Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Friday, May 29, 2009
KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s economy shrank a worse-than-expected 6.2% in the first quarter from a year earlier because of a steep fall in exports and manufacturing, data released Wednesday showed.
Central bank Gov. Zeti Akhtar Aziz said economic conditions remain tough, and the economy is likely to register a similar performance in the current quarter.
The first-quarter contraction is the country’s first in nearly eight years and the worst since the fourth quarter of 1998 when GDP fell 11.2% from the previous year. It was more severe than the median 4% forecast by 18 economists polled by Dow Jones Newswires, and reverses the 0.1% growth eked out in the fourth quarter of 2008.
“We are now going into the third month of the second quarter; from what we have seen, export demand continues to be weak and economic conditions are still challenging despite early signs of an improvement,” Ms. Zeti said. Second-quarter gross domestic product “will be similar to the first quarter.”
Economic conditions, however, are expected to improve in the second half of 2009, supported by the government’s fiscal-stimulus measures and Bank Negara Malaysia’s efforts to increase financing for the private sector, Ms. Zeti said.
“Though Malaysia’s first-quarter GDP was worse than expected, it is not out of line with patterns in the region,” said David Cohen, an economist at Action Economics in Singapore.
For 2009, the current GDP forecast is a range of between a 1% contraction and a 1% expansion, but Second Finance Minister Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah said Tuesday that it “will definitely be below minus 1%.”
Prime Minister Najib Razak will announce a revision to the full-year GDP forecast on Thursday. Economists polled by Dow Jones Newswires predict a median contraction of 1.6% for 2009.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
The International Monetary Fund has failed to provide the blueprint for pushing global finance and governance toward healthy conditions.
There appears to be a deepening disagreement among finance ministers attending the IMF spring meeting on Sunday over how and when to abandon recession-busting policies by the world financial body.
The IMF's managing director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn
Ministers were also unable to finalize a USD 500b boost to the IMF's resources put forward earlier this month by the Group of 20 (G20) Summit in London. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the IMF's managing director, said there were already differences among members over 'an exit strategy'. Strauss-Kahn said there was consensus about the need to borrow more during the crisis: "Some of us, including the IMF, are arguing that the stimulus is necessary, but at the same time, you need to have a view about what is going to happen in three years' or four years' time, and prepare the exit strategy from the stimulus.
" Some blame the disagreement among finance ministers on the restructuring plan the United States has proposed for the IMF. The Europeans are especially resistant to such radical changes. Rejecting the call by the US treasury secretary Timothy Geithner to cut the number of IMF seats from 24 to 20, by 2012, Belgian finance minister Didier Reynders endorsed the current number of seats. "I think that for the moment the representation around the table is attractive.
The European countries are having to finance the Fund very strongly so we have to take into account the size of each country's participation in the Fund," Reynders noted. The IMF warned this week that the world economy would contract this year for the first time since the World War II.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
BEIJING, April 14 – Wall Street Journal
China’s $585 billion government stimulus programme appears to be kicking in, new data suggest, raising the chances that the world’s third-largest economy may be turning a corner.
Chinese demand for raw materials, hard hit in past months, is showing signs of recovery. Crude-oil imports hit a one-year high in March, the government reported Friday. Steel mills in March imported record quantities of their key raw material, iron ore, in anticipation of a pickup in demand in coming months.
Banks have extended a stunning 4.58 trillion yuan, or about $670 billion, of new loans in the first three months of the year, according to data published Saturday – nearly as much as the 4.9 trillion yuan issued in all of 2008. And the stock market, which had been battered, is on the rise, with the Shanghai composite stock index gaining 2.8 per cent on Monday, pushing it to a 38 per cent increase for the year to date.
The signs augur well for the global economy. China has been one of the world’s most voracious consumers of raw materials. While its aggressive spending plan reflects the power of its state-dominated economy, there are signs that its thrifty consumers are starting to spend more.
Car sales hit a monthly record in March, according to figures issued Thursday, marking the third consecutive monthly rise. Housing sales in major cities have also picked up, with lower prices attracting buyers.
The optimistic outlook has spread to businesses. The National Bureau of Statistics said last week that its survey of managers’ confidence rose in the first quarter after plunging in the final quarter of 2008.
Overall, it appears that the state’s push has helped keep China from slipping into a downward spiral in which poor economic conditions and declining confidence feed off each other. The size of China’s stimulus, announced in November, gets some credit for that: Along with the US plan, it is one of the largest in the world. But the vestiges of China’s command economy have also proved useful.
“China is unusual in that it has this incredible capacity to mobilise all its institutions,” said Vikram Nehru, the World Bank’s chief economist for Asia. The government’s ability to direct bank lending and investment spending has meant its stimulus efforts have worked faster than many initially expected.
“There is now a growing degree of confidence that the stimulus package is having an impact,” he added.
