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Global Outlook - Grant Thornton (Worldwide)

 

 

International Business Owners Survey 2004

 

The Grant Thornton International Business Survey is an annual survey of mid-sized business owners in 26 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia Pacific and the Americas.

 

Now into its second year, the results start to form global trend information and build on data collected in Europe from 1993 to 2002. The survey offers insight into the expectations and plans of business owners around the world, exploring issues ranging from investment and exporting to employment and improving profitability.

 

Through telephone interviews, respondents helped Grant Thornton to chart business confidence, the strength of investments and export plans.

 

Key Global Findings - Summary only

 

Business expectations

 

Globally, businesses are more optimistic on all key indicators (turnover, employment, profitability and investment in plant & machinery) than they were in 2003.

 

On balance, +58% of companies are optimistic about turnover growth in the coming year. Indonesian businesses are the most optimistic (+92%), whilst the least optimistic are businesses in Japan (+6%). Businesses in Singapore are also less optimistic about turnover growth (+13%).

 

A subdued balance of +25% expect to see employment growth for the coming year. Pakistani businesses are the most optimistic (+48%), whilst German and Polish businesses are the most pessimistic (-16%).

 

A balance of +35% of companies globally expect investment in plant & machinery to increase. Greek businesses are the most optimistic (+61%). At the other end of the scale are Dutch businesses ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Â¦ÃƒƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…âہ“ only a balance of +2% expect increases for the coming year.

 

NB Business Optimism (key indicators) Graph shows increase in optimism compared to 2003. (see link below)

 

Constraints

 

Globally, regulations/red tape is a major constraint on expansion (37%). It seems particularly onerous in Poland (76%).

 

Shortage of orders/reduced demand is the second most significant constraint globally (32%). Japan (62%) shows the highest levels of concern.

 

Although a slightly lower 23% of businesses globally feel lack of availability of skilled workforce is a key constraint, businesses in Spain (39%) find this particularly restrictive.

 

Cost of finance is thought to be the least important constraint on businesses globally (18%) ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Â¦ÃƒƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…âہ“ especially in Ireland where only 4% cite this. However, it is a cause for concern in Mexico where 56% consider it as a constraint on business.

 

Threats to the business

 

Increasing competition is considered the most significant threat to businesses globally (29%). Half of all Indian businesses report this as their most significant threat.

 

Lack of demand/economic downturn is the most significant threat to 19% of companies globally. This is felt most in Hong Kong where 47% of companies report it as the most significant threat to their business.

 

One in ten businesses globally consider government regulation the most significant threat to their business. It is most significant in New Zealand where 21% of companies cite this as a threat.

 

Maintaining/improving profitability

 

The most frequently used method to maintain/improve profitability is reducing costs. Over 95% of businesses in Germany and Sweden use this method.

 

Globally, 82% of businesses improve cash management in order to maintain/improve profitability. This method is most popular in the Philippines (93%).

 

Investing in new technology/systems/procedures is used by 81% of companies globally in order to maintain/improve profitability. 92% of US companies report that they use this method.

 

Formal policy

 

63% of businesses globally have a formal documented mechanism to deal with major IT failure. This is highest in the US ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Â¦ÃƒƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…âہ“ where 85% have a mechanism to deal with this eventuality - and lowest in Japan (15%).

 

Loss/destruction of property is also an event likely to be covered by a formal documented mechanism (62%). US businesses again are most likely to have a formal documented mechanism to deal with this (82%), followed by Australia (74%) and the UK (73%).

 

47% of businesses globally have a formal documented mechanism to deal with succession planning. Sweden leads the way (76%) but it is also common in Taiwan (73%) and Canada (66%).

 

International trade

 

Globally 35% of companies report that they export. This figure remains unchanged form last year. The countries with the highest proportion of exporting businesses are Hong Kong (62%) and Turkey (58%).

 

The global trade pattern is dominated by trade within regions. Within the EU, 87% of companies who export do so to Western Europe, but only around 40% to North America or Asia Pacific.

 

Similarly 74% of East Asian companies export to Asia Pacific, but only 45% to North America and 33% to Western Europe.

 

Personnel and management

 

At the global level, 59% of businesses have women in senior management, but there are marked variations among the countries in the survey.

 

Russia has the highest proportion of companies with women in senior management (89%), closely followed by the Philippines (85%).

