News That Matters
We are getting that deja vú feeling again. Spain has suddenly been spending 90 billion Euros more than estimated. How they calculate these figures, nobody knows, but this sure is resembling the Greek saga. 90 Billion Euros is the size of the Portugese bail out by the way. On the other hand, when it comes to the property sector, we would really enjoy trying to understand the explanations on out how the banks are valuing all those “cheap” properties they hold in their prop book. Expect cheap properties to become cheaper, while the budget blame game resumes.
China cut its annual growth target for the first time in eight years on Monday, recognising that its double-digit growth rates are past and the world’s second largest economy will slow as it matures,

The FT reports that a large group of private creditors agreed on Monday to take part in the multibillion-euro Greek debt swap in a step forward for Athens as the country struggled to avert a sovereign

Companies lined up to sell dollar-denominated debt in what was the busiest day for issuance so far this year after yields in the corporate bond market fell to record lows, reports the FT. Corporate bonds have rallied in recent months as investors search for investments that offer a higher yield than US Treasuries.

The FT reports that Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, is facing growing pressure to accelerate the introduction of a financial transaction tax in Europe, in order to win approval for the eurozone’s


Britain’s immigration minister has urged companies to wean themselves off their “addiction” to hiring foreign workers, insisting that his curbs on immigrants were not preventing skilled employees coming to the UK. In an interview with the FT,

Greece is ready to force bondholders into writing off €100bn of its debt if they don’t volunteer this week, Evangelos Venizelos, its finance minister has said. “This is the best offer because this is the only one,

Banks deposited a record €821bn over the weekend at the European Central Bank after the bank last week injected a second wave of funds into the eurozone banking system, the FT reports. On Wednesday the ECB announced that 800 banks had borrowed €529.5bn in the second phase of a cheap three-year loan programme being offered by the central bank,

Wall Street’s “squawk boxes” and Twitter feeds were gripped briefly last week by talk of a huge deal: more than 100,000 Treasury futures contracts were traded just after Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve chairman, began speaking about the US economy.  The volume of trading was such that it raised suspicions that a computer program or “fat fingered” dealer was to blame. One theory was that an “algo” run by a so-called high-frequency trader had erroneously fired off orders in electronic bursts at ultra-fast speeds.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said Israel has the right to “defend itself, by itself”, highlighting the friction between the US and Israel over Iran as President Barack Obama insisted there was still a “window” for diplomacy.  The two men were speaking from the Oval Office at the White House ahead of a high-stakes meeting about how to deal with Iran and its nuclear programme.
Asian stock markets were lower Tuesday as concerns over slowing growth in China eclipsed better-than-expected U.S. economic indicators, sending regional China-linked stocks and copper prices falling. Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average was down 0.9%, South Korea’s Kospi Composite was 1% lower, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was down 1.7% and China’s Shanghai Composite and Singapore’s Straits Times Index were both 1.4% lower. Fighting the trend, India’s Sensex was up 0.6% on bargain-buying. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 finished the day down 1.4% at 4204.7, a two-week low. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were down 35 points in electronic trading.

A wave of leveraged-buyout debt is beginning to crash down on Europe’s shores. Over the next five years, some $550 billion of loans made to European companies taken over in leveraged buyouts will mature, according to data crunched by Dealogic for U.K. law firm Linklaters LLP, in a study to be published Tuesday. The scale of the maturing debt is daunting in itself, but a number of additional factors—including weak economies in Europe and tightening capital requirements for banks—could make it particularly acute for lenders and borrowers, according to the report, titled “Negotiating Europe’s LBO debt mountain.”

Fu Chengyu’s first attempt to buy a piece of the U.S. oil industry kicked up a storm of protest and ended in failure. Seven years later, the Chinese executive is pouring billions of dollars into the oil patch without even a whisper of trouble. His new recipe for success: Seek minority stakes, play a passive role and, in a nod to U.S. regulators, keep Chinese personnel at arm’s length from advanced U.S. technology. Since 2010, Chinese companies have invested more than $17 billion into oil and gas deals in the U.S. and Canada, according to data provider Dealogic, giving their energy-thirsty nation a long-coveted foothold in a region known for innovative new drilling techniques. North America has become China’s top region for oil and gas deals. Mr. Fu has been leading the push, first as chairman of China National Offshore Oil Corp., known as Cnooc, then as chairman of China Petrochemical Corp., called Sinopec, one of the largest oil companies in the world.

