An artist's rendering shows Japan's Hayabusa spacecraft nearing the asteroid Itokawa after traveling 1.25 billion miles on a mission to collect rock flakes. (From Akihiro Ikeshita)
An illustration from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency shows the Hayabusa probe collecting samples from the asteroid's surface. (Associated Press)
By Marc Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
By the time its odyssey ended this month in the Australian outback, the spacecraft Hayabusa had been gone three years longer than planned, lost its main engine, disappeared from all interplanetary notice for more than seven weeks and may have failed to perform its main mission.
Yet the voyage was justifiably and immediately hailed as the stuff of legend. Against all odds, the Japanese space agency, with support from NASA, managed not only to bring Hayabusa back to Earth but also to do something never done before: take a sample from the surface of a distant asteroid and bring it home for study.
"Really, when we saw it land, we could not believe what had happened," said Norimitsu Kamimori, the Washington representative of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA. "We hoped, but we never really thought Hayabusa would make it back."
The American public is understandably focused on the feats of NASA and missions funded by American taxpayers. But the exploration of space has become an increasingly international affair, and several dozen nations have space programs of their own or in conjunction with partners.
The Japanese space agency is hardly the largest, and its program is far from the most ambitious. But the Hayabusa mission now has a special place among space-faring nations; its accomplishment ranks somewhere between the life-or-death engineering that brought Apollo 13 back to Earth safely and the long-lived rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which were designed to last 90 days on Mars but are still beaming information and photos back after six years.
Anthony Carro, NASA's program executive for Hayabusa, called the return "an incredible feat." Much of the spacecraft was crippled, he said, "but the Japanese flight controllers were ingenious in figuring out ways to combine the powers of what they had, and they brought it back."
NASA project scientist Donald Yeomans called the return "well beyond remarkable and into the miracle stage."
The odyssey begins
The Hayabusa mission launched with great fanfare in 2003 and headed for the asteroid Itokawa, an irregularly-shaped rock that orbits between Earth and Mars, far away from the crowded asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
It was the most ambitious Japanese space mission to date, and it used both a traditional chemical-fueled rocket engine and additional ion engines, a novel use of microwave technology that moves the spacecraft by heating xenon gas. It's a very energy-efficient way to travel, and that came to be extremely important in the odyssey.
The spaceship reached the asteroid more than two years later, after traveling 1.25 billion miles. At that point in its asymmetrical orbit around the sun, the asteroid was almost 200 million miles from Earth.
Itokawa is often compared to an inflated baked potato about a third of a mile long. It has virtually no gravitational pull, which is what made feasible the goal of touching down, picking up a sample and flying off. But it was difficult, since the asteroid was spinning. The spacecraft carried an instrument akin to a pellet gun that was designed to fire into the asteroid's silicon- and iron-based rocks. Once the gun was fired, the plan was for Hayabusa to snag some of the flakes kicked up from the rocks.
As explained by Kamimori and JAXA releases, what happened after Hayabusa caught up to Itokawa was a series of technical problems that seemed to doom the mission. First, an attempt to send the spacecraft's small robotic rover Minerva to the asteroid to take pictures and temperature readings failed. The rover, which was powered by its own small engines, never touched down on the asteroid and inexplicably drifted off into space and vanished forever, according to JAXA mission control.
Then, Hayabusa landed on Itokawa and stayed for 30 minutes, but the pellet gun didn't fire. Researchers hope that some asteroid dust was pulled into the sample box, but it's almost certain that no rock flakes were collected.
Because of the pellet gun malfunction, JAXA decided to try landing again. But when the spacecraft touched down, one of the main chemical engines controlling its attitude sprang a leak. That led to a series of malfunctions that climaxed in a total blackout of communications with the craft as it slipped off the asteroid and into space.
After seven weeks the spacecraft was just about given up for lost when NASA's Deep Space Network, which was supplementing JAXA's communication capacities, made contact. It took 16 months to get Hayabusa back under JAXA's full control and to rev up the ion engines that would serve as the central power for the craft.
In addition to the fuel leak that knocked out the main chemical engine, the batteries that stored energy from the craft's solar panels also malfunctioned. The ion engines are not nearly as powerful as the ones based on more traditional fuels, but at least they were still working.
"Technical development doesn't always go as you wish. There were times I almost felt defeated and wondered about waving the white flag," Hitoshi Kuninaka, designer and engineer for the ion engine, told a JAXA interviewer just before the landing back on Earth. "Hayabusa has overcome many obstacles. In that sense, I feel I raised Hayabusa's ion engines little by little, almost like a newborn baby, by calming and cheering them on."
A safe landing
By the time Hayabusa was closing in on Earth, the ion engines were just barely working. But with help from reentry specialists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, JAXA engineers steered Hayabusa in as planned. The spacecraft was filmed dramatically burning up as it streaked into the upper atmosphere, but its round-bottomed reentry capsule (about the size of a small stack of dinner plates, it contains the box of samples) floated down in the outback, tethered to a parachute.
The sample container is back in Japan now, in one of a series of clean rooms where it will be examined and then opened, sometime in the next few weeks. A modified CAT scan will first be used to search for material inside the box, but officials think they'll need to use a powerful scanning electron microscope to determine whether any dust particles were collected and made it back.
Yeomans, a manager at NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office, said that even if just dust particles are found, "we'll be looking at leftover debris from the early solar-system formation process. . . . An asteroid like this was first formed maybe 4.6 billion years ago, and from what we can tell probably was broken apart and reassembled since then. Nothing on Earth has the kind of early solar system characteristics we could be looking at."
The JAXA sample study team, which includes one NASA member, will have sole control over whatever is in the capsule for one year. After that, any samples will be distributed to interested scientists around the world.
In the acclaim following the recovery of the sample box, the new prime minister of Japan, Naoto Kan, announced that funds for a second Hayabusa would be raised. Japan has sent seven astronauts to the international space station and built the Kibo science lab, an important part of the station. But nothing has attracted as much attention to the Japanese space program.
"So many instruments failed on Hayabusa, but we still brought it back to Earth and it may have some dust samples from Itokawa," said Kamimori. "This is why Japanese people were so excited by what happened and why they think it was a great success."
Fear Feeding Greed With S&P 500 Correlation to Bonds at Record
By Whitney Kisling and Elizabeth Stanton
June 28 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. stock prices are mirroring government bond yields more than ever, a signal to bulls that shares may be poised to rally.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 10-year Treasury rates posted a correlation coefficient of 0.8412 in the 60 trading days through June 16, showing stock prices and bond yields were the most linked in Bloomberg data going back to 1962. The last time the relationship was almost this strong during an economic expansion was at the beginning of the 2002 to 2007 bull market, when the benchmark gauge for U.S. equities doubled.
Rising correlations show investors are ignoring relative values among industries and assets and reacting to day-to-day signals on the economy, convinced Europe’s debt crisis will spur the second global contraction in three years. Invesco Ltd., Wells Capital Management Inc. and Chemung Canal Trust Co., who together manage $957 billion, say those concerns are overblown and shares will advance as the fastest profit growth since the mid-1990s restores confidence.
“When you add up the fundamentals, they’re there,” said Fritz Meyer, a Denver-based senior market strategist at Invesco, which oversees $580 billion. “The problem is this emotional aspect,” he said. “The historical truth in the stock market is you want to buy stocks when there’s skepticism and fear all over the place and sell when everyone’s feeling complacent.”
The S&P 500 lost 3.7 percent to 1,076.76 last week after new-home sales sank to a record low and the Federal Reserve signaled that European indebtedness may lead to a weaker U.S. economy. Deflation, or a general decline in prices, is possible within the next few years, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman said at a June 22 conference in Tel Aviv.
When the S&P 500 dropped 3.9 percent on May 20 following higher-than-forecast U.S. jobless claims, yields on 10-year Treasuries plunged 0.156 percentage point. The stock index slid 3.4 percent and the rate on notes fell 0.162 point on June 4, after employment growth trailed economists’ estimates.
