from Follow the Money

What did I miss?

March 22, 2005

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Economics

Let’s see.

Paul Wolfowitz looks set to take over the World Bank.

Oil is a bit over $56. That is not low, by any measure. I remember how much concern there was last summer when oil broke $40.

The current account deficit came in at around 6.3% of GDP in q4.

Unless something changes, my $800 billion forecast for the 2005 current account deficit looks rather conservative.

This deficit certainly is not being financed by FDI. The big story in the q4 current account data was the resumption of large net outflows of foreign direct investment. Outward FDI exceeded inward FDI by $65 billion in q4, and by $133 billion in 2004. Bad news, at least to me.

Hedge funds bought a lot of Treasuries in January (see the data on the Carribbean). Foreign interest in US equities also picked up in January, and Americans lost interest in foreign bonds and equities -- leading to large net inflows.

Alas, the relatively strong private flows of January presumably did not last. That is the message that UBS keeps sending out. And, as I noted earlier, central bank reserve accumulation (and no doubt central bank financing of the US) picked up in February.

China is looking for someone to manage their $610 billion in reserves, as Guo Shuqing, head of China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange, got a promotion (he was named the new Chairman of China Construction Bank).

And I suspect it is not a coincidence that China is once again complaining about "excessive speculation" I have a hunch that Guo is managing a bit more than $610 billion right now. China’s March reserve accumulation probably will exceed $20 billion. If China’s reserves increased by $20 billion in January and February, and $30 billion in March, Guo’s successor will inherit a stash of nearly $700 billion.

US Treasury Under Secretary John Taylor announced his resignation; his successor (presumably Tim Adams, the policy director of the Bush 2004 campaign as well as Paul O’Neill’s Chief of Staff) will have plenty on his plate.

I should have plenty to chew over during the course of this week.

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