U.S. stocks advanced, following yesterday’s decline in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, amid better-than-estimated earnings at companies from AT&T Inc. to 3M (MMM) Co. and as data indicated the housing market is stabilizing.
AT&T, the largest U.S. telephone company, and 3M, the maker of Post-it Notes, increased at least 2 percent. International Business Machines Corp., the world’s biggest computer-services provider, gained 1.2 percent after boosting its stock-buyback plan by $7 billion and raising its dividend. A measure of homebuilders in S&P indexes climbed 2.4 percent. Apple Inc. (AAPL) retreated 2.3 percent ahead of its quarterly result。
April 24 (Bloomberg) -- Bloomberg's Scarlet Fu reports futures are higher and European stocks are rebounding after yesterday's selloff. She speaks on Bloomberg Television's "Inside Track." (Source: Bloomberg)
April 24 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. stock futures advanced, indicating the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index will gain for a second time in three days, as investors awaited reports on home sales and consumer confidence in the world’s largest economy. (Source: Bloomberg)
April 24 (Bloomberg) -- Brian Jacobsen, chief portfolio strategist at Wells Fargo Advantage Funds, talks about his forecast for the Standard & Poor's 500 Index and market drivers. Jacobsen speaks with Betty Liu, Dominic Chu and Josh Lipton on Bloomberg Television's "In the Loop." (Source: Bloomberg)
The S&P 500 rose 0.3 percent to 1,370.73 at 1:02 p.m. New York time, paring a gain of 0.6 percent as technology shares slumped. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 77.19 points, or 0.6 percent, to 13,004.36. Trading in S&P 500 companies was 2.5 percent above the 30-day average this time of day.
“Stocks have room to move higher,” said David Kelly, who helps oversee about $394 billion as chief market strategist at JPMorgan Funds in New York. “Earnings are healthy. The bar has been lowered so far that you can just walk over it. Housing is on the mend. A sign of a market top is when people are exuberant. There’s no exuberance as witnessed yesterday.”
Stocks rebounded from yesterday’s slump, extending this year’s rally in the S&P 500 to 9 percent. Earnings per share beat forecasts at 82 percent of S&P 500 companies that reported results since April 10, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Per-share profits grew 3.3 percent in the first-quarter, Bloomberg data show. That’s up from the 0.8 percent growth projection before the earnings season started.
Economic optimism helped fuel gains today as new home sales data indicated that cheaper borrowing costs are helping stabilize the real estate market. Federal Open Market Committee members begin a two-day meeting today and policy makers tomorrow will probably repeat their plan to keep the benchmark interest rate low at least through late 2014, economists say.
All 11 stocks in an S&P index of homebuilders gained. D.R. Horton Inc., the largest U.S. homebuilder by volume, rose 3.3 percent to $15.56. KB Home increased 4.6 percent to $7.92.
Phone shares had the biggest gain among 10 S&P 500 groups, rallying 2.5 percent. AT&T (T) added 3.5 percent to $31.68. Earnings beat estimates on lower smartphone upgrade costs and an increase in wireless data sales related to Apple’s iPad. AT&T activated 4.3 million iPhones, up from 3.6 million a year earlier and down from a record 7.6 million in the fourth quarter.
Peter Misek, at Jefferies & Co., says both AT&T and Verizon Communications Inc.’s results imply estimates for Apple are high. On average, the analysts surveyed by Bloomberg forecast profit of $10.03 a share.
Apple declined 2.3 percent to $558.76 today, dropping for a fifth straight day. Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. won a partial U.S. International Trade Commission judge’s ruling in its bid to block imports of Apple’s devices including the iPhone and iPad tablet computer.
The shares dipped below the 50-day average yesterday and a weekly close below that level may signal a decline of as much as 19 percent from a record high, according to Peter Lee, the New York-based chief technical analyst for UBS. Should Apple fail to hold above its 50-day average, it may trigger a retreat to as low as $515, he said.
“Violation of this level on a weekly closing basis opens the door for a deeper correction,” he wrote yesterday. “To convince traders to return, AAPL needs to rally” above $600 at least, he said, referring to the stock’s ticker.
3M increased 2 percent to $88.84. The U.S. market drove sales at the industrial and transportation unit, the largest division at 3M. Operating profit slumped 29 percent at the display and graphics business, which serves the manufacturers of liquid crystal display televisions with optical films.
IBM (IBM) gained 1.2 percent to $201.03. The quarterly payout will rise 10 cents to 85 cents a share, Armonk, New York-based IBM said today in a statement before a shareholder meeting in North Charleston, South Carolina. IBM had $5.7 billion remaining from a previous buyback plan, bringing the total available for repurchases to $12.7 billion.
Ford Motor Co. (F) rallied 1.1 percent to $11.47. Fitch Ratings raised its credit rating to investment grade, ending six years of so-called junk status for the automaker. Returning to investment grade with Fitch and other ratings companies is one of Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally’s goals. That would reduce Ford’s borrowing costs and permit it to recover collateral, including the company’s blue oval logo, used to obtain financing that enabled Ford to avoid bankruptcy.
Big Lots Inc. (BIG) plunged 21 percent, the most in the S&P 500, to $36.04. The discontinued-merchandise retailer with more than 1,400 U.S. stores reduced its fiscal first-quarter sales forecast amid lower demand for electronics.
