News That Matters

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Another no volume, no action day added. People have been busy buying lately, and volatility has collapsed. We are hearing the Goldilocks scenario about to unfold, while junior quants are telling us “time to sell vol”. Whatever one thinks of the market, please review what the market did did after the Real Smart Money sold. In 99 Goldman Sachs went public, in 2007 Blackrock went public, in June 2011, Glencore went public. This time, Facebook might just be selling the Top. On the other hand, many think “this time is different”

Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Hutchison Whampoa agreed to buy Orange Austria in a deal valued at €1.3bn ($1.7bn), adding to more than $31bn of investments in overseas mobile-phone operations,


Bank of England policymaker Adam Posen looks set to vote for another cash injection for the faltering British economy next week, and expressed some confidence that other central bankers may join him, says Reuters.


The economy will suffer a modest contraction this year, according to influential academic institute the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, the first to forecast a return to outright recession for the UK.


Trading in the most popular US exchange-traded funds fell to multiyear lows in January, threatening to increase transactions costs for retail investors. ETFs, which track the performance of a basket of securities such as an equity or bond index,



Spanish banks must find €50bn ($66bn) from profits and capital this year to finance a clean-up of their balance sheets or agree to merge with another bank by May to gain an extra year’s grace, according to Luis de Guindos,


US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke struck a cautious tone on the health of the economy in testimony to Congress but gave no hint that more stimulus from the central bank is near, says the FT. The pace of the economic recovery remains “frustratingly slow” and “the sluggish expansion has left the economy vulnerable to shocks”,


The independence of the Swiss National Bank risks being compromised due to political pressure following the departure of Philipp Hildebrand as chairman, the central bank’s acting chairman has warned. Mr Hildebrand resigned last month after it emerged that his wife had conducted controversial foreign exchange trades shortly before the SNB intervened to weaken the franc last September.


Asian debt markets got off to a flying start in 2012, recording all time record issuance for January as global investors look for new safe homes for their cash and issuers look to guard against the disappearance of other financing options,


Japan’s finance minister hasn’t ruled out intervention should the yen continue to rise against the dollar, particularly if “speculative moves” continue to the push the currency higher, the WSJ reports.


Deutsche Bank has risked a clash with the European Central Bank by indicating it sees a stigma attached to the long-term help offered to banks to try to ease the eurozone’s funding crisis. Josef Ackermann, chief executive, made clear that Deutsche might not take up the ECB’s next offer of unlimited three-year loans because it might be seen as tantamount to government aid that could damage the bank’s reputation.


The price difference between the world’s two leading oil benchmarks traded at its widest in 11 weeks as West Texas Intermediate lost ground against Brent on concerns about higher stock building in the US. The “spread” or the difference between WTI, the US benchmark, and Brent, regarded as the global benchmark, widened to $15.71 a barrel on Thursday after the US contract fell when the latest US government data revealed that stocks in Cushing, the storage and pipeline hub in Oklahoma, had risen two weeks in a row.


As global financial markets have been roiled by the eurozone’s worsening debt crisis, Africa has proved a rare bright spot. Debt issuance by African sand companies outside the northern Arab states hit a record $12.4bn in 2011, up  17 per cent on the previous year, according to Dealogic. Global debt issuance, by contrast, fell 6 per cent. Namibia was among the maiden issuers, and Zambia is expected to sell euro bonds for the first time this year.

Asian stock markets were mixed in choppy trade Friday as many investors took to the sidelines ahead of crucial jobs data from the U.S. later in the global day, with Seoul and Tokyo stocks undermined by largely weaker earnings. Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average eased 0.3%, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.3%, South Korea’s Kospi Composite fell 0.9%, China’s Shanghai Composite Index was flat, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was flat and India’s Sensex was flat. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were down 11 points in screen trade. The earnings season continued to affect regional sentiment, with many companies posting weaker results and painting a dour outlook amid slowing global growth.


