Though Republican presidential hopefuls have derided the Federal Reserve, a general election win by lead contender Mitt Romney would likely change little at the central bank, at least in the short term. Full Article
An epic lack of foresight, accuracy and rationale... https://www.tfmetalsreport.com/comment/170246#comment-170246
CAIRO - A deft businessman and politician, Khairat al-Shater hopes to bring Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood to the pinnacle of power. But his presidential candidacy has exposed rifts in the group, worried liberals and could cause conflict with Egypt's ruling army. Full Article
KABUL - Shrouded in stigma, female drug use is almost never mentioned in Afghanistan. With little funding and no access to substitution drugs such as methadone, treatment is rudimentary for a growing problem in a country riven by decades of conflict. Full Article
By Tom Polansek and Charles Abbott
WASHINGTON | Fri Mar 30, 2012 4:57pm EDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. farmers will plant the most corn in 75 years to cash in on higher prices, topping expectations at the expense of soybean and spring wheat sowings, according to a U.S. government report on Friday.
The dramatic expansion raised hopes that the next harvest would ease razor-thin supplies that have kept corn prices near historic highs.
The Agriculture Department, in a separate report, said supplies in storage as of March 1 were smaller than expected, making a big crop imperative.
"Going forward, it's going to be all about the planting weather," said Don Roose, president of U.S. Commodities.
Despite the early prospects for a bumper crop, Corn, wheat and soybean futures rose strongly on the surprisingly tight grain stocks. Corn for delivery in May went "limit up," rising by the maximum amount allowed in a day of 40 cents. The climb of 6.6 percent to $6.44 a bushel was the biggest gain for corn since Oct 11....
A stronger reading for a Chinese manufacturing gauge failed to end predictions for policy loosening as analysts described the gain as seasonal and a separate survey showed exporters struggling.
A Purchasing Managers’ Index (CPMINDX) rose to a one-year high of 53.1 in March, China’s logistics federation and the National Bureau of Statistics said yesterday. The gauge has a pattern of rising each March. In contrast, a PMI from HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics showed manufacturing contracting and export orders falling.
Premier Wen Jiabao has pledged to “fine-tune” economic policies as needed as weakness in export demand and a cooling housing market restrain an economy that probably grew at the slowest pace in almost three years in the first quarter. Analysts in a Bloomberg News survey last week unanimously said that banks’ reserve requirements will fall this year, while nine of 20 predicted lower benchmark borrowing costs.
“Policy easing is still needed to avoid a hard landing....
Getting what should be public information about major Wall Street firms can be maddeningly difficult.
Bloomberg News discovered this in its ultimately successful effort to get information on the $1.2 trillion in “secret loans” the Fed doled out during the financial crisis. And I’ve had no small experience of it myself.
As I started each of my three books -- about Lazard Freres, Bear Stearns and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) -- I submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to the appropriate government agencies (the Securities Exchange Commission, the State Department and the Federal Reserve) to obtain whatever documents, memos and e-mails they had about these companies and their senior executives.
I was hoping to find, among other nuggets, details of enforcement actions, or settlements that were reached where the firms “neither admitted nor denied” guilt, or other documentary evidence of the coziness that has for too long existed between Wall Street and Washington....
By J. Berkshire Miller
March 31, 2012
Last week, Japanese Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka indicated to the Diet that the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) are preparing to deploy Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC) missiles to potentially intercept North Korea’s planned “satellite” launch. The statement came after Pyongyang had announced earlier this month that the launch will take place sometime between April 12-16, to mark the 100th anniversary of founder Kim Il-sung’s birth. The North Korean move over the expected test has been roundly condemned by Japan – as well as South Korea and the United States – as a violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718.
This week, Tanaka followed up on his earlier pledge by telling the Japanese press that the SDF was preparing to take “destruction measures against (North Korea’s) ballistic missiles.” Cabinet approval for a potential strike was authorized on March 30. Tanaka rebuffed criticism that the deployment was merely rhetorical posturing, stating that the SDF “will expend all possible means to securely implement the necessary preparations in order to protect the lives and property of the people.”
The trajectory of the launch – or whether it will even go forward – remains unclear. Early signals and intelligence indicated that the missile’s path could cross Western Japan, but now reports are pointing to the possibility of the launch covering Japan’s southern islands, including Okinawa.
Tokyo seems to acknowledge the uncertainty, and is attempting to tamp down too much talk of a potential intercept. Japanese Cabinet Chief Secretary Osamu Fujimura, for his part, reassured reporters this week that the SDF measures were strictly defensive and stressed that the government “doesn’t believe anything will fall over Japan’s territory.”
By Joel E. Starr
April 01, 2012
Joseph Kony is now notorious for his role in Africa, including in Sudan. But China’s supplying of arms and oil money has also abetted the Sudanese regime’s awful behavior.
