Saturday, May 31, 2008
Explanation: Each day on planet Earth can have a dramatic ending as the Sun sets below the colorful western horizon. Often inspiring, or offering a moment for contemplation, a sunset is perhaps the single most photographed celestial event. Did you recognize this as a picture of one? The image actually is a single exposure of the setting Sun recorded near Wasserberg, Germany on May 11. To create the uncommon sunset view the photographer used a digital camera and a zoom lens (a lens with an adjustable focal length). During the 1/6 second long exposure he smoothly changed the focal length while simultaneously rotating the camera, altering the image scale and orientation. The result transforms an objective depiction of nature into an artistic abstraction.
Friday, May 30, 2008
By Steven MufsonWashington Post Staff Writer Friday, May 30, 2008;
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which normally keeps investigations confidential, said in a statement that it was "taking the extraordinary step of disclosing this investigation because of today's unprecedented market conditions."
Those conditions have sent oil prices to record heights, adding to the U.S. trade deficit, hurting consumers and companies, and weighing heavily on the nation's economy.
Gregory Mocek, director of enforcement at the CFTC, said five senior trial lawyers, "some of the most experienced prosecutors that we have," and other investigators were engaged in the inquiry. "The scope is quite broad," Mocek said, adding that the commission was looking at the "national crude market," including trades on regulated exchanges, cash trades, storage, pipeline operations and shipping.
Yesterday was another chaotic day for crude oil prices, which had soared about 30 percent since the start of the year. This time, however, prices tumbled $4.41, or 3.4 percent, to $126.62 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange as traders tried to decipher new U.S. inventory numbers. The Energy Information Administration said petroleum stocks fell sharply, which would ordinarily drive prices up, but it blamed the drop on "temporary" delays in oil tanker off-loadings on the Gulf Coast.
Elsewhere, there were scattered signs recently that worldwide demand for petroleum products might be easing. MasterCard, the second-biggest credit card company, said this week that U.S. gasoline demand dropped 5.5 percent last week. Meanwhile, Indonesia, Taiwan, Sri Lanka and Pakistan have recently indicated that they would trim fuel subsidies and raise prices.
In addition, Bloomberg News reported that the United Arab Emirates representative to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries told reporters in Dubai that oil price increases have been "too fast, too high" and were "not good for producers or consumers."
The CFTC said its investigation started in December, before this latest surge in prices but after an earlier surge that took oil prices over $90 a barrel.
Congress has been pressing the CFTC to take tougher action to stop what lawmakers call "speculation" -- which is not illegal -- and possible unlawful manipulation of oil markets. Some lawmakers have suggested that the commission discourage speculation by increasing margin requirements so that traders would have to put up more cash to buy positions on commodity markets.
The CFTC said that in addition to the investigation, it had reached agreements with British and European regulators to share more information about oil markets. It also said it would take steps to increase transparency by getting more information from index traders and other financial players.
It was unclear whether the commission's announcements were a reaction to congressional pressure, but they were praised by many lawmakers. Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) said he was pleased, adding that "the CFTC must vigorously pursue all leads to protect the American people from market manipulation during a time of record prices at the pump."
One of the CFTC commissioners, Bart Chilton, wrote a letter dated May 9 to Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) praising the work of Congress in scrutinizing the rapid rise in gasoline prices. "It's not good enough to say, let the markets take care of this, when there is even the possibility that uneconomic forces may be at work," Chilton wrote.
Mocek said yesterday that the CFTC had about 60 price manipulation investigations in progress aside from the one looking at the national crude oil market. Some of those investigations also involve oil and gas firms or traders, he said.
One of the things I find puzzling about the whole oil market discussion is how complicated people seem to make it. They get all wrapped up in stuff about forward markets, hedge funds, etc., and lose sight of the fundamental fact that there are only two things you can do with the world’s oil production: consume it, or store it.
If the price is above the level at which the demand from end-users is equal to production, there’s an excess supply — and that supply has to be going into inventories. End of story. If oil isn’t building up in inventories, there can’t be a bubble in the spot price.
