countercyclical asset

Is country music a countercyclical asset?

In tough times, do happy or sad songs top the charts? Do we prefer music that reflects our fears and hardships, or tunes that allow us to temporarily forget our troubles?

Newly published research suggests the answer varies dramatically by genre. Pop fans reflexively gravitate to music that mirrors their emotions, while country devotees go for escapism.

In an analysis of the most popular country songs over six decades, Jason Eastman and Terry Pettijohn II of Coastal Carolina University finds top hits are “lyrically more positive, musically upbeat, and use more happy-sounding major chords during difficult socioeconomic times.”

In contrast, previous research on best-selling pop songs found that, in times of societal stress, those numbers “are longer, slower, more lyrically meaningful, and in more somber-sounding keys.”

There is more here.  And here is the NYT article on how country music has gone totally mainstream.  After all, why not lower your systemic risk?  Is the higher cyclicality of on-country music due to what is possibly a younger demographic profile of listeners, including many students who may not yet be so worried about the state of the labor market?

The countercyclical asset? (a continuing series)

Highly speculative, but fun to think about:

Four separate experiments, along with real-world data, all say yes. Our findings consistently supported the lipstick effect, as college-age women, when primed with news of economic instability, reported an increased desire to buy attractiveness-enhancing goods, along with a decreased desire to purchase goods that do not enhance one’s physical appearance. Our experiments also found that this increased desire for beauty products, clothing and accessories was fully mediated by a heightened preference for mates with resources.

While many journalists who have written about the lipstick effect have theorized that it represents women’s therapeutic spending on cheap indulgences, we found that the lipstick effect applies specifically to products that enhance beauty, even when those products are more expensive. Recession cues increased women’s desire to buy high-end cosmetics and designer clothing, but not to buy budget-line beauty products, which were rated less effective at improving one’s appearance.

Furthermore, we discovered that the lipstick effect and a woman’s desire to attract a mate with resources are unrelated to her independent resource access. Women of both higher and lower socioeconomic status expressed an increased desire to buy luxury beauty products when primed with recession cues. This suggests that an uncertain economic climate leads women to heighten mate attraction effort irrespective of their own resource need.

The story is here, and I thank VS for the pointer.

Markets in everything the countercyclical asset the culture that is Japan

…Teramura’s place is neither a love nest nor a pit stop for tired travelers. The white and grey tiled building is a corpse hotel, its 18 deceased guests tucked up in refrigerated coffins…

The daily rate at Lastel, as it is known, is 12,000 yen ($157). For that fee, bereaved families can check in their dead while they wait their turn in the queue for one of the city’s overworked crematoriums.

Death is a rare booming market in stagnant Japan and Teramura’s new venture is just one example of how businessmen are trying to tap it.

Here is more.  Unlike with crematoria, in this market entry is not restricted or licensed.

The countercyclical asset, a continuing series, white women’s hair products edition

Bridget J. Crawford, of the Pace University School of Law, serves up an entry:

This short essay is a reflection on the relationship between the economy and women’s hair. I suggest that examining women’s spending on hair care products during uncertain financial conditions provides insight into the gendered aspects of the economy. As the economy has declined, sales of home hair-care products targeted toward white women have increased. Major news outlets report on salon customers trying to stretch out the time between their regular $250 hair salon treatments. Certain women turn to home hair dyes to maintain conforming appearances. In popular culture, to have white skin and gray hair is to be old (unemployable and unattractive) or menopausal (unproductive and unsexual). An attempt to retain their hair color (natural or chosen) is, for certain women, an attempt to retain a currency of employability, utility and desirability.

The hair-care spending of African-American women (of all socio-economic classes), in contrast, appears to be less susceptible to economic cycles.

The next two sentences of the abstract shift the nature of the paper considerably:

African-American legal scholars have given voice to the complex role that hair can play in the personal, professional, social and legal lives of black women. I argue that only in a down economy do some white women grapple with their hair’s complex signaling function, including its link to race and privilege.

Hat tip goes to the always-excellent www.bookforum.com.  Here are previous installments in the series.

The countercyclical asset, a continuing series

Religious goods stores have been doing a record business in St. Joseph statues.  Buried in the garden of a home for sale, the doll allegedly helps the house to find a buyer.

Here is more information.  One seller said:

Some find the notion of magic house sales distasteful. “If you just
bury the statue in the ground, you’re not going to sell your home,”
said Gerard Siccardi, whose family runs a religious-goods business in
White Plains. “You’re supposed to pray. You’re supposed to have some
reverence about this. It’s a faith-based item.”

Countercyclical assets at Wal-Mart

Sometimes people enjoy the mere act of the purchase and the feeling of luxury or capture involved:

As people seek cheap ways to entertain, lower-end patio sets and
barbecue grills are selling well. Sprague admits she's puzzled by some
of the store's hot recession sellers, like $5 white toilet seats. "It
seems bizarre," she says, "but I can't keep them in stock." Her best
guess: unemployment and cocooning are leading people to put more wear
on their home bathrooms, and they're choosing her $5 seats over pricier
ones at Home Depot.

