Finance news. My opinion.

July 24, 2014

Breitburn buying QR Energy in $1.46 billion deal

Filed under: house, prices — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 7:36 pm

HOUSTON (AP) — Breitburn Energy is buying QR Energy LP in a deal worth about $1.46 billion.

QR unitholders will receive approximately 72 million common units of Breitburn Energy Partners LP, or 0.9856 of a Breitburn unit, for each unit of QR Energy that they own. The consideration to be received by QR unitholders is valued at $22.48 per unit, a 19 percent premium to Wednesday’s closing price of $18.87.

Shares of Houston’s QR Energy rose more than 8 percent before the opening bell Thursday.

The companies put the transaction’s value at approximately $3 billion, including QR’s existing debt and outstanding convertible preferred units.

The senior management team at Breitburn Energy Partners LP will lead the combined business. Once the transaction, closes Breitburn will add a new director to its board that is mutually agreed upon by both companies.

The boards of both companies unanimously approved the deal, which is targeted to close later this year or in early 2015. It still needs approval from QR unitholders.


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July 23, 2014

Canada Border Services review finds 19,000 outdated lookout warnings

Filed under: Uncategorized, debt — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 5:04 am

OTTAWA—An internal review has revealed that Canada’s border agency had more than 19,000 outdated electronic notices warning officers to be on the lookout for suspicious travellers.

The Canada Border Services Agency discovered the old notices earlier this year following the review of about 117,000 active lookouts to ensure each contained up-to-date information, says a new federal report.

Accuracy and timeliness are vital because the border agency is supposed to use lookouts to intercept suspected terrorists, organized criminals and others of concern attempting to enter Canada.

An outdated or inaccurate lookout could also mean a traveller is stopped at the border and subjected to unnecessary scrutiny.

The notices are based on intelligence information, past customs seizures, immigration violations and known national security risks.

Last fall, federal auditor general Michael Ferguson found the border agency was not consistently monitoring the results of lookouts and lacked a consistent process for recording the results when someone was intercepted. Ferguson noted the agency had made little progress on its monitoring of immigration lookouts since a 2007 study.

“Given the seriousness of the threats that lookouts are designed to address, even one missed lookout is cause for concern,” the auditor general said. “Without relevant performance data, the agency does not have information on whether lookouts are working as intended or how it can improve on results.”

The border agency’s own study confirmed problems with the lookout system.

In response to a request from the House of Commons standing committee on public accounts, the government recently issued an update on the border agency’s efforts to improve the management and effectiveness of the lookouts program.

The agency also made a number of changes to its computer systems to make it easier to find possible matches associated with a lookout and to provide partners with more timely information.

In his fall report, Ferguson also expressed concerns about information the border agency receives from airlines with the aim of zeroing in on suspected security threats.

Air carriers are required to provide the border agency with advance information about passengers entering Canada to allow for screening of travellers before they arrive. Complete and accurate information helps the agency identify people who might need closer examination once their plane lands.

Ferguson found the border agency did not receive all of the necessary information about passengers, and recommended it take steps already developed to fix the problems.


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July 21, 2014

World stocks weak as pressure on Russia grows

Filed under: finance, loans — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 2:08 pm

BEIJING (AP) — World stock markets remained on the back foot Monday as tensions grew between Russia and the West over the downing of an airliner in eastern Ukraine.

In Europe, Germany’s DAX was off 0.7 percent at 9,654.54 and France’s CAC-40 shed 0.4 percent to 4,315.92. Britain’s FTSE 100 dropped 0.3 percent to 6,732.16.

Futures pointed to losses on Wall Street. Dow futures were down 0.1 percent at 17,009 and S&P 500 futures shed 0.1 percent to 1,969.

The shooting down last week of the Malaysia Airlines plane with 298 people aboard has rattled markets, which worried about how Western governments, already alarmed by Russia’s support for rebels in Ukraine’s east, would react.

The disaster, in an area controlled by pro-Russian separatists, has sparked international condemnation and increased pressure on Russia to stop meddling in Ukraine. Russian officials have blamed Ukraine’s government for creating the situation and atmosphere in which the plane was downed.

