Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Greece Will Get Aid

Yale professor John Geanokoplos thinks Germany will bail Greece out eventually.The euro is too important to allow Greece to fall off the table.He expects that Greece will get some help,but the European Union will be tougher on Greece to cut public service salaries and positions.After the holiday celebrations die down in January,Greek labor unions may start focusing on any threatened reductions.
The Greek parliament recently approved Prime Minister George Papandreou's proposed budget cuts.Greece's troubles came to a head when Moodys cut Greece's credit rating from A1 to A2,warning of further cuts and joining the other bond ratings agencies,Standard&Poor's and Fitch,in criticizing Greece's big deficit.Germany is generally regarded as the EU's economic powerhouse and a logical source of aid for struggling members.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

BNP Paribas Forecasts 2010

Brian Fabri,Chief Economist at global bank BNP Paribas,says the U.S. economy still needs help,and that is why Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will keep interest rates low.By Q3 2010,there could be nasty surprises in the economy.Banks still are gonna be writing off more bad debt.Commercial real estate will cause more losses for banks.State and local governments will be insolvent,probably needing more federal aid.I think we go from 3% growth to 1.5% about the middle of next year.There are significant head winds,a number of little factors.In 2010,liquidity stops growing.It could create another flight to safe dollar/Treasury move.We will return to reality from the golden handshake.We will back away from risk-taking about the middle of next year,Brian Fabri predicted.
The economic research department of BNP Paribas is a worldwide function grouping together economists based in Paris,New York,London and Tokyo.BNP Paribas has 202,300 employees in 83 countries.Its three core businesses are Retail Banking,Corporate Investment Banking and Investment Solutions.It was named 2008 Global Banker of the Year by The Banker magazine.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Eurozone Budgets Under Stress

Greece has the biggest debt of the Eurozone countries-the countries that use the Euro for their currency.Prime Minister George Papandreou announced sweeping structural reforms earlier this week,saying that Greece is sinking under its debts.The country is in its worst financial dislocation since it returned to democracy 35 years ago.
Mr.Papandreou called for national unity in the face of the crisis.Greece's soaring defense budget will be targeted for reduction,but there is a real prospect of strikes.Greek leftists and trade unions have indicated that they won't tolerate any cuts.
Ireland and Spain also face a high debt load.While Greece's budget deficit for 2009 is forecast to be 12.7% of Gross Domestic Product,Ireland's is expected to be 12.5%,and Spain's 11.2% of GDP respectively.European Union budget rules set a limit of 3% of GDP.The deficits came about when the countries propped up their economies with borrowing when the financial crisis reached Europe.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Copenhagen Conference Begins Struggle

Opening the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen,Denmark on Monday,Connie Hedegaard,Conference President,said this is the time to commit.And it is doable.Fifteen thousand delegates will strive for agreement for two weeks.U.S. delegate John Pershing remarked that the science on the issue is incredibly robust.Ms.Hedegaard,however,felt that the delegates were not there yet.In the next few weeks,she explained,we have to work really hard and find both public and private money for the efforts.We must get it done now.Compromise,agree,find concrete solutions.Leaders have made it very clear:they expect to adopt an agreement 11 days from now.Let's mark this meeting in history:the entrance to the low carbon age.Let's get it done,and let's get it done now,Ms.Hedegaard urged.
The delegates were shown a video dramatization of a young Caucasian girl suffering at the hands of global warming.In spite of a last minute controversy over rambunctious emails from a conference supporter,most governments are on board with the vast majority of the world's scientists,and are determined to address the issue of climate change with definite measures.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Asia Learning Fast

Ron Arculli,Chairman of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing,says that one thing we need to learn in Asia is to professionalize management.We're learning fast,but we need to get there in order to keep our position.Language is an issue for foreigners in Asia,but you can operate here without the language.Initially,you might want a local partner if you are shy,if you are cautious,but if you are professional,you will be respected,Mr.Arculli believes.
At the heart of it,in Mr.Arculli's view,they are all Asians.It is variations on a theme.It really is the preservation of the basic family structure,Mr.Arculli observed.
According to a KPMG survey,85% of global construction firms expect a moderate to significant increase in opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region on account of government stimulus programs.Insights such as those stated above can help those companies take advantage of these prospects.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Baltic Dry Bubble

The Baltic Dry Index,a gauge of international shipping activity,has been surging of late.Experts believe that China is driving it.China is building a lot of infrastructure now,requiring a flow of commodities.The Baltic Dry does not reflect what's going on in the U.S. economy.It's a very volatile index.
The supply of ships will put a cap on the Baltic Dry,people familiar with the matter believe.Many ships are coming online to meet Asian demand.The surge in the index is an anomaly driven by congestion at ports and iron ore restocking for steel production.Next year will be more tempered.Even if there is a correction,most companies in the trade will still be profitable,these experts think.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Russia Needs To Modernize

Years of strong energy prices covered up Russia's serious problems,President Dmitry Medvedev noted recently.The time is running out for Russia to turn itself into a modern nation.They do not produce competitive goods.Mr.Medvedev called on Russia to re-focus away from energy and heavy industry towards information technology,telecom and space.Once the space shuttle program ends next year,the U.S. will be relying on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft to ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station.
It has been said that Mr.Medvedev has a vision for Russia,but only Prime Minister Vladimir Putin can implement it.Whatever the political reality,Russia faces military challenges in its North Caucusus region.In Ingushetia,Islamic militants have killed more than 200 this year,many of them with suicide bombs.Ongoing tensions in the region divert attention and money from the need for economic transition.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Germans Disappointed In GM

News that General Motors backed out of its deal with Magna International and Sberbank was greeted with bitter criticism in Germany.GM's sale of Opel/Vauxhall to the Canadian-Russian consortium had seemed to be a sure bet.In the end,the abandonment was a defeat for Chancellor Angela Merkel,who had pushed so hard for the protection of German workers.Magna had pledged to keep all four German Opel plants open,and GM had received a two billion dollar bridge loan from Germany.GM finally decided it had to maintain a presence in Europe-especially its access to the emerging Eastern Europe.One German worker observed that it was foreseeable that GM would keep Opel.He knew it.
Thousands of Opel workers staged protests at all of the Opel plants in Germany.They fear they will lose two of the four plants.The workers were carrying red and yellow union flags and beating drums.GM said they have nothing to fear.GM intends to adhere closely to the outlines of the Magna-Sberbank deal.Fritz Henderson,GM's CEO,is currently in Europe to mend fences.GM says it may use its liquidity to restructure Opel/Vauxhall.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Copenhagen Is Fast-Approaching

