VACACIONES MAYO 2015
Jueves 30 de Abril del 2014
Les escribo estas líneas con motivo de mi próximo viaje que me tendrá ausente de la oficina y de nuestras lecturas cotidianas, desde el lunes 4 hasta el miércoles 20 de Mayo próximo.
Durante estos días no tendré acceso regular al Internet ni a mis correos.
Lamentablemente, en los últimos meses la situación internacional se ha seguido complicando tanto social, económica, financiera y geopolíticamente, de acuerdo a lo previsto en mi carta de Setiembre pasado y las anteriores, a pesar de todas las declaraciones y anuncios en contrario por parte de las autoridades de los bancos centrales y los representantes de los gobiernos.
En realidad no podía ser de otra manera, si tenemos en cuenta que no se ha hecho nada en los últimos años para reparar los profundos desequilibrios estructurales en los fundamentos de la economía global, sino que mas bien, por el contrario, se ha seguido "maquillando" por parte de los bancos centrales la insostenible situación económica y financiera global, profundizando los desequilibrios y la inestabilidad vía el constante crecimiento de las deudas, aumentando las ineficiencias y dilatando el necesario ajuste. El crecimiento estructural de la economía global es cada vez mas frágil, dudoso e insostenible.
Hasta la crisis del 2000 y luego de la del 2008, ahora así llamada la Gran Recesión, la demanda global había sido “subvencionada” por un sistema financiero manipulado e intervenido, creando una demanda y una economía global ficticia, una recuperación así llamada "subprime", liderada por la FED mediante un crecimiento desproporcionado de las deudas, imposible de auto-sustentarse en un crecimiento de la economía real en el largo plazo.
Deuda, deuda y mas deuda, parece ser el mantra de la FED.
Desde entonces, la FED y el resto los bancos centrales de todos los países más importantes del mundo se han negado y se siguen negando a reconocer esta realidad, aceptando el inicio de un ajuste inevitable y estructural, regresando a un nivel real de la economía global de alguna manera manejable. Aun siguen abocados al esfuerzo de una gran represión financiera, manipulando e inflando irresponsablemente los mercados financieros vía una política monetaria de emisiones inorgánicas de papel moneda sin respaldo y muy bajas tasas de interés.
Las deudas de consumidores, empresas y gobiernos, eran y son insostenibles.
Por ello creemos que los bancos centrales no aumentarán de "motu propio" las tasas de interés de manera importante a corto plazo, salvo que este aumento provenga final y sorpresivamente de una crisis generada por la desaparición de la confianza de los inversionistas globales en los mercados financieros.
Inmediatamente sus deudas se volverían obviamente impagables y la crisis que tanto han tratado de evitar reconocer, sobrevendría inevitable.
Solo para mencionar al país con la economía mas importante, la deuda de los Estados Unidos de Norteamerica ha crecido por encima de los 18 trillones de dólares, a mas del 100% de su PBI. Y si incluimos las deudas contingentes internas, como el Seguro Social y los Fondos de Pensiones, algunos analistas calculan que la deuda norteamericana podría llegar a sumar entre los 80 a 120 trillones de dólares, es decir, entre 5 a 7 veces el producto bruto anual.
Para un análisis detallado del desarrollo de esta problemática y la verdadera situación actual, ver los artículos del blog, aquí, aquí y aquí.
Esta situación se ha seguido agravando en los últimos años y es insostenible en el mediano y largo plazo. (ver articulo)
Para evitarlo, es que los bancos centrales han tenido que esforzarse en mantener ficticiamente una apariencia de normalidad en el "statu quo", inyectando cantidades innombrables de papel moneda sin respaldo a los mercados financieros y reducido las tasas de interés a niveles nunca vistos por largo tiempo, desde que la historia económica recuerda. (QE1, QE2, QE3, Q4, Abenomics, China, etc….)
Todo ello nos hace presumir que todo ello se lleva a cabo por el fundamentado temor a perder el control del esquema Ponzi mundial, que es lo que son ahora la economía global y los mercados financieros, y por ende se derrumbe el castillo de naipes enfrentando de golpe un ajuste económico enorme y hasta la posibilidad de una revolución social incontenible, guerras, etc.
