News That Matters

Li Keping, a vice chairman of China’s $300bn sovereign wealth fund, has been named executive director and chief investment officer of the fund, Reuters reports. Li replaces Gao Xiqing in the role at China Investment Corp,

Some EU countries are still in the process of preparing remedial measures should their banks fail the latest round of sector-wide “stress tests” when the results revealed to the public on Friday, the FT says. Jacek Rostowski,

The escalation of Europe’s debt crisis is threatening to scupper stock market listings by two Spanish savings banks seen as crucial to the overhaul of Spain’s banking system, says the FT. Executives from Bankia,

The minutes from the US Federal Reserve’s June meeting show there is some interest in monetary stimulus if economic growth remains weak, marking the Fed’s first serious discussion of easing since the US economy hit a “soft patch” in the spring. “Some participants noted that

US ethanol refiners are consuming more domestic corn than livestock and poultry farmers for the first time, the FT reports, underscoring how a government-supported biofuels industry has contributed to surging grain demand. The US Department of Agriculture estimated that in the year to August 31 ethanol producers will have consumed 5.05bn bushels of corn,

Officials fighting the next financial crisis may again bail out banks using the public purse, S&P has said, in an opinion that casts doubt on one of the fundamental tenets of US financial reform. The FT reports the rating agency said that the US Treasury,

Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh completed a limited cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday, disappointing those hoping for a significant shake-up that might lift the flagging fortunes of the governing coalition

Eurozone finance ministers have lowered their opposition to a possible Greek debt default in order to accommodate German and Dutch demands that private creditors shoulder part of the burden of any new rescue package for the country. The acknowledgement of a possible Greek default marks a potential turning point in the eurozone’s attempts to address the crisis. It came after two days of meetings in Brussels, and against the fierce opposition of the European Central Bank, which fears that such an occurrence could unleash further turmoil in financial markets and spread contagion to other eurozone members.

Italy’s borrowing costs hit a euro-era high on Tuesday as the rush to sell peripheral eurozone bonds gathered pace after traders remained unconvinced by eurozone finance ministers’ attempts to calm markets and Italy’s ability to service its €1,800bn debt mountain. Italy’s benchmark 10-year bond yields brushed 6 per cent, up 0.19 percentage points after a record rise under the euro on Monday and the main stock market sagged 4.2 per cent.
Asian stock markets were mostly higher Wednesday after stronger-than-expected data in China allayed concerns about a slowdown in growth in the world’s second largest economy.  Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average was flat, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.5%, while South Korea’s Kospi Composite was 0.6% higher. The Shanghai Composite Index was up 1.2%, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index added 0.7%, and India’s Sensex rose 0.6%. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were up 30 points in screen trade.

A leading credit-ratings agency demoted Ireland’s bonds to junk status Tuesday, signaling that plans to get private-sector investors to share in the burden of Greece’s debt problems could have ramifications for other indebted euro-zone economies. Moody’s Investors Service announced toward the end of U.S. trading that it was cutting Ireland’s debt rating by one notch to Ba1, from Baa3, its lowest investment-grade level. It is the first of the major ratings services to downgrade the country’s debt to junk levels.

China reported surprisingly robust economic growth for the second quarter, a day after Premier Wen Jiabao signaled the continuation of anti-inflation policies that have fueled concerns about the potential for a slowdown. Gross domestic product in the world’s No. 2 economy expanded 9.5% in the April-June quarter from the same period a year ago, the National Bureau of Statistics reported early Wednesday in Beijing. That was slightly slower than the 9.7% in the first quarter, but slightly higher than economists’ expectations.

The rate of inflation in the U.K. unexpectedly slowed in June amid deeper discounting in items like toys and electronics, while the nation’s trade deficit widened, hit by a slump in auto exports. The Office for National Statistics said inflation fell to 4.2% in the 12 months to June from 4.5% in May. The ONS said overall prices declined 0.1% on a monthly basis—the first May to June decline since 2003.

Federal Reserve officials have formalized a plan for how the central bank will wind down its easy-money policies, but were divided at a meeting last month on when to execute the plan, with some Fed officials saying an even easier policy might instead be needed. Details of the June 21 and 22 meeting were released Tuesday after the usual three-week delay. They emerged as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke prepares for two days of congressional testimony on the outlook for the economy and monetary policy.

The International Monetary Fund said Tuesday it would install White House aide David Lipton as its No. 2 official and elevate Zhu Min of China to a newly created deputy managing director post.

