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Feb 28, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI Officially Leaves Office | NYT | Breaking News February 28, 2013.

BREAKING NEWS Thursday, February 28, 2013
Benedict XVI ceased to be pope at 8 p.m. local time (2 p.m. Eastern) Thursday when his resignation took effect, leaving the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church vacant while its leading clerics consider who should succeed him.
Benedict left the Vatican by helicopter on Thursday afternoon to spend the final hours of his scandal-dogged papacy and the first of his retirement at a summer residence used by popes for centuries. Onlookers in St. Peter’s Square cheered, church bells rang and Romans stood on rooftops to wave flags to see him off as he flew from Rome to the summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, a hilltop town southeast of the city. More carillons heralded his arrival there, and he was greeted by a vivid contingent of silver-suited firemen, gendarmes in red capes, and bishops in black and pink.
Addressing cheering well-wishers from a window at the residence, he said: “Dear friends, I am happy to be with you! Thanks for your friendship and affection! You know this is a different day than others.”

READ MORE »

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/01/world/europe/pope-benedict-xvi.html?emc=na
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Fresh real-estate scandal breaks as $38m mansion photos revealed to be fake: Business in Vancouver | Real Estate and Development February 28, 2013:

 




Real Estate and Development

Fresh real-estate scandal breaks as $38m mansion photos revealed to be fake

More evidence of media manipulation by the real-estate industry has emerged with ... READ MORE

Film and Entertainment

 

B.C. lost 3,500 film jobs to Ontario in one year: CMPA

B.C.’s beleaguered film industry had already lost 3,500 direct and spinoff film jobs in the year ending last March 31, 2012, compared with ... READ MORE

Mining and Energy

 

Mining, energy sectors to reduce investment growth: TD Economics

Canada’s mining and oil and gas sectors plan to scale back investment in 2013, due to ... READ MORE

More News...

   

VCC reaches tentative labour deal

New publisher overhauls industry business model

Burnaby’s S2G BioChem leads drive to create biofuels from beets

EnWave launches new product line in U.S.

 

Online real-estate resource

 

BIV's sister website REW.ca launches Chinese version

Greater Vancouver's home for  online local real-estate information has launched a Chinese-language version, offering an unparalleled one-stop shop for Chinese buyers and sellers ... READ MORE

Influential Women in Business

Blaize Horner Reich: Commanding performance

Leading up to our March 6 gala luncheon (for tickets, click the ad below), we will be highlighting the profiles of our honorees. Today's winner is Blaize Horner Reich ... READ MORE

 

The Economist | Business this week: Highlights of news coverage from February 23rd - March 1st. 2013. 2013.:

The EconomistBusiness this week



» Markets were spooked by the result of Italy's general election and the prospect that political uncertainty in the country might cause the euro-zone crisis to reignite. The yield on Italian government bonds jumped sharply. Borrowing costs also rose for the governments of Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain. See article»

Cap in hand
» The European Union reached a preliminary deal to curb bankers' compensation that would drastically limit the amount that can be paid in bonuses. Britain resisted the move to cap the ratio between bankers' fixed and variable pay. In a nod to opposition from the City of London the new rules treat long-term incentives linked to equities and bonds more favourably. The deal has to be agreed on by finance ministers next week.
See article»
» The Royal Bank of Scotland, which is still majority owned by the British taxpayer five years after a government bail-out, reported an annual pre-tax loss of £5.2 billion ($8.2 billion), mostly because of an accounting quirk connected to the value of its own liabilities.
» RBS's loss was put in the shade, however, when Bankia later posted a net loss for 2012 of €19 billion ($24 billion). The Spanish government owns just under half the bank, but that is expected soon to rise to 70%.
» A report by McKinsey underscored the impact of the financial crisis on annual cross-border capital flows, which fell by 60% from 2007 to $4.6 trillion last year. The study says that financial globalisation has "stalled" and that markets have reached an "inflection point" that could lead to a "Balkanised" structure based on local, rather than global, banking systems.
» Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, nominated Haruhiko Kuroda to become the next governor of the Bank of Japan. Mr Kuroda is the current head of the Asian Development Bank and had been a vocal critic of the BoJ. Mr Abe has turned the central bank's record into a political issue, urging it to do more to help "the real economy".
» India's government unveiled the country's most important budget in years, as it seeks to boost output while taming inflation. Growth has cooled rapidly to around 5%. The official forecast says that the economy will expand by up to 6.6% in 2013-14, but the opposition is quick to point out that the estimate for this year was overly optimistic. See article»

