Friday, November 14, 2008

Roundup: November 14


G20 finance ministers meet this weekend. The Washington Post reports a global watchdog for financial regulators may be in the works, as well as a central CDS clearinghouse and perhaps a financial "early warning system." Bandaids. Bob Geldof says remember the bottom billion -- maybe by considering instituting the Tobin tax.

Prime Minister Taro Aso is to announce Japan will loan $100bn to the IMF to help support emerging economies, the FT reports -- and publishes a programmatic op-ed in the WSJ. Meanwhile, observers are saying the Koizumi era is over and ordinary Japanese are "battening the hatches" as Japan sinks back into deflation.

The FDIC and Treasury are split over a proposal to use TARP funds to reduce monthly payments on mortgages. The mayors of Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Atlanta are asking for access to the TARP funds. The FT reports Britain will manage its nationalized banks at arm's length. But it's hard to know what this means -- if the government plans to act like most UK institutional shareholders have acted, then it's a recipe for complacency in management. Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism has more angry thoughts on the regulatory race to the bottom in subsidies. Luckily, an automaker bailout may be unlikely to happen during the lame-duck session.

US retail sales were down 2.8% in October, the largest drop since 1992, when the indicator began. Christmas spending will be cut in half from 2007, says one survey. UK estate agent Rightmove warns that surveys are underestimating the extent of housing price falls.

Brad Setser drills down into yesterday's US trade deficit numbers and points out that ex-gasoline the deficit actually grew. Calculated Risk takes a look at outbound traffic at the LA area ports and concludes the volume of exports is falling fast. EconomPic points out that Wal-Mart accounts for 10% of the US annual trade deficit with China.

Across the Curve comments on the turn in Libor (which set higher for the first time in more than three weeks). FT Alphaville pitches the thought that the Fed's recent actions may be designed to support nonmonetary asset prices.

Ha-Joon Chang argues for "forward-looking protectionism" in the US, and a world system of asymmetric protectionism. Krugman says "depression economics" have returned although the Great Depression is not in the offing -- but the usual tools of economic policy have failed and it is time for fiscal stimulus. Maybe 4% of GDP, or $600bn.

The Eurozone is officially in recession. BT is to cut 10k jobs in 2008-2009; RBS is to cut 3k jobs over the next few weeks. Mizuho is looking to raise $3.1bn of capital. Freddie Mac lost $25.3bn, $19.44/share, in Q3.

Government and market authorities are squabbling over whether to keep Russia's Micex stock exchange open for trading. S&P, hilariously, is keeping its annual transparency ratings on Russian companies secret.

Robert Anderson looks at the Gazprom bid for 20% of Spain's Repsol.


Labor unrest in China driven by factory closings is on the rise.

Hillary Clinton is being pitched as a possible candidate for Obama's Secretary of State after meeting with the president-elect yesterday.

Could Ruthenia break away from the Ukraine with Russian support? Khrushchev's granddaughter Nina Khrushcheva says if Ukraine can hold out for twenty five years despite Russian destablization, it could mean "the political death of Putinism."

Zimbabwe's troops in the Congo are only concerned with protecting Mugabe's interest and those of his personal allies, Sokwanele says. The HIV-positive are unable to buy either anti-retrovirals or food -- and ARV treatment stimulates the appetite, putting them in a horrible double bind. It appears that Mugabe is forming a government unilaterally, though Zanu-PF is calling it "inclusive" and it appears to have the support of Arthur Mutambara's faction of the MDC.

The GAO reports on the partial success of the war on drugs in Colombia.

ChinaDialogue looks at myths about intellectual property in China.

What are the military costs of securing the US energy supply?


A paper in The Lancet looks closely at the Chinese public health infrastructure and the qualifications of doctors and nurses. Unsurprisingly, there are very high inequities in the quality of health care between rural and urban counties, with consequences for infant mortality.

GMO corn can contaminate neighboring crops with transgenes, a paper to be published in Molecular Ecology reports.

The EU has proposed new penalties for enforcing catch limits on fishing in European waters and for EU vessels outside of European waters.

The EPA's appeals board has ruled the agency may not refuse to regulate the carbon dioxide emissions of coal-fired power plants.

Uganda is requiring HIV tests before allowing marriages.

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