Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A U.S. judge has cleared the way for consumers to sue Target Corp

English: Logo of Target, US-based retail chain
English: Logo of Target, US-based retail chain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A U.S. judge has cleared the way for consumers to sue Target Corp over the retailer's late 2013 data breach that they say compromised their personal financial information.
U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Thursday dismissed claims by plaintiffs in certain states but largely denied Target's request to toss the proposed class action lawsuit.
Magnuson rejected Target's argument that the consumers lacked standing to sue because they could not establish any injury.
"Plaintiffs' allegations plausibly allege that they suffered injuries that are 'fairly traceable' to Target's conduct," Magnuson wrote.
Neither a Target spokeswoman nor a lawyer for the plaintiffs responded to request for comment.
Target has said at least 40 million credit cards were compromised in the breach, which may have resulted in the theft of as many as 110 million people's personal information, such as email addresses and phone numbers.
The ruling followed a similar decision by Magnuson earlier this month allowing banks to move forward with a lawsuit to recoup money they spent reimbursing fraudulent charges and issuing new credit and debit cards because of the breach.

Thursday's ruling pertained to consumers who used their credit or debit cards at Target during the period of the breach and had their information compromised, causing them unauthorized charges, lost account access, fees and credit monitoring costs.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Royal Bank of Canada has added HCE to their mobile app

English: The Montreal head office of the Royal...
English: The Montreal head office of the Royal Bank of Canada is the Place Ville-Marie's largest tenant (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Royal Bank of Canada has added HCE to their mobile app, allowing customers with an NFC-enabled Android phone to pay for items in-store via mobile.
HCE allows clients to use any near field communication (NFC) enabled Android phone to pay at the point of sale with the RBC Mobile app anywhere in the world. RBS is the first North American financial institution to develop a solution of this kind, at the end of a year that has seen a serious boost to mobile payments.
The bank is testing the solution with a group of RBC employees, who will be able to pay using their RBC Interact Debit card. Visa and MasterCard will be added in due course, the company said.
“We are committed to providing our clients with the most innovative, convenient and secure solutions to pay how they want, when they want – HCE is a critical step,” said Linda Mantia, executive vice-president of Digital, Payments and Cards at RBC in a release. “HCE makes RBC Secure Cloud mobile payments even easier to use.”

Monday, December 29, 2014

Amazon staff at German warehouses extended a strike

Amazon staff at German warehouses extended a strike on Wednesday in a long-running dispute over better pay and conditions, but the online retailer promised it would be able to deliver Christmas orders on time.
Labour union Verdi launched a three-day strike on Monday at five of Amazon's nine distribution centers in Germany, adding a sixth warehouse from Tuesday, with more than 2,600 workers involved in the industrial action on Wednesday.
Verdi said in a statement that workers at four of those centers had decided to continue their strike until Saturday and employees at the Graben warehouse would strike until Dec. 24.
An Amazon spokeswoman said the company had not seen any delays so far and had actually extended the deadline for customers to get gifts in time for Dec. 24 by normal delivery until midday on Dec. 22 from midnight on Dec. 21.
"We keep our customer promises," she said.
Amazon said only a minority of staff had joined the strike, with around 19,000 working normally.
The U.S. company employs almost 10,000 regular staff at its warehouses in Germany, its second-biggest market behind the United States, as well as more than 10,000 seasonal workers. It can also draw on 19 other warehouses across Europe.
Verdi has organized frequent strikes at Amazon since May 2013 as it seeks to force the retailer to raise pay for warehouse workers in accordance with collective bargaining agreements across Germany's mail order and retail industry.
Amazon has repeatedly rejected the union's demands, saying it regards warehouse staff as logistics workers and that they receive above-average pay by the standards of that industry.

