(CNN) – For a month that's normally slow in the markets, August is turning out to be a roller-coaster ride.
First, the United States finally raises its debt ceiling but Wall Street does not react with much relief. Instead, weak spending and manufacturing data cause the markets to slide. FULL POST
They bicker. They point fingers. They reluctantly agree to do something they really don’t want to do.
This is not a primary school classroom. This is the United States Congress.
A recent CNN poll shows that more than 75% of Americans feel their lawmakers have acted like “spoiled children.”
China extracts and produces about 95% of the world's rare earth minerals, and since last year it has cut its exports. The World Trade Organization recently ruled China's export quotas on certain raw materials violate international trade laws. Japan, the EU and the United States have all contested that China's quotas drive up the price of products, while China argues that it's trying to protect the environment by foraging less land for rare earth minerals.
So why should you or I care about the global spat over rare earth minerals? I posed that question to American David O'Brock, the CEO of Molycorp Silmet AS, a rare earth processing plant in Estonia.
Hong Kong, (CNN) – The Chinese tourists wandering through Paris’ Louvre this summer or shopping along New York’s Fifth Avenue are part of the nearly 65 million Chinese who will travel abroad this year, according to estimates by the China Tourism Authority.
These tourists are among China’s wealthy. But consider this: More than 20 times that number of Chinese citizens will travel within China this year.
So for those who can’t afford to visit to Europe, Chinese tourism developers are trying to bring Europe to China.
Hong Kong, China (CNN) – The property boom in Hong Kong is pricing out small investors. Real estate prices have risen nearly 70% in the past two years. With interest rates at a measly .001%, it seems silly to leave your savings sitting in the bank. So where can you park your cash?
Some investors are looking to alternative investments like taxi licenses. It doesn't seem very sexy and 25-year old Kin Yin Shek says that's just fine with him. He bought four licenses in January for HK$3 million each (US $387,000). Since then, the value of the licenses has increased about 10%. It's a matter of limited supply and increased demand. The Hong Kong government has issued 18,138 taxi licenses. Don't count on any more being issued any time soon. The last time that happened was 14 years ago – and only 10 were issued.
Shek says he opted for taxi licenses over buying an apartment because it was "cheaper." In order to buy a taxi license, he made a 20% down payment on a loan. If he had purchased an apartment of the same value, he would have had to put down 30%, pay a large stamp duty and attorney fees. "It's very hard to get a good tenant, you can get a really bad tenant who doesn't pay,” Shek says. “I don't have much headaches with taxis. They run by themselves. There are eight drivers working for me."
Hong Kong, China (CNN) – My 10-month old daughter loves hard boiled eggs. I buy Japanese eggs to mix into her solids. Here in Hong Kong, I go to Japanese supermarkets to do my grocery shopping. I trust the quality. Then a relative from abroad called this week and asked if I was certain Japanese produce was safe.
Well, that's a tough question to answer at this point. I do know it's a question a lot of families are starting to ask.
Japanese food is hugely popular worldwide, stocking shelves at high-end stores around Asia and specialty shops in Europe and the U.S. Governments are taking precautions by doing thorough inspections of Japanese produce. Hong Kong's Center for Food Safety has already conducted radiation tests on at least 34 samples of fresh vegetables, meat and fish from Japan. The center reports all test results were satisfactory.
"As far as radiation is concerned, I think the most at-risk articles are those fresh products, perhaps dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Dr. York Chow, Hong Kong's Secretary for Food and Health, at a news conference earlier this week. “In case we detect anything, of course, we will ban those products from Hong Kong."
Thailand's government is focusing on Japanese imports of meat, milk, fish and seaweed. A radiation physicist from the Office of Atoms for Peace has told CNN the agency will work with Thailand's Health Ministry to do random checks of imported food from Japan. On Tuesday, India also ordered radiation tests of Japanese food at its ports and airports. Only food originating from Japan after March 11 will be tested.
Paul Yang lives in Tokyo, where he grew up, and is a father with two young children. He and his wife are not changing their family's eating habits, he said.
