Thursday/ about that $45 billion 🤑

DETROIT (AP) — Tesla shareholders voted Thursday to restore CEO Elon Musk’s record $44.9 billion pay package that was thrown out by a Delaware judge earlier this year, sending a strong vote of confidence in his leadership of the electric vehicle maker.
The favorable vote doesn’t necessarily mean that Musk will get the all-stock compensation anytime soon. The package is likely to remain tied up in the Delaware Chancery Court and Supreme Court for months as Tesla tries to overturn the Delaware judge’s rejection.
– Reported by Associated Press

How Much MoneyHow It Can Be Spent
$45A decent meal and a beer at a restaurant
$450Cheap air fare (USA to Europe)
$4,500Business class air fare (USA to Europe)
$45,000A brand spanking new Tesla Model 3 EV
$450,000The very exotic 2018 Lamborghini Aventador
$4,500,000“You can’t do anything with five, Greg. Five’s a nightmare. Can’t retire, not worth it to work.” - from a scene in Succession
$45,000,000The most expensive house for sale in Seattle (in 2019)
$450,000,000A very expensive superyacht just like Jeff Bezo's OR two Dreamliner 797-8 jets
$4,500,000,000Provide Medicaid (healthcare) for 1.4 million Americans for a year
$45,000,000,000The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Paraguay
Also $45,000,000,000Elon Musk's pay package (in 2024 dollars)

Friday/ here’s Dow 40,000 📈

Happy Friday.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 40,000 for the first time today.
Is the US stock market overvalued? I asked the AI chat bot Chat GPT.
Yes— by a lot, was the answer (with some caveats, see below).

Thursday/ caveat emptor 🙇‍♂️

Caveat emptor
– Latin for ‘buyer beware’: the buyer’s responsibility to do due diligence before purchasing a good or service.

I’m happy to report that the inflation rate (over the last quarter) for my favorite breakfast cereals is 0%.

I buy these online, though.
The difference between the online and in-store price can be enormous, at least here in my neck of the woods (neck of the city).

Kellogg’s All Bran: $4.98 online vs. $8.49 in-store (+70%).
McCann’s Steel Cut Oatmeal: $6.98 vs. $13 in-store (+86%).

Wednesday/ here’s May 😉

The Federal Reserve has signalled that a series of disappointing inflation readings are likely to mean US borrowing costs remain higher for longer.
The Federal Reserve bank held interest rates at 5.25 per cent to 5.5 per cent, a 23-year high that has been in place since the summer of 2023.
– Reporting from the Financial Times

So – six months to go to the 2024 general election here in the United States.
Will a convicted felon be on the ballot for President of the United States?
Will the Fed have started to cut interest rates by then?
Will the Israeli hostages be free— and the war in Gaza be over?
What about the war in Ukraine? (I don’t think so).
Will the highly pathogenic bird flu virus A(H5N1) have mutated and become a threat to humans?

Friday/ the economy is strong 💪

Another month, another burst of better-than-expected job gains.
Employers added 303,000 jobs in March on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Labor Department reported on Friday, and the unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent, from 3.9 percent in February. Expectations of a recession among experts, once widespread, are now increasingly rare.
– Talmon Joseph Smith writing for the NY Times

It was the 39th straight month of job growth. And employment levels are now more than three million greater than forecast by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office just before the pandemic shock.- Talmon Joseph Smith writing for the NY Times
Lower-wage earners, for their part, are experiencing a job market less hot than a couple of years ago, when switching jobs in search of better pay and benefits frequently garnered double-digit percent raises. The market is, however, still providing opportunities for earnings growth not seen since the late 1990s, according to key Fed measures.- Talmon Joseph Smith writing for the NY Times

Monday/ crypto stamps? 🔗

I scrolled through a bunch of crypto stamps listed on my regular online stamp marketplaces last night.
Should I buy some? Just one, for fun?
They go for $15 to $50— or more, each.
They may be worth a lot more 5 to 10 years from now.
Hmm. No, I decided. Not yet, anyway. (I don’t own any cryptocurrency, either).

Crypto stamps are valid for postage, but they are really aimed at collectors— collectors of digital works of art, or of the collector’s interests (digital comics, video clips, tweets, emails).
The buyer gets a physical stamp, as well as a digital version of it, that has a non-fungible token (NFT) associated with it. (NFT: a unique cryptographic token that exists on a blockchain, and that cannot be replicated.)