The European Union is gearing up for next month's conference on climate change in Copenhagen,at which a successor to the Kyoto Accords is to be agreed.In a summit last week,the EU found that by 2020,developing nations will need 128 billion dollars a year to fight climate change.The EU pledged to contribute 74 billion to a fund to assist these emerging market states.The amount each EU member gives will be determined by the abilities of the donors.
Norway was the first EU member to raise interest rates since the financial crisis began-a sign of economic strength.The U.K is holding its rates steady.Many,if not all,EU members are keen to keep stimulus measures in place.Substantial promises of aid to other countries may thus be viewed with some degree of scepticism at this time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dubai Fund Feeling Good

Ististhar,a Dubai sovereign wealth fund,has come through a tough period earlier in the year.CEO David Jackson described February-March as difficult.They had to sell some assets,as cash was needed elsewhere.Now we're feeling pretty good about the portfolio,Mr.Jackson said.Like everyone else,we're cautious now.We're making small,bolt-on acquisitions.We're holding on to Barneys stores.We believe in the brand,but luxury bands aren't fairly valued right now.
Dubai's projects,such as its palm islands development,are going forward.We're still alive and kicking,Mr. Jackson assures us.I have an excellent relationship with the sheikhs.At one point,everyone's job was on the line.I'm committed to preserving what we have in the portfolio,Mr.Jackson noted.
Dubai is one of the United Arab Emirates.The UAE is on the Persian Gulf,between Oman to the south,and Qatar to the north.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Commerce Department Backs Exports

The Commerce Department is increasing its export promotion program,according to Secretary Gary Locke.That's a sure way of economic growth in tough times,Mr.Locke said.It's our fault we're not publicizing these programs,Mr.Locke admitted.We'll do background checks of foreign countries with our Foreign Commercial Service Officers.Small business really accounts for most of the exports.Up to 70% of U.S. companies' foreign business comes from this program.
Mr.Locke said the Commerce Department investigates complaints of illegal subsidies filed by industry groups.We are required by law to investigate.While we have some issues with China,we are still moving forward trying to free up trade.I am going to China at the end of the month,trying to increase trade.It's very important that both sides live up to their commitments,Secretary Locke believes.
We have companies that sell to only one country.There's no reason they can't sell to two or three countries.We have a Commerce Counsel program where they can meet with just one cross-trained person to help them with this,Mr.Locke pointed out.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Doha Bank's Orderly Vision

For Rahgavan Seetharaman,CEO of Doha Bank in Qatar,global governance is the key.We need to articulate a new world order:how to correct the imbalances,creating consumer confidence.The Middle Eastern banks are relatively stable,Mr.Seetharaman feels,although the region has been going through a bit of turbulence.It is coming to terms with the realignment with the rest of the world.The stock market is recovering.Financial stability is the key,and that's what the regulators are doing,the Doha Bank executive indicated.
Qatar is located on the Persian Gulf,between Bahrain to the north and the United Arab Emirates to the south.Saudi Arabia lies to Qatar's west.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

IMF Leader Is Heartened

Dominique Strauss-Kahn,Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund,says the global economy is recovering,but unemployment usually lags by 10 months or more,and we shouldn't be too optimistic.Moreover,there are some possibilities of a double dip.It's not the main scenario in which we believe,but it may happen,Mr.Strauss-Kahn cautioned.
When the good news started in April,he was initially concerned countries would start unwinding stimulus packages too early.He's now heartened,the IMF executive said.I know that we will go on pushing the public support to demand until private demand will take over.I'm reasonably confident that growth will resume,but countries are exiting stimulus strategies on their own,without coordinating for an international response,pose a big risk.Exit strategies must be coordinated as much as possible,Mr.Strauss-Kahn insisted.
The IMF is an autonomous UN agency that works to further global monetary cooperation,currency stability and international trade.It's headquarters are in Washington,D.C.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Globalism Takes Hold

The G20 is now the apex of economic cooperation,the leaders of the 20 most prominent economies agreed at their Pittsburgh summit last week.This represents the triumph of globalism over the old country club of the G8,which consisted only of the developed nations.The G20 summits set forth broad frameworks which shape and coordinate the work of national governments as they grapple with the economic issues of the day.The G8 will be folded into the G20 summits as dinner meetings.It will deal mainly with security and donor issues.
At Pittsburgh,the G20 promised to develop tougher capital requirements for banks;crack down on financial executives' compensation;elevate the status of developing countries;and resist the threat of protectionism to economic stability.These promises could be handled elsewhere,but a summit gives world leaders a chance to develop personal rapport.

Please Note

The nature notes have been moved to Extra Content,which you can find a link to below.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Eli Broad Looks East

Eli Broad,the noted businessman and philanthropist,thinks we're closer to bottoming out-or have bottomed out,but we're not going back to 4.5-5% unemployment for several years.It's the wrong time to sell assets:you'll get a big discount,is what you'll get.I think the market's a bit ahead of itself,Mr.Broad said.We have some gold,some China and Asia holdings.We're heavy on credit,buying back loans at nice discounts,but light on U.S. equities.We think the dollar could continue to weaken.We think world events could shake a lot of confidence.China's gonna grow at at least six percent for the foreseeable future,in Mr.Broad's view.
Eli Broad was CEO of SunAmerica until 1999,when it merged with AIG.He had also founded KB Home with Kaufman.He is quite active with The Broad Foundation,a cultural and educational charity.

Late Heat

Today is the first full day of autumn,but it came in the form of a heat wave.A few scattered trees and vines have started to turn,but mostly we have the summer appearance in the Mid-Atlantic region.Fall decorations such as indian corn are being sold,but it will be some weeks before we really see a transformation in nature.The nights must get closer to freezing.Until then,we will have to look carefully to detect the autumnal ways.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Magna-Opel Deal

Canadian auto parts manufacturer Magna is leading a consortium that will acquire GM's Opel and Vauxhall makes,which employ 25,000 workers in Germany and the U.K.The news was greeted with a mixed response.While German workers welcomed it,British workers questioned whether they would indeed be secure.A German election was just a few weeks away,and this was Chancellor Angela Merkel's project:she felt it would best protect German jobs.Magna was the bidder that agreed to do so.Fritz Henderson,GM CEO,had called the Chancellor's office to notify her of the GM board's decision to sell to the Magna group.
GM will keep 35% of Opel/Vauxhall;the employees will get 10%;and the Magna consortium will get 55%.GM expects the deal to close in November or December.Magna may cut as many as 10,500 jobs at Opel/Vauxhall-up to half of them in Germany.

