Archive for the ‘Finance’ Category

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Every time you go to a new doctor or dentist and they give you a clipboard brimming with documents to fill out and sign, notice how they always ask for your Social Security number? Do you dutifully give it up? Did you ever wonder if they really need it?

I once asked a doctor why he wanted it. His response: “I don’t really know. I guess it’s because we’ve always asked for it.” (In actuality, most doctors ask in case your insurance doesn’t pay the entire invoice and/or to fill out a death certificate if you die. Offer a next of kin who knows the number instead, and your phone number for billing issues.)

Almost every day somebody asks for your Social Security Number and, like the Grand Marshal of a parade throwing rose petals or candy to the crowd, you probably give it up without giving it a second thought — because that’s what you’ve always done.

So, the next time someone asks you for your Social Security number, reflect on this: In December, the Army announced that hackers stole the Social Security numbers of 36,000 visitors to Fort Monmouth in New Jersey, including intelligence officers. Cyber activists took control of the CIA’s website. The private information, including some Social Security numbers, of celebrities and political leaders including FBI Director Robert Mueller and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were exposed.

The sensitive data of First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder, recently were posted on a website for the world to see. (more…)

North Korea issues more threats, the Vatican defends the pope’s feet-washing, and more in our round-up of stories that are making news and driving opinion….

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North Korea has said it is entering a “state of war” with South Korea in its latest escalation of rhetoric against its southern neighbour and the U.S. A statement promised “stern physical actions” against “any provocative act.” North Korea has threatened attacks almost daily after it was sanctioned for a third nuclear test in February. It has also reacted angrily to annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises. The U.S. has condemned the North’s “bellicose rhetoric”, while China and Russia have called for an easing of tensions. North and South Korea have technically been at war since the armed conflict between them ended in 1953, because an armistice was never turned into a peace treaty. [BBC]


On Good Friday, the Vatican dismissed criticism of Pope Francis’ decision to wash the feet of two women during a Maundy Thursday Mass at a Rome youth prison. The move came under fire from Catholic traditionalists who say that the rite is a re-enactment of Jesus washing the feet of the 12 apostles before his death, and thus should be limited only to men. Traditionally, popes have washed the feet of 12 priests during a solemn Mass in Rome’s St. John Lateran Basilica. A 1988 letter from the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship states that only “chosen men” can be admitted to the foot-washing ceremony, but including women in the rite is a widespread practice in the United States and elsewhere. This is Pope Francis’ first Easter celebrations as pontiff. [Washington Post]

The nation’s top business and labor groups are nearing agreement on a guest worker program for low-skilled immigrants, according to officials involved in the talks. An agreement between the labor and business communities would clear one of the last hurdles for an overall deal on immigration legislation in the Senate, which the bipartisan group hopes to introduce early next month. The United States Chamber of Commerce and the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the nation’s main federation of labor unions, have been in discussions parallel to those of the Senate group, and have reached a tentative agreement about the size and scope of a temporary guest worker program, which would grant up to 200,000 new visas annually for low-skilled workers. [New York Times]

Rescuers in Tanzania’s capital, Dar es Salaam, continued to search for survivors under a mountain of concrete and twisted metal Friday night following the collapse of a high-rise building. At least four people were dead and 60 missing after the 16-story building under construction collapsed, government and emergency officials said. Five children are believed to be among the missing. In addition to the deaths, at least 17 people were injured, said Suleiman Kova, a regional police commander. The Tanzanian Red Cross said rescue efforts would continue through the night. But the group also expressed relief, saying that casualty figures could have been far higher, but the streets were relatively empty of vendors and shoppers due to a holiday. [CNN]


Unemployment rates fell in 22 U.S. states in February, a sign that hiring gains are benefiting many parts of the country. The Labor Department said Friday that unemployment rates rose in 12 states and were unchanged in 16. Nationally, the unemployment rate slid to a four-year low of 7.7 percent in February, down from 7.9 percent in January. Since November, employers across the country have added an average of 200,000 jobs a month, nearly double the average from last spring. States hit hardest during the recession, like Nevada and Florida, are showing improvement. One reason for the big drop is that people have stopped applying for jobs, but hiring accelerated, too. Overall, 42 states added jobs in February from January, and just eight lost jobs. The biggest monthly job gains came in Texas (up nearly 81,000) and California (up more than 41,000). [TIME]

A study just published in the Journal of Pediatrics found no correlation between autism and increasing antigen number through completion of the vaccine schedule up to age 2. The study, led by Frank DeStefano, was funded by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This topples one of the key pillars of  the “vaccines cause autism” argument, which is that the increase in the number of childhood vaccines over the years has increased autism prevalence. The twist in the study is that the children studied were born from 1994 to 1999, during a time when a single shot could contain more than 3,000 of the molecules that fire up the immune system. Today’s vaccine-related antigen exposure is considerably less. [Forbes]

A Navy SEAL died following a parachute training accident, a Naval Special Warfare Command spokesman told ABC News on Friday evening. The SEAL, a senior chief, was participating in a routine free-fall training exercise at the USSOCOM Parachute Testing and Training Facility at Pinal Airpark in Arizona on Thursday when he, along with another SEAL, a petty first class officer, was injured, according to a Defense Department Official. The two men were evacuated to the University of Arizona Medical Center, where one of the SEALs died, according to the Naval Special Warfare Command spokesman. His family has been notified of the death. The second SEAL was in stable condition, a Department of Defense official said. The cause of the accident has not been officially determined, pending further investigation. [ABC News]

A grand jury Friday indicted Beverly L. Hall, the former superintendent of the Atlanta School District, on racketeering and other charges, bringing a dramatic new chapter to one of the largest cheating scandals in the country. The grand jury also indicted 34 teachers and administrators in addition to Dr. Hall, who resigned in 2011 just before results of an investigation into the scandal was released. Hall could face up to 45 years in prison. Fulton County prosecutors painted a picture of a decade-long conspiracy that involved awarding bonuses connected to improving scores on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, the state’s main test of core academic subjects for elementary and middle schools, and a culture where, in some schools, cheating was an acceptable way to get them. [New York Times]


