Wednesday, December 31, 2008

GE To Power Iraq

General Electric intends to sell Iraq about three billion dollars' worth of power turbines.GE Energy will provide 56 heavy-duty frame 9E multi-fuel gas turbines.They can supply 7k megawatts of power-or enough for about 5.4 million homes.That will more than double Iraq's current capacity of about 6k megawatts a day.Iraq has been suffering from extensive outages,with some sections of Baghdad getting only four hours of electricity a day.

Nature Note:Back To Cold

After a mild Christmas,the New Year is coming in like a snow leopard.Indeed,a snow squall blew in from the mountains,and there is snow in the forecast for January 2.Wind is the headline of the day as gales from the north firmly take control.Leaves are hurled about with great velocity.I got some raking done before the gales arrived,watching a dramatic sunrise develop.As the sun emerged,gray clouds streamed down,trying to obscure it.In the end,though,it dawned clearly,cheering those buffeted by the northern big cat.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday Greeting

I will not be publishing next Wednesday,Christmas Eve.Have a blessed holiday season.A special greeting to our military men and women.You do the heavy lifting for democracy,and so you are gratefully remembered.

Bank of Canada Cuts

The Bank of Canada has lowered its key interest rate by 0.75 to 1.5%,the lowest rate since 1958.The cut was more than projected.The key rate is the target rate for overnight loans between commercial banks.For the first time in the financial crisis,the Bank of Canada declared that Canada is now entering a recession.It will continue to monitor carefully economic and financial developments in judging to what extent further monetary stimulus will be required.Mark J. Carney is Governor of the Bank of Canada.

Nature Note:First Winter Storm

The first winter storm arrived yesterday.We got an inch of snow,or2.54 cm,topped by freezing rain.The young white pine was bent over under even the small weight of the snow and thin glaze of ice from the freezing rain.It wasn't taking any chances.It reacts to the slightest weight to avoid breakage.How many of us are as vigilant about our health? No wonder the white pine can live to be an old growth tree.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Russian Growth Slows

Russia's Economy Ministry has cut the country's growth forecast for 2008.The economy is now expected to expand at 6.8-7%,instead of the previous estimate of 7.3%.The 7.3% estimate had itself been lowered from 7.8% in October.The Russian economy,rooted in energy production,has fallen out of a 10 year boom as ailing credit markets hindered banks,brokerages,builders,metal and chemical firms.Meanwhile,the country is mourning the death of His Holiness Alexei II,Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia,who,as primate of the Russian Orthodox Church,led about two-thirds of the Russian people in their spiritual lives.Patriarch Alexei,79,was known for largely restoring the Church to its pre-revolutionary position in Russian life,repairing many old churches and building new ones.He had suffered from heart trouble.

Nature Note:Low Traffic

Traffic at the bird feeder has been low recently.The other day,I found out why:a Cooper's hawk flew off as I approached.The Cooper's is the largest of the two common forest hawks in the Mid-Atlantic region.It preys mainly on birds and small mammals.The Cooper's has been visiting the feeder for some years now.That doesn't bother me.It's just another part of the ecological web.The birds of prey keep the other species healthy by preventing overpopulation.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pondering Market Conditions

Two prominent analysts have been evaluating the current market conditions.Mark Tinker of AXA Framlington Gemini says it has been a trading band environment,characterized by options use.Unwinding causes volatility toward the end of the day.People don't want to face a wall of selling,so they take their 20% profit,Mr.Tinker noted.For his part,Jacob Schmidt of Schmidt Research Partners feels that it's just day trading now,in and out.Everyone has become a day trader-even pension funds.There's no stability here in the markets.The question for me is,who's gonna be around in 2-3 years' time? I think the Tesco supermarket chain will survive.We don't know what the U.K. consumers will do.Will immigrants continue to arrive in the U.K.,or will they leave because of unemployment? If there's a survivor,I think it will be a Tesco,Mr.Schmidt reiterated.

Europeans Ponder Conditions

Nature Note:Serious Cold

The frost was thick on the Asian pear leaves I raked this morning.It was 21 degrees Fahrenheit,or -6.11 degrees Celsius.The first serious cold of the season hastened everyone.I didn't want to stand on the ground for long,even though I had my wool socks on.I needed to get back on the asphalt driveway or the concrete garage floor,so I worked fast.The sun came up red,but there was no hint of its fire on the frigid land.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

China Passes Japan

China has passed Japan as the largest holder of U.S. debt.China's holdings in Treasury bonds rose 43.6 billion dollars to 585 billion in September,while Japan had 573.2 billion.Total Chinese holdings may be 800 billion,as it may be buying bonds from third parties as well,which isn't immediately registered.By purchasing U.S. bonds,China keeps the dollar strong versus its own currency,the yuan,which makes Chinese exports cheaper than U.S. exports.That means U.S. companies are less competitive in foreign markets than Chinese firms.If China were to sell its U.S. bonds,that would raise interest rates on many loans in the U.S.,since the U.S. would have to pay more interest on Treasury bonds to attract new buyers.

