Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Further Cut in US Interest Rates

BBC: The Federal Reserve has cut its key interest rate from 2.25% to 2.0% as it aims to avoid a possible US recession.

It is the seventh rate cut since last September, when the federal funds rate was cut from 5.25% to 4.75%.

Opinion was divided about whether the Federal Reserve's statement indicated that this would be the last cut in interest rates.

The economy has been hit by a housing market downturn and some analysts believe it is already in recession.

"This the seventh cut from the Fed since September and the committee will obviously be hoping it can be the last," said BBC economics editor Stephanie Flanders.

"The fact that today's GDP figures showed positive growth in the first quarter offers some grounds for hoping that the US will not see two quarters of negative growth this year, at least if the fiscal stimulus package works as intended and boosts spending over the summer." Further Cut in US Interest Rates >>>

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Paperback – USA)
The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Hardcover – USA)
Americans Sell Off Family Heirlooms to Make Ends Meet

YAHOO! NEWS: NEW YORK - The for-sale listings on the online hub Craigslist come with plaintive notices, like the one from the teenager in Georgia who said her mother lost her job and pleaded, "Please buy anything you can to help out."

Or the seller in Milwaukee who wrote in one post of needing to pay bills — and put a diamond engagement ring up for bids to do it.

Struggling with mounting debt and rising prices, faced with the toughest economic times since the early 1990s, Americans are selling prized possessions online and at flea markets at alarming rates.

To meet higher gas, food and prescription drug bills, they are selling off grandmother's dishes and their own belongings. Some of the household purging has been extremely painful — families forced to part with heirlooms.

"This is not about downsizing. It's about needing gas money," said Nancy Baughman, founder of eBizAuctions, an online auction service she runs out of her garage in Raleigh, N.C. One former affluent customer is now unemployed and had to unload Hermes leather jackets and Versace jeans and silk shirts. Americans Unload Prized Belongings to Make Ends Meet >>> Associated Press | April 29, 2008

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Paperback - UK)
The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Hardback - UK)
Nicolas Sarkozy vante à Tunis l'Union pour la Méditerranée

LE FIGARO: Le chef de l'État a plaidé mardi pour une plus étroite coopération économique entre les deux rives de la Méditerranée.

La Méditerranée encore et toujours ! Au deuxième jour de sa visite d'État en Tunisie, Nicolas Sarkozy est revenu sur un sujet qu'il affectionne entre tous. «Ensemble, le nord de la Méditerranée et le sud de la Méditerranée, on peut créer un pôle gagnant-gagnant qui concurrencera l'Asie», s'est enthousiasmé le chef de l'État devant un parterre de 500 chefs d'entreprise français et tunisiens.

«Il n'y a pas un bon d'avenir pour l'Europe si l'Afrique en général, et l'Afrique du Nord en particulier, ne connaît pas le développement. (…) Nous pouvons créer un modèle qui triomphera dans le monde entier», a poursuivi sur sa lancée le président français.

Encore largement virtuel, le grand chantier méditerranéen suscite un écho favorable chez les décideurs tunisiens qui l'envisagent comme un «accélérateur de projets», espérant aussi bénéficier du statut privilégié de leur pays dans les relations franco-maghrébine. Nicolas Sarkozy vante à Tunis l'Union pour la Méditerranée >>> D’Alain Barluet | 29. 04. 2008

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Broché)
The Dawning of a new Dark Age (Relié)

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

What the Fed Could Learn from Europe’s Central Bank

SPIEGELONLINE INTERNATIONAL: Never before have the central banks of the United States and Europe pursued such divergent strategies when it comes to dealing with a financial crisis. The increased value of the euro against the dollar reveals which strategy is working.

The world's two most powerful central bankers are two very different men, even when it comes to their outward appearance.

Jean-Claude Trichet, the president of the European Central Bank (ECB), has the bearing and style of a classic representative of Old Europe. He always wears the best suits, his gray hair is carefully parted and his voice is so unassuming that it sometimes comes across as more of a whisper. He is happy to swap the columns of numbers that are part of his job for a volume of modern French literature.

Ben Bernanke, Trichet's counterpart at America's central bank, the Federal Reserve (Fed), is an economics professor by trade and makes no secret of his dislike for suits. He once joked: "My proposal that Fed governors should signal their commitment to public service by wearing Hawaiian shirts and Bermuda shorts has so far gone unheeded." In his private life, Bernanke is an avid baseball fan.

The personalities of the two men are as different as their strategies and their approaches to their jobs. Trichet runs the ECB thoughtfully and with circumspection. The Fed, under Bernanke's leadership, is hands-on and decisive.

But which approach is more successful during an acute global financial crisis? And is it possible that the two key central bankers are in fact fueling the seemingly unending banking disaster?

