Monday, August 29, 2011

CPF interest rate for Ordinary Account stays at 2.5%

SINGAPORE: The Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board said members will continue to receive an interest rate of 2.5 per cent on their Ordinary Account savings from 1 October 2011 to 31 December 2011.

This is despite the computed CPF interest rate, derived from the major local banks' interest rates from 1 May 2011 to 31 July 2011, working out to 0.36 per cent per annum.

Members will also continue to receive an extra 1 per cent interest on the first $60,000 of their combined balances, with up to $20,000 from the Ordinary Account.

The extra interest from the Ordinary Account will go into the member's Special or Retirement Account to enhance retirement savings.

Please check if it is as accordance to your retirement plan through this article.

SBS Transit appointed Downtown Line operator

SINGAPORE: SBS Transit Limited has been appointed the new operator for Downtown Line, Singapore's fifth Mass Rapid Transit line.

When completed by 2017, the Downtown Line's 34 stations are expected to serve about half a million commuters daily.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) says the Downtown Line is the first rail line put up for competitive tender under the new rail financing framework LTA adopted in 2010.

Among other things, the licence period for the appointed operator is shorter - about 15 years, down from the existing 30 to 40 years.

And the LTA will own the rail operating assets and be responsible for timely replacements and enhancements.

In the case of the Downtown Line, the licence period is about 15 years from full completion in 2017, a few years after Downtown Line Stage One's targeted opening in 2013.

The LTA says the shorter duration will encourage efficiency through competition, as other operators may bid at the end of the licence term.

The appointed Downtown Line operator, SBS Transit Limited, will pay an annual licence charge over a 19-year licence period.

This payment is expected to reach an estimated total of S$1.6 billion at the end of the 19 years.

The payment will be placed in a Railway Sinking Fund to be managed by LTA to meet future expenditures on operating assets.

The LTA says the two local public transport operators, SBS Transit Limited and SMRT Trains Limited, both submitted competitive proposals to operate the Downtown Line.

It says SBS Transit Limited was picked after careful consideration.

SBS Transit is about 75 percent-owned by Singapore's biggest bus and taxi operator, ComfortDelGro.

The Downtown Line project was announced in 2005. It was later described as a major challenge.

LTA's project engineer, Darren Lau, had said: "The Downtown Line is currently one of the most challenging rail projects in Singapore, as it passes through varied soil conditions along the stretch. In certain areas like Bukit Timah, we even had to resort to using explosives to break up the granite rocks."

The Downtown Line was initially a five-station extension to the Circle Line. Known as Downtown Extension - running between Millenia Station and ending at Chinatown Station on the North East Line - it was expected to cost some S$1.4 billion and be completed by 2012.

But in 2007, the government approved S$12 billion worth of plans to add more than 40 kilometres to the existing mass rapid system.

The aim is to raise the number of those commuting by public transport to 70 per cent by 2020.

The Downtown Line will now have 34 stations in all - constructed over three phases.

Stage One involved the stations of the original Downtown Extension, running 4.3 kilometres from Chinatown to Bugis.

Work on Stage Two started in 2009, covering 12 underground stations over 16.6 kilometres.

When completed in 2015, Downtown Line 2 will run from Bukit Panjang, along the Bukit Timah Corridor and terminate at Rochor Station, where passengers can connect at Bugis.

The final 21-kilometre stretch of Downtown Line 3 will link the Singapore EXPO Convention and Exhibition Centre in the east to Bukit Panjang, with a loop through Marina Bay.

Personal View: This will more or less cause a upswing for the stock ComfortDelGro, do keep a lookout for it.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

How Long Will My Retirement Savings Last?

I'm 64 and plan to retire next April. I have $160,000 saved. How much lifetime income can I expect to draw from my savings? -- Mike W.
Have you ever heard the joke about the accountant who is asked how much two plus two is? His response: "How much do you want it to be?"

Well, there are many possible answers to your question, too.

The amount of income you can expect to receive from your $160,000 stash can vary significantly depending on a number of factors, many of which you can control and many of which you can't. Indeed, how long you'll live and what sort of gains you'll earn on your savings are beyond your control.

Even if you knew the average return you would earn on your savings throughout retirement, you still couldn't know exactly how much lifetime income you could get. When you're drawing money from a portfolio, the pattern of returns, not the average, determines how long your savings will last.

