Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Germany Contracts 6pc as Eurozone Bank Deposits Fall at Fastest Rate Since Depression

THE TELEGRAPH: Germany has slashed its growth forecast, admitting in an embarrassing volte-face that the economy will contract by 6pc this year in the worst recession of any major country in the Western world.

Economy minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said the slump was almost entirely due to the collapse of exports, insisting that a "global revival" will restore growth next year.

Even this may be too optimistic. The International Monetary Fund expects a further 1pc contraction in 2010. Left Party leader Oskar Lafontaine said Berlin seemed to be hoping and praying that other countries would "pull the German economy out of the mud", sitting on its hands as unemployment reaches 4.6m next year.

Professor Tim Congdon from International Monetary Research said company bank deposits in the eurozone have begun to contract at rates not seen since the early 1930s, threatening severe damage in coming months unless the European Central Bank shifts gears fast.

"It's a catastrophe. Company bank deposits have been falling at 1pc a month since December. It is what happened in the US during the Great Depression, and it is why we are seeing such a horrific recession in Europe now," he said. >>> By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard | Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Business as Usual – Big Bonuses for Bankers

THE TELEGRAPH: Banks that have survived are in the black and it doesn't look like curbs on pay will stick, says Tracy Corrigan.

As the recession tightens its grip on the economy, guess who's doing just fine, thank you very much. Yes, after a blip last year, bankers are raking it in again. City and Wall Street bonuses are likely to bounce back in 2009, virtually unhindered by tight-fisted remuneration committees or draconian rules.

At the darkest hour of the financial crisis, when banks were going bust and governments were stepping in to save the system, it looked as if investment bankers' glory days were over – if not for ever, then at least for a respectable interlude, while the corpses were buried and the injured carried off the field.

But a quarter is a long time in banking. In recent months, profits have staged a remarkable recovery, as financial markets stabilised. Barclays and Goldman Sachs reported a sharp improvement in their fixed income, currencies and commodities businesses in the first quarter, while J P Morgan enjoyed "record results in credit trading, emerging markets and rates". At some banks, losses on old, bad debt continue to dent profits, but current conditions are surprisingly favourable.

How can this be, when the economy is still spiralling downwards? Part of the answer is that rapid contraction as a result of the crisis was a great help to those left standing. In the last year, Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch were taken over and the Royal Bank of Scotland pulled back dramatically. At all institutions, jobs have been slashed ruthlessly. The result is that while the pie has shrunk, it now has to feed far fewer mouths. Bankers are also past masters at increasing their profit margins in bad times – by charging customers more. >>> By Tracy Corrigan | Monday, April 27, 2009
The Czech Republic Pays for Immigrants to Go Home

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Unemployed Guest Workers and Their Kids Receive Cash and a One-Way Ticket as the Country Fights Joblessness

Prague -- During its manufacturing boom earlier this decade, the Czech Republic wooed immigrants with plentiful jobs and comparatively higher wages. Now the Czech government is paying them to go back home.

Four years ago, Uyanga Ganbold migrated from Mongolia to Plzen, an industrial hub 60 miles south of Prague, with dreams of a European education for her two children. But she lost her job assembling Panasonic televisions and is taking the government's offer of a one-time payment of €750 ($992), triple her monthly wages. "I've never held that much money in my hands all at once," said the petite 34-year-old before leaving in mid-April.

Trin Van Pham is a harder sell. The Vietnamese immigrant lost his factory job with Czech auto maker Skoda in December, but turned down a similar package to leave. "It's just a little bit of money," compared with the $11,000 debt he took on to get here, says Mr. Pham, 30. Besides, he says, "if I go back, I'll also be looking for a job. It's not easy to get one there."

Their reactions underscore the difficulties of unraveling the global work force this once labor-strapped nation created as it grew into a manufacturing hub. In 2007, foreigners scooped up nearly 40% of the new jobs created in the Czech Republic. In the last five years alone, the number of immigrant workers doubled to nearly 362,000 by the end of 2008.

With demand for exports down, unemployment has soared to a two-year high of 7.7%. Economists say the rate could hit 10% by year's end, and there are signs rising joblessness is pushing some Czechs to apply for the low-wage work they once left to foreign laborers. The Czech economy is set to contract by 2% this year -- a sharp fall from a growth peak around 7% in 2006.

In February, the government, fearing crime, homelessness and immigrants overstaying visas, launched a $3 million program to pay newly jobless migrants to go home. The pitch: €500 per legal immigrant, €250 for children under 15, and the cost of the tickets home. >>> By Joellen Perry | Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Monday, 27 April 2009

Margaret Thatcher's Revolution 30 Years On

THE TELEGRAPH: Her successors ruined the prosperous Britain she created. Now we must strive to re-build it, says Edwina Currie.

We should value Margaret Thatcher for what she did, not what she was. Photo courtesy of The Telegraph

She was a small, pretty woman with chintzy blouses and a nervous habit of clearing her throat. A stiff leather handbag hung like a weapon over her arm; if a wisp of hair escaped from the helmet of her coiffure, she fiddled with it anxiously. In mid-campaign, she was given a grubby calf to hold and didn't know what to do with it. Our first views of Margaret Thatcher weren't reassuring.

