck buys drapes? And what are drapes? Aren't they curtains? I looked into curtains one time, something like $200. Went to Michael's Fabrics and for $40 found enough black vynil that I just stapled over the window sills and now I have drapes... or curtains or whatever the heck they're called. Sure my house looks like a meth house, but I saved $160!

In other words, what men are willing to pay for are the functionalities of a property; shelter, shower and shaving and some video gamage. Women want to pay for the aesthetics of the property. Drapes, carpet, landscaping, location, fireplace, wall paper, neighborhood, furniture, countless labor hours spent on picking paint colors etc., which disconnects the price of a house from its rents. ie-women treat housing like a durable consumer good whereas men treat housing as a service.

Thus, what drives the price of housing then as women have more and more purchasing power (and as many married men I surmise will testify women are the ones making the decision anyway on all matters of housing) may not necessarily be rents, but incomes, as more and more women are will to pay for various non-rental attribute of the property.

Still, the same ratios more or less hold. Spain, Ireland, the UK and Canada are most pricey whereas the US kind of is in the middle.

Of note however is that three countries have particularly low price to rents and price to incomes;

Germany, Japan and Switzerland.

Maybe Americans should be looking to buy some nice properties in the Alps...hmmmm...bachelor pad in the Alps...with them Heidi or Helga girls from Hogans Heroes, pouring beer steins for me and my buddies...complete with urinal.

If We Shot All the Underhanded Mortgage Brokers...

I remember trying to buy my first house many years ago. The mortgage broker that agreed to finance me had me come into the office to sign the papers and on the closing costs were all the standard fees and then a "miscellaneous brokering fee" for $5,000. I then promptly declined their financing.

Sounds like the scum are still out there.

Business Friendly Environment

Ala Yearning to Breathe Free;

Seems the Small Business and Entreprenuership Council has ranked states on business friendliness.

The rankings located here.

Surprise surprise, California, DC and Minnesota are in the bottom.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Osama Can't Get It Up

Osama the impotent.

Seriously, he didn't even cause a recession in the US.

I know he's the most sought after man, but seriously, you want to talk about somebody who truly is irrelevant and really didn't cause or create anything, Osama Bin Laden is the quentessential definfition of failure.

If it's any consolation to the Americans that actually care about America, when he dies, he's going to be pissed off that he effectively did NOTHING bar bring about

So, if you really want to piss of Osama Bin Pointless, go out and kiss a girl, kiss a guy, have a martini, have premarital sex, listen to some Frank Sinatra, and continue on.

Happy Thanksgiving All!

The CDO Blues

I remember it must have been about late 2005, maybe early 2006. The bank I was working for was advancing loans at a "loan to value" of 80% and in some cases 85%. So if the property or asset was worth $100,000, we'd loan out $80,000 or maybe up to $85,000. I was looking at property prices and I said, "I think we should lower our loan to value to 75 maybe 70%."

The statement was summarily ignored.

Of course, like many things, now I watch various predictions (which weren't terribly hard to make) come true and see the same people with their pants caught down during Dotcom Mania sit there and scratch their heads today.

But the issue of what loan to value banks lent out at had larger effects than just for the local neighborhood bank down the street. It's having an effect throughout the country's banking and mortgage system as there are billions and billions of dollar's worth of CDO's, securities that were essentially mortgages packed together and sold on the second market.

The whole selling point or gimmick of the CDO was that, yes, part of the portfolio of mortgages were sub prime or worse, but the majority of the mortgages were high quality, triple A rated mortgages. The idea was to provide a slightly higher rate of return, but mix in different qualities of mortgages in the mix to lower the risk.

What's sad though, is that say you have a great borrower, low risk and so forth and so on. That may get you a triple A rating, but that doesn't mean you lent out $100,000 on a property that was worth $120,000. Matter of fact, given the over valuation and my now aging recommendation that banks lower their loan to values, it seems these AAA mortgages loan out $100,000, on properties that were only worth $80,000.

What I love though, is the now 20 cents on the dollar people are getting for loaning to a BBB- risk.

Alas, I'll say it again for the cheap seats, there was no lack of economists, analysts and just plain ol' smart people that warned about this. And all of it could have EASILY been avoided if you just had an economist in the house...or rather should I say LISTENED to the economist in the house.

