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By ZamChro

It is very scary to see  Kwacha depreciating at a very fast rate. It is costing almost K6 000/per $1. The Jump from Nov’08 to February is just too enormous. This is what we predicated way back here at Zambian Chronicle, the collapse of the world economy is evidently has a lot of impact on the Zambian economy .

That is what happens when you are so dependent on the outside funding. Something is really wrong. This is what happened to Zimbabwe.

In America the economy is souring twice as much, although unlike Kwacha, the $ is appreciating. People are losing homes like crazy and job losses are sky rocketing.

US bank shares hit 17-year low yesterday on rising fears the government will have to nationalize troubled institutions such as Citigroup and Bank of America wiping out investors’ confidence as they feared government controlling of large portion of the financial sector.

According to the Financial Times report, Bank of America shares slid 14% to $3.93 their lowest point since 1984. Share in Citi were down 13.8%, closing at $2.51, their lowest since 1991.

There some options for the banks being discussed. One option, at least for Citi- would be to convert some or all of the government’s $45bn holding of preferred shares, as well as the $35bn in preferred shares held by sovereign wealth funds and other investors into common stock.

There is some refreshing news though from at least one country.

Canada has shown itself to be a pretty  good manager of the financial system in ways that haven’t always been in the United States. This is due to stricter regulation and their conservative culture, one that depends heavily on a vast and stable retail branch network, and clubby working relationship,.

Canada‘s banks have remained the strongest in the G7 and according to the October report by the world Economic Forum, the soundest in the world.

According to a Finance professor at the University of Toronto,  “… in Canada they do it the old fashioned way, where you need money you go to the bank and they will lend you no more than 75% of the value of your house. Canada is a more conservative place and as much as it limits growth in good times, that approach pays off when others begin a race to the bottom.”

It even gets better to know that there is a country like Canada in this world with reliable banks. Instead of our consulting Nigerians, it may be beneficial if President Banda would surround himself with world leaders like the Prime Minister of Canada.

In Canada, five banks the Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Bank of Nova Scotia, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Bank of Montreal , Largely control the market through thousands of branches across the country, forcing geographic diversification and efficiencies of scale generally not found in US or other countries.

Canadian investment banks, as part of commercial banks, are more tightly regulated and kept in check by main institutions, which would pay a price for unwise investing.

The Financial Times reported that after President Obama’s first visit to Canada, he has decided on taking a path that other presidents have not taken in the past putting banks his agenda and staying open minded to new ideas.

More drama on the souring economy.

On another note, UBS has been sued on account of 52,000 Account holders. The Department of Justice sued the Swiss bank giant for records on thousands of U.S customers. The DOJ says UBS agreed to pay a $780Million fine and reveal information on 250 US customers to avoid prosecution but vowed to fight the broader disclosure. Though some think the end of secret Swiss banking is nigh.

Copyrights © 2009 Zambian Chronicle. All rights reserved. Zambian Chronicle content may not be stored except for personal, non-commercial use. Republication and redissemination of Zambian Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Zambian Chronicle. Zambian Chronicle shall not be liable for any errors, omissions, interruptions or delays in connection with the Zambian Chronicle content or from any damages arising therefrom. 

Zambian Chronicle is a wholly owned subsidiary of Microplus Holdings International, Inc.

Copyrights © 2009 Microplus Holdings Int., Inc.

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I have been inundated with a lot of questions about the global economy this week; a lot of these questions are to do with the impact of the US economical woes on our global franchise, the Zambian Enterprise included.

 

So, I decided to put on my financial consultant hat and delve into as many econometrical variables as possible to try and explain what a layman may not be told are actually the causes of the economic impasse in the United States.

 

We at the Zambian Chronicle saw this coming as early as last year and in January we published David Frazier’s Global Economic Briefing in US Recession Could Affect Our Global Enterprise, The Zambian Enterprise Included …. This was followed by the Bush Administration’s rebuttal in Bush Sees No Recession Yet the very next month.

 

The argument from the administration has always been that economic fundamental have been sound and therefore much of the attention has been on monetary policy as the Federal Reserve Board has been trying to work on efficacy by reducing Fed Funds Rates. By the way, the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 gave the Fed more power than even the President of the United States when it comes to fiscal policy …

 

The problem with the reduction(s) of the funds rates though was that it created an illusion that by lowering the rates, the cost of borrowing would be lower thereby encouraging market participation by increased credit derivatives (lending and borrowing) in the market.

