IRELAND:as PIGS these texts are surely of interest
Spanish intelligence probing debt "attacks"-report
Sun Feb 14, 2010
MADRID, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Spain's intelligence services are investigating the role of investors and media in debt market turbulence over the last few weeks, El Pais reported on Sunday.
Citing unnamed sources, El Pais said the National Intelligence Centre (CNI) was looking into "speculative attacks" on Spain following the Greek debt crisis.
"The (CNI's) Economic Intelligence division...is investigating whether investors' attacks and the aggressiveness of some Anglo-Saxon media are driven by market forces and challenges facing the Spanish economy, or whether there is something more behind this campaign," El Pais said.
Officials at the CNI were not available for comment.
The report comes days after Public Works Minister Jose Blanco protested "somewhat murky manoeuvres" were behind financial market pressure on Spain."None of what is happening in the world, including the editorials of foreign newspapers, is coincidental or innocent," Blanco said.
Economists have cast doubt on forecasts that Spain's economy will grow by some 3 percent by 2012, on which the government has based predictions it will cut back on its gaping budget deficit. Some economists have said Spain's deficit could be more of a threat than Greece to the euro, the common currency of 16 European countries. Spain's deficit has soared to 11.4 percent of its gross domestic product amid its deepest recession in decades, but the government has pledged to cut the gap back to a eurozone limit of 3 percent by 2013 by cutting 50 billion euros in spending.Markets doubt that Spain will be able to cut back drastically on spending with unemployment running at 20 percent and a big slice of the budget in the hands of fiercely independent regional governments.Underscoring those doubts, the premium demanded by investors for buying Spanish rather than German government bonds ES10YT=RR has risen in recent weeks and the cost of insuring Spanish bonds against default by the government has also risen. (Reporting by Martin Roberts; Editing by Louise Ireland)
HIGHLIGHTS-Greek FinMin unveils tax reform, wage policy
Tue Feb 9, 2010
ATHENS, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Greece outlined on Tuesday its public sector incomes policy and a tax reform bill, as part of an EU-endorsed plan to increase state revenues and reduce its huge deficit.
The following are comments by Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou at a press conference:
IMPACT OF REFORMS
"The total benefit of our incomes policy will be around 800 million euros."EU partners and markets will closely monitor the implementation of our fiscal plan, I believe that the response will be positive. The measures that we have announced are becoming action"
"From 1. Jan. 2011, every transaction above 1,500 euros between natural persons and businesses, or between businesses, will not be considered legal if it is done in cash. Transactions will have to be done through debit or credit cards"
"With the new tax scale, there is a shift of the burden from low and middle income to high incomes."There's tax relief for incomes up to 40,000 (euros)""Taxable income based on the new scales will include capital gains from the short-term trading of stocks Every autonomous taxation ... for special professions, like engineers, architects, taxis, gas station owners and kiosks is abolished"
"Income policy and the tax changes are in
the framework of cleaning up public finances."There
will be no wage increase for the prime minister and
ministers and their allowances will be cut by 10 percent.""Wages
of board members in unlisted state companies will fall by
50 percent(Reporting by
Goldman Sachs: the Greek connection
Investment giant's role in eurozone debt crisis falls under spotlight
Monday, 15 February 2010
Goldman Sachs, the giant investment bank, is today at the centre of the row over the Greek government's finances, amid recriminations over complex financial deals that allowed the eurozone nation to skirt its debt limits.
With European finance ministers meeting in Brussels today and tomorrow to discuss ways to prevent a debt crisis threatening the eurozone as a whole, a spotlight has been shone on techniques used by Greece and other indebted countries to give the appearance of lower budget deficits and debt levels.
The euro membership rules place strict caps on the size of government deficits relative to a national economy, but Goldman Sachs and other banks helped Greece raise cash earlier in the decade in ways that did not appear in the official statistics. With the current recession causing even official budget deficits to balloon all across the continent, fears of further hidden liabilities have been contributing to the crisis of confidence in Greek debt and pulling down the value of the euro.
Goldman Sachs has been the most important of more than a dozen banks used by the Greek government to manage its national debt using derivatives.
