Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How real is $400 million debt recovery by MUI?

Saw this in the Star
PETALING JAYA: The Kuala Lumpur High Court has ordered the winding up of companies owing monies to Malayan United Industries Bhd a total outstanding receivables of RM427.75mil.

In an announcement, the company said that the debtors consisted receivables of RM245.6mil as principal and accrued interest of RM182.1mil as of Sept 30. “At this stage, the company is not able to estimate the exact time period for recovery of the outstanding sums,” it said.
The questions run at the back of my mind were who are the debtors and do they have the ability to pay back ?

The answer to the first question. Hope Foundation or Yayasan MUI who has been alleged that Khoo transferred $ 400 million to this foundation a long time ago during his down fall -- that I could not verify. You may want to read this here


The second part of the question, which is more important, do Hope Foundation has the money? It is seems that KKP has made a series of calculated moves trying to unlock the value in PMI and also their holdings in MUI. Hope foundation has been disposing shares from the height of 441 million shares in MUI down to zero in September 2011. That itself at average price of RM 0.25/share would have raised at least RM $ 110 million. They disposal in PMI is estimated around $ 20 - 30 million. Hope Foundation would have raised at least $ 130 - $ 140 million. I suspected Hope Foundation subsidiaries must have more assets or money that hidden somewhere to be unlocked. The liquidation may take some time and let say MUI manage to recover at least 75% of $ 427 million, that will work out to be around RM $  0.14 / share.

Sometime in April this year, MUI announced that they will sell their insurance arm MUI Continental to Tokio Marine for RM 180 million. MUI owns 52% of MUI Continental and that will work out to be around RM 90 million or 0.03 / share.

There are a series of other properties that have not be revalued 20 – 30 years ago. I have done a calculation a few years back it was worth close to RM 1.1 billion or RM $ 0.375/share.

Just ignore on other items, this itself already worth close to $ 0.545/share.

The last part of the question, so what if you have unlocked the value? Will you return the cash to shareholders ? KKP and their friends have a large holding in MUI and looking at the moves intensity that they are making, I do not think they will want to do all the hard work for nothing.

Disclosure: I have some picked up some shares recently below RM 0.22.

Friday, November 9, 2012


Tomorrow will be an interesting day for iCapital.biz shareholders. Based on what I read on-line, both Tan Teng Boo and Andrew Pegge seem to get very emotional. We have to brush aside the emotion and analyze things that are affecting our money on the line.

iCapital posted performance of Laxey Partners on their website. Here is this

First it says that the fund that Laxey Partners manage lost almost 70% of its value and the closed end fund discount at one point as bad as 40%. So the argument that if Laxey Partners were to take an active role, where will it be heading? It will be a disaster for iCapital.biz shareholders.

Fund discount or premium is a reflection of investors' sentiment. When the market is hot, people tend to pay for premium. When it cold, people will tag discount simply because there are more sellers than buyers. The real long term issue is the performance of the fund manager. If the fund manager can deliver long term results, say 15% 5 years from today, its NAV will be around $ 5.92. Even you tag a discount of 20% the projected market price will be around $ 4.73. Depending on the market price you pay, you will still make money. If Tan can perform, it will be a loss to investors.

The second short term issue on my mind is to consider the impact of regardless Lexey Partners succeed or fail. Since they(Lexey and City of London Investment) have accumulated the shareholding over 18 million shares, what is the impact of they start to dispose shares? If they have accumulated the shares over 2 years, I think the average price is around $ 2.25. If they are willing to absorb 10% loss, $ 2.00 will be the floor.

Let's take a look at United International Securities, a global closed end fund listed in Singapore exchange where Lexey Partners tried to make a similar attempt but failed. The chart below shows the blue is the price of UIS and red is STI index. UIS price fell sharply but STI was also fell in parallel. It was not really a concern since we may think that it is more of general sentiment. However, STI is recovering, UIS price was stuck. One can safely say that someone is trying to exit gradually.

Back to iCapital. If they choose to sell down gradually it will take a while to distribute that 18 million shares. That will take at least 9 - 12 months exit.

What if Lexey Partners successfully elected themselves on the board of directors. It will be a cheer to short term investors but a loss to long term investors.

Back to risk-reward thing. At yesterday closing price of 2.45, risk is 0.45(2.45-2.00) if you lose and reward is 0.51(2.96-2.45). So it is like 0.88 risk reward ratio. At this price, I will not go aggressively.

Meanwhile let's see the plot unfold.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Why make trade call while stay bearish?

Some of you must be wondering what the heck am I doing --- making trading calls while stay bearish, right?

Did I miss the last 1 year bull run so badly that I need to make up at the last minute?

The answer is no. The reason is simple. Did anyone actually make money while staying in the market?

If you look at FBM-Small Cap, unless you manage to get in late of 2011 and get out early February, the gain is as good as doing nothing. This index was about to have a golden cross but then telco came in and halted the party.

I feel that we are at last leg of the bull run before we have a more significant correction(15-25%). Usually the last 3 months before the bull run ends, the correction is usually brief and a new high is make in a relatively short time. After 2 - 3 rounds, the market participants tend to get complacent and keep thinking correction equals to new high.

One more sign that I found in my studies, the perceived safest stocks will have the last run. As you can see that ICAP was making the new highs about the same time KLCI was making its way to peak. I don't have the data on hand now but I was remembering that the so called many little "buffetts" came out and drove the stock to all time high way above its NAV in late 2007. If the history were to repeat a 10% premium to RM 2.96 NAV will equal to $3.25. I was being conservative and just call for $ 3.00 as the target.

There is another stock that frustrate its long term shareholders enough. Even patience investors like iCap, real insider Cheng, EPF and whole lots pared down its holding. Guest what? It just had a breakout recently. That is what I called capitulation! After all these big investors had nothing to sell, the rally tends to be sharp just like what you have seen in Alam. The other stock that mirror Alam is Sealink.

Disclosure : I have icapital loaded below $ 2.25, Parkson at $ 4.70, Sealink at $ 0.38. I am going to hang on to it for another 2 - 3 months. I quit Alam around $ 0.65 and may consider to reenter if it can pull back between $0.65 ~ 0.68. Since it is such a short holding, that is the reason why I did not load it into Turtle Portfolio. You are welcome to join the ride. However if you are feeling I am promoting the stocks, just ignore these postings. See you in December.

Friday, November 2, 2012

If trade you must ----- ICAP

Let me keep it short and sweet. If trade you must, ICAP is a good bet. Good luck.

Friday, October 12, 2012

If trade you must

Time flies. Can't believe I  went hibernating for more than 1 month. I mean literally shut down the whole world.  To kill boredom, I did a few trades here and there. Alam Maritim is doing quite okay and I think the momentum is just picking up. At $ 0.61 is a bit overbought but it might move upward towards $ 0.63 before taking a pause. That is probably the last train you should catch when it pulls back.

There is another stock that you might want to watch closely. Genting is being squeeze closer and closer within a very confine triangle. At some point of time, it should do only 1 or 2 thing. Explosive breakout or breakdown. Obviously you know that I am alluding you to a potential explosive breakout! It may try to climb back to RM 10. This might be the next stock leader to push KLCI to another all time high! If it breaks down from the double bottom, you must pull the trigger and KILL THE TRADE!!!!!!!!

Good luck if trade you might want to consider.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Market commentary - Week of September 03

Two free fall bars on Sept 5 and 6 wiped out more than 50 points from KLCI. A free fall like that usually will drop between 80 to 100 points before it can rebound. If it was not the Global Mega rally due to ECB pulling out the Bazooka we would have seen the third leg down.

Most people explained that S&P threatened to cut our rating if Malaysia failed to deliver but I think it is more than that.Fitch rating actually already delivered the same warning at the beginning of August but nobody was paying attention.

Many headwinds against us actually
  • The last 4 quarters of GDP growth was driven by public sector linked and NOT private consumption!.
  • Slowing export. Malaysia posted slowest trade surplus in a decade in July. Might post the first deficit since 1997 by end of this year.
  • Petronas reported weaker profit, almost 30% declined YoY, putting more pressure on funding government expenses and subsidies.
  • Almost 50% of FMB-KLCI components are below 200-MA. 
The Malaysia Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 6 — Malaysia’s sovereign credit rating may be cut if the government does not deliver promised reforms to cut spending to reduce its fiscal deficits, Standard and Poor’s (S&P) has said in its latest report on the country, joining other global ratings agencies in warnings about the strains on the country’s credit profile.

S&P said reforms the government should look at include the introduction of a goods and services tax (GST) and subsidy cuts.

“We may raise the sovereign credit ratings if stronger growth and the government’s effort to reduce spending result in lower-than-expected deficits, as indicated in the 10th Malaysia Plan. With lower deficits, a significant reduction in government debt is possible.

File photo of people shopping in Putrajaya. S&P has said the government should look at introducing a goods and services tax and cutting subsidies. — Reuters pic
“We may lower the ratings if the government can’t deliver the reform measures to reduce its fiscal deficits and increase the country’s growth prospects. These reforms may include, but are not limited to, the GST and subsidy reforms on the fiscal side, and private investment and economic diversification reforms on the economic growth agenda,” said the ratings agency. Last month Fitch Ratings said in a separate report that Malaysia had yet to present a convincing plan to tackle the twin fiscal threats of its federal budget deficit and federal debt.
Fitch also said that data clearly showed public sector-linked activity had been a key driver of GDP growth for the last four quarters alongside robust private sector activity.

It said that the ratio of federal government debt to GDP reached 51.8 per cent at end-2011 despite strong GDP growth but barring a further deterioration in the global economy, the Malaysian government should be able to meet its 2012 deficit target of 4.7 per cent of GDP.

Fitch added that improving the nation’s fiscal position would be challenging without significant reform to address the cost of fuel subsidies, broaden the fiscal revenue base, or reduce dependence on energy-linked revenues.

