Bespoke Brunch Reads: 3/25/18; The Bespoke Report Newsletter

Good Morning,

Our Bespoke Report newsletter from Friday contains a number of important stats and data points regarding the recent downturn in the market.  To read it, start a two-week free trial to any of our three membership levels now.

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


American corporations come out against Donald Trump’s proposed tariffs (The Economist)

Thus far only three of forty seven major trade associations have publicly commented in favor of new tariff programs, with the balance opposed. [Link; soft paywall]

Friended: How the Obama Campaign Connected with Young Voters by Michael Scherer (Time)

One irony of the Cambridge Analytica situation: the Obama For America app was doing the same thing back in 2012. Of course, in that case users knew a political campaign would have access to their friend lists, instead of a personality quiz passing the data on to a campaign later. [Link]

Ex-Obama Campaign Director Drops Bombshell Claim on Facebook: ‘They Were on Our Side’ by Jason Howerton (IJR)

Back in 2012, the Obama campaign pushed the boundaries of rules set by Facebook about how outside organization can use the information users allow apps to access. [Link]


Why Are Prime-Age Men Vanishing from the Labor Force? by Didem Tuzeman (Kansas City Fed)

Evidence that the prime age employment rate for men has fallen because of polarization in the labor force, with all sorts of negative consequences as a result. [Link; 26 page PDF]

Pent-Up Demand and Continuing Price Increases: The Outlook for 2018 by Jordan Rappaport (Kansas City Fed)

Catch-up effects in household formation, mean reversion declining average household size, and cyclical factors are all significant tailwinds for housing demand, but low worker availability, limited land availability, and land use regulation are all constraining factors that mean prices are likely to continue accelerating. [Link]

Can big data revolutionise policymaking by governments? by Robin Wigglesworth (FT)

A walk through the world of big data and how it can be used to generate private sector – and maybe one day, official sector – statistics about the state of output and activity. [Link; paywall]

Read The 10-K

Hedge-fund managers that do the most research will post the best returns, study suggests by Thomas Fracnk (CNBC)

A new data set shows that hedge funds which download more annual reports from the SEC’s EDGAR filing system tend to outperform the market. [Link]


Talent, luck and success: simulating meritocracy and inequality with stochasticity by Hongsup Shin (Medium)

A longform summary of simulations which show where inequality comes from and what can exacerbate it. Very helpful as a toy model. [Link]

Extensive Data Shows Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys by Emily Badger, Claire Cain Miller, Adam Pearce, and Kevin Quealy (NYT Upshot)

New research shows enormous racial bias in the relationship between endowment effects (how rich a child’s parents are) and outcomes (how rich the children end up). Controlling for the huge advantages of growing up in a high income family, black children still end up much, much less well off than white children. [Link]

European Affairs

German Mittelstand faces generational crisis by Olaf Storbeck (FT)

In the coming half-decade, more than 800,000 small and medium business owners in Germany will be faced with the question of who will take over when founder-owner-operators hang up their spurs. [Link; paywall]

Italy Is Latest Nation to Become a Gas Exporter by Chiara Albanese and Tommaso Ebhardt (Bloomberg)

European natural gas supplies have historically been heavily dependent on Russian exports, but new Mediterranean lines that reach northern Europe via Italy are changing that. [Link]


Who Goes Nazi? by Dorothy Thompson (Harper’s)

An essay from 1941 reflecting on what sort of person in that era found appeal in the Nazi regime; while authoritarianism never found even a small foothold in America, its appeal seems like it would have been inevitable. [Link]

Why He Kayaked Across The Atlantic AT 70 (For The Third Time) by Elizabeth Weil (NYT Magazine)

In his 7th decade, Polish kayaker Aleksander Doba ended a 110 day solo crossing of the Atlantic. It’s almost indescribable how impressive that physical and mental feat is. [Link]

My Candid Conversations with Extremely Online Folks Who Suffer From Internet Broken Brain by Luke O’Neil (Esquire)

What’s it like to spend more time on Twitter than anything else you do? Very funny, but also a bit sad, and completely absurd. [Link]


Understanding China’s Rise Under Xi Jinping by Kevin Rudd (Sinocism)

A reproduction of former Australia Prime Minister Rudd’s views on the most powerful man in China. This essay is extremely long and wide-ranging but provides as comprehensive of a view of the man as exists anywhere. [Link]

China’s Rise: How It Took on the U.S. at the WTO by Gregory Shaffer and Henry S. Gao (SSRN)

An underrated fact about China is that when it acceded to the WTO, it invested enthusiastically in legal capacity to defend its trade policies and attack others’ in international forums. [Link]

