150 Years of Boom and Bust – What Drives Mineral Commodity Prices?

150 Years of Boom and Bust – What Drives Mineral Commodity Prices?

Martin Stürmer University of Bonn

February 1, 2013
German Development Institute Paper No. 5/2013

This paper examines the dynamic effects of demand and supply shocks on mineral commodity prices. It provides empirical insights by using annual data for the copper, lead, tin, and zinc markets from 1840 to 2010. I identify structural shocks by using long-run restrictions and compare these shocks to narrative historical evidence about the respective markets. Long-term price fluctuations are mainly driven by persistent demand shocks. Supply shocks exhibit some importance in the tin and copper markets due to oligopolistic market structures. World output- driven demand shocks have persistent, positive effects on mineral production. Long-term linear trends are statistically insignificant or significantly negative for the examined commodity prices. My results suggest that the current price boom is temporary but not permanent. Commodity exporting countries should prepare for a downswing of prices, while commodity importing countries should not fear for the security of supply of these widely used mineral commodities.

Size is a Drag: How Hedge Fund Growth May Be Affecting Returns

Size is a Drag: How Hedge Fund Growth May Be Affecting Returns

Ian Hunt EDHEC Risk Institute

March 31, 2013

The hedge fund industry has grown massively. Most of the growth appears to be from inward capital cash flows, rather than retained investment returns. But it is difficult to gauge hedge fund cash flows and returns exactly – no available data set straightforwardly represents the industry as a whole, and each data set is incomplete and possibly biased. Despite various data constraints, I reveal a salient negative relationship between the hedge fund industry’s size and its percentage returns. This relationship is economically and statistically significant. And it is not sensitive to the choice of data set.

Tech-savvy Vietnam coffee farmers brew global takeover; Most Vietnamese coffee farmers can tell you the price of the beans, the second most traded commodity in the world after oil, in their sleep

Tech-savvy Vietnam coffee farmers brew global takeover

Most Vietnamese coffee farmers can tell you the price of the beans in their sleep. -AFP

Wed, Apr 17, 2013

Buon Ma Thuot, Vietnam – Most Vietnamese coffee farmers have never heard of a double tall skinny latte, but they could tell you the price of the beans that go into one in their sleep.

From high-tech Israeli irrigation systems to text message updates of global prices for the commodity, coffee farming in Vietnam’s Central Highlands has come a long way since the French first introduced the bean over a century ago.

“I used to carry my coffee to market by bicycle,” said 44-year-old farmer Ama Diem. “Now I check the bean price on my mobile phones” before making the trip.

By texting “CA” to the number 8288 from any Vietnamese mobile phone, farmers almost instantly receive a message with the London prices of Robusta coffee beans and the New York price of Arabica beans from a data supply firm. Read more of this post

The Cypriot government plans to sell part of its gold reserves within the next months, Finance Minister Haris Georgiades said

Cyprus Central Bank Must Approve Gold Sale, Finance Chief Says

The Cypriot government plans to sell part of its gold reserves within the next months, a decision that needs to be approved by the country’s central bank, Finance Minister Haris Georgiadessaid.

“The exact details of it will be formulated in due course primarily by the board of the central bank,” Georgiades, 41, told Bloomberg TV’s Ryan Chilcote in an interview in Nicosia. “Obviously it’s a big decision.”

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades is trying to unlock 10 billion euros ($13.2 billion) of loans from the euro area and the International Monetary Fund. To do so, he must come up with a further 11 billion euros through measures including a tax on bank deposits of more than 100,000 euros at the country’s two biggest banks and the sale of assets and gold.

