News That Matters

With news dominated by the Greek elections, the imploding Spanish economy and more, people tend to forget about other issues. One of those being the currency wars going on.
Greece’s centre-right New Democracy party scrapped its way to victory over Syriza, its radical leftist opponents, on Sunday in an election pivotal to the efforts of European leaders to hold the eurozone together. According to interior ministry projections, with 97 per cent of votes counted, New Democracy was set to take 29.7 per cent of the vote and 129 seats in the 300-member parliament, compared with 26.9 per cent and 71 seats for Syriza.

The global recovery has stalled again as confidence in policy makers’ ability to provide conditions for growth has slipped away, according to the latest FT/Brookings Institution Tiger index of world economic conditions.  Professor Eswar Prasad of Brookings said: “The global economic recovery is being held hostage by political brinksmanship that has created policy paralysis, undermined confidence and stymied the effectiveness of macroeconomic policy tools”.

The head of Denmark’s central bank has warned that the Danish krone is coming under intense pressure from investors seeking a haven in Europe and betting that the currency’s peg to the euro could be cracked by the crisis. Nils Bernstein, the governor of the Danish central bank, said that the upward pressure on the krone was the most severe he had seen in his seven years as governor, and warned that negative interest rates could be on the cards if the problem continues.

The Bank of England committee charged with ensuring the stability of Britain’s banks is split over George Osborne’s plan to oblige it to support the government’s new growth agenda. In a little-noticed section of his Mansion House speech last Thursday, the chancellor said the BoE’s Financial Policy Committee should no longer focus narrowly on safeguarding the banking sector. The FPC should not be creating “the stability of a graveyard”, he said, and in future would have a “secondary objective to support the economic policy of the government”.

Two years ago, the dusty plains of Charanka were just desert wasteland that could barely sustain life, let alone create energy. Today, the isolated area in the western state of Gujarat, about 30km from the border with Pakistan, is at the forefront of India’s solar power boom, boasting Asia’s largest solar energy park by output. The recently inaugurated Gujarat Solar Park was developed in less than two years with the co-operation of 21 international companies. Surpassing China’s Golmud park in terms of its potential output, the $600m project marks India’s rise as a key market for global solar power developers and manufacturers.

India’s business elite is still struggling to come to terms with the downfall of one of their most celebrated members, following the conviction of Rajat Gupta on charges of insider trading in a court in New York on Friday.  The former head of McKinsey & Co and director at Goldman Sachs was once the pre-eminent member of India’s “Davos set”, with an ability to open doors at the highest level of global business, matched only by a reputation for personal integrity and charitable good works.
Financial markets rallied across Asia early Monday and the euro gained as Greece's election results defused worries that the nation may soon exit from the euro zone, a move many investors feared would spark a financial contagion. But analysts warned that the benefit may be brief, and investors are likely to soon refocus their attentions on the troubled road ahead for Greece, and the rest of Europe, particularly Spain. The euro rose to $1.2714, compared with $1.2640 late Friday in New York. In stock action, Tokyo's Nikkei was up 1.8%, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index gained 1.5% and South Korea's Kospi was up 2.1%. Dow Jones futures were up 52 points.

Beneath the recent whipsawing in prices of stocks and bonds lies a more mundane truth: Trading volumes have plummeted, driving some markets to a near standstill. Even in the European bond marketswhere the crisis looms largesttrading has gone quiet. Traders say investors have been hesitant to take any risk ahead of Greece's elections Sunday. The slim victory of Greece's conservative New Democracy, which reduces the immediate risk of a Greek exit from the euro zone, did little to give investors a clearer view.

