Morgan Housel’s Startling Facts About the Economy

Morgan Housel of the Motley Fool comprised a great list of “100 Startling Facts About the Economy.” I’m tempted to list them all, but I’ve culled some of my favorites:

14. Including dividends, the S&P 500 gained 135% from March 2009 through January 2013, during what people remember as the “Great Recession.” It gained the exact same amount from 1996 to 2000, during what people remember as the “greatest bull market in history.”

19. From 2006 to 2011, Hewlett-Packard ($HPQ) spent $51 billion on share repurchases at an average price of $40.80 per share. Shares currently trade at $16.50.

21. Despite the overall population doubling, more babies were born in the U.S. in 1956 than were born in 2009, 2010, or 2011.

27. According to Bloomberg, “The 50 stocks in the S&P 500 with the lowest analyst ratings at the end of 2011 posted an average return of 23 percent [in 2012], outperforming the index by 7 percentage points.”

29. Thanks in large part to cellphone cameras, “Ten percent of all of the photographs made in the entire history of photography were made last year,” according to Time.

32. Fortune magazine published an article titled “10 Stocks To Last the Decade” in August, 2000. By December 2012, the portfolio had lost 74.3% of its value, according to analyst Barry Ritholtz.

44. According to California Common Sense, “Over the last 30 years, the number of people California incarcerates grew more than eight times faster than the general population.”

45. One in seven crimes committed in New York City now involves an Apple product being stolen, according to NYPD records cited by ABC News.

49. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, 44% of those working for minimum wage in 2010 had attended at least some college, up from 25% in 1979.

60. The International Energy Agency predicts that the U.S. will become the world’s largest oil-producer by 2020, overtaking Saudi Arabia.

62. According to BetterInvesting, the number of investment clubs has declined by 90% since 1998 from 400,000 to 39,000.

67. During the Federal Reserve’s June 2007 policy meeting, the word “recession” was used three times; the word “strong” was used 61 times. The economy entered recession six months later.

68. Last year, Franklin Templeton asked 1,000 investors whether the S&P 500 went up or down in 2009 and 2010. Sixty-six percent thought it went down in 2009, while 48% said it declined in 2010. In reality, the index gained 26.5% in 2009 and 15.1% in 2010.

71. According to a survey by Paola Sapienza and Luigi Zingales, effectively all economists agreed that stock prices are hard to predict. Only 59% of average Americans felt the same way.

79. Related: 84% of actively managed U.S. stock funds underperformed the S&P 500 in 2011.

80. According to The Wall Street Journal, 49.1% of Americans live in a household “where at least one member received some type of government benefit in the first quarter of 2011.”

85. The U.S. birthrate declined 8% from 2007 to 2010, according to Pew. At 63.2 per 1,000 women of childbearing age, the 2011 U.S. birthrate was the lowest since records began in 1920.

86. According to Wired magazine, “In a 2006 survey, 30 percent of people without a high school degree said that playing the lottery was a wealth-building strategy…On average, households that make less than $12,400 a year spend 5 percent of their income on lotteries.”

88. We are used to hearing how much faster the earnings of the top 1% grow compared with everyone else’s, but we often forget that it used to be the other way around. From 1943 to 1980, the annual incomes of the bottom 90% of Americans doubled in real terms, while the average income of the top 1% grew just 23%, according to Robert Frank.

92. Federal nondefense discretionary spending — all spending minus defense and entitlements — is on track to hit its lowest level as a share of GDP in more than 50 years, according to data from the Congressional Budget Office.

94. According to The Economist, “Over the past ten years, hedge-fund managers have underperformed not just the stock market, but inflation as well.”

95. According to Bloomberg, “Americans have missed out on almost $200 billion of stock gains as they drained money from the market in the past four years, haunted by the financial crisis.

98. “More than 50 million Americans couldn’t afford to buy food at some point in 2011,” writes CNNMoney, citing U.S. Department of Agriculture data. In June 2012, 46.7 million Americans received food stamps.

Posted by on February 6th, 2013 at 12:36 pm

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