martes, 22 de julio de 2014

After Malaysia Airlines Crashes, the Payments Are Piling Up for Air Insurers.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia Airlines’ two crashes in less than five months are sending tremors through the aviation insurance market — not least because the carrier’s $2.25 billion overall liability policy is mysteriously missing a standard phrase that usually limits insurers’ payments for search-and-rescue costs.
The looming payments are coming as underwriters face other claims, because of the shelling of Libya’s main airport a week ago, with 20 planes damaged, and a pair of deadly Taliban attacks on Karachi’s airport in Pakistan.
For just one category of aviation insurance — war risk insurance on the planes — estimated claims for incidents in the last five months now total up to $600 million for a sector that collects $65 million a year in premiums.
Airlines have many insurance policies. But the main one is an “all risk” policy that covers most crash-related expenses, including what is usually the biggest: paying for settlements with passengers’ next of kin.
Malaysia Airlines’ broader policy has a high cap by industry standards — $2.25 billion for each crash — because the carrier operates big Airbus A380s, each configured for 494 passengers, and it wanted ample coverage.
But the policy is unusual in that it does not have a separate sublimit for search-and-rescue costs — it is limited only by the overall $2.25 billion cap for the policy, three people with knowledge of the policy said. It is unclear why the clause was omitted, they said.
The absence of a sublimit for search-and-rescue costs means that Malaysia Airlines could seek reimbursement for tens of millions — and potentially hundreds of millions — of dollars in search costs if the Malaysian and Australian governments decide to bill the airline for even part of their considerable expenses in looking for Flight 370, which vanished on March 8. An Australian delegation has been sent to Malaysia to broach the question of sharing costs for the Flight 370 investigation and seeking insurance reimbursement, said people with knowledge of the visit and the insurance policy, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. By tradition, governments do not seek reimbursement from an airline for search-and-rescue costs. As a result, the airlines do not typically need to ask their insurers to cover these costs; the insurers cover only so-called commercial costs, though their contracts do allow governments to seek reimbursement. In the case of Flight 370, the Australian government is paying 8 million Australian dollars, or $7.5 million, to commercial contractors for a survey of the floor of the Indian Ocean, and has set aside another 60 million Australian dollars to hire a contractor to tow deep-sea submersibles across 60,000 square kilometers of the ocean floor to look for the missing plane. Australian officials, Malaysian officials and the lead underwriter of the broad liability policy, Allianz of Germany, all declined to comment, as did the broker who negotiated the insurance policy on Malaysia Airlines’ behalf, the London-based Willis Group Holdings. The crash of Flight 17 appears to have caught the war risk insurance market particularly by surprise. Insurers often prohibit airlines from flying across dangerous areas, or cancel their policies, but most carriers kept flying over Ukraine until the crash. The number of flights there dropped only 12 percent in the month leading up to it. “One assumes that if the war risk underwriters thought there was any risk, they would have prohibited airlines from flying or canceled their policies,” said Paul Hayes, head of accidents and insurance at Ascend, an aviation consulting firm in London. Malaysia Airlines’ war risk policy has a separate, much lower limit than the overall policy for claims for search-and-rescue costs. As in most aviation insurance contracts, a provision caps claims for these costs to a small percentage of the overall value of the policy. The Atrium Underwriting Group, the lead underwriter for Malaysia Airlines’ war risk insurance, said in a statement that it had immediately approved payment for the loss of the aircraft in Flight 17. Aon, a London-based company that is one of the world’s largest insurance brokers, said over the weekend that the plane had been insured for $97.3 million, but Atrium did not confirm the value. The crash of Flight 370 triggered a half-payment from Atrium under the war risk policy after adjusters concluded that there was a substantial but not ironclad case that the crash may have involved pilot suicide or other criminal action. War risk policies also cover deliberate, malicious acts. The Allianz-led policy — Allianz itself has only 9 percent of the exposure, having shared the rest with other underwriters — paid the balance of the cost of that aircraft, which had been insured for $100.2 million, insurance executives said. Insurance adjusters agreed with the Malaysian government there was a strong but not fully proved possibility that Flight 370 was lost because of deliberate action, given that the plane made a series of at least four well-executed turns over the course of an hour before heading south across the Indian Ocean until it apparently ran out of fuel. The final compromise followed a precedent in other cases in which pilot suicide was suspected but not proved. “It was basically split between the two policies,” said Neil Smith, the head of underwriting at the Lloyd’s Market Association, a trade group composed of Lloyd’s of London insurance underwriters. The crashes of Flight 370 and Flight 17 are not Malaysia Airlines’ first unusual insurance claims, however. The airline had an unusual claim in 2000 for the total loss of an Airbus A330 traveling in the opposite direction on the same route as Flight 370. In that case, a canister of a mysterious Chinese shipment destined for Iran broke open near the end of a trip from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur and began leaking, producing a smell that prompted the captain to conduct an emergency evacuation upon landing of all 266 people aboard. A subsequent investigation found that the hold was contaminated beyond cleaning with mercury and other chemicals that may have been precursors for the manufacture of nerve gas. The Malaysian government ended up digging a large hole in the ground near the airport tarmac and burying the entire plane. Insurers paid a full settlement of $90 million. Airline insurance premiums are set through an annual process in which underwriters bid for which provider will offer the lowest premiums at the best terms. Few airlines’ policies have been renewed yet; Malaysia Airlines’ has not. Until this year, Malaysia Airlines paid some of the lowest insurance premiums in the global aviation market, because it had a fairly young fleet of Boeing and Airbus planes. “With a shallow premium pool fully exhausted and an expectation of an immediate review of the current hull war premium rating, MH17 and incidents recently in Pakistan and Tripoli look likely to be the events that may halt the decline in aviation premium income and usher in the reintroduction of increases once again,” said Gary Moran, the head of Asia aviation brokerage for Aon. Many leases and other contracts in the airline industry require carriers to be insured. Despite recent losses, Mr. Smith said, airlines were still able to obtain insurance, though he declined to speculate on the likelihood of increases in premiums. “If it wasn’t available,” he said, “the airlines wouldn’t be able to fly.”

