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Dec 30, 2011

Reuters Deals Today



News


With the prized Facebook IPO on the horizon for 2012, the lead investment-banking role is still up for grabs and long-time rivals Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are considered front runners, the Wall Street Journal reports.

In this Deal Pipeline video, Paul Hastings corporate department partner Barry Brooks predicts that mergers and acquisitions in financial services will jump in 2012.

Banco Bradesco, Brazil's second-biggest private sector bank, pulled out of talks to buy HSBC Holdings' consumer finance unit Losango on concern about potential charges related to labor disputes, a local newspaper reported on Friday.

The settlement between the Trust Company of the West and Jeffrey E. Gundlach caps a bitter and protracted dispute that turned the normally anodyne mutual fund world into a heated legal battleground, reports DealBook.

Swiss Petroplus struggles to keep its refineries across Europe running after aggressive acquisitions by former chairman Thomas O'Malley up to 2007 have given way to the current credit crunch, economic slowdown and financial crisis.

As 2011 draws to a close it has become quite vogue to proclaim the end of the gold bull market and predict that gold will fall below $1300 at some point in the new year.


LATEST NEWS
Bradesco pulls out of HSBC Brazil unit buy: report
SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Banco Bradesco , Brazil's second-biggest private sector bank, pulled out of talks to buy HSBC Holdings Plc's consumer finance unit Losango on concern about potential charges related to labor disputes, a local newspaper reported on Friday. | Full Article

Morning Market Briefing


Economic News
The Japanese manufacturing sector expanded modestly in December, the latest survey results from Markit Economics showed Friday. (Dec 30, 2011) Full Article
Inflation in South Korea was higher than expected by economists in December, data from Statistics Korea showed Friday. It also exceeded the Bank of Korea's 2-4 percent inflation target. (Dec 30, 2011) Full Article
The contraction in Chinese factory activity eased compared to the previous month, but new orders received by manufacturers continued to decline solidly, the latest survey results from Markit Economics showed Friday. (Dec 30, 2011) Full Article
U.K. housing market activity is likely to remain subdued next year given the tight labor market conditions, said a key survey, which also showed that house prices fell unexpectedly in the final month of the year, while increasing a percent for the whole of 2011. (Dec 30, 2011) Full Article
France plans to raise between EUR 7 billion and EUR 8 billion from its first long-term debt auction for 2012, set for next Thursday, the Treasury announced Friday. (Dec 30, 2011) Full Article
Todays WS Events
Ark Restaurants Q4 11 Earnings Conference Call At 11:00 AM ET
Ark Restaurants Corp. (ARKR) will host a conference call at 11:00 AM ET on December 30, 2011, to discuss Q4 11 earnings results. To access the webcast, log on to www.viavid.net To listen to the call, dial 1-877-941-1427 (US) or 1-480-629-9664 (International). For a replay call, dial 1-877-870-5176 (US) or 1-858-384-5517 (International) with pin number 4501702. (Dec 30, 2011)

Stocks and Markets in the News | U. S. Treasury Yields: Treasurys end year with 10-year yields under 2%

By Deborah Levine, MarketWatch 

NEW YORK (MarketWatch)Treasury prices gave up slim gains in quiet trading on Friday, with some month-end buying likely providing support at the end of the best year for U.S. government bonds since 2008. 

Yields on 10-year notes 10_YEAR +0.63%  , which move inversely to prices, turned up 1 basis point to 1.91%. A basis point is one one-hundredth percentage point. 

 Yields on 2-year notes 2_YEAR +1.46%  declined 1 basis point to 0.27%. 

Thirty-year bond yields 30_YEAR +0.62%  rose 2 basis points to 2.92%.

The bond market is expected to close early ahead of a three-day weekend. 

“Ten-year yields are decidedly below 2% and near the low end of the November-December range, consistent with an ongoing flight-to-quality underpinning for Treasurys,” said bond strategists at CRT Capital Group. “More germane to Treasurys, however, are year-end and related flows.” 

The only U.S. event of the day is the Federal Reserve’s release of its schedule of Treasury buybacks and sales for the next month as part of a program known as Operation Twist. 

For the year, Treasury bonds of all maturities have returned 9.64% through Thursday, adding to last year’s gains, according to an index compiled by Merrill Lynch. The gains far outpace those for corporate and high-yield debt as well as major U.S. stock indexes. Read story on corporate bonds. 
 
U.S. 10-year yields are down from a high of 3.72%, set in February, while 30-year yields have dropped from a high of 4.69% early this year. 