Now it’s true that oil supply responds very little to price, and that empirical estimates of the short-run price elasticity of demand, like this one, suggest that it’s low — say -.06. But even so, the math of a sustained, large bubble quickly becomes daunting. Say the demand elasticity is -.06, and that you believe that the current price is 40% above the level at which end-use demand equals supply. Then you have to believe that 2 million barrels a day is disappearing into secret hoards somewhere — secret, because it’s not showing up in the OECD inventory data. That’s a lot of oil. And bear in mind that people have been claiming that there’s an oil bubble for years.
So my challenge to people who say there’s an oil bubble is this: let’s get physical. Tell me where you think the excess supply of crude is going.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Explanation: What is that white arch over the water? What is being seen is a fogbow, a reflection of sunlight by water drops similar to a rainbow but without the colors. The fog itself is not confined to an arch -- the fog is mostly transparent but relatively uniform. The fogbow shape is created by those drops with the best angle to divert sunlight to the observer. The fogbow's relative lack of colors are caused by the relatively smaller water drops. The drops active above are so small that the quantum mechanical wavelength of light becomes important and smears out colors that would be created by larger rainbow water drops acting like small prisms reflecting sunlight. The above striking image of a fogbow was taken last week with the Sun behind the photographer. The rocks in the foreground are part of Ocean Beach in California, USA.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
O artigo de Martin Wolf e o seu suscitam muitas perspectivas de reflexão. Contenho-me em duas, de forma tão sucinta quanto possível:
- A perda de competitividade das exportações portuguesas causada pela valorização do euro;
- O euro é indispensável à União Europeia?
Quanto ao primeiro ponto, tem sido defendido por alguns (talvez muitos) que o euro é o grande responsável pela perda de competitividade das produções tradicionais portuguesas, nomeadamente as confecções e os têxteis.
Não pode negar-se que, até certo ponto, assim é. Mas é por demais evidente que seria preciso admitir uma desvalorização forte da nossa moeda de facturação para poder ajustar-se competitivamente do lado monetário à concorrência das economias chinesa e indiana, por exemplo.
E daqui passo ao segundo ponto.
Martin Wolf refere a Suécia, a Dinamarca, o Reino Unido que, aparentemente foram bem sucedidas por se manterem fora do sistema.
Ora, todos sabemos que as moedas desses países têm gravitado à volta do valor do euro. Nem poderia ser de outro modo. Uma desvalorização "competitiva" seria uma derrogação da eliminação das fronteiras alfandegárias entre os países membros.
Aliás, Martin Wolf poderia, mas não o fez, referir a Finlândia, um caso de sucesso dentro do euro.
Acredito muito convictamente que Portugal tem muito a ganhar com a sua condição de membro da UE e o facto de estar no euro obriga-nos
a um exercício exigente de adaptação que será muito demorado. Entretanto, como qualquer corpo desabituado de competição a alto nível, temos as nossas cãibras colectivas.
Não creio, portanto, que tenhamos alternativa senão realizar os ajustamentos necessários ao cumprimento das regras que nos garantem a permanência no sistema.
Ou melhor: alternativa temos, mas não é lá grande coisa. Tal e qual a vida para além do défice.
Emu's second 10 years may be tougher than its first
"A full decade after Europe's leaders took the decision to launch the euro, we have good reason to be proud of our single currency. The Economic and Monetary Union and the euro are a major success." Self-congratulation is in order at birthday parties. So nobody should be surprised at the effusive remarks in the foreword by Joaquín Almunia, commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, to an excellent study of "Emu@10" (sic).*
How could anybody dare to question the achievements of the single currency? It is considered a credible rival to the US dollar. Jeffrey Frankel of Harvard even predicted in March that the "euro could replace the dollar within 10 years".** This is a far cry from the scepticism, particularly in English-speaking circles, that greeted both its launch and the subsequent period of declining value against the US dollar. This is a credible currency.
The successes are indeed obvious: the European Central Bank has established itself as a credible central bank and plausible rival to the Federal Reserve; annual inflation in the eurozone's member countries averaged 2.2 per cent a year between 1999 and early 2008, against 3.3 per cent between 1989 and 1998; the fiscal deficit fell to 0.6 per cent of gross domestic product last year, compared with an average of 4 per cent in the 1980s and 1990s; nominal and real interest rates have both been lower than for several decades; intra-area trade flows now account for a third of the eurozone's GDP, up from a quarter 10 years ago; and financial integration has proceeded apace, with the 16 largest banking groups holding more than 25 per cent of their assets outside their home countries.