U.S. officials say they believe Iran recently gave new freedoms to as many as five top al Qaeda operatives who have been under house arrest, including the option to leave the country, and may have provided some material aid to the terrorist group. The men, who were detained in Iran in 2003, make up al Qaeda’s so-called management council, a group that includes members of the inner circle that advised Osama bin Laden and an explosives expert widely considered a candidate for a top post in the organization. The assertions are likely to amplify tensions between Washington and Tehran. A Senate committee on Thursday moved to intensify sanctions to force Iran into negotiations on its nuclear program, while Tehran has largely defied pressure. This week, Iran prevented U.N. nuclear inspectors from gaining access to sites and scientists, according to diplomats.


What is Facebook worth? As investors dug into the company’s freshly released financials Wednesday, analysts and investors began circulating a range of values—from as little as $50 billion to as much as $125 billion—for the social-networking website. It will be months before the market sets a final price, but already the valuation question has become a tug of war over two essential questions: Just how fast can the company continue to grow? And can it extract value from advertising in the way it plans?


The rainy-day funds that U.S. banks have been tapping to boost their earnings could soon begin to dry up, and that doesn’t bode well for bank profits. Many banks have been “releasing” reserves against bad loans since the worst of the crisis passed and the economy began recovering. That money flows to the bottom line, helping some banks boost earnings at a time when lending and trading profits have been soggy.  But with loan-loss cushions now receding toward precrisis levels, some analysts doubt banks can afford to keep up the pace of reserve releases. Lowering reserve releases could increase pressure


Yields are falling on Spanish and Italian government bonds as fears ease that the euro zone’s two-yeardebt crisis could spread to its larger economies. The same can’t be said for Portugal, which in 2011 became the third of the 17-member bloc to accept an international bailout. Yields on its benchmarkbonds soared to euro-era highs this week on fears that the economy will contract more than expected, making it harder for the government to repay its debts and perhaps force it to seek another bailout.


U.S. companies are booking higher profits than ever. But the number crunchers in Washington are puzzling over a phenomenon that has just come into view: Corporate tax receipts as a share of profits are at their lowest level in at least 40 years. Total corporate federal taxes paid fell to 12.1% of profits earned from activities within the U.S. in fiscal 2011, which ended Sept. 30, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That’s the lowest level since at least 1972. And well below the 25.6% companies paid on average from 1987 to 2008.

Gold futures edged back from an 11-week high in electronic trading on Friday, as the dollar gained a bit of ground ahead of key U.S. jobs data.  Gold for April delivery traded down 40 cents at $1,785.90 an once in Asian electronic trading hours.  The metal gained $9.80 to trade at $1,759.30 an ounce in regular trading in New York on Thursday, the highest close for gold since mid-November.


Copper’s wild ride last year has given way to a big rally as optimism over demand growth for the industrial metal, especially from China, rises. But some analysts doubt it will last. In August, copper futures touched highs above $4.40 a pound on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, then fell to lows closer to $3 by early October. But copper futures have gained about 10% year to date to recoup nearly half of their 23% drop in 2011. The March contract closed at $3.78 a pound Thursday.

Reserve Bank of India Deputy Governor Subir Gokarn said the monetary authority will cut interest rates once it’s confident inflation will keep slowing. “The stance now is that we have reached the peak and any further action will be toward easing,” Gokarn, 52, said in an interview at his office while discussing the rupee, the government’s budget deficit and bond repurchases. The central bank isn’t concerned about the currency’s record monthly advance in January “because in a sense it’s a correction,” following last year’s 16 percent decline, he said.


South Korea’s chief nuclear envoy is “optimistic” that inducements offered by the U.S. and his country will persuade North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong Un, to resume talks aimed at ending the regime’s atomic program. “The prospects of the normalization of the relationship between Pyongyang and the international community, and eventually a lifting of sanctions, all those benefits will be a strong incentive for the new leadership,” Lim Sung Nam, South Korea’s representative to the dialogue, said in his office in Seoul. “The six-party talks are basically a process of putting them on a learning curve regarding the cost of having nuclear weapons and the benefit of giving up nuclear weapons.”


