News That Matters
Fears that the eurozone’s firewall will prove insufficient to shield Spain and other embattled countries against the effects of a possible disorderly Greek exit from the currency union hit European financial markets on Monday. Spanish and Italian 10-year borrowing costs shot up to their highest levels this year and European stock markets suffered their biggest one-day drop in three weeks. German 10-year bond yields fell to a record low, widening the premium Madrid pays to borrow compared to Berlin to a new euro-era high.

Citic Securities, China’s largest broker, has agreed to buy algorithmic trading technology from Progress Software, a Nasdaq-listed company, in the latest sign that rapid automated trading is spreading from western markets to Asia. A race has been under way in the US and Europe among banks and brokers using algorithms to attract business from institutional investors. Such algorithms are either built internally or bought from technology companies.

With the ever increasing number of black swans hitting the world, there is a rapid increase of critique with regards to different models the financial industry uses in determining risk and how to hedge IT. Must read by James Montier on the subject. 

The National Rifle Association is well-known for its slogan “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” This sentimenthas a long history and echoes the words of Seneca the Younger that “A sword never kills anybody; it is a tool in the killer’s hand.” Click here.
Asian stock markets, the euro and commodities fell Tuesday on renewed fears that Greece could leave the euro zone after coalition talks Monday failed to produce a government. Both Japan’s Nikkei and Korea’s Kospi slipped 1.4%, while Australia’s S&P ASX 200 dropped 1%. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index was down 0.4%, while the China Shanghai SE Composite fell 0.5%. The euro was down 0.7% late in New York to $1.2824 as fears of a Greek exit from the euro zone became the main concern of investors. The single currency continued to fall in Asia, down 0.1% to $1.2822.

More news below.


India’s central bank likely intervened heavily in the currency markets early Tuesday to prop up the Indian rupee, dealers said, after the local unit came close to its all-time low against the U.S. dollar. The Reserve Bank of India likely started selling dollars when the dollar hit 54.13 rupees within minutes of the open of onshore trade, three dealers told Dow Jones Newswires.  After the suspected intervention, the dollar was trading at 53.70 rupees. The dollar’s fall promoted some exporters to sell the greenback, dealers said.  The dollar’s current record high is 54.2925 rupees, struck on Dec. 15, 2011.

Investors battered European stocks, dumped the bonds of Spain and Italy, and bid the euro down against the dollar Monday after the collapse of weekend coalition talks in Greece edged that country closer to an exit from the euro zone. The sweeping market action dealt a blow to hopes that the damage of a Greek exit, should it occur, could be comfortably contained. In the market carnage, Greek stocks fell to two-decade lows, and Spanish bond yields leapt to levels not seen since the panic of last November. Shares of a big Spanish lender dropped 8.9% on the Madrid bourse, pulling the benchmark index down 2.7%. The Italian market also fell 2.7%, and the euro slid to $1.2845 late Monday in London, its lowest level in four months.

German government bond yields hit fresh all-time lows while Spanish costs rose sharply Monday as the continuing Greek political deadlock reignited fears that the country will exit the euro zone. With fresh elections appearing the most likely outcome in Greece, demand from investors for havens rose, which pushed yields on German and Finnish bonds down. The June bund future rose half a percentage point in early trading Monday to make a fresh all-time high of 143.27, while the yield on the country’s 10-year cash fell to a new low of 1.472%, with some commentators seeing a further fall in yields.

Moody’s Investors Service kicked off its long-awaited downgrades of European and global banks by docking the credit ratings of 26 Italian lenders, a move that could ratchet up the continent’s banking woes at a critical time for the currency union. The downgrades, which cite the banks’ vulnerability to mounting loan defaults and potential funding problems, were expected, but they nonetheless add to concerns by making it more expensive for the banks to finance themselves via the capital markets.

Industrial production in the 17 countries that use the euro fell unexpectedly in March, leaving little doubt the region contracted for a second straight quarter in the first three months of the year and returned to recession, data by Eurostat showed Monday. The European Union’s statistical agency will publish the first estimate of first-quarter gross domestic product Tuesday. Economists are forecasting a 0.2% quarterly decline, according to a Dow Jones Newswires poll. Industrial production fell 0.3% on the month in March and by 2.2% on the year. The latter was the steepest drop since a 3.7% decline in December 2009, while the monthly decline was because of a sharp 8.5% decrease in energy production as the weather in March was warmer than usual for the time of year, a Eurostat statistician said.

