Note-worthy stories today

*Google has caused quite a stir with its talk of pulling out of China rather than censor its search engine as ordered by the Chinese government. In suggesting that freedom of speech is more valuable than' more market share' Google is expressing a rare and admirable stance of principles over money. And in doing so they are taking a very public opportunity to direct some international scrutiny on the Chinese government and its oppressive policies. The fact is that much of the world has been so desperate and indiscriminate for more and more stuff and more and more sales, that they have made 'deals with devils' all over the place; the Chinese government is just one of them. See Wall Street Cheat article: Do the right thing: Google chooses freedom of speech over profits.
Also see Thank you Google from a Humble Immigration Lawyer from Canadian legal expert, Michael Niren.
I say: good for Google. At the end of the day success should bring some choice about how and with whom one chooses to do business. If not then what is success? Hopefully other companies and countries will follow suit and understand that profits 'at any cost' are worthless in the end.
*We have been noting for some time that the commercial real estate bust is likely to be a persistent economic headwind for the next few years. Bloomberg published an insightful interview yesterday with 50-year realty expert Ken Laub. The whole interview is worth reading here. Laub makes the very key distinction between this downturn and the majority of most other recessions: “It’s not a supply-demand thing; it’s an overleveraged condition.” It takes years if not decades to work down the leverage, those that keep looking for a “typcial” recovery pattern this cycle are missing this important distinction:

Kenneth Laub has been through three commercial real estate boom and bust cycles during almost five decades as a broker and consultant to corporations such as Hess Corp. and International Paper Co.
He says the current downturn will overshadow all of the others, Bloomberg Markets reports in its February 2010 issue.
“It won’t be a typical part of a cycle where we’re down for two or three years and things recover,” says Laub, 70, whose New York firm, Kenneth D. Laub & Co., says it has handled more than $40 billion of real estate transactions since its inception in 1969. “It will be longer than we’ve gone through before.”
As in past slumps, the weak U.S. economy is curbing demand for commercial space, increasing vacancies and causing rents and property values to fall. The key difference today is the explosion in debt financing and related derivatives that fuelled a run-up in commercial real estate prices in the 2000s, Laub says. That’s left property owners struggling to make mortgage payments. The overhang of debt will delay any recovery, he says.
“It’s not a supply-demand thing; it’s an overleveraged condition,” Laub says.

*Meanwhile the residential housing market which began its long decline more than three years ago, away ahead of the lagging commercial sector, is still slogging into the next big wave of foreclosures: see US Foreclosures May Rise to 3 million this year.
The bottom line of all of this is that economic risk is still high and having cash set aside to take advantage of eventual bargains will be the key to prosperity. Buying too early can still be disasterous.

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2 Responses to Note-worthy stories today

  1. Anonymous says:

    Dear Ms. Park,
    It would rather be “censor its search engine” in the first sentence.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Attila!

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