The Verdi union said more than 1,000 Amazon workers had joined a rally in Koblenz on Wednesday, including employees from three other warehouses.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Leather Wallet Case line-up for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus

Designed for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the monochrome leather carriers come in casually elegant gray. We’ve not added another color – instead we’ve toned it down to create a striking desaturated wallet case line-up.
“We’re not adding a color to the line-up, we’re extracting it, choosing monochrome over color to create an astonishing looking desaturated cases.”
Remy Nagelmaeker (Co-Founder/Designer)
This is a natural extension to the overwhelming success of our iPhone 6 Wallet Case line-up, which attracted attention from the likes of Hypebeast, Cool Hunting, Forbes and more.
Designed to hold 2 to 3 of your essential cards without sacrificing its slender silhouette, these Leather Wallet Cases help eliminate bulky pockets. The leather card pocket, intricately stitched and marked by a slanted opening, provides convenient access to cards. Accessible ports and buttons mean the case stays on your phone when you need it most. Carry your iPhone 6 (Plus) and your essential cards in a sleek protective package.
The Desaturated Collection
The Desaturated Collection is defined by its lack of color, creating an exceptional gray tone that’s as bold as it is subtle. Toned down to create a monochrome that is a simple, yet stunning addition to your everyday life essentials. Restrained in style, contrast areas created by sleek lines intensify the understated design, while the desaturated gray tones amplify the sense of harmony.
Beautifully desaturated, signature leather
The Leather Wallet Cases are crafted from our signature high quality vegetable-tanned leather. For our Desaturated Collection, we relieved the leather of its color – toning it down, favoring monochrome to color. The highly acclaimed leather adds character to the case and is largely responsible for the success of the collections. Vegetable-tanned leather wears in with use and acquires a beautiful patina and polish over time, as it becomes part of your daily life.
The Desaturated Wallet Case line-up for iPhone 6 and 6 plus are now available for order at mujjo.com.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

English: The Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Mar...
English: The Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (www.wamm.org) presents Victoria, the nation's first legal medical marijuana plant. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Conservative government has lost its latest attempt to prevent medical marijuana users from growing pot at home, with the Federal Court of Appeal upholding an injunction that exempted patients from a massive overhaul of the system.
New rules were introduced earlier this year that prohibited home growing and instead shifted production to commercial operations, but a group of patients is challenging that regime in a case expected to be heard in the new year.
A Federal Court judge issued an injunction in the spring that allowed patients who were authorized to grow and possess marijuana under the old system to continue to do so until their case is resolved.
The government appealed, but the Appeal Court released a unanimous decision Monday upholding the injunction.
"It's very significant," Kirk Tousaw, a lawyer for the four plaintiffs in the case, said in an interview.
"The big fear was that if the government's appeal was successful, then all of these people who have been protected by the injunction could very well turn into criminals overnight."

Full trial set to begin in February

The previous medical marijuana regime, which was introduced in 2001, allowed patients to either grow their own pot, designate someone to grow it for them, or purchase it directly from Health Canada.
New regulations took effect this last spring that no longer allowed personal production and instead established a system of federally licensed commercial producers.
There are now 15 such operations selling medical cannabis.
The plaintiffs filed a constitutional challenge arguing the updated regulations violate their right to access important medicine, because commercial prices are considerably more expensive under the new system.
They also complained the commercial market wouldn't give them as much control over which strains of the drug they use.
The Federal Court trial is set to begin in February.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The last year has thrown the money transfer market into a state of flux. Online companies are challenging the near-monopoly held by a few firms and banks, putting the consumer back in control of their money with a greater focus on transparency.
High street banks and companies such as Western Union and MoneyGram have dominated the money transfer market for years, while charging hefty fees.
The existing fee structure is a problem for those sending remittances to friends and family abroad, especially migrant workers.
According to a 2014 World Bank report, the average transfer fee is around 8 per cent. But in some remittance corridors in Africa, the fee is over 20 per cent.
“Forcing migrant workers to pay as much as $50 to send $200 is wrong, especially when they are sending salaries they have earned in the hope of supporting their families back home,” the World Bank said in a report.
“There is a social cause here,” agreed Rajesh Agrawal, founder and CEO of money transfer company Xendpay.
Agrawal’s company claims to offer a competitive exchange rate by tacking consumer transfers onto the larger sums of money sent by corporations on its sister platform RationalFX. Customers are also asked to ‘pay what you like’ for the service.
“Nearly $500 billion is transferred abroad each year, 80 per cent of which goes to emerging markets. If transfer costs were brought down, an extra $40 billion would go to developing countries.”
“These days, with technology as it is, the actual cost of money transfer can be very small,” Agrawal added.
“But traditionally any money transfer company makes money from two things: the mark-up when changing money from one currency to another, and the fees charged for transferring it,” he said.
A lack of competition and transparency in the industry has meant migrant workers and holiday-makers alike have had no choice but to pay high fees.
But several online money transfer businesses such as Xendpay, Azimo, Transferwise and WorldRemit are disrupting the industry, offering a welcome alternative for those transferring money abroad.
Azimo predominantly serves migrant workers in the service industries, sending money back to Poland, Africa, Latin America and the Far East.
More than $500 billion dollars are sent in remittance worldwide every year, according to online money transfer company Azimo’s co-founder and head of operations Marta Krupinska. In 2016, remittances will rise to $700 billion, she added at last month’s The Future of Fintech is Now event.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

