Ask…

Share your views on hot topics

Jobs: Bad news or good sign?

Photo

If you’re one of the 539,000 people who lost their job last month, do you have reason to be hopeful today? The stock market seems to think so. And many of those who work in the financial sector say the April jobless report, which included an unemployment rate at a quarter-century high around 9 percent, indicates the economy is near bottom. One analyst said, “May looks much more favorable”; said another: “You can make the case that the panic layoffs that we saw at the turn of the year are starting to ease.”

Not everyone was optimistic. “The big question is has the peak in job losses hit? I am somewhat skeptical that we have seen the absolute worst of it, but you can’t rule that out,” said Jay Mueller, a senior portfolio manager at Wells Capital Management.

What do you think? When it comes to job losses, is the worst behind us?

from Richard Baum:

Condolences for Chrysler

When I moved to North America in 2004, I knew immediately what car I wanted to own: a Chrysler PT Cruiser. Its retro-design captured the romance of the automobile in a uniquely American way, giving it character that I felt was missing from so many modern cars.

It's a small, fuel-efficient car that combines classic design aesthetics with today's environmental priorities. But its harkening to a golden age is also a statement on the cultural significance of the auto industry in the U.S., where writers from Jack Kerouac to Bruce Springsteen have long linked the freedom of the road with the freedom of the nation.

Has swine flu made you change your ways?

A couple wearing mask wait for their relatives to arrive from Mexico at Sao Paulo's international airport

There are fears that a swine flu outbreak that has leapfrogged from Mexico, across North America and into Europe could become a global pandemic,  rekindling memories of the SARS crisis that caused widespread turmoil six years ago.

The flu virus spreads quickly between humans and although it has so far only killed people in Mexico, governments across the world are taking measures to try to reduce its impact.

from Global Investing:

Bear market rally/Bull market beginning?

Photo

Another month and another Reuters asset allocation poll. This time saw investors in United States, Europe and Japan lifting their equity holdings and cutting back slightly on bonds.  Fits with what has been happening on global financial markets, where MSCI's main world stock index is heading for its best month in at least six years.

So the big question is what happens now. Is this a bear market bounce that will soon dissipate?  Or is it the start of something bullish that will last?

Bold move or socialism?

Photo

The ax has fallen on GM chief Rick Wagoner’s neck. With one swing, President Obama put an end to Wagoner’s reign at the helm of the struggling auto giant. GM had asked the government for another bailout amounting to a further $16 billion in loans. Instead, the Obama administration pledged only to fund GM’s operations for another 60 days while it develops a sweeping restructuring plan.

Obama’s team also took aim at Chrysler, pushing it toward a merger, and threatened bankruptcy for both Detroit giants.

The sky is falling — or is it?

Photo

The economic sky might still be falling, but it looks like the folks playing the stock markets have their hard hats on. Either that or they may be on to something. If the recent run of gains for global equities continues, world stocks will mark their best month in a decade. A look at the MSCI’s all-country world stock index shows a gain of 8 percent this month. It has climbed nearly 18 percent over the past eight sessions. It’s enough to make you think someone has opened the gate and let the bull out. But investors are ever-cautious and few are jumping up and down with glee.

What do you think? Is the stock market turning the corner?

from Global Investing:

Reuters Funds Summit: The end of equities?

Another in our series of one-minute managers. This time it is Ken Kinsey-Quick, who heads up multi manager investing at Thames River Capital. He reckons the old days of buying and holding equities over the long term are gone for good. Is he right?

from MacroScope:

Waiting for the G20 to….?

Photo

Finance ministers and central bankers from the G20 meet this weekend in the English countryside to discuss the world's financial and economic crisis. With this in mind, MacroScope asked a number of economists what they want to see from the meeting and the G20 summit to follow later and what they expect to see.

The answer, in short, appears to be that much is needed but not much expected.

Paul Mortimer-Lee, head of market economics, BNP Paribas:

"There will be progress on agreeing that regulation needs to be more effective and more effectively co-ordinated on a global scale but I am unconvinced we are going to go a long way further.  Some populist posturing on bank bonuses etc should be expected. The less is achieved in other areas the more this will get played up. On bank recapitalisation, they will all agree strong capital is a good thing, but in no way do I expect a concerted plan -- it's driven by events and the exigencies of the local banking system.

from MacroScope:

Welcome to “The Great Recession”

Photo

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a name. We are living through "The Great Recession". Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, used the term to describe our current angst on a trip to Africa this week. He may not have been the first to use it -- we have found other citations, including JPMorgan -- but the guessing here is that it may  stick with him because of his role.

It's a pretty neat moniker, actually. It resonates, of course, with "Great Depression" but without the soup lines and Hoovervilles. At the same time, it differentiates between the severe contraction now under way and run-of-the-mill economic misery. It also has the snappiness that media folks like -- hence this post.

from Global Investing:

Who’s next for the Dow?

Photo

Arzu Cevik, director at Thomson Reuters Strategic Research, writes:

"With Citi shares trading below $1, the first time since 1970 that a “penny stock” traded on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, it is widely expected that it will be removed from the index.

"The company was added to the Dow in 1997 when it was still known as Travelers, and the last company to be removed from the Dow was AIG last September (when its stock hovered above $1) and was replaced by Kraft Foods.

  •