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Showing posts from May 13, 2013

Retail sales gain shows some strength in economy

Retail sales unexpectedly rose in April, pointing to underlying strength in the economy and leading forecasters to bump up second-quarter growth estimates. The surprise gain in retail sales, which account for about 30 percent of consumer spending, was the latest sign of resilience in an economy that has been hit by belt-tightening in Washington as the government tries to cut its budget deficit. "It's more indication that our economy is growing. It's not growing as rapidly as a lot of people would like, but things are improving," said Tom Hall, an economics professor at Miami University's Farmer School of Business in Oxford, Ohio. Retail sales edged up 0.1 percent after a 0.5 percent drop in March as households bought automobiles, building materials and a range of other goods, the Commerce Department said on Monday. Economists had expected a decrease of 0.3 percent.   So-called core sales, which strip out automobiles, gasoline and building materials and corr

Wall Street ends near flat after recent highs; healthcare climbs

Stocks closed little changed on Monday, pausing after hitting record highs last week, but strength in healthcare issues helped to keep declines in check. The S&P 500 healthcare sector .SPXHC climbed 0.7 percent and was the day's best performer.   Shares of Theravance ( id="symbol_THRX.O_1"> THRX.O ) jumped 17.9 percent to $41.20 after Irish drugmaker Elan ( id="symbol_ELN.I_2"> ELN.I ) ( id="symbol_ELN.N ELN.N ) agreed to a $1 billion deal to buy 21 percent of the royalties that Theravance receives from GlaxoSmithKline ( id="symbol_GSK.L GSK.L ) ( id="symbol_GSK.N GSK.N ) for its respiratory drugs. _3"> The day's flat close followed a third straight week of gains on the major indexes, with both the Dow and S&P 500 setting record closing highs last week. The S&P 500 remains up 14.5 percent for the year so far. _4"> While some analysts argue the long-term trend is still higher, many see momentum waning i

Emails show lobbyists, not insiders, underpinned U.S. market-moving report

The researcher whose report prompted a spike in health stocks last month appears to have relied on lobbyists rather than U.S. government insiders who had direct knowledge of a pending healthcare decision, according to emails reviewed by Reuters. The messages could help bolster Height Securities LLC's claim that its analyst was essentially doing what reporters, lobbyists and others in Washington do every day: trying to figure out what the government is going to do next.   The small research shop is among the brokerages, law firms and other "political intelligence" operations that have drawn scrutiny over concerns that they may have facilitated insider trading by passing along tips that moved markets. Height Securities has drawn inquiries from the Securities and Exchange Commission and Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley since it correctly predicted on April 1 that President Barack Obama's administration would keep certain medical payment rates in place, prom

Walmart calls on Bangladesh to take action with three factories

Walmart ( id="symbol_WMT.N_0"> WMT.N ) called on the Bangladesh government on Monday to stop production at one apparel factory and investigate the condition at another until workers' safety could be assured. _0"> The unusual action followed the death of more than 1,100 people in the collapse of a factory in Bangladesh.   "The government of Bangladesh did the responsible thing last week by closing factories believed to be dangerous," Rajan Kamalanathan, Walmart vice president of ethical sourcing, said in a statement. Walmart said that it had stopped production at Stitch Tone Apparels factory because it had discovered that a neighboring factory had structural problems. It also said inspectors who had been contracted by Walmart had reported a potentially dangerous condition at another one of the factories Walmart uses, Liz Apparels factory. The inspectors notified the government, the factory owner and other companies that contract with the facilit

DiCaprio, Christie's raise $32 mln at auction for environmental causes

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Christie's auction house raised nearly $32 million for environmental causes on Monday at a charity art auction. DiCaprio, the star of the new film "The Great Gatsby," organized the so-called The 11th Hour Auction along with his foundation and Christie's to protect the last wild places on Earth and their endangered species.   The 33 works of art, many of which were created for and donated to the auction by the artists, sold for $31.74 million in spirited bidding in a packed auction house. Art collectors from around the globe also placed bids by telephone. "All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you," DiCaprio told the audience at the end of the auction, which raised more than double the pre-sale estimate. In addition to the sale, which set records for 13 artists including Carol Bove, Joe Bradley, Mark Grotjahn, Raymond Pettibon and Mark Ryden among others, a $5 million matching donation for three of the lots and $1.15