“The more pressure that builds on Russia the more volatile European indices will be,” said strategist Evan Lucas at IG Markets in a report. “With the strong trade links between the continent and Russia, any disruptions to this through sanctions will cause profit taking on European indices payday loan.”

China’s Shanghai Composite Index declined 0.2 percent to 2,054.48 points and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was off 0.3 percent at 23,387.14. Sydney’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.1 percent to 5,539.90.

Seoul’s Kospi fell 0.1 percent to 2,018.50 ahead of this week’s release of quarterly economic growth data. Tokyo was closed for a holiday.

Markets in Southeast Asia were mostly higher. Jakarta rose 0.8 percent despite tensions over presidential election results due out Tuesday, with both candidates claiming victory.

Investors were looking ahead to U.S. earnings reports amid hopes American economic growth is recovering. Results from Apple, Microsoft and Coca Cola were due out Tuesday and Caterpillar on Thursday.

In energy markets, U.S. benchmark crude for August delivery was down 1 cent to $103.12 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract shed 6 cents on Friday to close at $103.13.

The euro rose to $1.3537 from $1.3525 late Friday. The dollar fell to 101.31 yen from 101.36 yen.


July 13, 2014

Former Nike missile site in Hecker sells for $227,000

Filed under: lenders, management — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 10:55 am

HECKER • A former Nike Hercules missile site four miles south of here sold at auction Saturday for $227,000, the auction manager said.

Wayne Keller, managing broker of Buy-A-Farm, said the auction lasted roughly 20 minutes, and had only four or five bidders. Others, hoping for a bargain, were quickly priced out when the starting bid of $70,000 rose in increments of $10,000.

Keller said that buyer Ron Mertens, a Smithton businessman, had no specific plans for the property — yet.

The 14-acre site, officially Nike Missile Site SL-40, boasts three underground bunkers, complete with working elevator pads, as well as three surface-level buildings. From 1960 to 1968, the site contained dozens of nuclear warhead-equipped missiles, part of the era’s defense against Soviet bombers.

It is well-preserved, having been used for several years by the Career Center of Southern Illinois for automotive repair classes and more recently leased for storage and a workshop.

Keller told the Post-Dispatch last month that potential buyers considered using the site for a plant testing facility, warehouses, a home and a museum.


July 10, 2014

Corn falls below $4 a bushel for first time since 2010

Filed under: house, management — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 5:35 am

CHICAGO • Corn futures dropped below $4 a bushel for the first time in four years on bets that rain will boost yields for crops in the U.S., the world’s biggest grower. Soybeans extended the longest slump since 2009.

Forecasts for cooler and wet weather in the Corn Belt over the next week will favor plants, Bethesda, Md.-based Commodity Weather Group said Tuesday. The showers and mild temperatures are improving the outlook for U.S. production, already forecast by the government to reach a record for a second straight season.

A bumper U.S. crop will help global stockpiles before the 2015 Northern Hemisphere harvest rise to the highest since 2000, a Bloomberg News survey showed. Soybean inventories will probably jump to a record, according to the average analyst estimate. Bigger crops are helping to keep a lid on world food inflation, with the United Nations reporting a third monthly drop in prices in June.

“We’ll pollinate two-thirds of the corn crop over the next couple of weeks, and the weather looks nearly ideal,” Arlan Suderman, a senior market analyst at Peoria, Illinois-based Water Street Solutions, said in a telephone interview. “It’s hard to argue the bears are wrong.”

On the Chicago Board of Trade, corn futures for December delivery fell 1.2 percent to $3.9925 at 9:55 a.m., after touching $3 instant payday loan.9875, the lowest since July 2010. The grain entered a bear market last week.

Global reserves may rise to 184.47 million metric tons, the Bloomberg News survey of 15 analysts showed. That would top the USDA’s June forecast for 182.65 million. The agency will update its outlook for world crops on July 11.

As of July 6, about 75 percent of the U.S. crop was in good or excellent condition, according to the USDA. About 15 percent of corn was pollinating as of July 6, compared with 5 percent the previous week.

