News That Matters

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs has resigned as chief executive seven months after going on medical leave and asked the board to name chief operating officer Tim Cook as his successor, the FT reports. The company,

Congressional analysts painted a rosier picture of the US budgetary picture for the next decade on the back of this month’s deal to increase the debt ceiling, but offered a bleaker portrait of the country’s economic recovery,

British consumer confidence edged down further in July, reports Reuters. Building society Nationwide’s consumer confidence index fell by two points to 49, well below its long-run average of 79 and not far above February’s all-time low of 41 points. Consumers’ assessment of their present situation was unchanged from June,

Gold suffered its largest two-day absolute fall in more than three decades, dropping $160 per ounce between Tuesday and Wednesday, the FT reports. Investors risked further sharp moves as the leading US metals exchange announced it will demand larger good-faith deposits to own gold futures starting after Thursday’s close. Spot gold prices fell to a session low of $1,750.55 per troy ounce,

The Obama administration is considering a proposal that would allow millions of homeowners with government-backed mortgages to refinance them at current, lower interest rates, about 4 per cent, the NYT says,

Research In Motion plans to enable models expected next year to run applications built for Google’s Android operating system, Bloomberg reports, citing three people familiar with the plan. The report says BlackBerrys that run on RIM’s new QNX software,

The market for junk bonds is enduring its worst rout since the depths of the financial crisis, says the WSJ. Demand for high-yield bonds sold by the riskiest US companies has nearly dried up, and new junk-bond offerings in August were at their lowest level since December 2008. Retail investors have been withdrawing record amounts from high-yield mutual funds,

Hurricane Irene is “pounding” the Bahamas, Bloomberg reports, and the strengthening Category 3 major storm is on a course that may take it near North Carolina this weekend and into southern New England early next week. Irene’s top winds reached 193km per hour as it churned the south-eastern Bahamian islands.

Germany’s head of state has accused the European Central Bank of “legally questionable” action in buying up the bonds of countries worst-hit by the eurozone debt crisis, the FT reports. The blunt attack by German president Christian Wulff on Wednesday is the highest profile criticism so far of the ECB’s controversial programme,

Brazil’s BTG Pactual is in talks to merge with Chilean brokerage Celfín Capital to create Latin America’s largest investment bank, its boldest move yet to consolidate its position in the region and become a global force. Pactual, run by young billionaire André Esteves, has been expanding aggressively since it was bought back from Switzerland’s UBS in 2009, with analysts betting the bank could soon turn its attention to targets in Europe or the US.

The UK and Swiss governments have reached a landmark deal to tax undeclared Swiss bank accounts in a deal hoped to yield as much as £5bn ($8.2bn) for the UK Exchequer. The agreement, which comes into force in 2013, respects bank secrecy by preserving the anonymity of UK account holders  a key Swiss demand  and follows a similar accord reached with German authorities this month.

China made substantial progress in building its military strength in 2010 but the US remains “unclear” how Beijing will use its growing capabilities, according to an annual assessment by the Pentagon. The report, issued on Wednesday, concludes that, militarily, China’s sustained modernisation programme is “paying visible dividends”. 
Asian shares were mostly higher Thursday, with safe-haven assets such as the yen and gold weaker, while many Apple-reliant stocks were down after the resignation of Chief Executive Steve Jobs. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average climbed 1.7%, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.9%, South Korea's Kospi Composite tacked on 1.7% and New Zealand's NZX-50 was up 0.5%. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were down 32 points in screen trade.

New signs of stress are piling up in the ailing European banking system. Commercial banks boosted their reliance on the European Central Bank, borrowing €2.82 billion ($4.07 billion) from an emergency lending facility on Tuesday, while other banks continue to park unusually large amounts with the central bank, according to data released Wednesday. While the amount of borrowing is tiny relative to the multitrillion-euro European banking system, it, and the increase from €555 million a day earlier, nonetheless suggest that some lenders are struggling to borrow from traditional funding sources, such as the capital markets or other banks.

