The Year of the Ox starts Jan. 26. An "ox," according to Webster's New World College Dictionary (4th edition), is "esp., a castrated, domesticated bull (Bos taurus), used as a draft animal."
The year of the castrated bull seems appropriate given our expectations for 2009.
But some are still hoping for a virily bullish year in the stock markets. South Korea's Financial Services Commission chairman, Jun Kwang-Woo, second right, adorns a bull with a crown of flowers to celebrate the 2009 opening of the stock market at the Korea Exchange (KRX) in Seoul on Jan. 2.
Meanwhile, the folks at the Tokyo Stock Exchange seem to have the ox theme down. Kimono-clad women and a cuddly, cartoon-like ox celebrate the first day of 2009 trading today, Jan. 5.
For much of late 2007, Belgium looked like it was on the verge of being split in two as Flemish and Wallonian politicians struggled to form a government that would preserve national unity. At one point, erstwhile Prime Minister Yves Leterme even said that there was nothing holding the country together but "the king, the football team, some beers."
Now, Leterme has been forced to step down, along with his entire government, not because of nationalist sentiment, but because of an old-fashioned banking scandal. Leterme and his ministers are accused of applying undue pressure to push through a bargain-basement sale of Belgium's partially-nationalized bank Fortis to the French bank BNP Paribas, at the expense of Belgian workers and shareholders. King Albert is now struggling to find a prime minister who is both untainted by "Fortisgate" and capable of keeping the fragile Flemish-Walloon coalition intact. No easy task.
The financial crisis and government responses seem to be having interesting effects on nationalist sentiment in Europe. In Scotland, nationalist parties saw their cause set way back by the UK government's massive bailouts of Scottish banks, which made the idea of Scottish self-sufficiency look patently ridiculous. In Belgium, it seems like Flemish nationalists could be emboldened by the central government's failure and will likely continue to make the case that the poorer French-speaking Wallonia is a drag on the national economy. This could make keeping the place intact all the more challenging.
Via Japan Probe, a Hilton in Osaka is offering guests a chance to use the yen's rise against the dollar to their advantage. The price in yen "$80 party" package fluctuates daily based on exchange rates. So if you reserve a party, expecting the value of the dollar to stay low, you can get a pretty good deal.
Here's what you get for your money (in Japanese):
This month marks the 30-year anniversary of economic reforms launched by late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping that have turned China today into one of the most powerful countries in the world. In late 1991, the New York Times reported that Deng told China's Economic Daily:
In the end, convincing those who do not believe in socialism will depend on our nation's development. If we can reach a comfortable standard of living by the end of this century [the 20th], then that will wake them up a bit. And in the next century [the 21th], when we as a socialist country join the middle ranks of the developed nations, that will help to convince them. Most of these people will genuinely see that they were mistaken.
Fast-forward to 2008: China has been doing astoundingly well, but people in developed countries aren't exactly admitting to being mistaken about socialism. Rather, "communist" China has learned how to play the capitalist game -- well.
To see a timeline of China's economic advances during the past three decades, check out FP's latest photo essay, "China's 30 Years of Economic Overdrive."
AFP/Getty Images, China Photos/Getty Images
Ecuador, surely the first of many countries to do so in the months ahead, is defaulting on its debt. And who does President Rafael Correa blame for this parlous state of affairs? The lenders, whom he calls "monsters" whose loans are "obviously immoral and illegitimate."
In any case, here's a possible side effect of Ecuador's default: prices of bananas may go up. Seriously -- Ecuador is literally a banana republic, and agriculture is a business fueled by credit. And after this move by Correa, it's going to be awfully expensive to borrow money in Quito.
UPDATE: Felix Salmon says the default is "idiotic":
In the annals of idiotic political decisions, today's default by Ecuador has to rank pretty high. [...] This debt has already been restructured twice, and there's zero chance that bondholders will agree to it being restructured a third time. They know that Ecuador has the ability to pay, and they don't like being bullied.
Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Political scientist Gustavo Coronel, an oil expert and former member of the Venezuelan congress, believes the plummeting petroleum payouts will seal the fate of Hugo Chávez's Bolivarian dreams, thanks to the Venezuelan leader's habitual failure to invest in any form of state infrastructure.
