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Updated: 7 months 1 week ago

Data Show China Passing U.S. as Biggest Oil Importer

Thu, 10/10/2013 - 9:46am
(BEIJING) — China has achieved another world-beating status its leaders don’t want: Biggest oil importer. China passed the United States in September as the world’s biggest net oil importer, driven by faster economic growth and strong auto sales, according to U.S. government data released this week. Chinese oil consumption outstripped production by 6.3 million barrels per day, which indicates the country had to import that much to fill the gap, the Energy Information Administration said this week. “China’s steady growth in oil demand has led it to become the world’s largest net oil importer, exceeding the United States in September 2013,’” the agency said in a report. “EIA forecasts this trend to continue through 2014.” China’s economic boom has raised incomes and increased its global influence. But it also has spurred demand for imported oil and gas, which communist leaders see as a strategic weakness. Rising auto ownership has left China’s cities choking on smog and added to pressure on Beijing from its own public to curb pollution and from other nations to rein in surging greenhouse gas emissions. The United States, with a population about one-third the size of China’s, still consumes far more oil per person than China does. In September, Americans used 18.6 million barrels per day of oil and other liquid fossil fuels, while China used 10.9 million, according to the EIA’s Short-Term Energy Outlook. U.S. production was 12.5 million barrels per day, while that of China was 4.6 million. China’s economy, the world’s second-largest, is cooling but still is forecast to grow by nearly 8 percent this year, well above forecasts for the U.S. The Chinese auto market, the biggest by number of vehicles sold, also is cooling but sales still rose by 11 percent in August. Beijing is encouraging development of wind and solar power and use of autos powered by batteries or natural gas. But gasoline is expected to remain the country’s main vehicle fuel in coming decades. The government has launched initiatives to improve China’s energy intensity, or the energy consumed for
Categories: Financial News

Why Hewlett-Packard Suddenly Doesn’t Look So Bad

Thu, 10/10/2013 - 9:40am
Finally, a glimmer of hope for troubled titan Hewlett-Packard. The Silicon Valley pioneer offered an upbeat outlook Wednesday that cheered Wall Street investors, who pushed H.P.’s stock price up nearly 9% on hopes that the company is finally making progress in its multi-year turnaround effort. H.P. CEO Meg Whitman, who has repeatedly said that it will take five years to right the ship at the tech giant, told analysts that the turnaround is broadly on track. She said she expects revenue to “stabilize” next year, before accelerating in 2015. Whitman’s encouraging comments came after she spooked investors in August by warning that H.P. could fall short of its growth goals for 2014. “While there is a lot more work to be done, I am confident about the progress we are making,” Whitman said in a statement. “We’re producing tangible results, strengthening our balance sheet and delivering innovative products across all our key segments. We are implementing the changes needed to support our multi-year turnaround journey, reaffirm HP’s leadership position, and create enduring value for customers as well as for our shareholders.” She said that by 2016, analysts can expect to see an “industry-leading company.” (MORE: Two Years After Steve Jobs’ Death, Is Apple a Different Company?) Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy cited by Reuters, praised Whitman’s remarks. “Most of the comments were about growth opportunities rather than fixing holes in the ship,” said Moorhead, who attended Wednesday’s analyst meeting. “Investors like that.” In a technology industry evolving rapidly, major corporate turnarounds are extremely challenging. Even as a tech giant seeks to address its problems, rivals are pressing forward. In short, it’s very difficult to play catch-up, and some industry observers have questioned whether Whitman will be able to make it happen. A former CEO of online auction giant eBay, Whitman was named H.P. CEO in September 2011. The company’s stock has lost about half of its value since 2010. H.P. is one of the most storied firms in Silicon Valley history. The company’s legendary founders, Bill Hewlett
Categories: Financial News

