News That Matters
Two of the best-known business dynasties in Europe and the US will come together after Lord Jacob Rothschild’s listed investment trust and Rockefeller Financial Services agreed to form a strategic partnership. RIT Capital Partners is to buy a 37 per cent stake in the Rockefeller’s wealth advisory and asset management group for an undisclosed sum, giving Lord Rothschild’s London-listed trust a much sought-after foothold in the US. The transatlantic union brings together David Rockefeller, 96, and Lord Rothschild, 76 two family patriarchs whose personal relationship spans five decades.

A Spanish plan to recapitalise Bankia, the troubled lender, by indirectly tapping the European Central Bank for cash, was bluntly rejected as unacceptable by the ECB, European officials said. News of the rejection came as Spain faces elevated borrowing costs in the bond markets, tries to persuade investors it can contain problems in a banking sector weighed down by €180bn of bad property loans and, on Tuesday, saw its central bank governor stand down early. Madrid had floated the unorthodox idea over the weekend ofrecapitalising Bankia by injecting €19bn of sovereign bonds into its parent company, which could then be swapped for cash at the ECB’s three-month refinancing window, avoiding the need to raise the money on bond markets.

The decline in Facebook’s market value since its initial public offering earlier this month increased to 24 per cent as the social network’s shares dropped a further 9.6 per cent on Tuesday to a new low of $28.84. Facebook’s stock options, which traded for the first time on Tuesday, indicated that the stock’s volatility is expected to continue. The stock options were already among the most heavily traded in the US market, demonstrating the frenzy around the eight-year-old company and its May 18 IPO.

John Hussman is still bearish. With the massive expansion of central bank’s balance sheets, this could get nasty going forward. Thanks god they don’t need to use those mark to market models at the Fed…For nearly two years, the massive interventions of central banks have repeatedly pulled a fundamentally weak and debt-burdened global economy from the brink of resumed recession. The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet is now leveraged 52-to-1, with assets having an average duration of over 5 years, suggesting that if those assets were marked-to-market, an interest rate increase of less than 50 basis points would wipe out the Fed’s entire capital base. Of course, the Fed takes no marks on its assets when it reports its balance sheet, though it does occasionally take down the value of the securities in the Maiden Lane shell companies that it illegally set up to bail out Bear Stearns and other entities (in violation of Section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act, which Congress had to amend and spell out like a See-Spot-Run book as a result). a sign of the deep slowdown in Brazil’s auto sector, Mercedes-Benz, Latin America’s largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles, has temporarily laid off more than 10 per cent of its workforce in the country. Mercedes said the 1,500 workers would receive 300 hours of professional training over five months, during which time they would receive wages consisting of a grant from a state-mandated workers’ support fund topped up by the company.

Iran has indirectly accused Israel of using a sophisticated malicious computer programme to collect information from the Islamic regime as a UN agency warned that the Flame virus could be a more serious threat than Stuxnet.  “Some countries and illegitimate regimes are used to producing viruses,” Ramin Mehmanparast, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, told reporters on Tuesday when asked about a malware, codenamed Flame. His comments are seen as a clear reference to Israel. Such acts of cyberwar would not damage Iran’s computer systems, he said, according to the official IRNA news agency.
Asian stocks fell Wednesday as hopes for a large Chinese stimulus package were dashed following an editorial in the state-run press and as concerns about Spanish banks resurfaced. Japan’s Nikkei and Australia’s S&P ASX 200 both dipped 0.9%. Korea’s Kospi retreated 1.1%, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index dropped 1.9%, and the China Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.3%.

