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Financial Focus

French finance minister Christine Lagarde was confirmed as the new head of the International Monetary Fund last night, the first woman to be appointed to the role. Lagarde’s first move last night was to urge the Greek opposition party to support the government in pushing through a new austerity plan.

JAPAN’S industrial production rose at the fastest pace in more than 50 years, led by car makers as they restored operations at plants after a record earthquake and tsunami on the 11th of March. Factory output increased 5.7% in May from April, the biggest gain since 1953, the Trade ministry said in Tokyo today.

THE RISK that lawmakers will fail to reach an agreement on the U.S. debt ceiling may be underestimated by financial market participants, said Alan Binder, a former Federal Reserve vice chairman. Democrats and Republicans have been negotiating to find a way to cut the long term deficit and raise the nation’s debt ceiling. Moody’s and S&P said that failure to reach agreement could put the U.S. government’s top credit rating in jeopardy.


EUROPEAN shares are set to rise for the third straight session today, tracking gains in Asia and on Wall Street, on lingering optimism a Greek parliament vote on austerity measures will be passed to avert a default for the highly indebted country. Stocks on Wall Street finished higher for a second straight session yesterday although low volumes highlighted the underlying caution in the market ahead of the Greek vote.

HONG KONG stocks edged higher today helped by gains in beaten down energy and property counters, but trading volume has trailed off as investors remain defensive ahead of the decision in Greece today.


THE EURO fell, snapping a 2 day gain against the dollar, amid protests in the streets of Athens before Greece’s parliament votes on an austerity package. The dollar traded near the strongest in 3 weeks versus the yen after treasury yields jumped yesterday and South Korea’s won rose for a second day on speculation the central bank will boost interest rates after the government raised its inflation forecast.


OIL traded near a four day high in New York on speculation that U.S. crude supplies dropped to the lowest in more than two months and steps by the Greek government to prevent a debt default will bolster Europe’s economy. Energy Department data today may show U.S. inventories fell 1.5 million barrels last week and Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou’s plan to cut spending and sell assets is set for a vote in parliament today.


Corn advanced for a second day, extending the biggest gain in almost 3 months, and soybeans rose as above normal temperatures in the U.S. threaten to stress crops that are already deteriorating. December delivery corn climbed as much as 2.3 % a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade. Wheat futures advanced for a second day, extending the biggest daily gain for the most active contract since May the 18th. September delivery wheat rose as much as 2% a bushel.

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