Nature Note:Typical November

The day before Thanksgiving is gray with a cold breeze.That's typical of November in the Mid-Atlantic region.Yesterday a snow squall blew in.For a few moments,it snowed furiously.In the end,nothing remained of it but a memory.That snow is like the wild turkeys that once were easily found over the region.Now they are pretty much hidden in the deep woods,and seldom seen except by hikers and hunters.Even they may not have encountered many without concerted effort.Reintroduced by state game agencies,their numbers are stable to growing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

World Bank Increases Aid

The World Bank will increase aid to developing nations.Aid may reach 35 billion dollars by the end of June,versus 13.5 billion last year.The bank is prepared to commit up to 100 billion over the next three years,as the financial crisis threatens to cut government revenue,reducing public spending on education and health care.The growth forecast for developing countries is a drop of 0.1 in 2009,versus a gain of 1.4 in 2008.Global trade may fall for the first time since 1982.A 10% drop in developing country growth means another 20 million people will live in poverty.In recent years,high food and fuel prices have driven about 100 million into the ranks of the poor.The World Bank,led by President Robert Zoellick,has received loan inquiries from countries in Asia and Latin America this year,and would not be surprised to loan to nations it hasn't heard from in some time,given the global downturn.

Nature Note:Last Leaf Color

The Asian pear leaves are shades of red and orange now.Some are even green,hanging on to summer while it is nearing winter.The trees put out little fruits that are mostly seed.Many birds eat them,including American robins and cedar waxwings.In spring and summer,perching birds will also nest in these trees.They are wildlife trees year-round,although they have flaws such as limbs which split off easily and a strong odor during flowering.When I have them nearby,I tend to forget about the problems,and appreciate their good points instead.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Oriental Travel Route Opened

Free passage across the Taiwan Strait,which divides Taiwan from mainland China,is once again possible for both aircraft and ships.The trip is about 100 miles,or 160.93 kilometers.Negotiators reached the agreement by limiting talks to economic matters.Political disagreement continues to separate the neighbors.China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province,while Taiwan sees itself as an independent nation.The direct route will abolish lengthy detours to Hong Kong and Okinawa,Japan that were necessitated by the closure of the Taiwan Strait,reducing the cost of commerce in both time and money.

Nature Note:Fox Sparrow

A fox sparrow has been visiting the property lately,scratching for seed.This bird is a boreal breeder,a native of the Great North Woods,which has come south for the winter.It is most likely from Northern Quebec or New Brunswick.They also breed from Alaska to Southern California-presumably in the mountains.Fox sparrows are heavily streaked with reddish brown and gray.At up to 7.5 inches,or 19.05 centimeters,it is one of the largest of sparrows.The dark-eyed juncos,or snowbirds,have also checked in.They could be from any of a number of places above the Mason-Dixon Line.These birds herald the arrival of markedly colder weather this weekend.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Please Note

Because of Veterans Day on Tuesday,the publication schedule will be altered next week.I will try to publish later in the week.Veterans,thank you for your service.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Osborn Decries Debt

George Osborn,the Conservative party's Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer,its chief financial expert,has bitterly criticized British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's response to the financial crisis.Borrowing is out of control,,Mr.Osborn complained,mounting up massive national debt.Interest rates should be slashed.There's plenty of scope to stimulate demand with lower rates.We were already in pretty bad shape coming into this downturn,reducing our room for maneuver.We're in for a very difficult time and a recession.Government needs to be there to help.Monetary policy is the best tool,Mr.Osborn believes.The Bank of England and the European Central Bank will make interest rate decisions on Thursday.

Nature Note:Presidential View

Driving north,every view is good.Autumn turns every stretch of land into a place of interest.Bold colors appear where,weeks before,nothing would have arrested the eye.The trees erase all tedium with their red,orange and gold leaves.Overhead,President Bush is flying home to Washington from Camp David,the presidential retreat in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains,in a formation of three U.S. Marine Corps helicopters.I wave at them;I couldn't just drive on,even though it's unlikely the President saw me wave.A little further north,a red-tailed hawk soars above the highway.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Gas Cartel Takes Shape

Qatar,Russia and Iran are well on the way to forming a natural gas cartel.Meeting in Iran recently,the countries intend to consolidate the largest gas reserves in the world as well as their general strategic interests,and cooperate on three-party projects.Two more meetings,to be held in Qatar and Russia,will finalize the agreement.The three nations own 60% of the world's natural gas reserves.The European Union is concerned about the cartel,since higher gas prices could result.As oil reserves dwindle,the cartel's natural gas reserves will increase in importance.

