US stocks little changed on Tuesday as investors found few reasons to push past record.]]> |||
New York - US stocks were little changed on Tuesday as investors found few reasons to push the S&P 500 above its recent record high, as tensions in Ukraine continued.
Despite setting a record high on March 7, the S&P 500 has been range-bound over the last few sessions, amid a dearth of corporate earnings or data-related incentives to push equities higher.
“The market has growing pains here, and rightfully so,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.
“Basically we are at high levels, there are a lot of warnings out there, a lot of signs the market may be topping out.”
Investors were also wary in light of events in Ukraine. A pro-Russian force opened fire in seizing a Ukrainian military base in Crimea on Monday and NATO announced reconnaissance flights along its eastern frontiers as confrontation around the Black Sea peninsula showed no sign of easing.
On Tuesday, ousted leader Viktor Yanukovich insisted he remained Ukraine's legitimate president and commander-in-chief, saying he would return to Kiev and appealing to the armed forces to defy any “criminal orders” handed down by his foes.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 15.42 points, or 0.09 percent, to 16,434.1, the S&P 500 gained 1.91 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,879.08 and the Nasdaq Composite added 12.958 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,347.405.
U.S. wholesale inventories rose 0.6 percent in January, more than the 0.4 percent expected, as companies built up stocks of autos and machinery, though sales posted their largest decline in nearly five years.
J.C. Penney Co Inc jumped 8.3 percent to $9.12 after Citigroup raised the stock to a “buy” and boosted its price target to $11 per share.
Urban Outfitters Inc dropped 5 percent to $35.63 as the worst performer on the S&P 500 after it reported lower-than-expected quarterly sales, citing winter weather, and said it was “very cautious” on its current-quarter performance.
The S&P retail index slipped 0.1 percent.
American Eagle Outfitters Inc slumped 6 percent to $13.36 after the teen apparel retailer reported fourth-quarter earnings and forecast earnings for the current quarter that were short of expectations.
Dick's Sporting Goods Inc advanced 2 percent to $55.40 after the company posted fourth-quarter earnings and gave its first-quarter outlook.
Myriad Genetics Inc lost 9.4 percent to $34.19 after the diagnostics company said a U.S. court denied a motion that would have stopped rival Ambry Genetics Corp from selling a similar version of Myriad's cancer test.
La Jolla Pharmaceutical Co surged 61 percent to $17.55 after the company said its lead experimental drug to treat chronic kidney disease met the main goal of improving kidney function in a mid-stage study.
Prime minister has dismissed a call for a "responsible debt restructuring".]]> |||
Lisbon - The prime minister of bailed-out Portugal on Tuesday dismissed as potentially harmful a call for a “responsible debt restructuring” launched by 70 veteran political figures, unionists and entrepreneurs.
Their manifesto asserts that unless Portugal agrees a significantly lighter debt repayment schedule with its European partners, the “state will be tangled up in a vain attempt to solve its budget deficit problems via the sole path of austerity”, making the burden unsustainable.
Such calls are not new in Portugal, but this one brings together signatories from across the political spectrum - albeit mostly retired - including academics and the head of the influential Portuguese Industry Confederation lobby.
“If I wanted to put the country's financing and its public policies at risk today, I'd sign that manifesto,” Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho said during a public event.
The manifesto calls for “a debate and preparation of the best possible solutions for the debt restructuring”, aiming to significantly lengthen the maturity of Portuguese debt and reduce the average interest rate.
By pursuing such a plan, “I'd be certain to send a wrong message to those who expect from Portugal the fulfilment of its commitments,” Passos Coelho said, accusing the signatories of being unrealistic in trying to achieve “what they consider desirable without caring about the conditions on which it can be achieved.”
Lisbon is preparing to complete its international bailout, agreed in 2011 with the European Union and International Monetary Fund, in May. The country is meant to keep reducing its budget deficit for years to come.
“When the country has a very high debt stockpile, the first thing it has to do to preserve its social policies and financial sovereignty is to guarantee the financing conditions for these policies,” he said, pointing out that a debt renegotiation would harm Portugal's borrowing terms which have been improving.
