November 3, 2008
Elaine Meinel Supkis
One of my favorite song birds, Yma Sumac, has flown from this earth and is now gone forever. Time to memorialize her. Also, we talk about the Japanese carry trade yet again. It is being restarted with great effort by the central bankers who want to continue flooding us with debts. And Rubins and Bernstein, two of Obama's economic advisors, talk at the NYT. I rip things apart. And we discuss the Volcano Gods who happen to be in the news today.
Today thousands of pilgrims flock to Mount Bromo on East Java each year to offer the spirits food, live animals and money and ask for prosperity and health. Bromo, a 7,641-foot volcano, is one of Java's most popular tourist attractions. The poor arrive days ahead of the ceremony, carrying fishing nets to catch money and anything edible. They camp under tarps in the crater atop the mountain's chilly slopes.
Third: despite the belief that the offerings must go to the gods, the poorest humans scramble into a very dangerous place in the hopes of catching a few of these falling items as they are pitched into destruction. Fourth: the destruction of wealth is seen as a way of protecting FUTURE wealth! This is the top item here, in my mind.
Bloomberg) -- The yen fell against the dollar and the euro as a rally in Asian and European stocks encouraged investors to step up purchases of higher-yielding assets financed with the Japanese currency.
The yen also weakened versus Australia's dollar on expectations the Reserve Bank of Australia will cut interest rates tomorrow to sustain economic growth. The Japanese currency slid against South Korea's won and India's rupee after Korea announced a $10.8 billion stimulus package and India's central bank cut borrowing costs for the second time in two weeks. The dollar declined against the euro before reports this week that may add to evidence U.S. economic is slowing.
``We're seeing a bit of risk appetite returning as things stabilize and I wouldn't be surprised to see the yen even lower,'' said Ian Stannard, a senior currency strategist in London at BNP Paribas SA, the most accurate forecaster in a 2007 Bloomberg survey. ``We should see lower-yielding currencies coming under some more pressure.''
The yen has appreciated 8.8 percent versus the greenback since Sept. 12, the last trading day before Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. filed for bankruptcy. The remainder of the world's 16 most-active currencies declined as frozen credit markets and a rout in stocks that wiped out more than $13 trillion of market value fueled risk aversion. The yen may drop to 103 against the dollar in the next week, Stannard said.
The yen also weakened as volatility implied by one-month euro options against Japan's currency fell to 42.40 percent, from 43.93 percent on Oct. 31, signaling a reduced risk of exchange-rate fluctuations that make so-called carry trades unprofitable. Volatility was 49.62 percent Oct. 27, the highest level since the common European currency's debut in 1999.
In carry trades, investors get funds from countries with low borrowing costs, such as Japan, where the benchmark interest rate is 0.3 percent, and invest the money in overseas markets where returns are higher. Japan's main interest rate compares with 3.75 percent in the 15 nations that share the euro and is the lowest among industrialized countries.
Overall tax revenue for fiscal 2008 will fall more than 5 trillion yen short of the government's 53.5-trillion-yen estimate, due mainly to poor corporate performances, the Finance Ministry said.
The shortage in the general account could force the government to issue deficit-covering bonds, which will likely push the total amount of national bonds issued this fiscal year past 30 trillion yen for the first time in three years.
The government intends to attain a primary balance surplus in fiscal 2011, at which the sum of new government bonds issued each year is kept under the total repayment of interest and principal for bonds issued in the past.
But the additional deficit-covering bonds for fiscal 2008 would make it extremely difficult to achieve that goal unless there is a sudden surge in tax revenue.
The government's tax revenue estimate for the current fiscal year was based on economic forecasts and corporate performances as of last December.
Corporate tax revenue, which accounts for about 30 percent of total tax revenue, was estimated at 16.7 trillion yen.
Deficits over the next decade are now projected to be enormous in size. A joint analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Concord Coalition, and the Committee for Economic Development projects deficits totaling $5 trillion through 2013.
An analysis by Brookings economists reaches a very similar conclusion, while Goldman Sachs projects deficits totaling $5.5 trillion.
Despite the deteriorating fiscal outlook and the historically low corporate revenue collections we already face, Congress nonetheless seems poised to shower more tax breaks on corporations that would cause deficits to grow substantially larger over time .
As a result of these low levels, corporate revenues in 2003 represented only 1.2 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (the basic measure of the size of the economy), the lowest level since 1983, the year in which corporate receipts plummeted to levels last seen in the 1930s.
Corporate revenues represented only 7.4 percent of all federal tax receipts in 2003.
With the exception of 1983, this represents the lowest level on record (these data go back to 1934).
Private equity firms embarked on one of the biggest spending sprees in corporate history for nearly three years, using borrowed money to gobble up huge swaths of industries and some of the biggest names — Neiman Marcus, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Toys “R” Us.
