Friday 4th September 2015
NEWS TICKER, THURSDAY, September 3rd: The Straits Times Index (STI) ended 28.3 points or 0.98% higher to 2906.43, taking the year-to-date performance to -13.63%. The top active stocks today were SingTel, which gained 0.82%, DBS, which gained 0.80%, UOB, which gained 1.40%, OCBC Bank, which gained1.13% and CapitaLand, with a 0.36%advance. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index gained 0.55%, while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index rose 0.24% - Madrid City Hall announced it would dedicate €10m out of its 2016 budget to a "welcome plan for refugees" to include housing, integration, psychological support and legal aid, City Hall spokeswoman Rita Maestre (Ahora Madrid) said during a press conference on Thursday. Maestre said a budget had been decided upon but that specific numbers had not: "We want to welcome all those who are fleeing from war", adding that given their situation "a permanent housing solution" would be needed in the city. The Mayor of the Spanish capital, Manuela Carmena, said on Wednesday that a decision would be taken at the city government meeting today: "The city of the hug must, of course, be ready to welcome refugees" - The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is joining international efforts to clean up Tunisia’s Lake Bizerte with a €20m loan and technical assistance to support the expansion and rehabilitation of the sewerage network of the Bizerte region and the rehabilitation of three wastewater treatment plants located near the lake. The EBRD’s investment is part of an integrated environmental programme aimed at de-polluting Lake Bizerte and reducing sources of pollution through investments in wastewater, solid waste and industrial effluents. This programme is labelled by the Union for the Mediterranean and is part of the Horizon 2020 Initiative, which aims to de-pollute the Mediterranean by the year 2020. The European Investment Bank is providing a €40 million sovereign loan to the programme while the European Union Neighbourhood Investment Facility is contributing a €15m grant for both capital expenditure and technical cooperation - Analysis of illicit financial flows (IFFs) by Global Financial Integrity (GFI) shows that over the period 2003-2012 the global volume of IFFs grew by more than 9% annually (. In 2012 (the most recent year for which data are available), illicit flows were estimated at close to $1trn. In response to this unfettered surge in illicit capital leaving developing nations, the UN has endorsed target 16.4 in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which commits the global community to “significantly reduce” IFFs by 2030. This UN action “represents an historic moment in development policy given that it is the first time the international community has recognized the illicit flows problem and pledged to address it,” says GFI President Raymond Baker - US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker named Eduardo Leite, Chairman of the Executive Committee of Baker & McKenzie LLP, as the new chair of the US section of the US-Brazil CEO Forum. “Mr. Leite has served on the U.S. section of the CEO Forum for several years, and I am pleased that he has agreed to serve as Chairman,” said Secretary Pritzker. The new US section chair was named after the former chair, Ms. Patricia Woertz, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Archer Daniels Midland Company, submitted her resignation from the role. However, Woertz will remain a member of the U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum, and Leite will complete the current three-year term, which ends on August 13th 2016 - MarketAxess Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq:MKTX), the operator of a leading electronic trading platform for fixed-income securities, and the provider of market data and post-trade services for the global fixed-income markets, today announced total monthly trading volume for August 2015 of $75.5 billion, consisting of $43.7 billion in U.S. high-grade volume, $26.7bn in other credit volume, and $5.1 billion in liquid products volume. MarketAxess is providing both the reported and adjusted estimated US high-grade TRACE volumes on its website. The Company believes that the adjusted estimated volumes provide a more accurate comparison to prior period reporting.

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Of mice and men and bailouts

Wednesday, 25 July 2012
Of mice and men and bailouts With the sovereign debt crisis still in full swing it is becoming a moot point as to where you should place your money. Popular reflection throws up the usual suspects, gold, bunds, gilts, US T-bonds and so on, but one does begin to wonder whether this accepted order of security is actually right. We have seen haircuts taken on quite a bit of sovereign debt. However, were not for central banks still accepting such debt as collateral, the yields on certain national issuance would be considerably higher than they are at right now. Simon Denham, managing director of spread betting firm, Capital Spreads gives the bearish view. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

With the sovereign debt crisis still in full swing it is becoming a moot point as to where you should place your money. Popular reflection throws up the usual suspects, gold, bunds, gilts, US T-bonds and so on, but one does begin to wonder whether this accepted order of security is actually right. We have seen haircuts taken on quite a bit of sovereign debt. However, were not for central banks still accepting such debt as collateral, the yields on certain national issuance would be considerably higher than they are at right now. Simon Denham, managing director of spread betting firm, Capital Spreads gives the bearish view.

Simon DenhamSimon Denham, managing director of spread betting firm Capital Spreads. Photograph kindly supplied by Capital Spreads.We have the curious situation of New Spanish issuance being bought by Spanish banks then repoed at favorable rates back into the ECB as collateral against debt taken out for this very purpose. The politicians have now agreed bailouts for the banks (but not for Spain itself) in the full knowledge that most of such bailout monies will be used for exactly the purposes described above.

The question must be: how much more will northern Europe tolerate? As times get tougher in Greece, Spain and Italy more of the little business still being done is actually flowing into the black market, exacerbating already critical deficit problems. 



Forcing through stern excise adherence needs to be done when times are good not when many businesses are struggling for survival. This actually is the knub of the problem of the eurozone since its inception; Southern States previously accepted a generally deteriorating currency in exchange for a certain laxness in fiscal responsibility. Other the other hand, the much bigger North (economically) certainly did not.

When the good times rolled all the politicians basked in the supposed genius of the new bloc studiously ignoring all of the ever more strident warnings of productivity dislocation and failing dismally to impose any form of regional spending controls. The saying ‘your sins will find you out’ could hardly be more apposite in this situation as Germany and France (who were amongst the first to break the piously agreed deficit limitations back in 2003) are now requiring just such a response from the weaker members.

Where then, does this leave equities?

Well, oddly enough there is an argument to say that corporate assets might well become the safe haven investment of the future. The ability to move companies from one jurisdiction to another if the regulatory/tax burdens becomes too extreme, the general fiscal responsibility of the vast majority of executive boards, their generally low debt position and the high profit margins lead one to consider that equities and corporate bonds are a rather safer home than ­sovereign debt (of whichever nation).  

The major advantage of a sovereign nation has always been the accepted lore of their ability to raise taxes no matter what the economic situation. Even so, as we see from Spain and Italy’s recent tax receipt numbers—and even the UK over the past few months—this accepted truism may be starting to wear thin.  People in general continue to lose any respect for their government’s ability to spend wisely. If then the average German, Finn or Dutchman decides that bailing out Southern Europe is not his responsibility and we effectively move towards a Greek position on paying tax, or voting for parties that espouse a more isolationist policy, the general deficit situation may well ­deteriorate exponentially.

All the while, returns on equities look to be attractive in the current interest rate environment. The FTSE 100 yield is over 4% as is the Stoxx 50 and the dividend adjusted price versus the cost of acquisition is now at historically high levels. Obviously, dividends might well be lowered over the coming years as growth looks more remote, but interest rates are likely to remain sub 1% as well, so even a reduction in payments might not be accompanied by a fall in price. Returns on stocks have remained remarkably stable despite the current political brouhaha. However, this might be the time that this ‘value’ was reappraised upwards to reflect falling returns elsewhere. 

For all of the truly awful news of the last six to twelve months the FTSE is still pretty much where it was this time last year. It might not take much in the way of good news to send us higher. Of course, this said, we do still need the politicians to make at least a couple of good choices!

As ever ladies and gentlemen, place your bets! 

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