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September 2001

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  • Saudi Arabia’s banks are bracing for a period of intense retail competition by preparing to launch new products, especially for Islamic and internet banking, and developing personal and mortgage lending.
  • General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's head of state, talks about his country's economic programme, the Afghan Taliban and Islamic fundamentalism.
  • A law that was passed virtually unnoticed will come into effect this month and has prompted many strategic and financial investors to question whether any investment in Korea’s financial sector is wise.
  • Global capital markets rarely look gloomy at both ends of the fund-raising spectrum, as the past year's momentous events indicate. The primary debt business is robust and active whereas equities are still shaking off the hangover that followed the indulgences of the tech stock party. Jonathan Brown sketches in the background to this year's Euromoney capital-raising poll which the universal banks dominate
  • Euromoney's September edition had already gone to press when news broke of the horriffc terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. The sheer scale of the destruction and loss of life numbs the mind, making rational analysis almost impossible. Financial markets consist of nothing more than men and women buying and selling. In the immediate aftermath few could turn their minds to anything so mundane as dealing or stock tipping. It's likely that every reader of Euromoney will have known people who worked in the World Trade Centre and it is with those unfortunate individuals that most people's thoughts now lie.
  • ING’s unique approach to the provision of financial services has placed it among the pioneers.
  • Investors fearful that the crisis in Argentina might spill over into the largest Latin American economy, Brazil, generally draw some comfort from the fact that the country’s central bank is led by former speculator Arminio Fraga. Fraga, who took up his post just after the floating of the real in 1999, has implemented an inflation-targeting system, enhanced bank supervision, and garnered universal respect and admiration. Brazil might have been hit by Argentina, but now the country should be seen as a turnaround story, he tells Felix Salmon
  • Turkish inspectors have discovered that the governmental abuse of the state banks continues and has remained unpunished.
  • Russian bonds are looking much safer than equities, offering good growth potential while still guaranteeing favourable yields. Once again, investors have their eyes on bonds.
  • Société Générale paid Eu1.2 billion for 60% of Komercni Banka as it moved into the Czech Republic in June. The move was criticized as too risky. Now, it appears that it was right on target.
  • The IMF has begun to stress prevention of crises rather than their cure and the new US administration agrees. But that raises numerous imponderables. Should the stress of prevention be on incentives to countries to behave responsibly or on building sound international financial architecture? And if the goal is to seek out better ways of forecasting impending crisis, does the IMF have the legitimacy to release market-moving information of this sort?
  • The Russian population is increasingly confident about the future. The country is enjoying trade and budget surpluses. Economists, though, fret about the implications of high inflation, while growth depends heavily on continued high oil prices and a sound debt repayment strategy.
  • Hong Kong is facing a crisis - how to fund an increasing budget deficit at a time of almost unprecedented economic downturn.
  • Ben Aris spoke to Yuri Ponomarev, the chairman of Vneshtorgbank (VTB), the international trade bank of the Russian Federation, which is now Russia’s largest bank ranked by shareholders’ equity.
  • On August 13, the two-year versus 30-year US treasury yield curve gapped out to a seven-year high of 184 basis points. The two-year treasury was trading at its lowest ever yield in the 25 years since the two-year security was first introduced, and three-month Libor was even lower at 3.57%. Moreover, with the US economy showing no signs of recovery, short-end rates seem set to move even tighter. The extraordinary steepness of the US yield curve has provided mouthwatering swap opportunities for corporates that would not normally consider conversion of fixed-rate liabilities to floating rate. The greater than normal swap business has also put added downward pressure on swap spreads.
  • The swing of the political pendulum in the US has had an equal and opposite reaction in Europe. In the 1990s, under the post-cold war order of transatlantic relations, Bill Clinton's centre-left US administration promoted its own brand of caring capitalism. Inflation was banished, the world economy grew strongly and financial markets soared.
  • Billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra kept his job as Thailand's prime minister, but only by the skin of his teeth and as a result of a split court judgement last month. An immediate political and constitutional crisis was thereby avoided - but only at the risk of buffeting the country's fragile political system and storing up trouble for later.
  • Washington's battles with big budget deficits may seem like a distant memory, but a familiar refrain from those days has taken on new meaning for the IMF. "Less is more" has been a powerful, if unstated, theme running through many Fund-led packages, ever since the Mexican peso crisis of 1994-95.
  • Many bankers Euromoney has spoken to are fearful that anti-capitalist and anti-globalization protesters will severely disrupt this year's IMF/World Bank meetings - and some even refuse to discuss the issue on the record because they don't want to give the protesters the oxygen of publicity.
  • President Putin’s has pushed through a swathe of reforming laws, spearheading his drive to liberalization. But implementation will not be easy. Nor can it be assumed that the liberals will stay in the ascendancy. Business oligarchs and the conservatives are asserting themselves as Putin struggles to pick a way through conflicting interests.
  • There are few bigger jobs in finance than US Treasury undersecretary for international affairs. So meet John Taylor, the former academic economist who finance ministers and central bank governors from around the world will be courting for the next few years. Taking time out from the negotiations over Argentina he delivers some tough messages on official sector financing packages: they should come with fewer conditions, but those conditions should be strictly monitored and enforced, before funds are disbursed. He offers to share useful experience with Japan, expresses confidence in the European single currency project and explains to James H Smalhout why the US current account deficit is sustainable
  • The tango effect is being felt in the international bond and currency markets and in the halls of the central bank in Brasilia, but so far it has had relatively little effect on the average Brazilian.
  • The only good thing about the roads in Manila is the jeepneys. The long, brightly decorated Filipino buses-cum-taxis bring a dash of colour to the tedious traffic jams on dilapidated, pock-marked roads.
  • Mexico has prospered through ever-closer links to the US, which has been the main market for its booming exports. Seven years on from its own crisis, Mexico now appears strong enough to shrug off any contagion from Argentina. The downside, though, is that Mexico will now suffer if the US economy goes into a deep and prolonged downturn. Faults in its economy may yet be revealed.
  • The number and variety of regional and municipal issuers tapping the international markets continues to grow steadily. Central governments across the Americas, Americasand emerging markets want to devolve financial responsibility. The degree of sovereign support varies.
  • The Fed has dscovered the gift of the gab, and it doesn't seem to have done any harm. Not yet, anyway.
  • Bulgaria’s new government is preparing to enter the Eurobond markets to reduce its debt service costs. The country’s strong recovery from the banking collapse and economic setbacks of 1996 and 1997, its recent currency stability and commitment to EU convergence should win it a strong reception among investors. But concerns persist over the credibility of the government’s ambitions to balance the budget, cut taxes and increase spending all at the same time.
  • Years from now, the banking crisis of today will probably be seen as the beginning of a period when market dominance started to pass to foreign hands.
  • Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz is single-handedly staging an economic revolution in Pakistan, selling yet another military government to a sceptical international investor community.
  • Argentina is looking at the worst case of deflation that the world has seen since the US great depression in the 1930s, and it is hard to see where the necessary boosts in confidence and growth are going to come from to break this confidence crisis.