Showing posts from November, 2008

China losing competitive edge

BEIJING - PRESIDENT Hu Jintao has warned China's economy is losing its competitive edge amid the ongoing global financial crisis, state media reported on Sunday.

Mr Hu made the downbeat remarks on Saturday at a meeting of the Communist Party's elite Political Bureau, according to party mouthpiece the People's Daily.

'There is a clear slowdown in global economic growth, with a marked weakening in external demand, and China is losing its competitive advantages,' he was quoted as saying.

'Global competition is intensifying and the pressure from protectionism is increasing.'

In October, China's export growth slowed to 19.2 per cent from 21.5 per cent in September.

'The global financial crisis continues to expand, and the external conditions facing our economy are getting more complex,' Mr Hu said, according to the paper.

'The impact of the global financial crisis on the Chinese economy continues to deepen.'

China's economy, the world's four…

Misconceptions About Investing

Surprise! Even your young adults don't know everything, and they could use guidance on when and where to invest -- especially in these tough times.
By Janet Bodnar

I recently wrote about a conversation I had with my 25-year-old son, John. John had just read a story in Kiplinger's Personal Finance about a young investor named Deirdre, also 25, who had amassed more than $100,000 in Vanguard index mutual funds. "How come you never told me about mutual funds?" he asked.

Having grown up with a mother who writes about kids and money, my children are accustomed to being the subjects of amusing anecdotes in this column. But one reader wasn't amused. "You've spent more than 15 years writing about kids and money and you apparently never told your son about mutual funds," wrote Rob from Knoxville, Tenn. "I almost found myself speechless."

Rob, let me explain. John and I had discussed mutual funds; in fact, his Roth IRA was invested in one of the same ind…

Buying a car? Read this

Drawn by lower car prices and certificate of entitlement (COE) rates at record-low levels, potential buyers have been flooding showrooms to check out their dream set of wheels.

The buying frenzy was ignited on Nov 19, when the COE premium for cars with engine size up to 1,600cc crashed to $2, a level never seen before.

Said Ms Helen Neo, head of consumer banking at Maybank Singapore: 'With the Category A (below 1,600cc) COE at a record low of $2, new cars are currently priced at attractive levels.

'Furthermore, with the sharp plunge in petrol prices to a 20-month low, it is definitively a good time to consider buying a car.'

How does a lower COE contribute to savings for the buyer?

The fall in COE to $2 from $10,455 early this month has led many car dealers to cut car prices by between $3,000 and $6,000 for the smaller-car segment.

For instance, car dealer Borneo Motors has cut prices by up to $6,000, bringing its cheapest model, the Toyota Vios, to below $44,000.

Honda agent Ka…

S'porean hostage killed

From Straits

THE Mumbai terror attacks claimed a Singaporean victim when lawyer Lo Hwei Yen, 28, was confirmed among the dead last night.

She is the first Singaporean to die in a terrorist attack.

The tragic task of identifying her body fell to her husband, Mr Michael Puhaindran, who had flown to Mumbai on Thursday night.

The couple held their wedding in Bali only in June last year.

Mr Puhaindran, 37, last heard from his wife through two phone calls she made to him on Thursday after being taken hostage at The Oberoi Trident Hotel.

She had gone to Mumbai on Wednesday to attend a business seminar and it was meant to be only a one-night trip.

Last night, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that the worst had happened.

Her body, found on the 19th floor of the hotel, was identified at 9.35pm Singapore time by Mr Puhaindran, accompanied by the High Commissioner and an aunt.

She was among 24 Oberoi hotel…

Recession-Proof Your Job

In the current economy downturn, we may want to refer to the famous quote from John Kennedy, 35th President of the United States:
“Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.”

It may be appropriate here to modify this famous saying as follows:
“Ask not what your company can do for you - ask what you can do for your company.”

Why? Because if your company does not make it, neither will you. You lose your job and if you are lucky, you find your next job quickly. But ask yourself: how likely will that be during the current market situation.

Another timely quote from Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States:
“Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell 'em, 'Certainly I can!' Then get busy and find out how to do it."

Companies are struggling! In the United States, former leading brand names like GM, Ford and Chrysler are fighting for survival. Companies in Singapore are foreseeing a difficult time ahead. So, what should you…

China says impact of global crisis deepening

By Joe Mcdonald, AP Business Writer
Impact of global crisis on China deepening, official warns job losses could fuel instability

BEIJING (AP) -- China's top economic planner warned Thursday that the impact of the global financial crisis is worsening and said rising job losses could fuel instability.

