Friday, April 15, 2011

Today's Headlines


  • Irish Bonds Drop After Moody's Downgrade' Spanish and Greek Debt Slides. Ireland’s bonds led a third day of declines by the securities of Europe’s most indebted nations after Moody’s Investors Service cut the nation’s credit rating to the lowest investment grade. The spread between Greek 10-year debt and equivalent German securities widened to 10 percentage points, while Spanish bonds slid for a third day. German two-year notes declined as data showed European inflation accelerated. Moody’s today lowered Ireland to Baa3 from Baa1 and left its outlook negative, meaning more cuts will probably follow. A report yesterday cited German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble as saying Greece may need to renegotiate its debt burden. “We’ve had quite a lot of bad news about the peripherals in the past couple of days,” said Glenn Marci, a strategist at DZ Bank AG in Frankfurt. It “was a lot of bad news in a short period of time, and the spreads are suffering a lot.” Irish 10-year yields rose 38 basis points to 9.72 percent at 4:42 p.m. in London, the highest since April 6. The 5 percent security maturing October 2020 fell 1.875, or 18.75 euros per 1,000-euro ($1,444) face amount, to 71.52. The five-year yield surged 49 basis points to 10.15 percent. Ireland’s credit rating was cut two levels by Moody’s as the government struggles to lower the budget deficit and restore economic growth. Ireland now shares the same rating as Iceland, Tunisia, Romania and Brazil. Portuguese yields reached new records amid concern that nations in the euro region will be forced to restructure their debts. The Iberian nation last week followed Greece and Ireland in requesting financial aid as it attempted to stem surging borrowing costs.
  • Germany Would Back Greece Debt Restructuring, Hoyer Says. A Greek debt restructuring “would not be a disaster” and Germany would back a voluntary effort to ease the struggling euro member’s payment terms, Deputy Foreign Minister Werner Hoyer said. The euro and Greek bonds fell after his comments. The remarks by Hoyer were the most explicit by a European official showing a 110 billion-euro ($159 billion) bailout for Greece may fail to prevent the first default by a euro country. His message contrasts with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou’s pledge to avoid a restructuring. Greece has “done a tremendous job in reforming the country,” Hoyer, who is minister for European affairs, said in an interview today in Berlin. “Whether all this is enough, whether the results will be there soon enough, is a different question. We are looking at the economic developments, the fiscal developments in Greece and we are worried.”
  • Consumer Prices in U.S. Rise on Food, Fuel; Other Costs Cool. The consumer-price index excluding volatile food and energy charges rose 0.1 percent, less than the 0.2 percent increase projected by the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, according to Labor Department data today in Washington. Other reports showed manufacturing kept leading the recovery and consumer confidence climbed more than projected. A decrease in wages adjusted for inflation in four of the past five months means retailers and service providers will have a hard time passing price increases along to customers struggling to make ends meet. Industrial production increased more than forecast in March, and manufacturing in the New York region expanded this month by the most in a year, other reports today showed. Output rose 0.8 percent, the fifth straight gain, after a revised 0.1 percent rise in February, according to data from the Fed. Manufacturing, which makes up 75 percent of the total, climbed 0.7 percent following a 0.6 percent increase. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s so-called Empire State factory index increased to 21.7 from 17.5 the prior month. Consumer prices including food and fuel increased 0.5 percent in March for a second month, in line with the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, the Labor Department’s report showed. The group’s preliminary index of consumer sentiment rose to 69.6, higher than forecast, from March’s 67.5 reading that was the lowest since November 2009. Consumer prices increased 2.7 percent in the 12 months ended March, the biggest year-to-year gain since December 2009. The core CPI rose 1.2 percent from March 2010. As recently as October, the year-over-year gain had slowed to 0.6 percent, the smallest since records began in 1958. Average hourly earnings adjusted for inflation dropped 0.6 percent in March, the most since June 2009, after falling 0.5 percent the prior month, a separate release from the Labor Department showed today. Earnings were down 1 percent over the past 12 months, the biggest year-to-year drop since September 2008.