The bank's traders created a number of financial deals that allowed the country to raise money to cut its budget deficit now, in return for repayments over time or at a later date.
In one deal, Goldman channelled $1bn of funding to the government in 2002, in a transaction called a cross-currency swap. There is no suggestion of any wrong-doing by Goldman Sachs. Such deals are an expensive way of raising money, but they have the advantage of not having to be accounted for as debt.
The eurozone rules dictate that governments must keep a country's deficit below 3 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and must take on total debt of no more than 60 per cent of GDP rules that Greece did not keep to, even during the economic boom. Goldman Sachs, the world's most powerful investment bank, is already under intense scrutiny in the ongoing controversy over banking practices, pay and profits. President Barack Obama last month launched an assault on Wall Street, proposing to cap the size of the biggest US banks and clamp down on their trading activities. On the same day, Goldman began distributing nearly £10bn in pay and bonuses to its staff for their 2009 performance, just a year after the financial system was bailed out by governments.
Reflecting the importance of the Greek government as a client, and the scale of the fees to be generated from derivatives deals, Goldman sent Gary Cohn, who as chief operating officer is second-in-command of the global group, to Athens last November to pitch for new business with the debt management office.
According to a report yesterday, Goldman suggested a way that Greece could push healthcare liabilities further out into the future. The bank has refused to comment. Other eurozone countries have been discovered using cross-currency swaps similar to one causing concern in Greece, including Italy, which did a controversial transaction with JP Morgan before it joined the euro.
The size and scale of the use of derivatives is not fully understood, even by Eurostat, the European Union's official statistics body, which has complained that member nations' finances are opaque and that the information it is given about derivatives deals is incomplete.
Gustavo Piga, an economics professor at the University of Rome, whose 2001 paper on the topic sparked furious debate within the EU, questioned the wisdom of using Wall Street banks to invent ways to skirt debt rules. "What kind of relationships start to arise between these governments and these banks once they are in this mortal embrace of reciprocal blackmail potential? How does this change the dynamics on other issues, such as the regulation of banks?
"We have no idea maybe nothing, but certainly there is a conflict of interest here," he told Risk magazine this week.
EU leaders promised last Thursday to make sure that Greece could meet its debt repayments, but sketched no mechanism for doing so, and pledged no specific sums of money. They reiterated their demands for Greece to redouble efforts to impose the swingeing public spending cuts that have prompted widespread labour unrest.
Finance ministers are continuing to work on contingency plans for a bailout this week, amid signs of disagreement over the scale of austerity measures to be demanded of Greece.
The European Central Bank is seeking tougher measures than the politicians are willing to demand.
Washington's Blog" - - There is an established legal principle that people should not have to repay their government's debt to the extent that it is incurred to launch aggressive wars or to oppress the people.
These "odious debts" are considered to be the personal debts of the tyrants who incurred them, rather than the country's debt.
Wikipedia gives a good overview of the principle:
Jubilee USA notes that creditors may lose their rights to repayment of odious debts:
The launch of the Iraq war was an
unlawful war of aggression. It was based on false
premises (weapons of mass destruction and aconnection between Iraq and 9/11; see this, this, this, this, this and this). Therefore, the
trillions in debts incurred in fighting that war are
odious debts which the people might lawfully refuse to
Are Our Markets Being Manipulated By Rogues Or Firms?
Jul 15, 2009 By Danny Schechter
Theres New Evidence to Suggest that Crime In The Financial Markets is Rife
Everyone has heard of the Wikipedia but not everyone knows about the Investopedia, a Forbes website, that monitors finance for market players. One of the issues it is concerned about is market manipulation, actions by rogue and not so rogue players who, working alone or together, unduly influence the way our supposed free markets function.
It is a fascinating source of information for the uninitiated who hear the daily reports on the ups and downs of the Dow and believe that somehow it is all part of the natural order of the universe.
Thanks to an even more informative web site, Gamingthemarket.com, we learn that in fact markets are subject to, prone to, and characterized by all sorts of manipulative practices. Heres one you may not have heard of.
