September 11, 2014


News Briefs

  1. Ex-Im (Temporary) Reprise on the Way
  2. Global Economy's Progress 'Solid' in August
  3. More Support for Lifting the Oil Export Ban
  4. Bitcoin Continues to Gain Ground as an Alternative Currency
  5. Carbon Emissions Continue to Rise


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Ex-Im (Temporary) Reprise on the Way

The Export-Import Bank of the United States may be getting a long-awaited reauthorization, albeit a short-term one, in the coming days.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said this week that some of Ex-Im’s key GOP critics appear willing to support a temporary reauthorization of the Bank, but gave no indication of exactly how long that would last. The extension will most likely be included in a spending measure aimed at preventing another government shutdown come October 1.

Critical to a reauthorization of any period for Ex-Im is flipping some ardent opponents in the House, like Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Jeb Hensarling (R-TX). Boehner singled out Hensarling when he commented on a tepid, newfound support for reauthorization based on a potentially significant shorter period than previous reauthorizations. Other Republicans hinted at supporting an extension of the charter through early 2015. Democrats want a multiyear reauthorization, according to widespread reports, and have criticized the GOP for blocking votes on the matter.

Some Congressional conservatives have argued that it isn't the government's place to offer Ex-Im what in their view amounts to a form of corporate welfare for the nation's largest companies to do business abroad. Ex-Im supporters have argued the Bank's closure would actually benefit foreign producers overseas and would result in the loss of domestic exporting opportunities and, thus, manufacturing activity and jobs at home. Ex-Im typically generates a surplus through the fees charged for its services, and has not relied on taxpayer money to cover its activity in more than five years. The last time Ex-Im experienced any loss of significance was during a couple of stretches in the 1980s and 1990s.

- Brian Shappell, CBA, CICP, NACM staff writer

NACM's Finance, Credit and International Business Association (FCIB) currently partners with Ex-Im to expand awareness about the financing resources available to US businesses doing business abroad. For more information on Ex-Im's background, see "Pending US Trade Issues" in eNews, August 21, as well as "The Case for Continued Bipartisan Support of Ex-Im" in the November/December 2013 issue of Business Credit, authored by Ex-Im Director, Sean Mulvaney (login required).

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Global Economy's Progress 'Solid' in August

The JPMorgan Global All-Industry Output Index (aka: the Manufacturing & Services PMI), produced along with Markit Economics, showed another increase in August to 55.5, up from the 55.1 registered in July. It is the third-highest reading since early 2011.

Gains were found both in manufacturing and services, but the latter provided a noticeably bigger boost to the global economy. A deeper dive into the data shows big differences between regions doing well, including the United States and United Kingdom, and those with "muted performance," like much of Asia and Europe.

"The national data still point to widening diverges between the regions," said JPMorgan Director of Global Economics Coordination David Hensley. He added that "steady progress" in overall growth is expected heading into the fall and "solid gains in new business alongside an increase in backlogs of work also suggest that pipelines are sufficient to at least partly offset any increase in demand headwinds in the short term."

A sector breakdown showed the biggest one-month PMI gains occurring in commercial and professional services, technology equipment and construction materials. The biggest declines, by sector, between July and August were in the categories of real estate, software and services as well as household and personal use products.

For more details, read the related blog posting here.

- Brian Shappell, CBA, CICP, NACM staff writer

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More Support for Lifting the Oil Export Ban

It is taking the US a very long time to adjust to the new realities of oil. The chronic dependence on imported oil, dragging the nation into endless conflicts in oil producing regions because of that dependency, has reversed the trend in just a few years. The dependent state has been replaced by independence, but many have yet to grasp what this really means. The US is still held back by laws and regulations that reflect the reality of the late 1970s and not the start of the new century. The US is not allowed to sell crude oil outside the US and Canada and that has stunted the sector. Oil companies are restricting the amounts of oil produced as there is no place to sell it—refineries are glutted with supply.

More and more calls for reform emerge every day and one of the more high-profile voices is that of Larry Summers, a key economic advisor to President Obama. Summers has been the head of the Council of Economic Advisors and was Obama’s choice to head the Federal Reserve. Summers has come out strongly in favor of eliminating this barrier and points out that this action will mean the US will see lower gasoline prices and will finally be able to play a role in the overall determination of global oil prices. He has also advocated the construction of the Keystone pipeline as he has urged the political establishment to understand the new position the US occupies in the energy sector. The defensive posture that has dominated for over five decades has to now change and adapt to the new reality of the US as a major world player.

