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Quest Means Business

Gold Still Hot; U.K. & Euro Rates Stay Low; 'World at World': Umbrellas & Barbers

Aired October 08, 2009 - 14:00   ET


RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good as gold. There is still nothing as hot as the world of commodities.

Buying time. Rates are staying low in Britain and Europe.

And you wouldn't want to save this one just for a rainy day. Your "World at Work," we take you to the man who makes the umbrellas.

I'm Richard Quest, it's not raining yet, because I mean business.

Good evening. Gold is pushing higher on its record-breaking run. A fresh bout of frenzied buying drove prices to a new all-time high this session. The precious metal just keeps on smashing through barriers. This is the third time in three days that gold has set new records.

At one point, gold was trading at more than $1,060 an ounce, $1,061.50. Analysts say it could go further still, and perhaps adding another $100 on today's price by the end of the year. The rampant price of gold is being echoed all over the metals market.

Copper prices, for instance, hit a two-week high at more than $6,200, and like gold, copper is benefiting from a weaker dollar, which makes it look relatively cheap.

Investors are also worried about supply after an incident at a major mine in Australia. Now, is there a squeeze going on in certain markets, because aluminum prices are also rising fast. It's currently trading at around $1,900 a ton.

Alcoa, the largest aluminum producer in America, made an unexpected profit. It also said demand will improve in the second half of the year.

Now, in just a moment we're going to be talking to Jim Boulden about this matter, what has actually been happening in the gold market. Gold, as we have seen, over recently has been exceptionally volatile.

JIM BOULDEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Exceptionally volatile, and it has got everything to do with the dollar. You mentioned it earlier, the dollar's weakness is what is driving people to gold. But this time it seems to be even more froth in the market. Commodities extraordinarily interesting right now.

And we all know that commodities like to move together in the same direction. And so, as you say, gold, copper, silver. And people are talking about the U.S. budget deficit. They see no seriousness coming out of Washington, saying that the budget deficit is going to be cut, so again, we're talking about huge debts in the U.S., and that scares people. And so they move into gold.

And thinking now, people are saying, look, hardly any interest in selling gold, but their might be people who think now this is a really good time to start selling.

QUEST: If we take that totality of gold in the market, and we start to look at the difference between the speculation and, for instance, the fundamental desire for things like copper, aluminum, you start to wonder what is going on.

BOULDEN: Yes, and it's interesting. It seems to be a bit more froth this time. Of course, we're getting to that season now where people are buying gold for jewelry, very big issue, of course, in Southeast Asia, so that's always very interesting.

At the same time, the industry, if you think about China and demand, it's growing again for these metals, that seems to be the way people are looking at it. They're talking about, you know, are we going to see more and more companies, industries buying these metals?

And then you have the people worrying about inflation. Goodness knows why they're worrying about inflation at this moment. But they do seem to be thinking...


BOULDEN: ... gold.

QUEST: Now, we're going to be talking about that later. We're going to be talking about that later. What inflation, people are saying.

Jim, where does it end and what are they saying? Because as I look at the gold situation, and I look at copper, and I can remember gold at $300 or $400 a ounce, where does it end?

BOULDEN: I have seen people say exactly the opposite. There are people saying, go up to $2,000. There are other people saying you sell into strength, we're into strength, this is the time...

QUEST: You sell into strength or you...

BOULDEN: Sell into strength, because you may not see this again for a very long time. So some people are thinking melt your gold, sell it, get out.


QUEST: What are you wearing that's gold?

BOULDEN: Right here, 14 carat.

QUEST: You didn't know that this morning.

BOULDEN: No, I had to ask my wife.

QUEST: You didn't know that. You didn't know that.


QUEST: How much -- no, don't answer that. Don't answer that.


QUEST: Jim, finally, if we look at the -- because what people want to know, those who have got gold at home, gold in the attic, gold in the basement, gold in the drawing room, gold in the desks, is it worth selling it? Do you get the price that you -- will you get...

BOULDEN: You will not get the price. And this is important. If you go onto the Web, you see all of these TV ads, "mail us your gold, mail us your gold," some people say you're going to get as low as 20 percent of the current value. One analysts says if you can get 85 percent of what you think it's worth, then it's worth selling. And that's pretty good, 85 percent.

QUEST: All right. Jim Boulden, many thanks, indeed.


QUEST: Thank you, Jim.

Now, rising metal prices are driving stocks higher around the region. It is all pretty much on the -- predicated by the commodity numbers. The Dow Jones Industrials up 74 points, up 1 percent. In Europe, mining stocks soared in London, Paris, Frankfurt, it was steel-makers like ArcelorMittal, ThyssenKrupp were amongst the biggest gainers. A decision late on interest rates on Thursday, and we'll talk about that in a moment.

Asia, the picture is equally positive. All of the world investors are feeling decidedly bullish. Now you need to know what all of this for currency numbers. The dollar at a 10-month low against the yen. Its weakest it has been against the euro in a year. The dollar is edging lower against the pound. That's the way things are looking now.

