Wheat Falls In Paris As Rains Seen Boosting Europe Crops
By Whitney McFerron - May 28, 2012 11:45 AM CT
Milling wheat fell for the first time in three sessions in Paris on speculation that warm weather and rains this week will improve the prospects for crops in parts of Europe and Russia.
Areas of southern and central England may have showers this evening, while temperatures today could climb as high as 27 degrees Celsius (81 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the Met Office. Rains may fall in parts of Ukraine starting today and areas of southern Russia beginning May 30, according to AccuWeather Inc.
“This heat we’ve got at the moment is exactly what the crop needed,” Dave Norris, an independent grain broker in Harrogate, England, said today by phone. “It’s come on enormously in a week, and we’re set to have a bit of rain.”
Milling wheat for November delivery fell 0.2 percent to settle at 216 euros ($270.82) a metric ton on NYSE Liffe in Paris by 6:30 p.m. local time, after swinging between gains and losses. The grain, which climbed for a third straight week last week, has gained 6 percent this month and 11 percent this year.
World wheat output will decline 3.5 percent in the 2012-13 crop year to 670.5 million metric tons as poor conditions weigh on prospects in Russia, Morocco and the European Union, the London-based International Grains Council said May 24. The winter grain harvest in Ukraine will drop by 43 percent this year to 14.5 million tons, the Interfax news agency reported today, citing Mykola Kulbida, head of the Meteorology Center.
“The focus is upon one thing and one thing only these days: the quality and size of the Russian and Ukrainian winter wheat crops,” economist Dennis Gartman said in his daily
Rapeseed futures for November delivery increased by 1 percent to 467 euros a ton in Paris. Markets on the Chicago Board of Trade were closed today for the Memorial Day holiday.
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Spain Weighs Injecting Debt Instead Of Cash Into Bankia
By Emma Ross-Thomas and Charles Penty - May 28, 2012 9:45 AM
Spain is considering using debt issued by the government or its bank-rescue fund instead of cash into the Bankia group, using a mechanism that would free it from raising the money from investors.
The government hasn’t made a decision on whether to use its debt to recapitalize the nationalized lender and will decide in two or three months, a spokesman for the Economy Ministry, who asked not to be named in line with its policy, said in a phone interview today. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said at a Madrid news conference today the government hadn’t spoken to the European Central Bank about such a step.
Spain nationalized the Bankia group on May 9, leading the lender with the biggest Spanish asset base to request 19 billion euros of government backing to clean up lending to property developers and other loans such as residential mortgages. Photographer: Angel Navarrete/Bloomberg
Spain nationalized the Bankia group on May 9, leading the lender with the biggest Spanish asset base to request 19 billion euros ($23.9 billion) of government backing to clean up lending to property developers and other loans such as residential mortgages. The size of the support needed for Bankia (BKIA), and the implication that other banks may also need state support to repair their balance sheets, pushed 10-year yields today to the most relative to German bunds since the euro was created.
“It’s getting increasingly ugly because of the circularity of the problems,” said Georg Grodzki, who helps oversee $515 billion at Legal & General Investment Management in London, adding that 19 billion euros “now seems too much” for the Spanish government to raise directly in the markets. “The phrase ‘house of cards’ comes to mind.”
Bankia Shares Fall
Rajoy repeated at today’s news conference that Spain has no plans to seek a European Union bailout for its banks. He said the nationalization of Bankia, a group with an asset base that’s about a third the size of Spain’s gross domestic product, wouldn’t affect the country’s budget deficit.
Spanish newspaper El Pais reported the plan to use government debt yesterday.
Bankia shares fell as much as 29 percent in Madrid and traded 11 percent lower at 1.39 euros at 3:20 p.m. The yield on Spain’s 10-year bonds climbed almost 15 basis points, or 0.15 percentage point, to 6.44 percent at 2:17 p.m. in Madrid.
The Spanish-German spread expanded to as much as 513 basis points, the most since the euro’s introduction in 1999, and was last at 509 basis points. Rajoy said today the nationalization of Bankia had no impact on the Spanish spread.
Shares in other Spanish banks slid today as investors weighed the likelihood that the bigger cleanup of Bankia would also force them to make more provisions than those already ordered by the government. Banco Popular Espanol SA (POP) fell as much as 8.2 percent and CaixaBank SA (CABK) dropped as much as 4.9 percent.
Based on what happened at Bankia, the recapitalization needs of Spain’s banks could amount to as much as 60 billion euros, Daragh Quinn, an analyst at Nomura International, said in a report today. “Given the current economic and political uncertainties facing the euro zone, this could see additional pressure on Spain to consider using external funds for the bank recapitalization,” he wrote.
Spain established a mechanism in February for using debt issued by the government or the bank-rescue fund, known as FROB, to recapitalize banks. Lenders can use government-issued debt as collateral to borrow from the ECB. The FROB has 5 billion euros of available funds, leaving its ability to bail out lenders dependent on Spain’s access to markets.
