Len Kiefer

Helping people understand the economy, housing and mortgage markets

Spotlight on housing affordability

IN MY LINE OF WORK, (finance/economics) you see a lot of dual axis line charts. I am of the opinion that dual y axis charts are sort of evil. But in this post I’m going to make one. It’s for a totally legit reason though. Like in an earlier post we’ll make a graph similar to one I saw on xenographics. Xenographics gives examples of and links to “weird, but (sometimes) useful charts”.

Jobs Friday May 2018

TODAY WAS JOBS FRIDAY. LET’s create a couple plots to show the trend in employment growth. Each month the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases its employment situation report. Let’s make a couple plots looking at trends in U.S. nonfarm payrolls. Per usual, let’s make a graph with R. Data We can easily get the data via the Saint Louis Federal Reserve’s FRED database. If you followed my post from back in April of last year you know what we can do if we combine FRED with the quantmod package.

What's up? VSUP, that's what's up.

IN THIS POST WE SHALL EXPLORE VALUE-SUPRESSING UNCERTAINTY PALETTES. One of my favorite new sites is xenographics that gives examples of and links to “weird, but (sometimes) useful charts”. The examples xenographics gives are undoubtedly interesting and might help inspire you if you’re looking for something new. One new (to me) graphic was something called Value-Suppressing Uncertainty Palettes (VSUP). See this research paper (pdf). VSUPs “allocate larger ranges of a visual channel when uncertainty is low, and smaller ranges when uncertainty is high”.

Expanding Expansions, Contracting Recessions

IN THIS POST I WANT TO SHARE A GRAPH looking at the length of economic expansions and recessions in the United State over time. Earlier today, Andrew Chamberlain (on Twitter), observed that at the end of this month the current economic expansion in the U.S. would be the second longest in history. Let’s explore. In the United States, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) dates expansions and recessions. See for example http://www.

April 2018 Housing Market Update

LAST WEEK I POSTED A THREAD ON TWITTER COVERING RECENT HOUSING MARKET TRENDS AND THE OUTLOOK FOR MORTGAGE RATES: #Mortgage rates are now at their highest level since January 2014. Will these higher borrowing costs dampen the spring homebuying season? Some thoughts (+ charts)... pic.twitter.com/BegOb7p6iq — Leonard Kiefer (@lenkiefer) April 19, 2018 Let’s unpack that thread and add a few more charts I’ve tweeted out in the past week. I’ll also share some links to posts where I’ve shared R code on how to make the particular plots we discuss.

Rate Cloud

TIME FOR A FUN NEW MORTGAGE RATE CHART. This one: We’ll use R to plot a new visualization of mortgage rates. Let’s make it. Data As we did with our majestic mortgage rate plot post we’ll plot mortgage rates using the Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey. We’ll get the mortgage rates data via the Saint Louis Federal Reserve’s FRED database. If you followed my post from back in April of last year you know what we can do if we combine FRED with the quantmod package.

Pipe Tweenr

I LIKE TO MAKE ANIMATIONS WITH R. Sometimes folks ask me how they add to understanding. They don’t always, but often, particularly when you are working with time series, I find they help visualize trends and understand the evolution of variables. I’ve written several posts on animation, see particularly this recent post on making a simple line plot and this post about improving animations with tweenr. Tweenr is a handy package that lets you interpolate data and make smooth animations.

Forecasting Game

LET’S PICK BACK UP where we left off and think about communicating forecast results. To help guide our thinking, let’s set up a little game. Basic setup Like last time we’re going to focus on a situation where a forecaster observes some information about the world and makes an announcement about a future binary outcome. A decision maker observes the forecaster’s announcement and takes a binary action. Then the outcome is realized and the forecaster receives a payoff.

Charting Jobs Friday with R

LAST FRIDAY WAS JOBS FRIDAY, the day when the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases its monthly employment situation report. This report is blanketed with media coverage and economist and financial analysts all over the world pay close attention to the report. The employment situation gives a read on trends in the world’s largest economy’s labor market. It also provides a clue about how monetary policy might unfold, affecting bond yields around the world.

Forecasting and deciding binary outcomes under asymmetric information

LAST WEEK IN THE WALL STREET JOURNAL an article LINK talked about how pundits can strategically make probabilistic forecasts. It seems 40% is a sort of magic number, where it’s high enough that if the event comes true you can claim credit as a forecaster, but if it doesn’t happen, you still gave it less than 50/50 odds. Since I’m often asked to make forecasts I’m interested in this problem. Under what conditions is a 40 percent probability an optimal forecast?