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Showing posts from October, 2011

Dark clouds on horizon despite EU deal: PM; He warns of slower growth as economy matures, population growth slows

Teh Shi Ning; In Perth


PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong says 'there are dark clouds on the global economic horizon', despite the great relief that a long-awaited eurozone rescue deal brought to markets late last week. And back home, the 'price to pay' of managing Singapore's population by constricting foreign worker inflow, coupled with a maturing economy, will mean that growth of 3 or 4 per cent a year ought to be considered 'not a bad year', he said.

Speaking to Singapore media on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth yesterday, Mr Lee said the Monetary Authority of Singapore's prognosis last week of stalled growth over the next few quarters, was 'not surprising'.

MAS had said that 2012 growth may fall below the economy's potential of 3-5 per cent, before recovering again towards the end of next year. It is an 'optimistic' view, Mr Lee said. Even if things do improve by then, he thinks the long…

Too early to give US economy the all-clear; Unemployment rate remains high and risk of a recession is real

Andy Mukherjee, Senior Writer


IF HISTORY is any guide, it may be unwise for investors to give too much importance to a report last week that suggests the US economy is speeding up again.

Data released last Thursday by the US Commerce Department showed that gross domestic product (GDP) expanded at an annualised 2.5 per cent rate in the third quarter, almost double the 1.3 per cent pace in the previous three months.

The data release was impeccably timed. News that Europe's politicians had finally managed to come up with a plan for containing their region's sovereign debt crisis already had traders itching to extend their risky bets.

The fine print of the US GDP report, which showed spending by households grew at a faster pace than expected by economists, only added to that sense of optimism. The S&P 500 Index shot up 3.4 per cent last Thursday.

Amid this carnival of enthusiasm, investors chose to more or less ignore the US Department of Labour's more sombre assessment of…

5 Ways to Retire on a Small Income

We all want to be happy and comfortable in our golden years. To get there we focus on saving money every month, investing for the long term, and figuring out when we should retire.

A huge step in the right direction is to be financially free by the time we leave the workforce, and one of the quickest ways to get there is to make more money. However, asking for a raise or finding a more lucrative job are not strategies everyone can pursue. Luckily, there are many ways to prepare for a secure retirement without a large income. Here are five ways to improve your chances of having a comfortable retirement.

Focus on income. One of the main reasons we fear retirement is because of the lack of steady income. Most people in their working years attempt to increase their net worth, ignoring how that lump sum can be translated into a stream of income for the future. As a result, they have to deal with the emotional impact of always seeing their nest egg decrease as they withdraw from their savings…

Demand for labour 'will fall sharply after festive season'

By Magdalen Ng

Demand for labour is already slowing but the trend will intensify after the Christmas and Chinese New Year holidays, according to the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) on Thursday.

The economic slowdown here and persistent uncertainties in the global economy are taking some of the heat out of the labour market.

Financial services and trade-related sectors - both sensitive to economic changes - have already been scaling back their hiring, with other sectors tipped to follow suit in the next few quarters.

The Electronics Leading Index indicator continues to show a sharp fall-off in final demand, signalling that job cuts will persist in the industry.

Why You Should Stop Trying to Beat the Market

by Walter Updegrave

How much better will you do if you invest well instead of poorly (or earn the average)? -- James McGrath, San Marcos, Calif.

Considering all the attention investment pros (and financial magazines) lavish on picking the right stocks and funds, I can understand why you might think superior investing ranks above all else when it comes to a secure future and a comfortable retirement.

Savvy investing is certainly important — you don't want to blow your savings on lousy funds or ineffectual strategies. And you'll end up richer if you happen upon a winning investment. If you'd owned the Sequoia Fund for the past decade, for example, a $10,000 balance would have grown to more than $16,000 now, vs. $12,800 if you'd simply earned the market return.

