27 July 2007

It's official... this blog has moved

Okay, it's official. This blog has moved to http://ecoecon.wordpress.com/

If you've been coming by here regularly it's time to update your bookmarks. I made a few edits to the default CSS template over at word press and I believe I'm committed to the change. There are a number of features that are definitely improvements on blogspot including easy integration of content pages outside the post and comment blogging format and better post editing tools. I do like the way the archives widget works better here on blogspot, but I think the choice is made.

For the next week or so I'll check back in here and move any random comments that turn up over to the new site. But, if you are looking for new posts they'll be posted over there, or rather here: the visible hand

26 July 2007

Possible move to wordpress...

For those of you who come by here regularly:

I've been checking out Wordpress blog hosting. Though I actually like the way this blogspot version looks, there are several features over at Wordpress that are improvements. I'm toying with the idea of signing up for the style sheet editing feature to make a few changes to the formatting.

There are a couple of new posts on the Wordpress version that aren't posted here. If you're interested, check out the visible hand on Wordpress at http://ecoecon.wordpress.com/

I'd be interested in any comments on the new format if you are so moved. For now I'll keep looking in on both blogs...


24 July 2007

Hypocrisy Reigns in Anti-Takeover Defenses

Bloomberg.com: Opinion
Hypocrisy Reigns in Anti-Takeover Defenses
By Michael R. Sesit
July 20 (Bloomberg) -- How's this for disingenuous?

For years, China, Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Norway and other countries have lent billions to Americans and Europeans. The money helped pay for the burgeoning U.S. trade deficit, funded consumers living beyond their means and financed budget shortfalls in the U.S., Germany, France and Italy.

Bloated with currency reserves totaling hundreds of billions of dollars -- in China's case $1.3 trillion -- many of these reserve-rich countries want to break open their piggy banks and invest the cash more profitably than just parking their funds in low-yielding U.S. and European government bonds.

Suspecting that this expanded appetite includes the acquisition of entire companies, Western countries, led by the U.S. and European Union, are already raising hackles -- signaling that the direct or indirect takeover of key companies or financial institutions is a no-go. And this is happening without anyone having made any offers recently.

Carbon Trading Is the New Big Thing

In London, Carbon Trading Is the New Big Thing -
Mergers, Acquisitions, Venture Capital, Hedge Funds -- DealBook - New York Times
July 6, 2007, 8:04 am

Seeking to match a desire to make money with his environmental instincts, Louis Redshaw, a former electricity trader, met with five investment banks in 2004 to propose the trading of carbon dioxide. Only one, Barclays Capital, was interested.

Three years later, the situation has turned, and carbon specialists like Mr. Redshaw are among the rising stars in the London financial district.

Managing emissions has become one of the fastest-growing specialties in financial services, and companies are scrambling to find workers, The New York Times’ James Kanter writes. Their goal is a slice of a market now worth about $30 billion and that could grow to $1 trillion within a decade.

“Carbon will be the world’s biggest commodity market, and it could become the world’s biggest market over all,” said Mr. Redshaw, the head of environmental markets at Barclays Capital.

21 July 2007

market climbs a wall of worry, bounces off glass ceiling

The Dow broke 14k this week, yet another new record.

WTF. The dollar is in decline, prices on food, fuel and commodities are going up, the housing market isn't due to rebound till at least 2009 and the willingness of foreign central banks to purchase US debt is weakening.

The Dow also fell over 150 points from peak to trough twice prompting an increase in sightings of the rumored Plunge Protection Team in the comments sections of blogs that follow such things.

It appears that most local folks don't care much about the market unless they have money invested. While I'm sympathetic with this point of view there are a number of local issues impacted by national and global trends -- in particular county land use policy and low income housing. Bucking these trends will be hard, we might want to plan ahead.

For those of you who might be interested in points of view on the current record setting stock market and the underlying economy itself that aren't directly funded by it's beneficiaries or housing market info that isn't specifically aimed at rebuilding lost confidence and minimizing downsides here are a couple of blogs worth reviewing. Don't forget to read the comments sections... very informative. If you want the consensus view, just watch TV.

Nouriel Roubini's Blog

Roubini is an economist and doesn't slow down to explain his terms. You may find it useful to use Firefox so you can select unfamiliar terms, right click and google them on the spot.

Calculated Risk

The Calculated Risk blog is definitely irreverent... even funny. It's focuses on the mortgage market with many comments from traders and industry pros that range far beyond straight up mortgage/investment instrument analyses. If you don't want to start with the nerdly details you might try this link first.

Check it out...

11 July 2007

By 2012 Oil Production Is Expected to Fall Short Of Global Demand

IEA Forecast Underlines Oil, Gas Supply Worries - WSJ.com
By 2012, Production Is Expected to Fall Short Of Global Demand

July 10, 2007; Page A12

The industrialized world's energy watchdog added to rising concerns in some quarters that oil and natural gas production won't keep up with the world's growing thirst for energy in coming years, highlighting worries over supplies and prices.

The Paris-based International Energy Agency, which monitors energy markets on behalf of the world's 26 most-advanced economies, yesterday released its annual medium-term forecast, projecting conditions through 2012. The agency expects oil supply to be tighter in coming years than it had forecast, with little prospect of relief unless world economic growth falters.
• Growing Tight: The IEA said the world could face an oil- and gas-supply crunch in coming years amid rising demand.
• Thin Cushion: Economic growth is expected to spur demand, but the IEA sees OPEC's spare capacity narrowing and expects growth from non-OPEC sources to dwindle after 2009.
• Price Pressure: The forecast adds to concerns over world oil supplies and implies continued upward pressure on petroleum prices.

