Showing posts from April, 2009

coping with redundancy

Guy Day

Losing your job can be one of the most stressful events in your life, particularly if you are mid-career and have been with your employer for some time. It’s usually unexpected and its implications are often difficult to comprehend immediately. However, take heart and think positively because redundancy can also provide an excellent opportunity for you to break the mould and change direction towards a more successful career.

It's not just you

The media continues to report the decline in the world economy and the resulting job losses. Seemingly no country, no sector and no profession has been left untouched and around the world thousands of executives have been made redundant this year. Many organisations with revenue in decline have retreated to their core and profitable businesses. Rationalisations, restructurings and redundancies have resulted.

Quite often in this phase of the employment cycle, layoffs can be indiscriminate with regard to ability, length of service and value…

Swine flu risk to Singapore recovery: central bank

SINGAPORE (AFP) - - The global swine flu outbreak could set back a recovery for Singapore's recession-hit economy, the central bank said Wednesday.

"Depending on how the global outbreak of the swine influenza develops, there could be repercussions for the domestic economy," the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said.

"Nonetheless, the domestic economy is not expected to stage a decisive rebound this year," the MAS said in its twice-yearly report.

"Indeed, the path to recovery is uncertain and hinges on external developments including the recent outbreak of swine influenza in Mexico, which has added a new dimension to the risk outlook."

Singapore, an open economy largely dependent on external trade and tourism, has stepped up measures against swine flu, drawing lessons from its fight against the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003.

SARS killed 33 people in Singapore that year.

Authorities have deployed thermal scanners at the airport and sea…

Don't Believe in Buy and Hold

A. Gary Shilling

Even during rip-roaring bull markets, investors miss a good chunk of the gains. Buy and hold RIP.

The recent 57% collapse in the S&P 500 index to its most recent low on March 9 followed hard upon the 38% decline in the 2000-2002 bear market. And the five-year recovery from that swoon didn't exceed the 2000 peak by much. The Nasdaq index, which nosedived 78% in 2000-2002, recovered only 44% of that decline before falling another 55%. There are only two other global bear markets since 1900 in which stocks fell over 40%.

No wonder that investors' faith in stocks has been shattered, and both institutional and individual investors have been withdrawing. The buy and hold strategy, which was validated by the earlier long, steadily rising market, doesn't work in severe bear markets. Only one of 1,700 diversified U.S. stock funds showed a gain in 2008, and that was a mere 0.4%. The average of these funds dropped 39%, precisely in line with the S&P 500's de…

Economy: Don't Look Now, But the Worst Is Over

From The Business Insider:

Paul Kasriel and Asha Bangalore of Northern Trust lay out the case that the economy is turning. For highlights of their report (and the full report) click here.

Importantly, Paul and Asha are NOT saying that the economy has "bottomed." Just that the rate of decline is now decelerating. One of the main causes of this is the tremendous fiscal and monetary stimulus the government is pumping into the system. Paul discussed this in this previous piece, where he noted that it worked in the 1930s (until the government screwed up).

Paul and Asha's assessment that we've past the quarter with the worst decline is consistent with what even bearish economists like Nouriel Roubini believe. Where Nouriel begs to differ is when growth will resume. Paul and Asha's view, which is in line with the consensus, is that the economy will begin growing again in Q4. Nouriel thinks the economy will shrink 2% in Q4 and struggle all through 2010 (I tend to th…

G7 signals worst of world recession may be over

By Gernot Heller and Louise Egan

WASHINGTON - Finance chiefs from the G7 powers said on Friday the global economy may be past the worst phase of a recession although recovery was not yet assured, and they pledged to make sure that big financial firms are sound.

Group of Seven finance ministers and central bankers said after a meeting that economic activity should begin to recover later this year. However, they said the outlook remained weak and there was a risk that the global economy may still worsen.

"We are right to be somewhat encouraged, but we would be wrong to conclude that we are close to emerging from the darkness that descended on the global economy early last fall," U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in a statement.

It was a less dire assessment than the G7 finance officials delivered at their last gathering in February, when they warned that the severe downturn would persist through most of 2009 and made no mention of promising signs of stability.


How The Recession Can Spice Up Relationships

The economic crisis has a huge upside: an opportunity to improve your relationship.

Layoffs, furloughs and shrinking 401(k)s may not seem like natural aphrodisiacs, but according to experts in relationships and sex, the depressed financial picture is leading some couples--and singles--to better appreciate each other.

