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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. economy is in for a "lasting slowdown" and could face a Japanese-style period of relatively low growth with the added problem of high inflation, billionaire investor George Soros said on Monday.

China  |  Japan  |  Economy

Soros told Reuters Financial Television that rescuing U.S. banks could turn them into "zombies" that suck the lifeblood of the economy, prolonging the economic slowdown.

"I don't expect the U.S. economy to recover in the third or fourth quarter so I think we are in for a pretty lasting slowdown," Soros said, adding that in 2010 there might be "something" in terms of U.S. growth.

Most economists expect the U.S. economy to stop contracting in the third quarter and resume growing in the fourth quarter, according to a latest monthly poll of forecasts by Reuters.

The recovery will look like "an inverted square root sign," Soros said: "You hit bottom and you automatically rebound some, but then you don't come out of it in a V-shape recovery or anything like that. You settle down -- step down."

In the fourth quarter, the U.S. economy contracted at a 6.3 percent annualized rate, and economists think the first quarter's slide will be at least as severe, if not worse.

Healing the banking system, which is "basically insolvent," and housing markets is crucial to recovery, Soros said.

The public-private investment funds -- unveiled by the Treasury last month to get bad debts off bank balance sheets -- are going to work but won't be enough to recapitalize the banks so they are able to or willing to provide credit, he said.

Even a steep yield curve won't generate enough profits to keep the banks out of their vulnerable situation.

"What we have created now is a situation where the banks who will be able to earn their way out of a hole, but by doing that, they are going to weigh on the economy.

"Instead of stimulating the economy, they will draw the lifeblood, so to speak, of profits away from the real economy in order to keep themselves alive."

Soros, whose latest book, "The Crash of 2008 and What it Means," has made prescient calls during the credit crisis.

A year ago, he told Reuters that global losses were likely to top $1 trillion. U.S. and European banks have recorded more than $700 billion in losses and write-downs, as of February 5, 2009, according to Reuters data.


Soros said the "stress tests" of banks being conducted by Treasury, to determine their financial resilience, could be a precursor to a more successful recapitalization of the banks.

He also said the U.S. dollar is under selling pressure and one day could be replaced as a world reserve currency, possibly by the International Monetary Fund's Special Drawing Rights, a currency basket comprising dollars, euros, yen and sterling.

"I think the dollar is now under question and I think the system will need to be reformed, so that the United States will be subject to the same discipline as is imposed on other countries," said Soros, whose famous bet against the British pound earned his Quantum Fund $1 billion in 1992.

"Being the main issuer of international currency, we have been exempt and we have abused that because we have effectively consumed 6.5 percent more than we have produced. That is now coming to an end."

Soros said there was a risk of a "tipping point" for the dollar which would see it slump, triggering higher interest rates and choking growth.

"This leads you to what used to be stagflation -- stop, go. And I think that is what's probably in store, rather than... hyperinflation."

China recently proposed greater use of SDRs, possibly as an eventual global reserve currency.

"In the long run, having an international accounting unit rather than the dollar may, in fact, be to our advantage so we can't splurge -- you know, it felt very good for 25 years but now we are paying a very heavy price," Soros said.

U.S. consumer spending has to fall to 60 percent of gross domestic product, compared two-thirds now, he continued.

China will emerge first from recession, probably this year, and will lead global growth in 2010, Soros added.

World policymakers are "actually beginning to catch up" with the crisis and efforts to fix structural problems in the financial system, he said referring to last week's meeting of leaders of G20 countries.

Turning to Europe, the euro has been "a tremendous advantage" to countries that use it, adding there's "no question of a weaker country dropping out," Soros said.

More funds for the IMF will help it stabilize struggling Eastern Europe but the Baltic states still face "serious problems" and Ukraine is not far from default, he warned.

Widespread use of credit default swaps has worsened the risks for Europe, he said, though he added that Germany, the euro zone's biggest economy, is becoming more open to offering help. "Germany, which has been the most reserved about being the deep pocket of the rest of Europe, has recognized that it too has a responsibility toward the new member states."

Germany has been one of the most reluctant major economies to meet U.S. calls for more fiscal stimulus spending to boost the global economy and fight the financial crisis.

(Additional reporting by Martin Howell, Jack Reerink, Daniel Bases, William Schomberg and Steven C. Johnson; Editing by Jonathan Oatis; Editing by Diane Craft)

Soros says has way to unlock climate financ

, On 12:36 GMT, Thursday 10 December 2009

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Billionaire financier George Soros told Reuters on Thursday he had found a way to unlock a stalemate on climate finance using International Monetary Fund assets.

Soros wants to invest $1 billion (613.5 million pounds) of a total of his own $25 billion funds in low-carbon assets.