“It takes the ECB scam to a new level -- not only has it become the lender of first resort for large parts of the euro- zone banking system but it is now also being abused as a source of capital,” Grodzki said in a phone interview today, referring to the possibility that the government may recapitalize Bankia’s parent company with its debt.
An ECB spokesman said in a phone interview that its “monetary policy framework operates as usual” and that it would refer questions on Bankia’s recapitalization to authorities in Spain.
Risks to Spain’s financial industry and the state are becoming increasingly intertwined as the government’s access to borrowing narrows.
Foreign investors cut their holdings of Spanish debt of 37 percent Spain’s total outstanding debt in circulation in April from 50 percent at the end of last year.
Domestic lenders, bolstered by emergency funding from the ECB, have picked up the slack, increasing their share to 29 percent from 17 percent over the same period.
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Spanish-German Yield Spread Widens To Euro Record On Bank Funds
By David Goodman and Keith Jenkins - May 28, 2012 6:07 AM CT
Spanish bonds fell, pushing 10-year yields to the most relative to benchmark German bunds since the euro was created, amid concern the nation’s lenders will need additional financial support to weather Europe’s debt crisis.
Spain’s two-year note yield reached the highest since December after nationalized lender Bankia group said it will seek 19 billion euros ($23.9 billion) of state support. German 10-year bonds declined on opinion polls showing greater backing for Greece’s pro-bailout political parties. Italian bonds fell as business confidence slid more than economists forecast and borrowing costs rose at a sale of 3.5 billion euros of zero- coupon notes.
“The weakness in Spain and Italy is primarily down to the Bankia (BKIA) rescue,” said Marc Ostwald, a fixed-income strategist at Monument Securities Ltd. in London. “The Greek polls offer some grounds for optimism but that’s a very short-termist view.”
The yield on Spain’s 10-year bonds climbed 15 basis points, or 0.15 percentage point, to 6.46 percent at 11:59 a.m. London time. The 5.85 percent security maturing in January 2022 dropped 1.01, or 10.10 euros per 1,000-euro face amount, to 95.685. The Spanish-German spread expanded to as much as 513 basis points, the most since the euro’s introduction in 1999, and was last at 508 basis points.
Spanish two-year note yields were nine basis points higher at 4.43 percent after reaching 4.56 percent, matching a rate last seen on Dec. 13.
Bankia SA shares fell 14 percent after tumbling as much as 29 percent in Madrid trading. Bankia was among three Spanish banks that had their credit ratings cut to junk by Standard & Poor’s on May 25, with the firm citing Spain’s weakening economy. Spain is considering injecting debt issued by the government or its bank-rescue fund instead of cash into the lender, an economy ministry spokesman said today.
Greece’s New Democracy, which supports the European Union’s aid plan, was placed first in all six opinion polls published two days ago as campaigning continued before next month’s election, damping concern the parties opposing the plan would gain further support. The Stoxx Europe 600 index of shares rose 0.6 percent and the euro appreciated 0.6 percent to $1.2588.
German 10-year yields rose two basis points to 1.39 percent after falling to 1.351 percent on May 24, the least on record.
Italian two-year notes fell for a second day, pushing the yield up 17 basis points to 3.87 percent. The nation’s 10-year bond yield added three basis points to 5.70 percent.
Italy’s manufacturing-sentiment index dropped to 86.2, the lowest since August 2009, from a revised 89.1 in April, Rome- based national statistics institute Istat said today. Economists had predicted a reading of 88.6, according to the median of 16 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey.
The nation sold notes due in May 2014 at an average yield of 4.037 percent, compared with a yield of 3.355 percent at the last auction on April 24. Investors bid for 1.66 time the securities on offer, down from a so-called bid-to-cover ratio of 1.8 last month. Italy also auctioned 751 million euros of inflation-linked debt.
Irish securities were the most volatile government bonds among euro-area markets today, followed by Spain’s and Italy’s, according to measures of 10-year bonds, two- and 10-year yield spreads and credit-default swaps. The yield on Irish bonds due in October 2020 rose three basis points to 7.42 percent.
German debt has returned 2.1 percent this month, according to indexes compiled by Bloomberg and the European Federation of Financial Analysts Societies. Italian securities have slipped 0.9 percent and Spanish debt dropped 2.9 percent, the indexes show.
-- Editors: Paul Dobson, Nicholas Reynolds
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Slim Family Sees European Crisis As Good Time To Invest
By Crayton Harrison - May 24, 2012 9:23 AM
Carlos Slim sees Europe’s debt crisis as a “good moment” to apply his strategy of investing in times of turmoil, said the billionaire’s son, America Movil SAB (AMXL) Co- Chairman Carlos Slim Domit.
America Movil, controlled by the elder Slim, announced a $3.4 billion bid to increase its stake in former Dutch phone monopoly Royal KPN NV (KPN) earlier this month. While the acquisition would be Slim’s first major European foray, it follows a longstanding pattern, his son said. America Movil tries to stay as efficient and financially sound as possible so that it can quickly capitalize on fresh opportunities, he said.
