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Retail Sales to Surprise to the Upside, Don’t Buy Into It

The calendar for the week has a key piece of data that you’ll want to watch out for. We have August Retail Sales data to be released on Wednesday morning. The consensus among a survey of economists conducted by Bloomberg suggests that this figure will decline by 2.1% after having surged 2.7% in the month prior. This may be overly pessimistic as a reading of -2.1% on the sales side would imply that spending among the US public was at its worst since last December, when it tanked 3.2%. Keep in mind that since the start of the year, Retail Sales have only shrunk in two of the months. Such a swing to the downside would be a sharp change in the public’s mindset.

Note that when excluding automobiles from the metric, the consensus forecast is set for an increase of 0.2%. This leads one to believe that automobile sales plummeted throughout the month, causing the broader metric to sink as well. This might not necessarily true. The popular “Cash for Clunkers” program was extended during this period and saw car purchases soar. In fact, there was a 25% jump in the number of autos sold. So there is little reason to believe that August saw such a pathetic performance in Retail Sales.

What to take away from this: Retail traders may splurge on stocks when they see that this number is surprisingly high. But one must ask themselves if this high figure is surely sustainable. Keep in mind that this data is for August and not for September – that’s five weeks back. Cash for Clunkers is over with and there is now little incentive to keep car purchases up. Just moments ago, Philips released it’s Q3 earnings report. In it, they said that the structural recovery in their primary end-markets has been absent. This speaks contrary to that which has been heard from the popular media and other pundits.


Filed under: Economics, Global Economics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Obama in Monday’s FT Interview: World Needs to Promote ‘Unity’

PAPER: In comments that appear to diverge from recent remarks by Ms Merkel, who has all but ruled out more deficit spending in Germany, Mr Obama said: “With respect to the stimulus, there is going to be an accord that G20 countries will do what is necessary to promote trade and growth.”

He added: “The most important task for all of us is to deliver a strong message of unity in the face of crisis…”

Filed under: Media, Obama, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

New Zealand GDP Better Than Expected

New Zealand’s economy shrunk by -0.9% in the three months ending 2008 after economists had expected this south-Pacific country’s GDP to contract by more. The move marks the fourth straight quarter that the island-nation has seen its annual output decrease.

Since July the central bank has slashed interest rates by 5.25% to 3.0% in an effort to provide short-term liquidity to businesses and financial markets in order to stave off the effects of the global recession.

Now, in its fourth straight quarter of contraction, the New Zealand economy has shed thousands of job. In the final three months of 2008, their unemployment rate jumped 0.4 percentage points to 4.6%, the highest level since 2003. Their Treasury department predicts that it will get worse. They have forecast that by early 2010 the jobless rate may jump to an 11-year high of 7.2%.

Yesterday, the IMF released a report stating that New Zealand’s economy would contract a total of 2.0% in 2009 after 2008 experienced a slight 0.1% decrease. One key “vulnerability” that is likely to keep the country under water is the extensive amount of short-term borrowing from abroad, the IMF said.

This final period of the year saw the country’s currency depreciate by as much as -20.95%, but ended the quarter down only 10.15%.

– LG

Filed under: Global Economics, World, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

New Zealand Trade Balance Soars on 11.6% Decline in Imports

New Zealand’s trade balance in February improved substantially from that which was expected. The figure jumped to 489.0 million from an expected 75.0 million after imports fell 11.6%.

The alleviating news comes just a day after Bill English, the nation’s Minister of Finance, said that the current account gap is “uncomfortably large.”

Imports fell as the New Zealand Dollar continued to stifle the purchasing power that domestic residents had for goods produced abroad. The first two months of the year saw their currency depreciate 16.57% against its U.S. counterpart and 9.12% against a trade-weighted basket of currencies.

The amount of goods shipped to the country from Europe fell by a staggering 21.3% and 14% from Asia.

– LG

Filed under: Global Economics, World, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Obama Admin. Set to Propose Largest Expansion of Government Tomorrow


PAPER: The Obama administration’s plan, described by several sources, would extend federal regulation for the first time to all trading in financial derivatives and to companies including large hedge funds and major insurers such as American International Group. The administration also will seek to impose uniform standards on all large financial firms, including banks, an unprecedented step that would place significant limits on the scope and risk of their activities…

Filed under: Economics, Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

New Zealand Economy Will Contract 2% in 2009, Says IMF

In a report filed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) the Washington-based body said that the New Zealand economy will contract by 2.0% this year. “The near-term outlook is weak,” they mentioned. “Households are constrained by high debt levels, falling house and equity prices and uncertain employment prospects,” they added.