- Armada Corporate Intelligence

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Bitcoin Continues to Gain Ground as an Alternative Currency

The widely used PayPal online payment service has provided another boost of credibility to digital currency alternatives with a new partnership that will allow the use of bitcoins.

A partnership with Braintree, a mobile payment platform previously acquired by PayPal, and Coinbase, a Bitcoin wallet that allows for transactions in the alternative currency and conversion into traditional dollars, will make it possible for customers to pay with bitcoins across various mobile apps within months. PayPal stressed the partnership aims to provide the safest environment possible for the use of bitcoins, which have been somewhat controversial due to the currency's anti-regulation roots and because of past incidents of fraud and theft involving its use. "Traditionally, there's been a tradeoff between convenience and security, but now we can have both," PayPal said in a release.

David Zeiler, associate editor with Money Map Press (Agora, Inc.), told NACM that acceptance from a well-regarded name like PayPal is another positive step for a greater acceptance of Bitcoin that continues to accelerate. Recently, Bitcoin gained acceptance by the Dish Network, and the Sacramento Kings professional basketball team.

"Each thing moves it a little bit further," Zeiler said. "Cumulatively, it shows that adoption is really happening. At some point it will dawn on most people that, 'oh, this is a real thing.'" Though businesses have not jumped on the Bitcoin bandwagon for B2B transactions, Zeiler and Rudet Fountain, vice president of NACM relations with United TranzActions, echoed their sentiments in the May issue of Business Credit that it would be foolish to ignore the building interest and support.

"Things that are going to drive it will make bitcoins easy to use, which startups are working on, and there has to be a benefit to paying with bitcoins rather than something else," Zeiler said. Some retailers are already using bitcoins as a way to avoid higher fees from credit card transactions, so that could be a future motivator in the B2B space even if there are obstacles that must be addressed. 

"I think it is something to continue to watch," said Fountain. "There are a lot of reasons there’s going to be a much slower adoption than in the retail world. If nothing else, there is an inability right now to follow the trail of dollars. With all the regulations on business in a SOX [Sarbanes-Oxley Act] compliant world, it leaves us in a lurch."

- Brian Shappell, CBA, CICP, NACM staff writer

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Carbon Emissions Continue to Rise

The debate over climate change will never cease, but neither apparently will the rise in carbon dioxide levels as there has been a significant increase in just the past year—a rate of accumulation that marks the fastest accumulation in 30 years. The efforts to reduce carbon emissions have not been insignificant, but there is now concern that the ability of the world’s forests and oceans to soak up that carbon has been reduced as there has simply been too much carbon dioxide for the natural systems to handle.

There are at least four debates taking place regarding climate change. The first is that there has been climate change and that the world has grown warmer. This is the least controversial aspect of the conversation. Second is to determine what has been causing the rise. It is clear that human activity plays a big part and most of the efforts of the last few years have been directed toward reducing that contribution.

Third is the most intense controversy as people try to figure out how to address a global issue one country at a time. The US and Europe have their plans in place, but there has been less action in China and India and if these two aren't on board with efforts to control emissions, what happens to the global pollution problems? Some want to focus on stopping the production of more greenhouse gas, but this means radical change in everything from transportation to energy production to manufacturing and that places an immense financial burden on many nations. Others are focused on containing or controlling the impact of the emissions with everything from carbon sequestering to adding more to the "carbon sink." The fact that oceans and forests do not seem to be up to the task will mean more pressure on man-made options.

The last group's strategy centers on adaptation as opposed to prevention. They assume that nothing substantial can be done to stop the process and that means that systems will have to adapt. Some parts of the planet will become hostile to current patterns of habitation and other parts may improve—forcing people to move and change. Coastal cities will have to work to protect against rising sea levels and there will be drastic alterations as far as agriculture and water use are concerned. Most of those who examine the issue assert that there is no single solution and that all three of these techniques will have to be used at the same time in varying degrees.

The latest concern is that the atmosphere has been impacted by natural events that have added to the core problem. The wildfires that have raged in many parts of the world have sent a great deal of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere and this has contributed to the inability of natural systems to react. The fact that there has been climate change has contributed to the fire issue as drought makes intense fire activity far more likely. Add in some intensified volcano activity and the appearance of more active sunspot activity and there is a mounting problem that is not remotely controllable. The sense is that periods of intense natural impact will combine with the more constant human impact to overwhelm natural systems. This is likely to push reactions that range from more intense control efforts to technological solutions that can contribute to the natural systems under stress.

- Armada Corporate Intelligence

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