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September 16, 2014

Stocks open lower ahead of Fed meeting

Filed under: business, money — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 5:44 am

NEW YORK • U.S. stocks dropped in early trading Monday ahead of this week’s potential pivotal Federal Reserve meeting. The Fed is nearing the end of its bond-buying stimulus program, and investors will be looking for indications of when policy makers will start raising interest rates.

In Europe, investors looked ahead to Scotland’s independence referendum.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell five points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,980 as of 9:53 a.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 16 points, or 0.1 percent, to 16,969. The Nasdaq composite fell 16 points, or 0.7 percent, to 4,534.

FED MEETING: The main market event this week is likely to be the Fed’s two-day policy meeting, which concludes on Wednesday. Investors will be watching for any change in their guidance about the future direction for interest rates. Analysts have warned over the past week that the Fed might raise interest rates sooner than expected as the economy improves.

M&A ON TAP: Molson Coors rose $4.75, or 6.6 percent, to $73.87. The brewer’s stock jumped amid merger news in the beer brewing industry. Family-controlled brewer Heineken said late Sunday that it has rejected a takeover bid by rival SABMiller, the world’s second-largest brewer. Reports said that SABMiller had sought to buy Heineken as a defense against an acquisition bid from Anheuser-Busch InBev, the industry leader absolutely free credit score.

SCOTLAND’S CHOICE: Another big event this week is Thursday’s independence referendum in Scotland. With opinion polls showing the vote too close to call, there’s potential for some sizeable move in U.K. markets. The pound has been extremely volatile in the last couple of weeks as the opinion polls have narrowed. On Monday the pound was 0.2 percent lower at $1.6248.

EUROPEAN STOCKS: In Europe, Germany’s DAX was up 0.1 percent at 9,663, while France’s CAC-40 declined 0.3 percent to 4,430. Britain’s FTSE 100 shed 0.1 percent to 6,801.

CURRENCIES: The dollar gained against the euro, but fell back against the Japanese yen. Against Europe’s common currency, the dollar gained 0.2 percent to $1.29 per euro. It fell 0.2 percent to 107.2 against the yen.

BONDS: In government bond trading, prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which falls when prices rise, dropped to 2.58 percent from 2.61 percent on Friday.

ENERGY: A report that showed Chinese industrial production slowed dramatically in August weighed on oil markets. Benchmark U.S. oil fell 28 cents, or 0.3 percent, a barrel at $92 per barrel. Brent crude, used to price international oils, declined 54 cents to $96.59 a barrel.

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September 14, 2014

Anti-euro party polls well in German state votes

Filed under: Uncategorized, canada — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 2:52 pm

Updated at 11:44 a.m.

BERLIN • An exit poll indicates that an upstart anti-euro group has won seats in two more German state legislatures in regional elections.

The ARD television exit poll put support for the Alternative for Germany, or AfD, party at 10 percent or more in Sunday’s elections in the eastern states of Thuringia and Brandenburg. It won its first seats in a state legislature two weeks ago.

AfD advocates ending the euro in its current form but also has appealed to protest voters with tough talk on crime and immigration.

Other parties say they won’t govern with AfD.

It wasn’t clear whether a three-party alliance led by the Left Party, which has ex-communist roots, would have enough support to oust Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives from the governor’s office in Thuringia.

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September 12, 2014

Chris Davis drug suspension levels playing field: Griffin

Filed under: loans, money — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 9:20 pm

The Orioles were stunned on Friday when Major League Baseball suspended infielder Chris Davis a total of 25 games for use of a banned stimulant, confirmed by the players’ association in a statement from Davis as the ADD/ADHD treatment drug Adderall. He will miss the final 17 games of the regular season and then eight more, either in the post-season or at the start of 2015.

Baltimore entered Friday’s games with a 10-game lead in the AL East, with a magic number of eight over both the Jays and the Yankees. The loss of Davis will begin to show in the playoffs.

“I apologize to my teammates, coaches, the Orioles organization and especially the fans,” Davis said in the statement. “I made a mistake by taking Adderall. I had permission to use it in the past, but do not have a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) this year. I accept my punishment and will begin serving my suspension immediately.”

Adderall has been on MLB’s list of banned stimulants since the 2006 season. The therapeutic use exemption to which Davis referred is for players who have a doctor’s prescription. Adderall is a treatment for narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. It contains a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, central nervous system stimulants that affect chemicals in the brain and nerves that contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control. It is no doubt a performance enhancer in terms of energy and recovery if used without the presence of ADHD.

