A Whiff of Y2K Smoke?

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Are you looking in the right places for signs of y2k?

My premise is that Y2k has nothing to do with system failures - software or embedded. Theperception that problems will occur and the reaction bypeople to that perception is y2k. In particular, people who make financial decisions in anticipation of perceived problems within companies and financial institutions. I expect actual system failures and the millennium rollover will occurafter the economic momentum of y2k has begun.

Here are two new signs that I see as "whiffs of y2k smoke."

1) The interbank rate (the interest rate banks charge each other) between U.S., Japanese and European banks has jumped this month for loans extending into January, 2000. As of today, a nine-month loan costs unusually more than an eight month loan.

The reason: Regardless of public statements, bankers (people) are anticipating system failures that could delay these loan payments.

2) The Bank for International Settlements will meet next month to propose that major nation governments suspend operations of all private banks for five days during the rollover.

The reason: Regardless of public statements, bankers and global financial leaders are anticipating system failures that could undermine confidence in global financial transactions. I interpreted Alan Greenspan's statement last year that "99% is not good enough..." had nothing to do with technology, and everything to do with confidence. Global banking and finance operates on faith alone.

Bankers and insurance companies are masters of actuarial risks. They're tipping their hand and displaying their anxiety. The reason "Follow the money," is an old saying is because it's true. I expect theperceptionof financial and economic risks will escalate through September. After September, I expect the shakey global economy (held up only by 'irrational exuberance' in the NYSE and U.S. consumption) will be on a "hair trigger."

Following the debates on the myriad of theoretical (and sometimes arcane) possibilities of system failures is entertaining. As are the analyses of the nuances of public statements. What actually happens may be less important than what money managers perceive will happen. I think I'll stick with following the money to look for the signs of y2k.

-- PNG (png@gol.com), April 26, 1999



PNGs explanation is reflected in the one or two cases where really good earthquake predictions were available. Loss of life was reduced but the economic impact of people leaving and moving money out was substantial. In fact as significant as the losses from the actual event.

So far as I know there is no global precedent to Y2K as a known event with possible negative consequences. (Be glad to hear of a reference.)

As I have said before the early warnings are there:

no insurance for Y2K risks, watch the travel industry.

butterfly share market, watch the technology/internet stocks.

commodity price shakedowns, watch for stock piling raw materials, oil price rises and wool price rises. Coffee is another indicator for me.

political uncertainty at new levels, see a move to the right.

the dogs of war are heard and are biting vulnerable populations.

I have no prediction as to when things will reposition. Could happen any time from here on in.

Good Luck

-- Bob Barbour (r.barbour@waikato.ac.nz), April 26, 1999.

One thing I've not seen yet - when "Wall Street" (and other markets) "Get It" - most likely at three levels (?) as different observers learn/follow the crowd.

when the insiders and professional planners understand, and move funds to "security" (bonds ?);

when the semi-pro's and "guru's" understand, this probably includes the institutional investors

when the advice sheets, newspapers, and magazines understand - who then lead the "massed" public hwo reads them, then a day later when the greater volume of "follow the crowds" see large drops.

One key (to me at least) is that stock prices now based on what people will pay (due to 401K and IRA /insurance money) rather than what the company is worth, will be worth (based on earnings), or has earned.

But I think it will eventually recover too - for the same reason of excessive money chasing too few stocks.

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), April 26, 1999.


I think the savvy folks on Wall Street will start sniffing when GM and other large companies begin telling their non-compliant partners/vendors to "hit the road."

As to when, I'm not sure. Based on what I've gleaned so far, GM will start swinging in July.

-- Tim (pixmo@pixelquest.com), April 27, 1999.

Asked in another thread, and not answered:

"Tells us, PNG, what are the extent of your own preparations there in Japan?"

Interested to know.

-- --- (just@wondering.here), April 27, 1999.

Recently, Paul Milne was interviewed at his home by Fuji television for a three-part y2k series. Prior to the interview, he asked for my advice on the best way, both culturally and linguistically, to advise Japanese people to prepare. I sent him about 5 or 6 lines of Japanese he could use to speak directly to the viewers. He did a very good job with the language and accepted, without question, the advice on the content.

[ Paul Milne, away from internet postings, is unfailingly polite, courteous and a gentleman. He tailors his language to suit the audience in the hope that his message sinks in. He sincerely believes in the concept of self sufficiency and self reliance. He uses a confrontational style because Americans are basically confrontational and relish catchy, in-your-face, trash-talking phrases. To others, he'll use whatever words work for their culture. He's no dummy and it's not an ego thing. It's a message thing.

Gary North is another story...the questions or comments I've gotten from him are cold, rude or demanding- as if I owe him something.]

Anyway, the message Paul delivered was not to rely on the government to come to your rescue. The series turned out to be "a lighthearted look at y2k" kind of piece:

-- Some background info

-- Paul portayed as the stereotypical, overreacting westerner

-- A Japanese computer expert (face hidden and voice disguised) saying many companies still don't get it...and it's too late for them to do anything.

-- All delivered by a young, smiling reporter who did little comedy skits after some segments...the sky is falling kind of stuff.


My preparations are simple:

I'm concerned about the gas industry here. I'll have extra kerosene on hand for heating. Food is easy. This is the land of easy food and complete pre-packaged meals can be heated on top of the radial kerosene heater. Don't even need a can opener... all cans are pull-top type.

Can't worry about electricity. Nothing I can do about it anyway.

I, like most people in Japan, already have a cash reserve. Most people have at least 500,000 yen ($4,000) around the house somewhere (no joke). That's about one month's worth of cash. All bills are electronically deducted or payable at any convenience store or post office. If the point of sale network has problems or banks are late in deductions...not my problem. The Bank of Japan was the world's first central bank to publish a contingency plan. I hope we don't need it, but at this juncture, I expect some portion of it may have to be implemented. We'll see how things are around July and September.

Don't have a car. Don't need one and don't want one. Had one for a few years but happily gave it up. More trouble than they're worth here. (~$200/month just to park the stupid thing plus tolls, one bridge across Tokyo harbor costs $40 each way, gasoline at $3.50 + per gallon...all just to sit in traffic jams). Trains are more convenient, faster and all business travel is billed to customer. If the trains aren't running at full capacity...nothing I do about it anyway.

More concerned about my wife's family. My mother-in-law is probably the only Japanese person I know who has already prepared for her family, including her parents, in a quiet way. They don't realize why she's doing it ...she doesn't want to worry them. Most Japanese already have a stash of emergency 'stuff' for earthquake preparation. The Kobe earthquake that killed over 5,000 people a few years ago made most people stock a little more.

When is the last time the U.S. suffered a loss of 5,000 people from a single incident? Was it the San Francisco earthquake? The U.S. really has been isolated from such things in recent times. There is a sense of resiliency here - Japan has been firebombed, nuked, earthquaked and typhooned, but always rebounds. I hope the past is indicative of the future.

Plan B is a tropical island...no phone, no pool, no pets.

-- PNG (png@gol.com), April 27, 1999.

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