Portugal's benchmark 10-year bond yields have fallen to their lowest levels since April 2010.
The bailout adjustment programme envisages that Portugal's debt will start shrinking from last year's peak of around 129 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) this year, helped by an economic recovery that began last year. Portugal's lenders and the government say the debt is sustainable and will be reduced along with budget gaps.
Among the signatories of the manifesto for easier debt terms were the former leader of the Left Bloc party, Francisco Louca, former Socialist minister Joao Cravinho and ex-finance ministers Manuela Ferreira Leite and Bagao Felix from the centre-right ruling Social Democrats.
Both the latter have long been critical of the government's austerity course and do not represent any new dissent within the ruling party ranks. No current leaders of the opposition signed the document.
The main opposition Socialists who could win next year's general election are against debt restructuring, but defend the mutualisation of a large chunk of debt in Europe in order to reduce interest rates for countries like Portugal.
Nigerian oil company plans to raise at least $500m on London and Lagos stock exchanges.]]> |||
London/Abuja - Nigerian oil company Seplat plans to raise at least $500 million by selling shares on the London and Lagos stock exchanges to pay down debt and snap up assets being sold by energy majors in Africa's largest oil producing nation, the company said.
Seplat, in which France's Maurel & Prom and Swiss-based trader Mercuria both hold minority stakes, is among consortia short-listed to bid for some $3 billion in assets being sold by Shell and others, sources said.
Competition is stiff for the blocks in the Niger Delta, which holds a large portion of Nigeria's 37 billion barrels of reserves. The oil is high-quality, relatively easy to drill and Nigerian firms say they can better handle security challenges that have prompted the majors to divest.
Commodity trader Glencore, involved in marketing Nigeria's crude oil and importing its fuel for decades, is among the companies vying to enter its upstream sector.
The cash Seplat will raise puts it in a strong position as it prepares for acquisitions in shallow-water areas, one sector banker said, because foreign companies must partner up with Nigerians in order to bid.
“The global offer proceeds will allow us to further implement our business strategy, which includes acquiring new assets,” A.B.C Orjiako, Seplat's chairman and co-founder, said on Tuesday.
Shell is selling its 30 percent stake in four oil blocks, with France's Total and Italy's Eni also set to profit from sales of their 10 percent and 5 percent stakes. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) owns the remaining 55 percent.
Shell is also selling the 97km Nembe Creek oil pipeline, which has been regularly attacked by oil thieves.
The London-listed major has already made $1.8 billion from asset sales in Nigeria since 2010 as several oil majors divested onshore blocks due to oil theft and a government drive to increase local ownership.
Founded in 2009 by wealthy Nigerian businessmen Orjiako and Austin Avuru, Seplat pumps about 60,000 barrels per day of oil from three blocks it operates in the Niger Delta.
It bought a 45 percent stake in the blocks from Shell, Total and Eni in 2010. NNPC owns the rest.
Seplat is also near completing a deal to buy a Niger Delta oil block from Chevron, but a legal dispute between the U.S. oil major and another Nigerian firm threatens to delay the agreement, sources close to the process say.
Cash from the listing could go partly towards the Chevron deal, the sources said.
A source close to Maurel & Prom said Seplat also planned to use the cash to fund a bid for Shell's OML 29 oil block.
OML 29 is the most coveted asset of the four being sold. Its output has peaked at 62,000 bpd of oil and 40 scf/d of gas and holds reserves of 2.2 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe), according to a Shell prospectus seen by Reuters.
It is likely to fetch $1-$1.5 billion, industry sources say.[ID: nL5N0IQ2UD]
One of Seplat's directors, Basil Omiyi, was previously Shell's Nigeria country head, but the firm is likely to face competition from cash-rich Glencore.
Glencore has linked up with Nigerian traders Taleveras and Aiteo for its bid on OML 29, say two oil industry sources.
These two firms are involved in Nigeria's crude-for-product swap deals.
A source close to Maurel said Seplat's intention was to float in June and its equity value was about $1 billion, suggesting about half the company would be sold in the IPO.