Two-year-note yields plunged from 0.85% in February, in large part weighed down by the Federal Reserve’s announcement that it would keep interest rates low until mid-2013. 

Deborah Levine is a MarketWatch reporter, based in New York.


Treasury returns top corporate,
junk bonds

  treasurys corporate high yield
2008 +13.98% -6.82% -26.4%
2009 -3.72% +19.76% +57.5%
2010 +5.88% +9.52% +15.2%
2011 +9.61% +7.22% +4.16%
Source: Bank of America Merrill Lynch

The insane power Iowa gives .004% of the population: Ezra Klein's Wonkbook | The Washington Post



The next four days in the news cycle will be all Iowa, all the time. And with good reason. Iowa might well decide our next president. The momentum coming out of the caucus can cement Romney as the nominee or vault another contender to the nomination. But let's all take a deep breath and agree that that is completely insane.

In 2008, the Iowa Republican Caucus got record turnout: 120,000 people. That is to say, four percent of all the residents of Iowa. And those 120,000 people represent four hundredths of one percent of the total population of America.

And it's not a representative four hundredths of one percent of the American people. It's not a representative four percent of Iowans. It's not even a representative four percent of Iowa Republicans. The likely caucusgoers are further to the right than the average Iowa Republican.
Gail Collins put it well in Thursday's New York Times. Imagine, she wrote, that the caucus gets incredible, record-shattering turnout: 150,000 Iowans attend! "That is about the same number of people in Pomona, Calif. Imagine your reaction to seeing a story saying that a plurality of people in Pomona, Calif., thought Newt Gingrich would be the best G.O.P. presidential candidate. Would you say, 'Wow! I guess Newt is now the de facto front-runner?'"
Probably not. For the record, this isn't really Iowa's fault. They're insistent on going first, but their caucus only matters so much because we in the media nationalize it -- and the importance of its results -- so aggressively. Which is why it's worth remembering Jon Bernstein's advice on how to read the media coverage out of Iowa.
"Remember that what matters out of Iowa is the spin," he writes. "Remember that the spin will be influenced by two main things: press biases, and party actors." And as for those press biases, "one is that 'news' trumps 'not news', which means that surprises get more coverage than whatever is expected to happen -- which is where the expectations game really does matter. The second is that the press has limited capacity, and can only really handle one big and one minor story line. The third is that there's a press bias in favor of portraying the nomination contest as close and uncertain." So that's worth keeping in mind as well.
On a more personal note, this will be the last Wonkbook that Dylan Matthews helps produce. I met Dylan four years ago, when, as a high school senior, he was the smartest and most scarily competent intern to ever walk through the American Prospect's doors. A few years later, I called him up and asked if he would like to do a bit of part-time work gathering news clippings to help me add more aggregation to the blog.
It was supposed to be a behind-the-scenes job, but the packages of clippings he sent were so comprehensive and so useful that it was instantly clear I needed to find a way to share them with readers. Thus, the ongoing experiment in sleep deprivation that we call Wonkbook was born. And Dylan, despite being in college throughout it, has never missed a single day. He's never even turned Wonkbook in late. And the success of Wonkbook led directly to Wonkblog. Without Dylan, neither would have happened.
I know that the way this relationship is supposed to work is you change the career of your interns. But in this case, my intern completely transformed my career. So thanks, Dylan, for everything.
Top Stories

