Numlock News: January 28, 2020 • Furs, Gold Toilets, High Frequency Trades

By Walt Hickey

Commode

Regrets, I've had a few: a number of furnishings from Frank Sinatra’s executive suite at the former Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey went up for auction. Some of the most striking fixtures to hit the auction block were Sinatra’s marble and gold seated toilets, because you can take the crooner out of New Jersey but you can’t take the New Jersey out of the crooner. In what I have confirmed is not a weaker, late-season Paulie plot from The Sopranos, Frank’s basic Italian marble toilet sold for $1,800. Then, as to answer the question “For what is a man, what has he got?” the deluxe toilet with the golden seat fetched $4,250. Besides the throne that Ocean’s 11 built, all 197 items up for auction were sold, with the top seller being a $33,000 Enid Yandell fountain.

Hannah Lawson, CNN

High Frequency Trading

The U.K.’s financial regulator has released a report quantifying the cost to investors when it comes to high-speed trading algorithms. The practice known as “latency arbitrage” is when ultra-fast traders attempt to get the jump on the rest of the market thanks to their faster systems and oftentimes custom infrastructure investments. This quick-finger automated process is a side effect of the way market works, and regulators have sought to eliminate the arms race by building in split-second delays or other speed bumps. The reason is simple: everyone else in the market is less likely to post competitive quotes for stocks because the speediest traders can swoop in by sheer technical quickness rather than any inherent evaluation of the market. Globally, the estimated trader revenue from latency arbitrage is $4.8 billion skimmed from traditional investors by the speed freaks.

Alexander Osipovich, The Wall Street Journal

Movies

According to tracking service Reelgood, the number of movies on Netflix fell from 6,755 films in 2010 to just 3,730 titles in 2020. Meanwhile, the number of television shows — which by their very nature are much longer works, time-wise — jumped from 530 to 2,108 over that same period. The combined number of film and television titles appears to have peaked on Netflix in 2012, when there were 11,000 titles on the service. That slipped precipitously and by 2015 there were 5,769 titles, which then slowly fell to a low of 5,158 titles in 2018. The growth from that nadir over the past two years has been almost entirely in new Netflix original content.

Rani Molla, Vox

Booze

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the percentage of Americans who reported binge drinking fell from 18.9 percent in 2011 to 18.0 percent in 2017, according to the latest data. However, while the percentage of heavy drinkers has slipped, those who do are drinking more: 529 drinks per year in 2017, up 57 annualized drinks compared to 2011. The largest pop in consumption was in Idaho, where the average number of drinks increased from 433 in 2011 to 793 in 2017 for binge drinkers. Wyoming’s binge drinkers consumed the most, downing 1,219 drinks per year in 2017.

Andrew Noble, Route Fifty

Telescope

After 16 years of service NASA will shut down the Spitzer telescope this week. The issue is that the telescope — designed to detect light in infrared wavelengths — trails Earth in its orbit, and the distance has been growing, making it more difficult to maneuver in order to charge it with solar power, to transmit data, or to point it in space. It had an excellent run, finding a ring around Saturn, laying the groundwork for exoplanet detection and observing billions-of-years-old-light. Interestingly, it’s being left in orbit, and Earth won’t catch up to it again until 2051. That’ll be a fun reunion.

Marina Koren, The Atlantic

Outbreak

In 2003, when the SARS outbreak struck China, the nation accounted for 4.3 percent of world economic output. Last year, it was 16.3 percent, so the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent reaction may have world-impacting economic effects well beyond the borders. Tourism alone is in trouble: 134 million Chinese traveled abroad last year, and 7 million people were projected to travel internationally this Lunar New Year, up from 6.3 million in 2019. China’s neighbors — Thailand, Vietnam, Japan and Hong Kong — could see immediate dents in visits. In Macau, a major gambling destination, visitors from mainland China were down 80 percent on Sunday compared to a year earlier, a possible preview of what’s to come if the outbreak is exacerbated.

Elaine Kurtenbach and Alexandra Olson, The Associated Press

Furs

Fur has been attracting the anger of activists for a while; however, the number of people moving away from the fashion is starting to make a dent. Last year, the International Fur Federation reported the industry had $30 billion in sales, which is somewhere between 10 percent and 15 percent down. Most of that drop was attributed to economic difficulties in China and Russia, two enormous fur markets, but retailers like Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, which announced they will stop selling fur by the end of 2020, still represent something like 4 percent to 5 percent of fur sales. While new fur is obviously controversial, older, inherited furs — clothing made from animals killed decades ago — are still complicated for some inheritors. However, the maintenance and tailoring of these previously owned items to update them for more modern styles at no new loss of life has actually been a growth business for furriers dealing with a declining share of apparel.

Ray A. Smith, The Wall Street Journal

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