News Article | December 15, 2016
Interest rates are going up in the US, but in the UK they are going nowhere. That, bluntly, was the message from the Bank of England as it announced its latest decision on borrowing costs less than 24 hours after the US Federal Reserve not only tightened policy but signalled more to come in 2017. As far as central banks go, the Fed is an outlier. Growth and inflation are both picking up and the US president-elect, Donald Trump, is planning tax cuts and extra spending on infrastructure. The normal rule of thumb is that looser fiscal policy should be offset by tighter monetary policy, hence the suggestion there could be three interest-rate rises in the US next year. Elsewhere, though, it is a different story. The European Central Bank has recently announced an extension of its quantitative easing programme and the Bank of Japan is working overtime to keep deflation at bay. The minutes of the latest meeting of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee say the next move in UK interest rates could be either up or down, depending on how the economy evolves over the coming months. Threadneedle Street has been pleasantly surprised by how well growth has held up since the EU referendum. On its own, that would suggest the MPC should be thinking about following the Fed’s lead and raising rates. But the Bank of England suspects that the good news is not going to last. It wonders how long consumers will continue to spend so freely once rising inflation starts to affect living standards. It thinks the unexpected increase in investment in the third quarter was a flash in the pan. If the outlook is for markedly weaker growth in 2017, that would point to further stimulus from the Bank, either through a cut in interest rates to 0.1% or by an extension of its QE programme. There are two added complications. The first is that the Bank knows inflation is going to breach its 2% target next year but it doesn’t know by how much, or whether rising prices will feed through into higher wage settlements. The second unknown is the impact on the economy of triggering article 50 in early 2017, the moment at which formal divorce proceedings start between the UK and the other 27 members of the EU. What does all that mean? It means interest rates are likely to stay where they are in 2017. If they do move, they will move downwards.
News Article | November 14, 2016
The markets have reacted. World leaders have expressed their views. The mainstream U.S. media is still stunned. But what should you do? You still need to save for retirement, college and many other things. There is one strategy that works during a high-uncertainty period: Stay the course and keep on investing for the future. Yes, despite what the markets are doing and all of the most dire forecasts, you should be investing in the global stock markets. Stay in the market to find bargains and keep on funding your 401(k). Yet doesn't this fly in the face of so much anxiety and fear? Shouldn't I be stocking up on gold and hedging by buying the Canadian dollar (or moving there)? Gold still doesn't pay any dividends. It's the currency of fear. Unless you know exactly when to get out and profit, don't go near it. Currencies are even more dangerous. Few, if any, time them successfully. More trouble if you even try. Here's the bedrock of my premise: Capitalism isn't going away. They said that in the 1930s and again in 2008. It's the driving force of the industrialized world, not ideology. Although I stated in an earlier post that Trump's win would "crater your 401(k)," that will only happen if Trump's policies cut off free trade, fail to create new revenue for his projects and cause both the bond and stock market to lose confidence in global economic growth, triggering a recession. I don't believe that any U.S. president has been able to stop or boost economic trends. And Trump won't have his finger on how to control an $18 trillion economy, nor will he have any influence over China, Europe or the developing world. He won't control the Federal Reserve, European Central Bank, Bank of Japan or Bank of England. Nor will global capitalism somehow suffer a fatal blow. Companies will continue to pay dividends and produce profits. Moreover, president-elect Trump loves to build