Netflix Inc. (NFLX) tumbled 14 percent to $87.90. The world’s largest video-subscription service projected a slowdown in growth of U.S. streaming customers.
Symantec Corp. (SYMC) sank 11 percent to $16.17. The maker of computer security software reduced its sales and profit forecast for the fiscal fourth quarter, citing an increase in contracts with deferred revenue.
Companies’ failure to boost forecasts for future profits and sales will weigh on the S&P 500 as investors project slower growth, according to Barclays Plc’s Barry Knapp.
Knapp predicts the S&P 500 will end the year at 1,330, 4 percent below the average forecast of 11 strategists surveyed by Bloomberg as of April 16. He forecasts combined profit by S&P 500 companies will be $103 a share this year. Analysts that cover companies in the index estimate earnings of $104.86 in 2012 and $118.06 in 2013, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“Guidance is not moving higher and as a result, even where companies are beating estimates, the stocks still aren’t going up,” Knapp, the New York-based head of equity strategy at Barclays, said in a radio interview on “Bloomberg Surveillance” with Tom Keene. “If the guidance doesn’t move up, if the revenue’s missed, really what you’re discounting in terms of the growth outlook is not all that great.”
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ndia to test missile capable of reaching Beijing
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By Simon Denyer, Updated: Wednesday, April 18, 11:08 AM
NEW DELHI — India announced plans Wednesday to test-launch a long-range missile that could carry a nuclear warhead as far as China’s capital, Beijing, for the first time.
Officials and defense experts said that if the Agni-V missile test proved successful, it would mark a significant improvement in India’s nuclear deterrent capability and strengthen its hand in a hostile neighborhood, where the country is sandwiched between nuclear-armed rivals Pakistan and China.
The test-launch window for the missile, which is capable of carrying a 1.5-ton warhead at least 3,100 miles, closes Friday, officials said, adding that deployment could follow in two to three years.
“It will be a quantum leap in India’s strategic capability,” said Ravi Gupta, a spokesman for India’s Defense Research and Development Organization, which built the missile.
India has a “no first use” policy that commits it to use nuclear weapons only if attacked, and defense experts say the Agni-V would help make that threat of massive retaliation more credible.
“We are located in one of the most complex and adversarial WMD environments in the world, by virtue of our geography,” said retired Commodore C. Uday Bhaskar of the National Maritime Foundation, referring to weapons of mass destruction. “This makes India’s deterrent capability more robust and more credible, and your ‘no first use’ commitment is also made more credible.”
India fought a brief border war with China in 1962, and relations have remained mutually wary since then. Although bilateral trade is growing, the two countries still contest vast swaths of territory along their Himalayan border.
India has become the world’s largest arms buyer as it embarks on a major modernization of its armed forces, and its navy took command of a Russian nuclear submarine this year.
The new Agni, which is the Hindi word for fire, is seen as part of this military buildup, and although China’s nuclear-missile capability is far greater than India’s, experts said the new missile would help redress the imbalance.
“If you are in a hostile environment, power respects power,” Bhaskar said.
The planned test, on Wheeler Island off India’s eastern coast, comes just days after a failed long-range rocket launch by North Korea, although India is unlikely to face the kind of international condemnation that was directed at Pyongyang. North Korean officials called their launch a peaceful bid to send an observation satellite into space, but the United States and other countries said it was a covert test of long-range nuclear missile technology.
Some experts characterized the Agni-V as an intercontinental ballistic missile, which would make India one of the few countries to have that capability, but Gupta said its range falls short of that category.
Currently, the longest-range Indian missile, the Agni-III, can travel about 2,100 miles, which puts most major Chinese cities beyond its reach. The Agni-V was built at a reported cost of almost $500 million and can be used to carry multiple warheads or to launch satellites into orbit.
“It is India’s dream missile — I call it a game changer,” V.K. Saraswat, head of the Defense Research and Development Organization, told Times Now television. “It is going to completely change the scenario with respect to our strategic defense.”
Shadow Banks on Trial as China’s Rich Sister Faces Death
By Bloomberg News - Apr 11, 2012 2:24 AM CT
When a Chinese court sentenced 28- year-old Wu Ying, known as “Rich Sister,” to death for taking $55.7 million from investors without paying them back, it sparked an unexpected firestorm that has drawn in China’s top leadership.
Her crime involved a common, illegal practice in China: raising money from the public with promises to pay back high interest rates. Known as shadow banking, these underground lending and investing networks are estimated to total $1.3 trillion, according to Ren Xianfang, an economist with IHS Global Insight Ltd. (IHS) in Beijing. That’s the size of the 2011 U.S. government deficit.