Portugal is quickly adjusting its economy to a more frugal reality under a €78 billion ($101 billion) bailout package, but the program’s success doesn’t guarantee the country will be able return to markets next year, the Bank of Portugal said Monday. The Portuguese government has repeatedly said it will meet all its bailout requirements, but has acknowledged that trouble in the rest of the euro zone could make it difficult to win financing from the markets next year. In an annual review of the nation’s economy, the central bank said the government last year significantly consolidated the budget on both the revenue and spending sides, trimming the budget deficit to 4.2% of gross domestic product from 9.8% in 2010, helped by a one-off gain from the transfer of pension assets from banks. The country remains on track to meet a deficit target of 4.5% of GDP this year, and 3% in 2013, the bank added.
With Australia’s national budget now projected to be just one year away from a return to surplus, Australian sovereign bonds are getting some positive attention. But analysts say the nation’s fiscal health is also promising for some stocks as well. Australia’s budget, released last week, while containing little to really excite financial markets, saw the government stick to its surplus target, and bond strategists appeared to take some comfort from the fact that the country’s relative financial heath remained near the top of the government’s agenda.

Latin American markets slid Monday, as concerns about Greece potentially leaving the euro zone and the deepening crisis in the single-currency area took a toll across the Atlantic. The political impasse in Greece deepened as talks between potential coalition partners on setting up a new government in Greece collapsed Sunday, raising the likelihood of fresh elections and stirring fears the country could leave the euro zone.
President Barack Obama said on Monday the huge trading loss at JPMorgan Chase & Co illustrated the need for Wall Street reform and warned that the same kind of error at a less stable bank may have required government intervention. “JPMorgan is one of the best managed banks there is. Jamie Dimon, the head of it, is one of the smartest bankers we got and they still lost $2 billion and counting,” Obama said on ABC’s “The View,” according to a transcript released by the network.

Kathleen and Brett Sache are building a six-bedroom, six-bathroom home of their dreams in a sought-after corner of northern Virginia after taking encouragement from a robust local market. Their confidence was rewarded when their old house sold in just five weeks, allowing them to purchase a plot of almost two acres (0.8 hectare) in Vienna, Virginia, where they are breaking ground this month on a property they hope to live in for the next 30 years.

Brent crude slipped 49 cents to $111.08 a barrel by 0238 GMT after sliding to $110.04 on Monday, its lowest intraday price since January 25. U.S. crude dropped 54 cents to $94.24 a barrel, after falling to $93.65 on Monday, the weakest intraday price since December 19.
Foreign direct investment in China fell for a sixth month in April, as faltering global growth and renewed turmoil in financial markets dented company spending in Asia’s biggest economy. Inboundinvestmentdropped 0.7 percent from a year earlier to $8.4 billion, the Ministry of Commerce said today in Beijing. That compares with a 6.1 percent drop in March and extends the longest stretch of declines since the global financial crisis. Today’s data underscore the risk of a deeper slowdown in China after April export and import gains missed estimates and industrial output growth was the slowest since 2009. China cut banks’ reserve requirements on May 12 to spur lending and arrest the deterioration, with UBS AG and Bank of America Corp. lowering their second-quarter and full-year growth estimates. “Trade data was bad, production data last week was bad, and this time FDI is also pointing to the same direction,” Zhang Zhiwei, chief China economist with Nomura Holdings Inc. in Hong Kong, said in a Bloomberg Television interview today. The reports show a “very weak economy at this moment,” with chances of an interest-rate cut rising though “still below 50 percent,” Zhang said.

