eNews February 10, 2009

eNews Weekly Update - National Association of Credit Management
February 10th, 2009

News Briefs

  1. NACM Survey: Customer Visits a Worthwhile Asset…In Most Cases
  2. Ag Committee Once Again Takes Up Commodity Legislation
  3. Using Credit Insurance
  4. SBA Loan Delinquencies and Charge-offs Spike
  5. Stimulus “Buy America” Provisions, Spending Measures Get Mixed Reviews
  6. New Administration, Renewed Focus on Environment
  7. House Committee Investigates Effects of International Piracy
  8. Senate Committee Tackles Global Slowdown Implications

1

NACM Survey: Customer Visits a Worthwhile Asset…In Most Cases
In a down economy, things like administrative expenses and travel are often the first things to go, but according to NACM’s January survey, most participating credit professionals find travel and customer visits, in particular, to be a valuable tool in the world of B2B credit. When asked “How valuable do you think customer visits are in terms of getting paid, evaluating customers or simply putting your company in a better position?” Nearly sixty-eight percent of participants said “very valuable,” and another 29.8% said “somewhat valuable.” Only 2.6% of respondents declared that customer visits weren’t valuable at all.

In the comments, many respondents shared customer visit stories of success. “In January a customer visit netted a $44,000 payment that I doubt we would have gotten otherwise,” said one respondent. “I recently visited a customer in regard to $2 million. The salespeople were not able to ‘motivate’ the customer so I went with the salesman and we were able to receive all payments within three weeks,” said another. Other comments extolled the virtues of credit customer visits, with most respondents arguing that visiting a customer offers the creditor company an advantage that can’t be found anywhere else. “Simply getting in front of the customer and meeting them will leave a lasting memory and will get your invoices pushed ahead of others because you took time out of your busy day to come meet them,” said one participant. “You can't put a price tag on customer visitations,” said another respondent. “They take time and money, but improve sales and collections for years.”

Still, with the economy as it is, many participants noted that their companies have slashed travel budgets. While they certainly believe in the value of customer visits and could certainly use them now as payment cycles have slowed, many expressed frustration at the fact that they weren’t able to do so, due to budget constraints. “The realities of a cost-saving environment have put a premium on travel to conduct these visits,” said one respondent. “The trouble comes in convincing management to see the value in this as well,” said another participant, who lamented that “sales gets the customer visit budgets, not so much the credit department.”

Of the few respondents who questioned the value of customer visits, some noted that the success of a visit depends on more than just the credit department’s involvement and, in some select instances, may be unnecessary or counterproductive. “It really all depends on how serious the customer takes your visit,” said one respondent. Others cited industry concerns that made customer visits unnecessary. “It may be valuable in some organizations, but in the hotel arena, it is not viable,” said one participant. “Most of our clients are from outside of the local area, therefore making it virtually impossible to visit them.” Another respondent cited employee safety concerns in their comments. “We seldom visit customers because it is not prudent to send people to some of the nations we work in,” they said.

NACM’s new online survey is now live and focuses on creditors' committees. To participate, visit www.nacm.org.

Jacob Barron, NACM staff writer

 

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2

Ag Committee Once Again Takes Up Commodity Legislation
Last September, with 282 votes, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6604, the Commodity Markets Transparency and Accountability Act of 2008, which was designed to amend the Commodities Exchange Act. In October, the bill was sent to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry where it lost momentum and died. With the doors shut on the 110th Session of Congress, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) has kicked off the 111th with a series of hearings on a draft version of the Derivatives Markets Transparency and Accountability Act of 2009, which is a broadened adaptation of H.R. 6604.

Peterson has made efforts to strengthen oversight and to improve transparency in derivative markets, whether they are regulated or unregulated, physically-based or financial commodities, a top priority of the House Agriculture Committee. The new bill looks to hem in speculation by imposing trading limits, severely limiting the presence of foreign boards of trade and requiring the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to engage in more detailed reporting and disaggregation of market data, as well as add 200 new full-time employees and establish new advisory groups. The proposed legislation also tackles carbon cap-and-trade, the eligibility of credit default swaps and requires an in-depth study of the international regulatory landscape for the Government Accountability Office.

