IAEA Team in Iran for Talks as Lawmakers Debate Oil Bill
By Ladane Nasseri - Jan 29, 2012 10:18 AM CT
International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors arrived in Tehran today for talks on Iran’s nuclear program while lawmakers drafted a ban on oil sales to Europe.
“We are looking forward to the start of a dialogue, a dialogue that’s overdue,” Chief Inspector Herman Nackaerts, who’s heading the six-member IAEA team, said in comments cited on the website of state-run Press TV. The delegation will stay in the country for three days, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told reporters in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.
Iran has been at loggerheads with western countries over accusations that the country is using its nuclear program as a cover for developing weapons, a charge the government denies. European Union foreign ministers agreed on Jan. 23 to ban Iranian oil imports starting in July and freeze the assets of the country’s central bank, the latest in a series of sanctions by the United Nations, U.S. and EU.
Iranian lawmakers responded by drafting legislation that calls on the government to halt oil exports to Europe as long as the import ban is in place. The bill would also require Iran to block imports from countries participating in the EU ban, Nasser Sodani, deputy head of the parliament’s energy commission said yesterday, according to the Fars news agency.
The draft was submitted to the parliament’s energy commission for review, state-run Mehr news agency reported, citing commission spokesman Emad Hosseini. The measure must be discussed with the government before it is formally proposed to the parliament, he said.
Prepared to Cut Supply.
“Given our previous search for new customers, we are as of now prepared to cut our oil supplies to Europe,” Ahmad Qalebani, managing director of National Iranian Oil Co., said today, according Oil Ministry website Shana.
Salehi said he is “very optimistic” about the IAEA team’s mission, which will include visits to some of the country’s nuclear sites.
“Right from the beginning we have indicated explicitly that Iran has never ever been after nuclear weapons,” Salehi said in Addis Ababa, where he is to take part in an African Union summit. said. “There is nothing dubious or ambiguous in our peaceful activities.”
The IAEA has confirmed that Iran hasn’t used its declared uranium stockpile to make weapons. However, in November it cited “credible” sources as saying that Iran has studied how to make a nuclear bomb.
Iran, which is under four sets of UN sanctions, has said that documents in the IAEA’s possession are forged. The government has in the past refused to address the nuclear- weapons allegations until it is allowed to examine the evidence.
‘Case to Answer’
“We have requested Iran to engage with us to clarify the decisions,” IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 27. “Iran has a case to answer.”
Iran will do “confidence building” with the agency and discuss its concerns about the safety of nuclear scientists, Mehdi Mehdizadeh a member of the parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, told Press TV.
Iran accuses the U.S. and Israel of targeting Iranian atomic scientists in an effort to halt Iran’s nuclear program. Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a deputy director of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in Isfahan province, was killed in a Tehran bombing on Jan. 11, the fourth prominent Iranian scientist to die in similar attacks, Iran says.
Iranian officials say that the IAEA has failed to protect the identity of some of its experts and they say that Roshan had recently met with the agency’s inspectors. The IAEA says it doesn’t know Roshan and didn’t release his name.
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Iran Said to Seek Yen Oil Payment From India Amid Tighter Global Sanctions
By Pratish Narayanan and Anto Antony - Jan 22, 2012 12:31 PM CT
Iran has asked India to pay for oil partly in yen as the two nations seek an agreement on how to maintain trade amid tightening global sanctions, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.
At talks in Tehran last week, India proposed to pay its second-biggest oil supplier in rupees through a bank account in the South Asian nation, said the people, declining to be identified because the information is confidential. Iranian officials sought partial payment in yen because they’re concerned that they may not get sufficient value from the rupee, which isn’t fully convertible, according to the people.
The nations have struggled to preserve $9.5 billion in annual crude trade after the Reserve Bank of India dismantled a mechanism used to settle payments in euros and dollars in December 2010. Transactions are currently routed through Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS (HALKB), based in Ankara, which has told Indian refiners it may no longer be able to be an intermediary, four people with knowledge of the matter said Jan. 10.