“When hard times come, you can look at opportunities in a very agile way,” Slim Domit, 45, said in an interview this week in Mexico City. “Europe is in a good moment.”
Before America Movil made its offer for a KPN stake on May 7, the Dutch company’s stock had fallen as low as 6.37 euros, dragged down by concern that the European crisis would hurt demand. Slim offered to pay 8 euros a share for as much as 28 percent of KPN. That move mirrored Slim’s opportunistic buying in Argentina and Brazil a decade ago and even earlier in Mexico -- investments that helped make him the world’s richest person.
America Movil rose 0.1 percent to 16.70 pesos at 9:18 a.m. in Mexico City trading. The shares have dropped 11 percent since the company announced the KPN offer. KPN fell 0.7 percent to 7.69 euros in Amsterdam.
European leaders are meeting in Brussels this week to discuss the region’s debt crisis after deepening concern Greece will exit the euro wiped about $4 trillion from equity markets worldwide this month.
Still, Slim’s KPN deal faces hurdles. The Dutch carrier has rejected the offer, saying it “substantially undervalues the company.” If approved, the transaction would more than quintuple America Movil’s stake in the Netherlands’ largest phone company.
America Movil also may have approached the Austrian government about buying a stake in Telekom Austria AG (TKA), according to one of the carrier’s biggest investors, Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris. A sale of that stake would require approval by the coalition government, which is led by the Social Democrats, who oppose privatizations. America Movil declined to comment. Sawiris said he’d be willing to sell his own Telekom Austria stake to America Movil if the Austrian government doesn’t allow changes at the telephone company.
Slim Domit co-leads the board of America Movil, the largest wireless carrier in the Americas, with his brother Patrick. He’s also chairman of the carrier’s Telmex land-line unit and of Grupo Carso SAB, a Slim-controlled company with retail, construction and manufacturing units.
The family’s investment strategy goes back decades, Slim Domit said. Along with his two younger brothers, he received lessons from his father from an early age on how to value companies. The Slim patriarch, now 72, was following the tradition of his own father, Julian Slim, a Lebanese immigrant to Mexico who gave his children savings books with their weekly allowances to teach them how to manage income and expenses.
Julian Slim took advantage of depressed prices during the nation’s 1910 revolution to buy up real estate in downtown Mexico City. The lesson stuck with Carlos Slim, who would use a series of economic crises in Mexico to build a collection of assets, from tire and cigarette manufacturing to insurance to retail, culminating in his 1990 acquisition of Telmex during a privatization movement by the government.
From Telmex sprouted America Movil, which now spans most of the Western Hemisphere, from the U.S. to Argentina. The company grew by acquiring distressed assets, such as bankrupt AT&T Latin America Corp.’s fiber-optic lines, and investing in those networks to reach consumers, Slim Domit said.
“There wasn’t a lot of infrastructure,” he said. “In many countries the company began by making an acquisition of the third- or fourth-biggest carrier, and then got as big as it is now by investing and being competitive in the market.”
America Movil is spending more than $9 billion this year, with a similar amount budgeted for the next two years, to improve its network across Latin America. It’s pushing fiber- optic lines closer to users’ homes and preparing to introduce faster wireless services known as 4G, or fourth generation.
Those investments have given America Movil an edge over its biggest rival, Telefonica SA (TEF), in most of the region, said Vera Rossi, an analyst at Barclays Capital in New York.
“They have the best position in Latin America,” she said.
The opportunity in Europe is different, mainly because phone networks are much more developed in the region than they are in Latin America, Slim Domit said.
‘A Lot of Potential’
“We’re not thinking about going there as operators,” he said. “Those are markets that we view with a lot of potential for the development of synergies, and above all we’re seeking complementary philosophies on how to develop businesses.”
America Movil aims to win approval from Dutch securities regulators for its KPN offer and carry out the transaction in early June. The company will keep looking at telecommunications investments because Slim believes the industry will be the center of technological changes over the next decade, such as the shift to using wireless devices for financial transactions, Slim Domit said.
“My dad has said it many times, but we’re in a new era, and telecommunications are the nervous system of this new era,” he said.
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Chad Porter wants to run his 18- wheeler trucks on frozen natural gas along a highway that crosses Canada’s Rocky mountains even before the world’s longest chain of refueling stations gets built to keep them fueled.
The chief operating officer of oil services company Ferus Inc. bought two vehicles to test liquefied natural gas and reckons switching from diesel may cut 22 percent from his fuel bill, or about $1 a gallon. At the moment, Calgary-based Ferus uses mobile tankers to refuel his trucks, which cost about C$100,000 ($99,000) more than conventional vehicles, adding expense to a project that’s about saving money.
A Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) project will make it easier to fill up.
