Author: John Browne

Lessons for Keynes Bugs: Gold Heats Up as Athens Burns

In the decades that preceded Greece’s adoption of the euro in 2001 the country papered over its chronic inefficiency and lack of competitiveness with its northern neighbors through regular devaluations of its currency, the drachma. But as a prerequisite to join the Euro Zone, the dominant powers of the Continent, most notably Germany, required financial housecleaning and promises of fiscal discipline. When these goals were apparently met, the Greeks came aboard. With the benefit of hindsight it is now widely understood that Greece, in common with some other ‘Club Med’ countries, ‘distorted’ its financials (largely through accounting gimmickry dreamed...

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Reports of Our Recovery Are Greatly Exaggerated

From all outward appearances, it seems that a grim chapter in U.S. economic history has come to an end. Newsweek magazine declares that “America is Back,” government statistics indicate revival, and our stock market has put in a rally for the record books (by rate of ascent, not highs – we are still more than 25% below the 2007 peak).   And yet, despite massive federal stimuli and subsidies, American unemployment clings stubbornly to the 10 per cent level, with the “underemployment” rate closer to 20 per cent. The IMF does not appear to buy into Washington’s optimism; it...

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Europe Fiddles, Gold Sizzles

Much to the relief of jittery global markets, Greece’s chronic debt problem has been papered over in a burst of European solidarity and apparent magnanimity. But this act of mercy may cost Germany its key position of financial dominance over the European Central Bank (ECB), which, in turn, could be detrimental to the long-term health of the euro. And so even though the euro stiffened once the immediate default fears abated, the price of gold was pushed to a new all-time high in euro terms (and a five-month high in dollar terms). [i] The euro is now second only to...

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Unlocking the Jobs Dilemma

Productive, private-sector jobs – the lifeblood of a sound economy – are under assault by politicians in the United States and Western Europe, who have unwittingly taken a number of steps that make future job losses a foregone conclusion. In the 1980s, as a Member of the UK Parliament and elected Chairman of the Conservative Small Business Committee, I led discussions on the issue of job creation. At that point, the British labor market was dealing with technological advances that threatened traditional industries and an influx of highly competitive Eastern European workers who drifted westward in the waning days...

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The Dominos of Default

The bad news for Greece is that despite some help from abroad, and some attempts at internal reform, investors are still leery of the troubled state. The good news, if you can call it that, is that they will soon have company in the penalty box. Now that investors have come face-to-face with the reality of sovereign default in the developed world, greater scrutiny will befall those countries with fiscal conditions similar to Greece. The United Kingdom is a cause of great concern, with a debt ratio rapidly approaching Greek levels. The economic challenges facing Britain are aggravated by...

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Mr. Hu, Tear Down This Wall!

Over two thousand years ago, China began to build its Great Wall in order to keep nomadic tribes and marauding armies from crossing its borders. In the last few decades, China has built another protective barrier, a ‘Great Firewall,’ to keep socially disruptive web content from reaching its citizens. American companies have long acquiesced to this censorship charade in order to have access to China’s booming online market. Last week, Google changed its mind, shutting down its regulated site on the mainland and redirecting people to its uncensored Hong Kong portal. This laudable act of defiance indicates that China’s...

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Bull Market or Just Bull?

Last week, the Dow closed at 10,741, up some 64 percent since its 2009 lows, [03/19/10, Yahoo! Finance] when most markets had priced in the likelihood of financial Armageddon. As the markets have rebounded from the brink of disaster, many Wall Street cheerleaders have proclaimed the dawning of a major new bull market. If we measure market cycles biannually, and if bull markets need not eclipse peaks achieved in previous cycles, then this forecast is spot on. Of course, most investors are not saving for next week, but for homes, college tuitions, and retirements. For these longer term investors,...

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Will the Pause Refresh?

The world is currently in the eye of an economic hurricane. The leading edge of the storm, which made landfall in the second quarter of 2008, raged until the first quarter of 2009, and nearly demolished the world’s financial system. By sand-bagging with trillions of freshly-printed paper currencies, fudging accounting rules, subsidizing key financial houses and markets, and calming the masses with half-baked rhetoric, a worldwide collapse was averted. But the calm is deceptive. Because of the lull, Western governments have allowed our structural deficits to fester. Now, their spokesmen are predicting sunny skies for the foreseeable future. The...

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FINANCIAL CRISIS

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