Prieur’s readings (March 22, 2010)

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This post provides links to a number of interesting articles I have read over the past few days that you may also enjoy.

• The Economist: It wasn’t us! March 18, 2010.
Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke still do not believe monetary policy bears any blame for the crisis.

• Alan Abelson (Barron’s): Kiss zero interest goodbye? March 22, 2010.
A familiar mantra from the Fed. But eager-to-please Bernanke looks antsy about 0% interest rates.

• John Mauldin (Thoughts from the Frontline via Investors Insight): The threat to muddle through, March 20, 2010.
If the Chinese allowed the renminbi to rise, would that make the USA better off? That is the contention of a cabal of critics from Senators to Nobel laureates. Paul Krugman wants to see a 25% tariff on Chinese goods. In the newsletter, Mauldin examines that idea, and look at the real problems that we face.

• ReitWrecks: The next wave of the housing crisis – much more pain in 2010, 2011, March 17, 2010.
The Fed has now run out of time, and its efforts to re-inflate housing are coming to an end in favor of fighting even more damaging inflation in the broader economy.  This is not good news if you’re an underwater homeowner, and it looks house prices are going to get a lot worse before they get better.

• Don Peck: (Atlantic Monthly): How a new jobless era will transform America, March 2010.
The Great Recession may be over, but this era of high joblessness is probably just beginning. Before it ends, it will likely change the life course and character of a generation of young adults. It will leave an indelible imprint on many blue-collar men. It could cripple marriage as an institution in many communities. It may already be plunging many inner cities into a despair not seen for decades. Ultimately, it is likely to warp our politics, our culture, and the character of our society for years to come.

Rob Parenteau (new deal 2.0): The hyperinflation hyperventalists, March 19, 2010.
Suffice it to say that hyperinflation takes a very special set of conditions. It is not, contra Paul Krugman, all about fiscal deficits, nor is it only about fiscal deficits. That is why we do not see hyperinflation breaking out all over the place on any given day, despite the fact the governments have to first create the money that you and I use to pay taxes or buy Treasury bonds (because even though we “make” money, we cannot create it, without risking a spell in jail for counterfeiting). Know your history. Try not to pass out with the hyperventilating hyperinflationistas: they are a particularly virulent wing of the deficit errorists.

• John Hussman (Hussman Funds): Zombies and Rube Goldberg machines, March 22, 2010.
Allowing dead assets to stay on the books as if they are alive is precisely what created insolvent zombie banks in Japan, which continued to operate for over a decade at public expense, even while lending activity stagnated. On this front, the growing gap between delinquencies and foreclosures is notable. It’s not at all clear how this growing gap will be resolved.

• Craig Trudell (Bloomberg): S&P 500 in “air pocket”, could reach 1,225, March 19, 2010.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index has entered an “air pocket” of little resistance as it pushed to a 17-month high, according to analysts at Instinet, who say the benchmark could extend its rally. The area of little resistance extends to between 1,180 and 1,200, where prices may keep rising even with low volume.

• Michael Santoli (Barron’s): Down, but not out, March 22, 2010.
Why a retrenchment here won’t signal the stock bull’s end.

• William Hester (Hussman Funds): An update on valuation and forward earnings assumptions, March 2010.
Valuations look stretched on trailing fundamentals and forecasted operating profits, especially if you moderate the aggressive profit margins baked into them. Although robust and sustainable stock returns have often followed periods where the yield curve was steep, these periods typically coincided with valuations far below current levels.

• Kelly Evans (The Wall Street Journal): Rosier views + easier comps = profit growth, March 19, 2010.
The fourth-quarter earnings season is all but wrapped up, and it was, well, pretty impressive. Nearly three-quarters of the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index beat estimates (only about a half-dozen or so have yet to report). Total net income more than doubled from the prior year. The question now, with the first quarter drawing to a close, is whether that performance can be sustained.

• Clive Crook (Financial Times): US financial reform ignores wider terrain, March 2, 2010.
A consensus is emerging on the needed elements of regulatory reform, but not on the international co-operation necessary to make them work.

reading-22mrt1

• Wolfgang Münchau (Financial Times): Gaps in the eurozone “football league“, March 21, 2010.
The reality is that the eurozone, as it works today, is not a monetary union but a souped-up fixed exchange rate system.

• Andy Xie (Caing.com): Our next economic plague: Japan disease, March 15, 2010.
Growing old is hard, but watching formerly vibrant economies choke on debt and wither away is downright ugly.

• Jad Mouawad (The New York Times): China’s growth shifts the geopolitics of oil, March 19, 2010.
China’s oil demand is set to grow by 900,000 barrels a day in the next two years. Chinese oil consumption reached 8.5 million barrels a day last year, compared with 4.8 million in 2000. It will account for a third of the world’s total consumption growth this year. While China is by far the fastest-growing oil market in the world, the United States is still the top consumer: despite the slump, Americans consumed 18.5 million barrels a day in 2009. That amounts to 22 barrels of oil a year for each American, compared with 2.4 barrels for each Chinese.

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