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13 September 2024

Health care professionals have a new tool in their medical kits for assessing the health of their patients. The Body Roundness Index has the promise of overcoming several of the weaknesses of the long-established Body Mass Index (BMI), which has often been misused as a health indicator by the profession.

BMI has become entrenched in large part because it has two basic inputs that are easy to measure: height and weight. These two factors are combined in a mathematical formula to provide a single value to indicate how relatively healthy an individual is based on just their weight and height. Or would if it were used appropriately.

Like BMI, the Body Roundness Index (BRI) has simple inputs that can be easily obtained using standard height gauges and measuring tapes: height and waist circumference. The Conversation describes how it came about and its potential:

BRI was developed by US researchers in 2013 in response to criticisms of BMI. Instead of looking at height and weight, BRI mathematically quantifies body fat levels by looking at height and waist circumference instead. This provides a value typically ranging from one to 20. It is the lowest and highest values that suggest the highest health risk.

Numerous studies have shown that BRI may be better than BMI at predicting the health risks associated with different levels of body fat. This includes predicting risk of weight-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney disease and cancer, as well as death from any cause.

This latest study, which looked at 32,995 US adults between 1999 and 2018, found an association between BRI and death from any cause. Specifically, they also found that people with the lowest and highest BRI scores had the greatest health risks.

They also found that BRI was better than BMI at accurately detecting this risk. This is because BRI considers the fat held around the abdomen, which is linked to greater risk of health problems. This is different to BMI, which only considers overall weight.

BRI has the potential to be a better indicator of an individual's relative health than BMI while also being far less expensive, especially when compared with the alternative of today's more exact medical scanning and sensing technologies. And while's there's an online tool that can calculate your BRI, it's a little clunky to use. Especially if you want to run a number of "what if" scenarios in short order, like you would if you wanted to find out where it sets the boundary between being in or out of what it identifies as "the healthy zone" for someone of your height.

Which is to say we think there's room in the tool marketplace for a simpler, more bare bones tool to do the math. So we built it. Just enter the indicated measurements and the tool will do the math. If you're accessing this article on a site that republishes our RSS news feed, please click through to our site to access a working version.

Body Dimension Data
Input Data Values
Height
Waist Circumference

Body Roundness Index
Calculated Results Values
Body Roundness Index

As you can see, our tool is as bare bones as it gets. As a bonus, because of the underlying math, we don't have to worry about the units of measurement, provided they are the same. Use inches for both your height and waist circumference, you're good to go. The same is true if you use centimeters for both. Or cubits, if you must. The only limitation is you can't mix and match units and expect to get reliable results.

Now that you have the result for what you entered, what might it tell you?

That's where the long term study of Americans' health comes into play. The following chart presents all-cause mortality based on BRI for the individuals included in the study from 1999 through 2019. Find your BRI on the horizontal axis, then look up to see where the U-shaped curve puts your relative risk of death compared to where the minimum risk is at the lowest point of the curve.

In this chart, the solid blue curved line is the estimate of all-cause mortality for individuals with the Body Roundess Index indicated in the horizontal axis, and the light blue shading represents the 95% confidence interval for each level.

Here's what the authors have to say about what the chart shows:

As an extension, we expanded NHANES cycles from 1999 through 2018 and followed up to December 31, 2019, and we observed a U-shaped risk trajectory for the association between BRI and all-cause mortality. Differing from the study by Zhou et al, we chose the middle quantile (BRI, 4.5-5.5) of this U-shaped trajectory as the reference and found that all-cause mortality risk was increased by 25% for adults with BRI less than 3.4 and by nearly 50% for adults with BRI 6.9 or greater. The magnitude of risk estimation persisted even after excluding accidental deaths or deaths within 2 years or reserving participants with myocardial infarction, stroke, congestive heart failure, or cancer. Hence, estimates of mortality risk associated with BRI may help inform decision-making in clinical settings.

In this national cohort, we noticed that very low BRI was associated with a significantly increased risk of all-cause mortality, especially in individuals aged 65 years and older. This association seems plausible, as BRI was identified as a potential proxy measure associated with nutritional status, and very low BRI can be accompanied with malnutrition, fatigue, reduced activity tolerance, and muscle atrophy. The reasons behind the association between BRI and mortality may be epidemiologically and clinically plausible. From epidemiological aspects, elevated BRI was significantly associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disorders, and even cancer, which might serve as the culprits responsible for all-cause mortality. From clinical aspects, the accumulation of visceral fat was associated with more profound insulin resistance and an increased risk of cardiometabolic diseases, even among participants with weight within reference range.

