The Wednesday Briefs – Evaluation Update 1

In our August 2021 evaluation of The Wednesday Briefs under the headline Are The Wednesday Briefs Worth Reading?, we concluded that The Wednesday Briefs made a large number of accurate predictions. Separating the survey by topic, we included excerpts from previous issues that had proved prescient. We encourage you to read or re-read the first evaluation. We include those excerpts below again.

We also accepted that not everything had been perfect. For example, we were too optimistic about the pandemic. We thought and hoped that the numbers of cases and deaths would be far lower than they turned out to be, and that the pandemic would fade faster than it did. We had little precedent to go on and hoped for the best.

The other place where we stumbled or thought that we had stumbled, in the issues preceding that August 2021 evaluation, was on the question of inflation. Here we quote from our post back then: “We called it right but overworried a bit about inflation”. As we all know now, we had not in fact overworried about inflation, but were unfortunately correct to worry. It just took longer for inflation to show up in the official numbers.

Net net therefore, our main miss before August 2021 was about the pandemic. Not a negligible miss, but again one with little precedent in our collective experience.

Let us now examine the record since August 2021, using the same template of topics (POLITICS, MARKETS, ECONOMY) that we used in the first post and substituting “GEOPOLITICS” for “PANDEMIC”. The first is heating up while the second is subsiding.

One last thing before we proceed. Can we be accused of cherry-picking, of highlighting the good forecasts and not mentioning the less good ones? In a few details perhaps, but on the whole, no. It is true that we were too optimistic on Ukraine, believing at first that there would be no invasion, and then that the war would end sooner. We were thinking about it from a “rational” perspective and believed that an invasion would be irrational for the Russians because of its likely outcome and consequences for Russia. As such, we were blindsided by the fact that Russia acted irrationally or with flawed information.

We were also mistaken, albeit rarely, about the timing of investing in some individual securities, an inevitable reality for every investor. For example, we were a bit early on medical device companies. Our belief was that medical procedures deferred during Covid would create pent-up demand after the pandemic, something that seems to be happening now.

At any rate, we invite you to supplement this evaluation and to form your own opinion by visiting The Wednesday Briefs archive (free subscription required).

Reminder: The Wednesday Briefs are not investment advice. Please do your own work and discuss with professional advisors before committing capital.

POLITICS

Excerpts included in first evaluation of The Wednesday Briefs in August 2021:

4 March 2020: “Sanders has virtually no chance… Because of Biden’s current strong momentum, there is a possibility that he will gain a majority of the delegates before the convention, which would automatically make him the nominee on the first round.”

3 June 2020: “Protests and Election: In 2016, Trump prevailed by winning Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan but his narrow margin in these swing states means that they could tip to Biden under reasonable assumptions.”

19 August 2020: “Trump prevailed in 2016 by winning Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and a handful of other swing states. The postmortem at the time was that Hillary Clinton did not sufficiently connect with voters in those states, some of whom had been in previous cycles reliable supporters of the Democratic candidate. Biden’s more down to earth style will likely play better with these voters this time around.

21 October 2020: “Where the Media Would Miss Trump: A lot of anchors and editors would celebrate a Biden victory but the bottom line might not be as peppy in the next four years.

9 June 2021: “But now Trump is out of the White House and off of Facebook and Twitter. On cue, the New York Times’ stock has traded down [from $58 in January] to $42 as of yesterday. What Peter Thiel called years ago the “bull market for news” appears to be over for now.”

Excerpts added in this UPDATED evaluation:

27 October 2021: One of the consequences of super easy money is a stock market bubble that can and probably will go on through the end of the year or beyond. The combination of 1) excellent corporate earnings, 2) a recovering post-pandemic global economy and 3) a collective decision to ignore inflation, has cleared a runway for market bulls to top off their 2021 gains with a final sprint to 2022. Remember that a significant percentage of money managers get paid bonuses that are calculated through a single snapshot of performance taken at the close of trading on December 31st of each year. Next year will be a different matter and Democrats face a catch 22 in the months preceding the 2022 midterm election: to maintain status quo and risk higher inflation, a bigger asset bubble and more of the inequality that they pledged to fight, or to slam the brakes hard to correct these excesses.