The Obama administration dispatched one of its top economic officials to Europe on Tuesday to press officials in Greece, Spain, France and Germany to calm a widening crisis that threatens to spark new trouble for the U.S. economy. The latest push by the Treasury Department’s under secretary for international affairs, Lael Brainard, comes as the debt troubles in Europe mount amid Greece’s political standoff and renewed threats to Spain’s financial system. U.S. officials are pressing Europe on several fronts, including a broader role for the Continent’s €700 billion ($878 billion) rescue fund, according to people familiar with the matter. Allowing the fund to directly recapitalize European banksinstead of forcing troubled nations to borrow from the fund for that purpose, potentially putting them under even more market pressurecould calm fears of cascading bank runs in Spain and other nations even before Greece’s June 17 election.

Flush with cash and bolstered by a strong currency, Japanese companies are in the midst of the biggest boom in overseas investment the country has ever seen. On Tuesday, Japanese trading house Marubeni Corp. said it agreed to buy U.S. grain handler Gavilon Group LLC in a deal that could be worth as much as $5.6 billion, including $2 billion in assumed debt. That would make the Gavilon purchase the biggest foreign acquisition for a Japanese company this year and the seventh-biggest globally, according to deal tracker Dealogic. In the past week alone, Japan Tobacco Inc. offered to buy Belgian

Syria’s international isolation deepened Tuesday as several Western countries said they were expelling Syrian diplomats, in a coordinated response to an attack that left 108 civilians dead last week. The moves came as outrage at the violence spurred rage in Syria and internationally. Special envoy to Syria Kofi Annan, visiting Damascus in a bid to save a tattered United Nations peace plan, warned the violence had pushed the country and toward “a tipping point.” The massacre also pushed Syria into the American presidential campaign, with Republican Mitt Romney calling for the U.S. to take a more aggressive posture and arm the opposition.

A debt-laden Spanish construction firm became the latest European company to unload assets onto eager Chinese buyers, as Europe’s debt woes force firms to look to China for cash. State Grid Corp., China’s government controlled power-grid operator, said Tuesday it would buy high-voltage electricity transmission assets in Brazil from Spain’s Actividades de Construccion y Servicios SA for 1.86 billion reais ($938.2 million), including debt. The deal is State Grid’s second investment in Brazil and its fourth major investment overseas, and is the most recent in a string of deals in which a European company has looked to exit an investment amid financial troubles facing the region.

German consumer price inflation fell in May to its lowest level in 17 months, dropping back within the European Central Bank’s comfort zone and giving monetary policy makers greater scope to ease up on their fight against price rises.  The figures released Tuesday are likely to prompt further calls from European politicians and analysts for the European Central Bank to embark on new measures to stimulate Europe’s economy, amid political deadlock in Greece and an intensification of Spain’s banking crisis.  Consumer prices in Europe’s largest economy fell 0.2% on a monthly basis, pushing down year-to-year inflation to 1.9% from 2.1% in April, according to preliminary estimates by Destatis, the federal statistics office. German inflation is now at its lowest level since December 2010 in annual terms, the statistics office said. A drop in oil prices was one reason for the lower CPI figure, it said.

Spain’s economy showed fresh strains as retail sales fell at a record pace in April, suggesting the country’s recession is deepening as the government’s austerity program curbs consumption.  The central bank confirmed the trend by saying the euro zone’s fourth-largest economy may again contract in the second quarter. Data from the National Statistics Institute showed seasonally adjusted retail sales fell 9.8% on the year in April, compared with March’s 3.8% drop.

The French Socialist party and its allies lead ahead of parliamentary elections next month, which would grant recently elected President François Hollande a majority in parliament’s lower house, a poll shows Tuesday. The poll, carried out by Ipsos Logica on May 25 and 26 and released Tuesday, showed 45% of potential voters would chose the Socialist party or its allies in the first round of the parliamentary elections due to take place June 10. The Socialist party would get 31% of the votes, the pollster said, while far-left party Left Front and the ecologist party would get 8% and 6%, respectively. Right-wing party UMP would get 35% and far-right National Front would get 15% of the votes, the poll showed.