Chinese businesswoman Wu Ying who was accused of illegally raising funds and defrauding investors during a trial at the Intermediate Peoples Court of Jinhua in Jinhua city, east Chinas Zhejiang province, 16 April 2009. Photograph: Imaginechina via AP Images
April 4 (Bloomberg) -- China needs to break a banking "monopoly" of a few big lenders that make easy profits because it’s hard to borrow money elsewhere, Premier Wen Jiabao said. The country can extend nationwide the successful parts of a pilot program in Wenzhou in Zhejiang province that allows private financing, including non-bank lending, Wen said yesterday, as cited by China National Radio. Caroline Hyde reports on Bloomberg Television's "First Look." (Source: Bloomberg)
Chinese businesswoman Wu Ying who was accused of illegally raising funds and defrauding investors weeps during a trial at the Intermediate Peoples Court of Jinhua in Jinhua city, east Chinas Zhejiang province, 16 April 2009. Photograph: Imaginechina via AP Images
Wen Jiabao, China's premier. Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg
Operating outside the banking system or government regulation, the informal networks provide an important source of economic growth, capital for private companies and return for investors seeking to beat inflation. Premier Wen Jiabao, in an unusual move, weighed in on the Wu case at a March 14 news conference. His comments highlighted a public debate over the importance of shadow banking to the Chinese economy, government efforts to bring it under control -- and whether capital punishment is an effective means to do so.
“Chinese companies, especially small ones, need access to funds,” Wen said when asked about Wu’s case. “Banks have yet to be able to meet those companies’ needs, and there is a massive amount of idle private capital. We need to bring private finance out into the open.”
Unfairly Singled Out
Wu’s lawyer says his client, now 30, was unfairly singled out and is no different from the estimated 42 million Chinese business owners who rely on the shadow-banking system for financing when they cannot get loans from state-owned banks. The Supreme People’s Court is reviewing the 2009 verdict and will decide as early as this month whether Wu Ying lives or dies.
“Entrepreneurs are paying attention to it because today’s Wu Ying could be any of them tomorrow,” the lawyer, Yang Zhaodong, said in an interview in Beijing last month. “There are so many of them doing the same thing Wu Ying did. This case not only relates to Wu’s life, but to whether China’s legal and judicial system is fair.”
Shadow banking has been fueled by a two-year credit squeeze in China and by large, state-owned banks’ preference for lending to government-run companies rather than small businesses. Private entrepreneurs account for 60 percent of China’s total economic activity and provide jobs for 80 percent of its urban population, according to China’s National Development and Reform Commission.
“Underground banking filled the hole left by China’s state-owned banks, which have this long-term bias toward big enterprises,” said IHS’s Ren. “Even though it is an extremely opaque market and has a lot of hidden problems, the government needs it to meet the basic financing needs of small businesses.”
Wu’s rise and fall have been meteoric. The daughter of a farmer in Zhejiang province, south of Shanghai, Wu dropped out of technical school as a teenager to work at her aunt’s beauty salon and later opened two of her own, according to the state- run Global Times newspaper. She branched out into a foot-massage parlor and bought 10 cars which she rented out. An entertainment center and a boutique featuring Korean clothes followed, as did investments in real estate and copper, the report said.
Wu collected 770 million yuan ($122 million) from private investors between May 2005 and February 2007, according to government prosecutors. She also accumulated more than 100 properties and 40 cars, including a $500,000 Ferrari, the Global Times said.
Knowing the Risks
Wu borrowed money to fund her businesses and didn’t lie to anyone, her lawyer said. She never committed fraud, Yang said, adding that her investors, like anyone who took part in the private-banking business, knew the risks involved.
“Even her biggest creditor who she owed 320 million yuan doesn’t think Wu was lying to her,” said Yang. “These were real projects.”
The court in Wu’s home province of Zhejiang said she “brought huge losses to the nation and people with her severe crimes and should therefore be severely punished” when it upheld her death sentence in January, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
Nicknamed “Fu Jie,” or “Rich Sister,” in the media, Wu and her case were discussed at the annual legislative session in Beijing in March, where delegates debated the larger issues of shadow banking.
“You cannot try to stop this just by killing people,” Wang Yongzheng, a delegate to China’s People’s Political Consultative Conference and owner of a textile company, told a small group session at the meetings.
In a country where public criticism of government policy is rarely sanctioned, state-run media outlets such as Xinhua and the People’s Daily, both Communist Party mouthpieces, have run stories, editorials and online chat sessions airing public sympathy for Wu.
On Feb. 8, the China Daily newspaper ran an article noting “public outrage” and the “wide sympathy and pleas for the fair-skinned woman with a short haircut.” It quoted a legal expert as saying the government’s seizure and sell-off of her assets was illegal.
On the Defensive
As the public outcry surrounding Wu’s case began to swell, court officials and police took the rare step of publicly defending their verdict. The presiding judge in her case, Shen Xiaoming, appeared in a Feb. 7 Internet chat to explain that Wu Ying was sentenced to death because the court found she intended to defraud investors.
“This was more than just illegal fundraising,” Shen said in the chat.
China’s entire shadow-banking system is bigger than just underground borrowing and lending, totaling about $2.4 trillion, a third the size of China’s official loan market, according to Societe Generale SA economist Yao Wei. In addition to informal lending, it includes the off-balance-sheet activities of banks, trust companies, and businesses lending to each other, Yao said. The amount is almost the size of U.S. consumer debt, which exceeded $2.5 trillion as of January, according to the U.S. Federal Reserve.