Yet it was la difference that underwrote her astonishing success. The unthinkable – a woman prime minister – had been made flesh. Suddenly anything seemed possible. I was a city councillor in Birmingham with two small children. I knew, with total certainty, that if she could do it, then so could I.

Mrs Thatcher learnt very quickly to turn her outsider status to advantage. Declaring that she didn't know much about economics but did understand a household budget was an election strategy of genius. It allied her with the victims of strikes and disruption, those who had to make ends meet, the "hard-working families" of modern parlance who had to put aside doubts if they were to vote for her. However bizarre it may seem to have a woman in charge, they reasoned, she talked sense and should be given a chance: she couldn't be worse than the men.

Within her first term the doubts vanished. The Iron Lady had seen off Galtieri and was preparing the same treatment for Scargill, so all one had to do was sound rather like her. I sailed into Parliament at my first attempt in 1983, one of 397 Tory MPs (some 200 more than now). It was not really a surprise to find myself the first maiden speaker of the new intake, treated as a representative of a new breed, and soon a minister.

It was a fantastic and terrifying experience. Come to a meeting not properly briefed and you'd be mincemeat, and rightly so. Get something right and she would praise you embarrassingly in public. With a blue-eyed stare that could turn men to stone, she would snap out orders and expect them delivered. Once, in a cold spell in January 1987, she insisted that no vagrant was to be found frozen to the pavements and I was given the job. We managed it, with the help of the charities and an open purse, a now-forgotten episode entirely to her credit; the Rough Sleepers initiative was the outcome. No inquiries, no reviews, no soundbites, no pointless legislation: just get on and do it. >>> Edwina Currie | Sunday, April 26, 2009

Friday, 24 April 2009

Budget 2009: Now We Are All Up to Our Ears in It

THE TELEGRAPH: Alistair Darling's calamitous Budget not only consigned the nation to decades of debt, but also planted a poisonous legacy that will blight generations to come, says Jeff Randall.

"To preserve [the people's] independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our selection between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude." – Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States of America,1801-1809.

This week, Alistair Darling made a selection for us. His Budget for Bankruptcy banished economy and liberty. In their place, he delivered a profusion of unaffordable spending and a contract of servitude, not just for this generation, but for the next and the one after that. This is how independence is murdered. A ball-and-chain of spirit-sapping debt has been clamped to the nation's future. We are all serfs now.

In a speech of stunning torpidity (how does he manage it?), the Chancellor claimed: "You can grow your way out of recession, you can't cut your way out of it." Growth sounds attractive, an aspiration for solid citizens. Except the growth that Mr Darling had in mind was government borrowing, which is shooting up like bindweed on steroids, choking the economy.

His red numbers are so immense that most pocket calculators cannot accommodate them. Over the next five years – if all goes according to plan – Mr Darling will borrow £703,000,000,000. As the late Roy Castle used to say: "It's a record breaker!"

The United Kingdom is mired in debt, and the Chancellor's fiendishly clever escape route is, er, to borrow his way out of it. He's in a hole and digging furiously. Yet Gordon Brown, whose face is beginning to resemble a smacked bottom, was delighted by his cipher's performance. This style of presentation – straight from the Ceausescu handbook of statistics management – appeals to the Prime Minister's control-freakery.

It sounds complicated, but is surprisingly simple. You start with a politically desirable conclusion – in this case, the triumph of a suffocating state over personal responsibility, self-sufficiency and wealth-creating enterprise – and work backwards: cheating, lying, fiddling the numbers, until both sides of the balance sheet appear to be in harmony. This is how Labour operated its fraudulent boom. The same trick is being tried in a catastrophic bust. >>> By Jeff Randall | Thursday, April 23, 2009

THE TELEGRAPH: This Budget Will Make Us Pay for Britain's Excesses for Decades

Now we must all pay for the wild excesses of an irresponsible minority, says Adrian Michaels.

I wish I had known I was having such a good time. I will, according to the Budget, be paying for the country's excesses for decades. It is time to pull in the horns and tighten the belt. But wait. My belt doesn't have any more notches. I've been presented by Alistair Darling with the bill for a party I didn't attend.

For months now we have been hearing that it is bankers that brought the global economy to its knees through their irresponsible business practices, made possible by compliant and inattentive politicians and regulators. Meanwhile, people in financial services were paid far too much for their destructive corporate behaviour.

How much, exactly? In December 2007, 15 bankers – all men, of course – sat down for lunch at the Cap Horn, a mountain restaurant in the French ski resort of Courchevel. It was just turning dark when they paid the 28,000 euro bill. There were no prostitutes or drugs, I am informed, and the near-2,000 euros-a-head tab did not afford access to the President of the United States. No. The bankers were playing "Par One Hundred" – a drinking game in which the object would appear to be to vomit on your neighbour as fast as possible – with magnums of Krug champagne. The Cap Horn currently charges 850 euros for a magnum of 1997 Krug.

