Friday, April 22, 2016

30 year Japanese government bond yield

Investors are currently willing to lend to the Japanese government across all time horizons for almost no return. This has been the case for some time for short-term funds (i.e. the front end of the yield curve) but we are now seeing close to zero yields on Japanese Government Bonds (JGBs) with a 30-year maturity. There will be a rationale behind this but that doesn't stop it being a pretty worrying sign that things are seriously amiss in the capital markets.

(chart via FT's twitter)

Visitors in the garden

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Nerve bypass - controlling movement of a completely paralysed limb

This is very cool.

BMJ study: 'Dietary fats: a new look at old data challenges established wisdom'

The BMJ recently published an interesting paper that digs up some previously unpublished data on an old study, and questions whether polyunsaturated fat provides any protection against heart disease over saturated fat. The change in oil did have a noticeable change on cholesterol levels but this didn't translate to changes in heart health. 

Here are some exceprts from the editorial: 

"It is widely accepted that diets rich in polyunsaturated fats protect against heart disease...This new study re-examines recovered data from a double blind randomised controlled trial that took place 45 years ago. The Minnesota Coronary Experiment (MCE) followed 9423 participants from state mental hospitals and a nursing home for 4.5 years. The trial tested whether replacement of saturated fat with vegetable oil rich in linoleic acid (an omega-6 polyunsaturated fat) reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and death through a reduction in serum cholesterol concentration. 

As expected, the diet enriched with linoleic acid lowered serum cholesterol concentration. But it did not reduce mortality: in fact participants in the intervention group had a higher mortality than controls. The pooled results of the MCE and four similar trials failed to find any reduction in mortality from coronary heart disease."
'These unexpected results proved difficult to stomach for researchers at the time. The trial ended in 1973, but it took until 1989 for the results to be published.' 

'While we wait for further clarification, we should continue to eat (and to advise others to eat) more fish, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. We should avoid salt, sugar, industrial trans fats, and avoid over eating.'

Here is the conclusion of the study:
Available evidence from randomized controlled trials shows that replacement of saturated fat in the diet with linoleic acid effectively lowers serum cholesterol but does not support the hypothesis that this translates to a lower risk of death from coronary heart disease or all causes. Findings from the Minnesota Coronary Experiment add to growing evidence that incomplete publication has contributed to overestimation of the benefits of replacing saturated fat with vegetable oils rich in linoleic acid.

Ideas at the House: Michael Mosley at the Sydney Opera House

If you are even remotely interested in nutrition and health, the first forty odd minutes of this presentation will be worth your time.

Netflix: Dreamland

Netflix has a neat Australian office comedy called 'Dreamland' tucked away in its catalogue. It pretty much nails the absurdities of the modern workplace.

One of my favourite clips (the first half of the video below) is of an employee who is being performance reviewed. He can't hold himself back from from spewing out meaningless jargon-laden sentences, some of which I plan to sneak in to my next appraisal. As a self assessment the employee believes he is 'delivering desired performance outcomes on a consistent basis'. He is 'task orientated', which means he is oriented .... to task. During his short time in the organization, he has 'contributed to the functionality and efficiency of the workplace' and has best of all is his key strength which is his  'general tendency to identify, strategise and solve problems as they arise.'