Words from the (investment) wise for the week that was (March 30 – April 5, 2009)
“Words from the Wise” this week comes to you in a shortened format as my traveling in the US precludes me from doing my customary commentary. However, a full dose of excerpts from interesting news items and quotes from market commentators is provided.
Investors’ mood benefited last week from the potentially positive implications for the global economy emanating from the London G20 meeting, and the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s decision to relax mark-to-market accounting rules. And the previous week’s announcement of the Geithner plan to remove toxic assets from the balance sheets of banks was also still seen as a tailwind for stock markets.
Source: Chicago Tribune
Has the avalanche of policy actions and bank guarantees backstopped the global economy? If stock markets are a gauge of better tidings, it would seem that a bottoming phase might have started. Risk-taking investors pushed the S&P 500 Index to a straight four-week winning streak, registering a gain of 23.3% – the strongest since April 1933. But the jury is still out on whether the bear is simply offering a temporary reprieve.
The performance of the major asset classes is summarized by the chart below, courtesy of StockCharts.com.
For discussion about the direction of stock markets, see my recent posts “Video-o-rama: The road to recovery“, “Schiff interviews Faber“, “Stock market performance round-up: Signs of recovery” and “Donald Coxe: Investment Recommendations (March 2009)“. (And do make a point of listening to Donald Coxe’s webcast of April 3, which can be accessed from the sidebar of the Investment Postcards site.)
Next, a tag cloud of all the articles I read during the past week. This is a way of visualizing word frequencies at a glance. Key words such as “bank”, “market”, “index”, “prices”, “economy” and “financial” featured prominently.
Source: Moody’s Economy.com, March 30, 2009.
A snapshot of the week’s US economic data is provided below. (Click on the dates to see Northern Trust‘s assessment of the various data releases.)
Source: Yahoo Finance, April 3, 2009.
In addition to interest rate announcements by the Bank of Japan (Wednesday) and the Bank of England (Thursday), the US economic highlights for the week include the following:
Source: Northern Trust.
Click here for a summary of Wachovia’s weekly economic and financial commentary.
Source: Wall Street Journal Online, April 3, 2009.
John Maxwell said: “The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” (Hat tip: Charles Kirk.) Hopefully the “Words from the Wise” reviews will assist Investment Postcards readers in steering their investment portfolios to make the best use of the tailwinds and be cognizant of the dreaded headwinds.
That’s the way it looks from Cape Town (or, more accurately, from beautiful La Jolla, California, for the next few days).
Paul Kedrosky (Infectious Greed): The Trump-Madoff Connection
“I met Madoff a number of times at Mar-a-Lago. He loved golf, and I’d also see him at my golf club, which is nearby. One time he said to me, ‘Why don’t you invest with me?’ I said jokingly, ‘No thanks, I can lose my own money.'”
From an interview with Donald Trump in weekend NYT.
Source: Paul Kedrosky, Infectious Greed, March 29, 2009.
CEP News: G20 commits to ambitious stimulus plan extending into 2010
“Member nations said total stimulus spending will reach $5 trillion by the end of 2010, and that they will add an additional $1 trillion in global stimulus through the IMF and other international agencies.
“Meanwhile, the IMF has been promised $750 billion in funding for its lending operations worldwide through the sale of some of its gold reserves to increase its capital base. The Fund will also deploy $250 billion in Special Drawing Rights, a move analysts have said would effectively amount to a broad creation of global money supply.
“The G20 also agreed to regulate ‘systemically important hedge funds’, and says it will work together to develop a framework for reforming financial institutions, including responsible compensation schemes for employees.
“On global trade, the Group has agreed to provide $250 billion in financing to stimulate global trade, and has voiced calls to conclude the Doha talks.
“The G20 has asked the OECD to publish a list of tax havens which the G20 will target to limit tax evasion.”
Source: Erik Kevin Franco, CEP News, April 2, 2009.
CNBC: One-on-one with Soros
Source: CNBC, April 2, 2009.
CEP News: FASB eases mark-to-market accounting rules
“Analysts interviewed by Bloomberg said the move could increase net income for financial institutions by as much as 20%, by significantly easing the hit that financial institutions have had to take on so-called toxic debt on their balance sheets.