Labor unions have gone on the offensive, urging François Hollande to quickly deliver on his social campaign pledges, but France’s Socialist president pushed back any decision until after next month’s legislative elections. Unions used the opportunity of a meeting with members of Mr. Hollande’s administration on Tuesday to remind the president of his promises to increase the minimum wage, and lower the retirement age for some categories of workers. Yet, in his first prime-time television interview since taking office on May 15, Mr. Hollande said decisions would be made in the summer.

Japan’s crude-oil imports from Iran dropped in April, while imports from Saudi Arabia rose sharply during the same month, the Ministry of Finance said Wednesday. April was the first full month since the U.S. exempted Japan, the world’s third-largest oil importer, from its sanctions over Iranian crude imports in late March. It was also the beginning of Japan’s financial year, during which many oil-term contracts held by Japanese companies are renewed. The data are in line with comments by government and refining company officials who said they were making efforts to further cut crude imports from the Islamic Republic to cooperate with the U.S.
Australian retail sales snapped their recent gains to fall a seasonally adjusted 0.2% in April, the government reported Wednesday. The drop followed a 1.1% gain in March and a 0.2% advance in February, with the average expectation from a Dow Jones Newswires survey having tipped a 0.2% rise. The Australian Bureau of Statistics said that the trend estimate for April retail sales, which smoothes out volatility, rose 0.3%, with gains in restaurant and food and clothing sales offsetting a drop in household goods.

Mitt Romney on Tuesday night picked up the last remaining delegates needed to clinch the Republican presidential nomination, winning the Texas primary and setting his sights on beating President Barack Obama in November. Romney has effectively been the Republican nominee since his last serious challenger, Rick Santorum, bowed out of the race in April. But by winning Texas which offers 155 delegates the former Massachusetts governor locks up more than enough delegates to accept the Republican Party’s nomination at its convention in late August.
A JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) employee in Japan was found to have leaked insider information connected to Nippon Sheet Glass Co.’s 2010 share sale, according to two people with knowledge of the situation. The people, who declined to provide any additional details, asked not to be identified as the matter is confidential. Asuka Asset Management Co. was told about the non-public information from one of the lead underwriters for Nippon Sheet’s equity offering, Japan’s Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission said yesterday.

Nomura Holdings Inc. (8604), Japan’s biggest brokerage, fell in Tokyo trading following a report that the country’s financial watchdog will recommend a penalty for its role in cases of insider trading tied to share sales. Nomura slipped 1.2 percent to 256 yen as of 10:34 a.m. on the Tokyo Stock Exchange after earlier dropping as low as 254 yen. The Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission will seek a penalty after the brokerage allegedly leaked insider information on sales of Inpex Corp. (1605) and Mizuho Financial Group Inc. (8411) shares, the Mainichi newspaper said, without citing anyone.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook (FB) Inc.’s co- founder and chief executive officer, is no longer one of the world’s 40 richest people. The 28-year-old’s fortune fell to $14.7 billion yesterday from $16.2 billion on May 25, as shares of the world’s largest social-networking company dropped 9.6 percent to $28.84. That extended the stock’s losses to 24 percent from the worst- performing large initial public offering in the past decade.

South Korea’s current-account surplus fell in April as demand for the nation’s electronics and cars was capped by a deepening euro region crisis. The surplus was $1.8 billion, compared with a revised $2.97 billion in March, the Bank of Korea said in a statement in Seoul today. The current account is the broadest measure of trade, tracking goods, services and investment income. Manufacturers’ confidence has retreated in Asia’s fourth- largest economy as a slowdown in China and the debt crisis in Europe constrain export demand. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development last week cut South Korea’s growth outlook for this year to 3.3 percent, down from a 3.5 percent.

Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM), reeling from sluggish BlackBerry sales, forecast a surprise operating loss for the first quarter and hired banks to advise on strategic options. The shares fell as much as 15 percent in late trading. JPMorgan Chase & Co. and RBC Capital Markets have been hired to help RIM evaluate options, including forging partnerships, licensing its software and looking at “strategic business model alternatives,” the Waterloo, Ontario-based company said yesterday in a statement. RIM also is attempting to streamline operations by reducing spending and headcount.
Europe should be “realistic,” devalue its currency and bear the pain of reforms so that it can emerge from the debt crisis stronger like Asia did in 1997, said Bank of Thailand’s Governor Prasarn Trairatvorakul. “At that time after ‘97, we were realistic,” Prasarn told CNBC. “[In] Thailand, we changed the exchange rate regime, reoriented the macro policy, let the currency into a more flexible movement; we depreciated the currency. We went into a number of reforms in the banking sector, corporate governance so on coming into play.”
The governor of the Bank of Spain said Tuesday that he would quit his job early, just days after watching Spain’s banking sector sink deeper into crisis because of a huge bailout request from Bankia, the country’s biggest mortgage lender. Miguel Ángel Fernández Ordóñez, the governor, told Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy that he would leave a month ahead of schedule, on June 10, arguing that his early departure would give his successor a chance to take better charge of the situation and open “a new chapter where important decisions must be taken.”
Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, known to many people more as an aggrieved movie character or perceived tax dodger than as an actual person, has finally spoken out. In an interview with a magazine in his family’s native Brazil, Saverin — a newly minted billionaire after Facebook’s public stock offering — talked about his taxes, his relationship with co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and life after “The Social Network.”
Senior Chinese economists say the central government’s much-touted stimulus plans will be mild compared to actions taken at the height of the global financial crisis four years ago, according to a state-media report Wednesday. The People’s Daily report quoted several economic experts from academia and the government as saying the current round of pro-growth measures should be conducted carefully and won’t be on the level of the 4 trillion yuan ($630 billion) package conducted during the crisis.

Home prices rose in March from February in most major U.S. cities for the first time in seven months. The increase is the latest evidence of a slow recovery taking shape in the housing market. The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index shows that prices rose in 12 of the 20 cities it tracks. Three of the weakest markets showed signs of improvement. Prices rose in Tampa and Miami. They were unchanged in Las Vegas. The biggest month-to-month increases occurred in Phoenix, Seattle and Dallas. Prices dropped the most in Detroit, Chicago and Atlanta.Rising prices in most cities add to other encouraging signs of a housing rebound. Sales are up, mortgage rates are at historic lows, builders are more confident and the economy is adding jobs.
US consumer confidence has fallen to an eight-month low in May as fears about the global economy and a falling domestic stock market hit sentiment. The Consumer Confidence Index, published by the Conference Board, fell to 64.9, down from 68.7 in April. That was the index’s biggest fall since October 2011, but above the all-time low of 25.3 reached in February 2009. May’s confidence figure was weaker than expected, with economists predicting a figure of about 70.
Southern Europe’s debtor states must pledge their gold reserves and national treasure as collateral under a €2.3 trillion stabilisation plan gaining momentum in Germany.  The German scheme — known as the European Redemption Pact — offers a form of “Eurobonds Lite” that can be squared with the German constitution and breaks the political logjam. It is a highly creative way out of the debt crisis, but is not a soft option for Italy, Spain, Portugal, and other states in trouble. The plan is drafted by the German Council of Economic Experts and inspired by Alexander Hamilton’s Sinking Fund in the United States — created in 1790 to clean up the morass of debts left by the Revolutionary War. Flourishing Virginia was comparable to Germany today.

The chances of the Bank of England launching another round of quantitative easing next week have retreated after two policymakers suggested the UK’s monetary stance is already loose enough. Spencer Dale, the Bank’s chief economist, said policy is “very stimulatory” and Ben Broadbent, an external member of the rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), argued that inflation is not falling fast enough to justify more money printing. The Bank has made it clear that it is ready to respond to an escalation in the eurozone crisis with emergency measures, which would almost certainly include more QE. However, Mr Dale and Mr Broadbent suggested that the Bank would be unlikely to restart the presses unless the crisis struck.