¿Porqué un ahorrista o un inversionista estaría dispuesto a depositar su dinero en un banco o comprar un bono de un gobierno, que no solamente no le paga ningún interés sino que más bien ahora le cobra por mantener su deposito, o si se lo paga, es un interés muy reducido y hasta negativo?
Ello sucede solo cuando el ahorrista y/o el inversionista esperan una deflación en la economía, i.e. que los precios mañana serán mas bajos que los de hoy, la que sería mayor que el costo de ese depósito, y/o una ganancia potencial en el fortalecimiento de esa moneda, es decir, en ambos casos, a pesar de todo, un aumento del poder adquisitivo de sus inversiones. Y también, cuando además, existe una enorme aversión al riesgo en los mercados financieros "tradicionales". Solo así se puede justificar racionalmente esta realidad por un ahorrista o inversionista que desea mantener su poder de compra, sin tener que enfrentar riesgos desconocidos e incalculables, pero claramente presumibles en los mercados financieros globales. (ver articulo)
El hecho es que el esfuerzo de política monetaria intervencionista llevada a cabo por la mayoría de los bancos centrales del mundo, en los últimos 15 años, más intensa y desproporcionadamente desde los últimos siete años, además, ha producido la transferencia más importante de riqueza que se recuerda en la historia, de manos de los pensionistas y los ahorristas, hacia las clases privilegiadas.
Mas importante todavía, se ha distorsionado y manipulado fundamentalmente las reglas de la economía del libre mercado con consecuencias funestas y aun impredecibles en el mediano y largo plazo para los consumidores e inversionistas del mundo, incrementando la alocación ineficiente de los recursos de inversión, además de multiplicar el costo de la inevitable implosión de los mercados financieros, tanto de las acciones, como de los bonos y otros instrumentos de inversión financiera.
Todo esto para no mencionar a los derivados financieros, estimados por algunos analistas en mas de 1 cuadrillón de dólares (1000 trillones de dólares), que se ciernen como una espada de Damocles, sobre todo el sistema financiero y económico internacional.
Recientemente el FMI ha advertido de la posibilidad que la economía global esta entrando a un periodo de "stagnación" y a una probable nueva recesión, con las consecuencias que ello implicaría. (ver articulo)
El reconocido economista y analista Ricardo Lago hace recientemente en un diario local un excelente resumen de la ultima reunión del FMI y el Banco Mundial en Washington, sus conclusiones e implicancias. (ver articulo)
Obviamente estos organismos no pueden decirnos toda la verdad. Ello sería propiciar ellos mismos el adelanto inevitable del descalabro global, el caos y el ajuste sin anestesia, con resultados imprevisibles.
La pregunta de fondo es ¿hasta cuando se podrá o podrán mantener esta realidad bizarra?
Y eso nadie lo puede responder con seguridad. La confianza de los inversionistas en los mercados financieros es la verdadera incógnita.
¿Existen aun los inversionistas?
Observan algunos críticos y analistas que los pequeños y medianos inversionistas se han retirado del mercado y todo el movimiento que observamos en los índices, es solo en volúmenes reducidos. Piensan que ello se debe solo a la actuación de unos cuantos brokers y/o "high frequency traders"de los grandes bancos globales que se siguen "alimentando" de las manipulaciones y ventajas, coordinadas y producidas por los bancos centrales.
Hace alrededor de 100 años el asesinato del archiduque Francisco Fernando y su esposa Sofía Chotek en Sarajevo fue el detonante de la primera guerra mundial. Y nadie pensó en ese momento que ese acontecimiento, aparentemente sin importancia global, traería la primera guerra mundial.
Por ello ahora tenemos que preguntarnos seriamente, ¿cuál de todos los potenciales "cisnes negros", conocidos o no, que hoy se ciernen sobre la economía global ,y que son muchos, económicos, sociales y geopolíticos, podrían ser el detonante de la nueva catástrofe?
Solo la historia nos responderá a esta crucial pregunta. No hay cuerda para mucho. Y evidentemente, toda situación que es insostenible, finalmente se caerá.
Tenemos que insistir mas que nunca que la experiencia y la prudencia, el análisis y la inteligencia, la vigilancia y la paciencia, son los socios más importantes en las decisiones de políticas y estrategias de inversión a corto y mediano plazo.