Mapping shadow banking in China: structure and dynamics by Torsten Ehlers, Steven Kong and Feng Zhu (BIS Working Papers)

If you’re interested in keeping track of how the financial system in China operates, this paper is an extremely helpful piece of background and reference. [Link]


A Self-Driving Uber Killed a Woman. Whose Fault Is It? by Matt Ford (New Republic)

Ford does a thoughtful job deconstructing how to think about accidents – especially those involving fatalities – when an algorithm is behind the wheel. [Link]

Uber’s Self-Driving Cars Were Struggling Before Arizona Crash by Daisuke Wakabayashi (NYT)

In the months ahead of an accident which killed a pedestrian in Arizona this week, Uber was struggling to keep up in the race to deploy self-driving vehicles. [Link; soft paywall]

The Fed

The Fed Makes a Risky Bet on Overshooting Its Inflation Target by Tim Duy

In the latest SEP, the FOMC’s forecasts implicitly mean that the central bank will overshoot its inflation objective while unemployment is extremely low, effectively guaranteeing that it will have to hike hard and fast to catch up with inflation. [Link]


Citi sets restrictions on gun sales by retail clients by Ross Kerber and David Henry (Reuters)

Customers who use Citi’s services to operate retail businesses will have to conform to new policies around the sales of guns or face the end of their banking relationship. [Link]


The Glory That Was Yahoo by Dan Tynan (Fast Company)

Once upon a time, Yahoo was dominant. Then, almost overnight, it all unraveled into a $5bn sale to Verizon. [Link]


Average website gets attacked 44 times a day by Ian Barker (Beta News)

New research on more than 6 million websites showed that the average site could be attacked as often as 16,000 times in a given year. [Link]


Cinderella Story? It’s True for U.M.B.C. in Academics, Too by Erica L. Green (NYT)

The University of Maryland Baltimore County is the first men’s basketball 16 seed to win a game in the NCAA’s annual tournament, but its academic history and achievement is arguably more impressive. [Link; soft paywall]

Have a great Sunday!


Bespoke Brunch Reads: 3/18/18

Below is our Bespoke Brunch Reads linkfest, featuring some of our favorite articles (both finance and non-finance related) over the past week. Click here if you’d like to read our weekly Bespoke Report newsletter.


Spurious correlations are kryptonite of Wall St’s AI rush by Robin Wigglesworth (FT)

When you run enough data sets through regressions, you will inevitably find some correlations. The question is, are they spurious and fleeting, or helpful in identifying forward returns? [Link; paywall]

Hedge Funds That Use AI Just Had Their Worst Month Ever by Dani Burger (Bloomberg)

While hedge funds that invest based on algorithms are still very small in AUM terms, they still get a lot of attention and it’s worth remembering they’re anything but bulletproof. [Link; auto-playing video]

What’s the Biggest Trade on the New York Stock Exchange? The Last One by Corrie Driebusch, Alexander Osipovich and Gregory Zuckerman (WSJ)

With an increasing share of investing being done through various types of passive vehicles, the end-of-day NYSE auction has grown in importance. [Link; paywall]


Forming an Alliance With U.S. Allies Against Bad Chinese Trade Practices Won’t Be Enough to Bring the Trade Deficit Down by Brad W. Setser (Council on Foreign Relations)

A dense 1300 words on the drivers of the US trade deficit, which are only partly related to China. A host of other countries have much larger current account surpluses versus their economies’ size and pursue much more aggressive policy to protect those surpluses. [Link]

Tracking the international footprints of global firms by Stefan Avdjiev, Mary Everett, Philip R. Lane, and Hyun Song Shin (BIS Quarterly Review)

As companies’ ownership structures have shifted into complex global networks of financing, concepts like the current account balance haven’t kept up in keeping track of international economic activity. [Link, 20 page PDF]

Will Employment Keep Growing? Disabled Workers Offer a Clue by Ernie Tedeeschi (NYT)

The population of workers not in the labor force due to illness or disability are declining as the economy continues to churn out job creation, suggesting there’s still slack left in the labor market. [Link; soft paywall]

The Kingdom

Saudis Said to Use Coercion and Abuse to Seize Billions by Ben Hubbard, David D. Kirkpatrick, Kate Kelly, and Mark Mazetti (NYT)

An accounting of the “anti-corruption campaign” that was really more like the consolidation of assets within a crime family, conducted using ankle monitors and luxury hotel imprisonment rather than cement galoshes. [Link; soft paywall]

