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15 giugno 2010

China calling

A string of strikes at foreign-owned factories in southern China, 
especially Honda vehicle plants and parts suppliers, has highlighted the rising
demands of young Chinese workers from the countryside.
A series of suicides at Foxconn, an electronics maker with
a huge plant in southern China, has intensified attention on
discontent in China's labour force.
Here are some questions and answers about the unrest.
The unrest has been localised and is likely to remain so,
but its implications are broad.
The reported strikes since May have disrupted a few
factories but barely dented production at Honda, the main
company hit. But the disputes reflect the demands of younger
migrant workers who expect better wages and conditions than
their parents accepted, and who feel underpaid in the face of
rising prices and living standards.
Labour unrest in the vast industrial belt hugging coastal
China has grown in recent years.
The strike organisers at the Honda plants have shown that a
younger generation of workers -- with their higher expectations
and savvy use of the Internet and cell phones to mobilise --
could present a tougher challenge to managers and officials.
Demography could also give workers more bargaining power.
The number of Chinese between the ages of 15 and 24 has
held at around 200 million to 225 million for the past 20
years. That number is likely to fall by a third in the next 12
years, according to Arthur Kroeber of Dragonomics, an economic
consultancy in Beijing.
Mostly they want pay rises, but they have also been
sensitive to any hints that managers are threatening their
Workers at the Honda-associated plants have complained of
long hours, including forced overtime, for pay that often
totals 1,000-2,000 yuan ($146-$292) per month. They have
demanded pay rises of several hundred yuan a month.
Some of the recent disputes have brought sizeable pay
increases, including a 66 percent raise for workers at Foxconn,
and 20 percent or more for workers in the first Honda strike at
a vehicle assembly plant. Vehicle parts makers have offered
workers smaller rises.
In many of China's private factories, state-run trades
unions are either non-existent or shells controlled by
management. Some striking workers have said they want to form
their own independent unions, but that demand has not taken
hold widely.
It could, especially in factories around Shenzhen and
Dongguan in southern China where migrant worker discontent
about conditions runs deepest.
But even there, the vast majority of factories continue
production as usual. The most common response of workers to
unsatisfactory conditions remains quitting, not striking.
The example of Honda, however, could bolster demands at
other manufacturers for wage rises and better conditions. State
media have barely mentioned the unrest, but word travels
quickly among workers connected by the Internet.
Beyond China's far southern manufacturing zone, worker
protests have been common for years, but the latest unrest
appears very unlikely to escalate into nationwide stoppages.
Chinese workers in state-owned factories and mills have
their own complaints about wages, conditions and dismissals,
especially when those plants have been privatised, prompting
claims of corruption and profiteering. Some of them may feel
But these workers tend to be older and have little to do
with migrant labourers from the countryside. No alliance is
In many big state-owned companies, the booming economy has
boosted profits and wages. Their workers are not spoiling for
Expect a piecemeal response, not a thunderclap of policy
The Chinese government faces contending pressures over how
to deal with the workers' demands, and that means the official
response is likely to be low-key and vary from place to place.
Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have
said that improving the incomes and welfare of farmers and
ordinary workers is a cornerstone of their policies.
But much of the country's exports have long relied on cheap
labour. Local officials in particular will be reluctant to risk
losing investment by allowing a rapid rise in industrial wages.
Chinese leaders have so far avoided direct comment on the
strikes, perhaps because they are reluctant to fan word of the
unrest that could embolden other unhappy workers.
In recent years, the Chinese government has shifted from
treating all worker unrest as a threat to its control. It has
opened up channels for employees to lodge complaints and pulled
back from using police against strikers.
Workers often say the formal complaint procedures are
useless and tilted against them. The government may try to make
those procedures more effective.
If worker demands spread and become more political by
embracing calls for independent unions, the government response
is likely to harden to include more arrests and detentions of
strike organisers.
(Editing by Paul Tait)

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permalink | inviato da luft il 15/6/2010 alle 10:11 | Leggi i commenti e commenta questo postcommenti (1) | Versione per la stampa

25 febbraio 2010

Turkey, dangers to watch

Strains between Turkey's Islamist-rooted AK Party and a secular establishment of generals
and judges have fuelled speculation of early elections.

A power struggle between the ruling AK Party, which has
roots in political Islam, and the staunchly secular armed forces
and conservative state apparatus has shaped Turkish politics
since the party was first elected with a landslide majority in
2002. Few, however, would expect the weakened military to
directly intervene as it has in the past.
In an unprecedented move against a military that has ousted
four governments since 1960, police detained close to 50 people
including former heads of the air force and navy on Monday in a
probe into an anti-government conspiracy.
Seven senior officers were charged in court on Wednesday, a
day after the entire military leadership, including serving
commanders of each branch of service, met to "assess the serious
situation that has arisen".
Over 200 people have been arrested under the separate
"Ergenekon" case, focused on an alleged militant network
plotting to oust the government. Critics say the government has
used the investigation to hound political opponents.
Monday's arrests, which would have been unthinkable a few
years ago, helped push the lira to seven-month lows, and
unsettled investors who are already worried over a confrontation
with judges and rumours of an early election.
Overall, the government is seen to have the upper hand as
EU-inspired reforms have curbed the army's power. But signs of
Turkey heading towards confrontation would unsettle markets.
What to watch:
-- Comments and actions from armed forces chief General
Ilker Basbug and other commanders. Defiant or aggressive
comments could further weaken the lira and push up bond yields.
-- More arrests would add to market jitters.
-- Any signs of dissent in the ranks. Analysts say the
military is looking to Basbug to defend its prestige. Dissent or
resignations of top commanders could worry investors.

