News That Matters
China has warned its banks of rampant illicit borrowing by steel companies, a development that underscores the financial dangers for the country as the government mulls a new stimulus effort to support the slowing economy. Some Chinese steel trading companies have borrowed excessively from banks and then used the funds to speculate on property and stocks, the bank regulator said in a directive that was seen by the Financial Times. The regulator added that banks must be more vigilant in lending to the companies.

The Reserve Bank of India has “elbow room” to cut interest rates to boost the country’s waning growth, said Subir Gokarn, deputy central bank governor.  His comments came days after India became the latest emerging market to see its once buoyant growth suffer a sharp slowdown, sparking fears that the country could face an economic crisis. The slowdown and rising inflation had lead many analysts to believe there was little room for manoeuvre from the RBI.

The Portuguese government will inject €6.6bn into three of the country’s largest banks, becoming the latest eurozone country to tap international bailout funding for an undercapitalised financial sector.  Vítor Gaspar, Portuguese finance minister, said the funds would ensure that Banco Commercial Portugues, Banco BPI and state-owned Caixa Geral de Depósitos met tough new capital requirements set by the European Banking Authority.
Asian markets edged forward on Tuesday as the heavy sell-off abated in the absence of fresh negative news, allowing investors to look ahead to forthcoming key policy meetings. A cluster of Group of Seven finance ministers and central bankers will hold a teleconference on Tuesday to discuss developments in the euro-zone, with Spain expected to be a focus of discussion. The softening in the yen helped Japan’s Nikkei, which was up 0.5% early on Tuesday. Both South Korea’s Kospi and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index climbed 0.8%, the China Shanghai Composite gained 0.2%, and Singapore’s Straits Times was 0.8% higher.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday suggested that European Union leaders consider putting the largest banks in the 27-nation bloc under direct European supervision, opening the door to more centralized oversight of the region’s financial sector. The German proposal, which echoes a similar call from European Central Bank President Mario Draghi last week, comes as the region’s leaders are trying to rebuild confidence in Europe’s battered banking sector.

Late payments have soared in Greece since the crisis began in 2010 and have become endemic over the past six months.Between 400,000 and 500,000 of the country’s two million private-sector employees working under contract haven’t been paid in three months or more, according to the Greek government’s labor-market inspector. While the agency recently started collecting these statisticsa response to evidence that nonpayment was a widespread problemofficials said late payment of salaries is up sharply over the past year.
The Reserve Bank of Australia cut its key cash interest rate again Tuesday, in a widely-expected effort to try to bolster the economy against growing global growth risks. The cash rate fell a quarter of a percentage point to 3.5%, from 3.75%.  The Australian dollar traded at 97.69 U.S. cents after the decision, up from 97.57 U.S. cents before the rate call. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index held onto an early 1% gain after the move.

Australia is vulnerable to a global downturn and the government’s pledge to return the budget to surplus will be challenged but the Australian dollar will still be partly supported by its emerging “safe haven” status, said Steven Hess, senior credit officer and the chief sovereign analyst for Australia at Moody’s Investors Service. “Clearly, external developments are worsening the environment for Australia and other countries. In addition, the domestic non-resource sector has been experiencing rather slow growth,” said Mr Hess in an emailed response to questions Tuesday. “The adjustment of the exchange rate that would normally be expected under such circumstances is being partly limited by the position of the Australian dollar, which has taken on at least some of the characteristics of a haven currency,” said Mr. Hess.

The Chinese government is drafting plans to address the impact of a potential Greek exit from the euro-zone to avoid a scenario that economists say could plunge the global economy into a new recession, state-run newspaper China Daily reported Tuesday, citing government researchers. “The government is working on plans for the worst-case scenario of Greece leaving the euro-zone later this year,” the report said, citing Wang Haifeng, director of international economics at the Institute for International Economic Research, under the National Development and Reform Commission.
President Barack Obama enlisted Bill Clinton to campaign alongside him in New York on Monday, tapping the popular ex-president’s star power to rake in cash for his re-election bid from Wall Street investors and show-business elite. The two men teamed up for the first time since Clinton put Obama’s campaign on the defensive last week when he became the most prominent Democrat to disavow attacks on Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s record as a private equity executive.
Facebook Inc. (FB)
, the world’s biggest social-networking company, tumbled to a record low after Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. initiated coverage with an underperform rating and a $25 target price. Thesharesfell 3 percent to $26.90 at the close in New York, the lowest price since the stock began trading at $38 on May 18. The stock has lost 29 percent since the IPO. “It is difficult to argue for owning the stock today,” said Carlos Kirjner, an analyst at Bernstein in New York, in a research report today.