An index of 55 food items fell 1.8 percent to 206 from 209.8 in May, the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organization said July 3. World prices were 2.8 percent lower than a year earlier.

Soybean futures for November delivery dropped 0.6 percent to $11.095 a bushel on the CBOT. Prices headed for a eighth straight day of losses, the longest streak since February 2009.

The USDA may raise its forecast for domestic production to 3.789 billion bushels, from 3.635 billion estimated last month, according to Bloomberg’s survey. The corn harvest may be 13.931 billion bushels, similar to last month’s estimate.


July 3, 2014

Gross Says Slow Wage Growth Outweighs Jobs for Fed Policy - Bloomberg

Filed under: Uncategorized, house — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 5:37 pm

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June 30, 2014

Oil price weakens ahead of China data

Filed under: mortgage, news — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 11:29 am

The price of oil declined Monday as markets waited for the preliminary reading of China’s manufacturing for June.

Benchmark U.S. crude for August delivery was down 56 cents to $105.18 a barrel at 0800 GMT in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract closed down 10 cents at $105.74 on Friday.

Brent crude, used to price international oils, slipped 62 cents to $112.68 a barrel in London.

Oil prices were steady going into the weekend as markets grew accustomed to news reports of violence in Iraq where the Iraqi government is trying to wrest back some of the territory it has lost to insurgents, Desmond Chua, a market analyst at CMC Markets in Singapore, said in a commentary. The price of oil rose in recent weeks as investors worried that the surge of violence in the oil-rich country would strain crude supplies payday loans lenders.

Earlier on Monday, the extremist group that has seized much of Syria and Iraq declared the establishment of a new Islamic state and demanded allegiance from Muslims worldwide.

On Tuesday, a preliminary reading of Chinese factory activity will give investors the latest gauge of the slowdown in China, the world’s biggest energy consumer.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:

—Wholesale gasoline drifted down 2.2 cents to $3.052 a gallon.

—Natural gas added 0.6 cent to $4.415 per 1,000 cubic feet.

—Heating oil was down 2.2 cents to $2.982 a gallon.


June 27, 2014

Strong suspects, no charges in Highway of Tears probe

Filed under: loans, money — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 5:53 am

VANCOUVER — The Mountie overseeing the investigation into the murders and disappearances of women and girls along British Columbia’s so-called Highway of Tears says his officers have a number of “strong suspects” but they have yet to uncover enough evidence to lay charges nearly two years after the last major break in the case.

Staff-Sgt. Wayne Clary leads project E-PANA, which has spent years investigating the deaths and disappearances of 18 women and girls along three northern highways.

Roughly 60 officers were assigned to the case at the height of the investigation, though Clary said that number has dropped to between 12 and 15, who spend most of their time on the project. Still, he said E-PANA is very much an active investigation.

“It has scaled down, because we’ve pounded through a lot of work, but there’s still enough work in front of us to keep going,” Clary told The Canadian Press.

“There’s more than one investigation where we have strong suspects or persons of interest, and we’re clearly focusing on those . . . I’d like nothing more than to sit down with the families and say, ‘We’ve got the guy.’ ”

Clary declined to offer details about how many suspects the RCMP have identified or in which specific cases, though he said the suspects they have in mind are in Canada.

The last significant development came in September 2012, when investigators said they believed a dead American convict named Bobby Jack Fowler was responsible for killing as many as three of the women.

The RCMP said investigators had uncovered DNA evidence linking Fowler, who died in an Oregon prison in 2006, to Colleen MacMillen, who was murdered in 1974. They also said they believed Fowler may have been involved in the deaths of Gale Weys and Pamela Darlington, both 19, who were killed in the mid-1970s.

Clary said the force doesn’t have the same kind of direct evidence tying Fowler to Weys and Darlington, but he added: “Personally, I think it’s him in the other two.”

Clary said E-PANA hasn’t come up with evidence to suggest any of the other women and girls were linked together, meaning there could be 15 different suspects for each of the 15 remaining cases cash advances pay day loan.