House prices have fallen year on year for the 16th month in a row but London continues to buck the trend by recording strong increases, official figures showed today. Prices are likely to continue their “slow, downward grind” in the coming months, analysts said, as Land Registry figures showed a 1pc annual drop across England and Wales in April to reach £160,417 on average, continuing an unbroken negative trend stretching back as far as January last year. Meanwhile, house prices in London increased by 5.1pc both annually and month on month to reach £360,721. The capital city has not seen a year-on-year decline since September 2009. The “safe haven” of London is enjoying strong interest from overseas buyers as the eurozone crisis continues. A separate report published by Hometrack yesterday found that demand from buyers registering with estate agents has outpaced the number of homes coming to the market in the capital over the last three months.

Germany is the European Union’s only major nation that still believes political integration has helped its economy amid “a full-blown crisis of confidence” across the region, opinion surveys have found. The Pew Global Attitudes Project polled 8,000 people in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Greece, Poland, Britain and the Czech Republic from mid-March to mid-April and identified unprecedented levels of discontent with the EU. “The European project, which began with the creation of a small common market in 1957, grew to a larger single market in 1992 and then created the single currency in 2002, is a major casualty of the sovereign debt crisis,” the report concluded. “Majorities or near majorities in most nations now believe that the economic integration of Europe has actually weakened their economies.”
Retail sales improved in May, but remain below average for the time of year, according to a survey by the CBI. The business lobby group said a poll of its retailers found that 43% reported an increase in sales on a year ago, compared with 23% that said they experienced a fall, giving a ’rounded’ positive balance of 21%. The rebound in May following a downbeat April will cheer the Treasury, which is keen to see signs of a recovery in consumer confidence and a revival in spending.
Gold futures for August delivery dropped 1.3 per cent to settle at $US1551 an ounce on the Comex in New York, the first decline for a most-active contract since May 23. Floor trading was closed on Monday for the US Memorial Day holiday. Bullion purchases by India, the world’s biggest consumer, may be about 50 metric tons to 60 tons this month, down from 102 tons a year earlier, according to Prithviraj Kothari, the president of the Bombay Bullion Association. Silver futures for July delivery slumped 2.1 per cent to $US27.791 an ounce on the Comex.
Strong demand for Jaguar Land Rover vehicles helped Tata Motors Ltd. more than double profit in its fourth-quarter results, overcoming continued sluggish performance in its domestic Indian market. Increased sales in China in particular helped the Mumbai-based car arm of the $83-billion (U.S.) Tata group, which owns JLR, post profits of 62.3 billion rupees ($1.2-billion), an increase of 137 per cent from a year earlier.
Japan and China said on Tuesday that they will start direct currency trading this week, marking the first time Beijing has let a major unit other than the dollar swap with the yuan. The move, which will scrap the greenback as an intermediary unit, comes as China introduces measures as part of a long-term goal to internationalise its currency, and rival the dollar as the world’s benchmark. The yuan-yen trade – part of a wider deal reached last year between Beijing and Tokyo to forge closer ties – will also be allowed to move in a wider range than the narrow band at which the dollar and yuan change hands, Dow Jones Newswires and the Nikkei business daily reported.

New Zealand’s economy is stagnant and set to struggle over the next two years because of delays to the Canterbury earthquake rebuild, reluctant consumers, slowing growth in major trading partners, and sluggish investment, a think tank said on Wednesday. The country is going through a period of paying down debt, and that along with a weak labour market, anaemic wage growth and consumer demand would combine to limit growth to around 1.5 per cent in 2012, the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) said. ‘There is little economic growth and the outlook is challenging,’ NZIER’s Principal Economist Shamubeel Eaqub said in its Quarterly Predictions report.
With the European Union reportedly poised to launch trade cases against telecom equipment makers in China, accusing them of getting subsidies, Beijing is set to investigate if the EU is actually illegally subsidizing its industries, a source close to the matter told China Daily. The industries include “agriculture, telecom equipment, wind energy, electrical and mechanical goods,” and China has already “obtained sufficient evidence,” the source, who requested anonymity, said. The remarks followed a recent report by the Financial Times. The EU is set, according to the report, to launch trade complaints and investigations against Chinese makers of mobile network equipment, including Huawei and ZTE, as soon as next month. The European Commission, the EU body charged with investigating trade complaints, has got “very solid evidence” the report said, showing that they benefited from illegal government subsidies and had sold products in the EU below cost.