Speaking at the Andes colloquium organized by the George Washington University and the Strategic Studies Insitute, Coronel explained just how deep mismanagement runs within the state-run oil sector. This threw me for a bit of a loop:
"Under Chávez the company [PDVSA] has lost about 500,000 barrels per day of production capacity, which amounts to a loss of income of about $30 to $50 million a day, depending on the price."Ouch. Today, a barrel of crude petroleum is at a mere $39 on the Venezuelan market, down from soaring highs of roughly $145 earlier in 2008. To Coronel, this reality merely exacerbates the "termites" that have been eating the regime from within.
Having taken these steps, Coronel predicts Chávez
will not only lose a constitutional referendum that would permit indefinite
reelection -- similar to the failed attempt to ratify the country's constitution by popular vote in December 2007 -- but also fizzle well before his current term runs out in 2012.
Whenever he's suffered setbacks in the past, Chávez has always promised to accept the situation 'Por ahora' (For now). Save a petro rally, por ahora might be a while.
Photo: JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images
A very sad story from the Washington Post's Philip Pan:
[W]hen he heard radio ads two years ago encouraging citizens to invest in the initial public offerings of state-owned companies, Sisoyev lined up to buy shares, first in the oil-and-gas giant Rosneft and a year later in the nation's second-largest bank, VTB.
Sisoyev had suffered in Russia's rocky transition to capitalism, but the "people's IPOs," as they were billed by the Kremlin, seemed different. Then-President Vladimir Putin endorsed the stock offerings, presenting them as a chance for ordinary Russians -- and not just the wealthy -- to own a piece of the booming economy.
Now, as Russia confronts its worst economic crisis in a decade, the value of Sisoyev's shares has plummeted, wiping out most of his life savings. At 65, he is working as a part-time security guard because food prices are climbing faster than his meager pension.[...] "I believed in the state, especially under Putin, so I bought shares," said Sisoyev, a soft-spoken man with white hair and a soldier's posture. "Now I don't believe in anything."
As predicted, Russia's financial crisis is starting to hit main street and it's going to take more than emergency loans to oligarchs to keep the public's trust.
Looking for a safe harbor to park your cash? Invest in Korean ramen. Bloomberg:
[South Korea's] economic woes are helping sales of instant noodles called "ramyeon," which typically cost about 68 cents a pot. Sales rose 38 percent in October compared with the same period last year, according to the 24-hour convenience store chain FamilyMart. Shares of Nong Shim, which makes the nation's best-selling brand of ramyeon, gained 17 percent in the past month.
Sales of cigarettes and condoms are up, too.
Over at Slate, CFR's Michael Levi explains one big reason why the UN climate talks currently under way in Poznan, Poland have hit the skids. The UN climate change regime apportions different levels of responsibility to rich and poor countries, but the way it makes that distinction if very odd:
The United Nations first divvied up the developed and developing world for climate talks in 1992, with the goal of using that split to apportion responsibilities for cutting emissions. But distinctions that once made sense are no longer tenable. Ukraine, for example, is considered rich. In 1992, it was reflexively lumped together with the countries that once comprised the powerful Soviet Union; by 2007, its citizens had fallen to 97th richest in the world by GDP per person. (All wealth figures cited here are from The CIA World Factbook.) At the same time, Singapore (now the sixth-richest nation in the world) was designated as poor. Unless the climate regime overhauls its wealth labels, a country like Singapore could reap the benefits of financial aid, while Ukraine would be burdened with emissions caps. Needless to say, that kind of nonsensical setup won't get you very far in international talks. [...]
The resulting deal had its flaws then. It makes absolutely no sense today. Belarus, for example, is lumped together with the rich countries, despite a GDP per person of about $10,000. As a result, it has an emissions cap like those in place for Europe and Japan. Kuwait, meanwhile, is considered poor. That means the oil-rich emirate is spared any obligations, despite the fact that its residents are about five times wealthier than the Belarussia.
Not surprisingly, the "poor" countries aren't in much of a hurry to change this set-up. Any regulatory system that has Singapore crying poverty is probably in need of reform.
"Our British friends are now cutting their value-added tax. We have no idea how much of that stores will pass on to customers. Are you really going to buy a DVD player because it now costs £39.10 instead of £39.90? All this will do is raise Britain’s debt to a level that will take a whole generation to work off.
