Pound hits all-time low against euro

A pound is now worth €1.1391. Photograph: Toby Melville/PA

The pound has hit a new all-time low against the euro following further warnings that the UK economy is in worse shape than expected.

Sterling fell to €1.1391 this morning and also hit a record low against a basket of other currencies.

The pound’s latest weakness came as economists warned Britain’s economy was deteriorating faster than expected and could suffer badly in 2009.

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research warned today that the UK’s gross domestic product shrank by 1% in the three months to November, more than the official estimates.

Howard Archer, the chief European and UK economist at IHS Global Insight, said he expected to see a further “substantial contraction” in the first half of 2009 and that there was unlikely to be any growth until 2010. He is predicting a 2% drop in GDP next year.

Read morePound hits all-time low against euro

UK slowdown worse than forecast as output slumps

Industrial production plunged at the fastest pace in nearly six years in October, heightening expectations that the recession is gathering pace as revisions to September’s data indicate that the economy shrank by more than initially thought between June and September.

The measure of industrial production, which counts for just under a fifth of Britain’s GDP, fell by 1.7 per cent in October, the biggest slump since January 2003, official figures show.

Output by manufacturers dropped by 1.4 per cent, the eighth consecutive monthly fall and the longest decline since 1980.

Read moreUK slowdown worse than forecast as output slumps

Japan’s Economy Shrinks 1.8%, More Than Expected

A man walks past office buildings in Tokyo’s central business district in Japan, on Oct. 24, 2008. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg News

Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) — Japan’s economy shrank in the third quarter faster than the government initially estimated, after businesses cut spending and slashed inventories in anticipation of a prolonged recession.

Gross domestic product contracted at an annual 1.8 percent pace in the three months ended Sept. 30, the Cabinet Office said today in Tokyo, more than the 0.4 percent reported last month. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg predicted a 0.9 percent decline.

Japan’s first recession since 2001 is deepening as companies including Canon Inc. and Toyota Motor Corp. cut production, jobs and spending. The central bank’s Tankan survey next week will probably show sentiment among large manufacturers fell the most in 34 years, economists predict.

“Big Japanese companies are panicking about the global export market,” said Graham Davis, director of the Economist Intelligence Unit in Tokyo. “There’s almost no good news out there.”

Read moreJapan’s Economy Shrinks 1.8%, More Than Expected

Economic clouds gather as Spain faces recession

A demonstrator burns a note during a protest in downtown Madrid as Spain’s economic miracle threatens to unravel

For years, it has been a staple of daytime television, alongside the inane chat, creaky old movies and decorating do’s and don’ts – the “let’s-go-live-in-the-sun” show, in which Stoke and Stoke Newington are swapped for, much more often than not, Spain.

But now it has an evil twin. You may have seen it. The we’re-not-celebrities-but-please-get-us-out-of-here show, in which the dream has gone horribly wrong. And it is symptomatic of the wider malaise that has gripped what was once a land of boom and money.

After a decade in which per capita income doubled – and household debt tripled – the Spanish economic fiesta is well and truly over. More than 40,000 workers are losing their jobs each week, a far higher rate than elsewhere in Europe. Unemployment is at 2.99 million, a 12-year record of 12.8 per cent of the workforce and the highest unemployment rate in the eurozone.

And there is no respite in sight. According to Pedro Solbes, the Economy Minister: “There is a risk the unemployment rates will be worse next year.”

In November, the grim jobless figures were compounded by a further decline in the services sector as activity, new orders and employment plunged to a record low.

The Markit Purchasing Market Index, which covers service companies ranging from hotels to insurance brokers, dropped to 28.2 in November from 32.2 in October, the sharpest monthly decline since figures were first collected in 1999. The figure is drastically below the 50 level where growth begins.

And underpinning it all is the Spanish construction industry, which accounts for 9 per cent of GDP. It has collapsed. After those years of boom, more than 150 property companies have gone bust so far this year, going into administration as debts mounted and they were unable to pay back creditors.