The U.S. notched its widest trade deficit in more than two and a half years in May as imports rose and exports declined, suggesting trade would provide less of a boost to second-quarter growth than previously expected. The deficit in international trade of goods and services jumped 15.1% to $50.2 billion in May from $43.6 billion a month earlier, the Commerce Department said Tuesday—the biggest gap since October 2008. Exports fell 0.5%. A 2.6% jump in imports was led by

Some of Europe’s biggest banks are taking steps to shore up their defenses should the debt crisis spiral out of control and one or more countries leave the euro zone, a sign of the financial sector’s increasing worries over the continent’s plight. Some banks recently have been reining in some cross-border lending to companies in countries like Spain and Italy, bank officials say. Others are parking more money with the European Central Bank, according to ECB data

It is one of Wall Street’s few certainties. Ask a banker selling bonds or shares how their deals are doing and the answer is invariably: “Lots of interest from investors.” Now a European self-regulatory body is looking at whether that perennial optimism might have at times been misleading for investors in the European debt markets, according to people familiar with the matter.

Belgium’s budget deficit will be narrower than previously forecast this year, pushing the country further along the path to a balanced budget by 2015, Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme said Tuesday. “I am glad to announce that on the basis of today’s figures, already we can say that the deficit of 2011 will be less than what was announced at the beginning of the year,” Mr. Leterme told reporters.

Migration to industrialized countries slowed after the 2008 financial crisis, as demand for labor shrank along with many economies, a study showed on Tuesday. Migration into the 34 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development fell by about 7% in 2009 from the previous year, to 4.3 million people, the OECD reported.

European Union governments committed at a meeting Tuesday to backstop banks that fail stress tests. Ahead of the publication of financial sector stress test results on Friday, officials said all vulnerable banks must recapitalize themselves, be recapitalized by their governments or restructure.

Protests that washed across neighboring Syria and Egypt have been more of a ripple in this poor kingdom of six million with relative political freedoms by Middle Eastern standards.  Still, they have persisted. In the southern town of Tafilah on Friday, a crowd of about 300 chanted slogans as they marched down the main street of the city of 60,000.
China should increase the country’s interest rates further to alleviate negative real interest rates, a government think tank said Wednesday. “The central bank should raise the interest rates by one to two percentage points further to ensure residents’ wealth won’t depreciate,” the State Information Center said in a research report published on the China Securities Journal. China has hiked the country’s interest rates three times this year to combat inflation. Its latest rate hike last week lifted the one-year benchmark deposit rate to 3.5% from 3.25%. But the deposit rate is still far below the country’s inflation rate.

An index of consumer sentiment in Australia plummeted 8.3% in July from June, marking the lowest reading in the index in two years, as the ramifications of heightened European debt concerns and a controversial carbon tax soiled household views.  The index fell to a reading of 92.8 points in July in seasonally adjusted terms from 101.2 points in June, compliers Westpac Banking Corp. and the Melbourne Institute said in a statement Wednesday.  In annual terms, the consumer sentiment index fell 17.9% in July in seasonally adjusted terms. In trend terms, the index fell 2.3% in July compared with June, contributing to a 12.9% annual decline.
Oil dropped on Wednesday, after a surprise gain in U.S. crude inventories and the downgrade of Ireland’s credit rating reinforced views of a well-supplied market and a deteriorating demand outlook. Brent for August fell 40 cents to $117.35 a barrel at 0358 GMT, while U.S. crude shed 23 cents to $97.20. U.S. stockpiles of distillates including heating oil and diesel posted a larger-than-expected increase last week, the American Petroleum Institute (API) said late on Tuesday, while Europe’s debt crisis is prompting forecasters to trim their predictions for demand growth.

Spot gold was steady on Wednesday, holding on to its 5-percent gain in the past seven sessions as growing fears of a euro zone debt contagion burnished bullion’s safe-haven appeal. Spot gold was flat at $1,565.05 an ounce by 0338 GMT, after hitting $1,572.96 in the previous session, barely $3 off the all-time high of $1,575.79 set on May 2. U.S. gold edged up 0.2 percent to $1,566. Technical analysis suggested that signals for spot gold were mixed, with the focus now on a resistance zone of $1,575.79-$1,579, Reuters market analyst Wang Tao said.

President Barack Obama warned on Tuesday that elderly Americans could suffer first from a debt default, raising pressure on lawmakers as prospects for a deal to lift the debt ceiling appeared far from reach. The president and congressional leaders met at the White House for the third time in as many days, working to break a logjam over taxes and spending cuts before August 2. when the Treasury says it will run out of money to pay all of the country’s bills.

Ireland has sufficient funding under its existing EU-IMF bailout package to cover its financing requirements until the end of 2013, the country’s debt management agency said on Tuesday after Moody’s Investors Service junked its sovereign debt. The National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) said the Moody’s decision was primarily drive by a concern private investors would have to shoulder part of the burden from a possible second bailout for the country.

