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Washington Post (June 1)

2017/ 06/ 03 by jd in IRCWeekly

“Even as the Trump administration’s commitment to the [Paris] climate accord wavered, the Exxon vote showed that climate concerns were gaining ground in the business world.” BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street apparently cast their “shares in opposition to Exxon management.” Their success “marked an important step for groups that have been trying to force corporations to adopt greater disclosure and transparency about the financial fallout of climate change.” Ultimately, 62.3% of shares cast were against ExxonMobil management, effectively forcing “the oil giant to report on the impact of global measures designed to keep climate change to 2 degrees centigrade.”

 

8/13 Issue

2014/ 08/ 13 by jd in IRCWeekly

While Abenomics has been succeeding in many areas, The Economist reports that “despite a tight labour market, real wages continue to tumble. In May they fell by 3.8% compared with a year earlier—the steepest decline in years.” More ambitious measures to help lift wages would cost significant political capital, but Abe needs to make a bold move on wages. “Abenomics, and Japan’s recovery, rests on it.”

Bloomberg meanwhile says “Japan needs more gusty moves overseas,” asserting that “such investments will do more to create economy vitality than all the liquidity Kuroda & Co. can churn out.” The BoJ recently decided to forego additional monetary stimulus despite slowing inflation, signaling Kuroda may realize the limitations of his reach and highlighting the need for new solutions.

Overseas investment may be an easy option for Japan, but it’s proving difficult for Taiwan. The Wall Street Journal notes that if China and South Korea conclude a free trade agreement later this year as expected, “roughly 2% to 5% of all of Taiwan’s exports to China could be replaced by South Korean products.” Taiwan could pursue similar deals, but becoming too financially intertwined with China could undermine Taiwanese independence.

Turning to Europe, the Portuguese government announced a rescue plan that would split Banco Espírito Santo in two after the bank reported a €3.58 billion loss. The New York Times reported “the bank’s branches, customer deposits and healthy assets are being spun off into a new entity called Novo Banco.”

As the Ukraine-Russia conflict continues, Europe could see its energy bill rise. There are not enough alternative energy sources to wean Europe off of Russian oil and gas. As Euromoney puts it, unless European governments do more to accelerate a shift to other sources of energy, consumers there “will face higher energy prices than the US over the next decade or more.”

The Ukraine-Russia conflict is not only affecting energy prices, however. Institutional Investor reports that “disappointing sentiment data and continued conflict in eastern Ukraine” are “deteriorating investor confidence in Europe.” They also noted that this is “likely to cast a shadow over U.S. equity markets in the near term.”

Turning to the U.S., President Obama attended the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington D.C. and unveiled two new initiatives to help stabilize turbulent regions of Africa. The Washington Post says the new initiatives “will try to avoid past U.S. mistakes. They recognize that the U.S. military should be training partners and allies, rather than doing the fighting.”

The New York Times this week took an in-depth look at 3-D printing. Although the paper stated “it’s still unclear exactly how and when 3-D printing will have an impact on our daily lives,” several of the essays published on the topic gave a good outline of the new technology and potential applications.

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To see the overseas media’s takes on these and other developments, you can browse the Global News highlights in app or at http://www.irken.jp/gn/. Links to the original sources are provided above, but please note these are frequently updated. Links that were valid at publication may later be broken.

 

8/6 Issue

2014/ 08/ 06 by jd in IRCWeekly

The Chinese government is “considering its first mandatory cap on coal use,” according to USA Today. Domestic and economic issues, rather than concerns about the global environment, seem to be behind this and other steps to reduce CO2. Smog in major cities poses a threat to health and social stability while getting a head start on developing and marketing green technologies could keep China’s economy humming well into the future.

The Financial Times reported that “US judges have declared it illegal for Argentina to make payments to the holders of restructured bonds unless it includes full payments to holdouts too.” This ruling caused Argentina to miss scheduled bond payments in the U.S., leading Standard & Poor’s to declare Argentina to be in selective default. Argentina could restructure all its debt into bonds issued under local law, but this would be very costly. They may still be able to settle with the holdouts, but it’s not clear how Argentina will proceed.