Ordinary Chinese savers also fuel the country’s shadow- banking system. They have few legal options if they want to earn a return that beats inflation, which hit 5.4 percent in 2011. The government sets China’s current ceiling for savings account interest rates at 3.5 percent, a figure that has trailed inflation for two straight years as of January. Wu offered interest rates of as much as 0.5 percent a day to attract investors, according to Xinhua.
Bankruptcies and Suicides
Zhejiang province, where Wu’s home village of Dongyang is located, has been at the heart of private lending activity. Between April and September last year, more than 80 indebted businessmen committed suicide or declared bankruptcy in its boomtown manufacturing city of Wenzhou because they couldn’t repay informal lenders, according to Xinhua.
Bankruptcies and arrests continue to be reported almost daily. Today, the China Securities Journal reported that Hangzhou Glory Real Estate Co., also located in Zhejiang, had filed for bankruptcy after borrowing 2.5 billion yuan from individuals.
The government has stepped in to deal with the troubles and bring some aspects of shadow banking under government control. In October, Premier Wen traveled to Wenzhou, a city of 9.1 million people 230 miles (370 kilometers) south of Shanghai, pledging help for troubled businesses. Then, on March 28, China’s State Council approved a pilot program for Wenzhou that would ease some restrictions on private lending.
Private capital will be encouraged to participate in “innovative financial organizations” such as credit unions, and banks will be encouraged to lend money to small enterprises, the State Council said.
“The Wenzhou trial program has started us on the right track,” Zhou Dewen, president of the Wenzhou Small and Medium Sized Enterprises Development Association, said by phone the day after the announcement. “The trial program is a step forward toward making private lending a practice that’s legal.”
By the time Wu was in her mid-twenties, she had founded the Bense Holding Group -- the name means “original color” -- and established 12 companies, according to a profile in the Guangzhou-based Southern Weekly before her arrest.
Wu’s success drew the attention of the Chinese media. In its Feb. 1, 2007 profile, the Southern Weekly said she drove to the interview in a BMW and couldn’t explain where her wealth had come from.
“I don’t launder money,” Wu said, according to the newspaper. “My money is clean.”
According to the article, Wu had a tattoo of a rose on her chest and once donated 6.3 million yuan to charity. Less than two weeks after the article was published, authorities announced that Wu had been arrested on suspicion of illegal fundraising.
Prosecutors later upgraded the charges against her to financial fraud, a crime punishable by death in the most severe cases, for losing 380 million yuan of investors’ money. Two years later, she was sentenced to die.
The court found that Wu raised her money by “fabricating facts, deliberately hiding the truth, and promising high returns as an incentive,” according to Xinhua.
Photographs of Wu in court show her sobbing as she stands at the dock, clad in a yellow prison jacket, her tattoo peeking from the neckline. She has been in prison appealing her conviction since her arrest in 2007. Xinhua reported in April 2011 that Wu was writing a book called “Black Swan,” a fictional account of her life, while in prison.
Not the First
Wu wouldn’t be the first shadow banker to be put to death in China. On Aug. 5, 2009, the Supreme Court approved the execution of two female entrepreneurs in separate cases. Si Chaxian, age unreported, was charged with defrauding 300 people of 167 million yuan over five years and promising returns of as much as 108 percent annually, while Du Yimin -- who was 44 at the time her death sentence was upheld -- was charged with defrauding 709 million yuan by promising to pay as much as 10 percent per month, the official CCTV reported. Both women were from Zhejiang province.
On Death Row
At least 17 people, including Wu, now sit on death row after being sentenced for illegally raising funds from individuals, according to Chinese media reports compiled by Bloomberg since 2009. Seven of them are women.
In the latest case, on April 6, 30-year-old Wang Caiping was sentenced to death for borrowing along with her brother more than 100 million yuan from 15 victims, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. Wang and her brother, who has fled, invested the money in gold and futures speculation and incurred losses, the report said. They had paid out 5.8 million yuan in interest as of the day Wang was arrested, with 94 million yuan unpaid, Xinhua added.
In Zhejiang, sentences handed out for various shadow- banking-related crimes rose to 75 last year, up from eight in 2007, the official Legal Daily reported, citing the provincial high court.
In Shanghai, police said March 29 they had arrested Gu Chunfang, a woman in her early forties who runs a trading company, for racking up 500 million yuan in underground-lending debts, China Daily reported. Her nickname: “Most Beautiful Businesswoman.”
Striking a Chord
Wu’s case, unlike the two executions, 16 other death sentences and numerous arrests, has struck a chord and spurred a broader national debate.
“She’s not some sort of privileged person who just had everything handed to her,” said Sarah Schafer, a Hong Kong- based researcher with Amnesty International. “People see her as someone who is closer to them than they care to admit.”
Amid the demands for change to China’s shadow-banking system, Wu’s case has also been taken up as part of a parallel debate about China’s death penalty.
Groups including Amnesty International that monitor capital punishment say attitudes toward it have begun to change in China -- especially in cases of financial fraud. The government has allowed broader public debate on the death penalty, and government officials have talked more often of pushing China toward abolishing the practice, according to Schafer.
“The argument from the Chinese government has always been that the public wouldn’t accept abolishing the death penalty,” Schafer said. “This case has shown that maybe the public isn’t ready for full abolition but we think they are ready for abolishing it for nonviolent crimes.”
