Oct 24, 2009

Community banks to get bailout money as Obama seeks to boost small business


To spur lending to small businesses, it is 'essential that we make more credit available to the smaller banks and community financial institutions that these businesses depend on,' the president says.Reporting from Washington - President Obama, looking to boost lending to small business, will start using some of the leftover federal bailout funds to shore up smaller community banks and induce them to offer credit to firms he called the "backbone of the American economy."

Obama Says Small Businesses Must Be at Forefront of Recovery

By Catherine Dodge and Julianna Goldman

Oct. 24 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama called small businesses the “engine” of the U.S. economy and said too many are still struggling to get the credit they need to operate.

In his weekly address on the radio and Internet, Obama said the nation’s banks, supported by taxpayers in the economic crisis, now need “to stand by the creditworthy small businesses.”

“It’s time for those banks to fulfill their responsibility to help ensure a wider recovery,” Obama said. “We’re going to take every appropriate step to encourage them to meet those responsibilities.”

The president this week announced measures to open up credit for small business, such as capital injections for community banks to spur lending. Obama also asked Congress to raise the limits for Small Business Administration loans from $2 million to $5 million and as much as $5.5 million for manufacturing.

“The goal here is to get credit where it’s needed most -- to businesses that support families, sustain communities, and create the jobs that power our economy,” Obama said.

The president has asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and SBA administrator Karen Mills, to convene a conference of regulators, congressional leaders, lenders, and entrepreneurs to come up with additional steps to improve the flow of credit to small businesses looking to expand.

Business and Insurance

In the radio address, Obama said his health-care overhaul plan would allow small businesses to buy insurance for employees through exchanges that may offer better coverage at lower costs.

The “crushing” costs of health-care are discouraging many entrepreneurs from even trying to start a business and causing others to cut benefits and jobs, or close their doors, Obama said.

“Small businesses have always been the engine of our economy -- creating 65 percent of all new jobs over the past decade and a half -- and they must be at the forefront of our recovery,” Obama said.

In the Republican address, Senator Mike Johanns focused on Obama’s number one domestic priority -- overhauling U.S. healthcare.

The Nebraska Republican said Obama’s plan would drive up costs and lead to higher premiums and more government mandates. Older Americans would see funding for hospice care and home health care services “cut off,” he said.

Impact on Paychecks

“We have a record budget deficit, and many families are working hard just to put food on the table and to pay the bills,” Johanns said. “Yet, there’s no doubt about it: these proposals will negatively impact pocketbooks and paychecks across America.”

The president’s aides worked behind the scenes this week with Senate leaders to merge legislation designed to curb costs while covering tens of millions of the uninsured. The changes could be the biggest since the creation of Medicare in 1965 and would affect one-sixth of the nation’s economy.

Johanns criticized Obama for not fulfilling a campaign promise to hold open and transparent health care negotiations televised on C-SPAN saying, “a 1,500 page bill, full of carve- outs and back room deals, is currently being brokered behind closed doors.”

Oct 23, 2009

UK economy remains in recession

The British economy shrank 0.4 percent in the third quarter of the year, according to official statistics released Friday, dashing hopes that the country had emerged from recession.

The fall in gross domestic product for the sixth consecutive quarter takes the total loss of output since the recession began last year to 5.9 percent, leaving Britain in the grip of the longest period of continuous decline since the Statistics Office began taking records in 1955.

Economists had expected the update from the Office for National Statistics to be a close call between growth and contraction -- but most had plumped for slight growth and few had forecast a fall of that size.

The persistent decline comes despite attempts by the government and Bank of England to boost the economy, including holding interest rates at a record low of 0.5 percent since March, an unprecedented 175 billion pound ($290 billion) injection into the money supply and billions more through fiscal measures.

Many Bailed Out Execs Flee Before Pay Cuts

The administration had tasked Kenneth Feinberg, the Treasury Department's special master on compensation, to evaluate the pay packages of 25 of the most highly compensated executives at each of seven firms receiving exceptionally large amounts of taxpayer assistance.

But Thursday, he ruled only on slightly more than three quarters of the pay packages that were to be under his purview. The balance reflected executives who have left since he began his work in June or will be gone by the end of the year.

Many executives were driven away by the uncertainty of working for companies closely overseen by Washington, opting instead for firms not under the microscope, including competitors that have already returned the bailout funds to the government, according to executives and supervisors at the companies.

"There's no question people have left because of uncertainty of our ability to pay," said an executive at one of the affected firms. "It's a highly competitive market out there."

Who cares if Wall Street 'talent' leaves?

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- There's no need to fear a Wall Street brain drain -- despite the crackdown on pay by Washington.

On Thursday, White House pay czar Kenneth Feinberg outlined compensation restrictions at seven firms that got special bailouts, and the Federal Reserve proposed to review pay practices at 28 unnamed giant banks.