In a sign the U.S. government is moving beyond Switzerland in its pursuit of secret offshore accounts, the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service announced the indictment of three Israeli-American tax preparers, who are charged with helping U.S. taxpayers hide millions of dollars in two Israeli banks. The U.S. since 2009 has been cracking down on U.S. taxpayers hiding assets abroad. As part of an agreement to avoid criminal charges, Swiss banking giant UBS UBS +2.22%turned over the names of more than 4,000 customers and paid a $780 million fine. Now the U.S. government is casting a wider net. "These are the first indictments in connection with accounts at Israeli banks," said Bryan Skarlatos, an attorney with Kostelanetz & Fink in New York who has handled confessions of secret offshore accounts for hundreds of U.S. taxpayers.
The Federal Reserve is likely to extend its Operation Twist program at the end of its two-day meeting on Wednesday, a growing number of Fed watchers said over the weekend. “We now expect the Fed to ease policy further at next week’s meeting,” Barclays Capital economist Dean Maki said in a note to clients. “We see a short-term extension of Operation Twist as the most likely outcome.”  Michael Gregory, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, said more and more economists were jumping on the “bandwagon” of an extended Twist. The move would serve several purposes, but would mainly show the Fed’s resolve to act and help shore up confidence, said Millan Mulraine, economist at TD Securities.

In Sunday's second and final round of France's legislative elections, the Socialist Party and its allies won 320 of the National Assembly's 577 seats, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing projections based on preliminary results. Because a Socialist-led coalition already controls the Senate, the upper house, President François Hollande will have a supportive Parliament he says he needs to revive France's economy and help repair the troubled euro zone, the Jounral said.
Rodney King, the black man who came to symbolize racial tensions in the United States after his 1991 beating by police led to riots in Los Angeles a year later, was found dead in a swimming pool on Sunday in Rialto, California, police said. He was 47. "Preliminary indications are that this is a drowning with no signs of foul play," Rialto police said in a statement. King was discovered by his fiancée, Rialto police Captain Randy De Anda said. The San Bernardino County Coroner's office will conduct an autopsy, authorities said.

Crude futures rose in early Asian trade on Monday as Greece's pro-bailout parties looked set to win a slim majority at weekend elections, easing investor fears of an imminent exit from the euro zone. U.S. crude had risen 74 cents to $84.77 per barrel by 2337 GMT, while Brent crude climbed 99 cents to $98.60 per barrel.  Both Brent and U.S. crude touched one-month highs earlier.
The Muslim Brotherhood said its candidate won Egypt’s first free presidential vote, with Mohamed Mursi securing about 52 percent of the ballots in a race against Hosni Mubarak’s last premier. The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party said Mursi, a U.S.-trained engineer, was chosen Egypt’s first civilian president. The announcement came hours after the ruling military council issued a  constitutional declaration giving it broad authority to secure its interests, including over the budget and the power to pull together a committee to write a new charter.   “I will stand at an equal distance from all, and will be a servant to all Egyptians,” Mursi said today in an early morning news conference. According to the Brotherhood, about 97 percent of the roughly 13,000 polling stations had reported election results. Official results are due June 21.

China’s home values fell in a record 54 of 70 cities tracked by the government in May as developers cut prices to boost sales amid housing curbs. The eastern city of Wenzhou led declines with a 14 percent slump in values from a year earlier, while Beijing and Shanghai recorded losses of as much as 1.6 percent, according to data released by the statistics bureau today.  China has pledged to maintain its curbs on the housing market even as economic growth is slowing, prompting the central bank to cut borrowing costs for the first time since 2008 on June 7. The Housing Ministry said this month that China will steadfastly continue with its property curbs that have so far included higher down payments and restrictions on the number of homes being bought.

China’s economy will bottom out this quarter and rebound in the following three months as government measures to stabilize a slowdown take effect, an academic adviser to the nation’s central bank said. “The second quarter should be the lowest point” this year, Chen Yulu said in an interview at a forum in Beijing on June 16. Full-year growth “should be able to hold up above 8 percent,” he said.  Policy makers in the world’s second-biggest economy are shoring up expansion as Europe’s deepening debt crisis curtails exports and foreign investment, and property curbs at home damp demand. As leaders of the Group of 20 nations meet in Mexico today, President Hu Jintao said he was confident China would maintain steady expansion and contribute to the global recovery.