The Chinese government does not release statistics on the number of executions it performs. Groups like Amnesty International, which track the cases in the media, say the reports may underestimate the total number of executions carried out, since the media tend to report only the most sensational crime and corruption cases.
Still, China has cut the number of executions it carries out every year from 8,000 in 2006 to 4,000 per year now, according to the San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation. Even so, it executes more people than every other government in the world put together. The next highest is Iran, with more than 360 in 2011, according to Amnesty International.
Starting in 2007, China’s Supreme Court decreed it must approve all the country’s executions. In a 2010 annual report, the court said it should “respect and protect citizens’ right to life, the most basic human right,” according to Xinhua.
Premier Wen’s remarks in March and the changes to the private banking system make Wu’s lawyer hopeful that the Supreme Court will commute her death sentence. On March 30, an editorial in the Financial News, a publication of the People’s Bank of China, said reforms in Wenzhou were a “turning point” for the development of private financing in China.
“Wu Ying’s case happened in a special time during China’s reform, where the financial system is hugely lagging behind economic development,” said Zhou, of the Wenzhou enterprise association. “Wu Ying won’t be executed now that the trial program has been announced. She can’t die before the dawn.”
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China launches new 650 MW nuclear reactor
Reuters | Apr 9, 2012, 02.29PM IST
BEIJING: China has launched a new 650-megawatt (MW) reactor at the Qinshan nuclear plant in the eastern province of Zhejiang, the project's operator said on Monday, as part of a push to increase the share of nuclear energy in the country's power mix.
Nuclear power amounts to 12.528 gigawatts or around 1.1 per cent of China's installed power capacity, but projects under construction are expected to raise the total to more than 41 GW by 2015.
China National Nuclear Corp said the new reactor had become operational at Qinshan, one of the country's first nuclear projects. The complex now hosts seven of China's 15 working reactors, and its aggregate generation capacity amounts to more than a third of the country's total nuclear capa city.
Before Japan's biggest earthquake and tsunami in March devastated the country's northeastern coast and left an aging nuclear complex on the verge of a catastrophic meltdown, China was planning to double its original 40-gigawatt capacity target for 2020.
It has since promised to "adjust and improve" its nuclear development strategy, and has said it will not approve any new projects until the completion of nationwide safety checks into existing plants and construction sites.
According to state media, the government is likely to resume approvals for nuclear power projects in the first half of this year after a series of safety inspections at reactors and construction sites.
Beijing's official capacity target for 2020 remains at 40 GW, and previous plans to increase the figure to as high as 86 GW are expected to be scaled back to around 70-75 GW amid concerns about safety, equipment shortages and the lack of qualified personnel.US utility company focusing on nukes
The Exelon Byron Nuclear Generating Stations running at full capacity 12 May 2007 in Byron, Illinois, is one of 17 nuclear reactors at 10 sites in three US states, is the nation's largest operator of commercial nuclear power plants and third largest in the world. In the US, nuclear operators have focused on improving safety and efficiency at existing plants. There have been no notable US accidents since 1979 at Three Mile Island and the US reactor fleet has produced at about 90 percent of licensed capacity since 2001, up from efficiency figures of the early 1980s. Nuclear plants today produce about 20 percent of the electricity used in the US. Dozens of electrical companys are seeking licenses for as many as 31 new nuclear power reactors in the US. (Image credit: AFP/Getty Images via @daylife)
The almost-retired John Rowe has been making a lot of headlines lately. It’s not just for Exelon’s merger with Constellation that is now this country’s combined nuclear energy powerhouse. It’s because the King of Nuclear is saying he is unsure that the fuel source will expand in the United States.
When the former chief executive of Exelon Corp. says something like that, it gets people’s attention ― the kind of people who are just as huge in the global energy sector and who think differently. That’s okay with Rowe. He’s never been one to shy away from controversy. And it’s okay with him because in his heart-of-hearts, he wants the nuclear sector to grow and prosper.
“As someone who loves nuclear, it is a large speculation,” says Rowe. “It is 30 years before it breaks even. I think the combination of low natural gas prices and Fukushima will set a real nuclear renaissance back by several decades.”
Wow. Rowe, who spoke at the EnergyBiz Leadership Forum, goes on to say that wind and solar will become better and cheaper and that along with natural gas, may obviate the need for new nuclear power. Still, the country should fund the research and development so that it can maintain its nuclear know-now ― just in case.
Japan, of course, suffered a massive earthquake and tsunami more than a year ago ― one that,, South Africa needs uranium mining
New mines needed to meet future demand
By: Chantelle Kotzé
6th April 2012
Sufficient uranium reserves are hosted worldwide, however, in future, new mines will have to be commissioned to keep up with the global uranium demand, as more nuclear power stations come on line, says State-owned power utility Eskom nuclear spokesperson Tony Stott.
He believes that, if South Africa embarks on the proposed programme to deliver 9 600 MW of nuclear capacity by 2029, natural uranium suppliers from South Africa, Namibia and other African countries, as well as international supply, will be sufficient to fuel the proposed local nuclear power stations.
Unit 1 of Eskom’s Koeberg nuclear power station was shut down in March for scheduled refuelling, inspection and maintenance.
