29.9.09

Czechs tighten the belt - prosperity pre-crisis not to return


After Hungarians radical reforms, Czechs reduce spending and increase taxes (The Czech lower house of parliament approved a $4 billion package of tax hikes and spending cuts on Friday). Mojmir Hampl, Deputy Governor of Czech Central Bank said it is sign of responsibility. Hampl says that Czech economy will encounter another recession in 2010.

Speaking at the Reuters Central and Eastern Europe Investment Summit in Vienna, Hampl said the Czech recovery would likely have the shape of an asymmetric "W," with a second low point, less deep than the first one, around mid-2010.

Hampl also welcomed a package of tax hikes and spending cuts approved by the Czech parliament on Friday, saying it was a sign of responsibility and a proper response to the country's fast-growing fiscal gap despite a poor growth outlook.

The bank, which has cut 250 basis points off interest rates to aid growth in the last year, left borrowing costs at an all-time low at a meeting last week, but said inflation risks have shifted slightly lower.

(...)

The Czech Republic saw gross domestic product fall 5.5 percent year-on-year in the second quarter, but eked out a 0.1 percent rise compared to the previous three months.

"We will see the first positive signs in the first half of 2010, then something like another dip and then the economy will eventually start growing," Hampl said. "This is our baseline."

The recovery would lead to lower growth rates than the up to the nearly 7-percent rises the Czechs had seen in past years.

"My suspicion is that if the economies do return to growth, the potential will be lower than prior to the crisis," he said.

"We will not return to excessive growth this prediction holds at least for the whole European Union. But for our prediction (for the Czech Republic) currently we can't see any good reason why we should see the potential growing as fast as before the crisis."

Economists have cast doubt on future growth rates given the need to tackle high levels of debt in both the public and private sphere and likely tighter lending conditions and controls.


Eastern Europe bad debt can prolong crisis

IMF announcement about success of its policies towards Eastern Europe EBRD warned that that part of Europe bad debt is underestimated.

European Commission's demand that Western banks get rid of non-core assets could prompt these lenders to sell off Eastern and Central European subsidiaries and further tighten credit to the region. (...)

Persistently weak credit growth and uncertainty over the banking system make the pace of economic recovery uneven and could hold the region back in the coming years (...)

For many countries we see continued deterioration. The diversity within the region is important to keep in mind...Even for countries that have turned the corner we look forward to slow and fragile growth

Polish Central Bank warned in its newly published report that Poland can exceed the level of internal debt at 7 percent of GDP as early as 2010.



Here are my notes from that very interesting discussion on the need

of regulation in financial sector.

Lawrence K. Fish (CEO)

I. How devastating that crisis was?

3 of 5 the biggest investment banks failed

the country’s residential mortgage lender failed

the country’s of largest commercial banks failed

largest insurance company failed

massive governmental mortgage assemblies Fanie and Freddie

2 of the largest UK banks failed

largest bank in Belgium failed

largest bank in Holland failed

tens of billions of dollars were lost by banks in Switzerland, Germany, China, Russia

95 US banks out of 2800 ceased to exist

Sins of financial sector

- too much leverage

- too complex products

- too little transparency and risk management

- too little involvement of Board of Directors

II. What is that you haven’t read about this?

- Not every countries banking system got it wrong, most notably Canada, Brazil, and Australia. Why they did not have consequences of that economic collapse?

* regulations

It was unusual that it was consumer crisis. Because it was always that consumer lending was the place that everyone wanted to be, place that was easy to underwrite and where never would be problems.

Real key, central risk in banking is liquidity.

Most banks in USA did fine.

Banks are heavily regulated institutions. Who isn’t regulated? Hedge funds, private equity firms, pay-day lenders, remittance companies (Western Union), investment banks were lightly regulated, mortgage companies (regulated by states but no standards for them exist)

III. What’s gonna happen now?

It’s not clear whether we will be able to fix it so it would not happen again.

IV. It’s matter of ethics in business

Prof. Simon Johnson

I. Is greed good?

II. Issue of capital for banks – how much capital is enough?

III. How not to over regulate. Dangers: lost of competitiveness, unavailability of credit to consumers

21.9.09

End of present crisis not on horizon says IMF Director


Most of analysts who understand the nature of present crisis are pessimists. Unexpectedly they were joined by Chief of IMF. He decided to make unprecedented decision to sell Institution's gold holdings. Looks like that gold is acquiring status of real money in broader scale than in last century.
Most of all that decision is accompanied by IMF warning that crisis is not in its final stages. And definitely it is too early for announcement of its end. He named Eastern European as main recipient of IMF funds. He advised that nation's should take "stricter"financial oversight.
Managing Director of IMF Dominique Strauss-Kahn appeared on The News Hour.


DOMINIQUE STRAUSS-KAHN: Thank you.