Sadly, it seems in America it's more important not to rock the boat than prevent it from sinking.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Real Reason Al-Qaeda Thinks They Can Win


Will somebody please tell me what the heck this is???? And what man succumbs to this torture and humiliation? Seriously, I had a dog, very proud dog, named Pretzel. Small wiener dog, but still thought he could take on the world. And if you dared to put on a coat or shirt of some kind to protect him from the Minnesota winters, he would droop down in shame, grumble in a half growl/whimper as if you had put pink bunny ears on him, utterly ashamed of himself. Respecting my dog's wish to be manly, I never put that shirt on him again. And while he was shaking and shivering in the cold, at least he had his dignity and manliness.

Seriously, think about it. Al Qaeda would have thought twice about attacking us if Patton or John Wayne was in charge. And John Wayne and Patton would never be caught dead in one of these contraptions. But oh, no. Now me and the men in my generation have to be sensitive. We have to wear these reverse, pregnancy male backpack thingies. I'm sure it's a great deterrent to America's enemies. Maybe we can get themselves to laugh at us to death.

Ug, OK so I got a couple posts on this about "how dare you insult somebody with MS"

People, it's and ADVERTISEMENT FOR FOR ROCHE DRUGS. The woman is a model, so is the guy. They aren't actually married. I don't know these people. It is a SCANNED IMAGE from a magazine. The post is not about MS.

Monday, November 19, 2007

What I've Always Suspected

I respect the most ardent communist that believes what he or she is saying more than some wishy washy type that just wants to sit on the fence and refuses to have an independent thought in an attempt to placate everybody.

At parties in my youth you could tell these people as they would say things like;

"Well, Rush Limbaugh is certainly a great entertainer."

What the hell is that??? Arguably the most incendiary person in politics over the past 20 years and you have that "opinion?"

Same thing when they say "well, I'm an independent, I like to look at both sides of the issues and compromise in between."

As Margaret Thatcher said, "Compromise is the absence of leadership."

So seriously, I do respect people I completely disagree with more than some make-nice-with-everybody placator.

However, this chart from The Economist confirmed something I've always suspected of "independents:"

They're just democrats in disguise.

Note "independents" practically have the same numbers in this poll as the democrats.

Alas, Independents should just be called "Don't Rock the Boat Democrats."

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Why Oil Hasn't Hurt Us Yet

In middle school they gave you this token dabble in economics through social studies which consisted of a stock market game where you'd pick a stock, based on it's cool name and somehow thought that over the next three weeks there was some rhyme, reason or wisdom to be gained by this pointless exercise. And so this is how we introduce economics to our kids.

But another thing I did remember was two years later my sophomore year in high school where my economics teacher pointed out that every time there was a spike in oil there was an ensuing recession. Thrice this happened in the past 30 years of the chart he showed us, so I figured that was enough to cause a relationship. However since the latest oil embargo, our economy has yet to slip into recession when there's an economic shock in the price of oil. Matter of fact, the economy remains stubbornly resistant to recession in the face of not only the high price of oil, but a crushing credit crunch as well. But the reason is that we produce more GDP with a mere fraction of the oil we did back in the day, making the price of oil less effective on our economy;

Of course, don't count a recession out.

Friday, November 16, 2007

More Freaking Nuclear Power Please?!

I don't want nuclear power.

I want FREAKING nuclear power.

Everything is better when it's "freaking."

I want some ice cream.


I want some freaking ice cream!

I want to play some X-Box.


I want to play some freaking X-Box!

So while we do have more nuclear power than we did in 1973, shouldn't all of the coal in this chart be replaced with nuclear power?

I want to know where the environmentalists are on this since global warming is obvious a bigger threat than nuclear waste.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Rents Inevitably Drive Property Prices

The value of an asset is what you can squeeze out of it, not what you can sell it for.

This is why I always recommend to my students that you look at dividends, not capital gains when looking at stocks. And is why I recommend that you look at rents when looking at property, not because the house is painted a nice color or is near a Starbucks.

However, this howdy fine chart from The Economist is interesting in that it not only shows this relationship between rents and property prices but shows you nearly a decade of decreasing property prices as rents were decreasing as well.

Fortunately for the US and other housing bubble areas rents are not decreasing, but rather increasing or at least staying stable. The question is how long of a delay until rents again drive prices back up.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Latest 2007 Corrption Scores

I think the US will becoming more progressively red/orange as time goes on.

Note, Chile (ahem) the most capitalist nation in all of South America.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Economics of Stripping

Who knew?!

You Will Visit Political Calculations

A friend forwarded me this chart showing the percent chance of recession from day to day for the past four years or so.

It's from the web site Political Calculations.

