Friday, May 29, 2015

Bloomberg News - Forget Greece, Macau Is World’s Worst Performing Economy

Inside The Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd. Casino Resort Phase Two And Broadway Macau
The Galaxy Macau Phase 2 casino and hotel, developed by Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd., in Macau, China.
Billy H.C. Kwok/Bloomberg

If you think Greece or Ukraine’s economies are in bad shape, the Chinese gambling city of Macau is doing worse than those European countries ever did.

The tiny gambling enclave in China's south saw its GDP last quarter shrink by about 25 percent -- a feat it took Greece six years to achieve.

VIP gaming -- the big money spinner for Macau's casinos -- has been hammered by President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign, which has snared thousands of officials. Demand is further damped by China’s economic slowdown. Gross gaming revenue in the world's biggest gambling hub slumped 39 percent in April -- an 11th straight decline.
The reliance of the former colony of Portugal on its lucrative but volatile casinos has left the economy vulnerable to swings on the tables. Gambling accounted for almost 80 percent of the city’s GDP last year. 
While the comparison with Greece's GDP slide is stark, perhaps the jobs situation better describes the true picture:

Operators such as Sands China Ltd. are building diversified resorts and hotels to more mass-market clients. Time will tell if they're doubling down or making a safer, better bet.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

BBC News - Tax evasion: EU-Switzerland sign deal 'to end banking secrecy'

The EU and Switzerland have signed an agreement that is intended to clamp down on tax evasion, the European Commission has said.
People making financial transactions
From 2018, EU residents will be prevented from hiding undeclared income in Swiss banks.
The EU and Switzerland will exchange information on the bank accounts which their respective citizens hold.
The EU Commission said it was a "deterrent" against hiding income abroad.
"This new transparency should not only improve member states' ability to track down and tackle tax evaders, but it should also act as a deterrent against hiding income and assets abroad to evade taxes" the EU Commission said.
The Commission is also negotiating similar agreements with Andorra, Liechtenstein and Monaco.
EU commissioner Pierre Moscovici said that the agreed automatic exchange of information was "another blow against tax evaders and (represents) another leap towards fairer taxation in Europe".
It follows an agreement for "strengthened transparency" made between EU member states last year.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Bloomberg News - Greece to Meet With Creditors as Talks Stuck in Stalemate

Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel
French President Francois Hollande, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week set a target of reaching a deal by the end of May. Photographer: Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

Greek officials plan to meet Wednesday in Brussels with creditors as time runs short to secure a deal before the country needs to make payments to the International Monetary Fund in early June.
There has been little convergence in recent talks to release bailout funds the country needs to pay the IMF almost 1.6 billion euros ($1.75 billion) next month, said people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. The first of the transfers is due June 5.
Greece’s standoff with lenders is likely to be a major topic on the sidelines of a Group of Seven gathering starting Wednesday evening in Dresden, Germany, for finance ministers and central bank governors. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande last week set a target of reaching a deal by the end of May, a goal that Tsipras’s spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis said Monday can be reached.
“Unfortunately, a lot of time has been lost,” European Central Bank Governing Council member Ardo Hansson said Tuesday in Tallinn, Estonia. “An agreement where underlying principles aren’t undermined would be in everyone’s interest, but so far it has been progressing very arduously.”
Greek shares rose Wednesday morning, with the benchmark Athens Stock Exchange gaining 0.7 percent at 10:45 a.m. local time. The gauge has fallen about 31 percent in the past 12 months, making it one of the worst performing major equity indexes tracked by Bloomberg. Yields on two-year notes rose for a second day, gaining 59 basis points to 25.49 percent.

G-7 Meeting

As the negotiations drag on, Greece has seen liquidity evaporate, pushing the economy back into recession. Record deposit withdrawals and the state’s increasing difficulty in meeting debt payments have renewed doubts about the country’s ability to stay in the euro. Key sticking points in the talks remain in areas such as budget targets, sales-tax rates, pension and labor market rules, Sakellaridis said.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew will urge his G-7 counterparts to find a constructive and pragmatic outcome in the Greece negotiations, a Treasury official said Tuesday. Failure to reach an agreement could create some unpredictable uncertainties for the European and global economies, said the official, who briefed reporters by phone on condition of not being further identified. A bad outcome in Greece could impact Europe and the rest of the world through many channels, he said.

