Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Holiday Travel

Dear Rink Rats:

I was settling into my airplane seat when I said “Hi” to the passenger next to me, He remained stone-faced. Not the merest nod or acknowledgement of my existence for the entire flight, even when I passed him the tomato juice he ordered. Do I have the right to feel that he was rude?

Right of Passage, Newton, Mass.

Dear Right of Passage:

“What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been,” as the Grateful Dead called their greatest hits album. You have the right to feel anything you like about your silent companion. His behavior was out of the ordinary. A smile and “thanks” are customary when receiving glasses of juice. (For me, it’s harder to ignore people than to say hello. The tension!)

But perhaps he is shy. Or maybe you looked like a talkative Ted, and he had just flown six hours with a chatty stranger. Or maybe he is a Finance Professor who has no clue how to be a human being. I don’t recommend his behavior, so try not to take it personally. He doesn’t know how cool you are.

Rink Rats

THE FOUR AIRPORTS YOU SHOULD AVOID THIS HOLIDAY SEASON - Holiday travel: those two words alone are enough to make our toes tingle... and not in a jolly holiday way. While we have zero control over nasty holiday flight delays, we do have control over choosing the airports where they're least likely to happen.

At ORD (Chicago O’Hare), 42 percent of all flights were delayed during winter 2014. That's more than two out of every five flights! Other terrible performers included:
Fort Lauderdale International -- 38 percent of all flights were delayed
Newark Liberty International -- 37 percent of all flights were delayed
Denver International -- 37 percent of all flights were delayed

These results come via travel website Hopper, which analyzed government flight data from December through March 2014.

So which airports should you frequent to avoid delays?

Honolulu International ranked the best in Hopper's analysis -- a mere 14 percent of its flights were delayed during winter 2014. Florida is generally a tough place for delays in winter, Hopper points out, but if you must fly through the state, Miami International is your best bet.

When the whole year is considered, Salt Lake City International was the most punctual airport in terms of delays -- this bodes well for its performance during the 2015 holiday season.

And on the West Coast, LAX is a surprisingly solid bet, too: it performed significantly better than other big-name airports in another recent analysis from Decision Science News.

You know what this means, travelers: grab your ticket now, pick the right airport, and never fear a loss of holiday cheer!

TURKEY TALK FOR THE HISTORY BOOKS: Over the holiday week, the nonprofit StoryCorps launched the Great Thanksgiving Listen, an initiative urging high school teachers to assign their students the task of recording a meaningful conversation with an older loved one. They could upload their conversations straight from their smartphones and archive them at American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. The goal was ambitious: to gather more interviews over the holiday than StoryCorps has in the 12 years since its founding. As students go back to school today, more conversations are rolling in, and there hasn't been word yet of how many people indulged in some post-turkey oral history.

ON DEMAND ECONOMY - UBER SAYING LITTLE ON GIG ECONOMY COALITION: Uber is noticeably absent from a new coalition of companies, labor groups and think tanks working to address the problem of worker protections in the emerging on-demand economy. That's a little odd, considering one of the company's top advisers, David Plouffe, was just in D.C. last week defending the way the company treats its drivers.

- Asked why the company didn't sign the group's letter on Tuesday calling for compromise - even though others like Lyft and the SEIU did - an Uber spokeswoman said it was "an interesting proposal and we want to be part of the conversation." Flexibility and independence are important to workers, she said, and "technology platforms like ours provide both." The company declined to comment further on its absence, but Uber obviously is caught up in a major lawsuit in California about whether its drivers should be treated like employees.

THE YUAN AND ONLY - In a milestone that underscores China’s growing economic power, the IMF added the Chinese yuan to its basket of reserve-lending currencies. The move, which is designed in part to encourage further economic liberalization by Beijing, may add volatility to China’s trade picture and raise the risk of capital flight later on. People’s Bank of China Vice Governor Yi Gang said the central bank doesn’t see any reason for depreciation, pointing to China’s economic strength and ample foreign-exchange reserves. But the IMF’s decision doesn’t change investors’ dim outlook for the Chinese currency over the coming year. And just as the IMF marks the yuan’s arrival on the world stage, Hong Kong’s use of it is on the decline.

CAPITAL SHORTAGE - Businesses appear reluctant to step up spending on the basic building blocks of the economy, such as machines, computers and new buildings. A stronger dollar and falling commodity prices are prompting caution among some, while thousands have decided to bolster share prices by spending money on stock buybacks and dividends, rather than plow funds back into facilities and equipment, moves that would boost worker productivity and ultimately wages. Meanwhile, the average amount Americans spent in some key product categories declined on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, as mobile shopping drove smaller orders, and aggressive discounts pushed down prices.