Facebook will reportedly introduce a modified version of Google’s Android operating system. This version of Android will reportedly put Facebook front and center and will debut on a handset made by HTC. “Imagine Facebook’s integration with iOS 6, but on steroids, and built by Facebook itself,” says TechCrunch‘s Josh Constine. “It could have a heavy reliance on Facebook’s native apps like Messenger, easy social sharing from anywhere on the phone, and more.” [NBC News]

The Obama administration proposed new regulations Friday to clean up gasoline and automobile emissions, claiming the new standards would provide $7 in health benefits from cleaner air for each dollar spent to implement them. The costs likely would be passed on to consumers in higher gasoline and automobile prices. The EPA said the new rule would reduce sulfur in gasoline and tighten automobile emission standards beginning in 2017, resulting in an increase in gas prices of less than a penny per gallon. The agency estimated it also would add $130 to the cost of a vehicle in 2025, but predicted it would yield billions of dollars in health benefits by slashing smog- and soot-forming pollution. The oil industry, Republicans, and some Democrats wanted EPA to delay the rule, citing higher costs. An oil industry study says it could increase gasoline prices by 6 to 9 cents a gallon. [TIME]

Anger as Amazon introduces punishing fee hikes for the third-party traders who generate millions for the online giant
  • Small traders selling DVDs and tyres through Amazon among those affected
  • UK sellers offering electronic accessories will see fees rise from 7% to 12%
  • Hikes imposed amid concern over growing dominance of internet giant
  • Two million third-party traders across the globe use Amazon
  • Pre-Christmas 2012 two in five items bought on site were sold by third party

Small traders who sell their products through Amazon are facing potentially crippling fee hikes set to be imposed by the internet giant.

Third-party traders selling items like electronic accessories, automotive parts and tyres through the website will see fees soar – rising as high as 15% in some cases.

Sellers who use the world’s biggest online retailer to reach customers – and collectively generate huge amounts of business for Amazon – have reacted with dismay to the increases, with some traders suggesting the added financial burden could see their businesses fold completely.

Dominance: The world's biggest internet retailer is imposing punishing fee increases on small traders who sell their goods through the websiteDominance: The world’s biggest internet retailer is imposing punishing fee increases on small traders who sell their goods through the website

‘We don’t know if this will push us under,’ one anonymous UK trader has said of the hikes.

Vendor fees on electronic goods such as headphones and memory cards will go up from seven per cent to 12 per cent for the busiest UK-based traders from 4 April, according to a report in the Guardian.

Amazon is introducing fee increases for third-party vendors

Fees for UK traders using Amazon to sell automotive parts will go up from 12 per cent to 15 per cent.

For German sellers offering tyres through the site, fees will rise from seven per cent to 10 per cent after the Easter weekend, while seller fees for French traders offering DVDs, music and video games on Amazon will go up from 10 per cent to 15 per cent.

Small traders in the UK using the site to sell automotive parts will see fees go from 12 per cent to 15 per cent.

Traders have reacted with fury to the hikes, becoming the latest group to rail against the seemingly unstoppable rise of the online giant, which has already been accused of placing the future of the high street book shop in jeopardy. As independent bookshops continue to close at an alarming rate, Amazon credited e-book sales for Christmas sales of £13.5billion in 2012.

At the end of 2012 the ‘tax scrimping’ retailer was branded ‘immoral’ after it emerged its UK arm had recorded a pre-tax profit of £74million the previous year – but paid just £1.8million in tax.

Third-party traders play a significant role in the online business, with two million globally selling through Amazon. In the pre-Christmas period in 2012, two in five items bought on Amazon were sold by third-party traders.

Growing: Traders are the latest group to express concern at the seemingly unstoppable rise of the online giant, which has already been accused of jeopardising the future of the high street book shopGrowing: Traders are the latest group to express concern at the seemingly unstoppable rise of the online giant, which has already been accused of jeopardising the future of the high street book shop

Another British trader – who generates in excess of £1million in sales through Amazon – said the increases had prompted him to switch his attention to eBay, which he said offered a less costly means of doing business.

The seller said eBay also passed on payments to traders quickly, while Amazon holds on to payments for two to three weeks.

‘It’s a huge strain on a small business not being able to access cash we’re owed from Amazon. And they’re making an absolute fortune in interest.’

The traders who spoke out against Amazon did so on condition of anonymity amid concern over how the retailer would respond.

Similar increases came into effect in the U.S. in January.

Amazon has not commented on the reaction to the fee increases.


In less than 20 years Amazon has gone from an online bookstore run from founder Jeff Bezos’s garage, to the world’s biggest online retailer.

One of the first big firms to start selling goods over the internet, Amazon rapidly diversified adding DVDs, CDs and video games to its online offering, along with clothes, furniture and toys.

Today the Seattle-based firm generates billions in profits and has separate websites in the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan and China.

The popularity of ebooks is key to the success of the online giant, and Amazon reported record revenues at the start of the year in a clear indication of the continued mass migration of shoppers from the high street to the web.

It racked up sales of £13.5bn in the fourth quarter of 2012, up from £10bn in the same period of the previous year. Kindle e-book sales -up a whopping 70 per cent – were credited for the surge in profits.

Overall sales were up by 22 per cent, driven by the popularity of Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet.

The IMF said it will not be able to make a final decision on its contribution to funding Cyprus’ bailout before the end of April, which threatens to delay the country receiving the aid.


• No final decision on Cyprus 
• Banks have reopened after nearly two weeks, crowds calm
• Draconian capital controls unveiled
• Transactions within Cyprus to be ‘unaffected’ under controls
• Cyprus central bank fires Bank of Cyprus chief
• Cyprus in ‘superhuman effort’ to re-open banks on Thursday


22.11 That’s where we leave our Live Blog for today. Thanks for reading.

20.50 The Cypriot Church has won an injuction to avoid being wiped out in the bailout, CNBC reports.

20.05 In the US, the S&P 500 has closed at an all-time high of 1,569.11, up 0.4pc on the day. The Dow ended trading at 14,578.54 up 0.4pc, while the Nasdaq rose 0.3pc to 3,267.52.