1) Republican presidential contenders take a broad view of executive power, reports Charlie Savage: "Even as they advocate for limited government, many of the Republican presidential candidates hold expansive views about the scope of the executive powers they would wield if elected -- including the ability to authorize the targeted killing of United States citizens they deem threats and to launch military attacks without Congressional permission. As Republicans prepare to select their party’s 2012 presidential nominee, Newt Gingrich, Jon M. Huntsman Jr., Ron Paul, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney have provided detailed answers about their views on executive power in response to questions on the topic posed by The New York Times, which is publishing the full text of their responses online. The answers show that most of them see the commander in chief as having the authority to lawfully take extraordinary actions."
2) Jobless claims are still falling, reports Ben Casselman: "Fewer Americans are filing new claims for jobless benefits than at any time since the end of the recession, the latest signal that the U.S. economy is ending a year of uncertainty on a positive note. The Department of Labor said Thursday that a seasonally adjusted 381,000 people filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week. That figure was up slightly from the prior week, but the four-week average, which is more closely watched by economists because it smooths out weekly volatility, fell to its lowest level since June 2008, when the economy was still mired in recession. The unemployment data, along with other positive figures from the housing and manufacturing sectors, suggest that the economic recovery is once again gaining momentum after nearly stalling out earlier this year...Statistics have consistently shown the economy keeps growing, albeit slowly."
3) Angela Markel helped force a change in government in Italy, report Marcus Walker, Charles Forelle, and Stacy Meichtry: "On a chilly October evening in her austere chancellery, Angela Merkel placed a confidential call to Rome to help save the euro. Two years after the European debt crisis erupted in little Greece, the unthinkable had happened: Investors were fleeing the government debt of Italy--one of the world's biggest economies. If the selloff couldn't be stopped, Italy would go down, taking with it Europe's shared currency. Her phone call that night to the 16th-century Quirinale Palace, once a residence of popes, now home to Italy's octogenarian head of state, President Giorgio Napolitano, trod on delicate ground for a German chancellor. Europe's leaders have an unwritten rule not to intervene in one another's domestic politics. But Ms. Merkel was gently prodding Italy to change its prime minister, if the incumbent--Silvio Berlusconi--couldn't change Italy."
4) The Fed is getting more dovish next year, reports Kelly Evans: "With the president having just nominated a new bipartisan pair of economists--Jeremy Stein and Jerome Powell--to help appease Congress, it is possible the Fed board could be filled next year. That may have less impact on the Fed's monetary-policy actions, however, than the rotation of regional bank presidents. Among the four losing their vote are the FOMC's three most hawkish members--Narayana Kocherlakota of the Minneapolis Fed, Richard Fisher of Dallas and Charles Plosser of Philadelphia--all of whom spoke against the Fed's latest bond-buying program and voted against it. Those gaining a vote, meanwhile, are John Williams of the San Francisco Fed, Cleveland's Sandra Pianalto and Atlanta's Dennis Lockhart, all considered more dovish than the outgoing group. That leaves the final incoming member--Richmond's Jeffrey Lacker--as perhaps the lone uber-hawk in 2012."
Top Op-eds

1) Politics is the only reason any of us are alive, writes Charles Krauthammer: "As the romance of manned space exploration has waned, the drive today is to find our living, thinking counterparts in the universe. For all the excitement, however, the search betrays a profound melancholy -- a lonely species in a merciless universe anxiously awaits an answering voice amid utter silence...So why the silence? Carl Sagan (among others) thought that the answer is to be found, tragically, in the final variable: the high probability that advanced civilizations destroy themselves...Intelligence is a capacity so godlike, so protean that it must be contained and disciplined. This is the work of politics -- understood as the ordering of society and the regulation of power to permit human flourishing while simultaneously restraining the most Hobbesian human instincts."
2) Keynes was and remains right about austerity, writes Paul Krugman: "'The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity at the Treasury.' So declared John Maynard Keynes in 1937...The real test of Keynesian economics hasn’t come from the half-hearted efforts of the U.S. federal government to boost the economy, which were largely offset by cuts at the state and local levels. It has, instead, come from European nations like Greece and Ireland that had to impose savage fiscal austerity as a condition for receiving emergency loans -- and have suffered Depression-level economic slumps, with real G.D.P. in both countries down by double digits. This wasn’t supposed to happen, according to the ideology that dominates much of our political discourse .In March 2011, the Republican staff of Congress’s Joint Economic Committee released a report titled 'Spend Less, Owe Less, Grow the Economy.'...They should have known better even at the time."
3) Tea Partiers don't hate government as much as they profess to, write Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson: "In our interviews and group discussions, however, we found Tea Party members to be quite inconsistent about government...Tea Partiers aren’t opposed to all kinds of regulation or big tax-supported spending. Rank-and-file Tea Party participants evaluate regulations and spending very differently, depending on who or what is regulated, and whether those who benefit from various kinds of public spending are considered hard workers or freeloaders...Tea Party resistance to giving more to people deemed undeserving is more than just an argument about taxes and spending. It’s a heartfelt cry about where they fear their country may be headed. Tea Party worries about racial and ethnic minorities and overly entitled young people signal fear about generational social change in America."
4) The people should have a veto over the judiciary, writes Thomas Donnelly: "Each term, the Supreme Court decides a handful of controversial cases by a bare majority. These decisions are all but impossible to reverse in the short term -- even as they bitterly divide the justices. Furthermore, the court imperfectly reflects the constitutional views of governing coalitions over time, as the justices often maintain their positions for as long as possible to ensure that a sympathetic president can appoint their successors. Roosevelt’s proposed remedy -- what might be called a 'People’s Veto' -- could be tailored to address these widely recognized problems. For instance, such a veto could be reserved for 5 to 4 decisions of the Supreme Court on constitutional issues -- in other words, decisions in which the majority is often attempting to push constitutional doctrine in a new direction. A People’s Veto would permit the public to weigh in, perhaps following a national petition drive or congressional authorization."
Synth pop interlude: The Blow play "Fists Up".
Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.
Still to come: The SEC's battle over its bank settlement is heating up; a judge blocked California's Medicaid; the payroll tax is stoking worries about Social Security's solvency; a judge blocked California's climate rules; and a slide whistle cover of Dr. Dre's "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang".
Economy

