Tag Archives: trade

Euro under pressure in Asia amid ongoing debt woes

OKYO: The euro stayed under pressure in Asia on Friday amid investor jitters over the European debt crisis.

The common currency bought $1.3309 in Tokyo afternoon trade, compared with $1.3327 in London late Thursday. Against the Japanese currency it firmed to 103.03 yen from 102.87.

The dollar edged up to 77.42 yen from 77.11 as Japan’s finance minister said his ministry has been vigilantly watching for signs of speculative yen-buying movement in the foreign exchange markets.

The euro was on a downward trend as investors took a cue from Moody’s downgrade of Hungary’s credit rating, said a senior dealer at a major bank.

“You should expect volatile euro trading ahead as there’s much speculation going around, but what’s for sure is the euro is set to fall in the longer term as the debt woes are just too far from their end,” the dealer said.

German, French and Italian leaders pledged Thursday to propose modifications to European Union treaties to further integrate economic policy, but they played down suggestions that the European Central Bank would have a greater crisis-busting role.

Japanese Finance Minister Jun Azumi urged European leaders to take more steps to calm markets as the impact of the debt crisis spreads globally. (AFP

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China denies India envoy mistreated in Yiwu court row

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 China has denied that an Indian diplomat was mistreated during an angry court hearing in the city of Yiwu.Delhi complained after S Balachandran was reportedly denied medication when trying to secure the release of two Indians held hostage by local traders for allegedly failing to pay debts.China said media reports were “not factually accurate”.Indian media report that the two Indians are now being moved from a hotel in Yiwu to Shanghai.The two Indians had earlier told Indian television they were being treated “like animals”.On Tuesday, India warned its businessmen they were not safe to trade in Yiwu.

‘Ruled by laws’

At a press briefing China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said: “Relevant media reports that the Indian consular official from Shanghai was forbidden from eating or taking his medication while in Yiwu and was surrounded and attacked do not accord with the facts.

“China is a country ruled by laws, which pays great attention to relations with India,” he said.

However, Mr Hong gave no specific account of what China believed had happened.

He said the two Indians had been put under police protection in a hotel and that five people had been arrested for “illegal detention”.

“China hopes that India treats this matter objectively and fairly,” he said.

China’s ambassador to India, Zhang Yan, met foreign affairs officials in Delhi on Wednesday and assured them that “serious attention” was being given to the plight of the two traders.

Later India’s NDTV channel quoted External Affairs Minister SM Krishna as saying the pair were being escorted by Indian consulate officials to Shanghai.

The businessmen, Deepak Raheja and Shyamsunder Agrawal, had pleaded for help in an earlier interview with NDTV.

Mr Agrawal said: “Please save us… get together and help us. They have stripped us, thrown things at us, beaten us, tortured us. We are being treated worse than animals.”

Their hotel had reportedly been surrounded by a large crowd of locals.

The pair had been held hostage by local traders for two weeks for non-payment of dues by their company, whose owner has allegedly fled the country.

On Tuesday, an advisory on India’s Beijing embassy website said businessmen could be “mistreated” in Yiwu and had “no guarantee of legal remedies”.

The strongly worded statement on the embassy website said that “Indian businessmen are cautioned to stay away from Yiwu”.

It added: “In case of disputes arising, experience suggests that there is inadequate protection for safety of persons.”

Delhi believes Mr Balachandran was denied medicine and collapsed in the courtroom in Yiwu on 31 December.

Mr Balachandran is a diabetic. He was taken to hospital in a semi-conscious state and later transferred to Shanghai, where he has improved.

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Macroprudential policy Risky business

 THE new big hope of central banks is called macroprudential policy. During the boom, central banks used the fairly blunt instrument of interest rates as their main weapon. But since inflationary pressures were low, thanks to the deflationary shock stemming from China and eastern Europe, rates were kept low. This led to a splurge of asset-backed lending. Meanwhile, banks found easy ways to exploit the rules of the Basle accords – designed to ensure the system was well-capitalised. As a result, when mortgage-backed securities started to plunge in value in 2007, the banks were much less robust than was previously thought.

The Bank of England has set up a financial policy committee, which is just starting the arduous task of sorting out which principles it should follow and which policy buttons it can push. In a paper out today, it sets out its options. It starts by discussing the potential flaws in financial markets such as

incentive distortions which can, for example, arise from contracts that reward short-term performance excessively

informational distortions such as those linked to buyers doubting the quality of assets (adverse selection) or less than fully rational processing of information

co-ordination problems, where collective action, for example to step away from lending in a boom, may be in the interests of individual banks but there is no way to co-ordinate on this outcome

As the paper points out (and as Hyman Minsky famously noticed) there is a tendency for banks to get overexposed to risk in the upswing of a credit cycle. After all, it is the banks that are driving the cycle. As they become more confident about lending against assets, more funds are available to investors/speculators and asset prices rise, increasing the confidence of all involved. As a proportion of GDP, commercial lending to real estate doubled between 2002 and 2008. In the UK banking system, leverage (as measured by total assets to shareholders’ claims) increased from 20:1 to 50:1 within a decade. Both measures ought to have caused alarm but nothing was done.

There is little new in this, as the paper recognizes. Credit cycles have nearly always been marked by lending against property. But property is an illiquid market and prices fall very sharply when the balance of supply and demand shifts, often wiping out of all of a bank’s collateral. Meanwhile, the duration of bank funding was steadily falling, from an average maturity of 10 years in the early 1980s to four years by 2008 (the US followed a similar trajectory). This left the banks very vulnerable to a run on liquidity.

The FPC says the authorities have, in principle, three types of measure to deal with these risks.

those that affect the balance sheets of financial institutions

those that affect the terms and conditions of loans and other financial transactions

those that influence market structures

For example, balance sheet measures include maximum leverage ratios and liquidity buffers; the second group includes caps on loan-to-value ratios and minimum margins; the third includes requirements for disclosure to reduce uncertainty about the market exposure of individual banks, but also the use of central counterparties to clear trades.

The paper then conducts an excellent and clear-eyed assessment of the pros and cons of these measures, without coming to any definite conclusion (the paper is part of a consultation process). What is clear is that the authorities cannot rely on just one or two measures, esepcially given the proved willingness of banks to game the system. Of course, the authorities cannot prevent all future financial crises, but they can still be a lot more alert than they were in the early 2000s. The paper shows the FPC is making a good start.

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