Critics warn that reining in pay makes it hard to keep talented employees. Hemmed in, institutions like AIG (AIG, Fortune 500),Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) and Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) could lose their best people.

These firms would then perform even more abysmally, if that's possible, leaving them hard pressed to repay tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer-backed loans.

Still, we say Godspeed to this "talent." After all, the traders and suits in the corner offices don't exactly have an unblemished track record. In 2008, Citigroup, BofA and Merrill Lynch (since acquired by BofA) posted a grand total of $51 billion in losses.

Yet even as they were running themselves into the ground, the firms managed to pay out more than $12 billion in bonuses -- including 1,606 million-dollar-plus bonuses, according to a report from the New York attorney general's office.

Jump in U.S. home sales fails to lift stock market

Ieva M. Augstums and Tim Paradis

New York — The Associated Press Published on Friday, Oct. 23, 2009 7:27AM EDT Last updated on Friday, Oct. 23, 2009 11:29AM EDT

Investors looked past a jump in home sales and strong profits at key technology companies as disappointing forecasts from major railroads stirred unease about the economy.

Stocks zigzagged early Friday as investors found little reason to buy into the market after a strong rally on Thursday.

A huge jump in sales of existing homes last month was seen as an aberration. The National Association of Realtors said that sales rose 9.4 per cent, nearly double the advance that had been expected. It was the highest level in more than two years as buyers raced to complete purchases before a tax credit expires at the end of November.

Profits at Amazon.com (AMZN-Q115.3721.9223.46%) and Microsoft (MSFT-Q28.381.796.73%) sailed past expectations and drew some buyers to tech stocks.

Cautious comments from the leaders of major railroad companies were a cause for worry. Union Pacific (UNP-N57.29-3.83-6.27%) chairman and CEO Jim Young said Thursday that he expects the economy to “limp along” until unemployment starts to fall. Burlington Northern (BNI-N79.27-5.35-6.32%) also issued a tepid forecast after the end of trading Thursday.

U.S. Stocks Retreat as Oil Slumps; Microsoft, Amazon Rally

By Elizabeth Stanton

Oct. 23 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. stocks fell, wiping out a weekly gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, as a drop in oil weighed on energy producers and disappointing results at the nation’s largest railroad dragged down industrial shares.

Exxon Mobil Corp. and Schlumberger Ltd. led energy producers lower as crude slid for a second day. Industrial shares in the S&P 500 fell 1.3 percent as a group, led by railroad stocks, after Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. forecast profit that missed analyst estimates. Technology shares posted the smallest drop among 10 groups as Microsoft Corp. and Amazon.com Inc. jumped on better-than-estimated earnings.

The S&P 500 dropped 0.7 percent to 1,084.89 at 11:16 a.m. in New York. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 67.64 points, or 0.7 percent, to 10,013.67. The Nasdaq slipped 0.1 percent to 2,162.74 after earlier climbing as much as 1.2 percent.

“You have this skepticism in the equity market that is frankly irrational,” said Richard Campagna, chief executive officer of 300 North Capital LLC in Pasadena, California, which manages $600 million. “Given that the third quarter was the tail end of the recession and earnings are this good tells you earnings are going to snap back much faster than people expect.”

Oct 22, 2009

U.S. Stocks Advance as AT&T, McDonald’s Top Earnings Estimates

Oct. 22 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. stocks advanced as better-than- estimated earnings at AT&T Inc. and McDonald’s Corp. overshadowed a bigger-than-projected increase in jobless claims.

AT&T added 1.1 percent after new iPhone and television customers bolstered earnings. McDonald’s climbed 2.4 percent following a better-than-projected increase in global comparable sales. Gains were limited by a Labor Department report that initial applications for jobless benefits rose to 531,000 last week.

The S&P 500 increased 0.1 percent to 1,082.69 as of 9:37 a.m. in New York. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 30.38 points, or 0.3 percent, to 9,979.74.

The S&P 500 is trading at its highest valuation in five years after climbing 60 percent from a 12-year low in March as the government lent, spent or guaranteed $11.6 trillion to combat the worst recession since the 1930s. The index is valued at more than 20 times the reported operating profits of its companies, twice its price-earnings ration on March 6.

Oct 21, 2009

WORLD FOREX:Dollar Slips Back Again As Risk Appetite Returns

By Nicholas Hastings
LONDON (Dow Jones)--Appetite for risk is returning a little, pushing the dollar lower and higher-yielders, such as the Australian dollar and even the pound, higher in Europe Wednesday.

Optimism about the global economy was also reflected in equities, with most European bourses opening higher.

The rallies mark the end of the downturn that swept through financial markets Tuesday after the Bank of Canada disappointed investors with its decision to leave interest rates unchanged.