“Gas in our view will be the fuel of the future,” said Royal Dutch Shell Plc Chief Executive Officer Peter Voser. Photographer: F. Carter Smith/Bloomberg
Shell’s plan to spend $250 million on an LNG plant and a string of filling stations is the biggest single investment yet in making frozen gas a transport fuel, a shift advocated by proponents of energy independence including billionaire investor T. Boone Pickens.
Shell’s plan to spend $250 million on an LNG plant and a string of filling stations is the biggest single investment yet in making frozen gas a transport fuel, a shift advocated by proponents of energy independence including billionaire investor T. Boone Pickens. Switching engines to run on LNG is becoming economic because a glut of fuel from North America’s shale rocks has made the U.S. the world’s largest natural-gas producer and forced prices to record discounts versus crude oil.
“LNG holds great potential as a transport fuel,” Mark Williams, Shell’s director for downstream, said in a speech this month. “North America, for example, now has a century of gas supplies at current consumption rates. So gas is likely to gain market share in transportation.”
Using LNG in vehicles has limitations, from fuel evaporation to the special coolers needed at filling stations to keep the gas at minus 162 degrees Celsius (minus 259 Fahrenheit), making it mostly suitable for long-haul trucks with large gas tanks. U.S. truckers spent more than $135 billion on fuel last year, according to American Trucking Association.
“We would take advantage of any infrastructure that gets built,” Ferus’s Porter said in an interview from his office in Calgary.
Shell agreed to work with filling-station owners Flying J Inc. to offer LNG to trucks along the highway, from Fort McMurray in Alberta, the heart of Canada’s oil industry, to Vancouver on the Pacific coast, more than 900 miles (1,600 kilometers) to the southwest. At today’s diesel prices, fuel for each run on the route by a typical 33,000-pound, 60-foot truck costs about C$550.
The roadway, which comes within about 235 miles of Mt. Robson, the range’s highest peak at 12,972 feet, passes through part of Canada’s oil and gas producing region, as well as the mining and forestry operations of companies including Teck Resources Ltd. (TCK/B)
“We see opportunities for a concept like this one in other areas of the world as well,” said Jose-Alberto Lima, Shell’s vice president for LNG and gas sales in Americas. He said Shell, based in The Hague in the Netherlands, doesn’t expect a rebound in gas prices anytime soon.
In addition to being cheaper, natural gas burned in trucks emits as much as 25 percent less carbon dioxide, as well as almost eliminating particulate matter and sulfur dioxide produced by diesel-powered vehicles, according to the Calgary- based Van Horne Institute. Using natural gas, a fuel where North America is self-sufficient, would also cut demand for imported crude oil.
Shell eventually plans to deploy LNG technology to power trains, ships and mining industry engines. Gas overtook crude oil to account for more than 50 percent of the company’s production for the first time this year. It expects to expand the use of LNG as a transport fuel beyond North America to Europe, China, Latin America and Australia.
“Gas in our view will be the fuel of the future,” Shell Chief Executive Officer Peter Voser told shareholders today. The company has more than 40 trillion cubic feet of gas resources in North America, about 12 percent of the continent’s total at the end of 2010, based on data from BP Plc (BP/)’s Statistical Review of World Energy.
The Anglo-Dutch company’s Green Corridor project in Canada will make 300,000 tons of LNG a year. It plans to start production at its first small-scale gas liquefaction plant at Jumping Pound near the route’s halfway point next year.
“These trucks are more expensive than the traditional diesel trucks today,” Shell’s Lima said. “You need to have economies of scale to bring these costs down.”
Shell is cooperating with Vancouver-based Westport Innovations Inc. (WPT), the maker of cryogenic fuel tanks and the only currently available 15-liter gas-powered engine suitable for heavy-duty trucks running on LNG.
The second Canadian maker of gas powered engines is Cummins Westport Inc., which makes smaller 8.9 liter heavy-duty unit. The Vancouver-based joint venture of U.S.’s Cummins Inc. (CMI) and Westport has designed a motor able to run on either compressed natural gas, CNG, or LNG.
CNG is used for light- and medium-duty vehicles, such as buses and garbage trucks. LNG, which is using a cryogenic technology to chill gas and reduce it to one-six-hundredth of its original volume at low temperature, is offered mostly as a fuel for heavy-duty vehicles.
CNG, which is stored at ambient temperature, requires tanks with thicker walls to hold the pressure and provides less energy per volume. Therefore, long-haul trucks can take more LNG on board in lighter chilled tanks with less time required for refueling per energy unit.
“Drivers have been very receptive to LNG trucks, especially since they drive like diesel trucks,” said Cara West, a spokeswoman at Paccar Inc., which designs and manufactures trucks under Kenworth, Peterbilt and DAF nameplates and where Ferus bought its vehicles. “Dealers are receiving multiple inquiries from customers anxious to learn more about LNG trucks.”
Paccar currently equips some of its Kenworth and Peterbilt models with LNG engines. The Washington state-based maker expects the gas-powered-truck market share in North America to expand to about 20 percent in the next several years, up from about 6 percent now.
