ASB Securities Morning Brief for Thursday, 24 April 2014
Thursday, 24 April 2014

New Zealand Headlines

New Zealand Market Report: New Zealand stocks rose as a front bench Labour Party MP quit, stoking speculation the incumbent National-led government will return for a third term. Contact Energy, Vector and MightyRiverPower gained. Xero led the advance. The NZX 50 Index rose 37.983 points, or 0.7 percent, to 5142.922. Within the index, 30 stocks rose, 11 fell and nine were unchanged. Turnover was $104 million... Read more

The New Zealand dollar rose to a two-week high against its trans-Tasman counterpart after Australian inflation came in below expectations, leaving the Reserve Bank of Australia with room to keep interest rates on hold, while the local central bank prepares to hike rates tomorrow. The kiwi rose as high as 92.65 Australian cents, the highest since April 10, trading at 92.53 cents at 5pm in Wellington from 91.72 cents yesterday. The local currency traded at 85.89 US cents at 5pm from 85.97 cents at 8am and 85.78 cents yesterday... Read more

The Easter weekend trading laws aren't working and need an overhaul, Prime Minister John Key says. His comments come after 18 complaints were made about businesses flouting Easter weekend trading laws this year, but none will be prosecuted. "I don't think the law is working terribly well, but I've always voted in favour of liberalisation of trading laws when it comes to Easter weekend," Mr Key said. He said the Easter trading laws would always be a conscience vote and if they were to be changed it would come from a shift in the majority of voters in Parliament.... Read more

New Zealand migration rose to an 11-year high in March, the second-highest gain on record, as fewer kiwis left for Australia. The country gained a seasonally adjusted 3,800 net new migrants in March, the most since February 2003, said Statistics New Zealand. A net 400 people left for Australia in March, down from 600 in February, according to seasonally adjusted figures... Read more

Migration surge may only have modest impact: Economist. A surge in migration last month won’t be enough to stop the Reserve Bank taking a more cautious tone in tomorrow’s Official Cash Rate announcement, Westpac’s economists say. Monthly net immigration continued to accelerate in March, to 3800, its fastest monthly pace since April 2013. Westpac economist Felix Delbruck said the rate was even stronger than we expected, and the surprises were across the board - arrivals by both New Zealanders and foreign immigrants were higher, and departures lower... Read more

Mortgage tightening to hit small investors. Mum and Dad property investors could be hit by the next raft of clampdowns on mortgage lending from the Reserve Bank. Anyone with five or more rental properties is likely to be treated as a commercial real estate investor by banks, and would have to pay commercial interest rates and have to stump up a higher deposit.... Read more

Care needed with unsecured debt. ASB is following the lead of banks around the world in its issue of $400 million of subordinated, unsecured debt securities, one adviser says. The offer had been touted as for $300 million of $1 debt securities and up to $100 million of oversubscriptions. Brent Sheather, of Private Asset Management, said he was not surprised the bank had managed to get the full $400 million. The 6.65% interest rate applies until a potential call date on June 15, 2019. Interest will be paid quarterly, in arrears... Read more

We compare the KiwiSaver returns of all conservative funds, including default funds, using our unique 'regular savings' method of assessing performance... Read more

Abano Healthcare shareholders Peter Hutson and James Reeves invoked their rights under the Companies Act to call for an extraordinary general meeting next Monday to consider a resolution to dump Trevor Janes as chairman and freshen the rest of the board. The meeting would be preliminary to agree to an actual vote at another EGM on May 30 on whether to remove Janes as a director, giving Hutson's investment vehicle Healthcare Industry time to put its case in a statement to shareholders. The two investors say Abano's dental clinics are underperforming, providing an investment return of 3-4 per cent a year since 2010 - less than banks are offering on deposit - and with more risk. Abano shares fell 0.5 per cent to $6.50 today, and have gained 2.5 per cent this year.... Read more

