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September 16, 2014

US stocks open lower ahead of Fed meeting

Filed under: management, money — Tags: , , , — Gogo @ 11:12 am

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks are falling in early trading ahead of an important Federal Reserve meeting.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell four points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,979 shortly after markets opened Tuesday.

The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 40 points, or 0.2 percent, to 16,990. The Nasdaq fell 13 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,505.

Fed policy makers start a two-day meeting Tuesday and many investors expect the central bank to indicate that it is moving closer to raising its key interest rate as the economy continues to strengthen. The Fed has held the rate close to zero for more than five years, which has helped the stock market surge.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note eased to at 2.58 percent from 2.59 percent late Monday.

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September 14, 2014

Report: SABMiller pursues Heineken, but is rebuffed

Filed under: management, online — Tags: , , , — Gogo @ 1:08 pm

SABMiller recently made a bid to take over Heineken, but was rebuffed by the family that controls the Dutch brewer, Bloomberg reports today.

The news service cites “people with knowledge of the matter.” Both SAB and Heinken declined to comment.

A tie-up between London-based SABMiller, with a market capitalization of about $90 billion, and Heineken, with a market capitalization of $44 billion, would combine the world’s second- and third-largest brewers.

The bid is said to be part of an effort by SABMiller to protect itself from Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s No. 1 brewer.

Some industry analysts expect Belgium-based A-B InBev to make a bid for SABMiller. St. Louis is home to the North American headquarters of A-B InBev.

Any potential takeover of Heineken would need the approval of the founding family.

The SAB Miller offer, made in the last two weeks, would have made the Heineken family one of the largest shareholders in the combined group, Bloomberg reported.

SAB, which makes Miller Lite, Peroni, Grolsch and other beers, is struggling to grow in Europe and North America.

Heineken, the biggest player in western Europe, has steadily expanded in faster-growing emerging markets, such as Mexico and Asia.

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September 13, 2014

Big chunk of $1.3B Tesla bill passes Nevada Senate

Filed under: Uncategorized, legal — Tags: , , , — Gogo @ 5:20 am

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — The Nevada Senate unanimously approved the biggest chunk of an unprecedented package Thursday to give Tesla Motors up to $1.3 billion in tax credits and other incentives to bring the electric-car maker’s $5 billion battery factory to the state, and the Assembly was preparing to do the same.

On a 21-0 vote, senators passed to the Assembly a bill with up to $1.1 billion in tax abatements for Tesla’s “gigafactory.” One lawmaker said it would be the biggest thing to hit Nevada since the building of the Hoover Dam during the Great Depression.

California-based Tesla would pay no property taxes or payroll taxes for up to 10 years and no local sales or use taxes for up to 20 years under the bill that Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-Las Vegas, said she expected would receive final approval and be sent to Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval for his signature Thursday night.

“It’s the heart and soul of the legislation that is going to get Tesla here,” Sen. Mark Hutchison, R-Las Vegas, said immediately after the Senate vote at 5:58 p.m. “Everybody knows how important this is for the state of Nevada.”

The Senate also approved and sent to the governor two smaller bills the Assembly passed earlier Thursday providing Tesla discounted electricity and ending a $25 million annual subsidy for insurance companies to help pay for Tesla’s tax credits.

The factory planned at an industrial park along Interstate 80 about 15 miles east of Sparks is expected to help create more than 20,000 jobs and inject up to $100 billion into the state’s economy over the next 20 years.

“This is arguably the biggest thing that has happened in Nevada since at least the Hoover Dam,” said Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks.

Under the agreement, Tesla would have to spend $3.5 billion in the state within 10 years. It also mandates half the jobs go to Nevada residents, at both the factory expected to employ 6,000-plus and among the 3,000 projected construction jobs.

“This really is the definition of the rising tide lifting all boats,” said Steve Hill, director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. “It wasn’t that long ago we were suffering through one of the worst recessions in Nevada history with 14.5 percent unemployment.”

Earlier Thursday, several Senate Democrats objected to Sandoval’s plan to cut all but $10 million from an $80 million program the last Legislature approved providing tax credits to the motion picture industry. That $70 million combined with the $125 million from the home insurance office credit would offset a total of $195 million in Tesla tax credits.

“I think it sets a dangerous precedent when we passed the program in the Legislature and then in just seven months, we just wipe it out,” said Sen. Pat Spearman, D-North Las Vegas. “What if another shiny object comes along?”

But in the end, no one voted against the measure.

A fourth and final bill still be considered — and expected to pass — would make clear it is legal for Tesla to sell the cars it manufactures at dealerships it owns in Nevada. That had been a sticking point in Texas, which along with California, Arizona and New Mexico had competed with Nevada for the plant.

Some of the public comment before the votes questioned why such a big company needs such a big handout from taxpayers.