jueves, 13 de septiembre de 2012

Fed Pledges Action Until Economy Shows Gains.

The Federal Reserve opened a new chapter Thursday in its efforts to stimulate the economy, saying that it intends to buy large quantities of mortgage bonds, and potentially other assets, until the job market improves substantially.

This is the first time that the Fed has tied the duration of an aid program to its economic objectives. And, in announcing the change, the central bank made clear that its primary reason was not a deterioration in its economic outlook, but a determination to respond more forcefully — in effect, an acknowledgment that its incremental approach until now had been flawed.
The concern about unemployment also reflects a significant shift in the priorities of the nation’s central bank, which has long focused on inflation. Inflation is now running below the Fed’s 2 percent annual target. But with the unemployment rate above 8 percent, the Fed’s policy-making committee suggested Thursday that it might tolerate a period of somewhat higher inflation, promising to maintain stimulus efforts “for a considerable time after the economic recovery strengthens.”
“The weak job market should concern every American,” the Fed’s chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, said at a news conference. The goal of the new policies, he added, “is to quicken the recovery, to help the economy begin to grow quickly enough to generate new jobs.”
The need for new stimulus reflects the disappointing condition of the American economy, which continues to struggle between crisis and prosperity three years after the official end of the recession. More than 20 million Americans cannot find full-time jobs. Medianhousehold income has declined. The housing market remains depressed.
The Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, issued a statement describing the Fed’s announcement as “further confirmation that President Obama’s policies have not worked.”
Mr. Romney added that he did not think the Fed’s efforts would work, either.
Democrats, in turn, laid the blame on Republicans in Congress. “The Fed is fulfilling its obligation to take action to address unemployment. Now Congressional Republicans need to fulfill theirs,” Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said in a statement.
Delighted investors responded by piling into the stock market, instantly gratifying one of the Fed’s primary objectives for its program — to push money into riskier investments. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index closed up 1.63 percent; shares in home builders rose on the news.
“There weren’t many more accommodative options the Fed could have gone with,” said Dan Greenhaus, the chief global strategist at BTIG, an institutional brokerage firm.
The Fed said it would add $23 billion of mortgage bonds to its portfolio by the end of September, a pace of $40 billion in purchases a month. It will then announce a new target at the end of this month, and every subsequent month, until the labor market outlook improves “substantially,” as long as inflation remains in check. It did not further explain either standard.
Mr. Bernanke said the committee had decided to announce a “qualitative” standard because no single number sufficiently represented the health of the labor market.
“We will be looking for the sort of broad-based growth in jobs and economic activity that generally signal sustained improvement in labor market conditions and declining unemployment,” he said.
Some analysts cautioned, however, that the lack of a specific standard could limit the impact.
“These moves indicate the accommodation switch has been turned on,” Michael Gapen, senior United States economist at Barclays Capital, wrote in a note to clients after the announcement on Thursday.
“On the other hand, boldness has been traded for more uncertainty, as the overall amount and duration of Fed purchases will be dependent on evolving economic conditions.”
The committee’s statement provided a measure of guidance, in the form of an outer limit on the Fed’s intentions. It said that the Fed now intended to hold short-term interest rates near zero at least through the middle of 2015, roughly half-a-year longer than its previous statement. And the projections of senior Fed officials showed that all but one committee member expected to start raising rates by the end of 2015.
