News That Matters
Some of Europe’s biggest fund managers have confirmed they are dumping euro assets amid rising fears over a possible Greek exit from the eurozone and single currency turmoil. The euro’s sudden fallthis month caught many investors by surprise. Europe’s single currency has lost 5 per cent in the past three weeks after barely moving against the US dollar for much of the year. On Thursday, the euro hit a fresh 22-month low at $1.2514.

Europe’s political leaders need to make a “brave leap” towards greater fiscal union to address the eurozone’s deepening debt crisis, the head of the European Central Bank urged on Thursday. Mario Draghi said his institution may have bought the eurozone time through its massive injection of cash into Europe’s banking system and sovereign bond markets but now it needed to embrace much closer integration.

Wholesale brokerages including Knight Capital and Citadel suffered trading losses that could top $100m as a result of computer glitches in Nasdaq OMX’s software on the morning of Facebook’s trading debut last Friday. Problems with the exchange’s trading software meant the brokers were unable to calculate their precise shareholdings in the social network through more than two hours of share trading, people close to the firms said.
With Monti creating a carbon copy move of yesterday, let’s tune in to some thoughts by Biderman on the Facebook situation. By now there is no question that the Facebook IPO was totally screwed up. Not only was just about every aspect of the deal FUBARed, but the overall size of the deal, $18 billion, magnified the mess. Yes, Nasdaq and Morgan Stanley both did a horrible job. But ultimately the blame for the disaster is solely on Facebook’s 28-year-old CEO Mark Zuckerberg. All final decisions regarding each aspect of the IPO had to be made by Zuckerberg. That is what CEOs do.


Its crooked, cobbled streets crammed up against mist-shrouded mountains, the town of Corleone has long been synonymous with the Sicilian M afia, becoming infamous as the Tombstone town that gave birth to its most ferocious godfathers. But at the state funeral on Thursday of Placido Rizzotto, a trade unionist murdered by the Mafia in 1948, crowds of Corleone’s inhabitants turned out in the hope that the honour finally granted to their local hero would deal another blow to “Cosa Nostra” even as it mutates into a multinational conglomerate that some call Mafia Inc.

India has threatened to ban European airlines from its airspace if Brussels sanctions Indian carriers in a dispute over an EU plan to charge carriers for their pollution.  “Travelling is always a two-way traffic,” Ajit Singh, civil aviation minister, said in an interview. “If they can impose sanctions so can other countries.”Last week 10 Chinese and Indian airlines refused to provide the EU with carbon emissions data the most serious revolt against Brussels’ scheme to charge carriers for their pollution. The airlines risk being banned from flying to EU countries if they refuse to comply with its carbon emissions tradingscheme.

Russia’s new government bears all the marks of a country paralysed by infighting. On his return to the presidency, Vladimir Putin’s priority seems to be maintaining the balance of power between the rival political clans that surround him. His strategy of balance and rule does the country little good, and in the long run hems him in as much as it preserves his supremacy. Dmitry Medvedev, the prime minister whom Mr Putin used to keep the presidential chair warm for him, is more sympathetic to reforms needed to modernise the top-heavy petro-state that is Russia. But if he expected greater opportunities to pursue a reformist agenda, he must be disappointed.
Business activity in the euro zone contracted at its steepest rate in nearly three years in May, a closely watched survey showed, as even powerful Germany buckled under the strain of southern Europe’s escalating debt crisis.  The data compounded fears that Greece’s possible exit from the euro zone has touched off a downward economic spiral that threatens strong and fragile countries alike. It also opened the door to additional stimulus from the European Central Bank via interest-rate cuts to spur growth, some economists said.

The European Union on Friday is expected to file a complaint at the World Trade Organization challenging Argentina’s import regulations, part of a plan to pressure President Cristina Kirchner on a range of policies that are angering the world’s largest economies. EU officials say Argentina’s decision last month to nationalize oil and gas producer YPF SA, YPF +7.80%a unit of Spanish oil company Repsol YPF SA, REP.MC +3.37%was only the most recent in a series of moves by Mrs. Kirchner’s government that have harmed foreign investors and manufacturers. Friday’s complaint at the WTO, the Geneva-based arbiter of trade disputes, won’t mention the nationalization of YPF, which doesn’t violate WTO rules, two of the EU officials said. But the nationalization has convinced European officials that more forceful action is needed to fix the deteriorating economic relationship between Europe and Argentina.