So if you draw the same amount of money each month from two portfolios that earn an identical annualized return of, say 6%, over the next 30 years, but one suffers big losses early in retirement and recovers down the road while the other zooms to big gains at first and stumbles later on, the portfolio with the early losses will run out of money sooner.

The reason is that the combination of lousy initial returns plus withdrawals can deplete your nest egg so badly that there's not enough capital remaining for the portfolio to adequately recover — even when the markets turn around.

Given this sort of inherent uncertainty, how can a retiree arrive at a balance between pulling enough dough out of savings to live on without taking too much risk too soon?

You've got a number of choices. One is to manage the process yourself.

The key to this strategy is to start with a withdrawal rate that gives you a high level of confidence that you'll be able to increase your withdrawal amount annually based on inflation for at least 30 or so years — in your case, into your mid-90s.

Toward that end, many advisers recommend that you follow the "4% rule." For you, that would mean withdrawing 4% of your $160,000, or $6,400, the first year of retirement and then boosting it each year.

If inflation runs at say, 3% a year, your second withdrawal would be roughly $6,600, the third about $6,800 and so on. The advantage to this approach is that research shows you have roughly 80% to 90% odds of your money lasting 30 or more years.

But the 4% rule also has its downsides. One is that you can still run out of money, especially if you get hit with losses early in retirement. Another is that you might find it difficult to live on just 4% of your savings (although, of course, you'll also have CPF and possibly a pension if you're expecting one from an old employer).

A less obvious risk is that if the financial markets perform decently, limiting yourself to an inflation-adjusted 4% could leave you with a big pile of savings late in life, which means you could have lived larger earlier in retirement.

The way to avoid these issues is to adjust the amount you withdraw along the way, taking less if your portfolio has taken a hit and more if it's ballooning in value.

Of course, you could also consider other withdrawal rates. For example, Maryland financial planner Michael Kitces has done research showing that you may be able to safely go to a higher initial withdrawal rate, say, 5% or more, if you're starting out when the stock market is undervalued and thus more likely to earn above-average returns going ahead.

Similarly, Minneapolis financial planner Jonathan Guyton and retirement-planning software developer William Klinger have done computerized simulations showing that a retirement portfolio has a high probability of lasting 40 years even with an inflation-adjusted initial withdrawal rate of just over 5%, provided you strictly follow a series of "decision rules" that call for you to adjust your withdrawals throughout retirement based on your investment performance.

If you want to take some of the guesswork out of the process, a good way to generate guaranteed income in retirement is to buy an immediate annuity.

To set up an immediate annuity, you hand over a portion of your savings to an insurer (or, far more common, to an investment firm selling annuities for the insurer) that then issues you a monthly check for life, the size of which depends on your age and the prevailing level of interest rates. Today, for example, a 65-year-old man might receive roughly $580 a month.

If you want income that will rise with inflation, you can get an immediate annuity that is linked with the consumer price index, or CPI. But you'll start with a payment closer to $400. (To see how much you might receive at different ages and for different sums, click here. and contact me now)

A couple words of caution about annuities, however. When you buy an annuity you are betting that the insurer will be able to make payments for many years into the future. There is no 100% guarantee that insurer will be able to meet those obligations, but there are ways to protect yourself.

Also, I strongly recommend that you don't put your entire retirement stash into an annuity, as you are typically giving up access to the money you invest. That means the cash won't be available for emergencies or other expenses, which is why I think it's a good idea to consider a hybrid strategy that combines the assured income of an annuity with draws from a portfolio of stocks and bond funds that can provide liquidity and some long-term growth.

Whichever way you decide to go, it's important that you monitor your progress and be prepared to make adjustments to stay on track.

Online tools can help. With my Retirement Calculator, for example, you can estimate how long your savings might last with different withdrawal rates and investing strategies.

If you feel as if all of this is a bit much for you, consult an adviser. Just try to find one with an open mind — not someone whose main mission is to sell annuities nor someone so ideologically opposed to annuities that he wouldn't even consider including one in a retirement income plan.

The bottom line, though, is that if you start making withdrawals at a sensible level and remain willing to make occasional adjustments, you'll be doing everything you need to do to make that $160,000 go as far as it can.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Europe’s Failure to Solve Bank Crisis Returns to Haunt Markets

Aug. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Four years to the month since the global credit crisis began, European lenders remain dependent on central bank aid, plaguing markets and economies worldwide.

Emergency steps such as unlimited loans from the European Central Bank are keeping many banks in Greece, Portugal, Italy and Spain solvent and greasing the lending of others, while low interest rates and debt-buying are containing borrowing costs. Such aid is needed as concerns about slowing economic growth and sovereign debt prompt banks to curb lending, stockpile dollars and hoard cash in safe havens. 

“I’m not sleeping at night,” said Charles Wyplosz, director of the Geneva-based International Center for Money and Banking Studies. “We have moved into a new phase of crisis.” 

Central bankers rescued financial firms after the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in 2008 by providing limitless funding of as long as a year. While they treated the symptom --a lack of ready cash -- politicians, regulators and bankers in Europe have proved unable to cure the root cause: some European lenders are at growing risk of insolvency. 

The tremors, the biggest since Lehman’s collapse, were triggered by European governments’ continuing inability to stop the sovereign debt crisis from spreading beyond Greece, Portugal and Ireland to question the Italy and Spain. Renewed signs of economic weakness globally and the downgrading of U.S. debt by Standard & Poor’s rekindled concern about the quality of all government debt. 

Bank Stocks Tumble 

The signs of distress are widespread and mounting: Banks deposited 105.9 billion euros ($152 billion) with the ECB overnight on Aug. 19, almost three times this year’s average, rather than lending the money to other lenders. The premium European banks pay to borrow in dollars through the swaps market increased yesterday for a fourth straight day. 

European bank stocks have sunk 22 percent this month, led by Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc and Societe Generale SA. Edinburgh-based RBS, Britain’s biggest government-controlled lender, has tumbled 45 percent, and Paris-based Societe Generale, France’s second-largest bank, dropped 39 percent. 

The extra yield investors demand to buy bank bonds instead of benchmark government debt surged to 298 basis points on Aug. 19, or 2.98 percentage points, the highest since July 2009, data compiled by Bank of America Merrill Lynch show. The cost of insuring that debt against default surged to a record yesterday. The Markit iTraxx Financial Index linked to senior debt of 25 European banks and insurers rose to 250 basis points, compared with 149 when Lehman collapsed. 

Greek Default Concern
It was the specter of government debt turning toxic that has revived the liquidity crisis policy makers had tried to stop in 2008. As speculation grew that European banks would have to write down their holdings of more governments’ debt after a Greek default, lenders pulled funding to those banks that held the most peripheral debt. It also raised concern European governments would struggle to afford a further bail out of their banks, because both the state and the lenders had failed to reduce their borrowings since the onset of the crisis. 

“The debt has been transferred from the banks to the sovereign, but it hasn’t actually been eradicated,” said Gary Greenwood, a banking analyst at Shore Capital in Liverpool. “Until the sovereigns get their balance sheets in order, then these concerns are going to remain.” 

Funding markets have seized up as investors speculate that sovereign debt writedowns are inevitable. Banks in the region hold 98.2 billion euros of Greek sovereign debt, 317 billion euros of Italian government debt and about 280 billion euros of Spanish bonds, according to European Banking Authority data. 


The difference between the three-month euro interbank offered rate, or Euribor, and the overnight indexed swap rate, a measure of banks’ reluctance to lend to each other, was at 0.67 percentage point on Aug. 22, within 3 basis points of the widest spread since May 2009. 

“The central bank is the only clearer left to settle funds between banks,” said Christoph Rieger, head of fixed-income strategy at Commerzbank AG in Frankfurt. “There is a mistrust between banks in general, between regions and with dollar providers overall.” 

Overseas banks operating in the U.S. may have cut dollar holdings by as much as $300 billion in the past four weeks as European banks faced a squeeze on funding and sought dollars, Jens Nordvig, a managing director of currency research at Nomura Holdings Inc. in New York said Aug. 18. Dollar assets declined by about 38 percent to $550 billion in the period, he said. 

‘More Nervous’ 

“Banks are becoming more nervous about being exposed to other banks as they hoard liquidity and become more suspicious of other banks’ balance sheets,” Guillaume Tiberghien, analyst at Exane BNP Paribas, wrote in a note to clients on Aug. 19. 

By contrast, banks in the U.S. are “flush” with liquidity, loan loss reserves and capital, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analyst Richard Ramsden wrote in an Aug. 6 report. Large commercial banks combined holdings of cash and securities at large have climbed to 30 percent of managed assets, up from 22 percent at the start of the U.S. financial crisis in October 2007, Ramsden wrote, citing Federal Reserve data. 

The Federal Reserve, which provided as much as $1.2 trillion of loans to banks in December 2008, wound down most of its emergency programs by early 2010. One of the few exceptions was the central-bank liquidity swap lines that provide dollars to the ECB and other central banks so they can in turn auction off the dollars to banks in their own jurisdictions. 

Trichet, Bernanke 

Banks’ woes are again thrusting central bankers to the fore as ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet joins Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and their counterparts from around the world in traveling this week to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for the Kansas City Fed’s annual policy symposium. 

After increasing its benchmark rate twice this year to counter inflation, the ECB this month provided relief for banks by buying Italian and Spanish bonds for the first time, lending unlimited funds for six months, and providing one unnamed bank with dollars to satisfy the first such request since February. 

In doing so, it’s maintaining a role it began in August 2007 when it injected cash into markets after they began to freeze. 

Coming to the rescue isn’t easy for the ECB. Its balance sheet is now 73 percent bigger than in August 2007 and its latest bond-buying opened it to accusations that by rescuing profligate nations it’s breaking a rule of the euro’s founding treaty and undermining its credibility. Policy makers are also divided over the best course of action, with Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann among those opposing the bond program. 

Economic Threat 

The central bank is acting in part because governments have yet to ratify a plan to extend the scope of a 440-billion euro rescue facility to allow it to buy bonds and inject capital into banks. Markets tumbled last week on concern policy makers aren’t acting fast enough. 

The funding difficulties of banks was one reason cited by Morgan Stanley economists Aug. 17 for cutting their forecast for euro-area economic growth this year to 0.5 percent next year, less than half the 1.2 percent previously anticipated. They now expect the ECB to reverse this year’s rate increases, returning its benchmark to 1 percent by the end of next year. 

The economic threat is greater in Europe because consumers and companies are more reliant on banks for funding than their U.S. counterparts, said Tobias Blattner, a former ECB economist now at Daiwa Capital Markets Europe in London. He says the ECB should eventually try to hand over fire-fighting duties either to governments, who would then inject capital into financial firms, or national central banks, who could provide short-term loans to lenders. 

Longer-term solutions may involve the restructuring the debt of cash-strapped nations in a way that doesn’t roil bank balance sheets, potentially in lockstep with a European version of the U.S.’s Troubled Asset Relief Program. 

Lena Komileva, Group-of-10 strategy head at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. in London, said the central bank may have no option but to extend the backstop role it is playing for periphery banks to lenders elsewhere. Refusal to do so would risk a European bank default by the end of the year, she said. 

“Markets are back in uncharted territory,” said Komileva. “The crisis is a whole new story now.”

Monday, August 22, 2011

10 cancer signals

FOR some women, cancer comes hand-in-hand with another syndrome: denial. They may not want to face the reality that they have cancer, or may not want to go through treatment because they think they are doomed to death anyway.

In some cases, denial starts early on at the symptom stage, because they may not even want to consider that it could be cancer at all.

When women neglect to pay attention to cancer symptoms out of denial, fear or ignorance, they could be missing out on a valuable opportunity to detect cancer and treat it early.

Since there are so many different types of cancers that could affect us, the symptoms vary widely between different conditions and different people as well. There are also many instances where cancers do not produce symptoms at all, or symptoms only appear at late stages.

However, we can easily identify about 10 symptoms that should immediately send up warning flags in our minds and prompt us to seek medical advice. These symptoms can be easily mistaken for other conditions or as benign symptoms, but you shouldn't be so quick to shrug them off without proper medical advice.

I will explain each of these 10 symptoms below.

#1: Unexplained weight loss

Say you haven't been exercising more than usual lately, or have not even been exercising at all. Or you haven't gone on a diet and have been eating the amounts that you usually do. Yet you've been steadily losing a significant amount of weight, for instance 4kg or 5kg within a month.

This kind of unexplained weight loss is not necessarily a reason to be happy. It could be a sign of cancer, especially cancer of the colon or other parts of the digestive system.

You should see your doctor and provide as much details as possible about when you began losing weight and how much you have lost. Your doctor will conduct some tests to rule out an overactive thyroid and ask you to undergo CT scans to look at your internal organs.

#2: Bloating

Bloating is something that most women have become used to. We experience bloating at some point or other in our lives, whether due to PMS, water retention, or indigestion.

If you start to experience bloating that is unusual and not related to your menstrual cycle, you should start to pay close attention to what's happening. Are you so bloated that your jeans, trousers or skirts can't fit? Did it appear suddenly and is now occurring regularly over a few weeks?

Is the bloating accompanied by pain or tenderness in the abdomen or pelvis? Do you constantly feel full and unable to eat, even though you haven't eaten much?

All these signs have been known to occur in women with ovarian cancer. If you experience any of the above, it would be wise to see a doctor to check your ovaries because this type of cancer is difficult to detect in the early stages.

If you are able to catch it early, your chances of a better outcome are higher.

#3: Unusual bleeding

Any instance of vaginal bleeding that is out of the ordinary should be cause for concern. As a woman, you should know your body and your monthly cycle well enough to be familiar with when you should bleed, how much bleeding you experience, and how you feel.

Basically, you should not ignore any bleeding that is abnormal from what you normally have. If you have very regular cycles, but suddenly experience bleeding or spotting between periods, then it is abnormal.

If you usually have light flows, but suddenly have heavy and painful periods, then you should also have it checked out.

Other symptoms that may accompany unusual bleeding are unpleasant odours or discharge, bleeding after intercourse or blood in the urine. All these types of unusual bleeding should be checked out because they could be signs of cervical or uterine cancers.

Bleeding may also originate from the gastrointestinal tract or parts of the urinary system, such as the bladder or kidney.

If you discover blood in your urine or your stool, it could be due to a number of things, such as haemorrhoids, or blood from the vagina. But it could also be a sign of bladder, kidney or colorectal cancer, so you should see a doctor to rule these out.

Bladder, kidney or colon cancer can also trigger symptoms like changes in bowel and bladder habits. You should be concerned if you develop unusual bowel and bladder movements, such as continual constipation, diarrhoea or stomach aches. More frequent urination, or pain during urination or during a bowel movement, are also worrying signs.

Finally, if you cough up blood more than once, you should also get medical advice.

#4: Breast changes

The breasts hold a lot of clues for women. We've been told countless times that we need to know our breasts intimately and examine them once a month for lumps and other changes within the breasts, on the surface of the skin, as well as on and around the nipples.

Redness and thickening of the skin on the breasts should be looked at immediately as this could indicate inflammatory breast cancer, which is a very rare but aggressive form of breast cancer. A rash, flaking of the skin, or itchiness that persists over weeks should also be examined.

Changes to the skin surface may also include swelling, dimples, puckerings or rough spots.
Observe your nipples as well and look for changes in appearance that are not normal. If your nipples suddenly start producing discharge (if you aren't breastfeeding), become flattened, or turn in or out (contrary to what it usually is), it is best to see your doctor or gynaecologist.

#5: Skin changes

Changes in your skin texture, warts, moles or pigmentation, are well-known signs of skin cancer.
Melanoma is a common type of skin cancer and has symptoms like spots on your skin that have unusual changes in colour, size, shape or border. If certain spots on your skin appear to be funny-looking or different from your usual skin pigmentation, get it checked out.

Look out for moles or warts that change, such as growing excessively, sprouting hair, or changing colour or shape. Be wary if you suddenly develop bleeding on your skin or excessive scaling too.

Observe the changes for one or two weeks, and if they persist, see your family doctor or a skin specialist.

#6: Difficulty swallowing and constant indigestion

Have you found it difficult to swallow your food lately? If you feel as if food is always caught in your throat when you eat, take note of this, as it could be a symptom of oesophageal or throat cancer.

Repetitive indigestion, not linked to pregnancy or any other apparent reason, is also a red flag. If you constantly feel nauseous, discomfort or a burning feeling in your upper abdomen, or vomit blood, you could be showing early signs of oesophageal, stomach or throat cancer.

#7: Persistent pain, fever or cough

These are three of the most vague and common symptoms that accompany many illnesses. It is extremely difficult to pinpoint them to cancer or any particular condition, but they are also not to be ignored or neglected.

Unexplained pain, in any part of the body, may point to some cancers. If it persists over a period of time, and cannot be attributed to any obvious physical wounds or conditions, then you should see your doctor and describe it in as much detail as possible.

Take note of when the pain arises, what kind of pain it is, and what exacerbates it.

A fever is often a sign of an infection, like influenza or some other viral or bacterial infection, but it can also point to certain types of cancer. The American Cancer Society says that fever is one of the symptoms that occur with early blood cancers such as leukaemia or lymphoma.

Of course, you do not have to run to your doctor in fear every time you have a fever. The point is that unexplained and prolonged fever needs to be examined, not ignored.

A very prolonged cough (one that lasts more than three or four weeks) that is unrelated to a cold or influenza, should also be noted. If lung cancer is suspected, especially if you are a smoker, your doctor should examine your throat, check your lung functioning and ask for X-rays.

#8: Swollen lymph nodes

Your lymph nodes are found in the sides of your neck, under your armpits, and around the groin area. Usually, they may become mildly swollen if you have an infection, and will subside once the infection has been treated or healed.

However, if the lymph nodes get progressively larger for more than a month, or develop lumps that do not go away, and are not related to a treatable infection, then the concern may be that it is linked to cancer, such as blood and lymphatic cancers.

#9: Mouth changes and sores

If you smoke or used to, you should look out for signs of oral cancer. Symptoms include white patches in the mucosa of the mouth, white spots on the tongue, or sores on the lips or in the mouth.

Other sores on the skin and genital area that won't heal, or cause excessive bruising or bleeding, should also be examined by a doctor.

#10: Fatigue and weakness

Finally, we come to the last potential symptom of cancer that is most commonly ignored - fatigue. Obviously, fatigue is such an everyday symptom of so many conditions that we cannot jump to the conclusion that it must be caused by cancer.

However, fatigue caused by cancer will probably be unlike the usual tiredness that you experience after a long day at work. It may plague you even when you have had sufficient rest or have not exerted yourself. It will be prolonged, unabated by rest, and may be accompanied by unexplained weakness.

You will realise that the 10 signs and symptoms described above are very subtle and vague indications of a problem. It is not easy to distinguish symptoms of cancer, and you should not work yourself up into a panic just because you suddenly have a mole on your arm or you are feeling a little tired.

Just keep in mind that if these symptoms persist, or appear without due cause, then it is a good idea to discuss your concerns with your doctor. It could be nothing, but it could also save your life.

Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar is a consultant obstetrician & gynaecologist (FRCOG, UK). The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dollar up from historic low against yen

TOKYO: The dollar clawed back ground against the yen on Monday after hitting a historic low last week, as Tokyo upped its rhetoric over the domestic unit and indicated its willingness to intervene to stem its rise.

The dollar firmed to 76.62 yen in Tokyo morning trade from 76.50 yen in New York late Friday, after the greenback fell to a post-war low of 75.95.

The euro eased to $1.4380 from $1.4398. The European common currency was almost flat at 110.18 yen against 110.15 yen.

The dollar's slump on Friday beat its previous post-World War II low of 76.25, which it reached days after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami hit Japan.

The Japanese currency, seen as a safe-haven unit together with the Swiss franc, have attracted purchases amid deepening concern about faltering growth in the United States and the eurozone's debt crisis, dealers said.

Against the Swiss unit, the greenback firmed to 0.7866 francs from 0.7849 in New York.

The Swiss currency strengthened to 1.1308 per euro, compared with 1.1381 francs late Friday in Tokyo.

Local media reported over the weekend that Japanese authorities are ready to take action against a further surge in the yen, including market intervention to sell the unit.

The reports said the Japanese central bank is also considering further monetary easing.

Because a strong yen hurts Japanese exporters leading the nation's recovery from the impact of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, Japan stepped into the foreign exchange market earlier this month to sell yen and buy dollars.

Tokyo has previously signalled that it may do so again.

Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda stepped up his rhetoric Monday against the yen's rise. "I'm worried that recent one-sided yen moves have been strengthening," Noda said, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

"I will take decisive actions if necessary without excluding any possible measures, while watching even more closely if there are any speculative movements," he told reporters.

"Investors remain jittery following media reports about the authorities' possible countermeasures," against the strong yen, said Tomohiro Ishikawa, dealer at Chuo Mitsui Trust and Banking.

"While they are cautious about the Japanese authorities' stance, the dollar's underlying weakness is unlikely to be reversed" ahead of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's speech later this week, Ishikawa said.

The dollar came under renewed pressure after the Fed pledged earlier this month to hold interest rates near zero for two more years to counter an economy facing increased risks of stalling.