Perhaps more important than that timeline was the committee’s insistence, echoed by Mr. Bernanke, that the 2015 horizon was not an estimate of when the recovery would begin, but rather an indication of the Fed’s determination to keep its foot on the gas well past that point.
“We’re not going to rush to begin to tighten policy,” Mr. Bernanke said. “We’re going to give it some time to make sure that the recovery is well established.” 
Eleven members of the committee voted in favor of the statement. The only dissent came from Jeffrey M. Lacker, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Va.
The scale of the new effort is smaller than the Fed’s previous asset purchases. The first round, starting in 2008, averaged more than $100 billion a month. The second, beginning in 2010, averaged $75 billion a month. The current round will begin at a pace of $40 billion a month, although the volume remains subject to adjustment.
The Fed said it would also continue to purchase Treasury securities under an existing program that runs through the end of the year, taking the total volume to roughly $85 billion a month through the rest of the year.
There is broad disagreement among economists about the effects of the Fed’s actions. The Fed’s own research shows it may have raised economic output by 3 percent and created more than two million jobs. Most independent analyses have reached more modest conclusions, and some experts argue that there is little evidence of any meaningful economic impact.
The first round of purchases, known as QE1, aimed to arrest the financial crisis, in part by clearing room on bank balance sheets. The second round, called QE2, was started amid concerns that prices were increasing too slowly, raising the specter of deflation. This round, by contrast, is aimed squarely at the huge and persistent unemployment crisis.
The decision to focus on mortgage bonds reflects the Fed’s conviction that the housing market still needs help, and that lower rates on mortgage loans will produce broad economic benefits. Buying bonds drives down rates by increasing competition for the remaining bonds, forcing investors to accept a lower rate of return or move their money into other, riskier assets.
Joel Naroff, principal of Naroff Economic Advisors, described the decision as “housing or nothing.”
“The Fed is admitting that its best bet to improve growth is by continuing to help this sector,” he wrote. “By keeping mortgage rates down, the members are betting that housing starts will accelerate, creating more jobs and income. Otherwise, there is little reason to ease further.”
Fed officials expressed confidence that the effort would help.
The Fed’s senior officials — the 17 members of its policy-making committee — expect the economy to expand from 1.7 to 2 percent this year, down from their June estimate of growth of 1.9 to 2.4 percent, according to projections also released Thursday. They continued to predict the unemployment rate would not fall below 8 percent.
However, they predicted growth would be somewhat faster in coming years, and unemployment would decline somewhat more quickly, presumably reflecting the steps announced Thursday.
And some outside economists agreed. “The Fed’s actions may not on their own result in a sudden change in the economy,” wrote Jim O’Sullivan, chief United States economist at High Frequency Economics. “However, more accommodative financial conditions can only add to growth over time.”
Other economists, however, said the benefits would be small at best. They argue that interest rates already are near record lows, and that the primary constraints to new borrowing are that many borrowers cannot qualify for new loans and many homeowners cannot sell or refinance because they owe more than the current value of their homes.
No one predicted that the Fed’s new program would return unemployment to normal levels in the foreseeable future, or increase growth enough to eliminate the huge and growing shortfall in economic output since the onset of the financial crisis.
Fuente: The New York Times.

jueves, 30 de agosto de 2012

Las reservas de la revolución bonita.