“‘Cynics will claim this is a thinly veiled attempt to disguise the seriousness of the financial crisis and losses being faced,’ said Marc Chandler at Brown Brothers Harriman. ‘On the other hand, there are many who see the mark-to-market as an unreasonable demand for financial instruments with no markets.’
“Indeed, over the last several quarters, market participants have argued that interest in toxic assets, such as mortgage-backed securities, has essentially dried up, meaning that firms have had to value some assets as worthless even though they could eventually regain their worth.
“The decision also comes ahead of earnings season, with the first quarter of 2009 having ended last week, and with Alcoa expected to release their report on Tuesday. The FASB also said the decision will be retroactive, allowing firms to take less writedowns.
“Furthermore, analysts have argued that the decision will reduce the effectiveness of the US Treasury’s Public Private Partnership Investment Program, whereby the government will back the purchase of toxic assets.”
Source: Erik Kevin Franco, CEP News, April 2, 2009.
Barry Habib (Mortgage Success Source): The real reason behind the economic crisis – “mark to market”
Source: Barry Habib, Mortgage Success Source.
Financial Times: Bailed-out banks eye toxic asset buys
“The plans proved controversial, with critics charging that the government’s public-private partnership – which provide generous loans to investors – are intended to help banks sell, rather than acquire, troubled securities and loans.
“Spencer Bachus, the top Republican on the House financial services committee, vowed after being told of the plans by the FT to introduce legislation to stop financial institutions ‘gaming the system to reap taxpayer-subsidised windfalls’.
“Mr Bachus added it would mark ‘a new level of absurdity’ if financial institutions were ‘colluding to swap assets at inflated prices using taxpayers’ dollars’.
“Many experts think it is essential to take these assets from leveraged institutions such as banks that are responsible for the lion’s share of lending, into the hands of unleveraged financial institutions such as traditional asset managers, where they will have much less impact on the flow of credit to the economy.
“Banks have three options if they want to buy toxic assets: apply to become one of four or five fund managers that will purchase troubled securities; bid for packages of bad loans; or buy into funds set up by others. The government plan does not allow banks to buy their own assets, but there is no ban on the purchase of securities and loans sold by others.”
Source: Francesco Guerrera and Krishna Guha, Financial Times, April 2, 2009.
Financial Times: Obama gets tough on US car industry
“Condemning ‘a failure of leadership’ from Washington to Detroit for the decline of America’s carmakers, President Barack Obama rejected the turnaround plans GM and Chrysler presented to his administration last month. He said the government would fund GM for 60 days as it tries to put together a more aggressive restructuring programme. He gave smaller Chrysler 30 days to strike an acceptable rescue alliance with Italian carmaker Fiat.
“The deadlines marked the latest step in the administration’s increasingly interventionist approach to the auto industry. Just hours after forcing Rick Wagoner out as GM chief, the Obama administration said it would let GM and Chrysler slide into bankruptcy if necessary to facilitate the industry’s restructuring. ‘Their best chance at success may well require utilising the bankruptcy code in a quick and surgical way,’ it said.
“Fritz Henderson, speaking on his first day as GM’s chief executive, indicated that he believed the risk of GM filing for bankruptcy had grown.
“The federal government appears to favour a restructuring plan – in development since November – under which GM could file for bankruptcy protection within a month and then split the viable parts of its business from its messier obligations, people close to the matter say.
“A ‘new’ GM containing the good assets – and backed by a plan to build and sell cars that the government feels is acceptable – could then emerge from bankruptcy protection.”
Source: Tom Braithwaite, Julie MacIntosh, Bertrand Benoit and John Reed, Financial Times, March 30, 2009.
MarketWatch: California may tap US Treasury, Europe for credit
“California Treasurer Bill Lockyer said in an interview that the state is talking with Treasury Department staff, including Secretary Timothy Geithner, about getting federally issued letters of credit to back upcoming issues of short-term securities known as revenue anticipation notes.
“Lockyer also said the state will probably issue about $12 billion to $16 billion revenue anticipation notes this summer.
“But it may have trouble getting private banks to issue letters of credit to secure the notes, a possibility that’s prompted it to seek government backup.
“‘What we’re starting to talk to them about is … short-term liquidity problems’ at the state and its municipalities, he said.
