Singaporean economy in for a hairy time

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 July, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 July, 2002, 12:00am

An increase in the number of expatriates with long, greasy hair wandering through Singapore does not indicate that the island state is undergoing a heavy-metal music revival but that the economy is in bad shape, according to Standard & Poor's.

In its Asia Market Insight - Daily View, the United States ratings agency said that a number of small signs have revealed why there is a sense of economic gloom hanging over the general population.

In explanation, the author of the report shies away from the tried and tested economic criteria such as gross domestic product, consumer prices, interest rates and unemployment figures, and instead turns to his hairdresser.

'My haircutter (I don't think we call them barbers any more and I don't rate a stylist) told me that in 30 years in the business this is the first time that she has felt that the overall economy is impacting [on] her,' said the author.

'A lot of her customers are American, British and German expats and a lot of them have gone home (or they stopped getting their hair cut).'

The author goes on to say that a friend at the American Club had confirmed that membership was down.

The drop is the first since 1985-86.

Earlier this week The Straits Times featured a call from Lee Kuan Yew to 'snap out of the gloom'.

Perhaps this is the prelude to a call from the senior minister to 'get your hair cut, you hippy'.

Whodunnit: Certain to surpass the oversubscription to the BoC Hong Kong (Holdings) IPO are sales of tickets to a murder-mystery evening being organised by a club owned by Pacific Century CyberWorks chairman Richard Li Tzar-kai.

INETS in Wan Chai was launched as a private club where I-professionals could meet, greet and network.

The HK$1,888-a-year club has been feeling the pinch recently, with Hong Kong's IT professionals currently consisting of a second-hand calculator salesman sitting outside the North Point MTR station.

In a bid to balance the books the club is offering events to the public. The murder-mystery event will allow diners the opportunity to play at detectives for the evening.

However, Lai See believes we have already solved the mystery.

Ten thousands PCCW shareholders in Chuang's Enterprise Building, Wan Chai, on August 16 - with the lap-top.

Bit of bull: It is not just the world's share markets that are reversing an established trend these days, with one of Hong Kong's better known bears deciding that it is time for a bit of bull.

Adviser, fund manager, publisher and snow-boarder Marc Faber has been dubbed Dr Doom for some of his more famous bearish calls.

Mr Faber - who produces the newsletter The Gloom Boom & Doom Report - is also notorious for his downbeat views on the United States economy.

'Everybody is so bullish about the US and bearish about Asia. My view would be that you should do the opposite and invest in Asia, not in the US,' he said in an interview with this newspaper in December last year.

'After being bullish and wrong for this year, the strategists at big investment banks are bullish once again in their outlooks for the US next year. It does not stack up.'

However, Mr Faber - who when not travelling is now based in Chiang Mai, Thailand - looks like he may now be dancing to a different tune.

On July 8, in a column on financial Web site Quamnet, the Swiss financial whizz - who once declined to buy a property from author Danielle Steele for US$50,000 that today would fetch up to US$10 million - was upbeat on the US.

'Based on [a] seasonal pattern of strength and weakness, which implies strength in July, combined with the oversold position we are now in, I am near term actually quite positive for US equities,' Mr Faber wrote.

A good call perhaps, as the S&P 500 has fallen a further 9.5 per cent since his U-turn.

Graphic: whee24gbz