The IEA doesn't forecast oil prices, but its conclusions imply that consumers should expect continued upward pressure on the cost of energy.

"Oil and gas price pressures look set to remain in the coming years," the IEA report said. "Slower-than-expected [gross-domestic-product] growth may provide a breathing space, but it is abundantly clear that if the path of demand doesn't change on its own, it may well be driven to change by higher prices," the report said.

Senators unveil anti-pollution proposal

Lawmakers unveil anti-pollution proposal
By H. JOSEF HEBERT Associated Press Writer
Article Launched: 07/11/2007 01:32:00 PM PDT

WASHINGTON—The nation can begin to address the risks of climate change while avoiding harm to the economy, senators said Wednesday in unveiling anti-pollution legislation.

The bill would establish a mandatory cap on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, refineries and industrial plants but allow companies to trade emission credits and avoid making emissions cuts if the costs become too high.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., one of the bill's chief sponsors, called it a "strong and balanced approach ... while protecting the American economy." It also includes incentives aimed at spurring other nations such as China to address climate change.

Economics Departments Growing Will to Debate Assumptions

In Economics Departments, a Growing Will to Debate Fundamental Assumptions - New York Times

Published: July 11, 2007

For many economists, questioning free-market orthodoxy is akin to expressing a belief in intelligent design at a Darwin convention: Those who doubt the naturally beneficial workings of the market are considered either deluded or crazy.

But in recent months, economists have engaged in an impassioned debate over the way their specialty is taught in universities around the country, and practiced in Washington, questioning the profession’s most cherished ideas about not interfering in the economy.

“There is much too much ideology,” said Alan S. Blinder, a professor at Princeton and a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. Economics, he added, is “often a triumph of theory over fact.” Mr. Blinder helped kindle the discussion by publicly warning in speeches and articles this year that as many as 30 million to 40 million Americans could lose their jobs to lower-paid workers abroad. Just by raising doubts about the unmitigated benefits of free trade, he made headlines and had colleagues rubbing their eyes in astonishment.

“What I’ve learned is anyone who says anything even obliquely that sounds hostile to free trade is treated as an apostate,” Mr. Blinder said....

Criticizing the approach that currently dominates the field, Mr. Blinder said economists must look more closely at the real world instead of modeling it in the lab. “Economics is insufficiently scientific,” he said. “Mathematics may be useful, but mathematics is not scientific. It doesn’t generate refutable hypotheses.”...

Max B. Sawicky at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, a nonprofit research organization that is a bulwark of heterodoxy, wrote in a discussion on tpmcafe.com that, “The duty of orthodoxy is clear: deny departmental positions and resources to inferior research programs and purify the top journals of incorrect thinking, all understood as maintaining high standards.”

This is the point where Mr. Rodrik, who has written extensively on the downside of globalization, departs from both Mr. Sawicky and Mr. Blinder.... he acknowledged that inflexible rules about how one makes an argument and what counts as evidence can create blind spots, but insisted that once those rules were accepted, there was tremendous openness inside the academy.

The problem is outside, where economists are expected to “regurgitate ideas” about the glories of the free market. Most mainstream economists think that voicing any skepticism or doubt provides “ammunition to the barbarians,” he said, and allows narrow-minded people to “hijack any argument to suit their purpose.”

Mr. Rodrik said he used to worry about this until he realized that “on any issue, there are barbarians on both sides,” so there was no point in shading an argument to “suit one set of barbarians over the other.”

“And I’ve slept a lot better since.”

Golly, we didn't mean... you know... don't they have prisons?

Growing complaints of shoddy and unsafe products coming out of China led to a quick response by Beijing leaders... It appears that Chinese leadership concerns regarding protectionist US policy are dead serious.

More quality control of China food imports needed in both U.S., China
by Jing Zhou
Jun 27, 2007

Among some of Chicago’s food markets, there are complaints of inadequate U.S. governmental and technical support to secure the quality of food imported from China.

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration wouldn’t care about our warehouse unless there’s a customer complaint,” said Judy Yu, accountant for Richwell Market, a food market in Chicago’s Chinatown. Otherwise, she said inspections occur about every two months.

Yu and other retailers say safeguards are important because they are the last links in the international food chain between potentially dangerous products and consumers.

Whole Grain Fresh Market in Westmont, Ill. said they depend solely on licensed food importers from New York for quality control.

Both markets said the recent food scandals caused a slight sales drop, mostly from non-Asian customers.

China Quick to Execute Drug Official
Published: July 11, 2007

BEIJING, July 10 — China executed its former top food and drug regulator on Tuesday for taking bribes to approve untested medicine, as the Beijing leadership scrambled to show that it was serious about improving the safety of Chinese products.

The Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court carried out the death sentence against Zheng Xiaoyu, 62, the former head of the State Food and Drug Administration, shortly after the country’s Supreme Court rejected his final appeal.

Mr. Zheng, who had appealed his May 29 sentence on the grounds that it was too severe and that he had confessed to the bribery charges against him, became the first ministerial-level official put to death since 2000 and the fourth since China opened its doors to the outside world nearly 30 years ago.