China’s slowdown may deepen as policy makers unwind the excesses of a record credit boom while only gradually increasing stimulus, leaving 2012 growth at the weakest in 13 years, Pacific Investment Management Co. says. “The economy is unlikely to bottom until the third quarter,” Ramin Toloui, Pimco’s global co-head of emerging markets portfolio management in Singapore, said in e-mailed comments May 13. “Policy makers will progressively turn the dial toward more stimulus, but not in the aggressive manner of 2009,” restrained by the goal of tempering the credit-fueled property market, he said.
Tax the rich! That’s how California Governor Jerry Brown wants to solve the state’s growing budget crisis that now nears $16 billion. The governor laid out his revised spending plan Monday. It would slash $8.3 billion from almost every part of the state’s government. But it would increase funding for K-12 education if voters approve his proposal to hike income taxes on the rich and sales taxes on everyone. “We can’t balance this budget with cuts alone,” he said. “The budget I’m proposing will boost funding for education, protect public safety and prevent an even deeper round of trigger cuts.” California’s budget predicament shows that states have yet to heal from the Great Recession. While state tax revenues have begun to recover, several states continue to be faced with tough cuts, especially if their revenue projections prove to be overly rosy.
Eurozone finance ministers didn’t talk about an exit for Greece from the currency bloc at a meeting late Monday, according to reports citing group chairman and Luxembourg Premier Jean-Claude Juncker. “Absolutely no-one has argued for that position,” Juncker said, according to the reports. Some European ministers and European Central Bank Officials have spoken out recently about the possible consequences of a Greek exit from the euro zone.
ndia’s inflation rate rose more than expected in April, figures show. The wholesale price index rose to 7.23% from 6.89% in March, driven by higher food and fuel prices. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said “food inflation is a matter of concern”, and that measures would be taken to contain the problem. The unexpected rise will make it hard for the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to further cut interest rates to boost growth in the country.
Sir John Peace, chairman of Standard Chartered, has called on the political “cavalry” to lead the charge against European plans for a bonus cap that could cripple Britain’s financial services industry. His demand came as the European Parliament voted through proposals that would prevent bankers being paid a bonus that was larger than their salary. Should the European Council not reject the amendment it will become part of European banking regulation and enforceable in the UK. “To simply disadvantage Europe, and more especially, the City of London would seem to me totally wrong,” Sir John said. “We need the send for the cavalry, the politicians, to block this.”

Greece may be forced to leave the euro if the country refuses to implement spending cuts agreed with the European Union, Angela Merkel warned. Raising the spectre of a Greek exit, the German chancellor said “solidarity for the euro” was threatened by the ongoing political crisis in Athens. Stock markets around the world fell sharply with fears mounting that a euro break-up could lead to renewed financial turmoil. The FTSE-100 index of Britain’s major companies fell by two per cent to 5465, with bank shares hit particularly hard.

Britain’s austerity programme is a “myth” designed to “con” the financial markets, a major City finance company claimed today. Tullett Prebon, a bond trader, said that “public expenditures have hardly been reduced at all” and that claims of a “big cut in public spending is bare-faced deception”. Figures highlighted by the firm show that public spending actually rose during 2010-11 and fell by just 1.5 percent last year. Government spending is more than £22 billion higher than it was in 2008 when the financial crisis erupted.

Britain’s pre-crisis boom was fuelled by an unsustainable debt binge among lower and middle income households, new research shows. The consumer-led economic miracle of the Labour years was underpinned by borrowing, with all households increasing spending faster than wage rises in the decade from 1997, according to a report from think tanks the Resolution Foundation and National Institute for Economic & Social Research. Worst affected were the poorest 10pc of society, who outspent their income by 40pc in 2007. “Given only a minority of the poorest are homeowners paying off their mortgage, it is highly unlikely this was counterbalanced by an increase in housing wealth,” the report said.
Further proof of the nervous and skittish nature of local consumers has been laid bare with a new survey from The Boston Consulting Group showing Australian shoppers are among the most worried and financially insecure in the developed world, and plan further cutbacks in their discretionary spending. The leader of BCG’s consumer practice in Australian and New Zealand, James Goth, said local consumers were effectively in ‘‘crisis mode’’. “We might be half a world away from the European financial crisis and the high unemployment levels of the northern hemisphere, but Australian consumers are just as battered and cautious as those in the US, the UK and many other developed countries.”

