LONDON – Every time I touch down in this magnificent city of such history, I can't help but be taken by how much of it is new.
Construction cranes are everywhere; the Thames is lined with sparkling new and amazingly unaffordable ultra-modern condos, and red Ferraris boast their untested powers on the traffic-slowed streets.
This town is awash in foreign cash. Huge sums of it. You can almost feel the buzz, emanating from the Financial District. My poor little dollars seem to shrink even more in my pocket. I try my best to protect them.
And the British press talks of London being the new capital of capital – the new financial center of the universe.
In the last U.S. Republican primary debate, several of the candidates treated the question itself as if it were an affront to patriotism: Will London overtake New York as the financial capital of the world?
What?! Never! Un-American, seemed to be the general feeling.
But there are many analysts who say it's already happened.
There have been widespread reports to that effect here in England. Still, it all depends on how you measure it.
The value of shares traded in New York is still about quadruple that in London, according to one calculation. Yet, the value of bonds traded here is about quadruple that in New York.
London's strength seems to be its foothold in the global economy, and its continued growth there. It is much easier here for foreign investors to get in and thrive, especially after 9/11.
Some analysts say New York is more dependent on the domestic economy and investments, which have been rocked by the subprime mortgage fiasco.
About $100 billion in foreign investment shapes London every year. Forty percent of foreign equities trades, and a third of the world's currency exchanges, happen here. That's more than in New York and more than in Tokyo. And 80 percent of London's business is international.
Property values in London have topped New York. The cost of a dinner out has topped Tokyo.
While London's markets are sprawling, New York's have been hampered by some instability, stricter regulation, litigation — and even the time zone.
London gets a five-hour headstart. It's also been shown to be attracting the world's best traders, and the world's most aggressive companies. Last year, financial traders here earned more than those in New York, by about half.
Yet it's tough to really determine who is Number One hands down. But some analysts – and companies – are leaning toward London.
Alarmed officials in New York and Washington are studying the situation with concern, looking for ways to make U.S. markets stronger, and less restrictive. The head of the Security and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Treasury are involved, obviously thinking it's important to keep New York on top.
Ask the guy with the bigger bonus what he thinks...
We live in a global marketplace, and there is no turning back.
Meanwhile, the Indian billionaire brothers who have an expanding outpost in London, trying innovative investments in all corners of the world, seem happy. So does the young American financial whiz who relocated here from New York to seek his fortunes. And the trader whose bonus last year was upwards of $50 million.
On more practical, day-to-day matters, I just wish that the shampoo and conditioner I bought in a rush didn't cost me $70. Sigh. Hopefully our greenbacks will gain strength in coming days.