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Tuesday, January 19, 2010


When you travel, you read things, talk to local people and gain insights that escape you when you are home. Here are some examples:

1. The unemployment rate of Singapore is 3.4%, South Korea 3.6%, China 4.3% and Japan 5.2%. The U.S. has been at 10% the past couple of months, which is about where Europe also is. The economies of the Orient have rebounded well. Exports for Singapore jumped 26% last month from the previous December.

2. However, The Economist article in November about China getting old before it gets rich was reinforced in a graying of China Korea Times article today.

3. The suicide rate of South Korea, now at 26 per 100,000, is the highest of developed nations...but those of the former Soviet countries are worse. The U.S. is at 11.1, while Mexico is at 2.3.

4. Korea will for the first time host the G20 gathering next month. They will meet in Incheon, the location of the "new" international airport, rated the best of 2009.

5. We all now know that Japan Airlines filed for bankruptcy today. Part of the reason is that Japan, about the physical size of California, has nearly a 100 airports, and most of these domestic routes are highly unprofitable. Landing/usage fees in Japan average 9%, while Korea is 3%. Thus, Incheon Airport has become the gateway to Japan. By the way, JAL stock was worth 215 yen a year ago. Today? 5 yen.

I made plans to have lunch today at HanMiRi. It was too cold to take that 7 minute walk (yes, I could have caught a cab) so I instead stayed at the Westin Chosun (rated best in Korea--it is also the oldest) and had the set offering at Compass Rose, where I have a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label.

When I'm in the Orient, the stock market is out of sync with the day. I will thus continue to show the Dow Jones Industrials and price of oil in the right column, but will only add comments as necessary.

The first tropical depression of the year is not heading for Hanoi, it is aiming for Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). I will thus miss this storm.


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