July 10th, 2012
04:12 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – Flicking through Barclays’ 286-page annual report, it’s impossible to avoid a grinning former CEO Bob Diamond – once branded "the unacceptable face of banking" - making a range of pronouncements, which in the wake of the Libor rate fixing scandal now sound profoundly hollow.

Take this old chestnut from Diamond, much touted since banks were caught on the back foot during the 2008 credit crunch: "Banks need to become better citizens."

Or listen to this snippet: "When we’re at our best, we serve the real economy by doing our best for all our stakeholders: our customers and clients, the communities we serve, our people and our shareholders."

June 25th, 2012
03:42 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – Eurobonds will be back on the agenda at the euro crisis summit later this week, with one source telling me there will be “more than twenty different types” under discussion.

Such bonds - a way to raise cash backed by all 17 eurozone countries – have long been floated as one panacea to the bloc's financial crisis but the idea has been stymied by political resistance, largely from German chancellor Angela Merkel.

But as the crisis continues to rumble on the introduction of eurobonds looks increasingly likely. And the ascendancy of eurobond advocate Francois Hollande, France’s new president, has thrown weight behind the idea.

June 18th, 2012
04:45 PM GMT
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Athens (CNN) - Greece has voted. New Democracy, its pro-bailout party, prevailed in Sunday’s election and still market reaction has been decidedly muted. Much like last week’s market performance following Spain’s aid request, the euphoria fizzled quickly as traders focused instead on the considerable unknowns looming in the distance.

Among the unanswered questions: Will Greece’s New Democracy party be able to form a government? And how much leeway will it have to soften the terms of its Troika-prescribed austerity package?

Writing to clients today, HSBC economists David Bloom and Janet Henry said Greece’s result may offer temporary relief but warned that “major challenges remain.”

“While a coalition of pro-bailout parties would put the idea of a Greek euro exit on the back burner for now, it would not alter the underlying problems in the euro zone itself,” they added. FULL POST

June 17th, 2012
03:29 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – For London’s investment community Sundays are more about talking pizzas than politics.

They’re the last chance to unwind before buckling up for the bumpy ride when the markets open on Monday morning.

But across Europe’s financial hub, traders are keeping an uneasy eye on events in Athens and preparing themselves for what many reckon will be a wild week at work.

Veteran London hedge fund manager Lex van Dam has lived through more than one financial crisis and worked for some of the biggest names on the street, like Goldman Sachs and GLG.

The 43 year-old Dutchman shot to fame three years ago at the height of the credit crunch as the forthright financier on the BBC’s reality show "Million Dollar Traders."

Van Dam now spends his time running Hampstead Capital, a fund with 500 million euros ($630 million) under management, as well as his new initiative: The Lex van Dam Trading Academy, set up to teach would-be dealers how to manage money.

He took time away from his weekend lunch (and 26,000 followers on twitter) to answer five key questions on what the Greek elections mean for the markets.

1. Will Greece leave the euro?

Yes. They will leave very soon unless the Germans change their tune and throw more money at them. It is slightly unfair though as most of the help Europe gives them is to help the Europeans themselves as opposed to helping the Greek people.

2. Is austerity the right answer?

Austerity is not the answer. The Greek economy is absolutely collapsing and the tax base is going down with it. The American and British solution of printing money is not the answer because it will lead to a total lack of trust in the government because paper money will be worthless. The answer is accepting that people in the West need to work harder and longer.

3. Will the euro survive?

The biggest chance is for a two-speed Europe to emerge with Germany leading the euro pact and Italy in the second group. The German euro will be very strong, the Italian euro very weak though.

4. Eurobonds: The perfect cure or recipe for disaster?

The Germans have done a massive amount of austerity at home with a higher retirement age and lower wage inflation than in the southern European nations. They will not write a blank cheque to the south. Eurobonds mean that the Germans will become responsible for the Greek debt. It will not happen unless countries such as Spain and Italy give up part of their sovereignty.

5. Where are you putting your money now?

My money stays in cash and real assets such as property and gold. Shares are not expensive right now but if interest rates go up even a little they could drop a lot.

March 14th, 2012
05:51 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – We’ve all seen it before: A disgruntled employee quits his or her job and takes that fateful decision of putting pen to paper in fiery fashion.

The result varies from a whiny monologue to a master class in corporate psychology, depending on how familiar you are with their firm.

Unfortunately for Goldman Sachs, the company was already a household name by the time former executive Greg Smith chose to voice his reservations about it so publicly in The New York Times today.

The paper presumably wouldn’t have opted to publish the OpEd had Goldman not been such a high profile - and yet super secretive - institution.

For all the press attention Goldman has gathered over the years, those on the outside still know relatively little about what goes on inside its gilded cage.

December 22nd, 2011
06:24 PM GMT
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London (CNN) –Eager for action and anxious about the future, Hungarians are taking to the streets to protest a gradual overhaul of the country’s key organs of democracy.

Eastern Europe's most indebted nation faced another unexpected obstacle after Standard & Poor’s this week became the second ratings agency to cut its debt to “junk” status.

The move, which followed a similar decision by Moody’s Investors Service, piles pressure on Hungary’s strained finances, making it more expensive to raise money to refinance existing obligations.

The vicious cycle has been exacerbated by a steady and significant decline for Hungary’s currency - the forint - which has lost 13% of its value against the euro since June.

December 16th, 2011
03:56 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – As the countdown to Christmas continues, shoppers across the world are pounding the pavements in search of the perfect present.

The festive season is a veritable godsend for retailers, many of which make much of their profits in the final month of the year.

December 9th, 2011
10:50 AM GMT
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London (CNN) – Ten hours around the negotiating table were not enough to convince British Prime Minister David Cameron to back down on his demands for safeguards to his country’s interests.

As such, the leaders of France and Germany showed him to the door and decided to settle for closer budget discipline among eurozone countries. According to German Chancellor Angela Merkel: "David Cameron sat with us at the table, we made a decision for this text, we do not have time for weak compromises regarding the euro."

The result of round one of this week's "battle of Brussels" was widely expected but it does raise the worrying prospect of a two-tier Europe emerging, with the 17 euro-using members on one side and most of the remaining 10 non-eurozone states on the other.

October 27th, 2011
06:08 PM GMT
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Brussels (CNN) – Travelling to Brussels this weekend on the Eurostar, one couldn't help feeling as though the train was moving into the abyss: The endless money pit that was soon to become the "no eurozone."

Upon my return journey, all things euro appeared somewhat to have regained their star quality, after European Union leaders finally reached a deal on how to solve the eurozone's sovereign debt crisis.

At around 4:15am local time Thursday, and after hours of fraught negotiations, a pale and exhausted French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, mounted the podium in room 20.45 of the European Council. He was there to brief his compatriots, European neighbors and the world. Finally – it seemed - disaster had been averted.

After two summits in four days, the heads of the European Union's 27 members –including 17 of those that use the euro - agreed to what they called a “lasting” and “credible” solution.

October 17th, 2011
03:39 AM GMT
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New York (CNN) – Can Apple make you rich? That is what John Vons hopes.

An architect by professional, Vons was laid off three years ago. Frustrated and running out of options Vons decided he needed to reinvent himself.  Inspired by the design and popularity of Apple's products, Vons created an iPhone accessory he calls the yofo.  It is a small suction device that allows you to cradle the iphone on your shoulder or stick it on a surface to more easily watch content.

As he and his partner, Genie, made the rounds to secure funding, the feedback was good, but would-be backers shied away due to the shaky economy.   A friend finally came up with enough to pay for the first batch, but there is little left over for marketing.

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