New Zealand cyber-security firm Mako Networks says a deal it has struck with Australia's biggest telecommunications provider is potentially worth tens of millions of dollars and will greatly expand its reach across the Tasman. The Auckland-based company's technology — used by businesses with multiple sites, such as retailers, to provide protection from threats such as credit-card fraud — will be incorporated into a Telstra business broadband package, giving the Aussie telco's customers access to services including secure internet access, payment card industry data, standard compliance and content filtering... Read more

McDonald's NZ lifts annual sales by 5.8 percent in year of Georgie Pie relaunch... Read more

Millennium & Copthorne Hotels New Zealand, which operates 22 hotels across the country, is mulling a capital return if the float of Chinese investment First Sponsor Group goes ahead. The Singapore Exchange has issued an eligibility to list letter for the proposed initial public offering, which will probably be in the third quarter if it proceeds, the Auckland-based company said in a statement. Shares in Millennium rose 4.8 percent yesterday to 66 cents, and have shed 7 percent this year.... Read more

Equity crowd funding, which became legal in New Zealand this month, comes with a high risk of failure based on figures showing existing forays into social capital have a success rate of less than 50 percent, one new entrant says. The Financial Markets Conduct Act, which came into effect on April 1, allows businesses to crowd fund by offering equity of up to $2 million without the burden and costs associated with a prospectus, effectively giving investors skin in the game rather than getting a 'reward' or making a donation. The Financial Markets Authority has received 12 expressions of interest from companies wanting to set up as equity crowd funding platforms, of which two have applied for a licence... Read more

Westland Milk Products may not meet a few export orders because of last weeks' ferocious storm. Its general manager, quality and technical, Leo McIntyre, said the company was still assessing the impact on milk flows from farmers and the impact on how much finished product would be available for sale. But fortunately it was the tail end of the season and farmers had sold up to 95 per cent of their production. McIntyre said milk flows had plummeted as much as 40 per cent when the storm struck but as farmers got power supply back on milk flows were rising but still 20 per cent down on two weeks ago... Read more

The first products have rolled off the factory floor at a new $120 million Fonterra UHT milk-processing plant in Waikato. The site at Waitoa, near Morrinsville, has produced 25,000 Anchor brand ultra-high temperature cream packs ready for sale... Read more

Germany has overtaken Japan to become New Zealand's fifth-biggest source of tourists and the royal visit has increased interest in other key markets. Total arrivals from Germany were up 14.5 per cent for the year to 74,224 — the highest ever recorded for a 12-month period — with 6.4 per cent growth in March, according to Statistics NZ. Figures for March show total arrivals from all countries were down 17,200 to 253,600, due largely to the timing of Easter, and numbers for the 12-month period show continued growth — up 5.4 per cent to 2,752,257... Read more

Telecom is taking another stab at uncapped broadband plans. Broadly speaking, it's a positive that our largest ISP (it holds around 50% of the retail market) has decided to promote unlimited data. I hope it works out well. But given the company's patchy track record in this area, it's worth taking a look at the fine print. Telecom says it will manage data, at times, on its new unlimited data broadband plans... Read more

Fewer Kiwis with health insurance... Read more

The health insurance industry will fund a billion dollars in health claims this year, according to statistics released today by the Health Funds Association of New Zealand (HFANZ). The projection was made on the back of strong recent growth in the level of claims paid – up 9.4 percent to $962 million – over the year to March... Read more

Research suggests there is no "magic number" for chief executive tenure in this country, with the most poorly performing companies having a mix of short and long-serving bosses. Auckland-based executive recruitment and board appointment firm Seqel Partners and fund manager NZ Funds studied chief executive turnover and total shareholder return among the 150 largest companies, in terms of revenue and market capitalisation, between 2000 and 2013. Average chief executive tenure was 6.4 years, according to the study... Read more