The ECB remains calm -- sometimes to the point of doing nothing. Since the turbulence in the financial markets began last summer, it has left European key interest rates unchanged. The Fed, on the other hand, seems to take action to show it is doing something, sometimes to the point of hysteria. Since August of 2007, it has brought down the key interest rate at record speed, from 5.25 percent to 2.25 percent, to avert a recession in the United States.

But now it seems that all of the Fed's efforts have been in vain. Testifying before the US Congress, Bernanke was forced to admit that he expects the US economy to grow very little, if at all, in the first half of 2008. It "could even contract slightly," he said.

If a currency's value is a measure of confidence in an economy and its central bank, then the Europeans and their ECB are clearly emerging as the winners in the current crisis. Last week the euro climbed to a new record high of $1.60. What the Fed Could Learn from Europe's Central Bank >>> By Christian Reiermann | April 29, 2008

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Paperback - UK)
The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Hardback - UK)
God and Mammon

FORBES.COM: The notion of ethical investing goes back at least to 1758, when the Quakers banned profiting from the slave trade. But the market for ethical investments has always remained a niche. The goals of maximizing profit and fulfilling a moral agenda conflict more often than they complement one another, and investors who want to put ethics first have turned out to be relatively few. "Socially responsible investing," or SRI, as it is called these days, has never captured the heart of Wall Street.

That could be changing. Finance that complies with Sharia, or Islamic law, is still a niche within the ethical investing niche. In all, there are at least $500 billion worth of Islamic finance assets worldwide. That's not much in terms of global banking--U.S. banks alone hold about $12.7 trillion in assets, according to the American Bankers Association.

But the industry's growth is eye-catching: Islamic banking has expanded by more 10% annually over the past decade, according to Standard & Poor's. It's grabbing the attention of some of the biggest banks in the world, and changing how they do business. God and Mammon >>> By Elisabeth Eaves | April 21, 2008

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Paperback - UK)
The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Hardback - UK)

Monday, 28 April 2008

Islamic Finance

INFORMATION CLEARING HOUSE: Islamic finance has become the fastest-growing, most dynamic sector of global finance. Every Western-style financial product has its sharia, i.e. Islamic law, compliant instrument: microfinance, mortgages, oil and gas exploration, bridge building, even sponsorship of sporting events. Islamic finance is innovative, flexible, and potentially very profitable. “Operating in 70 countries with about $500bn in assets, it is poised to expand geometrically.” With more than one billion Muslims eager to support it, analysts project that this system will soon manage approximately 4 percent of the world economy, equivalent to $1 trillion in assets. Such figures explain the eagerness of Western banks to tap into sharia financial services. Citigroup, along with many other Western banking retailers, have opened Islamic branches in Muslim countries.

At the end of 2004, the Islamic Bank of Britain, the first bank catering to a European Muslim client base, floated its shares on the London Stock Exchange. Ironically, Western capitalism’s three major global economic crises - the 1970s oil shocks, the late 1990s Asian crisis, and 9/11 - paved the way to the ascent of Islamic finance. Unlike market economics, Islamic finance centers on the religious tenets of Islam and operates in a way to keep Muslims compliant with sharia, the religious law that comes directly from the Koran. Islamic activists, intellectuals, writers, and religious leaders have always upheld the prohibition of riba, the interest charged by moneylenders, and denounced gharar, which refers to any type of speculation. Under this belief, money must not become a commodity in itself to create more money. Islamic finance thus shuns hedge funds and private equities, because they simply multiply cash by stripping assets. Money serves as a means or instrument of productivity as originally envisioned by Adam Smith and David Ricardo. This principle is embodied in the sukuks, Islamic bonds. Sukuks always link to real investments - for example, to pay for the construction of a toll highway - and never for speculative purposes. This principle springs from the sharia’s ban on gambling as well as on the prohibition of any forms of debt and activities that trade risk. Islamic Finance >>> By Loretta Napoleoni | April 26, 2008

Hat tip: Dr Nasir Khan >>>

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Paperback - UK)
The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Hardback - UK)

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Nobelpreisträger: “Greenspan und Bush schuld an Finanzkrise”

DIE PRESSE: "Greenspan hat mit niedrigen Zinsen die Flut an Krediten ausgelöst", kritisiert US-Ökonom Joseph Stiglitz. Auch die Regierung Bush habe die falsche Politik betrieben, so Stiglitz.

Der US-Ökonom und Nobelpreisträger Joseph Stiglitz sieht einen großen Teil der Schuld für die US-Finanzkrise beim früheren Chef der US-Notenbank, Alan Greenspan zu. "Dieser Mann hat leider viele Fehler gemacht. Der erste war seine Unterstützung für all die Steuersenkungen, die unter Bush erfolgten. Diese haben die Wirtschaft nicht sehr stimuliert. Diese Aufgabe wurde darauf mehr der Geldpolitik übertragen. Doch dann hat er mit niedrigen Zinsen die Flut an Krediten ausgelöst", meinte er in einem Interview mit dem am Montag erscheinenden Nachrichtenmagazin "profil". 