En un cambio importante de ciclos como en el que pensamos que estamos envueltos hoy día, y en el que mas allá de lo circunstancial, el pasado y el futuro se bifurcan y se oponen, los riesgos para los inversionistas son profundos. (ver articulo)
Con estas anotaciones y advertencias que espero les sean de utilidad, me despido de Uds. con un cordial abrazo hasta el regreso a mis actividades, Dios mediante, a inicios de la semana del lunes 23 de Mayo próximo, cuando estaré nuevamente a su gentil disposición.
PD. Algunos días durante mis vacaciones en la medida de lo posible y excepcionalmente publicaré artículos en el blog que podrán leer entrando directamente y/o subscribiéndose al blog: www.gonzaloraffoinfonews.com
VACACIONES MAYO 2015
April 26, 2015 7:00 pm
US share buybacks loot the future
Corporate leaders should put long-term investment and growth ahead of quick gains
In theory companies are meant to raise money from the stock market to invest in their future growth. Exactly the reverse is taking place. Last year, the volume of buybacks was $550bn, according to Bloomberg, while the amount of new money coming into the market, mostly into mutual and exchange traded funds, was just $85bn. During 2015 the trend has increased sharply. Not only have buybacks jumped: they hit a record $104bn in February. But investors have actually been withdrawing money from the market.
It is tempting to believe the buyback boom will come to a halt when the US Federal Reserve puts up interest rates. A large chunk of the buybacks are funded by corporate bonds issued at historically low interest rates. Once Treasury yields start to rise again, it will become more expensive for companies to buy back their own shares with borrowed money. But the opposite is just as likely to happen.
The point of zero interest rates was to help reflate the US economy. Even before the end of quantitative easing last year, profit margins were falling. Since then, the rise of the US dollar has hit overseas sales, which account for roughly a third of S&P 500 revenues. A turn in the interest rate cycle is likely to boost the dollar more, thus further squeezing US corporate margins.
What will the GEs and IBMs do then? In an ideal world, they would weather the storm to focus on future growth. In the real one, they will be under even greater pressure to meet their earnings targets.
Mr Fink argues that “corporate leaders’ duty of care and loyalty is not to every trader who owns their companies’ shares at any moment in time, but to the company and its long-term owners”.
The future of the US economy would look brighter if its chief executives were listening.
NSA veteran chief fears crippling cyber-attack on Western energy infrastructure
The West lacks a shield against formidable foes and is losing the battle against Jihadi terrorism as chaos spreads across the Middle East
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Houston
8:29PM BST 26 Apr 2015
Saudi-led air strikes against the Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen have killed over 1,000 civilian and displaced 150,000, without restoring any semblance of political order. A particularly aggressive faction of the Jihadi nexus – al-Qaeda in the Arabian Penisula – has exploited the crisis to free its prisoners and seize the country's fifth biggest city.
The French oil group Total has suspended operations in Yemen, cutting off 30pc of the state's budget revenues. The country risks becoming another failed side along the lines of Libya.
Diplomats warn that the crisis evolved into a Sunni-Shia proxy war between Iran and the Saudis, with the risk of a boomerang back into Saudi Arabia itself, where a restive Shia minority is sitting on the world's biggest oil field.
Gen Alexander, who served as head of US Cyber Command as well as director of the electronic eavesdropping agency, listed five countries able to conduct cyber-warfare at the highest level: the US, UK, Israel, Russia, and surprisingly Iran.
He did not include North Korea, describing the cyber-sabotage of Sony last year as relatively primitive. The attack could have been prevented with early warning sensors that pick up changes in the "behaviour" of computer systems.
China clearly has first-rate hackers, allegedly concentrated at a 2,000-strong cell of the People's Liberation Army in Shanghai. The current NSA chief Michael Rogers testified late last year that China is capable of cyber-attacks that could cause "catastrophic failures" of the water system or the electricity grid.
Hank Paulson, the former US Treasury Secretary and author of a new book entitled "Dealing With China", told the CERAWeek conference that Chinese hackers have been stealing intellectual property on a large scale.
“That’s the most quarrelsome issue because it plays to the common perception that China doesn’t play fair. US companies have got to do a better job of hardening their systems,” he said.
There is no suggestion that China has an intention to use its power to damage US infrastructure. NSA officials are less confident that Iran will show self-restraint.
The Iranians revealed their skill in August 2012 with a taunting virus attack on Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia's state-owned oil giant. Hackers erased most of the company's emails and documents, leaving an image of a burning American flag on the computer system as their calling card. There was a similar attack on Qatar's state-energy group RasGas.