ECB Call

The ECB is scheduled to hold a weekly conference call Wednesday to review the liquidity situation of Greek banks, as well as the discount it applies to the collateral the lenders pledge in exchange for emergency cash. The banks have lost access to capital markets, forcing them to rely on 80 billion euros of emergency assistance to stay afloat. The ECB can restrict those funds, if it judges that beneficiary lenders are not solvent or don’t have enough eligible collateral.
Even though no aid disbursements have been made to Greece since last summer, the country has managed to meet external payments by slowing down spending, building up arrears to suppliers and vendors, encouraging citizens to pay overdue taxes, and seizing the cash reserves of regional governments, hospitals, universities, and other public entities.
Greece expects to finalize a deal with creditors by June 5 -- when the first IMF payment is due -- and is discussing with them imposing a levy on bank transactions, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis told reporters in Athens on Tuesday. In a sign of the country’s efforts to find ways to boost income, Varoufakis said the government is also preparing legislation proposing a 15 percent tax to legalize undeclared deposits held in Switzerland and other jurisdictions.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Reuters News - Fed's Fischer: Too much weight placed on Fed's first rate hike

U.S. Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer said it was "misleading" to give so much importance to the Fed's first interest rate hike since the process of returning to a more normal level will take a few years.
Fischer, speaking in Israel, said that while markets largely expect the first rate hike in September, it will be determined by data and not by date.
"If the (U.S.) economy is growing very, very slowly we will wait. If the economy is growing faster we will do it quicker," he said in a speech.
"What we are thinking about is raising the interest rate from zero, which is an ultra expansionary monetary policy to a quarter percent, which is an extremely expansionary monetary policy. This will be a gradual process," he said.
Fischer noted that the Federal Reserve board expects the interest rate will reach 3.25 to 4 percent by 2017-2018.

(Reporting by Steven Scheer and Tova Cohen)

Monday, May 25, 2015

BBC News - China cuts import taxes to boost consumer demand

China will cut import taxes on consumer goods by more than 50% on average in a bid to boost consumer spending.
Gucci shop in ChinaThe government wants more people to buy imported goods from shops in China
High tariffs for imported goods have prompted some Chinese consumers to shop abroad or through agents.
By lowering the fees, China may hope to bring some of that consumer spending home.
The government is particularly keen to promote domestic demand as the country is growing at its slowest rate since 2009.
The tariff reduction is an "important measure to create stable growth and push forward structural reform", said the Ministry of Finance.
From 1 June tariffs for Western-style clothing will be reduced to 7-10% from 14-23%.
Taxes on ankle-high boots and sports shoes will be halved to 12%. Import tariffs on skincare products will fall from 5% to 2%.
However, its not just import taxes that drive up the prices of imported consumer goods in China. VAT and other taxes also play a part.
Analysts say consumers in China pay around 20% more for luxury goods than those in Europe.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Bloomberg News - German Investment Picks Up in Sign of Confidence

German investment and consumption rose last quarter in a sign of confidence in Europe’s largest economy.
Capital spending increased 1.5 percent and private consumption advanced 0.6 percent, while net trade was a drag on growth, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden said on Friday. Gross domestic product rose 0.3 percent in the first three months of the year after expanding 0.7 percent in the previous quarter, it said, confirming a May 13 estimate.
While the slowdown in German growth came just as the euro area’s recovery accelerated, the Bundesbank said that the nation’s economic expansion will continue in the coming months, supported by consumer spending. A gauge of business confidence to be published on Friday is forecast to remain close to a 10-month high even as ebbing momentum in manufacturing signal that the economy isn’t immune to risks from weaker global trade.
“The German economy is likely to continue to grow at a reasonable pace in 2015,” said Johannes Gareis, an economist at Natixis in Frankfurt. “The fundamentals look good, even if recent economic data suggest that the German engine lost some steam. The GDP reading gives hope that the wait-and-see attitude among firms fades, giving way for a buoyant outlook for investment.”
Construction investment rose 1.7 percent and government spending increased 0.7 percent, the statistics office report showed. A growth rate of 1.5 percent in imports outpaced exports at 0.8 percent.
Companies across Germany have shrugged off signs of moderating growth.
ThyssenKrupp AG, the country’s largest steelmaker, raised its earnings forecast after reporting second-quarter profit that beat analysts’ estimates. Continental AG, Europe’s second-biggest maker of car parts and tires, has boosted its 2015 sales forecast three times this year and said profitability will “comfortably” reach its target.
By contrast, investor confidence fell in May to the lowest level since December, while a gauge of manufacturing and services activity dropped to 52.8 from 54.1 in April, with factories’ export orders rising only “marginally.”
Business confidence probably also eased in May. The Ifo institute’s index of business climate fell to 108.3 from 108.6 in April, according to a Bloomberg survey. Munich-based Ifo will release that report at 10 a.m. Frankfurt time.
Germany’s economy is still set to outperform that of the euro area over the next two years. The European Commission predicts German growth of 1.9 percent in 2015 and 2 percent in 2016, compared with 1.5 percent and 1.9 percent in the single-currency bloc.
“The underlying momentum for the German economy remains solid,” said Anna Maria Grimaldi, an economist at Intesa Sanpaolo SpA in Milan. “The weakness in global trade in early 2015, persistent geopolitical uncertainty, together with heightened volatility on European financial markets, explain the decline in German business sentiment in May.”