  • Syrian Protests Draw Thousands After Cabinet Changes Announced. Syrian security forces blocked roads in Damascus to thwart a fifth week of protests against President Bashar al-Assad after yesterday’s cabinet reshuffle failed to calm demonstrators, activists said. Routes to the Damascus suburbs of Douma and Harasta were blocked by vans and concrete blocks, as thousands took to the streets, Damascus-based human-rights activist Razan Zaitouneh said on her Facebook page. There were rallies in Homs, Aleppo, Qamishli, the port city of Latakia and Daraa, a flashpoint for dissent last month, she said. “The announcement of a new Cabinet is not seen as a new reform gesture, given that a third of the new Cabinet is from the old government,” Chris Phillips, an analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit in London, said in a telephone interview. “The demonstrators have every right to perceive this as a backward step rather than a forward step in the reform process and therefore it’s not surprising that the numbers appear to have increased today.”
  • Gross Alone Beating Stocks as Bears Fail to Profit From Crashes. Two market crashes in a decade haven’t helped bear-market mutual funds avoid the distinction of worst-performing strategy. The only exception: Bill Gross. Gross, best-known for overseeing the world’s biggest bond mutual fund at Pacific Investment Management Co., also runs the top-ranked fund that bets on a decline in stocks. The $1.6 billion Pimco Stocksplus TR Short Strategy Fund (PSTIX) has advanced 3 percent annually in the past five years, the only bear-market mutual fund to beat U.S. stocks over that period, according to Morningstar Inc. (MORN) Bear funds trailed equities over five and 10 years, and were the worst performers over both periods. “Few people are smart enough to tell where the market is going,” Geoff Bobroff, an East Greenwich, Rhode Island-based consultant to money managers, said in an interview. “Bill Gross and his team have developed the right tool kit here.” Bear funds have failed to profit from two crashes in a decade, the second of which, from 2007 to 2009, erased $11 trillion in market value and left the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index below where it stood 11 years ago. After surging a record 30 percent in 2008, the funds slumped 34 percent in 2009 and 24 percent the following year as the stock market rebounded, according to Morningstar, which is based in Chicago. U.S. mutual funds that short, or wager on a decline in stock markets, have on average tumbled at an annual rate of 10 percent over the 10 years through March, the most of 90 strategies tracked by Morningstar. They’ve fallen 13 percent over the past five years. The group includes 42 funds, with active as well as passive strategies, some of which attempt to amplify market gains or losses. “Bear funds have had a really poor track record,” Nadia Papagiannis, an analyst at Morningstar, said in an interview. “One period of good performance isn’t good enough to make up for several years of poor performance.”
  • Broke U.S. States' $48 Billion Debt Drives Unemployment Aid Cuts. Missouri state Senator Jim Lembke had enough of what he calls Washington’s runaway spending. So he and three fellow Republicans in the state with an unemployment rate of 9.4 percent blocked $105 million in federal aid for those out of work. “It’s not free money -- it’s borrowed money from China,” he said in interview. “We’ve got to send a message to Washington: Stop the spending, stop the madness.” In the nation’s capitals, from Trenton, New Jersey, to Phoenix, Arizona, tax-leery businesses and the Republican politics of fiscal restraint are making unemployment benefits the next program to face cuts because of the fiscal turmoil that’s persisted since the recession ended almost two years ago. States slashed spending and raised taxes during the past three years to eliminate deficits in their general budgets. Now, more than half have run out of cash in their unemployment trust funds after joblessness, now 8.8 percent, peaked at 10.1 percent in October 2009. They have borrowed more than $48 billion from the federal treasury to pay benefits. Groups as varied as local Chambers of Commerce to the National Employment Law Project, which works on behalf of the poor, have raised concerns about the escalating payroll taxes that will be needed to escape debt and replenish state funds. Through 2015, employers face as much as $24 billion in automatic tax increases triggered in states indebted to the U.S. government, according to a study by the National Employment Law Project and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, two groups who advocate against budget cuts that hurt the poor.