The congressional panel charged with finding ways to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years received daunting news Wednesday when the Congressional Budget Office projected stubbornly high unemployment will accompany large deficits for much of the decade. "A great deal of the pain of this economic downturn still lies ahead of us," CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf said. The nonpartisan arm of Congress projected the unemployment rate, now 9.1%, will decline to a still-high 8.5% by the end of next year and will remain above 8% until 2014. Full employment won't arrive until 2017, it

A slump in German business confidence and an unexpected fall in euro-zone factory orders marked the latest in a string of forward-looking data to suggest the currency bloc's economy is losing momentum. Germany's Ifo research institute said Wednesday that business confidence in the euro zone's largest economy struck a 14-month low reading in August, as German firms scaled back their expectations for exports amid global market turbulence. The decline in the index was the biggest since just after the collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers in late 2008. Ifo economist Klaus Abberger said the drop marks a "turning point" and significantly heightens the risk that Germany's economy could fall back into contraction

Greek banks are expected to face combined losses totalling about €5 billion under a proposed bond-swap program, a Greek government official said Wednesday, adding that the program is now slated to conclude in October. Speaking to Dow Jones Newswires, the official added that the banks are expected to reflect the impact of those losses when they announce their quarterly earnings next week. "The amount of the losses is yet to be determined, but estimates are for roughly €5 billion. They may be reflected in the banks' second-quarter results due by Aug. 31," the official said

An unexpectedly fierce contest for Singapore's largely ceremonial presidency is turning into a test of the country's tightly controlled political system, energizing the movement toward a more competitive democracy in the city-state. The vote Saturday will mark only the second time in Singapore's history that more than one candidate has competed for the job, which has gone to individuals with strong ties to the ruling People's Action Party that has dominated Singapore since it became a nation in 1965. It follows a landmark general election in May in which the PAP retained power but saw its vote share fall to the lowest level since independence, spurring talk about a new era of a more-plural democracy after decades of highly centralized governance.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is unlikely to use his speech Friday at the Federal Reserve's annual Jackson Hole, Wyo., conclave to unveil new efforts to bolster the U.S. economydespite financial markets' lingering hopes that he will. As the economic outlook for the U.S. and Europe deteriorates, stock markets have been gyrating and Fed watchers around the world speculating that Mr. Bernanke is about to ride to the rescue. The Fed chief preaches and practices transparency. Neither Mr. Bernanke nor officials close to him have said anything to encourage the speculation that he will succumb to pressure from markets

Japan took fresh steps to weaken the yen, including the creation of an unusual government-backed fund that aims to aid exporters whose profits are being squeezed by a rising currency. Among the measures unveiled Wednesday, the government will make use of dollars held on reserve to create a $100 billion credit facility for Japanese companies. The facility seeks to capitalize on yen strength by financing purchases of overseas assets and raw materials. The risk is that Japan Inc. could end up stocking up on overpriced trophy properties, as it did in its disastrous purchase two decades ago of Rockefeller Center.

Col. Moammar Gadhafi's forces battled to hold parts of Tripoli and stood firm over swaths of the country Wednesday, as Libya's rebel leadership acknowledged that the battle to control the North African country is far from over. Libya's rebel leadership offered a financial reward of more than $1 million for Col. Gadhafi's capture.