The weakest U.S. hiring in 12 months erased the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s advance for 2012 and pushed valuations in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index 19 percent below last year’s level. he increase in the American jobless rate to 8.2 percent in May compounded signs that the economic recovery is stalling and sent the benchmark gauge for U.S. equities down 2.5 percent to 1,278.04 on June 1, almost 37 points below its level a year earlier. The S&P 500 is trading at 12.9 times profits in the last 12 months, compared with 15.9 times in February 2011, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The U.S. economy looks set to deliver a repeat performance in 2012: for the third straight year, it may suffer a swoon yet not slip into a recession. “I don’t think the slowdown will be any more consequential than the past two years,” said John Ryding, a former Federal Reserve researcher who is chief economist at RDQ Economics LLC in New York. “There are positives out there in the economy. We’ll avoid a recession.” Household balance sheets are in better shape, with indebtedness down about $100 billion in the first quarter, according to the New York Fed. Banks are more profitable: Earnings have risen for 11 straight quarters, based on data compiled by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Even the housing market is reviving, with starts through the first four months of this year 24 percent higher than the comparable 2011 period.

Open interest in India’s S&P CNX Nifty Index futures declined to a five-year low as investors held off taking new bets after government data showed Asia’s third-biggest economy is slowing. Open interest, or the number of contracts outstanding, in the Nifty futures on the National Stock Exchange of India Ltd. totaled 321,725 on June 1, the lowest since Feb. 2, 2007, data compiled by Bloomberg show. It was at 338,313 yesterday. The index rose 0.5 percent to 4,869.85 at 9:38 a.m. in Mumbai. A private survey showed on June 1 that manufacturing in India slowed, a day after the government saideconomic growthslowed to a nine-year low in the March quarter. Foreign funds turned net sellers of domestic shares for a second month in May, reducing their holdings by $273 million, data from the market regulator show.
Crude oil prices have plummeted 20 percent over the past three months, but the CEO of Europe’s biggest oil company Royal Dutch Shell, Peter Voser, doesn’t think global demand is “collapsing.” He, however, expects further downside in oil prices in the second-half of the year as the market is well supplied. “Demand is quite clearly softening, but I wouldn’t say it’s collapsing. Today the market has enough oil, more oil than we need…I see (oil prices) softening in the second-half,” Voser told CNBC on the sidelines of the World Gas Conference in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.

Rating agency Egan-Jones cut the credit rating for the United Kingdom by one notch to “AA-” with a negative outlook from “AA,” the latest in a string of European sovereign downgrades from the agency. “The overriding concern is whether the country will be able to continue to cut its deficit in the face of weaker economic conditions and a possible deterioration in the country’s financial sector,” Egan-Jones said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we expect that the UK’s debt/GDP (ratio) will continue to rise and the country will remain pressed.” The United Kingdom currently has a “AAA” rating from both Standard and Poor’s and Fitch Ratings and an “Aaa” rating from Moody’s Investors Service.
Pressed by a banking crisis and turmoil in the markets, Germany has indicated that it is prepared to accept a grand bargain that would provide greater support for its most indebted euro zone partners in exchange for more centralized control over government spending in Europe. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said that finding the way to “more Europe, not less” was the next task for Europe’s leaders. “The world wants to know how we expect the political union to complement the currency union,” Ms. Merkel said at a news conference here Monday with José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission. “We have to find an answer in the foreseeable future.” German officials remain adamant that they are not talking about euro bonds, or jointly issued debt, which they have dismissed as unconstitutional. More likely is a plan to combine much of Europe’s bad debt into a single fund with the idea of paying it off over 25 years, an idea gaining traction in Germany as an alternative to euro bonds, officials say.
There is a one-in-three chance Greece will leave the euro currency union in the months ahead, according to Standard & Poor’s. The ratings agency issued a report Monday that examines the likelihood of Greece leaving the eurozone and how an exit would impact the creditworthiness of other euro area governments. S&P warned that Greece could lose its financial lifeline if voters elect a government that opposes the terms of Greece’s bailout program. Greece is set to hold an election June 17 after last month’s voting failed to result in a governing coalition. However, S&P said that if Greece abandoned the euro, other euro area nations would be unlikely to follow suit.
China’s services sector expanded at its fastest pace in 19 months in May, according to a business survey released Tuesday, with the uptick driven by new business and improvements in confidence about the future. HSBC’s China services Purchasing Managers’ Index rose to 54.7 in May on a 100-point scale when adjusting for seasonal factors, compared to April’s 54.1. However, the result remained below the long-run trend of 56.7, HSBC said in a statement. The survey found companies added to staff in May, but the pace of gains in hiring were modest. A subcomponent tracking prices showed output charges falling for a second straight month, while underlying business costs rose markedly.