The action was a form or retaliation for economic sanctions against Iran, but also a warning shot to Riyadh in an escalating battle for Mid-East dominance by the two regional superpowers. It is highly pertinent today given comments by leading figures in Tehran that the Saudis will be "punished" for their decision to drive down the price of oil.
A report by the cybersecurity firm Cylance Corp claimed that Iran's experts have hacked into the email systems of the US navy and marines, as well as other critical computer systems in Britain, France, and Germany.
The American Enterprise Institute has issued its own report concluding that the nuclear deal with Iran will merely enable the country to step up its step up its attacks. "It would be comforting to imagine that a new era of détente will end this cyber arms race. There is, unfortunately, no reason to believe that that will be the case," it said.
Gen Alexander remains defiantly unapologetic about the NSA's collection of metadata on US citizens for anti-terrorism purposes – exposed by NSA contractor Edward Snowden – conceding only that the agency did not act quickly enough to "get out in front" and defend itself.
He said the programme had been approved by the courts, both parties in Congress, and the White House. "The courts oversaw what we were doing every step of the way," he said.
Gen Alexander instructed the NSA's staff to sit down with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) when the storm hit – after the ACLU had a filed a lawsuit – and explain exactly what the agency had been doing and why. "We gave the ACLU 100pc," he said.
The overtures appear to have been partially successful, if too late to stop a public relations disaster.
The civil liberties watchdog concluded that America's spies had been acting with professional integrity.
However, the ACLU continues to insist that the "surveillance superstructure" established by the US Patriot Act, FISA Amendments, and Executive Order 12.333, together strike "at the core of our rights to privacy, free speech, and association."
"History has shown that powerful, secret surveillance tools will almost certainly be abused for political ends," it said.
Gen Alexander said he learned from a tip-off days in advance that Mr Snowden was about to expose a vast cache of NSA files, and is not yet convinced that he was acting alone. "Why did he go to Russia? We still have a lot of suspicions about his motives," he said.
Flat-Lines, Fed Rate Hike Evaporates
By: John Rubino
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
As pretty much everyone is now aware, US Q1 growth was way below expectations.
And the only reason it was even marginally positive was because businesses expanded their inventories at a record rate. Here's a chart from Zero Hedge comparing the economy's growth with that of inventories:
In other words, if US businesses had just kept inventory levels stable in the first quarter, the economy would have contracted at a 2% rate.
Which once again takes us back to the observation that a strong currency slows down growth by making exports more expensive and therefore harder to sell. Nothing very deep or complicated here, but still apparently beyond the grasp of the economic forecasters who keep expecting an imminent rebound.
Going forward, two things are now virtually certain:
- That massive inventory build will have to be reversed out in the coming year, which means lower demand for raw materials and, other things being equal, slower growth than would otherwise be the case.
- The Fed will abandon its (always highly unlikely) promise/threat to raise interest rates in 2015. With growth trending towards zero and national elections coming up, no government in its right mind would tighten monetary policy. So either the dollar falls hard in anticipation (it's down 1% this morning) or the US takes steps to bring it down.
It happened to Switzerland last year and now it's happening to the US (and via the yuan/dollar peg, China). One more "unexpectedly" weak quarter and we'll have no choice but to adopt the European negative interest rate, war-on-cash model. American savers will as a result find themselves in an even more uncomfortable spot, either forced to become hedge funds or watch their nest eggs keep shrinking.
Understanding the Saudi king’s succession bombshell
Apr 29 15:41
- First, the main concern about Saudi Arabia – that it will be ruled for decades by ailing kings – has now been put to rest, with a decisive move to the second generation in the al-Saud family. The line of succession to the sons of the late Ibn Saud, the founder of the kingdom, will be over with King Salman. Younger princes, with more energy and more time to rule (and hopefully reform), will take over after him.
- Second, the choice of Mohammed bin Nayef, will be greeted with relief abroad, and probably also at home, where his abilities in government, though mostly on the security side, are proven. He’s been a favourite of American and British officials, who lavish praise on his campaign against al-Qaeda militants. At home too, MBN, as he is referred to by foreigners, is well-regarded. One well-connected Saudi tells me that whether MBN is speaking to liberals or conservatives, he can make them feel that he’s one of them.