20.01 French president Francois Hollande says his country will never tax bank deposits. Companies that pay their employees more than €1m will see their tax bill on those salaries rise to 75pc.

He adds that austerity condemns Europe to social “explosion”.


More problems for Italy. Pier Luigi Bersani has told the President he can’t form a government. President Napolitano will begin new consultations with parties on forming a government at 10am GMT tomorrow.

17.53 Meanwhile, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, whose Paris apartment was searched by police on March 20 in a case involving businessman Bernard Tapie, retains the backing of the board of directors, an IMF spokesman said.

QuoteThe executive board has been briefed on this matter, including recently, and continues to express its confidence in the managing director’s ability to effectively carry out her duties.

17.49 Swedish politician Carl Bildt tells CNN that Cypriots were primarily poorly treated by their own leadership, which didn’t deal with the situation when it could have.

17.16 Bank of Cyprus says all transactions today went smoothly.

17.10 The Telegraph’s Nick Squires, who is in Nicosia, has done a write up of the day in Cyprus, as banks reopened after nearly two weeks amid simmering tension.

Nick reports:

Cypriots formed orderly queues outside the country’s banks after they reopened for the first time in nearly two weeks on Thursday, confounding fears that there would be scenes of unrest and violence.

Analysts said it was little surprise that there was no run on the banks in light of the draconian capital control restrictions that the Cypriot government hurriedly imposed late on Wednesday night.

It decreed that cash withdrawals would be limited to €300 per person a day and ruled that no cheques can be cashed.

Overseas credit payments were limited to €5,000 and Cypriots travelling abroad can take only €1,000 with them.

Cypriots did not besiege the banks to try to withdraw their life savings because they knew that the capital controls prevented it.

Although people waited patiently outside banks across the Mediterranean island, feelings of anger and frustration were just below the surface.

Cypriots queuing outside a bank on Thursday morning.

16.55 European markets have now closed for the Easter break and they are slightly mixed .

The FTSE 100 has finished the day up 0.28pc, while the CAC closed up 0.5pc. The DAX and IBEX were flat over the day and the FTSE MIB closed down 0.1pc.

The FTSE 100’s close today means the UK’s main index has finished the first quarter of 2013 up 9.2pc, shaking off fears of a triple dip recession in the UK.

Angus Campbell, head of market analysis at Capital Spreads, said that as Cypriot banks reopened, despite strict capital controls being implemented, “it was as if a weight had been lifted off investors’ shoulders”.

Mike van Dulken, head of research at Accendo Markets, said a swift resolution in Cyprus due to the relatively small size of the island’s financial woes and extent of bailout help required had maintained some market confidence.

FTSE 100 over the first quarter of 2013.

16.36 The capital controls in place in Cyprus are provisionally only in place for a week that is subject to review.

However, Cypriot foreign minister Kasoulides has said he expects that the measures on its bank will be fully lifted in “about a month”, reports Reuters.

Kasoulides said:

QuoteA number of restrictions will be lifted and gradually, probably over a period of about a month according to the estimates of the central bank, the restrictions will be fully lifted.



16.17 Banks in Cyprus have now been open for the six hours they said they would be today and are staring to close.

The mass panic, hysteria and general chaos that some commentators had expected has not materialised and it has, in fact, been quite the opposite.


15.57 More reaction is coming out from Cypriots who have had to live with their banks being closed for nearly two weeks and are subjected to draconian capital controls.

One taxi driver has told a CNN reporter that Europe is a jungle.

“It is a jungle and we are the rabbit surrounded by lions,” he said.

“We wanted to be Europe’s friend,” continues the driver, “but now it is turning on us.”


15.40 The International Monetary Fund has spoken out to reassure other eurozone members that the raid on savers in Cyprus is “unique” and not likely applicable elsewhere.

IMF spokesmad Gerry Rice said:

QuoteIt would be difficult to extend the case to the rest of Europe or to to the world.



15.27 Germany’s central bank, the Bundesbank, has supplied its counterpart in Cyprus with banknotes financial sources said. AFP reports:

Quote“The operation was led by the Bundesbank and the transportation of the notes was coordinated by the European Central Bank,” one of the sources told AFP.

Another source said that only one national central bank was involved in the operation.

According to the business daily Handelsblatt, €5bn worth of banknotes were flown to Cyprus in a Lufthansa jet.

Other media reports put the amount at between €1.5-5bn.

Neither the Bundesbank nor the ECB were willing to confirm the numbers, but did not deny them either.

Euro banknotes are not printed and stocked by the ECB in Frankfurt, but by the different national central banks which make up the eurosystem. But a number of central banks are supplied by others, as is the case for Cyprus.

Cypriots stayed calm as banks reopened on Thursday after a nearly two week lockdown, with tight capital controls stopping customers from draining the island’s coffers after its eurozone bailout.



15.02 A final decision on funding for Cyprus from the International Monetary Fund is not expected before the end of April, Reuters is reporting.

IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said a team from the IMF, European Union and European Central Bank were currently in Cyprus working on the technical details of the country’s bailout that was struck in Brussels on Monday.

He said the current work in Cyprus will determine how much the IMF contributes to the bailout. Rice told reporters:

QuoteWe expect the work of that mission to conclude in early April. After that our executive board will need to discuss the possible financing arrangement for Cyprus, so I would therefore not expect a final decision on a financial package from the IMF before the end of April.

Rice also said the international troika would resume talks on Greece’s IMF program in the first week of April to conclude a performance review of the country’s IMF-EU bailout.

The International Monetary Fund

14.40 Now the mass panic some had predicted would happen today in Cyprus has not occured, attention has now turned to Slovenia which commentators are saying is the next eurozone country that is likely to request an international bailout, given the fragile state of its banking sector. Reuters reports:

QuoteFollowing the bailout/bail-in farce in Cyprus, Slovenia’s dollar bonds have dropped by nine points over the past two weeks as investors worry about the Balkan country’s troubled banking sector and the government’s ability to tap the international capital markets.

While the government insists that Slovenia will be able to get through the crisis under its own steam, a deal with international lenders could provide a key backstop to fears of contagion, say analysts.