Read moreEconomic clouds gather as Spain faces recession

China Property Slump Threatens Global Economy as Growth Slows

China Property Slump Threatens Global Economy as Growth Slows

Dec. 2 (Bloomberg) — House prices in Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou are plunging, and the global economy may grind almost to a halt next year because of it.

Construction of homes, offices and factories fell at least 16.6 percent in October after rising 32.5 percent a year earlier, according to Macquarie Securities Ltd. That’s squeezing an economy already slowed by recessions in the U.S., Japan and Europe that have cut demand for exports. Building is the biggest driver of China’s expansion, contributing a quarter of fixed- asset investment and employing 77 million people.

The central bank cut its key interest rate by the most in 11 years last week and the government said “forceful” measures were needed to arrest a faster-than-expected economic decline. Without more rate cuts and government spending, China is unlikely to contribute the 60 percent of global growth Merrill Lynch & Co. forecasts for next year, further slowing the world economy.

“China is now at the heart of the global slowdown,” said Jim Walker, chief economist at Asianomics Ltd., an economic advisory firm in Hong Kong. “It means that global growth is probably going to be dragged down close to zero next year.”

Read moreChina Property Slump Threatens Global Economy as Growth Slows

Government bailout hits $8.5 trillion

The federal government committed an additional $800 billion to two new loan programs on Tuesday, bringing its cumulative commitment to financial rescue initiatives to a staggering $8.5 trillion, according to Bloomberg News.

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That sum represents almost 60 percent of the nation’s estimated gross domestic product.

Given the unprecedented size and complexity of these programs and the fact that many have never been tried before, it’s impossible to predict how much they will cost taxpayers. The final cost won’t be known for many years.

The money has been committed to a wide array of programs, including loans and loan guarantees, asset purchases, equity investments in financial companies, tax breaks for banks, help for struggling homeowners and a currency stabilization fund.

Most of the money, about $5.5 trillion, comes from the Federal Reserve, which as an independent entity does not need congressional approval to lend money to banks or, in “unusual and exigent circumstances,” to other financial institutions.

Read moreGovernment bailout hits $8.5 trillion

Home Prices for 20 U.S. Cities Decline Most on Record

A new price sign stands atop a sign outside a home in Park Ridge, Illinois, on Nov. 6, 2008. Photographer: Tim Boyle/Bloomberg News

Nov. 25 (Bloomberg) — House prices in 20 U.S. cities declined in the year ended in September at the fastest pace on record as rising foreclosures pushed down property values.

The S&P/Case-Shiller home-price index dropped 17.4 percent in September from a year earlier, more than forecast, after a 16.6 percent decline in August. The gauge has fallen every month since January 2007, and year-over-year records began in 2001.

Mounting foreclosures are contributing to the drop in home prices, while adding to the inventory of unsold homes on the market. Lower property values are weighing on household wealth, causing consumers to cutback on spending and increasing the likelihood that the U.S. economy will contract for a second consecutive quarter.

Read moreHome Prices for 20 U.S. Cities Decline Most on Record

Fed sharply lowers forecasts, hints of rate cut

Fed sharply lowers economic forecasts for this year, 2009; signals another rate cut coming

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve on Wednesday sharply lowered its projections for economic activity this year and next, and signaled that additional interest rate reductions may be needed to help combat the worst financial crisis to jolt the country in more than a half-century.

With the economy forecast to lose traction, or even jolt into reverse, unemployment will move higher, the Fed predicted.

Facing the likelihood of “significant weakness” in the economy, some Fed officials suggested “additional policy easing could well be appropriate at future meetings,” according to documents from the Fed’s most recent closed-door deliberations on interest rate policy at the end of October.

