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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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US payrolls estimate up; Twitter IPO rumors back

Yesterday…
the ECB shook up Europe for a moment, with government debt yields falling to new lows under the soothing sound of disgruntled murmuring Germans. The ECB is ready for more [again], it says, but Germans on the policy committee are going to do everything to keep rates from tumbling. In ze mozerland, Economists are scared of a real estate bubble and argue that banks could use the freshly pressed money to bolster their equity capital, dragging the effect away from the real economy. read FT read Die Zeit

This morning…
The EU deficit report came out, showing that France, Spain and the Netherlands will breach deficit agreements, limiting countries to 3%. Italy got in just below at 2.9% (based on 2013 forecast). Because France and the Netherlands aren’t the real bad guys, and you can’t leave one standing alone in the rain (unless it’s Greece), all of them are expected to receive extensions for reaching their deficit goals. France got its waiver this morning. read FT read Reuters

Its jobs Friday in the US: nonfarm payrolls are seen up at 148,000 (almost double), with the unemployment rate unchanged at 7.6%. But stakes are high as the estimates vary within a range of 90,000 jobs added. March payrolls came in below estimates, for example, but jobless claims have been declining over the past weeks. After the jobs report, there will be April non-manufacturing PMI, which is expected to fall slightly to 54. Data releases begin at 8.30am EST. read WSJ

In the background, rumors of Twitter’s IPO are going wild after the company hired Morgan Stanley’s Cynthia Gaylor for corporate development, despite co-founder Jack Dorsey saying he was “not even thinking” about going public. read Bloomberg read Bloomberg (Dorsey)

On Monday, the UK will be out for the early May bank holiday.

Weekend reading…IvyConnect: is a ‘fascinating individual’ necessarily a douchebag? read Bloomberg
– the real culprits behind the Libor scandal are London broker nights, read WSJ
– ze Germans are gestuck with the Euro, read Bloomberg
– stripped off the alter ego: ex-Barclays CEO Bob Diamond takes the subway now, read NYTimes
– terrorism, conspiracy and the media, read New York Magazine

Have a good one.

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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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Central bank center stage: light winds from Canada

Today’s agenda is full, with the ECB press conference this afternoon, future Bank of England governor Mark Carney being quizzed in the UK parliament and the aftermath of the sudden overnight re-ignition of the rate-fixing scandal(s).

Starting with the latter, the Libor investigation has led to fines all around already, but now it uncovered the unfortunate wordings of some RBS traders (to be read here). FYI, I like both steak and sushi. Meanwhile, Japanese banks, as well as RBS’ Tokyo division, have been accused of manipulating Tibor, the Tokyo Interbank Offered Rate, which they have done, of course, because why would something like this be contained in London. On the continent, the investigation of Deutsche Bank’s Euribor fixing is progressing and has led to the suspension of five traders in Frankfurt. More fun to come.

While all that is happening, Mark Carney, former governor of Canada’s central bank and incoming governor of the Bank of England, is facing the Treasury Select Committee. Prior to the session, George Osborne declared how upset he is about the UK’s monetary policy, asking for more easing to stimulate growth. All questions are really just trying to get to the point of one thing: what’s going to change now? We already know about his nominal GDP-targeting idea, but what else? He stressed the importance of flexibility in meeting inflation targets again and gave the current BoE regime his support, praising its “entirely possible, in fact probable” positive impact on the economy. read article.

As for the ECB, Mario Draghi will hold a press conference at 1.30pm London time. Presumably on the agenda are the LTRO repayments, the euro and the latest ECB Bank Lending Survey, which indicated tighter lending conditions due to bank’s capital requirements. Maybe, Draghi will comment on Ireland’s debt burden, which the ECB reportedly eased.

Meanwhile, the People’s Bank of China noted the increased inflation risks due to QE exercised by the US and Japan, which “may push up commodity prices and make global capital flows more volatile.” China reports its January inflation rate tomorrow; it is expected to come in at 2%, as opposed to 2.5% in December.

