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ECONOMICS – FINANCE – WORLD NEWS – GREEK DEBT

Europe is the new Japan – ECB cuts rates

Yesterday…The Fed’s FOMC meeting notes showed that we’re moving away from the “let’s close the money tap” idea and back to “whatever it takes” – meaning easing or no easing. The statement said that policy action will be taken with an eye on how the economy will progress. read Alphaville (interestingly, Matthew Yglesias of Slate has interpreted this as a call for stimulus)

Apple‘s mega bond of $17m helps the company to avoid $9bn in taxes. If Apple would have had to bring in money from abroad to pay dividends to shareholders, that’s what it would have cost them. Of course, the average Apple customer, like me, doesn’t care about tax avoidance (it’s not even illegal), but the American state is upset, as it’s trying to crack down on offshore tax avoidance like never before this year. read FT

Otherwise, an infographic to yesterday’s ADP employment report. view graphic

This morning…
all eyes are on the ECB, which just announced a benchmark interest rate cut by a quarter point to 0.50%. A press conference during which Mario Draghi will wear a suit made of money is set to follow at 1.30 BST. Let the excitement begin. Money for everyone.

UBS is holding an investor meeting today, during which the bank may be urged to split its investment banking and wealth management units [again]. read Reuters

So long.

Death Star Economics
ECONOMICS – FINANCE – WORLD NEWS – GREEK DEBT

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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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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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Cyprus to exit the news

Over the weekend…

actually right before, Fitch but the UK on its watchlist for downgrades.

The United States Congress is working on reforming the taxability of debt and equity, changing the traditional debt-bias (i.e. tax-deductible interest payments) to an equity-bias. read article

The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision received at hat tip that there was a MASSIVE loophole in the Basel III regulation that imposes, among other things, higher capital standards on banks. What it doesn’t regulate, however, is the use of credit default swaps to handle riskier assets that count into those capital standards. Changes to be made. read article

Speaking of Basel – after Switzerland came under scrutiny (again) by facilitating tax avoidance, the US Department of Justice has now asked Lichtenstein to hand over documentation of American-held accounts. read article

Over night…

The Eurogroup of Finance Ministers approved troika-sponsored bailout plan for Cyprus, totalling €10bn. In short, bank deposits under €100,000 will be guaranteed, while larger deposits are facing a crazy haircut, possibly up to 40% (others say the cuts will be capped at 20%). After ten days closure, Cypriot banks re-open todayread article

And let’s not forget that besides all this, we’re still waiting on Italy.

Have a good week.

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Banker bonus debate: Why it’s always better to be Switzerland

After the EU’s policy proposal to cap banker bonuses last week, Switzerland voted in a referendum on a similar topic, regarding both [executive] salaries and bonuses. Surprisingly, the result leaned towards Brussels, with 68% voting in favor of new rules. On the one hand, that’s surprising because Switzerland is already losing business to places like Singapore that offer favorable tax rates to big multinationals like Trafigura, which could lead to a relocation of their headquarters. But on the other hand, the Swiss proposal gives more rights to shareholders and seems to encourage internal management of compensation as opposed to a blanket EU-one-will-fit-all-because-it-has-to policy (on the far side of the spectrum, Breakingviews suggests the introduction of tipping for services). read article 

On the same topic, George Osborne will launch a last lobbying effort on behalf of the City tomorrow, trying to mitigate the reach of the proposed rule to protect London’s financial district. Before that, the Eurogroup will begin meetings in Brussels today to discuss Cyprus’ bailout program.

Over in the USinvestors worry about the effect of new cuts and taxes on consumer spending, particularly in the light of a 3.6% slump in personal incomes in the beginning of the year weighing on household budgets. The government’s worries still lie with last week’s sequestationObama wants to get the issue resolved to move on to other policies, but Congress is currently just laughing in his faceread article

Elsewhere, China has pushed past the US and has become the world’s largest net oil importer, driven by America’s move into fracking and shale gas, as well as China’s rising demand for fuel. The analysis was derived from December data, when US net imports dropped to their lowest levels since 1992. read article

As for the week aheadJapan is poised to announce a current account deficit of JPY 768.5bn on Friday, according to ZeroHedge, which is the worst number ever recorded. Otherwise, all central banks of the rainbow are meeting this week, leaving plenty of room for statements on the currency wars.