European Union foreign ministers meet in Brussels today to consider an oil embargo and additional financial sanctions on the country for its nuclear program. Iran is already under four rounds of UN Security Council sanctions. The U.S. and its allies say they suspect its nuclear program is a cover for developing atomic weapons, a charge Iran has repeatedly denied, maintaining it’s for civilian purposes.
The Indian rupee has fallen 9.7 percent in the past 12 months, the most among major Asian currencies, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Japan’s yen has strengthened 6.5 percent in the period, making it the best-performing currency in the region, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
India is exploring how it could pay Iran in yen, although a plan hasn’t been decided, the people said.
The Persian Gulf nation is studying the option of opening an account in an Indian bank, which can be used by refiners to deposit payments in rupees and fund its own imports from the South Asian country, they said.
India’s central bank needs to give its approval for Iran to open a local account, the people said. The Reserve Bank of India is considering options to solve the payments issue over Iranian oil, Deputy Governor K.C. Chakrabarty said on Jan. 20.
The Gulf nation is concerned that India’s entire crude oil bill can’t be paid through exports to Iran, the people said. Iran’s imports from India are worth about $2.5 billion a year, while its annual oil sales to the South Asian nation are valued at about $9.5 billion, the people said.
Iran also wants India to invest in non-strategic infrastructure projects in return for crude supplies, the people said.
Last month, Japan agreed to make $15 billion available to India in a currency swap arrangement as Europe’s deepening debt crisis threatened to curtail developing Asia’s access to dollar funding. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda renewed a bilateral swap agreement with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi on Dec. 28. The two nations had signed a $3 billion accord in June 2008 that had expired.
Singh discussed alternative financial conduits with Russian officials during his visit to Moscow in December. India, which got 11 percent of its crude imports from Iran last year, is exploring the option of making payments for Iranian crude through Russia’s Gazprombank OJSC (GZPR), though no deal has been reached, three of the people said Jan. 9.
Tensions with Iran have risen, with Vice President Reza Rahimi warning on Dec. 27 that Iran, the second-biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, after Saudi Arabia, may close the Strait of Hormuz if western nations block its crude oil sales.
A potential decision by the EU to freeze Iran’s central bank assets and impose a ban on Iranian oil imports requires unanimous backing among the bloc’s 27 nations. The embargo would hurt Greece, Italy and Spain, which depend on Iranian supplies and would need to find alternative sources.
U.S. President Barack Obama on Dec. 31 signed into law measures that deny access to the U.S. financial system to any foreign bank that conducts business with the central bank of Iran. The law includes language that allows the president to waive the sanctions if he determines they would threaten national security.
India opposes sanctions on Iran from anyone other than the United Nations, Ranjan Mathai, India’s foreign secretary, said Jan. 17. India continues to buy Iranian oil, he said.
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Roubini Sees ‘Significant’ Slowdown in China
By Margaret Brennan and Ye Xie - Jan 20, 2012 4:03 PM CT
Jan. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Nouriel Roubini, the New York University professor who predicted the 2008 financial crisis, and Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, talk about the outlook for the Chinese economy and China-U.S. relations. They speak on Bloomberg Television's "InBusiness With Margaret Brennan." (Source: Bloomberg)
Labors work at an Iron and Steel Enterprise on Dec. 1, 2011 in Huaibei, China. Photographer: ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images
China’s economy will slow in 2012, prompting policy makers to reduce interest rates and loosen lending restrictions, said Nouriel Roubini, the economist who predicted the 2008 financial crisis.
“It’s going to be a significant growth slowdown this year,” Roubini, co-founder of Roubini Global Economics LLC, said in a Bloomberg TV interview today. “Housing is deflating. Export growth is slowing down. If they don’t do something -- stimulus in monetary and fiscal credit -- the risk is that the growth will slow down well below 8 percent.”
China’s gross domestic product increased 9.2 percent last year, matching the slowest pace since 2002, as the housing market cooled and the European debt crisis eroded export demand. The central bank cut the amount banks must keep in reserve last month for the first time in three years, and the government has allowed its five biggest banks to boost first-quarter lending and may relax capital requirements, people with knowledge of the matter said this week.
