Moneypos ABI PRIZE 2013

The Prize ABI (Italian Banking Association) for innovation in banking services” now in its third edition, has awarded imprebanca for “ib-cash safe” Special Mention Innovation for the corporate client and PA in the category “bank serving customers. “

The award, dedicated to the ideas and most innovative solutions and technology used by banks to products, services, and relationships with families, businesses and public administration, has recognized the innovative system “ib-cash safe your money in the bank without go to the bank, ” imprebanca concrete response to business needs. Through the installation of this device CASH IN fact, businesses can manage their cash with considerable advantages in terms of security, acting as a deterrent against burglary, and savings in time checks for payments of bills, available since next day for collection. The Prize was awarded on March 27 in Milan as part of the Forum promoted by ABI Lab “Bank in Touch”.

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Dolce & Gabbana Skipped Their Court Hearing

The never-ending tax-fraud trial against Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana proceeded today with a court hearing in Milan, where members of the Italian IRS accused the designers of hiding their earnings to avoid taxes. Such topics are deadly boring, so we’ll sum it up quickly: In 2004, the designers sold their brand to Gado Srl, a “Luxembourg-based holding company” — or so they claimed. Tax officials believe that Gado is actually operated in Italy, and the whole transaction was basically a front to give the Italian IRS the runaround. Luxembourg’s corporate tax rate is 4 percent, compared to Italy’s 45 percent, which gives Dolce & Gabbana plenty of motive to pull this off.

As for proof, Italian officials have several e-mails indicating that Gado was managed in Italy, and cited the suspiciously “below-market” price that Gado got for Dolce & Gabbana. The prosecutor not only implicated the designers themselves, but also Domenico’s brother and board member, Alfonso Dolce, and managing director and board member Cristiana Ruella.

As usual, the designers were not present at court, apparently choosing to uphold their attitude of pretending the case “doesn’t exist.” Their lawyers have denied all charges. Two more hearings are scheduled for February 6 and February 20 — just in time for Milan Fashion Week.

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Europe’s best Christmas markets

(CNN) — For something intended to bring pleasure to loved ones and keep the economy of the entire Western world afloat, Christmas shopping in the Internet age can be a peculiarly joyless and atomized activity.

Online shopping is all very well for sociopaths and agoraphobes, but here are eight destinations to put the glühwein and gluttony back into your seasonal splurge.

Just lay off the gingerbread if you like your teeth.

The world’s most Christmassy places

Berlin: Festive fashions and hipster hangouts

You hardly need an extra reason to visit the fashionable German capital, but ice rinks, Ferris wheels, fairground rides and toboggan runs are among some of the attractions competing for attention at more than 60 markets scattered around the city.

The Gendarmenmarkt is considered one of the most beautiful.

Buy: Original works by the next big things of art, design and fashion, idiosyncratic decorations and contemporary jewelry at TrendMafia’s Christmas Design Market.

Drink: With so many markets to see, a currywurst-fueled glühwein (mulled wine) crawl should keep the cold at bay, loosen the purse strings and liberate the legs for an evening of moving and shaking in some already passé Kreuzberg pop-up nightspot.

10 sparkling spots to ring in 2013

Sing along to: Traditional German carols are hard to beat. “Stille Nacht” (the song so imbued with Christmas spirit it briefly halted World War I on the Western Front) and “Oh Tannenbaum” will get the festive endorphins flowing in even the most battle-hardened Yuletide veteran.

Birmingham, England: Glam rock and glühwein

Pretty much every self-respecting British city these days goes Deutsch-verrückt for December, but Birmingham’s Frankfurt Marketclaims to be “the largest authentic German market outside Germany and Austria.”

Buy: The adjacent Christmas Craft Fair sells an array of local produce for your Christmas table, including organic sausages and homemade chutneys and cheeses. Or you might pick up a Birmingham edition of Monopoly for those long winter nights in with the family.

Drink: Glühwein and German beers aplenty here, but a short walk to The Old Contemptibles pub will get you seasonal English ales including “Ding Dong” and “Elves’ Bells.”

Listen out for: “Merry Christmas Everybody” and “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day,” by local bands Slade and Wizzard. It’s traditional in the UK for these festive glam rock stompers to be played on loop in every department store, as increasingly dead-eyed shoppers desperately scour the emptying shelves.

Nuremberg, Germany: From brat to wurst

One of the most fabled markets in Germany, the Christkindlesmarktdates to the mid-sixteenth century with more than 180 wooden stalls set amid the picturesque surroundings of the Bavarian city’s old town.

Buy: You can indulge your inner child with lebkuchen (spiced gingerbread), locally produced wooden toys and zwetschgenmännle (traditional decorative figurines made of prunes).