The BOC had widely been expected to follow the Reserve Bank of Australia with a rate hike - a move that would have reinforced the view that G10 economies had recovered enough for the unwinding of emergency credit-crunch policies.

Instead, the Canadian central bank warned of the risks that the recent strength of the Canadian dollar posed to the economy and lowered its growth forecast for the next year or two.

After that, a spate of third-quarter earnings results from the U.S. failed to live up to expectations, giving investors more reason to sell equities and preventing the euro from having enough momentum to break resistance at $1.50.

Investors waiting for more clues about consumers

AP Business Writer

NEW YORK -- After getting worrisome signs about consumers from bankers' earnings reports, investors will be looking at a broad range of companies this week for further insights into the outlook for the economy.

Consumer-focused companies including Apple Inc., McDonald's Corp., appliance maker Whirlpool Corp. and toy maker Hasbro Inc. are among those reporting results during the week. Airlines, drug companies and more big banks are also scheduled to release their earnings.

The market is so focused on companies' third-quarter results and their outlooks for the coming months that economic data like the September existing home sales report expected this week isn't likely to move the market much.

"Right now earnings are critical," said Channing Smith, a vice president at Capital Advisors in Tulsa, Okla. "Earnings, revenues give us a better picture of what's happening. If the economic data turns out well, its just the cherry on the sundae."

BEFORE THE BELL:US Stock Futures Point Lower Again

By Steve Goldstein

U.S. stock futures on Wednesday pointed to a second straight day of declines, ahead of a slate of earnings from Wells Fargo and Morgan Stanley and an assessment of the economy from the Federal Reserve.

S&P 500 futures fell 5.7 points to 1,083.70 and Nasdaq 100 futures dropped 8.5 points to 1,749.70. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 47 points.

U.S. stocks on Tuesday returned a portion of the prior day's advance, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 51 points, the S&P 500 off 7 points and the Nasdaq Composite down 13 points. Disappointing economic data offset mostly well-received earnings updates from the likes of Caterpillar and Apple.

"Markets are being pulled between generally better corporate results, and occasional disappointments on the macro economic data. This is not perhaps unexpected, if the economic profile resembles the Nike 'swoosh' more than the classic V," said Paul Donovan, senior economist at UBS.

Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, said the U.S. equity rally from the lows of March can continue. He sees nominal GDP rising and unit labor costs declining next year.

Oct 20, 2009

Wall Street ends lower on profit taking

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks retreated from 12-month highs on Tuesday as disappointing housing and inflation data prompted investors to book recent gains despite strong results from bellwethers including Apple and Caterpillar.

New construction of U.S. homes rose less than expected in September and U.S. producer prices posted an unexpected decline, both pointing to an anemic economic recovery.

DuPont shares fell 2.2 percent to $33.87, making it a top drag in the S&P materials sector and the Dow industrials after the chemical maker posted higher-than-expected third-quarter profit, but revenue fell short of Wall Street estimates.

After the closing bell, Yahoo Inc, one of the largest sellers of online display advertising, said third- quarter profit more than tripled from a year ago, beating Wall Street's estimates and sending its stock up 4.1 percent to $17.88.

Stocks slide, but Dow holds 10,000

Mixed profit reports, a stronger dollar and a weaker housing market report are among the factors dragging on Wall Street.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Stocks dipped Tuesday as a stronger dollar and some disappointment about DuPont and Coca-Cola's results gave investors a reason to retreat from the recent rally.

A weaker-than-expected housing market report added to the downward pressure.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) lost 50 points, or 0.5%, according to early tallies, after ending the previous session at the highest finish since Oct. 3, 2008.

The S&P 500 (SPX) index lost 7 points, or 0.6%, after ending Monday's session at the highest point since Oct. 2, 2008. The Nasdaq composite (COMP) fell 13 points, or 0.6%, after ending the previous session at the highest point since Sept. 26, 2008.

After the close, Yahoo (YHOO, Fortune 500) reported higher quarterly earnings that beat forecasts on weaker revenue that also beat forecasts.

Also after the close, Sun Microsystems (SUN, Fortune 500) said it was cutting 3,000 jobs related to its purchase by Oracle (ORCL, Fortune 500).

Europe Concerned as Dollar Decline Continues

A number of European countries have embarked on a slow recovery following the economic collapse late last year. But with the euro now at a 14-month high against the dollar, euro zone officials worry exports could suffer.

The signs of a recovering global economy are everywhere. Global stocks are up 75 percent from the deep lows seen in the darkest days of the financial crisis, many banks and other financial institutions are reporting a return to profits and a number of countries have emerged from recession.

But one development has some in Europe concerned that the path to recovery in Europe's single currency zone could be riddled with obstacles: The dollar continues to weaken against the euro. The result is that European exports -- one of the primary engines behind Europe's fragile recovery -- are becoming more expensive in the United States and in a number of Asian countries that have pegged their currency to the dollar.

