Mexican state-run oil company Pemex said at least four people died and 300 were evacuated after a fire broke out on a production platform in the Gulf of Mexico.]]> |||
Mexico City - Mexican state-run oil company Pemex said at least four people died after a fire broke out on a production platform in the Gulf of Mexico early on Wednesday, sparking the evacuation of around 300 workers.
Local emergency services said as many as 45 people were injured in the blaze, which erupted overnight on the Abkatun Permanente platform in the oil-rich Bay of Campeche.
Pemex said it was battling the flames with eight firefighting boats and that a contractor for Mexican oil services company Cotemar was one of the dead.
Videos posted on Twitter showed the platform engulfed in flames, lighting up the night sky, as rescue workers looked on from nearby ships.
The fire broke out in the dehydration and pumping area of the platform, Pemex said, though it was not clear what caused it. A Pemex spokesman could not immediately say whether local oil production had been affected.
A spokesman for emergency services in the nearby city of Ciudad del Carmen said earlier that authorities had registered 45 people with injuries from the fire. Other officials put the total at around 16 injured.
The platform forms part of the Abkatun-Pol-Chuc offshore complex. According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, production at the complex has fallen steadily since the 1990s to below 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2013.
Mexico currently produces just under 2.3 million bpd, and is the world's No. 10 crude producer.
Pemex has suffered a number of accidents in recent years, with at least 37 people killed by a blast at the company's Mexico City headquarters in 2013. Another 26 people were killed at a fire in a Pemex natural gas facility in September 2012.
Cotemar is based in Ciudad del Carmen and provides offshore services to Pemex including platform refurbishment, maintenance, and maritime transport, according to its website.
US stocks eased as a pair of weaker-than-expected economic indicators spurred concerns over economic growth ahead of Friday's jobs report.]]> |||
New York - US stocks eased on Wednesday as a pair of weaker-than-expected economic indicators spurred concerns over economic growth ahead of Friday's jobs report.
Leading the decline were some of the sectors with the strongest gains in the first quarter. The S&P health care sector fell 1.6 percent. It was the strongest sector in the first quarter, appreciating 6.2 percent.
The consumer discretionary index, another big first-quarter gainer, fell 0.9 percent.
The ADP National Employment Report showed that U.S. private employers added 189,000 jobs last month, well below economists' expectations for 225,000 jobs. A separate report showed the pace of U.S. manufacturing growth fell in March to its slowest in almost two years.
The reports precede Friday's jobs data, the most widely watched indicator of the week, though that arrives on Good Friday when the stock market will be closed. The inability of market participants to trade off that report could generate some volatility going into the holiday.
“We had some disappointing data today and so the initial reaction was to sell stocks,” said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama.
But the strong dollar, which has eroded the profits of some multinational companies, continues to be a headwind, he said, raising uncertainty on “how the earnings season is going to play out.”
At 2:04 p.m. EDT (1804 GMT), the Dow Jones industrial average fell 71.63 points, or 0.4 percent, to 17,704.49, the S&P 500 lost 8.25 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,059.64 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 29.06 points, or 0.59 percent, to 4,871.82.
Among early reporters for the earnings season, shares of Monsanto were up 3.5 percent at $116.42 after its results and outlook. Those gains, and a rise in shares of energy companies, helped limit the drop in the S&P 500. ConocoPhillips , up 1.6 percent at $63.25.
Data due through the week will be studied for indications on whether economic growth is brisk enough to encourage the U.S. Federal Reserve to begin raising interest rates sooner than expected.
Sears Holdings Corp rose 3 percent to $42.61 after it said it would raise more than $2.5 billion by selling stores to a real estate investment trust it is setting up, in the latest move to shore up its finances.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,567 to 1,421, for a 1.10-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,546 issues fell and 1,141 advanced for a 1.35-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.
The benchmark S&P 500 index was posting 5 new 52-week highs and 4 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 47 new highs and 48 new lows.
Andrew Getty, the grandson of tycoon J. Paul Getty, died from what appears to have been accidental or natural causes.]]> |||
Los Angeles - Andrew Getty, the grandson of billionaire oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, died from what appears to have been accidental or natural causes, but an autopsy is not expected to be performed before Thursday, according to the Los Angeles County coroner's office.