Equities are also moving in lockstep with each other and assets tied to economic growth. The correlation coefficient between the S&P 500 and the Thomson Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index of 19 raw materials has been above 0.5 since April 13 and climbed to 0.77 on May 14, the highest since at least 1956, data compiled by Bloomberg using 30 days of trading show. Almost 80 percent of swings in stocks within the S&P 500 are related to movements in the broader market, according to London-based Barclays Plc.
“Correlation is one of the great lessons of the whole crisis, and it hasn’t let its grip on the markets go,” said Barry Knapp, the New York-based head of U.S. equity strategy for Barclays. Knapp estimates the S&P 500 will climb 13 percent to end the year at 1,210. “Whatever the nature of the crisis, the one decision investors seem to make is whether they should be in risky assets or out.”
Linkages among markets are so high because investors are worried about a repeat of the 2008 credit crisis, which sent U.S. equities, commodities and real estate prices to their worst losses in half a century, Knapp said. The correlation level between the U.S. equity benchmark and 10-year Treasury yields averaged 0.5711 from October 2007 through March 2009, when the S&P 500 plunged 57 percent.
Reports on sales of new and previously owned homes last week showed that purchases reversed course in May after getting a bump higher from government stimulus programs including a buyer tax credit. About half of 106 U.S. forecasters in a study from Madison, New Jersey-based MacroMarkets LLC expect price declines in 2010 and half anticipate either little-changed or increasing values.
Congressional negotiators approved the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. financial regulation since the Great Depression on June 25. Financial companies in the S&P 500 rose 2.8 percent after the bill was announced as analysts said it won’t fundamentally reshape Wall Street’s biggest firms. The S&P 500 has lost 5.4 percent since President Barack Obama proposed banning proprietary trading by banks on Jan. 21.
“Investors are very worried about which direction the global economy is going to take,” said Bart Zeldenrust, senior fund manager at Rotterdam-based Robeco Group, which oversees about $167 billion. “Correlation was very high during the financial crisis because there was only one bet that you could make in your portfolio: risk is on or risk is off. And it’s still very much so. It’s not a good sign.”
The lockstep moves are hurting strategies designed to smooth out fluctuations across equities, industries and assets. Standard deviation, a measure of the variation in returns, for mutual funds investing in the biggest U.S. companies that have an average value similar to the S&P 500 fell to 5.8 percent in the first quarter, based on data compiled by Lipper & Co. and Bloomberg. That’s the lowest level in three years.
“It’s been impossible for stock pickers lately,” Savita Subramanian, quantitative strategist at Bank of America Corp. in New York. “It’s been less about stock selection, less about fundamentals or company management, and it’s been all about macro.”
U.S. equity markets have lost $1.78 trillion since April 23 on concern the European debt crisis will spread. Ryan Caldwell, whose $20.7 billion Ivy Asset Strategy Fund has beaten 98 percent of its rivals in the past five years, said the S&P 500 will rebound from May’s 8.2 percent loss should concerns about deficits in Greece, Portugal and Spain subside.
“No matter what you’re doing on the stock-picking portion of the portfolio now, it’s clearly being trumped by the macro environment,” said Caldwell, a fund manager for Overland Park, Kansas-based Waddell & Reed Financial Inc. “If you see the macro worries recede, I think you’ll see a pretty quick recovery in asset prices.”
Periods of risk aversion, when investors sell volatile assets and buy securities perceived as havens, have lasted an average of two months in the past, according to data since the 1930s compiled by Deutsche Bank AG. That suggests stocks will start rebounding in mid-July, says Binky Chadha, the firm’s New York-based chief U.S. equity strategist, who predicts the S&P 500 will rise 28 percent to end the year at 1,375.
The last time movements between Treasury yields and stocks were this similar during an economic expansion was in October 2002. The S&P 500 jumped 34 percent in the next 12 months and another 51 percent through October 2007 as corporate earnings recovered from the bursting of the technology bubble. U.S. gross domestic product grew at a 2 percent annual rate in the quarter that ended Sept. 30, 2002, compared with 2.7 percent in the first three months of this year.
“The market is worried about deflation and depression,” said James Paulsen, who helps oversee about $375 billion as chief investment strategist at Wells Capital Management in Minneapolis. “For this correlation to go away, you’re going to have to first have confidence the recovery is sustainable, which means stocks go up.”
Economists predict a 3.2 percent expansion in U.S. GDP this year, the biggest since 2004, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Earnings for S&P 500 companies may rise 32 percent in 2010 and 17 percent in 2011, the largest two-year advance since the period ended in 1995. The index is trading for 13.2 times forecasted 2010 earnings, compared with an average multiple of about 16.4 since 1954 using reported profit, the data show.
McDonald’s Corp. may rally once investors’ focus returns to earnings and valuation, said Tom Wirth, senior investment officer for Chemung Canal, which manages $1.6 billion in Elmira, New York. Shares of the world’s largest restaurant operator fell 5.3 percent in May as the S&P 500 dropped 8.2 percent. The Oak Brook, Illinois-based company beat estimates for the quarter ended March 31 and said this month that May global sales rose more than analysts projected. Its dividend yield is 3.26 percent, compared with 3.11 percent for the 10-year Treasury.
“When fear enters the market, then you sell first and ask questions later,” Wirth said. “Investing is for the long term, so if you can buy high-quality stocks at these prices, you do it. If they’re high-quality companies, they’ll come back.”
G-20 Agrees to Cut Deficits Once Recoveries Cemented
By Kristin Jensen and Theophilos Argitis
June 27 (Bloomberg) -- Group of 20 leaders endorsed targets to cut deficits and agreed to pursue higher capital requirements for banks once their economic recoveries take root.
Advanced economies will aim to at least halve deficits by 2013 and stabilize their debt-to-output ratios by 2016, according to a statement released as leaders finished meeting in Toronto today. The G-20 said banks need to raise capital “significantly” and countries will be allowed to phase in new rules, with a goal of meeting new standards by the end of 2012.
“Honestly, this is more than I expected, because it is quite specific,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, referring to the fiscal targets. “It’s a success that industrialized countries as a group accepted this.”
The G-20 also pledged to maintain existing stimulus plans and take “concerted actions” to sustain the recovery. Recent events highlight the need to establish “properly phased” plans to rein in deficits. Emerging market economies pledged to take measures to strengthen social safety nets, raise infrastructure spending and enhance exchange rate flexibility.
The statement includes targets championed by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who sought to narrow differences between the U.S. and Europe by proposing minimum deficit and debt reduction goals.
Bridge the Gap
The G-20 had to bridge a gap between leaders such as President Barack Obama who want to focus on growth and officials such as Merkel who favor budget cuts. The statement says the global recovery, which has been faster than expected, remains “uneven and fragile.”
Efforts to lower deficits and sustain the recovery will be differentiated and tailored to national circumstances, according to the statement.
“Here is the tightrope we must walk,” Harper told the G- 20 leaders in his opening remarks today. “To sustain the recovery, it is imperative that we follow through on existing stimulus plans. At the same time, advanced countries must send a clear message that as our stimulus plans expire, we will focus on getting our fiscal houses in order.”
Countries such as Brazil had opposed the specific deficit targets, saying it will be hard for some G-20 members to meet them without stifling economic growth.
“It is draconian, a little difficult, a little exaggerated,” said Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega. “Some countries would not be able to do it. It is clear that a cut is needed, but at what velocity? It can’t be too fast.”
The agreement effectively endorsed the austerity plan set out by the U.K., while acknowledging U.S. concerns that countries shouldn’t be required to start cutting public spending until their own recoveries are fully entrenched.
“There is a risk that synchronized fiscal adjustment across several major economies could adversely impact the recovery,” the statement said.
The G-20, which accounts for about 85 percent of the global economy, replaced the G-8 last year as the world’s foremost international policy-coordinating forum. The larger group means developed and emerging economies are trying to find common ground amid differences in prosperity that vary from the U.S.’s $46,400 in GDP per capita to India’s $3,100.
European nations have led the charge on the deficits. Merkel said in an interview with ZDF television that she lobbied her counterparts at the G-8 meeting to pursue “solid” fiscal policies and defended her own plan to reduce Germany’s budget deficit by about 10 billion euros ($12.4 billion) per year.
