Daily Archives: Jun 13, 2012

So BP is the latest to recognise officially that Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, something that Hugo Chávez has been merrily pointing out for years.

In reality, this has not passed oil companies by – they have been jockeying to get a piece of the action for some time, with the exception of a few (like Exxon Mobil and Conoco Philips) who don’t like Chavez’s way of doing business. 

What to do about the world’s biggest currency rally?

Colombia’s finance minister, Juan Carlos Echeverry, is urging more “aggressive action” to ease some of the pressure on the nation’s exporters.

Echeverry is highlighting the success neighbouring countries such as Peru have had with greater central bank intervention in currency markets. 

In the latest episode of Mexico’s battle of the telecoms titans, Spain’s Telefónica and Mexico’s Iusacell on Wednesday announced plans to unite in the cellular market against the biggest titan of them all, Carlos Slim, reputedly the world’s wealthiest man.

On his home turf, Slim’s América Móvil has some 70 per cent of Mexico’s mobile market, a proportion that Mexican officials describe as “dominance”. 

Will Peru have to start taking advantage of its international reserves and counter-cycle fund sometime in the not-so-very-distant future?

A gloomy April suggests yes. The world’s second biggest silver, copper and zinc producer and sixth biggest gold producer has logged its first monthly trade deficit since April 2008, as well as a steep drop in gold production. 

Hungary’s economy will grow by 0.5 per cent in the second half of 2012. That’s if you believe Mihaly Varga (pictured), the minister in charge of talks with the EU and IMF over an aid package requested last November.

Varga made his prediction in a television interview on Wednesday, leaving officials scrambling to clarify that the government was, nevertheless, sticking to its target of 0.1 per cent growth for the full year. But even that seems implausibly optimistic. 

Hint, hint: the markets gave South Africa’s monetary policy committee a rather strong signal on Wednesday as three-year bond yields fell to a record low. The reason? Retail sales grew in April at the slowest pace for two years, at just 1 per cent year-on-year.

Yields on South Africa’s debt due in 2015 fell six basis points to 6.18 per cent, the lowest closing figure on record according to Bloomberg. Yields on the 1, 2 and 10-year benchmark bonds all fell too, as did 3-month forward rates. 

A third of the population is below the poverty line and unemployment is running at more than 30 per cent. Macedonia is one of the poorest countries in Europe. That hasn’t stopped the government running a concerted and doubtless expensive campaign to promote the country as an investment destination – and as a regional poster boy for economic reform.

The tiny country of just over 2m people is indeed outperforming some of its neighbours. But translating this into job creation has proved difficult. 

On the face of it South Korea’s unemployment levels should be the envy of the world, with figures published on Tuesday showing the jobless rate falling last month to just 3.1 per cent. Compare that to an average of 8 per cent in the OECD, the rich economies’ club, and 24 per cent in crisis-torn Spain, a country with a similar population and income per head on a spending power basis.

But in fact Korea’s workers and job seekers face much bigger difficulties than these numbers suggest. It would be a brave unemployed Spaniard who swapped places with a Korean. 

Even as overall Indian auto sales have suffered over the past year, diesel vehicles have been a rare bright spot. The reason? Because of politically-sensitive government subsidies, diesel costs roughly 40 per cent less than petrol.

In the year ending March 2012, diesel cars were up a whopping 35 per cent, compared to petrol cars falling 15 per cent. Overall car sales rose 2.2 per cent – a far cry from initial forecasts by the leading trade body of 16-18 per cent (which was revised to 0-2 per cent). So what to do? Tackle the price of diesel, or make diesel cars a bit more expensive? 

* US accuses Russia over Syria helicopters

* China Stocks Rise To One-Week High; Power Shares Gain

* Syria prints new money as deficit grows: bankers

* Brazil mobile groups pay $1.3bn in auction 

Germany and Spain are neck and neck with the bookies for Euro 2012 – Paddy Power, the online betting site, has them both at 3-1 to win the tournament.

But – just like eurozone bond investors – China’s online shoppers have shown a clear preference – snapping up more German replica shirts than Spanish ones. 

It’s Wednesday, and the BB team recommends: Saudi Arabia output proposal shocks the Opec; Syria’s savagery is a sign of despair; India needs a rate cut – but what about its airline? Afghans start mining, as Zimbabwe stops banking. Plus: was US presidential hopeful Mitt Romney always so tough on China? 

It is bad enough that the Chinese economy seems to be faltering just as the rest of the world needs it to be strong. Now the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai says China’s market has got a lot more competitive.

In its annual China Consumer Market Strategies report published on Wednesday with Booz & Co, the management consultants, the chamber found what it called a dramatic convergence in the strategies multinational and Chinese companies are using to target the increasingly mature mainland consumer market. 

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s the reaction in Hong Kong to the suggestion by Joseph Yam that the territory should consider breaking its currency’s 28-year-old peg to the US dollar.

Yam, who ran the Hong Kong Monetary Authority for 16 years until 2009, proposed in a paper on Tuesday that the Hong Kong dollar could be managed in a more flexible fashion against the dollar, renminbi, or a basket of currencies. 

Growing demand for solar panels has increased the number of suppliers of high purity silicon, its key raw material, including those in China. Peter Marsh, FT manufacturing editor, reports from Asia Silicon in the remote Chinese city of Xining.