Friday, June 2, 2017

Brazil emerges from recession; Jeff Bezos, the world's next richest man; India looks to GST for a lift

1 Brazil emerges from recession (BBC) Brazil's economy has grown 1% in the first three months of 2017, putting an end to the country's longest recession in history, officials have announced. The GDP increase came after two consecutive years of negative growth, during which the Brazilian economy shrank by almost 8%.

A record harvest of soybeans, one of Brazil's main exports, gave the economy a boost. But analysts warned Brazil could go back into recession in the near future. A record 14 million people are unemployed according to official figures released earlier this week.

Uncertainty over the future of President Michel Temer has also rattled the markets. Stock markets plummeted last month after a taped conversation was leaked in which the president seemed to discuss the payment of hush money to a jailed politician. Mr Temer has denied the allegations.

2 Jeff Bezos, the world’s next richest man (Graham Ruddick in The Guardian) Just a few dollars more on the Amazon share price and the world will have a new richest man. Jeff Bezos, the company’s founder, is on the brink of overtaking Bill Gates to become the wealthiest person on the planet.

Bezos, 53, has been having a very good year. His net worth has risen by almost $20bn (£16bn) in the past five months to $85.2bn, putting him just behind Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, who is valued at $89.3bn, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The man who changed the way we shop is not a johnny-come-lately internet billionaire. Amazon was founded in 1994, when people still referred to the web as the information superhighway. But it is now the fourth most valuable company in the world behind Microsoft, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and Apple.

The business began with Bezos selling books from his garage in Seattle. Since then, Amazon has expanded into other retail categories, such as food, clothing and electricals, and developed a formidable cloud computing service, its own television shows and an electronic personal assistant for people’s homes.

Bezos has repeatedly told shareholders, analysts and staff that it is still “day one” for the company, despite the fact that it accounts for 43% of all online sales in the US, and his office at Amazon’s headquarters is located in a building called “day one”. The best way to protect the company, he said, is “obsessive customer focus”.

Bezos was born Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen to Jorgensen and Jackie Gise, who married as teenagers. Gise filed for divorce from Jorgensen when Bezos was 17 months old. In 1968, she married Miguel Bezos, who legally adopted Bezos as his son. Gise asked Jorgensen to stay out of their lives. In an interview in 2014, Jorgensen said he was desperate to see his biological son, but Bezos had not been in contact.

3 India looks to GST for a lift (Khaleej Times) India's economy should get a lift from the launch of a new sales tax, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said, putting a brave face on a slowdown in growth that followed a government crackdown on "black money". Jaitley's comments came after data showed that annual economic growth unexpectedly slipped to 6.1 per cent in the January-March quarter, its lowest in more than two years.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's shock decision last November to outlaw high value old banknotes took 86 per cent of currency out of circulation virtually overnight. Asia's third-largest economy had clocked annual 7.5 per cent growth in July-September before Modi removed the oxygen of cash.

Economic expansion in the latest quarter, lower than China's 6.9 per cent, was hurt by a slowdown in farming, manufacturing and services. Construction activity contracted from a year earlier. The biggest disappointment was a sharp fall in capital investments.

Saddled with $150 billion of sour debts, banks have been slow to grant loans, especially to businesses perceived as riskier. Jaitley said the planned July 1 launch of a new Goods and Services Tax (GST) would boost economic growth and the government was "in a state of preparedness" for the rollout.

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