But the shifts also raise questions. So here’s the potential minus side:
- First, the line of succession has now in effect been changed from father to son, rather than brother to brother, with a clear signal from the king that he intends for Mohammed bin Salman to reign.
- While such a shift may be healthy for the future of Saudi Arabia, it’s not likely to go down well among the younger members of the family. True, the sidelining of Muqrin is a minor risk for the king – the ex-crown prince doesn’t have his own power centre within the family. But other princes from important branches of the family could take issue. Al-Saud politics are notoriously opaque but analysts and officials abroad will be watching for any hint of dissent.
- Second, the 30-year-old Mohammed bin Salman, now defence minister among other portfolios, is untested and though he has time to prove himself, his appointment seems to be an attempt to capitalise on Saudi Arabia’s Yemen campaign, which he has led as defence minister. Outside the kingdom, few believe the war in Yemen has gone well for Saudi Arabia since few of its stated aims have been achieved. But that’s not the view inside the country, where the mere fact of standing up to Iran is widely applauded. As one Saudi analyst says, he hasn’t met a single Saudi opposed to the war. “Saudi public opinion felt humiliated by Iran,” he says, “and the bombing campaign has stopped Iranian expansionism.”
- Third, with power now concentrated in the hands of security men – MBN and Prince Mohammed bin Salman – and Saud al-Feisal, the powerful foreign minister, now retired, there are concerns that assertiveness will take the form of more confrontation at a time of growing tensions with Iran. Given the chaotic state of the Middle East, western governments are keen to see more diplomacy than muscle-flexing from Riyadh.
04/24/2015 07:20 PM
Spying Close to Home
German Intelligence Under Fire for NSA Cooperation
It was obvious from its construction speed just how important the new site in Bavaria was to the Americans. Only four-and-a-half months after it was begun, the new, surveillance-proof building at the Mangfall Kaserne in Bad Aibling was finished. The structure had a metal exterior and no windows, which led to its derogatory nickname among members of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the German foreign intelligence agency: The "tin can."
The construction project was an expression of an especially close and trusting cooperation between the American National Security Agency (NSA) and the BND. Bad Aibling had formerly been a base for US espionage before it was officially turned over to the BND in 2004.
But the "tin can" was built after the handover took place.
The heads of the two intelligence agencies had agreed to continue cooperating there in secret.
Together, they established joint working groups, one for the acquisition of data, called Joint Sigint Activity, and one for the analysis of that data, known as the Joint Analysis Center.
But the Germans were apparently not supposed to know everything their partners in the "tin can" were doing. The Americans weren't just interested in terrorism; they also used their technical abilities to spy on companies and agencies in Western Europe. They didn't even shy away from pursuing German targets.
The Germans noticed -- in 2008, if not sooner. But nothing was done about it until 2013, when an analysis triggered by whistleblower Edward Snowden's leaks showed that the US was using the facility to spy on German and Western European targets.
On Thursday, though, SPIEGEL ONLINE revealed that the US spying was vastly more extensive than first thought. The revelations have been met with extreme concern in the German capital -- partly because they mark the return of a scandal that two successive Merkel administrations have never truly sought to clear up.
It remains unclear how much the BND knew, and to what extent German intelligence was involved, either intentionally or not. More crucially, it demonstrates the gap in trust that exists between two close allies.
The German government will have to quickly come up with answers. It will also have to decide how it will confront Washington about these new accusations. In the past two years, Berlin has made little to no progress in its largely humiliating efforts to get information from Washington.
The issue that could have been cleared up, at least internally, shortly after the NSA scandal began in the summer of 2013. But BND decision-makers chose not to go public with what they knew.
When media reports began emerging that the NSA had scooped up massive amounts of data in Germany and Europe, and that this data surveillance was not being performed exclusively for the global fight against terrorism, BND agents became suspicious. In previous years, BND agents had noticed on several occasions that the so-called "Selector Lists," that the Germans received from their American partners and which were regularly updated, contained some oddities.
Selectors are targets like IP addresses, mobile phone numbers or email accounts. The BND surveillance system contains hundreds of thousands, possibly more than a million, such targets.
Analysts are automatically notified of hits.
