Saturday, December 30, 2017


The globe’s 500 richest people, as measured by the Bloomberg billionaires index, have seen the value of the wealth increase by 23% so far this year, taking their combined fortunes to $5.3tn. The increase is largely the result of booming stock markets. The MSCI World Index and the US Standard & Poor’s 500 are both up almost 20% so far this year. The UK’s FTSE 100 is up more than 6% – and hit a new closing high of 7,620.7 points on Wednesday.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is the world’s richest man. His fortune has increased by $34.2bn so far this year to take his “net worth” to $99.6bn. On just one day in October Bezos’s fortune increased by $10.3bn, when Amazon posted profits much higher than analysts had expected and the company’s shares spiked.
Bezos,53, who founded Amazon in his Seattle garage in 1994, owns 16% of the retailer. He also owns all of space exploration company Blue Origin and the Washington Post newspaper, which he bought for $250m in 2013.

 A century ago companies with far less market control were broken up. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Initial Jobless Claims


UNADJUSTED DATA The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 321,945 in the week ending December 23, an increase of 34,472 (or 12.0 percent) from the previous week. The seasonal factors had expected an increase of 34,036 (or 11.8 percent) from the previous week. There were 343,213 initial claims in the comparable week in 2016. The advance unadjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.4 percent during the week ending December 16, unchanged from the prior week. The advance unadjusted number for persons claiming UI benefits in state programs totaled 1,978,197, an increase of 13,146 (or 0.7 percent) from the preceding week. The seasonal factors had expected an increase of 5,808 (or 0.3 percent) from the previous week. A year earlier the rate was 1.5 percent and the volume was 2,117,870.

Nothing much to report as it has been for a year.   Seeing as it is the last report before the hugely unreliable seasonal adjustment season I thought is best to establish a baseline.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Holiday Sales; Blowout or Blowoff?

From the always reliable USA Today:

Despite thousands of store closings this year, Americans supplied a final flurry of spending to give retailers their best holiday season sales since 2011, figures released Tuesday show.
U.S. year-end holiday retail sales rose 4.9% compared to the same period last year, a welcome gift to U.S. retailers amid new signs of consumer confidence.
File photo shows last-minute Christmas shoppers at The Grove, a retail shopping complex in Los Angeles on Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017.
Richard Vogel, AP
Online retail shopping similarly increased 18.1%, while overall consumer buying during the holiday period set a record for dollars spent, according to the sales report issued by Mastercard SpendingPulse.
"Overall, this year was a big win for retail," Sarah Quinlan, senior vice president of Market Insights, Mastercard, said in a statement issued with the report. "The strong U.S. economy was a contributing factor, but we also have to recognize that retailers who tried new strategies to engage holiday shoppers were the beneficiaries of this sales increase."
Although the report showed the 2017 holiday shopping season from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24 was a winner for all retailers, the results differed by category. Retailers that succeeded tapped into:
  • Home goods. There was no place like home for the holidays for many shoppers, who sent sales of electronics and appliances up 7.5%, the strongest growth of the last 10 year. Sales of home furniture and furnishings separately grew 5.1%.
  • Heavy early-season promotions. They worked, with the first three weeks of November delivering significant sales increases.
  • Last-minute shopping. The spending spree lasted late into the holiday season, making last Saturday second only to the post-Thanksgiving Black Friday in terms of single-day spending. Jewelry sales rose 5.9%, largely driven by last-minute sales.
The findings were based on aggregate sales activity in the Mastercard payments network, along with survey based-estimates for other forms of payment, including cash and checks, Mastercard said. The data exclude auto sales.