When the economy was booming, the firms made huge profits by cutting costs at their new acquisitions, improving operations and then turning around and selling them. In 2007, at the height of the bubble, such deals totaled $796 billion, or more than 16 percent of the $4.83 trillion in all the deals made globally that year, according to data from Dealogic.
Firms like the Blackstone Group and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company, faced an image problem at the height of the bubble for excessive compensation and beneficial tax treatment, but their returns were so high that even investors like pension funds were drawn in. Now these firms, built on enormous amounts of debt, are being forced to go back to the financial markets just as those markets have nearly frozen up.
If history is any guide, the worst may be yet to come. Steven N. Kaplan, a professor at University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, found that nearly 30 percent of all big public-to-private deals made from 1986 to 1989 defaulted.
We also jointly believe that fiscal stimulus must be married to a commitment to re-establishing sound fiscal conditions with a multi-year program that includes room for critical public investment, once the economy is back on a healthy track.
One of us (Mr. Rubin) views long-term fiscal deficits — in combination with a low national savings rate, large current account deficits and foreign portfolios that are heavily over-weighted in dollar-dominated assets — as a serious threat to long-term interest rates and our currency and, therefore, to our economic future. The other views these economic relationships as much weaker.
One important policy question is what our fiscal objectives should be in terms of deficits and of the ratio of the national debt to the gross domestic product. In times like these, larger than normal budget deficits will add to the national debt. In more stable times, a budget deficit equivalent to roughly 2 percent of G.D.P. will keep the debt-to-G.D.P. ratio constant, a legitimate fiscal policy goal. In flush times, a smaller deficit would lower the debt ratio and that might be desirable.
We both agree that individual income tax rates and other taxes for those at the very top could be moved back to the rates of the Clinton era. It’s worth remembering that rates at this level helped finance deficit reduction and public investment that contributed to the longest economic expansion in our history.
Free markets versus regulation and protection: We both feel strongly that there are important lessons to be learned from the disruptions in our financial system, and that significant reforms are needed. The objective ought to be to optimize the balance between increasing consumer protection and reducing systemic risk on the one hand, and preserving the benefits of a market-based system on the other.
We know, too, that Wall Street and Main Street are intimately connected. The consequences of the financial market crisis are profound for Americans in terms of lost jobs, lower incomes and reduced retirement savings. Measures to reform and strengthen the financial system should be evaluated by this measure: Do they ultimately translate into improving the jobs, incomes and assets of working Americans?
With respect to trade, the choice is not trade liberalization versus protectionism. Instead, as trade expands, we must recognize that protecting workers is not protectionism. We must better prepare our people to compete effectively and help those who are hurt by trade — not just dislocated workers, but those who find their incomes lowered through global competition. This means investing more of the benefits of trade in offsetting these losses, through more effective safety nets, including universal health care and pension coverage.
The United States of America consumes almost 40% of Israel’s total export shipments, far more than second-place Belgium at 6.5% and third-place Hong Kong at 5.9%.
Israel’s imports are less concentrated, with products from trade partners distributed more proportionately. Leading exporters into Israel include the U.S. (12.4%), Belgium (8.2%), Germany (6.7%), Switzerland (5.9%), the United Kingdom (5.1%) and China (also 5.1%).
In 2007, Israel exported an estimated US$50.2 billion worth of goods onto the international trade marketplace. Israeli imports totalled roughly $55.8 billion, resulting in Israel’s overall $5.6-billion trade deficit last year.
Despite its overall deficit, Israel enjoyed a US$7.8 billion trade surplus with its American trade partner in 2007. The most recent surplus statistic is 32.6% higher than the Israel-US surplus in 2003 but represents a 5% decrease from the $8.2 billion surplus in 2006.
With a population of 7.1 million, Israel exported US$20.8 billion worth of merchandise to the United States in 2007, an 8.6% increase from 2006 and up by 63% in 4 years.
More Yma Amore
Both sides expect a close finish, something of a paradox in a struggling state in a year in which the poor economy is driving support for Obama and other Democrats. Ohio lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs this decade and its median income has dropped by 3 percent, yet polls show Obama with no more than a narrow lead in a state that Sen. John F. Kerry lost to Bush by two points.
That may be because the weak economy has driven away younger and college-educated residents who lean Democratic, because abortion remains a potent issue and because an African American candidate with an unusual name remains a tough sell in some corners. But voters also say the poor economy has not swung more voters to Obama precisely because the state has been down for so long -- many have come to see the woes as systemic, and not easily blamed on a particular party.
The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC) announced today that it will begin to publish aggregate market data from its Trade Information Warehouse (Warehouse), the worldwide central trade registry it maintains on credit derivatives. Starting Tuesday, November 4 and continuing weekly, DTCC will post on its website www.dtcc.com/derivserv the outstanding gross and net notional values ("stock" values) of credit default swap (CDS) contracts registered in the Warehouse for the top 1,000 underlying single-name reference entities and all indices, as well as certain aggregates of this data on a gross notional basis only. The data is intended to address market concerns about transparency.