Finance news. My opinion.

October 31, 2011

Asia stocks lower, dollar surges against yen

Filed under: debt, management — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 8:52 am

Asian stock markets were mostly lower Monday as investors shifted their focus from Europe’s debt woes to the strength of the U.S. economy. Japan sold the yen to limit its export-sapping strength.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 1.1 percent to 19,791.74 and South Korea’s Kospi fell 1 percent to 1,910.94. Benchmarks in Australia, mainland China, Singapore and Taiwan also posted losses.

The Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo swung between positive and negative territory after Japan intervened to weaken its currency, which had earlier hit a new post World War II high against the greenback. The Nikkei was 0.2 percent lower at 9,021.08 in afternoon trading.

The strong yen has dented earnings of Japanese corporations such as Nintendo Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. and hurt the economy’s recovery from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Finance Minister Jun Azumi said monetary authorities could continue intervening.

The dollar surged about 5 percent to above 79 yen, and Japan’s export sector _ whose fortunes are largely tied to the relative strength of the yen _ rose abruptly.

Isuzu Motors Corp. jumped 4.3 percent. Canon Inc. rose 1.7 percent and Nikon Corp. added 2.3 percent. Nintendo Co. gained 3.6 percent.

In Sydney, shares of Australian flag carrier Qantas Airways Ltd. jumped 4.3 percent after a court ordered employees of the world’s 10th-largest airlines back to work. The airline had grounded its entire fleet on Saturday following weeks of strikes by its workers, but an arbitration court on Sunday ordered an end to the strikes and canceled the staff lockout.

Last week, investors were cheered by the debt crisis deal reached by European leaders. European banks were asked to take a 50 percent loss on their holdings of Greek government bonds. They will also set aside more money to cushion against future losses. Leaders also pledged to expand the European Union’s bailout fund.

But economists caution that many details in the plan still have to be worked out, including the difficult task of deciding who will pay for it.

“With more questions than answers markets will be hungry for further details over coming weeks and until then it is difficult to see risk appetite stretching too far,” analysts at Credit Agricole CIB wrote in a research note.

This week, investors will likely turn their attention to the U.S.

A key jobs report for October, a Federal Reserve policy meeting and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s quarterly news conference are all due.

“This month is going to be another watershed insight into whether we are looking at a low growth environment or something worse,” said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney. “To maintain the low growth environment view, the market is going to want to see positive employment growth.”

A report Thursday showed that the U.S. economy expanded at a solid 2.5 percent annual rate in the July-September quarter. That helped ease concerns that another recession might be nearing.

But while the economy is growing, it may not be enough to generate many jobs. The U.S. unemployment rate has been stuck at 9.1 percent for three months. Analysts expect roughly 100,000 jobs to be added in October. Anything less could raise concerns that the economy may slow.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.4034 from $1.4170 on Friday in New York. The dollar sprinted to 79.18 yen from 75.76 yen.

Benchmark crude for December delivery was down 96 cents at $92.36 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 64 cents to settle at $93.32 in New York on Friday.


October 29, 2011

Obama cites income gap to push stalled jobs bill

Filed under: finance, term — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 6:04 pm

President Barack Obama is using a new report on the income gap between the richest Americans and everyone else to continue pushing for passage of his stalled $447 billion jobs bill.

A report this week by the Congressional Budget Office found that average after-tax income for the top 1 percent of U.S. households had increased by 275 percent over the past three decades while middle-income households saw just a 40 percent increase in their post-tax income. Those at the bottom of the economic scale saw their income grow by a mere 18 percent.

Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address that he would pay for his jobs plan with an added tax on people who make at least $1 million a year. But Senate Republicans blocked action on the bill, a blend of tax breaks for businesses and public works spending, because they oppose much of the increased spending and the surtax on millionaires.

“These are the same folks who have seen their incomes go up so much, and I believe this is a contribution they’re willing to make,” he said. “Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress aren’t paying attention. They’re not getting the message.”