“Slovenia is now inevitably heading to a bailout, the eurozone shot itself completely in the foot following the Cyprus issue,” said Tim Ash, head of EM research ex-Africa at Standard Bank.

But while there is no denial among market participants that Slovenia’s banking crisis is acute, most observers agree that a comparison with Cyprus is unwarranted.

Slovenia’s banking sector assets account for 130% of the country’s GDP, compared with 800% in Cyprus, and the Balkan state’s debt-to-GDP ratio stood at 54% as of the end of 2012, which is relatively low compared with a EU average of 80%.

Nonetheless, with or without the IMF, analysts believe Slovenia needs to quickly push forward a policy mix comprising fiscal tightening, privatisations and a recapitalisation of its largely state-owned banking sector if it is to stay afloat.

Pressure on the country is undoubtedly mounting, as reflected by the dismal performance of its sovereign bonds. The yield on the country’s 2022 US dollar notes has widened by 120bp over the past two weeks, jumping by a jaw-dropping 80bp on Wednesday alone, to reach 6.2pc.

Lake Bled in Slovenia


14.28 Sales of holidays to Cyprus have fallen sharply in the wake of the country’s banking crisis, according to Telegraph Travel. Oliver Smith reports:

Sales of holidays to Cyprus have fallen sharply in the wake of the country’s banking crisis, new research has shown.

While around 1.7 million British holidaymakers are expected to flee these frozen shores over the Easter weekend, nearly 200,000 more than a year ago, the travel industry analyst GfK reported a 43 per cent year-on-year fall in summer bookings to the Mediterranean island.

The dip is likely to be down to fears about accessing holiday money. Banks on the island have been closed for a number of days, withdrawal limits have been imposed at some cash points, and a number of businesses have stopped accepting card payments. The Foreign Office, and ABTA, the Travel Association, are both advising British visitors to carry extra cash.

Despite the warnings, tour operators have insisted that holidaymakers should remain unaffected by the crisis.

The Cyprus Tourism Organisation said it hoped the fall in bookings would be temporary, with major banks due to reopen today.

The fall in bookings to Cyprus is likely to be down to fears about accessing holiday money.


14.13 Ministers in Cyprus have approved their own pay cut of 20pc and a 25pc cut for the President of the island, according to Bloomberg in Athens.



14.00 The calm in Cyprus has led to the price of gold falling below $1,600 as demand for low-risk assets diminishes.

Gold hit a one-month high of $1,616.36 last week on concerns the €10bn rescue deal for Cyprus, which will leave big depositors and private bondholders with huge losses, could become a template for future bank bailouts in the euro zone.

But a widespread perception that the Cypriot crisis would be contained put the metal on track for its second quarterly decline in a row and analysts were now anticipating sideways trading ahead of the Easter holiday break, Reuters reports.

Gold was down 0.5pc to $1,597 an ounce shortly after 1pm. Spot prices were still set for a one per cent gain in March, their first monthly rise in six months.

“With the Cyprus crisis unfolding we have seen gold crossing back above $1,600 but we haven’t tested the key technical resistance level at $1,620 as there wasn’t strong safe-haven inflows buying and prices have retreated,” Credit Suisse global head of commodity research Tobias Merath told Reuters.

“We expect sideways trading around $1,600 as risk sentiment has not been retreating massively.”

Gold spot price on Thursday.


13.37 It is worth noting that while banks have reopened, the stock exchange in Cyprus remains closed.

Reuters reports that the exchange will remain shut during Easter because the Target2 system of interbank payments throughout the European Union would not be working, it said.

The last trading session of the Cypriot bourse was on March 15.



13.28 European markets have responded to the calm seen in Cyprus following the reopening of the banks and they are all up.

With no sign of the mass panic that many spectators had expected, the calm has helped to settle market jitters.

The FTSE 100 is up 0.6pc at lunchtime on Thursday, as is the CAC and the IBEX. The DAX is up 0.3pc, while the FTSE MIB is up 1pc.


13.11 There are currently 12 private jets parked up at Larnaca airport, according to Channel 4’s Faisal Islam, one less then ten days ago.


Private jets at Larnaca airport in Cyprus

And a notice in the departure hall telling passengers they can only take €1000 out of the Mediterranean island.


I am reliably informed that the notice at the bottom is in Russian.


12.58 Cyprus’ President Nicos Anastasiades has thanked the Cypriot people on Twitter for their “maturity” when the banks reopened.



12.52 The Bank of Cyprus has issued a statement on its website for its customers asking them to “show understanding” as their personnel “make every effort to better serve you”. Also confirms they are only letting in a limited number of people at a time. Here’s the full statement:

QuoteThe personnel of the Bank of Cyprus, following the decree on enforcement of restrictive measures, inform you that we will do our very best to better serve you.

Please show understanding.

For your prompt service, please read the restrictive measures before making any transaction.

For security reasons, we inform you that a limited number of customers may enter our branches, depending on the number of tellers that will operate.

Our personnel will make every effort to better serve you, therefore let’s all try to maintain the necessary politeness and patience.

Thank you.

Depositors wait outside a Bank of Cyprus branch shortly after it opened in Nicosia.

Customers served in a branch of Bank of Cyprus in Nicosia.


12.39 Channel 4’s economic editor Faisal Islam has done a good blog about today’s reopening of the banks in Cyprus and has spoken to bank customers to get their reaction, including one woman who says the Cypriots are being made the “beggars of Europe”.


12.26 The Telegraph’Nick Squires is in the Cypriot capital Nicosia has described the atmosphere at some of the banks as “tense” and has seen some heated exchanges amongst the crowds.



12.13 Mats Persson, director of think tank Open Europe (also see 12.07), says the data to watch will come from electronic banking, not the queues at the bank.

12.07 With things quiet, calm and orderly in Cyprus as the banks reopen after two weeks, independent think-tank Open Europe has asked the valid question: is this the Great European Bank Run that never was?