10 November 2021: Former Carlyle Group CEO Glenn Youngkin prevailed in the Virginia race for Governor. Youngkin defeated Terry McAuliffe, a former governor of the state and a ubiquitous figure in the Democratic party since the Clinton Presidency. Worth noting that Youngkin managed to win without bowing to Donald Trump or kissing his ring. There is new life, feeble as it may be, in non-Trumpist Republicans.

11 May 2022: Although President Biden’s popularity is low, a senate flip to the GOP is not a foregone conclusion. The renewed controversy over Roe v. Wade is an opportunity for Democrats to divert the debate away from inflation and war. In the book Scarcity, authors Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir write about “tunneling”, a psychological reflex that leads people to focus on one single issue or task that they view as primordial or existential and to neglect all other issues: “The term tunneling is meant to evoke tunnel vision, the narrowing of the visual field in which objects inside the tunnel come into sharper focus while rendering us blind to everything peripheral, outside the tunnel.”

8 June 2022: As we discussed in the WB 116, energy including gasoline is still a relatively small percentage of consumer spending but this is cold comfort for strapped households paying 2x the January rate. They will be demanding action if the national average tops $6 or $7. That may stall the price even if industry fundamentals remain supportive.

29 June 2022: Until last week, it was widely believed that the House of Representatives would flip to the Republicans and that the new Speaker would be Kevin McCarthy, an on-again off-again Trump supporter (mostly on-again in the past year). And it looked like the odds of the senate also flipping to the Republicans were rather good. But the recent Supreme Court decisions on abortion (and other cases) may jolt the ranks of Democrats in toss-up districts and states. Until recently, the number one issue of the election was inflation. But it is now the number two issue in many places. A higher turnout among the young may yet break up the incoming red wave.

14 September 2022: The course of the 2024 presidential race is about to be redrawn following the upcoming November midterms. If Trump-backed candidates lose badly, the GOP will move away from Trump and nominate someone else in 2024. If they perform well, Trump may be able to retain his status as the party’s flag bearer.

21 September 2022: OCTOBER SURPRISES: One [October surprise] would be a new surge in energy prices. This would not be entirely a surprise. Energy prices were pushed down during the summer in part by the Biden administration’s sale of a million barrels a day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a program that is expected to end in October. With a million barrels of supply taken out of the market, it is possible that traders would bid up energy again. In addition to the expiring SPR program, there are other factors that may help oil prices recover: historically low inventories, the gradual reopening of the Chinese economy, OPEC tightening supply when Brent approaches $90 per barrel, anticipated production declines at some US shale basins notably Bakken and Eagle Ford, etc.

MARKETS

Excerpts included in first evaluation of The Wednesday Briefs in August 2021:

We nailed it by calling the bottom of the market in March 2020, a market melt-up subsequently, and a sector rotation starting in late 2020.

4 March 2020: “The near unanimous view that markets will not recover quickly probably means that they will… There is a possibility of an asset bubble later in the year after virus cases have declined and the relief summer boom and pent-up economic activity kick into gear.”

18 March 2020: “The stock market, as a discounting mechanism for activity that is three to six months ahead, has already made a bottom.

20 May 2020: “Bearish predictions based mainly on valuations are notoriously unreliable as decades of sector overvaluation have shown. In addition, record low interest rates suggest that equities could in fact be undervalued.

3 June 2020: “There is plenty to choose from for a brave value investor.”

17 June 2020: “The Coming Meltup: the most likely scenario in our view is now a meltup of stocks in the coming months… The biggest beneficiaries as in 1999 would be growth names, irrespective of their already elevated valuations.”

