News That Matters


Central banks and their holdings of gold have been widely discussed. Below is an article exploring the subject in depth. From Voxeu. The patterns of gold holding remain a debatable topic at times when the relative price of gold has appreciated while the global economy has experienced recessionary effects. This column studies the curious patterns of gold holding and trading by central banks from 1979 to 2010. It suggests that a central bank’s gold position signals economic might, a nd gold retains the stature of a ‘safe haven’ asset at times of global turbulence.  On 7 August 2009, theEuropean Central Bank released the following Joint Statement on Gold:
Forecasts for the UK economy will be revised a touch higher in the Budget on Wednesday, as the Office for Budget Responsibility is expected to follow recent more optimistic moves by private sector economists.   The last time the independent OBR produced a forecast was at the height of the eurozone crisis in late November and private sector forecasts, collected by Consensus Economics, have become slightly more optimistic since.

Saudi Arabia is taking steps to calm the oil market, boosting exports, filling up strategic oil stocks overseas and tapping oilfields to expand production capacity. The moves by the world’s largest oil producer would be welcomed by the White House as it battles the negative impact of rapidly rising fuel prices. They come as oil prices surge above $125 a barrel, the highest since the crisis of 2008, and set record highs in a number of currencies, including the euro and sterling.

China is setting up a $1bn fund with the Inter-American Development Bank to make equity investments in Latin America, in a new move into financing in a region where it is already a major trade partner. The fund, which should start operations this year, is a partnership between China’s state-run Export-Import Bank and the IDB. Each side will put in $150m and the two banks are currently selecting asset management firms to manage the investments and raise funds from the markets, the IDB says.
Most Asian stock markets were lower in listless trading Tuesday as the absence of catalysts and a holiday in Japan hobbled demand, while downbeat comments about Chinese growth from officials dragged on the Australian dollar and the Sydney market. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.3%, South Korea’s Kospi Composite lost 0.3%, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 0.7%, China’s Shanghai Composite Index declined 0.8% and India’s Sensex was up 0.6%. Markets in Japan were shut for a holiday. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were down nine points in screen trade.

One of the most popular currency trades is back in fashion, thanks to Japan’s efforts to keep pushing down the yen’s value. Known as the yen “carry trade,” investors are borrowing money in yen, where rates are low, and exchanging it for currencies in countries where rates are highsuch as Australia, Canada and Mexicoprofiting from the difference. Investors can also execute a carry trade by borrowing the lower-yielding yen to buy bonds denominated in higher-yielding currencies, such as local-currency government debt in places like Mexico and Brazil. The trade was hugely popular, and profitable, for much of the 1990s, though

The conditions are “basically ripe” for pushing forward with interest rate liberalization, the governor of China’s central bank wrote in an article published Friday, raising hopes that the long-delayed reform could be moving to the forefront of Beijing’s agenda.  China must also “accelerate” the establishment of a deposit insurance system, another key banking reform, People’s Bank of China Gov. Zhou Xiaochuan wrote in an issue of China Finance Magazine dated Friday that reached readers on Tuesday.

House Republicans, searching for an election-year message amid a muddled political and economic landscape, will introduce a 2013 budget Tuesday that cuts tax rates and provides for just two individual brackets of 10% and 25%. The budget would end the Alternative Minimum Tax, which originally was aimed at the wealthy but ensnares a growing number of middle-class taxpayers each year. The plan would nearly eliminate U.S. taxes on American corporations’ earnings from overseas operations.

U.K. Treasury chief George Osborne plans in his budget Wednesday to unveil measures aimed at helping small businesses and lower-income families, but the most politically sensitive issue will likely be whether he scraps the 50% income-tax rate for top earners. As he battles to keep the U.K.’s deficit-reduction program on track, Mr. Osborne, chancellor of the exchequer, must perform a tricky balancing act: stimulate much-needed growth without increasing the burden on the Treasury purse.

A panel of dealers determined in an auction Monday that holders of Greek credit-default swaps would be paid 78.5 cents on the dollar after Greece’s giant debt restructuring, a smooth result in line with expectations for a large payout to swapholders. Credit-default swaps, or CDS, are insurance-like contracts designed to pay off if creditors suffer losses. The auction’s outcome means that sellers of the $3.2 billion in outstanding swaps will pay $2.5 billion in compensation to buyers.

