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October 23, 2014

GM 3Q profit nearly doubles, led by North America

Filed under: Homes, legal — Tags: , , , — DoctorBusiness @ 1:20 pm

Updated at 1 p.m.

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. • General Motors reported third-quarter profit that beat estimates as recall expenses ebbed and North American customers flocked to pickups and sport-utility vehicles.

Adjusted earnings per share rose to 97 cents, topping the average analyst estimate for 95 cents. A year ago, the company earned 96 cents on that basis, the company said in a statement. GM has exceeded analysts’ estimates six of the last nine quarters. GM’s recall expenses are “substantially behind us,” Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens said on Bloomberg Television.

“Overall, GM results tracked better than expected,” Ryan Brinkman, a JPMorgan Chase analyst, wrote in a report Thursday. “Some investors were concerned GM could post significantly worse-than-expected results in Europe and South America.”

The largest U.S. automaker said operating profit in North America rose 12 percent to $2.45 billion. GM sales of profitable trucks have risen 5.9 percent so far this year in the U.S., including a 53 percent rise in the luxury Cadillac Escalade SUV and a 5.9 percent gain in Chevy Silverado pickup deliveries, according to Autodata.

Barra, GM chief executive officer since mid-January, has weathered Congressional hearings, public outcry and a blistering internal investigation that prompted her to fire 15 employees after she disclosed vehicle defects in February that have since been linked to 29 deaths.

“We understand we have real work to do, and we’re on it,” Barra said on a conference call Thursday with analysts and reporters. She said the automaker has repaired about 1.2 million vehicles for the fatal ignition switch flaw, or about half the models still on the road, and is redoubling efforts to reach more owners.

GM said adjusted automotive free cash flow swung to a decline of $800 million in the quarter from $1.3 billion positive a year ago because of an extra week in the payment cycle to suppliers and cash payments related to repairing recalled vehicles, including costs to expedite parts to dealers. Automotive cash flow from operations was about $700 million positive.

GM’s available liquidity fell to $36.6 billion from $37.3 billion at the send of September 2013.

The adjusted automotive cash flow should return positive this quarter and, excluding recall costs, the second half of the year will be stronger than the first half for GM, Stevens said on a conference call with investors.

GM has said it may need to pay as much as $600 million for death and injury claims and spent $2.5 billion on recalls in the first half of this year. It also took a second-quarter charge of $1.3 billion, including $400 million for victim compensation, which is why the cash costs don’t affect the adjusted EBIT.

While North America improved, other regions did worse. Losses in Europe widened 63 percent $387 million from $238 million a year earlier as measured by adjusted earnings before interest and taxes, driven by $200 million in restructuring costs. GM had a small loss in South America, compared with a profit of almost $300 million in 2013. GM’s adjusted EBIT (earnings before income and tax) from other international operations slid 20 percent to $259 million.

Future margin gains will be fueled by improvements in North America, China and Europe, Stevens told investors Oct. 1. South American and other international operations will lose money in the short term as GM works to fix those businesses, he said at the time.

Barra and her top executives three weeks ago promised a 10 percent profit margin by early next decade, fueled by margins in China that will remain in the 9 percent to 10 percent range, cutting the number of vehicle frames from 14 to 4 and leveraging new models. In the meantime, the automaker said it would guard its $38.8 billion in liquidity and return some of its cash to investors in the form of higher dividends.

GM’s average transaction price for models sold in the U.S. in the first half of October rose to $35,000, the highest in the industry, and may push fourth quarter North American EBIT profit margins ahead of the 10 percent target, Joseph Amaturo, a Buckingham Research analyst, wrote in an Oct. 20 report.

Among analysts, 56 percent recommend a buy and they predict the shares will gain more than 30 percent in the next year. Only 16 percent suggest selling.

Net income attributable to all stockholders slid 14 percent to $1.47 billion, while net attributable to common stockholders doubled to about $1.4 billion. In the third quarter of 2013, GM repurchased $800 million of preferred shares, contributing to the large difference in the year-earlier results by the two measures.

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October 21, 2014

Canada threatens trade sanctions over U.S. meat labeling law

Filed under: Europe, term — Tags: , , , — DoctorBusiness @ 10:28 pm

Canada could slap trade tariffs on U.S meat, wine, cheese and other exports in response to a U.S. meat labeling law that the World Trade Organization recently declared unfair.

Canada’s international trade minister, Ed Fast, said Ottawa would consider retaliatory measures if Washington does not repeal the so-called country-of-origin labeling law, better known as COOL.

The controversial federal law was rolled out in 2013 and requires meatpackers and processors to list where livestock was born, raised and slaughtered.

Canada and Mexico denounced the law, saying it unfairly discriminates against their exports of beef and pork. A WTO panel ruled in their favor Monday, explaining that the law created less favorable treatment for Canadian and Mexican meat.

