Our Two Cents – Week of 12/19/11

News broke Sunday night reporting the death of North Korea’s enigmatic leader, Kim Jong Il, followed swiftly by debate about the impact his successor Kim Jong Un will have on the country’s economy and society – as well as the market’s reaction to his father’s death.

Meanwhile Europe continued to dominate world headlines as it devises next steps after proposing a treaty last week designed to strength fiscal discipline for the European Union. In the United States, the economy continues showing signs of improvement as it eases some minds heading into the highly anticipated holiday week.

In Europe, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti won a confidence vote from officials to expedite its 30-billion-euro budget crafted to restore the country’s economic confidence and revive its stagnant growth. The passage comes after a week of strikes from Italy’s three biggest labor unions because they say Monti’s package will hurt workers, pensions and the country itself. After passing the House, the measure now moves to the Senate where it’s expected to be actioned by Christmas. While Italy seeks to improve its economy, Poland has been recognized for its robust economy. Experts believe that Poland may have the last healthy economy in Europe as the country’s capital Warsaw received revitalization and the country overall experienced economic growth and increased foreign investments. The question, though, is Poland going to remain as strong as it is now? Because many of its neighbors are suffering in the euro zone, residual effects could spill over the borders to Poland—especially because the country’s main stock index is down 24 percent since April. Unfortunately, some other European countries aren’t in as great shape as Poland. France could see a downgrade of its triple-A rating by Standard & Poor’s. French officials say the speculated credit lowering would be “cataclysmic” to its economy. Germany is still trying to lead through the crisis, opposing euro bonds and lifting bailout cap. In Greece, the nation has abandoned the euro and returned to its drachma currency, and in Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron faced hecklers about vetoing the proposed European Union treaty.

There was good news in the United States last week. Retail sales rose for the sixth straight month, increasing 0.2 percent in November and showing signs that the U.S. economy is growing. Consumer prices also remained steady as the consumer price index went unchanged last month in November. Jobless claims dropped to 366,000, marking a three-year low and signal some recovery to the job market. In the hedge fund world, legendary hedge funder Julian Robertson of Tiger Management Co. is explaining why so many hedge funds are now cropping up. He says the hedge funds business is becoming tougher because more hedge funds are being created as they’re the best way to pay the experienced Wall Street guys.



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