S&P’s latest Malaysia report appeared to echo some of those views.
The country’s moderately weak fiscal and government debt profile for the rating category constrains the sovereign rating, it said.

Putrajaya had made some moves towards cutting subsidies last year, but political pressure in the run-up to elections have relegated some of these reforms to the back of the line.
Plans to introduce GST have also been shelved because of fears that it would cost votes for the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government.

S&P said it believed Malaysia’s slow fiscal consolidation stems from high subsidies and the relatively weak revenue structure.

“Malaysia depends largely on petroleum-related revenues. The government has been planning to reform the subsidy system and introduce a goods and services tax.

“However, given the political sensitivities, we expect significant implementation, if any, would only be after the general election,” it said.

The agency added that for more than a decade, Malaysia’s economic growth was partially brought about by large public investments — sometimes exceeding that of the private sector — and this had adversely affected the government’s fiscal position.

“However, this pattern might be changing. For example, foreign direct investments (FDI) seem to have bottomed out. Besides, the recent rebound of private sector investments was partially due to the government’s initiatives for the Economic Transformation Programme. If the trend continues, the Malaysian economy could regain its vitality.”

While the Najib administration’s efforts to help tide the country over a rocky global economic environment with a longer term goal of transforming the country to a high-income nation by spending more on salary hikes and kick-starting large infrastructure projects has helped boost GDP growth, analysts have noted that its debt has outgrown revenue since 2007.

Figures from the Federal Treasury’s Economic Reports show that the federal government’s domestic debt almost doubled in the space of less than five years — from RM247 billion in 2007 to an estimated RM421 billion in 2011 — far outpacing its revenues which only grew 31 per cent, or from RM140 billion to RM183 billion, during the same period.

While the Najib administration has vowed not to let federal government obligations exceed 55 per cent of the country’s GDP, there is increasing worry that when government-backed loans or “contingent liabilities” are taken into account, the government’s total debt exposure has already risen to about 65 per cent of GDP last year.

KUALA LUMPUR--Malaysia's exports contracted in July, squeezing the trade surplus to its smallest in more than a decade, in the latest sign that weaker demand in China and Europe is chipping away at the growth prospects of Southeast Asia's trade-reliant economies.

Malaysia's trade surplus stood at 3.61 billion ringgit ($1.16 billion) in July, according to figures released Friday by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry. That was the lowest level since April 2002 when it was MYR2.03 billion, and a sharp decline from MYR9.20 billion in June.

The narrower trade surplus was driven by a 1.9% drop in exports, much worse than a rise of 3.7% predicted by private-sector economists and compared with a 5.4% increase in June. In addition, imports increased by 9.5% in July, outstripping a 5.1% gain forecast by economists and accelerating from June's 3.6% pace.

The latest data underscore the weak demand facing Asian economies, which are dependent on exports to power their economic growth. South Korean exports--considered a bellwether for the region's trade--dropped 6.2% from a year earlier in August, the second month of contraction. Indonesia's exports fell 7.27% in July from a year earlier.

The soft reading in Malaysian exports indicates it is starting to feel the pinch from weak external conditions, but the robust import growth in July suggests domestic demand is still holding firm, which could help cushion a sharp downturn in external demand.

"The strong import growth is the silver lining in July trade...which suggests construction and transportation sectors are holding up," and that would prevent the central bank from cutting rates immediately, said Rahul Bajoria, a Singapore-based economist at Barclays.

Bank Negara Malaysia Thursday held the policy rate steady at 3.0% for the eighth successive time.
Analysts expect exports to remain weak through the remaining months of 2012 and that could mean Malaysia posting a trade deficit toward the end of the year or start of next year. Malaysia hasn't posted a monthly trade deficit since the 1997-98 Asian Financial Crisis.

Exports have been volatile–contracting for two months through April and then sharply expanding by 6.7% in May–tracking wavering overseas appetite for its key electronics and electrical shipments.
Exports of electrical and electronics products, which account for about a third of total exports, declined 4.8% from a year earlier in July to MYR19.63 billion, mainly due to lower demand from China, the ministry said. Overall exports to China fell 13.1% from a year earlier to MYR7.03 billion.
Imports were driven by growth in consumption goods as well as a rise in capital goods, which suggests Malaysian companies continued to take deliveries of heavy equipment for construction activity.

The Star.
KUALA LUMPUR: Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) said the outlook for the rest of its financial year 2012 (FY12) will be challenging amid geopolitical problems in Sudan where it has presence and the unfavourable economic situation in the eurozone economies and the United States.

Petronas' net profit for the second quarter ended June 30 dived 29.9% year-on-year to RM15.22bil from RM21.71bil while second quarter revenue fell at a slower pace of 3% to RM70.7bil from RM72.94bil.

President and chief executive officer Tan Sri Shamsul Azhar Abbas said the renewed economic crisis in Europe and possibly the United States could put downward pressure on oil prices.

“We are now in the third quarter, it is going to be worse off. Why? It is very simple, lower profits will be due to (issues) in Sudan.

“Now in the South (Sudan) we are seeing zero production. It is reflected in the second quarter and the worse is going to happen in the third and fourth quarters,” he said at a briefing.

“For the next six months, we expect zero production out of Sudan and what is the impact on our bottomline? It is about US$1bil (RM3.11bil) a year. We are also impacted by gas production in Turkmenistan,” he said.

Locally, Shamsul said oil production in Malaysia “will remain a challenge” until 2014 mainly because of depletion of reserves.

“It is only from 2014 onwards, with the completion of new oilfields that (comes) onstream (such as) the Gemusut Kakap. For the next couple of years until 2014, please expect production in Malaysia to remain challenging as far as Petronas is concerned,” he said.

Executive vice-president (finance) Datuk George Ratilal said the price of oil for the second quarter fell compared to an uptrend in the first quarter of financial year 2012.

“The price of oil for the relevant quarter from April to June 12 basically took a dive from US$134 to US$103 per barrel for the Tapis (type). For Dated Brent, (it dropped) down from US$125 to about US$94 per barrel but in between that period it also came down to as low as US$88,” he said.
George said Petronas' healthy financials highlighted that it would need to spend on capital expenditure (capex) moving forward although it had been able to sustain this with internal funds.
“Going forward, the caution is that (internal) operations' cash may not be enough to sustain capex and dividends.

“Cash, while it is healthy here, it will be needed to sustain any deficits in (internal) operations cash you will see a decline in cash, moving forward,” George said in his presentation.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

4 indexes rolled over

It has been a while I did not comment about the trade statistics in Bursa Malaysia. Our local institutional funds account for 45% of value traded but local retailers account for 48% of trading volume. We can deduce it is a two-tier market who are playing in two different segments (1) big cap and (2) small cap and penny stocks.

Some of the popular indexes especially plantation and small cap are rolling over. I would expect more indexes like Finance and trading services will join in soon, even though it have been holding up well due to institutional funds support. When that happens, I hope there will be more meaningful corrections will kick in i.e. more than 10%. Until then, my post will be infrequent. Take care.

1. Plantation

2. Small Cap

3. Technology
4. Construction


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Who is right?


Since beginning of this year, retail investors have been pulling money out from the stock markets while the stock markets continue to charge ahead.

The hedge fund managers are also holding a large chunk of cash though they are not in net short position. They are preparing to take advantage of market decline but their refusal to short stocks indicating the market can still rally ahead. Read the rest here Hedge funds are betting on disasters

It was reported recently on the internet that George Soros is holding 75% cash. Read here : George Soro fund maintains big cash position

When the markets (Dow Jones Industrial, S & P 500) were finally turning down after Dow did not make a new high but S & P 500 did, Mark Hulbert, a regular comentator of Market Watch, made  comments like rally was living on borrowed time. Read the rest here May-June correction was a failure

Is it true that the rally is living on borrowed time?

 Dow gained about 6% on the year-to-date basis. Let's look at the winners of Dow components that drive the gains.

  • It is obvious that stocks that are beaten down badly last year like financial and housing sector are getting back a bit of justice.
  • Industrial sector around the globe tanked but the US industrial sector looks pretty healthy as they are in expansion stage though the data is deteriorating rapidly.
  • Safe haven stocks that paying good dividend yield like telecom, health care and consumer discretionary are the winners.
  • Solid oil price is providing support for oil stocks.
  • Technology is sending a mixed message, outside Apple, I think the sector is in trouble.

I found this data after I have done the donkey job of looking at gainers and losers of Dow components. The conclusions are pretty much the same.

By sector breakdown, info tech is the largest piece of pie now. Market cap expanded by USD 1,785 b and Apple contributed to about USD 384 B or 21%. It is quite to safe to say that large gains were Apple driven and the question is can Apple continue to do the magic?

I would say consumer staple, discretionary and energy are getting very close to its valuation and in some cases over-valued, unless people would like to chase yield slightly above 5 to 10-yield of 1.7%.

That will leave us with financial and industrial sectors, can it be the next rally leader ? Some possibility on financial sector but I doubt industrial sector can.

Global financial markets are very interconnected nowadays. Mind you that some stock markets are very oversold in Europe and emerging markets especially China. A counter-rally in these markets will continue to provide positive reinforcement loop. Oversold counter rally markets will reinforce US market and in return US market will provide confidence to oversold markets to rally. Until either one is exhausted, tanking US market or exhausted counter rally loop is broken, trend trading will remain the best friend of brave and agile ones.

Friday, August 17, 2012

How to lose money in the stock market?

Instead of writing something positive like how to be a millionaire or how to be a successful investor I prefer to write about how to lose money in the stock market. After all, 99.9% of people are having IQ 150 and above, why write something that they are already good at -- smart and successful in the stock market. This post is not backed by research but by experiences that I heard throughout my life. I hope you can follow these simple tips if you want to lose money, shirt and underwear in the stock market. I will you pay you the difference if you don't lose money base on these tips.

