Frontrunning: March 20

  • BHP Billiton sees China iron ore demand flattening (Reuters)
  • Australia Passes 30% Tax on Iron-Ore, Coal Mining Profits (Bloomberg)
  • State Capitalism in China Will Fade: Zhang (Bloomberg)
  • Venizelos quits to start election campaign (FT)
  • Fed’s Dudley Says U.S. Isn’t ‘Out of the Woods’ (Bloomberg)
  • China Is Leading Foreign Investor in Germany (WSJ)
  • Fed undecided on more easing: Dudley (Reuters)
  • Martin Wolf: What is the real rate of interest telling us? (FT)
  • Romney aims for Illinois win to widen Republican lead (Reuters)
  • OBR raises forecast for economic growth (FT)

Overnight Press Digest


* House Republicans, seizing on what they hope is a potent campaign issue, will introduce a 2013 budget on Tuesday that cuts tax rates and provides for two individual brackets of 10 percent and 25 percent.

* Brazilian prosecutors' planned criminal charges against Chevron executives for offshore oil leaks threaten to stifle foreign companies' drilling plans in this petroleum-rich nation.

* Apple said it would pay a dividend to shareholders and buy back up to $10 billion in stock, heeding calls for the technology heavyweight to deploy its massive cash pile.

* Glencore International is near a deal to buy Canadian agribusiness company Viterra, which has a current market value of $6 billion.

* Gap on Tuesday will unveil its first store in South Africa, a steppingstone onto a continent where the average economic growth is faster than 5 percent and the average age is 19.

* Four pension funds severed ties with Bank of New York Mellon and State Street amid government investigations into whether the banks overcharged clients for currency trading.

* China's demand for iron ore is 'flattening out', a senior executive at BHP Billiton Ltd said Tuesday.



A specialised enforcement "squad" has been set up by Washington's main futures regulator as it increases scrutiny of the $300 trillion U.S. derivatives market, a top official said.


The chief executive of British Sky Broadcasting ordered a news story to be removed from the Sky News website after an executive producer complained that it had upset Formula 1 racing teams.


Saudi Arabia is taking steps to cool the overheating global energy market, boosting its exports to the U.S. and reopening old oilfields to expand production, as the world's largest oil producer tries to prevent damage to the global economic recovery.


Walt Disney will incur a $200 million writedown on John Carter, the action film based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel which has failed at the box office despite a $300 million production budget and an extensive global marketing campaign.


The hierarchy of investment banks in the fiercely competitive arena of commodities trading has been shaken up as Barclays Capital, usually a leader, suffered one of its worst performances in a decade last year while JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank enjoyed a surge in revenues.


Deutsche Borse said it would take the European Commission to court to try to overturn its decision last month to block its tie-up with NYSE Euronext, in what would have been the world's largest exchange deal.


European data protection authorities have asked Google to respond to concerns about the search engine's new privacy policy, which came into force at the beginning of March.


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.


This week London Stock Exchange shareholders and those of LCH.Clearnet, the Anglo-French clearer, will receive a 169-page offer document setting out the terms of the UK bourse's proposal to acquire a majority stake in the London-based clearing house.


* Certain minerals, mined in strife-torn Africa and used in products like cellphones, are part of a debate before the Securities and Exchange Commission.

* The Transportation Security Administration has spent a lot of money on technology to keep dangerous items off planes -- with mixed results -- but has been slower to address another risk: travelers who are using a fake boarding pass or identification.

Agents now visually check boarding passes against IDs in American airports. Soon, machines may do it.

* The Law School Admission Test was administered 16 percent fewer times than a year ago, the largest decline in more than a decade.

* BlackRock Inc is helping to determine how much capital Greece's banks will need to raise in the coming months, a crucial step as Greece tries to fix its banking industry and its broader economy, but a risky one.

* Greece's finance minister Evangelos Venizelos formally assumed the leadership of the beleaguered Socialist Party on Monday.

* When Google included smaller websites in the fees it charges to incorporate its maps online, many of them rebelled.

* A decade after the dot-com bubble popped and Enron became synonymous with spectacular fraud, Congress is on the verge of scrapping numerous safeguards against investment fraud and allowing some small companies to sell stock to the public with minimal disclosure or oversight.

Already passed by the House, the bill is intended to make raising money easier for start-ups. The Senate will take it up, with amendments that would toughen safeguards for investors.

* Apple announced on Monday that it would at last return some of its cash pile to shareholders in the form of dividends and stock buybacks, at a cost of more than $10 billion a year for the next three years. But it is attracting so much cash -- $1 billion a week in the last holiday season alone -- that the move will not put a dent in Apple's coffers.

* As it moved boldly in recent months to avert a credit squeeze and a rash of bank failures, the European Central Bank might also have subsidized the market rollout of Volkswagen's newest subcompact.