Slowing economic growth, inflation, and interest rate hikes by commercial banks gave the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) the impetus to cut the cash rate in May. At its May 1 board meeting, the RBA cut the official interest rate by half a percentage point to 3.75 per cent, the largest rate cut since February 2009. The meeting’s minutes, released today, noted while global growth forecasts have been revised up, Australian inflation and economic growth forecasts were revised down. The release of the minutes helped send the dollar further below parity with the greenback, touching as low as 99.45 US cents – it’s weakest point since late December.
The value of suspected cases of money-laundering in Switzerland soared to a record sum of 3.28-billion Swiss francs ($3.51-billion) last year as regime changes following the Arab Spring led to a big jump in suspected cases from North Africa. The number of “suspicious activity reports” jumped 40 per cent to 1,625 in 2011, according to the annual report released yesterday by the Money Laundering Reporting Office Switzerland (MROS). In financial terms, that was an increase of some 287 per cent from 847-million francs in 2010.
Australia has enough gas reserves to maintain current production for almost 200 years, a report released on Monday showed, supporting the nation’s push to become a global exporter to rival Qatar. The nation has identified resources of about 390 trillion cubic feet, but this could double if exploration for shale gas was successful, Energy and Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said.  ‘This report reconfirms Australia’s capacity to continue to be a major gas exporter supplying the world’s growing demand for gas well into the future,’ he said.
The outlook for China’s foreign trade remained grim but the full-year target of 10-percent rise will still be possible to achieve, the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) said Tuesday. The country might register a trade surplus in 2012, which will narrow from last year’s trade surplus of 155.14 billion U.S. dollars, MOC spokesman Shen Danyang said at a press conference here.

Economic growth may be slowing, as recent data indicated, but fears of a hard landing are not justified as the slowdown was “within expectations” and will help recalibrate the economy, economists said. Analysts have cut predictions for GDP growth after the release of a series of economic indicators last week. These forecast declining growth even after a three-year low of 8.1 percent in the first quarter. “The situation is not good,” said Wang Tao, chief China economist with UBS AG. The bank has lowered growth estimates for the second quarter to 8 percent, from 8.4 percent.

South Korea’s import prices declined last month from a month earlier due to a fall in prices for crude oil and petroleum products, the country’s central bank said Tuesday. In local currency terms, import prices fell 1 percent from a month earlier, down from a 1.7 percent on-month gain tallied in the previous month, according to the Bank of Korea. From a year before, the prices advanced 1.7 percent. The April figure turned to the minus growth for the first time since November last year when import prices dropped 1.6 percent on a monthly basis. The import price fall was mainly attributed to decline in prices for crude oil and petroleum products. Dubai crude, South Korea’s benchmark, averaged 117.3 U.S. dollars a barrel in April, 4.2 percent from the previous month.
Global investors increasingly prefer President Barack Obama to Republican challenger Mitt Romney and most say they believe the incumbent will remain in the White House for another four years.
Asked who would be the better leader for the global economy, 49 percent favor Obama against 38 percent for Romney, according to a quarterly Bloomberg Global Poll. In January, the two candidates tied on the question.  “I believe the second Obama term will be better than having a U-turn with Romney,” he says. “More stability will mean more visibility and more investment in the future.”