Dutch government, Deutsche Bank in ABN AMRO deal

By Ben Berkowitz and Edward Taylor

AMSTERDAM/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Deutsche Bank AG (DBKGn.DE) agreed in principle to buy some ABN AMRO assets from the Dutch state in a deal which should clear the way for a merger of nationalized banks ABN and Fortis Bank Nederland.

Under the deal, 15 months and two ABN owners in the making, the acquisitive German lender will boost its Dutch operations by acquiring commercial bank HBU, 13 advisory branches, two corporate client units and a factoring business.

The pact, which is not final and depends on negotiations and a host of regulatory approvals, is the same in terms of assets as the deal Deutsche, Germany's biggest bank, agreed with former ABN owner Fortis in July 2008.

The European Commission mandated the sale of those assets in late 2007 to preserve competition in the Dutch market after a consortium took over ABN AMRO that year.

The financial terms of the proposed deal were not disclosed. The Dutch government said on Tuesday it will seek an extension of the EU deadline to finalize agreement. The commission had no immediate comment, and ABN AMRO said it could not comment beyond the finance ministry's statement.

The merger of ABN and Fortis, followed by an eventual IPO, is core to the Dutch state's exit strategy for the banks, which it nationalized in October 2008 for 16.8 billion euros ($25.16 billion).

Deutsche Bank says it will buy parts of ABN Amro

FRANKFURT — The biggest German bank, Deutsche Bank, said Tuesday it would buy parts of the state-owned Dutch lender ABN Amro's activities in the Netherlands for an undisclosed amount.

"The assets to be acquired remain the same as those in the original agreement announced on July 2, 2008. Negotiations continue on final terms and conditions" with the Dutch finance ministry, a statement said.

The deal, targeting parts of the Dutch bank's commercial banking activities, is subject to approval by ABN Amro, Deutsche Bank's supervisory board, the Dutch central bank and regulatory authorities, it added.

In September, Deutsche Bank had said it would abandon negotiations for the purchase of parts of ABN Amro.

In July 2008, the Belgian-Dutch banking and insurance group Fortis had announced the sale of a portion of ABN's commercial activities to Deutsche Bank for 709 million euros, a requirement under fair competition conditions set by the European Commission.

Stock Market Boosted by Better than Expected Corporate Earnings

Risky assets remained in favor during the past week, generally helped along by fairly robust economic data and better-than-expected corporate earnings reports. A number of bourses, crude oil, inflation-linked bonds and high-yielding corporate bonds and currencies recorded fresh highs for the year, whereas gold hit an all-time high of $1,070.20 per ounce.

Assets such as government bonds and the US dollar saw fading demand as safe havens, now that the global economy is on the mend. Similarly, credit default spreads tightened markedly and the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) declined to its lowest level since early September 2008.
The Dow Jones Industrial Index passed a psychological milestone this week as the Index broke above the 10,000 level for the first time in a year, although it then declined again to fall shy of the roundophobia number by four basis points by the closing bell. The Dow first broke above 10,000 more than ten years ago in 1999 and has since done so on 26 occasions. Yes, a ten-year buy-and-hold index investor has had no capital gain over the period!

Stocks rise as earnings reports top expectations

By IEVA M. AUGSTUMS and TIM PARADIS (AP) – 15 hours ago

NEW YORK — Investors are seeing the kind of earnings numbers that make them feel confident about stocks.

The stock market stepped to new highs for the year Monday after a handful of earnings reports bolstered hopes that the economy is coming back sooner than many analysts had thought.

That is helping some investors move past a bout of nerves about whether expectations for the economy are stretched too far. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 96 points, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose but ended just shy of 1,100, having topped that level during the day.

Industrial equipment maker Eaton Corp. said it was seeing improvement in key markets and raised its full-year profit forecast. Newspaper publisher Gannett Co. managed to post a profit despite a sharp fall in revenue.

Morgan Stanley to sell fund arm

US bank Morgan Stanley has agreed to sell its retail asset management business to investment manager Invesco in a deal worth $1.5bn (£913m).
The sale of the loss-making division will allow Morgan Stanley to focus more on its institutional clients.
The deal includes a $500m cash payment and will see Morgan Stanley take a 9.4% equity stake in Invesco.
A number of banks, such as Bank of America and Barclays, have agreed to sell their fund businesses this year.
As profits have been squeezed during the global downturn, many banks are restructuring their businesses.
The Morgan Stanley sale to Invesco has been approved by the boards of both companies and should be finalised by the middle of next year, the firms said.
"By taking a minority interest in Invesco, Morgan Stanley will be able to realise significant value in partnership with a world class player," said Morgan Stanley co-president James Gorman.
He added that the deal would allow the Van Kampen Investments, which is part of its asset management division, to operate more freely.
Morgan Stanley is due to report its results for the July-to-September period on Wednesday.

