Welcome to Bespoke Brunch Reads — a linkfest of the favorite things we read over the past week. The links are mostly market related, but there are some other interesting subjects covered as well. We hope you enjoy the food for thought as a supplement to the research we provide you during the week.

Labor Markets

Strong Economy Draws Women into U.S. Labor Force by Harriet Tory (WSJ)

After peaking north of 77% back at the start of the 2000s, the female prime-age LFPR has started to climb again, more in-line with other global economies than the uncharacteristic declines in the 15 years ending 2015. [Link; paywall]

J.B. Hunt Says 10% Raises Are the Antidote to the Truck-Driver Shortage by Sarah Foster (Bloomberg)

Who would have thought that the anecdote to a worker shortage was to pay a higher price for labor? J.B. Hunt is doing ground-breaking work, apparently! [Link; soft paywall]


Mega Millions drawing yields no winners, jackpot swells to $1.6B (AP/NYP)

With no tickets claiming the massive draw on Friday, the multi-state Mega Millions lottery jackpot rose to $1.6bn; the next draw will be on Tuesday. [Link]

2018 Week 7 (Bespoke)

Part of our ongoing series picking NFL games against the spread; so far our picks are 44-38 on the year or 53.7%, which isn’t bad but hopefully will improve with Week 7 action. [Link]

Real Estate

This Small Bank Could Signal Trouble for the Biggest Ones by Stephen Gandel (Bloomberg)

Significant markdowns in the CRE lending portfolio of rapidly-growing Bank OZK (formerly Bank of the Ozarks) suggests the riskier parts of the commercial real estate market could be in trouble. Bank OZK may be familiar; we’d previously mentioned (link) their rapid, aggressive growth strategy in a market that they hadn’t previously been very involved in. [Link; soft paywall]

How Manhattan Became a Rich Ghost Town by Derek Thompson (The Atlantic)

Over 20% of Manhattan real estate is either vacant or set to become vacant, with tens of thousands of retail jobs disappearing in recent years. Surging incomes and real estate prices have made the city a victim of its own success. [Link]


How Autonomous Vehicles Will Reshape Our World by Samuel I. Schwartz (WSJ)

We’ve previously thrown cold water on the idea that autonomous vehicles will be rapidly introduced and adopted (link) but they are coming eventually. When they do, they will rapidly remake our physical world and economy. [Link; paywall]

Jony Ive on the Apple Watch and Big Tech’s responsibilities by Nicholas Folkes (FT)

An interview with Apple’s chief designer, in the FT’s famed lunch format. Plenty of discussion of high society sprinkled in (also the classic FT style) makes for an entertaining read despite some dark overtones from the man who has shaped Apples devices for years. [Link; paywall]


China’s Factory Heartland Braces for Trump’s Big Tariff Hit (Bloomberg)

Exporters aren’t terribly worried about 10% charges, but the possibility of 25% tariffs on Chinese goods looms for companies that send the vast majority of their goods to the United States. [Link; soft paywall, auto-playing video]

With Growth Sagging, China Shifts Back to Socialism by Benn Steil and Benjamin Della (Council on Foreign Relations)

With growth flagging and trade war looming, Chinese strategy has shifted back to squeezing private business in order to support state owned enterprises. [Link]

Government & Taxes

The Cum Ex Files (Cum Ex Files)

A massive investigation of fraudulently obtained tax refunds (for taxes which had never been paid in the first place) in Germany; a very long but incredibly useful read on the genesis and persistence of stolen money from the German state. [Link]

Governments Should Be Run More Like Businesses by Matthew C. Klein (Barron’s)

Forget trying to aim for a balanced budget, it’s the asset and liability accounting of governments that need to be updated to the most basic private sector practice, in the eyes of Matthew Klein. [Link; paywall]

Why a Private Landowner Is Fighting to Keep the Homeless on His Property by Mitch Smith (NYT)

An Akron property owner wanted to give homeless neighbors a place to pitch a tent, but the city has ordered the organized, self-regulating encampment torn down for zoning violations. [Link; soft paywall]

Personal Exploits

Daniel Sickles by George Pearkes (Thread Reader)

A biography of one of the most dubious characters of the Union Army, New York City’s Daniel Sickles. Machine politics, an underage bride, getting away with murder, Gettysburg, a Medal of Honor, and a leg in a box mailed to a museum; quite a story from Bespoke’s Macro Strategist and occasional history dabbler. [Link]

Original Big Bird, Caroll Spinney, Leaves ‘Sesame Street’ After Nearly 50 Years by Dave Itzkoff (NYT)

The man who has played Big Bird on Sesame Street since 1969 is retiring after almost 5 decades bringing joy to children across the country and around the world. [Link; soft paywall]

Industry Analysis

Lithium miners’ dispute reveals water worries in Chile’s Atacama desert by Dave Sherwood (Reuters)

Mineral-rich brine from the Atacama salt flats in Chile is the most available source of lithium in the world, and one of the operators in the area may be over-drawing its allocation of the valuable and rare resource. [Link]

How 2 Upstart Retailers Want to Reinvent the Traditional Department Store by Michelle Cheng (Inc)

A new concept features rotating online brands, event space, and restaurants to being a new model to the department store retail space. [Link]


Goldman says the sell-off is just about over and tells investors to get back into growth stocks by Jeff Cox (CNBC)

GS equity strategist David Kostin thought the bottom was in for growth stocks back on Monday, a call that looked good for about 24 hours but has some room for skepticism later in the week. [Link]

U.S. SEC mulls consultation on easing quarterly reporting rules by Katanga Johnson (Yahoo!/Reuters)

Slower reporting cycles may be in the pipeline for smaller firms, though the SEC notes larger firms aren’t going to avoid quarterly filings anytime soon. [Link]

Weird News

Divers swim through 90 feet of raw sewage to unclog giant, hairy ‘fatberg’ by Joshua Rhett Miller (NYP)

A clog featuring thousands of baby wipes, a baseball (?) and a large piece of metal (???) was causing trouble for pumps in Charleston, SC. Divers ended up swimming through 90 feet of raw sewage to extract the mess. [Link]

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Have a great Sunday!

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