lots of buildings. He's said that he wants to invest in U.S. infrastructure like roads, bridges and hospitals. He also wants to invest in the military. Do you think that a GOP-led Congress and White House will turn down a massive spending plan that greenlights hundreds of billions of dollars of public spending? It's political insanity to think otherwise. And it's good for every community that benefits from federal dollars. Look, I'm not on board with most of Trump said during the campaign. I'm repulsed by what he said and how he said it. He must know, though, that governing and campaigning are different animals. If he wants to unite the country, he has to govern in the center. My advice for the next four years is the same for the Obama, Bush and Clinton presidencies: Invest globally and know your own financial goals. Try to beat inflation. Keep your costs low and avoid brokers. Save for emergencies, college and out-of-pocket insurance expenses. Invest in yourself and your family's education. I like the Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI), which passively holds more than 3,600 stocks. Note: I hold Vanguard funds in my retirement portfolio because they are cheap and passively managed. As far as trading goes, my advice remains firm: Forget the headlines, buy and hold onto global stocks. Profits trump politics, most of the time anyway. John F. Wasik is the author of "Lightning Strikes," "The Debt-Free Degree," "Keynes's Way to Wealth"and 13 other books on innovation, money and life. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
News Article | March 3, 2017
Japan’s core consumer prices have risen for the first time in over a year thanks to a pickup in energy costs, marking a rare victory in the government’s long battle against deflation. But a slump in household spending showed by 1.2% compared with January last year showed why economic growth and inflation have lagged the more ambitious goals set out by policymakers. As rising protectionism in the United States poses risks for the world’s third-largest economy, as well as the rest of export-reliant Asia, there is a danger companies will shy away from boosting wages seen as crucial for durable growth. That will also undermine the Bank of Japan’s efforts to accelerate inflation to its still-distant 2 percent target, analysts say. Government data showed on Friday that the core consumer price index (CPI), which includes oil products but excludes volatile fresh food prices, rose 0.1% in January from a year ago, posting the first increase since December 2015. It compared with a median market forecast for a flat growth and followed a 0.2% drop in December. Many analysts expect core consumer prices to head toward 1% later this year helped by the strengthening US dollar pushing the yen lower. A fall in the currency will make imports more expensive for Japanese consumers, which will boost prices. “Inflation will accelerate this year due to a rebound in energy costs and the weak-yen effect. But it won’t heighten much next year unless wages spike and boost spending,” said Yoshiki Shinke, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute. “The hurdle for hitting 2% inflation remains very high, which means the BOJ will maintain its ultra-loose monetary policy for the time being,” he said. Slow wage growth is weighing on consumer spending – which accounts for more than a half of Japan’s GDP – despite a tight jobs market. Unemployment has been at its lowest level in around 20 years. Fresh data on Friday showed the jobless rate edged down from 3.1% in December to 3% in January. This week, Japan posted an unexpected drop in factory output for January, the first fall in six months and the latest red flag for the world’s number three economy. Japan has been struggling to reverse a years-long deflationary spiral of falling prices and lacklustre growth. “The government is teaming up with the Bank of Japan to keep working toward getting out of deflation,” top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters Friday. Tokyo’s years-long effort to kickstart growth – a blend of massive monetary easing, government spending and red-tape slashing – stoked a stock market rally, weakened the yen and fattened corporate profits, but growth in the wider economy remains fragile.