Greece’s fight to win its second international bailout may only open a new chapter in its struggle to remain in the euro area. The rescue plan, which European officials and Greek creditors say may be wrapped up in coming days, includes a loss of more than 70 percent for bondholders in a voluntary exchange and loans likely to exceed the 130 billion euros ($171 billion) now on the table. That won’t stanch the bleeding, say economists including Holger Schmieding of Berenberg Bank in London. Greece will be saddled with too much debt, too little growth and too large a budget hole to do without even more money that euro nations led by Germany are increasingly reluctant to offer, they say.

Investors are waking up to the reality that the European Union and the euro will survive, Mark Mobius, the executive chairman of Templeton Emerging Markets Group told CNBC on Friday. He added that he was looking to invest in the region, particularly in Eastern Europe. “Reforms are taking place now in Europe, the effects will kick in next year, and then you’re going to see a much stronger regional community,” Mobius said in Singapore.


The U.S. central bank should be much more forceful in trying to bring down high unemployment, even if it means jumping into a potentially controversial new round of bond purchases, a top Federal Reserve said on Thursday. “I would be very aggressive,” Chicago Fed President Charles Evans told a small group of reporters over breakfast at the regional bank’s headquarters. “Over a six-month period I would set out a number that would be achievable, and if it couldn’t be all done in mortgage-backed securities, then I would throw in some Treasurys.”


The U.S. is “limping out of this recession” at growth of 1.7 percent thanks to Federal Reserve policy that has been “too loose for too long,” Rep. Paul Ryan, R.-Wis., chairman of the House Budget Committee, told CNBC. “The [Congressional Budget Office] is projecting slow growth. The Fed was way off on its growth projections. It is now revising its projections,” he said Thursday, hours after grilling Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke during his appearance before the Budget Committee. “I’m glad that he’s adding more

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to a level that signaled a steadily improving job market. The figures came one day before the government is expected to report that January marked another solid month for hiring. Unemployment applications fell 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 367,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dropped for the third straight week to 375,750. That’s the second-lowest level for the four-week average since June 2008. When applications stay consistently below 375,000, it usually signals that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner criticized opponents of new financial industry regulations and said the first non-banks deemed systemically risky will be named this year. “Those who are working to slow the pace of reform will only increase uncertainty, and they will damage our efforts to try to get the rest of the world to adopt a level playing field,” Geithner said in Washington yesterday. Geithner defended the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act and said regulators are “making considerable progress in implementing reform.” The law has come under attack from Republicans in Congress and presidential candidates.

Air India has assured that it will pay its dues for jet fuel to three state-owned oil firms by Friday after its fuel supplies were cut.  Indian oil, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum halted supplies to the airline for almost four hours on Thursday evening. They alleged that Air India has not paid them for fuel even after the expiry of a 90-day grace period.


India’s Supreme Court has cancelled 122 telecommunications licences awarded to companies in 2008.The licences were issued by former minister A Raja, who is accused of mis-selling bandwidth in what has been called India’s biggest corruption scandal. Mr Raja denies wrongdoing. Government auditors say the scandal cost the country about $40bn (£24.5bn). The judges also ordered a court to decide whether Home Minister P Chidambaram should be investigated.

A former chief economist at the Cabinet Office has accused the Chancellor of causing lasting social and economic damage to the UK because of a refusal to ease austerity in the short-term. Jonathan Portes, who was appointed to the Cabinet Office while Gordon Brown was Prime Minister, said that with unemployment forecast to remain high in the coming years, a short-term boost to the economy could avert longer-term pain.


International debt inspectors believe they have found another €15bn (£12.5bn) black hole in Greece’s public finances caused by the deepening recession, delivering the crippled nation another devastating blow. With pressure growing over talks with private investors about the terms of a €100bn debt write-off, officials calculated that to bring the country’s debts to a sustainable level at 120pc of GDP the international community would need to find an extra €15bn, raising the prospect of a Greek default.


