China and India lose their appeal for investors on inflation fears

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Fund managers are still super-bullish on Russia, betting that the energy boom has life yet. A net 62pc are overweight oil and gas shares. The most hated trio are travel and leisure (-66), banks (-62) and property (-60).

Karen Olney, Merrill’s European equity strategist, said oil is nearing its cycle peak. “Is the trade too crowded? Probably. As long as fundamentals remain strong, we retain our overweight stance,” she said.

“The burning question is when to sell oil companies and move back to banks.

“We resist the temptation. The time is nearer when inflation rolls over, towards the end of this year and certainly into 2009.”

A record number (net 29pc) are now underweight on European equities; many have switched into cash as they wait for the European Central Bank to inflict punishment – ever more likely after eurozone inflation reached an all-time high of 3.7pc in May.

The ECB’s chief economist, Jurgen Stark, said yesterday that the price spike was a “cause for alarm”.

Mr Bowers said Europe is now facing a triple whammy as the downturn in global export markets combines with a strong euro and a monetary squeeze.

“Eurozone retail sales have been worse than in the US on a year-on-year basis and eurozone GDP growth has also been worse,” he said. “If you look at Spain and Italy, and even France, they are very weak.

“The Fed has eased dramatically, but the ECB hasn’t eased at all. It intends to tighten regardless of the consequences on growth. This is what is eating away at confidence in Europe,” he said.

Merrill Lynch said fund managers were belatedly adapting to a global inflation shock that poses a serious danger to asset prices, and risks setting off “civil protest” in Argentina, Indonesia, South Africa and the Gulf states.

As the new story unfolds, America is coming back into favour, emerging as a sort of safe haven in a fast-changing world where trusted institutions command a premium. Investors are quietly rotating back into Wall Street – despite a chorus of pessimists. A net 23pc are overweight US equities, the highest since August 2001.

The long awaited “decoupling” has begun.

The United States looks like the winner after all.

RBS issues global stock and credit crash alert

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By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, International Business Editor

The Royal Bank of Scotland has advised clients to brace for a full-fledged crash in global stock and credit markets over the next three months as inflation paralyses the major central banks.

“A very nasty period is soon to be upon us – be prepared,” said Bob Janjuah, the bank’s credit strategist.

A report by the bank’s research team warns that the S&P 500 index of Wall Street equities is likely to fall by more than 300 points to around 1050 by September as “all the chickens come home to roost” from the excesses of the global boom, with contagion spreading across Europe and emerging markets.

Such a slide on world bourses would amount to one of the worst bear markets over the last century.

RBS said the iTraxx index of high-grade corporate bonds could soar to 130/150 while the “Crossover” index of lower grade corporate bonds could reach 650/700 in a renewed bout of panic on the debt markets.

“I do not think I can be much blunter. If you have to be in credit, focus on quality, short durations, non-cyclical defensive names.

“Cash is the key safe haven. This is about not losing your money, and not losing your job,” said Mr Janjuah, who became a City star after his grim warnings last year about the credit crisis proved all too accurate.

RBS expects Wall Street to rally a little further into early July before short-lived momentum from America’s fiscal boost begins to fizzle out, and the delayed effects of the oil spike inflict their damage.

“Globalisation was always going to risk putting G7 bankers into a dangerous corner at some point. We have got to that point,” he said.

US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank both face a Hobson’s choice as workers start to lose their jobs in earnest and lenders cut off credit.

The authorities cannot respond with easy money because oil and food costs continue to push headline inflation to levels that are unsettling the markets. “The ugly spoiler is that we may need to see much lower global growth in order to get lower inflation,” he said.

“The Fed is in panic mode. The massive credibility chasms down which the Fed and maybe even the ECB will plummet when they fail to hike rates in the face of higher inflation will combine to give us a big sell-off in risky assets,” he said.

Kit Jukes, RBS’s head of debt markets, said Europe would not be immune. “Economic weakness is spreading and the latest data on consumer demand and confidence are dire. The ECB is hell-bent on raising rates.

“The political fall-out could be substantial as finance ministers from the weaker economies rail at the ECB. Wider spreads between the German Bunds and peripheral markets seem assured,” he said.

Ultimately, the bank expects the oil price spike to subside as the more powerful force of debt deflation takes hold next year.

How to Steal Money from the Stock Markets

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Revealed: the dirty tricks of rogue traders
By Robert Winnett, The Daily Telegraph 3/21/08

A hedge fund based in London set up a “dirty-tricks unit” to manipulate share prices and get illicit information on companies in an attempt to make millions on the stock market, an insider has revealed.

