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from Global Investing:

Olympic medal winners — and economies — dissected

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The Olympic medals have all been handed out and the athletes are on their way home.  Which countries surpassed expectations and which ones did worse than expected? And did this have anything to do with the state of their economies?

An extensive Goldman Sachs report entitled Olympics and Economics  (a regular feature before each Olympic Games) predicted before the Games kicked off that the United States would top the tally with 36 gold medals. It also said the top 10 would include five G7 countries (the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy), two BRICs (China and Russia), one of the developing countries it dubs Next-11  (South Korea), and one additional developed and emerging market. These would be Australia and Ukraine, it said.

Close enough, except that Hungary took the place of Ukraine as the emerging economy in the Top 10 and the United States actually took 46 gold medals -- more than Goldman had predicted.

Goldman Sachs quite rightly pointed out in its report that progress and improvement in economic growth have historically equaled progress in sport  --check out South Korea's 13 golds in London compared with none in Munich 40 years ago; its per capita income is now $23,000 compared with $2,300  back then.  Clearly wealth is key: hence 9 of the top 20 medal winning nations also have among the highest per capita incomes.

from Global Investing:

Russia: a hawk among central bank doves?

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This week has the potential to bring an interesting twist to emerging markets monetary policy. Peru, South Korea and Indonesia are likely to leave interest rates unchanged on Thursday but there is a chance of a rate rise in Russia. A rise would stand out at a time when  central banks across the world are easing monetary policy as fast as possible.

First the others. Rate rises in Indonesia and Peru can be ruled out. Peru grew at a solid  5.4 percent pace in the previous quarter and inflation is within target. Indonesian data too shows buoyant growth, with the economy expanding 6.4 percent from a year earlier. And the central bank is likely to be mindful of the rupiah's weakness this year -- it has been one of the worst performing emerging currencies of 2012.

from David Cay Johnston:

The troubled trade deal with South Korea

SEOUL -- In March, the United States and South Korea implemented a Free Trade Agreement that President Barack Obama touts as more significant than the last nine such agreements combined. He also said it was central to his goal of doubling American exports within five years.

I think the president suffers from irrational trade exuberance, a view reinforced by my reporting in this city of 10 million people.

from Global Investing:

India, a hawk among central bank doves

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So India has not joined emerging central banks' rate-cutting spree .  After recent rate cuts in Brazil, South Korea, South Africa, Philippines and Colombia, and others signalling their worries over the state of economic growth,  hawks are in short supply among the world's increasingly dovish central banks. But the Reserve Bank of India is one.

With GDP growth slowing to  10-year lows, the RBI would dearly love to follow other central banks in cutting rates.  But its pointed warning on inflation on the eve of today's policy meeting practically sealed the meeting's outcome. Interest rates have duly been kept on hold, though in a nod to the tough conditions, the RBI did ease banks' statutory liquidity ratio. The move will free up some more cash for lending.

from Global Investing:

South Africa’s joins the rate cutting spree

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Another central bank has caved in and cut interest rates -- South Africa lowered its key rate to a record low of 5 percent at Thursday's meeting. In doing so, the central bank noted growth was slowing further. "Negative spillover effects (from the global economy)  likely to intensify," it said.

Very few analysts had predicted this outcome, reckoning the central bank (or SARB as it's known) would hold fire until its next meeting due to concerns over the currency and inflation.  But in fact, forward markets had guessed a cut was coming, especially after June inflation was lower than expected. And after all, even the conservative Bank of Korea cut rates last week to buck up domestic growth and compensate for slumping exports.  There have also been some policy easing in Taiwan and Philippines in the past week while earlier on Thursday, Turkey's central bank unleashed more liquidity into the banking system. Kevin Lings, chief economist at Stanlib in Johannesburg says:

from Global Investing:

More EM central banks join the easing crew

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Taiwan and Philippines have joined the easing crew. Taiwan cut interbank lending rates for the first time in 33 months on Friday while Philippines lowered the rate it pays banks on short-term special deposits. Hardly surprising. Given South Koreas's shock rate cut on Thursday, its first in over three years, and China's two rate cuts in quick succession, the spread of monetary easing across Asia looks inevitable. Markets are now betting the Reserve Bank of India will also cut rates in July.

And not just in Asia. Brazil last week cut rates for the eighth straight time  and Russia's central bank, while holding rates steady,  amended its language to signal it was amenable to changing its policy stance if required.

from Global Investing:

Korea shocks with rate cut but will it work?

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Emerging market investors may have got used to policy surprises from Turkey's central bank but they don't expect them from South Korea. Such are the times, however, that the normally staid Bank of Korea shocked investors this morning with an interest rate cut,  the first in three years.  Most analysts had expected it to stay on hold. But with the global economic outlook showing no sign of lightening, the BoK probably felt the need to try and stimulate sluggish domestic demand. (To read coverage of today's rate cut see here).

So how much impact is the cut going to have?  I wrote yesterday about Brazil, where eight successive rate cuts have borne little fruit in terms of stimulating economic recovery. Korea's outcome could be similar but the reasons are different. The rate cut should help Korea's indebted household sector. But for an economy heavily reliant on exports,  lower interest rates are no panacea,  more a reassurance that, as other central banks from China to the ECB to Brazil  ease policy, the BoK is not sitting on its hands.

from Breakingviews:

Bond market misses Korea’s youthful monetary tilt

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By Wayne Arnold

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

Bond buyers in South Korea are ignoring the youthful tilt in the country’s monetary policy. In Seoul these days, policymakers are more concerned with younger citizens’ job prospects than with GDP growth. As long as unemployment keeps falling, the Bank of Korea may well leave rates alone.

from Breakingviews:

Samsung investors should worry less about Apple

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By Wayne Arnold

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

Samsung investors are worrying too much about Apple. The company’s shares have slid on concern the iPhone’s maker might be buying Japanese memory chips to cut its dependence for parts on its South Korean rival. But Apple’s diversification only reflects how smartphone demand is outpacing parts supply. Apple still needs Samsung and Samsung’s valuation has fallen too far.

from Breakingviews:

Samsung moves on from Japan to nibble at Apple

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By Wayne Arnold

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

The Japanese may have pioneered the model of a vertically integrated electronics manufacturer, but Samsung looks to have perfected it. The Korean company started by pulling apart Japanese TV sets, then reverse-engineered the manufacturers’ business model. By avoiding their missteps, it’s driving them out of TVs and carving up the smartphone market with Apple. Now, as more business is coming from emerging markets, Apple needs to watch out for Samsung’s still-growing appetite.

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