So what? "They're on a different planet," one friend said. That is the problem, however: bankers are not on a different planet, they are on exactly the same one as the rest of us. If they really were otherworldly, we could just forget about them and their lunches. But we all pay the price for their behaviour. The cheapest item on the Cap Horn's menu is cream cheese with salt and pepper at 13 euros. "Spaghetti à la Bolognaise" is 25 euros.

So not only weren't we at the party that has just ended, the quality of our own lives was made worse by the fiesta's participants. Bankers made sure that we could not eat in the same restaurants as in the past, we could not take holidays in a growing range of destinations, and we could not live where we wanted. Ask the residents of Salcombe in Devon – "Chelsea-on-Sea" as it has become known – about the empty homes in winter and the fancy delis selling porcini mushrooms instead of corner shops selling pints of milk and packets of Quavers. >>> By Adrian Michaels | Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Budget 2009: Gordon Brown Declares Class War with Tax on High Earners

THE TELEGRAPH: Gordon Brown has been accused of launching a "class war" against Middle Britain as he introduced a new 50 per cent top rate of tax to make the wealthy pay for the catastrophic state of public finances.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Photo courtesy of The Telegraph

Casting aside more than a decade of New Labour ideology, the government broke a key election manifesto promise by announcing an increase in income tax for those earning more than £150,000.

Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, also announced that the highest earners will lose valuable tax breaks on pension savings, as part of a package of measures that will see the tax grab from high earners raising up to £5.5 billion a year - an average of £18,333 annually per person.

The surprise new measures - which mean Britain will have the highest top rate of any major economy in the developed world - came as Mr Darling was forced to lay bare the true extent of Britain's levels of borrowing in his Budget.

In the worst economic forecast since the Second World War, he said he planned to borrow another £700 billion over the next five years, taking the national debt to £1.4 trillion.

Mr Brown and Mr Darling were accused of indulging in party politics at a time of national crisis by seeking to exploit the divide the Tories' on tax policy.

It was also suggested that the Prime Minister was returning to Old Labour policies designed to shore up Labour's core vote ahead of an election next year that he is on course to lose.

Labour MPs in the party's heartlands will welcome the move and ministers will argue that taxing those on very high salaries is popular among many voters.

But in raising the top rate of tax the government risk alienating the middle class voters that swept Tony Blair to power in 1997. >>> By Andrew Porter, Political Editor | Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Scholar's Critique Spurs Ijara Islamic Bond

REUTERS: DUBAI - Since a revered Islamic scholar spoke out against some sukuk structures more than a year ago, issuers have refocused their attention on the ijara Islamic bond model, bankers said on Wednesday.

Some bankers have attributed last year's downturn in issuance of sukuk, the Islamic alternative to Islamic bonds, to comments by Sheikh Muhammad Taqi Usmani that musharaka and mudaraba sukuk should not promise guaranteed returns.

Most Islamic bonds should be treated as equity instruments, said Usmani, chairman of the board of scholars at the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI).

His February 2008 comments marked a shift for Muslims seeking fixed-income returns and, in the following months, coincided with a slowdown in the sukuk market as the global financial crisis deepened.

But bankers at the Reuters Islamic Finance Summit on Wednesday downplayed that link, saying the general slump in the global debt market was behind the drying up of sukuk, not a fear the structures failed to comply with the spirit of Islam.

"The sukuk market has shrunk as a direct result of the market conditions rather than an issue with the structures themselves," said Raphael de Ricaud, head of Islamic finance at Rothschild, an investment bank providing advisory services. >>> By Daliah Merzaban | Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Some Sugar from Obama before Tea Parties

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD: AS US taxpayers rush to meet the April 15 deadline to lodge their tax returns, and President Barack Obama talks up the economy, thousands of citizens will hold tea parties throughout the nation to protest the Administration's big-spending economic policies.

Organisers expect there will be at least 600 such events in towns and cities throughout the nation and are forecasting tens of thousands will attend some of the larger ones in major cities such as Chicago.

The tea party theme is a nod to the Boston Tea Party of 1773 when outraged colonists threw tea into the harbour to protest the tax on it imposed by their English overlords. It is regarded as the spark that ignited the American Revolutionary War. >>> Anne Davies Herald Correspondent in Washington | Thursday, April 16, 2009
Geldpolitik: Der Welt droht ein Krieg der Währungen

WELT ONLINE: Die Finanzkrise macht die Zentralbanken erfinderisch. Immer mehr Staaten setzen im Kampf um Wettbewerbsvorteile auf die Abwertung ihres Geldes – auf Kosten der Nachbarn. Ein Blick in die Geschichte zeigt: Wer die billigste Währung hat, kommt besser durch eine Krise und als erster aus ihr heraus.