Ed Miliband will open a new front in his war on excessive City pay on Friday, as he calls for curbs on bonuses at banks that have not required government bail-outs. The Labour leader will promise MPs a vote on whether to end the bonus culture where executives receive “huge” rewards for simply doing their jobs. In a speech in the heart of London’s Canary Wharf financial district, he will warn that too many financiers are receiving rewards that are “too big, too often” while schoolchildren are being denied books and libraries are closing as a result of the financial crisis.

Britain’s builders were stuck in first gear in January, as the industry’s growth slowed to a crawl, the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (Cips) said yesterday. Housebuilding and civil engineering output shrank, while jobs growth also stagnated, Cips said. Its activity index, where a score over 50 means expansion, slowed from 53.2 to 51.4 – signalling the most disappointing growth since last autumn.

Oil fell to a six-week low in New York as US supplies climbed and fuel demand tumbled. Brent crude in London traded at the biggest premium to the American benchmark grade in 12 weeks. Futures declined for a fifth day after the Energy Department reported yesterday that crude supplies in the US rose to a three-month high last week. Total fuel use dropped 8.3 per cent to 17.7 million barrels a day, the least since 1999. Tension over Iran’s nuclear program may ease after United Nations inspectors announced more talks in Tehran.


Negotiations to fix a massive write-down with private investors of Greek sovereign debt are at an “ultra difficult” stage, eurozone chief Jean-Claude Juncker said Thursday. “These negotiations are ultra difficult,” the Luxembourg prime minister told school pupils in a blunt address, referring to the key first condition for a global agreement on a second financial rescue for Athens. Juncker, who chairs the Eurogroup that gathers finance ministers from the 17 currency partners, joked that the progress of the negotiations meant “this will be the last happy moment of the day for me.”

Japanese automobile sales rocketed more than 40 per cent in January after the government restored subsidies for eco-friendly vehicles. Sales of vehicles with engine sizes above 660cc stood at 263,267 in January, up 40.7 per cent on the previous year, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said.  The figure includes larger vehicles such as lorries and buses as well as cars.

China’s industrial enterprises saw their profits increase 25.4 percent year-on-year to reach 5.45 trillion yuan (863.68 billion U.S. dollars) in 2011, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Friday. The growth rate rebounded from 24.4 percent in the first 11 months of last year, NBS figures showed. But it marked a gradual downshift from 32 percent year-on-year growth seen during the first quarter, 28.7 percent during the first half, and 27 percent in the first three quarters.


The growth of China’s non-manufacturing sector slowed in January, as indicated by the drop of the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing (CFLP) said Friday. The non-manufacturing sector’s PMI, a key economic indicator, fell to 52.9 percent in January from 56 percent one month earlier, the CFLP said. A PMI reading above 50 percent indicates expansion from the previous month, while below indicates contraction.


Along with Beijing and Shanghai, Guangzhou in Guangdong province is rising to be another hot spot for buyers of luxury goods, despite Hong Kong – offering tariff-free products – being just a two-hour train journey away. La Perle, a Guangzhou-based shopping mall established in 2004 and specializing in luxuries, enjoyed a double-digit sales increase in 2011, said Wang Yan, a PR officer at the mall. The number of VIP customers surpassed 6,000, with 80 percent of that number being residents of Guangzhou. To become a La Perle VIP customer, one needs to spend 25,000 yuan ($3,964) in a day or 50,000 yuan over six months. But the high spending threshold hasn’t held people back and the number of VIP customers at the mall grew by more than 20 percent in 2011.


Activity in Australia’s services sector lifted in January after three consecutive months of decline, a survey released on Friday by the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) showed. The Australian Industry Group/Commonwealth Bank Australian Performance of Services Index (PSI) rose 2.9 points to 51.9 points in January. Readings above 50 indicate an expansion in activity. The survey found strong growth in the sub-sectors of accommodation, restaurants, finance and recreational services, while wholesale trade and communication services were the worst performers.


