Carpe Diem

GM Counts on India, China to Offset U.S. Slump

An interesting Bloomberg exclusive “GM, Ford Count on India, China to Offset U.S. Slump” supports the suggestion in the post below that today’s global economy helps support the U.S. economy in ways that are fundamentally different than in the past. Consider these excerpts from the article:

1. General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner says the U.S. is in an automotive recession, and he and his fellow CEOs are looking abroad for help.

2. With sales stagnating in Europe and down in Japan as well, U.S. automakers are banking on developing markets such as China and India to ease the pain. “Everybody is aiming at Russia, China and India,” said an auto analyst. China is an automobile market that’s going to be as big as the United States or EU.

3. U.S. sales are expected to fall by 2.5% in 2008 to 15.7 million units, but worldwide sales are expected to rise 4% this year to 75 million vehicles. In other words, almost 80% of the world vehicle market is now OUTSIDE the U.S.

4. The biggest sales gains for vehicles will come from countries where the rate of automobile ownership is climbing, like China, Russia, Eastern Europe.

5. In 2007, GM last year sold more than 1 million vehicles in China for the first time, and sales there are expected to grow by 15% this year.

6. GM sold 1 million units last year for the first time in the Latin America, Africa and Middle East region.

7. GM sold 3.82 million vehicles in the U.S. in 2007, and about 5.5 million units OUTSIDE the U.S., which means that GM now depends on foreign sales for almost 60% of its total sales.

Bottom Line: In previous U.S. economic or automotive slowdowns, especially in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, there certainly weren’t strong growth areas in countries like China, India, Russia, etc. to help support GM and Ford when U.S. sales slumped. It should be considered a positive development that in an era of globalization, Ford and GM are no longer so dependent on just the U.S. market.

Carpe Diem

Worldwide Outsourcing Industry Rebounding

Equaterra, one of the leading outsourcing advisory firms, just released its latest quarterly report on worldwide outsourcing activity, based on a survey of its advisors. From its press release:

“Despite fear of a recession in the U.S., jitters on virtually all major stock exchanges worldwide and widespread cut-backs in corporate spending, EquaTerra’s 4Q2007 Pulse surveys revealed that outsourcing demand is rebounding, with continued strong growth in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and a substantial increase in North America. In fact, 70% of EquaTerra advisors cited increased demand levels for Information Technology (IT) and business process outsourcing in 4Q07, with demand up 19% over 3Q07, up 24% over 4Q06, and at the highest level recorded since 2Q05. Further, 59% of service providers cited new deal pipeline growth in 4Q07, and 57% expect demand to increase in 1Q08.”

Reasons for the recent rebound in outsourcing demand include:

1. Increased focus on the bottom line and cost reduction (one benefit of an economic slowdown?)

2. New and growing areas like legal and knowledge process outsourcing, and document and electronic records management

3. More but smaller outsourcing deals spread across a greater number of service providers and delivered on a more global basis

Bottom Line: Today’s inter-connected global economy, fueled by worldwide outsourcing, represents a fundamental shift in the way the world operates, probably in ways we haven’t even fully appreciated yet. Worldwide outsourcing opportunities are increasing continually, which in many important ways serve to increase the resiliency, flexibility and strength of both the emerging economies and the advanced economies like the U.S. Isn’t it possible that globalization and outsourcing help to support and insulate the U.S. economy from significant economic downturns and recession?

Carpe Diem

Commercial Bank Loans At Record-High

The chart above (click to enlarge) shows the series “Commercial and Industrial Loans of Weekly Reporting Large Commercial Banks” from 1988-2008, available from the Federal Reserve via FRED. A couple key points:

1. As of the first week of January, commercial bank loans are at a record high of $760 billion.

2. It was only three months ago, in early October 2007, that commercial bank loans surpassed the previous record high commercial loan volume of $722 billion set back in September 2000 (a banking milestone that went unreported).

3. Compared to many economic and banking variables that are reported only monthly or quarterly, often with long lags, commercial bank loans are reported weekly, with a lag of only a few weeks, and therefore provide important, current, and up-to-date information on commercial bank lending.

4. It’s true that “commercial and industrial loans outstanding” are considered to be a lagging indicator by The Conference Board, but it’s also true that commercial loans started declining at the onset of both of the last two recessions (see chart above).

Bottom Line: Given the continuing strength of commercial bank lending at record-high levels through early January, it’s highly unlikely that the U.S. economy has entered into a recession. I’ll continue to monitor this important economic variable.

Carpe Diem

Remember: Government Has No Money to Give, II

And Government’s “Transfer Bucket” Leaks:

The standard stimulus package doesn’t change incentives. It’s a check from the government. The hope is that the receiver will spend it. But when you just send out checks from the government, whoever gets stimulated is likely to be offset by someone who gets unstimulated.

The money has to come from somewhere. If you raise taxes to fund the plan, the people who are taxed are poorer and they’ll spend less. If you borrow money to fund the plan, the people who buy the government bonds have less money to spend and that offsets the stimulus. It’s like taking a bucket of water from the deep end of a pool and dumping it into the shallow end. Funny thing—the water in the shallow end doesn’t get any deeper.

And even the people who get the money often save more of it than they spend.

That’s why stimulus schemes based on giving people money have a poor track record of energizing the economy. Usually, the only thing that gets stimulated is a politician’s approval rating.