“Backup from the federal government would be for ‘contingency’ purposes. ‘We may need to get letters of credit from Treasury,’ he added.”
Source: Laura Mandaro & Stacey Delo, MarketWatch, March 31, 2009.
Bloomberg: Financial rescue nears GDP as pledges top $12.8 trillion
“New pledges from the Fed, the Treasury Department and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. include $1 trillion for the Public-Private Investment Program, designed to help investors buy distressed loans and other assets from US banks. The money works out to $42,105 for every man, woman and child in the US and 14 times the $899.8 billion of currency in circulation. The nation’s gross domestic product was $14.2 trillion in 2008.
“President Barack Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner met with the chief executives of the nation’s 12 biggest banks on March 27 at the White House to enlist their support to thaw a 20-month freeze in bank lending.
“‘The president and Treasury Secretary Geithner have said they will do what it takes,’ Goldman Sachs Group Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein said after the meeting. ‘If it is enough, that will be great. If it is not enough, they will have to do more.’
“The following table details how the Fed and the government have committed the money on behalf of American taxpayers over the past 20 months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.”
Source: Mark Pittman and Bob Ivry, Bloomberg, March 31, 2009.
The New York Times: Obama’s ersatz capitalism
“With the government absorbing the losses, the market doesn’t care if the banks are ‘cheating’ them by selling their lousiest assets, because the government bears the cost …
“Paying fair market values for the assets will not work. Only by overpaying for the assets will the banks be adequately recapitalized. But overpaying for the assets simply shifts the losses to the government. In other words, the Geithner plan works only if and when the taxpayer loses big time.
“Some Americans are afraid that the government might temporarily ‘nationalize’ the banks, but that option would be preferable to the Geithner plan. After all, the FDIC has taken control of failing banks before, and done it well …
“What the Obama administration is doing is far worse than nationalization: it is ersatz capitalism, the privatizing of gains and the socializing of losses. It is a ‘partnership’ in which one partner robs the other.”
Source: Joseph Stiglitz, The New York Times, March 31, 2009.
CNBC: Roubini’s read on the recession
Source: CNBC, March 31, 2009.
Financial Times: OECD predicts 10% jobless rate for 2010
“In a graphic indication of the global recession’s transmission from the financial sector to the rest of the economy, Angel Gurría warned that the ranks of the unemployed in the 30 advanced OECD countries would swell ‘by about 25 million people, by far the largest and most rapid increase in OECD unemployment in the postwar period’.
“He said the misery of joblessness – what Mr Gurría described as ‘rapidly turning into a jobs and social crisis’ – would come as the OECD expected advanced economies to contract by 4.3% in 2009 with little or no growth expected in 2010. The forecast is significantly worse than the International Monetary Fund’s most recent estimate of a 3-3.5% contraction for 2009.”
Source: Chris Giles, Ralph Atkins and Mark Mulligan, Financial Times, March 30, 2009.
Asha Bangalore (Northern Trust): Employment situation remains grim
“The headlines and details of the employment report present a dismal picture of employment conditions in the US economy. The main message is that the Fed is on hold for the foreseeable future. That said, there are positive aspects in the report we are watching closely – employment in construction, manufacturing, and temporary help (see charts 7 and 8) – and it is a matter of time before we can conclude if in fact these are meaningful signals of economic recovery.”
Source: Asha Bangalore, Northern Trust – Daily Global Commentary, April 3, 2009.
CNBC: Pimco’s Gross talks jobs report
Source: CNBC, April 3, 2009.
Yahoo Finance: Nouriel Roubini sounds, GASP, positive about economy!
“NYU professor Nouriel Roubini, you’ll recall, is known as ‘Dr. Doom’, the most famous of the handful of economists who actually predicted the current debacle. A few days ago, after a speech in Italy, he was quoted as saying he might see some ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. And he repeats a similarly non-apocalyptic outlook on TechTicker in our interview here.
“To be clear: Roubini is NOT predicting an imminent recovery. He thinks that most economists are still way too bullish, that the stock market will retest its lows, and that unemployment will eventually rise over 10%. He just thinks that the quarter that is now ending, Q1, will be the worst rate of decline in the economy and that things will gradually stop deteriorating and then get better from here.”
