Janet Yellen, Politicizing the Fed?

By Ralph Benko

fedJanet Yellen gave a widely noted speech, Perspectives on Inequality and Opportunity from the Survey of Consumer Finances, at the Conference on Economic Opportunity and Inequality held  by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston on October 17th. The speech presented as a if ghostwritten for her by Quincy Magoo, that beloved cartoon character described by Wikipedia as “a wealthy, short-statured retiree who gets into a series of comical situations as a result of his nearsightedness compounded by his stubborn refusal to admit the problem.” What was most interesting was how political was the speech… and what Madame Yellen didn’t say. Continue reading “Janet Yellen, Politicizing the Fed?”

Advertisements

A glimpse of Brazil after the elections

By João Augusto de Castro Neves of the Eurasia Group

logoFGVBrazil is witnessing one of the most competitive and thrilling presidential elections in nearly a quarter of a century. In the last three months, polls had the three candidates alternating in the lead. Now, with the second-round runoff between President Dilma Rousseff (Workers’ Party, PT) and Senator Aécio Neves (Brazilian Social Democratic Party, PSDB) close to a toss-up, it’s useful to take a step back to get some perspective on the challenges for the next administration. No matter who wins on  October 26 , the post-election landscape will be as difficult for the next president as the election is electrifying for the candidates. Continue reading “A glimpse of Brazil after the elections”

Foreign Direct Investment in Latin America Declines 23% in the First Half of 2014

latamForeign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows into 13 Latin American and Caribbean countries that have available data decreased by 23% during the first half of 2014 with respect to the same period last year, reaching a total of $84.071 billion dollars, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) reported. On a global level, however, FDI flows are forecast to grow 10% during 2014, mainly due to investments received by developed countries, the United Nations regional organization said. Continue reading “Foreign Direct Investment in Latin America Declines 23% in the First Half of 2014”

The Similarities Between Germany and China

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanI returned last weekend from a monthlong trip to both East Asia and Europe. I discovered three things: First, the Europeans were obsessed with Germany and concerned about Russia. Second, the Asians were obsessed with China and concerned about Japan. Third, visiting seven countries from the Pacific to the Atlantic in 29 days brings you to a unique state of consciousness, in which the only color is gray and knowing the number of your hotel room in your current city, as opposed to the one two cities ago, is an achievement. Continue reading “The Similarities Between Germany and China”

Van Oord, Boskalis to expand Suez canal

logoboskalislogo-vanoordA consortium consisting of Van Oord, Royal Boskalis Westminster N.V., NMDC (Abu Dhabi) and Jan de Nul (Belgium) has acquired a contract from the Suez Canal Authorities in connection with the expansion of the Suez Canal, which provides a vital shipping link between Europe and Asia. The total contract value amounts to USD 1.5 billion, with each partner entitled to an equal share of USD 375 million. Continue reading “Van Oord, Boskalis to expand Suez canal”

Atlantico Business Development expands services

abd logoAtlantico Business Development, an international consultancy based in Rotterdam and focused on doing business in Brazil and Portuguese speaking Africa, is expanding its services. A full overview of Atlantico’s services as well as the markets where the company operates presently is available at their website, Atlantico Business Development.

New services include among other things “partner and agent search”, which is extremely important for SME’s when doing business in faraway and high cost markets such as Brazil, Angola and Mozambique.  No doubt Atlantico Busines Development will live up to its slogan “trusted, dedicated and effective” regarding this service as well.

Germany Fights on Two Fronts to Preserve Eurozone

By Adriano Bosoni and Mark Fleming-Williams

stratforThe European Court of Justice announced Sept. 22 that hearings in the case against the European Central Bank’s (ECB) bond-buying scheme known as Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) will begin Oct. 14. Though the process is likely to be lengthy, with a judgment not due until mid-2015, the ruling will have serious implications for Germany’s relationship with the rest of the eurozone. The timing could hardly be worse, coming as an anti-euro party has recently been making strides in the German political scene, steadily undermining the government’s room for maneuver. Continue reading “Germany Fights on Two Fronts to Preserve Eurozone”

End the Fed’s War on Paychecks

By Ralph Benko

fedThe Democratic Party has made “income inequality” a signature issue for the 2014 (and, presumably, 2016) election cycle.  Democrats, en masse, shout “J’accuse!” at Republicans. There is a very different story to tell. “Income inequality” is a crude, and twisted, heuristic for stagnant median family income.   “Income inequality” does not really resonate with voters, as noted by the Washington Post‘s own Catherine Rampell, with a mountain of evidence showing that Americans don’t begrudge the wealthy their wealth, just are frustrated at the lack of widespread economic opportunity. So let’s get down to cases.  Stagnant median family income is not the GOP’s fault.  It’s the Fed who done it. Continue reading “End the Fed’s War on Paychecks”

