President Obama is increasingly touting a rebounding economy as part of an effort to define his legacy.

On the heels of the strongest monthly jobs report the White House has seen in years, Obama has used a series of speeches and television interviews to highlight his administration's stewardship of the economic bounce.



Economic statistics dont lie, but sometimes they tell stories we dont believe.

The government told us last week that the US economy created 321,000 jobs in November - more than in any month in almost three years. It was the 50th consecutive month of job growth, an unparalleled streak since World War II.



ReutersVladimir Putin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russias oligarchs are no strangers to misfortune, asset grabs, forced investments and financial crises.

Many of them may publicly shrug off a 40 percent plunge in the rouble and the difficulties caused by a sanctions-hit economy heading for recession.

And at least on paper, there are some winners, with metal producers benefiting from rising prices in export markets.

But look closer and just about every Russian company is feeling the pinch, and perhaps the only success stories are those who sold in time -- or who just got lucky.

Even those close to President Vladimir Putin are not shielded from plunging oil prices and the economic downturn. They are also at greater risk of being subject to sanctions imposed by the West over the Ukraine crisis.

Gas producer Novatek, in which an investment vehicle belonging to sanctioned Putin ally Gennady Timchenko has a 23 percent stake, has seen its stock market value sink from $36.9 billion to $23.6 billion as investors have bailed out and sanctions have taken their toll.

Other have got off more lightly.

In terms of market capitalization, Norilsk Nickel, the worlds largest nickel and palladium miner and exporter owned by three of Russias original oligarchs -- Vladimir Potanin, Oleg Deripaska and Roman Abramovich -- has grown to $27.6 billion from $26 billion at the end of last year.

But the company had a market capitalization of more than $40 billion at the end of 2010 when Russia was free of Western sanctions and when oil prices, currently near five-year lows of around $70 a barrel, were nearer $95.

There has also been growth at Rusal, the worlds biggest aluminum producer, which is 48 percent owned by Deripaska. It has seen its market capitalization rise to $10.4 billion from $4.5 billion since the beginning of the year, according to Thomson Reuters Datastream economic data.

Both have been aided more by rising prices for nickel and aluminum than the weaker rouble.

Alexander Demianchuk/ReutersA man holds rouble banknotes in front of an automated teller machine inside a branch of Sberbank in St. Petersburg, November 5, 2014.

PROTECTED BY GOD?

Among Russias so-called original oligarchs -- those who got rich in the chaos that followed the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 -- some have found that being out of favor with the Kremlin is not necessarily a bad thing.

Russias second richest man, Mikhail Fridman, and his partner German Khan wanted to keep their stake in oil producer TNK-BP but sold it to state-controlled producer Rosneft, led by Putin ally Igor Sechin, when commodities prices were at a peak.

They got around $13 billion out of a deal worth $55 billion in total.

Rosneft, which became the worlds largest listed oil producer by output after the deal, was widely seen as the winner. But now it has a market capitalization of $41.7 billion, according to Datastream, less than it paid for the TNK-BP stake, a reverse also reflecting the fall in the price of oil.

Sometimes it feels like they were protected by God in everything they did in the past few years, said a former co-worker of Fridman and Khan, who declined to be identified.

But despite Fridman selling some of his assets in Russia, those that remain are not performing well. His Amsterdam-incorporated X5 Retail Group has lost its No. 1 spot in the Russian market and its shares are down seven percent in the year, relecting the economic downturn.

His telecoms company Vimpelcom, also incorporated in Amsterdam, has struggled with more than $20 billion in debt.

Alisher Usmanov, Russias richest man and another notable example of a businessman benefiting from investing in Internet projects outside the country, has also suffered at home despite a successful investment in Chinas e-commerce giant, Alibaba.

Shares in Megafon, in which he owns about 50 percent, are down 45 percent this year, dragged lower by a weak market despite leading in 4G technology, while Internet company, Mail.ru, is suffering from weak advertising revenues in a sagging economy.

(Additional reporting by Maria Kiselyova and Andrey Kuzmin in Moscow and Dmitry Zhdannikov in London, writing by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Timothy Heritage and Giles Elgood)



FRANKFURT, Germany - The European Central Bank has handed out 130 billion euros ($162 billion) in cheap, long-term loans to banks -- part of its effort to stimulate the struggling eurozone economy.

The amount was closely watched in the markets because ECB president Mario Draghi has said the bank will add roughly 1 trillion euros in new stimulus in coming months.

The amount taken by banks was about what market analysts had expected. Banks got money for four years at the very low interest rate of 0.15 percent -- money the ECB hopes they will lend to companies so they can expand, hire people and get the economy going again.

Top ECB official Benoit Coeure said the central banks credit offers, including an 82.6 billion-euro round of loans in September, create conditions that stimulate credit growth to the real economy.

Still, some think the amounts are too low to help achieve the 1 trillion-goal -- and makes it more likely that the ECB will have to resort to new stimulus programs to do that. That could include large-scale purchases of government bonds.

The ECB will have to employ additional tools to reach its intended balance sheet size, economist Christian Schulz at Berenberg Bank wrote in a note to investors.

The economy of the 18 countries that use the euro grew only 0.2 percent in the third quarter from the previous three-month period. Inflation remains alarmingly weak at 0.3 percent, and unemployment is high at 11.5 percent.

One problem with the bank loans is that its up to the banks how much they want to take. That means the exact amount of stimulus is out of the ECB leaderships hands. Purchasing large amounts of government bonds would give the ECB more direct control of the amount of stimulus it is pushing into the financial system.

The ECB is already making limited purchases of bonds backed by bank loans to companies -- a step aimed at further easing credit. But analysts say there may not be enough of those bonds around to achieve the desired stimulus either.