After riding a wave of demand from investors looking for a safe retreat from Europe’s debt woes, Norway’s currency is caught in a turning tide. The krone has risen 6% against the dollar this year, making it the world’s best-performing major currency. Against the euro, it is up about 4% and last month hit a nine-year high. Now, some investors are growing wary of the rally, which has been driven by the krone’s role as a safer alternative to the euro as well as by surging oil prices. They say they are scaling back bets on the krone amid worries

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. posted its first loss in Asia since 2008, partly due to losses on its investment in the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. as stock markets declined around the region in 2011. According to a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission in the U.S. on Feb. 28, the investment bank posted a net loss of $103 million in Asia for the year ended December 2011, after posting a $2.1 billion net profit the previous year. Revenue also
The Reserve Bank of Australia kept interest rates on hold in a widely expected move Tuesday, signaling that the central bank remains comfortable with both inflation and unemployment. The RBA kept its key cash rate at 4.25% for the second month in a row. RBA Gov. Glenn Stevens said Tuesday in comments accompanying the decision: “Recent information is consistent with the expectation that the world economy will grow at a below-trend pace this year, but does not suggest that a deep downturn is occurring.”

Australia’s current-account deficit rose by 2.6 billion Australian dollars ($2.8 billion), or 44%, to A$8.4 billion in seasonally-adjusted terms in the three months to Dec. 31, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said Tuesday. Exports of goods and services increased by A$336 million, while imports increased A$2.9 billion, the ABS said. Economists had been expecting a current-account deficit of A$8.0 billion, according to data compiled by Dow Jones Newswires.
Brent crude climbed to nearly $124 on Tuesday as fears of supply disruptions from Iran and unresolved tensions over its nuclear program outweighed concerns about demand and slowing global economic growth. Front-month Brent crude was up 11 cents at $123.91 a barrel at 0259 GMT, after reaching a high of $124.39. U.S. April crude edged up 8 cents to $106.80, having dropped from $107.34 earlier in the day.

Gold held around $1,700 an ounce Tuesday, after falling in the previous session as China, widely seen as the engine of the global economy, cut its economic growth targets, but cheaper prices could attract more buying from jewellers in Asia. Gold hardly moved at $1,704.19 an ounce by 0243 GMT, having tumbled nearly 4 percent last week. Bullion struck a record at around $1,920 an ounce last September.

Only a dire situation would call for the Federal Reserve to buy more assets, and that is unlikely given the better-looking economic data, a top central bank official said on Monday. Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher, an outspoken policy hawk, added that he was perplexed by Wall Street’s continued preoccupation with the possibility that the Fed could engage in a third round of large-scale buying of assets, known as quantitative easing, or QE3.

Major Greek bondholders voiced their support on Monday for a deal that will more than halve the value of their holdings as their contribution to keeping the country afloat. The steering committee of creditors, which includes 12 major investors in Greek bonds and was involved in drawing up last month’s landmark deal, said it would accept the bond swap offer. Earlier, Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos warned Athens’ private creditors the bond exchange was the best deal they would get and that he would not hesitate to activate laws forcing losses on bond holders who did not willingly sign up.
Syria’s two most powerful backers, Russia and China, have started to edge away from their defense of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while U.S. Senator John McCain called for U.S.-led airstrikes to stop Assad’s “savagery.” Russia and China decried the violence in Syria and dispatched diplomats to the region this week, raising the possibility of a diplomatic breakthrough that could end their opposition to UN Security Council action critical of the Assad regime.

The biggest inflows into India’s bonds and stocks in 17 months are bolstering a rally in rupee- denominated debt and allowing the government to resume sales of stakes in state-run companies. International investors poured $7.3 billion into local assets last month, the most since adding $8 billion in September 2010, according to data from the Mumbai-based Securities & Exchange Board of India. The nation’s notes have returned 2.2 percent this year, the second highest among 10 Asian markets monitored by HSBC Holdings Plc. The rupee has advanced 6.1 percent against the dollar, the best performance among Asia’s 11 most-traded currencies.

India’s ruling Congress party is trailing as votes are counted in two key northern states, in an election that may dictate the pace of economic policy changes Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is seeking to bolster growth. The Samajwadi Party of former wrestler Mulayam Singh Yadav is on course to oust the Uttar Pradesh government of low-caste leader Mayawati, the CNN-IBN news channel reported. Yadav may be short of a majority, the network said. Congress was fourth. In other results, Congress was behind in Punjab while it led in Uttarakhand, according to the channel. “Voters have punished Congress for corruption and high inflation,” said Satish Misra, an analyst at the New Delhi- based Observer Research Foundation.

