Monday 4th May 2015
NEWS TICKER: FRIDAY, MAY IST: MYOB will return on Monday next to the ASX, selling 228.3mshares at $3.65 in the company’s IPO. The company raised AUD833.1m, giving it an implied market capitalisation of AUD2.13bn. Bain Capital will retain 58% of the firm’s stock. “We saw a significant level of participation from eligible retail noteholders in the offer, with approximately 57% of holders exchanging their notes into shares. We see this wide range of investor interest as a strong vote of confidence in MYOB.” MYOB chairman Justin Milne says. ASX trading in MYOB shares is set to begin on 4 May under the code MYO. MYOB was listed on exchange from 1999 to 2009 – The volume of US municipal bonds soared by 42.1% in April, according to Thomson Reuters’ data; the ninth straight monthly gain. Issuers brought $37.76bn to market in 1,210 issues, up from $26.58bn in 939 issues in April 2014. Low interest rates, and the reluctance of the US Federal Reserve to raise rates over the near term has resulted in a dash by municipal issuers anxious to secure low cost funding as many refinance their debts. Other than refinancing, new issuance per se looks to be tailing off. New money transactions declined by 5.6% to $12.68bn from $13.43bn, while combined refunding and new money transactions increased 42.5% to $7.17bn from $5.03bn in April last year. Negotiated bond sales increased 62.4% to $28.97bn from $17.84bn, competitive deals rose 15.4% to $8.62bn from $7.47 billion and private placements plunged 87.2% to $162mn from $1.26bn. Sales of revenue bonds increased 49.9% to $22.84bn in 421 deals from $15.24bn in 306 deals. General obligation bond volume jumped 29.9% to $14.73bn in 788 issues from $11.34bn in 633 issues. Tax-exempt deals were up 42.4% to $33.88bn, while taxable deals were 24% higher to $3.30bn.Fixed-rate issues increased to $36.75bn in 1,167 issues from $24.85bn in 891 issues the previous year. The volume of deals with bond insurance more than doubled in par amount wrapped to $2.54bn in 161 deals from $1.06bn in 104 transactions. California claimed the top spot among states with $21.47bn of issuance thus far in 2015, up from its No. 2 ranking in the same period of last year with $12.03bn. Texas dropped from first to second with $17.85bn, an increase from $12.31bn the year before. New York remained in third place with $11.91bn so far this year, up from $10.29bn year to date - This morning Lloyds Banking Group said that in Q1 it had made a net profit of £913m and underlying profit was up 21% on the same period last year, to £2.2bn. Moreover, the group said that it was raising its net interest income target above the original target of 2.55%. Graham Spooner, investment research analyst at The Share Centre, says: “These results are good news for investors as they are ahead of forecasts and demonstrate a continued improvement in the company’s performance. The part UK government owned bank additionally reported that it has been benefitting from a resurgent British economy which has led to reduced bad loans and fuelled demand for mortgages. Lloyds announced its first dividend in February since being bailed out and investors should acknowledge that the increasing signs of recovery will boost hopes for a significant dividend growth in the near future. Analysts have become a little more positive on the group and its long term restructuring plans, which appear to be happening faster than expectations. However … the sector [remains] under pressure, as a result of regulatory issues and ahead of the next government sale.” - The Straits Times Index (STI) ended 0.24 points or 0.01% higher to 3487.39, taking the year-to-date performance to +3.63%. The top active stocks today were SingTel, which declined 0.23%, OCBC Bank, which declined 1.84%, DBS, which gained 0.19%, UOB, which gained 0.29% and Keppel Corp, with a 1.02% fall. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index gained 0.47%, while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index rose 0.18%. The outperforming sectors today were represented by the FTSE ST Real Estate Holding and Development Index, which rose 1.00%. The two biggest stocks of the Index - Hongkong Land Holdings and Global Logistic Properties – ended 2.02% higher and 2.23% higher respectively. The underperforming sector was the FTSE ST Consumer Goods Index, which slipped 1.04%. Wilmar International shares remained unchanged and Thai Beverage declined 3.38%.

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The European Review

By Patrick Artus, chief economist at Natixis

Is Greece offered any other choice to a slow death and a sudden death?

Friday, 06 July 2012 Written by 
Is Greece offered any other choice to a slow death and a sudden death? The adjustment programme that Greece is putting in place with the Troika, even if it is toned down and spread out over time, will eventually lead to a fall in Greeks' purchasing power until Greece's external deficit disappears. And in light of Greece's economic structure and the disproportion between its imports and exports, this will imply a collapse in living standards in Greece. The other possibility for Greece is to leave the euro and massively devalue its currency, but this would instantly mean a loss of purchasing power due to the deterioration of the terms of trade, and a massive decline in domestic demand, which would in any case be inevitable because there would then be no more lenders to finance Greece's external deficit. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

The adjustment programme that Greece is putting in place with the "Troika", even if it is toned down and spread out over time, will eventually lead to a fall in Greeks' purchasing power until Greece's external deficit disappears. And in light of Greece's economic structure and the disproportion between its imports and exports, this will imply a collapse in living standards in Greece. The other possibility for Greece is to leave the euro and massively devalue its currency, but this would instantly mean a loss of purchasing power due to the deterioration of the terms of trade, and a massive decline in domestic demand, which would in any case be inevitable because there would then be no more lenders to finance Greece's external deficit.

