Archive for August, 2006

Aug 28 2006

The Risk Pool

Published by under General

An article, “The Risk Pool”, in the August 28th. issue of the New Yorker provides a very interesting description of some demographic aspects of national and corporate financial competitiveness. While the preceding sentence probably makes the subject sound boring and probably unimportant, the article and ideas in it are not boring and are important.

The topic concerns the ratio that describes how many current workers are supporting non-working people (mostly retired employees in the case of companies but including young kids when considering countries). The case for spreading pension and health care risks more broadly is well made. In the telling, the author provides some interesting history on how and why the current private pension system came into existence. One striking comparison is the very number of retired workers supported by GM workers vs those supported by Toyota, newly arrived, in the US and how that will change in 20-30 years. I won’t repeat other examples nor recreate his story. Overall, I highly recommend it.

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Aug 23 2006

Yahoo Finance On Your Site

Published by under General

Yesterday, I noticed Yahoo Finance offered the provide html code which would embed a stock price graph and/or stock price quotes in ‘your’ web page. You get to pick a list of up to ten stocks and a couple of sizes and colors for the background. I gave it a try and found it was easy. The process ends with a short snippet of ‘html’ for you to add to your web site. Easy enough to do and here’s what it looked like. Of course, the Yahoo name is prominent and the graph links back to a page on Yahoo, but that’s okay.
yahoo on retrotech
However, this addin isn’t staying in the side bar for several reasons.

  • It’s not particularly relevant to the site.
  • The graphs are not accurate or consistent with the current price; e.g. a current price of 70 showed as 65 on the graph.
  • The html code is not valid xhtml.

But this little exercise shows in a small way how easy it is becoming to pull together the information one needs in a custom way. A simple ‘mash up’ in current web slang.

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Aug 13 2006

Hope you haven’t borrowed your share!

Published by under General

Among the numbers the US Federal Reserve keeps track of is the “Consumer Credit Outstanding” which includes all individual debt not secured by real estate: loans such as auto loans, credit card debt, other short and intermediate term unsecured debt. As of the August 7 report, the total consumer debt at the end of the 2nd quarter was a bit more than $2.1 trillion (i.e. $2,100,000,000,000). With the US population at just about 300 million that works out a neat $7,000 per man, woman and child. Since the end of 2001, that total has increased by a neat $300 Billion or $1000 per head.

The Fed also publishes a “Financial Obligation Ratio” which estimates the percentage of disposable household income that goes to fixed obligations: rent or mortgage, auto leases, home owners insurance, and property taxes. For homeowners the ratio is about 17.5% and for renters it is about 24.5%. The homeowner number has been steadily increasing since 1980 but the renters’ number has declined from about 31% in 2001.

Remember that averages are only averages and ratios have two parts.

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Aug 06 2006

ExxonMobil Comes Around?

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It takes a long time and a lot of wiggling for a large organization to change a publicly stated opinion which is why big organizations often tend to be, publicly at least, pretty quiet on public issues. Under its recently retired CEO, ExxonMobil was relatively out-front in denying the evidence for and significance of global warming in general and the impact of hydrocarbon based fuels in particular. Not surprising given what ExxonMobil sells, but somewhat surprising that they made as much noise about it as they did.

Well, that seems to be changing under the new CEO; one Rex Tillerson. In addition to an annual report with a lot of big numbers following dollar signs, they publish a “Citizenship Overview” covering their assessment of their performance on non financial measures like safety, diversity, environment, etc. This year in the Environment section, they’ve put a section on “Climate Science” that ends with the following paragraph.

   “Even with many scientific uncertainties, the risk that greenhouse gas
    emissions may have serious impacts justifies taking action. The choice
    of action must consider environment, social, and economic consequences,
    as well as recognize the long-term nature of climate change.”

To me, that’s a surprisingly positive statement. Still a lot of reservations and talk of uncertainty, but then science is rarely ‘certain’. Still, they don’t like the Kyoto Accord, but they do seem to be more accepting of the scientific evidence that we have a problem and say action is required!

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