By now, Greg Smith is an online celebrity and, almost certainly, the loudest resignee in Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s history. But if his invective is to be more than an Internet blockbuster, it has to effect lasting change on both Goldman’s business and external perception. The one immediate achievement of Mr. Smith’s attack on Goldman’s culture, published last week in the New York Times, may be to have prolonged Lloyd Blankfein’s stay as CEO of Goldman, despite persistent rumors of his departure. No corporate chief would want such a controversy to be his final act. But what about the substance

Brazilian prosecutors’ planned criminal charges against Chevron Corp. executives for an offshore oil leak threatens to stifle foreign companies’ drilling plans in this petroleum-rich nation. Brazil will file criminal charges Wednesday against executives from Chevron and drilling-rig operator Transocean Ltd., accusing them of environmental crimes related to an offshore oil spill in November, prosecutor Eduardo Santos de Oliveira said in an interview Monday. Chevron has struggled to defuse the backlash stemming from the accident, which occurred on the sea floor in the Frade field some 230 miles northeast of Rio de Janeiro. Last week, the U.S. oil giant reported that

Labor leaders at General Motors Co.’s unprofitable Opel unit accused the auto maker of stalling over negotiations on a new strategic plan with them and of trying to pit its European plants against one another, signaling a deterioration in relations between GM and its unions. In a statement signed by labor chiefs from seven European countries where GM has operations, the worker representatives on Monday charged the Detroit auto maker with resorting to “divide and conquer” tactics to pressure individual plants to agree to concessions, instead of holding “constructive” talks with its European workers council.
Even as prospects for the global economy have begun to improve, China and India must press ahead on reforms, both to protect their financial markets and to help Western economies recover, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde said as she visits the two countries. “Today, we are seeing signs of stabilization” in both Europe and the United States, Lagarde said in a speech delivered in Beijing.

Inflation has now pulled well ahead in its contest against deflation. Nowhere is this as evident as in the relative performance of the stock market and gold bullion. After several years in which the two tended to go up and down together, in recent weeks they have begun to diverge dramatically.  Since the end of February, for example, the April gold contract has dropped more than 7%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen more than 2% and the Nasdaq Composite has gained nearly 4%. That’s an extraordinary divergence in so short a time. Though this recent divergence stands out as something new, it actually represents a return to what, prior to 2008, was the norm.
Brent crude fell towards $125 a barrel on Tuesday as global supply concerns eased and a hike in Chinese fuel prices sparked fears of lower energy demand in the world’s second-largest oil consumer. Brent crude fell 52 cents to $125.19 a barrel by 0456 GMT, after settling 10 cents lower in the previous session. U.S. crude was down 62 cents to $107.47. The benchmark had gained over $1 on Monday after Valero (VLO.N) announced it will shut down its 235,000 barrel per day (bpd) Aruba refinery, further tightening regional supplies ahead of the U.S. summer driving season.

Gold edged lower on Tuesday as a brightened U.S. economic outlook dented its safe-haven appeal, while a buoyant equity market also prompted investors to take money out of bullion. Spot gold lost 0.3 percent to $1,656.31 an ounce by 0337 GMT, snapping three straight sessions of gains. U.S. gold fell 0.6 percent to $1,656.60.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) has begun a new round of staff cuts in its trading and investment banking divisions, three sources familiar with the matter said, a sign of continued cutbacks on Wall Street. The job cuts follow 2,400 positions Goldman eliminated last year, and further reductions are possible as the company continues to reduce costs to raise profitability, the sources said. The latest round of cuts is part of Goldman’s annual employee review process.
Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS)
said it will wind down some operations in Korea, Indonesia and Singapore, starting today.  The businesses that will be shut include the cash equities, equity capital markets and corporate finance units in Korea, as well as the cash equities operations in Indonesia and Singapore, Yuk Min Hui, a spokeswoman for RBS in Hong Kong, said in an e-mailed response to queries. About 70 people will be affected, she said.

Apple Inc. (AAPL) said it sold more than 3 million iPads during the debut weekend for the latest model of the market-leading tablet computer. The tally is a record for opening weekend iPad sales, Cupertino, California-based Apple said in a statement. AT&T Inc. (T) said earlier today that it had also set a single-day record for iPad sales when it was made available on March 16.

Facebook Inc. (FB), the social- networking website seeking to raise $5 billion in an initial public offering, will pay underwriters a 1.1 percent fee, two people with knowledge of the company’s plans said. The fee will be shared among Facebook’s underwriters, said the people, who asked not to be named because the details are private. Facebook has hired 31 banks to manage the IPO, including Morgan Stanley (MS) as lead underwriter. The lead bank typically earns a bigger cut of the total.
European Union leaders showed “moral decay” in delaying Greece’s bond swap deal in order to minimize the impact on the region’s banks, according to High Frequency Economics’ founder and chief economist, Carl Weinberg. In a March report on the global economy, Weinberg said EU leaders had deliberately delayed Greece’s restructuring, to the detriment of its economy, in order to give banks time to prepare for the hit on their debt holdings.  “Why wasn’t Greece allowed to restructure its debt two years ago, before its economy contracted by 15 percent, and before it was necessary to impose a haircut on private sector borrowers, destabilize the government and the economy, illegally implement retroactive collective action clauses, and trigger credit default swaps he asked in the report.