Eat: The glühwein here is stronger than average so it’s smart to fill your stomach with plenty of local speciality Nürnberger Rostbratwürste, traditionally served on a heart-shaped tin plate. The Bratwurstküche zum Gulden Stern has been serving sausages here since 1419.

Look out for: It’s hard to miss the Christkind, a local teenage girl dressed in a gloriously Wagner-esque crown and golden robe. Selection criteria for the role include a “willingness to work in any weather.”

Copenhagen, Denmark: A fairy tale festive wonderland

The Danish capital’s Tivoli Gardens fun park this year celebrates Nordic and Russian traditions with Christmas-themed rides, reindeer, an illuminated miniature replica of Moscow’s Saint Basil’s Cathedral and half a million fairy lights.

Buy: You can support the Inuit people of Greenland by buying a sealskin accessory from the Inuit Sila stall. In Greenland, seals are hunted sustainably for meat and every part of the animal is used.

Eat: Aebleskiver are donuts baked in a special pan with round holes. They’re traditionally served with glögg, hot wine flavored with almonds and raisins.

Watch out for: The nisse. These mischievous pixies were traditionally believed to live in attics and barns, bringing good luck to those who cared for them. Many Danes still leave out a bowl of porridge on Christmas Eve to keep them sweet.

Strasbourg, France: Alsatian treats and Christmas trees

With a market dating to 1570, the French border city of Strasbourg has adopted the title of “Capital of Christmas.”

Fir trees have formed a part of festivals in this forested region since pagan times, a tradition symbolized by the largest natural Christmas tree in Europe in the town square.

Buy: Regional delicacies, including foie gras and traditional Christmas biscuits known as recettes de bredele, abound for those seeking gifts for gourmands.

Drink: Alsatian monks, and recently breweries, have been producing malt-heavy Christmas beers — spicy in flavor and amber in color — since the Middle Ages.

Say: Alsace has its own regional language, recognized as vulnerable by UNESCO. Give it a boost by wishing locals “E gueti Wnchte & E glecklichs Nej Johr” (“Merry Christmas”Smilie: ;).

Vienna: Grand old aristocrat of Advent

The former Habsburg capital shakes off its otherwise haughty reputation during lavish festivities, with baroque architecture that makes for a stunning backdrop as the decorative lights ofChristkindlmarkt twinkle amid snowflakes.

Buy: The Adventmarkt, in front of the Karlskirche, is the place to go for handicrafts, ranging from stained glass sculptures to handmade wooden instruments, with workshops in glassblowing, leather work and other traditional techniques.

Drink: Weihnachtspunsch, accompanied by roasted chestnuts, is the Austrian capital’s spirit-fortified variation on the hot alcohol formula. The mugs are considered collector’s items.

Watch out for: The Krampus — looking like extras from A Christmas Nightmare on Elm Street, these gruesome goat-headed long-haired monsters maraud menacingly through the markets at night.

Gothenburg, Sweden: Northern lights and smorgasbords

Sweden’s “Christmas City” is a blaze of light, warmth and color in the dark Scandinavian night, with the dazzling, illuminated market at the Liseberg amusement park among the season’s central attractions.

Buy: For cutting edge and playful Scandinavian future design classics, the place to be is the ever-popular Julform Pop-up market. It’s now an annual December fixture.

Eat: You can gorge on a multi-course Christmas smorgasbord, the Julbord, a table laden with dishes including pickled and smoked fish, meats and cheeses, and the hearty Janssons frestelse, a casserole of anchovies and potatoes.

Listen to: Gothenburg’s tourism website has put together a classyChristmas playlist (Cliff Richard aside) featuring hirsute local rockers The Soundtrack of Our Lives, currently rounding off their last-ever tour with a six-night stand in Stockholm.

Hamburg, Germany: Kinky Christmas fun

Hamburg’s legendarily louche St. Pauli district offers “Santa Pauli” — its ribald take on the traditional German market, with strip shows, drag queens and “sexy angels.” Probably not one for the kids.

Buy: The handmade wooden toys that sell here are not the sort that you’d usually associate with Santa’s little helpers. Those crafted by WaldMichlsHoldi, a long-running family business, are the most famous.

Drink: The Amaretto-laced hot apple wine packs a dangerous punch.

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Peace Prize is a slap on the back for a struggling European Union

“We want to remind all Europeans about what we have achieved on this continent and that we should not let it start disintegrating again and getting nationalism and extremism (to) grow on this continent, because we know what that leads to,” Jagland said.

“It’s also a clear message to other parts of the world where you have a number of conflicts; this is a good way of solving conflicts, namely getting countries (to) make trade with each other. …”

The committee had “no ambitions” to save the euro, Jagland said, and “we don’t have a position on how to solve the economic crisis.”