global health is an investment in developing countries’

It is easy to be discouraged about the state of international cooperation today, but global health remains an area in which the world has come together to do significant good. Over the last dozen years, international initiatives have delivered HIV/AIDS treatment to millions, expanded childhood immunization, and spurred a dramatic increase in global support for addressing other health challenges, from malaria to maternal health.
International support for global health is an investment in developing countries’ future prosperity and the wellbeing of their people. It is an investment that the world’s richest countries can well afford.
For example, the United States is the leading contributor of global health aid, which accounted for just 0.23% of US spending in 2013. The returns on that investment have been remarkable. Child mortality is plunging. Millions who would have otherwise perished from HIV/AIDS are still alive. Countries that were aid recipients are increasingly self-sufficient – and have become better trade and strategic partners as a result.
But the health needs of low- and middle-income countries are now shifting. Dramatic changes in urbanization, global trade, and consumer markets – which occurred over decades in wealthy countries – are happening at a faster rate, and at a much larger scale, in still-poor countries. These trends have brought substantial health benefits, such as better sanitation and increased food production, but have given rise to significant challenges as well.
Ebola is one high-profile example. Prior to this year, Ebola had killed fewer than 2,000 people, all in Central Africa, since it was first identified in 1976. The virus has killed more than three times that number in 2014, with enough cases spreading internationally to dominate nightly news broadcasts and spook voters in recent US state and local elections.
A major reason is the growth of small- and medium-size cities. Urbanization is increasing in West Africa at a rate of 3% per year (compared to 0.2% and 0.3%, respectively, in North America and Europe). The result has been the proliferation of settlements of a million people or fewer living with limited public-health infrastructure.
These cramped cities are ideal incubators for outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases like Ebola. With greater trade and travel to the region, outbreaks are likely to spread before international containment can coalesce.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Economic Cooperation and Development issued a report on inequality and economic growth.

Last week, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development issued a report on inequality and economic growth. The OECD, based in Paris, is the official think tank for rich countries. Its analysis concluded that the income gap between the poor and the middle class contributes to declining economic growth. The United Kingdom and the United States lost 6 percentage points to 9 percentage points of gross domestic product growth over the last two decades because of rising inequality, the report suggested.
OECD economist Federico Cingano also argued that “[r]edistribution policies via taxes and transfers are a key tool to ensure the benefits of growth are more broadly distributed.” Despite such recommendations, survey data from around the world show people are suspicious of taxes as a tool for greater equality. There’s good reason for skepticism: Existing tax and transfer systems across much of the developing world, in particular, have failed to take a dent out of inequality. If governments are going to help reduce the gap between rich and poor people and spur faster income growth for all, it isn’t just about raising more taxes, but raising the right kind of taxes and spending the proceeds well.
A recent global poll (PDF) by the Pew Research Center asked “What would do more to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor in our country? High taxes on the wealthy and corporations to fund programs that help the poor or low taxes on the wealthy and corporations to encourage investment and economic growth?” In most developed countries, the most popular answer was “higher taxes.” In the U.S. and U.K., 50 percent and 49 percent respectively backed higher taxes, compared to less than 40 percent, who suggested low taxes would reduce inequality.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Brazilian prosecutors said on Monday they had formally charged four more people