Nature Note:Seasonal Change

This morning I scheduled the fall furnace check-up.It's crucial for a natural gas appliance.A malfunction could mean an explosion-or at least higher energy bills.A few monarchs have been spotted.In recent years,their local numbers have been down.Perhaps their summer habitat was diminished greatly,their milkweed patches cleared for development.These migratory butterflies are on their way to Mexico,to the mountains outside Mexico City.
Maintaining a cold weather appliance;watching a wildlife transition:simple actions that signal the progress of seasonal change.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

G20 Cracks Down

The G20,which comprises the leading developed and developing economies,are cracking down on tax havens.At their meeting in London over the weekend,the G20 finance ministers agreed to punish with sanctions those who do not obey transparency requirements that G20 leaders agreed on at their summit in April.As well,the ministers are considering clawing back any bonuses executives may have received despite having precipitated financial upheaval.The ministers said they would maintain their fiscal and monetary stimulus measures as long as necessary.U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner observed that growth is now underway.However,we still face significant challenges ahead.
The G20 leaders will hold a summit in Pittsburgh,Pennsylvania on 24-25 September.

Early Edition:Robins Gone

The robins have disappeared,either flying south or to more sheltered areas,to berry patches in the woods for winter.This place is not ideal for winter survival.There are some mature trees for shelter,but the berry count is fairly limited.An occasional robin may appear over the winter,but they won't be a conspicuous presence until February or March.They will mostly be memories of the warm seasons that are drawing to a close.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

China Sets Commodities Aside

A wave of stockpiling is sweeping through China.The national government is stockpiling copper and oil.Local governments are stockpiling nickel and zinc,while companies and investors are hoarding copper and nickel.
Chinese oil consumption is growing 7-10% a year.China has 25 days' supply of oil in storage.It is aiming to protect its economy by selling some of the stockpiles to stabilize commodity prices.

Nature Note:The Sky Changes

Now it is September,the sky has changed.It is meteorological autumn,and the sky has a more refined aspect.Somehow it is rarefied,cool,ethereal.It will be a fitting backdrop for the turning leaves.Fewer insects fly through it now.It will be a path for migratory birds and butterflies.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tensions Rise With Moscow

Ukrainain President Viktor Yuschenko has been bitterly criticized by President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia.Mr.Yuschenko was endangering Europe's natural gas supplies,President Medvedev wrote in an open letter to the Ukrainian leader.Russia is also unhappy with Mr.Yuschenko's desire for Ukraine to join NATO,and his support for an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church.The Russian Orthodox Church only accepts a Ukrainian church under its jurisdiction.
The conflict between Gazprom,the Russian natural gas monopoly,and Ukraine over Ukraine's payments to Gazprom has become an annual ritual-even to the point of interrupting the flow of gas to Europe through a pipeline transiting Ukraine.President Medvedev threatened to delay posting a new Russian ambassador to Ukraine unless the issues were resolved.

Himalayas Under Threat

The World Wildlife Fund,which sponsors a Living Himalayas Intiative,is warning that the cultural and biological diversity of the Himalayas is threatened by global warming and development.The Himalayas,stretching from Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia,southeastward to China and Bhutan,are home to some 350 species discovered just in the past decade.They include the world's smallest deer,catfish that stick to rocks,and a flying frog.Unless climate change is reversed,the WWF says,this richness could be lost forever.Perhaps the snow leopard is the most spectacular of the mountain range's wildlife.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

IMF Takes Helpful Steps

The International Monetary Fund is providing special assistance to poor countries struggling through the financial crisis.Interest payments on outstanding loans will be waived through 2011.As well,up to 17 billion dollars in emergency aid will be granted through 2014.About half of that will be paid out through 2011.IMF gold sales will generate some of the funding.The IMF,based in Washington,D.C.,is an autonomous U.N. agency that is prominently involved in development issues along with The World Bank.

Nature Note:The Wasp Nest

I noticed that common paper wasps were building a nest under a second storey window,but I decided to leave them alone.Instead of spraying poison under that window,I let the docile insects be.Now the nest is very active,measuring about 5 inches across,or 13 cm.Some would disagree with that decision,but I felt there is enough poison in the environment,especially near a stream,where the poison would have ended up.These wasps have harmed no one,and will be finished within a few weeks,their breeding cycle completed.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

High Level Exchanges Begin

The U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue began at the end of July.The dialogue had been planned during the George W. Bush presidency.It encompasses both economic and political matters.On the economic front,the two countries agreed to continue working for global economic recovery by easing their trade imbalance and revising financial regulations.They will also correct protectionism and climate change,while working to reform the World Bank and International Monetary Fund,so that China's rising status in the global economy is more fairly represented.
For its part,the U.S. reassured China that it has a exit strategy from deficit spending and monetary easing,which China fears may harm its 801.5 billion dollar investment in U.S. Treasury securities.Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the U.S.-China efforts were vital,not only to the well-being of the two nations,but also to the health of the global economy.

Nature Note:A Big Crop

It looks like we're getting a bumper crop of acorns this year.That will be welcomed by the blue jays,who feast off the pin oaks from late August to early September.The eastern chipmunks will also have some,but 90% of the acorns seem to be gathered by the blue jays,who bury many of the acorns around the area,to provide some winter food for themselves.The acorns they don't eat over the winter will produce oak seedlings in the spring.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Where Sam Zell Invests

Sam Zell,Chairman of Equity Group Investments,says that Brazil is his number one country in the world for investing.It's energy and commodity self-sufficient.China isn't as transparent,but I'm just as enthusiastic about it,Mr.Zell professed,adding that they have a few companies there.As for The Tribune Company,publisher of The Chicago Tribune,The Los Angeles Times and The Orlando Sentinel,which Mr.Zell also owns,he said he thinks it will solve its problems without destroying itself.Sometime between now and the end of the year,it will emerge from bankruptcy.It's naive to think that the print business as we know it will disappear completely,Sam Zell believes.

Nature Note:Summer Concert

A free summer concert was heard this morning.Performing were mourning doves,field crickets,tree crickets and a Carolina chickadee.The summer seemed more complete with this avian music.The Mid-Atlantic region was being itself through its hot weather and melodious wildlife.Growers could feel themselves to be at home.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Good Value Abounds

Gary Motel of Templeton Global Equity Group notes that,in the U.S.,stimulus hasn't kicked in yet,but it has overseas,particularly in China.We're finding good value in virtually every country right now,he said.The tech group has underperformed the market for 10 years,so Taiwan Semiconductor is attractive.Telecom stocks such as Telefonica still offer good value on a total return basis.In the health sector,Novartis exhibits good breadth of business and emerging market exposure,as well as potential valuation gains.Mr.Motel is looking for global growth for the next 3-5 years,but not to an outrageous extent.In recent days,fears that the Chinese markets may be overheating have been expressed by several analysts,however,as they look beyond the stimulus era.