There was immediate (and justifiable) skepticism back in 2005 when the medical exemption was announced in the new drug agreement. Major league players applied for the exception like teenaged girls rushing to line up for tickets to a One Direction concert. Both made no sense. The number of players claiming they had the disorder was far greater than the norm in the general population.

As such, baseball set up a three-person panel to consider all applications. One of the reasons was that they wanted to weed out the frauds. With Davis losing his exemption, does that mean the panel did not believe he needed Adderall for ADHD? That is a possibility.

In 2013, MLB revealed that 119 players had been granted the exemption, which worked out to 9.9 per cent of all 40-man rosters. The percentage of adults in the general population with the disorder was just 4.4. If Davis had the exemption for the previous two seasons but then not in 2014, he was cheating.

“It comes down to breaking the rule,” the Rays’ ever-sage manager, Joe Maddon, said prior to Friday’s game against the Jays. “That’s what it’s there for. That’s part of the level playing field of our game. It’ll just be a big loss to Baltimore. The rule’s there for a reason. The system works.”

While the impact on the sport from the negative implications and fan reaction will not be as dramatic as it would have been for steroids, Maddon is correct. The fact is that decades ago in baseball, veteran players who were suffering normal fatigue or liked to live nightlife to the fullest would take advantage of amphetamines, and a variety of stimulants since banned under the Basic Agreement, to continue producing through the dog days of August and September. It was an accepted part of the clubhouse day-to-day existence.

Does it now seem fair? Davis has been suspended for using a drug that more than 100 other major-league players are taking legally. Yes, it’s fair. The answer comes from his own statement, that he is no longer exempt yet continued to use. As Maddon suggests, there must be a level playing field.

“I don’t know why that doesn’t just carry over, unless you can be cured of it,” Jays manager John Gibbons said, reflecting the opinion of many. “I don’t know. That’s kind of surprising. If you had it one year, it ought to kick in automatically I would think, but it’s not my department.”

The O’s have been resilient. They survived the loss of all-star catcher Matt Wieters. They continued to win after losing third baseman Manny Machado — now out for the year — for the second time. Now they must stay strong without Davis, who leads all major leaguers in homers since 2012.

The Blue Jays are the team that would seem to benefit the most by his absence from the lineup. Davis is a Jays killer. In the past three seasons he has 21 homers against Toronto, and with six games left between the teams he would likely have been good for a couple more.

Meanwhile, this has been Davis’s worst year of the last three in Baltimore, batting .196 with a .300 on-base, just 16 doubles and 26 homers. Do the O’s need his bat to win? In 40 games since July 27, he hit .182 with nine homers and 21 RBIs. In those games the O’s were 27-13.

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September 8, 2014

Schumer Anti-Inversion Tax Plan Could Reach Back to 1994 - Bloomberg

Filed under: business, canada — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 12:36 am

A proposal from a top Senate Democrat could limit deductions for companies that moved their tax addresses out of the U.S. as long ago as 1994, according to a draft obtained by Bloomberg News.

The legislative proposal, which faces high hurdles in a deadlocked Congress, may become part of Democrats

September 1, 2014

Markets drift as Wall Street has day off

Filed under: Uncategorized, legal — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 2:04 pm

LONDON (AP) — Ahead of a raft of economic developments this week, financial markets started the week on a lackluster note Monday as Wall Street was closed for the Labor Day holiday.

KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares closed up 0.1 percent at 6,825.31 while Germany’s DAX rose the same rate to 9,479.03. The CAC-40 in France ended a tad lower at 4,379.73. Earlier in Asia, China’s Shanghai Composite rose 0.8 percent to 2,235.51 points and Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 added 0.3 percent to 15,476.60. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was marginally higher, adding 0.04 percent to 24,752.09.

UKRAINE: In Europe, the crisis in Ukraine remains a key source of interest for traders. On Monday, there were signs that a breakthrough may be in the offing as pro-Russian rebels appeared to soften their demand for full independence, saying they would respect Ukraine’s sovereignty in exchange for autonomy. The insurgents’ platform, released at the start of Monday’s negotiations in Minsk, the Belarusian capital, represented a significant change in their vision for the future of Ukraine’s eastern, mainly Russian-speaking region.

GLOBAL MANUFACTURING: There were some worrying signs however that the global manufacturing sector is waning. Two surveys showed China’s manufacturing growth slowed in August as export demand and investment weakened, raising expectations Beijing might launch more stimulus. HSBC Corp. said its purchasing manufacturers index fell to 50.2 from July’s 18-month high of 51.7 on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 show an expansion. An official industry group, the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing, said its separate PMI declined to 51 no fax pay day loan.1 from 51.7. A similar picture emerged for the 18-country eurozone, with the August PMI from financial information company Markit down at a 13-month low of 50.7. On Tuesday, the Institute for Supply Management publishes its estimate for the U.S. economy.