"The same people who would never touch deficit spending are now tossing around billions. The switch from decades of supply-side politics all the way to a crass Keynesianism is breathtaking."
Steinbrück may be forced to hold his nose when German bankers, ministers, and economists meet next week to discuss their own stimulus measures. Chancellor Angela Merkel is said to be moving closer to the British position.
When we put together our list of the worst predictions of 2008, one strong contender was the Economist's assertion from last March that "decoupling is no myth. Indeed, it may yet save the world economy." (It was eventually edged out by the same magazine's early enthusiastic praise for Kenya's election.) Paul Krugman's already skewered the decoupling editorial, which argued that developing economies had become self-sufficient enough that they would be able to weather the decrease in demand for imports from the developed world.
Import demand is projected to decline by 3.4 percent in high-income countries during 2009, while net private debt and equity flows to developing countries are projected to decline from $1 trillion in 2007 to about $530 billion in 2009, or from 7.7 to 3 percent of developing-country GDP.
As a result, investment growth in developing countries is projected to slow dramatically, rising only 3.5 percent in middle-income countries, compared with a 13.2 percent increase in 2007.
I'm hoping I'll be able to dust this report off for next year's worst predictions list but I kind of doubt it. Plus, Daniel Drezner thinks the World Bank is being way too optimistic.
NPR has an interesting piece on China's recent moves to prop up small coastal export businesses who are hurting with the slowdown in demand from the United States this holiday season:
Official statistics show that thousands of factories in Guangdong province have gone bankrupt this year. In the latest flare-up of unrest, laid off toy factory workers protested in Dongguan on Nov. 25, flipping police cars and smashing company offices.
This has Beijing worried. It has decided to protect exports by increasing export tax rebates and halting the three-year-long appreciation of China's currency against the dollar. And local governments in the delta have used billions of dollars to bail out small and medium enterprises.
China's top economic planner, National Development and Reform Commission Director Zhang Ping, defended the bailouts at a recent press conference.
"Helping these companies get through their current difficulties is entirely necessary and appropriate," Zhang said. "Otherwise, if too many factories go bankrupt, it will lead to many workers losing their jobs, and could increase social tensions and unrest."
On the other hand, Marketwatch reports that the country's growing golf sector was not so lucky:
Mission Hills, the self-proclaimed biggest golf club on Earth and recent host of the World Cup of Golf event, is sacking 2,000 employees, or 20% of its staff, according to a recent Bloomberg news report.
Yes, that's right. A golf course had 10,000 employees. At what point could a golf course be "too big to fail"?
(Hat tip: China Digital Times)
Decisions concerning which securities to buy or sell on Russian markets are, for the most part, made abroad. Moreover, the criteria by which these decisions are made have very little connection to the actual state of our economy or Russian companies... This is some kind of ugly thing, absolutely unfair."
Putin went on to say that Russia is in no way planning to "limit the activities of foreign capital in the Russian stock market" but was working on a "comprehensive plan" to build a Russian investor class and make the country less vulnerable to economic downturns.
Yes, Vladimir Vladimirovich, attracting international investment without any risk from international markets certainly would be nice.
Bloomberg reports that the latest prophecy from Jim O'Neill, the Goldman Sachs economist who coined the term "BRIC countries" (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), is that "the BRIC consumer is going to rescue the world." He believes that emerging economies are well-positioned to pick up the slack in consumer demand during this downturn, citing, for instance, the spending power of the Chinese consumer and recent economic stimulus measures by the Chinese government.
This is a pretty bold thing to say. While it's encouraging to see that Chinese retail sales were up 22 percent in October, we've yet to see how China's economic slowdown will flow through to the wallets of Chinese consumer. As I discussed a few weeks ago, it doesn't seem clear that China's economic stimulus plan even seeks to boost consumer demand. Over in Russia, we don't yet have a sense of how plummeting oil prices will affect economic growth as a whole, and, as a consequence, we don't know how consumers will fare. The same uncertainty holds for consumers in Brazil and India, as investors have fled emerging markets for safe havens like the dollar and, in doing so, weakening those economies.
In the long run, the conventional wisdom may hold that two billion-plus people in China and India alone means more than four billion socks to sell, but consumer spending could grow more muted in those parts of the world too in coming months.