Jewellers feel the 'Kate effect'. Before being hit with the so-called Kate effect, a Kiwi jeweller had never dealt with queries such as: "Do you ship to Estonia?" Wellington-based Tory & Ko Jewellers, founded by Victoria Taylor and business partner Kirstin O'Brien, were asked to supply four pieces for the Duchess of Cambridge ahead of the royal tour. The duchess has not yet worn Tory & Ko's pieces (three sets of earrings and one necklace) yet buyer interest has increased 100-fold - literally... Read more

Maori Land Court orders $14m to Maori land trust. A Maori businesswoman who made the New Year's honours list plans to appeal against a court decision ordering her to pay almost $14.5 million to a Maori land trust. The Maori Land Court last week found that Rae Beverley Adlam, of Tauranga, abused her fiduciary duty as a trustee of the Bath Trust (formerly the Savage Papakainga Land Trust) by using its geothermal resources and cashflow for self-gain.... Read more

Bankruptcy notice to stand. A businessman who co-founded Auckland's Rainbow's End theme park and was involved in a string of back-door NZX-listings has lost a Court of Appeal case about a bankruptcy notice served against him after "economic misadventure" in Chile. A hearing date is now being sought in the High Court where creditors will apply to have Ken Wikeley declared bankrupt, according to a lawyer associated with the case... Read more

A six-week trial into two men who allegedly defrauded seven finance companies of more than $3 million is coming to a close in Hamilton. Brett Ralph Dutton, 48, and James Peter Moore, 51, each deny just under 100 dishonesty-related charges comprising about 50 of using a document, 40 counts of theft by a person in a special relationship, three charges of forgery and one charge of obtaining by deception in relation to the alleged offending between March 2007 and October 2008. The pair are accused of double dipping money obtained from a finance company to effectively get more finance to import machinery from overseas... Read more

FMC faces claim over property loan losses. A company owned by Christchurch and Dunedin lawyers may face a claim of several million dollars for losses on loans to property developers and property investors. Fund Managers Canterbury (FMC) chairman Don McBeath was not prepared yesterday to detail the size of the claim being made against the company by Trustees Executors. McBeath, a Christchurch lawyer, said the claim was more than $1 million but "nothing like $100m"... Read more

Opinion - Brian Fallow: Four reasons not to panic about a property bubble... Read more

Opinion/Analysis - Pattrick Smellie: Why Jesse Colombo is wrong, but right... Read more

Opinion - Elizabeth Davies: When the 'kiwi dream' seems out of reach. Elizabeth Davies asks older generations not to laugh when Generation Y jumps to try and reach the moon they were promised... Read more

Opinion - David Hargreaves: The new Christchurch Housing Accord appears ineffectual and possibly sets a bad example for future such agreements... Read more

Opinion - Fran O'Sullivan: Aussie trade deals hold risks for NZ... Read more

Australian Headlines

Australian Market Report: The Australian share market has reached its highest level since the middle of 2008, with gains across most major sectors today. The All Ordinaries index has finished 35 points higher at 5,505, while the ASX 200 has closed up 0.7 per cent at 5,518. In economic news, official figures have revealed that consumer price pressures are largely being contained, with inflation rising just 0.6 per cent in the March quarter... Read more

The Australian dollar has fallen after lower than expected inflation figures reduced the likelihood of a rate hike in the near future. At 1700 AEST on Wednesday, the local currency was trading at 92.80 US cents, down from 93.67 US cents on Tuesday. The consumer price index rose 0.6 per cent in the March quarter, for an annual rate of 2.9 per cent. Economists had expected a rise of 0.8 per cent for the quarter and 3.2 per cent for the year... Read more

Improvement in the local and global economy and a stable interest rate outlook appear to be fuelling a turnaround in business confidence. The Commonwealth Bank's head of local business banking Adam Bennett says a survey of small to medium sized enterprises, and the bank's experience with clients, show that businesses are more confident than they were six months ago. "These findings indicate SMEs are optimistic the Australian economy will continue to gather momentum, with almost 90 per cent of businesses expecting conditions to either improve or remain steady over the next six months," Mr Bennett said... Read more