Nature Note:Northern Wind

Canadian wind swept in overnight,making me shiver for the first time since April.It left limbs and branches strewn over the property,a gift of many little chores that have to be dealt with along with falling leaves in a few weeks' time.Actually,a lot of the leaves will blow off this windy place.I will pile the rest in designated areas to decompose.By next autumn,they will pretty much have disintegrated.Earthworms will digest a lot of them.If I left the leaves on top of the grass,the grass would die.I just put down more Canadian grass seed:creeping boreal red fescue and enchanted perennial rye grass,which must be quite at home in this blustery chill.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Indian Firm Buys Outsourcing

Tata Consulting Services,the leading outsourcing company in India,is buying Citigroup's India support operations for 505 million dollars.TCS also got a 2.5 billion dollar contract to provide outsourcing to Citi for nine and a half years.The sale is another step in Citi's divestiture program,which aims to reduce the financial firm's ancillary portfolio.Citi is also laying off 11 equity research analysts based in the U.S..About seven percent of the more than 3,000 companies currently covered by Citigroup will be temporarily discontinued.Citi expects to resume coverage of a certain number of the firms in coming quarters.It is believed that Citi's headcount will be reduced by 23,000 by the end of the year.

Nature Note:Rudbeckia

The woodland is edged with rudbeckia,or black-eyed susans.When they go to seed,these wildflowers will feed the white-throated sparrows who have arrived for the winter,as well as the resident tufted titmice.There is some fall color in the silver maples,red maples and pin oaks,but peak color won't be till next week.The cool,dry air and bright sun ,as well as the yellow rudbeckia,intensify the leaves above the path.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Business-Jet Orders May Decline

Canadian manufacturer Bombardier may be getting fewer orders for business-jets.The Montreal firm said industry-wide orders,except for very light jets,are expected to slow to around 1,000 in 2009,from 1400 this year.Bombardier makes Learjet,Global Express and Challenger corporate jets.It has an overall aircraft backlog of 26.1 billion dollars to shore up earnings during the financial crisis.The company will reshuffle its order book to permit customers who want jets sooner to pay in full.Others will have more time to arrange financing.Bombardier also manufactures rail cars.

Nature Note:Indian Summer

For the past 10 days,it has been warm with cool nights.This is Indian Summer,which is a warm spell after the first frost.It is probably the last warm spell until April.It is harder and harder for warmth to build up as the sun's angle in the sky lowers,and the days shorten.Red is brushing the pin oak leaves.The Northern Sun forsythia is turning maroon even while it has bloomed lightly in the warmth.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Ping An Feels Crisis

Ping An Insurance,a major Chinese firm,will record a 2.3 billion dollar loss from the financial crisis.It is the result of Ping An's stake in the Belgian bank Fortis,which has been propped up by a cash infusion from Belgium,the Netherlands and Luxembourg.This is the biggest impact to date on a Chinese firm by the financial crisis.The writedown will affect Ping An's profits for the first three quarters of 2008,but the company said it was still financially sound.Fortis was one of the biggest foreign acquisitions by a Chinese financial firm,which are assiduously enlarging their foreign presence.Chinese companies say they have limited exposure to U.S. mortgage-backed securities.

Nature Note:First Frost

Yesterday we got the first frost.The first one is always a light one.It isn't a killer frost.It's just enough to whiten the roofs.The house plants were fine out on the deck,but I decided to bring them in for the winter.It was a good,sunny day for the project.Today I put some chairs away and pounded some nails back into the deck.Some of them always pop up over the summer.Now the deck is solid again,ready for winter winds.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Authorities Confront Crisis

Financial authorities in several countries have been taking steps to ease the financial crisis.On Monday,the Federal Resrve and European Central Bank,as well as eight other central banks,more than doubled reciprocal swap lines,which provide access to U.S. dollars,to 620 billion dollars from 290 billion dollars.The Reserve Bank of Australia pumped 1.95 billion dollars into the market.The events of Black September,a month of financial meltdowns, shook institutions' confidence in dealing with each other and,so far, credit remains tight in spite of their best efforts.Banks continue to hoard cash in the money markets.Many believe that the central banks will have to coordinate an interest rate cut to break the credit logjam.Jean-Claude Trichet,President of the ECB,and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd have called on the U.S. Congress to pass the rescue plan for the common good.The U.S. Senate is to vote on the measure tonight.

Nature Note:Autumn Mist

The past few mornings have brought dense fog to the area,making it a blessing when you are not driving.As well cobwebs are strung between bushes and trees,or between bushes and other bushes.The fog and the cobwebs create an eerie quality.Maybe a goblin will be behind the next tree along your path.For sure,the first frost will come in the next few weeks.The summer world is drifting away.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Asian Highlights

Andrew Freris of BNP Paribas says that,in terms of balance sheet fundamentals,Asia has been essentially unaffected by the subprime mortgage problem.Asian central banks have been free to focus on inflation.Japan was a lender,so it is in better shape than the U.S.,which was a borrower.Singapore isn't much exposed to the declining U.S. export market.Medium term,Mr.Freris likes Asian financials.The Korean banks are the cheapest in Asia.Nonetheless,central banks in Australia,Japan and India have injected capital into their banking systems to counter instability in their financial markets,which have been troubled by the Western financial crisis.

