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What We Read Today 15 February 2015

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 (and sometimes longer ones) 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.

This feature is published every day late afternoon New York time. For early morning review of headlines see "The Early Bird" published every day in the early am at GEI News (membership not required for access to "The Early Bird".).


Every day most of this column ("What We Read Today") is available only to GEI members.

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Latest in 'biblical' series of snowstorms slams New England (Associated Press, MSN Weather)  With up to 6 and 7 feet of snow already on the ground some areas in New England another 1 to 2 feet is arriving today.  And its not staying where it is falling with winds gusting above 60 mph.  Tonight temperatures will be more than 40 degrees below freezing in some areas.

Unrelenting winter storms blast New England again (USA Today)  Another big storm due Tuesday.

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world






Islamic State





The Canadian housing market – in charts (Shane Obata, Sober Look)  Are we about to find out if oil is not the only bubble going to pop in Canada?


Why You Should Shy Away From Leveraged Dividend ETNs (David Fabian, FMD Capital)  Fabian is not high on the enhanced yield that leverage can bring because it also has an enhanced downside.

One mantra that income investors should always keep at the forefront of their expectations is that high yield = high risk. There is no such thing as a free lunch when it comes to balancing the spread between a credit-risk free U.S. Treasury bond and a high yield security of any variety.

I have been a staunch advocate of investors shying away from leveraged vehicles of this nature because they magnify price changes in both directions. The majority of investors I come in contact with typically have a conservative or moderate risk tolerance that would make an investment of this nature unsuitable for their needs. They simply wouldn’t sleep well at night knowing that their hard earned nest egg is susceptible to wild swings in value despite the commensurate higher dividend rate.

China's imports drop 20% explaining PBoC action; China watchers clueless (Walter Kurtz, Sober Look) There was a 10% miss on China's latest export data last week:

China's trade report this weekend was dismal. Exports dropped 3.3% vs. economists' consensus of a 6.3% increase from last year. That is a 10% miss, demonstrating that the global community of professional China watchers do not have a clue about the nation's trade dynamics. This is quite unsettling given the importance of China to global growth.

Big as the export surprise was, imports had twice the shock value:  20%!  See firrst graph below.

But the real shocker came from the nation's import figures. Imports dropped by 20% from last year as the nation bought less (or paid less for) coal, oil and other commodities. Economists missed this measure by a whopping 17%!

The result was a record trade surplus of $60 billion in a single month.  See second graph below.


A detailed look at the Middle East that might have been (Nick Danforth, The Atlantic)  In 1919 two Americans led a quixotic mission to get the region’s borders right.  Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, President Woodrow Wilson sent a Henry King, theologian, and Charles Crane, an industrialist, to develop a plan for the future geographic boundaries of the region.  The mission was a fool's errand because, unbeknownst to Wilson, Great Britain and France has concluded a secret agreement for future  governance of the region under their protectorates.  The Sykes-Picot Agreement gave France control of what is now Syria, Lebanon and southern Turkey; the British had control of what is today Israel, Jordan and Iraq.  The ethnic factors that were ignored in the British and French geographic settlement is very evident in the map envisioned by the Americans.

Click for larger interactive map at The Atlantic.


The Fracking Bust Hits Home (Wolf Richter, Wolf Street)  Good article but some things are over-stated.  Richter says that "never before has drilling for oil collapsed this far this fast".   And the includes the graphic which shows a collapse in drilling rigs nearly twive as large during the Great Financial Crisis.  And then he further distances himself from the doomsday implication by pointing out that oil production is still increasing and also that a similar rig count collapse for natural gas drilling in the past has seen many years of surplus production following.


Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

Greek Negotiations Continue To Support Gold Prices - Capital Economics (Kitco News)

Sharing the Prize: The Economics of the Civil Rights Revolution in the American South (New Books in History)

Apple's Surprise Isn't That It's Building A New Car But That It's Not Buying Tesla (Forbes)

The economics book everyone is talking about, but has anyone read it? (The Japan Times)

My Money Story: The economics of life in a wheelchair (MarketPlace)

Obama’s “middle class economics” is a good deal (The Californian)

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