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Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

Submitted by thetrader.


What a difference a month makes. Now that Greece has been papered over, the bulls are back in full force, pumping up the equity markets and celebrating every passing data point with positive exuberance. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet, however. Very little has actually changed for the better, and it’s certainly too early to start cheerleading a new bull market.

Leaders of the world’s most powerful emerging economies have threatened to withhold additional financing requested by the International Monetary Fund to fight the European sovereign debt crisis unless they gain greater voting power at the Fund. Meeting in India on Thursday, the heads of state from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa expressed frustration at the slow pace of reform at the Washington-based multilateral lender, historically dominated by Europe and the US.

Spain’s centre-right government said it would not be diverted from plans to liberalise the labour market and impose more economic austerity to cut the deficit even as it was confronted with a one-day general strike on Thursday.
Asian stock markets were mixed Friday as the absence of clear leads from Wall Street kept buyers at bay, while weak industrial production data in Japan depressed the Tokyo market. The mood in markets remained subdued amid persistent global growth worries. Underwhelming U.S. growth, jobless claims and manufacturing data Thursday, and evidence of a slowdown in China, served to underline recent fears of a deteriorating global demand-outlook. Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average fell 0.4%, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.3%, South Korea’s Kospi Composite slipped 0.1% and New Zealand’s NZX-50 added 0.1%. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were up 12 points in screen trade.

The economies of Europe and North America will diverge in the first half of this year, with European budget cuts dragging on demand while the U.S. economic recovery picks up steam, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said in a report Thursday.  In its latest assessment of the global outlook, the Paris-based think tank raised its forecast for the U.S. economy, which it said should grow at an annualized rate of 2.9% this quarter and 2.8% next. Japan is also forecast to grow more than the OECD economists had thought in November, with an annualized growth rate of 3.4% in the first three months of the year and 1.4% in the April-June period.

The Brics group of nations expressed concern Thursday over the West’s slow pace at giving developing nations greater control over the International Monetary Fund, and they bashed Western countries’ loose monetary policies for causing instability in global financial markets. The leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, at a summit in New Delhi, outlined modest measures that are part of the group’s efforts to restructure a global financial system long controlled by Western nations and to reduce their dependence on exports to the developed world.

U.S. companies with junk credit ratings are piling into the debt markets at a record pace, seizing on some of the lowest borrowing costs in history and strong demand from investors craving higher returns. Companies and investors both have benefited. Many corporate borrowers have been able to refinance debt at much lower rates, and others have been able to raise money cheaply for investments. And so-called junk bonds, those with below-investment-grade credit ratings, have handed investors among the best returns of any fixed-income asset this year, according to Barclays PLC. Junk bonds pay higher yields because they are considered riskier

If businesses like certainty, then India has been a big turnoff for foreign companies. A series of recent developments have greatly increased the perception that the country has a risky business environment where policies suddenly can turn hostile. Tax proposals in the national budget unveiled in March stunned foreign firms. They could create significant retroactive tax liabilities for international mergers stretching back a half-century and eliminate a tax exemption many investors now have, wreaking havoc on corporate deal making, legal experts say. More than a half-billion dollars in foreign capital has left the Indian stock market in recent days.

Federal authorities are struggling to crack down on what they describe as a widespread scheme that has already likely defrauded the Internal Revenue Service of billions of dollars using the stolen identities of Puerto Rican citizens. The perpetrators of the scheme, authorities say, swipe the Social Security numbers of Puerto Rican citizens, who don’t have to pay federal income taxand are less likely to be on the IRS radarand use their information to file fake returns. In some cases, they enlist U.S. mail carriers to intercept the refund checks that are disbursed.

Google Inc.,undaunted by a short-lived attempt to market and sell smartphones on its own, is now trying the approach with tablet computers in a quest to capture market share from Apple Inc.’s iPad. The Internet search company will sell co-branded tablets directly to consumers through an online store like rivals Apple and Inc., according to people familiar with the matter. The move is an effort to turn around sluggish sales of tablet computers powered by Google’s Android software.

