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G7 agrees to back expansion of IMF financial firepower

The world’s seven largest advanced economies have agreed to support the first expansion of the International Monetary Fund’s reserves since 2009, a step meant to help developing countries cope with the coronavirus pandemic, Britain said on Friday (Mar 19). Britain, which is chairing the Group of Seven (G7) this year, said G7 finance ministers had agreed to support a new and sizeable increase in the volume of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), an internal currency used by the IMF. The news was welcomed by IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva who said the G7 finance ministers’ meeting was productive. Last year the IMF said it wanted the allocation of SDRs to rise to the equivalent of US$500 billion from the US$293 billion agreed at the time of the last expansion in 2009, just after the global financial crisis. That expansion was opposed by then US President Donald Trump. Last month US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she would like an expansion but wanted greater transparency about how the SDRs would be used and traded. Sources in the United States familiar with the G7 talks said an increase of around US$650 billion had been under discussion. (CNA)


Donald Trump’s net worth dropped by about $700 million to $2.3 billion during his time as president, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The Covid-19 pandemic hit his fortunes hard, with Mr. Trump’s office buildings, branded hotels and resorts losing revenue and falling in value. His fleet of planes and golf courses have also seen drops in their value. Mr. Trump is currently under a criminal investigation into his financial affairs and his family business. Bloomberg analyzed financial documents and other filings from May 2016 and January 2021 to calculate Mr. Trump’s wealth before and after he became US president. Mr Trump’s commercial real estate accounts for about three-quarters of his net worth. The office towers he owns or co-owns have seen big drops in valuations as more people work from home, a trend that could last in the long term. Bloomberg, which provides financial news and data, estimates a 26% drop in the value of his main commercial property holdings. (BBC)


The US Justice Department is looking at Visa Inc’s debit practices, the company said on Friday, after reports the United States was investigating whether the credit card company uses anticompetitive practices in the debit-card market. The Justice Department is probing whether Visa uses anticompetitive practices in the debit-card market, a source familiar with the matter said on Friday. The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news, said the Justice Department’s antitrust division was looking in to whether Visa limited merchants’ ability to route debit-card transactions over card networks that are often less expensive. Visa shares fell sharply on Friday, sinking 6.2% to close at $206.90. Merchants have long complained about the high cost of network fees, or interchange fees, which can be 2% or more of each transaction and go to the financial institutions behind the transactions. While such investigations are not unusual, this one comes amid a greater interest in the digital marketplace. Earlier this year, Visa and fintech startup Plaid called off a $5.3 billion merger after the government sued to stop the deal and called Visa a monopolist in online debit transactions. (Reuters)