Stott says that, during the routine shutdown, one-third of the used nuclear fuel in the pressurised water reactor will be replaced with new fuel. Natural uranium, some of which is supplied by diversified mining company Rio Tinto’s Rössing mine, in Namibia, is enriched with the uranium 235 isotope, from which the nuclear fuel elements are manufactured. Eskom has signed a supply contract with the uranium miner for about 25% of its natural uranium needs between 2012 and 2017.
Scheduled refuelling, inspection and maintenance of each unit is undertaken every 16 to 18 months.
There are 157 fuel elements in each unit at Koeberg, therefore, about 52 fuel elements will be replaced during the Unit 1 shutdown. Each fuel element stays in the reactor for three cycles, which is about 4.5 years. Two hundred tons to 260 t of natural uranium is required for each batch of 52 fuel elements.
Unit 1 is scheduled to return to service at the start of June, while Unit 2 will continue to operate at full power during the shutdown. Unit 2 is scheduled to start its refuelling, inspection and maintenance shutdown at the end of September 2012.
“Koeberg currently provides 1 830 MW of power, sufficiently meeting half of the Western Cape’s power needs. The balance is supplied through the national transmission network from the Mpumalanga-based coal-fired power stations. During peak demand periods, power is also supplied from the Western Cape’s open-cycle gas turbines, Ankerlig, at Atlantis, and Gourikwa, at Mossel Bay, the Palmiet pumped, storage station near Grabouw and the two small hydropower stations, Garier and Vanderkloof, on the Orange river,” explains Stott.
The fuel used in the nuclear reactors is enriched uranium in the form of a ceramic material, namely uranium dioxide pellets, which form the basis of the manufactured nuclear fuel elements.
To produce nuclear fuel, the 235 isotope, one of three isotopes found in natural uranium, must be enriched. Natural uranium contains 0.7% of the 235 isotope and needs to be enriched to 4.4% to be used in the fuel element for nuclear power generation at Koeberg.
Eskom has the choice of either buying natural uranium and supplying it to an enrichment company to undertake enrichment, or buying already enriched uranium, known as enriched uranium product. To ensure that appropriate supply options are maintained, Eskom buys about 25% of its total nuclear fuel needs as natural uranium and the remaining 75% as enriched uranium product, says Stott.
Last year, Eskom acquired a one-off contract supply of natural uranium from TSX- and JSE-listed miner First Uranium, in South Africa.
The enriched uranium product is bought from Europe-based enriched uranium manufacturer Urenco, Russian uranium enrichment service provider Techsnabexport and French nuclear group Areva.
Inspections, maintenance and modifications are necessary throughout a power station’s life span, says Stott.
“The statutory inspection and maintenance involve the checking of pipes, valves, pumps and other mechanical and electrical parts to maintain their integrity and capability to safely perform their functions, as required by Eskom and the licences and authorisations granted in terms of the National Nuclear Regulator Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Owing to the numerous and continual safety modifications undertaken at both Koeberg units in the past 10 to 15 years, the nuclear power station is as safe as a newly built plant, meeting the standards of the International Atomic Energy Agency for nuclear power stations with respect to preventing damage to the nuclear fuel, asserts Stott.
During the current planned shutdown, Unit 1 will undergo a generator stator rewiring, which will involve a full copper rewiring that will ensure the generator’s continued safety and reliable operation.
Stott points out that the capital costs to build a nuclear power station are higher than that of a coal-fired power station, but Koeberg’s nuclear fuel costs currently amount to about 40% of the average coal costs to run the fleet of coal-fired power plants.
“Eskom believes that South Africa requires an optimum mix of electricity generating technologies, which include technologies that are suitable for baseload, midmerit and peaking electricity generation, and which cater for renewable-energy and nuclear-power technologies.
“This is also reflected in government’s Integrated Resource Plan 2010, which identifies the energy mix that is expected to be implemented in South Africa over the next 20 years.”
Government has stated that any expansion of the nuclear capacity in South Africa will be accompanied by the establishment of a local manufacturing capability, maintains Stott.
Edited by: Tracy Hancock
Areva Predicts Uranium Demand Freeze Until 2014 After Fukushima
By Francois de Beaupuy - Apr 4, 2012 6:01 PM CT
Areva SA (AREVA), the world’s largest maker of atomic reactors, predicted the market for uranium will suffer from a glut before nuclear fuel demand rebounds from 2014 as the industry reels from last year’s meltdown in Japan.
“In two years, there will be very strong demand on the market, as new reactors start operating, and as new contracts with the existing fleet kick in,” Chief Commercial Officer Ruben Lazo said in a March 26 interview at the company’s headquarters in Paris. “I’m sure that Japan will restart a few reactors this year, and complete all necessary measures to restart many others in 2013 and 2014.”
Uranium concentrate, commonly known as yellowcake, is displayed at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Mihama nuclear power station in Mihama town, Japan. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi
Luc Oursel, chief executive officer of Areva SA. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg
The tsunami that wrecked the Japanese nuclear site in 2011 has weighed on Areva, whose shares have lost 58 percent of their value since the worst nuclear accident in 25 years. Japan has idled all but one of its 54 reactors, and Germany has reversed a decision to extend the lifespan of its atomic facilities. Still, Lazo aims to double the order intake from Asia this year from more than 1 billion euros ($1.34 billion) in 2011, saying market “fundamentals” remain broadly intact.
