Venezuela devalues its currency by nearly half

AP | FEBRUARY 8, 2013

Venezuela’s government announced Friday that it is devaluing the country’s currency, a long-anticipated change expected to push up prices in the heavily import-reliant economy.

Officials said the fixed exchange rate is changing from 4.30 bolivars to the dollar to 6.30 bolivars to the dollar.

The devaluation had been widely expected by analysts in recent months, though experts had been unsure about whether the government would act while President Hugo Chavez remained out of sight in Cuba recovering from cancer surgery.

It was the first devaluation to be announced by Chavez’s government since 2010, and it brought down the official value of the bolivar by 46.5 percent against the dollar. By boosting the bolivar value of Venezuela’s dollar-denominated oil sales, the change is expected to help alleviate a difficult budget outlook for the government, which has turned increasingly to borrowing to meet its spending obligations.

Planning and Finance Minister Jorge Giordani said the new rate will take effect Wednesday, after the two-day holiday of Carnival. He said the old rate would still be allowed for some transactions that already were approved by the state currency agency.

Venezuela’s government has had strict currency exchange controls since 2003 and maintains a fixed, government-set exchange rate. Under the controls, people and businesses must apply to a government currency agency to receive dollars at the official rate to import goods, pay for travel or cover other obligations.

While those controls have restricted the amounts of dollars available at the official rate, an illegal black market has flourished and the value of the bolivar has recently been eroding. In black market street trading, dollars have recently been selling for more than four times the official exchange rate of 4.30 bolivars to the dollar.

The announcement came after the country’s Central Bank said annual inflation rose to 22.2 percent in January, up from 20.1 percent at the end of 2012.

The oil-exporting country, a member of OPEC, has consistently had Latin America’s highest officially acknowledged inflation rates in recent years. Spiraling prices have come amid worsening shortages of some staple foods, such as cornmeal, chicken and sugar.

Seeking to confront such shortages, the government last week announced plans to have the state oil company turn over more of its earnings in dollars to the Central Bank while reducing the amount injected into a fund used for various government programs and public works projects.

It was the fifth time that Chavez’s government has devalued the currency since establishing the currency exchange controls a decade ago in an attempt to combat capital flight.

Giordani said at a news conference that the government also decided to do away with a second-tier rate that has hovered around 5.30 bolivars to the dollar, through a bond market administered by the Central Bank. That rate had been granted to some businesses that hadn’t been able to obtain dollars at the official rate.

Central Bank President Nelson Merentes called that bond trading system, known by the acronym Sitme, “imperfect.”

“It doesn’t make much sense to keep a system that seeks the country’s debt to feed it,” Merentes said.

The government’s announcement drew strong criticism from opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who said that the government’s heavy spending was to blame for the situation and that officials were trying to slip the change past the public at the start of a long holiday weekend.

“They spent the money on campaigning, corruption, gifts abroad!” Capriles said in one of several messages on his Twitter account.

Capriles criticized Vice President Nicolas Maduro’s handling of the situation. Maduro, who was named by Chavez as his preferred successor before undergoing cancer surgery Dec. 11, has taken on more responsibilities and a higher profile during the president’s nearly two-month absence.

“They give Mr. Maduro a little more time in charge and he finishes with the country,” Capriles said. “Look at the inflation in January, and now the devaluation.”

 

Brazil Central Bank cuts GDP growth forecast

AFP | DECEMBER 20, 2012

Brazil’s Central Bank on Thursday cut its GDP growth forecast for 2012 from 1.6 percent to 1 per cent, confirming a marked slowdown in Latin America’s biggest economy.

In September, the Bank had already revised its forecast downward from 2.5 percent to 1.6 percent.

Thursday, the bank also revised its inflation estimate for 2012 to 5.7 percent, up from 5.2 percent. The new projection is well above the official target of 4.5 percent.

Market analysts have been predicting 1.5 percent GDP growth for Brazil this year, a projection similar to one by the International Monetary Fund in October.

The IMF also expects Brazil to fare worse than its partners in the BRICS bloc of emerging powers, predicting 7.8 percent growth for China, 4.9 percent for India, 3.7 percent for Russia and 2.6 percent for South Africa.

Brazil’s economy grew just 0.6 percent in the third quarter of 2012 compared with the previous three months, signaling a weaker than anticipated recovery, the Brazilian statistics office said late last month.

The economy lost steam last year due to the global slowdown, with GDP growth at 2.7 percent, down from a sizzling 7.5 percent in 2010.

Greek Economy Getting into a Deeper Hole

By GEORGE GEORGIOPOULOS | REUTERS | APRIL 24, 2012

Greek GDP to slump 5 pct in 2012. Current account gap to shrink to 7.5 pct of GDP. Inflation seen at 1.2 pct in 2012. Strict adherence to reforms urged.

Greece’s economy will contract a deeper than expected 5 percent this year, the country’s central bank chief said on Tuesday, piling more pressure on to a citizenry already battered by crippling austerity and record joblessness.

The projection topped a previous forecast the central bank made in March, when it projected the 215 billion euro economy would contract 4.5 percent after a 6.9 percent slump in 2011.

Twice bailed-out Greece is in its fifth consecutive year of recession.

Speaking to shareholders at the central bank’s annual assembly, George Provopoulos, also a European Central Bank Governing Council member, urged strict adherence to reform and fiscal adjustment commitments Greece has agreed with its euro zone partners, saying they were needed to return the economy to sustainable growth.

Athens is under pressure to apply more fiscal austerity to shore up its finances as part of a new rescue package agreed this year with its euro zone partners and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to avert a chaotic default.

Its continued funding under the 130 billion euro package will hinge on meeting targets.

Provopoulos warned that Greece’s euro zone membership was at stake if it failed to follow through on its pledges, especially after national elections next month.

“If following the election doubts emerge about the new government and society’s will to implement the programme, the current favourable prospects will reverse,” he said.

Greece is set to pick a new government on May 6, with the two main parties in the current coalition seen barely securing a majority in parliament, according to the latest opinion polls.

Whoever wins will have to agree additional spending cuts of 5.5 percent of GDP, or worth about 11 billion euros for 2013-2014, and gather about another 3 billion from better tax collection to keep getting aid, the IMF has said.

IMPROVING COMPETITIVENESS

The central banker projected Greece’s current account gap, a key indicator reflecting eroded economic competitiveness, would shrink to 7.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) this year from 9.8 percent in 2011. In March the central bank forecast the gap would drop to 7 percent of GDP this year.

“The expected drop in unit labour costs in 2012-13, coupled with the projected price trends will lead to a marked improvement in competitiveness, contributing to a rise in exports and import substitution,” he said.

Consumer inflation is seen slowing to 1.2 percent this year and may fall below 0.5 percent in 2013. Weak domestic demand combined with downward wage pressures have shrunk the country’s inflation differential with other euro zone states.

The central bank estimates that by the end of this year the economy will have regained up to three quarters of competitiveness lost during 2001-09. Greece joined the euro in 2001 and enjoyed a consumption boom on lower borrowing costs.

Provopoulos said the fiscal shortfall had come down markedly but remained high. Last year Greece shrank its budget gap by 1.2 percentage points to 9.1 percent of GDP and aims for a 6.7 percent deficit this year.

Austerity measures including income and property tax increases, a rise in value-added tax rates and cuts in wages and pensions, helped reduce the gap from 15.6 percent of GDP in 2009, when its debt crisis erupted.

“The sought attainment of primary surpluses from 2013 is now achievable,” the central banker said.

Provopoulos also said private sector bank deposits had declined by more than 70 billion euros since the end of 2009, a sum equivalent to about one third of the country’s GDP, in a blow to the banking sector’s lending capacity.

Russia will continue to lower its U.S. Holdings

WSJ
June 20, 2011

Russia will likely continue lowering its U.S. debt holdings as Washington struggles to contain a budget deficit and bolster a tepid economic recovery, a top aide to President Dmitry Medvedev said Saturday.

“The share of our portfolio in U.S. instruments has gone down and probably will go down further,” said Arkady Dvorkovich, chief economic aide to the president, told Dow Jones in an interview on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Russian holdings of U.S. Treasury securities fell to $125.4 billion in April 2011 from $176.3 billion in October 2010, Treasury Department data showed.

Asked if U.S. debt was as solid an investment now as it was 10 years ago, Mr. Dvorkovich said: “On an absolute basis, yes. On a relative basis, compared to other investments, of course not.”

“When we take decisions and compare, we’re not thinking in absolute terms,” he said.

Russia’s financial reserves—which stood at $528 billion as of June 10—are the world’s third largest, after China and Japan’s. As of May, according to Russia’s central bank, 47% of reserves were in dollars and 41% in euros, compared with 45.2% in dollars and 43.1% in euros on Jan. 1.

The central bank recently diversified the stash to include the Canadian dollar, which makes up 1% of the total, and plans to put 0.8% into the Australian dollar starting in September.

End the FED: Take Two… The Strength of Two Pauls

The globalist elite will have to deal with two Pauls; one in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate.

Reuters

Republican Representative Ron Paul on Thursday said he will push to examine the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy decisions if he takes control of the congressional subcommittee that oversees the central bank as expected in January.

“I think they’re way too independent. They just shouldn’t have this power,” Paul, a longtime Fed critic, said in an interview with Reuters. “Up until recently it has been modest but now it’s totally out of control.”

Paul is currently the top Republican on the House of Representatives subcommittee that oversees domestic monetary policy, and is likely to head the panel when Republicans take control of the chamber in January.

That could create a giant headache for the Fed, which earlier this year fended off an effort headed by Paul to open up its internal deliberations on interest rates and monetary easing to congressional scrutiny.

Paul, who has written a book called “End the Fed,” has been a fierce critic of the central bank’s efforts to boost the economy through monetary policy.

“It’s an outrage, what is happening, and the Congress more or less has not said much about it,” he said.

Paul said his subcommittee would also push to examine the country’s gold reserves and highlight the views of economists who believe that economic downturns are caused by bad monetary policy, not the vagaries of the free market.

Global organizations like the International Monetary Fund also will come under scrutiny, he said.

“Eventually we’re going to have monetary reform. I do not believe the dollar can be the reserve standard of the world,” said Paul, who has called for returning the United States to a currency backed by gold or silver.

Many economists say that the Fed’s decisive actions during the 2008 financial crisis prevented the deep recession that followed from turning into a depression. But grassroots outrage over the bank bailouts and other Fed actions helped propel many Republican candidates to victory in Tuesday’s congressional elections — including Paul’s son, Rand Paul, who will represent Kentucky in the Senate.

“With a lot of new members coming and the problems getting worse rather better, there’s going to be a lot more people who are going to be looking for answers,” Paul said.