“If we have a strong suspect, absolutely we’re looking for crossed lines, but right now we’re not seeing that,” he said.

E-PANA was launched in 2005 amid growing concern about the number of women and girls who vanished, or were found dead along highways in the province’s north. It also came several years after serial killer Robert Pickton was arrested in the Vancouver area — a case that Clary worked on as part of Project Evenhanded.

The Highway of Tears often refers to a remote stretch of Highway 16 between Prince Rupert and Prince George, but E-PANA also includes cases along the adjacent Highways 97 and 5.

Investigators identified 18 women and girls who were involved in hitchhiking or other high-risk behaviour and were last seen within a couple of kilometres of those highways. The final list included cases between 1969 and 2006.

Investigators once held annual group meetings, but Clary said they now contact each family individually, either in person or by telephone. Some families have asked not to be contacted unless there is a new development, he said.

Matilda Wilson, whose daughter Ramona is among the victims, said the RCMP have dramatically improved their relationship with the families, some of whom complained that their cases weren’t taken seriously enough when they were first reported.

Ramona, 16, was last seen alive in June 1994, when she was believed to be hitchhiking. Her body was found 10 months later.

“It’s a 20-year-old case and nothing has come up,” Wilson said in an interview.

“I can understand where the investigators are coming from, because her body had been laying there for 10 months and there was rain and sleet and snow.”

Wilson praised the RCMP — and Clary in particular — for keeping her and her family informed. The family holds an annual march in Ramona’s honour, which Clary attended earlier this month.

Wilson said she remains hopeful her daughter’s killer will be caught.


June 24, 2014

US, French bank close to deal on $9 billion fine

Filed under: lenders, term — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 12:01 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government and French bank BNP Paribas are close to a settlement over alleged sanctions violations that would require the bank to plead guilty, pay almost $9 billion in penalties and face other sanctions, a person familiar with the matter said Monday.

The person described the deal as imminent, but said it was not exactly clear when it would be publicly announced. The person spoke only on condition of anonymity because no agreement had yet been finalized.

BNP Paribas, SA, France’s largest bank, has been under investigation for financial transactions through its New York office for clients in Iran, Sudan and Cuba in violation of U.S. trade sanctions. A report by the Wall Street Journal said the bank intentionally hid $30 billion in such transactions, by far more than in any such case so far.

The French economy minister, meanwhile, urged the U.S. Department of Justice to be “fair and proportionate” when deciding on the potential fine. Arnaud Montebourg, speaking on BFM television Monday, said the U payday loan no faxing.S. has an unfair advantage in the global “economic war” because of a law allowing prosecution of foreign companies for activities outside American soil.

France appealed this month to President Barack Obama to intervene, but Obama declined to get involved and said he would read about the case “in the newspapers just like everybody else.”

Meanwhile, the bank said this month that a top executive, Chief Operating Officer Georges Chodron de Courcel, would retire in September. His term was to finish in 2016 and the bank did not explain the reason for his departure.

U.S. banking regulators sought the departure of Chodron de Courcel and other executives as part of the investigation.

Shares in BNP were flat in afternoon Paris trading.


June 20, 2014

Congress probes how IRS emails could go missing

Filed under: Uncategorized, news — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 6:17 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — Eight federal employees connected to the tea party investigation experienced hard drive crashes, resulting in an unknown number of lost emails, Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen told lawmakers Friday in an unusually tense congressional hearing.

A week ago the IRS acknowledged it could not produce some of the emails of the IRS executive at the center of the probe because her computer crashed in 2011. Koskinen acknowledged to lawmakers that the hard drive was recycled and presumably destroyed.

“I want that hard drive and I want the hard drive of every computer that crashed,” said the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich.

Koskinen said the IRS took extra measures to try to retrieve the lost emails. But he was unapologetic about the computer crashes or the period when the IRS advised Congress that emails it had sought were lost.

“I don’t think an apology is owed,” Koskinen said.

Koskinen says it’s not clear whether all eight of the hard drive crashes resulted in lost emails.

Koskinen also said appointment of a special federal prosecutor to investigate the IRS handling of tax-exempt applications would be a “monumental waste of taxpayer funds.”