Daylight shines on Tate Britain's 500-year gallop through art

Out go the themed rooms and groupings of artists at London's Tate Britain gallery, and in comes a pure, sunlit, chronological walk through British art from 1540 to the present. The world's leading collection of British paintings and sculpture on Monday threw open a permanent gallery so radically refurbished and reorganized that every one of the 500-odd works on display had to be rehung. "What I wanted to try and do was to have a complete chronology that wouldn't be interrupted by exhibitions," said Director Penelope Curtis.   She denied that the Tate was "dumbing down" for the average tourist, saying the layout offered better access to everyone from school children to art experts, put works in context with their contemporaries, and would be uncompromised by temporary shows. The "BP Walk through British Art" winds around the perimeter of the building, beginning in 1540 with portraits by the likes of Hans Holbein and Anthony van Dyck, then

U.S. appeals court revives lawsuit vs United Airlines over wheelchair

A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday revived a lawsuit against United Continental Holdings Inc's United Airlines that was brought by a woman who claimed she was not promptly provided a wheelchair in an airport when she asked for one. The opinion, from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, said federal law did not pre-empt the woman's personal injury claims under state law. A representative for United could not immediately be reached for comment. Mark Meuser, an attorney for plaintiff Michelle Gilstrap, who has difficulty walking, said some lower court judges had disagreed about whether individuals should be able to bring claims for injuries in an airplane or terminal. "This is a really big deal for disabled Americans across the country," Meuser said. Gilstrap had difficulty walking due to a collapsed disc in her back and osteoarthritis, according to the court opinion. During two separate plane trips in 2008 and 2009, she alleged that United failed

BlackBerry plans security feature for Android, iPhone

BlackBerry will offer technology to separate and make secure both work and personal data on mobile devices powered by Google Inc's Android platform and by Apple Inc's iOS operating system, the company said on Thursday. The new feature could help BlackBerry sell high-margin services to enterprise clients even if many, or all, of their workers are using smartphones made by BlackBerry's competitors. That may be crucial for the company as it has lost a vast amount of market share to the iPhone and to Android devices, such as Samsung Electronics Co's ( id="symbol_005930.KS_0"> 005930.KS ) Galaxy line. Jefferies analyst Peter Misek said he expects BlackBerry's device management software to gain traction this year, and boost revenue next year. "Supporting devices with the best, most secure, and easiest-to-use mobile solution should enable RIM to transform into what we believe is an attractive model," he said in a note to clients.   The offerin

48 hours in Rochester, New York

Synonymous with film photography, lilacs and classical music, Rochester offers an unusual array of attractions for a mid-sized U.S. city that brought industrial prowess to a scenic river gorge on Lake Ontario's southern shore. From top-ranked golf courses and national-landmark house museums to a children's emporium of play and America's oldest municipal park-garden cemetery, the city in western New York is crammed with surprises for visitors of all interests.   Its glacier-carved linchpin is a trio of waterfalls trumpeting the Genesee River's thunderous descent into Lake Ontario. Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a short stay in Rochester (pop. 210,855), variously known over two centuries as the Flour City, the Flower City and, less so of late, the World's Image Center. FRIDAY 5:30 p.m. - Dinner at Dinosaur Barbecue (, a honky tonk rib joint tucked into a former railroad station overlooking