Obama is now trying to get Congress to pass the individual components of the bill. But Senate Republicans also blocked action on the first of those measures, $35 billion to help local governments keep teachers on the job and pay the salaries of police officers, firefighters and other emergency services workers.

Saying the country can’t wait for Congress, Obama has begun taking unilateral steps that he says will encourage economic growth. The actions do not require congressional approval.

On Friday, Obama directed government agencies to shorten the time it takes for federal research to turn into commercial products in the marketplace, to help startup companies and small businesses create jobs and expand their operations more quickly. He also called for creation of a centralized online site for companies to easily find information about federal services. He previously had announced help for people who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth and for the repayment of student loans. The White House also challenged community health centers to hire veterans.

“We can no longer wait for Congress to do its job,” Obama said. “So where Congress won’t act, I will.”

The CBO report, based on IRS and Census Bureau data, was released as the Occupy Wall Street movement spreading across the country protests bailouts for corporations and the income gap highlighted by the report. The Occupy Wall Street protesters call themselves “the 99 percent.”

In the weekly GOP message, Illinois Rep. Bobby Schilling urged Obama to support the “forgotten 15″ _ measures that Schilling’s party says would help create jobs by blocking various energy and environmental regulations and streamlining administrative procedures. The bills, passed by the Republican-controlled House, await action in the Democratic-run Senate.

Shilling said the bills give the White House and Congress an opportunity to build on the common ground created by the passage of free-trade agreements, and a measure to void a law requiring federal, state and many local governments to withhold 3 percent of their payments to contractors until their taxes are paid. Obama included repealing that tax in his jobs plan.

“Republicans have a jobs plan, one with some bipartisan support, but it’s stuck in the Senate,” said Schilling, owner of a pizza parlor in Moline, Ill. “We’re asking President Obama to work with us and call on the Senate to pass the `forgotten 15′ to help the private sector create jobs, American jobs desperately needed.”


October 28, 2011

Surging commodities power TSX

Filed under: legal, online — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 2:52 am


October 26, 2011

Obama wraps up 3-day Western tour

Filed under: debt, marketing — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 11:56 am

President Barack Obama is wrapping up a three-day tour through crucial political states, searching for votes and money and unveiling executive steps to prime the economy even as his jobs bill struggles in Congress.

Obama held six fundraisers, including star-studded events in Los Angeles. He gathered backers in Denver and Las Vegas, urging them to find energy for the 2012 campaign. And he coined a new slogan _ “We can’t wait” _ to draw distinctions with congressional Republicans who oppose his $447 billion economic plan.

On Wednesday, at the University of Colorado’s Denver campus, he will highlight a new initiative to make it easier for graduates to repay their student loans. He earlier announced a mortgage refinancing program and on Tuesday the White House announced new steps to help veterans.


October 24, 2011

James Murdoch to testify again to UK committee

Filed under: economics, news — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 8:44 pm

British lawmakers investigating the country’s tabloid phone hacking scandal say James Murdoch will gives evidence before their committee for a second time next month.

The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport committee said Monday that the son and heir-apparent of media mogul Rupert Murdoch will appear Nov. 10.

Rupert Murdoch shut down the tabloid News of the World in July after it was accused of illegally hacking into the voice mails of celebrities, politicians and crime victims in search of scoops.

Both Murdochs denied knowing about the scale of the hacking when they appeared before the panel of lawmakers the same month.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

LONDON (AP) _ Rupert Murdoch’s former right hand man says he authorized a 250,000 pound ($398,000) payout to a tabloid reporter who was jailed for phone hacking, but denies having any knowledge at the time that the illegal snooping was widespread.

Ex-Wall Street Journal publisher Les Hinton on Monday told British lawmakers investigating the hacking scandal that he personally approved the payment to Clive Goodman, the News of the World reporter convicted and jailed in 2007 for eavesdropping on the mobile phone voice mails of royal aides credit score.