 

So new buyers were introduced into the system; mortgagee(s) rushed in and started refinancing already existing loans at the new lower interest rates at times cashing in on existing equity and business was booming as finance companies managed to make tones of money from loan origination fees, increased their asset holdings at much higher appraised values while turning around to sell mortgaged backed securities on the secondary market.

 

This illusion missed one point though; liquidity, liquidity, liquidity … the US unemployment rate has steadily been increasing from a “One State Recession” in Michigan at about 12% to the national average of about 6%. This meant that more and more people were getting out of work and despite their new lower mortgage rates and cashed out equity, they had no “ability to pay”.

 

Meanwhile the Federal Reserve kept on lowering the funds rates which eventually became a stimulus that would only encourage further mischief as lenders abrogated their fiduciary duties extending credit to unworthy borrowers and cut corners to close on deals.

 

The Fed regime was an accomplice to that reckless behavior. A fed funds rate of around 3.5% was a detriment particularly with commodities prices soaring and incipient inflation coming to US shores from demand-pull pressures and rising labor costs.

 

A real palliative came in as home owners started defaulting due to their lack of liquidity, leading to foreclosures and short sells. As homes foreclosed and or are short sold, their values declined thereby creating negative equity.

 

But that’s not all, what added salt to the injury is what is called “securitization”. This particularly in the US market comes in the form of Mortgage Backed Securities – MBS. These are asset backed securities sold on the secondary market whose cash flow is backed by collateralized mortgages.

 

Any one with an understanding of basic finance knows that if you borrowed $100,000.00 for 30 years you would probably pay back $300,000.00 on that same mortgage, $200,000.00 of which would be interest income for the lender.

 

These MBSs are backed by that interest income, sold as bonds and or other financial derivatives on the secondary market with a guaranteed yield. Insurance companies, retirement funds and other ultra-virus thrifts like to invest into these marketable securities because of their guaranteed revenues.

 

Well, the problem is if people have no work and thereby are defaulting, then the MBSs are not in actuality guaranteed for the loan term(s) because of foreclosures and or short sells in a downturn economy or prepaids in a vibrant one.

 

These marketable securities (MBSs) are a prerogative of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and they are regulated by them but they were asleep at the switch. The Federal Reserve Board is in charge of monetary policy and just kept on lowering funds rates and was asleep at the switch.

 

The Department of Treasury has a stake in checking on the yields from MBSs because they affect yields on Treasury Bills but was asleep at the switch; the Bush Administration was busy chasing Bin Laden and was asleep at the switch while the US Congress are supposed to be the watchdog for the tax payers but were busy fighting partisan politics, sleeping at the swath.

 

As of the first quarter of 2006, the total market value of all outstanding MBSs was approximately USD 6.1 trillion, according to The Bond Market Association. These are paper assets in which tax payers’ retirement security has been vested and is likely to be lost if no one takes the right steps going forward.

 

There two schools of thought going on this weekend in Congress, one that says a Government bailout means socializing the markets. Another school of thought wants to lend money to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac so they can pay back with interest using market forces.

 

We at the Zambian Chronicle see an opportunity for the Federal Government so good to be passed on. The best route would be an outright bailout that places Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac under receivership.

 

This route would not only make the American tax payers shareholders in the $700 billion bailout  enterprise but as these non-performing loans are turned around into performing assets all future interest income can be turned around to be invested into the Social Security and Medicaid/Medicare Trust Funds which are scheduled to go bankrupt by 2045.

 

… problem is I am not running for President of the United States of America; can’t run – not a US born citizen and so they probably would not listen …

 

In closing, this is a dire lesson for all emerging markets, the Zambian Enterprise included. What we have learnt is that greed is bad; using securitization, fund managers increased their income as they lowered their own risks.

 

By cutting corners, greedy loan officers and finance companies made a short term killing and by sleeping at the switch, the SEC, the Feds, the Bush Administration and the US Congress almost crushed the world’s beacon for capitalism.