Inflation has remained within the Reserve Bank's 2-3 per cent target, taking pressure off the RBA to consider early rate rises. Economist forecasts had centred on a consumer price rise of 3.2 per cent in the year to the end of March, but the Bureau of Statistics figures show inflation was 2.9 per cent over that period. Prices rose just 0.6 per cent in the quarter, below an expected 0.8 per cent, with much of the increase due to seasonal factors and volatile price movements. Tobacco prices jumped 6.7 per cent in the March quarter, with an increase in excise. Fuel prices rose 4.1 per cent as a short-lived dip in the Australian dollar combined with rising international petroleum prices to push the pump price higher... Read more

Benign inflation good for borrowers. ... Read more

Reserve Bank unlikely to shift from neutral stance despite the Treasurer's displeasure. Today's lower-than-expected inflation reading is not low enough to force the Reserve Bank to change tack on rates, even if that is what the Treasurer would like it to do... Read more

Chant West reveals superannuation balanced funds fell in March. Superannuation funds hit a speed bump last month but remain on track for solid returns this financial year. Latest results from the nation’s super ratings companies showed returns were subdued in the March quarter, slowing down from the strong start they revelled in during the first half of the 2013/14 financial year... Read more

Australians should expect a serve of tough love when the Abbott government hands down its first budget, Joe Hockey has warned. However, in a speech delivered weeks out from the May budget, the treasurer has also promised big investments in infrastructure that will help spur on the nation's economy... Read more

The annual cost of delivering the aged pension will rise to a staggering $72 billion within 10 years, dwarfing expenditure on defence, schools and hospitals, the Government’s Commission of Audit has warned. The cost of providing Medicare will also almost double within the decade to $38 billion a year, suggesting both were now on an unsustainable path. But the fastest rising area of government spending will be the roll out of Labor’s National Disability Insurance Scheme, which is forecast to grow by 50 per cent by 2024 to $11 billion a year — a growth rate four times higher than any other government sector... Read more

Analysts raise fears as Australian households step up debt... Read more

ING Direct Household Financial Wellbeing Index reveals two out of three households struggle between pay days... Read more

Newcrest announces new CEO. Newcrest Mining's outgoing head Greg Robinson has been described as having had to save the company last year as it announced he would leave in July. Mr Robinson will leave his $2 million a year salary running Australia's largest gold company on July 4, to be replaced by chief operating officer Sandeep Biswas... Read more

Padbury Oakajee proposal 'not realistic': WA Premier. West Australia's Premier has again dismissed a plan by a small miner to build a stalled iron ore export development in the state's Mid West. Padbury Mining today told the stock market the names of the financiers behind its $6.5 billion plan to get the Oakajee port and rail project off the ground. After nearly two weeks in a trading suspension, the iron ore explorer told the stock market that Australian private equity firms Alliance Super Holdings and Superkite were parties to a shareholder agreement to provide funds to build the Oakajee project... Read more

Padbury Mining's $6.5 billion plan for its West Australian Oakajee port and rail project likely depends on a South Korean construction and design company agreeing to pay 20 per cent of the costs, The Australian reports.... Read more

Nickel miners continued to enjoy solid share price rises today after the price of the steel-making commodity climbed to a 14-month high overnight. The latest price spike was prompted by concern that the collapse of an accord to ease tension between Ukraine and Russia might lead to disruptions in global supply that was already curbed by an Indonesia export ban. Nickel for delivery in three months climbed 2.2 per cent to settle at $18,325 a metric ton at the close of trade on the London Metal Exchange... Read more

Gas prices in NSW are set to soar by 17.6 per cent, or an average of $150 a year from July 1, as LNG exports drive huge increases in demand and an introduction of world prices to domestic customers. The NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, in a draft determination, decided that retail gas prices would rise between 14.4 per cent and 19.4 per cent, depending on the retail supply area... Read more