Investors lap up Apple's 47 percent profit jump

By JESSICA MINTZ (AP) – 9 hours ago

SEATTLE — Wall Street knew Apple Inc.'s results for the most recent quarter would blow past the company's guidance, but investors clearly weren't prepared for the 47 percent jump in profit that Apple delivered.

Shares skyrocketed to an all-time high in after-hours trading Monday evening on news that Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple sold more iPhone and Mac computers than ever.

Apple's financial report "reinforces my view that Apple is hands down the best technology company on the planet," said Broadpoint AmTech analyst Brian Marshall in an interview.

Apple shares hit all-time high as profits rise 47pc

Sales in the fourth quarter, to the end of September, rose by 24.9pc to $9.87bn.

Apple sold 7.4m iPhones, up 7pc year-on-year, and doubled the sales of iPod Touches – which are essentially iPhones without the telephone element.

Apple sold 3.05m Mac computers, 17pc higher than the same quarter last year, while it sold 10.2m iPods, up 8pc.

As a result, for the year to the end of September – its financial year starts on October 1, typically its busiest period in the run-up to Christmas – Apple made a profit of $5.7bn against $4.8bn last year, up 19pc, in the midst of one of the largest consumer downturns in decades.

The results showed strength across the globe, as well as in its American heartland, with average sales up 20pc in international stores, and international sales accounting for 46pc of revenue in the quarter, up from 41pc in the same period last year.

Oct 19, 2009

U.S. Stocks Extend Global Rally on Earnings as Dollar Retreats

Oct. 19 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. stocks rose, sending benchmark indexes to a one-year high, on better-than-estimated earnings and speculation the economy is healthy enough for policy makers to unwind efforts to shore up the financial system. The dollar fell and commodity prices advanced.

Gannett Co., the biggest U.S. newspaper publisher, jumped 6.9 percent on results that beat estimates. Texas Instruments Inc. climbed before reporting earnings. Caterpillar Inc. surged 4.3 percent after RBC Capital Markets recommended the shares. Banks advanced as the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said it is assessing the use of reverse repurchase agreements to drain record amounts of cash added to the financial system.

Earnings optimism, Caterpillar boost Wall St

By Leah Schnurr

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Monday in a broad-based rally after corporate results fed growing optimism the accelerating earnings season will be strong.

Better-than-expected earnings from companies including Gannett Co Inc and positive broker commentary for Caterpillar Inc further buoyed investors looking for confirmation the economy is stabilizing.

"It's all about earnings, and it's all about momentum," said Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at Robert W. Baird & Co in Nashville, Tennessee.

"Investor optimism is really rising rapidly now for the first time since the March lows, and I think a lot of money is bursting off the sidelines as a result."

Will Apple keep up the momentum?

Although there are more signs lately that the worst of the recession is over, Apple is one of the few companies that has seen little of the effects of the recession to begin with.

We'll find out if the company's good health has remained during the quarterly checkup Monday afternoon. According to Wall Street, it's been another good three months for the Cupertino, Calif.-based company. Apple's stock price jumped 43 points during the quarter to close at $185.35. Because of a string of impressive earnings announcements dating back a year ago, the launch of the company's latest operating system update, signs it gained share in the smartphone and computer markets, and a helpful accounting rule change, financial analysts are expecting good things from the company's fiscal year fourth-quarter earnings. Analysts are expecting Apple to record earnings per share somewhere between $1.24 and $1.72, and revenue between $8.74 billion and $10.55 billion for the quarter ending September 30. Apple is known to provide consistently conservative guidance for future quarters, hence the wide gap in analyst estimates.

But a good way to know what's to come can usually be seen in the unit sales reports. Last week IDC reported that Apple had amassed a 9.4 percent share of the U.S. PC market--a jump from the 8.6 percent of the previous quarter. Near the end of the previous quarter Apple offered some price cuts on most of its Mac models. The sales numbers for the quarter, whatever they end up being, will be regarded as a commentary on whether those price cuts went far enough.

Euro heads towards $1.50 before key meet

LONDON — The euro headed toward 1.50 dollars on Monday as European officials may seek to talk down the European single currency's recent strength at a meeting due later in the day, dealers said.

In London morning deals, the euro rose to 1.4928 dollars, from 1.4903 dollars late in New York on Friday.

Against the Japanese currency, the dollar fell to 90.52 yen from 91.09 yen late on Friday.

"The euro has been creeping higher again ... despite a push below 1.4850 dollars overnight on fears that European officials may speak out against the euro's strength," said Jane Foley, an analyst at currency traders Forex.com.

