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February, 2018

 

Why low returns are inevitable

WHEN the stockmarket is close to a record high, the chances are that recent returns will have been very strong. The terrible tendency among investors is to assume that those returns will continue. But the higher you go, the harder it is to keep rising at the same pace.  When I visited America for a story on pensions last autumn, I was struck by how few people failed to grasp this point. Public pensions have return targets of 7-8% for their portfolios. When challenged they tend to cite their 30-yearRead More


Latvia’s top banking official has been accused of taking a bribe

ILMARS RIMSEVICS, governor of Latvia’s central bank for the past 17 years, had been due to retire next year. Instead, he is facing calls to resign. On February 17th he was detained by Latvia’s anti-corruption authority on suspicion of taking a bribe of at least €100,000 ($123,000). The prime minister, Maris Kucinskis, says the allegations are so serious that Mr Rimsevics cannot possibly return to work. Mr Rimsevics, for his part, is staying put. Released on bail on February 19th, he denies the allegations, saying he was set up andRead More


Google embraces ad-blocking via Chrome

FROM quantum computing and smartphones to self-driving cars, home thermostats and delivering the internet by balloon, Google or, technically, Alphabet, the holding company that the firm established in 2015, has its fingers in many pies. But the company’s main business, which pays for all of its dabblings elsewhere, is digital advertising, which in 2017 accounted for more than 86% of its $111bn revenue. It may seem odd, then, that Google’s latest move is to aid ad-blocking. On February 15th Chrome, its web browser, which has a 59% market share, switchedRead More


The markets still have plenty to fret about

BULL markets always climb a wall of worry, or so the saying goes. For much of 2017, the main concerns were political and the markets seemed to surmount them as easily as a robot dog opens doors (the latest internet sensation). But February has shown that the market is still vulnerable. The immediate trigger seems to have been the fear that inflationary pressures would cause bond yields to rise and central banks to push up interest rates; this week’s surprisingly high American inflation numbers will only add to the worries.Read More


Recent tax reforms in America will hurt charities

DESPITE its oft-professed pro-market orthodoxy, America has always had an unusually large non-profit sector. Americans gave $390bn to charity in 2016, with the bulk of contributions coming from individual donors. Historically, revenues at non-profits tend to track GDP growth. The recent tax reforms imply that despite strong economic growth, charitable contributions in America are poised to fall for the first time since the financial crisis. The most significant threat to charities comes from changes to income tax. American taxpayers can choose either to “itemise” specific expenses, such as charitable giftsRead More


Going out need no longer be a headache for teetotallers

BARS and pubs have not usually been the non-drinker’s friend. Knocking back pint after pint of juice or fizzy drink quickly gets boring. But beverage manufacturers are now showing more sympathy for their plight. Many companies regard non-alcoholic drinks as the “biggest opportunity in the market”, says Frank Lampen, who runs Distill Ventures, which helps small producers with investment and advice, and is backed by Diageo, a British drinks giant. One of the fund’s recent investments, for example, is in Seedlip, a British firm that makes distilled, non-alcoholic “spirits” flavouredRead More


China’s stockmarket plunge: this time it’s different

A CHINESE new-year message from the American embassy in Beijing looked innocuous. It welcomed the Year of the Dog on Weibo, a microblog, with photos of the embassy staff’s pooches and a video greeting from the ambassador and his wife, each with a dog in hand. But it soon attracted 10,000 angry responses. The post had become an unlikely lightning rod for public discontent about the stockmarket. A plunge on February 9th had left Chinese shares down by 10% on the week, their steepest fall in two years. Some puntersRead More


Conviction politics: Romania elects a party led by a vote-rigger

Print section Print Rubric:  The Social Democrats win despite a leader with a rap sheet Print Headline:  Conviction politics Print Fly Title:  A landslide election in Romania UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The lessons from Aleppo’s tragic fate Fly Title:  Conviction politics Main image:  20161217_eup502.jpg THE centre-left Social Democratic Party (PSD) entered Romania’s parliamentary election on December 11th with what, in most countries, would be considered a handicap. Its leader, Liviu Dragnea, was convicted in 2015 of attempting electoral fraud three years earlier. But many see Mr Dragnea’s conviction as politically motivated, and in Romania many parties are tainted by corruption. The PSD came first by a wide margin, winning 46% of the vote, well ahead of the centre-right National Liberal Party (PNL), which took just 20%.
The PSD’s victory has led …


Opportunities are opening for electrified commercial vehicles

ELECTRIC commercial vehicles were once a common sight in Britain’s towns and cities. A fleet of 25,000 battery-powered milk floats roved the early-morning streets delivering a crucial part of the nation’s breakfast. Short ranges and low top speed were unimportant for a milk round but near-silent running meant customers could sleep. Their demise came as supermarkets expanded, but electrification of business vehicles is gathering pace anew. Just as better battery technology is bringing down the cost and boosting the range of passenger electric vehicles (EVs), those advances are making electrificationRead More


The best—and worst—places to be a working woman

“PRESS for progress” is the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8th. As our sixth glass-ceiling index shows, disparity between countries remains wide. But women have made some progress towards equality in the workplace in the past year. Get our daily newsletter Upgrade your inbox and get our Daily Dispatch and Editor’s Picks. The index ranks the best and worst countries to be a working woman. Each score is based on average performance in ten indicators: educational attainment, labour-market attachment, pay, child-care costs, maternity and paternity rights,Read More