Lighter Fare

This Woman Wrote Her Novel At A Tire Store And Now They Are Her Biggest Fans by Farrah Penn (BuzzFeed)

A woman struggling with writers block found her most productive penning would happen at the tire store. She is now the small shop’s Writer In Residence. [Link]

This Company Will 3-D Print You in Action-Figure Form by Kevin J. Ryan, Jardley Jean-Louis and Chris Beier (Inc)

Ever wanted to immortalize yourself in toy form? This company gives you the chance to do just that. [Link]

Dark Days

She found a dating app on her boyfriend’s phone. Then she bought a samurai sword. by Kyle Swenson (WaPo)

Between the colorful headline and the details of this story, we don’t want to wreck it with a wordy description, but luckily nobody was killed despite the best efforts at first degree murder. [Link]

Hundreds of Missouri’s 15-year-old brides may have married their rapists by Eric Adler (The Kansas City Star)

Missouri’s lax laws around teenage marriage make it a safe haven for perpetrators of statutory rape and their accomplices, who marry victims in order to avoid jail time. [Link]

Long Reads

Why Wikipedia Works by Brian Feldman (NY Mag)

Immensely profitable companies, casual researchers, and everyone in between rely on Wikipedia for quick, reliable information about the world. How did it become so dominant and ubiquitous, and how does it stay that way? [Link]

Vanilla valuation by Julie Van Rosendaal (Globe & Mail)

All you need to know about vanilla. The flavor is found in places you might not expect it (chocolate, for instance), is highly labor intensive and weather-sensitive, and is grown in relatively few places. [Link; soft paywall]


Behind the Breakneck Unraveling of Toys ‘R’ Us by Eliza Ronalds-Hannon, Matthew Townsend, and Lauren Coleman-Lochner (Bloomberg)

How a beloved brand collapsed into bankruptcy. [Link; auto-playing video]


United Flies Dog To Japan By Mistake (CBS Chicago/AP)

In addition to killing a dog by stuffing it into an overhead compartment this week, United also apparently sent a canine passenger across the Pacific in error. [Link; auto-playing video]


The Loneliness of the American Paralympics Reporter by Ben Shpigel (NYT)

The New York Times is one of only two outlets to send correspondents for coverage of the Winter Paralympic Games; this summary is insightful into what that process is like, and how little interest is expressed towards the impaired athletes’ pursuit of excellence. [Link; soft paywall]


I’d Be an ‘A’ Student if I Could Just Read My Notes by Melissa Korn (WSJ)

Modern college students are under-practiced at writing with pen and paper, and the results show when they encounter professors who ban laptops in class. [Link; paywall]

Have a great Sunday!

Weekend edition—The strongman playbook, fixing Reddit, we ❤️ seltzer

Good morning, Quartz readers!

It’s turning into quite a month for global strongmen.

Last weekend, Chinese president Xi Jinping upended his country’s two-term limit on power, meaning there’s now little to stop him from ruling for life. Two days later, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoganpushed through sweeping changes to the electoral system that give him a strong chance of extending his 15-year reign in the 2019 elections.

And there’s zero doubt that Russia’s Vladimir Putin will be re-elected with a massive majority on Sunday, taking him to a total of 24 years in power by the end of his next six-year term.

Donald Trump responded last week by joking that America should itself give the president-for-life thing “a shot someday.” But the idea could have some actual backing among Trump voters: A 2017 Pew poll showed that 33% of Republicans (paywall) would like a “strong leader” whose power is unchecked by courts or Congress.

All this fits nicely into the narrative of the world turning authoritarian at an unsettling speed.

At times, that strongman model can look tempting. Putin’s centralized rule and disregard for international law allows him to take quick, daring actions that can leave liberal democracies looking impotent and flat-footed. The West’s riposte to Russia’s alleged murder of a British agent on UK soil, for example, has so far been limited to the expulsion of a few diplomats and a grumpy letter from Britain’s friends.

But take a step back, and you start to see all kinds of flaws in the strongman method.

Putin may be able to flex his muscles on some international issues, but the length and autocratic nature of his reign has left Russia far weaker than it should be. The Russian president has shored up power with patronage. To stay popular with the masses, he has had to take massive risks—among them the seizure of Crimea—which have alienated Moscow from all the main global powers. On the world stage, Putin is more of a reactionary counter-puncher than an agenda-setter.

Xi risks following Putin’s lead and sapping the dynamism out of his country’s economy—which became the world’s second-largest under a political system where the leading actors rotate and institutions more or less function. Strongman rule, by its very nature, undermines those institutions. Russia’s constant plunging in and out of recession should serve as a cautionary tale.