WORLD FOREX: Dollar Generally Lower, But Sterling Slides

By Katie Martin


LONDON (Dow Jones)--The dollar has fallen a little against most other major currencies through European trading hours, although it has gained against sterling, which is declining after last week's surprise gains.

Concerns that euro-zone finance ministers, who are meeting Monday and Tuesday, might bemoan the euro's current strength pushed the single currency to a session low of $1.4829 in Asian hours.

However, that currency move swiftly reversed in later Asian trading and the euro's climb accelerated as European trading began, offering a hint that markets aren't taking the prospect of solid action against euro strength seriously at the moment.

Israel claims Russian pledge on Gaza war report

JERUSALEM — Russia has assured Israel that it will oppose any UN Security Council discussion of a damning report on the Gaza war, a senior Israeli official told AFP on Monday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov wrote in a letter that Moscow would oppose the Security Council, of which it is a veto-wielding member, examining the Goldstone report, the official said on condition of anonymity.

"The Russian ambassador to Israel, Peter Stegnyi, handed the letter to the foreign ministry several days ago," he said.

Tough task of vanquishing Taliban

Make no bones about it, Pakistan's army is deadly serious about its operation against the Taliban in the lawless tribal area of South Waziristan.

It has deployed thousands of troops and a vast array of weaponry for what it knows is a crucial battle for the future of the Pakistani state.

But despite all these measures, it increasingly appears that traditional factors in this remote mountainous region bordering Afghanistan will be decisive.
"Ultimately it will come down to the terrain and weather," says a senior government official based in the region.

"The timing of the operation is not the best and the forces will have to push fast and hard to defeat before the snows come."

At the moment, the situation is a stalemate as the army tries to use ground troops backed by heavy weapons and air power to push back the Taliban.

Gold little changed, pressured by firmer dollar

TOKYO (Reuters) - Gold was little changed around $1,050 per ounce on Monday, pressured by a firmer dollar, as the precious metal took a breather and consolidated gains from last week's rapid climb to historic levels.

Last Wednesday, spot gold soared to an all-time high of $1,070.40 an ounce, while New York gold futures hit a record peak of $1,072 as the greenback's weakness spurred buying of gold, which became less expensive for holders of other currencies.

The precious metal is also often bought as a hedge against a depreciation in the U.S. currency.

"The dollar is recovering a touch against the euro, and that is putting pressure on gold," said Kazuhiko Saito, chief analyst at Tokyo's Fujitomi Co Ltd.


Following the markets drop in the summer 2008, we have put into place a Market Timing indicator in October 08. This indicator, added on top of our portfolios, helps to reduce volatility by a big margin.

The following graph shows how one of our portfolio, the Ultimate Price Momentum v4, is affected by the addition of our Market Timing Indicator. See how the red line equity curve experiences a lower volatility:

Note: Whereas the underlying portfolios data have been recorded live, the indicator signals before October 08 have been simulated. Indicator signals after October 08 have been recorded live.

We are still in the process of integrating this indicator in our website. In the mean time, you can get more information by reading the following threads on our forum:

RHB Capital Expands into Indonesia

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Malaysia's fourth-largest lender by assets, RHB Capital Bhd., is expanding its regional footprint with plans to buy 80% of Indonesia's PT Bank Mestika Dharma for 1.16 billion ringgit ($344.2 million).
RHB Capital will join Malaysian peers such as CIMB Group Holdings Bhd. and Malayan Banking Bhd. in penetrating the Indonesian market.
CIMB has a controlling stake Bank CIMB Niaga while Maybank has majority stake in Bank Internasional Indonesia.
RHB plans to extend Bank Mestika's presence throughout Indonesia. RHB Capital Managing Director Tajuddin Atan said Bank Mestika has 50 branches and "with a strong capital adequacy ratio of 27% currently, it should be able to fund its expansion through internally generated funds."
Mr. Tajuddin said Bank Mestika is exploring an initial public offering and expects to be listed on the Indonesian stock exchange by the second quarter of next year.
He expects Bank Mestika to contribute positively to the company's earnings.
"The group's contribution from overseas operations will be raised to 8% from 4% based on the first-year contribution from Bank Mestika," RHB Capital Chief Financial Officer Kellee Kam Chee Khiong said.
The planned purchase from PT Mestika Benua Mas, the major shareholder in Bank Mestika, pegs the transaction at 3.5 times price to book and 23 times price to earnings, RHB Capital Director Azlan Zainol said.

Pakistan fights 'mother of all battles' with the Taliban

The tanks, armoured columns and helicopter gunships of Pakistan's army stormed into South Waziristan, the global headquarters of al-Qaeda and its Taliban allies.
Within hours of leaving their camps early on Saturday morning to fight what is being hailed as the decisive battle in the war against terror, 12 soldiers had been killed in the first ferocious gunfights.