To bring you up-to-date on the news headlines, you have seen where your portfolio stands, let's have the market numbers for -- the news numbers, I should say. Fionnuala is at the news desk.

Good evening.


And the numbers from Afghanistan aren't good following a deadly suicide bombing there. The Taliban claiming responsibility for a blast in Kabul that killed 17 people and wounded more than 60. The car bomb detonated just outside the Indian embassy in what had been seen as a relatively secure part of the Afghan capital.

A scandal surrounding France's culture minister has become a cause celebre there. In a 2005 memoir, Frederic Mitterrand admitted to paying for sex with boys while on holiday in Thailand. In July, French President Nicolas Sarkozy called the book "courageous and talented." Fresh controversy over Mitterrand erupted after he recently defended the filmmaker Roman Polanski.

The Italian prime minister isn't defeated. He is defiant. Silvio Berlusconi says he has no intention of stepping down. Instead, he says he will go on TV and appear in the Milan courts to fight fraud and corruption charges. He calls the trials a farce and says Wednesday's high court ruling overturning an immunity law was politically motivated.

Handshakes and smiles cover serious differences between Israel's foreign minister and the U.S. Middle East envoy. Avigdor Lieberman says there is no chance of reaching a final accord with the Palestinians any time soon. George Mitchell is in Israel to try and restart peace talks. Mitchell also met the defense secretary, Ehud Barak. On Friday he sits down with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas.

And those are the headlines. Don't forget to tune in for more on the day's biggest stories, "WORLD ONE" at 8:30 p.m. London time, 9:30 in Central Europe. In the meantime, back to you, Richard, in the studio.

QUEST: We thank you, Fionnuala Sweeney.

Now, we've been talking about the -- what is happening in the world of commodities. Michael Gurka is a global strategist, Empower Global Funds. Michael joins me live from the CME in Chicago.

I'll have to raise me voice, can you hear me, Michael, first of all?


QUEST: Excellent. Michael, what we've seen in commodities, whether its gold, aluminum, or copper, the question is whether its speculative or is it sustainable as being fundamentals?

GURKA: Well, the question is very good as worded. First of all, this summer the speculative nature of commodities, in particular grains, and some of the metals out of Brazil started to rear its ugly head. And right now, as we get to these absolute levels, as you start looking at the pricings of gold, you're starting to realize that it could be sustainable.

The question is, is it something as a hedge where you're just long hyper-inflation here? Or is it actually an anti-equity trade where you're figuratively getting short the stock markets globally by buying gold. And I see right now that it is a sustainable situation, no question about it.

QUEST: I'm going to rephrase your -- my question, and your answer, is it a bubble? Is it a trend that is starting, Michael, that others are now plowing into? And you know as well as I do, when others plow in, it's time to get out.

GURKA: Well, when Main Street starts to join Wall Street, normally it's too late and that is the size and the speculation bubble rearing its head. But what I'm seeing right now is a very slow global recovery. I do see economies coming out of recession. And I do see gold prices continuing at these levels.

Case in point, another $9 bid today in front month gold. I easily could see this another 200 to 300 higher from here, not necessarily well into 2000, like some are looking, but I could see it just because the demand is there, and for the same reason central banks are starting to play this role, they've done it early and they will play again. I think price is not going to be a problem here.

Is there a difference between the demand for gold, which is hedged as a currency and as a funk against value and inflation, and say, copper, where the demand is much more predicated on economic growth in China, Southeast Asia, and a return to economic growth?

GURKA: I think there is a big difference there. One is a very practical use, not only through China being copper, but also its ties that it has always had to the housing market. Copper is a usable product, it is always going to be that way. And in relative terms, copper still is very cheap.

On the other side, gold being precious, and always used as an inflation hedge, has a lot more strength to it, but no, I would see copper start to go bid here, but there will be more volatility in copper than there will be in gold. And that the simple answer is this, liquidity, there is a lot more liquidity in the markets right now for copper than there is for gold.

QUEST: Investors look -- well, not investors, anybody looking at what is happening in the futures market might start to wonder whether the futures market has lost touch with reality. Yes, people are talking about a reduction in the dollar, a weakness in the dollar, and a corresponding rise in commodities.

But as I look at the dollar's weakness, it's not that weak, it's only off the tops.

GURKA: If you look at the dollar's weakness as the dollar index, again, it looks very bad. But if you want to look at the cross currencies and the dollar versus -- against individual countries such as the Sterling, the euro, and of course, the yen, I think the dollar has actually been holding levels very well.

And for competitive reasons, being cheap but not too cheap. If you want to take a scenario of where the metals markets are right now as a bubble versus where crude oil was a year or year-and-a-half ago when it went from 70 or 60 all the way up to 140, two different dynamics, two different measures, that's one of the reasons why gold has more upside here.

If you would see gold pull back into the lower 900s, I think the demand would increase dramatically, and it's not just price driven, I think it's clearly a demand scenario.