Read moreFed sharply lowers forecasts, hints of rate cut

Japan’s Economy in Recession After Shrinking 0.4% Last Quarter

An undated company handout photograph shows Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles bound for export at the company’s Tahara plant in Tahara, Aichi Prefecture, central Japan, released to the media on Oct. 28, 2008. Source: Toyota Motor Corp. via Bloomberg News

Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) — Japan’s economy, the world’s second largest, entered its first recession since 2001 last quarter and the government and economists say conditions may get even worse.

Gross domestic product shrank an annualized 0.4 percent in the three months ended Sept. 30, the Cabinet Office said today in Tokyo. Economists predicted the economy would grow 0.1 percent after contracting a revised 3.7 percent in the previous period.

The slowdown may deepen as the global financial crisis hurts exports, prompting companies from Toyota Motor Corp. to Canon Inc. to slash profit forecasts and cut investments. Japan has the lowest interest rates among the 20 biggest economies and public debt that exceeds 180 percent of GDP, limiting the government’s ability to stimulate growth.

“It’s only going to get worse,” said Masamichi Adachi, senior economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Tokyo. “Japan may be entering its deepest recession in a decade as the global financial crisis cools demand overseas.”

Read moreJapan’s Economy in Recession After Shrinking 0.4% Last Quarter

Dow’s 2nd best day ever

Dow rises 11% on big rally, but October is still shaping up to be one of the worst months in Wall Street history.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — The Dow rallied as much as 906 points during Tuesday’s session, as investors dove back into stocks near the end of one of the worst months in Wall Street history.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) added 889 points after having risen as much as 906 points earlier in the session. It was the Dow’s second-biggest one-day point gain ever, following a 936-point rally two weeks ago. The advance of 10.9% was the sixth-biggest ever.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 (SPX) index gained 91.6 points or 10.8%, its second-biggest one-day point gain ever and its fifth-best one-day percentage gain.

The Nasdaq composite (COMP) rose 143.6 points or 9.5%. On a percentage basis, it was the fourth-best one-day gain ever for the tech-fueled Nasdaq. But on a point basis, it didn’t crack the top 10.

The broad advance occurred as the two-day Federal Reserve meeting got underway, with a decision on interest rates expected Wednesday afternoon. Policymakers are widely expected to cut a key short-term interest rate.

Stocks ended Monday’s session at the worst levels in more than five years, with the major gauges down more than 25% for October. Global markets had fallen too, as investors worldwide bailed out of stocks amid the credit crisis and weak economy.

Read moreDow’s 2nd best day ever

IMF may need to “print money” as crisis spreads

The International Monetary Fund may soon lack the money to bail out an ever growing list of countries crumbling across Eastern Europe, Latin America, Africa, and parts of Asia, raising concerns that it will have to tap taxpayers in Western countries for a capital infusion or resort to the nuclear option of printing its own money.

IMF's work in countries such as Turkey is only just beginning
IMF’s work in countries such as Turkey is only just beginning

The Fund is already close to committing a quarter of its $200bn (£130bn) reserve chest, with a loans to Iceland ($2bn), Ukraine ($16.5bn), and talks underway with Pakistan ($14.5bn), Hungary ($10bn), as well as Belarus and Serbia.

Neil Schering, emerging market strategist at Capital Economics, said the IMF’s work in the great arc of countries from the Baltic states to Turkey is only just beginning.

“When you tot up the countries across the region with external funding needs, you get to $500bn or $600bn very quickly, and that blows the IMF out of the water. The Fund may soon have to start calling on the West for additional funds,” he said.

Brad Setser, an expert on capital flows at the Council for Foreign Relations, said Russia, Mexico, Brazil and India have together spent $75bn of their reserves defending their currencies this month, and South Korea is grappling with a serious banking crisis.

“Right now the IMF is too small to meet the foreign currency liquidity needs of the larger emerging economies. We’re in a dangerous situation and there is the risk of extreme moves in the markets, as we have seen with the Brazilian real. I hope policy-makers understand how serious this is,” he said.