Italy's borrowing costs are still high, report Emese Bartha and Stacy Meichtry: "The cost of funding Italy's long-term debt remained stubbornly high on Thursday, exacerbating Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti's efforts to fend off criticism of a government austerity program aimed at pulling the country out of the euro-zone crisis. Rome paid a sharply lower yield of 5.62% for borrowings that come due in 2014, compared with 7.89% at the previous auction on Nov. 29. But the yield investors demanded for 10-year bonds was 6.98%--barely down from the euro-era highs of recent months and nearly touching the 7% threshold that economists consider financially unsustainable. Investors' hopes for signs of a recovery in Italy's bond market had been running high after Mr. Monti passed a multibillion-euro austerity package in December and the European Central Bank allocated nearly half a trillion euros in three-year loans to banks last week."
Detroit is an unlikely housing bright spot, reports Brady Dennis: "An unlikely name has been popping up lately as a rare bright spot in the nation’s still-abysmal housing market: Detroit. Among the nation’s top 20 metropolitan regions, only the Detroit and Washington areas posted annual home price increases, according to S&P/Case-Shiller home price data for October released this week. At 2.5 percent, Detroit’s gain was almost double the increase reported for the District, where unemployment and foreclosures have remained relatively low despite the financial crisis. Improbable as it might seem, the Detroit area is seeing an increase in building permits. Construction firms are dusting off their equipment and returning to work, and bidding wars are breaking out over desirable homes."
The Treasury issued a new bank fees rule, reports Tom Barkley: "The U.S. Treasury issued a proposed rule Thursday for determining fees to be paid by large financial institutions to cover the cost of the recently established financial-stability watchdog and other expenses related to the Dodd-Frank regulatory overhaul. The Treasury plans to start collecting the semiannual fees in July 2012 from U.S. bank holding companies with at least $50 billion in total consolidated assets, foreign banks with at least that amount of assets in U.S. operations, as well as nonbank institutions that fall under the supervision of the Federal Reserve, according to the proposal. The Treasury expects the total amount of fees to top $100 million a year, though the actual amount of the initial assessment will depend on the amount of expenses included in the administration's fiscal 2013 budget proposal, as well as the amount of assets each firm holds on Dec. 31, 2011."
Stock options are benefiting from a huge tax break, reports David Kocieniewski: "The stock market’s rebound from the financial crisis three years ago has created a potential windfall for hundreds of executives who were granted unusually large packages of stock options shortly after the market collapsed. Now, the corporations that gave those generous awards are beginning to benefit, too, in the form of tax savings. Thanks to a quirk in tax law, companies can claim a tax deduction in future years that is much bigger than the value of the stock options when they were granted to executives. This tax break will deprive the federal government of tens of billions of dollars in revenue over the next decade. And it is one of the many obscure provisions buried in the tax code that together enable most American companies to pay far less than the top corporate tax rate of 35 percent -- in some cases, virtually nothing even in very profitable years"
Online retail is doing better than its brick-and-mortar counterpart, reports Ylan Mui: "In the annual race for holiday sales, a clear winner has emerged: online retail. The sector has enjoyed steady double-digit growth over the past two months compared with last year, providing a stable counterpoint to the broader industry’s more volatile season. Cyber Monday alone raked in a record $1 billion, according to analytics firm comScore. This week, the company said online spending during the holidays reached more than $35 billion, a 15 percent spike from a year ago...Online spending is a rare bright spot in what has been an uneven Christmas season for the retail industry...Bricks-and-mortar retailers reported that the throngs of shoppers who crowded their stores for blockbuster deals during extended hours Thanksgiving weekend were largely absent the rest of the month and in early December."
That just happened interlude: A slide whistle rendition of "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang".
Health Care

