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Just another lunch conversation

 

I met with a good friend for lunch and it’s always great to meet with him because the conversations and discussions that we have cut across the economy, investing and general business sentiment.

He’s not trained in business nor economics but I suspect he has a better sense of the economy than many of the economists sitting in their cubicles at the Ministry of Trade and Industry. After all, how many number-crunching economists go down to the ground to see how different industries are faring?

Why?

Simply because he meets with various business people across a wide range of industries and how other’s business is going, to a certain extent, will affect the amount of business that he does as well.

In his work, he also interviews people for positions and from his observation, the employment situation isn’t as rosy as it used to be. Interviewees are asking for less pay which is probably a result of prolonged unemployment. Of course, that could be a feature of the industry he is in but once again, it’s good anecdotal evidence to add to the headlines that we read about.

Higher unemployment rate, more retrenchments in Q2: MOM (full story here)

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s labour market saw higher unemployment and more retrenchments in the second quarter of 2018, although there was also employment growth and more job vacancies available, according to Ministry of Manpower (MOM) figures released on Thursday (Sep 13).

Observations around town

In meeting him, I also had a chance to take the MRT to town and I was surprised that the trains were fairly crowded for a time that wouldn’t be considered peak hour. It was also fairly crowded at the basement level of ION Orchard although the crowds were notably absent at Wisma Atria.

I haven’t been to Wisma for some time and at Wisma, I saw a “That CD Shop”. Last I remember, they used to sell music CDs and had quite a few branches in Singapore. Of course, their focus on more niche areas like jazz music. What’s interesting about their store at Wisma is that they focus on selling vinyl records and it’s housed together with a place called “Wonderland Savour”. From the displays of macarons and cakes that front the store, “Wonderland Savour” appears to be a place for desserts.

I’m not sure how successful the place is but it’s a clear sign that shopping mall tenants are moving away from retail businesses and moving towards businesses that provide a unique experience. Unfortunately, the experience nowadays seems to involve some sort of Food &Beverage.

Also, on the first level of Wisma, what used to be “The Coffee Club” has now become a “Fun Toast” outlet. I thought it was interesting that a place that used to sell high-end coffee has now made way for a place selling local kopi and food.

Revelations

I remember reading an interview that the local paper did with a prominent local economist where the economist said that he likes to go observe how prices have changed at his local noodle stall when looking at inflation and in that spirit, I think he’s right.

In a recent interview, Minister for Finance, Heng Swee Keat mentioned about how he could easily observe how bad the global economy was doing by looking out the window of his office and observing the activity going on at the port at Keppel Road.

Unfortunately, how many people can translate those signals into giving them more insight into how the economy is doing? I think very few people do that well today and if you’re able to do so, you’ll gain a skill that very people have.

 

Final Thoughts

If you have any signals that you see in the economy today, do share them in the comments below.

 

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