Friday, December 19, 2014

U.S. manufacturing output recorded its largest increase

U.S. manufacturing output recorded its largest increase in nine months in November as production expanded across the board, pointing to underlying strength in the economy.
Factory production increased 1.1 percent last month after an upwardly revised 0.4 percent advance in October, the Federal Reserve said on Monday.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast manufacturing output rising by only 0.5 percent in November after a previously reported 0.2 percent gain in October.
Mining output slipped 0.1 percent last month, while utilities production jumped 5.1 percent as a cold snap boosted demand for utilities.
The gain in manufacturing and utilities combined to lift overall industrial production by 1.3 percent in November, the largest gain since May 2010. October's industrial output was revised to show a 0.1 percent increase instead of the previously reported 0.1 percent dip.
The amount of manufacturing capacity in use rose to 78.4 percent last month from 77.6 percent in October.

Overall industrial capacity use increased to 80.1 percent, the highest since March 2008, from 79.3 percent in October.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

PayPal is expanding its lending services

English: Logo of PayPal. Español: Logotipo de ...
English: Logo of PayPal. Español: Logotipo de PayPal. Русский: Логотип системы PayPal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
PayPal is expanding its lending services ahead of the company’s separation from eBay next year.
PayPal’s lending programme has already advanced more than $200 million of loans to individuals and small businesses. The FT reported that executives are planning to push the service as the company readies itself for next year’s spin off from parent company eBay.
The payment processor’s merchant lending service, which launched last September and has since made more than 35,000 loans at a maximum of $60,000, is modest compared to competing start-up lenders. The company has offered loans to consumers for some time, and announced plans to buy an existing loan portfolio from GE Capital for $1 billion earlier this year.
Unlike competing services, PayPal does not plan to make money from its lending service, but will use it as another way to lure merchants into using PayPal over rival payment processors.
PayPal will face some serious competition in the payments arena in 2015, where its slightly older systems make it difficult to innovate quickly – not a problem that new start-ups face. However the company has a loyal consumer and merchant base, both of which may benefit from an expansion in its lending services.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Russia has revealed plans to launch a national payment card

The Central Bank of Russia has revealed plans to launch a national payment card that will both rival Visa and Mastercard and create more choice for consumers, according to the country’s officials.
The card, which is the first of its kind in Russia, will use technical infrastructure provided by one of the country’s existing payment systems, with Sberbank’s Pro100 and Zolotaya Korona both being considered as partners. The latter, which means “Golden Crown”, was developed by the Centre of Financial Technologies Group, based in Russia. The chosen operator will clear payments made within Russia using the national card system, but the card will also be valid for payments abroad.
The move was welcomed by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as a way of giving Russian consumers more choice. However, it has also been interpreted as a reaction to financial sanctions imposed by the US over the Ukraine crisis, which led to Visa and Mastercard blocking card operations by Rossiya and SMP banks. Both institutions have been blacklisted by the Obama administration due to close ties between their key shareholders and Russian President Vladimir Putin. In addition to competition created by the national payment card, new rules mean that Visa and Mastercard will have to place collateral deposits into special accounts created at Russia’s Central Bank in order to continue operating in the country.
The national payment card system operator is undergoing state registration,” said Elvira Nabiullina, the Central Bank’s chief. “We have a roadmap for infrastructure development and the Central Bank has set up a commission composed of MPs, senators and government members for finding technological solutions.”