The startling words come after Bill English, New Zealand’s Minister of Finance, said that the current account gap is “uncomfortable large”. Indeed, the actual figure for the current account balance in the final quarter of 2008 came in at -4.026, surprisingly better than in the three-month period prior. Despite what would look to be as a positive sign, the deficit-GDP ratio actually became weaker, coming in at -8.9% from -8.6% the period prior.

Claims of weakness in the country are legitimate. Now, in its fifth straight quarter of contraction, the New Zealand economy has shed thousands of job. In the final three months of 2008, their unemployment rate jumped 0.4 percentage points to 4.6%, the highest level since 2003. Their Treasury department predicts that it will get worse. They have forecast that by early 2010 the jobless rate may jump to an 11-year high of 7.2%.

One “key vulnerably” is the country’s substantial level of short-term financing from abroad. With the central bank slashing rates by 5.25% since July, foreigners have been continuously disincentivized to invest in these debts with maturities of less than one year. The IMF may have been too cautious here. Albeit this may seem to be a risk on an absolute basis, the fact that short-term rates abroad are much lower than those in New Zealand may actually direct a greater amount of these foreign cash flows towards this South-Pacific economy.

Now, since Mid-March the New Zealand Dollar has fallen by as much as 40.4% against it’s U.S. counterpart. Generally, such a bearish movle would lead investors in domestically denominated short-term debt to flock away in hysteria. But what if their was an expectation that the currency would begin to rise in value? Under such a case, one would expect exchange rate risk to be of less of concern.

We are seeing such a pattern now. From the low on Mar. 3rd, the currency has rebounded 17.95%. This may be due to the inflationary fears that the Federal Reserve, with its plan to buy $1.2 trillion in treasury and agency/mortgage securities, has sparked among global investors. During this time we have also seen gold rally 7.43% and crude (West Texas Intermediate) break out of a range bound environment and rally 37% to as much as $54.18.

Historically we have seen a strong correlation between the New Zealand currency and commodities. A 180-day rolling correlation with the S&P Goldman Sachs Commodities Index shows that these two instruments have a correlation of .9688, a very substantial relationship.

Thus, if inflationary fears are correct (which the commodities markets seem to believe) then the New Zealand Dollar is likely to continue rising. Hence short-term financing from abroad may actually increase and not decrease.

– LG

Filed under: Global Economics, World, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

European Union President Says Obama Stimulus is The ‘Road to Hell’

The head of the European Union slammed President Barack Obama’s plan to spend nearly $2 trillion to push the U.S. economy out of recession as “the road to hell” that EU governments must avoid.

The blunt comments by Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek to the European Parliament on Wednesday highlighted simmering European differences with Washington ahead of a key summit next week on fixing the world economy…


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Geithner Open to China Using Non-Dollar as Reserve; Dollar Plummets

WIRE: Geithner was initially asked at a Council on Foreign Relations event in New York about proposals from People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan for a new international reserve currency. He said “as I understand his proposal, it’s a proposal designed to increase the use of the IMF’s special drawing rights. And we’re actually quite open to that…”


Filed under: Global Economics, Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Stocks Surge After Geithner Unveils Taxpayer Guaranteed Toxic-Asset Plan

US Session Key Developments

  • Treasury Announces $1 Trillion Toxic Asset Purchase Plan
  • S&P Surges 7.1%, Most Since Oct. 28, Biggest 10-Day Gain Since 1938
  • February Home Resales Rise 5.1%

Stocks Surge After Geithner Unveils Taxpayer Guaranteed Toxic-Asset Plan

Stocks surged 7.1% with the S&P 500 advancing by the most since Oct. 28 after U.S. Treasury Secretary Geithner’s toxic-asset plan jolted Wall Street. The sharp move ushered in the largest 10-day gain since 1938. Geithner’s plan will use $1 trillion to incentivize private investors to purchase many illiquid assets including mortgage securities and agency debt. The deal will employ 10% of this money to work as a taxpayer subsidy to many of these investors while also providing government guarantees in case the securities continue to falter. Not surpassingly, financials in the blue-chip index bulled-ahead 22.91%, marking a 50.1% advance in the sector over the last two weeks. JPMorgan and Wells Fargo performed the strongest gaining on average of 24% with Citigroup seeing its shares traded the most of any company in the index. But this rally may be short-lived. If the real economy continues to falter, the consumption habits of the public may continue to be dwarfed, disabling much wealth creation that would truly enlighten the banking sector.

