Bespoke Brunch Reads Linkfest — 7/15/18

Below is our Bespoke Brunch Reads linkfest, featuring some of our favorite articles (both finance and non-finance related) over the past week.


A rare and expensive investment book tearing up the Amazon Kindle charts is actually an illegal copy by Tae Kim (CNBC)

“Margin of Safety”, Baupost manager Seth Klarman’s tome on investing is rare and carries extreme secondary market prices. So its appearance on Amazon Kindle for $9.99 seemed a bit out of step. [Link]

Buffett Starts to Say Goodbye to a Pile of Equity-Index Options by Katherine Chiglinsky (Bloomberg)

A series of extremely long-term equity options written between 2004 and 2008 are starting to expire, having added billions in income to Berkshire over the past decade and a half. [Link; soft paywall, auto-playing video]

Carceral State

Out of Prison & Out of Work: Unemployment among formerly incarcerated people by Lucius Couloute and Daniel Kopf (Prison Policy Initiative)

In addition to the specific penalty paid by spending time in prison, the formerly incarcerated pay extreme labor market penalties as well. [Link]


The Story Behind Why Soccer Players Sit In Race Car Seats by David Tracy (Jalopnik)

Why do soccer players have benches made out of racing bucket seats? The answer is found in an obscure sponsorship of a German team in the mid-90s. [Link]

We’ve Exhausted America’s Supply of Retro-Fitness Fads. Maybe It’s Time to Try Communism by Oliver Lee Bateman (MEL Magazine)

An investigation of the athletic sorting and training techniques deployed by Soviet Union, with possible application to our own techniques in the gym. [Link]


Don’t blame Ed O’Bannon for the death of the video games. Blame the NCAA. by Alex Kirshner (SBNation)

A 2014 class action law suit against the NCAA found that video games based on NCAA football and basketball used players’ likenesses. As a result, NCAA sports video games are no more, but it didn’t have to be that way. [Link]

Something I Changed My Mind About Recently by Ben Carlson (A Wealth of Common Sense)

Making the case that e-sports (competitive video games) are not only here to stay, but likely to get even bigger than they are today. [Link]


Historic blunders: 50 worst product flops of all time by Michael B. Sauter, Evan Comen, Thomas C. Frohlich and Samuel Stebbins (USA Today)

A review of the most intense product failures ever, including tech hardware, video games, TV shows, and so forth. New Coke, Cheetos lip balm, and Coors sparkling water are all interesting examples we enjoyed. [Link]


Hunting the Con Queen of Hollywood: Who’s the “Crazy Evil Genius” Behind a Global Racket? by Scott Johnson (Hollywood Reporter)

A racket has bilked hundreds of thousands of dollars from freelancers who fly to Indonesia and provide upfront funds for projects which never pan out. [Link]


States launch investigation targeting fast-food hiring practices by Jeff Stein (WaPo)

So-called “no poach” agreements can hold down wages for the lowest-credentialed workers. State attorney generals are starting to investigate the practice. [Link; soft paywall]


Russia Is Building $320 Million Icebreakers to Carve New Arctic Routes by Eric Roston (Bloomberg)

Icebreakers designed to haul liquid natural gas out of the high Arctic are under construction, each one capable of hauling 1mm barrels of oil equivalents. [Link; soft paywall]

Trade Wars

China Has Arsenal of Non-Tariff Weapons to Hit Back at Trump by Enda Curran (Bloomberg)

The large trade imbalance between the US and China means direct Chinese tariffs on US goods can’t keep up with new US tariffs. But there are many, many alternative means that can be used to interdict US activity in China: increasing regulatory oversights of US subsidiaries onshore, slowing down regulatory approvals, cancelling orders, or encouraging consumer boycotts. [Link; soft paywall, auto-playing video]

Have a great Sunday!​  Visit for our most actionable investment ideas.

Bespoke Investment Group, LLC

105 Calvert Street, Suite 100

Harrison, NY 10528


Twitter: @bespokeinvest


In Terrazza col sigaro Ep. 06 – Trump-Cina. Perché siamo a questo punto?

La situazione tra il presidente americano e l’impero del dragone celeste sembra stia andando, senza mezzi termini, verso una vera e propria guerra di quelle come si combattono nel XXI secolo: con l’economia. A che punto è la situazione?