The 47-year-old heir to the Getty oil fortune was found dead on Tuesday afternoon at his Hollywood Hills home, his parents said in a statement in which they asked for privacy for the family. Police said there was no immediate sign of foul play.
“At first glance, it does not appear to be a criminal type of act. But that could change,” Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Commander Andrew Smith said on Tuesday night.
He said the investigation was in its early stages and that witnesses were being questioned, though no one had been taken into custody.
The medical examiner assigned to the case was expected to begin her investigation on Wednesday afternoon, and an autopsy would be performed on Getty's body on Thursday at the earliest, the coroner's watch commander, Mario Sainz, told Reuters.
Los Angeles County Coroner's Office spokesman Ed Winter told reporters at a Tuesday news conference that Getty's death appeared to have been from either accidental or natural causes.
“He had some medication that we recovered and don't know if he had taken the medication or what his medical history is,” Winter said. “We do have a doctor's name that we're also going to follow up.”
Celebrity news website TMZ.com reported on Tuesday Getty was found on a bathroom floor, apparently by a former girlfriend, and that she had been detained by police as a potential witness or suspect. Andrew Getty had sought a restraining order against a woman two weeks earlier, The Los Angeles Times said.
TMZ on Wednesday cited unnamed law enforcement sources in reporting that Getty had been suffering severe gastrointestinal problems and had an appointment to see a doctor on Wednesday.
Andrew Getty was said to be a horror film buff and was in the process of making such a movie, with props found strewn around parts of his home, according to TMZ.
J. Paul Getty died in 1976. He was one of America's richest people.
South Africa collected R986.4 billion in revenue during the 2014/15 fiscal year, Minister Nene revealed.]]> |||
Pretoria - South Africa collected R986.4 billion in revenue during the 2014/15 fiscal year, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said on Wednesday, but did not give an estimate for expenditure as had been expected.
Nene told a news conference he would give a budget deficit forecast for 2014/15 in June. Treasury Director-General Lungisa Fuzile said the estimate for the deficit was likely to be narrower than the shortfall predicted in February.
In its budget review in February, the Treasury predicted a R152.4 billion shortfall for the year which ended on March 31, representing 3.9 percent of gross domestic product.
“The deficit for 2014/15 will certainly be lower than the February budget estimate,” Fuzile told a news conference.
“We won't be able to give any estimates now in the event of any economic events that may delay us from achieving our fiscal targets. If something does happen we will be able to revisit our expenditure and revenue plans,” he said.
Nene said in February he would raise income tax rates for the first time in 20 years to boost revenue, as Africa's most developed economy struggles to grow due to structural constraints including chronic power shortages.
The revenue collection outcome for 2014/15 compared with a R993.6 billion target set in February, Nene said.
Shares reversed early losses after data showed manufacturing activity across the euro zone accelerated.]]> |||
London/Paris - European shares reversed early losses after the first major data of the new quarter showed manufacturing activity across the euro zone accelerated faster than previously thought last month.
Markit's final March manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) was at a 10-month high of 52.2, beating a preliminary reading of 51.9, adding to signs the bloc's economy is recovering.
After Chinese data rattled markets on Wednesday, German manufacturing PMIs beat a preliminary reading and French data showed a less severe contraction than first estimated.
Spanish and Italian PMIs helped both national blue-chip indexes up 1 percent, hitting their highest levels since 2010.
At 10:01 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.8 percent at 1,597.97 points.
The benchmark index surged 16 percent in the first quarter as the European Central Bank pumped out money and the euro weakened.
The oil price fall has eroded earnings growth forecasts for 2015 to a 4.7 percent rise, with downgrades led by oil majors. However, the economic boost of lower energy prices could reverse the downgrade trend.
“The improving economic outlook, for example today's stronger PMI data, coupled with lower input costs (particularly energy costs) and higher overseas earnings thanks to the weaker euro, will drive an earnings upgrade cycle,” Neil Wilkinson, European fund manager at Royal London Asset Management, said.
