Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Buzztracker, Disneyland photos, the dollar and Asia

Hi kids, hows it going? Great! Here are the only new things on the internet today:

Via slashdot: So this site called Buzztracker culls through the locations of all the stories filtered through Google News, and puts them on a map, so we finally know which cities are most important on any given's today's:Buzztracker daily image

Found via boingboing, a collection of black-and-white photos of the "happiness" which is Disneyland. Don't these people look happy to you?

And the New Yorker has a great article about the relationship between the dollar and's a very easy-to-read synopsis of the realities of financial markets:
One answer is that Asia won’t let it. Last year, Asian countries invested almost four hundred billion dollars in the United States, mostly in government bonds. China is effectively taking most of its excess national savings and lending it to the United States. The Japanese, who despite their creaking economy remain flush with savings, bought a quarter trillion dollars of American debt last year, even though the interest is lousy and the assets themselves are losing value. More than any other nation in history, the United States depends, economically, on the kindness of strangers. Right now, Asian investors appear very kind.

Markets are hardly known for their tenderness. Usually, you can assume that everyone in a market is trying to make as much money as possible, with as little risk, but the currency market isn’t like most others. In the market for the dollar, many of the players have other things on their mind. China needs to go on selling Americans hundreds of billions in exports in order to keep its economy humming. A weaker dollar makes that harder. Asian central banks also already own trillions of dollars in American assets. As the dollar falls, so does the value of those assets. There are plenty of other traders in the currency markets—who have the luxury of being single-minded regarding profit—but the Asian banks are powerful enough to be, in effect, the lenders of last resort. As long as it’s in their self-interest to keep America afloat, the dollar will not crash.

Of course, the Chinese and the Japanese could decide that the costs of the falling dollar are too great, and suddenly stop (or, at least, cut back sharply) their lending to the United States. This would lead to a so-called “hard landing” for the U.S. economy: high inflation, punitive interest rates, collapsing stock prices and housing prices. It would also lead to bedlam for China and Japan. Their best customers would effectively be unable to afford their wares. To paraphrase John Paul Getty: If you owe the bank a hundred dollars, you’ve got a problem. If you owe the bank three trillion dollars, the bank’s got a problem.

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