Saturday, November 28, 2020

The Midnight Fugue -- November 28, 2020

It's 11:01 p.m. CT, Saturday night. And so it begins. The "midnight fugue." Jerry Jeff Walker led me to Todd Snider who led me to Susanna Clark. Susanna Clark led me to Townes Van Zandt and the latter led me back to The Big Lebowski.

Dead Flowers, Townes Van Zandt

From the comments at that video link:

"The dude abides... I don't know about you, but I take comfort in that. It's good knowing he's out there. The dude, taking her easy for all us sinners. I sure hope he makes the finals. 
Well, that about does her. Wraps her all up. Things seem to have worked out pretty good for the Dude and Walter. And it was a pretty good story, don't you think? Made me laugh to beat the band... parts anyway. I didn't like seeing Donny go. But then I happen to know there's a little Lebowski on the way. I guess that's the way the whole darn human comedy keeps... perpetuating itself, down through the generations. 
Westward the wagons, across the sands of time until we... oh, look at me. I'm rambling again. 
Well, I hope you folks enjoyed yourselves. Catch you later on down the trail. Say, friend, you got any more of that good sarsaparilla?" 
I have no idea why, but I've never felt so touched by any speech from a movie ever.
The Big Lebowski

23 huge facts about The Big Lebowski.

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words -- November 28, 2020

As far as I know, the law of gravity is still in force in North Dakota. It looks like if the DAPL has to be shut down, several other pipelines face the same fate. 

The Bird Page

Some years ago -- in 2018, to be exact -- I bought a curious biography of Alexander Wilson, the father of American ornithology:

  • The Life and Letters of Alexander Wilson, Clark Hunter, c. 1983, hardcover, $25, Portland, OR. 

I've read it twice, trying to get a feeling for the ornithologist. Tonight, while reading Bolen and Flores' The Mississippi Kite I came across Alexander Wilson again. From page 23:

The first Mississippi Kite [that Alexander] Wilson shot became immortalized not only because of its dramatic portrait -- often considered one of the best paintings in American Ornithology [a nine-volume series authored by Alexander Wilson] -- but also because of Wilson's account of the experience. 

One can see the Wilson painting at this link. It's hard to believe but it appears the original is available for $800.

Today's Personality: Susanna Clark

At wiki

Todd Snider mentioned her in passing on his two-hour extemporaneous "celebration of a life" the very night it was announced that Jerry Jeff Walker had passed away.

Notes From All Over -- The Cape May Edition -- November 28, 2020

Link here: quotation of the day on the "privilege of prosperity" and "American privilege.

Prime Time Saturday Night
College Football

On network television:

  • an 0 - 2 team playing a 1 - 2 team
  • an 0 - 1 team playing a 2 - 0 team

Fox cable:

  • a 2 - 6 team playing a 2 - 5 team. Are you kidding me?

And it's almost December.

It's gonna be a long weekend.

Coach on sideline wearing a completely ineffective face shield. 

All that talk about safety for the players. 

Humor From Power Line

Cape May

Everyone, I suppose, knows of Cape May, New Jersey. Except me. I spent a year in New Jersey one summer, in a bedroom community across the river from New York City, Westfield, Union County, New Jersey. I don't think I had was even aware, at the time, that "the Jersey Shore" was a "thing."

The Jersey Shore

is the coastal region of the U.S. state of New Jersey. Geographically, the term encompasses about 141 miles (227 km) of oceanfront bordering the Atlantic Ocean, from Perth Amboy in the north to Cape May Point in the south.

I first came across Cape May while reading Sarah Weinman's The Real Lolita. Spoiler alert: the real Lolita, Sally Horner, was killed in a car accident riding back to Camden from Cape May with a "new" boyfriend. He survived. She didn't. She died, almost to the day, one year before I was born. She was fifteen years old. 

I read that a couple of days ago.

Yesterday, The Mississippi Kite by Eric G. Bolen and Dan Flores, c. 1993, arrived. After spotting and identifying a squadron of Mississippi Kites earlier this month, I ordered the book through Amazon. 

Wow, what a great book. So, I'm reading along, and there it was, pages 10 - 12:

Numerous other records of Mississippi Kites dot the geography of the United States, enough to indicate a more-or-less wandering coterie of individuals or perhaps an annual probe into as yet uncolonized regions. 
Among these we mention sightings of kites along the northeastern seaboard in New Jersey where, although the observations are of growing regularity, they are so far unaccompanied by confirmed records of nesting activities. 
One authority on the birds of Cape May suggests that these occurrences result when long-distance migrants "overshoot" their traditional breeding grounds. 