News Article | November 16, 2016
The G30, a forum of leaders in international finance, today released "Shadow Banking and Capital Markets: Risks and Opportunities," the report of their two-year study of shadow banking, a phenomenon defined by the Financial Stability Board as "activities related to credit provision extended outside or partially outside the banking system, but involving the distinctive features of banking, that is, leverage and maturity transformation." The report also details the G30's examination of shadow banking in China, where some 30 percent of credit is provided via a multiplicity of unregulated or imperfectly regulated shadow banking activities, entities, and structures, some of which are similar to those that proliferated in the advanced economies before the 2007-08 crisis. "While our study found that regulatory actions taken by financial institutions around the globe have lowered risks in some key areas of shadow banking and securitization, financial stability risks remain elevated in some markets—including China—as capital markets shift and overall global debt levels rise," said Jean-Claude Trichet, G30 Chairman and former President of the European Central Bank. "This is no time for complacency. National policy makers and regulators must monitor the continually evolving nature of financial markets to spot the risks created by new forms of financial intermediation.” Adair Turner, Chairman of the Governing Board at the Institute for New Economic Thinking, former Chairman of the Financial Services Authority, and Steering Committee Chair of the G30 Working Group on Shadow Banking, added: "We caution that as the overall level of leverage in the global economy continues to grow, financial and macroeconomic risks could increase even if the financial intermediation system has become more resilient. Overall, the risks arising from the combination of high leverage and the particular ways in which credit is intermediated may be as great as before the 2007-08 financial crisis, even if in advanced economies the financial system itself is less susceptible to the sort of self-reinforcing shocks experienced in that crisis." Mr. Turner chaired the study alongside two vice-chairs, Jacques de Larosière, President of Eurofi and former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, and Masaaki Shirakawa, Special Professor of International Politics, Economics and Communication at Aoyama Gakuin University and former Governor of the Bank of Japan. They were supported by eleven G30 members who comprise the G30 Working Group on Shadow Banking. Susan Lund of the McKinsey Global Institute served as project director. The G30 study also assessed the common assertion that securitization could play a greater role--particularly in Europe--in providing credit to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which are often believed to be underserved by the banking system. "Our research into opportunities for SME market financing revealed that contrary to the conventional wisdom, SME debt is primarily provided by banks rather than market mechanisms in all economies, including the United States," said Jacques de Larosière. "Differences between the US and other markets instead lie primarily in the areas of equity finance and debt private placement. We recommend, therefore, that policies to expand the range of financing opportunities available to SMEs should focus on identifying and removing any barriers to the effectiveness of those markets, rather than on the probably impossible task of unleashing SME securitization markets. Most SME debt finance must still be based on bank finance. But credit may, in some regions, be hampered by the low profitability of the banking sector inherent to the low interest rate environment." The report also notes that central bank policy may be having unintended effects on shadow banking activities and new debt growth. Masaaki Shirakawa noted that, "Macroeconomic concerns remain due to the unintended consequences of loose monetary policy—this is another reason for vigilance, and it underscores the need to understand the linkages between shadow banking developments and central bank policy. A more wide-ranging debate is needed on the fundamental drivers of rapid debt growth. As part of this, policy makers should consider whether rapid debt growth is the product of monetary policy regime—the way in which monetary policy is operated. Further consideration needs to be given to the question of whether leverage beyond some level is bound to depress growth and produce instability, and if so, how monetary policy regime should be modified." The report offers a series of specific recommendations focused on: (1) The need to monitor risk, improve data availability, and increase transparency in a continually evolving financial system; (2) Policy reforms that can help foster the development of debt capital markets; (3) Policies to support more sustainable forms of securitization than proliferated before the 2007–08 crisis; and (4) Appropriate approaches to improving SME access to finance, which should focus on equity finance and private placement, rather than on the development of SME securitization markets. The Group of Thirty, formally known as “The Consultative Group on International Economic and Monetary Affairs, Inc.” was founded in 1978. The Group of Thirty is a private, nonprofit, international body composed of senior representatives of the private and public sectors and academia. The Group aims to deepen understanding of international economic and financial issues, to explore the international repercussions of decisions taken in the public and private sectors, and to examine the choices available to market practitioners and to policymakers. The Group is led by Jacob A. Frenkel, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Jean-Claude Trichet, Chairman of the Group. For more on the G30, and to download today's report, please go to http://www.group30.org.