Beijing announced its biggest interest rate cut in 11 years on Wednesday to boost consumer and company spending, reflecting its growing urgency about reviving growth as it launches a multibillion-dollar stimulus package.

"This crisis is spreading all over the world and its impact on China's economy is deepening," Zhang Ping, chairman of the Cabinet's National Development and Reform Commission, said at a news conference. He said economic indicators for November were showing an "even faster decline," though he gave no details.

China's economic growth is expected to fall to about 9 percent this year, down from last year's 11.9 percent. That would be the fast…

Coping with joblessness: A personal account

Gilbert Goh

I COUNT myself lucky to have survived two tough years of unemployment with mounting financial problems during the period after 9/11 right up to the Sars epidemic. My family had just returned from overseas as we were away for a year on study purposes. The situation was made worse when we decided to buy a private house burdened with a mortgage loan.

Although my wife works, it was tough to make ends meet with only one income. We also had a young daughter to raise. I faced sleepless nights trying to meet the minimum income payments for all my credit facilities (one credit card and one other credit facility) especially when the bank account dried up. There was an unforgettable day when my ATM bank account showed a balance of less than $20. The worst moments of my life came when I had to borrow cash from friends to tide over. This is when you realise who your true friends are and whether they will stand by you when you are almost down and out. To this day, I am thankful to many wh…

Property market to soften

PROPERTY prices are set to soften and demand will weaken as the Singapore economy slows down, Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan said on Wednesday evening.

Private housing prices have declined by 2.4 per cent in the third quarter of this year, and further price movements will 'depend on the severity of the economic slowdown', he added.

Speaking at the 49th anniversary dinner of the Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore (REDAS) at the Shangri-La Hotel, Mr Mah said: 'Going forward, price movements will depend on the...ability of the industry to make adjustments in response to the changes in economic conditions.'

The good news is that home-ownership rate is high in Singapore - at more than 90 per cent - and the government has an important role in ensuring the long-term stability and smooth functioning of the property market, he said.

Among the measures it should take, he said, is to guard against 'irrational market behaviour such as excessive spe…

What Would Warren Do?

Or better yet - what is the Oracle up to in this market, and can you do the same?

Warren Buffett has already told the world what he's doing in this frightful market. The Oracle of Omaha proudly proclaimed that he's "been buying American stocks" with his personal funds.

But it should also be noted that Buffett has been putting his investors' money on the line as well. After sitting on piles of cash for several years and lamenting the lack of attractive opportunities, Buffett has made several key acquisitions through his investment conglomerate, Berkshire Hathaway, culminating in a flurry of late- September and early-October deals.

In just a two-week span, Buffett picked up Constellation Energy for the relative bargain price of $4.7 billion. He bought $5 billion in preferred stock from Goldman Sachs, receiving a fat 10% yield. And he purchased $3 billion in preferred shares of GE, also yielding 10%.

This doesn't mean Buffett is saying go out and buy Goldman or GE (…

'Worst still to come'

WASHINGTON - PRESIDENT-ELECT Barack Obama named his economic brain-trust, as he acknowledged millions more American workers could lose their jobs next year and played down expectations his administration could engineer a quick turnaround of the financial crisis.

Hoping to hit the ground running when he takes office Jan 20, the next president urged the new Congress on Monday to pass quickly what was expected to be a massive economic stimulus package, pledged help for the troubled US auto industry and blessed the Bush administration's moves to bail out the financial industry.

At the same time, Mr Obama said he planned a second news conference in as many days on Tuesday to discuss the need 'to scour our federal budget, line-by-line, and make meaningful cuts and sacrifices as well.' Mr Obama named New York Federal Reserve President Tim Geithner the next treasury secretary at a Monday press conference, where he said the United States faces a 'crisis of historic proportions…

IT sector to slump next year

By Serene Luo

TOUGH times are likely to force IT market growth worldwide next year down to a measly 2.3 per cent, revised downward from 5.8 per cent.

IT spending by companies will also be slow, even flat or negative, in developed economies, particularly in the United States and Western Europe, and in Asian countries like Singapore, South Korea and Japan too.

Yet, the Asia-Pacific markets are likely to be one of the least affected in this downturn, said technology market research firm Gartner, in a media briefing on Tuesday.

This is because 'emerging powerhouses' such as China and India, and growing markets like the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia will drive growth, and thus IT spend on products and services.

Gartner's managing vice-president Matthew Boon, who is based in North Sydney, also pointed out that many companies are likely to cut or delay discretionary IT spend, but preserve essential expenditures.

He, however, warned that companies should look at the long term in or…

OECD warns of worst recession since early 1980s

By Pan Pylas, AP Business Writer
OECD says developed world could face worst recession since early 1980s; warns of deflation

LONDON (AP) -- The financial crisis will likely push the world's developed countries into their worst recession since the early 1980s, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said Tuesday.

