At least the Netherlands, Ireland, Luxembourg and Malta did not join the hypocrisy by including anyone on their lists.

Last Wednesday the EU Commission published a list of 30 countries, including Barbados, that it describes as non-cooperative jurisdictions on tax matters. The list is designed to tar-and-feather these countries, to reduce their access to international development funds and so pressure them into abandoning their international financial centres. It is an act of gross discriminatory bullying that will become the modern definition of colonialism.
The Netherlands, Ireland and Luxembourg are under investigation by the EU Competition authorities for facilitating aggressive tax avoidance that formed the basis of their own international financial centres. These investigations followed the leaking of documents to journalists that showed Luxembourg had entered into 548 private tax rulings between 2009 and 2013 to allow 340 of the largest companies in the world to avoid paying taxes in EU countries. The companies included Pepsi, Amazon, Walt Disney, Procter & Gamble, Ikea, Heinz, Deutsche Bank and J. P. Morgan. Yet Luxembourg, Ireland and the Netherlands are not on the EU’s list.  Instead of tarring and feathering the countries with the greatest source of tax losses to the EU, they have chosen to be judge and jury over 30 small countries, powerless to defend themselves against wrongful accusations.
The mix of countries that have tax minimising regimes is not differentiated by large or small, rich or poor, black or white. But the EU list is. This kind of discriminatory bullying will serve to undermine international efforts to establish a level playing field on tax matters. Why should countries sign the OECD Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters, as many of the targeted countries have, if they still get tarred without any due process based around evidence, non-discrimination and other aspects of natural justice. It also fosters the very tax avoidance the EU claims to be trying to stop. Recall that the activities of Luxembourg, Ireland and Netherlands were common knowledge for decades but the EU was only compelled to investigate after the public outcry that followed press reports. Blatant discrimination doesn’t reduce tax avoidance; it shifts it. When Apple, Google and Starbucks want to avoid EU tax, they know where to go.
The EU’s actions would make Jack Warner blush: be thick in the middle of hundreds of deals avoiding billions of taxes, then accuse Niue, a Pacific island state with a GDP of $10m, as a major threat to the tax receipts of European governments. President of the EU Commission, Jean Claude Juncker was Prime Minister of Luxembourg when the tax deals were being developed. He has adopted the Warner defence: “I have nothing to reproach myself more than others would have to reproach themselves…” Incidentally, FIFA, is headquartered in Switzerland, another country that does not appear on the EU’s list. The EU is saying that Swiss activities are far less a threat to EU tax revenues than those that take place in Niue, Montserrat, Liberia, Vanatu, St. Vincent, St. Kitts and the Cook Islands. Do you know a more intellectually bankrupt idea?

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Where did Canada, Spain and Mexico go...

(Source: CNN via dadaviz)

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“We have this imminent bond-buying by the ECB -- at least that’s what everybody is expecting -- and if euro-zone yields are falling that makes Treasury yields relatively attractive, even at these rates,” said Philip Marey, a senior market economist at Rabobank Groep in Utrecht, the Netherlands.(link)
The current state of play for selected sovereign 10 year bonds (with a minor highlight added to the FT graphic):

A scant year ago 10 year Spanish, Italian and Irish credit was cheaper than the US equivalent. And that was at a time when Euro QE was already in the air and US inflation was stirring. Today they are all dearer with only the Grexit candidate and Portugal still on EU special offer.

Come Thursday a very material ECB QE programme will likely become a reality. Switzerland 10 years have already voted: it will mean too many euros in circulation (well, certainly for the Swiss economy).

But what do they know anyway? It's not like Switzerland is a country that is particularly innovative, competitive or even a nice place to live.

In less than 48 hours Mr Draghi will take a shot at spurring them to greater effort in these areas. A devaluation in one's largest export market will be a live demo of an economic tool Switzerland should long have considered weaving into its own set of sad, obsolete and tired economic policies.

