Category Archives: credit

S&P cuts US debt rating to double A plus


It was a long time coming, well it’s finally here:
S&P cuts US debt rating to double A plus
FT

By Robin Harding in Washington and Aline van Duyn and Telis Demos in New York

Contentious and historic move highlights the weakened fiscal stature of the world’s most powerful country
Read the full article at: http://on.ft.com/r09VBs
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Moody’s downgrades Cyprus bonds


Another one "to bite the dust?"

Moody's decision to lower Cyprus' debt rating to just above junk status is the latest sign the island nation may become the fourth eurozone country heading towards a bail-out

Moody's downgrades Cyprus bonds

By Peter Spiegel in Brussels

The rating agency's decision is the latest sign the island nation may become the fourth eurozone country heading towards a bail-out

Read the full article at: http://on.ft.com/r3wlk1

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Are investors the real cause of Israel’s high housing prices? – Haaretz


Are investors the real cause of high housing prices?

One possible avenue for holding down house prices is for the state to further rein in the profitability of investments in second or multiple homes.

Published 02:13 25.07.11
Latest update 02:13 25.07.11

By Ram Ozeri Tags: Israel real estate Israel housing protest Israel protest Israel strike

32,000 people have bought 3 to 10 homes since 2003

High housing prices have brought tens of thousands out to protest in Tel Aviv, complaining that they have been priced out of affordable homes. But for plenty of Israelis, the skyrocketing prices are a blessing.

Between 2003 and this year, 218,000 residences have been bought for investment purposes, a study by TheMarker shows. An investment home is defined as one bought by someone who already owns a home.

Most investment homes, 60%, have been bought by small investors. That is, more than 131,000 people have taken their savings and put it into housing as an investment, taking advantage of the low interest rates of recent years to finance some of the deal.

The other 40% have been bought by more serious investors. Some 32,000 people own three or more homes. Between 2003 and 2011, around 21,000 people have bought two additional homes for investment, and almost 8,000 have bought three or four.

About 2,600 have bought more than five homes over the past eight years. Some 256 people have purchased at least 10, with the average number for this group being 15.

But not all these people are necessarily in the property investment business. Some, for example, are lawyers who act as trustees for clients wishing to remain anonymous. This seems to have become quite common in recent months as many foreign residents, or Israelis with dual citizenship, have looked for ways around new and stricter tax rules for U.S. citizens.

Israelis have always bought apartments as investments, but an analysis of data from the State Revenues Administration shows that such investments have grown significantly over the past decade. In 2002, 22.4% of all housing purchases were for investment, and in 2010-2011 the figure was 30%.

The economic recovery since the second intifada and low interest rates have created a strong recovery in the housing industry – and in investment homes in particular. Housing sales reached 104,000 in 2010, up from 64,000 in 2002, a 60% increase. At the same time, purchases of investment homes surged by 120%.

The peak has passed

But it seems the peak is behind us. At the end of 2010, the Finance Ministry increased purchase taxes on investment homes by between 1.5% and 2%. This translates into NIS 15,000 more in taxes on the purchase of a residence worth NIS 1 million. This may not seem like much, but plenty more costs are involved, and in the first quarter of 2011 the percentage of homes bought for investment purposes fell to 25.8%, the lowest level since 2004.

The treasury’s figures for the first three months of the year show not only a slowdown in purchases for investment purposes, but a jump in the number of homes sold that were originally bought as investments. Preliminary indicators for the second quarter show that this trend is is picking up.

One possible avenue for holding down prices is for the state to further rein in the profitability of investments in second or multiple homes. Tax increases have a big advantage over the alternatives – they can be done almost immediately, and the results will be felt quickly.

A major problem with reducing the number of investment homes is that most of them are rented out, so a reduction would lead to higher rental prices.

