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ECONOMICS – FINANCE – WORLD NEWS – GREEK DEBT

Spain turns to stimuli, as Merkel points to two-tier Europe

Yesterday…
Spain’s unemployment rate rose to a new high of 27.2%, possibly marking the final point that austerity measures haven’t work in this case or simply don’t work at all (hello, Keynesians). Between January and March, almost 240,000 people lost their jobs. read BBC
Following the announcement, Mariano Rajoy announced the government would lay low on cuts and tax hikes, as even though the deficit has shrunk, the country is doing miserable. Stimulus for everyone! read WSJ

The UK dodged the bullet on a triple-drip recession, reporting first quarter GDP growth of 0.3% from the previous quarter

This morning…
Angela Merkel stirred the European debate with remarks about the potential impending rate cut by the ECB. Merkel pointed out that country’s like Germany actually needed a rate increase, while other country’s required further easing, underlining the divide between functional and dysfunctional Europe.

In Italy, coalition building is underway. Prime Minister-to be Enrico Letta said the conservatives would have to work out a compromise regarding the property tax that Berlusconi promised to get rid off before joining the coalition.

Today, the US is announcing first quarter GDP growth, which is expected to come in at 3% from the final quarter of 2012. Over the next three months, this number will be revised three times, once due to the change in government statistics in late July. read WSJ

In Japan, consumer prices have fallen fastest in two years in March, which doesn’t really come as a surprise considering all the excess liquidity in the system. Prices fell 0.5% on the year, slightly more than expected. read Bloomberg

Weekend reading:
Italy’s new heads of state – an evalution, read The Economist
– meet Janet “anti-inflation” Yellen, possibly the next head of the Fed, read NYTimes
– why the city of Los Angeles is suing Deutsche Bank, read Businessweek
real bad boys smuggle dairy, read Bloomberg

Have a good one.

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Letta new Italian PM; Apple profits drop for first time in decade

Yesterday…
It was a dark day for the European economy, with April PMIs across the globe disappointed, except for France, which beat expectations and soared to four-months highs. China and Germany on the other hand, undercut expectations – Germany even fell below the magic mark of 50, to 48.8, the lowest level in six months. read Bloomberg

After all the united G20 talk of appropriate monetary measures, S&P said that there’s a 30+% chance that Japan will lose its AA rating. The reasoning: it’s great to have quantitative easing, stimuli and private sector involvement, but that strategy doesn’t work if all you do is print money. read Reuters

Meanwhile in Portugal, the government is planning to lower corporate taxes to attract business. Good timing. read WSJ

Right after close, the Twitter account of the Associated Press was hacked, posting a tweet about attacks on the White House. The Syrian Electronic Army claimed responsibility. read Alphaville read BBC

Otherwise, it was all about Apple. The tech giant posted first quarter earnings,showing that profits dropped for the first time in a decade in year-on-year comparison. Alongside quarterly results, the company also announced an expansion to its now $100bn share buyback program to return money to investors. read WSJ

This morning…
Italy is set to announce a new Prime Minister. The current candidates are Guiliano Amato (Prime Minister 1992-1993 and 200-2001), Matteo Renzi (Mayor of Florance) and Enrico Letta (center-left deputy leader), all of which are less crazy than Berlusconi and none of which have worked for Goldman Sachs. read Reuters
BREAKING: Enrico Letta set to become Italy’s new prime minister

In anticipation on next week’s ECB meeting, rumor has it the Mario Draghi is likely to cut another quarter of a point off current interest rates, as inflation rates are below target and the eurozone finds itself back in recession. read Reuters

So long.

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All according to plan – US set to grow 3%; China’s slowdown on purpose

Over the weekend…
the UK lost its Fitch-assigned AAA rating on the back of the weak economy and poor outlook. Moody’s downgraded the country in February, but also assigned a negative outlook, while Fitch is optimistic that the UK will return to credit-worthy prosperity around 2014/2015. read article

In Italy, Giorgio Napolitano was re-elected President for the coming seven years on Saturday. The independent is expected to propose a bipartisan cabinet, considering that he was elected by both sides of the political spectrum to avoid another round of elections. Everybody except for Beppe Grillo seems happy; he had called Napolitano’s re-election a coup d’etat. read article

The G20 meeting ended with everyone promising to not engage in competitive devaluation of currencies, defending Japan’s monetary policy as appropriate and targeting domestic demand. read article

This morning…
word got out that the US will see 3% growth in July, due to a reform of the methodology behind government statistics. 21st century GDP also takes film royalties and R&D spending into account:

Billions of dollars of intangible assets will enter the gross domestic product of the world’s largest economy in a revision aimed at capturing the changing nature of US output.” read article

Meanwhile in China, central bank Governor Zhou Xiaochuan justified the country’s below-expectations growth rate of 7.7% in the first quarter of 2013, saying slow growth was necessary as structural reforms are being put into place. read article

Otherwise the counter-austerity voices are getting louder again, this time it’s Pimco’s Bill Gross (not that surprising) and Jose Manuel Barroso of all people, the President of the European Commission. Could this be the beginning of the end of Angela Austerity Merkel’s dominance in European policy? Probably not.

