Greek Party Syriza’s Rise Fueled by Professors-Turned-Politicians

“Mr. Lapavitsas describes the party’s platform as ‘a Keynesian program with redistribution attached, with some Marxist view of the world.’ He adds: ‘We are not ashamed of that.’  In the tradition of John Maynard Keynes, Syriza advocates public spending to reignite economic growth. Greece can afford to spend more if some of its debt is forgiven by other countries.  Nikolaos Chountis, a Syriza candidate in Athens, ticks off the party’s spending priorities: food and electricity subsidies for impoverished households, a pension boost for the poorest retirees, a hike in the minimum wage and tax cuts for low earners.”

Russia Adds to World’s Fifth-Biggest Gold Reserves for 9th Month

Russia is showing no signs of slowing gold purchases as the fifth-biggest holder boosted reserves for a ninth month.  The country’s gold reserves rose to about 38.8 million ounces as of Jan. 1 from 38.2 million ounces a month earlier, the central bank said today on its website. It’s the longest stretch of monthly increases since August 2013, data from the International Monetary Fund show.  Russia has more than tripled its gold hoard since 2005 and holds the most since at least 1993, even as it recently had to use its international reserves to defend the ruble.  The precious metal accounts for about 11 percent of Russia’s total foreign reserves, according to the London-based World Gold Council.”

Jim Rogers On Putin, Oil Prices, And A 26-Year-Old’s Advantage

“To Russia’s credit, Russia has not been sitting around supporting the ruble in any big way. My view of markets is you let them clean themselves out, let the system find a clearing price. To my astonishment, the Russians are being more capitalist than the Western capitalists. They are letting the currency find its own bottom. That will change soon. It will find its own bottom, and then Russia will be a good place to invest.  I was bearish on Russia for 46 years. I went to Russia in 1966 and came away with the idea that this will not work; this cannot work. And only in the last couple of years have I realized that something was going on and changing at the Kremlin.”

Iceland capital controls to be lifted this year

“Initially the controls were only meant to last for a relatively short period of time but have now been in place for over six years.  A large amount of capital, up to 900 billion Icelandic kronur (ISK) according to a report from the finance ministry, is likely to leave the country, since around 95 percent of the banks creditors are foreign.  According to [a newspaper] there has been talk about somehow forcing the exchange of offshore currency and implementing an exit tax of around 35 percent on all transfers out of the country.  Although it is not yet clear what measures will be taken, the prime minister has promised that it will not involve further financial burden for Icelanders, many of whom lost their life savings.”

Soros’ Miraculous Escape From Being Crushed By Swiss National Bank

“Soros Fund Management, which manages more than $25 billion for investor George Soros, was betting against the Swiss franc in the fall before it removed those bearish positions.  Why did the Soros so conveniently take off a bet which, with leverage, could have resulted in massive losses for his hedge fund? The WSJ says he did so after ‘viewing the risk as too high relative to potential gains, said people close to the matter.’ Well as long as ‘people close’ think Soros did not have input directly from the Swiss central bank, or perhaps the occasional hint from Kashya Hildebrand, then one can’t help but marvel at the octogenarian’s impeccable timing.”

Saxo Bank faces £70m losses after Swiss currency turmoil

“Just over a week ago, the Swiss National Bank shocked markets by announcing that, with immediate effect, it would no longer fix its currency – the franc – against the euro.  That led to a surge in the value of the franc against the euro, at one point by 30%.  It also caught some currency brokers by surprise – many of whose customers could not afford to settle their accounts.  The broker Alpari UK, which sponsors West Ham United football club, collapsed into administration as a result, while IG Index said its potential losses were £30m.  Now the Danish-controlled Saxo bank said that its losses could reach about £70m.”

ECB unveils massive QE boost for eurozone

“The European Central Bank (ECB) will inject at least €1.1 trillion (£834bn) into the ailing eurozone economy.  The ECB will buy €60bn bonds each month from banks until the end of September 2016, or even longer, in what is called quantitative easing (QE).  QE in theory increases the supply of money, something that keeps interest rates low and encourages borrowing and therefore spending.  The news sent the euro to an 11-year low against the against the US dollar.  The ECB also said it would keep eurozone interest rates at 0.05%, a record low.  Mr Draghi said the programme would be conducted ‘until we see a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation’.”

Bank of Japan Cuts Inflation Forecast, Maintains Record Stimulus

“Japan’s central bank cut its inflation forecast and kept its unprecedented monetary easing unchanged as tumbling oil prices handicap efforts to reflate the world’s third-biggest economy.  The Bank of Japan will increase the monetary base at an annual pace of 80 trillion yen ($674 billion), it said in a statement Wednesday in Tokyo, as forecast by all 33 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. The BOJ lowered its core inflation projection to 1 percent for the fiscal year starting in April, from 1.7 percent.  Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said the drop in oil could delay inflation reaching the BOJ’s 2 percent target next fiscal year while economists see a risk of prices falling briefly this summer.”

Fed Officials Reassess Rate Normalization Amid Global Weakness

“Federal Reserve officials are starting to reassess their outlook for the economy as global weakness and disappointing data on American consumer spending test their resolve to raise interest rates this year.  Plunging yields on U.S. Treasury debt are sending conflicting signals about the outlook for the world’s largest economy: on the one hand, they reflect stronger demand for U.S. assets as growth elsewhere falters. On the other hand, they may portend further downward pressure on inflation.”

Hedge Fund Manager Blows $60M Of Clients’ Money in Three Weeks

“Canarsie Capital has a grim message for clients: ‘a series of transactions over the last several weeks that have resulted in the loss of all but two hundred thousand dollars.’  Juliet Chung and Susan Pulliam report that Canarsie, named for the east Brooklyn neighborhood, told clients on Tuesday that the $60 million hedge fund lost all but $200,000 of its assets in about three weeks. Owen Li, a 28-year old former Galleon Fund Management trader, reportedly ran the firm with Kenneth deRegt, former head of risk management at Morgan Stanley.  The Journal reports that Canarsie’s prime broker repeatedly expressed concerns about the firm’s risk-taking.”