8 July 2020: “The market’s divergence means that some sectors are doing very well (on Wall Street and in the real economy) while others are struggling and going bankrupt.”

29 July 2020: “There would be significant upside for several sectors within the next year if the economy gets past the pandemic and recovers some degree of normality. Among severe laggards are travel and hospitality, restaurants, energy and many others.”

5 August 2020: “Further upside can now be driven by 1) a continued meltup in the top 5 and other technology names and/or 2) an improving outlook for companies that have underperformed due to the pandemic. With regards to the latter, the fade in cases and impending fade in deaths should provide support to depressed sectors in the fall.”

30 September 2020: “Zeitgeist investing has come of age in 2020. The last time that we saw this on this scale was in 1990-2000, a period that celebrated “new economy” companies but that was followed by a decade-long resurgence of the old guard sectors.”

7 October 2020: “The market is of two minds, as evidenced by the K recovery with some sectors such as tech and pharma doing well and others such as energy, travel and retail still languishing. The difficulty that the stock market now faces is that the upper arm of the K seems fairly valued, or arguably overvalued, while the lower arm is still experiencing deteriorating or stagnating fundamentals.”

14 October 2020: “The combination of a Democrat-majority senate and a President Biden would not cheer the markets under normal circumstances because Mr. Biden has vowed to raise taxes on individuals and corporations. But for the time being, the markets are focused on the likelihood of greater and greater stimuli in the months ahead. Although the candidates do not refer to it in these terms, this is Modern Monetary Theory in action, an expansion of the government’s role in the economy with little concern for the expanding budget deficits.”

18 November 2020: “There is considerable upside left in the laggards if the economy holds through the winter surge of the pandemic and if a new stimulus is enacted by Congress. In theory, other things being equal, the latter part of 2021 and the year 2022 could see a very strong recovery in travel, leisure and other sectors that are now depressed. The rush back in spending and socializing will be analogous to a flood after a dam break.

2 December 2020: “With more stimulus promised, the current tech exuberance can last a few more weeks or months much as its 1999 predecessor lasted into the new year and until March 2000. What happens afterwards will depend on the condition of the economy starting in the spring. The seasonal fade of the virus combined with the wider availability of vaccines would push bond rates up and could lead to a very large sector rotation with this year’s winners losing some gains and the losers effecting a swift recovery. Value investors, if there are any left, would now be loading up on names that were worst-hit by the pandemic.

6 January 2021: “While Bitcoin scored big in 2020, the dollar and its custodians won’t be disenfranchised without putting up a good fight.

3 February 2021: “But with Tesla trading near $850, an at-the-market call or put will set you back $350, or roughly 40% of the stock price. This means that an option investor will not make money at expiration unless the stock moves at least $350 up or down. This elevated option price is a reflection of Tesla’s large move in the past fifteen months but it also denotes lack of confidence in the stock’s current level, be it too low or too high. With momentum on its side and more stimulus money coming soon, Tesla stock could be too low. But based on valuation, it looks too high.”

24 February 2021: “Companies that are associated with the upper arm of the former K recovery (now looking increasingly like a V recovery) have stagnated since the vaccine news in November, with the notable exception of Alphabet/Google and Tesla. Meanwhile, companies associated with the lower arm have done very well in the past four months. This rotation will continue for several weeks. The main problem for the major indices is that the combined market cap of the laggards is probably not sufficient to offset declines in the former leaders. On current trends, one way to outperform in 2021 will be to underweight technology.”

3 March 2021: “Peak Elon could in theory coincide with Peak Tesla. That the stock is overvalued is beyond contention. Bearish estimates put the valuation at somewhere between $50 and $250, depending on how much you allow its cars to be a software product instead of an automotive product with a long-range battery.”

17 March 2021: “A better time to have been a superbull was one year ago when the market was in free fall and all celebrations were shut down.”