    This story is by: Ram Ozeri

Are investors the real cause of high housing prices? – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

The MasterFeeds

China complains of U.S. debt, but has too much at stake to dump dollars


It is the ultimate ”too big to fail” global relationship, said Andy Rothman, an analyst in Shanghai for the investment bank CLSA. If Beijing even hinted that it might try to sell part of its U.S. debt, ”other countries might sell their dollar assets,” Mr. Rothman said, noting that this would drive down the value of China’s holdings. ”It would be financial suicide for China.”

From The International Herald Tribune:

China complains of U.S. debt, but has too much at stake to dump dollars
BY DAVID BARBOZA

SHANGHAI — However grim Washington’s debt and deficit negotiations may seem to U.S. citizens, the impasse is nearly as disturbing for China.

As the United States’ biggest foreign creditor — holding an estimated $1.5 trillion in Treasury securities and other U.S. government debt — China has been a vocal critic of what it considers Washington’s politicized profligacy.

”We hope that the U.S. government adopts responsible policies and measures to guarantee the interests of investors,” Hong Lei, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said at a news conference last week.

Beijing might prefer to respond by starting to dump some of its U.S. debt. But in this financial version of the Cold War, analysts say, both sides fear mutually assured destruction. One reason America would want to avoid defaulting on its debt is that such a move could alienate China, which is a steady purchaser of Treasury securities. Beijing, meanwhile, already has too much invested in U.S. debt to do much more but continue to buy, hold and grumble.

It is the ultimate ”too big to fail” global relationship, said Andy Rothman, an analyst in Shanghai for the investment bank CLSA. If Beijing even hinted that it might try to sell part of its U.S. debt, ”other countries might sell their dollar assets,” Mr. Rothman said, noting that this would drive down the value of China’s holdings. ”It would be financial suicide for China.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/19/business/china-largest-holder-of-us-debt-remains-tied-to-treasuries.html

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Panama’s economy: A Singapore for Central America? The Economist


The Economist

Panama’s economy
Latin America’s fastest-growing country has set its sights high. First it needs a government as impressive as its economy
PANAMA CITY
ON A humid stretch of Pacific coast in one of the poorest parts of the Americas, somebody seems to have misplaced a chunk of Manhattan. The 50-storey skyscrapers of Panama City jut out of the jungle like nowhere else in low-rise Central America. Panama’s smart banks, open economy and long queues of boats at its ports have caused many to compare it to Singapore, another steamy success story. Panama’s president, Ricardo Martinelli, made his country’s first state visit there in 2010 and later said, “We copy a lot from Singapore and we need to copy more.”
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Bernanke on CBS’s ‘60 Minutes’ – Real Time Economics – WSJ


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Bernanke on CBS’s ‘60 Minutes’

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke appeared Sunday evening on CBS’s “60 Minutes” to discuss the state of the economy, the central bank’s controversial $600 billion bond-buying plan and the financial crisis. Following are excerpts from the interview with CBS’s Scott Pelley, as released by the network:
Q: The major banks are racking up profits in the billions. Wall Street bonuses are climbing back up to where they were. And yet, lending to small businesses actually declined in the third quarter. Why is that?

A: A lot of small businesses are not seeking credit, because, you know, because their business is not doing well, because the economy is slow. Others are not qualifying for credit, maybe because the value of their property has gone down. But some also can’t meet the terms and conditions that banks are setting.
Q: Is this a case of banks that were eager to take risks that ruin the economy being now unwilling to take risks to support the recovery?

A: We want them to take risks, but not excessive risks. we want to go for a happy medium. And I think banks are back in the business of lending. But they have not yet come back to the level of confidence that –or overconfidence –that they had prior to the crisis. We want to have an appropriate balance.
Q: What did you see that caused you to pull the trigger on the $600 billion, at this point?

A: It has to do with two aspects. the first is unemployment The other concern I should mention is that inflation is very, very low, which you think is a good thing and normally is a good thing. But we’re getting awfully close to the range where prices would actually start falling.
Q: Falling prices lead to falling wages. It lets the steam out of the economy. And you start spiraling downward. … How great a danger is that now?

