Monday, June 30, 2008
BIS: Global economy could face deeper downturn
Monday June 30, 7:35 am ET
By George Frey, AP Business Writer
Central banks' banker says world economy could see deeper, longer downturn than most expect
BASEL, Switzerland (AP) -- The global economy could face a deeper downturn than many currently expect amid rising inflation and the turmoil on financial markets, the Bank for International Settlements said at its annual meeting Monday.
"In the aftermath of a long credit-driven boom, it would not be surprising to see turmoil in financial markets, slowing real growth and temporarily rising inflation," the BIS said in its annual report.
"While difficult to predict, their interaction does appear to point to a deeper and more protracted global downturn than the consensus view seems to expect."
The Basel-based bank added that the current "consensus view is still that the global economy will slow only modestly further in 2008" and that growth continued to be strong in the euro zone, Japan, and major emerging market economies.
Often called the central bank of central banks, the BIS said during its last fiscal year central banks worldwide reacted to the financial and monetary policy situation differently, and that given their countries' different economic situations, a "one size fits all" monetary policy can't necessarily be predicted or suggested.
The bank said that with inflation rising, a global bias toward higher interest rates was probably appropriate. Higher interest rates can cool inflation, but run the risk of lower growth.
The bank warned against a cookie-cutter approach to interest rates from country to country, and warned than an excessive tightening exacerbated by the credit contraction caused by the crisis over mortgage-backed securities in the United States could worsen any downturn.
"Unfolding developments at the core of the global financial system have, however also created great uncertainty about the future economic prospects," the bank said. "Banks in several advanced industrial economies have been tightening lending standards, and thus a generalized squeeze in the availability of credit remains a distinct possibility."
The European Central Bank has indicated it could raise its key interest rate from the current 4 percent "by a small amount" as soon as this week, in an effort to combat rising inflation in the 15-nation euro zone, which is well above its preferred level of at or near 2 percent.
The BIS said it would have been best to avoid the large buildup of loose credit in the first place and urged new regulatory frameworks to prevent a recurrence.
The BIS is a center for economic and monetary research, and coordinates regulations in the fields of financial services to promote international financial stability. All of BIS' capital is held by central banks BIS' customers include international central banks, as well as international organizations..
The BIS board of directors has 20 members and is currently chaired by Jean-Pierre Roth of the Swiss National Bank. Six non official directors are the central bank governors of Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom as well as the chairman of the Board of Governors of the U.S. Federal Reserve System.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
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Thursday, June 26, 2008
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Site Web Search: Advanced Search Browse Archive Militants Blow Up Nigerian Oil Pipeline
Updated:17:40, Saturday June 21, 2008
Nigerian militants have blown up up a key oil supply pipeline operated by the American company Chevron.
Militants want share of oil wealthThe US oil giant was forced to shut down its operations following the attack in the volatile Niger Delta.
The action halts output by 120,000 barrels per day.
The attack follows an unprecedented raid on an oil field fun by Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell.
The company said it could not promise to deliver 225,000 barrels per day for June and July.
Unrest in the Niger Delta has reduced Nigeria's total oil production by a quarter in the past two years.
The losses have contributed significantly to the recent surge in world oil prices.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the latest attack.
The raid on Shell's Bonga oilfields on Thursday by speedboats was claimed by the Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) which has carried out a string of attacks on oil facilities in recent months.
MEND, the best equipped and most organised of the armed groups operating in the Niger Delta, has urged foreign workers to leave the region, warning of fresh unrest following a government crackdown on the militants.
According to International Energy Agency statistics, Nigeria produced an average 2.13 million bpd in 2007, making it the 13th biggest producer in the world.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Thursday, June 19, 2008
House Democrats responded to President's Bush's call for Congress to lift the moratorium on offshore drilling. This was at an on-camera press conference fed back live. Among other things, the Democrats called for the government to own refineries so it could better control the flow of the oil supply. At an off-camera briefing, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said the same.
Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), member of the House Appropriations Committee and one of the most-ardent opponents of off-shore drilling:
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
02:14 PM CDT on Wednesday, June 18, 2008
By ELIZABETH SOUDER / The Dallas Morning News
TXU Energy, the retail arm of Energy Future Holdings, introduced a new thermostat that connects to the Internet, allowing electricity consumers to regulate their home temperatures remotely, and allowing TXU to turn air conditioners off during summer afternoons.