In its half-yearly economic outlook, the Paris-based organization said economic output will likely shrink by 0.4 percent in 2009 for the 30 market democracies that make up its membership, against the 1.4 percent growth prediction for 2008. As a result, the OECD said it supported fiscal rescue measures, including tax cuts, provided they were targeted and temporary.

The OECD said the number of unemployed across its members could rise by 8 million over the next two years and that there is a risk, "albeit small," that some countries will experience deflation -- falling prices.

The OECD said the U.S. was likely to contract by 0.9 percent in 2009 fol…

Civil service to cut pay

AMID a darkening economic outlook, cabinet ministers and senior civil servants would see their pay packets next year shrink by up to 19 per cent- with the President and the Prime Minister taking the biggest hit.

This is even as a planned salary increase is deferred.

Meanwhile, all civil servants across the board would get one month less bonus this year, as compared to last year.

In a statement yesterday, the Public Service Division (PSD), which oversees civil service matters, pointed to the slowdown in the global economy and in Singapore as the reason for these moves.

The top government officials - political leaders, administrative officers (AOs), judicial and statutory appointees - will feel the pain on two fronts:

First, a cut in their GDP Bonus, which is linked to Singapore's gross domestic product growth. This comprises a 'significant portion' - close to 25 per cent - of their annual salaries.

'With a weak economy, these components will automatically fall,' said the…

5 Ways to Kick Bad Money Habits

Our parents, peers, the Joneses, and others have a lot of sway over our financial decisions -- both good and bad. All these outside influences can make it hard to heed that little voice inside our head -- the reasonable one, that is, telling us to shape up or declare bankruptcy and not go back to the fridge for a third helping of Chunky Monkey.

To kick bad money habits (or boost good ones), you've got to change the way you think about change, according to the authors of "The True Cost of Happiness." Change is not a punishment for failure; it's the process of getting you closer to what you really want.

So what exactly is it that you really want? Here's a five-step plan to help you figure it out and actually institute the changes that you most want to make in your financial life:

1. Identify your real goals.
Don't skip right to the numbers. Start with the "Financial Self-Reflection" worksheet from's "How to Set Up a Spending Plan." …

5 Things to Freak Out About

Our fellow Americans are experiencing a world of hurt -- layoffs, postponed retirements, foreclosures, bankruptcies, and, at best, angst and uncertainty. Your empathy is appreciated, but is that really the best use of your energy right now?

No it's not. Not that you need anyone's permission, but here it is: It's time to be self-centered -- to be selfish and absorbed with your own financial situation. Freaking out about things that are out of your control won't magically make the stock market bounce back and unemployment reverse itself.

If you want to freak out about something, freak out about your issues -- in particular, the things over which you do have some measure of control. Here are five:

1. Corral your cash flow: You know deep inside (or maybe not so deep) what you need and what you simply want -- in other words, stuff you don't need. It's time to prioritize -- formally, as in on paper tacked onto the fridge. Schedule a quarterly financial review -- here…

News of job cuts almost everyday...

Please try to recall the situation now when the next crisis hits again...and never make the same mistake during the next crisis...

This blog serves to keep a memory of the 2008/2009 financial crisis so that we will not forget the pain and get complacent again during the next crisis....

Citigroup is on its knees

NEW YORK - LESS than two months ago, Citigroup emerged from the wreckage of the financial crisis as one of the last titans left standing on Wall Street.

Now, in a stunning turnabout, the banking giant has fallen to its knees after a crisis in confidence erased half its stock-market value in three days - and left it running short on time and options.

The bank has started talks with the United States government, which may step in with a rescue bid. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke may favour a rescue to avoid the aftermath of Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy in September.

Citigroup's US$2 trillion (S$3 trillion) worth of assets dwarfs companies such as American International Group that got support from the US government this year.

'Citi is in the category of 'too big to fail',' said Mr Michael Holland, chairman and founder of Holland & Co, which oversees US$4 billion. 'There is a commitment from this administration and the…

Tough economic times ahead

PARIS - INVESTORS braced on Sunday for another topsy-turvy week on trading floors as leading economies prepared new plans to emerge from a financial crisis that world leaders warned would take time to overcome.

US president-elect Barack Obama was expected to unveil his economic braintrust on Monday after announcing a plan to create 2.5 million jobs by 2011, while the British government pledged swift tax relief to households, with both countries staring at recession.

Meanwhile, leaders of 21 Asia-Pacific economies making up around half of world trade vowed during a summit in Lima to resist protectionism, saying it would only worsen the troubled global economy.