Nobel prize winner: Literature

But he stressed the importance of finding a solution to the EU debt crisis.

Others echoed support for the EU. The International Crisis Group, an organization committed to preventing conflict, said it is important to remember “historical perspective” during a period “when the EU is under tremendous day-to-day strain.”

“The EU has been, above all else, one of the greatest conflict resolution mechanisms ever devised.”

European economic troubles have reverberated across the world. The problems have hit American pocketbooks because of the billions of dollars in U.S. trade and investment in Europe.

Within the EU, disparities have persisted between economically strong members, such as Germany, which has fronted European bailout money, and economically weaker countries like Greece suffering from strict austerity measures and unemployment.

The longstanding animosities erupted Tuesday in Greece during a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. As many as 25,000 people angry about EU austerity measures championed by Germany took to the streets to protest.

In its announcement, the Nobel Committee said that the EU “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.”

Jagland singled out the peaceful reconciliation between Germany and France — an amity forged between neighbors who fought each other last century.

“Since 1945, that reconciliation has become a reality,” the committee said in a statement. “Today, war between Germany and France is unthinkable.”

The committee also focused on the spread of democracy to newer member nations.

“In the 1980s, Greece, Spain and Portugal joined the EU. The introduction of democracy was a condition for their membership,” the committee said. All three countries saw dictatorships in the 20th century, even after World War II.

It cited progress in peace made by EU candidate nations, such as the former Yugoslav republics.

“We have to keep in mind that there are not so many years ago since people on this part of Europe killed each other — awful wars,” Jagland said, referring to the warfare in Bosnia, Kosovo and Croatia.

Jagland is the current secretary general of the Council of Europe and a former prime minster of Norway, which is not an EU member and where sentiment against membership runs high. The announcement, made in Oslo, Norway, drew some moans.

Nobel Prize winners: Chemistry

Journalists asked in Norwegian and English how the Nobel honors would affect any future decision by Norway to join the EU.

“This no argument in any direction for what Norway should do, and I don’t think it will affect the public opinion in Norway right now,” Jagland answered. “It is at an all-time low,” he said.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barosso received news of the award “with great emotion” and called it “a great honor for all 500 million citizens of Europe, for all the member states and all the European institutions.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the Nobel Committee “acknowledges the idea of the European conciliation” and said the euro is more than a currency.

“We should not forget this — in particular during these weeks and months, in which we are working to strengthen the euro.”

“Six decades of peace in Europe: For those of us who live in the European Union, that’s a long period of time,” Merkel added. “It’s merely the blink of an eye in the course of history, which is why we must never forget that we must again and again work, strain and strive for this peace, for democracy, for freedom.”

Nobel Prize winners: Physics

Italians in Rome rallying Friday against government cuts to public education weighed in. One woman said the prize appears to be a “hope for the future.”

Another woman said she was pleased but a bit surprised because the EU could have made stronger commitments to peace. And a man said the European economy is no longer “for the people.”

“We are the economy that works in favor of the banks,” he said.

This year’s winner was picked from 231 different nominations — 43 for organizations and the rest for individuals, the Nobel Committee said.

Last year’s peace prize came as a surprise to many observers, split as it was among three women: Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and grassroots activist Leymah Gbowee, and Yemeni media freedom campaigner Tawakkul Karman, a symbol of the Arab Spring.

Johnson Sirleaf is one of many heads of state to have received the prize, including four U.S. presidents: Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama.

The Peace Prize is the fifth Nobel Prize to be awarded this week, preceded by honors in medicine, physics, chemistry and literature.

Other large organizations have won the Nobel Peace Prize, including the United Nations, Doctors Without Borders, U.N. peacekeeping forces, the U.N. atomic energy agency and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

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Quest: Why survival of the eurozone depends on leaders spinning plates

London (CNN) — I have often thought of European officials as the proverbial “plate spinners” from the circus. Those talented artists who balance spinning plates on sticks, ever increasing the number of sticks, rushing from one to the other, giving them a tug and pull to keep them moving, always aware that if they are too slow or too fast, one of the plates will crash to the ground.
That is exactly what we have in Europe today. Only the artists are European Central Bank president Mario Draghi, Eurogroup head Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso et al, while the plates are Greece, Spanish banks, Italian deficits, eurobonds and German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Sometimes there are so many plates spinning it is difficult to see which one requires the most immediate attention

Richard Quest

Two weeks ago it was the Spanish banks which were wobbling — but a quick tug and push worth €100 billion kept the plate moving. Before that it was the Irish referendum on the fiscal compact…..then it was the Greek election….and the artists now have to stand ready to renegotiate the bailout terms to give Greece breathing room (after giving a tug to the Merkel plate to prevent her falling off in pique).