A federal judge blocked California's Medicaid cuts, reports Edvard Pettersson: "California can’t cut reimbursements hospitals receive for the skilled-nursing services they provide to low-income people, a federal judge ruled. U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder in Los Angeles yesterday granted the request from the California Hospital Association for an order to stop California from imposing the reductions, saying the hospitals had shown there would be irreparable harm if she didn’t halt the cuts temporarily... The hospital group said in a Nov. 1 complaint that the cuts of more than 20 percent would resurrect previous reductions that the courts have found to be in violation of the federal Medicaid Act. The cuts would threaten the ability of many hospitals to operate skilled nursing units, the group said. The California Department of Health Care Services said Oct. 27."
Domestic Policy

The payroll tax cut is stoking worries about Social Security's future, reports Jia Lynn Yang: "For the first time in the program’s history, tens of billions of dollars from the government’s general pool of revenue are being funneled to the Social Security trust fund to make up for the revenue lost to the tax cut. Roughly $110 billion will be automatically shifted from the Treasury to the trust fund to cover this year’s cut, according to the Social Security Board of Trustees. An additional $19 billion, it is estimated, will be necessary to pay for the two-month extension...The prospect of policymakers continually turning to the payroll tax as a way of providing economic stimulus troubles experts, some lawmakers and both public trustees of the Social Security trust fund. Their concern: that Social Security will lose its status as a protected benefit owed to every working American and instead become politically vulnerable."
A report indicts the Justice Department for failing to serve disabled Americans, reports Julian Pecquet: "The Department of Justice is failing Americans with disabilities by not holding educational testing companies accountable for meeting their needs, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. The report found that only 2 percent of disabled people taking postsecondary exams received special accommodations in the most recent testing year. That’s a far smaller rate than the 12 percent of Americans who have disabilities. GAO also found that the DOJ is not properly enforcing provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act that require testing companies to provide accommodations to make tests accessible for people with disabilities. The law also requires that test-takers’ achievement on the tests reflect their aptitudes rather than their disabilities, by giving people with dyslexia more time to answer for example."
Commercial interlude: Come on down to Skeleton Warehouse!
Energy

A judge is blocking California's fuel regulation, reports Felicia Barringer: "A federal judge on Thursday blocked enforcement of a California regulation favoring producers of gasoline, diesel fuel and biofuels whose methods generate fewer greenhouse gas emissions. The ruling by the judge, Lawrence J. O’Neill of United States District Court in Fresno, said the rule unconstitutionally discriminates against out-of-state producers and tries to regulate activities that take place entirely outside state boundaries, from producers’ choice of farming methods to refiners’ use of coal-fired electricity. By granting a preliminary injunction, which had been sought by ethanol producers, the judge dealt a blow to the state’s much-trumpeted effort to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The low-carbon fuel rule had been expected to account for 10 percent of the overall reduction in emissions, or about 16 million metric tons."
US wind manufacturers are protesting China's steel subsidies, report Matthew Wald and Keith Bradsher: "Four domestic companies that make most of the steel towers for wind turbines in the United States filed a trade complaint against China and Vietnam on Thursday, seeking tariffs in the range of 60 percent. The action is a significant new skirmish in an emerging green energy trade war. The allegations are much like the ones that solar panel manufacturers made in a similar case filed against Chinese manufacturers in October, namely that government subsidies were allowing foreign manufacturers to sell below cost in the United States, damaging the domestic industry. The filing is likely to increase the already escalating trade frictions between the United States and China. Chinese officials were not immediately available for comment. The official Xinhua news agency had no immediate comment or reports on the issue."
New lightbulb rules take effect on January 1, reports Andrew Restuccia: "New light bulb efficiency standards will begin phasing in on Jan. 1 despite intense opposition from conservatives, who have blasted the rules as a textbook unnecessary federal regulation. While Republicans secured inclusion of a measure blocking funding for enforcement of the standards in a year-end spending bill, energy efficiency groups say the provision will have little practical impact. The Energy Department rules will nonetheless go into effect at the start of 2012...Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, said companies have been preparing for the new light bulb efficiency standards since Congress passed the 2007 energy law requiring traditional incandescent light bulbs to be 30 percent more efficient starting in 2012. "
Wonkbook is compiled and produced with help from Dylan Matthews and Michelle Williams.

