Mar

17

MarionMarket prediction by riding around aimlessly:

Aside from the disheartening evidence of restaurants, businesses such as Circuit City and others that seemingly moments ago were thriving, I see a slight sign of what I deem an upturn.

As I traverse the neighborhood on my vehicle, I see the license plates proliferating. Just a few months ago, I saw severely strictured ‘plate-diversity’: NY, NJ; Connecticut and Pennsylvania. I do this every time I leave the house: I set a number of different plates from the 50 states, assigning a total of them before I arrive at my destination. I have a formula for this — essentially six blocks per 'new' license plate/state.

In NYC, of course, there is likely to be a profusion of people from all the states, so it works out as fewer than six blocks, but the formula holds for longer distances, so I use it. Recently jaunts yielded a maximum of five or seven different plates in a two-mile distance.

However, of late, I have noticed the plates are from as far afield as Indiana, California, Minnesota, Colorado and even, occasionally, Alaska. (I also count police cars — the first, anyway — as a separate “state” for some reason based on the paucity of police cars in the vicinity, most days.) The average two-miler produces 20-25 different plates. Could this be a leading indicator? People were clearly not traveling interstate when the price of oil was $145/bbl, but that is changing, and obviously, people are high-tailing up to NYC in their cars, parking on the street, spending on restaurants and hotels, groceries and department stores.

The license-plate index idea of mine is valid. At least as good as skirt length and applications for mortgages and short sales. Now we just need to assess by how many months it's predictive of market-and-general economy ascent.

Scott Brooks writes:

ScottThe license plate formula is very location-dependent. I could walk or travel two miles from my home and could see no license plates other than MO. If I go downtown or travel down the highway, I'll certainly see many different states as St. Louis is a crossroads (the Gateway to the West) for people traveling cross-country.

It is also very time-dependent. If one were to drive around during rush hour, one would likely see mostly MO or IL plates, but if one were to drive around during other times, it would seem logical to see more plate diversity.


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3 Comments so far

  1. douglas roberts dimick on March 17, 2009 2:19 pm

    Marion, thank you for triggering the wonderful memories…

    When my parents would take us on car trips throughout the country, Mother would note license plates at times while Dad drove with Sissy and me in the back.

    I have criss-crossed the country a half-dozen times by car — enjoy roadtrips. Naturally, I would find myself taking note as well.

    We would spend summers in Maine and winters in Florida. Thus, my only comment is that seasonality should be factored within randomness and knowledge issues for correlation.

    Buffet restaurants may provide an interesting domain for data sets within a statistical population of our mobile universe.

    dr

  2. Andrew Phelps on March 17, 2009 4:10 pm

    It seems as if this would be quite seasonal in nature as well. I am sure that the number of out of state plates is at it’s highest in August and lowest in January. I believe this to be the case regardless of the state of the economy…

  3. Steve on March 17, 2009 10:32 pm

    Maybe folks are taking their cars to save money on flying and even lodging? Maybe folks are taking their cars out of state to avoid the repo man?

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