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Buffett says US is in recession

‘If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then its a duck’. This simple logic probably best sums up Warren Buffett’s position on the current state of the US economy. ‘By any commonsense definition’, said Buffett yesterday, ‘the US is in recession’. Buffett is the world’s leading investor. And key evidence from […]

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3 ways to spot a failing business

Anthony Bolton of Fidelity has been the UK’s premier stock picker for 30 years. His learnings from his ‘worst disasters’ provide an insider’s perspective on how to spot a company that’s about to fail. He revealed his top 3 warning signs in the Financial Times this weekend:

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Traders sell $, buy oil

‘ ‘A vicious circle now seems to be in place again, where a lower dollar inspires raw material prices to rally, which in turn increases worries about inflation’. This was how strategists at BNP Paribas summed up the US Fed Chairman’s two days of testimony to Congress last week. For the last 20 years, every […]

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M&S dumps free plastic bags

China’s move last month to charge for plastic bags has now been followed by the iconic UK retailer, Marks & Spencer. Whilst the environmental angle is clearly important, the move also represents a reaction to higher oil prices. Plastic bags are not ‘free’ to retailers, and their cost is now escalating. Restricting this cost, whilst […]

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Japan’s factory output weakens

The blog has been following the debate over ‘decoupling’ with some interest. With the US going into a downturn, it is critical to understand whether Asian chemical markets will follow. Until recently, they have been buoyant, allowing US companies to make up for some of the decline in their domestic markets via exports. But I […]

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US housing weakens, UK follows

US housing markets are getting worse. Today’s S&P/Case-Schiller index showed prices declined 8.9% in December. Moody’s said that 10% of homeowners (8.8 million people) had negative equity in their homes. And unsurprisingly, given this background, bank repossessions rose 90% versus January 2007 levels. Price changes generally follow changes in volume, up or down. And so […]

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‘Largest ever peacetime liquidity crisis’ says Bank of England

Its not often that one gets clear statements from central bankers. Today’s comment from the Bank of England’s Deputy Governor that the credit crunch was ‘an accident waiting to happen’ is truly remarkable for its clarity. She also gives the best one sentence summary that I have seen on the background to today’s credit crunch. […]

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Wheat prices add to CFO concerns

Wheat prices rose 25% yesterday, the biggest one-day rise ever, as Kazakhstan imposed restrictions on wheat exports. The rationale for today’s rising prices is three-fold: • US farmers have shifted land over to corn, to meet increased ethanol demand, and US wheat inventories are forecast to hit 60 year lows • Emerging countries are now […]

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BASF – the oil and gas company

BASF Chairman Jürgen Hambrecht sounded confident last week, following their annual results. 2007 sales were €58bn (up 10% on 2006), and income from operations was €7.3bn (up 8%). However, Q4 saw sales up just 1.6% at €14.7bn, and income actually down 3.4% at €1.6bn. The main culprit in Q4 was chemicals. Sales were marginally down […]

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4 issues driving today’s oil price

Quietly, oil has moved back to the $100/bbl level. This is quite different from January, when it first hit the magic $100/bbl number. Financial players had jumped on the trend from November as crude rose above $80/bbl, and then wanted to ‘get out at the top’. Their thinking was that a US recession would reduce […]

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