As evidence gathers that the Chinese economy continued to slow in May, Beijing is outlining a series of steps to prop up growth, including targeted tax cuts and support for favored sectors like new energy technologies. The latest sign of weak economic performance came on Thursday, with HSBC Holdings PLC’s purchasing managers index, which fell to a preliminary reading of 48.7 in May from 49.3 in April, indicating that manufacturing activity declined for the seventh straight month. A reading below 50 indicates contraction; above 50, expansion. The May PMI follows a series of weak readings for April on everything from foreign trade to bank lending.

The J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. unit whose wrong-way bets on corporate credit cost the bank more than $2 billion includes a group that has invested in financially challenged companies, including LightSquared Inc., the wireless broadband provider that this month filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The investments raise new questions about the risks being taken by the bank’s Chief Investment Office, or CIO, which J.P. Morgan has said is tasked primarily with investing excess cash and managing risks for the New York company.

Lending stumbled in the first quarter after nearly a year of growth, deepening questions about the recovery and confidence of borrowers and bankers. Loan balances fell by more than $56 billion, or 0.8%, in the quarter ended March 31, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The quarter-over-quarter decline marks a reversal from three consecutive quarters in which lending expanded. While lending to larger commercial and industrial customers rose as it has for nearly two years, declines came in nearly all other types of loans, including those to small

Asian markets edged downwards on Friday despite speculation by the Italian Prime Minister that Greece will remain in the euro zone, easing some concern about forthcoming Greek elections. Japan’s Nikkei was flat, Australia’s S&P ASX 200 fell 0.3%, and Korea’s Kospi gained 0.5%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index and Singapore’s Straits Times Index both dropped 0.4%, while the China Shanghai  SE Composite was down 0.2%.
Bank profits in the first quarter of 2012 reached their highest quarterly income levels in nearly five years, a federal banking regulator said Thursday. “The condition of the industry continues to gradually improve,” said Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Martin Gruenberg.  However, total bank loan and lease balances declined by $56 billion in the quarter, a situation that the agency chief said was “disappointing” after the industry saw three quarters of growth last year. Bank net income for the first quarter of 2012 was $35.3 billion, up by $6.6 billion from the first quarter of 2011. The FDIC said that once again lower provisions for loan losses contributed to earnings improvements.

Downside risks to the economic outlook are a key reason for sticking to the current guidance that short-term interest rates are likely to remain ultra-low until late 2014, a key Fed official said Thursday. In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, William Dudley, the president of the New York Federal Reserve, noted that one popular academic rule for Fed monetary policy, developed by John Taylor at Stanford University, currently puts the best “liftoff date” for interest rates as sometime in 2013.
Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng urged authorities in Beijing on Thursday to prosecute “lawless” officials who harassed and abused the self-taught lawyer, his family and supporters, saying such prosecutions could help China establish the rule of law. In one of his first interviews since arriving in the United States last Saturday, Chen told Reuters the rough treatment of his family and supporters who helped him escape house arrest last month was “entirely against Chinese law”.

n”Goldman Sachs Group Inc plans to channel investments totaling $40 billion over the next decade into renewable energy projects, an area the investment bank called one of the biggest profit opportunities since its economists got excited about emerging markets in 2001. Goldman executives said this week that demand for alternative energy sources will grow with global energy demand, and as big manufacturing countries, including China and Brazil, set more aggressive targets for reducing emissions. The bank plans to finance deals with clients’ money and, to a lesser extent, its own funds
, whose 139 square miles contain 60 percent fewer residents than in 1950, will try to nudge them into a smaller living space by eliminating almost half its streetlights.  As it is, 40 percent of the 88,000 streetlights are broken and the city, whose finances are to be overseen by an appointed board, can’t afford to fix them. Mayor Dave Bing’s plan would create an authority to borrow $160 million to upgrade and reduce the number of streetlights to 46,000. Maintenance would be contracted out, saving the city $10 million a year.