A: I would say, at this point, because the Fed is acting, I would say the risk is pretty low. But if the Fed did not act, then given how much inflation has come down since the beginning of the recession, I think it would be a more serious concern.
Q: Some people think the $600 billion is a terrible idea.
A: Well. I know some people think that but what they are doing is they’re looking at some of the risks and uncertainties with doing this policy action but what I think they’re not doing is looking at the risk of not acting.
Q: Many people believe that could be highly inflationary. That it’s a dangerous thing to try

A: Well, this fear of inflation, I think is way overstated. we’ve looked at it very, very carefully. We’ve analyzed it every which way. One myth that’s out there is that what we’re doing is printing money. We’re not printing money. The amount of currency in circulation is not changing. The money supply is not changing in any significant way. What we’re doing is lowering interest rates by buying treasury securities. And by lowering interest rates, we hope to stimulate the economy to grow faster. So, the trick is to find the appropriate moment when to begin to unwind this policy. And that’s what we’re going to do.
Q: Is keeping inflation in check less of a priority for the Federal Reserve now?

A: No, absolutely not. What we’re trying to do is achieve a balance. We’ve been very, very clear that we will not allow inflation to rise above two percent or less.
Q: Can you act quickly enough to prevent inflation from getting out of control?

A: We could raise interest rates in 15 minutes if we have to. So, there really is no problem with raising rates, tightening monetary policy, slowing the economy, reducing inflation, at the appropriate time. Now, that time is not now.
Q: You have what degree of confidence in your ability to control this?

A: One hundred percent.
Q: Do you anticipate a scenario in which you would commit to more than 600 billion?

A: Oh, it’s certainly possible. And again, it depends on the efficacy of the program. It depends, on inflation. And finally it depends on how the economy looks.
Q: How would you rate the likelihood of dipping into recession again?

A: It doesn’t seem likely that we’ll have a double dip recession. And that’s because, among other things, some of the most cyclical parts of the economy, like housing, for example, are already very weak. And they can’t get much weaker. And so another decline is relatively unlikely. Now, that being said, I think a very high unemployment rate for a protracted period of time, which makes consumers, households less confident, more worried about the future, I think that’s the primary source of risk that we might have another slowdown in the economy.
Q: You seem to be saying that the recovery that we’re experiencing now is not self-sustaining.

A: It may not be. It’s very close to the border. — it takes about two and a half percent growth just to keep unemployment stable. And that’s about what we’re getting. We’re not very far from the level where the economy is not self-sustaining.
Q: [On calls to cut the deficit]

A: We need to play close attention to the fact that we are recovering now. We don’t want to take actions this year that will affect this year’s spending and this year’s taxes in a way that will hurt the recovery. That’s important. But that doesn’t stop us from thinking now about the long term structural budget deficit. We’re looking at ten, 15, 20 years from now, a situation where almost the entire federal budget will be spent on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and interest on the debt. There won’t be any money left for the military or for any other services the government provides. We can only address those issues if we think about them now.
Q: How concerned are you about the calls that you’re beginning to hear on Capitol Hill that would curb the Fed’s independence?
A: Well, the Fed’s independence is critical. The central bank needs to be able to make policy without short term political concerns. In order to do what’s best for the economy. We do all of our analysis, we do all of our policy decisions based on what we think the economy needs. Not based on when the election is or what political conditions are.
Q: Is there anything that you wish you’d done differently over these last two and a half years or so?