China will become the world’s largest online retail market in 2013, following years of fast growth, a Ministry of Commerce (MOC) official forecast on Tuesday. China recorded 194 million online shoppers and 782.56 billion yuan (123.72 bln U.S. dollars) in online retail trade by the end of last year, said Li Jinqi, director of the information technology department of the MOC, during a conference on E-commerce held in Beijing. The volume marked a 53.7 percent rise year on year and constituted 4.32 percent of China’s total consumer goods retail volume in 2011, according to Li. “E-commerce has brought a change in the marketing mode, and online retail is becoming a new growth engine,” Li noted.

China’s software industry posted slower growth in the first four months of this year due to increasing competition, weak external demand and a slow implementation of preferential policies, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said Tuesday. Software industry revenues rose 26 percent year on year to 652 billion yuan (103.06 billion U.S. dollars) from January to April, slowing 1.9 percentage points from the same period last year. The growth during the January-April period also marked a slowdown of 0.4 percentage points from the first quarter of this year, the MIIT data showed.  Software exports amounted to 10.47 billion U.S. dollars during the period, up 10.2 percent year on year, slowing 13 percentage points from a year ago and decelerating 4.9 percentage points and 2.3 percentage points, respectively, from February and March.
Pacific Investment Management Co.’s Andrew Bosomworth said a bubble is starting to form in Germany’s government bond market as Spain moves closer to a request for financial support.
Germany’s 10-year bund yield may still fall below 1 percent, Bosomworth, a money manager at the Newport Beach, California-based company, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “City Central” with Francine Lacqua, Guy Johnson and David Tweed. U.K. 30-year gilt yields may also “go a lot lower” as investors seek protection from the European debt crisis, he said.
“The world looks at Germany as the only real AAA sovereign balance sheet out there,” Bosomworth said in the interview in London. “If there’s a bubble, we’re seeing the beginnings of one in that market. Japan is a good benchmark so we could even go through 1 percent on 10-years if things get worse.”
The Government may settle for a Rs 53-54 level against the dollar. Accordingly, it has indicated the use of policy tools for lifting the rupee to this level. On Tuesday, the rupee closed at 55.67 against Monday’s closing of 55.18. The Indian currency touched an all-time low of 56.38 on May 24. It has depreciated nearly 10 per cent since March 1.  A highly placed Government source told Business Line:“We need to live with that (Rs 53-54 level) for some time.” There is crisis all around and we cannot expect the rupee to go back to the 50-51 level. We also need to understand the investors’ mentality, he added. The Government feels that with the deteriorating Euro Zone crisis, rising unrest in Greece and Germany and change of power in France, investors are pulling out the world over and investing in US Government bonds, considered the safest at present. All this has weakened the rupee, but there is nothing wrong with the Indian economy’s fundamentals, the source claimed.

Even as the rupee has been slipping to new lows against the dollar in recent weeks owing to a combination of negatives factors at home and abroad, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, on Tuesday, said the government was taking a series of steps to contain the volatility in the foreign exchange market and the Reserve Bank of India would step in to intervene as and when necessary. “The government is taking a series of steps. However, managing [the] rupee is market-related …There is a lot of volatility. As and when the RBI will consider necessary, it will intervene. It depends on the market forces and market forces are uncertain,” Mr. Mukherjee told the media here.
The Reserve Bank of India has granted a banking licence to Morgan Stanley, which will enhance the financial services firm’s ability to lend to corporate clients, whom it advises on takeovers. However, it is unlikely to get into locally popular banking activities such as corporate or retail loans. This may enable Morgan Stanley, the top-ranked mergers and acquisitions advisor last year, to extend its lead over rivalsGoldman Sachs and Bank of America Merrill Lynch in advisory and compete in providing services such as wealth management, people familiar with the matter said.
“It will give them the ability to provide a whole list of services like treasury, foreign exchange and corporate banking, and solidify relation with their clients,” said Ravi Trivedy, an independent analyst.

