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Argentina is to renationalise YPF, its biggest oil company, ousting the Spanish group Repsol as majority shareholder and prompting a furious row with Madrid.  In a move likely to have significant investor and diplomatic fallout, Cristina Fernández, Argentina’s president, sent a bill to Congress on Monday to put 51 per cent of YPF in state hands. The seizure of YPF would be the biggest renationalisation in the natural resources industry since the Russian government took control of Yukos in the early 2000s. The 51 per cent of YPF has a market value of around $5bn, according to analysts’ estimates.

The World Bank has chosen Jim Yong Kim as its next president, ending a bitter selection process that the US nominee’s main rival said was not decided on merit. Dr Kim, a public health expert and former president of Dartmouth College, becomes the first World Bank leader with a background in development. Previous presidents have been bankers or Washington officials.

The latest news from Spain makes for depressing reading. But despite the growing concerns about the eurozone’s fourth largest economy, Portugal poses a greater threat to the European Union.  Much has been written about Spain’s deteriorating economic situation. The economy is back in recession and expected to contract by 1.7 per cent this year, and unemployment is nearly 23 per cent. It took less than 100 days for the new government to face its first general strike on March 29, and with further austerity measures planned, more civil unrest is highly likely.

Central bank reserve managers responsible for trillions of dollars of investments are shunning euro assets and questioning the currency’s haven status because of the region’s sovereign debt crisis, research has found. Among the most conservative of investors, central bankers keep much of their reserves in high quality euro and dollar denominated assets, such as government bonds. Although dollar assets, notably US Treasuries, have traditionally dominated their portfolios, eurozone government bonds had become more popular.

After slowing to a crawl during last year’s financial turmoil, growth in countries’ foreign exchange reserves is speeding up. In foreign exchange markets, where government buying and selling can move prices significantly, that growth in sovereign reserves has ramifications for the world’s reserve currencies.  High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. The long-run winner, notwithstanding recent turmoil surrounding the eurozone debt crisis that a survey shows has made central bankers shun euro-denominated assets, could yet be the single currency, according to analysts. Strategists say that, if the euro does emerge as a relative winner, it will only be because the other big currency options the Japanese yen, sterling, US dollar and Swiss franc are even more unappealing than the existentially troubled single currency.
Asian stock markets rose modestly in cautious trading Tuesday as above-view U.S. retail sales data were partially undermined by concerns over Europe’s sovereign debt problems.  Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average added 0.4%, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.3%, South Korea’s Kospi Composite gained 0.2% and New Zealand’s NZX-50 advanced 0.1%.

India’s central bank hinted it could cut interest rates for the first time in three years, possibly as soon as Tuesday, amid slowing economic growth. But the Reserve Bank of India cautioned that the country needs to remain vigilant about inflation, leading economists to conclude that rate cuts would be modest this year. Many Indian companies are calling for aggressive monetary easing as economic growth fell to 6.9% in the year ended March 31its slowest rate in three years. Executives complain high financing charges are contributing to the slowdown. The central bank, in an annual report released Monday, nodded at these concerns, saying moderating inflation has opened a window to loosen monetary policy. The bank also said inflation remains a concern, likely a sign that it won’t cut rates too steeply in 2012.

China remained the largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasurys in February, but Japan continued to threaten taking over the No. 1 position as a net buyer with another month of record holdings, the Treasury Department said Monday. Overall, foreigners were net buyers of long-term U.S. financial assets in February, according to the monthly Treasury International Capital report, known as TIC. China’s net holdings rose $12.7 billion to $1.179 trillion, following net buying of

The meteoric stock-price rise that has propelled Apple Inc. to become the world’s most-valuable company is showing signs of faltering, threatening to drag much of the market down with it. Apple’s shares plunged 4.1% on Monday, extending their slide to a fifth consecutive day and sparking worries about whether the maker of iPads and iPhones may be headed for a bigger descent. Apple is now down 9.9% from its intraday peak of $644 hit on April 10, just shy of the 10% level that market watchers call a “correction.” On Monday, Apple fell $25.10, to $580.13, in 4 p.m. Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading.

