From the category archives:


DIY gasoline arbitrage

August 1, 2012

Who needs futures? Now you can arbitrage gas prices right at the pump: (And if that's not enough, it costs a dollar more just down the block!)

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Desperately seeking an informed financial community

February 4, 2012

A sweeping tip of the hat to Barry Ritholtz's guest blogger SilverOz, who was willing to call out the mad (tinfoil) hatters at Zero Hedge on their usual nonsense (emphasis mine): So Rick/Zero Hedge, unless you would like to argue that the population of the United States also grew by 1.5 million in one month (since […]

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I'm speechless.

August 16, 2011

Only Michael Arrington would propose something as absurd as a "wealth tax" and then use Donald Trump to demonstrate why it's not a crazy idea. And only Michael Arrington would take Warren Buffet, one of our generation's most respected investors and philanthropists, to task for daring to ask the government to raise his taxes. And […]

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A funny thing happened on the way to the downgrade

August 9, 2011

The most interesting thing about yesterday's market action was the behavior of the Treasury market: It rose. If the market collapse was really about investors reacting negatively to the United States' new, lower credit rating, why on earth would replace their stocks with a direct investment in that very same government? We can only know […]

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S&P's tit for tat

August 6, 2011

Thanks to the time difference, I went to bed last night thinking the markets had stabilized, but woke up to learn that the United States -- the unassailable risk-free issuer -- had been downgraded by S&P. This is embarrassing -- on S&P's part. As we all recall, S&P was blamed squarely for contributing to the […]

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Holographic GapMinding

November 30, 2010

Hans Rosling -- whose lectures are always fascinating -- is hosting a new documentary for the BBC called "The Joy of Stats." A 5 minute clip has been released on YouTube showing a faux-holographic version of Hans' GapMinder visualization package. The graphic overlay is very well done and lets Hans describe the data in an […]

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Chicken soup for the global economy

November 8, 2010

Just replace "technology" with "stress": (via Dilbert)

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What scapegoat?

June 16, 2010

Bad news if you're a government looking for a scapegoat; good news if you're a demonized "short" trader: A Brussels investigation into possible problems with speculative trading of credit default swaps on Greek sovereign debt in the wake of the country's crisis is understood to have found few serious flaws, triggering rumours that officials are […]

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Why can't I rent an ebook?

June 10, 2010

I know the NYPL will let me check out ebooks, but the result is wrapped in layers of DRM that tie it to my computer (or, with some work, a Sony Reader or B&N Nook). One thing I'm sure of: e-reading will succeed if and only if the text is truly portable across many devices. […]

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The jobs report, briefly

June 5, 2010

It's become poor form to take the jobs report at face value, and every financial blog out there is doing its best to reveal "the truth" about the misleading numbers. Most recently, the headline is that the 431,000 jobs which were added to non-farm payrolls included 411,000 temporary census-related jobs. Quick arithmetic reveals that this means only 20,000 jobs […]

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Toiletries (.com)

June 4, 2010

The NYT reports on, which aims to provide drugstore items over the internet. I'm having a hard time seeing how this is really interesting news. “Nobody is really buying toilet paper online,” Mr. Bharara said. “We’re trying to shift in a big way consumer behavior over all, and take share from offline.” Merely being […]

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What Europe Did

May 25, 2010

In a piece called "Laughing as you Sink," Clarke and Dawe explain the European Debt Crisis -- this is required watching: (And yes, my title stems from LOST withdrawal.) (Via The Big Picture)

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The world according to Putin

February 17, 2010

Via the AP: "As we know, the global financial crisis originated neither in Russia, nor in Greece or Europe — it came from across the ocean," Putin said. "In the United States, we see the same problems — massive foreign debt and budget deficit," he said.

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SIGTARP confirms: TARP an exercise in moral hazard

January 31, 2010

The Special Inspector General's report on TARP has been released from embargo. It concludes that TARP was unsuccessful, and even its (debatable) short-term corrections are overshadowed by the extent to which it has returned the economy to its previous bubble state -- "we are still driving on the same winding mountain road, but this time […]

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On revisions, episode VII

January 24, 2010

Via The Big Picture comes news of a rather substantial revision of numbers from last November: You may recall that consensus for November’s Durable Goods had been +0.5%.  The reported data was lighter than expected at +0.2%. Looking at the revisions the Census Bureau has now incorporated into the data, we see that November actually […]

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Great expectations

November 27, 2009

I've previously covered the danger of attributing meaning to a forecast which is obviously based on little or no information. In that case, it was the manufacturing survey, which one might dismiss as a more obscure measure. Recently, however, Ken Houghton has written a pair of posts on inflation forecasts that bring me back to […]

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We don't want no interest-free loans!