Many companies are making a big push for hiring in Asia in 2011. If you've got certain skill sets, you could be in the driver's seat. Hays Recruitment agency recently surveyed more than 500 companies in mainland China and Hong Kong. The agency discovered companies in one of the world’s hottest markets are having a difficult time finding the right candidate in three sectors: sales, engineering and accounting.
During the recession, companies pared down their sales and marketing departments. Many firms have been working with skeleton staffs but now they're ready to refill these old positions. "Health care sales reps [are] a big new industry in China. The growing middle class can afford personal health care. A big chunk (of demand) we're seeing is in the health care area like pharmaceuticals and hospitals in China," says Emma Charnock, Hays regional manager. Candidates who are bilingual and have basic science or medical backgrounds have the biggest edge.
Like Indonesia, its national airline Garuda is a turnaround story. With most turnarounds, there are many growing pains.
Garuda had its IPO in Jakarta on Friday and suffice to say, it was a disappointment.
Garuda shares were priced at Rp750 per share (equivalent to 8 U.S. cents). Going into the IPO , there had been heavy criticism that the shares were overpriced compared to the price-to-earnings ratio of other airlines.
The market confirmed that. By the end of the day, Garuda shares finished 17% lower at Rp620 per share.
Hong Kong, China (CNN) – So you have a business and you want to expand into the thriving markets of Asia. How do you start?
There's no one cookie-cutter model, but American business owner Robert Esser can draw from his own experience. After living in Asia for more than 20 years, he's overseeing the franchise expansion of Pantry Magic, a specialty cookware shop that he founded in 2006 with three other investors in Hong Kong.
Here are some key points to successfully bringing a new business to Asia:
Esser's first piece of advice: Break the region down.
There are only 55 MBA students in Emmanuel Poupelle's class at Hong Kong University. When he walked into his orientation session earlier this year, the French citizen scanned the room. The majority of his classmates were not Asian. He estimates 60 percent were westerners.
“Probably the first thing we thought is we made the right decision because that’s what we were looking for. That’s what we applied for... to be fully invested in China, fully invested in Asia,” Poupelle remembers. He's among a growing number of MBA students targeting Asia-based programs for their degree. The ultimate goal: landing a job in Asia.
Classmate Stuart Mercier of Canada chose Hong Kong to enroll in business school because he wants, eventually, to go into real estate in greater China. "I think in this region, you see the projections of growth that are five, six, seven-times what they are for the Western world for the next decade. And so this was really the opportunity to follow the growth."
Because of China's growth, the number of MBA programs on mainland China has tripled to more than 250 in the past decade.
Follow the test scores
Most business schools require GMAT test scores as part of the application process so the GMAT is a good measure of where people are applying. There's been a big spike in GMAT scores being sent to business schools in Asia.
"Asia is on almost an exponential growth pattern," says David Wilson, President and CEO of Graduate Management Admission Council which owns and administers the GMAT exam.
It's not just westerners but also an increasing number of Asian test takers who are applying within Asia. Wilson says a majority of Asian test takers (67%) are still sending their scores outside of Asia to international business schools but that number is down 4 percent in the past four years.
Wilson also notes an interesting subtrend. A good number of Chinese applicants are "returnees" – those people from Asia who immigrated to the west and who are now coming back. Since they are bilingual, they are also highly marketable in mainland China.
Salaries: Show me the money!
When applicants research MBA programs, they no doubt want to know how much they can earn with a degree.
Most schools provide data on the average salary an MBA graduate earns after finishing the program.
The Financial Times ranks global business schools every year. Most of the top ten schools ranked by the FT this year show average salaries between $140,000 to 160,000 per year.
The only Asian school in the top ten was Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), which is also affiliated with Kellogg in Chicago. The average salary at HKUST was lower than the other ranked schools at $115,000 per year.
The associate dean of HKUST's MBA program, Steve DeKrey, cautions applicants to put this number in perspective. "We send a lot of people (graduates) to China. Salaries haven't caught up yet so our average is going to be a little low. If you stay in Hong Kong? Sure, it'll be a little higher. If you stay in finance? Higher yet. So there's a range."
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