China’s stocks fell to a five-week low on concern bank lending is slumping and business conditions are deteriorating, adding pressure on the government to ease monetary policy to avert a deeper economic slowdown. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (601398) Ltd. and Bank of China Ltd. (3988) paced declines for lenders after three bank officials with knowledge of the matter said China’s biggest banks may fall short of loan targets for the first time in at least seven years. SAIC Motor Corp. (600104) slid more than 2 percent as automakers slumped on the prospect car financing may be more difficult as banks curtail loans.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeks to make up lost ground in the charge to secure resources and business ties in Myanmar when he next week becomes India’s first leader to visit its eastern neighbor in a quarter of a century. India, which in British colonial days oversaw the monetary and financial system of what was then Burma, ranked 13th last year in investments in Myanmar, with $189 million pledged in five projects, according to data compiled by IHS Global Insight. China led with $8.3 billion, and South Korea, whose president visited Myanmar earlier this month, pledged $2.95 billion.

Facebook Inc. (FB) may fall more than 42 percent below its initial public offering price by the end of the year, according to bets by structured-product investors. The most actively traded structured products tied to Facebook since its IPO have been so-called put warrants, whose buyers profit if the shares drop below a pre-defined level, in some cases as low as $22, data compiled by Bloomberg show. UBS AG (UBSN), Commerzbank AG (CBK) and Julius Baer Group Ltd. (BAER) are among lenders that listed 1,504 warrants and certificates in Europe linked to shares of the social networking site that were offered at $38.
As talk of Greece leaving the euro zone intensifies, two money experts offered competing investment strategies. “I don’t believe the Greeks leave the euro. If they did, it would bring the most severe penalty down upon the people of Greece first and foremost,” Stifel Nicolaus market strategist Kevin Caron said Thursday on CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report.” Yet while Caron thought Greece’s exit from the euro was unlikely, he also imagined that the process could go one of two ways.
Buying a home got even cheaper this week as interest rates on the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage set a record low for the fourth week in a row.  The 30-year fixed mortgage, the most popular mortgage product, dipped slightly to 3.78% from 3.79% last week, according to a weekly survey by Freddie Mac. Last year, 30-year loans averaged 4.60%. The new low can save borrowers $48 a month for every $100,000 borrowed. Over a 30-year term, that comes to $17,217 compared to last year.
Japan’s consumer prices stuck to an inflationary path in April, with the Finance Ministry reporting Friday that the core consumer price index rose 0.2% from a year earlier, identical to its gain for March. Separate Dow Jones Newswires and Reuters surveys had found expectations for the core CPI, which excludes volatile fresh-food prices, to rise 0.1%. On a monthly basis, core CPI was also 0.2% higher, led by a 2.1% rise in clothing and footwear. The overall CPI, meanwhile, rose 0.1% in April, for a 0.4% year-on-year gain. Japan is seeking to end a long, sporadic spell of deflation,
Index forecasts weaker growth.The May update of the USA TODAY/IHS Global Insight Economic Outlook Index shows real GDP growth, at a six-month annualized growth rate, slowing to 2.0% during the summer months. While employment, housing (mostly the multifamily sector) and consumer spending are slowly recovering, concerns about the Eurozone and world growth continue. The index predicts future real GDP growth (gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation) based on 11 leading economic and financial indicators. Five of the 11 indicators were positive in May, down from eight in April.
The European Central Bank, which has spent more than 1 trillion euros ($1.25 trillion) to cap surging borrowing costs in nations such as Spain and Italy, is saying it can do little more to halt the crisis until governments act. “On the one hand we have the ECB, and then we have euro- zone governments,” said Michael Leister, a rates strategist at DZ Bank AG in Frankfurt. “The ECB is really reluctant to do anything. It would be very difficult for the ECB to justify another intervention if politicians don’t deliver.” Governments need to take “a brave leap” to ensure closer integration, without which the central bank can only offer temporary solutions, according to ECB President Mario Draghi. Politicians such as Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy say the central bank should implement additional measures including boosting bond purchases.
The UK economy shrank by 0.3% in the first three months of the year, more than previously thought, revised figures have shown. Last month’s initial estimate from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed a contraction of 0.2%. The downward revision was due to a bigger contraction in construction output than previously estimated. Over the last year and a half, the economy has
An end to the era of free banking moved closer last night after the Treasury Select Committee threw its support behind plans for banks to introduce current account charges. Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the committee, urged regulators to clear away any obstacles stopping banks from charging and to bring the 28-year-old practice to an end. A groundswell of support for change is understood to be gathering among the authorities. The Treasury’s advisers on the Independent Commission on Banking and the Office of Fair Trading are said to be also backing the proposals, alongside the treasury select committee and financial regulators.