Hinton, who was then the executive chairman of Murdoch’s British newspaper division, acknowledged he had seen a letter from Goodman in which the reporter alleged phone hacking was widespread at the paper and common knowledge among executives.

Hinton said he had launched a “pretty thorough” internal investigation into Goodman’s claim, but said “there was no basis found for it.”

He said he fired Goodman for gross misconduct, but decided to pay him the substantial sum, almost three times the reporter’s annual salary, to end an unfair dismissal claim by Goodman.

“I decided at the time that the right thing to do was to settle this and put it behind us,” Hinton said, giving evidence by video link from the United States.

Hinton resigned his post in July.


October 23, 2011

Wal-Mart to cut healthcare benefit for future part-timers

Filed under: Uncategorized, money — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 6:20 am

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation’s largest private employer, is scaling back the eligibility of health care coverage offered to future part-timers and raising premiums for many of its full-time workers.

The discounter, which employs more than 1.4 million people, said all future employees working less than 24 hours a week, on average, would not be covered under the plan, starting next year.

Premiums will rise for many current workers, and the company will reduce by half the amount it contributes for each worker to help pay for health care expenses not covered under their plan.

A number of companies have been looking for ways to cut health care costs and have been shifting more of the burden to their employees. But Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said that a big package of cuts from one company was unusual.

“While we do see increases in cost sharing, this is unusual and is outside the bounds,” said Altman.

Furthermore, Altman said that he hadn’t seen companies just drop coverage of a chunk of part-time workers. Still, only about 42 percent of overall companies offer health care coverage to part-time employees, according to Kaiser.


October 21, 2011

China-EU summit shelved due to debt talks

Filed under: legal, uk — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 3:08 pm

China and the European Union on Friday called off a summit of their leaders next week so European officials can remain at home for talks on the continent’s debt crisis.

The one-day meeting planned for Tuesday in the eastern Chinese city of Tianjin will be rescheduled to a later date, the Chinese government and the European Council announced.

The meeting was scheduled to include Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, EU President Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and other officials from the two sides. Several hundred European and Chinese businesspeople also were to have held a conference while the leaders met paydayloans.

Friday’s cancellation came after European leaders scheduled meetings through the weekend to seek a solution to the continent’s debt crisis.

In a phone call with van Rompuy, Wen said the most important thing is to prevent the debt crisis from spreading and “a serious economic recession,” according to the official Xinhua News Agency.


October 20, 2011

European debt crisis sends stocks lower

Filed under: Uncategorized, finance — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 12:04 am


October 18, 2011

AmeriGas to acquire Energy Transfer’s propane unit

Filed under: business, uk — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 9:24 am

AmeriGas will buy the propane operations of Energy Transfer Partners for about $2.9 billion, the company said Monday.

The Valley Forge, Pa. propane retailer is paying $1.5 billion in cash and about $1.3 billion in AmeriGas common stock. It also will assume $71 million in Energy Transfer’s debt.

Energy Transfer Partners L.P., of Dallas, has propane operations in 41 states through subsidiaries including Heritage Propane. The deal gives more than a million additional retail propane customers to AmeriGas, effectively doubling its size. It’s expected to contribute to AmeriGas’ goal of increasing distribution by 5 percent per year.

The deal is expected to close late this year or early in 2012. AmeriGas Partners L.P. says shareholder approval is not required at either company.

“This transaction provides AmeriGas with an outstanding opportunity to grow its core business,” CEO Eugene V.N. Bissell said in a statement.

It is also the third sizeable energy deal announced in just two days.

Earlier Monday, Norwegian oil company Statoil ASA said it would buy Brigham Exploration Co need a personal loan with bad credit. of Austin, Texas for $4.4 billion in cash, giving it control of fields in North Dakota. That came a day after Kinder Morgan announced plans to buy El Paso Corp. for $20.7 billion in a bid to create America’s largest natural gas pipeline operator.

After closing, Energy Transfer will own about 34 percent of AmeriGas Partners’ common stock and will keep the shares until at least 2013. Energy Transfer will appoint one director to AmeriGas’ board after the closing.