An April 9 debt assessment by the European Commission said Cyprus had committed to selling about 400 million euros of “excess” gold reserves, prompting gold futures to fall the most in five months. In response to the disclosure, the Central Bank of Cyprus said it wasn’t considering a sale. Read more of this post

Berkshire Gains as Buffett’s Coca-Cola Stake Rallies

Berkshire Gains as Buffett’s Coca-Cola Stake Rallies

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., the largest investor in Coca-Cola Co. (KO), jumped the most since January in New York trading on gains in the value of its stake in the soft-drink maker. Berkshire Class A shares rallied $4,000, or 2.6 percent, to $161,000, a record closing price. Atlanta-based Coca-Cola surged 5.7 percent after posting first-quarter profit that beat analysts’ estimates and announcing a deal to sell some bottling distribution rights in North America. Buffett’s firm has 400 million Coca-Cola shares, making it one of the four largest holdings at Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire, along with investments in Wells Fargo & Co., American Express Co., and International Business Machines Corp. Berkshire’s stakes in the companies may increase in the future as the firms buy back shares, Buffett said in a letter to investors last month. “The four companies possess marvelous businesses and are run by managers who are both talented and shareholder- oriented,” Buffett said in the letter. “Too much of good thing can be wonderful.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Noah Buhayar in New York at nbuhayar@bloomberg.net

Updated April 16, 2013, 7:59 p.m. ET

New Coke: Bottlers Are Back

Beverage Company Expanding Delivery Territories for Five of Its Independent Bottling Companies


Coca-Cola Co. KO +5.69% likes to have its cake and eat it too.

That is why it sold its bottlers and then bought them back again. That is why it is now going back to the franchise model for distribution. Read more of this post

The Fresh Start Effect: Breaking Points in Life Motivate Virtuous Behavior

The Fresh Start Effect: Breaking Points in Life Motivate Virtuous Behavior

Hengchen Dai University of Pennsylvania – The Wharton School

Katherine L. Milkman University of Pennsylvania – The Wharton School

Jason Riis Harvard Business School

January 20, 2013
The Wharton School Research Paper No. 51

Many view the commencement of each New Year as an opportunity for a fresh start, which motivates them to pursue virtuous goals. We demonstrate that this well-known uptick in virtuous behavior following New Year’s is just one example of a broader phenomenon, which we refer to as the ‘fresh start effect.’ Specifically, special (and mundane) occasions in our lives and calendar events demarcate the passage of time (e.g., a promotion, a birthday, the beginning of a new week/month), creating many breaking points in each year. We show that these breaking points generate fresh start feelings, which are stronger at meaningful discontinuities and motivate subsequent virtuous behavior such as exercise and dieting. We propose and show that the fresh start feelings associated with breaking points originate from a psychological disassociation from our past self and belief that we are more like our ideal selves at the beginning of a new period.

The Art of Thinking Clearly

The Art of Thinking Clearly [Hardcover]

Rolf Dobelli (Author)


Release date: May 14, 2013

The Art of Thinking Clearly by world-class thinker and entrepreneur Rolf Dobelli is an eye-opening look at human psychology and reasoning — essential reading for anyone who wants to avoid “cognitive errors” and make better choices in all aspects of their lives.

Have you ever: Invested time in something that, with hindsight, just wasn’t worth it? Or continued doing something you knew was bad for you? These are examples of cognitive biases, simple errors we all make in our day-to-day thinking. But by knowing what they are and how to spot them, we can avoid them and make better decisions.

Simple, clear, and always surprising, this indispensable book will change the way you think and transform your decision-making—work, at home, every day. It reveals, in 99 short chapters, the most common errors of judgment, and how to avoid them. Read more of this post

Minxin Pei: China’s Dream World; Political slogans, however high-sounding, become stale when their purveyors fail to make good on their promises

China’s Dream World

Minxin Pei is Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College and a non-resident senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

16 April 2013

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – Ruling elites almost everywhere – whether in democracies or in authoritarian regimes – believe that clever sloganeering can inspire their people and legitimize their power. There are, of course, crucial differences. In functioning democracies, government leaders can be held accountable for their promises: the press can scrutinize their policies, opposition parties are motivated to show that the party in power lies and cheats. As a result, incumbents are frequently forced to carry out at least some of their promises.