In Japan, some outcomes seem suspiciously clear. The Nikkei newspaper predicts financial results of publicly traded companies with eerie precision. The Financial Times notes the articles, available only in Japanese, cause markets to react more strongly than the actual results. Non-Japanese do most of the trading in Tokyo stocks, and many feel the so-called “Nikkei previews” are tantamount to insider trading.

While a newspaper may be able to influence a stock market, foreign governments came together this week to prove they can influence an entire economy. The Wall Street Journal reports that “the U.S. and European Union on Tuesday finally made good on their threats of robust sanctions on Russia.” The fear of a war spiraling out to other areas of Europe spurred some hesitant E.U. states to assent to the sanctions. The U.S. said it is trying to prevent bloodshed in Ukraine but does not see this as the start of a new Cold War.

And while Israel may be militarily winning the war with Palestine, it is losing world opinion polls. The Economist states that “public opinion matters. For a trading nation built on the idea of liberty, delegitimisation is, in the words of an Israeli think-tank, ‘a strategic threat’. But it is also because some of the foreign criticism is right.” The Israeli government may not like the criticism it is receiving, but it needs to be practical about possible long-term solutions.

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To see the overseas media’s takes on these and other developments, you can browse the Global News highlights in app or at http://www.irken.jp/gn/. Links to the original sources are provided above, but please note these are frequently updated. Links that were valid at publication may later be broken.

 

7/30 Issue

2014/ 07/ 30 by jd in IRCWeekly

Attention remained focused on the crisis in Ukraine this week. The Los Angeles Times suggested that the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 might spur international action. Before, calls to escalate sanctions against Russia were impeded by “Europeans’ desire to protect their business with Moscow,” but now, “Putin has a problem he didn’t have a week ago: Europe’s politicians and public are watching.”

The Financial Times writes, however, that new efforts by the EU to increase pressure on Russia have “swiftly opened up divisions among the bloc’s 28 member states.” For the EU to give a coherent response to Russia’s actions will require “a willingness to compromise and some clear thinking.” But in the meantime, the Wall Street Journal writes, “Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine continues as usual…. He won’t change until he concludes that the cost of his aggression is too high to sustain. So far the costs have been minuscule, and Mr. Putin is reacting with predictable contempt.”

One might question, however, just how sensitive to such costs Mr. Putin is. The Economist reports that “the cost to Russian investors of Vladimir Putin’s rule” may be as high as one trillion dollars. This calculation stems not directly from sanctions, but “from the fact that investors regard Russian assets with suspicion.”

Economic woes, of course, are not limited to Russia. The New York Times writes that, as part of efforts to increase to women’s workforce participation, “which Japan needs to spur economic growth,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called on businesses to put more women in management positions. But this solution may not fit the problem: “only one in 10 working women say they want to be promoted to management.”

In the U.S. economy, on the other hand, “positive inflation momentum is apparent from both the top down and the bottom up,” writes Institutional Investor. Improving employment may lead to wage growth, while unique events that have depressed inflation, such as the sequester and the strength of the dollar, are unlikely to be issues going forward.

Finally, Euromoney named UBS “Bank of the Year.” “Less than three years ago, UBS was written off as one of the ultimate victims of the financial crisis. The bold decisions taken then by a new chief executive and his management team make it today a bank that others seek to emulate.”

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To see the overseas media’s takes on these and other developments, you can browse the Global News highlights in app or at http://www.irken.jp/gn/. Links to the original sources are provided above, but please note these are frequently updated. Links that were valid at publication may later be broken.

 

7/23 Issue

2014/ 07/ 23 by jd in IRCWeekly

Armed conflicts around the world continued this week. Commenting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Eugene Robinson writes in the Washington Post, “I am simply stating the obvious: Nobody really wants to make peace.” While the U.S. should try to minimize outright violence, he says, “realistic U.S. policy in the Middle East should assume that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will continue indefinitely.” The Financial Times, too, calls the conflict a “desolate picture” that “rarely varies much,” suggesting that there remains only one way out of the bloody stalemate: “Palestinians need a state of their own.”