And it's one of those web sites where you'll lose yourself for about 3 hours because of all the cool and different things you can calculate based on some models he's programmed;

Chances are your marriage will end in divorce

Chances of recession

And an outstanding model on the S&P 500

So go have some fun at Political Calculations, if for any other reason to calculate your chances of divorce!

Proof The Socialist 70's Didn't Work


"Great Society" my left foot!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Not Another Baby Boomer Drama

Despite the star power and all the hype, I predicted that Lions for Lambs would fail. And the reasons are many, but primarily two;

1. It's just isn't that great of an idea for a movie. People don't want to watch another movie thinly disguised as political commentary on the war. They get that everyday in the media.

2. I don't think the baby boomers that are now currently heading up the movie divisions in Hollywood, as well as Robert Redford, realize that their time has come and is starting to enter the "gone" stage.

Other generations, whose purchasing power has been increasing as we've entered the labor force really don't know or give a damn who Merrill Streep is. While she may have gained some notoriety in some 1970's movies, she, like Robert Redford are has beens. Not that they're not great actors, but over half the population associates closer to Tom Cruise than Merrill Streep. And seriously, the last movie I liked that had Robert Redford in it was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (which I think is the last NON-political movie he made).

Thus you have a lame premise, actors that are not timeless like Cary Grant or Harrison Ford, heading up what is essentially a political commentary.

Oh goodie! Let me get in line with all the other AARP members to shell out $9 to be bored off my ass.

And you don't have to believe me, just look at the numbers. American Gangster which is palatable to the masses is smoking Lions for Lambs, and American Gangster is in its second week.

the whole point is that the general American population, boomers, x'ers, y'ers or the Greatest, don't want to pay to be lectured to about politics, especially from the likes of Redford and the only people that are going to go see it are people who already agree with the film's political premise. And that if the big time Hollywood power brokers that be want to make big time bucks, they better realize that The Rolling Stones at the Super Bowl, Rambo XXIII, and Lions for Lambs no longer appeal to the masses for (I know this will hurt some of you)...

they're no longer cool.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Free Swan Blog...and Find Yourself a Husband

As some of you know my buddy Pete Swanson was sent to Iraq, but what I didn't know was that in Iraq blogger is blocked. Thus I got an e-mail from him asking me to make a post for him, which is the least I can do. So here is his post;

Banned, Challenged, and Oprah's Book Club

One of my favorite topics (some would say obsession)
is the American Library Association's "Banned Books
Week." Read samples of my work


and here.

So I was surprised to read this story

about Oprah Winfrey removing _The Education of Little
Tree_ from her recommended reading list.

"I am surprised, of course, that Winfrey would
recommend it," says Lorene Roy, president of the
American Library Association. "Besides the questions
about the author's identity, the book is known for a
simplistic plot that used a lot of stereotypical

Excuse me ALA? Why aren't you condemning Oprah for
"banning" a book by a guy who wrote segregationist
speeches for Gov. George Wallace? Does the ALA
believe that only concerned parents and taxpayers can
be guilty of book banning?

Blogger is still blocked in Iraq. Where is the ALA
when we really need them? Free SwanBlog!
On a side note ladies, Pete is not only a blogger extraordinaire and kettle bell lifter, but a major in the US Army as well as a professional corporate attorney, debate coach for youths, and solid hard working conservative. He also happens to be single, which to this day is the 8th wonder of the world.


I like the word comeuppance. It's fun to spell.

Sorry I haven't posted more regularly, been busy with the contributing to GDP thing.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Will You Women PLEASE Explain This to Me?

Doesn't matter if she's short or tall.

Old or young.

Blond or brunette.

Can somebody out there please tell me why it takes women longer to get out of the car than men?

Every time, no matter who it is, I park the car, turn off the ignition, open the door, step out, close the door and by the time I accomplish all these tasks the girl is still in the passenger seat, dilly dallying about.

And so I wait, patiently, for the girl to finally open her door and get out. And it's not that they're putting on make up or powdering their nose in the mirror or gathering their things, they're just sitting in the car. Nor is it them waiting for me in some bygone era day of chivalry to walk around and open the door for them. They're just sitting in the car.

I have things to do, places to conquer, items to buy and heaven forbid I have to go to the bathroom, because I have to wait for a solid 5 Mississippi count before they're out and ready to go.

Theories? Hypotheses? Anyone?

American Gangster

So I saw American Gangster last night and it hands down is one of the best films I've seen in a long time. However, American Gangster is more an appropriate title than you might think in that Frank Lucas (the gangster and now my new favorite anti-hero) is truly "American" in his entrepreneurship.

