Economist 9/19/14

  1. ALIBABA’S shares were priced at $68 on September 18th, giving China’s e-commerce behemoth a market capitalisation of $168 billion as it started trading on New York’s Stock Exchange. The flotation will raise $21.8 billion, narrowly missing the record for the world’s biggest stock offering, held by Agricultural Bank of China with its $22.1 billion listing in 2010. But if some of the remaining options are exercised by their owners, Alibaba’s could yet be the largest.Transactions last year over its websites totalled nearly $250 billion, compared with $116 billion for Amazon, a rival online retailer. Data from this year suggest that with every second that passes, Alibaba handles almost 500 orders, altogether worth more than $9,000 on average. Amazon’s equivalent transaction value in 2013 would be less than $3,700 per second. An average buyer on Alibaba’s websites spends over $1,000 a year, whereas the figure is less than half that at Amazon.
  2. THE Union flag will still fly. By a margin of 55% to 45%, and on a vast 85% turnout, Scots voted to stick with the United Kingdom on September 18th. hey also preserved the British identity which over a third of Scots, English, Welsh and Northern Irish consider of primary importance. The No vote held up surprisingly strongly in most of Scotland’s 32 councils.Dundee—dubbed by the SNP’s leader, and Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond, as the “Yes City”—gave him a rare victory, but on a relatively low turnout, of 79%, and by a narrower-than-expected margin.he campaign had been gruelling, especially on the Yes side. Though designed and steered by the SNP, the Yes Scotland banner was carried by many different groups—including Radical Independence, Women for Independence and the Scottish Greens—many of them locally based, and all hugely motivated. By any measure, they outgunned the cross-party Better Together campaign, knocking on more doors, delivering more leaflets, placing more advertisements in newspapers and on billboards.r. Only a strong turnout by Scottish pensioners—the only age-group thought likely to have voted mainly for the union—foiled them.
  3. Another Great Leap Forward is planned ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. The governor of Tokyo, Yoichi Masuzoe, has pledged to make it the planet’s number one city, using the games as a launch pad. In addition to 22 new Olympic venues, the plans include new roads and railway lines, a huge waterfront redevelopment and rebuilding chunks of the city centre.The 1964 event cost many times more than its predecessor in Rome four years earlier, and added to the Olympics’ spendthrift reputation—not a single games since then has met its cost target. The Tokyo Olympics also triggered the start of Japan’s addiction to bond issuance, which continues unabated today.
  4. DESPITE winning only 31.2% of the vote, Sweden’s Social Democrats were jubilant on September 14th. Stefan Lofven, their leader, declared that the voters’ rejection of the centre-right alliance under Fredrik Reinfeldt marked a return to Social Democratic solidarity and the egalitarian Swedish welfare state.As he faced the daunting task of forming a coalition government. He brusquely rejected the ex-communist Left (with 5.7%) and began negotiating with the Greens (6.8%). But the two parties are a long way short of a majority, and they have big policy differences. The Greens want two of Sweden’s ten nuclear reactors closed immediately.Making everything harder are the far-right Sweden Democrats, who took 12.9% of the vote to become the third-largest party. The Sweden Democrats’ leader, Jimmie Akesson, made clear that his party must be reckoned with. It won votes by playing on fears of immigration and attacking the government for spending taxpayers’ money on immigrants and asylum-seekers instead of on native Swedes.
  5. It has been a hard summer for Jews in Germany. Provoked by fighting in Gaza, many Germans have demonstrated against Israel and for the Palestinians. One synagogue was set on fire. Some Jews were beaten.Yet, at the same time Germany, especially Berlin, is a favourite place for young Israelis to emigrate to; this is made easier because the government gives Jews German passports if their grandparents had them.Although there is still a remnant of anti-Semitism among Bio-Deutsche , the recent wave of anti-Semitism in Germany is largely a phenomenon among those “with a migration background”, to use the modern argot. Perpetrators, in other words, have tended to be young Muslims of Arab or Turkish descent. They inherit a collective identity not of German guilt, but of victimhood and marginalisation at the hands of both Israel and their adopted country.

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