United States Postal Service sold some Day of the Dead ‘Forever’ stamps in 2021 with NFTs associated with them.
From Austria Post’s website:
Crypto stamp 5.1 Lion The Crypto stamp is the world’s first stamp with a digital twin (NFT) in the blockchain. Launched in 2019 with Crypto stamp 1.0, it continues to evolve with each subsequent edition. With over 1 million crypto stamps today, it is one of the world’s most successful and consistent crypto and NFT projects. The King of the Crypto stamp series, the majestic Lion, proudly continues the celebrated legacy of animal motifs. The Crypto stamp 5.1 Lion, a unique and imaginative creation, stands out with its digital twins showcased in five captivating colors..
A crypto stamp offering from Liechtenstein, the German-speaking, 15 mile-long principality between Austria and Switzerland.
Crypto stamp from Croatia.

Thursday/ flirting with 5,000 🤩

The S&P 500’s (.SPX) forward price-to-earnings ratio— a commonly used metric to value stocks— rose to 20.4 times this week, a level last reached in February 2022, according to LSEG Datastream.
That puts it far above the index’s historic average of 15.7.

It isn’t unusual for valuations to climb along with stock prices, and equities can stay expensive for a long time before returning to more moderate levels. Still, some investors believe the index’s growing multiple has made buying into the broad market a less enticing proposition. The S&P 500 has surged 21% since late October, making new record highs along the way.

It briefly crossed the 5,000 level at the end of Thursday’s session, before closing just below the mark.
– Lewis Krauskopf reporting for Reuters

There was excitement on the CNBC channel today in the run-up to the close, but the S&P 500 ultimately closed just below 5,000.
The “Magnificent Seven” stocks— Apple AAPL, Microsoft MSFT, Alphabet GOOGL, Amazon AMZN, NVIDIA NVDA, Meta Platforms META and Tesla TSLA— now account for almost 30% of the S&P 500 index.

Wednesday/ the real interest rate 💵

The Federal Reserve Bank announced today that it is holding the federal funds rate steady.  (The rate  has been 5.25% to 5.5% since last summer.)

NYT Opinion writer Peter Coy points out (see below) that that means— with inflation coming down— that the Fed is actually tightening monetary policy.

Friday/ a soft landing? 🛬

The classic example of a soft landing is the monetary tightening conducted under Alan Greenspan in the mid-1990s. In early 1994, the economy was approaching its third year of recovery following the 1990-91 recession. By February 1994, the unemployment rate was falling rapidly, down from 7.8% to 6.6%. CPI inflation sat at 2.8%, and the federal funds rate sat at around 3%. With the economy growing and unemployment shrinking rapidly, the Fed was concerned about a potential pick-up of inflation and decided to raise rates preemptively. During 1994, the Fed raised rates seven times, doubling the federal funds rate from 3% to 6%. It then cut its key interest rate, the federal funds rate, three times in 1995 when it saw the economy softening more than required to keep inflation from rising.
– Sam Boocker and David Wessel writing for, Sept. 14, 2023

They all turned out to be wrong— those economists and money managers that opined a year ago that we would have a recession here in the United States by now.

The year is almost out, and jobs are still being added to the economy.

Lydia DePillis writes in the New York Times:
Employers added 199,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department reported Friday, while the unemployment rate dropped to 3.7%, from 3.9%.
The increase in employment includes tens of thousands of autoworkers and actors who returned to their jobs after strikes, and others in related businesses that had been stalled by the walkouts, meaning underlying job growth is slightly weaker.

Black Friday 🛍

Seattle is reportedly dead last on a list of large cities for spending on holiday gifts, per person. (The city’s 10.25% sales tax and relatively few shopping malls are given the blame.)
Nevertheless— I trust that the the profits from retailers had moved from the red to the black by this Black Friday.

It is sunny but chilly here in the city this weekend (high of 46°F /7°C today).
Here’s looking west towards the Olympic mountain range from Republican Street and 13th Avenue East, a few minutes before the sun set at 4.24 pm.

Friday/ working hard 😓

The US economy added 336,000 new jobs to payrolls in September: about double what analysts had expected.
The stock market fell at first (the Fed may have to keep hiking interest rates), but by the early afternoon, the stock market decided that the initial sell-off was overdone, and by the end of trading the Dow Jones Industrial Index was up by 288 points (0.87%).