Germany: Is it really the villain?
There are some plates that are always spinning: Getting the fiscal compact ratified; the size and strength of the eurozone firewall; the ever present problem of countries in recession. These plates always need attention. But then they are often joined by more plates: The Irish referendum on the compact; the Greek de facto election on the euro.

Has stability returned to Greece?
And then there are the plates that suddenly and urgently require immediate attention to prevent a spill. Spanish bond yields are giving great cause for concern. Oh, and don’t forget Italian bond yields. And the European bailout fund needs some attention — there — and while you are over there put another plate on a stick, this time call it banking union and get that moving.

Greece: After the Election
Family tragedy tells country’s story
Sometimes there are so many plates spinning it is difficult to see which one requires the most immediate attention. Is it Spain’s banks which have just been promised a huge wodge of cash? Or the French and German banks which will suffer losses if Spanish banks fail? Perhaps it is the German government’s intransigence?
Of course, what is really important is neither the number nor nature of the plates that are spinning, but rather the competence and ability of the plate spinner. When you watch at the circus, you are not watching the plates, but the artist who is rushing from one to the other — wondering if they will make it in time to avert a crash.
Human cost of Greek crisis

Tsipras: Austerity will send us to hell
The artists are the European leaders, both at national and European Union level. How good are Messrs Van Rompuy, European council president, and his fellow spinners Barroso, Draghi and Juncker at keeping things going — along with help from Christine Lagarde, at the International Monetary Fund, and others?

Greek parents forced to give up children
The spinners have given us some heart stopping moments, such as when it looked like they would stare down Greece into leaving the euro, or in midnight summits when they seemed unlikely to reach a deal.
But the sad fact is that while they are keeping the plates spinning, they are doing very little to actually safely remove any of the plates from the stick and bring the act to a close.
Rise and fall of euro
Daily it seems there are more plates spinning, and the antics of the spinners becomes more frantic as they rush from one to the other, ever proclaiming that the act is coming to a close.
Unfortunately that is not the case. The plate spinning is likely to continue for some time to come. We all need to hope that this is one act that has the stamina and ability to get to the end.


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Will ‘Super Mario’ make move to save euro?

Ten months into his eight-year term, the man hailed as ‘’Super Mario’’ is facing his biggest test yet.

And though the outcome of the European Central Bank’s latest meeting is by no means a given, what’s sure is his words will resonate far from the region’s shores.

Now into its third year and counting, the single currency’s funding crunch has claimed the scalps of three eurozone countries so far and threatens to engulf others which are ‘too big to bail’ but too big to fail.

What started as a financial crisis has morphed into an existential one and left ECB President Mario Draghi to fill the vacuum of leadership left by the eurozone’s squabbling politicians.

While the ECB will formally be contemplating its interest rate policy on Thursday, Draghi’s most pressing task will be far less mundane: instead investors are relying on him to keep the next troubled members solvent, even if that means creating an artificial market for their debt.

As such, the bets are on that the ECB boss will announce plans to buy up the sovereign debt of the eurozone’s peripheral nations, like Italy and Spain, to bring down their bond yields and cut their borrowing costs.

Indeed, in July the 65 year-old Italian seemed ready to deliver, swearing he would “do whatever it takes” to save the euro.

By August however markets were left hanging with scant details of any future grand plan.

So now, once again they wait with bated breath.

But some say there’s a very distinct possibility traders may well go home disappointed.

Danny Gabay, a former Bank of England economist now director at Fathom Consulting, believes any announcement by Draghi will be short on details.

What’s more: the ECB’s bond purchases are unlikely to occur without some form of conditionality. “This by itself may produce further political wrangling and brinkmanship,’’ he says.

Either way, if the ECB does go ahead and unveil asset purchases here is what other economists will be looking for:

• Volumes unknown. The size of the scheme will probably be left deliberately vague with no limit imposed. If there’s anything central banks have learned it’s that playing the numbers game with markets is a dangerous business.

• No Public Yield Targets: For the same reason it’s unlikely the ECB will publish the yield it will try to get Italian and Spanish bonds down to. Although Draghi will almost certainly have his own internal objective, Citigroup says it’s improbable this will be made public.

• Sterilized Purchases: Most economists agree the bank will neutralize the risk of the transactions by mopping up the extra liquidity they create. This would help it avoid criticism from some member states, particularly those concerned about spurring inflation, like Germany.

• Short Maturity: Another reason why Draghi has found his scheme a hard sell is because of fears it will reduce the impetus for weaker members to rein in their deficits and implement reforms over the longer term. For this reason purchases of 3 year bonds –rather than say 10 or 30-year securities – could be a more palatable compromise to maintain the urgency of balancing the books.

