Business Recap – Nando Slijkerman
Yes, we did it! The AEX finally exceeded the 500 index points, finishing a 511 index points at the moment of writing. Election uncertainty is decreasing due to a loss of the populists. This can be the end of the march of the populists and can strengthen the bond between EU-countries, which is good for capital channeling.
Akzo Nobel NV spurned a sweetened, 22.4 billion-euro ($24.2 billion) takeover offer from PPG Industries Inc., marking the second time that Europe’s largest coatings company has rebuffed an overture from its U.S. competitor and sparking criticism from a shareholder
Citigroup Inc. plans to close three of its four London branches as the company seeks to cut costs and focus on digital services. The U.S. bank has written to clients about plans to shutter outlets in the City of London, Mayfair and Canary Wharf districts in the next two months. The lender will continue to operate the Citigold and Citigold Private Client Center at its European headquarters in Canary Wharf (London).
Also, other banks are planning to move out of London; Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s Suneil Mahindru, head of international stock investing, is relocating to the U.S. from London after the firm decided to close a European-equities investment fund, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
Upcoming elections in France might give some volatility to the markets. Hedging your portfolio against populism might be a good idea in that case. How? One of the possibilities is to go short on EUR/USD.
Let’s have a look at the numbers. Growth continues for Europe in March; AEX rose with 3.37% this month, and our German neighbors (DAX) increased 1.87%. S&P fell 0.90% % and the Dow Jones also decreased by 0.79 %. After February was a better month for America’s markets, Europe is back in business.
Let’s monitor the developments with respect to the elections closely, and see you on the markets next month!
Underperforming Uber – Hải Đăng Vũ
Despite its unrelenting business expansion in the global market, Uber began to suffer from its long-building flashy reputation by recent scandalous events during the past half a year. These events sparked widespread unfavorable public opinion on the company.
The company’s reputation has already started to erode since last year. Following the US presidential election last year, Uber repetitively showed its support for the Trump campaign. Its founder, Travis Kalanick, also expressed his willingness to work under Trump’s administration. Although Travis himself later withdrew from any involvement the damage has already been done. The social media movement dubbed #DeleteUber that followed these events received substantial support with more than 200,000 individuals removing the application from their mobile devices.
It has not been a great start to 2017 either for Uber. The development has travelled from application error that involved a busted French user having an affair to more serious allegations into sexual assaults that happened within the organization, one of which included the executive of the company. Later this month, one of its presidents, Jeff Jones, also decided to resign from his current position of the board.
However, Rachel Holt, a representative from Uber, believed that these events had not been far too consequential to the performance of the company, while suggesting that the statistics showed otherwise. Growth continues to expand at 10 percent year-on-year for US domestic market, as she claimed. The company, however, is determined to repair the damages and is looking forward to recover its status as one of the most influential businesses in the world.
Economics – Raffaele Di Carlo
The 21st century seems to be taking its toll on the Western man: as the US public debt skyrocketed to the unprecedented record of $20 trillion this March, the West seems to be losing its economic and political dominance over the rest of the world. An essay published by Mathijs Koenradt on the 21st of March summarizes this change: Europe and the US have shifted from controlling around 75% of the world’s GDP together in the 1960s to less than 50% over the current decade. This is partly due to decolonisation and the Cold War, but mostly to the rise of emerging economies which have seized more and more of the world’s production. Combined with the technological revolutions of the last few years, the Western low-skilled labor force has suddenly found itself on the losing side: a study published on 23rd of March by Princeton University seems to confirm that midlife mortality, as in suicides and drug- or alcohol-related deaths, among white low-skilled males has been on the rise since the start of the century, while this effect does not seem so sharp on females or on other ethnic groups. While this terrible phenomenon has touched mostly all developed and emerging economies, the United States lead the chart with 81 deaths per 100,000 people aged 50-54.
Brazilian Exports – Evrim Öztamur
The Weak Flesh probe, launched March 17 by the Brazilian police, quickly resulted in evidence that 21 meat companies bribed government inspectors to approve sales and exports of contaminated or spoiled meat and poultry. Thirty-three federal inspectors are being investigated over the case. Although there are no reports of poisoning from the meat that has been already imported, it has been shown that ingredients including pig heads and cardboard had been added into cold cuts and sausages, and the smell of spoiled meat has been masked through the use of acids.
As a result, sixteen countries and the EU together have announced restrictions on the import of Brazilian meat products, which led to a 99.9% drop in exports revenue, down from 63 million USD per day on average to a mere 73 thousand USD. Although this number is not going to stay that way for long, the trust in Brazilian meat exports has decreased significantly. This will likely end up being very damaging to the Brazilian economy.