(El profesor del IESA, Miguel Ángel Santos, explica las razones de la disminución de las reservas internacionales de Venezuela y cuáles son sus posibilidades de recuperación según los escenarios que se vislumbran de cara al resultado de las elecciones presidenciales del próximo 7 de octubre. Publicado en el diario El Universal, el 24 de agosto de 2012).

Venezuela está en sus mínimos de reservas internacionales de los últimos cinco años. Habría que remontarse a la caída de los precios del petróleo tras la crisis financiera de 2007 para dar con un nivel menor. Sin considerar ese hito específico, estas son nuestras reservas más bajas de los últimos siete años. Los 25.581 millones de dólares registrados por el BCV esta semana apenas alcanzan para algo menos de siete meses de importaciones. Más de 70% está en oro, y aunque los volúmenes están allí, el valor ya es otra cosa.

Por ejemplo, la semana pasada el BCV cambió el precio al que valora el oro, de promedio de los últimos dos meses a promedio de los últimos seis meses. Con este cambio se evitó presentar una caída de 2,7% en las reservas como consecuencia del reciente debilitamiento del precio del oro en el mercado internacional. Otro 16% está en derechos especiales de giro a los que tenemos acceso por nuestra membresía en el Fondo Monetario Internacional. Estos dos rubros (oro y FMI) se consideran reservas no operativas, y representan más de 86% del total. Visto así, la parte líquida (14% del total) apenas alcanza para 28 días de importaciones.

Varios disparates legales, entre ellos la introducción de la idea de "reservas excedentarias" y la eliminación de la obligación de Pdvsa de liquidar todas las divisas que obtiene por venta de petróleo en el BCV, han ido drenando cada año miles de millones de dólares hacia fondos sin ningún tipo de mecanismos institucionales de rendición de cuentas. La introducción de las reservas excedentarias obliga al BCV a transferir a Fonden todo el "exceso" por encima de cierto límite, sin que en el proceso se recoja la contrapartida en bolívares que esos dólares generaron cuando ingresaron al BCV. Esta locura ha causado que la relación de liquidez a reservas supere ahora mismo los 21 bolívares fuertes por dólar, cinco veces el cambio oficial, cuatro veces el Sitme, más de dos veces la cotización del dólar paralelo.

Así, los bolívares se han quedado flotando en el aire, lo que entre otras cosas ha contribuido a que hayamos cumplido una década entre las inflaciones más altas del planeta. Esto, a su vez, ha corroído el poder adquisitivo de los sueldos y salarios, particularmente en el sector privado. Según el BCV, el poder adquisitivo de los trabajadores privados (80% del total, pues este agregado combina privados formales e informales, que son acaso más privados que ningún otro) está ahora 27% por debajo de 1998.

Esta situación nos lleva a una profunda asimetría: de ganar Chávez las elecciones del próximo 7-O se vería obligado a ejecutar una macrodevaluación, sí, pero tendría disponibles algunos de los recursos de los fondos. Estas disponibilidades varían -según con quien se hable, según si se consideren comprometidos o no- de unos pocos miles de millones de dólares a decenas de ellos, así de transparentes son las cuentas. Por el contrario, existe un consenso unánime: de ganar la oposición será muy difícil contar con las disponibilidades de esos fondos paralelos, serían saqueados sin margen de duda entre octubre y diciembre (lo poco que podamos hacer nosotros para evitarlo ya se está haciendo). Así es la revolución bonita. 

Fuente: Prof. Miguel Ángel Santos. 

domingo, 26 de agosto de 2012

Keynes, the hedge fund pioneer.

