Breakingviews

 
For four years, the region has mostly lagged world economic growth. The IMF predicts another year of the same. While Pacific-oriented countries will shine, Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela will suffer. With a couple of exceptions, misguided policies are coming home to roost.

Ukraine crisis forced into suspended animation for 2015

Markets worried about Europe’s economy in 2014. They will worry about Europe’s security in 2015. EU sanctions over Ukraine will weigh heavily on Russia’s economy. A lot depends on Vladimir Putin, but Europeans need to define what they want sanctions to achieve.

M&A spin doctors could get swept up in the action

Financial PR specialists have been buoyed by the boom in mergers and activist investing. History suggests independent outfits like Joele Frank or Brunswick may be tempted to find an investor or bigger owner. They should at least have enough deal nous to know when to sell.

Alibaba in 2016: an imagined letter to investors

The e-commerce group’s first year as a listed company brought growth and change, departing chairman Jack Ma writes in a hypothetical memo. Profitability is falling, regulators circling, and new projects have uncertain returns. Even a thoroughbred is tested on a long journey.

U.S. housing demand is building

The post-crisis rebound boosted home prices 25 pct even as sales and construction lagged. Increasing household formation, job creation and easing credit look set to give the market another leg up, despite rising interest rates and the headwind of sliding affordability.

Bitcoin's defects will hasten its demise in 2015

The leading crypto-currency’s economies of scale in mining and its transaction system’s vulnerability to subversion by a dominant miner make it unsound. As seignorage declines it will become cost-uncompetitive for transactions. Flaws may cause its price to lose further altitude.

Review: Fixing the CIA - a novel approach

Could an outsider best reform the CIA in the wake of torture revelations? In David Ignatius’ novel “The Director,” a pro-privacy tech CEO tries to drag an agency that has lost its way into a new world of tighter rules, leaky secrets and cyberthreats. Good idea, uneven results.

JPMorgan soul-baring cuts room for error

Jamie Dimon’s bank has followed Goldman Sachs’ 2011 lead by publishing a report detailing how it has responded to crises. Amid the PR-speak are some worrying admissions and much-needed improvements. Future failures and shareholder concerns will be harder to explain away.