In case you are eating poultry and poultry-based products, there is a high chance that you are consuming Brazilian exports. The EU is one of the top importers of Brazilian chicken meat at 403,000 metric tons, and Italy specifically imports nearly 26,000 metrics tons of beef.
UvA Inside (Sefa) – Daphne Sweers
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Besides the tensions between Turkey and The Netherlands that were discussed in this article, a lot has happened in worldwide politics this month. Some important topics are discussed below.
Dutch Elections – Leonie Ernst
The 15th of March the Dutch elections took place. As we mentioned before, it was pretty exciting what exactly was going to happen. After all 10,563,456 votes were counted, incumbent PM Mark Rutte’s party again turned out to be the largest. According to the international media ‘populism was defeated’, because right-wing populist Geert Wilders did not win the elections, but ended after Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). However, Wilders’ Party of Freedom (PVV) did enlarge its number of seats in the House of Representatives from 15 to 20 (out of 150), while the VVD shrank from 41 to 33.
Thirteen parties (!) managed to gather enough votes to get seats in the House of Representatives. Due to this large number of parties, forming a coalition is going to be rather difficult as well. Right now, Rutte is negotiating with the third-, fourth-, and fifth-largest parties to hopefully come to an agreement this week. He indicated not to be willing to cooperate with the PVV again, because he wants to form a stable coalition, and argues the PVV has lost that opportunity after the failed minority construction in 2010.
There are actually two likely scenarios, of which the first is a coalition between the VVD, the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA, 19 seats), Democrats 66 (D66, 19 seats), and GreenLeft (14 seats). The other option concerns the first three parties as well, whereas GreenLeft would be replaced by the Christian Union (6 seats). Both constructions will form a majority in the House of Representatives, so the Dutch await for the final decision…
Schnaps und Frauen – Mostafa Al Shikh
The Dutch minister of Finance Jeroen Dijsselbloem got himself into serious trouble this week after already facing a difficult month. Major losses for the Dutch Labour Party (PVDA) during the Dutch elections caused him to lose his seat in the House of Representatives. During the negotiations of the new government, Dijsselbloem is allowed to keep continuing his job as the minister of Finance. Simultaneously, Dijsselbloem is active as the president of the Eurogroup. This government agency consists of the 19 ministers of Finance from the countries who adopted the Euro as their currency.
In an interview in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Mr. Dijsselbloem made a remark which caught the attention of several political figures in the southern countries of Europe. According to Het Financieele Dagblad Dijsselbloem said: ‘you can’t just spend all your money on liquor and women (‘Schnaps und Frauen’) and afterwards ask for help.’. He possibly referred to southern countries like Spain, Italy, and Greece that have difficulties keeping their fiscal policy in check. After being appointed as the successor of the Luxembourger Jean-Claude Juncker in 2013, Dijsselbloem received several compliments from colleagues for adequately handling the Sovereign Debt Crisis in Europe. However, making remarks like the one earlier this week could antagonize the ministers of Finance in the southern countries. This eventually could lead to an abrupt halt to his term as president of the Eurogroup.
International women’s day and marches – Yana Chernysh
This month two women-related events took place. One of them being the International women’s day, that is celebrated on the 8th of March. Although it is not a huge thing in Western Europe, in some countries, it is a national holiday. The main aim is to once more give appreciation and emphasize the importance and the hard work of mothers, grandmothers and all females that have an impact on you. Moreover, it is a nice opportunity to have an extra day off and have a nice celebration with family and friends.
As well as this, the Women’s March in Amsterdam took place on the 11th. Starting from Dam square towards Museumplein, several thousands of people marched in a protest of discrimination and with the support of equal rights and diversity. The main aim of this march was to attract attention to the Dutch elections, that took place shortly after the Women’s march. The hashtag used was VoteAgainstHate, which was connected to the right-wing parties that seem very controversial and are compared to Trump’s party.
According to the police, the march happened without any accidents. Moreover, as stated by the organizers, it did attract the desired attention.
London terror attack – Tsz-Tian Lu
“This is a day we planned for which we hoped would never come”, said Mark Rowley, Britain’s most senior counter-terror police officer. The heinous terror attack took place on 22nd of March, outside the U.K. Parliament and the Westminster Bridge where the attacker crashed into the pedestrian district and went straight into the fences surrounding the parliament. The attack resulted in total casualties of five death and more than 40 injuries. One of the deceased, Pc Keith Palmer, was stabbed to death as he guarded the Palace of Westminster when the terrorist conducted the terror attack. He is praised as the ‘hero cop’ and people are making donations online, which raised over £670k in just a few hours.
