Thursday, September 22, 2011

Changes in Medicine

Just like in every industry technology and innovation changes how things are done. Online music and movies changed the whole entertainment industry to a point where it obliterated some well known companies. Medicine is also constantly going through changes, new procedures and vaccines eliminate sub specialties.  The human genome has brought us a breakthrough genetic treatment for lupus; Benlysta by Human Genome Sciences.

A cardiac surgeon is not a lucrative profession as it once was.  Medical breakthroughs and the elimination of coronary arterial bypass surgery have drastically changed the way medicine is being implemented. It is becoming hard to find a job in this field.  The balloon coronary angioplasty is one of the sophisticated ways for a cardiologist to perform the procedure on the heart without ever picking up a scalpel.  Only the most complicated cases will not benefit from minimally invasive surgery. In other words cardiologists have taken the work away from the cardiac surgeons.

GE has added a lot of innovative products to the healthcare sector.  Their smart medical room is one of them. The room uses optical sensors, RFID tags, computer vision algorithms and facial recognition along with speakers and cameras.  The software is designed to monitor healthcare staff as well as patients for various reasons,  it is basically being used to monitor and improve performance. The room can track patients and their movements this is done to help the patient if they are out of bed and in risk of a fall.  GE believes that some day we will be able to identify facial expressions to recognize the typical characteristics of a stroke by using these technologies.

Microsoft has also been working on medical innovations as well,  they are using medical avatars that can interact with a humans just as a health care worker might do.  With the use of probabilities and computer algorithms the avatar will recognize the symptoms a patient is experiencing and give a diagnosis. Although it is in its initial stages these futuristic concepts can become a reality.  Seeing how robotic surgeries first started as a once a week procedure in operating rooms they quickly caught on with patients and turned into the norm.

As we move into a paperless society we can see that hospitals are starting to make the transition.  There are advantages such as lower costs, greener environment and saving lives.  The government is giving bonuses to the first hospitals to adapt and threatening penalties and cuts in monetary payments to those providers who resist to change.  Hospitals are also testing patient digital hand prints as a form of identification in their emergency rooms.  This is to identify patients and to have easy access to their medical information even if the patient arrives unconscious.

 Some of the information for this blog came from the following book
 Smart Medicine: How the Changing Role of Doctors Will Revolutionize Health Care (Macsci)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Is GE a Good Long Term Investment?

In 1892 General Electric was founded by Thomas Edison it was part of the 12 leading American Companies that made up the Dow Jones since inception and it is the only one remaining.  It is a conglomerate and a global titan.  In 2011 it was ranked one of the largest companies in the world, best global brand and most profitable.

In 2010 GE's earnings expanded by 15% and raised the dividend twice. GE's R&D spending will grow to 54% from 2008 to 2011.  More than 50% of the world's planes have GE engines. More than 60% of GE's revenue in 2011 will come from outside the U.S. Jeffrey Immelt stated that most of the engines GE sells may be sold overseas but they are manufactured domestically.  It has created 6,300 new jobs since 2009. GE aviation has invested much in R&D this will keep its earnings flat in 2011 but it does have a high backed up amount of orders and earning growth should return in 2012.

GE reported better than expected earnings last quarter and its stock rose to a day high of $19.53 in July 22nd.  Then came the summer jitters the debt worries and a S&P downgrade that proved to be a low blow to the U.S. and GE came tumbling down.  Its correlation with the S&P 500 has punished it throughout the summer yet it found support at $15 showing a better U.S. economy compared to the beginning of 2009 when GE sank below $10.  This also lets us see a better GE emerging one with less vulnerability to tail risk events and with plenty of cash on hand.  A once again high dividend paying stock in a low interest rate environment.

GE Capital has been restructured to a smaller more focused slice of the pie set up for growth in the next few years.

GE continues to lead in growth markets investing long term in economies such as Australia, Latin America, Canada, Germany and Russia. They recently announced an expansion in its position in Russia with two new ventures which will generate about $10 to $15 billion in sales.  Where it will sell gas fired power generated turbines, GE is also entering health care joint ventures in the fast growing Russian market.

GE is also expanding in China and India a colossal market in which over one billion people will be joining the middle class.  John Rice GE's most senior Vice Chairman was asked to move to Hong Kong to lead operations in the global market. It's the year of the rabbit and it is said that anyone having a rabbit as a friend can consider himself financially lucky.