Pakistan's generals have called the offensive the "mother of all battles" for the survival of a country under siege.
There were reports of Taliban compounds coming under aerial bombardment from Pakistan gunships as troops moved out in three columns from Razmak to the north, Jandola to the east and Shakai in the west, and advanced on notorious Taliban target towns like Makeen and Ladha.

My kid, the ratings bonanza: beyond the 'balloon boy' saga

Falcon Heene isn't the only child drafted into TV-ready story lines -- think Octomom, Jon & Kate's 8, 'Toddlers and Tiaras.'

 Reporting from Fort Collins, Colo., and Los Angeles -- The strange case of Falcon Heene took another twist Sunday when a Colorado sheriff said the boy's parents had staged the runaway balloon saga as a publicity stunt to score a reality television show.

Revolutionary guards killed in Iran suicide bomb

Five top officers in Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard were among at least 20 people killed by a suicide bomber in the south east of the country, state media has reported. The IRNA news agency said the dead included the deputy commander of the Guard's ground force, Gen Noor Ali Shooshtari, as well as the Guard's chief provincial commander, Rajab Ali Mohammadzadeh. Dozens of others were wounded.

The commanders were inside a car on their way to a meeting in the Pishin region near Iran's border with Pakistan when an attacker with explosives blew himself up.Iran's parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, condemned the assassination of the Guard commanders, saying the bombing was aimed at disrupting security in southeastern Iran.

Oct 18, 2009

Bank of America loses $2.24B as loan losses rise

By IEVA M. AUGSTUMS (AP) – 2 days ago

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Bank of America Corp. said Friday it lost more than $2 billion in the third quarter as loan losses kept rising, providing further evidence that consumers are still struggling to pay their bills.

The nation's second-largest bank, which lost $2.24 billion after accounting for preferred dividends, said its losses for failed loans came to almost $10 billion during the July-September period, up almost $1 billion from the second quarter. The bank also added $2.1 billion to its reserves to cover bad loans, bringing its provision for credit losses to $11.7 billion. The bank's total allowance for loan and lease losses sits at $35.83 billion.

Bank of America's results were aided by profit from investment bank Merrill Lynch, including income from bond, stock and currency trading.

Sony Ericsson Xperia X3 Uses Snapdragon?

A live picture of Sony Ericsson’s XPERIA X3 has been spotted and it’s been said that the phone will be boasting a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, vying with Acer’s Liquid for the top of the speed charts in terms of Android-powered smartphones. The display is most likely a 4-inch 852 x 480 touchscreen display, which certainly is quite nice. Other features of the X3 should include an 8-megapixel camera, 10Mbps 3G, GPS and Wi-Fi. By the time the X3 is released, it’s expected that it should be boasting Android 2.0, which will certainly be welcome.

The Dow Jones Finishes at 10,015 (BAC, JPM, INTC)

U.S. stocks rallied, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average above 10,000 for the first time in a year to finish the day at 10,015 thanks to better-than-estimated earnings at JP Morgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) and Intel Corp. (NASDAQ:INTC), but can Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) keep the rally going?
JPMorgan Chase's (JPM) third-quarter earnings soared as strong investment-banking results outweighed another sizable provision for loan losses. Chief Financial Officer Michael Cavanagh said the bank "is getting close to the end of loan-loss reserves." The nation's biggest banks joined JPMorgan, the first to report with Bank of America (BAC) next on deck to report this Friday.
Bank of America Corporation (Public, NYSE:BAC) is reporting Q3 2009 earnings on Friday (Oct 16th) before the market open and Wall Street is expecting the partially government owned financial giant to report a loss of 7 Cents per share,

Dow Jones passes 10,000

The Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen above the 10,000 mark for the first time in a year amid optimism about a global economic recovery.

The gains were spurred by surging profit at investment bank JPMorgan Chase & Co and a promising sales forecast from semiconductor maker Intel. the fortunes of both companies are seen as important indicators of the state of the world economy.

The Dow jumped as much as 130.52 points, or 1.3 per cent, to 10,001.58 for its first advance above 10,000 since Oct. 7, 2008. The Standard & Poors 500 Index increased 1.4 per cent to 1,087.63 at 1.25pm in New York as financial and technology shares led gains. The MSCI World Index of 23 developed countries added 1.6 per cent.

Asian markets extend rise after Dow passes 10,000

HONG KONG — Asian stocks extended their rise Thursday after better-than-expected earnings reports from U.S. companies helped push the Dow Jones industrial average pass the 10,000 mark for the first time in a year. European shares were mixed.

Thailand bucked Asia's advance as worries about the health of the country's 81-year-old king sent the stock market plunging over 8 percent at one point.

The dollar, meanwhile, pared its early losses, but not before hitting another low against the euro. That helped boost commodity prices and shares in oil companies during the day, with crude trading at its highest point this year near $76 a barrel.