7 April 2021: “This dream scenario for investors has fallen in place thanks to a combination of rising S&P 500 earnings, low interest rates and big government spending. Big tech names such as Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon are all pushing higher at or near their all time records. Meanwhile pandemic-struck laggards (travel, retail etc.) are staging strong recoveries across the board. In December,we foresaw the mother of all sector rotations (MASR). This means that travel and leisure spending within the United States may exceed current projections by a long mile (no pun intended). Travel, leisure and hospitality names will do very well if they can meet the demand.

26 May 2021: “The appeal of Bitcoin has spread mainly thanks to four constituencies: tech savvy investors who understand and believe in the white paper, investors who try to jump on a good trend, closet revolutionaries who see cryptos as a way to upend the world order, and assorted hackers/pirates/traffickers trying to extract ransom in an untraceable manner. One limitation of this spread is that there are not enough of these people in society to make John and Jane Doe give up on the greenback and on its main sponsor, the United States Treasury.”

Excerpts added in this UPDATED evaluation:

10 February 2021: Betting against New York City was a losing proposition after the 1987 crash, the 9/11/2001 attacks and the 2008 meltdown. After a year of shoveling snow, mowing lawns and driving everywhere, departed city slickers may decide that they have had enough and pack up for a return en masse to the mother ship.

17 March 2021: About the stimulus, there is widespread belief that new money inflows into the vessel that is the stock market will raise the water mark to new heights. That will work for a while, in particular as long as there are no significant cracks and leaks in the vessel. As these things go however, cracks will inevitably appear at some juncture. Most of the resulting leaks will be small and temporary but some will grow into streams that will drain more of the vessel. The most significant such cracks in the past were recession, inflation and geopolitical events. None of these are in the cards at this moment, but one of the last two could in theory develop quickly.

18 August 2021: Tesla traders are buying on the basis of technicals and shoring up the stock to avoid a decline to the next technical support which is in the low 400s. Our own view is that Tesla is grossly mispriced.

25 August 2021: Earnings were strong in the second quarter and are supportive of continued equity performance to the end of 2021. The main risk, and a substantial one, is continued high inflation. If the perception changed that inflation is not just “transitory”, the adjustment in asset prices could be brutal. Interest rates would race up quickly and would cause a correction in equities of 20% or more. Equities can outperform other asset classes in an inflationary environment but a short-term adjustment would probably be inevitable. Under normal non-pandemic circumstances, the biggest fall would be in growth companies that have no profits.

1 September 2021: Betting against New York City proved once again to be a bad call. In the depth of the Covid pandemic in the spring of 2020, it was said by some that the city would never recover and that the move to suburbia was permanent for many city dwellers. But the same had been said after 9/11. And now like then, New York is coming back strongly. Real estate transactions started the year with a bang as we reported in February. Some parts of Manhattan seem as busy as ever. Midtown is still slow because many people are still working from home.

6 October 2021: The knives are out for Facebook. In the past, criticism of the social media giant was restrained, tentative, diplomatic… The tide seems to have changed now. The formerly hesitant are suddenly bold. What was once dismissed as forgivable misconduct on the unpoliced frontier of digital media is now suddenly feared as monstrous, nefarious and destructive… What happens now depends on whether a consensus gels among users, corporations and the judiciary. If advertisers decide to pull dollars away en masse, the effect on the stock would be large, given that Facebook’s revenues are nearly all from advertising.

13 October 2021: Research operations are generating lists of stocks that will do well in an inflationary or stagflationary environment. This approach could work if the rise in interest rates is gradual and contained. But if bonds sell off hard, there will be no place to hide in the first downdraft of 20% of more. Nearly all stocks would be down but some would still outperform the index. In our view, these outperformers will be re-opening plays that have pricing power. The obvious sectors are energy and some other commodities.

20 October 2021: If new reactors are built at an increasing pace, uranium will make further gains. Pricing power could be significant given that Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia control two thirds of the global supply. The spike of 2007 (chart) showed how quickly the price can move when momentum builds and supply is uncertain. (Editor’s note: The price of uranium rose 29% after October 2021 and is now 15% higher than in October 2021).

