China open to boosting IMF’s firepower via bond issue

          BEIJING, March 23 (Reuters) – China is ready to explore all channels to raise money for the International Monetary Fund and would actively consider subscribing to a bond issue by the Washington lender, a senior central bank official said on Monday.
Increasing the firepower of the IMF so it can bail out countries felled by the global financial crisis will be high on the agenda of a summit on London on April 2               of the Group of 20 advanced and emerging economies.
Issuing bonds would be a way for the IMF to raise large sums of money in short order, Hu Xiaolian, a vice governor of the People’s Bank of China, told a news conference on China’s preparations for the G20.
“If the IMF decides to issue bonds to raise funds, China will actively consider buying,” she said.
Hu, who is also head of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, said another way of raising funds fairly quickly was the New Arrangements to Borrow           (NAB), a long-standing pact among 25 member countries to lend to the IMF in case of need.
China is not a member of the NAB. If it were to join — and Hu did not address this issue — expanding the agreement could take up to three months, international officials have estimated.
Countries can also contribute bilaterally. Japan is making a $100 billion loan, while the European Union agreed last week to put up 75 billion euros.
The IMF has said it needs an extra $250 billion to double its war chest. The United States has suggested a $500 billion increase.
STICKING WITH THE DOLLAR
Beijing has repeatedly called for a louder voice for developing countries in the IMF, a stance that Hu and He Yafei, a vice foreign minister, reaffirmed on Monday.
China hoped the G20 summit would help to shore up the fight against protectionism and lend continued support to developing nations, He added.
Pressed whether China would insist on an increase in its IMF quota, or membership subscription, in return for providing more funds, Hu said the distribution of quotas was a complicated issue that required in-depth study.
G20 finance ministers agreed in London earlier this month to bring forward the next review of IMF quotas to 2011 from 2013.
Asked whether the G20 should back the establishment of a new global regulatory institution or a new global currency, Hu said the current priority was for the IMF to step up its supervision of the policies of reserve-currency countries such as the United States.
A senior Russian government source said last Thursday that China and other emerging nations backed Russia’s call for a discussion on how to replace the dollar as the world’s primary reserve currency.
But Hu said that, while research could start into the merits of a multi-currency global reserve system, the dollar remained the dominant currency; the priority now was not to replace it.
U.S. Treasuries were an important part of China’s foreign exchange reserves and Beijing would keep buying them as it viewed the overall credit risk as low, Hu added. (Reporting by Zhou Xin and Simon Rabinovitch; Editing by Alan Wheatley)
By Simon Rabinovitch

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Official says China to continue buying US debt

                     

BEIJING (AP) — China will continue buying U.S. government debt while paying close attention to possible fluctuations in the value of those assets, a vice governor of Beijing’s central bank said Monday.

Investing in U.S. Treasury bills is “an important component part of China’s foreign currency reserve investments,” People’s Bank of China Vice Governor Hu Xiaolian said at a news conference on Monday. Continue reading

Is This America’s Dark Knight?

                               

In last year’s hit movie, The Dark Knight, there is a classic scene between Alfred and Bruce Wayne. A befuddled Bruce cannot figure out what the Joker is actually trying to gain, and he is sharing his consternation with Alfred. Alfred responds by telling Bruce that some men are just different and, in one of the great lines of the movie, states bluntly, “Some men just want to see the world burn.”

While it is quite early on in the new administration’s term in office, it appears to be behaving in exactly this way. Obama is playing the part of the Joker to perfection, aided and abetted by the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. The only difference being that, instead of wearing a clown’s face, he has chosen to look promising and speak lofty words of nothingness as he and the other Democratic leaders push the nation ever closer to economic collapse.

Ignoring any sound economic principles, these leaders have carved a path of prodigality unmatched in American history. It seems as if they desire the total economic failure of the country.

To be sure, the Bush administration has left the nation ravaged by its excess spending and monetary expansion that undergirded the housing bubble. Indeed, during his eight years in office, federal spending ballooned from $1.8 trillion per year to nearly $3 trillion. That is a 67% increase! But while Bush radically expanded the size and scope of government, Obama and the Democrats plan the absolute explosion of it. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that this year’s federal spending will top $3.5 trillion, with a deficit in excess of $1 trillion. And this number was forecasted prior to the passage of the so-called “stimulus bill.”