China will maintain a prudent monetary policy in the months ahead, while timely and appropriately fine-tuning the policy, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) said Thursday. The government will make its monetary policy more targeted, flexible and forward-looking, said a report released by the PBOC to address the country’s monetary policy adopted in the first quarter. Consumer prices may rebound, as prices of labor-intensive agricultural products, service products and resource products tend to surge on rising labor costs, and a volatile global commodity market has kept imported inflationary pressure in place, the PBOC warned. The growth of China’s consumer price index, a main gauge of inflation, eased to 3.6 percent in March from a nearly-three-year high of 6.5 percent in July last year. April’s CPI data will be released on Friday.
Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council Chairman C. Rangarajan, on Monday, favoured utilisation of foreign exchange reserves to stem the depreciation in value of the rupee caused by the slide in capital flows. Addressing a round table organised here by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry on global slowdown of advanced economies and its impact on India, Dr. Rangarajan said: “Globalisation cuts both ways. We have withstood [the] global crisis to a large effect because we are largely still looking at domestic economic factors. We can target a growth rate higher than 7 per cent for the current fiscal year if we successfully address three key issues of managing inflation, fiscal deficit and current account deficit”. Pointing out that the slide in rupee value was largely owing to a high current account deficit (CAD) and the exchange reserves, which were not dwindling at a fast pace, could be used to contain the extreme volatility, he said: “If the assessment is that depreciation in rupee is being caused by temporary fluctuation of capital flows, reserves must be used in order to see that impact is not felt on [the] rupee … One step should be to use the forex reserves in order to be able to prevent the rupee from falling sharply.”
Contrary to some conservative projections, industry body Assocham today said it expects India’s trade deficit to increase sharply by over 40 per cent to $262 billion in the current fiscal in the face of exports facing headwinds in the western markets. If the trade scenario unfolds, as per the Assocham projections, the rupee would come under further pressure. The Indian currency has already lost over 20 per cent against the US dollar in the last one year. “Out of different possible scenarios…, the most likely would be one where imports grow by 25 per cent and exports increase by about 15 per cent. This would leave the country with a balance of trade (BoT) of $262 billion,” Assocham President Rajkumar Dhoot said.
South Korea’s import prices rose at their slowest clip in more than two years in April mainly due to a drop in the cost of refined petroleum and nonferrous metal products, the central bank said Tuesday.
In local currency terms, import prices gained just 1.7 percent on-year in April, slowing from a 3.5 percent on-year gain in March, according to the Bank of Korea (BOK). Last month’s figure marks the lowest on-year gain since March 2010, when import prices contracted 4.3 percent from a year earlier, the central bank said.

South Korea’s trade balance remained in the black for the third straight month in April despite minus growth in both exports and imports, a customs office report showed Tuesday. According to the report by the Korea Customs Service (KCS), South Korea’s trade surplus amounted to $2.12 billion last month, down from a favorable balance of $2.37 billion tallied in March. The monthly figure was slightly smaller than the surplus of $2.15 billion projected by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy for April earlier this month. Exports contracted 4.8 percent on-year to $46.20 billion last month, while imports backtracked 0.2 percent $44.08 billion.
The South African economy is recovering, although at a very slow pace, according to the BankservAfrica Economic Transaction Index (Beti) released on Monday. “Whilst the economy is not treading water, but actually moving ahead, the pace does seem pedestrian,” said Brad Gillis, CEO regulated products at BankservAfrica, in a statement. The average year-on-year increase in the smoothed weighted Beti over the last seven years is 4.3%. The current growth rate stands at 3.7%, whilst the last five Betis, which are released monthly, came in below the average of 4.3%. “This indicates that the economy certainly has some underlying growth left, as the Beti remains positive,” said Mike Schüssler, chief economist with
Iran’s High Council of Employment has approved allocating 45 trillion rials (some $37 billion) to job creation plans this year, which began on March 20, the deputy cooperatives, labor, and social welfare minister says. The approval came after negotiations with the central bank and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, Mohammad-Hossein Forouzanmehr told the Mehr News Agency. Forouzanmehr also said the Statistical Center of Iran has confirmed that some 1.6 million jobs were created during the last Iranian year, which ended on March 19.  The unemployment rate in Iran stood at 12.3 percent last year, showing a 1.2 percent fall compared to the year before, the SCI reported on Saturday.

South Korea and Japan are asking the European Union to give them access to European insurance for Iranian oil shipments even after a July 1 embargo comes into effect, the Korean economy ministry said on Monday. South Korea and Japan are major buyers of Iran’s oil and the EU ban would prevent EU insurers and reinsurers from covering tankers carrying this crude anywhere in the world. “To the EU members, we explained the problems that could be caused to non-EU members by the EU insurance embargo,” the ministry said in a statement. “In close cooperation with Japan, we are in the process of discussing this with the EU.” The statement said the South Korean government would take unspecified measures against the possibly disruption in Iranian oil from July 1. Economy ministry official Jae-do Moon also declined to give details.


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