The euro zone must continue to stand by Greece while it carries out a decade of reforms, but should leave Italy and Spain to put their own houses in order, a top economic adviser to the German government said Wednesday. Wolfgang Franz, chairman of the independent council of economic advisers to the federal government, also said in a telephone interview that the European Central Bank has seriously compromised itself in starting to buy Italian and Spanish bonds and should stop doing so as soon as possible. 
Treasury prices extended losses on Wednesday, pushing 10-year yields up the most in almost two weeks, after the government completed the second of three major auctions this week, selling 5-year notes at the lowest yield on record. Bonds were down before the sale, following a pair of better-than-forecast reports on home prices and durable-goods orders that relieved some worries that the U.S. economy might be headed back into a recession. 
Many housing experts say low appraisals are yet another headwind for a housing market already suffering from a plunge in prices, high unemployment and tight credit. Lenders are forced to cap their mortgage loans at the value set by appraisers and buyers and sellers often can't agree on how to make up the difference with an original deal price. "It's hard to talk about any recovery of the housing market and home prices until the appraisal issue is squared away, and that is a broad issue," said Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance, a Maryland-based trade publication.

New orders for long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods surged in July on strong demand for transportation equipment, government data showed on Wednesday, but a gauge of business spending fell. The Commerce Department said durable goods orders jumped 4 percent after a 1.3 percent drop in June. Economists had expected orders to rise 2 percent last month. Though durable goods orders are extremely volatile, the data eased fears the economy was slipping back into recession, after a raft of weak sentiment surveys.

Short interest on the New York Stock Exchange rose 7.9 percent in the first half of August compared with the second half of July, the exchange said on Wednesday. Through August 15, short interest rose to 14.38 billion shares from 13.32 billion shares as of July 29. Investors who sell securities short seek to profit from a decline in stock prices. Short-sellers borrow 
Steve Jobs decision to step down as Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s chief executive officer erased as much as $52 billion from the benchmark gauge for U.S. stocks, futures trading shows.  The September contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index slumped up to 0.6 percent after Jobs released his statement at 6:34 p.m. in New York yesterday.

John Paulson, the billionaire who is betting on an economic recovery by the end of 2012, has lost about 14 percent this month on a merger arbitrage hedge fund, according to an investor. The Paulson Partners Enhanced fund declined 11 percent this year through Aug. 19, said the investor, who asked not to be named because the information is private. The fund had been up 2.9 percent this year through Aug. 4.

The Bank of Japan should be prepared to counter gains in the yen if U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke signals more policy easing at a central bankers’ forum in Jackson HoleWyoming, a former BOJ official said. A failure by the Japanese central bank to respond ``would encourage investors to buy up the yen,” Naohiko Baba, chief Japan economist at Goldman Sachs Japan Co., said in an interview in Tokyo today. 
Growth-linked currencies such as the Australian, New Zealand and Canadian dollars could see fresh selling if Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke disappoints investors banking on more monetary stimulus to support the slowing U.S. economy. If the Fed chief does not unveil stimulus measures in his annual Jackson Hole speech on Friday, bets on risky assets, including these growth- or commodity-linked currencies, would unwind, pulling them even further from their historic highs.

It's doubtful Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, will unveil another round of quantitative easing during his speech later this week in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, said Glenn Hubbard, dean and Russell L. Carson professor of finance and economics at Columbia Business School, and former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors. 
Foreclosures made up roughly one-third of all home sales this spring. While that's a smaller share of sales from the previous quarter, it's six times the percentage of foreclosures in a healthy housing market. Foreclosure sales, which include homes purchased after they received a notice of default or were repossessed by lenders, accounted for 31 percent of the market in the April-June quarter, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.

Oil prices hovered near $85 a barrel Thursday in Asia as traders eyed fighting in Libya and an upcoming speech by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. Benchmark oil for October delivery was down 2 cents to $85.14 at midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Crude lost 28 cents to settle at $85.16 on Wednesday. In London, Brent crude for October delivery was up 24 cents to $110.39 on the ICE Futures exchange. 
The United States will support an effort by several members of the U.N. Security Council to override the United Nations' sanctions committee and allow countries to free up frozen Libyan assets to speedily provide funds for the Libyan opposition's National Transitional Council. The Obama administration has tried for days to get approval from the U.N. sanctions committee to unfreeze $1 billion to $1.5 billion worth of Libyan assets, but South Africa has been blocking that move. 
Market crash 'could hit within weeks', warn bankers. A more severe crash than the one triggered by the collapse of Lehman Brothers could be on the way, according to alarm signals in the credit markets.  Insurance on the debt of several major European banks has now hit historic levels, higher even than those recorded during financial crisis caused by the US financial group's implosion nearly three years ago.