The company will give the new iThermostats to customers who sign up for TXU’s energy conservation program.
Customers get the convenience of being able to change their thermostats via the Internet and set the heat or air conditioning to turn on at certain times. TXU said in a press release the thermostat can help customers reduce their electricity usage, cutting their annual bill by as much as $150.
But TXU snags its own benefit by being able to regulate customers’ thermostats between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. May through September. That’s when demand for electricity rises and wholesale prices spike. By cutting customer demand during those hours, TXU could trim its own costs.
The press release states customers can override TXU’s air conditioning cycling via the Internet or by calling TXU.
TXU isn’t offering customers discounts for signing up for the program.
Why Consumer Spending Is a Slow Motion Train WreckPosted Jun 18, 2008 02:32pm EDT by Henry Blodget
From Clusterstock, June 18, 2008:
Retail sales were surprisingly good in April and May, but we believe this was primarily the result of the tax rebate checks--which will soon be spent. Meanwhile, consumers are likely to feel ever more strapped. Northern Trust's Paul Kasriel shows why:
First, the wealth effect. Americans are a lot poorer than they were a year ago. Specifically, thanks to declines in home equity wealth, they're almost $2 trillion poorer than they were a quarter ago, with $399 billion of that decline coming from the fall in real-estate equity:
Second, the loss of the gift that kept on giving: Home equity withdrawals. As house prices drop, Americans can't spend the annual increase in home prices, which they had been doing aggressively for more than five years. Mortgage equity withdrawals (MEW) have now dropped to 1999 levels:
At an annualized rate, active MEW peaked at $576 billion in the second quarter of 2006. Active Mew has slowed to only $114 billion in the first quarter of this year – the smallest amount since the fourth quarter of 1999 (see Chart 3). There is no doubt in my mind that active MEW, which actually puts additional cash into the hands of households, played an important role in boosting consumer spending in this past expansion. And there is no doubt in my mind that the recent and likely continued decline in active MEW will play an important role in retarding consumer spending in this recession. Because it has been easier to borrow against the increased wealth in one’s house than in one’s stock portfolio, dollar-for-dollar, falling house prices will have a more important negative effect on household spending that will falling stock prices.
Bottom line, American consumers have lost their most reliable source of debt financing, and spending is suffering accordingly. With house prices continuing to crash, mortgage equity withdrawals are likely to continue to shrink, putting more pressure on spending.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Oil hits record near $140 a barrel on dollar, fire
Monday June 16, 9:41 am ET
By John Wilen, AP Business Writer
Light, sweet crude for July delivery rose to $139.89 before retreating to trade up $3.62 at $138.48 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Many investors buy commodities such as oil as a hedge against inflation when the dollar falls. Also, a weaker dollar makes oil less expensive to investors dealing in other currencies. Many analysts believe the dollar's protracted decline is a major factor behind oil's doubling in price over the past year.
The euro bought $1.5504, a sizable increase from $1.5354 late Friday in New York. The British pound rose to $1.9668 versus $1.9469 in New York.
Also supporting prices was an overnight fire at a StatoilHydro ASA drilling rig in the North Sea, which could affect as much as 150,000 barrels of daily oil production, said Addison Armstrong, director of market research at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Conn.
But prices of North Sea-produced Brent crude oil, while higher, were lagging Nymex crude's advance, suggesting to analysts that the dollar was the main driver of Monday's rally.
"We have a weaker U.S. dollar, and the buyers are out in force right now," said James Cordier, president of Tampa, Fla.-based trading firms Liberty Trading Group and OptionSellers.com.
Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil producer, told U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon over the weekend that it would boost output by 200,000 barrels a day, or by 2 percent, from June to July. In May, the kingdom raised production by 300,000 barrels a day. That increase was largely ignored by traders amid strong global demand and falling production elsewhere.
It appeared as if the same thing happened Monday.
"They have to increase by north of 1 million barrels per day (in order to have an impact on prices), and the market doesn't think they have it," Cordier said.
At the pump, meanwhile, the national average price of a gallon of gas rose 0.3 cent overnight to its latest milestone, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. Gas prices are following crude prices higher, and likely have several more cents to rise before catching up with oil's latest advance. If oil prices pass $140 and head even higher, the pain consumers are feeling at the pump will intensify.