Source: Yahoo Finance, March 31, 2009.
(in)efficient frontiers: Rising inflation expectations
“The chart illustrates the relative price performance of the Barclay’s iShare TIPS fund and the 10-year T-note futures over the last 4 months. As can be seen from the chart, the basket of TIPS in the iShare has appreciated by about 8% while the treasury contract has been roughly flat. The best explanation for this relative outperformance is rising inflationary expectations.
“Last fall, when TIPS falsely appeared to be signaling deflation, those who championed massive government spending cited TIPS performance as supportive evidence. Now that TIPS are clearly starting to warn of rising inflation, those same voices are noticeably silent on this fact.”
Source: Jeff Korzenik, (in)efficient frontiers, March 31, 2009.
CNBC: Bernanke – housing & the economy
Source: CNBC, April 3, 2009.
Case Shiller: S&P/Case-Shiller – downward spiral of home prices persists
“The chart above depicts the annual returns of the 10-City Composite and the 20-City Composite Home Price Indices. Following the lead of the 14 metro areas described above, the 10-City and 20-City Composites also set new records, with annual declines of 19.4% and 19.0%, respectively.
“‘Home prices, which peaked in mid-2006, continued their decline in 2009,’ says David Blitzer, Chairman of the Index committee at Standard & Poor’s. ‘There are very few bright spots that one can see in the data.'”
Source: Standard & Poor’s, March 31, 2009.
Asha Bangalore (Northern Trust): Pending Home Sales Index – positive sign
Source: Asha Bangalore, Northern Trust, April 1, 2009.
Asha Bangalore (Northern Trust): Consumer confidence retraces a small part of loss
Source: Asha Bangalore, Northern Trust, March 31, 2009.
Asha Bangalore (Northern Trust): Factory sector is tiptoeing toward a recovery
“Indexes tracking production employment, exports, imports, backlogs, and prices advanced in March, while indexes measuring vendor deliveries and inventories fell.”
Source: Asha Bangalore, Northern Trust, April 1, 2009.
CNBC: Gross Talks Bonds
Source: CNBC, March 31, 2009.
Bloomberg: Geithner’s non-recourse gift keeps on giving to Gross
“The plan may reward investors with 20% annual returns on ‘really ‘toxic’ mortgages bought at 45 cents on the dollar by allowing them to borrow six times their money with ‘non-recourse’ government-backed debt, New York-based Credit Suisse Group AG analysts Carl Lantz and Dominic Konstam wrote in a report. That loan would be worth 15 cents to an investor seeking the same return who can’t use borrowed money.
“Geithner’s Public-Private Investment Program, or PPIP, promises to boost prices enough to encourage banks, insurers and hedge funds to sell their mortgage holdings, freeing them to make loans while creating a potential windfall for investors. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said March 20 that ‘credit market dysfunction’ is countering efforts to fix the economy.
“‘One of the challenges has been that leverage has really been pulled away from the system and as a result the kinds of returns investors are looking for haven’t really been available,’ said Ken Hackel, head of fixed-income strategy at RBS Securities in Greenwich, Connecticut. RBS is one of the 16 primary dealers that are obligated to bid at the Treasury’s auctions of government debt and which trade with the Fed.
“Since Geithner unveiled the plan on March 23, Pimco, which manages the world’s biggest bond fund, and New York-based BlackRock, the largest publicly traded US asset manager, said they may be interested in participating in PPIP.
“‘This is perhaps the first win/win/win policy to be put on the table,’ Gross, co-chief investment officer of Newport Beach, California-based Pimco, said in an e-mailed statement last week.”
Source: Jody Shenn, Bloomberg, April 2, 2009.
Bespoke: 30-year fixed mortgage drops below 5%
Source: Bespoke, March 30, 2009.
John Mauldin (Thoughts from the Frontline):
“Let’s go back to the really long run. Starting in 1802, we find that stocks have beat bonds by about 2.5%, which, compounding over two centuries, is a huge differential. But there were some periods just like the recent past where stocks did in fact not beat bonds.
“Look at the following chart. It shows the cumulative relative performance of stocks over bonds for the last 207 years. What it shows is that early in the 19th century there was a period of 68 years where bonds outperformed stocks, another similar 20-year period corresponding with the Great Depression, and then the recent episode of 1968-2009.