“I thought it was important to call these hearings because we need to have this debate about the bill’s provisions out in the open,” said Peterson. “It is important that we understand the concerns of those who think we are going too far and from those who think we are not going far enough.”

The new draft version of the derivatives bill is designed to bring greater transparency to futures markets, as well as a sense of order to what are called "over-the-counter" market swaps and credit derivatives.

During the committee hearings, testimony swirled around the fact that the current crisis is costing Americans trillions of dollars, both in lost retirement savings and investments, in addition to the trillions of dollars in taxpayer money that is now required to rescue the system. With job losses in the millions—unemployment in the United States hitting 7.6%—fingers were being pointed at the Federal Reserve that allowed alternative off-balance sheet financial systems to form, which resulted in money center banks taking on increasingly large amounts of risky leverage. The Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) was also on the hook for allowing the same to occur with investment banks, which bloomed rapidly into fraud and abuse, most notably with the $50 billion Madoff Ponzi scheme.

Then testimony turned to the accused failures of the CFTC, with claims raised that the agency allowed a massive speculation bubble to form that cost Americans as much as $110 billion in inflated food and energy prices, which ultimately added to the housing and banking crises.

“Worst of all, this crisis was completely avoidable,” said Michael Masters, portfolio manager, Masters Capital Management, LLC. “It can be characterized as nothing less than a complete regulatory failure.” He added, “Congress appeared oblivious to the impending storm, relying on regulators, who, in turn, relied on Wall Street to alert them to any problems.”

Jonathon Short, senior vice president and general counsel, IntercontinentalExchange, Inc. (ICE), torpedoed the proposed bill’s foreign trade blocks. “In recent years, the only effective competition in the futures industry has come from foreign exchanges and exempt commercial markets.” He said that the competition has led U.S. exchanges to transition markets to transparent electronic trading, with full audit trails and improved risk management through "straight-through" processing.

“With one exchange in control of more than 97% of U.S. futures markets, competition is more important than ever,” said Short. “Requiring foreign markets to set position limits according to respective market size would effectively bar foreign exchanges from competing in the U.S., would likely be viewed as extraterritorial regulation by foreign market regulators, and would be inconsistent with the higher level of international policy coordination contemplated by the G30 policy recommendations.”

Short also felt that any move to limit the market participation of index funds would be deleterious and disadvantageous to the market-at-large. Though others felt such limits didn’t go far enough, citing the considerable uptick in commodity prices—specifically natural gas—that took place between January and August 2008. A report by the CFTC showed that 18 noncommercial traders targeted natural gas and other commodities for manipulation and held positions that would have exceeded speculative limits.

“No one can argue with the concept of transparency,” said Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK). “I support greater transparency and accountability with respect to over-the-counter transactions. However, I also believe any legislation that must regulate financial markets has to strike a balance between protecting the economic workings of the country and creating opportunities for economic growth, business expansion and risk management.”

Matthew Carr, NACM staff writer

 

Reap the Rewards of Participation

NACM conducts two surveys on a monthly basis: the Credit Manager’s Index and the NACM Monthly Survey.

When you participate, the surveys not only give us data, they help us produce the resources and answers you need for your day-to-day accomplishments.

We greatly appreciate your monthly participation in both. Just look to your email for monthly reminders, or go to the website to check for status.

 

3

Using Credit Insurance
As credit professionals look to export markets to shore up any sagging domestic sales, the risk of doing business can often deter even the most adept domestic companies from entering a foreign market viewed as exotic by the company’s management. The current state of the global economy isn’t exactly pristine and even seasoned exporters with a great deal of their portfolio overseas are facing difficulties with slow payment and the risk of non-payment. Many creditors have looked toward credit insurance as a way to safeguard their investments, but the world of credit insurance can often be complex and overwhelming. Credit professionals looking for a thorough guide on leveraging credit insurance properly tuned into NACM’s most recent teleconference, “Using Credit Insurance,” presented by credit insurance salesman-turned-freelance consultant, Buddy Baker.

Baker is no stranger to members of NACM and FCIB who have attended either organization’s educational programs in the past, and his presentations have always been popular and thoroughly exhaustive in their scope. This most recent teleconference was no exception.

