Foreign Affairs – The End of National Currency – Benn Steil

Foreign Affairs – The End of National Currency – Benn Steil: “Summary: Global financial instability has sparked a surge in ‘monetary nationalism’ — the idea that countries must make and control their own currencies. But globalization and monetary nationalism are a dangerous combination, a cause of financial crises and geopolitical tension. The world needs to abandon unwanted currencies, replacing them with dollars, euros, and multinational currencies as yet unborn.”

But the dollar’s privileged status as today’s global money is not heaven-bestowed. The dollar is ultimately just another money supported only by faith that others will willingly accept it in the future in return for the same sort of valuable things it bought in the past. This puts a great burden on the institutions of the U.S. government to validate that faith. And those institutions, unfortunately, are failing to shoulder that burden. Reckless U.S. fiscal policy is undermining the dollar’s position even as the currency’s role as a global money is expanding.

Four decades ago, the renowned French economist Jacques Rueff, writing just a few years before the collapse of the Bretton Woods dollar-based gold-exchange standard, argued that the system “attains such a degree of absurdity that no human brain having the power to reason can defend it.” The precariousness of the dollar’s position today is similar. The United States can run a chronic balance-of-payments deficit and never feel the effects. Dollars sent abroad immediately come home in the form of loans, as dollars are of no use abroad. “If I had an agreement with my tailor that whatever money I pay him he returns to me the very same day as a loan,” Rueff explained by way of analogy, “I would have no objection at all to ordering more suits from him.”

With the U.S. current account deficit running at an enormous 6.6 percent of GDP (about $2 billion a day must be imported to sustain it), the United States is in the fortunate position of the suit buyer with a Chinese tailor who instantaneously returns his payments in the form of loans — generally, in the U.S. case, as purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds. The current account deficit is partially fueled by the budget deficit (a dollar more of the latter yields about 20-50 cents more of the former), which will soar in the next decade in the absence of reforms to curtail federal “entitlement” spending on medical care and retirement benefits for a longer-living population. The United States — and, indeed, its Chinese tailor — must therefore be concerned with the sustainability of what Rueff called an “absurdity.” In the absence of long-term fiscal prudence, the United States risks undermining the faith foreigners have placed in its management of the dollar — that is, their belief that the U.S. government can continue to sustain low inflation without having to resort to growth-crushing interest-rate hikes as a means of ensuring continued high capital inflows.”

Spy satellites turn their gaze onto each other – space – 24 January 2009 – New Scientist

Spy satellites turn their gaze onto each other – space – 24 January 2009 – New Scientist: “SPY satellites have a new role: as well as watching us they are now spying on each other.

The Pentagon admitted last week that it is using two covert inspection satellites developed for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to assess damage to a failed geostationary satellite – something no one suspected the US could do. If such satellites can get that close to a target, they could probably attack it.”

Why some people can’t put two and two together – science-in-society – 24 January 2009 – New Scientist

Why some people can’t put two and two together – science-in-society – 24 January 2009 – New Scientist: “JILL, 19, from Michigan, wants to go to university to read political science. There is just one problem: she keeps failing the mathematics requirement. ‘I am an exceptional student in all other subjects, so my consistent failure at math made me feel very stupid,’ she says. In fact, she stopped going to her college mathematics class after a while because, she says, ‘I couldn’t take the daily reminder of what an idiot I was.’

Last November, Jill got herself screened for learning disabilities. She found that while her IQ is above average, her numerical ability is equivalent to that of an 11-year-old because she has something called dyscalculia. The diagnosis came partly as a relief, because it explained a lot of difficulties she had in her day-to-day life. She can’t easily read a traditional, analogue clock, for example, and always arrives 20 minutes early for fear of being late. When it comes to paying in shops or restaurants, she hands her wallet to a friend and asks them to do the calculation, knowing that she is likely to get it wrong.”

Lights go out across Britain as recession hits home | Business | The Guardian

Lights go out across Britain as recession hits home | Business | The Guardian: “Britain’s days as the fastest growing economy in Europe were officially declared over yesterday as the deepest recession in a generation saw consumers turning off the lights and Poles returning home.

While official figures showed the economy contracting at its fastest since 1980, National Grid said demand for electricity had fallen over Christmas at homes and factories across the land, and Poland confirmed that thousands of its citizens were coming home from Britain and Ireland” Rule change would allow Ottawa to buy bank stock Rule change would allow Ottawa to buy bank stock: “Ottawa is looking at changing little-known rules that prevent governments from owning shares of Canadian banks and insurers, according to sources.

Doing so would not only allow the government to inject capital into banks if that ever became necessary, it could also make it easier for Canadian financial institutions to pull off foreign takeovers, and ease the way for sovereign wealth funds to invest in institutions here.”

Not sure if I should be concerned on this?


D A I J I W O R L D: “Ratnakar, Kasaragod/ Dubai Friday, January 16, 2009
What one observes today is just a trickle. At present only the building designers and real estate people are affected. Once the major ongoing projects gets completed in a few months, there will be an exodus of tens of thousands of construction workers. The Indian government must wake up to this reality and the social problems associated with it.”