Aber auch die Regierung von US-Präsident George W. Bush habe eine falsche Politik betrieben. "Ich werfe ihr vor, dass sie mit den laufenden Steuersenkungen und den enormen Ausgaben für den Irak-Krieg dafür gesorgt haben, dass die Wirtschaft nicht so widerstandsfähig war, wie sie es hätte sein sollen." Nobelpreisträger: "Greenspan und Bush schuld an Finanzkrise" >>> | 27.04.2008

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Taschenbuch)
The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Gebundene Ausgabe)
So You Want to Get On The Sunday Times Rich List, Eh? Watch This!

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Paperback - UK)
The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Hardback - UK)
Britain’s Rich Have Got Much Richer under Labour

THE SUNDAY TIMES: The richest 1,000 people in Britain have seen their wealth quadruple under Labour, according to The Sunday Times Rich List published today. Even under Gordon Brown’s brief premiership their fortunes have soared by 15%, just as the financial squeeze and faltering house prices have hit ordinary people.

The collective wealth of the 1,000 richest has jumped to £412 billion, up from £99 billion in 1997. Total net wealth during the same period has slightly more than doubled.

“The 11 years of Labour have been absolutely fantastic for the super-rich,” said Philip Beresford, compiler of the list. “Having a friendly Labour government has almost been better than having a Tory one; it has neutered politicians on the left.”

The wealthiest man in Britain is the steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal whose fortune has rocketed to £27.7 billion, up from £19.25 billion last year, thanks to strong global demand for steel. Mittal is now the sixth richest person in the world and far ahead of any other billionaire in Britain. Rich List Reveals Wealthy Reap Profits under Labour >>> By Richard Woods | April 27, 2008

Former Miss UK Lands a Billionaire Life and Enters Rich List in Sixth >>>

Watch Video: How Billionaires Spend Their Money >>>

Behind the scenes of The Sunday Times Rich List >>>

Take a Peek Inside the World’s Most Opulent Homes >>>

Tsar Roman Abramovich's £150m palace >>> By Angella Johnson | April 27, 2008

The World’s Billionaires Edited by Luisa Kroll and Allison Fass

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Paperback - UK)
The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Hardback - UK)

Saturday, 26 April 2008

GCC Islamic Banks Assets Hit $300bn

ISLAMONLINE: A new report by Morgan Stanley has found that the 22 Islamic banks in the GCC have over $300bn of Sharia-compliant assets and were poised for double digit growth sustainable over the next decade, reported Bahrain Tribune. The report also forecasts that Islamic assets in the GCC would grow to 18% of system assets by 2012 from its current 13%.

A new report by Morgan Stanley has found that the 22 Islamic banks in the GCC have over $300bn of Sharia-compliant assets and were poised for double digit growth sustainable over the next decade, reported Bahrain Tribune. The report also forecasts that Islamic assets in the GCC would grow to 18% of system assets by 2012 from its current 13%. [Source: GCC Islamic banks assets hit $300bn]

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Paperback - UK)
The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Hardback - UK)

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Russian Billionaire Sets Up Mag for Snobs

Photo of Mikhail Prokhorov courtesy of The Sydney Morning Herald

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD: Russia's super-rich love to flaunt their wealth. Soon they will have a magazine called Snob to help them.

Mikhail Prokhorov - whose wealth is estimated at around $US22 billion ($A23.3 billion) - plans to spend $US150 million ($A159 million) setting up a magazine, website and television station called Snob, the general director of the new venture said.

"It's for people who are successful and those who want to be successful," said Andrei Shmarov, who will run Snob.

Prokhorov, 42, made his fortune in the chaotic 1990s when businessmen bought up parts of former Soviet industries for a fraction of their real value.

The Forbes Rich List ranked Prokhorov as the 24th richest person in the world. He is one of the owners of Norilsk Nickel, the world's biggest nickel producer, and Polyus Gold, Russia's biggest gold producer. Billionaire Sets Up Mag for Snobs >>> | April 24, 2008

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Paperback - UK)
The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Hardback - UK)

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Euro Hits New High Against the US Dollar

Image courtesy of Google Images

BBC: The euro has hit a record peak against the US dollar on expectations of higher interest rates in the euro zone.

It rose as high as $1.6019 as weak US housing market data underscored fears over the health of the US economy.

The euro has rallied in recent months and Tuesday's peak came as European central bankers raised the prospect of higher rates to control inflation.

Higher interest rates make bank deposits and other euro-denominated investments more attractive.

Most other central banks are cutting the cost of borrowing as they look to limit the impact of a global economic slowdown.

The euro was trading at 80.08 pence, near the record high of 80.98p hit last week.

"Interest rate differentials are really favouring the euro right now," said Camilla Sutton, a currency strategist at Scotia Capital in Toronto.