Bespoke Brunch Reads Linkfest — 7/8/18

Below is our Bespoke Brunch Reads linkfest, featuring some of our favorite articles (both finance and non-finance related) over the past week.


How Much Americans Could Save by Ridesharing Driverless Cars Over Owning (Insurance Journal)

While self-driving cars are still far from deployment and uptake is likely to be a very, very long and slow process (please see our Industry Insight on the subject, link), they do have the potential to save drivers a huge amount of money over traditional ownership. [Link]

The World Cup, Nationalism, and International Trade by Andrew Bertoli and George Yin (SSRN)

Using data from the group stage of the World Cup from 1930 to 2014 (486 matches), the authors identify a measurable decline in trade between soccer match contestants in time periods close to the games. [Link]


Vanguard Will Let Investors Trade Its Rivals’ Funds Online for Free by Lisa Beilfuss (WSJ)

In order to drive more customer traffic, Vanguard’s rival products will now be commission free for Vanguard investors. [Link; paywall]


PBOC Says China’s Fiscal System Reason Behind Its Leverage Woes (China Banking News)

The head of the PBoC’s research department argued recently that distortions in China’s tax and fiscal systems have created excessive credit problems for the country. [Link]


Americans Are Having Fewer Babies. They Told Us Why. by Claire Cain Miller (NYT)

Using a poll of 20-45 year olds, the Upshot team identifies economic issues as the biggest factors holding back fertility rates among the current cohort in prime parenthood ages. [Link]

The Secret Price of Pets by Peter Haldeman (NYT)

Fake testicles, insurance, plastic surgery, gender reassignment, and obscure hair-dos: these are just some of the obscure services pet owners are purchasing these days. [Link; soft paywall]

Online Dystopia

The nightmare videos of children’s YouTube — and what’s wrong with the internet today by James Bridle (TED)

In our Brunch Reads dated November 17th (link), we included a story about the nightmarish content that finds its way into the YouTube feeds of children via the algorithmic recommendations provided by the service (link). That original piece is now a TED talk. [Link]

“I Was Devastated”: Tim Berners-Lee, the Man Who Created the World Wide Web, Has Some Regrets by Katrina Brooker (Vanity Fair)

The man most plausibly credited with inventing the internet is deeply troubled with where his work has taken the world, but he has ideas about how to improve things. [Link; soft paywall]

Juggalos Figured Out How To Beat Facial Recognition by Caroline Haskins (The Outline)

Insane Clown Posse fans are an odd bunch, and their trademark clown makeup has inadvertently demonstrated a weapon against facial recognition technology. Can we get a whoop-whoop? [Link]

Real Estate

Tax h(e)aven by Ina Cordle and Katherine Kallergis (The Real Deal)

Responding to new incentives created (intentionally, in an effort to reduce blue state fiscal capacity) by the tax cuts introduced last year, ultra-wealthy buyers are bidding up South Florida real estate. [Link]

Manhattan real estate has worst second quarter since financial crisis by Robert Frank (CNBC)

Not-so-surprisingly based on the prior link, Manhattan high-end real estate has gotten hit hard, with sales down 17% and prices off 5% on average. [Link]

The Death of a Once Great City by Kevin Baker (Harpers)

Development, especially with towering new buildings in central cores, is in this author’s view wrecking the diverse, dynamic tumble that was once the hallmark of American cities. [Link]

Slow Adoption

Even Great Ideas Can Fail At First. Just Look At The Zipper. by Marc Bain (Quartzy)

Americans alone consume 4.5 billion zippers per year, but the story of its development is a very long one with a range of patents running from 1853 to 1917 before a zipper we would recognize today was created. [Link]


Inside Decision 3.0: LeBron James Follows in the Footsteps of Legends by Lee Jenkins (SI)

The story of how Lebron James landed in Los Angeles in a move that capped off weeks of speculation from the sports world about where the best basketball player of his generation would wind up. [Link; auto-playing video]

Nathan’s might go digital after awful hot dog judging flub by Noah Bressner and Chris Perez (NYP)

Judges at the iconic American eating contest on the 4th of July badly flubbed the count as eleven time winner Joey Chestnut set a world record. [Link]


Inside the White House’s Quiet Campaign to Create a Supreme Court Opening by Adam Liptak and Maggie Haberman (NYT)

How the Trump White House worked to convince Justice Kennedy to retire, creating a second vacancy on the Supreme Court for the administration to fill. [Link]

Have a great Sunday!​  Visit for our most actionable investment ideas.