Tip #1. This is my last job, babe. We are going to retire in Bahama tomorrow. Ignore whatever you heard okay, I will be just fine. Just wait for me at the port all right. Mr. Stock market, I am going ALL-IN with the rock solid advice from a few public listed directors info. They told me no one has heard about this tipsy. Market will be stunned with this corporate development announcement. Sure Gap-Up, Yes, 100% of my net worth on ONE stock. RM 500,000 just ONE stock. Warren Buffet is right, diversification is for birds. Simple. One stock. One shot. Hantam kuat kuat!

Tip #2. Be a smart ass. On the contrary of what you heard that retail investors are stupid and ignorant, as education level of general population are increasing, people are doing more research than you ever imagine. Find everything you can and read them - the WSJ, the Star, blogs(including this one), Fortune, Forbes. And don't forget to turn on Bloomberg and catch up with Creamer on CNBC. Read everything. Understanding everything.

Tip #3. Have a STOP-LOSS. Yeah you did that but how come??? It is your 9th times of hitting the stop-loss. Let's do the math. A $ 1,000,000 will reach 387,420.489 when you hit the 9th times of hitting stop-loss. It takes a genius to achieve this level of REVERSE-8-Wonder of the world. No worries, when you reach this level, call me at 1-800-STOP-LOSS. Understanding don't count. Only price. When you are wrong, stop-loss will be there to save you.

Tip #4.  Be a geek, speak only Greek. Don't bet on something is sure, it just too boring. Invest based on this secret formula.

Asset allocation = (Probability of sun will come out tomorrow)*Penny stocks*100% + (Probability of sun will not come tomorrow)*Fixed Deposit*100%

Tip #5. Break down your long term goal into actionable investment goal on T+3 basis. 20% return will translate into 0.083% business day. I am sure you are not that greedy, just buy and sell it for 0.25% gains on T+3. No matter how high is the stock market, all you need is 1.65% gain in 3 days, your gain is 0.25% after minus 1.4% broker and stamp fees. This is an easy peasy strategy. If a  3 year old kid can do it, you cannot do it meh? No balls-ah?. Sure you can-lar. Boleh-lar. Have a po-C-tip attitude.

Like I said, if you don't lose money based the above 5 tips that painfully gain by billions of investors and speculators, I will pay you the difference. Call me at 1-800-sure-lose-money-dot-Com. By the way, Time dot Com worth at least RM 5 based on 20% discount to its SOP on shareholding in Digi and fiber business.

These tips are brought to you by your generous Turtle Investor. Kind of like green-Pow. Selamat Hari Raya.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Consumer sector -- a safe haven?

I find that people tends to over doing things when they are on. Consumer index in our KLSE rallied almost 108% from its bottom since late 2008. I suppose there will be a few Warren Buffett around preaching these businesses are wonderful with great brands, great moat, simple enough business to be run by idiots, etc......

The price that investors paid I think is getting out of line that deserves some warnings. These are samples of great simple business sold to you.

I think any of these businesses sold for less than 3.5% ~ 5.0% dividend yield but selling above 25X PE are no longer attractive. We should understand that our 1 year FD rate is around 3.05 - 3.10%. A good bond fund would generate at least 5%. Both of these products are considerably much lower risks. We are not in USA or Europe where the alternative returns are so low. The only argument left is hoping foreigners will continue to chase the price because of the dividend yield is better than their home country alternatives. But then the liquidity in these counters are relatively low that you think it will attract them? So, this assumption needs to be re-examined.  If the shares changing hands merely among small investors, somebody asses will get burn when the music stops.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Parkson Holding Berhad Update

I was not that active posting my thoughts for last few months. Some have taken that I was bearish and now have turned bullish. Not bullish but more cautious than ever. I have been constantly sounded cautious though I interjected with some "stocks talk". That is to tell my readers we can be hibernating our fingers busy keying buy and sell orders but we can never be hibernating our brains reading and thinking about companies.

I want to talk about Parkson Holding Berhad today. The stock has been performing poorly in market price terms but the earnings have been catching up -- slowly.

The last few years sold off has made Parkson pushed valuation down to one point of 12X PER. The price recovered a bit and now is selling for 13X PER. It can only be considered cheap if the earning growth is more than 15% per year. I believe this possible.

Parkson China operations still is a major driver in the revenue and earnings growth. However, the profile is changing from China-centric to emerging economies consumption centric. They are pushing their operations into Indonesia, Vietnam, Sri Langka and even Mymmar.  The revenue contribution from Vietnam and Indonesia is still relatively small.

Parkson runs 49 department stores in China and 37 Malaysia, 8 Vietnam and 7 Indonesia. It is obvious that Vietnam and Indonesia have more room to grow but this does not mean China has hit its plateau.

I kind of of agree with the assumptions from RHB estimates on new stores opening. 8 - 10 for China, 1 - 2 Malaysia, Vietnam and 2 - 4 for Indonesia.

Even we are wrong on timing, I think we should be directionally correct. At net profit of RM 601 mln or assuming single digit same store growth and 44 new stores coming on stream, that will translate into earnings of RM 0.55. At PER 15 X, this should translate into potential price RM 8.25/share. On the conservative side, let's say this cannot happen by 2014 and delay to 2015, a waiting period of 3.5 years will probably will still generate a CAGR return of 16% at the entry price of RM 4.80/share.

Government of Singapore Investment has started to accumulate this stock quietly since August 2011 with an entry of 55 million shares. They have been very active in buying for most of the time and take some profits to lower their cost. These activities also demonstrate two important investing principles that worth learning. One, excellent discipline of regular purchase at fixed interval. Two, aggressive buying at lower price. Here are their activities.

Sep 2011 3,67,300 shares. Average price RM $ 5.52
Oct 2011 1,872,900 shares. RM 5.53
Nov 2011 1,490,000 shares. RM 5.58
Jan 2012 (943,900) shares. RM 5.60
Feb 2012 (999,000) shares RM 5.71
Mar 2012 (513,400) shares RM 5.56
Jul 2012 626,100 shares. RM 4.78

Aug through 13 Aug 4,289,200. RM 4.76

( ) denotes sold.

Obviously they think the current price is worth scooping up.

Conclusion: In my personal opinion, buy-and-hold at current price between RM 4.60 ~ RM 4.8 is worth considering. Dollar averaging is also a good strategy.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Reversion to mean

Some stocks or commodities generated poor or good returns for good reasons. Poor fundamentals or stretched valuations but selling for a high price will produce worse results. Improving fundamentals or modest valuations will produce good returns. The European stock markets performed poorly is understandable. Shanghai Composite Index generated closed to 50% losses is getting more attractive by days. The average PE for A shares selling for 11 times PE is very cheap. I have completed my visit in China. There is no doubt that it was slower than before but I could not find any signs of hard landing.  The day of Reversion To Mean will come. My Dollar Averaging strategy has been activated recently. 20% of Turtle Portfolio cash will be moved into Chinese equities spread out over a period of 8 - 12 months.

Funds that worth investigating:

1. Morgan Stanley China A Share Fund. It's a closed end fund listed in NYSE(CAF). It is selling close to 10% discount to NAV but with 13% market distribution yield is very attractive.


2. United SSE 50 China ETF http://www.uobam.com.sg/uobam/html/china_etf.html

It is an ETF that has direct exposure to A shares listed in Singapore Stock Exchange. It has just recovered slightly after hitting a new low of USD 1.54.

3. BRIC mutual funds 

4. Mutual funds specialize in H Shares

5. CIMBC25 listed in KLSE.  I sold off last year at RM 0.83/share. It is about time to get back in soon.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

iCapital. Deja Vu?

As of Aug 4, 2012, iCapital closed end fund was selling for RM 2.30 but NAV was RM 3.01, represents a discount of almost 24%. As of May 30, 2012, iCapital has net asset of RM 400 million and almost RM 133 millions are in cash. Investors may be sceptical that it can maintain its high elevated level.

The fund has never declare any dividend since it was launch in October 2005. In a few months time, the fund will be getting almost 7years. Using the market price around first week of October of every calender since it was listed we all can see that all the capital gain was in the first 2 years and return was practically non existent since 2008.

There are some interesting developments since last year with emergence of two foreign funds. One of them is  City of London Investment Management Company LTD with initial interest of 5.26% in November 2011 and increased their holding to almost 6.2% as of July 31, 2012. The other fund is Lexey Partners Limited with initial interest of 5.92%. They started buying some time April 2012. 

What Lexey Partners did reminded me of of a closed-end fund Amanah Millenia fund. That fund was forced to closed in 2007 after in existence of 10 years. Lexey Partners bought an initial interests of 5.05% with almost 29% discount to its NAV. After the initial interest, they kept buying until it reached 16.2% and forced it to close.

Amanah Millenia was way under-performing at that time in terms of NAV with 21.9% gains only over a period of 10 years while iCapital managed to improve its NAV over time of almost 3 times.

The question is will iCapital face a similar fate? Will this time be different with City of London Investment and Lexey Partners already accumulated combined interests of 12.7%.

Many of closed end funds in listed in NYSE actually paying dividend regularly. Many of closed end funds sweetened their investors with generous dividend to compensate for the discount to NAV.

Having foreign funds buying is a good news to current holders and certainly adding pressures to its fund manager. The mentality of foreign funds are very different from small holders will just wait patiently hoping something will happen. They will make things happen and it will be a big dent to TTB's pride if his fund get liquidated!