Like the army, Turkey's conservative judges are deeply
suspicious of the AK party, fearing that it harbours a secret
Islamist agenda. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has said he might
take constitutional reform to parliament and hold a referendum
if necessary to curb judges' powers.
The party has enough votes in the 550-seat parliament to
pass a bill calling for a referendum, but such a vote in an
already polarised atmosphere would cause further uncertainty.
The judiciary might try to block the referendum process,
which would create an institutional deadlock. Such a scenario
could precipitate snap elections.
What to watch:
-- Moves in parliament to vote on a referendum bill would
raise risks of confrontation. AK leaders have not discussed in
detail which constitutional changes could be voted on, but
proposals are circulating at parliamentary commission level.
-- Indications that the judiciary would try to block any
referendum would harden expectations of a showdown. The CHP
opposition party has used courts to overturn several of the
government's past legal initiatives.

Turkish media is speculating that Turkey's Chief Prosecutor
Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya, having narrowly failed to have Erdogan's
party banned in 2008 on the grounds that it contravened the
country's secular constitution, could try again.
A new closure case could precipitate early elections and
bring about a repetition of the market panic seen in 2008.
What to watch:
-- Investors would hit the sell button should Yalcinkaya
file a new case. The turmoil in 2008 wiped billions of dollars
off the value of the stock market and hurt foreign investment.
-- AK Party officials have said they would call a snap
election if there is another closure case.


Despite speculation, Erdogan has denied any plan for an
early election. A vote is due in 2011, by which time the AK
Party hopes an economic recovery will boost its popularity.
Going into the next election, the key question is whether
the AK Party, which shot to power as a single-party government
in 2002, can avoid being forced to form a coalition. Opinion
polls, though unreliable, suggest it could struggle.
Investors favor a strong AK Party government. Opposition
parties are not regarded as market-friendly, while coalitions
have a history of infighting, and that would be damaging for
fiscal discipline and reforms.
What to watch:
-- Opinion polls.
-- AK leaders talking up an early election.

Turkey and the International Monetary Fund have been locked
in talks since a previous $10 billion stand-by loan expired in
2008, but a deal that would increase the government's fiscal
comfort zone seems as remote as ever.
With elections looming, the government may be tempted to
spend more, which would raise borrowing costs and retard efforts
to bring the fiscal deficit under control..
Things to watch:
-- Turkey inviting IMF officials to visit, which could
prelude an agreement. Lira, stocks and bonds would get a boost.
-- Increased government spending. Treasury cash balance data
showed January's deficit almost doubling to 3.7 billion lira
from a year earlier. For all 2010, the government has a budget
deficit target of 4.9 percent of gross domestic product.

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permalink | inviato da luft il 25/2/2010 alle 9:45 | Leggi i commenti e commenta questo postcommenti (3) | Versione per la stampa

31 dicembre 2009

2009, Profitti e Perdite

The following are gains and losses in major indexes and
assets in 2009 as of approximately 1030 GMT on Thursday 31 dec 2009:

                                               End 2008   Perf 08   End 2009  Perf 09
Stock Indexes                                          Yr Pct                       Yr Pct
MSCI All-Country World        227.68     -43.54    301.00       32.20
MSCI Emerging markets     567.04     -54.48    989.60       73.44
S&P 500                                 903.25     -38.49   1126.42       24.71
Dow Jones                          8776.39     -33.84  10548.51     20.19
Nasdaq Composite          1577.03     -40.54   2291.28       45.29
FTSEurofirst 300                  831.97     -44.78   1043.55       25.45
XETRA Dax                          4810.20     -40.37   5957.43       23.85
FTSE 100                            4434.17     -31.33   5401.23       28.81
CAC 40                                3217.97     -42.68   3940.22       22.44
Nikkei                                   8859.56     -42.12  10546.44       19.04
Shanghai Composite       1820.80     -65.39   3277.14       79.98
MSCI Asia-Pac exJp           288.31     -53.62    484.79       68.27
TOPIX Index                         859.24     -41.77    907.59        5.63
Dollar/yen                               90.60     -18.62     92.37        1.98
Euro/dollar                            1.3978      -4.19    1.4401        3.02
Euro/yen                               126.68     -22.08    133.06        5.05
Sterling/dollar                      1.4626     -26.31    1.6136       10.36
Dollar index                           81.151       5.84    77.576       -4.42
Spot gold                                878.20      5.40    1103.45       25.65
LME copper                              3070     -54.0       7405      141.21
New York Crude                     44.60     -53.5      79.74       78.79
London Brent crude                4559     -51.0      78.71       72.65
VIX Market Volatility                40.00      77.78     19.96      -50.10
DAX-New Vol.                         41.70     139.52     22.73      -45.49
Bonds/Credit                          Basis Point        Basis Point
U.S. 10-year yield                2.2241    -181.0   3.8016       157.8
Euro zone 10-year yld         2.949     -137.5    3.398        44.9
JGB 10-year yield                   1.175       -0.3   11.291        11.6
iTraxx Crossover                     1015        675      431        -584
JPMorgan EMBI+                      692        453      280        -412