Financial and Forex Info News | Market Hourly Report



Market snapshot as of Fri Dec 30 07:04:01 EST 2011 New York time (GMT - 5)
Gold
 Bid 1569.7
 Ask 1570.7
 Change
24.2
1.57%
 High 1575.1
 Low 1551.5
Silver
 Bid 28.21
 Ask 28.31
 Change
0.44
1.58%
 High 28.39
 Low 27.24
Platinum
 Bid 1385.0
 Ask 1393.0
 Change
18.0
1.32%
 High 1395.0
 Low 1368.0
Palladium
 Bid 635.0
 Ask 642.0
 Change
6.0
0.95%
 High 644.0
 Low 622.0

London Fix
  Gold Silver Platinum Palladium
  AM PM - AM PM AM PM
 $USD   1574.5  0.0  0.0  1381.0  0.0  0.0  0.0

Reuters UK - Top News Afternoon Edition: Stocks, euro pressured as markets brace for 2012



News

LATEST NEWS
Stocks, euro pressured as markets brace for 2012
LONDON (Reuters) - European shares and the euro were set to end a tough year on the back foot on Friday while Bunds headed for their best performance in decades, reflecting a well-worn pattern of risk-averse trading that seems likely to extend well into 2012. | Full Article

North Korea's new leaders lash out at South Korea and allies
30 DEC 2011 06:53 GMT
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea sounded a bellicose note in its first communication with the outside world since the death of leader Kim Jong-il, saying its confrontational stance against South Korea would not change and labelling its opponents "foolish." | Full Article
Syrian rebels "hold fire," want to meet monitors
30 DEC 2011 11:20 GMT
BEIRUT (Reuters) - The anti-government Free Syrian Army has ordered its fighters to stop offensive operations pending a meeting with Arab League delegates monitoring President Bashar al-Assad's compliance with a peace plan, the rebels' commander said on Friday. | Full Article
Spain set to fire opening salvos in austerity drive
30 DEC 2011 09:25 GMT
MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's centre-right government will announce billions of euros in savings measures on Friday, using its first decrees since sweeping to power at November elections to give the nation a foretaste of tougher austerity to come. | Full Article
Thatcher was urged to abandon Liverpool after riots
30 DEC 2011 11:45 GMT
LONDON (Reuters) - Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher was secretly urged to consider abandoning Liverpool to "managed decline" after riots erupted in the city in 1981, newly released government papers showed on Friday. | Full Article
DAILY INVESTOR
House prices dip on month in December - Nationwide
30 DEC 2011 07:04 GMT
LONDON (Reuters) - House prices in Britain dipped in December, mortgage lender Nationwide said on Friday, adding that the property market looks likely to remain sluggish next year as a weak economy and rising unemployment keep a lid on consumer spending. | Full Article
FTSE subdued ahead of New Year celebrations
30 DEC 2011 09:05 GMT
LONDON (Reuters) - The leading share index was lower in early deals Friday, with weakness in banks and commodity issues the main drag on the final half-day trading session of 2011. | Full Article
China's factories falter, pro-growth policies eyed
30 DEC 2011 11:45 GMT
BEIJING (Reuters) - China's factory activity shrank again December as demand at home and abroad slackened, a purchasing managers' survey showed on Friday, reinforcing the case for pro-growth policies to underpin the world's second-largest economy. | Full Article
New details emerge on flap between HP, Hurd
30 DEC 2011 06:56 GMT
(Reuters) - Former Hewlett Packard CEO Mark Hurd made romantic advances over several years toward an independent contractor who later accused him of sexual harassment, according to a letter from her lawyer obtained by Reuters. | Full Article
Brent steady, set for 14 percent annual gain
30 DEC 2011 11:14 GMT
LONDON (Reuters) - Brent crude oil was steady near $108 a barrel on Friday as Iran's threats to halt flows through a vital oil channel offset a surprise jump in U.S. oil stocks, leaving oil ontrack to post a 14 percent annual gain. | Full Article
TECHNOLOGY NEWS
New details rekindle HP-Hurd flap
Verizon to add $2 bill-pay charge, admits 4G network issues
China urges tighter Internet security after series of data leaks
Analysis - Manning's legal strategy could lead to plea deal
Amazon shares dip on growth concerns

Stocks and Markets in the News | U.S. Futures: U.S. stock futures flat before final 2011 session


By William L. Watts, MarketWatch 

FRANKFURT (MarketWatch) U.S. stock-index futures were little changed Friday as investors prepared for the final trading session of 2011 with the S&P 500 Index standing in marginally positive territory for the year. 

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJ2H -0.16%  rose 1 point to 12,218. S&P 500 Index futures SP2H +0.09%  gained 1.4 points to 1,258.80, while Nasdaq 100 futures ND2H +0.10%  rose 2.25 points to 2,279.50. 


