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An attempt at revival

This week…

Things in Turkey continued to be messy, as Erdogan’s stern view of protesters continues to spark new anger among the masses and sent the Turkish Lira falling. read Bloomberg
On Thursday, Erdogan re-iterated that he was losing patience with the protestors. Today, the government and its counter movement reached an agreement, while Germany delayed further EU accession talks with Turkey. read WSJ

In Greece, the doors of Hellenic Broadcasting Corp closed, sending 2,500 former employees out onto the streets. It is meant to be relaunched later this year in a slimmed-down version. read WSJ

In the UK, jobless claims dropped, suggesting that the recovery is well on its way (remember how we’ve been here roughly 700 hundred times now..?). read Bloomberg

And then there was Wednesday, when literally everyone with an audience called the bond bubble, for example Jim O’Neill (formerly of Goldman Sachs) and Bill Gross (Pimco)

Around the same time, Iraqi officials said the country was looking to increase its oil production by 29% in 2014 and 159% by 2020, showing that a) they can and b) they have buyers. read Emerging Frontiers

Then there was a new price fixing scandal [yes, there are still some products left]; this time in FX. read Felix Salmon

Meanwhile on Wall Street, notes on correlations with Japan: read WSJ

In Brussels, important issues like the size and curviture of bananas and cucumbers has been pushed aside as Washington’s lobbyists walked in to ensure EU privacy regulations wouldn’t get so strict that they could hurt US investigations overseas. read FT

Rupert Murdoch is divorcing Wendy Deng, could this be the actual reason for splitting News Corp? read New Yorker

The week ahead…

The G8 meet on the outskirts of London on Monday and Tuesday; anti-globalization protesters will ironically stick to central London, where they will follow a scavenger hunt-like course through the West end, mapped out here. Please refrain from buying condiments at Fortnum & Mason until the weekend, as you may otherwise be questioned about the social legitimacy of your job.

Otherwise, it’s going to be a Bernanke-dominated week – again – as the Fed is meeting and press conferencing. Although Bernanke tried to nullify the comments about an end of easing, saying that it would take “considerable” time until that would happen, everybody seems to think the US is going to turn the money tap off. read WSJ

Have a good one.

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Libor 2.0 and a £10bn UK-US trade agreement

Over the weekend…
we saw the first proposal for a Libor reform from Martin Wheatley of the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority and successor of the FSA), who told the FT about the Libor 2.0, which could look something like this:

[…] a dual-track system with survey-based lending rates running alongside transaction-linked indices as soon as next year.

In the US however, Gary Gensler of the CFTC calls for an immediate switch to transaction-linked rates. read Financial Times

Meanwhile, the G7 met just outside London to talk about monetary policy and how much liquidity is too much with the conclusion that money is something you can never have enough of: Go ahead Japan, ease some more. read Businessweek

In the US, WSJ correspondent Jon Hilsenrath published two articles on the future of the Fed, both in terms of staffing and monetary policy. Until yesterday, Friday’s article (read ZeroHedge annotations) was pretty much the most talked about news of the weekend, discussing how the central bank will unwind its QE program that is worth $85bn a month. It was followed it up with a piece on Janet Yellen, [probably] the next Ben Bernanke. read Friday’s Wall Street Journal read Sunday’s Wall Street Journal

This morning…

David Cameron is meeting with Barack Obama on future trade agreements, something that is being interpreted as a potential first step for the UK to leave the EU. A free trade agreement between the new and old world could be worth up to £10bn for the British economy. read Bloomberg

The Eurogroup is kicking of with both Cyprus and Greece on the agenda. Cyprus is seeking approval of the first chunk of its bailout program, worth €3bn, while Greece is set to receive €7.5bn in the latest bailout payment. read BBC read comment on Reuters MacroScope

As for the rest of the week, we’ll get all kinds of data from the US, including industrial production and inflation and housing. Same goes for the eurozone and Germany; the UK reports unemployment figures and Japan will give us preliminary Q1 GDP figures.

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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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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The next thing – gold price fixing

Things to know today: The new pope is Argentinian (or Argentine if you will) and the first non-European in 1,272 years; the US continues to fail at making the budget happen; Libor, Euribor, now gold and silver, ALL PRICES ARE FIXED.

The US is seeing Republican and Democratic budget proposals this week, with the former having been released on Tuesday. So far so good, surely a compromise can be found, right? No. In an interview with ABC Obama admitted that the two proposals may be too different to be combined in any shape or form, particularly if the Republican idea only relies on cutting social security and healthcare benefits. read article

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has begun an inquiry in the gold and silver market in London. Though not a ‘real’ investigation yet, the Commission is looking into price fixing, much as they did with Libor. The banks involved in gold price setting in London are BarclaysDeutsche BankHSBCBank of Nova Scotia and Societe Generaleread article

The troika, composed of the EU, ECB and IMF, has decided to delay the latest bailout tranche for Greece, worth €2.8bn, due to “outstanding issues”. One of these could be firing public servants:

Identifying redundant positions and putting in place a system that will lead to mandatory exits for about 150,000 civil servants by 2015 is a so-called milestone that will determine whether the country gets a 2.8 billion-euro aid instalment due this month.