“About 60% of credit insurance is for people insuring their exports,” he said, discussing exactly how creditors use insurance. “It’s not as if it is only for exports however.” Baker went into detail about the different companies that offer insurance, including the U.S. government’s own export facility, the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank). While many find Ex-Im to be convenient and helpful, it’s important to know that it comes with its own set of rules that may differ from other agencies. “You can get credit insurance from the Export-Import Bank but it can only be used for international transactions,” he said, noting that companies looking to insure their domestic transactions should look elsewhere for help.

Baker also outlined exactly what risks face companies doing business both internationally and domestically. “Slow pay and bankruptcy are the most common, obvious risks of when you’re selling to someone,” he said, separating risks into certain types. “Contract repudiation and contract dispute are reputational risks. The next big group is country risks, like political risk and transfer risk.” Political risks deal with governments that are unsympathetic to a company’s business in the country in question, whether due to a change in policy, government or otherwise. Transfer risks deal with changes in currency and inconvertibility.

Perhaps most importantly, Baker discussed which risks are covered by credit insurance and the different ways in which policies can be tailored to a company’s needs, as well as the difference between European-style and American-style insurance and the three common structures of insurance policies.

For more information on NACM’s teleconference series, or to register, click here.

Jacob Barron, NACM staff writer

 

 

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Usually, the first step after the account is placed is to notify your debtor and make an immediate demand for full payment. The intensity of the phone calls increases if payment is not made. If direct personal contact is appropriate, NACM Affiliates have many resources, including the ability to draw on a nationwide network of Affiliates—with offices located throughout the nation. When necessary, NACM Affiliates will forward an account to one of the bonded attorneys in its tried and proven network. NACM Affiliates exhaust all collection possibilities before recommending litigation to you. All funds collected are placed in separate trust accounts.

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4

SBA Loan Delinquencies and Charge-offs Spike
With the global outlook garnering widespread revisions as almost all major economies in the world are tasked with some form of recession, the year ahead continues to look grim. For small businesses, the ability to survive the downturn is hamstrung by consumer confidence and for the Small Business Administration (SBA), the snapback is a painful one.

After having volume limitations removed, the SBA went through five straight years of record-setting loan approvals. But once the nation’s economy began to crumble, the demand for new loans fell by more than 18% and in 2008, the loans guaranteed by the agency dropped 30%, while the total dollar amount for loans granted fell 13%.

Still, that means there are tens of billions of dollars lent to small businesses by the SBA, and the unpaid principal balance for 2009 on all SBA guaranteed loans is more than $80.2 billion. With the country faced with uncertainty over how lengthy and severe the current recession will be, there’s plenty reason to feel uncomfortable about that much debt being shouldered.

Between March 2007 and March 2008, the delinquency rate in the SBA’s 7(a) loan program shot up 62%, while the other major small business credit program, 504 program loans, increased 35%. The SBA believes the problems are not a weakness of its credit programs, but a result of the broader economic difficulties and the challenges in both the credit and financial markets throughout the country.

The declines are expected to have significant implications for program fees and operations, as well as now requiring increased action on the part of the SBA.

For 2008, the SBA had an actual loss rate on all of its business loans of 5.56%, representing cumulative net charge-offs of $12.021 billion since fiscal year 1992, with more than $10.5 billion of that coming from guaranteed loan programs. For 2007, the actual loss rate was 5.35%, with cumulative net charge-offs of $10.795 billion, with $9.3 billion in guaranteed loans. The charge-off amount of 7(a) loans in just 2008 was $793 million, more than double the $366 million seen in 2007. For 504 loans, the charge-off amount for 2008 soared to $246 million, nearly triple the $86 million seen in 2007.

Matthew Carr, NACM staff writer

 

Liens and Bonds: A Practical Approach

During tough economic times, credit managers need to be sure that their company’s policies have a solid foundation built on the credit basics. Forms and contracts must be well written; there has to be an established threshold for notices and liens; the quality of job information must be top notch; and professionals need to make sure that they’re aware of notice and filing deadlines. Greg Powelson, director, NACM’s Mechanic’s Lien and Bond Services (MLBS), will walk credit managers through the fundamentals of successful lien and bond, and construction credit processes and procedures during the NACM-sponsored teleconference “Liens and Bonds: A Practical Approach.” With liens on the rise as the construction sector falters, credit professionals need to maintain the essentials, and to make sure that sales and management are engaged in the lien and bond process.

