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South Africa in the economic crisis

Economic growth in South Africa was only 0.8% last year, well below original expectations. In the first quarter of 2019 there was even a new setback in growth, the overall economy fell by 0.8% compared with the final quarter of 2018, and the unemployment rate reached almost 28%, its highest level since summer 2017. President Cyril Ramaphosa, a reform-minded and balancing president, has not yet managed to lead his country out of the economic mode of crisis. South Africa’s economic misery is largely due to structural causes that can hardly be resolved in the short term. These include the excessive number of unproductive state-owned companies, including Eskom, which recently hit the headlines due to rotating power cuts. But serious shortcomings in the education system, too many regulations that hamper growth and a frightening level of corruption also hamper employment growth and economic progress. Despite all the grievances, Ramaphosa managed to…

Bank of Japan Tankan index hits three-year low

The Bank of Japan’s quarterly sentiment index has weakened again recently, falling by 5 points for large and export-orientated industrial companies in the second quarter, and reaching a three-year low of only +7 points. This important index, with readings ranging from -100 to +100, is now close to showing a balance between optimistic and pessimistic responses from the companies surveyed. Conversely, assessments from large companies in the services sector which are geared more to the domestic market have improved slightly recently, up from 21 to 23 points. The Tankan has recently slipped down from 12 to 10 points for all companies (all sectors and size categories). Sentiment at large Japanese manufacturing companies consequently showed an above-average deterioration in the second quarter. Concerns about the current and future business climate are also understandable given the uncertainty and the real impact of the US/China trade dispute. Some good news did nevertheless emerge…

“Libra” seeks to change the world

Is Facebook trying to achieve world domination with its planned cryptocurrency Libra? If the corresponding White Paper – which was published recently and summarizes the underlying ideas, concepts and objectives – is to be believed, precisely the opposite is the case. According to the initiators of this project, which currently comprise 28 companies and organizations (with no banks involved so far), the overriding goal is to provide all people and companies with “fair, cost-effective and immediate access to their money” and financial services by means of a stable global currency. Put simply, every human being around the world should be able to manage and send money simply with Libra, just as they might send an SMS or a photo. Such a scenario sounds more like world peace than world domination. However, there are good reasons for questioning whether (or how much of) this is actually feasible. Libra – a threat…

Cryptocurrencies are benefiting from the current environment

Bitcoin is back – this impression is being created at least on the basis of the price performance of recent weeks. Having languished around the USD 4,000 mark at the start of April, the leading cryptocurrency recently reached levels of over USD 11,000. In addition, the number of daily transactions has increased significantly relative to the start of the year and has stabilised at a comparatively high level. Several factors can be considered as potential drivers of the cryptocurrency price, with the focus here on the growing tensions seen of late in the international political arena. Although the trade talks between the US and China recently showed some tentative signs of rapprochement, there is no doubt that both parties are still far from reaching an agreement. The situation surrounding the dispute between Washington and Tehran is even more serious. A US military attack on targets in Iran was called off…

Desperately seeking a new Prime Minister

No sooner had Theresa May announced her official resignation (long awaited by many) than the battle for her successor began. At the weekend, the candidates will inevitably start jockeying for position, with the contentious Boris Johnson clearly leading the field as one of the most promising candidates. But the list of possible successors for May is long and the outcome of the election process uncertain. According to some estimates there were at times more than 30 potential candidates for the post of Conservative Party leader. At one end of the spectrum are the hardliners like Boris Johnson and Steve Baker as well as the more moderate but equally Brexit-attuned Ester McVey, Dominic Raab and Michael Gove. At the other end of the spectrum is Amber Rudd, the only supporter from the Remain camp, standing all on her own. The probability is therefore extremely high that May’s successor will either follow…

Cryptocurrency prices surge

After months of immobility and, at least as regards overall coverage, insignificance, it almost sounds like an April Fools’ joke one day late. But it isn’t. Within the space of less than an hour, the price of Bitcoins shot up over 20% against the US Dollar on Tuesday morning and thus for the first time since mid-November at times topped the USD 5,000 mark. Most of the other leading cryptocurrencies likewise posted tangible gains. In many places, the usual suspects were cited as having triggered the price hike, including fundamental and overall political conditions such as the low interest rates, or the Brexit chaos. Moreover, some pundits pointed out that the structure of the market, with countless trading hubs spread around the globe, can mean that broadly dispersed larger buy requests can lead to greater price fluctuation. Reports of successes made with an upgrade of the Ethereum trading platform also…

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