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The Hipster Retail Index

CNBC, for lack of Morning Call programming, is currently showing a documentary about everyone's favorite big box punching bag titled "The Age of Wal-Mart." As far as we're concerned, Target is Wal-Mart with better branding and packaging, but you'll never see an "Age of Target" documentary. Our theory is that anti-Wal-Mart sentiment has more to do with class warfare and perception than fundamentals and that the same is true of many companies.
So when we're not clear on where a company stands PR-wise, we go to one the more fashionable 'burbs of NYC and find ourselves a hipster (hipsters, above left) and ask them what they think about a particular company. Hipsters make for an interesting litmus test because they pride themselves on non-conformity but have fairly homogenous tastes and value systems. We can't decide if media perception is reflective of their value systems or they're simply reflecting mainstream media perceptions, but the correlation seems to be very high. The conversation always goes something like this:
DealBreaker: Would you ever, under any circumstances, set foot in a Wal-Mart?
Hipster: (Glaring) Are you fucking kidding me? If I wanted to be exploited, I'd move to, like, the Bronx or something. Wait. Are you wearing Brooks Brothers? Like, unironically?
DB: Uh, okay. What about Target?
Hipster: (Glances around to see if other hipsters are within earshot). Yeah, sure. I got some rad socks there last week. I'm going to wear them as gloves.
DB: Right. Moving on. What you consider the fundamental difference between Wal-Mart and Target?
Hipster:... You know what? I'm not going to answer your little bourgeois questions. Get out of my borough, yuppie.
DB: How about Exxon?
Hipster: Fuck off.
The Age of Wal-Mart [CNBC]


The Smart Indexes Are Even Worse Than The Dumb Ones*

You may have heard that the Dow hit 13,000 today before subsiding to a shameful 12,965.69. You may not have heard this, or cared, because the Dow is for morons, being a price-weighted index of thirty semi-random companies that, gah, aren't even "industrial" any more.** There are alternative theories but those theories are wrong: Joe Weisenthal in defense of the Dow has been noting its very high correlation with other, broader, more sensible indexes. I see this as further undermining the Dow's legitimacy. If it's very different methodology were leading to some kind of meaningfully different result, then we could perhaps argue that it's adding value in some kind of way. But instead what's going on is that the Dow's creators are hand-picking which stocks to include in the index specifically with an eye toward constructing an index that mirrors the other, better indexes out there. Apple and Google, for example, aren't in the Dow and aren't doing to get in any time soon because their very high share prices would skew the index in weird ways. This just goes to show that the Dow's creators already "know" the right answer (from looking at the S&P 500 and the Wilshire 5000) and then are trying to assemble an index to create the predetermined result. Maybe! An alternative theory is maybe suggested by [Occam's razor and] this piece from the Journal this weekend about index funds that I just loved and so am now going to inflict on you at unnecessary length: