Monday, July 27, 2015

Greek and Tunisia Crises Set to Hit Thomas Cook

Tour operator Thomas Cook is set to lose million by way of revenue due to last week’s terrorist attack in Tunisia as well as the on-going financial chaos in Greece as they head in the peak of summer trading period. According to analysts at Jefferies, these two catastrophes could cost the under-pressure FTSE 250 Company, around £20m.

Thomas Cook is due to report the third quarter numbers covering the three months to the end of June and is expected to update shareholders on how Tunisia and the uncertainty about Greece has affected its business. According to analysts estimate, ten percent of Thomas Cooks’ passengers tend to travel to North Africa with about a third, bound for Tunisia.

Earlier in the month, the Government had warned against all, though essential travel to the country after around 38 tourists, most of which were Britons, were killed on June 26, when an Islamist gunman had attacked holidaymakers at a beach resort in Sousse.

Due to this, Thomas Cook had cancelled all booking to Tunisian till the end of October and flew all its customers home. Uncertainties about travelling to Greece also affected the tour operator. The tragedy in Tunisia as well as the chaos in Greece has been a difficult time for Thomas Cook.

Imposed Capital Control to Protect Banking System

Besides, Athens had also imposed capital control in a desperate move in order to protect its banking systems amid fear that the indebted country would be forced from the Eurozone.While the introduction of capital controllimits Greeks to €60 a day from ATMs,the same is not applicable to tourists, where the country is facing a cash crisis.

 The FCO have advised Brits who tend to travel to Greece to ensure that they carry sufficient cash which would last for the duration of their trip. Analysts stated that tourists travelling to Greece and were advised to carry plenty of funds with them had fears related to theft which could have discouraged travellers from late booking to the country.

It has been estimated by Credit Suisse that Greece accounts for about 15% of passenger volumes in summer season. Besides losing some of these bookings, the company’s margin is also likely to have come under stress as it struggles to find substitute destinations at late notice for the customers.

Analyst at Jeffries, Mark Irvine-Fortescue stated that `the terrorist attack in Tunisia and the on-going uncertainty in Greece add risk for tour operators heading into the peak trading period.

Share Prices Dropped Due to Attack/Turmoil

Tunisia is likely to negatively impact holidays in the region. The `Grexit’ saga creates uncertainty which could hold back some potential for late bookings’.

The tour operator also faced calls for a boycott in May when an enquiry in Wakefield ruled that the company had breached its duty of care when two kids had died of carbon monoxide poisoning due to a faulty boiler, in 2006. Irvine Fortescue has further commented that `while Tui and Thomas Cook have provided public assurance about customers being unaffected, Sunday’s `no’ vote meant more uncertainty which is not helpful’. Both the companies’ share prices had dropped recently due to the attack and the turmoil in Greece.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Greece Asks For A Third Bailout


Greek Government’s Official Request – 3rd International Bailout

The Greek government has officially requested a 3rd international bailout in order to help in paying its debt, to prevent economic downfall and ejection from euro. It was recently confirmed by the European Stability Mechanism which acts as Europe’s financial rescue fund that Greece had applied for a new bailout package. According to a senior economist at ING, Carsten Brzeski who informed CNBC through email that there would be new negotiations and these would be tough.

Greece had received its first aid in 2010 with 110 billion euro rescue package while the second program brought the bailouts of 240 billion euros, for which the payment deadline was extended recently for another four month on the premise that the Greece’s government would be making a renewed push for economic improvements. Greece still needed financial help due to its huge debt burden unlike other euro zone members likeIreland and Portugal.

The latest bailout program ended recently and Greece had missed the big debt payment to the International Monetary Fund thus becoming the first developed economy for non-payment of fund. The Greek government has requested for the new package for three years and has promised to present fresh economic reforms for exchange of money. Moreover it has also implied that it would prefer some form of debt relief from previous bailouts.

Greece Economy in Deep Crisis

The European Union is expected to come to a decision soon whether to grant another bailout program once it receives more details with regards to the economic plans of Greece. Recently the International Monetary Fund had estimated that Greece would need at least 50 billion euros though analysts are of the opinion that the figure could be much higher since the IMF analysis had been conducted prior to the Greek banks being forced to shut down creating added havoc on the economy.

Greek economy is in a deep crisis due to years of overspending as well as mismanagement and the government has fundamentally run out of funds. Banks have been closed for over a week and will continue to remain close for some time with cash withdrawals being stopped for individuals and businesses. Driving has also been stopped by regular people since they now want to conserve any cash that they may have.

Experts are of the opinion that Greece would soon be compelled in printing their own currency and ditch the euro if the leaders tend to disagree on the new rescue package. Market News International – MNI, the News organization had recently reported that the creditors of Greece have been considering the possibility of a third package for several months, quoting top euro zone official.