Lawmakers hover as more homeowners rent rooms to visitors

For British student Carly Connor a trip to London for a city break would be impossible if she had to pay for a hotel so instead she rents a room in a Londoner's home. Connor, 26, is among a growing number of people taking advantage of a surge in the number of homeowners offering to rent out a room for a night or longer, with the cash a welcome addition to recession-squeezed budgets.   This new wave of hospitality sweeping the travel industry was sparked by the success of "couch surfing", where people could go online to book a free bed in a home, and is being led by a blitz of new websites that let tourists bypass resorts and hotels. "A lot of the time you find yourself with a host who is more than happy to point you in the direction of a few local hot spots that you otherwise would have missed entirely," Connor told Reuters. But the increasing popularity of peer-to-peer rentals has lawmakers on the alert in some countries, scrutinising tax, health and saf

StanChart falls after short seller Muddy Waters flags bad debts

Standard Chartered ( id="symbol_STAN.L_0"> STAN.L ) shares fell and the cost of insuring its debt against default jumped on Monday after U.S. activist investor Muddy Waters said it had bet against the bank because of its "deteriorating" loan quality. _0"> Muddy Waters' founder Carson Block told a conference in Las Vegas last week he had bet against Standard Chartered debt because the market is underestimating the risk that is in the bank's loan book, a spokesman for the short seller said.   Block, whose company says it analyses the true worth of Chinese companies, argued that while Standard Chartered is diversified across emerging markets, a slowdown in China will lead to "considerable stress" at the lender. Block was buying 5-year credit default swaps (CDS) for the bank, which is insurance against a default and yields a profit for buyers on any rise, the spokesman added. Standard Chartered's 5-year CDS jumped almost 13 perce

Lufthansa says April passenger traffic stagnant

German airline Lufthansa ( id="symbol_LHAG.DE_0"> LHAG.DE ) said on Monday that April passenger traffic in terms of revenue seat kilometers was flat from a year earlier. _0"> It added that the monthly passenger load factor, a measure of passenger aircraft utilization, narrowed 0.2 percentage points to 78.3 percent.   (Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Christoph Steitz)

Kuwait may sign plane deal in May, Airbus favored: source

Kuwait is studying plans by its airline to buy 25 Airbus jets, a source with knowledge of the matter said, in the most sweeping overhaul since part of its fleet was seized after Iraq invaded the Gulf state in 1990. The proposal calls for state-owned Kuwait Airways KA.UL to buy 25 new Airbus jets and to lease a further 13 to upgrade its fleet but needs government approval, the source said. It could be signed by the end of this month.   The move comes months after Kuwait was awarded $500 million by Iraqi Airways for damage caused when former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's forces seized aircraft and parts, ending a two-decade row over compensation. The Kuwaiti airline's aircraft buying committee judged that Airbus made the most attractive offer in a tender process which included bids from Boeing ( id="symbol_BA.N_1"> BA.N ) and Bombardier ( id="symbol_BBDb.TO_2"> BBDb.TO ), the source said. The source declined to be named because the deal still n

EU can deal with treaty change issue later: Eurogroup head

Spain and Portugal called on Monday for the euro zone to complete a banking union as Germany underscored legal hurdles before a central element of the plan to deal with failing banks can be introduced. "It is indispensable that we stick to the agreed calendar on banking union and that we take steps to make sure families and small companies receive credit," Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told reporters.   "Banking union is the credibility test of the European Union," he said, after meeting Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho, who backed his calls for progress on Europe's most ambitious reform of the financial crisis. The call came as finance ministers from the euro zone met in Brussels, ahead of which German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble reiterated the need for a change to EU treaties to underpin the new system of bank resolution. "When a bank is wound up, money and jobs are usually lost. Those affected will seek redress. If th

Airbus says A350 'progressing well' to first flight

Europe's newest passenger jet, the A350, is "progressing well on its route to first flight," manufacturer Airbus said on Monday. _0"> The planemaker issued the comment after the first flyable aircraft left the paint shop in Airbus colors, ahead of final testing and a maiden flight expected in coming weeks. The paint job indicates the flight is fast approaching, but Airbus has abandoned the traditional grand "rollout" party as it gives priority to project execution following a series of industry delays, Reuters reported last week. The aircraft "will soon start the final tests before its maiden flight this summer," Airbus said in a statement. (Reporting by Tim Hepher)