So long.

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The things about guaranteed debt – China edition

There won’t be an update until Monday, 22 April 2013.

Yesterday…
the aftershock of the events in Boston continued to dominate the front pages, with President Obama speaking to the nation in the early afternoon, saying the FBI was investigating the explosions as an “act of terror”. read article

The IMF cut its global growth forecast for 2013 again from 3.5% to 3.3% in its World Economic Outlook, which left the 2014 forecast at 4%. Last week, Managing Director Christine Lagarde‘s argued that a three-speed [economic] world was developing, in which some countries are still very far away from recovering. Lagarde also embraced the quantitative easing approach and argued that Japan was moving into the right direction. read article

It’s things like this that could make for an uncomfortable atmosphere at this week’s G20 meeting in Washington, especially with regards to Japan. read article

This morning…
London is dressed in metal barricades as Margaret Thatcher’s funeral is putting more or less everything on hold until the afternoon.

In China, the poultry sector has recorded losses of CNY 10bn ($1.6bn) since the outbreak of bird flu virus H7N9. So far 77 people have been diagnosed as infected; 16 people died. read article

Also in China, a local auditor has said that regional government debt was OOT and it was only a matter of time until a bigger-than-American-housing crash if things were to continue. Here just a taste of how we got here:

Local governments are prohibited from directly raising debt, so they have used special purpose vehicles to circumvent these rules, issuing bonds under the vehicles’ names to fund infrastructure projects.

and

Bonds issued by government-owned investment companies almost always receive top-tier credit ratings from domestic agencies because they are seen as being guaranteed by the provinces and cities that back them.

Right, because that has never been a problem before… Last week, Fitch cut China’s credit rating on the back of “underlying structural weaknesses.” further reading

So long.

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China slows, Greece set to grow again

Over the weekend…
Venezuela has elected a new President, after re-elected Hugo Chavez died in early March after long illness. Nicolas Maduro is the man Chavez singled out as a worthy candidate himself, and the election result may have been driven my emotions more so than politics. read article

This morning…
China reported Q1 GDP growth, which came in lower than expected. Year-on-year, the country’s economy grew at a rate of 7.7% in the first three months of 2013. Prior estimates had suggested 8%; Q4 2012 came in at 7.9%. Again, we are facing a week of panic over the Chinese slowdown. read article

Otherwise, troika officials are arriving in Portugal today to assess the country’s austerity plans and post-bailout progress. Simultaneously, the body, composed of the EU, the ECB and the IMF, released a report claiming that Greece could return to growth next year. read article

The week ahead…
will bring us the first batch of earnings from New York-listed corporates, including a bunch of banks like Citigroup, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, and tech companies Google, Microsoft and IBM.

The Italian parliament will try to elect a new President in the coming days. Officially, the process to find Giorgio Napolitano’s successor begins on Thursday, but it is expected to last a couple of days.

So long.

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Portugal could need second bailout (to pay for the first)

This morning…

the Eurogroup is meeting in Dublin; on the menu: stop messing around with bank stress tests (i.e. tighten measures) and the bailout schemes of Portugal and Ireland. Some say even if Portugal was granted an extension of its bailout repayment, it could potentially face a second collapse and thus a second bailout. Ireland is looking in the same gloomy direction. According to the FT:

Lisbon’s bailout is due to come to an end in July 2014 and the extension of maturities of its bailout loans is intended to smooth its full return to markets. But it has to raise €14,1bn next year and €15bn in 2015, whereas before the crisis it was typically raising €10-€12bn a year. Ireland is also facing a big financing challenge. It needs to refinance €20bn per year from 2016-20, which is about 12 per cent of the country’s projected economic output for this year.

Thus, the world is quiet in anticipation of next week’s news country of choice. It might be early days for Slovenia, so maybe it’ll drift back to Cyprus or Italy.

Meanwhile, Japan will officially enter the Asia-Pacific trade talks this summer, which are currently held between Canada, Mexico, Australia, Chile, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and the US. read article

Weekend reading…
– The Economist on Margaret Thatcher‘s legacy, read article

– William Cohan on the revolving door between Wall Street and the White House, read article

Climate change may double turbulence on transatlantic flights, read article

– The Winklevoss twins are all over bitcoin, read article

JPMorgan explains why you should avoid investment banks, read article

Have a good one.