Dow 30            7775.86                +497.48                  +6.84%
Financials in the blue-chip index rose surged 22.91%, led by JPMorgan’s 25% move. Industrials were the second-best performing sector with Caterpillar advancing 9.46%.

NASDAQ        1555.77                 +98.50                      +6.76%

Information Technology advanced 6.38% with leading names such as Microsoft and Cisco jumping 7.44% and 6.73%, respectively. Sun Microsystems was one of the few stocks that slipped, as investors took some of the profits earned from the IBM take-over news.

S&P 500         822.92                   +54.38                       +7.08%

Consumer Staples was the worst performing sector in the Standard and Poor’s index, managing to gain a still impressive 3.77%. Only seven stocks slipped on the day. Implied volatility on the index fell 2.66 points, or 5.8%.

Filed under: Stocks, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Geithner Will Work With Congress For More Money If Needed, He Says

U.S. Treasury Secretary is currently speaking at a conference in Washington where is offering his first words since word of his $1 trillion toxic asset relief program was leaked over the weekend. Within the last 30 minutes, the 47-year-old has stated that the economic crisis won’t end until the market takes on more risk. Despite the lack of risk-appetite seen in markets, he does see “hope” in corporate finance.

Today, the S&P 500 surged 7.1%, advancing 20% over the last two-weeks. This, however, does not indicate that the economy has been revived. After all “one day does not make a plan,” Geithner noted. But should markets come crashing down and see the economy slip further, Geithner will be willing to work with Congress if additional money is needed.

“The world is watching us” to stabilize the system, he said. Interestingly, the European Central Bank President, Jean-Claude Trichet, seemed to express the opposite sentiment about his jurisdiction. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal yesterday, the central bank chief stated that Europe does not need a fiscal stimulus to save itself from the global recession. The statement came just days after ThyssenKrupp, Germany’s largest steel-maker, announced it would be laying off 3000 jobs, the first of such lay-offs among the major companies in the region.

– LG

Filed under: Economics, Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sell Financial Stocks, Says Bank of America Analyst and Hedge Fund After Historic Rally

WIRE: “The history of bubbles shows quite well that financial sector consolidation is inevitable,” Bernstein, Bank of America’s chief investment strategist, wrote in a research note. “Financial stocks will be attractive when the government tries to speed up that inevitable process. However, to the contrary, the government continues to attempt to stymie that inevitable consolidation…”

WIRE: BlackRock Inc.’s global macro fund, the world’s second-best performer over two years among hedge funds that invest based on economic trends, is betting against this month’s equities rally and buying bonds as a recovery from the worst credit crisis since the Great Depression falters…

Filed under: Stocks, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Stock Bargains Everywhere as ‘Bull-Market’ Begins, Says Analyst

WIRE: The next “bull-market” rally has begun and there are bargains in every emerging market, Templeton Asset Management Ltd.’s Mark Mobius said, refuting predictions that the equities meltdown will continue.

“You have to be careful not to miss the opportunity,” said Mobius, who helps oversee about $20 billion of emerging- market assets at San Mateo, California-based Templeton. “With all the negative news, there is a tendency to hold back…”

Filed under: Economics, Stocks, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Euro Central Bank President Trichet Says Deflation Won’t Hit Euro-Area, No Fiscal Stimulus

European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet spoke to the Wall Street Journal and was quite reluctant to acknowledge some of the 16-nation currency bloc’s financial problems. He said that Europe does not need to use fiscal policy as liberally as the United States has.

He took some shots at the global financial community, stating that it is unjustified to criticize Europe for its lack of conviction in battling this crisis. Nonetheless he did offer his own critique of the U.S. situation, stating that the U.S. should be ‘quick’ on implementing a rescue plan and on settling on a final budget.

As far as monetary policy is concerned he said that zero interest rates would not be “appropriate” and that there are “drawbacks” to such a policy. He did, however, acknowledge the obvious, that the economic trend remains “downward.” While he did not give any specifics as to his ideal interest rate target, he did suggest that the bank could lower rates below the current 1.5% mark. Nonetheless, despite the difference in approach taken by the Federal Reserve and the ECB, central banks are not in a “race,” he noted.

