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Renewable-Energy Investments At $175 Billion So Far This Year As China Solar Spending Soars

China Solar Panels

Worldwide spending on renewable-energy projects reached $175 billion in the first three quarters of 2014, up 16 percent from the same period a year ago, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. China drove the surge with record investment in solar energy, Bloomberg News reported Thursday.

Global spending in the third quarter hit $55 billion, a 12 percent rise from a year earlier. Nearly $20 billion of that came from China, which could add 14 gigawatts of solar capacity this year alone, the London-based research company said. That’s more than all the solar power installed in the United States.

Investment patterns in the third quarter mark a substantial geographical shift, with spending on the rise across Asia and investments tumbling in Europe, Ethan Zindler, a Washington-based analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said.

“The makeup is really quite different compared with as recently as 2011 or 2012, when Europe accounted for a major share of the total,” Zindler said.

European clean-energy investments dropped to $8.8 billion — the lowest in more than eight years — as governments in the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany continue to rein in subsidies that helped spark a boom in project development, the report said.

U.S. spending rose to $7.3 billion from $5.7 billion in the third quarter amid growing demand for residential and commercial rooftop solar systems, Zindler said..

The U.S. was once the world’s top investor in clean energy, but it has fallen behind China in recent years as Chinese leaders move to reduce toxic air pollution from coal-burning power plants and to supply more electricity to the growing middle class.

Kim Hansen via Flickr

Former U.S. senator and first lady Hillary Clinton said last month that she wants to transform the U.S. into the “clean energy superpower of the 21st century.

” Clinton, who mounted an unsuccessful presidential bid in 2008 and is considering a second White House bid in 2016 — called on businesses and politicians to confront climate change through “smart investment in infrastructure, technology and environmental protection.”

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The UK Has A Plan To Cut Off Russian Businesses From The Rest Of The World

putin

The United Kingdom will push the European Union this weekend to consider the most punitive sanctions yet against Russia for its involvement in escalating the crisis in Ukraine.

According to Bloomberg, the U.K. plans to propose blocking Russia from the SWIFT banking transaction system, a move analysts say would effectively cut off Russian businesses from the rest of the world’s financial system.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron will put forward the proposal during a meeting with E.U. leaders in Brussels on Saturday.

“This would be a major escalation of the sanctions. Most international payments flow through SWIFT. Banning Russian banks and companies from SWIFT would effectively cut off Russian businesses from the rest of world,” said Bruce Johnston, a London-based analyst at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.

“It would also have a major impact on European businesses who need to paid by Russians, and want to consume Russian energy.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin in Belarus on Aug. 27

The move would have a significant effect on Russia’s banking sector, as many financial institutions across the world use the system. According to SWIFT’s website, it transmitted more than 21 million financial messages per day in July.

It helped process payments among more than 10,500 financial institutions and corporations across 215 different countries.

Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, compared the potential move to one leveled on Iranian institutions in 2012.

“SWIFT is the electronic bloodstream of the global financial system,” he told Business Insider in an email. “Cancelling Putin’s credit card could have far reaching consequences for the Russian economy as Iran discovered when scores of its financial institutions were expelled from SWIFT in 2012.”

David cameron

David Cameron will propose blocking Russia from the SWIFT network.

The U.S. and E.U. have imposed multiple rounds of sanctions on Russia over the conflict in Ukraine. Most recently last month, they leveled targeted sanctions on Russia’s energy, arms, and finance sectors. But so far, the sanctions have not changed the calculus of Russia or President Vladimir Putin.

This week, the conflict has sharply escalated, as Ukraine, NATO, and the West said Russia sent troops across the border to fight with pro-Russian separatist rebels in eastern regions of the country. 

This week, the rebels have opened a new front in the cities of Amvrosiivka and Starobeshevo. One fear is that Russia is attempting to create a land link between Russia and the strategic peninsula of Crimea, which Russia annexed with special forces troops in March.

Deputy Finance Minister Alexei Moiseyev

Poroshenko said Russian troops are leading a separatist counteroffensive in the east, bringing in tanks and firing artillery from inside Ukrainian territory.

President Barack Obama and European leaders have agreed on the need for new “costs” in the wake of the latest escalation, but officials in both areas are questioning the legitimacy of the strategy.

