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Slovenia slides down the bailout slope

Yesterday

The Fed is considering tougher capital requirements over worries that banks could be playing the [Basel III] system. Currently, the international agreement sees equity capital at only 3%. Basel brought that up significantly, but also gave the parties involved more room for… creative accounting. Give a bank a loophole. read FT

Moody’s downgraded Slovenia to junk with negative outlook (ouch), which is unfortunate, because the country was planning to auction off some debt. read FT
And now the pathway to an EU bailout: (read Bloomberg)

Rising loan losses resulting from a housing bust and a second recession in two years have left a hole of about 7.5 billion euros ($9.9 billion) at Slovenia-based lenders, investment bank Keefe Bruyette & Woods estimates. That’s a lot for a 35 billion-euro economy: A bank bailout would push government debt above 70 percent of economic output.

Apple issued $17bn in debt – the largest corporate debt offering ever – in six tranches to return money to shareholders and avoid repatriation taxes on overseas funds. read WSJ

In New York, the Empire State Building was lit up in FT-pink to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the newspaper.

This morning…
is quiet due to Labor Day in vast parts of the world.

Later on, we’ll get some data from the US, including the ADP employment report, ISM manufacturing data and the post-FOMC meeting statement from the Fed (ex Bernanke press conference). The ISM is expected to drop below 50, as it last did in November of last year and several months in 2009.

So long.

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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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Judgment day for J.P. Morgan

There won’t be an email on Monday and Tuesday of next week, 18/19 March 2012.

Today, the London Whale Senate hearing starts in DC, led by John McCain and including testimony from former CIO Ina Drew who left the firm in May 2012. The allegations include a failure to appropriately report on the $6bn trading losses, misleading regulators and investors. read article

Following the Fed stress testBank of America is set to buy back $5bn of shares and $5.5bn of preferred stock, while J.P. Morgan will buy back $6bn in common stock. Goldman Sachs will also be allowed to repurchase shares, but overall the Fed seems worried about J.P. Morgan‘s and Goldman‘s capital structures: the banks will have to submit revised capital plans by September. read article

The British Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards (PCBS) stated that the UK didn’t need a ban on proprietary trading, mirrored from the American Volcker rule. The Commission suggested capital requirements as alternative tools and cited the difficulty of defining proprietary trading appropriately. Future BoE Governor Mark Carney agrees as well. read article

After months of investigations and grounded fleets, Boeing’s Dreamliners could be back in the air “within weeks”. The spontaneously igniting batteries have been replaced and “only” need approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to be ready for take-off. Japanese authorities remain skeptical and declined to put a date on when the Dreamliners could fly again. Either way, Boeing doesn’t have the capacity to replace batteries in all 50 active planes simultaneouslyread article

While the EU-US trade agreement is in the works, Japan has entered negotiations for a similar deal for Pacific nations. read article

Meanwhile, Greece, or rather the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund, is selling gas and gambling companies as part of its privatization campaign. Get in there while it’s cheap. read article

Last night, Samsung launched its latest smart phone in the Radio City Music Hall in New York. A review from All Things D, here.

Weekend reading:

– the America we used to know, read article

– the US is more energy self-sufficient, except China wants to own all their natural gas fueling stationsread article

– when hedge funds get personal: the Herbalife background storyread article

 Have a good weekend.

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Central Bank Center Stage: UK prepares for future easing

Today’s central bank action shows the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan leaving things as they were. In the UK, the budget, to be announced on March 20th, will give the BoE more leeway in reaching the 2% inflation target. In other words, it will be a Go! sign for the printers and for new governor Mark Carney to save the day. As for Japan, this was the final monetary policy meeting for current governor Masaaki Shirakawa. Whether his successor will employ this new found conservatism is uncertain. Meanwhile in Brussels, the ECB‘s policy meeting has begun; no changes are expected.

In the US, the Fed’s beige book survey showed moderate economic growth and easing employment conditions. At the same time, the FT (and Bloomberg) is running an article about the 750,000 people who could be out of work by the end of the year if the sequester doesn’t get amended.

