World Clock

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Finland's Costly Election....For the European Union - Potentially

Tomorrow will not only be a vital day in Finish politics, but also in the recent economic history of the European Union. Finland historically has proven to be a solid a dependable member of the Eurozone, however as a consequence of the recent Eurozone sovereign debt crisis, the political climate in Finland has shifted towards a more eurosceptic stance.

The eurosceptics in Finland have recently seen an extraordinary rise in popularity led by the True Fins under the leadership of Timo Soini. Soini's, political sound bits regarding "helping impoverished Fins, instead of bailing out profligate Greeks or handing cash to immigrants" have struck a cord, according to reports by The Economist. Just four years ago the True Fins took a meagre 4.1% of the vote, in stark comparison to recent polls indicating they are virtually level with the more established main parties.

Finland's electoral districts.
The rise of euroscepticism in Finland has started to alarm Brussels, especially after Finland in March this year halted plans to expand the size of the Eurozone bailout fund. Frustration with the European Union has grown in recent days as Portugal has become the latest country to line up for a potential bailout after the countries PM resigned earlier this year after he was defeated on a crucial austerity bill. The True Fins are staunchly against against any financial aid for Portugal, which has become a major source of contention in the dying days of the election campaign.

Although the True Fins could be in position to form a coalition government with the three other main parties should results go their way, this could be politically difficult given their stance on Europe. The three other main parties (see chart above) are pro-Europeans, whereas the True Fins remain eurosceptics, Soini said it would prove difficult to form a coalition with the other parties. 

However he said that should his party win an outright majority he would seek to hold a referendum on the future of Europe within the country. 

The problem for Brussels at this point is that eventhough it is unlikely that the True Fins will win outright the antipathy towards Europe appears to be gaining ground, now that they have party that can support and air their views on a national level.


Although the rise of the Eurosceptics in Finland is likely to course agitation in Brussels, it is unlikely to affect a potential Portuguese bailout. According to a poll which was seen by Reuters the True Fins were slipping in the polls the and remained in fourth place.

The Europhiles led by the National Coalition a right of centre group under Jyrki Katainen topped the latest poll, this should it transpire in the election on Sunday will allow him to lead negotiations in Europe on behalf of his country.

Although it is likely that the pro-Europeans would hold onto power in the Finish parliament, chief economist at Danske Bank said that any disruption to the financial aid package would scare the financial markets and costs for the most indebted countries would rise as a result. This Pasi Kouppamaki of Danske Bank said referring to the prospect of the True Fins gaining a place in parliament.

Source: (Finish Parliament)

The latest polls also make uneasy reading for Eurozone leaders, especially the PIG + S (Portugal, Ireland, Greece + Spain) as 48% of Fins are dead against aid to Portugal and also against any increase in the bailout fund compared to 52%. Clearly demonstrating the divisions within the country as a whole. Essentially 48% of the Fins are saying "it is wrong to help Portugal, and it was wrong to help Greece".

Analysts argue that there is an outside chance that the True Fins could secure a place in a coalition government on Sunday and disrupt or worse block a financial bailout package to Portugal. However the bond markets have remained calm about the Finish election since Greece now appears to moving towards debt restructuring and Portugal wants to move straight to a restructuring program and skip a bailout altogether.

Slovakia was in the same position last year when after elections were held, the newly elected government temporarily blocked aid to Greece, however after euro-wide pressure the government eventually capitulated and allowed the bailout to go ahead. Analysts and commentators expect the same of Finland.

Both Finlands PM Mari Kiviniemi and the leader of the Centre right party Mr Katainen are playing the fear card, saying that blocking the financial bailout package would heighten the financial crisis in the Eurozone and inevitably hurt Finland's economy in the process. 

The reason why the Finish elections have taken a higher profile in Brussels is because Finland is the only country among the 17 Eurozone countries that requires a parliamentary vote to approve the EFSF, the other 16 requires the government to decide. Thus the True Fins could potentially punch above their weight in parliament as their votes could prove decisive should the EFSF need additional funding.

If as a consequence of the election, Finland votes against a bailout for Portugal, estimated at 80bn euros, this could then galvanise the opposition against the bailout in Germany, which has been gaining momentum of late. 

A Finnish finance ministry advisor Martti Salmi said "we might see the financial stability of the eurozone as whole in danger in some way".

Even if Finland did not participate in the bailout fund, Finlands contribution to the EFSF standing at $2.3bn could be distributed among other eurozone countries. However Finland's decision to pull out of the EFSF could prove a catalyst for other countries to stand in opposition to the bailout fund on principle. The knock effect could prove to catastrophic for the future of the eurozone, especially if Spain succumbs to pressure from the bond markets.

As an afterthought Mr Salmi said that if there were a referendum on joining the eurozone today, Finland would probably vote no". 

Friday, 15 April 2011

Does Glencore IPO Signify an end to the Commodity Bull Market?

Global Energy and Commodity Resource or Glencore for short has finalised plans for its duel listing IPO pencilled in for May this year. This IPO has been one of the most eagerly awaited public offerings in years, especially in light of the ongoing surge in commodity prices.