Source: John Mauldin, Thoughts from the Frontline, March 30, 2009
Bespoke: Largest 4-week winning streak since 1933
“The average change in the fifth week following these 4-week periods has been 0.24%, while the median change has been -0.35%. The average change over the next 4 weeks has been 1.87%.”
Source: Bespoke, April 3, 2009.
Bespoke: S&P 500 breaks above recent highs
Source: Bespoke, April 2, 2009.
Bespoke: Percentage of stocks above 50-day moving averages
Source: Bespoke, April 3, 2009.
Bespoke: Market volatility drastically lower, but still high
Source: Bespoke, April 1, 2009.
Richard Russell (Dow Theory Letters): Identifying a bear market bottom
“This is NOT what has occurred. From its March 9 low, the Buying Power Index has risen an impressive 46 points. However, and this is the big problem, since March 9 Lowry’s Selling Pressure Index has declined by a mere 13 points. Thus, Selling Pressure has only dropped half as much as Buying Power has advanced. This suggests that there is still far too much desire to sell built into this market. Any cessation of buying will therefore succumb to selling, and this is NOT how new bull markets start. Selling Pressure is still far too high.
“From another standpoint I continue to believe that this advance is not the beginning of a bull market. Primary movements in the stock market tend to have a slow, persistent plodding look. In contrast, corrective moves tend to be rapid and violent, often spurred on by panic short covering. The action of this market since the March lows has the look of a secondary correction. The speed and the steep angle of ascent is suggestive of a bear market rally.
“Since March 9, the Dow has gained roughly 940 points in nine days. Thus, the Dow has regained 15% of its bear market losses in a mere nine days. This is bear market correction-type action.”
Source: Richard Russell, The Dow Theory Letters, March 31, 2009.
Richard Russell (Dow Theory Letters): Watch out for fizzling rallies
“As 2009 opened, three weeks before Barack Obama took office, the Dow Jones Industrials closed at 9,034 on January 2nd, its highest level since the autumn panic. The Dow Industrials melted down to as low as 6,500 on March 6, for an overall decline of 30% in two months, and to its lowest level in 12-years. The Dow Jones Commodity Index skidded to a six-year low, after tumbling by 57% since last July.
“We are now in the third Dow rally of 1000 points or more since October 7, 2007. The first over-1000 point rally started in March, 2008. The second started on November 17, 2008. The most recent over-1000 rally started on March 2, 2009. The first two rallies were wiped out with new lows in the Dow after the rallies fizzled.”
Source: Richard Russell, Dow Theory Letters, July 3, 2009.
Bespoke: Strategists continue to lower year-end S&P 500 price targets
Source: Bespoke, March 31, 2009.
David Fuller (Fullermoney): Trillions of bailout money will buy downside cushion
“Forget another stock market meltdown – not all stock markets are equal but the bear has been ending since last October’s selling climax and the new bull is led by Asian emerging markets and South American resources markets.
“Forget long-dated government bonds as a safe haven – they are now a sucker’s game, propped up by the threat and occasional reality of quantitative easing, at a time when risk appetite is slowly returning.
“Forget US dollar safe haven – it is a Madoff-style Ponzi scheme, in which it pays to ask for your money back early.
“Expect commodity inflation – this is being led by precious metals and copper.”
Source: David Fuller, Fullermoney, March 31, 2009.
Jeffrey Saut (Raymond James): Kites!?
“And don’t look now, but lumber has quietly gained nearly 30% since its February 2009 low. Again, that’s pretty impressive action given the current housing backdrop!
“Meanwhile, we are watching Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE), for this is how recessions end. Indeed, if the ‘real’ PCE has stabilized, the end of the recession is not far off. Manifestly, the stock market always turns-up before the economy bottoms. So if the January/February strength in the PCE is for real, it is an extremely positive event. However, if the PCE strength is just a reaction to the +5.8% COLA adjustment, as well as the 13.2% increase in IRS tax refunds year/year, then the upcoming month’s data will revert to a more subdued reading. Accordingly, we are watching the PCE closely.