Imagine Bush as a drunken sailor in port for the first time in a year. He goes into a casino in Atlantic City, sits down at a thousand-dollar-a-hand blackjack table, and promptly loses a million dollars. Obama comes in as Bush’s replacement, and the casino seats him in Bush’s old chair. While bemoaning the situation, Obama tells us we must end this failed policy by moving up to the ten-thousand-a-hand table and doubling down. Of course, this makes no sense whatsoever, and the sane person would quickly back away. But sanity appears not to be present anywhere in Washington these days.

For far too long now, we have allowed our leaders to take us in this direction. In earlier days our leaders did so mainly to line their own pockets and those of their favored friends. These days, however, it seems that they are merely driven by their own ideological madness. And we have been too busy to pay enough attention to understand the situation and to resist it. Neither Bush nor Obama could do the things they have done or are doing had there not been a long history of governmental abuses. To not understand this now will lead to even greater abuse in the future.

“If there is any hope for our economic future, we must come to a sound understanding of what got us here.”

This was my motivation for my new book, titled Unmasking the Sacred Lies. I wanted to help busy Americans come to grips with the current economic situation and to understand the long political process of change that has led us here.

If there is to be any hope for our economic future, we must come to a sound understanding of what got us here. With that in mind, I put together a book that paints the big picture. It traces the economic history of each policy area in order to demonstrate how each law passed by Congress and enforced by our government has pushed us into this hole that we find ourselves in today.

It is my firm belief that providing the average person with the right information in a readily understandable format can make a difference. I only hope that it is not too late, and that we do not have to watch America burn.

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Mises Daily by

国务院:部分地区及行业经济出现回升迹象

国务院总理温家宝18日主持召开国务院常务会议,会议讨论了当前国内外经济形势,一致认为国际金融危机仍在蔓延加深,我国部分地区和行业经济出现企稳回升迹象,但面临的矛盾和困难仍然很大。

新华网社北京3月18日电 国务院总理温家宝18日主持召开国务院常务会议,审议并原则通过《落实〈政府工作报告 〉重点工作部门分工意见》和《全国森林防火中长期发展规划》,讨论并原则通过《中华人民共和国人民武装警察法(草案)》。

会议指出,十一届全国人大二次会议审议通过《政府工作报告》后,落实《报告》提出的各项任务,就成为国务院及所属部门的重要职责。为此国务院制定了重点工作部门分工意见,对今年政府工作主要任务进行逐项分解,明确相关牵头和负责部门。

会议强调,做好今年政府工作,要以应对国际金融危机、促进经济平稳较快发展为主线,统筹兼顾,突出重点,全面实施促进经济增长的一揽子计划。要把应对危机的各项工作抓早、抓紧、抓实、抓出成效,不可贻误时机。这直接关系到我国在应对危机中能否占据主动地位,关系到能否防止经济下滑,关系到巩固改革开放的成果、把现代化建设事业继续推向前进。国务院各部门、各单位要认真履行职责,充分发挥主动性、积极性和创造性,抓紧制定本部门、本单位落实重点工作的实施方案,并在执行过程中进一步细化、实化;要加强配合,及时沟通协调,形成合力;要强化督促检查,严格落实责任,不折不扣地把各项政策措施落到实处。

 

 

会议讨论了当前国内外经济形势,一致认为国际金融危机仍在蔓延加深,我国部分地区和行业经济出现企稳回升迹象,但面临的矛盾和困难仍然很大。要加强监测预警机制建设,密切跟踪分析形势,及时发现问题,果断采取措施,促进经济平稳较快发展,努力实现今年国民经济和社会发展预期目标。

 

      

 

延伸阅读:中国经济走势图谱

会议指出,我国是森林火灾多发的国家之一。编制和实施《全国森林防火中长期发展规划》,对于全面提升我国森林防火综合能力,消除森林火灾隐患,巩固生态建设成果,保护人民群众生命财产安全,具有重要意义。各地和有关部门要认真做好《规划》的组织实施工作。

会议认为,为保障人民武装警察部队依法执行国家赋予的安全保卫任务,维护国家安全和社会稳定,保护公民、法人和其他组织的合法权益,有必要制定人民武装警察法。会议决定,《中华人民共和国人民武装警察法(草案)》经进一步修改后,由国务院、中央军委提请全国人大常委会审议。

会议还研究了其他事项。 (本文来源:新华网 )

World of opportunity for adventurous investors

It’s terrible out there in the big bad world but fortune favours the brave and, if you’re prepared to take a risk, the returns could be huge. We look at the options

Wall Street

Some analysts believe the US will lead us out of recession. Photograph: EPA

The US

The US led us into this recession – and the US will now lead us out. That’s the view from Neptune Investment Management, which is convinced America is the most attractive market for investors anywhere in the world, writes Patrick Collinson.

