debt & wealth

Unemployment in Greece reached 27% last November

Unemployment in Greece reached 27% last November

Protothema – Unemployment in Greece reached a new record high in November 2012, climbing to 27% from 26.6% in October 2012 and 20.8% in November 2011. According to figures from the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT), the unemployed people reached 1,350,181 increasing by 323,808 compared to November 2011. The unemployment rate among young people aged 15-24 years jumped to 61.7% from 50.1% in November 2011. Unemployment among those aged 25-34 increased to 36.2% from 28.9%. The highest unemployment rate is observed in women, as it increased to 31.1% from 24.6 in November 2011. In men, it increased from 18% to 24%. Read Article

G20 finance ministers meet amid ‘currency war’ fears

BBC – Finance ministers of the G20 group of nations have dampened speculation of a currency war, as they gather for a meeting in Moscow. The value of a country’s currency has a big impact on its trade and there are fears countries are trying to influence markets to help boost their economies. Read article

Central Banks Bought Most Gold in Nearly 50 Years

CNBC – Central banks scooped up more gold in 2012 than they have annually in nearly half a century as they sought to diversify reserves, the World Gold Council (WGC) said on Thursday. Central banks bought 534.6 metric tons of the precious metal last year – the most since 1964 – led by Russia, Brazil and Iraq. Net purchases by central banks accounted for 12 percent of overall demand in 2012, compared with a 10 percent share in 2011. “Countries actively adding to their official gold holdings remains heavily concentrated in developing markets, which partly reflects the scale of growth in the reserves of these markets over recent years,” WGC wrote its latest quarterly report on gold demand trends. Read Article

Six UK water firms paying zero tax

PressTV – British water companies are evading millions of pounds in tax by the fraudulent method of getting loans from their owners abroad and listing themselves as under debt. Following a public outcry over billions of pounds of corporate tax avoidance in Britain, involving names such as Google and Starbucks, research group Corporate Watch said that six British water companies have taken out high-interest loans from their owners through the Channel Islands stock exchange so that they could dodge tax using a legal loophole that reduces taxable profits in proportion to interest payments abroad. That means their owners get fully untaxed profits from Britain by pretending that their subsidiaries in the country are under debt. Read Article

Asian Stocks Fall as Topix Snaps 13-Week Winning Streak

Bloomberg – Asian stocks fell, with Japan’s Topix Index snapping the longest weekly winning streak in 40 years, as the yen rose and profit reports from Trend Micro Inc. and Rio Tinto Group disappointed investors. Rio Tinto declined 2.7 percent in Sydney after the miner reported its biggest loss in at least 15 years. Trend Micro tumbled 6.1 percent after the Japanese anti-virus software maker’s net income fell 23 percent. Auckland International Airport Ltd. slumped the most in four years after a New Zealand pension fund reduced its stake in the nation’s busiest terminal. Read Article

Japan economy figures worse than expected

Aljazeera – Japan’s economy remained mired in recession late last year, shrinking 0.4 percent in annualised terms for the third straight quarter of contraction, following weak demand both at home and overseas. Yoshihide Suga, chief government spokesperson, acknowledged the lingering weakness in the economy, while voicing optimism over a global recovery. “We also expect our nation’s economy to make a gradual recovery,” he said. Many analysts had forecast the economy would emerge from recession in the final quarter of 2012 as the Japanese yen weakened against other major currencies, giving a boost to Japanese export manufacturers. Read Article

Japan’s Economy Unexpectedly Shrinks on Exports, Investment

Bloomberg – Japan’s economy unexpectedly shrank last quarter as falling exports and a business investment slump outweighed improved consumption, highlighting the challenge facing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he seeks to end deflation. Gross domestic product contracted an annualized 0.4 percent in the three months through December, following a revised 3.8 percent contraction in the previous quarter, the Cabinet Office said in Tokyo today. The median forecast of 32 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for 0.4 percent growth. In nominal terms, the economy shrank 0.4 percent on quarter. Read Article

Russia tightens bank account control

BBC – Russia has introduced fines on transactions by Russian nationals who send money to overseas bank accounts. Amendments to existing laws on financial controls stipulate fines ranging from 75% to 100% of any transfer to a foreign account which did not go through a Russian bank account. Read article