Hedge fund nominees to Hess board to forgo special pay package

An activist hedge fund's nominees to the Hess Corp ( id="symbol_HES.N_0"> HES.N ) board of directors said they were waiving their right to receive a special pay package from the fund if the oil and gas company outperforms its peers under their watch. _0"> Hess shareholders are set to vote on the board nominees later this week. Hess and the hedge fund, Elliott Management, have been working hard to lobby investors to back their nominees. Hess said last week that it would separate the posts of chairman and chief executive, stripping longtime CEO John Hess of his chairmanship.   If elected, the Elliott nominees would have been eligible to receive $30,000 from the hedge fund for every percentage point that Hess outperformed its peers over their first term as directors. In a letter to shareholders, the five Elliott nominees called the attention paid to their pay arrangements a distraction. "While each of us believes that these arrangements are appropriat

ECB says in contact with Bloomberg over confidentiality

The European Central Bank said on Monday it was in touch with Bloomberg LP after the financial data and news company had allowed journalists to see some information about terminal usage. _0"> Bloomberg customers, including the U.S. Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury, are examining whether there could have been leaks of confidential information.   "The ECB takes the protection of confidentiality in the usage of data products by ECB management and staff very seriously," an ECB spokesman said. "Our experts are in close contact with Bloomberg." The financial data and news company said on Friday it had restricted reporters' access to client data last month after a client complained. Bloomberg, whose terminals are widely used in the global financial industry, had allowed journalists to see some information about terminal usage, including when customers had last logged in, and how often they used messaging or looked up data on broad categories, such a

CBOE keeps index franchise as justices stay out of dispute

CBOE Holdings Inc ( id="symbol_CBOE.O_0"> CBOE.O ) won a long-running legal battle to prevent rival International Securities Exchange from listing options on two key U.S. stock-market indexes, after the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to consider their dispute. The court's refusal to intervene leaves intact a lower court ruling that allows CBOE, the operator of the oldest and biggest U.S. stock market, to remain the sole market for options on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index and the Dow Jones Industrial Average. CBOE's exclusive franchise on stock-index options is a lucrative one, generating 60 percent of CBOE's transaction fees, although they account for less than 40 percent of its trading volume. "We are vindicated after more than six years of lengthy and unnecessary litigation that the highest court in the land has validated our position and the intellectual property rights of index providers," CBOE's chief executive and cha

Bernanke to speak on economy to Congress on May 22

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will deliver testimony on May 22 on the outlook for the U.S. economy before the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, according to an announcement on the website of committee chairwoman Amy Klobuchar. _0"> Bernanke's appearance will come as markets, weighing recent mixed indications on the strength of the U.S. economy, focus on the likely duration of continued bond purchases by the U.S. central bank to spur growth and hiring.   (Reporting By Alister Bull)

Level Global co-founder gets 6-1/2 years prison insider trading

Hedge Fund Level Global Investors LP co-founder Anthony Chiasson was sentenced on Monday to 6-1/2 years in prison for insider trading. _0"> At a court hearing in Manhattan, U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan also ordered Chiasson, 39, to pay a $5 million fine. Chiasson and Todd Newman, a former hedge fund portfolio manager with the now-defunct hedge fund Diamondback Capital Management, were convicted of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and of securities fraud in December.   Sullivan sentenced Newman to 4-1/2 years in prison earlier this month. Federal prosecutors had requested that Chiasson serve as many as 10 years in prison. The two were accused of using inside information to trade in shares of computer maker Dell Inc ( id="symbol_DELL.O_0"> DELL.O ) and chipmaker Nvidia Corp ( id="symbol_NVDA.O_1"> NVDA.O ). Level Global made $68 million in illegal profits from the trades, according to prosecutors. (Reporting by Bernard Vaughan; Editi