Neptune, a boutique asset management firm that has grown rapidly in recent years, runs the best-performing North American fund available to UK small investors. Its US Opportunities fund is top-ranked out of 76 unit trusts over three years – although that means it has merely fallen by 1% rather than the 50%-plus at some rival US funds.

It is managed by Felix Wintle, who reckons the dollar will remain firm and that the US economy will bounce back. The Dow Jones stocks average has halved in only 10 months, from 13,058 in May last year to below 7,000 in recent days and bargains abound, Wintle says. “You’ve got to look at the context of how far we’ve fallen. Markets will recover when sentiment is at its worse.”

Wintle is not about to ring the bell signalling the bottom of the market, but evidently believes we may be near the point of “maximum capitulation”.Many UK investors will be cautious about buying dollar assets, given how far sterling has fallen against the greenback. Surely any gains that might be made from the US will be swiftly wiped out by a sterling revival? Wintle thinks not. “Sterling is structurally compromised against the dollar, because the UK economy is so moribund,” he says.

But scanning the figures coming out of the US economy, it’s looking pretty moribund across the pond too. Economic output slumped at an annualised rate of 6.2% in the last quarter of 2008, and unemployment rose above 8% last month. But Americans, optimists by nature, are clinging to the belief that the US will be the first out of this recession.

What will be the catalyst that sparks a recovery? The answer, according to Wintle, is “when things are getting bad less quickly”. And the pointer he is looking for is when house prices stop falling. He has already started buying some “super-early cycle housebuilders” such as Pulte, a major American construction company.

Pulte was trading at $46 a share in mid-2005, but is now around $8. It plunged throughout 2006 and 2007, but stabilised in 2008. Back in 2006 it was telling us that a major crack in the US residential market was happening, but we chose to ignore it. The fact that it now defies the continued flow of bad news may be telling us that the worst is now over, according to Wintle.

Wall Street rallied strongly early this week, with a glimmer of optimism from that most unlikely of places – a bank. Citigroup reported that in January and February it moved back into profit, sparking a 379-point gain in the Dow. But economists are still bearish on the short-term outlook for the US.

Bruce Brittles of RW Baird, one of the top investment strategists, says the recovery that only a matter of weeks ago he thought might begin late this year is not likely to start until 2010. And don’t expect it to be vibrant – with GDP expansion of little more than 1%.

But in every other recession, the stockmarket has tended to recover between six and 12 months before the economy. Brittles reckons stockmarket sentiment is “bearish to extreme”, that we are in a “severe recession”, and that unemployment is exploding.

But commodity prices (particularly agricultural products grown in the US) are firm, and, unlike in the early 1930s, money supply is growing. Inflation won’t be a problem through 2009 and 2010, even if it becomes one later, and indicators from the futures market suggest there is the potential for a sustainable rally in equities.

Ahead of any upturn, Wintle is holding stocks he thinks will benefit from the recession – particularly down-market retailers that are enjoying a boom as hard-pressed consumers trade down. He holds Wal-Mart, Family Dollar and Dollar Tree.

The latter two companies are the closest equivalent in the US to companies such as Poundland and Poundstretcher in the UK. Family Dollar has jumped from $18 a share to as high as $32 over the past year, and Dollar Tree from $25 to $44.

But it is probably the healthcare sector – biotech in particular – where Wintle is most excited about opportunities. “It is definitely the most attractive part of the market at the moment,” he says.

How to invest: Minimum in most US funds is around £1,000 as a lump sum or £50 a month. Top-performing funds are Neptune US Opportunities, GAM North American, Jupiter North American, Newton American and Scottish Widows American Select Growth. Avoid initial charges of 5%-6% by buying via a discount broker. Try h-l.co.uk or chelseafs.co.uk. Or go to a fund supermarket such as fundsnetwork.co.uk (run by Fidelity). It will discount most initial charges to 0%-1.25%.