 

Sometimes, it’s good to know that no one is actually looking out for you after all, you are on your own and you better watch your own back …

 

Live Long & Prosper; that’s this week’s memo from us at the Zambian Chronicle … thanks a trillion.

 

Brainwave R Mumba, Sr.

CEO  & President – Zambian Chronicle 

 

Copyrights © 2008 Zambian Chronicle. All rights reserved. Zambian Chronicle content may not be stored except for personal, non-commercial use. Republication and redissemination of Zambian Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Zambian Chronicle. Zambian Chronicle shall not be liable for any errors, omissions, interruptions or delays in connection with the Zambian Chronicle content or from any damages arising therefrom. 

Zambian Chronicle is a wholly owned subsidiary of Microplus Holdings International, Inc.

Copyrights © 2008 Microplus Holdings Int., Inc.

 

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Greg Mitchell Tue Jul 22, 8:23 PM ET

An ABC-TV outlet in Houston, and now the Houston Chronicle, have posted a video taken at a political fundraiser for Pete Olson, featuring George W. Bush last week — capturing some embarrassing/revealing moments after, he noted, he had asked cameras to be turned off. 

The first moments form the July 18 event find him speaking almost incoherently in admitting, for once, that his friends in big business had screwed up: “There’s no question about it. Wall Street got drunk —that’s one of the reasons I asked you to turn off the TV cameras — it got drunk and now it’s got a hangover. The question is how long will it sober up and not try to do all these fancy financial instruments.”

Then, making light of the foreclosure crisis, he said: “And then we got a housing issue… not in Houston, and evidently not in Dallas, because Laura’s over there trying to buy a house. [great laughter] I like Crawford but unfortunately after eight years of sacrifice, I am apparently no longer the decision maker.”

No one is saying how ABC’s Miya Shay got the video or how it emerged.

Greg Mitchell’s new book is So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits — and the President — Fails on Iraq. He is editor of Editor & Publisher.

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By Shapi Shacinda

LUSAKA (Reuters) – Zambia has enough currency reserves to protect the economy in case the illness of President Levy Mwanawasa prompts some reduction in foreign investment, central bank Governor Caleb Fundanga said on Tuesday.

Fundanga said the only slight worry of the Bank of Zambia (BoZ) was rising oil and food prices, which threatened its single digit inflation target. However, he remained optimistic of achieving 7.0 percent annual inflation in December this year.

Fundanga said it was evident the illness of Mwanawasa, who is in a French hospital after suffering a second stroke, had caused anxiety among some investors but that there was “no need for panic”.

“The investors in the mines will continue exporting copper. It is possible that … some investors may decide to pull out, but we have enough reserves, $1.4 billion held by the Bank of Zambia and another $1 billion by commercial banks,” Fundanga told a news conference, adding Zambia had 5.6 months of import cover.

Mwanawasa impressed the International Monetary Fund and other Western donors by cracking down on government spending and launching an anti-corruption drive.

Fundanga said Zambia had investment pledges totalling $1.8 billion so far this year compared with just $1 billion in the first six months of 2007. The government has previously said a number of these investments have been fulfilled.

“Naturally, as a result of the illness of the captain, as some refer to the president, there are some people who might be feeling uncomfortable. Given this situation, are we vulnerable? Will all forex (foreign exchange) dry up? The answer is ‘no’,” Fundanga added.

He said mining and non-traditional sectors had continued to perform satisfactorily with copper export earnings for the three months to June just 0.1 percent lower than the previous quarter’s earnings, at $967.6 million.

Fundanga said non-traditional exports at $187.6 million at end-June were 12.3 percent above the $167.1 million recorded in the previous quarter ending in March.

“Favourable export earnings have led to the strengthening of the external sector reflected in the appreciation of the kwacha against major currencies and a 10 percent increase in international reserves to $1,338.4 billion in June 2008 from $1,216.3 billion in March 2008,” he said.

There were inflationary pressures from a 15 percent wage increase for civil servants from January and from higher global oil prices, which would put pressure on transport and commodity prices.

“However, these pressures may be mitigated by pass-through effects of the appreciation of the exchange rate of the (Zambian) kwacha against major currencies on account of external sector performance,” Fundanga said.