OECD recommends how to fight tax avoidance

logooecd_enThe OECD released its first recommendations for a co-ordinated international approach to combat tax avoidance by multinational enterprises, under the OECD/G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Project designed to create a single set of international tax rules to end the erosion of tax bases and the artificial shifting of profits to jurisdictions to avoid paying tax. Continue reading “OECD recommends how to fight tax avoidance”

Mexican Navy orders two more Damen vessels

damenmexicoIn August 2014 the Mexican Navy (Secretaría de Marina in Spanish) and Damen Shipyards Group (the Netherlands) signed contracts for the delivery of the design, material package, technical assistance and training for two vessels that will be built by the Mexican Navy, using the Damen Technical Cooperation programme, which enables customers to build their vessel on the location of their choice. Continue reading “Mexican Navy orders two more Damen vessels”

Erasmus University rises in worldwide rankings

logoeurErasmus University Rotterdam has risen slightly in the QS World University Rankings. In this year’s  ranking of approximately 800 universities worldwide, the university is ranked at 90, two places higher than last year. The 90th place is the highest position of the Erasmus University in the QS World University Rankings since 2006. The Rotterdam based university is the fifth ranked Dutch university in the list. Continue reading “Erasmus University rises in worldwide rankings”

The Origins and Implications of the Scottish Referendum

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanThe idea of Scottish independence has moved from the implausible to the very possible. Whether or not it actually happens, the idea that the union of England and Scotland, which has existed for more than 300 years, could be dissolved has enormous implications in its own right, and significant implications for Europe and even for global stability. Continue reading “The Origins and Implications of the Scottish Referendum”

Global growth continuing at a moderate pace

logooecd_enA moderate expansion is underway in most major advanced and emerging economies, but growth remains weak in the euro area, which runs the risk of prolonged stagnation if further steps are not taken to boost demand, according to the OECD’s latest Interim Economic Assessment. Continue reading “Global growth continuing at a moderate pace”

A Money Revolt is needed: Fix The Dollar With Gold

By Ralph Benko

gold-standard-liberty-coinThe Tax Revolt has run its course. A Money Revolt is needed. Steve Forbes, with Elizabeth Ames, in Money: How the Destruction of the Dollar Threatens the Global Economy—and What We Can Do About It has thought the issues through. So has, among others, Lewis E. Lehrman (founder and chairman of the Lehrman Institute, whose monetary policy website this columnist professionally edits) in The True Gold Standard  and Money, Gold, and History. Continue reading “A Money Revolt is needed: Fix The Dollar With Gold”

Spain on the road to recovery, says OECD

logooecd_enSpain is emerging from a protracted recession, marked by a return to moderate growth and rising international competitiveness. Decisive banking and fiscal reforms, coupled with supportive monetary policy from the European Central Bank, have reduced financial tensions and improved public finance. But to ensure that the recovery is sustained and unemployment returns to much lower levels, full implementation of on-going structural reforms and further measures to improve productivity and competitiveness are now needed, according to the latest OECD Economic Survey of Spain. Continue reading “Spain on the road to recovery, says OECD”

IMF: strong reform and robust nonoil growth in Angola

imf_sealAfter a strong growth in 2013 estimated at 6.8 percent, economic growth in 2014 is projected at 3.9 percent despite a decline in oil output. Robust growth in the nonoil economy, mainly driven by a very good performance in the agricultural sector, is expected to offset a temporary but considerable drop in oil production. Ongoing investments in agriculture are expected to pay off with an increase in agriculture production by about 11½ percent in 2014. Other sectors such as manufacturing, electricity and services, are also expected to contribute. Inflation projected to reach 7½ percent by end-2014 is well within the Banco Nacional de Angola (BNA)’s objective. The overall fiscal balance, which was in surplus in the last four years, is expected to deteriorate substantially in 2014, reaching a deficit of around 4 percent of GDP. Oil revenue fell by 14 percent during January-May 2014, mainly due to a 10 percent decline in oil production related to unscheduled maintenance and repair work in some oil fields. International reserves at the BNA remain adequate at an equivalent of 7¾ months of imports. Continue reading “IMF: strong reform and robust nonoil growth in Angola”