Simone Wallmeyer, the face of the global financial crisis, looks like she's in a slightly better mood today:
Stock brokers go about their business at the stock exchange in the central German city of Frankfurt/M. on November 24, 2008. The DAX reacted positively to the US government's promise to guarantee hundreds of billions of dollars of the banking giant Citigroup's debt in a massive new bailout ahead of new global moves to lift the world economy.
Last time we checked in with the reliably buffoonish Russian ultra-nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, he was engaging in fisticuffs with his political rivals on live TV. But despite his surly temperment, corruption, and overt racism, Zhirinovsky's might still mean well after all. Check out the personal finance advice he gave in an interview with RIA-Novosti (via Johnson's Russia List):
"I have been thrifty. I am not having my hair cut. My hair has already grown longer than ever. I only shave every other day. I eat very little. I never go out. I never invite anyone over to my place. I don't buy presents for anyone and I am asking people not to buy anything for me. I am not travelling anywhere," he said.
Zhirinovskiy recommended "saving reasonably" and said that this would result in reduced spending. He made several suggestions: "There is no need to buy new clothes. They can be swapped with others. I am prepared to give a couple of suits to someone, several pairs of shoes, a wristwatch. Why go shopping? Turn to each other to get what you would otherwise have to get from a shop."
Zhirinovskiy also said there was no need to spend money on personal hygiene products because "all these are chemical and hazardous". Fewer newspapers should be bought because the same newspaper can be shared "by all next-door neighbours" or perhaps "the entire block", he continued.
"As for Christmas celebrations, there is no need to travel abroad or to go to a restaurant. Stay in Moscow, stay at home or invite yourself over to someone else's place."
Something tells me Zhirinovsky's friends might not be so welcoming when he shows up uninvited to their Christmas party without having used personal hygiene products for several weeks.
Photo: Epsilon/Getty Images
Barack Obama, unfortunately, has a lousy record on ethanol subsidies. But now that he is no longer representing a corn state, perhaps he will listen to his new economic advisor, Larry Summers:
Appropriate steps include reform of misguided ethanol subsidies that distort grain markets to minimal environmental benefit, allowing farm land now being conserved to be planted[.]"
Curious about what's going on in the photograph above? To find out, check out FP's latest photo essay, "Gaza's (Literal) Underground Economy."
Photo: Abid Katib/Getty Images
Bloomberg does the math on what the U.S. federal government has committed so far for various bailout/rescue efforts:
The U.S. government is prepared to lend more than $7.4 trillion on behalf of American taxpayers, or half the value of everything produced in the nation last year, to rescue the financial system since the credit markets seized up 15 months ago. [...]
The money that’s been pledged is equivalent to $24,000 for every man, woman and child in the country. It’s nine times what the U.S. has spent so far on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Congressional Budget Office figures. It could pay off more than half the country’s mortgages.
UPDATE: Bloomberg now saying the correct figure is $7.7 trillion.
The Wall Street Journal has a banner reporting that Tim Geithner will be Barack Obama's Treasury Secretary. And CNN says, "Wall Street rallies on reports that Obama will tap NY Fed President Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary. Dow jumps 260 points."
I'll update as the news comes in.
New York Federal Reserve Bank President Timothy J. Geithner is to be nominated as President-elect Barack Obama's Treasury secretary, according to a person close to the transition process.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation began calling Geithner confidants this week, starting a vetting process of getting the economist and Fed veteran in place almost as soon as Mr. Obama is inaugurated the 44th president.
Mr. Obama plans to introduce his entire economic team early next week, hoping to sooth the roiling financial markets and answer rising pressure on the president-elect to become more involved.
Here's more from the WSJ:
Good news for those of you who answered "China" on question 7 of the current FP Quiz: Your instincts are now correct. At the time of publication, U.S. Treasury data still showed that Japan held the most U.S. treasuries of any country. But new figures reveal that China has now taken the top spot. China increased its holdings to $585 billion in September, compared with $541.4 billion in August. Meanwhile, Japan shaved its holdings from a high of $600.7 billion in March of this year down to $571.4 billion in September.