News Article | January 22, 2016
NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks made their biggest gain in more than a month on Friday as oil prices surged, lifting energy stocks. Tech stocks also climbed as Apple jumped the most since August. Energy companies soared after the price of U.S. crude jumped 9 percent. Oil prices reached their lowest level in 12 years earlier this week, but they jumped the last two days. The gain Friday, combined with a smaller increase the day before, gave the market its first weekly advance after three weeks of declines. It's been a dismal start to the year so far, and on Wednesday the Dow Jones industrial average tumbled as much as 565 points before recouping some of its loss. Much of the volatility has been driven by wild swings in the price of crude oil, which many investors see as a barometer for how well the global economy is doing. A sharp drop in oil prices over the last year and a half has decimated profits at oil companies, and many expect the damage to continue as global production of oil far outstrips demand. As for market turbulence, many expect more of that, too. Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist for Wells Capital Management, said he thinks the S&P 500 will slide to around 1,800 before a real recovery comes. That's below even the darkest moments from Wednesday's midday swoon. "It's going to continue to be a struggle," he said. "Everyone will be convinced we're heading for recession, everyone will be convinced we're in a bear market." On Friday the Dow Jones industrial average rose 210.83 points, or 1.3 percent, to 16,093.51. The Standard & Poor's 500 index had its best day since early December, gaining 37.91 points, or 2 percent, to 1,906.90. The Nasdaq composite index made its biggest gain since September, adding 119.12 points, or 2.7 percent, to 4,591.18. For the week, the Dow rose 0.7 percent, the S&P 500 climbed 2 percent and the Nasdaq increased 2.3 percent. European markets also rose Friday on hopes for more economic stimulus from the region's central bank. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index had its best day in four months as investors hoped the Bank of Japan will also step in. In energy trading, U.S. crude rose $2.66 to $32.19 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, rose $2.93, or 10 percent, to $32.18 a barrel in London. U.S. oil climbed 21 percent over the last two days and it has recovered about half its losses from earlier in the year. Among energy stocks, pipeline operator Kinder Morgan rose $1.46, or 10.5 percent, to $15.34 after it jumped 16 percent Thursday. Pipeline company Williams Cos. added $3.70, or 23.1 percent, to $19.74. Devon Energy gained $1.45, or 6 percent, to $25.63. Goldman Sachs analyst Jeffrey Currie said energy prices have fallen so far that the industry is making real cuts in production. "We are now at a price level that is creating real fundamental change," he said. Apple, which has lost about a quarter of its value in the last six months, rose $5.12, or 5.3 percent, to $101.42. Microsoft gained $1.81, or 4 percent, to $52.29. Facebook added $3.78, or 4 percent. Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 5.9 percent. Earlier this week the index entered a bear market, meaning it was down 20 percent from a recent peak. South Korea's Kospi gained 2.1 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 2.9 percent. Telecommunications and utilities stocks also rose and turned positive for the year. They're both up 1 percent while the other eight industrial sectors in the S&P 500 are much lower in 2016. Last year the S&P 500 utility index fell 8 percent and telecom stocks fell 2 percent. Paulsen, of Wells Capital Management, said investors turn to utilities and telecom stocks when the market gets rough. Companies in those industries pay relatively large dividends, which means their prices are more stable and the stocks behave almost like bonds. "They are just the most conservative sector of the stock market," he said. American Express gave a negative outlook for 2016 and 2017. The company expects its earnings per share to fall this year even though it's selling credit card accounts tied a co-branded credit card it offers with Costco. That relationship is ending.
