Finance news. My opinion.

August 18, 2014

London Home Asking Prices Plunge Most in More Than Six Years - Bloomberg

Filed under: debt, loans — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 3:27 am

London home sellers cut asking prices by the most in more than six years this month, adding to signs that the property market in the U.K. capital is coming off the boil.

London values fell 5.9 percent from the previous month to an average 552,783 pounds ($922,300), the biggest drop since December 2007, property website Rightmove Plc said today. Nationally, prices declined 2.9 percent, a record for an August.

While property demand usually weakens during the summer, Rightmove said the slump this year was steeper than it expected. Tougher new mortgage rules introduced by Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, as well as anticipation of higher interest rates, are putting pressure on the market after a surge in values raised concerns that a bubble may develop.

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August 13, 2014


Filed under: marketing, prices — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 7:03 am


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August 11, 2014

Mayors’ report tracks growing wage gap, but sees St. Louis as ‘balanced’

Filed under: finance, mortgage — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 3:43 pm

The income gap between the rich Americans and middle and low-income households continues to widen, according to a new report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, released this morning.

From 1975 to 2012, the highest-earning 20 percent of households saw their share of income rise from 43.6 percent to 51 percent, the report finds. Most of this gains was seen among those in the highest 5 percent of income.

In 2012, low-income households saw their share drop to 3.2 percent while the high earners saw their share jump to 51 percent. 

The findings, which echo those by other groups, point to a need for public policy action, the report says.

The report looks at the distribution of income in metropolitan areas. St. Louis emerged as one of the most-balanced of large metros — with a nearly equal number of households earning less than $35,000 a year as households earning more than $75,000.

Median income in the St. Louis area was about $53,000 a year in 2013 — 96th in the nation. It’s projected to grow to $60,000 in 2017, an annual rate of 3.1 percent.

Other large metros with “a very equal distribution,” according to the report: Phoenix, Riverside, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Charlotte and Providence.

The Washington, D.C. area had the highest percentage of households earnings more than $75,000 (57.5 percent) and the lowest percentage of those making less than $35,000 (17 percent).

At the other end of the spectrum, Brownsville-Harlingen, Texas had the highest percentage of low-income households (55.1 percent) and the second-lowest percentage of those making more than $75,000 (16.5 percent)


August 10, 2014

Pride Parade held on Ugandan beach after court nullifies anti-gay law

Filed under: business, prices — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 12:47 am

ENTEBBE, Uganda—Scores of Ugandan homosexuals marched through sprawling botanical gardens in the lakeside town of Entebbe on Saturday, their first pride parade since a Ugandan court invalidated a controversial anti-gay law.

Many marchers wore masks, signalling they did not want to be publicly identified in a country where homosexuals and their supporters face severe discrimination.

Although organizers had expected more than 500 people to attend the event, fewer than 200 turned up, said gay activist Moses Kimbugwe, who noted that many were afraid of possible violence following a court’s decision earlier this month to jettison an anti-gay law that had wide support among Ugandans.

“We are here to walk for those who can’t walk, who are afraid to walk,” said Kimbugwe. “We are here to celebrate our rights.”

Uganda’s constitutional court ruled last week that the anti-gay law enacted only five months ago was illegal because it was passed during a parliamentary session that lacked a quorum. Some lawmakers have pledged to try to reintroduce the same legislation when parliament emerges from a recess later this month. They said they would try to pass the same law in parliament since it had been invalidated on technical grounds and not its substance.

On Saturday, activists held up placards saying they would not give up the fight for gay rights in this conservative East African country of 36 million people payday loans. Some waved rainbow flags as they danced and frolicked on a sandy beach on the shores of Lake Victoria, about 40 kilometres from the capital, Kampala.

This was the third annual gay pride event, organizers said. The first one, in 2012, turned violent after local police tried to break it up, said Ugandan lesbian activist Jacqueline Kasha. This time they had been given assurances by the police that they could go ahead with the march, she said.

“We are a group of people who have suffered enough,” she said. “We are Ugandans who have the right to gather in a public place … and we are going to have fun.”

Some among the marchers said they had initially planned to hold the event in Kampala but were warned by police that such a move would be provocative and possibly dangerous.

Homosexuals face threats including evictions by landlords and many have fled to neighbouring countries such as Kenya, where the anti-gay sentiment is less pervasive, according to Ugandan rights activists. Many homosexuals are victims of extortionist campaigns by people who threaten to reveal their homosexuality to the police, said Kasha, the lesbian leader.


August 6, 2014

Mondelez says price hikes scared off customers

Filed under: loans, mortgage — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 7:03 pm

DEERFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Mondelez said price increases scared off some customers in its second quarter, and the company trimmed its sales forecast for the year.

The maker of Oreo, Cadbury and Trident on Wednesday reported lower sales that fell short of Wall Street expectations. Cost-cutting helped push up profit by 3.5 percent, however. Like many other packaged food companies, Mondelez has been slashing costs wherever it can to offset weak sales.

In a conference call, CEO Irene Rosenfeld said Mondelez raised prices to make up for rising costs for ingredients such as cocoa and dairy products. The company had expected its pricing actions to hurt sales, she said, but didn’t expect such a big impact.

“It’s been even more challenging than expected,” she said.

She mentioned negative reactions in Europe, particularly in France, where some stores decided to stop carrying products because of the higher prices. Still, she said the lost market share should be temporary because competitors will eventually have to raise prices to cover their own costs.