U.N. talks in Copenhagen, meant to agree the outline of a new climate treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, are stuck on splitting the bill to cut carbon emissions and prepare for more droughts, floods and rising seas.

Poorer nations want rich countries to spend 1 percent or more of their national wealth on emissions cuts in the developing world, or at least $300 billion annually, about double the closest estimates by industrialised countries.

"I've found a way for someone else to pay ... to mobilise reserves that are lying idle," said Soros, on the sidelines of the December 7-18 conference which world leaders will attend in the closing two days.

"The whole conference might break down because of this, and this $100 billion fund I think could just turn this conference from failure to success."

Developed countries could invest a portion of $283 billion IMF special drawing rights (SDRs) in carbon-cutting projects in developing nations, he said.

The IMF made the rights available to help combat the recession, by unlocking financial liquidity after panic froze debt markets -- including more than $150 billion for the 15 biggest developed economies, Soros said.

The low-carbon projects themselves would pay the interest on the proposed $100 billion to be spent over the next decade, from earnings which would depend on a carbon price for example under a global market in offsets and other carbon emissions permits.

IMF gold reserves would guarantee the principle and interest. Soros acknowledged a series of obstacles to his proposal, including U.S. Congress approval, IMF director approval and a global carbon price.

"The IMF directors are not keen to use it (gold reserve). If you on the board of directors you like to have this nice substantial reserve to sit on so they won't actually do this of their own free will," he said, adding political will was needed to drive his initiative.

Other ideas on the table to unlock climate finance include a levy on transport fuels in shipping and aviation, a tax on rich nation carbon emissions rights or a fund raised from countries according to their contribution to climate change and ability to pay.

(Reporting by Gerard Wynn, Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Soros says world is witnessing end of pure, unregulated capitalism model

Billionaire investor George Soros told Bloomberg News that the current global financial crisis originated during the deregulation of the 1980s, and signals the end of the free market model that has dominated capitalist countries, and indeed much of the developed world, since the the end of the Cold War with the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The end of market absolutism?

Speaking at a private dinner for economists and bankers at Columbia University in New York, Soros said liberalization of the financial industry started by the Reagan administration in 1981 has led to a series of crises requiring government intervention, Bloomberg News reported.

Further, Soros added that the U.S. housing sector's collapse has "damaged the financial system itself" and the philosophy of "market fundamentalism" was now in doubt because, contrary to economic conservatives' theory, markets have proved to be inefficient and affected by bias, rather by all available information, Bloomberg News reported.

Soro also reiterated that the Obama administration's plan to buy toxic assets from banks won't be enough to normalize credit flows. Two weeks ago, Soros wrote in The Wall Street Journal that a better plan, among other measures, would involve injecting capital into the banks, and cutting minimum capital requirements. (Subscription required.)

Currently, Soros is chairman of the Soros Fund Management, LLC, a hedge fund, and is also is founder of the Open Society Network, a private, grant-making foundation that focuses on democracy and human rights issues.

Soros is perhaps best known for one of the most cunning and successful short-term plays in investment fund history. In September 1992 Soros sold short more than $10 billion of the British pound, after the Bank of England failed to raise interest rates. Soros' profit on the ensuing fall in the pound: about $1.1 billion.

Market / Economic Analysis: Much to stir on from Soros. Briefly, Soros is in agreement with most economists that deregulation went to far, and that toxic asset removal by itself will not solve the financial crisis. Less convincing, at least at this juncture, concerns assessments of free markets. At present, what we can argue is that markets provide incentives and, over time, are more efficient than other economic systems, but they are not self-corrective / self-regulating and are subject to crises. Still, the above does not negate the market model, but rather argues for mixed capitalism, as opposed to pure capitalism.

During the Bush administration (but not every deregulation act started during 'Bush 43'- - some originated before), the U.S. went from 'markets represent the best model and deploy resources efficiently,' to 'markets are self-correcting' and 'markets are not subject to crises.' That shift is in large part responsible for where we are today - - experiencing the worst systemic conditions in generations. Hence, after the system has been stabilized, the regulatory reform must proceed from the following premise: that markets provide incentives, but there must be limits and safeguards to prevent excessive risk, incompetence, fraud, and greed from jeopardizing the flow of credit.

Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Billionaire investor George Soros, who helped push the U.K. out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992, said France and Germany would like to see London’s financial-services industry “sink.”

“There is thinking in continental Europe that would like to rein in London and see London sink,” Soros, 79, said today at a conference organized by the London School of Economics. “There is this Franco-German alliance, I nearly said conspiracy, an alliance or common ground.”