The duel IPO listing will take place in both London and Hong Kong, with the offering valued at $11bn, which represent approximately 15-20% of the company. This IPO has valued the commodity trading company (the worlds largest) between $55-$60bn. Now that the company's cheif executive Ivan Glasenberg has announced the IPO, the shear scale and reach on the companies operations globally have been fully exposed.


Ivan Glasenberg, Glencore's CEO said the IPO is the first step in the companies strategy to expand its already enviable global commodity portfolio. Glencore already has a dominant position in zinc and copper and also has a 34% stake in the mining giant Xstrata a company valued at $68bn.

Glasenberg in rare public statement said about Glencore

"Over many decades, we have developed Glencore into an unrivalled global integrated commodity producer and marketer, active in almost every bulk commodity market. An IPO is the next logical step in our development and strategy. It will provide us with the financial flexibility to capitalise upon long-term growth opportunities throughout our business and achieve further sustainable growth. It will also offer international investors an opportunity to invest in our unique commodities business model and participate in our future growth."

However Glencore's IPO has led investors and commentators to believe that the commodity bull cycle is nearing its end, especially in light of Goldman Sachs recent comments about the sector. 

This has been highlighted in a recent article by the Wall Street Journal columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin. Sorkin states that both companies are secretive about the business activities, both stalwarts in their industries and they are both are powerful and influential in partnerships at their cores. 

Mr Sorkin also adds that the timing of Glencore's IPO is strikingly similar to that of Goldman Sachs. Goldman went public back in 1999 right in the middle of the dot-com boom and when financial institutions were generating substantial fees in the frenzied IPO era. Now today Glencore is due to list in May this year at the height of the commodity bull market.

Goldman Sachs raised $3.7bn from its IPO after the shares of the company soared 33% on the first day of trading, one year later the stock tumbled in the aftermath of the dot-com collapse. The same has also been applied to private equity listings, particularly blackstone (see video below)

Glencore's IPO comes at at a time when zinc, copper are near record highs and gold and silver have this week touch all time highs. However it is felt that the listing could signal the end of the commodity bull market.

A fear which was heightened this week after Goldman Sachs warned investors to begin taking profits in some specific commodities i.e. oil and copper.

However according to the zerohedge a highly respected financial blog, the Goldman Sachs call on commodities may not be totally justified.

HBO - Too Big to Fail [1st Trailer]

Two Years after the financial crisis HBO releases a film about the event. This is the first trailer to be released for the film which is due to be released in May. / Comment / Analysis - Global economy: In a tight spot / Comment / Analysis - Global economy: In a tight spot

The Financial Times provides an excellent overview of what it calls the end the of the global post-crisis policy consensus. This is in the aftermath of the European Central Bank (ECB) interest rate rise from 1% to 1.25% that took place last week.

The ECB decision to raise rates last week was the first time since its founding that it has taken a lead over the Federal Reserve, the US equivalent.

The primary mandate of the ECB is to 'focus on combating inflation risks, this was the argument used by ECB. This is on the back of soaring commodity prices i.e. grain, wheat and oil to name but a few. Inflationary pressures from rising food prices and petrol prices have now forces the hand of the ECB.

To continue to read the after effects of this rate rise click on the above link from the FT

Friday, 8 April 2011

8:30 Could Get a Whole Lot Quieter Next Week — Swing Trading Daily

8:30 Could Get a Whole Lot Quieter Next Week — Swing Trading Daily

Traders and investors will be left virtually in the dark next week as the government approaches 0 hour to shutdown. The US government is as I write this blog piece is only 9hours and 45mins to shutdown.

This will prevent the release of key economic data week, the vast majority of which is scheduled for 8:30am.

Crucial economic data, specifically related to inflation ref: PPI & CPI figures will not be released if the government fails to make a negotiated settlement in the next 9 and a bit hours.

These two data points are of vital importance for central bankers, specifically the Federal Reserve who use the CPI & PPI data to gauge potential inflationary effects on the overall economy i.e. food prices.

For a tick by tick update on events surrounding the government shutdown & countdown clock click

Sunday, 3 April 2011

US Government Shutdown - Boehner vs. Obama [A Preview]

The West Wing Provides a Glimpse of What a Meeting Between Speaker Boehner & Obama Could Look Like

Re: Government Shutdown

Congress is currently mired in a squabble over the current-year federal budget. It essentially boils down to Tea Party Republicans wanting cuts of $60bn in short term spending, most Democrats and most likely the House GOP leadership, according to the FT would settle spending cuts of $30bn.

Also the FT paints a bleak picture of the potential side-effects of these 'meaningless' cuts in the short-term, saying that a government shutdown has the potential to derail the current economic recovery. Adding it could be the difference between stagnation on one hand and recovery on the other. 

May wiser heads prevail.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Do Economists Even LOOK At the Data They Claim Supports a “Recovery”? | zero hedge

Do Economists Even LOOK At the Data They Claim Supports a “Recovery”? | zero hedge

A brief but excellent overview of what is portrayed versus the actual reality in regards to the economic recovery in the US.