Everyone wants a slice of Apple
Click Here!
» Apple's annual shareholder meeting went ahead but without a vote on changes to the company's charter, which was blocked by a judge. The temporary injunction had been sought by David Einhorn, who runs a hedge fund with a stake in Apple and wants it to return more of its $137 billion cash pile to investors. In another blow to management around a third of shareholders withheld their support for the company's executive-pay package. Apple's share price has fallen to below $450 from a high of $700 last September.
» A civil trial began in New Orleans to determine the culpability of BP and others for the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig in 2010 that killed 11 men and caused the worst offshore oil spill in American history. The government accuses BP of "wilful misconduct". If found guilty, BP faces fines under the Clean Water Act of almost $18 billion, in addition to even larger sums it has already shelled out.
» Repsol, a Spanish oil-and-gas company, sold a chunk of its liquefied natural gas assets around the world to Royal Dutch Shell in a $6.7 billion deal. Repsol is restructuring its business after Argentina's expropriation last year of YPF. Shell, meanwhile, decided to "pause" its drilling projects in the Alaskan Arctic, which have so far found no oil. Greens were delighted.
» Royalty Pharma, a firm in New York that acquires intellectual-property rights in the drugs business, made a rare bid to buy a company outright by offering $6.7 billion for Elan. Elan, which is based in Ireland, described Royalty's approach as "opportunistic".
» Chris Christie, New Jersey's governor, signed a bill that allows internet gambling in the state. The bill is aimed at helping Atlantic City's struggling casinos; gamblers must be physically in New Jersey to log on to websites.

The Economist | Politics this week: Highlights of news coverage from February 23rd - March 1st 2013.


  The EconomistPolitics this week


» A renewed sense of crisis gripped the euro zone after a messy result in Italy's election. The centre-left alliance, led by Pier Luigi Bersani, won the lower house by a tiny margin, but did not secure a majority in the Senate. The right, under Silvio Berlusconi, came a close second. A third party fronted by Beppe Grillo, a comedian, emerged as the power-broker, but said it wanted nothing to do with the two main coalitions. A split parliament will make it harder for any government to push through plans to revive the economy and cut public debt. See article»
» George Osborne, Britain's chancellor of the exchequer, took some political heat after the country's triple-A credit rating was cut a notch by Moody's. When other European countries were being downgraded en masse, Mr Osborne had insisted that his austerity measures would ensure that Britain retained its tip-top credit status, and thus keep borrowing costs down. See article»
» As expected, Nicos Anastasiades won the run-off in a presidential election in Cyprus. He now faces the task of negotiating a €17 billion ($22 billion) bail-out with his euro-zone partners.
» Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, was confronted during a trip to Turkey with robust demands related to its ambition to join the EU, as well as gripes about the treatment of the 3m Turks who live in Germany. France has tried to kick-start the stalled accession process for Turkey, though Germans remain sceptical about its entry to the club. See article»
» Janez Jansa was ousted as Slovenia's prime minister by the country's parliament, as corruption allegations continued to swirl. A member of the euro zone, Slovenia's economy and banking system have been hit hard in recent years.

Ending the Castro era
» Raúl Castro began a new five-year term as Cuba's president, saying it would be his last and unveiling his chosen successor: Miguel Díaz-Canel, formerly the higher-education minister, who was named as first vice-president. Mr Díaz-Canel's appointment marks the start of the handover of power to a generation born after the 1959 revolution. See article»
» Enrique Peña Nieto's government moved against the powerful teachers' union in Mexico. Its longtime boss, Elba Esther Gordillo, was arrested and charged with embezzling $159m from union funds. The arrest came the day after the president signed an education law aimed at seizing control of schools from the union. See article»

Another iron lady
» Park Geun-hye was sworn in as South Korea's first female president. Ms Park, who defeated Moon Jae-in, her liberal rival, in an election promises a tough stance on national security and an era of economic revival. She takes office amid high tensions on the Korean peninsula following a nuclear test by North Korea. See article»
» The Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack in eastern Afghanistan that killed 11 police officers and six others. Earlier, the American-led NATO coalition in the country admitted there had been no drop in the number of Taliban attacks in 2012. It said it had made an "error" in its previous claim that the number had fallen. See article»
» Indian authorities are investigating whether an Islamist group was behind twin bombings in the southern city of Hyderabad on February 21st, which killed 16 people. See article»
Click Here!
» A judicial panel in Bangladesh sentenced the leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party to death for crimes committed during the country's 1971 war of independence. Delwar Hossain Sayeedi was found guilty of murder and rape. Critics of the tribunal say the charges were politically motivated.
» For the first time the government of Thailand formally agreed to peace talks with one of the main Muslim insurgent movements operating in the country's south. During a decade of violence that has claimed 5,000 lives, several shadowy militant groups have been fighting for the restoration of the ancient sultanate of Pattani in a region where ethnic Malays form a Muslim majority. Malaysia is expected to chair the talks. The breakthrough comes just months after Malaysia brokered a deal between the government of the Philippines and its own Muslim insurgents.
» For the second time in three months, a group of prominent scholars, journalists and activists in China released an open letter urging leaders to implement political reforms. They urged the ratification of the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which China signed in 1998.