It looks like we have gone from the age of the trustbuster to the era of the ghost buster as fiction once again turns into faction.
Last week, the price of oil mysteriously shot up. There were reports of yet another rogue trader. The New York Times later reported:
Reacting to recent swings in oil prices, federal regulators said they were considering limits on speculative traders in markets for oil and other energy products. Of course, the big banks and Wall Street firms are expected to zealously oppose more oversight.
Some things dont change. Anyone remember Nicholas Leeson, a one man engine of speculation who lost over a billion dollars and brought down his own bank before going to jail? He later gloated on his website; How could one trader bring down the banking empire that had funded the Napoleonic Wars?
The next sentence is particularly eye-opening: The bank has raised the possibility that there is a danger that somebody who knew how to use this program could use it to manipulate markets in unfair ways, Facciponti said.
J.S. Kim who runs an independent investment research and wealth consultancy firm commented on the financial site, Seeking Alpha:
I spoke with Christian Angelich, the founder or Gaming the Market.com, a former airline pilot turned trader, who told me that in recent years efforts to manipulate markets have become pervasive and, yet, are mostly illegal.
He too cited Goldman when I asked how it often works.
Without prodding, he came up with one possible scenario involving a firm like Goldman Sachs that had 00 millions of shares of Intel it wanted to offload. So they issue a report predicting it will sell for $50 a share. As a major player at the New York exchange where they do l out of ever ten shares, and have become even more powerful now that competitors like Bear, Lehman and others are out of business, their recommendations are given lots of weight even though in this case they really want to just dump the shares.
None of this is new, he told me, its been going on for years. Even the founding Fathers warned about it, but is more egregious today in part because of all the technology these firms have. He says it is illegal and has been winked at, citing one example: former Senator Phil Gramm attaching a plan to kill the Glass Steagall act as an amendment to a bill that then sailed through the Congress while his wife was on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
We will only have a real bottom, he believes when the masses are out in the streets like they are in parts of Europe. For change, pressure from below is needed.
Sometimes unexpected events can take
over markets too, as Michael Jacksons untimely
demises meteoric impact on the music market shows.
His sales went from nowhere to everywhere confirming one
jaded pundits cynical comment that he was
more valuable dead than alive.
He told me:
This was new to methe whole system being described as predatory which smacks of criminal.
He went on:
Answer: I think it was manipulated. There is a lot of debate whether its about speculation or manipulation but there is an old expression among traders which is the trend is your friend. What that means is that in fact a few people can use significant resources, financial resources, freely as a weapon.
Umm, weapons on Wall Street? Already credit default swaps have been compared to financial hydrogen bombs as financial terms merge with military language. Does anyone doubt that these Wall Street manipulations have become form of warfare and that, until now, the wrong side has been ahead.
Surely, all this demands a serious investigation and serious regulation. Will it happen?
Dissector Danny Schechter is producing a film on
the Crime of Our Time as a follow-up to his
book PLUNDER; Investigating Our Economic Calamity (Cosimo
Book, Amazon.com) Comments to email@example.com
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Crippling cost of bailout to top 25bn
Sunday February 07 2010
THE shocking cost of the taxpayer bailout of the banks is set to top 25bn, it has emerged, which will double the country's deficit this year.
As a result of lower-than-expected valuations in the first transfer of borrowings to Nama later this month, the burden on the Irish taxpayer is set to increase significantly.If that amount is to be injected into the banks, it means that the government will effectively nationalise the banks in all but name.
Finance Minister Brian Lenihan and his fellow cabinet ministers have been softening the ground for the pending capitalisation, but the level of money needed will be far higher than anticipated.The cost of the controversial bank rescue plan has been estimated by Standard & Poor's, the credit rating agency, at 20bn-25bn which, if incurred in one year, would double the budget deficit. If the cost of the potential bank bailout is included, it would push up the national debt to close to 100 per cent of gross domestic product.Additional figures obtained within the Department of Financeby the Sunday Independent suggest that while the 25bn is at the upper end of the scale, it is in the region of figures currently being discussed.