Wow, had I not read Sarah Weinman's book on a crime story, I would have passed over the reference to Cape May and would have never given it another thought. 

Along that same line, Bolen and Flores mention riparian habitats a number of times when describing the nesting areas of Mississippi Kites. Had I not blogged about the Bakken, it's very, very likely I never would have paid much attention to "riparian." 

Funny how things work out. And why I tell the granddaughters to never stop reading. Read anything and everything. As long as it's good writing, one will enjoy it and one will definitely learn something.

Another example: I'm listening to Todd Snider's "celebration of a life" after Jerry Jeff Walker passed away. He mentions in passing, busking, a term I had never heard before listening to the Spoon Lady on YouTube this past year.

Geography and language are so incredibly fascinating.

Rainy Day Funds -- November 28, 2020

Both links from the Pew Foundation.

The first link is from August 29, 2018, pre-Covid: "States make progress rebuilding rainy day funds."

A decade after the Great Recession began, at least half of the states could cover a bigger share of spending with rainy day funds than before the downturn. But most still had a thinner cushion against budget shortfalls in their total balances, which count rainy day reserves plus general fund dollars left over at the end of a budget year.

In fiscal year 2017, the 50-state total for rainy day funds increased for a seventh straight year to a record $54.7 billion, enough to run government operations for a median of 20.5 days, also a new high. Early estimates showed savings at near-peak levels in fiscal 2018, which ended in June for most states. The results will probably rise once missing and final data are counted in a year in which higher-than-expected tax revenue led a number of states to increase savings beyond their earlier estimates.

Even with rainy day funds at today’s peak levels, though, most states’ total balances could cover a smaller share of government spending than they could have heading into the 2007-09 recession. 

Now, fast forward to 2020, also from Pew, dated October 14, 2020, data points (numbers rounded):

  • 2020: states, pre-Covid had a record $120 billion in total balances, including $75 billion in rainy day funds
  • rainy day funds (budget stabilization funds): had grown for the ninth consecutive year;
  • on rainy day funds alone, state governments could run for a median of 27 days, a record high
  • prior to the Great Recession, they could operate for about 17 days
  • individual states
  • Ohio: has not dipped into their funds; waiting to see how things pan out
  • have completely exhausted their rainy day funds
    • Nevada
    • New Jersey
  • will reduce its rainy day fund by 60%; New Mexico
  • will cut their rainy day fund by half: Alaska, Rhode Island, California
  • Illinois: did not have a rainy day fund to begin with
  • ten states have already used rainy day funds to close budget gaps in 2020: AK, DE, MD, MI, MS, NV, NJ, NM, OK, RI
  • and, finally, this comment from the authors of the study -- 
    • “The withdrawals in Nevada and New Jersey marked a sharp reversal in two states that had made recent progress in replenishing their rainy day funds after emptying them during the previous downturn,” the authors of the report note. 
    • “In fiscal 2019, New Jersey made its first deposit in a decade, and Nevada surpassed its pre-Great Recession savings level for the first time.”

It's going to be interesting to see the 2020 data when it comes out next year (2021). A number of states, no doubt, are counting on bailout by the federal government. Some states are doing much better than I would have expected.

Merry Christmas -- Happy Holidays -- November 28, 2020


A reader noted that the Christmas tree in Williston is thirteen feet taller and one ton heavier than the one in NYC. Just saying.
  • From rockefellercenter:
    • 75 feet tall and eleven tons
  • from roundupweb:
    • Williston's Colorado Blue Spruce was donated by Tiffany and Jason Brevik of Williston
    • was cut down at 9th Street E and 3rd Avenue E
    • they had been trying to donate the tree for three years; it's an old tree; risk of falling on their house
    • the tree is 88 feet tall and weighs twelve tons
    • it was downsized by about 20 feet to ensure stability in its holder
    • it is located on the corner of 26th Street E and 2nd Avenue West
    • that would be where the "bypass" intersects US Highway 2 north of "old Williston"
    • you know, where Applebee's and a branch of First State Bank are located

ND #1: Ranking State Highway Systems on Performance and Cost-Effectiveness: North Dakota and Missouri Rank Best, New Jersey and Alaska Rank Last -- Source -- November 28, 2020

Link here.