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permalink | inviato da luft il 31/12/2009 alle 13:11 | Leggi i commenti e commenta questo postcommenti (1) | Versione per la stampa

22 dicembre 2009

memo clima copenhagen

U.S. President Barack Obama reached a climate agreement on Friday with India, South Africa,
China and Brazil. The deal outlined fell far short of the ambitions for the Copenhagen summit.
    Here are key points from the agreement, which is titled "Copenhagen Accord".
    "Deep cuts in global emissions are required according to
science...with a view to reduce global emissions so as to hold
the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius."
    A proposal attached to the accord calls for a legally
binding treaty to be pinned down by the end of next year.
    The text says: "Developed countries shall provide adequate,
predictable and sustainable financial resources, technology and
capacity-building to support the implementation of adaptation
action in developing countries."
    It mentions as particularly vulnerable and in need of help
are the least developed countries, small island developing
states and countries in Africa.
    "Developed countries set a goal of mobilizing jointly $100
billion a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing
countries. The funds will come from a wide variety of sources,
public and private, bilateral and multilateral."
    An annex carries the following short-term financing pledges
from developed countries for 2010-2012:
    EU - $10.6 billion
    Japan - $11 billion
    United States - $3.6 billion
    Details of mitigation plans are included in two separate
annexes, one for developed country targets and one for the
voluntary pledges of major developing countries.
    These are not binding, and describe the current status of
pledges -- ranging from "under consideration" for the United
States to "Adopted by legislation" for the European Union.
    A sticking point for a deal, largely because China refused
to accept international controls, the section on monitoring of
developing nation pledges is one of the longest in the accord.
    It says emerging economies must monitor their efforts and
report the results to the United Nations every two years, with
some international checks to meet Western transparency concerns
but "to ensure that national sovereignty is respected".
    The accord "recognises the importance of reducing emission
from deforestation and forest degradation and the need to
enhance removals or greenhouse gas emission by forests", and
agrees to provide "positive incentives" to fund such action with
financial resources from the developed world.
    Mentioned, but not in detail. The accord says: "We decide to
pursue various approaches, including opportunities to use
markets to enhance the cost-effectiveness of and to promote
mitigations actions."

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permalink | inviato da luft il 22/12/2009 alle 21:38 | Leggi i commenti e commenta questo postcommenti (1) | Versione per la stampa

22 dicembre 2009

2010, un occhio al futuro (2)