Shares in Swiss chocolate maker Barry Callebaut surged 7.9 percent after it reported higher half-year sales and profits, as cost cuts helped counter the impact of the surging Swiss franc. It also confirmed its mid-term targets subject to currency swings.
Neopost bucked the trend, dropping 6.2 percent after posting disappointing results.
The FTSEurofirst 300's top faller was Fortum, down 7 percent as it traded “ex-dividend” without entitlement to the latest payout and was also cut to “underperform” from “neutral” by Macquarie.
Patrick Craven, who has headed up Cosatu's communications unit for decades, has decided to leave the federation.]]> |||
Johannesburg - The dismissal of former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has resulted in its first floor crossing.
Patrick Craven, who has headed up Cosatu’s communications unit for decades, has decided to leave the federation.
This follows Vavi being dismissed on Monday on for a range of reasons, including not fulfilling his duties.
Craven’s decision to leave Cosatu was apparent when journalists arrived at a press conference to be addressed by Vavi in Johannesburg and he was outside welcoming them.
He told reporters he had no choice but to leave South Africa’s largest labour federation.
“I’m no longer employed by Cosatu. I handed in my resignation yesterday,” Craven said.
He was uncomfortable justifying the reasons for Vavi’s axing on behalf of Cosatu as he would have to “defend the indefensible”.
He also said Cosatu was destroying “freedom” by ordering its affiliates not to attend meetings with Vavi or give him a platform.
Craven’s decision does not come as a surprise. He and Vavi are widely known to have a close relationship.
It is unclear what role Craven will now fulfil.
Axed Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi believes he is innocent - and he’s busy weighing his options.]]> |||
Johannesburg - Axed Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi believes that he was unfairly dismissed and there is a chance he will fight it.
He told reporters in Johannesburg on Wednesday that he remained convinced that he had done nothing wrong, let alone break the law as alleged by forensic auditors.
“I am further in consultations on whether or not I should challenge my extremely irregular, illegal and completely unjustified expulsion as general secretary of Cosatu,” Vavi said.
He said the law dictated that he had to be subjected to a hearing by an independent person before any action was taken.
Vavi is also considering going to court on what he says is defamation by Cosatu’s central executive committee.
He was in consultation with his lawyers and family on what to do.
Vavi was flanked by six leaders from Cosatu’s affiliates at the press conference.
They and others would hold a meeting later this month to consider options.
While speculation is rife that Vavi will head up another federation, he would not answer questions on this. Instead, he said it would be up to workers to form a federation.
Vavi and his allies are planning several meetings across the country.
Group Labour Editor]]>
An interest rate increase is what’s needed to stem the rand’s worst run of quarterly declines on record, says Bidvest Bank.]]> |||
Johannesburg - An interest rate increase is what’s needed to stem the rand’s worst run of quarterly declines on record, according to Bidvest Bank Ltd. That may not be immediately forthcoming.
The South African currency has weakened against the dollar for 12 consecutive quarters as the Federal Reserve prepares to raise borrowing costs and electricity shortages, low commodity prices and slow global growth burden the domestic economy. The rand’s slide is weighing on local bonds, with foreign investors selling more rand debt than they bought for a third straight quarter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The South African Reserve Bank hasn’t raised rates since July.
“If we don’t keep up with the Fed hiking cycle, this currency is going to be taken to pieces,” Ion de Vleeschauwer, chief currency dealer at Johannesburg-based Bidvest, said by phone on March 30. “If the Reserve Bank does not do anything to interest rates this year, then the big numbers” of 13 and 14 may come into play, he said.
South African Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago left rates unchanged on March 26 for a fourth successive meeting even as the rand slumped to a 13-year low against the dollar on March 13. While policy won’t be dictated by the Fed, looming inflation threats from rising electricity tariffs and a new tax on gasoline may force the central bank to tighten policy, Kganyago said. The bank doesn’t have a target for the rand and has said it won’t increase borrowing costs to support the currency.