Nature Note:Rabbit Breakfast

I found a rabbit nibbling my rhododendron today.Rabbits had nearly killed this bush after it first flowered.I didn't want to see that happen again.It has taken two years for it to recover,and it hasn't been able to bloom for two years.I didn't chase the rabbit;I just scolded it gently and it hopped away.That's what is good about being out early.You can catch destructive animals and deal with them before they do too much damage.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dubai Firm Wins Contract

Prime Projects International,a company based in Dubai,one of the United Arab Emirates,has been selected to design and construct a prison on a U.S. air base.PPI is to receive 50 million dollars U.S. for the project.The prison will be built on Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.It is to hold 1,000 prisoners.The U.S. military is also seeking an Islamic religion specialist for the prison.The specialist will minister to the prisoners and serve as a linguist/interpreter during emergencies.The prison won't be completed until 2009 at the earliest.

Nature Note:Goldenrod

Canada goldenrod has been blooming for about three weeks now.The tall,impressive wildflower may be regarded as a weed by some;as a sneeze-maker by others;but I welcome it as a striking native plant.In fact,it does not make you sneeze.Its pollen is heavy and doesn't travel far in the wind.Unless you stick your nose in it,it won't affect you.I regard this wildflower as a welcome volunteer.Its golden flower clusters are a prelude to the changing leaves.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Assessing China

China is currently experiencing an export downturn because of poor economic conditions in the U.S. and Europe.Jing Ulrich of JP Morgan Chase(JPM) notes that the infrastructure and banking sectors are still strong in China.More power plants,ports,railroads and water works are being built.The Chinese financial markets are extremely volatile.In 2007,they were the best;in 2008,they are the worst.One has to keep a long term horizon,Ms.Ulrich feels.British bank HSBC is doing just that,with expansion plans in China.It is opening branches in 3-4 new cities a year.It already has 74 branches in 17 cities.

Nature Note:Morning Thunder

Yesterday began with thunder and lightning.For the first time in many years,I had to stay indoors instead of tending the property.It was just too hazardous to go out in those conditions.A strong cold front was pushing down from Canada.Twenty-four hours later,it was still interacting with warmer air,causing low,dark clouds.Indeed,it may be unsettled for several days.This is a real clash of seasons,and we are bystanders leaning on our rakes.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Shirakawa Defends Japanese Economy

Japan's central banker,Masaaki Shirakawa,said he expects Japan's economy to stay stagnant for the time being,but it will not be in a deep 1990s type slump.Volatile markets and escalating prices have hurt,but the economy is likely to spring back once external factors stabilize.It is in better fundamental shape than it was in the past,when Japan faced excess labor and capacity.The Bank of Japan has left its key interest rate at 0.5,despite increasing concern about Japan's slowing economy,which is the world's second largest.Relatively weak consumption and industrial production,as well as slowing export growth and business investment,have troubled the Bank of Japan recently.

Nature Note:Asian Pear Thinned

I have finished thinning out my largest Asian pear.I spent four mornings on it.The process could go on,but there are other trees that require attention.One of the big trees limbs was nearly touching the house,and I was able to pull it off when my pole pruner got stuck.The garage roof over which this limb extended wasn't damaged at all,which is a miracle,since both the pruner and limb struck the roof when the limb came off.It was an exacting bit of work,but I can forget about it for at least another year.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Inflation in China

Chinese consumer prices eased in July,the National Bureau of Statistics reported.Food costs didn't rise as much as they had previously.The Consumer Price Index rose 6.3 year over year,while food rose 14.4-down from 17.3 in June.The overall CPI had declined from 7.1 in June,and was the lowest it had been in nearly a year.In contrast,the Producer Price Index was up 16 in July,probably reflecting raw materials costs to businesses in China.The Chinese economy is expected to grow 8-10% in 2008.

Please Note

Because of an appointment,I may not be in next Wednesday.In that event,I will try to post another day.

Nature Note:Deadwood

I've been cutting deadwood out of my Leyland cypress trees.I just cut the brown parts out and leave the rest of the dead branches for the birds to perch on.I had let it go for a while,but it got to an unsightly extreme.The cause of the browning is unknown.It could be a parasite or just dryness-or even both.Recent summers have seen a number of droughts.The Leyland cypress is from a hybrid of the Nootka and Monterey cypresses that occurred naturally in an English garden.It is used for a Christmas tree in the southern U.S. and very widely planted for a fast-growing screen.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The World of Gold

Jewelry demand drives most of the annual trade in gold,says George Milling-Stanley of the World Gold Council,but it is investment demand that sends gold prices higher.Gold prices have been following oil because of their inverse relationship to the U.S. dollar,not to each other.Gold is accumulated,not consumed;that's why it is a form of money.Despite adverse economic conditions,jewelry demand was up in Q2.India produces 25% of the annual demand for gold.Global dollar gold demand reached new heights in Q2.Gold has an excellent 6,000 year track record as a hedge against inflation and geopolitical tension,making it desirable to hold in a portfolio.

