The Bank of Japan reduced interest rates to below zero on Friday, after years of keeping them in the positive range. The negative interest rates will be placed initially on reserves valued at 10-30 trillion yen and will apply only to new reserves that financial institutions deposit at the central bank. The goal is that the reduction would cause the real interest rates to decrease, thus stimulating consumption and investment. This policy will decrease rates for lending and isn’t supposed to negatively affect banks. The Bank of Japan will be dividing the account balances into 3 tiers, and the interest rates placed depending on the type of reserves that are placed in the Bank of Japan.
Art sales reached an incredible peak over the past few years. Billionaires and other wealthy art enthusiasts around the world have taken joy in paying exorbitant prices for pieces by both well-known and up-and-coming artists. Many of these pieces are fed into personal collections, some of which are put on display. The art collecting habit, popular among the global affluent, has driven prices of popular art to the hundreds of millions. Big name international auctioneers have thrived and the industry has reached unprecedented levels of prosperity. However, 2015 saw a decrease in reported sales for the first time in six years, causing many to believe the art boom is starting to decline.
Auto maker giant, General Motors, recently announced its fourth quarter earnings. After a record year, GM reported net income of $6.3 billion in the last quarter of 2015. This was caused by consumers buying less gas efficient models, as gas in United States has continued to stay very low at around $2 a gallon. Sales in North America rose 8.6% in the final quarter and 14% in China. This could have a great impact heading into 2016, where consumers were initially predicted to go more into electric vehicles and more gas efficient models. If the current trend stays true, then the first quarter of 2016 could spike as well. In Europe, the company continues to struggle as they are still in the negative in the difficult continent. However, GM's CFO has stated “Breaking even in Europe in 2016 is a companywide focus and we’re confident that we’re going to achieve that,” leading many to view GM's prospects in the region optimistically.
Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria, is seeking loans from the World Bank and African Development Bank (ADB) to help fund its forecasted budget deficit. Historically, Nigeria’s budget has been financed primarily with oil revenues, but the recent plummet in oil prices has slashed the amount of funding produced by this sector. Nigeria is not alone in this situation, as other nations such as Azerbaijan, Venezuela, Algeria, and Iraq are also in dire economic straights due to an overreliance on oil production.
After a tedious war that took a toll on its people, Chechnya remained under the control of Russia following its annexation. After a very close outcome on the 2012 referendum, Scotland remained a loyal entity of the Queen’s monarchy. While both attempts of secession were predictably unsuccessful, it seems Spain’s biggest problem isn’t going to be a gruesome war or rioting masses in the streets. If Cataluña is successful in efforts of secession from Spain, it’ll be out of the frying pan and into the fire for the Iberian democracy.
The World Health Organization (WHO) will convene in an emergency committee in Geneva, Switzerland this Monday, January 31. The topic of this emergency meeting will be the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which is spreading “explosively” across Latin America. Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, addressed the executive board stating that “The level of alarm is extremely high…Questions abound. We need to get some answers quickly.”
The World Bank, an international lender to many developing nations, recently released its quarterly Commodity Markets Outlook. In the report, that includes projections for the rest of 2016, the agency lowered its forecasts for most global commodities. The bank warns that an oversupply of commodities, which caused prices to fall in 2015, will continue into and throughout 2016.
Over 68% of countries have serious issues with corruption, including half of the G20. More than 5.5 billion people live in a country with major levels of corruption. These are the findings of by Transparency International, in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2015, which was released this week. The data on globalEDGE has been updated to reflect the recent release, and is available to view in the country pages, along with our Database of International Business Statistics (DIBS). This year’s release featured 168 countries, highlighting countries which have the least and most corruption. The index specifically measures the perceived levels of public corruption, by utilizing and combining various data points into one score.
Is work the same now, in 2016, as it was back in 2015? For the most part yes, but there are some changes to work that have already happened in 2016 and some that are still bound to occur. It is the freelance work world that is setting the trends for how work will continue to change during 2016. Some of the workplace trends that are expected to have the farthest-reaching effects in 2016 include: remote-first businesses, independent consultants, shift in media, work-life balance, leadership expectations, and consumer-grade design.
Islamic finance presents an interesting contradiction between religion and modern economics. The world of finance is in large part built on the premise of interest. The debt market now dwarfs the equity (stock) market, and a majority of debt products inherently carry some form of interest. The world of Islam, however, strictly forbids usury, or the practice of charging interest. Islam is also the world’s second largest religion with over a billion adherents, which makes it impossible for its practitioners to not participate in the world of finance. This seemingly huge dilemma is solved by the practice of Islamic finance. Bridging the gap between religion and business, Islamic finance is quickly growing in both size and importance.