In the overall rankings of state highway performance and cost-effectiveness, Reason Foundation’s 25th Annual Highway Report finds North Dakota, Missouri, and Kansas have the nation’s best state-owned road systems. In terms of return on investment, New Jersey, Alaska, Delaware, and Massachusetts have the worst-performing state highway systems, the study finds.

Of the nation’s most populous states, Ohio (ranked 13th overall), North Carolina (14th)—which manages the largest state-owned highway system, and Texas (18th)—with the second-largest amount of state mileage, are doing the best job of combining road performance and cost-effectiveness. In contrast, New York (ranked 44th overall), California (43rd), and Florida (40th) are in the bottom 10 overall.

The 25th Annual Highway Report finds the general quality and safety of the nation’s highways has incrementally improved as spending on state-owned roads increased by 9 percent, up to $151.8 billion, since the previous report. Of the Annual Highway Report’s nine categories focused on performance, including structurally deficient bridges and traffic congestion, the country made incremental progress in seven of them.

In the report’s spending categories, Missouri, Mississippi, South Carolina, North Dakota, and Tennessee reported the lowest expenditures per mile. New Jersey, Massachusetts, Alaska, Delaware, and Maryland had the highest costs most per-mile. In total, the 50 states disbursed $151.8 billion for state-owned roads, a 9.2 percent increase from $139 billion in 2016, the previous data available.

North Dakota specific data: North Dakota ranks 1st in the nation in highway performance and cost-effectiveness. Link here

North Dakota’s highway system ranks 1st in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is no change from the previous report, where North Dakota also ranked 1st overall.

In safety and performance categories, North Dakota ranks 21st in overall fatality rate, 42nd in structurally deficient bridges, 3rd in traffic congestion, 5th in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 5th in rural Interstate pavement condition.

On spending, North Dakota ranks 4th in total spending per mile and 12th in capital and bridge costs per mile.

 “To improve in the rankings, North Dakota needs to reduce its percentage of structurally deficient bridges. North Dakota ranks in the bottom 10 for structurally deficient bridges. Compared to nearby states, the report finds North Dakota’s overall highway performance is better than Minnesota (ranks 15th), Nebraska (ranks 12th), and Wyoming (ranks 36th),” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “North Dakota is doing better than comparable states like Montana (ranks 10th) and South Dakota (ranks 11th). 

North Dakota’s best rankings are in maintenance disbursements per mile (2nd) and urban area traffic congestion (3rd).

With only a few bridges in the state and the recent completion of the Long X bridge south of Watford City, the ratings in some categories should improve for North Dakota next year.

Week 48: November 22, 2020 -- November 28, 2020

Top story of the week: Taking Hillary's advice: President Trump has not conceded.

Most under-reported story of the week:

Top international non-energy story of the week:

Top international energy story of the week:

Top national non-energy story of the week:

Top national energy story of the week:

Top North Dakota non-energy story of the week:

Top North Dakota energy story of the week:

Geoff Simon's top North Dakota energy stories:

  • Oil price surges above $45/bbl
  • ND highways ranked at the top -- link here;
  • Long X construction photo archive available -- link here;
  • Tribes have not met "high bar" for DAPL shutdown - Bismarck Tribune
  • ND reaches 93% capture; production increases;
  • Inactive wells in ND increased by 1,000 in September;
  • EV manufacturers have a new hurdle: battery fires;




Sophia's top story of the week:


Investing -- November 28, 2020

I've come to the conclusion after thirty years of investing, that investing in companies that pay dividends is not the the best way to invest. But it's hard to get out of that habit. 

It's my gut feeling that retirees like me chase companies paying high dividends to raise cash to invest elsewhere. We might do better buying non-dividend paying growth stocks and taking capital gains (taxed at a lower rate, and taken when we want) in lieu of dividends. We just don't have that discipline, and it's so hard to sell an appreciating stock. It's natural to hold 100 shares of "something" in an account rather than 98 shares.

Disclaimer: this is not an investment site.  Do not make any investment, financial, job, career, travel, or relationship decisions based on what you read here or think you may have read here. 

Over at SeekingAlpha: best "Black Friday" dividend deals -- three value blue chips to buy now. 