It is little wonder, then, that the euro has recovered so strongly against the dollar and that in real terms a (synthetic) euro is at its highest since 1970, according to JPMorgan. It is little wonder that the euro's share of disclosed foreign currency reserves rose from 18 per cent in 1999 to more than 25 per cent in 2007. It is little wonder, too, that the membership of the eurozone has risen to 15 from the initial 11, with more in the wings.
Yet all is not rosy. According to the Commission, real GDP per head grew at only 1.6 per cent a year between 1999 and 2008, down from 1.9 per cent between 1989 and 1998 and well below the 2.2 per cent in Denmark, Sweden and the UK, the three established members of the European Union to remain outside. Labour productivity grew at only 0.8 per cent a year, down from 1.6 per cent between 1989 and 1998 and well below the 1.6 per cent in the US between 1999 and 2008. The unemployment rate fell, but is still far above levels in the other three member states and the US.
The conclusion, then, is that the eurozone is a triumph as a monetary union. Yet it is much less so as an economic union. At the very least, its creation has not caused the acceleration in dynamism that proponents hoped for. If anything, structural reforms have slowed.
Moreover, as the euro soars, the pressures of adjustment to internal divergence are likely to grow to enormous levels. The report is honest about these challenges. Between 1999 and 2007, huge divergences in inflation, relative unit labour costs and current account positions emerged (see charts). These tendencies were exacerbated by the divergence in real interest rates, with the lowest rates in the countries with the highest inflation and - perversely, but inevitably - the strongest economies.
The stories here are two: the divergence in relative unit labour costs between Germany, on the one hand, and Ireland, Portugal, Greece, Spain and Italy, on the other; and the scale of the credit-fuelled property booms in Spain and Ireland. Spain is the most important example: it has had an enormous property boom, with residential investment reaching 13 per cent of GDP, and huge current account deficits, which peaked at 10 per cent of GDP. Yet Italy, which has suffered from chronically weak growth, instead, also has significant competitiveness problems.
How might these adjustments play out? The answer partly depends on what happens in the eurozone as a whole. The probabilities are that growth will slow sharply in the short term, under the pressures of a high exchange rate, the transfers of income abroad generated by high commodity prices and the ECB's efforts to keep inflation under control.
Meanwhile, the peripheral countries will confront closely related structural and cyclical challenges. The cyclical one, particularly relevant to Spain, is to find new sources of demand, now that the credit boom has run its course; the structural one is to recover lost competitiveness. The two objectives tend to merge in the case of members of a currency union, since these have no monetary policy of their own and limited room for fiscal manoeuvre. So durable recovery will also need big improvements in external competitiveness.
When the euro itself is so strong, this is going to be hard to achieve. Assume, for argument's sake, that trend productivity growth in the production of tradable goods and services is the same in Spain or Italy as in Germany. Then any improvements in competitiveness demand lower wage increases. A 10 per cent improvement in relative unit labour costs would demand a 10 per cent decline in relative wages. If that were to happen over, say, five years, nominal wage increases would probably have to be in the 0-1 per cent range. Little short of a recession is likely to generate that result.
The optimist would argue that the periphery has only to do what Germany itself did in the early years of Emu. The pessimist would note that Germany's growth averaged only 0.6 per cent between 2001 and 2005 (inclusive). The pessimist might add that Germany's self-discipline is legendary and the underlying strength of its manufacturing sector second to none. The pessimist might conclude by noting the behaviour of Europe's national politicians. Many seem to have believed, or at least hoped, that Emu entry was the end of a tough process, rather than the beginning of one. This is not to argue that the adjustment ahead is impossible, but to stress the scale of the challenge.
Emu has been managed as successfully as such a union could be. For this those involved deserve plaudits. If this success were to continue in the decades ahead, the euro would surely become an ever more important global currency. But the success of the eurozone is not a technical matter. It will demand very tough choices. It will only be assured if overall performance improves and internal adjustment works smoothly. So can we conclude that Emu is a triumph? It is still too soon to tell.