BNP Paribas and Standard Bank are joint global co-ordinators, while Renaissance Capital, Citigroup and RBC Europe are joint bookrunners on the flotation.
European Commission to extend 500 million euros worth of unilateral trade benefits.]]> |||
Brussels - The European Commission agreed on Tuesday to extend 500 million euros worth of unilateral trade benefits to Ukraine, removing import duties on a wide range of agricultural and other goods in an effort to support the Ukrainian economy.
European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said the decision would come into effect immediately and run until at least Nov. 1 this year, by which time the European Union expects to have signed a full free-trade agreement with Kiev.
The total value of the benefits is estimated at 487 million euros a year, De Gucht said, with most of that (330 million euros) coming from the removal of import duties on agricultural and processed agricultural goods. Duties will also be removed on some industrial goods and textiles.
The decision is part of efforts by the EU to prop up Ukraine following the ouster of former president Viktor Yanukovich.
At the same time, the EU is trying to apply pressure on Russia to remove its forces from Crimea by imposing sanctions and other targeted measures on Moscow.
European Union set to impose sanctions on Russia starting on Monday.]]> |||
Warsaw - Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the European Union would impose sanctions on Russia starting on Monday over its military intervention in Ukraine's Crimea region.
“When it comes to sanctions on Russia, a decision has in fact already been made, especially on the procedure of introducing sanctions. The consequence of this will be the start of sanctions on Monday,” Tusk told a news conference on Tuesday.
Russian forces have consolidated their hold on the Crimea peninsula ahead of a Russian-backed referendum on the region's future scheduled for Sunday, March 16. The government in Kiev and its Western backers have denounced the planned vote as illegal.
India cutting imports by nearly two-thirds after US asked it to hold at end-2013 levels.]]> |||
New Delhi - India has to cut its Iranian oil imports by nearly two-thirds from the first quarter after the United States asked it to hold the shipments at end-2013 levels, in keeping with the nuclear deal easing sanctions on Tehran, Indian government sources said.
India, with the increases already made in the January-March loading plans from Iran, has to cut its purchases of the crude to about 110,000 barrels per day (bpd) to drop its intake average to 195,000 bpd for the six months to July 20.
Under the Nov. 24 agreement between Iran and six world powers, the OPEC member was to hold oil exports at “current volumes” of about 1 million bpd, and a message delivered by a top U.S. energy policy official to Indian ministries in February was the first clear sign of low tolerance for any increases.
Since the interim deal was signed, purchases of Iranian oil by its top four buyers - China, India, Japan and South Korea - have been creeping up and together they have taken 1.25 million barrels per day (bpd) in January against a daily average of about 935,900 bpd for all of 2013.
“It is a fact that they (the United States) have asked us that Iran's exports to India should not exceed 195,000 bpd between January to July and we have said that we'll take care of that,” said one of the government sources, all of whom requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The U.S. official could not be reached for comment.
Tehran and Western world powers are working through a landmark deal that runs from Jan. 20 to July 20 that requires Iran to curb its nuclear programme in return for a calibrated release of $4.2 billion it is owed in back payments for its oil.
Tough international sanctions over the past two years have cut Iran's oil exports in half, measures that starved it of hard currency and helped lead it to the nuclear deal last November.
While relaxation of sanctions has made oil exports easier to arrange and buyers no longer have to keep reducing purchases, they were meant to keep import volumes unchanged from the end of last year.
India, though, is already on track to average crude loadings of 322,200 bpd from Iran in the first quarter, according to loading figures provided by one of the sources. The figures included lifting plans for 345,000 bpd during January.
Tanker arrival data, meanwhile, compiled by Reuters put India's January intake of crude from Iran at 412,000 bpd, double the daily arrival average for December.
The sources said the loading increases mean Indian refiners have to cut their buys of Iranian oil to about 110,000 bpd over the April 1-July 20 period to meet the ceiling of 195,000 bpd.
For the fiscal year to March 31, India's oil purchases from Iran are likely to be down about a fifth to 214,300 bpd, according to the loading data, sharper than a 15 percent reduction requested by Washington to win a waiver on sanctions.
Private refiner Essar Oil will be the biggest Indian buyer of Iran's oil this financial year, replacing state-owned Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemical.