Spain warned Monday it could seize control of finances in regional governments as the country struggles to cut its budget deficit, one of Europe’s largest, and shore up investor confidence. The country faces an important test Tuesday during a planned auction of 12-month and 18-month treasury bills, with longer-term government bonds set for sale Thursday. Spain suffered weak demand at an earlier bond sale this month, followed by a sustained selloff of its debt in secondary markets.

Singapore’s non-oil exports unexpectedly fell in March, mainly due to the absence of high-value deliveries from the island nation’s shipyards, prompting economists to say the data weren’t alarming.  Exports of goods made in Singapore fell 4.3% in March from a year earlier, after rising 30.4% in February, trade promotion agency International Enterprise Singapore said Tuesday. The median estimate of 12 economists polled by Dow Jones Newswires was for March exports to have expanded 8.2% from a year earlier. Two economists in the poll correctly predicted a contraction.
Chinese banks are now allowed to hold short positions in the U.S. dollar, the nation’s foreign-exchange regulator said Monday. The move would help banks manage forex risk and would “promote renminbi [Chinese yuan] exchange rate based on the balance of payments,” the State Administration of Foreign Exchange said in a statement on its website. The move, which went into effect Monday, coincided with a widening of the daily allowed trading range for the yuan. A Reuters report cited analysts as saying the decision to allow dollar shorts shows China is more confident that its currency is near a balanced level

The Reserve Bank of Australia’s interest rate-setting committee minutes out Tuesday showed that board members judged it prudent to wait for more data before adjusting policy. The minutes showed that the board believed that, if slower growth in demand could be expected to result in a more moderate inflation outcome, “then a case could be made for a further easing of monetary policy.” Australia produces inflation data on a quarterly basis, and the next release is due out next week, just before the RBA’s May rate-setting meeting. At its last meeting, the RBA left its key rate on hold at 4.25%.
Spot gold edged down 0.1 percent to $1,649.70 an ounce by 11:12 p.m. Eastern Time, extending the price decline to a third straight session. U.S. gold was little changed at $1,650.80. Technical analysis suggested that spot gold could fall to $1,630 an ounce during the day, said Reuters market analyst Wang Tao. A stronger dollar may cap gains in gold and keep prices in a range, especially as the U.S. economic recovery seems to be on track, said Lynette Tan, an analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore.

A powerful 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck near the Chilean capital Santiago on Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The quake, which the USGS initially measured at a magnitude of 6.6, struck 30 miles north-northeast of the main port of Valparaiso, and 72 miles northwest of the cpital Santiago at a depth of 16.1 miles, it said. There were no initial reports of damage or injuries. The USGS initially said the quake struck at a depth of 41.9 miles.

Two top Federal Reserve officials pointed on Monday to last month’s surprisingly weak jobs report as all the more reason to take a wait-and-see approach to a U.S. economy that, in general, is improving. Although the unemployment rate slipped to a still high 8.2 percent in March, jobs growth slowed sharply, raising fears the labor market could start to sputter as it did a year ago. Nonfarm payroll employment rose by only 120,000 last month, roughly half the gains in each of the previous two months.

Americans shrugged off high gasoline prices in March and spent more strongly than expected, suggesting economic growth in the first quarter was probably not as weak as many had feared. Retail sales increased 0.8 percent, the Commerce Department said on Monday, after rising 1.0 percent in February. Last month’s gains handily beat economists’ expectations for only a 0.3 percent rise and indicated sturdy consumer spending in the first three months of 2012. Consumer spending accounts for more than two third of U.S. economic activity.
Foreign direct investment in China dropped for a fifth straight month in March on a slowing economy, limited prospects for gains in the yuan and renewed concerns that Europe’s debt crisis will worsen. Inbound investment fell 6.1 percent from a year earlier to $11.76 billion, the Ministry of Commerce said today in Beijing, after a 0.9 percent drop the previous month. That’s the longest run of declines since the global financial crisis.