The Federal Treasurer has revealed he blocked a foreign takeover bid for GrainCorp partly because the US-based company was "not of good character". Joe Hockey knocked back the proposal by Archer Daniel Midland (ADM) late last year, drawing criticism from the Opposition and several business groups. At the time, Mr Hockey said the $3.4 billion takeover was not in the national interest. But at a function in Sydney on Wednesday night he went further, saying the company needed to show it could be a good corporate citizen... Read more

Property developers in takeover stoush. Property developer Stockland will wait to hear what investors have to say about the rejection of its $2.4 billion takeover proposal for Australand before considering further options. Australand's board has determined a share-swap takeover proposal presented by Stockland was not in the best interests of Australand securityholders. Australand also rejected a request from Stockland to open its books and enable Stockland to carry out due diligence on a potential merger. Stockland chief executive Mark Steinert has urged the Australand board to engage with his company, which holds a 19.9 per cent stake in Australand. Australand securities dropped five cents to $4.23 on Wednesday, and Stockland shed two cents to $3.76.... Read more

Gloves off and contenders enter the ring over Australand takeover... Read more

Shares in Vmoto were higher after the scooter manufacturer announced an exclusive distribution agreement in Vietnam and unveiled a new "super light" scooter model. Vmoto said it had signed an agreement with Euro Ebike Company to distribute, stock and market the company's Vmoto and E-Max range of electric scooter products in Vietnam. Vmoto shares closed up 0.5 cents, or 10.87 per cent, at 5.1 cents.... Read more

Leading transport and logistics provider Northline has signed up to the Goodman Group’s $350 million Redbank Motorway Estate at Ipswich. Northline has pre-committed to a 12,500sq m distribution centre at the 62ha estate which late last year started work on a 31,300sq m facility for logistics group DB Schenker which signed up for a 10-year lease. Northline has committed to an eight-year lease and will pay more than $1.2 million a year or just over $100/sq m... Read more

Telstra executive's wife linked to $300k Autohome acquisition. A Telstra-owned company has spent more than $300,000 to buy a Hong Kong advertising company that was half-owned by the wife of one of its most senior Asian executives and directors. The deal was done between Chinese car website Autohome, which is majority owned and controlled by Telstra, and a Hong Kong advertising firm named Prbrownies Marketing. According to Autohome's financial filings to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the deal was done on October 18, 2013 for 1.9 million yuan ($326,294). The company was then renamed Autohome Media on March 19, 2014.... Read more

Queensland Motorways sold for $7 billion by QIC Ltd... Read more

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the multi-billion-dollar program to purchase new jet fighters for the Defence Force does not involve any "new spending" by taxpayers. The Government has given the go ahead for the purchase of 58 more F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs) at a cost of $12.4 billion - making it the nation's most expensive Defence asset... Read more

WAFarmers has urged NBN Co to speed up the deployment of new satellites for its near-capacity NBN satellite service, with homes in regional areas expected to face at least a 12-month wait... Read more

Developers 'choking' land supply. Local councils want an investigation into land banking by developers, claiming they are manipulating the market and fuelling the housing affordability crisis by choking off supply of new lots. The WA Local Government Association has suggested developers and investors sitting on tracts of vacant land be slugged a higher rate of land tax as an inducement to release more blocks for construction... Read more

JB Hi-Fi boss Terry Smart, one of the key figures in the retailer's rapid expansion over the past 14 years, will leave the company in August. Mr Smart's career with the company includes four years as chief executive and ten years as operations chief, during which time JB Hi-Fi has carved out a large, bright yellow space for itself across Australia's shopping centres. Having started the new millennium with just 10 stores in Sydney and Melbourne, the electronics retailer now has 187 stores and annual revenue approaching $3.5 billion... Read more