The October figures will be even more interesting, though. Aside from the $585 billion, China was holding some $400 billion in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac debt. With the acquisition of the two mortgage lenders by Hank Paulson, American Taxpayers, et al., China announced it would decrease its dollar holdings to diversify its foreign reserve portfolio. How much did China help fund the $700 billion TARP program? We'll know soon.
China Photos/Getty Images
It's become a cliché, but I think we can now officially say that the financial crisis has been worse than 9/11 for the United States:
The Commerce Department said Friday that retail sales fell by 2.8 percent last month, surpassing the old mark of a 2.65 percent drop in November 2001 in the wake of the terrorist attacks that year.
Back in October, al Qaeda-linked groups were taking credit for getting the United States into a quagmire that had "exhausted its resources and bankrupted its economy." That's rank economic illiteracy -- America's current woes have a lot more to do with subprime mortgages than overextension abroad. If anything, credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations have proven to be the true weapons of mass destruction of our age.
On Sunday, China announced a humongous 4 trillion yuan ($586 billion) economic stimulus package to bolster its slowing economy, but many are already questioning how effective the plan will be, both for China and for the world.
The package, which includes spending on low-cost housing and infrastructure projects and new tax deductions for companies, comes at a cost equivalent to 15 percent of China's current GDP. (For comparison, the U.S. Treasury Department's $700 billion bailout plan is about 5 percent of U.S. GDP.)
Analysts have since pointed out, however, that not all of the spending is new. For instance, the 4 trillion yuan price tag includes funds already allocated for rebuilding after this year's earthquakes in southwestern China. Moreover, the funds will be disbursed over the next two years. Given the lag time between undertaking new projects and realizing their economic benefits, this may not be swift enough to prevent GDP growth from dipping below 8 percent -- which some analysts says is the minimum growth rate needed to absorb the millions of rural workers entering the work force. Slower growth could cause unrest and undermine the Communist Party's control.
Even if China's stimulus package does manage to lift the Chinese economy, will that benefit the United States? Some machinery manufacturers may be relieved to find new sales in China and oil companies may be pleased to see Chinese demand propping up oil prices, but much of China's spending will probably go toward procuring raw materials from developing countries for projects such as highways and airports. Given that consumer spending accounts for more than two thirds of U.S. economic activity, Chinese infrastructure spending is unlikely to get the American growth machine going again.
The most magnanimous gesture China could make would be to invest a portion of its estimated $1.9 trillion in U.S. currency reserves back into the United States, perhaps to spur its own badly needed round of infrastructure spending. That's one gift it'd be nice to see under the Christmas tree this year, but the chances seem pretty slim. It looks like Americans will have to rely on their own lawmakers for that shot in the arm.
Photo: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images
The International Energy Agency's upcoming World Energy Outlook predicts that oil prices, which have sunk to nearly $60 per barrel, will likely rise once again to above $100 a barrel when the world economy rebounds. By 2030, the report estimates that the prices could exceed $200.
This price increase will be driven primarily by a decline in the supply of oil, as production from the world's older oil fields begins to slow. In order to counter this decline in production and provide for the growing demand in developing countries, the IEA estimates that oil companies will have to invest $350 billion each year until 2030 to develop new fields and improve their equipment. Naturally, that cost will be passed on to the consumer.
I'm reminded of Tony Soprano's famous advice to buy real estate: "Because God's not making any more of it." That maxim may not be working out so well these days when it comes to real estate in particular, but investors should certainly keep it in mind when it comes to oil.
Photo: YASSER AL-ZAYYAT/AFP/Getty Images
Gloomy forecasts from the IMF today: Developed economies will shrink by 0.3 percent next year, the first collective contraction since 1945.
More analysis from the WSJ's economics blog:
The U.S. forecast was cut to 1.4% growth this year and a 0.7% contraction in 2009, down from last month’s estimates for growth rates of 1.6% in 2008 and 0.1% in 2009.
The euro area is expected to grow 1.2% this year and contract 0.5% next, compared with the previous forecast for growth of 1.3% in 2008 and 0.2% in 2009.
Japan’s estimate was trimmed to 0.5% growth this year and a 0.2% contraction next, compared with the previous estimate for growth of 0.7% in 2008 and 0.5% in 2009.
Forecasts for emerging and developing economies were adjusted even more sharply, with the 2008 growth estimate falling to 6.6% from 6.9% and the 2009 forecast dropping to 5.1% from 6.1%.