Beijing’s programme still has considerable work to do, with new data also charting continued contraction in the country’s export sector. The global slump in demand has battered exporters, leading to millions of lost jobs.
Exports fell 17.1 per cent in March from a year earlier, after a 25.7 per cent decline in February, official data showed Friday, a reflection of China’s vulnerability to weak economies in the US and other export markets. That left a trade surplus of $18.56 billion for the month, far higher than February’s figure but less than half the levels recorded late last year.
That is also being reflected in slower accumulation of foreign exchange reserves. New data from the central bank, released Saturday, showed the dollar value of reserves fell in January and February before picking up in March. They ended the quarter at $1.9537 trillion, compared with $1.946 trillion at the end of December.
Analysts say swings in the currency market also affected the headline figure for the reserves, which are held in multiple currencies but reported in US dollars.
But the government is pushing cash through the economy, and the state investment programme is driving new infrastructure projects.
Funds budgeted for investments that started in the first two months of 2009 surged 88 per cent from a year earlier.
While improvement in China alone isn’t enough to reverse the global economic decline, it is still welcome news, given that China is one of the few major nations that is expanding.
Like China, the US government also has launched a significant fiscal stimulus, of $787 billion, the impact of which is only now beginning to show up in the economy as tax cuts swell worker paychecks.
US consumers – their retirement accounts and home values depressed – are showing a reluctance to spend as readily as they usually do. Car sales in the US, in contrast to the records being set in China, are extremely low. Spending on infrastructure is taking awhile to kick in, despite talk of “shovel-ready projects.”
Weaknesses in US banks and, even more, the near-paralysis of the important market for securitised credit, remain major impediments to renewed economic growth.
China needs support from demand in the rest of the world to sustain a recovery. Without that, it is still unclear whether China’s economic engine, having been jump-started by government investment, can keep running in a higher gear.
Export manufacturing remains the primary employer of China’s 140 million rural migrant workers. About 20 million of them are unemployed, and if the export crunch continues for several more months, that could exhaust their meagre savings.
Key to the effectiveness of China’s stimulus plan so far has been a race by local governments to spend the money.
After November’s stimulus programme gave them the go-ahead, authorities in the northern city of Harbin started expanding their port in March. The provincial government is trying to launch even more ambitious port works by October.
“Thanks to the stimulus plan, our proposed projects get a lot of support from the central government,” one official in Harbin said.
In central China, state-owned Henan Coal & Chemical Industry Group started work on 15 expansion projects on April 1, declaring its planned spending of 22.4 billion yuan a response to the government’s call to maintain 8 per cent growth this year.
That kind of reaction is partly why many analysts expect first-quarter economic data – to be released this week – to show activity picking up relative to the fourth quarter of 2008, even if headline growth rates remain very low by Chinese standards. The World Bank expects China’s economy to expand 6.5 per cent this year.
“I think it’s fair to say the economy has bottomed. But bottoming is not recovery,” said Ben Simpfendorfer, an economist at Royal Bank of Scotland.
Among the reasons for economists’ caution before calling a recovery is that China has had at least one false dawn in recent months. In early anticipation of stimulus-related orders, domestic steelmakers started ramping up production in December and January, helping to push up prices and freight rates.
But the anticipated demand didn’t materialise, and steel prices have been mostly falling since February.
The stimulus gets credit, at least, for stemming panic. Peter Li, chief financial officer of HLS Systems International Inc., a Beijing-based maker of industrial automation products, says he is getting orders from railroad projects as part of the stimulus plan.
“People are not in as much of a rush to sell inventory. They don’t expect prices to go down,” Li said. “The biggest impact of the stimulus plan so far is really on the psychological level.”
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Swiss bank Credit Suisse has started closing down the offshore accounts of US clients who have not declared the money to the US authorities, a newspaper reported today.
The Sonntagszeitung newspaper said the bank had about 2,500-5,000 US clients with undeclared offshore accounts worth about 3 billion Swiss francs (RM27.9 billion), without citing its sources.
The paper said Credit Suisse had started parting company with its US offshore clients, giving them the option of moving their accounts to its CS Private Advisors subsidiary, which would report the accounts to the US tax authorities, or writing them a check.
It quoted an unnamed Credit Suisse manager as saying the bank was only applying the new “zero tolerance” policy in individual cases for now but was considering a more general withdrawal from the US offshore business.
Credit Suisse was not immediately available for comment on the article. Sonntagszeitung quoted a spokesman as declining to confirm the report, but noting the tougher approach of foreign authorities on offshore wealth management in recent times.
“CS sticks to all valid rules and regulations in various countries,” a spokesman told the newspaper.
The move comes after rival UBS said last year it would stop offering offshore services to US citizens after US authorities alleged that the Swiss bank has helped rich Americans hide money away from the taxman in Swiss accounts.
A newspaper reported earlier this year that Credit Suisse was writing to its US clients holding Swiss accounts asking them to sign a form that would reveal them to US tax authorities.