Sunday, June 30, 2013

Culture: 4 Knots Music Festival 2013, New York City

(Drivebycuriosity) - New York City has a lot of pleasant traditions. One of these is the "4Knots Music Festival" (villagevoice).

This is a free of charge event at Manhattan´s touristy South Street Seaport. The annual concert, which is hosted by the Village Voice, a print and online magazine about New York´s culture & nightlife, replaced the "Siren Festival" which had taken place some years ago on Coney Island inside a leisure park on one of New York´s beaches.

Yesterday´s festival had 2 stages where around a dozen bands played. According to their website the musicians performed different styles of independent & alternative rock music.

I had much fun with the "The Babies" (thebabiesband). The Brooklyn based band played a fresh and powerful grungy rock. It was a real discovery and I hope to hear more from them in the near future.

The punk band "Parquet Court" recited a poem accompanied by fierce guitars (parquetcourts). Well done! "Kurt Vile & the Violators", the last band of the evening (around 7pm), was a bit too mainstream for my taste but I guess they fit well into the easy-going atmosphere of the festival. 

Many visitors enjoyed just the relaxed ambient and used the occasion to meet friends and other people, took pleasure of the sunny harbor place at the Southern edge of Manhattan and had fun.

Thanks a lot to organizers and security people who guaranteed that it "4Knots" was a peaceful and fun event!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

New York City: Street Art - Watch out … Crows below!

(Drivebycuriosity) - When you walk the streets of New York City you might keep your eyes wide open. There is so much to see. Especially in South Manhattan you could spot a lot of street art.

Many artists post their work on walls, shop gates, mail boxes, current transformers and other places. There are a huge variety of ideas and techniques.

In the recent days someone has been printing crows onto the pavement. You can spot those black birds on Delancey, East Houston, Bower, Broadway and other streets.

The ubiquitous crows have all the same shape and black color and harmonize with their environment.

Most people don´t notice and walk carelessly over the strange artworks. But the crows don´t mind.


Friday, June 28, 2013

Movies: World War Z

(Drivebycuriosity) - Do you want to experience state of the art action cinema? Then you should watch "World War Z" (imdb).  A super fast spreading virus transforms people into raging zombies who almost overrun the whole earth. The survivors have to find a vaccination to stop the zombie infection.

This idea is plausible but not new. We have seen a virus induced zombie epidemic before in "28 Days later" by director Danny Boyle. But the producers developed this topic further and delivered a stringent and haunting tale. They also gave the zombies even more more dynamic and speed and created tsunamis of those menacing and frantic corpses. Thanks to the awesome digital effects and the brilliant 3D photography the attacks of undead masses almost looks real and scary.

The real actors were just support of course. But Brad Pitt delivered a solid performance and proved again why he is one of the top earners in Hollywood. He showed a convincing combination of family man and action hero.  Daniela Kertesz, who acted almost unrecognizable as an Israeli soldier, had also a memorable appearance.

"World War Z" is the prefect summer cinema to chill you down and helps you to forget a bit of the daily treadmill.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Stock Market: Bad Feral Hog Day

(Drivebycuriosity) - Today was a bad day for the "feral hogs". Federal Reserve member Richard Fisher (Dallas Fed President) described this species as " big money" that "does organize itself somewhat like feral hogs. If they detect a weakness or a bad scent, they go after it." 
Those feral hogs had set huge bets on falling stock prices because the Federal Reserve Bank announced last week that their huge stimulus program QE3 will be reduced gradually and could end around the middle of next year (tapering).

Today´s news also was a setback for the doom & gloom fraction (Roubini, Faber, many short selling hedge funds, media) who sees the next recession & stock market crash around the corner. This morning we learned that U.S. consumer spending rose in May 0.3% and income advanced 0.5% (reuters). We also heard that pending homes sales (contracts to purchase previously owned U.S. homes) climbed 6.7% to the highest level since December 2006. And the weekly jobless claims continued their downward trend last week. 

The new data confirm that the US consumers don´t care about feral hogs, stock sales of hedge funds and the gloomy sentiment in the media. The solid consumer spending is still the engine of economic upswing. Rising incomes, gains on the stock and the home market should fuel further advance of the economy.

