Archive for the Doing Business in California Category

How to Achieve Corporate Success in China

Posted in Doing Business in California with tags , , , , , on May 13, 2011 by David Griffith

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Multinational corporations now look toward China with a mixture of trepidation and anticipation. The remarkable speed and scope of Chinese economic growth is changing the global distribution of power and resources, possibly to the detriment of the major industrial powers. But this same transformation presents tremendous opportunities for companies who understand China well enough to leverage both its accomplishments and its deep-seated problems for corporate benefit.

In straightforward language, with numerous examples to back up his argument, Lieberthal cogently presents not only how to benefit from doing business in China, but also how to avoid the serious risks that the endeavor entails. The implications that Lieberthal lays out for corporate strategy are wide-ranging and critically important.

“This is a book to read before one begins work in China and to come back to once there. With its comprehensive analysis of challenges and insightful recommended responses, it efficiently points executives in the right direction and helps them avoid the errors that others have made. It has the potential to give any executive a flying start to executing their China strategy.”

Purchase “Managing the China Challenge“.

The Next ‘Shoe to Fall’ for California Housing

Posted in Buying a Home, Doing Business in California, Mortgage Rates, Real Estate Prices on May 12, 2011 by David Griffith

Federal Retreat on Bigger Loans Rattles Housing

DAVID STREITFELD, On Wednesday May 11, 2011, 1:40 am EDT

MONTEREY, Calif. — By summer’s end, buyers and sellers in some of the country’s most upscale housing markets are slated to lose one their biggest benefactors: the deep pockets of the federal government. In this seaside community of pricey homes, the dread of yet another housing shock is already spreading.

“We’re looking at more price drops, more foreclosures,” said Rick Del Pozzo, a loan broker. “This snowball that’s been rolling downhill is going to pick up some speed.”

For the last three years, federal agencies have backed new mortgages as large as $729,750 in desirable neighborhoods in high-cost states like California, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Without the government covering the risk of default, many lenders would have refused to make the loans. With the economy in free fall, Congress broadened its traditionally generous support of housing to a substantial degree.

But now Democrats and Republicans agree that the taxpayer should no longer be responsible for homes valued well above the national average, and are about to turn a top slice of the housing market into a testing ground for whether the private mortgage market can once again go it alone. The result, analysts say, will be higher-cost loans and fewer potential buyers for more expensive homes.

Michael S. Barr, a former assistant Treasury secretary, said the federal government’s retrenchment would be painful for many communities. “There’s always going to be a line, and for the person just over it it’s always going to be an arbitrary line,” said Mr. Barr, who teaches at the University of Michigan Law School. “But there is no entitlement to living in a home that costs $750,000.”

As the housing market braces for more trouble, homeowners everywhere have been reduced to hoping things will someday stop getting worse. In some areas, foreclosures are the only thing selling. New home construction is nearly nonexistent. And CoreLogic, a data company, said Tuesday that house prices fell 7.5 percent over the last year.

The federal government last year backed nine out of 10 new mortgages nationwide, and losses from soured loans are still mounting. Fannie Mae, which buys mortgages from lenders and packages them for investors, said last week it needed an additional $6.2 billion in aid, bringing the cost of its rescue to nearly $100 billion.

Getting the government out of the mortgage business, however, is proving much more difficult than doling out new benefits. As regulators prepare to drop the level at which they will guarantee loans — here in Monterey County, the level will drop by a third to $483,000 — buyers and sellers are wondering why they should be punished simply for living in an expensive region.

Sellers worry that the pool of potential buyers will shrink. “I’m glad to see they’re trying to rein in Fannie Mae, but I think I’m being disproportionately penalized,” said Rayn Random, who is trying to sell her house in the hills for $849,000 so she can move to Florida.

Buyers might face less competition in the fall but are likely to see more demands from lenders, including higher credit scores and larger down payments. Steve McNally, a hotel manager from Vancouver, said he had only about 20 percent to put down on a new home in Monterey County.

If a bigger deposit were required, Mr. McNally said, “I’d wait and rent.”

Even those who bought ahead of the changes, scheduled to take effect Sept. 30, worry about the effect on values. Greg Peterson recently purchased a house in Monterey for $700,000. “That doesn’t get you a palace,” said Mr. Peterson, a flight attendant.

He qualified for government insurance, which meant he needed only a small down payment. If that option is not available in the future, he said, “home prices all around me will plummet.”