Berardo e Roque apanhados na “Operação Furacão”
Os empresários Joe Berardo e Horácio Roque foram apanhados na “Operação Furacão”. As empresas controladas pelos dois empresários foram ontem visitadas por equipas de investigação lideradas pelo Procurador da República, o magistrado Rosário Teixeira.
Os empresários Joe Berardo e Horácio Roque foram apanhados na "Operação Furacão". As empresas controladas pelos dois empresários foram ontem visitadas por equipas de investigação lideradas pelo Procurador da República, o magistrado Rosário Teixeira.
Segundo soube o Jornal de Negócios Online, as sociedades geridas por Berardo e Horácio Roque estão indiciadas na prática do crime de fraude fiscal, por utilização de facturação falsa, e branqueamento de capitais, com recurso a sociedades ‘off-shores’.
As visitas das equipas de investigadores foram confirmadas ao Jornal de Negócios Online por Joe Berardo. Recorde-se que o empresário foi ontem eleito para presidente do conselho de remunerações do Banco Comercial Português durante a assembleia-geral do banco realizada na Exponor, Matosinhos.
Explanation: What dark forms lurk in the mists of the Carina Nebula? These ominous figures are actually molecular clouds, knots of molecular gas and dust so thick they have become opaque. In comparison, however, these clouds are typically much less dense than Earth's atmosphere. Pictured above is part of the most detailed image of the Carina Nebula ever taken, a part where dark molecular clouds are particularly prominent. The entire Carina Nebula spans over 300 light years and lies about 7,500 light-years away in the constellation of Carina. NGC 3372, known as the Great Nebula in Carina, is home to massive stars and changing nebula. Eta Carinae, the most energetic star in the nebula, was one of the brightest stars in the sky in the 1830s, but then faded dramatically. Wide-field annotated and zoomable versions of the larger image composite are also available.
digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080528.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';
Manuel Pinho enviou hoje uma carta ao presidente em exercício do Conselho da Competitividade, o comissário Andrej Vizjack, e ao vice-presidente da Comissão Europeia, Gunther Verheugen, a pedir que o tema seja debatido nos conselhos de Competitividade e Energia com "a máxima urgência". O objectivo é identificar "as medidas a curto e a médio prazo que possam minimizar o efeito negativo da escalada do preço do petróleo", refere o comunicado. O ministro considera que a subida do preço do petróleo está "a ter um efeito negativo sobre a economia europeia a vários níveis com impactos preocupantes no crescimento económico, no poder de compra das famílias e na competitividade das empresas, em particular sobre as PME". Manuel Pinho considera "muito importante" que esta situação seja debatida a nível europeu, afirmando que no médio prazo se tem vindo a trabalhar no aumento da eficiência energética, na modernização do sistema de transportes e na maior utilização de energias renováveis.
With limited surplus capacity and little investment in real terms, supply pressures may persist putting an upward pressure on today’s prices. The IEA, which usually tracks demand, not supply, announced that it may scale down long-term supply forecasts, suggesting that both OPEC and non-OPEC supply may increase at a slower pace than previously thought. Furthermore, much of OPEC’s surplus capacity is in heavier grades of oil, which sells at a discount. RGE’s Mikka Pineda and Rachel Ziemba recently surveyed the “Drivers of the Oil boom”
There may be signs that high oil and product prices are having an effect though, at least in industrialized countries, which still account for the bulk of demand. U.S. imports of crude oil have been falling for several weeks and gasoline purchases are being watched closely for any decreases. Yet the recent output increase from Saudi Arabia is all bound for U.S. customers. See “Will U.S. Oil Imports Keep Falling?” and “Saudi Arabia as the Central Bank of Oil: How Significant Are New Supplies?”Yet, so far slowing demand from OECD countries has been offset by persistent demand growth from emerging markets, especially fast-growing Asian and oil exporting economies. Many of these countries subsidize fuel prices, meaning that consumers are mostly sheltered from the price shock even if producers and government budgets are not. On the RGE Analysts EconoMonitor, Rachel Ziemba suggested that the persistence of price caps may inject uncertainty into the market and lower incentives to seek out alternative supplies for domestic markets. Yet, a limited price increase, such as the one that Indonesia just introduced, might result in the double whammy of rising prices while still swelling fiscal budgets. See “Subsidies Fuel Rapid Oil Consumption Growth in Oil Exporting Countries” and “Are Oil Subsidies Getting Too Costly For Asia?” The lag between inflation and slower growth has been longer than expected and has revived fears of stagflation. Forecasters envision the oil juggernaut will lose momentum later this year on a global demand slowdown predicated upon the economic fallout of the credit crisis and/or the self-limiting effects of high inflation. Indeed, the oil futures curve has moved into contango, which tends to drive oil inventories higher and spot prices lower. Perhaps a sign of higher gasoline prices crimping demand, Americans are driving less than last year. On the other hand, the Baltic Dry Shipping Index and Dow Jones Transportation Average hit all-time highs last week, suggesting resilient global demand will not slow enough to dampen oil prices significantly this year. Historically, it took 4 years for U.S. consumption to decline after the 1979 oil shock - see “Oil and Inflation: A Negative or Positive Correlation?”