Fundanga said the kwacha appreciated 11.3 percent against the dollar in the three months to June to trade at an average of 3,259/dollar.

“We cannot give up on 7.0 percent inflation at the end of the year because we have enough food to feed ourselves and we will not necessarily be affected by global food prices,” he added.

(Lusaka newsroom + 260-977843609/260-955779523)

 

 

Bloomberg reported that Indonesia’s largest tin producer PT Timah is considering acquisitions in Zambia and Australia.

The report quoted Mr Abrun Abubakar corporate secretary of PT Timah as saying that “We are trying to buy mines, both overseas and local.”

He added that “It is a very preliminary consideration for acquisitions and further studies are needed.”

Bisnis Indonesia citing Mr Krishna Syarif director finance of PT Timah had earlier reported that the company is considering buying tin mines in Zambia and Australia. Timah may seek loans of more than the IDR 4 trillion (USD 431 million) it previously planned if it goes ahead with the acquisitions.

PT Timah said on May 12th 2008 said that it was in talks with banks for IDR 4 trillion in loans for acquisitions, including about IDR 2 trillion to be allocated for buying coal mines.

UN warns on food price inflation

Pakistani women at subsidised food store 03.03.08

Governments are urged to take action to help ease rising prices

The head of the UN World Food Programme has warned that the rise in basic food costs could continue until 2010.Josette Sheeran blamed soaring energy and grain prices, the effects of climate change and demand for biofuels.

Miss Sheeran has already warned that the WFP is considering plans to ration food aid due to a shortage of funds.

Some food prices rose 40% last year, and the WFP fears the world’s poorest will buy less food, less nutritious food or be forced to rely on aid.

Speaking after briefing the European Parliament, Miss Sheeran said the agency needed an extra $375m (244m euros; £187m) for food projects this year and $125m (81m euros; £93m) to transport it.

This is not a short-term bubble and will definitely continue
Josette Sheeran
WFP

She said she saw no quick solution to high food and fuel costs.

“The assessment is that we are facing high food prices at least for the next couple of years,” she said.

Miss Sheeran said global food reserves were at their lowest level in 30 years – with enough to cover the need for emergency deliveries for 53 days, compared with 169 days in 2007.

Biofuel prices

Among the contributing factors to high food prices is biofuel production.

Miss Sheeran says demand for crops to produce biofuels is increasing prices for food stuffs such as palm oil.

Miss Sheeran said governments needed “to look more carefully at the link between the acceleration in biofuels and food supply and give more thought to it”.

The WFP says countries where price rises are expected to have a most direct impact include Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Haiti, Djibouti, the Gambia, Tajikistan, Togo, Chad, Benin, Burma, Cameroon, Niger, Senegal, Yemen and Cuba.

Areas where the WFP is already seeing an impact include:

  • Afghanistan: 2.5 million people in Afghanistan cannot afford the price of wheat, which rose more than 60% in 2007
  • Bangladesh: The price of rice has risen 25% to 30% over the last three months. In 2007, the price rose about 70%.
  • El Salvador: Rural communities are buying 50% less food than they did 18 months ago with the same amount of money. This means their nutritional intake, on an already poor diet, is cut by half.
  • Anger over rising food prices have already led to riots in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Senegal and Morocco.

    The BBC is planning a special day of coverage of this issue on Tuesday 11 March, online, on radio and on TV.
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    Fed Can’t Print Its Way Out

    A well-known stock market commentator this week said, “There’s been no growth in the money supply for two to three years.”

    He also suggested that the recent increase in consumer credit is a positive economic development.

    Well, here are the facts. At the end of November, the latest date for which data is currently available, the most common measure of the money supply, known as M2, had risen 11.4 percent since November 2005 and 16 percent since November 2004.

    (Just in case you wanted to know: The M2 money stock includes currency, coins and traveler’s checks held by the public; balances in commercial bank checking accounts; balances at credit unions; savings accounts and certificates of deposit accounts less than $100,000; overnight repurchase agreements at commercial banks; and non-institutional money market accounts).

    A broader measure of the money supply, the MZM money stock, has risen at an even faster rate over the past few years.

    As of Nov. 30, MZM had risen 18.2 percent since Nov. 30, 2005 and 20.8 percent since Nov. 30, 2004.