Australia’s seasonally adjusted current-account deficit widened by 5.25 billion Australian dollars ($5.1 billion) to A$14.89 billion in the three months to March 30, the government reported Tuesday. Exports fell 7%, while imports fell 1%. Economists had been expecting a deficit of A$14.7 billion in the quarter, according to a survey compiled by Dow Jones Newswires

Fitch Ratings said Chinese credit growth is slowing but still outpacing the expansion in the nation’s gross domestic product. The ratings agency said in a report that the amount of new loans made in China was on course to fall below the level seen in the previous year for the first time since 2008, and that the “slowdown in credit is being met with an equivalent moderation in GDP growth, suggesting that the economic return on credit remains weak.” The report estimated that every 1 yuan (15.8 U.S. cents) in new financing will yield only 0.39 yuan in new GDP in 2012, compared with a contribution of 0.73 yuan to the economy before the financial crisis.
Companies placed fewer orders to U.S. factories for the second straight month and a key measure that tracks business investment plans fell, adding to evidence that the economy is weakening. TheCommerce Department said Monday that orders for factory goods fell 0.6% in April from March. Demand for so-called core capital goods, such as heavy machinery and computers, dropped 2.1% in April. That followed a 2.3% decline in March. Core capital goods are a good proxy for business investment plans. The declines suggest companies may be worried about a weaker U.S. job market, which could crimp consumer spending. Businesses may also fear the worsening European debt crisis and slower growth in China could slow demand for U.S. exports.
Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said the election of Mitt Romney as president in November would “significantly” raise the odds of a recession because it would herald a shift to a much tighter budget. History shows that the adoption of fiscal austerity when an economy is weak can have disastrous consequences, as happened in the U.S. in 1929 on the eve of the Great Depression, Stiglitz told Bloomberg editors and reporters in New York yesterday. Republican candidate Romney risks making that same sort of mistake by backing a plan to slash the budget deficit, he said. “The Romney plan is going to slow down the economy, worsen the jobs deficit and significantly increase the likelihood of a recession,” said Stiglitz, who served as chairman of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers from 1995 to 1997. In contrast, President Barack Obama “recognizes the need to stimulate the economy,” Stiglitz said.
The number of people looking for work in Spain fell for the second month in a row in May to 4.71 million. The Labour Ministry said the number of people filing for unemployment benefits fell by 30,113 or 0.63%, compared with the previous month. In March, the number of jobseekers hit a record high of 4.75 million. The unemployment rate in Spain is the highest in the eurozone at 24.3%, according to European Union figures released last week. On an annual basis, the number of people looking for work in May rose by 524,463, or 12.5%.
Britain’s recovery is being held back by a wave of “zombie” companies that should be allowed to fail but are instead undermining capitalism, according to Ernst & Young. The accountant said that the financial crisis had created an environment where it is “too difficult to fail”, with businesses being kept afloat to the detriment of the broader economy. As a result, so-called “financially undead” companies are clinging on, despite the recession, making markets and the economy inefficient. “The expected jump in the number of companies falling into administration has not materialised,” a report by E&Y said.

