Tobin Tax

Wed, 2009/10/21 - 2:46pm | Your editor

     Brazil has imposed what may be the first Tobin Tax on foreign portfolio investment inflows. When you buy on the local bolsa, your costs now include a 2% disuasive tax intended to nip foreign currency inflows into Brazil.

     The reason is that Brazil's Real currency has risen 23% against the dollar this year. And the impact could be harmful to the export-oriented economy because it will make Brazilian products more expensive to buy. Moreover, Brazilian local products have to compete with imports made cheaper by a rising Real, which hurts the fledgling economy.

     But there is a winner and it is us. American Depositary Receipts traded in the US are not subject to the capital inflow tax. So if third country investors or funds want to own a Brazilian share, they can buy ADRs right here on Wall St. Read more »

Insider Neighbors

Tue, 2009/10/20 - 4:10pm | Your editor

Two of the accused insider traders in the Galleon affair live within a few hundred yards of this office, on Sutton Place. I do not think I ever saw Raj Rajaratnam, who is very large and a Sri Lankan Tamil, a paucity of which exists even my very global city. But I see ladies looking like Danielle Chiesi all the time and she may well have passed into my sights.

My Australo-informants at Macquarie in Hong Kong have revised their predictions for 2009 and 2010 GNP growth in the Pacific Rim. They call their report The New Reality.

Their most dramatic forecast is that China growth next year will hit 10.3% vs an earlier growth figure from the same analysts of only 8.9%. Hong Kong and Taiwan growth was also adjusted upward but very modestly. The drop in GNP in Singapore for 2009 was reduced to minus 1.5% from minus 2.5%. But what really intrigued me is the China forecasts. Read more »

Jacobeans and Jihadis

Mon, 2009/10/19 - 4:37pm | Your editor


     This weekend we saw a classic Jacobean tragedy, The Duchess of Malfi, at an off-Bway theater on Broadway, but in Chinatown. John Webster's drama features an evil Catholic Cardinal who kills his mistress spectacularly by having her kiss a poisoned page in his Bible. This sounds like pure Protestant propaganda. Among these Italians there is rampant immorality; there is a single mother of three and lots of sex outside marriage; there is a ruler who goes mad in part because of incestuous urgings toward his twin sister the Duchess. There are lots of murders.

     In the 19th century, when Victoria and optimism ruled, George Eliot's lover George Lewes called The Duchess “a perfect play for Mme. Tussaud's Wax Museum”. It is also the perfect play for Hallowe'en. But these days, it is not just fantasy. Read more »

Lewises without Salaries

Fri, 2009/10/16 - 2:11pm | Your editor

Two people named Lewis will not be taking any salary this year. One is Ken Lewis, the soon-to-resign chief honcho at money-losing Bank of America. The other is me. I have foregone a salary because I am funding the restart of this publication. Ken (no relation) has other issues.

Just as Ken Lewis might have stashed away some of his extraordinarily generous pay packets from prior years, I am also getting compensation in a form other than a paycheck. Last month, we hit a big enough level of paid subscribers that I could take back the 5-figure sum I used to re-capitalize my company earlier this year. Read more »

Chutzpah and Rachmones

Thu, 2009/10/15 - 2:13pm | Your editor

     Today we begin with a lesson in Hebrew and Yiddish. You will learn two words, rachmones, meaning pity, and chutzpah, meaning arrogance. The words are the same in both Hebrew and Yiddish.

     After playwright Wendy Wasserstein died young of leukemia, her dealmaker brother Bruce adopted her young daughter. Yesterday the Lazard Freres banker also died prematurely, at 61, of heart disease. Despite her incredible intellectual genes, the little Wasserstein girl is a rachmones. She has to learn to say Kaddish (mourning prayers praising God) in memory of her mother and adopted father. Read more »

Thursday Bookstore

Wed, 2009/10/14 - 3:51pm | Your editor

When I was a very little girl, before I knew how to read, I was fascinated by Business Week, which my father got every Saturday by subscription. The cover was standard: a man's face (always a man then) under a red masthead. I knew my numbers so I would turn to the page the front page jumped to. I wanted to see more pictures of the man and his office and his house and family. I usually was disappointed.

Now a bankrupt Business Week has been sold by the McGraw family (as in McGraw-Hill) to the Bloomberg empire of Hizzoner, the Mayor of NY. My father, who had mainly studied classics in his German Gymnasium, became a corporate executive after fleeing to America from the Nazis, and the magazine helped him learn the language and logic of businessmen in his new homeland. Read more »

Fear of Frankenstein

Tue, 2009/10/13 - 3:50pm | Your editor

    On the morning of Columbus Day (US)/Thanksgiving Day (Can.), however briefly, my personal portfolio reached its high water mark of 2008 summer again. Canada is important, because the loonie, the local currency, is approaching parity with the US$. Now 97 cents, it was only 77 cents a half year ago.

    Later on Monday, the US market unraveled. Let me explain exactly what I mean. My total portfolio, which includes American blue chips and my recommended foreign stocks and funds, plus my IRA, got back to the 7-figure level it was at when I transferred my account to E-trade. Read more »

The Vikings Are Coming!

Mon, 2009/10/12 - 5:51pm | Your editor

     Omigosh. I am being attacked by peace-loving Vikings!


Your editor goofed last week in saying that the Swedish Academy gives out the Nobel Peace Prize and is responsible for selecting Pres. Barack Obama to receive it this year. When Alfred Nobel died, Sweden and Norway were one country. But when Norway won its independence, the Swedes handed the Peace Prize to a committee from the University of Oslo. It is the Norwegians who give out the Peace Prize, to someone designated by 5 unknown Norse academics.


There is a ceremony in Oslo's stripped-down Lutheran cathedral and the King of Norway hands over the medal.

  Read more »

Dear Resident

Fri, 2009/10/09 - 1:59pm | Your editor

To: The Resident

1600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20000

United States

Dear Resident:

      This is to inform you that a large sum of money has been left in the will of the late Alfred Nobel, deceased, to anyone at the above address who is not named George W. Bush.

      To collect your prize, please provide us with your confidential bank account details. Read more »

From Stars & Bucks Cafe

Thu, 2009/10/08 - 3:20pm | Your editor

   Frida Ghitis writes: “A few days ago I traveled to a place that, according to the IMF, is on track to post one of the highest rates of economic growth in the world: the West Bank.

    After crossing through the Qalandiyah checkpoint north of Jerusalem I traveled to Ramallah, seat of government for the Palestinian Authority. Life is undoubtedly hell for the people of devastated Gaza. But here in Ramallah, searching for squalor proved fruitless. The city offers a vibrant show of Middle Eastern commerce, complete with impenetrable traffic jams and trendy coffee at Stars and Bucks café, where the cappuccino was steaming and smoothies well chilled.

    Anyone who spends much time in Europe where Arafat-style black and white checkered Arab head-dresses and scarves are all the rage will be disappointed to discover those Keffiyahs are nowhere in sight in Ramallah. Young men wear their hair stylishly gelled. No Keffiyah. Read more »