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Long Boom: A History of the Future, 1980 - 2020 By Peter Schwartz and Peter Leyden

The bull run started in 2009 is getting almost 3.5 years old. Statistically speaking the odds are really not good. Yesterday post that I picked up some Alam Maritim shares on Aug 01 was really just to kill boredom after absent from the market coming to 10 months -- I need some adrenalin pump once in a while. Surprisingly nobody leaving me any nasty comments. By the way, to play in such a condition, one really need to have a very tight cut loss point. The moment Alam breaches RM $ 0.49, all bets are off. Just 2%, it's that tight.

I recalled there are only a handful of long uninterrupted bull runs. The more recent one was in the 90s which has almost 10 years run. Many things fell into the right place then. I am going to quote one article(very long one by the way) was written in 1997 that the writers projected into the future based on what happened in the 90s. They were bold enough to look into 23 years ahead. Now that we are in 2012, 15 years later, how things fare? The last 10 years after the tech bubble burst did not worked out so well except it created a larger "trading bands" with major cyclical bear in 2001-2003, bull 2004-2007, bear 2008-2009, bull 2009 -- ?? . 

By Peter Schwartz and Peter Leyden

A bad meme - a contagious idea - began spreading through the United States in the 1980s: America is in decline, the world is going to hell, and our children's lives will be worse than our own. The particulars are now familiar: Good jobs are disappearing, working people are falling into poverty, the underclass is swelling, crime is out of control. The post-Cold War world is fragmenting, and conflicts are erupting all over the planet. The environment is imploding - with global warming and ozone depletion, we'll all either die of cancer or live in Waterworld. As for our kids, the collapsing educational system is producing either gun-toting gangsters or burger-flipping dopes who can't read.
By the late 1990s, another meme began to gain ground. Borne of the surging stock market and an economy that won't die down, this one is more positive: America is finally getting its economic act together, the world is not such a dangerous place after all, and our kids just might lead tolerable lives. Yet the good times will come only to a privileged few, no more than a fortunate fifth of our society. The vast majority in the United States and the world face a dire future of increasingly desperate poverty. And the environment? It's a lost cause.
But there's a new, very different meme, a radically optimistic meme: We are watching the beginnings of a global economic boom on a scale never experienced before. We have entered a period of sustained growth that could eventually double the world's economy every dozen years and bring increasing prosperity for - quite literally - billions of people on the planet. We are riding the early waves of a 25-year run of a greatly expanding economy that will do much to solve seemingly intractable problems like poverty and to ease tensions throughout the world. And we'll do it without blowing the lid off the environment.
If this holds true, historians will look back on our era as an extraordinary moment. They will chronicle the 40-year period from 1980 to 2020 as the key years of a remarkable transformation. In the developed countries of the West, new technology will lead to big productivity increases that will cause high economic growth - actually, waves of technology will continue to roll out through the early part of the 21st century. And then the relentless process of globalization, the opening up of national economies and the integration of markets, will drive the growth through much of the rest of the world. An unprecedented alignment of an ascendent Asia, a revitalized America, and a reintegrated greater Europe - including a recovered Russia - together will create an economic juggernaut that pulls along most other regions of the planet. These two metatrends - fundamental technological change and a new ethos of openness - will transform our world into the beginnings of a global civilization, a new civilization of civilizations, that will blossom through the coming century.
Think back to the era following World War II, the 40-year span from 1940 to 1980 that immediately precedes our own. First, the US economy was flooded with an array of new technologies that had been stopped up by the war effort: mainframe computers, atomic energy, rockets, commercial aircraft, automobiles, and television. Second, a new integrated market was devised for half the world - the so-called free world - in part through the creation of institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. With the technology and the enhanced system of international trade in place by the end of the 1940s, the US economy roared through the 1950s, and the world economy joined in through the 1960s, only to flame out in the 1970s with high inflation - partly a sign of growth that came too fast. From 1950 to 1973, the world economy grew at an average 4.9 percent - a rate not matched since, well, right about now. On the backs of that roaring economy and increasing prosperity came social, cultural, and political repercussions. It's no coincidence that the 1960s were called revolutionary. With spreading affluence came great pressure from disenfranchised races and other interest groups for social reform, even overt political revolution.
Strikingly similar - if not still more powerful - forces are in motion today. The end of the military state of readiness in the 1980s, as in the 1940s, unleashed an array of new technologies, not the least of which is the Internet. The end of the Cold War also saw the triumph of a set of ideas long championed by the United States: those of the free-market economy and, to some extent, liberal democracy. This cleared the way for the creation of a truly global economy, one integrated market. Not half the world, the free world. Not one large colonial empire. Everybody on the planet in the same economy. This is historically unprecedented, with unprecedented consequences to follow. In the 1990s, the United States is experiencing a booming economy much like it did in the 1950s. But look ahead to the next decade, our parallel to the 1960s. We may be entering a relentless economic expansion, a truly global economic boom, the long boom.
Sitting here in the late 1990s, it's possible to see how all the pieces could fall into place. It's possible to construct a scenario that could bring us to a truly better world by 2020. It's not a prediction, but a scenario, one that's both positive and plausible. Why plausible? The basic science is now in place for five great waves of technology - personal computers, telecommunications, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and alternative energy - that could rapidly grow the economy without destroying the environment. This scenario doesn't rely on a scientific breakthrough, such as cold fusion, to feed our energy needs. Also, enough unassailable trends - call them predetermined factors - are in motion to plausibly predict their outcome. The rise of Asia, for example, simply can't be stopped. This is not to say that there aren't some huge unknowns, the critical uncertainties, such as how the United States handles its key role as world leader.
Why a positive scenario? During the global standoff of the Cold War, people clung to the original ideological visions of a pure form of communism or capitalism. A positive scenario too often amounted to little more than surviving nuclear war. Today, without the old visions, it's easy enough to see how the world might unravel into chaos. It's much more difficult to see how it could all weave together into something better. But without an expansive vision of the future, people tend to get short-sighted and mean-spirited, looking out only for themselves. A positive scenario can inspire us through what will inevitably be traumatic times ahead.
So suspend your disbelief. Open up to the possibilities. Try to think like one of those future historians, marveling at the changes that took place in the 40-year period that straddled the new millennium. Sit back and read through the future history of the world.
The Boom's Big Bang
From a historical vantage point, two developments start around 1980 that will have profound consequences for the US economy, the Western economy, then the global economy at large. One is the introduction of personal computers. The other is the breakup of the Bell System. These events trigger two of the five great waves of technological change that will eventually help fuel the long boom.
The full impact can be seen in the sweep of decades. In the first 10 years, personal computers are steadily adopted by businesses. By 1990, they begin to enter the home, and the microprocessor is being embedded in many other tools and products, such as cars. By the turn of the century, with the power of computer chips still roughly doubling every 18 months, everything comes with a small, cheap silicon brain. Tasks like handwriting recognition become a breeze. Around 2010, Intel builds a chip with a billion transistors - 100 times the complexity of the most advanced integrated circuits being designed in the late 1990s. By 2015, reliable simultaneous language translation has been cracked - with immediate consequences for the multilingual world.
The trajectory for the telecommunications wave follows much the same arc. The breakup of Ma Bell, initiated in 1982, triggers a frenzy of entrepreneurial activity as nascent companies like MCI and Sprint race to build fiber-optic networks across the country. By the early 1990s, these companies shift from moving voice to moving data as a new phenomenon seems to come out of nowhere: the Internet. Computers and communications become inextricably linked, each feeding the phenomenal growth of the other. By the late 1990s, telecom goes wireless. Mobile phone systems and all-purpose personal communications services arrive first with vast antennae networks on the ground. Soon after, the big satellite projects come online. By 1998, the Iridium global phone network is complete. By 2002, Teledesic's global Internet network is operational. These projects, among others, allow seamless connection to the information infrastructure anywhere on the planet by early in the century. By about 2005, high-bandwidth connections that can easily move video have become common in developed countries, and videophones finally catch on.
The symbiotic relationship between these technology sectors leads to a major economic discontinuity right around 1995, generally attributed to the explosive growth of the Internet. It's the long boom's Big Bang - immediately fueling economic growth in the traditional sense of direct job creation but also stimulating growth in less direct ways. On the most obvious level, hardware and infrastructure companies experience exponential growth, as building the new information network becomes one of the great global business opportunities around the turn of the century.
A new media industry also explodes onto the scene to take advantage of the network's unique capabilities, such as interactivity and individual customization. Start-ups plunge into the field, and traditional media companies lumber in this direction. By the late 1990s, the titans of the media industry are in a high-stakes struggle over control of the evolving medium. Relative newcomers like Disney and Microsoft ace out the old-guard television networks in a monumental struggle over digital TV. After a few fits and starts, the Net becomes the main medium of the 21st century.