Let's just cut to the chase:

  • ATT (T): 7.17%
  • energy:
    • Chevron (CVX) when it was yielding 7.7%. It has soared 37% since then
    • ONEOK (OKE) yielding 13%. It is up 30%
    • Enbridge (ENB) yielding 8.4%. It is up 13%
  • Prudential Financial (PRU): 5.6%

Then this article, mostly based on Kiplinger,  four other analysts. First list:

  • NRG
  • EPD
  • CVS
  • WMB
  • FANG
  • EOG
  • EXC
  • MPC
  • C
  • O

The second list, 39 companies:

  • NRG
  • CVS
  • EPD
  • FANG
  • LT
  • JNJ
  • EOG
  • WMB
  • EXC
  • HD
  • C
  • SRE
  • MCD
  • DVN
  • MPC
  • APD
  • O
  • NI
  • PG
  • PSX
  • COP
  • VLO
  • ABBV
  • KO
  • CVX
  • WMT
  • BKR
  • ETR
  • VZ
  • BX
  • AVGO
  • MMM
  • FITB
  • TXN
  • BXP
  • TFC
  • EMR
  • CFG
  • ETX

Second 39-stock list (mostly just a re-ranking); top six:

  • EPD
  • WMC
  • VLO
  • CVX
  • MRO
  • PSX

There seems to be a trend here. 

If natural gas prices and oil prices were to rise significantly during a Biden administration, this list could get much more interesting very, very quickly. 

And finally this, also from SeekingAlpha:

Layoffs swell at the House of Mouse
Walt Disney is letting go of 32,000 workers - primarily at its theme parks business - marking an increase from the 28,000 it announced in September, 2020. 
The cuts will go into effect in the first half of 2021 due to the "current climate, including COVID-19 impacts, and changing environment in which we are operating."

Disney's California-based theme parks have faced prolonged closures, while limited attendance at its parks in Florida has weighed on the company.

Internationally, Disneyland Paris was forced to close again late last month when France imposed a new lockdown, though the company's theme parks in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo remain open.
Worst haul in decades
The only major Thanksgiving title arriving in movie theaters this year is DreamWorks' The Croods: A New Age
At best, the film could reach between $10 million - $15million during its first five days. 
Comparing that to the last decade, the five-day Thanksgiving spread - consisting of the Wednesday before Thanksgiving through Sunday - has resulted in more than $230 million in ticket sales each year. 
The annual box office is already a fraction of what it was last year, tumbling more than 77% to $2.18B. Since August, when major theater chains reopened, through November 22, 2020, the box office has only collected $279 million (during the same period last year, the box office brought in $2.86 billion).

By the way, with the "movie" story, there's a bigger story here. 

Movie franchises are at huge risk:

  • the James Bond franchise
  • the MCU franchise
  • the DCU franchise
  • others of which I am unaware

Did you all catch the jab at Governor Newsom of California by the Disney statement?

The cuts will go into effect in the first half of 2021 due to the "current climate, including COVID-19 impacts, and changing environment in which we are operating."
And that's exactly right -- Gavin Newsom's draconian lockdown measures are much, much worse for the California economy than the disease itself.

By the way, see if you can find the ticker symbol for Dreamworks.

The Payroll Tax Issue -- November 28, 2020

If I had to name the most under-reported, most important (okay, most interesting, if not most important) story facing Congress right now, it's the Trump-deferral of payroll taxes (Social Security).

Look at the lede on this story in The WSJ, it's loaded with land mines:

WASHINGTON—President Trump’s decision to defer payroll taxes until the end of the year is leaving challenges for lawmakers to manage after he leaves office in January, and they haven’t figured out what—if anything—to do.

Members of Congress in both parties weren’t keen on the August executive action, which let employers stop collecting the 6.2% Social Security payroll tax from many workers in the final four months of 2020. The move was meant as a form of relief during the economic slump caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but few employers stopped withholding.

That created a predicament for Congress. Employees whose payroll taxes temporarily shrank will face double withholding starting in January, which could pinch households that haven’t planned for it.

Doing nothing could cause harm for those workers, but helping only them could be unfair to others whose taxes continued to be withheld

“No one will be happy no matter how that gets resolved,” said Mark Mazur, a former Obama administration official who now directs the Tax Policy Center. “It’s kind of like a no-win thing.” 
Mr. Trump couldn’t get Congress to cut payroll taxes, so he used the administration’s ability to defer tax deadlines after a disaster to delay payments of the employees’ portion of Social Security taxes. He promised that if he won re-election, he would push to turn that delay into a real tax cut.

