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What We Read Today 15 May 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".).


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Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Californians pressure retail giants to stop bottling water during drought (Al Jazeera)  Californians target Wal-Mart and Nestlé water bottling businesses as people cut water use statewide, question why giant bottled-water sellers continue to tap the state’s dwindling water supply during the worst drought in state history.
  • Chinese Hackers Force Penn State to Unplug Engineering Computers (Bloomberg)  Penn State University, which develops sensitive technology for the U.S. Navy, disclosed Friday that Chinese hackers have been sifting through the computers of its engineering school for more than two years.  Penn State offers a potential treasure trove of technology that’s already being developed with partners for commercial applications. The breach suggests that foreign spies could be using universities as a backdoor to U.S. commercial and defense secrets.
  • Boston bombing trial: Death sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (BBC News)  A US jury has sentenced Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death by lethal injection.  Three people were killed and 260 were injured when Tsarnaev, now 21, and his brother placed bombs at the finishing line of the Boston Marathon in 2013.


  • Greece to Privatize Port, Airports in Concession to Creditors (Bloomberg) Greece will continue with efforts to privatize the country’s largest port and regional airports as it seeks ways to attract investment for other state assets, Economy Minister George Stathakis said, in a government concession in talks with its creditors.  Econintersect:  While they are at it, privatize the Parthenon - it would make a great amusement park.




  • ISIL seizes main government compound in Iraq's Ramadi (Al Jazeera)  Officials say group has taken major complex, giving nearly full control over Anbar's provincial capital, Rramadi.  Anbar is the Sunni majority province west of Baghdad and east of Amman, Jordan,and is the largest Iraqi province in area.


Strategist: Asset Classes Around the World Have Been Infected With a Highly Contagious Disease  (Bloomberg)  According to Jefferies' chief market strategist David Zervos, the toppling of the German bund domino is currently rippling through other asset classes. He considers this a period in which all these popular trades will get hit as the market purges the good QE trades from the poor ones.  Zervos writes:

The Dollar, the U.S. bond market, and the European stock market have all recently become infected with a highly contagious disease. The source of this nasty fever appears to be coming from none other than the sleepy old German bond market.


5 Charts From the Week in Markets (Lora Western, The Wall Street Journal)  This interesting chart raises the question:  What is the appropriate "historical average" for comparison?  Not shown on the chart is the average for the last 20 years which is closer to the current value for this Robert Shiller defined metric that any of the averages shown.


Don't pile into this sector of the market until we're heading for a recession (Myles Udland, Business Insider)  Consumer staples outperform when the economy is getting ready for, going through and (although not in 2009) coming out of a recession.  Except they can also outperform when there is no recession - see 1993-1997.  So beware of the (un)certainty of investing rules.

Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

  • Icahn Invests $100 Million in Lyft (Bloomberg Business)  Lyft Inc. raised an additional $150 million, led by an investment of $100 million from billionaire Carl Icahn, raising the stakes in the car-hailing service’s rivalry with the much larger Uber Technologies Inc.
  • Money as an Apology (ProPublica)  U.S. military commanders in the field in Afghanistan had the authority to hand out compensatory payments to Afghans for loss of life, limb and property.  The program was officially known as “Money as a Weapons System Afghanistan”.


  • Just 38 Miles Apart, One Texas Oil Town Is Still Booming and the Other Is Dead (Bloomberg)  For the townspeople of Karnes City, it’s like nothing ever changed: Roughnecks pack into Stripes gasoline station by the dozens to load up on Doritos and Slim Jims at the end of their shift; giant drilling rigs dominate the horizon in all directions; and the roar of tanker trucks and industrial machinery is never-ending. Up the road 38 miles in Smiley, there’s nothing now. No workers in the fields, no rigs, no noise.
  • Inside New York’s Newest Architectural Masterpiece for the Mega-Rich (Bloomberg)  This is the ultimate in hoarding money through conspicuous consumption.  $70 million might net you the duplex penthouse of 53W53, Jean Nouvel’s MoMA Tower.  Econintersect:  For reference, see the following articles.  Using data discussed there for comparison, this $70 million "investment" produces no goods or services and has associated with it possibly a handful of jobs that would not be associated with a home worth much less, while the "true investment" might be producing marketable goods and services while employing 100-200 people.  This is why we suggest excessive consumption should be taxed and productive investment should be tax advantaged.
  • The Next Billion-Dollar Startups (Forbes)  Here are some of the less well-known startups that are ready to pop this year or next.  Today’s business playing field sports a herd of them—over 80, in fact. Companies such as Dropbox, Uber, Snapchat, WhatsApp and Pinterest have raised vast sums of capital and reached high valuations. But what does the next generation of top startups look like when you remove the billion-dollar expectation?  See next article.
  • America's most promising Companies (Forbes)  This 2015 list of 100 small, privately held companies does not provide data on investment made or market valuation (revenue and number of employees is provided) so we have selected from the list companies in two categories:  Revenue under $15 million (21 companies) and companies with revenue of $15 million up to  $35 million (18 companies).  If $70 million investment is assumed to be sufficient for two of the companies in the first group (we would guess investment averages much less), then the number of jobs for current employment for those two investments would be more than 200 people.  For the second group, with one $70 million investment assumed (again, expect the average would be much less) current employment would be nearly 150.

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