Nature Note:Field Crickets

The field crickets are already chirping on the adjacent farm.Around the home,however,they are still silent.They do seem late this year.It's almost August,and the close-in crickets are songless.The unusually cool summer,plus a long dry spell,may have stunted them for a while.The past week has felt more like a traditional July week,with its heat and dampness.All it needs is the late summer song of this musical insect.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Insurers Looking Abroad

A majority of insurers are planning to concentrate their growth overseas in the next three years.In a survey conducted by Accenture,62% of the 100 firms surveyed said they planned to grow abroad over the next year.Brazil,Russia,India and China are their main prospects.
Insurers from North America were more likely to expand overseas than those from other regions.While property and casualty insurers are more interested in Western Europe,life insurers are focused on emerging markets such as South Korea,India and China,the Accenture survey found.

Nature Note:Overhang

One of the Asian pear trees is growing over the garage roof.I've been considering having it cut back-or even cut down.The wood isn't especially heavy,yet could still do some damage to the roof and shingles in severe weather.On the other hand,it certainly shades the home in summer,keeping cooling costs down.I have pruned this tree for a number of years,but it has resisted my efforts,finally overwhelming them.It has been a nest tree for robins and northern cardinals,and possibly many others.Cedar waxwings and others have eaten its small fruit in winter.A spruce or fir would be a possible replacement.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

WTO Director Sees Progress

Pascal Lami,Director of the World Trade Organization,noted progress at the G8 summit in Italy last week:1.solid impetus,solid commitment to push back protectionist tendencies;2.commitment to finish the Doha round of negotiations;3.commitment to keep pushing on open trade,which is what developing nations need.As compared to last year,the U.S. and India have expressed the political will together.There remains a bit of compromising to be done,but their commitment to Doha 2010 is something new,Mr.Lami observed.
The G20 group of developed and key developing nations are to meet in Pittsburgh,Pennsylvania in September.The G8 summit may be considered to have been preparation for what many believe to be the more significant meeting.

Nature Note:More Fine Days

The spectacular July weather has persisted in the Mid-Atlantic region.You would think you are in Arizona,with the low humidity.The early stages of drought are beginning to be evident.Dry leaves are starting to fall from the trees.Mowers are getting a welcome break.Weeders aren't,as garlic mustard continues to poke up everywhere.As the ground dries out,it becomes increasingly difficult to pull weeds.You can feel the hardness of the drying land on the soles of your feet.Eventually,the land will get so hard,it hurts to walk on it.Humidity is supposed to return to the region by tomorrow,but the thunderstorms it brings often do not yield enough rain to reverse the dessication.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

India's New Spending

The government of India will be adding new fiscal stimulus,increasing the deficit to 6.8% of Gross Domestic Product.Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said total spending will go up by 36% to 10.3 trillion rupees,or 214 billion dollars.Infrastructure spending will rise to 9% of GDP by 2014.The tax code will be simplified;credit provided to struggling exporters;and defense spending increased.Stocks fell on the news,with the Sensex index dropping 5.8% as investors doubted the wisdom of inflating the national debt.In the U.S.,some economists are calling for a second stimulus package,while France and Germany are worried about further deficit spending.

Nature Note:Mosquitoes Return

Ferocious mosquitoes have emerged in recent days,reviving memories of last summer as they bit growers going about their tasks,or resting on their decks and porches.Even if there isn't visible standing water,the parasites are attacking us,biting hands and arms.The humidity has been low in the Mid-Atlantic region,so it is hardly a tropical paradise for the insects.Temperatures have been below normal as well.Indeed,June 2009 was nine degrees Fahrenheit cooler than last June.The weekend will bring more normal conditions,only to return to pleasant weather in the early part of next week.The general reaction to this unusual gift has been one of astonishment.The air conditioners have been rested for entire days, or at least part of the day-unheard of in July.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Editor Picks China

Paul Goodwin,editor of the Cabot China and Emerging Markets Report,says China is going to be doing a lot of leading.They need to keep their populace happy.They need to create 20 million jobs a year.Their stimulus has been much more effective than the United States'.
As soon as any export growth occurs,China is gonna go through the roof,Mr.Goodwin believes.We are putting money into China;we're stock pickers in China.China right now is producing the charts we like to see,Mr.Goodwin added.

Nature Note:Out of Bounds

The tomatoes have outgrown their stakes.They are spreading all over the garden.It seems best to let them do what they want.All of the plants have green or ripening fruit.Few of the seeds that were planted have germinated,however.There is just too much shade on the property for that.That is the price for having substantial trees.You're just not going to get a good result with seeds anymore,unless you start them indoors or perhaps in a flower pot somewhere.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

BRIC Want Diverse System

The BRIC countries-Brazil,Russia,India and China-concluded their recent summit in Ekaterinburg,Russia by calling for a more diverse global monetary system.They did not attack the U.S. dollar,nor call for the development of new reserve currencies to supplement it,which Russia has called for on its own.China and the others do not want to risk devaluing the dollar further,since so much of their reserves consist of greenbacks.The BRIC countries called for systemic reform based on a democratic and transparent decision-making and implementation process at the international financial organizations.This reflects their fear that emerging markets could be pushed aside by developed economies during reform talks.

Nature Note:High Up

A black-throated green warbler sang in the top of a pin oak on the property.This bird breeds from the Northwest Territories across to Newfoundland,and south to Georgia in the Appalachians.I had never encountered one at this low an elevation-420 feet,or 128 meters.It favors open tracts of pine or Canadian hemlock,especially above 2500 feet,or 762 meters.The forest bird hasn't been seen since five days ago,so I'm wondering if it will ever be down here in the foothills again.It measures five inches long,or 13 centimeters,and has white wing bars,in addition to its striking black throat and olive upperparts.There are certainly open tracts of white pine here for it to breed in.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ministers Agree on Framework

The G8 finance ministers,meeting in Lecce,Italy over the weekend,have produced the Lecce Framework,a strategy for obtaining a set of common principles and standards governing the conduct of international business and finance,according to their communique.Their goal is to identify and resolve regulatory problems that contributed to the financial crisis.U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the U.S. would propose more conservative standards,including several international proposals to help raise global standards of oversight of cross-border financial firms and global derivatives markets.
The G8 ministers,representing the U.S.,France,Italy,Germany,Russia,Canada,the U.K. and Japan,noted recent improvements in global financial markets and economic data,although significant risks remain.They asked the International Monetary Fund to help devise a plan for winding down fiscal and monetary interventions,while agreeing to maintain the programs as needed.

