Daily Archives: Mar 2, 2012

It was once the norm in the US to casually brand any equatorial Latin American country as a banana republic. But now it is the US that through its erratic decision-making is displaying the tendencies of a banana republic. At least that is the view from Brazil.

What else could explain the fiasco of the Super Tucano contract this week? Read more

Brazil may be hot and Mexico not in the eyes of most of the world. But, says Jorge G. Castañeda, the Mexican political analyst and former foreign secretary: “There’s only two things in which Brazilians are infinitely better than we Mexicans: one is football, and the other is spinning yarns about their own successes.” Read more

Hugo Chávez may maintain that he’s recovering from his recent operation well and “soaring like the condor”, but the impressive rally in Venezuelan debt that has coincided with his latest cancer scare could well continue.

That’s because the rally has also been triggered by the emergence of Henrique Capriles Radonski as the president’s challenger in elections later this year, as well as being supported by strengthening oil prices. Read more

During the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, the ultimate status symbol / luxury accessory was a personal armoured train. In 1991, amid the collapse of communism in the USSR, the must have, high concept tool of democratic subversion was the VCR.

And if the current round demonstrations which have broken out in Moscow since last December ever acquire historical proportions, they will be known as the era of the smartphone. Read more

It’s easy to get concerned about rising oil prices: they push up inflation, prompting rate rises (or a slowing of rate cuts) and hence stymie growth. Don’t they?

What if high oil prices didn’t have that effect, especially on emerging markets? Chart of the week investigates. Read more

After six weeks of strikes that led to three deaths, over 100 arrests and the loss of more than $300m of revenue, the worst may finally be over for Impala Platinum,  the Johannesburg-based owner of the world’s largest platinum mine.

Impala plans to reboot production at the Rustenburg mine on Monday, which analysts reckon will take at least three weeks, but possibly months. The miner said on Friday that the industrial action has cost it 120,000 ounces of lost platinum production - equating to R2.4 billion ($322 million) of lost revenue - while its share price has tumbled nearly 9 per cent since the strikes began, even as the Johannesburg Stock Exchange rose. Read more

The last Soviet soldiers left Polish territory in 1992, but that hasn’t ended Polish worries about Russian imperialism – as seen by Friday’s vote in the Polish parliament during which the opposition narrowly won a vote to block the sale of oil refiner Lotos Group.

The only serious buyers for Poland’s second largest oil company were thought to be Russian. Read more

Vladimir Putin is such a favourite to win the Russian presidential vote on March 4 that analysts are already setting up conference calls on the following Monday to discuss his victory. No doubts about the result then.

So who would bet on one of the other contenders? Money down the drain, surely? Read more

Election fraud is something of a tradition in Russia but the duplicity that took place in last December’s parliamentary elections reached new levels. Charles Clover, Moscow bureau chief, reports on measures being taken before this weekend’s presidential election.

Sunday’s presidential election may be a five-person race but you wouldn’t know it from trawling the Russian internet. As Russian daily Vedomosti notes today, only two of the candidates have been taking advantage of online ad spending: Mikhail Prokhorov and Vladimir Putin. Read more

It was too good to last. YPF and its shareholders heaved a sigh of relief after Cristina Fernández, Argentina’s president, did not, after all, say she would nationalise or otherwise exercise control over the Spanish-owned former oil monopoly as she opened Congress on Thursday.

YPF’s shares soared in Buenos Aires. But then a new squabble erupted. Read more

Seven hours after the Indian government’s sale of a 5 per cent stake in the country’s largest oil company had ended, Delhi had declared the affair a success.

But the rampant confusion that ensued in the auction’s wake – and continued into Friday evening – bodes ill for the government’s ambitious plan to divest itself of $8bn in equity in state-owned companies to shore up its gaping fiscal deficit, to say nothing of the country’s general reputation with investors. Read more

Another week, yet another healthy set of inflows into EM funds.

This time, though, it was equity funds that stood out as better than expected GDP data from the US and PMI figures from China compounded investor optimism over the ECB’s long-term refinancing operation. After pausing for breath in the previous week,  inflows into EM equity funds tripled to $1bn in the week to Wednesday, according to EPFR, the fund flow monitor.  Read more

* Opposition calls for boycott as Iran votes

* Russian bank shuts down Iranian embassy accounts

* Turkcell weighs up offer for Vivacom

* Brazil declares new ‘currency war’ Read more

Serbian president Boris Tadic on Friday welcomed the news that the country had finally secured its long-awaited advance to candidate status for European Union membership.

He predicted an increase in foreign investment, business opportunities and new jobs – a rare shaft of economic light in the gloom-ridden Balkans. But the EU’s late-night decision was less of a thrill to the markets. The Belgrade stock exchange’s Belex index crept up by just 2 points to 536.96 and the dinar was barely changed against the euro at 110.8. Investors know there is still a long haul ahead. Read more

Friday’s picks from the beyondbrics team: Pakistan’s failure to exploit its economic potential has corroded the legitimacy of its leaders; while Iran’s leaders count on fears of foreign threats to bolster their support at the polls;  Nigeria’s outspoken finance minister faces an unenviable task; and will North Korea stick to pledges made under its nuclear deal with the US? Read more

China has earned a reputation as a hypocritical investor over the past few years. It has repeatedly warned the US that quantitative easing was debasing the dollar, only to turn around and plough even more of its vast foreign wealth into dollar-denominated assets.

But perhaps those warnings weren’t so hollow after all. The latest data from the US Treasury suggests that China has in fact executed a major diversification away from the dollar. Read more

Indian car sales seem to be picking up after a lackluster 2011, according to February sales data from the country’s biggest car makers.

But while some of the numbers are impressive – with individual company sales rising 80 per cent or more from a year earlier – analysts cautioned that a few more months were needed before the improvement could be called a comeback. Read more

* Eurozone delays Athens rescue funds

* Brazil declares new ‘currency war’

* Red Cross says Syria allows access to rebel town after UN’s rights vote

* Beijing diversifies away from US dollar Read more

Language students love complaining about Mandarin, but the promise of participating in Asia’s growth still has them lining up to memorise characters and perfect their tones (or try to).

Indonesia’s economic growth is also taking off, but interest in its language, Bahasa Indonesia, is falling. That’s the finding of a major study from Australia, which (as Indonesia’s neighbour) has long been a stronghold of Bahasa study. Why is interest in learning to speak Indonesian the only thing Indonesian not on the rise? Read more