As the U.S. recovery slows and Federal Reserve efforts to boost growth expire, there’s no consensus among the biggest bond dealers that the central bank will begin a fourth round of economic stimulus with consumer and corporate borrowing costs already at record lows. Signs of faltering growth amid European debt turmoil, combined with inflation below the central bank’s 2 percent target, mean the Fed will announce new steps to boost the economy as soon as a meeting this week, according to 12 of the 21 primary dealers who trade with the central bank. The remainder don’t expect action and some of the nine firms say that yields near all-time lows limit the effectiveness of more measures by policy makers.

As the U.S. recovery slows and Federal Reserve efforts to boost growth expire, there’s no consensus among the biggest bond dealers that the central bank will begin a fourth round of economic stimulus with consumer and corporate borrowing costs already at record lows. Signs of faltering growth amid European debt turmoil, combined with inflation below the central bank’s 2 percent target, mean the Fed will announce new steps to boost the economy as soon as a meeting this week, according to 12 of the 21 primary dealers who trade with the central bank. The remainder don’t expect action and some of the nine firms say that yields near all-time lows limit the effectiveness of more measures by policy makers.
Wilbur Ross, the billionaire investor and Chairman of private equity firm, WL Ross & Co., says the real question facing Greece is what policies the new government will implement after the pro-bailoutNew Democracy party won the most votes in Sunday’s vote. New Democracy’s leader Antonis Samaras told CNBC, the election results should reassure investors that Greece was anchored to the euro. His comments are likely to provide some relief to investors worried that the election result would lead Greece out of the euro zone.
The executive board of the International Monetary Fund finalized the details of its $430 billion crisis capital fund, and said it would only draw on the new resources if its existing funds were low, the agency announced late Friday. The rules agreed by the board "envisage that the IMF would only draw on the new agreements after it has committed most of its existing quota and NAB (New Agreement to Borrow) resources," the IMF said in a statement. Some analysts have argued that the IMF needs to significantly boost its crisis fund with Europe on the edge of crisis.
Jindal Power Ltd., a unit of India’s biggest steelmaker by market value, plans to spend $7.7 billion on hydroelectric projects over the next decade as a coal shortage forces utilities to cut dependence on fossil fuels. The generator, which shelved a share sale plan announced in 2009, will invest 427 billion rupees in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh to install 6,100 megawatts of capacity, Jayant Shrinivas Kawale, managing director for hydro and renewables, said in an interview in New Delhi. The company expects to get government approvals for its first water-based electricity project by the end of the year, he said. “These projects will strengthen our portfolio,” Kawale said. “The biggest positive for us will be that for the next 45 years, we will have plants that run steady without troubles coal-fired ones face.” The company’s first unit may start producing power in seven years, he said.
The Italian government hopes to raise 10bn euros (£8.1bn; $12.6bn) selling off three state-owned companies, in a bid to reduce its crippling debt mountain.  Prime Minister Mario Monti described the measures, which include a reduction in the number of state employees, as "very robust". The companies, Fintecna, Sace and Simsest, are all owned by the country's economy ministry.  More privatisations are likely.  The government is also reducing the size of its military forces and plans to sell off property released by this process. The property will be put into a fund, then valued and sold to private investors.

Spain is likely to miss its budget targets for this year and Madrid should adopt wider reforms to reduce its debts, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Spain is implementing drastic spending cuts to try to slash its budget deficit to 5.3% from 8.5% in 2011. Many economists said the target was always unrealistic. Last weekend, Spain was given 100bn euros ($125bn; £80bn) in emergency loans to help its struggling banks.
France has sent European leaders a proposal for a €120n “growth pact” including a financial transaction tax that it wants Europe to introduce “by the end of the year”, it was reported today.  The new "leveraged" cash or allegedly unused EU funds are to come from a combination of short-term growthinstruments such as project bonds, reallocated EU structural funds and fresh investment capital from the European Investment Bank. But some European diplomats have already reacted scathingly to the plan, suggesting only a fraction would be “new money” - around €10bn - designed to make the proposal an easy to agree "victory" for new French President Francois Hollande at an EU summit next week

British banks could face potential losses of up to £100bn if Italian and Spanish economies implode following contagion from Greece, figures show. The latest data from the Bank of England reveals that UK lenders are exposed to the tune of $142.5bn (£91.3bn) in both Italy and Spain, spelling potentially disastrous consequences for British banks should these European economies collapse. Of the total, British banks have $83.1bn tied up in Spain’s public and private sector, including its banking system, and a further $59.4bn exposure to Italy.  UK banks are relatively insulated to the sovereign debt of the weakest European economies compared to other lenders in the eurozone, including those in Germany and France.