The conflict in Ukraine, meanwhile, has taken on a new dimension with the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. The New York Times writes that whoever is responsible is “a war criminal.” Investigation of the crash site, however, has been hampered by “Russian-backed rebels who have controlled the incompetent searches.” The result? New pressure is on European leaders to “enforce more stringent sanctions against Russia if it fails to cooperate.” But Europe has reason to be tepid about such sanctions. The Washington Post reports on a recent study that warns that if Russia were to cut off natural gas exports, “Winter demand could not be satisfied” in Europe. If now forced to react, Europeans “may be facing a cold winter.”

Elsewhere in the world, Australia faces its own energy-related challenges as it tries to balance environmental and economic concerns. The New York Times reports that a tax on corporate carbon emissions there has been repealed. While critics say this move makes Australia “the first country to reverse progress on fighting climate change,” Prime Minister Tony Abbot called the defunct tax “a $9 billion handbrake on our economy.”

But perhaps pro-economic and pro-environment forces need not always be opposed. Euromoney writes that “For an asset class that accounts for less than 1% of the corporate bond market, green bonds have been attracting an awful lot of attention,” noting, however, that “just how motivated this [invested] money is by the green nature of the bonds…. is unclear.”

And environment aside, the U.S. economy continues to drag its feet. The Economist writes that “evidence is mounting that America’s potential growth rate has plummeted…. Solving the short-term problem means boosting demand…. But to pep up long-term growth, America also needs to address the supply side. In particular, it needs more workers and faster increases in productivity.”

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To see the overseas media’s takes on these and other developments, you can browse the Global News highlights in app or at http://www.irken.jp/gn/. Links to the original sources are provided above, but please note these are frequently updated. Links that were valid at publication may later be broken. 

 

7/16 Issue

2014/ 07/ 16 by jd in IRCWeekly

“To win their fight for the status they deserve, the BRICS must choose their targets more shrewdly” asserts Bloomberg, referring to the impending creation of their own new currency reserve fund and development bank. “Neither invention is much needed, but for the inventors, this is beside the point.”

Also in need of shrewder target setting, writes the Los Angeles Times, is the United States with its surveillance program that is causing many Germans to “view America as a militaristic rogue state.” A growing rift between the countries could “deliver a blow to American national security that no amount of secret information could possibly justify.”

Within the United States, there is also a need for perspective in California, which, the New York Times reports, is experiencing a historic drought, though “you wouldn’t know it” by looking at the state’s water consumption.” Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration needs to “think a lot bigger” and “focus on longer-term policies that encourage people to alter their lifestyles and businesses to change how they operate.”

82 shootings in 84 hours in Chicago called attention to the magnitude of another U.S. crisis. This was “not in some far-flung war zone but on the streets of a major U.S. city,” the Washington Post notes, nor was it “the only city to experience gun violence over the holiday weekend.” “We can only hope that the bloody numbers help in tipping the balance toward eventual enactment of common-sense gun laws.”

In USA Today, Bill Gross, founder of PIMCO, also argues for perspective and common sense to guide “our economic future,” instead of “the race for short-term corporate profits.” “Income equality is good for business,” but wages are down to 42.5% of GDP. “Minimum-wage law increases, while seemingly anti-capitalistic and undemocratic, might be necessary for the common good — workers and corporations alike.”

The Wall Street Journal takes up the related issue of the proliferation of part-time work offering “lower pay, diminished benefits and little job security.” Although 288,000 jobs were reportedly created in June, this is not the whole picture, since 523,000 full-time jobs were actually lost. “There’s no point pretending that the sky is blue when so many millions can attest to dark clouds.” 

And Japanese electronics firms may be owning up to their own dark clouds, The Economist writes, after “years of denial that surgery was needed” while continuing to “obsess about fancy hardware…. and failing to spot consumers’ changing tastes.” New business reorientation is a good step, but “visionary leaders” are still lacking. “It will take a lot more than a few whizzy new gadgets to fix the Japanese electronics firms.”

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To see the overseas media’s takes on these and other developments, you can browse the Global News highlights in app or at http://www.irken.jp/gn/. Links to the original sources are provided above, but please note these are frequently updated. Links that were valid at publication may later be broken.

 

7/9 Issue

2014/ 07/ 09 by jd in IRCWeekly

“Politically nuts” is how the Wall Street Journal describes a proposal in Germany to ban certain forms of fracking until 2021 “just when the Ukraine crisis makes clear the need to diversify Europe’s gas supplies couldn’t be greater.” The country has a reported 2.3 trillion cubic meters of domestic shale gas.