For all its frustrations and seeming impotency, the “Western liberal order” bears that name because it is the order.—Max de Haldevang


Should we even write this? Perusing Trump’s recent remarks on trade with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, Gwynn Guilford ended up questioning everything. Here, she shows how the president’s speaking style gives journalism an existential crisis, and even undermines the concept of a shared reality.

Everything you ever wanted to know about seltzer. Why are Americans so obsessed with seltzer? Is seltzer not the same as sparkling water? Is it bad for you? Adam Freelander answers these questions and more in our inaugural Obsession video, a thoughtful, hilarious, and refreshing look at the history (and recent popularity) of seltzer water.

The next war between tech giants is in health. According to Helen and Dave Edwards, Apple could win it via the trojan horse that is the Apple Watch. They examine two patents to argue that while Alphabet and Amazon slowly make their way into American healthcare, only Apple can make medical surveillance bearable, let alone cool.

“The blackness has really made me drowsy.” Despite a strong box-office debut in China, some moviegoers there are less than impressed with Marvel’s Black Panther, which has become a racial and cultural milestone. Echo Huang used online reviews to delicately highlight the limited exposure many Chinese people have to other races.

You do have it harder than everyone else. Lila MacLellan delves deep into why people often feel their parents were tougher on them than on a sibling—and why both political parties believe the electoral map puts them at a disadvantage. It’s a psychological trap called “headwinds-tailwinds asymmetry.”


More human than human. How do you encapsulate all of humanity in a single photograph? For most of us, that question is an amusing mental exercise. For the editors of Wikipedia’s “human” entry, it’s a real and complicated challenge. In Wired, Ellen Airhart explores the debate behind the chosen photo and what it means to be—and look—human.

Your next potato chip could affect the evolution of the species.Diet has shaped human genetics over centuries. But the rapid pace of dietary change in modern times, Brian Handwerk writes at, complicates a delicate process that has life-and-death consequences for our descendants.

We need to talk about talking. Reddit is the most conversational social network of them all—but what if that conversation is hateful? Inthe New Yorker (paywall), Andrew Marantz looked into Reddit’s attempts to monitor communities without becoming a censor. Choice quote: “My internal check, when I’m arguing for a restrictive policy on the site, is Do I sound like an Arab government?”

Meet the best pool sharks in America. In the macho world of professional billiards, the women’s game was once on ESPN and growing. No longer. Megan Greenwell, for Topic, meets some of the women who still compete in a sport where the best players win barely $5,000 a year in prize money.

Is there a right to have sex? In the London Review of Books, Amia Srinivasan looks at the disturbing case of Elliot Rodger (paywall), an “incel” (involuntary celibate) who killed six people in 2014. It’s a rampage with some important and uncomfortable lessons for modern feminism, which has long struggled with questions about how desires are formed and politicized.

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, Apple Watches, and sparkling water You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day, or download our apps for iPhone and Android. Today’s Weekend Brief was edited by Kabir Chibber.

CWS Market Review – March 16, 2018

Bespoke Brunch Reads — 3/11/18

Good Morning,

Below is our Bespoke Brunch Reads linkfest, featuring some of our favorite articles (both finance and non-finance related) over the past week. Click here if you’d like to read our weekly Bespoke Report newsletter.


A Not-So-Great Recovery in Consumption: What is holding back household spending? by Aditya Aladangady Laura Feivseson (FEDS Notes)

Why hasn’t consumer spending been very strong to bounce back in this recovery? A quantitative investigation of the breakdown in the relationship between income, net worth, and government transfers with consumer spending. [Link]

The Moral Hazard of Lifesaving Innovations: Naloxone Access, Opioid Abuse, and Crime by Jennifer L. Doleac and Anita Mukherjee (SSRN)

We present this paper with the following cautionary notes: while the study’s design and data set are of good quality, they have not yet been peer-reviewed and they are contradictory to prior findings, meaning they should be handled carefully while not being dismissed, in our view. That said, if the findings hold up they are important. To summarize, the authors find that increasing availability of Naloxone leads to moral hazard (more risk-seeking behavior) and therefore the benefits of the drug’s availability is cancelled out. [Link]

Study: When CEOs’ Equity Is About to Vest, They Cut Investment to Boost the Stock Price by Alex Edmans (HBR)

This study finds that equity grants’ vesting period creates an incentive for short-termism around investment versus quarterly profitability. [Link; soft paywall]


Men of Steel, unburdened by experience by Jamie Powell (FTAV)