"The recession brings with it a re-evaluation of what's important in life," says Manhattan psychoanalyst Amy Joelson.

In Depth: Eight Ways The Recession Can Spice Up Relationships

It's too early for empirical studies evaluating the effect of the recession on the sex lives of Americans, notes Chicago psychiatrist Paul Dobranksy, author of The Secret Psychology of How We Fall In Love. He says it takes years to compile a meaningful picture of how the downturn has changed the intimate lives of Americans. "See me in five years," he says.

But anecdotal information exists. While many of Joelson's patients, for example, have expressed anxiety about spen…

10 Countries in Deep Trouble

Matthew Bandyk

While the collapsing U.S. housing market may be at the root of the global economic recession, the downturn's effects are being felt hardest overseas. Take Iceland, for instance. Its biggest banks failed, its economy may shrink 10 percent this year, its government fell, its central banker was sacked, the country was bailed out with a $2.1 billion IMF loan, and 7,000 people (in a country of 300,000) took to the streets in protest.

Which countries have the greatest chances of being the next stories of failure? U.S.News looked at some countries that are currently facing severe economic disruption that endangers their standards of living, attractiveness to foreign investors, and political stability. First, we examined what Moody's Investors Service and Standard & Poor's had to say about them. These firms rate the risk of sovereign bonds, securities that finance the debt of a country. Many of the countries we identified have poor bond ratings or ratings under r…

Long Odds? Three Scenarios for the Economy's Path

by David Wessel

There is no doubt where the economy is now. "By any measure, this downturn represents by far the deepest global recession since the Great Depression," the International Monetary Fund declared Wednesday.

But there's more than the usual uncertainty about where it is going. The key is the U.S. Even though its slice of the world economy is smaller than it once was, it's still huge. The U.S. led the world into the abyss, and it will lead the world economy out of it.

But how fast and when?

The alphabet can help to imagine the possibilities and the path of the economy. There's the letter V: the kind of quick rebound that usually follows a deep recession. Or U: a longer recession and slow recovery. There is L: years of painfully slow growth. And W: a temporary upturn as the economy feels the jolt of fiscal stimulus that quickly wears off. Finally, there's the big D, not the shape but another Great Depression.

With history a guide, consider three starkly di…

Home prices to fall more

BUYERS snapping up homes in recent weeks may be jumping into the market way before it has reached the bottom, says new research.

Real estate consultancy DTZ is tipping a gradual property market recovery only from the middle of next year so people buying now could be spending more than they need to.

The firm bases its view on a new report from its Asia Forecasting unit. This shows how a slump - or recovery - in the stock market is always mirrored in the property market, but only after one or more quarters.

Or to put it more bluntly: the housing market will not recover until at least one quarter or even a year after the stock market recovers.

And as any stock market investor knows, the Straits Times Index is well down on its 2007 peak, even though it has gone up slightly recently.

'The STI reflects people's view of the economy so its recovery will really depend on clear signs of an economic recovery,' said DTZ's senior director, consulting & research, Ms Chua Chor Hoon.


Geithner says crisis unprecedented in modern times

Martin Crutsinger, AP Economics Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Wednesday the United States bears a substantial share of responsibility for a global economic crisis that could cost the world up to $4 trillion in lost output this year alone.

While the crisis started in the U.S., Geithner said its damage has spread widely with serious challenges facing much of the globe.

"Never before in modern times has so much of the world been simultaneously hit by a confluence of economic and financial turmoil such as we are now living through," Geithner said in remarks to the Economic Club of Washington.

Geithner cited the International Monetary Fund's new economic forecast Wednesday that projected global economic output will fall 1.3 percent this year, the first decline in more than six decades. Compared with a normal global growth rate of 4 percent, the lost output could amount to as much as $3 trillion to $4 trillion, he said.

Still, there are tentativ…

Global economy is expected to shrink this year

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The world economy is likely to shrink this year for the first time in six decades.

The International Monetary Fund projected the 1.3 percent drop in a dour forecast released Wednesday. That could leave at least 10 million more people around the world jobless, some private economists said.

"By any measure, this downturn represents by far the deepest global recession since the Great Depression," the IMF said in its latest World Economic Outlook. "All corners of the globe are being affected."