Here is the story and I thank TheBrowser for the pointer.  Dare I ask why anyone would want a white toilet seat?

Countercyclical assets, a continuing series

Lebanon, at least for now:

But while number crunchers elsewhere toil to trim over-optimistic
estimates into punier real results, statisticians at the Banque du
Liban are revising theirs sharply upwards. Lebanon’s GDP grew during
2008, not at an annual rate of 7.5%, it seems, but at 9% or better.

Yet even that trend-bucking number looks modest compared to other
milestones scored by this small, almost comically turbulent country.
Last year the value of deposits in Lebanese commercial banks rose by
15% to an impressive $94 billion, equal to 327% of GDP. Industrial
exports surged 24%. Tax revenues, tourist arrivals, banking profits and
the number of construction permits all soared by a third or more. A
giant 46% leap in net capital inflows helped Lebanon post a record $3.5
billion surplus in its balance of payments, and boosted the Banque du
Liban’s own reserves to a cosy $22 billion, nearly double its holdings
a year ago.

Nor does this upswing show much sign of slowing. Sales of new cars are
up by 19%, and the number of tourists arriving in the country in the
first three months of this year increased by 50% compared with the same
period last year. Property prices are holding the past few years’ heady
gains, and worries that the global recession would force home thousands
of Lebanese expatriates, slashing the remittances that underpin the
economy, have so far proven unfounded.

China book fact countercyclical asset of the day

The People’s Press – the biggest publishing
house for China’s orthodox revolutionary books – reports that Marx’s
anti-capitalism opus "Das Kapital" has been selling about 4,000-5,000
copies nationwide a month since last November. That’s a big jump from
before the economic crisis, when the book sold well under 1,000 copies
per month on average.

The "Selected Works by Mao Zedong," a book
owned by almost every Chinese citizen a few decades ago, is also
witnessing a big jump in sales since late last year, according to Mr.
Pan from the People’s Press circulation department.

Here is the full story and I thank Ryan Tetrick for the pointer.

The countercyclical asset, northern Virginia edition

It is Little Seoul, mostly in Annandale, spilling over into West Alexandria.  The number of innovative Korean restaurants continues to increase and they are usually crowded.  I love the new place devoted to the many forms of Korean porridge. Seoul Gool Dae Gee Honey Pig on Columbia Pike has the best decor (and the pork neck) around.  TodamSoonDooBoo (also known as Tofu House, next to the Giant, straddling 236 and Columbia Pike) has dumpling soup and tofu.  The two branches of Shilla Bakery and Le Matin de Paris give Virginia a cafe scene.  Much of my eating out is now Korean or in the new Vietnamese places in the Western Saigon interior branch of the Eden Center; either that or Ray's Hell-Burger, Hong Kong Palace, Thai X-ing, or the now-reopened Nava Thai, right next door to the shuttered old branch. 

Annandale used to be a nice appendage to the peak places to eat.  Now it's the epicenter, the main culinary show, and also the coolest place to hang out.

Addendum: Here is a good article, which mentions Korean food as the next trend to come.  Let's hope not.

Is love a countercyclical asset?

Or is it the quest for love which is countercyclical?

Online and offline matchmakers are reporting that dating interest is up, way up. Match.com,
for instance, had its strongest fourth quarter in the last seven years,
and brick-and-mortar outfits like Amy Laurent International, a
matchmaking service with outposts in New York, Los Angeles and Miami,
say business is up 40 percent among women over the last four months. Those
in the online dating industry say the increased traffic can be
explained by at least a few factors: unemployed and underemployed
people have more time on their hands to surf the Web, and online dating
is a relatively inexpensive way to meet people. Offline matchmakers add
that organized dating events are cheaper than financing a series of
potentially stultifying meals with blind dates. And some experts say
singles seek the comfort of relationships during difficult times.

Here is the full story.

The countercyclical asset, a continuing series

Shoe cobblers:

Mr. McFarland, a third-generation cobbler, is riding a shoe-repair
boom. Since mid-November, he has been juggling roughly 275 repair jobs
a week — about 50% more than usual. "I'm so busy right now it's
unbelievable," he says.

Retail sales for shoes are down 3.2%.

Loyal MR reader Michael Tofias suggests that perhaps The Snuggie is a countercyclical asset as well.

The countercyclical asset, a continuing series

Cocoa futures hit a
23-year high, capping a successful year for the commodity.  Chocolate
has done rather well this year, and not simply because the world has
been fretting about recession and craving comfort food. Constrained
supply coupled with robust demand has helped London cocoa futures rise
by some 71.0% since the end of last year, making cocoa one of the
market’s best performing commodities.  On Wednesday, the day before
millions of people around the world offered boxes of the sweet stuff to
their relatives as Christmas gifts, cocoa futures for May 2009 delivery
hit a 23-year high of £1,820.0($2,545.90) per ton in London(…)

Here is the story and I thank John de Palma for the pointer.  Here are previous installments in the series.