For Your Wednesday Morning Ruminations – February 25, 2015

  1. Poland is worried about Britain leaving the euro zone – “Forgetting the natural conflict between EU net payers and receivers, there are things on which Britain and Poland have common cause, like making sure that the role of the non-members of the euro zone within the EU is protected.”
  2. Argentina in no rush to re-start debt restructuring talks -Argentina said last week it was considering the offer to re-open restructuring talks. But any hope of a quick settlement was doused on Monday when Capitanich said that Griesa and his hand-picked mediator, Daniel Pollack, have lined up with the bondholders against Argentina. “With respect to Daniel Pollack, the mediator is not a mediator. The mediator is representing the interests of the vulture funds. This has been clear from the beginning,” Capitanich said. “He is no more impartial than Griesa is.”
  3. Why the Bond Market Is Yielding Negative and What Negative Yields Mean for You – Negative yields on bonds are no longer unicorns. In Switzerland, Germany, Denmark and several other European countries, government bonds are trading at negative nominal yields. There are four potential reasons that can explain the negative yield conundrum and can also illustrate the trade-offs between different investment strategies.
  4. The REAL Death Of The Music Industry – 10 years ago the average American spent almost 3 times as much on recorded music products as they do today. 26 years ago they spent almost twice as much as they do today.
  5. Is Japan in danger of a “fiscal crisis”? – Japan’s government debt is often overstated. We were surprised that Ito repeatedly cited the gross public debt figure of 245 per cent of GDP. That’s correct, but a bit misleading, since much of the debt is held by other branches of government and because the government owns many valuable assets. Net all this out and the debt burden plunges below 140 per cent of GDP, according to the International Monetary Fund. (Here is a claim that Japan’s Ministry of Finance estimates the net debt figure at just 90 per cent.) And that doesn’t even include the 210 trillion in JGBs held by the Bank of Japan. Cut that out and the actual debt burden is closer to 50 per cent of GDP.
  6. Yellen Signals End of Zero-Rate Patience With Flexible Timetable – A market-based measure Tuesday put the odds of a June liftoff at around 19 percent, based on futures and options trading data compiled by Bloomberg. This compares with odds of around 25 percent before publication last week of minutes of the Jan. 27-28 meeting, which surprised many investors by showing that many officials were inclined to hold rates near zero for a longer time.
  7. Mongolia Has a Business Plan: It’s Called Singapore -In 2011, Mongolia’s economy grew at a world-beating 17.3 percent as the resource-rich country attracted billions of dollars in investment by some of the biggest mining companies, Rio Tinto Group among them. Economic growth slowed to 7.8 percent in 2014, a healthy clip for most countries, but the first year of single digit expansion in Mongolia since 2010. The currency, the tugrik, has slumped 42 percent over the past 24 months in tandem with a more than 80 percent plunge in foreign direct investment.
  8. Greece Gets Warnings From Creditors Now Comes Hard Part – The list is “not very specific” and doesn’t convey “clear assurances” that reforms will happen, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde wrote in a letter to the head of the euro region’s group of finance ministers. Commission officials and ECB President Mario Draghi also said the key to Greece winning more funding were “commitments” on legislation.
  9. Markets can rally 20-30% if Budget 2015 meets expectations: Jim O’Neill – I have hopes for big improvements on foreign direct investment (FDI), a clearer stance on fiscal policy, especially separating current spending from investment spending, which if done well would allow for more spending on infrastructure, education and health, all things which India needs to improve on. I am visiting India in March and I want to persuade policymakers to make a big effort on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) issue.
  10. China’s factories show signs of fightback – The first reading of momentum in February may alleviate concerns of a deeper downturn after the economy expanded at the slowest pace in 24 years in 2014. China’s consumer-price index rose the least in more than five years in January and factory- gate deflation deepened, giving the central bank more room to follow up on November’s interest-rate cut and this month’s reduction of banks’ reserve requirements.
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