EUROPE: Whether the weak economic indicators coming out of the eurozone will prompt the European Central Bank to enact further stimulus measures at its monthly policy meeting on Thursday remains open to question. Bank chief Mario Draghi called in a speech last month for fiscal policies to support growth, a departure from the ECB’s implicit support for austerity. No immediate steps are expected but the bank has begun work on a program to buy asset-backed securities.

EURO IN RETREAT: The crisis in Ukraine and weak eurozone economic data have combined to hurt the euro currency over the past few months. On Monday, it fell to a near year-low of $1.3119.

U.S. ECONOMY: After Thursday’s ECB meeting, traders will be fully focusing on the U.S. nonfarm payrolls report for August. The release often setts the market tone for a week or two after its release as traders try and work out when the Federal Reserve will start raising interest rates. Investor confidence over the U.S. economy has risen following several months of strong growth in hiring and corporate profits and a series of major corporate acquisitions.

ENERGY MARKETS: U.S. benchmark crude for October was down 25 cents at $95.71 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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August 26, 2014

US Treasury bill rates unchanged at weekly auction

Filed under: legal, money — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 1:04 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — Interest rates on short-term Treasury bills were unchanged in Monday’s auction with both the three-month and six-month bills going for the same rates as the previous week.

The Treasury Department auctioned $29 billion in three-month bills at a discount rate of 0.030 percent, matching last week’s rate. Another $24 billion in six-month bills was auctioned at a discount rate of 0.050 percent, also unchanged from last week.

The discount rates reflect that the bills sell for less than face value. For a $10,000 bill, the three-month price was $9,999.23 while a six-month bill sold for $9,997.47. That would equal an annualized rate of 0.030 percent for the three-month bills and 0.051 percent for the six-month bills.

Separately, the Federal Reserve said Monday that the average yield for one-year Treasury bills, a popular index for making changes in adjustable rate mortgages, edged up to 0.11 percent last week from 0.10 percent the previous week.

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August 24, 2014

Goldman in deal worth $1.2B over US bond claims

Filed under: loans, news — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 8:52 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — Goldman Sachs has agreed to a settlement worth $1.2 billion to resolve claims that it misled U.S. mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac about risky mortgage securities it sold them before the housing market collapsed in 2007.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie and Freddie, announced the settlement Friday with the Wall Street powerhouse.

New York-based Goldman Sachs sold the securities to the companies between 2005 and 2007.

Under the settlement, Goldman is paying $3.15 billion to buy back the securities from Fannie and Freddie. The FHFA said the settlement was worth $1.2 billion because of the difference between what Goldman is paying and the current value of the securities. That means Goldman effectively is paying a $1.2 billion penalty.

Goldman will pay about $1 billion to Fannie and $2.15 billion to Freddie for the securities it sold.

“We are pleased to have resolved these matters,” said Goldman Sachs Group Inc. general counsel Gregory Palm in a statement.

The settlement is the latest federal government agreement over actions related to the financial crisis that struck in 2008. The crisis, triggered by vast sales of risky mortgage securities, plunged the economy into the deepest recession since the Great Depression.

The securities soured after the housing bubble burst in 2007, losing billions in value.

The government rescued Fannie and Freddie at the height of the crisis in September 2008 when both were on the verge of collapse. The companies received taxpayer aid totaling $187 billion. They have since become profitable and repaid the full bailouts.

The FHFA sued 18 financial institutions in 2011 over their sales of mortgage securities to Fannie and Freddie. The total price for the securities sold was $196 billion.

A number of big banks, including Goldman, JPMorgan, Bank of America and Citigroup, previously have been accused of abuses in sales of securities linked to mortgages in the years leading up to the crisis. Together, they have paid hundreds of millions in penalties to settle civil charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which accused them of deceiving investors about the quality of the bonds they sold.

Goldman agreed in 2010 to pay $550 million to settle the SEC’s charges, the largest penalty against a Wall Street firm in the agency’s history.

In recent months, Justice and state regulators have reached multibillion-dollar agreements over mortgage securities with JPMorgan, Citigroup and Bank of America. The most recent was announced Thursday with Bank of America, the second-largest U.S. bank, which is paying a record $16.65 billion — $7 billion of it earmarked for consumer relief.

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August 22, 2014

Obama offers new accommodations on birth control

Filed under: finance, management — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 6:00 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration will offer a new accommodation to religious nonprofits that object to covering birth control for their employees. The measure allows those groups to notify the government, rather than their insurance company, that birth control violates their religious beliefs.

