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09.09.2014 17:34 Why Putin`s Russia is weaker than the USSR?

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, there`ve been a lot of comparisons between Putin`s Russia and the Soviet Union. There`s a lot wrong with that comparison, starting with one fairly obvious point: the Soviet empire wasn`t just Russia. The Soviet republics in the USSR itself and the "Iron Curtain" client states in eastern Europe were key contributors to Soviet power. And Putin can`t draw on them in nearly the same way as his Soviet predecessors. To see just how much that matters, check out this chart of former Soviet-aligned economies from JP Morgan. Michael Cembalest, the investment firm`s Chairman of Market and Investment Strategy, put together a list of important economic indicators for each country - GDP, trade rate, etc. This isn`t a trivial amount of wealth: Cembalest notes that, together, these countries roughly equal Russia`s current GDP, and their trade volume is 2.5 times larger. What he found is that the bulk of economic power in the former communist bloc now isn`t Putin`s to command, and often is aligned against him. Most of that power is now in NATO and/or EU countries, like Poland and the part of Germany that used to be East Germany, or countries where Cembalest judges Russian influence to be fairly limited.

29.08.2014 18:27 Russia`s Economy Close To Recession With Sanctions, Food Import Ban

Russia`s economy is creeping closer to recession, officials said, while Western sanctions over the Ukraine conflict strangle growth and push up inflation. The economy is close to recession, Oleg Zasov, head of forecasting at Russia`s economic ministry, told Russian news agencies. The ministry halved its 2015 growth forecast from 2 percent to 1 percent and upped its inflation forecasts, among key economic indicators that the government relies on for budget planning. Citing a ban on Western food imports, introduced by Russia as retaliation for Western sanctions related to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, Deputy Economic Development Minister Alexei Vedev said at a briefing that inflation is likely to end the year at 7 percent to 7.5 percent, up from a previous forecast of 6 percent. Price levels in the U.S. rise at about 2 percent a year, considered healthy by economists. Vedev also said a new sales tax coming next year could add another 1 percent to the inflation rate. The ministry forecasts growth of 0.5 percent this year, down from the prediction of 1 percent last month, when the West imposed its first sanctions targeting particular sectors of Russia`s economy as punishment for supporting pro-Russian rebels fighting in eastern Ukraine. In 2013, the Russian economy grew by 1.3 percent. Economists polled by Reuters in late July, before Russia`s food import ban, forecasted economic growth of 0.3 percent this year and 6.5 percent inflation. Falling oil prices, which had risen on geopolitical tensions, are also hurting Russia`s economy, a heavy oil exporter. Russia`s benchmark Urals oil fell to $98 a barrel this week, its lowest level since May 2013 and down from $115 a barrel last month, according to OilPrice.com and Russia Beyond the Headlines.

28.08.2014 13:40 When China`s economy will overtake America`s?

LESS than two centuries ago, China was far and away the world`s biggest economy. It accounted for more than 30% of global GDP in 1820, according to estimates by Angus Maddison, a late economist. Its share dwindled in the 19th century as the industrial revolution propelled Europe and America rose up. The 20th was even less kind to China, riven by invasion, civil war and a lurch to communism. Thanks to a furious 35 years of market reforms, it is only a matter of time before China reclaims its spot as the biggest economy of all. Our essay this week"What China wants"argues that China now also craves the respect it once enjoyed, but does not know how to achieve it. China`s path to being the world`s biggest economy is, by contrast, much clearer. In December 2010 we introduced an interactive chart that allows you to make your own prediction of when China`s economy will overtake America`s. There are a variety of ways to compare economies. Our chart looks at their GDP in current dollars at market exchange rates. The timing of China`s ascent thus depends on five things: its own growth, America`s growth, the evolution of prices in each country, and the exchange rate between them. Based on this combination of assumptions, China would overtake America as early as 2019. We are now four years into that forecast. How have we done? In the spirit of transparency that we urge of other would-be economic fortune tellers, we admit to being a little off, though not, it must be said, by much. It now looks like America`s eclipse will come two years later than initially anticipated.

24.08.2014 12:58 Five Things to Know About the Global Economy Right Now

Things could be worse, right? Having shaken off the jitters that saw shares drop at the end of July, the major markets have been enjoying another period of relative stability. Apart from Argentina`s comic default and a few geopolitical flare-ups, little has happened to raise fears of another crash. The unemployment rate has been falling steadily -- if slowly -- in the United States, Eurozone, and even Japan, where more people are also joining the labor force. Domestic demand has returned even as the fringes of the global economy have frayed. But is there a storm around the corner? Here are a few things to keep in mind as we look to the next couple of years: 1. The Federal Reserve is not out to surprise anyone. 2. The Eurozone is still in trouble. 3. Japan is a wildcard in global credit markets. 4. China has an enormous opportunity to grow. 5. Emerging market acronyms are marketing tools. Despite sanctions on Russia, belligerence in East Asian waters, chaos in the Middle East, and other distractions, the biggest wheels in the global economy have continued to turn. Even as the companies that move markets have expanded around the world, investors and executives have become more adept at insulating themselves from temporary hotspots. Insurance, hedging using derivatives, the globalization of purchasing, and the proliferation of transport options have all helped. But geopolitical troubles still constrain growth and make it tougher to establish new business relationships. If things ever settle down, the world will be wealthier still.

