The Stingy News Weekly (03/27/2011)
Curb your enthusiasm
"If you want to drive today’s investors mad with desire, try this magic word: dividends. There’s something about the promise of a high yield that makes grey-haired stock buyers turn giddy as 17-year-olds. It’s not entirely clear what gives rise to this intoxicating effect. Stock market historians say dividend-paying stocks have generally done better than their non-dividend-paying peers, perhaps because being forced to disgorge cash on a regular basis pushes executives to focus on their core business rather than lavishing money on the CEO’s pet projects. But paying a dividend, by itself, doesn’t guarantee a company success."
Home Prices Since 1890
"Are you one of those people who still thinks buying a home is a good investment? Perhaps some historical perspective will help. VisualizingEconomics provides a fascinating chart showing how nominal and real home prices have changed since 1890"
In Prison for Taking a Liar Loan
"It’s not just that Mr. Engle is the smallest of small fry that is bothersome about his prosecution. It is also the way the government went about building its case. Although Mr. Engle took out the two stated-income loans, as liar loans are more formally called, in late 2005 and early 2006, it wasn’t until three years later that his troubles began."
Public Pension-Fund Squeeze
"Some public pension funds are finding themselves caught in a squeeze between actuaries worried about future benefit costs and local governments worried about immediate budgets strains. The tension was on display last week, when California pension fund Calpers decided to hold its expected annual return rate steady. The fund's actuary had recommended that the California Public Employees' Retirement System adopt a more-conservative long-term investment expectation nearly a dozen local officials attended a meeting last week to urge Calpers not to change the rate."
"Modern economies, it turns out, are adept at rebuilding and are often startlingly resilient. The quintessential example comes from Japan itself: in 1995, an earthquake levelled the port city of Kobe, which at the time was a manufacturing hub and the world’s sixth-largest trading port. The quake killed sixty-four hundred people, left more than three hundred thousand homeless, and did more than a hundred billion dollars in damage (almost all of it uninsured). There were predictions that it would take years, if not decades, for Japan to recover. Yet twelve months after the disaster trade at the port had already returned almost to normal, and within fifteen months manufacturing was at ninety-eight per cent of where it would have been had the quake never happened."
Groupon no bargain at even half the price
"Let’s look at a couple of pro-Groupon arguments designed to counter this whole barrier-to-entry argument. One is that Groupon has “first-mover advantage,” which is said to be exceptionally important in the tech space. I was going to use my Netscape browser to access the Excite search engine to research this concept more, then share what I found on Friendster, but decided to move on to the next point instead."
How Carrots Became the New Junk Food
"The company has been around for nearly a century now, but it boomed in the 1990s, with a breakthrough product. A local grower named Mike Yurosek had become frustrated with all the waste in the carrot business. Supermarkets expected carrots to be a particular size, shape, and color. Anything else had to be sold for juice or processing or animal feed, or just thrown away. Yurosek wondered what would happen if he peeled the skin off the gnarly carrots, cut them into pieces, and sold them in bags. He made up a few test batches to show his buyers. One batch, cut into 1-inch bites and peeled round, he called 'bunny balls.' Another batch, peeled and cut 2 inches long, looked like little baby carrots. Bunny balls never made it. But baby carrots were a hit. They transformed the whole industry. Soon, the big growers in Bakersfield were planting fields with baby carrots in mind, sowing three times more seeds per acre, so the carrots, packed densely together, would grow long and skinny, for the maximum number of 2-inch cuts. Yields and profits climbed. The really big deal, the thing nobody expected, was that baby carrots seemed to make Americans eat more carrots. In the decade after they were introduced, carrot consumption in the United States doubled."
Trouble Lurks in Junk Bonds
"Risky bonds have been on a tear since 2009. But as the events in Japan and elsewhere fuel demand for safer assets, investors would be wise to exercise caution."
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