The world’s second-largest economy, China will further reduce the reserve-requirement ratio for banks in the first half of this year and reduce benchmark rates for the first time since 2008 to “jump start the economy,” Roubini said. Growth below 8 percent will create “political noise” as China undergoes a leadership transition, he said.
China is in the midst of a planned shift in its ruling elite that will culminate late this year at the 18th Communist Party Congress. The meeting, which occurs every five years, will probably see Vice President Xi Jinping tapped as China’s next president and Li Keqiang, currently vice premier, put forward as prime minister.
Roubini, a professor at New York University, predicted the U.S. housing bubble before the market peaked in 2006, while failing to foresee a rebound in global stocks in 2009.
Home prices fell last month in 52 of 70 Chinese cities from November, according to government data released on Jan. 18. Exports increased 13.4 percent in December from a year earlier, slowing from 24.5 percent in August, according to customs bureau data.
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Energy-hungry Asian economies look to keep Iranian oil flowing in wake of US sanctions
By Associated Press, Published: January 6
BEIJING — China, the biggest buyer of Iran’s oil, has publicly rejected U.S. sanctions aimed at Tehran’s energy industry while American allies Japan and South Korea are scrambling to find a compromise to keep critical supplies flowing.
Beijing is buying less Iranian crude this month, but analysts say China is unlikely to support an oil embargo. Instead, they say, the smaller purchases might be a tactic aimed at obtaining lower prices as the West squeezes Tehran.
.The sanctions approved by President Barack Obama on New Year’s Eve have highlighted the importance of Iranian oil supplies to East Asia’s energy-hungry economies. They have led to a clash of interests between Washington and key commercial and strategic partners over efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear program.
“We are considering our response and are closely discussing the matter with the U.S.,” a Japanese Foreign Ministry official, Kazuhiro Kawase, said Friday.
A South Korean foreign ministry spokesman said this week Seoul is in talks with Washington aimed at “minimizing the negative impacts” of sanctions. South Korea imports 97 percent of its oil and depends on Iran for up to 10 percent of its supplies.
China’s foreign ministry rejected the sanctions this week and called for negotiations, leaving unclear whether Beijing might defy Washington, straining relations between the world’s biggest and second-biggest economies.
“Sanctioning is not the correct approach to easing tensions,” said a ministry spokesman, Hong Lei. “China opposes the placing of one’s domestic law above international law and imposing unilateral sanctions on other countries.”
U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is due to visit Beijing and Tokyo next week for talks that officials say will include the sanctions.
China could be the toughest part of Washington’s thorny diplomatic challenge as it tries to enforce the sanctions. The fast-growing Chinese economy is the world’s biggest energy consumer and imports half its oil.
The sanctions target financial institutions that do business with Iran’s central bank by barring them from opening or maintaining correspondent operations in the United States. It would apply to foreign central banks only for transactions that involve the sale or purchase of petroleum or petroleum products.
Japanese and South Korean institutions, with a bigger U.S. presence, would be more exposed to such penalties. But Chinese institutions also do business in the United States and Beijing might see such restrictions as interference in its foreign affairs.
About 11 percent of China’s oil imports in 2011 came from Iran, or about 560,000 barrels per day, a flow that increased in the latter half of the year, according to oil industry analysts Argus Media. The daily average for November was 617,000 barrels, close to a third of Iran’s total oil exports of 2.2 million barrels a day, Argus said.
Analysts say China would have a tough time replacing that supply.
“China is the biggest buyer of the Iranian oil. How could China stop buying just because of the sanctions?” said Zhu Feng, a Peking University specialist in international relations.
U.S. Defense Strategy Plan Focuses on Thwarting China, Iran
By Roxana Tiron - Jan 4, 2012 3:03 AM CT .
...The U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines must combine resources to thwart any efforts by countries such as China and Iran to block America’s access to the South China Sea, the Persian Gulf and other strategic regions, according to a draft of a Pentagon review.
