Sunday, 11 January 2009

Earlybird Jan. 12, 2008 (Update)

Headlines for Monday Jan. 12:

U.S. -- Bank Earnings Data Might Be Disappointing (Reuters): The correct reading of this story is the following, that government efforts to clean up balance sheets and encourage capitalisation in the financial industry will take time to come to fruition. The most likely development is that banks will have to continue shedding assets and preparing a round of additional measures to counter the deterioration in the quality of their assets as the recession gets worse.

U.S. -- Citigroup CEO Pandit Gets Backing From Board, Sources Say (WSJ): Pandit is paying for the sins of his predecessor, Chuck Prince. there's not much he can do about the falling apart of the bank, which may continue to shed assets to stay afloat. One question remains whether Citigroup will afford to keep some of its Latin American operations -- they continuously say they will. Brazil's Citi operations are considered a jewel fro some fo the international and local banks trying to expand in that country.

U.S. -- Citigroup Nears Agreement on Sale of Brokerage Unit to Morgan Stanley (Bloomberg): According to Bloomberg, Citigroup would be able to book a $10 billion gain if the sale gets through. Remember that Pandit had to take back his words that he wouldn't sell the brokerage unit (Smith Barney) to raise cash -- that is why we have to maintain the possibility of the Brazil unit sale open -- it is clearly a likely move at this moment. The gains would flow into Citigroup’s capital, Bloomberg says in this exclusive report.

BRAZIL -- Ecuador Makes Payment on Defaulted BNDES Loan to Brazil (Estado): As expected, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa backed off from his initial rhetoric and decided to make a roughly $30 million dollar payment due to Brazil for the $286 million loan to build a dam there. We insist that Ecuador is trying to play hardball, seeking better conditions to repay and more financing at a time Correa's efforts to radicalise his proto-socialist government (yes, call it his unnecessary decision to default on $3.5 billion of bonds!!!) are leaving the nation with no funding sources for the next years.

MEXICO -- President Calderon to Meet Obama; Talks to Focus on Economy, Immigration (El Economista): Calderon's agenda includes meetings with business leaders and members of Obama's transition team. Finance Minister Agustin Carstens is among the visiting officials. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is, on the other hand, travelling to the U.S. to speak to incumbent U.S. President George Bush. Oh! This is funny -- he will be awarded some medal, the Freedom Medal, whatever the name be. Good God! Being awarded a prize by George W. Bush ain't exactly a compliment or the result of an accomplishment.

BRAZIL -- BNDES President is Confident Foreign Investors Will Fund Brazilian Infrastructure (Estado): What the hell does these Lula administration officials have in the morning? LSD? Pot? Luciano Coutinho, the president of state development bank BNDES, is planning to visit investors in the Middle East and Asia to raise money for Brazil´s $210 billion infrastructure programme. Coutinho is confident Middle East countries (which used to be flush with cash until weeks before the crisis turned something a bit more than messy,) will pay for the Brazil penalty (awful bureaucracy, legal uncertainty, delays, etc.) demanding little premium. Hope he does just fine with that ...

BRAZIL -- Government Sources Say More Than 600,000 Jobs Lost in December (Estado): This is going to be the detonator that ruling coalition politicians -- who happen to be in a great majority hostile to prudent economic policies -- were looking for to press for a decline in the Selic interest rate. Labour Minister Carlos Lupi, himself a trade union leader, must be peeing on his pants if this happens to be true.

PERU -- Former President Toledo Urges Government Transparency for Anti-Crisis Plan (Comercio): Transparency, what a hateful word! President Alejandro Toledo, the former president and whose economic platform is credited with having earned the rich of Peru the honourable title of Investment-Grade bastards, suggested the government's plan to face the crisis is being too ''optimistic´´ and that there would be a scenario where things don't go just that fine. Maybe this lends us enough reasons to understand why Toledo was the most unpopular president Peru ever had (check graph on right-hand side:) too much sincerity.

