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The Best of What They Said and I Read Week Ending 12/24/2017

Short excerpts from articles I found interesting.

I may not agree with the author and the following material is not intended as investment advice.

Barron’s – December 23, 2017 – Markets Take Early Holiday as New Year Looms – by Ben Levisohn

  • “Christmas doesn’t start until Monday, but last week already felt as if everyone had gone on vacation.  It wasn’t as if there was no news to get the market moving. We learned last Friday that new-home sales had surged in November, and that consumers are spending more and saving less. Congress passed its tax bill, which was then signed into law by President Donald Trump, and it also agreed on a stop-gap budget measure to keep the government funded through the middle of January.”
  •  “Who could ask for anything more?  The market, it seems. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 102.32 points, or 0.4%, to 24,754.06 last week, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index advanced 0.3%, to 2683.34, and the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.3%, to 6959.96. It was something of a yawn, and trading even reflected it: Friday’s volume was the lowest for a full day this year.”

The Economist – December 23, 2017 – The link between polygamy and war

  • “Men in South Sudan typically marry as often as their wealth—often measured in cattle—will allow. Perhaps 40% of marriages are polygamous…Few South Sudanese see the connection between these matrimonial customs and the country’s horrific civil war. If you ask them the reason for the violence, locals will blame tribalism, greedy politicians, weak institutions and perhaps the oil wealth which gives warlords something to fight over. All true, but not the whole story.”
  • “Wherever it is widely practised, polygamy (specifically polygyny, the taking of multiple wives) destabilises society, largely because it is a form of inequality which creates an urgent distress in the hearts, and loins, of young men. If a rich man has a Lamborghini, that does not mean that a poor man has to walk, for the supply of cars is not fixed. By contrast, every time a rich man takes an extra wife, another poor man must remain single. If the richest and most powerful 10% of men have, say, four wives each, the bottom 30% of men cannot marry. Young men will take desperate measures to avoid this state.”
  • “…Polygamous societies are bloodier, more likely to invade their neighbours and more prone to collapse than others are. The taking of multiple wives is a feature of life in all of the 20 most unstable countries on the Fragile States Index compiled by the Fund for Peace, an NGO.”
  • “Because polygamy is illegal in most rich countries, many Westerners underestimate how common it is. More than a third of women in West Africa are married to a man who has more than one wife. Plural marriages are plentiful in the Arab world, and fairly common in South-East Asia and a few parts of the Caribbean…”

Barron’s – December 23, 2017 – A Black Friday for Bitcoin – by Crystal Kim

  • “After riding a gravy train for a year now, bitcoin investors got a pre-Christmas visit from anti-Santa Krampus.  On Friday, the price of bitcoin plummeted more than 25%, to as low as $11,000—before bouncing back and finishing up on the day. And it wasn’t the only cryptocurrency that took a beating. Bitcoin cash was cut in half, to around $1300, while ethereum and litecoin took a greater than 30% tumble, to around $500 and $170, respectively.”
  • “…Pinpointing an exact reason for the plunge in perma-volatile bitcoin is a fruitless endeavor. The selloff came on the heels of one cryptocurrency innovator’s decision to sell his entire position in litecoin and concerns about possible front-running of bitcoin cash by employees of cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase. Then there was the manic speculation around LongFin (LFIN) and Long Island Iced Tea (LTEA), which said it would change its name to Long Blockchain. Both saw their stocks go to the moon and back.”
  • “But don’t count bitcoin out just yet. Fundstrat Global Advisors’ managing partner and head of research Thomas Lee, for one, contends that bitcoin is still in a long-term bullish trend and calls it a millennial play as young investors gravitate toward cryptocurrencies, over say, gold.  “Bitcoin was $10,000 two weeks ago,” Lee says. “Just because something is in a bullish trend doesn’t mean it keeps going up.” He is staying with his 2022 year-end price target of $25,000. He also raised his mid-2018 target to $20,000 from $11,500.”

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