Meanwhile, persistent high oil prices have intensified unease over inflation. Risky assets enjoyed a breath of optimism since the March 17 Bear Stearns rescue, but the 'worst is over' optimism about the economy is now fading - this time due to higher inflation rather than slowing growth. Weakening U.S. consumer demand undercuts the ability of producers to pass on cost increases to consumers, but inflationary pressures are building throughout the production chain; thus, some mild pass-through to core consumer inflation may be inevitable. However, thanks to seasonal adjustments, the large share of falling housing prices and the exclusion of food and energy prices from core inflation indices, the official U.S. inflation figures look benign compared to what consumers actually experience in the U.S. and the rest of the world. EU and emerging markets suffer higher inflation figures due to the inclusion of processed foods and the higher share of food and energy in core consumer baskets. Diesel, the fuel of choice outside the U.S., fetches higher prices than gasoline. These countries are also more susceptible to wage hikes than the U.S. due to stronger labor unions and policies. Fortunately, EU inflation looks likely to have peaked and will moderate (albeit only slightly) this year on base effects. Emerging markets, on the other hand, face an uphill battle with inflation as diesel, the fuel of choice for industrial and some consumer applications, fetches higher prices than gasoline with the oil-diesel crack spread at all-time highs.
Granted, inflation today in developed countries is far from the double-digit Great Inflation of the 1970s - second round effects have yet to appear globally (with exceptions such as Germany and the Middle Eastern Gulf). Nonetheless, though the lack of second round effects may keep current inflation trends as temporary, it makes them painful because wages fail to keep up with higher consumer prices. Moreover, trade barriers and hoarding threaten to turn a demand-side shock into a supply-side shock to food and fuel prices, sustaining higher inflation for longer. Regardless of the source of shock and the dissipation of the food price shock, a continued rise in oil prices - despite slowing economic growth - can render the feeling of stagflation among consumers, if not in official statistics. Perceived inflation, corroborated by statistics or not, can feed into inflation expectations that drive prices higher (including oil futures prices) and, eventually, consumer demand lower. Furthermore, developed countries are not immune to inflation in developing countries if developing countries pass on cost increases through export prices and maintain a high level of oil demand growth.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
It is standard to claim that international economic integration, especially across similar countries, improves efficiency, and need not have any impact on inequality and risk. Adopting a single money (and delegating monetary policy to a non-political independent Central Bank) fosters stability, investment, growth – with no necessary impact on inequality. All this is true. But if this was all, it would be hard to explain why all countries have not yet dismantled all barriers to trade and factor mobility, and have not yet adopted one and only one planetary currency.
In fact, extending the reach of markets across countries’ borders offers new freedoms not only to exploit trade opportunities, but also to escape each country’s regulation and taxation. Thus, integration makes it more difficult for each country to implement policies meant to interfere with market outcomes. This may be a good thing if policy is shaped by rent-seeking political interactions: then, economic integration improves efficiency not only directly, but also by fostering policy reform. Again, theory predicts positive production effects of economic integration.
