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This Is The Most Affordable Way To Get Into Bitcoin

A method known as “dollar-cost averaging” is the most popular amongst HODLers to maximize their bitcoin stack.

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A method known as “dollar-cost averaging” is the most popular amongst HODLers to maximize their bitcoin stack.

How To Save Bitcoin: DCA Is The Way

Saving money used to be a simple and standard practice - park your cash in a bank account and watch it grow. The 1926 book “The Richest Man in Babylon” famously advocates putting aside just 10% of your income to start building wealth. For a variety of reasons, the wisdom of saving is slipping away from our culture.

For one, saving doesn’t feel like the path to success anymore. Teenagers looking at college tuition costs watch their peers use TikTok to shoot from penniless to multi-millionaire status. Corporate employees fighting for a raise see online chat startups claiming $1 billion valuations before their app even releases publicly. Kids who skipped the playground to buy pictures of penguins suddenly find themselves richer than their parents. In this world, what good is saving and diligently deploying 10% of my income for a healthy return? It sure seems like life is a lottery these days, not a fair uphill climb.

Second, spending receives praise from every angle. Decades of overwhelming advertising and economics education also bombard us with the message that spending is good, not just for our own well-being but for society as a whole. Spending keeps the economic engine running, they tell us — and every penny counts.

Finally, the younger generations just have less to save. According to Pew Research, millennials have less wealth than prior generations did at equivalent ages and also carry much more student debt, dragging on their ability to save even when wages are nominally rising. Even with wages rising, most of that is only seen by the college educated, with those not holding a degree having lower income than past generations - going back to the early boomers.

Saving behavior saw one “saving grace” in recent times: the COVID pandemic and government reactions. Forced lockdowns and business closures coincided with a massive spike in the personal savings rate, unprecedented in recent times.

Massive increase and volatility in the personal savings rate starting in 2020. Source: FRED

While this is likely to be temporary (nod to Jerome Powell), this extra cash has left many Americans wondering - what should I do with this cash?

We used to have a clear choice.

The Appeal Of The Savings Account

After the last major world crisis — marked by two back-to-back world wars and a deep economic depression in between — stability was a highly-sought luxury. Booming populations of workers wanted to raise families, build businesses, and ensure the security of their futures.

The humble savings account provided a safe place to store wealth and a simple means to grow it steadily over one’s working years. People could focus on their career or business, and not have to worry about where to put their money - it could go right in the savings account.

In countries with strong and stable institutions, like the United States, savings account “yields” (growth on the dollars in the account) generally trended up from the 1950s until the 1980s, then slowly back down.

The Federal Funds Rate represents the rate banks pay to borrow from other banks. Savings account yields are essentially the rate banks pay to borrow from you. Source: FRED

Banks played a productive role in the economy, powering growth as a middleman between savers with cash who lacked investment experience and entrepreneurs with business acumen and ideas who needed cash.

The savings account during these decades was a humble vehicle for earning nearly-guaranteed returns with a high degree of safety. FDIC insurance protected balances (to a degree) and depositors didn’t have to be their own investment advisors to earn a decent return. A normal middle-class worker could put in their eight hours of honest work, stash away 10% of their earnings in a savings account, and feel secure in their financial future.

The situation we find ourselves in today, with meager returns for the humble savings account, was precipitated in the 1970s. Many will point to the OPEC oil embargo and the ensuing rampant stagflation, but with more clear hindsight we can see that Nixon’s “temporary” disconnection of the U.S. dollar from gold played a large role. The market reckoned with this reality by running from the dollar and buying up other assets, like commodities, deemed scarcer. Prices for goods across the economy soared, forcing the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates in order to bring confidence back to the dollar and to “break the back of inflation.”

Paul Volcker, the Fed Chairman credited with raising rates and “breaking the back of inflation” in the 1970s. Source: Vox

From that period of reckoning forward, interest rates steadily dropped as the new normal of constant monetary inflation took hold. Today, we are living in the end state of that move to “fiat” money, no longer backed by any hard assets - with savers earning 0% yield, and in some areas actually paying to save money.

In the United States, banks can borrow cash from the Federal Reserve for a tiny 0.25% - so why would they pay you any more on your savings - which allows them to borrow your cash? They currently pay a paltry 0.04% on average.