PAUL SOLMAN: The last time you were on this program was in October. You were very, very worried about the world economy. So how's it doing now?

DOMINIQUE STRAUSS-KAHN: Better. I won't say the crisis is over, and the so-called green shoots and the rather good results we've had in some countries, including European countries like Germany or France, are welcome.

PAUL SOLMAN: Green shoots, meaning signs of growth?

DOMINIQUE STRAUSS-KAHN: Exactly, that the beginning of recovery, we can see it, and we can see the end of the tunnel. But it's certainly too early to declare victory and to say that the crisis is behind us.

There are still in front of us some bad months in terms of growth. And, moreover, in terms of unemployment, things are going to be bad for months. So for the guy on the street who's going to lose his job in November or December, the crisis is obviously not behind him. It's in front of him.

PAUL SOLMAN: You said in October that your role was to provide advice, to provide financing, help rebuild the financial regulatory system. Then, in April, you got $500 billion, new. Have you loaned all that money out? Have you loaned it wisely? And who have you loaned it to?

Countries seeking aid

DOMINIQUE STRAUSS-KAHN: To whom, many countries. We never had so many -- as many programs as we have today. So we're dealing with tens of countries, some for small amounts, some for huge amounts, countries having problems due to the crisis, and we try to mitigate the effect of the crisis.

PAUL SOLMAN: So Eastern Europe, a lot of the money?

DOMINIQUE STRAUSS-KAHN: Yes, of course, Eastern Europe.

PAUL SOLMAN: Pakistan.

DOMINIQUE STRAUSS-KAHN: Pakistan, you're right, African countries. There are a large number of countries with smaller amount, because economies are not that big. That's a large number of countries. Also, Latin American countries, and also providing insurance to countries like Mexico, like Colombia, other in Central Europe, as you say, like Poland.

So all across the world, we have these kinds of programs. And we have spent -- it's a figure that may interest you. You remember the Asian crisis, which was the biggest crisis the fund ever had to deal with in the past.

PAUL SOLMAN: This is the late '90s, and suddenly all these countries in Asia, going -- crashing.

DOMINIQUE STRAUSS-KAHN: Absolutely. Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, and there was a lot of consequences. We are now lending twice as much as the IMF did lend at this time. So it shows the depth of the crisis.

IMF imposes conditions

PAUL SOLMAN: Are you still imposing those controversial conditions that you used to impose in the past? I'm reading about Iceland here, and they're complaining you're driving up health care costs, you're driving up their interest rates, this is an attack on their sovereignty.

DOMINIQUE STRAUSS-KAHN: You know, why do you believe that a country comes in and knocks on my door and says, "We need your help"? Because they're in trouble. If they're not in trouble, they're not coming, they don't need us.

And if they're in trouble, it may come partly from the global economy and environment. And it comes very often, almost always, because they have their own domestic problem, because they didn't run the right policy.

So, of course, when we're coming, we tell them, "We're going to help you." But there's no use to help you if, at the same time, you don't fix what's going wrong in your economy. If you don't fix your economy, the same causes will give the same consequences, and you will still be in trouble.

Countries don't like that. Why? They say it's a problem of sovereignty. They say -- but they have to do it.

PAUL SOLMAN: You were becoming irrelevant, many people say, not you personally, but the IMF. You're relevant again, aren't you now? You're central, is that fair?

A bigger role in world economy

DOMINIQUE STRAUSS-KAHN: Yes, it was a bit unfair. You're right in saying that; that was a main comment made about the IMF two years ago.

But we were as irrelevant as firefighters when you have no fire. People may say, "What do we use to spend money for firefighters? There's no fire." And then the fire comes and you're very happy about having the firefighters.

So would you say that firefighters are irrelevant when you have no fire or doctors are irrelevant when you're in good health? No. You need to have this, of course. You see the relevance only when the crisis comes.

PAUL SOLMAN: Did the United States get into the trouble it got into by not listening to the IMF? I remember, in the last few years, you would issue report after report about the structural deficits in the United States, the United States was spending too much, and so forth.

DOMINIQUE STRAUSS-KAHN: Well, I don't want to be pretentious, and I think that we were not as good as we should have been in preventing the crisis and forecasting the crisis. Having said that, we're probably the institution which was really the first one putting the fingers on what's not going well, subprime market, for instance; then, when the crisis began, the first institution saying the crisis is going to be very difficult.

That's why we gave this advice, which was a bit odd for an institution like the IMF, that we need a global stimulus, and we have been followed by all the countries around the world, and that's probably why we avoided a crisis as big as the Great Depression.

And I really believe that the role of the IMF in this has been great.

PAUL SOLMAN: But you didn't, for example, warn about what was going on in Eastern Europe, or at least your former chief economist says that these countries were building up their vulnerabilities and indebtedness. Aren't you at least partly or perhaps even mostly responsible for the seriousness of the situation in Eastern Europe?