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Reuters News - Weak China factories chill hopes for global bounce, U.S. lift needed

Manufacturing activity in Asia's top two economic powerhouses remained stuck in low gear in May, but an absence of inflation pressures suggested that authorities could inject yet more stimulus if needed.
The lackluster performance in China and Japan, along with alarmingly weak export data from South Korea and Taiwan, put the burden of supporting global growth squarely on Europe and particularly the United States, which is struggling to get back on track after a fierce winter.
China's factory activity contracted for the third straight month in May as domestic and export orders shrank, a private survey showed, adding to views that Beijing will have to roll out its most aggressive stimulus measures since the global financial crisis to avert a sharper slowdown.
"The subdued flash PMI print suggests there is no clear sign of near-term stabilization in (China's) economy. Risks to the outlook remain to the downside," Barclays economist Shengzu Wang said in a research note.
The flash or preliminary HSBC/Markit Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to 49.1 in May, weaker than an expected 49.3 and marking the fifth contraction in activity in six months.
China has already cut interest rates three times in six months and economists believe it will have to ease further as economic growth threatens to slow below the 7-percent pace seen in the first quarter.
Annabel Fiddes, an economist at Markit, said relatively strong deflationary pressures should leave plenty of scope for the authorities to implement further stimulus measures.
Analysts at Nomura saw China's growth slowing to 6.6 percent year-on-year in the second quarter, before edging up to 6.8 percent in the second half of the year.
"To offset the headwinds from deep-seated structural challenges, we maintain our call of further monetary easing with two more 50-basis-point (bps) cuts to banks' reserve requirement ratio and two more 25 bp policy interest rates cuts over the rest of this year," they said.
"The most likely timing for the next easing could be July, in our opinion, as it will take time for policymakers to assess the impact of policy easing taken so far."
In Japan, factory activity returned to growth as production and new orders picked up, but the improvement was tepid. The PMI edged up to 50.9, from 49.9 in April.
The report came on the back of official data this week that showed Japan's economy expanded in January-March at the fastest pace in a year.
However, much of that growth came from inventories as goods piled up on factory floors, and private consumption, housing investment and exports all rose but at a feeble pace.
Still, subdued input and output prices suggested inflation remained stubbornly low, adding to expectations the Bank of Japan will expand its already massive monetary stimulus program later this year.
Flash PMI readings for the euro zone are due at 0800 GMT, followed by the U.S. report at 1345 GMT.
Minutes of the U.S. central bank's April policy meeting released on Wednesday showed officials debated whether a slew of disappointing data, including weak consumer spending, signaled a temporary slump or evidence of a longer-lasting slowdown.
Most participants agreed economic growth would climb to a healthier pace and the labor market would strengthen.

(Additional reporting by Kevin Yao in BEIJING and Stanley White in TOKYO; Editing by Kim Coghill)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

BBC News - Japan's economy grows faster than expected

Japan's economy grew faster than expected between January and March, boosting hopes that the economy is recovering from last year's recession.
japan consumers
Private consumption accounts for about 60% of Japan's economy
The economy expanded 0.6% in the period compared to the previous quarter, marking its second consecutive quarter of growth.
The result was far better than the 0.4% analysts had expected.
On an annualised basis, the economy grew 2.4% in the period against forecasts of 1.5%.
Analysts said the first quarter growth rate was "very positive".
"The recovery seems to be well on track," Tony Nash, chief economist at Complete Intelligence, told the BBC.
"This must bring a smile to Prime Minister Abe's face and is a vindication that his economic policies are moving things in the right direction."
The country came out of recession in the fourth quarter of last year.