23.08.2014 12:17 Russian sanctions start to bite as growth forecasts are downgraded

Six months after the confrontation over Ukraine first blew up, the damage is starting to be counted in dollars, euros and roubles. And as Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov met his counterparts from Ukraine, Germany and France, he will have been aware that it is Russia that has most to lose from a protracted economic stand-off with the west. The effects of successive rounds of sanctions on the Russian economy are starting to trickle down, even if there are loopholes and exceptions aplenty in the measures. Foreign banks have tightened credit for all Russian companies, even those not featured on any government`s blacklist. Retail prices are rising on the back of Russia`s retaliatory ban on European foodstuffs. Growth is anaemic, the business elite twitchy. The Royal Bank of Scotland, which is 81% owned by the British taxpayer, has restricted lending to Russian companies across the board, while Dutch bank ING is also looking to reduce its Russian loan book. Banks, especially those bailed out by the taxpayer and still battling to restore tarnished reputations, are nervous about lending to Russia, although oil companies don`t share those qualms about doing business in Moscow. As a result, not a single US dollar, euro or Swiss franc was lent to a Russian company in July, according to Bloomberg research, the first time since the depths of the financial crisis that Russian companies have faced such a credit drought. Timothy Ash, head of emerging market research at Standard Bank, said if the west was really serious it would have banned trading of Russian bank debt on secondary markets, closing a loophole that allows Russian bank debt to remain a valid asset. Ash thinks sanctions will weigh on the Russian economy, without causing imminent panic. "Are you going to see a financial crisis in the short-term? Probably not on the back of this. Does the west have the capability to do that? Absolutely. Do they want to? Clearly not." But the tightening of credit cascades around the economy like falling dominoes: big Russian companies, sensing reluctance from western creditors, turn to Russian banks for loans. They in turn go to the central bank, which reacts by raising interest rates. Higher interest rates help prop up the rouble, but make it more expensive to pay off debts, so Russian consumers begin to rein in spending. Just as credit is becoming more expensive, Russian shoppers face higher grocery bills, after Vladimir Putin banned food imports in retaliation against western sanctions. Although pictures of empty shelves once laden with Parmesan and Brie are doing the rounds on Russian social media, there are no 1980s-style shortages. But most economists and the Russian government expect food prices to rise, a setback for Russia`s long-running struggle to tame inflation. While other state firms are expected to join the queue for a share of the state`s cash pile, economists have been downgrading their growth forecasts. The International Monetary Fund, which has said Russia is already in recession, expects Russia to grow by 0.2% this year. This is actually worse than it sounds. Russia is still a developing economy, with 18 million people below the poverty line (13% of the population). Putin, who is looking to run for president in 2018, wants Russia to grow like China, with its 7.5% growth rate, not France, which is flatlining.

21.08.2014 12:43 UK economy winning global growth race

The UK`s economy has performed better than that of any other G7 state in the year running to the end of June. Official estimates of growth were revised up to show that output was 3.2pc higher in the quarter to the end of June, compared with the same period a year earlier. The UK`s performance contrasts starkly with its developed world peers. With growth in the period revised up from 3.1pc, the economy is expanding at its fastest pace since 2007. Only Canada is yet to report growth for the second quarter, and it appears unlikely that it will knock the UK off the top when it does, on August 29. "All the signs are that the UK economy is growing strongly across a board base", said Michael Saunders, the chief UK economist at Citigroup. The Office for National Statistics` (ONS) estimate of the UK`s quarterly growth remains unchanged, at 0.8pc. The revised estimate of UK growth saw some tweaks to key components of output in the second quarter. Industrial production`s expansion was revised down from 0.4pc to 0.3pc, and construction output`s fall has been upwardly revised from a 0.5pc contraction to flat. Output in finance and insurance fell by 1.3pc over the past year. Over the same period, wholesaling and retailing saw growth of 5pc, while output from professional, scientific, administrative and support services jumped by an "astonishing" 9.3pc. Rob Wood of Berenberg said that he expected that growth "could well get more lopsided in the near term". The UK`s manufacturing sector is "internationally exposed", said Mr Wood, with geopolitical tensions over Ukraine weighing on production. Berenberg forecasted that UK GDP would grow at 3pc this year, accelerating to growth of 3.2pc in 2015.