China needs to allow the value of its currency to appreciate but its financial regulators should do so at a pace that will not hurt its economy, according to Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the World Trade Organization. “After all, not long ago the Chinese financial system was, let’s say, fragile,” he said. “On this, I share the sort of caution of Chinese financial authorities. I’m not sure it’s now solid to the point of opening in one day or in one night its foreign account.”  The yuan has been trading near all-time highs against the dollar this year, guided by a stronger mid-point by the People’s Bank of China, and looks set for an appreciation of about 3 percent for 2012, traders said. The currency gained about 4 percent in 2011. China may keep the yuan relatively stable in the first half of this year to assess the impact of the euro zone crisis, traders added.

The U.S. economy could be headed toward a fiscal cliff if a few underlying issues go unaddressed, former Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Alan Blinder said Monday. Federal government spending cuts set to go into effect January 2013 half of them directed toward the Pentagon would cause GDP to contract by as much as 3.5 percent.  “Across-the-board is a blunt instrument,” Blinder said on “The Kudlow Report.”  Blinder said that he expected Congress to reprioritize the targets of those spending cuts, but he saw another challenge ahead.
The Internet contributes more to the American economy than the entire federal government, according to a new study by the Boston Consulting Group.  The Internet accounted for $684 billion, or 4.7% of all U.S. economic activity in 2010, Boston Consulting Group found. By way of comparison, the federal government, contributed $625 billion, or 4.3%, to the nation’s output.  If it was considered its own separate industry, the Internet would also be larger than America’s education, construction or agricultural sectors. In the retail sphere alone, e-commerce accounted for 5% of U.S. sales in 2010.
raised retail gasoline and diesel prices for the second time this year, by 6.4% and 7% respectively, to ease losses faced by the nation’s refiners in view of rising global crude-oil prices and a decline in domestic consumer price inflation. The National Development and Reform Commission said Monday it would increase the prices on both gas and diesel by 600 yuan ($94.80), to 9,980 yuan per ton of gas and 9,130 yuan a ton of diesel. Nymex crude-oil prices have risen 9.1% so far in 2012.
Homebuilders’ feelings about the current housing market haven’t changed from February. But many are growing more optimistic that sales could pick up in the coming months. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo said Monday that its builder sentiment index stayed at 28, the highest level since June 2007. The flat reading followed five straight increases. Builders expressed more confidence in sales over the next six months. A separate gauge measuring that outlook rose in March for the sixth straight month, from 34 to 36.
e Australian Senate has pushed through into law a 30% tax on iron ore and coal mining companies. The tax will raise A$10.6bn ($11.2bn, £7bn) over three years from major companies including BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xtrata. Strong demand for raw materials from China and India has lead to a resource boom in Australia. The mining tax is aimed at distributing the benefits of that revenue to other segments of the economy. It comes into effect on 1 July.
Thirty years after it was entangled in a scandal involving the mafia, money laundering and the mysterious death of the man nicknamed “God’s banker”, the Vatican bank faces fresh controversy. The bank – formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion or IOR – has suffered the ignominy of having one of its accounts closed by JP Morgan after stone-walling requests for information. The sanction came less than two weeks after the US State Department listed the Vatican as being potentially vulnerable to money laundering.  A Milan affiliate of JP Morgan said it will shut the account by the end of the month after revealing Vatican bankers had been “unable to respond” to requests for details about payments into the account.

Taxpayers are to be given a detailed annual breakdown of how much they contribute to the Exchequer and how it is spent by the Government, under plans to be unveiled in the Budget. Each person will be sent an annual tax statement setting out what proportion of their income has been deducted and explaining in pounds and pence what ministers have used it for. The move, which will come into force in 2014, is expected to help ministers persuade voters of the need for public spending cuts, including welfare payments, the biggest source of government expenditure and which accounts for about a third of all tax revenues.