In other news, India lowered its growth forecast from 5.5% (prior to last week at 5.8%) to 5% and Cathay Pacific decided to up the value of its cargo, switching from e.g. apparel to transporting diamonds and pharmaceuticals to boost revenues. Also, the EU-leaders summit kicked off in Brussels today.

So long.

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Dell brings buyouts back; Obama fails to strike deal

It’s a very AmUrica-centric news day, so let’s start with…

TWENTY-FOUR point four billion dollars. That’s what it will cost founder Michael Dell (who currently holds 14% of the firm) and Silver Lake Partners to buy the computer business. That makes Dell the largest leveraged buyout since 2007. read article 

Microsoft, which counts Dell as one of its largest clients, provided a $2bn loanBut according to WSJ:

Despite its participation, Microsoft isn’t getting board seats or operational control. What it is getting, apparently, is a wink and a nod that Dell won’t start shipping equipment running Android, for instance… The danger there is that, by limiting its technology options, Microsoft’s involvement ultimately damages Dell’s long-term prospects.

In other deal news, US media company Liberty Global is going to buy Virgin Media for £10bnread article

Also in the US, we’re more or less back to the old spiel: after Obama proposed a teeny-tiny cuts/tax package to delay the sequester (automatic spending cuts on 1 March), Republicans rejected the idea out of tradition. The whole thing just looked too much like additional tax increases to them. If all else fails, the sequester will slash $85bn from federal spending until February 2014 – not exactly a health fix for the US economy. read article

The US Department of Justice has added a price tag to the S&P mis-rating case: the mortgage securities in question, which received inappropriate ratings between 2004 and 2007, caused losses of more than $5bn. The awkward side to it: the lawsuit has brought to light that S&P analysts danced around to “Burning Down the House” and said they would “rate every deal. It could be structured by cows and we would rate it.” So far, it is unknown whether S&P employees are just really big fans of the Talking Heads. read article

Otherwise, Europe is waiting for Godot the ECB‘s and Bank of England’s meetings tomorrow and RBS was fined $325m by the CFTC in relation to the Libor scandal, while Silvio Berlusconi is winning ground against Italy’s Democratic Party in the polls. read article

So long.

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Japan opens floodgates [further]; Euribor to be reformed

Japan will spend JPY 10.3tn ($116bn) on an economic stimulus package that is set out to boost GDP by 2%create 600,000 jobs and worsen the country’s public debt situation. At this point, Japan’s debt amounts to 220% of GDP. About a third of the stimulus will be spent on disaster prevention and reconstruction; natural disasters, that is, not financial ones. read article

A handful of conservative European leaders are meeting in Cyprus to talk budget today, which is awkward because Angela Merkel has publicly opposed a bailout of the country. read article

In the background, Silvio Berlusconi proclaims that he “will not admit any responsibility for Italy’s crisis:

Berlusconi blamed his legal troubles, which include a tax fraud conviction and a pending trial on charges of engaging a minor in prostitution, on politically motivated judges and prosecutors.

After the recently re-arisen Libor scandal (some more dissecting of what Deutsch Bank did, here), the European Banking Authority and the European Securities and Markets Authority have recommended to reform the Euribor benchmark interest rate as well. read article

London is getting cold again these days and so is China. In the worst winter, like, ever, consumer prices accounted for 2/3 of the 2.5% inflation hike [from 2011] in December. The cold weather is pushing the price of vegetables up, and higher inflation could endanger future government stimuli, although that’s still a bit far-fetched at this point. read article

This week, both Morgan Stanley and American Express jumped on the bandwagon and announced significant staff cuts. While MS plans to fire around 1,600 people6% of its global workforce, AmEx will reduce its employee base by 8.5%, which will cost about $400m in severance payments.

Weekend reading

– a song for Paul Krugmanwatch video

– women in defense (the industry, stupid!), read article

– the case for the $1tn coinread article read another article

– Obama’s new posse – controversial(?) choices at the White House, read article

Have a good one.

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Deutsche Bank profits from Libor fixing (maybe and also, duh!)

Whether any of today’s apparent top stories are actual top stories remains to be seen. There is Deutsche Bank’s profits from Libor trades (or not), ECB action (or not), and the suspiciously low Vix volatility index showing that all problems are solved (or not). Hm.

