Euro has 1-in-5 chance of lasting decade: UK think-tank

 Copper Advances to Record on Speculation Supply Shortage Poised to Worsen – Copper futures rose to a record for the fourth time this week as speculation heightened that a supply deficit will widen as China, the world’s biggest consumer, leads a rebound in demand for industrial metals. The price reached an all-time high of $4.432 a pound as the global economy recovered from its deepest recession since World War II. Supplies of copper, used in wiring and pipes, will lag behind demand by 825,000 metric tons next year, almost double this year’s deficit of 449,000 tons, Barclays Capital says.


Recession hitting assholes especially hard – I understand that being unemployed and having to move back in with relatives can cause a lot of stress, and I really do have a lot of sympathy for anyone going through this, and especially for those who don’t have the safety net of family and friends to fall back on. But this recent article in the New York Times, while clearly designed to highlight the stresses of moving back in with your parents, really illustrated the stresses of moving back in with your parents when you’re all assholes. I know that’s harsh, but let me provide some evidence. The story opens with a litany of impatience, short-tempers, and passive aggresiveness: A nudge from Kathy Maggi for her 26-year-old daughter, Holly, to clean her room sparks a blow-up; an offhand comment by Jim Maggi about the way bills come in “month after month” to his daughter’s fiancé, James Wilson, causes days of smoldering; a bite of a chocolate bar from Grandma to 21-month-old Madison leads to frustrated chatter behind closed doors about “Nana” and “Pawpaw” spoiling her…
The Lithium Revolution – Another very interesting and important section of the Deutsche Bank report we discussed yesterday is the section on lithium battery prices.  Deutsche Bank analysts are projecting a 7.5%/year rate drop in prices per kWhr (other analysts have similar expectations).  However, as the graph above shows, in the last 13 months they’ve been obliged to drop their price estimates by 30%.  Also, the historical price curve for laptop batteries has averaged 14%/year.  So there’s some reason to think the 7.5%/year cost curve might be on the conservative side.  Prices might fall faster.In any case, given Deutsche Bank’s estimates, here’s how the payback time of a pure EV evolves compared to an equivalent conventional car, assuming $3.25 gasoline, 10c/kWhr electricity and 15k miles/year:

Chicago’s Daley Says Pension-Overhaul Law Will Bring Record Tax Increase – Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley accused his fellow Democrat, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, of imposing “the largest property-tax increase in the history” of the city by signing a pension-overhaul bill into law. Quinn’s action places “a tremendous burden on Chicago taxpayers” to bolster the pension funds of public-safety employees, Daley said yesterday in a statement. “The governor took away the opportunity to fix the legislation before he signed it,” Daley said. “The direct result of the governor’s actions will be a massive property-tax hike for Chicago residents of at least $550 million, or about a 60 percent increase in our current property-tax levy.”

U.K. Think Tank Sees 20% Chance Of Euro’s Survival – Europe’s common currency, battered for more than a year by a sovereign debt crisis, is unlikely to survive the next decade in its current form, the Center for Economics and Business Research warned Friday. In a list of top 10 predictions for 2011, the CEBR, a U.K.-based think-tank, gave the euro a slim one-in-five chance of being preserved in its present incarnation as the legal tender for the 16 nation currency bloc. That number will increase to 17 on Monday, when Estonia accedes to the euro zone. The organization sees brewing debt problems in Spain and Italy as the catalyst for a new downturn. While economists have long warned that Spain and Portugal are two of the most vulnerable economies in the euro zone, Italy’s heavy debt load — approximately 115% of GDP — and sluggish growth have made some analysts wary about the country’s long-term prospects.

Euro has 1-in-5 chance of lasting decade: UK think-tank (Reuters) – The euro currency area has only a one-in-five chance of surviving in its current form over the next 10 years because of competitive imbalances between its members, a leading British think tank said on Friday.The Center for Economics and Business Research said Spain and Italy would have to refinance over 400 billion euros ($530 billion) of bonds in the spring, potentially sparking a fresh crisis within the 16-nation euro area."The euro might break up at this point, though European politicians are normally able to respond to a crisis," said CEBR Chief Executive Douglas McWilliams in a list of 10 forecasts for 2011.