“The WTO has confirmed once again what we have known all along: that the United States’ mandatory COOL requirement for beef and pork is a blatant breach of its international obligations as a member of the WTO,” Fast said in a joint statement with Mexico’s secretary of the economy, Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, and secretary of agriculture, Enrique Martinez y Martinez.

The U.S. has 60 days to appeal the ruling. Though they said they were disappointed, U.S. trade officials noted that the WTO did not side with Canada and Mexico in asserting that the labeling failed to do its primary job: alert consumers about the origins of their meat.

“While the WTO continues to affirm the right of the United States to require country-of-origin labeling for meat products, we are disappointed that the compliance panels have found that the country-of-origin labeling requirements for beef and pork continue to discriminate against Canadian and Mexican livestock exports. We are considering all options, including appealing the panels’ reports,” said Matthew McAlvanah, a spokesman for the office of the U.S. trade representative.

Consumer groups urged Washington to appeal, arguing that COOL was a boon for food safety and transparency in the meat industry.

“The WTO’s continued assault against common-sense food labels is just another example of how corporate-controlled trade policy undermines the basic protections that U.S. consumers deserve,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Food and Water Watch. “The United States should appeal the ruling and continue to fight for sensible consumer safeguards at the supermarket.”

Canadian trade sanctions would be costly for U.S. producers. Ottawa released a list last year of potential American targets for tariffs that included dozens of items as far ranging as wooden furniture and ketchup.

Canada is the United States’ top trading partner. Mexico and China alternate between No. 2 and No. 3.

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October 20, 2014

Toyota adds 247K vehicles to air bag recall tally

Filed under: Homes, Loans — Tags: , , , — DoctorBusiness @ 2:56 pm

DETROIT (AP) — Toyota is recalling 247,000 vehicles in high-humidity areas as an air bag problem that has plagued most of the auto industry continues to widen.

The recall posed Monday by U.S. safety regulators covers the 2003 to 2005 Corolla and Matrix, the 2002 to 2005 Sequoia and the 2003 to 2005 Tundra. Also included is the 2003 to 2005 Pontiac Vibe made by Toyota.

Inflators can rupture in air bags manufactured by parts supplier Takata, causing metal fragments to fly out when bags are inflated in crashes. The problem has caused serious injuries. So far, automakers have recalled about 12 million vehicles worldwide because of the problem.

The recall covers vehicles in South Florida, along the Gulf Coast, in Puerto Rico, Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Saipan and American Samoa.

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October 19, 2014

You may be your retirement fund’s worst enemy

Filed under: Business, online — Tags: , , , — DoctorBusiness @ 12:00 am

Ask just about anyone near retirement age if they think they will have plenty of money to last through retirement, and you’re likely to see their insecurity.

A recent study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College shows they aren’t being overly pessimistic.

The typical working household close to retirement age had only $111,000 at the end of 2013 in their 401(k) savings plan at work and individual retirement accounts outside of work, according to Alicia Munnell, the center’s director. That $111,000 would provide only $500 a month for living expenses if converted to an annuity.

Despite a stock market that’s soared the past five years, households have less stashed away for retirement now than they had in 2010. Then, the typical household had $120,000.

Munnell’s dive into the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances about American households shows a dreary picture of the retirement years ahead for most working Americans over 55. Her report raises questions about whether the 401(k) system of preparing for retirement is failing Americans.

In the early 1980s, most employers offered workers pensions known as defined-benefit plans. With those plans, employees who stayed on the job long enough to qualify for a pension didn’t have to think about saving or investing. Employers promised to invest and then provided guaranteed monthly payments to former employees throughout their retirement. Munnell says only about 17 percent of private employers still provide pensions.

So employees have to fend for themselves. Half have 401(k)-type retirement savings plans at work. If they save enough, invest well and leave their savings in the plan to grow, they can end up fine.

But Munnell has found that many are failing to do what’s necessary to build adequate 401(k) accounts, if they even have the security of a 401(k) at work. Half of the country doesn’t, leaving them completely on their own. Ideally, they’d open an IRA. Few do.

Apart from 401(k) plans and IRAs, savings are minuscule, according to Munnell. In 2010, households had $18,300. At the end of 2013, it was only $12,500.

At first blush, the amount people contribute to 401(k) plans seems healthy.

The median savings in a 401(k) is 9.2 percent of pay, with about 6 percent coming from employees, the rest matching money from the employer. While 9.2 percent seems like a good rate, half aren’t saving that much.

The problem is exacerbated by inconsistent saving throughout working lives. People may contribute on one job, but not another. When leaving a job, people often take money from their 401(k) accounts and spend it. They also erode savings by taking loans from their 401(k) accounts. It all may seem harmless but over a work life, thousands — even hundreds of thousands — come out of their retirement sum.