European equities traded on either side of unchanged in thin but choppy trade. The pan-European Stoxx Europe 600 index XX:SXXP +0.13% traded slightly higher but remained on track for a yearly loss of around 12%. Read Europe Markets.
Japanese and Chinese markets ended higher in light trading Friday, with investors taking a cue from the previous day’s U.S. market gains. Read Asia Markets.
Volume has been low across global equity markets in holiday-thinned trading this week. On Thursday, just 352 million shares changed hands on the New York Stock Exchange as stocks gained on Wall Street.

Yield hunt to continue

The past year was “disappointing for risk assets all around,” wrote strategists at Schroders in London.
In 2012, “the pressure to find yield combined with attractive risk premiums should draw investors into both equities, credit and carry trades. However, a sustainable rally will need evidence of stronger recovery in the U.S. and a turn in Europe along with signs that policy makers have got to grips with the euro crisis,” they said.

 The Dow industrials DJIA +1.12%  enter the final trading session of 2011 up 6.1% on the year. The S&P 500 SPX +1.07%  edged back into positive territory for the year on Thursday, holding a 0.4% gain, while the Nasdaq Composite Index COMP +0.92%  remains down 1.5% since the start of 2011.


The Dow industrials DJIA +1.12%  enter the final trading session of 2011 up 6.1% on the year. The S&P 500 SPX +1.07%  edged back into positive territory for the year on Thursday, holding a 0.4% gain, while the Nasdaq Composite Index COMP +0.92%  remains down 1.5% since the start of 2011. 


The Dow finished Thursday with a gain of 135.63 points at 12,287.04, while the S&P 500 gained 13.38 points to close at 1,263.02 and the Nasdaq Composite rose 23.76 points to 2,613.74. 

Thursday’s gains were inspired in part by further signs the U.S. labor market is beginning to recover.
First-time filings for unemployment benefits rose to 381,000 last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday, up from 366,000 the previous week but remaining below the 400,000 level that is seen as the breakeven point for job creation, analysts said. 

Strengthening economic data have fed hopes the U.S. economy will avoid a double-dip recession, contributing to a stronger tone in equities. No major economic figures are set for release Friday. Next Friday will see the release of December nonfarm payrolls and other labor market data.

Key S&P support seen at 1,100

Bouncing significantly from its March 2009 lows, the S&P continued its rally in early 2011 before stalling out midway through the year at the 78.6% Fibonacci retracement level of the move from the index’s October 2007 highs to the March 2009 lows, noted Matthew Weller, technical analyst at GFT.
Fibonacci retracement levels are closely followed by technical analysts.

The index then pulled back to support near 1,100 before bouncing slightly to close the year. “This 38.2% retracement at 1,100 will be a key support level to watch on further drops in 2012,” he said. 

Also Friday, Nymex crude-oil futures rose 34 cents to $99.99 a barrel in electronic trading. The dollar index DXY +0.02% , which measures the U.S. currency against a basket of major rivals, was little changed at 80.453. 

William L. Watts is a reporter for MarketWatch in Frankfurt.





Reuters UK - Finance Weekly: House prices dip in December



News

LATEST NEWS
House prices dip in December
LONDON (Reuters) - House prices dipped in December, mortgage lender Nationwide said on Friday, adding that the property market looks likely to remain sluggish next year as a weak economy and rising unemployment keep a lid on consumer spending. | Full Article