Nature Note:Old World Guest

At the entrance to the driveway,yellow sweet clover is growing.This Old World plant has spikes of small yellow flowers.They give off a sweet scent when crushed.Yellow sweet clover grows from two to five feet tall and is commonly seen along roadsides.There is also a white sweet clover.The sweet clovers are members of the pea family.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Asian Assets Sought

A number of banks have expressed interest in Asian assets of Royal Bank of Scotland Group.Among those interested are Standard Chartered,HSBC Holdings and Australia&New Zealand Banking Group,or ANZ.RBS is divesting commercial and retail units in eight Asian locales,such as Hong Kong,China and India.RBS has been in talks with the prospective buyers.ANZ has gone as far as to sell shares in order to raise capital to fund such purchases,among other purposes.In better times,the RBS assets might well go for a less attractive price than today.

Nature Note:Surprising Dove

As I go about maintaining the property,mourning doves often explode out of a tree or shrub,startling me-no matter how many times I have experienced this.The doves want to stay on their perches,but fear overwhelms them until,at the last moment,they are forced into the air with a great rustle and whistle.They would have been perfectly safe,as I've never noticed one who subsequently blew past me.On the ground,this placid and portly-looking bird gives no hint of its extraordinary agility and speed in the air,which make it a test for hunters in the late summer.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

China Extends Influence

China is entering the Singapore energy market by purchasing an oil refiner there.Petro China,its biggest oil firm,is to buy 45.5% of the Keppel Corporation's refiner,Singapore Petroleum.Petro China will pay one billion dollars for the stake,which will in turn trigger an offer for the remaining shares.Singapore is the largest oil trading hub in Asia,with 12% of the world's daily output transiting the Strait of Malacca,which is off the Singapore coast.By owning Singapore Petroleum,China may be able to sway the price of oil.China has been expanding its energy holdings at a vigorous pace for some years now.

Nature Note:Back to Flocks

The resident Canada geese are back in their flocks,having split up for a while in order to breed.Indeed,much of the growth and reproduction in the natural world has already been accomplished in the Mid-Atlantic by early June.The chrysanthemums have budded in preparation for their first blooming.Early tomato plants have green fruit hanging even now.The first seeding has sprouted or not by now.There is still plenty of time to replant seed or seedlings to reach the season's goals.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Niederauer Tours Asia

Duncan Niederauer,CEO of NYSE/Euronext,has been touring Asia recently.He found China to be pretty optimistic.Visiting Beijing and Shanghai,he saw plenty of evidence of China's stimulus at work,he said.They're gonna leave no stone unturned for the Shanghai Expo,Mr.Niederauer observed.
Mr.Niederauer also spent a lot of time in India.What sets India apart is a lot more domestic demand,he noted.I think India can weather the storm because of the domestic demand that's so inherent,while China is trying to build up areas away from the coast.They're exploring opening up their market,allowing initial public offerings.I think they're gonna go step by step,being very conservative,the NYSE/Euronext executive remarked.

Out of Drought Risk

The below normal water table has been remedied by recent rains.Now we have more water than we need.It's hard to envision any drought this summer.Indeed,wet conditions are hindering growers.It's best not to disturb wet soil,as its structure is damaged that way.Mowing isn't possible,and it's hard to get a clean cut while pruning wet vegetation.These rainy days are a setback in that respect,but,in the end,we have to be grateful for this gift.It sets us in good store for the arid days that may well come,and it fills the ponds for the red-winged blackbirds who live by them.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Software Goes Green

German business software titan SAP is buying a Sterling,Virginia environmental concern.SAP is adding Clear Standards to its portfolio in order to assist customers with environmental impact information.Clear Standards specializes in measuring and reporting on greenhouse gas emissions,as well as other environmental impacts.It employs 25 people in Sterling and Delhi,India.The purchase price was kept confidential.The deal should close in June.A carbon cap and trade system may be imposed by the U.S. Congress,making the collection and dissemination of such data a corporate necessity.

Nature Note:Young of the Year

They are already appearing,the young of the year.Mourning doves were the first sighted,with three squabs eating under the feeder with their parents.Then a male northern cardinal was seen feeding his young in a leyland cypress.This morning,a tiny cottontail was observed nestled against a picket fence.The rabbits can be pesky,occasionally nibbling on landscape plants,but are generally a welcome member of the urban forest.Yesterday,a light frost occurred-probably the final one of the year-but the tomato plants were unscathed,along with the tiny rabbit.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Thaw in China-Taiwan Relations

A significant thaw in China-Taiwan relations is occurring.In the third round of negotiations between the two states,cross-border banking was arranged,as was an increase in direct flights between China and Taiwan.Subsequently,China Mobile,Ltd. offered a 17.8 billion dollar investment-a 12% stake-in Taiwan's Far EasTone Telecommunications.Pending Taiwanese regulators' approval,it is the first direct investment by a Chinese state-owned firm in a Taiwanese company.Finally,China will allow Taiwan to take a seat at the World Health Assembly,parent of the World Health Organization, in Geneva.Taiwan was expelled from the World Health Organization in 1971,when China took over its seat.Relations between China and Taiwan are at their best in 60 years.China regards Taiwan as a wayward province of China.

Nature Note:Leafing Out

The leaves are fully out now,bringing shade to the property.Some of the shade is desirable,as it cuts cooling costs.Other shade may not be,if you're growing sun-loving plants.If the shade trees are on an adjacent property,there's little you can do about it.You may well just have to plant shade-tolerant plants such as Canadian hemlock and hostas.I planted a hemlock seedling last year,but a rabbit set it back with its browsing.The hemlock won't die,but I lost a year because of that rabbit.For now,there is plenty of grass and weeds for the rabbits to browse.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Colombia Applies For Credit

Colombia has applied to the International Monetary Fund for a 10.4 billion dollar line of credit.Colombian central bank head Jose Dario Uribe said the line is for emergency use only.IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn described Colombia as having strong economic fundamentals.It is the kind of nation the IMF would relax loan conditions for.Indeed,the credit line Colombia applied for has no conditions attached at all.It would only be used in the event the financial crisis deepens.The IMF promotes international monetary cooperation,currency stabilization and international trade.It is an autonomous UN agency based in Washington,D.C.

