What's new

Mullahs without Moolah

January 14th, 2015


Look at the bottom left corner of this photo of oil prices. Last April, when oil traded above $100 per barrel, I argued that oil would collapse to $50. Now that we’ve seen $45, it’s time to ask, “Will this ignite another Arab ‘spring?’”

What an irony! Usually riots break out when people complain that prices are too high! Rock-throwing Tunisian and Algerians protesting high sugar and flour prices incited the 2011 Arab spring. In 2007-2008 food riots burst out … Continue Reading →

Is the Dragon Back in China?

December 8th, 2014


With China’s property glut threatening to turn into a Bruce Willis disaster movie (where’s Hans Gruber?), Chinese leaders are jittery about growth. No surprise that the central bank slashed interest rates in November. Look for more cuts in 2015. With Europe slipping into deflation and oil prices plunging, Chinese leaders are far more worried about a Great Recession than a Great Inflation.

What about the dollar/yuan exchange rate? The Shanghai equity market has soared to a 3-year high, catapulted higher … Continue Reading →

Attitude Beats Latitude

November 25th, 2014


After I delivered a lecture, a droopy-eyed student wearing a Harvard sweatshirt staggered up to me. He asked if I could give him a memorable economics lesson in just three words. His attention span was shot and so was, apparently, his supply of Adderall. His challenge presented a tough task, since so many economics principles come accompanied by Latin phrases like ceteris paribus. I thought for a moment and then replied, “Attitude Beats Latitude.” Countries and cities that discourage … Continue Reading →

Grassroots Branding

November 6th, 2014


Despite banner ads, billions of research dollars, and more focus groups than you could stuff into Madison Square Garden, actual paying customers constantly confound marketing executives.  Yesterday the Wall Street Journal reported that Disney execs are stunned that Frozen’s snow queen Elsa outsells her warmer sister Anna two-to-one.  My educational software firm Sproglit features cartoon kangaroos and a patented matrix called the Math Arrow to teach kids math.  We were thrilled when a Bay Area teacher sent us a Halloween … Continue Reading →

Does the White House Know About Canada?

November 3rd, 2014


I don’t often answer questions, “I have no idea!” but that was my response when Maria Bartiromo asked me on TV about White House policy on the Keystone Pipeline. Here’s the key point: Canadian oil will be exported to the world. The only question is whether it stays on our continent and aids North America’s energy independence, or whether it crosses the Pacific to find a welcome home in China. Canada is tired of waiting for the … Continue Reading →

Are Corporate Campaign Contributions Protection Money?

October 30th, 2014


Corporations are shifting their campaign dollars to Republicans.  In the first half of this year, Democrats received 61%.  That number dropped to 42% over the summer.  Firms are betting on a GOP takeover in the Senate.  Why would a firm suddenly swap allegiance from Democratic to Republican?  On television I explained to Maria Bartiromo’s viewers that corporations often must contribute for defensive reasons.  Giving money buys access.  If they do not have access to the chairman of a powerful … Continue Reading →

Why Doesn’t Putin Wear a Shirt? All About Oil

October 16th, 2014


I’ve been arguing that oil prices could plunge to $50 a barrel, as fracking spreads across the globe, OPEC infighting gets bloody, and Elon Musk proves that electric cars can be swift, smart and sexy. The 20% plunge in oil prices since June has pummeled currencies closely tied to oil, driving the Norwegian Krone and Canadian dollar to four and five-year lows. Meanwhile, the Russian ruble is evaporating under the added pressure of Ukraine sanctions. Why does Vladimir Putin prance … Continue Reading →

ISIS and George H.W. Bush’s Socks

October 6th, 2014


President George H.W. Bush’s stature must be rising.  I can tell because the GOP is selling striped socks emblazoned with his signature.  With all the acid hurled in Washington these days, many miss the elder Bush’s decency.  But it’s not only his preppie manners.  Of course, he knew which salad fork to use at dinner and never thought of stabbing his political rivals with the steak knife.  But more important, Bush managed to kick Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait in … Continue Reading →

Can France Pirouette? Mr. Hollande’s Mess

August 26th, 2014


France’s government has fallen. With a 17 percent approval rating, President Francois Hollande cannot keep his Socialist ducks in order.

Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg flew away after a weekend squabble over Hollande’s leadership. You can’t blame him; it’s hard to be Economy Minister and defend a 10-percent unemployment rate along with a mucky business climate.  Here’s my CNBC.com commentary comparing Hollande to the wily Francois Mitterrand.

Hollande stormed into office in 2012 with populist propaganda condemning business owners and catapulting … Continue Reading →

Mom Got a 4% Yield on Her CD

August 18th, 2014


Was my Mom scammed?  Here’s the story I wrote for CNBC that brings some laughs to a serious subject:

My mother called to tell me that she had just invested money in a bank CD that will pay her a 4-percent return.

“Is it a good deal? You’re a big shot; you should know,” she added. Perhaps I should not have told her that I recently met with a Federal Reserve Board governor.

“Well Mom, that sounds like a fair … Continue Reading →