To register for this teleconference, members can click here.

 

5

Stimulus “Buy America” Provisions, Spending Measures Get Mixed Reviews
In an effort to steer more proposed bailout funds to U.S. firms, the Senate recently included a watered-down “Buy America” provision in their markup of President Barack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This amendment would require goods and services linked to the Act’s infrastructure investments to be domestically produced and provided. Several other agencies in the U.S. government have similar domestic sourcing statutes in place already, but many have noted that enforcement of these statutes has been weak and transparency has been somewhat lacking. Democratic senators are hoping that including this provision in the new stimulus bill, along with more stringent supervision, will increase the effectiveness of the recovery package’s already estimable investments in enhancing job numbers.

Not everyone was thrilled by the prospect of a “Buy America” provision in the new bill, most notably the European Union (EU) and even President Obama, who publicly objected to the provisions and worked to soften them. The EU feared that such provisions would be tantamount to protectionism, and worked diligently to water down the amendment by threatening to file grievances with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had the Act passed with those provisions intact.

Proponents of the program have argued that, in its current state, the “Buy America” statute will operate in accordance with all international trade laws. “This will help ensure we are doing all we can to promote U.S. businesses and create jobs, which is the purpose of the economic recovery bill,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in a recent statement. “This vote affirms that 'Buy America' provisions do not violate trade laws. It affirms that when we can, we should use U.S. tax dollars to create U.S. jobs. The next step is to focus on implementation and enforcement of these provisions as we work to strengthen our economy and rebuild our nation’s middle class.”

Other parts of the bill are under scrutiny too, mainly some of the enormous spending dedicated to infrastructure, which has ruffled some feathers in the Republican party. This has drawn something of a Democratic backlash against the GOP, with many prominent lawmakers attacking the minority party over their insistence that the bill include less new spending. “Opponents of this bill have spoken about the primacy of tax cuts over all other policies. They have spoken of the need to cut spending on programs that create jobs now, good jobs, real jobs, jobs that preserve the environment, improve education and lead us toward true energy independence,” said Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations. “This bill is about change and their opposition is about simply responding to the biggest crisis since the Great Depression with more of the same.”

Many Senate Republicans have, however, on the whole, worked on a deal with the Democrats, led primarily by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who had been working with Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) on cutting out a lot of the Act’s objectionable spending.

Jacob Barron, NACM staff writer

 

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6

New Administration, Renewed Focus on Environment
The Bush Administration’s policies towards energy and development were often maligned by Democratic leaders. The high costs of energy and the drilling boom that was sparked in the western regions of the United States earned the scorn from environmental and recreation groups, and even the actions by government agencies were not left untouched by controversy.

For years, the proposed drilling near areas of Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Nine Mile Canyon and Dinosaur National Monument have been the topic of heated debate. Whether development should take place near areas of historical and cultural significance provided plenty of fodder to the discussion. Eventually, plans proceeded forward and on December 19, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) offered 130 parcels for auction, receiving bids on 116 parcels, representing some 148,000 acres. The majority of the parcels offered were hotly contested, and after the auction, concerned groups filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction on the grounds that the environmental review process for the auctioned parcels did not comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or the National Historic Preservation Act. A short time later, the injunction was granted.

Then last week, newly appointed Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the BLM would completely withdraw 77 of the leases auctioned, citing Bush Administration failures as the cause.

“In its last weeks in office, the Bush Administration rushed ahead to sell oil and gas leases at the doorstep of some of our nation’s most treasured landscapes in Utah,” said Salazar, who added that the U.S. does need to develop domestic oil and gas supplies to help reduce dependence on foreign oil, but that it must done in a thoughtful and balanced manner. “We will take a fresh look at these 77 parcels and at the adequacy of the environmental review and analysis that led to their being offered for oil and gas development.”

Salazar expressed concerns that there was inadequate consultation with other agencies, including the National Park Service, in play as well.