The rate banks pay on deposits, as calculated by the FDIC, since 2010. Source: FRED

As yields fell to laughably low levels, the entire concept of a savings account quietly disappeared into the bushes. Bank accounts now focus on convenience - online banking, debit cards, instant payments to your friends - not yields.

There’s no reason to maintain a savings account anymore, collecting tiny fractions of a penny on the dollar every year. The Federal Reserve forced interest rates too low for too long - lighting a fire under everyone’s cash.

These actions eliminated the savings account as a simple vehicle for growing wealth over time.

So what are we to do with our cash now?

Everyone Is A Professional Investor

The disappearance of savings accounts as a viable option for growing wealth (or just retaining savings!) left us with a new frontman for the savings movement: the stock market.

Passive investing in equities - through index funds or otherwise - seems to promise similar returns to the old savings account. However, this path comes with a lot less assurances and far more risks.

Funny enough, this is by design: part of the accepted economic rationale for lowering interest rates is to drive spending and investment in riskier projects, which is thought to drive growth. This works in the short term. However, just like that fifth coffee does a lot less than the first, simply taking another hit of economic stimulus in the form of lower rates only pushes growth so far, and the effect of each hit diminishes as the economy gets used to the adjustment. At some point, you’ll need to stop working and reset. Economies need a rest too.

Source: Sketchplantations.com

In today’s zero (and still descending!) interest rate environment, making any return at all means taking on larger and larger risks. Savings accounts no longer make a return, so everyone needs to play stocks. Index funds have proven to be a popular option, but even those are being led by a handful of volatile tech stocks. Just five companies now make up 23% of the S&P500, up from 19% just last year. These few stocks are where all the returns come from, but they also carry heavier volatility! Returns are concentrating, and riskier.

To get a decent return on your savings as a middle-class worker, you now need a second job: professional investor. Parking your money in a savings account won’t cut it. You need to study stocks, pick your winners, deal with volatility and evolve your allocations as times change.

But there is one other staple of the American dream that might provide a simpler option… buying a home. Let’s look at that.

Chasing The American Dream

The fifth “cure” for a “lean purse” in “The Richest Man in Babylon” is to own your principal residence and make it an investment. The conventional wisdom goes something like this: land is scarce and everyone needs a home, so owning one of your own will serve you well as an investment over your lifetime.

Unfortunately, that dream is driving away faster from each passing generation than we can run to catch it. Home prices hovered around the level of 4.5 years of median income from 1960 until 2000, then spiked massively going into the housing bubble. In 2021, we are back to housing bubble levels, with a house costing almost 7 years of the median income in the U.S.

Home prices are out of whack with income levels, making housing unaffordable for many. Source: LongTermTrends.net 

Working for 30 years to pay off a mortgage on a house is a dangerous game to play, especially when home prices previously cratered from the 7-year home price to median-income ratio.

Taking a step back from charts and taking a look outside doesn’t offer much more security in the home-as-savings approach. Nearly one in five millennials have simply given up on owning a home, citing affordability as their main reason. Lifestyle changes are also precipitating a move away from permanent residency, meaning single-family homes are not what they used to be. The American dream for younger generations includes far more travel and flexibility than a single, owned residence can afford.

With home prices where they are today, a consistent 30% of income spent on mortgage payments means truly owning a home will take 23 years. Many aren’t willing to take that bet and the commitment that comes with it.

So what do we have left, in a world where cash is free and no investment is safe?

We must follow the signals of our overlord bankers - embracing the risk they want us to take while simultaneously spurning the system they’ve foisted upon us.

Bitcoin Dollar-Cost Averaging As The New Savings Account

Similar to a savings account 50 years ago, bitcoin offers a safe place to store wealth and a simple means to grow it steadily over one’s working years.

That statement might jar you at first - pundits and politicians love to rail on bitcoin as volatile. How could it possibly serve as a savings account?

For one, bitcoin is safe from confiscation - a real threat when living under oppressive regimes and even in the bastion of the free world.

However, many point to bitcoin’s volatile price as the reason it’s “unsafe” as an investment. To better understand this situation, consider the fact that when people call bitcoin volatile, they are referring to a price quoted in fiat currency, like the U.S. dollar. There are two assets at play when we call bitcoin volatile - BTC and the dollar.