QUEST: Michael, you have a standing invitation to come on this program and talk about these matters. Thank you very much indeed. Lovely to hear you and to talk -- to discuss this in such detail.

GURKA: Thank you.

QUEST: Michael Gurka, talking great sense on the question of commodities, from Chicago.


QUEST: Two major interest rate decisions left European investors unmoved. The ECB president spoke after the announcement. We'll hear what he had to say. And of course, Bronwyn Curtis will be making extremely good sense for us all in just a moment.

This is CNN.


QUEST: Two interest rate decisions on Thursday, I could tease you tantalizingly and say there was something interesting about them, but there wasn't. The European Central Bank announced holding interest rates at a record low of 1 percent. After the announcement, ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet said there were signs the Eurozone economy was stabilizing, emphasizing a necessity, cautious and prudent policy.

On the other side of the English Channel, the Bank of England held its benchmark rates to record low, and it said its quantitative easing policy is under review, but it is on track.

Now when I say that the results of the two -- of these interest rates, they weren't exciting. I'm not being unduly rude, Bronwyn Curtis is with me, the head of global research at HSBC.

Bronwyn, I think you're going to have to help me out here. It wasn't expected. I mean, it was an expected decision.

BRONWYN CURTIS, HEAD OF GLOBAL RESEARCH, HSBC: It was an expected decision. What people look for is to see whether there is any light at the end of the tunnel. Are they being a little more positive? And I think they were a little more positive about the outlook than they have been in, you know, recent months and certainly recent years.

So it all looks a bit better. But compared to the euphoria about gold and commodities and Asia, I mean, it's really a very long haul. And we're not looking for rates to go up in the U.K. until, say, the middle of next year and in Europe, and perhaps September next year...


CURTIS: ... and in the U.S. maybe...


QUEST: I hear some suggest that rates may not go up next year at all. Now I think that's unlikely to happen, don't you? Because I mean, they're going to -- you know, what was it, one of them -- (INAUDIBLE) governor said, we're going to take it back as quickly as we gave it away.

CURTIS: Well, of course, what happens now in all of these countries, the U.S., Europe, and the U.K., is that tax policy and government spending and interest rates all have to be combined. They have to work together.

QUEST: But this is fascinating, because if there -- and we heard it at the opposition Tory Party conference, and we've heard it in Europe and we've heard it in the U.S., if there is a withdrawal of -- by cutting spending, if they cut spending, and they start to take away the monetary stimulus, the deflation -- not the deflation, the depressing effect that that has on economic activity, you're the expert.

CURTIS: Well, yes, and that's the problem. And what the Japanese would say, and have been talking to the other central bankers about is, really, don't do it too quickly. So I think they're probably likely to do it, wait and wait and wait. And the chance is then -- of course, then we have the issue about -- like we have in Asia, is there going to be inflation down the road?

QUEST: I'm going to bring the bell in here, because I think we need - - we need the bell, Bronwyn.


QUEST: Is there any inflation out there?

CURTIS: Well, I think there is inflation possibly in Asia. Now look, we have Asian growth ex-Japan, because you -- you know, there is no growth much there at all, we're above consensus, but over 7 percent next year. And we see what they call output gaps, you know, the potential growth against the actual growth, and when that closes, you get inflation. And we'd be there by the middle of next year.

QUEST: What about in the E.U., U.S., U.K., inflation?

CURTIS: Hard to see it. Although the U.K. numbers, interestingly enough, they're staying up a lot higher than they should be. And that's not good.

QUEST: Traditional. What about gold? We're back to gold.


QUEST: Back to gold, Bronwyn.

Do you give any credence -- we've talked about (INAUDIBLE) on this program. Do you give any credence to this idea that the -- it's an inflationary worry, it's a store of value -- the usual, we're all going to hell in a hand basket?

CURTIS: Well, I think it is the inflationary worry. I mean, we do buy it as an inflation hedge, so they are thinking about it, and we are talking about possible bubbles in asset markets in Asia. And but one of the things I will say is the demand for commodities is going to be strong for a very long time because of the catch-up China, India, all of those countries are -- you know, what they use -- the intensity that they use for commodities is so low now compared to the developed countries.

QUEST: Time and again in this interview, you have pushed me, you have pushed me. There is no word for it, back to Asia, back to the BRIC countries, to India, China, and I keep bringing you back to Europe and the United States, and you keep taking me back.

CURTIS: Well, that's because that's where all of the economic action is, it's in those markets and those commodity exporters. Look at my home country, Australia, OK?



CURTIS: Well, look at it, you know, there it is, you know, out there in Asia, I mean, they didn't have a banking crisis, they were a bit smarter than some of the other developed countries. I mean, they've got huge exports, I mean, they're doing fantastically well, raised rates already.

QUEST: They'll get an award from them, the Royal Bank -- no, the Reserve Bank, not the Royal Bank, the Reserve Bank.