Re-regulating the world system

DOMINIQUE STRAUSS-KAHN: Well, we see some risks, especially when those risks are systemic risks, including many countries. We have two possible attitudes. One is to say it in publicly. And then we have the -- we are in a situation where we may trigger the crisis.

Or we can go to the government secretly and say, "Look, we have this and this and this and this problem." And when we do that, which is our role and the way we work, then, one year after, when the crisis is there, many people to say, "Whoa, you didn't say something before." In fact, we did. But to try to be effective, we didn't say it in the open air.

PAUL SOLMAN: Last question: The G-20 is coming up. Is there going to be re-regulation of the world financial system?

DOMINIQUE STRAUSS-KAHN: I hope so. We have to find rules which make it possible for the market to work for financial innovation to go ahead, but at the same time to avoid the individual behavior may put the global economy into crisis.

The problem is, there is a broad consensus on what should be done, but the process is going very slowly, and we have to speed up this process. And not only in the United States, but in many European countries, you had a public opinion reaction to bonuses, for instance, compensation, saying, how is it possible that we gave so much taxpayer money to those banks because they were in such a situation? And now they're giving bonuses which are insane.

PAUL SOLMAN: I guarantee you almost everybody in the audience listening to this right now would say, "I still feel that way."

DOMINIQUE STRAUSS-KAHN: Yes, exactly, exactly. So I think it was right to give the money to those banks, because the collapse of banks is the collapse of the global economy. We had to fix it.

But at the same time, we have to find new rules for compensation, not only on an ethical point of view, which will be enough, but also because we have to avoid that individuals takes risk for their own interests, which put all the system at risk.

PAUL SOLMAN: Dominique Strauss-Kahn, thank you very much.

DOMINIQUE STRAUSS-KAHN: Thank you.

16.9.09

Mafia exploits crisis situation in Eastern Europe

One of economists, who closely observe aftermath of first wave of crises told me that there will be more and more social unrest as a result of it. He described dramatic situation of de-globalization processes in his book published years before fall of Lehman Brothers . One of signs can be riots and appearance of mafia, which would exploit poor economic condition of laborers. And here is interesting article which talks about such developments in Eastern European state badly hit by crisis.

PRAGUE — Several groups across Eastern Europe have called for a crackdown on mafia-run job agencies amid reports that their members are raping and torturing migrant workers who have lost their jobs in the economic crisis.

Media in the Czech Republic have carried reports that thousands of foreign workers in the eastern European country who have become unemployed are becoming virtual slaves to semi-legal "job brokers".

NGOs in other Eastern European countries report a similar problem of migrant workers being abused.

Many migrants say job agencies are now forcing them to pay exorbitant fees for arranging documents, accommodation and work. They say they are often beaten and humiliated, and some have been raped. But many do not turn to the police for fear of being thrown out of the country.

"Even we didn't know the depths of this problem," Lucie Sladkova, head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) branch in Prague told IPS. "The torture, rape and sheer dependency of these people on these so-called 'job brokers' has shocked not just us but the public as well.

"The authorities need to crack down on the people behind this."

And, she added: "This is not a problem that is exclusive to the Czech Republic. This is occurring in other countries across the East European region."

Immigrants from Asia and other relatively poor regions have come to Eastern European states such as the Czech Republic since the fall of communism in 1989. These countries' economies have enjoyed strong growth in the post- communist era, but are now among the hardest hit by the global economic crisis.

Unemployment levels are soaring, with jobless levels reaching or predicted to hit highs of as much as 15 percent in some Eastern European regions such as the Baltic states.

"Migrants become even more vulnerable during times of crisis," Jemini Pandya, spokeswoman at the IOM's Geneva headquarters told IPS. "They are usually the first to lose their jobs, are often subject to lower salaries and poorer working conditions anyway, so end up in desperate situations."

Migrant workers often fall into 'slavery' after coming into contact with job agencies run by mafia. They hand over their passports after being told they are needed to get work visas, and soon find themselves paying huge 'fees' and running into debt.

"A migrant loses their job, cannot find another one, and may also face an uncertain wait of many months for work and residency permits," says Sladkova. "Then someone comes along and offers to help them sort it all out in a few days for a fee if they just hand over their passport.

"Once they have done that they are then entirely dependent on that person who will come back and demand more and more money in 'fees' before they can get their passport back, or will find them accommodation and suddenly start charging them enormous rent.

"So they borrow money — from the mafia — to pay that rent and are suddenly in a vicious cycle. This has got much worse because of the economic crisis. These are among its very worst-treated victims."