Let’s say we have 100 apples and 100 oranges, and through bargaining we find the price of an apple is one orange. An orange grove is discovered, and now there are 5,000 oranges. The market adjusts, and an apple is now selling for 50 oranges. Which should we call “volatile” - the apple or the orange?

When we look at the bitcoin price, we have to consider - while governments are printing cash with reckless abandon to bail out everyone from banks to cruise ship operators, bitcoin continues emitting exactly the amount intended at regular intervals since its creation in 2009 day after day. Which is the volatile asset here?

The fundamentals of the Bitcoin network are what makes it a suitable substitute for the savings account. While the fiat monetary system wreaks havoc on prices across the economy, changing incentives for producers and consumers, bitcoin continues executing as expected - as if nothing is happening at all.

The Bitcoin network represents stability and predictability, something we are sorely lacking in every investment option today.

And while in the short term, the price of bitcoin in terms of fiat currency looks absolutely absurd, over longer stretches of time people are realizing the worth of such a stable asset - causing the price to prefer going up. That’s exactly what we want out of a savings account.

Unfortunately, the damage central banks have done to our monetary system means there are no stable, constant growth investment options anymore - the kind that tick up 5% each year with incredible safety assurances, like a savings account. Those options that are stable - like government bonds - carry historically low or even negative yields. Negative yields mean people and institutions are being charged to save money!

Dollar-cost averaging into Bitcoin is what makes this asset most similar to a savings account. Simply putting aside a small amount of income regularly as your savings, and storing it in bitcoin, takes no mental effort at all and seems to work pretty well over most time scales.

Here’s what happens if you save just 10% of your income and start investing weekly just after tax time into either bitcoin or the S&P 500. You’ll notice that it’s never too late to start.

Putting just 10% of your annual income away into BTC, with weekly purchases, is historically a good bet - no matter when you start. With the median income in the U.S. of around $60,000, starting your DCA after 2018’s tax year would lead you to save up $110,000 - using just $20,000 saved. Source: Author and Google Sheets

Bitcoin dollar-cost averaging doesn’t give you a savings account that climbs up in a steady, straight line day by day like a savings account. However, no investment does that in this day and age.

What bitcoin does offer is a fundamental stability that is unmatched not just in investments today, but in investments throughout known history. No system has operated as predictably and precisely as bitcoin for so long, and with so much value at stake.

Bitcoin also offers incredible security assurances, since you can hold your own bitcoin on a hardware device or with a password in your head. Some dollar-cost-averaging tools will even allow you to deposit your automatic purchases directly to that hardware “wallet.”

If you want to get started buying bitcoin regularly, check out a simple option like Swan Bitcoin.

Welcome to your new savings bank - we’re happy to have you.

This is a guest post by Captain Sidd. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC, Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.

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Beer bankruptcy apocalypse claims another fan-favorite brand

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Before the covid pandemic, craft breweries had a moment. Beer snobs ruled the day, creating a market for local brewers to expand their businesses into regional distribution.

The demand for interesting beers was clear: Younger drinkers drove a movement that pushed local brewers to challenge the established brands. But that movement was wiped out once covid hit because craft brewers relied on people visiting their breweries.

Related: Retailer goes from Chapter 11 bankruptcy to Chapter 7 liquidation

Even brands that had good distribution in grocery and liquor stores suffered during the period where people could not visit their brewery/bar locations. It was a financial drain that pushed a number of these popular brands to the edge of ruin.

And after the pandemic ended, many of these beer brands suffered as younger consumers moved away from drinking beer, Some embraced the alcohol-free mocktail movement while others simply swapped cocktails, hard seltzers or other alcohol for beer.

Now, the craft beer industry is facing an apocalypse. Most famously, Anchor Brewing, the San Francisco icon that had national distribution, shut down last summer. A wave of bankruptcies followed, including regional favorites like Chicago’s Metropolitan Brewing, New Jersey’s Flying Fish, Denver’s Joyride Brewing, Tampa’s Zydeco Brew Werks and Cleveland’s Terrestrial Brewing.

It has been a devastating run for the craft-beer industry, and the bleeding has not stopped.

It has been a rough period for craft breweries.