MINING -- Rusoro President Salamis Says Russian Gold Investors Are Winning Trust of Venezuela Government (Incakolanews): This is a nice interview story you, dear reader specialised in mining, should read. You read the interview and you sense that George Salamis really opened up and talk with great sincerity. He says that operating in Venezuela isn't necessarily easy, that the system of government-directed dollar sales is favourable for business such as Rusoro's, that the company have solidly won the trust of the government, at all levels, because of its history of delivering on promises. One thing that I find interesting about this article is the emphasis that IKN puts on questions regarding community relations -- this is not exactly hardcore market questions but they are relevant because, when it comes to Venezuela, you need to examine those aspects so you can foresee what the government stance towards any company will be in there future.

ECUADOR -- Correa Urges Use of $700 Million from Pension Savings to Pay for Spending Plans (Comercio): Jesus! Every time Latin America is at risk of falling apart, the peculiar gestures and actions of regional heads of state only create more noise, instead of diffusing it. After having defaulted on $3.5 billion of bonds he deems as ''illegal,´´ (???) President Rafael Correa is now following the steps of Argentina's Cristina Fernandez, who a couple of months ago seized money from private pension funds to pay for ... more spending!

Palestine, and the U.S.-Israeli Actions -- A Column

Click here to read this column by Elizabeth Boleman-Herring, in which she mirrors the ongoing ''Palestinian genocide´´ as ''the moral equivalent of denying the Holocaust.´´

News Round-up: Israel Incursion in the Gaza Strip

Because of the commentary sent my my friend Herman Dermer, I decided to collect a number of news and commentary related to the war in the Gaza Strip. Market Memorandum isn't siding with either of the people in conflict, and we had wished one Palestine writer had written his version of things for this page.

Therefore, I picked up one pro-Palestine opinion column from the media. Follows the news round-up on the conflict:

REUTERS -- Military Operations Continue as Truce Sought by Neighbouring States -- The attorcity of both sides is just unbelievable: Reuters, citing medical officials, reported that about half of the Palestinian dead in the latest fighting in the Hamas-ruled territory were civilians.

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- Bush, Israel Negotiated Israel Raid on Iran Nuke Site -- President Bush deflected a 2008 request by Israel for help in an attack on Iran’s main nuclear site; he told the Israelis about new covert action against Iran. Despite the fact that his policies were partly to blame for the grave economic situation facing the U.S. economy, Bush seemed to have been thinking of engaging the nation in another war all the time.

THE SUNDAY TIMES OF LONDON -- Hammas leaders is killed -- Amir Mansi, an engineer who commanded cells responsible for firing Grad rockets supplied by Iran, died after coming under attack from a helicopter.

BLOOMBERG -- Olmert Says Israel Nearing Accomplishing Gaza Mission -- Olmert’s comments come after both Israeli and Hamas officials met with Egyptian diplomats to discuss a truce aimed at ending the 16-day military occupation of Gaza. But, as the story suggests, there's a long road ahead until Israel decides to pull out from Palestine territories.

Comentario de Herman Dermer Sobre el Conflicto Israelí-Palestino

El siguiente es el testimonio de Herman Dermer, un colombiano que vive en Israel hace muchos años y que ha compartido su visión del actual conflicto con los lectores de Market Memorandum. A Herman, mil gracias por su colaboración, y a Uds., queridos lectores, espero les guste y les haga reflexionar sobre la situación que se está viviendo en la franja de Gaza.