The rand gained 0.4 percent to 12.0817 per dollar as of 9am in Johannesburg, rebounding from a 4.9 percent slump in the first three months of the year. Yields on benchmark rand bonds due December 2026 dropped three basis points to 7.76 percent. The yield climbed 18 basis points in March to 7.8 percent, adding to a 50 basis point rise the previous month. Yields could rise to as high as 8.2 percent in the “near term”, according to Nedbank Group Ltd.
Forward-rate agreements predict 33 basis points of rate increases in July, with another 31 basis points by the central bank’s final policy meeting of the year in November. That may be too hawkish, according to Kim Silberman, an economist at Standard Bank Group Ltd., the nation’s biggest lender by assets.
“We maintain our view that rates will remain unchanged in 2015,” Silberman said in a report on March 27. “This is based on our expectation that inflation slows through 2016, from a temporary breach of the target in the first quarter and a peak in February” to average 5.9 percent for the year, in line with the central bank’s forecast, she said.
The central bank predicts the consumer inflation rate will average 4.8 percent this year. Consumer prices rose 3.9 percent in February from a year earlier, remaining inside the bank’s target band for a sixth month.
The rand will probably trade in a range with a mid-point of 12.10 per dollar in the second quarter, Standard Bank said on March 24, compared with a previous mid-point forecast of 11.60. The second-quarter mid-point will probably be 12.35, compared with a previous forecast of 11.70.
With the possibility of the dollar reaching parity with the euro, there is a risk of the rand breaching 13.84 per dollar, the record low from 2001, according to Investec Bank Ltd. Speculation that the Fed will start raising rates in the second half is drawing funds to the dollar and away from higher- yielding assets including rand bonds.
“The domestic currency is at risk of further weakness,” Annabel Bishop, an economist at Investec, said in a client note on March 30. “The ending of quantitative easing in the US has contributed to the domestic currency running substantially weaker to its fair value.”
Nedbank Group Ltd has increased Chief Executive Officer Mike Brown’s pay by 7.7 percent.]]> |||
Johannesburg - Nedbank Group Ltd, the South African lender that beat analysts’ profit expectations for a second year, increased Chief Executive Officer Mike Brown’s pay by 7.7 percent to R35.05 million ($2.9 million).
Brown, 48, received a guaranteed package of R7.05 million, short-term incentives of R15 million and long-term share-based awards valued at R13 million, according to the Johannesburg-based lender’s annual report published on Tuesday. Brown was paid R32.5 million in 2013 and R28.7 million the year before that.
Nedbank, which is controlled by Old Mutual PLC, said February 23 full-year profit gained 14 percent to R9.8 billion and earnings per share excluding one-time items climbed 13 percent to R21.27, beating the median estimate of 14 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Brown also oversaw Nedbank’s acquisition in 2014 of a 20-percent stake in Lome, Togo-based Ecobank Transnational, Africa’s most geographically diverse lender.
“The 2014 increases to guaranteed packages were informed by an extensive role evaluation and multiple remuneration benchmarking exercises,” Nedbank, South Africa’s fourth-biggest bank, said in the report. “There is also appropriate consideration of calls for restraint in regard to remuneration.”
Nedbank was unchanged at R237.78 a share as of 10.34am in Johannesburg trading, valuing the lender at about R118 billion.
British Prime Minister David Cameron wants to keep George Osborne as finance minister if the Conservatives win the election.]]> |||
London - George Osborne will remain Britain's finance minister if the Conservative Party wins a closely-contested national election on May 7, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Wednesday.
Osborne has overseen Britain's economic policy since 2010, when he launched an austerity programme, fiercely criticised by some, designed to eliminate the country's deficit. He missed his fiscal targets, but Britain's $2.8 trillion economy has returned to growth ahead of the vote.
When asked in an interview with The Sun newspaper whether Osborne, who is sometimes talked about as a possible successor to Cameron, would remain in his role if the Conservatives won the election, Conservative leader Cameron said: “Absolutely - the team is the team.”
“You don't want to change the person who has driven our economic performance, and has been at the helm of it,” he said.
Osborne has set out a post-election fiscal plan to convert Britain's large budget deficit into a surplus in 2018/19 without increasing taxes, by cutting spending by government departments, and by slashing the welfare bill. His political opponents favour less stringent spending cuts and have looser fiscal targets.