Image source: Shutterstock

Another brewery files Chapter 11 bankruptcy

A brewery that touts being at an 8,530-foot elevation, Guanella Pass, also has the distinction of being the first brewery in Georgetown, Colo., since Prohibition. The company described its two locations on its website,   

“At the foot of the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway in Historic Georgetown, CO, sits the original Brewery, and at the foot of Berthoud Pass in downtown Empire sits our second tap room and kitchen. A true mountain brewery,” the company says. 

“We believe that where you drink beer is as important as what beer you drink. So leave the grind behind, sit for a bit, and share a story or two. Because here, all you need is what you have and a good beer.”

The brewery also distributes its beers regionally at a number of locations in Colorado.

Guanella Pass continues to operate after its late-December Chapter 11 filing and the brewery has an upcoming big event scheduled for Feb. 17.

“Pass it along, there’s a Pig Roast in town! Join us at Guanella Pass for our piggy throw down! We’ll be smokin’ this bad boy starting late Friday night to get ready for our grand meat cutting at 3pm. Feel free to swing by and say hi to our BBQ crew. It’s $15 per plate, come and grab some before we run out,” the company said on its website. 

Guanella Pass has a lot of debt

In its bankruptcy filing, Guanella Pass disclosed that it had $2.3 million of debt while bringing in only $860,000 of revenue in the previous year. The company showed $72,000 in assets at the time of the filing. 

The brewer, which hopes to restructure its debt and keep operating, has a significant number of creditors,

“It owes $573,000 to First Savings Bank, which loaned it money in 2021, and $256,000 to the Clear Creek Economic Development Corp., a nonprofit that loaned it money in 2019. Both loans are collateralized by the property at 501 Rose St. in Georgetown,” the Denver Post reported.

The brewer also owes its majority shareholders, Steven and Stacey Skalski, $700,000. In addition, the company has an unpaid $135,000 loan with the U.S, Small Business Administration and owes the Colorado Department of Revenue $100,000 along with $32,000 to its food vendor, $22,000 to its bookkeeper and $10,000 to its power company, the newspaper reported.

Related: Veteran fund manager picks favorite stocks for 2024

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Public Health from the People

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There are many ways to privately improve public health. Such responses make use of local knowledge, entrepreneurship, and civil society and pursue standard goals of public health like controlling the spread of infectious diseases. Moreover, private responses improve overall welfare by lowering the total costs of a disease and limiting externalities. If private responses can produce similar outcomes as standard, governmental public health programs—and more—perhaps we should reconsider when and where we call upon governments to improve public health.

Two Kinds of Private Responses

Following Vernon Smith and his distinction between constructivist and ecological rationality, private actors can engage in two general kinds of public health improvements. They can engage in concerted efforts to improve public health, and they can engage in emergent responses through myriad interactions.1 Three stories below—about William Walsh, Martha Claghorn, and Edwin Gould—indicate concerted efforts to improve public health.

Walsh, a Catholic priest and President of the Father Matthew Society in Memphis, Tennessee, used the society to organize a refugee camp outside of the city and helped hundreds of people avoid yellow fever during the 1878 epidemic—one of the worst yellow fever epidemics in the country.2 Shortly after learning mosquitos carried diseases prior to 1901, Claghorn chaired the Civics committee of the Twentieth Century Club in the Richmond Hill area of Long Island and led a community-wide anti-mosquito campaign, which rid the area of potentially infectious mosquitos.3 After realizing that many of his employees were sick with malaria, Gould—president of the St. Louis Southwestern Railway—used his wealth and business firm to finance and develop an anti-mosquito campaign throughout Texas.4

These stories show how individuals recognize a public health problem given their circumstances and use their knowledge and available resources to resolve the problem. More recently, we might all be familiar with private, constructivist responses to Covid-19. We all made plans to avoid others and produce our desired amount of exposure. Many people made facemasks from old clothes or purchased them from facemask producers. Businesses, retailers, restaurants, and many others adapted in various ways to limit exposure for their workers and customers. My favorite example, albeit not relevant for most, is the so-called bubble that was implemented by the NBA, which housed teams, encouraged play, and limited infection. The NBA finished their season and crowned a 2020 champion only because of the privately designed and implemented bubble solution. The key is that the bubble pursued all of those objectives, not just one of them. All of these responses indicate how private interactions among people can minimize their exposure, through negotiation, discussion, and mutually beneficial means.

