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What’s Important in the Financial World 17 Feb 2012
Moody’s made a series of announcements about the possible downgrades of a number of banks and financial firms, mostly due to exposure to financial trouble in Europe. The warning included banks in 16 European nations, as well as 17 financial firms “with global capital markets operations based on our assessment that their longer-term profitability and growth prospects have weakened.” All totaled, the number of companies with credit ratings at risk is above 100. This the extent to which banks cannot be separated from the sovereign debt trouble within the countries where they are headquartered, or even within nations in which they do business, even if they are headquartered elsewhere. Moody’s comments are also one of the first public admissions that some U.S. banks have exposure to Europe, despite the statements of some of their CEOs to the contrary.
Apple’s Trouble in China
The dispute between Proview Technology (Shenzhen) and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) over trademark issues has prompted more Chinese vendors to stop selling the iPad. At first, the problem was only apparent in a few Chinese cities. But it seems to spread by the day. Apple has said the Chinese market is essential to its growth. Sales of iPhones and iPads across the world are remarkably strong, but the Chinese internet and 3G markets are so large that Apple would be at a disadvantage compared to its competitors if it is locked out of the People’s Republic in any way. A potential lock out has begun.
Nestle Sales Gain
Nestle is the world’s largest food company. So its financial figures should be a reasonable proxy for consumer activity across the world. If that is the case, the consumer economy, poor for so long, has begun to recover. Nestle said that its sales grew 7.4% in 2011. Nestle expects so-called organic sales growth in 2012 to meet its target of 5% to 6%, after beating that range in 2010 and 2011, according to Bloomberg. The consumer, it seems, has at least a little money in his pocket.
Greek “Bottomless Pit”
The Greek soap opera continued for another day. Rumors that eurozone ministers might change bailout terms again swept across the financial markets. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble called Greece a “bottomless pit,” which is true to the extent that it still spends more than it can afford in part because of the rapid contraction of its GDP. Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos accused some of his peers of acting to push Greece out of the eurozone without admitting their plans in public. Against this exciting background is the fact that Greece has not proven its commitment to austerity as much as its neighbors would like. And its neighbors are tired of looking for the proof.
Douglas A. McIntyre
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