Yen notes
Japan's economy has been facing various headwinds including wages, which have remained stagnant for several years, together with a weaker yen
Japan relies on domestic consumption for about 60% of its economy, but it has been recovering from a sales tax hike which has dampened spending.
Private consumption and capital spending were both up 0.4% in the quarter, but capital spending was expected to rise by 0.8%.
Capital Economics analyst Marcel Thieliant said in a note that the acceleration in economic growth for the period "was mostly due to a jump in inventories".
"And a range of indicators point to a slowdown in the second quarter.
"Industrial production in March was 4% below its January peak, and the drop in the manufacturing PMI (Purchasing Manager's Index) to a multi-month low in April suggests that conditions are unlikely to improve quickly," he added.
Other headwinds Japan's economy has been facing include wages, which have remained stagnant for several years, together with a weaker yen, which makes imported goods more expensive for consumers on the home front.
On the upside however, the weaker yen does give a boost to the country's big exporters, like Toyota, because it makes their goods cheaper to buy overseas. It also helps their bottom line when they repatriate money made from overseas operations.
Why Japan's inventories matter - By Martin Schulz, Fujitsu Research Institute
Corporate decisions about their inventory levels have been the main driver of growth, or disappointment, for the year. It is an important indicator for growth during a recovery because companies will only increase inventories when they expect increasing demand.
Inventories have become more important than usual in Japan because the sales tax hike disrupted demand patterns so much, and because Japanese companies are coming out of a long phase - almost 20 years - of cutting costs and downsizing in Japan's ageing economy.
In such an environment, corporate optimism does not lead to more investment immediately; companies will first boost their existing capacities until they become insufficient - that is, until inventories first build up and then get sold.
The first step is what we are seeing. The next step is selling production through exports and to consumers, producing higher incomes on the way. If that works - we would finally see a sustainable recovery, driven by the private - not government - sector.
Shoppers walk down a busy street in the Ginza shopping district in central Tokyo
Private consumption and capital spending were both up 0.4% in the three months to March

Further easing?

The Bank of Japan's current easing programme is designed to stimulate the country's economy by encouraging more lending, which in turn should see increased consumer spending.
It also hopes to drive greater investment activity and boost inflation.
The latest growth figures meant the chances of further near-term easing had diminished, said Mr Thieliant, but "with price pressures likely to remain subdued, more stimulus will be needed before too long, with the October meeting now the most likely venue."

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Bloomberg News - Coeure Says ECB to Moderately Front-Load QE Buying in May, June

Benoit Coeure.
Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg
The European Central Bank intends to increase its purchases of euro-area assets in May and June ahead of an expected low-liquidity period in the summer, Executive Board member Benoit Coeure said.

“We are also aware of seasonal patterns in fixed-income market activity with the traditional holiday period from mid-July to August characterized by notably lower market liquidity,” Coeure said, according to the text of a speech delivered in London on Monday. “If need be, the frontloading may be complemented by some backloading in September when market liquidity is expected to improve again. The slightly higher purchase volume that market analysts may observe in the coming weeks is therefore unrelated to the recent episode of market volatility.”

Monday, May 18, 2015

Bloomberg News - Hedge Funds Lose Faith in Oil Rally as OPEC Seen Boosting Supply

Speculators are losing faith in the oil rally, judging that OPEC will keep increasing supply from the highest level since 2012.
Their net-long position in West Texas Intermediate crude dropped 2.1 percent, as long wagers fell the most in two months and short bets declined to the lowest since August, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show.
OPEC’s push to defend its share of the global oil market has just begun and its members may further increase production, the International Energy Agency said May 13. Saudi Arabia said it boosted output to the highest level in at least three decades. Oil explorers in the U.S. reduced the rig count last week by the least since December, diminishing the probability that supply will contract.
“Until we see some real tightening of supply the market is going to be vulnerable to a pullback,” Gene McGillian, a senior analyst at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut, said by phone May 15. Only “once we get evidence that the fundamentals are changing will prices be able to move higher,” he said.
Prices collapsed 46 percent last year as Saudi Arabia led the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in maintaining production rather than cede market share to booming U.S. supply. The group has become more unified about keeping its output target because prices are now rising, Kuwaiti Oil Minister Ali Al-Omair said May 12. Ministers from the 12-member group are scheduled to meet in Vienna on June 5.

