8 Fascinating Reads

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Happy Friday! There are more good news articles, commentaries, and analyst reports on the Web every week than anyone could read in a month. Here are eight fascinating ones I read this week.

The blog Calculated Risk made an awesome animation on how America's age distribution has changed over the the last century, and will change over the next half-century: 


Josh Brown writes about a world where everyone invests in index funds:

You may want to consider that there is a major paradox at work here -- the more successful passive investing is in converting the masses, the less successful it will be going forward. The last thing a passive indexer should want is for everyone to stop guessing and trading in the markets. Massive amounts of speculation is what fuels the winship of the passive approach over other strategies. If there were only a handful of institutions left picking stocks and the whole world was sitting in a Vanguard fund, the returns of the pros would probably become incredible thanks to all the unexploited inefficiencies. 

Analysts at JPMorgan attack the idea that investors are overweight bonds and underweight stocks:

It is often mentioned that the large inflows into bond funds over the past five years have made retail investors very overweight bonds and we should thus see a full reversal of these inflows over the coming years. This is incorrect. The AUM [assets under management] of bond funds as % of the sum of equity and bond funds (both mutual funds and ETFs) is very close to its historical average. Similarly the AUM of equity funds as % of the sum of equity and bond funds (both mutual funds and ETFs) is also very close to its historical average. That is, there is no evidence that retail investors are very overweight bonds or very underweight equities. If anything, the opposite is more likely to be true...

The Atlantic writes a good piece on globalization and productivity:

Fifty years ago, the four most valuable U.S. companies employed an average of 430,000 people with an average market cap of $180 billion. These days, the largest U.S. companies have about 2X the market cap of their 1964 counterparts with one-fourth of the employees. That's what doing more with less looks like.

Reversal of fortunes
Bloomberg writes on the end of the gold boom:

"We're holding trash bags," said Philip Mann, 53, who with his wife put about $160,000, half their retirement savings, into gold and silver coins starting in 2009. They're now worth at least 40 percent less, including sales mark-ups, he said. The drop forced him to cash out a 401(k) retirement plan, losing money to penalties. It also drained resources for two sons' college bills and the planned purchase of a new home, said Mann, a retail supply chain manager in Portland, Tennessee.

The New York Times writes on an aging Europe:

In its most recent census, Germany discovered it had lost 1.5 million inhabitants. By 2060, experts say, the country could shrink by an additional 19 percent, to about 66 million.

Demographers say a similar future awaits other European countries, and the issue grows more pressing every day as Europe's seemingly endless economic troubles accelerate the decline. But bogged down with failed banks and dwindling budgets, few are in any position to do anything about it.

Fine print
Be careful renting textbooks from Amazon , writes Insider Higher Ed:

Students who rent textbooks through Amazon.com's Warehouse Deals may be unknowingly agreeing to an unusual condition: They are not permitted to cross state borders with their books.

According to the Textbook Rental Terms and Conditions page on Amazon.com, when renting through Warehouse Deals, which is an Amazon subsidiary, "You may not move the textbook out of the state to which it was originally shipped. If you wish to move the textbook out of that state, you must first purchase the textbook."

Derek Thompson made a great video explaining why bottled water is so expensive. Watch it here. 

Enjoy your weekend.

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The article 8 Fascinating Reads originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Morgan Housel has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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