Political Calculations
Unexpectedly Intriguing!
13 May 2021

We're going to tell a story with a single chart today. We've compared Arizona's first wave trough with its second wave trough in the following chart, where we've estimated the number of excess COVID cases Arizona has counted as a result of the Biden-Harris administration's border migration crisis. Click the image for a larger version.

Comparing Arizona's First and Second Wave COVID Troughs, Number of Positive Test Results by Date of Sample Collection

For more background on the border migration crisis' effect on COVID in Arizona, follow the most recent links in the series listed below!

As for the border migration crisis itself, the Biden-Harris administration has reversed itself by resuming construction of a border wall project in Texas. At this time, there's no indication of a similar restart of border wall construction projects in Arizona.

Previously on Political Calculations

Here is our previous coverage of Arizona's experience with the coronavirus pandemic, presented in reverse chronological order.


We've continued following Arizona's experience during the coronavirus pandemic because the state's Department of Health Services makes detailed, high quality time series data available, which makes it easy to apply the back calculation method to identify the timing and events that caused changes in the state's COVID-19 trends. This section links that that resource and many of the others we've found useful throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Arizona Department of Health Services. COVID-19 Data Dashboard: Vaccine Administration. [Online Database]. Accessed 25 April 2021.

Stephen A. Lauer, Kyra H. Grantz, Qifang Bi, Forrest K. Jones, Qulu Zheng, Hannah R. Meredith, Andrew S. Azman, Nicholas G. Reich, Justin Lessler. The Incubation Period of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) From Publicly Reported Confirmed Cases: Estimation and Application. Annals of Internal Medicine, 5 May 2020. https://doi.org/10.7326/M20-0504.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 Pandemic Planning Scenarios. [PDF Document]. Updated 10 September 2020.

More or Less: Behind the Stats. Ethnic minority deaths, climate change and lockdown. Interview with Kit Yates discussing back calculation. BBC Radio 4. [Podcast: 8:18 to 14:07]. 29 April 2020.

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12 May 2021

How much of the U.S. stock market is owned by foreigners?

According to the U.S. Treasury department, foreigners owned $9.17 trillion worth of U.S. equities through the end of the second quarter of 2020, which is the equivalent of 35.7% of the total market capitalization of the S&P 500 (Index: SPX) at that time. That represents a slight increase over last year's figures. The following chart presents the raw numbers:

Market Capitalization of S&P 500 and Foreign Holdings of U.S. Equities, June 2002 - June 2020

In 2002, foreigners owned just $1.4 trillion, or the equivalent of 15% of the S&P 500's market cap at that time. In between, the share of U.S. equities held by foreigners rose steadily to peak at 36.5% in 2015, but has declined in recent years. In the next chart, we've shown how the foreign-held share of U.S. equities, which we're representing as the market cap of the S&P 500 has changed from 2002 through 2020.

Foreign and Domestic Share of Market Capitalization of S&P 500, June 2002 - June 2020


Standard and Poor. S&P 500 Earnings and Estimate Report. [Excel Spreadsheet].

U.S. Department of the Treasury. Report on Foreign Portfolio Holdings of U.S. Securities at End-June 2020. [PDF Document]. 30 April 2021.

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11 May 2021

China is, by far and away, the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide into the Earth's atmosphere.

That factoid was recently driven home by the Rhodium Group's latest report on the topic, updating their annual data through the 2019 calendar year. The following chart indicates the share of net CO₂ emissions by the world's top emitting countries or regions:

Rhodium Group - Figure 1 - 2019 net GHG emissions from the world's largest emitters

The Rhodium group estimates that China's net carbon emissions exceeded the output of the 34 developed nations that make up the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The chart above represents something of a snapshot in time of the pre-coronavirus pandemic world of 2020, which saw CO₂ emissions fall in many developed countries around the world.