Aside from its potential as a better-than-BMI health indicator, BRI also caught our attention because the math behind incorporates the formula for the eccentricity of an ellipse. Which you can see if you look closely at our AI-generated version of DaVinci's Vitruvian Man sketch.

### References

Zhang X, Ma N, Lin Q, et al. Body Roundness Index and All-Cause Mortality Among US Adults. JAMA Netw Open. 2024;7(6):e2415051. DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2024.15051.

Thomas, DM; Bredlau, C; Bosy-Westphal, A;  et al.  Relationships between body roundness with body fat and visceral adipose tissue emerging from a new geometrical model. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013;21(11):2264-2271. DOI: 10.1002/oby.20408.

Image Credit: Microsoft Copilot Designer.. Prompt: "Vitruvian Man with an ellipse as long as the man is tall and as wide as the man's waist".

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12 September 2024

The pace of carbon dioxide accumulates in the Earth's atmosphere increased again in August 2024.

The increase comes as China, the world's largest source of carbon dioxide emissions by a widening margin, has stated its emissions have not peaked and will continue to increase.

The increase in the rate at which CO₂ is being added to the Earth's air also comes as the 2023-24 El Niño event has dissipated. These weather events contribute to dry weather conditions that when combined with wildfires, often increase the amount of carbon dioxide that enters the atmosphere. It's no accident two of the worst years for CO₂ accumulation were 1997 and 2015, which saw major wildfires in Indonesia coincide with very strong El Niño events. Fortunately, 2024 hasn't seen a similar level of natural wildfire disasters.

With 2023-24's El Niño in the rear view mirror, what's happening with CO₂ emissions traces directly back to human activities. The current rise of atmospheric CO₂ began after December 2022 when China, the world's largest source of human-produced carbon dioxide emissions, lifted its zero-COVID restrictions, stimulating its economy. The following chart shows the results.

Since the concentration of carbon dioxide is measured at the remote Mauna Loa Observatory, it represents a lagging indicator of human activities because it takes several weeks for CO₂ emissions to diffuse into the Earth's air. Since China is such a large source of emissions, they correspond with China's economic output. Chinese factories cranked up their production of goods for export in recent months as part of a strategy to beat new tariffs being imposed on many of these goods by the United States, the European Union, and other nations.

That strategy increases CO₂ emissions now, but also sets the stage for declines after the new tariffs go into effect. It's a bit like a sugar rush, which spark a frenzy of activity only followed by a crash. In the case of CO₂ emissions, declines in the rate at which carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere are associated with recessions and other negative economic events when not countered with massive stimulus efforts.

### References

National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Earth System Research Laboratory. Mauna Loa Observatory CO2 Data. [Online Data]. Updated 5 August 2024. Accessed 5 August 2024.

Image credit: Thermal Power Plant photo on pxhere. Creative Commons CC0 Public Domain.

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11 September 2024

As expected, China's exports to the United States surged in July 2024 as that country's exporters acted to beat the clock on the Biden-Harris administration's new and expanded tariffs. Their deadline to ship as many goods as they could before many of these tariffs took effect on 1 August 2024 and it appears they succeeded.

The surge was set into motion on 14 May 2024. The Biden-Harris administration imposed high tariffs on a range of goods, including "electric vehicles, batteries, semiconductors, steel, aluminum, critical minerals, solar cells, ship-to-shore cranes, and medical products".

In July 2024, the surge in Chinese container ships delivering cargo vaulted the Port of Los Angeles to the top of the list of the busiest ports in the United States.

The following chart shows how the July 2024 surge impacted the total value of goods traded between the U.S. and China.

Year over year, the value of goods traded between the U.S. and China rose from \$48.6 billion to \$51.5 billion, an increase of 10%. The increase in goods being exported from China to the United States accounts for 98.9% of the \$4.8 billion increase.

Meanwhile, the threat of strikes among workers at U.S. east and gulf coast ports also prompted U.S. importers to try to pull in imports from other countries, especially holiday inventory that would ordinarily ship in September and October. For U.S. importers, pulling these goods in early helps ensure they'll be able to stock store shelves as the Christmas shopping season ramps up later this fall.