By now, tens of millions of people or more know who Joseph Kony and his murderous Lord’s Resistance Army are after a YouTube video called “Kony 2012” went viral. But there’s another Kony in Central Africa that has been committing depredations for just as long: China.
Since the early 1990s, messianic madman Joseph Kony has led his LRA on a reign of terror, first in Uganda, and then through the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan. He’s currently believed to be in the Central African Republic. Kony and the LRA live off the land by stealing from villages and terrorizing its inhabitants deep in the jungle. They are infamous for chopping off the limbs, lips, noses and ears of its victims and for kidnapping tens of thousands of children to serve as “child soldiers.” Estimates suggest that the LRA has killed tens of thousands, displaced more than 1 million and kidnapped more than 30,000 children in the past 20 years.
By Matiullah Amin
March 30, 2012
Coming just weeks after the burning of several copies of the Koran by American military personnel, the recent killing spree by a U.S. Army sergeant in southern Afghanistan, which left 16 civilians dead, is but the latest in a string of incidents that have ignited popular fury and intensified demands for an early U.S. withdrawal. This plays into the hands of hard-line Taliban who, appealing to local sentiment, have vowed to avenge the killings. Yet despite the setback this poses for plans for an orderly transition to Afghan forces, the U.S. can’t afford to lose sight of what would be at stake with an accelerated, panicky drawdown of NATO troops.
A month after the killing of Osama bin Laden, who was shot in a military garrison town in Pakistan, President Barack Obama declared that peace couldn’t come without a political settlement. His administration has thus been engaged in trying to find common ground for reconciliation with the Taliban. This is happening at the same time as the U.S. and its allies have begun the process of withdrawing troops and turning full control of security over to Afghan forces. Of the 90,000 U.S. troops currently deployed, 22,000 are expected to return home by this autumn, with the remaining scheduled to withdraw “at a steady pace” by the end of 2014.
Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai have repeatedly made clear that they expect the Taliban to break from al-Qaeda, abandon violence, and abide by the Afghan Constitution. But rather than engage in serious negotiations, the Taliban, after agreeing to open a political office in Qatar early this year, have seemed more interested in waiting out the international forces that have a target date for full withdrawal.
By Shreyasi Singh
That India’s growth story is faltering isn’t a secret. In fact, it’s interesting how quickly things can change. Up until about a year ago, India seemed on the threshold of economic stardom – courted by global companies as a must location, and buoyed by forecasts that its decade-long robust growth might continue in perpetuity.
Today, things look very different – thanks to slowing growth, rising inflation and policy paralysis in the union government. Reforms have been stalled, costs have gone up and “good” trade and business deals seem to be drying up. In fact, some global publications and economic forecasters have even suggested that the “I” in BRIC (the grouping of fast-growing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China) should be changed from India to Indonesia.
Thankfully, over the past year, I’ve personally been able to find some things to be positive about as the editor of a magazine that focuses on small- and mid-size companies in India. India has come to be known as an exciting crucible for entrepreneurial ideas – more and more, one sees “for-choice” entrepreneurs (investment bankers, marketing honchos and quality management students) give up their expected career choices to found companies of their own.
By Luke Hunt
March 29, 2012
Most Burma watchers will rightly have their eyes fixed on this Sunday’s much-anticipated by-elections and the prospect of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi entering parliament. However, others will be crunching the numbers after the government announced significant currency reforms to come into force the same day.
A managed floating exchange rate will begin on Sunday, April 1, for the kyat, allowing market forces to value the currency with input from the Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM). The decision wasn’t unexpected. Importantly, this will end decades of dual currency valuations by the central government and the black market that enable corruption and money laundering to flourish through semi-official and unofficial rates.
Officially, the kyat is pegged at around six kyat to the dollar, while on the black market one dollar can fetch 800 kyat. Deals are normally done at the official rate, but can be worth much more after the currencies are bought and sold on the informal market.
The worst is over for the $10 trillion U.S. Treasury market following the biggest quarterly rout since 2010, say Wall Street’s largest bond trading firms.
After rising to as high as 2.4 percent last month from 1.88 percent at the end of 2011, the yield on the benchmark 10-year note will finish 2012 at 2.48 percent, according to the average estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of the 21 primary dealers that trade with the Federal Reserve. That’s the same as a January poll, suggesting the market isn’t ready to declare a bear market in bonds after a 30-year bull run.
Signs of strength in the economy, which caused a 5.56 percent loss in bonds maturing in 10 years or more last quarter, may fade in the second half of 2012, the dealers say. Tax cuts are expiring, $1 trillion of mandatory federal budget cuts are due to kick in and $100-a-barrel oil is eating into consumer spending. With inflation in check, Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernankesaid last week that the central bank will consider further stimulus, even after upgrading its economic outlook March 13.