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  • As the official hunt began for the rogue traders who tried to bring down Britain’s biggest mortgage lender, HBOS, The Daily Telegraph can reveal a whistle-blower’s account of how a multi-billion pound fund allegedly used illegal tactics to drive down stock prices.

    the dirty tricks of rogue traders

    Wanted: the trader who allegedly made £100m from the 17 per cent slump in HBOS shares
    Private detectives were allegedly employed to hack into executives’ emails and telephone records.

    Front companies were set up to allow the hedge fund traders to pose as independent researchers or journalists.

    Negative information on companies was then distributed to leading investment banks in the hope that rumours would spread and some share prices would fall.

    The hedge fund, which cannot be named for legal reasons, stood to make millions from “short-selling” the shares as they fell in value.

    The allegations – made in a sworn statement seen by The Daily Telegraph and which has been sent to financial regulators – will add to growing concern over the activities of rogue traders in the City.

    The Financial Services Authority, the City regulator, has begun a criminal investigation to find the trader who allegedly made £100 million from the 17 per cent slump in HBOS shares on Wednesday.

    white collar crimes pays big

    The shares fell after “malicious” rumours were spread in the City about the bank, sparking fears that the price had been illegally manipulated – a move described as “the modern day version of bank robbery”.

    FSA investigators are seeking emails sent to traders that are thought to have prompted widespread selling of HBOS shares. They claimed the bank was experiencing difficulties.

    advertisementIt has emerged that the rumours are thought to have originated in the Far East, with Singapore named as the most likely source. Nick Leeson, the notorious rogue trader responsible for the collapse of Barings Bank, also operated in Singapore.

    In a separate development, Credit Suisse, the investment bank, admitted that it had uncovered a separate £1.4 billion share-dealing scam by rogue traders – many of whom were based in London – who were trying to protect their bonuses.

    The Credit Suisse traders are understood to have sought to cover up their trading losses at the end of last year.

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  • The revelations follow a week of turmoil in the global markets after the near collapse of the American investment bank Bear Stearns.

    Following a meeting with the major banks, it emerged that the Bank of England was considering helping to alleviate the financial crisis by easing the restrictions on banks seeking to borrow money from it.

    The accusations about the hedge fund form the most detailed account yet of the illicit activity carried out by the London office of a major international hedge fund. Such tactics are also thought to be used by other hedge funds.

    The sworn statement containing the allegations is understood to have been sent to the FSA last year although it is not known what action the regulator took.

    The document alleges that:

    – Employees of the hedge fund ordered an American-based private detective to hack into the corporate email systems of two firms in which the hedge fund had an interest

    – A bogus firm — with a phoney internet address — was established to allow employees to pose as independent researchers and approach company executives to garner information on their firms’ future financial prospects. The firm was also used to gain access to industry conferences.

    – A false website — with a bogus address — was also registered to allow hedge fund traders to pose as journalists. The offices of American politicians were approached by people claiming to be journalists to obtain information about potential new laws banning internet gambling that would hit British firms.

    – Jurors and their families in a sensitive legal case into whether a firm had exclusive patent rights in which the hedge fund had invested were “tapped up”. Money was allegedly paid to jurors’ families for information about jury-room deliberations.
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    ? – Hedge fund staff gathered “sensitive” negative information on firms in which they had an interest in the share price falling. This information was distributed to leading investment banks whose experts were encouraged to take a dim view of the prospects of the company’s shares. A German “media consultant” was also used to disseminate information.

    – A safe containing large amounts of cash was installed in the hedge fund’s office. Money was paid to “sources” providing valuable inside information. On one occasion, an anonymous informant was paid $50,000.

    The hedge fund at the centre of the allegations has offices in London’s West End and traders spent their staff Christmas party on a luxury cruise.

    It was set up by former senior executives from a blue-chip investment firm. However, from 2005, the “dirty-tricks unit” was staffed by former corporate investigators and investigative journalists hired from newspapers.

    Pressure is growing on the FSA to clamp down on the worst excesses of the hedge fund industry after a series of scandals culminating in the attempt this week to start a run on HBOS.

    The hedge fund “dirty tricks unit” exposed today was set up in London but operated around the world. It is alleged that this was to avoid tougher regulatory controls in New York.

    On Thursday, Britain’s biggest banks met with the Bank of England to urge them to loan more money to help alleviate the impact of the global credit crunch.

    The Bank, which agreed to some of the demands, released another £5?billion for the money markets. The stock market, which dropped slightly, is now closed until Tuesday.

    HBOS shares recovered on Thursday, closing up more than six per cent.

    the audacity of hope