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from Breakingviews:

Bland Lagarde will escape the Bretton Woods curse

By Christopher Swann

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

Christine Lagarde may soon reap the benefits of being bland. The IMF chief is under investigation for signing off on a 403 million euro ($531 million) payout to a French tycoon when she served as the country’s finance minister. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, her predecessor at the Washington-based lender, and former World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz were both ousted for misconduct. Lagarde, though, has few enemies.

Her squeaky-clean appearance was part of her appeal when she was chosen to replace DSK in 2011. He had been accused of sexually assaulting a maid in a New York hotel. While those allegations never made it to court, the incident was a stain on the IMF’s reputation. That his successor is now embroiled in a potential scandal from six years ago is starting to make the top jobs at these supranational institutions look cursed.

It needn’t be fatal. Lagarde is accused of neglect, not active wrongdoing. The case revolves around a 403 million euro award granted in 2008 to businessman Bernard Tapie. He had alleged he had been defrauded by now-defunct state-controlled bank Crédit Lyonnais when it purchased his sports firm Adidas in 1993. Tapie was a vocal supporter of then-President Nicolas Sarkozy, so investigators are trying to determine whether the process was politically rigged.

from MacroScope:

A reminder that all is not well in the euro zone

Bank of Portugal Governor Costa arrives to read a statement in Lisbon

A reminder that while the euro zone crisis may be in abeyance, it still has the ability to bite.

Portugal will blow 4.4 billion euros of the 6.4 billion euros left from Lisbon’s recently exited international bailout programme shoring up troubled lender Banco Espirito Santo which will be split into "bad" and "good" banks. Junior bondholders and shareholders will be heavily hit.

from MacroScope:

Still room for improvement with the BoE’s forward guidance, says IMF

carney.jpg

There was plenty of support for the Bank of England’s stance on interest rates from the International Monetary Fund in its latest report on the British economy.

But it seemed a little less sure on how forward guidance – the Bank’s cornerstone policy since Governor Mark Carney took charge last year – has fared so far.

from MacroScope:

The long and winding road to sanctions

Russia's President Vladimir Putin talks to reporters during a meeting in Brasilia

If it’s true to its word, the European Union will impose sweeping new sanctions on Russia this week, targeting state-owned Russian banks and their ability to finance Moscow's faltering economy.

EU ambassadors will continue discussions on the detail of new measures, most significant of which would be banning European investors from buying new debt or shares of banks owned 50 percent or more by the state.

from MacroScope:

Draghi in London

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European Central Bank President Mario Draghi will deliver an evening keynote speech in London – the scene for his game-changing “whatever it takes” declaration in 2012.

He is unlikely to come up with anything so dramatic this time but is clearly trying to convince that the ECB could yet start printing money if required to avert deflation.

from MacroScope:

Balance tilted in Ukraine?

slaviansk.jpgUkrainian forces pushed pro-Russian rebels out of their stronghold of Slaviansk on Saturday. Its re-capture represents Kiev's most notable military victory in three months of fighting in which more than 200 Ukrainian troops have been killed as well as hundreds of civilians and rebels.

The regions of Donetsk and Luhansk are likely to be next in the government forces’ crosshairs.

from MacroScope:

A call to arms

The prospect of U.S. and Iranian intervention in Iraq looms larger.

Baghdad has asked the United States for air support to counter Sunni militants who have seized major cities in a lightning advance that has routed the Shi'ite-led government army. And Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has signalled that Tehran was prepared to intervene to protect Iraq's great Shi'ite shrines.

As of last night, ISIL fighters were in control of three-quarters of the territory of the Baiji refinery north of Baghdad and some international oil companies were pulling out workers.

from Breakingviews:

Can sterling hit $2? Only with a perfect storm

By Swaha Pattanaik

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

Sterling has touched $1.70 and is on the brink of bursting ranges which have confined it for five years. Could a resurgent pound return to pre-crisis levels of $2?

from Breakingviews:

Blunt instrument is needed for global house bubble

By Ian Campbell

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

House price bubbles thrust economies forward and crush them when they burst. The International Monetary Fund has now raised the prospect of a global housing bubble that could potentially destabilise the world economy. The risk is credible, but the IMF is sadly too coy about the root cause of the problem – ultra-loose U.S. monetary policy.

from MacroScope:

The Mark and George show

The Mansion House dinner in the City of London is one of Britain’s big set-pieces of the year featuring speeches by Bank of England Governor Mark Carney and finance minister George Osborne.

Carney will be speaking a week before the Bank’s Financial Policy Committee meets and is expected to road test its new tools to calm the housing market. Among other measures, the BoE could recommend caps on the size of home loans granted in relation to a property’s value or a borrower’s salary.

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