European Central Bank governing council member Christian Noyer said the bank would do what was needed to bring inflation back to its target of just below 2%, adding it would move rates if needed.

That followed similar comments from fellow governing council member Yves Mersch.

While the strong euro may be good news for many savers and investors, it poses problems for European exporters because it makes their products more expensive in the United States, a key sales market. Euro Scales $1.60 for First Time >>>

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Paperback - UK)
The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Hardback - UK)
Islam-Fonds mit Allahs Wohlgefallen

FOCUS.DE: Kein Alkohol, kein Tabak, kein Schweinefleisch, keine Zinswucherer – die Scharia, das religiöse Gesetz des Islam, ist streng und schließt vieles aus, womit sich Geld verdienen ließe. Gläubige Moslems dürfen weder Zins nehmen noch sich an Banken beteiligen, die Zinsen verlangen, tabu sind auch Aktien von Bierkonzernen oder Rüstungsfirmen. Kursgewinne sind hingegen erlaubt.

Da in islamischgeprägten Ländern aber viel Geld auf Anlage wartet, haben sich mehrere Fondsgesellschaft daran versucht, scharia-adäquate Fonds aufzulegen. Einer davon ist die in Luxemburg ansässige UBS Fund Services, deren Islamic Fund Global Equities selbst für gläubige Muslime geeignet ist. Die Gesellschaft leistet sich ein mit zwei Scheichs besetztes „Scharia-Board“, das die Einhaltung der Regeln sicherstellen soll. Das Wächterkomitee prüft die Anlageziele und berät die Fondsmanager. Sollte trotzdem eine der Aktiengesellschaften im Depot Erträge erwirtschaften, die nicht scharia-konform sind, so legt das Wächter-Komitee ein Bußgeld für den Fonds fest, das für wohltätige Zwecke gespendet wird. Islam-Fonds mit Allahs Wohlgefallen >>>

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Taschenbuch)
The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Gebundene Ausgabe)
Gordon Brown se met à la finance « charia-compatible »

LE MONDE: L'Angleterre vient de perdre une nouvelle perle à sa couronne. Le 2 mars, les Chelsea Barracks, la caserne abritant les troupes chargées de défendre la capitale, ont été vendues à un consortium mené par le fonds d'investissement du Qatar. Cette opération immobilière d'envergure - 5,2 hectares au coeur du Londres huppé - a été financée grâce à des techniques conformes aux préceptes de l'islam. Une transaction qui illustre le rôle pilote de la capitale britannique, principale destination des pétrodollars du Golfe, dans la création de produits et de services compatibles avec la charia. [Source: Le Monde]

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Broché)
The Dawning of a new Dark Age (Relié)

Monday, 21 April 2008

Islamische Vermögen - Chance für Finanzplatz Schweiz

Foto dank SwissInfo

Nachfrage nach Scharia-konformen Finanzprodukten nimmt zu. (Keystone)

SWISSINFO: Auf westlichen Finanzplätzen sind grosse arabische Vermögen platziert. Mit Blick darauf planen arabische Investoren eine islamisch konzipierte Privatbank mit Sitz in der Schweiz.

Die National Bank of Kuwait soll gemeinsam mit einem saudischen Partner in die Fussstapfen der Faisal Private Bank treten. Letztere hat sich 2006 als erste islamische Finanzinstitution in der Schweiz niedergelassen.

Trotz der bestehenden Nachfrage würden zur Zeit aber (noch) nicht genügend entsprechende Finanzprodukte für muslimische Anleger angeboten, sagt John Sandwick, Geschäftsführer von Encore Management, eines Schweizer Anlageberaters und Vermögensverwalters.

Islamisches respektive Scharia konformes Banking verbietet zwar die Zinsnahme, ist aber pragmatisch bezüglich einer Profitbeteiligung des Kreditgebers. Dazu kommen eine ganze Reihe von Branchenverboten, wie Casino, Alkohol oder Rüstung. Entsprechende Regeln wie bei der Kreditvergabe gelten dann auch für die Anlagepolitik bei der Vermögensverwaltung. Klare Richtlinien zur Besteuerung fehlen >>> | April 18, 2008


1. Die Scharia ist ein Auslege-Gesetz des Korans für konkrete Lebenslagen wie Zivilrecht oder Finanzen.

2. Im Finanz- sprich Kreditbereich verbietet sie das Bezahlen und Nehmen von Zins - dies sei Wucher. 

3. Scharia-konforme Finanzkonstruktionen wie Sukuk-Obligationen bieten dem Anleger deshalb statt Zinsen Profitbeteiligungen an.

4. Die USA und Grossbritannien, nicht aber die meisten europäischen Länder befreien gewisse Kapitalgewinne aus islamischen Finanzprodukten von Steuern.

5. Diese Fonds dürfen nur in jene Branchen und Unternehmen investieren, die durch eine Fatwa erlaubt sind (Fatwa: Edikt eines religiösen Gelehrten).

