MacroScope

Essential reading for tomorrow’s leaders

Amid the sessions on managing risk, sustainable consumption and lessons from the recession, it’s refreshing to see that the World Economic Forum has carved out time to discuss the world of literature at its “summer Davos” meeting in Dalian, China. The aim of its panel on “Great Books for a Globalized World” is to ask, which classic and contemporary books from different cultures are essential for developing the personal values and professional philosophies of future leaders?

We asked one of the participants in the panel, Xie Youshun, professor of Chinese literature at the Sun Yat Sen University in Guangzhou, China , to give us his list. It’s published below, right above the box where we invite your suggestions for essential reading for future leaders.

1. New History by Chien Mu
2. Nineteen Lectures on Chinese Philosophy by Mou Zongsan (aka Mou Tsung-san)
3. Heavy Body (collection of essays) by Liu Xiaofeng, Shanghai Renmin Press 1999
4. Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
5. China 1957 (novel) by You Fengwei, Shanghai Wenyi Press 2001
6. Representations of the Intellectual by Edward Said
7. Face and Peach Blossom (2004 novel, aka “Renmian Taohua”) by Ge Fei
8. The Myth of Sisyphus, by Albert Camus
9. Gates of Eden, by Morris Dickstein
10. The Lesson of this Century by Karl Popper

China leading other markets?

It’s becoming increasingly common to blame Chinese stocks for recent volatility in global markets.

In some places, numbers do back up why China and other markets are increasingly moving in tandem.

According to Brown Brothers Harriman, the correlation based on percentage change between Shanghai stocks and the S&P 500 index has risen to 18 percent in the last three months. This compares with year-to-date correlation of 9 percent and 4.5 percent in the past two years.

from Global Investing:

The Big Five: Themes for the Week Ahead

Five things to think about this week:

CENTRAL BANKERS IN A HOLE
-- The global economy and financial system appear on the road to recovery but that is in large part due to unprecedented official stimulus that will have to be withdrawn at some point - the questions investors want answered are when, and how.  Central bankers no longer appear to be quite as shoulder to shoulder with one another on coordinated policy as they were last year in the aftermath of Lehman's collapse.
 

CHINA STOCK WATCHING
--  It is August, liquidity has dried up with the summer holiday season in full swing, and investors are palpably more cautious about the economic outlook now than they have been for months. It is against this backdrop that that the Chinese stock market is emerging as the focal point and driver of all other asset markets. The Shanghai Composite technically slipped into bear market territory earlier last week, shedding 20 percent in the two weeks from Aug. 4 to Aug. 19 on profit taking from the 90 percent surge this year. There is no major Chinese economic data scheduled for release this week, leaving thin markets at the whim of sentiment in what is a notoriously volatile stock market.
 

GROWTH FOUNDATIONS
-- The United States, Britain and Germany unveil revised estimates of Q2 economic growth. Revised GDP figures rarely garner much attention but with initial estimates from Germany, France and Japan earlier this month all showing that these countries exited recession in the last quarter, investors will be looking for further evidence the world economy has turned the corner. The hard data is stronger now than it has been for some time but is the global economy building a solid base for recovery, or is it more likely to buckle were authorities to begin withdrawing the massive fiscal and monetary stimulus?
 

Rebalance or else, IMF says

The International Monetary Fund has been warning for years about the risk of global imbalances — namely huge U.S. current account deficits and surpluses in China. Today its chief economist offered a grim view of how the economy might suffer if the rebalancing act fails.

Olivier Blanchard says unless the United States can refocus its economy more toward exports and China more toward imports, the U.S. recovery will probably be anemic because American consumers aren’t going to quickly revert back to their pre-crisis free-spending ways.

And if the recovery is anemic, there will no doubt be intense political pressure for more stimulus, particular in 2010 when most members of Congress face re-election.

from Changing China:

Love the Motherland, Love Statistics

The next time anyone questions the reliability of Chinese statistics, they should first spare a thought for the sensitive, earnest souls who gather the data. The National Bureau of Statistics asked its employees to craft poems to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China. 

Like Chinese growth surging beyond economists' forecasts, their literary talents are sure to leave critics gasping for breath.

Here are three of the entrants in the poetry competition, "Statistics Affection: We Walk Together".

from Global Investing:

The Big Five: themes for the week ahead

Five things to think about this week:

APPETITE TO CHASE? 
- Equity bulls have managed to retain the upper hand so far and the MSCI world index is up almost 50 percent from its March lows. However, earnings may need to show signs of rebounding for the rally's momentum to be sustained. Even those looking for further equity gains think the rise in stock prices will lag that in earnings once the earnings recovery gets underway, as was the case in past cycles. The symmetry/asymmetry of market reaction to data this week -- as much from China as from the major developed economies -- will show how much appetite there is to keep chasing the rally higher. 

TAKING CONSUMERS' PULSE 
- A better picture of the health of the consumer will emerge this week as U.S. retailers' earnings coincides with the release of U.S. July retail sales data and the UK BRC retail survey comes out on the other side of the Atlantic. With joblessness still rising, the reports will show how willing households are to spend and whether deep discounts, which eat into retailers' profit margins, are the only thing that will tempt them to shop -- both key issues for the macroeconomic and corporate outlook. 