ECT handles 150,000,000th TEU

ectcranesECT handled the 150 millionth TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit, the unit of measure for containers) in Rotterdam since its inception in 1967. With that, ECT is the first container terminal operator in Europe to achieve this remarkable milestone. 150 million TEU equals a line of containers more than 900,000 kilometres long. Or: from here to the moon and back, and then a few times around the world. Continue reading “ECT handles 150,000,000th TEU”

The Virtue of Subtlety: A U.S. Strategy Against the Islamic State

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanU.S. President Barack Obama said recently that he had no strategy as yet toward the Islamic State but that he would present a plan on Wednesday. It is important for a president to know when he has no strategy. It is not necessarily wise to announce it, as friends will be frightened and enemies delighted. A president must know what it is he does not know, and he should remain calm in pursuit of it, but there is no obligation to be honest about it. This is particularly true because, in a certain sense, Obama has a strategy, though it is not necessarily one he likes. Strategy is something that emerges from reality, while tactics might be chosen. Given the situation, the United States has an unavoidable strategy. There are options and uncertainties for employing it. Let us consider some of the things that Obama does know. Continue reading “The Virtue of Subtlety: A U.S. Strategy Against the Islamic State”

Dutch remain 8th in Global Competitiveness

RSM+logo+1jpgThe Dutch remain in the eighth place in the Global Competitiveness Report compiled by the World Economic Forum (WEF). The Report assesses the competitiveness of 144 economies, providing insight into the drivers of their productivity and prosperity. Data for the Netherlands was collected by research institute INSCOPE: Research for Innovation at Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM), and was led by Professor Henk Volberda. Continue reading “Dutch remain 8th in Global Competitiveness”

Ukraine, Iraq and a Black Sea Strategy

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanThe United States is, at the moment, off balance. It faces challenges in the Syria-Iraq theater as well as challenges in Ukraine. It does not have a clear response to either. It does not know what success in either theater would look like, what resources it is prepared to devote to either, nor whether the consequences of defeat would be manageable. A dilemma of this sort is not unusual for a global power. Its very breadth of interests and the extent of power create opportunities for unexpected events, and these events, particularly simultaneous challenges in different areas, create uncertainty and confusion. Continue reading “Ukraine, Iraq and a Black Sea Strategy”

Royal IHC starts building dredger for stock

ihcworlddredgerRoyal IHC (IHC) is constructing the first vessel in its range of competitively priced standard trailing suction hopper dredgers (TSHD). It has started to build the Easydredge™ 2700 for stock in response to the increasing global demand for TSHDs with an extremely short delivery time. The new vessel will be supplied with a “world-dredging package”, which includes bottom doors, a bow coupling and a dredging depth of 25m. This makes her suitable for a wide range of tasks, from the maintenance of ports and channels, to land reclamation. Continue reading “Royal IHC starts building dredger for stock”

Who is Rand Paul?

by Ralph Benko

randpaulFor starters, Rand is short for Randal, not an allusion to Ayn Rand, after whom Sen. Paul was not named by his libertarian (not Objectivist) father Ron Paul. Reportedly, growing up he was called Randy … until his wife shortened the diminutive to Rand. Washington, ordinarily, is committed to maintaining the status quo or making, at best, incremental changes. As we struggle with the political consequences of the end of an era of all-out war the old political status quo is ripe for transformation. Continue reading “Who is Rand Paul?”

Terrorism as Theater

By Robert D. Kaplan

kaplanThe beheading of American journalist James Foley by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq was much more than an altogether gruesome and tragic affair: rather, it was a very sophisticated and professional film production deliberately punctuated with powerful symbols. Foley was dressed in an orange jumpsuit reminiscent of the Muslim prisoners held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay. He made his confession forcefully, as if well rehearsed. His executioner, masked and clad in black, made an equally long statement in a calm, British accent, again, as if rehearsed. It was as if the killing was secondary to the message being sent.

Continue reading “Terrorism as Theater”

Ecuador buys two Damen Stan Patrol vessels

Damen_Stan_Patrol_VesselDamen has recently signed a contract with Astilleros Navales Ecuatorianos (Astinave) to construct two Damen SPa’s 5009 for the Ecuadorian Coastguard. The Ecuadorian shipyard will build both vessels locally with Damen Technical Cooperation, which is Damen’s method of ‘building on site’. Continue reading “Ecuador buys two Damen Stan Patrol vessels”

Europe’s Malaise: The New Normal?

