Gideon Rachman

After a frenetic period of travel involving 10 separate trips overseas in the past three months, I am trying to catch my breath, shake off the jet lag and make sense of what I have seen. Leaving aside the big geopolitical themes, one tentative conclusion I have reached is that world leaders and hotel lobbies do not mix.

This first struck at the Ritz Hotel in Madrid as I waited to greet Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, who was the guest-of-honour at the FT’s Spain Summit. On one side of the lobby was a bank of photographers and TV crews. I was standing on the other side with a couple of FT colleagues and the hotel management. Rajoy’s limo drew up and we could see him and his entourage heading towards the entrance. Just at that moment, a party of elderly Americans came out of the lift, clad in their trademark tracksuit bottoms and fluorescent visors, and began to totter across the lobby, demanding loudly, “Where’s the coach?” The hotel manager froze — torn between the desire to shove the Americans out of the way and his duty to be courteous. He just about pulled it off but it was a close-run thing. Read more

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John Aglionby

The European Central Bank, as expected, left its benchmark lending rates unchanged on Thursday. Eyes now turn to the monthly press conference of ECB President Mario Draghi to see how close policy makers are to embarking on a full scale programme of quantitative easing. Mr Drahgi starts at 13.30GMT and usually speaks and takes questions for an hour.

By Ralph Atkins and John Aglionby.

 

Claire Jones

Forget about the European Central Bank’s decision on interest rates at 12.45 GMT: policy makers will almost certainly leave those untouched.

Instead, pay attention to what Mario Draghi says at the press conference that follows at 13.30. The ECB president’s promise to tackle low inflation “without delay” has raised hopes that policy makers are close to a decision on extending its bond buying from asset-backed securities and covered bonds to include corporate and sovereign debt. A few expect action as early as today, largely in the form of more corporate bond buying. Most don’t think anything will happen until the new year.

Here are four things to watch for at today’s press conference.

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Can Russia’s economy weather the storm?

Gideon Rachman is joined by Neil Buckley and Kathrin Hille to discuss the state of the Russian economy: how well can it weather the impact of the falling oil price and the falling rouble in addition to western sanctions? What are the likely political repercussions?

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  • Following the military coup and counter-revolution, Egypt’s main problem is the restoration of the security state, which is using the judiciary as one of its arms to stifle dissent and ringfence the army’s privileges
  • Russian president Vladimir Putin cancelled construction of a strategically important gas pipeline following opposition from the EU and sanctions, but Moscow will instead develop a gas hub to southern Europe via Turkey
  • Lines of frustrated shoppers have replaced socialist rallies and posters of Hugo Chavez as the most ubiquitous images of Venezuela, with the situation set to worsen after Opec resisted Caracas’s calls to boost the oil price
  • The booming trade in jade in Myanmar – like blood diamonds in Africa – is turning good fortune into misery, as the spoils remain in the hands of the military and Chinese financiers who collude to smuggle the gemstone (NYT)
  • Jihad isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, say disgruntled Isis recruits from France, who complain of iPods not working, being forced to do the dishes – and threats of execution if they attempt to flee (The Independent)

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Daniel Dombey

One of the most compelling of international relationships was on display in Ankara this week when Russian President Vladimir Putin visited his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The paramount leaders of Russia and Turkey dominate their countries’ politics like few other heads of state, casting long shadows on the world stage. When they appeared together at Mr Erdogan’s $600m new palace on Monday, there was the undeniable crackle of power in the air.

But commentators should beware of bracketing the two men together in too facile a fashion. Read more

Ben McLannahan

Shinzo Abe launching his election campaign on Tuesday  © EPA

The ink is barely dry on the first estimate of Japan’s gross domestic product from July to September, which suggested that the world’s third-largest economy shrank an annualised 1.6 per cent over the period. Combined with the 7.3 per cent annualised fall in the three months after the tax increase in April, it implied that Japan had tipped into yet another technical recession – its fourth since the Lehman crisis. Read more