Saturday, December 16th, 2017


CFTC warns of bitcoin-futures dangers, after allowing them

WASHINGTON, Dec 16 — Bitcoin is going mainstream via the futures market, and the US regulator that allowed it to happen has a message: Buyer beware. The US Commodity Futures Trading Commission issued a statement yesterday detailing “the…

Oil hovers below 2-year highs with focus on U.S. output

NEW YORK (Dec 16): Oil prices were mixed on Friday, lingering below two-year highs as the continuing outage of a North Sea pipeline gave support,…

New Yorkers plead guilty to ‘movie-like’ bank heists

NEW YORK: Four New Yorkers have pleaded guilty to blow-torching their way into bank vaults and making off with more than US$5 million in burglaries likened to a Hollywood movie, US officials said Friday.

Michael Mazzara, 45, Charles Kerrigan, 42, and Anthony Mascuzzio, 38, assisted by Christopher Kerrigan, 40, stole more than US$5 million, (RM20 million) in cash, jewelry, collectables, and other valuables from bank vaults and safe boxes, prosecutors said.

The burglaries took place in Brooklyn and Queens in April and May last year. All four pleaded guilty at separate Manhattan federal court hearings and will be sentenced next year, prosecutors said. They face the prospect of years behind bars.

“Like a scene from a movie, these defendants used blow torches to cut into bank roofs, and subsequently vaults and safe deposit boxes, to steal more than US$5 million in cash and customer valuables,” said acting Manhattan US Attorney Joon Kim.

The defendants cut through the banks' roofs and vaults with acetylene torches — targeting an HSBC bank in Brooklyn and a Maspeth Federal Savings Bank branch in Queens. In Queens, they hid their crimes by building a plywood shed on the roof.

Breaking open deposit boxes, they snatched more than US$600,000 in cash and more than US$4.3 million in diamonds, jewelry and other valuables, prosecutors said.

At the time of their arrest in July 2016, New York's then police commissioner Bill Bratton likened the burglaries to scenes from the movie “Heat”, calling their work “well organized, meticulous and elusive to law enforcement”.

The 1995 film, starring Robert de Niro and Al Pacino, follows a group of hardened bank robbers who mistakenly leave behind a clue. — AFP

Some Canada exporters say NAFTA talks impacting business

OTTAWA: Nearly one in four Canadian exporters believes the tense ongoing renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement is impacting operations, according to a poll released Friday.

“Canadian exporters have many reasons to be fearful and to pivot their business strategies right now,” said Export Development Canada, the public agency which published the results.

“Anti-trade rhetoric continues to dominate the headlines; major trade agreements are being renegotiated or scuttled and there's a real-time threat to Canada's relationship with its largest trading partner,” Canada's export credit agency said, referring to the United States.

The survey showed that 23% of Canadian businesses said they were “feeling negatively” about negotiations to rewrite NAFTA, the free trade agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico.

Faced with the situation, 26% of the companies surveyed are planning to transfer parts of their activities.

Nearly a quarter of companies are trying to diversify their exports or investments outside of North America, while 14% are postponing their investments and 13 percent their hires.

And with the Canada-EU CETA agreement entering into force in Sept, 18 percent of companies say they are developing new products, services or production processes for Europe, while 15% say they are increasing their production to augment export volumes. — AFP

Chaos-plagued Berlin airport won’t open before 2020

BERLIN: German authorities said Friday that Berlin's new international airport would not open before 2020, eight years behind schedule for a project that has become an enduring political scandal and national laughing stock.

Planners said after a committee meeting they were confident they now had a viable roadmap to address the technical defects that have plagued in particular the ultramodern new main terminal of the BER airport.

“With today's supervisory board meeting we are starting the last phase of the completion of the terminal and thus of the opening of BER,” airport chief Engelbert Luetke Daldrup said.

Daldrup called the new opening date target of October 2020 “credible and reliable” but acknowledged that the six-billion-euro (RM28 billion) price tag would, as widely expected, continue to rise.

Supervisory board chief Rainer Bretschneider said in a statement that the new deadline would lend momentum to the efforts to address outstanding technical problems.

“Now we need to win back lost trust,” he said.

The BER airport was set to open in 2012 but has become a planning disaster and a running joke for Berliners, while tarnishing Germany's reputation for engineering prowess and punctuality.