Ultimately, he has confidence in the experts that say that deflation will not hit the Euro-Area.

We could see the Euro rally as the news of this interview disseminates among the public. As dwarfed expectations of deflation loosen the notion of a zero-interest rate policy, those seeking yield may send their money to Europe and hence prop up the 16-nation currency.

– LG

Filed under: Global Economics, World, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

DEVELOPING: George Soros Advice for The G-20 in Upcoming FT

DEVELOPING: In Monday’s Financial Times, billionaire investor George Soros writes on how the developed world’s response to the crisis has damaged periphery economies, why the G20 meeting will be make-or-break, and what single step could make it a resounding success…

Filed under: Economics, World, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Investment Bankers Suspect Fed Knows China Will Stop Buying U.S. Treasury Bonds

“There is a concern that the Fed knows something about the economy or perhaps they believe there will be less buying from the Chinese, so they have decided to push rates sharply lower,” says John Spinello, strategist at Jefferies & Co…

Filed under: Economics, World, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


The Federal Reserve’s aggressive unconventional policy measures to revive dormant credit markets have again pushed the central bank’s balance sheet above $2 trillion, according to data the Fed released on Thursday.
Liabilities on the Fed’s balance sheet rose to $2.050 trillion as of March 18 from $1.882 trillion the previous week. That number is expected to continue rising following a new vow in the Fed’s policy statement this week to spend over $1 trillion more in buying Treasuries and mortgage bonds…

Bloomberg: The size of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet climbed 8.8 percent to $2.07 trillion in the past week as the central bank snapped up mortgage-backed securities in its campaign to lower U.S. home-loan rates.

Filed under: Economics, Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Stocks Rally After Fed Decision to Pump $1.25 Trillion Into Economy

US Session Key Developments

  • Fed to Buy $1.25 Trillion of Treasuries and Mortgage Securities
  • IBM Seeks Sun Microsystems Takover
  • General Mills Earnings Disappointed

Stocks Rally After Fed Decision to Pump $1.25 Trillion Into Economy

Stocks snapped into positive territory within minutes of the Federal Reserve’s announcement that it would purchase $300 billion of longer-dated treasuries along with $750 billion in agency and mortgage-backed securities. Mortgage rates are closely linked to yields on 30-year U.S. government bonds and are hence expected to decline with the Fed’s new course of direction. “To provide greater support to mortgage lending and housing markets,” the Fed said. The news brought the S&P to close ahead for the sixth time out of the last seven trading sessions. Financials absolutely loved this news, surging 10.10% in the 500 stock index. Citigroup traded and finished above $3.0 for the first time in a month as central bank action alleviated doubts in the bank’s ability to continue having access to cash. Despite this spike in momentum, Citi may see a sell-off tomorrow as the once largest bank plans to see shareholder approval to issue 40 billion new shares. Bank of America also rallied 22.33% to finish at $7.67.

Dow 30              7486.58             +90.88                +1.23%
Dow stocks were primarily weighted to the upside despite two sectors, Consumer Staples and Information Technology, finishing the day down. The tech industry’s representation in the Dow took a hit after reports that IBM and Hewlett Packard, both blue-chip members, would be bidding on Sun Microsystems.

NASDAQ           1491.22               +29.11                  +1.99%
NASDAQ stocks performed the strong after the report of a takeover of Sun Microsystems sent the stock roaring by 78.87% to close the day at $8.89.

S&P 500            794.35                +16.23                 +2.09%
Consumer Staples was the sole sector to sell off today after General Mills, the second-largest U.S. cereal producer, reported that earnings fell to 79 cents per share despite analyst expectations of 89 cents per share. Traders saw this as a sign of industry health, leaving Kraft slipping 4.38%. The VIX volatility index was unable to finish the day below 40. Instead it dropped only 1.8% to 40.06.

Filed under: Stocks, , , , , , , , , , ,

N.Z. Prime Minister Key Sees Nation Emerging Stronger After Tax Cuts

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said that the nation’s economy will emerge from this recession much stronger. “I, for one, am confident that New Zealand can come out of this recession stronger than many other countries,” Key said. “These tough times could be a springboard for much better times ahead.”

