International indicators

Oil and gold are in record territory and the U.S. stock market swooned yesterday, but on the theory that anecdotal evidence is sometimes more revealing than the statistical variety, I offer up the following tidbits for your consumption today.

First, we hear from India that if you want to visit the major tourist sites like the Taj Mahal, your dollars are no good :

For years the dollar was worth about 50 rupees and tourists visiting most sites in India were charged either $5 or 250 rupees.

with the dollar at a nine-year low against the rupee — falling 11
percent in 2007 alone and now hovering at around 39 rupees — that deal
has become a losing proposition for the tourism industry.

The Taj Mahal, India's famed white marble monument to love, which
had charged tourists $15 or 750 rupees, has been refusing to accept
dollars since November.

The move makes visits pricier for American tourists, who now have to shell out nearly $20.

And it's likely to get worse.

expect a slight appreciation of the rupee to continue, although it
won't be as dramatic as last year," said Agam Gupta, head of foreign
exchange trading at Standard Chartered Bank in India.

Meanwhile in that other rising Asian power, China, we have even more paradigm-shaking news:

The names of three banks and the word "stocks" beat "sex" to become
four of the most Googled words in China last year, according to a
Google China list seen on Thursday.

China Merchants Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and
China Construction Bank ranked second, third and sixth, according to a
list supplied by Google China on its website (…

China keeps a tight rein on Internet content and has launched several
campaigns to root out online pornography, perhaps one reason why "sex"
did not score so well.

True enough, but I suspect the Shanghai index's 96% rise last year might have something to do with it as well.  Come to think of it, if Beijing can keep a lid on online sex, and it keeps increasing reserve requirements for banks to keep inflation pressures under control, what's to say it can't keep a lid on online stock speculation to keep a bubble from getting out of control?