November 18, 2009

A long time ago, when I was first learning to manage my finances, my dad instructed me to prepay my credit card. This effectively transformed the credit card into a debit card by running a positive balance on the account. It was a great learning mechanism because it still required me to make monthly payments, […]

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Stepping back from the ETC confusion

November 17, 2009

Following the lead of an FT article last week, FT Alphaville went exploring ETC's (exchange traded currencies) and noted (emphasis mine): As for the investor... it means a potential upside scenario of receiving all of the performance of a currency index, for relatively low management fees, but without any interest or dividend (no carry trade here […]

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Unemployment: 10.2%

November 6, 2009

This chart from the stimulus brochure is looking worse and worse:

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On revisions, episode VI

November 3, 2009

I found this example particularly interesting, in particular because of the media attention heaped upon the twin positive readings of the ISM and construction spending numbers which were released yesterday morning. Construction spending was expected to decline -0.2%, but instead rose 0.8%. By now you can guess the rest: the previous month, which had been […]

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Pun watch: Chrysler edition

October 27, 2009

Front page of today's WSJ: Fiat Models to Drive Chrysler. On the plus side, the Alfa Romeo brand will be making its way to our shores.

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That Hertz

October 14, 2009

When you rent a car from Hertz, they offer three refueling options for when you return: Do it yourself (market price) Have Hertz do it ($6.89/gallon) Pre-purchase your refill ($2.89/gallon) On the surface, the pre-purchase looks pretty good. As the salespeople point out, "it's 20 cents below the pump!" But the small print is that […]

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Self-defeating systems

October 3, 2009

Last night, trying to catch a cab in a Manhattan rain, it occured to me that it really shouldn't be so surprising that so many of our systems fail exactly when we need them most. I was standing blocks from the nearest subway or bus and had no umbrella; I needed a cab to get […]

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On revisions, episode V

October 2, 2009

This is a huge revision: The so-called “benchmark revision” that was announced today will not formally be incorporated into the job figures until February, and could be revised. But the figures indicate that last March the government overestimated the total number of jobs by 824,000, or 0.6 percent. Its overestimate of private-sector employment was even […]

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The Yom Kippur effect

October 1, 2009

You may have noticed a minor obsession with traffic amidst TGR's usual fare, which is why I was especially interested in a recent Freakonomics piece called "A Gut Yontif for L.A. Drivers" (Gut Yontif is a traditional Yiddish greeting used on Yom Kippur - it literally means "good holiday"). The post's motivation is purely anecdotal […]

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Cash for who?

August 11, 2009

A visualization from GOOD of the top 10 trade-ins and new vehicles under the "Cash for Clunkers" program reveals an interesting fact: The top 10 trade-ins include 5 Fords, 2 Chevys, 2 Jeeps and a Dodge. You might recognize those names - they used to be powerhouse American brands. Meanwhile, the top 10 new cars […]

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The pundit's credo

July 28, 2009

A new study shows that humans would rather our advisors be confident than actually correct: The research, by Don Moore of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, shows that we prefer advice from a confident source, even to the point that we are willing to forgive a poor track record. Moore argues that in competitive situations, […]

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Asimov on perceiving the world

July 8, 2009

Via economist Dan Ariely's blog, this is what Isaac Asimov thought about perceiving the world through data. It is an implicitly Bayesian approach and brings to mind the famous Keynes quote about changing one's mind. Asimov wrote: "Don't you believe in flying saucers, they ask me? Don't you believe in telepathy? — in ancient astronauts? — […]

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Measuring fiscal boosts

June 25, 2009

Brad DeLong is an esteemed economist at U.C. Berkely, but I am confused by evidence he uses in a recent blog post. Brad uses the following graph to argue that the level of deficit spending through the current crisis does not even approach the level during WWII which he views as necessary to reduce the […]

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Truth in advertising?

June 15, 2009

I find this graph very interesting, not just because of any implied political statements, but for how it highlights the absurdity of economic forecasting and the potentially misguided trust we place in such numbers. The blue lines were circulated by Obama's economic team when they were pitching the stimulus bill in order to illustrate its […]

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