QuoteJournalists were descending on banks across Cyprus this morning to monitor whether Cypriot depositors would rush to withdraw their cash as the country’s banks opened after being closed for 10 days. So far, however, there have been virtually no dramatic scenes of desperate people flocking to ATM machines and banks. There’s a feeling of calm. Those who expected Northern Rock style scenes have been left disappointed. However, a couple of points:

• First, there’s no hard data available yet for deposit withdrawals in March, so everything is based on anecdotal evidence. There have been numerous press reports speculating about withdrawals in the run up to the bailout and even while the banks have been closed. Unfortunately, these are unlikely to be confirmed or disproved for at least a month (when data is expected).

• Remember, there are limits on what people can withdraw and/or transfer electronically. People may not be too bothered about waiting at banks if they are subject to strict limits.

• Obviously, in this day and age, much banking is done electronically so the number of people at the actual bank branches may not reveal the true level of transactions taking place behind the scenes. This is particularly true for Cyprus given the high level of foreign depositors who would have to bank electronically.

Customers queue up outside a branch of Laiki Bank as they wait for the reopening of the bank in Nicosia.

11.52 The draconian capital controls mean that, while banks are open, customers cannot use certain services.

A quick reminder of some the controls in place:

• Individuals cannot withdraw more than €300 per day from any one bank, unless they have withdrawn less than €300 the previous day.

• Cheques cannot be cashed, unless they were issued by a bank in another country.

Non-cash payments or money transfers are prohibited unless:

• They are for commercial transactions. Payments below €5,000 have no restrictions. Payments from €5,001 to €200,000 euros must be approved by the central bank, which will consider the liquidity of the bank involved and make a decision within 24 hours. Payments above €200,000 will be decided upon on a case-by-case basis.

• They are for payroll, and supporting documents are presented.

• They are for living expenses or tuition fees of students who are close relatives of Cyprus residents. Transfers for living expenses are capped at €5,000 a quarter, and supporting documents must be supplied.

• They are for credit or debit cards. Payments are capped at €5,000 per month.

Will Goodbody at Ireland’s RTE News reports that some customers are frustrated by the limited banking options, but most are just happy they’re open.




11.40 Cypriots are not only taking their money out of the banks, they are also depositing it.

Kyriakos Vourghouri, owner of a minimarket, waved a deposit slip showing an amount of €678 euros as he emerged from the bank.

“I didn’t withdraw any money. I deposited money,” he told AFP. “The problem is not in Cyprus, it is in Europe, which has become gangrenous.”



11.33 As quickly as the queues formed they now seem to be shrinking, according to Greek reporter Miranta Lysandrou.


Credit: Miranta Lysandrou

Credit: Miranta Lysandrou

11.21 At some bank branches there are more journalists than customers, according to the Telegraph’s Nick Squires in Nicosia.

A branch of Laiki Bank where queues have been small. Credit: Nick Squires


11.12 The reality of the tax on deposits in Cyprus is clear from this tweet from Newsnight’s economics editor Paul Mason



11.05 Cartoon about Cyprus from ZeroHedge on Twitter – don’t think it needs any explaining.



10.58 A man outside one of the banks has made his thoughts clear on the extensive media presence.



10.42 German newspaper Spiegel has put a live video on their website showing the outside of a Laiki branch in Nicosia. It all appears very calm.


10.30 Wall Street Journal reporter Matina Stevis in Cyprus reports that the Laiki branch she is outside is now open and letting limited numbers in at a time.



Credit: John Psaropoulos

10.25 The queues have been calm but there are reports that people are getting agitated.


And apparently the delay to the opening is due to a technical problem.


10.20 There are now reports that some branches of Laiki – the bank which is due to be wound down – are not letting people in yet.

Credit: John Psaropoulos

Looks like there may be more media than people in the actual queue.

10.13 Bank doors are open and as you can see the queues are very orderly and calm.


Queue outside one branch of Bank of Cyprus after doors opened for first time in nearly two weeks.













10.09 No drama outside the banks but at the top there is some turmoil…..Greece’s English language website is reporting that the entire executive board of Cyprus Popular Bank (Laiki) has resigned today.

The lender is due to be wound up as part of the overhaul of the country’s financial sector.

QuoteChairman Andreas Filippou and the nine other boards members tendered their resignations shortly before banks were due to reopen in Cyprus.

Laiki is to be shut done, with insured deposits moving to Bank of Cyprus as part of a resolution process.


10.00 The bank doors are open and eight people are being let in at a time.

09.51 Channel 4 News’ economics editor Faisal Islam has counted 21 people calmly waiting for this branck of the Bank of Cyprus to open:

09.48 The queues are now forming outside the banks in Cyprus and there is a lot of media attention.

People wait outside a branch of Bank of Cyprus in Nicosia.

Customers and media representatives wait outside a branch of the Bank of Cyprus in Nicosia.


09.40 Just 20 minutes until banks are due to open in Cyprus and no sign of any long queues yet.

In the meantime, the European Central Bank has released data showing that consumers and companies withdrew deposits from Cypriot banks in February.

As Germany and some other countries began to push for bank depositors to bear part of the bailout, private-sector deposits in Cypriot banks fell by 2.2pc to €46.4bn, having fallen at a similar pace in January.

Greece on the other hand, recorded a 2pc increase in private sector deposits to €171bn, while deposits in Italian banks also rose, up 1.3pc at €1.5trn.

Monthly fluctuations in the figures are common, though sharp consecutive drops in countries with stable banking systems are unusual.



09.31 While the metaphorical dark clouds loom over Cyprus, it is actually quite a nice day there and not everyone on the island seems to be concerned with the state of the banks.

Life goes on for these elderly ladies in the old town of Nicosia.

Credit: Nick Squires

Nor does the banking crisis appear to be ruffling the feathers of these men enjoying a quiet game of backgammon.

Credit: Nick Squires

09.25 Reuters has done a factbox detailing all of the capital controls that have been imposed in Cyprus. Here are some of them:


• Individuals cannot withdraw more than €300 per day from any one bank, unless they have withdrawn less than €300 the previous day.

• Cheques cannot be cashed, unless they were issued by a bank in another country.