The French company is betting that an 80 percent jump in global energy demand by 2030, combined with rising fuel prices and the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions, will lead to a 2.2 percent annual increase in the installed base of nuclear plants in the next two decades.
“Responsible governments won’t tie the whole industrial and economic development of their country to a single source of energy,” Lazo said. “Manufacturers want some predictability in power prices that can’t be provided by gas, while nuclear is the only energy that can guarantee some price stability.”
The accident in Japan forced Areva to idle plants, cut jobs, write down assets and report a record 2.42 billion loss in 2011 as sales prospects for uranium ore, nuclear fuel and equipment receded. Areva, which competes with Urenco Ltd., USEC Inc. (USU) and OAO Techsnabexport on uranium enrichment, ousted its long-time chief executive officer, Anne Lauvergeon, last June, and replaced her with Luc Oursel.
Lazo said he spotted signs on a recent trip to Japan that the country won’t abandon atomic power outright. Chubu Electric Power Co. (9502), an Areva client, is spending 1 billion euros to erect a seawall to protect three nuclear reactors in Hamaoka south of Tokyo from tsunamis, he said.
The executive predicts Asia will account for about 60 percent of the 300 gigawatts of global nuclear new builds by 2030. Areva, which is building a 1.6 gigawatt reactor called EPR in France, in Finland and two in China, is in “very advanced stage of talks” to sell two additional EPRs to China, which may complete its safety review this year, Lazo said. It may wrap up talks to sell two EPRs in India in 2012, he said.
Areva is also “very confident” about prospects in the U.S., where it got a $1 billion contract with the Tennessee Valley Authority (3015A) last year to help complete a nuclear plant in Alabama, Lazo said. Areva is quickening the certification of the EPR in the U.S. as it “wants to be a significant player” in new reactors in the country.
In nuclear reactor construction, “competition is becoming more aggressive as the nuclear renaissance scenario isn’t there anymore,” said Lazo. “There’s a bigger number of players aiming for the same targets.”
In Finland, a utility for which Areva is building an EPR said March 23 that French company will face GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (7011) and Toshiba Corp. (6502) in next year’s tender. In Jordan, an Areva-Mitsubishi venture is competing against Russian and Canadian rivals.
Lazo expects a final contract this year to supply two EPRs to Electricite de France’s unit in the U.K., where a group of German utilities on March 29 dropped plans for new builds. Areva is also working on tenders to be launched this year or next in countries such as Poland, South Africa, and the Czech Republic.
Prospects remain more uncertain back home in France, where Socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande has pledged to shut the country’s oldest atomic plant by 2017 and cut reliance on nuclear power should he get elected in May. France generates about 77 percent of its energy from nuclear power now.
“In France, we’re here to implement the energy policy of the government,” the chief salesman of state-controlled Areva said. “We’re also here to explain, clarify and provide information to decision-makers. New builds are cheaper that other sources of energy.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Francois de Beaupuy in Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at email@example.com
HEARD ON THE STREET Updated April 4, 2012, 9:42 a.m. ETSpain's Fate in the Hands of The ECB
By RICHARD BARLEY And SIMON NIXON
The euro-zone crisis thermometer is rising again.
Spain's latest bond auction looks distinctly limp versus the blowout successes at the start of the year. The government raised €2.59 billion, at the bottom end of the range of €2.5 billion to €3.5 billion it had targeted. Yields rose compared to previous auctions. In particular, Spain had to pay 0.94 percentage point more for four-year bonds than at auction just a month ago.
With an economy in recession, further austerity planned, yields rising and the fate of Spain's banks tied ever closer to their government, a crunch point may be approaching.
Worryingly, Spanish bonds continued to fall after Wednesday's auction, with the bellwether 10-year yield rising to 5.7%. While some of the move might be the result of thin trading conditions ahead of Easter, that is the highest since Jan. 9 and more than a percentage point higher than the year's low. Italian yields were dragged higher in Spain's wake.
Spain's borrowing costs rose at its first debt sale since the government announced its budget last week, as concerns over the country's economy grew. Heard on the Street's Richard Barley and Dow Jones's Martin Essex discuss. Photo: AP
The big problem is that Spain is relying largely on its own banks to buy its bonds with money supplied by the European Central Bank. Spanish banks bought €39 billion of government bonds in January and February, versus €8 billion for German banks and €6 billion for French banks, Barclays notes.
That ties the fate of Spain's banks more closely to the government, whose debt is rising at a rapid pace as the budget deficit remains high and the economy shrinks. Spain forecasts debt will be close to 80% of gross domestic product this year, more than double the figure for 2007; the sharp deterioration is of more concern than the relatively modest level.
Spain has already raised 47% of the funds it has targeted for this year, providing a cushion against the current market pressure. But Madrid is struggling to convince investors it can walk the tightrope between reining in its borrowing and choking off the recovery.
High yields need to act as a spur to deeper reforms. The new government's credibility suffered when key overhauls―notably of the banking sector―were watered down when market conditions eased following the ECB's funding operations. Some doubt the budget will be sufficient to meet the new deficit target.