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanRussia and Ukraine continue to confront each other along their border. Iraq has splintered, leading to unabated internal warfare. And the situation in Gaza remains dire. These events should be enough to constitute the sum total of our global crises, but they’re not. On top of everything, the German economy contracted by 0.2 percent last quarter. Though many will dismiss this contraction outright, the fact that the world’s fourth-largest economy (and Europe’s largest) has shrunk, even by this small amount, is a matter of global significance.

Continue reading “Europe’s Malaise: The New Normal?”

Boskalis posts record half year profits

logoboskalisRoyal Boskalis Westminster N.V. (Boskalis) realized a net profit of EUR 253 million in the first half of 2014 (H1 2013: EUR 123 million). Revenue rose 21% in the first half of the year to EUR 1.5 billion (H1 2013: EUR 1.3 billion). Organic revenue growth was 13.4%. EBITDA amounted to EUR 466 million in the first six months and the operating result (EBIT) was EUR 338 million (H1 2013 EBITDA: EUR 280 million and EBIT: EUR 162 million, respectively). Continue reading “Boskalis posts record half year profits”

Turkey’s Geographical Ambition

By Robert D. Kaplan and Reva Bhalla

stratforAt a time when Europe and other parts of the world are governed by forgettable mediocrities, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister for a decade now, seethes with ambition. Perhaps the only other leader of a major world nation who emanates such a dynamic force field around him is Russia’s Vladimir Putin, with whom the West is also supremely uncomfortable. Continue reading “Turkey’s Geographical Ambition”

Signs Of The Fed’s Era Of Secrecy Coming To An End

By Ralph Benko

fedThe Federal Reserve increasingly is attracting scrutiny across the board.  Now add to that a roller coaster of a thriller, using a miracle of a rare device, shining a light into the operations of the Fed — that contemporary riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma: Matthew Quirk’s latest novel, The Directive. “If I’ve made myself too clear, you must have misunderstood me,” Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan once famously said. Continue reading “Signs Of The Fed’s Era Of Secrecy Coming To An End”

Obama checkmate?

By Ralph Benko

uscapitolHouse Speaker John Boehner’s proposed lawsuit against Barack Obama is causing a great deal of chatter in Washington.  Political stunt, as Obama has called it?  Or, maybe, checkmate, Obama? There is a quiet gap in the U.S. Constitution.  There is no explicit mechanism to discipline a president who fails to carry out his Constitutional duties.  This gap sat there, barely noticed, for centuries.  Barack Obama, apparently, noticed it.  He is exploiting it.  That exploitation is a serious departure from Constitutional principle … whether or not one supports his policies, whether one is a progressive or conservative. Continue reading “Obama checkmate?”

Van Oord gets orders in Brazil and Bahamas

logo-vanoordVan Oord has won two orders in Brazil and the Bahamas. The activities involve dredging work for the construction of a new shipyard in Aracruz, Brazil. The client is Estaleiro Jurong Aracruz (EJA), a Brazilian subsidiary of Sembcorp Marine’s Jurong Shipyard from Singapore. In the Bahamas, three ports will be upgraded on the instructions of the Ministry of National Security as part of the Sandy Bottom Project. Both orders have a joint contract value of more than EUR 100 million The execution of both projects has already started. The project in Brazil will be completed in late 2014. The work in the Bahamas will be completed in early 2016.

Continue reading “Van Oord gets orders in Brazil and Bahamas”

Is Paul Krugman Leaving Princeton In Quiet Disgrace?

By Ralph Benko

KrugmanProfessor Paul Krugman is leaving Princeton.  Is he leaving in disgrace?

Not long, as these things go, before his departure was announced Krugman thoroughly was indicted and publicly eviscerated for intellectual dishonesty by Harvard’s Niall Ferguson in a hard-hitting three-part series in the Huffington Post, beginning here, and with a coda in Project Syndicate, all summarized at Forbes.comContinue reading “Is Paul Krugman Leaving Princeton In Quiet Disgrace?”

Can Putin Survive?

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanThere is a general view that Vladimir Putin governs the Russian Federation as a dictator, that he has defeated and intimidated his opponents and that he has marshaled a powerful threat to surrounding countries. This is a reasonable view, but perhaps it should be re-evaluated in the context of recent events.

Continue reading “Can Putin Survive?”