Non-cash payments or money transfers are prohibited unless:

• They are for commercial transactions. Payments below €5,000 have no restrictions. Payments from €5,001 to €200,000 euros must be approved by the central bank, which will consider the liquidity of the bank involved and make a decision within 24 hours. Payments above €200,000 will be decided upon on a case-by-case basis.

• They are for payroll, and supporting documents are presented.

• They are for living expenses or tuition fees of students who are close relatives of Cyprus residents. Transfers for living expenses are capped at €5,000 a quarter, and supporting documents must be supplied.

• They are for credit or debit cards. Payments are capped at €5,000 per month.


The capital controls do not apply to:

• Any new money deposited from abroad after March 27

• Cash withdrawals via debit or credit card from an account in another country

• Diplomatic missions



09.13 People have started to turn up outside at least one bank in Nicosia, including one man with a parrot on his head.

Nick Squires has the details:

The main focus of interest outside a branch of the Bank of Cyprus in the old town of Nicosia is a man on a moped with a parrot on his head.

The man is 87, the parrot is 67. One of them is called Costas; it is not clear which as his English is negligible.

Other than that there are about five people waiting patiently outside the branch. They are being filmed and photographed by about 60 TV crews and photographers. Things appear very calm and orderly so far. They are even quieter at other branches in the modern part of the capital.

I have just done a tour of half a dozen and there are no queues at all, much less any panic. Just a bored looking security guard and signs saying the branches open at noon.

Credit: Nick Squires

09.06 Earlier (see 08.23) The Telegraph’Nick Squires reported that security guards were posted outside many of the banks in Cyprus but no queues of customer had yet formed. See for yourself:

Security guards sit on steps outside a Laiki Bank, also known as Cyprus Popular Bank.

A G4S security guard stands outside a Bank of Cyprus Plc branch before opening in Nicosia.

A security man stands outside a closed Laiki bank branch in Nicosia.

08.55 Cyprus is sacrificing too much for its European bailout, which is destroying the foundations of the island’s economy, its foreign minister has told a French newspaper, Reuters reports.

“Europe is pretending to help us but the price to pay is too high: nothing less than the brutal destruction of our economic model,” Ioannis Kasoulides told Thursday’s edition of financial daily Les Echos.

Asked about why it had been so difficult to reach a deal on the bailout, Kasoulides said: “We were not well enough prepared and there was no solidarity on the part of the Europeans.”

Kasoulides also blamed the European Central Bank, saying that lending to Cyprus Popular, also known as Laiki, should have been stopped before if it was on the verge of bankruptcy.



08.38 I’m sure you do not need to be told that it is Easter on Sunday and the long weekend is but a few hours away.

And it is Maundy Thursday today so the EU is already shut for Easter, reports The Telegraph’s Bruno Waterfield in Brussels.

But somebody is working, Bruno points out, as the European Commission has just released a statement on the capital controls imposed by Cyprus.

As “guardians of the Treaties”, the EC made a preliminary assessment of the controls. One of its many rules (if you’re interested – Articles 63 et seq. of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union), member states may introduce restrictions on capital movement, including capital controls, “in certain circumstances and under strict conditions on grounds of public policy or public security”.

It adds that measures may also be introduced for “overriding reasons of general public interest” – Cyprus falls under this.

QuoteIn current circumstances, the stability of financial markets and the banking system in Cyprus constitutes a matter of overriding public interest and public policy justifying the imposition of temporary restrictions on capital movements.

Such restrictions may include bank holidays, limits on withdrawals, freezing of assets, prohibition of terminating fixed term deposits, prohibition on certain payment orders, restrictions in using credit/ debit/prepaid cards, restrictions on other banking operations as well as execution of certain transactions subject to the approval of the Central Bank and other measures.

The Commission will monitor closely with the Cypriot authorities, other Member States, the ECB and the EBA the implementation of the imposed restrictive measures on capital movements. These restrictive measures will remain in force for 7 days. The Commission will continue monitoring the need to extend the validity of or revise the measures. The Commission will insist at all times that any restrictive measures are strictly proportionate to the legitimate objectives of preventing the immediate risk to the financial stability of Cyprus and strictly limited in duration to the time necessary for that purpose.

While the imposed restrictive measures appear to be necessary in the current circumstances, the free movement of capital should be reinstated as soon as possible in the interests of the Cypriot economy and the European Union’s single market as a whole.

Euros from the ECB arrrive at Cyprus’ central bank last night

08.26 And a quick look at European markets in early trading on Thursday and they are slightly mixed.

The FTSE 100 in London is up 0.2pc, the CAC in Paris is up 0.1pc, as is the DAX in Frankfurt, while the IBEX in Madrid and the FTSE MIB in Milan are both flat.


08.23 Security guards posted at the banks are looking nervous, according to The Telegraph’s Nick Squires who is in Nicosia, but so far he hasn’t seen any big customer queues.

He took this picture of a sign on the door of a branch of the soon to be dissolved Laiki Bank.

Credit: Nick Squires

08.10 The Telegraph’s Nick Squires is in Cyprus and says there are so many TV camera crews outside the banks in Nicosia that some are putting down their shutters to block filming.

“It is the first time in 10 years that i’ve seen them put their shutters down like that,” one manager of a hotel that stands opposite a branch of the Laiki Bank told Nick.

News agency AFP is also reporting that there are armed security guards posted at the banks in Cyprus ahead of their reopening, but there are no sign of customers queuing early for access to their cash.

Tellers, who unlike in other European countries are not housed behind glass security, have urged customers not to vent their frustrations on them when the bank doors finally swing open.

Most banks in Nicosia had between one and three guards posted at their entrances early morning, but there were no crowds yet for them to control.


07.45 A quick look at the euro now, which has appreciated against the dollar and erased a decline versus the yen after German retail sales unexpectedly rose in February.

Europe’s shared currency advanced 0.3pc to $1.2813 shortly after 7am.

German sales, adjusted for inflation and seasonal swings, gained 0.4pc from January, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden said today. Economists forecast a drop of 0.6pc, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey.

Asian stocks have also been hit by Europe’s debt crisis and have traded near a four-month low on Thursday.

Japan’s 10-year bond yield slid to a decade low and the yen strengthened.


