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ECONOMICS – FINANCE – WORLD NEWS – GREEK DEBT

OMG, Japan is actually growing

Yesterday…
US jobless claims came in higher than expected and housing data disappointed as well, raining on the American recovery 2013 parade and adding to the uncertainty over the future of the Fed‘s asset purchasing program. read New York Times
At the same time, those with disposable income seem to be working on a new housing bubble of sorts. read Bloomberg

Japan reported its economy grew in the first quarter of the year, leading to a 3.5% annualized growth leap and supporting Shinzo Abe’s approach since his inauguration in September. Most of the growth is attributed to private consumption. read Bloomberg

Meanwhile, Japanese companies prefer to look for opportunities elsewhere, for example the US, where a handful of corporates bought into the US shale gas market for several billion dollar. read Financial Times

Following the Bloomberg user data debacle, Citigroup has banned its fixed income traders from participating in Bloomberg chat groups to shield the banks from any security breaches. read Financial Times

This morning…
Lloyds Banking Group might just be short of fully returning into private sector hands, as the bank’s shares rose higher than the government’s cut-off point for a sale of 61.2 pence per share. Over the past weeks, David Cameron had reiterated that bailed out and partly nationalized institution shouldn’t stay government owned for longer than needed. read Reuters

Word got out that Qatar spent up to $3bn on supporting the Syrian opposition since 2011, the same year in which Libya’s rebels also received support, fueling rivalry over political influence between Arab countries. read Financial Times

Other than that, there is not much going on, time to get on the below.

Weekend reading…

Bangladesh, globalization and the price of your t-shirts, read New York Times
– from pork bellies to ruling the world – a brief history of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, read Economist
gold bulls vs bears, read Alphaville
– Super Abe and the fight for a prosperous Japan, read Economist leader
– on the uselessness of asset management, read Harvard Business Review

Have a good one.

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Cypriot banks re-open, German unemployment higher

Yesterday…
word got out that UK banks Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland, both backed by tax money, needed to raise an additional £9bn in correspondence to capital requirements set by international banking regulators. The additional cash needs to be on the balance sheets (£3bn for Lloyds, £6bn for RBS) by the end of this year. read article

This morning…
Cyprus is making history by being the first EU country to impose restrictions on capital flows, “with limits on credit card transactions, daily withdrawals, money transfers abroad and the cashing of cheques.” The withdrawal limit seems to be €300 per day, while transfers of more than €5,000 will require central bank approval. read article

German unemployment rose by 13,000 people, as opposed to an expected drop, while German 10-year bunds dropped to their lowest yield since early August 2012 (1.255%).

Meanwhile in Asia, the Bank of Japan has already exceeded its self-imposed limit on asset purchasing limit (well done) and South Korea cut its 2013 growth forecast from 3% to 2.3%.

Easter reading… – a list of people who are investigating JP Morgan, read article
– what extremely successful people were doing in their 20s, read article
– greatness of nations: India vs China, read article

Happy Easter, 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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T-1 month for Japanese election; $4.5bn settlement for BP

One election down, one to go: Japan is getting ready for December 16, when, rumor has it, the Liberal-Democratic Party will be re-elected over the incumbent Democratic Party of Japan. Over the past six years, Japan has elected a prime minister seven times. In between it was struck by disasters of all kinds. Shinzo Abe, leader of the liberal democrats, is determined to get the economy back on track, revisit US-Japanese relations and try not to go to war with China. Now there we have a reasonable approach to governing. Unfortunately, the world of money won’t have any of this. US hedge funds are increasingly betting against Japan’s corporate futuresays the Wall Street Journal, buying CDS’ for Sony, Panasonic, Nippon Paper Group and Kobe Steel.

In The Hague, Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac have been released from prison after they had been charged with a 24 and 18 year prison sentence respectively for war crimes against ethnic Serbs during an offensive to retake Croatia’s Krajina region in 2011. read article

In the UK, some MPs have claimed that is is unlikely that £66bn poured into Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland will ever be recovered. Two weeks ago, Jim O’Neil, who is responsible for the two bank investments on behalf of the government, admitted that the purchase may not have been absolutely necessary at the time. This is angering all the anti-Keynesians who are chanting “we told you so”. Yet, the US Treasury managed to recover its bailout payments to AIG and actually sell the stake at a profit, maybe not all is lost. American public funds are going to be redirected towards the recovery of the housing marketsaid Bernanke yesterday. Today, the Federal Housing Administration reported that its insurance fund is running $16bn deficit for the year leading up to October. read article

Updating yesterday’s news of BP’s fine, the company has to pay $4.5bn in settlement charges. This includes an actual fine worth $1.256bn, the biggest penality of its kind in history. The Deepwater Horizon disaster let 4.9 million barrels of crude oil flow into the Gulf of Mexico. read article

Weekend reading:

– Lloyd Blankfein got America’s recovery all figured out, read article

– American oil and gas for everyone, read article

– Questions for and a defense of left-libertarianismread questionsread defense

– Making “fiscal history”: India’s tax reformread article

– reality HomelandPatraeus‘ affair, read article

Have a good one.

