MacroScope

Davos Day Two — Rouhani, Lew and Lagarde

Day one in Davos showed the masters of the universe fretting about Sino-Japanese military tensions, the treacherous investment territory in some emerging markets and the risk of a lurch to the right in Europe at May’s parliamentary elections which could make reform of the bloc even harder.

Today, the focus will be on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (and his main detractor, Israel’s Netanyahu). Presumably he’s there to woo the world of commerce now sanctions are to be relaxed in return for Tehran suspending enrichment of uranium beyond a certain level. Anything he says about Syria’s peace talks, which have so far been more hostile than conciliatory, will instantly be headline news.

Other big name speakers are U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, IMF chief Christine Lagarde, who is going around warning about the threat of European deflation, Australian premier Tony Abbott, who is running the G20 this year, and a session featuring the BRICS finance ministers.

There is clearly a pervading sense of caution, if not alarm, about emerging markets. That aside, with the U.S. recovering and the existential threat to the euro zone over, perhaps delegates will look most nervously to the east.

Japan has printed huge amounts of money but is still to follow through on promised structural reforms to counter the drag of an ageing and shrinking population and to reduce massive public debts. China’s ability to take excess credit out of the economy without causing a crash is perhaps of even greater importance.

Iran and Japan in focus at Davos

Lots of action in Switzerland today with the annual get-together of the great and good at Davos getting underway and Syrian peace talks commencing in Montreux.

On the latter, few are predicting anything other than failure, a gloom that Monday’s chaotic choreography did nothing to dispel.
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon Ban first offered Iran a seat at the table, prompting a threat to pull out by Syrian opposition groups which led to Washington demanding the invitation to Tehran be withdrawn. In the end, Ban did just that.

The release of thousands of photographs apparently showing prisoners tortured and killed by the government reinforced opposition demands that Bashar al-Assad must quit and face a war crimes trial. The president insists he can win re-election and wants to talk about fighting “terrorism.”

Spain ascendant?

Spain appears to be on the road to recovery, if you can call it that with around a quarter of the workforce without a job.

The government says growth hit 0.3 percent in the final quarter of the year, the second quarterly expansion in a row, and may upgrade its forecast for 0.7 percent growth in 2014.

Its borrowing costs have tumbled to four-year lows in a new year bond rally and today Madrid will try to cash in by selling up to 5.5 billion euros of bonds following an above-target sale last week.

from Davos Notebook:

Tigger bounces back in the boardroom

PWC_chart for blogCEOs are, of course, ebullient by nature.

So it's no surprise that confidence about growth prospects is bouncing back as emerging markets continue to barrel along and even sluggish developed economies show signs of recovery.

What is, perhaps, remarkable is just how far confidence has returned. The latest survey of 1,201 company bosses by PricewaterhouseCoopers shows it is back almost to pre-crisis levels.

But how much should we trust the bouncing boardroom Tiggers? There are also plenty of Eeyores in Davos, warning about fiscal deficits, growing economic imbalances and the rising threat from inflation.

from Davos Notebook:

Will Goldman’s new BRICwork stand up?

RTXWLHHJim O'Neill, the Goldman Sachs economist who coined the term BRICs back in 2001, is adding four new countries to the elite club of emerging market economies. But does his new edifice have the same solid foundations?

In future, the BRIC economies of Brazil, Russia, China and India will be merged with those of Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey and South Korea under the banner “growth markets,” O'Neill told the Financial Times.

Hmmm.  Doesn't quite grab you like BRICs, does it? The Guardian helpfully offers an amended branding banner of  "Bric 'n Mitsk" (geddit?). But which ever way you cut it, it's hard to see a flood of investment conferences and funds floating off under the new moniker.

from Davos Notebook:

Groundhog Day in Davos

groundhog

The programme may strike a different  note -- this year's Davos is apparently all about Shared Norms for the New Reality -- but much of the discussion at the 41st World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos this month will have a distinctly familiar ring to it.

Last January, the five-day talkfest in the Swiss Alps was dominated by Greece's near-death experience at the hands of the bond market and recriminations over the role of bankers in the financial crisis, as well as worries about China's rapid economic ascent and a lot of calls for a new trade deal.

Fast forward 12 months and not much has changed.

Ireland has joined Greece in the euro zone's intensive care unit and Portugal and  Spain are getting round-the-clock monitoring. The annual round of bankers' bonuses is once again stirring up trouble. China looms larger than ever on the global stage, after overtaking Japan in 2010 to become the world's second-biggest economy. And trade ministers who signally failed to make headway last year say they really must get down to business when they meet on the sidelines of Davos this time round.

from Davos Notebook:

Watch Felix Salmon interview Nouriel Roubini

Yesterday evening Reuters.com streamed an interview with renowned economist Nouriel Roubini live from our studio at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Reuters columinst Felix Salmon presented the interview and all the questions he put to Roubini were sent in by visitors to our Davos 2010 live blog.

Greece's economic woes, U.S. GDP and the trustworthiness of statistics coming out of China were just some of the issues being discussed. If you missed it, or if you want to see it again, watch the interview in the player below.

from Davos Notebook:

Bouncing back

Figure 0.1

Being bullish is, of course, part of the job if you are a CEO.

But sentiment really is improving. The annual PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of 1,200 industry bosses from 52 countries shows a nice pick in in the short- and long-term confidence curves, with 31 percent of those questioned now "very confident" about revenue prospects for the next 12 months and 81 percent plain-vanilla confident.

More remarkable, perhaps, confidence about sales looking out 3 years is now back up around its historic highs.

from Davos Notebook:

Davos Man turns 40

Davos Man2 Many happy returns or midlife crisis?

The annual talkfest in the Alps records its 40th birthday this year but the rich and powerful will hardly be in celebratory mood as problems pile up in the post-crisis world.

How to withdraw the trillions of dollars in stimulus that helped the world avoid a rerun of the Great Depression, without spooking markets all over again?

What to do in the face of the world's lukewarm response to the hot topic of climate change?

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