Dubai, Black Friday, The Economy, The Markets and more…

shoppingThe markets were rocked last week on the news coming from Dubai that they needed a 6 month moratorium on a big chunk of their debt. The biggest news about this is that it came as a huge surprise and sent the value of the debt crashing. It is not clear who holds all the exposure at this point but it will be a huge hit for sure. Financial stocks performed poorly as they should have. The real question behind it is who might be next? What other surprises are lurking in the shadows? If you have been reading this blog for a while you know that I think this credit crisis is far, far, far from over. The first wave of losses came primarily from exposure to residential mortgage product, but there will be much more coming from commercial mortgages and other assets. For more from the FT on the events in Dubai click here.

Thanksgiving shopping. Early reports are that sales over the weekend came in only slightly ahead of last year. “ShopperTrak, which measures the number of people going into about 50,000 stores, estimated that shoppers spent $10.7bn on the day after Thanksgiving, only 0.5 per cent up from last year. In 2008, ShopperTrak estimated that post-Thanksgiving Friday sales rose 3 per cent, although seasonal sales overall last year slumped.” ( as reported in the FT) With official unemployment above 10%, and all inclusive north of 15%, it is hard to imagine why we should see good strong numbers this season. I did my own due diligence this weekend and braved the malls and though it was busy, it was not crazy. People were definitely looking for deals and any store, with the exception of the Apple Store, where prices were full retail were empty. Sorry.. but it is likely going to be another disappointing year for retailers but I think the movement towards buying what we need is a good thing long term. In January 2008 I wrote “Sadly, there’s no short and easy fix to the longer-term problems created by excessive borrowing combined with rampant consumerism…..” (huffpo) and that is still true today. We cannot spend our way out of a problem created by too much spending.

The Role of the FED – Another must read from late last week was this oped written by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke in the Washington Post. This is a big and important issue. Though there is lots of blame to push around as to who and what caused our current economic crisis, the FED has to be high on the list. Although I do believe in an independent yet accountable FED, one has to ask what is going to be different next time? With short term interest rates at zero for the forseeable future, one might ask if we are in fact planting the seeds for the next bubble. For more on the effects of zero rates read the latest from Bill Gross at Pimco. Click here

I have suggested many times that you subscribe to David Rosenburg’s newsletters but if you have not, do it now. ( formerly chief strategist at ML now at Gluskin Sheff) David is brilliant and he writes at a level of detail and insight that I can only dream of.

It should be an interesting week for the markets – keep those seatbelts fastened.

The Women’s Median Center, Jehmu Greene and Jane Fonda

janeMonday Evening I had the pleasure of attending a gathering in support of the Women’s Media Center, and their incoming President Jehmu Greene. Jehmu’s previously held post was at ROCK THE VOTE, the largest ever youth registration group. She is a delightful woman committed to using the media to build powerful social justice movements. What does the WMC do? It engages in media advocacy to push media to address and discuss sexism in their coverage. Additionally they create their own content, media train women and support SHESOURCE.org, a searchable database of over 500 women experts. Please click here to learn more and consider sponsoring this amazing organization.

The guest of honor for the evening was Jane Fonda, two time Academy Award winning actress, social activist and philanthropist. Around a dinner table we discussed why many young women cannot relate to the word feminism, how the media can be used to drive positive change, and so much more. After dinner Jane did a Salon style reading from her book “My Life So Far” and it was easy too see why this fabulous woman has won two Academy Awards.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I am grateful for so many things, including my incredible family who loves and supports me. and especially for my mother, who is such a role model for me and is visiting from British Columbia, Canada.

Iceland, Women, Feminine Values and Audur Capital

2009-nov-washingtonandmore 123Last week I hosted a lunch for two amazing women from Iceland that I met at the Deauville Global Women’s Forum. They were in the US to talk about their business, Audur Capital, a money management firm they founded based on feminine values. I was going to write all about it but the Guardian did it for me. I was thrilled when this story popped up in my inbox today thanks to Naked Capitalism. I have included an excerpt below but be sure to read the full article. This two women are amazing, absolutely amazing. They are not only imagining what is possible for a financial services firm, but doing it. ( see an excerpt below)

“..Prominent among them are Halla Tómasdóttir and Kristin Petursdóttir, the founders of Audur Capital, who have teamed up with the singer Björk to set up an investment fund to boost the ravaged economy by investing in green technology. Petursdóttir, a former senior banking executive, and Tómasdóttir, the former managing director of the Iceland Chamber of Commerce, decided just before the crunch to set up a firm bringing female values into the mainly male spheres of private equity, wealth management and corporate advice.
Tómasdóttir says: “Our Björk fund is to focus on sustainable growth. Iceland was the first in the world into the crisis, but we could be the first out, and women have a big role to play in that. It goes back to our Viking women. While the men were out there raping and pillaging, the women were running the show at home.
“We have five core feminine values. First, risk awareness: we will not invest in things we don’t understand. Second, profit with principles – we like a wider definition so it is not just economic profit, but a positive social and environmental impact. Third, emotional capital. When we invest, we do an emotional due diligence – or check on the company – we look at the people, at whether the corporate culture is an asset or a liability. Fourth, straight talking. We believe the language of finance should be accessible, and not part of the alienating nature of banking culture. Fifth, independence. We would like to see women increasingly financially independent, because with that comes the greatest freedom to be who you want to be, but also unbiased advice.”