But as a practical matter you can't know in advance which fund or stock will beat the market — in fact, over the past 15 years, only 55% of U.S. equity funds did so, according to Morningstar. Rather than pinning yo…

The Economic Agony of Today’s Twenty-Somethings

By Daniel Gross

Most of the coverage of today's economic difficulties focuses on older folks. How will the mid-career people who lost their jobs during the deep recession of 2008-2009 find new posts? Will the Baby Boomers, and whether they will be able to rely on Social Security and Medicare? What can be done to help homeowners and families caught up in the mortgage mess?

In a recent cover story in New York, Noreen Malone offers a sharply reported take on a demographic group that is often overlooked: twenty-somethings. As Malone and I discuss in the accompanying video, today's twentysomethings, while they may have fewer financial and familial obligations than their parents, and more time to prepare for a straightened future than the Baby Boomers, face their own unique challenges.

Here are some of the tough economic data points facing the "It Sucks to Be Us" generation:

Entering the workforce in a tough time has long-term impacts. Since the average workers get 70 perc…

5 Hedging Strategies for Do-It-Yourself Investors

Hedging was once the exclusive domain of institutional, or at least extremely sophisticated investors. For years this exclusivity worked out fine for both individuals and the institutions; bull markets don't need hedging and the institutions liked to justify their existence by making trades only they understood. Now that the bull market is dead Jay Pestrichelli, author of the new book "Buy and Hedge: The 5 Iron Rules for Investing Over the Long Term" says it's time for the layman investor to control their risk, and possibly make some money, by deploying some of the tools of the hedge fund trade.

Here's insight on Pestrichelli's 5 Iron Rules.

1. Hedge Every Investment: Pestrichelli calls this the One Rule readers should take away from the book. No "buy and hold" forever; don't hang on to losers because they can't possibly go lower. If the last 10 years, a period during which Pestrichelli says "buy and hold has gotten its teeth kicked in,&q…

How to Pay for Early Retirement

by Linda Stern

The longer you work, the better, retirement experts will tell you. Plow on until you're 70 and you'll make more, have fewer years of retirement to fund, and collect a fatter Social Security check. But that's not always desirable, or possible.

People often retire in their early 60s because they can't get a job, they aren't healthy enough to work, or they're just sick of the 9-to-5 grind and want to begin the next part of their lives.

The question for them is how to pay for it. Early retirees can start collecting Social Security early, or defer their Social Security by using money from their 401(k) account or by buying an annuity.

The question is complex, and the wrong answer could really constrict your 80s and 90s. But it also seems like a question that should have a mathematical answer: Given enough data, shouldn't you be able to optimize your spending in your 60s to protect the cash flow you'll need for the decades you'll probably spend …

Mohamed A. El-Erian: America at Stall Speed?

NEWPORT BEACH - Judging from the skittishness of both markets and 'consensus expectations,' the United States' economic prospects are confusing. One day, the country is on the brink of a double-dip recession; the next, it is on the verge of a turbo-charged recovery, powered by resilient consumers and US multinationals starting to deploy, at long last, their massive cash reserves. In the process, markets take investors on a wild rollercoaster ride, with the European crisis (riddled with even more confusion and volatility) serving to aggravate their queasiness.

This situation is both understandable and increasingly unsettling for America's well-being and that of the global economy. It reflects the impact of fundamental (and historic) economic and financial re-alignments, insufficient policy responses, and system-wide rigidities that frustrate structural change. As a result, there are now legitimate questions about the underlying functioning of the US economy and, therefor…

Occupy Wall Street: Who is the top 1% for income?

Tami Luhby

Think it takes a million bucks to make it into the Top 1% of American taxpayers?

Think again. In 2009, it took just $343,927 to join that elite group, according to newly released statistics from the Internal Revenue Service.

Occupy Wall Street protesters have been railing against the Top 1%, trying to raise anger and awareness of the growing economic gap between the rich and everybody else in America.

But just who are these fortunate folks at the top of the income ladder?

Well, there were just under 1.4 million households that qualified for entry. They earned nearly 17% of the nation's income and paid roughly 37% of its income tax.