But not in China, according to the Rhodium Group's preliminary 2020 estimate:

Based on preliminary energy and economic data, we estimate that China’s GHG emissions increased by 1.7% in 2020. While this is well below the 3.3% emissions growth that China averaged over the past decade, it is a worrying sign that the world’s largest GHG emitter’s focus on a fossil-fueled industrial recovery is at odds with its long-term goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2060.

By contrast, the Rhodium Group's preliminary estimates indicate a 10.3% decline in net U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2020, putting the U.S. below its 1990 level of emissions. That figure is consistent with a new year-over-year estimated reduction of 10.4% for just U.S. fossil fuel generated CO₂ emissions during 2020.

Pointing to the link between greenhouse gas emissions and economic growth, China's economy is estimated to have grown by 2.1% while the U.S. economy shrank by 3.5% in real terms from 2019 to 2020.


10 May 2021

The April 2021 jobs report was disappointing, to say the least. Instead of reporting that at least one million Americans had returned to work in April 2021 with the lifting of state and local government lockdowns in high population states, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported number of additional working Americans rose by about one-fourth of that widely expected number. Which of course meant that stock prices rose on the disappointment!

It's somewhat counterintuitive, but stock prices rose on the much worse than expected news because it means the Federal Reserve will keep its "super-easy" monetary policies in effect for longer. Prior to the report, stock prices kept running toward the lower end of the redzone forecast range on our alternative futures chart, mainly because the expectation of rising inflation would mean the Fed would be forced to move away from its super-easy policies much sooner than they would want to rein in rapidly escalating prices.

Alternative Futures - S&P 500 - 2021Q2 - Standard Model (m=+1.5 from 22 September 2020) - Snapshot on 7 May 2021

This is also a good time to review the full forecast performance of our latest redzone forecast. Our need to provide these forecasts is driven by the dividend futures-based model's use of historic stock prices as the base reference points from which it projects future stock prices. When those historic prices involve high levels of volatility, the echo of that volatility affects the model's projections.

To get around that seeming limitation, we identify the period in which the volatility echo affects the model's projections and pick points on opposite sides of it, one before it begins and one after it ends. We then connect the dots with a straight line and draw in a red-shaded range on either side of it to reflect the amount of 'typical' volatility we expect to see.

The trick in doing all this is to pick the right starting and ending points. For the nearly-just-completed redzone forecast range, we anchored a point associated with the expectations for 2020-Q2 in the "before" range, and selected a point associated with the expectations for 2020-Q4 on the future end of the forecast range. In terms of the dividend futures-based model, we assumed investors would begin the forecast range being by focusing on the current quarter of 2021-Q2 in setting stock prices, then would shift their forward-looking focus out to the more distant future of 2021-Q4 some eleven weeks later.

As we mentioned several weeks ago however, it became clear investors were holding their forward-looking focus on 2020-Q2 rather than shifting it. In the following animated chart, we compare what our results were during the eleven week period of the redzone forecast range, and what our results would have been if we had assumed investors would keep their attention only on 2021-Q2 instead:

Animated Chart: Alternative Futures - S&P 500 – 2021H1 - Standard Model (m=+1.5 from 22 September 2020) - Snapshot on 7 May 2021

This is one of the longest periods in which we've attempted to push the limits of what we can do in forecasting stock prices. With our original assumption that investors would start the redzone forecast period focused on 2021-Q2 and shift that focus to 2021-Q4 by its end, 85% of the S&P 500's daily closing values fall within the range, and 15% fall below it. As our redzone forecasts go, this latest example is one of the worst we've done.

But the alternate hypothesis of investors focusing only on the expectations associated with 2021-Q2 in setting current day stock prices would have seen the S&P 500 fall within its projected range on 95% of the trading days, with just 5% falling below the range.

Looking forward, we think the trajectory of the S&P 500 is likely to undershoot the dividend futures-based model's standard projections in the weeks ahead, mainly because the spector of inflation has been let loose. Even if the Federal Reserve keeps its "super-easy" policies, the longer that situation continues, the more expectations among investors will grow that the Fed will be forced to change course.