Ukraine's economic and political problems, a string of elections, the spectre of civil unrest,
the impact of oil prices on Russia and two high profile court cases in Turkey could all hit emerging European markets in 2010.
Mainland Europe's most heavily damaged economy limps into
the New Year having avoided outright default on its sovereign
debt obligations.
 However, it faces ongoing political paralysis ahead of Jan.
17 presidential elections that has already blocked the budget
and an IMF rescue package. State companies have already
defaulted and a sovereign default from Ukraine could spark wider
global market jitters.
    Opinion polls predict President Viktor Yushchenko will lose
heavily to either Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko or rival
Viktor Yanukovich. Investors hope either outcome would help
Ukraine back towards stability.
    Tymoshenko says the 2010 budget is likely to be adopted by
parliament after the election.But some analysts expect
Yanukovich to call new parliamentary elections if he wins,
potentially prolonging instability until September.
    What to watch:
    -- Ukraine's debt repayments, both sovereign and from state
    -- Opinion polls ahead of the election. The most recent
showed Yanukovich ahead, but with a third of the electorate
still making up their minds.
    -- Any sign the IMF might release a delayed $3.8 billion
tranche. Ukraine has said it expects the money by the end of the
    -- Any repeat of a gas dispute with Russia, although both
sides have said it is unlikely.
    -- Ukraine's credit ratings and the cost of insuring its
debt in the credit default swaps market, which currently prices
it as the second riskiest in the world after Venezuela with a
more than 50 percent chance of default
    As well as Ukraine, Hungary, Latvia, the Czech Republic,
Slovakia and Poland also have elections coming up in 2010,
making politics a key theme as investors increasingly
differentiate between different emerging markets.
    Those in Hungary and Latvia in particular have the potential
to destabilise local policy-making and endanger IMF deals, while
Romania remains in a state of political uncertainty after its
presidential election
    Several economies need to address structural reforms swiftly
to avoid undermining their growth or potentially risking a
Greek-style debt trap, and any election-driven repeat into
populism would be negative for markets
    For a factbox on the elections
    What to watch:
    -- Does Hungarian centre-right opposition Fidesz -- which
polls suggest will win parliamentary elections in April or May
-- renegotiate IMF deal or rewrite budget?
    -- Does Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk challenge for the
Polish presidency in autumn 2010? Investors would probably
welcome him removing current conservative incumbent Lech
    -- Does Latvia's ruling coalition collapse in the run-up to
parliamentary elections in October. A failure of the IMF deal
there could potentially cause its currency peg to collapse,
sparking a wider crisis.
    Many analysts predicted a rise in social unrest and
xenophobic attacks as a consequence of rising unemployment and
economic pain from the crisis but so far the reality has proved
to be less serious.
    A string of riots in the early part of 2009 from Vladivostok
to Reykjavik largely petered out later in the year, although not
before helping contribute to the collapse of governments in
Iceland and Latvia.
    Newspapers have also been keen to tie any apparent rise in
attacks on foreigners to the crisis, but the European Union
Fundamental Rights Agency says its data shows no rise directly
related to the crisis. Nevertheless, they expressed concern over
an ongoing rise in attacks on the Roma minority in Hungary as
well as the rise of the far right Jobbik party.
    What to watch:
    -- Do populations in the most affected countries --
particularly the Baltics -- continue to stay at home in apathy
or does unrest rise?
    -- How well does Jobbik do in the Hungarian election?  Some
analysts suggest a particularly strong performance could deter
foreign investors.
    Russia, currently the biggest oil and gas producer in the
world, is heavily dependent on energy exports so a fall in
prices would be likely to lead to a sell off in the equity and
bond markets and undermine recovery after the worst annual
contraction in gross domestic product since 1994.
    The economy is forecast to contract by 8.5 percent in 2009
and an extended economic slump could undermine the popularity of
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is still considered by most
Russians to be the country's paramount leader.
    Putin, who as Kremlin chief presided over the longest
Russian boom in a generation, has promised a return growth in
2010. But a sharp decline in oil prices would limit the Kremlins
ability to pump money into Soviet-era factories, a step that has
prevented tens of thousands of redundancies.
    What to watch:
    -- A short-term oil price rise drive investment and Russian
securities could quickly saw on a relatively small inflow of
foreign capital, cutting the need for foreign borrowing, pulling
rush out of recession faster than expected and driving new oil
and gas investment.
    -- Russia's sale of up to $18 billion in Eurobonds, its
first major sovereign insurance in a decade. Russia should have
relatively little problem with the sale, but officials recognize
large external borrowing is only a short-term solution to the
budget deficit.
    -- Putin's popularity. Polls show a drop in the popularity
of Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev in recent months.Both
have hinted they could run for president in 2012

    European Union candidate Turkey enters a tricky period in
2010 as the Islamist-rooted AK Party government eyes a general
election the following year.
    Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has seen popularity ratings
ebb due to high unemployment and opposition to his initiative to
widen Kurdish rights, and some analysts say the AK Party might
be tempted to blow its fiscal prudence to win votes.
    The trial of alleged coup plotters the "Ergenekon" group
could test relations between the secular military and a
government with its roots in political Islam, while a tax row
involving the country's largest media group Dogan Yayin is seen
by some as a test of media freedom.
    Things to watch:
    -- does the government clinch a new standby loan with the
IMF? Failure might prompt the government to loosen its purse
    -- does the "Ergenekon" case implicate the military top
brass, which would dramatically increase its political
    -- is the Dogan Yayin row -- over a mammoth $3.3 billion tax
bill -- seen as a politically motivated witchhunt?  The EU says
pushing a media company into extinction augurs poorly for
Turkey's democratic credentials.  For stories, click here
    -- Who wins a Turkish Cypriot presidential poll? It
hardliners who won parliamentary elections in April emerge
victorious, that could hinder reunification talks which could be
a further stumbling block to Turkey's EU membership.

permalink | inviato da luft il 22/12/2009 alle 20:27 | Leggi i commenti e commenta questo postcommenti (1) | Versione per la stampa

22 dicembre 2009

2010, un occhio al futuro (1)