The congressional investigation has been highly politicized because of allegations that the IRS improperly singled out tea party groups seeking tax-exempt status. Friday’s hearing was unusually tense, as Camp and other Republicans occasionally interrupted Koskinen and continued to ask other questions before Koskinen had an opportunity to answer.

The senior Democrat on the committee, Rep. Sander Levin of Mich., chided his colleagues that, “Witnesses deserve some respect.”

An FBI investigation is ongoing.

The former IRS official at the center of the investigation, Lois Lerner, has invoked her Fifth Amendment right at least nine times to avoid answering lawmakers’ questions. Lerner did not learn that IRS staffers were improperly reviewing applications of tea party and other conservative groups for tax-exempt status until weeks after her computer crashed, according to an earlier audit by the Treasury Department inspector general for tax administration.

Lerner’s computer crashed sometime around June 13, 2011, according to emails provided to Congress. She first learned about the tea party reviews on June 29, according to the inspector general.

Koskinen told Congress that Lerner’s hard drive was unavailable to them because it had been recycled.

The IRS said last week it became aware of the missing emails in February of this year. The IRS did not know whether the other computer crashes have resulted in lost emails as well. It will also not say how often its computers fail and lose data.

The lost emails are raising questions even by the government’s records officer. In a June 17 letter to the IRS, Paul Wester Jr. asked the agency to investigate the loss of records and whether any disposal of data was authorized. Wester, the chief records officer at the National Archives and Records Administration, was responding to the IRS’ June 13 disclosure of Lerner’s lost emails.

Wester’s letter did not address the lost records of six other employees that the IRS disclosed that day. Wester said the IRS is required to report its finding within 30 days. Federal agencies are supposed to report destruction of records — whether accidental or intentional — to the National Archives “promptly” after an incident.

The IRS said that after Lerner’s computer crashed in June 2011, technicians were not able to retrieve data from her hard drive.

In May, more than two months after the IRS discovered the emails were missing, the IRS assured Camp that it would provide all applications from groups seeking tax-exempt status in 2010 and 2011, including all files, correspondence and internal IRS records related to them. Camp had asked for the records in May 2012.

It’s similarly unclear why the IRS didn’t attempt to recover the emails from backup servers in June 2011, especially since Lerner told an IRS computer technician in a July 2011 email, “There were some documents in the files that are irreplaceable.”

Shawn Henry, the FBI’s former cyber director, said technicians should have been able to retrieve data from the servers around the times the computers crashed.

“If they knew there was a problem in 2011,” said Henry, now president of CrowdStrike, a security technology company, “they could have or should have been able to recover it.”

The IRS told Congress last week that recovering emails has been a challenge because doing so is “a more complex process for the IRS than it is for many private or public organizations.”

The IRS was able to find copies of 24,000 Lerner emails from between 2009 and 2011 because Lerner had sent copies to other IRS employees. Overall, the IRS said it was producing 67,000 emails to and from Lerner, covering 2009 to 2013. The agency said it searched for emails of 83 people and spent nearly $10 million to produce hundreds of thousands of documents.

At the time that Lerner’s computer crashed, IRS policy had been to make copies of all IRS employees’ email inboxes every day and hold them for six months. The agency changed the policy in May 2013 to keep these snapshots for a longer, unspecified amount of time. Had this been the policy in 2011, when at least two of the computer crashes occurred, there likely could have been backups of the lost emails today.

The chief executive for an email-archiving company, Pierre Villeneuve of Jatheon Technologies, said most public and private sector organizations keep emails for several years, not six months, because of financial regulations and inexpensive computer storage.

“To have a large agency like the IRS have a very weak policy for email archiving and retention is quite shocking,” Villeneuve said. “If this were a private enterprise and they couldn’t produce this information on demand, they’d be in trouble. They’d either be fined or accused of hiding information.”

The IRS has said technicians sent Lerner’s hard drive to a forensic lab run by the agency’s criminal investigations unit. But the information was not recoverable, a technician told her in an Aug. 5, 2011, email.


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