Many people also fail to save enough. Employees may assume an automatic 401(k) savings of 3 percent is fine. A person needs to be saving 10 percent during every year of work.

Individuals are allowed to save up to $17,500 a year in a 401(k). Those 50 and older can save an additional $5,500. But Vanguard has found that only 12 percent of people save the maximum no fax pay day loans.

Hewitt Associates has found that 28 percent of people missed out on free matching money from their employers because they didn’t save enough to qualify. And about 21 percent — mostly lower-income and younger workers — don’t participate in 401(k) plans that are available to them.

“Unfortunately, delay reduces the likelihood that these workers will be adequately prepared for retirement,” Munnell said.

Investing decisions have improved for many employees because most companies offer what are called “target date funds,” or funds that do the investing for employees without the individuals having to do any decision-making. Fund managers divide the individual’s money into stocks and bonds based on the person’s age and years left before they retire. The idea is to invest more in stocks for young workers so their money grows significantly, then use more bonds to cut back risk as the person approaches retirement.

Still, only 55 percent of employees are using simple funds, according to Vanguard.

Munnell said individuals are ending up with thousands of dollars less in retirement money than they should, simply because their employers are providing mutual funds in 401(k) plans that charge costly fees. With funds charging 1 percent of a person’s assets, employees will end up with 20 percent less at retirement than they would have had without those expenses, according to Munnell.

“Investors could avoid much of the loss associated with fees by investing in index funds rather than actively managed funds,” Munnell said.

The mistakes of not saving, saving too little, borrowing from a 401(K) and paying expensive fees have a huge effect.

Munnell calculates that a 60-year-old in 2013 who had saved since the age of 29 would end up with only $100,000 versus $373,000 if they hadn’t been sidetracked by the common mistakes. It breaks down like this: Fees reduce the balance to $314,000; withdrawals during job changes or loans cut it to $236,000; inconsistent contributions further reduce it to $165,000; and a failure to contribute at times can lower the balance to $100,000.

With too little in savings, the typical household is going to be highly dependent on Social Security. But Munnell notes that Social Security is going to provide less to future retirees. The retirement age is moving from 65 to 67, so people who retire at 62 to 65 will see their monthly benefits cut more than now. In addition, people will need to pay more for Medicare. Medicare payments are taken out of Social Security before the government sends checks to retirees. In addition, higher taxes will reduce their Social Security because benefits are not indexed to account for inflation.

The average monthly Social Security benefit in 2013 was $1,294.

Munnell figures about half of Americans will have to adjust to a lower standard of living in retirement than they were used to in their working years.

Source

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October 17, 2014

Housing Starts Rise as U.S. Construction Firms Regain Footing - Bloomberg

Filed under: Gold, money — Tags: , , , — DoctorBusiness @ 9:04 am

Work began on more U.S. homes in September, indicating gains in residential construction will help bolster economic growth.

Housing starts climbed 6.3 percent to a 1.02 million annualized rate from a 957,000 pace in August, the Commerce Department reported today in Washington. The reading was in line with the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg which projected 1 million. Work increased on multifamily and one-family homes.

The drop in mortgage rates in recent weeks will probably underpin sales, giving builders reason to take on more projects. Sustained job gains that fuel faster wage growth would help give the market an additional boost that would include more first-time home buyers.

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October 15, 2014

Supreme Court weighs generic drug dispute

Filed under: Mortgage, technology — Tags: , , , — DoctorBusiness @ 10:44 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court seems divided as it considers a high-stakes patent dispute between rival pharmaceutical companies over the world’s best-selling multiple sclerosis treatment.

Justices heard arguments Wednesday in a case that threatens to cut into the $4 billion-a-year profits that Israel-based Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. earns selling the drug Copaxone.

Teva claims the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit wrongly overturned five of its patents for the drug. At issue is whether the appeals court was allowed to second-guess factual findings made by a federal district court that had earlier ruled in Teva’s favor.

The justices seemed split over whether patent cases should be reviewed under a different standard than other cases, where appeals courts must defer to factual findings made by lower courts.

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October 14, 2014

Singapore Expands More Than Estimated on Global Demand - Bloomberg

Filed under: Business, money — Tags: , , , — DoctorBusiness @ 1:20 am

Singapore

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October 12, 2014

Southwest looks for spark from expansion in Dallas

Filed under: news, online — Tags: , , , — DoctorBusiness @ 12:16 pm

DALLAS (AP) — When Southwest Airlines recently introduced a new paint job for its planes, a senior executive joked that at 43 years old and being from Dallas, it was time for the airline to get a face-lift.

At middle age, Southwest is the fourth-largest U.S. airline by traffic, setting records for profits and enjoying a stock-price rally. But it wants more. Most of 2014 has been spent trying to regain the dazzling growth of its earlier years.