In addition to privately designed solutions, emergent public health responses are also important, perhaps even more so. Long-term migration and settlement patterns away from infectious diseases, consumption to improve nutrition, hygiene, sanitation, and the development of social norms to encourage preventative behavior are all different kinds of emergent public health responses. Each of these responses—developed through the actions of no one person—are substantial ways to improve public health.

First, consider how common migration operates as a means of lowering prevalence rates. As soon as people realized that living near stagnant bodies of water increased the probability of acquiring diseases like malaria, they were more likely to leave those areas and subsequently avoid them. Places with such features became known as places to avoid; people also developed myths to dissuade visitors and inhabitants.5 Such myths and associations left places like the Roman Campagna desolate for centuries. These kinds of cultural associations are also widespread; for example, many people in North and South Carolina moved to areas with higher elevation and took summer vacations to avoid diseases like malaria. East End and West End, in London, also developed because of the opportunities people had to migrate away from (and towards) several diseases.6

While these migration patterns might develop over decades, movement and migration also help in more acute public health crises. During the 1878 yellow fever epidemic throughout the southern United States, for example, thousands of people fled their cities to avoid infection. They took any means of transportation they could find. While some fled to other, more northern cities, many acquired temporary housing in suburbs, and many formed campsites and refugee camps outside of their city. The refugee camps outside of Memphis—like the one formed by William Walsh—helped hundreds and thousands of people avoid infection throughout the Fall of 1878.

Second, more mundane public health improvements—like improvements in nutrition, hygiene, and sanitation—are also emergent. These improvements arise from the actions of individuals and entrepreneurs, often closely associated with voluntary consumption and markets. According to renowned medical scientist Thomas McKeown, that is, rising incomes encouraged voluntary changes in consumption, which helped improve nutrition, sanitation, and lowered mortality rates.7 These effects were especially pertinent for women and mothers as they often selected more nutritious food and altered household sanitation practices. With advancing ideas about germs, moreover, historian Nancy Tomes argues that private interests advanced the campaign to improve house-hold sanitation and nutrition—full of advice and advertisements in newspapers, magazines, manuals, and books.8 Following Tomes, economic historians Rebecca Stein and Joel Mokyr substantiate these ideas and show that people changed their hygiene, sanitation, house-hold cleaning habits, and diets as they learned more about germs.9 Such developments helped people to provide their desired exposure to germs according to their values.

Obviously, there were concerted public health improvements during this time that also explain falling mortality rates. For example, waterworks were conscious efforts to improve public health and were provided publicly and privately, with similar, positive effects on health.10 The point is that while we might be quick to connect the health improvements associated with a public water system, we should also recognize emergent responses like gradual changes in voluntary consumption.

Finally, social norms or rules that encourage preventative behavior might also be relevant kinds of emergent public health responses. Such rules identify behavior that should or should not be allowed, they are enforced in a decentralized way, and if they follow from the values of individuals in a community.11 If such rules pertain to public health, they can raise the cost of infectious behavior or the benefits of preventative behavior. Covering one’s mouth when sneezing is not only beneficial from a public health perspective, it also helps avoid earning disapproval.

The condom code during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is another example of an emergent public health rule that reduced infectiousness by encouraging safer behavior.12 People who adopted safer sexual practices were seen to be doing the right thing—akin to taking care of a brother. People who refrained from adopting safer sexual practices were admonished. No single person or entity announced the rule; rather, it emerged from the actions and interactions of individuals within various communities to pursue their goals regarding maintaining sexual activity and limiting the spread of disease. Indeed, such norms were more effective in communities where people used their social capital resources to determine which behaviors should be changed and where they can more easily monitor and enforce infractions. This seems like a relevant factor where many gay men and men who have sex with men live in dense urban areas like New York and Los Angeles that foster LGBTQ communities.

Covid-19 provides additional examples where social norms encouraged the use of seemingly appropriate behavior, e.g., social distancing, the use of facemasks, and vaccination. Regardless of any formal rule in place, many people adapted their behavior because of social norms that encouraged social distancing, the use of facemasks, and vaccination. In communities that valued such behaviors, people that wore face masks and vaccinated were praised and were seen as doing the right thing; people that did not were viewed with scorn. Indeed, states and cities that have higher levels of social capital and higher values for public health tend to have higher Covid-19 vaccine uptakes.13

Improving Public Health and More

“Private approaches tend to lower the total costs of diseases and they limit externalities.”