Otherwise, Eurostat released a handful of data including rising Greek youth unemployment (record) and low overall European employment (lowest since 2006). In Brussels, the European leader summit has begun. Rumor has it that France, Spain and Portugal will get more time to shrink their deficitsread article

So long.

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Budget cuts and peripheral misery

Today at midnight (Saturday morning in the old world), the US is facing the much discussed spending cuts, decreasing government spending by €85bn until the end of the federal budget year in September. Maybe it’s time to depart from discussing the sheer possibility of this scenario. If you believe Bernankethe pain will be close to intolerable, slowing the economy down by 1.5%. The Congressional Budget Office estimates a 0.6% decrease in GDP. If you believe Fortunecompany earnings are strong enough to allow ignoring the issue. Without a budget fix, the automatic cuts will continue in the following financial year. read article

And things aren’t pretty in Europe’s periphery either. First, numbers out of Spain showed that Spanish corporations faced the largest decrease in earnings ever recorded in Q4, including Bankia’s €19.2bn net loss. Meanwhile in ItalyBersani rejected all rumors regarding coalition talks with Berlusconi. Over in Greece, 2012 revenue targets were missed and the burden of unpaid taxes increased, causing skepticism in Brussels, where the next loan instalment, worth €2.8bn, can be withheld if Greece’ financial report is not satisfactory. At the same time, the IMF, usually in bed with the EU, was more positive, saying Greece had collected more taxes recently and could avoid a further reduction in government salaries.

We shouldn’t forget, however, that despite the mess that is Southern Europe (oh yes, I made that generalization), there are still countries out there that want to join the union and currency. Poland, for example, which originally wanted to have the euro by 2012, is now discussing meeting all criteria (the same criteria that Greece met once…) by 2015read article

In India, Q4 GDP growth dropped to 4.5%, as the government announced a more pro-business deficit-reducing budget for the coming year. read article

Otherwise, Andrew Mason removed from his position as CEO of discount firm Groupon, which recorded losses in the last two quarters of 2012. In his own words:

After four and a half intense and wonderful years as C.E.O. of Groupon, I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding – I was fired today. If you’re wondering why… you haven’t been paying attention.

Weekend reading

– The “Because I Can” attitude of senior managementread article

– Dear Banker, this is how we’ll pay you in the futureread article 1 read article 2

– the European Union and Ricardian equivalenceread article

Have a good one.

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Eurozone stuck in recession until 2014 (except for Germany, because they think positive)

It’s a Europe-centric Friday, with breaking news of poor performance all around Europe’s economies – we know, thanks for pointing it out again.

The Commission revised its growth expectation for the year, saying the eurozone’s economy will contract by 0.3% in 2013. Bye bye, 0.1% growth. Bye bye, post-recession world. It will be accompanied by an unemployment rate of 12.2% and inflation of 1.8%. At least there will be room for rate cuts. read article

In Spain, the budget deficit increased to 10.2% due to aid costs for the banking sector. The bailout package for Bankia alone added 3.2 percentage points to that. Incidentally, Bankia, which is reporting 2012 earnings next week, will report annual net losses worth €19bn+, the largest loss in Spanish corporate history. read article

The German Ifo business climate index came in higher than expected, because Germany is vehemently following its optimism strategy that includes ignoring any data or reality.

In good news, the ECB recorded a €1.1bn profit from interest payments on a €208bn debt portfolio of PIIGS bonds. Over the last year, income from sovereign bonds even amounted to €14bn. read article

Meanwhile, US consumer confidence is being rocked by rising prices on gas, which climbed 15% up to $3.75 per gallon last week. Car owners in Europe are weeping and cycle to the US embassy to apply for visas. read article

Over the weekend, we’ll see Italy’s general elections (24-25 Feb), aka the Silvio Berlusconi show. In case of a hung parliament, the election limbo would continue for months, and Italy would be stuck with a caretaker government that doesn’t want to implement policies. read article

Weekend reading:

– horsemeat economics, read article

– and then ‘cyberwarfare‘ became a thing, read article

– rethinking drug policiesread article

– in case you’ve read the Bloomberg editorial on $83bn annual bank subsidies, here’s a discussion of it read article

Have a good one.