Nature Note:Reworking Gardens

For the past ten days,we have had about one minute of sunshine.This has to be affecting us in hidden ways.Jokes about it help,but don't stop the slowing down that results from prolonged overcast.Growers are pained by the failure of seed to germinate in the cooler than normal conditions,although the potted plants are well.It may be necessary to reseed if their seed rotted in the soggy earth, or was even washed away.Weeds have been proliferating in gardens,which means the extra work of dealing with them,when you had just done so before the endless rain began.By Sunday,the sun will have returned for consecutive days of shining.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

IMF Sees Further Losses

The International Monetary Fund says that losses to financial institutions are likely to climb.Losses from toxic assets will be a potential four trillion dollars.More capital will have to be raised-up to 1.7 billion dollars of it.The banking system is still not stabilized.The global financial system will be damaged for years to come.In the IMF's view,the current outlook is exceptionally bleak.The U.S. economy will drop 2.8% in 2009;Japan's will decline 6.2%;and trade volume will slip by 11%.China will grow 6.5%,which is less than half of its growth rate of two years ago.Recovery is unlikely to begin until 2010.Unemployment will rise until late 201o,the IMF projects.

Nature Note:Northern Breeze

A northern breeze has brought us down to below average temperatures from well-above average readings-a bizarre experience for growers doing their seeding.Those who thought they won't put the heat on again will have to think again as it becomes chilly tonight.The flannel and sweaters are having another day,but a mere sprinkle isn't clearing the oak pollen away from our noses.The sunglasses weren't needed as we planted this morning,and we didn't have to worry about young plants withering in baked earth.All in all,it's better not to race into high summer.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Energy Firms Reach Accords

Big players in the energy markets have been reaching deals this month.Both Royal Dutch Shell and Gazprom,the Russian natural gas titan,have signed on to buy about a million tons each of the Sakhalin-2 project's Liquefied Natural Gas.Sakhalin-2 is located in the Russian Far East.According to Gazprom,the contracts run from 2009 to 2028.At the same time,Gazprom will deliver another million tons of gas to Shell through pipelines to Europe,in exchange for access to Shell's Mexico re-gasification terminal at Costa Azul.This contract also runs for 20 years.

Nature Note:What Falls in Spring

Leaves fall in autumn,but in spring other things fall.Following pollination,petals from tree flowers fall,and maple keys fall from silver maples.Asian pear petals have been coming down like snow,but the maple keys,which contain the silver maple seed,are still bundled up in the trees.When they fall,many of them will sprout.They have to be one of the most prolific sprouters in the natural world.Here they grow into a northern riverine forest along with slippery elms.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax Havens Disappearing

The number of tax havens in the world is diminishing under mounting international pressure.Longtime havens in Switzerland and Liechtenstein have been joined by four more nations recently in a pledge to adhere to more open banking practices.Malaysia,Costa Rica,Uruguay and the Philippines have accepted information exchange standards,according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.Angel Gurria,Secretary General of the OECD,announced that the new countries intend to offer authorizing legislation for the standards sometime this year.The old tax haven concept is seen as hindering the ability of nations to deal with crises by depriving them of revenue that is justly theirs.It may also be cloaking activities that contributed to the financial crisis.The OECD is based in Paris.Founded in 1960,it seeks the welfare of its 29 developed member states,and fosters aid to emerging markets.It is also a major source of economic and environmental data.

Nature Note:Good Planting Weather

The past few days have brought cold and wet conditions.Although unpleasant,these have protected hay fever sufferers from tree pollen flying around and getting into their bodies.They have also presented growers with a good chance to plant shrubs and trees.It is easier to dig the moist earth,and it isn't necessary to water the newly planted shrubs and trees.I planted some holly trees to complement a female holly I had planted last year.Another holly,a male plant,didn't survive the winter.It had been nibbled by a cottontail rabbit.The female holly made it somehow,so I planted her a new male,as well as a second female.Without a male tree,the female hollies cannot produce their bright red berries in the autumn.The new hollies are of the Blue cultivar,while the older female is of the China cultivar.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

World Bank Predicts Shrinkage

The World Bank has joined other institutions in forecasting global economic shrinkage in 2009.Emerging markets will see growth drop to 2.1% from the 4.4% prediction of November 2008.A decline in exports,commodity demand and foreign investment is responsible for that.Even should growth resume a better pace,the problems created by shrinkage will continue as far out as 2011,the World Bank thinks.Emerging markets might need as much as 1.3 trillon dollars in aid to cover debt payments and current account deficits.Overall global growth is seen as contracting 1.7%,in the World Bank's view.It would be the first global contraction since World War II.

Nature Note:Chionadoxa

Chionadoxa,the glory of the snow,got a rare chance to live up to its name today.There was indeed a dusting of snow on the ground this morning,and the small blue flower with a white center was at peak bloom.This could be a record for accumulating snow.I can't recall a later date for it.The crocuses are no longer in bloom,but have spread their leaves out to make food for next spring.Plants don't leave anything for later.As soon as they can,they do what needs to be done for next year.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Global Trade In Decline

The World Trade Organization says global trade will shrink by 9% this year,which is the worst performance since World War II.Jakob Kirkegaard of the Petersen Institute of International Economics thinks that is truly devastating.It starts the stuttering halt to the engine of globalization.The idea of decoupling will definitely have taken a shot across the bow.Asia has been dependent on ultimate demand by the U.S. and Europe.The bailouts are going to promote protectionism.There is a sense that tax money must be spent on domestic industries,Mr.Kirkegaard indicated.

Nature Note:Two Winds

While lower level winds blew cirrus clouds from the north,upper level winds blew cumulus clouds from the south,creating quite a spectacle.The cold lower winds and clouds were a reminder of winter just past,and the southern upper winds and clouds heralded the spring just arrived.There had been a thunderstorm earlier in the day.Now the sun was out and the clouds raced past one another in different directions at different heights.It was a rare instance of air masses made graphic,of seasonal change made visible.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ford Backs Cologne Plant

Ford Motor Company is standing behind its Cologne,Germany plant,despite Ford's program of cost cuts and capacity rollbacks to deal with the financial crisis in Europe.Ford will invest 260 million dollars to sustain the plant through the crisis.The plant employs about 800 workers.No job cuts or layoffs are planned in the face of weaker European sales.Minister President Juergen Ruettgers of North-Rhine Westfalia announced the new support.Ford is the only major U.S. automaker not to accept U.S. government aid,having shored up its finances early on.France is suspected of protectionism because of its aid to Renault plants in the south of France.

