Felix Salmon

Homeownership and positive externalities

My post on falling homeownership sparked an interesting debate about whether and where one might find positive externalities associated with people owning their homes. Certainly a lot of old-fashioned home-improvement expenditures, which make sense insofar as they increase the value of the home, stop making sense when any increase in value just goes straight to the bank. But are there other areas in which homeowners impose more positive externalities than renters?

The Greece downgrade non-event

Here’s a graph of the stock market plunge in the wake of Moody’s shocking four-notch downgrade of Greece to junk status:

Did the failure of genomics doom the US economy?

Mike Mandel has an interesting nominee for the most significant economic event of the past decade: the failure of the Human Genome Project to become the medical and financial blockbuster that everybody expected ten years ago.

The Renaissance common-sense test

Robert Frey, formerly of Renaissance Technologies, has a new Fund of Hedge Funds, and good for him. He also lifts the kimono ever so slightly on how Renaissance works:

Counterparties

Bloomberg commissioned a custom drawing of Helvetica for their new Businessweek logo — Brand New

The divorce diet

Abby Ellin finds some interesting body-weight literature:

A 2008 study in the Journal of Economics and Human Biology examined data from 12,000 men and women ages 18 to mid-40s. Compared with when they were single, the body mass index (or B.M.I., a height-to-weight ratio) of married men increased by 1.5 percent above and beyond what they would normally gain as they aged, and that of women shot up 2 percent…

Zach Kouwe fired again

In February, a NYT blogger, Zachery Kouwe, was fired for plagiarism. The proximate cause of the firing was a complaint from the WSJ, but he’d had run-ins with other publications in the past, including nicking a memo from Dealbreaker without attribution. That didn’t stop Dealbreaker hiring Kouwe in April. Which seemed a bit odd at the time, and which in hindsight was certainly a mistake, since now they’ve gone and fired him. But it wasn’t for plagiarism, this time.

The wrong kind of falling homeownership

Richard Florida has long been in the same camp as me on the homeownership front: it’s too high, and creates problems like labor immobility and rental ghettoes populated only by people who can’t afford to buy. Today he says that we’ve already had a “great homeownership reset”, based on a paper by Andrew Haughwout, Richard Peach, and Joseph Tracy of the NY Fed. Take into account all the people who are underwater, on their mortgages, he says, and you’ll find that “US homeownership is already lower than you think” — just 61.6%.

How BP will announce its dividend suspension

The WSJ is running a poll asking whether its readers think BP will suspend its dividend; so far, with 2,342 votes, the results are almost exactly 50-50. But I think that Peston is right on this one and that the WSJ’s readers are a bit behind the curve: the dividend suspension is not a question of whether, but when.