The opposition said yesterday that if the taxpayer is hit to such a degree, then the grand Nama plan will have been a total failure.Fine Gael's finance spokesman Richard Bruton said yesterday: "Nama was designed to do two things. One, to get credit going, and second to avoid nationalisation."If the taxpayer is hit for 20bn, then we will have nationalisation by the back door and we still have the problem of credit not flowing."
It was confirmed last week that the first tranche of toxic loans from two key lenders being transferred into the State's 'bad bank' are set to be worth up to 40 per cent less than their original value.As a result, taxpayers will be hit with an even bigger bailout than originally estimated if the rest of the loans into Nama are discounted to the same extent.Sources revealed impaired loans from Irish Nationwide and Anglo Irish Bank were coming out worst from the exercise. Irish Nationwide, in particular, has found it difficult tying down security details for loans to some of the country's most embattled developers.
The first transfer of the 10 biggest borrowings is set to happen later this month, which will be followed by the capitalisation process in April.Mr Lenihan said he accepted that "serious challenges" remained for the banking sector.
- DANIEL McCONNELL Chief Reporter
ARTICLES, ONE ON GEITNER AND THE AIG FRAUD, AND ANOTHER
ON EU PARLIAMENT SEEKING TO VETO NATIONAL CONTROL OF
FINANCE REGULATIONS,THAT WE MAY WELL NEED TO PAY
ATTENTION TO IN IRELAND:
February 6, 2010
By Ellen Brown
Rumor has it that Timothy Geithner is on his way out as Treasury Secretary, due to his involvement in the AIG scandal that is now unraveling in hearings before the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Bob Chapman writes in The International Forecaster: Each day brings more revelations of efforts of the NY Fed and Goldman Sachs to hide the details of the criminal conspiracy of the AIG bailout ... This is a real crisis on the scale of Watergate. Corruption at its finest.
But unlike the perpetrators of the Watergate scandal, who wound up facing jail time, Geithner evidently has a golden parachute waiting at Goldman Sachs, not coincidentally the largest recipient of the AIG bailout. At least that is the rumor sparked by an article by Caroline Baum on Bloomberg News, titled "Goldman Parachute Awaits Geithner to Ease Fall." Hank Paulson, Geithner's predecessor, was CEO of Goldman Sachs before coming to the Treasury. Geithner, who has come up through the ranks of government, could be walking through the revolving door in the other direction.
Geithner has been under the House microscope for the decision of the New York Fed, made while he headed it, to buy out about $30 billion in credit default swaps (over-the-counter derivative insurance contracts) that AIG sold on toxic debt securities. The chief recipients of this payout were Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Societe Generale, and Deutsche Bank. Goldman got $13 billion, roughly equivalent to its bonus pool for the first 9 months of 2009. Critics are calling the New York Fed's decision a back-door bailout for the banks, which received 100 cents on the dollar for contracts that would have been worth far less had AIG been put through bankruptcy proceedings in the ordinary way. In a Bloomberg article provocatively titled "Secret Banking Cabal Emerges from AIG Shadows," David Reilly writes:
[T]he New York Fed is a quasi-governmental institution that isn't subject to citizen intrusions such as freedom of information requests, unlike the Federal Reserve. This impenetrability comes in handy since the bank is the preferred vehicle for many of the Fed's bailout programs. It's as though the New York Fed was a black-ops outfit for the nation's central bank.
The beneficiaries of the New York Fed's largesse got paid in full although they had agreed to take much less. In a November 2009 article titled "It's Time to Fire Tim Geithner," Dylan Ratigan wrote:
[L]ast November . . . New York Federal Reserve Governor Tim Geithner decided to deliver 100 cents on the dollar, in secret no less, to pay off the counter parties to the world's largest (and still un-investigated) insurance fraud -- AIG. This full payoff with taxpayer dollars was carried out by Geithner after AIG's bank customers, such as Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and Societe Generale, had already previously agreed to taking as little as 40 cents on the dollar. Even after the GM autoworkers, bondholders and vendors all received a government-enforced haircut on their contracts, he still had the audacity to claim the "sanctity of contracts" in the dealings with these companies like AIG.