~From George Mason economist and Cafe Hayek blogger Russ Roberts on NPR, transcript available here

Bottom Line: Despite what the media, general public and politicians seem to believe, there simply is no such thing as government money. For the government to send out tax rebates to one group, they have to: a) raise taxes on other groups to get the money, or b) borrow money from other groups to get the money, meaning there cannot be any net positive stimulus, as Professor Roberts suggests above. It’s merely a coerced government transfer of funds from Group A to Group B, making one group better off at the expense of the other group.

The only comment I would add is that the transfer of water from the deep end of the pool to the shallow end in Professor Roberts’ example is done with government’s leaky and porous bucket (pictured above), so that the pool actually loses water overall and becomes smaller at both ends!

Carpe Diem

Remember: The Government Has No Money to Give

Appearing before Congress, Mr. Bernanke told Democrats what he thought they wanted to hear. The former academic economist blessed a “fiscal stimulus package,” as long as it is “explicitly temporary.” How new federal spending can be “temporary,” he didn’t say, as if a dollar collected in taxes or borrowed and then spent can be recalled.

We’re all for putting more money in the hands of the poor and moderate earners, especially via stronger economic growth that will give them better paying jobs. But the $250 or $500 one-time rebate check they may now receive has to come from somewhere. The feds will pay for it either by taxing or borrowing from someone else, and those people will have that much less to spend or invest themselves. We are thus supposed to believe it is “stimulating” to take money from one pocket and hand it to another.

~Today’s WSJ Staff editorial

Not to mention that the transfer of $250 or $500 from rich to poor won’t be neutral, it will involve a net loss to the economy, due to the inefficiencies of the transfer, i.e. the “leaky bucket effect” noted by economist Arthur Okun in 1975. According to Okun, “The money must be carried from the rich to the poor in a leaky bucket. Some of it will simply disappear in transit, so the poor will not receive all the money that is taken from the rich.”

Carpe Diem

Global Stock Market Wealth in 2007 Sets Records


According to data just released by the World Federation of Exchanges, global stock market capitalization reached a new record of $60 trillion in 2007 (see top chart above). The increase in stock market value of $10 trillion during the year also established a new all-time record for the largest annual increase of global stock market wealth in history, beating the previous record of a $9.66 trillion increase in 2006 (see bottom chart above).

Consider also that $38.2 trillion of world stock market value was created between 2002-2007 ($22.5 to $60.7 trillion). In the chart above, notice that world stock market value in 1999 set a new record of $35 trillion before declining for three consecutive years (2000, 2001, 2002) during the Dot.com bust.

Think about it: It took the entire history of the world until 1999 to create the first $35 trillion of stock market wealth; and then more than that amount of wealth was created ($38.2 trillion) in just the most recent five-year period from 2002-2007! Not a bad record for wealth creation, largely because of globalization and the most significant spread of free market capitalism in history.

Carpe Diem

Premium SUV Market Is Booming in India

General Motors India (GMI), the Indian arm of the US automobile manufacturer, has entered the premium SUV segment, by launching Chevrolet Captiva this week, its new sports utility vehicle for the Indian market.

The Chevrolet Captiva (pictured above) is priced to compete with Honda CR-V -which is sold at Rs 18.4 lakh ($47,000), Pajero – priced at 18.8 lakh ($48,000)and Nissan X-Trails – it’s priced at Rs 23 lakh ($58,000). The 2-litre diesel driven Captiva will be available to the customers for Rs 17.74 lakh (about $45,000).


Following the launch of the $2,500 Tata Nano in India earlier this week, the introduction of the Chevy Captiva in India suggests that both the low-end and high-end vehicle markets are profitable and thriving in India’s booming, red-hot economy.

This is the other side of outsourcing and globalization that Lou Dobbs, John Kerry and John Edwards seem oblivious to. Who is buying $50,000 Chevy SUVs in India? Perhaps it’s a manager or executive at Bangalore-based Infosys or Wipro, who got promoted and received bonuses based on providing BPO services to a U.S. corporation, and now can afford to buy a $50,000 vehicle from GM?

Carpe Diem

Zimbabwe Introduces New 10 Million Dollar Note

What happens when you have 50,000% inflation? The 200,000 note in Zimbabwe, pictured below, is worth only 3 cents, and you need new 10,000,000 notes.

Johannesburg/Harare - President Robert Mugabe’s government, stricken by chronic hyperinflation, announced today it will introduce a 10 million Zimbabwe dollar note (along with 1 million and 5 million notes). Economists said it was the highest denomination of any currency in the world.

The issue of new notes follows nearly three months of banking chaos as cash dried up and queues, sometimes hundreds of meters long, became a permanent feature outside commercial banks.

Zimbabwe is in its 10th year of economic crisis, marked by the world’s highest rate of inflation, the fastest shrinking gross domestic product in a country not in a state of war, the most rapidly collapsing currency and unemployment of over 80%.

Economists said the disappearance of cash was a result of inflation estimated at 50,000% – the government has banned publication of official figures – that forces shoppers to pay with brick-sized bundles of near-worthless notes for a few simple groceries.


A year ago, the highest denomination was 10,000 Zimbabwe dollars, then worth about $7, now worth about 1/3 of 1 cent (US). The new 10 million Zimbabwe dollar note is worth $3 (US). During the year there were three separate new issues of notes as inflation continued to soar, including the 200,000 note pictured above, which is worth worth only 6 cents (US).

The Zimbabwe Central Bank remained optimistic about the situation, and a spokesman said “As monetary authorities we once again assure the nation that we are in full control of the currency situation.”