'Brand America' tarnished by S&P downgrade, says WPP chief Sir Martin Sorrell. The US does not realise how seriously "brand America" has been tarnished by Standard & Poor's downgrade of its credit rating, marketing veteran Sir Martin Sorrell has claimed.

Graduates now 'more likely to end up as cleaners', official figures show. Graduates are now more likely to work in low-skilled jobs as postal workers, hotel porters and cleaners compared to over a decade ago, official figures show. The number of degree students ending up in low to lower-skilled jobs has grown from 9pc to 17pc over the past 18 years, a fresh analysis by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed. 
The world's largest advertising group, WPP, has warned the latest stock-market crisis could hit client spending in 2012, as emerging-market and digital services helped it to post a surge in first-half profits. WPP's chief executive, Sir Martin Sorrell, also expressed his concern that stock exchanges are "rarely wrong" about what lies ahead for the global economy. 
There’s good news for house hunters with lower mortgage rates and higher wages helping to improve affordability even as house prices edged higher. A separate report, meanwhile, shows that people are staying put longer, underscoring how the property market has cooled in recent years. The Housing Industry Association-Commonwealth Bank housing affordability index rose by 0.8 per cent in the June quarter, to 56.2 from 55.7 per cent. Lending data from CBA, used in the index, showed an 0.8 per cent increase in the April-June period of Australia’s median home price to $471,400. The report on higher prices, though, contrasts with other readings pointing to recent falls 
China's trade surplus fell to 1.44 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) in the year's first half and the proportion is expected to drop further this year, the Ministry of Commerce said Wednesday. China has seen its trade surplus-GDP ratio decline in the past few years, down from 6.7 percent in 2008 to 2.2 percent in the first half of 2010, ministry spokesman Shen Danyang told a press conference here. To promote trade balance, China will continue to actively expand imports of advanced technologies, key components and resources that China lacks, Shen said.

Residents of New Zealand's earthquake-battered second city of Christchurch helped drive up national retail sales in the second quarter as they set to repairing their homes, figures show. New Zealand's retail sales in the quarter to the end of June rose by 1.7 percent, with sales up in all regions and most industries, the government statistics agency announced Thursday. The increase was due to a 0.9-percent rise in total sales volumes plus price rises in many industries, according to Statistics New Zealand.

Consumer price index roses by 5.3 percent yearly in July compared with 5 percent in June, Statistics South Africa said on Wednesday. Business Day newspaper based in Johannesburg said this figure was slightly more than the expected rate of 5.2 percent. The rise was driven mainly by higher prices for utility services such as electricity and housing, with a substantial contribution from food prices, the figures from Statistics SA showed. "This figure shows that inflation pressures are becoming more broad-based in the economy, but not to the extent that the Reserve Bank will be concerned," said Absa Capital economist Jeffrey Schultz. 
A slowdown in India's growth could impact the quality of loans of Indian banks but may not lead to systemic risk, a top executive with RBI said. "As we move ahead, asset quality is a bit of a concern. As interest rates rise and growth slows, there will be a concern on asset quality, though we do not see it as a systemic issue," said RBI deputy governor Anand Sinha, in his special address at the Ficci-IBA seminar in Mumbai on Wednesday. "But from 2007-08 onwards, the stock of absolute non-performing assets has gone up because recovery has slowed," he said.

India's gross domestic product during April to June is expected to increase at its slowest pace in six quarters as interest rate hikes, inflation and global slowdown begin to impact growth, according to an ET poll. The country's quarterly GDP is likely to grow at a median 7.65%, says a survey of 14 economists, most of whom expect the annual growth to range between 7.5% and 8%. The RBI has pegged the full year's growth rate at 8%.