Am Devisenmarkt sind bereits erste drastische Folgen des Abwertungswettlaufs zu erkennen. Die Währungen jener Staaten, deren Notenbanken eine unkonventionell aggressive Geldpolitik verfolgen, haben sich in den vergangenen Wochen gegenüber dem Euro deutlich verbilligt. Bild dank der Welt

Goh Chok Tong hat die Zeichen der Zeit verstanden. Der Chef von Singapurs Notenbank setzt alles daran, seinen heimischen Dollar zu schwächen. Denn der Stadtstaat steht vor dem schwersten Wirtschaftseinbruch seit seiner Unabhängigkeit vor 44 Jahren und kann jede konjunkturelle Unterstützung gebrauchen.

Weltweit ist die Währungsschlacht eröffnet. Die Finanzkrise macht die Zentralbanken erfinderisch. Mit Devisenmarktinterventionen, billionenschweren Anleihekäufen oder ultrabilligem Geld starten Notenbanken einen Feldzug für die heimische Konjunktur. Immer mehr Staaten setzen im Kampf um Wettbewerbsvorteile auf die Abwertung ihres Geldes. Ein Blick in die Geschichte offenbart: Wer im internationalen Vergleich die billigste Währung hat, kommt besser durch eine Wirtschaftskrise und auch als erster aus ihr heraus. Der Abwertungswettlauf bietet auch Chancen für Anleger. Devisenfonds haben zuletzt prächtig an den Verschiebungen der Wechselkurse verdient. Das beste Produkt liegt in diesem Jahr zweistellig im Plus. >>> Von Holger Zschäpitz | Mittwoch, 15. April 2009
Cuba: Open for Business

THE GUARDIAN: For the last 50 years, Cuba has struggled under a crippling US trade embargo. But this week President Obama eased sanctions on the island. Rory Carroll reports from Havana on what this will mean for ordinary Cubans

Photo: Google Images

They file into terminal 2 of José Martí international airport like any other ­tourists, wheeling and hauling luggage, checking mobile phones for reception, fumb­ling with passports. Navy blue passports, stamped with the image of a bald eagle with outstretched wings. American passports. ­History has yet to call time on half a century of enmity between the United States and Cuba, but these arrivals in jeans and sneakers are not awaiting a formal truce. A once forbidden island, they sense, is on the verge of opening up, and they are here to see it.

The trickle started a few weeks ago. ­Gum-chewing backpackers, middle-aged ­professionals, retirees, all bold enough to defy the US ­prohibition on spending money in Cuba, a de facto travel ban. Cubans half- jokingly call their new American visitors "los valientes", the brave ones, for carving a beachhead. Lenin, in a wry mood, might have called them a ­revolutionary vanguard. A more poetic soul would compare them to the first swallows of spring, harbingers of thaw.

The glacier in which the cold war remnant that is Cuba has been trapped may soon melt. Barack Obama this week lifted a broad set of sanctions that were designed to isolate the island. Cuban Americans, currently restricted on the amount of money then can send home and to one visit every three years, will be allowed to go as often as they wish and to send more money to relatives. Obama has also lifted restrictions on US telecommunications com­panies applying for licences to operate there, and on scheduled commercial flights to the island. Air travel is currently limited to charter flights from Miami, New York and Los Angeles for Cuban Americans with relatives on the island, and those with a special reason to visit, such as journalists.

The changes soften US policy but leave in place the economic embargo that John Kennedy imposed in 1962 - a ban on trade and investment designed to choke Fidel Castro's nascent ­revolutionary government. Over the decades the embargo was tightened and loosened, but the objective remained the same: topple Castro. It failed to do so. Cuba's ­economy staggered on and ­Castro strengthened his grip, but the embargo was maintained. >>> Rory Carroll | Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Guardian Audio: The Guardian's Latin America correspondent Rory Carroll explains why Barack Obama has been able to sidestep Florida's powerful Cuban exiles in breaking down barriers between the two nations >>>

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Dhimmitude Alert! Lloyd's of London Eyes Islamic Reinsurance

Educating Islamic Bankers: Dubai International Financial Center plans to set up a board to encourage education in Islamic finance, an industry that is likely to grow by 15 to 20 percent this year despite the financial crisis.

The Executive Director of Islamic finance at the DIFC Nik Thani, speaking at the 2009 Reuters Islamic Banking and Finance Summit in Dubai, says that with large conventional banks increasingly venturing into the Islamic arena, more educational and training resources are needed.

Thani says "this would be the minimum standard and from their we could build up to other things...including degrees in Islamic finance."

Speaker: Nik Thani, Islamic Finance Executive Director Dubai International Financial Center

Presenter: Ruben Ramirez, Dubai

REUTERS: LONDON - Lloyd's of London is setting up an Islamic re-insurance syndicate with a capacity of up to 200 million pounds to write Islamic compliant reinsurance globally, a PriceWaterhouseCoopers executive said on Tuesday.

Mohammad Khan, director for Islamic insurance, or takaful, at PwC, said the Lloyd's syndicate would include mainly financial institutions and to a lesser extent individual investors. It would become operational between the end of 2009 and the beginning of next year.