Germany Powerhouse of Euro Zone

The source also informed that the possibility had increased in the hope of higher deficits and weaker growth owing to the turmoil of the recent snap election of the country. The deputy parliamentary floor leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party, Michael Fuchs, informed CNBC that another round of financial aid would probably be difficult.

He commented that it would depend on the Greek Government and that they have to come up with serious proposals. Greece needs to show that they are capable of really changing the situation. Germany has been known to be the powerhouse of the euro zone and the German taxpayer had portrayed signs that they are little more reluctant in continuing to bail out the struggling euro zone nations.

According to a recent new survey by Polit Barometer, around three quarters of Germans are in doubt that the Greek government would implement the announced serious measures and reforms while an INSA poll also indicated that only 21 percent of Germans support the present extension for Greece. German parliament had voted in support of the bailout extension, however with lot of dissatisfaction shown in these polls, it could not be too long before the German politician may change tact.
Cease Fire But No Peace Agreement
ING’s Brzeski informed CNBC that `the current compromise was a cease fire but no peace agreement. A lot of goodwill has been destroyed by the Greek negotiation strategy and it is completely open whether there will be an agreement on a third package or whether we could still see a Grexit later this year’.

Chief executive at the German Federation of Industry, Markus Kerber, had informed CNBC that Greece needs the reforms for the people of Greece and not just of its international creditors. He further added that Greece has four months now to show that the new government would be willing to do the structural reforms in the country that has been waiting for long and if this happens in the next four months, then there could be signs of hope on the horizon’.

In the meanwhile, a second reading of gross domestic product for Greece recently indicated that the economy had contracted 0.4 percent in the last quarter of 2014. Leaders of all 28 European Union countries would be holding a summit to decide on Greece’s fate in the euro and have warned that any bailout deal would tend to come with tougher requirements than the earlier deal offered which was rejected by the Greeks in a referendum earlier this month.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Ground Zero'- China's Stock Market Crash Up Close in Shanghai

Ground Zero
China Facing Plunging Stock Market

For years the Chinese Communist Party has been capable of keeping control on democracy disputes, protestors, the legal system as well as the military. However it has now been facing a more headstrong opponent in the form of a plunging stock market. Fast paced and invisible defiant market forces have confronted the efforts of the party led government in arresting the month long slide in Chinese stock market and if the same tends to continue, the fall in stock prices could slow the economy as well as weaken the faith in the party’s leadership and power, according to experts on China and economics.

 Three months back the state run People’s Daily had spoken that the increased stock prices were the `carriers of the China Dream’ and the confirmation of President Xi Jinping’s signature vision for what he calls, the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. However, what had been addressed as a bull market turned out to be a bubble burst. The main share index of Shanghai is down a third since its peak of June and trading in almost three quarters of listed shares were frozen due to limit declines or completely suspended and the securities regulators were also speaking on a mood of `panic’.

Stock Collapse – Reveals Impromptu Policy Makers

Since the stock market collapsed, the Chinese authorities instructed brokerages as well as insurers to buy, barred insiders from selling, tapping the nations’ sovereign wealth to pile up shares. Moreover, the government also raised patriotism blaming foreigners and arrested rumour mongers.

The Chinese stock collapse has been` a total revelation of how impromptu the policy makers could be in managing the transition to market-driven capital markets and that’s the question of the moment’ comments Daniel Rosen, a partner at the rhodium Group, which is a New York based economic advisory firm. He further adds, that `the question for tomorrow is whether that immaturity applies to their ability to regulate other aspects for the economic transition as well’.

Wary at the prospect of further losses, the Chinese government has taken action by agreeing to establish fund worth 120 billion yuan - $19.4 billion in purchasing shares in the largest companies that were listed in the index. Besides Beijing has also reduced the interest rates, relaxed restriction on the purchase of stocks with borrowed money as well as imposed a moratorium on initial public offerings.

Boom Powered by Retail Supporters

According to Financial Times, the recent dip in the Chinese stock market trailed an extraordinary bull period wherein the Shanghai composite increased by 149 percent through June 12 and the boom was powered by retail supporters who had been new to investing where more than 12 million new accounts had been opened on the stock exchange in May alone. Once controlled by the elites, the stock market progressively has now become a vehicle for China’s developing middle class.

Two thirds of the households who had opened accounts in the first quarter of 2015 had not even finished high school and the Equity market passion had spread to China’s universities, where 31% of the college students of the country had invested in stock, three quarters of which had used money that had been provided by their parents. Chinese have generally put their excess savings in housing, in recent years, however the uneven performance of real estate has prompted their interest in other direction for domestic investments.

