Monday, October 19, 2009

Dollar Down Exports Up

Here is a headline I never expected to see in my lifetime. U.S. Steel Exports Surpass Imports. So far it is only for the month of August. Still.

A steel industry trade group said the United States exported more steel than it imported in August for the first time in more than 50 years. But another group said that assessment was based on a selective reading of government data.

The American Institute for International Steel said late Monday that government data indicated U.S. steel exports totaled 800,000 tons while imports amounted to 975,000 tons during the month.

But the group, which advocates for free trade and opposes tariffs, subtracted imports of 156,000 tons of semifinished steel and 30,000 tons of hot-rolled steel because that metal is turned into other steel mill products that are considered domestic, the group's president, David Phelps, said Tuesday.
OK. So it looks like they are cooking the books in search of a headline. They got one from me. So I guess it is working - for them.

Some people think corporate America worries about the shrinkage of the US dollar.
Chief executives from the biggest U.S. corporations worry that the slumping dollar could sap U.S. credibility around the globe, spur inflation and ultimately undermine the economy.

The dollar has fallen to a 14-month low; and while a weaker dollar makes U.S. products cheaper overseas, chief executives gathered for the Business Council meeting in Cary, North Carolina, expressed deep concern that the anemic dollar signals serious jitters.

"The issue is currency devaluation, and the worry is that it essentially lowers our credibility in the world," said Office Depot Inc (ODP.N) CEO Steve Odland in an interview with Reuters on the sidelines of the conference.

CEOs say that a slew of government spending programs on health care and other priorities could undercut economic recovery.
And all that is true.

But let us take a look at the numbers. US imports have exceeded exports for a very long time. This is balanced by loans and other investments, thus more or less balancing the books. It does argue that at least on a materials basis the dollar is overpriced. But I got to tell you that a 14 month low is not exactly panic city. My worry is not about the amount but the continued direction.

One thing that does happen in a market system when costs are rising is that the people in the markets work very hard to reduce costs. No one wants to be the first to raise prices. It is bad for business. It is the usual: the greed of the honest businessman leads to a better deal for the consumer.

Of course not all businessmen are honest.
Raj Rajaratnam, a portfolio manager for Galleon Group, a hedge fund with up to $7 billion in assets under management, was accused of conspiring with others to use insider information to trade securities in several publicly traded companies, including Google Inc.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas F. Eaton set bail at $100 million to be secured by $20 million in collateral despite a request by prosecutors to deny bail. He also ordered Rajaratnam, who has both U.S. and Sri Lankan citizenship, to stay within 110 miles of New York City.
A guy like that has to know who his friends are.
Rajaratnam, 52, was ranked No. 559 by Forbes magazine this year among the world's wealthiest billionaires, with a $1.3 billion net worth.

According to the Federal Election Commission, he is a generous contributor to Democratic candidates and causes. The FEC said he made over $87,000 in contributions to President Barack Obama's campaign, the Democratic National Committee and various campaigns on behalf of Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and New Jersey U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez in the past five years. The Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group, said he has given a total of $118,000 since 2004 -- all but one contribution, for $5,000, to Democrats.
And it seems that he was interested in some rather unsavory characters.
...even before his arrest, Rajaratnam was under scrutiny for helping bankroll Sri Lankan militants notorious for suicide bombings.
Now why would a guy friendly to suicide bombers also be friendly to Democrats? Let me think. It will come to me soon I'm sure.

Did some one say economics? All I can say is that the Democrats are moving in the wrong direction. A slide in the dollar may be a good thing for some and a bad thing for others (gasoline prices say - and didn't Sarah Palin have a word or two recently about developing more domestic supplies? Yes she did.) But a cratering of the dollar would be a disaster. Time for a new direction? You betcha!

Cross Posted at Classical Values

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