Financial consultant and accounting firm PwC is advising the financial group on the syndicate, he said at the Reuters Islamic Banking and Finance Summit in London.

Lloyd's of London was not immediately available to comment. >>> By Cecilia Valente | Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Blair Incorporated

THE TELEGRAPH: Tony Blair is the most highly paid speaker on the planet, and his wife is not doing too badly, either.

Mr and Mrs Blair have banked close to £18 million since leaving 10 Downing Street . Photo courtesy of The Telegraph

As Tony Blair soaked up the applause of an adoring Filipino audience at the end of his latest paid speaking engagement last month, a startling statistic must surely have popped into his head. In the space of just 30 minutes, Mr Blair had earned £183,000 – the same as his salary as prime minister.

Put another way, he earned £6,000 per minute for addressing a 2,000-strong audience in Manila, making him far and away the highest-paid public speaker on the planet.

And the lectures, where Mr Blair delivers such pearls of wisdom as "politics really matters, but a lot of what goes on is not great", are only a small part of his vast earnings, which could very well net him a staggering £80 million by the time he reaches retirement age in 10 years' time.

Welcome to Blair Incorporated, a money-making machine like no other in the history of former political leaders.

No other retired statesman, not even Mr Blair's old buddy Bill Clinton, has made so much cash so quickly after leaving office.

Between them, Mr Blair and his wife Cherie have banked close to £18 million in the two years since they moved out of Downing Street, with no sign of any let-up in their earning power.

Such is the demand for Mr Blair's services on the international speaking circuit that there is a two-year waiting list for bookings, and Max Markson, the colourful Australian PR man who has worked with the likes of Nelson Mandela and Mr Clinton, described him as "one of the biggest stars in the world".

Mr Blair, 55, is certainly acting the part. He has assembled a global empire with its headquarters in a smart four-storey office in Grosvenor Square and outlying offices in America, Africa and the Middle East. >>> By Gordon Rayner | Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Simbabwe ohne eigene Währung: Hyperinflation führt zum geldpolitischen Totalkollaps

NZZ Online: Simbabwe schafft den Simbabwe Dollar für mindestens ein Jahr ab. Das meldet die staatlich-kontrollierte «Sunday Mail» unter Berufung auf den Wirtschaftsminister. Die Inflation erreichte zuletzt, auf ein Jahr hochgerechnet, 230 Millionen Prozent.

Nichts wert: Noten bis zum Nennwert von 100 Trillionen Zimbabwe Dollar. Bild dank der Neuen Zürcher Zeitung

Erst wenn die Industrieproduktion wieder anspringe, könne über eine Wiedereinführung der eigenen Währung nachgedacht werden. Derzeit aber gebe es nichts, was die Währung stütze, zitierte die Zeitung den Wirtschafts- und Entwicklungsminister Elton Mangoma.

Die Regierung hatte bereits im Januar mehrere ausländische Währungen als Zahlungsmittel zugelassen in der Hoffung, so die galoppierende Inflation zumindest zu bremsen. Darunter sind der Euro, der US-Dollar und der südafrikanische Rand. >>> sda/Reuters | Sonntag, 12. April 2009

Monday, 13 April 2009

New Dark Age Alert! Shariah Bankers: West Ready for Faith-based Alternative

THE WASHINGTON POST: SINGAPORE | Backers of Shariah-compliant finance see an opportunity for expansion amid the global economic downturn, and some Western banks are welcoming this growing source of new business.

"Islamic bankers should do some missionary work in the Western world to promote the concept of Shariah banking, for which many in the West are more than ready now," Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said at the World Islamic Economic Forum last month in Jakarta.

Such statements have given rise to fears that Shariah finance is a stalking horse for hidden political or religious aims. Shariah finance is an extension of Islamic law, pushing a faith-based alternative to Western banking.

Key Islamists who advise Shariah financial houses have called for full Shariah law to be adopted in Western countries and, in some cases, have made statements supporting terrorist groups.

Shariah finance means institutions and norms that fit with Islamic law. Fully compliant Islamic financial institutions are prohibited from interest payments and require transactions to be backed by tangible assets.

Speculation and hedge funds are off limits — ditto for anything connected to porn, gambling, alcohol or pork. Shariah finance targets Muslims who want to avoid what are deemed "un-Islamic" Western banks or financial practices, and appeals to clients' faith as well as their bottom line. >>> By Simon Roughneen | Monday, April 13, 2009

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Goldman Sachs Hires Law Firm to Shut Blogger's Site

THE TELEGRAPH: Goldman Sachs is attempting to shut down a dissident blogger who is extremely critical of the investment bank, its board members and its practices.

The bank has instructed Wall Street law firm Chadbourne & Parke to pursue blogger Mike Morgan, warning him in a recent cease-and-desist letter that he may face legal action if he does not close down his website.

Florida-based Mr Morgan began a blog entitled "Facts about Goldman Sachs" – the web address for which is – just a few weeks ago.

