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16 February 2013

Press review 16-02-2013

Today's theme is the so called currency war. I've written regularly on this issue through the years, notably during the time of TheOilDrum:Europe. The international monetary system we have these days was the result of a gentlemen's agreement made at the New York Plaza Hotel back in 1985. When OPEC lost control of oil prices, in the 2004-2008 period, an essential pillar of this system was rocked. There are many more gentlemen at the table now, and with very different goals and perspectives on the world economy. Some sort of new agreement must be reached, but it is not at all evident how it can be beneficial for all the parties involved. Meanwhile, the competitive devaluation that the Plaza Accord put an end to is definitely back.

CNBC
Global Currency War Could Get Nastier: Brazil
11-02-2013

The global "currency war" could get even worse if Europe joins the fray, says the man widely credited with coining the term.

Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega told Reuters European countries should focus on reviving their economies with more investments, rather than trying to weaken the euro to protects jobs as France has suggested ahead of next week's meeting of G20 economic powers.
This currency war shows that the austerity policies in experiment in Europe in the current setting are not only unsuccessful but even naive. Our 'twiner member state, so far a champion of austerity, seems bound to jump ship and embrace inflation.
CNBC
Inflation Is Coming: Bank of England
13-02-2013

Inflation in the U.K. will remain above target for the next two years, Bank of England Governor Mervyn King warned on Wednesday, but tightening monetary policy was not the solution as it could push the economy deeper into recession.

Sterling fell to a 6-month low against the dollar as Mervyn King spoke at a press conference following an inflation report released by the central bank. Against the euro, sterling has tumbled nearly 6 percent so far this year and King said the uptick in inflation will reflect this recent depreciation.
So far the EPP leaders have kept their poker face on the strengthening euro; we'll see how far they can take their bluff. In the Bolivarian Americas the cards are on the table.
Aljazeera
Venezuela devalues currency against US dollar
09-02-2013

Bolivar loses 32 percent of its value against the dollar in move the government hopes will shrink the deficit.

Venezuela is devaluing its currency by 32 percent against the dollar on the orders of President Hugo Chavez, in part to reduce the country's budget deficit.

The bolivar will go from 4.3 to the dollar to 6.3 at the official exchange rate. The move was announced on Friday by Jorge Giordani, planning and finance minister, who said it will take effect on Wednesday.
And then there's that proverbial elephant:
CNSNews.com
Fed Has Bought More U.S. Gov’t Debt This Year Than Treasury Has Issued
By Terence P. Jeffrey, 07-02-2013

(CNSNews.com) - So far this calendar year, the Federal Reserve has bought up more U.S. government debt than the U.S. Treasury has issued.

On Dec. 31, the total debt of the U.S. government was $16.4327 trillion and then-Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner announced that the government had hit what was then the legal debt limit. Last week, however, Congress enacted a law to suspend the federal government debt limit until May 18, 2013, and allow the administration to resume increasing the debt.

By the close of business on Wednesday, Feb. 6, according to the U.S. Treasury, the total federal debt had climbed to $16.4799 trillion—an increase of $47.2 billon for the calendar year.
Internal politics in Iran is heating up ahead of the June election for the executive. Apparently, president Ahmadinejad has managed to acquire a power advantage over Supreme Leader Khamenei, an unprecedented political setting in the Islamic Republic. Too soon to know the impact on the election or on foreign relations thereafter, but one thing seems certain, it will be a decisive moment for Iran and its people.
Inter Press Service
Khamenei Looks Off-Balance After Dramatic Week
Yasaman Baji, 12-02-2013

Last week’s dramatic and very public display of deep fissures among the leading politicians of Iran has left many here wondering if the conflict will escalate into an all-out war among various political factions in the run-up to the presidential election in June.

While everyone considers Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to be the only official powerful enough to prevent such infighting from getting out of hand, confidence that he will indeed do so has been shaken.

Politics in the Islamic Republic has always been raucous and full of surprises, but what happened last week was in many ways unprecedented.
Still on the Energy field, news from the Netherlands point to an early end for Slochteren, the largest gas field in the North Sea. It's all the way down for natural gas in Europe now, at least from conventional deposits.
Bloomberg
Earthquakes Hit Gas-Rich Groningen Province in Netherlands

The Dutch province of Groningen, which sits on the Slochteren natural gas deposit, was hit by two earthquakes as pressure grows on Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Exxon Mobil Corp. to cut output amid forecasts for heavier temblors.

Two quakes measuring 3.2 and 2.7 on the Richter scale struck the area just before midnight and in the early morning today, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, or KNMI, said in a statement on its website. The village of Zandeweer, 200 kilometers (124 miles) northeast of Amsterdam, was at the epicenter, according to the KNMI.

[...]

The strength of earthquakes triggered by gas production in the region may rise to 5 on the Richter scale, according to a study released last month by the State Supervision of Mining at the Ministry of Economic Affairs. An Aug. 16 quake last year, measuring 3.4, damaged the property of about 2,500 people. The biggest earthquake ever in the Netherlands hit the southern province of Limburg in 1992, reaching 5.8 on the scale.
On the technology front I read for the first time a thorough review of the new Tesla Model S, the first sedan by the still young electric car maker. While there is innovation all around in many details, on the concept as a whole Tesla still seems trying to make electric cars like they had combustion engines. I'm sceptical such approach will ever scale up to the masses.
The Verge
Going the distance: driving the Tesla Model S in the real world
Chris Ziegler 12-02-2013

It’s difficult to get comfortable in the driver’s seat of a $100,000 car that isn’t yours.

The particular Model S I flew to Los Angeles to sample last week was a Signature Performance model. That means that it was one of the first 1,000 to roll off the assembly line (indicated by the “Signature” designation) and is fitted with a high-output electric inverter that can propel the car from 0 to 60 in just 4.4 seconds, a key metric that slots it in with some of the fastest production sedans in the world. It’s a stat I would come to test on numerous occasions over the following 36 hours — within the bounds of the “no street racing” clause I agreed to upon taking delivery, of course.

But I arrived in LA fully expecting to hate this modern marvel of a car. I was raised in Detroit, the son of a woman who has worked at General Motors for nearly half a century. Tesla’s emergence was, perhaps, a little uncomfortable for someone who’d grown up surrounded by the infallible Big Three. I felt a little bit like former Palm CEO Ed Colligan in his infamous (and ill-fated) takedown of the iPhone: “they’re not just going to walk in,” I thought. The regulatory and financial hurdles are enormous just to make a single terrible car, let alone a good one that people will actually want to buy.

That's all for this week. Shéine weekend.