Mr Obama, who takes office on January 20, was reportedly expected to present on Monday New York central banker Timothy Geithner, 47, as his Treasury secretary to oversee the country's US$700 billion (S$1.07 billion) bailout package.

The Democrat on Saturday outlined in broad strokes his plan for a broad stimulus package to lift A…

Pay cut for civil service?

THE Public Service Division (PSD) will make an announcement soon about year-end bonuses and salaries for civil servants, Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said yesterday.
'The principles underpinning civil service pay as well as the pay of political leaders...are well known and you can just wait for the announcement before long on that,' he told reporters at a press conference held to announce measures to help businesses and workers.

A panel of ministers was asked if senior officers and leaders in the public sector would lead by example and take pay cuts in difficult times. 'We're not here to grandstand,' Mr Tharman said.

The response from labour chief Lim Swee Say, also a Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, suggested a wage cut might be in the offing: 'From the labour movement, I think we will not be surprised (if) the public sector sees a wage cut because with the GDP declining, that must factor into the flexible component of wages.'

A signific…

FOOLED by new client's posh appearance

Broker to pay $350,000 in stock market loss after client, who drove Jaguar and lived in condo, vanishes

By Tay Shi'an
November 23, 2008 / Source : The Electric New Paper

THEY are sometimes referred to as brokers. For one remisier, however, the word has taken an awfully literal meaning.

Reason: She may soon go broke having to make up for a rogue client's losses.

The client, a Malaysian woman in her 60s, had seemed financially reliable. She lived in private property. Her family gets around in a Jaguar. And she had put a US$50,000 ($76,600) deposit to begin trading.

The remisier, who has been in the industry for more than five years, said: 'I thought this client was able to trade and able to pay.'

But then the client lost US$227,000 after taking huge risks on the US stock market, betting on shares such as AIG and Fannie Mae.And she vanished.

Now, the remisier, who is in her 30s, will have to settle the debt with her brokerage firm if the client cannot be found.

That's because,…

Hope for investors in East?

HONG KONG - THERE could have been no worse time to hold an expo on the Asian property market this year than November.

As the impact of the global financial crisis on the region unravels - in the form a slumping stock market, company bankruptcies, steep falls in flat prices, and job cuts - even the most daring of property investors have taken a step back.

It was against this backdrop that the Asian version of an international real estate summit held annually in Cannes, France, was held last week in Hong Kong.

The number of exhibitors at the MIPIM Asia conference - developers, banks, fund managers, architectural firms, hotel groups and construction companies, mostly from Asia - dropped to 190 from last year's 236, organisers said.

Visitors were also down to 1,700 from more than 2,100 last year.

During the three days, November 19-21, there were times when the number of people manning the exhibition booths outnumbered visitors.

Despite the lukewarm attendance, however, those who did m…

A Depression Coming? Not Likely

Expect to see a recession similar to those in the 1970s and early 1980s.

What are the odds that this economic slump will deepen into a genuine depression not seen since the 1930s? In my judgment, it's not likely. Instead, I foresee a moderately severe recession.

We're all hearing more and more comparisons being drawn to the Great Depression. Yes, we're in the worst financial crisis since that era, but by no means the worst economic crisis since then -- not comparable to, say, the mid-1970s.

Former Goldman Sachs chairman John C. Whitehead got a lot of attention last week with his statement that the federal government could face a downgrading of its credit rating, aggravating the recession. The result, he said, "would be worse than the Depression." Now, "would" is a squishy word in forecasting, but the headlines screamed, "Whitehead Sees Slump Worse Than Depression."

Whitehead, a distinguished American of 86 years, was an adolescent during the 1930s…

Auto makers slash jobs

PARIS - FRANCE'S flagship car manufacturer PSA Peugeot Citroen slashed 3,550 jobs on Thursday as the global economic crisis cut a swathe through the world's auto sector.

Peugeot's news came as German luxury marque Daimler, Japanese truck maker Isuzu and car giant Mazda and Thailand's General Motors subsidiary announced similar cuts, in a market sapped by collapsing consumer confidence.

World manufacturing has been sucked into the storm whipped up by the global financial crisis, and job losses in the auto sector have contributed to the gloom haunting plunging stock markets.

Falling car sales are particularly bad news for France, where the sector plays a strategic role in the economy and directly or indirectly accounts for 10 percent of the jobs in the workforce.

Renault has already announced 6,000 job losses, including 4,900 in France, and Thursday's announcement saw the crisis cut deep into its larger competitor PSA Peugeot Citroen.

A statement from the firm said it hop…