The public sector pensions liabilities stood at 1.1 trillion pounds in 2009/10, the government will say on Wednesday, a Treasury source told Reuters. The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government is seeking to push through reforms of public sector pensions to make them more affordable as part of an austerity plan to eliminate a record budget deficit.
South Korea’s unemployment rate stayed at the lowest level in half a year as the economic expansion spurred hiring in the manufacturing sector. The jobless rate was at 3.3 percent in June, unchanged from May, Statistics Korea said today in Gwacheon, south of Seoul. The median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of 12 economists was for a rate of 3.4 percent.

Singapore’s expansion probably stalled last quarter as manufacturing declined, presaging easing growth across Asia as rising U.S. joblessness and a widening European debt crisis undermine the global recovery. Gross domestic product was unchanged in the second quarter from the previous three months, when it climbed an annualized 22.5 percent, according to the median estimate of 13 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. The trade ministry will release its advanced estimates for growth at 8 a.m. tomorrow.

China’s central bank bought the fewest dollars in four months to stem gains in the yuan in June as slowing growth in Asia’s biggest economy damped capital inflows and reduced pressure for the currency to appreciate. The People’s Bank of China’s purchases of foreign exchange from the nation’s lenders totaled 277.3 billion yuan ($42.8 billion), 26 percent less than in May, according to data released yesterday. Foreign reserves rose $152.8 billion in the second quarter, the least in a year, and government data today showed gross domestic product increased at the slowest pace since 2009.
Bill Gross, the manager of the world’s largest bond fund, has soured further on the U.S economic outlook and has jacked up buying of U.S. Treasurys in June, according to PIMCO’s website on Tuesday.  Gross’ $243 billion Total Return Fund held 8.0 percent in U.S. Treasurys span Treasury-related securities as of the end of June 30, up from 5.0 percent as of the end of May — a 60 percent increase.
The ranks of those who can call themselves rich city slickers have grown a bit thicker. Reflecting the global surge of millionaires, the United States’ 10 wealthiest urban areas produced 7.3% more high net worth individuals in 2010, Capgemini announced Tuesday in its U.S. Metro Wealth Index.
Employers advertised 3 million job openings, the Labor Department said. That was the same amount as in April and down from 3.1 million in March. May’s figure is higher than the 2.1 million job openings posted in July 2009, one month after the recession ended and the lowest total since the government began recording the data a decade ago. But it is also significantly below the 4.4 million openings recorded in December 2007, when the recession began. Companies can take anywhere from 1 to 3 months to fill a job opening. And there’s heavy competition for each opening
India’s factory output grew at a weaker-than-expected rate in May as manufacturing activity slowed. Industrial output grew by 5.6% in May compared with the same month last year, latest government data showed. Manufacturing, which accounts for 80% of overall industrial output, also rose by 5.6% in May, compared with growth of 8.9% a year earlier. The figures come at a time when India has been tightening its monetary policy in an attempt to rein in growth.  “Overall, the data provides further affirmation of the moderating growth trends,” said Radhika Rao of Forecast Pte.
Graeme Leach, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, said the latest inflation figures “kill any chance of a rate rise this year” to rein in price rises. “And with inflation set to tumble in 2012, there may not be any rate rise next year either,” he said.

Real house prices, accounting for inflation, will still be 12pc below their 2007 high in 2015, PwC said. By 2020, there is just a 53pc chance that house prices will have risen 1pc, the firm said in its UK economic outlook. John Hawksworth, chief economist at PwC, said: “We expect average UK house prices to drift down further over the next year and then enjoy only a modest recovery over the next few years. This reflects the dampening impact of declining real income levels and continued tight credit conditions for first time buyers in particular.”
About 30 per cent of Australians will struggle to meet their credit obligations in the three months to September, down from 34 per cent in the March quarter, a new study shows. The Dun & Bradstreet Consumer Credit Expectations survey released today shows the national appetite for new loans and credit cards continues to wane as debt worries loom large on consumers’ minds. Only 19 per cent of consumers plan to apply for a loan, credit card, or debit card in the September quarter, down from the 27 per cent in the June quarter.
It’s becoming increasingly apparent: Greece is not going to be able to avoid a debt default – even if the default hides behind another name. While the troubled thorn in the European Union’s side could muddle through for a while on EU bailouts, belt-tightening and blind faith, economists and bond-market strategies say the numbers are not on Greece’s side.
The State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) on Monday reiterated its tough stance on curbing hot money inflows, which threatens the nation’s financial stability and triggers inflation. In a statement on its website, the manager of China’s $3 trillion foreign exchange reserve said it will continue its “high-pressure” clampdown on inflows of hot money, or speculative capital, to ensure financial and economic stability. SAFE also announced penalties
China’s power generation rose 13.5 percent from a year earlier to 2.22 trillion kilowatts-hours in the first half of this year, the National Bureau of Statistics said Wednesday. In June alone, China’s electricity output reached 396.8 billion kilowatts-hours, up 16.2 percent year-on-year, according to the NBS.