15 December 2021: It is routine practice for an equity analyst to raise a price target by 20 to 30%. However, for companies in the trillion dollar club (companies with market caps over a trillion), the equivalent upgrades in target market caps can be startling. This week, Bank of America analyst Wamsi Mohan upgraded Apple to Buy and lifted his price target from $160 to $210. That is $820 billion of additional market value that was previously unnoticed by the BofA team. (Editor’s note: Apple stock peaked at $182.94 in early January, within 2% of its price on the day of the analyst upgrade).

19 January 2022: Normality Trade for 2022 (Editor’s note: this forecast did not anticipate the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which explains a more sanguine attitude towards bonds and emerging markets): 1) Bond yields will continue to rise and the ten-year US treasury will finish the year above 2.5%. 2) Stocks of high growth companies will continue to fall, in particular high multiple names in the tech sector. 3) Cyclical sectors will recover gradually, including energy, transport, retail and commodities. 4) Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and meme stocks will fall but gold will rise until inflation is seen as under control. 5) Emerging markets will do better in particular those that are meaningful exporters of commodities.

2 February 2022: The stock market will be less forgiving if Spotify shrugs at music icons [like Neil Young] and if it turns out that it overpaid in its $100 million licensing deal with [podcaster Joe] Rogan. (Editor’s note: Spotify stock subsequently fell from $191 to a low of $70.)

4 May 2022: Regarding the market, can we now say then that we are close to a bottom? Probably not for the large tech names. Supply chain disruptions will have intensified in the current quarter due to the Ukraine war and the China lockdowns. And there is now real concern that consumer spending may shift away from tech products. This would impact mainly Amazon, Apple, Nvidia and Tesla in the list above. In addition, valuations have fallen but they remain high by historic standards, in particular as the risk of recession may be rising. The macro picture looks challenging mainly because inflation is at levels not seen since the early 1980s.

1 June 2022: For how long can this “dirty trade” [of energy outperforming ESG] continue? For a while longer.

15 June 2022: Readers of the Wednesday Briefs know our long-held view that cryptos were boosted by the same excess liquidity that also pushed meme stocks and growth stocks to new heights. Cryptos, contrary to their advocates’ aspirations, were not unlinked to central bank actions but, as we know see, highly dependent on them. As liquidity rushed in, courtesy of central banks (and Congress), cryptocurrencies soared. And now as liquidity is drained by central banks, cryptocurrencies are crashing. While we see the merits of digital currencies, we do not see a sufficiently large space for extra-national or para-national cryptocurrencies to grow and thrive in competition with national currencies.

22 June 2022: We made the right call in January 2022 to sell the big tech names and they are down 30% so far this year. But when a large majority of professionals are all looking in the same direction, we are compelled to consider fresh scenarios for the near and medium term. In the near-term, the market is overdue for a rally as we discussed in recent Briefs. Whether this rally turns into a longer lasting recovery or whether it is a temporary bear market rally depends on the factors we spell out in bear and bull scenarios below.

22 June 2022: Outside of a recession scenario, our view remains that energy should perform well for the remainder of this year and possibly into the next.

26 October 2022: Speaking of Tesla, it remains overvalued by the usual metrics applied to valuation. Its market cap of $700 billion is 14 times the market cap of BMW and represents 6x estimated 2023 revenues. BMW’s market value is 0.35x its estimated 2023 revenues. It is true that Tesla is growing much faster and that it has higher margins but neither of these factors may be sustainable. Its growth rate will decline as competitors release more and more electric vehicles. And margins and cash flows need to be adjusted ex-FSD and to account for warranties and lagging accounts payable, in order to draw fair comparisons. Unless the Musk special magic can overcome the liquidity crunch imposed by the Fed on all equities, more downside is likely.

ECONOMY

Excerpts included in first evaluation of The Wednesday Briefs in August 2021:

We called it right but overworried a bit about inflation.