The government is also extending an existing accommodation to some for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby that’s currently available only to nonprofits. That accommodation requires groups to sign a form transferring responsibility for paying for birth control to their insurers or third-party administrators.

The dual decisions embrace suggestions included in recent Supreme Court rulings. But they’re unlikely to go far enough to satisfy religious groups. That’s because they would still make the groups complicit in a system that provides birth control through their organizations’ health plans.

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August 21, 2014

To us, Tina Fontaine just another missing native kid: Mallick

Filed under: legal, technology — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 6:52 am

The call for a federal inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous girls and women isn’t the result of nearly 1,200 females crying out from wherever their graves may be. It isn’t history leaking blood, it is a continuing serial tragedy, and pretty little Tina Fontaine, her corpse hauled out of the Red River on the weekend in the bag her killer had stuffed her into, is just the latest instalment.

What makes Tina’s death worse is that at age 15, she was only 5’3” and weighed a feather-light 100 pounds. It was so easy for the killer to murder Tina, bag her up and dump her in the river. Even though her family and the police were looking for her, he calculated that she would be just another missing native kid, fun to torment, easy to slaughter and really easy to dispose of.

He was right. She was only found by chance while police divers searched for the corpse of a man, Faron Hall, also native, who had been seen struggling in the water. Hall’s body was also brought in. Behind the big blue tarps screening Tina’s corpse from view, Winnipeg’s Canadian Museum for Human Rights gleamed in the distance.

Tina’s story is harrowing, starting with the ID photos sent out as she went repeatedly missing after her life turned bad. There she is smiling with a cool ‘do, short on one side and long on the other, with big hoop earrings that must have made her very proud. On her slender neck just north of her throat, there is a worrying bruise or abrasion.

After Tina’s father got cancer when she was 4, her grandmother took her in, CTV reported. “She was a happy baby. She was a happy girl,” Thelma Fontaine said. But after her father was beaten to death in 2011, Tina fell apart. She was put into foster care in Powerview, Man., and then in Winnipeg, the latter a poor choice because she was both attracted to city life and unable to cope with it. Police say she may have been working the streets, and in the past year, she had run away three times. In one November 2013 notice of her disappearance, the RCMP in Powerview said she “is noted to have a history of attending Winnipeg.” That time she was found two days later but you can’t make a miserable, desperate teenager stay when she wants to flee.

“She had barely been in the city for a little over a month and she’s definitely been exploited, taken advantage of, murdered and put into the river in this condition,” Winnipeg homicide unit officer Sgt. John O’Donovan told reporters. And then he said what police are generally too brisk to say: “She’s a child. Society would be horrified if we found a litter of kittens or pups in the river in this condition. This is a child. Society should be horrified.”

O’Donovan has nailed us. We do treat aboriginal people like animals. Think of the children of Attawapiskat, a James Bay reserve which floods regularly and where children have basically been camping out in school shacks for years, begging the federal government for help. Those children are appallingly neglected.

“Yet the ones we see come down here and that we have as . . . patients, they are wonderful kids,” said a Toronto doctor who headed up north to help them. “They have got a great temperament, they’re very kind, they’re very intellectual, they are fun to be with high risk personal loans.” One Toronto rescuer was particularly upset by conditions in Moosonee. “It horrified me. There was neglect and abandonment and a very hard life.” Another said happily, “They are just lovely lovely children.”

Oh, I’m sorry, I mis-wrote myself. My mistake.

Replace “kids” and “children” with “dogs” and “doctor” with “vet” and I will be correctly quoting from a July story in the Toronto Star about white people going to Attawapiskat to treat stray dogs, “adopt” them and bring them back to Toronto. There is not a word about aboriginal children being neglected or abandoned or having a “hard life” after 150 years of colonialism, family patterns disrupted by residential school, sexual abuse, extreme poverty and hearty never-ending racism.

Dogs do as they’re told, for food. They attend obedience classes, don’t run away, don’t judge their pathetic unkempt owners, and fill a hole in the lives of inadequate people who don’t like children, much less aboriginal ones.

You may disagree. If ignoring Attawapiskat children in favour of dogs doesn’t seem harsh to you, read a 2010 Facebook post by Lorrie Steeves, a Winnipeg woman whose husband Gord is running for mayor of Winnipeg. “Lorrie Steeves is really tired of getting harrassed (sic) by the drunken native guys in the skywalks. we need to get these people educated so they can go make their own damn money instead of hanging out and harrassing (sic) the honest people who are grinding away working hard for their money. We all donate enough money to the government to keep thier (sic) sorry assess (sic) on welfare, so shut the f— up and don’t ask me for another handout!”