With natural gas fuel taxed about 20 Canadian cents less a liter than diesel on equivalent basis, it takes less than five years for a driver to return extra investment benefiting from cheaper fuel, according to the Canadian Natural Gas Vehicle Alliance. Canada has more than 100 LNG powered trucks almost equally split between western and eastern parts of the country operated by Vedder Transport, a milk hauler in British Columbia, and Robert Transport, which operates in Quebec and is expanding the fleet.
In January, President Barack Obama said tax breaks for natural-gas powered trucks will help cut dependence on imported oil in the world’s largest crude-consuming country. “We, it turns out, are the Saudi Arabia of natural gas,” Obama said. The U.S Senate and House have been reviewing the bill to boost greater use of the gas.
“The potential is there, and when you have this huge resource in the U.S., and you’ve got almost 10 million barrels per day imported being used for transportation fuels,” said Theepan Jothilingam, an analyst at Nomura Holdings Inc. At some stage, the U.S. government “will need to give a tax break and encourage both the technology and the execution of this technology.”
Billionaire investor Pickens has been lobbying for incentives to stimulate greater use of natural gas as a vehicle fuel to replace imported oil. Pickens is the largest shareholder of Clean Energy Fuels, a natural-gas supplier for bus and truck fleets, which is building America’s Natural Gas Highway across the U.S. to fuel long-haul trucks with LNG starting from the end of this year.
About 30 percent of U.S. “classic trucks” can be converted to run on LNG, which needs highly utilized vehicles running lots of miles to pay back for the additional engine costs by fueling it with cheaper LNG, said James Burns, Shell’s general manager for LNG in Transport, Americas. “Emissions is a key issue here as well both on local air emissions and green- house gas emissions.”
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China May Approve Nuclear Plan Next Month, Official Says (Update 1)
By Bloomberg News - May 16, 2012 10:27 PM CT
China’s state council, or Cabinet, will probably hold a meeting before the end of June to approve safety and development plans for the nuclear industry, according to Xu Yuming, the vice secretary general of the China Nuclear Energy Association.
The government can resume approval of new nuclear plants after the plans are passed, Xu said before a conference in Beijing today. The plan was rejected earlier and amendments are being made to some “minor” details, he said.
China suspended new nuclear projects after last year’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan crippled the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant and prompted a global review of atomic energy plants. The policy has hurt China’s major nuclear power equipment makers, including Shanghai Electric Group Co., Dongfang Electric Corp. and Harbin Electric Co., which had long-term contracts frozen.
Construction hasn’t started on four nuclear reactors that were approved prior to the Fukushima disaster, according to Xu. The reactors are Yangjiang Nos. 4, 5 and 6, and Fuqing No. 4, he said. Two new reactors will begin operations by the end of the year, he said. The facilities at Hongyanhe and Ningde resumed construction after a nationwide safety inspection that started in April 2011.
The State Council will hold a second round of talks on nuclear safety and the mid- and long-term atomic power development plans, Xinhua News Agency said on May 10, citing Wang Binghua, chairman of the State Nuclear Power Technology Corp. Xinhua didn’t provide details.
Nuclear Safety Regulation
China’s Cabinet has yet to pass a safety plan for nuclear plants, Caixin magazine reported on May 11.
The nuclear power safety regulation is ready and a draft will be submitted to the State Council after minor adjustments, the environmental protection ministry said in a statement on its website on Dec. 12. The regulation, prepared by the China Nuclear Safety Administration, a division of the ministry, outlines rules and goals for nuclear safety by 2020.
Passage of the safety regulations and atomic power development plans are the two key conditions to restart China’s nuclear projects, Li Yongjiang, vice president of the China Nuclear Energy Association, said in January.
China, which started its first commercial nuclear plant in 1994, is building at least 27 reactors and has 50 more planned, according to the association.
The country may have 70 gigawatts of installed nuclear power capacity and 30 gigawatts under construction by the end of the decade, Xu said today. It may have 200 gigawatts of installed capacity by 2030, he said.
The 2020 target may be scaled back to 60 gigawatts to 70 gigawatts, Li told Bloomberg in October.
China will limit the number of reactors to be built on the coast, the State Oceanic Administration said on April 7 last year. The country, which is constructing more reactors than any other nation, has at least 14 atomic units in operation and more than 25 under construction, according to reports from the World Nuclear Association.
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Japan’s Economy Grows More-Than-Estimated 4.1% on Quake Work
By Keiko Ujikane and Masahiro Hidaka - May 16, 2012 7:41 PM CT
Japan’s economy expanded faster than estimated in the first quarter, boosted by reconstruction spending that’s poised to fade just as a worsening in Europe’s crisis threatens to curtail export demand.
Gross domestic product rose an annualized 4.1 percent, the Cabinet Office said today in Tokyo. The median estimate of 27 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was 3.5 percent. In the fourth quarter, growth was 0.1 percent, revised data showed.
on Friday, March 9, 2012. Noda has pledged more than 20 trillion yen ($249 billion) to rebuild areas devastated by last year’s earthquake and tsunami.