A summary of what steel tariffs may mean, viewed through the lens of the last abortive effort at similar tariffs attempted during the Bush Administration. [Link; soft paywall]

Trump says American workers are hurt by immigration. But after ICE raided this Texas town, they never showed up. by Nick Miroff (WaPo)

This fascinating article gives an overview of the local economy of the Texas Panhandle. While some of that narrative deals with the Trump Administration’s anti-immigration policies, the scope of the story is much larger and worth reading regardless of the currency policy context. [Link; soft paywall]

How Trump’s Hudson Tunnel Feud Threatens the National Economy by Elise Young and Demetrios Pogaks (Bloomberg)

While this story is a tad dramatic, it does underscore some of the risks to changes in federal policy facing one of the biggest engines of wealth and output in the country. [Link]

Stock Bulls in Trump Country Are Freaking Out Their Brokers by Michelle Davis (Bloomberg)

A frankly terrifying review of market enthusiasm based on Presidential tweets. With the current bull market celebrating its 9th birthday today, relatively elevated valuations, and lots of priced-in optimism about tax benefits and global growth, the extreme sentiment described in this article is concerning to say the least. [Link]

Rigged Games

How Do Pundits Never Get It Wrong? Call a 40% Chance by Rolfe Winkler and Justin Lahart (WSJ)

A rundown of the popular prognostication play which pegs every significant shift at a 40% chance, inflating odds of a major change while carefully hedging towards the baseline outcome. [Link; paywall]

Under Armour Boss’s Alma Mater Wins Shady Hoops Game, Has Folks Wondering If Money Buys Free Throws by Dave McKenna (Deadspin)

The favored charity of Under Armour CEO Kevin Planck received what can only be described as an absurd series of favorable calls during their effort to beat another school’s squad. [Link]

Yale’s Swensen (Mostly) Apologizes for Harsh Words to Students by Janet Lorin (Bloomberg)

In a rather embarrassing turn of events for one of the most revered asset allocators in the world, Yale’s endowment manager got into a very public spat with the school’s newspaper this week. [Link; auto-playing video]


You probably won’t remember this, but the “forgetting curve” theory explains why learning is hard by Nikhil Sonnad (Quartz)

In practice, the challenge of learning isn’t the intake of information, but its retention. This is such a persistent phenomenon, it’s even got a mathematical formula. [Link]

Startup Weekly

12 questions about the future of HQ trivia and its $15M fundraise by Josh Constine (TechCrunch)

All you need to know about HQ, the live trivia game which has driven rabid enthusiasm and huge numbers of persistent trivia players. [Link]

Wall Street Tech Spree: With Kensho Acquisition S&P Global Makes Largest A.I. Deal In History by Steven Bertoni and Antoine Gara (Forbes)

Prayer beads, cast iron tea pots, and Buddhas as decoration: Kensho is ramping up its algorithmic offerings after being purchased by S&P. [Link]

Long Reads

State of the Wine Industry 2018 by Rob McMillan (Silicon Valley Bank)

Chock full of charts and data, this rich, smooth report offers a wealth of tannic observations for the casual drinker and serious oenophile alike. [Link; 45 page PDF]

Jerry and Marge Go Large by Jason Fagone (HuffPo)

The story of a retired couple from Michigan and the numerical assault on the jackpots of lotteries in two different states. [Link]

National “Security”

Geek Squad staff ‘paid by FBI’ to flag illegal imagery (BBC)

A secret deal between Best Buy’s repair division and the FBI led to reporting of imagery related to child abuse; while the goal is laudable, such an arrangement very likely violates 4th Amendment rights and was found by a federal court to be insufficient evidence for a search warrant. [Link]

The Women Who Lived at CIA (CIA News & Information)

The story of a Quaker’s property that became enclosed in the campus of the CIA during the expansion of the new agency. [Link]

Fake News

It’s True: False News Spreads Faster and Wider. And Humans Are to Blame. by Steve Lohr (NYT)

In news that won’t surprise anyone that spends a lot of time on social media, fake stories are spread much more rapidly than real ones. [Link; soft paywall]

Meanwhile, In Canada

Over 500 Canadian doctors protest raises, say they’re being paid too much (yes, too much) by Catherine Clifford (CNBC)

“Who would want to cut their own pay?” is a fun hypothetical, and one which can now be answered: Canadian (specifically, Quebecois) doctors. [Link]


The Literal Translation of Country Names (Open Sea Dragon)

This amazing map presents the name of almost all countries with their original meaning. Spoiler: America’s is by far the least interesting. [Link]

Have a great Sunday!