Borderlands: Hungary Maneuvers

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanI am writing this from Budapest, the city in which I was born. I went to the United States so young that all my memories of Hungary were acquired later in life or through my family, whose memories bridged both world wars and the Cold War, all with their attendant horrors. My own deepest memory of Hungary comes from my parents’ living room in the Bronx. My older sister was married in November 1956. There was an uprising against the Soviets at the same time, and many of our family members were still there. After the wedding, we returned home and saw the early newspapers and reports on television. My parents discovered that some of the heaviest fighting between the revolutionaries and Soviets had taken place on the street where my aunts lived. A joyous marriage, followed by another catastrophe — the contrast between America and Hungary. That night, my father asked no one in particular, “Does it ever end?” The answer is no, not here. Which is why I am back in Budapest. Continue reading “Borderlands: Hungary Maneuvers”

Van Oord to build largest Dutch offshore wind project

logo-vanoordThe Gemini offshore wind project shareholders, headed by Canada’s Northland Power Inc., announced that they have reached agreement with the banks on the project’s financing. The financial close will contribute EUR 2.3 billion to the overall construction costs of EUR 2.8 billion. Van Oord has a 10% equity stake in this project. The other shareholders are Northland Power Inc. (60%), Siemens Project Ventures (20%) and HVC (10%). The shareholders will contribute equity amounting to a total of EUR 400 million. Gemini will be one of the largest offshore wind projects in the world. Continue reading “Van Oord to build largest Dutch offshore wind project”

Borderlands: The View from Azerbaijan

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanI arrive in Azerbaijan as the country celebrates Victory Day, the day successor states of the former Soviet Union celebrate the defeat of Germany in World War II. No one knows how many Soviet citizens died in that war — perhaps 22 million. The number is staggering and represents both the incompetence and magnificence of Russia, which led the Soviets in war. Any understanding of Russia that speaks of one without the other is flawed. Continue reading “Borderlands: The View from Azerbaijan”

The Middle Class Squeeze: Can The Populist Elizabeth Warren Champion The Little Guy With Big Government?

uscapitolWho will prove the champion of the little guy and gal?  Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) — on deck for her party’s presidential nomination should Hillary Rodham Clinton bow out — has become the political leader of choice for those who advocate Big Government as that champion. This columnist is skeptical about Big Government improving the lives of the citizens.  Yet … there is a case to be made for Warren.  She is, at very least, a magnificently worthy adversary for advocates of limited government and deserves to be taken seriously. Continue reading “The Middle Class Squeeze: Can The Populist Elizabeth Warren Champion The Little Guy With Big Government?”

Boskalis studies ultra large Dockwise vessel

logoboskalisRoyal Boskalis Westminster N.V. (Boskalis) announced at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston (USA) that it has started a study into a new ultra large V-class Heavy Marine Transport Vessel (HTV). The Dockwise Vanguard which came into service early 2013 is already the world’s largest V-class HTV with a carrying capacity of 117,000 MT and a deck space of 270 meters by 70 meters. Continue reading “Boskalis studies ultra large Dockwise vessel”

Borderlands: The New Strategic Landscape

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanI will be leaving this week to visit a string of countries that are now on the front line between Russia and the European Peninsula: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Azerbaijan. A tour like that allows you to look at the details of history. But it is impossible to understand those details out of context. The more I think about recent events, the more I realize that what has happened in Ukraine can only be understood by considering European geopolitics since 1914 — a hundred years ago and the beginning of World War I. Continue reading “Borderlands: The New Strategic Landscape”

Is James Rickards Right About A Coming Monetary Apocalypse?

By Ralph Benko

gold-standard-liberty-coinIs a monetary apocalypse imminent? James Rickards, bestselling author of Currency Wars, has a new New York Times bestseller out, about the possible imminent collapse of the dollar: The Death of Money: The Coming Collapse of the International Monetary System  (Portfolio/Penguin). More interestingly, he writes about what could come next: a golden age. Advance praise (“A terrifically interesting and useful book….”) from Brookings senior fellow Kenneth W. Dam, former Deputy Secretary of the Treasury and author of The Rules of the Game: Reform and Evolution in the International Monetary System, is an attention getter. Rickard’s Currency Wars was a hot best seller on the New York Times list, and also, more significantly, in the United States Senate. Continue reading “Is James Rickards Right About A Coming Monetary Apocalypse?”

ECLAC adjusts LatAm growth rates

latamLatin American and Caribbean countries will grow an average of 2.7% in 2014 due to limited dynamism of the region’s principal economies, according to new projections from ECLAC. The regional United Nations organization last week released its UpdatedEconomic Overview of Latin America and the Caribbean 2013, which reviews information on the key economic variables of 2013 and presents new growth estimates for the region. Continue reading “ECLAC adjusts LatAm growth rates”