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May 30 2011

Monday Business Edition

Monday Business Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Business

1 Germany to close all nuclear plants by 2022

by Deborah Cole, AFP

57 mins ago

BERLIN (AFP) – Germany on Monday became the first major industrialised power to agree an end to nuclear power in the wake of the disaster in Japan, with a phase-out due to be completed by 2022.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said the decision, hammered out by her centre-right coalition overnight, marked the start of a “fundamental” rethink of energy policy in the world’s number four economy.

“We want the electricity of the future to be safer and at the same time reliable and affordable,” Merkel told reporters as she accepted the findings of an expert commission on nuclear power she appointed in March in response to the crisis at Japan’s Fukushima plant.

AFP

2 Rivals likely to reach for Google’s "Wallet"

by Charlotte Raab, AFP

Sun May 29, 10:06 pm ET

NEW YORK (AFP) – With the announcement of “Google Wallet” the Internet giant became the first player to dash into a future where people use smartphones as credit cards, but rivals are expected to cut its lead short.

EBay quickly threw up a hurdle in the form of a lawsuit accusing Google of building the mobile payments platform with trade secrets swiped from the online auction titan’s PayPal financial transactions unit.

Apple, Amazon.com, eBay and Facebook are each believed to be working on ways to let people use smartphones to pay for items or services but Google was the first to introduce such a system, in the form of “Google Wallet.”

3 Lockheed Martin says it repelled cyber attack

AFP

Sun May 29, 3:29 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Lockheed Martin, one of the world’s largest defense contractors, was on Sunday investigating the source of a major cyber-attack one week ago against its information network, the company said.

“Lockheed Martin detected a significant and tenacious attack on its information systems network,” the company said in a statement late Saturday night.

The company said the cyber-assault took place on May 21, and that quick action by its security team successfully repelled the attack.

4 Lockheed Martin confirms attack on its IT network

AFP

Sun May 29, 7:15 am ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Top US defense contractor Lockheed Martin said late on Saturday that it had successfully warded off “a significant and tenacious” attack on its information systems network.

The company’s information security team detected the attack almost immediately and took “aggressive actions” to protect all systems and data, a company statement said.

No specifics about the defensive action were provided. However, “as a result of the swift and deliberate actions taken to protect the network and increase IT security, our systems remain secure,” Lockheed Martin said.

5 Hackers highlight Sony’s need for new ideas

by Hiroshi Hiyama, AFP

Sun May 29, 4:00 pm ET

TOKYO (AFP) – As Sony struggles to recover its shredded reputation in the wake of perhaps the largest ever cyber attack, it is facing a more worrying problem, say analysts — it has lost the knack of innovation.

The April hacker thefts of millions of customers’ personal records have been a bruising experience for the Japanese consumer electronics giant, not least because its network security failures have left it with a potential bill of up to $1 billion.

But also under threat is its core strategy of growing online revenues to replace income from appliances where it has been losing ground in areas such as televisions and portable music players.

6 Tablets, 3D in focus at future-shaping Taiwan IT show

by Benjamin Yeh, AFP

Sun May 29, 3:57 pm ET

TAIPEI (AFP) – The question of how to get 3D technology into every living room and a tablet computer into every hand is set to dominate Asia’s largest IT fair which opens in Taiwan next week.

Around 1,800 exhibitors from across the world will descend on Taipei for the Computex fair, which runs from Tuesday to Sunday, hoping to generate an estimated $23 billion of sales from 36,000 buyers, organisers say.

Under the slogan “Shaping the future!” the fair will showcase a cascade of new products designed to stir the interest of tech-savvy consumers.

7 EU, Japan agree to work towards mega free trade deal

by Claire Rosemberg, AFP

Sat May 28, 12:28 pm ET

BRUSSELS (AFP) – Leaders of the European Union and Japan on Saturday agreed to start talks towards a multi-billion-euro free trade deal linking the world’s third biggest economy to the globe’s largest market.

Long demanded by Tokyo, the decision to launch preliminary talks on a trade deal and explore a new binding political accord, was announced at a summit between EU leaders and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

“We still have a long way to go, but the objective is now clear,” said EU president Herman Van Rompuy after talks in a history-packed castle nestling in parkland on the outskirts of Brussels.

8 EU, Japan eye new friendship, weigh trade friction

by Claire Rosemberg, AFP

Fri May 27, 10:06 pm ET

BRUSSELS (AFP) – An EU-Japan summit Saturday seeking to elevate ties between the world’s third biggest economy and its leading market to a new dimension, looks set to stumble on prickly differences over trade.