NUMBER OF THE WEEK - $55.9 billion: The net U.S. farm income this year, the lowest level in more than a decade, reflecting depressed crop prices and softening dairy and hog markets, federal forecasters said yesterday.

GDP BOOSTED TO 2.1 - The U.S. economy grew at a healthier clip in the third quarter than initially thought, but strong inventory accumulation by businesses could temper expectations of an acceleration in growth in the final three months of the year. The Commerce Department ... said the nation's gross domestic product grew at a 2.1 percent annual pace, not the 1.5 percent rate it reported last month, as businesses reduced an inventory bloat less aggressively than previously believed.

The pace of economic growth, which was also boosted by upward revisions to business spending on equipment, suggests a resilience that could help give the Federal Reserve confidence to raise interest rates next month ... While consumer spending was revised down a bit, its pace remained brisk, suggesting consumers were cash-flush.

COLLEGE CHRONICLES – Enrollment in income-driven repayment plans rose by 50 percent over the year before, with more than 4.2 million Direct Loan borrowers participating - even as defaults increased to affect 3.3 million Direct Loan borrowers. Direct Loan-holders owed a collective $840.7 billion as of Sept. 30, a $37 billion increase over the third quarter of 2015. Nearly 30 million student loan borrowers were receiving the loans at the close of the fiscal year, up from 28.8 million in the previous quarter.

U.S. student loan debt has officially surpassed $1.2 trillion, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Thursday.

Brown University plans to spend $100 million over the next decade to address racism. President Christina Paxson is seeking feedback through Dec. 4 on a draft plan for "creating a just and inclusive campus community.

ROLL CALL: In fall 2014, Title IV institutions enrolled approximately 17.7 million undergraduate and about 2.9 million graduate students. National Center for Education Statistics.

INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION CELEBRATION : The Institute of International Education released its 2015 Open Doors report last week, in partnership with the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The release kicks off International Education Week, an initiative from the State and Education Departments to urge more Americans to study abroad, as well as encourage international students to study in the U.S. IIE has been gathering the Open Doors data since 1954, and co-hosts a briefing on the latest data at 9:30 a.m. ET at the National Press Club. Some of the findings:

- International students contributed $30 billion to the U.S. economy last year, up from $26.8 billion for 2013-2014, according to an analysis by NAFSA: Association of International Educators. The money comes from international students' tuition, room and board, shopping and travel. While most people think these students "drain the economy, they do just the opposite," said Peggy Blumenthal, IIE senior counselor to the president.

- Overall, the number of international students studying in the U.S. increased by 10 percent. That's the highest rate of growth in 35 years. China sent the most students - over 300,000, or 11 percent more than the previous year. Nearly 30 percent more Indians came than the year before - mostly doing graduate studies, often in STEM. Latin America showed large increases, too, partly due to regional government initiatives and the State Department's 100,000 Strong in the Americas program, Blumenthal said.

-The number U.S. students studying abroad increased about 5 percent, the largest increase since the 2008 recession. Still, Blumenthal said this is "not nearly good enough." She added that though the proportion of minorities studying abroad has increased to 25 percent, more needs to be done. She noted that the State Department has created a special office to help students find ways to study abroad.

POLITICS 101Key questions heading into the close of 2015: The Swami Picks
1.) Who wins the GOP nomination?  Marco Rubio
2.) Who wins the White House?  Hillary Clinton
3.) When does the Fed raise interest rates? December 16
4.) What will the unemployment rate be on Election Day?  5.5%
5.) What unexpected story will drive the outcome of the 2016 race? Domestic Terrorism, gun control.
Days until the 2016 election: 343.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Woody Allen (80) New York, NY; Michael Beschloss (60) Scarsdale, NY; Kaley Cuoco (30) Studio City, CA; Billy Idol (60) Austin, TX; Bette Midler (70) Paso Robles, CA; Bill Nye (60) Claremont, CA; Sandra Oh (45) Santa Barbara, CA; Ben Stiller (50) Huntington, NY.

A GOOD READ – "User Behaviour," by Michael Schulson in Aeon Magazine: "Websites and apps are designed for compulsion, even addiction. Should the net be regulated like drugs or casinos?" http://bit.ly/1HpRBPr

SPOTTED - Out supporting the Claremont Rotary Turkey Trot this Thanksgiving day, the community supporting Marshalls of La Verne, California, now wintering in Claremont, California along with an unidentified gentlemen in a dapper looking hat.