The European Union is considering proposals that have been criticized in the U.K. financial community as undermining London’s competitive position as a global money center. France and the U.K. have been divided over the Nov. 27 appointment of Michel Barnier, an ally of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, as the EU’s new finance chief. Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown are to meet tomorrow in Brussels.

At the London conference today, Soros said hedge funds had been wrongly blamed for the financial crisis. Hedge funds that “overstepped” the market, were wiped out, he said.

“They are not subject to ‘too big to fail,’” Soros said. “They did fail.”

Soros is chairman and founder of New York-based hedge fund firm Soros Fund Management LLC and also runs the political organization Open Society Institute.

In 1992, Soros and other investors helped push the U.K. out of the ERM, an event that undermined the credibility of the then-Conservative government.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tom Cahill in London at

Financier-philanthropist George Soros says climate talks could fail without more money

By Associated Press

December 10, 2009, 9:26AM
george-soros-climate-summit.jpgGeorge Soros, businessman and philanthropist, announces during a news conference a plan to generate an additional 100 billion US dollars for climate change relief.
By Charles J. Hanley, AP Special Correspondent

COPENHAGEN  — The $10 billion a year proposed by rich nations to help the poor adapt to climate change is "not sufficient," and the gap between what's offered and what's needed could wreck the Copenhagen climate conference, American billionaire George Soros said Thursday.

The investor-philanthropist, one in a line of international notables visiting the 192-nation meeting, told reporters he had developed a partial solution. Soros suggested shifting some International Monetary Fund resources from providing liquidity to stressed global financial system to a new mission of financing projects in developing countries for clean energy and adapting to climate change.

About $100 billion in a one-time infusion could be generated, said Soros, a major supporter of causes in the developing world.

But he acknowledging a major roadblock in Washington.

"It is possible to substantially increase the amount available to fight global warming in the developing world," he said. "All that is lacking is the political will. Unfortunately the political will will be difficult to gather because of the mere fact that it requires congressional approval in the United States."

Soros said he had "informal discussions" with Obama administration officials and they recognized the difficulty of getting congressional approval. But he said the issue was too important to sweep aside.

"I think it is already becoming apparent in the negotiations that there's a gap between the developed and developing world on this issue which could actually wreck the conference," he added.

The international financier dropped in on the two-week conference on its fourth day, as rich and poor nations pressed on behind closed doors and in open forums to bridge wide differences and reach agreements on how to combat global warming.

They have just a week to deliver something for President Barack Obama and more than 100 national leaders to sign in the finale of the Copenhagen climate summit on Dec. 18.

In one key area, delegates are trying to agree on how much industrialized nations should reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and other global-warming gases after the 2012 expiration of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which covered 37 richer nations. The U.S. had rejected Kyoto.

The second key area involves climate change financing. That involves money for poorer nations to build coastal protection, modify or shift crops threatened by drought, build water supplies and irrigation systems, preserve forests, improve health care to deal with diseases spread by warming, and move from fossil-fuel to low-carbon energy systems, such as solar and wind power.

The World Bank and others project that hundreds of billions of dollars a year, in public and private money, will be needed eventually for the climate change shift.

Yet industrialized countries thus far are talking only about a quick package — three years of funding at $10 billion a year. Much of that would go toward training, planning and getting a fix on needs.

Developing nations are pressing the U.S., Europeans, Japanese and others at Copenhagen for more upfront money and for assurances about long-term financing so they can plan on a stable source for many billions more.

"Financing should be the 'crunch issue' here next week, for the heads of state to deal with," said Alden Meyer of the U.S. Union of Concerned Scientists.

Soros said the $10-billion-a-year short-term plan is "more than nothing, but not much, it's not sufficient."

He suggested climate financing be boosted with some $100 billion in Special Drawing Rights, the artificial "currency" of the International Monetary Fund, formulated as a basket of major currency values and held in reserve for lending in financial emergencies.

In response to the recent global financial crisis, the IMF created more than $200 billion in new Special Drawing Rights. But Soros noted that the Obama administration had difficulty getting U.S. approval for that through the U.S. Congress.

He had found "quite widespread support" from other governments, but "other countries are reluctant to do something that is uncomfortable for the United States," Soros said.

On Wednesday, the U.S. and China exchanged barbs at the Copenhagen climate talks, underscoring the abiding suspicion between the world's two largest carbon polluters about the sincerity of their pledges to control emissions.

U.S. chief negotiator Todd Stern urged China — now the world's biggest polluter — to "stand behind" its promise to slow the growth of the country's carbon output and make the declaration part of the Copenhagen agreement.

China rejected that demand, and renewed its criticism of the U.S. for failing to meet its 17-year-old commitment to provide financial aid to developing countries and to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases warming the Earth.

"What they should do is some deep soul-searching," said Yu Qingtai, China's chief climate negotiator.