Some victims in the Czech Republic have reported that they have been brutally beaten up for complaining. Women have said they were taken and delivered to mafia bosses to be raped, according to information made available to NGOs. If at all they are given work, it is in terrible conditions, and so much of their wages are taken by gang masters that they are left with barely enough to survive.

"They do not report them as they have thousands of reasons not to," Stana Buchowska, head of La Strada, an NGO helping migrant workers in Poland tells IPS.

The Interior Ministry in the Czech Republic says 12,000 foreigners were laid off in the first three months of 2009. The government introduced a scheme earlier this year to repatriate migrant workers who became unemployed. Ministers said they feared they would otherwise slip into the underground economy and fall prey to mafia gangs ready to exploit their illegal status.

Under the scheme migrants leaving the country would be paid their fare home and given 500 Euros. But since it was introduced, only 1,800 have taken up the offer, according to official figures.

NGOs say migrant workers are often compelled to stay on because they have run up enormous debts of tens of thousands of Euros, and need to carry on working.

"They are so desperate for money that they become willing to work in slave conditions, 24 hours a day for little wages, just to earn something," Buchowska tells IPS. "Migrant workers everywhere in Eastern Europe are being exploited in this way."

Irena Konecna, coordinator of La Strada in the Czech Republic, told IPS: "The migrant workers are in debt and have to stay to earn money to help people back home. They are willing to work in slavery. And these job agencies know that."

The Czech Interior Ministry has pledged to investigate reports of exploitation, and to monitor the situation with migrant workers.

Earlier this year it stopped renewing work permits for people at agencies suspected to be operating illegally and abusing migrants. But the mafia got round this by setting up "co-operatives" of foreign workers, which under Czech law could continue functioning.

"Police have to go right into the heart of the immigrant communities and ask them about the real situation and who is getting their documents for them and finding them work so that something can be done about this," says Sladkova. "These crooks 'loan out' workers for jobs. People are just commodities for them, bought, passed on and sold."


14.9.09

Stiglitz: there is a threat of even worst crash than year ago

Apparently in Eastern Europe also banking system is a threat - according to European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Chief Economist Erik Berglof.
Meanwhile Joseph Stiglitz is saying that he is worried about even "worse" crisis because financial institutions (including "too big to fail") remain in bad shape.

Here is eye-opening article from Bloomberg:

Eastern Europe’s recovery remains at risk from a banking crisis as a lack of transparency in the industry undermines confidence and impedes interbank lending, said European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Chief Economist Erik Berglof.

Emerging Europe’s banking system is “not out of the woods” and “there’s still a chance” the region may suffer a financial crisis, Berglof said in a Sept. 10 interview in London.

The development bank, created to support projects in former Soviet and communist states after the end of the cold war, has helped international efforts to limit the impact of the financial crisis on eastern Europe, persuading western banks to stay invested in the region and help fill a funding hole it estimates at $200 billion. Preventing a second banking crisis is “the absolute key” to a recovery in the region, Berglof said.

“There are some signs that demand will go up in western Europe and that will help these countries, but the biggest threat to that is a deterioration of the financial system again,” he said.

Concern that global efforts to repair financial systems may be flagging is mounting.Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize- winning economist, said in a Sept. 14 interview that in the U.S. and many other countries’ banking systems “the problems are worse than they were in 2007 before the crisis.”

The EBRD has been focusing on 12 Western parent banks that it pinpointed as “systemically important” for the region, including units of Italy’s UniCredit SpAand Societe Generale SA, as well as some large local banks, such as Latvia’s Parex Banka AS and Hungary’s OTP Bank Nyrt.

No Trust

“There are big questions about western European banks’ portfolios and a lot of those uncertainties are tied to investments in eastern Europe,” Berglof said. “When banks don’t trust each other, the interbank market doesn’t work and they are cautious about on-lending to clients. When there are pressures at the center of these banks, it’s typically in the periphery that they withdraw. That’s the same fear that we had in the spring.”

The European Commission warned in June that Latvia’s Swedish lenders, Swedbank AB and SEB AB, may be redeeming debt to their Baltic units, threatening to undermine the effectiveness of the country’s international bailout. The banks denied the claims at the time and the Commission and the International Monetary Fund said yesterday that the lenders had “reaffirmed” their commitment to Latvia in a Sept. 11 meeting.

Stress Tests

Europe’s banks would benefit from more rigorous stress testing with results being made public, Berglof said. That would underpin confidence and encourage interbank lending in the region, he said.

The stress tests should involve “suitable disclosure, recapitalization measures to address the problem of impaired assets and resolution of unviable financial institutions,” the International Monetary Fund said in July.

“The stress testing exercises that are going on inside the European Union - it’s absolutely critical that that information comes out and if there are problems it has to be combined with measures to address those problems,” Berglof said. “That needs to happen in the next couple of months. Any effort made to get greater clarity over western European banks and the parts of these banks that are in eastern Europe, that’s the No.1 priority.”