Portugal should be able to return to bond markets next year and private creditors aren’t expected to take writedowns on the nation’s debt, the head of the International Monetary Fund’s aid mission to the country said. “Our baseline expectation remains that Portugal will be able to access markets late next year,” Abebe Aemro Selassie, who is taking over supervision of the IMF portion of the international bailout plan for Portugal, said yesterday in an interview with Bloomberg television. “This will not be easy.”

The Bank of England is overhauling the leadership of its economics division as Governor Mervyn King and Chief Economist Spencer Dale put in place a new crop of officials who may be picked for future policy roles. The revamp that began yesterday is focused on managers in Dale’s department, which produces forecasts, statistics and economic analysis, according to the central bank’s website. The officials changing position or assuming new roles are Robert Woods, James Bell, Neal Hatch, Phil Evans and Chris Young.
Wages for workers in the Chinese manufacturing hubs of Guangdong province are set to rise by about 10%, according to a Standard Chartered survey of Hong Kong-based manufacturers, with the level well below the 15%-20% in average wage hikes reported earlier by local media. The bank’s survey, released Monday, focused on operators in the Pearl River Delta and was conducted after the Lunar New Year holiday.
The US Senate has voted to uphold Washington’s ability to impose duties on subsidised goods from China and Vietnam. This follows a US court ruling against the practice. The House of Representatives is expected to pass the bill, which will then go to President Barack Obama to sign into law. Opponents say the measure escalates tensions between the two countries. Those who support the bill say it protects thousands of American jobs.

The US service sector expanded at its fastest rate in a year in February, as a rise in new orders helped push up prices, a survey has indicated. The Institute for Supply Management’s index of non-manufacturing activity rose to 57.3 points, up from January’s reading of 56.8. With any figure above 50 indicating expansion, it was the biggest rate of growth since February 2011. The services sector includes everything from shops to hotels and banks.

Retail sales across the eurozone rose unexpectedly in January, figures show, but a separate survey has indicated economic activity remains weak. EU figures showed retail sales in the 17 countries that use the euro rose a stronger-than-expected 0.3% in January. Sales across the EU’s 27 states as a whole rose 0.7% in January. However, February’s eurozone purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for services and industry indicated that activity in these sectors contracted last month.
Dutch Freedom Party pushes euro exit as €2.4 trillion rescue bill looms. The Dutch Freedom Party has called for a return to the Guilder, becoming the first political movement in the eurozone with a large popular base to opt for withdrawal from the single currency. “The euro is not in the interests of the Dutch people,” said Geert Wilders, the leader of the right-wing populist party with a sixth of the seats in the Dutch parliament. “We want to be the master of our own house and our own country, so we say yes to the guilder. Bring it on.” Mr Wilders made his decision after receiving a report by London-based Lombard Street Research concluding that the Netherlands is badly handicapped by euro membership, and that it could cost EMU’s creditor core more than €2.4 trillion to hold monetary union together over the next four years.

European recovery rocked by poor economic data in Spain and Italy. Hopes that Europe is on the road to recovery were undermined as poor data from Spain and Italy helped send stock markets lower. A key gauge of private sector activity across the eurozone suggested business activity contracted in February after showing tentative signs of growth a month earlier. Markit’s eurozone composite PMI fell to 49.3 – revised down from an initial reading of 49.7 – from 50.4 in January, where anything below 50 shows a contraction. The poor data, which suggest the region is slipping back into recession, pushed markets lower, with the Ibex in Spain down 1.3pc and Italian markets 0.7pc lower.

UK economy picks up despite slower services growth. Growth in Britain’s services sector slowed more than expected in February, but economists said the UK should still avoid recession. The closely-watched Markit/CIPS services Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to a three-month low of 53.8 from 56 in January, where anything above 50 indicates the sector was growing. Economists had expected a smaller fall to 55. Although the PMI series, which includes surveys on the manufacturing and construction sectors, are not official data, they are respected by economists and policymakers at the Bank of England as early indicators of activity.