Autocratic rulers, by contrast, face no such pressures. Press censorship, repression of dissent, and the absence of organized opposition allow rulers the luxury of promising whatever they want, with no political consequences for failing to deliver. The result is government of the sloganeers, by the sloganeers, and for the sloganeers. Read more of this post

China has over-invested in itself: IMF official; The government has extracted money from the population to help pay the huge cost of maintaining its rapid growth

China has over-invested in itself: IMF official

Staff Reporter, 2013-04-17

China has over-invested its resources domestically, according to a report by Li Yiheng, chief representative of the International Monetary Fund in the country.

Domestic investment has accounted for about 50% of China’s GDP, which is far higher than the 12%-20% average found around the globe, said the report. The situation is primarily due to large investments by the government to try to overcome the negative effect of the global financial crisis during the period 2007-2011.

Though the over-investment will not immediately cause a crisis, the government should keep an eye on the possible negative effects, said Li, adding that loans made for the purpose of investment projects will become a burden on the nation’s population.

The country’s outstanding economic growth was the result of long-term large-scale investment over the past 20 years, said Li. The government has extracted money from the population to help pay the huge cost of maintaining its rapid growth and has only recently tried to slow down investments and promote local consumption, said Li. Read more of this post

If news makes us sick, Twitter must be a cancer; News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier

If news makes us sick, Twitter must be a cancer


ON APRIL 15, 2013

On Friday, the Guardian ran a provocative op-ed by Rolf Dobelli arguing that news is bad for our health and hinders our thinking. The much-discussed article, which the author had first written two years ago, was excerpted from the soon-to-be-released “The Art of Thinking Clearly,” a compendium of essays penned by theself-described “serial entrepreneur, thinker and writer.”*

Dolbelli’s argument is that “news is to the mind what sugar is to the body.” Not only does it distract us from wider issues, but it tells us stuff we don’t need to know, has a toxic effect on our bodies, inhibits our thinking, wastes our time, and makes us passive. Heavy stuff! Read more of this post

WhatsApp “Bigger Than Twitter” With Over 200M Monthly Active Users, 8B Inbound And 12B Outbound Messages Daily

WhatsApp “Bigger Than Twitter” With Over 200M Monthly Active Users, 8B Inbound And 12B Outbound Messages Daily


posted yesterday

WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum was on stage today at the AllThingsD Dive Into Mobile conference in New York City, where he said that the app is now larger than Twitter by monthly active users. He wouldn’t say exactly how many the company had, just that it was north of 200 million users.

Koum also noted that the messaging app now sees an average of 8 billion inbound, and 12 million outbound messages per day, and with less than 50 engineers, the highest ratio of active users per long-term employee today of any active tech company.

Twitter noted that it hit its own 200 million monthly active user count back in December, while WhatsApp noted in January that it had reached the 7 billion inbound messages per day milestone. To some extent, comparing the two is a bit like comparing apples and oranges, but recent evidence suggests that social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter are losing the attention of younger users, who are turning to platforms like WhatsApp instead. Read more of this post

Find Your Sister: China’s hottest mobile game; The game is currently making 5 million yuan (US$810,000) a month through the Apple App Store

Find Your Sister: China’s hottest mobile game

Staff Reporter, 2013-04-17


A screenshot from Find Your Sister. (Internet photo)

Find Your Sister, a free mobile phone game in China, has become a hit with over 55 million subscribers and 8 million active players daily, topping the Apple App Store in the country for downloads.

The game got off to a slow start on its release last September but improvements to its gameplay have paid off since early this year. The game has managed to attract people who have not been playing online games before, from toddlers aged 2-3 to people over the age of 60, according to China Entrepreneur magazine.

A user who plays the game regularly said the game is popular because it can be played anytime and anywhere, such as the subway commute to work, when you can take out your phone and take on one challenge after another.

One major attraction of the game is its humorous content, as well as its multiplayer feature.

The game is currently making 5 million yuan (US$810,000) a month through the Apple App Store and income from the Android platform also started to grow sharply in March. Read more of this post

Samsung accused of paying people to criticize rival HTC

Samsung accused of paying people to criticize rival

2013-04-17 06:27:58 GMT2013-04-17 14:27:58(Beijing Time)  SINA.com

Fair-trade officials in Taiwan are looking into reports that Samsung paid people to criticise rival HTC online.