Geithner testified that the Fed's hands were tied and that the bank could not "selectively default on contractual obligations without courting collapse." But if it was all on the up and up, why all the secrecy? The contention that the Fed had no choice is also belied by a recent holding in the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, in which New York Bankruptcy Judge James Peck set aside the same type of investment contracts that Secretaries Paulson and Geithner repeatedly swore under oath had to be paid in full in the case of AIG. The judge declared that clauses in those contracts subordinating other claims to the holders' claims were null and void in bankruptcy.
"And notice," comments bank analyst Chris Whalen, "that the world has not ended when the holders of [derivative] contracts are treated like everyone else." He calls the AIG bailout "a hideous political contrivance that ranks with the great acts of political corruption and thievery in the history of the United States."
If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, said Joseph Goebbels, people will eventually come to believe it. The bailout of Wall Street initiated in September 2008 was premised on the dire prediction that if major counterparties in the massive edifice of derivative contracts were allowed to fall, the whole interlocking house of cards would collapse and take the economy with it. A hijacked Congress dutifully protected the derivatives game with taxpayer money while the real economy proceeded to collapse, the financial sector choosing to put their money into this protected form of speculative betting rather than into the more mundane and risky business of making loans to struggling businesses and homeowners. In the end, $170 billion of federal funds went to AIG and the banks feeding at its trough. Meanwhile, a survey of state finances by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities think tank found that state governments face a collective $168 billion budget shortfall for fiscal 2010. If the money used to bail out AIG and the banks had been used to bail out the states instead, the states would not be facing insolvency today.
There is no law
against gambling, but there is a law against fraud. In
Watergate, a special prosecutor was appointed to bring
criminal charges; but times seem to have changed.
Threat to City of London as EU Parliament seeks to whittle away power to veto
Key members of the European Parliament are drawing up plans to whittle away Britain's power to veto decisions by the EU's new apparatus of financial super regulators, a move that may leave the City of London without defence against threatening proposals.
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard - Published: 5:25PM GMT 02 Feb 2010
The Euro-MPs in charge of drafting the rules for oversight bodies covering banking and markets aim to make it much harder for Britain or other states to use an "emergency brake" to block decisions on regulation, and perhaps to strip them of their veto altogether.Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, thought he had secured a safeguard clause in a deal with fellow EU ministers late last year. The agreement stipulates that states can take their case to the European Council - the supreme EU body made up by heads of government - where decisions are taken by unanimity, if they think that a ruling by a trio of EU supervisory authorities "impinges on in any way on the fiscal responsibilities of the member states."
That is not end of the matter, however, since the European Parliament has broad legislative powers and can rewrite the text. All the major blocs in the assembly vowed last November that they would not agree to "water down" the original plans for the new bodies, which are to have "binding powers" to impose decisions.Sven Giegold, a German Green MEP and 'rapporteur' in charge of markets regulation, said the veto on fiscal matters is so vague and sweeping that it enables states to block almost anything. "A European supervisory system in which each government could veto decisions would be rather silly. This veto - as defined - has to go," he said.While the drafting process is confidential, it is understood that the Spanish 'rapporteur' in charge on banking regulation, also favours limiting the veto.
The Parliament is drawing up its version for a planned 'First Reading' by early summer. If the text clashes with Mr Darling's Council version - as it undoubtedly will - the two sides must thrash out a final compromise.
Mats Persson, director of the think tank Open Europe, said the move by Euro-MPs to unpick Mr Darling's deal is a threat to Britain's financial industry. "If MEPs manage to win support for this plan, it will add further momentum to what is already a significant transfer of powers from national regulators to the EU level. These plans will leave the UK Government completely without safeguards against proposals which could hurt the City of London. Crucially, accountability will fall into a black hole between EU regulators and the states. If the crisis taught us anything, it is the importance of holding both regulators and finance ministers to account," he said. Mr Persson added that even if the veto survives for "crisis decisions" the proposals still allow the three regulatory bodies to make binding decision on day-to-day matters by simple majority vote (SMP), with an appeals process also by majority vote. Whatever happens, the EU apparatus will have the final say on how the City runs itself, ending a 300-hundred year tradition of self-rule at a single stroke.