Associated Press writers George Jahn in Vienna, Austria, and Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, contributed to this report.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Inflation rate jumps by biggest amount in 6 months
Friday June 13, 9:24 am ET
By Martin Crutsinger, AP Economics Writer
The Labor Department reported Friday that consumer prices rose by 0.6 percent last month, the biggest one-month increase since last November, as gasoline costs surged by 5.7 percent. Food prices, which have also been rising sharply, were up 0.3 percent as the cost of beef and bakery products showed big gains.
Core inflation, however, which excludes energy and food, edged up a more moderate 0.2 percent in May. That increase was right in line with expectations and should help relieve worries that the big increases in food and energy could be breaking through to more widespread inflation.
Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, said that the moderate gain in core prices showed price pressures are remaining contained despite fears at the Federal Reserve.
The Fed, which from September through April was aggressively cutting interest rates to fight a mounting economic slowdown, is now indicating that its biggest concern has changed from the threat of a recession to worries about inflation.
In a speech Monday, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said that the Fed will "strongly resist an erosion of longer-term inflation expectations." Those comments have raised expectations that the Fed's next move later this year will be to start raising interest rates.
The 0.6 percent rise in overall prices was slightly higher than the 0.5 percent gain that economists had been expecting while the 0.2 percent rise in core prices matched expectations.
So far this year, consumer prices are rising at an annual rate of 4 percent, compared with a 4.1 percent increase for all of 2007.
Energy prices are rising at a 16.5 percent annual rate, compared with a gain of 17.4 percent for all of 2007, while food prices are rising at a 6.3 percent annual rate, up from a 4.9 percent increase for all of last year.
Analysts said the pressure in both the energy and food areas is likely to continue as global food shortages and rising demand push food prices up and energy costs continue to soar, reflecting a relentless surge in crude oil prices.
The energy increases have pushed the nationwide average for gasoline up to a record of $4.06 and private economists believe that price will keep climbing through the summer driving season.
The combination of rising inflation and weak wage gains contributed to another drop in weekly earnings. After adjusting for inflation, weekly earnings for nonsupervisory workers were down 1.2 percent in May, compared to a year ago, the Labor Department said in a separate report.
Energy prices were up 4.4 percent in May after being unchanged in April. The increase was led by a 5.7 percent jump in gasoline, the biggest one-month increase since last November, and gains of 0.9 percent for electricity, 10.4 percent for home heating oil and 5.6 percent for natural gas.
The 0.3 percent rise in food costs reflected a 1.5 percent jump in beef costs, the biggest rise in 13 months, and another steep increase in cereal and bakery products, which were up 1.6 percent.
Outside of food and energy, clothing costs fell by 0.3 percent and the cost of prescription drugs dropped by 0.7 percent, but airline tickets jumped 3.2 percent, the biggest gain in more than six years, reflecting the surge in fuel costs.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
By Jeff Wilson and Tony C. Dreibus
June 11 (Bloomberg) -- Corn topped $7 a bushel for the first time as unusually wet weather damaged the crop in the U.S., the world's biggest producer. Soybeans rallied to a three- month high and wheat surged the most since February.
Corn production will fall 10 percent to 11.735 billion bushels this year, a bigger drop than forecast a month ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said yesterday. Inventories in September 2009, before next year's harvest, will plunge to a 13- year low, the USDA said.
The price of corn, used mostly to make livestock feed and ethanol, jumped 76 percent in the past year and touched records for five straight sessions. Soybeans, wheat and rice all reached records this year, fueling a pickup in world food inflation. Adverse weather has curbed production of some crops as economic growth boosted demand for grains, meat and dairy products.
``A lot of corn has been damaged beyond repair,'' said William Bayer, a partner at PTI Securities in Chicago. ``Wheat will become an alternate feed source, especially if it's relatively cheaper and more readily available than corn. People are starting to realize that $7 corn may be cheap. Livestock producers won't be able to pay for $9 corn.''
Corn futures for July delivery rose 30 cents, or 4.5 percent, to a record $7.0325 a bushel at 11:21 a.m. on the Chicago Board of Trade. The 30-cent gain was the maximum permitted by the exchange.
More than 4 million acres of corn were left to be planted as of June 1, before Midwest fields received up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) of rain in the past week, according to government data.
Some fields in Iowa, the biggest corn-growing state, may receive as much as 6 inches of rain in the next 24 hours with the remainder of the Midwest getting up to 2 inches of rain during the next five days, said Mike Tannura, a meteorologist for T-Storm Weather in Chicago.