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

system that converts over 40 percent of incoming sunlight into electricity

Solar researchers working at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) claim to have produced a system that converts over 40 percent of incoming sunlight into electricity, thereby taking the title of highest solar efficiency for a photovoltaic system ever reported.
The researchers first achieved their record efficiency in indoor tests in a facility in Sydney, Australia, and then had these achievements duplicated and ratified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) using an outdoor test facility in the United States.
"This is the highest efficiency ever reported for sunlight conversion into electricity," said UNSW Professor Professor Martin Green, Director of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP).
The record was achieved using a combination of technologies, including heliostat mirror "power tower" concentrators from Australian company RayGen Resources and high-efficiency photovoltaic (PV) cells from Boeing subsidiary, Spectrolab, but the key component to achieving such a high-efficiency was in the use of a specifically-designed optical bandpass filter used to reject certain components of the light spectrum whilst improving the capture of others. This helped to vastly improve the conversion of light to electricity at a higher efficiency than possible using PVs alone.
"The new results are based on the use of focused sunlight, and are particularly relevant to photovoltaic power towers being developed in Australia," said Professor Green.
"We used commercial solar cells, but in a new way, so these efficiency improvements are readily accessible to the solar industry," added Dr Mark Keevers, the UNSW solar scientist and manager of the project.
Whilst other focused sunlight solar energy systems like the CSIRO’s supercritical-steam set-up or the recent Ethiopian installation of the Tulip system have been shown to produce large amounts of energy, both use either water or hot air to drive turbines to produce electricity. The UNSW system, by comparison, is potentially a lot less complex, cheaper, and safer than such systems and, as a result, may be more readily incorporated in domestic and commercial situations.
The UNSW solar researchers have produced a large number of achievements in the field of solar energy in the past four decades, including the first photovoltaic system to achieve a conversion rate of sunlight to electricity of over 20 percent efficiency way back in 1989.
The UNSW solar energy research has been funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), whose CEO, Ivor Frischknecht, praised the recent achievement as another world first for Australian solar research and development and believes that it aptly demonstrates the value of investing in Australia’s renewable energy creativity.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Billions of dollars have flowed to New York state coffers

Billions of dollars have flowed to New York state coffers thanks to headline-grabbing settlements with global banks announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo and Benjamin Lawsky, New York's first superintendent of financial services.
But little attention has been focused on Daniel Alter, the 49-year-old legal mastermind behind many of the deals.
Sources close to the settlements describe Alter, general counsel at New York's Department of Financial Services (DFS), as instrumental to crafting strategies that leverage the three-year-old agency's unique powers to extract large and sometimes painful penalties from major banks.
For example, Alter wrote the order threatening to revoke Standard Chartered's (STAN.L) license to operate in New York, which paved the way for a $340 million settlement he helped negotiate with the British bank over transactions linked to Iran, sources said. That 2012 deal put the young agency on the map.
Alter also played a key role negotiating a $2.24 billion penalty for the state against BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA) for sanctions-related violations. That settlement included an unprecedented punishment that curbed the French bank's ability to clear U.S. dollars, a core service for clients, people familiar with the settlement said.
In the latest salvo against banks, the Yale Law School graduate pushed to install monitors in Barclays and Deutsche Bank, so the regulator could study possible manipulation of foreign exchange rates from the inside, one source said.
Those investigations are ongoing and could result in more hefty penalties.
Sources familiar with the matter say Alter may soon get a higher profile because he is being discussed as a possible replacement for Lawsky, who is said to be eyeing an early 2015 departure for the private sector.
A spokesman for the agency declined comment and said Alter was not available for an interview. A spokesman for Cuomo, who will appoint the next superintendent, did not return a call for comment.
A veteran of the New York legal scene, Alter was previously a high-level official at the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office and has made allies including Mary Jo White, now head of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and FBI director James Comey.
In 2010, Senator Charles Schumer recommended him to serve as a Manhattan federal judge, though he was not nominated. "His towering intellect is matched only by his staggering capacity for hard work," Comey, a former U.S. Attorney, and more than 60 others wrote in support.
Some adversaries have bristled at the agency's exercise of raw power, but many express grudging respect for Alter's legal acumen and say he has a warm personal style.
"He's a real straight-shooter," said Ted Mirvis, an attorney for Bank of America (BAC.N) who has sat across the table from Alter both while Alter was at DFS and when he did a stint at the New York attorney general's office. "He takes aggressive positions, but he's also willing to listen and exchange ideas."
Those who have worked with Alter say he is an expert at crafting new ways to use old laws. He came up with a legal hook to crack down on the consulting industry, notably during an investigation into whether Deloitte omitted critical information in its report to regulators on Standard Chartered's money laundering controls.
Alter was able to take advantage of his power to sign waivers that allow banks to share the information with consultants, according to a person familiar with the agency's operations.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Oil prices that reached a five-year low

Oil prices that reached a five-year low on Friday are starting to take a bite out of profits at TD Bank and are raising concerns for the rest of the country's top lenders.
Canada's biggest banks earn up to 20 per cent of their revenues through providing investment and corporate banking services, with oil and gas companies an important part of that client base.