Samsung is alleged to have hired students to post negative comments about phones made by Taiwan’s HTC.

Samsung, based in South Korea, said the “unfortunate incident” had gone against the company’s “fundamental principles”. Read more of this post

China’s digital advertisers need to grow up instead of just growing fast


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

China’s digital advertisers need to grow up instead of just growing fast

Browsing one of China’s leading internet portals has been easier on the eye in recent years. By Western standards, sites such as Sina or Tencent may seem cluttered – even overwhelming. But, compared to the omnipresent floating ads, pop-ups and uncloseable boxes of years past that pestered Chinese internet users, the general demeanor of online advertising in the country has become – at least for market leaders – increasingly pleasant.

While decluttering is a good start, China has a lot of ground to cover in monetizing digital ads. Boosting the value of ads and handling large amounts of user data will be a large part of raising revenues in the months and years to come. Although digital ad revenues are expected to surpass those of TV in 2013, according to Chinese internet analysis firm iResearch, investors are waiting to see if they can keep up with the pace of the country’s quickly expanding digital universe.

Along the way, harnessing the mobile market will help – in fact, it will be essential. But this market is in its early stages and companies will be wary of running adverts on smartphones or tablets until advertisers can prove that people are looking at them. Read more of this post

Asia slowly losing its luster – Nomura

Asia slowly losing its luster – Nomura

By Prinz P. Magtulis (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 15, 2013 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Strong economies in the Asian region are slowly losing their luster as the low interest environment here and abroad is beginning to cause some problems, an investment bank said.

“We are becoming more concerned that Asia’s once solid economic fundamentals are deteriorating,” Nomura economist Rob Subbaraman said in the bank’s Asia Economic Monthly report. Read more of this post

Europe Car Sales Plunge 10% as Germany’s Decline Hurts VW

Europe Car Sales Plunge 10% as Germany’s Decline Hurts VW

European car sales dropped 10 percent in March as declines at PSA Peugeot Citroen (UG), Ford Motor Co. (F) and Volkswagen AG (VOW3) and a plunge in Germany put the industry on pace for the fewest annual deliveries in 20 years.

Registrations fell to 1.35 million vehicles last month from 1.5 million a year earlier, the Brussels-based European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, or ACEA, said today in a statement. First-quarter sales dropped 9.7 percent to 3.1 million cars.

A recession stemming from the European sovereign-debt crisis has led to 12 percent unemployment in the 17 countries sharing the euro, the highest rate since records began in 1995. Four of Europe’s five biggest car markets shrank last month, with the steepest drop at 17 percent in Germany, the region’s largest economy and home to producers such as VW and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW). The region’s sales declined for an 18th consecutive month, the ACEA said. Read more of this post

New Publisher Authors Trust: Themselves; Self-publishing is expanding beyond first-time writers who can’t get deals, as big names like David Mamet are choosing this route

April 16, 2013

New Publisher Authors Trust: Themselves


When the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and author David Mamet released his last book, “The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture,” with the Sentinel publishing house in 2011, it sold well enough to make the New York Times best-seller list.

This year, when Mr. Mamet set out to publish his next one, a novella and two short stories about war, he decided to take a very different path: he will self-publish.

Mr. Mamet is taking advantage of a new service being offered by his literary agency, ICM Partners, as a way to assume more control over the way his book is promoted.

“Basically I am doing this because I am a curmudgeon,” Mr. Mamet said in a telephone interview, “and because publishing is like Hollywood — nobody ever does the marketing they promise.”

As digital disruption continues to reshape the publishing market, self-publishing — including distribution digitally or as print on demand — has become more and more popular, and more feasible, with an increasing array of options for anyone with an idea and a keyboard. Most of the attention so far has focused on unknown and unsigned authors who storm onto the best-seller lists through their own ingenuity. Read more of this post

In Beijing, housing is so expensive that migrant workers are living in bomb shelters

In Beijing, housing is so expensive that migrant workers are living in bomb shelters

By Nate Berg — 12 hours ago

Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for The Atlantic Cities. He lives in Los Angeles.