The yen’s more than 4 percent gain against the dollar since mid-March may encourage politicians to keep pressing the Bank of Japan to add stimulus, with the first-quarter expansion likely to mark the peak for the year. Europe’s debt turmoil threatens to disrupt exports and financial markets as Greece teeters on the edge of exiting from the euro.
“Japan is on a steady recovery path but this high growth probably won’t continue,” said Yuichi Kodama, chief economist at Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Co. in Tokyo. “We can’t be optimistic about the outlook.”
Economic growth may be 2.2 percent in the second and third quarters, and 1.7 percent in the final three months of the year, according to the average forecast of 40 economists in a Japan Center for Economic Research survey released May 15.
The Nikkei 225 Stock Average was little changed as of 9:34 a.m. in Tokyo after sliding 1.1 percent yesterday as Greece moved to hold another election after failing to form a new government. Today’s GDP report in Japan revised a fourth-quarter contraction to an expansion.
Japan’s central bank failed yesterday to find enough short- term government securities to buy under its asset-purchase program, signaling complications for efforts to spur growth. Officials may need to buy longer-dated debt or other types of assets.
The BOJ increased the program for a second time in three months on April 27 and some lawmakers are urging more aggressive easing as Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda struggles to secure support for doubling a 5 percent sales tax to help contain the world’s largest public debt burden.
Europe’s woes may fuel renewed demand for the yen as a haven, with the currency trading at 80.34 per dollar as of 9:08 a.m. in Tokyo after climbing to a postwar high of 75.35 in October. Sony Corp. (6758), Japan’s largest consumer electronics exporter, gets a fifth of its sales from Europe.
“The risk will be the yen’s appreciation if the risk-off mode among investors continues,” said Masaaki Kanno, chief economist at JPMorgan Securities Japan Co. in Tokyo and a former BOJ official. “The overseas factors aren’t looking positive for Japan’s economy.”
Noda has pledged more than 20 trillion yen ($249 billion) to rebuild areas devastated by last year’s earthquake and tsunami. The value of public works contracts, a leading indicator for public investment, rose 10.3 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, according to data compiled by the Land Ministry, the biggest jump since 2009.
Government subsidies for purchases of fuel-efficient cars gave a boost to consumer spending in the first quarter. They may expire in August, weakening demand later this year, according to Hiroaki Muto, a senior economist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management Co. in Tokyo.
“The increase in consumer spending would be temporary as it was boosted by the government’s measures,” Muto said. “Given that the jobless rate remains high and wages are near flat, it will be difficult for consumers to increase spending considerably.”
At the same time, Japanese companies plan to increase machinery orders at a faster pace this quarter, signaling some continued domestic support for the economy, a report showed yesterday.
Constraints on energy use may add to economic challenges. Japan may impose rolling blackouts and electricity-savings targets this summer as utilities struggle to power factories and light homes with all nuclear reactors offline.
In Kansai, which accounts for about 20 percent of the economy and is the nation’s second-most important industrial heartland, consumers face the biggest limit on power use, the government says. The western region is home to Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe cities as well as the headquarters of Panasonic Corp. (6752), Sharp Corp. and Nintendo Co.
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Euro Officials Begin to Weigh Greek Exit From Common Currency
By Patrick Donahue - May 13, 2012 5:01 PM CT
Greece’s possible exit from the euro area moved to the center of Europe’s debt-crisis debate, with officials beginning to weigh the fallout of a withdrawal even as authorities in Athens struggled to form a government.
Meetings brokered by Greek President Karolos Papoulias are set to continue today after Syriza, the largest anti-bailout party, rejected a unity government following last week’s inconclusive elections. The country where the 2 1/2-year-old crisis began moved closer to a new vote, and to the possibility of a euro-area exit that was once a taboo among policy makers.
Greek withdrawal “is not necessarily fatal, but it is not attractive,” European Central Bank Governing Council member Patrick Honohan said in Tallinn on May 12. An exit was “technically” possible yet would damage the euro, he said. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble reiterated in an interview in Sueddeutsche Zeitung that member states seeking to hold the line on austerity for Greece could not force the country to stay.
The debate between growth and austerity will form the centerpiece of talks tomorrow between the newly installed French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has championed an agenda of spending cuts. Euro finance ministers meet today and may discuss the international bailout for Greece, as well as the situation in Spain, where the government last week made a fourth attempt to clean up the country’s banks.
The euro-area finance ministers will convene in Brussels at 5 p.m. local time.
The euro dipped below $1.30 last week for the first time since January and bond yields of indebted states rose to new highs, with Spain’s 10-year yield climbing 27 basis points to 6.01 percent.
“Syriza won’t betray the Greek people,” party leader Alexis Tsipras said in a statement yesterday as Papoulias began a final bid to coax parties into a coalition. The failure to form a government has prompted concern that Greece may backtrack on pledges to cut spending as part of the bailout requirements negotiated since May 2010, so foreshadowing a euro withdrawal.
