• China's Growth May Not Be So Spectacular

    At face value, China's latest GDP numbers look impressive. Official figures released last week show that the world's fastest-growing major economy expanded 6.8 percent last quarter and 9 percent during all of 2008. Not double digits, but hefty in the context of global recession.But is that the true picture? China tabulates growth figures on a year-on-year basis, meaning that last quarter's output was 6.8 percent larger than over the final quarter of 2007. Yet in the world's two largest economies, the United States and Japan, growth is tallied sequentially by comparing one quarter's growth with that of the previous quarter. And by that measure, China's numbers fall hard. In sequential terms, Goldman Sachs calculates that China's economy expanded by just 2.6 percent in the last three months of 2008, and according to Morgan Stanley's math it actually shrank by 0.5 percent.The competing methodologies matter very much going forward. Beijing has pledged to spend some $586 billion to...
  • Why China Is Becoming The ‘Black Hole’ Of Global Markets

    Is China the financial equivalent of the scariest celestial body in the universe? In a new report that crunches Beijing's opaque numbers, analysts at Standard Chartered Bank in Hong Kong argue that the country's foreign reserves "seem to have turned into some kind of massive black hole for the world's liquidity." They calculate that China drew in a staggering $324 billion during the first four months of 2008, of which $119 billion was "unexplained" by either the country's yawning trade surplus or the inflow of legitimate foreign investment. The unexplained part—a sum just shy of Singapore's gross national income last year—is both mysterious and dangerous. The bank's widely respected head of research in China, Stephen Green, says a "hot-money vortex" is forming that could be capable of ravaging China's economy.Asians know well that hot money (typically invested by high-flying speculators searching the solar system for big, fast returns) can be a highly destabilizing force. When it...
  • Spam Options

    To stretch their battered food dollars, Americans are turning to a much-maligned staple: Spam. Sales of the canned meat product rose 10 percent over the previous three months as inflation-hit consumers used it to replace pricier cuts on their menus. And with food prices reaching heights unseen in a generation, the "spam option" is turning out to be universal.Many Japanese schools have taken beef out of lunches in favor of less costly chicken or pork. In India, lower-middle-class families are eating meat once a week on average instead of two to three times previously, while the abject poor subsist mainly on rice, chilies and salt. South Africa's slum-dwellers get by on chicken heads, feet and gizzards mixed with wild greens. In the Philippines, villagers are substituting yams and other tubers for rice they can no longer afford. Officials in Bangladesh are promoting spuds as an alternative to rice, which is in short supply. Their slogan: "Think potato, grow potato, eat potato."
  • Storm Warning

    The world could be one crop failure away from an actual food crisis. Market panic has already started.
  • The Imperfect Storm

    After China's leadership warns of 'a most difficult year' to come, the world may need to take shelter.