There's a surge going on in Iraq, but this one doesn't involve troops. The Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX) is not only remaining healthy amid the global financial crisis, but its index has been surging in value. The ISX index has risen 44 percent this year, from 34.59 points at the end of December 2007 to 49.873 today. One reason: The tiny stock exchange is disconnected from the global financial network.
The ISX is also quite low tech. The photo shows Iraqi traders updating share prices on a white board at the ISX in Baghdad on Oct. 30.
Among other topics, Medvedev intends to address the international financial crisis, which he says began "in the United States of America and which, unfortunately, has spread throughout the world and affected almost all countries."
If his previous comments are any indication, Medvedev can be expected to take a hard anti-American line when discussing the global economic situation. The Russian government's opponents may see the crisis as an opening, but the Kremlin message machine has been working overtime to portray it as a foreign problem and an opportunity for Russia. It should also be interesting to see if Medvedev will mention the newly elected U.S. president in the speech.
As David Leonhardt puts it, "The longest American shopping spree on record is over." The U.S. government released its estimate of the country's third-quarter GDP growth this morning, and the news is grim, but not terrible: The economy contracted by 0.3 percent over the summer, driven largely by a plunge in consumer spending. The falloff in GDP was slightly lower than expected.
What can be particularly confusing is that these sorts of indicators tend to lag what is happening at any given point in time. This summer, for instance, consumers were probably cutting back as oil prices skyrocketed to nearly $150 a barrel (good news for ExxonMobil). Now, Americans' gas bills are getting cheaper, but they're more worried these days about frozen salaries, layoffs and their access to credit. Out of the frying pan and into the fire?
When economic times get tough, sounding out of touch on pocketbook issues can debilitate even the most nimble politician. Just ask Taro Aso. The Japanese prime minister was already being pilloried as an elitist over his hotel bar tab and his epicurean tastes. So you'd think he'd be extra careful to avoid a pocketbook gaffe, right?
Wrong. Now, Aso has bungled a key question for any Japanese politician: What's the price of a cup of instant noodles?
Aso said: 'I think it used to be very cheap, but now it costs around 400 yen (4.12 dollars), doesn't it?'
An opposition lawmaker immediately retorted that a cup of instant noodles -- popular with Japanese on a tight budget -- actually costs around 170 yen.
Aso admitted with a wry smile: "I don't buy them myself these days."
Granted, it's better to err on the high side in making these sorts of seat-of-the-pants estimates. But what's with the gratuitous remark there at the end? It's almost like he's trying to give the opposition a boost.
As for this ill-timed photo op from earlier today, it's just icing on the cake:
Forget the slopes of Vermont this winter. How about the French Alps? As the economic outlook in Europe continues to dim, the euro has experienced a steep selloff. Its value has slid more than 12 percent in the last month alone, placing it at a relatively affordable $1.26 as of today. Just a few months ago, the price was closer to $1.60/euro.
On the flip side is a strengthening dollar. Oh wherefore, you ask. Who would put their money in the United States? Didn't the Americans get us into this economic mess in the first place? And their financial system is still bleeding money, after all. True, but as The Economist points out:
These reasons not to like the dollar are trumped by its enduring appeal as the world's reserve currency. Jittery investors want to be able to turn their assets to cash quickly and America’s bond markets are the most liquid in the world.
And there's an added advantage:
It's easier to acquire dollar funding, which can be swapped into the desired currency of choice rather than source a willing lender of that currency in the first place," writes Andrew Wilkinson, senior market analyst at Interactive [Brokers].
So whether investors want to hoard U.S. Treasurys like an acorn stash for tough times or ultimately deploy the money elsewhere, U.S. dollars have seemed like a good way to go. As a result, T-bill prices have shot up, driving yields down.
Maybe Jay-Z's euro-fab predictions were a little premature? At the same time, many cheeky bloggers out there have recently pointed out that insurance premiums on U.S. government debt have been higher than premiums on McDonald's debt. Translation: McDonalds is more credit-worthy than the United States? Probably not. Just another quirk of the markets, thanks to speculators. To be safe though, let's all grab a Royal with Cheese and spend our bucks on newly cheap European ski weekends. Who's with me?
Photo: FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images
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