Which brings us to our summary of the major market-moving news of the week that was, where you'll find exactly where we found the Fed's current policies described as "super-easy"!

Monday, 3 May 2021
Tuesday, 4 May 2021
Wednesday, 5 May 2021
Thursday, 6 May 2021
Friday, 7 May 2021

What was positive and negative in the past week's markets and economics news? Barry Ritholtz outlines how he read the week's market news over at The Big Picture!

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07 May 2021

From time to time, the Inventions in Everything team surveys product pitches on Kickstarter just to get a sense of the innovation zeitgeist. We're looking for the uniting themes inventors and designers have zeroed in on to solve what they've identified as common problems, which their potential consumers have also bought into by pledging enough for their project to launch.

We've found three such innovations for this edition, with the common uniting theme of solving problems encountered by the environmentally conscious while drinking beverages on the go. Let's start by introducing HUNU, a collapsible coffee cup that fits in your pocket:

Hunu was originally kickstarted a year ago by Vince Dickson and Megan Williams with a goal of £2,500 to launch, which ultimately collected over 85 times than in pledges from 6,730 backers. This year, they successfully kickstarted the HUNU+, which includes 16 or 20 ounce versions of their collapsible coffee cup.

That's all well and good, but what if your jam involves cold drinks. The kind that are best consumed on the go through a plastic straw. Only you don't want to deal with a plastic straw.

That's the market the inventors and team behind FinalStraw, the world's first collapsible, reusable straw sought to tap through their 2018 Kickstarter campaign.

Originally seeking $12,500 to launch the FinalStraw, the KickStarter campaign ultimately collected nearly $1.9 million from some 38,443 backers.

The final innovation we're featuring in this edition is still being kickstarted as of our original publication date, but has already surpassed its $10,000 goal, so it will launch! Meet JoGo, the coffee brewing straw!

Nick Yehle and Joey Jones' design is based on the bombilla filtered straws they encountered on a trip to South America for drinking maté, which they've refined to work with coffee and other beverages.


06 May 2021

If you've been paying attention to home prices, this isn't news, but new homes are becoming less affordable for the typical American household.

In March 2020, the price of the typical new home sold in the U.S. rose to be 5.14 times the typical income of an American household.

Ratio of Trailing Twelve Month Averages for Median New Home Sale Prices and Median Household Income, Annual: 1967 to 2019 | Monthly: December 2000 to March 2021

Historically, there have been two periods where new homes have been more unaffordable with respect to median household income. The first was at the peak of the housing bubble in 2006. The second is the period from 2014 through 2018.

We anticipate the rise in the relative affordability ratio will decelerate because the supply of new homes being sold in the U.S. is rising rapidly, with the overall number now at levels last seen during the early part of the Dot-Com Bubble.

Trailing Twelve Month Average of Annualized Number of New Homes Sold in the U.S., January 1976 - March 2021

With the rising supply, median new home sale prices have declined since peaking in December 2020, though there is still momentum behind the increase in unaffordability for now.


Political Calculations. Median Household Income in March 2021. [Online Article]. 4 May 2021.

U.S. Census Bureau. New Residential Sales Historical Data. Houses Sold. [Excel Spreadsheet]. Accessed 24 April 2021. 

U.S. Census Bureau. New Residential Sales Historical Data. Median and Average Sale Price of Houses Sold. [Excel Spreadsheet]. Accessed 24 April 2021. 