Nature Note:Spring Frosts

The spring frosts show that the sun is getting higher each day,but not that high just yet.Some early blooms are seen,but not that many now.Were the fruit trees to blossom,they would be badly nipped by the frost,resulting in a poor crop.That is the problem with an overly warm spring day.It fools plants into flowering,and then they are damaged at night by frost.The forester is glad to have the frost,though.Cool weather makes his morning work a lot pleasanter.He can get a lot done on a clear dawn.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Qatar To Aid Banks

Qatar is buying the investment portfolios of seven of the nation's banks,in order to bolster confidence in the resource-rich nation.According to the Doha Securities Market,the portfolios will be purchased with the assistance of Qatar Central Bank by the end of March.To date,Qatar has avoided debt and political strife from the financial crisis,unlike some of its Gulf neighbors.Its economy is regarded as sound.Qatar should continue to experience growth through the downturn.In response to the bank news,the Qatar stock market shot up about 9%.

Nature Note:Red-bellied Woodpecker

A red-bellied woodpecker has been visiting the property for about a week.This forest bird is attracted to the maturing timber.It has been doing some excavating of old scars on the trees,no doubt looking for a nest tree.It even ate some bird seed from the ground under the feeder.Actually,it has a scarlet cap.There is no readily visible red on its belly,if there is any at all.It gives a rattle call.This is the most time a red-bellied has spent on this land.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Canadian GDP Declines

Canada's Gross Domestic Product for Q4 2008 registered a drop of 3.4%.It was the greatest decline since 1991.The estimate for Q4 GDP had been a 3-4% drop.Canada fared better than the U.S. and Japan,where the GDP fell 6.2 and 12.7%,respectively.In response to economic rumblings,the Bank of Canada has cut its key interest rate to 0.5%.The U.S. Federal Reserve had earlier cut its main rate to a very low 0-0.25%.Bell Canada is finding opportunity in the financial crisis.It has acquired the Canadian operations of U.S.-based Circuit City,an electronics retailer which filed for bankruptcy in November 2008.The deal is expected to close in Q3 2009,but the terms were not disclosed.

Nature Note:Cedar Waxwings

About 100 cedar waxwings alighted on one of the Asian pears this morning.It was the largest flock of the crested songbirds seen in the area in recent times.They like the small fruits,but there aren't many of them left at this point.Most of them have alraedy been eaten.It has to be a hungry time for the waxwings.There aren't many insects about,either-just a few house flies and box elder bugs,which are a harmless black and red insect attracted to the warmth of the homes they frequently get into.The weather will be turning cold again shortly,which will also affect the robins who have returned for the breeding season.

Friday, March 6, 2009

IMF Aids East Europe

The International Monetary Fund has played a major role in rescuing East Europe from the financial crisis.Since Q4 of 2008,the IMF has parceled out 50 billion dollars of its 250 billion reserves to East European and other countries,as they deal with cratering exports,investment and currencies.Social unrest has occurred in Bulgaria,Latvia and Lithuania because of the worsening downturn.Among recent IMF loans were 18.8 billion to Hungary,2.46 billion to Belarus,2.35 billion to Latvia and 16.4 billion to Ukraine.Pakistan has received 7.6 billion,while Iceland has gotten 2.1 billion.British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called for an increase in IMF reserves,fearing a lenghthier crisis could deprive nations of aid,leaving them in economic winter.IMF officials say 500 billion would be enough for the crisis,but others aren't so sure.

Nature Note:March Snow

Residents of the Mid-Atlantic region are taking a good look at any snow left on the ground.It may well be the last significant snow of the winter.Unseasonable warmth is on the way for the weekend.Although it can snow into April here,late snow usually doesn't amount to anything.It may stick to the ground for a few hours before it melts away.In the early light,the snow sparkled.It was powder snow.Shoveling it was close to effortless,so it was easy to regret that it will soon pass.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Please Note

Because of an appointment,I may not be publishing next Wednesday.In that event,I will try to publish next Friday.

Russia-China Oil Deal

Russia and China have greed a 25 billion dollar arrangement in which Beijing will make loans to two state-owned Russian firms in exchange for oil.The China Developement Bank will loan 10 billion dollars to Russian pipeline monopoly Transneft,and 15 billion to Rosneft,the Russian oil titan.For its part,Russia will provide 15 million tons of oil to China over 20 years.China has been aggressively seeking international oil reserves for its rapidly growing economy and rising standard of living,while Russia has been hobbled by the recent crash of oil prices from vaporizing demand.China's advances have not always been welcome,as in its failed bid for U.S. oil firm Unocal.

Nature Note:Signs of Change

Before dawn,the constellation Scorpio rises in the southern sky.This is a sure sign of the approaching meteorological spring,which begins March 1.The silver maple buds are another sign.They have begun to swell and,if you wounded the trees,sap would flow out.Each day,the sun is stronger and higher than it was the day before.Red-winged blackbirds have returned to the pond,staking out their territories for the warm months ahead.The minds of growers are turning to planting when the ground thaws and winter will be forgotten.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Indian Ambassador Concerned

India's Ambassador to the World Trade Organization,Ujay Sing Bhatia,has noted the effect of financial rescue packages on free trade.Mr.Bhatia observed that such measures could add up to three billion dollars' worth since Q4 of 2008.These plans are regarded as ultimately distortive of free trade,with their components of industrial support,bank rescues and tariff increases.Mr.Bhatia called for clarifications in order to assess how this government aid is altering competitiveness.Indeed,many of the steps could be seen as violations of European Union free trade rules.WTO officials complained that they are not getting enough official information to make accurate assessments of possible distortions.With their export-driven economies,developing nations such as India are especially vulnerable to protectionist leanings.

Nature Note:Penobscot Restoration

The Nature Conservancy,together with other environmental groups and state,federal and tribal governments,is working to restore Maine's Penobscot River to its natural condition.Three dams on the river are to be bought.Two of them will be removed,and a fish bypass will be installed by the other.This will reopen much of the Penobscot drainage to migratory fish such as Atlantic salmon.The Nature Conservancy has helped with similar projects on China's Yangtze River and the Zambezi River in East Africa.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Looking Ahead From Qatar

We are looking at various banks in the U.S.,Europe and Asia,Sheikh Hamad Al-Thani revealed.Within two or three years,such an investment will get you in the right shape.We are looking at three or four blue chip companies.We are looking at the right time for entry.Dividend is one of the subjects;balance sheets are very important for us.In Qatar,I think we will be O.K. and there will be substantial growth,Sheikh Hamad believes.

