The Flinchum File
Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions

From Butterfly Wings to ObamaCare


If a Monarch butterfly flaps its wings in Mexico, how does it affect the weather in Virginia Beach? A group of bright young mathematicians, econometricians, and old-fashioned computer nerds from MIT started a little company called Hidden Levers which looks at the quantitative relationships between many, many things.  Their goal is to predict the impact on … Continue reading From Butterfly Wings to ObamaCare

Great News + Good News = Bad News


Four times a year, corporations are required to state their earnings.  This is called the “earnings season” or the “confession period.”  Before the companies make their announcement, analysts at various investment firms predict what those earnings will be.  The expectations of the analysts are usually priced into the current price of the company stock before … Continue reading Great News + Good News = Bad News

The Vampire Squid Spews


Despite their reputation, I think Goldman Sachs has an excellent research department.  Here are some of their latest thoughts: 1.  Our GDP growth rate of about 1.6% will double next year.  (This would be huge!)2.  Inflation is not on the horizon, due to slack labor and weak commodities.  (Why wouldn’t it be affected by such … Continue reading The Vampire Squid Spews

Watching A Dinosaur Die ?


Years ago, I was asked by my employer to consider a transfer to a newly-created hedge fund department, and I’m so glad I did not do so. After World War II, an Australian journalist in New York wanted to create an investment fund that was “hedged.”  In other words, the fund would retain its value … Continue reading Watching A Dinosaur Die ?

The Joy of Air Travel


If there is anything good about the soul-numbing hassle of air travel, it is the opportunity to catch up on your reading.  On my trip last week, I read eight different trade journals on the market and was struck by the uniform “wall-of-worry.”  It was depressing.  Yes, the sky may be falling but is it … Continue reading The Joy of Air Travel

Nuff Said


The camaraderie that exists in the military is unlike any other.  In particular, I miss the deep beer-soaked  philosophical discussions with my fellow young, inexperienced, infantry lieutenants.  Such discussions usually ended in one of two ways, i.e., hilarity or moroseness.  Most often, we ended with the hilarity that everything we said or did was hysterically … Continue reading Nuff Said

If History Matters


I keep returning to this graph.  It bothers me!  I do believe history is a good guide to the future — but only until it isn’t.  History is less important in a society where the rate of change is increasing.  But first, take a few minutes to study this graph: In the last 112 years, … Continue reading If History Matters

Existential Calvinism ?


Today’s news carried a story about the benefit of working past normal retirement age.  It cited a French study that each additional year of work decreased our probability of getting dementia by 3.2%.  All I could say was . . . surprise, surprise? Recently, a good friend said I was becoming positively Calvinistic in my … Continue reading Existential Calvinism ?

Boring But Important


The London Interbank Offered Rate or LIBOR was designed to measure the cost of borrowing between banks in London when they borrowed overnight to cover minimum liquidity requirements.  The rate would increase whenever the banking system had too little liquidity or too little cash-on-hand.  It was an early-warning-system for the Bank of England that it … Continue reading Boring But Important

Extra, Extra — Read All About It


My latest quarterly column for Inside Business on the economy and the stock market can be found at: 

Ending Hurricane Season


There is an old expression on Wall Street that it is always “climbing a Wall of Worry.”  We saw that last month when the stock market had a temper tantrum following Ben Bernanke’s press conference.  Most such emotional outbursts are more annoying than instructive. But, there is something bothering me that I don’t think the … Continue reading Ending Hurricane Season

Brief Economic Data


Consumer confidence reached a six-year high in May before falling slightly in June.  This is good news, but we always looks for some confirmation of economic data.  One of Alan Greenspan’s favorite economic indicators was the Men’s Underwear Index (MUI).  Because so few people ever see men’s underwear, replacing it is an expense that men … Continue reading Brief Economic Data

Fatherly Advice


It may be the best advice my father ever gave me:  Never discuss politics or religion!  That was good advice, which has helped over the years.  Sometimes, my love of economics would cause me to slip into a political discussion, but I’ve faithfully avoided any discussion of religion.  It is simply too important and too … Continue reading Fatherly Advice

Just Another Declaration ?


When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the … Continue reading Just Another Declaration ?

So . . . What Happened to Gold ?


The second quarter of this year was the worst quarter gold has ever experienced, since markets began trading it many years ago.  From over $1,900 per ounce a few years ago to less than $1,200 at quarter-end, what happened? The truth is seldom flip, and neither is this.  First of all, since we measure the … Continue reading So . . . What Happened to Gold ?

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