The exact circumstances and timing of Greece’s ejection from monetary union no longer have any systemic importance for global finance. The damage has already been done. The precedent of EMU break-up is by now priced into the credit markets. Formalising it changes little. Central banks across the world are standing ready to shower markets with emergency liquidity. A dust-up in Athens is the excuse they need to launch a fresh blitz of stimulus as the global economy flirts with recession once again. Fed chair Ben Bernanke requires a crisis somewhere to outflank his own hawks and slip another round of quantitative easing (QE) past the Tea Party Congress before the “fiscal cliff” – 4.5pc of GDP in tightening – hits the US economy with a sledgehammer this winter.

The fate of the euro was hanging in the balance after a rerun of the Greek elections failed to produce a strong government with a mandate to deliver the country’s austerity programme. Although the New Democracy party won the largest share of the vote, it will have to rely on its discredited socialist rivals Pasok to form a coalition government to accept the bail-out, keeping Greece in the single currency. Both parties, which have ruled Greece for 38 years, are widely blamed for a crisis that has taken the country to the brink of economic collapse. Between them they won only about 40 per cent of the vote. By contrast, parties that opposed the bail-out increased their share of the vote to over 46 per cent, with Syriza, the radical Leftist coalition that wants to discard the agreement, almost winning outright.
The head of the World Bank said Sunday that Europe's bail-out of the Spanish banking system had been handled very badly and amounted to a wasted opportunity to contain the debt crisis. Addressing business leaders on the eve of the G20 summit in Mexico, Robert Zoellick and other senior international economists said that Europe needed to improve its institutional response in order to reassure bond markets. "Look everyone knows this meeting is coming at an absolutely critical time -- and we're waiting for Europe to tell us what it is going to do," he said at a panel in the B20 business summit, held in parallel to the G20 meet.
China's economy faces increasing downside risks as evidenced by the newly-released economic statistics for the January-May period. China's exports in the first five months increased 8.7 percent year on year, lower than the annual 10-percent target, according to the General Administration of Customs (GAC). China's fixed-asset investment rose 20.1 percent year-on-year to 10.89 trillion yuan in the first five months, marking the third consecutive monthly slowdown, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).  Together with the still grim real estate market and the bearish stock market, the economic data demonstrate that China's economy outlook could be gloomy.

The real estate market in southern China's booming Guangdong province has seen a rebound this year as more people have rushed to snap up discounted property following a correction last year, new statistics have indicated. Property developers in the region sold 22.5 million square meters of commercial buildings in the first five months, down 12.4 percent year on year. But the decline was 1.5 percentage points smaller than that of the January-April period, according to a statement issued Sunday by the Guangdong provincial bureau of statistics. Meanwhile, the sale revenue fell at a smaller annual rate of 8 percent, compared with 14.5 percent in the first four months, to 182.4 billion yuan (28.7 billion U.S. dollars).
European governments signaled a willingness to relent on Greece’s austerity measures as leaders turn from an election victory by Greek bailout proponents to focus on safeguarding the other 98 percent of the euro economy.  Greece’s new government must emerge “swiftly” from yesterday’s contest, which showed pro-bailout New Democracy in a position to form a coalition, euro finance chiefs said in a statement. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said negotiators could consider giving Greece more time to fix its finances, telling ZDF television that the political gridlock over the past six weeks “has done damage.” Greece’s international monitors will “return to Athens as soon as a new government is in place to exchange views with the new government on the way forward,” the finance ministers’ statement said. They want “the swift formation of a new Greek government that will take ownership of the adjustment program.”