In the U.S., multiple Republican lawmakers have called on Obama to provide military assistance to Ukraine, saying a political resolution to the conflict is not possible if Russia continues to pursue its goals through military means.

In Europe, geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group told Business Insider he expected there to be high-profile breaks among leaders on the sanctions strategy.

“It’s hard to see the west holding off for much longer in not calling Russian forces an invasion. That leads to more ‘level 3’ (sector wide) sanctions on Russia, yes, but we’ll now see a real fragmentation of European leaders publicly calling the policy a failure and looking to break from further coordination,” Bremmer said.

“After all, many Europeans have been deeply skeptical of Russian sanctions from the beginning, and to the extent that the purpose of sanctions was to prevent an invasion. That’s clearly failed.”

Senior Obama administration officials declined to comment about possible new sanctions on Russia during a conference call with reporters Friday about new sanctions leveled on individuals and businesses in relation to Iran’s nuclear program.

An administration official did not immediately respond to a subsequent request for comment.

New York and London vie for crown of world’s top financial centre

Seven years ago, a report commissioned by Michael Bloomberg, New York’s then mayor, warned the city was in danger of being dethroned as the world’s financial capital by London.

New York was becoming less attractive as a place to do financial services business because of a mixture of excessive litigation, stifling regulation and restrictive immigration rules, according to about 50 chief executives interviewed by McKinsey for the study. London, by contrast, was exerting a pull on banks and investment houses as British politicians trumpeted the capital’s “light touch” regulation.

Six years on from the collapse of Lehman Brothers, both financial centres are transformed. Banks on both sides of the Atlantic were floored by the crisis, but, having taken risk off their balance sheets, are now bouncing back.

Regulators, meanwhile, have toughened their safety and soundness requirements and, particularly in the US, are on a mission to extract maximum penalties for past misdeeds.

Where does that leave the head-to-head battle between New York and London? Which financial centre is in the ascendancy? And will Asia’s hubs in Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai steal the global crown?

For now, the largest New York-listed banks by market capitalisation dwarf their London-listed rivals and the city remains the undisputed global king of equities.

Its two stock exchanges – NYSE, which this month hosted the Alibaba initial public offering, and Nasdaq – have held IPOs that raised a combined $77bn so far this year, or 41 per cent of the $186bn raised globally, according to Dealogic. London raised just over $25bn, for a share of 14 per cent.

Christian Meissner, global head of corporate and investment banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, says the world’s deepest capital markets are in New York.

“As much as London might think it’s the financial centre, I think New York is still ultimately the centre of the financial system.”

“It’s the dollar, it’s the Fed – it’s because US capital markets and the US economy are the deepest, it has the largest number of big companies.”

Mr Meissner says London is a close second.

“If you’re doing business in Asia and the emerging markets, London is much more convenient. It has the timezone and is the most global.”

Xavier Rolet, chief executive of the London Stock Exchange Group, insists that overall the City of London is clearly the world’s leading international financial centre. And the recent spurt in the UK’s economic fortunes have given it another boost.

Chief Executive of the London Stock Exchange Group, Xavier Rolet, addresses the delegates at the annual Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference in central London on November 4, 2013. British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday welcomed a call from the nation's business leaders for Britain to remain in the European Union, ahead of a referendum in 2017. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)

“In the last two years, the regulatory and fiscal measures introduced by the UK government to recalibrate [small business] funding around risk and equity capital have nurtured a tech revolution which has helped fuel an impressive economic and jobs recovery,” says Mr Rolet, pictured. “Ensuring that these minnows succeed on the path from ‘start-up to stardom’ is one of LSE’s priorities.”

The UK dominates in currency trading and over-the-counter interest rate derivatives, accounting for 41 and 49 per cent of turnover in each market, respectively, according to the Bank of International Settlements.

By contrast, the US has a 19 per cent share of currency trading and 23 per cent of OTC interest rate derivatives.

London recently became home to the first clearing bank outside Asia for the renminbi, boosting its attempt to be the leading offshore trading centre in the Chinese currency.

“London has a huge timezone advantage,” says Kevin Burrowes of consultants PwC. “It remains the biggest foreign exchange market because of the ability to trade with east and west in the course of a normal business day”.

So far, at least, new European restrictions on bonuses have not undermined London dramatically, with no wholesale shift of financial services jobs away from the UK, either to New York, or Asia.