The attacker, Khalid Masood, was born in the U.K. and he was associated with several extremely brutal criminalities before he conducted the Westminster terror attack. However, he was not deemed to be who would potentially commit a terror attack nor linked to terrorism according to the source MI5 (the U.K.’s domestic counterintelligence and security agency) obtained. As for whether the Islamic State is behind this attack, they claimed that the attacker was ‘inspired’ by them, but IS was not directly behind this whole crime. This is very worrisome, as it indicates that it is getting easier for the extremist to conduct a terror attack without any financial support, and it is very easy to imitate as well. As we can see, the pattern is similar among some terrific attacks recently—from the Nice terror attack in July 2016, the Berlin terror attack last Christmas to this one, in which all the terrorists need is only a truck or a small vehicle.
Martin McGuinness – Alma Rottem
On Friday, a coffin wrapped in the Irish tricolour flag was paraded through the streets of Derry (Londonderry, Northern Ireland) followed by thousands of people paying their last respects to Martin McGuiness. In the history of the conflict in Northern Ireland, McGuiness had a vital role. He was an IRA leader turned peacemaker, an architect of the Good Friday Agreement and a Sinn Féin politician. McGuiness died of illness last Tuesday at the age of 66. He was still serving as the deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland until January this year.
McGuiness’ life embodies the history of the Irish nationalist-religious conflict, through the decades of terrible violence to the historic peace agreement in 1998. He was a devoted republican who was not afraid of negotiations. As a politician, he cooperated with those who were formerly his worst enemies; once arrested next to a car full of explosives, he ended up shaking Queen Elizabeth’s hand.
Present at the funeral were many Sinn Féin politicians, as well as members of the Democratic Unionist Party. Former US president Bill Clinton, an important figure in the formulation of the Good Friday Agreement, also attended. Although the question whether a man should be remembered for his youth or for his late achievements still remains open, the story of Martin McGuiness contains ample hope for those believing that dreadful violence can be replaced by something better. Peacemaking does not end, it is an “endless process” as Clinton said, and this man was the beginning in Northern Ireland.
Earth Hour – Atma Jyoti Mahapatra
With an increasing number of people discrediting the very notion of climate change, a.k.a. Trump supporters, Earth Hour on the 25th of March was a very welcome reminder of the ticking time bomb in our hands. In a decade long tradition of switching off lights and electrical appliances for one hour, this event was started by the World Wildlife Fund to promote sustainability in 2007. Originally starting in Sydney, citizens of France, Netherlands (to name a few) and almost 100 more countries make it a point to observe this.
Protests in Belarus – Atma Jyoti Mahapatra
Europe’s last dictator, the President of Belarus, displayed a strong hand over protesters marching against his autocratic rule. March 25, which is also celebrated as “Freedom Day”, saw hundreds of people taking to the streets in Minsk and elsewhere to protest many things, including the “Social Parasite Law”. This law, formally known as “Presidential Decree on Prevention of Social Dependency” requires the unemployed to pay $250 tax annually. This has caused a lot of dissent amongst the national population, especially since the country has slipped into a recession since 2015.
Trumpcare collapses – Michael van Rhee
Donald Trump has failed to get his new healthcare reform proposals, better known as Trumpcare, through the House of Representatives. The plans were withdrawn before the actual vote took place, since a majority was out of reach. Trump aimed to get rid of the compulsory nature of Obamacare, making healthcare optional again. Aditionally, he wanted to introduce a financial compensation based on age instead of income. Critics feared that the less wealthy Americans would ultimately suffer the consequences of this, arguing that they wouldn’t be able to pay their insurance anymore after losing the income-dependent tax benefits under Obamacare. Republicans, on the other hand, still adopt a free market doctrine, arguing that the government shouldn’t interfere with healthcare; instead, they believe that the greater amount of choice caused by the increase in competition (guided by the invisible hand of yours truly) would boost the overall quality while reducing costs. Indeed, it’s textbook economics all over again.
Ironically, Trump was stopped in his tracks by those very same Republicans, as he failed to convert their majority in the House of Representatives. Trump then went on to blame the Democrats for it. Sigh, some things will never change.
Egypt’s Mubarak Free – Omar Osman
In a sequential symbolism of the victory of the counter revolution in Egypt, former president Husni Mubarak was freed on March 24th for the first time since he has been detained since February 2011. Mubarak is not the first figure of the-revolted-against-regime that was freed. His acquittal is a continuation or may be the climax of the chain of victories made by the counter revolution, currently led by the current Egyptian president, Abd el Fattah El Sisi, who has ruled Egypt since he led a successful military coup on July 3rd, 2013.
Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for more than three decades, was forced to relinquish executive power to the Egyptian Supreme Council of Armed Forces in February 2011 after 18 days of countrywide protests. Two months later, he was put on trial to face multiple charges, including corruption, abuse of power and involvement in the murder of hundreds of anti-regime demonstrators by Egyptian security forces. After several trials, appeals and retrials, however, he was ultimately cleared of the charges against him.