U.S. Treasuries are having their best year since 1995, returning 5 percent through June 24, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch index data, as investors seek alternatives to Europe, where Greece and Spain had their credit ratings downgraded.
“European countries just had a near-death experience over Greece,” said Tony Fratto, a former Treasury and White House official under former President George W. Bush. “Some are afraid of suffering the same fate.”
The G-20 said banks need to raise capital “significantly” to avoid a repeat of the global financial crisis. Banks will be allowed to phase in capital increases, with a goal of meeting new standards by the end of 2012, according to the statement.
The G-20 statement also calls for “a single set of high quality” accounting standards and executive pay rules. The leaders agreed on the need to improve oversight of hedge funds, credit rating companies and over-the-counter derivatives “in an internationally consistent and non-discriminatory way.”
On the issue of trade, the G-20 leaders said they would renew their commitment to avoid increasing or raising new barriers to trade until the end of 2013.
Outside the fence that surrounds the meeting, protests turned violent for a second day. Yesterday, protesters set fire to cars; others threw rocks at the windows of First Canadian Place, headquarters of the Bank of Montreal, and spray-painted “Bomb the banks” on the building.
Toronto police have made 224 arrests today, said Tim Garland, a spokesman with the Integrated Security Unit.
Asian Stocks Rise for First Time in Three Days; Dollar Weakens
By Nicolas Johnson and Akiko Ikeda
June 24 (Bloomberg) -- Asian stocks rose for the first time in three days as mining companies advanced after Australia’s prime minister was ousted over a proposed resource tax. The U.S. dollar weakened for a second day versus the euro.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed 0.1 percent to 117.13 at 8:05 a.m. in London and the Europe Stoxx 600 Index climbed 0.4 percent. The U.S. dollar traded at $1.2317 against the euro. Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index were little changed after the U.S. benchmark dropped 0.3 percent yesterday.
Incoming Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard offered to work with mining companies after Kevin Rudd resigned following a clash with the resource industry over his failed plan for a 40 percent tax on profits. Stock gains were restrained by concerns about a slowdown in the global recovery after the Federal Reserve said European debt may harm economic growth and new-home sales in the U.S. plunged 33 percent to a record low.
“Taxes on mining companies may ease up after the change in prime ministers,” said Yoshinori Nagano, a senior strategist in Tokyo at Daiwa Asset Management Co., which oversees $94 billion. “Judging from the U.S. housing-sales figures, it’s hard to expect the economy will continue to recover strongly.”
Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average and China’s Shanghai Composite Index were little changed. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 0.1 percent, reversing a 0.7 percent gain.
BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s biggest mining company, gained 1.3 percent in Sydney and Rio Tinto Group, the third- largest, climbed 1.7 percent. Macarthur Coal Ltd. jumped 6.5 percent. Mitsubishi Corp., Japan’s No. 1 commodities trader, advanced 0.8 percent. Yanzhou Coal Mining Co., which acquired Australia-based Felix Resources Ltd. last year, climbed 1.8 percent in Hong Kong.
The Australian government’s door is open to the mining industry, Gillard told reporters. Australia is the world’s largest shipper of coal and iron ore, and Rudd’s proposed tax was estimated to raise A$12 billion ($10 billion) in the first two years from 2012.
“The market is expecting a change,” said Tim Leung, who helps manage about $1.5 billion at IG Investment Ltd. in Hong Kong. “People expect the incoming prime minister to oppose the super profit tax on resources.”
The Fed’s Open Market Committee said yesterday that “financial conditions have become less supportive of economic growth on balance, largely reflecting developments abroad.” The central bank left the overnight interbank lending rate target unchanged in a range of zero to 0.25 percent, where it’s been since December 2008.
‘Sentiment May Worsen’
The U.S. Commerce Department said yesterday that purchases of new homes fell to an all-time low as a tax credit expired, showing the market remains dependent on government support even with mortgage rates near record lows.
The MSCI World Index of equities in 24 developed countries has fallen 11 percent from a 52-week high on April 15 on concern that Greece and other European countries will struggle to trim their budget deficits and repay debt. The euro has slumped 14 percent against the dollar this year.
“Sentiment may worsen further,” said Mitsushige Akino, who oversees $450 million at Tokyo-based Ichiyoshi Investment Management Co. “The drop in new home sales in the U.S. showed the economic recovery is not yet self-sustaining.”
The dollar sank for a second day versus the euro as traders increased bets the Fed will keep interest rates near zero for longer to support a recovery in the world’s largest economy.
The U.S. currency was at 89.84 yen from 89.82 in New York yesterday. The euro advanced to 110.70 yen from 110.57 yen, halting a four-day slide.
Crude oil for August delivery was little changed at $76.29 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Copper climbed in London as the dollar fell. Copper for three-month delivery rose as much as 2.6 percent to $6,684 a metric ton on the London Metal Exchange.
Early yuan euphoria fades as stocks close in the red
（Washington Post Monday 6.21.10)
The yuan fever lasted until about noon then started tapering off and taking stocks with it. After a promising opening, stocks headed down steadily throughout the day and closed in the red.
The Dow closed down .08 percent at 10,442.41.
The broader S&P 500 closed down .4 percent at 1,113.20.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq, which is having its worst quarter since 2008, closed down .9 percent at 2,289.09.
Oil closed up half of 1 percent at just over $77.50 per barrel.
China's announcement over the weekend that it would allow its yuan to float against the dollar enthused traders in Europe all day long and in the U.S. during the morning. But the instant effects of what will be a slow currency revaluation seemed to kick in in afternoon trading, leading to a sell-off.
Stocks give up opening gains
12:35 p.m.: Stocks have given up some of their opening gains but remain in the green, boosted by China's announcement that it would stop artificially holding down the price of it yuan against the dollar.
In mid-day trading, the Dow is up .6 percent.
The broader S&P 500 is up .5 percent.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq is up .1 percent.
The European markets closed in the green about an hour ago, with London's FTSE, Germany's DAX and France's CAC 40 all closing up at or more than 1 percent.
China boosts stocks at opening
10:30 a.m.: Once again, China is driving the world economy, today driving up U.S. stocks at opening after weekend news that the giant Asian nation will stop artificially holding down the price of its yuan against the dollar.
In the first hour of trading, the Dow is up 1 percent.
The broader S&P 500 is up 0.9 percent.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq is up 0.8 percent.
The yuan vs. the dollar has been a problem for a long, long time. China has kept the value of its currency low to boost its exports, and it's worked. But it's also worked to keep out imports, because compared with the dollar, the yuan was so cheap. This has been an issue from nearly Day One of the Obama administration. Remember Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner complaining to Congress of China's "currency manipulation" as early as January 2009, which offended the Chinese to no end and touched off fears of a mini-trade war.
If the yuan gets closer in value to the dollar, U.S. exporters will be able to sell their products at a more affordable price in China, which is a massive market for imports and is hungry for U.S. products. (See: the success of GM's Buick in China.)
In response to the news, the yuan has risen today to its highest level against the dollar.
Though this is good news for the U.S. and other Chinese trading partners, it won't come all at once. The yuan-to-dollar adjustment will come over time, writes Miller Tabak equity strategist Peter Boockvar: "Bottom line, today's move is more symbolic than anything because the revaluation of the yuan will be very gradual and not one off but it is a very important step in China's maturation and global economic relevance."
At the same time, Boockvar writes:
"China's decision to gradually abandon their hard peg to the U.S. dollar takes us back to pre-July 2008 when it more freely floated. Yes, this comes right before the G20 meeting and with growing international pressure, particularly from the U.S. Congress, but China understands that the move is in their best long term interests in terms of growing the purchasing power of their citizenry, tempering inflation pressures and slowing the incredible trade imbalances that has seen their foreign-exchange reserves grow to $2.4 trillion, about 70% of which is in U.S. dollars. For China's growing stature in the world this is great news, although short term difficult for low margin Chinese manufacturers."
L.A.-San Francisco Bullet-Train Bidding May Begin Next Year
By Alan Ohnsman and Chris Cooper
June 18 (Bloomberg) -- California, the top recipient of funds from President Barack Obama’s high-speed rail program, expects to issue a tender for a bullet-train line linking Los Angeles and San Francisco by late 2011.