In that time Mr Morgan, a registered investment adviser, has added a number of posts to the site, including one entitled "Does Goldman Sachs run the world?". However, many of the posts relate to other Wall Street firms and issues.

According to Chadbourne & Parke's letter, dated April 8, the bank is rattled because the site "violates several of Goldman Sachs' intellectual property rights" and also "implies a relationship" with the bank itself.

Unsurprisingly for a man who has conjoined the bank's name with the Number of the Beast – although he jokingly points out that 666 was also the S&P500's bear-market bottom – Mr Morgan is unlikely to go down without a fight. >>> By James Quinn, Wall Street Correspondent | Saturday, April 11, 2009

Monday, 6 April 2009

Swiss Slide into Deflation Signals the Next Chapter of This Global Crisis

THE TELEGRAPH: Watch Switzerland closely. It is tipping into deflation, the first Western country to succumb to Japan's disease.

Swiss consumer prices fell 0.4pc in March (year-on-year). Swiss CPI will be minus 1pc at least by July, nearing the level where spending psychology changes. By the time you have a self-feeding spiral, it is too late.

"This is something that we must prevent at all costs. The current situation is extraordinarily serious," said Philipp Hildebrand, a governor of the Swiss National Bank.

The SNB is not easily spooked. It is the world's benchmark bank, the keeper of the monetary flame. Yet even the SNB's hard men have thrown away the rule book, taking emergency action to force down the exchange rate of the Swiss franc.

Here lies the danger. If other countries try to export deflation by this means, we will face a second phase of the global crisis. Taiwan is already devaluing. Korea, Singapore, and Sweden all seem tempted to follow. Japan is chomping at the bit.

"We don't fully realise in the West what a catastrophic collapse Japan has suffered," says Albert Edwards, global strategist at Société Générale. "The West has dumped a large part of its economic downturn onto Japan by devaluing against the yen."

This is about to go into reverse as Tokyo hits the ping-pong ball back across the net. "As the unfolding collapse in the yen gathers pace, the West will see its green shoots incinerated to dust," he said. >>> By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard | Sunday, April 5, 2009

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Dhimmitude! Outright Dhimmitude! Read This Article and You’ll Be Nauseated! Have the British Lost All Sense of What Once Made Them a Great Nation?

THIS IS MONEY: As borrowers and savers call for a fairer banking system, are the principals of Islamic banking the answer? We take a look at the Islamic Bank of Britain

Tired of hearing about fat cat bank bonuses when you have been a bank's loyal saver for decades and received nothing?

Well, there is a new bank in Britain offering out a share of its profits, not just to shareholders, but those who deposit savings into its coffers.

The main aim of the Islamic Bank of Britain is to offer 'Sharia compliant' ways of borrowing and saving for British Muslims, which are in tune with Islamic law.

Non-Muslim bank customers can also benefit from this as Sharia rules – based on ethical trading principles – mean ordinary customers benefit along with the bank in the good times.

But they can also lose if the bank starts to lose funds. Is Islamic Banking the Model for Fairness? >>> Alan O’Sullivan | Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Paperback & Hardback) – Free delivery >>>
Secret bancaire: la Suisse va agir vite

TRIBUNE DE GENÈVE: G20 | La volonté de la Suisse d'agir dans le domaine du secret bancaire est sincère, a souligné Micheline Calmy-Rey dans une interview au «Temps».

Micheline Calmy-Rey. Photo grâce à la Tribune de Genève

«Nous n'avons aucun avantage à traîner les pieds car notre intérêt, c'est d'obtenir les mêmes conditions-cadres pour toutes les places financières. Nous avons de sérieuses concurrentes», a relevé la ministre des affaires étrangères. Celle-ci rappelle que le gouvernement est déterminé à concrétiser ses décisions, qui mettent fin à la distinction entre fraude et évasion fiscale.

Le fait que la Suisse se retrouve, après le sommet du G20, sur une liste grise s'explique vu qu'elle a pris des engagements, mais doit encore les mettre en vigueur. Et la renégociation de 74 accords de double imposition prendra un peu de temps, explique Micheline Calmy-Rey. >>> ATS | Samedi 04 Avril 2009

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Broché et Relié) - Livraison gratuite dans toute la Suisse >>>
The Liberal Economist Who's Become Obama's Chief Critic

THE INDEPENDENT: Forget the Republicans, the biggest thorn in the President's side is Paul Krugman. Stephen Foley reports

Paul Krugman On the bank bailout: 'The plans are a classic exercise in 'lemon socialism': taxpayers bear the cost if things go wrong, stockholders and executives get the benefits if things go right. Photo courtesy of The Independent

His apocalyptic warnings have sent readers flocking to his blog. A viral video of a Californian man literally singing his praises is a hit on YouTube. Tickets to a lecture he was giving in California last night were going for $135 (£91). Newsweek magazine just put him on the cover and dubbed him the head of "the loyal opposition". Paul Krugman is the man of the moment. And Team Obama is rattled.