The development of online commerce quickly follows on new media's heels. First come the entrepreneurs who figure out how to encrypt messages, conduct safe financial transactions in cyberspace, and advertise one to one. Electronic cash, a key milestone, gains acceptance around 1998. Then come businesses selling everyday consumer goods. First it's high tech products such as software, then true information products like securities. Soon everything begins to be sold in cyberspace. By 2000, online sales hit US$10 billion, still small by overall retail standards. Around 2005, 20 percent of Americans teleshop for groceries.
Alongside the migration of the traditional retail world into cyberspace, completely new types of work are created. Many had speculated that computer networks would lead to disintermediation - the growing irrelevance of the middleman in commerce. Certainly the old-style go-betweens are sideswiped, but new types of intermediaries arise to connect buyers to sellers. And with the friction taken out of the distribution system, the savings can be channeled into new ventures, which create new work.
The Birth of the Networked Economy
New technologies have an impact much bigger than what literally takes place online. On a more fundamental level, the networked economy is born. Starting with the recession of 1990-91, American businesses begin going through a wrenching process of reengineering, variously described at the time as downsizing, outsourcing, and creating the virtual corporation. In fact, they are actually taking advantage of new information technologies to create the smaller, more versatile economic units of the coming era.
Businesses, as well as most organizations outside the business world, begin to shift from hierarchical processes to networked ones. People working in all kinds of fields - the professions, education, government, the arts - begin pushing the applications of networked computers. Nearly every facet of human activity is transformed in some way by the emergent fabric of interconnection. This reorganization leads to dramatic improvements in efficiency and productivity.
Productivity, as it happens, becomes one of the great quandaries stumping economists throughout the 1990s. Despite billions invested in new technologies, traditional government economic statistics reflect little impact on productivity or growth. This is not an academic point - it drives to the heart of the new economy. Businesses invest in new technology to boost the productivity of their workers. That increased productivity is what adds value to the economy - it is the key to sustained economic growth.
Research by a few economists, like Stanford University's Paul Romer, suggests that fundamentally new technologies generally don't become productive until a generation after their introduction, the time it takes for people to really learn how to use them in new ways. Sure enough, about a generation after the introduction of personal computers in the workplace, work processes begin mutating enough to take full advantage of the tool. Soon after, economists figure out how to accurately measure the true gains in productivity - and take into account the nebulous concept of improvement in quality rather than just quantity.
By 2000, the US government adopts a new information-age standard of measuring economic growth. Unsurprisingly, actual growth rates are higher than what had registered on the industrial-age meter. The US economy is growing at sustained rates of around 4 percent - rates not seen since the 1960s.
The turn of the century marks another major shift in government policy, as the hidebound analysis of inflation is finally abandoned in light of the behavior of the new economy. While the Vietnam War, oil shocks, and relatively closed national labor markets had caused genuine inflationary pressures that wreaked havoc on the economy through the 1970s, the tight monetary policies of the 1980s soon harness the inflation rate and lead to a solid decade with essentially no wage or price rises. By the 1990s, globalization and international competition add to the downward pressure. By 2000, policymakers finally come around to the idea that you can grow the economy at much higher rates and still avoid the spiral of inflation. The millennium also marks a symbolic changing of the guard at the Federal Reserve Bank: Alan Greenspan retires, the Fed lifts its foot off the brake, and the US economy really begins to take off.
More Tech Waves
Right about the turn of the century, the third of the five waves of technology kicks in. After a couple false starts in the 1980s and 1990s, biotechnology begins to transform the medical field. One benchmark comes in 2001 with the completion of the Human Genome Project, the effort to map out all human genes. That understanding of our genetic makeup triggers a series of breakthroughs in stopping genetic disease. Around 2012, a gene therapy for cancer is perfected. Five years later, almost one-third of the 4,000 known genetic diseases can be avoided through genetic manipulation.
Throughout the early part of the century, the combination of a deeper understanding of genetics, human biology, and organic chemistry leads to a vast array of powerful medications and therapies. The health care system, having faced a crossroads in 1994 with President Clinton's proposed national plan, continues restructuring along the more decentralized, privatized model of HMOs. The industry is already booming when biotech advances begin clicking in the first decade of the century. It receives a further stimulus when the baby boomers begin retiring en masse in 2011. The industry becomes a big jobs provider for years to come.
The biotech revolution profoundly affects another economic sector - agriculture. The same deeper understanding of genetics leads to much more precise breeding of plants. By about 2007, most US produce is being genetically engineered by these new direct techniques. The same process takes place with livestock. In 1997, the cloning of sheep in the United Kingdom startles the world and kicks off a flurry of activity in this field. By the turn of the century, prize livestock is being genetically tweaked as often as traditionally bred. By about 2005, animals are used for developing organs that can be donated to humans. Superproductive animals and ultrahardy, high-yielding plants bring another veritable green revolution to countries sustaining large populations.
By the end of the transitional era, around 2020, real advances begin to be made in the field of biological computation, where billions of relatively slow computations, done at the level of DNA, can be run simultaneously and brought together in the aggregate to create the ultimate in parallel processing. So-called DNA computing looks as though it will bring about big advances in the speed of processing sometime after 2025 - certainly by the middle of the century.
Then comes the fourth technology wave - nanotechnology. Once the realm of science fiction, this microscopic method of construction becomes a reality in 2015. Scientists and engineers figure out reliable methods to construct objects one atom at a time. Among the first commercially viable products are tiny sensors that can enter a person's bloodstream and bring back information about its composition. By 2018, these micromachines are able to do basic cell repair. However, nanotechnology promises to have a much more profound impact on traditional manufacturing as the century rolls on. Theoretically, most products could be produced much more efficiently through nanotech techniques. By 2025, the theory is still far from proven, but small desktop factories for producing simple products arrive.
By about 2015, nanotech techniques begin to be applied to the development of computing at the atomic level. Quantum computing, rather than DNA computing, proves to be the heir to microprocessors in the short run. In working up to the billion-transistor microprocessor in 2010, engineers seem to hit insurmountable technical barriers: the scale of integrated circuits has shrunk so small that optical-lithography techniques fail to function. Fortunately, just as the pace of microprocessing power begins to wane, quantum computing clicks in. Frequent increases in computing power once again promise to continue unabated for the foreseeable future.
The Earth Saver
All four waves of technology coursing through this era - computers, telecom, biotech, and nanotech - contribute to a surge of economic activity. In the industrial era, a booming economy would have put a severe strain on the environment: basically everything we made, we cooked, and such high-temperature cooking creates a lot of waste by-products. The logic of the era also tended toward larger and larger factories, which created pollution at even greater scales.
Biotech, on the other hand, uses more moderate temperature realms and emulates the processes of nature, creating much less pollution. Infotech, which moves information electronically rather than physically, also makes much less impact on the natural world. Moving information across the United States through the relatively simple infotechnology of the fax, for example, proves to be seven times more energy efficient than sending it through Federal Express. Furthermore, these technologies are on an escalating track of constant refinement, with each new generation becoming more and more energy efficient, with lower and lower environmental impact. Even so, these increasing efficiencies are not enough to counteract the juggernaut of a booming global economy.
Fortunately, the fifth wave of new technology - alternative energy - arrives right around the turn of the century with the introduction of the hybrid electric car. Stage one begins in the late 1990s when automobile companies such as Toyota roll out vehicles using small diesel- or gasoline-fueled internal-combustion engines to power an onboard generator that then drives small electric motors at each wheel. The car runs on electric power at low RPMs but uses the internal-combustion engine at highway speeds, avoiding the problem of completely battery-powered electric vehicles that run out of juice after 60 miles. The early hybrids are also much more efficient than regular gas-powered cars, often getting 80 miles to a gallon.
Stage two quickly follows, this time spurred by aerospace companies such as Allied Signal, which leverage their knowledge of jet engines to build hybrids powered by gas turbines. By 2005, technology previously confined to aircraft's onboard electric systems successfully migrates to automobiles. These cars use natural gas to power the onboard generators, which then drive the electric motors at the wheels. They also make use of superstrong, ultralight new materials that take the place of steel and allow big savings on mileage.
Then comes the third and final stage: hybrids using hydrogen fuel cells. The simplest and most abundant atom in the universe, hydrogen becomes the source of power for electric generators - with the only waste product being water. No exhaust. No carbon monoxide. Just water. The basic hydrogen-power technology had been developed as far back as the Apollo space program, though then it was still extremely expensive and had a nasty tendency to blow up. By the late 1990s, research labs such as British Columbia-based Ballard Power Systems are steadily developing the technology with little public fanfare. Within 10 years, there are transitional hydrogen car models that extract fuel from ordinary gasoline, using the existing network of pumps. By 2010, hydrogen is being processed in refinery-like plants and loaded onto cars that can go thousands of miles - and many months - before refueling. The technology is vastly cheaper and safer than in the 1960s and well on its way to widespread use.
These technological developments drive nothing less than a wholesale transformation of the automobile industry through the first quarter of the new century. Initially prodded by government decrees such as California's zero-emission mandate - which called for 10 percent of new cars sold to have zero emissions by 2003 - the industrial behemoths begin to pick up speed when an actual market for hybrid cars opens up. People buy them not because they are the environmentally correct option but because they're sporty, fast, and fun. And the auto companies build them because executives see green - as in money, not trees.