 

Three quarters or more businesses in the US, Mexico and South Africa also have women in senior management positions, and in the case of US businesses, over half report that they have two or more women in senior management.

 

However, fewer than a third of companies in the Netherlands, Pakistan, Japan & Germany have women in senior management and, except for Pakistan, fewer than 10% of businesses have three or more women in senior management.

 

In 11 countries, 90% or more of companies have executives who are able to negotiate in more than one language.

 

Of these, six are in Asia, led by Hong Kong where an exceptionally high proportion of the population is bilingual. This is reflected in a 100% positive response, followed by Singapore (97%).

 

Participating Countries

 

Australia Indonesia Pakistan Sweden

Canada Ireland Philippines Taiwan

France Italy Poland Turkey

Germany Japan Russia United Kingdom

Greece Mexico Singapore United States

Hong Kong The Netherlands South Africa

India New Zealand Spain

 

 

Disclaimer

Information in this report is based on the responses of a sample group of respondents and is intended to provide only a general indication of trends. It should neither be regarded as comprehensive nor sufficient for making decisions, nor should it be used in place of professional advice. Grant Thornton International and its affiliates accept no responsibility for loss arising from any action taken or not taken by anyone using this report.

The name 'Grant Thornton' signifies one of the world's leading organisations of independently-owned and managed accounting and consulting firms providing assurance, tax and specialist business advice. Services are delivered nationally by the member and correspondent firms of Grant Thornton International, a network of independent firms throughout the world. Grant Thornton International is a non-practising, non-trading international umbrella organisation and does not deliver services in its own name.

 

Each member and correspondent firm in Grant Thornton International is a separate independent national firm. These firms are not members of one international partnership or otherwise legal partners with each other, nor is any one firm responsible for the services or activities of any other. Each firm governs itself and handles its administrative matters on a local basis. Although many of the firms now carry the Grant Thornton name, either exclusively or in their national practice names, there is no common ownership among the firms or by Grant Thornton International. The firms are joined by a common professional vision, are especially focused on entrepreneurial, owner-managed businesses and share a commitment to providing high quality service to their clients when they do business outside their home country.

 

 

Full Article Available at:

http://www.grantthorntonibos.com/ - Select Summaries/Global

 

 

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from Grant Thornton (UK)

 

Recovery spreading across service sector as demand rises - new survey

7 June 2004

 

'The economic recovery is spreading across the service sector with more firms benefiting from an upturn in demand, according to the latest survey by the CBI and Grant Thornton.

 

The quarterly survey, published today (Monday), shows business volumes increasing at the fastest rate for three years among business and professional services firms, such as employment agencies and business travel services. ... '

 

' ... Business and professional companies plan to increase investment in every category - IT, land, buildings, vehicles, plant and machinery - for the first time since November 1999. But uncertainty about demand remains the key constraint on investment.

 

Turning to consumer services, 48 per cent of firms saw business volumes rise over the past three months, while 22 per cent saw them fall. The balance of plus 26 per cent follows a strong balance of plus 50 per cent in the February survey. These two positive results follow 11 quarters without an increase in business volumes. Firms now expect business volumes to rise by a balance of plus 43 per cent, the most positive prediction in the survey's five-and-a-half-year history. ... '

 

' ... Ian McCafferty, CBI Chief Economic Adviser, said: "The service sector upturn is taking a firm hold, with demand spreading across the sector. Business and professional services firms will be encouraged to see demand hitting a three-year high and now expect even stronger growth to come. Consumer services companies will be relieved that the long period of declining demand now appears to be behind them. This has boosted confidence at the fastest rate for almost five years." ... '

 

 

Full Article Available at:

http://www.grant-thornton.co.uk/client240/...34?OpenDocument

 

 

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Three sectors to attract the lion's share of all mid-market deals, but VCs (venture capitalists) and brokers begin to look elsewhere

 

12 April 2004

 

'Almost half of all mid-market deal opportunities for the next six months are expected to develop in just three sectors: business services (21%), healthcare (18%) and financial services (9%), according to mid-market venture capitalists and brokers surveyed by Grant Thornton Corporate Finance. However, interesting deal opportunities are also expected to develop within the food and beverages (8%), consumer products (7%) and media (6%) sectors which, compared to Grant Thornton's Corporate Finance Mid-market Barometer conducted at the end of 2003 have seen a growth in popularity. Respondents to the survey showed mixed levels of confidence in all other sectors but were specifically unimpressed by the outlook for the next six months within retail. A mere 3% compared to almost 11% three months ago stated that they would consider investing in the sector. ... '