A reduction of 750,000 jobs translates into about 0.4 percentage points higher on the unemployment rate. That, in turn, could mean it takes at least six months longer to reach the US Federal Reserve’s threshold of 6.5 per cent for a first rise in interest rates.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives voted in favor of a last-minute legislation that gives greater flexibility to government agencies that are subject to the spending cuts mentioned above, avoiding a government shutdown on March 27th. Next up: the [delayed] budget. read article

Time Warner is going to spin their Time Inc and IPC (publishing the likes of InStyle, Wallpaper* and NME) magazine arms off by the end of 2013 valuing the new public company at $2.4-3bn, after sales talks with publishing group Meredith had failed. In recent years, Time Warner also got rid of AOL and Time Warner Cable, all in the name of “strategic clarity”. read article

KPMG might lose its $81m auditing contract with HSBC, because the bank is considering a new pair of eyes for their books after 22 years. Hello there, regulatory pressureread article

Finally, France reached an unemployment rate of 10.6% in Q4 of 2012, representing the highest rate since 1999 and an increase for a sixth consecutive quarter. read article

So long.

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China curbs growth targets in light of social issues

There won’t be an update tomorrow, Wednesday March 6th.

News from China, where outgoing Prime Minister Wen Jiabao presented the country’s economic targets for 2013, including an unchanged GDP target of 7.5%, a lowered inflation target of 3.5% (down from 4%) and a budget deficit of RMB1.2tn, or 2% of GDPDefense spending will be boosted by 10.7%, a smaller increase than in any year since 1990. But the departing Premier also said that China’s growth model was unsustainable and on top of that paired with a whole array of social issues, like the income gap, increasing pollution and a real estate bubbleread article

Also in China, the SEC has been allowed to subpoena Deloitte’s China unit over accounting fraud at Chinese companies operating in the US. After initial co-operation between the American and Chinese securities regulators failed, this is a big step in terms of cross-border fraud investigations. read article

In other regulatory news, an undisclosed group of banks in the City of London have received a hat tip from law firm Shearman & Sterling that it was possible to fight the EU’s banker bonus cap [proposal] in courtread article 

Until then, enter George Osborne.

Otherwise, Apple’s stock fell to a new 52-week low yesterday, dragging the company’s market cap down below $400bn for the first time in over a year. 

So long.

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Italian elections – Berlusconi with a vengeance

Italy is left in limbo without a conclusive election result, probably another round of elections looming, preceded by an embarrassing attempt by [presumably] Pier Luigi Bersani to form a coalition, and a full re-appearance of Silvio Berlusconi on the political stage (in the Senate). But despite the obvious screw-up that this election seems to be, there are clear winners and losers: Mario Monti, in the rational corner, plays the role of the latter. Beppe Grillo, anti-euro comedian in the ridiculous corner, came out heading the largest single party in the country’s lower house. Winner. Inconclusive is only one way of putting it, although I guess we can gather that the Italian people generally have an issue with austerity measures. Let the name-calling begin. read article

Just in: Bersani will hold a press conference at 5pm CET in Rome.

Summarizing some reactions:

Notably, the European markets display alarming symptoms of contagion: Italian elections drove up yields in Spain, Portugal, Greece and Ireland, and pulled down yields in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria and Finland.

Meanwhile, everything Italian that can be bought or rather sold is about to be subject to a short-selling ban. Elsewhere, US stocks fell the most since November of last year, with the volatility index at its 2013 record high.

But there are a couple of other things quietly happening in the background. The Japanese government will sell a third of its 50+% stake in Japan Tobacco, the third largest tobacco company and formerly a Japanese monopoly. The sale comes as part of policies to reduce stakes in state-backed companies to raise funds for this economic recovery that’s taking so long. read article

Over in the Netherlands, Rabobank, commonly clean slate poster-child bank, one of the safest institutions and bailout-free, is looking at a $440m+ in fines for involvement in the Libor rate rigging scandal. The fine could come as early as May. read article

Back in New York at Moody’s, it seems like lessons have been learned since 2008. The rating agency announced that any mortgage-backed securities can’t receive top ratings any longer. Aa is the new Aaa. Other agencies are expected to follow suit. read article

So long.

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Spanish recession gets worse; Toyota recalls 1.1 million cars

Spain’s recession deepened in Q4, when the country’s economy shrank by 0.7% compared to the same period in the year prior. Over the course of 2012, Spain contracted by 1.7%.

