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.

Investing

Harvard Endowment to Lay Off Half Its Staff by Juliet Chung and Dawn Lim (WSJ)

The world’s largest university endowment has decided it’s time to call it quits and will pass off management to an outside manager. [Link; paywall]

Hedge Funds Risk Treasuries Wipeout After Bearish Bets Soar by Brian Cappatta and Liz McCormick (Bloomberg)

In futures markets, hedge funds are extremely short bonds, setting up the possibility of a messy market should rates fail to make a further significant upside move. [Link; auto-playing video]

Hedge Funds Strike Paydirt on Actelion Deal After Tracking J&J’s Jet (Bloomberg)

Is this what you call alternative investing? [Link]

Betting on Nordic Rain Pays Better Than Average Hedge Fund by Jesper Starn (Bloomberg)

And this as well? [Link]

Science

Hydrogen turned into metal in stunning act of alchemy that could revolutionise technology and spaceflight by Ian Johnston (The Independent)

Squeezing together two diamonds, hydrogen has been fused into a metal that has a huge range of potential applications in addition to its theoretically fascinating properties. [Link; auto-playing video]

Two Infants Treated with Universal Immune Cells Have Their Cancer Vanish by Antonia Regalado (MIT Technology Review)

While the results are not conclusive (due to the concurrent use of chemotherapy), there have been extremely promising results of new tests that use artificial immune-system cells to combat blood cancer. [Link]

Even wasps make trade deals, scientists discover (University of Sussex/Science Daily)

A new study about the “economic” structure of wasps and how they react to other wasps in uncertain social settings suggests they follow the laws of supply and demand. [Link]

Demographics

“Estimating trends in mortality for the bottom quartile, we found little evidence that survival probabilities declined dramatically.” by Andrew Gelman (Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science)

Are lower-income men dying at greater rates, as reported by Case and Deaton last year? It depends how you count it!  When adjusting for the shifting prevalence of education, the effect disappears. [Link]

Real Estate

China’s Army of Global Homebuyers Is Suddenly Short on Cash (Bloomberg)

Housing markets from California to the UK are starting to sag as Chinese capital controls choke of the spigot of investment that has supported prices in recent years. [Link; auto-playing video]

Home prices in the Hamptons are collapsing by Akin Oyedele (Business Insider)

High-end New York vacation property has seen prices decline as much as 20% YoY with buyers hesitant to step in and sellers pushing higher numbers of listings. [Link]

Mall Owners Rush to Get Out of the Mall Business by Esther Fung (WSJ)

With declining fortunes for the retail industry, their landlords are starting to select default and foreclosure over keeping the doors of indoor malls open. [Link; paywall]

Remember ABX? Wall Street Said to Test New Mortgage Index by Matt Scully (Bloomberg)

Prime mortgage credit risk is starting to trade again, part of an effort to reduce credit risk for government sponsored entities like Fannie and Freddie. But the new derivatives look nothing like the sub-prime CDS index of “The Big Short” fame. [Link]

Economic Research

A Challenge to the ‘Secular Stagnation’ Theory by David Harrison (WSJ Real Time Economics)

Arguing that productivity variations driven by workers’ ages are more important than dependency ratios, a new Acemoglu and Restrepo paper argues that automation will unleash per capita growth. [Link]

Expert group studying the causes of low inflation (ECB)

An impressive 14 papers on the causes of low inflation in the Euro area. We haven’t had a chance to read through all of these yet but the repository is quite a thing! [Link]

The Best vs. the Rest: The Global Productivity Slowdown Hides an Increasing Performance Gap across Firms by Dan Andrews, Chiara Criscuolo, and Peter Gal (OECD Ecoscope)

Interesting data from the OECD on the extreme levels of productivity achieved by the most efficient firms, but the middling at best levels of output per worker hour in the rest of the business sector. [Link]

Local Government

Assessing Fiscal Capacities of States by Tracy Gordon, Richard Auxier, and John Iselin (Urban Institute)

We can’t blame you for not clicking on a link to a PDF this large, but we assure you that the data assembled within is worth some of your time, detailing the mechanics of revenue collection and spending outlays across the 50 states. [Link; 150 page PDF]

Alternative Perspectives

Disability Is Not An Asterisk: Eric Garcia Interviews Dylan Matthews by Eric Garcia (NOS Magazine)

A conversation between two of DC’s small handful of autistic journalists. We found the conversation deeply revealing and offering a very different perspective than one that would have played out between two neurotypical conversationalists. [Link]

Trump Trade

Under Trump, It’s Make a Deal With the President—or Else by Justin Sink (Bloomberg)

A summary of the techniques by which Trump is hoping to push growth. [Link; auto-playing video]

Trump Aide Reassures Canada on Trade Talks, Isolating Mexico by Josh Wingrove and Greg Quinn (Bloomberg)

North of the border, there’s little attachment to defending NAFTA, though free trade with the United States is viewed as critical. [Link; auto-playing video]

Will U.S. Policy Trump Canadian Trade? Some Questions And Answers by Brian DePratto (TD Economics)

A handy primer on the US-Canada bilateral trade relationship, with a variety of detailed backgrounders, charts, and outlook for trade with the United States. [Link; 7 page PDF]

Amazon

Amazon’s next frontier to conquer? Auto parts by Josh Kosman and James Covert (NY Post)

Auto parts are a huge business ($50bn per year) and Amazon wants a piece, turning its expertise in inventory, logistics, and customer interfacing towards traditional retailers. [Link]

AWS Snowmobile (Amazon Web Services)

In a bid to help clients convert server farms to the cloud, Amazon is rolling out a service that amounts to a motorized shipping container full of flash memory. [Link]

FedEx Bandwidth (xkcd what if?)

Semi-related to the above link, this is a fantastic if somewhat unserious answer to the question “what is the bandwidth of FedEx?” [Link]

The Buck

Companies Can’t Stop Talking About the Strong Dollar by Ben Eisen (WSJ Moneybeat)

A round-up of the earnings commentary related to the US dollar so far this earnings season. While it’s early yet, there’s been a lot of it. [Link]

Media

Facebook, Snapchat Deals Produce Meager Results for News Outlets by Gerry Smith (Bloomberg)

Despite handy user interfaces and large user counts, content owners are having a very hard time squeezing blood out of the stones that are Snapchat and Facebook. [Link]

Pursuits

The Fitness Shift That Should Worry Every Gym Owner by Rachel Bachman (WSJ)

Services that allow users to flit between gyms offering workout classes are fantastic for folks getting in their exercise but carry dangers for gym owners. [Link; paywall]

Doomsday Prep For The Super Rich by Evan Osnos (The New Yorker)

How do you get ready for the end of the world when you have too much money to spend? The answer to that question is, if this article is any indication, a barrel of laughs. [Link]

Have a great Sunday!

 

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