  • India Inflation Accelerates More Than Forecast to 8.98% Adding Pressure on Rates. in India’s inflation accelerated more than economists estimated in March as the cost of fuel and manufactured goods rose, putting pressure on policy makers to raise interest ratesAsia’s third-largest economy. The benchmark wholesale-price index rose 8.98 percent from a year earlier after an 8.31 percent gain in February, the commerce ministry said in a statement in New Delhi today. That exceeded all 28 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey, where the median forecast was for an 8.36 percent increase. Expansion in India’s $1.3 trillion economy has boosted consumer demand and spurred manufacturing, car sales and credit growth, stoking price risks and prompting the central bank to raise rates eight times since early 2010. Inflation in the first quarter has exceeded the Reserve Bank of India’s forecast that price increases would be 8 percent by the end of March this year. “Inflation is going to remain uncomfortably high this year,” said Leif Eskesen, Singapore-based chief economist at HSBC Holdings Plc. “The RBI needs to raise rates more aggressively and we are looking at three more rate increases this year.” Stocks dropped the most in seven weeks, with the Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensitive Index falling 1.6 percent. The yield on the 8.08 percent bond due in August 2022 rose 4 basis points to 8.24 percent, the highest level since Feb. 8, as of the 5 p.m. close in Mumbai.
  • Renewable Energy Investment Drops 34% to Lowest in Two Years. New investment in renewable energy dropped to the lowest in two years in the first quarter, weighed down by low natural gas prices in the U.S. and subsidy cuts in Europe, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said.Money flowing into the industry through asset finance, share sales, venture capital and private equity fell more than a third to $31.1 billion in the first three months of the year from a record $47.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2010, the London-based researcher said today in a statement. Countries including Germany and Spain have announced reductions in the guaranteed prices that they pay for electricity from renewable sources while in the U.K. the government is reviewing the rates. Gas in the U.S. in September fell to its lowest price since 2002 amid a glut in production.
Wall Street Journal:
Business Insider:
Zero Hedge:
New York Times:
Rasmussen Reports:
  • Daily Presidential Tracking Poll. The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Friday shows that 23% of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Thirty-eight percent (38%) Strongly Disapprove, giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -15 (see trends).
Daily Yomiuri Online:
Kyodo News:
  • Melted Nuclear Fuel Likely Settled at Bottom of Crippled Reactors. Nuclear fuel inside the crippled reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant has partially melted and settled in granular form at the bottom of pressure vessels, according to an analysis by the Atomic Energy Society of Japan made public by Friday. As the nation's worst nuclear crisis drags on more than a month after it was triggered by the March 11 quake and tsunami, small amounts of plutonium have been detected for the third time in soil samples taken at the complex. A large buildup of melted nuclear fuel could transform into a molten mass so hot that it could damage the critical containers and eventually leak huge amounts of radioactive materials. Takashi Sawada, deputy chairman of the group, assessed that even if the current stabilization efforts proceed smoothly, it would take at least two to three months for the fuel to be stabilized with few if any radioactive emissions. The panel also found that the fuel rods in the Nos. 1 to 3 reactors have been damaged after analyzing data made public by the plant operator, known as TEPCO, and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, which comes under the wing of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Parts of the fuel rods in the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors have apparently been exposed, while those in the No. 3 reactor have been completely submerged in water, according to the panel.
China Power News:
  • China's National Development and Reform Commission raised on-grid electricity prices in some provinces from April 10, citing people from power plants.
Shanghai Daily:
  • Shanghai Fixed-Asset Investment Down, Retail Sales Rise. SHANGHAI'S fixed-asset investment dropped 8.1 percent from a year earlier to 93.2 billion yuan (US$14.3 billion) in the first quarter of this year, while retail sales expanded 12.9 percent to 161.8 billion yuan, the Shanghai Statistics Bureau said yesterday. It reflected the city's efforts to reduce its reliance on investment and exports, and try to create a consumption-led economy, analysts said.

No comments: