Monthly Archives: June 2009

By Alan Greenspan

The rise in global stock prices from early March to mid-June is arguably the primary cause of the surprising positive turn in the economic environment. The $12,000bn of newly created corporate equity value has added significantly to the capital buffer that supports the debt issued by financial and non-financial companies. Corporate debt, as a consequence, has been upgraded and yields have fallen. Previously capital-strapped companies have been able to raise considerable debt and equity in recent months. Market fears of bank insolvency, particularly, have been assuaged. 

Bromley illustration

Proposals for reform of financial regulation are now everywhere. The most significant have come from the US, where President Barack Obama’s administration last week put forward a comprehensive, albeit timid, set of ideas. But will such proposals make the system less crisis-prone? My answer is, no. The reason for my pessimism is that the crisis has exacerbated the sector’s weaknesses. It is unlikely that envisaged reforms will offset this danger. 

By Michael Pomerleano

Reforms typically take place when the urgency of now is evident in the midst of a crisis. That is when vested interests are weak, and policy makers and regulators are no longer complacent. Recently there is a sense that the financial crisis is abating,  that business is returning to normal and a false sense of stability in taking hold; but it does not imply that the crisis is almost over. The belief that the world has overcome the crisis is faulty for several reasons. 

This chart shows what the consensus of forecasts thinks of the green shoots argument.

Consensus forecasts for 2010

Consensus forecasts for 2010

Abraham Lincoln famously said that “you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time”. His successor, George W. Bush, is reported to have added: “You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.” Some British politicians wish to follow that advice in the debate on the public finances. Alistair Darling’s refusal to do that was, it appears, the reason Gordon Brown, the prime minister, wanted to drop him. But Mr Darling is to be praised, not dropped, for his probity. 

By Brendan Brown

Global equity markets are understandably not taking seriously the ominous pessimism from commentators dissatisfied with the notion of an economic recovery emerging from below.

Yes the S&P 500 may be down a few per cent in recent days but that is mainly a reflection of the US dollar’s mini-rebound (which means foreign earnings become worth less in US dollar terms) and some long overdue downward correction (very small so far) in commodity markets.  

Bromley illustration

Green shoots are bursting out. Or so we are told. But before concluding that the recession will soon be over, we must ask what history tells us. It is one of the guides we have to our present predicament. Fortunately, we do have the data. Unfortunately, the story they tell is an unhappy one.