But here’s the catch: all of the above assumes Draghi actually has the right to ride to the rescue and save the day.

Notoriously narrow, the ECB’s mandate is technically only to keep prices stable across the bloc’s 17 nations at or around a pre-determined level of 2 percent.

As an independent institution, the bank is not authorized to dictate fiscal policy only rather react to it and critics say Draghi’s promises have already overstepped the mark.

As UK Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1983 to 1989, Nigel Lawson presided over an eponymous economic boom during the Thatcher years before the Bank of England was independent.

This week he told me Draghi’s reported bond-buying would be illegal and risked undermining the entire ECB as an institution.

Lawson says that default is inevitable for some eurozone states and instead of trying to prop up the ailing monetary union, leaders should be looking for ways to dissolve it.

‘’The idea of Mario Draghi saying ‘’the euro is irreversible’’ is one of the most stupid statements that has ever been made,’’ he says. ‘’Nothing, is irreversible. Nothing.’’

Then again as my economics professor always told me: “Never talk in absolutes.”

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ECB-Politicians’ Anti-Crisis Bargain Starts to Emerge

After 2 1/2 years of incremental crisis management and false starts, a bargain is beginning to emerge between Europe’s politicians and central bankers over how to calm bond markets and end the debt tumult that threatens the euro’s survival.

The European Central Bank sketched out its side of the deal yesterday, offering to buy Italy’s and Spain’s bonds on the market as long as the euro governments’ bailout fund makes purchases directly from the two countries’ treasuries and ties them to tough conditions.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi


Hannelore Foerster/Bloomberg

Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank (ECB).

Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank (ECB). Photographer: Hannelore Foerster/Bloomberg

ECB Needs to Move Ahead of Curve, Blanchflower Says


Aug. 2 (Bloomberg) — David Blanchflower, a professor at Dartmouth College and a Bloomberg Television contributing editor, talks about European Central Bank monetary policy, the euro-region debt crisis and the outlook for U.K. growth. He speaks with Manus Cranny on Bloomberg Television’s “Last Word.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Draghi's Own Words on ECB Policy Measures, Euro


Aug. 2 (Bloomberg) — European Central Bank President Mario Draghi signaled the ECB intends to join forces with governments to buy bonds in sufficient quantities to ease the region’s debt crisis after the bank kept the benchmark interest rate at a record low of 0.75 percent. Draghi, speaking in Frankfurt at his monthly news conference, also discusses the future of the euro and the European Financial Stability Facility. (Excerpts. Source: Bloomberg)

ECB President Mario Draghi offered only a glimpse of the new strategy, with the actual interventions weeks or months away and a host of obstacles standing in the way before Europe can claim to be on a path out of the crisis that emerged in Greece in late 2009. Investors looking for a quicker fix pushed down the euro, European stocks and bonds of at-risk countries.

“All of the announcements, if transferred into actual activity, would be close to the big bazooka approach that the markets are looking for,” said Charles Diebel, head of market strategy at Lloyds Banking Group Plc in London. “Market disappointment is hardly surprising in this context but we may well find this lays the groundwork for the grand plan in coming weeks.”

Draghi’s ‘Guidance’

The euro jumped as high as $1.2405 on the initial ECB announcement, falling back as Draghi’s caution that “it was not a decision, it was guidance” sank in. The 17-nation currency bought $1.2298 at 10:03 a.m. today Frankfurt time, up 0.3 percent.

The yield difference between 10-year Italian bonds and similar-maturity German bunds narrowed seven basis points to 502 basis points, after jumping by 54 basis points. Spain’s yield difference compared to bunds rose seven basis points to 600 basis points.

In the trading rooms, skeptics recalled the failure of European authorities to deliver on prior crisis-fighting pledges, whether by restricting the use of the original 440 billion-euro ($535 billion) rescue fund or forcing through a restructuring of Greece’s debt after promising not to.

“The big bazooka is Draghi’s implied promises, which have not been delivered upon,” said Marc Ostwald, a strategist at Monument Securities Ltd. in London. “Markets are saying this is all talk, there’s nothing concrete.”

What is different now is that the two countries with their backs against the wall, Italy and Spain, represent 28 percent of the $12 trillion economy and have new leaders that have forced through deficit-slashing measures over mounting domestic opposition.

Merkel, Hollande

“The ECB’s decision is important,” French President Francois Hollande told reporters in Paris. “It allows the ECB to intervene when it’s necessary.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is on vacation, didn’t air any immediate qualms; on July 27, she and Hollande made a joint pledge “to do everything to safeguard” the euro.

