Frontrunning: March 21

  • So much for that: Obama to fast track southern portion of Keystone XL Pipeline (1600 Report)
  • French Police Say They Have Cornered Suspect in School Shooting (NYT); French shooting suspect had been arrested in Afghanistan (Reuters); Suspect in French shootings says he’ll surrender to end standoff (Globe & Mail), Toulouse suspect escaped from Kandahar jail in mass Taliban jailbreak in 2008 (BBC)
  • Bernanke Says Europe Must Aid Banks Even as Strains Ease (Bloomberg)
  • Monti faces clash with unions over reform (FT)
  • UK budget to balance tax breaks with austerity (Reuters)
  • Romney scores big win over Santorum in Illinois (Reuters)
  • U.S. Exempts Japan, 10 EU Nations From Iran Oil Sanctions (Bloomberg)
  • Bernanke Says Fed Failed to Meet Goals During Great Depression (Bloomberg)
  • Revised tax deal reached on Swiss accounts (FT)
  • Iceland Central Bank Raises Benchmark Rate to Cap Inflation (Bloomberg)
  • EU defies carbon trade war threats (FT)

Overnight Media Digest via RTRS:


* Mitt Romney racked up a decisive victory in the Illinois primary, shoring up his claim that he will inevitably take the Republican presidential nomination.

* The Supreme Court jolted the biotechnology industry with a unanimous ruling that threw out two medical-testing patents and suggested companies need to do more to prove their discoveries are really new.

* U.S. trade officials slapped modest tariffs on imports of Chinese solar panels, giving a partial victory to solar-equipment manufacturers in the U.S. but stopping short of harsh duties that could spark a trade war.

* EU regulators are taking a closer look at the proposed Glencore - Xstrata merger after other companies said the deal would create too powerful a player in zinc, nickel and coal.

* Meg Whitman wants to unite Hewlett-Packard Co's personal-computer business with its printing unit, said people familiar with the matter, in her latest move to turn around the struggling technology giant.

* Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishers Inc has once again hired restructuring advisers, said people familiar with the matter, as the textbook publisher tries to tackle a heavy debt load while important customers pull back.



The threat of a trade war will not make the European Union back down on climate legislation, Connie Hedegaard, the bloc's climate chief, said on Tuesday following pressure from foreign governments who want the EU to drop plans to charge airlines for carbon emissions.


European banks are preparing a new type of securitised vehicle bundling together loans to commodity trading houses to try to resolve the credit crunch in the commodities industry.


Britain finance minister George Osborne will on Wednesday stage a tax grab on London's booming top-end property market, in a Budget which will offer significant cuts in the taxes paid by business and low and middle income families.


Oil prices fell more than $2 a barrel on the back of attempts by Saudi Arabia to cool energy markets, amid growing worries about the damage rising costs could have on the global economic recovery.


A battle has broken out between Apple and its rival smartphone makers over the standard industry template for miniature SIM cards for the next generation of slimmer handsets.


Apax Partners has raised 4.3 billion euros ($5.68 billion) from investors within 10 months in the largest first close of a private equity fund since the height of the financial crisis more than three years ago. But the final size is expected to be a fifth smaller than the last fund raised by Apax.


Nearly 100 staff will be made redundant on Thursday when Canaccord Financial completes its acquisition of Collins Stewart Hawkpoint, as London's stockbroking industry continues to shed capacity.


* Lawsuits aimed at generic drugs are being thrown out across the country in the wake of a 2011 Supreme Court decision favorable to the drugs' makers.

* The websites of many American retailers like Macy's are offering to ship merchandise bought to homes in other countries.

* The Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Tuesday that medical tests that rely on correlations between drug dosages and treatment are not eligible for patent protection.

* Seminars tailored to small businesses are just one way Britain's big banks are trying to get lending going. But many of the businesses that do apply for loans are rejected.

* Chinese officials are making it easier for foreign investors to put money into China's stock market, indicating that they are eager to counter capital flight.

* The Commerce Department decided to impose the tariffs after concluding that the Chinese government provided illegal export subsidies to manufacturers in China.

* The Senate postponed action on Tuesday on legislation to ease the ability of small and start-up companies to raise money from investors after Democrats failed in two tries to make changes to the bill.

Senator Harry Reid said that a vote on whether to bring the bill to the Senate floor for final action would be delayed until Wednesday morning.

* Glencore has been gradually expanding its agricultural business beyond Europe and Russia into other grain markets including Australia. With Canada's strong position as a wheat exporter, the deal for Viterra gives the company much more global influence than it had previously in grain trading.