Since President Barack Obama took office last month and the 111th Session of Congress has gotten underway, Congressional leaders have launched forward with a number of environmental initiatives with the mantra that they create jobs as well as reduce costs. In the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, formed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), renewable energy legislation was introduced that would make sure that a quarter of all electricity produced in the United States would come from clean energy sources—wind, geothermal and solar—by 2025.

“If we follow an ambitious clean energy path, American families will save money, construction and manufacturing workers will be back on the job, and our environment will be safer for generations to come,” said Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), who added that 27 states and the District of Columbia already have renewable energy standards in place, and so should the rest of the country.

“This legislation takes a significant step—similar to what is already taking place in many states, including my home state of Pennsylvania—to help ensure America reduces its dependency on foreign oil and creates a more stable energy supply for our nation,” said Representative Todd Platts (R-PA), who worked with Markey last session to pass the 35 miles per gallon fuel standard.

The legislation states that more than 350,000 new jobs would be created over the next decade if it were enacted.

Keeping in step with one of President Obama’s campaign goals, Markey also introduced the Save American Energy Act, which hopes to reduce electricity demand by 15% by 2020. The energy efficiency standards says that the United States can see consumer savings that top $130 billion over the next 20 years and that 260,000 new jobs will be created in the construction sector as the nation is pushed to retrofit buildings and weatherize homes. The proposed legislation also says that 90,000 megawatts of electricity will be saved by 2020, eliminating the need for 300 medium-size power plants.

“Energy efficiency is all about working smarter, not harder,” said Markey, author of the 1987 Appliance Efficiency Act. “This legislation has the effect of producing more energy without ever having to build a power plant. It is the most cost-effective, money-saving measure for consumers and utilities.”

Matthew Carr, NACM staff writer

 

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7

House Committee Investigates Effects of International Piracy
The idea of “piracy” often conjures up images of either peg-legged men pillaging their way through the seven seas or, more recently, bored college students illegally downloading music and movies in their dorm rooms. While neither of these options is particularly glamorous, the reality of international piracy is decidedly grim, stemming from a number of systemic and institutional problems, with effects that could derail a great deal of global commerce without proper preventative measures. “Piracy is of great concern to this Congress because it affects international shipping, American imports and exports and the free flow of maritime commerce,” said Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN), chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, in a recent hearing on “International Piracy on the High Seas,” focusing specifically on the high profile piracy cases plaguing ships traveling through the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia. “There is usually at least one U.S.-flagged ship among the more than 50 vessels that pass through the Gulf of Aden region on a daily basis. That one vessel is critical to the nation’s interest as it carries Department of Defense cargo bound to our troops fighting in Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.”

While Oberstar noted that piracy around the horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden has experienced a staggering increase recently, overall, piracy incidents have decreased worldwide and the U.S. has yet to be directly affected. Still, both Oberstar and Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), have argued that action needs to be taken in order to prevent a more widespread increase in piracy and specifically any incident that would have direct negative effects on American commerce. What exactly to do about the problem, however, involves a number of complex legal concerns.

“While the first priority of the international forces active in the Horn of Africa region is preventing or intervening in pirate attacks, the question of what to do with captured pirates is an important and complicated one given the absence of the rule of law in Somalia and the complexity of international legal arrangements pertaining to crimes at sea,” said Cummings. “The piracy occurring at sea off the coast of Somalia is frankly just a symptom of what is a much greater problem—and that is the violence and instability that has persisted inside Somalia for more than 20 years.”

“All ships passing through that area are at risk and the world’s economy, which is critically dependent on the movement of goods by water, is affected,” he added.

Oberstar noted that piracy has the potential to disrupt the flow of commerce and specifically cause an increase in commodity prices, including food and fuel. Citing similar piracy incidents that plagued the Strait of Malacca in the South Pacific earlier in the decade, Cummings noted that the key to controlling piracy in the Gulf of Aden will be to assert of the rule of law at sea.

Jacob Barron, NACM staff writer

8

Senate Committee Tackles Global Slowdown Implications
As the United States trudges forward through the uncertainty of the economic landscape, the outlook for the year ahead continues to deserve revisions. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Institute of International Finance, Inc. (IIF) and private think-tanks have each recanted projections that global growth will be around 2.2% in exchange for forecasts that are far gloomier. With the U.S. grappling with a financial crisis that has cascaded to the rest of the world’s markets, everyone is bracing for the worst market conditions seen in a quarter-century, and maybe even worse than the post-World War II slowdown. Estimates from the World Bank show the first global trade decline in decades, with global wealth losses approaching $50 trillion.

