March 30, 2015

Lee Kuan Yew And The Singapore Miracle

By East Asia Forum via Economy Watch

Lee Kuan Yew was quite simply, and unquestionably, one of the outstanding national leaders of the last hundred years. He worked on a small canvas, but what he achieved in tiny Singapore not only transformed the lives of his own people profoundly, but had an immense impact beyond Singapore in shaping the Asia of today.

Affectionately known as Harry Lee, he was perhaps the last of that generation of leaders who guided their countries through the drama and turmoil of decolonisation to independence. It is hard now to recall how difficult and dangerous those times were in Southeast Asia. He brought Singapore into being as a sovereign independent state against the background of the fight against communism in the Malayan Emergency, the contest with Sukarno’s Indonesia in Confrontation, the bitter split from the union with Malaysia, and Britain’s strategic withdrawal from Asia.

Emerging Markets This Week

By Marc Chandler via  Economy Watch

EM currencies are starting the week under pressure again from a broad based dollar recovery. While expectations for a Fed lift-off remain in flux, the recent rebound in the dollar suggests that on a relative basis, the US economic and interest rate outlooks remain attractive.

This Friday will see the US jobs report, which could help clear up market expectations regarding the Fed. Lower commodity prices and slow global growth continue to be headwinds for EM, along with the prospects of higher US interest rates. We caution investors to remain defensive regarding EM FX, though stocks are likely to benefit from the improved risk-on climate. We favor Asia over Latin America and EMEA.

California Drought Brings Epic Water Wars

In California’s epic drought, wars over water rights continue, while innovative alternatives for increasing the available water supply go untapped.
Wars over California’s limited water supply have been going on for at least a century. Water wars have been the subject of some vintage movies, including the 1958 hit The Big Country starring Gregory Peck, Clint Eastwood’s 1985 Pale Rider, 1995’sWaterworld with Kevin Costner, and the 2005 film Batman Begins. Most acclaimed was the 1975 Academy Award winner Chinatown with Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, involving a plot between a corrupt Los Angeles politician and land speculators to fabricate the 1937 drought in order to force farmers to sell their land at low prices. The plot was rooted in historical fact, reflecting battles between Owens Valley farmers and Los Angeles urbanites over water rights.

Corporate Revenue And Earnings Plunge Most Since Crisis 2009

By Wolf Richter at Wolf Street

Stocks have soared. But despite maxed-out financial engineering and ceaseless Wall-Street hype, the first half is shaping up to be tough.

Week after week, corporations and analysts have been whittling down their estimates. By now, revenues of the S&P 500 companies are expected to decline 2.8% in Q1 from a year ago – the worst year-over-year decline since Q3 of crisis year 2009.

Could An Iran Nuclear Deal Send Oil To $20?

By Tyler Durden at ZeroHedge 
As the deadline for Iran nuclear talks looms, the possibility of a deal which in some way lifts crude export sanctions is starting to be realized. As we warned 2 weeks ago, despite all the rhetoric, a confluence of political factors makes a deal highly likely at this point; and as The Telegraph reports, Iran is a sleeping oil giant holding 9% of the world’s proven oil reserves and with an estimated 2m barrels per day of excess supply already sloshing around international markets, any significant increase in Iranian output could easily trigger a further rout in prices. While OPEC may well clamp down on this in June, as The Telegraph concludes, by then a barrel of oil may already be selling for $20.

March 29, 2015

ETF Performance Review: US REITs Lead As Commodities Plunge

By James Picerno of The Capital Speculator
US Real estate investment trusts (REITs) are still firmly in the lead among the major asset classes for the trailing one-year period. The Vanguard REIT (VNQ) has gained a hefty 28.6% on a total return basis through yesterday (Mar. 24) over the past 250 trading days (aka the one-year performance window). For the moment, no other broadly defined asset group comes close to that red-hot record.