Saturday, November 25th, 2017


ThyssenKrupp kicks off talks with union on steel merger

ESSEN, Nov 25 ― Managers and labour leaders at Germany’s ThyssenKrupp have struck a conciliatory tone as they seek to resolve a dispute over job cuts resulting from a planned merger of its steel operations with those of India’s Tata Steel. The…

Global stocks set fresh record high on business outlook, euro rises

NEW YORK, Nov 25 ― Major global and US stock indices set fresh all-time highs yesterday, buoyed by a bright business outlook and strong corporate earnings, while the economy’s strength in continental Europe lifted the euro to a two-month high…

‘Stealth hedging’ shows investors not so complacent

NEW YORK, Nov 25 ― With the US stock market at a record high and daily stock gyrations near multi-decade lows, some investors have raised concerns about the lack of fear in the market, but US equity options market data suggests investors are far…

China issues more 2017 oil import quotas to 3 independent refiners, say sources

BEIJING, Nov 25 ― China has issued crude oil import quotas for 2017 of 1.5 million tonnes to three independent refiners, three sources familiar with the situation said today, a sign Beijing is easing its policy towards these companies sometimes…

US stocks at records; euro gains on hopes of German political deal

NEW YORK: US stocks climbed to fresh records Friday on optimism about the holiday shopping season, while the euro surged following strong German economic data and on hopes that Europe's biggest economy would soon resolve a political crisis.

Both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq ended at all-time highs, with the S&P 500 topping 2,600 points for the first time, amid forecasts that US holiday sales could jump by four percent or more compared with the year-ago period.

“Holiday retail sales in 2017 are expected to rise 4.2 percent above last year, which would be the strongest growth rate since 2014,” said a note this week from IHS Markit.

Some early data has already suggested an uptick in online sales compared with the year-ago period, but “the question is — and will remain throughout the holiday selling season — how much of the online sales strength will come at the expense of in-store sales?” said analyst Patrick O'Hare.

Amazon jumped 2.6 percent as it announced a bevy of deals ahead of the “Cyber Monday” shopping day. Last year, the online retailer sold more than 64 million items on “Cyber Monday,” the day after the Thanksgiving weekend.

Others to gain included Macy's and Gap, although multipurpose retailing giant Target slumped 2.8%.

Both Paris and Frankfurt rose modestly, with the German stock index gaining 0.4% after the Ifo economic institute's German business climate index jumped to an all-time high in November, as companies shrugged off political uncertainty in Europe's booming top economy.

The German data also helped the euro, which surged back above US$1.1900 for the first time since September, boosted also by hopes that Germany was closer to resolving its political crisis. The Social Democrats said they were ready to hold talks with caretaker Chancellor Angela Merkel, in a sign they might offer the veteran leader their key support.

London's stock market dipped, bucking an upwards trend elsewhere, as 'Black Friday' price-slashing wooed customers but was expected to hurt the bottom line of Britain's biggest retailers.

The mood in London soured also on news that British consumer confidence, tracked by pollster YouGov and the Centre for Economics and Business Research, has slumped to the lowest level since just after last year's shock Brexit referendum.

Oil prices rose, with US benchmark West Texas Intermediate ending at its highest level since July 2015, on reports that Russia and OPEC leaders were close to an agreement to extend an agreement to limited production.

Key figures around 1815 GMT

New York – DOW: UP 0.1% at 23,557.99 (close)

New York – S&P 500: UP 0.2% at 2,602.42 (close)

New York – Nasdaq: UP 0.3% at 6,889.16 (close)

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.1% at 7,409.64 points (close)

Frankfurt – DAX 30: UP 0.4% at 13,059.84 (close)

Paris – CAC 40: UP 0.2% at 5,390.46 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.3% at 3,582.30

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.1% at 22,550.85 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.5% at 29,866.32 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.1% at 3,353.82 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at US$1.1925 from US$1.1851 at 2200 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at US$1.3324 from US$1.3309

Dollar/yen: UP at 111.55 yen from 111.22 yen

Oil – Brent North Sea: UP 31 cents five cents at US$63.86 per barrel

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP 93 cents at US$58.95 per barrel — AFP

Gas exporters call for ‘fair price’ at Bolivia summit

SANTA CRUZ DE LA SIERRA, Bolivia: Gas exporting countries, grappling with collapsed global markets, on Friday called for a “fair price” for the commodity after a summit in Bolivia.

