A satirical look at the subprime debacle

A reader has kindly sent me a YouTube link to a recent British television sketch featuring two masters of satire, John Bird and John Fortune. It takes the form of a mock-interview, with Bird playing the all-wise investment banker, and explaining to Fortune how subprime happened, and what a SIV might be. Not only is […]

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Asia ‘Recouples’

The major investment banks have changed their minds about the potential for Asia to ‘decouple’ from any credit-crunch induced downturn in the West. Originally, they had believed that domestic demand in China and elsewhere would enable the Asian economy to sail ahead, no matter what happened elsewhere. I was a bit sceptical of this hypothesis, […]

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OPEC targets stocks, not prices

There is some interesting material on the OPEC website, following this week’s Summit, which clarifies their current strategy. The key points are: • OPEC is currently targeting inventories, not prices. Their policy is to keep OECD crude stocks within the 5 year average. OPEC says its previous production cutbacks ‘minimised the excessive overhangs that existed […]

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Credit markets ‘worst in 47 years’

Central banks seem to have their work cut out if they are to restore normality to global credit markets. The famed head of Legg Mason, Chip Mason, who manages over $100 billion of assets, and is one of the world’s largest money managers, said yesterday that ‘credit markets are in the worst state he has […]

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UK housing lenders shut the door too late

The UK has a proverb about how stable doors only get shut after the horse has run away. We can see this happening in the UK housing market. The main regulator (the FSA) failed to spot the Northern Rock problem before it led to the UK’s first bank run in 140 years. Only now has […]

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Should US mortgage rates rise?

There’s a very interesting article in Barrons (the premier US investment magazine) today. It compares current efforts by Treasury Secretary Paulson in trying to cap US mortgage rates with President Nixon’s ill-fated introduction of a US wage/prices freeze in 1971. Barrons points out that non-US buyers are already being hit by major write-downs in the […]

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A dip or a downturn?

Are we seeing just a dip in economic growth? Or are we at the start of a downturn that may run for months, or even years? The answer to this question lies in the US, which still accounts for 25% of global GDP, and where US consumer spending is 70% of US GDP. Optimists maintain […]

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Asian chemical markets can’t decouple

Its 2 months since I was last in Asia. It is clear that earlier optimism about the region’s resilience in the face of a possible US recession in 2008 has begun to disappear. Typical is the comment by Kanit Saengsubhan of the Thai Fiscal Policy Institute. He sees Thai growth in 2008 falling below earlier […]

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US chemical imports face ‘green’ border tax

The US Congress is currently close to finalising a Bill that would aim to tackle climate change. This follows the EU model by establishing a carbon price via a cap-and-trade system, and is very welcome news. However, there is a sting in the tail, as currently drafted. For it also calls for a border tax […]

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Gazprom moves further into petchems

Gazprom is becoming a player to watch in petchems. For decades, observers have speculated that Russia might increase its petchem activity. A recent comment by Gazprom deputy CEO, Valery Golubev, seemed to bring this concept closer to reality. He said that Gazprom aimed to increase its ethylene production by 350% to 7.66 million tonnes (MT) […]

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