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What We Read Today 04 May 2014

Econintersect: Every day our editors collect the most interesting things they find from around the internet and present a summary "reading list" which will include very brief summaries of why each item has gotten our attention. Suggestions from readers for "reading list" items are gratefully reviewed, although sometimes space limits the number included.

  • The Case for Lower Oil Prices (Simon Constable, Barron's) Global tensions are keeping the Brent crude benchmark at elevated levels but rising U.S. production is creating a glut of oil in this country. The U.S. price is based on the inventory at Cushing Oklahoma which has been drawn down as oil has been piped to the Gulf coast. Now that storage facilities along the coast are full Cushing should start filling again and that inventory is a key factor in the futures market. With the futures market overweighted for higher prices, any easing of uncertainty over the Ukrainian situation and Russian oil, combined with growing inventories at Cushing, could lead to rapid selling of long futures positions and a $10-$15 a barrel drop for WTI, according to Constable.
  • Amateurs versus Professionals (Bob Lefsetz, The Big Picture) Dozens of short comparisons between amateur and professional thinking and behavior. Very worthwhile reading.
  • How Cities Make Us Sick (& How to Get Better) (Brandi, Diets in Review, Care 2) Remember the old saying that we all must eat a certain amount of dirt before we die? Well this article says that if we successfully avoid the dirt it is bad for our health.

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  • Top 10 Cities With the Most Debt (Eric McWhinnie, Wall St. Cheat Sheet) The twenty largest metro areas in the U.S. have been ranked for personal debt. At the end of 2013 personal debt in the U.S. increased by $180 billion to $11.52 trillion, according to McWhinnie. He also says the average debt load "per consumer" (in 2014) is $25,927. Dividing the debt load into the total debt should give the number of consumers. The ratio is 444 million so Econintersect has some problems with the analysis. Perhaps the average debt load does not include mortgage debt. Consumer debt (including college loans but not mortgage debt) is approximately $3.5 trillion and that number divided by $25,927 is 135 million, very close to the number of households in the U.S. So it is obvious that the data summarized must be consumer debt not including mortgages.


  • Experimental Efforts to Harvest the Oceanís Power Face Cost Setbacks (Joshua Hunt and Diane Cardwell, The New York Times) How can you build something that is too expensive to be practical? After spending $8.7 million of U.S. government money to come to that conclusion the same group is going to Australia to spend $62 million of their money.
  • A Yen for a Mortgage (John Mauldin, Thoughts from the Frontline) John Mauldin has contributed to GEI. John is taking out a mortgage denominated in yen. According to his "bug in search of a windshield" theory the yen is headed for massive devaluation as inflation will ravage the Japanese economy. So if the yen devalues back to 1985 levels in the next few years he will pay back the loan with only about half of the dollars it would have been if denominated in dollars.


  • The Front Page 2.0 (Michael Kinsley, Vanity Fair) Kinsley maintains that high quality investigative journalism is not dying, in spite of the internet blogosphere and news aggregation sites.
  • Public and Private Sector Payroll Jobs: Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama (Bill McBride, Calculated Risk) When it comes to employment should Obama be considered "Republican"? For private sector employment his record looks more like Reagan and both Bushes than it does like Carter and Clinton. Looking at public sector employment his record looks like what Republicans say they would like to accomplish but never have, except for the first year and a half under Reagan.


  • Chernobyl: Capping a Catastrophe (Henry Fountain and William Daniels, The New York Times) It is 28 years after the nuclear plant disaster at Chernobyl, Ukraine and they are still trying to complete the clean-up and containment.
  • Lost Brook Dispatches: Peak Envy (Pete Nelson, Adirondack Almanack) For one who now lives more than 800 miles to the south of the high peaks, a chief regret is the distance to the glorious wilderness that used to be a focal point of his free time. Pete Nelson has shown better judgement with respect to the 'Daks' and spends much time there, writing beautiful pieces about their beauty, geology and history. In this piece he points out that this region has one of the top ten vertical drop ski areas in the U.S. and has Mt. Marcy which would rank top five in prominence if located in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana or Idaho. In th lower 48 it would rank in the top 10 for any state.
  • The Last Two Times This Happened, The Stock Market Crashed (Wolf Richter, Testosterone Pit) The last two times margin debt fell from a new high spike we had the stock market crashes of 2000-02 and 2007-09. So Richter's message here is: if the drop in margin debt is not reversed in the coming months then caution is advised.


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