EU Disagreement

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde has spoken in favor of publishing stress tests, while emphasizing they need to be standardized across borders to be effective. Her German counterpart Peer Steinbrueck has resisted a push for a harmonized method and is against publishing results. EU bank regulators must conduct confidential stress tests by this month.

The EBRD will probably raise its 2010 growth forecasts for the 30 economies it engages in, when it publishes its regional outlook in October, Berglof said. The EBRD predicted in May the region’s economies will grow at a rate of 1.4 percent next year, after contracting more than 5 percent in 2009.

“We do see some more potential for next year,” said Berglof. “We are more optimistic now than we were. The region is very dependent on what’s happening in western Europe, and the situation seems to have stabilized” there.

Even so, the risk of a protracted crisis in the region’s financial sector is holding back the pace of the potential recovery, he said.

“We are not confident that there will be a very strong, V- type recovery,” said Berglof. “We are thinking in terms of a fragile, drawn out recovery reflecting the problems in the financial system both in western Europe and in eastern Europe. That is putting a lid on our expectation.”

World must avoid protectionism

I talked to preeminent economist Norman Bailey. He made me aware of coming crisis in an area of real estate market in 2004. Here is what he said about present stage of crisis:

(1) the Federal Reserve and the Treasury addressed successfully the liquidity problem resulting from the solvency situation of the financial sector which had resulted in a freezing of credit. However that time is past and now the countries affected are going to have to address the solvency problem itself and that would require actually reducing the levels of debt, such as mortgage debt and credit card debt, so that people can start consuming again.
(2) The world must avoid protectionism. The dispute between China and the U.S. is very disturbing and dangerous
(3) As soon as possible the gigantic debt overhang in the U.S. and elsewhere has to be addressed by reducing expenditures to the extent possible rather than increasing them, which is the tendency at present. Otherwise there will soon by no choice but to inflate away the debt slowly by controlled inflation or rapidly through hyper-inflation.

19.8.09

Recovery will be gradual and slow (by 2013)


Unbelievable propaganda of prosperity and well-being is in most of Polish media. After them politicians are repeating slogans. I wish media here would pass also pay attention to critical views. It is reasonable that after such huge credit crisis and years of mostly importing and selling goods it can not be quick recovery. So if Europe's recovery is estimated around 2013 then Eastern Europe will rebuild itself much later. Bloomberg published its article with very significant title: "Don't be fooled..."

Europe won’t fully recover from the worst recession since World War II until 2013 even if it returns to a “moderate” pace of economic growth, Morgan Stanley says.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows quarterly euro-region gross domestic product, in yellow, is now 4.9 percent below the 1.96 trillion euros ($2.76 trillion) it was before the recession hit. Quarterly growth rates, in blue, show what might be the beginning of a so-called V-shaped recovery. The economy of the 16 nations sharing the euro contracted 0.1 percent in the second quarter from the first, when output plunged 2.5 percent.

“Don’t be fooled by a V-shaped pattern in growth rates,” said Elga Bartsch, chief European economist at Morgan Stanley in London. “Assuming a continued moderate recovery, it would take until 2013 before the euro area will have made back the output losses of the last five quarters.”

The economy began to contract in the second quarter of last year after the collapse of the U.S. subprime mortgage market triggered the financial crisis. The recession will probably come to an end in the current quarter as government and central bank stimulus measures support spending and an improving global economy boosts demand for exports.

Morgan Stanley said while there may be a “vigorous bounce” in industrial output in coming months, this reflects temporary factors such as rebuilding of inventories and a “subsidy-fueled car boom.” Headwinds lie ahead for the euro area, including rising unemployment and the end of government subsidies, the economists said.

Experienced managers are conservative in their predictions of the end of crisis. Chief of Nokia says also that recovery will be
gradual and slow

Nokia Oyj Chief Executive Officer Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo predicted recovery from the global financial crisis will be slow as economies move forward from a lower level of activity.

“The global economy has pressed the ‘reset’ button and we are gradually getting back to business - or new growth,” he said in a speech provided by Nokia. Protectionism is the biggest threat to growth, he said.

Kallasvuo's statement corresponds with facts. Today Austrian Telekom informed of its loss. Net decreased in the first six months of 2009 by 25.8 percent to 167.6 million euros (236.6 million dollars) from 226 million euros in the same period last year.



13.8.09

Recession will continue damaging Eastern Europe in autumn


When financial crisis existed as a theory in West there was saying that if US will have flu then Europe contracts pneumonia and Eastern Europe maybe even cancer. Maybe it is exaggeration but it still there is no end of crisis in Eastern Europe. People are glad of the end of recession in Western Europe forgetting that we are different world. 

