The Great Debate UK

from The Great Debate:

Time for a shareholder revolt

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jamessaft1(James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

There are encouraging signs that shareholders are becoming more assertive in defending their interests.

The Financial Times reported on Monday that some of Britain's largest institutional shareholders - including Standard Life, Legal & General and M&G - are working on a plan to bypass investment banks by creating a club to underwrite new issues of equity by small and medium-sized British companies, a move that could save hugely on fees.

What, you may wonder, took them so long?

Second only to taxpayers, investors have been the great patsies of the financial crisis, paying massive costs to a financial services industry which has, to put it mildly, not served them well.

Activist shareholders and investors could be a key force in fixing what is wrong with the financial system. Unleashing their power to act in their own best interests should be a main thrust of new regulation.

from The Great Debate:

An unhealthy privilege

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jamessaft1--James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.--

When the U.S. dollar ultimately loses its status as the world's premier reserve currency it will be painful for all involved, almost certainly disorganized, and very possibly a very good thing.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick outlined the risks to the dollar's status in a speech in Washington on Monday.

from The Great Debate:

Global imbalances: out with a bang?

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jamessaft1.jpg(James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

The simplest way to end the imbalances in the world's economy is also sadly perhaps the most likely: for the Chinese to stop buying U.S. debt.

This is not going to happen anytime soon, for one thing deleveraging in the U.S. will for a time make U.S. Treasuries look good value, but a buyer's strike is a heck of a lot more likely than the orchestrated rebalancing the U.S. will push at this week's G-20 meeting of leading nations.

from The Great Debate:

China’s coming magnificent bubble

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jamessaft1.jpg--James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own--

If and when China makes its currency convertible and opens its financial system the stage will be set for a bubble that should make the dotcom and housing booms look tame.

China has recently signaled its key aspirations: for a greater international role for the renminbi and for Shanghai to become a great financial capital. Neither is imminent, but both imply, if not require, a series of steps that, taken in combination with China's legitimately great potential for growth, could lead to a bubble of magnificent and dangerous proportions.

from The Great Debate:

Here lies the Great American Consumer

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jamessaft1.jpg--James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own--

Rest in peace, Great American Consumer. We will not see your like again.

"Cash-for-clunkers" aside, consumers seem bent on actually paying back debt rather than racking it up, a change that if sustained, as it is likely to be, will dampen economic growth not for months but for years, and not just in the U.S.

Outstanding U.S. consumer borrowing fell by a jaw-dropping $21.6 billion in July, according to data released this week by the Federal Reserve, five times more than analysts expected and the second largest monthly drop since the end of World War II.

from The Great Debate:

Worry about bank capital, not bonuses

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jamessaft1--James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.--

The effort to rein in banking bonuses, outrageous as they may be, is akin to banning glue sniffing because you are worried about the effects of intoxication.

There are, as the kids in the alley behind the high school can tell you, other ways of getting high.

from The Great Debate:

A brief, but welcome recovery in housing

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jamessaft1.jpg(James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

Activity in the U.S. housing market has bottomed - a huge plus for the economy - but a recovery in prices will not be sustained and the threat from real estate to bank capital remains acute.

We are over the worst, but only because of massive official support, support that will soon ebb. That could lead to a relapse, especially among more expensive houses, but nothing along the lines of what we have suffered so far.

from The Great Debate:

How not to avoid the next panic

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jamessaft1.jpg(James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

A proposal to give banks, hedge funds and private equity firms "affordable" credit default swap-based insurance against market panics will be very effective: it will effectively encourage even more risk taking and turn the next crisis into one about government credit.

Global central bankers assembled at the Jackson Hole conference last week heard the proposal, by two Massachusetts Institute of Technology economists Ricardo Caballero and Pablo Kurlat. Their idea is that most of the damage in panics is due to a combination of investors overestimating the damage during a market seizure and policy-makers being too slow to pull the trigger on bailouts.

from The Great Debate:

Japan: The mother of all miserable recoveries

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jamessaft1(James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

Investors met the news that Japan's economy has emerged from a bone-breaking recession calmly and rationally: they sold shares quickly and in large amounts and made bets that consumer prices are going to be falling for years to come.

That's because Japan's recovery, coming as it does after a global bubble in the production of what I call, for lack of a more technical term, "stuff," is really not sustainable.

from The Great Debate:

How the bailout feeds bloated banker pay

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jamessaft1-- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Rising pay in the finance sector in the wake of the global financial crisis is no surprise and is driven partly by the government's bailout itself and the underwriting of banks that are too big to fail.

News that some financial firms benefitting from government largesse actually increased the share of revenue they pay their employees sparked a lot of outrage but more heat than light.

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