6. Nicht statthaft sind Rüstung, Spielbanken, Alkohol, Schweinefleisch, Tabak oder Pornografie.

7. Schweizer Banken, die Scharia-kompatible Finanzdienstleistungen anbieten, können nicht als "Islamische Banken" bezeichnet werden. Diese Bezeichnung gilt nur für Institute aus muslimischen Ländern.


1. Hinter dem Zinsverbot steht die in Feudal-Ökonomien wohl begründete Angst vor Wucher.

2. Damit zwangen Grossgrund-Besitzer und Geldgeber Kleinbauern noch mehr in die Abhängigkeit.

3. Diese Angst herrschte schon zu alttestamentarischer Zeit, und Zinsverbote gab es im Christentum bis zur Renaissance. [Quelle]

Shari’ah Law (English)

Encore Management und UBS: Islamische Vermögensverwaltung (Engl.)

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Taschenbuch)

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Gebundene Ausgabe)

Friday, 18 April 2008

Russia Swaps Libya’s Debt for Deals

BBC: Russia has agreed to cancel $4.5bn (£2.3bn) of Libyan debt in exchange for major contracts for Russian firms.

The announcement came during a visit to Tripoli on Thursday by the Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

The two countries signed deals on energy co-operation, military assistance and construction of a 500km (310-mile) railway line in Libya.

Libya was a big importer of Soviet weaponry during the Cold War, when it accumulated large debts.

Russia's state gas monopoly Gazprom plans large-scale exploration and production projects with Libya's national energy company. They will include liquefied natural gas installations and gas-fired electricity plants in Libya.

Russia will provide the technology for Libya to build a major rail link between Sirte and Benghazi. Construction is expected to take four years.

Gazprom is also holding preliminary talks with Nigeria about a multibillion-dollar project to deliver Nigerian gas to Europe via a pipeline across the Sahara.

The project is costed at $10bn for the pipeline and $3bn for other installations, delivering up to 30bn cubic metres a year of gas to Europe. The 4,128km (2,580-mile) pipeline from Nigeria will cross Niger and Algeria.

Mr Putin said Libya "is orientated towards the most active co-operation with Russia in all areas".

President Putin is now in Sardinia for talks with Italian Prime Minister-elect Silvio Berlusconi.

The Italian firm Eni is also involved in big energy projects in Libya and already has a close partnership with Gazprom. [Source: Russia Swaps Libya Debt for Deals]

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Paperback - UK)
The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Hardback - UK)
US Earnings Tell Tale of Two Economies

REUTERS: NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. quarterly earnings so far tell a tale of two economies: those that do big business overseas like IBM are doing well, while companies more dependent on the American consumer like Harley-Davidson Inc are hurting.

There was broad-based weakness in earnings on Thursday from companies exposed primarily to the U.S. economy, as the sharp slowdown crimped demand for goods and services from the iconic Harley motorcycles to Marriott hotel rooms.

Harley-Davidson said it would report full-year earnings well below its forecast, while hotel operator Marriott International Inc said the slowing U.S. economy was taking a toll on travel spending.

"Things that are domestic and exposed to consumer discretionary spending -- absolutely they're having a bad time. This is a recession, and I would say its not time to buy these stocks yet," said David Bianco, chief U.S. equity strategist at UBS in New York.

But investors were encouraged by a strong showing from some of the large multinational companies that benefit from the weak dollar, either through the conversion of overseas profits into greenbacks or because they are more competitive against foreign rivals. US Earnings Tell Tale of Two Economies >>> Analysis by Kristina Cooke | April 17, 2008

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Paperback - UK)
The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Hardback - UK)
Authorities Lose Patience with Collapsing Dollar

THE TELEGRAPH: Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU's 'Mr Euro', has given the clearest warning to date that the world authorities may take action to halt the collapse of the dollar and undercut commodity speculation by hedge funds.

Momentum traders have blithely ignored last week's accord by the G7 powers, which described "sharp fluctuations in major currencies" as a threat to economic and financial stability. The euro has surged to fresh records this week, touching $1.5982 against the dollar and £0.8098 against sterling yesterday.

"I don't have the impression that financial markets and other actors have correctly and entirely understood the message of the G7 meeting," he said.

Mr Juncker, who doubles as Luxembourg premier and chair of eurozone financiers, told the Luxembourg press that he had been invited to the White House last week just before the G7 at the urgent request of President George Bush. The two leaders discussed the dangers of rising "protectionism" in Europe. Mr Juncker warned that matters could get out of hand unless America took steps to halt the slide in the dollar.

World central banks last intervened eight years ago - with mixed success - buying euros in September 2000 to support the fledgling currency through its worst crisis.

David Woo, currency chief at Barclays Capital, said the Europeans and Americans are talking past each other. Whatever the G7 wording, Washington is happy to watch the dollar slide. "They are not going to worry unless there is a knock-on effect on US equity or bond prices. So far that hasn't happened. There are no signs that the dollar decline has turned disorderly," he said.

