Who cares?

CREAMS modified

Astonishingly, there are people who don’t like me. Or my lousy blog. The fact it has motored along for seven years is a constant irritation to certain groups. Realtors. Mortgage brokers. Mutual fund salesguys. Real estate boards. Gold nuts. Moms. CREA.

Fortunately, I don’t care. Nor are there any advertisers here to worry about. Thus, I can offend with relative impunity, express blunt opinions and occasionally call people dickheads. But only when they deserve it.

There are no plans to change this. The site will remain as non-commercial and pathetic as always. I will continue to moderate comments and keep posting until there’s nothing fresh to say. I’ll also endure the allegations from critics that I’m an irrelevant old goat (knew that already), and this site is visited only by a contingent of bitter, desperate people living in their parents’ basement who came here by mistake thinking all my talk about ‘gasbags’ meant they can order inflatable dolls.

They also suggest that in the wider world of the web, GreaterFool is dinky, and assume if a post attracts 200 comments in a day that only two hundred people dropped by. Well, dinky and inconsequential we may be, but there are a few more people who show up regularly. While I am constantly asked about these numbers, I never quite know the right answer. Especially after I received this email a day ago:


Holy crap. A hundred million visits in the past year? And over three million ‘threats’ which were repelled by the white hats at Cloudfare, the gizmo up there that keeps me safe? How could this be? Google Analytics has consistently suggested that about 6.2 million times a year someone wanders in here looking for a washroom, so the difference between that a hundred million is huge.

Let’s ask the webmaster, William Stratas, who remarkably, has stuck with me starting long before my political carcass was punted from the Harper caucus.

“They mis-stated things a bit in that blast email. They are actually referencing requests, not visitors. There are multiple requests for various data objects with each visitor — page code, images, javascript, etc. Your pages don’t have many photos or images, so the requests for each visitor are fairly low. But each object request adds load to the server (especially at peak times) — and that also does not include load on the processor. Cloudflare being a technical service cares a lot about objects and server demand and caching, techie stuff like that.

“For example, I observe today that the Cloudflare stats details show 7,346,000 requests last month (equivalent to about 100 million requests annually) and that corresponded to 145,000 unique visitors, according to their methodology — but remember that many of those uniques visit every day, 6x per week when you publish! So it is fair to extrapolate 145,000 uniques in September to perhaps a million total visits in the month! So you have to be careful about referencing unique visitors to total visitor.”

But Stratas also suggests the cloud guys may not capture all of the action or give an accurate representation of what visitors are doing. “When people post comments and re-load to follow the conversation, those are not measured requests under Cloudflare because of caching — but in Google they are measured under pageview stats. Are you confused yet?”

And what about the 3.1 million ‘threats’ that the site attracted in the past year? After all, there are only 109,000 realtors in the entire country. Those repelled threats are real access attempts from real people typing away behind network addresses identified as malicious or untrusted in the technical plumbing that operates the firewalls. Plus I’m told there are countless millions of additional access attempts from automated bots and software robots — probably attracted to sites with high visitor traffic and pictures of hot bitches (canines). Add it all up for the year and the site crosses the 100,000,000 threshold.

So there you go. Geek away.

The bottom line is that traffic, or influence, is irrelevant. Just like advertising revenues. If I wanted a site with millions of visitors, it would be easy – just trash everything Chinese, stop moderating out dumbass comments, dis immigrants and bankers while posting daily about how Americans will be punished. But, fortunately, I don’t care.

And one day, this blog will end. When is up to you. So be nice.

Your move

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Friday morning is worth watching. The latest jobs numbers will hatch, telling you something about where your mortgage rate and house value is headed. Or not. Anyway, here’s what to expect.

First, this’ll be big news, coming a few weeks before the next possible interest rate move in the US. The Fed announces on Wednesday, October 28th, and if the monthly stats are hot, the odds of the much-anticipated rate lift-off rise. If tepid employment growth indicates the economy is cooling, no cigar this time. Right now markets are putting the odds of pulling the trigger in October at just over 40%.

Second, expectations are for about 200,000 new hires last month, up from 173,000 in August and in line with every other month this year (the average is 212,000). This is less than the 260,000 monthly total last year, but indicates solid economic growth. More than 13 million positions have been created since the lights went out in 2009.

Third, unlike in Canada, where government jobs are blossoming (and just wait and see what happens if Prime Minister Mulcair emerges), 99% of the new positions in the US are in the private sector. This is despite the fact the US oil business (like ours) has been nailed to the wall, and a high American dollar is hurting exports.

Fourth, expect the unemployment rate to stay right around 5%, or less than half what it was six years ago. It’s the lowest number since the summer of 2008 and is now just a hair away from what policymarkers consider to be ‘full employment.’ This is despite the fact a deadly recession and an aging population have structurally reduced the labour participation rate. The biggest economy in the world still has a lot of slack in it, but the direction is unmistakeable.

Lastly, wages. Lots of eyes will be watching to see if there’s been any pick-up in worker pay. Economists think there’s a break-out coming soon, and expect an increase of 2.4% to be announced on Friday will be the best since 2009.

Why should you care about all this macroeconomic stuff? Simple. This – the potential of a US rate increase – is huge. And the longer the Fed waits to get the ball rolling, the huger it gets. When the central bank failed to initiate the first of a series of increase last month, financial markets went into a funk that has continued. So far this year the Dow has shed 8.7% and on Bay Street the market is 9.5% lower. In fact, the TSX is down 16% from its high of six months ago – which is why everybody should have less maple and a balanced, diversified portfolio (off this year only about 2%).

Markets reacted badly to the Fed choking for one clear reason – fear. If the central bankers were too chicken to finally end emergency interest rates, traders figured, then they must know some scary stuff. This concern, plus more uncertainty and fog about the future of rates, helped drive markets down at the same time China and commodities were sliding.

So will the jobs report Friday morning change anything? Maybe. But everyone should still count on the cost of money rising, with the first round happening this year. Delaying the inevitable will send out a more negative message and undermine confidence in the US expansion. Those who argue rates will never swell again (something most people under 35 weirdly believe) are delusional.

By the way, the yield on a five-year Government of Canada has been on the rise lately. In fact, it’s way up from a low point in August, which might help explain an increase in some mortgage rates yesterday. Remember that fixed-rate mortgages (which 80% of people now have) are set in the bond market, and not by the Bank of Canada. Over 90% of the time, our bond market follows that in the States, which reflects Fed policy. It means we can have a crappy economy here, and still pay a lot more to borrow.

Also keep in mind that 80% of the rapid accumulation in Canadian household debt over the past year came in the form of new mortgages. Overall, the size of mortgages is bloating – hardly a surprise given what people have been willing to pay for detached houses in the GTA or the Lower Mainland lately. This is why Friday’s job numbers, and how the Fed responds, are so important that I have to devote a whole post to this boring topic. Instead of just ridiculing people, as usual.

But this much should be obvious: those you work with, plus your house-horny sister-in-law, have been buying real estate at the highest price ever with mortgages at the lowest level ever. When the cost of money changes, so will the value of properties.

Armed with that knowledge, I know what I would do.