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Friday, August 24, 2012

Germany Stands Behind Greece, ECB to Wait for Ruling Before Buyback

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said today at a joint press conference with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras that Germany will support Greece in its attempts to fix its economy and its finances, pushing back against voices who have been calling for Greece to leave the monetary union. She added that the country must still respect the bailout conditions it agreed to, but reiterated that she does want it to “stay in the Eurozone.” Merkel insisted that “fulfilling commitments and expectations will lead to a return of confidence” in the region. Samaras said comments that his nation should leave the euro bloc are “toxic,” causing investor confidence to erode and defeating efforts to improve the situation. Meanwhile, officials said European Central Bank President Mario Draghi may wait for Germany’s Constitutional Court to rule on the legality of a permanent European rescue fund before he presents his plan to buy government bonds.  The goal would be to lower borrowing costs for countries like Spain and Italy by acquiring bonds from investors, on the secondary market, but the plan may not be ready by the next ECB meeting. The court is due to rule on Sept. 12.

EU to Announce Banking Regulations to Curb Risk

The European Commission, the governing body of the 27-country European Union, said today it will aim to announce proposals to improve banking regulations in Europe by September 11. The goal will be to shield nations, especially those of the 17-country euro area, against the so-called “doom loop” in which banks that take on too much risk end up making countries vulnerable to crises, and fragile government finances endanger banks. Following those pan-European rules would be a condition for countries like Spain to benefit from financial help. The plan would put the European Central Bank in charge, a measure that would keep regulation and enforcement away from political pressure and give every bank equal footing.

Nine Executions in Gambia, Amnesty International Says

A day after Gambian President Yahya Jammeh vowed to execute the country’s 47 inmates on death row by mid-September, human rights watchdog organization Amnesty International said nine of them, including one woman, died today. Other reports indicate that all of the inmates were transfered to one place, and that the authorities were determined to carry out this plan. The announcement provoked an outcry as the African Union asked Jammeh to put a stop to it. The death penalty in Gambia was abolished under the rule of Jammeh’s predecessor Dawda Jawara, but reinstated in 1995, when Jammeh took over the country in a coup. No execution had been carried out in Gambia in 27 years.

Fed Chairman Bernanke Sees “Scope” for Economy-Boosting Action

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said today in a letter to Republican Congressman Darrell Issa that “there is scope for further action by the Federal Reserve to ease financial conditions and strengthen the recovery.” The news heartened stock markets, which closed on a high today. He will be able to discuss this more next week as he is due to give a speech at the Kansas City Fed symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. In the letter, he still insisted that policymakers in the government must also take responsibility for the economy and consider taking steps to put it on track for recovery.

Samsung Found Guilty of Infringement, Apple Awarded $1.05 Bln in Damages

The jury in the trial of Apple versus Samsung announced its verdict earlier than expected, after less than three days of deliberations. It found Samsung guilty of “willfully” infringing Apple patents on the “bounce back” feature, scroll and multitouch, zoom and navigate, black front surface, and icons, but not guilty of infringing its patent on the industrial tablet design. The jury also found Samsung guilty of copying Apple’s iPhone look and feel, “intentionally” confusing costumers and thereby “diluting” the brand.  The jury awarded Apple $1.05 billion in damages. Apple sought between $2.5 billion and $2.75 billion in this suit, while Samsung claimed Apple owed it $421.8 million in royalties for infringing five of its patents. Samsung wasn’t awarded any damages. Judge Lucy Koh must now rule on Apple’s request that Samsung tablets and telephones be permanently banned from sale in the U.S.

Weekend Read: Schmooze or Lose

With the election approaching, U.S. President Barack Obama should be wooing big donors, something he’s not comfortable doing. This could affect his campaign, and the result of the contest. In the New Yorker.

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