While these private approaches can improve public health, can they do more than typical public health approaches cannot? Private approaches tend to lower the total costs of diseases and they limit externalities. Each aspect of private responses requires additional explanation.

Responding to infectious diseases and disease prevention is doubly challenging because not only do we have to worry about being sick, we also have to consider the costs imposed by our preventative behaviors and the rules we might impose. Thus, the total costs of an infectious disease include 1) the costs related to the disease—the pain and suffering of a disease and the opportunity costs of being sick—and 2) the costs associated with preventative and avoidance behavior. While disease costs are mostly self-explanatory, the costs of avoiding infection warrant more explanation. Self-isolation when you have a cold, for example, entails the loss of potentially valuable social activities; and wearing condoms to prevent sexually transmitted diseases forfeits the pleasures of unprotected sexual activity. Diseases for which vaccines and other medicines are available are less worrisome, perhaps, because these are diseases with lower prevention costs than diseases where those pharmaceutical interventions are not available. Governmental means of prevention also add relevant costs. Many readers might be familiar with the costs imposed by our private and public responses to Covid—from isolation to learning loss, and from sharp decreases in economic activity to increased rates of depression and spousal abuse.14 Long before Covid, moreover, people bemoaned wearing masks during the Great Flu,15 balked at quarantine against yellow fever,16 and protested bathhouse closings with the onset of HIV.17

Figure 1 shows the overall problem: diseases are harmful but our responses to those diseases might also be harmful.

Figure 1. The Excess Burden of Infectious Diseases

This figure follows Bhattacharya, Hyde, and Tu (2013) and Philipson (2000), who refer to the difference between total costs and disease costs as the excess burden of a disease. That is, excess burden depends on how severely we respond to a disease in private and in public. The excess burden associated with the common cold tends to be negligible as we bear the minor inconvenience of a fever, a sore throat perhaps, or a couple days off work; moreover, most people don’t go out of their way to avoid catching a cold. The excess burden of plague, however, is more complicated; not only are the symptoms much worse—and include death—people have more severe reactions. Note too that disease costs rise with prevalence and with worsening symptoms but eventually decline as more severe diseases tend to be less prevalent. Still, no one wants to be infected with a major disease, and severe precautions are likely. We might shun all social interactions, and we might use government to impose strict quarantine measures. As disease severity rises along the horizontal axis, it might be the case that the cure is worse than the disease.

The private responses indicated above all help to lower the total costs of a disease because people choose their responses and they use their local knowledge and available resources to select cheaper methods of prevention. Claghorn used her neighborhood connections and the social capital of her civics association to encourage homeowners to rid their yards of pools of water; as such she lowered the costs of producing mosquito control. Similarly, Gould used the organizational structure of his firm to hire experts in mosquito control and build a sanitation department. These are cheap methods to limit exposure to mosquitos.

Emergent responses also help to lower the total costs of a disease because such responses indicate the variety of choices people face and their ability to select cheaper options. People facing diseases like malaria might be able to move away and, for some, it is cheaper than alternative means of prevention. Many people now are able to limit their exposure to mosquitos with screens, improved dwellings, and air conditioning.18 Consider the variety of ways people can limit their exposure to sexually transmitted diseases like HIV. If some people would rather use condoms to limit HIV transmission, they are better off doing so than if they were to refrain from sexual activity altogether. Similarly, some people would be better off having relatively risky sexual activity if they were in monogamous relationships or if they knew about their partner’s sexual history. That people can choose their own preventative measures indicates lower total costs compared with blunt, one-rule-for-all, governmental public health responses.

Negative and positive externalities of spreadable diseases indicate too much infectious behavior and too little preventative behavior, respectively. Hosting a party is fun, but it also incurs the internal costs of the drinks and appetizers and, more importantly, perhaps the external costs of raising the probability that people get sick. Attending a local cafe can be relaxing, but you have to pay for a cup of coffee and you might also transmit a disease to other coffee drinkers. The same could be said for many other public and social activities that might spread diseases like attending a class or a basketball game, transporting goods and people, and sexual behaviors. Our preventative behaviors from taking a vaccine to covering your mouth and from isolation to engaging in safer sexual practices emits positive externalities. If left unchecked, negative and positive externalities lead to higher rates of infection.