The state expects bids from about 10 trainmakers and construction may start as early as the first half of 2012, Quentin Kopp, a California High Speed Rail Authority board member, said in an interview in Los Angeles yesterday. The train will whisk passengers between the two cities, 432 miles apart, in less than 2 hours 40 minutes, according to the state-backed group’s website.
California’s push for high-speed rail, backed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, comes as the most populous U.S. state targets cuts in congestion and greenhouse gas emissions from cars and airplanes. The Obama administration in January awarded $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, causing companies such as Alstom SA, Siemens AG, East Japan Railway Co., China South Locomotive & Rolling Stock Corp. to boost sales efforts.
“A high-speed line between Los Angeles and San Francisco makes sense given their large populations and the distance between them,” said Yuuki Sakurai, chief executive officer of Fukoku Capital Management Inc., which manages about $8.3 billion. “There might be some companies trying to sell their technologies even if they don’t make a profit, so they can make a name for themselves.”
When fully completed the state anticipates an 800-mile high-speed rail network running from San Francisco to San Diego, near the U.S.-Mexico border. The total cost for the system will be more than $40 billion.
Construction From 2012
California won a $2.3 billion federal grant to help build the high-speed link, which is due to enter service in 2020. That’s in addition to a $10 billion bond sale the state approved in 2008 to fund the rail line. The state has until September 2011 to complete an environmental review, Kopp said.
“Allow four months for the conclusion of proposals and bids, and I estimate conservatively that construction will begin by the first part of 2012,” said Kopp, who was at a U.S. High Speed Rail Association conference in Los Angeles.
Schwarzenegger has proposed running high-speed trains on existing conventional tracks between Los Angeles and San Diego as early as November to spur interest in high-speed rail. Kopp said he doubted whether that timeframe would be met.
“Will that happen in the time variant in the governor’s recent proposal?” Kopp said. “ I don’t think so,” he said without elaboration.
Trains operated by Amtrak, the U.S. long-distance passenger railroad, currently don’t run directly between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Travel between Los Angeles and Oakland, which neighbors San Francisco, on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight line takes about 12 hours or twice as long as traveling by car.
Air travel between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area takes about an hour.
“The airlines will certainly lose some of their business,” said Fukoku Capital’s Sakurai. “If you add up the time spent traveling to airports, security checks and delays it makes sense to take the train.”
U.S. Transport Secretary Ray LaHood last month visited Japan, where he tried out a JR East bullet train and rode Central Japan Railway Co.’s magnetic-levitation railway. He also encouraged Japanese trainmakers to compete for U.S. contracts and to set up plants in the country. Japan’s Transport Minister Seiji Maehara is planning a second visit to the U.S. this year to help stoke interest in bullet trains.
320 kmh Train
JR East will introduce a bullet train next year that can reach speeds of 320 kmh (199 miles per hour). The fastest train in the U.S., Amtrak’s Acela Express, which is built by Alstom and Bombardier Inc., is capable of running at up to 150 mph.
Japanese trainmakers have previously won overseas deals. Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. made the trains for Taiwan’s $15 billion high-speed line that started operating three years ago between suburban Taipei and Kaohsiung in the south. Hitachi Ltd. built high-speed trains running between London and the south- east of the U.K.
China’s Ministry of Railways has teamed up with General Electric Co. in a bid to win U.S. contracts. The two in November agreed a partnership to manufacture equipment for high-speed rail projects.
Japan, which started the world’s first bullet-train services in 1964, carried 308 million people by high-speed train in the year ended March 2009, more than triple the number of passengers on domestic airline routes. Amtrak’s Acela Express carried 3.4 million passengers in fiscal 2008.
ＵＳの生産率が上がっている。５月の鉱山算出量～電力使用量が０，８％上げた。これは、かこ１１ヶ月のうちの１０ヶ月間の上昇である。工場出荷は増えた。一方で、住宅建設が振るわない。工場生産率が上がることが、インフレの原因となっていない。”これは、願ってもないことだ”とエコノミスト。ＮＹ連銀（ＦＲＢ）は、この２６日に校庭利息を上げるかどうか発表する。伊勢爺さんは、多分、上げないと思っている。伊勢平次郎 ルイジアナProduction Probably Rose, Prices Fell: U.S. Economy Preview
By Timothy R. Homan
June 13 (Bloomberg) -- Factories kept churning out more goods last month, while prices and home construction fell, pointing to a manufacturing-led U.S. recovery that is not generating inflation, economists said before reports this week.
Production at factories, mines and utilities increased 0.8 percent in May, the 10th gain in the past 11 months, according to the median estimate of 63 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News ahead of Federal Reserve figures due June 16. The cost of living declined for a second month and work began on fewer houses, other data may show.
“It’s really a sweet spot in terms of continuing growth without inflation,” said Brian Bethune, chief U.S. financial economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts. “Manufacturing is still in pretty good shape.”
The need to replenish depleted inventories, growing sales overseas and business investment in new equipment are putting American factories at the forefront of the rebound from the worst recession since the 1930s. A lack of inflation means the Fed has scope to keep the target interest rate near zero in coming months to spur growth.
Manufacturers added 29,000 workers to payrolls in May, a fifth consecutive gain, the workweek lengthened and the average amount of overtime climbed to the highest level in two years, pointing to an acceleration on factory floors, data from the Labor Department showed earlier this month.
Regional reports may show manufacturing kept driving the recovery this month. Factories in the New York Fed district expanded for an 11th month, a June 15 report will show, while data from the Philadelphia Fed two days later will say those in its area grew for a 10th month, according to economists surveyed.
Deere & Co., the world’s largest farm-equipment maker, said on its website last week that sales of utility tractors rose in the “double digits” in May, compared with a 6 percent increase for the industry overall.
Growing global demand for agricultural commodities, housing and infrastructure are driving sales, Samuel Allen, chief executive officer of the Moline, Illinois-based company, said last month in a statement. Deere last month raised earnings and sales forecasts for a second time this year after second-quarter profit top analysts’ estimates.
Manufacturing shares are outperforming the broader market. The Standard & Poor’s Supercomposite Machinery Index, which includes Deere and Peoria, Illinois-based Caterpillar Inc., is up 7 percent so far this year, compared with a 2.1 decline in the S&P 500 Index on growing concern that the European debt crisis will slow global growth.
Three reports from the Labor Department this week will show the plunge in fuel prices precipitated by the turmoil in financial markets is tamping inflation.
The import-price index, due on June 15, dropped 1.3 percent in May, after an increase of 0.9 percent the prior month. The producer-price index, issued the following day, declined 0.5 percent after a 0.1 percent decrease in April, according to the survey median.
Consumer prices in May are forecast to drop 0.2 percent, after declining 0.1 percent the previous month, the survey median showed. Excluding food and fuel, the so-called core rate rose 0.1 percent after no change the previous month, economists projected.
The lack of inflation validates the Fed’s strategy to maintain the benchmark lending rates on overnight loans between banks near zero to spur growth. Their next decision on interest rates is due June 23.
One area that may not fare well in coming months is housing. Work began on 648,000 houses at an annual pace last month, down from a 672,000 rate in April, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed before Commerce Department figures June 16.
The end of a government tax credit at the end of the month will cool sales and construction in the second half of the year, economists said. The incentive for first-time homebuyers worth as much as $8,000, which was extended in November to include some current owners, required contracts be signed by April 30 and settled by June 30.
Finally, a report from the Conference Board, a New York- based research group, will show growth outlook brightened last month. The group’s index of leading economic indicators, due on June 17, increased 0.4 percent in May, according to economists surveyed. The measure had climbed for 12 consecutive months before declining 0.1 percent in April.
