E Jack And Guenter

Our old friend and tennis partner Jack Suhl, who retired to the Algarve, was a friend and a bit of an alibi for Guenter Grass, a better known novelist than Jack's wife, Leonore Suhl, an American who also wrote in German. Jack fled Germany in 1937 for the US because he was Jewish by heritage if not belief. He attended George Washington High School in “The 4th Reich” (Washington Heights, at the northern end of Manhattan) but could not afford college. He was not drafted because of some physical impediment.

After he became a wealthy businessman, Jack financed the education of both of his younger brothers, a professor and an engineer respectively. He then sold his packaging business and moved to Portugal where he got his German nationality restored.

It was only after his friend Jack died in 2007 that Grass revealed that he had been a member of the Waffen SS. Jack's ashes were placed in the crypt of the NYC Episcopalian Cathedral of St. John the Divine where Leonore (a non-Jew who emigrated to the US only after World War II) can lie beside him eventually.

Grass now joins Jack in whatever heaven agnostics go to, where they can discuss their newly divergent past.

The Hang Seng index is up by 10%, as Chinese investors buy through the link between Shanghai and Hong Kong. Shanghai was up about 2.2%. The big play is on Hong Kong.

But Chinese stock punters are buying only a limited number of stocks, usually ones they are already familiar with at home. They are eager to front-run the country's institutional investors by moving into Hong Kong while playing on their hope that China will add new stimulus measures to get the local economy to grow more.

Recent indicators are that Chinese growth is lagging. The latest figures on Chinese bank loans and money supply seem to herald slower growth. Its exports fell 15% last month and its import 12.7%, both harbingers of trouble.

But can the Beijing bureaucrats really get the Chinese aircraft carrier economy to change direction all on their own using monetary spigots? Will they be able to boost the GNP without a renewed bubble building? Will they be able to control the monetary spigot to get money to flow into productive investment rather than sink into regional money pits?

Does quantitative easing work in a command economy? Can a central bank make conservative Chinese spend?

I do not have the answer. I am not even sure that China has the answer.

The impact of Chinese stock buying goes well beyond China. It explains the boosted ruble in an economy many Chinese merchants and traders are familiar with. It helps explain why the Kospi, the South Korean stock index, is rising.

It may even explain some of the rise of our own US dollar despite the greenback being overvalued by most measures (including potential corporate profits.) The reason: big Chinese individual investors (not the little folk heading for Hong Kong) are buying boltholes in the US for their student children and themselves if they get into trouble with the modestly reformist regime over corruption and ill-got wealth.

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