1 Bank of England warns of more ‘short sharp shocks’ (Phillip Inman in The Guardian) The Bank of England has warned the financial community against complacency in the wake of a series of “short sharp shocks” in markets over recent months that it said could happen more frequently.
Chris Salmon, the Bank’s executive director for markets, said uncertainty surrounding the global economy following the collapse in the oil price had heightened anxiety in the major currency and bond markets.
He argued that the growing unease combined with a shift to computer-generated trading platforms, some of which froze amid serious market volatility related to US Treasury yields and the Swiss franc over the past year, had triggered panic trading. Salmon said another “flash crash” in one market could spill over into other markets and cause widespread panic.
He said the spikes in volatility in recent months have coincided with periods when trading firms were reluctant to buy and sell financial instruments in the frenzied period during a major event. Algorithms used by the trading firms can lead to the platforms shutting down in periods of stress that occur when lots of participants want to buy, without any traders willing to sell. The mismatch, which regulators have attempted to eliminate, can send prices spiralling upwards or downwards.
2 Oil glut may be worsening (San Francisco Chronicle) A global energy agency says the oil market has further to drop as supplies from the US show no sign of slowing. The International Energy Agency, a watchdog that represents the world’s main oil-importing nations, says that the recent stabilization in oil prices is “precarious.”
“Behind the facade of stability, the rebalancing triggered by the price collapse has yet to run its course,” it said in the report. The price of oil fell on Friday in the wake of the report. The US contract was down $1.02 at $46.02. The contract slumped from over $100 a barrel last summer to around $47 in January before stabilizing around $50 a barrel in recent weeks.
3 ‘Sensitive’ India takes to bans (Dawn) A British documentary. A YouTube comedy clip. A book on Hinduism. Each offended some segment of Indian society, and each was banned or suppressed as a result. Over the last year, at least two books and two films have become off-limits in India.
“The Satanic Verses” has been forbidden since the 1990s. And the film censor board has issued a list of unacceptable words. India is the world’s largest democracy and has made huge economic leaps in the last few decades to become a key Asian power. But, as its official and unofficial bans show, this country of 1.2 billion continues to grapple with a complex tangle of deep sensitivities and a political process that is deeply influenced by religious and caste loyalties.
“Religious communities, ethnic groups, historical figures are all off-limits,” says Shiv Vishvanathan, a social scientist at OP Jindal Global University. “The state is electorally subservient to any ethnic or religious group that throws a tantrum.” The most recent example of what Vishvanathan calls “India’s ban epidemic” took place last week when the government halted the screening of “India’s Daughter,” a British documentary on a 2012 gang rape that sent shock waves through this nation long inured to violence against women.
Bans are also a result of the fact that politics in India is still largely focused on identity, religious or ethnic. India-born writer Salman Rushdie’s book “The Satanic Verses” has been banned here since 1998, since many Muslims consider it blasphemous.
Last year, the publishing house Penguin India pulled from shelves and destroyed all copies of American historian Wendy Doniger’s “The Hindus: An Alternative History,” after protests and a lawsuit from a Hindu right-wing group. And in January, Tamil writer Perumal Murugan was hounded from his home in southern India after right-wing Hindu groups and local caste groups called for his death and burned copies of his book “One Part Woman,” saying it offended members of the Gounder caste.
Movies are another common target. India’s film censor board rejected the erotic drama “Fifty Shades of Grey,” and Hollywood movies that do appear on Indian screens are routinely scrubbed of sex scenes. A newly elected Hindu right-wing government in Maharashtra state recently made all slaughter, sale and consumption of beef a criminal offense punishable with a five-year prison sentence.