The risk of sovereign debt default, looming elections, social unrest, populism, thorny
relations between the United States and China could all hit global markets in 2010.
For global markets, probably the main political risk would
be one of the world's more troubled economies defaulting or
coming close to default on its sovereign debt -- ultimately a
political decision.
    Worries over Dubai, Ukraine and Greece have all spilled over
into global markets in the last month, and all three look set to
remain under both economic and political pressure in the coming
year, even as most other countries return to growth.
    A renewed crisis in one could spark a wider sell-off in bond
markets that would pressure the other, prompting investors to
again question "implied guarantees" that richer neighbours would
step in to honour obligations.
    Also in the spotlight over public debt will be the other
euro zone weak links, dubbed insultingly the PIIGS -- Portugal,
Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain -- as well as non-euro Britain.
Worries have already helped drive strong demand for U.S.
    What to watch:
    -- Does Ukraine continue to make bond coupon payments?  How
long does political instability persist after a Jan. 17
presidential election.
    -- Any clarity on support for Dubai's conglomerates from
oil-rich fellow emirate Abu Dhabi, who investors had assumed
would step in.  For Dubai stories, click here
    -- Do Greece and others make enough austerity measures to
satisfy markets? Do policymaker comments suggest the "implied
guarantee" from the EU and Germany remains strong?
    2010 looks to be a big year for elections, with US mid-term
congressional elections coming alongside likely changes of
leadership in Britain and Brazil, as well as a host of votes in
emerging Europe that could have wider consequences.
    In the United States, all 435 seats in the House of
Representatives and one third of the 100 Senate seats will be up
for grabs November 2, with the Democrats seen suffering from a
strong anti-incumbent mood.
    In Britain, Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown looks likely
to lose parliamentary elections, which must be called before
June, to David Cameron's Conservative Party. But markets worry
about the prospect of a hung parliament.
    In emerging Europe, elections are due in Hungary, Latvia,
Ukraine, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
    Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is widely expected to
win another term, with the only question being the timing of the
election. But elections in the Philippines and Sri Lanka are
harder to call.
    What to watch:
    -- Pre-election positioning coming to the fore across U.S.
policy from climate change to Afghanistan and healthcare.
Republican challengers jockeying to take on President Barack
Obama in 2012.
    -- Any signs Britain is heading towards a hung parliament
will unsettle sterling. Clarity from policymakers on likely
spending cuts with Britain's credit rating under pressure.
    -- Local politics imperilling International Monetary Fund
rescue deals in emerging Europe, with Ukraine, Latvia, Hungary
and Romania most in focus.
    Social unrest has risen less as a consequence of the
economic crisis than many expected, but risks are seen growing
next year as Western governments exit from stimulus packages and
discontent builds up amongst the unemployed.
    Civil unrest in China would be particularly unsettling for
markets, but the crisis could continue to help fuel instability
from Thailand to South Africa to Iran.
    Overall, the crisis is seen pushing politicians towards more
populist policies, such as attacking bank bonuses or stepping in
to support struggling industries.
    Any global recovery in commodity prices is also seen stoking
further resource nationalism particularly in Africa and Latin
America, raising the threat of expropriation from foreign
    Opinions are divided on whether the crisis has boosted
protectionism.  One December report identified dozens of
potentially protectionist measures introduced in recent months
but the World Trade Organisation disagreed, saying there had
been no breakdown.
    What to watch:
    -- Signs of unrest in Europe, particularly in Latvia and
Greece -- the most exposed Western and emerging EU states
respectively.  Both could be bellwethers for the wider
continent.  Reports of xenophobic attacks on minorities.
    -- A dramatic commodity price spike, particularly in
foodstuffs, could raise pressure on foreign resource projects
particularly recent land deals in Africa.
    -- Any overt protectionist measures or heightening rhetoric,
particularly between the United States and China. Any
acknowledgement by the WTO protectionism is rising.
    The United States and China are already by far the two most
important countries in terms of political clout. And in 2010
China is set to overtake Japan as the second-largest global
economy. The "G2" relationship is key to shaping our destiny not
just in the coming year or coming decade, but through the 21st
century. Like most relationships, it is not easy.
    Pressure on China to allow the yuan to appreciate will
become ever more intense in 2010 as economic storm clouds
evaporate, and one-year non-deliverable forwards suggest modest
gains by the currency by the end of 2010.
    But Beijing will not want to jeopardise economic growth by
letting the currency rise too quickly, and does not appreciate
being told what to do by Washington or anyone else. In the
United States, meanwhile, yuan weakness is regarded as a
protectionist policy that threatens the U.S. recovery.
    Most analysts say Washington and Beijing are painfully aware
of the risks and would step back from the brink before any
dispute threatened the global economy. But the two countries
have yet to find a way to communicate comfortably as partners.
    What to watch:
    -- The battle over the yuan. Will Beijing let it appreciate,
and if not, how will Washington react?
    -- Protectionism and trade tariffs. If President Barack
Obama imposes more tariffs, under pressure from Congress and
domestic industry, expect sparks to fly.
    -- Any disputes arising from China's dealings with North
Korea, Myanmar, Iran and other "rogue states".
    Ongoing nuclear confrontation with Iran remains a risk,
particularly for energy markets, and the situation is
complicated by ongoing domestic instability following its
disputed election
    North Korea continues to be dangerously unpredictable, with
potential scenarios ranging for a war to the death of leader Kim
Jong-il -- an event that might prompt a reunification that could
prove devastatingly financially expensive to South Korea.
    Both Nigeria and Thailand could face market uncertainty over
the health of the president and king respectively. Both were
hospitalised in 2009.
    Analysts expect al Qaeda and its allies to again try to
spark conflict between nuclear-armed neighbours Pakistan and
India. And Pakistan's weak government, under threat on several
fronts, may have its own reasons to focus popular anger on
    What to watch:
    -- Noises from Iran. Western decision on sanctions next
year.  Potential split in the ruling establishment.
    -- Any news on the health of Thailand's 82-year-old King
Bhumibol Adulyadej, Nigeria's President Umaru Yar 'Adua or North
Korea's Kim.