China’s consumer price index (CPI), the main gauge of inflation, rose 5.4 percent year-on-year in the first half of this year, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Wednesday. The growth accelerated from the 5-percent rise for the first quarter of this year. Food prices, which account for nearly one third of the basket of goods in the nation’s CPI calculation, rose 11.8 percent from a year earlier in the first six months, according to the NBS. The figure was higher than the 11-percent increase in the first quarter.

China’s fixed asset investment rose 25.6 percent year-on-year to 12.46 trillion yuan (1.93 trillion U.S. dollars) in the first half of this year, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced Wednesday. In June, fixed asset investment fell 1.04 percent from May. Investment in the nation’s property sector rose 32.9 percent year-on-year to reach 2.63 trillion yuan — of which 1.86 trillion yuan went into residential housing, an increase of 36.1 percent from the same period last year.

China’s retail sales of consumer goods rose 16.8 percent year-on-year to 8.58 trillion yuan (1.32 trillion U.S. dollars) during the first half of this year, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced on Wednesday. In June, the country’s retail sales grew 17.7 percent from one year earlier and were up 1.38 percent from May. Urban retail sales increased 16.9 percent year-on-year to 7.45 trillion yuan during the first half, while rural retail sales climbed 16.2 percent to 1.14 trillion yuan, the NBS said.

China’s industrial value-added output grew 14.3 percent year-on-year in the first half of this year, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Wednesday. The year-on-year industrial value-added output in June stood at 15.1 percent after hitting a seven-month low of 13.3 percent in May, NBS spokesman Sheng Laiyun said at a press conference. On a monthly basis, the industrial value-added output expanded by 1.48 percent in June from May, compared with 1.03 percent over the May to April period, Sheng said.

Mexico’s international reserves reached a record high of 130.86 billion U.S. dollars on July 8, the Central Bank of Mexico (Banxico) said Tuesday. The reserves witnessed an increase of 1.66 billion dollars between July 4 and 8, which came after a purchase of about 1.2 billion dollars from credit institutions, Banxico said, adding that it was the 20th increase this year. The country’s international reserves ended up with 113.6 billion dollars last year, Banxico said.
India, China and other members of the BRICS group of countries have agreed to stand together to oppose any moves by developed nations to tighten Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) rules that could threaten access to affordable drugs in developing countries, officials said on Tuesday following two days of talks. China had also agreed to look into India’s requests to expedite the registration process for Indian pharmaceutical companies seeking to enter the China market, officials said, with growing momentum among the BRICS countries to expand trade in pharmaceuticals and reduce reliance on more expensive Western drugs.
India is lobbying the US to restore duty -free imports from developing countries, including India, that were suspended earlier this year, stressing that it helped the labour-intensive small and medium enterprises. The scheme allowing duty-free imports was stopped in December 2010 when Congressional authorization for it was not renewed, following objections by some senators.
The public-private partnership approval committee (PPPAC), under the Ministry of Finance , has approved 6 road projects in five states at an estimated cost of Rs 9,774 crore. These projects are spread across states of Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan , Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. The biggest amongst the five projects entails six laning of Kishangarh- Udaipur- Ahmedabad section at a cost of Rs 5,387 crore.
South Korea’s money supply grew at the slowest clip in more than seven years in May as the government’s tax receipt rose and foreign stock funds flowed out of the country, the central bank said Wednesday. The country’s M2, a narrow measure of its money supply, reached 1,690.5 trillion won (US$1,587 trillion) in May, up 3.7 percent from a year earlier, according to the Bank of Korea (BOK).
The Eurasian Economic Union — a new stage of integration of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan — will be effective as early as 2013, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Tuesday. “We are hoping to sign as early as next year a declaration about the formation of the Eurasian Economic Union, which can and must start operating as early as 2013,” Putin told journalists on the sidelines of the Customs Union Business Forum. The creation of more favorable economic conditions in Belarus and Kazakhstan could lead to Russian firms wanting to move their headquarters to these countries, Putin said.
Johannesburg – Growth in South Africa’s manufacturing output quickened slightly to 0.6% year-on-year (y/y) in volume terms in May compared with a downwardly revised 0.2% in April, Statistics South Africa said on Tuesday. A Reuters poll showed economists expected manufacturing output to increase to 2.4% y/y in May. Compared with April, production in volume terms rose by a seasonally adjusted 0.4% in May and was at 0.5% in the three months to May, compared with the previous three months.
Colombia central bank survey sees 2011 inflation at 3.3%. The Colombian central bank’s July survey of inflation expectations showed a increase from the previous month with analysts on average projecting prices to increase 3.3% for the year, within the central bank’s target range of 2% to 4%.  The poll of 39 analysts, released Monday by the central bank, showed inflation expectations rising from the previous month, when the outlook stood at 3.21% for the year.  The poll also projected that inflation for July should come in at 0.12% on month.