The National Association of Realtors, 8,000 of whom have gathered in Washington this week for their midyear legislative meeting, is making an extension of the loan guarantees a top lobbying priority.

“Reducing the limits will put more downward pressure on prices,” said the N.A.R. president, Ron Phipps. “I just don’t think it makes a lot of sense.” But he said that in contrast to last year, when a one-year extension of the higher limits sailed through Congress, “there’s more resistance.”

Federal regulators acknowledge that mortgages will get more expensive in upscale neighborhoods but say the effect of the smaller guarantees on the overall housing market will be muted.

A Federal Housing Administration spokeswoman declined to comment but pointed to the Obama administration’s position paper on reforming the housing market. “Larger loans for more expensive homes will once again be funded only through the private market,” it declares.

Brokers and agents here in Monterey said terms were much tougher for nonguaranteed loans since lenders were so wary. Borrowers are required to come up with down payments of 30 percent or more while showing greater assets, higher credit ratings and lower debt-to-income ratios.

In the Federal Reserve’s quarterly survey of lenders, released last week, only two of the 53 banks said their credit standards for prime residential mortgages had eased. Another two said they had tightened. The other 49 said their standards were the same — tough.

The Mortgage Bankers Association has opposed letting the limits drop, although a spokesman said its members were studying the issue.

“I don’t want to sugarcoat this,” said Mr. Barr, the former Treasury official. “The housing finance system of the future will be one in which borrowers pay more.”

The loan limits were $417,000 everywhere in the country before the economy swooned in 2008. The new limits will be determined by various formulas, including the median price in the county, but will not fall back to their precrisis levels. In many affected counties, the loan limit will fall about 15 percent, to $625,500.

Monterey County, however, will see a much greater drop. The county is really two housing markets: the farming city of Salinas and the more affluent Monterey and Carmel.

Real estate records show that 462 loans were made in Monterey County between the current limit and the new ceiling since the beginning of 2009, according to the research firm DataQuick. That was only about 1 percent of the loans made in the county. But it was a much higher percentage for Monterey and Carmel — about a quarter of their sales.

Heidi Daunt, with Treehouse Mortgage, said loans too large for a government guarantee currently carried interest rates of at least 6 percent, more than a point higher than government-backed loans.

“That can definitely blow a lot of people out of the water,” Ms. Daunt said.

How Global Events Affect Your Ability to Buy a Home

Posted in American Economy, Buying a Home, Doing Business in California, Mortgage Rates, Real Estate Prices on March 4, 2011 by David Griffith

Today we live in a global economy, an interconnected world where goods and capital move freely at lightning speed across countries. The widely accepted view is that globalization not only benefits all countries across the world but lends itself towards the betterment of the economy as a whole.

As we have seen, globalization can also have a negative impact with a domino effect in times of turmoil and unrest. This impact affects the financial markets both in the U.S. and abroad.

Flight to Safety When there is political unrest, which was sparked recently in Egypt and has spread like wildfire throughout the Middle East, global investors get nervous. Often they shed their risky assets like Stocks and flee to the safe haven of the U.S. Dollar and U.S. Bond market.

This geopolitical unrest can create a buying binge, which helps Bond prices improve. And when Bond prices improve, so do home loan rates. However, there are growing concerns that trump the disturbing news coming from the Middle East, which will be the guiding force of home loan rates in the times ahead. What might that be?

Inflation, Inflation, Inflation Inflation is the arch enemy of Bonds and home loan rates, even if inflation is across the pond. The increase in global unrest, not just in Egypt but in other parts of the world as well, is mostly attributed to economic factors – primarily runaway inflation in commodities and food.

The People’s Bank of China has raised interest rates a couple of times, most recently by 0.25% in an effort to head off a continued rise in consumer prices in China. The culprits? Soaring food prices and higher raw material costs lead the pack.

China has also tightened lending standards by requiring banks to raise their capital reserve requirements. In their latest reporting, China’s inflation rose by 4.9% year over year. This was lower than their expectations, however it still marked their highest reading in a couple of years. China may have to tighten their belt some more.

Brazil is appearing on the scene with the hottest rates of inflation in six years. They are attributing this to a rise in food costs and increased bus fares. It is anticipated the Central Bank will raise the benchmark interest rate in March for a second straight time in an effort to contain the spike in inflation.