07.35 But the Luxembourg government has been quick to distance itself from Cyprus and issues a statement last night insisting that its economy was nothing like that of the island’s.

In a statement, it said:

QuoteAs a matter of principle, Luxembourg is concerned about recent statements and declarations that were made since the crisis in Cyprus sharpened by (1) making comparisons between the business model of international financial sectors in the euro area and by (2) making more general assessments of the size of the financial sector in relation to a country’s GDP and the alleged risks this poses for economic and fiscal sustainability.

[…] As regards the business model of the financial sector in Luxembourg, it is quintessentially an international one within the euro area, acting as an important gateway for the euro area by attracting investments and thus contributing to the general competitiveness of all Member States.

07.29 In the past few days Luxembourg and Malta have moved to distance themselves from Cyprus’s economic model, even though they have huge financial sectors relative to the size of their economies. Take a look at this:

As the chart (compiled by the Institute of International Finance) shows,Luxembourg’s financial sector is 22 times the size of its entire GDP – more than three times that of Cyprus – implying that the country could find itself in a spot of bother should its banks hit troubled waters.

07.20 German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has said Cyprus was a very special case and the European Union had found the right solution for it with its deal for a €10bn bailout tied to the imposition of losses on bank depositors.

Cyprus was a very special case, everyone knew that,” Schaeuble told German radio station SWR. “And we found the right solution.”

Schaeuble also said Luxembourg had a totally different business model to the east Mediterranean island. Any comparison of the two would be “absurd”, he said.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble

07.05 Cypriots have been protesting since it was first announced, nearly two weeks ago, that there were plans to tax depositors.

Initially all savers were due to be hit, but that has been amended and only those with €100,000 or more in savings will be taxed and face losing up to 30pc.

Credit: Nick Squires

Credit: Nick Squires

Demonstrators hold banners as they protest outside the European Union House in the Cypriot capital Nicosia on Tuesday (Photo: AFP).

06.55 The Telegraph’s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has said the “punishment regime imposed on Cyprus is a trick against everybody involved in this squalid saga, against the Cypriot people and the German people, against savers and creditors”.

All are being deceived.

It is not a bail-out. There is no debt relief for the state of Cyprus. The Diktat will push the island’s debt ratio to 120pc in short order, with a high risk of an economic death spiral, a la Grecque.

Capital controls have shattered the monetary unity of EMU. A Cypriot euro is no longer a core euro. We wait to hear the first stories of shops across Europe refusing to accept euro notes issued by Cyprus, with a G in the serial number.

The curbs are draconian. There will be a forced rollover of debt. Cheques may not be cashed. Basic cross-border trade is severely curtailed. Credit card use abroad will be limited to €5,000 (£4,200) a month. “We wonder how such capital controls could eventually be lifted with no obvious cure of the underlying problem,” said Credit Suisse.

The complicity of EU authorities in the original plan to violate insured bank savings – halted only by the revolt of the Cypriot parliament – leaves the suspicion that they will steal anybody’s money if leaders of the creditor states think it is in their immediate interest to do so. Monetary union has become a danger to property.


06.45 The government fears there could be chaos and even violence when banks finally reopen today after nearly two weeks – they were last open on Friday 15 March – with angry Cypriots besieging them and trying to withdraw large sums of cash or move their money abroad.

They will be permitted, however, to move their cash to other, sounder banks in Cyprus.

Police and 180 private security guards from UK company G4S will be on hand.

06.30 The Telegraph’s Nick Squires is in Nicosia and reports that thebanks will be open for six hours today from midday (in Cyprus – 10am in the UK). He reports:

Cyprus announced draconian capital controls yesterday which will include a total ban on cheques and a €300 (£253) daily limit on cash withdrawals in a bid to stem panic when the country’s banks reopen today .

Nick reports:

The measures were designed to prevent a run on the banks after a tumultuous two weeks in which Cypriots learnt they would lose billions of euros from accounts in an accord drawn up by the government to secure a €10bn bail-out from international lenders.

After confirming that banks will open for six hours today from midday, the island’s central bank said that cashing of cheques will be banned and bank withdrawals limited to €300 a day.

A spokesman said that the effectiveness of the controls would be evaluated on a daily basis, but a leak of the details to a Greek newspaper, Kathimerini, said that the curbs would stay in place for at least a week.

It also suggested that:

 Cypriots wanting to send money overseas would have to prove that the transactions met rules laid out by the authorities

The use of credit and debit cards overseas would be restricted to €5,000 per month – transfers above that would need central bank permission.

 Cypriots travelling abroad would be allowed to take a maximum of €3,000 on each trip

 Those with children studying abroad will be allowed to transfer €10,000 each quarter to pay for tuition and living costs

Savers with fixed-term funds will not be able to withdraw the cash early.

Businesses and individuals with more than €100,000 are already in for a huge hit under the terms of the bail-out and could see at least 40pc of their savings forcibly converted into bank shares.

The two worst-hit lenders are Laiki Bank, which is to be dissolved, and Bank of Cyprus, which will absorb Laiki’s assets.


06.15 The BBC’s Chris Morris is in Nicosia and has been speaking to the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme and he says that while he hasn’t detected any panic ahead of banks reopening, there is clearly anxiety and nervousness.

06.00 Good morning and welcome to the Debt Crisis live blog. Banks in Cyprus are due to open again today, nearly a fortnight after they shut in a bid to stop a bank run as the island’s leaders sought a deal for a €10bn (£8.5bn) bailout.

All systems are in place to mitigate the pandemonium that will likely ensue when they open at midday local time (10am here).

Trader John Panin, left, and James Denaro consult on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Thursday, March 28, 2013. The S&P 500 index closed at a record high Thursday, beating the mark it set in October 2007.

Trader John Panin, left, and James Denaro consult on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Thursday, March 28, 2013. The S&P 500 index closed at a record high Thursday, beating the mark it set in October 2007.

(MoneyWatch) For several weeks, investors have been waiting for the S&P 500 to set a new record, and on Thursday it finally didn’t disappoint, surging 6 points to end the day at 1569.

