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Showing posts from March 4, 2014

Lingering U.S. Winter and Ukrainian War Could Spark Perfect Gasoline Storm

The extreme winter weather pounding the eastern half of the United States is keeping many drivers at home. That means less demand along with lower prices at the pump compared to last year. Unless something gives, however, geopolitical issues in Ukraine could spell trouble for consumers, AAA said Monday.

AAA reported a national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in the United States of $3.46, a price that's 17 cents higher than the same time last month but 30 cents less year-on-year. The national average price for Monday, however, is the highest since Sept. 24 and marks the 24th straight day of increases.
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New Investment Platforms Raise Questions for China's Banking System

The headquarters of Alibaba in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. (STR/AFP/GettyImages)

Summary


The growth of large online investment platforms has captured the attention of Chinese authorities in recent months. Non-state enterprises such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., which runs the e-commerce website Taobao, and Tencent Holdings Ltd., a social media conglomerate that runs the popular WeChat online messaging program, are an emerging force in China's financial system.

The question is whether these online financing platforms could start to chip away at state-controlled banks' effective monopoly over the country's vast pool of household and corporate savings. For now, funds invested into new online financing platforms such as Alibaba's Yu'e Bao are equivalent to a little more than 1 percent of the state-controlled banking sector's roughly 74.2 trillion yuan ($12 trillion dollars) in consumer deposits. But the platforms are growing rapidly.

Their growth, and Beijing's …

Ukraine: Russia Looks Beyond Crimea

Pro-Russian activists demonstrate at the regional administration in Donetsk on March 3. ALEXANDER KHUDOTEPLY/AFP/Getty Images

Summary


With Crimea now under Russian military control, the center of gravity of the Ukrainian crisis is shifting to the Russia-oriented eastern part of the country. Anti-government and pro-Russian protests were held throughout cities in eastern Ukraine, including Donetsk, Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk, during the weekend and into March 3. Despite Moscow's military moves in Crimea, Russia's actions in eastern Ukraine are likely to be more political than military. The status of the east will play a key role in Ukraine's future political evolution and in any potential diplomatic settlement between Russia and the West.

Analysis


As Russia fortifies its position in Crimea, eastern Ukraine will be the next region to watch in assessing the evolution of the Ukrainian crisis. Eastern Ukraine, like Crimea, is politically oriented toward Russia, in contrast with the…

Countries in Russia's Periphery Look East and West

Georgia's President Giorgi Margvelashvili (L) and his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sargsyan, in Yerevan, Feb. 27. (KAREN MINASYAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary


As Russian forces encircled strategic Ukrainian military installations in Crimea on March 1, Armenia's deputy foreign minister said that his country will have completed its preparations to join the Russia-led Customs Union by mid-April. Armenia announced its intention to join the Customs Union in September, and by February, Yerevan had completed about half of the prerequisites for accession. Armenia's decision to expedite what is normally a lengthy accession process indicates the government's desire to further integrate with Russia. But while countries such as Armenia are moving closer to Moscow, other countries in the former Soviet periphery are attempting to strengthen their ties with the West.

Analysis


The March 1 announcement came at the conclusion of Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili's weeklong visit …