Nature Note:Cool Cut

It was amazingly cool this morning.At 6AM,it was 55F-or about 12.6 C.Sitting on the deck yesterday,I watched the cold front blow in.The clouds were being pushed by a northwest wind.All summer has been like this.I can't remember having so many cool breaks in the Mid-Atlantic region.When I thinned my Asian pear tree out this morning,I didn't sweat at all.It might as well have been September.There is no sign of global warming in the region this summer.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

ECB Holds Steady

The European Central Bank has held its key interest rate steady,having raised it a quarter of a percent in July.Jean-Claude Trichet,head of the ECB,said that there are upside risks to price stability over the medium term.The data underpin the July rate hike.The high Consumer Price Index will likely be more protracted than is supposed.On the other hand,growth will be particularly weak in Q3,and the ECB has no bias on rates.The bank is focused on bringing down inflation even as growth slows.In the Euro-zone,business and consumer confidence were at their lowest in more than five years,at a reading of 89.5 for July.

Nature Note:Primrose Path

The evening-primrose is in bloom.You see the yellow flowers open in the early morning;they wilt later in the day.The flowers attract the ruby-throated hummingbird,but I haven't seen that little visitor as of yet.It will drink the primrose nectar through its long,slender bill.Hummingbirds also like red flowers.Evening-primrose is a wildflower that prefers dry or sandy areas.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Nature Note:Dry Summer

It's been a dry summer so far.The lawn stopped growing at the end of June.No one is complaining about that.We've had a lot of thunderstorms,but they only rain a tenth of an inch or so-that's about .25 cm of rain.The weather is as dry as a cicada's song.The dogday harvestfly,a kind of cicada,started singing here just this morning.They'd been singing farther west for some time,their song gradually moving east.It's an eerie rattle.

Two Worlds

According to Jim Owens,CEO of Caterpillar(CAT),we're seeing a bifurcated world.While Europe and Japan are slowing markedly,the emerging markets are doing extremely well.Their explosive demand continues.We have long been a champion of global engagement.It's important to continue with trade liberalization,opening markets to American exports.We export a lot of mining and construction equipment to Colombia.We really need to cultivate trade relationships.We are a large net exporter to China.Since the North American Free Trade Agreement,real Gross Domestic Product growth has accelerated in all three signatories-the U.S.,Canada and Mexico-Mr.Owens pointed out.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Nature Note:Acorn Crop

The local pin oak trees will yield a good crop of acorns this year.Tiny acorns have already appeared on their branches.As autumn nears,the acorns will bulk up.Even so,they are among the smaller acorns.Blue jays,as well as chipmunks and other squirrels,will harvest them in short order starting in late August.Within a few weeks,they will all be eaten or stored for the winter.

Manufacturer Taps Global Demand

Robbins and Myers(RBN),a maker of pumps,mixing systems and packaging solutions,is seeing no let-up in demand for its products.The company's products are used in wastewater treatment,and by agricultural chemical,ethanol and biodiesel concerns.With 800 million dollars U.S. in revenue,80% of its sales are in the energy,pharmaceutical and chemical fields.Its business is 60% international,and the credit crunch has not affected its customers very much.Robbins and Myers has a presence in India,as well as China,Australia and Kazakhstan.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Nature Note:Catbird Song

A gray catbird has been singing all morning.He hasn't let me see him,but his song is unmistakable.It's a series of squeaks that has a cheerful effect.The northern mockingbird is his cousin,but the catbird's song doesn't sound like the mockingbird's.It isn't a series of imitations of other birds or even inanimate objects.The catbird just inspires himself and everyone else who is listening.They can get through the summer heat with his help.

EU Raises Offer

The European Union has raised an offer to cut farm tariffs from an average of 54% to 60%.The offer would be part of a new global commerce pact.EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said the offer was intended to jump-start a critical week of talks,which aim to open up the global economy.Negotiators hope to reach agreement this week to liberalize global agriculture and manufacturing.The World Trade Organization has been seeking the agreement for seven years.If agreement is not reached,it could be a lengthy period before such an opportunity presents itself again.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Nature Note:Forest Visitor

A tufted titmouse-no,I am not making that name up-visited the feeder yesterday.It is a forest species.In the winter,it forms mixed flocks with chickadees and nuthatches.The small gray bird with a crest and rather large eyes has been a rare guest to this point,yet with several of the trees maturing,maybe I'll be seeing more of them.They might feel safer now.

An Edgy Era

We are entering a world of higher inflationary pressures,Mohamed El-Erian said.The Pimco executive thinks we will witness a period of continued shrinkage of balance sheets.The economy will shift away from traditional drivers of growth.Expect a significant realignment of the financial sector over the secular horizon.There is no perfect response by the Federal Reserve;there are no easy policy solutions.Inflationary pressures are complicating the global outlook,Mr.El-Erian reflected.