Perth-based internet service provider iiNet has brought in some new blood to its board, with two industry heavyweights — Patrick O’Sullivan and Paul McCarney — coming on board. The appointments follow the recent departures of iiNet board members Simon Hackett and Paul Broad, and both Mr O’Sullivan and Mr McCarney boast significant pedigree... Read more

Opinion - Callum Pickering: Why the RBA will keep its cool on inflation... Read more

Analysis - Tom Richardson: 7 solid businesses for income-seeking investors... Read more

Opinion/Analysis - Malcolm Maiden: Inflation figures give RBA, Hockey and markets breathing room... Read more

Opinion/Analysis - Rob Burgess: Palmer and the Greens have got to be kidding... Read more

Opinion - Andrew Mudie: 3 hot stocks for the housing boom... Read more

International Headlines

U.S. Market Report: Wall Street's six-day win streak is in jeopardy on Wednesday as the bulls hit the pause button after disappointing housing data and mixed earnings reports. The Dow Jones industrial average and S&P 500 posted minor losses while the Nasdaq was solidly in the red amid more biotech struggles.... Read more

North/South Americas Market Report: North and South American markets are lower today with shares in Brazil off the most. The Bovespa is down 0.88% while Mexico's IPC is off 0.50% and U.S.'s S&P 500 is lower by 0.24%... Read more

European Market Report: European markets finished lower today with shares in France leading the region. The CAC 40 is down 0.74% while Germany's DAX is off 0.58% and London's FTSE 100 is lower by 0.11%... Read more

Asian Market Report: Asian markets finished mixed as of the most recent closing prices. The Nikkei 225 gained 1.09%, while the Hang Seng led the Shanghai Composite lower. They fell 0.97% and 0.26% respectively... Read more

U.S. new home sales hint at prolonged housing weakness... Read more

Cost-cutting, share buybacks buoy U.S. defense profits... Read more

Budget clothing retailer Primark is to open its first US stores, beginning with a 70,000 sq-ft shop in Boston in Massachusetts. Primark plans to open the store towards the end of 2015. Negotiations are also under way to open more shops in the north-east of the US by the middle of 2016. "After extensive research, it has been decided to take the Primark concept to consumers in the USA," Primark owner Associated British Foods said... Read more

The winter blues didn't get Delta Airlines down. Shares of the airline soared to a record high Wednesday after the company reported a 5% increase in passenger revenue in the first quarter despite a $90 million loss related to weather cancellations... Read more

HBO strikes deal with Amazon to stream shows... Read more

Ardian raises $10 billion for private equity secondaries. Ardian, the investment firm previously known as AXA Private Equity, today announced that it has raised $10 billion for a new fund that will mostly purchase interests in buyout funds ($9 billion for these secondaries, plus $1 billion for primary fund commitments). It is the largest capital pool ever raised for private equity secondaries, although Lexington Partners is in market with a new fund that may ultimately raise a bit more... Read more

GM seeks to bar some ignition lawsuits... Read more

Pacific Investment Management Co.’s former Chief Executive Officer Mohamed El-Erian described Bill Gross as one of the world’s best investors in his first television interview since leaving the investment firm in March.... Read more

Icahn looking to launch an army of mini-Icahns. Carl Icahn says he is interested in helping to start up other activist funds that invest like him. On Tuesday, speaking at IMN's Active-Passive Investor Summit in New York, Icahn said he would be willing to provide seed money to get a number of funds off the ground. Icahn said the new funds are needed as corporate boards and their lawyers are making it harder for activist investors to be heard. He also said he was growing tired of drawn out proxy fights, despite threatening a number of them in the past year. And was looking for some younger investors who would take on some of this work. "Storm clouds are coming for activism," says Icahn. "Poison pills are getting worse."... Read more

