Hunt for Oldest American Man Links to Wall Street: Opening Line

Conrad Johnson’s death last week, one month before what would have been his 111th birthday, left a question mark in the small but devoted world of supercentenarian watchers.

Johnson, a resident of Rockford, Illinois, had been the oldest living American man, according to the Gerontology Research Group, which studies and keeps records on supercentenarians, people who live to 110. (There are American women and non-American men over 110, but our focus here is on the American man, for reasons that will become clear.)

With Johnson’s death, no American man is reliably documented to be 110 -- the first time in more than 20 years that’s been the case -- so the title of oldest American man is up for grabs.

“As in the days of kings, sometimes there is an ‘inter-regnum’ between ‘reigns,’” Robert Young, GRG’s senior database administrator, told us by e-mail.

Young cited three of the possible candidates to be the oldest American man.

A California man who claims to be 116 appears to be more like 110, according to U.S. Census records, Young says.

An Illinois man who claims to be 111 could be 110 or 109.

Young says the strongest documentation of an “oldest American man” candidate belongs to Frank Levingston, a Louisiana man who on Nov. 15 celebrated his 109th birthday.

Which brings us, improbably enough, to the corner of Wall Street.

Manhattanite Irving Kahn, a co-founder and chairman of broker-dealer and investment adviser Kahn Brothers Group, made money by shorting stocks before the 1929 market crash. He assisted Benjamin Graham and David Dodd in the research for “Security Analysis,” their seminal work, first published in 1934, on finding undervalued stocks and bonds.

Kahn turned 109 on Dec. 19, making him just a month younger than Levingston -- and, by any measure, deserving of mention in any discussion of the oldest living American men. Graham and Dodd hardly could have chosen a more durable disciple.

Young’s group cannot rule out that there’s some chocolate-eating, deep-sleeping 112-year-old man out there who deserves the “America’s oldest” title.

“Because the U.S. government doesn’t publish a national list” of oldest people, he says, “there’s no way to know for sure.”


The Dallas Fed’s manufacturing outlook at 10:30 a.m. is today’s economic indicator.

It’s an off day for earnings.

Walgreen shareholders vote on completing the acquisition of Alliance Boots.


- AirAsia jet is likely “at the bottom of the sea,” Indonesian investigators say as the hunt goes on. - Asia’s booming aviation industry has had a bad year. - Bad weather is slowing rescue of passengers on ferry between Greece and Italy. - Russia’s economy contracted last month for the first time since 2009. - Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras failed, for a third time, to get lawmakers to back his nominee for president, triggering snap elections early in the New Year. - Sony’s “The Interview” topped $15 million in online sales in its first four days of distribution, with iTunes Store next. - The U.S. film industry is wrapping 2014 with the lowest sales since 2011. - Police were “very inappropriate” in turning backs to de Blasio, New York Police Commissioner William Bratton says. - “I Can’t Breathe” shirts nixed at California high-school basketball tournament. - Argentinian folktale about werewolf leads President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to adopt a Jewish boy as her stepson. - Birds sing worse when intoxicated. So do karaoke contestants. - NFL’s 49ers part ways with coach Jim Harbaugh, who may be Michigan-bound.


On March 9, 2009:

Warren Buffett said on CNBC that the U.S. economy “has fallen off a cliff,” and he warned that 1970s-style inflation could be a side effect of any recovery.

Bloomberg News reported that American International Group Inc. had appealed for a fourth U.S. rescue to avert a “catastrophic” collapse.

New Jersey public employees, fearing layoffs, were nearing agreement with Governor Jon Corzine on an 18-month wage freeze.

Ruth Madoff, whose husband Bernard had been charged in an immense financial con, hired a lawyer of her own.

Nouriel Roubini -- and he wasn’t alone -- predicted the stock market’s plunge would continue.

And U.S. stocks fell, “extending the worst weekly slump in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index since November,” Bloomberg reported. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 6,547.05, down 1.2 percent.

What we couldn’t know then, but can marvel at now:

That day, March 9, 2009, right in front of our eyes, the stock market’s months-long plunge hit its bottom. Over the next five and half years -- 2,119 days, to be precise -- the Dow would rise more than 11,500 points, or 176 percent, to an all-time high on the day after Christmas 2014.

It’s been quite a ride, especially when you consider that none of us knew when it had started.


Since we’re in a retrospective mood:

“Bond investors worldwide who were stung by their first annual losses since 1999 are bracing for more declines as the Federal Reserve pulls back on stimulus that’s supported fixed-income markets for five years,” Bloomberg reported on Dec. 31, 2013, accurately encapsulating a forecast for 2014 that turned out to be almost unfathomably off-base.

The widely expected selloff in Treasuries never happened, in large part because of the Fed’s super-gentle tapering of its bond-buying program. Instead, Treasuries have returned 5.7 percent, on pace for their best performance since 2011.

So, what now?

The surprisingly strong 2014 for U.S. government bonds is only amplifying predictions for prices to drop in 2015.

Among 74 economists and strategists surveyed by Bloomberg, the median forecast calls is for yields to reach 3.01 percent by the end of next year. That would represent a 0.75 percentage point increase, almost twice as much as forecasters anticipated for 2014.

“With Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen poised to raise interest rates in 2015 for the first time in almost a decade, prognosticators are convinced Treasury yields have nowhere to go except up,” Liz Capo McCormick and Susanne Walker report today. “Their calls for higher yields next year are the most aggressive since 2009, when U.S. debt securities suffered record losses, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.”


Confession: We’ve yet to lay eyes on a curved TV.

It’s been a year since we first learned about curved, “bendable,” “ultra-high-definition” televisions, which hogged many of the headlines at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. As often happens when we compare our daily life with tip-of-the-spear innovation, we’re left to wonder: is the curved-TV revolution going more slowly than anticipated, or are we terribly out of touch?

One account of last year’s CES cited 10 innovations “most likely to change how we live and work.” Of that group -- which included at-home 3-D printing, bots, drones and the aforementioned curved TV screens -- we’ve seen or touched just one: a health and fitness monitor, though our Fitbit Flex step-counter hardly feels cutting-edge.

So it’s with that cautious mindset that we dug into the earliest looks at the next CES, which will take over Vegas from Jan. 6 to 9.

Keith Naughton reports that cars -- connected to the Internet, self-driving, self-parking, unlocked by a push of a smartwatch -- will be “among the main attractions” at CES 2015, with “a record 10 automakers showing their wares on an exhibit space the size of three football fields.”

“Drivers are demanding their cars keep them constantly connected like a smartphone on wheels,” Naughton writes.

Despite all the effort to crack down on distracted driving, it seems that motorists who need to be permanently plugged-in are going to be getting what they want.


So in the end -- and this is on paper, not on the field, a distinction we can’t emphasize enough -- it wasn’t such an atrocious season for New York City-area football.

The Jets and Giants (who, yes, we know, play in New Jersey) ended the 2014 season with a combined 10 wins and 22 losses, a winning percentage in the range of 31 percent. That’s well above their darkest years in history, led by 1976, when they won a combined 21 percent of their games, and 1996, when they got closer to 22 percent.

The Jets are poised to clean house, according to ESPN.

In the NFC, the Carolina Panthers stomped their way into the playoffs as impressively as a team with a losing record can. The Baltimore Ravens claimed the last postseason slot in the AFC.