The Land of the Setting Sun

The rating agency lowered Japan to “AA-,” citing Tokyo’s lack of a coherent strategy for dealing with its soaring debt, which now stands at 200% of GDP.

Japan’s sovereign credit rating was downgraded by Standard & Poor’s in January. The rating agency lowered Japan to “AA-,” citing Tokyo’s lack of a coherent strategy for dealing with its soaring debt, which now stands at 200% of GDP.

For perspective consider that the American federal debt, which is high enough to prompt a government-paralyzing standoff between Congress and the White House, is less than half of that percentage. Yes, Japan owes a lot of money, and the bond ratings agencies are finally starting to question whether it will be repaid.

News of Japan’s downgrade will come as no surprise to long-time readers. Japan is slowly dying.
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The Luxury Toilet and the Rise of the Affluent Chinese Consumer

In the interconnected web of the global economy, the rise of China has been one of the biggest drivers of the decade-long bull market in energy and commodities. But China is also making its presence felt in other less obvious areas of the economy. Yes, it would appear that affluent Chinese are driving a global boom in luxury bathrooms.

Kohler, the American plumbing fixtures manufacturer, now sells the $6,400 Numi luxury toilet (see photo). Driven by the demanding tastes of China’s newly wealthy, the Numi features a heated footrest and a “sleek iTouch style remote,” according to the Financial Times, that controls an internal music system, the adjustable bidet, and the temperature of the seat. It also allows the user to play video games, read e-books, and call friends on Skype. The press release didn’t elaborate on whether or not Skype’s video conferencing features are enabled; I sincerely hope that they are not.
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Book Review: The Next 100 Years

There is a deep-seated belief in America that the United States is approaching the eve of its destruction. Read letters to the editor, peruse the Web, and listen to public discourse. Disastrous wars, uncontrolled deficits, high gasoline prices, shootings at universities, corruption in business and government, and an endless litany of other shortcomings—all of them quite real—create a sense that the American dream has been shattered and that America is past its prime….

The odd thing is that all of this foreboding was present during the presidency of Richard Nixon, together with many of the same issues.

—George Friedman, The Next 100 Years

The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st CenturyGeorge Friedman does not subscribe to the gloomy view of a “Post-American World.”  In fact, Friedman believes that the United States is only now reaching the apogee of its power and influence in the world.  Sure, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq showed that the country has its limits within its current military budget.  But America’s days of global dominance are far from over.

These are not the words of a motivational speaker or an aspiring politican.  Friedman is the founder and Chief Intelligence Office of Stratford, the private intelligence company Barron’s once called the “Shadow CIA.”
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Live on Fox Business News: Charles Sizemore on Dividend Investing

The Sizemore Investment Letter’s Charles Sizemore discusses dividend investing live on Fox Business News.

The Sizemore Investment Letter’s Charles Sizemore discusses dividend investing live on Fox Business News:

 

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Sizemore Investment Letter Quoted in Barron’s

Charles Sizemore and The Sizemore Investment Letter were recently quoted in the Barron’s Market Watch column.

It has long been our view that the bull market—we would say “speculative bubble”—in gold is a product more of emotion and political ideology than actual economics.  It is also the natural result of a decade marked by two gut-wrenching bear markets, a housing bust, and the secular decline of the dollar versus all major world currencies.

Investors can be forgiven for running to gold in search of stability, but doing so today is too little too late; it’s analogous to buying insurance after your house has already burned down.  We have been seeing anecdotal signs of bubble behavior for the past year, including what we noted in the Barron’s quote: Continue reading “Sizemore Investment Letter Quoted in Barron’s”