The military services must work more cooperatively to pool their intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities and cyber-security tools, as well as operational concepts, the review is expected to say, according to an administration official familiar with the review who asked not to be identified.
The U.S. should be able to deter any emerging anti-access capabilities such as the diesel attack submarines being developed by China and the anti-ship ballistic missiles deployed by China and Iran, and if necessary, defeat them, said the administration official.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is due to unveil the review tomorrow, setting policy priorities in addressing about $490 billion in budget cuts over the next decade.
The review is expected to conclude that the U.S. no longer will engage in protracted large-scale stabilization operations, as it has in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it won’t have sufficient forces to fight two major conflicts at the same time, according to the official.
Rather, the U.S. will be able to fight in one major conflict and have the ability to deploy forces to deter another potential adversary from pursuing another major conflict, said the official.
With an expected reduction in active duty personnel, the strategy will seek to emphasize more rapid availability of National Guard and reserve forces for major conflicts. The current plan calls for reducing the force in 2015 and 2016 by 27,000 GIs and by as many as 20,000 Marines. The projections were based on the U.S. military leaving Iraq, which occurred at the end of last year, and significantly reducing U.S. forces in Afghanistan by 2014. Panetta may announce deeper reductions.
The strategy is expected to maintain a commitment to ballistic missile defense and nuclear deterrence, according to the official.
The review also will include language that emphasizes the role of political and diplomatic efforts in deterring conflicts.
President Barack Obama in November announced steps to expand trade and military cooperation with Asia-Pacific nations that share U.S. concerns over China’s currency and intellectual property policies and territorial claims, such as potential oil- rich areas and trade routes in the South China Sea.
The administration’s foreign policy strategy is being refocused on Asia as Obama wraps up wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama’s national security adviser, Tom Donilon, said in November that the U.S. strategy in Asia “has nothing to do with isolating or containing anybody.” Discussions during a meeting between Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in November “briefly” touched on the South China Sea, where territorial disputes have raised tensions between China and its neighbors.
“China sticks to the path of peaceful development and is always a force in maintaining regional and world peace,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular briefing in Beijing today in response to a question about the U.S. strategy. He said he had not seen the draft and that China and the U.S. must work together. “Cooperation is the only way,” he said.
While Chinese officials generally downplay offensive intentions, Iranians have threatened to use military force to block oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz in the event of an oil embargo or full conflict with the U.S. over its nuclear program.
The state-run Fars news agency yesterday cited the head of Iran’s army, Ataollah Salehi, as “warning” the U.S. not to return an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf. Pentagon spokesman George Little said the deployment of ships in the region “will continue as it has for decades.”
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U.S. Employment Probably Picked Up in Dec.
By Timothy R. Homan - Dec 31, 2011 11:01 PM CT .
Employment in U.S. Stagnated in August Matthew Staver/Bloomberg
job seekers look at job listings at the Denver Workforce Center, in Denver, Colorado, U.S. The unemployment rate was projected to hold at 9.1 percent, according to the survey median. Estimates ranged from 9 percent to 9.2 percent.
job seekers look at job listings at the Denver Workforce Center, in Denver, Colorado, U.S. The unemployment rate was projected to hold at 9.1 percent, according to the survey median. Estimates ranged from 9 percent to 9.2 percent. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg
QDec. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Hugh Johnson, chairman of Hugh Johnson Advisors LLC, talks about the outlook for the U.S. labor market and economy. Fewer Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits over the past month than at any time in the past three years. Johnson speaks with Matt Miller on Bloomberg Television's "Bottom Line." (Source: Bloomberg)
QDec. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Michael Feder, chief executive officer of Radar Logic Inc., talks about the U.S. housing market. He speaks with Matt Miller on Bloomberg Television's "Bottom Line." (Source: Bloomberg)
QDec. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Steven Wieting, head of economic and market analysis at Citigroup Inc., talks about the outlook for the U.S. economy. Wieting also discusses the U.S. labor and housing markets, and fiscal policy. He speaks with Adam Johnson on Bloomberg Television's "Street Smart." (Source: Bloomberg)
QDec. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Charles Lieberman, chief investment officer at Advisors Capital Management, talks about the U.S. housing market. Lieberman also discusses his investment strategy for housing-related shares and the possible impact of Europe's sovereign debt crisis on the U.S. economy. He speaks with Adam Johnson and Deirdre Bolton on Bloomberg Television's "Street Smart." (Source: Bloomberg)
QDec. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Michael Pento, president of Pento Portfolio Strategies, talks about the outlook for the U.S. economy and interest rates and investment strategy. Pento speaks with Pimm Fox on Bloomberg Television's "Surveillance Midday." (Source: Bloomberg)
QDec. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Charles Biderman, chief executive officer at TrimTabs Investment Research, talks about the outlook for the U.S. economy and stock market. Biderman, speaking with Pimm Fox on Bloomberg Television's "Surveillance Midday," also discusses investment strategy. (Source: Bloomberg)
.Hiring probably accelerated in December for a second month, a sign an improving U.S. labor market will bolster consumer spending in early 2012, economists said before a report this week.