Disaster-struck Japan, struggling to recover from a devastating March tsunami and nuclear meltdown, had pressed the European Union hard for a formal summit announcement of the launch of negotiations towards a free trade deal — an accord worth tens of billions to either side.

But after months of tough talking heightened by a history of trade friction, officials said no such deal would be formally inked as the two sides scrambled to agree wording of a joint text only 24 hours before the summit start.

9 Greek PM, Harper meet in Athens

AFP

Sat May 28, 3:04 pm ET

ATHENS (AFP) – Greece will launch an ambitious sell-off of state assets in weeks that will prove to doubters that the country can make it through a new debt crisis, Prime Minister George Papandreou said Saturday.

He was speaking following talks with visiting Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a day after Greek political leaders failed to agree on further austerity measures.

The European Union has warned that time was running out to solve a problem threatening the euro currency.

10 Containing Greek debt crisis is priority: analysts

by William Ickes, AFP

Sun May 29, 2:29 am ET

FRANKFURT, Germany (AFP) – Europe has survived another week of Greece’s debt saga but must decide on new loans to Athens and take care that potential remedies do not kill the patient or its neighbours, analysts say.

“We need to limit as much as possible the amount of contagion that would arise from radical action on Greece,” Deutsche Bank economist Gilles Moec told AFP after days of what seemed sometimes like brinkmanship by European leaders.

He urged that Athens be allowed to make its case for a round of aid worth 12 billion euros ($17 billion) from the European Union and International Monetary Fund while countries like Ireland and Portugal work to “decouple from Greece and reduce market pressure.”

11 Russia to lift grain export ban July 1: Putin

by Dmitry Zaks, AFP

Sat May 28, 5:15 am ET

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia on Saturday said it would soon lift a ban on grain exports that was imposed in August 2010 in the middle of an unprecedented drought that wiped out harvests.

“We are lifting the grain export ban on July 1,” Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced in televised remarks.

The ban by the world’s third-largest wheat exporting country had originally been due to expire at the end of December but was renewed amid fears of another grain shortfall this year.

12 US refuses to label China ‘currency manipulator’

by Veronica Smith, AFP

Fri May 27, 10:32 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States has refrained from branding China a currency manipulator, a move that could trigger sanctions, but urged Beijing to speed up progress on making its currency more flexible.

In a report to Congress, the US Treasury said it had concluded that China was allowing the yuan, whose official named is renminbi, to appreciate against the dollar and had shown willingness to continue promoting exchange-rate flexibility.

The Treasury Department cited “the ongoing appreciation of the renminbi against the dollar since June 2010” as well as “China’s public statements asserting that it will continue to promote RMB exchange rate flexibility.”

13 Italian firms look abroad as economy struggles

by Dario Thuburn, AFP

Sun May 29, 2:55 am ET

ROME (AFP) – Workers rioting in Italy’s historic shipyards this week are only the latest sign of a sense of national economic gloom that is pushing businesses to look abroad for growth and profits.

The riots over the announced closures of the Castellammare di Stabia and Sestri yards with the loss of 2,500 jobs coincided with a decidedly downbeat meeting of the Confindustria, Italy’s powerful employers’ federation.

The conference addressed sluggish growth, high youth unemployment and a renewed sense of unease about Italy on eurozone financial markets after ratings agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded the country’s credit outlook last weekend.

Reuters

14 Greek debt fears weigh on euro, curb world stocks

By Mike Peacock, Reuters

Mon May 30, 5:06 am ET

LONDON (Reuters) – The euro slipped and world stocks were stuck on Monday with fears of a Greek debt default undimmed and U.S. and UK market holidays keeping many investors on the sidelines.

The shared currency was down 0.4 percent and European shares were flat in anemic trade, although German utilities sagged after Berlin’s decision to shut all nuclear reactors by 2022 in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster.

German utilities RWE (RWEG.DE) and E.ON (EONGn.DE) were among the biggest fallers, down by around 2.4 and 1.7 percent respectively, while shares in renewable energy companies rose.

15 EU racing to draft second Greek bailout: sources

By Jan Strupczewzki and Harry Papachristou, Reuters

1 hr 46 mins ago

BRUSSELS/ATHENS (Reuters) – The European Union is working on a second bailout package for Greece in a race to release vital loans next month and avert the risk of the euro zone country defaulting, EU officials said on Monday.