Speaking of other sleeping resources, Kathy Matsui, who coined the term womenomics, is quoted in Institutional Investor, saying “Japan’s GDP could rise by nearly 13 percent if the employment rate of women rose to match that of men,” but considerable barriers to women persist. In light especially of the country’s shrinking population, new governmental policies are aimed at pushing forward necessary but difficult change.

That’s not the only unavoidable change awaiting Japan. The Financial Times writes “Japan has too many banks.” While banks have been reluctant to merge, competition for fewer customers means dwindling margins, while more aggressive banking could have broader benefits: “Shake up the banks, and you shake up Japan, Inc.”

The U.S. jobs report, meanwhile, brought good news for that country’s economy: 288,000 jobs added in June and the unemployment rate hit 6.1%, the lowest since September 2008. “Behind the good news, however,” the New York Times writes, “there is still enormous slack in the economy,” as wages lag, human capital is “wasted” and part-timers are on the rise.

The United States faces additional challenges overseas. USA Today asserts that the country needs an approach to ISIS that is “much less limited and much more strategic.” The threat in the region is growing wider than just Syria or Iraq, and “addressing it requires support from our traditional Arab friends.”

Writing separately, USA Today reports that ISIS has re-established the caliphate, last abolished in 1924, hoping to “provide a visible symbol of unity for the world’s Muslims.” But, lacking an agreed upon succession process, “there are bound to be rivals…. ISIS has vastly raised the stakes and conceivably made itself a target for some fanatical and well-armed enemies.”

And in a different corner of the Muslim world, another, secular leader will soon take the stage. The Economist describes Prabowo Subianto and Joko Widodo, who are facing off in Indonesia’s July 9 presidential election. “Deutsche Bank reports that if Mr Prabowo wins, 56% of investors surveyed would sell their Indonesian assets and just 13% would buy, while a Jokowi win would cause 74% to buy and just 6% to sell.”

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To see the overseas media’s takes on these and other developments, you can browse the Global News highlights in app or at http://www.irken.jp/gn/. Links to the original sources are provided above, but please note these are frequently updated. Links that were valid at publication may later be broken.

 

7/2 Issue

2014/ 07/ 02 by jd in IRCWeekly

To act or not to act? That is the question this week.

Reuters reports that the Bank of Japan is not looking to expand its stimulus program, as it expects the drop in inflation to be temporary. In addition, unemployment hit a 16-year low in May, while some see signs of “bottoming out” in spending. Bloomberg, however, offers a less optimistic perspective, noting that “consumer prices climbed at the fastest pace in 32 years.” Taro Saito, director of economic research at NLI Research Institute, states, “Households are starting to struggle with faster inflation coupled with the sales-tax hike,” adding “It’s hard to imagine households are happy with Abenomics.”

The US News & World Report praises Japan’s cabinet decision to allow Japan to participate in collective self-defense and thus “normalize Japan’s military posture.” The changing security situation in Asia, the Report writes, warrants the “modest and legitimate step” toward a more proactive role for the country.

On the same subject, while noting that “a majority of Japanese oppose the collective self-defense reinterpretation,” the Wall Street Journal calls the move “inevitable” in light of China’s “bellicose rhetoric and unilateral actions,” speculating that the move may prompt Beijing to “consider how its aggressive behavior” led to the change.

The Washington Post, meanwhile, urged Europe and particularly the United States to take a harder line with Russia over its continuing aggression in Ukraine, Putin’s “gestures suggesting de-escalation” notwithstanding. “The United States is right to work for allied unity on sanctions,” the Post asserts, “But the quest for unity cannot become an excuse for inaction.”

The Los Angeles Times describes another possible call to action for the United States, specifically the private sector, coming from a report that examines the potential economic costs of climate change. The report seeks to offer a “springboard for a serious, non-partisan discussion of the potential actions we can take.”

And despite a lack of any apparent concerted national action, The Economist reports, suicides in China have decreased precipitously in recent years. Possible causes? Besides higher living standards and general satisfaction, urbanization and the atomization of extended families may play a part, even as they suggest challenges down the line for China’s aging population.