On Monday, Southwest gets some help. It will launch its first long-distance flights from its home base at Dallas Love Field to seven cities across the country, with eight more destinations next month. Such flights were prohibited until now by a longtime law that protected Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport by limiting flights from Love Field to a few nearby states.

Southwest will go head-to-head with Fort Worth, Texas-based American Airlines, which flies to most of those same 15 cities from DFW Airport. There will also be a new competitor at Love Field: Virgin America, whose swashbuckling founder, Richard Branson, is flying in for the occasion.

CEO Gary Kelly says bookings for the new flights are strong, and demand could outstrip seats. He believes the Love Field expansion presents “very significant growth opportunities for us.” Already this year, Southwest has started its first-ever international flights to Mexico and the Caribbean and grown in New York and Washington.

Southwest was once a legendary growth story. From three planes in 1971, it grew to 70 by 1985, and was flying more than 400 planes by the middle of last decade. But aside from the $1.4 billion purchase of AirTran Airways in 2011, Southwest Airlines Co. has hardly grown in recent years. Instead it has focused on meeting profit-margin goals to satisfy Wall Street.

On-time performance, once a hallmark, has slipped badly. In the most recent 12-month period, only 71 percent of Southwest’s flights arrived on time, last among the largest U.S. airlines, according to government figures. Airline executives thought they could squeeze in more flights with no new planes, but the move backfired, resulting in delays and missed connections. Recently, Southwest tweaked its schedule to allow more time between flights.

Still, Southwest had the lowest rate of consumer complaints in August, the latest month for which figures are available. Customers like that Southwest has fewer fees — it is the only major airline that lets passengers check two bags for free.

One afternoon this week at Love Field, Bill Gibson of Oklahoma City was at the baggage carousel, waiting for the video gear he uses to shoot car commercials. He said he has flown Southwest for 20 years.

“For the longest time, you got three bags free. Now you get two, which I can still make work — that’s the big thing for me,” Gibson said.

But Southwest isn’t for everyone — or at least not every trip. Unlike American, United and Delta — or even its own AirTran subsidiary — Southwest doesn’t have a first-class cabin.

“You don’t have that level of luxury travel. You’re part of the herd of cattle,” said Michelle Pontrelli of Dallas. She said Southwest is fine “for getting somewhere in Texas quickly,” but she was more intrigued by the Love Field arrival of Virgin America, which sells first-class seats.

Southwest made its reputation by keeping costs down and competing with low fares. But a spate of new, ultra-low-fare carriers such as Spirit Airlines — and the success of other big airlines at cutting costs through bankruptcy — are putting more pressure on Southwest.

Southwest pays about $124 per seat to fly 1,000 miles. That’s less than American, United and Delta, but higher than JetBlue, Virgin America and Spirit. The figure is 27 percent higher than five years ago, mostly because of fuel prices.

With those rising costs, Southwest has pushed its average one-way fare to $163 this summer, up from about $110 five years ago.

Southwest, which has had remarkably good labor relations for an airline, is locked in drawn-out contract negotiations with pilots, flight attendants, mechanics and other workers. Profit is expected to grow more than 65 percent to nearly $1.3 billion this year, and employees are seeking better pay and benefits.

Union leaders say the stalemate hurts morale just when the airline’s team spirit should be at an all-time high. Kelly counters that Southwest employees enjoy industry-topping pay, job security and profit-sharing.

“The magic is not gone,” he said on the day that Southwest unveiled the new airplane paint job to several hundred cheering employees.

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October 10, 2014

NJ lawmaker rejects state aid for casino bid

Filed under: management, marketing — Tags: , , , — DoctorBusiness @ 3:44 pm

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey’s senate president says the state will not contribute anything to billionaire Carl Icahn’s bid to acquire the Trump Taj Mahal casino and keep it open.

The billionaire investor says he’ll kick in $100 million to keep the casino open, but only with union givebacks and massive tax credits from Atlantic City and the state.

Steve Sweeney says the state will not contribute the $25 million in tax breaks Icahn and Trump Entertainment Resorts want for the Taj Mahal.

Icahn says he’s “confused and bothered” by union and political opposition, saying he had nothing to do with the Taj Mahal aside from owning its debt.

He also says he is not anti-union, adding he wants additional information before sinking another $45 million into the Tropicana, which he also owns.

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October 9, 2014

Erdogan Faces Market Seeing No Winners Over Kurds: Turkey Credit - Bloomberg

Filed under: online, technology — Tags: , , , — DoctorBusiness @ 4:32 am

Deadly clashes in southeast Turkey are accelerating a sell-off in lira assets as they jeopardize talks promising to end decades of armed conflict with the nation

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