Draghi’s offer to join forces with governments contrasted with the maneuvering in August 2011 by his predecessor, Jean- Claude Trichet. With Europe’s rescue fund not yet empowered to intervene on bond markets, Trichet ended up going solo in starting the purchases of Italian and Spanish debt.

Italy’s then-government, led by Silvio Berlusconi, chafed at the ECB’s insistence on budget cuts, and the central bank had no way of enforcing its writ. Opposition from the two Germans on the ECB’s policy council limited the size of the bond purchases and led to their suspension six months later.

Political Constellation

Draghi is operating in a different political constellation. Berlusconi is gone, replaced by the non-partisan Mario Monti, now in the midst of enacting 26 billion euros of spending cuts. In Spain, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has delivered three rounds of austerity since taking office last December.

Moreover, Europe’s political establishment has courted the ECB by giving Draghi a lead role in fixing the birth defects of the monetary union that go back to the 1991 Maastricht Treaty. Along with European Union President Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission President Jose Barroso and Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, the central banker is co-drafting proposals for a closer fiscal union and more integrated banking system.

Neither the Italian nor Spanish leader took up the ECB’s conditions yesterday. At a press conference in Madrid two hours after Draghi’s announcement, Monti and Rajoy shrugged off questions whether they would ask for a primary market bond- purchasing program by the rescue funds.

“I don’t know if the Italian government will ask for activation of this instrument,” Monti said. Rajoy declined to answer the question.

Outside Monitoring

A bond-buying program would require Italy and Spain to make austerity and economic-reform commitments — or potentially only restate the ones they’ve already made — and submit to international monitoring. Spain has already gotten over the stigma of relying on outside help by tapping a 100 billion-euro program to shore up its banks.

Draghi’s pledge took the ECB further away from its roots as a politically autonomous central bank, modelled on Germany’s Bundesbank, with prime responsibility for containing inflation and only a lesser focus on the broader economy and the stability of the banking system.

The Bundesbank’s leader, Jens Weidmann, was alone on the ECB’s 23-member policy council in expressing “reservations,” Draghi told the press. For now, Weidmann stayed silent, contrasting with the objections to the ECB’s original bond- purchasing program that were immediately voiced by his predecessor, Axel Weber, in May 2010.

Court Challenge

One reason Draghi had to buy time is that European governments won’t be able to act until at least mid-September, the earliest possible startup date for the planned 500 billion- euro permanent rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism. It faces a German supreme court ruling on Sept. 12.

Until then, Europe’s only rescue vehicle is the European Financial Stability Facility, with as little as 148 billion euros left over after last month’s approval of Spanish bank aid.

“Whatever the short-term gut reaction of markets, the ECB announcement constitutes serious progress,” said Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg Bank in London. “The chances have risen substantially that the worst of the current wave of euro crisis could soon be over.”

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Central banks take center stage

European Central Bank president Mario Draghi and Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke will be in the spotlight this week.European Central Bank president Mario Draghi and Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke will be in the spotlight this week.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — As central bankers in Europe and the United States gather this week, investors around the world are wondering what the monetary authorities will do to support the global economy.

First up is the Federal Reserve, which kicked off a two-day meeting Tuesday. The European Central Bank’s governing council will hold its monthly policy discussion Thursday.

Fed officials are meeting as the U.S. economy appears to have taken a turn for the worse, with a slowdown in job growth taking a toll on consumer spending.

While few expect the Fed to act this week, the central bank could extend its plan to keep interest rates near zero beyond its current 2014 forecast.

The Fed could also raise the rate on bank reserves in an effort to keep inflation in check by enticing banks to store more of their excess funds at the Fed instead of lending it out.

But analysts say the Fed will probably delay a decision on more aggressive moves, such as a third round of asset purchases, or QE3.

“I don’t expect any major change in policy,” said Jeffrey Bergstrand, a former Fed economist who is now a finance professor at the University of Notre Dame. “The Fed is wary of doing anything unless it sees a more substantive downturn.”

Depending on how the economy fares, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke could hint at further stimulus measures at the central bank’s annual symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyo., in late August. But experts say the Fed will probably not act until its September meeting, when it has had more time to assess the economy.

Related: The risks of more Fed action

Once Bernanke wraps up, the ECB and its president, Mario Draghi, will be up.

“I think the more important meeting is by far the ECB,” said Kathy Jones, a fixed-income analyst at Charles Schwab. “The Fed sending a signal would be nice, but the markets here are not rebelling the way they are in Europe.”

Draghi raised the stakes last week when he said the bank is prepared to do “whatever it takes” to save the euro currency.

Draghi’s comments sparked a rally in global stock markets and drove down borrowing costs for the governments of Spain and Italy, which hadrisen to record highs earlier in the week.