Brazilian prosecutors said on Monday they had formally charged four more people, including a former executive at state-run Petrobras (PETR4.SA)(PBR.N), in a widening probe into a kickback scheme that allegedly stole billions of dollars from the oil company.
The prosecutors said Nestor Cervero, the former head of Petrobras' distribution subsidiary, as well as lobbyist Fernando Soares and Julio Camargo of local contractor Toyo Setal funneled $40 million of kickbacks and accepted $13 million in bribes from Korean shipbuilder Samsung Heavy Industries (010140.KS).
The bribes helped secure a contract on a $586 million drillship off the coast of Africa and a similar scheme was repeated in the Gulf of Mexico, the prosecutors said in a statement.
Toyo Setal and Samsung Heavy Industries were not immediately available for comment. The companies themselves are not charged with any crimes.
The team of prosecutors in Parana state vowed to expand their investigation last week after accusing 36 people, including executives from six of Brazil's largest engineering firms, with forming a cartel to funnel kickbacks to the ruling Workers' Party and its allies.
Sources involved in the landmark investigation have said their probe could include the role of foreign companies in a scandal that has become the biggest crisis yet for President Dilma Rousseff's government and caused Petrobras to delay the publication of its earnings until next year.
Rousseff, who was the chair of Petrobras' board of directors from 2003 to 2010, when allegedly more than 10 billion reais ($3.9 billion) were transferred to her Workers' Party and allies, has denied any knowledge of the scheme or wrongdoing.
Cervero, who Petrobras fired in March, was indicted on charges of corruption and money laundering for alleged crimes committed between 2006 and 2012. The same prosecutors indicted Roberto Costa, another former executive at Petroleo Brasileiro SA, as the company is formally known, on Thursday.
Cervero was also Petrobras' international director when it purchased a Pasadena, Texas refinery which critics say it overpaid for.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Lehman Brothers seeking review of award to Barclays

Shearson Lehman/American Express Logo
Shearson Lehman/American Express Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The trustee handling the liquidation of the brokerage unit of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday seeking review of the business's cash assets awarded to Barclays Plc (BARC.L).
Lehman, once Wall Street's fourth-largest investment bank, had $639 billion of assets when it filed for Chapter 11 protection in September 2008. The British bank won court approval to buy much of Lehman's brokerage business.
Trustee James Giddens, who has been seeking to recoup money for the brokerage's creditors, said lower court rulings granting margin assets to Barclays breached bankruptcy rules.
Barclays declined to comment. The bank's shares closed down 3 percent on the London Stock Exchange on Monday.
A federal appeals court ruled in August that Barclays was entitled to about $6 billion of disputed assets.

These include $4 billion of margin assets held by third parties to support a Lehman exchange-traded derivatives business, and $1.9 billion of so-called clearance box assets used to process securities trades.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Lloyds Bank to introduce cheque imaging services

