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11 августа, 12:29

Guam before the storm: How do you solve a problem like Korea? Investors are unsure

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Main image:  EUROPEAN markets have started the day with losses of 1% or so, following a 2% decline in Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index and the 1% loss in the S&P 500 index on Thursday. The Vix, a much used measure of market fear, jumped to 16, its highest level since the presidential election.These are significant moves by the standards of recent months but, to anyone who lived through 2008 (or 1987) they are hardly signs of outright panic. Gold is at $1,288 an ounce, up 2% or so over the week. The Japanese stockmarket was barely changed on Thursday, and Japan is right in the firing line of North Korea’s missiles. South Korea would suffer terribly in any war but the Seoul market was down just 1.7% today, and 3.2% on the week.Clearly, the markets are more worried than they were on August 9th, when President Trump warned of “fire and fury” against Kim Jong-Un’s regime. Investors did not take too seriously the statement from the president, who is known for his intemperate (and often factually inaccurate) tweets. But the rhetoric has deteriorated since then, with North Korea threatening to fire missiles close to Guam, an American territory and naval base, and Mr Trump doubling down on his comments on Thursday.War in Korea might lead to millions of deaths and would create an immense challenge to the ...

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10 августа, 19:00

Voltaire on the subway: The ACLU stands up for an alt-right author’s freedom of speech

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Main image:  IN AMERICA, the fight for free speech sometimes produces odd alliances. Nearly four decades ago, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a left-leaning advocacy group, famously defended the right of neo-Nazis to march through a neighbourhood in Skokie, Illinois, in which many Holocaust survivors lived. Now a similarly controversial case may be at hand. Yesterday the ACLU filed a complaint in a federal court against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) for its restrictive advertising policy. Though the suit seeks to vindicate the rights of two organisations on the left of the political spectrum—an animal-rights group and an abortion provider—it is also standing up for a right-wing provocateur’s right to advertise his new book in the subway tunnels of the capital.Milo Yiannopoulos is no typical conservative. He is a flamboyantly gay former editor at “Breitbart News” who condemns same-sex marriage, tells gays to hide their “aberrant” identity and has targeted black, transgender and Muslim people for ridicule. Last year Twitter banned Mr Yiannopoulos for life after he sent a series of racist messages to Leslie Jones, an actress. In February, the publisher Simon & Schuster pulled out of a contract to publish his book when a video surfaced in which he seemed to say ...

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10 августа, 17:41

The expanding universal: The fix for American health care can be found in Europe

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Print section Print Rubric:  The fix for American health care has already been tried somewhere in Europe Print Headline:  The expanding universal Print Fly Title:  Health care UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The death of the internal combustion engine Fly Title:  The expanding universal Main image:  20170812_USD001_0.jpg MITCH MCCONNELL was visibly distraught after the Republicans’ “skinny repeal” of Obamacare was defeated in the Senate, but he was not too out of sorts to get in a dig at Europe. The majority leader wondered acidly what ideas Democrats might have for fixing American health insurance, and noted that most Democratic senators had voted “present” on a bill proposing that America should embrace a single-payer system. “Apparently they didn’t want to make a decision about whether they were for or against socialised medicine. A government ...

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10 августа, 17:41

Measuring inflation: Britain has a new headline measure of inflation

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Print section Print Rubric:  A seemingly simple concept is tricky to pin down in practice Print Headline:  A can of worms Print Fly Title:  Measuring inflation UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The death of the internal combustion engine Fly Title:  Measuring inflation IN 1946 the government convened a committee to assess the official cost-of-living index, which had been introduced in 1914. The conclusion was damning. The “alterations in consumption habits since 1914 have made the official index out-of-date”, it noted, recommending that it be “terminated”. The measure was hardly in touch with how ordinary folk spent their money; beer was excluded from the calculations. Statisticians have been grasping towards a better measure of inflation ever since. In March the Office for National Statistics (ONS) introduced a new headline measure, “consumer-prices index including owner-occupiers’ housing costs” (CPIH). On July 31st the ...

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10 августа, 17:41

Buttonwood: Investors are not great at predicting politics

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Print section Print Rubric:  Investors rarely make the best political analysts Print Headline:  Not as smart as they think Print Fly Title:  Buttonwood UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The death of the internal combustion engine Fly Title:  Buttonwood FINANCIAL markets are supposed to be the font of all wisdom, weighing up the information available and condensing it into a set of prices. Investors are presumed to have an insight into the future—falling bond yields are seen as a sign that the economy is slowing, for example. But are investors that clever when it comes to politics? Gambling markets show how they assess political risk. They expected the Remain campaign to win the Brexit referendum and Hillary Clinton to become America’s president, and were proved wrong. Indeed, on Brexit, the mass of gamblers (the general public, in other words) backed Leave, but the odds were skewed by some wealthy punters who favoured ...

