Archive for the ‘global financial crisis’ Category

Global Financial Crisis, Intertwined Economies, Too Much Debt: Now What?

November 16, 2008

Barack Obama surely has one of the toughest leadership challenges any incoming president has ever faced. We’re in the midst of a terrible economic meltdown, the current administration has lost all credibility, the House of Representatives is full of knuckle-dragging Neanderthals, and the public is being whipsawed between free-market fundamentalists preaching the virtues of just letting the market rip and left-wingers who think we can punish Wall Street while protecting Main Street. It feels like a mess with no one in charge.

Now is when we need a president who has the skill, the vision and the courage to cut through this cacophony, pull us together as one nation and inspire and enable us to do the one thing we can and must do right now:

Go shopping.

Obama can’t wait until Jan. 20 to weigh in on this. If we don’t stimulate the global economy fast enough and big enough, some of Obama’s inaugural balls might be held in soup kitchens.

When President Bush told us to go shopping after 9/11, he was right. We needed to stimulate the economy then. The problem was that the Bush economic team never turned off the green light and told people to “go saving.” So with easy credit seemingly endlessly available, American consumers saved virtually nothing and bid up housing prices to record levels. Retailers expanded stores and China expanded factories to accommodate all the shopping. It was quite a party. We had banks in America giving mortgages to people whose only qualification “was that they could fog up a knife,” one mortgage broker told me.

By Thomas Friedman
The New York Times

But when something seems too good to be true, it usually is. When these reckless mortgages eventually blew up, it led to a credit crisis. Banks stopped lending. That soon morphed into an equity crisis, as worried investors liquidated stock portfolios. The equity crisis made people feel poor and metastasized into a consumption crisis, which is why purchases of cars, appliances, electronics, homes and clothing have just fallen off a cliff. This, in turn, has sparked more company defaults, exacerbated the credit crisis and metastasized into an unemployment crisis, as companies rush to shed workers.

Governments are having a problem arresting this deflationary downward spiral — maybe because this financial crisis combines four chemicals we have never seen combined to this degree before, and we don’t fully grasp how damaging their interactions have been, and may still be….

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“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”


UK shrinks, companies suffer, China says outlook grim

October 24, 2008

Britain’s economy shrank, China said the outlook was grim and companies from Japan to France were punished on Friday as a downturn born of the worst financial crisis in 80 years took root.

Separate figures from the euro zone showed the 15-nation currency bloc was already in recession, analysts said.

Markets went into a tailspin.

U.S. stock index futures tumbled so sharply in Europe they had to be frozen at several points. Dow Jones futures were down 6.2 percent and European shares shed 7 percent after stocks in Japan dropped to their lowest level in 5-1/2 years.

“The global financial crisis has been constantly spreading and worsening, creating a severe shock to global economic growth,” Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told an Asia-Europe Meeting of 27 EU member states and 16 Asian nations.

Britain’s economy shrunk 0.5 percent in the third quarter, the first contraction in 16 years, after registering no growth in the second.

Bank of England policymaker Andrew Sentance said the risk of a severe recession in Britain had risen. “Hopefully we can avoid that sort of situation in the current circumstances, but the risks of that have increased,” he told BBC Radio.

Compounding the gloom, a survey of companies showed the euro zone private sector economy on track for its worst performance since the recession of the early 1990s.

The October Markit Eurozone Flash Purchasing Managers’ Indexes show services business contracting at its fastest pace since collapsing after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Factory output was contracting at its fastest pace in at least a decade.

“This is it, we are clearly into recession,” said Gilles Moec, economist at Bank of America.

A range of corporate giants reeled too, not just the banks who were hit first and hardest by a financial crisis that began with a U.S. housing market collapse and now threatens recession across much of the globe.

Sony’s shares plunged to a 13-year low after it halved its profit forecast.

French carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroen cut its full-year operating margin target and said it planned to make “massive” production cuts in the fourth quarter after posting a 5.2 percent fall in third quarter sales.

Air France-KLM also succumbed to the financial crisis with a profit warning, sending shares in Europe‘s largest airline group down about 7 percent.

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OPEC Ponders Price Rise, Production Cut

October 23, 2008

VIENNA (AFP) – OPEC President Chakib Khelil said Thursday that the oil producers’ cartel will decide to cut production at an emergency meeting due in Vienna but was wary of worsening a global financial crisis.

Chart showing the price of New York light sweet crude from January ... 

“We are going to reduce (output on Friday). By how much? We don’t know. This is something we are going to decide tomorrow,” Khelil, who is also the energy minister of OPEC member Algeria, told reporters in Vienna.

“It’s a concern that we could make the financial crisis worse by taking too strong a reduction,” said Khelil, adding however that the decision “should not impact the world economy which is already in pretty bad shape.”

Iran — OPEC’s second biggest oil exporter — and Libya both called for a reduction of two million barrels per day, while Venezuela said there should be a cut of at least one million barrels.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown recently said that any reduction made in a bid to push up oil prices would be “scandalous” at a time when major economies are close to recession.

The price of New York oil dived Thursday to a 16-month low, as recession fears stoked concerns about falling crude demand, traders said.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for December delivery, sank as low as 65.90 dollars per barrel — a level last seen on June 13, 2007.

Crude futures in New York and London have plunged 56 percent from record highs of above 147 dollars a barrel reached only three months ago when supply concerns sent prices soaring.

“The market focus today (Thursday) and particularly tomorrow will be on the OPEC emergency meeting,” said analysts at Barclays Capital in London.

“Indicating the inevitability of a substantial cut, Chakib Khelil, the OPEC president, commented yesterday that ‘the stocks are very high… some of us are not able to sell the crude.'”

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries produces 40 percent of the world’s oil and its official output quota stands at 28.8 million barrels per day.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Nuaimi refused to be drawn on talk of a scaling-back to output as he arrived in the Austrian capital on Thursday.

However Libya’s Oil Minister Shukri Ghanem told reporters that “a huge cut” of “two million barrels” was required to create a balance between supply and demand.

Venezuelan Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said there should be a cut of at least one million barrels. Ramirez added that he believed there was a consensus among OPEC’s 12 members for a cut.

OPEC’s Gulf state members led by Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, are expected to oppose a reduction of more than one million barrels, analysts said on Thursday.

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