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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