Banks are squeezing households by record amounts with high interest rates on overdrafts, mortgages and credit cards, despite the Bank of England base rate being at an all-time low. Figures from the Bank of England (BoE) show that the gap between the interest being charged on the average mortgage and the central bank’s base rate of 0.5 per cent are the highest since records began in January 1995. The average lending rate on overdrafts is 19.5 per cent, also the highest since comparable records started.  Credit card holders are also being hit. The average interest rate being charged on credit cards is 17.3 per cent, the highest for 11 years, the BoE said.
The bulk of the €16bn (£13.33bn) withdrawn from Greek banks that flowed overseas since the financial crisis began in 2009 ended up in the UK, the country’s finance minister said yesterday. Evangelos Venizelos said a total of €70bn had been withdrawn in the past two years, mainly by families and businesses hoarding cash against the worst-case scenario or struggling to meet their bills as they spend their savings. Much of the Greek cash has found its way into the London property market, sparking complaints among estate agents of shortages of prime housing stock.
Jim Flaherty’s push to erase the deficit is getting some help from an improving economy: Forecasters told Canada’s finance minister he can expect higher revenues over the coming years. The minister met with private sector economists Monday as he prepares to deliver his 2012 budget on March 29. The government uses an average forecast from the private sector as a foundation for its growth numbers.
Iran is keen to explore the possibility of exporting electricity to energy-hungry India after the much-touted tri-nation gas pipeline project with New Delhi slid into limbo. Iran’s energy minister Mr Majid Namjou said Iran might well export electricity to India instead of gas. Mr Namjou said that India is one of the frontrunners in the field of generating renewable energies and Iran will prepare the ground for the development of new energies in the country in cooperation with India.

India is persuading Sri Lanka to allocate oil exploration blocks in the waters that separate them as it considers the location too strategically important to allow companies from other nations to base themselves in this area. Diplomatic sources said the two countries were trying to set up a meeting between the Petroleum Ministers this month to discuss the issue afresh, now that Cairns India has struck oil in one of the blocks. If the talks make progress, the two Ministers could meet again in October, the sources said.
Cloud computing will generate some 14 million new jobs worldwide by 2015, and India alone will create over 2 million, predicts a study commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by International Data Corporation (IDC). Pointing out to a strong linkage between cloud, innovation and entrepreneurship, the study said most companies look at migration to cloud computing as a way to free up existing resources and work on more innovative projects. Freeing up budget allows organisations to shift some of their legacy work to the cloud and invest such freed budget in IT innovation that supports business innovation and in turn create new jobs.

Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who has cited difficulties in implementing the Food Security Bill, today said there should not be any problem in rolling out the proposed law in the wake of record foodgrain output.  “This year, we will break last year’s record by reaching 250 million tonnes of foodgrains,” Pawar told reporters on the sidelines of Kharif Conference 2012 here. “With this background, to implement the Food Security Bill, I don’t see any problem,” he said.
South Korea’s exports of information technology (IT) products grew 4.1 percent on-year, helped by global demand for system semiconductors and better memory chip prices, the government said Tuesday. The country shipped US$11.62 billion worth of IT products last month, up from $11.16 billion a year earlier, according to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy.
Consumer price inflation dipped to 3.7 percent in February, but economists warned that heavy government spending in advance of Sunday’s presidential election is likely to make prices rebound in coming months. It was a new post-Soviet low and compared with a 4.2 percent rate recorded in January. Falling inflation reinforces pressure on the Central Bank to cut interest rates, when it meets later this month to review monetary policy. Some economists, concerned by a steady slowdown in Russia’s economy in recent months, are urging a relaxation of policy. “Economic growth is definitely going to be below what the government thinks,” said Ivan Tchakarov, chief economist for Russia at Renaissance Capital. “And 3.7 percent inflation is so low — that I think there is room for a 50 basis point cut.”
The Iranian parliament (Majlis) will discuss a bill designed to increase the country’s contribution to the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID).  The bill was submitted to the Majlis on Monday, according to Mehr news agency.  The OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) is a multilateral development finance institution established in 1976 by the Member Countries of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Wheat harvesting has begun across parts of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh and supplies will pick up in a fortnight across central, penisular and north India. With international wheat companies Cargill, Louis Dreyfus, Olam India, Glencore, and Noble yet to lease godowns, traders and warehouse owners are worried about offtake.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), with global stocks of wheat at record levels, India’s minimum support price works out to $346 a tonne which is higher than the world market, leaving little room for exports. However, Indian wheat traders are exploring new markets in sanction-struck Iran and its neighbour Iraq.

Iran will probably stop sales of crude to Belgium, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, the state-run Mehr news agency reported, without saying where it obtained the information. The final decision on halting sales to the three European Union countries will be made soon by the Iranian oil ministry, Mehr said. Those countries haven’t accepted conditions outlined by Iran including a three-to-five year purchase contract, a guarantee on payments for purchased oil and removing any preconditions from purchase contracts, Mehr reported.
Bank loans and advances in the UAE showed a growth of 3.8 per cent year-on-year in 2011, according to latest data. “Bank deposits grew 1.9 per cent in the year,” according to a release from the UAE Central Bank. The growth is significant as the central bank introduced new rules on lending in the year to restrict generous loans to customers as in the past.During the year, intermediary monetary aggregate M2 increased by five per cent. In December 2011, bank deposits rose 1.5 per cent to close at Dh1.069 trillion.


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