A tightening in financial conditions is under way but its principal architect won't be the Federal Reserve.
The Great Debate UK
from The Great Debate:
(James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)
The bad news for holders of U.S. debt, in case you missed it, is that China has sold so many Treasuries that it is no longer America's leading lender.
Shanghai has had its first new issues disaster. XD Electric fell 1.4 percent on its first day of trading. That might not sound so bad, until you consider that Chinese initial public offerings in the last six months rose an average 80 percent on their first day. It might be a welcome sign that China's stock market investors are become more discerning.
Hedge funds watching China's markets are licking their lips at what they see as the best shorting opportunity since Enron. But while plans to allow short-selling are imminent, this won't be a bear's picnic. Beijing's plans to allow two-way equity bets will give foreigners little chance. Borrowing individual stocks will be tricky, even for locals.
Google’s cyber-complaint is the tip of an iceberg. Coordinated attacks on IT systems are common, yet companies and governments have kept largely silent. The growth of computer services that rely heavily on the Internet means the stakes are growing higher. That may explain why Google spoke up about recent attempts to steal its intellectual property -- and why the U.S. State Department has also taken China to task.
A month before China ushers in the year of the Tiger, its central bank has begun to address the effects of its roaring liquidity boom. It is encouraging that the authorities in Beijing are alert to the threat of an overheating financial system. But with so many countervailing forces, the liquidity tiger will not be tamed so easily.
Oil price bulls and bears have both had their triumphs in recent history. The price of crude rose to $147 a barrel in July of 2008 only to plummet to $33 a barrel a few months later. It swung past $82 a barrel this week because of a cold snap, and is up 18 percent since mid-December. But barring heightened tension in the Middle East, oil looks likely to slide in the short term.
The economic worst is past. But there are many issues left to worry about.
Start with the good news. GDP is now growing almost everywhere, while the unemployment rate is hardly rising anywhere. Businesses and consumers are less fearful. As much as half of the 20 percent decline in international trade has been erased.