permalink | inviato da luft il 22/12/2009 alle 20:19 | Leggi i commenti e commenta questo postcommenti (1) | Versione per la stampa

12 dicembre 2009

Cina-Giappone, vertice d'Oriente

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping on Monday visits Japan, where the front-runner to succeed
President Hu Jintao will meet Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.
Here are some facts about the Asian neighbours and their relationship, often fraught by mutual suspicion.
    -- The GDP of Japan and China combined accounts for over 15
percent of the world's total output.
    -- Japan and China are respectively the world's second- and
third-biggest economies. Some analysts say China could overtake
Japan as the world's No.2 economy later this year or next.
    -- China-Japan trade grew to $266.8 billion in 2008, a rise
of 13 percent on 2007, making China the top two-way trade
partner of Japan, according to Japanese statistics. China was
also the second-biggest destination for Japanese exports in
2008 after the United States.
    -- China and Japan are the world's first- and
second-biggest holders of foreign reserves.
    -- Japan invaded and occupied much of China from 1931 to
1945. Rancour over Japanese wartime atrocities has subsided as
a diplomatic flashpoint, but it continues to shape Chinese
public attitudes. Memories run deep, especially of the Nanjing
massacre of 1937, when China says Japanese troops killed
300,000 people in what was then the national capital. A
post-war Allied tribunal put the death toll at 142,000. Some
conservative Japanese politicians and scholars deny a massacre
took place.
    -- China is critical of high-profile visits to the Yasukuni
Shrine for the war dead in Tokyo. Among some 2.5 million
honoured at the Shinto shrine are 14 Class A war criminals
convicted by the Allied tribunal after World War Two. Junichiro
Koizumi, prime minister from 2001 to 2006, repeatedly visited
the shrine during his time in office. All three of Koizumi's
Liberal Democratic Party successors have kept away and
Hatoyama, whose Democratic Party ousted the long-dominant LDP,
has also said he will not visit the shrine.
    -- China is always eager for Japan to clearly back
Beijing's "one China" policy, which counts self-ruled Taiwan as
sovereign Chinese territory. Japan says it accepts "one China",
but many Japanese politicians and businesses have close ties
with Taiwan, a Japanese colony between 1895 and 1945.
Hatoyama's Democratic Party says it won't support "one-sided"
independence movements by Taiwan but also opposes any military
action by China against Taiwan.
    -- China and Japan are involved in six-party talks aimed at
halting North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions. China has been
more reluctant than other nations to impose deeper sanctions
against North Korea, a long-time communist partner that is
heavily dependent on Beijing for oil and food.
    -- China and Japan have been at odds over China's
exploration for natural gas in the East China Sea. In June
2008, they reached a broad agreement on principles intended to
solve the dispute by jointly developing gas fields. But
progress has been slow and Japan has accused China of drilling
for gas in violation of the agreement.
    -- Tokyo and Beijing claim sovereignty over a group of East
China Sea islets, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in

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permalink | inviato da luft il 12/12/2009 alle 11:14 | Leggi i commenti e commenta questo postcommenti (1) | Versione per la stampa

8 dicembre 2009

OBAMA, un piano per l'occupazione (e le elezioni)

