The Strange Numbers Running the World this Week

Virtual currencies, virtual worlds, and virtual earnings dominate the real world this week.

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We live in an age of numbers, and they tell stories worth a thousand pictures. Here's are 10 of the most fanciful, bizarre, infuriating, and compelling ones this week:

  • 80% - Goldman Sachs' estimate of how much of the S&P 500's year-to-date return has been driven by multiple expansion - investors paying more for future earnings, rather than past performance.
  • $99.81 - The price of Bitcoin in October 2013, just before it began its run. The current price of Bitcoin is $877.95, down from a high of $1,147.25 on Dec 2. Prices measured in Bitcoin are down 98.5% since January 2013, according to Bloomberg's Bitcoin CPI. The official BLS consumer price index is up 2% since January. This is great news if you own Bitcoin!
  • $114,651.18 - The true cost of 12 Days of Christmas - sending the full set of gifts each day - according to PNC Wealth Management's annual index. That's up 6.9% from 2012. The price of nine ladies dancing went up the most, 20%, based on prices submitted to PNC by PHILDANCO, a modern dance company in Philadelphia. Five gold rings went unchanged, year over year, at $750.00. That shouldn't surprise Money Morning readers.
  • 15 gigawatt-hours - The amount of power lost by all the Tesla S models sold since 2012 due to the "vampire" power drain problem. That is the equivalent of the day's output of a small nuclear power plant. Since the company's cars started catching on fire, the stock has lost about 20% of its market cap.
  • $44 billion - How much money the Ryan/Murray budget deal adds back into discretionary spending for 2014. Meanwhile, despite all the hoopla over sequester, defense and aerospace stocks are still up 50% for the year in the first week of December.
  • $10,500,000,000 - The amount of money the federal government lost in its "investment" in General Motors, which it closed on Monday. From December 2008 to June 2009, the federal government gave GM $49.5 billion in financings and loans to keep it operating. According to the Center for Automotive Research, the bailout saved 4.1 million jobs and $105 billion in transfer payments over two years, including autoworkers, ancillary industries, and the jobs generated by personal income from those jobs. That's approximately $12,000 spent per job, and $2.12 in saved revenue per dollar lent. Of course, if you just look at GM, the numbers aren't so good: $27,000 per job and $0.79 of revenue per dollar lent.
  • 79 million - That's how many working Americans are unprepared for retirement by one count. It doesn't help when most advisors put them into lousy investments.
  • $1 billion - How much money the Obama administration has spent on the botched rollout of Healthcare.gov. To date, 365,000 people have signed up through the federal exchange - about $2,700 per sign up. According to Health and Human Services projections, that would cover about 8 months' worth of premiums for the mid-grade "silver" package under Obamacare.
  • 1 million - How many PlayStation 4 consoles Sony sold the first day they were available. Not to be outdone, Microsoft announced it sold the same number, but also sold out of the new system. Michael Robinson has some ideas who will win the $93 billion console war.
  • 1931 - The year Coca-Cola first put a Santa Claus ad in the Saturday Evening Post. But it seems even Jolly Old St. Nick can't take the shine off competitor PepsiCo.