Sinopec petrol sale attracts a motley bunch

August 19, 2014

The Chinese oil giant is seeking investors for its vast network of filling stations. Retail, energy, technology and private equity groups are keen. With a price tag of $16 bln for a minority stake, they will have to club together. That will make it harder to exert influence.

German yield curve is the safest one to play

August 18, 2014

The spread between short- and long-dated bond yields keeps shrinking in the UK, United States and Germany. Stronger economic activity explains the Anglo-Saxon moves, economic weakness drives the Teutonic trend. The trade that relies on euro zone frailty looks the least risky.

Fear is key to Ebola’s economic contagion

August 18, 2014

The virus ravaging parts of Africa has yet to spread elsewhere. Yet Asia’s SARS crisis in 2003 showed how changes to behaviour can hurt growth and productivity more than an actual disease. Ebola seems harder to catch, but more deadly. That could make for a more pronounced effect.

Alibaba deal spree turns from romance to thriller

August 15, 2014

A Hong Kong-listed movie company has revealed accounting problems four months after the e-commerce giant bought a stake. It’s not clear whether Alibaba’s controls were flawed. But investors in its upcoming IPO may be less confident about the company’s investment binge.

Holiday email embargo a must-have, not an opt-in

August 14, 2014

Daimler is giving its employees the option to have all emails received on vacation diverted, to stop them stressing out. It’s a good, progressive step by the carmaker. But given the latent paranoia of the average employee, it would be better to impose the policy by default.

China data puts economists to the Rorschach test

August 14, 2014

Swings in credit, trade and investment support conflicting views about the state of the world’s number-two economy. Broadly, things look on track. But uncertainty can be damaging if it undermines the confidence of the people whose opinions matter most: consumers and depositors.

Japan’s GDP sacrifice is price well paid

August 13, 2014

The 6.8 pct drop in second-quarter output was a direct consequence of the country’s April sales tax increase. But for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, taking a temporary hit on private demand was an acceptable cost of mending public finances. Besides, a recovery may have already begun.

Aircraft leasing flies back into vogue in Asia

August 12, 2014

Western financial groups bailed out of the business after the crisis. Now China’s sovereign fund and Li Ka-shing may be getting on board. Strong forecast demand for aircraft orders explains the appeal. Even so, access to cheap and reliable sources of finance will be crucial.

German stocks price in sanctions tail-risk

August 12, 2014

Tension with Russia may slow growth in Europe’s powerhouse. But Germany’s domestic momentum should offset the drop in bilateral trade. Still, the DAX’s underperformance makes some sense. The economy would really suffer if Moscow cut back on gas exports.

Pure politics can’t revive Italy’s coma economy

August 11, 2014

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi offers promises and constitutional change, but has delayed tough reforms. Europe’s fourth-biggest economy is stuck in perma-recession. To awake from its deep sleep, Italy needs far more radical changes than are on offer.