• Patrick Collinson was a guest of Neptune Investment Management on a trip to Chicago

Gold

Gold bars Photograph: Tom Schierlitz/Getty Gold could surge to $2,500 an ounce over the next five years as investors pile into the traditional safe haven from inflation. So says Swiss bank UBS, which this week told its wealthy clients to increase their holdings, largely as a bet against the devaluation of paper currencies as governments around the world crank up the printing presses.

“Given the broad uncertainties in the current macro climate we believe investors should look to gold, with its historic tendency to act as a hedge,” the bank said. The metal was this week at around $900. If the bank is right investors will almost treble their money.

It is surprising how little the gold price has reacted to the perilous economic news over the past year. This time last year, it briefly topped $1,000 then fell back. British investors have done relatively well because sterling has fallen against the dollar, in which gold is priced.

Marcus Grubb, head of research at the World Gold Council, says hedge funds are desperate for cash and are selling assets that are easily liquidated – gold. He expects that process to work itself out soon, and for gold’s fundamental attractions to reassert themselves.

He says global production of gold has been falling around 3%-4% a year since 2001, with many big South African mines close to exhaustion. China is the world’s biggest gold producer, but exports none. India is the world’s biggest consumer of gold and, as its economy and those around Asia expand, demand will outstrip supply.

But some warn that investors are being lulled into a false sense of security.

Demand for gold jewellery fell in the US and UK late last year. Saxo Bank, which specialises in gold and silver trading, said this week: “As real physical demand is falling in most precious metals (silver by as much as 70% in some regions), it becomes hard to support a rationale that underpins a fundamentally bullish market … we retain our short-to-medium target of $780.

How to invest: You can buy gold unit trusts (mostly invested in gold mining company shares; gold exchange-traded funds (which invest directly in gold) and gold coins and bars.

Funds: The oldest and biggest is BlackRock Gold & General, down 24% in the past year. It requires at least £1,000. Others include Investec Global Gold and Smith & Williamson Global Gold.

Gold ETFs: Or Exchange Traded Commodities (ETCs), these invest in physical gold and can be traded via a stockbroker, or go to etfsecurities.com where you can buy a single security, equivalent to one-tenth of an ounce (around $90). The fee is 0.39% and your gold is held at an HSBC-run vault.

Gold coins: Kruggerands are the top seller with ATS Bullion at £763 for a troy-ounce coin. Sovereigns are £182 and have an advantage for UK buyers – they are still legal tender, so there is no capital gains tax when you sell.
Patrick Collinson

Japan

Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average stands 80% lower than its peak in late 1989. And over the past two decades, there’s been a constant stream of false dawns.

“The market does not tell the real story,” says John Millar, manager of the Martin Currie Japan unit trust. “While there’s no denying share prices are volatile and Japan’s manufacturing has been hit by the global slowdown, there are some extremely well-run companies such as Honda and Panasonic. There’s now the chance to buy long-term assets at low valuations. My favourite is Jtek, a car parts maker which will do well if Toyota sales recover.

“I can’t say this is the bottom of the market – no one can – so the sensible strategy is to invest via a monthly savings plan. If the market went back to last June, investments would double.”

Anzelm Cydzik at investment trust group Baillie Gifford believes it will be different this time. “Japanese consumers are cash rich, not indebted, and besides buying goods they are buying shares. Balance sheets have been restored to health since the problems of the 1990s – arguably, they are sounder than in other major economies with many companies having no debt.”
Tony Levene

Emerging markets

Russia’s stock market and currency have both taken a pasting; China is laying off 20 million or more factory workers; Africa’s investment scene is a basket case; and India’s share index is struggling. Over the past year, funds in emerging markets – stock exchanges outside the traditional industrialised nations such as the UK, US, western Europe and Japan – have slumped 32%, according to Trustnet.com.

Many reckon it can only get worse as the problems of developed economies increase. But according to Bryan Collings, who manages emerging markets money at funds boutique Hexam Capital, investing in developing countries is the only way forward. Hexam is a new group – it has yet to come up with one-year figures for its Global Emerging Markets fund.

Collings is so sure of his theme that he states the investable world has reached a once-in-a-century turning point. “You have to look outside the developed world to avoid a wealth shortfall,” he says. He believes its a straight culture clash. “Look at what’s wrong with developed markets. They are crushed both by debt, and the problems caused by an aging population,” he says. “People and firms in emerging markets have positive cash positions: they save rather than borrow.”