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Cyprus to sell €400m in gold; bailout to total €23bn

Yesterday…
Barack Obama submitted a budget proposal to Congress, totalling $3.77tn and including policies to curb social security and medicare expenses. The proposal foresees a $744bn deficit for 2014. read article

While the minutes from the latest Federal Open Market Committee meeting were expected today, they were accidentally sent out early to lobbyists, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. Oops. The notes supported the thesis that the Fed’s QE program could end by year-end 2014, given improvements in the job market. read article

This morning…
Over in Cyprus, €400m worth of gold are up for sale, as the country has to up its contributions to the bailout program that so far consists of €9bn from European institutions and €1bn from the IMF. Another €10.9bn will free up in the winding down of Laiki Bank. And yes, all that money, €23bn, will be needed to just keep the country afloat until the beginning of 2016. read article

China has seen a massive influx of foreign capital. In Q1 of this year, the country’s forex reserves exploded to $3.44tn from only $130bn in the previous quarter. New financing grew by 58% from the same period last year. read article

Next door in Japan, central bank governor Kuroda said the BoJ had done all it could at this point, and the asset purchasing program wouldn’t be expanded any further any time soon. read article

So long.

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Obama to unveil $3.77tn budget

Yesterday…Slovenia‘s new Prime Minister Alenka Bratusek said the country didn’t require any help to deal with its banking crisis that the OECD seems to consider as serious but not urgent. Many Slovenian banks are already owned by the state; the OECD has recommended stress tests and the potential recapitalization or closure of failing institutions, but Bratusek is having none of it, saying the bad bank that will be set up until early summer will be able to take the toxic assets. read article

This morning…
EU is considering extending the bailout programs for Ireland and Portugal. According to Reuters, where this story came from, this will be discussed at the Eurogroup meeting on Friday.

To make everything worse, the ECB’s [first ever] Household Finance and Consumption Survey found that the average Cypriot is richer than the average German (by median net wealth). Even though the classic North-South divide re-appears in the median gross income figures, that won’t go down too well. read article

China reported its first trade deficit in over a year for March 2013, again it could be another hangover from the Lunar New Year holiday, leading to increased imports, while exports grew less. read article

Meanwhile in the US, President Obama will unveil a $3.77tn budget plan at 11am EST today, when he will speak from the White House. read article

So long.

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A new benchmark fixing scandal!!

Yesterday…

former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died of a stroke at the age of 87. Despite her polarizing character, there seems to be a consensus of her importance to the role of the UK on the global stage, both economically and politically. Finally, she also remains Britain’s only female PM. Most used terms: ‘liberalization’, ‘relentless’, ‘unforgiving’, ‘open markets’. read article

In the US, we see the beginning of a new benchmark fixing scandal: interdealer broker ICAP and some unnamed banks have been subpoenaed by the CFTC yesterday for potentially fixing the interest rate swap benchmark ISDAFIX. read article

Asset manager BlackRock has hit back at the Fed’s QE program, saying it distorted the markets. This is quite a change in BlackRock’s stance, as the company was all over government debt before until it started to nudge investors into less interest rate-sensitive products. read article

Following the court ruling that restricted Portugal‘s austerity measures last week, the country could see delays for future funds and no revision of the repayment schedule. According to the FT:

The court ruling means Lisbon will not receive the next €2bn installment of its €78bn bailout until it has convinced international lenders that fresh cuts in spending on health, education and social security will be sufficient to compensate for the rejected measures.

This morning…

we got CPI data from China, showing lower inflation at 2.1%, with food price inflation down from 6% in February (i.e. the Lunar New Year is a ripoff) to 2.7%.

In the UK factory output rose by 0.8% in February, more than the median estimate of 0.4% as according to Bloomberg, while German exports slumped in February, just to see imports decline by more than double the rate at -3.8%. read article

So long.

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Portugal is this week’s Cyprus

Over the weekend…the collective attention was brought back to Portugal, where the country’s highest court ruled that spending cuts in public sector salaries as well as state pensions were unconstitutional. Sounds like a bit like something Greece would do. Needless to say those cuts weren’t just for fun and games, but indeed to keep Portugal out of the EU’s dog house and on track for its €78bn bailout package.

Luxembourg‘s Finance Minister Luc Frieden said that the country would stop opposing the sharing of banking data within the EU, going along with the trend of increasing transparency in [former?] tax havens. read article

This morning…
there is the weakening JPY reacting to Tokyo’s new harder better faster stronger QE measures that will increase monthly asset purchases to JPY7.5tn. In fact, then yen hasn’t been this weak since May 2009. read article

While Japan’s 2% inflation target until 2015 seems a bit fishy to some [most recently China], following the above, Christine Lagarde of the IMF is a big fan. According to her, it will improve global demand, and the inertial upswing in the US economy was proof enough of that. read article

As for the rest of the week, the Fed’s Open Market Committee is meeting on Wednesday, continuing the discussion regarding when and how America’s money tap can be turned off. Otherwise, there will be industrial and trade data from China and various European countries, as well as a review of bailout programs in Portugal and Ireland. in other words, Portugal is this week’s Cyprus.

Have a good week.

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