In 2008, at the latest, it became apparent that NSA selectors were not only limited to terrorist and weapons smugglers. Their searches also included the European defense company EADS, the helicopter manufacturer Eurocopter and French agencies. But it was only after the revelations made by whistleblower Edward Snowden that the BND decided to investigate the issue. In October 2013, an investigation came to the conclusion that at least 2,000 of these selectors were aimed at Western European or even German interests.
That would have been a clear violation of the Memorandum of Agreement that the US and Germany signed in 2002 in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. The agreement pertained to joint, global surveillance operations undertaken from Bad Aibling.
Cease and Desist
Washington and Berlin agreed at the time that neither Germans nor Americans -- neither people nor companies or organizations -- would be among the surveillance targets. But in October 2013, not even the BND leadership was apparently informed of the violations that had been made. The Chancellery, which is charged with monitoring the BND, was also left in the dark. Instead, the agents turned to the Americans and asked them to cease and desist.
In spring 2014, the NSA investigative committee in German parliament, the Bundestag, began its work. When reports emerged that EADS and Eurocopter had been surveillance targets, the Left Party and the Greens filed an official request to obtain evidence of the violations.
At the BND, the project group charged with supporting the parliamentary investigative committee once again looked at the NSA selectors. In the end, they discovered fully 40,000 suspicious search parameters, including espionage targets in Western European governments and numerous companies. It was this number that SPIEGEL ONLINE reported on Thursday.
The BND project group was also able to confirm suspicions that the NSA had systematically violated German interests. They concluded that the Americans could have perpetrated economic espionage directly under the Germans' noses.
Only on March 12 of this year did the information end up in the Chancellery. Merkel administration officials immediately recognized its political explosiveness and decided to go on the offensive. On Wednesday, the Parliamentary Control Panel met, a body that is in charge of monitoring Germany's three intelligence agencies. The heads of the agencies normally deliver their reports in the surveillance-proof meeting room U1.214.
Panel members suspected something was different at this week's meeting when Chancellery head Peter Altmaier, a cabinet-level position in Germany, indicated that he would be attending.
The heads of the parliamentary NSA investigative committee were also invited to attend. BND President Gerhard Schindler, however, was asked to stay away. The day after the meeting, the government announced bluntly that Schindler's office had displayed "technical and organizational deficits."
Recast in a Different Light
With that, Germany's foreign intelligence agency has some explaining to do. The BND, after all, doesn't just report to the Chancellery. It has also provided testimony on its activities at Bad Aibling several times to the Parliamentary Control Panel and to the NSA investigative committee. That testimony now appears in a different light.
According to a classified memo, the agency told parliamentarians in 2013 that the cooperation with the US in Bad Aibling was consistent with the law and with the strict guidelines that had been established.
The memo notes: "The value for the BND (lies) in know-how benefits and in a closer partnership with the NSA relative to other partners." The data provided by the US, the memo continued, "is checked for its conformance with the agreed guidelines before it is inputted" into the BND system.
Now, we know better. It remains to be determined whether the BND really was unaware at the time, or whether it simply did not want to be aware.
The NSA investigative committee has also questioned former and active BND agents regarding "selectors" and "search criteria" on several occasions. Prior to the beginning of each session, the agents were informed that providing false testimony to the body was unlawful. The BND agents repeatedly insisted that the selectors provided by the US were precisely checked.
A senior analyst from the department responsible, known as "Signals Intelligence," testified in March that BND lawyers would check "each individual search term" and "each individual selector" to ensure that it conformed with the Memorandum of Agreement. That didn't just apply to government officials and German companies, he said, but to Europeans more broadly.
'Prosecutors Must Investigate'
"Sneaking in" such search terms would "become apparent" in such a long-term operation, the witness said. "To try, over all these years, to sneak selectors by us to perpetrate economic espionage, I don't think that is possible," the witness said. He added: "We never noticed such a thing."
Members of the NSA investigative committee now feel that they have been lied to, and the reactions have been harsh. "At least since the Snowden revelations in 2013, all those involved at all levels, including the Chancellery, should have been suspicious of the cooperation with the NSA," says Konstantin von Notz, the senior Green Party member on the investigative committee.
"The spying scandal shows that the intelligence agencies have a life of their own and are uncontrollable," says the senior Left Party representative Martina Renner. "There have to be personnel consequences and German public prosecutors must investigate."
But as of late Thursday, the German government hadn't even informed the public prosecutor's office of the incident.