A: Well, I wish I’d been omniscient and seen the crisis coming, the way you asked me about, I didn’t, But it was a very, very difficult situation. And– the Federal Reserve responded very aggressively, very proactively
Q: How did the Fed miss the looming financial crisis?
A: there were large portions of the financial system that were not adequately covered by the regulatory oversight. So, for example, AIG was not overseen by the Fed. … The insurance company that required the bailout, was not overseen by the Fed. It didn’t really have any real oversight at that time. Neither did Lehman Brothers the company that failed Now, I’m not saying the Fed should not have seen some of these things. One of things that I most regret is that we weren’t strong enough in in putting in consumer protections to try to cut down on the subprime lending problem. That was an area where I think we could have done more.
Q: The gap between rich and poor in this country has never been greater. In fact, we have the biggest income disparity gap of any industrialized country in the world. And I wonder where you think that’s taking America.

A: Well, it’s a very bad development. It’s creating two societies. And it’s based very much, I think, on– on educational differences The unemployment rate we’ve been talking about. If you’re a college graduate, unemployment is five percent. If you’re a high school graduate, it’s ten percent or more. It’s a very big difference. It leads to an unequal society and a society– which doesn’t have the cohesion that– that we’d like to see.
Q: We have talked about how the next several years are going be tough years in this country. But I wonder what you think about the ten year time horizon. Fifteen years. How do things look to you long term?

A: Long term, I have a lot of confidence in the United States. We have an excellent record in terms of innovation. We have great universities that are involved in technological change and progress. We have an entrepreneurial culture, much more than almost any other country. So, I think that in the longer term the United States will retain its leading position in the world. But again, we gotta get there. And we have some very difficult challenges over the next few years.
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Bernanke on CBS’s ‘60 Minutes’ – Real Time Economics – WSJ

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The MasterFeeds

MasterFeeds: Weekly Recap, And Upcoming Calendar


Weekly Recap, And Upcoming Calendar
– All Eyes On December 7 And The Irish Budget/European Bank Run – zerohedge.com
From Goldman Sachs
Week in Review

The European / IMF bail-out package for Ireland – announced one week ago – was somewhat smaller than expected at €85 bn and failed to calm market jitters spreading to other Euro zone periphery countries early in the week, most alarmingly to Spain and Italy. It was only with the ECB’s announcement that full allotment liquidity operations would continue through Q1 2011 and with a jump in ECB purchases of Portuguese government bonds on Thursday that stress in the Euro zone periphery abated somewhat.

United States labor market data were weaker than expected, with the unemployment rate jumping to 9.8%, even as the participation rate failed to rise from its very low level of 64.5%. The broadest measure of underemployment (U-6) remains stuck close to its peak level at 17.0%. After much market criticism of QE2, the weak state of the labor market in Friday’s data was seen as validating the Fed’s resumption of large scale asset purchases.

We published our global forecasts last week, as well as an initial batch of our top trades for 2011. The key feature of our forecast revisions is an upgrade to US growth to 2.7% in 2011 from 2.0% previously. This puts us slightly above consensus. On the back of this forecast revision, and with a view that the Fed will likely stay on hold through end-2012, our top trades have a decidedly pro-cyclical flavor. In FX, our top trade is short $/CNY via 2yr NDF.

Week Ahead

Central bank meetings Central banks will be meeting this week in Australia, Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea and the UK. We expect all of these meetings to keep policy rates on hold. Perhaps the most interesting meeting will be Brazil, where the central bank last week announced several measures to tighten domestic liquidity, perhaps indicating a shift to a more hawkish stance. We will be watching carefully for the minutes of the meeting, which will be published next week. In addition, it is also worth noting that this will be Governor Henrique Meirelles’ last Copom meeting, before his successor Alexandre Tombini takes over in January.

Euro zone crisis Following last week’s turbulence on the periphery, this week’s key event will be the Irish parliament vote on the 2011 budget, which is scheduled for Dec 7. A failure to pass the budget could quickly exacerbate tensions across the Euro zone periphery, by highlighting the political costs of needed budget cuts.

Monday 6th

Chile monthly indicator of economic activity (Oct) We expect this indicator to register growth of 6.0% yoy, above consensus of 5.8% yoy but down from 6.5% yoy in September.