Greece’s conservative opposition meanwhile demanded lower taxes as a condition for reaching a political consensus with the Socialist government on further austerity measures, which Brussels says is needed to secure any further assistance.

Moves to plug a looming funding gap for 2012 and 2013 were accelerated after the International Monetary Fund said last week it would withhold the next tranche of aid due on June 29 unless the EU guarantees to meet Athens’ funding needs for next year.

16 Greek opposition sets demands as EU/IMF verdict nears

By Harry Papachristou and Renee Maltezou, Reuters

1 hr 18 mins ago

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece’s conservative opposition demanded tax cuts on Monday as the price for a consensus deal with the Socialist government on imposing yet more austerity, a major condition for getting further aid from the EU and IMF.

Conservative leader Antonis Samaras called for a flat 15 percent corporate tax and rejected government plans for hiking taxes to tackle Greece’s budget deficit and please fiscal inspectors mulling the next, key tranche of a 110 billion euro bailout.

“You want to raise taxes and reach consensus with us, who have set reducing taxes as a priority? Don’t even think about it,” Samaras said in remarks addressed to the government.

17 S&P cuts Tepco’s credit rating to junk

Reuters

17 mins ago

TOKYO (Reuters) – Ratings agency Standard and Poor’s cut its credit rating on Tokyo Electric Power (9501.T) to junk status on Monday, saying the utility’s lenders were more likely to be forced to write off debt as part of a plan to compensate victims of an ongoing nuclear crisis.

S&P said it had lowered the long-term credit rating of Tokyo Electric, one of the most active bond issuers in Japan, to B+ from BBB, while cutting the rating on the utility’s secured bonds to BB+ from BBB.

The ratings agency said it viewed a default on the utility’s 5 trillion yen ($62 billion) in corporate bonds as less likely than a restructuring of its bank debt.

18 Fitch cuts Japan credit rating outlook to negative

By Stanley White and Rie Ishiguro, Reuters

Fri May 27, 2:31 pm ET

TOKYO (Reuters) – Ratings agency Fitch on Friday cut its outlook on Japan’s sovereign debt, warning that the vast cost of a March earthquake and tsunami and the still-unknown bill for the clean-up after the nuclear disaster would further strain the country’s already shaky public finances.

The Fitch move means all three major ratings agencies now have their fingers poised on the trigger to downgrade Japan’s credit status unless they see moves by the government to strengthen the country’s finances.

Fitch cut its outlook to negative from stable and affirmed its AA minus local currency rating, its fourth highest and the same level as S&P’s but one notch below Moody’s Aa2.

19 Australia warns on cyber attacks on resource firms

By Rob Taylor, Reuters

Mon May 30, 2:20 am ET

CANBERRA (Reuters) – Australia’s government urged companies on Monday to tighten vigilance over cyber attacks launched offshore against some of the world’s biggest resource firms and other businesses, warning high-tech threats were intensifying.

Lockheed Martin Corp, the U.S. government’s top information technology provider, raised concern about cyber hacking at the weekend, complaining of a pattern of frequent attacks on it from around the world.

Australian Attorney-General Robert McClelland’s comments also came after the outgoing head of Australia’s biggest oil and gas company, Woodside Petroleum, said cyber hacking attacks were now coming “from everywhere”.

20 China hikes power prices as shortages loom

By Jim Bai and Tom Miles, Reuters

2 hrs 1 min ago

BEIJING (Reuters) – China has raised power prices for industrial, commercial and agricultural users in some regions by about 3 percent in an attempt to ease what threatens to be the worse power shortage in seven years in the world’s second-largest economy.

The power price rise, which excludes residential users, will add to inflationary pressures but revive profit margins at power producers.

That should prompt an increase in electricity supplies from loss-making power plants that had failed to keep up with rising demand. Higher prices should also discourage excess power consumption.

21 Samsonite sets price range for $1.5 billion HK IPO: sources

By Elzio Barreto, Reuters

Mon May 30, 5:27 am ET

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Luggage maker Samsonite, backed by private equity firm CVC Capital Partners (CVC.UL), moved closer to a $1.5 billion Hong Kong initial public offering, setting an indicative range for the deal on Monday as it bet on booming Asian demand for global consumer brands.

Samsonite will join companies such as L’Occitane (0973.HK) and luxury brands such as Prada SpA and Coach (COH.N) that have targeted Hong Kong to raise their profile among Asian consumers or tap deep-pocketed investors to fund expansion in the region.