The European Commission isn’t considering easing the terms of the joint bailout for Greece from the EU and the International Monetary Fund, EU spokesman Amadeu Altafajsaid, denying a report by Athens-based Real News.
“I’m not aware of any discussions within the commission to grant new provisions, new concessions in the program” for Greece, Altafaj said by phone yesterday.
Europe’s central bankers are discussing the possibility of a Greek departure and how to handle the fallout, Swedish Riksbank Deputy Governor Per Jansson said in an interview on May 11.
European Union Economic and Monetary Commissioner Olli Rehn said in Tallinn that the region is “certainly more resilient” to a possible Greek exit than it was two years ago, when the bloc would have been “massively underprepared.”
“I still believe that Greece can stay in the euro and find the way to make sure that it respects its commitments,” Rehn said. “It would be much worse for Greece and Greek citizens, especially for the less well-off Greek citizens, if Greece did leave the euro than for Europe as such. Europe also would suffer, but Greece would suffer more.”
Under a story headlined “Akropolis Adieu, Why Greece Must Leave the Euro”, Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine today reported that the EU may provide funding for Greece even after a euro departure.
After elections in Greece and France signaled a backlash against the German-led agenda of scaling back spending to battle the debt crisis, officials across the region have re-tuned their rhetoric to emphasize growth and employment.
Hollande, who defeated single-term President Nicolas Sarkozy on May 6 to become the first Socialist president of the Fifth Republic in almost two decades, will tomorrow begin his campaign to shift the focus of crisis-fighting away from austerity.
Confronted with electoral defeat yesterday in Germany’s largest state, Merkel said last week that she’ll welcome Hollande for talks “with open arms.”
“I expect both of them to give a clear signal of commitment to stability of the euro zone of overcoming the sovereign debt crisis,” Peter Altmaier, the deputy floor leader of Merkel’s party, said yesterday on Sky News.
With Hollande among leaders calling for a “growth pact” alongside the German-championed fiscal treaty, euro leaders will look toward a summit dinner in Brussels on May 23.
Investors will also be watching tomorrow when the Greek government is scheduled to repay 436 million euros ($563 million) on a floating-rate note held by investors who shunned its bond-loss accord. An EU official said May 10 that the payment decision is up to the government in Athens.
The government in Athens would run out of cash by early July if creditors decided to withhold their next aid payment in reaction to stalling progress in Greece, according to a report last week by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
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World’s Richest Lose $17 Billion as Slim’s Fortune Drops
By David De Jong - May 11, 2012 4:58 PM CT
The world’s richest people lost a combined $17.1 billion this week as concern over JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM)’s $2 billion trading loss and the weakening euro pushed the Standard & Poor’s (SPY) 500 Index to a two-month low.
Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man, lost the most. The Mexican mogul’s fortune fell by $4.2 billion during the week as shares of his Mexico City-based America Movil SAB (AMXL) dropped 3.82 percent, its biggest weekly loss since December 201
Billionaire Carlos Slim. Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg
The company, the biggest wireless carrier in the Americas, said May 8 it would spend as much as $3.4 billion to buy additional shares of Dutch phone operator Royal KPN NV (KPN) in an effort to further the mogul’s European ambitions.
“America Movil investors see a lot of problems in his bid for KPN,” Jos Versteeg, an Amsterdam-based analyst at Theodoor Gillissen Bankiers, said in a telephone interview May 11. “Slim has found it extremely difficult to get a foothold in the European telecom market. He hasn’t succeeded in Spain, in Italy, in Serbia and in Poland. That must hurt for Latin America’s most successful businessman.”
The 72-year-old has a net worth of $69.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a daily ranking of the world’s 40 richest people. The combined net worth of the ranking: $1 trillion.
During the week, the euro extended its longest slump since 2008 as Greece struggled to form a government and concern grew that Spanish banks are underfunded. The S&P 500 fell 1.15 percent to 1353.39, while the STOXX Europe 600 lost 0.41 percent to close at 251.97.
Bill Gates, 56, ranks second on the list with a net worth of $61.8 billion, up 10.1 percent year-to-date. Placing third is Warren Buffett. The Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/B) chairman is worth $45.7 billion, up $313 million during the week.
“Berkshire will continue to grow,” Buffett, 81, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television after the company’s May 5 shareholders meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.
Buffett said Berkshire’s $34 billion purchase of Burlington Northern Santa Fe LLC in 2010 “will not be the limit,” and that he is looking for bigger acquisitions. The company has $37.8 billion in cash.
Berkshire agreed to provide financing to Coty Inc. in the perfume-maker’s bid to acquire Avon Products Inc. (AVP) Coty said it increased its offer for the world’s largest direct seller of cosmetics to about $10.7 billion on May 10.
Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson’s fortune fell by $1.1 billion during the week as shares of his Nevada-based Las Vegas Sands Corp. (LVS) dropped 4.53 percent. The 78-year-old is the 12th richest person in the world, with a net worth of $23.7 billion.
Rinehart in Peril
Cheng Yu Tung, Hong Kong’s second-richest man, dropped $705 million. Shares of the tycoon’s Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group Ltd. (1929), the largest jeweler in China and Hong Kong, fell 2.58 percent. He is worth $19 billion.
Australian mining heiress Gina Rinehart, 58, is in peril of falling off the index. On May 9, Rinehart’s children won the right to a 23.5 percent share of a trust that holds the majority of the family’s $18.2 billion fortune, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Rinehart’s lawyers disclosed she had moved the trust’s vesting date from 2068 to April 30 of this year. The billionaire’s three oldest children, who sued in September 2011 to have their mother removed as trustee, haven’t decided whether to take ownership of their shares in the trust because they don’t know the tax implications, the newspaper said.
The Bloomberg Billionaires Index takes measure of the world’s wealthiest people based on market and economic changes and Bloomberg News reporting. Each net worth figure is updated every business day at 5:30 p.m. in New York and listed in U.S. dollars.
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Executive · Asia
China Issues Warning in Philippine Trips After Sea Standoff
By Bloomberg News - May 10, 2012 10:59 PM CT
China told tourists to avoid “unnecessary” travel to the Philippines as police gathered in front of a Chinese consular building in Manila ahead of a planned protest over a disputed island in the South China Sea.
The National Tourism Administration warned Chinese tourists who are already in the Philippines to abide by the local laws and mind their security, according to a statement posted late on its website last night. The Philippines should ensure the safety of Chinese people and companies in the country, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.
May 11 (Bloomberg) -- Philippine Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima talks about China's decision to tell tourists to avoid "unnecessary" travel to the Southeast Asian nation. China's Manila embassy warned of public protests amid rising tensions over a disputed island in the South China Sea. The National Tourism Administration warned Chinese tourists who are already in the Philippines to abide by the local laws and mind their own security, according to a statement posted late on its Website last night. Purisima speaks from Manila with Zeb Eckert on Bloomberg Television's "On the Move Asia." (Source: Bloomberg)
Tensions have risen since last month’s standoff between both countries near the island, called the Scarborough Shoal by the Philippines and Huangyan by China. China has become more assertive over its claims to the oil and gas rich waters of the South China Sea, while the U.S., which has a mutual defense treaty with the Philippines, has shifted its military posture toward the Asia-Pacific.
“Filipinos are peace-loving and most welcoming of foreigners and I think our track record bears that out,” Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima told Bloomberg Television today. “It is important that we continue to work on this on a reasonable basis.”
About 150 police deployed in front of the Chinese consular office in Manila’s Makati City neighborhood, Police Superintendent Jamie Santos said. Officers stopped one man from trying to burn three Chinese flags.
About 1,000 people were expected to gather at noon, Emman Hizon, spokesman of the Akbayan political party, told reporters at the protest site. Organizers set up speakers playing patriotic songs.
“We want to call the attention of the international community about China’s bullying tactics in the Scarborough Shoal,” Hizon said. “Our message is simply for Chinese vessels to pull out of the area.”
Shares of Philippine casinos, hotel operators and airlines declined yesterday after the Xinhua News Agency reported that two Chinese travel agencies, Ctrip.com and Beijing Caissa International Travel Service Co., halted tours to the Philippines. Xinhua reported today that Chinese travel agencies in Shanghai and Guangzhou also suspended tours to the region.
The fall in tourism stocks yesterday was a “knee-jerk reaction,” presidential spokesman Ricky Carandang said in a mobile phone message.
Tourist arrivals from China rose 78 percent in the first quarter, more than from anywhere else among the top 12 markets, to 96,455, or 8.4 percent of the total, according to government data. China is the fourth-largest market for tourists to the Philippines, behind South Korea, the U.S. and Japan.
The latest dispute began on April 10, when Chinese ships blocked the Philippines from inspecting Chinese fishing boats in the area. China’s Foreign Ministry has summoned a Beijing-based Philippine diplomat at least three times since the standoff began.
“The Huangyan Island issue is completely triggered by the Philippines’ vessels taking actions against civilian fishermen from China,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a briefing in Beijing yesterday. “China warns that Philippines should stop any actions that will escalate and complicate the issue.”
China has become increasingly assertive in the South China Sea and Cnooc Ltd. (883) began its first deep-water drilling rig in the area on May 9. Cnooc Chairman Wang Yilin said the rigs are a “strategic weapon for promoting the development of the country’s offshore oil industry.”
At a meeting on April 30, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reaffirmed the U.S. commitment under its mutual defense treaty with the Philippines, which obligates the two sides to support the other if attacked.
At a regular briefing yesterday, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland urged restraint and said the U.S. supports “any kind of collaborative, diplomatic process by the claimants to resolve the disputes without any kind of coercion.”
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