Conspicuous Consumption in Shanghai. Or, Better Living Through Enhanced Consumerism

An Audemars Piguet Millenary Chalcedony Tourbillon - now that's a mouthful...

What a difference a couple of decades make on the world consumer stage. Who'd have ever imagined Red Communist Chinese buying up luxury goods from Versace, Bvlgari and Versace by the sackful? And yet, here we were last month in Shanghai airport, and my traveling companion discreetly nods at middle-aged (and very ordinary) couple ahead of us in the immigration line, and murmurs sotto voce "Luis Vuitton luggage. The real stuff." Well, the couple certainly had bags. Whether they were genuine or knock-offs, I had to take his word for it. Couldn't tell, couldn't care. Same scene repeated several times with different Chinese colleagues, folks who might not otherwise comfortably afford a Vacheron Constantin watch or a Coach hand-bag, but … [Read more...]

How to Profit From Pond Scum… Or Not

Chlorella regularis, not be confused with Chlorella Vulgaris, the ruder, ill-mannered cousin of Regularis

  Green crude sure sounds sexy enough, in a renewable energy kind of way. What's not to love about it?  Grow a bunch of algae from sunlight and CO2, harvest it, and presto-change-O, you've got "green" bio-diesel. Enough to get save-the-planet folks and environment reporters all hot in the pants. The best laid plans of blog topics sometimes take a backseat to chasing down rabbit holes.  The plan was to write a post on auto insurance today, but in the course of looking up a web reference, came across instead this story from MIT's Technology Review: In Race to Algae Fuel, Sapphire Scores Point for Open Ponds Sapphire Energy starts farming algae at New Mexico demo plant using an open pond design, which it says is the only … [Read more...]

Nickel-Plated Trailers: a Centavos Dividend Portfolio Update

... going back a ways ...

With the last portfolio update back in November, we're about due for another one. Some new additions to the lineup: United Mobile Homes (UMH) Vale  (VALE) Petroleo Brasileiro S.A. (PBR) United Mobile Homes UMH, is a subsidiary of one of my current holdings, Monmouth (MNR).  From their website, UMH invests in quality “manufactured home communities”.   This blurb from the S&P report: According to the company, manufactured homes are being accepted by the public as a viable and economically attractive alternative to common stick-built, single-family housing. The affordability of the modern manufactured home makes it very attractive. Modern residential land lease communities are similar to typical residential … [Read more...]

Getting Rich Through Homeownership – The End Of An American Dream

Ottis Cook Home, c.1890

The following is a guest post of sorts by Fred Carach, author of “Forty Years a Speculator“. This article is re-posted with permission from Fred’s blog. Much has been heard in the press lately about the end of the great American dream of homeownership, but what the press has missed is that what has really died in the crash is a perversion of the American dream... the perversion of getting rich exclusively through homeownership. That perversion really started in the 1970s and died in the great real estate crash that began in 2007. Prior to the 1970s home-ownership was regarded as a key asset in the accumulation of wealth but it was never considered the only asset. Real estate values rose too slowly to accomplish that mission. In … [Read more...]

It’s Getting Better All The Time

photo courtesy of Wikipedia - Wheat Yields in Developing Countries 1951-2004

I was re-arranging my messy book library the other day, and came across a happy little book titled “It’s Getting Better All the Time – Greatest Trends of the Last 100 Years”, written by Stephen More and Julian L. Simon back in 2000. The book is a quick read, with charts and tables as proof that humans are living longer, with better health, abundant natural resources, on and on. Readers may remember one of the authors, economist Julian Simon (“The Ultimate Resource”, 1981) for his $1,000 wager with biologist/ecologist Paul Ehrlich (“The Population Bomb”, 1968) back in the 80’s. Simon could be termed a cornucopian, a believer that ever-better technology and progress invented by humans would make scarcity of … [Read more...]

One Dividend Stock I’m Buying, and One I’m Still Thinking About

Very cool picture of a Brewery in Abbaye Notre Dame de Saint-Remy Rochefort - photo credit: 2007 Luca Galuzzi

Companhia de Bebidas das Americas, or AmBev (NYSE: ABV) is part of the InBev Anheuser Busch conglomerate, the largest beer brewer in the world. According to some authors, beer is the number one or number two reason (*) that mankind developed agriculture and settled down to grow grain and make kids. One could think that buying a few shares of AmBev would be investing in the basics of life:  shelter, food and beer. Without going into the whole convoluted corporate spelunking in the recent evolution and amalgamation of Interbrew, Anheuser-Busch and AmBev, suffice to say that AmBev is the South American branch of the resulting giant global brewing group InBev, and the fifth largest brewery in the world.  With brands like Antartica, … [Read more...]

Food Riots and China’s 12th Five Year Plan

riot police

Lots of news recently about escalating commodity prices.  Lots of news about escalating riots in various parts of the world over high food prices. This interactive map of recent riots over at zerohedge.com pinpoints exactly where the trouble spots are. Algeria, Tunisia, and Egypt, all erupting in street rioting this month over high commodity prices and government/regime corruption. High onion prices in India. France’s President Nicholas Sarkozy talking about regulating the commodity markets. Sarkozy urges regulation of commodity markets French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said that the world's top economies must agree new measures to curb volatility in commodity markets or risk destabilising food riots. “We want … [Read more...]