Chuck heads to the Pentagon
» America's Senate approved Chuck Hagel's appointment as defence secretary, but the 58-41 vote was the narrowest margin of support for a nominee since the job came into being in 1947. Mr Hagel is a former Republican senator, but many of his party colleagues have not forgiven him for criticising the Iraq war and accuse him of being a hesitant backer of Israel.
» The Senate also confirmed Jacob Lew as treasury secretary. Despite Mr Lew's rough ride during his confirmation process (he answered 738 questions for entry into the record), 20 Republicans voted in support of his nomination.

The devil you know
» Iran said talks in Kazakhstan with world powers over its nuclear programme were a "positive step". Western diplomats were more cautious, stressing that Iran had not responded to a proposal that it reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium in return for a modest lifting of sanctions. Negotiations will resume in April. Meanwhile the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog, reported that Iran had begun installing advanced centrifuges for enriching uranium at its nuclear plant at Natanz.
» Egypt's main opposition group, the National Salvation Front, decided to boycott parliamentary elections on April 22nd, a move that will probably ensure that Islamist parties retain control of the legislature. The group's spokesman said the poll would not be free and fair. See article»
» A recent string of missile attacks carried out by the Syrian government killed 141 people, including 71 children, in Aleppo, according to Human Rights Watch. In Rome an international conference on Syria was attended by John Kerry, America's new secretary of state. He managed to persuade Syrian opposition groups to turn up after they threatened a boycott over what they decry as anaemic support from the West. Mr Kerry promised to increase non-lethal aid to the rebels.

DealBook PM Edition February 28, 2013.: Bonus Rules May Just Reinforce Existing Practices



NYTimes.com Home |Business Day| Video The New York Times


Thursday, February 28, 2013
TOP STORY
A proposal to limit banker bonuses has prompted an outcry in London's financial district.
Bonus Rules May Just Reinforce Existing Practices The proposed bonus rules in European regulation may not prove to be the sweeping overhaul that bankers are lamenting. After all, existing regulations and the tough profit environment have already forced financial firms to rethink their pay packages.


EALBOOK HIGHLIGHTS
Icahn Gains 2 Seats on Herbalife's Board Herbalife plans to give two board seats to Carl C. Icahn, as the health supplements maker further binds itself to its most outspoken outside defender of late.
Regulators and 13 Banks Complete $9.3 Billion Deal for Foreclosure Relief The settlement was reached amid heightened concerns that a foreclosure review process was generating billions of dollars in fees for consultants, but providing little relief for borrowers.
Investor Outflows Continue at Man Group Clients continued to withdraw money from the Man Group, the world's largest publicly traded hedge fund, in the final quarter of last year, raising the stakes for the new chief executive to win back investors.
White Collar Watch: For S.E.C., a Setback in Bid for More Time in Fraud Cases Peter J. Henning says that a Supreme Court decision involving a statute of limitations rule may mean the S.E.C. will need to seek legislation from Congress that would give the agency more time to complete investigations.
As Losses Mount, R.B.S. Unveils Plan to Sell Assets Royal Bank of Scotland, which reported a $9 billion loss for 2012, said it plans to sell assets like a stake in the lender Citizens, in an effort to appease regulators and its biggest shareholder, the British government.
In Europe, Risks and Opportunities Speaking at the SuperReturn conference in Berlin, big investors like Henry R. Kravis and J. Christopher Flowers offered differing views about the region, as Europe's economies struggle.
Buzz Tracker
Europe Moves to Cap Banker Bonuses The European Union is moving to impose strict limits on bonuses for bankers. Big bonuses have "been blamed by many politicians for inciting the risk-taking behavior that triggered the recent financial crisis," The New York Times reports.
LOOKING AHEAD
Economic Reports Data to be released on Friday includes personal income and spending for January, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for February, the ISM manufacturing index for February and construction spending for January.


Quotation of the Day
"Businesses that do not need to be inside the European Union will leave. And when banks invest in future divisions, it will be outside the E.U."
A British financial services executive on a proposal by European lawmakers that would limit banker bonuses.