The whole movie is about economics and how Frank, who I doubt had his degree in economics, intuitively knew more about markets, supply, demand and business than most Harvard MBA's.

Most impressive was he was probably the first globalization drug-dealing pioneer shopping around the world for the best price of heroin, which landed him in Vietnam. This got him the goods at a mere fraction of the cost it was costing his competitors.

Also impressive was how he immediately established a brand name (Blue Magic) for the heroin packing it in little blue bags and didn't cut the heroin with flour or what have you. It was 100% pure and at 50% the price, which made it an instant hit on the streets. In one scene he even stops in at one of the dealer's club who had been diluting Blue Magic, repackaging it and then selling at as Blue Magic keeping the spread for himself. Rips him apart, not for trying to make a buck, but for destroying a "brand name." He says, "Pepsi is a brand name. Blue Magic is a brand name."

Throughout the movie, though I doubt the writers intended it (I think it was just how interesting this Frank guy was) lessons in economics are abound. There is supply chain management. How do you get the dope from Vietnam to the states. There is competition from other mafias and dealers resulting in cartels and monopolies. Quality management and insurance. Labor negotiations and, ahem, "working conditions."

So for all you educating economists out there, that seem hell bent on making the study of economics seem boring and dreaded by all college freshmen, do them and yourselves a favor. Instead of teaching from the book, have your students watch American Gangster. They can only learn so much from text books, they can learn a lot more about economics through the drug trade.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Old School Charts

This I found interesting because it shows you just how much monetary policy has changed since we switch to a fiat money system. I curious if any economists out there had studied the fluctuations between silver and gold and the supply levels of each and how these values played themselves out in the currencies (click on it to enlarge).

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Captain Reminds You To Vote

You may not think it's a big election, but just a friendly reminder this is where the school districts pose levies to raise more money for themselves, usually under the guise that it's "for the children."

And so I find it my patriotic and American duty to point out that more money does not equal better schools;

Remember, voting no doesn't mean saying no to the children. It means saying no to the teachers union.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

It Feels SOOOO Good!

If you ever were foolish enough to think that the "big wigs" over on Wall Street were any more intelligent or brighter than you are, think again. The only difference, LITERALLY the only difference between the average American Joe and some high flying big time banker is that the banker is connected to the nepotistic daddy's boy network and has no qualms about lying, yet has no real skills.

Sleep well tonight knowing they're having their comeuppance.

Maybe Citigroup would consider hiring outside their little incest breeding grounds?

Just a thought.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Whole Mess of Charts

I usually end my day late at night at the bar and because my schedule is somewhat hectic, I don't get around to reading The Economist much. So I bring The Economist into the bar and am able to read up on it there. Of course this draws attention, rolling eyes and some of the younger staff claim I shall never get a girl by reading The Economist at a bar. Regardless if I see an article or chart I like in The Economist I rip it out and save. Now that the Captain has one whole day off, I've decided to clean and came across a bunch of old articles I ripped out and figured it would be a waste to just throw them away
without posting the charts, so here they are;

Just to show you the level of the liquidity crunch that has occurred, I think this is the best chart that demonstrates that, instead of people trying to explain it via words;

I don't know how many times I have to beat the drum on this one. When ignorant fools come in and tell me that corporations are all powerful and own everything, then please tell me why they haven't exercised their power to lower their own tax rates here in the US? Also, gee whillikers schucks howdy, imagine that Ireland is at the bottom again. Why, oh why, does Ireland keep growing so fast?

I thought it was bad in the US. Remind me not to move to Switzerland...then again, I don't think the Swiss has the same subprime culture we do here in the US.

Again, how much more empirical proof do you need that capitalism works?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Top Performers, Top Pay

There's a concept, paying presidents and prime ministers based on the performance of various economic metrics. Of course Ireland's pay is fixed, it's just coincidence the best performing country is paying their chief the most.

The Not Efficient Allocation of Resources

How many 529 plans could be afforded with this?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Your Economic Chart of the Day

I had a theory that for lack of a better term I called "Mold Theory" where money is akin to bread. And if you have a social ailment be it crime, poor education, etc., if you throw money at it, it's like throwing bread on mold. All you're going to get is more mold. And I highlighted this by comparing government spending on social programs versus the most basic form of social ailment, crime;

But another interesting example of "Mold Theory" was found here.

Apparently the more aid that is sent into Palestine, then the more homicides there are.

I'm trying to think of a third variable that would cause aid to go up and then a year later cause homicides to go up, because I'm 50/50 on the aid causing the murders, but it wouldn't surprise me.