This 10- to 15-year industrial retooling sends reverberations throughout the global economy. The petrochemical giants begin switching from maintaining vast networks that bring oil from remote Middle Eastern deserts to building similarly vast networks that supply the new elements of electrical power. Fossil fuels will continue to be a primary source of power into the middle of the 21st century - but they will be clean fossil fuels. By 2020, almost all new cars are hybrid vehicles, mostly using hydrogen power. That development alone defuses much of the pressure on the global environment. The world may be able to support quite a few additional automobile drivers - including nearly 2 billion Chinese.
Asia Ascendant
While the end of the Cold War initiates the waves of technology rippling through our 40-year era, that's only half the story. The other half has to do with an equally powerful force: globalization. While it is spurred by new technologies, the emergence of an interconnected planet is propelled more by the power of an idea - the idea of an open society.
From a historical vantage point, globalization also begins right around 1980. One of the souls who best articulates this idea of the open society is Mikhail Gorbachev. It's Gorbachev who helps bring about some of its most dramatic manifestations: the fall of the Wall, the collapse of the Soviet empire, the end of the Cold War. He helps inititate a vast wave of political change that includes the democratization of eastern Europe and Russia itself. To kick it off, Gorbachev introduces two key concepts to his pals in the Politburo in 1985, two ideas that will resonate not just in the Soviet Union but through all the world. One is glasnost. The other is perestroika. Openness and restructuring - the formula for the age, the key ingredients of the long boom.
An equally important character is China's Deng Xiaoping. His actions don't bring about the same dramatic political change, but right around the same time as Gorbachev, Deng initiates a similarly profound shift of policies, applying the concepts of openness and restructuring to the economy. This process of opening up - creating free trade and free markets - ultimately makes just as large a global impact. No place is this more apparent than in Asia.
Japan grasps the gist of this economic formula long before the buzz begins, pulling a group of Asian early adopter countries in its wake. By the 1980s, Japan has nearly perfected the industrial-age manufacturing economy. But by 1990, the rules of the global economy have changed to favor more nimble, innovative processes, rather than meticulous, methodical economies of scale. Many of the attributes that favored Japan in the previous era, such as a commitment to lifelong employment and protected domestic markets, work against the country this time around. Japan enters the long slump of the 1990s. By the end of the decade, Japan has watched the United States crack the formula for success in the networked economy and begins to adopt the model in earnest. In 2000, it radically liberalizes many of its previously protected domestic markets - a big stimulus for the world economy at large.
Japan's rise, however, is but a prelude to the ascendance of China. In 1978, Deng takes the first steps toward liberalizing the communist economy. China slowly gathers force through the 1980s, until the annual growth in the gross national product consistently tops 10 percent. By the 1990s, the economy is growing at a torrid pace, with the entire coast of China convulsed with business activity and boomtowns sprouting all over the place. Nineteen ninety-seven - a year marked by both the death of Deng and the long-awaited return of Hong Kong - symbolizes the end of China's ideological transition and the birth of a real economic world power.
The first decade of the new century poses many problems for China domestically - and for the rest of the world. The overheated economy puts severe strain on the fabric of Chinese society, particularly between the increasingly affluent urban areas on the coast and the 800 million impoverished peasants in the interior. The nation's relatively low tech smokestack economy also threatens to single-handedly push the global environment over the edge. The Chinese initially do little to reduce their level of dependence on coal, which in the late 1990s still supplies three-quarters of the country's energy needs. Only sustained efforts by the rest of the world to ensure that China has access to the very best transportation and industrial technology avert an environmental catastrophe. Occasionally using draconian measures, China manages to avoid severe internal disturbance. By 2010, the sense of crisis has dissipated. China is generally acknowledged to be on a path toward more democratic politics - though not in the image of the West.
With the reemergence of China's economic might, the 3,500-year-old civilization begins to assert itself and play a larger part in shaping the world. Chinese clan-based culture happens to work very well within the fluid demands of the networked global economy. Singapore and Hong Kong prove the point through the 1980s and 1990s, when the two city-states with almost no land mass or natural resources become economic powers through pure human capital, primarily brainpower.
For years, Chinese expatriates have established intricate financial networks throughout Western countries, but especially in Asia. Many Southeast Asian economies - if not governments - are completely dominated by the overseas Chinese. By about 2005, the mainland Chinese decide to capitalize on this by formalizing the Chinese diaspora. Though the entity has no legal status vis-a-vis other governments, it has substantial economic clout. That date also marks the absorption of Taiwan into China proper.
By 2020, the Chinese economy has grown to be the largest in the world. Though the US economy is more technologically sophisticated, and its population more affluent, China and the United States are basically on a par. China has also drawn much of Asia in its economic wake - Hong Kong and Shanghai are the key financial nodes for this intricate Asian world.
Asia is jammed with countries that are economic powerhouses in their own right. India builds on its top-notch technical training and mastery of the lingua franca of the high tech world, English, to challenge many Western countries in software development. Malaysia's audacious attempt to jump-start an indigenous high tech sector through massive investments in a multimedia supercorridor pays off. The former communist countries Vietnam and Cambodia turn out to be among the most adept at capitalism. The entire region - from the reunited Koreas to Indonesia to the subcontinent - is booming. In just 20 years, 2 billion people have made the transition into what can be considered a middle-class lifestyle. In the space of one full 80-year life span, Asia has gone from almost uninterrupted poverty to widespread wealth.
The European Shuffle
Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, the new principles of openness and restructuring are applied first in politics, then economics. In the aftermath of the spectacular implosion of the Soviet Union, most energy is spent promoting democracy and dismantling the vestiges of the Cold War. With time, an equal amount of energy is applied to restructuring and retooling economies - in some obvious and not so obvious ways.
First, Europe at large has to reintegrate itself, both economically and politically. Much of the 1990s is spent trying to integrate eastern and western Europe. All eyes first focus on the new Germany, which powers through the process on the basis of sheer financial might. Next the more advanced of the eastern European countries - Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic - get integrated, first into NATO, with formal acceptance in 2000, and then into the European Union in 2002. The more problematic countries of eastern Europe aren't accepted into the union for another couple years. Alongside this East-West integration comes a more subtle integration between the western European countries. With fits and starts, Europe moves toward the establishment of one truly integrated entity. The European currency - the euro - is adopted in 1999, with a few laggards, like Britain, holding out a few more years.
Though the UK may have dragged its feet on the European currency measure, in an overall sense it's far ahead of the pack. The economic imperative of the era is not just to integrate externally but to restructure internally. Right around 1980, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan begin putting together the formula that eventually leads toward the new economy. At the time it looks brutal: busting unions, selling off state-owned industries, and dismantling the welfare state. In hindsight, the pain pays off. By the mid-1990s, the US unemployment rate is near 5 percent, and the British rate has dropped to almost 6 percent. In contrast, unemployment on the European continent hovers at 11 percent, with some individual countries even higher.
Indeed, through the 1990s, the rest of Europe remains trapped in the legacy of its welfare states, which maintain their political attractiveness long after they outlive their economic worth. By 2000, chronic unemployment and mounting government deficits finally force leaders on the continent to act. Despite widespread popular protests, especially in France, Europe goes through a painful economic restructuring much like the United States did a decade before. As part of this perestroika, it retools its economy using the new information technologies. This restructuring, both of corporations and governments, has much the same effect it had on the US economy. The European economy begins to surge and create many new jobs. By about 2005, Europe - particularly in the northern countries like Germany - even has the beginnings of a serious labor shortage as aging populations begin to retire.
Then the Russian economy kicks in. For 15 years, Russia had been stumbling along in its transition to a capitalist economy, periodically frightening the West with overtures that it might return to its old militaristic ways. But after almost two decades of wide-open Mafia-style capitalism, Russia emerges in about 2005 with the basic underpinnings of a solid economy. Enough people are invested in the new system, and enough of the population has absorbed the new work ethic, that the economy can function quite well - with few reasons to fear a retrenchment. This normalization finally spurs massive foreign investment that helps the Russians exploit their immense natural resources, and the skills of a highly educated populace. These people also provide a huge market for Europe and the rest of the world.
The Global Stampede
By the close of the 20th century, the more developed Western nations are forging ahead on a path of technology-led growth, and booming Asia is showing the unambiguous benefits of developing market economies and free trade. The path for the rest of the world seems clear. Openness and restructuring. Restructuring and openness. Individually, nations begin adopting the formula of deregulating, privatizing, opening up to foreign investment, and cutting government deficits. Collectively, they sign onto international agreements that accelerate the process of global integration - and fuel the long boom.
Two milestones come in 1997: the Information Technology Agreement, in which almost all countries trading in IT agree to abolish tariffs by 2000, and the Global Telecommunications Accord, in which almost 70 leading nations agree to rapidly deregulate their domestic telecom markets. These two developments quickly spread the two key technologies of the era: computers and telecommunications.

