Saturday 6th February 2016
NEWS TICKER: Friday, February 5th: According to Reuters, Venezuela's central bank has begun negotiations with Deutsche Bank AG to carry out gold swaps to improve the liquidity of its foreign reserves as it faces debt payments of some $9.5bn this year. Around 64% of Venezuela's $15.4bn reserves are held in gold bars, which in this fluid market impedes the central bank's ability to mobilise hard currency for imports or debt service. We called the central bank to confirm the story, but press spokesmen would not comment - The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) says official foreign currency reserves stood at $357bn (equivalent to seven times the currency in circulation or 48% of Hong Kong M3) as at the end of January, down compared with reserve assets of $358.8bn in December. There were no unsettled foreign exchange contracts at month end (end-December: $0.1bn) - BNP Paribas today set out plans to cut investment banking costs by 12% by 2019 to bolster profitability and reassure investors about the quality of its capital buffers. The bank is the latest in a line of leading financial institutions, including Credit Suisse, Barclays and Deutsche Bank which look to be moving away from capital intensive activities. BNP Paribas has been selling non-core assets and cutting back on operations including oil and gas financing for the last few years as it looks to achieve a target of 10% return on equity. Last year the bank announced a €900m write-down on its BNL unit in Italy, which pushed down Q4 net income down 51.7% to €665m - Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE)-listed tech company, Huge Group, will move its listing from the Alternative Exchange (AltX) to the JSE main board on March 1st - Moody's says it has assigned Aaa backed senior unsecured local-currency ratings to a drawdown under export credit provider Oesterreichische Kontrollbank's (OKB) (P)Aaa-rated backed senior unsecured MTN program. The outlook is negative in line with the negative outlook assigned to the Aaa ratings of the Republic of Austria, which guarantees OKB’s liabilities under the Austrian Export Financing Guarantees Act – As the first phase of talks between Greece and its creditors draws to an end, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde stressed to journalists in Greece that debt relief is as important as the reforms that creditors are demanding, notably of the pension system. "I have always said that the Greek program has to walk on two legs: one is significant reforms and one is debt relief. If the pension [system] cannot be as significantly and substantially reformed as needed, we could need more debt relief on the other side." Greece's pension system must become sustainable irrespective of any debt relief that creditors may decide to provide, Lagarde said, adding that 10% of gross domestic product into financing the pension system, compared to an average of 2.5% in the EU, is not sustainable. She called for "short-term measures that will make it sustainable in the long term,” but did not outline what those measures might be. According to Eurobank in Athens, IMF mission heads reportedly met this morning with the Minister of Labour, Social Insurance and Social Solidarity, Georgios Katrougalos, before the team is scheduled to leave Athens today. According to the local press, it appears that differences exist between the Greek government and official creditors on the planned overhaul of the social security pension system. Provided that things go as planned, the heads are reportedly expected to return by mid-February with a view to completing the review by month end, or at worst early March. In its Winter 2016 Economic Forecast published yesterday, the European Commission revised higher Greece’s GDP growth forecast for 2015 and 2016 to 0.0% and -0.7%, respectively, from -1.4% and 1.-3% previously - Fitch says that The Bank of Italy's (BoI) recent designation of three banks as 'other systemically important institutions' (O-SIIs) has no impact on its ratings of the relevant mortgage covered bond (Obbligazioni Bancarie Garantite or OBG) programmes. Last month, BoI identified UniCredit, Intesa Sanpaolo. and Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena as Italian O-SIIs. Banco Popolare and Mediobanca have not been designated O-SIIs. This status is the equivalent of domestic systemically important bank status under EU legislation. Fitch rates two OBG programmes issued by UC and one issued by BMPS, which incorporates a one-notch Issuer Default Rating (IDR) uplift above the banks' IDRs. The uplift can be assigned if covered bonds are exempt from bail-in, as is the case with OBG programmes under Italy's resolution regime and in this instance takes account of the issuers' importance in the Italian banking sector – Meantime, according to local press reports, Italian hotel group Bauer and special opportunity fund Blue Skye Investment Group report they have completed the rescheduling and refinancing of Bauer’s €110m debt through the issue of new bonds and the sale of non-core assets, such as the farming business Aziende Agricole Bennati, whose sale has already been agreed, the Palladio Hotel & Spa and a luxury residence Villa F in Venice’s Giudecca island – Meantime, Russian coal and steel producer Mechel has also agreed a restructuring of its debt with credits after two intense years of talks. The mining company, is controlled by businessman Igor Zyuzin - Asian markets had a mixed day, coming under pressure. Dollar strengthening worries investors in Asia; from today’s trading it looks like dollar weakening does as well. Actually, that’s not the issue, the dollar has appreciated steadily over the last year as buyers anticipated Fed tightening; but it has hurt US exports and that has contributed to investor nervousness over the past few weeks, which is why everyone is hanging on today’s The nonfarm payrolls report, a bellwether of change – good or bad in the American economic outlook. Back to Asia. The Nikkei 225 ended the day at 16819.15, down 225.40 points, or 1.32%; and as the stock market fell the yen continued to strengthen. The Nikkei has shed 5.85% this week. The dollar-yen pair fell to the 116-handle, at 116.82 in afternoon trade; earlier this week, the pair was trading above 120. It is a hard lesson for the central bank, whose efforts to take the heat out of the yen by introducing negative interest rates has done nothing of the sort. Australia's ASX 200 closed down 4.15 points, or 0.08% after something of a mixed week. The index closed at 4976.20, with the financial sector taking most of the heat today, with the sector down 0.7%. In contrast, energy and materials sectors finished in positive territory, buoyed by gains in commodities. The Hang Seng Index closed at 19288.17, up 105.08 points (or 0.55%) while the Shanghai Composite was down 0.61%. down 17.07 points to 2763.95. The Shenzhen composite dropped 20.36 points (1.15%) to 1750.70, while the Kospi rose marginally by 0.08% to 1917.79. Today is the last day of trading on the Chinese exchanges for a week.

