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.