    (In detail, MZM includes all of the components of M2 mentioned before, plus institutional money market accounts and greater-than-one-day repurchase agreements).

    So, as you can see, the money supply has clearly grown over the past few years.

    My guess is that the well-respected economist who made the comments about the lack of growth in the money supply was referring to a different measure of money, known as the monetary base. That’s defined as currency in circulation plus funds held by commercial banks at their respective region’s federal reserve bank (“reserves”).

    Although the monetary base also has risen over the past few years, it has grown at a much slower pace than the M2 or MZM money stock. As of Dec. 31, 2007, the monetary base had risen a modest 4.2 percent since December 2005 and only 8.5 percent since December 2004.

    So, you’re probably thinking “Why all of the talk about the money supply?”

    The answer is this: When the money supply increases, short-term interest rates tend to decline, and when the money supply decreases, short-term rates tend to rise.

    In fact, the Federal Reserve adjusts the target rate for the Fed funds rate by affecting the level of the money supply, or more precisely, by affecting the monetary base.

    When the Fed seeks to lower the target Fed funds rate — the rate at which commercial banks borrow (overnight) from one another — the Fed increases its purchases of U.S. Treasury securities in the open market.

    (Those who follow the Fed may have noticed that the press releases issued by the Federal Reserve following meetings on interest rate policy always begins with statement, “The Federal Open Market Committee decided to… ”. That’s why it’s called the “open market” committee, because it buys securities on the open market.)

    Likewise, when the Fed desires a higher Fed funds rate, it sells U.S. Treasury securities.

    However, the Fed is not able to set the exact level of M2, MZM or other money supplies, because there are other factors that affect the money supply.

    For example, the ongoing credit crunch and large sums of money that commercial banks have lent to financially-strapped businesses and to individuals over the past six months has caused commercial bank reserves to fall — even though the Federal Reserve has increased its purchases of Treasury securities.

    As a result of the decline in bank reserves, the monetary base has grown at an anemic rate over the past few months. In fact, the monetary base rose only 1.5 percent during December 2007 from the same period a year ago.

    In light of the ongoing credit crises, the Fed will likely need to significantly increase its purchases of Treasury securities in order to increase the monetary base. Many Wall Street economists have recently been encouraging the Fed to take this step in an effort to lower short-term interest rates.

    (Note: When the Fed increases its purchases of Treasury securities, the prices of those securities rise as a result of their increased demand and the yields — interest rates — on those securities therefore fall.)

    Well, here’s what I have to say about the recommendations of these “insightful” economists. Go ahead, persuade the Fed to increase the monetary base, because one outcome is certain if the Fed follows the desperate advice of these “experts.”

    The result will be that the exchange value of the U.S. dollar will plummet and inflationary pressures will skyrocket. Gold prices, already breaking records, will continue to surge.

    In regards to the esteemed economist’s comment regarding the supposedly positive increase in consumer credit, you should consider the following: When the economy is in an expansion mode, an increase in consumer credit is usually a positive development, because such a development indicates that consumers are confident in the future direction of the economy.

    To be more specific, when consumers feel good about their employment prospects and their future earning power (that is, salaries and wages), they tend to take out more loans for automobiles, consumer electronic devices and home appliances. They also tend to use credit card debt more willingly for spending on clothing and other personal items, as well as dining out at their local restaurant.

    As a result, aggregate consumer spending tends to rise during such periods, as does the total output of goods and services (GDP). That’s because consumer spending accounts for approximately 70 percent of U.S. GDP.

    However, when consumers become more fearful of losing their jobs and their confidence in future economic conditions falls sharply — which is exactly what has been occurring over the past two months — an increase in consumer credit should be interpreted as a very negative development.

    This is especially so when a large number of consumers begin using credit card debt to help pay their home mortgage loan, as they have also been doing over the past few months. But, don’t worry, there’s also a way to profit from this type of supposedly “positive” economic development.

    How would what goes on in the US economy affect the rest of the world, one would ask? Because US Treasury Securities are the world’s most trusted and are purchased by almost every enterprise public or private. So when they are catch a cold, the world sneezes …

    Copyright (c) 2008 Money News

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