05 May 2021

April 2021 marks an unusually strong month for dividend paying firms in the U.S. stock market, which is especially true if you look at year-over-year comparisons. Let's get straight to the month's dividend metadata:

  • 2,019 U.S. firms declared dividends in April 2021, a decline of 1,160 from the 3,179 recorded in March 2021. That figure is also a decrease of 1,073 from the 3,092 recorded in April 2020. This is the second-lowest figure on record, falling only behind January 2021's record low of 1,466.
  • Some 39 U.S. firms announced they would pay a special (or extra) dividend to their shareholders in April 2021, a decline of 26 from the 65 recorded in March 2021 and an increase of 28 over the 11 recorded in April 2020.
  • 155 U.S. firms announced they would boost cash dividend payments to shareholders in April 2021, a decline of 11 from the 166 recorded in March 2021, but a year-over-year increase of 102 over the 53 recorded in April 2020.
  • A total of 16 publicly traded companies cut their dividends in April 2021, an increase of 3 over the number recorded in March 2021. It is also a decrease of 104 from the 120 recorded a year ago in April 2020.
  • Zero companies omitted paying their dividends in April 2021, a decline of one from March 2021. By comparison, the figure for April 2020 was 155. That's the difference between an economy plunging into a recession because of pandemic fears and government-imposed lockdowns and one finally emerging from both.

The following chart shows the monthly number of dividend rises and falls from January 2004 through April 2021.

Number of Public U.S. Firms Increasing or Decreasing Their Dividends Each Month, January 2004 - April 2021

The number of dividend cutting firms is perhaps the simplest economic indicator for the U.S. economy, where April 2021's figures are consistent with a rebounding economy.

Our sampling of dividend cuts from our real-time sources of dividend declarations for April 2021 counted just four dividend cuts during the month. Of these, three involve firms that pay variable dividends to their shareholders, which is well within the range we would expect for typical month-to-month noise for these firms. The fourth is a retail-oriented real estate investsment trust (REIT), Weingarten Realty Investors (NYSE: WRI), which is merging with Kimco Realty (NYSE: KIM). Its dividend cut reflects a final partial-month payout to WRI shareholders, whose shares are being converted into shares of Kimco Realty.

Here's the very, very short list of dividend cuts in April 2021:

The following chart reveals how the measure of cumulative dividend cuts and suspensions by day of quarter to date for 2021-Q2 compares with the second quarters of 2018, 2019, and 2020. Pay close attention to the difference between 2020, when companies were slashing dividends in response to the coronavirus recession, and 2021.

Cumulative Number of Dividend Cuts in U.S. by Day of Quarter, 2018Q2 vs 2019Q2 vs 2020Q2 vs 2021Q2 (QTD) as of 30 April 2021

The vertical scale on the chart is set to capture dividend cuts in the U.S. stock market during a "typical" recession. 2020's Coronavirus Recession was anything but typical.


Standard and Poor. S&P Market Attributes Web File. [Excel Spreadsheet]. 30 April 2021.

Seeking Alpha Market Currents. Filtered for Dividends. [Online Database].

Wall Street Journal. Dividend Declarations. [Online Database when searched on the Internet Archive].


04 May 2021

Political Calculations' initial estimate of median household income in March 2021 is $66,248, an increase of $244 (or 0.4%) from the initial estimate of $66,004 for February 2021. As expected, this change coincides with the lifting of coronavirus lockdowns imposed by several state and local governments in December 2020.

The latest update to the chart tracking Median Household Income in the 21st Century shows the nominal (red) and inflation-adjusted (blue) trends for median household income in the United States from January 2000 through March 2021. The inflation-adjusted figures are presented in terms of constant March 2021 U.S. dollars.

Median Household Income in the 21st Century: Nominal and Real Modeled Estimates, January 2000 to March 2021

While the lifting of lockdown restrictions is a positive development for American households, it is being accompanied with rapidly rising inflation. In the following animated chart, we see that inflation has gained considerable traction in the U.S. since the end of 2020.

Animated Chart: Median Household Income in the 21st Century: Nominal and Real Modeled Estimates from December 2020 through March 2021

With inflation rising faster than the median household income in the U.S., the typical American household has been losing purchasing power during the first three months of 2021.

