Apr 10, 2014 02:15 UTC

Japan index: Economy is ready to take on tax hike

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By Andy Mukherjee

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

The Breakingviews Abenomics Index climbed to a six-year high in February, suggesting the economy has enough strength to withstand this month’s sales tax increase. Wages and inflation expectations firmed up, while hopes of further monetary easing pushed bond yields lower.

Apr 8, 2014 15:04 UTC

Russia would pay steep price for Ukraine invasion

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By Pierre Briançon

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

Vladimir Putin wants to destabilise Ukraine, but he may balk at the economic price Russia would pay for a full-blown invasion. The seizure of government buildings in several eastern Ukrainian cities has rekindled fears of military intervention in the mostly Russian-speaking parts of the country. A major consideration before sending in troops would be the price paid by Russia’s economy. Putin can expect to be severely punished by both markets and Western governments.

COMMENT

This article missed the fact that Ukraine was, is, and will be, badly unstable; in fact, it was Russia that provided the stability that kept the place on life support and kept it whole. It is a social and economic basket case. Neo-Fascists and Anti-Semites are a big part of the new government in Ukraine. It is really scary. Their country is hugely in debt, and instead of Russia paying those debts the US and the IMF and the EU are going to foot the bill. Ukraine is the Greece of two years ago.

Russia stands to benefit economically, and the ones who should be worrying are the Europeans. Germany needs Russian natural gas to fuel its industry. Germany depends on Russia for 30% of its natural gas needs. That is a lot.

Putin is enjoying huge domestic support. Obama will never see those kinds of approval ratings. And Putin is cleaning up the Russian military and making it leaner and stronger. Today in the Russian press one can learn that Putin just fired 14 useless Generals. Despite what one reads in the Western press it sure looks like a win-win for Putin and Russia, and that is obviously why they did it. Obama looks helpless. Maybe he should not have said that Putin was like a kid skulking and sitting in the back of a classroom. The ineptitude of those remarks challenges anything G.W. Bush ever let drop from his mouth.

Putin is not skulking in the back of the class, and he never was to begin with. And President Obama calling Russia a mere “Regional Power” is another titanic misunderstanding. Mere local powers do not have the power to wipe the US off the map. That is why the wise course would be to show Mr. Putin some respect like G.W. Bush did. Sometimes one just has to conclude that the current administration is completely lost in the sauce, and that is no good for anyone.

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Apr 8, 2014 06:02 UTC

Modi win is blow for Tesco, good for investors

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By Andy Mukherjee 

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

A win for Narendra Modi would be bad news for Tesco and its rivals, but good news for other investors. The Indian opposition leader’s party says it won’t allow foreign supermarkets to enter the country if it wins the general election. But that is just one discordant note in a manifesto that is sweet music to financial markets.

Apr 2, 2014 07:26 UTC

Noble China joint venture still faces market test

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By Una Galani

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

Noble Group’s joint venture with China still faces a test from market forces. The Singapore trader is selling 51 percent of its agricultural business to a consortium led by state-backed COFCO for around $1.5 billion. China’s desire to control its food supply should guarantee volumes for the joint venture. But it’s less clear that will translate into healthy margins.

The precise size of the COFCO’s investment depends on how the unit, which processes everything from grains to coffee, performs over the next nine months. The final price will be equivalent of 1.15 times its book value in 2014. The headline price implies a valuation of $2.94 billion for the business, which accounted for 16 percent of Noble’s revenue last year.

Mar 31, 2014 06:04 UTC

Triple defence will shield Japan from tax burden

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By Andy Mukherjee

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

If history is a reliable guide, the Japanese economy will wilt when the country raises its sales tax on April 1. When Japan last increased the levy in 1997, consumer spending collapsed. But the three-pronged defence Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is putting in place makes a repeat doubtful.

Mar 27, 2014 14:37 UTC

Ukraine bailout can work if politics are fixed

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By Pierre Briançon

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

The International Monetary Fund has just invented delayed shock therapy. Its bailout package for Ukraine will help the country deal with financial emergency. The Fund hasn’t given up on conditionality, but it has been clever enough to recognise that political turmoil and the transitional nature of the Kiev government don’t allow for the type of tough love that could backfire. Ukrainians won’t have a credible administration capable of making long-term pledges until they choose a president on May 25.

Mar 25, 2014 08:15 UTC

Rich world exports its way to trouble

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By Andy Mukherjee

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

Rich nations are exporting their way to trouble. For eight straight quarters, advanced economies have exported more goods and services than they have imported, suggesting that as a group they are free-riding on world demand, most of which has come from emerging markets. But this growth strategy is both selfish and self-defeating.

Mar 20, 2014 06:19 UTC

Confused Fed adds to emerging market muddle

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By Andy Mukherjee

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

A confused U.S. Federal Reserve has added to the muddle in emerging markets.

At their meeting that ended on March 19, the nine voting members of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) wriggled out of a previous commitment to start increasing interest rates after unemployment had fallen to 6.5 percent. To assure markets that overnight rates will stay at near-zero levels, the committee promised instead to seek maximum employment and 2 percent inflation.

Mar 19, 2014 17:34 UTC

UK’s political budget transfers from young to old

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By Ian Campbell

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

George Osborne claimed to have a big white rabbit up his sleeve. It turned out the UK chancellor had hidden a cuddly toy for pensioners. Osborne is running the budget for both the economy and the election.

COMMENT

Too many Brits have been taken in by this “rich deserve more” propaganda. Consider this info from across the pond: “Fact: One economist estimates that for every $1 we spent on unemployment insurance benefits, we get $1.61 in economic activity back.”

This comes from Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi.

Not included in his formulae is the on going cost to the community of ill health incurred when on a tight budget, decay of property through lack of heating and investment, morale sapping inability to provide for dependents, loss of educational standards to the children etc etc. When people who are even relatively well off lobby for more we can be forgiven for shaking our heads in disbelief. Can’t we?

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Mar 19, 2014 06:35 UTC

Japan stock market selloff is a temporary setback

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By Peter Thal Larsen

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

Japan’s stock market has suffered a temporary setback. The country’s equity indices have dropped more than 10 percent this year in local currency terms. With the central bank on standby for more easing, however, Japanese stocks should benefit from home support.