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April 2005

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LATEST ARTICLES

  • www.breakingviews.com
  • Henry Blodget ponders what the lessons of the 1990s have taught us and concludes that there's nothing like hindsight to blind us to the truth
  • Paul Wolfowitz's controversial nomination as World Bank president is overshadowing valedictory verdicts on James Wolfensohn's 10 years in the role.
  • Restrictions hindering participation by foreign institutional investors (FIIs) in India's burgeoning equity derivatives market are slowly being lifted. The Indian finance minister Palaniappan Chidambaram announced in his budget speech in late February that FIIs can offer stocks instead of cash as collateral to trade in equity derivatives. That permits FIIs to put their holdings of Indian stock, worth over Rs34 billion ($777 million) in total, to use, and allows them to participate in a bigger way in the derivatives market. Putting up stocks instead of cash as collateral will help reduce the cost of arbitrage between the cash and futures markets, an area where foreign institutional investors are particularly active, says Mahesh Bhagwat, vice president at ICICI Securities, a large brokerage. Those opportunities for arbitrage have been profitable over the past year when futures have generally traded at a premium to prices in the cash market, he points out. "Even though prices of stocks FIIs hold have doubled over the last year, putting them in profit in the cash market, they must pay higher cash margins on their positions in the futures market," Bhagwat explains.
  • This is the league table you didn't want to come top of. Euromoney's dedicated team of researchers checks the validity of every vote in our polls. It's what helps make annual fixtures such as the credit research survey the benchmark poll for each industry.
  • The US government should reinstate new issuance of the 30-year bond, and sell up to $20 billion by year end. So says Mustafa Chowdhury, head of US rates strategy for Deutsche Bank. "If they weren't to start until the third or fourth quarter this year, $10 billion would be a decent number," he says. Chowdhury is not alone in wanting to see a return of the 30-year bond, issuance of which was suspended in 2001. Strategists and economists across the US have been arguing in favour of it recently, and whether and when the government might return to the 30-year is a standard question whenever administration officials appear at Bond Market Association events. Joshua Bolten, head of the Office of Management and Budget, was most recently on the receiving end at such an event in February. He sidestepped it, stating it wasn't his department.
  • Jakarta, Indonesia's chaotic capital, offers a fascinating view of the clash between capitalism and Islam, as Chris Leahy explains
  • Modular rather than maintenance seems to be the new buzzword as the key to success in a rapidly changing environment for credit research. But every investment bank seems to have a different view about the implications for analysts. To publish or not to publish? Cross asset or sectoral? Client facing or in house? Whatever the decision, only the best analysts will survive.
  • With some of the largest and most liquid capital markets in Asia Pacific and yield-hungry local asset managers, Australia would seem a natural port of call for Asian companies. Yet until structural reforms are made and local perceptions about Asian risk change, the expectations gap will not be bridged. Australia will end up the loser.
  • www.breakingviews.com
  • Residents and visitors to New York will try to sue the city for just about anything. Civil litigation against the City of New York has increased by 2,500% since 1978 and its tort division handles over 90,000 cases a year. The latest figures, for 2003, show this cost the city's taxpayers $500 million.
  • Remember Paul O'Neill, president George W's first treasury secretary? He's been quiet for the last few months, after the furore died down about his collaboration with journalist and author Ron Suskind for the book The Price of Loyalty.
  • Americans are poor exporters. A falling dollar can't change that. What with globalization, low-cost rivals and the downplaying of the greenback, a collapse rather than an adjustment looks likely.
  • The tussle between liberals and dirigiste conservatives in Russia's ruling circles shows no signs of subsiding. Analysts are uncertain of the meaning of it all. The dismemberment of Yukos was a clear manifestation of the conservative line but there are indications that liberal intransigence is winning back ground
  • Some 90% of trading of spot currencies in the interbank FX market is expected to be done electronically by 2007, up from today's level of 60%, according to new research. Boston-based research and consultancy firm Celent Communications also predicts that dealer-to-client volumes will be 70% electronically traded over the same period, up from 43% now. The inter-dealer spot market, which trades $301 billion a day, has historically had a higher adoption rate of electronic trading than the dealer-to-client market.