“While we are watching, however, our investments in platinum broke out to new reaction ‘highs’ last week, and indices playing to Brazil are attempting to break out to the upside. Still, it is day 16 in the ‘buying stampede’ and we have turned cautious. And, isn’t it interesting how the markets follow the news, for following ‘Friday’s fall’ (-148 DJIA) the Obama Administration warned that some banks will need more government aid and that bankruptcy might be the best option for GM and Chrysler.”
Source: Jeffrey Saut, Raymond James, March 30, 2009.
Bespoke: First quarter sector performance
Source: Bespoke, March 31, 2009.
BCA Research: Disenchanted with the US dollar
“There are legitimate reasons for the Chinese to be worried about their dollar holdings: China’s foreign exchange reserves total $2 trillion, or 48% of GDP. The Chinese authorities are growing increasingly disenchanted with their exposure to the US dollar, worried that Fed policy is debasing the currency.
“Last week central bank Governor Zhou called for a reform of the international monetary system that would see the US dollar replaced as a reserve currency, such as the SDR. However, leaked parts of the upcoming G20 Communique do not hint that such a ‘super sovereign’ currency is being seriously discussed at high levels. Even if a consensus forms that a new reserve currency is a good idea, global authorities would have to convince international business people to invoice in SDRs. Moreover, a wide variety of financial assets denominated in SDRs would have to be developed and traded in deep markets. Such a massive undertaking would take many years to develop.
“More likely, China will continue to slowly diversify away from the US dollar into other countries, a process that has been ongoing for years. China is unlikely to suddendly ‘dump’ US dollar assets, as this would damage China’s own interests. Bottom line: The structural downtrend in the US dollar has probably resumed, but it should be a fairly benign adjustment.”
Source: BCA Research, March 31, 2009.
Financial Times: China and Argentina in currency swap
“Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, said the deal was signed on Sunday by Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People’s Bank of China, and Martín Redrado, Argentine central bank president, in Medellín, Colombia, where they are attending a meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank.
“An Argentine official confirmed a deal had been discussed and said the fine print was being worked out and negotiations were ‘very advanced’.
“Beijing has signed Rmb650 billion of deals since December with Malaysia, South Korea, Hong Kong, Belarus, Indonesia and, now, Argentina in an attempt to unblock trade financing that has been severely curtailed by the crisis.”
Source: Jude Webber, Financial Times, March 31, 2009.
Bloomberg: Frank Holmes says “odds favor” oil prices rising to $65
Source: Bloomberg, March 31, 2009.
CEP News: ECB’s rate cut takes into account subdued prices & weak demand, Trichet says
“‘After today’s decision, we expect price stability to be maintained over the medium term, thereby supporting the purchasing power of euro area households,’ Trichet said during his press conference following the central bank’s rate announcement on Thursday.
“‘The Governing Council will continue to ensure a firm anchoring of medium-term inflation expectations,’ he said.
“Trichet said the ECB Governing Council ‘voted by consensus’ to lower the main refinancing rate by 25 basis points to a record low 1.25%. Economists, however, had expected a 50 bps cut.
“In his introductory remarks, Trichet noted that economic activity has weakened markedly in the euro area and that it will likely remain at a low level for the year.
“Nevertheless, falling commodity prices and large amounts of stimulus to the economy and the financial system should help consumption recover in 2010, he said, adding that risks to the economy are broadly balanced as a result.
“Disinflationary pressures, due largely to the sharp fall in global commodity prices, are likely to push price growth temporarily into negative territory, he said, but added that such developments are ‘not relevant from a monetary policy perspective’.
Source: CEP News, April 2, 2009.
CEP News: Government efforts having effect on financial markets, says ECB’s Bini Smaghi
“Government efforts, including fiscal stimulus plans and rescue measures, ‘are starting to be felt in financial markets,’ Bini Smaghi said in a speech given in Milan, Italy on Monday.
“However, the financial industry is still likely to contract, even after the global economy finally recovers, the central banker said. Smaller profit margins and a smaller labour force in the sector is to be expected, he said.
“At the same time, global trade is likely to increase at a slower pace than before the crisis, Bini Smaghi said, adding that risk aversion is likely to remain at high levels for some time.”
Source: CEP News, March 30, 2009.