It marked the third straight session of gains in Asia as a combination of the weakening dollar, massive liquidity and economic improvements pulled more investors into the market.

* Money * Mortgage rates Mortgage rates: A high-stakes game of low returns

Is Britain entering a prolonged period of ultra-low interest rates? According to a major report this week, interest rates will stay at rock bottom for years as the government tackles the UK's wounded economy. If so, it's likely to reshape our whole approach to personal finances – and make choosing the right mortgage more important than ever.

The stakes are high. Householders who opt for the current best five-year fixed rate will pay about £580 a month for each £100,000 of borrowing. Those who choose the best tracker deal will pay £460 – or as little as £230 a month if they go for the interest-only option.

In-App Sales and iTablet: The Killer Combo to Save Publishing?

Apple on Thursday made a subtle-yet-major revision to its App Store policy, enabling extra content to be sold through free iPhone apps. It’s a move that immediately impacts the publishing industry, and it could pay even bigger dividends if the Cupertino, California, company indeed delivers its highly anticipated touchscreen tablet.

While the most obvious beneficiaries would be app developers, a market segment that can also benefit from the new in-app commerce model are people and companies that create content and need to set up shop in a way that doesn’t, in effect, charge someone for just walking in — like media publishers.
Newspapers and magazines are reportedly in talks with Apple about repurposing their content onto a “new device,” presumably the rumored touchscreen tablet Apple will deliver in early 2010. Numerous reports suggest an Apple tablet would have a strong focus on redefining print media. Enabling in-app commerce through free apps was a crucial move to help make this goal a reality.

DTV Coming to Your Mobile Device

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A new mobile digital television signal means you can take your favorite shows with you on the go-- live.
On Friday, FOX 5 got a demonstration of digital TV in action. With this new signal, you can receive broadcasts on a laptop, cell phone or mobile device.
How much will that convenience cost? Prices haven't been announced yet, but one company plans to offer a connection for laptops for $99. Handsets could cost between $300 and $400.
An association of 800 TV stations agreed Thursday on a broadcast standard for the digital signals. Eventually, you could also be able to get emergency alerts customized by location, live audio feeds, and traffic information all on your mobile device.

Gold Prices Impact 'Festival of Lights'

Soaring gold prices are having an unexpected impact on a major religious holiday celebrated in South Asia and many other parts of the world starting Saturday.  The Festival of Lights, or Diwali, is the biggest holiday of the year for Hindus and other religions in South Asia and thousands of Hindus are expected to gather in London to celebrate. But one Diwali tradition, buying gold, is changing because of high prices.

It's a busy time of year for jewelers in London's East End. Many in this neighborhood are from South Asia and are celebrating Diwali. Store manager Vikram Santilal says buying gold bars or coins is traditional at this time of year.

"During the Diwali season, you have the days running up towards Diwali and the five days after Diwali, where coins, investment bars will be bought because it's very auspicious to be bought, so you do find people to come in to but that memento as well," he said.

May the festival of lights banish the darkness of racism

It's already started. When I call Bangalore, my Amamma answers the phone speaking in a language I don't understand. I scream my name intermittently, hoping that the words will get through from Melbourne to India, but nothing does. Perhaps she's forgotten she has a granddaughter in Australia. It doesn't help that she's deaf in her left ear - the one she leans the receiver on - but at 88 she is excused just about anything.
I manage to understand from her shrieks that preparations for Diwali, ''the festival of lights", have begun. My aunt is at the temple making a puja (prayer) for the Goddess Lakshmi and taking prasad (sweets) to the neighbour's house. She will clean the house, light oil lamps and create Rangoli designs on the dirt path outside the front door with flour, rice and coloured chalk to attract the goddess. Wealth and good fortune are Lakshmi's business and on Diwali she's as stretched as Father Christmas.
My aunt is not alone. For the five days leading up to October 17 through to the day itself, Indians of all denominations around the world cleanse themselves and their houses, light lamps and set off firecrackers for the goddess.

Kerry: Targeted attacks in Afghanistan not enough

WASHINGTON — The U.S. strategy in Afghanistan will require more than targeted missile strikes and use of special operations forces to succeed and should include counterterrorism efforts coordinated closely with ground troops, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman said after a visit to the region.

"I do not believe that a counterterrorism strategy all by itself without a sufficient level of counterinsurgency will work," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. "If you don't have a presence on the ground that's effective, it's almost impossible to collect the kind of intelligence that you need to be equally effective in your counterterrorism."

Kerry's comments in television interviews broadcast Sunday came as President Barack Obama considers a proposal to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. Some of the president's closest advisers, including Vice President Joe Biden, have advocated a more focused military approach, targeting al-Qaida with missile-carrying unmanned aircraft and U.S. special forces strikes in Pakistan.