Bespoke Investment Group, LLC

105 Calvert Street, Suite 100

Harrison, NY 10528


Twitter: @bespokeinvest

Bespoke Brunch Reads Linkfest — 7/1/18

The first half of 2018 is now complete, and while some trends have carried over from 2017, a lot more trends have shifted.  We recap and analyze what all of these shifts mean in this week’s Bespoke Report

If you’re not yet a subscriber, start a two-week free trial to any membership level to gain access to our Bespoke Report and much more!  Enter “THINKBIG” at checkout to receive a 10% discount when the first payment processes after your two week free trial period.  If you don’t wish to continue with the service at the end of your free trial, you can cancel at no charge.

Below is our Bespoke Brunch Reads linkfest, featuring some of our favorite articles (both finance and non-finance related) over the past week.


Why Have Negative Nominal Interest Rates Had Such a Small Effect on Bank Performance? Cross Country Evidence (FRBSF Working Papers)

Using a comprehensive dataset of more than 5000 banks in Japan and Europe, the authors find little evidence that negative nominal interest rates have a significant negative impact on bank profitability in aggregate (though that may be less true for specific subgroups of banks). [Link; 32 page PDF]

Brussels steps up emergency planning for no-deal Brexit by Alex Barker, Arthur Beesley, and Anne-Sylvaine Chassany (FT)

While a hard Brexit isn’t necessarily likely, EU officials are starting comprehensive planning for that outcome should the UK leave the EU on its Article 50 trigger date next year without a deal on the post-Brexit relationship with the EU. [Link; paywall]


Traders Are Still Haunted by the VIX Five Months Later by Lu Wang and Elena Popina (Bloomberg)

The February collapse of short-vol products created a very specific fear of downside skew that investors appear to be taking to heart. [Link; paywall]


The New Tax Form Is Postcard-Size, but More Complicated Than Ever by Jim Tankersley (NYT)

While the new basic tax filing form is certainly more simple and its main details are roughly postcard sized, more than 6 other worksheets supplement the smaller basic form. [Link; soft paywall]


The FDA Approved Its First Cannabis Drug. What Next? by Alyssa Foote (Wired)

With the approval of Epidiolex (a drug designed to reduce seizures in epileptics), marijuana is now part of an FDA-approved medical treatment. It’s also legal in 8 states and DC, while even Oklahoma fully legalized medical marijuana by a comfortable margin this week (link; auto-playing video) in a bid to juice state revenues. [Link]

Tesla Energy Made Its Owner $2.5 Million in a Single Quarter by Jonas Elmerraji (The Street)

While most media attention focuses on building cars, Tesla also runs the largest battery installation on the planet (in Australia). The project makes money by arbitraging electricity prices intraday, buying when grid power is cheap and selling back when prices rise. [Link]

Trade Wars

Chip-Equipment Makers in Crosshairs of Trade War by Dan Gallagher (WSJ)

The extremely complex and trade-dependent semiconductor industry is set to become ground zero for the negative impacts of the escalating trade dispute between the US and China. [Link; paywall]

San Fran Stories

A six-figure salary is considered ‘low income’ in San Francisco, and the threshold is rising by Michelle Robertson (SF Gate)

Residents of San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin counties are considered “low income” on a relative basis if they earn $117,000 per year. [Link]


The Gates Effective Teaching Initiative Fails to Improve Student Outcomes by Jay P. Greene (Education Next)

Bill and Melinda Gates’ foundation deployed more than $1bn (80% of which ultimately came from governments) in an effort to improve educational outcomes. The results showed teacher effectiveness and retention made little improvement as a result. [Link]


That ‘distracted boyfriend’ meme? Twitter users uncover the backstory of the woman by his side (Scroll)

You wouldn’t think a simple stock photo could at once contain so much intrigue, but you’d be wrong. Here’s the untold story of the girl from the distracted boyfriend meme. [Link]


They Played Dominoes Outside Their Apartment For Decades. Then The White People Moved In And Police Started Showing Up. by Lam They Vo (Buzzfeed)