But oil prices have tumbled roughly 35 per cent to under $70 a barrel from their mid-summer highs due to a strong U.S. dollar, low demand and a glut of global supply, and now TD Bank says it will have to look beyond the oilpatch to make up its investment banking revenue.
"With the current activity going on in oil pricing, it certainly is impacting activity levels in the business," Bob Dorrance, the head of TD's wholesale banking division, told investors during a conference call earlier this week after the bank reported its fourth quarter results.
"Things have slowed down."
Scotiabank was the last of Canada's five big banks to report its quarterly earnings this week, wrapping up a series of conference calls that were peppered with talk about falling oil prices.

Energy sector dragging down stocks

The energy sector — a major weight on the Toronto Stock Exchange — has taken a beating on the markets and has taken other stocks,  including those with indirect exposure to companies that produce crude, down with it.
While all of the country's top lenders reported substantial profits during the quarter, Canaccord Genuity analyst Gabriel Deschaine noted that lacklustre performance on the stock markets caused many of the banks to report weaker than expected revenues from their brokerage businesses.
Scotia Capital analyst Sumit Malhotra says roughly 30 per cent of the underwriting fees — fees from administering new issues on the stock markets — earned by Canada's six top banks this year came from the energy sector.
A drop in commodity prices could make resource companies less likely to make a public offering on the market, said Malhotra, pointing to Teine Energy as an example.
The Canadian oil and gas producer had been planning an initial public offering but a Bloomberg News report in October said the company delayed the debut due to the decline in oil prices.
"While we do not want to be too alarmist in this regard, it should be clear that the capital markets operations of the banks have played a key role in driving revenue and earnings growth for the Canadian banking sector in 2014, and any sustained period of weakness in the energy sector would be detrimental to activity levels going forward," Malhotra wrote in a note to clients.

Friday, December 12, 2014

McDonald's Corp (MCD.N) reported a steeper-than-expected fall

McDonald's Corp (MCD.N) reported a steeper-than-expected fall in global same-restaurant sales in November and said current-quarter results would be hurt by the after-effects of a supplier scandal in China and a stronger dollar.
McDonald's shares fell 3 percent premarket on Monday after the company also warned that weakening sales would "significantly pressure" margins in the quarter.
The world's largest restaurant chain has been battling competition from Wendy's Co (WEN.O) and Burger King Worldwide Inc (BKW.N) as well as from chains that use fresh ingredients such as Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc (CMG.N) and Subway.
Worldwide sales at restaurants open at least 13 months fell 2.2 percent in November. Analysts on average had estimated a decline of 1.7 percent, according to Consensus Metrix.
The company said the supplier scandal in China would reduce its profit for the quarter ending Dec. 31 by 7-10 cents per share.
McDonald's is working to lure back diners in China and Japan after a TV news expose showed workers using expired meat and doctoring food production dates. The scandal sent the company scrambling to find new sources for ingredients to make its popular Chicken McNuggets and Big Macs.
Same-restaurant sales were down 2 percent in Europe and down 4 percent in the Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa region.
Same-restaurant sales fell 4.6 percent in the United States, more than the average analyst estimate of a decline of 1.9 percent. McDonald's U.S. same-restaurant sales have not increased since October 2013.
The stronger dollar will hurt fourth-quarter profit by 7-9 cents per share, the company said.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Sudden swings in financial markets recently

English: Clockwise from top-left: Federal Rese...
English: Clockwise from top-left: Federal Reserve, Bank of England, European Central Bank, Bank of Canada (Note: Uploaded for use on Wikinews) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sudden swings in financial markets recently suggest they are becoming increasingly sensitive to unexpected events, the global organization of central banks said on Sunday, warning "more than a quantum of fragility" underlies the current bullish mood.
    MSCI's all-country world stock index is hovering around multi-year highs after rebounding from sell-offs in August and October.
    The downturns were triggered by uncertainty over the global economic outlook and monetary policy, as well as geopolitical tensions, and the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) said the sharp and sudden dips pointed to frailty in the markets.
    "These abrupt market movements (in October) were even more pronounced than similar developments in August, when a sudden correction in global financial markets was quickly succeeded by renewed buoyant market conditions," the BIS said in its quarterly review.
    "This suggests that more than a quantum of fragility underlies the current elevated mood in financial markets," it said, adding that recent developments suggest markets are becoming "increasingly fragile".
"Global equity markets plummeted in early August and mid-October. Mid-October's extreme intra-day price movements underscore how sensitive markets have become to even small surprises," it said in the report.
    The comments followed the organization's warning in September that financial asset prices were at "elevated" levels and market volatility remained "exceptionally subdued" thanks to ultra-loose monetary policies being implemented by central banks around the world.
    Since then, the U.S. Federal Reserve has brought its monthly bond-purchase program to an expected end. However, Japan's central bank has spurred global markets by expanding its massive stimulus spending while China unexpectedly cut interest rates, adding to stimulus measures from the European Central Bank.