New Zealand's economic recovery is expected to be longer and slower than previously thought due to weak global demand and the worsening European debt crisis, according to the country's economists. The economy is expected to grow from 1.2 percent in the year ending March this year and by 3.1 percent in the year to March 2014, the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) announced Monday in its Consensus Forecasts. The Consensus Forecasts, which gives the average forecasts from seven major banks, the NZIER, the Treasury and the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ), said the results reflected the "subdued domestic economy and large global risks."
India’s economic woes have not gone out of hand in the wake of the slip in the GDP growth the lowest in nearly nine years but there could be trouble if the eurozone crisis is not quickly contained and financial stability in Europe restored, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia said on Sunday.  Ahead of the G20 Summit of developed and developing countries being attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh among other world leaders, Mr. Ahluwalia said India will be “lucky” if it can achieve around 7 per cent growth rate this fiscal.

Indians’ money in Swiss banks may have risen for the first time in five years, but they account for a meagre 0.14 per cent of total foreign wealth deposited there putting India at 55th place globally for such funds. The total overseas funds in Switzerland’s banking system stood at 1.53 trillion Swiss francs (about Rs. 90 trillion) at the end of 2011, which included 2.18 billion Swiss francs (Rs. 12,700 crore) belonging to Indian individuals and entities. While India accounted for only 0.14 per cent of total foreign money in Swiss banks, the U.K. accounted for the largest share of little over 20 per cent, followed closely by the U.S. with about 18 per cent.

The Union Government may ask Coal India Ltd to import 45 million tonnes (mt) of thermal coal in 2012-13 to meet the projected demand of 393 mt from the power sector during the year. The proposal was mooted by the Planning Commission and is currently under the Coal Ministry's consideration. According to sources, the Plan panel suggested that the imported coal be supplied using a ‘pooled price mechanism', under which the customers of domestic coal may have to pay a slightly higher price to partially subsidise the cost of imported coal. The Coal Ministry is expected to take a call on the proposal this month.
Expressing concern over the slowdown in investment cycle in India, Christopher Woods of CLSA said that the Indian economy will continue to grow at 5-6 per cent until investment picks up.
Even though historically global markets rally in the months of June and July, with regards to the Indian markets, Woods said that they have been de-rated currently. However, he feels that Indian consumer stocks are relatively safe haven for investors. With the middle class disposable income growing, Woods was optimistic about the real estate sector in the economy. He also feels that one can invest in private sector banks from a long term perspective. However, the book quality and NPAs of PSU banks are on the negative side.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Mexican President Felipe Calderon agreed Sunday to resume stalled negotiations on a free trade agreement between their countries this year, an official said. The two leaders reached the agreement during summit talks held after Lee arrived in the Mexican resort city of Los Cabos for a summit of the Group of 20 major economies, set for Monday and Tuesday.
The number of Iranian-funded foreign companies in Turkey rose for the fifth consecutive month this year, according to the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB). A report issued by TOBB stated that 27 percent of foreign companies that were established in Turkey in May were Iranian-funded. The report, which provides statistics of companies that were set up and closed down in May 2012, stated that 86 companies -- out of the 320 that were established with foreign partners last month -- are Iranian-funded. The report also stated that 431 Iranian-funded foreign companies had been established in Turkey in the first five months of the year. The next two foreign investors on the list were Germans, with 152 companies established this year, and Russians, with 85.

Iran plans to manufacture at least three million cars by 2025 and export some one million sets, the Fars News Agency quoted Industry, Mine and Trade Minister Mehdi Ghazanfari as saying. He made the remarks on the sidelines of a ceremony to unveil the second all-Iranian car, named Runna, in Tehran today. “Some 1.6 million cars were manufactured in the past calendar year and 55,000 cars were exported,” Ghazanfari said.  Iranian car manufacturers produced 1.648 million cars in 2011, making the country number 13 in the world in terms of production, the Fars News Agency quoted a report by the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers as saying.