ルイジアナのベニスから、フロリダのクリアウオーターの海岸がＢＰのオイルで汚染された。１０００キロメートルの海岸線である。砂浜から近い住宅～モテル～貸し家の価値が下がった。リーマンで２５％、このオイル汚染でさらに、１５％下げた。損失の総額は、４３０億ドルである。ＢＰは既に、３４０億ドルを、クリーンアップ～魚業～ツーリズムの損失の訴訟に準備している。だが、そこには、この４３０億ドルのホームやモテルは含まれていない。ところで、わが家のある、ポーチャートレン湖畔の北部の町マンデビルの住宅価格が上がっている。売りに出すとすぐに売れてしまう。他人の不幸で資産価値が上がることを嬉しくは思わないが、、カトリーナ（２００５）でも同じ住宅価格変動が起きた。伊勢平次郎 ルイジアナOil Spill May Cost $4.3 Billion in Property Values
By John Gittelsohn
June 11 (Bloomberg) -- BP Plc’s oil spill may drive down the Gulf Coast’s shore-area property values by 10 percent for at least three years, according to CoStar Group Inc.
Losses may total $4.3 billion along the 600-mile (966- kilometer) stretch from the Louisiana bayous to Clearwater, Florida, the property-information service estimates.
“It’s just another blow to an already depressed real estate market,” Norm Miller, CoStar’s vice president of analytics, said yesterday in a telephone interview from San Diego. “The best thing you can do if you’re in real estate in this area is bide your time, don’t panic and don’t try to sell in this environment.”
Falling real-estate values are one consequence of the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history as oil keeps gushing from a BP well once pumped by the Deepwater Horizon rig. An April 20 explosion there killed 11 workers. Oil washing ashore will further harm property values in an area where Moody’s Economy.com estimates prices fell as much as 34 percent from the peak of the U.S. residential real estate market in 2006.
The median U.S. home price was $173,100 in April, down 25 percent from July 2006, according to the Chicago-based National Association of Realtors. Florida real estate is among the hardest hit markets, with one in every 184 households in the foreclosure pipeline, according to RealtyTrac Inc., an Irvine, California-based data company. Only Nevada and Arizona have higher rates, RealtyTrac said yesterday.
BP’s well had been spewing 25,000 to 35,000 barrels of oil a day, according to estimates by U.S. government scientists released yesterday.
The spill may cost the London-based company $37 billion in cleanup and reimbursements for economic damage to the tourism and fishing industries, according to a June 2 report by Credit Suisse Group AG. The report didn’t include the effect on property values.
Costar, based in Bethesda, Maryland, made its forecast for property prices assuming a 10 percent loss based on previous disasters, such as oil spills, hurricanes and the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident in Pennsylvania, Miller said. His estimate relied on recent sales data of property within 200 feet of the Gulf waterfront and spanning 600 miles from Venice, Louisiana, to Clearwater, Florida.
The analysis valued the property at about $3 million an acre, or $43 billion for the entire coastline measured, he said.
Costar’s loss estimate aligns with a projection for southern Louisiana and Mississippi property values by Arthur Sterbcow, an independent real estate broker and analyst in New Orleans. Sterbcow forecasts values in that area will fall 5 percent to 15 percent in the next 12 months.
“It could be 20 percent in some areas,” Sterbcow said in a telephone interview. “Every day I’ve had to revise my numbers negatively.”
Sandy Sharpe, a Realtor in Destin, Florida, said buyer concern about the spill’s effect on property values in her area began soon after the April rig explosion. By the end of the month, a customer backed out of a $215,000 contact for a condominium across the street from the beach.
“He was paying cash and ready to buy and then started asking: ‘How protected am I if oil comes on the beaches?’” Sharpe, 48, said in an interview today. “He basically was terrified about the oil.”
Hotels and restaurants may have trouble making mortgage payments if tourists avoid the area during the peak summer season, said Don Epley, director of the center for Real Estate at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama.
“The defaults will start happening in early fall,” Epley said. “You can directly attribute those to the oil spill.”
Occupancy in Florida Gulf Coast motels increased 7.2 percent from May 1 through May 29 compared with a year earlier, according to Jan Freitag, vice president of global development at STR Global, a travel research company based in Nashville, Tennessee.
The increase may be attributed to visitors “frontloading their vacations to be at the beach while there still is a beach,” Freitag said June 9.
St. Joe Co., which owns 578,000 acres (234,000 hectares) in northwest Florida, including about 130 miles on the Gulf Coast, has seen its stock fall 35 percent since April 29, when Jindal declared a state of emergency. The company has built protective booms and taken aerial photos and soil samples as evidence in case it files damage claims with BP, Jacksonville, Florida-based St. Joe said in a June 8 statement.
The disaster has led to the closing of about 78,300 square miles (203,000 square kilometers), or almost a third, of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico to fishing, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported June 7. A six-month moratorium on offshore drilling will shut 33 deepwater rigs in the Gulf, costing as many as 20,000 jobs by the end of next year, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal wrote in a June 2 letter to President Barack Obama.
“It would be the knockout punch the Great Recession didn’t deliver,” Jack McCabe, a real estate analyst in Delray Beach, Florida, said of the oil spill. “If oil hits the beaches, there’s no way to quantify the devastation.”
Sharpe, the Florida Realtor, said she’s worried about the value of her own home.
“I’m two blocks from the beach,” she said. “I have a mortgage. Who is going to buy my house now?”
Revalue Renminbi or Dogs Unleashed, Patterson Says:
By Mary Childs and Tom Keene
June 10 (Bloomberg) -- China has until the end of the month to strengthen its currency before Congressional leaders impose measures to counter what they say is an unfair trade advantage, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Rebecca Patterson.
Senator Charles Schumer of New York has introduced a bill that would require the Treasury Department to determine if a nation has a currency misaligned with the U.S. dollar. The proposal would let companies seek import duties to compensate for an undervalued currency and impose tariffs. China must begin strengthening the yuan, also known as the renminbi, before the Group of 20 meeting in Toronto on June 25, Patterson said,
“Treasury’s said, ‘We’re going to stay quiet; we’re not going to put any pressure on you,” Patterson, head of foreign exchange at the private banking unit of JPMorgan, said during a Bloomberg Radio interview today on Surveillance with Tom Keene. “‘You have a window to move on the renminbi, strengthen it, and make everything more competitive. If it doesn’t happen by the end of June, we can’t hold the dogs back much longer’ -- no offense to the congressmen.”
Since July 2008, the Chinese currency has been held by officials around 6.83 per dollar, after Premier Wen Jiabao’s government allowed a 21 percent advance in the prior three years. The policy helped exporters weather last year’s contraction in global trade while spurring criticism that China is giving its companies an unfair subsidy.
Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said before Congress today that China’s exchange-rate policy is an impediment to a more balanced global recovery and allowing the yuan to strengthen would benefit Chinese consumers. The Senate will vote within two weeks on the measure aimed at getting China to raise the value of the yuan, Schumer said yesterday.
China’s exports jumped 48.5 percent in May from a year earlier, the biggest gain in more than six years, indicating Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis has yet to pose a restraint on the world’s fastest-growing major economy.
“Chinese officials are smarter than some folks in the market give them credit for,” Patterson said. “Of the policy makers around the world, they’re in a unique situation: China is starting from a position of strength.”
China’s small budget deficit, huge foreign reserves, and huge current account surplus mean that even if global growth slows, it has room to respond, according to Patterson.
“Even if the U.S. and Europe fall off a cliff, China can act,” she said. “It can do something to keep growth up and if growth is getting too tight, boom, they put on administrative measures and they prick the bubbles before they overheat. China is actually able and is trying very hard to engineer its own version of Goldilocks.”
U.S. Concern Over China Military Growing, Mullen Says
By Viola Gienger
June 10 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. President Barack Obama’s top military adviser said he has grown “genuinely concerned” over China’s motives for building up its armed forces.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a speech in Washington last night that he was worried by China’s “heavy investments” in sea and air capabilities and its rejection of military contacts with the U.S. China will “never be an aggressor,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in Beijing today, adding that the U.S. should do more to foster “mutual trust” between the armed forces of both sides.
“A gap as wide as what seems to be forming between China’s stated intent and its military programs leaves me more than curious about the end result,” Mullen told the Asia Society Washington. “Indeed, I have moved from being curious to being genuinely concerned.”
Mullen’s comments step up long-held U.S. criticism of China’s actions and follow a decision by leaders in Beijing to rescind an invitation for a visit from Defense Secretary Robert Gates while he was in the region last week. The U.S. and China last week blamed each other for the freeze in ties sparked by American arm sales to Taiwan, highlighting a divide that’s hampering efforts to resolve tension on the Korean peninsula.