European industry has managed to live with the high euro so far, but the damage of major currency shifts can take years to surface. "The moment will come where the exchange rate level will start to cause serious harm to the European economy," said Mr Juncker. Authorities Lose Patience with Collapsing Dollar >>> By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard | April 18, 2008

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Paperback - UK)
The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Hardback - UK)

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Oil Hovers Near $115 Record High

BBC: Oil prices are hovering close to $115 a barrel, having crossed the record mark on Thursday after a US inventory report raised concerns about supplies.

US light, sweet crude oil pulled back slightly to $114.97 in Asian trading from the previous day's $115.21 high.

Brent crude hit an all-time peak of $112.83 before falling back slightly.

The weak dollar has helped to draw investors towards commodities, which are cheaper for foreign buyers because they are priced in the US currency. Oil Hovers Near $115 Record High >>>

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Paperback - UK)
The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Hardback - UK)
Sainsbury’s Chief Executive Is Challenging the Government on Its Approach to the 'Plastic Bag Problem'

The British economy is becoming increasingly Shari'ah-compliant, and Islam is growing apace here, and the best thing Gordon Brown and his government can do is worry about the usage of plastic carrier-bags in supermarkets!

THE TELEGRAPH: Justin King, the chief executive of J Sainsbury, has set the UK's third largest supermarket on a potential collision course with the Government over its threat to force retailers to charge for plastic bags.

Mr King said proposals by Chancellor Alistair Darling to impose mandatory charges for plastic bags next year if supermarkets do not reduce usage are "not the best way" to change shoppers' behaviour.

"Sainsbury's does not believe charging for single-use bags is the only answer or that it is the most likely way to achieve lasting benefit for the environment. Forcing customers to make a decision they don't fully understand is not the best way to achieve behavioural change," Mr King said. Sainsbury's boss attacks Alistair Darling's bag charges >>> By James Hall, Retail Editor | April 17, 2008

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Paperback - UK)
The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Hardback - UK)

Monday, 14 April 2008

US Dollar Drifts Lower - Again

REUTERS: NEW YORK - The dollar retreated on Monday, giving up early gains, as worries about a gloomy U.S. economic outlook outweighed the Group of Seven nations' heightened concern about currency volatility. Dollar Drifts Lower as Bleak U.S. Outlook Weighs >>> By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss | April 14, 2008

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Paperback - UK)
The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Hardback - UK)
Italians Vote as Economic Disaster Looms

THE TELEGRAPH: Voting continues in Italy's general election today but the winner will inherit a country on the brink of disaster.

According to the International Monetary Fund, Italy's economic growth will not rise above 0.3 per cent this year, and could be zero.

The country's growth is the slowest in Europe and Mario Draghi, the governor of the Bank of Italy, warned that "the crisis is not yet finished", and "it is not possible to see when it will end".

Inflation is at its highest level for 12 years, and petrol is costlier in Italy than anywhere else on the continent, although at 56p per litre on average it is still far less expensive than in Britain.

There has been a boom in theft, which has risen by 50 per cent in under 20 years, and prisons are one-third overpopulated, despite an "amnesty" two years ago in which 25,000 criminals were released. Italians Vote as Economic Disaster Looms >>> By Malcolm Moore in Rome | April 14, 2008

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Paperback - UK)
The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Hardback - UK)
Ministers Say Bonus Culture Has to End

THE TELEGRAPH: Bumper annual cash bonuses for bankers could soon be outlawed after finance ministers from around the world ordered a major overhaul of the industry's pay system.

In a move which may foreshadow new legislation over compensation in the City and Wall Street, ministers meeting in Washington threw their weight behind a report which said banks' generous compensation structure was partly to blame for the credit crisis.

The Financial Stability Forum, a union of regulators from around the world, said the current system - in which bankers are frequently paid million pound-plus bonuses based on their annual performance - needed urgent reform.

Amid a raft of other recommendations, including an overhaul of the way ratings agencies work and a beefing up of the Basel rules on banks' accounts, the FSF said remuneration should be tied to performance over credit cycles, which last five or more years.

This could raise the prospect of bankers having to wait many years for bonuses, or even be forced to forfeit them if the bank's performance later disappoints. Ministers Say Bonus Culture Has to End >>> By Edmund Conway, in Washington | April 14, 2008

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Paperback - UK)
The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Hardback - UK)

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Sciences économiques islamiques?

DANIEL PIPES: Sans que le monde extérieur en prenne vraiment conscience, une quantité d'argent importante et en croissance rapide est gérée aujourd'hui en accord avec la loi islamique, la charia. Selon une étude, «à la fin 2005, plus de 300 institutions de plus de 65 juridictions géraient des actifs d'une valeur globale de l'ordre de 700 milliards à un billion de dollars d'une manière compatible avec la charia».