The widely watched index of large-cap stocks rose to its new high despite worries about an implosion in the eurozone, middling economic data here at home and the specter of stealth warplanes making a statement over the skies of South Korea.

The previous all-time closing high for the S&P 500, a broader gauge of stocks’ performance, was 1565.15 on Oct. 9, 2007. Before today’s trade, the S&P had gained nearly 10 percent this year. The Dow Jones industrial average, which ended the day at 14,578, has also consistently moved higher since eclipsing its previous mark of 14,165, set on the same date more than five years ago. The index, which tracks shares in 30 large companies, is up 11 percent this quarter, its best performance in more than a year. The Nasdaq finished up 11 at 3,267.

Stocks continued their upward drift this week after Cyprus struck a deal with international lenders that avoided a possible collapse of its biggest banks, but which still left many observers worrying that the problems could spill over into Spain, Italy and more peripheral eurozone countries. At home, mildly positive economic signals have aided stock prices, including a more than 8 percent jump in home prices in January from year-ago figures, strong corporate earnings and rising factory orders.

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Home prices soared in January

The Federal Reserve has also showed little sign of ending its policy of keeping interest rates low as a way to stimulate the economy.

While there has been a consensus view that stocks are awaiting a pullback, many analysts still consider the market fairly priced and ready to make gains. “The important thing is that the S&P at this new high is a much cheaper S&P than when we were here before,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Lazard Capital Markets. He noted that the price-equity ratio for the index is about 14, with a longer term average of 16.5. “Is that overpriced? I think we’re reasonably priced. The problem is we got here in a straight line.”

He said many big investors are waiting for stocks to take a dip before they buy back into the market.

Ed Yardeni, president and chief investment strategist for institutional investor advisory Yardeni Research, thinks another factor is boosting stocks: The so-called best house in a bad neighborhood phenomenon. With the eurozone in severe economic distress and uncertainty in other parts of the world, the U.S. provides a relative safe haven for wealthy investors.

“Nowadays, while Washington is debating immigration reform, the world’s wealthy elite are coming to America and putting more of their money here for safekeeping,” he said in a research note. “This certainly would explain why U.S. stocks have been rising to record highs this year…. It explains why the latest bad news out of Europe seems to boost rather than depress stock prices in the U.S.”

The surge in financial markets in recent months appears to have had only limited benefits for the broader economy.  The U.S. economy in the final three months of 2012 grew an anemic 0.4 percent, down from 3.1 percent in the previous quarter, the U.S. Labor Department said today. Although GDP for the period was revised upward, from an initial estimate of 0.1 percent, the slow growth underscores the weak level of demand in the economy.

Although job-creation has picked up in recent weeks, it remains too low to significantly bring down inflation from its rate of 7.7 percent. Some experts also warn that the unusually warm weather this winter may have boosted hiring in early 2013, which means employers may bring fewer people aboard in later months.




Yahoo’s Big Hire Is 17, and Anthony Lewis Dies at 85

Posted: March 26, 2013 by Rizwan Riyad in Finance, Tech
Tags: , ,
Nick D’Aloisio


Nick D’Aloisio is living the technology entrepreneur’s dream: he sold his news-reading app, Summly, to Yahoo on Monday for tens of millions of dollars and became the resurgent Web giant’s newest employee, Brian Stelter writes. The only problem is that Mr. D’Aloisio still has to finish high school; the British programmer is only 17. Mr. D’Aloisio received venture capital from high-profile investors like Yoko Ono, Wendi Murdock and Li Ka-Shing, the Hong Kong billionaire, when he was just 15. Yahoo plans to incorporate Summly, which summarizes long-form stories for smart phones, into Yahoo’s suite of mobile apps.

Anthony Lewis, a New York Times reporter and columnist who won two Pulitzer Prizes and revolutionized the way the Supreme Court is covered, died on Monday, Adam Liptak writes. He brought passionate engagement to his two great themes, the role of the press in democracy and justice, and his column appeared on the Op-Ed page of The Times for more than 30 years, until 2001.

It may seem implausible to the millions of fans of the “Dork Diaries,” but the author of the popular books about the socially aspiring, fashion-impaired Westchester Country Day School student Nikki Maxwell is Rachel Renée Russell, a 53-year-old divorced former bankruptcy lawyer, Leslie Kaufman writes. Ms. Russell’s books have drawn comparisons to the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series, but Ms. Russell said the stories came from her own awkward childhood and experiences raising her two daughters, who work with her on the books.

Many video game journalists were concerned that the delays leading up to the release on Tuesday of Irrational Games’ BioShock Infinite might bode ill for the highly anticipated first-person shooter. They should not have worried,Chris Suellentrop reports. The latest BioShock is a model for what video games can achieve — the world is dense, fascinating and inventive and combat is exhilarating.

Gillette has started a new ad campaign for its Fusion ProGlide Styler, a trimmer-razor hybrid introduced in 2012 for facial hair, designed to emphasize the styler’s efficacy on other regions of the body, Andrew Adam Newman writes. The ads feature attractive women like Kate Upton and Hannah Simone explaining their preferences for body hair (or lack thereof), both in a television spot and a print ad featuring QR codes that provide specifics when scanned with a smart phone. The commercial plays on the public perception that the hirsute styles of the 1960s and ’70s have decidedly gone out of fashion.

The Concord Music Group, an independent music company that includes artists like Paul McCartney and Paul Simon, has been sold to Wood Creek Capital Management, a private equity firm that has been quietly building a collection of music assets, Ben Sisario reports. The label was put up for sale last year by the Village Roadshow Entertainment Group, the media conglomerate that has owned it since 2008, and the price was estimated at more than $120 million.

The International New York Times will be distributed alongside The Japan Times as part of a joint publication deal beginning in October, Gerry Doyle writes. The agreement creates a combined print edition in which each newspaper will comprise one section and should give The International New York Times, which will change its name from The International Herald Tribune this fall, a circulation increase. Digital content will also be shared.

The Hachette Book Group has decided to delay its publication of Jane Goodall’s latest book, “Seeds of Hope,” after revelations that it contained passages appropriated from Web sites, Leslie Kaufman reports. The book was set to be published on April 2, and no new date has been set.

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