China’s biggest state-run banks are mounting a spirited defense of their business after reporting 623.61 billion yuan ($99 billion) in annual profits in recent days, a roughly 25% surge that comes as the public and even some policy makers cast a more critical eye on a group of companies that dominate the nation’s state-managed economy. China’s major state-run banksIndustrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd., Bank of China Ltd., China Construction Bank Corp. and Agricultural Bank of China Ltd.aren’t yet threatened by a U.S.-style backlash of the kind seen with the Occupy Wall Street movement. The banks, run by executives
Japanese data surprised to the upside Friday, as consumer prices rose, unemployment eased, and household spending increased more than expected. The February jobless rate slipped to 4.5% from January’s 4.6%, the Internal Affairs Ministry reported. The result beat expectations from a Dow Jones Newswires poll, which had tipped no change. The core consumer price index, which strips out fresh-food costs, rose 0.1% from a year earlier, or 0.2% from the previous month, the ministry said, marking the first such gain in prices in five months. A Dow Jones Newswires survey had called for mild deflation of 0.1%. Spending by households of two or more people jumped 2.3% in February, blowing away forecasts for a 0.2% drop

Japan’s industrial output data for February offered a mixed picture Friday, with production down but expectations trending higher. Industrial production fell 1.2% last month, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said. The result was far below forecasts for a 1.3% gain, according to a Dow Jones Newswires survey of economists. However, accompanying survey results for expectations of future production showed a gain in the March forecast, now set at rise of 2.6% from a previous average projection of a 1.7% gain. The forecast put April production higher by 0.7%. The Japanese yen softened slightly after the data, with the U.S. dollar sampled USDJPY -0.5306% rising to ¥82.28 from ¥82.24 ahead of the data release.

Booming demand for top office space has put Beijing on track to surpass Tokyo as the most expensive regional capital, with some analysts warning China’s administrative center could be headed for shortages as it carries on with its campaign to clamp down on overbuilding. Lease rates for prime office space in Beijing soared 48% last year, bringing top properties nearly in line with those of Tokyo, where rental rates were generally flat, according to CBRE. Data for the first quarter due out over the next few weeks could show Beijing surpassing of Tokyo in terms of prices at the top end of the prime office market.
Brent crude rose towards $123 on Friday as investors bet on a tighter gasoline market in the world’s largest oil consumer during the peak summer driving season and on persistent worries of a supply disruption in the Middle East. Traders took the opportunity to cover short positions and bought on price dips after oil tumbled in the past two sessions on growing talk of a release of strategic petroleum reserves by some consumer nations and a surge in U.S. crude inventories.

Gold was trapped in a tight range around $1,660 an ounce on Friday ahead of a meeting of euro zone finance ministers that may boost the bloc’s bailout power, and sluggish physical demand weighed on sentiment. Spot gold rallied to a two-week high near $1,700 earlier in the week after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke defended the low interest rate policy and cautioned it was premature to declare victory on economic recovery, triggering hopes of further monetary easing. But the momentum faded as fast as it started, and prices dropped to a one-week low just below $1,645 in the previous session before recovering to $1,661.06 an ounce by 0347 GMT (11.47 p.m. GMT).

HYPERLINKCanada will withdraw the penny from circulation this year, saving taxpayers about C$11 million ($11 million) annually and forcing retailers to round prices to the nearest nickel, the government announced in its budget today.  The Royal Canadian Mint, which has produced 35 billion pennies since it began production in 1908, will cease distribution this fall due to the coin’s low purchasing power. Production and handling cost for the one-cent coin are a C$150- million drag on the economy, according to a 2006 study by Desjardins, a Levis, Quebec-based financial institution.
As India grapples with rapidly slowing growth, a depreciating currency and policy inaction from a weak government, the country’s huge appetite for gold is putting the economy in a precarious position. Surging gold prices last year failed to dent India’s demand for the precious metal. The country imported a record 969 tons in 2011, putting enormous pressure on its already ballooning trade and current account deficits. “One of the primary drivers of the current account deficit has been the growth of almost 50 percent in imports of gold and other precious metals in the first three quarters of this year (2011-2012),” India’s finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said earlier this month.