The decision to ship goods being imported through the U.S. east and gulf ports earlier can be seen in the next chart, which shows the total value of all goods traded between the U.S. and the rest of the world, both with and without the contribution of U.S. trade with China.

This second chart shows an increase of nearly \$10 billion in traded goods between the U.S. and the rest of the world from January 2024's bottom to July 2024's estimate of \$386.6 billion.

A report on China's trade data for August 2024 suggest the country's "manufacturers are rushing out orders ahead of tariffs expected from a growing number of trade partners, while imports disappointed amid weak domestic demand". The boost in global trade driven by China's tariff avoidance strategy is not limited to the U.S.

There's bad news ahead for trade. Because these factors are playing out as the result of trying to get as many foreign goods imported into the U.S. economy ahead of the disruptive events of punitive tariffs being imposed and a potential strike at U.S. east and gulf coast ports, there will likely be a severe drop-off in the volume of goods shipped to the U.S. in the months ahead. The 2024 summer surge in trade is not fueled by demand from a healthy U.S. economy and will not be sustained.

### References

U.S. Census Bureau. Trade in Goods with China. Last updated: 4 September 2024.

U.S. Census Bureau. Trade in Goods with World, Not Seasonally Adjusted. Last updated: 4 September 2024.

Image Credit: Photo by Barrett Ward on Unsplash.

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10 September 2024

As of July 2024, the median new home sold in the United States has been above the threshold of affordability for a family earning the median household income for 28 consecutive months. The last month in which the typical new home sold in the U.S. was within the affordable reach of the typical household was March 2022.

That's despite the average interest rate for a 30-year conventional fixed rate mortgage dropping to 6.85% in July 2024. Unfortunately, that decline in mortgage rates was accompanied by an increase in the median sale price of a new home, which rose to an initial estimate of \$429,800. The combination of these two factors means that the monthly mortgage payment for a median new home would consume 43.2% of the income earned by a household at the middle of the U.S. distribution of income in July 2024.

That's still well above 36% of household income level that represents the upper threshold that most mortgage lenders use to determine whether they will lend to a household that has no other debt. If a household does have other debts, lenders prefer the cost of a monthly mortgage payment consumes no more than 28% of the household's income.

The latest update of our chart tracks the changing relative affordability of the typical new home sold in the U.S. is for the typical American household with respect to these mortgage lender thresholds from January 2000 through July 2024.

That's just for new homes. Statista uses a different measure of the relative affordability of all homes sold in the U.S. over the months from 2018 through the present and arrives at a similar conclusion: the typical home sold in the U.S. has been well out of the affordable reach of the majority of American households since early 2022:

You will find more infographics at Statista

They're referencing projections of annual median household income for 2023 and 2024 that are elevated by \$3-\$5,000 above what we're seeing from monthly estimates of that data. The U.S. Census Bureau will release its estimate of the nation's median household income for 2023 later today.

Looking forward to when we get housing and income data for August 2024, the good news is that mortgage rates continued fall in August 2024, averaging 6.5% during the month. Unfortunately, if those rates applied to July 2024's median new home sale price, they would still be unaffordable for the median income-earning household. The monthly mortgage for the typical new house would cost 41.6% of its income at that lower mortgage rate. We won't know how affordable the median new home sold in August 2024 is until the first estimate of its cost is released toward the end of September 2024.

### Update 10 September 2024

The annual estimate for median household income for 2023 came in at \$80,610, which is 1.3% higher than Motio Research's estimate of \$79,547. We'll follow up the release of the annual median household income statistics in a separate post later this month.

### References

U.S. Census Bureau. New Residential Sales Historical Data. Houses Sold. [Excel Spreadsheet]. Accessed 23 August 2024.

U.S. Census Bureau. New Residential Sales Historical Data. Median and Average Sale Price of Houses Sold. [Excel Spreadsheet]. Accessed 23 August 2024.

Freddie Mac. 30-Year Fixed Rate Mortgages Since 1971. [Online Database]. Accessed 3 September 2024. Note: Starting from December 2022, the estimated monthly mortgage rate is taken as the average of weekly 30-year conventional mortgage rates recorded during the calendar month.