L'économie islamique prend une ampleur de plus en plus incontournable grâce à une profusion de portefeuilles d'exportateurs de pétrole et une multiplication d'instruments financiers islamiques (tels que des emprunts sans intérêts et des obligations sukuk). Mais à quoi rime tout cela? Les instruments conformes à la charia peuvent-ils concurrencer l'ordre financier international? L'instauration d'un régime économique islamique va-t-elle vraiment de pair, comme l'affirme un enthousiaste, avec la fin de l'injustice grâce à «l'intervention de l'État pour le bien de tous»?

Pour comprendre ce système, le meilleur point de départ est Islam and Mammon, un brillant ouvrage que Timur Kuran a écrit alors qu'il occupait (paradoxalement, vu le soutien saoudien à l'économie islamique) la chaire «King Faisal Professor of Islamic Thought and Culture» (pensée et culture islamiques) de l'université de Californie du Sud.

Kuran, qui enseigne actuellement à Duke University, estime que l'économie islamique ne remonte pas à Mahomet, qu'elle est une «tradition inventée» qui a émergé en Inde, dans les années 1940. La notion de discipline des sciences économiques «qui serait clairement et ouvertement islamique est très récente». Il y a encore un siècle, même les plus savants des Musulmans auraient été interloqués par l'«économie islamique».

L'idée a été forgée à l'origine par un intellectuel islamiste, Abul Ala Maududi (1903-79), pour qui l'économie islamique servait de moyen vers de nombreuses fins: minimiser les relations avec les non-Musulmans, renforcer le sentiment collectif d'identité musulmane, étendre l'Islam dans un nouveau domaine d'activité humaine et moderniser sans occidentaliser. Sciences économiques islamiques? >>> par Daniel Pipes, Jerusalem Post
| 26 septembre 2007

Version originale anglaise: Islamic Economics: What Does It Mean?
Adaptation française: Alain Jean-Mairet

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Paperback - UK)
The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Hardback - UK)
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia Stresses Need to Keep Oil for Future Generations

Photo of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia courtesy of Arab News

ARAB NEWS: RIYADH, 13 April 2008 — Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah yesterday emphasized the importance of keeping part of the Kingdom’s natural resources for the welfare of future generations.

“When new discoveries (of natural resources) were made, I told them... Leave them in the ground because our children and grandchildren will need them,” the Saudi Press Agency quoted the king as saying. King Abdullah made his remarks while receiving several members of the National Society for Retirees (NSR), including its Chairman Dr. Abdul Rahman Al-Ansari, at his palace in Riyadh.

During the meeting, King Abdullah highlighted the significance of oil revenue and said that as long as there is oil the Kingdom would not experience economic problems. “I told them once: May God give it long life... they asked me what is that... I told them petrol. As long as petrol is there, we will remain well... Our country will not have any problems,” he said.

King Abdullah urged government officials to be sincere, truthful and frank in their dealings. “You should inform the authorities about what is happening in the country... Tell us what is in your mind,” he said.

Earlier, Interior Minister Prince Naif, honorary chairman of the NSR, gave a brief introduction about the organization.

Al-Ansari, whose organization represents more than 600,000 retirees, spoke about the difficulties of many retirees, who only receive a SR1,725 monthly pension. [Source: King Stresses Need to Keep Oil for Future Generations] | April 13, 2008

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Paperback - UK)
The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Hardback - UK)
Finanz: Islamische Prinzipien

Das Wesen und die Rolle von Finanzsystemen im Islam erklärt sich aus dem Einfluss der Scharia als rechtliche und moralische Handlungsrichtlinie und dem in ihr enthaltenen sozial-ethischen Gedankengut, das in eine islamische Wirtschaftsethik einfließt. Die Scharia zielt auf soziale und ökonomische (Verteilungs-)Gerechtigkeit und Solidarität ab. Geld wird nicht als selbst arbeitende Gewinnanlage betrachtet, sondern als ein Mittel zur Schaffung von Wohlstand für die Gesamtheit der muslimischen Gemeinschaft.

In einer islamischen Wirtschaft werden Handel und Unternehmertum gefördert. Dies sollte jedoch nicht auf einige wenige Akteure beschränkt sein, sondern zum Wohl aller dienen. Gewinne aus Handel und Investitionen sind erlaubt. Jedoch sollen Investitionen nicht spekulativ, sondern produktiv sein. Sie dürfen in Form von Risikobeteiligungen an Unternehmen, deren Produkte der islamischen Moral nicht widersprechen, getätigt werden. So sollen wirtschaftliche Kooperationen und soziale Gleichheit begünstigt werden. Sieht ein Muslim sich nicht in der Lage, seine finanziellen Ressourcen selbst konstruktiv auszugeben, so hat er die Pflicht, sie anderen in Form einer Beteilungsfinanzierung zur Verfügung zu stellen. So soll eine gesamtgesellschaftlich effiziente Allokation von Kapital nach Kriterien von Produktivität und Rendite erfolgen. Islamische Prinzipien >>>

