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Stellar Recap | Inflated Consequences & ETHEReal Surprise

Stella Min
Stella Min
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Inflated consequences? Last week, I explored the implication of current economic trends, particularly the rising costs of common goods and residential real estate. In case you’re wondering, little has changed. Prices are still surging for durable goods like used vehicles (up 52% YoY), fuel like diesel, and chemicals like chlorine (partly because of a factory fire last August). Shortages in shipping containers and semiconductors are still contributing to price hikes which are reverberating through a growing list of consumer goods which now includes chicken (wings are up 26% and breasts are up 11%), furniture, and imported foods like cheese, coffee, and olive oil (Entrepreneur). Overall, food prices are up 4%, with the price of meat up by 10% (CNBC). Analysts predict that container shortages will persist through 2022, similar to the shortage in semiconductors. Meanwhile, corporate earnings continued to shatter records this week and executives remain concerned about inflation. Mentions of “inflation” increased 800% YoY during corporate earnings calls. The 5-year Treasury yield, however, suggests that it’s perhaps expectations that are actually inflated. Regardless, these discussions got me wondering about the decision to purchase a home in the midst of inflation. Goldman Sachs predicts that double-digit increases in home prices will continue into next year but, according to this real estate analyst, the steep rise in home prices has already completely eroded the benefits of low interest rates. How should prospective homebuyers act based on this information? Historical data on home price appreciation and the CPI (the most common measure of inflation) tracing back to 1891 suggests that both are generally closely intertwined which means that, for the most part, inflation shouldn’t really matter in the long-run. The pandemic had an extraordinary effect on the real estate market though. It’s possible that record shortages in inventory may translate to higher rates of appreciation if current demand persists. On the other hand, all of the estimates for home price appreciation that I’ve seen do not account for the cost of home ownership (e.g., taxes, repairs, insurance, and ongoing maintenance). Immediate necessary repairs involving lumber could easily and steeply undercut financial returns. My general takeaway is that the potential financial return on purchasing a house largely depends on location-specific factors. Home prices have increased far more in some cities relative to others while some cities like Denver are starting to see a slight uptick in inventory. I also think it’s important to consider the alternative. For example, it may be harder to recoup $115 MILLION on a home in Malibu versus a $439,000 home in Douglas City or maybe even a €1 home in Italy while owning may be preferred over renting, although not necessarily. Lastly, price may not accurately reflect meaningful qualities of a desirable home. It may be worth living in a community that you’re excited to join and feel welcome in, regardless of financial forecasts.
I thought Apple was known for usability. Have you ever tried to make a podcast playlist in iTunes and share it with someone outside of your household? The process is not intuitive at all. Admittedly, I may have struggled because I was using a PC and iPad. This might be easier if you have Macbook or iMac. I don’t think it’s just me though, based on comments like this. The mistake I made over and over again was creating a station. Don’t do that because it’s not the same as a playlist. Also, saved podcast episodes don’t seem to transfer between devices. Once you manage to make a playlist, you can’t share it via the iTunes app. You have to export your playlist to your iCloud account (I think). 🤦🏻
ETHEReal surprise. It’s no secret that equity markets have been on a tear this past year which has motivated US households to increase their stock exposure to 41%. This is the highest level on record, according to WSJ. Retail investors remain net buyers while institutional investors and hedge funds have largely sold out for the third and fifth week in a row, respectively (Axios Markets). Cryptocurrencies have also been dominating headlines as coins like dogecoin rose by an astonishing 14,000% as of last week (view graph). Even shows like Saturday Night Live are poking fun at the NFT craze. All of this hype finally motivated me enough to log into my old Coinbase account. I briefly dabbled around with cryptocurrencies in 2017 but stopped because the speculation was greater than the actual potential of the technology at the time. Because I could trade small fractions of each coin, I was fairly confident that I still held some ridiculously small amount of cryptocurrency. When I last cashed out, I had less than a penny’s worth in Ethereum (ETH) and bitcoin (BTC). I had $0.005002 in ETH and far less than that in BTC. When I logged into my account, to my delight, I found that I still held 0.51814033 ETH and 0.0000313 BTC. When I logged into my account on Thursday, that fraction of a penny is now worth around $1,300 while my holdings in bitcoin are worth around $1.80. Year-to-date, my combined returns on my initial investment have increased by 400%, assuming that current values hold or increase. Analysts suggest that this will very likely be the case. As of Friday (May 7, 2021), Ethereum surpassed bitcoin in terms of year-to-date returns. The Ethereum blockchain also underlies NFTs which don’t appear to be going away anytime soon, although emerging competitors could replace it.
Now, I have to decide what to do with my holdings. What do you think I should do?
  • Name a time when you received constructive feedback and how that impacted who you are today.
  • Name a person who closely embodies your values.
  • What’s one area of growth you’ve made progress in this year?
  • What’s one thing that you continue to do despite questioning whether it’s serving you?