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The push and pull of willpower & politics

Friday, 25 May 2012
The push and pull of willpower & politics June will be a battle between political will and economics. While European leaders continue to insist that they want Greece to remain in the eurozone, they are continually being reminded of the economic reality that a break-up of the single currency is almost certain. What is becoming more apparent day by day is that the markets will simply not allow the likes of Greece to have their cake and eat it without paying for it too. Whether Europe’s politicians will listen to those market siren calls for change has yet to be determined. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

June will be a battle between political will and economics. While European leaders continue to insist that they want Greece to remain in the eurozone, they are continually being reminded of the economic reality that a break-up of the single currency is almost certain. What is becoming more apparent day by day is that the markets will simply not allow the likes of Greece to have their cake and eat it without paying for it too. Whether Europe’s politicians will listen to those market siren calls for change has yet to be determined.

If the Germans and French remain reluctant to put their money in the pockets by either using the ECB’s potential firepower or create a special eurobond then they could themselves become the very nemesis of the single currency that they tell us they are so desperate to keep. Even so, risk aversion continues to whittle down the markets; at the time of writing the index is at 5380, down some 25 points. Traders are watching term support trends at 5335, 5300 and 5275; hopeful bulls out there will be looking for resistance at 5490, 5615/45. This near term downward trend sees the index capped by a downward trend line that also puts some resistance at 5450. Over the longer term now that the index has broken below its 200 day moving average and its upward trend line a close below 5400 could been seen as very negative and we’re now in the ­territory of people not wanting to catch a falling knife.

While immediate market focus will remain on Europe and its affect on the macro picture, there are a couple of important pieces of data that UK investors should note. First, following a surprising improvement in April, unemployment numbers are likely to show a weakening labour market.  There’s little in the way of encouraging data from the UK at the moment, but last month’s data was the first ­indication that unemployment is ­starting to peak. Job creation has come largely from part time rather than ­permanent work and the tick downwards to 8.3% in the rate of unemployment is expected to rise back to 8.4%. Second, it will be interesting to see whether the upcoming Bank of England’s inflation report will encourage the central bank to stick to their hawkish guns or whether the ­confirmation of the double dip recession and a further downgrading of growth projections will result in a more dove-ish tone.



Other European indicators are not great either: Italian ten year yields have crossed back above 6% and for Spain back above 6.5%, meanwhile risk adverse investors piled into German bunds driving their cost of borrowing even lower. This is classic fear gripping the markets once again as the vicissitudes of 2012 look to be playing out in a very similar fashion to 2011. Financial markets detest uncertainty and at the moment they are riddled with them since Greece has been unable to form a government and has had to call for a new round of  elections on 17th June. Up until that point we can expect volatility to remain high and continued pressure to the downside.

The euro made a low of $1.2720 as the situation in Greece continues to deteriorate. Bears sold the single ­currency heavily after socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos announced that talks to form a coalition government had failed and that the public would have to go back to the polls next month. Gold continued to fall as traders dumped risky assets and piled into the safety of the US dollar. Spot gold traded as low as $1541 an ounce.  With little technical support seen until $1531 and no turn around in Greece on the horizon, the down trend looks set to stay firmly in place.

On top of all the European woes there’s also the growing concern that China is slowing down quicker than was previously thought. Add any downturn to the euro crisis and it has negative connotations for global growth.

As ever, ladies and gentlemen, place your bets...

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