After dipping during the crisis, the total number of banking jobs in London broke through pre-crisis levels last year, hitting 147,100, according to a survey by industry group TheCityUK. That took total financial services jobs in the city, including finance and fund management, to a record 367,300.

Though like-for-like figures are difficult to come by, estimates from the New York State Department of Labor suggest the city has 502,400 finance and insurance jobs – 8 per cent lower than the sector’s employment peak in 2007.

Even so, the bonus pool for employees at New York securities firms last year was at its largest since 2008 – at $26.7bn, up 15 per cent on 2012, against the £14bn ($22.9bn) paid out across the UK’s insurance and finance sectors as a whole.

There are anecdotal suggestions that the impact of new bonus rules and other regulatory pressures has yet to feed through fully: 90 per cent of senior City staff now say they are willing to move abroad, up from 77 per cent last year, according to a survey by recruitment company Astbury Marsden.

New York wins the super-rich contest – it has 98 dollar billionaires to London’s 55, according to estimates by WealthInsight.

WPP Chief Executive Martin Sorrell talks during a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 22, 2014. Some 40 world leaders gather in the Swiss ski resort Davos to discuss and debate a wide range of issues including the causes of conflicts plaguing the Middle East, and how to reinvigorate the global economy. AFP PHOTO / ERIC PIERMONT (Photo credit should read ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images)

A recent survey conducted by Wealth-X, a research company, and UBS, the Swiss bank, also found that New York was the home of the biggest number of billionaires – 103 – followed by Moscow (85), Hong Kong (82), and London (72).

There is a soft appeal to both London and New York, says Sir Martin Sorrell, the British chief executive of advertising group WPP, who spends about 100 days a year working in each city.

He says the longer commutes and earlier workday start times in New York can be frustrating, but that both cities have “superb” cultural offerings and are making strong pushes to grow their technology sector.

London, he says, is challenged by its poor airport infrastructure and uncertainty over the future of the UK’s status within the EU.

“From my point of view, both cities work extremely well,” says Mr Sorrell, pictured. “I probably deep down prefer London, but I’m increasingly ambivalent and agnostic.”

While regulators in both cities have taken off the gloves in response to a series of market manipulation scandals, New York’s enforcers are seen by many as acting tougher. Even before French bank BNP Paribas was hit with a record $8.9bn penalty for evading sanctions, Wall Street banks and their foreign rivals had paid out $100bn in US settlements since the financial crisis.

But by imposing a large chunk of recent penalties on banks outside home territory, New York authorities risk a backlash against their domestic operators by foreign regulators, says Mark Yeandle, author of the most recent Global Financial Centres Index, a twice-yearly ranking which assesses a range of competitiveness measures.

London’s future is tied to whether Britain stays in the EU and the prospect of it leaving has unnerved investors. Wall Street banks have been considering plans to move some London-based activities to Ireland – partly because the eurozone’s impending banking union threatens to isolate Britain, but also in the case of a UK exit from the EU.

As former mayor Bloomberg’s McKinsey study suggested back in 2007, business can shift to jurisdictions where the legal and regulatory environment is more attractive. And in today’s world, New York and London have reason to be wary of their Asian rivals.

 

Here’s Where Europe’s Wealthiest People Live

wealth map Europe

UBS and Wealth-X have teamed up again to produce the World Ultra Wealth Report for 2014, totting up the number of people with $30 million or more (£19.1 million). The number of mega-wealthy Europeans is up to over 60,000 this year, and UBS have got a map showing the cities they live in.

There’s a huge amount of information in the report: you might be surprised to learn that Germany has far more ultra-high net worth (UHNW) residents than the UK. With a population only 25% higher than the UK, Germany has 65% more super-wealthy people, and nearly a third of Europe’s total.

The difference is that they’re spread out: Dusseldorf, Stuttgart, Munich and Hamburg all have between 1,000 and 2,000 UHNW residents. In comparison, more than half of the UK’s 11,510 mega-rich people live in London, making the British capital Europe’s undisputed haven for the wealthy.