 

' ... Commenting on the outlook for the corporate finance market, Paul Cannings, a Director at 3i said: "3i is optimistic about the amount of activity in the ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚£5-50m market in 2004. And not just buy-outs either. In particular, as economic confidence grows, smaller businesses will be the biggest beneficiaries, so we expect there to be many more opportunities to invest growth capital in privately owned businesses. We also expect this to be an attractive time for owners to look to realise part of their cash tied up in shares but remain with the business for the next phase of growth." ... '

 

Full Article Available at:

 

http://www.grant-thornton.co.uk/client240/...bb?OpenDocument

 

 

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Economy gets top marks

By Nhada Goodfellow

June 30, 2004

 

'AUSTRALIA'S economy has been voted the most resilient in the world for the third consecutive year by one of the world's most respected business schools.

 

The International Management Development school in Switzerland also ranked Australia the fourth most competitive economy in the world - up from seventh in 2003.

 

Australia was positioned number one for resilience to economic cycles, and the speed with which a new business could be started.

 

It was second for consistency of government policy and transparency of financial institutions.

 

The IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2004 found the world's most competitive economy was that of the US, followed by Singapore's and Canada's.

 

Federal government investment promotion agency Invest Australia said the report further strengthened Australia's "reputation as the perfect platform for business growth". Executive general manager Barry Jones said the report showed Australia's economic prospects were strong, and should become even more attractive to foreign investors. "The fact that we're very competitive means other countries will be keen to get a piece of the action, they'll try to capitalise on Australia's growth by investing here and linking up with Australian companies." ... '

 

' ... Commonwealth Bank chief economist Michael Blythe said Australia's resilience to international shocks had been proved in recent years - ... ' ' ... So a lot of what we lose from a slowing domestic economy we should pick up from a strong global economy," Mr Blythe said. ... '

 

Full story in

The Courier Mail

http://finance.news.com.au/common/story_pa...255E462,00.html

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  • 2 weeks later...

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XJO high and a short-term look ahead .....

 

Warning ..... astrostuff ahead:

 

Hi folks,

 

Just some quick observations about the recent

high in the Aussie XJO ..... have not been

watching XJO lately, thinking it will make

60 squared = 3600, but not so .....

 

>

> A lot of astrostuff happening this month, as we

> have Venus and Mars move in step with each other,

> in a sextile aspect and moving degree-for-degree

> from 13072004, until 01082004.

>

> That means they will simultaneously make many

> aspects to other planets, during that period.

..... and now, the interesting part for this forum:

>

> Just check the planetary transits in your

> ephemeris, on these dates:

>

> 12072004:

> Mercury conjunct Mars opposite Neptune (2 degrees orb)

 

Mercury also sextile to Venus.

 

Venus also sextile to Mars.

 

XJO makes a high at 3568 on 12072004, so let's look

at some simple planetary relationships ......

 

(Astrostuff for CAETT/Gann Signs readers here.)

 

TIME IS UP !~!

 

..... and 13072004 gave us a doji candle at the

highs, showing indecision in the markets, followed

by the sharpest drop in months, some 35 points today.

 

Will post an XJO chart later showing how the price

has fallen through some long-term support.

 

XJO - downside target = 59 squared = 3481 ... to

give us a bounce on which to base another rally,

with slower momentum ..... ???

 

More later.

 

happy trading all

 

yogi

 

==========================

 

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  • 2 months later...

From the "The Economist Global Agenda"

 

Cheers,

Brantley

 

QUOTE


But the tale also has a twist or two. AustraliaÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s good fortune relies on China avoiding a stumble. But that is not the stockmarketÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s only vulnerability. The economy seems to have been growing at about 4% a year for ever. Brisk domestic demand is the main driver, which is why cyclical stocks, such as retailers, have done well. But strong exports of commodities have not been enough to boost overall exportsÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚ÂÂwhich, oddly, have been flat for the past few yearsÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚ÂÂlet alone offset AustraliansÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ insatiable appetite for imports. That is why the country is likely to have a current-account deficit of 5.5% or so of GDP this year.