Spain's fate likely lies in the hands of the ECB, whose exposure to Spanish banks hit 15% of the country's GDP by the end of February, according to J.P. Morgan. At some point, the ECB may put pressure on Madrid to seek euro-zone help, in particular to recapitalize its banks, as it did with Ireland.
But the mercury may rise further first. A key indicator is the shape of the Spanish yield curve. If two-year yields, currently 2.7%, start rising to narrow the gap with 10-year yields, that would be a big challenge for Spain, pushing up borrowing costs across the economy.
Write to Richard Barley at firstname.lastname@example.org and Simon Nixon at email@example.com
Chinese Applicants Flood U.S. Graduate Schools
By MELISSA KORN
More than ever, Chinese students have their sights set on U.S. graduate schools.
Application volume from that country rose 18% for U.S. master's and doctoral programs starting this fall, according to a new report from the Council of Graduate Schools that provides a preliminary measure of application trends. Specific programs of interest include engineering, business and earth sciences.
That is on top of a 21% jump last year and a 20% rise in 2010―and is the seventh consecutive year of double-digit gains from China, according to the graduate-school industry group. Applications from China now comprise nearly half of all international applications to U.S. graduate programs.
China's expanding middle class has fueled an interest in expensive U.S. schools, as has corporations' interest in hiring local talent with Western exposure. As the quality of undergraduate institutions in China improves, more young people are also finding U.S. programs within reach. And as more Chinese students attend U.S. schools,burgeoning they encourage friends and colleagues to apply in what is called a "multiplier effect."
Not only is China the largest country of origin for international graduate students in the U.S., but its rate of growth is far outpacing all other countries and regions in the survey, including South Korea and India. Overall, international application volume rose 9% this year, according to preliminary results.
Based on data provided by 242 respondents, a total of 514,298 applications were sent to U.S. graduate schools by prospective international students for fall 2012, according to the report. Final application figures will be released this summer.
The outsized rate of growth in China is due in part to a concerted effort by some U.S. schools to attract Chinese students. The thinking, say school administrators, is that international students who stay in academia will connect U.S. schools with new research partners, while those entering the corporate world may become clients of business schools' lucrative executive education programs.
Ohio State University, with more than 10,000 graduate students, opened a "gateway" office in Shanghai in 2010 to coordinate recruiting, alumni activities and fundraising efforts in those markets. While international applications rose 18% for all the school's graduate programs this year, they jumped 29% from China specifically. That compares with a 3% increase in applications from India; the school opened a similar gateway office in Mumbai last month.
International students comprise about 14% of students at U.S. graduate schools, says the Council of Graduate Schools.
U.S. schools say they cannot become complacent just because interest now is strong. Other countries are increasing investments in higher education, specifically in graduate programs, and viable competitors are emerging as they gain internationally recognized accreditation.
According to the Institute for International Education, the U.S. enrolled 20% of all international students―undergraduate and graduate―in higher education in 2010, down from 28% in 2001.
Jobs Data Reveal Unexpected Good News
By JUSTIN LAHART
(WSJ)Last week, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke voiced skepticism about whether the recent pickup in the job market will be sustained. Funny thing is, the actual employment picture may be even better than the headline job figures have shown.
For the three months through February, the U.S. added an average of 245,000 payrolls, marking the strongest gains since 2006. The good news looks like it continued in March, with economists looking for Friday's jobs report to show a gain of 210,000 jobs.
The jobs data come from a monthly Labor Department payroll survey of nearly 6% of U.S. employers―a big statistical slice of the total job market that usually does a good job of capturing the ups and downs of employment. But it can have a hard time capturing the scope of employment gains when the job market is recovering. Evidence is mounting that that's happening now.
The flaw in the payroll survey is that it only polls established firms, and so misses employment gains at the very young companies that have historically fueled U.S. job growth. The problem may be especially acute now because the recession and its aftermath altered the employment landscape so much.
Indeed, the separate survey of households that the unemployment rate is based on suggests stronger jobs gains. Adjust the figures in the household survey to reflect the same sort of jobs covered by the payroll survey, and it shows that the U.S. added a seasonally adjusted average 513,000 jobs in the three months ended February. Over the past year, the adjusted household survey shows a gain of 3.2 million jobs versus the payroll survey's 2 million.
Because it directly asks people whether they are employed or not, the household survey is often better at spotting turning points in the job market than the payroll survey is. But the smaller sample size―it's based on just 60,000 households― means the detailed figures should be treated with a grain of salt.
But a census of employment in the third quarter that the Labor Department released last week, covering nearly the entirety of the U.S. job market, added to the evidence that the payroll survey is missing something. Adjusting the data to make them roughly comparable, the quarterly report suggests the economy gained about 300,000 more jobs in the year ended September than the payroll figures suggested.
Mr. Bernanke's worry is that the economy isn't strong enough to keep generating solid job gains. But job gains have a tendency to feed on themselves, and to drive a stronger economy. If the household survey and census of employment figures are telling the real story, the payroll figures will eventually start picking it up, too.
That would make it even harder for Mr. Bernanke to convince markets that the Fed really can stick to its easy-money policies for years to come.
Write to Justin Lahart at firstname.lastname@example.org