Wall Street at Close Report February 28, 2013.: U.S. stocks retreat from record highs by Kate Gibson, MarketWatch

By Kate Gibson, MarketWatch 
 
NEW YORK (MarketWatch)U.S. stocks on Thursday retreated from all-time highs as benchmark indexes slid into the finish after mixed economic data and ahead of government spending cuts set to begin at midnight. 

“Everybody is focused on weak GDP in the fourth quarter and high unemployment. That’s OK if you’re an economist, but if you’re an investor, you should really focus on the impact that monetary stimulus is having on the financial markets,” said Alan Skrainka, chief investment officer at Cornerstone Wealth Management in Des Peres, Mo. 

“We have two enormous opposing forces. On the one hand we have deleveraging, which we saw in the GDP numbers with government spending down. Then we have enormous stimulus, and it’s pretty clear which side is winning,” Skrainka added. 

After coming within 15 points of its all-time closing high of 14,164.53, set on Oct. 9, 2007, the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA -0.15% shed 20.88 points, or 0.2%, to end at 14,054.49, leaving it up 1.4% for the month. See Hulbert on whether blue-chip index is setting a bearish trap.
 
Rising 1.1% from the end of January, the S&P 500 index SPX -0.09% fell 1.31 point, or 0.1%, to 1,514.68, leaving it 50 points from its highest close, hit on Oct. 9, 2007. 

“On the days that (record) happens, the news media will tend to indicate with front-page headlines that the stock market is at an all-time high, and people get excited. My mom called me yesterday,” said Jim Russell, chief equity strategist for U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Cincinnati. 

“Stocks are one of the few things people want to buy more of when they are expensive, but not when they are on sale,” Russell added of the counterintuitive mode displayed by the retail investing public. Read about stocks that you should have bought at the October peak.
 
But uncertainty on Wall Street likely will reign in the near term as politicians grapple with automatic cuts in federal spending otherwise known as sequestration scheduled to start at midnight Friday.

“The next few weeks are unforecastable to a degree, there could be volatility in the equity market that is sourced from Washington,” said Russell.

“We’ve seen this movie before, and we know how it ends. Wall Street is wising up to the games that are played in Washington with regard to these deadlines,” said Skrainka 

The Nasdaq Composite COMP -0.07% added 18.28 points, or 0.6%, to 3,180.70, leaving it ahead 1.2% for February. 

For every stock falling nearly two rose on the New York Stock Exchange, where 1 billion shares traded. Composite volume neared 3.7 billion. 

After offering little reaction to economic reports that had the U.S. economy growing 0.1% in the final quarter of 2012 and weekly jobless claims falling by 22,000 to 344,000, Wall Street drew a small lift from a measure of Chicago-area manufacturing, which hit an 11-month high in February. 




GDP numbers weakest since 2011
Michael Casey has details on disappointing fourth-quarter economic figures. Meanwhile, initial jobless claims ticked down last week. Photo: Getty Images 

Limited Brands Inc. LTD +2.29% climbed a day after the retailer reported fourth-quarter income rose. J.C. Penney Co. JCP -0.34% fell after the retailer reported a larger net loss. 

Figures from the Commerce Department had the U.S. economy clearing a prior-estimated contraction. See: Economy grew, just barely, in fourth quarter.
 
At the same time, the Labor Department reported a larger-than-expected drop in jobless claims last week. See more on drop in initial applications for benefits.
 

Analysts said the proximity to those highs could lure in even more investors, and that the market was also coming to realize that the consequences of sequestration were perhaps not as gloomy as originally thought. Automatic spending cuts kick in Friday, barring a last-minute deal by lawmakers. See: The sequester starts Friday. Then what?
 
Kate Gibson is a reporter for MarketWatch, based in New York.


European Markets at Close Report February 28, 2013.: : Europe stocks gain on Bernanke, Draghi comments

By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch 
 
LONDON (MarketWatch) European stocks ended February with a ninth straight monthly gain on Thursday, a day after Ben Bernanke, head of the U.S. Federal Reserve, and Mario Draghi, head of the European Central Bank, both signaled they would stick to current easing policies. 

The Stoxx Europe 600 index XX:SXXP +0.96% rose 1% to close at 289.94, adding to a 0.9% gain from Wednesday. 