The numbers are undeniably mind-boggling: An estimated two million people in Beijing are said to be living below the earth’s surface, in thousands of 100-square-foot spaces located just one or two stories below street level. These figures have been making headlines (and trending upwards) for a couple of years now. Assuming they’re accurate, that would mean 10 percent of the city’s 20 million people sleep in windowless, subterranean residences.

That they are there speaks to the crushingly expensive housing market in China’s bulging top-tier cities. The makeshift conversion of approximately 20,000 antiquated bomb shelters and basements across Beijing has also no doubt led to a rise in dangerous living conditions: it’s common to find multiple people sharing these small emergency shelters made only slightly more hospitable with space heaters and hot plates.

The only affordable alternative would be way out on the city’s periphery. And yet, if you ask them, many of these people, most of them migrant workers, will tell you their choice to live underground is vastly better than the alternative. Read more of this post

Axa cuts 450 jobs as it ends face-to-face financial advice

Axa cuts 450 jobs as it ends face-to-face financial advice

Insurer blames regulations banning commission payments for move affecting staff based in UK bank branches

guardian.co.uk, Monday 15 April 2013 15.41 BST

Axa says it has withdrawn its in-branch financial advice because it could not find a profitable model. Photograph: Tom Saunderson for the Guardian

Insurer Axa is cutting 450 jobs in branches of the Co-operative, Yorkshire and Clydesdale banks under plans to cease face-to-face financial advice.

The group blamed the decision on new regulations that banned commission payments, forcing customers to pay up front. Read more of this post

5 Mobile Apps Chinese Smartphone Users Can’t Live Without

5 Mobile Apps Chinese Smartphone Users Can’t Live Without

April 16, 2013

by Spencer Ng


top-5-ios-china top-5-android-china Read more of this post

How do you compete with a free operating system? Try paying people; Alibaba will pay handset makers a monthly fee of 1 yuan (16 cents) for every AMOS user

How do you compete with a free operating system? Try paying people

By Leo Mirani — April 16, 2013

China’s e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba has finally found some takers for its mobile operating system, known as AMOS, or the Alibaba Mobile Operating System. It announced yesterday that five handset makers—KONKA, ZOPO, Amoi, G’Five, and Little Pepper—will release devices running on AMOS. This is a big deal for the company, which has had trouble finding willing partners. Google claims Alibaba’s OS is based on but incompatible with Google’s Android software. Alibaba disputes this, saying it only uses some Android tools to give users access to third-party applications. It doesn’t matter. Google’s position means AMOS can’t be adopted by any of the firms that are part of the Open Handset Alliance, a Google-run body that coordinates Android versions. That’s basically all the biggest manufacturers except Apple and Nokia. So why would any manufacturers, Chinese or otherwise, want to use AMOS when they can get Android for free and do near whatever they want to with it? Two reasons stick out.

The first is speculation on our part. The Chinese government frets about the dominance enjoyed by Android in the country, where it enjoys a market share of 86%. (The government is not crazy about Apple either but that’s another story.) China is not the only one worried about the reliance of local firms on foreign providers—the US has its own concerns about Huawei, a Chinese manufacturer of unsexy but essential networking equipment. But unlike America, which considered banning the use of Huawei equipment, China is pushing domestic firms to compete with Google. That means AMOS probably has Beijing’s blessings.

The second reason is clearer. The best way to compete with a free product is to offer a better free product. Alternatively, you could try paying people to use your stuff. Alibaba, whose OS is too young and too small to be a serious challenger to Android, went for the second option. The company will pay handset makers a monthly fee of 1 yuan (16 cents) for every AMOS user. App-makers benefit too. Alibaba is setting up a one billion yuan fund that it will deploy as incentives for developers—though it did not say how that money would be used. In addition, Alibaba is also working on easy financing which would allow customers to buy the phone without having to pay anything upfront. Unlike some other new Chinese operating systems that rely on hype to make up for the lack of revolutionary features, Alibaba’s OS is pretty interesting. For one thing, it will do most of the heavy lifting in the cloud (on Alibaba’s servers) rather than on phones. That means no more of those constant, annoying updates. It is also important for Alibaba’s core e-commerce business—the company will want to ensure it is has a strong strategy in mobile-based shopping before its widely expected IPO in the coming months.

