Monday, August 16, 2010

China Moves Past Japan; Detroit Rebounds

From the Financial Times:

The Chinese economy eclipsed the Japanese economy in size in the second quarter after Japan posted poor economic growth figures for the period, increasing the chances that China will officially overtake Japan as the world’s second-largest economy for the year.

The Japanese economy grew at an annualised, seasonally-adjusted pace of 0.4 per cent in the three months ended June. That was much lower than the revised 4.4 per cent growth rate recorded for the first quarter and well below the 2.3 per cent expected by economists.

I was at a conference/convention a few years ago on an economic panel where a presenter made the observation that China was the growth story of the 21st Century. Turns out they were right.

From the NY Times:

After a dismal period of huge losses and deep cuts that culminated in the Obama administration’s bailout of General Motors and Chrysler, the gloom over the American auto industry is starting to lift.

Jobs are growing. Factory workers are anticipating their first healthy profit-sharing checks in years. Sales are rebounding, with the Commerce Department reporting Friday that automobiles were a bright spot in July’s mostly disappointing retail sales.

The nascent comeback is far from a finished product. Foreign competitors are leaner and stronger, accounting for more than half of all car sales in this country. The sputtering economic rebound is spooking investors and consumers alike, threatening to derail some of Detroit’s gains. And talks next year on a new contract with the United Automobile Workers could revive old hostilities.

Still, the improving mood here reflects real changes in how Detroit is doing business — and a growing sense that the changes are turning the Big Three around, according to industry executives and analysts tracking the recovery.

Ford made more money in the first six months of this year than in the previous five years combined. G.M. is profitable and preparing for one of the biggest public stock offerings in American history. Even Chrysler, the automaker thought least likely to survive the recession, is hiring new workers.

This will turn out to be a very successful government intervention in the long run, largely because it is already bearing fruit.