Britons inject 8.6 billion pounds of housing equity
30 DEC 2011 09:59 GMT
LONDON (Reuters) - - Britons injected 8.6 billion pounds of equity into their homes between July and September, Bank of England data showed on Friday, highlighting the weak state of the housing market. | Full Article
New regulations to lay ETF fears to rest - Lyxor
30 DEC 2011 11:22 GMT
LONDON (Reuters) - New guidelines that could be adopted next year on how exchange-traded-funds (ETFs) are sold would be a shot in the arm for the industry, laying to rest concerns about uninformed small investors buying unsuitable products, a leading provider said. | Full Article
First-time home buyers at record low
28 DEC 2011 07:49 GMT
LONDON (Reuters) - The number of first-time home buyers fell to a record low in 2011, despite house prices declining to their most affordable levels in eight years, mortgage lender Halifax said in a survey on Monday. | Full Article
House prices dip on month in December - Nationwide
30 DEC 2011 07:04 GMT
LONDON (Reuters) - House prices in Britain dipped in December, mortgage lender Nationwide said on Friday, adding that the property market looks likely to remain sluggish next year as a weak economy and rising unemployment keep a lid on consumer spending. | Full Article
DAILY INVESTOR
FTSE subdued ahead of New Year celebrations
30 DEC 2011 09:05 GMT
LONDON (Reuters) - The leading share index was lower in early deals Friday, with weakness in banks and commodity issues the main drag on the final half-day trading session of 2011. | Full Article
China's factories falter, pro-growth policies eyed
30 DEC 2011 07:10 GMT
BEIJING (Reuters) - China's factory activity shrank again December as demand at home and abroad slackened, a purchasing managers' survey showed on Friday, reinforcing the case for pro-growth policies to underpin the world's second-largest economy. | Full Article
New details emerge on flap between HP, Hurd
30 DEC 2011 06:56 GMT
(Reuters) - Former Hewlett Packard CEO Mark Hurd made romantic advances over several years toward an independent contractor who later accused him of sexual harassment, according to a letter from her lawyer obtained by Reuters. | Full Article
Brent steady, set for 14 percent annual gain
30 DEC 2011 11:14 GMT
LONDON (Reuters) - Brent crude oil was steady near $108 a barrel on Friday as Iran's threats to halt flows through a vital oil channel offset a surprise jump in U.S. oil stocks, leaving oil ontrack to post a 14 percent annual gain. | Full Article
North Korea's new leaders lash out at South Korea and allies
30 DEC 2011 06:53 GMT
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea sounded a bellicose note in its first communication with the outside world since the death of leader Kim Jong-il, saying its confrontational stance against South Korea would not change and labelling its opponents "foolish." | Full Article
WORLD NEWS
Syrian rebels "hold fire," want to meet monitors
Israel kills al Qaeda-linked chief in Gaza strike
Pakistan court to probe "memogate," adds pressure on government
U.S. mulls transfer of Taliban prisoner in perilous peace bid
Henry close to Arsenal loan deal, Wenger says

Reuters - Morning Digest: New details rekindle HP-Hurd flap



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New details rekindle HP-Hurd flap
(Reuters) - Former Hewlett Packard CEO Mark Hurd made increasingly aggressive romantic advances over several years toward an independent contractor who later accused him of sexual harassment, according to claims in a letter from her lawyer obtained by Reuters. | Full Article

Syrian rebels "hold fire", want to meet monitors
December 30, 2011 05:00 AM ET
BEIRUT (Reuters) - The anti-government Free Syrian Army has been ordered to stop offensive operations pending a meeting with Arab League delegates monitoring President Bashar al-Assad's compliance with a peace plan, the rebels' commander said on Friday. | Full Article
Stock index futures signal mixed open
December 30, 2011 05:08 AM ET
(Reuters) Stock index futures pointed to a mixed open on Wall Street for the last session of the year on Friday, with futures for the S&P 500 down 0.06 percent, Dow Jones futures down 0.1 percent and Nasdaq 100 futures up 0.22 percent at 0930 GMT. | Full Article
Facebook photos lead to child abuse arrests in Arizona
December 30, 2011 05:52 AM ET
PHOENIX (Reuters) - Two Arizona parents were arrested by sheriff's deputies after apparently posting pictures on Facebook that showed their children, an infant and a toddler, bound with duct tape, authorities said on Thursday. | Full Article
Record number of ivory seizures in 2011: WWF
December 29, 2011 02:27 PM ET
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A record number of large scale ivory seizures will be recorded globally in 2011, pointing to a surge in elephant poaching in Africa to meet Asian demand for tusks for use in jewelry and ornaments, a monitoring group said Thursday. | Full Article
Kobe shrugs of wrist injury as Lakers beat Knicks
December 30, 2011 03:12 AM ET
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Kobe Bryant's injured wrist did not prevent the All Star guard from lifting the LA Lakers to a 99-82 win over the visiting New York Knicks on Thursday. | Full Article
Meryl Streep gets glowing reviews as UK's Thatcher
December 29, 2011 04:55 PM ET
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Meryl Streep looks set for an unprecedented 17th Oscar nomination after earning glowing reviews for her performance as Britain's Margaret Thatcher in the movie "The Iron Lady". | Full Article
For the not-so-serious drinker: Marshmallow vodka
December 28, 2011 03:30 PM ET
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Vodkas flavored with citrus and berry have been around for years and recently some newer brands have been trying to create buzz with unusual flavors. | Full Article