The IMF, led by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has the power to raise money on the capital markets by issuing `AAA’ bonds under its own name. It has never resorted to this option, preferring to tap members states for deposits.

The nuclear option is to print money by issuing Special Drawing Rights, in effect acting as if it were the world’s central bank. This was done briefly after the fall of the Soviet Union but has never been used as systematic tool of policy to head off a global financial crisis.

“The IMF can in theory create liquidity like a central bank,” said an informed source. “There are a lot of ideas kicking around.”

Read moreIMF may need to “print money” as crisis spreads

Europe on the brink of currency crisis meltdown

The crisis in Hungary recalls the heady days of the UK’s expulsion from the ERM.

The financial crisis spreading like wildfire across the former Soviet bloc threatens to set off a second and more dangerous banking crisis in Western Europe, tipping the whole Continent into a fully-fledged economic slump.

Currency pegs are being tested to destruction on the fringes of Europe’s monetary union in a traumatic upheaval that recalls the collapse of the Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992.

“This is the biggest currency crisis the world has ever seen,” said Neil Mellor, a strategist at Bank of New York Mellon.

Experts fear the mayhem may soon trigger a chain reaction within the eurozone itself. The risk is a surge in capital flight from Austria – the country, as it happens, that set off the global banking collapse of May 1931 when Credit-Anstalt went down – and from a string of Club Med countries that rely on foreign funding to cover huge current account deficits.

The latest data from the Bank for International Settlements shows that Western European banks hold almost all the exposure to the emerging market bubble, now busting with spectacular effect.

They account for three-quarters of the total $4.7 trillion £2.96 trillion) in cross-border bank loans to Eastern Europe, Latin America and emerging Asia extended during the global credit boom – a sum that vastly exceeds the scale of both the US sub-prime and Alt-A debacles.

Read moreEurope on the brink of currency crisis meltdown

Congress: What Bernanke and Hank Aren’t Telling You

Congress: Think.

Ben and Hank have both told you that the critical issue for the economy is for “lending to resume”, stating that it has dramatically contracted.

If this was the truth, then Ben and Hank would have come to you for $700 billion in the TARP, but instead of TARPing the money, they would have asked for permission to use it to capitalize 10 new banks which would be immediately IPO’d off to the public with the stake being in the form of some kind of super-senior debt that held a coupon high enough to encourage immediate (or nearly-so) replacement with private capital.

This would have resulted in an aggregate of seven trillion worth of new lending capacity in the economy, an amount that, incidentally, would allow the full replacement of Fannie and Freddie as holders of housing debt with about $2 trillion left over for credit cards, auto and business loans.

That would have immediately solved the “credit freeze” problem.

So why wasn’t this proposed?

This is the reason:

In short, it wouldn’t have done anything because the economy only grows at a rate of about 20 cents for every dollar of debt taken on. That is, it takes five dollars of debt to generate one new dollar of GDP.

The bad news is that once you reach the “$1 for $1” level you are no longer able to finance growth with debt, and it becomes inevitable that you will begin to finance debt with debt.

That, of course generates no GDP at all but precipitously tightens the spiral.

We crossed that Rubicon roughly around 1968, and you have had this fact concealed from you.

Congress, please listen:

The Truth is that we now require about $5 of debt to generate $1 of GDP.

Read moreCongress: What Bernanke and Hank Aren’t Telling You

U.S. 2008 Budget Deficit at Record $455 Billion

Oct. 14 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. government posted a record budget deficit for 2008 as financial market strains slowed economic growth and spending rose the most since 1990.

The shortfall widened to $455 billion in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, compared with a $162 billion deficit a year earlier and the previous high of $413 billion in 2004, the Treasury said today in Washington. The gap was 3.2 percent of gross domestic product, up from 1.2 percent last year, the Treasury said. The 2008 deficit was the largest as a share of the economy since 2004, when it was 3.6 percent of GDP.

