February 10th, 2012
04:34 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – Give eurozone finance ministers credit.

Markets had been rising. The euro was at a two month high. The banks had apparently agreed to take a steep loss on the Greek bonds they hold, or bought in the secondary market for cents on the euro.

Then, they snapped defeat from the jaws of victory. Why?

Greek politicians have now been told they need to put austerity pledges in writing and then into law, all by next Wednesday; the new deadline.

February 9th, 2012
04:48 AM GMT
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(CNN) – What does the U.S. Fed know that we don’t?

That is the question investors have been asking themselves ever since the central bank unveiled its intention to extend its plan to keep interest rates ultra low through late 2014.  Why would they need to do that when the recovery seems to be picking up steam, as witnessed in the latest jobs report?

That is exactly what I put to Richmond Federal Reserve President Jeffrey Lacker when I sat down with him in Washington D.C.

“It is not an unconditional pledge. I think that it is clear because everyone recognizes, on the committee and more broadly, if things pick up we can change paths and raise rates before that. Does this mean policy is easier than it otherwise would have been? I am not so sure,” said Lacker.

February 7th, 2012
03:52 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – In December 1991, I was a 27-year old journalist covering the creation of a European treaty in Maastricht. Negotiations took some weeks, but exactly twenty years ago on Tuesday the city, sandwiched between Belgium and Germany, witnessed the signing of "The Treaty on European Union." The European Union had been created.

I recall forgetting my pass (yes, that one pictured above) and having to get a taxi back to our hotel in Germany to get it. And I remember the story being a bit confusing. I had moved from the U.S. to Europe only a year earlier and was trying to figure how things differed across the Atlantic.

I wondered if the so-called Maastricht Treaty really was creating a "United States of Europe" as some called it? And why did Britain say it had an "opt in" to the treaty, when everyone else called it an "opt-out"? Would the French, Italians and Dutch really be happy to scrap their centuries-old currencies for a new one, yet unnamed?

February 2nd, 2012
04:48 AM GMT
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(CNN) - Facebook, which launched its blockbuster initial public offeringWednesday, is the undisputed social media king of the U.S. and Europe.

But as the West approaches saturation point with the site, Facebook is looking to emerging markets like Brazil and India to fuel its next stage of growth.

The company seeks to raise up to $5 billion, according to documents filed Wednesday. That represents the largest global IPO ever by an Internet-focused company, according to data from Dealogic. Google's $1.9 billion debut is currently the largest U.S. Internet IPO.

Filed under: BusinessFinancial marketsTechnology

February 1st, 2012
12:30 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – It’s one of the great oddities of the former British Empire – the Queen’s Honour List.

Every year people eagerly await the letter from the Queen to inform them if they have received a knighthood, a lordship, an OBE (Order of the British Empire) etc.

I know there is some incredibly crucial ranking to all this, and it’s all very important to some, but don’t ask me to explain it or agree with it. I do know that being awarded a life peerage (a non-hereditary lordship) gets you, no surprise, into the House of Lords - see the likes of Lord Coe of the London Olympics or Lord Webber of musicals. But a knighthood only gives you the right to be called “Sir,” as with Sir Elton John or Sir Paul McCartney.

February 1st, 2012
06:08 AM GMT
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UPDATE: It's official. Late Wednesday Facebook filed paperwork for a $5 billion IPO. And the company reveals for the first time how much cash its making. Read more here.

(CNN) – The Facebook IPO, or initial public offering, promises to be “the holy grail” of tech IPOs, possibly the biggest ever.

Reports in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times suggest the company is seeking to raise $5 billion – more than double Google’s $1.7 billion IPO in 2004, which remains the largest tech IPO in history, according to Renaissance Capital.

Facebook readies for blockbuster IPO

CNN’s Christine Romans explains IPOs, and what it means for Facebook.

January 30th, 2012
06:17 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – After days of public outrage, Royal Bank of Scotland CEO Stephen Hester has agreed to waive his near £1 million ($1.5 million) bonus.

Fellow bankers say we should applaud his magnanimity. They point out that Hester isn’t the villain who drove the company to the brink; on the contrary he’s the hero, who took on the challenge of trying to save it. Besides, they say, he is paid far less than his peers.

Meanwhile, the average earner is incensed that a largely taxpayer-owned entity could even contemplate such a generous sum - one which comes on top of Hester’s already £1.2 million salary.

January 27th, 2012
04:00 PM GMT
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Davos, Switzerland (CNN) –
“Bazooka” is competing for word of the year so far. As in, Europe needs to bring out its big bazooka to deal with the debt crisis in which it has been embroiled for nearly two years now.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon, head of the G20 group of countries, brandished the word with gusto at the World Economic Forum in Davos, declaring “we need to take out the bazooka immediately before the powder gets wet.”

Calderon compared the European situation to the economic crisis in Mexico in 1995. That crisis – referred to as “the first financial crisis of the twenty-first century” – exploded after a boom time and the influx of capital. The country was then bailed by the International Monetary Fund, and another country’s money – in this case the U.S. So far, so familiar.

Calderon pointed to the return of confidence that followed the international aid package, noting the same needed to occur in Europe. “The problem is not the money, the problem is the confidence,” he said.


January 23rd, 2012
01:27 AM GMT
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Davos, Switzerland (CNN) – I have arrived in Davos, a few days ahead of the World Economic Forum. Getting here early before the hot air starts rising from the WEF gives me a chance to witness this elite mountain resort without the fuss and to think about what might happen at this year's junket. Writing this I can see the last straggler skiers enjoying this year's superb snow - the best in a decade - which frankly is more than can be said for the prospects for this year's forum. I think this will be one of the most complicated and will produce relatively little by way of initiative and solutions.

It will be "Davos do little."


January 13th, 2012
08:00 PM GMT
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(CNN) – The ratings downgrade of France by Standard & Poor's is embarrassing, but its economic impact will be limited – and the country will embark on a full court press to pretend it doesn't matter.

Let's not forget the U.S. lost its triple A rating; the dollar is still being printed and economy is doing better. But this will pile pressure on the eurozone: S&P has a history of jumping first, and other agencies could follow.

The risk is in its downstream hit on Europe's bailout fund, the European Financial Stability Facility [Editor's note: The fund has now been downgraded ]. The fund only holds its top rating by virtue of the countries whose cash it is backed by, and France is one of the major players.

Eurozone nations slapped with downgrades

The French downgrade could hit the bailout fund's triple A rating, which will make it harder to raise sufficient funds from investors to feed the bloc's needs for cash. That could cause hiccups for the bailout programs already in place.

But of far more importance Friday was news that creditors have failed to reach a deal with the Greek government on haircuts to the country's debt.

Greek talks break down

According to a statement from Greece's creditors, plans to slash the value of the debt in half, as part of the country's negotiations to get its second bailout, have stumbled. This could prove a ticking time bomb if it is not defused. The news means Greece is once again the big crisis.

The eurozone rescue plan is falling to bits but it's Greece we need to watch, not France.

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