The data also justify the tapering announcement. The U.S. economy needs the stimulus program less and less. The tapering should avoid overheating and rising inflation and hence contain the rise of the interest rates.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Economy 2013: Good News From The Commodity Front

(Drivebycuriosity) - Today gold continued its free fall and dropped another $45 (3.6%) . The blogger Scott Granis commented that the yellow metal continues to realign with commodities (scottgrannis). Since September 2012 the bulk of the commodities, measured by the UBS Bloomberg CMCI Composite USD Price Indes (bloomberg), has been moving south.

It seems that the great bubble in commodities is popping. Since the early years of this century Goldman Sachs and other banks had been banging the "buy commodities" drum. They advertised oil, gold, wheat and other commodities as investment alternatives to stocks & bonds. According to the banks a "super cycle" had started as a result of an allegedly growing commodity scarcity that should drive commodity prices north for decades. A lot of hedge funds and other speculators followed and pumped many billions of dollars into commodities which caused rising prices - a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But the high & rising commodity prices induced the usual economical reactions. Commodity suppliers increased production as a response to higher profits. For instance the US oil production is climbing because the high oil price induced massive investments in exploration techniques like fracking. On the other side consumers started to buy less commodities. For instance US oil demand is falling thanks to less driving, gas-saving cars and other more efficient machines.

Falling commodity prices is good news for consumers and the economy. People have to spend less and keep more money to purchase other goods which could be a boost for retailers & other consumer companies. Falling commodity prices also curb the inflation rate. Hence I expect that interest rates rise less than the market expects because high interest rate are usually a result of a high & climbing inflation rate.

Falling commodity prices also signal that money that had flowed into those investments is now streaming back. This money could pour into the economy and into stocks leading to more economic growth and a further rise of the stock market.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Economy: QE3 Exit - The First Achievements

(Drivebycuriosity) - Last week the financial markets worldwide experienced some turbulences. The dollar exchange rate rose and the prices of stocks & bonds tumbled. This was a quick response to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernankes´s announcement that the stimulus program QE3 will run out through mid 2014 (tapering).

I embrace this announcement. As described recently (drivebycuriosity), massive stimulating measures aren´t necessary anymore and could lead to an overheating in the future.

In the aftermath of the tapering announcement we experienced the first achievement, at least we got a taste of it. The prices of oil & gold dropped sharply after Bernanke´s statement (bloomberg marketwatch).

Cheaper oil is a relief for consumer who have to pay a bit less at the gas pump. Hence they have more money to spend for other goods which could be a boost for retailers & other consumer companies.

A falling oil price also translates into a further moderate inflation rate. Hence I expect that interest rates rise less than the market fears because high interest rate are usually a result of a high & rising inflation rate.

The crash on the gold market is another positive effect. In the recent years many people had parked billions of dollar in this unproductive metal. As a result of the massive sales of gold this money could pour into the economy and into stocks leading to more economic growth and a further rise of the stock market.

Culture 2013: Mermaids Invade New York City

(Drivebycuriosity) - Many cultures traditionally celebrate midsummer (summer solstice) with festivals and rituals  of religion or fertility (wikipedia ). Yesterday New York City had her own pagan fertility festival: "The Mermaid Parade".

Since 1983 this event has been happening on Coney Island, a beach amusement park on New York´s Atlantic coast. The show is related to legendary aquatic creatures, called mermaid (wikipedia).

The annual spectacle is New York´s version of Mardi Gras and allows many participants and spectators to dress (or to undress) more liberally than you would usually see in uptight America. Coney Island`s "Mermaid Parade" is an occasion to have fun, to see and to be seen.

This year´s event had been endangered by the damages caused by "Superstorm Sandy" that had destroyed some of the parade´s path. But thanks to a Kickstarter action, the tradition had her way. Some higher  instance was also generous and granted gorgeous weather - lots of sun, but not too hot, thanks to a fresh breeze from the adjacent beach front.

I indulged in the parade. There were a lot of groups, some playing music and dnacing.  Some displayed political issues, others just had fun. You could see many strange creatures, even some invasive species form Mars.

Some marchers had very elaborate costumes, others awed their audience with their generously displayed skin, often flamboyantly painted.

Being a German, I was surprised how civilized the people behaved. Contrary to the sober & disciplined American audience many people at Cologne`s "Rosenmontagszug" at Carnival - and similar events -  drink a lot of beer and you can see a lot of drunks, especially alcoholized youth. The "Mermaid Parade" therefore was much more relaxed and playful than comparable German events. Bravo Americans!

Thanks a lot to organizers and police who guaranteed that it stayed a peaceful and fun event!