All right. The traffic lights, now, red, amber, and green, which would you like and for what? And don't blow up the traffic lights, please.

CURTIS: I'll try not to blow up the traffic lights. OK. Let's talk about markets.


CURTIS: All right. So I think for, let's say, corporate bonds are better than equities, so green for corporate bonds, amber for equities...

QUEST: Oh, hang on, this is going to be...

CURTIS: All right.


CURTIS: OK. Now, if you're talking about economies...

QUEST: Go on, yes.

CURTIS: Definitely green for Asia and the developed countries...


CURTIS: And the question is, is it red or amber for the other ones? And I think, hmm, I'd like to say it's a barbell so it's red and green, but I think it's amber.

QUEST: Bronwyn, many thanks, indeed. I'm exhausted. Thank you very much indeed. Bronwyn Curtis, joining -- making great sense.

Now, what goes into the making of a perfect umbrella? Well, obviously it has got to keep out the rain. But you also want design innovation, and you need to hone a product that's thousands of years old. The "World at Work," making umbrellas.


QUEST: I think I'm just well exhausted, Bronwyn Curtis used just about every light in the traffic light.

The series the "World at Work," our series about the fascinating ways in which people earn their living. Tonight, the art of making an umbrella. It's a humble enough instrument that is vital on those days when that opens up. For Danny Dale (ph) of Fulton Umbrellas, it's more than a job, it's a royal privilege. You see, the queen of England has his umbrellas, and for Danny, there is no better day than one when it rains.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They all call me "Danny the Umbrella Man," (INAUDIBLE). I say, that's fine.

QUEST: Do you take an interest in what umbrellas look like?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I do. I do. I always go in the shops and look at umbrellas and look at (INAUDIBLE) nice cover, too tight, too loose, and when I look at (INAUDIBLE) nice, I say this is nice, and with a nice pattern, nice design, and the shape of the umbrella had to be very nice.

So there are eight panels. I'm going to turn the machine on. I'm going to take two panels, it's fine, and this whole blocking (ph) machine, so I'm going to stitch them.

A trick of the trade is the umbrella should be perfect, got to be a nice shape. It's no good making umbrellas if it's not right, it's not worth it.

QUEST: So what are we going to do next?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to do crowning now.

QUEST: Crowning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to put a crown on top here. And this one -- this machine, a crown, and a ring, plastic flies (ph). Put the machine on. Then you put a (INAUDIBLE). It's a nice color, can you see it? (INAUDIBLE) watch out.



QUEST: Ah, satisfying noise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Checking machines, checking those...


QUEST: Checking?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Overlooking.

QUEST: Overlooking.


QUEST: Crowning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's called tipping machines.

QUEST: Overlooking, crowning, tipping, who knew there was so much in an umbrella?

So at what point do we actually make an umbrella?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to do it now. We're going to stitch that cover to the frame.

QUEST: Is this the exciting bit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. This is our bracing (ph) machine. If we put a frame there, we're going to stitch the cover to the frame, and that's the grommet (ph), what I mentioned here, the hole will go right in there. And we take each panel, and we stick it, and it holds on the frame.

That's being stitched to the frame now. One umbrella, 10 umbrellas, 100 umbrellas, the same routine, I do it every time and I enjoy it. That's true, I love making umbrellas.

QUEST: After all of this technology, now what happens?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a special tool we were using over 34 years I've been here. This is before me. You take this and you hit it, one, two. One, two. And that's -- push the tips in and it opens the (INAUDIBLE) and you cannot pull it out that way.

What I'm going to do is open an umbrella now to show you.

QUEST: What do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's beautiful. A nice shape, you can see that's what I'm telling you, two-pointed, sticking up too much, no good. And this is the right shaped dome (ph).

QUEST: You must be one of the few men that smiles when it rains.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course I do, it's making me happy, when I smile, it's raining, that's it. I'll see people be using the Fulton umbrellas.

QUEST (voice-over): The dark clouds of rain could ruin our day, luckily we stay dry thanks to Danny and his "World at Work."


QUEST: This, of course, is tempting fate of the worst possible sort, opening an umbrella indoors. If things go seriously wrong, (INAUDIBLE) from now on, we'll know the reasons why. But it does give me something to point out, so maybe we'll keep it, the "World at Work," whether you're putting billboards or teaching, or you're having a muffin at lunch, we want to hear your -- the way you spend your day.

Send us pictures, stories of your "World at Work," you can find us on Facebook at "Quest Means Business," and, of course, e-mail us at We will -- of course, tell us how we can get a hold of you, if we're going to show the pictures, we do need to get in touch with you in advance.

The "World at Work," because it doesn't matter whether you are, as I say, putting up bill posters or making umbrellas, everybody does something, and for some professions, they are amongst the oldest in the world.

As we continue to celebrate our jobs, let's go to the United States and have a haircut.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're at Mustang Barbers (ph) in Dallas, Texas, a shave, a haircut, shoeshine, a full service barber shop.