Mondelez International Inc., based in Deerfield, Illinois, has been under pressure to improve its performance since splitting from Kraft Foods Group in late 2012. The split was intended to give each of the companies a more focused stable of products, with Kraft taking North American supermarket staples like Jell-O and Miracle Whip.

Mondelez took global snack brands like Oreo with greater growth potential. But the company has stumbled as an independent company. Earlier this year, it said it would join its coffee division with D.E. Master Blenders to strengthen that aspect of its business.

For the period ended June 30, Mondelez earned $622 million, or 36 cents per share. Not including one-time items, it earned 40 cents per share, which was a penny more than expected, according to Zacks Investment Research.

Revenue declined 1.8 percent to $8.44 billion and was short of the $8.71 billion analysts expected.

For 2014, Mondelez now expects sales growth to be between 2 and 2.5 percent. It had previously forecast growth of 3 percent.

The company stood by its adjusted earnings per share guidance for 2014, but noted currency fluctuations are expected to have a greater impact than previously thought. It expects to earn $1.64 to $1.69 per share.

Its stock was down more than 2 percent at $35.10.


August 1, 2014

Conservative government renews ad campaign promoting oilsands

Filed under: economics, marketing — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 10:15 pm

OTTAWA—The Conservative government is beefing up a multimillion-dollar international public relations campaign promoting the oilsands and other Canadian resources, despite research suggesting the ad blitz has been ineffective.

Advertising at subway stations in the U.S. capital region in the last year featured a variety of images such as the national flags, a green mountain with a river running through it, and a pipeline construction project. Each had a series of messages that either praised Canada’s environmental record or its oil industry.

But people in the Washington area remembered little about the ad content, apart from a message about Canada and the United States being friends and allies, according to new research, funded by the government and conducted by Ipsos Reid.

Despite these results, the Stephen Harper government has extended the contract of an international public relations firm, Fleishman-Hillard, by a year, paying it about $5.7 million, including taxes, to continue managing the campaign in the U.S., Europe and Asia. The entire campaign has a budget of $22.7 million over two years.

Natural Resources Canada, the federal department that is paying for the public relations efforts, told the Star that it was “satisfied” with the ad campaign’s early results that show it “reached many with the message about the importance of the U.S.-Canada relationship, especially on energy.”

An American environmentalist, Danielle Droitsch, said the Canadian government failed to understand that the Obama administration, which released a report this week warning that delayed action on climate change would result in dire economic consequences, is concerned about the environmental impacts of the oilsands and wants action instead of advertising.

“Canada is the only foreign government blanketing Washington D.C. Metro (subway) stations and bus stops to promote a certain industry,” said Droitsch, who directs the Canada project at an American environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“It’s unfortunate the Canadian federal government still seems to believe issues around tarsands will be solved by an expensive taxpayer-funded advertising campaign.”

Natural Resources Canada spokeswoman Jacinthe Perras said the campaign was “designed to raise awareness” and “ensure a fact-based dialogue” about Canada being a responsible supplier of oil and other resources.

Following an open competition, the department gave Fleishman-Hillard a contract last December worth about $1.7 million to plan the first phase of the public relations campaign.

Fleishman-Hillard didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Perras said the firm didn’t design the initial ads that ran in Washington subway stations.

Among those who said they remembered at least one of the ads in Washington, 17 per cent said they believed the main point was about Canada and the U.S. being friends and allies, according to the Ipsos Reid research, dated March 3, 2014.

Only 11 per cent believed the message was about building the Keystone XL pipeline.

The rest saw a variety of different messages about Canada’s energy. That included three per cent of respondents who believed the ads were meant to inform and educate people, and two per cent who believed the message was about improving conservation and protecting the environment.

The Ipsos Reid research, which cost $49,393, said the survey would have a margin of error of 7.5 percentage points.


July 26, 2014

Embattled grocery chain weighs proposal to buy it

Filed under: house, prices — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 10:39 am

WEST BRIDGEWATER, Mass. (AP) — Board members of the beleaguered Market Basket grocery store chain say they will “seriously consider” a proposal from its fired chief executive to buy the company as the chain faces a workers’ revolt that has paralyzed the stores.

The board issued a statement Friday after meeting to discuss the company’s future as thousands of employees protested the firing of a popular chief executive, Arthur T. Demoulas.

For more than a week, warehouse workers have refused to make deliveries to the chain’s 71 stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine us fast cash. Many customers have boycotted the stores in support of the workers.

Arthur T. Demoulas was fired last month by a board controlled by his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas.

The board said it will evaluate Arthur T’s offer, as well as prior offers and future offers.


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.


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.


July 16, 2014

Minimum wage in 2013 same as 1975 in constant dollars: Statistics Canada

Filed under: legal, lenders — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 5:12 pm

Statistics Canada says the average minimum wage in 2013 was almost identical to the 1975 minimum wage, in constant dollars.

The agency says the average minimum wage was $10.14 in 2013 and the 1975 wage, expressed in 2013 dollars, was $10.13.

Between 1975 and 2013, however, the minimum wage in 2013 dollars, varied, slipping to $7.53 in 1986 before rising to $8.81 in 1996.

Up to 2003, the real minimum wage remained stable at around $8.50.

The report says 6.7 per cent of all paid employees earned the minimum wage in 2013, up from 5.0 per cent in 1997.

It says young employees, less-educated employees, part-timers and people in service industries were most likely to be paid minimum wage


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