Due to strict capital controls it has been very difficult for most of them to move money out of the country and more have turned to stock market. As per Bloomberg, more than 90 million people in China is said to have invested in equities, which is greater than the total membership in the Chinese Communist Party. The recent fall in prices has affected the fortunes of a huge number of people. Should this be a cause of worry for those outside China? Perhaps not.
China Stock Markets – Isolated

China’s stock markets are quite isolated due to a heavily combined global economy which is now the world’s second largest. Foreign investors tend to hold only 2% of all equities of China where equities account for around 5% of the overall financing. The aggregate bank deposits of China are around $2.1 trillion, providing a buffer against huge market fluctuations.

Moreover, the long bulls run which led the June’s collapse had not faded totally and the Shanghai composite is yet up by 20% since January 1. Nonetheless, these types of volatility in the world’s second largest equity market props up questions about the overall health on the economy of China. The GDP increased by 7% during the first quarter of 2015, which was its weakest mark in six years, while stimulus measures implemented by the government is yet to reverse this slide. As per Chief Economist at Deloitte, Ira Kalish, `China’s slowdown already had consequences beyond its borders’.

He has written in ChinaFile that `already the halving of China’s growth has wreaked havoc with global commodity markets and has negatively influenced growth in those East Asian economies that are a vital part of China’s manufacturing supply chain. It could be argued that the imbalances in China’s economy thus represent more of a risk to the global economy than the current and much discussed situation in Greece.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The U.S. is pushing to reform the international postal treaty that subsidizes Chinese shipping

American e-Commerce Put at a Disadvantage – UPU

American e-commerce business has been put at a disadvantage for subsidizing shippers from developing countries like China, by the Universal Postal Union, a postal treaty where witnesses as well as legislators state, has created a rough playing field for international e-commerce, which is up for renegotiation in 2016.

A hearing was held on June 16th, by the Government Operations subcommittee of the House Oversight Committee that the committee Chairman, Mark Meadows considered as the start of a push for U.S reform strategy. Reported earlier by Fortune, the Universal Postal Union is considered a treaty organization which tends to set international postal standards, comprises of the terminal dues agreements between post-office.

Congressman Meadows, in his opening statements, branded the terminal dues system as `trade distortion’ that had left thousands of the small businesses of Americans at a disadvantage. This was due to the system favouring shippers from countries that included China, which is considered as `developing’ country.Meadows suggested a question for the committee on how the situation could be improved wherein some were offered by the witnesses, which represented the Amazon, FedEx, State Department and USPS.

Negotiating Rights Taken from U.S. Postal Services 

SinceCongress took the negotiating rights away from the U.S. Postal Service and gave the lead to the State Department in 2006, U.S reform efforts have made little progress. Presently the State lead negotiator at the UPU, Robert Faucher, defended the progress that was made while at the same time clarified that the UPU is a very slow moving organization and dependent on an extensive one-country, one-vote Congress, which is held once in every four years.

Head of regulatory affairs for FedEx, Nancy Sparks, claimed that lethargy seems to be the source of the UPU’s deteriorating discrepancies. She stated that the tradition of the UPU is that the haves tend to pay the have-nots and what brings this problem up is that the have-nots suddenly have a lot.

Sparks further pointed that time seems to be short for U.S. game plan ahead of next year’s UPU Congress where the rules could be amended. `September 2016, in UPU time, is a heartbeat away’

Specific Goal – 2016 UPU Congress – Establish UPU Task Force

Faucher refrained from offering a timetable for meaningful terminal dues reform when he was compelledby representative Meadows. He stated that the `State Department’s most specific goal at the 2016 UPU Congress would be to establish a UPU task force to explore fundamental reforms’.

Proposals similar to these had been put forward by the U.S. at earlier congresses though were not successful.Essential approaches were also offered by Paul Misener, Amazon representative who called for the U.S. in making postal rates part of larger diplomatic negotiations with China. He further added that the UPU seems to be an imbalance which makes no sense to Amazon and that they are on the look-out for the whole ecosystem.

Insignificance of the problem could make it difficult to meet that type of political stress and most of the committee members commented that before the hearing they were ignorant of the facts. However, as per Congressman Meadows, this seemed to be just the beginning who commented that this would not be the last hearing, since they were going to look for real results.

Gold Dips Below $1,170 Despite Greek Debt Crisis

Gold Price below $1,170 – On-going Greek Crisis

Price of gold fell recently as the markets anticipated news from euro zone summit speculating whether progress would be made due to the Greek debt crisis, as growing positions in gold underline bearish sentiments towards the precious metal.

In the meantime, China’s foremost stock market closed at 7.4% down the same day and some 18% down from fortnight back since several brokerage houses had tightened their margin trading rules. A data portrayed French and Italian consumer confidence rising though private sector loans from the 19 nation Eurozone increased by only 0.5% annually in May, as stated by the European Central Bank, inspite of 5% growth in the currency union’s broad money supply motivated by the new QE bond buying program of ECB.