China’s rapid growth has created a new class of consumers in major cities as well as in the countryside that have snapped up everything from luxury shoes to handbags and jewelry.

22 Russia central bank hikes deposit rate, hints will pause

By Andrey Ostroukh and Lidia Kelly, Reuters

2 hrs 55 mins ago

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s central bank surprised markets by raising its deposit rate on Monday, citing inflation expectations and risks to economic growth, and indicated that current rates will “be acceptable” in coming months.

The hike in the deposit rate, the central bank’s main tool for influencing money-market rates and liquidity, follows growing official concern over capital outflows that have exceeded $50 billion in the past seven months.

The Bank of Russia raised the overnight deposit rate by 25 basis points to 3.50 percent. However, it held its key refinancing rate at 8.25 percent and the repo rate at 5.50 percent.

23 Beware a manufacturing slowdown

By Noah Barkin, Reuters

Sun May 29, 5:25 pm ET

BERLIN (Reuters) – Add a manufacturing slowdown to the growing risks facing the world economy.

High input prices, supply chain disruptions from the tsunami disaster in Japan and slowing demand from China have combined to brake manufacturing momentum in Europe, the United States and Asia in recent months following a steady run of robust growth.

Just how sharp the slowdown is will become clearer this week with the release of data from factory purchasing managers in major economies across the globe.

24 Nervous investors to seek bigger returns

By Edward Krudy, Reuters

Sun May 29, 3:50 pm ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The world looks a lot more dangerous than it did only a few months ago and signs are that U.S. stock investors are starting to demand more for the added risk.

With important manufacturing and jobs data due this week, it could start to get even riskier.

That means nervous investors are likely to keep a lid on equity prices this year as they grapple with slowing global growth and a host of geopolitical risks from the Arab Spring to debt defaults in the euro zone.

25 Iraqi tribal disputes pose new challenge to oil firms

By Rania El Gamal, Reuters

Sun May 29, 5:54 am ET

AL-KHOYOUT, Iraq (Reuters) – Sitting in his reed meeting house in what was once Iraq’s marshes, sheikh Rashash al-Imara warns of potential trouble if his poor tribesmen are driven off their land by foreign companies digging for oil.

“If I’m someone who is starving and an oil well has been drilled next to me, do you think I will remain quiet?” said sheikh Rashash, a former Iraqi army general, who is now a leading figure in the al-Imara tribe in southern Iraq.

“I swear by God I will take it to pieces. We have told them anything can happen, these are the marshes.”

26 Gasoline prices erode spending, incomes

By Lucia Mutikani, Reuters

Fri May 27, 4:20 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The economy remained sluggish early in the second quarter as high gasoline prices crimped consumer spending and bad weather helped push pending home sales to a seven-month low in April.

Consumer spending increased 0.4 percent for a 10th straight month of gains, the Commerce Department said on Friday, after rising 0.5 percent in March.

But prices rose 0.3 percent, leaving spending up just 0.1 percent and incomes stagnant when adjusted for inflation.

27 Tensions grow over capital controls for banks

By John O’Donnell and Huw Jones, Reuters

Fri May 27, 12:27 pm ET

BRUSSELS/PARIS (Reuters) – European bank shares rose on Friday on hopes that new international capital rules for lenders would be applied with a lighter touch in the European Union as Germany and France demand more leeway.

But at the same time, the International Monetary Fund urged rapid action to force the world’s biggest banks to hold a lot more capital than new minimum requirements due to come in from 2013.

Berlin and Paris have pushed for flexible treatment of some types of bank capital including controversial hybrid bonds as the EU grapples with new rules that are designed to make banks shock-proof in an economic dip, an EU source said on Friday.

28 HSBC shareholders vent anger over pay plan

By Sudip Kar-Gupta and Sarah White, Reuters

Fri May 27, 11:42 am ET

LONDON (Reuters) – HSBC (HSBA.L) (0005.HK) faced a fresh backlash from investors on Friday over high executive pay and mediocre returns, echoing the stinging attacks of a year ago that it had tried to duck by revamping its remuneration package.

Nearly 20 percent of shareholders rejected the new payout proposals, which include lower caps on long-term incentive share payouts — only a marginal improvement on the nearly 25 percent of investors that voted against its 2010 report.

Europe’s largest bank received a bigger pushback on pay than its British peers, despite a year of lobbying to get shareholders on board with its new policy, which was ultimately approved.

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