The new forecast of a decline in global economic activity for 2009 is much weaker than the 0.5 percent growth the IMF had estimated in January.

Big factors in the gloomier outlook: It's expected to take longer than previously thought to stabilize world financial markets and get credit flowing freely again to consumers and businesses. Doing so will be necessary to lift the U.S., and the global economy, out of recession.

The report comes in advance of Friday's…

Smart Money Moves for Young Investors

By Ben Levisohn

At a conference on financial literacy on Apr. 20 in Chicago, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said it was time for Americans to learn to manage their money. Ramit Sethi couldn't agree more. The 26-year old personal finance guru has made it his mission to help Americans do just that and he tries to make it as simple as possible. In his new book, I Will Teach You to Be Rich, and on his blog of the same name, Sethi shows twentysomethings how they can automate their financial decision-making and learn how not to overanalyze. This is especially true when it comes to investing. He says money should be automatically diverted to investment accounts, then automatically invested and rebalanced, according to a set calendar. Sethi met with BusinessWeek's Ben Levisohn on Apr. 17 to discuss how fearful investors can get started in this vexing environment.

You're only 26. How did you start investing?

When I was in high school, I applied for a number of scholarships beca…

They're Hiring!

by Christopher Tkaczyk and Julianne Pepitone

As many big companies are announcing mass layoffs, these Fortune 100 employers have at least 150 openings as of mid-April.

It's no secret that many big companies are announcing mass layoffs and pay cuts in the recession. With 5.1 million jobs lost nationwide since 2008, and the current unemployment rate at the 25-year high of 8.5%, it's easy to feel down about the battered labor market.

But the job prospects aren't entirely bleak. We looked at the top 100 of this year's Fortune 500 list and found 28 with at least 150 job openings as of mid-April. Some, like Wal-Mart, say they're hiring thousands of people to staff new locations. Others, like Motorola, have hundreds of positions open in a variety of fields: engineering, sales, finance, marketing and project management.

Brush up the résumé and iron the suit. Your next job could be a click away.

1. Wal-Mart Stores

2009 Fortune 500 rank: 2

Headquarters: Bentonville, AR

Number of job…

Worst-Case Scenario Survival Guide

by Amanda Gengler, Donna Rosato, and Penelope Wang

A grinding depression. Wild inflation. Endless unemployment ... How to deal with what could go very wrong.

So is this just a really, really bad year? Or the end of capitalism as we know it? These days it's all too easy to imagine almost anything happening to the economy. And to you.

You've probably already run the movie in your mind about the day you get the ax. Maybe you've even wondered if there's a point at which you'd just mail your house keys to the bank.

And then there's your portfolio. The words "great" and "depression" seem to be popping up together a lot more often. Is there something you should be doing? Like selling your stocks and burying cash and gold bars in the backyard?

Time to get a grip — not by ignoring the worst possibilities but by facing them head-on. Here, then, are answers to six ridiculously scary (but certainly not ridiculous) questions posed by today's economy.


Robust profits mask problems in bank sector

WASHINGTON (AFP) - - A string of surprisingly strong earnings reports suggests US banks are emerging from a near-death experience, but some analysts say the troubled sector faces more pain.

Bank of America on Monday joined the parade of financial firms reporting robust results -- a profit of 4.2 billion dollars in the first quarter, beating its performance for all of 2008.

Last week, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs all topped expectations with strong profits, a hopeful sign for an industry critical to recovery from the severe recession. Wells Fargo said its results would show "record" profits in the January-March quarter.

The apparent renewed health of banking sector comes in part from record-low interest rates from the Federal Reserve, which has cut its base rate to near zero as part of an effort to stimulate lending and growth.

"The banks are benefitting from a jump in mortgage refinancing as well as the fact that with interest rates so low, they are able to b…

Roubini: 'Suckers Rally' to Fade Amid Economy Woes

Well-known economist Nouriel Roubini, one of the few experts to foresee the current global crisis, said Tuesday a recent "suckers rally" in stock markets would fade as the U.S. economy continues to wither and the financial system suffers unexpected shocks.

Hopes the world economy will stage a faster recovery this year have fueled a six-week rise in global markets, with major benchmarks on Wall Street and in Asia up more than 20 percent over just six weeks.

But Roubini, a professor at New York University's business school and former adviser at the U.S Treasury Department, was doubtful and predicted markets would test the lows seen in March.