Worried that the country is overheating, the central bank has put up interest rates, and may again. That may not be wonderful news for the countryÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s banks, which account for a quarter of the stockmarketÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s capitalisation. That is because higher interest rates are likely further to depress house prices, which had risen to giddy heights before suffering a reverse this year. And a collapsing housing market is generally not wonderful news for the financial firms that lent money to people to buy overvalued property. Largely unaffected by the technology bubble, it remains to be seen whether Australia can weather a property bubble.

 

 

 

Buttonwood

 

On top down under

Sep 28th 2004

From The Economist Global Agenda

 

 

AustraliaÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s stockmarket, unlike those of other rich countries, has been hitting new heights this yearÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚ÂÂa case of the Old Economy striking back. But it might yet be undone by Chinese wobbles or a house-price collapse

 

 

CAST your mind back, if you will, to the late 1990s. Having decided that technology was the only business worth punting on, investors the world over poured billions of dollars into companies that, by way of example, thought it sensible to spend $200 billion on 3G mobile-phone licences. Those were the days when companies with even the most tangential connection to the New Economy (capitals obligatory) sucked in puntersÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ cash at a prodigious rate. Those, in contrast, which sold things that you could drop on your foot, orÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚ÂÂhorror!ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚ÂÂstuff dug out of the ground, were about as popular as last yearÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s Nokia at a rave.

 

Nowhere, perhaps, was perceived as being more Old Economy than Australia, a country, after all, that seemed to exist merely to grow wheat, breed sheep and mine minerals. To anyone of a Luddite disposition, the weighting of information technology in the countryÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s All Ordinaries stockmarket index was pleasingly low. Australian shares rose in the late 1990s, but their performance was flaccid compared with the more virile show on Wall Street. Until, that is, the technology bubble popped, dragging broader markets down around the world, and exposing the greed of many corporate bosses and the shaky finances of the companies they ranÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚ÂÂand not just those in the vanguard of the information revolution.

 

Though shares in most rich countries have risen strongly over the past couple of years as profits and confidence have returned, almost all of the big markets are still some way from their highsÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚ÂÂin JapanÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s case, a long way. The S&P 500 is still 27% below its peak, the FTSE 100 is down by a third, and the Eurotop 300 is off 42%. JapanÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s Nikkei is almost three-quarters off its high in December 1989. AustraliaÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s All Ordinaries index, by contrast, has been bouncing from one record high to another this year, during which it has risen by 10%, largely because of the soaring price of energy and metals. Unlike most other rich countries, Australia is a net exporter not just of metals and coal but of energy too: although it might depress consumption, the $50 a barrel that oil reached this week should therefore not trouble the economy too much.

 

A resurgent Japan, AustraliaÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s biggest export market, is part of the explanation for bumper export prices. But the destination of choice for AustraliaÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s exports is China, which has a scarcity of the very commodities that Australia has in abundance. Commodity exports to Japan have risen by 7% since 2001, but to China they have gone up by 45%. Australia is supplying much of the iron ore, non-ferrous metals and coal that China needs.

 

There has also been a more subtle reason for the rise in commodity prices and, by extension, the comparatively stellar performance of the Australian stockmarket. Following the Asian financial crisis of 1997, and with the worldÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s attention focused firmly on technology, investment by energy and mining companies dropped precipitously. With capacity thus constrained, a pick-up in demand from the likes of China could only lead to one result: higher prices. Thus has The Economist metals index risen from 69 at the beginning of 2003, to 107.5 now (the index was rebased to 100 in 1995). Thus do AustraliaÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s ports, like those elsewhere in Asia, operate at full capacity. And thus, too, after two decades of under-investment, is oil at $50 a barrel.

 

The fall in investment by Australian mining firms in the late 1990s illustrates the point. From investing some 20% of sales in 1996, their capital expenditure dropped to almost nothing, and this year, despite high prices, will still be less than 10% of sales. Companies merged, too, to cut costs: in 2001, for instance, BHP, a big mining firm, tied the knot with Billiton, another one; in 2003, MIM was taken over by Xstrata, a mining company with a name presumably designed to hoodwink investors into thinking it did something new-fangled. Management of these companies often went from geologists to bean-counters, who were far more concerned with squeezing out profits. For all these reasons, it is perhaps unsurprising that profits at, for example, BHP Billiton grew by 40% last year and will probably go up even more this year.

