Global Investing

from Jeremy Gaunt:

The rule of three

It is beginning to look like financial markets cannot handle more than three risks. First we have, as MacroScope reported earlier,  Barclays Wealth worrying about U.S. consumers, euro zone debt and Asian overheating.

Now comes Jim O'Neill and his economic team at Goldman Sachs, with three slightly different notions about risks in the second half, this time in the form of questions. To whit:

1) How deep will the U.S. economic slowdown be and what will  the policy response be? (That's two questions, actually, but let's not nitpick).

2) How much decoupling is possible between the U.S. economy and others, notably China?

3) Will sovereign and systemic risks intensify again or settle?

For what it is worth, Goldman reckons none of the three should be too damaging:

"Our own forecasts envisage a period of some muddiness in the near-term that ultimately resolves towards a more positive global view. But given the fragilities in the system, we will be watching our various proprietary tooks ... and trying to stay open-minded."

Financial survival tips for the age of debt

From whom would you rather take investment advice:  one of the thousands of bankers or wealth managers who did not see the financial crisis coming or one of the few economists who predicted it?

In his 2003 bestseller “The Dollar Crisis”, Richard Duncan forecast how the unbridled creation of liquidity was set to spark a financial crisis. Three years after the crisis unfolded, Duncan’s new book, “The Corruption of Capitalism”, paints an even bleaker future.

Duncan expects that, in the years ahead, governments will prop up economies with ever-bigger doses of fiscal and monetary stimulus, but that eventually the extreme imbalances in the world economy will be corrected by market forces.

Remember the subprime crisis?

Remember the U.S. subprime crisis? Lombard Odier thinks the crisis is not over, and worse, a second wave is just ahead of us.

 ROUTE-RECOVERY/

Paul Marson, chief investment officer at the investment firm, thiknks that Alt-A and Option ARM (Adjustable Rates Mortages) mortgages are due for resets in 2010/11.

Alt-As sit somewhere between prime and subprime mortgages. Option ARMs are mortgages which required little or no documentation, where borrowers had the option of making minimum monthly payments lower than the accruded monthly interest on the loan. Given the shocking borrower quality, the hope was that house prices would continue to rise and homeowners could simply “flip” the property when the mortgage came to reset.

from MacroScope:

Crisis? What Crisis?

The title of this post is taken from two sources. One was a headline in British tabloid, The Sun, in January 1979, when then-prime minister James Callaghan denied that strike-torn Britain was in chaos. The second was the title of a 1975 album by prog rock band Supertramp that famously showed someone sunbathing amidst the grey awfulness of the declining industrial landscape.

Are we now getting blasé about the latest crisis? Not so long ago, perfectly respectable economists and financial analysts were talking about a new Great Depression. The world was on the brink, it was said. Now, though, consensus appears to be that it is all over bar the shouting. The world is safe.

Wealth managers at Barclays have gone as far as telling their clients to get over it.

from The Great Debate UK:

Is a bubble burbling in financial markets?

JaneFoley.JPG-Jane Foley is research director at Forex.com. The opinions expressed are her own.-

The discrediting of the efficient markets theory in the aftermath of the financial crisis appears to have been accompanied with growing support for the view that rather than efficient in nature, financial markets are predisposed towards the formation of bubbles.

A bubble can simply be defined as an occurrence that begins when the price of an asset has been driven significantly above it "fair" value. According to the efficient markets theory this would not happen.

from MacroScope:

Crisis reading: What’s in the book bag?

Readers of MacroScope who live in the northern hemisphere will be gearing up for some summer reading.

James Montier, the market psychologist who is also an equity analyst at Societe Generale, has come up with his annual recomendations of what to read. The full list is here, but for the current economic and market crisis he has this to offer:

My favourite book in this category is Bill Fleckenstein’s ‘Greenspan’s Bubbles’ -- an excellent exposé of incompetence during Alan Greenspan's tenure as Fed Chairman. The next choice in this group is Whitney Tilson and Glen Tongue’s ‘More Mortgage Meltdown’. This book explains clearly how we ended up in this mess (and is based on the authors -- real time experience), and an added bonus is the insight into Tilson's investment process provided by the case studies. My final choice in this section is Jim Grant’s ‘Mr. Market Miscalculates’. I've mentioned this excellent book before, and I believe it deserves a place on all investors' bookshelves.

EBRD to puzzle over E.Europe crisis

Ministers and bankers meeting at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development‘s annual gathering in London tomorrow and Saturday have a sorry mess to scrutinise.

By the bank’s own (revised) forecasts, its region of central and eastern Europe will contract by over 5 percent this year. Many countries in eastern Europe took too much advantage of western banks’ lending spree, and businesses and households are struggling to pay back foreign currency loans.

Falling commodity prices have hit countries like Russia and Kazakhstan, and a burst consumer credit bubble is risking double-digit contraction in the Baltic states and Ukraine.

from Davos Notebook:

Hank Paulson is not Gavrilo Princip, Lehman is not the Archduke Franz Ferdinand

Was letting Lehman go down the biggest mistake of the crisis? Many, including George Soros in the Financial Times, have argued that letting Lehman go down sowed panic to markets, consumers and businesses.

Not so fast, says Harvard historian Niall Ferguson, in an interview in Davos:

"My position is this is a typical error of historical understanding in which a single event is blamed for much more than it can possibly have caused. You can say ‘Hank Paulson is to blame for my troubles' and if you can change one thing in the story it would have a happy ending.

It's like saying if only Princip had not shot the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 there wouldn't have been a First World War.