Related: Draghi to the rescue

The ECB is widely expected to resume limited purchases of government bonds to ease the pressure on Spain and Italy. Some say the ECB could also offer European banks another round of ultra-low cost loans by launching a third Long-Term Refinancing Operation, or LTRO.

Others say Draghi and other European Union officials are working on a plan to use funds from the European Financial Stability Facility to buy bonds directly from governments in the primary market, while the ECB conducts secondary market operations.

There is also speculation that the European Stability Mechanism, a bailout fund that has yet to be fully established, could be given a banking license. In theory, this would allow the ESM to borrow money from the ECB, effectively giving it a source of unlimited funding to buy bonds.

Related: Spain on the brink

Critics say providing additional liquidity would only reinforce the vicious cycle between banks and governments, in which banks are the main buyers of domestic sovereign debt even as they have become dependent on ECB financing.

Given the high expectations, there is a significant risk investors will be disappointed.

“The pattern we’ve seen in the past is that they tend to over promise and under deliver,” said Jones.

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Why Germany deserves to be knocked off its perch

After Moody’s put Germany on negative credit watch, it’s worth looking at just how much the country is on the hook for its troubled neighbors. Add it all up, and it’s an ugly picture.

By Cyrus Sanati


German Chancellor Angela Merkel has more reason to fight to keep the euro alive.

FORTUNE — The downgrade machine has finally worked its way up to the top. Moody’s earlier this week placed the crème-de-la-crème of the troubled eurozone – Germany, the Netherlands and Luxembourg – on negative credit watch, noting that the three nations, especially Germany, were not immune to the economic troubles on the continent. German bond yields nudged slightly higher in trading on the news Tuesday, and went even higher on Wednesday as a German 10-year bond auction drew uncharacteristically weak demand from investors.

Germany isn’t in grave economic trouble at the moment, but it isn’t the picture of economic health, either. It actually suffers from some of the same underlying economic problems that have caused its neighbors to keel over in recent months. Unlike its neighbors, Germany has been able to stay afloat, even somewhat prosper, during the crisis, thanks to its strong export machine and its reputation as a prudent steward of capital. But with its export machine slowing and its reputation now bruised, Germany isn’t looking so hot. Add in all the money it has committed to the eurozone bailout and Germany starts to look somewhat weak.

Before any permanent damage is done to its reputation, Germany should use its clout to push for a much closer eurozone now while it still can. This will shield it from experiencing the kind of economic dislocation that has crushed its neighbors. It will also ensure its rightful place at the top of the eurozone pyramid.

MORE: Why Madrid’s shell game backfired

Germany has benefitted greatly from the euro, so it makes sense that it would spend money to keep it alive. The currency eliminated exchange rate risk, making it much easier for Germany to export to its eurozone partners. At the same time, Germany, in particular, has also been able to increase exports to non-eurozone countries. The exchange rate of the euro is weaker than it would be, all things being equal, if Germany had kept its old currency, the Deutsche Mark.

Germany has been criticized throughout the eurozone crisis for not showing enough leadership, by allowing the crisis to drag on and on without a lasting solution. But up until very recently it appeared that the prolonged crisis has in some ways helped Germany grow its economy. Its exports outside the eurozone for instance have received a healthy boost thanks to the hammering the euro has taken in the markets. This helped Germany record strong GDP growth in 2011 (up 3.5%) while its eurozone brethren were suffering in deep recession.

But all good things eventually come to an end. Germany’s estimated GDP growth rate for 2012 has been revised down several times throughout the year and is now expected to come in well below 1%. Part of that has to do with its export machine. It turns out that Germany needs its eurozone partners more than originally believed. For example, while the cheap euro helped Germany grow its trade with nations outside of the eurozone by 3.4% this past May, on an annual basis, the chronic recession in Europe pushed trade with the other 16-members of the eurozone down 2.3% during the same time period. Since inter-eurozone trade makes up two-thirds of German exports, the incremental benefits of exporting outside the eurozone are no longer covering the loss in trade from Europe.

MORE: Four fixes to the Libor scandal

Meanwhile, new data out this week seems to confirm that Germany’s export engine has stalled. The demand for new German manufactured goods fell in July to the lowest level since May 2009. That pushed the German composite purchasing manager’s index down to 47.3 in July, the lowest level since June of 2009. A score below 50 in the PMI largely indicates that an economy is in contraction, so Germany could very well be experiencing no economic growth at all.

This is concerning, given Germany’s increasingly precarious fiscal situation. It turns out that while Germany does have a big economy, it doesn’t generate enough tax revenue to cover its bills. Eurostat reported on Monday that Germany had a debt-to-GDP ratio of 81.6% in the first quarter of the year, which is up 0.4% from the previous quarter. While that is lower than that of its profligate neighbors, like Greece at 123% and France at 89%, it is still far higher than the 60% cap to which eurozone members are supposed to adhere. Furthermore, while Germany has been successfully cutting spending it still ran a budget deficit of 25.8 billion euros in 2011. As the economy contracts, that budget gap is projected to grow.