India plans this week to test-fire for the first time the longest-range missile in its arsenal, a weapon that would enable the South Asian nation’s military to target parts of northern China and eastern Europe. The Agni V, with a range of more than 5,000 kilometers (3,107 miles) and the capacity to carry a nuclear warhead, may be launched from the eastern India state of Odisha as early as tomorrow, according to a government official. He declined to be identified because he is not authorized to publicly discuss the timing of the event.

Support for Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Labor Party hovered near a record low in the latest opinion survey ahead of elections required by the end of next year. Labor’s support rate of 29 percent trails Tony Abbott’s Liberal National coalition by 19 percentage points, unchanged from the previous survey last month, according to a Newspoll published in the Australian newspaper. On a two-party preferred basis, which takes into account the country’s preferential voting system, backing for Labor increased by two percentage points to 44 percent compared with the opposition’s 56 percent.

Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM), the troubled maker of the BlackBerry smartphone, is in talks to hire a financial adviser to help it weigh strategic options, according to four people with knowledge of the matter. A decision to work with at least one bank could come in the next few days, said one of the people, who asked to remain anonymous because the deliberations are private. RIM would prefer an agreement to license its mobile-phone software, and its next choice is a strategic investment, one person said. RIM doesn’t plan to sell itself, the person said.
A year ago, in Action Comics, Superman declared plans to renounce his U.S. citizenship. “‘Truth, justice, and the American way’ it’s not enough anymore,” the comic book superhero said, after both the Iranian and American governments criticized him for joining a peaceful anti-government protest in Tehran. Last year, almost 1,800 people followed Superman’s lead, renouncing their U.S. citizenship or handing in their Green Cards. That’s a record number since the Internal Revenue Service began publishing a list of those who renounced in 1998. It’s also almost eight times more than the number of citizens who renounced in 2008, and more than the total for 2007, 2008 and 2009 combined.
As the euro zone crisis shows signs of heating up again, political leaders are once more looking to the European Central Bank for help. But analysts say they do not expect the central bank, with its focus on fiscal discipline, to provide any quick remedies. Spain continues to be the focus of regional anxiety, as its borrowing costs rose further on Monday before two crucial debt auctions this week. But some political leaders elsewhere also are feeling public heat as a result of unpopular government policies in response to Europe’s debt debacle particularly in France, which will hold the first round of voting in its presidential election this weekend.
The U.S. economy probably expanded at a 2.6% annual rate during the first three months of the year, according to updated estimates of economists surveyed by MarketWatch, following stronger-than-expected retail sales in March. Two weeks ago, the median forecast was for 2% growth in the first quarter. Economists have been tweaking their forecasts higher since then, based on improvement in the trade deficit, inventories and retail sales.
Japan said it will provide $60 billion to the International Monetary Fund’s effort to expand its resources and shield the global economy against any deepening of Europe’s debt crisis. Finance Minister Jun Azumi unveiled the commitment in speaking to reporters in Tokyo today before semiannual meetings of the IMF and World Bank in Washington April 20-22. Azumi said he hopes for an early agreement among Group of 20 members, who will also gather in Washington, on contributions to the IMF.
The World’s Bank’s new president, Jim Yong Kim, has said that capitalist “market-based growth is a priority for every single country”. In an interview with the BBC, Dr Kim said that was the best way to create jobs and lift people out of poverty.  Dr Kim was chosen as the new president of the World Bank on Monday, and was the US’s preferred candidate.