CENTRAL BANK WATCH 
- After last week's Bank of England surprise, all eyes turn to what sort of signals the U.S. Federal Reserve and Bank of Japan will send on the outlook for their respective economies and QE programmes. After the BOE's expansion of its QE programme the short sterling strip repriced how soon UK rates would rise. But the broader trend recently in the U.S., euro zone and the UK has been to discount rate rises in 2010 -- and possibly as soon as this year in Australia. Benchmark interbank euro rates have risen for the first time in two months, and central bankers everywhere, including China, face the delicate balancing act of managing monetary tightening expectations in the months ahead. 

from Global Investing:

The Big Five: themes for the week ahead

Five things to think about this week:

GOOD RUN 
-  Stocks have managed to extend their rally but potential hurdles, such as this week's U.S. non-farm payrolls, could prove increasingly hard to leap given valuations -- European stocks are trading at their highest multiples of earnings since May 2008 while the multiple for the S&P is the highest since mid-September 2008. If investors are to boost equity holdings -- which Reuters polls show already back to pre-Lehman levels -- it may require more concrete evidence of economic expansion, rather than just economic stabilisation, and signs that profit margins will be supported by revenue growth, rather than cost cutting. 

BOE - HANGING IN THE BALANCE
- The Bank of England will have to decide this week whether to end its asset-buying programme or extend it. Concern about potential longer-term inflation implications will have to be weighed against the signs of economic weakness still manifest in recent Q2 GDP data. With economists split on the outcome, markets look set for volatility, not least as the MPC's decision is likely to be viewed as a indication of when other central banks could start to halt/unwind their credit easing strategy. 

SQUARING CIRCLES
- The dexterity with which China can manage surging lending and potential price pressures without unsettling markets with any rapid reversal of stimulative policy is increasingly in focus and will have financial market and macroeconomic repercussions well beyond its borders and Asia, as last week showed. Australia, which felt the spillover effect of the China jitters, has its own policy dilemma as the RBA is trying to push back against its currency's appreciation while giving markets another reason to buy A$ by its more upbeat view on the domestic economic outlook. The RBA policy meeting this week will give the central bank a chance to show how it squares this circle. 

from Global Investing:

The Big Five: themes for the week ahead

Five things to think about this week:

HOLDING UP -- FOR NOW 
- A good run in equities has so far been helped rather than hindered by U.S. company results. Some are questioning how long the upward momentum can be sustained given cost-cutting rather than improved revenue streams flattered profit margins. The European earnings season, which cranks up a gear this week, and the release of U.S. Q2 GDP data could be potential triggers for a pullback, but the sensitivity to bad news may depend on how much money is chasing the latest push higher. 
    

EARNINGS 
- European earnings flooding out in the coming weeks may paint a less rosy picture of the banking sector than seen on the other side of the Atlantic. While investment and trading activities should be supportive, bad loan provisions will be particularly closely scrutinised, as will the central and eastern Europe exposure of the likes of Erste. The supply/demand outlook for key commodities plans will also be in the limelight given the battery of oil and chemical firms reporting in Europe and the U.S. 

CORRELATIONS 
- There are signs of some breakdown in the lockstep moves that financial markets had become accustomed to seeing in FX/stocks or stocks/bonds. Calyon research shows correlation between the bank's proprietary risk aversion barometer and exchange rates has been less robust in the past month. While this correlation nevertheless remains stronger than that between FX and interest rate differentials, the markets' thoughts are turning to new linkages that might prove better trading guides. 

from Global Investing:

The Big Five: themes for the week ahead

Five things to think about this week

TUSSLE FOR DIRECTION
- The tussle between bullish and bearish inclinations -- with bears gaining a bit of ground so far this month -- is being played out over both earnings and economic data. Alcoa got the U.S. earnings season off to a good start but a heavier results week lies ahead and could toss some banana skins into the market's path. Key financials, technology bellwethers (IBM, Google, Intel), as well as big names like GE, Nokia, Johnson and Johnson will offer more food for thought for those looking past the simple defensive versus cyclical split to choices between early cylicals, such as consumer discretionaries, and late cyclicals, such as industrials, based on the short-term earnings momentum. Macroeconomic data will need to confirm the picture painted by last week's unexpectedly German strong orders and production figures to give bulls the upper hand.

FINANCIAL FOCUS
- The heavy financial results slate (Goldman, JP Morgan, Bank of America, Citi) will show the extent to which balance sheets are being cleansed of toxic assets and the health of, and outlook for margins, trading revenues, etc. The relative performance of the firms reporting could put the spotlight on the split between investment banking and retail exposure. In Europe, Swedbank's results will be watched for Baltic exposure while clarity is still being sought on what banks plan to do with the large chunk of ECB one-year money which they continue to park back at the ECB in the form of overnight deposits.

JAPANESE DILEMMA
- The BOJ's policy meeting poses thorny questions on quantitative easing (QE), with the policy debate complicated by sharp gains in the yen. The yen has risen as much as 10.5 percent in three months against the dollar and is nearing the 90 threshold which is viewed by the foreign exchanges as the point at which the Japanese authorities start ratcheting up the rhetoric. Further sustained yen gains will fuel market debate about the fallout for carry trades and for exporters -- and by extension economic activity.

Is it time to ditch the dollar?

Judging from the draft communique of the G8 leaders meeting in L’Aquila, no one is in a particular hurry to talk about ending the domination of the dollar in world  currency reserves.  Our correspondents at the Italian summit report that the debate being pushed by China and others is likely to be played down.

But the genie is out of the bottle. Beforehand, Beijing floated the idea of alternative to the dollar. Russia and Brazil weighed in with some thoughts. The United Nations also acknowledged earlier this year the desire of some countries for a “more efficient reserve system” in a series of proposals for global financial reform.

This issue is laid out in a Q&A here.

What do you think? Is it time to ditch the dollar? Is it doomed as a reserve currency over the long term?