Dismissing any comparison with the 1991 external debt crisis, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday said the fall of rupee is a matter of concern but was confident it will not last very long. He said the rupee depreciation was taking place against the backdrop of the global economic problems and the Euro zone debt crisis and expressed optimism that solutions will emerge at the G-20 Summit in Mexico next month. “The sharp fall of rupee is a matter of concern. But I don’t think we are anywhere near the 1991 situation. The fall of rupee is taking place against the backdrop of global economic problems and the Euro zone debt crisis.
Foreign exchange turnover by banks in South Korea rose 4 percent in the first quarter from three months earlier due to increased stock transactions and bond purchases by foreign investors, the central bank said Wednesday. The daily foreign exchange turnover averaged US$45.9 billion in the January-March period, compared with $44.2 billion three months earlier, according to the Bank of Korea (BOK). “The modest increase was helped by more foreign investors buying and selling local stocks and bonds in the three-month period,” said a BOK official. Daily average stock transactions by overseas investors rose 2.9 percent compared to the previous quarter to $18.48 billion won, while the net increase in money used to purchase bonds rose by around 5.1 percent to $19.18 billion.

South Korea’s current account surplus shrank in April from the previous month mainly due to a drop in exports, the central bank said Wednesday. The current account surplus reached US$1.78 billion last month, down from $2.97 billion in March, according to the Bank of Korea (BOK). The figure is larger than the $1.28 billion surplus tallied a year earlier and marks the third month in a row that the current account balance has stayed in positive territory. Asia’s fourth-largest economy logged a surplus of $1.80 billion in goods trade, down from a $2.93 billion surplus in March and $3.33 billion a year earlier. Outbound shipments reached $45.88 billion in April, down from $47.38 billion in March as overseas demand for refined petroleum products and semiconductors fell.
South Africa’s economic growth slowed in the first quarter of 2012, hit by a sharp contraction in mining, but manufacturing showed surprising resilience, suggesting the Reserve Bank might not need to cut interest rates to stimulate output. The economy grew by 2.7% quarter-on-quarter on a seasonally adjusted and annualised basis in Q1, surpassing analysts’ forecasts of 2.4% and compared with a 3.2% rise in the fourth quarter of last year, Statistics South Africa said on Tuesday. On an unadjusted year-on-year basis, economic growth was at 2.1% in Q1 from 2.9% in the fourth quarter.
The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and Venezuela’s state-run oil company PDVSA will sign a deal, worth $2 billion, in the near future for developing a bloc of the Dobokubi oilfield in Venezuela. Iran’s Petropars, on behalf of the NIOC, will finance 26 percent of the project and PDVSA will be responsible for the other 74 percent. The Iranian side will invest $500-520 million in the project. The two countries began discussions over developing the Dobokubi oilfield in 2006. The oilfield’s production capacity is projected to rise from 14,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 40,000 in the first phase and then to 60,000.

Iranian Energy Minister Majid Namjou has announced that Tehran has rejected a Chinese contractor’s bid to construct the world’s tallest arch dam in Iran and has accepted the bid of a domestic contractor. Iran is planning to build the Bakhtiari Dam on the Bakhtiari River in a valley in the Zagros Mountains on the border between Lorestan and Khuzestan provinces in southwestern Iran. A government committee and the Central Bank of Iran examined the bid made by China’s Sinohydro Corporation to build the Bakhtiari Dam and rejected it, Namjou told the Mehr News Agency on Monday.



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