Since reaching a high of 0.8213 in late Feb. 2008, the New Zealand Dollar has lost as much as 40.4% against its U.S. counterpart. But the Prime Minister has sees this as a positive shift. Indeed, “the exchange rate is acting as a buffer.” That is, “firms in some industries, including for example, sheep meat, venison, and even niche manufacturing, are getting better incomes as a result of the lower currency,” he added.

Australia’s neighbor has been in recession since the first quarter of 2008. It is likely that throughout the entire year, New Zealand’s economy shrank at least 0.3%. In that 12 month period, the unemployment rate rose from 3.4% to 4.6%. Since June the central bank has slashed the overnight cash rate by 525 basis points from 8.25%, the most of any nation throughout that period.

Key has taken steps to ‘think outside-of-the-box.’ His latest piece of legislation aims to give incentives for Australians to vacation in New Zealand. He has increased Tourism New Zealand’s budget by $2.5 million, an increase of more than 25% of its current $9 million budget. “The impact of the global recession is likely to result in New Zealand becoming a more attractive holiday option as Australian consumers tighten their spending,” Key said.

‘Trickle-down economics’ seems to be what Key really wishes to aim for. The Prime Minister plans to cut income taxes on Apr. 1. But such action won’t be adequate. His comprehensive plan also seeks to increase infrastructure investments. In an effort to enhance their transportation efficiency, he plans on increasing the petrol tax by NZ6 cents per liter. Other spending will include school building programs because he is ‘determined to build on these strengths so that when the world starts growing again, New Zealand can be running faster than the countries we compete with,” he said.

– LG

Filed under: Global Economics, World, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mexico Slaps U.S. With $2.4 Billion Tariffs on 90 Products

Mexico slapped the United States with $2.4 billion worth of tariffs on 90 unnamed industrial and agricultural products. The move comes in retaliation after the U.S. Congress cancelled a pilot program that would allow a handful of Mexican truckers to deliver goods throughout the U.S.

According to Gerardo Ruiz Mateos, Mexico’s Economy Minister, the tariffs are allowed under the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). “We consider this action by the United States to be wrong, protectionist and clearly in violation of the treaty,” Ruiz Mateos added.

Mexico’s actions might be coming at one of the worst times in the U.S.’ economic history. In January, exports from the U.S. to the world fell 12.5% from the month prior. Since August the figure has plummeted 33.45%. To Mexico alone, that figure has fallen to levels last seen in Jul. 2005 or by 34% since August.

U.S.’ southern neighbor might be hurting itself too. Mexico’s Peso has tanked after hitting a 6-year high against the U.S. Dollar of 9.85 on Aug. 04th. It reached an all-time low only three days ago of 15.58. Such a violent change in price will make it more expensive for Mexicans to purchase goods produced north of its border. But with the enactment of such tariffs, the inflationary pressure felt from Peso weakness will only be exacerbated. Thus the new trade policy may actually prove to hurt Mexico as much as it does the United States.

– LG

UPDATE: Mexican, U.S. Officials to Discuss Trucking Dispute

Filed under: Global Economics, World, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Australia Plans to Cut Skilled Visas by 14% as Labor Market Weakens

Australia’s Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, has said that the nation will be reducing the number of skilled migrants visas by 18,500. This will be the first of such cuts in 10 years as the domestic labor market weakens to 5 year highs. Such a move will shrink the intake of skilled visas by 14% to 115,000.

In February, the unemployment rate leapt to levels last seen in Oct. 2004. The figure jumped by 0.4% points to 5.2% after economists had expected the figure to print to only 5.0%. The second month of the year also saw 53.8K full-time jobs converted into 55.6K part-time ones, signaling deeper labor-market weakness.

Evans told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio station that “we don’t want people coming in who are going to compete with Australians for limited jobs.”

The actions taken by the country’s immigration board may bolster inflation. In the final quarter of 2008, general consumer prices actually fell by -0.3%; the country felt the effects of deflation. Now, since there will be less workers available to meet the labor needs of job providers, employers will need to bid up the price of labor. As this happens the extra cost of labor is likely to be transferred to the cost of goods sold to the public. Hence inflation may rise.

This may sound good in theory, but since the visa cuts will only apply to skilled workers, the effect of such higher prices may only be felt in those goods which employ such people. Such goods may include electronics, research and development, and financial services.

Hence, the visa cuts might not actually help the common Australian, but instead aid those who are highly educated and are well-off on a long-term basis.
– LG

Filed under: Global Economics, Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,