“The question is, should China and the U.S. work together, lead together, to promote regional stability?” Mullen told the group. “Washington’s answer is and has been an unequivocal yes. Beijing’s answer has been sometimes yes and sometimes no.”
China also should take a stronger position on North Korea after allegations the regime was responsible for a torpedo that sank a South Korean vessel on March 26, killing 46 sailors, Mullen said.
North Korea has denied any involvement and China, the totalitarian state’s main ally, has so far refused to take sides.
“I have been encouraged by public statements made recently by Chinese leaders as to the seriousness of this incident and the need for accountability,” Mullen said in the prepared remarks. Still, he said he was “dismayed by a fairly tepid response to calls by the international community for support.”
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao last month said his government would not protect anyone found to be guilty of sinking the ship. He added, however, that China was still reviewing evidence from both sides and had yet to draw a conclusion. China’s top priority was to ensure stability on the peninsula, he said.
Mullen called on China to resume military talks “to reduce tension, increase trust and foster the sort of genuine and sustainable stability that the people who live and work in Asia so very much deserve.”
China’s reaction to the planned arms sales to Taiwan threatens regional security, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in Singapore on June 5 at a meeting of defense officials from 28 countries. The deals “should come as no surprise” since they have been taking place for decades.
“It is not the Chinese side that has set obstacles to military-to-military ties,” General Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of general staff of the People’s Liberation Army, told the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue after Gates spoke. “We do not regard U.S. arms sales to Taiwan as something normal.”
The weaponry Taiwan plans to buy includes advanced Lockheed Martin Corp. Patriot missiles valued at $2.8 billion, United Technologies Corp. UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters worth $3.1 billion, and Boeing Co. Harpoon missiles costing $37 million. Gates said the sales are “nothing new” and the U.S. doesn’t support independence for Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province that should be reunited by force if necessary.
“Functional exchanges” with U.S. officials were ongoing even as high-level visits were “temporarily suspended,” Ma said.
Gates and Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa last month agreed to jointly monitor China’s navy after Chinese submarines and destroyers were spotted off Okinawa.
Japan and South Korea have cited threats from North Korea or China as reasons for bolstering their defense capabilities -- and their security alliances with the U.S. The U.S. has about 80,000 troops stationed in South Korea and Japan.
Gates said the U.S. will conduct combined military exercises with South Korea and support action in the United Nations Security Council to pressure North Korea.
South Korea has referred the sinking to the council, on which China holds veto power. China accounted for 79 percent of North Korea’s international commerce last year, according to South Korean estimates. China’s allegiance to the North stretches back to the foundation of the two countries, and China came to the North’s assistance during the 1950-1953 Korean War.
Still, China depends on trade to maintain economic growth that reached 11.9 percent in the first three months of this year. South Korea is now China’s fourth-biggest trading partner.
China voted alongside the U.S. to tighten UN sanctions against Iran yesterday in New York. Voting for the measures doesn’t “close off continued diplomacy,” spokesman Qin Gang said in comments posted on the foreign ministry’s website after the vote. “A solution to the nuclear standoff should be resolved through dialogue and diplomatic means.”
U.S. Home Seizures Jump 44% to Record as All States Show Rise
By Dan Levy
June 10 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. home foreclosures reached a record for the second consecutive month in May, with increases in every state, as lenders stepped up property seizures, according to RealtyTrac Inc.
Bank repossessions climbed 44 percent from May 2009 to 93,777, the Irvine, California-based data company said today in a statement. Foreclosure filings, including default and auction notices, rose about 1 percent to 322,920. One out of every 400 U.S. households received a filing.
“We’re nowhere near out of the woods,” Rick Sharga, RealtyTrac’s senior vice president for marketing, said in a telephone interview. “We’re likely to set a quarterly record for home seizures if June is anything like May.”
Lenders are completing the “inevitable progression” of taking properties from homeowners who stopped paying, Sharga said. He predicted last month that another 5 million delinquent mortgages will end in foreclosure in addition to properties that had already been repossessed.
“The second quarter won’t be the peak,” Sharga said. “I’m not even sure 2010 will be.”
The previous record for seizures was 92,432 in April. Last month was the first in which every state had an increase in repossessions from a year earlier, according to RealtyTrac.
U.S. private payrolls rose by 41,000 in May, Labor Department data showed last week. The hiring of temporary census workers boosted overall payroll growth to 431,000. The jobless rate fell to 9.7 percent, from 9.9 percent in April.
Almost a quarter of the nation’s mortgage holders owed more than their homes were worth in the first quarter, Zillow.com said last month. Bank sales of foreclosed properties accounted for more than a fifth of all U.S. home transactions in March, the Seattle-based real estate data provider said.
Wells Fargo & Co. and Bank of America Corp., the two largest U.S. home lenders, are cutting principal on some mortgages in an effort to keep owners in properties and get them to pay at least part of what they owe. Bank of America said in March it was reducing principal for some borrowers who owe more than 120 percent of what their homes are worth.
“Marginal people, those types that were working as laborers, are most affected by foreclosures,” said Albert Kyle, a finance professor at the University of Maryland’s R.M. Smith School of Business in College Park. “A lot of foreclosures are occurring in modest houses.”
The number of homes that received default notices last month was 96,462, down 7 percent from April and 22 percent from a year earlier, RealtyTrac said. A default notice is the first stage in the foreclosure process. They peaked at 142,064 in April 2009.
A foreclosure auction, the second stage in the process, was scheduled on 132,681 properties, down 4 percent from April and about 1 percent from May 2009. The record was 158,105, reached in March.
Nevada had the highest foreclosure rate for the 41st straight month. One in every 79 households got a notice, more than five times the national average. Filings fell almost 12 percent from the previous month and 16 percent from May 2009.
Arizona had the second-highest rate, at one in 169 households, or more than twice the U.S. average. Filings fell 5 percent from a year earlier. Florida ranked third at one in 174 households, and California was fourth at one in 186.
Rise in Michigan
Michigan ranked fifth at one in 223 households, with filings up 6 percent from April and 46 percent from a year earlier, RealtyTrac said. Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Utah and Maryland also ranked among the 10 highest rates.
Ten states accounted for more than 70 percent of all U.S. filings, led by California’s 72,030. Filings in the most populous state rose 3 percent from April and declined 22 percent from a year earlier.
Florida ranked second with 50,685 filings, up 5 percent from April and down 14 percent from a year earlier. Michigan was third at 20,322, followed by Arizona at 16,097.
Illinois had 15,061 filings, up 38 percent from a year earlier, and Nevada had 14,346.
Georgia, Texas, Ohio and New Jersey rounded out the top 10, said RealtyTrac, which sells default data from more than 2,200 counties representing 90 percent of the U.S. population.
Can Kan-sian Economics Save Japan?
HEARD ON THE STREET JUNE 8, 2010, 7:59 A.M. ET
By JAMES SIMMS
Japan's economy is about to receive a dose of Kan-sian economics. It's not clear yet if this will be strong enough to cure the nation's problems.
The good news is that Prime Minister Naoto Kan, and two lieutenants named Tuesday —finance minister Yoshihiko Noda and economy minister Satoshi Arai—have reform in mind. The bad news is that they face the daunting task of putting the economy on a path to sustainable, private demand-led growth while getting Tokyo's fiscal house in order.
The challenge is well known: The nation's nominal gross domestic product is about the same as it was some two decades ago, and Japan's debt burden—at 181% of GDP—is the industrial world's worst.
Mr. Kan brings to the table a determination to solve these problems. He's promised to cap the rate of new bond issuance at this fiscal year's level, and publicly prodded Japan's sedentary central bank to take its fight against deflation seriously, including talking about an inflation target.
Less encouraging, though, is that he still has spending on the brain. Mr. Kan says he can spur economic growth a "third way" by raising taxes to fund spending in the health and welfare sectors. Rightly, he's dismissed spending on unneeded infrastructure as a failure. Wrongly, he's also taken a similar line with the deregulation pushed by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
Success in generating growth will help Japan deal with the debt problem. If Tokyo can get nominal growth above 1.4%, the latest calculation of average interest rates, its debt pile could be stabilized without the kind of drastic cuts or tax hikes that it would take to pull Japan's budget into a primary surplus. Achieve that and the ultimate reckoning, which will still require fiscal discipline, won't be as severe.