The government offer applied to people making $104,000 or less, who could have as much as $2,149 in taxes deferred
But most employers balked, wary of potential complexities and costs of deferring the tax and arguing that the deferral amounted to little more than a short-term, no-interest loan.

“President Trump was waving his arm and saying don’t worry about it. You do worry about it,” said Rep. Richard Neal (D., Mass.), chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.

Official figures aren’t available yet, but payroll processor Paychex Inc. said take-up has been very low
The one big exception—which could create pressure for Congress to act—is the federal workforce, including many members of the military. Mr. Trump required executive-branch employees to participate. [A lot of military folks, I understand, voted for a Democrat this time around.]

Lawmakers, particularly those from the Washington area, support legislation to let employees decide whether their taxes can be deferred. As the weeks tick by toward the year’s end, that becomes less feasible

Based on what Washington always does, this is how it will play out:

  • Congress will kick the can down the road until Janet Yellen has been sworn in and allowed several months to express an opinion based on internal polling
  • in the meantime, Congress will extend the program on a voluntary basis with tea leaves suggesting they will eventually forgive what amounts to a short-term interest-free loan.

In fact, there could be a huge compromise in the works: forgive this short-term interest-free loan which mostly benefits the US military member in exchange for a $50,000-college-debt-forgiveness based on income.

By the way, I have no problem with the latter: a forgiveness of a $50,000-college-debt-forgiveness plan paid for by an "elite" tax on the Hollywood movie industry (to include actors) and an "elite" tax on professional athletes who claim to live in states with no state income tax. 

According to the IRS, payback of the taxes deferred:

  • 50% by the end of 2021;
  • the remaining amount by the end of 2022

The story said that a "typical" deferral totaled about $3,000 (the actual number was less but I wanted to round up). If so, then 50% of $3,000 is $1500 divided by 12 months = $125 additional withholding each month for the next two years. That's a fair amount of additional taxes for blue-collar workers. 

$3000 over nine months of deferral = $333/month extra money for the military member.

The Vaccine Poll Is Closed

The vaccine poll at the sidebar at the right is closed in which we asked "how soon will we see universal Chinese flu vaccination available in the US?"

  • by the end of the year, 2020: 18%
  • by the end of January, 2021, one month later: 22%
  • by the end of 1Q21: 25%
  • by the end of 1H21: 35%

"Universal" was defined as you and me could wander down to the local drugstore without an appointment and get the flu shot that would be covered by personal insurance with US government being the insurer or all resort. 

By the way, all indications are that all Chinese flu vaccines are a two-dose deal separated by six weeks, or thereabouts. It looks like the best regimen may be a half-dose followed by a full dose.

Dr Strange -- And I'm Not Referring To Dr Fauci -- November 28, 2020

I watched Dr Strange with our oldest granddaughter last night -- I don't remember the network.

But I digress.

Arianna brought me up to speed on the MCU and the DCU. Maybe more on this later.

One can start here but I need to move on.

I apologize for not writing anything about the Bakken (yet, today) but Saturday is my day off. In addition, my editor and spell checker is also off for the day. So, I take advantage of that and write about other things I enjoy. 

The Center Square: I'm adding this "news site" to the sidebar at the right. I had not seen it before. I know nothing about it, but it appears to be right up my alley as they say. If you go to the link, make sure you have the banner as wide as possible on your desktop so you see the pages across the top: About / States / National / Opinion / Donate. The site does not cover all states (North Dakota and South Dakota are notably absent). 

Warren Buffett

How Warren Buffett made history in 3Q20. The tag lines:

  • two ways Warren Buffet made history in 3Q20; and,
  • even for longtime Buffett followers, this was a surprise.

This is a long article, and it certainly seemed there were more than just two ways Buffett made history. This is well worth a read if you are an investor, and/or if you enjoy reading about Buffett (again). Just think, within my lifetime I will see the passing of Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger, Rush Limbaugh. Sad.