Among the biggest advancers, shares of Veolia Environnement SA FR:VIE +1.31% VE +0.81% gained 1.3%, after the water-and-waste company posted full-year profit above expectations and said it would speed up its debt-cutting plan. See: Veolia to cut debt faster after strong 2012 profit


EU to curb bank bonuses
The European Union has moved to slap a strict limit on the bonuses of bank executives, a move likely to be replicated elsewhere as politicians move to rein in pay and cut down on risk-taking in banks. Photo: Reuters 

Telefonica SA ES:TEF +2.04% rose 2%, after revenue for the fourth quarter exceeded market expectations. A strong performance by the company’s Latin American operations partly offset a tough year in Europe. See: Telefónica Q4 net off on Venezuela devaluation

On a downbeat note, shares of Hochtief AG DE:HOT -6.84% slumped 7.2%. The German construction company said its 2012 earnings fell short of its own expectations even as it swung to a profit for the year. See: Hochtief swings to a profit, will pay dividend
 
The pan-European index gained 1% on the month, shaking off steep losses from earlier in the week, when inconclusive Italian election results stoked fears of renewed political instability in the euro zone.
Italy’s benchmark FTSE MIB XX:FTSEMIB +0.60% fell 8.7% on the month, although it closed 0.6% higher at 15,921.25 on Thursday. 

“The Italian result is a big issue and from an underlying perspective there are no signs that a government in forming,” said Victoria Clarke, economist at Investec Securities.
“But for now it’s being shrugged off and a positive sentiment is back, helped by words from Bernanke and strong U.S. corporate earnings,” she said. 

“[The economy] had a weak fourth quarter, but I think first quarter will be better. The U.S. will rebound, China will continue to grow and the momentum is building for the year ahead. The end of last year was a little early to get carried away, but we’re seeing the recovery build now.”

Bernanke, Draghi lift the trading mood

The broader positive trading mood came as Bernanke, in his second day of congressional testimony Wednesday, reiterated that the central bank’s ultra-loose monetary-easing policy is needed to support the economy. See: Bernanke defends low rates in House hearing.

Meanwhile, ECB boss Draghi reportedly said late Wednesday that the bank was “far” from exiting its accommodative monetary policy stance. 

On the data front in the U.S., the Commerce Department said the economy expanded at a 0.1% annual rate in the fourth quarter, better than the initially reported 0.1% drop but well below the third quarter’s 3.1% pace. See: U.S. economy grew 0.1% in fourth quarter
 
Additionally, first-time jobless claims dropped by 22,000 to 344,000 last week, beating analysts expectations. See: New U.S. jobless claims drop 22,000 to 344,000

A measure of Chicago-area manufacturing accelerated in February to 56.8, the highest level since March last year. See: Chicago PMI reaches 11-month high in February
U.S. stocks traded higher on Wall Street, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA -0.15% inching closer to an all-time closing high. See: Stock market inches toward record highs
 

Reuters Enlarge Image
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke defends the central bank’s loose monetary policy.
In Asia, Japanese shares soared as the government nominated Asian Development Bank President Haruhiko Kuroda for the new Bank of Japan governor, setting the stage for aggressive monetary easing in the country. Kuroda has recently stressed that the central bank should boost and diversify its program of asset purchases, while also advocating for an inflation target. See: Tokyo nominates Haruhiko Kuroda as BOJ chief and See: Japan, China stocks jump; India slides on budget.

Banks post solid gains

The accommodative policy signals from the central banks spurred investor appetite for more volatile assets, such as stocks, with traditionally risk-sensitive banks among major advancers.

HSBC Holdings PLC UK:HSBA +0.88% HBC +0.43% HK:5 +2.20% gained 0.9% in London, Société Générale SA FR:GLE +0.81% advanced 0.8% in Paris and Spain’s Banco Santander SA ES:SAN +0.62% SAN -0.26% rose 0.6%.
Among other notable movers, shares of GDF Suez SA FR:GSZ +0.49% added 0.5%, after the utility firm posted revenue for 2012 above analysts’ expectations. See: GDF Suez 2012 net profit hit by impairments.
Shares of contact lenses maker Essilor International SA FR:EI +5.94% jumped 5.9%, after the firm said revenue rose 19% in 2012. 

France’s CAC 40 index FR:PX1 +0.85% closed 0.9% higher at 3,723.00, but dropped 0.3% on the month
Germany’s DAX 30 index DX:DAX +0.86% picked up 0.9% to 7,741.70, but lost 0.4% for February.
Shares of Bayer AG DE:BAYN +2.73% rose 2.7%, as the drug maker said it sees currency- and portfolio-adjusted group sales rise as much as 5% in 2013 to around 41 billion euros ($53.87 billion). 

Also on the rise in Frankfurt, shares of RWE AG DE:RWE +2.51% picked up 1.9%, as Morgan Stanley lifted the utility firm to overweight from equal weight. 