 Gold has failed so far to see substantial safe-havenbids due to the on-going Greek crisis and the strength in the dollar has also stopped improvements. Higher prices attempts seem pointless with traders selling into rallies and bringing the prices quickly lower. Spot gold eased 0.1% to $1,168 an ounce by 0630 GMT and the metal increased as much as 0.6% early on Monday followed by Greek rejection on terms of the bailout package.

Investors Concerned – Major Macro Risks

However, it gave up most gains close to 0.2%. On Tuesday, US gold futures dropped to 0.5 percent. The price move indicated the growing evidence that gold cannot hold its weight against the face of market jitters according to an analyst at Phillip Futures, Howie Lee.

He commented that `while that suggest gold has lost some appeal as a safe-haven asset, more importantly it signifies the loss of interest in gold as an investment vehicle. Investor positioning reflected the same, established on US Commodity Futures Trading Commission data on Monday. In the week ending June 30, hedge funds as well as money manager increased their short position to the highest on record.

Non-commercial dealers increased their short positions to a two-year high. While, investors were still net long on gold, a week ago, bullish position fell drastically.However, in terms of transaction, 3 days of strong revenue in the Shanghai Gold Exchange’s domestic kilobar, contract trailed on Friday, by record high volume, with its premium doubling from the previous day to $2.60 per ounce over comparable London quotes.

A London bullion bank had commented that `more people getting involved is a clear sign that investors are concerned about major macro risks – Greece, Europe, China’, adding that the exchange trade trust fund vehicles backed by gold, saw strong inflows on Thursday.

Athens Speculating Proposal for a Deal

The benefit of gold had also been affected by prospects of higher US interest rates later this year which would have increased the demand for the dollar and reduce the appeal of non-interest paying bullion. The weakness in the euro, recently from the Greek crisis has supported the dollar.

Dollar index trading near a one month high was reached on Monday and according to a Sydney based bullion trader, focus was on the euro zone meeting to take place with any Greek debt deal is likely to send gold prices below $1,150.Athens is speculating in bringing a proposal for a deal to the summit after Germany and France informed Greece on Monday, to come up with thoughtful proposals for the purpose of restarting financial aid talks.

Edward Meir, an INTL FCStone analyst stated that `any movement towards an agreement would probably mean that gold’s staying power at current levels will prove to be short-lived’.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Interest Rates Could Stay 'Glued' to the Floor, Admits Bank's Chief Economist

Interest Rates Remain Glued to the Floor – Andy Haldane-Chief Economist

Reports have come in from the Bank of England’s chief economist, that the interest rates would remain glued to the floor for the instant future. It has been stated by Andy Haldane who sits on the Bank’s committee of interest rate setter that inspite of strong attempts in dislodging them; rates tend to remain stuck at unprecedentedly low levels across major economies.Presently the financial markets are speculating that the UK rates would rise from their lows of 0.5pc to around 2,5pc ten years from now which according to Mr Haldane implies an extraordinarily slow pace of monetary tightening at least by historical standards.

He suggested that policymakers, in trying too hard to raise rates would make the situation even worse, but on the contrary with in due course, they could come free of their own accord. He further stated that it is one reason why the glue holding interest rates to their floor has stayed so strong and feels no immediate need to loosen that glue.Mr Haldane has earlier considered himself as one of the Bank’s most dovish interest rate setters, indicated that he would prefer rates to be lower, instead of being higher. He comments that the Bank should be prepared to cut interest rates if it looks like low inflation and tends to become entrenched in the UK.

Interpreted Downward Drift as Evidence of Secular Stagnation

He has said that the glue holding rates low is remarkably resilient and could have been aggravated by deficient western investment together with additional savings in the east. While in conversation with Milton Keynes, Haldane has stated that `some have interpreted their downward drift as evidence of secular stagnation’, which is a concept that economies tend will grow slowly than in the past and this fear is an echo of concerns raised after the Great Depression. Consumers and businesses now are concerned that what is a reasonable recovery may not be permanent. Consumers are pleased that their glass is now less than half empty but they are no more willing to drink it and this cautious behaviour is to a degree, mirrored also among companies’.

Wage Growth Causing Fluttering 

Inspite of encouraging signs of wage growth during the year right up to April, together with rise in pay with its fastest pace from the time of the crisis, Mr Haldane had cautioned using the phrase `one swallow does not a summer make’. Analysts had informed that the pay growth could be even stronger after accounting changes in the UK’s workforce like the changing mix of employee ages, occupation and job tenures.

However, Mr Haldane has criticized the idea stating that `the wage growth is causing some fluttering though not in this dovecote’. It is now a matter of time to wait and watch for the outcome of the prevailing scenario on the interest rates in the near future.