CEP News: SNB to use “all means” to prevent deflation, says Hildebrand
“In March, the SNB reduced its three-month Libor target rate by 25 basis points and announced that it would begin purchasing foreign currency through FX markets in an effort to counteract further appreciation of the Swiss currency.
“‘A renewed appreciation of the franc contains the risk of a sustained deflationary dynamic in Switzerland,’ Hildebrand said at an event in Bern on Thursday. ‘It’s about preventing’ deflation ‘by all means’.”
Source: CEP News, April 2, 2009.
Reuters: Soros – Eastern Europe “prime candidate” for IMF help
“Speaking at the London School of Economic ahead of the G20 summit, Soros said: ‘G20 should not just provide pious words but should take steps to stabilise periphery countries.'”
Source: Cecilia Valente, Reuters, March 31, 2009.
CEP News: German manufacturing PMI improves further
“The German manufacturing purchasing managers index rose to 32.4 in March, up one point from February’s figure and in line with both preliminary estimates and expectations.
“March’s increase marks the second consecutive month of improvement after PMI reached a 12-year low in January of 32.0.
“Nevertheless, the figure remains well in contraction territory, with the average taken across Q1 as a whole notably lower than the previous quarter’s figure.”
Source: CEP News, April 1, 2009.
CEP News: Improvement in UK services PMI suggests worst may be over
“The UK services purchasing managers index rose beyond expectations to 45.5 in March from February’s 43.2 level. Economists had expected a far more modest gain to 43.5 for the month. March’s gain is the largest recorded since last September.
“‘The latest upturn in the activity index and another improvement in business confidence to a post-Lehman Brothers high provide further evidence that the severe contractions in services output at the end of last year may now be behind us,’ Markit senior economist Paul Smith said.”
Source: CEP News, April 3, 2009.
Nationwide: UK – surprise bounce in house prices
“Commenting on the figures Fionnuala Earley, Nationwide’s Chief Economist, said:
“‘Spring brought a surprise bounce to house prices in March. The price of a typical house increased for the first time since October 2007, rising by 0.9% during the month and reducing the annual rate of fall from -17.6% to -15.7%. This brings the price of a typical house to £150,946.
“The moderation in the annual rate of fall is somewhat distorted by conditions last year and so it would be unwise to draw strong conclusions from the significant slowdown in the annual rate of fall. Equally, while the rise in prices in March is welcome, it is far too soon to see this as evidence that the trough of the market has been reached.
“The Bank of England has already taken strong measures to ease the tensions in economic and financial markets by cutting rates and commencing quantitative easing. However it will take time for these to work through into the housing market before we can expect a sustained recovery in house prices.”
Source: Nationwide, April 2, 2009.
Li & Fung Research Centre: Chinese PMI rebounds to over 50%
Click here for the full report.
Source: Li & Fund Research Centre, April 2009.
China View: Soros – China’s system more suited to emergency conditions
“Speaking at a seminar organized by the London School of Economics ahead of the G20 summit, Soros said China has the means to stimulate its economy and keep the growth.
“He noted that China was ‘badly hit as the rest of the world,’ in some ways ‘even worse than some countries’ by the current economic crisis.
“Soros, however, predicted that China ‘will be coming out of the recession faster than the rest of the world’.
“The billionaire investor spoke highly of the stimulus packages that the Chinese government introduced, which have led to significant expansion of bank lending and a rally in the stock market.”
Source: China View, April 1, 2009.
James Pressler (Northern Trust): Japan – more news about a worsening situation
“With global demand having all but dried up and the yen unwilling to depreciate significantly, it is readily apparent that Japan is not going to export itself out of its current recession. That being said, any near-term hope is going to have to emerge from fiscal stimulus. With today being the first day of the new fiscal year, it is also the first day under more relaxed fiscal policy and extra government spending. This will offer the economy a little boost while exports remain horribly weak, and possibly ease some of the pain from such a sharp economic contraction.
“From a GDP standpoint, the economy likely posted a year-over-year drop of 6% or more in Q1 due to external weakness. With some fiscal stimulus factoring in to the national accounts, the economy will not contract as sharply starting in Q2, but that does suggest any real economic growth before 2010 – just less pain.”
Source: James Pressler, Northern Trust, April 1, 2009.
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