Higher Production

“We’ll be in a market where both U.S. production will go up and OPEC,” Pierre Andurand, chairman of Andurand Capital Management, said in a Bloomberg Television interview May 14. “It’s going to be difficult for prices to go much higher in the short term.”
Futures advanced 35 cents to $60.75 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange in the period covered by the CFTC report. WTI for June delivery rose 12 cents to $59.81 in electronic trading at 11:28 a.m. Singapore time Monday.
Global crude oil supply was a “staggering” 3.2 million barrels a day higher in April than a year earlier, the IEA said in a report. OPEC production rose by 160,000 barrels a day in April to 31.21 million, the most since September 2012, according to the monthly report from the Paris-based agency.
A record drop in rigs drilling for oil helped send WTI above $62 a barrel on May 6. U.S. drillers have cut the number of operating rigs for 23 weeks to the lowest level in more than five years, according to Baker Hughes Inc. Last week’s drop of 8 rigs was the smallest decline since the week ended Dec. 5.
U.S. crude production averaged 9.37 million barrels a day in the week ended May 8 after reaching 9.42 million in the week to March 20, the most in Energy Information Administration data since at least January 1983.

Rig Count

“It’s pretty amazing that we’ve been able to maintain production at these levels after the rig count has fallen more than 50 percent,” Kyle Cooper, director of research at IAF Advisors in Houston, said by phone May 15. “This is evidence of the operational efficiency in the exploration and production sector.”
The net-long position in WTI slipped from a nine-month high to 262,575 futures and options. Shorts dropped 17 percent to 52,973 and longs fell to 315,548.
In other markets, net bullish bets on gasoline declined 4 percent to 23,963. Futures dropped 1.2 percent to $2.0393 a gallon on the Nymex in the reporting period.
The U.S. average retail price of regular gasoline advanced 0.3 cent to $2.702 a gallon May 16, the highest level since Dec. 4, according to AAA, the nation’s biggest motoring group.

Diesel Positions

Net bearish wagers on U.S. ultra low sulfur diesel decreased 3.9 percent to 8,094 contracts, the least since August. The fuel slipped 0.8 percent to $1.9989 a gallon.
Net-short wagers on U.S. natural gas fell 37 percent to 45,710. The measure includes an index of four contracts adjusted to futures equivalents. Nymex natural gas climbed 4.2 percent to $2.897 per million British thermal units during the report week.
Rising tensions over conflicts in the Middle East are pitting Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab nations against Shiite Iran. Saudi Arabia declared the start of a five-day humanitarian halt in its bombing campaign against Shiite rebels in Yemen on May 12, yet clashes persisted in southern parts of the country.
Relations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have been strained as the U.S. and other world powers seek a deal to limit Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
“Any headline about Saudi Arabia has the potential to upset the market,” Cooper said. “The situation is the region is more dangerous than usual now.

Friday, May 15, 2015

BBC News - China to invest $50bn in Brazil infrastructure

China is planning to invest up to $50bn (£32bn) in Brazil for new infrastructure projects.
Digging tunnel in Brazil
The deal is due to be signed by banks from both countries during a visit by Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang to Brazil next week.
The money will go towards building a railway link from Brazil's Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast of Peru to reduce the cost of exports to China.
It says the fund will also finance a joint venture to produce steel.
Brazil currently exports much of its iron ore to China.
Jose Graca Lima, Brazil's undersecretary of state with special responsibility for Asia and Oceania, said: "We shall have to await the end of the visit to expand upon which projects."
As well as the giant railway project, the money is expected to be invested in car parts, energy, ports, hydroelectric power and railways.
Brazil's economy, once among the fastest-growing in the world, has flagged in the past five years.
A corruption scandal at the state-owned oil giant Petrobras, which has embroiled many high-profile figures, has also shaken the public mood.
The Chinese prime minister will also be visiting Colombia, Peru and Chile.
In January Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged $250bn in investment to Latin America over 10 years.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

