From budding trends to mature industries, Novem Group works hard to stay abreast of developing news.

Here’s what caught portfolio manager Charlie Ruff’s eye this week:

  1. The Slow, Drawn Out Death of Brick & Mortar Retail
    • UBS calling for 80,000 stores to close by 2026 or about 16,000/year. Bad news for owners of retail square footage (SPG, KIM, KRG, etc)
    • Before the pandemic, the US was losing about 10,000 stores a year. The pandemic actually slowed this rate down because relief programs helped people get through 2002.
    • These forecasts can also be WAY off… the COVID lock-downs were supposed to cripple retail. It certainly hurt but the relief programs have helped keep many businesses alive.
    • Will pent-up consumer demand help keep retailers in business or is the secular shift to ecommerce just too much?
  2. Drones creep me out and AI-driven drones are the stuff of nightmares.
    • Steve and I were discussing how drones are changing warfare. We were listening to a podcast where this guy was discussing how ISIS was using drones to drop grenades and IEDs on US troops. This MacGyver approach is cheap, accurate and anonymous.
    • This is a real threat and it’s already happening.
    • This video is a few years old but is eerie. It’s very easy to see how big-data, AI, facial recognition, drones can be harnessed in an incredibly destructive manner.
    • I come back to Isaac Asimov’s laws of robotics
      • A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
      • A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
      • A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second law.
  3. Capitalism is Dead, Long Live Debtism
    • No surprise, debt in the developed world is out of control.
    • The author does a good job framing the issue but doesn’t go beyond that. Still it’s worth 2 mins.
    • The author in the comments lay sit out well.
      • “Otherwise, the first government to cancel its debt could have a credibility issue among the international community. And the first one to adopt austerity measures would risk entering recession. A real dilemma!”
    • To play devil’s advocate… what if this debt is okay? What if we can even take on more? There are two ways to look at debt: relative to income and relative to assets.
      • When we compare debt/GDP, we’re looking at debt/income.
      • Maybe if we could accurately compare debt (a clear number) against assets (not always clear) this wouldn’t look so scary…
  4. The Barkley Marathons- Easily the toughest, most ridiculously hilarious races in the world.
    • The Barkley are an unmarked trail marathon through the mountains in TN… you have to be invited and registration is $1.60. The race director, Lazarus Lake, also asks you to bring him something random. One year he was running low on shirts so he had everyone bring a button-down shirt… one year it was socks.
    • Length- no one knows exactly how long it is. Every year, Lazarus measures each lap at exactly 20.0 miles. The course is given to people through clues and no GPS is allowed on the course. Briefly at the beginning they show everyone a map and you can quickly make a copy. Other than that you’re on your own.
      • You have to do 5 loops to finish. They alternate direction and also laps 2 and 4 are run at night. I have no idea how people navigate.
    • Elevation- each loop is about 12,000 of gain which is ridiculous for a 20 mile loop. The race I’m doing which constantly goes up and down Letchworth is 40 miles and 6,600 ft of gain.
    • No one knows exactly when the race starts either. Instead of a starting gun, he lights a cigarette.
    • As check-ins on the course, you have to rip out a page from a book that might be in a bag or undrer a rock. The course even goes through a tunnel below the Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary. So it’s sort of part scavenger hunt too.
    • The people who finish this race are a mess. Cuts and bruises from the course, sleep deprivation, dehydration… the works
    • Amusing documentary if you’re in the market
Securities offered through American Portfolios Financial Services, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Novem Group, an SEC-registered Investment Adviser firm, which is not affiliated with American Portfolios Financial Services, Inc. Inclusion in this list does not in any way imply endorsement of a particular company, investing approach or industry, articles provided for informational use only and do not constitute legal, investment or tax advice. Any opinions expressed in these links are not the opinions or views of Novem Group or American Portfolios Financial Services, Inc. Opinions expressed are those of the writers only.