ROME/MADRID - Southern Europe has stayed surprisingly stoic in the face of some of the most painful budget cuts in living memory, but resistance is growing in a region at the center of concerns over a resurgence of the euro zone debt crisis. Full Article
LONDON - Bitcoin, a digital currency variously dismissed as a Ponzi scheme or lauded as the greatest invention since the Internet, has become the Wild West of finance as it grows increasingly popular with traders at almost all the major international banks. Full Article
By Robin Emmott
BRUSSELS | Mon Apr 2, 2012 10:00am EDT
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Unemployment in the euro zone reached its highest level in almost 15 years in February, with more than 17 million people out of work, and economists said they expected job office queues to grow even longer later this year.
Joblessness in the 17-nation currency zone rose to 10.8 percent - in line with a Reuters poll of economists - and 0.1 points worse than in January, Eurostat said on Monday.
Economists are divided over the wisdom of European governments' drive to bring down fiscal deficits so aggressively as economic troubles hit tax revenues, consumers' spending power and business confidence which collapsed late last year.
February's unemployment level - last hit in June 1997 - marked the 10th straight monthly rise and contrasts sharply with the United States where the economy has been adding jobs since late last year.
"We expect it to go higher, to reach 11 percent by the end of the year," said Raphael Brun-Aguerre, an economist at JP Morgan in London. "You have public sector job cuts, income going down, weak consumption. The economic growth outlook is negative and is going to worsen unemployment."
By Noah Barkin and Annika Breidthardt
BERLIN | Mon Apr 2, 2012 9:07am EDT
BERLIN (Reuters) - Two years ago Wolfgang Schaeuble's 40-year career in German politics seemed at an end.
After repeated trips to hospital because of complications from an operation, he told Chancellor Angela Merkel he felt unable to continue as her finance minister. She encouraged him to stay and now the 69-year old appears on the verge of a new chapter in a career with more twists and turns than any other post-war German politician.
Twenty-two years after he was shot and paralyzed from the waist down, Schaeuble is the leading contender to become chairman of the Eurogroup, the influential policy-setting forum of euro zone finance ministers. The appointment would give Germany control over one of the most important European policy jobs, formalizing its transformation to unabashed leader of the single currency bloc. Many people would see it as a sign of growing German dominance over its economically weaker partners.
But conversations with more than half a dozen colleagues, friends and relatives of Schaeuble suggest the move could actually end up ...
Proposals to monitor email and web traffic are ‘nigh on impossible to enforce’ and would make UK like Iran and China, digital expert Trefor Davies says.
Vice-Admiral who co-ordinated torpedo attack that sunk the General Belgrano says he has no regrets.
April 2, 2012, 12:01 a.m. EDT
By david[dot]marsh[at]londonandoxford[dot]com (David Marsh), MarketWatch
LONDON (MarketWatch) — There are some powerful reasons of self-interest why the U.S. and China might wish to spread the word that the European sovereign debt crisis is past its peak. But you shouldn’t necessarily believe them.
After the quick burst of first-quarter optimism over the European Central Bank’s liquidity injections, governments and markets are coming down to earth. This was underscored by European Union officials’ warning to finance ministers on Friday that the underlying causes of the crisis have not been resolved.
The world’s two biggest economies are doing all they can to avoid rocking the boat. But will it be enough? China, confronting higher domestic production costs, a stronger yuan and more fragile markets for its exports all over the world, wishes to avoid a weaker euro exacerbating its growth slowdown.
In the U.S., ahead of the November elections, President Barack Obama has no desire to upset the euro, hoping that a semblance of order on European financial markets will shore up global confidence, prolong the improvement in U.S. labor markets and help him hang on to the White House.
Illustration by Golden Cosmos
Since the launch of the euro in January 1999, Germany and the Netherlands have experienced a growth slowdown and loss of wealth for their citizens that would not have happened had they never joined the euro.
We know this to be true, because we can compare the progress of these two Northern European economies with that ofSweden and Switzerland, which kept their freely floating currencies in 1999 and continued to grow as before. Indeed, over the period of the euro’s existence, the German and Dutch economies have grown significantly more slowly than those of the U.S. and the U.K., despite the debt crisis now engulfing the“Anglo-Saxons.”
Sweden and Switzerland grew as fast or faster in 2001-11 as they did in 1991-2001. The German and Dutch economies, by contrast, not only slowed down in 2001-2011 (to 1.25 percent from 3 percent in the case of the Netherlands), they also suppressed wage growth to adjust for the effects of the euro. As a result, real consumer-spending growth fell to a feeble one quarter of a percent a year in these countries...