A further 177,470 jobs were lost in Spain in January, according to figures released by the Spanish National Institute of Statistics (INE) on Thursday. The total number of people out of work in the country now stands at 4,599,829, which is a 4.01-percent rise from December last year. There was also an 8.72-percent rise in the number of people who lost their jobs between January last year and this year. All sectors of the economy suffered, including service, construction and industry.

China may offer rescue funds to Europe, Premier Wen Jiabao said after meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday.  Wen said it was “urgent” to solve the European debt crisis, and China is willing to “involve itself more” in efforts to resolve Europe’s debt issues through the International Monetary Fund, the Europan Financial Stability Facility and the European Stability Mechanism.  The mechanism is a $650 billion permanent bailout fund signed by 25 out of 27 European Union members on Monday.


The Latin America and Caribbean economies should be poised to take a string of steps including easing their monetary policies to guard against contagion risks triggered by the eurozone debt crisis, an official of the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Thursday.  The Latin America and the Caribbean economies should hope for the best and prepare for the worst, Nicolas Eyzaguirre, Director of the IMF’s Western Hemisphere Department, cautioned in an article carried on the IMF blog on Thursday.


China’s top economic planning agency announced Thursday it would raise the minimum purchase prices for rice in 2012 to encourage farmers to grow more grains.  It is the fifth consecutive yearly price increase aimed to boost grain production and farmers’ income. The minimum purchase price for early indica rice will be increased to 120 yuan (19.01 U.S. dollars) per 50 kg, up 18 yuan from the 2011 price, the National Development and Reform Commission said in a statement on its website. The agency lifted the price for mid-and-late indica rice to 125 yuan (19.8 U.S. dollars) per 50 kg, up 18 yuan from the 2011 price.

The government’s decision to do away with the practice of releasing weekly food inflation data came into effect on Thursday.  Announcing the discontinuance, in an official statement, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, which releases the weekly food inflation numbers, said: “Consequent upon the decision of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs held on January 24, 2012, weekly release of Wholesale Price Index (WPI) for the commodities/items under the Groups ‘Primary Articles’ and ‘Fuel & Power is discontinued with immediate effect”.  Instead, as has been the practice, the government will continue to release the monthly headline inflation data.  Apart from the inflation numbers for manufactured items, the monthly WPI data contains the break-up for all other article segments, including food, non-food and fuel. The headline or overall inflation data for January 2012 is to be released on February 14.


Nearly 70 million subscribers may have to change their operators as a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling to cancel licences. But thanks to Mobile Number Portability the change over may not be that tough. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India said there will not be much impact on customers as around 95 per cent subscribers belong to operators which got licences before January 2008.

Services sector grew at its fastest pace in six months during January as new business swelled, extending the previous couple of months’ positive trend into the new calendar year, a survey showed.

The HSBC Business Activity Index, compiled by Markit and based on a survey of around 400 firms, bounced to 58.0 in January from 54.2 in December. That was the third month the index has been above the 50-mark separating growth from contraction.

South Korea will intensify its efforts to nurture more small and mid-sized exporting companies to help the nation’s annual trade volume exceed US$2 trillion by 2020, the commerce ministry said Friday.

South Korea’s trade volume topped $1 trillion in early December for the first time in its history, making the country the world’s ninth to have ever reached the $1-trillion mark in trade. According to the ministry, the government plans to foster 20,000 more small and mid-sized exporters by 2020 through programs aimed at enhancing trading capacity of fledgling start-ups, and support companies whose businesses were centered on the domestic market in looking abroad.

The rand is set to give up recent gains against the dollar, with the persistent debt problems in the eurozone leaving it vulnerable to another bout of weakness in the next few months, a Reuters poll showed on Thursday.  The debt crisis in the eurozone, South Africa’s largest trading partner, has hurt demand for South Africa’s goods and at times driven investors away from riskier emerging market assets.