NEW YORK - It was too good to be true and in our hearts we knew it.
A slew of U.S. earnings reveal the extent of the economic gloom.
In early March stocks embarked on an explosive six week rally that seemed to signal the global crisis was ending.
Oh, there were plenty who warned that it was just a bear market bounce. But it was much more comforting to think the aggressive action taken by policymakers around the world laid the seeds for a speedy recovery.
This week reality hit.
As hundreds of U.S. companies report earnings, it is clear we are far from being out of the woods.
The American consumer is still in a world of pain.
Monday, Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis warned that credit was bad and getting worse. More and more consumers are falling behind on credit cards and loans.
Tuesday, Delta warned it expects more empty seats in the second quarter as consumers cut back on flying.
And it is not just vacations that are put off. Merck is seeing lower sales on many of its major drugs. Caterpillar, the company that makes the diggers and tractors that build new homes, sees no recovery in profits or sales.
And we aren't even half way through the week!
Trader Yra Harris of Praxis Group in Chicago told me this morning: "I can't listen to this concept anymore of green shoots. It's nonsense.
"You still have to clear out this issue of the solvency or insolvency of financial institutions because that what the real health of the market is dependent upon."
The U.S. government is going to try to do that when it releases the results of its bank stress tests on May 4.
In theory that should clear the air, but I am hearing a huge amount of skepticism already and we don't even know the details of what the tests consist of.
And there is something else I'm worried about. In order to be credible these tests will have to identify losers. What happens when they do, will be unsettling to say the least.
The bears were in hibernation in March, but they are awake now. And they smell a trading opportunity.
If it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck it's probably a duck, right? Wrong. Just ask the Rolls-Royce motor company. It is mightily unimpressed by a concept car produced by Chinese carmaker Geely, on display for the first time at this year's Shanghai auto show.
At first glance you can see why.
Chinese automaker Geely unveiled its GE in Shanghai.
Geely has produced the GE which looks uncannily like the Rolls-Royce Phantom: from the iconic bonnet (hood) ornament - the Spirit of Ecstasy - to the stately and equally recognizable grille. Even the rear end tapers in on the Geely.
Now you may have expected Rolls to shrug it off, to look down its aristocratic nose and smile benevolently at an upstart paying it a sort of back-handed compliment.
Absolutely not. In the whispering, highly refined world of top-end luxury marques, Rolls was pulling no punches.
"Yes, I've had a good look at it," said Richard Carter, head of worldwide communications for the fabled British carmaker, now owned by BMW.
"It's a copy and we are frankly disappointed with Geely."
Geely's response is to say it's absolutely not a copy. It's an entirely original design, and what's more they really don't want to get into a discussion about it.
Take a look at the pictures and decide for yourself.
Copying is nothing new in the auto industry. The Japanese did it, the Koreans did it and the Chinese are now doing it, said Michael Dunne of auto research house, JD Power.
It's a long-standing joke in the auto industry that R&D stands not for Research and Design, but Receive and Duplicate.
But why is Rolls-Royce so sensitive? After all, it's not likely anyone will buy a Geely GE (if it ever makes it to production) in the mistaken belief it's a Roller. And Rolls-Royce says it can't imagine the car, even if it were in production, having an impact on its own profits.
What Rolls' action does show, according to Dunne, is just how concerned the global auto industry is by the imminent arrival of China on the world stage.
He added that it will take perhaps three to five years for China to start competing against the likes of the mass-produced family cars from Europe, Japan and Korea. It will take longer at the luxury end.
But in the meantime the non-Chinese automakers are sending a message to China that it cannot take anything for granted as it makes its way up the value chain.
It's a tough industry, especially in these times, and no one is going to get a free ride.
Rolls-Royce, quite understandably, defends its reputation vigorously against anyone who uses its designs without asking. This is no exception.
The question, though, is what can Rolls-Royce actually do about it.
"Western auto makers have taken Chinese carmakers to court in the past over what they see as major copyright infringements, but so far they have never won a case," said Dunne.