Yuan Advances Beyond 6.6 Per Dollar for First Time Since 1993 on Inflation – The yuan strengthened beyond 6.6 per dollar for the first time in 17 years, bringing gains for 2010 to 3.6 percent, on speculation China will allow the currency to advance in an effort to tame inflation.  The benchmark money-market rate reached a three-year high after the central bank drained cash from the banking system to cool economic growth. The renminbi climbed 0.57 percent in the past five days, a fifth weekly gain, and reached the strongest level since China unified official and market exchange rates at the end of 1993. The yuan will continue to appreciate, advancing 6 percent next year, said David Cohen, an economist at Action Economics Ltd. in Singapore.  Policy makers “recognize the usefulness of a stronger currency in curbing inflation,” said Cohen. “The yuan, like other Asian currencies, has very strong fundamentals and the country has a very large current-account surplus.”

Jersey City Sends Layoff Notices to 89 in the Police Department – Jersey City distributed layoff notices today to the 82 Jersey City Police Department (JCPD) officers and seven civilian employees scheduled to be laid off on February 15 of next year. The 45-day notice is required by the state’s Civil Service Commission, which last week approved the Healy administration’s layoff plan (see below for the full plan), which also includes demotions for two captains, four lieutenants and six sergeants.  The layoffs come as the city struggles to bridge an $80 million budget shortfall. The administration has asked many departments to reduce their budgets; the JCPD layoffs are part of an attempt to close a $900,000 gap in that department’s budget.

‘Boomers’ set to swamp US seniors’ health program – The struggling US Medicare program is about to be swamped as the post-World War II generation becomes eligible for the government-administered health insurance for seniors. Thousands of the oldest of the so-called baby boomers — people born between 1946 and 1964 — will Saturday turn 65, the age at which they become eligible for the Medicare program for older Americans that has been run by the US government since 1965.A baby boomer will turn 65 every eight seconds in 2011, meaning Medicare will gain some 7,000 potential new beneficiaries a day next year, according to the AARP, a non-profit organization that aims to improve the quality of life for older Americans. That would mean more than 2.5 million potential new Medicare recipients next year alone.

Municipalities issued record $429 billion in 2010 (Reuters) – U.S. municipal bond issuance reached a record-high $429 billion in 2010, while taxable Build America Bonds made up 27.4 percent of new deals, according to Thomson Reuters data on Wednesday. States, cities and other munis issuers sold $117.4 billion of BABs this year, eager to grab a 35 percent federal rebate on interest costs provided by the program, which was created in last year’s federal stimulus act. With the BABs program expiring at the end of 2010 and no extension coming from Congress, BABs issuance reached nearly $15.6 billion in December, accounting for 38.7 percent of the $40.3 billion of bonds sold this month, according to Thomson Reuters. November 2010 remained the biggest month for BABs since the program began in April 2009, with $16 billion of bonds


Three Changes Making It Difficult To Find a Low Skill Job – In the comments of an earlier post we discussed the difficulty entry-level applicants are having in obtaining jobs.  In this post I discuss 3 changes from the last 12 months making it difficult for workers with low- to no-skills find employment.When an employer has a low-skill task that needs to be done – whether it be low level data entry or manual labour, she has a number of alternatives (or substitutes) to hiring a low-skilled worker.  She could:
  1. Find a technological solution. Rather than hiring another worker, is there a piece of equipment or machinery that will do the job, or make existing workers more productive so another person is not needed?  
  2. Outsource/offshore/subcontract. Instead of doing the work in-house, can we pay someone else to do it?  
  3. Do without. Instead of having 8 cash-registers open, can we get away with having only 7?
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