Everyone benefits, particularly the underdeveloped economies, which take advantage of the leapfrog effect, adopting the newest, cheapest, best technology rather than settling for obsolete junk. IT creates a remarkable dynamic that brings increasing power, performance, and quality to each new generation of the technology - plus big drops in price. Also, wireless telecommunications allow countries to avoid the huge effort and expense of building wired infrastructures through crowded cities and diffuse countrysides.
This all bodes well for the world economy. Through most of the 1970s, all the 1980s, and the early 1990s, the real growth rate in the world's gross domestic product averages 3 percent. By 1996, the rate tops a robust 4 percent. By 2005, it hits an astounding 6 percent. Continued growth at this rate will double the size of the world economy in just 12 years, doubling it twice in just 25 years. This level of growth surpasses the rates of the last global economic boom, the years following World War II, which averaged 4.9 percent from 1950 to 1973. And this growth comes off a much broader economic base, making it more remarkable still. Unlike the last time, almost every region of the planet, even in the undeveloped world, participates in the bonanza.
Latin America takes off. These countries, after experiencing the nightmare of debt in the 1980s, do much to vigorously restructure their economies in the 1990s. Chile and Argentina are particularly innovative, and Brazil builds on an extensive indigenous high tech sector. But the real boost from 2000 onward comes from capitalizing on Latin America's strategic location on the booming Pacific Rim and on its proximity to the United States. The region becomes increasingly drawn into the booming US economy. In 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement formally links the United States to Mexico and Canada. By about 2002, an All American Free Trade Agreement is signed - integrating the entire hemisphere into one unified market.
The Middle East, meanwhile, enters crisis. Two main factors drive the region's problems. One, the fundamentalist Muslim mind-set is particularly unsuited to the fluid demands of the digital age. The new economy rewards experimentation, constant innovation, and challenging the status quo - these attributes, however, are shunned in many countries throughout the Middle East. Many actually get more traditional in response to the furious pace of change. The other factor driving the crisis is outside their control. The advent of hydrogen power clearly undermines the centrality of oil in the world economy. By 2008, with the auto industry in a mad dash to convert, the bottom falls out of the oil market. The Middle Eastern crisis comes to a head. Some of the old monarchies and religious regimes begin to topple.
An even more disturbing crisis hits Africa. While some parts of the continent, such as greater South Africa, are doing fine, central Africa devolves into a swirl of brutal ethnic conflict, desperate poverty, widespread famine and disease. In 2015 the introduction of biological weapons in an ethnic conflict, combined with the outbreak of a terrifying new natural disease, brings the death count to unimagined levels: an estimated 5 million people die in the space of six months - this on top of a cumulative death toll of roughly 100 million who perished prematurely over the previous two decades.
The contrast between such destitution and the spreading prosperity elsewhere finally prods the planet into collective action. Every nation, the world comes to understand, ultimately can only benefit from a thriving Africa, which will occupy economic niches that other nations are outgrowing. It makes as much practical as humanitarian sense. The regeneration of Africa becomes a prime global agenda item for the next quarter of the century.
Future Aftershocks
Riding the wave of the booming economy brings other major social and political repercussions. Fundamental shifts in technology and the means of production inevitably change the way the economy operates. And when the economy changes, it doesn't take long for the rest of society to adapt to the new realities. The classic example is the transformation of agricultural society into industrial society. A new tool - the motor - led to a new economic model - capitalism - that brought great social upheaval - urbanization and the creation of an affluent class - and ultimately profound political change - liberal democracy. While that's a crude summation of a complex historical transition, the same dynamic largely holds true in our shift to a networked economy based on digital technologies.
There's also a commonsense explanation. When an economy booms, money courses through society, people get rich quick, and almost everybody sees an opportunity to improve their station in life. Optimism abounds. Think back to that period following World War II. A booming economy buoyed a bold, optimistic view of the world: we can put a man on the Moon, we can build a Great Society, a racially integrated world. In our era, we can expect the same.
By about 2000, the United States economy is doing so well that the tax coffers begin to swell. This not only solves the deficit problem but gives the government ample resources to embark on new initiatives. No longer forced to nitpick over which government programs to cut, political leaders emerge with new initiatives to help solve seemingly intractable social problems, like drug addiction. No one talks about reverting to big government, but there's plenty of room for innovative approaches to applying the pooled resources of the entire society to benefit the public at large. And the government, in good conscience, can finally afford tax cuts.
A spirit of generosity returns. The vast majority of Americans who see their prospects rising with the expanding economy are genuinely sympathetic to the plight of those left behind. This kinder, gentler humanitarian urge is bolstered by a cold, hard fact. The bigger the network, the better. The more people in the network, the better for everyone. Wiring half a town is only marginally useful. If the entire town has phones, then the system really sings. Every person, every business, every organization directly benefits from a system in which you can pick up a phone and reach every individual rather than just a scattered few. That same principle true holds for the new networked computer technologies. It pays to get everyone tied into the new information grid. By 2000, this mentality sinks in. Almost everyone understands we're deep into a transition to a networked economy, a networked society. It makes sense to get everyone on board.
The welfare reform initiative of 1996 begins the process of drawing the poor into the economy at large. At the time, political leaders aren't talking about the network effect so much as eliminating a wasteful government program. Nevertheless, the shakeup of the welfare system coincides with the revving of the economy. Vast numbers of welfare recipients do get jobs, and the great majority eventually move up to more skilled professions. By 2002, the end of the initial five-year transitional period, welfare rolls are cut by more than half. Former welfare recipients are not the only ones benefiting from the new economy. The working poor hovering just above the poverty line also leverage their way up to more stable lives.
Even those from the hardened criminal underworld migrate toward the expanding supply of legitimate work. Over time, through the first decade of the century, this begins to have subtle secondary effects. The underclass, once thought to be a permanent fixture of American society, begins to break up. Social mobility goes up, crime rates go down. Though hard to draw direct linkages, many attribute the drop in crime to the rise in available work. Others point to a shift in drug policy. Starting with the passage of the California Medical Marijuana Initiative n 1996, various states begin experimenting with decriminalizing drug use. Alongside that, the failed war on drugs gets dismantled. Both initiatives are part of a general shift away from stiff law enforcement and toward more complex ways to deal with the roots of crime. One effect is to destroy the conditions that led to the rise of the inner-city drug economy. By the second decade of the century, the glorified gangsta is as much a part of history as the original gangsters in the days of Prohibition.
Immigrants also benefit from the booming economy. Attempts to stem immigration in the lean times of the early 1990s are largely foiled. By the late 1990s, immigrants are seen as valuable contributors who keep the economy humming - more able hands and brains. By the first decade of the century, government policy actively encourages immigration of knowledge workers - particularly in the software industry, which suffers from severe labor shortages. This influx of immigrants, coupled with Americans' changing attitudes toward them, brings a pleasant surprise: the revival of the family. The centrality of the family in Asian and Latino cultures, which form the bulk of these immigrants, is unquestioned. As these subcultures increasingly flow into the American mainstream, a subtle shift takes place in the general belief in the importance of family. It's not family in the nuclear-family sense but a more sprawling, amorphous, networked sense of family to fit the new times.

