Numlock News: February 17, 2021 • Crater, Revlon, Lumber
By Walt Hickey
Citibank goofed up real bad last summer when it accidentally wired $900 million to Revlon’s lenders rather than the $8 million in interest payments it was actually supposed to send as Revlon’s loan agent. This is a problem for Citi because those lenders do not want to give the money back, and while the bank asked extremely nicely, 10 investment advisory firms who invoked the “finders keepers, losers weepers” clause of financial law declined to return $500 million. Exacerbating the half-billion-whoopsie is that a U.S. District Court judge agreed with them, ruling this week that Citibank won’t be able to recover the transferred funds. True to form, the internal chats revealed as part of the suit are equal parts vicious and delightful and come highly recommended.
I’m A Lumberjack And I’m Okay
Lumber futures prices hit $982.1 per 1,000 board feet as of February 12, nearly double the $499.40 seen at the end of last October and just shy of the $984.50 seen in mid-September during a serious lumber crunch. During the same week of 2019, lumber prices were pretty steady at around $404.10 per 1,000 board feet. The reasons for the wood price spike are myriad, with a surge in outdoor seating construction, increased demand in the suburbs, rising time for home improvement projects and difficulties forecasting demand coinciding in a crunch for boards. Housing starts for private-owned residential units in December were the highest levels since 2006, and because of the cold, lumber deliveries from Canada have been delayed.
Pot of Greed
Goldin Auctions, a collectibles auction house that specializes in trading cards, is taking in $40 million in investment amid a boomlet in speculation over sports and other trading cards. In all of 2019, Goldin generated $27 million in auction sales, but over the course of 2020 interest began to accelerate substantially, and in January 2021 alone Goldin moved $36 million in auction sales, putting it on pace for $200 million in sales this year, which would double their 2020 volume.
A new theory presents an alternative solution to the greatest murder mystery of all time: what killed the dinosaurs? The prevailing theory is that it was an asteroid from the asteroid belt that did the deed, slamming into what is now a crater near the Yucatán Peninsula. But a new theory from Harvard researchers takes an alternative picture of the case, fingering the killer as none other than Jupiter, which murdered the dinosaurs using something like a comet from the edge of the solar system. The telltale clue to this theory is that large impact craters like the one in question at the Chicxulub crater are more likely to be made up of carbonaceous chondrite, while only 10 percent of asteroids in the belt are made of the primitive material. Here’s the modus operandi, or shall I say the Modusoperandus Rex: a comet from the Oort cloud making its way all leisurely-like gets dragged into the solar system through Jupiter’s gravity, launching it into an orbit very near the sun, which breaks it apart a bit, and then at least one 50 mile chunk of comet slams into the coast of Dino Mexico, and the rest is history. Then all Jupiter has to do is wait for the investigators to pin the job on the innocent asteroid belt and orbit away like nothing happened. It’s the perfect crime.
An estimated third of Europeans and Americans sustain unhealthy levels of noise exposure, which entails sounds north of 70 to 80 decibels. Exposure to high levels of environmental noise is linked to a number of unfortunate heath outcomes. People in the shadow of Frankfurt’s airport had up to a 7 percent higher risk of stroke than those in comparable quiet neighborhoods, and an analysis of 25,000 cardiovascular deaths near Zurich’s airport in Switzerland found increased mortality at night after airplane flyovers. Finally, evidence for what I have known all year, that the idiots who lay on their horn at the Steinway intersection are genuinely trying to kill me.
An American-Egyptian team has discovered this absolutely charming little brewery — you probably haven’t heard of it, it’s really low-key but is really vintage. Located in Sohag Governorate, the brewery is believed to be 5,000 years old dating to King Narmer’s reign. The eight sections of the brewery were about 65 feet long and each had 40 earthenware pots in two rows, indicating that this was not just any brewery. This was a pretty big facility that moved a lot of beer, something like 5,000 gallons at a time, so more like an Anheuser-Busch on the Nile than a tidy little boutique operation.
Texas has had a horrific week weather-wise, as a polar vortex sent frigid temperatures and rough weather into regions not in any way designed or built to handle them. Compounding that is Texas’ unique status of being on a separate electrical grid from the Eastern and Western United States, which is making it particularly hard to get electricity to regions that need it. The 30 to 35 gigawatts worth of outages were the result of a number of factors, including frozen instruments at natural gas, coal and nuclear facilities, and difficulties moving natural gas to where it’s needed given the temperatures. Wind turbines have also frozen, though they account for less than 13 percent of the total outages, and while wind can provide 60 percent of Texas’ electricity during peak times, the operators build in assumptions of 19 percent to 43 percent of maximum output due to weather in the winter. Overall, Texas’ ERCOT grid has seen under-investment and neglect over the past several decades, and this weather — which has led to outages for over 4 million customers — is a wake-up call.
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