Automakers on the continent are using money borrowed from the central bank's stimulus program to offer low-interest loans to customers.

* Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz on Monday settled the lawsuit brought against them by Irving Picard, the trustee for the victims of Bernard Madoff's fraud, for $162 million.

* Jay Brown, bond insurer MBIA Inc's chief executive, and three other senior executives will forgo cash bonuses or long-term stock awards for 2011, people briefed on the matter say.

Canadian Press


- The New Democrats won a federal by-election in the riding of Toronto-Danforth by a landslide Monday night, easily holding on to the seat left vacant by the death of former party leader Jack Layton.

- Canada's economic outlook is brightening, and confidence with it. Several economists, including those at Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto Dominion Bank, UBS Securities Canada and the University of Toronto, have recently nudged up their economic growth forecasts for this year.

- A coast-to-coast spring of labour unrest is poised to escalate next week as Ontario and Ottawa deliver budgets that aim to save billions by shedding thousands of government jobs.

Reports in the business section:

- 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.

- Glencore International PLC and two Canadian partners are close to a deal to buy grain handler Viterra Inc for about $6-billion, a deal that will bring the Swiss commodity trading giant to Canada and reshape the way prairie farmers buy and sell goods.

- Aircraft repair firm Aveos Fleet Performance Inc has filed for bankruptcy protection, laid off more than 2,600 workers and shut plants in Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver as it faces a cost squeeze from Air Canada


- Students joined officials at London's Fanshawe College on Monday in vowing to bring those responsible for the weekend's violent St. Patrick's Day riot to justice.

Fanshawe president Howard Rundle told reporters the area where the rioting took place has been a problem before - though not to the degree seen Saturday - but that the college would seek ways to lower the concentration of students.

- The Ontario NDP on Monday urged the Liberal government during Question Period to order an investigation into the province's past adoption practices, citing recent accusations from women who say they were coerced by social agencies, medical workers and churches into giving up their children because they were not married.

Reports in the business section:

- Canada's bank regulator has issued a set of draft guidelines on mortgage underwriting that, if approved, would significantly increase the level of transparency around one the industry's most important and least understood businesses.

- The Air Canada unions that were subject to back-to-work bill last week say they will mount a legal challenge of the new legislation alleging it is "unconstitutional."

Chinese Press


-- Commerce Minister Chen Demin told a forum that the United States should expand its exports to resolve the trade imbalance between two countries and reaffirmed that the United States should lift its control over exports of military products for civil use to China.


-- Premier Wen Jiabao told the China Development Forum that the government is pushing forward policy innovations and regulations to make the yuan float more freely, and the currency will be freely convertible "at the right time".

-- The heads of China's four leading insurers - China Life Insurance Co Ltd, People's Insurance Company of China Ltd, China Taiping Insurance Group Co Ltd and China Export and Credit Insurance Corp - have been promoted to the vice-ministerial level, from their previous bureau level. Analysts said the reforms and personnel changes pave the way for a regulator of state-owned financial assets.

--President Hu Jintao will attend the second Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul and a New Delhi, Mar 26 to 29, meeting of leaders from the BRICS nations, which groups Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. This will be his first overseas trip of the year.


-- The city of Beijing has crack downed on six underground banks and seized 64 suspects suspected of illegally lending money worth 5 billion yuan ($790.73 million) in 2011.

-- Five ministries are carrying out a nationwide campaign against irregular fees charged by large retailers and supermarkets against suppliers.

European Economic Update:

  • UK CPI 0.6% m/m 3.4% y/y -  higher than expected. Consensus 0.4% m/m 3.3% y/y. Previous -0.5% m/m 3.6% y/y.
  • UK RPI  0.8% m/m 3.7% y/y – higher than expected. Consensus 0.6% m/m 3.5% y/y. Previous -0.6% m/m 3.9% y/y.
  • UK Retail Price Index 239.9 – higher than expected. Consensus 239.4. Previous 238.0.
  • Switzerland Industrial Production 7.9% q/q -1.4% y/y – higher than expected. Consensus 2.6% q/q -2.0% y/y. Previous -1.4% q/q -1.4% y/y. Revised -2.0% q/q -1.9% y/y.
  • Netherland Consumer Confidence s.a. -39 – lower than expected. Consensus -35. Previous -36.
  • Greece Current Account -€1492M. Previous -€2172M.
  • Germany Producer Prices 0.4% m/m 3.2% y/y – lower than expected. Consensus 0.5% m/m 3.2% y/y. Previous 0.6% m/m 3.4% y/y.
  • Hungary Avg Gross Wages 4.3% y/y – lower than expected. Consensus 5.8% y/y. Previous 10.1% y/y.