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To see the overseas media’s takes on these and other developments, you can browse the Global News highlights in app or at http://www.irken.jp/gn/. Links to the original sources are provided above, but please note these are frequently updated. Links that were valid at publication may later be broken.

 

6/25 Issue

2014/ 06/ 25 by jd in IRCWeekly

Iraq presents a “confounding” challenge for the U.S. The Washington Post notes that much of the fault lies with Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has subordinated national interests to sectarian interests. This makes it imprudent for the U.S. to support his government, but neither can the U.S. stand back as “an al-Qaeda-style ‘caliphate’” gains ground across an increasingly large swath of the Middle East. Given the complexity, the Post believes President Obama is making “a judicious start.”

Writing on the same subject, the New York Times also believes that “President Obama has, so far, struck the right note on Iraq,” with his steps towards cautious engagement. Alas, the Middle East is not the only hot spot. Writing separately, the New York Times asserts that “any reasonable American strategy for managing China’s increasingly aggressive actions in Asia depends heavily on cooperation with Japan and South Korea.” Unfortunately, Japan’s Prime Minister again appears to be fraying relations with South Korea by pandering to the “political fringe.”

Despite their differences, China and Japan are facing some similar issues. The Economist writes that changing norms are forcing older generations to contemplate futures where their children may not be able to look after them in old age. This is creating a new opportunity for retirement homes, many of them quite stylish.

Looking to the future and concerned by low interest rates, Institutional Investor notes that more fund managers are embracing commercial real estate as a relatively safe investment that allows them “to match long-term liabilities and fight inflation.”

The Financial Times writes that with an eye to the future two of Shinzo Abe’s “arrows have hit their targets, jolting the Japanese economy back into life,” but laments that his third arrow of structural reforms remains in its quiver.

And Euromoney writes of the growing need for regulatory co-ordination in Asia. Banking and capital flows into the continent have increased exponentially, but there remains “no single authority to call…. Diverse markets, conflicting interests and failed policymaking add to the regulatory challenge.”

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 To see the overseas media’s takes on these and other developments, you can browse the Global News highlights in app or at http://www.irken.jp/gn/. Links to the original sources are provided above, but please note these are frequently updated. Links that were valid at publication may later be broken.

 

6/18 Issue

2014/ 06/ 18 by jd in IRCWeekly

Trouble seemed to be the week’s common thread as the World Cup kicked off to less than stellar preparations, prompting the Los Angeles Times to note that Brazil’s troubles won’t end with the tournament. The nation still needs to change “from one of the world’s most unequal societies into a thriving democracy.”

Putin tried to put trouble in the rear view mirror with his petro deal with China, but Forbes notes the relatively small deal only calls attention to what’s wrong with Russia.

Things look even worse in Karachi, where the New York Times questions whether the deadly attack on the airport will finally persuade “Pakistan’s government and its powerful military to acknowledge the Taliban’s pernicious threat and confront it in a comprehensive way?”

Leaders in Iraq were also left reeling after the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) seized control of major cities. The Wall Street Journal lamented that “an extended civil war seems to be the best near-term possibility.”

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the African Development Bank, many leaders looked ahead to how increased investment in infrastructure could remove physical barriers and unite the continent. However, Euromoney points out that non-physical barriers, such as bribes and other forms of rent-seeking, are a bigger source of trouble. Regulatory harmonization could conceivably result in substantially lower barriers.

With no country unscathed, climate change is said to be the crisis uniting the world, but the Los Angeles Times points out some politicians still claim it’s a hoax. Risk adverse insurers are, however, speedily taking measures to factor in climate change. The insurers probably provide a more accurate barometer of reality.

And The Economist notes the rise of golf can be taken as a “barometer of change” in China. In little over two decades, the number of golf courses has mushroomed. The trouble, aside from environmental impact and the disruption to those displaced from their homes and livelihoods, is that in most cases the construction of the courses “was technically illegal.”

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To see the overseas media’s takes on these and other developments, you can browse Global News highlights below or at http://www.irken.jp/gn/. Links to the original sources are provided above, but please note these are frequently updated. Links that were valid at publication may later be broken.

 

 

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