Overall, we should continue to think more critically about delineating how private and public actors can improve public health and overall welfare. More importantly, we should recognize that private actors are more capable than we often realize, especially in light of conscious efforts to improve public health and those efforts that emerge from people’s actions and interactions. These private efforts might be better at advancing some public health goals than public actors do. Individuals, for example, have more access to local knowledge and can discover novel solutions that serve multiple ends—often ends they value—rather than the ends of distant officials. Such cases and possibilities indicate cheaper ways to improve public health.

Footnotes

[1] Smith (2009), Rationality in Economics: Constructivist and Ecological Forms, Cambridge University Press.

[2] For more on Walsh, see Carson (forthcoming), “Prevention Externalities: Private and Public Responses to the 1878 Yellow Fever Epidemic,” Public Choice.

[3] For more on Claghorn, see Carson (2020), “Privately Preventing Malaria in the United States, 1900-1925,” Essays in Economics and Business History.

[4] For more on Gould, see Carson (2016), “Firm-led Malaria Prevention in the United States, 1910-1920,” American Journal of Law and Medicine.

[5] On the connection between malarial diseases, dragons, and dragon-slaying saints, see Horden (1992), “Disease, Dragons, and Saints: the management of epidemics in the dark ages,” in Epidemics and Ideas by Ranger and Slack.

[6] For more on migration and prevalence rates, see Mesnard and Seabright (2016), “Migration and the equilibrium prevalence of infectious disease,” Journal of Demographic Economics.

[7] The American Journal of Public Health published several commentaries on McKeown in 2002: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/issues/130602/

[8] Tomes (1990), “The Private Side of Public Health: Sanitary Science, Domestic Hygiene, and the Germ Theory, 1870-1990,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine.

[9] Mokyr and Stein (1996), “Science, Health, and Household Technology: The Effect of the Pasteur Revolution on Consumer Demand,” in The Economics of New Goods, NBER.

[10] See Werner Troesken’s work on public and private waterworks in the U.S. around the turn of the 20th century. See Galiani, Gertler, and Shargrodsky (2005), “Water for Life,” Journal of Political Economy.

[11] Brennan et al., (2013), Explaining Norms, Oxford University Press.

[12] For more on the condom code, see Carson (2017), “The Informal Norms of HIV Prevention: The emergence and erosion of the condom code,” Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics.

[13] Carilli, Carson, and Isaacs (2022), “Jabbing Together? The complementarity between social capital, formal public health rules, and covid-19 vaccine rates in the U.S.,” Vaccine.

[14] Leslie and Wilson, “Sheltering in Place and Domestic Violence: Evidence from Calls for Service During Covid-19.” Journal of Public Economics 189, 104241. Mulligan, “Deaths of Despair and the Incidence of Excess Mortality in 2020,” NBER, https://www.nber.org/papers/w28303. Betthauser, Bach-Mortensen, and Engzell, “A systematic review and meta-analysis of the evidence on learning during the Covid-19 Pandemic,” Nature Human Behavior, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-022-01506-4

[15] On the great influenza epidemic, see CBS News, “During the 1918 Flu pandemic, masks were controversial for ‘many of the same reasons they are today’.” Oct. 30, 2020. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/mask-1918-flu-pandemic-controversial/

[16] On yellow fever quarantine in Mississippi, see Deanne Nuwer (2009), Plague Among the Magnolias: The 1878 Yellow Fever Epidemic in Mississippi.

[17] On these closures, see Trout (2021), “The Bathhouse Battle of 1984.” https://www.sfaf.org/collections/beta/the-bathhouse-battle-of-1984/

[18] Tusting et al. (2017), “Housing Improvement and Malaria Risk in Sub-Saharan Africa: a multi-country analysis of survey data.” PLOS Medicine.

*Byron Carson is an Associate Professor of Economics and Business at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, where he teaches courses on introductory economics, money and banking, health economics, and urban economics. Byron earned his Ph.D. in Economics from George Mason University in 2017, and his research interests include economic epidemiology, public choice, and Austrian economics.

This article was edited by Features Editor Ed Lopez.

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Analyst unveils new Lowe’s stock price target ahead of earnings

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They are three letters that represent a multi-billion dollar industry: DIY.