  • Successful foreign involvement in Brazilian investment banking demands some sort of venture with one of the local firms that dominate the market. Banco Pactual is among the most successful of these and Goldman Sachs seems to have recognized this.
  • Euromoney's first poll of central and eastern European companies draws on equity analysts' perceptions of a range of characteristics that are crucial to investors in the region. Banks figure highly in most categories and come out top in seven of the 12 rankings by country. Paul Pedzinksi reports.
  • What do the European Union's new rules on curbing pollution mean for utilities? The plans to cut carbon emissions over the next seven years to sub-1990 levels will hit the biggest polluters hardest. Utilities account for about a third of European carbon emissions.
  • The lure of EU membership is encouraging Romania's recently elected government to tackle corruption and rationalize the currency and taxation regimes. If foreign investment is any indication, the reforms are working.
  • MOL, Hungary's expansive oil major, has become a leading downstream force in neighbouring markets. Now it is seeking new production sources to feed these regional markets.
  • Celebrated as Latin America's success story, Chile has cut a path to prosperity that other impoverished, turbulent nations in the region can only envy. While Argentina recovers painfully from its debt default, the world's biggest, and Mexico and Brazil struggle to reform their economies, Chile looks ever closer to leaving behind its emerging-market status and becoming a developed economy. Its budget surplus hit its highest level in eight years in 2004, rising to 2.2% of GDP, and economic growth was almost 6%, the highest in seven years. At the same time, Chile's trade surplus has widened significantly and its country risk continues to diminish.
  • Until the advent of the European IAS39 accounting standard at the beginning of the year Spanish reporting requirements for derivatives were relatively relaxed. Now, though, companies will have to lift the lid on derivative transactions, causing pain for some of them.
  • Germany's Pfandbrief issuers are getting ready for the new law that comes into effect in July. Now they, potential new issuers and an increasingly diverse investor base are focusing on the opportunities that the revised regulatory regime may provide. Will the new legislation help to hasten the internationalisation of the asset class?
  • With the Russian state rolling back the liberalization of the economy – notably in its dealings with oil company Yukos – investment banks are faced with a dilemma. They must sometimes decide between defending the rights of private investors and forging and maintaining relations with the Kremlin in the hope of attracting current and future business. It's a tough choice.
  • Bank FX traders are up in arms about the plans of EBS, the interdealer FX broker, to allow hedge funds onto the platform. EBS says the pilot phase, which ended last month, was a success. Bank traders say it will create unstable trading conditions, and are beginning to talk about taking their liquidity elsewhere
  • The successful restructuring of energy company Medco shows what can be achieved in the byzantine and often murky world of Indonesian restructurings. With creditors all paid out and the family back in control, plans are afoot for a rapid expansion and an overseas listing.
  • Can Egypt's reformist government meet its promises to reduce the state's economic role while attracting more FDI?
  • It is hard to see how Paul Wolfowitz will be able to run the World Bank, at least in his first couple of years there. His only supporters seem to be people who think the Bank is in need of a radical shake-up. That, however, is the last thing the Bank needs: it is only now recovering from years of turmoil at the beginning of the tenure of Wolfowitz's predecessor, James Wolfensohn. But Wolfowitz comes from a US administration (where he is currently deputy secretary of defence) that has been very unhappy with the Bank, and he has surely been charged with changing things.
  • With lending to small and medium-size enterprises and the provision of retail products the fastest-growing and most lucrative parts of Romania's financial services sector, banks are slogging it out for market share.
  • Now enjoying the third year of a recovery that is clearing away the debris of the 2001 crisis, Turkey's bankers are hoping soon to complete the final important clean-up operation: resolving the on-again, off-again fate of the fourth-largest private bank, Yapi Kredi.
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