News Article | June 27, 2016
Officials in Japan and China warned of new threats to the health of the UK and global economy in the aftermath of Britain’s leave decision as the pound continued to fall and Asian markets on Monday struggled to recoup heavy losses. Japan’s stock market put on a show of resilience – the Nikkei 225 rising more than 2% by early afternoon – as prime minister Shinzo Abe held an emergency meeting early on Monday and instructed the Bank of Japan to do all it could to stabilise financial markets. “Uncertainty and risk concerns remain in financial markets. It is important to continue to try to stabilise markets,” Kyodo News quoted Abe as saying at the meeting, held just before the Nikkei opened. China – whose markets largely rode out the start to the week – warned that its companies might want to “wait and see” what the impact is of the Brexit vote before they invest in the country. China’s premier, Li Keqiang, called on major economies to work together to promote stability. “I want to make it clear that Europe is an important partner for China and China will continue to be committed to maintaining the growing China-EU relations and China-UK relations,” Li said in his speech at the World Economic Forum in Tianjin, according to Kyodo. “We hope to see a united and a stable European Union and we also hope to see a stable and prosperous UK,” he added. The head of China’s top economic planner, Xu Shaoshi – who is the chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission – told the forum on Sunday that the impact of the decision on China’s economy would be limited. The pound, which suffered record falls against the dollar in the aftermath of the EU referendum result, continued to drop on Monday. Sterling fell 2.4% to US$1.3388, still some distance from the 31-year low of $US1.3228 it reached on Friday. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 had risen more than 2% – or more than 300 points – by early afternoon, rebounding at least temporarily from Friday’s 7.9% loss, its biggest since the 2008 global financial crisis. The Shanghai Composite gained 0.6% to reach 2,870.92 in early morning trading, and Sydney’s S&P ASX200 added 0.5% to 5,136.80. Other markets in the region fell, however, days after a worldwide plunge wiped out $2.1tn of value from global markets. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.7% to 20,112.35 and Seoul’s Kospi lost 0.1% to 1,923.13. Benchmarks in Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia also fell. The Japanese foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, warned that Britain had a duty to listen to Japanese businesses with investments in the UK. “I would like your country to listen to the views of some 1,000 companies from our country that are doing business in Britain” Kishida told the British ambassador to Japan, Tim Hitchens, at a meeting in Monday morning. Japanese companies such as Nissan and Toyota directly and indirectly employ 140,000 people in the UK, and some made no secret of their desire for Britain to stay in the EU before Friday’s referendum. Analysts in Asia sounded a sombre tone, saying political upheaval in Britain, coupled with elections in other EU states would only add to market instability. “Things are so uncertain that investors still do not have a clear idea how much risk assets they need to sell,” said Hiroko Iwaki, a senior foreign bond strategist at Mizuho Securities. “But it is safe to assume investors are not yet done with all the selling they need to. I wouldn’t be surprised to see another 10% fall in share prices.” Mizuho Bank said in a report: “Markets will be nervous given that the EU and UK have some mismatch in terms of timing of exit procedures and negotiations. “The EU’s legitimacy may be tested by separatist parties,” Mizuho added. Elections in Spain and, next year, in France would “add to the complexity of political dynamics involved in negotiations. Brewing uncertainty suggests that the stage is set for potentially stormy global markets,” it said. Much will depend on decisions taken by European policymakers in the coming days, said Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund. Economic risks would depend on the level of uncertainty, she said at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado on Sunday. “How they come out in the next few days is going to really drive the direction in which risk will go.” Some analysts said Asian markets would prove more resilient than others to Brexit fallout. “Asia should come through this episode with only a few scratches. The trade exposure to the UK is minimal for most Asian economies, and risks to direct bank financing from UK financial institutions appears manageable,” Frederic Neumann, co-head of Asian economic research at HSBC in Hong Kong said in a report.
News Article | December 13, 2016
SEATTLE, Dec. 13, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The 30-year fixed mortgage rate on Zillow® Mortgages is currently 3.94 percent, up 3 basis points from this time last week. The 30-year fixed mortgage fell early last week, then rose again on Friday and hovered around the current rate for the rest of the week. “Mortgage rates dipped briefly late last week following news that the European Central Bank will continue its monetary stimulus program in Europe, but rose Friday as markets brace themselves for several important decisions this week, most notably Wednesday’s expected interest rate hike by the Fed,” said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. “This week we expect rates to be volatile on Wednesday leading up to and following the Fed decision, as well as a possible monetary policy move by the Bank of Japan.” Zillow’s real-time mortgage rates are based on thousands of custom mortgage quotes submitted daily to anonymous borrowers on the Zillow Mortgages site and reflect the most recent changes in the market. These are not marketing rates, or a weekly survey. The rate for a 15-year fixed home loan is currently 3.12 percent, while the rate for a 5-1 adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) is 3.07 percent. Below are current rates for 30-year fixed mortgages by state. Additional states’ rates are available at: http://www.zillow.com/mortgage-rates. About Zillow Mortgages Zillow Mortgages, operated by Zillow, Inc., is a free, open, and transparent lending marketplace, where borrowers connect with lenders to find loans and get the best mortgage rates. Borrowers anonymously submit loan requests and receive an unlimited number of custom mortgage quotes with real rates directly from thousands of competing lenders. Zillow Mortgages also provides mortgage calculators, mortgage advice, mortgage widgets, and lender directories. Zillow is a registered trademark of Zillow, Inc.