  • What’s one thing that you struggle in asking for help with?
Digital Gems
  • The US economy added around 266,000 jobs in April, well below the estimated 1 million new jobs that were expected. Hearkening back to December’s jobs report, all of the new jobs went to men while an additional 165,000 women exited the labor market.
  • Asian Americans along with workers over ages 45 continue to make up the greatest share of the long-term unemployed (Pew). Even those with jobs don’t want them. For example, grocery stores lost 49,000 workers in April and nursing care facilities lost around 20,000, likely driven by burnout (WP).
  • People and companies spend around $20 million a year on the Myers-Brigg personality assessment, despite its inconsistencies and rejection by clinical psychologists and psychiatrists. (video by Vox; 3.35 min.)
  • Neat animatronic cosplay wing tutorial on adafruit! (Ruiz Brothers)
  • Previous USA Memory Championship contestants had to memorize a poem titled “Carpe Diem” by Patricia Anne Pinson. (USA Memory Championship)
  • Leading QAnon influencer who goes by the name InevitableET or IET owns a chiropractor clinic in downtown Denver, Colorado. (Vice)
  • Dollar stores make up 45% of the new store openings announced by large retail chains. (CNN)
  • A man was recently issued a ticket by a local civilian for allegedly running a red light in Woodland Park, Colorado (Colorado Sun). Apparently this is legal in other states and localities as well, including New York City, Washington DC, Seattle, Malibu, and the entire state of Oregon.
  • Detroit-based developer created affordable housing out of farm storage. (Fast Company)
  • Maternal mortality in Colorado has doubled since 2008 and the leading cause of death was suicide followed by accidental overdose (Colorado Sun). Deaths from drug overdoses increased 33%. (The Gazette)
  • Gen Z has coined a new term, “cheugy” (pronounced chew-gee), to broadly describe someone who is out of date or trying too hard. The term is mostly associated with millennial women but can be applied to anyone of any gender and age. (ITK.)
  • Over 8 million rental properties are behind on payments and nearly half are owned by individuals, rather than companies, who depend on them for income. A third are at risk of bankruptcy or foreclosure because of the eviction moratorium and the ongoing circumstances driven by the pandemic (WP).
  • More borrowers are currently behind on their mortgage than at any time since the Great Recession. (WP)
  • Third-party sellers generated between $25 to $39 billion in profits in 2020, according to Amazon, although “profit” isn’t explicitly defined. Fees are also growing faster than revenue, which means sellers are increasingly earning less. (Tim O'Reilly)
  • A new choose-your-own adventure game inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, called AI Dragon, revealed the pitfalls of using AI as it may suddenly turn X-rated and even illegal when some players use the algorithm to generate sexual content featuring children. (Wired)
  • Ontario, Oregon, home of the tater tot, became a cannabis hot spot for residents from Boise ID, where cannabis products remain illegal. (Politico)
  • The prospect of reaching herd immunity is increasingly looking unlikely, particularly in some areas more than others. (The Sassyologist)
  • The remains of a 39-year old woman from Durango, Colorado were found in the stomachs of black bears (9News). Colorado Parks and Wildlife reported a significant increase in Human-bear encounters in both Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest over the past year. (Colorado Sun)
  • A third of Basecamp employees quit after the CEO, Jason Fried, instated a new policy that inhibits employees from discussing politics. (NYT)
  • Police officers lag behind the nation in COVID-19 vaccinations. (WP)
  • Nearly 77% of 51-70 year old women and 87% of 51-70 year old men eat less than the recommended serving of vegetables, which is considerably lower than nearly 99% of girls and boys between ages 14 and 18 who do. (WSJ)
  • About 1 in 4 single-family homes for sale this year were newly built. (Redfin)
  • The latest survey by the Department of Defense showed a 37% increase in sexual assaults among service members. (Today, Explained podcast; 27 min.)
  • An increasing number of US officials have come down with a mysterious neurological disorder, referred to as Havana syndrome, that can result in debilitating symptoms including nausea, hearing loss, insomnia, and vertigo. (Vox)
  • Delaware tops the chart as the best state for remote work while Alaska was ranked last. (The Sassyologist)
  • 29% of parents prefer their child continue with remote or hybrid classes over the next year. (Politico)
  • Annual temperatures have increased dramatically over the past century along with greenhouse emissions (The Sassyologist). The world must make substantial changes to meet the targets set in the Paris Climate Agreement. (The Sassyologist)
  • Approximately 1 in 20 COVID-19 cases suffer from long-term effects. (IBM)
  • Demand for butt implants increased 22% last year. Breast implant removal increased by 8%. (Bloomberg)
  • Many people tend to dismiss or forget Melinda Gates’s instrumental role in managing the Gates Foundation. Questions and concerns remain about the impact of Bill’s and Melinda’s on their philanthropic initiatives and the organizations and people who depend on them. (What Next podcast; 28 min.)
  • 35% of small businesses remain closed due to the pandemic. Each additional week of closure is associated with a lower probability of re-opening, which means a greater proportion of employees will be permanently laid off. (NY Fed)
View more snippets of my digital consumption here.
Wishing you a productive week
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Stella Min
Stella Min @OhhStellar

Stellar Recap is my personal newsletter where I share digest of interesting media that I've come across during the week, along with any personal updates.

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