Wachstum bei Scharia-konformen Anlagen: «Islamische Bonds» auch bei Nichtmuslimen beliebt

Aktien unter Scharia-Aufsicht

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Paperback - UK)
The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Hardback - UK)
Margaret Thatcher: The Patriot Who Vanquished Failure

THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH: After decades of decline, Margaret Thatcher's leadership brought courage and conviction to a nation that had grown used to second best, says Charles Moore

On the day in 1982 that the British task force set sail to recover the Falkland Islands from the Argentine invaders, Margaret Thatcher was asked on television: "If you fail, would you feel obliged to resign?" "Failure?" she answered, "Do you remember what Queen Victoria once said? 'Failure - the possibilities do not exist'."

The remark goes to the heart of Mrs Thatcher's essential political message, and of her character. It shows her romantic patriotism, her confidence in her own sex, and her dauntlessness.

Failure had been the dominant experience of the British political class since 1945. After the exhaustion of war had come the painful business of extricating ourselves from empire. From the early Sixties was added relative economic decline.

Many people decided that failure was something Britain was rather good at, and took a perverse pride in it. Mandarins spoke of "the orderly management of decline". Satirists spoke of Britain "sinking giggling into the sea".

Such attitudes were always anathema to Mrs Thatcher's temperament and beliefs. Her father, Alfred Roberts - Methodist lay preacher, grocer, Grantham alderman - taught her that work was a duty owed to God.

"Earn all you can; save all you can; give all you can", said John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, a quotation of which Mrs Thatcher was fond. In such a world view, failure was not something to be indulged, let alone celebrated. If you failed, you let down yourself, your neighbours, and your God. Margaret Thatcher: The Patriot Who Vanquished Failure >>> By Charles Moore | April 11, 2008

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Paperback - UK)
The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Hardback - UK)
The Party’s Over

THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH: The businesses that make a living from the Square Mile's high rollers are dreading mass redundancies

As soon as he felt the heavy hand squeeze his shoulder last Tuesday morning, Jonathan, a banker at Royal Bank of Scotland in London, knew he [was] fired. Obediently, he went through the motions - greeted his boss cheerfully, listened the long talk about the decline of the leveraged finance market and the opportunities elsewhere - before shaking hands, returning to his desk and leaving.

He was one of 200 people who were let go by RBS last week as the bank slashed its European leveraged finance, real estate finance and commercial mortgage-backed securities businesses in London - but believes he was one of the lucky ones.

"At least I was expecting it," said Jonathan, who did not want to provide his full name. "We've had a great run, made a lot of money but frankly we've not been busy for a long time. The writing was on the wall. My wife gave up work after our second child was born last summer as the credit crunch started, so I had to plan. We were due to move to Kensington before Christmas but we're staying in Fulham instead and delayed sending our 4-year-old to private pre-prep school for a year. We've also kept the car rather than upgrading, cancelled skiing and didn't book the house in the South of France for the summer. Others I was working with carried on assuming things would pick up, they've got to make all the cuts now. That's more frightening."

Across London's stalling financial services sector, previously indomitable stars are facing up to the new reality of deep job cuts.

The investment banks have so far avoided the ignominy of being the first to announce redundancies yet all have quietly leaked hundreds of staff. In the next few weeks, a big round of cuts are expected. This weekend, new figures from the Centre of Economics and Business Research predict that nearly 30,000 jobs will be slashed over the next few months. Big banks including Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch are expecting to cut more next week. Some commentators are expecting far more, perhaps even the worst slump since the early 1990s.

City veterans drone that finance is a cyclical business. Others say it is time that the extraordinary extravagance and hubris of recent years was reined in.

The bumper bonuses paid to the 350,000 financial services workers has been felt across the capital, from a 20 per cent increase in London house prices to record- breaking parties such as the Ark, the hedge fund extravaganza that raised £28m over dinner, and modern art multiplying in value by 10 times.

While some may be scandalised by the decadence, the reality is that rain from the high-rolling financiers has watered the rest of the economy too. Hundreds of businesses have sprung up to service the super-rich. Quintessentially, the concierge service employs 1000 people in 45 offices around the world. The Buying Solution is a whole new arm of Knight Frank to deal with huge demand for country houses worth over £1.5m, Fantastic Fireworks for the parties, Famous Fishing for corporate entertainment, while XX, a specialist baggage handling business, booming. Then there are the holiday companies, car dealerships, clothes retailers, golf clubs, restaurants, bars, private schools and armies of domestic workers employed in London and country homes. UK Economy Faces Tough Times as Credit Crunch Hits Big Spenders in the City >>> By Louise Armitstead | April 13, 2008

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Paperback - UK)
The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Hardback - UK)