While the US leader has been entrancing foreign statesmen on a whirlwind tour of Europe and trying to craft an era of bipartisanship back home, his staunchest opponent has appeared from very close quarters – from the left – threatening a crisis of confidence that could capsize his infant presidency.

The Obama administration has been blindsided by the emergence of Mr Krugman – not even a politician, but an economist – as a focus for dissidents who believe it is not doing enough to repair the economy.

On both pillars of Mr Obama's economic strategy – the $800bn package to stimulate the economy and the $1 trillion bailout for the financial sector – the bearded Princeton university professor has been the President's most coruscating critic.

Mr Krugman has been doing his New York Times column for a decade. He has long been a staple on political talk shows and gained new respect last year when he won the Nobel prize for economics for his work on international trade. But in the past few months, he has tapped into the anxiety of a wider audience, which is asking the question of the moment: will the Obama recovery plan work?

His answer is no. The economic stimulus Bill was far smaller than required to combat soaring job losses, which yesterday passed five million since the start of the US recession. Worse, the plan to repair the banking system – lending private investors up to $1 trillion to buy toxic mortgage assets from the country's ailing banks, in the hope of freeing them up to start lending again – is doomed, because it is based on the flawed notion that the major US banks are fundamentally sound. >>> Stephen Foley | Saturday, April 4, 2009

YOUTUBE: The Shortcomings of the Stimulus Plan

Friday, 3 April 2009

G20 Summit: Global Financial Crackdown Is Cost of Solving Crisis

THE TELEGRAPH: • New Financial Stability Board as global overseer • Tax havens and hedge funds to be punished • Heavy scrutiny for banks

Gordon Brown and his fellow world leaders have pledged the biggest crackdown on tax havens, hedge funds and banks in modern history as the price to be paid for the multi-trillion dollar bail-out of the world economy.

"The era of banking secrecy is over", the Prime Minister declared, as the Group of 20 leading nations agreed to impose a new range of regulations on banks and non-bank financial institutions as a punishment for contributing to the crisis.

Harsh fines and sanctions will be levied on tax havens that refuse to publish details of their accounts; hedge funds will have to provide more detailed accounts in the future; and bankers will have their bonuses more heavily controlled and taxed throughout the world, the communique pledged.

The range of new regulations will be implemented by national governments in the coming months, officials said, after the G20 agreed on more significant and far-reaching reforms than had been expected.

In what will be interpreted as a victory for the French and German factions, which had emphasised the importance of regulation over new fiscal giveaways, the G20 also ordered the creation of a new Financial Stability Board dedicated to monitoring leverage and inter-connectedness of international financial institutions. >>> By Edmund Conway Economics Editor | Friday, April 3, 2009

THE TELEGRAPH: G20 Summit: Blacklisted Tax Havens Face Sanctions

Tax havens that refuse to sign anti-secrecy agreements face expensive sanctions under an unprecedented global effort to catch illegal tax evaders.

Liechtenstein is among 45 territories blacklisted by the OECD and threatened with punitive financial retaliation for banking secrecy. Photo courtesy of The Telegraph

Switzerland, Singapore, the Cayman Islands, Monaco, Luxembourg and Hong Kong are among 45 territories blacklisted on Thursday by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and now threatened with punitive financial retaliation for their banking secrecy.

Among the sanctions being considered by the G20 are the scrapping of tax treaty arrangements, imposing additional taxes on companies that operate in non-compliant countries, and tougher disclosure requirements for individuals and businesses that use shelters.

Of the offending jurisdictions, 40 "have committed to the internationally agreed tax standard" but have yet to implement it. Only Costa Rica, Malaysia, Philippines and Uruguay have refused to sign up altogether. Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man are fully compliant already.

Illegal tax evasion through offshore shelters has been a long-standing irritation for Gordon Brown, President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. An estimated $7 trillion of assets are held offshore and, according to pressure group Tax Justice Network, developed countries lose $180bn a year in evaded taxes. >>> By Philip Aldrick, Banking Editor | Friday, April 3, 2009
Weimar 1923 May Have More Lessons than US 1932

THE TELEGRAPH: Are we heading for another Great Depression?

Many baffled forecasters are asking just that, and studying what the US did wrong after the stock market crashed in 1929. But the more relevant policy errors might have been those made earlier across the Atlantic - in Weimar Germany from 1919 to 1923.

Policymakers have learned from the US mistakes. This time around, there has been no shrinkage of the money supply and no repetition of President Hoover's increase in tariffs in 1930 and income taxes in 1932. On the contrary, money supply has expanded rapidly while fiscal policies have been expansionary and protectionism limited.

But look at the Weimar government. Suffering from the trauma of defeat in the First World War and the burden of reparations, it was too weak to raise taxes. It ran large budget deficits instead. Interest rates were kept far below the rate of inflation, while money supply expanded rapidly. About half of government expenditure was funded by newly printed money. >>> By Martin Hutchinson, | Wednesday, April 1, 2009
RBS: Sir Fred Goodwin 'Thinking About' Shredding His Pension

THE TELEGRAPH: Former Royal Bank of Scotland boss Sir Fred Goodwin - known as 'Fred the Shred' - is considering a "voluntary reduction" in his £703,000-a-year pension payout, the bank has confirmed.