Collectively, their adjusted gross income was $1.3 trillion. And while $343,927 was the minimum AGI to be included, on average, Top 1-percenters made $960,000.

But the income threshold for this exclusive group changes every year, largely with the performance of the stock market, experts said.

Meet the Occupy Wall Street protesters

In 2007, when times …

Hedge funds suffer worst performance since 2008

Hibah Yousuf

Feeling blue about the hit your portfolio took last quarter? You're not alone. Hedge funds also had a lousy third quarter, delivering one of the worst performances on record.

The summer's stomach-churning roller coaster ride throughout all markets , including stocks, bonds, commodities and currencies, triggered a loss of $85 billion in capital for the hedge fund industry during the three month period ended Sept. 30, according to industry tracker Hedge Fund Research.

The group's HFRI Fund Weighted Composite Index, a benchmark index for the hedge fund industry, dropped more than 6%, making it the worst quarter since the fourth quarter of 2008, and the fourth worst on record.

"The third quarter presented an extremely challenging performance environment, with asset volatility in many respects on par with financial crises in 2008 and 2009," said Kenneth Heinz, president of Chicago-based HFR.

The quarter's beating destroyed the gains logged by hedge funds d…

As Wall St readies cuts, fears grow in luxury market

By Phil Wahba and Jilian Mincer

REUTERS - New York luxury store owners and real estate agents are wondering whether they have to brace for some of Wall Street's pain.

With others likely to follow Goldman Sachs ' lead and slash compensation, Wall Street dealmakers, traders and other staff at banks and funds could cut back this holiday season.

That, along with the threat of layoffs, might spell shorter lines at luxury shops like Saks Fifth Avenue and will make finance industry types think twice before plunking down $200,000 to reserve a three-month summer rental for 2012.

"People do remember 2008," says Michael Pomerantz, president of financial advisers Pomerantz Financial Associates, which has Wall Street clients. "There's still so much fear, even among older traders and financial professionals, they're scared they'll get laid off."

When the financial markets seized up in 2008, luxury businesses got slammed. Saks, for example, saw double-digit sales d…

Know Yourself as an Investor

Big swings in the stock market can be confusing for investors. Should you buy or sell? Or do nothing?

There's no right answer. It really depends on what kind of investor you are. When you know yourself as an investor, tumultuous times in the market can be easier to deal with.

To determine what type of investor you are, think about your personal limitations, as well as your strengths and weaknesses. Are you patient? Do you tend to get nervous when times are tough? How well do you handle risk? Do you like to take chances?

Depending on your answers, an investment adviser would decide that you are either a conservative, moderate, or aggressive investor. But those labels are too broad and don't specify how much risk you're willing to take.

Risk tolerance is hard to determine and different for each person. No one likes to lose money. But most people understand they have to accept some risk in exchange for having their investments go up over time. However, they may not understand it …

I'm an accountant, I hate my job, but seriously, I wouldn’t know what else to do

I was born to be a lot of things, but being an accountant isn't one of them. In my heart of hearts I have always known this, but for some stupid subconscious reason, I have always ignored it.

Why? Well...um...err...I didn’t know what else to do.

How many people faced with the same predicament of deciding on a profession upon graduating used “not really knowing what to do” as their guiding compass?

Blink. Ten years have passed and you’re left wondering, how did I get here? In this cubicle? Doing something I cannot stand (and I’m not even honestly good at), with people I quite frankly don’t really care about?

For me that was accounting, a profession that conjures numerous clichés, such as boring, bean counting, personality not needed, number crunching etc etc. These have now evolved and have been replaced by repetition, reconciliations, long hours, fudging figures, high turnover, Enron and even more reconciliations.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

But please don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost respect, a…

Best Jobs if You're Over 50

By Donna Rosato and Tom Ziegler

Far from ready to call it quits but tired of toiling in the same field? Do you have a dream job you couldn't afford to take when you had kids in college or 20 years left on your mortgage?