The deal was structured so that AmeriGas’ balance sheet would remain strong and its credit ratings preserved, the company said. It will contribute to AmeriGas’ goal of growing earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization by 3 percent per year, the company said.

Shares of AmeriGas, which has more than a million residential, industrial and commercial propane customers, closed Friday at $45.92 and have traded in a range of $36.76 to $51.50 in the past year.


October 16, 2011

Int’l court probes Ivory Coast post-poll violence

Filed under: business, finance — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 6:36 pm

The International Criminal Court will investigate three to six people in Ivory Coast for their actions during the West African nation’s violent six-month-long political crisis, the court’s top prosecutor said.

“We will focus on the most egregious and the most responsible,” Luis Moreno-Ocampo said late Saturday during his visit to Ivory Coast as part of the court’s recently opened investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity. Officials said Sunday that he had left the country.

Moreno-Ocampo said national authorities should investigate other suspects.

He said the public will not know the names of the international court’s suspects until he collects evidence and the judges review it.

“I don’t know (who they are) yet,” he said.

Earlier this month the court’s judges authorized the prosecutor to investigate violence committed after November 2010.

On Saturday, Moreno-Ocampo said the probe may look at violence committed as early as 2002.

“Today people volunteered to provide us with more information,” he said. “The judges are requesting more information and we will provide it.”

Human rights groups have called on the court to probe violence committed before the elections, when the nation was plunged into civil war, then underwent a de facto split along north-south lines.

Former president Laurent Gbagbo failed to hold elections when his first term ended in 2005. After a poll last November, he refused to accept his electoral defeat. Thousands died during the political standoff that followed.

Moreno-Ocampo did not meet Gbagbo during his visit, but said: “We will probably request through his lawyers to interview him.”

On Sunday, a spokeswoman for Ivory Coast’s prosecutor’s office said authorities arrested a fugitive military commander accused of serious crimes while working as a top aide to the former first lady. Habiba Coulibaly said Commander Anselme Seka Yapo was arrested Saturday.

In 2005 the U.N. accused Simone Gbagbo of leading death squads to kill opposition members.

French and U.N. forces assisted the forces loyal to President Alassane Ouattara who removed Gbagbo from power in April. Ouattara took office in May.

Ouattara asked the international court to investigate crimes committed by both sides during the postelection crisis payday loan no faxing.

During his visit Moreno-Ocampo met with Ouattara, with Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, with victims, members of the opposition and with the president of the newly formed reconciliation commission.

The commission, the prosecutor said, can address victims’ needs immediately, unlike the court.

“For those who were raped, who lost their homes, they need assistance now,” he said. “They don’t need to wait for a judge’s decision.”

Human Rights Watch says over a dozen people on both sides, including Gbagbo, led fighters to commit war crimes and likely crimes against humanity during the postelection violence.

Gbagbo’s spokesman Kone Katinan has said if he is to be judged, it should be by his own people rather than by an international tribunal.

Pro-Gbagbo newspapers have accused the international court of being one-sided. But residents have expressed optimism about the court’s involvement.

“It’s good to have someone from the outside of the country investigating … they can be more impartial, and more credible,” said beauty product distributor Kone Tresor Korona, 33, a resident of Abidjan who hails from the north, like Ouattara.

“Since the government is also doing an investigation, we can compare the (results of the) two, and hopefully when we put them together we can be closer to the truth,” Korona said.

The Ivory Coast investigation is the court’s seventh, all of them in Africa. So far, none of the cases has reached a verdict.

Ivory Coast is not a member of the court, but has accepted its jurisdiction in the case. It is the first time the court has opened an investigation in a nonmember nation following such a recognition of jurisdiction by a nonmember state.

Despite their lack of member status, the prosecutor said authorities have welcomed him.

“This is the first time in which we have a good relationship with national authorities. They are allowing us to (speak with) victims,” Moreno-Ocampo said. “It’s an interesting, new experience.”


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