Increasingly aggressive discounting is taking a toll on AT&T Inc and U.S. cellular rivals as they struggle to attract customers in a nearly saturated market. While recent price cuts by AT&T led to a surge in first-quarter subscriber adds that beat Wall Street expectations, average revenue per user fell, triggering a 3.2 percent share drop. Other wireless carriers' shares also declined, with T-Mobile US Inc, which has roiled the industry with a series of discounts and new pricing plans, down 2.8 percent.... Read more

Investors guzzled down shares of SodaStream International on Wednesday amid speculation the Israeli company could sell a stake to coffee giant Starbucks. The stock popped 14%. It's the latest in a series of rallies fueled by reports the household soda-machine maker could team up with a power player in the beverage businesses. Coca-Cola took a 10% stake in rival Kuerig Green Mountain Coffee earlier this year, adding to the speculation... Read more

Valeant CEO 'disappointed' in Allergan poison pill. The chief executive officer of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, which made a $47 billion unsolicited offer for competitor Allergan Inc on Tuesday, said during an interview on CNBC that he was "disappointed" with Allergan's so-called poison pill.... Read more

EU in slow progress on deficit cuts... Read more

The Royal Mail privatisation will be the subject of fresh scrutiny by MPs next week when bankers from Goldman Sachs and UBS – which handled the sell-off of the 500-year-old institution – are summoned to give evidence to a high-profile parliamentary committee. The public accounts committee, chaired by Margaret Hodge, who has previously conducted tough evidence sessions on corporate tax, will also hear from top City regulators and senior executives at Royal Mail at sessions next week... Read more

UK deficit falls to lowest level since start of financial crisis. Government borrowing totalled £107.7bn in the fiscal year to end-March, just below the target outlined in last month's budget... Read more

Portugal looks set for a smooth exit from its rescue program next month after its first regular government bond auction since the crisis-era bailout proved to be a stunning success. The country, which is expected formally to announce its exit from its 2011 bailout on May 5, has swapped new bonds for old, and issued debt with the help of banks in recent months as it works to prepare for a return to standard, independent borrowing conditions and to build a cash buffer... Read more

Spain sees stronger economic outlook in 2014-15. Spain forecast Wednesday faster economic growth in the next two years as the nation emerges from a long downturn with unemployment still topping 26 percent. Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said the eurozone's fourth-largest economy would expand by an average of 1.5 percent in 2014 and 2015. "It is a substantial change," he told a meeting of Spanish financial journalists... Read more

France laid out a new economic programme to respect EU budget rules and curb public spending, while boosting growth and employment, in a keynote statement on Wednesday. The new government headed by Prime Minister Manuel Valls, which had wavered in its commitment to meet an already extended EU timetable, said it would cut overspending to 3.0 percent of output by the end of next year. This commitment was being closely monitored by EU authorities, by France's partners in Europe, and on financial markets where there is concern that France has fallen badly behind in terms of reforms to raise competitiveness and reduce a huge trade deficit... Read more

Boeing posts higher adjusted profit, raises 2014 forecast... Read more

Russia bans poultry imports from California for 90 days over bird flu... Read more

Russian brokers gain from crisis, profits so rich they are trading from the beach... Read more

China factory activity shrinks for fourth month, but pace of decline slows... Read more

Chinese shoe factory strike runs on. Workers on strike at a Chinese factory owned by the world's largest maker of athletic shoes have rejected management's latest offer in an ongoing labour dispute that is crimping production for brands such as Nike and adidas. The on-off work stoppage at Yue Yuen Industrial's massive factory complex in southern China, which employs more than 40,000 workers, has stretched into the second week as both sides have failed to reach an agreement... Read more

Sony Corp will branch out into the real-estate business in August and plans to take the unit public in three years, the Nikkei reported without citing a source. Sony recently set up a real-estate unit in Tokyo, with the aim of generating annual sales of 50 billion yen ($488.4 million) in five years, the newspaper said... Read more

Opinion - Robert Peston: Is the UK becoming more productive... Read more

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