Nowhere to go but up.

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Bond Shortages and Other Randomness

Barry Ritholtz is a Bloomberg View columnist. He founded Ritholtz Wealth Management and was chief executive and director of equity research at FusionIQ, a quantitative research firm. He blogs at the Big Picture and is the author of “Bailout Nation: How Greed and Easy Money Corrupted Wall Street and Shook the World Economy.”
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Between a Tweet and a full column is a netherworld where ideas often get lost. Rather than let these tweener concepts slip through the cracks, now and again I like to gather them in one place (see, e.g., this) -- if only to see if any discernible patterns emerge. Here's my latest run of random ideas:

1. Is there a shortage of A-rated sovereign bonds?  Ever since economists concluded in the beginning of 2014 that bonds were a bad bet and yields had nowhere to go but up, I wondered what might prove these folks wrong.

We already knew the Fed was a buyer. Soon after, the Bank of Japan joined.  Now the ECB is in. But a trillion -- or three -- of additional quantitative easing doesn't explain the untold trillions of bonds that are bid each quarter, or the negative yields.

My conclusion: There is a shortage of quality sovereign paper. I know, that's hard to imagine given all of the global debt: But the key word is quality.

2. How is the Apple Watch going to do?  I haven’t the foggiest idea. But I can tell you this much: Neither do any of the pundits spilling thousands of words full of conviction (and something else I am not permitted to print in this forum).

John Gruber of Daring Fireball has detailed all of the “Claim Chowder,” as he calls it, of past forecasts about Apple products ranging from the iPod to iPhone to iPad. How many people thought the iPhone 6 was going to be a disaster?

As a Mac fanboy going back to the late 1980s and 90s, I am not sure if I want one of these watches. But I expect that by sometime in, say 2017, I will not only be wearing one but finding it indispensable. (Assuming Apple can get iCloud fixed.) That’s how Apple rolls.

Here is what we know: Apple has managed to defy expectations repeatedly. The company has created product categories that didn’t previously exist. It has mangled other companies as collateral damage. But in doing so, it has made the world a better, more wondrous place.

3. Daylight Savings Time: It remains one of the dumbest ideas in society. No, it does not rise to the level of genocide or racism or other terribles, but it's an idiotic, self-inflicted wound that manages to totally disrupt my happy little routine twice a year. It serves no purpose whatsoever. It's time to throw this World War II anachronism overboard.

4. Investing Debates: Why is it that so many debates about investing devolve into exercises in bad rhetoric? I understand that not everyone studies the philosophy of rhetoric or participates in debating society or moot court, but some of the stuff I see is simply ridiculous.  I enjoy the back and forth of a decent economic or valuation debate as much as anyone, until it breaks down in ad hominem warfare. Twitter can’t resolve these issues; they eventually are resolved by the ultimate arbiter: price action.

5. Corn Ethanol: Speaking of idiotic: For reasons inexplicable beyond the selfishness and corruption of U.S. corn farmers, we burn food for fuel. It is a scam, economically inefficient and an expensive tax on drivers. It makes food cost more, it wreaks havoc on automobile engines and has destroyed numerous marine engines. Motorists pay about $10 billion more per year for gasoline due to ethanol costs. That would sure fix a lot of roads desperate for maintenance.

If any of you can suggest to me what to do with www.ihatecornethanol.com to help end this foolishness, I would be grateful.

6. Science: Can we please stop debating the merits of basic science? It works.

In a world filled with technological marvels and all manner of scientific breakthroughs, how is it remotely possible that a non-trivial number of people still refuse to believe in scientific method?

From vaccine truthers to climate change deniers, the flat eartherswho won’t accept science are increasingly difficult to understand.  The next person who begins a sentence with, “I'm not a scientist but . . . ” deserves a slap upside his big dumb head.

7. Is Howard Stern Retiring? When I was a young commuter, I used to listen to Howard Stern all the time. He was crude, hilarious and utterly entertaining; a great time-killer during any commute. Once he made the move from terrestrial radio to satellite, I heard him less frequently, catching the occasional guest spot on television or a YouTube clip (see this or this). He has been landing one A-list guest after another, though, and they have been spectacular interviews.

Another fracas with his bosses has him talking retirement (again). A recent Bloomberg article asks, “Can SiriusXM Survive Without Howard Stern?” It makes me wonder if he might really retire this time, or where he might end up.

8. Masters in Business: Speaking of radio, I have never had more fun with media than with the Masters in Business series. If you haven’t heard the podcasts, they are deep dives with brilliant guests. Give a listen. 

That’s it for this month’s random items. Swing by next month for another helping.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Barry L Ritholtz at britholtz3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Francis Wilkinson at fwilkinson1@bloomberg.net