15 April 2020: “Pandemic winners: At home or small group work and schooling; at home or small group entertainment; medical equipment and supplies, pharma and biotech; online shopping; home improvement. More broadly, suburbia and the countryside. Pandemic losers: Hotel, cruising, restaurant and travel; transportation, auto and oil/gas industries; brick and mortar retail; commercial real estate; private schools and universities; stadiums and large venues. More broadly, high density urban environments.”

29 April 2020: “There is a possibility that Q3 will see a very sharp snapback in activity that could drive up GDP growth close to 10%.” (The snapback was even stronger).

2 December 2020: “Those who, like investors, try to internalize today events that lie six months into the future can imagine the pandemic to be nearly over. Confirmed cases are not peaking fast enough, and deaths are still climbing, albeit at a less bad rate than previously expected. But six months out, it will be the beginning of June and everything will look different. It could be an unprecedented summer and year of activity in 2021.”

17 March 2021: “As the weather warms and the virus subsides further, demand [for air travel] could surprise on the upside. The challenge for some airlines would then be to bring back sufficient capacity for the summer. Pulling an aircraft and its crew out of lockdown is a complex process. It is possible as a result that some routes could see higher than usual prices during the high season. New York to Paris fares for July are at about half the usual summer fare but this could change quickly.”

28 July 2021: “In the Briefs of 10 February and of 28 April 2021, we projected that the decline in births during the pandemic could be followed by an offsetting mini baby boom after the pandemic, in particular as household bank accounts have been padded by several rounds of government checks. There is early evidence that this scenario is now unfolding.”

Excerpts added in this UPDATED evaluation:

27 October 2021: The pandemic has created a rare situation in which some economic and policy issues that were deemed urgent in the past are now left unchecked. And they are left unchecked to allow more time for the economy to return to normality. But there have been secondary effects. Inflation is undoubtedly a problem, at least in the here and now, but the Federal Reserve has not yet taken action to raise rates, on the theory that this inflation is “transitory”. The Fed is still now buying $120 billions in bonds every month but it has pledged to start tapering these purchases in coming weeks.

3 November 2021: Strong earnings and the postponement of inflation worries provide a backdrop for continued performance when monetary conditions are extremely lax as is the case now. Barring the unexpected, the meltup will carry on to the end of the year and stocks will rise on any positive news irrespective of valuations. In the past, when the market returned over 20% in the first ten months of the year (as this year), it continued rallying in the last two months to year end.

24 November 2021: More recently, Fed credibility has been damaged by the runup in inflation and by Jerome Powell’s willingness to gamble that this inflation is transitory. In the past, the Fed had treated core inflation prima facie and had acted accordingly. It is true that the pandemic is a rare event that requires broader thinking, but then so were the 1970s oil shocks, the Nasdaq bubble, the post-9/11 period, and the 2000s housing bubble. And the Fed was behind the curve and rates were too lax in every one of these cases. This mere fact is startling: the Federal Reserve is still buying (though tapering) over $100 billion in bonds every month while the 10-year rate is below 2% and inflation is over 5%. This would have been unthinkable as recently as two years ago.

GEOPOLITICS

Excerpts added in this UPDATED evaluation:

14 April 2021: Russia is a renewed concern due to the imprisonment of Alexei Navalny and his deteriorating health, and due to the massing of Russian troops on Ukraine’s border. North Korea is launching missiles again. Iran and the US are resuming talks about Iran’s nuclear program but Iran is enriching uranium again. China is raising its voice on Taiwan and other issues. Myanmar had a miltary coup. Europe is generally pleased with the departure of Donald Trump and America’s renewed involvement in climate talks. Central America is again sending its children to the US border. Africa is getting insufficient attention as always, despite its rapidly growing population. When the pandemic lifts, we are likely to see this renewed complexity morph into one or two challenges overseas. It is possible that the worldwide lockdown contained potential crises and that this pent-up energy will be released when the virus subsides.

