• Bulgaria – Standard & Poor’s downgraded the credit rating;
  • Mexico – a vote to open up the oil & gas sector to private investment;
  • Nicaragua – a law to remove presidential term limits;
  • Venezuela – Standard & Poor’s has again lowered its rating.

CANADA:  While Canada is on the brink of becoming an energy superpower, approval delays for new pipelines threaten the industry. The impact of the tentative trade pact with the EU is still difficult to predict. In the political arena, PM Harper is trying hard to overcome one of the toughest patches of his seven years in power.

CHINA: Exports boomed in November and the trade surplus hit a five-year high, while the yuan reached a milestone in trade deals. For now, though, one should not read too much into these developments. The notion that the renminbi will replace the dollar anytime soon is a flight of fancy.

MOLDOVA: Chisinau did sign association agreements with the EU, resisting intense pressure from Moscow. The economy is recovering from last year’s severe drought and the external accounts have temporarily improved. But the tensions with Russia are not over and may continue to threaten the economy for some time to come.

POLAND: The CB says it will keep interest rates low until well into 2014. This will aid the recovery that is now under way and perhaps help the government improve its standing with the voters. The administration has lost considerable ground, but a further decline is not a foregone conclusion as the country prepares for a long run of elections.

QATAR: While the date when the Emirate will host the soccer World Cup is still being debated, spending on a massive infrastructure overhaul has begun. This may help to keep Sheikh Thamim focused on domestic matters, but talk that he will drop Qatar’s role as international power broker is almost certainly miscued.

UKRAINE: What started as low-key protests a couple of weeks ago has turned into the kind of movement that is likely to keep gathering momentum. The fragility of the economy does not allow much time. There is also a risk of the confrontation getting much worse. In the end, the oligarchs may be the ones holding the key to the future.

UNITED KINGDOM: The BofE is in no hurry to raise interest rates, although the economy has been picking up speed. By the same token, those expecting significant tax cuts and/or spending hikes will have to wait, since the Exchequer still finds little room for maneuver on the fiscal front.

VIETNAM:  The economy is slowly recovering, driven, in large part, by a surge in foreign investment. Russia’s ties with Hanoi, in particular, are growing strongly. It remains to be seen, though, to what extent the new version of the constitution will stall rather than promote reforms. The signals are mixed these days.

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