“I think it is kind of ironic that a renewable energy, a green energy car company we are courting to come to our state, that one of the things we are giving them is free energy,” said Angie Sullivan, a Las Vegas schoolteacher.

“Nobody pays my electric bill,” she said. “I think they are taking advantage of my state when we have limited funds.”

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September 11, 2014

NASA’s newest human spacecraft on the move

Filed under: Finance, Loans — Tags: , , , — Gogo @ 12:20 pm

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA is one step closer to launching its newest spacecraft designed for humans.

Workers at Kennedy Space Center gathered to watch as the Orion capsule emerged from its assembly hangar Thursday morning, less than three months from its first test flight.

The capsule — sealed for protection — slowly made its way to its fueling depot atop a 36-wheel platform. The capsule and its attached service module and adapter ring stretched 40 feet high.

“Isn’t this awesome?” said Kennedy’s director, Robert Cabana, a former space shuttle commander. “This is our step to the future, the exploration of establishing a presence in the solar system.”

Space center employees lined up along the rope barricade to snap pictures of Orion, NASA’s lofty follow-on to the now-retired space shuttle program.

During its Dec. 4 test flight, the unmanned capsule will shoot more than 3,600 miles into space and take two big laps around Earth before re-entering the atmosphere at 20,000 mph and parachuting into the Pacific off the San Diego coast. The entire mission will last 4½ hours.

The second Orion flight won’t occur until around 2018 when another unmanned capsule soars atop NASA’s new megarocket, still under development, called SLS for Space Launch System.

NASA intends to put astronauts aboard Orion in 2021 for deep space exploration; each capsule can accommodate up to four need a personal loan with bad credit.

The plan is to use Orion for getting humans to asteroids and Mars — no space station ferry trips for Orion. A handful of private U.S. companies are competing for these short taxi flights; NASA expects in the next week or so to pick one or two candidates for funding.

While Orion may resemble an oversize Apollo capsule on the outside, everything inside and out is modern and top-of-the-line, officials noted Thursday. “I’m as excited as can be,” said NASA’s Orion production operations manager, Scott Wilson.

For Orion’s dry run, the Lockheed Martin Corp.-built capsule will have hunks of aluminum in place of seats for ballast, and simulators instead of actual cockpit displays. A Delta IV rocket will do the heavy lifting.

When asked by a reporter, Cabana said he wishes Orion’s flight pace was quicker.

“But it is what it is,” he said. “Given the budget that we have, I think we’ve got the best program that you could imagine.”

Orion has its roots in the post-Columbia shuttle era; it originated a decade ago as a crew exploration vehicle to get astronauts beyond low Earth orbit and managed to survive the cancellation of the Constellation moon project.

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September 9, 2014

David Soknacki withdraws from mayoral race

Filed under: Business, online — Tags: , , , — Gogo @ 9:08 pm

David Soknacki announced Tuesday night he is dropping out of the Toronto mayoral race.

“Tomorrow afternoon, I have arranged for a staffer to withdraw my name from the ballot for the 2014 Mayoral race,” Soknacki said in a statement.

“Everyone who has been involved in my campaign over the last eight months can take pride that together, we have set a strong example for our city,” he said. “Ours has been one of the most positive, the most idea-driven and the most idealistic Toronto mayoral campaigns in recent memory.

“However, today, I received confirmation of what I suspected for days: while my support is growing, it simply is not growing quickly enough to make any positive difference to the outcome on Election Day, especially given the challenges I’ve faced as a candidate,” Soknacki said in announcing his decision to withdraw from the race.

More to come.

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September 8, 2014

Electrolux to buy GE Appliances in $3.3B deal

Filed under: economics, online — Tags: , , , — Gogo @ 3:44 am

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Sweden’s Electrolux is buying the appliances business of General Electric for $3.3 billion, boosting its presence on the North American market, the companies said Monday.

The acquisition is the largest ever for Stockholm-based Electrolux, ranked as the world’s second biggest home appliance maker after U.S. rival Whirlpool.

Electrolux shares rose 7 percent to 200.50 kronor ($28.27) in early trading in Stockholm.

GE confirmed last month it was in talks to sell its appliances division — maker of the first electric toaster more than 100 years ago — as part of its effort to focus on selling more complex and profitable industrial equipment.

Electrolux CEO Keith McLoughlin said the move, which needs regulatory approval and is expected to be completed in 2015, “takes our company to a new level in terms of global reach and market coverage.”

Electrolux plans a rights issue corresponding to about 25 percent of the purchase after the acquisition is complete.

Headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, GE Appliances’ products include refrigerators, freezers, cooking products, washers and dryers and air conditioners no faxing payday loans. The division, which has 12,000 workers at nine factories, earned $381 million on $8.3 billion in sales last year, for a profit margin of 4.6 percent.