Over the last few months, there has been a national debate on corruption and different ways of tackling it. Fortunately, this time, there seems to be a sense of purpose in the discussions rather than a thought around 'learning to live with it'. Amid the flurry of activities that have taken place, the discussions around few other important and potentially-radical reforms such as implementation of the goods and services tax (GST) have taken a back seat, though the same can also be one of the effective ways of dealing with corruption. 
South Korea clinched key agreements with Kazakhstan Thursday on two US$4 billion projects to build a thermal power plant and a petrochemical complex in the Central Asian nation, the latest fruit of President Lee Myung-bak's trip to Central Asia. After summit talks between Lee and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the two sides signed an "inter-government agreement" guaranteeing South Korea's 70-percent stake in a $4 billion project to build a coal-fired power plant in the southern city of Balkhash.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in China rose about 19 percent on-year in the first seven months of the year due mainly to expectations of solid economic growth, a government report said Thursday. China received US$69.18 billion worth of reported FDI in the January-July period, up 18.6 percent from a year earlier, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said on its Web site. The number of companies that overseas investors set up in China reached 15,600 in the same period, rising 7.89 percent on-year. 
North Korea's reclusive leader Kim Jong Il greenlighted the construction of a trans-Korean gas pipeline during talks with President Dmitry Medvedev at a closed Siberian military base Wednesday. Kim also gave assurances that North Korea was prepared to put a moratorium on the production and testing of nuclear weapons and restart six-party talks on the matter. While his pledges on nuclear disarmament carry little weight, his agreement to the large-scale economic project, proposed jointly by Russia and South Korea, indicated a radical change in the world's dealings with Pyongyang, analysts said. The meeting between the two.

Foreign direct investment in Russia surged 30 percent to $7 billion for the first half of 2011, compared with last year, with manufacturers and the financial industry receiving the most capital. The overall foreign investment number, which includes loans and flows into securities markets, almost tripled during the period to $87.7 billion, the State Statistics Service said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday. President Dmitry Medvedev has sought to lure foreign capital and reverse outflows by setting up a $10 billion fund to co-finance international investment. FDI dropped 13 percent to $13.8 billion for all of last year, as the economy was slow to recover from its record slump in 2009. 
Johannesburg - Monetary policy is not the ultimate answer to South Africa’s economic problems and reforms are needed to increase its growth potential, Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus said in an article published on Wednesday. “Unfortunately, there is a misconception that monetary policy is the main policy level in the economy,” she said in the article in the Financial Mail magazine to commemorate the bank’s 90 years. 
Nakheel, the developer of man-made islands, has completed Dh59 billion debt restructuring and will launch the first tranche of a Dh4.8 billion Islamic sukuk to trade creditors on Thursday, Chairman Ali Rashid Lootah said. Dubai’s developer, which is talking to banks and trade creditors separately, said it will issue a Dh3.8 billion first tranche of the sukuk at a profit rate of 10 per cent. No time-frame was given for the second tranche of the remaining Dh1 billion that will be used to meet trade creditor claims. 
South Korean crude oil imports from the Islamic Republic of Iran climbed 60 percent in July compared to the same period last year. Korea National Oil Corporation imported 7.364 million barrels of crude in July 2011, reflecting an increase of about 2.8 million barrels compared to the corresponding figure for the previous year, Reuters reported.  The figure also indicated a 365,000-barrel hike of oil imports from Iran against the month of June.

Iran expects to find four new gas fields before the end of March 2012 following exploration now being carried out, the Mehr news agency said, citing National Iranian Oil Company’s director for exploration, Mahmoud Mohaddes. Iran recently discovered the Menar natural gas field located east of the southern port town of Assaluyeh, according to the Mehr report. The field holds 17.470 trillion cubic feet or 495 billion cubic meters of gas and some three fourth of it is recoverable, the report said.