U.S. Shutdown Disrupts NSA Transparency Case, Review Groups

Thu, 10/10/2013 - 9:32am
The U.S. government shutdown has closed large portions of the federal apparatus and forced hundreds of thousands of workers to stay home. Another consequence of the shutdown? A high-profile legal battle over transparency between the largest Internet companies in the U.S. and the federal government has come to a standstill, because Justice Department lawyers assigned to the case are prohibited from working. Meanwhile, two ostensibly independent government investigations into the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs have also been disrupted. The five-member Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, which was set up in the wake of blockbuster revelations supplied by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, has had its staff furloughed, according to a report in Politico. Another federal oversight group, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, had to postpone a key hearing because “a significant number of witnesses” were unable to appear because the shutdown, Politico reported. In the transparency case, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo and LinkedIn, have filed briefs with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) for permission to disclose statistics about the nature and scope of government requests made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The Justice Department has formally opposed their request. The tech companies had been facing a deadline of Oct. 21 to respond, but that was before the government shutdown. (MORE: Tech Titans Poised for Showdown With Justice Department Over NSA) Earlier this week, in an unusual move, the tech companies and the Justice Department filed a joint motion with the FISC asking for a delay in the case. “Absent an appropriation, Department of Justice attorneys and employees are prohibited from continuing to work, even on a voluntary basis, except in very limited circumstances, including ‘emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property,’” according to the brief. During the shutdown, Justice Department lawyers are prohibited from discussing a key request from the tech companies about whether their lawyers can access classified information contained in the government’s brief. On Tuesday, the FISC granted the motion for a delay in the proceedings, as a result of the government
Categories: Financial News

Shell: New Leaks Close Major Nigerian Oil Pipeline

Thu, 10/10/2013 - 9:00am
(LAGOS, Nigeria) — Shell Nigeria says new leaks have forced it to close the Trans-Niger Pipeline that carries 150,000 barrels of crude daily, 10 days after the pipeline was reopened following repairs for leaks. Spokesman Precious Okolobo said in a statement Wednesday night that a team has been dispatched to repair leaks at three places in the southern Niger Delta’s Ogoniland. A joint investigation including community leaders will determine the cause and impact of the spills. Shell Nigeria said in July the pipeline is safe despite suffering 25 leaks in two years — most blamed on theft estimated at 60,000 barrels a day. Human rights groups say the company sometimes blames theft to avoid paying damages to local communities and to avert criticism about corrosion on the 48-year-old pipeline.
Categories: Financial News

U.S. Jobless Claims Jump to 374,000 Due to Backlog

Thu, 10/10/2013 - 8:57am
(WASHINGTON) — The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits jumped by 66,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 374,000. But the spike was largely because California processed a huge backlog of claims and the partial government shutdown prompted some companies to cut jobs. The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average rose 20,000 to 325,000. The sharp increase in both the weekly figures and the four-week average comes after applications hovered near a 6-year low the previous week. A government spokesman said that about half the weekly increase occurred in California, where officials processed applications that were delayed several weeks by a computer upgrade. One-quarter of the increase reflected applications from employees at government contractors and other workers affected by the shutdown. Applications are a proxy for layoffs. Before last week, they had declined steadily over the past three months. That’s a sign companies are cutting fewer workers. “The broader picture is still that labor market conditions are improving, albeit not quite as much as we previously thought,” Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics, said. Federal workers temporarily laid off by the shutdown may also file for benefits. But their numbers are reported separately and published a week later than the other applications. Lockheed Martin said Monday that it is furloughing about 2,400 employees. That’s lower than the 3,000 employees the company initially said it would furlough because Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has recalled most of the Pentagon’s civilian employees to work. Falling applications are typically followed by more hiring. But there aren’t any signs that that has happened yet. Instead, job gains have slowed in recent months. It’s not clear if hiring trends changed last month. The government was unable to issue the September employment report because of the shutdown. However, last week payroll provider ADP said businesses added just 166,000 jobs in September, evidence that hiring remains sluggish. The ADP figures usually diverge from the government’s more comprehensive employment report. Analysts forecast that the economy was growing slowly before the shutdown. They
Categories: Financial News

Men’s Warehouse Rejects Takeover Bid

Thu, 10/10/2013 - 6:52am
Men’s Warehouse doesn’t like the way Jos. A. Bank thinks it looks. Jos. A. Bank, the men’s clothing giant with 500 stores across the U.S. and more than $1 billion in revenue last year, offered $2.3 billion on Wednesday in an unsolicited takeover bid for its closest rival, Men’s Warehouse. In a statement, Men’s Warehouse quickly swatted the bid away, calling an “opportunistic” one that undervalued the company, Bloomberg reports. After rejecting the offer, Men’s Warehouse’s board adopted a shareholder rights plan as a takeover defense. The plan, which is good for one year, allows investors to buy Men’s Warehouse stock at a discounted price when someone acquires more than 10 percent of the company’s common stock in a transaction not approved by the board. Men’s Warehouse made headlines in June when the board removed the company’s founder and pitchman George Zimmer, who starred in the company’s commercials since the mid 1980s, with his famous catchphrase: “You’re gonna like the way you look.” [Bloomberg]
Categories: Financial News

Killer Holiday Shopping Tips From the King of Bargains

Thu, 10/10/2013 - 4:45am
Before blowing money unnecessarily in the shopping-crazed days ahead, consider the deal-finding wisdom of Mark Ellwood, author of the new book Bargain Fever: How to Shop in a Discounted World. In the Q&A that follows, Ellwood explains, among other things, why he hates shopping on Black Friday, why it’s unwise to be purchasing holiday gifts now, why in today’s retail environment it’s never, ever necessary to pay full price for anything—and why it’s probably even worse to get duped into buying something that’s “on sale” and yet still way overpriced. Like your book says, we live in a “discounted world,” in which it’s more difficult than ever to tell what’s a bargain because everything is constantly on sale. Which retailers are the worst offenders in terms of posting the most unrealistic high original prices—which seem to exist only so that the discounts can seem more impressive? Can you name some names? Mark Ellwood: I’ll be happy to name and shame the naughty discount inflaters, though I feel for them, given the pressure of the new retail world. Kohl’s, for instance. A Los Angeles judge ruled in favor of a discount-minded plaintiff who brought a suit against Kohl’s when he found out his suitcase wasn’t exactly the 50% off its $299.99 price tag implied. But that wasn’t the only, well, case. Poor J.C. Penney committed retail hara kiri by excising sales during the fleeting tenure of its CEO Ron Johnson, who had a snooty disdain for discounts and everyday shoppers that would shame Marie Antoinette. Then when it finally reintroduced the idea of a markdown, the firm was caught padding its promotions to make those discounts look heftier. How did no one at its HQ assume that JCP would be under even greater scrutiny in the few months after his exit? Frankly, though, were I to nominate a few charter members of the discount Hall of Shame, it would be outlet mall stores – especially those of department store brands. They’re not exactly artificially inflating prices, but these retailers try every
Categories: Financial News

Buying a Car Online Is About to Get Way Easier

Thu, 10/10/2013 - 4:45am
Though online shopping has become ubiquitous in recent years, buying a new car remains a distinctly retro experience. However, a new initiative by General Motors may eventually make a visit to the local car dealership obsolete. Throughout the year GM has been quietly piloting a new online service through which people can buy cars from local dealers via the Internet. The initiative, dubbed Shop-Click-Drive, is currently being tested with around 100 dealers around the country. Through the website, customers can browse new cars, obtain pricing quotes, select add-on features, apply for financing and confirm a purchase. The dealers will even deliver the new car to a customer’s driveway. The program, which has generated 900 car sales so far, will be available to all 4,300 GM dealers in the U.S. by the end of the year. “There are some dealers out there who are Internet savvy and enable consumers to do a lot of the experience online,” says Ryndee Carney, manager of cross-brand communications for GM. “What’s different about Shop-Click-Drive is that consumers can virtually complete the whole transaction online all in one place.” (MORE: Automakers Don’t Have Enough Cars to Keep Up With Buyers) Ninety-four percent of consumers globally research cars online before they buy, and about a third would be willing to buy a car over the Internet, according to an annual survey by consulting firm Capgemini. GM says their online initiative is particularly aimed at attracting Millennials, who spend much of their time online and are driving less than their predecessors. Purchases of cars by young people took a particularly hard hit following the recession but recovered somewhat in 2012, when Millennials bought more than 1.2 million new cars, according to data from auto research firm Polk. A push to online sales could help encourage even more young people to become car owners. “This sort of evolution of use of the web in the industry has been going on for quite a while,” says Tom Libby, a senior forecasting analyst at Polk. “It’s in a seller’s best interest
Categories: Financial News

151 Passengers + 0 Working Toilets = 1 More Grounding for Boeing’s Dreamliner

Thu, 10/10/2013 - 1:42am
The launch of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, a model of fuel efficiency, has been marred by production delays, glitches, and worst of all a battery fire that forced an international grounding. To top it all off, one plane en route from Moscow to Tokyo had to take a U-turn late Wednesday night, because the toilets on the plane “became unable to be used,” as a spokesman for Japan Airlines delicately put it. To put it less delicately, the toilets wouldn’t flush. The plane, carrying 151 passengers and crew members and an unspecified number of inoperable toilets, landed in Moscow two hours after take-off. “The device to heat meals also had a problem,” the spokesman added. [Sydney Morning Herald]
Categories: Financial News

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