As neighborhoods gentrify, previously commonplace and always innocuous activities like dominoes on the sidewalk are resulting in calls to the police as new arrivals seek to enforce rules that have never existed on the ground for long-time residents. [Link]


The International Olympic Committee Will Host a Forum on E-sports by Lisa Marie Segarra (Fortune)

The IOC has announced a forum to discuss e-sports and possible future collaboration between “old fashioned” and computer-based sports, a possible prelude to an inclusion in competition. [Link]

A team of AI algorithms just crushed humans in a complex computer game by Will Knight (MIT Technology Review)

While current basic AI doesn’t typically get much credit for collaborative and dynamic problem solving, one implementation was able to beat a human team at popular online strategy game Dota 2. [Link]

Have a great Sunday, and happy Canada Day to our friends up north!​  Visit for our most actionable investment ideas.

Bespoke Investment Group, LLC

105 Calvert Street, Suite 100

Harrison, NY 10528


Twitter: @bespokeinvest

Rischio #Italia: un vulcano pronto ad esplodere? HT @AdviseOnly

Questo è il piatto principale: un articolo completo, semplice e diretto.
Scritto dalla redazione di AdviseOnly, solo per voi.

Italian volcano

L’Italia torna prepotentemente al centro delle preoccupazioni di molti gestori e consulenti. Come si gestisce il rischio Italia in portafoglio? Ripartiamo da numeri e dati, come sempre.

I mercati possono essere animali sonnacchiosi, ma se stuzzicati reagiscono in fretta. A volte molto in fretta.

Come durante la recente crisi politico-istituzionale italiana, che ha riacceso il dibattito intorno alla stabilità della zona euro, spingendo gli investitori a rivedere drasticamente il rischio Italia.

In poche sedute la Borsa ha perso tutti i guadagni realizzati da inizio anno e lo spread BTP-Bund è tornato nelle headline dei telegiornali.

La situazione si è calmata, ma non è dato sapere per quanto, quindi vale la pena di fare alcune riflessioni.

La caratteristica più significativa della correzzione di fine maggio non è stata tanto la dimensione assoluta, quanto piuttosto la velocità con cui è avvenuta.

Mettendo a confronto il recente allargamento dello spread BTP-Bund (che resta un valido indice di rischio-Paese) con quello della crisi dell’Eurozona del 2011, in prossimità dello scoppio della crisi del debito sovrano, si apprezza meglio la rapidità con la quale gli investitori hanno riprezzato il rischio Italia. Un’energica revisione peggiorativa delle aspettative.

Il 2011 è alle porte?

Nel 2011, quando l’Italia entrò in crisi, lo shock finanziario si trasferì in breve tempo all’economia reale. È utile analizzare i principali dati economici e finanziari del nostro Paese, ora e allora, per trarne qualche utile considerazione.

  1. Strutturalmente, l’Italia sta meglio. Oggi l’economia è più in salute rispetto al 2011 (anche grazie al migliore contesto internazionale), e il sistema bancario, cruciale per il funzionamento dell’economia, è più solido sia in termini di fondamentali che di redditività.
  2. Il livello dei tassi d’interesse è modesto. È così basso che l’aumento degli spread su tutte le scadenze non ha ancora pregiudicato la sostenibilità dei conti pubblici. Inoltre, per tutto il 2018 l’Italia può fare affidamento sull’aiuto della BCE, il principale baluardo che si interpone tra l’Italia e un credit crunch.
  3. La debolezza di lungo termine ci rende fragili. L’elevato tasso di disoccupazione e l’enorme indebitamento pubblico ci rendono vulnerabili agli occhi dei mercati.
La crisi del 2011 si è propagata velocemente dai mercati all’economia reale per via della fragilità del sistema bancario italiano e per l’impreparazione della zona euro ad affrontare una crisi sistemica.

Ciò ha portato conseguenze politiche e sociali. Ma oggi, nel complesso, i numeri ci dicono che il sistema bancario italiano e più solido di allora: il CET1 è migliorato del 40%, la redditività (ROE) è più che raddoppiata. Inoltre la BCE possiede gli strumenti per difendere la stabilità dell’Eurozona, sicché al momento la pressione dei mercati sembra gestibile.