Japan has seen nominal GDP expand for two consecutive quarters, but the odds are against this sustaining at a high level. Nominal GDP growth has been at levels below interest rates on Tokyo's debt for most of the last 20 years.
Critical to getting nominal growth higher is ending deflation, something Mr. Kan was vocal about when finance minister. The Bank of Japan has made noises about not tolerating falling prices, but the government and the BOJ still haven't come up with any concrete policies to overcome this.
To be sure, Japan isn't in a crisis yet. Most of the debt is domestically funded. Japan's private banks and the postal system are basically all giant bond funds. But Mr. Kan and his deputies need to act. They'll have a chance to do so later this month, when the new cabinet announces a mid-term growth strategy and a fiscal reform plan.
Hopefully, it'll be less of the usual.
China gives no word on refusing Gates' visit
The Associated Press
Thursday, June 3, 2010; 5:35 AM
BEIJING -- China gave no explanation Thursday for why it refused to allow U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates to visit this week.
Gates left Wednesday to visit countries in Asia and Europe, but aides said China explained this was not a convenient time. Gates had hoped to make improved military ties with Beijing the centerpiece of his trip to Asia.
China was angered earlier this year by the Obama administration's decision to go ahead with arms sales to Chinese rival Taiwan worth more than $6 billion.
A spokeswoman for China's foreign ministry told a press briefing Thursday that "we attach importance to military exchanges" but there were no specific arrangements yet.
China's defense ministry has not commented.
Gates will spend the weekend meeting with defense officials from every other major Asian power during a security conference in Singapore.
Contacts between the American and Chinese militaries have been sporadic and full of suspicion for more than a decade. While both sides made tentative steps to improve the atmosphere last year, the decision to sell arms to Taiwan in February led Beijing to suspend military exchanges.
During U.S.-China discussions last week in Beijing, a Chinese admiral's comments harshly criticizing the U.S. struck one of the few discordant notes in what participants said were generally positive talks.
A meeting between Admiral Robert Willard, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, and People's Liberation Army deputy chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Ma Xiaotian, was the first high-level communication since military exchanges were suspended.
Military ties are not the only sources of bilateral friction. Trade issues have also caused tension with both sides accusing the other of protectionism for certain products.
China's commerce ministry said it opposes a decision Tuesday by the United States to set duties on some steel gratings imported from China. The U.S. set anti-dumping duties at 136.76 to 145.18 percent and countervailing duties at 62.46 percent.
A China statement Wednesday said the U.S. was acting "discriminatorily."
3.2% Q4 GDP 4.79% avg. 30-year mortgage 9.7% Unemployment
Stocks lose 3% following bad May jobs report, more European debt troubles
May jobs report analysis: Can we make the Census go on forever?
Stocks dove in a massive sell-off in the last hour of trading, hitting their lowest levels since February. Wall Street responded to a discouraging May jobs report and more European debt troubles, raising concerns about a double-dip recession.
The Dow closed down 3.2 percent at 9,931.37, breaking 10,000. The Dow lost more than 300 points on the day. The index is off 12.5 percent from its April high and all 30 Dow stocks were down today. The Dow closed down 2.3 percent for the week.
The broader S&P 500 closed down 3.2 percent. The S&P is down 12.6 percent from its April high. It closed down 2.4 percent for the week.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq closed down 3.4 percent. It's down 12.3 percent since its April high and is down 1.8 for the week.
All three major indices are now in negative territory for the year.
It was the second-worst day of the year for stocks. Today's losses on the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were worse than the indices suffered during the "flash crash."
The sell-off is likely being exacerbated by "margin calls," meaning investors' instructions to brokers to sell their stock when it drops to a certain price or has a certain-percentage drop. This creates a snowball sell-off effect.
Hungary is the latest European country to confess to debt problems. The current administration blames the previous one for hiding debt problems and lying about the nation's financial standing. The same was true of the past two administrations in Greece. A Hungarian official called his nation's situation "grave" and said a default is not out of the question.
In addition to adding yet another Euro state to the Continent's debt contagion, some in America feel that looking at Europe is the same as looking in the mirror. They look at deficit problems in states like California and watch state and local governments around the country slash employees and expenses to try to balance their budget.
Meanwhile, even though the national unemployment rate in May dropped to 9.7 percent from 9.9 percent, almost all job growth last month came from the addition of more than 400,000 Census workers -- jobs that will go away later this year. Traders wonder if the private sector is ready to start creating jobs and understand that government-fueled job creation is not sustainable.
All this raises worries that the U.S. could teeter back into a double-dip recession, less than one year out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, speaking earlier today on CNBC, raised the possibility of a double-dip recession, which no doubt spooked traders.
Stocks testing day's lows
2:09 p.m.: Stocks are testing their lows on the as the sell-off continues and the Dow breaks back down through the 10,000 level, thanks to a bad jobs report and more troubles in Europe.
With a little less than two hours to go on the trading week, the Dow is down 2.6 percent. All 30 Dow stocks are down.
The broader S&P 500 is down 2.8 percent.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq is down 2.9 percent.
The euro continues its slide, thanks to sovereign debt problems on the Continent. The euro is now selling for $1.20. Oil is slumping as well, and is down nearly 4 percent on the day, selling at just under $72 per barrel.
Stocks extend losses at mid-day:
11:48 a.m.: Stocks are extending their opening sell-off, thanks to a disappointing jobs report this morning and more worries about sovereign debt in Europe, which now has to deal with Hungary.
As stocks approach mid-day trading, the Dow is down 2 percent.
The broader S&P 500 is down 1.9 percent.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq is down 1.7 percent.
Oil is down about 3 percent and the euro continues down against the dollar.
In European markets, which closed moments ago, London's FTSE closed down 1.8 percent, Germany's DAX closed down 2 percent and France's CAC 40 closed down 2.9 percent in a broad slump.
Stocks off sharply at opening
10:05 a.m.: Stocks are off sharply in early trading today, as Wall Street is digesting a disappointing May jobs report and hashing over more troubles in Europe.
The Dow is down 1.5 percent and is flirting with the 10,000 level. All 30 Dow stocks are lower.
The broader S&P 500 is down 1.5 percent.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq is down 1.2 percent. However, it is still up for the week. So far.
The economy added 431,000 new jobs in May, which was a significant improvement over April, but still short of expectations. More disappointingly, the big job growth came from government jobs, with lots of Census workers included in that. Only 44,000 jobs were created in the private sector.
This is bad for two reasons: A) Those Census jobs -- though they are legitimate jobs, paying legit wages -- are temporary. They go away when the Census goes away. B) The economy cannot grow out of this recovery on government money and job creation. The private sector needs to add jobs.
In Europe, Hungary is the new Greece. That nation is struggling with a sovereign debt crisis, like Greece and many other countries, which worries Wall Street. A Hungarian official said his economy is in a "grave state."
The euro is trading lower against the dollar.
By Frank Ahrens | June 4, 2010; 4:08 PM ET
Categories: Data , Wall Street
JUNE 3, 2010.
Kan Elected to Head Japan's Ruling Party
Finance Chief Emphasizes the Importance of Diplomatic Ties With U.S. and China; Indicates No Change on Okinawa.
By MARIKO SANCHANTA And TAKASHI NAKAMICHI
TOKYO -- The ruling Democratic Party of Japan picked Naoto Kan as its new leader Friday, making it all but certain that the lawmaker, who has underscored the importance of the U.S.-Japan relationship and increased fiscal discipline, will become the nation's prime minister by the end of the day.
The DPJ has a comfortable majority in the Lower House of Parliament, which has the power to select the nation's prime minister and enact the national budget. The Lower House is expected to name Mr. Kan as prime minister in a special session to be convened later in the day. Mr. Kan is expected to form his cabinet in the evening.
Mr. Kan succeeds Yukio Hatoyama, who resigned as prime minister on Wednesday after a turbulent eight-month reign.