Argentina to ‘immediately launch’ criminal proceedings against UK oil firms operating off Falklands Islands. The UK Government said it would support the country’s oil companies operating around the Falkland Islands after Argentina announced it is taking steps to sue five British firms. The Argentine foreign ministry on Monday declared “illegal and clandestine” the activities of Desire Petroleum, Falkland Oil and Gas, Rockhopper Exploration, Borders and Southern Petroleum, and Argos Resources on the grounds that they are drilling in Argentine waters. President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said the companies were operating “in a sovereign area of the Argentine nation and as such fall within its specified laws and rules”. The companies “are not authorised by the Argentine government under law 17.319 on hydrocarbons”, she added.

Asia’s $6.4 trillion in foreign reserves a threat to stability. The relentless build-up of foreign reserves by China and Asia’s export Tigers has become a threat to financial stability and risks setting off inflation across the region, the Bank for International Settlements has warned. “The expansion of the central banks’ balance sheets has created dangers that require attention,” the BIS said in its quarterly report. “Serious consideration should be given to capping and then shrinking the size of central bank balance sheets.” The “bank of central bankers” said the rising powers of Asia – excluding Japan – have boosted their holdings of foreign bonds and gold from $1.1 trillion (£715bn) to $6.4 trillion over the last decade.
Trade and government spending figures probably arrived too late to change today’s decision on interest rates, but would not likely have made any difference. The figures, showing an increased leakage of production to other countries that overwhelmed a growth boost from government spending, just confirm the economy is just sauntering along. Exports of goods and services, in real, seasonally adjusted terms, fell by a bit over one per cent in the March quarter while imports rose by the same margin, according to figures from the Austr alian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). So, for any given increase in spending in Australia, production will not have to grow quite so much. In terms of the growth in gross domestic product (GDP) to be reported by the bureau on Wednesday it works out to be about half a percentage point.

Oil rose for the first time in five days as the euro strengthened against the dollar after European leaders agreed to discuss closer banking cooperation among the nations that use the euro. Prices climbed 0.9 per cent as the euro rebounded from the lowest level in almost two years. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said systemic banks may need supervision at the European level as the European Union weighs steps toward “political union.” Prices fell earlier today and tumbled 8.4 per cent last week on economic data from the US and China.

Gold futures for August delivery slid 0.5 per cent to settle $US1,613.90 an ounce at 2:01 p.m. on the Comex in New York, the biggest drop since May 29.  Prices slumped 10 per cent in the four months ended May 31 as a stronger dollar curbed the appeal of the precious metal as an alternative investment.
A total of 764.2 million people were employed in China as of the end of 2011, including 359.14 million who worked in urban areas, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security said Monday. Of the total, about 34.8 percent worked in the primary industry, 29.5 percent in the secondary industry, and 35.7 percent in the tertiary industry, the ministry said in a statistics bulletin posted on its website. The migrant worker population last year reached 252.78 million, an increase of 10.55 million from that of 2010, and the number of rural workers employed outside their hometowns stood at 158.63 million. Altogether, 12.21 million jobs were added in China’s urban areas in 2011. The urban unemployment rate stood at 4.1 percent, unchanged from 2010.

China’s total forest area has increased to 195 million hectares from 134 million hectares in 1992, marking a net gain of 60 million hectares within 20 years, the State Forestry Administration (SFA) said Monday. Despite a decreasing global forest reserve, China’s forest inventory expanded by 3.6 billion cubic meters to reach 13.7 billion cubic meters during the past 20 years, SFA Vice Minister Yin Hong said at a press conference. China has strengthened its fiscal support for increasing forest area, launched a number of national ecological projects and implemented a nationwide compulsory tree-planting program to expand forests since the inking of the first global environmental treaty at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992, Yin said.

Brazilian and Spanish entrepreneurs established a joint commission here Monday to explore markets in Asia and the Middle East, local media reported. The joint commission seeks to boost the export of manufactured goods, limit the effects of the global financial crisis, and promote the exchange of commercial information and experiences, according to Brazilian and Spanish business owners cited by the media. Led by Spanish King Juan Carlos I, a delegation of business leaders from the embattled European nation arrived Monday in Brasilia, where they were received by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. After the delegation’s arrival, 120 business leaders from both nations met to discuss joint strategies to combat the financial crisis.