16.08.2014 11:43 Eurozone economy fails to grow in second quarter

The Eurozone`s economic recovery has shuddered to a halt, bolstering calls for the European Central Bank to take aggressive measures to boost growth and halt a slide towards deflation. Gross domestic product was flat in the second quarter of 2014, compared with growth of 0.2 per cent in the previous three months, according to official figures released on Thursday. Inflation fell to a four-and-a-half-year low of 0.4 per cent in July. Dismal performances from Germany, France and Italy - the core of the single-currency region - were responsible for the stagnation, while parts of the periphery beat expectations. Escalating geopolitical tensions with Russia damaged confidence in Germany, contributing to a 0.2 per cent fall in economic output the first contraction since the end of 2012. The German economy accounts for almost 30 per cent of Eurozone GDP. France`s economy stagnated, while Italy has fallen into its third recession since 2008, meaning none of the Eurozone`s three biggest economies registered any growth in the second quarter. The Dutch economy grew 0.5 per cent after contracting between January and March, while Portugal and Spain expanded by 0.6 per cent. While the US and UK have surpassed their pre-crisis peaks, the currency bloc`s economy is still smaller than before the collapse of Lehman Brothers almost six years ago.

15.08.2014 14:44 Russian growth data masks likely recession to come

Russia appears for now to have escaped an economic contraction, but recession is still likely in the second half of the year as western sanctions over Ukraine bite, analysts warn. Preliminary gross domestic product data showed the economy growing by 0.8 per cent in annual terms in April-June, compared with 0.9 per cent in January-March. But the figure was flattered by one-off factors, and the outlook for the rest of the year is rocky as US and European Union sanctions - and Russia`s retaliatory ban on food imports - exacerbate a climate of weak investment, high borrowing costs and upward pressure on prices. Russia`s economic data are being closely watched to gauge the impact of the sanctions, imposed over Moscow`s annexation of Crimea and what western governments see as its failure to curb pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. The measures are aggravating a slowdown that was already evident in 2013: economists polled by Reuters at the end of July predicted just 0.3 per cent economic growth in 2014 as a whole, with a 0.5 per cent year-on-year contraction in the third quarter. The preliminary data did not provide an assessment of quarter-on-quarter growth, leading to continuing speculation over whether Russia managed to avoid a technical recession - two consecutive three-month periods of negative quarter-on-quarter growth. Answering that question depends largely on seasonal adjustment methods, a complex technical matter that leaves the question open until the more detailed data is published. Most analysts calculated that Russia had avoided a technical recession, but saw that as scant consolation for an economy that will still struggle to avoid a contraction in the second half of the year.

15.08.2014 11:48 Can the BRICS Dominate the Global Economy?

Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa have thrown down the gauntlet at the feet of the West. Last month these five emerging economies launched a New Development Bank - nicknamed the "BRICS Bank" - that combines features of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). Meanwhile, China has proposed an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) that could compete with the Asian Development Bank (ADB). These initiatives represent the first serious institutional challenge to the global economic order established at Bretton Woods 70 years ago this summer. The psychology behind them is clear, as advanced countries have damaged their own credibility as responsible economic stakeholders in recent years and have failed to fully accommodate the rise of the new powers. Less clear is how much of a substantive improvement these new institutions will make to global governance - or even to the interests of the countries championing them. At first blush, it is difficult to take the new BRICS Bank seriously. The five founding members were brought together by little more than a clever acronym and a shared desire to send a message to the West. The differences among the five in economic heft, political orientation, and geostrategic interests are cavernous. Moreover, the initial paid-in capital of only $10 billion is a drop in the bucket compared to the development challenges the bank is intended to address. But the BRICS Bank reflects a real grievance on the part of the emerging world about the state of global economic governance, including the recurring financial crises emanating from the United States and Europe in recent years and the failure of advanced countries to reallocate "shares and chairs" to emerging economies in existing institutions such as the IMF. Moreover, if managed well, the BRICS Bank could make a useful contribution to global development. Yet it could also undermine the global rules-based system that has largely served the economic interests of the BRICS well over the past seven decades.

13.08.2014 11:38 Russia`s economy expands 0.8 percent in the second quarter of 2014

Russia`s economy grew by 0.8 per cent from April to June compared with output during the same period last year, a preliminary estimate by Russia`s statistics committee show. The figure is lower than a 1.2-per cent growth forecast reported by Russia`s economy minister in July, and slightly less than the 0.9-per cent annualized pace recorded in the first quarter. The Rosstat state statistics service did not provide a quarterly figure. The economy minister warned earlier that Russia could slip into recession, commonly defined as two successive quarters of economic contraction. Russia`s economy was already expected to slow from 2013`s disappointing growth figure of 1.3 per cent, the lowest reading since the 2009 global financial crisis, before Western powers unleashed punishing sanctions in July in response to Moscow`s defiant stance on Ukraine. The United States has prohibited three leading Russian banks from raising anything but short-term funding on US markets. The European Union also began imposing so-called sector sanctions, crimping access of Russian state-controlled banks to European capital markets. After the economy minister said he expected growth to reach 1.2 per cent from April to June, the government said it planned to raise its annual forecast from 0.5 to around 1.0 per cent. But in late July the International Monetary Fund slashed its estimate by 1.1 points to just 0.2 per cent growth.


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