From the linked article, some data points:

  • over the past 55 years, Berkshire's stock has delivered a compound annual gain of 20.3%;
    • this more than doubles the S&P 500
    • overall, this works out to a gain of 2.7 million percent -- yes, no typo: a gain of 2.7 million percent since the beginning of 1965
  • he's not all that big on diversification: in Buffett's view, if you know what  your are doing, there's no need to diversify
    • nearly 90% of Berkshire Hathaway's invested capital is tied up in only three sectors: technology (surprising); financials (not surprising) and consumer staples (somewhat surprising);
  • the first "record":
    • 3Q20, stands out: a concentration in information technology
    • almost 50% of BRK's invested assets is in tech stocks
    • investments in tech stocks slightly surpasses that of financials in 4Q2005;
    • at no point in at least the last 20 years has a Warren Buffett portfolio been more concentrated in a single sector
    • but look at this: the concentration in the tech sector is limited to two stocks: AAPL and SNOW
    • SNOW (a very small piece of his entire portfolio) is valued at $1.5 billion in the BRK portfolio
  • the second "record":
    • the largest quarterly share buyback in history
    • between 2013 and 2018, the old policy didn't allow for any repurchasing activity because Berkshire's stock as never below 120% of its book value;
    • the new policy has two key rules and allows for more liberal use of the company's capital:
      • the company must have at least $20 billion in cash on hand before repurchases of common stock allowed; and,
      • both Buffett and Charlie Munger must agree that Berkshire's stock is trading at a discount to its intrinsic value (wow, one could drive a truck filled with Buffett's cash through that door)
    • 2Q20: an all-time records  of $5.1 billion re-purchase
    • 3Q20: $9 billion re-purchase
    • through nine months of 2020, the company repurchased almost $16 billion of its own stock;
    • Buffett has spent more money on repurchasing his own shares than buying any other stock since 2016 aside from Apple;

North Texas: Wow, Even The Robins Are More Exuberant Than Ever -- November 28, 2020

Beautiful, beautiful day in north Texas. Near DFW International Airport. It's hard to stay focused: the robins are chirping away. It seems I have never heard so many.

Wow, I'm glad Starbucks is closed. It would be on days like this I would bike to Starbucks and then sit there for six hours blogging. Now, in the comfort of my own home. Keurig coffee at 39 cents/pod and day-old donuts, six in a box for 99 cents (bought yesterday in anticipation for this morning). I will eat one and throw the rest away, but I'm not interested in any right now. Maybe I'll leave them out for the squirrels. LOL. 


  • TCM overnight -- The Fog (1980). Link here. I watched this movie last night, from about midnight to two in the morning; it was hard to watch -- but TCM always has a reason for showing what they show, so I watch
  • look at that A-list of actors (?), to include Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, and Hal Holbrook. The movie's budget: $1 million. Imagine how little these actors must have been paid if the budget included their salaries which I assume it did
  • Janet Leigh starred in this movie alongside her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis
    • the two also starred together in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
  • from wiki, Janet Leigh -- 
    • Leigh played mostly dramatic roles during the latter half of the 1950s, in such films as Safari (1956) and Orson Welles's film noir Touch of Evil (1958), but achieved her most lasting recognition as the doomed Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960), which earned her a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her highly publicized marriage to actor Tony Curtis ended in divorce in 1962, and after starring in The Manchurian Candidate that same year, Leigh scaled back her career.  
  • Hollywood: like it; hate it; tolerate it; whatever -- Hollywood fascinates me. It has to be an incredibly surreal place to live, both geographically and ethereally.  


Do you remember that BofA study recently posted suggesting that the "Zillennials" were now in charge. LOL. Well, yesterday, Finance!Yahoo suggested otherwise, link here. Unfortunately it's behind Barron's paywall and will have to look for it later. The lede:

Good things come in threes, it’s often said, and so it seems appropriate that a triple play of positive developments lifted the Dow Jones Industrial Averageover 30,000 this week.

Barclays equity derivatives strategists point to a “perfect trifecta of outcomes” for the rally: a “decisive victory” scenario in the U.S. elections; news of effective Covid-19 vaccines; and positive surprises on third-quarter earnings—an average gain of 18% for S&P 500 companies, with more than 80% beating expectations.

Ah, yes, here it is:

That apparently has individual investors rushing to take advantage of the good news, pumping some $31 billion into stock funds in this past week, on top of $49 billion in the previous week, Barclays’ Maneesh Deshpande writes in a research note. 
So it’s altogether appropriate that this public participation should lift the blue chips past the 30,000 milestone. 
The Dow industrials remain Main Street’s measure of the stock market, says Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial, even though pros look down at the venerable average and track the S&P 500 instead (even though it’s not without its own shortcomings). 
And it’s not the dowdy Dow of old, even with the return of Honeywell International (ticker: HON) to the 30 blue chips three months ago, because that longtime mainstay manufacturer is a different company than it was when it was removed in 2008, she adds. Further attesting to the market’s more inclusive nature is the Russell 2000 index of small-capitalization (and mostly Main Street U.S.A.) companies, which also hit a record high. 
The biggest change, however, is that older investors are finally getting on board, according to Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou of J.P. Morgan’s global quantitative and derivatives strategy team. 
To paraphrase the Who’s Pete Townshend, he’s talking about my generation, who no longer hope we die before we get old. (We already are!) 
“The older cohorts of retail investors that tend to use funds for their equity investments appear to have been partly responsible for the big swing in equity markets between October and November. Younger cohorts, including millennials that tend to invest directly in individual stocks or individual equity options, rather than via equity funds, appear to have played a rather modest role,” he writes in a research note. 
We geezers finally got with it this month, buying stock funds in November after selling steadily in the market’s recovery since the March lows and plowing into bond funds, according to the bank’s tracking of Investment Company Institute data. 
That had effectively acted as a drag on Wall Street’s rally, he adds. Using NYSE margin accounts as an indication of equity flows by the cool kids, Panigirtzoglou finds that millennials were active buyers off the bottom but kept purchasing in the correction during September, the most recent month for which data are available. 
Call-option buying has remained elevated since June, but the small players’ role in the swings of the past few months probably has been modest, he maintains. What’s striking is that the influx of buying that pushed the Dow over 30,000 came during the surge in new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, Prudential’s Krosby observes in a phone interview. 
Yet it’s always said that the market is a discounting mechanism, and investors clearly are looking past the present to a much brighter future next year when one or more Covid-19 vaccines are likely to be widely available. 
Goldman Sachs economists anticipate that the first vaccines will be administered to high-risk groups in the U.S., starting in mid-December, producing significant health benefits in the first quarter. With widespread availability starting in April, they look for a sharp pickup in global economic growth beginning in the second quarter. 
But “we’ve already paid for next year’s economic and earnings growth,” says Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors. Investors have pulled forward the anticipated positive outlook for 2021, he contends, which he sees producing 22% earnings gains and 4% gross domestic product growth. Arone sees the market’s strength persisting through year-end, although he worries that euphoria could take hold “when Uber drivers at LAX tell me what stocks they’re buying.” 
Sentiment measures are showing signs of froth, if not exactly irrational exuberance, with bulls topping the 60% level associated with near-term tops in the latest Investors Intelligence reading. 
The Dow’s surge past 30,000 has been noted everywhere, from the nightly newscasts to late-night talk shows, obscuring the signs of exuberance evident in the credit markets, even with the imminent end of the Federal Reserve’s backstop facility established during the near-meltdown in March. 
Exhibit A: $1.45 billion of 7.625% notes due March 1, 2026, from Carnival (CCL), the latest financing used by the cruise line to stay afloat during the pandemic. Yet even though the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has raised its travel warning for cruises to level 4 (“very high”) from level 3, the Carnival notes jumped to 106 after being offered at par (100) last week. That move—equivalent to a jump of 1,800 Dow points—lowered their yield to 6.27%. 
Yield-starved buyers are snapping up a heavy slate of offerings in the corporate credit markets, says Cliff Noreen, head of global investment strategy at MassMutual. With the overall high-yield bond market yielding less than 5% (and half of its issues paying 4% or less), Carnival’s 7.625% coupons looked like bargains, even with their middling credit ratings of B2 from Moody’s Investors Service and single-B from Standard & Poor’s. 
Another sign of this desperate reach for yield was Peru’s ability to issue 100-year bonds—$500 million worth—at a yield of 3.30%, 1.7 percentage points above the 30-year U.S. Treasury’s yield. But a new centrist government in Lima and a surge in copper prices to a six-year high evidently convinced global bond investors to lend to the South American nation for a century, as our colleague Alexandra Scaggs reported. 
Of course, irrational exuberance remains most visible in the stock market’s marquee names. Doug Kass, who heads Seabreeze Partners Management, sends along a fascinating factoid from Zero Hedge: As of Friday, the market value of Tesla (TSLA), at about $565 billion, has surpassed that of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B). The bulls would say the kids are alright.

I'll leave this up for a couple of hours, then take it down, for obvious reasons. But I will archive it. 


One of my favorite pastimes: getting past paywalls. LOL.