Also interesting Taiwan CPI inflation for Nov, given our focus on food price inflation in EM

Tuesday 7th

Australia central bank meeting We expect the RBA to stay on hold at 4.75%, in line with consensus. Bank bill futures are pricing essentially a zero probability of a rate hike as well. We think the RBA will be confident about tightening monetary policy again from March next year, as the data flow should improve from what we see as a mid-cycle slowdown going into 2011.

UK industrial production (Oct) We expect IP to expand 0.3% mom, in line with consensus, after an expansion of 0.4% mom in September.

Irish parliament votes on 2011 budget

Chile CPI (Nov) We expect CPI inflation of 2.5% yoy, in line with consensus and up from 2.0% yoy in October. Consensus expects CPI excluding perishables and fuel to be flat mom, after a -0.1% mom drop in October.

Chile trade balance (Nov) We expect a trade surplus of $980 mn, below consensus which is looking for a surplus of $1,311 mn. Either way, there will be a big jump from October’s surplus of $215 mn.

Canada central bank meeting In line with consensus we think the Bank of Canada will remain on hold. Indeed, even though we upgraded our Canada growth forecast this week, we continue to believe that the Bank of Canada will remain on hold throughout 2011, as it looks over its shoulder at the Fed’s QE2.

Also interesting Philippines CPI for Nov, given our focus on food price inflation in EM

Wednesday 8th

Germany industrial production (Oct) We expect a strong print of 1.2% mom, slightly above consensus of 1.0% mom after a relatively weak reading of -0.8% mom in September.

Turkey industrial production (Oct) We expect a reading of 7.0% yoy, above consensus of 6.4% yoy, but down from 10.4% yoy in September.

Brazil IPCA inflation (Nov) Following the elevated reading for the IPCA-15, we expect IPCA inflation in November to be 0.92% mom, which is above consensus of 0.86% mom.

Brazil central bank meeting We expect the Copom to remain on hold at this meeting, in line with consensus. Last week’s reserve requirement hike and other measures could be seen as a shift to a more hawkish stance by the central bank, but whether or not this raises the probability of a hike this week depends on whether one sees this as a substitute or complement to a hike. Our economists think the latter and believe the probability of a rate hike has gone from something like 25% before last week’s measures to 45% now.

Thursday 9th

Australia employment report (Nov) We expect the unemployment rate to drop to 5.2% from 5.4% in October, in line with consensus, as we think the participation rate drops back from its higher level after last month’s jump. We think the strong trend of employment growth will continue. We are looking for +25k employment change, above consensus of +20k.

New Zealand central bank meeting In line with consensus, we expect the RBNZ to remain on hold this week.

South Korea central bank meeting We maintain our view of no rate hikes in the December and January Monetary Policy Committee meetings. We expect the next rate hike, 25 bps, to be in February 2011.

UK central bank meeting We expect the Bank of England to keep rates unchanged.

Brazil GDP (Q3) We are looking for growth of 0.5% qoq, above consensus of 0.4% qoq but below the strong pace of 1.2% qoq in Q2.

United States initial claims (Dec 4) Consensus expects initial claims of 425k, following 436k last week.

Friday 10th

China trade balance (Nov) We expect November export growth to accelerate to 27.0% on a yoy basis, from 22.9% yoy in October. Meanwhile, we believe import growth will rise to 26.0% yoy, from 25.3% yoy in October. This implies net exports will likely stay at a high level of around US$25.0 bn, slightly lower than US$27.1 bn in October. Our estimate for the trade balance is thus above consensus ($21 bn).

Turkey GDP (Q3) Consensus expects growth of 6.5% yoy, down from 10.3% yoy in Q2.

United States trade balance (Oct) We expect the trade deficit to narrow to -$40.5 bn, against consensus which expects the trade deficit to remain unchanged from the September reading at -$44.0 bn.

United States U. of Michigan consumer confidence (Dec) Consensus expects this preliminary reading to be 72.5, up from 71.6 for the November reading.


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