"For people who say there are green shoots, I seen only yellow weeds frankly," Roubini said at a conference in Hong Kong. "It's not a true recovery. It's just a bear-market rally, it's a suckers rally."

That's because the U.S. economy won't grow again until 2010 after contracting by 2 percent thi…

What we will miss about the prophets of doom

By David Marsh

For two years now, we have collectively gorged on tales of tears and deeds of downfall. If the bulls really are back and the economic and financial misery is about to end, here are 16 reasons why we will miss the gloomy times.

1. Role-play will be a lot less pleasurable. We have split the world into two pantomimic parts: the evil (the bankers) and the good (everyone else). In future, sorting out villains and victims will require more imagination.

2. The crisis has favoured inexpensive, socially constructive pastimes such as bird-watching, book-reading and communal needlework. More aggressive activities will soon be on the rise again.

3. The prophets of doom have had a field day. Yet we feel strangely comfortable with the Cassandras. We have enjoyed being told that the light at the end of the tunnel signals an approaching train. Now we will have to get re-acquainted with the optimists – a much more dangerous and unsettling bunch of people.

4. During the recession we prof…

Australia recession inevitable

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - Prime Minister Kevin Rudd conceded for the first time Monday that Australia was heading for a recession, saying it was inevitable in the current global downturn.

"The worst global economic recession in 75 years means it's inevitable that Australia will be dragged into recession," Rudd told a jobs forum in Adelaide.

The prime minister has previously couched his language carefully when discussing how the downturn will hit Australia, refusing to use the word recession in the face of repeated questioning.

Instead, he had said it would be "virtually impossible" for Australia's economy to record positive growth amid the global financial crisis.

But he spelled out the challenge facing the economy unequivocally Monday, saying seven of Australia's top 10 trading partners were in recession and the country could not avoid the same fate.

"The severity of the global recession has made it impossible for Australia to avoid a further period of ne…

U.S. recession seen likely to go through summer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A key gauge of future economic activity fell for the third month in a row in March, showing the recession may persist through the summer, a nonprofit research group said on Monday.

The Conference Board's Leading Economic Index declined 0.3 percent last month, steeper than the 0.2 percent analysts polled by Reuters were expecting. It also fell 0.2 percent in February, which was originally reported as a 0.4 percent drop.

"The recession may continue through the summer, but the intensity will ease," said Ken Goldstein, an economist at the Conference Board, in a statement.

The index has not risen in the last nine months. In September and December it was unchanged and it experienced the largest drop during that period in October, when it fell 1 percent.

Real money supply and the yield spread both showed strength in March, but not enough to counterbalance the drag of building permits, stock prices and supplier deliveries.

Over the last six months, the index ha…

Analyst: Bank Hurricane Not Over -- We're in Eye of Storm

With several big banks reporting profits this quarter, pundits are saying the bank crisis is over. The DOW is up nearly 30% from its low, Goldman and other firms are rushing to pay back the TARP, and financial stocks have soared.

Keep dreaming, says Josh Rosner, Managing Director at Graham Fisher, an independent financial-services research firm.

Josh thinks the quarter the banks have just reported may be their best of the year. There's bad news looming just over the horizon, he says--when the loan loss cycle begins in earnest.

The deterioration of construction and development loans, the bread and butter of regional and community banks, will soon spread.

Says Rosner:

* “We’re about to see the loss cycle really start in earnest. I think that’s actually where the bank crisis spreads from the 19 or so of the largest banks into the 8500 banks in our country….”

* “I think that second half story hasn’t been accounted for in provisions heretofore very acceptably. And I think the lo…

Why Contrarians Make Money And Trend Chasers Lose Money

Simon Maierhofer

Don't you hate being left out? Going against the grain is usually the unpopular direction to go. Nobody likes to be the oddball out. For the sake of popularity, humans tend to conform to the general trend eventually, especially if the trend continues to persist.

As it turns out, when it comes to investing, being the oddball is much more profitable. Oddballs in the investment community are considered contrarians and contrarian investors have been one of the few to actually book profits over the past year or so.

If you are willing to exchange some of your trend conforming popularity in return for profitability (don't worry, making money will once again increase your popularity score), this article is for you.

Trend chasing - a losing proposition

Most investors - novices and pros alike - rely on news and news- based forecasts to make their buy/sell decisions. News is always good at the top and bad at the bottom. Excessively bullish news will trick you into the market …