The Obama administration and Democrats in
Congress are planning a range of measures aimed at bringing
down the United States' 10 percent unemployment rate before the
November 2010 congressional elections.
President Barack Obama unveiled some of his ideas in a
speech on Tuesday. Congress could act on some of them in coming
Here are some details and background on the proposals put
forward by Obama and congressional Democrats.
Obama suggested eliminating all capital-gains taxes on new
purchases of small-business stock for one year, up from the 75
percent exclusion passed earlier this year.
Obama also called for extending provisions that allow small
businesses to expense up to $250,000 in qualified investments
and deduct the cost of capital costs at an accelerated rate.
He also suggested eliminating fees and increasing
guarantees for businesses that borrow through the U.S. Small
Business Administration in 2010.
Small businesses should also get tax cuts if they create
new jobs, he said.
The Interstate 35 bridge collapse in Minneapolis in 2007
highlighted the need to update crumbling infrastructure, from
highways to levees and airports. While lawmakers have struggled
to get a long-term plan in place, Congress approved $35 billion
in February for relatively modest projects that could be
completed quickly.
Much of that money has been spent, and state transportation
officials say they have another $69 billion worth of "shovel
ready" projects that could be ready to go when construction
season begins again in April.
Unlike other stimulus measures, infrastructure spending is
relatively non-controversial. House Republican Leader John
Boehner says he could support another round, especially if
regulatory oversight was eased.
Obama called for a new round of investment in ready-to-go
projects, as well as a new round of grants and loans for
larger-scale transportation projects.
Obama and top Democratic lawmakers have spoken favorably of
a "cash for caulkers" program to encourage the weatherization
of homes and other buildings. This would reduce energy bills,
create jobs and encourage the development of new "green"
technologies. Congress included $5 billion for such programs in
its February 2009 stimulus bill.
That could be accomplished through tax rebates for
consumers and expanding existing programs that bolster green
industry, Obama said.
State governments face a $144 billion budget shortfall this
year, according to the National Conference of State
Legislatures. Unlike the federal government, most are required
to balance their budgets.
Congress provided roughly $150 billion to states in the
February 2009 stimulus package to help avoid layoffs of police,
teachers and other public employees.
This package is likely to include another round of state
aid. Economist Mark Zandi, who has advised top lawmakers from
both parties, recommends a total of $75 billion.
In normal times, jobless workers are eligible for up to 26
weeks of unemployment benefits to help them cover bills as they
look for work. Congress has extended that limit several times
since the recession began, but roughly 1 million workers could
exhaust their benefits in January.
Likewise, enhanced subsidies for groceries and health
insurance are scheduled to expire at the end of the year if
Congress does not act.
Democratic Senator Jack Reed has proposed extending
benefits through 2010, which would cost $100 billion. Previous
extensions have been funded through a surtax on employers, but
it is not clear whether Congress would extend that tax or find
the money elsewhere.
Congress could provide money for new public-sector jobs to
clean up parks, along the lines of the Civilian Conservation
Corps of the 1930s. Obama told USA Today he would like to keep
this approach modest, along the lines of summer-jobs programs
for teenagers.
The U.S. government posted a record $1.4 trillion budget
deficit in fiscal 2009 and this fiscal year, which ends on
Sept. 30, 2010, is not projected to be much better. Obama has
said he does not want the jobs bill to add significantly to the
deficit, but lawmakers are wary of raising taxes or slashing
spending elsewhere for fear of choking off economic recovery.
This leaves a few options:
* Lawmakers are currently eyeing $70 billion left over from
the $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Fund used to bail out
banks for possible use to stimulate job creation.
Obama said some of that money could go to the new
job-creating efforts and the rest could be returned to the
Treasury to avoid worsening the deficit.
Republicans want to end the TARP program entirely.
* Congress could impose tax increases or spending cuts that
would not kick in until the economy recovers.
* A tax on Wall Street transactions that could raise $150
billion per year. Though this enjoys support among House
Democrats, analysts say it is not likely to pass the Senate and
the U.S. Treasury has made clear its opposition to the idea.

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permalink | inviato da luft il 8/12/2009 alle 20:48 | Leggi i commenti e commenta questo postcommenti (1) | Versione per la stampa

10 novembre 2009

Stati Uniti, il glossario della riforma sanitaria

The debate over U.S. healthcare reform is full of terms familiar to lawmakers and lobbyists but often obscure to the public. Here is a glossary of words and phrases being bandied about as Congress takes up President Barack Obama's top domestic priority: a bill that reins in healthcare costs, expands coverage to millions of uninsured people and bars insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions or dropping coverage for the sick.
* Age rating:
This refers to the ratio of how much insurers can charge older people relative to what they charge young people for
health insurance. It is particularly important to the AARP, the influential advocacy group for older people. The House of Representatives bill, which is backed by AARP, has a ratio of 2:1, meaning insurers can charge an older person twice what they charge a young person. The Senate Finance Committee bill has a ratio of 4:1, which would allow insurers to charge up to four times for older people what they charge younger people. The AARP prefers that all ages be treated the same for premiums.
* Bending the cost curve: U.S. healthcare spending is rising much faster than the general rate of inflation. Lawmakers have no expectation of actually cutting prices. The best they hope for is slowing the rate of growth and thus "bending the cost curve."
* Cadillac health plans: These are high-cost insurance plans that require little or no out-of-pocket expenses for medical treatment. Many union employees, workers in high-risk professions and corporate executives have them. The Senate bill calls for imposing a tax on such plans, something ardently opposed by unions, which are a key Democratic constituency.
* Cooperatives: A nonprofit, membership-owned medical insurance plan. Premiums are collected from members to pay for health expenses of the group. The Senate Finance Committee included provisions and start-up money for health cooperatives in its health reform bill. The idea was offered as an alternative to a proposed new government-run health insurance plan that would compete with private insurers. Liberal Democrats say the co-ops would be too
weak to compete with private insurers, but the idea has attracted support from centrist Democrats.
* Doughnut hole: A gap in coverage for prescription drugs under the Medicare government health plan for the elderly. The gap changes every year. In 2009, beneficiaries pay 100 percent of drug costs after $2,700 is spent. Coverage begins again after beneficiaries spend a total $4,350 out of pocket. Legislation being considered aims to close that coverage gap.
* Exchanges:
Legislation being considered would create state-based marketplaces called exchanges where individuals without
employer-sponsored health plans and small businesses can shop for health insurance coverage. Insurers offering products in the exchange would have to meet minimum coverage requirements set by the government.
* Public Option: A new, government-run health insurance plan that would compete with private companies and offer health coverage through the exchanges mentioned above. Liberal Democrats want some version of the public option to be included in the bill. Some moderate Democrats are wary of broadening the government's healthcare role and the idea is strongly opposed by Republicans and insurance companies who say it would lead to a government-run system.
* Opt-in: A version of the public option that would allow states to decide whether to participate in the new government program. Moderate Senate Democrats such as Ben Nelson prefer this version. But liberals including Democrat John Rockefeller worry it would produce a weak public option. They argue the insurance industry holds great sway in state legislatures and would block many states from joining the proposed new government plan.
* Opt-out: A variation of the public option that would allow states to
choose to drop out of the proposed new government-run insurance plan. Supporters and critics agree that it would be difficult for many states to opt-out of the public plan.
* Trigger: A fall-back position on the public option offered by Senator Olympia Snowe, the only Republican so far to offer support for the Democratic-led healthcare reform effort. A public option would be "triggered" only if affordable insurance did not become available in the reformed insurance market.
* Single Payer: This is a system in which the government would collect taxes to provide medical coverage for all its citizens and legal residents. The single-payer system enjoys support among many liberals but it has not entered the current debate because it would likely fuel Republican criticisms about a "socialist" takeover of the healthcare system and would not pass Congress.