The Bank of Spain says the return of international investors to Spain’s battered debt market, has not translated into the real economy, although it has allowed the government to conduct a large chunk of its 2013 borrowing at the start of the year, potentially easing the pressure on it for months to come.

In the background, Catalonia requested €9.1bn in aid from Spain’s regional liquidity fund. In 2013, the region will have to repay €13.6bn of debt. read article

Yet, overall the eurozone’s economic sentiment and business climate improved, along with expectations for inflation. read article 

In the US, the Fed is concluding its January meeting this afternoon and for once there won’t be economic projections or a press conference. Maybe, after months of easing, Bernanke wants to keep everyone guessing again. After all, being predictable is boring. According to a Bloomberg estimate released yesterdayQE3 will amount to $1.14tn before it ends in Q4 2014.

In Brussels, the FT got its hands on the blueprint for the financial transaction tax regulation. The draft imposes a levy of 0.1% on stock and bond transactions and 0.01% on derivative trades and would yield €30-35bn per year.

If this design of the tax is adopted, it would mean offshoots of banks headquartered in the tax area – such as Deutsche Bank or BNP Paribas – as well as any trades undertaken on behalf of clients based in the 11 countries will be hit by the levy, even if they are trading in the City of London. Any US or Asian institutions trading securities issued in France, Germany, Italy or Spain would also be taxed.

But on the plus side, the EU has departed from its ringfencing plan, separating investment banking and commercial banking activities, because it could jeopardize Europe’s growth prospects. read article 

Things were going too well for Toyota. Despite Japan’s continuous decline and China’s war on Japanese manufacturing of any kind, the company had nudged General Motors from the pole position of global  car producers. Now, Toyota is recalling 1.1 million cars worldwide, with the majority (752,000) sold in the US, due to defect airbags. This is the third bigger recall since October 2012 and will cost the firm around JPY 5bn ($55m). read article

In other news, Obama has introduced his immigration reform plan, making it easier for skilled workers to obtain US visas, and Zimbabwe‘s Finance Minister said the country has $217 left in the bank after paying public sector salaries last week. read article

So long. 

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Across the board disappointing results: Japan’s deficit, Apple’s earnings, S Korea’s GDP

Over the past weeks, Japan has done a lot to try and convince the rest of the world of its [return to] well-being, but no distraction really did the job. And now this: Japan’s 2012 trade deficit hit JPY6.93tn ($78.27bn), the highest ever reported. Reasons are poor performance of its largest companies, rising fuel costs, the strength of its currency and the whole argument with China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. read article

South Korea’s 2012 GDP underperformed, recording the weakest growth figures since 2009. The country’s very own central bank had forecast the economy to grow 3% over the whole year – the actual number game in at 2%. To blame is the eurozone crisis, among other things, weakening demand for export products, which account for 50% of the South Korean economy. read article

The US House of Representatives approved a short-term extension on America’s borrowing spree, answering the question of whether the US will be able to pay its bills in the near future. This has bought some time to come up with a budget proposal to solve all problems – and without raising taxes, if you believe Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee. read article

The timing of the extension means the debt limit will be revisited after two other fiscal deadlines. Many members of both parties have said they want to revise of replace across-the-board spending cuts set for March 1, and they will need to renew funding by March 27 if they want to prevent a partial government shutdown. They are far apart on how to achieve both goals.

According to Reuters, the US Treasury will need the remaining $16.4tn the country is legally allowed to borrow until early March.

In Davos, Angela Merkel shows patience, saying that she was going to listen to David Cameron‘s complaints to work out the best possible solutions under which the UK would stay in the European Union. Wise words, after all, the UK’s vote would be helpful on her European budget proposal. Barack Obama also urged Britain to stop messing around and stay in the union. In the background economists polled by Reuters say that there is a 60% chance the UK will lose its AAA rating, which it has held since 1978, in the coming 12 months.

In other news, Apple announced earnings last night, showing the weakest increase in sales in 3.5 years, and the most disappointing profit growth since 2003. Since the shares of the world’s largest public company hit $700 in September, the price has fallen by 27%. Other technology companies like IBM, Google and Netflix did well and beat expectations in Q4 of the last year. Microsoft will report earnings tonight. read article

So long.