A growing portion of Americans 50 and older are still in the workforce, but at this stage of your career you may be ready to switch into a job with shorter hours, less stress, or more social purpose, even if it means backing off your peak pay.

"Many people need to work five or 10 years longer, but they want to do something other than make money for someone else," says Mary Bleiberg, executive director at ReServe, which places seasoned professionals in nonprofit, education, and public sector jobs (reserveinc.org). Another good site for pre-retirement jobs is retiredbrains.com.

MONEY's top jobs for folks over 50 do well in satisfaction measures like stress, flexibility, and social meaning. None require advanced degrees — too high a hurdle late in your caree…

Republicans increasing risk of recession: Geithner

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner warned Republicans that they risk helping to tip the country into recession if they fail to back President Barack Obama's jobs bill late on Tuesday.

Speaking just before the Senate was expected to vote down the US$447 billion (S$574 billion) plan, Mr Geithner launched an uncharacteristically partisan attack on Mr Obama's political foes.

Asked during an interview with Bloomberg Television whether Republicans were raising the risk of another recession by standing in the way of the bill, Mr Geithner responded: 'Absolutely.' 'If Congress does not act, it will be because Republicans decided they did not want to do anything to help the economy,' he said.

'Growth will be weaker... people will be out of work. If the bill is not passed, he added, 'We will put off the important challenges.' 'That is not something we should do.' Mr Obama has spent weeks demanding that Congress pass a full version o…

Repeat of 2008 credit crisis not likely: DBS economist

By Robin Chan

The euro zone sovereign debt crisis is unlikely to lead to a credit crunch that saw trade collapse in Asia in 2008, said DBS economist David Carbon.

'Markets have had 18 months to figure out who they can trade with. So we are unlikely to have the same ferocious snap we did in 2008,' said Mr Carbon, managing director for currency and economic research at DBS.

He was speaking at a media briefing at DBS headquarters.

'Asia's not immune, but it's not going to be 2008 all over again.'

Soros warns euro crisis could destroy world financial system

BERLIN (AFP) - Billionaire investor George Soros and some 100 former European dignitaries on Wednesday published an open letter warning that the euro zone debt crisis could bring down the global financial system.

'The euro is far from perfect,' they wrote in German business daily Handelsblatt. 'The current crisis has shown that.'

'But as a reaction to that, we need to revise the weaknesses in its make-up rather than allow the crisis to undermine, even destroy, the world's financial system,' they added.

The group, calling themselves 'concerned Europeans', appealed to governments to establish an institution that can provide liquidity to the whole euro zone, a strengthening of financial market oversight and a revised European Union (EU) growth strategy.

The letter was signed by top former politicians, such as ex-German finance minister Hans Eichel, former French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner and Pedro Solbes, who was once EU Economic and Monetary Affai…

'Terrified' of the Stock Market: What Should I Do?

by Walter Updegrave

I'm terrified of the stock market these days. I plan to retire in April, but I'm afraid I'll lose everything before then. I want to put my money in a safer place, but I don't know where. Should I sell stocks now or wait to see if they go up in value? What do you think? -- Gerry

With the global economy reeling and many analysts worried the stock market could sink into a bear market, you have a right to be concerned. The last thing you want on the eve of retirement is to watch your nest egg go into a death spiral.

But engaging in a guessing game about when to sell stocks and where to move your money isn't the right way to address your apprehensions.

What you really need to do is take a step back, assess your situation and come up with a comprehensive plan for managing your retirement resources so you'll have enough income to sustain yourself throughout retirement.

Yes, how much you should devote to stocks versus other, less volatile investments wil…

No Recession for U.S. as Forecasts Improve

Rich Miller and Vivien Lou Chen

The U.S. has likely dodged a recession for now, even though it’s too early to sound the all- clear for the economy.

A string of stronger-than-projected statistics -- capped by the news on Oct. 7 of a 103,000 rise in payrolls last month -- has prompted economists at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Macroeconomic Advisers LLC to raise their growth forecasts for third quarter growth to 2.5 percent from about 2 percent. That’s nearly double the second quarter’s 1.3 percent rate and would be the fastest growth in a year.