Euro zone economy falls deeper than expected into recession

Reuters – The euro zone slipped deeper than expected into recession in the last three months of 2012 after its largest economies, Germany and France, shrank at the end of a wretched year for the region. It marked the currency bloc’s first full year in which no quarter produced growth, extending back to 1995. For the year as a whole, gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 0.5 percent Economic output in the 17-country region fell by 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter, EU statistics office Eurostat said on Thursday, following a 0.1 percent output drop in the third. Read Article

India’s economy falls short of lofty aspirations

Associated Press – India’s statistics agency is forecasting economic growth of only 5 percent for the fiscal year ending March, the weakest in a decade. It’s a big comedown from just a couple of years ago when officials boasted India could grow at 10 percent or more a year and overtake China. The finance ministry has accused the statistics agency of being too pessimistic. That spat aside, there’s no question that Asia’s third-largest economy is now not growing fast enough to produce sufficient jobs for its burgeoning youth population. Read Article

Yen awaits BOJ verdict; GDP data also eyed

Reuters – The yen held near multi-year lows against the dollar and euro on Thursday, finding a bit of stability following a few sessions of volatile trade as the outcome of a Bank of Japan policy meeting loomed. The BOJ is expected to keep monetary policy steady but signal its readiness to expand stimulus again if risks to the outlook heighten. The dollar bought 93.26 yen, not far off a 33-month high around 94.47 set on Monday. The euro fetched 125.26, near a 34-month peak of 127.71 scaled a week ago. Analysts say markets suspect the BOJ will stand pat until the first rate review under a new governor, scheduled for April 3-4. Read Article

Wall Street pauses after rally to five-year high

Reuters – Stocks drifted in light volume on Wednesday, ending little changed, as investors remained cautious after the S&P 500 index briefly hit its highest intraday level since November 2007. The S&P 500 was buoyed by General Electric (GE.N) after cable company Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) said it will buy from GE the the part of NBCUniversal it didn’t already own for $16.7 billion. Comcast’s stock hit the highest since 1999 before closing up 3 percent at $40.13 and GE gained 3.6 percent to $23.39. The S&P 500 is up 6.6 percent so far this year, partly due to stronger-than-expected corporate earnings and a better economic outlook. The Dow industrials is about 1 percent away from an all-time intraday high, reached in October 2007. Read Article

Banks Delay $208 Million in Sandy Cash

Wall St Journal – Banks are holding $208 million in insurance proceeds owed to New York state homeowners whose properties were damaged in superstorm Sandy, with almost two-thirds of the money sitting at the four biggest U.S. banks, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday. The state’s Department of Financial Services found in an investigation that Bank of America Corp., BAC +3.25% Citigroup Inc., C +2.78% J.P. Morgan Chase JPM +0.99% & Co. and Wells Fargo WFC +0.71% & Co. are holding up more than $130 million in payments to over 4,100 homeowners with mortgages, the governor said. Read Article

G7 seeks to banish currency wars

DW – The Group of Seven (G7) top industrialized nations have committed themselves to free-floating foreign currency exchange rates. They’ve called for monetary policies not to be directed at devaluing national currencies. The G7 powers reaffirmed their commitment to market determined exchange rates and pledged to consult closely with regard to actions in foreign exchange markets, a statement released on Tuesday said. The group – which includes leading industrialized nations Britain, the United States, France, Germany, Japan, Canada, and Italy – expressed concern that excessive volatility in foreign exchange markets could have adverse implications for economic and financial stability. Read Article

Jamaica in crisis debt-swap plan

BBC – Jamaica has announced plans for its second debt swap in three years in the face of a “serious economic crisis”. Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller is taking measures to reduce its debt, which currently stands at 140% of gross domestic product (GDP), one of the highest ratios in the world. “If this debt is not reduced, Jamaica faces a dismal future,” she said. The move is aimed at satisfying conditions demanded in a deal with the International Monetary Fund. About 55% of government spending goes towards paying the nation’s debt, while 25% goes on wages. That leaves just 20% for everything else – including education, security and health. Read Article

Political risk weighs on Italian, Spanish debt

Reuters – Italian and Spanish bond yields rose on Monday and were seen rising further on fears that Italian elections this month will produce an inconclusive result
and worries about a corruption scandal in Madrid. Renewed political uncertainty is prompting investors to book profits on a six-month rally in peripheral debt that started when the European Central Bank announced its new bond-buying programme, which can be activated if a country seeks a bailout. In Italy, a powerful fight-back by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in opinion polls has raised concerns the poll will produce a fragmented parliament. That could hamper the government’s ability to push through structural reforms needed to cut the country’s massive 2 trillion euro debt pile. Read Article