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G20 and currencies: off the record, we’re not friends

The G20 are meeting today and the biggest topic on the agenda is currencies. Since the G7 issued a statement saying they would refrain from using currency targets to revive economic growth on Tuesday, the message has become less consistent by the day. Most politicians still stick to the chant that a race to debase is bad for everyone involved, and on the record nobody wants to point their finger at Japan. Well, until today. read article

In Europe, banker bonuses will be capped at 100% of fixed salary, unless approved by two-thirds of the institution’s shareholders. This decision came in yesterday, initially proposed by Ireland, which currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Needless to say, the UK is opposing such plans, suggesting that there could be a different (but probably similar) set of rules for the City of London. read article

And in general, there was a lot of uninspiring news out of Europe yesterday, including eurozone GDP falling 0.6% in Q4, contracting economies in Italy (-0.9%), Portugal (-1.8%) and Germany (-0.6%), and Greek youth unemployment reaching 62%. Today, the UK reported poor January retail sales, down 0.6% from December, and blamed it on the Britain’s very own snow “disaster” earlier this year. read article

In other news, BlackBerry co-founder Jim Balsillie, who used to be co-CEO, sold his entire 5.1% stake in the firm yesterday. Seems like someone isn’t so keen on the Blackberry 10. Meanwhile, Airbus decided to stop using lithium-ion batteries in its jets to avoid the crisis that arose (I want to say ‘ignited’) at Boeing last month, and Warren Buffet partnered up with private equity firm 3G Capital Management [although he likes to publicly hate on said investors] to buy ketchup brand Heinz for $23bn.

In the background, negotiations on a US-EU transatlantic trade and investment partnership started. Such an agreement could add 0.6% to European GDP and 0.4% to American GDP by 2027. read article

Weekend reading
– the designated tumblr page for the FT’s 125 year anniversary

– The Sun‘s and the Oscar Pistorius story, read article

– the deal with off-shore tax havensread article

– the physics of mosh pitsread article 

Have a good one.

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US economy shrinks, RIM revives as BlackBerry

So that was quite the surprise. The US economy shrank 0.1% last quarter, while expectations had averaged on 1% growth. This is the first contraction of the economy in three years. To blame are, in part, a decline in business inventories, the fiscal cliff and government spending cuts, including the largest cut in defense spending since the Vietnam war. Employment data released tomorrow, could shed more light on whether the US is actually slowing down. read article

Elsewhere, in China, local government are also feeling the impact of the global economy. Frantic to meet their tax targets, North-Eastern cities demand taxes two years in advance from local steel mills. Now that’s sustainable. While China produces almost half of global steel supplies, the mills’ profits slumped 98% last year. read article

In happier news, RIM has managed to use the defibrillator on itself, officially rebranding to BlackBerry (BBRY) and introducing a new phone… with a touchscreen. Like they don’t know that the keyboard is the best feature. Shares fell 12%. Either way, the company has bought some time until private equity firms will start circling over its Canadian headquarters again. Winning in the category of most puns in single headline: the FT with “Rimless BlackBerry hopes to regain touch.” read article

Deutsche Bank reported losses worth €2.6bn in Q4 2012, mostly related to legal matters and writedowns. €1bn alone was allocated to legal costs arising from the Libor scandal. Over in London, BarclaysRBSLloyds and HSBC have to pay a total of £5bn in compensation after mis-selling interest-rate derivatives to SMEs. read article

Otherwise, Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann called for a more conservative approach to bailouts in Europe, in order to protect wealthier economies from throwing themselves in the deep end out of misunderstood solidarity, and Greek retail sales fell almost 17% in November, indicated that, no, the crisis is indeed not over.

So long.

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Berlusconi creeps back, Citi cuts 11,000 jobs

This morning, Italy’s government was shaking once again, when the Italian upper house voted on Monti’s economic growth package. But Mario Monti prevailed despite Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party walking out on the vote. Italy’s next election is scheduled for March, and Berlusconi has suggested his return again and again. read article

After yesterday’s Autumn Statement, which can probably be summarized as pushing around money in little proactive fashion, the UK’s credit rating is in more danger than it was before. In March, Fitch had put the country on ‘negative outlook‘. But when George Osborne neither announced substantial tax increases nor spending cuts yesterday, the agency concluded that Britain’s way of dealing with its public finances was reason to worry – more. read article

Speaking of rating issues: after Greece announced to buy €10bn of its debt back (estimated to be 32-34 cent on the euro), S&P has reduced the country’s credit grade to ‘stubborn selective default‘.

When Vikram Pandit left his position as CEO of Citigroup, everybody denied that there had been tensions in the bank’s senior management. The 180-degree-turn of the company’s strategy says something quite opposite. Last week, there was the modest announcement that 150 jobs would be cut. Last night, the number of overall job cuts within the company rose to 11,000, more than double of what Pandit had had in mind. According to Fortune Magazine, Citi employed 266,000 people this year. read article

Other news are almost exclusively legal issues: HSBC’s fine for that Mexican money laundering incident could rise to up to $1.8bn, while Standard Chartered has to pay an additional $330m for breaching Iranian sanctions. The bank has already paid $340m in August.

But the gossip of the day comes from Deutsche Bank, which failed to, or chose not, or accidentally didn’t report losses of up to $12bn between 2007 and 2009. So far, it seems like that might have been a good thing. Thanks to Deutsche’s ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy, the bank may have avoided a government bailout. Suspiciously, the whistle-blowers are three former employees of the company, and if 2012 has taught us anything it is to take those things with a bucket of salt. read article

So long.

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