The troubled project has sparked repeated disputes between the capital city Berlin, its neighbouring state of Brandenburg and the federal government, as well as with architectural and engineering firms involved.

The airport's construction, which started in 2006, has been marred in particular by serious flaws with the fire safety and smoke extraction systems, as well as problems with the roof of the sprawling main terminal building.

As the site sits empty, support has grown to keep open the smaller Tegel airport it is meant to replace.

Berliners voted in Sept to keep open the Cold War-era facility, which has long been marked for closure.

The referendum was not legally binding, but it heightened the political pressure in a protracted dispute which many locals wonder whether they will ever see the end of. — AFP

US stocks push to fresh records as Trump tax cut nears finish line

NEW YORK: Wall Street stocks pushed to fresh records Friday as key congressional holdouts on a US tax cut proposal signaled their support, pushing the long-awaited measure closer to the finish line.

All three major US equity indices rocketed to all-time highs as Republican leaders appeared poised at last to hand President Donald Trump a major win.

The progress on the tax bill also boosted the dollar. Equity markets elsewhere were mixed, with London and Frankfurt rising and Paris and Tokyo pulling back.

After a week filled with announcements by major central banks, markets' attention refocused on Capitol Hill after Thursday when US stocks fell on reports that Republican Senator Marco Rubio threatened to oppose the tax cut measure.

But party power brokers tweaked the proposal to satisfy Rubio's demand that it benefit more middle- and low-income taxpayers.

Republican Senator Bob Corker, who opposed an earlier version of the proposal, also said he would support the final measure.

“As the progress continues, this is a market that continues to reward that progress,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.

“This feels like there's a lot of enthusiasm about tax reform getting to the endzone.”

Since President Donald Trump was elected last year, Wall Street has viewed tax reform as Washington's biggest priority because it would immediately boost corporate profits and was seen as a means to generate faster economic growth.

The bill has progressed in Congress without support from Democrats and some polls have shown weak public support for the measure, in part because of charges that it is a giveaway to the rich that could explode the deficit.

The momentum behind tax reform also helped lift the dollar.

The greenback's upward move was especially strong against the British pound, which tumbled against major currencies as European Union leaders agreed to open the next stage of Brexit talks, which are expected to be tough.

“The formal shift from phase 1 to phase 2 of negotiations between the UK and EU only intensified the pound's Brexit migraine this Friday,” said Connor Campbell of Spreadex Ltd.

“What we just went through was meant to be the easy part,” Campbell added.

“Now, the UK heads into the New Year facing an 'even tougher' (Angela Merkel) and 'significantly harder'(Jean-Claude Juncker) set of Brexit talks, as the country tries to work out what its future trade relationship will look like with the EU while desperately seeking avoid a 'no deal' scenario by the 29 March 2019 divorce deadline.”

Key figures around 2200 GMT , (6am Malaysia time)

New York – DOW: UP 0.6 % at 24,651.74 (close)

New York – S&P 500: UP 0.9 % at 2,675.81 (close)

New York – Nasdaq: UP 1.2 % at 6,936.58 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.6 % at 7,490.57 (close)

Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 0.2 % at 5,349.30 (close)

Frankfurt – DAX 30: UP 0.3 % at 13,103.56 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.1 % at 3,560.53

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.6 % at 22,553.22 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 1.1 % at 28,848.11 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.8 % at 3,266.14 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at US$1.1755, (RM4.80) from US$1.1776

Pound/dollar: DOWN at US$1.3323 from US$1.3431

Dollar/yen: UP at 112.63 yen (RM4.08) from 112.34 yen

Oil – Brent North Sea: DOWN 8 cents at US$63.23 per barrel

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP 26 cents at US$57.30 per barrel — AFP

Japan eyes US$46b defence budget to counter N. Korea

TOKYO: Japan plans a record US$46 billion (RM187 billion) defence budget for the next fiscal year to strengthen its missile defence against the threat posed by North Korea, a report said Saturday.

The government is expected to set aside 5.19 trillion yen for defence in the country's initial budget proposal for the fiscal year starting April 2018, the Nikkei daily said.

It will mark the sixth straight year of increases in defence outlays, topping the 5.12 trillion yen budget for the current fiscal year, the business daily said.

Much of the increase will go on protecting Japan against North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile development, the newspaper said.

The extra funding will cover the cost of preparations for introducing the US military's Aegis Ashore land-based missile interceptor system, the Nikkei said.