Tuttavia, in una zona monetaria non ottimale, la politica ha il suo peso e può cambiare le carte in tavola molto velocemente. Soprattutto quando si ha un debito pubblico che rappresenta il 133% del PIL. Perciò non bisogna illudersi, la partita non è ancora finita e occorre arrangiarsi sia sul mercato obbligazionario che su quello azionario. Soppesando rischi ed opportunità.

Le obbligazioni italiane

La risalita dei rendimenti ha ridato fiato alle obbligazioni italiane, ma non abbastanza. La distribuzione storica dei rendimenti evidenzia come gli attuali livelli dei BTP a 10 anni restino ben al di sotto della media storica. Questo vale anche per i rendimenti reali, depurati cioè dell’effetto erosivo dell’inflazione.
Quindi, per il fenomeno della mean reversion, è assai più probabile una risalita che una discesa dei tassi, e con movimenti molto ampi. Se nelle prossime settimane il rischio Italia aumentasse, per esempio a causa di provvedimenti o dichiarazioni che possono mettere in dubbio la tenuta dei conti pubblici, i margini di risalita dei rendimenti obbligazionari crescerebbero ulteriormente.

Quindi, che cosa può succedere alle performance dei vostri investimenti? La tabella seguente mostra le possibili variazioni di prezzo di obbligazioni a 2, 5 o 10 anni, in funzione delle variazioni dei rendimenti (Yield to Maturity).

Quindi tutto dipende da ciò che vi aspettate dall’evoluzione dei tassi d’interesse: se pensate che salgano, ogni sessione di Borsa positiva è una buona occasione per alleggerire il portafoglio, se invece credete che gli attuali rendimenti siano saliti troppo in fretta (e senza motivo), nei prossimi giorni ci potrebbero essere altre occasioni di acquisto.

Borsa Italiana

Il discorso è analogo per quanto riguarda il mercato azionario italiano. Gli attuali earning yield (rapporto utili e prezzi) sono decisamente inferiori alla media storica.

Quindi, detto in altri termini, il rendimento offerto dal mercato azionario, oltre ad essere modesto su base storica, lo è ancor di più quando si soppesa il rischio, che oggi è elevato, ed è di natura politica, cioè difficile da quantificare. La rapidità con cui la Borsa si è invertita negli ultimi 10 giorni ne è la prova. Certo, il dividend yield delle azioni italiane è buono (3,80% all’anno in media), ma l’incertezza è tanta.

L’effetto PIR non è da sottovalutare: l’afflusso di capitale indotto dai Piani Individuali di Risparmio è stato impressionante, fornendo un enorme sostegno alla domanda di titoli italiani. Per capitali raccolti (17,5 miliardi di euro a fine marzo), numero di IPO (42 da gennaio 2017), nonché per performance, i PIR rappresentano ungame changer, tanto che fino a metà maggio i FTSE MIB era il miglior indice europeo. E, da allora, i fondamentali delle aziende italiane non sono cambiati.

Vista la durata quinquennale dei PIR, a meno di improvvide azioni del neo governo, il listino italiano potrebbe in breve tempo recuperare il terreno perduto.

Dialogare con i clienti

La politica è difficile da prevedere, sicché mai come ora è il momento di evitare i comportamenti “da fenomeni”, nonché le crisi di panico da parte dei risparmiatori. Quindi è bene tornare al mantra dei fondamentali dell’investimento, ovvero:

  • pianificazione finanziaria basata su obittivi reali e di medio-lungo termine, legati al goal investing (ad esempio investire per i figli) o a bisogni tangibili (ad esempio la previdenza integrativa, esigenza successorie, etc.);
  • diversificazione di portafoglio, pensando ai fattori di rischio, dando il giusto peso ad asset difensivi, legati a dinamiche esterne alla zona euro;
  • investimento regolare, con i piani di accumulo (PAC), senza pensare al market timing, cogliendo via via le opportunità offerte dai ribassi di mercato – ricordando che quando il mercato sccende è tempo di saldi – chi non avesse ancora acquistato un PIR, potrebbe farlo ora;
  • cosapevolezza storica, quella dei ritorni reali positivi nel lungo termine e della capacità del mercato di recuperare le crisi – un portafoglio azionario ben diversificato arrivò a perdere il 20% nel 2011, recuperando tutto in 6 mesi e guadagnando da allora il 150%. Ricordatelo, ai vostri clienti.