Monday, October 22, 2012

Today's Headlines

  • Doctor Shortage Spreading in U.S. Presaged in Las Vegas. In the Las Vegas area, with about 2 million people, patients and doctors said it can take six months to see a primary-care doctor for a simple check-up. For more serious matters, the waits are far longer -- more than a year, for example, to get an appointment with a neurologist who specializes in autism. Once a problem limited to rural areas, the doctor shortage is now hitting large population centers such as Las Vegas and Detroit where people are forced to wait weeks or months or travel hundreds of miles for care. Nationwide, there is a shortage of more than 13,000 doctors, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, a Washington-based nonprofit that represents medical schools. That shortfall is expected to grow 10-fold to 130,000 doctors within 12 years as the U.S. population ages and 30 million more people are added to insurance rolls under the 2010 health-care law, the medical college association said
  • Rajoy Asserts Vindication in Galicia Elections. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party said victory in regional elections yesterday that extended its majority in Galicia vindicated his austerity program. “The steps that we have explained have to be taken to resolve the crisis have had overwhelming support,” Carlos Floriano, the party campaign chief, said in an interview on public broadcaster Radio Nacional de Espana. “There is no precedent in this crisis situation of a government not just defending but increasing its majority.”
  • European Stocks Drop for Second Day; Veolia, Nexans Fall. European stocks fell for a second day as Japanese exports tumbled and investors speculated that victory in regional elections for Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy reduces pressure for him to seek a bailout.
  • Greece Austerity Diet Risks 1930s-Style Depression: Euro Credit. The economy shrank 18.4 percent in the past four years and the International Monetary Fund forecasts it will contract another 4 percent in 2013 as Greece struggles to reduce debt in exchange for its $300 billion rescue programs. That’s the biggest cumulative loss of output of a developed-country economy in at least three decades, coming within spitting distance of the 27 percent drop in the U.S. economy between 1929 and 1933, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis in Washington.
  • Caterpillar(CAT) Sees Sales Growth Slowing Next Year on Economy. Caterpillar Inc. (CAT), the world’s largest maker of construction and mining equipment, forecast sales growth for 2013 that would be slower than in the previous three years as the global economy decelerates. Sales next year will be from 5 percent below to 5 percent more than 2012 results, the Peoria, Illinois-based company said today in a statement. That compared with an average projection for an increase of 5.1 percent based on 17 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Revenue year-over-year grew 31 percent in 2010, 41 percent in 2011 and was estimated to increase 13 percent this year. “The biggest concern is the declining backlog, which would imply a more challenging year next year, especially for mining, and whether or not North American construction will re- accelerate,” Larry De Maria, a New York-based analyst for William Blair & Co. who has a buy rating on the shares, said today by phone. “Caterpillar’s business is very economically sensitive. Due to the softening of the global economy and increasing uncertainty, order rates have declined.” The order backlog fell 18 percent to $23.1 billion at the end of the third quarter from three months earlier with the most significant decrease in the resource-industries segment, the company said. Production across much of the company has been reduced with temporary shutdowns and layoffs as it works through excess inventory, Caterpillar said in the statement.
  • Volcker Rule May Cut $10 Billion in Bank Profit, S&P Says. The Volcker rule could cut profit at the biggest U.S. banks twice as much as earlier estimates if regulators take a strict stance on limiting proprietary trading, Standard & Poor’s said. “We currently estimate that the Volcker rule could reduce combined pretax earnings for the eight largest U.S. banks by up to $10 billion annually, up from our initial $4 billion estimate two years ago,” S&P said today in a statement announcing a new report on the issue. 
  • Monster Energy Drinks(MNST) Cited in Death Reports, FDA Says. Monster Beverage Corp. energy drinks have been cited in the deaths of five people in the past year, according to incident reports that doctors and companies submit to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The five reports received by the agency said the victims consumed Monster drinks prior to their deaths, Shelly Burgess, an FDA spokeswoman, said today in a telephone interview.
  • Overseas Shipholding(OSG) Plummets on Bankruptcy Talk. Overseas Shipholding Group Inc.’s bonds and stocks plunged after the largest U.S. tanker company said in a regulatory filing it’s considering filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Wall Street Journal:
  • Obama, Romney Gird for Final Debate. Locked in a race that is now a dead heat, President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney have one final opportunity Monday night to challenge each other directly and detail their differences in the third presidential debate. This time, the focus will be on foreign policy, with a heavy emphasis on the Middle East. With only 15 days remaining in the campaign, the televised debate may be the candidates' last, best opportunity to alter the dynamic of the race.  
  • Kudrin's Outlook for Euro Zone Is Grim. Just over a year ago, Alexei Kudrin came out of the Group of 20 meetings in Washington warning that the U.S. and Europe weren't doing enough to head off economic slowdown. Now, no longer in government but still highly respected for his fiscal prudence, the former Russian finance minister doesn't have to mince words. His message is even more dire. Keeping Greece in the euro zone? "Already impossible," he says in an interview. Spain and Italy next for the exit? "The probability is very high." And creditors beware—Mr. Kudrin sees both Greece and Spain defaulting on their sovereign debt.  
  • Microsoft's(MSFT) Mobile Strategy Ripples Through Industry. Microsoft Corp. is testing new tactics to refashion its software for the mobile-device era, reaping reactions ranging from excitement to consternation from the computer makers and others it relies on as partners. The company, which plans to release a new version of its flagship Windows software on Friday, is taking a page from Apple Inc. and Google Inc. by incorporating the kind of touch commands and applications that consumers have embraced on smartphones and tablets. 
  • North Face sales slump in Europe slams VF(VFC). Among investors’ key concerns: sales in Europe, about one-fifth of the company’s total, rose 3%, compared with a 13% rate in the first quarter and a 16% increase in the second quarter. Meanwhile, North Face, the company’s biggest label with close to $2 billion in sales worldwide, reported a mid-single digit sales decline in Europe, its first such drop in several years, despite growth elsewhere in the world
Zero Hedge:
Business Insider: 
 Washington Examiner:

  • Report: Taxpayer loss due to Solyndra may be as high as $849 million. The cost to taxpayers for the failure of solar panel company Solyndra may be much higher than the $535 million dollar federal loan guarantee the company received. After the company went bankrupt in last August, 2011, the Energy Department, which had given the original loan, okayed an unprecedented deal to attract more private investment to Solyndra. One result of this deal is that it has allowed more than $350 million in tax write-offs to pass to those private creditors, one of which is owned by a major donor to President Obama. The House Oversight Committee now warns the total loss on Solyndra now could be as high as $849 million.
  • RealtyTrac: 65% of housing markets worse off than in 2008. Sixty-five percent of U.S. housing markets studied by RealtyTrac are worse off than they were four years ago, according to the Irvine, Calif.-based real estate research firm. The results of the survey arrive the same day as the final presidential debate and just weeks before the general election. RealtyTrac measured five key housing metrics in 919 U.S. counties and discovered the majority are still suffering from falling average home prices, unemployment, and higher foreclosure inventories, foreclosure starts and distressed sales. Of those counties studied, 580, or 65%, showed results in three of the five metrics as being worse off when compared to 2008 levels. Only 315, or 35%, of the counties had three of five housing metrics with improved performance over four years time. "The U.S. housing market has shown strong signs of life in recent months, but many local markets continue to struggle with high levels of negative equity as the result of home prices that are well off their peaks. In addition, persistently high unemployment rates are hobbling a robust real estate recovery in most areas," said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.
  • Healthcare costs top U.S. executives' concerns - Adecco survey. U.S. corporate executives are more worried about providing healthcare benefits to their employees than about issues like wages, taxes or attracting qualified workers, according to a survey by the world's No. 1 staffing company, Adecco SA. In Adecco's poll of senior executives, 55 percent named healthcare benefits as their biggest current business challenge, and about a third say they are holding back hiring because of healthcare reforms introduced by U.S. President Barack Obama. Obama's 2010 healthcare law, upheld this year by the U.S. Supreme Court, is expected to raise insurance costs for employers because it calls for wider coverage of more people, including those with pre-existing medical conditions. "A lot of firms just don't know how the (law) is going to impact them financially," said Senior Vice President Janette Marx. "If it does increase costs, it causes executives to question whether they can hire more." 
  • Copper slides to 1-month low after weak Japan export data.
Christian Science Monitor:
Chongqing Morning Post:
  • China may expand a property tax trial in November, citing Jia Kang, director of the Ministry of Finance's fiscal science research center. People who own luxury property or multiple omes will be the main subjects of the tax, Jia said.

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