7 July 2021: After the Chinese government moved to increase its control of Hong Kong, will Taiwan be next? China has made no secret of its intention to reunite Taiwan with the mainland. Demographically, Taiwan’s 23.6 million population is small compared to China’s 1.4 billion. Its $668 billion GDP is similarly dwarfed by the mainland’s $14.3 trillion. These are important disparities but not necessarily determining ones in a conflict that may involve other powers.

18 August 2021: It is prudent therefore to be skeptical that Taliban 2.0 will be drastically different from its forerunner of 25 years ago. The experience of previous revolutions and takeovers shows that pledges of good behavior in the early days vanish quickly when the new leaders eliminate competitors and cement their hold on power. It is logical in poor and highly corrupt nations that the spoils to be shared are limited and that therefore the winners try to get as much as they can by any means possible. The rumored kinder gentler Taliban would have to allow competition in the main spheres of society. This is highly unlikely in a weak economy such as Afghanistan’s. Meanwhile, the economy itself is performing poorly because of corruption, war and repression. It is a vicious cycle.

6 October 201: As to the China-Taiwan issue, it is prudent to assume after the events in Xinjiang and Hong Kong that China will continue to increase pressure on Taiwan. It may well attempt an invasion if deterrence from the US and other allies fails.

17 November 2021: FOREIGN SPOTS TO WATCH: 1) Poland – Belarus border where Belarus has encouraged or allowed a migrant crisis. As many as 4,000 migrants are at the border. They are denied entry into Poland (and the European Union as this is an EU border) and according to some reports, also denied return to Minsk, Belarus’s capital. 2) Buildup of 100,000 Russian troops at Ukraine’s eastern border. Ukraine fears an invasion but Russia denies having that intention. 3) After it proved its mettle in Libya, Syria and Azerbaijan, Turkey’s new armed drone the Bayraktar TB2 is in high demand from a number of countries.

5 January 2022: If there is war, Turkey could play a major role, not only because of its membership in NATO but also because it seems encircled by Putin’s wars, Syria to the South, Georgia to the east and the Ukraine to the north. It has already pledged to offer some assistance to Ukraine.

2 February 2022: Ethno-narcissism denies that it is racist but it sees it as its duty to promote the interest of one race or ethnicity over others. That is not its only characteristic however. In order to secure a large number of adherents, ethno-narcissism, like any “respectable” form of narcissism, incorporates a heavy dose of playing the victim. Its message is not only that a certain ethnicity is superior to others, but also that it has been victimized by others.

16 February 2022: We have no idea how these factors [Russia’s pros and cons of invasion discussed in the Briefs] may weigh in the decision-making. On balance, an invasion is a big gamble that may end disastrously for all involved.

PANDEMIC

Excerpts included in first evaluation of The Wednesday Briefs in August 2021:

We were on the whole too optimistic but there were some accurate estimates.

17 June 2020: “A fair estimate of the Case Fatality Ratio in a nonstressed situation is therefore in the range of 0.4% to 0.9%.”

25 November 2020: “Using a well-established 1.8% for the ratio of US daily deaths to 21-days-ago confirmed daily cases, we can deduce that deaths will double from a grim 1,660 today (7-day average) to a disastrous 3,200 by mid-December.” (Close. The peak was in fact 3,400 in mid-January).

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The Wednesday Briefs – An Evaluation

Perfection is unattainable, but the track record has been solid and consistent.

The Wednesday Briefs are not primarily about forecasting but about providing unique commentary and insight on current affairs. But this commentary and this insight have sometimes come hand in hand with making forecasts.

Described by a regular reader as a “weekly gift and a treat”, the Wednesday Briefs are thought-provoking and enjoyable to many. But are they worth reading as a forecasting source? Below are excerpts from the various Briefs over the past seventeen months. We were too optimistic about the pandemic’s longevity but mostly right about other things.

Read more