Corn planted in wet, cool soils develops shallow roots, increasing the threat of damage from hot, dry weather in July and August. The saturation also reduces the soil's nitrogen content, which is needed for plant development.
In the U.S., the world's largest exporter of corn, 60 percent of the crop was in good or excellent condition as of June 8, down from 63 percent the previous week, the USDA said June 9 in a report. A year earlier, 77 percent got the highest rating. Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota and Indiana, the five top-producing states, reported declines.
In a survey released March 30, U.S. farmers said they would sow 86 million acres with corn this year, down 8.1 percent from a year earlier, the department said. The USDA on June 30 may cut its corn-acreage estimate when it releases updated figures based on a survey of farmers taken last week, analysts said.
``Corn acreage may fall 2 million to 3 million acres,'' said Brian Hoops, president of Midwest Market Solutions in Yankton, South Dakota. ``Prices could rise to $8.50'' to slow demand for livestock feed and ethanol production, Hoops said.
The government yesterday cut its yield forecast for corn by 3.2 percent to 148.9 bushels an acre, from 153.9 predicted last month and 151.1 for last year's crop. The reduction reflects ``persistent heavy rainfall across the Corn Belt,'' the USDA said in the report.
``The cut in yields this early in the growing season was a shock,'' said Roy Huckabay, executive vice president for the Linn Group in Chicago. ``We have to start rationing supplies.''
The wet weather also has delayed some soybean planting in the U.S., the world's largest producer and exporter of the oilseed. Soybean stockpiles on Aug. 31, before this year's harvest, will fall to 125 million bushels, the government said yesterday.
``We are losing soybean yield and acres,'' said Brian Hoops, president of Midwest Market Solutions in Yankton, South Dakota. ``Supplies are already tight, so eventually soybeans are going to run to new highs.''
Soybean futures for July delivery rose 67.25 cents, or 4.7 percent, to $15.1375 a bushel in Chicago, after earlier rising the exchange limit of 70 cents to $15.165, the highest for a most-active contract since March 6. Soybeans are up 83 percent in the past year, reaching a record $15.865 on March 3 on increased global demand for the oilseed.
About 77 percent of the soybean crop has been planted on June 8, compared with 69 percent a week earlier and 92 percent in 2007, the USDA said. Wet weather has kept growers out of fields. About 57 percent of the soybeans were in good or excellent condition, compared with 70 percent a year earlier, the USDA said, rating the crop for the first time this year.
Wheat rose the most in more than three months on heightened speculation that livestock producers will use more of the grain as animal feed because of soaring corn prices. Wheat has dropped 37 percent from a record in February after growers worldwide seeded more to take advantage of the rally. Wheat's premium to corn has declined to $1.4975 a bushel from $7.15 on March 12.
Wheat futures for July delivery rose 51 cents, or 6.3 percent, to $8.60 a bushel in Chicago. A close at that level would be the biggest gain since Feb. 26. The price earlier rose the exchange limit of 60 cents to $8.69 and has advanced 54 percent in the past year after adverse weather in 2007 curbed global yields. The record on Feb. 27 was $13.495.
Rice futures for July delivery rose 39 cents, or 2 percent, to $19.81 per 100 pounds in Chicago. Rice has gained 83 percent in the past year and reached a record $25.07 on April 24.
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Sunday, June 08, 2008
Gas hits national average of $4 for first time
Sunday June 8, 12:06 pm ET
Gas is expected to keep climbing, putting greater pressure on consumers and businesses, because the price of oil is soaring in futures markets. Light, sweet crude shot up nearly $11 a barrel Friday and approached $140 for the first time.
Along with higher fuel costs, consumers are also contending with higher prices for food and other goods because of rising transportation costs.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Monday, June 02, 2008
Clinton campaign making final assessments
By JIM KUHNHENN and BETH FOUHY, Associated Press Writers1 hour, 57 minutes ago
Hillary Rodham Clinton pushed through South Dakota Monday as an air of finality and resignation began to settle in among her supporters, aides and financial backers.
Nancy Sutterer, a 52-year-old unemployed technician, implored Clinton at a restaurant stop to tackle the economy "wherever you're at, whatever you're doing."
