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What We Read Today 27 February 2016

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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Topics today include:

  • Warren Buffett Criticizes Politicians' Negativity on the Economy

  • Warren Buffett's Annual Letter Annotated

  • NAR Ignores Self-limiting Nature of Housing Market

  • Don't Cure Cancer, Control It?

  • Sharp Rise for Oil Soon is Predicted

  • Ireland Has Rejected Dead-end Policies

  • Truce is a Victory for Assad

  • Partition of Syria

  • Reformers Have Lead in Iran Election

  • China Will Not Have to Devalue Again Soon

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • The oil market now has striking similarities to February 1998 when everyone was bearish.

  • An agreement to cut production on March 22, 1998 took traders by surprise and created a sudden, sharp rally.

  • Consensus is building for a production cut and announcement of one will create a short, but strong rally.

  • How you can use technical indicators and moving averages to determine when the rally is about to take place.


  • The start of a recession can only be confirmed in hindsight, yet several indicators are suggesting we’re already there.

  • An examination of payroll taxes withheld by the IRS suggests that payrolls are shrinking, and have been trending lower for years.

  • Restaurants also recently suffered a horrible performance which calls back to a steep drop seen in late 2007 that coincided with the Great Recession.

  • Lindsey Vonn injures left knee in crash at World Cup race (Associated Press, MSN)  The greatest woman skier of all time, and perhaps the greatest for both sexes, suffered another leg injury today.  Lindsey Vonn suffered a minor fracture in her left knee during a World Cup super-G crash in heavy snowfall Saturday but didn't rule out her start in a combined event the next day.  In a race delayed for three hours due to bad weather, the American slid off the course near the end of her run. She was brought down the mountain on a rescue sled and underwent tests in a hospital.  Vonn wrote on Facebook:

"Got caught in the soft snow today and crashed pretty hard.  X-rays showed I have a hairline fracture in my left knee and will get an MRI Monday. I will wait and see how I feel tomorrow to decide if I can race."


  • Yanis Varoufakis: Electorate has rejected ‘dead-end policies’ (The Irish Times)   Ireland has rejected Fine Gael and Labour’s “dead-end policies” and Michael Noonan’s “cynical” pledge to renegotiate cuts to Ireland’s banking debt, former Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis has declared.  Speaking as the Irish General Election 2016 results began to come in, he said the inconclusive general election result confirmed a pattern in Europe’s periphery, where the “old regime seems to be debased, but there is nothing new to replace it”.  Varoufakis said the Irish election results were entirely consistent with other elections in the periphery over the past year (Greece, Spain and Portugal). 


  • Syria Truce Comes With Price, but Not for Assad (The New York Times)  The pause in fighting may have the unintended consequence of consolidating President Bashar al-Assad’s hold on power over Syria for at least the next few years. Perhaps more important, if it proves successful, it may also begin to freeze in place what already amounts to an informal partition of the country, even though the stated objective of the West is to keep the country whole.  See next article.

  • Where Syria’s Civil War Is Intensifying (The New York Times)  The maps below show where some of the major groups were active from Feb. 7 to Feb. 13 and illustrate where the conflict in Syria has been intensifying.


.          Nuzra Front Presence (Al-Qaida Affiliate)

.         Hezbollah Presence (Iran Supported Group)

.         Russian Airstrikes


  • Rouhani, moderates make big gains in Iran polls-early results (Reuters)   President Hassan Rouhani won a resounding vote of confidence and reformist allies won 29 out of Tehran's 30 parliamentary seats in elections that could speed Iran's post-sanctions opening to the world, early results released on Saturday showed.  But the rest of the country has yet to be reported.  Tens of millions thronged polling stations on Friday for a twin vote for the 290-seat parliament and the 88-member Assembly of Experts, which selects the country's highest authority, the supreme leader.  Rural areas of Iran are traditionally conservative and there are no results yet reported from there.