Here’s how September’s job number compares with other months. The unemployment rate is steady at 3.8%, according to the Labor Department. Even though hourly wages have risen faster than inflation, housing unaffordability is still a growing problem.
[Graph and text from the New York Times]

Monday/ another mega-jackpot 💰

The estimated $1.55 billion Mega Millions jackpot for the Tuesday night drawing is one of the largest in U.S. history.

The odds to win the big prize is about 1 in 302.6 million.
Yes, you could buy 10 tickets and make it 1 in 30.26 million, but you would still be much more likely to be killed by an asteroid (1 in 1.6 million).

Update Tue 8/8: The largest jackpot in Mega Millions history, worth an estimated $1.58 billion, was secured in Florida on Tuesday night.
The winning ticketholder can choose between the massive $1.58 billion jackpot paid in annual payments or a one-time cash option worth an estimated $783.3 million.
The winning numbers were 13, 19, 20, 32, 33, and the gold Mega ball 14.
– From the New York Post.

The sign in the 7-11 store on 15th Avenue East here on Capitol Hill. Is $ 1.55 billion too much of a good thing? That $5.2 million prize for the Washington State Lotto would come in handy.
Should one take the lump sum, or the annuity option? From CNBC: Andrew Stoltmann, a Chicago-based lawyer who has represented several lottery winners, says 95% choose the lump sum option, which he describes as a “big mistake.” There are three “big drains” on lottery winners: bad investments, relatives who ask for money and overspending, according to Stoltmann.

Wednesday/ another rate hike 📈

The rate hikes have slowed down to 0.25 % increases, and it will take 6 months or more before the full effect of all the hikes are felt by consumers. By some estimates US consumers are burning through $100 billion per month of piled-up pandemic-era savings and government support. (Six months to go, then that’s gone). Also, many people still have home loans and car loans— and debt— taken out at very low 2022 interest rates.

The Federal Reserve raised the federal funds rate by a quarter percent today, to a range of 5.0-5.25%.

From the Wall Street Journal:
Powell didn’t rule out another rate rise at the central bank’s September meeting, but he emphasized how much the central bank had already done along with the amount of time it can take for monetary policy to cool inflation.
“We’ve come a long way. Inflation repeatedly has proved stronger than we and other forecasters have expected, and at some point that may change,” Powell said. “We have to be ready to follow the data, and given how far we’ve come, we can afford to be a little patient, as well as resolute, as we let this unfold.”
Fed officials have been concerned that underlying price pressures may prove more persistent as a solid labor market allows workers to bargain for higher pay, making it harder to get inflation down further.

Friday/ three big T’s 🍏

Happy Friday.
Apple is worth an eye-popping $3 trillion as of today.
(Microsoft is valued at around $2.5 trillion).

Apple’s stock closed Friday at $193.97, up 2.3% on the day and valuing the company at $3.05 trillion. Much of Apple’s current resilience rests on the strength of its iPhone, which accounts for around half of its annual sales.
[Reporting & graphic from the Wall Street Journal]

Thursday/ as the ceiling flew away 💸

We skipped the light fandango
Turned cartwheels ‘cross the floor
I was feeling kinda seasick
The crowd called out for more
The room was humming harder
As the ceiling flew away
When we called out for another drink
The waiter brought a tray
And so it was that later
As the miller told his tale
That her face, at first just ghostly
Turned a whiter shade of pale
– From ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’, song by the English rock band Procol Harum that was issued as their debut record on 12 May 1967.

10.58 pm, Washington DC
From the New York Times:
The legislation passed the Senate by a vote of 63-36, ensuring the federal government will not run out of money to pay its bills on Monday. It now goes to President Biden to be signed.

Thursday/ be afraid, be very afraid 😵‍💫

If you’re not afraid yet, you should be.
-Catherine Rampell, writing in the Washington Post about the latest debt-ceiling increase showdown in Washington (Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen raised the alarm earlier this week, saying the U.S. government could be out of options to pay its bills by June 1)

Apparently it was not enough that the Republican Party had pushed t****  and his now-convicted seditionist supporters on us for four years.

Now the House Republicans and Speaker Kevin McCarthy want military veterans, social security recipients— and really every American in some way— to pay for the previous Republican administration’s tax cuts.