Economists have warned of a fresh threat to the recovery after official figures showed that the country is being propped up by “unsustainable” Government spending. The concerns emerged after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that the double-dip recession was even worse than feared. The economy shrank by 0.3pc in the first quarter of the year, the ONS said in its second estimates, rather than the 0.2pc initially thought. Government spending hit record levels in the three months to March in spite of the austerity drive, rising by 1.6pc to £81.5bn and delivering 0.4 percentage points of overall economic growth. However, the taxpayer-funded boost was not enough to offset weak activity in construction, trade and the financial sector.

Le Grand Depart has started early. High-earning Parisians who normally escape the French capital for the month of August have already crossed the Channel. Following the socialist triumph in the French election, aristocrats and bankers have requested transfers to the City.  And La Mondiale Europartner, the wealth management subsidiary of France’s fourth-biggest insurer AG2R La Mondiale, wasn’t far behind. It threw a London launch party at Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill in Mayfair this week, hosted by chief executive Fabrice Sauvignon. Of course.

Spain is to partially close 30 of the nation’s 47 state-run airports in an attempt to reduce the costs of its “white elephants” built throughout the nation during the boom years. Some of the airports have no scheduled flights yet are fully staffed and operational in what has come to symbolise the reckless public spending projects that have left Spain crippled with debt. Now the ministry of industry and AENA, the state-run company that controls the nation’s airports, are considering plans to reduce operating hours at three quarters of the airports to include only those when flights are due or with a skeleton staff to operate in an emergency.
David Cameron should exploit the eurozone crisis by introducing radical policies, including a controversial freeze in state benefits, Conservative MPs will argue today. The 40-strong Free Enterprise Group of Tory backbenchers wants the Government to seize the opportunity offered by what it calls “eurogeddon” the threat of a meltdown in the single currency if Greece pulls out. In a report, the MPs say Britain should counter the threat posed by economic turmoil in the eurozone by a more active go-for-growth strategy. They want to see small companies exempted from employment laws such as those which allow workers to claim unfair dismissal. The MPs say Britain should create “low-paid flexi-jobs” not covered by tax and many employment regulations, while the Government should issue new “infrastructure bonds” to finance building projects such as new roads or airport expansion.
Gold futures advanced for the first time this week in New York as central banks increased their holdings. Central banks, the world’s biggest holders of gold, continued to buy bullion in April as Turkey raised its reserves by 29.7 metric tons and Ukraine, Mexico a nd Kazakhstan boosted their holdings, International Monetary Fund data show.
India’s government came under intense pressure on Thursday from within the ruling coalition and protesters to roll back the steepest petrol (gasoline) price hike in the country’s history, less than 24 hours after it took the unpopular decision cheered by investors. There had been signs that the beleaguered government was preparing to take the bolder step of cutting subsidies on other fuels weighing on its budget deficit, but after a day of uproar over petrol prices, an imminent move looked unlikely.
On a year-on-year basis, manufacturing output declined 0.3 per cent in April 2012. Excluding biomedical manufacturing, output increased 0.5 per cent. On a seasonally adjusted month-on-month basis, manufacturing output contracted 3.5 per cent in April 2012. Excluding biomedical manufacturing, output fell 0.8 per cent. On a three-month moving average basis, manufacturing output increased 2.3 per cent in April 2012 compared to a year ago.
The Ministry of Finance (MOF) announced Thursday that central government-funded expenditures on energy savings and emission reductions as well as on renewable energies development will total 97.9 billion yuan (15.5 billion U.S. dollars) this year, up 25.1 billion yuan from 2011. The government’s accumulative “green” investment will hit 170 billion yuan in 2012, the MOF said. Meanwhile, the central government has budgeted 25.5 billion yuan in subsidies for expanding the consumption of energy-saving household electrical appliances this year, according to the MOF.