But many government policies do not simply waste and redistribute output. In every country, social policy offers insurance against job-market and other life-shaping risks that markets are poorly equipped to deal with. Fears of a race to the bottom in social insurance, just at the same time as economic integration introduces new sources of risk in each country’s labour market, are an important obstacle to full liberalization of international markets. If integration kills social policy, and financial markets remain imperfect and incomplete, increasing inequality and insecurity may well more than offset aggregate efficiency gains.
These statistics, like all statistics, are unavoidably imprecise measures of very complex phenomena. But it is interesting to see that just as the Eurozone countries began to enjoy full and irreversible economic integration, inequality increased very sharply in the EU15 and more sharply in the 12 Eurozone countries, and that a similar U-shaped path is followed by many individual countries. A large variety of factors is relevant to these and other developments. But it is possible to use simple statistical techniques to try and detect in noisy data the relationship (if any) of measured inequality to arguably more precisely measured economic variables, such as income and unemployment, and to EMU.
If EU15 countries are sufficiently similar and similarly influenced by other events, it is possible to attribute to EMU what appears difference across “ins” and “outs” before and after EMU, and assess the statistical significance of such “differences in differences”. Detailed results may be found in a paper I wrote. EMU does appear to improve economic performance (both in terms of per capita income and in terms of unemployment) and the intensity of international transactions (especially as regards foreign direct investment flows). But it also appears to be associated with higher inequality, and with lower social spending. In fact, inequality variation associated with EMU is fully accounted for by changes in social policy expenditure (excluding pensions) as a share of GDP, and in GDP and unemployment (both of which are of course likely to be influenced by integration as policies, as well as by global cyclical and technological development).
This evidence is intriguingly consistent with theoretical mechanisms. What is ambiguous in theory (the inequality impact of integration per se, controlling for policy factors) is statistically indistinguishable from zero in the data. And what is unambiguously predicted by theory is confirmed by the data: integration of markets should improve efficiency both directly and by making it more difficult for policy to interfere with markets, and in the data it does increase GDP, decrease unemployment – and increase inequality. In data, economic integration’s inequality effects are mediated by (comparatively, in comparison to pre-EMU and non-EMU) less generous social policy, and some of the apparent increase in country output may reflect smaller inefficiency losses from redistribution’s effects on effort incentives.
Whether such developments should be viewed as good news depends on the side of redistribution budgets one finds himself on, and on whether one views redistribution as a suitable or a misguided tool for pursuing goals that markets should in principle but might in practice fail to achieve. Financial market development can indeed fulfil some of the needs addressed by social policy in theory, and another recent paper I wrote documents its negative association with lower social spending in cross-country data. When governments cannot smooth income shocks, demand for insurance and savings certainly increases.
But can the supply side of many Eurozone countries’ sclerotic and uncompetitive banking and finance sectors accommodate this demand and reduce the welfare impact of economic insecurity? In the data, indicators such as the ratio to GDP of bonds, credit, and stock market valuation do not appear to be any higher in EMU countries, after adoption of the euro, than in the comparison group. This is worrisome, may justify many European citizens’ distrust of ‘the euro’, and should induce Eurozone governments to build the supervisory and antitrust infrastructures needed for markets to supply transparent, inexpensive, and efficient financial instruments.
Monday, May 26, 2008
A posição da social democrata M Ferreira Leite quanto à não redução do imposto sobre combustíveis é, paradoxalmente, mais liberal do que a defendida pelo liberal P Passos Coelho porque remete para o mercado o ajustamento económico às subidas dos preços dos combustíveis.
O primeiro-ministro, José Sócrates, garantiu hoje que o Governo não cederá "à tentação de facilitismo" que levou ao congelamento do preço dos combustíveis no passado."Esse não é o caminho correcto", frisou José Sócrates, no final do Encontro Compromisso com a Inovação, que decorreu hoje em Lisboa. "Este não é o momento para ceder nem à demagogia nem à facilidade. Um Governo responsável não o pode fazer, deve sim ajudar quem mais precisa e foi o que fizemos", sublinhou o primeiro-ministro. Remetendo para as medidas anunciadas quarta-feira na Assembleia da República [aumento em 25 por cento do abono de família nos primeiro e segundo escalões e o congelamento dos passes sociais], Sócrates frisou, numa pequena declaração aos jornalistas, que o Governo está a tomar as "medidas correctas" face à escalada do preço dos combustíveis. "O efeito do congelamento dos preços dos combustíveis foi muito negativo quer nas contas públicas quer nos sinais erróneos que se deram aos agentes económicos", concluiu.