Only Paris really comes close, with 3,345 UHNW residents: still less than half of London’s amazing 6,815. From the report. Here’s how Europe’s wealthiest have fared in the last few years, and how they’re expected to be five years from now:

Europe UNHWs

The UK stands out for a few reasons. According to the report: “13.6% of the United Kingdom’s total wealth is concentrated in the hands of UHNW individuals. London’s UHNW population alone controls almost 9% of the country’s wealth.”

Despite that astonishing figure, UBS points out that the large majority of the UK’s hyper-rich are self-made plutocrats. 75% of the UHNWs in Britain made their own fortune. In Switzerland, that drops to just 43%, and falls further to 41% in Germany and Switzerland.

Massive demonstration in London against bombing Islamic State in Iraq

The march ended with a protest outside the Houses of Parliament against the decision by MPs to send fighter planes to Iraq (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)

Thousands of anti-war protesters marched through London to oppose Britain’s ‘insane’ bombing missions against Islamic State positions in Iraq.

Groups including the Stop the War Coalition marched through central London on Saturday (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)Groups including the Stop the War Coalition marched through central London on Saturday (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)

Groups including Stop the War Coalition carried placards saying ‘stop bombing Iraq’ and ‘don’t attack Syria’, demonstrators braved heavy rain to express their views yesterday afternoon.

Francis O’Neill, 36, from Oxford, said: “I just think it’s insane.”

Referring to the brutal murder of British aid worker Alan Henning at the hands of IS terrorists, he said he had ‘every sympathy’ with his family, but said dropping bombs is not the answer.

Mr O’Neill said Britain inflicts ‘equal barbarity’ on the people of Iraq, but people here feel ‘distanced’ from it.

Following ministerial support for airstrikes the Royal Air Force has hit eight targets including an artillery post and an armed truck used by the IS militants.  (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)Following ministerial support for airstrikes the Royal Air Force has hit eight targets including an artillery post and an armed truck used by the IS militants. (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)

The demonstration was organised after MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion to begin bombing strongholds of the terrorist group in Iraq.

RAF jets began missions against militant positions in Iraq a week ago, and David Cameron has announced the deployment of two more Tornado fighter bombers as he visited the Cyprus base from where they are operating.

The protesters demonstrated outside the Houses of Parliament before ending at Downing Street, with one member saying the war ‘was not in my name, but in MPs’ names’.

Josh Blakely, 35, from Berkshire, said: “If we’re going to go to war then the whole country should get to vote.”

Protesters march through central London ito voice opposition to the United Kingdom government's military intervention against Islamic State in Iraq (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)Protesters march through central London ito voice opposition to the United Kingdom government’s military intervention against Islamic State in Iraq (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)

Mark Thomas, 46, from London, and a member of the Socialist Workers Party, questioned what military action would achieve.

“I’m no fan of ISIS but Britain and America have been at war in Iraq for nearly 25 years,” he said.

“How on earth do people think more bombing will create peace and stability?”

He also expressed fears Britain’s involvement would increase to having troops on the ground, and the Prime Minister is already facing calls to extend British involvement to Syria.

US and allied aircraft are already engaged in an aerial bombardment in parts of the country, but Mr Cameron said he will seek fresh parliamentary approval before doing so.

London ranked most expensive city globally, Savills report shows

Collage of Hong Kong and London skylines

If there is one guaranteed conversation in London pubs and bars, it is the growing ire of residents over property costs in the country’s capital.

A report published on Tuesday suggests that they have a lot to moan about. Rising rents and a strong pound have made London the world’s most costly city to live and work in, according to Savills, the estate agent.

The UK capital knocked Hong Kong off the top spot for the first time in five years, according to an analysis of the most expensive metropolises for employees.

Living and working costs in London have risen almost 40 per cent since 2008 in dollar terms. Of the top 12 cities, only Rio de Janeiro, at 86 per cent, and Sydney, up 58 per cent, have risen more over the period.

“I don’t think it’s desirable necessarily to be the most expensive city to occupy, but on the other hand, you probably wouldn’t be the most expensive city if you weren’t also the most desirable,” said Yolande Barnes, director of world research at Savills.

“You can look at it two ways. From an investor’s point of view, it means their returns have grown nicely. But, as an occupier, looking to rent in the city, clearly it makes London less attractive compared with other cities employers might look at.”

London real estate costs per employee grew in US dollar terms by 5.3 per cent over the first six months of the year to $121,000 a year. Hong Kong was second at $116,000, down 5.6 per cent, according to the twice-yearly survey.