He contends that being unburdened by the excessive debt that has brought western economies to their knees, allows countries to fund growth.

“Emerging markets also benefit from a structure that may not appeal to some – they are command economies whose lack of democracy makes it easier to get major spending projects going. China has savings and can just order new infrastructure,’ he says.

Emerging market shares have been hit hard, but that is in part because investors in established economies have sold shares in new markets to bolster their cash positions at home. Unit trusts and other funds have pulled out around $50bn since the financial crisis started last autumn. But this sell-off is now slowing.

Collings has an almost messianic belief in emerging markets. “We in the west have blown it. We are now seeing a change comparable with the decline of Argentina and the collapse of Austria-Hungary a century ago. This is where the US falls and China takes over.”

How to invest

Take your pick from funds from Asia, eastern Europe (mostly invested in Russia), Latin American , BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China), and global and single country funds.

All of them are fairly risky. Because of their high volatility, they are more suitable as a long-term regular savings option than a lump-sum investment. Top performing funds at the moment include those from First State (Global Emerging Market Leaders), Baring, Aberdeen and Schroders. Beware of relatively high charges: buy through fund supermarkets.
Tony Levene

Unemployment set to burst through 2 million

It is possible that the record claimant count rise of 118,000 in the depths of the early 1990s recession could even have been exceeded last month

The relentless growth in Britain’s army of the jobless will be confirmed today as unemployment is set to burst through the 2 million mark for the first time in over a decade.

 

Experts are warning that unemployment will easily break the 3 million barrier this year, with many more people facing a grim 2009 that is likely to keep consumer spending, and the whole economy, depressed.

But while attention has focused on the widest survey of joblessness known as the ILO measure, there could also be a very big rise in the claimant-count measure because February has a five-week gap between count dates, as opposed to four in January. Many people laid off in January may not have signed on at job centres until last month.

This means it is possible that the record claimant-count rise of 118,000 in the depths of the early 1990s recession could even have been exceeded last month, up from the increase of around 80,000 that has been the norm in recent months.

That total would be even worse if 16- and 17-year-olds were included in the claimant count and if unemployed City workers were poor enough to be eligible for jobseeker’s allowance.

The wider ILO measure, though, does include young workers and shows that they account for nearly 40% of the rise in joblessness over the past year. It has risen by a total of nearly 400,000 over the past year while the claimant count has jumped even further, by 440,000, to 1.23 million, or 3.8% of the workforce. The ILO rate is higher at 6.5% and set to shoot above 10% later this year.

Economic inactivity

There would also be more people out of work if various firms around the country, especially carmakers , had not come up with novel schemes to cut working hours or mothball plants. This shows up in the data on total hours and average hours worked – both of which are falling. Some economists have speculated that unemployment would be higher still if some people were not hidden by the “economic inactivity” label that encompasses nearly 8 million people of working age who are either students, long-term sick or looking after the home. But figures for “inactivity” have remained steady over the past year or two.

As is typical of recessions, male unemployment has risen nearly three times as fast as female. Much of the reason is that many more women work in the public sector, which has largely been spared the swingeing job cuts of the private sector.

At the same time, full-time jobs are declining fast while the number of part-time jobs is actually still rising, possibly as people who lose a full-time job opt to work fewer hours, or as a spouse whose husband or wife loses a full-time job takes a part-time one to make ends meet. As more women work part-time than men, it would also explain why female unemployment has risen only slowly.

Unusually, there is very little difference between manufacturing and service-sector unemployment, or between the regions. “What we have seen is a general slump in global demand which has hit the demand for labour everywhere. So there is no clear north/south or manufacturing/services split in this recession,” says John Philpott, chief economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Builders surprisingly resilient

One curiosity in the official data is that there does not seem to have been a big drop in the numbers of people employed in the construction sector, which accounts for about 6% of the economy. With the widely documented collapse in the commercial property sector and in housebuilding, this is baffling the experts, who speculate that public investment projects such as the preparations for the Olympics could be helping support the industry. Another factor could be that many builders are self-employed and are simply working fewer days in a week in response to a drop-off in demand.

There are also large numbers of immigrant workers involved in the construction sector and records of exact numbers may be poor, especially as the data is based on surveys of workers and so may simply have missed the fact that many Poles, for example, are returning home as demand for their services slumps.