* After months of economic uncertainty caused by the European debt crisis, investors are starting to venture back into Europe's financial markets.

* Hewlett-Packard will merge its personal computer and printing divisions in an effort to cut costs, improve designs and gain efficiency, according to a person briefed on the plan.

* Approval of the Harvard University economist Jeremy Stein and Jerome Powell, a former private equity executive and Treasury official, would fill the Fed's roster for the first time in six years.

Canadian Press:


- The political machine behind the man who is now Speaker of the House of Commons opened its wallet for the Guelph Conservative campaign currently under scrutiny by Election Canada's robo-calls probe, records at the watchdog agency show.

- Ontario's government will backtrack on planned construction of new hospitals and upgrades to existing ones just months after Premier Dalton McGuinty promised them during a series of showy pre-election announcements.

- Mitt Romney's laborious climb toward the Republican presidential nomination took a major leap toward the prize with a massive win in the Illinois primary, dealing a serious blow to Rick Santorum's momentum.

Reports in the business section:

- An audit to be released on Wednesday raises questions about a lease on the Mississauga head office of Ontario's embattled air ambulance service, Ornge, that is well above the going rate for neighbouring buildings.

- Canadian Tire Corp pleaded guilty Tuesday to taking part in a "criminal price-fixing cartel" that artificially inflated gas prices in two cities in Eastern Ontario, agreeing to pay a $900,000 fine.

- Toronto's 23,000 inside workers will not strike this weekend unless the Ford administration unilaterally imposes a new contract, Tim Maguire, president of CUPE Local 79 -- which represents workers at daycares, recreation centres, old-age homes and other city offices -- is vowing.


- Quebec Finance Minister Raymond Bachand joked Tuesday that his provincial budget is hardly the stuff to dazzle voters. He is not about to head to Rimouski to announce he is renewing funding for a local development centre. "It's a budget with only $200 million in new measures and programs, about 0.3 percent [of total spending]," Bachand said when a reporter asked if he was tabling an election budget.

Reports in the business section:

- Glencore International PLC's historic acquisition of Viterra Inc is the culmination of two long-developing factors: Glencore's long-standing desire to break into the Canadian agriculture business, and the company's astonishing corporate makeover over the last year. An unexpected disclosure from Viterra simply accelerated the process.

- Aveos Fleet Performance Inc, a key provider of maintenance, repair and overhaul work for Air Canada , said Tuesday it would be forced to liquidate its remaining assets.

China Media Digest


- The first tourist trip to Mount Kumgang in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is scheduled for April 14, and only four agents in Northeast China's Jilin province are authorised to operate the tourism programme, the Jilin tourism bureau said.

- China will probably not take part in an international agreement on government procurement this year because of increased standards set by developed nations, said an official from the Ministry of Finance. Meanwhile, China needs to rectify some of its domestic regulations before it can join the agreement, which is meant to ensure that countries allow foreign businesses to compete for government purchase deals

- A gang boss, Nie Lei, was sentenced to death in Qingdao, East China's Shandong province, for 10 charges including intentional injury, gun trade and organised crimes while another 30 gang members received penalties ranging from two years in prison to death with reprieve.

- The mainland's first fixed-base operator service for private jets was launched in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, last week, which insiders called a breakthrough in the second year of China's reform of airspace management. But the boom in the private jet sector is yet to come, as more policy support from the government and investment in infrastructure are needed.


- China has developed its own genetically-modified (GMO) cotton strain, which will improve the quality of the fibre and raise yield, said Yu Shuxun, head of the Cotton Research Institute.

- China will continue to boost its efforts to treat pollution by heavy metal smelters. The government's cleanup campaign last year had resulted in the closure of some 81 percent of the country's lead battery plants.


- China is expected to release a development plan on energy savings and protecting the environment soon, Zhao Penggao, an official with the country's National Development and Reform Commission was quoted as saying.

- Chen Dongzheng, a senior official with the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, said China should allow more urban and rural commercial banks to list, in a move to help meet demand for finance from small companies.


- China South Locomotive and Rolling Stock Corp (CSR) said on Wednesday it has recently signed major rail contracts worth 3.5 billion yuan ($553 million). That total is about 5.4 percent of operating income in 2010 under the firm's accounting standards.


- The Export-Import Bank of China and Inter-American Development Bank have jointly launched an investment fund worth $1 billion for equity investment in Latin America.


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