25 December 2016

The 300

The asymptotic nature of tech progress (the world, and universe, are bounded so there's only so much to be discovered about the physical world) has been a driving meme here for some time. This affects both product development and investment prospects. While corporations sit on trillions of dollars chasing Treasuries, they aren't investing in new productive capital (it's a long, academic study but worth the effort). Without new tech embodied in new machinery, return on investment is just fiduciary juggling: the current generation foregoes consumption to provided income to future generations. No real growth necessarily means that interest is paid directly from consumption; a transfer of wealth from the many to the few. The Donald's class keeps demanding that the Fed increase interest rates, all while they chase, en masse, Treasuries thus driving down the interest rate. Talk about cognitive dissonance.
[It] reveals that the long-term increase in capital's net share of income in large developed countries has consisted entirely of housing.

My, my. Sound familiar? Since housing is non-producing, it operates on the same mechanism of Treasuries, which is to re-distribute funds from those who work to those who don't. Nothing, it appears, was learned from the Great Recession. In order to pay increased housing price, there is a short list of opportunities. (The bounding factor is total mortgage monthly payment as a fraction of monthly income.) Mortgage holders' incomes are rising, so this increased level of earnings pays for higher mortgage payment (not happening). Housing operates as a Ponzi, where early buyers flip to later buyers at materially higher price, pocketing the capital gain or foolishly be the next victim in the scheme through buying a yet more expensive house (thus, the Great Recession, so yes). Reduce interest rate, thus trading interest for house price at a, more or less, static monthly payment (not happening). Lastly, stretch mortgage length; another method to hold monthly payment at bay (not so much). This last has been more active in auto loans, particularly since the Great Recession blew up the mortgage securitization process; now cars loans are packaged. Cool.

Without new, in the sense of not being just incremental change to the existing status, tech there can be no truly innovative products. And the nature of what is produced matters. New products which improve macro-productivity will trace back to new income creation. New products which are pure consumption (Angry Birds, for instance) don't create anything at the macro level. Apple got fat and lazy off the iPhone because it had a stranglehold on cap touch screen production for a couple of years at the outset. But one of the long delayed predictions of semiconductor tech remains in the future: wafer size of 450mm.
Since lithography is one of the biggest challenges in the 450mm wafer transition, ASM Lithography's announcement in March 2014 that it would temporarily hold off on the development of equipment for 450mm wafers made some in the industry believe it was a signal that the transition would never happen.

SK Hynix is building yet another fab, and it's 300mm. Won't be up and running until 2020, or thereabouts.

Kiss my asymptote.

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