It is time to audit our auditors; Investors can only trust capital markets if they trust their auditors; Big Four earn annual audit fees of US$10 billion in US

April 16, 2013 7:30 pm

It is time to audit our auditors

By Anthony Catanach


Investors can only trust capital markets if they trust their auditors, writes Anthony Catanach

The revelation that a partner at KPMGleaked privileged information to a “golfing buddy” for a few silver coins is not just another accounting scandal. A 29-year veteran of the accounting firm provided advance notices of client earnings releases and merger plans in exchange for more than $50,000 in cash and gifts, including a $12,000 Rolex watch. It would be easy to dismiss this event, given its minor monetary consequences relative to some of the auditing blunders of the past decade. But this event just may be a watershed.

Investors can view today’s global capital markets as secure only if they trust the financial statements issued by publicly traded companies. Fundamental to this is the belief that information provided by market participants is accurate, complete, and reliable. Accountants have been given the task of certifying this. Investors must, therefore, trust that public company auditors are not only knowledgeable and experienced, but also independent and possess the highest levels of integrity.

There is already mistrust of the profession. The auditors who allowed Enron to flatter their balance sheets have not been forgotten. Nor those who signed off on the infamous Lehman Brothers “Repo 105” accounting wheeze, which magically transformed loans into sales. Such cases cause one to wonder if our current levels of trust in the auditing profession may be too high. What makes the KPMG case so important is that it involves a senior partner with authority over 50 other partners and more than 500 staff in one of the firm’s largest offices. He placed his own self-interest before that of his clients, much less the investing public. As a result, KPMG has withdrawn several years of audit reports for some clients. This is quite a moment: it is the first significant withdrawal of an audit report since 2007, when PwC did the same for Yukos, the bankrupt oil company, over concerns about the accuracy of information provided to the auditor by the management. Read more of this post

Accounting: Stalking the Big Four; Scandals have given Chinese accounting a toxic reputation internationally

April 16, 2013 7:18 pm

Accounting: Stalking the Big Four

By Adam Jones and Simon Rabinovitch

Homegrown auditors are eroding the influence of established western firms in China

China Big Four

When Zhang Ke left Coopers & Lybrand in 1999 to set up his own accounting firm, some doubted the upstart would survive. Outside Coopers – now part of PwC – and the other big western outfits, the profession in China was weak. This did not deter Mr Zhang. “I thought China was so big, it should have some of its own accounting firms,” he recalls. Little more than a decade later, the gamble has paid off. ShineWing, the firm he started, is snapping at the heels of the industry’s biggest names in China and the avuncular, soft-spoken Mr Zhang has become perhaps the most influential accountant in the land. “He is the dean of the accounting profession right now in China,” says Paul Gillis, a professor at Peking University. “He’s the guy.” Such praise will be hard to swallow in some quarters. Scandals have given Chinese accounting a toxic reputation internationally. Instead of Zhang Ke, the name on the lips of many western investors is Muddy Waters, the research firm that has levelled accounting fraud accusations against several Chinese companies. Carson Block, Muddy Waters’ founder, has said questionable auditing is endemic in the fast-growing Chinese market. But even as weaknesses continue to be exposed in the way accounts are drawn up and vetted in China, a subtler trend has emerged. The local dominance of the world’s leading audit and consulting networks – PwC, Deloitte, Ernst & Young and KPMG – is being eroded by ShineWing and other homegrown rivals after two lucrative decades. Read more of this post

Sir Luke Johnson: Red tape is stifling job creation; Gold-plating regulations provides yet another reason for entrepreneurs to ask: “Why bother?”

April 16, 2013 4:46 pm

Red tape is stifling job creation

By Luke Johnson

Gold-plating regulations provides yet another reason for entrepreneurs to ask: “Why bother?”