Last quarter GE Healthcare grew by 8% and it is continuing to invest in healthcare with about $5 billion in the next few years in the fight against cancer which is one of the top 3 U.S. killer diseases.  GE is working on bringing innovation and breakthrough to oncology and individualized treatment.  They have started a healthymagination open challenge to aid in the screening and treatment of breast cancer.  It also entered a partnership to bring the latest screening technologies to under served parts of the world.  In this rough economy healthcare has been one of the few sectors that has continually added jobs and seen growth and innovation.

GE has positioned itself to see innovation and growth in the years to come.  Global investments in infrastructure are expected to reach $4 trillion in 2015.  GE has franchises in energy, healthcare, aviation, water and consumer products.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Contemporary Art Prices

How is contemporary art priced ? It seems it has nothing to do with cost since the oil, canvas and materials utilized do not exceed a fraction of the price for which these pieces are sold for.  The price is not based on time either; some paintings/sculptures take 3 - 4 hours others 3 months. 

This market is priced by dealers.  They will price work according to its size and the reputation of the artist.  The reputation of the dealer as well as the status of the client is all taken into account to place a numerical value on art.  A new artist's work will be priced according to the dealers reputation therefore a mainstream gallery will price an artist with no history at about $5000 - $10,000.  This builds trust between dealer and client.  From this point on the dealer will increase art prices to build an illusion of success.

To invest in the art world it is always good to be well informed.  Just like investing in stocks it is good to diversify by buying several art pieces instead of putting all your money on one artist and one painting.  Here is a helpful link to check auction prices:

While a Picasso or Monet may be sound investments there is little room for greater appreciation compared to a new up and coming artist.  According to a professor of economics David Galenson the most valuable artwork is created at the beginning or at the very end of a successful artist's career.

Some people claim that contemporary art is a better way to create wealth in comparison to investing in stocks, gold or governmental bonds.  They base this on the Mei/Moses art index  The problem is that the index has a few flaws one being it does not take taxation into consideration. 

One interesting point by Mei/Moses is that financial markets and art markets do not move in unison.  When stock markets crash investors liquidate their stocks and invest in museum quality art.

Here are a few facts from art experts:

A portrait of an attractive woman will appreciate better

Colors that sell most are red,white and blue least saleable colors green and black

Pale colors don't sell as well as bright colors

Nudity seems to sell more than modesty

Paintings with cows don't do well

Roses sell better than other flowers

When it comes to superstar artists some of these rules can be broken

Art Pricing Game: See if you can accurately guess what these artworks sold for click on link for answers

Small Torn Campbell's Soup Can - Andy Warhol

A. $250,000
B. $1,575,000
C. $11,776,000

White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) - Mark Rothko

A. $11.5 million
B. $72.84 million
C. $84.52 million

Bloodline The Family No.3 - Zhang Xiaogang

A. $500,000
B. $4,760,000
C. $6,083,363

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Good Looks That Pay

According to research good looking people tend to earn higher salaries in all career fields. The advantage seems to favor men more than women. Daniel Hamermesh an economics professor of the University of Texas states that aesthetically challenged people earn 5 to 10 percent less than average looking people who in turn earn 3 to 8 percent less than those that are considered good looking.

There are certain occupations where looks are more sought after such as customer service and fashion. It may also appear that employers want to have good looking people around.  On the other hand if unattractive people have a bad attitude about life that alone may turn off employers. 

Unattractive women are less likely to hold a full time job compared to attractive and average women. They are also more at risk of marrying men with less talent and men that are less successful in life.

Dr. Gordon Patzer who has been studying the subject matter for years states that we tend to judge good looking people as being more talented, honest and intelligent.

Although good looks can be an advantage in the work place that does not mean unattractive people are doomed. Some of the most successful business men in the world would not be considered attractive yet they have the highest salaries. Most of the smartest and most talented people I have met are not what people would consider eye candy.

We all have to use our strong points whether it is smarts, charm, good humor, personality or communication skills. We all have talents and good qualities that we can rely on to get us through the door and succeed in life. Good looks may not last forever so it is best to focus on more than one trait to market ourselves.

Good looking or not success and high salaries are available to those who work hard.