Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Canada's GDP Shrinks: Is The Sky Falling? No.

Canada's GDP fell 0.1% in Q2 2011, the first quarterly decline since 2009.

Analysts were expecting growth would be flat in the period. However, the decline was due largely to a 2.1 per cent drop in exports, which are of course related to oil prices.

However, Canada's economy expanded at an annualized pace of 3.6 per cent in the first quarter (a downward revision of the 3.9% initially reported by Statistics Canada).

Oil and gas extraction dropped 3.6 per cent, while output in the manufacturing sector declined by 0.9 per cent.

Consumer spending on goods and services increased 0.4% in the quarter, after being unchanged in the first three months of the year.

Business investment in plants and equipment was also 3.7% higher.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

S&P: No Credit or Asset Bubble in Brazil

Contrary to what some popular 'economists' claim on the Internet, Standard & Poor's said it does not believe that Brazil is currently in a credit bubble, despite the jump in the country's economic growth.

The report should allay fears of a bubble, the S&P points out that the expansion of Brazil's economy has averaged nearly 5% annually in recent years, enough to put 30 million Brazilians in the middle class.

As a result, more Brazilians have gained access to banking services and credit for consumption, nearly doubling the relationship between consumer credit and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) since 2001. However, S&P said that the country is not in an asset or credit bubble and credit nor faces a situation like this in the near future.

"Such a jump in credit growth will certainly lead to some losses on credit," said Milena Zaiboni, credit analyst at S & P. "We believe the comprehensive surveillance and prudent policies of the Central Bank will make this deterioration manageable,"

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WFC: 12 States Are in Economic Contraction

And Alabama has "likely slipped into a recession."

Mark Vitner and Michael A Brown, senior economists from Wells Fargo, wrote the report. It states that more states are likely to fall into negative territory within the next six months, due to persistent decline in manufacturing jobs.

Joining Alabama are Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, Michigan, Nevada, Montana, Illinois, Indiana, Vermont, and Alaska.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Greek Banks: The Wedding of the Dead

The Greek ASE index climbed the most in more than 21 years(!), as EFG Eurobank Ergasias SA (EUROB) and Alpha Bank SA announced a merger.

Both Eurobank and Alpha Bank each jumped by 30 percent, the maximum exchange daily limit, after saying they will combine and sell new equity to strengthen their capital in an attempt to weather the debt crisis (!).


Now the stock market is only down 29% in Greece this year.

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Finland Proposes A Holding Company for Greek Assets: Not Fun Being A Greek; This Has Gone Way Over The Limit

Finland is now proposing a Luxembourg-based holding company for Greek assets to be used as collateral for Greek loans.

The proposal requires Greece to transfer assets to the company operating under Luxembourg law.

The privatization agency of Greece will own all shares in the holding company.

In the event of Greek default, ownership of the shares would transfer to member states.

One can only say: Yikes, if you are Greek. This is just way too much.

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Greece 1 Year Bonds Reach 60%: Caput

Does anyone still believe Greece will not default?

And they kept throwing tax payer after tax payer money over there.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Up 1%, Down 2% In Minutes: The Markets Are Crazy

Up 1% in a few minutes, then down 2% in a few minutes. This is not only bizarre, but  ridiculous.

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Brazilian Unemployment Drops to 6.0%; Real Income Rises

Brazilian unemployment rate, calculated by the IBGE (Brazilian Statistics Institute), in the six main metropolitan regions was 6.0% in July, from 6.2% in June. The result was at the lower range of the range of estimates of analysts surveyed by AE Projections, ranging from 6.0% to 6.4% with a median of 6.2%.

The average real income of workers registered positive growth of 2.2% in July compared to June and increased 4.0% compared to July last year.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

CME Raises Margin Requirements For Gold Again

From Marketwatch: The CME Group Inc., the parent company of the main metals and energy exchanges in the U.S., today announced a 27% increase in margin requirements to trade gold.

 Initial margin requirements rose to $9,450 from $7,425 per 100-ounce contract; maintenance margin requirements rose to $7,000 from $5,500, both effective as of the close of trading on Thursday.

The CME had increased margins for gold two weeks ago.

Gold dropped record amount today.

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The World's 10 Most Powerful Women

According to Forbes, for 2011:

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Ford Kills CD Players: Gone Like the Dodo, or the Cassette Players

Surprising? Not at all. Ford is removing the CD player from the Ford Focus in Europe. In the era of  MP3s and wireless, they will soon disappear from all cars, gbe lie the cassete players.
The players will be repalced by USB and iPod ports, auxiliary input and Bluetooth. The CD Player will still be an option for customers, likely for a short time that is.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Friday's Much Awaited Fed Speech: Bernanke is Not the Tooth Fairy

Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher declared yesterdat that Ben Bernanke is "not the tooth fairy,".

The suggestion here is that the Fed chief won't use his widely awaited saviour  speech on Friday to extend new monetary stimulus.

"His job is not to leave presents under the pillow of people who have desires that may not be easily fulfilled,"  "Our job is to put things right in the long term."

Asked about the speech in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Fisher said "You'll learn when you hear him speak. Ben Bernanke's not the tooth fairy."

"Now they know they can put off an expense because the cost of borrowing will be held at a very low rate for two years,"  "I just think it's not an incentive, it's a disincentive."
Fisher said that the Fed has already given the economy plenty of gas, and that the real reason that the economy is not growing faster than it is is because of "dysfunctional government."

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Gadaffi Going Down: Bad For Companies From China, Russia, And Brazil

Bad news for PetroBras (PBR) and Odebrecht (construction).

"We don't have a problem with western countries like Italians, French and UK companies. But we may have some political issues with Russia, China and Brazil," Abdeljalil Mayouf, information manager at Libyan rebel oil firm AGOCO.

 The comment signals the potential for a major setback for Russia, China and Brazil, becuase they opposed tough sanctions on Gaddafi or pressed for more talks.

It could mean a loss of billions of dollars worth of oil exploration and construction contracts in the African nation.

Gaddafi's fall will reopen the doors to the country with Africa's largest oil reserves. New players such as Qatar's national oil company and trading house Vitol are set to compete with established European and U.S. majors.

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ECB Buys $20B in European Bonds

The ECB, European Central Bank, spent 14.3 billion Eurs, about U.S. $20.6 billion, last week buying government bonds.

"European officials want the eurozone's bailout fund to take over the purchases, but national parliaments will not give their approval to that move until this fall. That has left the central bank with the main burden of fighting off market turmoil." (AP)

Last week it had been 22 billion ($32 billion).

Buying Italian and Spanish bonds on financial markets has driven down borrowing rates that were threatening those two countries with financial ruin.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Citi and JPM Cut U.S. GDP Forecast to 1% From 2.5%, And 0.5% In 2012 Q1

As if things could not get any worse: Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. have cut their U.S. growth forecasts.

Bloomberg: "Gross domestic product will grow 1 percent in the fourth quarter rather than the 2.5 percent previously forecast and 0.5 percent in the first quarter of 2012 instead of 1.5 percent, JPMorgan said in a note e-mailed to clients today. Citigroup cut its 2011 growth forecast to 1.6 percent from 1.7 percent and lowered its projection for next year to 2.1 percent from 2.7 percent, according to a note to clients dated yesterday"

“The next four quarters we don’t see growth that is much faster than the growth that took place in the first half of this year,” said Michael Feroli, JPMorgan’s chief U.S. economist in New York. “Global growth has disappointed and foreign growth forecasts have been taken lower. Risks of a recession are clearly elevated.”

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European Markets Deep in The Red Again

As of 8AM:

Expect more of the same volatility today. A great buying oportunity at some point.

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Gold Goes Parabolic; ETFs Soar

Gold is jts shy of the $2k mark now.

Please see the 1 year chart:

The question is, until when? Like all things that go parabolic, they are due to crash down.

We track all gold ETFs live here. Impressive.

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Even More European Terrible News: Greece's GDP To Drop Deeply

As if Europeans needed more bad news. Here comes Greece again today announcing terrible GDP forecatss. What did the marekts expect with draconinn cuts?

Evangelos Venizelos, Greece's finance minister said on Friday that Greece's economy will shrink by over 4.5 percent this year, adding that a new bailout deal for the troubled euro zone member would not be completed before mid-October.

And a little side note to the "bailout": Finland secured a collateral on loans to Greece. Austria, the Netherlands and Slovakia said they wanted the same!

This severely complicates finalizing the bailout as the finance Minister said all bilateral decisions are up for approval by the other euro zone members and that "it would be a while before the new bailout negotiations are completed".

"We should not expect to be finished before the first or second week of October, because parliaments need to vote and banks to complete their own processes,"

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Euro and European Currency Now At the Edge of The Precipice

Former European Commission chief Jacques Delors: "The euro currency and the European Union each today stand "on the edge of the precipice,"

He described as worthless the proposals to reinforce cross-border economic governance made by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

"Open your eyes: the euro and Europe are on the edge of the precipice,"

"To avoid falling, the choice looks straightforward to me: either member states accept the robust economic partnership I always demanded, or they transfer more powers to the Union."

Delors said Merkel and Sarkozy were playing games by arguing for "a minimum amount of cooperation designed to limit any transfer of sovereignty" to Brussels.

Taken on that basis, the ideas for eurozone reform they put forward on Wednesday after a head-to-head in Paris "won't amount to a hill of beans."

He called for a "part-mutualisation" of eurozone member states' debts, "up to 60 percent of GDP," saying the pooling of guarantees on that basis would "put out the fire" on money markets.

"Right since the start of the crisis (when the true scale of Greece's financial troubles first emerged some 18 months ago), Europe's leaders have failed to see the reality in front of their eyes.

"How can they think the markets will believe their promises at the July 21 eurozone summit when they have to wait until the end of September for them to be put into action,"

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We Are a Hair Trigger Away From Economic Calamity.

Bart Chilton, CFTC Commissioner: We are "A Hair Trigger Away from Economic Calamity".

More at The Real News

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Markets Falling Off a Cliff; Inflation and Unemployment Rear Their Ugly Heads

The U.S. Labor Department said today that initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 408,000, whchc is above economists' expectations for a rise to 400,000.

In addition, the Consumer Price Index increased a whopping 0.5% in July, the largest gain since March. That was above economists' expectations for a 0.2 percent gain.

0.5% per month is equivalent to 6.16% per year, annualized.

The markets are reacting accordingly.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Outstanding Student Debt Soars, While New Grad Salaries Drops to $27K

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York says that outstanding student debt has climbed a whopping 25 percent since 2008.

It s now $550 billion! All other types of consumer debt, including mortgage debt, credit card debt, auto loans and home equity loans, are lower today than it was in the fall of 2008.

The even wrose news is that the loans aren't being paid on time. In Q2 2011, the rate of student loans that were more than 90 days past due rose from 10.6% to 11.2%.
The Huffington Post says that experts have warned for years that "a bubble may be developing in higher education, as students take out loans to pay for tuition and then find themselves hamstrung by debt and unable to find a job once out of school.

The problems of student-loan delinquency and default are only expected to get worse. Salaries and employment rates for recent college graduates have dropped: The median starting salary for a member of the class of 2009 or 2010 is only $27,000, down from $30,000 a couple of years ago. A recent report from Moody's Analytics predicted that over the next few years, "many students will be unable to service their loans as income growth falls short of borrowers' expectations."

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Europe Says NO to Eurobonds

Germany's Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble made it very clear:

"I rule out eurobonds for as long as member states conduct their own financial policies and we need different rates of interest in order that there are possible incentives and sanctions to enforce fiscal solidity."

Eurobonds require unanimous approval.

"German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy rejected an expansion of the 440 billion-euro ($633 billion) rescue fund and rebuffed calls for joint euro borrowing to end the debt crisis, saying greater economic integration was needed first".

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Germany's GDP Slows and Misses Forecasts, Battle To Weaken The Currency Continues

All eyes today are on the meetig between Merkel and Sarkozy, how much more of worthless bonds will they buy, and so on.

In the meantime, in real news, Germany's gross domestic product expanded just 0.1% for the period April-June, from the previous quarter.

The forecasts was for 0.5%.

Germany grew at a slower pace than than really weakeend countries like Spain (+0.2 percent).

The Euro can't stay at these lofty levels for much longer. The battle for weakening of the currencies continues.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

The ECB Bends To Politicians: Ridiculed and At Risk; Europe's Bad Bank

Der Spiegel has a harsh article on the European Central Bank today: "Critics have come to ridicule the ECB as "Europe's biggest bad bank," and the reputation of ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet has also suffered. Indeed, even some of Trichet's close companions believe he has become all too eager to bend to political will".

Former ECB chief economist Otmar Issing criticized the bank for considering an amendment to its "no bail-out" clause. Doing so, he wrote, would be "a move on a slippery road to a regime of fiscal indiscipline drowning hitherto solid countries in the morass of over-indebtedness."

The ECB has launched the greatest purchasing of government debt in its history, shaking the already fragile foundations of Europe's monetary union. "But it's not just the stability of the euro that's at stake; it's also the credibility of the very institution charged with preserving its value".

"When the ECB was founded 13 years ago, it was meant to be a European version of Germany's Bundesbank and the heir to its steadfast principles: The sole duty of central bankers is to maintain price stability while remaining politically independent. And their supreme task is to deny the government access to the money printers. Indeed, things at Europe's central bank were supposed to go just like they did under Karl Otto Pöhl and Helmut Schlesinger, the legendary pair of Bundesbank presidents who served between 1980 and 1993 and primarily solidified their reputations by being able to say "no" at the crucial moment".

That is not the case.

The Euro was supposed to unite the Continent but is now threatening to split it apart with the worst fissures running straight through the ECB itself.

"Trichet and his colleagues from heavily indebted countries in southern Europe favor a massive effort to purchase sovereign state bonds. But the head of the Bundesbank and his colleagues from the EU's "net payer" countries, such as Luxembourg and the Netherlands, believe that would be a major mistake because they fear it would only trigger inflation". [Der Spiegel]

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Google Pays $12.5B For Motorola's Cell Phone Business - And Its Patents

Well, it's a huge move but not uneexpexted. Motorola had embraced Android. Now that was a smart move. The recent multibillion dollar deal or Nortel patents was a wake-up call too.

Google, ticker GOOG on the NYSE, and Motorola Mobility Holdings, MMI, have just announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Google will acquire Motorola Mobility for $40.00 per share in cash, or a total of about $12.5 billion.

That is a premium of 63% to the closing price of Motorola Mobility shares on Friday.

"The acquisition of Motorola Mobility, a dedicated Android partner, will enable Google to supercharge the Android ecosystem and will enhance competition in mobile computing. Motorola Mobility will remain a licensee of Android and Android will remain open. Google will run Motorola Mobility as a separate business."
Larry Page: “Motorola Mobility’s total commitment to Android has created a natural fit for our two companies. Together, we will create amazing user experiences that supercharge the entire Android ecosystem for the benefit of consumers, partners and developers. I look forward to welcoming Motorolans to our family of Googlers.”

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Brazil's Reserves Exceed U.S.$350B For The First Time

Brazilian international reserves were up $ 1.588 billion on Wednesday, rising to a total of $ 350.881 billion, a new all-time record.

The increase reflects, among other things, the purchase of U.S. dollars held by BC on August 8 and the oscillation of the market value of the assets comprising the reserves, as titles of U.S. debt.

According to Fabio Kanczuk, economics professor at the University of Sao Paulo, by maintaining the strategy of accumulation of international reserves, Brazil has chosen the most expensive insurance that exists. He said the actual amount kept for 12 months, the cost of the reserves would approach $ 35 billion per year. "The cost of carrying this money is very high, but there is some usefulness to go against the appreciation of the real," he acknowledges.

Kanczuk says the high cost of maintaining reserves is explained by the need for government to borrow in dollars - paying Selic interest rates of 12.5% a year - to buy dollars and invest them in U.S. government securities that pays rates close to 2% in the ten-year notes. The difference between the two rates - about ten percentage points - is funded by the National Treasury of Brazil.

"It's very expensive to pay a bill of at least $ 35 billion. The strategy is quite questionable because there is a moment that, despite increasing the volume of reserves, the benefit of having such insurance does not rise" says Professor of USP. Kanczuk recognizes, however, that the strategy has at least one very positive today. "It was useful to hold the Real appreciation, and from now on, if the crisis worsens, Brazil will have more cash, for example, to lend U.S dolalrs to companies. For this purpose, the strategy may make sense,"

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France Does It And Bans Short Selling of Banks; How Well Did That Work?

Now they have done it. AFter denying it, they banned short selling of certain beaten up banks. How well did that work in the U.S.?
"The Chairman of the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), acting in accordance with Article L. 421-16 II of the Monetary and Financial Code, has decided to place a ban on creating any net short position or increasing any existing net short position, including intraday, by any person established or residing in France or in another country, in the equity shares or securities giving access to the capital of the following credit institutions and insurance companies:

  • April Group
  • Axa
  • BNP Paribas
  • CIC
  • CNP Assurances
  • Crédit Agricole
  • Euler Hermès
  • Natixis
  • Paris Ré
  • Scor
  • Société Générale
This decision shall enter into force as soon as it is published on this AMF website as from 22.45 today and shall remain in effect for a period of fifteen days. It may be extended beyond that date pursuant to the conditions provided in the aforementioned Article L. 421-16 II".

Note that: " This decision does not apply to financial intermediaries acting as market makers or liquidity providers when they are operating under a contract with the relevant market undertaking or with the issuer concerned, or when acting as counterparty for block trades in equities".

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

France Market Sinking Again This Morning

At 8:30AM today:

Thees make up the CAC 40 index which you can track on Yahoo.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Yen All the Way Back Where It Was, Bank of Japan Wastes Intervention

Take a look at the Yen, via FXY ETF:

The Japanese must not be happy at having wasted billions and billlions of dollars last week. Not good for Japanese exporters!

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Markets Tumble Again, Now It's France's Emergency

One really had to wondered who on earth would be buying stocks yesterday to create that silly rally.

Things are reversing today as Nicolas Sarkozy interrupted his vacation with wife Carlan Bruni on the French Riviera to hold an emergency government meeting on the debt crisis.

He will meet Wednesday with the prime minister, who also quit his own vacation, in Italy, and finance and budget ministers (don't know where they were vacatining), as well as the French central bank chief.

"...the  eurozone debt crisis continues, fuelled by fears that Spain or Italy might default on their debt and possibly spark a break-up of the currency shared by 17 countries.

EU leaders are trying to implement a July 21 agreement aimed at beefing up the euro's defences. But many of the measures need national parliamentary approval and that process that could drag on to the end of the year in some cases".

"The debt crisis has turned public deficits into a major issue in the run-up to next year's presidential election in France, which has not produced a balanced budget in three decades.

France is often cited as as a possible candidate for losing the coveted top credit rating after the United States, which Standard & Poor's last week stripped of its its AAA status.

But the government has been insisting that it will meet its deficit reduction targets, even if interest payments on France's public debt are set to be the biggest expense for the state this year". (report)

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Rogoff: Fed Will Move Aggressively, More QE

Global markets continue to plunge and oscillate wildly today. Expect more fireworks in the afternoon: The Fed is scheduled to release a statement at about 2:15 p.m.

Harvard University economist Kenneth Rogoff, who attended graduate school with Ben Bernanke, says the Federal Reserve will likely start a third round of large-scale asset purchases, moving “more decisively to secure the U.S. recovery".

No wondering gold keeps skyrocketing.

“They certainly should do something right away,” “hard to know” if Bernanke would immediately be able to gain the support of Federal Open Market Committee members.

“Out-of-the-box policies are called for, especially much more aggressive monetary policy, however unpopular that may be,” "The Fed is “going to move more decisively,”.

The Bloomberg reports says that Rogoff recommended the Fed say in “very clear statements” that it’s trying to create “moderate inflation.” “In the classic classroom QE, it’s open-ended,” Rogoff said. “You say, ‘I’m trying to create inflation of, let’s say 2 or 3 percent, and I’m going to do whatever it takes.’”

The Fed should also avoid repeating that officials are trying to boost stocks, Rogoff calls that a “bad idea.”

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Are The Markets Imploding?

Nobody can say this was unexpected.

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

The U.S. Rating Downgrade: Financial Earthquake

Stunning? You bet! Unexpected, not at all.

The lowering of the ratings of the U.S. treasuries by Standard & Poors (S&P), could now lead to an earthquake in global financial markets, the consequences not at first measurable. This is an unprecedented event in the history of financial crisis. The U.S. Treasury bond no longer posseses top ratings, a privileges held by only a  handful of countries (Germany, Canada, Switzerland, Holland, Austria, etc.). 
The loss of an "A" in the ratings means there some risk of default, and thus, many institutions now cannot keep Treasuries in its portfolio. These are central banks, pension funds, insurance companies and conservative funds. Treasuries also come as security (collateral) in repurchase other debt. The problem is that there's nothing to replace them. This suggests that the entire market must now adapt to a new situation. In addition, many institutions will not begin the operation of exchange of financial assets right away and will wait for another agency to do the same first.
Either way, the dollar will lose value relative to gold and other currencies. Whenever this happens, commodities (especially oil and food) price increases, as they generally set in dollars. Strong inflationary forces can be seen, possibly only lowered by a drop in demand caused by recession. 
A massive rejection of Treasuries will increase your income (yield), because less money will buy the same title, which pays fixed interest. Whenever this happens, conditions are established for higher interest rates. 
We must now see how the Federal Reserve, which recently warned that a lowering of the quality of U.S. debt would be "unacceptable and unsustainable." will react. They meet on Tuesday. QE3 on the way? Currency wars to escalate?

In the meantime, G7 leaders once again state that they will whatever it takes". Seriously? 

(Based on O Estado de Sao Paulo, Sunday edition)

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Markets Melting Badly: IWM Straddles Soaring +100%

IWM are still my prefereed straddles:

FXY were bought in the middle of the upside and onside, so in no man's land right now.

Also, sold QQQ Aug puts but bought half back in QQQ september puts, as well as XLF calls. Now we just wait and see.

Note: Please do your own due diligence. This is not advice. Options are very dangerous and may cause 100% loss. Computed with StraddlesCalc Tool

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

U.S. Employers Planned Job Cuts Surge 60%

U.S. employers announced plans to cut 66,414 positions from their payrolls during July, surging 60% from June, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. (WSJ)

The new figures are the highest level since March 20l0 and reflect numerous layoff plans by major employers.

Challenger Chief Executive John Challenger: "July marks the third consecutive increase we have seen in monthly job-cut announcements, which certainly seems to provide additional evidence that the recovery has stalled,"
It was also the first time in seven months that the government didn't represent the biggest portion of job cuts.

There were layoff announcements from companies such as Merck & Co. (MRK), Borders Group Inc. (BGPIQ), Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO), Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) and Boston Scientific Corp. (BSX), accounting for about 57% of the July total.

Employers have announced 8% fewer job cuts this year, compared with 339,353 planned layoffs in the first seven months of 2010.

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Monday, August 1, 2011

HSBC To Cut 30K Jobs

Shocked once again, but not surprised.

That is right, 30,000 jobs to be axed!

HSBC Holdings said it is slashing around 30,000 jobs to cut costs and revamp its business. It will withdraw from some countries and refocus its operations on high-growth markets.

5,000 jobs are already under the axe in the U.S., U.K., France, Latin America and Middle East, around 25,000 further roles will be cut between now and 2013.
"HSBC made the announcement as it reported flat first-half revenue of $35.7 billion, with weakness in Europe and its Global Banking & Markets division offsetting double-digit percentage revenue growth in Hong Kong, the rest of Asia Pacific and Latin America.

The group revenue figure, comparing with around $35.5 billion in the first half of 2010, was better than analyst expectations of $34.5 billion". (WSJ)

We track top financial stocks live here.

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