A CMVM vai prosseguir a acção de supervisão sobre a KPMG, no sentido de apurar se a empresa de auditoria teve ou não responsabilidade nas irregularidades que terão sido cometidas pelo BCP na utilização de sociedades "off-shores" para financiar a aquisição de acções próprias.
Foi esta mesma informação que a autoridade de supervisão liderada por Carlos Tavares transmitiu ao presidente do conselho geral e de supervisão (CGS) e à comissão de auditoria e risco do BCP, numa carta enviada esta tarde.
Fonte oficial da CMVM confirmou ao Jornal de Negócios o envio desta missiva e a continuação da investigação, uma vez que a KPMG disponibilizou ao supervisor um "vasto conjunto de elementos cuja análise está em curso e que ainda não permitem tirar conclusões". O objectivo da entidade de supervisão é perceber se a empresa que audita as contas do BCP há mais de uma década teve conhecimento da utilização irregular de "off-shores" ou se deveria ter tido no âmbito das suas competências.
O objectivo inicial da instituição liderada por Carlos Tavares era ter conclusões preliminares sobre o papel da KPMG antes da assembleia geral do BCP, que tem lugar esta terça-feira. No entanto, a CMVM acabou por não ter condições para concluir se aquela empresa deve ou não ser responsabilizada.
Na AG, os accionistas do BCP são chamados a eleger o auditor e o revisor oficial de contas (ROC) do banco. A KPMG é o candidato proposto pelo CGS e a única empresa proposta para aqueles cargos, já que o presidente da mesa da assembleia, António Menezes Cordeiro, recusou uma proposta de Pedro Teixeira Duarte que avançou com a candidatura da Deloitte.
Explanation: This flat horizon stretches across the red planet as seen by the Phoenix spacecraft after yesterday's landing on Mars. Touching down shortly after 7:30pm Eastern Time, Phoenix made the first successful soft landing on Mars, using rockets to control its final speed, since the Viking landers in 1976. Launched in August of 2007, Phoenix has now made the northernmost landing and is intended to explore the Martian arctic's potentially ice-rich soil. The lander has returned images and data initially indicating that it is in excellent shape after a nearly flawless descent. News updates will be available throughout the day.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Friday, May 23, 2008
Explanation: For about 300 years Jupiter's banded atmosphere has shown a remarkable feature to telescopic viewers, a large swirling storm system known as The Great Red Spot. In 2006, another red storm system appeared, actually seen to form as smaller whitish oval-shaped storms merged and then developed the curious reddish hue. Now, Jupiter has a third red spot, again produced from a smaller whitish storm. All three are seen in this image made from data recorded on May 9 and 10 with the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2. The spots extend above the surrounding clouds and their red color may be due to deeper material dredged up by the storms and exposed to ultraviolet light, but the exact chemical process is still unknown. For scale, the Great Red Spot has almost twice the diameter of planet Earth, making both new spots less than one Earth-diameter across. The newest red spot is on the far left (west), along the same band of clouds as the Great Red Spot and is drifting toward it. If the motion continues, the new spot will encounter the much larger storm system in August. Jupiter's recent outbreak of red spots is likely related to large scale climate change as the gas giant planet is getting warmer near the equator.
digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080523.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Skyrocketing Oil Prices Stump Experts
Oil Execs Tell Congress: Don't Blame Us
Executives from the country's top oil companies say they are not to blame for rising prices at the pump and offer an array of reasons why gas costs more and offer some ideas on how to solve the problem.
Executives from the giant oil companies say it's partly the fault of "speculators" or financial players. Key financial players say it's really a question of limited supply and expanding global demand. Some members of Congress accuse the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries for bottling up some of its production capacity. And OPEC blames speculators, wasteful U.S. consumers and feckless U.S. policy.
