Tater’s Takes: Marathon Wars

October 16th, 2011 by Potato

I haven’t had a round-up post for a while, so let’s correct that now. Things have been pretty busy with me the last little while. Though the market has been volatile, which should be presenting opportunities, I just haven’t managed to find the time to do any real analysis for active investing. One depressing case-in-point was Armtec: I started working on a post called “Is Armtec Going Bankrupt?” on Sept 29, thinking that perhaps the answer might be “no.” I meant to finish my research on the company over that weekend, but instead found myself crawling under the car and reading Ready Player One (BTW: a good read, way more fun than annual reports). “Oh well,” I figured when the weekend came and went and I hadn’t finished my analysis yet, “I’ll just do it next weekend.” Unfortunately the market doesn’t always let us take our time with these things: the next week it was up about 100%. D’oh! Now of course, I hadn’t yet made up my mind on the company, so it’s just as likely I would have done all that reading, decided not to buy, and then had it go up 100% anyway… but I think I would have preferred that outcome to the one where I maybe might have ended up buying it on the Tuesday, and made out like a bandit by Thursday, but didn’t because I just couldn’t be bothered to get off my butt and do some DD. Ah, well, c’est la vie.

The post-doc weight loss progress has been underwhelming, but not an entire write-off. It’s been almost two months and I’ve lost a little over 2 pounds. It has ever-so-helpfully been mentioned that that could just be measurement error, which is true, so we’ll see how I make it through the difficult Halloween then post-Halloween-candy-sale then xmas-and-Boxing-Day-candy-sale gauntlet coming up.

Futurama has a great thing called the “Parade Day Parade” to consolidate all the parades which, in the 31st century New New York, would otherwise eternally tie up the streets in gridlock after accumulating a millennium’s worth of events to hold a parade over. So with all the bloody marathons and charity fun runs, I’m not surprised that conflicts are starting to arise. I don’t know what the fascination is with running along commuting routes or through downtown Toronto. Surely some of those races could be moved to the burbs, or better yet, a dedicated running trail. I guess it’s marathon brain taking over: once you run a truly suicidally stupid distance like 40 km, you must start to think you are a car, and try to plan race routes on streets.

Michael James has a good, short post asking what predictions are profitable. It’s not good enough sometimes to know what’s coming, but also to know without the rest of the market having already priced it in.

CC has a post up showing that the recent market volatility is not “unprecedented”. There have been plenty of cases of high volatility in the past. Note that much of the volatility is intra-day (I was scratching my head for a while as to how there could possibly be more 5+% days than 3+% days, until I noticed that difference in the legend).

Dave Chilton tackles the RRSP vs TFSA question. He takes a bit longer to cover it than I do in my book, but is also a little more thorough, with some humour as well. Short answer? Sounds similar to mine: TFSA is pretty good, but the RRSP is better if you’re in a higher tax bracket now (and expect to be in a lower one at retirement). Both is better yet. Oh, and don’t blow your refund.

Preet admonishes those who convert to market timing after stocks falter in the Globe: “Please. The fact that the market has already fallen should be proof enough that you have no authority to suddenly become a market timer. If you were good at it, you would have taken your money off the table before the decline.”

Then after saying something so clever and catchy, Preet goes on to try to deny the Canadian housing bubble, dragging out some of the flimsiest explanations. “Looking at debt-to-income is only part of the story. You need to see what that debt was spent on. […] A lot of that debt is mortgage debt. Housing has done well, so on the asset side, we are doing much better.” was one of the worst. I haven’t dug up the citation, but I’m sure I heard that from the Americans a few years ago. If house prices go down, the debt doesn’t go away without pain. And it’s backwards: ask not what was used to secure the debt, but what has fuelled the rise in the asset itself (answer: debt).

An x-ray tube was stolen in Markham, but the report has basically no details. I can’t even tell if it’s a Beryllium-7 source, or a regular x-ray tube with a Beryllium window (or if the radioactive Beryllium-7 part is a mistake or a minor component). I couldn’t find any information about it at the CNSC website, but then I wouldn’t necessarily expect to yet. A stolen (sealed?) source (if it’s even a source) isn’t a radiation accident, just an accident waiting to happen. (Edit: the York Regional Police release says that it’s also dangerous if broken, which suggests it is a sealed source and not just a x-ray tube).

Netbug has been glued to the development logs of Windows 8. I’m a bit slow, still loving XP on my main computer, and I have no intention of getting my hopes up for a product that may be years out, may bear little resemblance to the work presented now, and will likely be a disappointment no matter how low I set my expectations. However, the proposed task manager improvements do look neat.

New firmware has come out for the Kobo, which overcomes some of my criticisms from before: it adds the ability to annotate passages, search within a book, and my personal favourite, a low battery warning when you hit 10% and 5% of battery life remaining. It also lets you change which parts of the screen are receptive to page turns. I’ll try installing it later tonight!

4 Responses to “Tater’s Takes: Marathon Wars”

  1. Netbug Says:

    I always try to be helpful by offering advice and observations as useful as yours. ;)

  2. Patrick Says:

    Well, you know I’m with you on the real estate thing.

    My wife also made a point one time I thought was pretty strong: housing prices can’t possibly grow faster than inflation everywhere indefinitely without bound, because then everyone would eventually get priced out of the housing market.

  3. Potato Says:

    Thanks for the solidarity, Patrick!

    I had an interesting discussion on the matter yesterday with a friend in London. He was saying I had to have made a mistake (in particular, that I wasn’t accounting for the forced savings aspect of the mortgage), that there was no way renting was actually that much cheaper. I tried explaining my methodology, pointing out that I’ve gotten very good at this calculation and taking into account all the factors (I have, sadly, had years of practice and discussion on the matter).

    In the end it wasn’t absolute numbers that convinced him, but a comparison: if things are fairly well in balance in London (I might still dither about that, but it’s a good starting point for this discussion), then what does it mean for Toronto if rents are ~60% higher but ownership costs are ~250% higher?

    “A house is $700,000 in Toronto? No, how can this be? Yes, I see why you would rent. That is unbelievable.”

  4. Patrick Says:

    Ha! Nice. A $700k house in Toronto isn’t all that remarkable either.

    I remember looking at Hamilton for a while (I was thinking of attending McMaster). I didn’t do a scientific study, but my impression was that rents were about 2/3 the price in Toronto while houses were 1/3 the price. At those prices, with today’s low mortgage rates, it’s at least _possible_ that buying could save you money. In Toronto, not so much.