News Article | February 17, 2017
TOKYO, Feb. 17, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- 8 Securities Inc. today announced the launch of Chloe, its new goal-based robo-advisor. Chloe is the first robo-advisor in the world that constructs portfolios with exchange traded funds (ETFs) listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE). The portfolios are diversified across 50 countries, 37 industries and 4,324 stocks and bonds. The service is available both on iOS and Android and is the first robo-advisor in Japan available entirely on smartphones and tablets. How does Chloe work? Customers start by answering a short survey to set goals and a target date to achieve them. Each yen the customer deposits is intelligently invested into a diversified global portfolio of TSE-listed exchange traded funds. Chloe monitors and optimizes the investment on a daily basis to help customers stay on track. Chloe becomes more intelligent over time by using machine learning to better predict customers' goals and how much they need to save. Based on research by Bank of Japan, Japan currently possesses over 894 trillion yen in cash or deposits, which is an amount greater than the combined output of Germany and the United Kingdom. 8 Securities CEO and Co-founder, Mikaal Abdulla stated as follows: "Following the launch of the first robo-advisor in Japan, we are thrilled to announce our next generation service, Chloe. Millennials in Japan want simple, mobile and low-cost solutions for their saving and investment needs. They need an easy and affordable entry point to navigate the world of investment. They just don't teach these concepts in school. Chloe will make full use of the latest advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide digital advice and education to help achieve their life goals." Customers can start investing in their personal goals with as little as JPY 10,000. The service is free until July 2017 and then 0.88% of the portfolio size thereafter. Unlike other advisory services and mutual funds, customers are free to deposit or withdraw their money anytime with no fees and no questions. Chloe gives you a flexible solution to save for the future with the power of investing. Each customer's personal portfolio is diversified across as many as 50 countries, 37 industries and 4,324 stocks and bonds using TSE-listed exchange traded funds. Chloe monitors each customer's goals and optimizes the investment portfolio by partnering with world-class advisors. Machine learning improves goal prediction and its values over time. Campaign to commemorate the launch of the "Chloe" app A campaign has started to commemorate the launch of "Chloe" in Japan. For regulatory reasons, 8 Securities Inc. cannot accept customers residing outside Japan. In November 2012, 8 Securities Inc. in Japan joined Hong Kong's 8 Group, which is a leader in financial technology. It started dealing US stocks in April 2014. In May 2015, it launched Japan's first robo-advisor, "8 Now!". In February 2017, it introduced "Chloe," the industry's first robo-advisor that constructs portfolio with TSE-listed exchange traded funds (ETFs). 8 Securities Inc. will continue to introduce innovative products and services. Launched in 2012, 8 Securities is a leading fintech company in Asia, with licensed offices in Hong Kong and Tokyo. The company introduced the first robo-advisor and $0 Commission HK and US stock trading service in Asia over the past two years. In 2016, 8 Securities was named Geek Park's "Top 50 Most Valuable Startups in China", and the firm's CEO Mikaal Abdulla has made to Fintech Asia's "Top 38 Fintech Influencers in Asia" list. Any party who wishes to invest in "Chloe" services will be required to pay fees and/or expenses as designated by 8 Securities Inc. Under this service, the invested products may suffer a loss in the invested principal due to fluctuation of price, exchange rate and other factors. When investing, please thoroughly review documents such as the pre-contract documents and others which list information such as the fees and risk.