In Westminster and in Washington alike, politicians constantly say they want to stimulate entrepreneurship and promote investment. But warm words count for nothing if actions on the ground do not match the positive rhetoric from Downing Street and the White House.

The only pub in the village near my house in rural Malvern went bust and shut down. As an adventure, I bought it, refurbished the premises and relaunched the business late last year. The idea was never to make a significant profit but to open an establishment that would suit the community and of which I could be proud. Trading there has been tough, partly because of the poor weather. But we are making progress, and the locals have been supportive.

The ones who have not been so encouraging are the bureaucrats, despite the challenges facing the region. This part of the country is not wealthy: there are dozens of closed pubs and almost no outsiders putting money into the region. Yet the only communication of any kind I have had from government since I started the business has been bills, especially from the various tax authorities: property, employee, corporation, value added tax, licensing and so on. Never so much as a “thank you” or “good luck”. Read more of this post

India’s first theme park opens its gates, the world’s first to boast a ride involving a gigantic six-armed animatronic Hindu god, standing astride a trio of curly-horned fire-breathing rams

April 16, 2013 11:18 am

India’s first theme park opens its gates

By James Crabtree in Mumbai

India’s debut theme park is also almost certainly the world’s first to boast a ride involving a gigantic six-armed animatronic Hindu god, standing astride a trio of curly-horned fire-breathing rams.

But the opening of the Adlabs Imagica complex on Thursday on a 65-acre site between the major western cities of Mumbai and Pune marks a first of a different sort too, as India takes an initial step into a market where, so far at least, the likes of Disney have feared to tread.

Set up by Bollywood entrepreneur Manmohan Shetty, the park expects up to 3m visitors a year to enjoy its roughly two dozen international-standard rides, raising hopes that India’s nascent industry might in time follow a recent theme park boom in China.

Speaking before the launch, Mr Shetty said global operators like Disney and Universal Studios should now rethink concerns about infrastructure, land acquisition and cost-conscious customers, which have so far led them to avoid the country’s 1.2bn-strong market. Read more of this post

Charities try their luck with online game amid a slowdown in cash donations and government funding; “Charities are looking to innovate, and reaching new audiences is the Holy Grail.”

April 16, 2013 12:00 am

Charities try their luck with online game

By Henry Mance

Leading charities are aiming to raise $1bn from an online game, in their latest effort to swap rattling coin collections for the digital marketplace.

Jaro.com, which is supported by 11 big charities including Age UK and the British Red Cross, will charge players of its battleships game $10 to enter a knockout tournament. Users will decide how to split their entrance fee between a particular good cause and a jackpot prize.

The move highlights charities’ increasing engagement with new technology, amid a slowdown in cash donations and government funding. The Disasters Emergency Committee announced last week that for the first time one of its appeals had received most of its donations from digital platforms, rather than by post or phone.

Computer games, which are played by about one in three people in the UK, have excited particular enthusiasm as a way of raising funds while engaging donors.

Jaro.com is aiming to sign up more than 100m users worldwide within 12 months.

“It’s not a traditional gambling product – it’s a social game. It gives people a new way to control where the money goes. That’s the key difference with the lottery,” said Anthony Farah, head of Jaro.com. Read more of this post

Foreign investment: Brazil is now ‘ugly mirror image of Mexico’ in beauty parade

April 17, 2013 12:08 am

Foreign investment: Brazil is now ‘ugly mirror image of Mexico’ in beauty parade

By Joe Leahy in São Paulo

Brazil has become used to being top of the class rather than the dunce at the back as far as rating agencies have been concerned in recent years.

So it was with some surprise it recently received a slap on the wrist from Fitch, which warned that the country’s difficulties in kick-starting its flagging economic growth were “weighing” on its rating.

“With a slower growth trajectory, making inroads into fiscal consolidation becomes harder,” said Shelly Shetty, a Fitch analyst.

It is not that Brazil is facing any kind of crisis. It still has one of the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves, at about $377bn, a sound financial system and a government and central bank still more or less committed to targeting inflation and maintaining a floating exchange rate.