Chinese Flu Watch -- November 28, 2020

Later: for the archives -- ND breaks below 1,000! Before the vaccine is available -- this is a seven-day average, so unlikely due to an anomalous outlier --

Chinese flu watch. Overnight I noted some interesting trends. Interesting to say the least. ZeroHedge, meanwhile, asks whether Europe has broken the second wave? By the way, it should be noted:

  • if I recall correctly, there was evidence that smallpox was retreating even before the vaccine became available; and,
  • the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 - 1920 disappeared despite no vaccine ever being developed; and,
  • have we heard much about Ebola lately?

The Sources

Coronavirusstatistics. By country. By state.

WSJ - Johns Hopkins data.  


Where We Are

Exhibit A:

  • at the Johns Hopkins source, look at the "brown" US map. Definitely, without question the brown is not as dark as it was a week ago. It's quite startling. And neither the west coast nor the east coast is brown at all. Again, remember, no vaccine yet.

Exhibit B:

  • that colorful graph with the weekly new cases per 100,000 people. North Dakota, still at the top, has reversed direction suddenly. Just last week it was trending toward 1300, now it is clearly trending towards 1000. That's a breathtaking reversal -- and, yet, no vaccine. 

Exhibit C:

  • that same graph. South Dakota drops to fifth. Wow. And is now trending toward a very, very respectful 700.  South Dakota re-joins the "700 Club" with Wyoming (#2); New Mexico (#3); and, Montana, #4. As noted, ND remains #1 and SD is #5.

Exhibit D: at the worldometer site,

  • penetration rate (herd immunity/culling the herd):
    • North Dakota, #1: hits 10.1% -- new milestone for those looking for herd immunity;
    • South Dakota, #2: not far behind at 8.8%
    • Minnesota: a long, long way to go; strict lockdown efforts slowing opportunity for her immunity; penetration at a dismal 5.2% (#12 in the rankings)
    • the US, overall sits between South Carolina (#28) and Alaska (#29) at 4.1% -- a long, long way to go toward reaching herd immunity
  • deaths per capita:
    • North Dakota has not moved for days, weeks (?): at #8
    • South Dakota: takes huge jump from the mid-20's not so long ago to #9 today
    • due to population sizes, it's very possible that ND and SD will eventually displace NJ and NY in this category, currently #1, #2 respectively, today

Exhibit E: North Dakota at the worldometer site,

  • the reversal in active cases is dramatic; has ND broken the first wave (yes, check out the graph; this is ND's first wave; interesting, huh?
  • spike in daily death as reported November 24, 2020 (37), was clearly an anomaly of reporting; but if you accept it as gospel, then note the most recent data for November 26 (10) and November 27 (5);
  • the overall trend is down after a sharp jump corresponding to surge in new cases in ND's first wave which began in late August and appears to have peaked in early November
  • by the way, I mentioned in passing that the "shortage" of nursing staff in ND was to some degree self-inflicted, it turns out that state officials are now looking at that very issue; that they need to accept the "NFL standard," not the "NCAA standard."

Exhibit F:

  • all this is very interesting considering we have now entered (but still very early) the "cold and flu" season in which all cases of "seasonal flu" will be reported as Covid-19. Physicians have historically not tested for "seasonal flu" and I have heart nothing to suggest otherwise this year; but physicians test three, four, five times the same individual for Covid-19, and use the most sensitive testing available.


Link here.

Fast And Furious -- No, It's Saturday Morning -- Slow And Steady -- Thirty Minutes -- November 28, 2020

Chinese flu watch. Overnight I noted some interesting trends. I will get back to that later today. Interesting to say the least. ZeroHedge, meanwhile, asks whether Europe has broken the second wave? By the way, it should be noted:

  • if I recall correctly, there was evidence that smallpox was retreating even before the vaccine became available; and,
  • the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 - 1920 disappeared despite no vaccine ever being developed; and,
  • have we heard much about Ebola lately?


  • United/Pfizer staging Covid-19 vaccine in distribution centers across the US; anticipating FDA approval; The WSJ;


  • AOC may not have been as wrong as "we" think; Republicans continue to gain more seats in the US House. The Center Square. This is the first time I've linked this source; it will be interesting if the Google blogger app "lets it through." This reminds me of Hollywood and the censors in the pre-Code days.



US mail:

  • a small resurgence for snail mail; The WSJ;



Warren Buffett

How Warren Buffett made history in 3Q20

Tesla Hathaway To Sixth

Becomes the sixth-largest US company; surpasses Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway. 

Tesla Hathaway To Sixth