 

Nor is that the end of the happy tale, for such companies negotiate long-term contracts, and many of the ones that mining and energy firms have in place now do not take account of todayÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s higher prices. They will next year, assuming prices stay at their present lofty levels. Small wonder that corporate profits in Australia grew by 15% last year and are expected to grow by 16% this year.

 

But the tale also has a twist or two. AustraliaÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s good fortune relies on China avoiding a stumble. But that is not the stockmarketÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s only vulnerability. The economy seems to have been growing at about 4% a year for ever. Brisk domestic demand is the main driver, which is why cyclical stocks, such as retailers, have done well. But strong exports of commodities have not been enough to boost overall exportsÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚ÂÂwhich, oddly, have been flat for the past few yearsÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚ÂÂlet alone offset AustraliansÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ insatiable appetite for imports. That is why the country is likely to have a current-account deficit of 5.5% or so of GDP this year.

 

Worried that the country is overheating, the central bank has put up interest rates, and may again. That may not be wonderful news for the countryÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s banks, which account for a quarter of the stockmarketÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s capitalisation. That is because higher interest rates are likely further to depress house prices, which had risen to giddy heights before suffering a reverse this year. And a collapsing housing market is generally not wonderful news for the financial firms that lent money to people to buy overvalued property. Largely unaffected by the technology bubble, it remains to be seen whether Australia can weather a property bubble.

 

 

Read more Buttonwood columns at www.economist.com/buttonwood

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QUOTE


Last Update: Wednesday, November 10, 2004. 8:00pm (AEDT)
Three of Iraqi PM's relatives kidnapped

Three relatives of the Iraqi interim leader Iyad Allawi have been kidnapped in Baghdad.

They are a cousin, the cousin's wife and another relative.

Spokesman for Iyad Allawi, George Sada, said the three relatives were abducted from their home in Baghdad.

He gave no further details on the circumstances of their abduction, but a police source said there had been a short gun battle at the home in a southwestern district of the capital before the people were seized.

They were leaving the house and getting into a car when six or eight armed men abducted them.

Mr Sada said no demands had so far been made by the kidnappers.

Mr Allawi has a lot of protection and security detail around him.

His office says he often receives death threats and has survived assassination attempts.

Hundreds of Iraqis have been kidnapped by criminal gangs in a wave of abductions in recent months, with more wealthy individuals such as doctors and businessmen most regularly targeted. Most are released after the payment of ransom.

Over the same period, scores of foreigners have been seized, with many of them handed over to Islamic militant groups who have threatened to kill them if demands are not met.

More than 35 foreign hostages have been killed, several by beheading.

-BBC/Reuters

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In reply to: Brantley on Saturday 02/10/04 09:09am

The currencies that we get paid in are probably becoming a worry to Australia. With the $US dropping, our sales are affected although commodities have risen in price. China pays for its imports in $US which are a declining currency. Will our exporters begin signing future contracts in Euro? We may also see takeover activity from European countries which will see US companies as cheap, also Australian co's.

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http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/928918.cms

QUOTE


Greenspan joins IMF in urging US to live within its means

PTI[ SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2004 09:28:19 AM]

WASHINGTON: US Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has endorsed the strong advice of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to America to try to live within its means and not rely on foreign money to meet its gigantic fiscal and trade deficits.

Speaking at a European banking conference in Frankfurt, Greenspan cautioned that international purchases of US financial assets cannot continue to increase forever at their recent rate and that, at some point, diversification considerations on the part of international investors will "slow and possibly limit" those purchases.

When this indeed happens, elevating the cost of financing of the US current account deficit to sustainable levels, he said, the US will have no better choice than to import less.

Current account imbalances by itself need not be a problem, Greenspan said, but cumulative deficits, which result in a marked decline of a country's net international investment position raise more complex issues.

The US current account deficit has risen to more than five per cent of the country's Gross Domestic Product, he said.

The question now confronting the US, Greenspan said, "is how large a current account deficit in the United States can be financed before resistance to acquiring new claims against US residents leads to adjustment. Even considering heavy purchases by central banks of US Treasury and agency issues, we see only limited indications that the large US current account deficit is meeting financing resistance."