The UK capital’s property market has been the subject of debate in the country, prompting Bank of England governor Mark Carney to introduce limits on mortgage borrowing.

There are many reports ranking the world’s most expensive cities. The Savills report includes costs associated with renting and occupying residential and commercial space, but not food, travel and other expenses.

In contrast, a report published earlier this year by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which compared more than 400 individual prices across 160 products and services in 140 cities, showed Singapore overtaking Tokyo as the world’s most expensive city. London was ranked 15th.

Elsewhere, New York, Paris and Tokyo made up the rest of the top five, with emerging market centres such as Moscow, Dubai, Shanghai and Mumbai each making the top 12.

The Savills index measures the total costs per employee of renting, living and working space on a US dollar basis in 12 world cities.

Fluctuations in living and working costs reflect not only the strength of a city’s residential and office rental markets and occupier taxes and costs, but also the impact of fluctuating exchange rates on the cost of doing business globally.

Savills’ top 12 most expensive cities to live and work
 City  2014 rank  Annual cost/ employee June 2014  Change Jan-June ($)  Change since 2008 ($)  2008 rank
 London 1 $120,568 5.3% 38.7% 5
 Hong Kong 2 $115,717 -5.6% -0.4% 1
 New York 3 $107,782 -1.7% 18.1% 4
 Paris 4 $105,550 -0.6% 5.0% 2
 Tokyo 5 $76,211 3.6% -22.7% 3
 Singapore 6 $74,890 -1.2% -1.0% 6
 Moscow 7 $70,499 0.2% -5.1% 7
 Sydney 8 $63,630 5.5% 57.7% 9
 Dubai 9 $52,149 25.1% -16.0% 8
 Shanghai 10 $43,171 -1.5% 24.6% 11
 Rio de Janeiro 11 $32,179 6.7% 85.6% 12
 Mumbai 12 $29,742 4.9% -20.8% 10

By the end of June, sterling had reached a six-year high against the dollar, as investors bet on the likelihood of the Bank of England becoming the first leading central bank to raise interest rates.

Savills, meanwhile, attributes Hong Kong’s fall in the rankings to a dip in local property prices – one of a number of leading cities to have seen either modest price growth or small falls in dollar terms, as market activity turns to “second-tier” cities.

“US cities like San Francisco, LA, Chicago and Miami are strong,” said Ms Barnes. “In Europe, there is more reluctance to invest because of euro risk, but Dublin and Berlin look good. Elsewhere, Jakarta and Dubai spring to mind – with a different risk profile – while Melbourne and Toronto look safer, if less exciting.”

She added that the lower level of rental price growth in big cities meant currency fluctuations produced some of the biggest changes in the rankings. “For multinationals looking at their local costs, it is this which is likely to exercise them more than property markets over the next year,” she said.

However, Hong Kong remains comfortably the most expensive in the world for real estate – with average prices still 40 per cent higher than in London. London is also still some way off the live/work accommodation costs record, set by Hong Kong in 2011 at $128,000 a year.

Housing costs in Hong Kong doubled between 2008 and 2013, as record low interest rates combined with a fast-growing economy and strong demand from Chinese buyers.

However, last year the government took a number of steps to cool the market, such as increasing stamp duty for non-resident buyers and tightening lending rules on mortgages.

That caused a drop in prices for much of the last 12 months, although they have been creeping back up over the summer to post fresh record highs.

As the Hong Kong dollar is pegged to its US counterpart, the cost of living in the former British territory is not subject to the same currency fluctuations as most other parts of the world. Inflation in Hong Kong has also been running much higher than in the west.

Last year consumer prices rose 4.3 per cent, while the economy grew 2.9 per cent.

Scotland votes to stay in the union – Taking the no road

THE United Kingdom was formed in 1707, when the parliaments of England and Scotland agreed to establish a single country. Today, 307 years later, the union remained, after a Scottish referendum on September 18th to separate from Britain failed.

The “yes” campaign for independence won 45% of the vote, compared with 55% of Scots who voted “no”. The 85% turnout is among the highest in Scottish history.

Our story on the referendum result is here. An analysis of what it means for British politics is here. Our profile of George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer who in effect helped preserve the union is here. And as financial markets yawned, our Buttonwood columnist mused.

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