Friday, May 29, 2009

Long-Term Returns in the Housing Market

This article from the Wall Street Journal seems pretty solid. Let me know if you can see any flaws. The bottom line is that you shouldn't pay any more to own than to rent a house (principal + interest) because the real capital gains about match the other costs including maintenance and property taxes. Of course, that ignores any utility you get from owning rather than renting...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

George Friedman

If you've been around the investment blogosphere for a while, you've probably come across the writings of George Friedman, CEO of Stratfor, a "private global intelligence firm". Today, I heard George Friedman of Stratfor speak here in Australia. I guess it was part of his global book tour. His book - the next 100 years - was on sale. Usually, I don't read the stuff he writes as it seems very boring to me. I often rely on the spin a friend in Hong Kong puts on his stuff (usually negative). It was much better in person in that regard. He started out pretty well talking about the constraints that political leaders like Obama face and the lack of choice they have with some reference to Machiavelli. He then went on to say what one would have liked to predict about the 20th century and that covered three of the major points - decline of European powers, quadrupling of global population and rise of transport and telecommunications technology. After that, the stuff about Turkey or Poland as "great powers" that I've heard mentioned in regard to his book was OK but speculative when conditioned on "only because the US will invest in Poland like in S. Korea". But whenever he talked about my areas of expertise in economics and energy or to some degree about China he made little sense and sounded very clueless or flat out wrong. For example, he stated that space based solar is inevitable because land based solar would need so much land it would be an "ecological disaster". The latter is clearly not true and no-one I know who knows anything about energy thinks that the gains from 24/7 cloudfree solar could overcome the energy costs of launching a satellite. At least not with any current technology for the size of the solar collector. His other stuff about capitalism requiring a rising price of land which can only occur due to population growth made no sense to me either... and so forth. I didn't have a very high opinion of Stratfor going in - most bloggers like John Mauldin think he is great - and this didn't change my opinion.