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S&P 500 Falls For First Week in Four on Oil; JPMorgan Declines

Nov. 20 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. stocks fell this week, sending the Standard & Poor's 500 Index lower for the first week in four, amid a rise in oil prices and concern the Federal Reserve may raise interest rates into 2005 to curb inflation.

 

JPMorgan Chase & Co., the second-biggest U.S. bank by assets, led a drop in financials stocks as increased borrowing costs may weaken demand for loans.

 

``Oil affects the cost of doing business across the entire economy,'' said Paul Martin, who manages $40 million at Martin Capital Advisors LLP in Austin, Texas. ``The higher inflation numbers that we saw has given the market a cause for concern and that translates into a negative adjustment in interest-rate related stocks.''

 

The S&P 500 fell 1.2 percent since Nov. 12 to 1170.34, retreating from a three-year high. The decline snapped the biggest three-week rally for the index in two years.

 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.8 percent to 10,456.91 for the week, while the Nasdaq Composite Index declined 0.7 percent to 2070.63.

 

Benchmark indexes had their biggest declines yesterday as oil prices surged the most in five months and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said the record current-account deficit may cause foreign investors to sell dollar-denominated assets. The Dow average fell 115.64 to 10,456.91. The 1.1 percent drop was its biggest since Oct. 22.

 

Oil Rises

 

Energy prices climbed for the first week in four on concern cold weather in Europe will attract heating-oil cargoes from the U.S. at a time when heating oil inventories are lower than a year earlier. Oil futures for December delivery rose 2.4 percent from a two-month low of $46.11 reached Nov. 16.

 

Prices paid to U.S. producers rose 1.7 percent last month, the biggest jump in 14 years and more than twice as much as economists expected, the U.S. the Labor Department said. Consumer prices rose 0.6 percent last month, the most since May.

 

The reports raised the likelihood the central bank will increase the overnight bank-lending rate for a fifth time this year. The Federal Reserve Open Market Committee will decide on interest rates when it meets Dec. 14.

 

JPMorgan slipped 4.5 percent to $37.42, and contributed the most to the decline in the S&P 500. Larger rival Citigroup Inc. lost 4.1 percent to $45.15. Higher borrowing costs may reduce demand for loans and mortages and reduce the value of bonds owned by banks, brokers and insurers.

 

Utilities, Real Estate Stocks

 

Shares of utilities and real estate investment trusts also fell as rising rates makes dividend-paying stocks less attractive to investors who seek income. A gauge of electric and gas utilities in the S&P 500 lost 1.8 percent this week.

 

Entergy Corp., owner of utilities in four southeastern U.S. states, fell 3.7 percent to $65.51. That's its biggest weekly drop in six months. Equity Residential, the largest U.S. apartment company by rental income, lost 4.7 percent to $33.11.

 

Entergy pays a dividend equal to 3.3 percent of its share price, while Equity Residential yields 5.2 percent. In contrast, the S&P 500 has a dividend yield of 2 percent.

 

The stock benchmark has jumped 6.9 percent since Oct. 25 as oil prices declined and the re-election of president George W. Bush bolstered optimism economic growth will be sustained. The benchmark may be due for a retreat, said Joseph Keating, chief investment officer at AmSouth Bancorp in Birmingham, Alabama.

 

``The market is getting ahead of itself,'' said Keating, who oversees $25 billion. ``The higher we go, the more fading is likely.''

 

Medtronic Inc. shares fell 9.5 percent to $48.20, for the biggest drop in the S&P 500. The world's largest maker of devices that regulate heart rhythm said fiscal second-quarter revenue lagged analysts' estimates because competition hurt sales of implantable defibrillators, its largest product line.

 

Sears, Altria Gain

 

Sears, Roebuck and Co. jumped 15 percent to $52.95, for the second-biggest rise in the S&P 500. Kmart Holding Corp. agreed to buy the department store chain for $11 billion, in the largest U.S. retail merger ever. The combined company will be the third- biggest U.S. retailer with $55 billion in annual revenue. Kmart lost 0.9 percent to $104.99.

 

Altria Group Inc., the parent company of cigarette maker Philip Morris and Kraft Foods Inc., rose 6.1 percent to $58.05. Three tobacco lawsuits, including the Justice Department's suit seeking $280 billion from cigarette makers, may be resolved in the industry's favor, analysts at Prudential Securities Inc. and Goldman, Sachs & Co. said. Both firms raised their rating on the stock.

 

 

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