“The U.S. economy doesn’t look like it’s double-dipping at all,” said Allen Sinai, president of Decision Economics Inc. in New York. “But it is a crummy recovery.”

That recovery still faces what economist Chris Rupkey in New York calls “a lot of headwinds.” These range from the sovereign-debt crisis in the euro zone -- and increasing likelihood of a recession there -- to political gridlock in the U.S. over the budget.

“We can skirt a recession,” said…

Primary dealers see 35 pct chance of another recession: Poll

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Larger-than-expected jobs growth in September has Wall Street economists thinking the United States is unlikely to tip back into recession any time soon although economic growth will remain tepid, according to a Reuters poll on Friday.

The outlook for slow economic growth has most primary dealers -- the 22 large financial institutions that do business directly with the Federal Reserve -- looking for the U.S. central bank to hold interest rates at the current level near zero through 2013.

The median of forecasts from 17 of the 22 primary dealers gave a 35 percent chance the United States will slip back into recession within the next year. That level was unchanged from a similar poll done in late September.

The latest poll was conducted on Friday after the government announced U.S. employers added 103,000 jobs in September, which was above the expectation of 60,000 new jobs.

The higher-than expected jobs growth, along with upward revisions to the number of jobs added in…

Global Financial Meltdown Possible in 2 to 3 Weeks: IMF Advisor Shapiro

By Marlene Y. Satter

When asked what would happen if European political leaders could not come up with an effective plan to address the eurozone debt crisis, International Monetary Fund advisor Robert Shapiro said Friday that there would be a global financial meltdown within "two to three weeks."

Speaking in a BBC interview posted at ZeroHedge, Shapiro said that the problem was not confined to a relatively small Belgian bank (apparently referring to Dexia, whose fate is currently being determined due to its massive exposure to peripheral eurozone debt).

Instead, he said, "we are talking about the largest banks in the world, the largest banks in Germany, the largest banks in France. That will spread to the United Kingdom, in part through sovereign debt problems in Ireland. It will spread everywhere because the global financial system is so interconnected. All those banks are counterparties to every significant bank in the United States, and in Britain, and in Japan, and aro…

China’s Real Estate Market Running out of Steam

By Gao Zitan

Empty apartment buildings are reflected in a window in the city of Ordos, Inner Mongolia on Sept. 12, 2011. The city which is referred to as a 'Ghost Town' due to it's lack of people, is being built to house 1.5 million inhabitants. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

Andy Xie, former Morgan Stanley “star” chief Asia-Pacific economist, has been warning about a real estate bubble in China since 2002 and predicted that China's real estate market will collapse in 2012.

All the conditions for a real estate collapse in China seem to be in place: there’s a glut of unsold homes, prices are ski-high, and money supply is tight.

China presently has 16 billion square meters (170 billion square feet) of unsold new homes.

Many Chinese with money have invested in the booming real estate market in recent years. They bought multiple homes or apartments, which they could never rent, believing that the market would keep going up indefinitely, and their investments would pan out.

New …

Behind the Great Wall, China Is Heading for a Hard Landing: Katsenelson

By Matt Nesto

Two months ago it was all about the debt ceiling and U.S. downgrade. Then it was Fed chief Ben Bernanke in focus. Now, it seems the market moves every day reacting to developments in the European financial crisis. "The market can only focus on one thing at a time," says well-known value investor Vitaliy Katsenelson, chief investment officer at Investment Management Associates.

"That's why nobody is talking about China or Japan because we are focused on Europe today," says Katsenelson. "The spotlight will be there when things get worse."

Katsenelson was an early adopter of China skepticism and has remained bearish on the country for more than a year. Today, the fact that China is slowing and struggling with inflation and over-capacity is a given. The debate is over how much the world's second largest economy will slow.

"The argument between hard landing and soft landing is going to be won by hard landing," Katsenelson says in th…