But Germany’s already high debt-to-GDP ratio may not be telling the whole story. In putting Germany on a negative credit watch, Moody’s noted that it was concerned about the liabilities the country has taken on as a result of the crisis. Those liabilities are the billions of euros that have been supplied to the various EU bailout funds. It turns out that Germany is on the hook for an estimated 211 billion euros in cash and guarantees connected with the bailouts. If that number is added to Germany’s current debt load of 2 trillion euros, the nation’s debt-to-GDP ratio jumps to nearly 90%. In addition, the current debt number doesn’t account for unfunded liabilities in social security, healthcare and pensions that the state is responsible in paying out. Adding that all up would tack on an additional 5 trillion euros to Germany’s national debt, according to Bernd Raffelhueschen, an economics professor at Freiburg University. That would push Germany’s debt-to-GDP ratio to a mind-blowing 284%.

MORE: The silent job killer: Our unemployment system

To be sure, no one is saying that Germany is going to go bankrupt anytime soon. Even if it loses its triple-A credit rating, it will still be seen as more than creditworthy, notwithstanding all of the current economic headwinds. That is, of course, if the euro stays together. If it breaks, UBS estimated last year that it would cost Germany around 20% to 25% of its GDP or around 514 billion to 642 billion euros in the first year off the euro. It would then cost the country around 300 to 350 billion euros every per year going forward as its economy shrinks to match its strong currency.

The warning from Moody’s (MCO) is just that – a warning. It is now up to Germany to make sure that this warning doesn’t result in a downgrade, or a more dangerous multi-notch downgrade. Keeping the euro together should be Germany’s number one priority but it needs to spread out the financial risk of any future bailout. United, Europe can set about to address its fiscal troubles while negotiating fair settlements with debt holders. But Germany needs to really put pressure on its neighbors to fall in line. If it successfully uses all its political and economic capital to get this done, then this warning would have done its job.

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Bosone di Higgs: ecco come cambierà le nostre vite

La scoperta del Bosone di Higgs potrebbe cambiare la nostra vita. La nuova particella individuata al Cern di Ginevra attraverso due esperimenti indipendenti, Atlas e Cms, oltre a rappresentare un passo avanti notevole per la conoscenza dell’universo ha numerosi altri risvolti. In attesa di ulteriori conferme, che dipendono dall’analisi dei dati del 2012, la scoperta della nuova particella dal peso di circa 125 gigaelectronvolts coinciderà con le previsioni sul bosone di Higgs precedentemente fatte dai fisici teorici. E quella che fino a qualche tempo fa era considerata una chimera, oggi invece sarebbe diventata realtà presso il Cern. Ma in che modo la scoperta della particella di Dio, qualora fosse confermata, cambierebbe le nostre vite? Lo ha spiegato il Presidente dell’Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare Fernando Ferroni, secondo cui la scoperta è in primo luogo entusiasmante. In primo luogo perché è il culmine di una ricerca che va avanti da 40 anni, da quando il premio Nobel Peter Higgs ne teorizzò l’esistenza. E ci sono voluti quattro decenni per dimostrare la validità del Modello Standard della fisica delle particelle. Secondo Ferroni, però, grazie a tale scoperta “non solo è stato compiuto un passo gigantesco nella comprensione dei grandi principi geometrici che regolano la dinamica dell’Universo, ma si apre una nuova ed entusiasmante avventura, quella che ci porterà a esplorare particelle e fenomeni con energie di miliardi di volte quelle raggiungibili con LHC. Fino a quella scala di Planck che oggi consideriamo il probabile limite della conoscenza umana”. La scoperta del Bosone è anche utile per lo sviluppo di nuove tecnologie. Quelle utilizzate negli esperimenti dell’LHC infatti potranno essere la base di partenza per realizzare apparecchiature innovative tra cui la Tomografia a Emissione di Positroni (PET) e i magneti ad alto campo della Risonanza Magnetica (RM) “contribuendo quindi a costruire una società migliore” dice Ferroni. Ma la scoperta, di conseguenza, ha dato una spinta forte allo sviluppo. Spiega il Presidente dell’Infn che la tecnologia uilizzata nell’acceleratore ha reso necessario un grande “sforzo competitivo da parte della nostra industria che è riuscita ad aggiudicarsi molte delle commesse del Cern per l’LHC”. Per questo “spronata a operare in un ambiente di tecnologie di punta, ha aumentato in modo molto significativo la competitività industriale del nostro Paese”.

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