  • What might happen in China in 2016? (McKinsey)  Millions of people being relocated from cities, fewer jobs, greater centralization, and more movie blockbusters are just some of the author’s predictions for the year.  The reality is that China’s economy is today made up of multiple sub-economies, each more than a trillion dollars in size. Some are booming, some declining. Some are globally competitive, others fit for the scrap heap. China has an increasingly diverse, volatile, $11 trillion economy whose performance is becoming more and more difficult to describe as one dimensional.

  • Here’s Why a Near-Term Yuan Devaluation Is Unlikely (The Wall Street Journal)  The Chinese have quietly re-instituted the yuan renminbi peg to the U.S. dollar and benefited from the pullback of the dollar over the past three months.  This has created a de facto devaluation of the yuan against both the yen and the euro driving a lower value against a basket of trading partner currencies.  For this reason the author does not expect the new dollar peg to be broken anytime soon.


Other Scientific, Health, Political, Economics and Business Items of Note - plus Miscellanea

  • UPDATE 1-Buffett rails against presidential candidates who talk down economy (Reuters)  See also next article.  Warren Buffett bemoaned the "negative drumbeat" on the U.S. economy from presidential candidates in his annual Berkshire Hathaway Inc shareholder letter on Saturday, saying they are misleading Americans into believing their children will be worse off than they are.  As a result of their dour outlook on the U.S. economy, many Americans now believe that their children will not live as prosperously as they themselves do, the 85-year-old Buffett said.   In his letter, Buffett said "some commentators bemoan our current 2 percent per year growth" in real gross domestic product, "and, yes, we would all like to see a higher rate."  But he said America's population is growing about 0.8% per year, and that 2% GDP growth equates to a 1.2% per capita growth rate.  Two statements Buffett made: 

"That [1.2% per capita growth rate] may not sound impressive, [b]ut in a single generation of, say, 25 years, that rate of growth leads to a gain of 34.4% in real GDP per capita."

"That view [children will less well off than parents] is dead wrong: The babies being born in America today are the luckiest crop in history."

  • Warren Buffett's Shareholder Letter, Annotated (Bloomberg)  The famous "plain talk" annual letter for the current year is reproduced in full with highlighting and notations.

  • Surge Pricing at Disneyland Could Boost Ticket Costs by 20% (Bloomberg)   Walt Disney Co. is taking a page from the Uber playbook, raising the cost to visit its U.S. theme parks like Disneyland as much as 20% during the busiest times of year and lowering them on typically slow days at its California resorts.  The six parks in Orlando, Florida, and Anaheim, California, are shifting to a policy that charges visitors different prices based on anticipated demand, with weekdays during the school year much cheaper than holidays. Previously, the parks charged the same price for a one-day pass any time of year.

  • Connecting the NAR’s dots (American Enterprise Institute)  Connecting the dots might be against the NAR’s (National Association of Realtors) self-interest. It is after all a trade association that thrives on sales commissions.  According to this article, that means the NAR will not state the obvious point that loose lending standards are driving a demand-supply imbalance.  The author then concludes the resulting price rises will push more people out of the housing market and reduce business for realtors.

  • Is Controlling Cancer Better Than Removing It Completely? (Medical Daily, MSN)  A new study suggests an interesting alternative in the fight against cancer: Rather than try to eliminate the disease entirely, focus on controlling it. The treatment is known as adaptive therapy, and if the human results resemble those observed in mice, it could change the way we view cancer treatment.  The new process uses much more easily tolerated doses of chemotherapy which  the cancer at bay instead of trying to completely wipe it out. This controls the cancer’s spread but also reduces the chance that cells will adapt to the treatment.  With the high dose therapies which wipe out cancer cells completely to create a state of "remission", if and when cancer returns it can be in a mutated form which resists treatment and is fatal.  The lower dose "containment" treatments appear to be much less susceptible to the undesired adaptive response of the cancer cells.  

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