The most often opinion on the end of recession in Eastern being repeated by experts is "it will take time". In most extreme cases 
there are prognosis of recovery estimated as late as 2011
Economists are warning against waves of unemployment, which Western, rich economy can easier dealt with than post-communist economies. The truth is that most of post Soviets states were meant to be huge warehouses and production is on minimum level and R&D sector is almost undeveloped. 

I wonder whether anybody in Polish government listen to warnings of responsible economists and watches developments in Eastern Europe. It seems like Poles are not being told truth. 

After strong warnings he gave not president of EBRD is concerned about premature optimism in Eastern Europe (in Poland special minister Boni announced the end of crisis):

The economic crisis in eastern Europe remains a threat and the region will not return to very high growth levels soon, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development President Thomas Mirow said.

A German newspaper quoted Mirow on Wednesday as saying that he expected Asia and the United States to emerge from the economic turmoil first. Central and eastern Europe, which has been laid low by a credit crunch and collapse in Western demand, would lag, he said. (...)

Mirow told Handelsblatt that it was too soon to think that the region had turned the page, particularly as loan defaults would rise with increased company bankruptcies, which would in turn drive unemployment higher.

'I caution against premature optimism, given the crisis in the real economy. We must prepare ourselves for the fact that the really big challenges are yet to come,' he said in a transcript of an interview published on Handelsblatt's web page. 'By all means we cannot act as if the crisis is already over in eastern Europe.'

It can not be different situation, if there is great fear of huge wave of unemployment (even 10 percent next year) starting this autumn in Czech Republic. One big steel producer which owns also its plant in Poland may close Czech plant down. 

In rest of Eastern Europe (Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia)  recession is deepening:

Recessions in the former communist economies left their governments struggling to live up to European Union budget rules as rising unemployment drains public funds and depletes tax revenue. For Romania and Hungary, agreements on international bailouts are at risk, while Slovakia, the only euro region member, was warned by the European Commission for exceeding the bloc’s 3 percent budget gap limit.

(...)

We expect the eastern European economic decline to slow in the second half of the year,” Zoltan Torok, an economist at Raiffeisen International Bank-Holding AG in Budapest, said in a phone interview today.

(...)

Even so, eastern European government efforts to keep budgets in check, as rising unemployment drains fundswill hinder a recovery next year, said economists including Nicolaie Alexandru-Chidesciuc, chief analyst at ING Bank Romania in Bucharest.


One of results of that crisis is growth of enmity among people. It started from most vulnerable - people from abroad. They are being overused, abused and even raped. Here is example from Czech Republic but it may happen easily somewhere else. People do not speak because they are afraid to be thrown out of West to their poor home countries. 

4.8.09

Unemployment can be a factor of another wave of global recession


Another dream is shattered. Green jobs will not produce enough jobs to counteract against dramatic unemployment. An excellent article in Forbes is a great and needed lesson for Poland as well.

Indeed a recent study by Sam Sherraden at the center-left New America Foundation finds that, for the most part, green jobs constitute a negligible factor in employment--and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Policymakers, he warns, should avoid "overpromising about the jobs and investment we can expect from government spending to support the green economy."

Here is also interesting study on the subject. (In the meantime, behind western Polish border propaganda on green jobs (
No other country in the world has better conditions to become the world's top supplier for machines and products that save energy) is booming during electoral battle between Merkel and Steinmeier)

In the light of that, Nouriel Roubini's analysis becomes even more relevant. Few weeks ago he stated that global economy may fall into another recession because of rising government debt, higher oil prices and a lack of job growth.




Credit for picture belongs here

3.8.09

Unemployment growth threatens Poland?


Information about crisis and its effect on Eastern Europe is coming out very slowly. But yesterday news on Metro group, which owns chains of shops, emerged. And 17 000 people will be laid off. It is result of €15.3 billion ($21.8 billion) loss in sales in second quarter.
Obviously it will affect job market in Poland. All shops operated by Metro operate also in Poland.
Among them Saturn, MediaMarkt and Real.


Eastern European sales plunged by 11.6 percent on an uncorrected basis, but edged higher by 0.1 percent within the group's domestic German market. Metro did not give an outlook for the rest of the year, although
the company’s chairman, Eckhard Cordes said that "in view of the massive economic crisis Metro stood its ground well." The final result would depend on large part on development in slumping jobs markets, he added.

Picture: Centrum Handlowe Gdańsk-Osowa

Czech Republic after first wave of crisis becomes paradise for burgain-hunting

Czech Republic, weakened by crisis (country has seen a record number of bankruptcies this year) , is trying to portray itself still as a country of opportunities. Apparently real estate market seems to have good offers. More and more observers are putting attention to bad loans issue.