The Brain Wave
Education is the next industrial-era institution to go through a complete overhaul - starting in earnest in 2000. The driving force here is not so much concern with enlightening young minds as economics. In an information age, the age of the knowledge worker, nothing matters as much as that worker's brain. By the end of the 1990s, it becomes clear that the existing public K-12 school system is simply not up to the task of preparing those brains. For decades the old system has ossified and been gutted by caps on property taxes. Various reform efforts gather steam only to peter out. First George Bush then Bill Clinton try to grab the mantle of "education president" - both fail. That changes in the 2000 election, when reinventing education becomes a central campaign issue. A strong school system is understood to be as as vital to the national interest as the military once was. The resulting popular mandate shifts some of the billions once earmarked for defense toward revitalizing education.
The renaissance of education in the early part of the century comes not from a task force of luminaries setting national standards in Washington, DC - the solutions flow from the hundreds of thousands of people throwing themselves at the problems across the country. The 1980s and 1990s see the emergence of small, innovative private schools that proliferate in urban areas where the public schools are most abysmal. Many focus on specific learning philosophies and experiment with new teaching techniques - including the use of new computer technologies. Beginning around 2001, the widespread use of vouchers triggers a rapid expansion in these types of schools and spurs an entrepreneurial market for education reminiscent of the can-do ethos of Silicon Valley. Many of the brightest young minds coming out of college are drawn to the wide-open possibilities in the field - starting new schools, creating new curricula, devising new teaching methods. They're inspired by the idea that they're building the 21st-century paradigm for learning.
The excitement spreads far beyond private schools, which by 2010 are teaching about a quarter of all students. Public schools reluctantly face up to the new competitive environment and begin reinventing themselves. In fact, private and public schools maintain a symbiotic relationship, with private schools doing much of the initial innovating, and public schools concentrating on making sure the new educational models reach all children in society.
Higher education, though slightly less in need of an overhaul, catches the spirit of radical reform - again driven largely by economics. The cost of four-year colleges and universities becomes absurd - in part because antiquated teaching methods based on lectures are so labor intensive. The vigorous adoption of networking technologies benefits undergraduate and graduate students even more than K-12 kids. In 2001, Project Gutenberg completes its task of putting 10,000 books online. Many of the world's leading universities begin carving off areas of expertise and assuming responsibility for the digitalization of all the literature in that field. Around 2010, all new books come out in electronic form. By 2015, relatively complete virtual libraries are up and running.
Despite earlier rhetoric, the key factor in making education work comes not from new technology, but from enshrining the value of learning. A dramatic reduction in the number of unskilled jobs makes clear that good education is a matter of survival. Indeed, nearly every organization in society puts learning at the core of its strategy for adapting to a fast-changing world. So begins the virtuous circle of the learning society. The booming economy provides the resources to overhaul education. The products of that revamped educational system enter the economy and improve its productivity. Eventually, education both sows and reaps the benefits of the long boom.
In the first decade of the century, Washington finally begins to really reinvent government. It's much the same process as the reengineering of corporations in the 1990s. The hierarchical bureaucracies of the 20th century are flattened and networked through the widespread adoption of new technologies. Some, like the IRS, experience spectacular failures, but eventually make the transition. In a more important sense, the entire approach to government is fundamentally reconsidered. The welfare and education systems are the first down that path. Driven by the imminent arrival of the first of many retiring baby boomers in 2011, Medicare and Social Security are next. Other governmental sectors soon follow.
The second decade of the century marks a more ambitious but amorphous project: making a multicultural society really work. Though the United States has the mechanics - such as the legal framework - of an integrated society in place, Americans need to learn how to accept social integration on a deeper level. The underpinnings of a booming economy make efforts to ease the tensions among various ethnic and interest groups much easier than before: people are more tolerant of others when their own livelihoods are not threatened. But people also come around to seeing diversity as a way to spark a creative edge. They realize that part of the key for success in the future is to remain open to differences, to stay exposed to alternative ways of thinking. And they recognize the rationality of building a society that draws on the strengths and creativity of all people.
Women spearhead many of the changes that help make the multicultural society work. As half the population, they are an exceptional "minority" that helps pave the way for the racial and ethnic minorities with fewer numbers. In the last global boom of the 1960s, the women's movement gained traction and helped promote the rise in the status of women. Through the 1970s and 1980s, women push against traditional barriers and work their way into business and government. By the 1990s, women have permeated the entire fabric of the economy and society. The needs, desires, and values of women increasingly begin to drive the political and business worlds - largely for the better. By the early part of the century, it becomes clear that the very skills most needed to make the networked society really hum are those that women have long practiced. Long before it became fashionable, women were developing the subtle abilities of maintaining networks, of remaining inclusive, of negotiating. These skills prove to be crucial to solving the very different challenges of this new world.
The effort to build a truly inclusive society does not just impact Americans. At the turn of the century, the United States is the closest thing the world has to a workable multicultural society. Almost all the cultures of the world have some representation, several in significant proportions. As the century moves on, it becomes clear to most people on the planet that all cultures must coexist in relative harmony on a global scale. On a meta level, it seems that the world is heading toward a future that's prefaced by what's happening in the United States.
A Civilization of Civilizations
In 2020, humans arrive on Mars. It's an extraordinary event by any measure, coming a half century after people first set foot on the Moon. The four astronauts touch down and beam their images back to the 11 billion people sharing in the moment. The expedition is a joint effort supported by virtually all nations on the planet, the culmination of a decade and a half of intense focus on a common goal. A remarkable enough technical achievement, the Mars landing is even more important for what it symbolizes.
As the global viewing audience stares at the image of a distant Earth, seen from a neighboring planet 35 million miles away, the point is made as never before: We are one world. All organisms crammed on the globe are intricately interdependent. Plants, animals, humans need to find a way to live together on that tiny little place. By 2020, most people are acting on that belief. The population has largely stabilized. The spreading prosperity nudged a large enough block of people into middle-class lifestyles to curtail high birth rates. In some pockets of the world large families are still highly valued, but most people strive only to replicate themselves, and no more. Just as important, the world economy has evolved to a point roughly in balance with nature. To be sure, the ecosystem is not in perfect equilibrium. More pollution enters the world than many would like. But the rates of contamination have been greatly reduced, and the trajectory of these trends looks promising. The regeneration of the global environment is in sight.
The images from Mars drive home another point: We're one global society, one human race. The divisions we impose on ourselves look ludicrous from afar. The concept of a planet of warring nations, a state of affairs that defined the previous century, makes no sense. Far better to channel the aspirations of the world's people into collectively pushing outward to the stars. Far better to turn our technologies not against one another but toward a joint effort that benefits all. And the artificial divisions we perpetuate between races and genders look strange as well. All humans stand on equal footing. They're not the same, but they're treated as equals and given equal opportunities to excel. In 2020, this point, only recently an empty platitude, is accepted by almost all.
We're forming a new civilization, a global civilization, distinct from those that arose on the planet before. It's not just Western civilization writ large - one hegemonic culture forcing itself on others. It's not a resurgent Chinese civilization struggling to reassert itself after years of being thwarted. It's a strange blend of both - and the others. It's something different, something as yet being born. In 2020, information technologies have spread to every corner of the planet. Real-time language translation is reliable. The great cross-fertilization of ideas, the ongoing, never-ending planetary conversation has begun. From this, the new crossroads of all civilizations, the new civilization will emerge.
In many ways, it's a civilization of civilizations, to use a phrase coined by Samuel Huntington. We're building a framework where all the world's civilizations can exist side by side and thrive. Where the best attributes of each can stand out and make their unique contributions. Where the peculiarities are cherished and allowed to live on. We're entering an age where diversity is truly valued - the more options the better. Our ecosystem works best that way. Our market economy works best that way. Our civilization, the realm of our ideas, works best that way, too.
The Millennial Generation
By 2020, the world is about to go through a changeover in power. This happens not through force, but through natural succession, a generational transition. The aging baby boomers, born in the wake of World War II, at the beginning of the 20th century's 40-year global economic boom, are fading from their prominent positions of economic and moral leadership. The tough-minded, techno-savvy generation that trails them, the digital generation, has the new world wired. But these two generations have simply laid the groundwork, prepared the foundations for the society, the civilization that comes next.
The millennial generation is coming of age. These are the children born in the 1980s and 1990s, at the front end of this boom of all booms. These are the kids who have spent their entire lives steeped in the new technologies, living in a networked world. They have been educated in wired schools, they have taken their first jobs implicitly understanding computer technologies. Now they're doing the bulk of society's work. They are reaching their 40s and turning their attention to the next generation of problems that remain to be cracked.
These are higher-level concerns, the intractable problems - such as eradicating poverty on the planet - that people throughout history have believed impossible to solve. Yet this generation has witnessed an extraordinary spread of prosperity across the planet. They see no inherent barrier to keep them from extending that prosperity to - why not? - everyone. Then there's the environment. The millennial generation has inherited a planet that's not getting much worse. Now comes the more difficult problem of restoration, starting with the rain forests. Then there's governance. Americans can vote electronically from home starting with the presidential election of 2008. But e-voting is just an extension of the 250-year-old system of liberal democracy. Interactive technologies may allow radically new forms of participatory democracy on a scale never imagined. Many young people say that the end of the nation-state is in sight.
These ambitious projects will not be solved in a decade, or two, or even three. But the life span of this generation will stretch across the entire 21st century. Given the state of medical science, most members of the millennial generation will live 100 years. Over the course of their lifetimes, they confidently foresee the solutions to many seemingly intractable problems. And they fully expect to see some big surprises. Almost certainly there will be unexpected breakthroughs in the realm of science and technology. What will be the 21st-century equivalent of the discovery of the electron or DNA? What strange new ideas will emerge from the collective mind of billions of brains wired together throughout the planet? What will happen when members of this millennial generation possibly confront a new species of their own making: Homo superior? And what happens if after all the efforts to methodically scan the skies, they finally latch onto signs of intelligent life?
Just Do It
Beam back down to Planet Earth. Get your head back to 1997, not even halfway through the transition of this 40-year era. We're still on the front edge of the great global boom, the long boom. Almost all the work remains before us. And a hell of a lot of things could go wrong.
This is only a scenario of the future, by no means an outright prediction of what is to come. We can be reasonably confident of the continuation of certain trends. Much of the long boom's technology is already in motion and almost inevitably will appear within that span. Asia is ascendant whether we like it or not. Barring some bizarre catastrophe, that large portion of the world will continue to boom. But there are many unknowns, all kinds of critical uncertainties. Will Europe summon the political will to make the transition to the new economy? Will Russia avoid a nationalist retrenchment and establish a healthy market economy - let alone democracy? Will China fully embrace capitalism and avoid causing a new cold - or hot - war? Will a rise in terrorism cause the world to pull back in constant fear? It's not technology or economics that pose the biggest challenges to the long boom. It's political factors, the ones dependent on strong leadership.
One hundred years ago, the world went through a similar process of technical innovation and unprecedented economic integration that led to a global boom. New transportation and communications technologies - railroads, telegraphs, and telephones - spread all over the planet, enabling a coordination of economic activity at a level never seen before. Indeed, the 1890s have many parallels to the 1990s - for better or worse. The potential of new technologies appeared boundless. An industrial revolution was spurring social and political revolution. It couldn't be long, it seemed, before a prosperous, egalitarian society arrived. It was a wildly optimistic time.
Of course, it all ended in catastrophe. The leaders of the world increasingly focused on narrow national agendas. The nations of the world broke from the path of increasing integration and lined up in competing factions. The result was World War I, with everyone using the new technologies to wage bigger, more efficient war. After the conflict, the continued pursuit of nationalist agendas severely punished the losers and consolidated colonial empires. The world went from wild optimism to - quite literally - depression, in a very short time.
The lessons of World War I contrast sharply with those of World War II. The move toward a closed economy and society after the first war led to global fragmentation as nations pulled back on themselves. In the aftermath of World War II, the impetus was toward an open economy and society - at least in half the world. This led down a path of continuing integration. World leaders had the foresight to establish an array of international institutions to manage the emerging global economy. They worked hard to rebuild their vanquished enemies, Germany and Japan, through generous initiatives like the Marshall Plan. This philosophical shift from closed to open societies came about through bold leadership, much of it coming from the United States. In the wake of World War I, American political and business leaders embraced isolationism - with severe consequences for the world. After World War II, they did the opposite - with very different results.
Today, the United States has a similarly crucial leadership role to play. There are purely practical reasons for this. The United States has the single largest economy in the world, a market with a big influence on the flow of world trade. It has the biggest research and scientific establishment by far. Since the demise of the Soviet Union, no other country features a comparable array of university research facilities, corporate industrial labs, and nonprofit think tanks. That combination of a huge economy and a scientific elite gives the United States the world's strongest military; the country can develop the weapons and pay the bills. For the next 15 years at the very least, America will be the preeminent military power. These reasons alone ensure that the United States, regardless of the intentions of its leaders, will have a huge influence on any future scenario. But the role of the United States is more involved, more complicated than that.
The United States is the great innovator nation, the incubator of new ideas. Just as the new technologies of the early Industrial Revolution were born in England, the vast majority of innovations in the computer and telecommunications fields are happening now in the United States. Americans are fundamentally shaping the core technologies and infrastructure that will be at the foundation of the 21st century. Partly because of that, the US is the first country to transition to the new economy. American corporations are the first to adopt the new technologies and adapt to the changing economic realities. As a nation, the United States is figuring out how to finesse the new model of high economic growth driven by new technologies. The American people are feeling the first social and cultural effects. And the government is the first to come under the strain to change. The United States is paving the way for other developed nations and, eventually, the rest of the nations of the world.
Even more important, the United States serves as steward of the idea of an open society. The US is home to the core economic and political values that emerged from the 20th century - the free-market economy and democracy. But the idea of an open society is broader than that. Americans believe in the free flow of ideas, products, and people. Historically, this has taken the form of protecting speech, promoting trade, and welcoming immigrants. With the coming of a wired, global society, the concept of openness has never been more important. It's the linchpin that will make the new world work.
In a nutshell, the key formula for the coming age is this: Open, good. Closed, bad. Tattoo it on your forehead. Apply it to technology standards, to business strategies, to philosophies of life. It's the winning concept for individuals, for nations, for the global community in the years ahead. If the world takes the closed route, it starts a vicious circle: Nations turn inward. The world fragments into isolated blocs. This strengthens traditionalists and leads to rigidity of thought. This stagnates the economy and brings increasing poverty. This leads to conflicts and increasing intolerance, which promotes an even more closed society and a more fragmented world. If, on the other hand, the world adopts the open model, then a much different, virtuous circle begins: Open societies turn outward and strive to integrate into the world. This openness to change and exposure to new ideas leads to innovation and progress. This brings rising affluence and a decrease in poverty. This leads to growing tolerance and appreciation of diversity, which promotes a more open society and a more highly integrated world.

Peter Schwartz (schwartz@gbn.org) is cofounder and chair of Global Business Network and author of The Art of the Long View. Peter Leyden (leyden@wired.com) is a features editor at Wired.