In the U.K., the FTSE 100 index UK:UKX +0.55% added 0.6% to 6,360.81, helping send it 1.3% higher on the month. See: FTSE 100 rises for second day; RBS drops
 
Shares of International Consolidated Airlines Group SA UK:IAG +7.89% ICAGY +8.14% jumped 7.9%, as the company swung to a net loss for 2012 but said 2013 won't see the same headwinds.
Pointing in the other direction, shares of Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC UK:RBS -6.60% RBS -7.33% dropped 6.6%. The bank said its loss in 2012 widened to 5.97 billion pounds ($9.05 billion) from £2 billion in 2011, while also announcing new measures to boost capital. See: RBS loss widens, confirms float of U.S. business

Sara Sjolin is a MarketWatch reporter based in London. Follow her on Twitter @sarasjolin.
 




ADVFN III Evening Euro Markets Bulletin February 28, 2013.


ADVFN III Evening Euro Markets Bulletin
Daily world financial news Thursday, 28 February 2013



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Stocks gain as US economic data impresses

    Market Movers
    techMARK 2,328.03 +0.02%
    FTSE 100 6,360.81 +0.55%
    FTSE 250 13,704.02 +0.58%
An upwards revision to US economic growth estimates prompted an afternoon rally in London, with markets extending gains after some dovish comments from central bankers in the US and Europe.

Concerns about a recession in the States proved premature, as the initial estimate of a 0.1% contraction in US fourth-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) was revised higher to 0.1% growth.

Markets were also given a boost by US jobless claims which came in lower than expected and a better-than-forecast reading of manufacturing activity in Chicago.

Traders have more or less shrugged off the so-called 'sequester', the $85bn of automatic budget cuts that come into effect in the US tomorrow. The White House is said to be engaging in a "construction discussion" with congressional leaders about how to avert the cuts, but no major breakthrough is expected.
Stocks gain as central banks back stimulus
Speaking to Senate's Banking Committee on Capitol Hill over the last two days, US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke defended the Fed's asset purchase programme, saying that it was necessary until the job market improves substantially. He allayed fears that the central bank could start to scale down quantitative easing measures.

His dovish comments were echoed by Mario Draghi, the President of the European Central Bank (ECB), who said that the ECB would not tighten monetary policy with inflation expected to stay well below the 2.0% target near term. He said that policy makers are "far" from exiting stimulus measures.

Meanwhile, speculation about an ECB rate cut ramped up today after Eurozone CPI inflation fell to the ECB’s target of 2.0% in January.

Markets across Europe reacted by pushing firmly into positive territory in the morning session, though sentiment is still fragile in the wake of the inconclusive Italian elections at the weekend, which saw anti-austerity parties secure a surprising portion of the vote.
FTSE 100: IAG flying high; Kazakhmys plummets
British Airways owner IAG soared as its operating loss of €107m for 2012 was better than the company's guidance in November of €120m.

Copper giant Kazakhmys was heading the other day, dropping nearly 9.0% after saying that it would be slashing its dividend for 2012 to reflect falling profits. The company also said that its CFO would step down in May, when its Chairman is also due to retire.

Other mining stocks were also lower as metals prices slipped: ENRC, Randgold, Antofagasta and Anglo American were registering steep losses.

UK lender RBS slumped nearly 7.0% despite core operating profits coming in ahead of expectations. CEO Stephen Hester said that there was "important work still to do" as the the bank continued to be hit by fines from mis-selling products and rate-rigging scandals.

Utilities group National Grid was a high riser after agreeing to all of the UK RIIO price-control arrangements with regulator Ofgem, which it hopes will deliver further shareholder value.

Media stocks were performing well today: Reed Elsevier gained after reporting a rise in revenues for 2012; ITV was lifted by a ratings upgrade from Westhouse Securities; while WPP rose ahead of its full-year results tomorrow.

Meanwhile, outsourcing firm Capita fell despite reporting a solid 14% increase in revenue in 2012,while underlying operating profit gained 10%.
FTSE 250: Howden Joinery and National Express jump in morning trade
Howden Joinery beefed up annual earnings and underlined its confidence in future trading with a six-fold increase in its full-year dividend. Howden, whose products are predominantly sold to small local builders for installation in public and private housing, said group revenue rose to £887.1m from £853.8m in 2011.

Tranpsort group National Express was also a high riser after cheering investors with news of cost savings and an increased total dividend for 2012.

UK-based telecommunications company Spirent Communications plunged after the company reported flat 2012 revenues and a fall in pre-tax profits.