Investors may be interested in what left of economic storm in Czech Republic. And what is now sold
with 30 percent discount or more. Prague, not long ago the most expensive capital in Europe, now is becoming a center of distressed companies in region. Their problems with cash-flow are result of credit policy tightening by growing number of banks.

One may ask how immune Poland is to those problems? For how long?

Business Week published Bargain-Hunting in Eastern Europe by Adam Cardais.


Opportunity often blossoms out of disaster, and no investor wants to look back on the fallout from the global financial crisis as the missed opportunity of a lifetime.

In Central and Eastern Europe, with real estate prices and stock markets down—the Prague Stock Exchange has lost 31 percent of its value since July 2008—and many fundamentally healthy businesses hurting for financing to survive the downturn, now seems like the time to look for that opportunity. Business people and investment experts are quick to caution that the foundering economies of emerging Europe may yet hit bottom, but they also largely agree that the prudent, well-capitalized investor (it's hard to get a loan these days) could, as Jo Weaver of the marketing firm JWA Prague put it, "make some real killings."

Where to look? Larger players such as private equity firms should pay attention to the growing number of distressed companies in the region.

"In the last four or five months we have seen an increase in the number of bankrupt companies or companies that are having financial difficulties but have a good, healthy core business," said Margareta Krizova of the Central European Advisory Group, a legal and investment consultancy. "I think there is a real opportunity [here]."

Indeed, the crisis has spread from the financial to the corporate sector, sharply undercutting output in the last quarter of 2008 and in early 2009 with disastrous results for businesses, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) reported in May. The Czech Republic, for instance, has seen a record number of bankruptcies this year.

Most at risk are small, export-based manufacturers with less than 20 million euros in annual turnover, according to Krizova. With credit markets tightening throughout the region, these companies "start to have cash-flow problems if they lose one or two customers" despite being fundamentally sound businesses, she said.

Automotive and metallurgical companies are especially hurting. Auto manufacturing is big business in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, but falling demand for these cars in Western Europe—and Germany in particular—is sending shock waves down the entire supply chain. Investors could snap up those companies already facing bankruptcy at fire sale prices, Krizova said, nurse them through the recession, and wind up owning thriving, if small, businesses a couple of years from now.

PRIME PROPERTY

For large and small investors alike, real estate looks promising. Commercial property prices in capitals from Prague all the way to Moscow are down double digits year-on-year, and regional yields—or the return on investment—average around 10 percent now and will likely continue north, according to a recent analysis by global real estate services firm CB Richard Ellis. Jos Tromp, the firm's head of research and consulting in Central and Eastern Europe, said Warsaw and Prague are the most stable markets, but that Budapest, where office space is 33 percent cheaper today than a year ago, "could be the potentially interesting opportunity" of 2009 though it presents a much higher risk, with Hungary's economy still rebuilding from near implosion late last year.

Residential real estate could also be a winner in the Czech Republic. Prices of flats increased 18 percent there in 2008, but the market is expected to reverse course this year, with prices falling as much as 20 percent, according to data from the Regional Information Institute.

Equities are, as usual, tricky. The Prague Stock Exchange is sagging while the Warsaw Stock Exchange seems to be rebounding after a tough 12 months. Ales Michl, a portfolio strategist at Raiffeisenbank in the Czech Republic, said markets remain volatile. Either you must time your purchases perfectly, he joked, or be smart—make regular, long-term investments in blue-chip stocks such as Czech electricity giant CEZ (CEZP.PR) or Spanish telecoms group Telefonica 02 (TEF).

Timing, though, is of course critical. With looming concern that rising volumes of bad loans could undermine New Europe's banks and foment a second financial crisis, as EBRD President Thomas Mirow warned 24 July, investors should be cautious. But they should also be strategizing—because others already are. JWA Prague's Weaver said that after six months of radio silence from potential investors this year—an unprecedented drought for a company that in a normal year does 10 to 15 business pitches a month between January and June—the lines are abuzz again, with multinationals and local companies seeking advice on entering or expanding in the Czech market.

In emerging Europe, as important as the when and where to invest is the how. Despite many countries' business-friendly rhetoric, all have formidable bureaucracies that, when it comes to transparency, vary only in their degree of opacity. If you have experience in Western Europe, don't assume business is done the same way east of the former Iron Curtain. Protect yourself and, most of all, be flexible. Good luck.

Serious troubles of European banks

Every time one finds information about downplaying problems of banks and in mainstream media praises about prosperous Polish economy one can be suspicious.

Today Polish representative at IMF said that Polish economy is in very good condition (growth 0.5 percent GDP) and it will get even better marks in autumn.

But apparently clouds are gathering over Eastern Europe as president of EBRD warned.
There are signs that Societe Generale can be in trouble because of its bad investment in Russia.

Jule Trener from The Faster Times explains in "Of Oligarchs, French Banks, and a Whole Pile of Problem Loans" elaborates on Societe Generale present situation.



