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May 2001

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  • After a nightmare decade of war, sanctions, mismanagement and institutionalized criminality, Serbs are hoping for a speedy deliverance from a mounting economic crisis. Yet despite promises of aid to the post-Milosevic Serbian and federal Yugoslav governments, the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. Erik D’Amato reports from the frontlines of the most critical European economic transition since 1991
  • Faced with rising technology costs and regulatory change, fund managers are seeking to transfer more processes to their global custodians. In doing so, they are presenting service providers with a new set of challenges and opportunities. Rick Butler asks how far the trend to outsourcing can go
  • The Federal Reserve caught the markets off their guard when it slashed the Federal Funds rate by half a percentage point on April 18.
  • Mexico's bourse looks more like a battleground these days than a financial market.
  • Marc Viénot talks about his paris Europlace and life after Société Générale.
  • Merrill Lynch Investment Managers’ approach to the US institutional market can best be described as nascent. Until two months ago, there wasn’t even anyone charged with the responsibility for overseeing, developing or even simply describing Merrill’s US institutional business.
  • Still convinced that their ailing currencies are sick because of the attentions of speculators, Asean finance ministers have agreed a fund for mutual defence through forex market intervention. Most bankers reckon the $1 billion put in the pot is a derisory amount to cope with what is anyway a misdiagnosed condition. Beyond that there’s disagreement on whether Asean currencies have bottomed out or have further to fall.
  • Former assistant secretary of US Treasury for international affairs
  • Peter Hancock has made quite a name for himself as a talented banker, skillful innovator and determined risk-taker. So when he addressed Isda's AGM in Washington last month, he was guaranteed a good turnout. But, as the audience quickly realized, Hancock has a talent for saying a lot while giving little away.
  • Turkey has been suspended on the brink since February 22 when the government floated the lira and ended the 14-month stabilization programme supported by the IMF. The new programme has not been finalized and until it is Turkey will drift in semi-darkness.
  • The hospitality and tourism industry is one of the biggest in the world, with fierce competition between hotels and airlines to persuade the much-prized business traveller to stay or fly with them. What differentiates the hotels and airlines that these much-sought-after business customers regard as the most desirable? Euromoney polled executives at 115 institutions from all over the world on their favourite hotels – city by city – and their favourite airlines.
  • New bankruptcy legislation making its way through the US Congress may have unintended consequences that could cause it to backfire on the banking industry.
  • South Africa is a contradictory country. Its economy is the size of Poland's or Thailand's. It has income disparities similar to Brazil's. In population and wage rates, it's Argentina. But it spends three times more of GDP on public education than China and twice as much as the average of all emerging markets.
  • Six months ago, Peru might have been in bad shape, but at least the future looked bright.
  • On a trip to Baroda, a dusty, remote town in western India, a senior executive from a multinational in Mumbai was astonished to find a small IT company that processes parking tickets for the New York Police Department.
  • The rapidly evolving credit default swap market advanced a few steps this month when the International Swaps&Derivatives Association (Isda) reached a breakthrough agreement on restructuring. Its amendment states that when a default swap is triggered by a restructuring event the maximum maturity of the obligations the buyer of protection can deliver to the seller is 30 months.
  • It's been another bad month for the European Central Bank, with everyone telling it what to do. Horst Köhler of the IMF said the ECB would have to cut rates to prevent the US recession from spreading. US finance minister Paul O'Neill agreed, and at a meeting in Malmö in Sweden, so did European finance ministers.
  • If Silvio Berlusconi and Italy's new centre-right coalition take power they will depend heavily on Milanese tax lawyer and academic Giulio Tremonti to win and maintain the trust of the financial markets.
  • The strategic resource that Indian IT companies rely on to grow at the recent cracking rate of 50% a year is the country’s pool of 340,000 technical professionals. Yet, if a recent study by consultants McKinsey is to be believed, that pool is not growing fast enough.
  • Of the leading multi-dealer sites that will serve the online foreign exchange market, only Currenex and State Street’s Global Link FX Connect services are trading yet. Both Atriax and FXall are yet to complete testing, though both expect to be on stream in the very near future.
  • More and more Arab banks accept that they must embrace the internet or risk losing share in their home markets to more technology-savvy international players. National banks see the internet as a means to realize their regional ambitions. Change is under way across the region, perhaps most notably in Bahrain, traditionally the key offshore banking centre in the Gulf. Now Islamic banking and investment banking operations are growing up and offshore banking is becoming less prominent. The country’s leading offshore and local banks are rethinking their strategies and hope to become regional players.
  • When Argentina cancelled a domestic bond auction last month - its government refused to pay the interest rates the market demanded - fears about the country's ability to meet its debts were revived. The government, mired in recession for almost three years, has debt of at least $125 billion. Argentina would need to cut imports in half or boost exports by half to service that overhang.
  • India's stock markets are reeling from the effects of the crisis in March. The arrest of Ketan Parekh, an influential Mumbai broker, and top officials of a co-operative bank, on charges of defrauding a state bank, confirmed fears that money from banks was used to finance excesses on the stock market.
  • The most famous face in fund management in the City talks about the fruitless efforts by tabloid newspapers to dig up details of her private life in the wake of her departure from Morgan Grenfell four years ago.
  • Mr Slobodan Milosevic
  • When Glas Cymru won approval from Ofwat to restructure Welsh Water, it introduced a new model for privatized UK utilities that does away with conventional shareholders. Glas will break new ground by financing its purchase entirely through a securitization. But despite the problems caused by shareholders taking cash out of the industry that the regulator wants to go to customers, many water companies argue that equity still has a role to play in their funding structure. Steve Metcalfe reports on a debate that could force the restructuring of an entire sector and might yield lessons for other utilities
  • KMV designed its expected default rate charts as a way to make first banks, and now investors, better able to monitor credit risk and trade bonds. Now its data might be the harbinger of doom for the US, which has spent most of the year hoping that a series of interest rate cuts will be enough to salve its ills and stave off recession.
  • Winners and losers reflect on the results.
  • On March 20, the London financial futures and options exchange, Liffe, introduced a new product called Swapnote. This swap futures contract, the first of its kind, is referenced against the European interbank swap curve instead of the government bond curve. This means that it more accurately reflects the exposures that bondholders experience. It is available at two-, five- and 10-year maturities.
  • The development of online foreign exchange trading has lagged behind e-trading of other financial products but optimists predict it will account for 70% of the market by 2004 and 95% by 2012. The advantages are obvious, so why has take-up so far been so slow?