Friday, March 23, 2012

Today's Headlines

  • Italy’s Labor Reform Won’t Spur Firings, Napolitano Says. Prime Minister Mario Monti's Cabinet approved a bill to overhaul Italy’s labor laws that will ease firing rules, facing down opposition from unions and political allies needed to pass the measure in Parliament. The Cabinet in Rome passed the changes as a draft law, as Monti decided against resorting to a decree that would have implemented the measures immediately and limited parliamentary debate on changing the draft. The government didn’t say when the measures would be presented to Parliament. The law “intends to create a dynamic, flexible and inclusive labor market capable of contributing to growth and creating quality employment,” Monti’s office said in an e- mailed statement.
  • Oil Rises Almost $3 a Barrel on Iran Report. Oil surged almost $3 a barrel after Reuters reported Iranian oil exports will drop by 300,000 barrels a day this month because of tighter sanctions. Futures jumped more than 2 percent in three minutes on the New York Mercantile Exchange, topping $108 a barrel for the first time in four days, following the report, which cited Petrologistics, a Geneva-based consultant. Stephen Schork, president of the Schork Group in Villanova, Pennsylvania, said the gain may have triggered traders’ automatic buy orders. Crude oil for May delivery rose $1.60, or 1.5 percent, to $106.95 a barrel at 12:22 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Earlier, it touched $108.25 a barrel. Prices have slipped 11 cents this week and are up 8.2 percent this year. Brent oil for May settlement gained $1.89, or 1.5 percent, to $125.14 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange.
  • Sales of New Houses in U.S. Decrease for Second Month: Economy. Purchases of new homes in the U.S. unexpectedly fell in February for a second month, a sign the recovery in the housing market may be uneven. Sales dropped 1.6 percent to a 313,000 annual pace, the slowest since October, from a 318,000 rate in January that was weaker than previously reported, figures from the Commerce Department showed today in Washington. The median estimate of 78 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for 325,000.
  • KB Home(KBH) Falls the Most Since June After Orders Declined. KB Home (KBH), the Los Angeles-based homebuilder that targets first-time buyers, fell the most in almost nine months after it reported a decline in orders and government data showed new-home sales dropped in February. KB Home had a net loss for the three months ended Feb. 29 of $45.8 million, or 59 cents a share, down from $114.5 million, or $1.49, a year earlier, the company said today in a statement. Analysts expected a loss of 23 cents a share, the average of 17 estimates in a Bloomberg survey. Net orders fell 8 percent from a year earlier to 1,197 homes. KB Home dropped as much as 15 percent in New York trading, the most since June 29. It lost 9.5 percent to $10.18 as of 11:27 a.m.
  • NYC Office Leasing Lowest Since 2009 as Wall Street Cuts Back. Manhattan office leasing in the first quarter is poised to be the lowest in almost three years as Wall Street cut jobs and needed less space, according to preliminary data from brokerage Studley Inc. Agreements will be signed for the rental of about 5.7 million square feet (530,000 square meters) this year through March, according to New York-based Studley's projection. That's the smallest three-month tally since the 4.5 million square feet leased in the second quarter of 2009, months after the credit crisis pushed Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. into bankruptcy and froze demand for space in the biggest U.S. office market.
  • China Banks Said to Underestimate Local Government Risks. Chinese banks misclassified about 20 percent of their outstanding loans to local governments, understating the risk that slowing revenue will cut borrowers’ ability to repay, a person with knowledge of the matter said. The China Banking Regulatory Commission told lenders last month that they had incorrectly placed about 1.8 trillion yuan ($286 billion) of loans to local government financing vehicles in the safest category of lending, the person said, declining to be named because the matter is private. The banks erred in calculations and underestimated risks when they decided the loans were fully covered by cash flows from the projects, the person said.
  • BATS Global(BATS) IPO Turns Ugly After Apple(AAPL) Halt, Quote Error. Bats Global Markets Inc. (BATS), the six-year-old equity exchange, saw its debut as a public company go haywire as a system error caused incorrect price quotes and Apple Inc. (AAPL) was halted due to a transaction on its platform.
  • Dartmouth President Kim Nominated by Obama for World Bank. Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim was nominated today to head the World Bank, making him the first physician and Asian-American to lead the $57 billion lender that’s seeking to improve health care and education in developing nations. Kim, 52, a Seoul-born U.S. citizen who emigrated with his parents from South Korea at age five, would succeed Robert Zoellick, a former U.S. trade representative whose term ends in June. The U.S. is the biggest shareholder in the Washington- based bank, and its president has always been an American.
Wall Street Journal:
Business Insider:
Zero Hedge:
Seeking Alpha:


Rasmussen Reports:

  • Daily Presidential Tracking Poll. The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Friday shows that 24% of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove, giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -17 (see trends).


  • Iran Oil Exports Fall As Sanctions Take Toll. Iranian oil exports have fallen significantly in March, industry sources said on Friday, as some buyers stop or scale back purchases to abide by Western sanctions aimed at slowing Tehran's nuclear programme. Crude exports from Iran appear to have fallen this month by around 300,000 barrels per day (bpd), or 14 percent, according to estimates from industry consultant Petrologistics and a large European oil company. It is the first sizeable drop in oil shipments from the OPEC producer since the European Union announced in January plans to embargo Iran's crude from July and Washington and Brussels sanctioned Iran's central bank.
  • Gold Rises More Than 1%, Set To End 3-Week Drop.
  • Akamai(AKAM) CEO Sets $5 Billion Revenue Target by 2020.

USA Today:

  • Romney: Why I'd Repeal ObamaCare. Friday is the second anniversary of ObamaCare. It is past time to abolish the program, root and branch. The Supreme Court will soon have a crack at this; arguments about the program's constitutionality open before it next week. But whatever the justices decide in what is certain to be a landmark decision, the case against ObamaCare extends far beyond questions about its constitutionality. President Obama's program is an unfolding disaster for the American economy, a budget-busting entitlement, and a dramatic new federal intrusion into our lives.

International Business Times:

  • Japan Readies Missile Defense Against North Korea Rocket Launch. Japan's military is preparing its missile defense systems in response to a planned rocket launch next month by North Korea, according to reports. "I have ordered officials to prepare to deploy the PAC-3 [surface-to-air missiles] and Aegis warships [destroyers]," Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka told reporters. "We are talking to relevant local governments about the deployment."

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