Barclays cuts 3,700 jobs in overhaul

Guardian – Barclays is axing 3,700 jobs following a six-month strategic review by its new chief executive, Antony Jenkins, who has pledged to change the bank’s culture in the wake of the Libor-rigging scandal. Jenkins confirmed that the bank was shutting its structured capital markets tax avoidance unit, which has been described as facilitating “industrial scale tax avoidance” and pulling out of trading soft commodities where the bank has been accused of speculating on food prices. These businesses are not included in the closures of four businesses outlined for closure by the bank which it said would lose the bank £500m in revenue. Read Article

Serb Public Debt Drops $167 Million in January on Payment

Bloomberg – Serbia’s public debt narrowed 0.7 percent in January as the government repaid credits mainly to holders of its bonds on the domestic market. Total public debt declined by 125 million euros ($167 million) to 17.5 billion euros, with the public debt-to-gross domestic product ratio reported at 59.9 percent of Serbia’s economic output, the Belgrade-based Finance Ministry said in an e-mailed statement today. Serbia repaid creditors 413 million euros in principal and 55 million euros in interest last month, the ministry said. Read Article

U.S. Stocks Retreat After S&P 500 Reaches Five-Year High

Bloomberg – U.S. stocks fell, pulling the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index from a five-year high, as European leaders met to discuss the region’s crisis and investors awaited President Barack Obama’s speech on his legislative priorities. All 10 S&P 500 industry groups retreated except for financial companies, as energy and raw-materials companies dropped the most. Google Inc. declined 1 percent as Chairman Eric Schmidt adopted a plan to sell as many as 3.2 million shares in the operator of the world’s most popular search engine. Loews Corp. fell 1 percent after reporting earnings that missed estimates. Read Article

China unveils spending plan to boost economy

DW – China has announced that it will boost public spending on infrastructure in an attempt to foster economic growth. The move comes amid reports that the Asian economic powerhouse is further losing steam this year. The government in Beijing is planning to earmark an extra 120 billion yuan (14.4 billion euros, $19.25) this year aimed at improving China’s infrastructure and transport system, the official China People’s Daily newspaper reported on Monday. Some 70 billion yuan were allocated for projects such as highways, waterways and docks, the newspaper said, while an additional 50 billion yuan were to go into improving minor roads. Read Article

Eurozone lenders sit on record pile of bad loans

DW – According to a study by a renowned auditing company, banks in the 17-member eurozone have had to grapple with a record amount of bad loans. And a quick easing of the situation is not in sight, the survey claims. Banks in the euro area amassed the largest amount of bad loans ever, the economic auditing firm Ernst & Young revealed in a study released on Monday. It estimated that credits to the tune of 918 billion euros ($1.23 trillion) were currently not being paid back at all or could only partly be paid back, amounting to 7.6 percent of all loans granted in the eurozone. Read Article

EU leaders agree 3% budget cut deal in Brussels

BBC – European Council President Herman Van Rompuy announced the deal and said in a statement it was “worth working for”. The new budget ceiling amounts to 960bn euros (£812bn; $1.3tn). It is the first time the EU’s multi-annual budget has been reduced. UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who had been pressing for cuts, hailed it as a “good deal for Britain”. Read article

Sudan’s inflation eases but food prices remain ‘very high’

Reuters – Sudan’s annual inflation eased marginally to 43.6 percent in January from 44.4 percent in December, official data showed on Thursday but food prices stayed very high, adding to the hardship of ordinary people. Sudan has avoided “Arab spring” turmoil that has unseated rulers in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, but spiraling food price inflation has sparked small protests against President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, in power since 1989. Prices have soared in the African country since South Sudan seceded in July 2011, taking with it three-quarters of the country’s oil output. Annual inflation was 15 percent in June 2011, the last data before southern independence. Read Article

Venezuela freezes prices of 18 products

Fox News – The Venezuelan government ordered a freeze on the prices of 18 products with the entry into force on Tuesday of the new Fair Price Law, with which Caracas intends to take one more step toward the realization of President Hugo Chavez’s socialist plan. The government began implementing the new regulation in the hope of being able to rein in the country’s high inflation rate. The free market, Chavez said, has become “a perverse mechanism where the largest monopolies, the largest transnationals, the creole bourgeoisie dominate and plunder the peoples through those mechanisms.” Read Article