Chairman Sir Philip Hampton said Sir Fred was thinking about the move, but said it was too soon to know what the outcome would be.

He said: "I've asked Sir Fred if he would consider a voluntary reduction and he's told me he's thinking about that."

The comments come ahead of the bank's annual general meeting in Edinburgh later on Friday, when angry shareholders are expected to vote down RBS's remuneration report in protest at Sir Fred's controversial pension payout.

RBS - now majority-owned by the taxpayer - also warned of more job losses in the UK and internationally as it said the 2,700 announced so far this year for the UK were "not the end of the story".

The embattled bank said it was still unclear how many redundancies would be made, but stressed it would do "all it can" to keep compulsory redundancies to a minimum.

The group is laying off staff as part of a plan to cut £2.5 billion from annual costs within the next three years. >>> | Friday, April 3, 2009
Kommentar: Das Bankgeheimnis war eine bürgerliche Bastion

WELT ONLINE: Der G-20-Gipfel hat das Bankgeheimnis abgeschafft. Das ist ein Schlag gegen bürgerliche Ideale. Es ist daran zu erinnern, dass die totalitären Regime des 20. Jahrhunderts jedes Bankgeheimnis kassierten, weil sie es als Zelle bürgerlicher Resistenz betrachteten. Leider breitet sich der moderne Steuerstaat hemmungslos aus.

Es gab einmal ein Bankgeheimnis, und das beruhte auf Vertrauen zwischen Bürger und Bank wie zwischen beiden und dem Staat. Unbetrauert und ohne Nachruhm ist das Bankgeheimnis auf dem G-20-Gipfel ins Grab gesunken. Mit ihm die Reste der bürgerlichen Epoche.

Dieser Abschied ist Anlass zu mehr als dem zynischen Achselzucken, es sei ohnehin der Datenschutz nichts als ein leeres Wort, oder die unschuldige Bemerkung, man habe doch nichts zu verbergen. Es ist daran zu erinnern, dass die totalitären Regime des 20. Jahrhunderts jedes Bankgeheimnis kassierten, weil sie es als Zelle bürgerlicher Resistenz betrachteten. Leider aber hat der moderne Steuerstaat die Tendenz, sich hemmungslos auszubreiten, jeden Lebensvorgang, oder nahezu jeden, zu kontrollieren und die – Bismarcks frühe Warnung zu zitieren – „misera contribuens plebs“ unter Generalverdacht zu stellen.

Steuern sind zu zahlen, keine Frage. Man muss es ja nicht lächelnd tun. Es reicht, dass der Staat das Vertrauen, das ihm in steiler Progression finanziell übertragen wird, seinerseits durch verantwortlichen Umgang rechtfertigt. Das ist Grundlage der Legitimität. Aber sie endet, wie das Bundesverfassungsgericht vor Jahren bereits feststellte, irgendwo an der Schwelle zu 50 Prozent vom Einkommen. >>> Von Michael Stürmer | Donnerstag, 2. April 2009

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Taschenbuch) – Deutschland & Österreich >>>
The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Gebundene Ausgabe) – Deutschland & Österreich >>>
Armut: Jeder zehnte Amerikaner braucht Lebensmittelhilfe

WELT ONLINE: Die Wirtschaftskrise in den USA führt immer mehr Menschen an den Rand des Existenzminimums. So sind inzwischen zehn Prozent der Amerikaner auf staatliche Lebensmittelmarken angewiesen. Das ist eine Rekordzahl von 32,2 Millionen Bedürftigen. Obama plant jetzt eine Erhöhung des Lebensmittel-Programms um 13 Prozent.

Bild dank Google Images

In den USA ist inzwischen jeder zehnte Bürger auf die Lebensmittelhilfe der Regierung angewiesen.

Im Januar habe eine Rekordzahl von 32,2 Millionen Bedürftigen Lebensmittelmarken erhalten, teilte das Landwirtschaftsministerium mit. Im Durchschnitt seien in dem Monat pro begünstigte Person 112,82 Dollar bezahlt worden. >>> Reuters/fsl | Freitag, 3. April 2009

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Chance of Winning on Premium Bonds at Lowest Ever

THE TELEGRAPH: The chance of winning a prize on Premium Bonds is at the lowest ever level, figures show.

More than 20 million people have the tax-free, Government-backed bonds which do not pay interest, but offer savers a potential share of a monthly prize draw.

However, the odds of winning have plummeted as interest rates have dropped. In April 2008, there was a one in 18 chance of winning anything over a year, compared to just one in 30 people today.

Even worse, the minimum win has been cut from £50 to just £25 today, while the odds of winning £50 or more are just one in 574. Chance of Winning on Premium Bonds at Lowest Ever >>> By Myra Butterworth, Personal Finance Correspondent | Wednesday, April 1, 2009