El-Erian:A Quiet Voice

Mohamed El-Erian,an executive with Pimco,feels it is a time of great tumult and great opportunity.The credit crisis has morphed into an economic crisis.You can't just take the financial system and recapitalize it.There are major bargains out there,but you've got to be careful.You need support,because it is a bumpy time.Remain diversified;keep a cash cushion.It's better to be later in this market,Mr.El-Erian advised.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Nature Note:Honeybees

Two honeybees gathered nectar from the wild peppermint.There is a shortage of these bees,which are valuable to agriculture for their pollination services,as well as the honey they produce.A plague has been reducing their numbers greatly.I have seen small numbers of them every year,but that apparently isn't enough for growers.I don't think they will go extinct as they would have done so by now,so at least there is hope for their recovery.In time,they may develop resistance to the infection.

Financial Centres Appraised

The Global Financial Centres Index has been released.The index is based on a statistical model and the opinions of experts.Factors considered include excellence of access,skill level of staff,and proportionality of regulatory regime.The rankings were:1.London,2.New York,3.Hong Kong,4.Singapore and 5.Zurich.Dubai and Shanghai are centres to watch.Singapore is gaining on Hong Kong,and centres at the bottom,such as Moscow,are continuing to climb.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Nature Note:Peppermint

The wild peppermint is in bloom.It has clusters of small white flowers on tall stems.To me,it smells like onions.It is indeed the source of peppermint oil,which flavors a lot of candy.Some might pull it out as a weed,but I let it grow as an attractive wildflower.

EU Takes Action

The European Union has frozen the assets of Iran's Bank Meli.It is Iran's oldest and largest private bank.The move is in response to Iran's refusal to halt its nuclear program,which the West sees as a threat to international security.Meanwhile,Israel is reportedly practicing a plan to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.Iran has said that,should this occur,it will exercise control over the Strait of Hormuz,through which much of the world's oil supply is shipped.Kuwait has been making its own plans in the event of conflict,to ensure that its oil would continue to reach its customers.All of this tension is a big factor in the surge of oil prices.Many believe oil would reach 200 dollars U.S. a barrel-or even more-if Israel bombed Iran.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Nature Note:Minor Miracle

Three years ago,I planted some asclepias seed under an Asian pear.They never germinated.I was surprised,then,to see some orange buds on a plant with dark green leaves under that tree last week.It took me a week to remember the asclepias seed.That seed had been dormant for three years.It's a minor miracle that it finally germinated and bloomed.For me,such surprises are what gardening is really about.They reveal the true power of nature.

The GCC Tomorrow

Ibrahim Dabdoub,CEO of the National Bank of Kuwait,spoke of the future.The National Bank of Kuwait gets 20% of its revenue from foreign branches,Mr.Dabdoub said.By 2015,it plans to get 50% of its revenue from these branches.Eventually,all the GCC countries will peg to a basket of currencies,not just the U.S. dollar.

The GCC Today

We are going into a cycle like the late 1970s,early 1980s,Ibrahim Dabdoub of the National Bank of Kuwait said.Inflation is going to stay with us globally.You have to hedge.We're trying to pick up some products in distressed debt,the return is so good.Investment banks are on the radar;it's an opportunity.We are small,peaceful countries,Mr.Dabdoub continued.They forget the countries behind the funds.Abu Dhabi and Kuwait don't have any political interest whatever.Eventually these negative voices will die down,because the U.S. would lose a lot if they don't,Mr.Dabdoub feels.

Focus on the Gulf Cooperation Council

The Arab states of the GCC are booming,according to Ibrahim Dabdoub,CEO of the National Bank of Kuwait.Things will remain rosy for a long time-as long as oil is more than 100 dollars U.S. a barrel.Basically we have the sovereign wealth funds to save as much as we can for the future generations,so that they will be able to live on the return of these funds.The average GCC citizen is investing in the regional market.There aren't too many investments in the West and the U.S.,because those markets aren't doing very well.Dubai has proven to have a regional model.It's a hub.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Nature Note:Cool Pattern

The Canadian air is back.I can leave the air conditioner off,saving on the electric bill.I am wondering if this pattern will persist into fall and winter.Regular surges of Canadian air would cause a cold winter.Of course,that would mean a higher natural gas bill.Last winter,we only got 15.3 inches of snow-or about 39 centimeters.The day is refreshing,but the economics of weather are not forgotten in its relaxation.