Hedge fund nominees to Hess board forgo controversial pay scheme

An activist hedge fund's nominees to the Hess Corp ( id="symbol_HES.N_0"> HES.N ) board of directors said they were waiving their right to receive a controversial pay package under which the fund will pay them extra if the oil and gas company outperforms its peers under their watch. _0"> The pay package had become a point of contention in the heated proxy battle between the oil and gas company and hedge fund Elliott Management, which nominated the slate of directors. Hess said the pay -- which would not be available to the company's other directors -- compromised the nominees' independence.   Hess shareholders are set to vote on the board nominees on Thursday. Hess and Elliott Management, have been lobbying investors to back their nominees. Hess said last week that it would separate the posts of chairman and chief executive, stripping longtime CEO John Hess of his chairmanship. If elected, the Elliott nominees would have been eligible to receive

Plains CEO urges shareholders to back Freeport deal

The chief executive of Plains Exploration & Production Co ( id="symbol_PXP.N_0"> PXP.N ) urged shareholders on Monday to vote in favor of Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc's ( id="symbol_FCX.N FCX.N ) proposed takeover of the energy company. _0"> The open letter from CEO James Flores follows recommendations by two proxy advisory firms, ISS and Glass Lewis & Co, that shareholders vote against the $6 billion deal, arguing that it undervalues the oil and gas company.   _1"> Freeport said on Thursday that it does not plan to raise its offer, which values each Plains share at $25 plus 0.6531 of its common stock, calling the terms of the friendly deal "best and final. In December, copper miner Freeport announced plans to buy Plains as well as another oil and gas company, McMoRan Exploration Co ( id="symbol_MMR.N_2"> MMR.N ), aiming to diversify into the U.S. energy sector in a hedge against copper's uncertain outl

Stemcor and lenders appoint advisors for standstill talks

Stemcor's banks have appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers to advise them as they assess the steel trader's proposal for a standstill on $1.2 billion of loans, people familiar with the situation said on Monday. Stemcor's advisors Ernst and Young and Goldman Sachs are helping the company to secure the standstill agreement as lenders form a co-ordinating committee to assess Stemcor's standstill proposal, the people said. Privately-owned Stemcor, the world's largest independent steel trading company and the fifth-largest private company in the UK, was forced to seek a standstill agreement after failing to refinance an $850 million loan. Stemcor had no official comment. Under a standstill agreement, lenders agree not to ask for repayment and work with the company to restructure the debt or extend its maturity. Stemcor is asking banks to keep its loans in place until it is able to repay them in the next couple of years by accelerating a restructuring program and selli

Donations, lobbying by high-speed traders on the rise: report

High-frequency trading firms increased their campaign contributions to federal lawmakers by 673 percent from the 2008 to the 2012 election cycle, according to a report that sheds light on their political connections in Washington and efforts to impact policymaking. The report by the Washington-based nonprofit watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) comes as U.S. financial market regulators mull whether new rules should be adopted to rein in high-speed traders, whom some critics accuse of harming smaller investors.   It compiles the campaign and lobbying records for 48 different firms like Citadel Investments, Getco, Knight Capital ( id="symbol_KCG.N_0"> KCG.N ), Virtu Financial LLC and Tradeworx which engage in high-speed trading, a strategy that uses lightning-fast computers to search for ways to take advantage of tiny price moves in the marketplace. It also identifies lawmakers who raked in the most campaign dollars over the course of t

Dell committee seeks more info from Icahn, Southeastern

Dell Inc's special board committee asked activist investor Carl Icahn on Monday for details of his plan to buy the computer maker, including how he would finance a cash payout for shareholders and who would run the company if his preferred slate of board directors was installed. _0"> Last week, Icahn and Southeastern Asset Management Inc offered $12 in cash per share or additional shares to existing investors as an alternative to Michael Dell's $24.4 billion bid to take the company private. And the billionaire investor warned he would put up his own roster of candidates for the board if shareholders greenlit the company founder's offer.   Icahn's plan assumes that only as much as 80 percent of the company's shareholding will opt for a cash payout, translating into a maximum outlay of $16.8 billion. Michael Dell, major shareholders such as Southeastern and Icahn are waging a battle over the future of the world's third largest personal computer make