It is just that Brazil, the original currency warrior accustomed to discouraging capital inflows during the boom years between 2009 and 2011, now finds itself in a different world in terms of foreign exchange and capital markets trading. Read more of this post

Forget Gold, the Gourmet-Cupcake Market Is Crashing

Updated April 16, 2013, 8:06 p.m. ET

Forget Gold, the Gourmet-Cupcake Market Is Crashing



Sales at gourmet cupcake maker Crumbs have softened lately.

The icing is coming off America’s cupcake craze. The dessert became a cultural and economic phenomenon over the last decade, with gourmet cupcake shops proliferating across the country, selling increasingly elaborate and expensive concoctions. The craze hit a high mark in June 2011, when Crumbs Bake Shop Inc.,CRMB -3.41% a New York-based chain, debuted on the Nasdaq Stock MarketNDAQ +0.35% under the ticker symbol CRMB. Its creations—4″ tall, with fillings such as vanilla custard, caps of butter cream cheese, and decorative flourishes like a whole cookie—can cost $4.50 each. After trading at more than $13 a share in mid-2011, Crumbs has sunk to $1.70. It dropped 34% last Friday, in the wake of Crumbs saying that sales for the full year would be down by 22% from earlier projections, and the stock slipped further this week. Crumbs in part blamed store closures from Hurricane Sandy, but others say the chain is suffering from a larger problem: gourmet-cupcake burnout. “The novelty has worn off,” says Kevin Burke, managing partner of Trinity Capital LLC, a Los Angeles investment banking firm that often works in the restaurant industry.

MK-CC467_CRUMBS_G_20130416164203 Read more of this post

Gold’s fall costs billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson $1.5bn this year

April 16, 2013 6:00 pm

Gold’s fall costs Paulson $1.5bn this year

By Dan McCrum in New York

The tumbling gold price has personally cost billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson at least $1.5bn so far this year, as a decline in the price of the metal turned into a rout.

The estimated losses for Mr Paulson, who has made and lost more money on gold than almost any other hedge fund manager, reflect a bold all-in bet on the precious metal.

While many investors hold some gold in case of financial calamity or a return of the rampant inflation of the 1970s, since 2009 Mr Paulson has allowed clients of Paulson & Co to denominate their holdings in gold, rather than US dollars. Mr Paulson enthusiastically embraced the option, according to people familiar with the situation, and has about 85 per cent of his personal capital in the firm linked to the gold price. Read more of this post

Tears, reality TV and the Chinese dream

April 16, 2013 7:34 pm

Tears, reality TV and the Chinese dream

By Patti Waldmeir in Shanghai

Xi Jinping is cooking up the China of the future, writes Patti Waldmeir

His wife acts like Jackie Kennedy and he sounds like JFK: Xi Jinping, the new president of China, seems to have beamed us all back to 1960.

It is not just that Peng Liyuan, Mr Xi’s celebrity wife, looks like a clone of America’s First Fashionista. There is also the fact that Mr Xi seems unable to open his mouth without uttering the phrase “Chinese dream” – with all that evokes of the saccharine sentimentality and social mobility of the Kennedy era. The American dream may have had a bad 50 years since JFK’s untimely demise but Mr Xi seems to think it is ripe for reinvention now, halfway across the world in China.

He is not the only one. Mainland television magnateshave figured out that the Chinese dream also sells well in the form of reality TV shows such as MasterChef China, the local version of the cookery cliffhanger that has a global audience of 250m. This month, millions of mainlanders watched the coronation of a new MasterChef: “desperate housewife” Zhao Dan, who rose from the obscurity of her provincial kitchen to win Rmb1m ($160,000) and a future in the restaurant business by cooking up a plate of ribs and frying a slab of goose liver on national TV.

There was no shortage of culinary skill involved in the finale, which pitted a cleaver-wielding Ms Zhao against an unemployed Taiwanese single father who, like all the other contestants, had never cooked a meal professionally in his life. But the contestants’ sob stories may turn out to be more memorable than their stir-fries. Read more of this post

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