The British are grappling with inflation as well. Their year over year reading struck a hot 4%, which is twice the rate of the Central Bank’s target. The UK has yet to address this with rate hikes because their economy is in such bad shape that any hike would make matters worse.

Inflation is beginning to become a problem in Europe where it has risen to 2.4%. This is super hot and well above the European Central Bank‘s (ECB) comfort zone of beneath 2%.

With an inflation problem in Europe, the ECB will eventually have to raise rates to fight it. When they do, the Euro will strengthen against the dollar, making European Bonds relatively more attractive than U.S. BondsThis attraction will likely put a damper on U.S. Bond purchases, and could also cause home loan rates to rise.

Many of these countries within Europe have a high number of union workers. They could very well demand pay increases to offset the higher cost of living resulting from inflation. This would exacerbate matters.

As we see signs of inflation around the world, the U.S. isn’t immune. With the second round of Quantitative Easing, known as QE2, the Federal Reserve’s stated goal is to boost Stock prices, create inflation, and lower the unemployment rate. These are all unfriendly to Bonds and could also cause home loan rates to move higher. As the old trading saying goes, “Don’t Fight the Fed.” It’s a bit like the Golden Rule, “He with the gold, rules.” If the Fed wants to accomplish these goals at the expense of Bonds, they probably will.

Some Good News Despite inflation rising around the world, the global economy will continue to recover and growth will continue to expand. Consumer confidence has picked up, hitting the highest level since February 2008. With continued confidence as the economy picks up speed, housing may begin to show signs of improvement as well.

 

 

Why Businesses Are Leaving California

Posted in California Businesses, Doing Business in California with tags on December 28, 2010 by David Griffith

Top 10 list why firms leave California

Orange County Register

December 28th, 2010 by Jan Norman

Irvine consultant Joe Vranich has made a name for himself in the past couple of years documenting companies that are moving jobs out of California, expanding outside the Golden State because of its business regulations/ taxes or packing up and leaving completely.

So the California Chapter of Americans for Prosperity asked Vranich to come up with a David Letterman-type top 10 list of reasons businesses are leaving California:

Americans for Prosperity is a 1.5 million-member nonprofit that promotes limited government and free markets. Vranich cites several studies and surveys in his list:

10. Unfair taxes (Tax Foundation ranks California as 48th for tax fairness.)

9. Most expensive business locations (Rose Institute for State and Local Government has many California cities as the most expensive U.S. places in which to do business.)

8. Worst performing labor (Pacific Research Institute rates California’s labor performance over a five-year period) as lowest in the nation.)

7. Dreadful legal treatment (Civil Justice Association of California ranks California as 44th in legal fairness to business.)

6. Worst regulatory burden (Consultant Bain & Co., in a 2004 report for the California Business Roundtable,  said California is far worse than any other state on its “regulatory hassle index,” based on cost, uncertainty and complexity of government regulations.)

5. Harsh treatment motivates exits (Bain & Co. also said more than half of California’s business leaders said their companies had a policy to restrict job growth in this state.)

4. Unfriendliness (The Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council ranks California 48th — Vranich says 49th based on the council’s 2009 report — in business friendliness.)

3. High misery index (Associated Press publishes a monthly economic stress index that ranked California 3rd highest in December.)

2. Uncontrollable spending (Several pollsters say people are angrier about California government than at any other time in the polls’ history.)

1. Worst state to do business (Chief Executive magazine surveyed company executives to conclude that California is the worst place in which to do business.)

David Spady of the Americans for Prosperity says the California chapter has been posting a YouTube video each week as a way to educate people about issues. Another video in the series that Spady did entitled “Around the World on $69 million in Welfare Funds” has been viewed more than 276,700 times.

Vranich views California’s situation somewhat differently than do state Treasurer Bill Lockyer and Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy. They defend the state in this Los Angeles Times opinion piece.

However, Vranich isn’t imagining the outbound moving vans. The Tax Foundation has an interactive database that shows Americans’ movement around the country. And more recently, the California Dept. of Finance documents moves by county.

I’ve given periodic updates of Vranich’s list of dearly departed companies. Here and here and here for example.

The Public Policy Institute of California says such anecdotes don’t add up to much impact. Its study of 1992 to 2006 (pre-recession) data concludes that “just 1.7% of California’s job losses” are tied to companies moving out of state.