Monthly Archives: February 2012

Mario

Still super, Mario?

By Tom Burgis and Esther Bintliff on the news desk in London with contributions from our correspondents around the world. All times GMT.

Another big day for “Super” Mario Draghi, the European Central Bank president. 800 banks borrowed a total of €529bn under the ECB’s liquidity programme — more than last time. We were watching too for ripples from Dublin’s decision to hold a referendum on the eurozone fiscal pact.

19.20: We’re going to wrap up the live blog for today, so here’s a final round-up of today’s events:

  • In round two of the European Central Bank’s Long-Term Refinancing Operation (or LTRO), 800 European banks borrowed €529.5bn
  • A larger number of banks borrowed money than last time (when 523 banks borrowed €489bn)
  • About €310bn of net new liquidity was added to the system
  • More than two thirds of the volume was taken up by banks in three countries, thought to be Spain, Italy and France. Among the biggest takers of funds was Italy’s Intesa SanPaolo, with €24bn, double the amount it took in the December operation. UK bank Lloyds is believed to have been the biggest non-eurozone taker of funds, receiving €11.4bn.
  • In the markets, risk assets were initially firm on the back of the LTRO figures, but later fell back as Fed chairman Ben Bernanke spoke to Congress and dampened speculation that further monetary easing was on its way
  • On the plus side, US growth data for the fourth quarter was revised upwards, from 2.8 per cent to 3 per cent
  • The FT’s Brussels bureau chief Peter Spiegel got a copy of the draft conclusions from the EU council summit that begins tomorrow
  • EU Commission president Barroso met with Greek prime minister Lucas Papademos – see our 17.58 update

 

Gideon Rachman

It is a measure of how much the ideological climate has changed over the last thirty years that Francois Hollande’s announcement today – that he would increase France’s top rate of income tax to 75% – seems so outlandish.

Even by European standards, a top-rate of tax at this level would make France a real outlier. Currently, Sweden has the highest top-rate of tax in Europe at 56.5%. Germany’s top rate is 47.5% and France is at just 41%. The fact that Britain has a top-rate of 50% – currently significantly higher than France – is a source of considerable embarrassment to George Osborne, the UK chancellor. He, for one, would be delighted if Mr Hollande is elected president of France in May, and makes good on his promise. 

From the FT’s Brussels Blog:

Over the last 24 hours, a flurry of activity has taken place surrounding Greece’s €200bn debt restructuring, most of it expected but some of it potentially destabilising. Because the moves involve highly technical – but still significant – judgements by occasionally obscure groups, Brussels Blog thought it was time for another guide to what to watch for in the ensuing days.

The most eye-catching announcement was the one made last night by Standard & Poor’s declaring Greece to be in “selective default”. Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker, chair of the group of eurozone finance ministers, put out a statement saying the move was “duly anticipated” – and he’s right. S&P signalled this way back in June when the first talk of a Greek restructuring began.

 

John Paul Rathbone

Cuban President Raul Castro (left) welcomes Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to Cuba last Friday for cancer treatment. Photo: AP

One of the more interesting lines of speculation about Hugo Chávez’s deteriorating health and possible death is what it might mean for the socialist Venezuelan president’s many foreign allies. These include Cuba and Nicaragua in the Venezuelan near abroad, to further-flung friends in Syria and even China. 

By Gideon Rachman

“No one can here understand how the international community can let this happen.” So said Marie Colvin, in an interview given from Homs, just a day before she herself was killed by a Syrian bombardment.

Neil Buckley

A Russian Channel One undated television grab shows a man identified as Adam Osmayev, one of the suspected militants alleged to have conspired to kill Russian PM Vladimir Putin. Photo AFP/Getty

If you’re planning to bump off a world leader, then doing so in the middle of an election campaign is a good guarantee of maximum impact. But in Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s case, assassination “plots” seem to crop up so regularly around election time there is reason to be suspicious. 

Outside reaction to the crises in Syria and Iran

Gideon Rachman is joined by FT diplomatic editor James Blitz, commodities editor Javier Blas and US diplomatic correspondent Geoff Dyer to discuss the outside world’s reaction to the crises in Syria and Iran.

Rick Santorum continues to nip at Mitt Romney’s heels in the race for the Republican’s US presidential candidacy. Stepping back from the fray in Washington’s Rock Creek Park, Edward Luce, US columnist, assesses Mr Santorum’s chances in next week’s primaries.

 

Neil Buckley

A pro-Putin rally. Photo AP

One round or two? For all the protests against Vladimir Putin, that has long been the only real question surrounding Russia’s presidential election, now just 10 days away. Will he get more than 50 per cent of the vote in the first round on March 4, with or without a little “massaging”, or will he be forced into a run-off with another candidate three weeks later? 

Gideon Rachman

Marie Colvin spent much of her career as a journalist telling the stories of ordinary people whose lives had been devastated by war. But her death in Homs today, may actually do more to bring home the horrors of the Syrian conflict to a western audience, than the thousands of reports that have been filed on the suffering of ordinary Syrian civilians.

The heroic war correspondent is a staple character in western films – and somebody that western audiences easily identify with. Colvin, who was killed alongside Remi Ochlik, an award-winning French photographer, certainly fitted the mould. She had bravely covered conflicts all over the globe.