Los israelíes, solamente llevamos 8 años soportando la artillería de cohetes de Hammas. Muchas víctimas en estos 8 años, de las que nadie hablo. Mucha destrucción que a nadie le importo. Ninguna manifestación se escucho en el mundo respaldando a los niños de Sderot, que diariamente, tienen que correr hacia los refugios seis o siete veces. Alguien preguntó por los ancianos de Beer Sheva, que prefieren quedarse en sus casas esperando al impacto, pues de todas formas el esfuerzo de correr a los sótanos los puede matar? Alguien preguntó por la hija de 5 años de mi amigo Isaac, que junto con su abuela voló por los aires hace unos años, solo por estar al lado de un energúmeno que le prometieron 72 vírgenes si se hacía explotar en Guivat Ha Zarfatim-Jerusalem? Por qué cuándo el fuego proviene de Hammas, se escuchan en los reportajes palabras como ''resistencia, mártir, se inmoló, la causa, frustración´´? Por qué esas palabras no se escuchan desde el lado Israelí? sólo escuchamos ''masacre, cobardes, baño de sangre, crimen ...´´

Será que a los israelíes no nos duelen nuestros muertos? quién nos defendió entonces? y quién nos defiende ahora? Alguien sabe cuántos años lleva Israel conteniendo su fuerza "infinitamente superior"? Alguien sabe de dónde viene esa fuerza superior? Viene de la nada? O viene de la solidaridad internacional del pueblo judío. Alguien recuerda ahora a los hombres bomba que se explotaron un día sí y otro también en centros comerciales, buses, colegios, discotecas, apuntándole exclusivamente a la población civil, sin errores, sin victimas militares?

Alguien recuerda los 40 misiles Scud que Irak disparó contra Israel, sin ésta estar involucrada y sin recibir fuego a cambio? Alguno de ustedes tiene en su alacena mascaras antigases, jeringuillas de atropina o vestimentas especiales para defender a usted y su familia de las armas químicas? Yo sí tengo.
No sabe el mundo cuanto nos duelen nuestros muertos. El circo mediático transmite sin comentarios, como los buldóceres destruyen la casa de la familia del bombardero suicida de Hammas. El mundo aprecia con beneplácito como los miembros de Hammas bailan y cantan en las calles, y reparten dulces a los niños como si de una fiesta se tratara cuando logran acabar con algunos de los nuestros. Alguien vió alguna vez imágenes de israelíes bailando y cantando por la muerte de algún ciudadano palestino? Alguien vió alguna vez los cadáveres producidos en estos 60 años de historia expuestos como macabros trofeos en el lado israelí del conflicto? Qué cree el mundo -- que nos tenemos que quedar impávidos mientras nos atacan? Cuánto tiempo es posible aguantar tu fuerza? Cuándo es suficiente después de cuantas victimas? Después de cuantas viudas? Cuándo se debe dar el golpe en la mesa y decir ''es suficiente´´?

Ni la prensa internacional, ni la ONU, ni la Comunidad Europea, ni los miles de personas que hoy se manifiestan alrededor del mundo en apoyo al pueblo palestino nos ayudaron en el pasado y por todo lo que hemos visto tampoco lo harán en el futuro. Sólo nosotros mismos podemos defendernos. Tenemos la obligación. Lo estamos haciendo y lo haremos.

No es el deseo ni del pueblo de Israel ni de su gobierno el de acabar con el pueblo palestino. El pueblo palestino es un rehén de un movimiento extremista y demencial que ha tomado su vocería. No les pido que lo entiendan. Es absolutamente imposible abstraerse del circo mediático que juega con el dolor de las víctimas de un pueblo martirizado desde adentro por hombres que no les importa entregar hasta la última gota de sangre de sus mujeres y niños en pos de su fín, que no es la paz, sino es la destrucción del enemigo.
El ejército de Israel entró a Gaza a cumplir unos objetivos. No se retirará de allí hasta que los cumpla. Dentro de estos objetivos no está la muerte de civiles, ni la destrucción del pueblo palestino, ni siquiera la destrucción de Hammas. El objetivo es que nos dejen vivir en paz dentro de nuestra frontera.
Ojala que Hammas -- dentro de su demencia -- desista de seguir hostigándonos y que la paz vuelva a Gaza y Palestina; que, algún día, aún en nuestra generación, el estado palestino florezca por la ayuda de sus hermanos Árabes, así como Israel ha florecido en el desierto por la solidaridad de los judíos de todo el mundo.