The Value of Talks

U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson says there's no doubt oil prices are a problem.He attributes them to supply and demand factors.You're going to get volatility with tight supply.It can only be good news to talk about it with the Saudis.That's a productive idea.We have not had the investment we need in new production and alternate sources.It's always of great value to talk to other policymakers around the world.That builds up a level of trust so we can call each other,Mr.Paulson explained.As for the financial crisis,regulation needs to be updated to catch up with hedge funds.Clearly the Federal Reserve needs greater visibility and authority with investment banks,given the new lending facility for the banks.There's a role for market discipline and moral hazard.When assets are being revalued,you're going to go through times like this,Mr.Paulson observed.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Japan Outlook

Japan is getting out of deflation and into inflation,in the view of Jesper Koll,CEO of Tantillon Research Japan.All domestic demand indicators fot he last six months have surprised on the upside.The Bank of Japan will do absolutely nothing,as it remains an academic institution.The risk to the economy is fiscal,with a tax increase looming.Nonetheless,domestic travel,service demand and the upgrade cycle of homes and condos are all going nicely.Large companies are releveraging,locking in the lower rates.The policy interest rate level is 0.5,and is poised to stay that way for a very long time,Mr.Koll believes.

Nature Note:Super Growth

I hadn't hooked the hoses up to the spigots until this morning,the spring has been so wet and cool.I could hardly find one of the spigots,the densiformis yews had grown so much.It became a regular project,as I had to shear away a lot of growth so I could hook my hose up.The yew has very soft needles,rather leathery in texture.In July,I will trim them thoroughly.Today I just had to clear the way for my hose.It is hot,so everything is thirsty,despite some thunderstorms.Thunderstorms are usually useless.They are loud,but yield little rainfall.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Inside the Food Crisis

The United Nations says that high food prices are here to stay for at least the next 10 years.Extreme weather,speculators,oil prices and crops set aside for biofuels are all to blame.About 800 million people spend half their income on food.They must drop meals,making tough choices.Bread is being bought by the slice.Monsanto(MON) thinks its research will double crop yields in 10 years.Outside Europe,there is a growing consensus that Genetically-Modified plants will be used to feed the world.Even within Europe,G-M products,such as animal feed,are already in use.

Nature Note:Tropical Flow

The Canadian weather has moved on.Now we are getting a tropical flow.It's too early for it,but maybe we will have a cool July.Nature always reaches a balance.If there is an extreme,she will go to the other extreme to restore equilibrium.Speaking of tropical things,a parrot or parakeet visited me yesterday.It was perching and calling on my roof.Perhaps someone couldn't afford to feed it anymore and set it free.I looked for the bright green bird today,but couldn't locate it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Nature Note:A Bluebird is Singing

Yesterday was hot and humid,but this morning I went out to prepare for mowing and the contrast was remarkable.Canadian high pressure had moved in overnight.The cool,clear weather will make my chore a lot more pleasant.Unfortunately,this will not last very long.Such days will be scarce here until autumn.A bluebird is singing about this blessing of a day.

SAP Sets Goal

German technology firm SAP has set a lofty goal for itself.According to co-CEO Leo Apotheker,SAP wants to basically double its value by 2010.In 2009,they will talk about what happens after 2010.Mr.Apotheker is looking forward to being sole CEO of the company.As for his being a businessman rather than a tech guy,he says that he is the head of a team.It really doesn't matter that he's not a tech guy.SAP has one of the best teams in the industry.As a global team,Mr.Apotheker thinks they can make great things happen.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

India's New Stock Exchange

The NSE is India's New Stock Exchange.CEO Ravi Narain notes that the country's economic reforms of the 1980s and 90s are now bearing fruit.The NSE takes its benchmarks from the much older SENSEX,but builds positions in the Nifty Fifty stocks.Goldman Sachs(GS) and NYSE Euronext(NYX) have bought stakes in the NSE.Finance crosses international boundaries very quickly now.The NSE goes where its customers go,being all electronic,Mr.Narain said.Its stocks have been down this year,but not as much as China's.

Nature Note:Scarlet Tanager

I hadn't been in the mountains for a few years;I've just driven by.Finally I set a morning aside to go back up.A scarlet tanager greeted me there,a male with subtropical red plumage and a conversational song.He breeds from Southeast Canada to the East-Central U.S.,in mature pine and oak forests.This bird had spent the winter from Colombia to Bolivia.He's another international bird,a binder of nations to each other,a healer of many hearts.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Russian Firm Buys Steel Plant

OAO SeverStal,Russia's largest steelmaker,has closed on the Sparrows Point steel plant in Baltimore,Maryland.Arcelor Mittal(MT) was required to sell the plant in order to get court approval for the merger of Arcelor and Mittal Steel in 2006.SeverStal paid 810 million U.S. for Sparrows Point.The sale was handled by Joseph G. Krauss,a divestiture trustee appointed by the U.S. court.

Nature Note:Change of Seed

I recently changed back to mixed bird seed after several years of providing black oil sunflower.The price of bos has gone up sharply recently.I found a high quality mix at the farm store for a good price,so I hope they keep selling it .Chipmunks and rabbits eat my bird seed as well.It is really wildlife seed.All my wild pets are welcome to eat it.So far,there have been no complaints.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Boeing Reports

Boeing(BA) says its 787 Dreamliner is moving right along on plan.They remain highly confident,and believe the U.S. General Accounting Office will be favorable in its review of an Air Force decision to award a tanker contract to Northrop Grumman/EADS.First quarter sales were up 3% and operating margins were up 7.2%.For 2009,sales are projected to be up 7% and operating margins up 10.5%.Over 80% of Boeing's backlog is from outside the U.S.-especially from China and India.There are almost 900 orders for the 787-more than for any plane in Boeing's past.