Parts of a cheque based on a UK example drawee...
Parts of a cheque based on a UK example drawee, the financial institution where the cheque can be presented for payment payee date of issue amount of currency drawer, the person or entity making the cheque signature of drawer Machine readable routing and account information (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Lloyds Bank has announced a pilot project to introduce cheque imaging services for its customers, ahead of a wider launch in 2015.
The scheme will allow customers to deposit funds via cheque by taking a photo on their smartphone. The payment can be as much as £2,500, and the bank intends for funds paid in this way to be cleared the same day, TechWeekEurope reported.
The new service stems from tie-up between Lloyds and small business support and advice network Smarta to launch their Business Toolbox for SMEs. This latest offering is part of a push to encourage more small businesses to start using digital services.
The Business Toolbox also features accounting and receipt management, as well as digital tools for building websites, online data backup and a credit-checking facility. Many small businesses are without the requisite knowledge of online financial services, research from the bank showed. Nine in ten businesses continue to use cheque payments, but the volume has started to decline in recent years.
Barclays estimate that customers fail to pay in up to £300, in cheques each year.
Barclays ran a successful trial of digital cheque imaging earlier this year, and a recommendation for digital cheque deposits in general was included in the government’s Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Apache Corp (APA.N) said on Monday it would sell its stakes in two liquefied natural gas projects, Wheatstone LNG in Australia and Kitimat LNG in Canada, to Australia's Woodside Petroleum Ltd (WPL.AX) for $2.75 billion.
Apache, under pressure from activist investor Jana Partners, said in July it planned to exit the two projects. The company is also evaluating a sale or spinoff of its international operations to focus on North American shale wells.
Woodside Petroleum, Australia's top oil and gas producer, said in August it was looking at potential acquisitions as companies such as Shell and Apache offload assets, amid worries about high costs and future prices.
Apache said it would sell its 13 percent stake in Wheatstone, majority-owned by Chevron Corp (CVX.N), and its 65 percent interest in the WA-49-L oil and gas block, located offshore western Australia.
The company is also selling its 50 percent stake in the Kitimat LNG project, a joint venture with Chevron, and related oil and gas assets in the Horn River and Liard natural gas basins in British Columbia, Canada.
Analysts expressed relief that Apache was able to strike a deal so soon in a time when crude prices have fallen more than 40 percent.
"This is a big win for Apache," analysts at Simmons & Co said in a note to clients. "Given the steep fall in oil prices, we were worried that it might take longer to close this deal.
Bernstein Research analyst Bob Brackett described the purchase $2.75 billion purchase price as "fair."
The deals are expected to close in the first quarter of 2015, the company said.

Apache will be reimbursed for its net spending on the two projects between June 30 this year and the closing date, which it estimated at $1 billion.

Friday, December 19, 2014

U.S. manufacturing output recorded its largest increase

U.S. manufacturing output recorded its largest increase in nine months in November as production expanded across the board, pointing to underlying strength in the economy.
Factory production increased 1.1 percent last month after an upwardly revised 0.4 percent advance in October, the Federal Reserve said on Monday.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast manufacturing output rising by only 0.5 percent in November after a previously reported 0.2 percent gain in October.
Mining output slipped 0.1 percent last month, while utilities production jumped 5.1 percent as a cold snap boosted demand for utilities.
The gain in manufacturing and utilities combined to lift overall industrial production by 1.3 percent in November, the largest gain since May 2010. October's industrial output was revised to show a 0.1 percent increase instead of the previously reported 0.1 percent dip.
The amount of manufacturing capacity in use rose to 78.4 percent last month from 77.6 percent in October.

Overall industrial capacity use increased to 80.1 percent, the highest since March 2008, from 79.3 percent in October.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

PayPal is expanding its lending services

English: Logo of PayPal. Español: Logotipo de ...
English: Logo of PayPal. Español: Logotipo de PayPal. Русский: Логотип системы PayPal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
PayPal is expanding its lending services ahead of the company’s separation from eBay next year.
PayPal’s lending programme has already advanced more than $200 million of loans to individuals and small businesses. The FT reported that executives are planning to push the service as the company readies itself for next year’s spin off from parent company eBay.
The payment processor’s merchant lending service, which launched last September and has since made more than 35,000 loans at a maximum of $60,000, is modest compared to competing start-up lenders. The company has offered loans to consumers for some time, and announced plans to buy an existing loan portfolio from GE Capital for $1 billion earlier this year.
Unlike competing services, PayPal does not plan to make money from its lending service, but will use it as another way to lure merchants into using PayPal over rival payment processors.
PayPal will face some serious competition in the payments arena in 2015, where its slightly older systems make it difficult to innovate quickly – not a problem that new start-ups face. However the company has a loyal consumer and merchant base, both of which may benefit from an expansion in its lending services.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Russia has revealed plans to launch a national payment card

The Central Bank of Russia has revealed plans to launch a national payment card that will both rival Visa and Mastercard and create more choice for consumers, according to the country’s officials.
The card, which is the first of its kind in Russia, will use technical infrastructure provided by one of the country’s existing payment systems, with Sberbank’s Pro100 and Zolotaya Korona both being considered as partners. The latter, which means “Golden Crown”, was developed by the Centre of Financial Technologies Group, based in Russia. The chosen operator will clear payments made within Russia using the national card system, but the card will also be valid for payments abroad.
The move was welcomed by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as a way of giving Russian consumers more choice. However, it has also been interpreted as a reaction to financial sanctions imposed by the US over the Ukraine crisis, which led to Visa and Mastercard blocking card operations by Rossiya and SMP banks. Both institutions have been blacklisted by the Obama administration due to close ties between their key shareholders and Russian President Vladimir Putin. In addition to competition created by the national payment card, new rules mean that Visa and Mastercard will have to place collateral deposits into special accounts created at Russia’s Central Bank in order to continue operating in the country.
The national payment card system operator is undergoing state registration,” said Elvira Nabiullina, the Central Bank’s chief. “We have a roadmap for infrastructure development and the Central Bank has set up a commission composed of MPs, senators and government members for finding technological solutions.”

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

system that converts over 40 percent of incoming sunlight into electricity

Solar researchers working at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) claim to have produced a system that converts over 40 percent of incoming sunlight into electricity, thereby taking the title of highest solar efficiency for a photovoltaic system ever reported.
The researchers first achieved their record efficiency in indoor tests in a facility in Sydney, Australia, and then had these achievements duplicated and ratified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) using an outdoor test facility in the United States.
"This is the highest efficiency ever reported for sunlight conversion into electricity," said UNSW Professor Professor Martin Green, Director of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP).
The record was achieved using a combination of technologies, including heliostat mirror "power tower" concentrators from Australian company RayGen Resources and high-efficiency photovoltaic (PV) cells from Boeing subsidiary, Spectrolab, but the key component to achieving such a high-efficiency was in the use of a specifically-designed optical bandpass filter used to reject certain components of the light spectrum whilst improving the capture of others. This helped to vastly improve the conversion of light to electricity at a higher efficiency than possible using PVs alone.
"The new results are based on the use of focused sunlight, and are particularly relevant to photovoltaic power towers being developed in Australia," said Professor Green.
"We used commercial solar cells, but in a new way, so these efficiency improvements are readily accessible to the solar industry," added Dr Mark Keevers, the UNSW solar scientist and manager of the project.
Whilst other focused sunlight solar energy systems like the CSIRO’s supercritical-steam set-up or the recent Ethiopian installation of the Tulip system have been shown to produce large amounts of energy, both use either water or hot air to drive turbines to produce electricity. The UNSW system, by comparison, is potentially a lot less complex, cheaper, and safer than such systems and, as a result, may be more readily incorporated in domestic and commercial situations.
The UNSW solar researchers have produced a large number of achievements in the field of solar energy in the past four decades, including the first photovoltaic system to achieve a conversion rate of sunlight to electricity of over 20 percent efficiency way back in 1989.
The UNSW solar energy research has been funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), whose CEO, Ivor Frischknecht, praised the recent achievement as another world first for Australian solar research and development and believes that it aptly demonstrates the value of investing in Australia’s renewable energy creativity.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Billions of dollars have flowed to New York state coffers

