Monthly Archives: January 2016

Japan is trying to save its economy with a Jedi mind trick

By Matt O’Brien

(20th Century Fox)

(20th Century Fox)

This might be the Jedi mind trick Japan was looking for.

Markets, at least, sure seemed to think so. Japanese stocks surged almost 3 percent and the yen was down about 1.5 percent, which helps exporters, on the news that the country’s central bank had done something it had never done before. That’s cutting interest rates into negative territory. Instead of paying banks 0.1 percent on any deposits they have with it, the banks will have to pay the central bank a 0.1 percent penalty for the privilege of holding their money there. Or will they? If you read the fine print, it turns out that this negative interest rate barely applies to anything at all. So in a way, it’s almost about tricking markets into thinking that it’s doing more than it actually is.

And it’s kind of working.

Before we get to that, though, why is Japan even doing this? After all, it’s already printing a lot of money and its economy is already doing a lot better. Unemployment is down to a minuscule 3.3 percent, and for the good reason that more people are both finding and looking for jobs. So what’s the problem? The answer is that Japan still hasn’t done the one thing it really wanted to do: get inflation back up to a healthy amount. Sure, the economy is doing well today, but it might not keep doing well tomorrow if prices start falling again, like they did for most of the past 20 years. (That’s because lower price lead to lower wages, which makes it harder to pay back debts that don’t get any lower). And just as important, a little more inflation would make its debt, which has swollen to 230 percent the size of its economy, …read more


Look at how much weight you’re going to gain

By Christopher Ingraham


Here’s something to ponder as you consider whether to ditch that New Year’s resolution to exercise more: Your 20s are your prime weight-gaining years, according to data from the CDC.

The charts above are approximations of typical lifetime weight gain, based on CDC data, which is reported in 10-year increments. The numbers come from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey, which involves medical examinations of thousands of men and women each year. The great thing about these numbers is that they’re based on clinicians’ examinations, not respondents’ self-reports. So fibbing about your actual weight isn’t an issue here.

Epidemiologists have observed that the average person typically puts on 1 to 2 pounds a year from early adulthood through middle age. The CDC’s numbers show that much of the increase is concentrated in the 20s, for men and women.

[One chart shows why it’s nearly impossible to lose weight and keep it off]

The average man in his 20s weighs around 185 pounds, according to the CDC. But by his 30s, he’s closer to 200 pounds. The average woman’s weight goes from about 162 to 170 pounds over the same period. These increases are a little smaller than the 1 to 2 pounds per year you typically hear because of different methodology: The CDC makes national estimates based on a representative subset of the population, rather than studying the same individuals over time.

There are any number of factors at work here. As people leave school, they may be less likely to participate in sports. They take on jobs and sometimes long commutes, which eat into time that could otherwise be spent exercising. Job-related time pressures make quick (<a class="colorbox" …read more