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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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The changing face of finance

All eyes are on Mario Draghi once again, who is holding an ECB meeting in Brussels today. That once thing both Draghi and the rest of the world are waiting for is Spain‘s formal request for a bailout that would trigger the newly agreed bond-purchasing program of the Union’s central bank. Until that happens, however, nothing else will. Most likely statement to come out of today’s press conference is therefore probably a request for a request for a bailoutread article

Meanwhile, the European Banking Authority (EBA) has come back from it’s survey of 71 European banks, finding that only four of them fulfilled the new extra-super-crisis-resistant capital requirements of 9%. The survey did not include Spain’s Bankia or any Greek bank. The EBA said further that banks that don’t reach the prescribed ratios won’t be paying dividends or bonusesread article (read WSJ Deutschland)

Morgan Stanley, which had been rumored to be looking into selling its commodities division, has reportedly entered talks with the Qatari Investment Authority, the 12th largest sovereign wealth fund in the world that owns every other bit of London. The sale is motivated by new regulation through the Dodd-Frank Act and more specifically the Volcker rule, which prevents proprietary trading. read article

Similar news from J.P. MorganLDH Energy, currently owned by Louis Dreyfus and  J.P. Morgan’s hedge fund Highbridge Capital, will be sold to the CEO of Highbridge, Glenn Dubin, and founder of Tudor Investment Corp, Paul Tudor Jones. read article

Both these sales, though the former more so than the latter, are indicators of how post-crisis regulation is shaping the financial services sector into something new. The first result of this seems to be a cutting back of those bank divisions that that were added in the scope of expansions, during more pleasant economic times. Of course, this is not exclusive to commodities. Credit Suisse is looking to get rid of its $385bn asset management division as a “direct consequence” of not being a major asset manager, while Lloyds TSB has continuously offloaded its private equity assets, worth more than £1bn. Time to cut your losses and move on.

In the US presidential race, Romney won the first TV debateThe Atlantic said Obama lacked energy and enthusiasm, the Handelsblatt called him “pale” [which, of course, is a hilarious figure of speech here].

Greece, in its ineptitude of being a serious country, is on track to pool €100m to build a new formula one Grand Prix track. Bernie Ecclestone, CEO of Formula One Group, who is vainly trying to float the company on the Singapore stock exchange, has allegedly backed the project. Not necessarily related, GermanyFinland and the Netherlands have demanded to delay the next bailout tranche for Greece, worth €31bn, until November. read article

In other news, Facebook has hit the 1bn users benchmark. Fair enough, that IS cool. read article

So long.

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Banking scandals update

It’s summer, it’s warm for once, the Olympics are inescapable… well, it shows in the news.

Citi’s Chief Economist Willem Buiter said on CNBC that the chance of a Greek exit from the eurozone was now at 90%. Now we’re talking. Prior to this, Citigroup’s former chairman Sandy Weill called for the separation of investment and retail banking divisions, which had been regulated in the US by the Glass-Steagall Act until its repeal upon the formation of Citigroup in 1998. Hang on a minute what? Yes, exactly. Lagged cognitive dissonance, says I.

In response to the drug trafficking/terrorism financing scandal, HSBC was fined $27.5m by Mexico for poor money laundering controls, i.e. for not putting enough effort in[to the money laundering].

Meanwhile in Japan, Nomura’s CEO Kenichi Watanabe and COO Takumi Shibata resigned, following the insider trading scandal that broke early this month, with the former being replaced by CIO Koji Nagai. According to Reuters, this is the third insider trading scandal that has hit the bank since now ex-CEO headed up the bank.

And in terms of LiborLloyds TSB is the next bank subpoenaed over the rate fixing affair. I think that’s all with regard to this topic. Thank god.

Mario Draghi held a press conference this morning, claiming that the ECB will do everything in its power to save the euro [once again], despite the “short term challenges” around. Positive scanning or moronic tendencies, we will just never know, will we?

With the Olympics kicking off all over London, the number of articles discussing the games has exploded. You get the economics of the Olympics, the lost importance of Britain vs London’s ego, the security threat the city will have to deal with and of course how the public transport system will undeniably break down. read article

And then there was that thing with the North Korean flag of course… read article

So long.

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WWAED

Lloyds, the bank with the hands down best office building in London, had a reported loss of £3.5bn last year (NYTimes Dealbook reports a £2.8bn loss, just FYI). Of course it had to do with the economy. But there was also the £3.2bn hit the bank had to take for mis-selling payment protection insurancesread article

WWAED (what would an economist do): Ken Rogoff on austerity, wages and numerous crises in an interview with spiegel.de. read article

Joris Luyendijk took a break from interviewing anonymous bankers (et.al) in the City and travelled to Tokyo and talked to a corporate banker. read article

And then a venture capitalist turns into a raging feminist on the topic of gender ratios in boards of Fortune500 companies. As for the “higher collective intelligence” claim, where exactly is the evidence for that? I’m still waiting on an article that reads “Your next CEO should be a woman if she’s the best candidate for the job.” read article

Information Is Beautiful released the shortlist with 12 infographics of its Hollywood Dataviz challenge. Personal favorite: What Movie Should We Watch Tonight.

Have a good weekend.

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