The macroeconomics of John Maynard Keynes continue to dominate the global economic policy debate to this very day. But many have forgotten that the great intellectual was also one of the most active investors of his era.
He made and lost several fortunes, for himself, his friends, his college (King’s, Cambridge) and for City institutions which he chaired or founded. In some respects, he was an early hedge fund investor, first in macro in the 1920s, and then in equities in the 1930s. He ended as one of the most successful investors of the first half of the last century, but along the way he learnt many lessons which resonate to this day.

His investment activities really started in the early 1920s, when he became convinced that the currencies of the economies devastated by the first world war (Germany, France and Italy) would soon collapse as inflation took hold. These positions soon made money, and an overconfident Keynes proclaimed that with “a little extra knowledge and experience of a special kind”, the money “simply comes rolling in”.

Not quite. In May 1920, the markets became temporarily optimistic about developments in Germany, and over-leveraged positions in the market were rapidly reversed. Keynes and his syndicate were effectively wiped out, though he managed to survive by borrowing more money from his father, and by 1922 he had repaid syndicate members and had amassed a personal fortune of £21,000.

His macroeconomic reasoning had proven sound, as usual. Nevertheless, he had learnt a key lesson: that the market can stay “wrong” for longer than most investors can stay liquid.

Keynes was not deterred. By the late 1920s, he believed that the Federal Reserve would be able to maintain economic growth at a high level, because inflation was under control. He was therefore exposed both to equities, and especially to commodities in 1928-29, when the Fed unexpectedly tightened interest rate policy and the global cartel in rubber collapsed.

Again, he sustained large losses as the Great Depression started. A double lesson here: don’t fight the Fed, and never, ever misread the Fed (which, of course, is much easier said than done).

D.E. Moggridge, in his outstanding 1992 biography, says that “Keynes was extremely stubborn during short-term market fluctuations”. Over-confidence, mixed with stubbornness, is a very bad combination for a macro investor, and his record in the 1920s was not impressive.
Keynes, however, learnt humility from his experiences in the markets, as all great investors do. In the mid 1930s, he was convinced that President Franklin D. Roosevelt would succeed in stimulating the US economy, and he again used margin to leverage his personal portfolio. He had a volatile ride, but this time he was right, and he made the bulk of his personal fortune, which exceeded £400,000 when he died in 1946.

Furthermore, Keynes had adopted a new approach to investing in individual equities. As early as 1924, he had realised that the risk premium on equities should provide a long-term excess return on equities relative to bonds, when the conventional wisdom was the opposite.

After that, his strategic allocation to equities was groundbreaking. A big lesson here: selecting the right asset class is always the most critical foundation for long-term success.

But in the 1930s, his stock selections for his King’s College portfolios were also highly successful. A fascinating recent paper by academics David Chambers and Elroy Dimson examines his record, using data from the King’s College archives. Keynes’ method was to make concentrated investments in a relatively small number of stocks, on the principle, adopted by Warren Buffett, that “it is a mistake to think that one spreads one’s risk by spreading too much between enterprises about which one knows little”.

He also identified other risk premiums which have since proven durable, by investing mainly in small- or mid-cap stocks, high-dividend payers, and other “value” stocks. He became a contrarian investor, mainly buying stocks which had recently underperformed the general market. He used leverage, but by now applied concerted discipline to contain his risks. Many of these techniques are used by the most successful equity long/short funds today.

According to Chambers and Dimson, in the 22 years he managed the King’s portfolios, Keynes’ long-term Sharpe ratio, a measure of risk-adjusted performance, was a very respectable 0.69, compared with 0.45 on a balanced portfolio at the time. Aiming for anything higher than that, as some hedge fund managers do, is to chase the impossible dream.

By Gavyn Davies.

jueves, 12 de abril de 2012

Private Goldman Exchange Officially Closes for Business

We hardly knew ye, GSTrUE.

With Thursday’s initial public offering of the Oaktree Capital Group, a once-promising privateGoldman Sachs stock exchange has officially come to an end.

The backstory: In 2007, Goldman started its own marketplace for companies that wanted to list their shares but avoid the disclosure and regulatory requirements of a public listing. They called it the Goldman Sachs Tradable Unregistered Equity platform, or GSTrUE.