Payrolls climbed by 150,000 workers after rising 120,000 in November, according to the median forecast of 62 economists in a Bloomberg News survey before Labor Department data on Jan. 6. The unemployment rate rose last month after reaching the lowest level in more than two years, the report may also show.
More jobs are needed to sustain the rebound in confidence that has propelled household purchases, which account for about 70 percent of the world’s largest economy. At the same time, the financial crisis in Europe and political gridlock in the U.S. may be inhibiting even bigger employment gains, indicating a prolonged drop in joblessness will take time to emerge.
“We continue to make steady progress,” said Jonathan Basile, an economist at Credit Suisse in New York. “There’s still a very high level of unemployment despite the improvement that we’re seeing. There’s still a long way to go.”
The jobless rate (USURTOT) increased to 8.7 percent in December from 8.6 percent the prior month, the lowest since March 2009, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed.
Employers added 1.45 million workers last year through November, bringing job losses since the recession started in December 2007 to 6.28 million, according to Labor Department figures. The projected gain in payrolls would bring the average for July through December to 135,000, compared with 131,000 in the first six months of the year.
The employment report may also show private employment, which excludes government jobs, climbed 170,000 after a 140,000 gain in November.
“Sales are robust, merchandise margins are strong, operating margins are growing,” Alexander Smith, chief executive officer of Fort Worth, Texas-based Pier 1 Imports Inc. (PIR), said on a Dec. 15 conference call with analysts. “There’s going to be a little more hiring in the first part of the year without a doubt.”
Shares rose in the last quarter of 2011 as the economy showed signs of weathering the European debt crisis. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index increased 11 percent over the past three months. For all of last year, the gauge was little changed.
Bigger job gains than those generated in 2011 may be needed to reduce unemployment. The jobless rate has exceeded 8.5 percent since March 2009, the longest stretch of such levels since monthly records began in 1948.
Jobless Rate ‘Elevated’
That’s one reason policy makers remain concerned. “While indicators point to some improvement in overall labor market conditions, the unemployment rate remains elevated,” Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and other members of the Federal Open Market Committee said in a statement at the conclusion of a meeting last month in Washington.
Other reports this week may show manufacturing and construction picked up, economists said.
The Institute for Supply Management’s factory index (NAPMPMI) climbed to a six-month high of 53.4 in December, economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected ahead of a Jan. 3 report. Readings above 50 indicate expansion.
A Jan. 5 report from the same group will show service industries (NAPMNMI) expanded in December at the fastest pace in three months. The ISM’s non-manufacturing index climbed to 53 from 52 in November, according to the survey median.
American manufacturers also saw orders increase nearing the end of 2011. Bookings (TMNOCHNG) for factory goods climbed 2 percent in November, according to economists surveyed before a Jan. 4 report from the Commerce Department.
Spending on construction projects (CNSTTMOM) advanced 0.4 percent in November amid signs of improvement in the housing market, economists said ahead of Jan. 3 figures from the Commerce Department. That would be the fourth straight monthly gain, matching the longest streak since late 2010.