Two of Mitt Romney’s first three television ads of the general-election campaign boast of how he’d stand up to China as soon as he becomes president. Not to be outdone, President Barack Obama last week capped off a month during which he imposed or proposed duties on Chinese goods by warning their leaders to end unfair practices. The rhetoric on China is escalating as the two candidates appeal to voters hurt by the decline in U.S. manufacturing. They’ll also find that translating tough words into action is harder than buying commercial time. Obama hasn’t carried out many of the tough-on-China policies he promised four years ago. Republicans already are expressing concerns that Romney is locking himself into a too hard-line position.
Faced with difficult times, the government, on Monday, took a few more steps to soothe investors and ‘stay course’, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stepping in to form a ministers’ panel to thrash out problems in the coal sector and convening a meeting on Wednesday to review the big-ticket infrastructure projects. Joining the government, the Reserve Bank sent assuring signals to the market by indicating that it might further cut interest rates later this month.  While the Prime Minister said the country should ‘stay course’ in difficult times, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee listed positives in the falling crude oil prices and expectations of a normal monsoon.

With no headroom for proactive fiscal policy manoeuvring to kick-start the economy, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, on Monday, pointed to a clutch of specific positives that would aid in a turnaround and pinned hopes on a normal monsoon and falling crude oil prices to catalyse a recovery in domestic growth momentum.  Striking a cautiously optimistic note in his address at the annual conference of the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) here ostensibly to ward off a sense of gloom that has set in following the country’s GDP (gross domestic product) growth plunging to a nine-year low at 6.5 per cent during 2011-12 Mr. Mukherjee said: “… a normal southwest monsoon has been predicted for 2012-13 and there has been a rapid decline in international oil prices in recent weeks. Further, there are no major adverse results on corporate performance in the last quarter of 2011-12. All these factors should help in the recovery of domestic growth momentum.”

The Finance Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, pooh-poohed the suggestion that the economic crisis today was as grave as in 1991. In a presentation to the Congress Working Committee on the economic situation, Mr Mukherjee said, “Such comparisons are not correct” as the foreign exchange reserves of the country were much stronger in 2012 than in 1990. Addressing the CWC, the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, said that despite the international slowdown, India’s growth remained at 7 per cent in 2011-12, which, according to him, was one of the highest in the world. “These are difficult times for our country and for our economy, caused to a very large extent by circumstances over which we have little or no control,” Dr Singh said
The country’s services sector grew at its fastest pace in three months during May, and firms were more optimistic about the year ahead, a survey showed on Tuesday. HSBC’s services purchasing managers’ index, compiled by Markit, rose almost two points to 54.7 in May from 52.8 in the previous month. It has posted an above-50 growth reading since November. (Above 50 reflects expansion while below 50 represents contraction.) The index measuring business expectations jumped to a 15-month high of 76.7 last month from 73.8 in April, more than 14 points above its March level.
South Korea’s economy may not be able to recover from its current slowdown in the second half of this year mainly due to unfavorable overseas developments, local economists said Tuesday. In an economic assessment gathering hosted by the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI), experts predicted the persistent eurozone fiscal woes are exerting negative influence on the country. They added slower than expected growth in China and the United States is weighing down growth that was originally expected to pick up pace in the second half. “The European Union will probably post minus growth this year while economic conditions in China, which is faced with a sharp drop in real estate prices, can further pose challenges,” said Kim Joo-hyun, the president of the Hyundai Research Institute (HRI).

Sales of imported vehicles in South Korea surged to a record high in May on brisk demand for new car models, a local trade association said Tuesday. A total of 11,708 foreign-made vehicles were sold here last month, compared with 8,777 units sold a year earlier, according to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association (KAIDA). The May figure also marks a 9.7 percent gain from the previous month, when the registration of new foreign cars hit 10,668, which was the previous record high. “The release of such cars as the Audi Q3, Mini Countryman diesel and Mercedes-Benz M class sport utility vehicle bolstered sales,” said a KAIDA spokesperson.
6th of June is approaching. Expect something “big” to happen, as a Grexit is too premature at this stage. With equity markets down sharply over the past weeks, the central planners are not overly happy. In order to pump up the confidence (and the markets), these are the optons. By Peter Tchir of TF Market Advisors. The ECB meeting on June the 6th seems key to me. Markets and economies are teetering across the globe. More and more people are coming to the conclusion that a Greek Exit would be catastrophic. Central banks won’t want to act as though they are panicking, but neither will they want to wait much longer to act. The regularly scheduled ECB meeting on the 6th is an ideal date for the first salvo to be fired.


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