BBC News - Greece taps reserves to pay IMF loan

Greece was forced to tap into an emergency account to make a debt interest payment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), it has emerged.
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis meets eurozone ministers in Brussels. 11 May 2015Yanis Varoufakis says differences between Greece and its creditors remain
The government raided its reserves to make the €750m (£538m) payment on Monday, one day ahead of the deadline.
It comes after Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis warned his country was weeks from running out of cash.
Greece is believed to have borrowed €650m from its IMF holding account to meet the debt interest payment.
Member countries have two accounts with the IMF - one where they deposit their annual quota, in effect their membership fee, and another where they store reserves, including gold, for emergencies.
Country quotas are based on each country's relative size in the world economy.
One Greek official told Reuters on Tuesday that the reserves that the government used must be replenished in the IMF account in "several weeks".
Greece also used €100m of its cash reserves to make the full payment on its IMF bailout loan interest, the official said.
The mayor of Greece's second city, Thessaloniki, revealed last week that he had handed over cash reserves in response to an appeal for money.

Cash crisis

Meanwhile, changes to the law have allowed the central government to collect €600m of local government and other public entity money to help it deal with the cash crisis, a government spokesman said.
On Monday, Mr Varoufakis warned his country's financial situation was "terribly urgent" and the crisis could come to a head in a matter of weeks.
The warning came as eurozone finance ministers met in Brussels to discuss the final €7.2bn tranche of Greece's €240bn EU/IMF bailout.
Ministers said Greece had made "progress", but more work was needed.
"The liquidity issue is a terribly urgent issue. It's common knowledge, let's not beat around the bush," Mr Varoufakis told reporters in Brussels.
"From the perspective [of timing], we are talking about the next couple of weeks."
Greece has until the end of June to reach a reform deal with its international creditors. Its finances are running so low that it has had to ask public bodies for help.
Pensioner holds banner during anti-austerity demonstration in Athens. 1 April 2015
Possible cuts in pensions worry many people in Greece
The crisis has raised the prospect that Greece might default on its debts and leave the euro.
The eurozone is insisting on a rigorous regime of reforms, including cuts to pensions, in return for the bailout, but Greece's anti-austerity Syriza-led government is resisting the tough terms.
In a statement, the eurozone finance ministers said they "welcomed the progress that has been achieved so far" in the negotiations, but added: "We acknowledged that more time and effort are needed to bridge the gaps on the remaining open issues."
Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem said there had to be a full deal on the bailout before Greece received any further payments.
"There are time constraints and liquidity constraints and hopefully we will reach an agreement before time runs out and before money runs out," he said.
Syriza has said it will not break its anti-austerity electoral promises, and that has raised the prospect of a referendum on any deal agreed in Brussels.
Germany's finance minister, Wolfgang Schaueble, has lent support to the idea.
"Maybe this would be the right measure to let the Greek people decide if it is ready to accept what is necessary," he said.

Greek economy in numbers

  • Unemployment is at 25%, with youth unemployment almost 50% (correspondingeurozone averages: 11.4% and 23%)
  • Economy has shrunk by 25% since the start of the eurozone crisis
  • Country's debt is 175% of GDP
  • Borrowed €240bn (£188bn) from the EU, the ECB and the IMF

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Reuters News - Push for pan-Pacific trade pact suffers blow from U.S. Senate Democrats

U.S. President Barack Obama's push for a pan-Pacific trade pact, a key part of his strategic pivot to Asia, suffered a major blow at the hands of Senate Democrats on Tuesday when they blocked debate on a bill that would have smoothed the path for the deal.
The stunning outcome cast doubt on the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) "fast track" bill which is key to the Obama administration's ability to complete the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Washington's negotiating partners say enacting U.S. fast-track legislation to expedite passage of any trade deal is vital to clinching an agreement that would create a free trade zone covering 40 percent of the world economy.
"Each negotiation member nation considers the TPA bill indispensable towards an early agreement on TPP talks," said Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference. Tokyo has long said TPP members would find it difficult to make trade concessions if the trade deal was subject to revision in the U.S. Congress.
"Japan strongly hopes an early enactment of the bill in the U.S.," Suga, the top government spokesman, told a regular news conference.
Failure to clinch a U.S.-led TPP agreement could also damage Washington's leadership image in Asia, where China is forging ahead with a new Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) without the participation of the United States and Japan.
The Senate voted 52-45 - short of the 60 votes needed - to pave the way for debate on the "fast-track" trade authority for Obama. "What we just saw here is pretty shocking," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican.

The vote marked a victory for Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, an outspoken opponent of fast-track, after weeks of speculation that the toughest fight would be in the House of Representatives and not the Senate.