Billions of dollars have flowed to New York state coffers thanks to headline-grabbing settlements with global banks announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo and Benjamin Lawsky, New York's first superintendent of financial services.
But little attention has been focused on Daniel Alter, the 49-year-old legal mastermind behind many of the deals.
Sources close to the settlements describe Alter, general counsel at New York's Department of Financial Services (DFS), as instrumental to crafting strategies that leverage the three-year-old agency's unique powers to extract large and sometimes painful penalties from major banks.
For example, Alter wrote the order threatening to revoke Standard Chartered's (STAN.L) license to operate in New York, which paved the way for a $340 million settlement he helped negotiate with the British bank over transactions linked to Iran, sources said. That 2012 deal put the young agency on the map.
Alter also played a key role negotiating a $2.24 billion penalty for the state against BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA) for sanctions-related violations. That settlement included an unprecedented punishment that curbed the French bank's ability to clear U.S. dollars, a core service for clients, people familiar with the settlement said.
In the latest salvo against banks, the Yale Law School graduate pushed to install monitors in Barclays and Deutsche Bank, so the regulator could study possible manipulation of foreign exchange rates from the inside, one source said.
Those investigations are ongoing and could result in more hefty penalties.
Sources familiar with the matter say Alter may soon get a higher profile because he is being discussed as a possible replacement for Lawsky, who is said to be eyeing an early 2015 departure for the private sector.
A spokesman for the agency declined comment and said Alter was not available for an interview. A spokesman for Cuomo, who will appoint the next superintendent, did not return a call for comment.
A veteran of the New York legal scene, Alter was previously a high-level official at the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office and has made allies including Mary Jo White, now head of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and FBI director James Comey.
In 2010, Senator Charles Schumer recommended him to serve as a Manhattan federal judge, though he was not nominated. "His towering intellect is matched only by his staggering capacity for hard work," Comey, a former U.S. Attorney, and more than 60 others wrote in support.
Some adversaries have bristled at the agency's exercise of raw power, but many express grudging respect for Alter's legal acumen and say he has a warm personal style.
"He's a real straight-shooter," said Ted Mirvis, an attorney for Bank of America (BAC.N) who has sat across the table from Alter both while Alter was at DFS and when he did a stint at the New York attorney general's office. "He takes aggressive positions, but he's also willing to listen and exchange ideas."
Those who have worked with Alter say he is an expert at crafting new ways to use old laws. He came up with a legal hook to crack down on the consulting industry, notably during an investigation into whether Deloitte omitted critical information in its report to regulators on Standard Chartered's money laundering controls.
Alter was able to take advantage of his power to sign waivers that allow banks to share the information with consultants, according to a person familiar with the agency's operations.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Oil prices that reached a five-year low

Oil prices that reached a five-year low on Friday are starting to take a bite out of profits at TD Bank and are raising concerns for the rest of the country's top lenders.
Canada's biggest banks earn up to 20 per cent of their revenues through providing investment and corporate banking services, with oil and gas companies an important part of that client base.

But oil prices have tumbled roughly 35 per cent to under $70 a barrel from their mid-summer highs due to a strong U.S. dollar, low demand and a glut of global supply, and now TD Bank says it will have to look beyond the oilpatch to make up its investment banking revenue.
"With the current activity going on in oil pricing, it certainly is impacting activity levels in the business," Bob Dorrance, the head of TD's wholesale banking division, told investors during a conference call earlier this week after the bank reported its fourth quarter results.
"Things have slowed down."
Scotiabank was the last of Canada's five big banks to report its quarterly earnings this week, wrapping up a series of conference calls that were peppered with talk about falling oil prices.

Energy sector dragging down stocks

The energy sector — a major weight on the Toronto Stock Exchange — has taken a beating on the markets and has taken other stocks,  including those with indirect exposure to companies that produce crude, down with it.
While all of the country's top lenders reported substantial profits during the quarter, Canaccord Genuity analyst Gabriel Deschaine noted that lacklustre performance on the stock markets caused many of the banks to report weaker than expected revenues from their brokerage businesses.
Scotia Capital analyst Sumit Malhotra says roughly 30 per cent of the underwriting fees — fees from administering new issues on the stock markets — earned by Canada's six top banks this year came from the energy sector.
A drop in commodity prices could make resource companies less likely to make a public offering on the market, said Malhotra, pointing to Teine Energy as an example.
The Canadian oil and gas producer had been planning an initial public offering but a Bloomberg News report in October said the company delayed the debut due to the decline in oil prices.
"While we do not want to be too alarmist in this regard, it should be clear that the capital markets operations of the banks have played a key role in driving revenue and earnings growth for the Canadian banking sector in 2014, and any sustained period of weakness in the energy sector would be detrimental to activity levels going forward," Malhotra wrote in a note to clients.