The excess of expenditures over receipts this year could get even worse. As the Treasury uses $700 billion to rescue the financial system from the credit crisis, Morgan Stanley chief economist David Greenlaw predicts the shortfall may almost quadruple to about $2 trillion.

Read moreU.S. 2008 Budget Deficit at Record $455 Billion

Coming Soon: The 600 Trillion Derivatives Emergency Meeting

Here is an update on the size of the derivatives market with the latest official figures (.pdf) from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). Hold your breath, as we are not anymore talking paltry billions but TRILLIONS of whichever fiat currency.

Current emergency meetings on banks and markets are still only in the stage where politicians and central bankers are bickering over how to create a few more hundred billions Euros and FRNs. But toxic MBS pale in comparison to the mushrooming growth of the derivatives market. According to figures released in the quarterly review of the BIS (pp A103) in September the total notional amount of outstanding derivatives in all categories rose 15% to a mindboggling $596 TRILLION as of December 2007.

Read moreComing Soon: The 600 Trillion Derivatives Emergency Meeting

EU Nations Commit 1.3 Trillion Euros to Bank Bailouts

Oct. 13 (Bloomberg) — France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Austria committed 1.3 trillion euros ($1.8 trillion) to guarantee bank loans and take stakes in lenders, racing to prevent the collapse of the financial system.

The announcements came as Britain took majority stakes today in Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc and HBOS Plc. The coordinated steps followed a pledge yesterday by European leaders to bolster market confidence as the global economy slides toward recession.

“What it should do is stabilize the banking system,” said Peter Hahn, a fellow at London’s Cass Business School and former managing director at Citigroup Inc. “Will it stop us from having a recession? No, nothing is going to stop us from having a recession.”

Read moreEU Nations Commit 1.3 Trillion Euros to Bank Bailouts

Eurozone falls into recession

The eurozone has fallen into recession, with industry particularly badly hit by the fall-out from global economic turmoil, results of a closely watched survey indicated on Tuesday.

Private sector output in the 15-country region contracted in September for the fourth consecutive month, according to eurozone purchasing managers’ indices. The pace of decline was the fastest since the aftermath of the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the US, with manufacturing faring worse than services.

The latest data indicated that, even if the crisis on Wall Street has yet to have a direct impact on eurozone economies, global economic storms have pushed the region into a technical recession – two quarters of contracting gross domestic product.

The eurozone composite purchasing managers’ index – covering services as well as manufacturing – fell from 48.2 in August to 47 this month. A figure below 50 is meant to indicate a contraction in activity.

Read moreEurozone falls into recession

Democrats and Republicans alike sceptical of Bush bailout plan

Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke folds his hands while testifying with US Treasury secretary Henry Paulson before the Senate banking committee on Tuesday. Photograph: Charles Dharapak/AP

The proposed $700bn bailout of US financial markets faced harsh criticism in Congress today, with liberals and conservatives both sceptical that granting the Bush administration power to buy up risky mortgages would avert further economic crisis.

Yet despite the wariness from the Senate banking committee, where Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke appeared today, the financial rescue seems poised to win approval by next week at the latest.

“This is not something I wanted to ask for,” the US treasury secretary said, assuring senators that “I feel your frustrations” and “I’m angry” at the prospect of Wall Street firms getting saved by the government.

But Paulson and Bernanke did ask for broad latitude to decide which toxic assets would win a purchase by the government. Senators of both parties did not attempt to hide their anger at the request, citing the Bush administration’s previous assurances of market stability.

“We have been given no credible assurances that this plan will work,” Richard Shelby, the senior Republican on the banking panel, said. “Congress does not have time to determine if there are better alternatives.”

The committee’s Democratic chairman, Chris Dodd, questioned Paulson’s request for immunity from any legal or government review of his actions during the bailout process.

“After reading this proposal, I can only conclude that it is not just our economy that is at risk,” Dodd told the treasury secretary, “but our constitution as well.”