Analyst's Notes

The BEA's estimates for aggregate wage and salary data in January and February 2021 were revised slightly upward, by 0.08% and 0.11% respectively, from the Bureau's previous estimates.


U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Table 2.6. Personal Income and Its Disposition, Monthly, Personal Income and Outlays, Not Seasonally Adjusted, Monthly, Middle of Month. Population. [Online Database (via Federal Reserve Economic Data)]. Last Updated: 30 April 2021. Accessed: 30 April 2021.

U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Table 2.6. Personal Income and Its Disposition, Monthly, Personal Income and Outlays, Not Seasonally Adjusted, Monthly, Middle of Month. Compensation of Employees, Received: Wage and Salary Disbursements. [Online Database (via Federal Reserve Economic Data)]. Last Updated: 30 April 2021. Accessed: 30 April 2021.

U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. Consumer Price Index, All Urban Consumers - (CPI-U), U.S. City Average, All Items, 1982-84=100. [Online Database (via Federal Reserve Economic Data)]. Last Updated: 13 April 2021. Accessed: 13 April 2021.


03 May 2021

Usually when we wrap up a trading week for the S&P 500 (Index: SPX), we focus on the big picture for the index.

For instance, did the index set any new highs? The answer to that question is yes, twice in the past week, as the S&P 500 reached 4,187.62 on Monday, 26 April 2021 and then reached higher to 4,211.47 on Thursday, 29 April 2021, before dropping back to close the week of trading at 4,181.21. On the alternative futures spaghetti forecast chart, we see the trajectory of the index is running at the lower edge of the redzone forecast range we have technically been projecting since 11 January 2021, but which we locked in on 22 February 2021.

Alternative Futures - S&P 500 - 2021Q1 - Standard Model (m=+1.5 from 22 September 2020) - Snapshot on 30 Apr 2021

But it is within the component stocks that make up the index that something more remarkable happened in the month of April 2021. Here's ZeroHedge with that story:

... while the 5%-ish gain for the month in S&P is notable, during 18 sessions this month through trading on Thursday, 95% or more of the index’s members traded above their 200-day moving average.

That’s the most days ever observed in a single calendar month and double the previous high of nine days in September 2009.

Being ZeroHedge, they find the cloud in that seemingly silver lining in the form of a note by Miller Tabak analyst Matt Maley:

“The fact that 95% of the S&P 500 is now above its 200-day moving average is NOT a bullish sign,” Matt Maley, chief market strategist for Miller Tabak + Co., wrote in an April 26 note.

“Yes, a high number of stocks above their 200 DMA’s is usually positive, BUT it is NOT bullish when the number becomes extreme (like it is now…at 95%). In other words, this data point is much like sentiment. When it is strong, it is positive…but when it becomes extreme, it becomes a contrarian indicator!”

If you've been paying attention to the S&P 500 chaos series, you know we're coming up on when the current trend will end.

But what will be the triggering event that changes the index' trajectory? For that, we pay attention to the market moving headlines in the news. Here's what we flagged as notable in the final week of April 2020.

Monday, 26 April 2021
Tuesday, 27 April 2021
Wednesday, 28 April 2021
Thursday, 29 April 2021
Friday, 30 April 2021

Want to find out what positives and negatives were in the past week's markets and economics news? Click through to find Barry Ritholtz' succinct summary!

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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:

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Materials on this website are published by Political Calculations to provide visitors with free information and insights regarding the incentives created by the laws and policies described. However, this website is not designed for the purpose of providing legal, medical or financial advice to individuals. Visitors should not rely upon information on this website as a substitute for personal legal, medical or financial advice. While we make every effort to provide accurate website information, laws can change and inaccuracies happen despite our best efforts. If you have an individual problem, you should seek advice from a licensed professional in your state, i.e., by a competent authority with specialized knowledge who can apply it to the particular circumstances of your case.