Bankruptcy Charts

25 01 2010

Below are early graphs of my Bankruptcy data project.

The data seems pretty straight forward at first.  Bankruptcies slowly climb upward from early 2008.  Divorces stayed fairly steady and the Federal funds rate and employment statistics are too small to contribute significantly to this chart.   However the next chart examines the same numbers with the log value of each one.

Notice the complete collapse of the Fed rate.  This is in connection with the economic recession and intended  lowering of interest rates.  The log version shows the Bankruptcy and Divorce data almost converging.    It will be interesting to see how the regression analysis runs with this data.

The data is from the following sources: (Bankruptcy numbers) (Divorce numbers) (Unemployment Numbers) (Federal Funds Rate)

Property Information

19 01 2010

Is there a piece of property you want to know more about?  Zillow is a good free database of home prices and sale information.    However if you want to get actual owner information, then contact your local title company.  A title conmpany guarnatees the title and sells insurance regarding the ownership and quality of title to land.  In Oregon you can request a free “TRIO” from title companies for property information.    A TRIO is simply a record  of three things, the plat map, vesting deed and tax record.

A TRIO might also contain current ownership, sales records, deed, historical data such as property tax information, market value, assessed value, buyer history, sale price, year built, and other statistics.  The best part about this information?  Its FREE!  Just email a local title company for the county in which there is a property of interest.   Below is an quote that explains how this often works and what you are getting.

“Property title information is provided without charge in conformance with the guidelines by the State of Oregon Insurance Commissioner. This information is limited to records provided by the Assessment & Taxation Departments of a specific county or tri-county area.”

So technically this information is all available at your municipal property records office.  But who wants to sit there all day on those ancient computers.  A TRIO by email not only saves you time and paper but also records copy fees which are often not cheap.

Oregon Internet Browsers

18 01 2010

What are the most popular internet browsers in Oregon?  Below is my highly unscientific study of Internet Browsing usage in Oregon (FKA the Beaver State, Go Ducks!).  This is a simple analysis of the google trends data.  Hopefully this is the beginning of a more interesting and detailed economic research project.  The reason google trends dat is interesting is because it tells us how often people search for a browser.  How often people search for a particular browser is likely linked to how often is it downloaded and used.

Google trends provides some insights as posted below.  Firefox is clearly the most searched browser.  Roughly 80-95 percent of internet users are windows users.  Therefore very few internet users are searching for a program they already have like Internet Explorer (The same goes for Safari with Mac users).  An aberration in the graph to note is the alternative browser Opera.  Opera is far above the others in news.  One should note that actual Opera events would create this distortion.  The fact that people search for Opera and the Opera browser at the same time makes it difficult to separate the two in google trends.   So a good use of this graph would be to compare searches of the two primary alternative browsers like Mozilla Firefox and Chrome.

One should note that Googles Chrome browser is gaining on Mozilla Firefox at a strong rate.  If the Chrome browser can maintain its current growth it will surpass Mozilla.  If the Google operating system manages to gain traction on computers and hand held devices, it might be able to dislodge the top (yet declining) spot that Microsoft was able to hold over Mozilla.  Lets not count Mozilla out, its growth against IE in the last five years has been amazing.

In all I expect a hearty competition to continue in the browser market.  This diversity should benefit consumers to a great degree.  However its hard to justify so much investment and fighting in a market that nobody is making any income.  That being said Oregon internet browser usage is a small facet of a larger battle for the the web and its massive ad revenue.

Editors Note:  I drafted this post on Safari, and I typically use Mozilla Firefox on my home machine.  Below is additional reading materiel on the subject.  I wanted to add more stuff about the differing philosophies in the Microsoft /Google  browser battle, however that is not in the scope of this post.

Icelandic Debt Problems and Vote

15 01 2010

The economist has a great article on the Icelandic debt woes.  It outlines the possibility of a future flood of government and international defaults.

My analysis of this is that the investors took the risk in this case.  The “savers” in this case should have exercised more caution in picking their accounts.  A higher rate of return should be assumed to come with a higher rate of risk or volatility.  My suggestion?

  • Consider any investment/savings in a foreign country with “high returns” to be a risky investment, even if it is a “savings” account.
  • Never use a savings account without a Government or Government corporation (ie FDIC) guarantee.  In the case of Icesave, even the savings insurance plan failed investors and savers.

Below are some links that illustrate how much we underestimate endemic risk.

An investor or saver reading one of the above articles might think they were secured by a government guarantee.  However the Economist article clarifies in the text I copied below.

“Landsbanki’s products were not covered by the domestic deposit-insurance schemes of the target countries. Under a passport system covering the European Economic Area (a broader, watered-down version of the European Union), investors were supposedly covered by the Icelandic deposit-insurance scheme.”

Clearly now that the European countries paid back their savers and they now want to money from Iceland.  Now a vote will decide the issue.  I think there is serious confusion on how savers are protected domestically and internationally.  Clearly there is confusion and misinformation about international savings.  Governments need to better inform, outline and legislate how transnational investments are covered under Deposit Insurance plans.

My advice to savers? Find a good domestic Credit Union or established bank.

What Economists Look At

7 01 2010

Freakonomics has a great piece on what presenters to the the American Association of Economists talked about mostly.  Looks like “evidence” was the most common tag to come up.  This list is important because it shows what economist are not talking about about as well.  The economic crisis clearly changed what  the  economic community is concerned with these days, for better or worse.  Strangely “Debt” is not prominent on the list.

On a somewhat unrelated but fascinating topic Google is entering the green energy business.

Creditor -Debtor Tip #2:

Do you need to retain or investigate a lawyer?  Check out their local State Bar website.  Typically a state bar will have contact information and  disciplinary history.  Also why not try a google search.

Bankruptcy Surge

5 01 2010

I copied relevant portions of the text from the article above below.  There is some really good analysis of the 2005 Bankruptcy law.  John Pottow, the bankruptcy professor from the University of Michigan is correct in his points that the law just made more paperwork while not changing the dynamics of people in serious debt.

Its also really fascinating that Alaska and Nebraska, the states with the lowest bankruptcy increases saw bankruptcies grown by 12%.  Thats still a big jump in bankruptcies.

“For three years, filings have been steadily rising back toward levels reached early in the decade before Congress overhauled the nation’s bankruptcy laws. The 2005 alterations made bankruptcy filings more cumbersome, a move that followed fears from lenders that some consumers were abusing the system to wipe away debts.

Bankruptcies surged to slightly more than 2 million in 2005 as consumers rushed to file before the new law took effect but then plummeted to 600,000 in 2006. They’ve been climbing ever since and in 2009 became the seventh-highest year on record, behind only the years 1998 and 2001-2005.

The 2005 spike had been preceded by a steady climb from 1.5 million in 2001 to 1.6 million in 2005.

John Pottow, a bankruptcy professor at the University of Michigan, said the return to the highs of earlier this decade illustrates the failures of the 2005 overhaul bill. He said the measure largely made filings more costly and time-consuming by forcing consumers to undergo a paperwork-heavy test to determine eligibility for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and adding liability for attorneys who provide help.

“It never made sense in the first place that you could change the laws and make all these bankruptcies go away,” said Pottow, who would like to see the 2005 law changes repealed. “If people are encountering financial distress, you can only scare them away for so long before they come back again.”

While every state saw a rise in bankruptcies, Alaska (up 12 percent), Nebraska (12 percent) and North Dakota (14 percent) performed best.”

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