The little nation that could, and did

Wealthy argentines know and love Uruguay mainly because they like to summer in Punta del Este, aka, the Hamptons of South America. I am not saying that Punta del Este is not worth visiting. It is. But Argentines have always treated Uruguay as "another state of Argentina", the "ugly step sister", or the small little sleepy neighbor, nothing to write home about except its Summer resorts.

While Argentines were busy criticizing the sleeping beauty to the East, it was all the while enriching itself with Argentine capital flows, rebuilding its economy, and taking its just place in the map of South America.

Last week, Uruguay was returned to investment grade, BBB- ,with a stable outlook.

As Rich as an Argentine

In the early part of the 20th century, Argentina was among the top ten richest countries in the world, maintaining this position into the 50's.

Between 1890 and the 1930's, Buenos Aires was totally overhauled, changed from a pretty Spanish colonial town to what it is today, a huge city with sprawling boulevards, French and Italian architecture, hundreds of parks and plazas and tree lined streets.

During this time, the very rich traveled to Europe, especially to Paris where they painted the town red with their parties, their music and their beautiful women. It was the French, seeing how lavishly the argentines spent money, who coined the phrase "riche comme un argentin" or "as rich as an argentine".

Sinking ship or rising sun?

According to the Asahi Shimbun, six of Japan's utilities will release their largest net losses on record. The one utility which does not operate nuclear power will post a net proft.

The ten regional electric utilities in Japan are projecting a combined net loss of 1.5 trillion yen (about US 18 billion, in the fiscal year ending March 31.

Those of you who read with interest my article about Brunei and thought it was about Brunei, better read it again.

In the meantime, oil prices continue to barrel forward, on signs of a strengthening Chinese economy, according to Bloomberg, as the Chinese Purchasing Managers index rose to a one year high of 53.1 in March.

A Little Game Called Financial Repression

The term financial repression is not new, but I have been hearing a lot more analysts bring it up and I think we'll be seeing more written about it in the coming months, so it's worth mentioning it here for all you smart little monkeys to talk about in your new jobs and impress the bosses.

As gross public debt as a percentage of GDP climbs to new highs, both in advanced economies and the developing markets what's a government to do? Why increase taxes when you can use another, more efficient method, and people won't even know what hit them?

Apple Branches?

Many many years ago, I was among the first, at least in my generation, to start paying bills electronically, balance my checkbook on line, and stopped using paper as a means to make payments. Today, I may find myself "writing" a check or two a year, and I would bet that most WSO readers don't even know what "balancing a check book" was like in the "old days".

How things have changed! An Apple a day is trying to keep the bankers away, if Apple has its way with a new payments platform. According to the International Business Times, Apple has just been granted a few new patents for an IWallet and some additional patents for ITunes app related to the IWallet. The buzz is that they will be introduced with the IPhone 5.