Image Credit: Microsoft Copilot Designer.. Prompt: "An editorial cartoon of a real estate sign that says 'MEDIAN NEW HOME FOR SALE'". We made some minor tweaks to the image and added the comment.

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09 September 2024

The S&P 500 (Index: SPX) closed out August 2024 just 18.8 points below its all-time record high set on 16 July 2024. But after the first week of September 2024, the index lost 240 points to end the Labor Day-holiday shortened trading week at 5,408.42. The index is now 4.6% below its record high after experiencing its worst week in the last year and a half.

While the S&P 500 declined on each of the four trading days of the trading week that was, its biggest declines came on two of those days: Tuesday, 3 September 2024 and 6 September 2024. On Tuesday, the market's declines were led by AI and semiconductor stocks as investors sold off their holdings as the sector's growth prospects are showing signs of fading.

By contrast, Friday's decline can be traced to investor reaction to a disappointing jobs report, corresponding to worse than previously expected growth prospects for the U.S. economy.

The news of the week is such that investors shifted their forward-looking focus toward the more distant future quarter of 2025-Q2. That shift can be seen on the latest update of the dividend futures-based model's alternative futures chart. The trajectory of the S&P 500 now falls in the middle of the chart's latest redzone forecast range.

This forecast range is anchored at 9 August 2024, when investors were focused on the distant future quarter of 2025-Q2 in setting stock prices. The future end of the forecast range is linked to the dividend futures model's projection of the level of the S&P 500 on 4 November 2024, specifically its projection associated with investors focusing their attention on the nearer term future quarter of 2024-Q4 in setting the level of the index.

In setting the redzone forecast range up this way, we assumed investors would transition their forward-looking attention from 2025-Q2 to 2024-Q4 during the period it runs. That period bridges across a period in which the raw projections of the dividend futures-based model are affected by the echoes of past volatility, which arises because the model uses historic stock prices as the base reference points from which it projections are made.

How we set up the redzone forecast range is relevant because that's how we can determine how far forward in time investors have shifted their attention as they set the level of the index. Less than a month into the period the redzone forecast range runs, finding the level of the S&P 500 in the middle of the range at this point of time is consistent with investors shifting their focus back to the more distant future quarter of 2025-Q2, similar to how they were focusing on that particular investment horizon in early August 2024.

According to the CME Group's FedWatch Tool's latest projections, the Federal Funds Rate has more than 50% probability of being in a target range of 3.00-3.25% at that point of time. 2025-Q2 is also about when the pace of the Fed's anticipated upcoming series of rate cuts is expected to start slowing.

That observation brings us to what may be investors' main motivation for looking so far out into the future. How low will interest rates go?

The answer to that question isn't in the past week's market-moving headlines, which are tracking the nearer term questions of how big they'll be in light of the evidence the market's growth impulses are slowing....

Tuesday, 3 September 2024
• Signs and portents for the U.S. economy:
• Fed minions agree: full steam ahead for rate cuts!
• Bigger trouble developing in China:
• Bigger trouble developing more slowly in Japan:
• Bank of Korea looking to get in on rate cut action:
• Bigger trouble developing in Eurozone:
• ECB minions not sure how to deal with Eurozone economy downturn:
• U.S. stocks tumble as September starts, investors cool on chips
Wednesday, 4 September 2024
Thursday, 5 September 2024
Friday, 6 September 2024

The CME Group's FedWatch Tool anticipates the Fed will hold the Federal Funds Rate steady in its current target range of 5.25-5.50% until next week. On Wednesday, 18 September (2024-Q3), the Fed is expected to start a series of 0.25%-0.50% rate cuts that will occur at six-week intervals well into 2025 with an immediate 0.25% cut.

The Atlanta Fed's GDPNow tool's projection of the real GDP growth rate for the current quarter of 2024-Q3 dropped to +2.1% from the previous week's forecast of +2.5% growth.

Image credit: Microsoft Copilot Designer. Prompt: "An editorial cartoon of a bear scaring a Wall Street bull"

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About Political Calculations

Welcome to the blogosphere's toolchest! Here, unlike other blogs dedicated to analyzing current events, we create easy-to-use, simple tools to do the math related to them so you can get in on the action too! If you would like to learn more about these tools, or if you would like to contribute ideas to develop for this blog, please e-mail us at:

ironman at politicalcalculations

Thanks in advance!

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