The cost of borrowing for Spain has jumped above 6%, raising again the prospect of a bailout. The yield on Spain’s 10-year bonds reached 6.1%, ahead of auctions of debt on Tuesday and Thursday that could be increasingly expensive for Spain. The nation’s cost of borrowing has been rising steadily over the past four months. Investors have been worried by data showing Spain’s banks are entirely dependent on emergency ECB loans.
Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund is preparing to buy up swathes of distressed properties in the UK with the launch of a £200m fund. The investment drive by the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) is a further example of the growing overseas demand for UK property.  Asian investors, primarily sovereign wealth funds, accounted for 30pc of all commercial property deals in London last year as they targeted a safe haven for their cash. GIC is one of the biggest sovereign wealth funds in the world. It owns more than $100bn (£63bn) of assets, including a 17.5pc stake in Bluewater shopping centre in Kent.

It is often said that travel broadens the mind. Not so for finance ministers gathering in Washington DC this week for the spring meeting of the International Monetary Fund and G20. For them, the agenda will seem wearily familiar. Like a bad penny, the eurozone debt crisis keeps returning, seemingly deliberately to coincide with these international summits. Spain’s rapidly deteriorating economic and financial position provides the flash point du jour.  With yields on Spanish government debt again above 6pc, and a couple of crucial bond auctions looming, matters are once more coming to a head. Crushed by repeated austerity programmes, the big southern European economies are sinking back into recession, raising new doubts about their ability to meet fiscal targets.
For years treasury secretary Tim Geithner lectured Europe on the need to rescue banks as a prerequisite for rescuing economies and look at the US economy now. America’s banks are bigger than ever. JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs have emerged with more firepower than before the financial crisis following Hank Paulson’s generous bailouts and the freedom to swallow rivals on the cheap. According to the Federal Reserve the big five held $8.5 trillion (£5.4tn) in assets at the end of 2011. This enormous hoard, much of it in loans on commercial property or to foreign corporations, is equal to 56% of the US economy. In 2007, ahead of the financial crisis, the largest banks’ assets amounted to a still large, but healthier, 43% of US output.
The Reserve Bank board thought it wiser to wait to see fresh inflation data before cutting the cash rate in April. ‘‘Members had lowered their assessment of the pace of growth somewhat,’’ the minutes released today by the RBA showed. ‘‘If slower growth in demand could be expected to result in a more moderate inflation outcome, then a case could be made for further easing of monetary policy.’’ The minutes reaffirmed that the next rate reduction hinges on an April 24 report on first-quarter inflation, as recent data indicates the economy is growing slower than the central bank predicted.

The Australian government risks making an “enemy” of China if it does not embrace the country’s rise to power and give Chinese companies the same opportunities it gives those from other countries, according to former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer. Mr Downer urged the Gillard government to not see China as a threat and to pursue a policy of engagement, not containment.
Canada’s hottest real estate market is finally cooling off, new sales figures show, much to the relief of those who have grown weary of talk of a West Coast property bubble. At more than $761,000, the average cost of a Vancouver home is still higher than anywhere, but was 3.1 per cent lower in March than in the same month last year. Sales activity is slower, too, down 22.3 per cent through the first three months of 2012. But the data from the Canadian Real Estate Association indicate that Toronto’s sizzling market is still gaining momentum, with average prices in the country’s largest city soaring more than 10 per cent last month, to about $504,000.

Young workers, women, immigrants and urban dwellers are chronic losers in Canada’s Employment Insurance regime. They’re less likely to get EI when they’re out of work, and those that do, must work much harder to earn it. A new report being released Tuesday by the University of Toronto’s Mowat Centre public policy think tank says the solution is a new system of temporary unemployment assistance, or TUA.
India has offered Qatar stake in some of the major petro projects, including the petrochemicals complex at Dahej in Gujarat, Indian Oil Corporation’s (IOC’s) LNG project in Ennore, Tamil Nadu, BPCL’s petrochemical project in Kochi, petrochemical project in Mangalore and investment opportunity in the Paradip refinery and petrochemical project to further enhance its strategic partnership and ties. These big ticket investment offers were made to Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani during his talks with the Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Jaipal Reddy.