Notwithstanding the clunky acronym, GSTrUE seemed like a good idea at the time.

With markets soaring, companies saw private exchanges like GSTrUE as a weigh station to an eventual public listing. They could quietly raise money from large, outside investors while at the same time remaining private. Potential investors found the Goldman platform alluring because, unlike more restrictive private placement deals, they could sell their shares on an exchange with transparent pricing.

Realizing the appeal of such a marketplace, two of the savviest investment firms on Wall Street signed up as charter members — Apollo Global Management and Oaktree. Each sold minority stakes in their firms, raising about $1 billion each.

Goldman had grand ambitions for the platform, highlighting it as an example of its ability to innovate in its 2007 annual report.

“GSTrUE pioneered the offering and trading of privately placed securities, bringing the liquidity of an exchange with the flexibility of a private placement,” Lloyd C. Blankfein, Goldman’s chief executive, wrote in his letter to shareholders.

Yet there was one problem: No one showed up to trade on the exchange. Goldman executives who created GSTrUE thought a liquid market would develop among qualified investors. They were wrong. Investors in both Apollo and Oaktree who bought shares on GSTrUE found few, if any, buyers, for their stock when they wanted to sell.

“To say that our shares traded by appointment is putting it generously,” said one executive whose company listed on the exchange.

Part of the problem was bad timing. Just as the exchange started, the credit markets began to seize up. The following year came the global financial crisis, and investors became allergic to any investment where liquidity was an issue.

The lack of trading volume frustrated Apollo and Oaktree investors, as well as the firms’ principals. Not only was there no trading in their shares, but they also felt that the lack of liquidity was causing the shares — when they did trade — to change hands at a steep discount to their true value.

Apollo moved its listing to the New York Stock Exchange a year ago. And now, with Oaktree following suit, GSTRuE’s only two members have moved on.

A Goldman spokesman confirmed that Oaktree’s move to the N.Y.S.E. spells the demise of the bank’s private-exchange experiment.

Fuente: The New York Times

sábado, 7 de abril de 2012

Burger King prepara regreso Wall Street.

La cadena busca volver al mercado luego de que 3G Capital vendiera el 29% de la firma; la empresa indicó que espera cerrar la transacción y listarse en dos o tres meses.

(CNNExpansión) — Burger King está listo para volver a los mercados luego de que sus dueños vendieran 29% de la compañía al vehículo de inversión Justice Holdings Limited por 1,400 millones de dólares.

La segunda cadena de hamburguesas indicó que espera cerrar la transacción y listarse en el NYSE en dos o tres meses.

Bajo ese acuerdo, la firma de inversión 3G Capital será el accionista mayoritario con 71% tras vender 29% a Justice Holdings. 3G Capital adquirió a la empresa en 2010 en un acuerdo por 4,000 millones de dólares.

William Ackman, co-fundador de Justice, señaló que las acciones de la firma deberían tener un valor cercano a los 20 dólares cuando ésta retorne al mercado bursátil.

"Consideramos que la acción tiene hoy un valor en el extremo más alto del rango de 17 a 18 dólares" dijo Ackman durante una conferencia telefónica.

Utilizando un múltiplo más agresivo suponiendo que la empresa logra recuperarse radicalmente, Ackman dijo que la acción debería tener un valor "de hasta 20 dólares".

La cadena, conocida por su hamburguesa Whooper, está cambiando su menú agregando ítems "saludables" como ensaladas y bebidas de alto margen como los batidos.

Es parte del esfuerzo por conquistar a un mayor número de comensales y alcanzar a los líderes del mercado: McDonald's Corp y Wendy's Co.

Burger King tradicionalmente apuntó a clientes varones jóvenes, mientras que Wendy's y McDonald's brindan servicios a un mercado más amplio, incluyendo mamás, niños y personas mayores de edad.

Wendy's pasó a ser en el 2011 la segunda cadena de hamburgueserías más grande de Estados Unidos, superando a Burger King.

Los analistas, sorprendidos por la celeridad con que Burger King está planeando volver a cotizar en bolsa, dijeron que los cambios al menú parecían ser más un juego defensivo que una demostración de que los nuevos propietarios de Burger King estén generando nuevas ideas.