Last week Japan's defence minister, Itsunori Onodera, said the country plans to purchase long-range cruise missiles with a range of some 900km from US firms.

The move is controversial as Japan's pacifist constitution bans the use of force as a means of settling international disputes.

Global anxiety about North Korea has steadily risen this year, with Washington calling on other UN members to cut ties with Pyongyang in order to squeeze the secretive regime.

The call, however, has fallen short of persuading key North Korean backers China and Russia to take steps to isolate the regime. — AFP

Eye on Stock: Malaysia Airports

Eye on Stock: Malaysia Airports

MALAYSIA Airports Holdings Bhd (Code: 5014) looks to be making a year-end attempt to break out of the consolidation mode it has been trapped in since June 5.

BNM to halt scheme of higher deposit rates for exporters

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 15): Malaysia’s central bank said it will discontinue a special deposit facility for exporters from next year, rolling back a measure that…

Bursa M’sia may take a breather next week

KUALA LUMPUR: Bursa Malaysia is still within the uptrend channel but after the steep rally over the past few trading days, stocks on the local front may take a breather next week, said Hong Leong Investment Bank (HLIB).

Any pullback on the benchmark FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI (FBM KLCI) will be deemed as healthy for short-term accumulation decision.

“Stocks on the local front may take a breather over the near term as the FBM KLCI is slightly overbought.

“Also, tracking the negative performance on the overnight Wall Street, we think profit-taking activities may emerge on selected heavyweights,” it said in a note.

Nevertheless, it said traders may turn to small caps and lower liner laggards with an oversold signal for short-term rebound trading opportunities.

Meanwhile, AllianceDBS Research said Malaysian equities remain attractive.

“After underperforming regional markets in 2017, the FBM KLCI is trading inexpensively near its mean price earnings of 15.0 times.

“With earnings recovery gaining traction, preference for equity over fixed income investment in rising interest rate environment and recovering foreign flow, we see better days ahead for Malaysian equities in 2018,” it said.

On a Friday-to-Friday comparison, the FBM KLCI gained 31.82 points to 1,753.07 from 1,721.25, with the market being mostly influenced by the US Dow Jones Industrial Average index that continuously scaled new highs in a four-day rally.

The FBM Emas Index surged 243.44 points to 12,588.84, the FBMT 100 Index increased 187.39 points to 12,256.85, the FBM Emas Shariah Index trimmed 29.42 points to 12,890.73, the FBM 70 bagged 20.23 points to 15,460.71, and the FBM Ace added 116.79 points to 6,428.42.

On a sectoral basis, the Finance Index soared 597.47 points to 16,586.51, the Plantation Index shed 45.97 points to 7,810.11, while the Industrial Index advanced 30.85 points to 3,180.16.

Total turnover jumped to 11.07 billion units worth RM13.65 billion from 8.86 billion units worth RM12.05 billion last week.

Main Market volume improved to 7.09 billion shares worth RM12.96 billion up to 6.05 billion shares worth RM11.60 billion.

Warrants turnover was lower at 974.17 million units worth RM126.08 million against last week's 982.47 million units worth RM134.08 million.

The ACE Market expanded to 2.95 billion shares worth RM546.69 million from 1.80 billion shares worth RM822.99 million transacted previously.

The gold futures contract on Bursa Malaysia Derivatives is likely to trade cautiously as traders await the US tax reform outcome for more indication on market direction, said a dealer.

Phillip Futures Sdn Bhd Dealer Leo Goh Boon Hao said the pessimism over the US tax reforms had caused traders to adopt a safe stance on the bullion.

“In the week ahead, market participants are awaiting the US Congress' vote on the tax reform bill, and any obstacles would propel the gold price,” he told Bernama.

For the week just ended, the local gold price overall traded mostly higher, with the Federal Reserve's interest rate hike being a catalyst for the surging demand for safe-haven assets by traders.

On a Friday-to-Friday basis, December 2017 and January 2018 rose 24 ticks each to RM166.10 a gramme and RM166.50 a gramme, respectively.

Meanwhile, February 2018 and March 2018 increased 28 ticks each to RM167.20 a gramme and RM167.90 a gramme, respectively.

Weekly turnover decreased to 18 lots worth RM280,320 from 47 lots worth RM786,640 last week, while open interest on Friday was higher at 105 versus 102 contracts previously. — Bernama