But, if the reaction of Rolls-Royce, is anything to go by they are not going to stop trying.
Quick update - I am surprised that the court in Sweden has jailed the four men from Pirate Bay for copyright infringment ... talk about sending a strong deterrent message. We didn't hear all the evidence so don't know the facts (such as how calculating they were in what they were doing) but to send someone to jail ... that's serious stuff.
An appeal will be lodged.
On Friday in Sweden, a court ruled on whether several defendants are guilty in the Pirate Bay case of Internet file sharing.
The issue isn't new. When we file share are we guilty of stealing? Or is it our right to do this – after all we bought the music, or film in the first place. It seems the digital age has led us into temptations and acts that we would never dream of if in a traditional shop. We don't shoplift from our local grocery or music store but – whoops – go online and everything is up for grabs.
My view is that most people do this because they don't have any personal interest that they've seen stolen online. They don't have property worth protecting from illegal downloads so they can't relate to the anguish this causes. The key time of course is when it's YOUR copyrighted work at risk. Because I guarantee you – if You have a hit song, or copyrighted piece that was being shared "willy nilly" Ha! You'd scream long and loud for compensation.
I am not pure here. Let me own up to the fact that in the early days of p2p sharing I did my fare share of unauthorized loading up the digital player ... Morpheus, Napster, yup – I did 'em all.
I don't like paying for downloads anymore than you do. But these days I do recognize someone wrote, performed or distributed this song. And yes – it wasn't me.
You on other hand have some very different views ... join the debate below.
Ladidairo@richardquest One feels guilt for about 2 nano-secs, then u figure u got one over on the big cats!
Ignacious@richardquest In these hard economic times, how are we supposed to survive without Pirate Bay.org? Whose worried about downloading movie
Agromilia@richardquest You just found out about double standards in morals!!! I knew it already!!!
mommaude@richardquest Copying is one thing downloading is another. someone allowed you to download. 2009 if they don't want you to have it block it
jehahn@richardquest internet file sharing is a lot like shoplifting
twistedviewed@richardquest Companies use file sharing all the time with software etc. so what is so different with movie files, software has copy rights
SergioFlores_@richardquest If its illegal to download, then its the same to uppload. Then why have sites like Youtube? Which the news uses frequently
Panhinda@richardquest Knowledge should as far as possible have no boundaries. Archimedes didn't even wait to dress up before he began sharing
sepiahats@richardquest As long as no one's making money out of it,it really is our right to copy.Remember those self-made tapes from teenage days?
Lauratheexpat@richardquest I'll respect the law.But it would help if I didnt have 2 pay ridiculous prices to see a movie or buy a textbook!
carlmcdade@richardquest no more a double standard than speeding in your car but expecting swift justice for being hit by a speeder.
echom @richardquest of course it's questionable, but society and the law lag behind the development. there are no broadly acceptable rules, yet
core_APPLER@richardquest HYPOCRISY is a product of the Western World (not just w/downloading data)..Let me just give u 1 example: NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION
MichaelDCC@richardquest File sharing is stealing by sharing. Robin Hood was not a good guy he was a thief
Rikki_ND@richardquest I didn't as a teen, but as I've gotten a bit older I've come to see the issues arising from it so I buy what I download!
Today is Tax Day in the US, the day when tax returns and payments have to be made by midnight tonight. It's always a hoopla. It doesn't matter how long people have had, there is that pathetic scramble to beat the deadline. It got me thinking about the whole issue of tax....There is nothing pleasant about paying taxes. And it the more we pay the less pleasant if seems. To be sure, those of us who earn more expect that we will have a greater burden. But whastever we pay, we want value for money. And today many are seriously questioning what we get for what we pay.
IN some parts of the world taxes have been traditionally high, but then there has been sterling provision of education, health care and social services. In other places, the taxes are low and you are expected to pay for everything else.
Which is the best ? that depends on where you stand politically and I make no comment about that.
What I do know is that the current mega bailouts to be paid for someday and somehow. And we will ALL be paying more in taxes in the years ahead. Whether through high sin taxes on liquor and tobacco or directly through income.