Interesting comment on this news article

The Associated Press: No credible terror threats seen for Super Bowl

The Associated Press: No credible terror threats seen for Super Bowl: “WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. intelligence officials have found no credible threat of terrorist attacks at the Super Bowl scheduled Feb. 1 in Tampa, Fla., but they are nevertheless raising security concerns.

A joint FBI and Homeland Security intelligence assessment obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday cautions that Raymond James Stadium, the Super Bowl site, does not have the typical security features of permanently secure buildings and arenas.

The report, dated Tuesday, says possible attackers could be deterred by the posting of hundreds of visible security officials, barriers and other measures.”

This is good news

RISK Mismanagement – What Led to the Financial Meltdown –

RISK Mismanagement – What Led to the Financial Meltdown – “THERE AREN’T MANY widely told anecdotes about the current financial crisis, at least not yet, but there’s one that made the rounds in 2007, back when the big investment banks were first starting to write down billions of dollars in mortgage-backed derivatives and other so-called toxic securities. This was well before Bear Stearns collapsed, before Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were taken over by the federal government, before Lehman fell and Merrill Lynch was sold and A.I.G. saved, before the $700 billion bailout bill was rushed into law. Before, that is, it became obvious that the risks taken by the largest banks and investment firms in the United States — and, indeed, in much of the Western world — were so excessive and foolhardy that they threatened to bring down the financial system itself. On the contrary: this was back when the major investment firms were still assuring investors that all was well, these little speed bumps notwithstanding — assurances based, in part, on their fantastically complex mathematical models for measuring the risk in their various portfolios.”

Cash-rich companies list –

Cash-rich companies list –

This could be a good investment list.

The entire list is 163 companies, but here are top 20 ranked by free cash flow (operating cash flow minus capital expenditures).

The list shows company name, ticker symbol, industry, free cash flow.

Tokyo Dome, TKDOY, business support, $39.8 billion

Volkswagen AG, VLKAY, auto maker, $19.5 billion

Hennes & Mauritz AB, HNNMY, specialty retail, $11.8 billion

Arcelor Mittal, MT, steel/iron, $11.1 billion

BHP Billiton Ltd., BBL, mining, $9.3 billion

Apple Inc., AAPL, computer equipment, $8.5 billion

Oracle Corp., ORCL, business applications, $7.6 billion

Nestle SA, NSRGY, food manufacturing, $7.1 billion

MMC Norilsk Nickel, MMC, metal products, $6.2 billion

United Technologies, UTX, diversified-industrial materials, $4.9 billion

Google Inc., GOOG, business/online services, $4.8 billion

SAP Corp., SAP, business applications, $3.3 billion

Bank of Nova Scotia, BNS, international bank, $3.3 billion

Bayer AG, BAYRY, chemicals, $3.2 billion

Imperial Oil, IMO, imperial/gas services, $3.2 billion

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., BMY, drugs, $3 billion

General Dynamics, GD, aerospace/defense, $2.9 billion

BCE Inc., BCE, telecom services, $2.9 billion

Emerson Electric Co., EMR, electric equipment, $2.6 billion

eBay, Inc., EBAY, online retail, $2.5 billion

Source: Morningstar Inc.

The Simple Dollar » The Selling of Gold

I agree. There has been a rush of gold sellers in the market these days. How much is just salesmanship I don’t know, it does somehow feel dodgy. Diversify your assets (inc gold, housing, cash) and spend time and money on what is most important, friends and family.

The Simple Dollar » The Selling of Gold: “Over the last several months, I’ve seen a continuous increase in the number of advertisements out there for gold. For me, this reached a fever pitch yesterday, when a local radio station I often listen to apparently sold a one hour infomercial in which two pitchmen were incessantly talking about how great an investment gold is in the current marketplace – and, obviously, talking about their own business from which you could buy gold.”

Will Google Track the Stomach Bug Like It Did the Flu? – Search Marketing News Blog – Search Engine Watch (SEW)

Will Google Track the Stomach Bug Like It Did the Flu? – Search Marketing News Blog – Search Engine Watch (SEW): “The stomach bug was not only afflicting others in Ohio, but a search on Google News revealed that it had earlier been spreading in the western part of my home state of North Carolina and throughout the U.S.

I also learned that the British were more likely to call it ‘norovirus’ and that it was spreading like wildfire throughout the UK. (It is also called the ‘Norwalk virus’ which is only completely ironic since I’m in Norwalk, Ohio.)”

I have been feeling crook this week with this. Trends are interesting!! Desperate for credit Desperate for credit: “For Rick Jamieson, CEO of a 135-employee maker of brake pads, the credit slowdown couldn’t be starker.

“Fourteen years ago when we started up in business, the banks lent us huge sums of money, really just on a business plan,” says Mr. Jamieson, a chartered accountant who co-founded ABS Friction Inc. in Guelph, about 100 kilometres west of Toronto.

“Now, we’re a solid, long-term player in the business, and it’s really difficult to get funds out of the banks.””