I've been barbering for 35 years.

The shop has been in the neighborhood for 40 years or so. The old- fashioned shave with the hot lather and the straight razor. The techniques for cutting hasn't changed a whole lot, because of that, there hasn't been a need for change.

The techniques are all the same, once you learn the basics, you just go from there.

The whole experience is you come in, tell the barber, "gimme the usual," get a haircut, a shave, you know, you tell a few dirty jokes, usually leave with a laugh.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been doing this for 17 years, we have families where we do the grandfathers and the fathers and the sons and the children and the whole family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll bring my son here when he gets a little older.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of us grew up going to barbers with our dads and our granddads. Everything else in the world changes so quickly, and I think there is something about coming to a place that has stayed relatively the same for 100 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think all my clients are friends as well as clients.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People feel comfortable here. I could see myself doing this forever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it will be around for a long time because my son will take over when I decide that my wife will let me quit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Barbering will never go away. It has been around forever and always will be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm glad to see that there are shops like this and shops, I'm sure, in every city and every small town that haven't given up on the old way of doing things.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See you next week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have a good day.


QUEST: One of the most beautiful things, the celebration of the "World at Work.", it would be nice if we could feature your job and the way you go about your business.

OK. The Dow Jones is open and doing business, up over half a percent, up 65 points. What is going on with that, in New York? It will be Susan Lisovicz after the break.



QUEST: Hello. I'm Richard Quest, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS. This is CNN, and good evening to you. Thank you for joining us. Glad you're on board.

Third quarter earnings season got off with a very interesting start. Alcoa, the shares climbed over 3 percent, and the reason wasn't hard to find.

Susan Lisovicz is in New York. Now, Susan, this is interesting, because I looked at the expectations, I looked at the results. So, you tell us what happened.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK: Well, Alcoa actually turned a profit. So what? It's a measly profit of $77 million for the world's biggest aluminum producer. But it is a profit after three straight quarters of losses. And, of course, those gains came with massive cost-cutting that we've seen this year.

And this is what we've seen with corporate America. It does pay off on the bottom line. It cut 13,500 jobs. It slashed its dividend. It's curbed its output. And that's how you make some numbers on the bottom line.

But it's also seen some growth on the top line, revenue. And that's really what investors want to see.

And its sight (ph), improving demand. And that's important. And that's one of the factors going into today's rally, contributing to today's rally on Wall Street, Richard.

QUEST: Now, the most unfair question of the evening, and it goes straight to you. So, Alcoa is the first company to report results, pretty much, in the earnings season.

What does it tell us about the earnings season?

LISOVICZ: Well, it tells us that it's a lean and mean operation these days. That's how you make your numbers. But revenue is going to be also looked at in a lean and mean manner by investors. So, bully for Alcoa, but it's only one. Next week we're going to get a flood of earnings.

I should say that maybe we shouldn't be so dismal about revenue, because one of the other factors contributing to today's factor is better- than-expected numbers from retail, which is all about consumer spending. We've actually seen one big chain store, Limited, actually show month-over- month increase as well as smaller than expected declines elsewhere.

So, you can't write off the consumer completely. We're talking about tepid growth, but it is growth. And when we're talking about growth, we should also mention that gold's hitting, hit another record, third consecutive day settling at $1,056 an ounce today, Richard.

QUEST: Susan, what metal is that around your neck?

LISOVICZ: Well, you know, I'm downgrading. We started with gold and we went to silver. I think this might be tin right now. I'm not exactly sure.

QUEST: Hey, hey. Tin in London, the market has been cornered. You might be onto a real winner, the spot market in tin. If you're looking for a bit of value (ph), a bit of tin for your company, Susan Lisovicz has got a bit around her.

All right, Susan Lisovicz, many thanks indeed in New York.

Now, while we're on the subject of commodities, check out this. It's a rock, a sort of thing maybe that -- a little bauble for you. It's a blue diamond. It fetched $5.7 million in Hong Kong -- $5.7 million.

It's the most expensive type of blue diamond -- I didn't even know they made blue diamonds -- at an auction in Asia. And according to one dealer in the region, a gem of a bargain. In better economic times, it would have gone for considerably more money than that. It's still a whack of a money for a rock on the finger.

Now, grim times for the glossy. As venerable magazine, Gourmet Foods, folds, what does it take to survive in crisis times? We're going to look for some answers.

A cappuccino in familiar surroundings, enjoy it while you can. A look at pop-up retailing, we are all over it.


QUEST: A glimmer of hope for U.S. retailers. Last month saw their first sales rise in more than a year. Sales at major retailers, excluding Wal-Mart, rose over half a percent compared to a 2.5 percent drop in August.

One sector badly in need of a consumer rebound, the magazine industry, which is reeling from the news that the iconic title, Gourmet, is to close its doors after almost 70 years of publication.

Maggie Lake in New York.