So the Vix hasn’t been this low in 5.5 years. Now that the US didn’t fall off the cliff, there’s hardly anything left to worry about… Is it going to stay like this? Of course not, there’s a debt ceiling on fire, spending cuts lying around and an earnings season to come. This merely seems to be a reflection of ‘stopping to care’ and ‘calming the f*uck down’. read article

Months after the Libor scandal unravelled and shook the City of London, the Wall Street Journal reported that Deutsche Bank recorded €500m in profits from trades linked to the notorious benchmark rate in 2008. In the worldwide rate-rigging investigation, the bank had not been charged with any fines yet. In response, Deutsche Bank emailed Bloomberg, outraged, saying trades relied on analysis and “not on any belief that the bank could inappropriately influence interbank lending rates.” Of all global players, Deutsche Bank has been bashed significantly less than other investment banks. Only in home-sweet-home Germany, where traditionally all social democrats hate the firm, things are a bit more difficult.

AIG decided against participating in a shareholder lawsuit against the US government for not being nice enough during the insurer’s $40bn bailout yesterday. The case is being pursued by former AIG CEO Maurice R Greenberg, whose Starr International Corporation used to be a shareholder of the insurance company. In short:

The suit contends the US government extracted too-onerous terms in its rescue package for AIG, and seeks about $25bn from the government. A federal claims court in Washington ruled in July that the case could proceed, after the US government sought to dismiss it.

In the background, Barack Obama has chosen his chief of staff Jack Lew as Treasury Secretary and the ECB is meeting to discuss this month’s policy decision, which are unlikely to result in anything new if you believe a Reuters poll. (Aha, there we go, nothing happened.)

So long.

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Go team Draghi

So we got ourselves a banking union. That is surprising for a number of reasons. First of all, the Eurogroup struck a deal. Secondly, the Eurogroup struck said deal before the deadline. Finally, Germany managed to add a clause that protects its Mittelstand. Oh no wait, the last one isn’t the least bit surprising.

A summary a la WSJ:

Ministers said the European Central Bank would start policing the most important and vulnerable banks in the euro zone and other countries that choose to join the new supervisory regime next year. Once it takes over, the ECB will be able to force banks to raise their capital buffers and even shut down unsafe lenders.

Once approved by the European Parliament, the show could kick off as early as March [let’s be realistic and say July]. The threshold for banks under supervision is €30bn of assets held, leaving Germany’s retail banking sector more or less untouched.

Unfortunately, the EU delegates involved were just as impressed with their own efficiency, so they decided to leave all other decisions be for now… until June. According to the FT, both budget negotiations and economic reform contracts, were completely taken off the agenda. The remaining time spent together will be used to play Secret Santa (guess who got Greece).

Moreover, Mario Draghi, soon to be puppeteer of Europe’s financial institutions was named the FT’s person of the year. Good for you, Mario. We know it hasn’t been easy. read article

In legal/regulatory/scandal news, the FSA, CFTC (US Commodities Futures Trading Commission) and the US Department of Justice are about to fine UBS more than $1bn for fixing libor ratesDealbreaker explains how such a humongous number (double of what Barlcays had to pay) comes together:

The fine-setters seem to have about four things to think about: 1) how much bad stuff did the bank do, 2) how much money did they make doing it, 3) how caught are they, and 4) how sorry are they now.

It calls for an investigation.

Co-head of Deutsche BankJuergen Fitschen, is under investigation for tax fraud committed in 2009. In his opinion, the reaction of German authorities, sending officers with machine guns to the Deutsche Bank headquarters in Frankfurt on Wednesday, was a bit much and he doesn’t intend to resign any time soon.

For the weekend, Japanese elections are on, with the opposition (the Liberal Democratic Party) led by Shinzo Abe expected to winread article

Weekend reading

– North Korea: playing with rockets, read article

– Felix Salmon on NYT Dealbook’s first conference this week and whether it was a success, read article

– Joris Luyendijk’s banking blog returns to blame fund managers, read article

– Alphaville is selling shirts (or ECB collateral) for charityread article

Have a good one.

