MacroScope

Five days on, Ukraine accord at risk of unravelling

An international agreement to avert wider conflict in Ukraine, brokered only five days ago, is teetering with pro-Moscow separatist gunmen showing no sign of surrendering government buildings and Kiev and Moscow trading accusations over who was responsible for killings over the weekend.

Washington, which signed last week’s accord in Geneva along with Moscow, Kiev and the European Union, said it would decide “in days” on additional sanctions if Russia does not take steps to implement the agreement. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is in Kiev where he is expected to announce a package of technical assistance.

So far, markets’ worst fears have not materialized but with thousand of Russian troops massed on the frontier with Ukraine and deadly clashes between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists, it would not take much to change that.

The European Commission handed documents to EU member states last week explaining the potential impact on their economies of imposing stricter trade and financial sanctions on Russia. There is talk of an emergency meeting of EU leaders if necessary but building a consensus on tougher measures is tricky in Europe where many countries rely on Russian energy exports.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has written in the FT, calling on the EU to create an energy union to secure its gas supply because the current dependence on Russian energy makes Europe weak.

from UK News:

Has Alistair Darling done enough to revive Labour’s electoral hopes?

So how was it for you?

Chancellor Alistair Darling threw the dice in his pre-budget report in an attempt to bolster Labour's chances of winning the general election in 2010.

From hitting bankers with a one-off bonus tax to lowering bingo duty, Darling played to the Labour heartlands, while hoping to win back voters who have been telling pollsters that they are done with Gordon Brown.

Other measures included the return of full value added tax in January, a 2.5 percent rise in the basic state pension, a 1.5 percent increase in child benefit, as well as help for small businesses and various initiatives to boost the government’s green credentials.

The word on Gordon Brown from Cayman

Gordon Brown is truly having a rough time. Rebuffed by the United States, International Monetary Fund and others for floating the idea of a tax on financial transactions at this weekend’s G20 meeting, he has now got short shrift from the Cayman Islands.

McKeeva Bush, the veteran Caymanian politican who is now premier of the British Overseas Territory, popped in to the Reuters London headquarters for a chat this week. His main concern was to explain plans for making the islands an easier place for financial services personnel to live in. He would like some of those 8,000 hedge nearly 10,000 funds that are registered there to be more than just brass plaques. But, when asked, he also had time to dismiss the idea of a transaction tax out of hand.

“That’s an old hat. I have been hearing about it for 25 years. It’s just not practicable. It will not work.”

Brown gets helping hand from Obama

He loves the Queen and the British people. Truth be told, President Obama was always going to be a hit on his first overseas trip.

But Gordon Brown probably could not believe his luck. The prime minister just could not stop grinning as he stood next to the new president at a news conference in the Foreign Office ahead of the G20 summit.

He must have always been hoping for a bit of the Obama magic to rub off on him and revive his battered ratings but he can’t have expected the ringing endorsement he got.

from UK News:

Ghost of past failure haunts G20

Stopping off in New York during a marathon, 18,000-mile diplomatic offensive before next week’s G20 summit in London next week, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown recalled a conference held in eerily similar circumstances in London 76 years ago.

Sixty-six nations gathered for the June 1933 London Monetary and Economic Conference which was aimed at lifting the world’s economy out of the Depression.

But amid American opposition to European plans to return to a system of fixed exchange rates, the conference collapsed and the world put up trade barriers, jobless ranks swelled and the rise of Fascism took the world into war.

from Mark Felsenthal:

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Collapsing Economy

"I think, Watson," Sherlock Holmes tells Watson in "The Five Orange Pips,"  "that of all our cases we have had none more fantastic than this."

The famous fictitious sleuth referred not to a world-wide financial crisis, but a multi-continental saga of murderous revenge, and it also centered on the British hamlet of Horsham, where the Group of 20 rich and emerging nations are meeting to solve their own baffling case, the Global Economic Collapse of 2008-?. 

Readers who not like the endings of stories given away should read no futher. Readers hoping for a hopeful analogy to a story about brains and pluck overcoming adversity should also click away from this post immediately.

Echoes of 1933

Will President Barack Obama attend the summit of the Group of 20 rich and emerging countries in early April, hosted by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown to tackle the financial and economic crisis?

The working assumption is he will, on one of his first foreign trips as president. But there is still no official confirmation.

At the G20 summit in Washington on Nov. 15, Obama’s transition team stuck strictly to the rule: “There is only one president at a time”, and the president-elect did not meet any of the foreign summiteers.

from Global Investing:

Wish I hadn’t said that…

As sterling sinks to a 7-1/2 year low against the dollar, traders and investors are wondering who was the established political figure that made the following comments when Britain was kicked out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992.

"A weak currency arises from a weak economy which in turn is the result of a weak government."

Answer: Gordon Brown, then Shadow Chancellor, in an article in London's Evening Standard newspaper.