The Gas Exporting Countries Forum seeks a “fair price for natural gas,” taking into account its environmental benefits and energy efficiency, a declaration said.

The price of natural gas is linked to that of petroleum and its derivatives and is down roughly 50% from peaks of three years ago — partly from rising shale gas production in the United States, which does not belong to the Forum.

Bolivian President Evo Morales, one of the last Latin American leftist leaders, said producers should combat “those who want to appropriate our resources through abusive price manipulation.”

In coming decades, the role of petroleum in the global energy mix will fall from 32% to 29% while gas will rise to 26% from 22%, Seyed Mohammad Hossein Adeli of Iran, the Forum's secretary general, told the group's opening session.

The 12-country group, which aims to strengthen collaboration among members, includes Venezuela, Russia and Qatar, the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas.

Forum members hold about 70% of global natural gas reserves. — AFP

S&P slashes South Africa rating further into ‘junk’

WASHINGTON: S&P Global Ratings lowered South Africa's credit rating further into “junk” territory on Friday, citing the country's deteriorating public finances and weak economic growth outlook.

S&P dropped South Africa long-term foreign currency sovereign rating to “BB” after having placed it higher in the speculative category at “BB+” in April.

“Weak GDP growth has led to further deterioration of South Africa's public finances beyond our previous expectations,” S&P said.

“We think the government will attempt to introduce offsetting measures in an effort to improve budgetary outcomes, but these may not be strong enough to stabilize public finances, and may weaken economic growth further in the near term.”

“In our view, economic decisions in recent years have largely focused on the distribution – rather than the growth – of national income,” S&P added. “As a consequence, South Africa's economy has stagnated and external competitiveness has eroded.”

S&P said its outlook on South Africa is “stable,” meaning credit metrics are not expected to change significantly over the next year.

S&P's move comes amid worsening economic data and as tensions rise within the African National Congress, which will choose a new party leader in December to replace President Jacob Zuma.

South Africa finance minister Malusi Gigaba in October slashed the country's GDP growth forecast for 2017 from 1.3% to just 0.7%, and revealed that by 2020, 15% of government revenue would be eaten up by debt repayment.

Zuma is accused of enriching a new corrupt elite rather than helping the poverty-stricken black majority.

The latest downgrading by S&P could spur additional foreign investment to flee South Africa. — AFP

Trump appoints new head of financial watchdog

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Friday appointed White House budget director Mick Mulvaney to head a financial watchdog that the administration has sought to overhaul as part of its deregulation push.

Mulvaney, who described the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) as a “sick, sad joke” in a 2014 interview, will serve as acting director until a permanent head is nominated and confirmed, according to a White House statement.

Richard Cordray, the first director of the CFPB who had long been in the banking industry's crosshairs, announced last week he would step down by the end of the month, several months early.

The Trump administration's decision to appoint Mulvaney sparked some confusion over the interim CFPB leadership, as Cordray had already named Leandra English — who was already part of the agency — as his de facto successor by naming her deputy director.

That move came hours before Trump tapped Mulvaney as the regulator's temporary leader.

Since the start of his presidency Trump has decried financial rules and regulations, put in place through the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform legislation, to combat the excesses that led to the 2008 financial crisis.

Trump's Treasury Department has produced three reports calling for a whittling down of rules imposed on mid-size banks, a scaling back of stress tests and a restructuring of the CFPB.

Republicans have long deemed the bureau, which was founded in 2011 under the administration of former president Barack Obama, too far outside political control.

Last month, the US Senate voted to terminate a rule created by the agency that would have allowed class-action suits against banks or credit card companies.

The rule would have addressed fine-print clauses that bank and credit card consumers must agree to which bar them from seeking redress through litigation.

The vote was criticized by many Democrats as a sop to Wall Street. — AFP

Buy rumour, sell news is hedge fund tack before Opec meeting

WASHINGTON, Nov 25 — The Opec buzz has once again sent Brent crude surging, but hedge funds are playing it cool. They reduced their bullish stance on the global benchmark for a second week as they brace for Opec’s market swings — where…

With expectations low, retailers declare victory on Black Friday

NEW YORK, Nov 25 — Brick-and-mortar retailers did enough things right on Black Friday to consider the event a success, even if the crowds of past years haven’t returned. Chains simplified promotions this year and took a keener eye to…