There was a time when the dog days of summer were reliably quiet and subdued. Lately, this has not been the case. The pandemic has, of course, had much to do with this.

With COVID-19 numbers increasing in economies like the U.S., China, Japan, and even Canada (though to a much lesser extent), investors are increasingly doubting their prior GDP expectations.
The price of oil has been particularly volatile. In early July, a barrel of Brent crude traded around US$76, but by last Friday, had fallen close to US$65 (a 14-% decline). Canadian energy stocks were even more erratic, falling as much as 22% over that period.

However, this week has been a different story. Brent has rallied almost 10% to US$71.50, while energy stocks have also rallied, but not to the same degree. On a year-to-date basis, energy has been an excellent investment, currently trading 31% higher than at the end of 2020.
Other global securities, despite the volatility, currently trade close to their July month-end values. Moving forward, I expect the state of the pandemic will continue to have an outsized effect on the economy and stock markets, especially on the commodity side.
For those wondering how the abruptly called federal election will affect markets, I don’t believe it will. As polls stand, the Liberals are expected to win, likely a minority, but possibly a majority.
However, with the Conservatives moving towards the political center, should their recent improvement in the polls also likely won’t change things much. An upset victory would almost certainly be a minority government and their economic platform isn’t sufficiently different from the Liberals to meaningfully affect Canada’s GDP or stock market. 

If you’re looking for more timely information on the markets, you can find them on the research section of my website, or on my Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn feeds.
With the Olympics taking place and the last instalment (of six) of Hardcore History’s take on WWII in the Pacific theatre, I thought I’d take the opportunity to learn more about one of the world’s oldest societies - Japan. What I hadn’t planned on, was to also go down a rabbit hole on one of the newest facets of life, cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
In addition to these two themes, you’ll also find a smattering of other topics that caught my attention. Hope you enjoy.
Inventing Japan by Ian Buruma: A short but informative book on Japan’s history since 1853. The date was chosen as it was the year Commodore Matthew Perry and his “Black Ships” unexpectedly arrived at Japan’s shores, subsequently forcing them to open to the rest of the world.
The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles: A Gentleman in Moscow is the best work of fiction I’ve come across in the past few years. With that in mind, I read Amor Towles’ first book, The Rules of Civility. While I didn’t enjoy it as much, the wordsmithing is wonderful and the descriptions of 1930s New York were wonderful.

Status Monkeys by Packy McCormic: Solid article on cryptocurrencies, the human need for status, and how NFTs integrate the two. This article has made me look at NFTs more seriously. If you think they sound ridiculous, give this a read. It may change your mind!

NFTs, Blockchain and Crypto. Explained by What I’ve Learned: Another good, but more comprehensive, video on NFTs. It also explains how the blockchain and cryptocurrencies work.

Metaverses by Stratechary: This topic may strike you as one best to discuss after a few drinks...or perhaps edibles, but it’s not as out there as the name implies. A metaverse, as I understand it, is a structure or platform that allows you to port something you possess virtually (like a NFT) from one digital platform (like Facebook) to another (like Instagram...which is owned by Facebook), thus preventing you from having to start from scratch after moving. If the penny hasn’t dropped on this, the essay will help.

Why is China smashing its tech industry? by Noah Smith: China’s punitive actions toward many of its tech companies has been big news lately. On the surface, one could be forgiven for thinking it stems from an anti-capitalist bent. However, this doesn’t appear to be the case.

This essay argues these actions derive from The Chinese Communist Party’s obsession with improving their country’s competitiveness, while also ensuring the nation’s income inequality, which historically leads to instability, is curtailed. Perhaps Smith’s most interesting conclusion was the notion of how the country’s leadership frowns on the proliferation of social media and video games, which it believes are diverting people’s attention from more productive tech endeavours, such as AI, Web 3.0, R&D, and military applications. Definitely worth a read if the topic interests you.

Can We Have Prosperity Without Growth? by John Cassidy: With global warming increasingly becoming a concern, a slow/no growth movement for the developed world has gained traction. This article explores the pros and cons of this philosophy.

Crazy New Ideas by Paul Graham: “There's one kind of opinion I'd be very afraid to express publicly. If someone I knew to be both a domain expert and a reasonable person proposed an idea that sounded preposterous, I'd be very reluctant to say ‘That will never work.’
Anyone who has studied the history of ideas, and especially the history of science, knows that's how big things start. Someone proposes an idea that sounds crazy, most people dismiss it, then it gradually takes over the world.”
Percent of Children Reaching Each (Wealth) Quintile: “A child born into the economic middle class is equally likely to be rich or poor as an adult. A rich child is more likely to grow up to be poor as an adult than a poor child is to become rich as an adult. But we seldom hear those riches to rags stories…”
Vanguard’s Mid-Year Market Outlook: Vanguard’s view’s on the global economy and where various global markets may trend in the coming years.
How to Think: The Skill You’ve Never Been Taught by Farnam Street: Knowing how to think is perhaps one of the most important skills we can learn.
Car Colours by Year: It’s interesting how smooth the change of car colours has happened. I expected something more random. Is this due to marketing, consumer tastes, or something else?

Amadeus: Another classic movie that I haven't seen in years. It held up great and I loved the manner the story was told.
Wonder Woman: Good movie with surprisingly more depth than expected.
Ted Lazzo (Season 1): What do you get when a mid-western American football coach is hired to lead a professional British soccer team? The feel-good show we need. Tanya and I watched it in three nights. However, now that we’re caught up, we’re watching Season 2 as it’s released each Friday. How inconvenient!
Supernova In the East Part VI by Hardcore History: This sixth episode of Hardcore History concludes more than 26 intense hours on Japan in the Second World War. This instalment focused on the bombing of Tokyo, the brutal island battles on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and, of course, the atomic bombs that destroyed much of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
On a personal note, I found this story incredible. Literally! I found the Japanese mindset and level of dedication incredible. I found the Japanese leaders' willingness to sacrifice thousands of their countrymen, in slim hopes of eking out better peace terms, incredible. But, more than anything, I found the inhuman ways humans can treat other humans, given the right (or rather wrong) mentality and circumstances, well, almost beyond belief. I’m not squeamish, but my stomach turned on numerous occasions.
Despite this, the series was brilliant, and if you can soldier through the graphic parts, you’ll learn a lot about the second world war, Japanese culture, and humanity. You’ll also be reminded of how precious the relative peace most of us are blessed to enjoy, and how it may not always be that way!
The Animated History of Japan: This 25-minute video is one of the better summaries I found on Japan’s history. It’s not conclusive by any means, but provides a decent framework to build on for further study.

“The chief practical use of history is to deliver us from plausible historical analogies.”
- James Bryce
“The Japanese are just like everyone else, only more so.”
- Dan Carlin on Japan in the Second World War
“Most of us shell our days like peanuts.”
- Amor Towles, The Rules of Civility
Matthew Lekushoff
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