    The BIS said these divergent monetary policies, coupled with the recent appreciation of the dollar, could have a "profound impact" on the global economy, particularly in emerging markets where many companies have large dollar-denominated liabilities.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Bell unveiled its debut in the content streaming

English: SVG version of the new Bell Canada lo...
English: SVG version of the new Bell Canada logo as of 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Bell unveiled its debut in the content streaming race on Wednesday with CraveTV, which the media conglomerate says isn't meant to replace cable television, but rather add to it.
Starting Dec. 11, CraveTV will be available to anyone who's currently a TV customer of Eastlink, TELUS Optik TV, Bell Fibe TV, Bell Aliant FibreOP TV and Bell Satellite TV at launch, with Northwestel and others coming on board later.
The service will cost $4 per month, on top of your cable bill. The service will be available immediately to cable TV subscribers via set-top box, but the company says they plan on rolling out new ways to watch, including mobile apps, access via video game console, and through select so-called "smart TVs" that can access the internet directly.
Executives at a launch event in Toronto were coy on the timing, but said they expect the service to be available to Rogers and Shaw television customers soon.
"We think this is a service their customers are going to be clamouring for," Bell Media president Kevin Crull said.
It will not, however, be available to anyone with just a high-speed Internet connection, meaning it's not an obvious alternative to so-called cord cutters who have left cable behind in favour of online-based content services.
That also likely means it's not a true rival to Netflix, the U.S.-based streaming service that has gobbled up customers in Canada by offering thousands of hours of TV shows and movies for a monthly fee of $9. Netflix is available to anyone with an internet connection; there's no need to pay for any sort of television service.
A few months ago, Rogers and Shaw teamed up to create Shomi, a streaming service that offers thousands of hours of programming in much the way Netflix does. The catch with Shomi was that you must be a Rogers or Shaw customer to get it — but you could do it just with an internet connection, making it a little closer to the Netflix model.
At least in the early going, Bell is clearly going in a different direction with its streaming service.
"Ninety per cent of Canadians have a TV subscription," Crull said at Wednesday's Bell launch. "We think that gives us a fantastic base of customers to subscribe to," he said, noting that more Canadians pay for some sort of television service than pay for an Internet connection.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Bailout agreement expiring 2016 for GM in Canada

General Motors Canada
General Motors Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Canada could soon see one of its largest automakers, General Motors
, dramatically decrease operations in Ontario, an auto analyst says.

The warning comes at a time when the auto parts industry, autoworkers union Unifor and others dependent on the auto sector are saying Canada is missing out on its share of new auto investment.
Investment in plants and equipment by the Canadian automotive industry is in the range of $1.5 billion annually, down from an average of at least $3 billion each year during the early 2000s, according to a recent study from the Canadian Automotive Partnership Council.
CAPC, a partnership of auto assemblers, parts suppliers, federal and provincial ministers and union representatives, warned that Canada is losing out to the U.S. and Mexico for new investment.
Wynne Tour 20140207
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne tours the General Motors Oshawa Assembly Plant with then-president of GM Canada Kevin Williams, centre, on Feb. 7. An analyst is sounding the alarm about how long GM will remain in Oshawa. (Galit Rodin/Canadian Press)
Canada makes 2.4 million vehicles a year, about 15 per cent of North American production, but won’t keep that share in the years to come, the study warned. Canada may make 15 per cent of autos, but it is no longer getting 15 per cent of investment. Now, it's more in the range of five per cent.
On Wednesday, Joe McCabe, president of AutoForecast Solutions, sounded a fresh warning on General Motors, saying he expects the auto giant to pull out of Oshawa and reduce its Ingersoll, Ont., plant to a single shift, perhaps by 2019.

Bailout agreement expiring

GM’s promise to maintain 16 per cent of its production in Canada in return for its 2008 bailout expires in 2016.
McCabe said the automaker is not making plans for continued production in Oshawa.
"We talk to suppliers, the people who are responsible to bid on new programs at these facilities, and they are looking two to four years in advance, they are not hearing anything from GM," he said in an interview with CBC's The Exchange with Amanda Lang.