Opinion

The Great Debate

The uncharted waters of government ownership

lou-lataif– Louis E. Lataif, a former president of Ford Motors of Europe, is dean of the Boston University School of Management. The views expressed are his own. —

Government ownership of General Motors (60% U.S. and 12% Canada) will be fraught with difficulties.

Given the large taxpayer stake in the company, it will be impossible for elected officials to stay out of the fray. Congress inevitably will interject itself in business decisions affecting employment, the kind of vehicles the company builds, or the company’s position on nationalizing health care – just as it is now asserting itself on the question of dealership closures.

Imagine the new General Motors (i.e., the government) attempting collective bargaining with the United Auto Workers’ union (on whose behalf the government stepped into the fray in the first place).

Consider the company lobbying Washington on an issue favored by the government (e.g., tax policy or the elimination of secret ballots for workers) but ill-suited for the company. And there there’s the matter of types of vehicles to be built.

Diamond hangs on to Barclays crown jewel

Margaret DoyleYou have to hand it to Barclays. The reported sale of BGI, its fund management arm, to BlackRock  for $13 billion is probably the best way that the bank could bolster its capital ratio.

It looks like it will end up with around $8 billion in cash and a fifth of the enlarged asset manager.

The gain on the sale would lift its equity tier 1 ratio to 6.8 percent from just over 6 percent, according to Nomura.

Bernanke’s deficit warning helps Obama

obama– James Pethokoukis is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

Sorry, Larry Summers. It’s looking more and more likely that you’re going to be stuck in the West Wing for the duration.

See, if your boss fails to reappoint Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve chairman come January, it would be a public betrayal worthy of the television reality show “Survivor.” For President Obama has no greater ally: Bernanke is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

This time, CIC raises Morgan Stanley stake

Wei Gu– Wei Gu is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are her own –

America may have fallen out of love with Wall Street, but China hasn’t. That’s one way to read CIC’s just-announced $1.2 billion investment in Morgan Stanley — funds that allow the investment bank to repay Tarp money to the U.S. Treasury.

This looks to be an aggressive vote of confidence in the beating heart of U.S. financial capitalism.

No U.S. bounce from China’s safety net

Christopher Swann– Christopher Swann is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

Offer a U.S. Treasury secretary visiting Beijing one wish, and he will certainly opt for a revalued Chinese currency. Offer a second, and the probable choice would be a strengthened social safety net.

Timothy Geithner followed bipartisan tradition when he recently called on the Chinese to strengthen their social benefits. Indeed, it has become an article of faith that a solid welfare state will allow the Chinese to curb their abnormally high savings rate — which is at the heart of the global economic imbalance.

from The Great Debate UK:

A reality check from Standard & Poor’s

REUTERS-- Neil Collins is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own --

Standard & Poor's could have chosen a better day to kick the British economy, by placing the UK onto "negative outlook", the usual precursor to a downgrade of S&P's rating of an issuer's debt.

The move came minutes before the Debt Management Office closed its massive auction of 5 billion pounds of 2014 stock, and minutes after the release of figures showing the Public Sector Net Borrowing Requirement leaping to 8.5 billion pounds in April, a sum which not long ago would have been considered high for a whole year.

Economist Howard Archer at Global Insight immediately called the figure "dire, starting the new fiscal year off as it is highly likely to continue."

Conceptual problems in commodity regulation

John Kemp Great Debate– John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

The financial crisis and wild gyrations in commodity prices have exposed deep conceptual flaws in the way academics and regulators think about commodity markets that will force a fundamental re-think.

In particular, they have demolished three key main planks on which the laissez-faire approach to regulation has rested:

Killer robots and a revolution in warfare

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

They have no fear, they never tire, they are not upset when the soldier next to them gets blown to pieces. Their morale doesn’t suffer by having to do, again and again, the jobs known in the military as the Three Ds – dull, dirty and dangerous.

They are military robots and their rapidly increasing numbers and growing sophistication may herald the end of thousands of years of human monopoly on fighting war. “Science fiction is moving to the battlefield. The future is upon us,” as Brookings scholar Peter Singer put it to a conference of experts at the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania this month.

from The Great Debate UK:

Bank of England faces dilemma on QE extension

johnkemp-- John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own --

LONDON, April 9 (Reuters) - The Bank of England's terse press statement announcing it will maintain overnight rates at 0.5 percent and continue the existing 75 billion pound quantitative easing (QE) programme gives no clue about whether the Bank intends to extend the programme when the first tranche of asset purchases are completed in June.
But officials will have to make a decision soon: unless they signal a commitment to extend QE, gilt yields will rise even further in anticipation that the major buyer in the market will withdraw.
The QE programme is dogged by ambiguity about its objectives (which a cynical observer might conclude is deliberate).
Officially, the aim is to prevent inflation falling below target by accelerating money supply growth, not manipulate the yield curve for government and corporate debt.
In this, the Bank's avowed strategy is more conventional than the Fed's ambitious efforts to determine the cost of credit for borrowers throughout the economy. It is a straightforward quantitative easing patterned on the Bank of Japan, rather than a credit easing patterned on the Fed.
If true, the measure of success is how much the money supply has been boosted at the end of the three month period; the Bank should be indifferent about whether ending QE causes yields and borrowing costs to rise.
So long as money supply has risen consistent with the inflation target, and the Bank can discern some green shoots of stabilisation if not recovery, officials can declare victory, end the programme, and keep the other 75 billion pounds of asset purchases authorised by the chancellor in reserve. Yields can be left to find their natural level.
But many suspect the Bank's real objective is yield control -- in which case it will have to announce another round of buy backs of gilts and corporate bonds in good time, well before the current programme is completed, to shape market expectations.
The results of the existing round have been unimpressive.
After falling initially, gilt yields are almost back up to the level they were at before the Bank's foray into unconventional monetary policy.
The snag is that if the Bank stops buying, other investors will struggle to absorb all the new government paper on offer without a major increase in yield -- pushing up borrowing costs for everyone, precisely what the Bank has sought to avoid.
The Bank's dilemma is whether to push on (heightening fears about inflation) or call a halt (risking a spike in yields all the same).
Either way, the Bank needs to give the market, as well as the Treasury and the Debt Management Office, plenty of warning about its intentions.
(Editing by Richard Hubbard)

from The Great Debate UK:

Women entrepreneurs to dispel micro myth

090301_glenda_pic- Glenda Stone is chief executive and founder of Aurora, a recruitment advertising and market intelligence company, and co-chairs the UK Women's Enterprise Taskforce established by Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The opinions expressed are her own. -

Most venture capital and angel investment tend to go to a specific breed of entrepreneur - innovative, well networked, intelligent, confident ... male. Is this the result of deep-rooted discrimination or is this simply an issue of supply and demand? Women-owned businesses are largely under-capitalised and this leads to inhibited growth.

Access to finance is cited by numerous sources as the greatest barrier to the growth of women's enterprise but "access" is only the consequence and "education" is the cause. More women need to participate in business education addressing business growth, technology, revenue models, and securing correct types of finance.

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