Asia could face the threat of inflation in the second half of the year as economies begin to expand again, according to Frederic Neumann, Co-head of Asian Economic Research at HSBC Bank. Better-than-expected industrial numbers from South Korea Friday suggest that economies in Asia are at a beginning of an upturn and growth should return to the region soon, Neumann told CNBC. “These are the very early signals that things are coming back,” Neumann said. “Trade is always a leading indicator. Once the domestic Chinese economy fires up as well, this would lead to strong growth numbers.”
The U.S. economy grew at a solid 3% pace in the final three months of 2011 but that growth likely slowed in the first three months of this year as businesses cut back on restocking their shelves. n a separate report, initial claims for unemployment benefits fell 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 359,000 for the week ended March 24, the Labor Department said Thursday. That’s the lowest level level in four years and adds to evidence of an improving labor market. The four-week moving average, a less volatile measure, of claims for jobless benefits also fell to 365,000. The economy’s fourth-quarter growth rate was the fastest since the spring of 2010, the Commerce Department said. Slower growth in exports than previously estimated was offset by stronger growth in business investment.
The Australian currency’s sustained strength makes it cheaper to produce goods in Austria, home of the fastest-rising labor costs among developed European economies, than in Sydney, said Paul Howes of the Australian Workers Union. The local dollar’s advance “has made it essentially impossible for any of our non-resource, trade-exposed sections of the economy to be profitable,” Howes, national secretary of the AWU, said in an interview in Sydney today. “When it’s now cheaper to manufacture in Europe and it’s cheaper to manufacture in North America, something has really gone wrong.”

More than two-thirds of U.S. state economies strengthened during the last three months of 2011, the widest advance in more than year, illustrating the spread of a recovery fueled by manufacturing and energy production. The Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States shows energy- rich North Dakota was the top performer in the fourth quarter, compared with the previous three months, followed by West Virginia, Nevada and Oklahoma. The gauge uses data on real estate, taxes, jobs and stock prices to chart the trajectory of 50 state economies. Michigan, Illinois, Idaho, Minnesota, Ohio and Florida rounded out the top 10.
Burma has given more details of the managed float of its currency, which will begin on 1 April. The Central Bank of Myanmar (Burma) said the currency, the kyat, will “from now on be determined by supply and demand”. It has also said the government may extend loans and subsidies to state-run firms to protect them from the impact. The process of unifying the country’s exchange rates could take two to three years.
Eurozone finance ministers are expected to extend part of the “big bazooka” bail-out fund in Copenhagen on Friday, but defy international demands to radically boost the size of its firewalls. A draft agreement prepared for the finance ministers’ meetings reveals a plan to retain the €240bn (£200bn) rump of the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) until next year. The move boosts the available bail-out funds to €740bn from this summer but falls far short of the €1 trillion firewall that international leaders have been calling for.