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US corporate tax up for discussion, BoE changes course (towards Canada)

There won’t be a News Brief tomorrow, Thursday, December 13, 2012.

There are actual news regarding the fiscal cliff, with President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner putting corporate tax up for discussion. Reforming the corporate tax rate, currently between 15% and 35% depending on the state, would be part of a policy package that could yield $1.4bn in new revenues, as opposed to $1.6bn as proposed earlier. Some sources say that an overhaul of the current corporate tax regime could reduce the maximum rate from 35% to 28%. Obama’s current proposal also includes lifting the debt-ceiling and increasing infrastructure spendingread article

Germany has gently (read harshly) reminded Silvio Berlusconi to leave blaming Germany for Italy’s economic policies out of his election campaign. Berlusconi said that Monti’s government had employed German-centric policies and Berlin had used the spread between German and Italian bond yields to cause his last cabinet to collapse. read article

Meanwhile in the UK, i.e. New Canada, Mark Carney has had the entire BoE‘s senior management stumble as he announced the central bank needed more radical measures, steady rates, numerical unemployment targets and maybe consider leaving inflation alone for now and replacing it with nominal GDP targeting. Mervyn King is real happy about his successor right now. read article

Today also marks the day when the libor scandal creeps back onto the front pages. A former trader for Citigroup and UBS and two employees of interdealer broker RP Martin were arrested and questioned regarding the rate-rigging that was uncovered in Spring 2012. Barclays paid $450m in settlement charges in June in connection to the scandal. read article

So long.

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Morals = money: financial incentives for whistle-blowing

Apple’s earnings missed forecasts, posting slightly higher sales but lower EPS. Apple reportedly sold 26.9 million iPhones and 14 million iPads last quarter. Key rival Samsung sold 53.6 million phones, which makes for a market share of almost a third worldwideSamsung’s earnings were better than expected, but South Korea posted GDP growth of 1.6% in Q3, the slowest rate since 2009. That dragged Asian shares, including Samsung, which is the heaviest weighted stock in the MSCI Asia-Pacific index, down to a seven-week lowread article

The European Parliament is working on a new directive to financially incentivize whistle-blowing, says the Handelsblatt Morning Briefing. Of course, much of this aimed at the financial services sector, especially considering recent scandals regarding insider trading and interest rate fixing. What may have been claimed to be the moral high-ground will therefore soon become a way of cashing in. It seems like something Greg Smith would enjoy.

On that note, Societe Generale, Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of America, Credit Suisse, Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ, Norinchukin Bank, Rabobank, Lloyd’s and West LB have also been subpoenaed in regard to the Libor scandal. Maybe it’s time to accept that everybody was involved and move on. read article

One of the last firms with a clean slate in this case is BNP Paribas, France’ largest bank, which was downgraded from AA- to A+. The ratings for Credit Agricole and Societe Generale were confirmed with negative outlook. France’s president Francois Hollande has meanwhile hit the lowest voter satisfaction ratings since his inauguration, reaching only 36% in a recent poll by Le Figaro, versus the highest rating of 55%. The poor rating is most likely due to the country’s terrible economic performance that has forgotten what growth even looks like by now. In September, the unemployment rate hit a 13-year high; Hollande expects to take another 12-14 months to see any effects in the jobless numbers. But let’s not forget that Monsieur le president is convinced that the worst is lying behind us, and Europe will flourish again in no time. read article

And in the background, Greece has run out of money again. Officials said that the country requires an additional €30bn to make it through 2016. Greece will also fail to meet the 120% debt (of GDP) target in 2020; officials say it will be more like 136%. Have fun negotiating that with the Germans. If this was last year and anybody would have heard about additional billions that far down the line, Greece would have been kicked out of the EMU faster than they can put on a general strike. read article

Weekend reading

– Why the color of your parachute doesn’t matter if you don’t know where it’s taking you, read article

– the five lies Mario Drahgi told ze Germans about the OMT programread article

– the Harvard comparison: Obama vs Romneyread article

– an economist at the US treasury found the transcript of the 1944 Button Woods negotiationsread article

Have a good one.

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