There could not possibly be any clouds on the horizon with the Dow and the S&P 500 setting all-time highs, while the German DAX is marching relentlessly towards 8,000 and the Japanese Nikkei is soaring. But just then, a deeply connected representative of the world’s real economy spoils the rosy scenario.
Putzmeister was a paragon of the German Mittelstand—family-owned firms with innovative technologies and high-quality manufacturing that dominate their niches worldwide. But in 2012, it was acquired by a Chinese giant. Now its German CEO reveals just how impossible integration is and how dire not only Europe but the world look to him, particularly China.
CEOs of the largest US corporations, without aiming at it, shot barn-door-size holes through the rosy jobs picture. Rosy on the surface: unemployment down to 7.7% with 236,000 new jobs created last month. A picture the White House held up as proof of its success. But these CEOs didn’t see it. Not in the US. Though prospects were rosy in cheap countries.
China has tried over the years to come to grips with its pandemic pollution, yet in Beijing, through a combination of factors, it reached catastrophic levels in mid-January and set another record. Result of the white-hot pace of economic growth. And of coal consumption: this year, China is set to burn more coal than the rest of the world combined!
European talking heads are reassuring us on an hourly basis, lest we forget, that the worst of the debt crisis is over. The Japanese trade deficit, a measure of reality, not words, tells a different story about the crisis in Europe. And about troubles coming to a boil in China. But neither can be cured by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to decapitate the yen.
Much digital ink has been spilled about the US oil & gas boom, and whether or not it will lead to energy independence, or even turn the US into an oil exporter. Now a “confidential” report by the German version of the CIA, the Bundesnachrichtendienst, seeped to the surface. It sketched out the boom’s geopolitical consequences. Biggest loser? China.
Technology transfers, whether on a contractual basis or through theft, have long bedeviled companies that want to benefit from China’s cheap labor and 1.3 billion consumers. Automakers, aerospace companies, technology outfits…. it’s the price they have to pay. But when it seeped out that the largely state-owned nuclear industry in France was trying to sell its secrets to China to make a deal, oh là là!
It started on September 19. In several East German states, a lot of children and adolescents fell ill with vomiting and diarrhea. A week later, it was officially acknowledged as a foodborne illness. And now is has become the largest wave of food poisoning ever recorded in Germany.
Bring home the bacon, or the speck, as it were, was the guiding principle for German Chancellor Angela Merkel when she frolicked in China last week. But her pleas to get the Chinese to buy the crappy bonds of debt-sinner countries in the Eurozone fell on deaf ears. This week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was hobnobbing with the Chinese elite. It turned into a clash fest, and instead of bringing home the bacon, she argued with the Chinese over everything and the South China Sea.
As a kid in Germany, I engaged in underage beer drinking. I was too young to drive, so it didn’t bother anyone, except me the next day. It was when German beer consumption peaked at 151 liters per capita, the highest in the world. But then I went to America … and German beer consumption took a multi-decade dive. In the US and other Western countries, the beer industry is now morose as well, but it’s booming elsewhere.