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.

BES’s tale of woe is so specific that there is no obvious reason to think it will be replicated. But it is a reminder that bank stress tests later this year could throw up other nasties and more immediately the saga leaves Lisbon short of rescue funds should anything else blow up. The bond market is likely to react adversely. The 4.4 billion euros will come in the form of a state loan to a bank resolution fund which the government insists will be paid back.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the new European Commission President, will visit Athens for talks. The point at which Greece will ask its euro zone peers for some form of further debt relief is nearing amid signs of its economy finally pulling out of recession after six years.
EU officials have warned that Greece is slowing down on the reform front after the opposition, anti-bailout Syriza party won the country’s EU election in May.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has also promised austerity-weary Greeks gradual some relief on the tax front as Athens expects to post another budget surplus before debt servicing costs this year, but that has not yet won the backing of EU/IMF lenders.

Nigeria’s mighty economy

In a world of slowing growth (China), minimal growth (United States) and outright recession (Britain),  it is startling to hear that Nigeria’s economy is likely to shoot up by 40 percent in the second quarter this year. Yep. Forty percent. Four – O.

An investigation by Reuters Lagos correspondent Chijioke Ohuocha came up with this staggering figure — which if borne out will lift Nigeria close to continental rival South Africa and raise it about 10 places on the IMF’s global list to around 3oth.

This mighty rise, however, is not actually because Nigeria has had a sudden spurt of growth. You can read Chijioke’s exclusive story here, but the gist is that the country is changing the base year for its GDP calculation to 2009 from its current 1990.  One big reason is that data is better; another that it is more modern, taking in things like  mobile phones and the internet, for example. It is the latter, and things like it,  that have built up growth over thr years.

Building BRICs in Africa

Some eye-catching numbers from Standard Bank out today on the influence of BRICs countries — Brazil, Russia, India and China — on Africa.

First off, the bank says the global recession and its recovery have been nourishing these so-called South-South ties. But it is all now ready to take off. The bank estimates:

– By 2015, BRIC-Africa trade will have incresed threefold, to $530 billion from $150 billion this year.

Oxfam to G8: Act now on global poverty, maternal health

He has starred in such blockbuster films as Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as the upcoming Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but actor Bill Nighy’s heart is set on his real life role as an ambassador for Oxfam.

Flanked by representatives from poor and developing nations from Africa and South America, Nighy was in Toronto on Thursday to ask global leaders gathering for the G8/G20 meetings this week to keep the promises they made a decade ago to reduce maternal mortality rates by 75 percent before 2015.

Nighy was fresh off the plane from Kenya, where he saw children competing with dogs to find scraps of food in garbage dumps. In some cases small girls are forced to sell their bodies for sex to dump kingpins who control areas with the best pickings, an emotional Nighy told reporters.

Frontier sovereign wealth funds

Macroscope has discussed the growth of sovereign wealth funds many times (see here or here). Just to recap, the global state-owned SWF industry is set to more than double in the next 10 years from the current $3 trillion, according to estimates from Deutsche Bank.

John Green, global head of business development at Anglo-African bank Investec, argues that Africa will play a key role in the expansion of SWFs in years to come.

“Africa is very rich in commodities. Africa in aggregate has gone from a significant fiscal deficit, largely funded by aid, to a continent that has a fiscal surplus. That’s what has precipitated a lot of thinking around this issue,” he says.

Africa alone

The good news for Africa when the global financial meltdown began was that its financial markets were generally so far behind the rest of the world that groups such as the World Economic Forum reckoned that there was little or no danger. A new paper, posted on the economic research website VoxEU, suggests that that might be a bit too optimistic.

Tilburg University economist and former World Bank official Thorsten Beck – along with the World Bank’s Michael Fuchs and Marilou Uy —  write that despite shallow financial markets, sub-Saharan Africa is unlikely to escape the repercussions of the financial crisis.

Indeed, they argue that the crisis is threatening what little progress has been made to reverse what they call the alarming superficiality of African finance.

Why the BRICS like Africa

There is little doubt that the BRICs — Brazil, Russia, India and China — have become big players in Africa. According to Standard Bank of South Africa, BRIC trade with the continent has snowballed from just $16 billion in 2000 to $157 billion last year. That is a 33 percent compounded annual growth rate.

What is behind this? At one level, the BRICs, as they grow, are clearly recognising commercial and strategic opportunities in Africa. But Standard Bank reckons other, more individual, drivers are also at play.

In a new report, the bank looks at what each of the individual BRIC countries is trying to do. To whit:

from Africa News blog:

A tale of two Africas

Good news and bad news for Africa from the latest take on global risks from the World Economic Forum. Not much danger for most of the continent, it says, from an asset bubble burst. That's the good. The bad, of course, is that this is because there are not many financial assets to bubble. In fact, it deems the overall exposure even to economic risks is small because African economies are not particularly tied in to global markets.

Actually, the report shows that there are two Africas. Mapped by their susceptibility for economic and asset bubble trouble, most African countries are bunched together in a low risk range. But another, smaller cluster, including Nigeria and South Africa, finds itself in much more peril and shares space on the WEF risk map with Western and Eastern Europe.

Good news, in a contradictory sort of way.