Has China Overtaken America....? Yes & No

According to a report published on April 1st by the Economist Simulation Unit three quarters of Americans wish that China "would just hurry and overtake America, already". This is a source of anxiety in America, as worries persist about when exactly America's most important bi-lateral partner China will overtake them.

A report published by the Economist highlights that in some important areas China already has (see diagram below)

American anxiety wont be eased at the statistical graph below which shows the health or lack of the US economy and its over-reliance on China (especially in so far as purchasing its debt) is concerned.


>Some other statistical comparisons<

Also the Chinese economy would appear to more balanced in contrast to the US

Also the dominance of the US military in the Pacific region is been threatened by China as its military capability continues to grow

China's global reach is also expanding as its military arsenal increases in numbers


A wider statistical overview comparing China and the US


A couple of images for Americans (and the world) to ponder



And finally the all important question, on a GDP basis, when will the Chinese economy become larger than America? 

On that question The Economist has projected based upon economic forecasts that China will overtake the US in 2019


Federal Reserve's Discount Window Literally Saved the Global Banking System - Data Shows (Bloomberg)

What links the Arab Bank Corp, Dexia SA, Societe General and the Bank of China?

At first the only similarity would appear to be they are financial institutions, however they all share the misfortune of benefiting from the Federal Reserve discount window lending facility. 

This was put in place to provide emergency overnight funding to banking and financial institutions globally at the height of the financial in 2008. As a result of these institutions been unable to secure financing privately.

The list below provides example of financial institutions that used the Feds discount window.

  1. Dexia SA (Belgium, France) borrowed as much as $33.5bn
  2. Depfa Bank Plc (Dublin) took $24.5bn
  3. Wachovia Corp (Charlotte, NC) $29bn in the week the company almost collapsed
  4. Societe General (France) drew $5bn
  5. Bank of China was the second largest borrower from the Feds discount window in 2007 as the sub-prime mortgage took hold over the global financial system.
  6. Deutsche Bank AG (Germany) borrowed $1bn via two of its divisions
  7. Arab Banking Corp, than 29% owned by the Libyan Central Bank used the discount facility 73 times in an 18 month period following the collapse of Lehman Brothers which totalled $2bn

This data was released under a Freedom of Information Request by Bloomberg LP and contains approximately 29,000 pages of documents covering the Feds discount window and several other of the US Central Banks emergency lending programs established between 2008-2010

Ben Benanke, the Chairman of the US Federal Reserve objected to the release of the data saying that revealing the names of these institutions"might lead market participants to infer weakness".

Bloomberg reporter Bob Ivry discusses the release of the Federal Reserve's discount-window lending records and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.'s borrowing history. He speaks with Matt Miller on Bloomberg Television's "Street Smart."

The Federal Reserve's discount window has been in effect for 97 years, but was used most frequently during the apex of the financial crisis in October 2008. This period represents nearly 70% of the discount windows lending activity and totals $110.7bn in borrowing.

The disclosure of the information and the scale of the borrowing by predominately foreign financial institutions will provoke a possible re-examination of the role of the Federal Reserve within the Global Financial System, particularly the risks poised to the US taxpayer.


For a broader overview click

Nigeria Elections 2011

On April 2nd, Nigeria begins a two week process of national elections concluding on April 16th. 

The elections take place in three stages. 

  1. The first stage begins with the election of a National Assembly
  2. Secondly, a week later the president is then chosen
  3. thirdly, a week after this the election process concludes with the election of 36 national governors.

Nigeria Elections by the numbers (courtesy of the BBC)
  • Security will remain the dominant issue as deadly outbreaks of violence have continued to ravish the country since the country returned to a democracy in 1999
  • Oil - a significant source of the countries wealth has remained a point of dispute as local people, especially in the Niger Delta want a greater say over how the revenues generated from its natural resources are spent

  • Jobs and living standards which has risen up the political agenda as infrastructural development spending as all but disappeared
  • Corruption - despite the fact the country is the worlds 6th largest oil producer, selling around 2m barrels a day to the world markets, very little filters down to the wider public
  • Despite the country vast natural resources, Nigeria suffers from frequent blackouts eventhough there has been $16bn investment in the countries infrastructure to improve supply. There is still a 96,000MW capacity shortfall.

Hopeful Candidates
  • President Goodluck Jonathan of the Ruling People's Democratic Party - Favourite candidate 
  • Former military ruler Mahummadu Buhari of the Congress for Progressive Change - previously contested the elections in 2003 and 2007
  • Nuhu Ribadu, Former head of the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission is the leader of Action Congress of Nigeria - largest opposition party
  • The fourth candidate that realistically stands a chance of winning is Ibrahim Shekarau of the All Peoples Party
[for a detailed analysis of the four candidates mentioned above click on their names for direct link to their campaign websites]

For a complete list of all 20 presidential candidates 

For election news updates from the Independent National Electoral Commission click 


The entire country has now been put on election footing as the national assembly has now closed all land borders, additionally restrictions have also been put on road traffic movements. The national assembly commented on these measures saying "this is ensure a peaceful and hitch free conduct of the 2011 national assembly elections".