Read moreDemocrats and Republicans alike sceptical of Bush bailout plan

Tens of thousands to be laid off every week as UK falls into recession

MPC member warns of ‘horrible surprise’
Gloomy assessment sends London shares falling

Tens of thousands of people could be laid off every week in the run-up to Christmas as the UK economy falls into recession, David Blanchflower of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee warned today.

Blanchflower told MPs to expect “a large increase in unemployment”, and warned that a “horrible surprise” could be just around the corner. The gloomy assessment sent shares in London falling, and also weakened sterling yet further against the dollar.

Blanchflower, who has repeatedly tried and failed in recent months to persuade the MPC to cut interest rates, predicted that the unemployment count will rise by 60,000 a month for several months in a row, probably starting in October.

“I believe we will see a deeper economic decline than other people think,” Blanchflower told the Treasury select committee, ruling out the possibility that the UK GDP will not shrink.

Read moreTens of thousands to be laid off every week as UK falls into recession

Japan wholesale prices rise 7.2 percent in August

TOKYO (AP) – Japan’s wholesale inflation remained near a 27-year high in August, the government said Wednesday, as the soaring costs of energy and raw materials continued to pressure businesses.

The index for domestic corporate goods prices rose 7.2 percent from a year ago, the Bank of Japan said.

Read moreJapan wholesale prices rise 7.2 percent in August

The Big Sting Two

By Bob Chapman

The plan for an economic takedown, the results of rampant market speculations, insiders picking up assets for pennies on the dollar, the coming hyperinflation, the credit crunch, collapse of the dollar carry trade, suppression of metals prices, American meddling in Georgia

Read moreThe Big Sting Two

Bush’s Dirty Little Medicare Secret

We already know about the lies orchestrated by the White House to justify the invasion of Iraq . But there is a bigger secret that has not yet hit the mainstream media. And it probably never will until it’s too late. Those of you who read my book already know about it because I discuss it at length. For those of you who haven’t had a chance to read America’s Financial Apocalypse , I’m going to expose this secret now.

Read moreBush’s Dirty Little Medicare Secret

Japan: Economy Shrinks 2.4%; Recession Looms

Aug. 13 (Bloomberg) — Japan’s economy, the world’s second biggest, contracted last quarter as exports fell and consumers spent less, bringing the country to the brink of its first recession in six years.

Gross domestic product shrank an annualized 2.4 percent in the three months ended June 30 after expanding 3.2 percent in the first quarter, the Cabinet Office said today in Tokyo. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average fell 2.1 percent, the most since Aug. 1.

Read moreJapan: Economy Shrinks 2.4%; Recession Looms

Morgan Stanley has issued a major alert on the health of Spanish banks

Morgan Stanley, the investment bank, has issued a major alert on the health of Spanish banks, warning that a replay of the ERM crisis in the early 1990s could wipe out the capital base of weak lenders exposed to the property crash.

Read moreMorgan Stanley has issued a major alert on the health of Spanish banks

Merrill Cuts 2009 U.S. GDP Forecast: Chart of the Day

July 22 (Bloomberg) — Merrill Lynch & Co. economists clipped their forecasts for U.S. growth, making revisions that they described as “adjusting to the new reality.”

“Just like consumers, who are insulating their windows and making fewer trips to the malls, we are adjusting our economic forecasts to the new high-oil-price reality, not to mention the latest round of trauma in the mortgage markets,” New York-based economists Sheryl King and Drew Matus wrote in a report.

The chart of the day shows the quarterly change in U.S. gross domestic product in green, with the annualized figure in red. Merrill now expects the economy to contract by 0.5 percent in 2009, after previously forecasting growth of 0.5 percent.

``We expect GDP to plummet 2.5 percent in the fourth quarter, and see a similar decline in the first quarter” of 2009, wrote King and Matus. “With the consumer likely to remain under duress into 2009 and inflation fears likely to abate, we continue to expect the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates early next year.”

Read moreMerrill Cuts 2009 U.S. GDP Forecast: Chart of the Day