With attention on Bernanke's speech at the Fed's annual symposium in Jackson Hole Friday, Credit Agricole said it believes "there is currently a high hurdle for QE3 and therefore another measure to promote stronger economic recovery is more likely."

Oil markets mixed as traders keep watch on Libyan rebel offensive

SINGAPORE: Oil prices were mixed in early Asian trade Monday as rebels seized parts of Libya's capital and the fate of leader Muammar Gaddafi hung in the balance.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for September delivery, was up 82 cents to $83.08 a barrel from Friday's close in New York and Brent North Sea crude for October delivery dropped $1.59 to $107.03.

Traders are keeping a close watch on the unravelling events in Tripoli as rebels surged into the Libyan capital in a sudden final drive to oust Gaddafi, arresting his son, Seif al-Islam and seizing parts of the capital including the symbolic Green Square.

However, senior rebel figure Mahmud Jibril said there were still pockets of resistance in and around Tripoli and warned his forces to be cautious.

"The fight is not over yet," he said on rebel television Al-Ahrar. "God willing, in few hours our victory will be complete."

US President Barack Obama backed the rebel effort in a statement warning that Gaddafi's "iron fist" regime had reached a "tipping point" and the Libyan "tyrant" must leave to avoid further bloodshed.

Mr Obama also called on Libyan rebels who have surged into Tripoli to respect human rights, show leadership, preserve the institutions of the Libyan state and move towards democracy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Man United to list IPO in S'pore by end-2011

English Premier League football champions Manchester United plans an initial public offering in Singapore by the end of the year, depending on market conditions,

IFR reported on Tuesday, citing a source with direct knowledge of the plans.

With more than 190 million fans in Asia, out of nearly 300 million around the world, the region has become an important growth area for the team.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Wall Street extends gains but caution persists

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks rose for a third day on Monday as investors bought shares whose prices have been beaten down in recent weeks and as news of U.S. deals lifted sentiment.
Weeks of volatility have battered the S&P 500, which is down 12.6 percent since its April 29 highs.

"The market has become what technicians call oversold a week or so ago, and we're seeing a bit of a bounce from those levels," said Kevin Caron, market strategist at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co in Florham Park, New Jersey.

While the overall trend should remain lower, levels of volume, volatility, breadth and sentiment were signaling a bounce, said John Kosar, director of research at Asbury Research in Chicago.
"Until those extremes get unwound, the market is likely to carry a bid for the near terms," Kosar said.

Volume was at 4.84 billion shares in afternoon trading, which was below the average last week.
Among the day's biggest gainers, Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc jumped 56 percent to $38.18 on Google Inc's offer to buy the company for about $12.5 billion in cash. Google dropped 2.2 percent to $551.43.

U.S.-traded shares of other companies in the cell phone sector rose, possibly on speculation they also may be takeover targets. Blackberry maker Research in Motion rose 7 percent to $26.44 and Nokia jumped 14.55 percent to $6.14

Among top-performing sectors, the S&P financial index rose 2.4 percent. Shares of Bank of America Corp shot up 7.5 percent to $7.73 after it said it plans to sell its credit card business in Canada to TD Bank Group, part of a plan to shed assets.

Shares of Lowes Cos Inc were up 0.2 percent at $19.55 after reported weaker-than-expected quarterly sales and cut its fiscal-year outlook for the second time in three months.

A meeting on Tuesday by French and German political leaders was expected to result in initiatives needed to restore confidence in credit and other markets.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 150.72 points, or 1.34 percent, at 11,419.74. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 17.60 points, or 1.49 percent, at 1,196.41. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 24.53 points, or 0.98 percent, at 2,532.51.

Thomas Villalta, portfolio manager for Jones Villalta Asset Management in Austin, Texas, said the deal news shows a certain confidence in the market.
But he expects volatility to remain in the market.

"Europe has been extraordinarily slow in taking any sort of decisive action to improve perceptions ... that means to me we could have volatility through the end of the quarter."

The CBOE Volatility Index, the market's fear gauge, was down 9.7 percent, but remained above the key 30 level.

In other deal news, world No. 1 oil drilling contractor Transocean is paying double the market price for Aker Drilling to refresh its aging fleet of Norwegian drilling rigs and boost flagging orders. Transocean shares were up 2.8 percent at $57.14 in New York.
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