Nature Note:Rainforest Protected

For the past two years,the Nature Conservancy and its public and private partners have put up 120 million dollars Canadian to conserve British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest.The money will fund conservation-management programs and sustainable business activity.Land-use agreements will protect 5 million acres from logging,while more than 19 million acres will be enrolled in Ecosystem Based Management-the largest attempt to implement this strategy that preserves both land and aboriginal cultures,as well as industry and small business.The rainforest is on the mainland coast of BC,growing more than 250 miles north to Alaska.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Euro-zone Assessment

Alex Patelis of Merrill Lynch(MER) says the Bank of England's new lending facility for banks is unprecedented.It is remarkable that they established it after having warned of the moral hazard of such a move.Mr.Patelis is relatively positive about the Euro-zone.In the Euro-zone,homes are not as important in financing.The English-speaking countries are more dependent on housing for that purpose.While the Bank of England will have to cut interest rates twice more this year,the European Central Bank is on hold for the foreseeable future,in Mr.Patelis' view.Euro-zone inflation for March was at 3.6%,so the ECB is quite reluctant to risk any increase of it by cutting rates.

Nature Note:Still White Crowns

We had a light frost this morning.White-crowned sparrows were still bulking up at the feeder.I have been seeing two at a time.Their crown markings are distinctive,so I can tell they are the same individuals every day.One sparrow has thinner white bands than the other.By early May,they should both be flying north to Canada.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bank of England Helps Banks

The Bank of England has set up a new lending facility for banks.British banks will now be able to swap their mortgage-backed securities for treasury bonds.The facility is similar to one established by the U.S. Federal Reserve.The banks will be able to keep the bonds for up to three years.At that point,the swap will be reversed.The BOE is providing 50 billion pounds for the facility-that is about 100 million dollars U.S..Even if the banks' securities were based on good mortgages,they are viewed with suspicion in the current environment.If they couldn't swap them for treasury bonds,they might have to write them down as a loss.

Nature Note:Purple Finches

Two female purple finches visited the feeder this morning.They were bulking up for their flight north,although it may only have been 40 miles or so to Blue Mountain,Pennsylvania,where I observed a male of the species one spring.They breed as far north as just south of James Bay,Canada.For me,that's what bird feeding is all about.I can help insure the safe arrival of a migratory bird on its breeding grounds.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Nature Note:The Rabbit

The rabbit is so close,I could reach over and touch it.I would like to do that,but I decide it would be wrong.Let the wild stay wild.It is almost tame,so I don't want to take away the little that is left.There are enough pets.

G-7 Reflections

Christine Lagarde,the French minister of Economy,Industry and Employment,has been reflecting on the G-7 meeting held over the weekend in Washington.They all came together and prepared some concrete measures,Ms.Lagarde recalled.They were concerned over the weak U.S. dollar and commodities prices,sharing the same view about the excessive volatility between the currencies.There is hope in the U.S. stimulus package and the support for financial system reforms,as well as for clarification.Bankers realize that between greed and guilt,we need to find equilibrium through regulations.For the first time since 2000,the G-7 countries,which include Canada,France,the U.S.,Italy,France,Japan,Germany and the U.K.,expressed common concern,Ms.Lagarde said.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Foreign Ministers Meet

The three North American foreign ministers met at the State Department in Washington recently.U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hosted foreign ministers Patricia Espinosa of Mexico and Maxime Bernier of Canada.The theme of their talks was prosperity and security.They were preparing for a summit of their heads of government in New Orleans.The three countries practice free trade with each other and cooperate on border security.Many Americans dislike free trade because they think it eliminates jobs,and feel that Mexico doesn't police its border sufficiently.

Nature Note:Good Grass Seed

I spread grass seed this morning.About 35% of it is Creeping Boreal Red Fescue,a Canadian grass.That should produce grass that will stand up to any winter.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Microsoft and Yahoo

Microsoft(MSFT) remains determined to acquire Yahoo(YHOO).The two firms met this week to discuss the matter,but no agreement was reached.Some investors may nonetheless be buying Yahoo shares in hopes of profiting from what they see as the inevitable achievement of Microsoft's ambition.

Nature Note:White-Crowned Sparrow

This morning a white-crowned sparrow appeared at the feeder.It is bulking up for migration from the U.S. to Canada,where it breeds.Having spent the winter here,it's a bird that binds our two countries together.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Honeywell Continues Trend

Industrial titan Honeywell International(HON)is confident in its 2008 performance.David Cote,CEO of the Morristown,New Jersey firm,says orders still look good.It's all working for them.The U.S. is clearly slower than it was,and Europe is still slow,but China and North Africa look great.Between 2003-2007,Honeywell total return rose 107%.