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Waiting for what there is to come

This pretty much sums it up:

…with investors reluctant to make any big bets on the last trading day before the closely contested US election and with an eye on China’s leadership transition later in the week.

Apple is considering to strip Intel of a massive deal: in 2005, Apple decided to switch from Motorola and IBM chips to Intel processors for its Macbooks. Now word got out that Apple believes its own chips that run its iPhones and iPads will soon be developed enough to replace Intel technology in laptops. Only judging by the Macbook ratio in London’s Starbucks alone (one Starbucks, two Starbucks?), it becomes clear that this is about a lot of money. When it came to official comments, fingers were pointed silently, with Intel referring all requests to Apple, which in turn decided to keep quiet. As with basically all news regarding the Apple, “people close to the matter” are to blame, like the time the new top-secret iPhone was forgotten in some bar… read article

The IMF released its annual report on the French economy yesterday, saying if Hollande fails to drive its country towards necessary reforms, it would follow Italy and Spain down the rabbit hole of financial and political crisis. The IMF points out that France lacks competitiveness among its peers and predicts its economy to grow only 0.4% in the first half of 2013 – halving the rate expected in Paris. Of course, Christine Lagarde used to be French Minister of Finance, so naturally, she knows better. Former CEO of EADS, Louis Gallois, also issued a report, addressed to Monsieur Hollande himself. Gallois is saying the same, that France has to man up sooner than later. His recommendations include cuts in welfare spending, more support to businesses of all sizes and exploiting France’ shale gas reserves. read article

London’s financial district will lose another 13,000 jobs next year says the Centre of Economics and Business Research (CEBR). That would increase the number of jobs lost since the onset of the crisis in 2007 to 100,000. Happy days. The City’s workforce will be at its lowest in 20 years come 2014, CEBR continues. Even happier days. A disgruntled Allister Heath (CITY AM) writes that this has gone too far.

In other news, BMW is set to post another record-sales year, with sales up 8.6% between January and September 2012. For Germany that means that its car industry, of all options available, is driving its export economy the most. The fact that Japanese car makers have essentially lost China as a market in the past three months, certainly doesn’t harm either.

So long.

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Joining the dark side of the force: Disney buys Lucasfilm

After two days of storm, an exploding power plant, the shut down of three nuclear plants, almost 19,000 canceled flights, closure of public transport systems, 10,000 911-calls every 30 minutes in New York City and 14ft of water, America’s east coast is getting back on its feetWall Street will re-open, as well as airports and the rest of normal life.

But it won’t surprise you that the story on my mind today is Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm. For $4.05bn the Walt Disney empire bought 100% of George Lucas’ production company, which owns the Star Wars franchise. The deal marks the second biggest acquisition in Disney’s history, only exceeded by the $7.6bn takeover of Pixar. And really, this is like a family reunion. Pixar used to be a division of Lucasfilm, which was launched in 1979, but spun out of the parent company in 1986. George Lucas, the godfather of Star Wars, will get about $2bn in cash from the proceeds of the sale, adding to his net worth of $3.2bn. Disney announced that three new Star Wars movies will follow, starting in 2015read article

Google is joining Starbucks in facing a parliamentary tax inquiry in the UK. Google is channelling most of its corporate sales through its headquarters in Dublin, thereby avoiding UK taxes on it. According to Margaret Hodge, chairman of the committee the corporation will face:

Apple, Google, Facebook, eBay and Starbucks [i.e. all the poster children of globalization] have avoided nearly £900m.

It is estimated that the UK loses approximately £5bn annually due to tax avoidance.

In an attempt to buy more time, Greek policy makers have agreed to push spending cuts worth €13.5bn and reforms through parliament. Greece is once again in danger of running out of money within the coming month. Today, the Greek parliament will vote on a bill scrapping the obligation for the government to own a minimum stak in formerly state-owned companies, which is expected to set the tone for developments in the near future. On November 12, there will be an EU summit officially dedicated to the management of Greek debt. It’s getting boring and all seems like a replay of last year. Count the days until someone suggests to devalue parts of the Euro again… read article

In the background, eurozone unemployment rose yet once more in September, gaining 0.1% from August and amounting to 11.6% overall. That means that 18.5 million people are currently out of work in the European Monetary Union (hello, Spain). Austria is maintaining the lowest unemployment rate of 4.4%read article

So long.

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