Archive by topic: Economy

Windows 8/Surface–my analysis and prediction

November 25th, 2012

The tech pundits have cited multiple reasons for slower-than-anticipated sales of Windows 8 and related phones and tablets:

  1. Availability and pricing
  2. Poor connectivity, hardware problems
  3. Mixed early reactions
  4. Clumsy interface
  5. Misc. + the “current economic crisis”

Although all of the above reasons may, in fact, be contributing to slower sales, my gut feel (If “gut feel” is good enough for other pundits, it’s good enough for me!) is that the biggest issue is that everyone knows that it’s a mistake to be the first to get a new Microsoft program, let alone, a new piece of Microsoft hardware.  There will be the inevitable “updates” and “fixes.”

Personally, I’m going to wait a few months and then update my PC to Windows 8 and switch to a Windows 8 phone and tablet.    Am betting I’ll have lots of company.

So much for punditry.  Calling Nate Silver!  Any input on this burning issue?



The candidates and the economy

September 30th, 2012

As the election approaches, it is clear that the two presidential candidates have very different approaches to “fixing” the economy, reducing the deficit.

If you have not done so already, I strongly urge you to take a few minutes to go to the 2010 New York Times Article,  Budget Puzzle:  You Fix the Budget.  In essence, it is an interactive spreadsheet that allows you to play with various scenarios.  You can select which cuts you, personally, would make and what changes in the tax code, if any, you would make.  You can run multiple scenarios and see the results immediately.  Categories include

  • Domestic programs and foreign aid
  • Military
  • Health care
  • Social Security
  • Existing taxes
  • New taxes and tax reform

I have mentioned this article before, but with the election approaching, NOW is the time to try it.  I can almost guarantee that you will find it FASCINATING!  It changed my views about what steps should be taken.  If you take it, I would love to hear your reaction.


Where are we going?

April 18th, 2011

On April 18, 2006–just five years ago–the Canadian dollar was worth .88 U.S. dollars.  Today, April 18, 2011, the Canadian dollar is worth 1.04 U.S.

What does that say about where we have been and where we are going?

Smarter than the Apple Analysts?

January 20th, 2011

As you may recall, last Spring, I held a contest, “Are you smarter than an economist?” My two winners, who received $1,000 each for their on-target predictions, were “ordinary” people–well, definitely not economists.

Now, according to, financial bloggers did better than professional analysts in predicting Apple’s revenue, earnings, gross margins, and unit sales for Q1 2011.

Hmmmm…what does this say about professional economists and stock analysts?

Unemployment stats 2

January 19th, 2011

I’d really like to upload the unemployment stats I promised in excel, but the following message still appears on the Bureau of Labor Statistics site and prevents exporting….“The database from the Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey program is currently unavailable. The data will be available as soon as possible. (When this database is not available, it is usually because we are in the process of updating it.)”

In the meantime, here is a link to the page which includes both a graph and a chart that clearly show unemployment trends from January 2000 through December 2010. In addition, I have uploaded a screen shot of the chart which appears at the bottom of this post.

The very short version: In December 2010, unemployment was 9.4%; in December 2007, 5.0%. So…..the chart documents what you were already quite sure was the case….. We’re not “there” yet–We’re not even close.

Here is a screen shot of the chart Unemployment stats from dept of labor stats 011711

Unemployment: Compared with what?

January 17th, 2011

On the 16th, I promised to provide some unemployment statistics today that will answer this question: The unemployment picture has improved, but where are we compared with prior years? Is this a real turnaround, or are we simply slowly headed in the right direction?

I am going to be a day late because I want to upload a chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that provides the promised information, but the download has been frozen yesterday and today. (The website says this is probably due to the Bureau updating the information.)

As soon as the report is available to download, I will fulfill my promise. (But I can give you a hint: It is a pretty pathetic picture.)

Retail sales: Compared with what?

January 16th, 2011

In an article yesterday on The Huffington Post, Abby Wendle reported that retail sales increased for the 6th straight month.

This is good news, but how good is it? How do the sales of the most recent 6 months compare with the same months in 2006, 7, 8?

I don’t have the answer to that question, but tomorrow in my blog I will ask the same question about unemployment statistics. For that question I do have the answer.

One of my pet reporting peeves is a story that omits critical information (facts) that would allow the reader (me) to draw some conclusions about the significance of the story.

On several occasions, my local paper, The Oregonian, has reported the remarkable increase in revenues for some local company but has failed to include what is happening to the bottom line. In several instances, companies that have touted their revenue increases in the press have failed not long after.

A great idea from the New York Times: deficit reduction

November 16th, 2010

The New York Times has posted an on-line, do-it-yourself national deficit-reduction calculator. All voters should be required to use it to develop debt reduction scenarios. It provides a list of major deficit reducing strategies, and readers can play with it to see what combination of alternatives delivers the desired result. It’s both enlightening and fun.

Click here to use it.

And the winners are……

November 2nd, 2010

The results are in!  The checks, $1,000 each, are in the mail.  The two winners of my contest, “Are you smarter than an economist?” are Gary Ritner, a Bellevue, Washington-based investment banker and co-founder of the Puget Sound Venture Club and Jeff Smith, a Project Manager for Caterpillar in Peoria, Illinois.