Mention do-it-yourself home repairs, and some people will probably think of This Old House or the 1990s sitcom “Home Improvement,” where Tim Allen portrayed the host of the fictional “Tool Time” TV program. 

Others might think of HGTV, the Property Brothers Jonathan and Drew Scott, or Joanna and Chip Gaines of Magnolia Network. Whatever your particular cultural reference, rest assured that the DIY market is a revenue monster.

An estimated 75% of U.S. homeowners take on DIY projects, and 62% named saving money a top reason for their home improvement efforts. As a result, total U.S. home improvement sales amounted to $538 billion in 2021, according to Statista, and is projected to grow to $621 billion in 2025.

The number of do-it-yourselfers climbed during the COVID-19 outbreak as people had more time on their hands, interest rates were at rock bottom, and stimulus checks were flowing. 

That was good news for home improvement retailers like Lowe’s, which saw its stock price soar in 2021 thanks to higher demand. 

Unfortunately, rising interest rates, inflation, and job uncertainty have increased, denting demand and causing investors to wonder what could happen to Lowe’s shares next.

Lowe’s shares are facing headwinds as do-it-yourself demand slips. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

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Pullback in DIY spending

Young homeowners are more likely to attempt do-it-yourself projects because they tend to have less disposable income and believe that the DIY approach will be less costly than hiring a contractor.

The most common types of DIY projects are home interior projects, such as painting, flooring, and décor, which are taken on by 31% of homeowners surveyed.

Unfortunately, those younger DIYers are also most susceptible to tighter budgets, and as a result, Lowe’s  (LOW) – Get Free Report revenue has declined year-over-year for three straight quarters.

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Lowe’s, which reports quarterly earnings on Feb. 27, is the second-biggest name in the home improvement game, behind Home Depot  (HD) – Get Free Report, which is slated to release updated earnings results on Feb. 19.

Lowe’s posted better-than-expected third-quarter earnings in November but trimmed its full-year profit forecast, echoing Home Depot’s warning that consumers were spending less on big-ticket items- those worth more than $1,000- heading into the holidays.

“While we’ve seen a more cautious consumer for some time now, this quarter, we saw some of these consumers increasingly prioritizing experiences over goods, spending on travel and entertainment,” Chairman and CEO Marvin Ellison said during a conference call with analysts at the time.

Ellison reminded the analysts that DIY customers drive 75% of the company’s revenue while professionals only account for 25% of sales, as opposed to the broader market where the market is roughly fifty-fifty. “As a result, whenever the DIY customer becomes cautious, it disproportionately affects us.”

Given that backdrop, analysts surveyed by FactSet expect Lowe’s to report earnings of $1.68 per share on sales of $18.3 billion, down from earnings of $2.28 per share and revenue totaling $22.45 billion one year ago.

Lowe’s CEO ‘Bullish’ on home improvement

Ellison said that Lowe’s remained bullish on the home improvement industry’s medium- to long-term outlook.

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“We expect home prices to be supported by a persistent supply-demand imbalance of housing, while at the same time, 250,000 millennial household formations are expected per year through 2025, and their parents and grandparents, the baby boomers, increasingly prefer to age in place in their own homes,” he said.

Nevertheless, on Feb. 5, Truist lowered its price target on Lowe’s stock to $244 from $252.

Analyst Scot Ciccarelli told investors in a research note that he is reducing his margin assumptions for fiscal years 2024 and 2025 and cutting his earnings estimates to $12.80 and $14.20 a share from $13.35 and $14.75, respectively.

He did, however, keep his buy rating on the company.

“For the medium-term, we are becoming increasingly bullish on the home improvement sector given general spending resilience, home equity increases, easing comparisons, and the recent positive inflection in Private Residential Fixed Investment PFRI data,” he said.

Ciccarelli said that he believed consumer spending remains fairly steady due to healthy personal balance sheets and strong employment. 

In addition, while the tightening cycle should slow spending, it shouldn’t derail it, he said.

The analyst said that while Lowe’s comparable store sales have decelerated notably over the last two quarters—down roughly 7% to 8%– he believes the company will also get to compare against these easier results in the second half of the calendar year.

Ciccarelli added, “We remain buyers and think that LOW can move sharply higher if we are indeed at the early stages of an easing cycle.”

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