It’s tempting to think that the banking crisis is behind us. Lehman is long gone; we’ve finished with the bailouts of 2008 and early 2009; the view that the US and Western European economies are stabilizing is becoming more widely endorsed. Yet, there are signs in Europe that we’ve entered a new stage. The metaphor may no longer be the “perfect storm”, but something more like slowly rising waters, as the effects of the financial crisis on the real economy trickle back through the income statements of French banks.


At the height of the global liquidity crisis, leveraged investors everywhere (meaning investors who borrow money to make money) suffered, as banks, eager to get their hands on whatever cash they could, withdrew financing. Between the crisis of confidence and the lack of cash, all manner of investment markets seized up—the commercial paper market, the municipal, corporate and convertible bond markets, the asset backed securities market, and so on. Investors facing margin calls were forced to sell their most liquid assets. And since few things are more liquid than commodities, every commodity, with the exception of gold, fell into a tizzy, as global demand for commodities collapsed. Oil went from the 130s to the 40s in a matter of weeks. But then western governments re-liquefied the banks, and after much de-leveraging, something like normalcy returned to many investment markets.

It was a catastrophe for resource exporters like Russia. One of the highest flyers of Eastern Europe and a major exporter of oil and gas and metals, the Russian economy suffered a heart-stopping deceleration, contracting 9.8% in the first half of 2009. At least for now, the Russian government seems to have beat back fears of a repeat of the ’98 ruble crisis. Except, as one would expect, once-profitable businesses there are failing in droves, and a new crisis in loan defaults is slowly enveloping the Russian banking system .

Now the wave is washing back over Western Europe. Western Banks are sitting on a mountain of problem Russian loans. Here’s how the Financial Times recently described the situation:

[Foreign banks] cannot afford writedowns on tens of billions of dollars in debts. They also fear that Russia’s bankruptcy courts would secure them returns of only cents on the dollar. As restructuring talks on more than $437bn in Russian foreign corporate debts drag on into the summer, the banks are sticking it out. “The huge European banks are holding loans that by any standards are in default. They need deals that are palatable to their constituencies,” says one of the seven senior western bankers interviewed for this article, who all spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

The article then goes on to quote an anonymous oligarch’s reworking of Keynes’ famous phrase: “If I can’t pay BNP [of France] $4bn, is it my problem or is it theirs?”

France’s two largest banks, BNP Paribas and Societé Générale, don’t break out their loan exposures in Russia, so it’s extremely difficult to know what impact the increase in non-performing loans will have on their businesses. The question is whether it could be significant enough to undermine their capital positions. Estimates of the size of the problem in Russia vary widely. At the low end, the official government line is that non-performing loans (NPLs), which began the year at 3% of total loans will grow to 12% by year-end. Marta Sánchez, banking analyst at Ahorro Corporación, who covers BNP and SocGen, also covers Intesa San Paulo, which is more forthcoming about its Russian exposure. She’s currently modeling a 20% NPL rate for the Italian bank, and says that’s a good proxy for the kind of losses the French banks could be facing in Russia. However, she told The Faster Times that she remains comfortable with BNP’s emerging markets position. As regards potential losses on their emerging markets business, “I don’t reckon BNP should need any further capital,” she said.

Unfortunately, the same can’t necessarily be said of Societé Générale. Among the major French banks, the group has the largest exposure to Central and Eastern Europe. What’s more, it bought Russian commercial bank Rosbank just before the onset of the financial crisis, for a price that raised a few eyebrows. According to Alain Dupuis, banking analyst at Oddo & Cie in Paris, SocGen has 16 billion Euros of exposure to Russia through its retail banking operations alone. He points out that if current European Bank for Reconstruction and Development estimates are correct, Russian NPL rates could meet the already steep levels of the Ukraine, where non-performing loans may reach 45%. That would make for a significant loss from a single source of business. But that, in and of itself, would not be large enough to shake the bank. “One of the things we learned in the financial crisis is that the French banks are diversified enough to withstand a hit in their individual businesses,” he told the Faster Times. The problem, as Mr. Dupuis sees it, is that a skyrocketing NPL rate in Russia wouldn’t be an isolated event, but would be accompanied by similar weakness across Eastern Europe. And combine that with weaknesses in its other businesses—SocGen has the largest portfolio of toxic credit derivatives of the major French banks, and has already pre-announced a 1.3 billion euro loss on it in the second quarter—and the picture starts to look more gloomy. “If you consider the risk profile of the group globally,” he adds, “it’s our view that their current level of tier one capital is not enough.”

We won’t know until the end of 2009 or 2010 the extent of the losses in Eastern Europe, but unless the situation improves, French banks could be in for a cold Russian winter.

Ronald Reagan Quotes