Link-Fest: Fact, Figures and Quotes

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My friend puts this together about once a month and sends it out to people via email. He does a great job so I am posting it below.
Facts and Figures
  • “The average office worker today…enjoys no more than three minutes at a time at his or her desk without interruption.” (I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it sounds about right. Source, and an excellent article, here.)
  • Japan posted a trade deficit in 2011 for the first time since 1963 (although it remains the world’s largest net foreign creditor, and its investment income kept the current account positive). (Source: The Economist)
  • Natural disasters caused an estimated $378 billion in damage in 2011, up from the prior record of $262 billion in 2005 (which included, notably, Hurricane Katrina). (Note: constant 2011 dollars. Source: Munich Re.)
  • Worldwide, there were an estimated 32 weather-related disasters resulting in damage of more than $1 billion each. The U.S. had 17 of them, and many countries (Thailand, the Philippines, Columbia, Australia, Brazil) saw their deadliest and/or most expensive weather disasters ever. And this all excludes the horrendous Japanese earthquake/tsunami event (a geological event) and Hurricane Irene, which was deadly and extremely costly, came very close be to being much, much worse. (For a great weather blog, see here).
  • “I really believe the drop in housing is actually on net going to make liquidity available for other sectors rather than being a drain going forward, and that will also get the growth rate more positive.” — Susan Bies, former member of Board of Governors of Federal Reserve (and current BAC director), in June 2006
  • “Of course, housing is a relatively small sector of the economy, and its decline should be self-correcting.” — Janet Yellen, Pres. and CEO of Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, in October 2006 (Note: her full comments weren’t quite thatdumb, but still.)
  • “We think the fundamentals of the expansion going forward still look good,” Timothy F. Geithner, then president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, speaking to his Fed colleagues in December 2006. He also said in September 2006, regarding the deteriorating data from the housing market, that“we just don’t see troubling signs yet of collateral damage, and we are not expecting much.” (The Fed releases full transcripts of its meetings on a five-year delay, and they make for pretty eye-opening reading. Note that this isn’t a shot at anyone, particularly Tim Geithner, but an attempt to highlight the fallacy of economic planning and forecasting that is so prevalent at the Fed and elsewhere. And to his credit, Mr. Geithner’s full comments are much more nuanced, and he also had the intellectual honesty and fortitude to pull a major U-turn in subsequent years, unlike many of his peers.)
  • Online Resources Survey — a friend is compiling a list of the best online resources (blogs or otherwise). Click here to participate.
  • “Retiring CEO of Costco Talks About His Legacy” — a nice article about Jim Sinegal, who has some of his usual sage advice about business.
  • China 2012: The Year of the Bull (Rogers) or the Bear (Chanos)” — a good overview of both sides of the argument by financial maven Janet Tavakoli.
  • Q&A with Markel’s Tom Gayner — a very insightful interview covering investing, insurance, and other topics.
  • Days of Easy Money Are Over for Fund Managers” — I agree that many, many funds are unsustainable, as are their fees (and the fees of the industry in aggregate). But I think the time it will take to effect this “historic transformation” is being underestimated. I also agree that the major tailwinds of the past few decades (particularly leverage, interest rates, and demographics) have led many to confuse genius with a bull market.
  • “Ten Impressive Psychology Studies from 2011” — I particularly liked #1, #2, and #4.
  • The Most Important Graphs of 2011” — another version of this exercise is here.
  • “The Top Ten Science Stories of 2011” — a good collection from Scientific American.
  • Adding Your Two Cents May Cost a Lot Over the Long Term” — an interesting article by super investor Joel Greenblatt about his recent “Formula Investing” endeavor. Several worthwhile and important implications for all investors, particularly of the retail variety.
  • “China’s Real Estate Bubble May Have Just Popped” — another good article, an op-ed titled “China’s greatest threat is internal,” is here.
  • “Cutting Buffett Helps Sequoia Fund Top Value Investor Rankings” — a nice article about Sequoia and other value investors. Another good read is this Q&A with Robert Goldfarb and David Poppe.
  • Tyler Cowen’s TEDxMidAtlantic talk on “stories” — a very interesting speech about the dangers of telling “stories” and other psychological biases. The transcript is below and the video is here.
  • “Lawmakers Lose in Markets” — lately we’ve learned about the scumbags in Congress who flaunt the laws that apply to the rest of us by trading “legally” on material non-public information, and now this. I don’t even know what to say. This is just a special kind of stupid, particularly from Mr. Gutierrez (D-IL), that defies explanation.

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