David Ross

What I think I learned last week #18

Actually, this covers two weeks as I spent a week upon the USS Nimitz, the US Navy’s oldest and finest aircraft carrier. Propelled by two Westinghouse Nuclear Reactors and housing over 5000 personnel, the US Navy offers family members the opportunity to join the last leg of a ship’s cruise back to home port under a program called a Tiger Cruise. It was truly an awesome experience to see all of the patriotic young women and men at work in their environment being a global force for good.

I am happy to say that there were no problems upon the USS Nimitz, unlike the UK’s new £3.1 billion aircraft carrier. Accepted into the Royal Navy less than a month ago, it has an unexpected water feature. It is leaking at the rate of 200 liters per hour.

Since the news is fairly light, I thought I would sporadically add some French driving tips into this week’s commentary for any American friends who might be coming over for the holidays:

French Driving Tip #1: On highways, the French have different speed limits depending on which lane you are in. For example, the middle lane speed limit appears to be half of the posted speed limit, while the left lane speed limit is twice the posted speed limit. There is no speed limit for the far right lane because it seems to be illegal for anyone to actually drive in it.

In economic news, Brazil’s central bank cut its interest rate to a record low of 7%. Meanwhile, the US Fed was busy raising rates, hiking for the third time this year and projecting three increases for next year as they revised upward its expected real GDP growth for 2018 to 2.5%, a big increase from the prior 2.1% forecast.

All of this good news is benefiting stock markets. The US Dow Jones Industrial Average, in 121 years, never before has done what it did this year: rising 5000 points in one calendar year. In another market record, this has been the longest market rally in the S&P 500 without a 5% correction since 1960.

French Driving Tip #2: Crosswalks are striped areas on the street, alerting drivers to the pending opportunity to hit pedestrians. There must be a tax deduction for getting pedestrians, because every driver in France accelerates upon seeing someone in a crossing zone.

Turkey’s economy surged in the third quarter, with gross domestic product 11.1% greater than in the same period in 2016, exceeding analysts’ expectations of 10% growth.

There has been a lot of merger activity as we approach the end of the year. Disney is buying Fox for $52 billion, Hershey is buying Skinny Pop popcorn maker Amplify for $1.6 billion, and Campbell Soup is buying snack food manufacturer Snyder’s-Lance for $4.87 billion.

France is getting in on the action, as France’s Unibail-Rodamco is attempting the biggest Australian takeover ever by buying mall owner Westfield for $15.7 billion. Apparently, word has not yet reached France that not only is Amazon destroying bricks-and-mortar retail, but it just officially opened for business in Australia.

French Driving Tip #3: French sidewalks are marvelously engineered to be multi-purpose surfaces. Not only do they serve as the doggy sewer system, but during rush hour, the sidewalks become express lanes for motorcycles. The rest of the day, sidewalks convert to motorcycle parking lots.

Déjà vu all over again: Billionaire Sebastián Piñera won Chile’s presidential election, succeeding President Michelle Bachelet. This was exactly the headline in 2010, the last time the conservative Piñera became President. As a result of this election, Chile’s stock exchange soared by nearly 8%.

Japan’s economy grew faster than originally reported in the third quarter. Its revised GDP showed annualized growth of 2.5% in the third quarter, up from last month’s preliminary estimate of 1.4%.

The Japanese recovery did not stop at the end of the third quarter, as October saw surprising strength in machine orders and in December Japanese business confidence hit an 11-year high.

French Driving Tip #4: There are no drive-thru anythings in France. No drive-thru banks, fast food, or pharmacies, so add extra time to your trip plans as you will have to get out of your car. This also means there are no drive-thru coffee shops, so you will have to stop and go inside to get coffee. However, the French will serve you coffee in thimble-sized cups (and then only fill that half-way). They also do not provide lids because they expect you to sit down and drink the coffee onsite, so if you think you can outsmart them by buying a dozen of cups of mini-coffee to take with you as you drive, it will not work. Bring your American travel mug to fill in order to safely have a normal dose of caffeine while you drive.

In a surprise statement, the Italian banking supervisor ruled out poor supervision as the reason for the country’s banking troubles. He said it was the fault of the EU and the recession.

French Driving Tip #5: They do not have donuts in France. You will think that it will be okay to substitute a French pastry for the donut you would normally eat while drinking your coffee in the car. Do not fall for this trap. As soon as you bite into a French pastry, it is designed to explode into shards of crumbs all over yourself and the car. It is truly a mess to be avoided.

OPEC said its production fell to its lowest in six months in November but US shale production was growing faster than expected, pushing out the likely rebalancing of oil market supply and demand until the of 2018.

In a good sign for the holiday season, American retail sales jumped by a much larger than expected 0.8%, well ahead of the expected 0.3%.

And that’s what I think I have learned over the last two weeks. Merry Christmas and HappyNew Year to all, and I will be back next year, hoping to have learned some more stuff!