After the 0.3pc contraction seen at the end of 2011, this would signal that the UK has “double-dipped” back into recession, defined as two quarters of negative growth. The Bank of England should embark on more quantitative easing its money-printing programme which currently stands at £325bn – “sooner rather than later”, said Pier Carlo Padoan, chief economist at the Paris-based think-tank. But he said the Chancellor must not relax his austerity programme, citing the low yields – interest rates – on UK government debt as a benefit. “Our recommendation is to stay the course,” he said.
House prices have recorded a monthly fall of 1%, as the ending of a first-time buyer stamp duty concession is likely to have dampened the market, a study said today. Prices fell year-on-year by 0.9% in March, the first annual drop in six months, to reach £162,712 typically, reflecting the expected slowdown as the two-year stamp duty holiday came to an end last week, Nationwide said. Its report predicted that prices will head sideways or downwards over the coming year as the weak economy acts as a continuing “drag”.
Lenders expect to reduce the amount of credit they give to households in the second quarter of the year in a move that economists warn is likely to curb any economic recovery. As the Bank of England’s quarterly credit conditions survey showed that lenders intended to cut credit to households in the next three months, there was also an unexpected fall in mortgage approvals. Home loan approvals fell to 48,986, their lowest in eight months, in February. This was analysts’ expectations and prompted warnings from mortgage brokers that conditions resembled the “dark days” of the banking crisis in 2008.
Portugal’s central bank said Thursday the economy will shrink by 3.4 per cent this year, worse than expected, as the government implements austerity measures as part of its international bailout. The Bank of Portugal had previously forecast a 3.1-per cent contraction this year, while the government estimates a 3.3 per cent drop. The central bank lowered its forecast for next year to zero growth, from 0.3 per cent.

Shares in Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the world’s oldest running bank, have plunged by nearly 11 per cent after it posted a massive loss of 4.7 billion euros ($6.05 billion) for 2011. The Italian bank, which was founded during the Renaissance in 1472, said the losses were mainly due to charges taken to deal with the impact of Europe’s debt crisis and the economic slowdown. It wrote down the value of its assets by 4.51 billion euros, including 1.3 billion euros in bad loans.

Canada will slash its deficit this year by slightly more than expected through “moderate” spending cuts, as the economy grows by 2.1 per cent, the country’s finance minister has announced. But much deeper cuts, including massive layoffs of government workers, are planned for the coming years in a bid to become one of the first industrialised nations to return to a budgetary surplus by fiscal 2015/2016. The deficit was projected in the budget to fall to $C21.1 billion (about $20.38 billion)) or 1.2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2013, down from a revised $C24.9 billion last fiscal year.

European leaders signaled rising confidence that their region’s crisis is near an end, while Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned that a US recovery isn’t assured. The euro area’s woes are “almost over” after a slow initial response by policy makers, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said in Tokyo today. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said yesterday that the crisis is ebbing and her country’s borrowing costs will probably rise as its status as a haven wanes. Bernanke, who cited “green shoots” of recovery in the US in March 2009 only to see his nation’s jobless rate climb to 10 per cent seven months later, said in remarks published yesterday “it’s far too early to declare victory.” The jobless rate remains too high and policy makers don’t rule out further options to boost growth, he said in a transcript of an interview with ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer provided by the network.
Germany’s unemployment rate slipped to 7.2 per cent in March thanks to a traditional springtime upturn, while the underlying downward trend picked up speed despite a spell of economic weakness, official figures showed Thursday. The unadjusted jobless rate was down from 7.4 per cent in February, when numbers were pushed up by harsh winter weather, which typically weighs on activity in sectors such as construction.
An experiment allowing Wenzhou residents to make investments overseas could be extended to Shanghai and Tianjin, said a city government official. Chen Jian, deputy director of the Wenzhou Bureau of Commerce, said the central government will “probably” start the experiment at the same time in Wenzhou, Shanghai and Tianjin. A final decision in the matter will be made after central government officials have had time to make more investigations in those cities. Residents of the Chinese mainland are currently unable to make direct overseas investments. Even so, they can put their money into financial institutions that, in turn, can invest it overseas through the Qualified Domestic Institutional Investor arrangement, which allows banks and fund managers to invest clients’ money overseas within set limits.
The governments of Mexico and Spain agreed Thursday to strengthen bilateral relations to help increase the flow of trade and investment and strengthen cooperation on economic issues such as customs and tourism. At the conclusion of a Mexico-Spain economic and financial meeting, Mexican Finance Minister Bruno Ferrari evaluated with his Spanish counterpart Luis de Guindos the bilateral financial cooperation in recent years.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s top economic planner, said Thursday foreign-funded banks in China are allowed to borrow as much as 24 billion U.S. dollars of medium- and long-term external debt this year. The approval of foreign banks’ issuing external debts aims to open up China’s banking sector to the outside world and let foreign banks play an active role in attracting foreign investment and helping Chinese enterprises go global, the NDRC said. HSBC, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and the Bank of East Asia are chosen to carry out the pilot scheme to issue external debts.