Don't be fooled dear friends. This crises is neither pain free now nor in the future. We had a very good party. The hangover will last longer.
Now then – over to you..... are YOU happy with the taxes you pay and the value you get. Here are some that came via @richardquest on twitter – add more of your own.
JonTrygveH@richardquest in norway, it's not unusual to pay 50%incometax. We ALSO have a few % fortunetax. Bad for the retired without much income!
mcsilly@richardquest I make some$ online.Don't live more than 4months in any country(=no benefits in paying taxes)! Should I pay to random country?
bizzz2bizzz@richardquest here in ESTONIA we all) pay way too much in taxes and that I don't ever feel like I get my money's worth from the federal,
mihai_1@richardquest Germany again! I'll get married next week; I'll pay 500 eur less, she'll pay 300 less on taxes. +800 on our net income! Cool
squawkbox@richardquest Countries with higher rates of tax appear to have a much better quality of life (Denmark, Sweden etc.) maybe its not so bad!
robohamster@richardquest I would pay more tax in th UK if they would renationalise our 19th Century public transport system!
winterwhitefox@richardquest I live in one of the smallest states in the USA and i pay $8,000.00 bucks a year on property taxes,no,the house/land isnt big
klaaserikzimmer@richardquest I´m German, recently moved to argentina. NOW I esteem the value I get in Germany for my taxes which actually is really good.
danmsonda@richardquest In the Netherlands, we pay our taxes happily and the services we get from government in return are just superb!
Rikki_ND@richardquest Taxes are necessary & I don't think we pay too much in taxes right now. Small price to pay for freedoms we enjoy in the US
rahulvarshneya@richardquest taxes in india, there's scope for a big reduction!
milhealth@richardquest You are kidding right? (:-)
Today President Obama gave an important speech that said nothing new but did it very elegantly. He reminded us where the crises had come from, what was being done and his vision for the future. It was refreshingly honest as he admitted, again, that this crises would not be over soon. So I asked you What changes have YOU made in your everday life – here are some of your responses – add more below)
craigeyles@richardquest one change: have noticed the rise in take away foods in Aust. Cut down on conglomerate take outs.
Luzy_M@richardquest Im more conscious now when it comes to spend money,I think twice, Most of the times I end up by not spending
demetriusmartin@richardquest straight up coffee instead of a latte!
spartanmensrea@richardquest i would have put off graduate school. My dad won't retire so he can pay for me to get my Law Degree. Makes me feel selfish
MichaelDCC@richardquest when going out I also pack some food to go.
squawkbox@richardquest I'm finding that I'm spending mostly the same on daily purchases but I've put off larger purchases until things are better.
MsJG@richardquest One change: I'm still a coffee snob, but am making my own macchiatos & mochas at home instead of buying them @ the shop.
quantumobserver@richardquest – Hi Richard, definetly searching for bargain hotels online for my business trips and being creative on my cooking. Regard ...
imjustlooking@richardquest Changes made? No vacation during past two years ... need it though .. want to visit Ireland badly ...
nut_freemom@richardquest Focusing on sense not dollars, keeping family activities low key and close to home. Not so much "flim flammery!" :-)
spaceshippartic@richardquest buy less of everything and redesign old outfits instead of buying new ones
reddevil10_nj@richardquest for a young indian like me it has been a reminder about the cyclicality of the economy.
monalia@richardquest we are profiting from the crisis; the shop next door went under so we are renting the space because our business is expanding.
olevvaher@richardquest Does not work from 8:30AM to 5.00PM, I am a freelance
NJTonlineI'm resurrecting my old clothes, darning them as required and reintroducing the 'retro look' to my friends. It's catching on.
SEOUL, South Korea - I am in a van driving back to Seoul from LG Chem's car battery plant in Daejeon, south of the Korean capital, and I can't help thinking how the global auto industry might be transformed by 11 sheets of black paper wrapped in aluminum foil. At least that's what LG Chem's new car battery cell looked like to me.