“GE Appliances’ people, valuable home appliances brand, products, distribution, and service capabilities make it a perfect fit with Electrolux and its goal of accelerating growth in the U.S.,” GE Chief Executive Jeff Immelt said in a joint statement from the two companies.

Other than its own brand, Electrolux sells under the Zanussi, AEG, Frigidaire and Eureka trademarks. In July it posted a second-quarter net loss of 92 million kronor ($13.5 million), citing large restructuring charges, but said demand in Europe and the United States was picking up.

Electrolux has more than 60,000 employees, including 10,000 in North America. Its North American operations are headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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September 6, 2014

For Europe’s unemployed, ECB’s economic stimulus plans offer little hope

Filed under: Finance, online — Tags: , , , — Gogo @ 3:16 pm

WASHINGTON • For the struggling Spanish shopkeeper or the Portuguese restaurant owner, the European Central Bank’s latest economic stimulus plans won’t likely provide much relief anytime soon.

If ever.

Confronting a stalled economy and painful unemployment across Europe, the ECB is doing what it can. It surprised economists and investors Thursday by cutting its benchmark interest rate to a record-low 0.05 percent. And it announced plans to pump money into the financial system by buying bonds backed by assets such as auto and credit-card loans.

But Europe faces a crushing array of problems — from burdensome regulations to growth-killing budget policies — that analysts say remain beyond the ECB’s powers to fix.

“Monetary policy cannot carry the entire burden of reviving growth in the absence of essential broad-ranging structural reforms,” said Eswar Prasad, professor of trade policy at Cornell University.

Among the businesses and individuals who in theory might benefit eventually from the ECB’s actions, optimism is scarce. In Spain, with its punishing 24.5 percent unemployment, hope is especially dim.

Pablo Torres, who manages a shoe store in Madrid, said he expects the ECB’s effect “on the real economy will probably be none.”

“In our case,” Torres said, “we are at a standstill, not getting ahead or going backwards, and the only thing that’s helped us stay afloat is tourism.”

In Portugal, Jose Nunes Pereira, who opened a restaurant last month in a Lisbon business district, dismissed the ECB’s rate cut as “totally irrelevant.”

The cut “won’t trickle down to families,” he said. “It’s a measure aimed at big companies, not small ones like mine.”

The ECB hopes to jolt a European economy at risk of sinking into recession for the third time since 2008. In the 18 countries that use the euro currency, unemployment is stuck at a collective 11.5 percent. (By comparison, the U.S. rate is 6.1 percent.) For those younger than 25, the eurozone’s rate is 23.2 percent.

The ECB’s goal is for lower rates to energize borrowing and spending, which would, in turn, encourage employers to hire. Banks and auto companies would lend more to consumers and small businesses if they knew they could package those loans into bonds the ECB would buy. Companies and consumers who can’t get loans from Europe’s cautious and troubled banks would be able to borrow.

Lower interest rates are also expected to reduce the value of the euro, thereby helping European companies by making their products more affordable in foreign markets. Indeed, the value of the euro fell after the ECB’s announcement to its lowest levels in more than a year.

The ECB is also trying to boost the eurozone’s nearly non-existent inflation. Prices are rising just 0.3 percent annually, not even close to the ECB’s 2 percent target.

Ultra-low inflation is unhealthy for an economy payday advance low fees. It makes it harder for consumers, companies and countries to repay debt left over from the eurozone debt crisis. And it raises fears of an outright drop in prices — deflation — that tends to stifle economic growth and business profits. That happens because many people and companies delay purchases in anticipation of ever-lower prices.

Economists generally doubt that the ECB’s moves will do much to nudge consumers to borrow and spend more or to persuade businesses to buy equipment, open factories and offices and hire workers.

For one thing, the bond buying won’t even start until October. So it “probably is not going to do very much for the rest of this year,” said Jacob Kirkegaard, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

The bigger obstacle is that Europe is contending with problems the ECB can’t do much about.

Banks are struggling with bad loans. They’re reluctant to do business with each other or to lend to businesses and consumers.

And employers are bound by high taxes and rules that discourage them from hiring.

“What’s really hurting business is this tax burden,” said Lisbon restaurant manager Nunes Pereira. “My customers have to pay high taxes on their salaries, and on top of that there’s the 23 percent sales tax they have to pay at my restaurant.”

Government spending cuts have shrunk pensions in some countries. In doing so, they have depressed demand at a time when consumers and businesses are trying to repay enormous debts left over from the continent’s crisis.

Governments might restore business confidence if they passed reforms to make it easier for companies to hire and fire. And they might reduce unemployment by stepping up spending on projects that could provide contracts to businesses and put people to work.

“They have to drive up demand by increased government spending,” said Virendra Singh, an economist at Moody’s Analytics. “They have to come up with a way to push up wages.”