Maggie, firstly, I mean, why is -- there are lots of magazines on the newsstand, and many of them don't make it more than a year or three. So, why is everybody so upset or excited about this particular one?

MAGGIE LAKE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK: Well, it's sort of the story of this recession, isn't it, Richard. I mean, we know things are tough. We know in every cycle that there are some losers who aren't going to make it.

But with Gourmet, you had a real institution that people assumed could stand the test of this recession. It had been around for some 70 years. Sort of like, you know, when we were talking about some of the banks that went under, people -- they'd gotten through a lot of tough times in the past. And that's the case with this.

And it's really causing a lot of people to step back and say, well, if Gourmet can go, and if a Conde Nast publication could go, who's safe?

So, to find out, we took a wander over to the local magazine shop and talked to an expert about what is in store for the industry.


LAKE (voice-over): Thousands of magazines, plunging ad pages, cautious consumers. It's a bitter recipe for publishers.

Lucia Moses, senior editor of Mediaweek, says the demise of iconic food magazine, Gourmet, highlights an unsavory trend.

LUCIA MOSES, SENIOR EDITOR, MEDIAWEEK: What it says is really that the advertising market has just fallen out, the bottom has just fallen out of print media. And magazines like Gourmet that are particularly dependent on luxury advertising are taking the brunt of it.

LAKE: Magazine ad pages fell more than 21 percent in the first half of this year compared to a year earlier. Since the beginning of 2009, almost 400 magazines have closed in the U.S. and Canada. And the worst may not be over yet.

LAKE (on camera): I mean, look at these walls. There's tons of magazines. Is there not enough advertising money to go around anymore?

MOSES: There's just not enough to go around, and most magazines are way too dependent on ad revenue. And now they're trying to get money from consumers more than they had in the past.

LAKE (voice-over): There are bright spots. The Economist is a rare news magazine success story.

Titles with star power remain big advertising draws. TV tie-ins help, too.

LAKE (on camera): Does that help a magazine sort of survive the tough times, if you've got that extension on television or a multimedia platform?

MOSES: Yes, it can, especially if it speaks to the times. And that's why, back to Gourmet, Gourmet isn't going to survive. But others are coming up to take its place, like the Food Network Magazine and Every Day with Rachel Ray, that not only have a celebrity attached to them, but they're very accessible.

LAKE (voice-over): Accessible to major advertisers like Kraft, Quaker and Nabisco, who shun toney titles like Gourmet. Those firms have ad dollars to spend, but they can't save every magazine. Experts say the demise of Gourmet is merely a taste of things to come.


LAKE (live): You know, Richard, it's interesting. When we were looking at that wall of magazines, I sort of pointed to Lucia and said, "You know, look at some of these obscure little ones. I mean, how can they possibly survive?"

She said, "Actually, those niche magazines, those special interest ones are OK, because people will subscribe. Their audience will subscribe to them.

It's the general ones that rely on advertising, on ad revenue. That's the model that's broken, and it's probably going to continue to be problematic, even if the economy picks up.

QUEST: Maggie, before we leave you, you know gold rose to a record high level today, more than $1,050. Is that real gold around your neck?


LAKE: Richard, you work here at this company. What do you think?

No, of course not.

QUEST: She wouldn't have admitted it, even if it was.

Maggie Lake, I thought you were going to tell me, what sort of woman do you think -- all right. Let's quit while we're ahead.

Maggie, many thanks indeed.

OK. One of Germany's most popular women's magazines has laid down the law. It's banned models from its pages.

CNN's Diana Magnay now on why real women will be taking their place.


DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT, BERLIN (voice-over): So, if you find all this a bit much, and size zero is many sizes away, then take heart and maybe treat yourself to a pastry, because Germany's top fashion magazine, Brigitte, has decided to ditch models in favor of what it calls "real women."

Here is chief editor, Brigitte Huber.

BRIGITTE HUBER, CHIEF EDITOR, BRIGITTE MAGAZINE: Fashion has changed. Everybody, nearly everybody is a trendsetter today -- Michelle Obama, Carla Bruni, but also musicians and girls who live in the big cities. And I think you can see that the designers aren't the only trendsetters.

MAGNAY: So, no more models on the magazine's front covers, or anywhere in sight, in fact. Come January, it's real women only, says Huber, women with jobs and their own life stories, and bodies of all shapes and sizes.

It lends another industry voice to an ever-growing chorus that says super-thin models can encourage eating disorders amongst women.

Many readers like the idea of a model-free magazine.


MAGNAY: "Just like you and me, right. I think it's brilliant. It's better than I thought. I've been waiting for this for a long time.

"I have a little daughter. And if she only sees thin women, she'll think all the others are fat who aren't thin like that. It's a good decision."

Thumbs up, then, for the women on the street, but a problem perhaps for models forced off the front covers, maybe soon off the catwalks. Fashion experts say, not likely.

TIM BLANKS, STYLE.COM: I've always credited people with the common sense that when they're looking at a magazine, they don't think "I want to look like that." You know, I mean, models are freaks of nature.

