Thursday, November 20, 2014

Today's Headlines

  • UN Links Russian Fighters to Rights Violations in Ukraine. The United Nations cited a “total breakdown of law and order” in eastern Ukraine and linked Russian fighters to human-rights violations as it raised its estimation of the death toll there to more than 4,300. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urged Russia to pull back its troops from inside eastern Ukraine and from the border area, while Russia’s State Security Council in Russia said the U.S. was instigating the fighting. “The continuing presence of a large amount of sophisticated weaponry, as well as foreign fighters that include servicemen from the Russian Federation, directly affects the human rights situation in the east of Ukraine,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a report. “Serious human-rights violations persist in eastern Ukraine despite tenuous cease-fire.”
  • Russia’s War Games Spill Secrets, Stiffen NATO Resolve. Russian jets probing NATO airspace and supersized war drills are spilling Kremlin military secrets and scaring European nations into stiffening their armed forces. The alliance said by late October it intercepted more than 100 Russian planes this year, more than three times the number in 2013. A report by the European Leadership Network, a London security research group, termed the incidents “a highly disturbing picture of violations of national airspace, emergency scrambles” and “narrowly avoided mid-air collisions.”
  • Euro-Area Growth at Risk as Factories, Services Weaken: Economy. The euro-area economy risks a renewed slowdown. A Purchasing Managers Index for factories and services activity unexpectedly fell to 51.4 in November, the lowest in 16 months, from 52.1 in October, London-based Markit Economics said today. A reading above 50 indicates expansion. A German measure also declined, and a separate report showed weakness in China, where a factory gauge dropped to a six-month low.
  • French Factories Slump Deepens as Economic Weakness Persists. French manufacturing shrank more than analysts forecast in November and demand fell, signaling that an economic rebound seen in the third quarter might be short lived. A Purchasing Managers Index fell to 47.6, the lowest in three months, from 48.5 in October, London-based Markit Economics said today. That’s below the 50-point mark that divides expansion from contraction and compares with the median forecast of 48.8 in a Bloomberg News survey. A separate index showed services also contracted, while new business across both industries fell the most in 17 months. 
  • German Growth Outlook Dims as Manufacturing, Services Weaken. German manufacturing and services expanded at the slowest pace in 16 months in November, signaling that growth in Europe’s largest economy will remain sluggish. A Purchasing Managers Index for both industries unexpectedly declined to 52.1 from 53.9 in October, London-based Markit Economics said today. While the gauge has been above the 50-point mark that divides expansion from contraction since early last year, the reading was below the median forecast of economists for an increase to 54.
  • European Stocks Drop as Manufacturing Slows. European stocks declined as miners fell after manufacturing data missed economists’ estimates for the region and China. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index dropped 0.3 percent to 338.28 at the close of trading. A gauge of mining stocks fell to its lowest level this year, with iron-ore producers BHP Billiton Ltd. and Rio Tinto Group losing more than 2.5 percent. National equity indexes of Spain and Italy dropped the most among 18 western-European markets
  • Copper Falls for Third Time in Four Days on China Data. Copper futures for March delivery declined 0.7 percent to settle at $3.0115 a pound at 1:11 p.m. on the Comex in New York. This year, the price fell 11 percent
  • Brent Gains First Time in 4 Days as Investors Weigh OPEC. Brent for January settlement gained 79 cents, or 1 percent, to $78.89 a barrel at 11:55 p.m. New York time on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. Total volume of all futures was 14 percent below the 100-day average. Front-month prices have decreased 29 percent this year.
  • Default Forecasts Could Be Low as Fed Tries to Bust Loan Bubble. What’s worse for the U.S. economy: More bankruptcies in the near term or an overheated market that portends another credit crisis in the longer run? That’s a conundrum facing Federal Reserve officials, who’ve been trying to get banks to tighten their underwriting standards for speculative-grade loans as the market shows signs of froth. So far, the increased oversight hasn’t prevented companies including Caesars Entertainment Corp. and Charter Communications Inc. (CHTR) from raising money at a record pace through new high-yield, high-risk loans this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Almost one third of the loans in the past year had features cited as weak by federal examiners in an annual review. Now comes the question of whether the most-indebted companies will be allowed to eventually refinance with similarly loose terms or whether they’ll be forced to abide by restrictions that make it difficult, or even impossible, to comply with their loan terms.
  • Obamacare’s Subscriber Rolls Include Unpublicized Dental Plans. The Obama administration included as many as 400,000 dental plans in a number it reported for enrollments under the Affordable Care Act, an unpublicized detail that helped surpass a goal for 7 million sign-ups
  • Foreign Governments Have Hacked U.S. Power System, NSA Head Says. Several foreign governments have hacked into U.S. energy, water and fuel distribution systems and might damage essential services, the top national security official said. Those intrusions could leave the U.S. vulnerable to a cyber-attack that may cause significant loss of life or physical damage, National Security Agency Director Admiral Michael Rogers told the House intelligence committee at a hearing in Washington today. Rogers said such an attack will occur during his tenure. “This is not theoretical,” Rogers said. “This will be truly destructive if someone decides this is what they want to do.”
  • U.S. states get more, spend more on Medicaid under Obamacare: report. One part of the Affordable Care Act is going according to plan, with U.S. states receiving and spending more money on the Medicaid health insurance program, a report released by the National Association of State Budget Officers on Thursday showed. States run Medicaid, which serves families who have low incomes, and receive partial reimbursements from the federal government. The healthcare overhaul known as Obamacare allowed more people to enroll in Medicaid and also gave states 90 percent to 100 percent reimbursements for new enrollees. "The large increase in federal funds to states in fiscal 2014 was almost solely due to additional Medicaid dollars, mainly resulting from the expansion of Medicaid in a majority of states under the Affordable Care Act," the association found.
  • NATO scrambles jets 400 times in 2014 as Russian air activity jumps. NATO warplanes have had to scramble 400 times this year in response to an increase in Russian air activity around Europe not seen since the Cold War, the alliance's chief said on Thursday.
  • Exclusive: U.S. increasing non-lethal military aid to Ukraine. The United States plans to increase non-lethal military assistance to Ukraine, including deliveries of the first Humvee vehicles, having decided for now not to provide weapons, U.S. officials said.

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