I wasn’t really sure what to call this post, because “Keeping It Current” seems outdated, and I’m trying something new. The good news: I finally worked out how to use the Reuters website, which turned out to be remarkably easy.
So here is the new(s) and improved summary of last week:
- Amplats finally hit back at AMCU, that most annoying of annoying unions, by suing them for R600 million in damages (for being a general annoyance). AMCU, which has been on a recruiting parade among South African platinum miners, seems to feel like it can do and demand anything without any need to pay attention to Labour Law. How I dislike Trade Unions.
- Carl Icahn decided to stop pestering Apple about a buyback plan, declaring himself content with Apple’s progress to date. He did accuse them of “bailing with a leaky bucket” in his bow-out letter, which seems like an unfair parting shot. But when you’re attempting to force something, and everyone else seems against you, I suppose you’re allowed to indulge in a little bitterness.
- Carl Icahn also thinks that Glass Steagal should come back, although his “banker friends may hate [him] for it”. For those interested in Glass Steagal, it came up here: The Subprime Mortgage Crisis.
- Bitcoin exchanges have been halting withdrawals all over the place. The Mt. Gox exchange started the ball rolling on Monday, with a 27% plunge in bitcoin’s value and a statement about “a bug in the bitcoin software”. Bitstamp followed suit the following day. It apparently involves someone being able to persuade the network that a transaction had not gone through when it had. I realise that sounds like a small deal – but having spent a fair amount of time lately reading the technical work on bitcoin software, it’s the equivalent of someone discovering how to counterfeit bitcoin. Albeit in a small way.
- Barclays profits were down 25%. But it increased the bonus pool by 10%, saying that it needs to retain American bankers in a competitive market. Who knew that there was such a demand for bankers? Everyone else has been saying that investment banking is dead…
- And Barclays Africa also did better, after “a sharp drop in bad debt charges”. According to Reuters, this shows that the bank’s tighter lending practices are paying off. Or, you know, they just did a clean slate write-off last year, and they haven’t had enough time to accumulate those same levels of non-performing loans…
- The Debt Ceiling was raised by the House of Representatives without foolishness.
- George Osbourne warns Scotland that it can’t keep the pound if it breaks away. Scotland’s independence referendum takes place in September.
- Comcast announced a takeover bid for Time Warner Cable, which would see the two largest cable companies combine. Watchdogs (such a journalistic term!) immediately started calling for the deal to be stopped by the antitrust folk, using words like “giant”, “monolith” and “an unjustifiable monopoly”.
- The Pacific Alliance signs a deal to scrap most of the tariffs on trading between them. The Pacific Alliance comprises Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico. I’m not always a fan of free trade – but this seems to be a deal between more equal partners (that’s the way it looks). So keeping Latin American goods cheap in Latin America should, at least, benefit Latin Americans.
- Mark Carney is scrambling the Bank of England’s “forward guidance” policy. The general idea behind forward guidance is as follows: with interest rates near zero, there’s not much that a Central Bank can do to be stimulative (other than print money). But perhaps instead of that, they could, like, persuade people that they’re going to keep interest rates near zero for longer than they need to? So the BoE made that commitment by saying “we’ll keep interest rates near zero as long as unemployment remains above 7%”. Well, something must have worked, because unemployment in Britain is now dangerously close to 7% (it’s 7.1%). Only, Mr Carney didn’t expect it to happen so quickly, so now the BoE has returned to say “Sorry, ignore what we said about unemployment – we’ll increase interest rates when we feel like it.”
- Janet Yellen made her first appearance as the Federal Reserve chair. According to everyone, she kept her cool, despite much heckling from the Congressional crowd.