Have a good week.

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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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Jobs Friday and Barclays latest disaster

Before 1.30pm (8.30am EST):

After Wednesday’s announcement of the shrinking US economy, today’s jobs report gained in importance. Forecasted is a flat unemployment rate at 7.8% with a 11,000 more jobs added than in December (166,000). As according to MarketBeat:

To get the rally back on track, the jobs figures might not only have to beat expectations, but beat them handily. […] On top of that the January jobs report, in particular, is typically difficult to read. The government updates its population estimates at the beginning of every year, which in the past has caused big movements in the survey figures compared to the December data.

After 1.30pm (830am EST):

Ouch. This didn’t work out at all, did it now… With jobs only up slightly from 155,000 to 157,000, the unemployment rate rose to 7.9%. But not all is bad, in hindsight both November and December were better months for the job market. read article

If there was a part of you hoping that an end would be in sight for this ubiquitous bailout hangover from the financial crisis, I’ve got bad news for you. Allegedly, Barclays lend money to the Qatari government, the go-to investor for all of London, to invest in the bank and avoid a bailout by the British government. Improper disclosure and dubious fees could deem this deal illegal. read article
 
In the background, Barclays CEO Antony Jenkins refused his 2012 bonus.

Otherwise, there’s not a whole lot going on. UK manufacturing picked up, as did consolidated eurozone manufacturing, and the Dutch government will fund a €14bn bailout of SNS Reaal, the countries fourth largest bank. 

Weekend reading:

– things economists worry about, by likelihood and impact, see graphic

– in defense of Europe’s financial transaction taxread article

– the life and death of moneyread article

– Berlusconi and Mussolini, read article

– advertising and the Super Bowl, 2013 edition, read article

– the banking blog on complianceread 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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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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Politics is about expectations: a referendum, taxes and inflation

Brace yourselves, it’s a Europe-heavy news day.

The big news of today is David Cameron’s EU speech, announcing a UK membership referendum sometime between now and 2017. Britons are applauding, while the rest of the EU is in a state of frustration. With the words of Laurent Fabius, Foreign Minister of tax hell France: “If you join a football club, you can’t say you want to play rugby.” Well, no. But was that what he was doing? Not really. Good analogy nonetheless. It set the tone for European politics this yearread article 

Eleven European countries (Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Portugal, Belgium, Estonia, Greece, Slovakia and Slovenia) have proceeded to drafting legislation for a financial transaction tax on the trading of stocks, bonds and derivatives. That sounds specific, but really isn’t, as Brussels hasn’t decided on specifics at all. So one of the best reasons not to go on a rant of the ineffectiveness of the policy that is meant to generate €57bn for various rescue vehicles, is that it might be stuck in parliaments across the continent for a while, despite its scheduled implementation of January 2014read article

In Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu has been re-elected, though not exactly by a landslide. In the sobering words of the BBC:

It was relief more than real jubilation. The simple truth was that the combined list of candidates headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had performed disappointingly. But politics is about expectations.

More analysis from Israel, here: read article

In Davos, where the World Economic Forum [attended by both Merkel and Cameron – awkward] has begun, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich has admitted that Russia’s perception abroad is bad for foreign investments and is holding the country back. watch video

Overseas news bring us the policy decision of the Bank of Japan, which is braced to do what new PM Abe talked about all January: pump money in the economy to meet the 2% inflation target. In fact, Japan has never had a firm inflation target like that, so you’d expect it to be big news. Yet, nobody, from analysts to the IMF’s Christine Lagarde, seems overly impressedread article

In the background, Deutsche Bank has to simulate a breakup of its consumer and investment banking units. read article

So long.

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