AIM/Small Cap Report
FTSE 100 - Risers
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 239.20p +7.89%
ITV (ITV) 124.20p +4.37%
GKN (GKN) 273.00p +3.33%
Standard Life (SL.) 352.50p +3.10%
Whitbread (WTB) 2,523.00p +2.81%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 867.00p +2.12%
WPP (WPP) 1,054.00p +2.03%
Diageo (DGE) 1,980.00p +1.80%
Resolution Ltd. (RSL) 261.20p +1.75%
Land Securities Group (LAND) 829.50p +1.72%

FTSE 100 - Fallers
Kazakhmys (KAZ) 619.00p -8.57%
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 323.90p -6.60%
Capita (CPI) 823.50p -2.89%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 1,454.00p -2.87%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 5,485.00p -2.58%
Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. (ENRC) 338.40p -2.48%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 1,093.00p -1.97%
Shire Plc (SHP) 2,065.00p -1.76%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,922.00p -1.56%
Polymetal International (POLY) 999.00p -1.38%

FTSE 250 - Risers
National Express Group (NEX) 220.00p +12.65%
Howden Joinery Group (HWDN) 214.00p +12.39%
COLT Group SA (COLT) 130.10p +5.34%
Capital & Counties Properties (CAPC) 265.10p +5.03%
BBA Aviation (BBA) 255.30p +3.91%
Derwent London (DLN) 2,203.00p +3.48%
Domino's Pizza Group (DOM) 537.00p +3.47%
Lonmin (LMI) 357.00p +3.42%
Henderson Group (HGG) 158.80p +3.18%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 131.40p +2.98%

FTSE 250 - Fallers
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European Markets Climbed As Central Bankers Defend Stimulus

The European markets finished in positive territory Thursday, despite the lingering uncertainty created by the Italian election. The reason for the positive mood among investors was comments made by ECB President Mario Draghi, who indicated that monetary stimulus would be continued. U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke also continued to defend the central bank's loose monetary policy during his second day of testimony before Congress on Wednesday.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi indicated that the central bank is in no hurry to exit stimulus as he anticipates inflation to come significantly below the bank's target this year, giving room for maintaining an accommodative monetary stance.

ECB policymakers are "far" from considering an exit from the current accommodative stance, Draghi said during a speech at the Catholic Academy of Bavaria on Wednesday. He said the central bank forecasts next year's inflation to be significantly below the 2 percent target.

The Euro Stoxx 50 index of eurozone bluechip stocks increased by 0.94 percent, while the Stoxx Europe 50 index, which includes some major U.K. companies, added 1.10 percent.

The DAX of Germany climbed by 0.86 percent and the CAC 40 of France advanced by 0.85 percent. The FTSE 100 of the U.K. rose by 0.68 percent and the SMI of Switzerland gained 1.45 percent.

In Frankfurt, Bayer increased by 3.41 percent after annual sales reached a record high. RWE was upgraded at Morgan Stanley to "Overweight" from "Equal weight" and gained 2.12 percent.

Societe Generale downgraded Salzgitter to ''Hold'' from ''Buy.'' The stock declined by 1.67 percent. Deutsche Telekom finished unchanged after reporting financial results.

Hochtief dropped by 7.20 percent. The construction company reported a profit for the year and announced plans to sell some businesses to return the company to a sustainable growth trajectory.

In Paris, Essilor International climbed by 5.94 percent. The company reported a higher annual profit Veolia Environnement, which reported an annual profit, rose by 1.31 percent.

In London, International Consolidated Airlines surged by 7.89 percent, after reporting financial results. ITV advanced by 4.37 percent. Investec upgraded the stock to ''Hold'' from ''Sell.''

Reed Elsevier gained 1.43 percent, following its full year report. Kazakhmys, which named a new finance chief, decreased by 8.57 percent.

Royal Bank of Scotland fell by 6.60 percent, after reporting a hefty quarterly loss.

Petrofac dropped by 2.87 percent, after Societe Generale downgraded its rating to "Hold" from "Buy." Shire declined by 1.76 percent, after Nomura downgraded its rating to "Neutral" from "Buy."

US Market Report
Stocks Showing A Lack Of Direction On Mixed Economic Data

Stocks are turning in a relatively lackluster performance in mid-day trading on Thursday after failing to sustain an early move to the upside. The markets are seeing some consolidation following two straight days of strong gains.

The major averages have been bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line and are currently posting slim gains. The Dow is up 13.63 points or 0.1 percent at 14,089.00, the Nasdaq is up 7.64 points or 0.2 percent at 3,169.90 and the S&P 500 is up 2.59 points or 0.2 percent at 1,518.58.

The choppy trading on Wall Street comes on the heels of the release of a mixed batch of U.S. economic data, with traders weighing weaker than expected GDP data against upbeat reports on jobless claims and Chicago-area business activity.

While the Commerce Department released a report showing that fourth quarter GDP was revised to show economic growth compared to the previously reported contraction, the pace of growth fell well short of economist estimates.