I think maybe it's unfortunate that they're called "models," because it suggests that they are some kind of aspirational ideal.

MAGNAY: Brigitte is hoping it's a strategy that will sell with readers, a gamble in an industry where thin is still in.

Diana Magnay, CNN, Berlin.


QUEST: There's nothing pretty about many companies' advertising and marketing budgets these days. But some are still getting their names out, occasionally in rather imaginative ways, because that's the name of the game in this post-recessionary era.

Charles Hodson on his bike to explore the recent trend of pop-up retailing, where an outlet is here today, gone tomorrow.


CHARLES HODSON, BUSINESS ANCHOR, CNN INTERNATIONAL, LONDON: Well, here I am on my way into Soho, which is the main theater, nightclub and restaurant area of London. And until just a few hours ago, the shop that I'm going to visit was a temporary version of Central Perk. And if you're a fan of "Friends," the TV series, you'll recognize that as the cafe in the series. It's the latest example of pop-up retail here in London.

Hello, Allyson. How are you?


HODSON: Well, thanks for coming out.

STEWART-ALLEN: Really good to see you. Yes. Thanks a lot.

HODSON: So, let me just -- Allison Stuart Allen...


HODSON: ... International Marketing Partners.

STEWART-ALLEN: Correct, yes.

HODSON: What is pop-up retail?

STEWART-ALLEN: Good question. Well, it's a really interesting trend. And one of the things that we're finding is that retailers are looking for a way to trial a neighborhood cost-effectively.

Landlords are looking for a way to fill space cost-effectively, as well. And very often it's just vacant space. They figure opportunistically, let it rent for a month or two to a new start-up. And it creates buzz, it creates atmosphere. Everybody wins.

HODSON: Well, our sister company, Warner Brothers, here with Central Perk, which is the cafe in "Friends." I mean, how does that work? What are they doing there? Just creating a bit of a presence, if you like, here on the ground here?

STEWART-ALLEN: Absolutely. And basically, if you are a retailer and you're trying to find, well, where can we go, and where can we check out a neighborhood, and there's a space that's been vacant for a while, why not use it? Why not approach the landlord?

And if you're the landlord you think, "Gosh, this is fantastic." It creates, you know, excitement in the area.

So, it's totally opportunistic. It's transient. It's totally short term.

It's maybe a month. And at the end of that month, sometimes that brand moves to another destination, goes away altogether. That retailer may just be completely temporary, and you'll never see them again.

So, there's all sorts of iterations.

HODSON: It's obviously kind of a recession phenomenon therefore, isn't it?

STEWART-ALLEN: Yes, it is.

HODSON: Do you think it will continue once, you know, one day when the economy starts to go upwards again?

STEWART-ALLEN: Well, it's a really good question. I mean, one of the things we know is that pop-up retail has been around since at least 2003. We know -- they also call it "guerrilla retailing." Comme des Garcons is a brand that's tried this in Berlin in 2004. Grosvenor Estates have been doing it for some time.

In fact, there's a great story about Azzaro, the luxury brand. They took a pop-up store in prime Mayfair area. And on the back of that, they've now taken a bona fide store where they're paying full rents. They're getting the footfall that they want.

And Grosvenor are happy. Azzaro is happy. So, there's a lot of benefits that come out of these things.

HODSON: Well, Allyson, you've told me everything I need to know about pop-up retail...


HODSON: ... in just a couple of minutes.


HODSON: So, I'm going to get on my bike and back to the office.


HODSON: Thank you very much indeed.

STEWART-ALLEN: You're very welcome, Charles.

HODSON: Well, pop-up retail seems like a brilliant way of working with the grain of the recession, if you like, a great way of getting a quick marketing message out there or putting a toe in the water as far as a particular area is concerned.

But obviously, there still has to be that question mark. If there isn't that cheap retail space available, will this phenomenon outlive the recession?

Charles Hodson, CNN, London.


QUEST: I wonder if he plans to have his cycling clips match his jacket, if that's a safety device that you employ on bicycles.

Look, earlier in the program, we talked about the man who makes umbrellas. There was a fascinating little bit where, in a part of our discussion, his boss basically said, it's not in our interest to make umbrellas that you can't lose.

Well, it makes perfect sense. If you've got an umbrella, you hope it rains. Guillermo is at the World Weather Center. There was no rain today.

GUILLERMO ARDUINO, CNN INTERNATIONAL WEATHER ANCHOR: I know. I knew it. And actually, it's going to stay -- it's going to stay pretty much like that, I think.

Dublin is in bad shape. But I want to alert your viewers, actually, that are coming to the United States this weekend that we have cold air, but big time cold air on its way.

Now, when we're talking about like 15 degrees, or so, because of this succession of two low pressure centers. But this has a positive aspect, as well.

I know your viewers are very sophisticated, and they love skiing. This is going to bring a good foundation for the Colorado season, ski season, because we are going to get it.