SPORTS BLINK - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - PLAYOFF PULSE: Final 4 field falls into place for committee: The College Football Playoff selection committee is set up to have a pretty easy championship weekend. Clemson [12-0] is in with a win [ACC championship against Chapel Hill on Sat.]. Alabama [11-1] is in with a win [SEC championship against Florida on Sat.]. The winner of the Big Ten championship game [on Sat.] between Iowa [12-0] and Michigan State [11-1] gets in. And Oklahoma [11-1] pretty much sealed up its spot on Saturday night with a 58-23 win at Oklahoma State.

PROJECTING THE NEW YEAR'S SIX BOWLS: Orange Bowl, semifinal: Clemson vs. Michigan State ... Cotton Bowl, semifinal: Alabama vs. Oklahoma ... Rose Bowl: Stanford vs. Ohio State ... Sugar Bowl: Baylor vs. Ole Miss ... Fiesta Bowl: Iowa vs. Notre Dame ... Peach Bowl: Florida State vs. Houston.

NFL PICK OF THE WEEK – Sunday 12/6, 1:00 PM ET CBS; Houston Texans (6-5) at Buffalo Bills (6-5), one of these teams will make the NFL Playoffs, the other will not – big game: Texans win 21 – 20.  Season to date (6-6)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 12/5, 8:00 PM ET Fox; #5 Michigan State Spartans (11-1) at #4 Iowa Hawkeyes (12-0). The Big Fourteen Championship Game, the winner on to the Final Four, the Loser to the Rose Bowl – Spartans win in a thriller 38 – 35. Season to date (8-5)

SMALL COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 12/5, 6:00 PM ET ESPNU; #15 Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders (11-1) at #2 Linfield Wildcats (11-0). The national D-III quarterfinal, Linfield continues on  38 – 28. Season to date (12-1)

COLLEGE HOCKEY GAME OF THE WEEK – Friday 12/4, 7:00 PM ET FoxNY; #13 St. Lawrence University Saints (8-3-2) at #15 Cornell University Big Red (6-1-2). Another big ECAC game at Lynah Rink. Saints are too much 4 – 2.  Season to date (0-2).


(NCAA, Dec. 5) University of Southern California 98-4) at #9 Stanford University (10-2), the Pac Ten Title Game. USC wins in an upset, on to the Rose Bowl,  35 – 34.

(NFL, Dec. 6) Kansas City Chiefs (6-5) at Oakland Raiders (5-6); Raiders make things interesting, 24 – 20.

(NHL, Dec. 5) Nashville Predators (12-7-4) at Detroit Red Wings (12-8-4). Both teams in the playoffs an early test: Wings 5 – 4.

Season to date (94-61)

MARKET WEEK - U.S. stock futures were higher on this last day of November, with the Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq looking to chalk up their 6th positive month of 2015 with one month to go.

The ECB on Thursday is expected to expand its easing and cut its already negative deposit rate. On Friday, the U.S. government issues the November jobs report, ahead of the Fed's mid-December meeting.

Oil was higher Monday morning, but prices were on course to end November some 10 percent lower, as a global supply glut showed no sign of easing and a strong dollar further weighed on prices.

The IMF meets today to discuss a staff proposal to include China's yuan in its group of reserve currencies. Such a move would publicly acknowledge the heft of the world's second-largest economy.

DRIVING THE WEEK – President Obama is in Paris for climate talks and meets Monday with President Xi Jinping of China and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India followed by a working dinner with President Francois Hollande of France ... Hillary Clinton will "highlight her economic agenda" on Wednesday in Orlando ... Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Tuesday at 7:45 delivers remarks at Treasury's Financial Inclusion Forum ... Fed governors on Monday at 8:30 a.m. hold a news conference "to discuss a final rule to implement the Dodd-Frank amendments to the emergency lending authority under Section 12(3) of the Federal Reserve Act" ... ISM Manufacturing at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday expected to rise to 50.5 from 50.1 ... Fed Chair Janet Yellen Speech speaks at 11:00 a.m. Wednesday to the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. ... Yellen testifies on the state of the economy on Thursday at 10:00 a.m. before the Joint Economic Committee ... ISM Non-manufacturing Survey at 10:00 a.m. Thursday expected to dip to 58.1 from 59.1 ... November jobs report at 8:30 a.m. Friday expected to show a gain of 200K and no change to the 5.0 percent jobless rate.

Next week: Career Services, Words of the Month and Holiday Movies.

Until Next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA
November 30, 2015


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