After the CBC reported the Steeves story on Aug. 8 — this was the last day Tina was seen alive in downtown Winnipeg — accompanied by a photo of Steeves at a gala with a big glass of white wine in front of her, Steeves apologized. I’m glad she did and I’m glad she enjoys a drink, but if this is how white Canadians think — that they are themselves exquisite while aboriginal Canadians are flawed beyond redemption and their sufferings of less interest than those of dogs — we have a long way to go. Well obviously we have a long way to go.

An inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered women might lay this all open under a bright light, but Stephen Harper’s Conservatives call it unnecessary. In the meantime, think of Tina Fontaine of the Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba. When she went missing last year, a heartfelt flyer with her picture described her, with an addendum: “Scars on both arms.”

People cut themselves when they’re hurting. Tina was hurting badly. The flyer also warned passersby, “Tina went missing before. Do NOT approach her harshly please.” She was approached harshly, one final time.

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August 17, 2014

Second autopsy ordered on body of Missouri teen Michael Brown

Filed under: mortgage, online — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 9:08 pm

FERGUSON, MO.—U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Sunday ordered a federal medical examiner to perform another autopsy on the body of a black Missouri teenager whose fatal shooting by a white police officer has spurred a week of rancorous and sometimes violent protests in suburban St. Louis.

Department of Justice spokesman Brian Fallon cited a request by family members and the “extraordinary circumstances” surrounding the case of 18-year-old Michael Brown in explaining decision.

“This independent examination will take place as soon as possible,” Fallon said in a statement. “Even after it is complete, Justice Department officials still plan to take the state-performed autopsy into account in the course of their investigation.”

The Justice Department already had deepened its civil rights investigation of the shooting. Officials said a day earlier that 40 FBI agents were going door-to-door gathering information in the Ferguson, Missouri, neighbourhood where an unarmed Brown was shot to death in the middle of the street on Aug. 9.

David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor who supervised the criminal civil rights section of Miami’s U.S. Attorney’s office, said a federally conducted autopsy “more closely focused on entry point of projectiles, defensive wounds and bruises” might help that investigation, and that the move is “not that unusual.”

He also said federal authorities want to calm any public fears that no action will be taken on the case.

Holder’s latest announcement followed the first night of a state-imposed curfew in Ferguson, which ended with tear gas and seven arrests after police dressed in riot gear used armoured vehicles to disperse defiant protesters.

Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said protesters weren’t the reason for the escalated police reaction early Sunday morning after the midnight curfew took effect, but a report of people who had broken into a barbecue restaurant and taken to the roof, and a man who flashed a handgun in the street as armoured vehicles approached the crowd of protesters.

Also overnight, a man was shot and critically wounded in the same area, but not by police; authorities were searching for the shooter. Someone also shot at a police car, officials said.

The protests have been going on since Brown’s death heightened racial tensions between the predominantly black community and mostly white Ferguson Police Department, leading to several run-ins between police and protesters and prompting Missouri’s governor to put the Highway Patrol in charge of security.

Ferguson Police waited six days to publicly reveal the name of the officer and documents alleging Brown robbed a convenience store before he was killed, though Chief Thomas Jackson said the officer did not know Brown was a suspect when he encountered him walking in the street with a friend.

Scott Olson / GETTY IMAGES

People wait for reaction from police after they refused to honour the midnight curfew on Aug. 17.

Gov. Jay Nixon, who imposed the curfew after declaring a state of emergency as protests turned violent to start the weekend, said Sunday morning on ABC’s “This Week” that he was not aware the police were going to release surveillance video from the store where Brown is alleged to have stolen a $49 box of cigars.

“It’s appeared to cast aspersions on a young man that was gunned down in the street. It made emotions raw,” Nixon said.

In announcing the curfew, Nixon said many protesters were making themselves heard peacefully but the state would not allow looters to endanger the community. Johnson, the Highway Patrol captain, had said police would not enforce the curfew with armoured trucks and tear gas and would communicate with protesters and give them ample opportunity to leave. Local officers faced strong criticism earlier in the week for their use of tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters.

As the curfew deadline arrived early Sunday, most protesters left the streets, but those who remained protesters refused to leave the area as officers spoke through a loudspeaker: “You are in violation of a state-imposed curfew. You must disperse immediately.”

As officers put on gas masks, a chant from the distant crowd emerged: “We have the right to assemble peacefully.”

A moment later, police began firing canisters into the crowd. Highway Patrol Spokesman Lt. John Hotz initially said police only used smoke, but later told The Associated Press they also used tear gas canisters.

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