Essar will have lifted about 30 percent higher than its contract volume of 80,000 bpd, said another government source.
A jump in Essar's Iran oil imports comes as Iran is giving India a discount on crude and offering free delivery.
Essar has offered to take about 5.36 million barrels in March from Iran, taking its annual purchases to 105,000 bpd.
MRPL's oil imports from Iran will average about 84,000 bpd this fiscal year versus contract levels of 80,000 bpd, the third government source said.
No immediate comment was available from the companies.
The JSE posted 36 percent jump but could eventually require a capital injection.]]> |||
Johannesburg - JSE posted a 36 percent jump in full-year earnings on Tuesday, helped by demand for equities that sent stock prices to record highs.
However, the bourse also flagged that it could eventually require a capital injection to meet regulatory requirements, although it said it is adequately capitalised for now and opted to pay out higher dividends.
The JSE, which operates the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, said diluted headline earnings, the main measure of profitability in South Africa, rose to 640.8 cents per share in the year ended in December, from 470.2 a year ago.
“This performance resulted from an improvement in financial market sentiment,” the JSE said. “Most divisions performed well, with standout revenue performance from the equity market, post-trade services and market data divisions.”
The JSE declared a special dividend of 50 cents, in addition to a 40 percent higher ordinary dividend of 350 cents, saying it was appropriately capitalised although it may require more capital injection in future to meet regulatory levels.
Its shares rose more than 2 percent to 85.67 rand at 1226GMT, compared with a flat All-share index.
German shares edged higher on Tuesday, outperforming mostly flat European stocks.]]> |||
London - German shares edged higher on Tuesday, outperforming mostly flat European stocks, as strong trade data from the region's largest economy revived investor appetite for the Dax index.
Broader market sentiment, however, was still undermined by a crisis in Ukraine, where confrontation between Kiev and Moscow showed no sign of easing.
Frankfurt's Dax blue-chip index, up 0.3 percent, bucked the trend after Germany reported seasonally adjusted exports and imports both rose more than forecast in January. The bounce was led by stocks exposed to the European economy, such as car maker VW and consumer-goods maker Henkel.
The Dax had fallen 2.9 percent in the previous two sessions, dragged down by worries about Ukraine and by disappointing Chinese trade data.
“The German trade figures were very solid and do point to a continuing recovery combined with an acceleration in growth in 2014,” said Markus Huber, a senior sales trader at Peregrine & Black. “Much will depend (on) how long the crisis in the Ukraine will drag on and if harmful sanctions and counter-sanctions will be put in place.”
Russia's moves to take over Crimea have led to plans for a referendum on March 16 on whether to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. Those plans have provoked condemnation from western countries and the threat of international sanctions against Russia.
The STOXX Europe 600 index of the region's top shares was flat at 331.30 points at 1157 GMT, keeping just above support at 330 points, corresponding to last week's low.
The STOXX was still facing resistance at 339 points, a six-year high set earlier this month, with buyers reluctant to push the index to fresh highs amid threats of a war in Europe.
“If I were talking to a trader, I'd say, 'Buy now and sell at (Monday's high of) 334 and a half, even though it's a really small gain'“, said Valerie Gastaldy, the head of Paris-based technical trading firm, Day-By-Day. “This is a sideways market and I'd do as little trading as possible, because both upside and downside are limited.”
Gastaldy said the STOXX may fall as low as 320 points in the next few weeks and was waiting for the S&P 500, which had hit an all-time high on Friday, to resume its uptrend before buying back into European shares.
The narrower FTSEurofirst 300 was also flat at 1,320.37 points.
PORTUGAL LEADS RISERS
Among smaller bourses, Portugal's PSI index was the best performer, up 0.7 percent, led by lender Banco Comercial Portugues, on optimism about the debt-laden country's growth prospects.
Portugal's gross domestic product grew a revised 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter, accelerating from the previous quarter as consumer demand rebounded and exports rose, data showed on Tuesday.
The release strengthened investor optimism that economies in southern Europe were starting to recover, as strong Italian data on Monday suggested.