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Journalistic risk in 2014

Thursday, January 08, 2015 | 0 comments »

Reporters Without Frontiers produced this report for 2014 on the dangers of practicing their metier around the globe. France joined the top 5 yesterday on a dark, dark day and in a shockingly dreadful manner.

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Merry Christmas from OPEC

Wednesday, December 24, 2014 | 0 comments »

Nice little graphic from the US Global Investors website:

(link here to article)

Whatever OPEC says there is a feeling that the pre-shale days are done. But perhaps more on that in the New Year.

Season's Greetings to All!

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Someone took the trouble to quantify what most owners of small French business structures (ie under 250 employees) have known for a long time: they are getting a seriously bad deal compared to, erm, just about every peer one can think of.

The following table comes from the Vernimmen site (Letter 128, December 2014) and compares a business reporting the same numbers (ie turnover of €20m) in France as compared to Germany:

One of the key underlying points is that the French system has much higher fixed social charges (line 13 and 3 times those of the Germany peer expressed as a percentage of profit after tax). And there is never any relief for these even in times of crisis and losses (as described in the final para). Layoff costs, for example, will be borne by the firm whereas in Germany they would not be.

But the authors do not simply moan about it. They offer four concrete suggestions to at least begin leveling the playing field. It is clear enough that peers, not only Germany but also those in Scandinavia, undermine the usual anti-capital arguments for soaking small businesses. It would be a bold step for an administration with not much more to lose to give the small business sector the shot in the arm it needs.

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Money can't buy happiness...

Thursday, November 20, 2014 | 0 comments »

...but a little bit helps.

If your browser does not display the graphic the full article is here.

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Two competing – but sometimes overlapping – approaches to relative value / pairs trading are to take either a fundamental ‘signal’ view based on changes to factors such as the accounts, the economy, the CFO’s penchant for recognizing revenue early and so on; and the ‘noise’ approach whereby the trader concentrates on the divergence in value of the instruments for reasons unrelated to changes in fundamental conditions.

Bloomberg occasionally publish pairs trading ideas in the first category. Like this one for HCN/SPG. One reading suggests that it is really a macroeconomic call using the pair as a proxy and the 10 year bond yield as a trigger.

Should pragmatism be a consideration, you may wonder how to avoid over-reliance on those analysts forecasts and GDP predictions cited when applying this idea (see prior blog or this from Larry Summers for why this might be a concern). Even the yield differential heralded as an advantage depends on how the trade is set up - money neutral vs beta neutral for example - thus potentially mitigating the joy of the headline.

But onto the history. Taking the 2001 and 2007 recessions as precedents, as the piece does, the trade would have made 16% over 8 months and 35% over 18 months respectively (on a dollar neutral basis). Outside of those rather difficult-to-time periods SPG has outperformed HCN by a wide margin since 2002 (this is shown on the Indexed Prices & Spread graph below).

Not bad. But 2 trade entry data points is not a trend.

The noise approach (here lend some rigour with cointegration) would have used far smaller holding times inside both those recessionary periods. Taking the August 2007 to March 2009 meltdown, for example, an uncomplicated strategy (backtest graph below) would have traded 4 times for a total gain of 17% (and an average return on capital invested per trade of 4.2%). The total holding period of 2 months means, once annualized, that ‘noise’ beat ‘signal’ by over 4 to 1.

Horses for courses - the ideal approach tends to combine both.

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Three econometricians are out hunting. They spot a stag. Given this is a story about economists let us assume it is a deaf stag.

The first econometrician aims, fires but misses to the left by a metre. The second econometrician takes aim, fires and also misses - but by a metre to the right. 

The third econometrician does not take aim or fire. Exultant, he cries out "Nailed it!"

Visually this joke appears thus:


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This from Goldman Sachs' Top of Mind Global Macro Research report of 25 Jun, 2014:

Although the detail within the GS report is balanced this shorter and sharper piece from the FT's Underground Economist distills the debate with no great loss of message.

(And that Professor Bloom paper the FT cites is here)

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