Years ago the New Republic ran a contest to find a more boring headline than “Worthwhile Canadian Initiative”, a clunker from the NY Times. While it’s not quite as bad, Canada’s Journey to an Information Society is darn close. Nevertheless, the report from Stats Canada is interesting, at least to we policy wonks, as it brings together data and analyses to trace Canada’s economic and societal transformation to a more technically enlightened country. You can read the full PDF report here.
The current Forbes is cited by economist Tyler Cowan at Marginal Evolution as he makes an entertaining argument blaming mutual fund investors for their performance problems, as opposed to blaming fund trading scandals. In particular, he pulls the following factoids:
How much investors lost, over the last ten years:
Does this mean, as Alex argues, that mutual fund investors are their own worst enemy? Well, sort of. Certainly it is well understood in financial circles that investors trade too often, stick with misperforming funds longer than they should, and generally chase last year’s winners and ignore reversion to the mean. But it is slippery logic to create an equivalency between that behavior, over which investors have control, with other costs over which they have no control and incur without informed consent (e.g., crooked trades, etc.). Granted, the former costs are much larger than the latter, but that hardly absolves “crooked traders” of criminality.
The story this morning that one of the chief critics of market timing also profited from it puts a neat point on how tricky this issue is. During the middle of 2003, according to the WSJ, Stanford professor Eric Zitzewitz was advising Eliot Spitzer’s office while starting up a timing-trade operation. According to the story, he allegedly made $500,000 on $19.5 million in capital (10% annualized) during a three-month period this summer.
Most are focusing on the essential contradiction of having someone criticize the industry while (legally) profiting from it. I’m more mischievously sanguine, and am tickled that Zitzewitz did more than most finance professors and got his hands dirty in the market. More interesting, however, is how (relatively) poorly he did. Zitzewitz turned in only 10% annualized returns, as opposed to the 35%-70% annually he forecast from the strategy. Perhaps some critics are right: market timing is a money-losing strategy that just happens to be over-loved by the high-IQ set.
There is a fascinating meta-price market emerging at Ebay, according to this WSJ article. The online auctioneer is taking the natural step of selling, in volume, its sale prices. For example, it is tracking and selling price trends in everything from Sony DVD players to Ford Explorers. All sorts of people are using the data, from Intuit (tracking electronics price declines to estimate the value of charitable gifts) to the PGA (who are tracking the used-golf-club market). As has become standard wrongheaded practice, of course, the people most directly affected by this sort of thing — like Kelley’s Blue Book, the main arbiter of user-car prices — are myopically saying this will have no effect on them. They’re wrong.
In the mid 1980s, the top ten media companies accounted for almost half of total industry revenues. The figure was only slightly higher by the late 1990s. The January issue of Reason magazine tears into the myth of media monopolies, pointing out they are neither as common nor as powerful as some seemingly think.
Here is author and travel-writer Bill Bryson in a Financial Times interview this weekend. Apparently he’d like to write a travel book on Canada, but he has been told that is not such a good idea — and so he is thinking of writing a biography instead. Ouch.
At the moment [Bryson] isn’t working on a particular book but has 10 ideas he is researching. “I would absolutely love to do a book on Canada,” he declares boldly. There’s a pause as I struggle but fail to say something enthusiastic. “I find Canada fascinating, particularly its relationship to the US.
“But publishers beg you not to do a book on Canada. Nobody wants to read a book on Canada. Even Canadians don’t want to read a book on Canada! My wife would very much prefer it if I did a book where I stayed at home, which makes a book on Canada doubly difficult. So I also have ideas for other things like biographies.”
American Airlines Names Beer as New CFO (Reuters)
Reuters – American Airlines said on Friday James
Beer, a vice president for Europe and Asia at the world’s
largest airline, will be its new chief financial officer.
Skype’s VoIP ambitions
Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom explains why telephony is bound to wind up as just another application on the Internet. Further evidence (if needed) that I was spot-on with my WSJ OpEd today saying that both Vonage-style VOIP vendors and and incumbent voice-oriented telecoms are doomed.
Seoul tops, New York 4th, Toronto 10 in digital city ranking
The e-governance Institute at Rutgers University and a Korean university surveyed the online presence for 100 of the world’s biggest cities and determined that Seoul, Korea is the model cities should emulate when it comes to providing services and information to its citizens. New York was 4th, and Toronto was 10th. But New York was the only U.S. city evaluated and Toronto was the only Canadian city evaluated. Strange.
The Economist’s Buttonwood columnist, sounding more and more like Michael Lewis by the day, muses aloud the current ahistorical disconnect between the bond market and the economy — things are getting better in the economy, yet the bond market hasn’t fallen (as would ordinarily be the case). He/she/it concludes bearishly, even for him/her/it, reciting the bear’s mantra: “Oh save us from protectionism, private debt, and public deficit, so help me market.”