As you may recall, winners needed to predict correctly when GDP would improve at least 2% from the prior quarter and when unemployment would be the same or better than the same month in the prior year.

Jeff predicted 3rd quarter ’09 and June ’10, for GDP and unemployment, respectively; Gary, 4th quarter ’09 and June ’10.

You may well be asking yourself:  If they had two different GDP predictions, how could both of them be winners?  The answer?  After the contest started, the Bureau of Economic Analysis apparently changed the formula for calculating GDP.  As of 3/26/10, the BEA website reported GDP improvement in Q3 ‘09 in chained dollars was 2.2%; as of 8/27/10, however, the website showed only 1.6% for Q3, but improvement of 5.0% in Q4.

So…that’s that—except I think the press should be asking Jeff and Gary what they predict for the future of the economy!  They were smarter than many economists!

Finalists for “Are you smarter than an economist?

May 31st, 2010

As you  know, I offered a prize of $1,000 to the person who accurately predicted an improvement in two measures: change in GDP and employment. Entries are closed, but the winner–and whether there will be one– is still unknown.

  • 130 people entered the contest.
  • The first measure, growth in GDP, was reached in the 3rd quarter of last year.
  • 13 guessed right on GDP.
  • Of those,  only 6 may still be correct on unemployment (Unemployment predictions for the 13 varied from September 2009 through October of 2011.)
  • Stay tuned–I’ll let you know the outcome, but at the rate things are going, it could be a while; e.g., April unemployment has gone from 5.0% in ’08 to 8.9% in ’09 to 9.9% this year.

Inefficiency may be the bedrock of the U.S. economy.

August 15th, 2009

This question popped into my mind today:  What would be the impact on the U.S. economy if most businesses were run efficiently instead of inefficiently?

It’s a question I’ll be thinking about and writing about–but probably not for a while because I just started a new Interim CEO engagement and will be extremely busy for a while…..

Are you smarter than an economist? An update

May 17th, 2009

Are you smarter than an economist?

May 11th, 2009
Click here to go to the new contest page we created so we could add an entry form and a graph showing what people have predicted so far.  (You can still see the first entries and comments below this post.)
Good luck with your entry!

I love being right, but..

April 11th, 2009

If you know me, you know I love being right, but lately, I wish I weren’t right so often.

When The Oregonian, interviewing me for a story about the Joe’s bankruptcy, asked whether I thought Joe’s could survive and/or might be sold to another company, I said, “No.”  Yesterday, Joe’s started liquidating.

The evaporation of so many retailers is a scenario being repeated too often for three key reasons:

  1. Many retail operations operate with thin profit margins–or no profit margins–so when sales decline, the retailers simply have no (forgive the pun) margin for error.
  2. Many retail operations have no raison d’etre–no reason for being–no strategy that separates them from their competitors, no strategy for meeting changing consumer needs.
  3. Too often, good customer service is missing in action.  Poor customer service can result in lost sales, and few companies today can afford to lose those sales.

Perhaps, as a result of the current economic environment, we will see a return to good customer service.  I’d really like to be right about that!

Women’s Private Equity Summit

March 14th, 2009

Thursday and Friday, I attended the Women’s Private Equity Summit (300 women and one very brave man).  The conference covered the same kinds of topics that any current private equity summit would cover.  Panelists talked about the impacts of uncertainty and where opportunities lie, even in the current environment.

Two comments struck me as being noteworthy:

One panel moderator asked, “How important is diversity in private equity recruiting?”  Although most people immediately thought about race, gender, and  “ethnic” diversity,  one very insightful audience member pointed out that for the same reasons that  private equity firms reduce their financial risk by diversifying their financial portfolios,  such firms (or for that matter, businesses, in general) could further reduce their risk by ensuring that their teams include a diversity of skill sets and perspectives–regardless of race, gender, or ethnicity–so that multiple views would be more likely to be considered.

On a slightly different topic, another observer pointed out that women have been conspicuously absent in the leadership of the well-known failed and failing business enterprises that have led to the current economic crisis.

The economy: How things look from England

March 8th, 2009

A friend sent me an interesting—if depressing—presentation  about the  economy (past, present, and future) that was made by Alchemy Partners to a turnaround group in England.  To view the presentation, please click here.

Restructuring of the economy

February 21st, 2009

What we are experiencing is nothing less than a restructuring of the U.S. economy.

In some ways, it is like the  country is in Chapter 11.  Some assets are being sold; some, liquidated.

One thing is very different from a Chapter 11, however:  There are no rules for this kind of restructuring.

Bailout ignores major segment

January 31st, 2009

This week, I met with a potential client–clearly a really nice guy–who has run an exceptionally successful business for over twenty years. His company is widely recognized as the industry leader in its segment. The facilities are clean and well-run, and the workforce is loyal because the owner has always treated them well.

His market has suddenly declined by 50% because of “the economy;” i.e., forces totally out of his control.

Don’t we all wonder why companies that have been mismanaged are getting “bailed out” while those that have earned the right to be saved are hanging by a thread with no government help in sight?

Something is wrong with this picture!