Sheikh Manages Sovereign Wealth

Sheikh Hamad Al-Thani manages Qatar's sovereign wealth fund.We are affected by the financial crisis,the sheikh said,but the banking system is still strong;the economy is still strong,thank God.For us in Qatar,our acquisitions are not bad.No doubt there is a tough road.We have two or three quarters to watch it very carefully,the sheikh cautioned.

Nature Note:February Thaw

While January was nine degrees colder than normal,February has so far seemed about nine degrees warmer than normal.That is the way of nature:always balancing things out.With the rising temperatures,bird song volume has markedly increased.When you go out in the morning,you are greeted with quite an avian chorus.By this weekend,however,we will be back to cold conditions,with a possibility of a little snow.We will listen for any change in song with the return of the north wind.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Brown Calls For Unity

Gordon Brown,the British Prime Minister,said that the economic downturn can only be ended by international cooperation.Individual countries can do a great deal to help their own economies,but only global efforts can provide a long term solution,through better regulation and coordinated intervention.The International Monetary Fund and World Bank must play a larger role in crisis prevention and resolution.Only a truly international response of policy and governance can be effective,Mr.Brown stated.If we all coordinate our response,there will be a quicker global,and therefore British,recovery,he maintained.Mr.Brown plans to meet with CEOs of the largest international banks in April to discuss dealing with global financial problems.

Nature Note:Rabbit Tracks

Every morning I've been finding cottontail tracks in the snow.The front feet leave a single,small track,while the rear feet leave separate,larger tracks.Its favorite food,grass,has been covered for some time by a layer of frozen snow.I could walk on the snow without sinking in.It had become porcelain snow from the cycle of thawing and re-freezing overnight.A number of mild days are ahead,which should bring the crocuses up and help the rabbits.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

China Creates Stimulus

China has unveiled a 586 billion dollar economic stimulus package.It consists of price breaks,tax cuts and subsidies.China needs exceptional growth just to keep up with its expanding population.The effects of the financial crisis are spreading from small and medium to large enterprises,closing factories across the country.University graduates are finding it difficult to find jobs,and of the 200 million migrant workers who came home for Chinese New Year celebrations,as many as 10 million of them have no jobs to go back to in the big cities.This aspect of the largest human migration in the world is,frankly,worrying to the authorities,who wonder just what these unsettled workers will do now.Small comfort that China has just surpassed Germany,and is now considered the third largest economy in the world,behind the U.S. and Japan.

Nature Note:Soggy Snow

What could have been a pleasant snow turned into a heavy,wet one as a wedge of warm air sliced into the cold,causing freezing rain and plain rain.Nonetheless,the first northern cardinal song was heard yesterday,and house finches were singing this morning,which is one of the first reminders of spring.It can't be called a sign of spring,as that season is two months off,but the birdsong is a presaging of it.Certainly the days are noticeably longer and the tree buds are a little bigger then they were a month ago.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Please Note

In the event of inclement weather,publication schedules are subject to change without notice.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

China's Exports Drop

China's exports dropped 2.8% in December,following a 2.2% slip in November.The December result was the worst in 10 years.Foreign purchases have fallen sharply in the financial crisis,generating big layoffs.Chinese exports had grown 26.7% in January of 2008,but the situation is so bad now,it threatens social stability.Meanwhile,in Japan,Sony may report an operating loss of as much as 1.1 billion dollars in March,as the crisis crimps sales,business daily The Nikkei said.Sony says it will soon announce a restructuring plan,including layoffs,to deal with the downturn.

Nature Note:Car Frost

Early this morning,I started the old car up so that the battery wouldn't deteriorate in the unremitting cold.It will be ready when I leave for downtown later in the morning.While the engine warmed up,I cleared the frost and ice off the windshield.The heater and defroster were on to help the process along.My fingers started to sting,so I sat in the car until they started to feel better.The old car was parked in the drive,exposed to the bitter elements of every winter night.Good care through the years has kept her fit for small town navigation with a little coaxing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Please Note

Because of the Inauguration next Tuesday,publication may be pushed back to later in the week.

Germany Tries More Aid

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and colleagues announced on Tuesday a second stimulus package to get the economy beyond recession.Germany entered the worst recession since World War II in Q3 of 2008.The first package was worth 32 billion euros;the second is worth 50 billion.Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck called the new plan the biggest package the Federal Republic of Germany has ever seen.The package,which was agreed late Monday,involves a mix of investment spending and tax cuts,including incentives for new car buyers.The German economy may contract 3% in 2009,with unemployment possibly surpassing 9%,according to experts.Flagging demand for German products both at home and abroad has hindered an economy that the rest of Europe saw as a model of strength.

Nature Note:After the Ice

An ice storm badly damaged an Asian pear tree,ripping a large chunk of it off.I'll be cleaning that up the rest of the winter.There's no rush.I got it off the neighbor's property,so I can work at it a bit at a time.It's too cold to work for any length of time, when it isn't a necessity.To me,it's just another aspect of nature.I'm taking the debris in stride.It could have been a lot more costly.Someone could have been walking underneath the tree when it split.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

GCC Seeks Union

The Gulf Cooperation Council,an organization of six Arab states,is moving toward a common currency and other closer economic ties by 2010.The GCC consists of Saudi Arabia,Kuwait,the United Arab Emirates,Oman,Bahrain and Qatar.Problems posed by the financial crisis have made this drive for unity more urgent than in the past,when it was hindered by squabbles.The oil-based economies of the GCC have seen their revenues decline sharply as global demand for petroleum products withers.This raises the specter of political instability in a region where radicals are all too eager to exploit such dislocation.And Shiekh Khalifa,the prime minister of Bahrain,pointed out that the rest of the world has been coalescing into economic blocs,so it is high time the GCC sped up its integration project.The GCC is definitely aware of the high costs of fragmentation in an increasingly competitive environment.

Nature Note:Ice Again

So far,much of the Mid-Atlantic region has seen precious little snow this winter.Mostly it's been a wintry mix of snow,sleet and freezing rain.Yesterday morning began with sleet,then rose to plain rain,and finally fell back to freezing rain overnight,ending as plain rain once more this morning.It's a shifting about of layers of temperature and moisture,a very dynamic regime.The ice decorates the trees and shrubs even as the rain pours,saving the day from dullness.There is something rarefied to look at beyond the cold buckets being dumped on our heads.