News Article | August 17, 2015
A company’s reputation is precious. Once lost, it is mightily hard to recover. Think Gerald Ratner, who once famously described the jewellery he was selling as “crap”. Think BP after the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Or G4S, which seemed to have trouble preventing prisoners from escaping and bungled the Olympics security contract. As a result, it is easy to see why Jeff Bezos, the Amazon chief executive, thought it necessary to respond speedily to a piece in the New York Times that claimed the company he founded was guilty of cruel employment practices. This was no ordinary exposé: the NYT piece ran to more than 5,000 words and was based on more than 100 interviews. It claimed one woman returning to work after treatment for thyroid cancer was given a poor staff review, and told the company was more productive without her. “I don’t recognise this Amazon,” said Bezos in an email to staff, “and I hope you don’t either.” This is not saying that the NYT is wrong, merely that Bezos has no personal knowledge of such cases. It is the sort of language politicians use when they want to give the impression that something is untrue when they suspect or know full well it isn’t. Amazon is a retailing phenomenon with revenues of almost $90bn (£58bn) last year. Its soaring share price has made Bezos a wealthy man, even though massive investment in new capacity means it struggles to make a profit. The NYT allegations pose two distinct threats to that continued success. One is that consumers decide the company is tainted and take their business elsewhere, even if it costs them extra to do so. The second is that Amazon finds it hard to recruit and hold on to staff. Modern management theory suggests that happy workers are more productive workers. In his email, Bezos invited staff to quit if they were unhappy. “I strongly believe that anyone working in a company that really is like the one described in the NYT would be crazy to stay. I know I would leave such a company.” What he should be doing is inviting them to form a trade union. Rarely can the case for organised labour have been made more powerfully than in the claims of bad management practice catalogued by the NYT. Private sector unions are an endangered species in the US but it is worth remembering that they were originally formed as a response to exploitation by 19th century mill owners. In the stories of Amazon keeping a cowed workforce under the lash with non-stop pressure, bullying and psychological warfare, Bezos is the 21st century equivalent. It is the Asian powerhouse that has become the workshop of the world. It is the country that has moved the world’s centre of economic gravity to the east. It is the nation that the US sees as its biggest rival and threat. China in 2015? No, Japan in the late 1980s, when its stock market was booming. It was a time when the real estate value of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo was said to be greater than the whole of California, and a quarter of a century of stagnation and on-off deflation was still in the future. Japan’s latest growth figures were poor. The economy contracted by 0.4% in the second quarter and Abenomics – the three-arrow policy named after prime minister Shinzo Abe – is failing. Attempts to boost exports through a cheaper yen are being blunted by currency depreciations elsewhere. Consumer spending is held back by fears of VAT increases to come. Further quantitative easing by the Bank of Japan in an attempt to boost activity looks highly likely this autumn. There are lessons for both China and the west in Japan’s quarter century in the economic doldrums. The lesson for China is that the good times can end quickly. In the second half of the 1980s, Japan was growing at an average rate of 5%. The model was based on building up industrial capacity and exports. An overabundance of debt fuelled a stock market and property boom that generated juicy returns for an ageing population. Sound familiar? It should. China’s growth is slowing. It has far too many unprofitable factories. It is struggling to prevent share prices from collapsing. It is ripe for a crash. The lesson for the west is that economic torpor can be prolonged by overhasty policy tightening and by a failure to clean up the banking system. At various times after Japan’s economy hit the wall in 1990, policymakers in Tokyo used tentative evidence that things were improving to raise interest rates and push up taxes. On every occasion, the result was to halt recovery and push the economy back into deflation. So far, the US has avoided going Japanese. Washington has not been saddled with zombie banks that are alive but incapable of lending, and it has given growth a higher priority than deficit reduction. Europe has been slower to learn the lessons and has suffered as a consequence.
News Article | October 27, 2016
Bank of Japan releases its notes form a 2 day meeting and confirms no new policy chages to the surprise of investors.