Hedge fund greed sank bond swap deal
GM will be next
The economy shrank at a worse-than-expected 6.1 percent pace at the start of this year as sharp cutbacks by businesses and the biggest drop in U.S. exports in 40 years overwhelmed a rebound in consumer spending.
Consumers hoping that the worst of the recession is over may be setting themselves up for disappointment as the US economy continues to deteriorate, a panel of economists and financial experts said Tuesday.
Surging unemployment and the slow-moving impact of the government stimulus program will stall any real economic recovery until 2010 or even later, the panel said. Consumers fearful of losing their jobs are likely to continue to spend less while the housing and financial crises continue to unwind.
The recent rise in stocks and talk about green shoots in the markets are optimistic assumptions, as the world downturn "still has a way to run," Hugh Hendry, Chief Investment Officer at Eclectica, told CNBC Tuesday.
World gross domestic product looks overestimated, because global consumption has been based on debt, and this cannot continue, Hendry told "Squawk Box Europe."
China revealed on Friday that it had secretly raised its gold reserves by three-quarters since 2003, increasing its holdings to 1,054 tonnes - or a pot worth about US$30.9-billion - and confirming years of speculation it had been buying.
China is the world's largest gold producer and does not permit exports of gold ingots, only jewellery, leaving plentiful supplies for the domestic market.
"The financial crisis means the U.S. dollar value is changing fast, and it may retreat from being the international reserve currency. If that happens, whoever holds gold will be at an advantage."
China’s economy, the world’s third largest, may rebound this quarter as Premier When Jiabao’s 4 trillion yuan ($585 billion) stimulus package cushions the effects of the global recession.
Urban fixed-asset investment surged by almost a third in March and industrial-output growth accelerated, reports accompanying China’s gross domestic product figures showed yesterday. First-quarter GDP grew 6.1 percent, the slowest pace in almost a decade, as exports slumped.
President Hu Jintao said April 1 that China’s 4 trillion yuan stimulus plan was taking effect, after urban fixed-asset investment surged 26.5 percent in the first two months. China’s lending boom contrasts with the struggle in the U.S. to rid banks of illiquid assets and efforts by central banks from Switzerland to Japan to unfreeze credit.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc., by selling stock to help it repay $10 billion to the U.S. Treasury, may pressure competitors to follow suit or appear dependent on government support, analysts said.
Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis President Gary Stern said that while “appreciable strains” remain in credit markets, the resumption of U.S. economic growth “should not be too far off.”
U.S. local governments were assigned a negative outlook by Moody’s Investors Service, the first time the New York-based credit rating company gave such an assessment to the overall group of debt issuers.
Regulators announced the tests two months ago as part of an effort to determine how much assistance big banks might need to continue lending if the economic downturn worsens. The government is wrestling with how to bolster the lenders without appearing to prop up banks that are beyond repair.
From William Black:
There are no real stress tests going on.
The regulators are overwhelmed because of personnel cuts (particularly heavy among their best, most experienced examiners that had worked banks that had engaged in sophisticated frauds).
Massive investment losses sustained by public pension funds are pressuring state lawmakers from New Mexico to New York to spend more taxpayer money to shore up their programs, boost the retirement age for newly hired government workers and seek more from employee paychecks.
The California Public Employees’ Retirement System poured $1.71 billion into Apollo Management LP last year, more than twice as much as it gave any other private- equity manager, betting that the firm could exploit the global credit crisis. So far, the bet is coming up snake eyes.
The U.S. unemployment rate jumped in March to the highest level since 1983 and service industries shrank at a faster pace, indicating the economy remains trapped in what’s likely to be the longest recession since the 1930s.
Treasuries fell as the U.S. prepared to sell an estimated $59 billion in notes and inflation-indexed securities next week, part of a record amount of debt the government is likely to issue this year.
In its depth and suddenness, the U.S. economic and financial crisis is shockingly reminiscent of moments we have recently seen in emerging markets (and only in emerging markets): South Korea (1997), Malaysia (1998), Russia and Argentina (time and again). In each of those cases, global investors, afraid that the country or its financial sector wouldn’t be able to pay off mountainous debt, suddenly stopped lending.
But there’s a deeper and more disturbing similarity: elite business interests — financiers, in the case of the U.S.—played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse. More alarming, they are now using their influence to prevent precisely the sorts of reforms that are needed, and fast, to pull the economy out of its nosedive. The government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act against them.
By abdicating their authority and responsibility, the sovereign people also relinquish their courage. Like rich old women in Palm Beach or a committee of dithering lawyers, the American electorate listens to the wisdom of its public servants as if to voices of minor oracles. Politicians and Cabinet ministers appear in the role of of the omniscient butler who finds phrases of art with which to conceal the embarrassments of the young master’s profligacy and reduced circumstances.
People are pissed off about this financial crisis, and about this bailout, but they're not pissed off enough. The reality is that the worldwide economic meltdown and the bailout that followed were together a kind of revolution, a coup d'état. They cemented and formalized a political trend that has been snowballing for decades: the gradual takeover of the government by a small class of connected insiders, who used money to control elections, buy influence and systematically weaken financial regulations.