Add to those challenges the anxiety and political uncertainty caused by Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine.

In short, Kirkegaard said, the ECB’s rate cut and bond-buying plans are “necessary but not sufficient” to restore health to Europe’s ailing economy.

Maria da Graca, a pensioner in Lisbon who was walking home from shopping, shrugged off the ECB’s latest efforts.

“All I know is my pension’s been cut, and I can’t buy the things I need,” she said, holding up her two small shopping bags as evidence.

Associated Press Writers Jorge Sainz in Madrid, Barry Hatton in Lisbon, David McHugh in Frankfurt and Pan Pylas in London contributed to this report.

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September 4, 2014

Khan Shows Willing to Resume Talks Amid Pakistan Standoff - Bloomberg

Filed under: money, technology — Tags: , , , — Gogo @ 5:04 pm

A top aide of Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan signaled willingness to resume talks with lawmakers that had broken down last week when anti-government protests turned deadly.

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September 3, 2014

Vocal creditor says Detroit bankruptcy plan flawed

Filed under: Loans, management — Tags: , , , — Gogo @ 11:44 am

DETROIT (AP) — An attorney for bond insurer Syncora Guarantee says Detroit’s debt restructuring plan is “flawed” and cannot be approved at the end of the city’s bankruptcy trial.

The New York-based company is one of about 12 creditors opposing the plan in court. Syncora has said its claims are about $400 million and it would receive pennies on the dollar under the plan.

Attorney Marc Kieselstein said during Syncora’s opening statements Wednesday the plan is not fair and equitable to financial creditors.

Kieselstein also criticized efforts to keep some pieces at the Detroit Institute of Arts from being sold to satisfy some of the debt.

Detroit wants to cut $12 billion in unsecured debt to about $5 billion through its plan of adjustment, which must be approved by federal Judge Steven Rhodes.

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September 1, 2014

Toronto rides new streetcars to its urban future: Hume

Filed under: marketing, technology — Tags: , , , — Gogo @ 1:36 pm

At last passengers can feel good about being taken for a ride by the TTC.

The Toronto Transit Commission’s new streetcars went into service Sunday morning and though it’s early days, it seems the city’s love affair with the Red Rocket as about to get all warm and sticky again. Streetcars in Toronto aren’t just a means of getting around; they’re part of the city’s heritage, its self-image. In that most-overused word, streetcars are iconic. No representation of Toronto is complete without one.

So when the TTC introduces a new fleet, there’s interest from more than users. These articulated vehicles — five segments long — are the look of Toronto’s future. The muscular streamlined esthetic gives them a slightly retro feel reminiscent perhaps not only of Art Moderne but also of urban transit’s Golden Age.

Inside, however, these streetcars reflect contemporary concerns such as accessibility, transparency, comfort and convenience. Longer, lower, lighter and leaner, the new vehicles are designed to allow for maximum visibility. They don’t have windows so much entire sides made of glass. This will strengthen the connection between passengers and the landscape.

For those used to climbing up the equivalent of a stepladder to board the current streetcars, new lower floors are transformational. This is the key to total accessibility and will change how we use surface transit.

Another big move is the arrangement of seating into four-person pods, two seats facing two seats. GO riders will be familiar with the pattern, which may be why commuter trains tend to be more collegial than the TTC, where it’s every man — and pregnant woman — for themselves.

Given the problems the TTC already faces with seat hogs, passage blockers and space invaders; it’s inevitable that this new configuration will present serious challenges to some passengers. Now it’s possible for one person to block three seats just by sitting in the fourth.

Operators, on the other hand, have a cabin of their own. For those drivers who took a vow of silence before joining the TTC, the extra privacy will no doubt be welcome. And with four doors, getting on and off should theoretically be easier; but again, never underestimate the average TTC users’ capacity for confusion.

Fittingly, the inaugural streetcar left Spadina station jammed to the rafters. That meant between 250 and 280 people, most of them standing. The air conditioning was appreciated, especially on such a muggy day. And because of the see-through walls, you always knew where you were, always nice. The white interiors enhanced the sense of openness and brought some crispness to things.

In addition to moving the masses, the TTC’s new rolling stock must shift attitudes. Its ultimate success will depend on its ability to change the notion of streetcars as being just this side of the horse and buggy.

Seeing these beautiful behemoths rolling through Toronto might force us to reconsider the complaint heard over and over that streetcars are forever in the way. Once all 204 new vehicles have been deployed in four or five years, they will be the undisputed masters of the streets; it will be cars that will have to make way.

A smiling TTC CEO Andy Byford called Sunday’s launch “the start of a new era.” Given the chaotic state of transit and transit planning in Toronto, and the hostility to streetcars at the highest levels of City Hall; it was also a much-needed bit of good news.

Just when it seemed the future might never arrive in Toronto, it’s the TTC that leads the way.

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