The Korean company is making the cells for GM's new hybrid electric car - the Chevy Volt. The Volt is not yet in production, but the manufacturing lines are churning out cell after cell that LG Chem engineer Jeon Byong Hee says will go for rigorous testing at the company's labs and GM's facilities. If successful, the Volt could help breathe new life into the nearly defunct American automaker.
The LG Chem campus is huge and the car battery factory immaculate. Just to enter the building, you have to leave your shoes at the door - as if you're visiting a Korean home. To see the production lines, we had to put on protective clothing and a pair of clean slippers before our bodies were blasted with air to blow away any potentially polluting particles.
My favorite room was the cavernous "formation" room - what manager Ham Jae Gyung describes as "a mother's womb". Batteries, Ham explained to me, "breathe" and need to come to life - much like humans. In the "formation" room, fastidious engineers in pristine lab coats oversee rows of what look like towering floor-to-ceiling metal bookcases. These contraptions charge and discharge stacks of battery cells until the batteries begin to operate on their own. New car batteries are born here every day.
LG Chem's engineers are thrilled they are working on a project for GM. Volt project leader Shin Youngjoon said he was "happy" and "proud". Ham said winning the job validated his team's hard work. "We are a pioneer in this area," he told me. Developing batteries for cars is "new land" - land that can be conquered by anyone with the wherewithall to compete. "We are confident," Ham told me.
And the good engineers at LG Chem will need that confidence as their company invests in a shaken industry on the cusp of a new era.
Tonight we reported on one family owned corner shop where the boss (Dad) had to fire one of the two workers (his sons!)because of the recession. It prompted us to inquire about what changes you are seeing in the high street where you live. Here are some of the tweets to @richardquest.
A Global View of the high street !
drwhoo@richardquest Everyone's complaining about recession.But I haven't noticed closed shops(nor unusual discounts)in Croatia.Cheers from BiL F&S
mimzkie@richardquest Let's help each other to help the world economy! Refrain from buying from big dept stores, buy from your trusted family shops
PunkiePixie@richardquest like the bro at The Corner Shop I lost my job as an admin asst at a manufacturing co my dad co-owns in CT, USA
jessicazeartist@richardquest .. some stores and restaurants that I used to go to no longer exist, or are just for sale – even in towns 30 mins away
AmandaEBurns@richardquest since being made redundant I've single handedly been supporting my local village shops – the florist, deli & pub are thriving
Ciphtal@richardquest no change here in Tehran
FundaTolan@richardquest One just open its doors and the other is closing.The one who just opened is closing too after a month or so.Circle effect...
karolihindriks@richardquest one tip for corner shops/cafes how to attract&keep customers during the recession-free wifi access. It works well in Estonia;)
jessicazeartist@richardquest .. some stores and restaurants that I used to go to no longer exist, or are just for sale – even in towns 30 mins away
winterwhitefox@richardquest The shops here are closing before they even open.
bessiec@richardquest In San Francisco five stores alone closed on my block since October, all locally owned family businesses. Can't get credit.
Whitstable_TwitRT'd Tweet: @richardquest our town (whitstable) is a TOTAL dump mostly all the shops have shut down!!! http://tinyurl.com/clukjv
derekhansen@richardquest there is a shopping mall in Milwaukee with a growing number of empty stores with more of them on thier way towards closing.
itumelengk@richardquest S Africa corner shops replaced by ubiquitous malls and petrol station convenient stores long ago. Mall roll out slowing down!
AnneBusch@richardquest No changes here in Brussels.Kinda hard 2 believe a country politically in distress AtLeast economically seems 2 function #qmb
martinpons@richardquest seeing it everywhere. lots of retail spaces for lease, shops opening and closing within a year, stores changing hours etc.
socknitter@richardquest Oh yeah! The most interesting, fun shops are going down. Very depressing. Only chains left, ugh!30 minutes ago from web
TZAN@richardquest I live next door to a shopping center that no longer has a food store or even dollar store. dry cleaners have it to themself
About Business 360
CNN International's business anchors and correspondents get to grips with the issues affecting world business, and they want your questions and feedback.