By Maik Baumgärtner, Nikolaus Blome, Hubert Gude, Marcel Rosenbach, Jörg Schindler and Fidelius Schmid
The Iran deal that never was
Apr 27 04:58
There was a presidential statement in the Rose Garden of the White House. There were joyous celebrations on the streets of Tehran. There were lamentations in the US Senate. All these events were provoked by the news, earlier this month, of a framework nuclear deal between Iran and the US.
The joint statement released by Iran and its negotiating partners, earlier this month, was a few short paragraphs, skirting all the crucial issues. All the detail about what was “agreed” was actually contained in a unilateral statement issued by the Americans on April 2nd – the so-called White House fact sheet. Iran had not signed off on that “fact sheet”. And, in subsequent days, Iran made it clear that it dissents from the American interpretation of what was agreed.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, has tweeted that the US fact sheet was “wrong on most of the issues”.
The disagreements between Iran and America on what was agreed in the Geneva negotiations are – as Mr Khamenei suggests – wide-ranging. They cover everything from the inspections regime, to the precise fate of the reactor at Arak. But perhaps the starkest disagreement is over when sanctions on Iran would be lifted. Ayatollah Khamenei says that all sanctions will have to be lifted on the very day that agreement is reached. The Americans insist that sanctions can only be lifted in phases, as Iran puts in place restrictions on its nuclear programme.
The two sides are meant to bridge all these gaps between now and their next deadline of June 30, which is when a final agreement is meant to be agreed. However, given that the framework agreement reached this month is actually a mirage, it seems rather unlikely that the two sides will sign off on the final deal in June – or even later this year.
The story of how we got to this delicate and confused stage says a lot about the extreme difficulty of reaching a final agreement. The issuing of the “White House fact sheet” was a calculated gamble by the Americans, who were frustrated by the agonisingly slow negotiations in Geneva. Dismayed by the lack of a detailed agreed text, senior US officials drew up their own memorandum – setting out the various concessions that they believed the Iranians had made over many months of discussions.
By releasing the “fact sheet” unilaterally, the US was effectively daring the Iranians to walk away from the negotiating table. The Americans felt that the celebrations in Iran – in response to the announcement of the “deal” – vindicated their gamble. Their calculation is still that Iran’s leaders – having raised domestic expectations that Iran’s international isolation will soon end – will now find it very difficult to dash their people’s hopes, based on some minor-sounding details about the numbers of centrifuges allowed at Natanz, or the phasing of sanctions relief.
That calculation could still work. But the increasingly open dissent from within Iran suggests that it could just as easily unravel, as the two sides re-engage in detailed negotiations.
The dissent about the White House fact sheet is not just coming from Tehran. The Obama administration is also under increasing pressure from political opponents at home and from allies overseas. The most high-profile opposition comes from the government of Israel and the US Congress. The Obama administration has already had to agree to give Congress thirty days to consider any deal reached with Iran – before the Obama administration could start to issue temporary waivers on sanctions.
As well as the Congressional and Israeli hurdles, the US is also facing is also facing dissent from the Gulf Arabs and even some of their European negotiating partners.
Given all these doubts and uncertainties, it is tempting to wonder what all the fuss is about. Talk of an Iran “deal” is certainly unjustified. We are a long way from that. Given the gaps between Iran and the US, failure is still more likely than success.
And yet the release of the cheekily-named US “fact sheet” was still a justified gamble. It has put momentum into negotiations that were in danger of grinding to a halt. And it has raised the prospect that at least one dangerous dispute in the Middle East can be settled by negotiation and discussion – rather than by violence. The support for that idea amongst ordinary American and Iranians is evident.
That popular pressure remains the best hope that the nuclear negotiators may yet come up with a genuine agreement.
Deep under water
Brazil’s energy giant comes clean with investors
Apr 25th 2015
KNOWING the worst can help with a recovery. But it is no guarantee. Petrobras issued its much-delayed results on April 22nd, after accountants had scoured its books to find details of many years of scams and kickbacks, which are part of Brazil’s biggest corruption scandal. The state-controlled oil company said that graft had cost it 6.2 billion reais ($2.1 billion). Other charges included a bigger-than-expected write-down of 44.6 billion reais, mainly on a flagship petrochemical complex and a big refinery. The net loss was 21.6 billion reais in 2014, against a 23.6 billion reais profit the year before.