Banks with small capitalization may be limited in expanding their branches and services in Indonesia as the central bank plans to consider capitalization as a benchmark when issuing license, local media reported on Friday. The capitalization requirement was stipulated in the multiple- license regulation for banks operating in the country that was planned to be issued by the central bank. “It’s because capital is the capacity to absorb shock or risks. If banks want to open a lot of branches in Jakarta, their capital needs will be greater. If local banks want to open up, they will be allowed to do so as it is our intention to boost (banking services in remote areas),” said Muliaman Hadad, deputy governor of the bank, quoted by the Jakarta Post.

Philippine imports declined by 3.3 percent on year, due mainly to a big reduction in the imports of electronic products, the statistics office said on Friday. Imports of electronic products, the main export of the Philippines, declined by 38.7 percent on year. Economist Fernando Aldaba said this could signal a possible contraction in Philippine exports in the coming months. “Demand (for Philippine exports) is still weak but it may recover toward the end of the year,” he said in a phone interview. Aldaba said the economic woes of the European Union, a major market for Philippine electronic products, will continue to affect local exporters.
India may get an ally in Canada in its fight against the US on imposition of penal import duties on certain steel products. Canada, a major exporter of steel products, is keen on joining the talks between New Delhi and the US at the World Trade Organization on May 30. It has sought permission from the WTO to participate in the talks on countervailing duties on hot-rolled steel products exported by India. If the talks fail, India may ask for establishment of a dispute settlement panel to settle the issue.

Describing the upsurge in inflation in April as a “surprise” development, the Reserve Bank today said it will take into consideration the emerging price situation and accordingly decide on policy action in its review next month.  The central bank has also asked the government to take action to reduce the fiscal deficit, which rose to 5.9 per cent of the GDP in 2011-12. “We noted that inflation has been a surprise upside for month of April…We will consider how the inflation scenario has evolved. We will take into account the growth statistics and take a decision,” RBI Governor D Subbarao said while addressing a press conference after the board meeting.
South Korea has recouped 61.1 percent of the bailout money injected to help troubled financial firms after the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, the financial watchdog said Friday. As of the end of April, Seoul recovered 103.1 trillion won (US$87.4 billion) out of a total of 168.6 trillion won in public funds injected, the Financial Services Commission said. The recovery rate is a slight improvement from 60.9 percent tallied a month earlier. The South Korean government poured massive amounts of taxpayer money into troubled financial institutions to rescue them from bankruptcy when the financial crisis erupted 15 years ago.

South Korea’s consumer confidence improved for the fourth consecutive month in May on higher economic growth prospects and job market conditions, the central bank said Friday. The consumer sentiment index (CSI), which gauges consumers’ overall economic outlook, living conditions and future spending, stood at 105 for this month, compared with 104 tallied in April, according to a survey by the Bank of Korea (BOK). This is the highest CSI reading since February 2011. A CSI reading above the benchmark 100 means optimists outnumber pessimists. The survey, based on a poll of 2,091 households in 56 cities nationwide, was conducted from May 11-18.
The Reserve Bank will maintain current interest rates, governor Gill Marcus said on Thursday. The repo rate would again remain unchanged at 5.5%, the bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) decided. The prime rate would stay at 9%. The bank would continue to closely monitor the situation and stood ready to act in either direction, said Marcus. Since the last meeting of the MPC, global oil prices had moderated as Saudi Arabia increased production. Oil was trading at over $125 (about R1045) a barrel in February, but had since dropped to below $110 (about R920). Petrol prices in South Africa increased by a cumulative 99 cents a litre in April and May. “A sizeable reduction [in the local price] is expected in June,” Marcus said. This, despite a weaker rand-dollar exchange rate. Inflation was forecast to average six percent in the second quarter of 2012.