 As sm-refugee asked in the previous comments.  Are the sales figures fake news or the just released consumer confidence numbers a big lie? 
The headline index fell to 122.1, making for a much steeper drop than economists had forecast. They were expecting a fall to 128.0 from November's 128.6, according to Bloomberg.
Consumers were more positive about present conditions but were mixed on the state of the labor market.
The percentage of those who said business conditions were "good" increased to 35.2% from 35%, while those saying business conditions were "bad" slipped to 12.1% from 12.3%.
People claiming jobs were "plentiful" fell to 35.7% from 37.5%, while those claiming jobs were "hard to get" hit a 16-year low of 15.2%, down from 16.8%.
"Consumer confidence retreated in December after reaching a 17-year high in November," said Lynn Franco, the director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. "The decline in confidence was fueled by a somewhat less optimistic outlook for business and job prospects in the coming months. Consumers' assessment of current conditions, however, improved moderately.
 My take is a little of both and a helping of tax uncertainty. 
• Sales; I think it likely the surveys are capturing more than ever with big data.  I also think people are spending bigger when it means smarter.  In the great Recession you didn't buy 6 months of toilet paper ar Costco even if it was by far the best deal.  
• Confidence; Last month was a big number.  a drop is expected.  It dropped a bit more than that but nothing near a trend break. 
• Taxes; No doubt many of the surveys were in the middle of the tax debate.  Uncertainty yields caution. 

What does everyone else think? 

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Day 2017

The beach near sm_refugee


The stockings being attacked with glee

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Alfred Ray Burrell Etching

Apologies for the slash lines but I've been unable to find anything about this image and none exists AFAICT on the internet.  If I'm going to donate it, it I want to protect the interests of the recipient. 

The cabin in the meadow suggests a very early etching. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

National Park Service, Another Swamp

Protest the massive fee increases:


Here is what I wrote:

Comments: "The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations." Either the NPS rewrites its mission statement or the NPS reconsiders the usurious entrance fee increase proposals as the fee schedules being proposed are antithetical to the reasons the NPS exists.
Comment ID: 1343126-83652/103756

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Olde Ways Are Best

Wishing everyone a solemn Alban Arthan as we honor the souls of the trees we sacrifice then deify in our living rooms. Hang the revered kerm-oak, drink the blessed wassail. "Yule" feel so much better. The Norse had the right idea taking 12 days for Jole. 

Oh and for all you recent religion adoptees a translation: Christmas, Christmas Trees, holly, sacramental wine and the 12 days of Christmas

Changing the name makes little difference.

Edit to add Finnish Santa goat tradition:

Monday, December 18, 2017

Slumdog Market Caution

Seems the Dow Jones is set to open 170+ points up this morning.  Supposedly over the impending tax changes.  If it sticks, 2017 will have the most new highs in history. Time to take some profits?

Thursday, December 07, 2017

National Monuments Are Not Parks

Kaiparowits Plateau Trump released from National Monument protection.
The Plateau in larger perspective.

I don't like a lot of Donald Trump.  I cannot shake the image of him as the Rodney Dangerfield character in "Caddyshack."  For the stuff I do like, most appears to be him doing the right things for the wrong reasons.  This is an exception.  Escalante Staircase is a true national treasure.  It deserves protection.  I have no doubt that if it weren't protected Federally it would be covered by State designation.  And there's the word; designation.  Not a "Park."  Not a "Wilderness Area."  Not "conservation" not "recreation area."  Not "Forest."  "Monument" was intended to be a stopgap designation to prevent looting or exploitation of sensitive areas.  Look at the pictures above.  Bill Clinton and in the case of Bears Ears Obama both overstepped.  Stepping back from overreach is not Trump being anti-environment or even anti-conservation. 

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Thomas Fire Behind Santa Paula


The biggest winds are expected tonight.
The Cross.  Grants Park, Ventura.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

The Canary is Tweeting

1765 Twin Lakes Rd, Wrightwood, CA 92397

Cute and cozy home surrounded by large trees and beautiful log cabins. Excellent opportunity to use as an investment as well. Currently home is used on AirBNB and listed for $120 to $130 a night, when rented. Very cozy home and don't let the square footage fool you. Home features one bedroom and one bath with a Loft. 

432 sqft

$428 per sqft

Why are we even talking about this?

Friday, December 01, 2017

Peak Trophy Property?

We considered buying this property in 95-96 and building. Look what happened to it since.What kind of insanity took hold that someone paid $799k in'04?

82 Lopaco Court 93010