The PSI has surged around 16 percent this year, leading a rally in southern European indexes. Italy's FTSE MIB has risen nearly 10 percent and Spain's Ibex roughly 3 percent.
While euro zone shares are now up 10 percent from their levels of three years ago, just before the euro zone debt crisis reached its peak, Portuguese stocks are still down 20 percent.
The MSCI Portugal index trades at a small discount to its euro zone peers, compared with a premium of up to 60 percent in 2009, Datastream data showed.
“Portugal has been recovering, and to some extent it has regained the confidence of financial markets,” said Wouter Sturkenboom, strategist at Russell Investments, who has a positive stance on peripheral European indexes
“At the same time, the problems Portugal is facing are still very real: it has extremely high debt levels and it's going to be extremely hard to deal with that debt without external support, so that's holding us back a little.”
US stocks were set for a flat open on Tuesday as tensions in Ukraine continued.]]> |||
New York - US stocks were set for a flat open on Tuesday after a slight decline in the prior session left the S&P 500 within striking distance of its recent record high and amid investor caution as tensions in Ukraine continued.
* Investors were wary in light of events in Ukraine. A pro-Russian force opened fire in seizing a Ukrainian military base in Crimea on Monday and NATO announced reconnaissance flights along its eastern frontiers as confrontation around the Black Sea peninsula showed no sign of easing.
* On Tuesday, ousted leader Viktor Yanukovich insisted he remained Ukraine's legitimate president and commander-in-chief, saying he would return to Kiev and appealing to the armed forces to defy any “criminal orders” handed down by his foes.
* S&P 500 e-mini futures rose 1.75 points and were about even with fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures gained 15 points and Nasdaq 100 futures added 6.5 points.
* Economic data expected on Tuesday includes wholesale inventories for January at 10:00 a.m. EST (1400 GMT). Expectations are for a 0.4 percent rise in inventories against the prior increase of 0.3 percent.
* J.C. Penney Co Inc jumped 6.8 percent to $8.99 in premarket trading after Citigroup raised its rating on the stock to “buy” and boosted its price target to $11 per share.
* Myriad Genetics Inc lost 8.7 percent to $34.48 before the opening bell after the diagnostics company said a U.S. court denied a motion that would have stopped rival Ambry Genetics Corp from selling a similar version of Myriad's cancer test.
* La Jolla Pharmaceutical Co surged 65.1 percent to $17.99 in premarket after the company said its lead experimental drug to treat chronic kidney disease met the main goal of improving kidney function in a mid-stage study.
* American Eagle Outfitters Inc slumped 6.2 percent to $13.33 before the opening bell after the teen apparel retailer reported fourth-quarter earnings and forecast earnings for the current quarter that were short of expectations.
* Dick's Sporting Goods Inc advanced 1.7 percent to $55.25 after the company posted fourth-quarter earnings and gave its first-quarter outlook.
* The S&P 500 closed down 0.05 percent on Monday, held back by soft data from China and weakness in Boeing Co shares. The index is down less than 1 percent from both its intraday and closing record highs.
Cyprus on Tuesday appointed its first ever woman to head the central bank.]]> |||
Athens - Cyprus on Tuesday appointed its first ever woman to head the central bank, the presidential office said in a statement. President Nicos Anastasiades appointed Chrystalla Georghadji, who headed the island's anti-corruption watchdog since 1998, after governor Panicos Demetriades resigned on Monday.
She will take over from Demetriades, who resigned after just two years into a five-year term. The statement said European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi was informed of the appointment. Demetriades, who was appointed by the former Communist administration, cited personal and family reasons behind his resignation.
His poor relations with the president is believed to be the real reason for his departure. Anastasides has been critical of the manner in which Demetriades has handled a bailout deal with Cyprus' international creditors:
the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), collectively known as the troika. Demetriades has argued that when he took over in May 2012, less than a year before the bailout, he assumed a poorly regulated banking system which had been taking excessive risks.
Under the bailout programme agreed in March 2013, large depositors in the Bank of Cyprus and Laiki Bank were forced to take considerable losses as a condition for Cyprus receiving 10 billion euros (13.85-billion-dollar).