Cleaning up Petrobras (and Brazil’s political system) is a long-term job. In the short term the company is focused on survival, with production sinking, oil prices low, cash scarce, and a hefty bill looming to develop its prized assets: the “pre-salt” oilfields that lie deep below the country’s offshore waters.
Publishing audited results was vital. Creditors could have demanded early repayment of $54 billion of debt if the company had missed a deadline of April 30th. The previous management’s borrowing binge left Petrobras as the most indebted company in the world, and—when the scandal broke—an outcast from the capital markets.
Openness about the past will not forestall American shareholders who are fuming about mismanagement; some have already sued. But for now, investors seem willing to give the new management under Aldemir Bendine, a former boss of state-controlled Banco do Brasil, a chance: Petrobras’s shares have steadied in recent months, though they are still well below their peak (see chart).
Mr Bendine says he will husband cash by cancelling this year’s dividend, slash capital expenditure, and sell $14 billion of assets by the end of next year—though finding buyers for them is another story.
The company’s future does not lie just with its management. Politicians must not only stop stealing: they must cease interfering too. President Dilma Rousseff’s left-wing Workers’ Party forced Petrobras to sell imported petrol at a loss to keep pump prices low. That made the company bleed cash. The government has since let it raise prices, but Petrobras still suffers political pressure, such as demands for big dividends, which help bolster Brazil’s threadbare public finances. The government insists that Petrobras should take the lead in developing offshore fields—a task for which it may have the technical expertise, but not the balance-sheet.
Some of these problems will land on Shell’s desk. The Anglo-Dutch giant has just bought BG, a British energy company, which is a big partner for Petrobras. Mr Bendine says he may seek more ties. Shell has cash and know-how, but may tread carefully in a country where nemesis follows hubris, and there is always plenty of blame to go round.
Oil price drop triggers wave of profit warnings
Oil price fall triggers series of profit warnings among producers, as support services companies bear the brunt of election uncertainty, new report finds
By Szu Ping Chan
1:42PM BST 26 Apr 2015
Oil and gas producers and support services companies topped the list of struggling firms, with eight profit warnings in each sector. Retailers issued six profit warnings, according to EY, as shops on the high street and online faced stiff competition.
"Cheap oil is bolstering demand and giving central banks inflation breathing space. However, this recovery is double-edged and unpredictable," EY said.
While many companies have guarded against price fluctuations with hedging contracts, EY said these companies would be exposed if prices remained low. "As hedging contracts run out we may see further waves of profit warnings if prices remain at around $60 a barrel," it said.
Support services companies, which rely on the public sector, saw contract awards dry up ahead of the election. EY said there was concern that a hung parliament could further delay contracts.
Alan Hudson, EY's UK head of restructuring, said low inflation was helping to keep costs down, but also making it harder to raise prices. The strength of the pound against the euro was also making it difficult to forecast and benefit from the economic upturn.
"The recovery hasn't increased predictability and companies still have little room for manoeuvre when things go wrong, such as a lost contract, adverse currency movement or price drop," he said.
"New entrants and technologies add to the competitive tension – as does the accumulated pressure to invest, but also cut prices.
"There are clear advantages for businesses that can take the initiative and demonstrate that they have market understanding and the business resilience necessary to match this unpredictable recovery."
Les doy cordialmente la bienvenida a este Blog informativo con artículos, análisis y comentarios de publicaciones especializadas y especialmente seleccionadas, principalmente sobre temas económicos, financieros y políticos de actualidad, que esperamos y deseamos, sean de su máximo interés, utilidad y conveniencia.
Pensamos que solo comprendiendo cabalmente el presente, es que podemos proyectarnos acertadamente hacia el futuro.
Gonzalo Raffo de Lavalle
Las convicciones son mas peligrosos enemigos de la verdad que las mentiras.
Quien conoce su ignorancia revela la mas profunda sabiduría. Quien ignora su ignorancia vive en la mas profunda ilusión.
“There are decades when nothing happens and there are weeks when decades happen.”
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out.
No soy alguien que sabe, sino alguien que busca.
Only Gold is money. Everything else is debt.
Las grandes almas tienen voluntades; las débiles tan solo deseos.
Quien no lo ha dado todo no ha dado nada.
History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.
We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share.This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.
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