For Greece to escape a slow death (austerity programme) or a sudden death (exit from the euro), a massive European aid plan would be needed to rebuild the Greek economy and create jobs, a plan that is unlikely at present, and very different from the present bailout which merely finances debt servicing on Greek government bonds held by public investors.

The logic of the adjustment programme for Greece: Slow death



Even if Greece and the Troika renegotiate the adjustment programme, its fundamental characteristics will remain the same:

·                                  a restrictive fiscal policy to eliminate the fiscal deficit;

·                                  a fall in wages to improve competitiveness and reduce domestic demand, until Greece's external deficit disappears.

The main idea of the adjustment programme is that Greece's domestic demand exceeds its production capacity, thereby generating a structural external deficit. So Greeks "are living beyond their means", with a rise in living standards far exceeding growth in production capacity, and it is therefore legitimate to reduce domestic demand both through a restrictive fiscal policy and wage cuts.

The fall in wages could also bring about an improvement in competitiveness, hence an improvement in foreign trade, but its main objective is to reduce domestic demand and imports.

The problem with this approach is that:

·                                  it is showing its ineffectiveness: despite the decline in domestic demand, the current-account deficit has declined little; due to the shortfall in activity, public finances are no longer improving;

·                                  its cost in terms of jobs and purchasing power is gigantic. Greece is a country in which the weight of industry is very small and where, as a consequence, the disproportion between imports and exports is very great.

A substantial decline in purchasing power in Greece is therefore needed to eliminate the external deficit, with a further fall of about 30% in real wages. Purchasing power would have to be brought back to the level of the early 1990s to balance the current account, and this is of course rejected by the population. The fundamental problem is twofold:

·                                  even if there is a fall in wages, the improvement in price-competitiveness is limited by price stickiness;

·                                  since the size of industry is small, the adjustment must be achieved mainly through a fall in imports, hence a decline in income.

Exit from the euro and devaluation: Sudden death

Faced with this prospect of a "slow death" due to the austerity programme, Greeks could decide to leave the euro and devalue. But in that case the shock would be sudden and terrible, because there would be both:

·                                  a rise in import prices;

·                                  an obligation to eliminate the external deficit, because no one (neither the private sector nor the public sector) would any longer lend to Greece;

·                                  a weak positive impact of the gain in competitiveness, due to the small size of industry.

Greece would default on its gross external debt, and would therefore no longer have to service that debt, which is positive (it would gain six percentage points of GDP in interest payments on external debt). But the rise in import prices would even further exacerbate the foreign trade imbalance, while the potential for external borrowing would disappear. There would inevitably have to be a reduction in domestic demand to restore the foreign trade balance despite the rise in import prices, hence inevitably a collapse in imports in volume terms.

This is reminiscent of the process in Argentina, in similar circumstances, in the early 2000s: a collapse of activity following the huge devaluation, the need to switch to a current-account surplus which required dividing imports by three - hence a collapse in the real wage due to imported inflation, and in domestic demand and employment.

From 2003 onwards, there was  a sharp improvement in Argentina's situation, but it is important to remember that it had considerable structural advantages by comparison with Greece at present:

·                                  substantial weight of industry (22% of jobs);

·                                  before the crisis, exports and imports of the same size;

·                                  a smaller current-account deficit to reduce (five percentage points of GDP).

The shock would be far more violent and prolonged for Greece.

So what would be the solution for Greece?

We have seen that Greece is at present offered two solutions:

·                                  a "slow death", through a stifling of the economy via the austerity plan, even if it is softened down;

·                                  a "sudden death", if there is an exit from the euro and devaluation.

In either case, gradually or suddenly, there must be a substantial decline in purchasing power to eliminate the external deficit which is no longer financeable. For Greece to escape this dreadful choice, Europe's aid would have to be allocated not to debt servicing on Greece's government bonds held by public investors (EFSF, ECB) - which in and of itself is an incredible situation where Europe is borrowing in order to pay to itself the servicing of the Greek debt it holds - but to help rebuild the Greek economy and create jobs, which is definitely not being done at present.

Patrick Artus

A graduate of Ecole Polytechnique, of Ecole Nationale de la Statistique et de l'Adminstration Economique and of Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, Patrick Artus is today the Chief Economist at Natixis. He began his career in 1975 where his work included economic forecasting and modelisation. He then worked at the Economics Department of the OECD (1980), before becoming Head of Research at the ENSAE. Thereafter, Patrick taught seminars on research at Paris Dauphine (1982) and was Professor at a number of Universities (including Dauphine, ENSAE, Centre des Hautes Etudes de l'Armement, Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées and HEC Lausanne).

Patrick is now Professor of Economics at University Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne. He combines these responsibilities with his research work at Natixis. Patrick was awarded "Best Economist of the year 1996" by the "Nouvel Economiste", and today is a member of the council of economic advisors to the French Prime Minister. He is also a board member at Total and Ipsos.

Website: cib.natixis.com/research/economic.aspx

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