From the June 2010 letter to Tarpon Folio investors. The rest of this series can be found here.
The Ultimate Echo Chamber
As mentioned earlier, economics is BOGSAT. I love that. Therefore, when attempting to track economic news, it’s important to keep in mind the real-work-to-regurgitation ratio. The number of people who, when talking about the economy, actually parse data compared to those who regurgitate others’ opinions is remarkably close to zero. It’s almost all noise in the echo chamber.
To be clear, I am in the regurgitation camp when it comes to macroeconomics. I feel like I’ve got my hands full doing real work when it comes to analyzing companies. But if you’re not going to track, say, core capital goods shipments yourself, it’s important to find sources you can trust to keep you up to speed.
By someone you can trust, I mean a source who will (1) clearly articulate the nuances of macroeconomics, (2) present, reference or link to the data from which conclusions are derived, (3) have either a very transparent political or ideological bias, or none at all, (4) distinguish between opinion and fact, (5) try hard to be insightful, (6) avoid attempts to be clever, (7) learn from past mistakes and (8) possess at least some gray hair.
Also, that source should be thoroughly screened for Stopped Clock Syndrome. Making the same consistently dire or permanently rosy predictions at every point in the economic cycle is grounds for having your house TP’d.
For what it’s worth, these sites meet those criteria and have RSS feeds that I subscribe to:
The Big Picture. Barry Ritholz summarizes the best stuff that crosses his desk – including other economic research that costs a ton.
The Dismal Scientist. From the folks at Economy.com. The best, most professional online economic analysis for your dollar.
Briefing.com. More specifically – the “Our View” section. Just the facts, ma’am.
Calculated Risk. Educational and broader than just investing.
Macroblog. A blog from the Altanta Fed. Posts show up about once a week.
Real Time Economics. From the WSJ. Good to understand consensus, and why it may be wrong.
Some of the above are subscription-based, but they’re worth every penny. I also habitually read a number of other sources outside of my RSS feeds and the usual daily scans, including Bob Johnson at Morningstar and Jim Grant of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer.