In Brief – N.11 – April 19, 2015

Islamic finance has the potential to foster a more inclusive, stable financial system—provided that this fast-growing industry develops in a safe and sound manner. In a blog, IMF economists discussed what Islamic finance needs to flourish.

“Don’t ignore the killings of Christians,” Pope Francis told the international community. The Pope denounced the “complicit silence” about the killing of Christians and said there are more Christian Martyrs today than in first centuries. Anger is growing in the West.

Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies seek to put the pressure on Russia so that is stops sending weapons to the Syrian government forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. “How can you call for the peaceful solution as (you) continue to support the Syrian regime,” Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal bluntly replied to a letter sent by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Japan’s economy is expected to continue its moderate recovery trend with a YOY rate of increase in the CPI likely to be about 0 percent. That’s why the Bank of Japan (BOJ) will continue money market operations so that the monetary base will increase at an annual pace of about 80 trillion yen.

According to CNN, Russian hackers were behind damaging cyber intrusion, noticed in October 2014, of the US State Department and the White House computer system. They allegedly accessed unclassified data like the non-public details of US President’s schedule.

Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel defeated challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia to win a second term in Chicago‘s first-ever runoff election for mayor, a taxing six-week sprint that left the city’s brash leader acknowledging he could do better.

“Good Riddance, Carrie Mathison” a tweet from the CIA said. The Agency seems happy that Mathison quits in the 5th season because she is so far from what real CIA women are, NYT Maureen Dowd wrote. The truth is agent Sarah Walker (played by Yvonne Strahovski in TV show Chuck) remains the most accurate example of what an operative really is (or should be).

RussiaGreece bilateral trade turnover came to $4.2 billion in 2014 – a decrease of 40 percent and a result of the “anti-Russian sanctions”, President Vladimir Putin said after meeting with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. “Greece has made no requests for (financial) aid,” Putin added.

This is oil sector’s biggest takeover in 15 years, worth $70 billion. The Boards of Royal Dutch Shell plc and BG Group plc have reached agreement on the terms of an offer to be made by the former for the entire issued and to be issued share capital of the latter.

FedEx moved to acquire Netherlands-based TNT Express for $4.8 billion. The megadeal echoed the similar but unsuccessful attempt by rival United Parcel Service (UPS) two years ago. Frederick W. Smith, Chairman and CEO of FedEx Corp., said the weakening of the EURUSD did play a role in the decision.

China’s slowing down, for real. Pressure is mounting on China’s economy after statistics showed growth last quarter has been the worst since the financial crisis started. Chinese exports and imports fell 15 percent and 12.7 percent respectively last month in dollar terms.

“Everyday Americans need a champion. I want to be that champion,” former First Lady, Senator and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote on her website where she posted a video announcing she’s running for president in 2016.

Many did not want that deal to happen, yet India and France have overcome opposition after the former announced it will buy 36 Rafale jets from the latter. This is the Rafale’s second export contract for the French fighter jets manufacturer Dassault Aviation since Egypt ordered 24 units in February 2015.

After a first contract signed in 2013, the French group Bouygues Construction, through its subsidiary Dragages Singapour, was chosen by real estate group Thanlyin Estate Development for the building and conception of a new phase worth 65 million euros of residential complex Star City located in Rangoon’s suburbs, Myanmar.

United Launch Alliance (ULA) unveiled its Next Generation Launch System (NGLS) at the 31st Space Symposium. The new rocket, Vulcan – “highest-performing, most cost-efficient” – will transform the future of space by making launch services more affordable and accessible. ULA is “currently responsible for more than 70 percent of (the US) space launches,” CEO and President Tory Bruno said.

Uneven growth: according to the April 2015 IMF World Economic Outlook (WEO), “the potential output growth in advanced economies is likely to increase slightly from current rates as some crisis-related effects wear off, but to remain below pre-crisis rates in the medium term,” In emerging market economies, “potential output growth is expected to decline further.”

Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent announced their intention to combine to create an innovation leader in next generation technology and services for an IP connected world. Nokia will make an offer for all of the equity securities issued by Alcatel-Lucent, through a public exchange offer in France and in the United States.

As a result of the government policy of “moving forward while maintaining stability”, the National Bureau of Statistics said, China economy had a smooth development with restructuring advancing steadily and new impetus showing momentum. According to the preliminary estimation, the GDP of China in the Q1 of 2015 showed a YOY increase of 7.0 percent.

USG’s developments regarding Cuba could go quicker than expected. President Barack Obama had a historic meeting with counterpart Raul Castro and confirmed his “belief that it (is) time to try something new.” After a 6-month-long review, the State Department recommended that Obama rescind Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.

The ECB decided that the interest rate on the main refinancing operations and the interest rates on the marginal lending facility and the deposit facility will remain unchanged at 0.05 percent, 0.30 percent and -0.20 percent respectively. A press conference with President Mario Draghi followed.

Financial results aren’t as good as some hoped they’d be but here is some good news about Netflix whose membership surged past 60 million. Netflix, which wouldn’t see HBO as a threat, is therefore strengthening its status of world’s leading Internet TV network available in over 50 countries.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) into China contrasted much with weak March 2015 trade data as it increased 2.2 percent YOY while inbound FDI was up 11,3 percent to $34.88 billion for Q1 2015.

Annualized return on Goldman Sachs (GS) average common shareholders’ equity (ROE) was 14.7% for the Q1 of 2015. “Given more normalized markets and higher levels of client activity, we remain encouraged about the prospects for continued growth,” said Lloyd C. Blankfein, GS’ Chairman and CEO.

“By the end of 2014, Russia’s GDP has grown by 0.6 percent – a small growth, but it is growth nevertheless. Despite the significant fluctuations on the financial market, Russia’s banking sector has demonstrated good dynamics. Overall, we concluded 2014 with a slight deficit of 0.5 percent and managed to prevent a spiraling into a major deficit,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in his annual TV Q&A session.

In January 2015, Cyceon wrote that Marine Le Pen’s editorials and interviews in the NYT and WSJ, two of the most respected newspapers, were very significant developments. Now, Le Pen is among Time’s 100 most Most Influential People in the world in 2014. French President François Hollande is not, contrary to his counterparts Obama, Xi, Putin and Merkel.

Chinese sources said Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif approved the purchase of 8 Chinese submarines – probably diesel-powered Yuan class, known as Type 039A or 041 – in what will likely be one of China’s most important arms deals ever, worth between $4 and $5 billion. China accounted for more than half of Pakistan’s arms purchases in recent years.