Opinion

James Saft

Waiting for labor’s gains

Oct 4, 2011 21:51 UTC

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

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Right about now, even the most committed capitalist investor ought to be hoping for one thing: that labor soon has the upper hand.

That’s because the whole edifice: the global economy, the consumption-based developed economies and the share prices they power are crumbling because average workers simply haven’t got enough earning and buying power to play their central role.

Wages in the U.S., for example, have been stagnant for the best part of 40 years, during which time the consumption merry-go-round has only been kept spinning through a combination of artificially high asset prices and spending borrowed money.

Consumer incomes actually fell in August for the first time in almost two years, according to new data, and consumer spending only eked out a modest gain due to a sharp fall in the savings rate. Given that people are living longer and have stressed balance sheets, dis-saving is a tactic that will only work for so long.

This state of affairs has allowed corporate profits, as a share of the economy, to hit their highest point in the second quarter since records began in 1947, and on track to hit an annual high since at least 1929. Even the stock market no longer sees that as evidence of rude health, as shown by the steady, grinding decline in prices relative to earnings.

EU must choose its lies wisely

Dec 16, 2010 14:06 UTC

You can lie to taxpayers or you can lie to creditors, European authorities are learning, but doing both at the same time is very hard.

The proposed policy that current senior creditors to troubled states will not face losses on their loans but future private lenders will be forced to share in losses with taxpayers is so irrational, so bound to fail that it falls out of the realm of economics and into the ambit of brain injury.

European Union member states will this week hold a summit at which they will create a permanent fund to lend to troubled members under co-called strict conditions of fiscal responsibility.

Waiting for Europe’s QE to sail

Dec 2, 2010 15:17 UTC

The good news is that the European Central Bank will probably start a massive additional round of quantitative easing to fight the break-up of the euro zone.

The bad news is that they will, as ever, only choose the right policy, as Winston Churchill said of the Americans, after exhausting all of the alternatives.

Global share markets rallied furiously on Wednesday, fed by hopes that the ECB would increase its bond-buying efforts, a possibility raised by its chief Jean-Claude Trichet in an appearance before the European Parliament. Trichet faces stern opposition inside the ECB from fellow central bankers, notably German Axel Weber, who believe that policy should be normalized rather than loosened.

Pension savers get the boot

Nov 30, 2010 15:04 UTC

From Dublin to Paris to Budapest to inside those brown UPS trucks delivering holiday packages, it has been a tough few weeks for savers and retirees.

Moves by the Irish, French and Hungarian governments, and by the famous delivery company, showed that in the post-crisis world retirees, present and future, will be paying much of the price and taking on more of the risk.

This goes beyond merely cutting back on pension benefits, rising to actual appropriation of supposedly long-term retirement assets to help fund short term emergencies.

  •