Japan says Friday its unemployment rate dropped to a seasonally adjusted 4.5 percent in February from 4.6 percent in January, marking the first improvement in two months, according to official sources. The number of people employed increased 290,000 to hit 62.88 million month-on-month, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said in a preliminary report. The jobless rate for men fell to 4.7 percent from 4.9 percent in January and for women to 4.2 percent from an earlier 4.4 percent, according to the report.

U.S. Federal Reserve (Fed) Chairman Ben Bernanke on Thursday said that although the central bank managed to bring down the long-term interest rates through unconventional bond-buying programs, the U.S. housing sector has not got back on solid ground due to several headwinds. Since the onset of the financial crisis, the Fed has rolled out two rounds of bond-buying programs, known as quantitative easing ( QE), to lower long-term interest rates and boost the market confidence, the economics professor turned Fed chief told George Washington University undergraduates during the last session of four lectures that he delivered this month.
While making a strong statement on Iran and adopting a middle-of-the-road resolution on Syria, the fourth summit of BRICS here on Thursday largely eschewed political content and focussed on economic and development issues which included beginning the process for setting up a bank and inking two pacts to ease trade among each other.  The Delhi Declaration issued at the end of the one-day summit hinted at backing an alternative candidate for the World Bank President’s post which has always been appropriated by an American and exhorted the Bank and the International Monetary Fund to quickly realign their priorities and approach to the needs of the developing world. This is an agenda the five countries intend pursuing at the coming G-20 meeting in Mexico as well.

Marking a sharp recovery, the eight core infrastructure industries appear to be getting back on the high growth track with a robust 6.8 per cent expansion in output in February this year as compared to a dismal increase of 0.5 per cent witnessed just a month ago. Official data on the core industries, released here on Thursday, show that the recovery in overall performance during the month on the back of a 6.4 per cent growth achieved in February, 2011 has been possible owing to a healthy increase in output of three key sectors, namely, coal, power and cement.

In an effort to reduce the transaction costs of intra-BRICS trade, the five-member emerging economies’ group on Thursday inked a pact to extend credit in the respective local currency. The agreement, signed at the conclusion of the fourth BRICS Summit here, is intended to reduce the demand for fully convertible currencies for transactions between Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS).  The Group also signed an agreement on Letter of Credit (LC) Confirmation Facility which envisages confirmation of LCs on receipt of a request from an exporter, exporter’s bank or importer’s bank.
South Korea’s industrial output surged at a double-digit rate in February from a year earlier, fueled by gains in autos and semiconductors, a government report showed Friday. According to the report by Statistics Korea, production in the mining and manufacturing industries jumped 14.4 percent last month from a year earlier, compared with a 2.1 percent on-year contraction in January.
The latest output figure is higher than the 12.2 percent on-year expansion forecast by Yonhap Infomax, the financial news arm of Yonhap News Agency. The manufacturing sector, which makes up 94 percent of all the industrial output in the country, gained 14.8 percent from the previous year and rose 0.8 percent on-month in February after shrinking 1.9 percent in January, the report said.
The rand remained softer against the dollar in late afternoon trade on Thursday as the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the SA Reserve Bank (Sarb) delivered its decision to keep the repo rate unchanged.  The local currency was also tracking a euro that had been weakened by mixed eurozone data and comments from the OECD. “The MPC decision was a non-event,” Anton Grobbelaar, managing director of Peritus Forex Solutions said. “Rand softness is being driven by the weakness of the euro and today’s trade has been all about the strength of the dollar,” he added.


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