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10 августа, 17:41

One and done: Nevada’s unusual, powerful unions

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Print section Print Rubric:  The unreplicable power of Nevada’s unions Print Headline:  One and done Print Fly Title:  Labour unions UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The death of the internal combustion engine Fly Title:  One and done Location:  LAS VEGAS Main image:  Activists at work Activists at work THE busiest pharmacy in Nevada sits in an unremarkable strip mall in the shadows of Las Vegas’s glitzy casinos. Pharmacists accept prescriptions, dispense medicine and take no cash. Across town is the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas, which trains people to be chefs, bakers, sommeliers and other food-service workers. There too, most students pay nothing for their classes. The roughly 57,000 members of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 (CWU)—the state’s biggest union, representing ...

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10 августа, 17:41

Rate race: Who will be the next chair of the Federal Reserve?

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Print section Print Rubric:  Who will be the next head of the Federal Reserve? Print Headline:  Rate race Print Fly Title:  The Fed’s next chair UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The death of the internal combustion engine Fly Title:  Rate race Location:  WASHINGTON, DC Main image:  20170812_FND001_0.jpg LOOK only at unemployment and inflation, says Peter Conti-Brown, a historian of the Federal Reserve, and Janet Yellen is the Fed’s most successful boss of all time. The second indicator may be below target, but that is a blip compared with the recessions most Fed chairmen have endured. So it is perhaps not surprising that President Donald Trump is openly considering retaining Ms Yellen, a Democrat installed by Barack Obama, after her term ends in February 2018. Nor by historical ...

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10 августа, 17:41

Letters: Letters to the editor

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Print section Print Headline:  Letters to the editor UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The death of the internal combustion engine Fly Title:  Letters Main image:  20170812_LTP001_0.jpg Brexit’s new frontier You described vividly the hurdles that the traffic of people and goods would face if a hard border were to be established between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland as a consequence of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union (“The border that isn’t—yet”, July 15th). Yet this does not need to be so. Article 24 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which lays down the rules to be respected by member countries when they establish customs unions or free-trade areas in order that other countries are not discriminated against, contains a little-used provision on “frontier traffic”. It allows members of the World Trade Organisation to deviate from these constraints in respect of “advantages accorded to adjacent countries in order to facilitate frontier traffic”. There ...

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10 августа, 12:43

Indicators: Retail sales, producer prices, wages and exchange rates

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Print section UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Indicators Article body images:  20170812_int600.png Published:  20170810 Source:  Online extra Enabled

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09 августа, 14:10

Ten years on: Where might the next crisis come from?

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Main image:  TEN years ago, BNP Paribas, a French bank, temporarily suspended dealings in three funds, citing “the complete evaporation of liquidity in certain market segments of the US securitisation market”. Many people treat this as the start of the credit crunch but one can trace it back to the need for Bear Stearns to rescue hedge funds that invested in mortgage-backed securities in June, or the signs of home loan defaults and failing mortgage lenders that emerged in late 2006. The subsequent tightening of credit and loss of confidence in the banking system eventually led to the collapse of Lehman Brothers, when the crisis reached its height in the autumn of 2008 (see picture).The inevitable question on the occasion of such anniversaries is: could it happen again? Total debt has risen, rather than fallen, over the last decade, reaching $217trn or 327% of GDP, according to the Institute for International Finance. But the debt is differently distributed from 2007; more of it is owed by governments and more of it is owned by central banks. Since these banks have no incentive to hassle countries for repayment, the air of crisis has dissipated. Banks have more capital, making them more secure. And low interest rates have made servicing debt more affordable for both consumers and ...

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08 августа, 17:55

Wall Street’s high-wire act: Capitalism and the absence of creative disruption

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Main image:  NINE straight highs for the Dow Jones Industrial Average might suggest that all is well with capitalism. But on the contrary, they could be a sign that things have been going profoundly wrong with the way the system is working.  The main driver for the surge in share prices this year has been the strength of profits; second quarter profits for S&P 500 companies are around 12.6% higher than a year ago, according to Andrew Lapthorne at Société Générale, a French bank. As the chart shows, relative to GDP, profits seem to be regaining their levels of recent years. And those levels are much higher than they have been in much of the post-war era (see chart). Jim McCaughan of Principal Global Investors says he is not too concerned about this since the nature of capital has changed; no longer is the economy dominated by manufacturing where businesses have to invest in heavy equipment, blast furnaces and the like. But that argument, which has been knocking around since the dotcom boom, strikes me as unsatisfactory. In essence, the argument boils down to the return on capital having risen. But if that is the case then entrepreneurs round the world should be piling in, creating new businesses and expanding existing firms—especially in the light of low interest rates. The resulting ...

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03 августа, 17:49

National treasures: Is Emmanuel Macron serious about privatisation?

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Print section Print Rubric:  The French state is mismanaging its valuable corporate assets Print Headline:  National treasures Print Fly Title:  Privatisation in France UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  How to avoid nuclear war with North Korea Fly Title:  National treasures Location:  PARIS Main image:  20170805_WBP001_0.jpg ONE reason for Italian anger over the decision on July 27th by Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, to stop Fincantieri, a shipbuilder from Trieste, winning control of a French shipyard at Saint-Nazaire, was that recent cross-border deals have mostly gone France’s way. Italian businesspeople have grown nervous about French firms’ “colonisation” by means of acquisitions in luxury goods, media and telecoms, including the €46bn ($55bn) merger between Luxottica, an ...