From that breakfast booth in Rapid City to a campaign stop by former President Clinton in Milbank, S.D., there were abundant signs that her historic run for the presidency was closing out.
"I want to say also that this may be the last day I'm ever involved in a campaign of this kind," former President Clinton said.
In a rare departure from the campaign trail, the New York senator and former first lady planned to hold an end-of-primary rally in New York Tuesday night, inviting donors and offering to fly field staffers from around the country to attend. She had no other events scheduled for Tuesday and aides said she planned to be on the telephone calling superdelegates in a last-ditch effort to undercut Obama's lead.
Aides stressed she had no plans to withdraw from the race Tuesday night.
But Clinton field hands who worked in key battlegrounds for her said they were told to stand down, without pay, and await instructions. Speaking not for attribution because they didn't want to jeopardize their jobs searches, many said they were peddling resumes, returning to their hometowns or seeking out former employers.
Clinton superdelegates held a conference call with senior Clinton adviser Harold Ickes Monday afternoon, a regularly scheduled event that at least one participant described as being part congratulations and part farewell.
Ickes also spoke by conference call to members of Clinton's finance committee, where he said she almost certainly would not appeal a Democratic Party rules committee decision giving her fewer delegates from Michigan than she thought she had earned. Clinton signaled Saturday she might appeal the ruling, which would have dragged the nomination fight to the party's convention in August.
Clinton was to end the day Monday in Sioux Falls with former President Clinton and their daughter Chelsea before flying east. South Dakota and Montana hold the final two primaries Tuesday, with 31 delegates at stake.
Clinton's advisers privately predicted she would lose both contests. She planned to meet with advisers at her home in Chappaqua, N.Y., on Tuesday.
Campaign officials said she planned to consider all options until Obama secured the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination. But while the Democratic Party has now set the threshold for the nomination as 2,118 delegates, Clinton aides would not concede that number as the determinative total.
But Hassan Nemazee, a national co-chairman of Clinton's finance committee, said that if Obama succeeded in reaching the delegate threshold Tuesday, Clinton would have little reason to continue her candidacy.
"If one candidate has the requisite number of delegates, both pledged and super, it makes it far more difficult to make the credible argument that she stay in on the chance that some superdelegates might change their mind and endorse her later," Nemazee said.
Clinton was scheduled to address the national conference of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, in Washington Wednesday, as was Obama.
Even with her chances of wresting the nomination from Obama all but extinguished, Clinton's supporters and advisers were calling uncommitted superdelegates to persuade them to back her candidacy or hold off from endorsing Obama until the voting in the final primaries was over. Indeed, two new superdelegates — one from Louisiana and one from New York — announced Monday they would support Clinton, but Obama was picking up even more.
Mark Aronchick, a national fundraiser for Clinton based in Philadelphia, said he was calling "any superdelegate I know" including those who have publicly endorsed Obama in hopes of winning their support. While he said he expected Clinton to stay in the race until Obama secured enough delegates for the nomination, he acknowledged that she faced long odds.
"We're not withdrawing. We're not conceding. We're going on to the end," Aronchick said, adding that whatever the outcome, Democrats would have to move quickly to restore party unity "from top to bottom."
Other prominent supporters who have been with Clinton for months said they would stay loyal until she made a decision going forward.
"She should do what she perceives is best for her," said Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who helped Clinton to a resounding win in his state's March primary.
Tellingly, though, the popular first-term governor didn't have any public plan to campaign for Clinton anywhere Monday.
Kathy Sullivan, the former New Hampshire Democratic Party chairwoman whose endorsement helped Clinton win that state's political death-defying primary in January, said she had tried to call Clinton Monday.
"I left her a message that said, basically, 'Whatever you decide to do, I'm with you 100 percent. But don't bother calling back, I'm sure you're busy,'" Sullivan said.
In South Dakota, supporters at Tally's Restaurant waited more than four hours for her to arrive. Many encouraged her to stay in the race.
"You keep fighting; you've got guts," Richard Willert, a retired carpenter told her.
But there were signs that, at least here in the heartland, Clinton supporters did not bear animosity to Obama and could see themselves voting for him as well.
"I think he can be a leader," said Karen Schaefer, a retired elementary school teacher.
Beth Fouhy reported from Washington. Devlin Barrett in Washington, Peter Jackson in Harrisburg, Pa., Dennis Gale in Sioux Falls, S.D., and Philip Elliott in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.