“I think all of us know we are in the worst economic downturn our country has seen since the Great Depression,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND). “We have lost nearly two million jobs in just the last four months.” Conrad felt the predictions from the IMF that world gross domestic product (GDP) would fall from 2.2% to .5% were “overly optimistic.” He called for hearings into the implications of the global slowdown and possible policy steps the U.S. could take to confront the effects and risks of the crisis.

“I have no doubt—none at all—that a recovery package is necessary and a large recovery package is necessary,” stated Conrad, adding he didn’t believe the current proposed plan was properly designed to spark recovery. “I am also concerned that we’re going to find four months from now the administration coming back to us and asking for hundreds of billions of dollars more to deal with the financial institutions of the country.”

Conrad wasn’t alone in his trepidation. Ronald Kurtz, professor of Entrepreneurship, MIT Sloan School of Management, senior fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics, forecasts a global contraction of minus 1% in 2009, with no recovery on the horizon and worldwide growth for 2010 remaining flat relative to this year.

“A rapid return to growth requires more expansionary monetary policy and in all likelihood this needs to be led by the United States,” testified Kurtz. “But the Federal Reserve is still some distance from fully recognizing deflation and by the time it takes that view and can implement appropriate actions, declining wages and prices will be built into expectations, thus making it much harder to stabilize the housing market and restart growth.”

Kurtz believes that the most likely outcome will not be a V-shaped recovery or a U-shaped recovery, two consensuses held by the official and private sectors respectively. Instead, he foresees an L-shaped one, where there is a steep fall followed by a struggle to rebound. He admits there could even be a “lost decade” in store for the world economy, and though there may be some episodes of incipient recovery, as seen during the financial woes of Japan during the 1990s, they will prove hard to sustain.

“While we agree that a rapid fall is underway and the speed of this is unusual, we do not yet see the mechanisms through which a turnaround occurs,” warned Kurtz. “In fact, in our baseline view, there is considerably more decline in global output already in the works and, once the situation stabilizes, it is hard to see how a recovery can easily be sustained.”

Tim Adams, former Treasury Under Secretary for International Affairs, now managing director, Lindsey Group, agreed with Kurtz’s view that the U.S. has to lead the world out of crisis and that the weakness of balance sheets remains the main hurdle to overcome domestically.

“Despite aggressive monetary and fiscal policy measures, the next year or two will still prove challenging,” said Adams. “The global financial deleveraging process will continue. Banks will continue to rebuild their balance sheets and remain reluctant to extend new credit. Private capital will likely avoid the banking sector, paralyzed by uncertainty over asset quality and expected sweeping changes to the U.S. and European regulatory regimes. The demand for credit will also remain weak.”

Adams foresees the banking sector will continue to wade through dire straits. He said that since the extent of toxic assets is probably at least $1 trillion, and could be as high as $3 trillion, Congress will likely be forced to release additional funds to banks. He suggested one policy path could be for the Fed to purchase assets by expanding its own balance sheet, then applying the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds to just the expected present value of the calculated credit risk or loss, allowing the Central Bank to leverage the $250-$300 billion to as much as $2.5-$3 trillion in actual asset purchases.

Though positives are difficult to point to, the plummet in the price of oil will continue to help keep the U.S. trade deficit in check, with the January deficit possibly as low as $30 billion, meaning the need for U.S. net capital inflows are falling. Non-oil exports for the U.S. have also grown at a substantially quicker pace than non-oil imports.

“The obvious risk is that bad news compounds: the initial fall in [global] output gives rise to a further fall in investment, employment and consumption, dragging growth down further,” said Brad Sester, fellow, Geo-economics, Council on Foreign Relations. He then said the sustainability of improvement will be dependent on the price of oil, which also hinges on the U.S. and other nations taking steps to increase domestic demand growth, or whether reliance is simply placed on the reemergence of U.S. demand. “The only bright spot: the synchronized global slowdown leaves little doubt about the needed direction of the global policy response.”

Matthew Carr, NACM staff writer

 

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