Peter Skinner, a UK Labour MEP drafting a report on the insurance part of the three-legged structure, said he doubted that matters would ever reach the point where Britain would be overruled, adding that it would be absurd if a majority of states with no real financial industry were to impose decisions on a global financial hub such as London.Mr Skinner is pushing for a system that gives the Financial Service Authority and other regulators a stronger say, but ultimately the conclusions of all the MEPS involved in the process will be moulded together into one position that must reflect the will of European Parliament. That body is in no mood to do favours for Britain or the City of London.
Shell to Sea members have challenged Ministers Ryan and Ó Cuív to ensure the dismantling of 92 metres of pipe which has been laid onshore at Glengad without any planning, as stated by An Bord Pleanála . They also called for the resignation of Bob Hanna of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG), within Eamon Ryan's Department, for his completely inappropriate attempt to unduly influence the board at a time when the application is under consideration and the board is not accepting submissions.
Yesterday afternoon, Wednesday February 3, members of Shell to Sea met Ministers Eamon Ryan and Eamon Ó Cuív in Leinster House to discuss issues arising from the An Bord Pleanála letter of November 2, which exposed huge safety issues with Shell's application for an onshore pipeline.
This follows on from Tuesday's extension of the deadline for Shell to submit further information to An Bord Pleanála, which has been condemned by campaigners as facilitation of Shell, who received the extension despite their clear inability to provide the board with a safe design for their onshore pipeline.
Shell to Sea spokesperson Terence Conway said: The Ministers have often called on us to respect the law, but their calls sound hollow when they refuse to act in matters where the law has been broken themselves. Shell have no planning for the 92 metres of onshore pipe at Glengad, and An Bord Pleanála have acknowledged this fact, yet the Ministers continue to do nothing when faced with this breach of the law by Shell.
When part of the pipe was illegally laid near Bellenaboy in 2005, it was broken up after the fact that it was illegal emerged there is clear precedent for this, and we call again on the Ministers to ensure that the illegal pipe at Glengad is removed.
He continued: Bob Hanna's intervention was completely inappropriate at this time, and certainly gives a very strong impression of undue pressure being put on An Bord Pleanála by Minister Ryan's Department. He should certainly not be lobbying for lower safety standards in this matters. If the Minister is really serious in stating that An Bord Pleanála's independence needs to be respected, he should join us in calling for the resignation of Bob Hanna.
For further verification or comment, please contact:
Terence Conway 086-0866264
These figures were mentioned in the media today. These figures come from Cowen himself and are already contested by the statistics office!
12.7 % unemployment
60,000 young people under 25 have left (net emigration)
1 in 3 men ( in the age group 21-24) are on the dole (unemployment higher in certain age groups).
The trend is really
similar to what happened in the 1980s. At this time
the unemployment rate increased from 7.3 in 1980 percent
to 17.2 percent in 1985, and it continued at very high
levels to the beginning of the Celtic tiger years in 1996.
At the same period of time, the net emigration pushed up
to over 60,000 in the late 80s and then dropped
during the Celtic tiger years to an average of 30,000. In
the mean time, the high immigration rates of the Celtic
tiger years have fallen to levels below those of net
emigration figures, causing a drop in population and a
decrease in the need for housing. This is certainly a
trend of the 1980s returning, but in a much more
aggravated way, and one that will cause a loss of skilled
workers in Ireland and long term economic decline. The
amazing increase in a skilled work force, coupled with
low interest rates from 1996 to 2006, will certainly not
be repeated, so this is just another indication that
optimism about the economy is ill founded. What will
happen is that as interests rates will rise by one
percent in the next year, and as the need for housing
drops, the building sector will never be able to recover.
As the building secotor is the main part of the Celtic
tiger economy, a lot of other areas will continue to be
adversely effected. RB
New Bill on oil and gas safety
Friday January 29, 2010
Legislation transfers responsibility to the Commission for Energy Regulation and will set Irelands safety standard