"Se trata más de una situación de simplemente mantener el ritmo de sus rivales que una verdadera innovación" dijo el analista de restaurantes MorningStar RJ Hottovy.

"Los restaurantes de concepto a los que les suele ir mejor son aquellos con nichos específicos, como Chipotle ", dijo por su parte Francis Gaskins, presidente de IPO Desktop.

"El concepto de Burger King en muy amplio. Esta en el mismo escenario que compañías similares como Jack in the Box, Wendy's y McDonald's", agregó.

Con información de Reuters y CNNMoney.

viernes, 6 de abril de 2012

Bernanke Warning on Jobs Vindicated by March Payrolls Report

Ben S. Bernanke warned last month that payroll gains might slow as companies adjust their labor needs for a period of moderate growth. Today’s Labor Department report may have proved the Federal Reserve chairman right.

Employers in the U.S. added 120,000 jobs in March, the fewest in five months. The unemployment rate fell to 8.2 percent from 8.3 percent the month before as people stopped looking for work. The March report followed the best six-month streak of job growth since 2006.

“Chairman Bernanke should be putting out the world’s biggest ‘I told you so,’” said Phillip Swagel, an economist at the University of Maryland and former assistant Treasury secretary inGeorge W. Bush’s administration. “It must give the Fed some comfort that they continue to have this accommodative stance.”

Today’s report probably won’t trigger a decision to buy more assets when Fed policy makers next meet April 24-25, nor will it alter their commitment to keep the benchmark lending rate around zero until late 2014, said John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo Securities LLC in Charlotte, North Carolina.

At the same time, he said, disappointing labor reports in April and May could help build a case for further easing at the June meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, headed by Bernanke.

“When you look at employment per se, it’s not up to the level he wants to see,” Silvia said. “It’s very difficult for the Fed to say 8.2 percent, that’s good enough.”

Yellen, Dudley

More insight into the Fed’s response to the data will come next week when policy makers discuss the economic outlook. Vice Chairman Janet Yellen will speak in New York on April 11, and William C. Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, will speak in Syracuse the next day. Bernanke is scheduled to discuss financial stability on April 9.

In a speech on March 26, Bernanke said recent strong job gains may be a “reversal of the unusually large layoffs that occurred during late 2008 and over 2009.” If that is the case, he said, then “significant improvements in the unemployment rate will likely require a more-rapid expansion of production and demand from consumers and businesses, a process that can be supported by continued accommodative policies.”

Today’s jobs report showed scant improvement in some of the trends that the Fed chairman said he finds most worrisome. The share of the unemployed who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more was little changed at 42.5 percent in March. Average weekly earnings fell, and the average work week decreased to 34.5 hours from 34.6.

Worker Skills

Last month, and in several speeches and testimony before that, the Great Depression scholar has made it clear that long- term unemployment threatens to erode workers’ skills and eventually detach them from the labor force, ultimately reducing how fast the U.S. economy can grow. Bernanke has never embraced that as an acceptable outcome, or one that the Fed can do nothing about. He also hasn’t taken the view that long-term unemployment is fully explained by a mismatch of worker skills with employers’ needs.

“What will lead to more hiring and, consequently, further declines in unemployment?” Bernanke said in last month’s speech to the National Association for Business Economics. “The short answer is more-rapid economic growth.”

The U.S. economy expanded at a 3 percent annual rate in the final three months of 2011, helping boost job growth to an average monthly gain of 246,000 from December through February. Growth may slow to 2 percent in the first quarter, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of economists.

Manufacturing Cools

Manufacturing, a mainstay of the recovery, has cooled in recent months. The Institute for Supply Management’s factory index was 53.4 in March, down from a high of 59.9 at the beginning of last year. Readings above 50 signal expansion.

“Overall, we ought to focus our attention on the fact that we’ve got to keep the growth rate of the economy at a sufficient level that it generates jobs,” said Austan Goolsbee, former chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers and an economist at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. That probably means the economy has to grow faster than 2 percent, he said.

Fuente: Bloomberg