Terming the trend of rising prices of food items as “disturbing”, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday said the government will take steps to clear the supply-side bottlenecks to ease the price situation. “Food inflation in the month of March has increased which is a disturbing factor,” he said while commenting on the overall inflation data for the last month. Inflation declined marginally to 6.89 per cent in March, from 6.95 per cent a month ago. It was 9.68 per cent in March last year.

India’s exports crossed the $300-billion mark, achieving the target set by the Commerce and Industry Ministry for 2011-12. However, the rising import bill inflated by high crude oil prices and import of gold and silver pushed the trade deficit to a whopping $185 billion, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma told journalists here.  Imports shot up by 38 per cent to $485 billion in the last fiscal. Mr. Sharma said the export target was achieved despite lower export demand from traditional markets and the eurozone crisis as outbound shipments grew in new markets of Latin America and Africa.
The Reserve Bank of India has warned that India’s financial stability could be impaired if the current account deficit widens to uncontrollable levels.  The overall balance of payments, which measures the net import of goods and services along with net foreign capital inflows, may continue to be under pressure even if capital flows trend higher in the near term. “Going forward, the CAD (current account deficit) may still remain under pressure if import of oil and gold does not significantly moderate. Robust gold demand and continuing high crude oil prices, along with decelerating growth in emerging and developing economies, or EDEs, may adversely affect India’s trade balance,” the Reserve Bank’s latest report quarterly report on the state of the economy said. “A cautious approach with regard to trade and capital accounts is, therefore, required.”

Professional forecasters have revised their GDP growth projection for the current fiscal to 7.2% from the 7.3% estimated earlier, according to a survey by the Reserve Bank of India. “There is a downward revision in real GDP growth rate forecasts for 2012-13 to 7.2% from 7.3 % in the last survey,” the central bank said in its Macroeconomic and Monetary Development Report 2011-12. “The revisions in projections for 2012-13 are mostly positive. While majority of professional forecasters envisage a slow pickup in growth from Q2 of 2012-13, the average inflation is expected to hover around current levels,” the RBI said.
Household loans offered by South Korean depository institutions rose in February, the central bank said Tuesday, despite the government’s on-going efforts to curb private debts. Household lending handled by local banks and non-bank institutions totaled 640.3 trillion won (US$562.8 billion) as of the end of February, up 1 trillion won from the preceding month, according to the Bank of Korea (BOK). The monthly increase follows the drop in household loans tallied for the previous month. The drop in January marked the first drop in two years and followed a peak in outstanding household loans that reached 642.7 trillion won in December. The central bank said the increase was fueled by a rise in home mortgage loans extended by both banks and non-bank institutions.
All sectors of South Africa are not doing enough to create jobs, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said on Monday. “The real issue is not the target, the real issue is can we mobilise all of the South African resources… in order that all of us do what we can to put people into some kind of job,” Gordhan told the Foreign Correspondents Association in Johannesburg. This included government, business and civil society. “We are not doing enough in South Africa as a whole,” he said.
The Central Bank of Iran Governor Mahmoud Bahmani left for Washington on Monday to take part in the 2012 Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group, which will be held on April 20-22.  A high-ranking economic delegation is accompanying Bahmani to the United States. On the sidelines of the economic spring meetings, Bahmani is due to discuss issues of mutual interest with top officials of the world’s central banks.  The IMF and the World Bank Group hold two meetings every year; a spring meeting and its main annual event.
The UAE and Indian on Monday signed the second protocol on the amendment of the agreement between the two governments on avoiding double taxation and financial evasion regarding taxes on the income and the capital. The two sides also signed a memorandum of understanding for setting up a joint consular committee. The signing of the agreements followed a meeting between Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and his Indian counterpart S. M. Krishna on Monday. During the meeting, they discussed bilateral relations in trade and investment, culture, energy, transport, telecommunications, oil, gas, business and consular affairs and ways to boost them. On his part, the Indian FM thanked Shaikh Abdullah for the UAE’s hosting of the joint committee meetings, good hospitality and reception.


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