Almost everyone points at China's growing appetite for fuel.
Whatever the causes, one of the most dizzying runs in the history of oil prices picked up pace yesterday -- again -- as crude oil prices jumped to settle at more than $133 a barrel, up $4.19 in one day, 18 percent so far this month and more than one-third so far this year. Prices climbed even higher in late electronic trading.
The nationwide average price for a gallon of regular gasoline yesterday also set another record at $3.81 a gallon, up a penny a day for the past month, the auto club AAA reported.
"People don't get it," said Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) at a Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday at which senior oil company executives were grilled about prices. Kohl said: "Demand is not crazy. Why are prices going crazy?"
While the share of blame for soaring oil prices may be blurry, the impact of those rising prices is painfully clear. They are damaging the profits of oil-intensive industries, tearing holes in the pockets of American consumers, offsetting the stimulant effect of tax breaks, sapping more than $1.5 billion a day out of the U.S. economy for oil imports and diverting ever-bigger gushers of dollars to oil-producing countries such as Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran and Venezuela.
Analysts cited several factors behind yesterday's crude oil move: the declining dollar, the impact of higher price forecasts issued by investment banks, an unexpected drop in U.S. crude inventories and a jump in Chinese fuel imports. China needs extra fuel to run generators to compensate for disruptions in coal deliveries and hydropower resulting from the recent earthquake. Traders said demand is particularly strong for diesel fuel, used by drivers in Europe and in Chinese generators.
But the bigger question is: What has been driving the doubling of prices over the past year even as U.S. demand has stagnated and global output has continued without any major new disruption?
"The basic story that has brought oil from $20 to $130 dollars is that world demand is growing robustly when world supply is not," argued Jeffrey Rubin, chief economist of CIBC World Markets. "As a result, we need ever-higher world oil prices to kill demand in the [industrialized countries], which is exactly what's happening."
While U.S. demand has leveled off, Rubin said, demand in China is growing at a 12 percent rate, more than the 8 percent rate he forecast. While the extra increase in China is probably because of short-term factors, such as the earthquake or hoarding by the government in preparation for the Olympics, Rubin said even the lower rate would keep world demand growing briskly.
Earlier this month, Goldman Sachs rattled the market by upping its second-half 2008 forecast for oil prices to $141 a barrel from $107. And it said prices could spike as high as $200 a barrel.
Oil consumers usually react slowly to price increases; savings come as they buy more fuel-efficient cars.
But another reason high prices haven't had a bigger effect on consumption is that much of the world isn't paying market price. "Half the world is not seeing the real oil price," said Rob J. Routs, executive director for oil products and chemicals at Royal Dutch Shell.
This year, for example, India is expected to pay more than $20 billion in fuel subsidies. According to the International Monetary Fund, Lebanon, Mexico and Peru have cut excise taxes, and the Philippines and Ukraine have lowered import duties to blunt price increases -- much as Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) have proposed a tax "holiday" for U.S. motorists.
Oil-producing countries are among the worst culprits; their consumption has rivaled China's. CIBC's Rubin said Mexico, the second-leading source of U.S. oil imports last year, could be a net oil importer in five years.
But even the oil industry and financial community are divided over the cause of high oil prices. "There's nobody waiting at retail stations to fill up cars," said Routs, who points to financial flows. "There's no problem getting crude to refineries."
"The high is developing a momentum of its own," said a pair of analysts at Commerzbank in Frankfurt, Germany. Bloomberg News reported that they said "the trend will soon be coming to an end, and that the subsequent correction will be all the more severe."
"We see many of the essential ingredients for a classic asset bubble," said Edward Morse, chief energy economist at Lehman Brothers. Morse estimated that $90 billion has flowed into the biggest commodity indices in just more than two years, and more money has flowed into other exchanges, pushing up prices.
"Performance-chasing financial inflows to commodities cause prices to rise, thus delivering good performance and, in turn, attracting even more inflows. This phenomenon can be self-fulfilling," Morse said. Ultimately, however, "commodities markets still have a physical aspect to them that must fundamentally balance." He said that once the size of oil inventories and worldwide spare production capacity becomes clearer, "markets may face a sharp correction."