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Mile(s) High Economics: Spotting Economic Activity from Space

I want to share another fascinating Economic study with you... this one from Brown University. The three authors, J. Vernon Henderson, Adam Storeygard and David Weil, were looking for a way to track economic growth in regions which have poor geographic connections, poor statistics, or have other impediments to useful growth tracking. Using light (specifically, light coverage in satellite photos) as a proxy for economic activity ("Consumption of nearly all goods in the evening requires lights", they state), they show the growth in productivity in remote regions using nighttime satellite pictures.

We'll Be Back...

California recently closed a $26.3 billion budget gap after resorting to issuing IOUs in lieu of checks on state contracts. The budget worked out to$15.5 billion in cuts and a transfer payment where California will take money from local treasuries toclose some of the gap. The rest is covered through various accounting gimmicks that would make Enron blush. California's budget compromises lead to many questions including the most important, "Does this fix anything?"

Beige Book Reactions

There are 12 branches of the Federal Reserve Bank: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas, and San Francisco. Eight times a year they get together and compile a report, the Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions, better known as the 'Beige Book'. On July 29, the most recent version of the Beige Book was posted. The summary reports, anecdotally, that conditions are moderating since the report issued June 10.

Betting on Inflation: 2009 Inflation Expectations

In an earlier article, I detailed how you could check on inflation expectations using information publicly available from the Department of the Treasury. Using the data they provide, it is simple to calculate the market's expectations for inflation over the next 5, 7, 10, and 20 Year periods. Let's take another look not at the 2009 inflation rate, but the expected inflation rate of the future viewed through '2009' colored glasses.

The Asset Allocation Bell Tolls

The way the financial community seems to be covering it, we are currently attending the funeral of Asset Allocation. Long live Asset Allocation!

A common topic on financial pages world wide web wide (a cheer for alliteration?) is about the supposed death of asset allocation. Asset Allocation is the idea that the best retirement play for most investors is to allocate financial resources among a number of investment baskets. Supposedly by spreading one's investments across a diverse set of asset classes it is possible to catch the hot performance in any corner of the market while absorbing any shocks in other corners. Of course, the uninspiring performance of asset classes during the 'Great Recession' seem to throw this theory into question. Read on and decide for yourself if we need to find some pallbearers for this financial heavyweight.

When in Doubt... Sue Yourself!

Before I read this article, I could not imagine a scenario which would lead a company to sue itself. Yes; you read that correctly. Wells Fargo is suing itself in Florida in order to facilitate the foreclosure of a property in which it has multiple liens.

Investing in Real Estate

Investing in real estate? Too Soon!

Just kidding. Real estate investing is not limited to house 'flipping' or becoming a landlord. There are other ways to play real estate - to the downside or the upside. Real estate investing can cover much more than simply buying residential property to rent or resell. Read on for a look at a few of those 'other' forms.

On Cigarette Laws and Pigovian Taxes, Part II

This is part two of a two part series discussing cigarette laws and pigovian taxes. Pigovian taxes are excise taxes placed on a market to correct a market income, presumably because a negative externality such as health risk or pollution that is inherent in the good traded.

On Cigarette Laws and Pigovian Taxes, Part I

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control is a newly-enacted federal law that gives the FDA regulatory power over the tobacco industry, among other provisions that attempt to dissuade misleading advertisement on young and old smokers alike. The law was signed into effect on June 22, 2009.

There were two major advertising provisions contained in the law. The first was that over 50% of the front and back of every cigarette pack must be warnings with a giant ‘WARNING’ in capital letters . The second, and maybe more important, is the banning of the use of words ‘light’, ‘mild’ or ‘low’.