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permalink | inviato da luft il 10/11/2009 alle 10:30 | Leggi i commenti e commenta questo postcommenti (0) | Versione per la stampa

10 novembre 2009

CLIMA, misurare i gas

For decades, scientists have been measuring carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to gauge annual increases as well as to better understand how mankind is changing the world's atmosphere.
But scientists have struggled to build an accurate picture of how the gas is continuously shifted around by the atmosphere or precisely how much is soaked up by oceans and plants or emitted by rotting and burning vegetation and other natural processes. Add to the mix mankind's carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels, deforestation and agriculture. This complex picture makes independently monitoring a specific region's natural take up of CO2 or a country's carbon emissions currently impossible on a near-real time basis.
The amount of CO2 that moves in and out of natural sources and sinks in the global carbon cycle is much greater than the emissions from mankind's emissions from industry, transport and agriculture. But every year, more and more of mankind's emissions stay in the atmosphere, with plants and oceans unable to absorb all the extra gases.
Mankind's CO2 emissions total about 30 billion tonnes per year. Of this, about half stays in the atmosphere, while about 7.5 billion tonnes is taken up by the oceans and roughly the same amount by land plants. But exactly how much is taken up by specific regions, such as the Amazon rainforest, remain unclear. Since 1750, the start of the Industrial Revolution, mankind's emissions have caused the concentration of CO2 in the air to increase by about 100 parts per million (ppm) to nearly 390 ppm. It took until the 1970s to reach the first 50 ppm increase. The next 50ppm increase occurred in the following 30 years, according to the U.N. Climate Panel.
Long-term records starting in the late 1950s involve daily air sampling in remote locations, such as on Mauna Loa in
Hawaii and Cape Grim in Tasmania, Australia. Since the 1970s, many CO2 measurements have involved collecting air samples from locations around the globe, either on land, ships or from aircraft. The air in trapped in small
flasks and then measured by an infrared absorption analyser to determine the concentration of CO2. This process takes about 30 minutes or less but is labour intensive. A more complicated process is used to measure the
radiocarbon content of CO2 to work out how much fossil fuel emissions are contributing to the variations in CO2 in the atmosphere. Fossil fuels such as coal and oil have no carbon-14, a very rare isotope, so studying the various ratios of different types of carbon can help disentangle what is natural CO2 and what comes from mankind.
New devices are being developed to make this process faster and much cheaper.
Many agencies measure CO2 and other greenhouse gases. The main ones are: * Earth Systems Research Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The agency's Global Monitoring Division receives air samples from around the globe to measure concentrations of dozens of gases, including CO2,
methane, HFCs and other powerful greenhouse gases. http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/
* Scripps CO2 programme of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, California, started in 1956. Measurements are
taken from sampling stations from the Arctic to Antarctic. http://scrippsco2.ucsd.edu/research/atmospheric_co2.html
* World Meteorological Agency's Global Atmosphere Watch. Data on myriad gas measurements are collected by the WMO's World Data Centre for Greenhouse Gases at the Japan Meteorological Agency.
* CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research Division in Australia http://www.cmar.csiro.au/research/capegrim_graphs.html
* National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder,
Colorado. NCAR's Earth Observing Laboratory is running a special programme using a converted business jet to fly a series of pole-to-pole runs to sample the concentration of a variety of greenhouse gases at different heights in the
atmosphere. http://hippo.ucar.edu/
* Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, of the U.S. Dept of Energy, is a leading data centre for greenhouse gases. http://cdiac.ornl.gov/

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permalink | inviato da luft il 10/11/2009 alle 10:19 | Leggi i commenti e commenta questo postcommenti (0) | Versione per la stampa
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