Lower utility bills and discounting from struggling retailers are set to pull the rate of inflation down to a 15-month low tomorrow. The consumer prices index (CPI) is forecast to fall to 3.3pc in February, from 3.6pc in January, as energy cuts by E. ON and Scottish Power came into effect, but experts have warned the cost of living in the months ahead could be stickier than previously thought. Non-food retailers also continued to slash prices in the month, according to the British Retail Consortium, as they battled to pull in cash-strapped consumers.
The Reserve Bank judged interest rates were at the right level earlier this month given an improving global outlook, though it saw plenty of room to ease should conditions take a turn for the worse. Minutes of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) March 6 meeting released today, showed policy makers were less worried about Europe’s debt crisis, although they still considered it a major risk to their upbeat outlook. “Overall, members noted that while this downside risk could still materialise, this seemed somewhat less likely than a few months ago,” the minutes showed. Should Europe take a nasty turn, there was “ample scope” to cut rates as long as inflation remained contained, the minutes showed. The RBA expects inflation to rem ain within its 2-3 per cent target band over the next few years.
Canada’s financial regulator is proposing strict rules to tighten lending practices in the housing sector, a move that could cool the red-hot market after months of warnings about rising consumer debt. The new rules would require banks to take a closer look at how much a property is worth before issuing a mortgage and to know more about the monthly finances of borrowers before the money is doled out.
The Italian industrial turnover registered the biggest year-on-year drop since 2009 last January, the national statistics agency Istat said on Monday.  According to figures released in an Istat statement, in January 2012 the industrial turnover dropped 4.9 percent on December, and 4.4 percent on January 2011. Last January, industrial orders also fell by 7.4 percent compared to December and by 5.6 percent with respect to January 2011.

Profit growth for Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) slowed during the first two months of 2012, the Ministry of Finance said Monday. The SOEs’ profits fell 10.9 percent year-on-year to reach 363.5 billion yuan (57.7 billion U.S. dollars) during the first two months, the ministry said in a statement posted on its website. The profits of centrally administered SOEs fell 11.5 percent year-on-year to 211.97 billion yuan, while those under local governments saw their profits down 10 percent to 51.53 billion yuan, according to the statement.
High prices of manufactured goods and protein-based items such as milk, eggs, meat and fish kept the retail inflation at an elevated level of 8.83 per cent in February giving no respite to common man. In January, the retail inflation was 7.56 per cent. The Consumer Price Index (CPI), measured by changes in retail prices, was much higher than the rate of price rise in the wholesale market during the month. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said inflation would fluctuate for a couple of months before it stabilised.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday expressed cautious optimism that, after fluctuating for a couple of months, headline inflation would tend to stabilise in the weeks ahead. Interacting with the media after chairing the central board meeting of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) here, Mr. Mukherjee said: “Couple of months, there will be fluctuations [in inflation] … So I do hope that after couple of months it will stabilise”
The unbridled freedom and powers given to tax authorities in this year’s Budget could spark a furious face-off in the coming months between companies determined to protect their profits in a slowing economy and an equally resolute tax department eager to wrest every last bit of revenue, experts warn. Last Friday’s Union Budget, which increased taxes and gave almost limitless powers to the tax department to check evasion and increase tax collection, has been widely criticised for its excessive focus on increasing revenue and ignoring the damaging aftereffects, higher litigation and messy court room battles.

nternet may after all be more addictive than alcohol, at least in India, where more than two thirds – 71% – of those who participated in a survey by global management consultancy firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG), is willing to let go of alcohol for internet access. About 64% would sacrifice chocolate for internet access. Such user interest and participation is driving the India’s socalled Internet industry to Rs 10.8 trillion by 2016 or about to 5.6% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). This compares to about Rs 3.2 trillion in 2010 or about 4.1% of the GDP.
Pretoria – South Africa’s current account deficit narrowed to 3.6% of gross domestic product (GDP) in the fourth quarter of 2011 from a revised 4.1% in the third quarter, helped by lower dividend payments to non-residents. However, in its March Quarterly Bulletin, released on Monday, the Reserve Bank said the current account shortfall for the whole of 2011 widened to 3.3% of GDP from 2.8 % in 2010, largely due to a sharp deterioration during the second quarter. Analysts polled by Reuters had predicted a 4.1% gap in the current account for the fourth quarter.  The deficit on the income and current transfer payments account was at R93.1bn in the fourth quarter, narrowing substantially from R137.8bn in Q3.
Funding for an estimated $1.8 trillion of capital investments underway in the GCC would be in jeopardy with banks in the region facing a severe cash shortfall in the wake of cutback of lending by European banks. GCC banks will have to face a short-term liquidity squeeze and a long-term structural shortfall in the event of “a sustained retrenchment” by European banks from the region, ratings agency Moody’s said in Monday. Overall, European bank lending to the GCC region amounted to around $237 billion as of September 2011. The ratings agency said the European banks’ retrenchment from the region has been prompted by the ongoing euro area debt crisis and their need to deleverage and build up capital buffers.




No comments yet! Be the first to add yours.