Look at the temps, minus 15 -- I mean, 15 degrees -- going down, and 10 or five depending on the area. We're talking about from Chicago into northern Texas.

Of course, you know, Wyoming, the Dakotas, I don't think your viewers are going to go there. But it's bringing the cold air, so pack accordingly if you're coming, because it's a wide area.

Also, we're getting rain in the south, and we have 200 millimeters or more. It is because of El Nino. Remember the south is getting the rain with the onset of El Nino.

Now, Japan is in better shape. This cyclone that we have there, Melor, that, of course, it caused some problems and also delays at airports. But it's moving away very quickly, rapidly, at 56 kilometers per hour.

So, no delays anymore at Haneda or Narita associated with this.

Then we have Parma in the Philippines still causing big-time problems. We anticipated one more meter of rain in the area here of the west. Well, we got 1.5 meters more of rain.

But let's talk about Britain now, and also Ireland. I think that Dublin is going to get pounded. We see OK conditions in England for the time being. Even in the south, in the southern counties, where we thought we were going to get some more, it's clearing, too. We see some clouds lingering in the area. On Sunday, we may see some rain, the temperature OK.

But remember yesterday I was talking about Austria, and I said "Enjoy Vienna. We expect a high of 26." Actually, it was a record 28.5.

And you see what's going on in here. You know what's going to happen? Remember what I said about the United States? The cool-down is coming also for Europe. So, over London we have the jet stream here, but this area is going to suffer. Remember, I warned you.

We'll see you on the other side of a break. Stay with CNN.


QUEST: We're back. Now, some news from New York.

Brooke Astor's 85-year-old son has been convicted of plundering the philanthropist's nearly $200 million fortune. This, of course -- this is coming to us from the Associated Press. You'll remember, of course, that courts in New York heard numerous examples of how Brooke Astor in her later years was virtually -- well, she was a recluse and was mostly kept house- bound in appalling conditions.

Anthony Marshall, her son, who had numerous disputes with her, now faces the possibility of mandatory jail sentence of a year for exploiting Astor's failing mind and helping himself to her money, guilty of two serious counts. It was a five-month trial, and it was indeed a trial that had New York's social elite talking.

Would you pay $11 million for a wooden seat, even if it was for a throne that had been fit for an emperor? One private Shanghai businessman paid that sort of money, breaking the world auction record for the most expensive piece of furniture ever bought.

Pauline Chiou now on why this is one seat you wouldn't necessarily sit on.


PAULINE CHIOU, CNN ASIA PACIFIC CORRESPONDENT, HONG KONG (voice-over): Imagine the emperor of China sitting in this throne in the mid-19th century. It's a piece of imperial Chinese history Sotheby's is offering to the highest bidder.

Made of a precious Asian hardwood called zitan, the throne is embellished with 10 dragons.

NICOLAS CHOW, SOTHEBY'S, HONG KONG: These are -- this is the most potent symbol of imperial power. And obviously, on -- actually, on porcelain, on lacquer -- on any material that you see today, is, of course, the most desirable of all designs.

You also have a few floral elements around the edge of the throne. And those sort of display some Western influence. You can see these are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) leaves that are found on French furniture and French decoration of the 18th century.

CHIOU: Based on these visual clues, Sotheby's believes the throne belonged to the Qianlong emperor, and was most likely placed in one of the many hallways of the Forbidden City, the imperial palace in Beijing. Each hallway had a throne for the emperor.

CHIOU (on camera): And during the imperial times, could anyone other than the emperor sit here?

CHOW: Definitely not. This is the place from which the emperor conducted his stately affairs and received foreign envoys. And basically, this is the seat of power. No one else should have sat on, in this place.

CHIOU (voice-over): In the days leading up to the auction, Sotheby's has been fielding calls and personal visits by collectors mostly from Mainland China and Taiwan.

CHOW: These Mainland buyers, Mainland collectors are ready to pay the premium it takes to secure an object of this quality.

CHIOU: Sotheby's will not reveal who the seller is for purposes of confidentiality.

Pauline Chiou, CNN, Hong Kong.


QUEST: I'll have the profitable moment after the break.


QUEST: Finally, tonight's profitable moment. Tricky times are ahead.

The Bank of England and the ECP left interest rates alone. The banks are not worried about inflation. The latest economic numbers show that growth will be anemic. There's no risk of inflation.

So, why is gold on the up and up? A good question indeed.

I could give you one of a dozen reasons for the latest gain. Frankly, they'd all be cancelled out by an opposite view. It's simple. Gold is on the rise, because there's a trend underway, a trend that just seems to be unstoppable in the near term.

If you're worried about gold, and you're worried about the price, just make sure you're not on the wrong side when the air comes out of this bubble.

And that's QUEST MEANS BUSINESS for this Thursday. I'm Richard Quest in London. Thank you for your company. Whatever you're up to in the hours ahead, I hope it's profitable.