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from Breakingviews:

Deutsche ditch divines commoditized commodities

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By Antony Currie
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Deutsche Bank’s decision to ditch commodities portends just how commoditized the business may be. The German lender is quitting energy, agriculture, base metals and dry bulk trading. That should free up capital without hurting results. And while it ought to ease the pain from a deep swoon in commodities, profits remain elusive for almost all banks involved.

The end of a boom, as China and other emerging markets reduce consumption, has had serious consequences. In 2007, the top 10 banks raked in about $15 billion of revenue, consultant Ethan Ravage estimated at the time. Last year, according to research firm Coalition, the top line for all players was just $7 billion.

Banks also have to set aside additional capital these days. New Basel III rules will require even more of a buffer for certain commodities assets. That makes it harder to spin straw – not to mention aluminum, coal, sugar and other goods – into gold. Morgan Stanley has one of the biggest businesses on Wall Street, yet the unit’s return on equity is below 5 percent, according to Chief Executive James Gorman.

from Breakingviews:

China anti-bitcoin ruling will shake believers

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By Peter Thal Larsen

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

So much for China’s willingness to tolerate financial innovation. Regulators have barred the country’s banks from trading bitcoin, while denying the pseudo-money legal status and cracking down on anonymous users. Though China has stopped short of an outright ban, the move dashes hopes the country might allow start-up currencies to exist alongside the official renminbi.

from Global Investing:

Emerging stocks lose again in November

By Shadi Bushra

After years of basking in their reputation as high-return hot spots, 2013 could be the year emerging equity markets finally lost their magic touch. Last month continued the litany of losses -- seventeen of the 20 emerging markets listed on S&P Dow Jones indices ended November in the red, the index provider says. Contrast that with developed markets' fortunes last month-- 18 of the markets listed by the index rose, while eight fell.

So last month's scores: Emerging stocks -- down 2 percent; Developed stocks -- up 1.6 percent. And for 2013 as a whole, emerging stocks are down 3 percent while developed markets are up a whopping 22 percent, approaching their 2007 peaks, according to S&P Dow Jones.

from Breakingviews:

China index: Sober lending, spending slows growth

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By Katrina Hamlin

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Our alternative index shows China’s growth prospects at a four-month low. Lack-luster exports played a part. But the dip also reflected a healthy slow-down in new loans, sales of property and Audis, as well as a sharp fall in luxury liquor stocks.

from The Great Debate:

A shifting global economy brings Australia to a crossroads

Australia is no longer immune to the stagnation in the West. Despite a resilient housing market, Australia’s economy is slowing. With a worsening labor market, consumption is eroding, along with business confidence.

In the past two years, the benchmark interest rate has been almost halved to 2.5 percent. Still, Australia’s real GDP growth is likely to decrease to 2.4 percent during the ongoing year and will remain barely 2 percent until the mid-2010s.

from Breakingviews:

Giant Interactive’s $2.9 bln buyout hard to resist

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By Una Galani

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Giant Interactive’s $2.9 billion buyout is hard to resist. Chairman Shi Yuzhu is leading a consortium with Baring Private Equity Asia to take the U.S-listed Chinese computer gaming group private. At almost 13 times this year’s earnings, the group’s offer to buy the 53 percent that it doesn’t already own is a chunky premium to peers. Besides, independent investors have few alternatives.

from Global Investing:

Revitalised West knocks Brazil, Russia off global growth Top-30

By Shadi Bushra

Yet another sign of the growth convergence between developed and emerging markets. Two  of the "BRIC' countries have dropped out of the Top-30 in a growth index compiled by political risk consultancy Maplecroft, while several Western powerhouses have nudged their way onto the list.

Maplecroft's 2014 Growth Opportunities Atlas showed that Brazil and Russia -- the B and R of the BRIC bloc -- had dropped 26 and 41 places, respectively - due to slow economic reforms and diversification.  The United States, Australia and Germany meanwhile broke into the top 30 on the  index, which evaluates 173 countries on their growth prospects over the next 20 years.

from Breakingviews:

How Cinda squares China’s debt triangles

By John Foley

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

China Cinda has spotted a clever arbitrage. The Chinese “bad bank”, which is revving up for a Hong Kong initial public offering (IPO), has recently been doing brisk business by borrowing cheaply from other banks and using those funds to buy up companies’ short-term loans to each other. In doing so, it has found a way to square China’s dreaded “debt triangles”.

from Ian Bremmer:

In search of self-aware diplomacy

In 2005, Karen Hughes became George W. Bush’s undersecretary of public diplomacy. Her charge, both poorly defined and ill-timed, was to improve America’s international image in the years after the country had launched two wars. Other countries will side with us and do what we want if only we better explain our point of view, the thinking went, and make them see us as we see ourselves. By the time Hughes left office in 2007, international opinion of the U.S. was no higher than it was when she arrived, according to polls.

And yet, this kind of if-we-say-it-clearly-enough-they-will-listen diplomacy is not exclusive to the Bush administration. It has carried over into the Obama White House. So when an Obama administration official says that Washington welcomes a “strong, responsible, and prosperous China” that plays a “constructive” role in regional and global institutions, Chinese officials are left to wonder who gets to decide what the words “responsible” and “constructive” mean for China’s foreign policy. Responsible and constructive for whom?

from Breakingviews:

Chinese “fixers” speak to Wall Street weakness

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By John Foley 

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Wall Street banks used to argue privately that hiring consultants in China was the only way to get ahead. Now their worth is under the spotlight, after the New York Times reported that JPMorgan Chase paid $1.8 million to a two-person consultancy run by the daughter of Wen Jiabao, then China’s premier. The real mystery is why banks that have been in China for so long still need the extra help.

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