Here are some scenarios that that will likely play out if the United States indeed defaults on its debt (as reported by Catherine Rampell in the Washington Post):
1. U.S. Treasurys get downgraded — as does virtually every other asset on earth.
2. Interest rates rise further for U.S. consumers, businesses and the government.
3. Global investors likely would sell U.S. dollar-denominated assets as confidence in them evaporates; the dollar might lose value in foreign-exchange markets.
4. Stock markets plummet.
5. Companies holding Treasurys suffer hits to both revenue and balance sheets.
6. There might be a scramble to close out trades that people would otherwise hold.
7. Some of the infrastructure underpinning large parts of the financial system (called “central counterparty clearinghouses”) could essentially get overwhelmed and go down.

Wednesday/ fed-funds now 5.0-5.25% 💸

“We feel like we’re getting closer or maybe even there.”
-Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Jerome Powell today, on whether more federal-fund rate increases are in the offing

The Federal Reserve Bank increased the federal-funds rate by another 0.25% today.
(So another message to the consumer to stop borrowing money, and to stop buying stuff that is not really needed.
The average credit card interest rate is now 24.25%, according to Forbes Advisor’s weekly credit card rates report. Inflation here in the States is now at about 5%.)

From the Wall Street Journal:
With the latest increase, the Fed has raised its benchmark federal-funds rate by a cumulative 5 percentage points from near zero in March 2022, the most rapid series of increases since the 1980s. The rate influences other rates throughout the economy, such as on mortgages, credit cards and business loans.

Monday/ buy bonds? 📜

The MSCI USA Index is a stock market index that measures the performance of large- and mid-cap companies in the U.S.
It was down by 19.46% in 2022, but up more than 20% in each of the previous three years.

It was a rough week in the US stock market last week, and today went better.
Still, the uncertainty around inflation and a recession in 2023 is not going to be resolved for several more months.

Writes James McIntosh for the Wall Street Journal under a heading ‘Markets History 101: It’s Time to Buy Bonds‘:
Even after their big falls, stocks still look very expensive compared to bonds. The optimism that started this year has faded, but investors continue to bet that long-run inflation will come back under control and profit margins will stay high. And many remain wary of bonds, even as yields approach 4% on the 10-year Treasury and are above 5% on six-month bills.

The central lesson of financial history is that, over the long run, U.S. stocks beat bonds. But buying stocks when they are expensive—at 18 times estimated earnings for the next 12 months, they have rarely been pricier outside the dot-com bubble and the post-pandemic boom—is a recipe for substandard returns.

Lucky Friday the 13th? ☘️

The largest lottery winnings ever is the Powerball payout of US$2.04 billion recorded just last year on Nov. 7, 2022.
As of today, and for tonight’s drawing, the Mega Millions prize is up to $1.35 billion.

The biggest jackpots in the world, both starting and awarded, belong to US Powerball and Mega Millions.
Both of the lotteries jackpot prizes reset to an estimated US$20 million each time they’re won.
This is larger than many lotteries’ biggest payouts!
The second-biggest starting prize belongs to Europe’s transnational star: The EuroMillions.
The top prize starts at €17 million and can grow with each rollover until it reaches the prize cap.

Update Sat. 1/14:  The second largest jackpot in Mega Millions history was sold in Lebanon, Maine (pop. 6,000) at the Hometown Gas & Grill. The winner hasn’t come forward yet.

The display board at the 7-11 here on 15th Ave. on Capitol Hill, where I had just bought 3 tickets for $2 each for the $1.35 billion Mega Millions lottery. I’m such a rank amateur when it comes to buying lottery tickets, that the clerk had to inquire twice as to exactly WHICH lottery I wanted tickets for (For the big prize— duh .. and it didn’t help that his accent make it sound like MAGA millions😆).

Wednesday/ interest rates: shooting up ⬆️

Fed officials voted unanimously to lift their benchmark federal-funds rate to a range between 3% and 3.25%, a level last seen in early 2008. Nearly all of them expect to raise rates to between 4% and 4.5% by the end of this year, according to new projections released Wednesday, which would call for sizable rate increases at policy meetings in November and December.
– The Wall Street Journal

Inflation sits at 8%, out of sight on this graph. So that interest rate number of 3.00-3.25 (the little circle) still needs to go up, and go up rapidly. Eventually, after all the crises in the world have subsided enough, we want a real interest rate of oh, 2%, 3% (nominal interest rate minus inflation). How in earth will we ever get there? (Brutal answer: By the Fed raising rates until they have killed the strong demand for goods and services and probably by putting people out of work in the process).