The report said fourth quarter GDP was upwardly revised to show a 0.1 percent increase compared to the previously reported 0.1 percent drop. However, economists had been expecting the revised report to show 0.5 percent growth.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department released a separate report showing that initial jobless claims dropped to 344,000 in the week ended February 23rd, a decrease of 22,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 366,000.

Economists had expected jobless claims to edge down to 360,000 from the 362,000 originally reported for the previous week.

A separate report from the Institute for Supply Management - Chicago showed that Chicago-area business activity unexpectedly increased at a faster rate in the month of February.

The report said the Chicago business barometer rose to 56.8 in February from 55.6 in January, with a reading above 50 indicating an increase in business activity. The increase came as a surprise to economists, who had expected the barometer to edge down to 55.0.

Uncertainty about the impact of the automatic government spending cuts due to take effect on Friday is also contributing to the choppy trading.

While President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet with Congressional leaders from both parties on Friday, the so-called sequester is widely expected to take effect.

Unless Congress acts, approximately $85 billion in automatic cuts to both defense and domestic spending are due to go into effect on March 1st.

Sector News

Most of the major sectors are showing only modest moves in mid-day trading, contributing to the lack of direction being shown by the broader markets.

Gold stocks are seeing considerable weakness, however, as a decrease by the price of the precious metal is weighing on the sector. With gold for April delivery falling $15.40 to $1,580.30 an ounce, the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index is down by 1.6 percent.

Networking and housing stocks are also seeing some weakness on the day, while modest strength is visible among biotechnology and railroad stocks.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region saw considerable strength during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index surged up by 2.7 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index jumped by 2 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries continue to see modest strength after ending the previous session in the red. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by 1.2 basis points at 1.891 percent.

Friday preview for UK Event Calendar
Lloyds Banking Group releases its annual results Friday – a day after the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) unveiled a loss in its 2012 financial statement.

Investec analysts have warned investors to steer well clear as it expects the company to report an underlying profit before tax of £2.4bn for 2012 which translates to an attributable loss of £1.8bn.

The broker retained a ‘sell’ rating for the bank’s stocks and issued a target price of 46p.

"Despite a return to modest profitability in 2013 estimate, we then expect tangible net asset value to fall to 55p. Lloyds already trades on 1.0x 2013 estimated tangible net assets value which cannot be justified by our return on equity forecasts of 2.0% in 2013, 6.0% in 2014 and 8.0% in 2015," the company said.

The results come after the Financial Services Authority fined Lloyds Banking Group £4.3m for delaying payment protection insurance (PPI) compensation to up to 140,000 customers.

Firms owned by LBG - Lloyds TSB Bank,Lloyds TSB Scotland and Bank of Scotland – were penalised by the financial regulator over failings in their systems and controls.

Lloyds also recently announced plans to slash a further 940 jobs, bringing the total of redundancies to 31,000 since its takeover of banking and insurance company HBOS in 2009. The move is part of the bank's strategy to turn business around.

The banks' results arrive after RBS revealed it lost £5.2bn for 2012, compared to a deficit of £1.19bn in 2011, blaming fines for LIBOR rigging and mis-selling of payment protection insurance.

INTERIM DIVIDEND PAYMENT DATE
Latchways, Mattioli Woods

QUARTERLY PAYMENT DATE
JPMorgan Claverhouse Inv Trust

INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC ANNOUNCEMENTS
Construction Spending (US) (15:00)
ISM Manufacturing (US) (15:00)
Non-Farm Payrolls (US) (13:30)
Personal Consumption Expenditures (US) (13:30)
Personal Income (US) (13:30)
Personal Spending (US) (13:30)
PMI Manufacturing (EU) (09:00)
PMI Manufacturing (GER) (08:55)
U. of Michigan Confidence (US) (15:00)
Unemployment Rate (EU) (10:00)

Q2
London Mining

GMS
Baillie Gifford Shin Nippon, Victoria Oil & Gas

FINALS
BBA Aviation, Berendsen, Fiberweb, Hammerson, Laird, Lloyds Banking Group, Old Mutual, Rentokil Initial, Rightmove, Taylor Wimpey, William Hill, WPP

EGMS
Investors In Global Real Estate Ltd

AGMS
CQS Diversified Fund Ltd Ord NPV £, Sage Group

UK ECONOMIC ANNOUNCEMENTS
Consumer Credit (09:30)
M4 Money Supply (09:30)
M4 Sterling Lending (09:30)
Mortgage Approvals (09:30)
PMI Manufacturing (09:30)

FINAL DIVIDEND PAYMENT DATE
Gooch & Housego, Noble Investments (UK)