Since the DPJ rose to power, ending nearly half a century of the Liberal Democratic Party's governance, Mr. Kan has played key roles in policy-making as deputy prime minister, national strategy minister and, since January, finance minister. Mr. Kan diverges from his predecessor on three key points: his preferences for a weak yen, tax increases and his tighter focus on fiscal discipline.
In a signal that he won't backtrack on a recent pact between the two countries to keep a large American military base on the island of Okinawa, Mr. Kan on Thursday underscored the importance of the U.S.-Japan relationship, calling it the "foundation" of Japan's diplomacy.
Japanese Finance Minister Naoto Kan arrives at the DPJ's headquarters in Tokyo on Thursday, passing by a poster showing Yukio Hatoyama, who resigned as prime minister this week.
.But in a news conference to announce his candidacy, Mr. Kan, the current finance minister, also underscored the importance of China to Japan, calling the relationship with its neighbor as "equally important" as the relationship with the U.S. In terms of an economic policy, Mr. Kan -- who is set to succeed Yukio Hatoyama, who resigned abruptly on Wednesday -- offered few specifics, but made clear that he wouldn't necessarily place growth over fiscal discipline.
Mr. Kan said he will make a "big and sustained" effort to reduce the burden of the southern island of Okinawa for hosting U.S. military bases. But he also said he would "take into consideration the [recent] U.S.-Japan agreement" to keep a Marine air station in the prefecture. He added: "I believe the Japan-U.S. relationship is the foundation of Japan's diplomacy ... . The course we need to take is to maintain a trusting relationship with the United States and at the same time to consider China as equally important. I think that's the right course for Japan's future as well."
Japan's Prime Minister Resigns After Eight Months
Analysis: The Effects of Hatoyama's Resignation.Mr. Kan is set to become Japan's fifth prime minister in less than four years, an embarrassing statistic for the world's second-largest economy, which has had a procession of new leaders nearly every year since the popular Junichiro Koizumi ended a five-year tenure in 2006. The Democratic Party of Japan swept to power eight months ago, ending a grip on power by the dominant Liberal Democratic Party that lasted for more than a half-century.
Despite a promise to transform the predictable and rigid nature of Japanese politics, Mr. Hatoyama resigned Wednesday amid plunging support over breaking a campaign pledge to move U.S. troops off Okinawa. The base controversy has revolved around where to move a Marine Corps Air Station currently located in a crowded urban area known as Futenma.
"The reason that [Mr. Kan] has distanced himself from the Futenma issue in the Hatoyama administration is that his opinion on that is different from that of Hatoyama. He is an extremely realistic person," said Toshikazu Inoue, a politics professor at Gakushuin University. "So, he has believed that the new government should stick to the deal agreed by the previous government on the diplomatic and security issues."
Mr. Kan, 63, has been a critic of Japan's powerful bureaucrats and is nicknamed "Ira Kan" in Japan, or "irritable Kan," due to his alleged short fuse. But he also has a sense of the irreverent: When he visited Iqaluit, Canada, for February's meeting of the Group of Seven leading nations, Mr. Kan delayed his closing news conference on Saturday so he and his aides could go dog sledding. Before becoming a politician, the former civic activist shot to fame in the mid-1990s when, as health minister, he exposed the bureaucracy's responsibility for infecting thousands of hemophiliacs with HIV-tainted blood.
Mr. Kan is a virtual shoo-in for the premiership, after the other top two potential candidates -- Transport Minister Seiji Maehara and Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada -- said they would throw their weight behind him. Democratic Party of Japan lawmakers will vote in a party election Friday morning and announce a leader shortly after lunchtime. That person will assume the premiership. A new cabinet will be formed the same day. On Monday, the winner will make a policy speech.
The Futenma Road Map
Japan's Economic Doldrums
..Shinji Tarutoko, 50, a little-known politician who heads up the House of Representatives Environment Committee, is set to run against Mr. Kan in Friday's elections. His candidacy, however, is seen as symbolic, so Mr. Kan isn't the sole candidate.
Mr. Kan, who has grown increasingly fiscally conservative over recent months as he watched Greece's debt problems rock global financial markets, signaled on Thursday that he will impose greater fiscal discipline in Japan. Since the Hatoyama administration was launched in September, it has largely focused on fixing the nation's economy, putting fiscal discipline on the back burner. The national budget it compiled for the fiscal year that started in April features record spending and new borrowing.
Hatoyama to Quit Over Broken Vow
.Mr. Kan pledged to finalize growth strategies and fiscal reform plans that the Hatoyama cabinet had been working on by the end of the month. "I have decided to run in [the election] to lead a campaign of implementing policy to break through 20 years of Japan's deadlocked situation," Mr. Kan said. "Unless we steer policy in a wrong direction, we can resuscitate the economy. We can correct the current state in which [government] borrowing seems to keep growing indefinitely."
Critics have said that Mr. Kan is a lightweight when it comes to his knowledge of economics. He once admitted, in a parliamentary session, to having read just 10 pages of Paul Samuelson's classic textbook -- though it isn't clear whether he has read further since. In a post-cabinet-meeting news conference in February, Mr. Kan was asked about what he thought of the U.S. Fed's move to lift the discount rate, and said "it has caused the yen to weaken, so I don't think the move itself is negative to our nation's economy." A former senior ministry of finance official privately said: "The Fed's rate hike was good because it weakened the yen? What kind of finance minister would say things like that?"
Mr. Kan also suggested on Thursday that he may not give DPJ Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa -- the party's second-most-powerful man and chief election strategist -- a key post in a new government or party management.
"Mr. Ozawa should stay quiet for a while, and that would be good for him, the DPJ, and Japanese politics," Mr. Kan said. "We have to value Mr. Hatoyama's feelings" that the DPJ should restart as a fresh party free from money scandals. Mr. Ozawa is set to step down from the current post Friday.
contributed to this article.
3.2% Q4 GDP～4.78% avg. 30-year mortgage～ 9.9% Unemployment
GDP は間違いなく向上している。住宅ローン（３０年）の利息は、リーマン破綻以来で最も低い。失業率は、９．９％と悪化している。こういったミックス状態をどう見るのか？見る人の立場に拠る。伊勢爺が大統領ならば、１）国債乱発二ブレーキをかける～失業率を全力で下げる、、言うは簡単、行うは難しい。伊勢平次郎 ルイジアナ
Stocks rally to close, recoup week's losses
Stocks rallied to a strong close today, recouping most of their losses on the week. This is good momentum heading into two days heavy of economic data that will give a picture of where the U.S. economy is.
The Dow closed up 2.3 percent at 10,249.54.
The broader S&P 500 closed up 2.6 percent 1,098.40.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq closed up 2.7 percent at 2,281.07. The Nasdaq has returned to positive territory for 2010.
Stocks today are led by energy and financials. Embattled BP closed up 2.6 percent on the day, even though its underwater saw hit a snag in the latest attempt to stop the Deepwater Horizon well from leaking oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
Oil closed up 1.2 percent at $73.45 per barrel.
On Friday, the government will release the May unemployment number, which is expected to remain largely unchanged but more than 500,000 new jobs are forecast to be added.
Opening volatility defeated, stocks stage rally
1:25 p.m.: After smoothing out some early volatility, stocks have a nice little rally underway.
The Dow is up 1.2 percent.
The broader S&P 500 is up 1.4 percent.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq is up 1.6 percent.
All of Detroit's Big Three automakers have reported strong May sales.
Stocks up in trading, but volatility still rules
10:11 a.m.: Stocks are up in early trading today but only after a dive at opening, continuing the trend of volatility on Wall Street.
The Dow is up three-tenths of 1 percent.
The broader S&P 500 is up four-tenths of 1 percent.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq is up three-tenths of 1 percent.
A busy day, news-wise. Warren Buffett will be testifying before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission later this morning. Buffett, a Washington Post Co. director, declined an invitation to testify but could not decline the subsequent subpoena.
April pending home sales rose 6 percent in April compared with March, thanks to the government-subsidized home-buyer credit, which expired at the end of April.
Also today, starting around noon, automakers will release their May vehicle sales.