Archive | June 2017


Humans! What Are They Good For?


It looks like the world is turning against humans. I’ve talked before about the rise of robots in manufacturing (2016 Angeles Independent School Endowment Symposium…see graph below). But robots are taking on increasingly more complicated tasks. We may be comfortable with robots assembling our cars (although the UAW may take exception), but most us will soon be forced to shift our perception of our family physician from Robert Young (aka, Marcus Welby, MD, which is showing my age) to Da Vinci (no, not Leonardo…see photos below). The Rise of Robots, The Descent of Humans It seems that investors, too, have Read More


Beware Parabolas and Populists


In scouring the world for investment opportunities, the chart above caught my attention. It shows the year-to-date performance of the Caracas stock exchange, more than tripling from around 30,000 to over 100,000 today. Did we miss a chance to make a lot of money? Well, no. The stock market has tripled because the currency has lost all value. The official USD exchange rate of the bolivar is 10:1; 10 bolivares buys 1 US dollar. But the official exchange rate is a fantasy: the actual exchange rate is 7,500:1 (see graph below from That’s a 75,000 percent depreciation from the Read More


Economics in Action


The intersection of supply and demand determines price and quantity: there is no more fundamental principle of economics (see graph below). We rarely see this principle in action because prices for most consumer goods and services change little week-to-week. All that means is the market maintains a constant equilibrium (which is set by the price) of supply and demand: either there is little change in supply or demand, or the changes are very modest, and market forces adjust quickly to maintain that equilibrium. Commodity prices are much more volatile than consumer goods prices, meaning there are frequent “shocks” either to Read More


Job Growth is Falling. The Sky is Not.


Today’s jobs report was disappointing: only 138,000 net new jobs created in May (the consensus had it pegged at 182,000), another 66,000 lost in revisions to the prior two months, the three-month average is trending lower with declines across all industries. Oh no! Treasury yields plunged today to the lowest levels since November, erasing all of the move following the election. Let’s look at the employment data more closely. The first graph below shows the monthly change in non-farm payrolls over the past five years. The series is volatile, and the May print is below the average of this period, Read More