Friday, December 12, 2014

McDonald's Corp (MCD.N) reported a steeper-than-expected fall

McDonald's Corp (MCD.N) reported a steeper-than-expected fall in global same-restaurant sales in November and said current-quarter results would be hurt by the after-effects of a supplier scandal in China and a stronger dollar.
McDonald's shares fell 3 percent premarket on Monday after the company also warned that weakening sales would "significantly pressure" margins in the quarter.
The world's largest restaurant chain has been battling competition from Wendy's Co (WEN.O) and Burger King Worldwide Inc (BKW.N) as well as from chains that use fresh ingredients such as Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc (CMG.N) and Subway.
Worldwide sales at restaurants open at least 13 months fell 2.2 percent in November. Analysts on average had estimated a decline of 1.7 percent, according to Consensus Metrix.
The company said the supplier scandal in China would reduce its profit for the quarter ending Dec. 31 by 7-10 cents per share.
McDonald's is working to lure back diners in China and Japan after a TV news expose showed workers using expired meat and doctoring food production dates. The scandal sent the company scrambling to find new sources for ingredients to make its popular Chicken McNuggets and Big Macs.
Same-restaurant sales were down 2 percent in Europe and down 4 percent in the Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa region.
Same-restaurant sales fell 4.6 percent in the United States, more than the average analyst estimate of a decline of 1.9 percent. McDonald's U.S. same-restaurant sales have not increased since October 2013.
The stronger dollar will hurt fourth-quarter profit by 7-9 cents per share, the company said.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Sudden swings in financial markets recently

English: Clockwise from top-left: Federal Rese...
English: Clockwise from top-left: Federal Reserve, Bank of England, European Central Bank, Bank of Canada (Note: Uploaded for use on Wikinews) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sudden swings in financial markets recently suggest they are becoming increasingly sensitive to unexpected events, the global organization of central banks said on Sunday, warning "more than a quantum of fragility" underlies the current bullish mood.
    MSCI's all-country world stock index is hovering around multi-year highs after rebounding from sell-offs in August and October.
    The downturns were triggered by uncertainty over the global economic outlook and monetary policy, as well as geopolitical tensions, and the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) said the sharp and sudden dips pointed to frailty in the markets.
    "These abrupt market movements (in October) were even more pronounced than similar developments in August, when a sudden correction in global financial markets was quickly succeeded by renewed buoyant market conditions," the BIS said in its quarterly review.
    "This suggests that more than a quantum of fragility underlies the current elevated mood in financial markets," it said, adding that recent developments suggest markets are becoming "increasingly fragile".
"Global equity markets plummeted in early August and mid-October. Mid-October's extreme intra-day price movements underscore how sensitive markets have become to even small surprises," it said in the report.
    The comments followed the organization's warning in September that financial asset prices were at "elevated" levels and market volatility remained "exceptionally subdued" thanks to ultra-loose monetary policies being implemented by central banks around the world.
    Since then, the U.S. Federal Reserve has brought its monthly bond-purchase program to an expected end. However, Japan's central bank has spurred global markets by expanding its massive stimulus spending while China unexpectedly cut interest rates, adding to stimulus measures from the European Central Bank.

    The BIS said these divergent monetary policies, coupled with the recent appreciation of the dollar, could have a "profound impact" on the global economy, particularly in emerging markets where many companies have large dollar-denominated liabilities.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Bell unveiled its debut in the content streaming

English: SVG version of the new Bell Canada lo...
English: SVG version of the new Bell Canada logo as of 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Bell unveiled its debut in the content streaming race on Wednesday with CraveTV, which the media conglomerate says isn't meant to replace cable television, but rather add to it.
Starting Dec. 11, CraveTV will be available to anyone who's currently a TV customer of Eastlink, TELUS Optik TV, Bell Fibe TV, Bell Aliant FibreOP TV and Bell Satellite TV at launch, with Northwestel and others coming on board later.
The service will cost $4 per month, on top of your cable bill. The service will be available immediately to cable TV subscribers via set-top box, but the company says they plan on rolling out new ways to watch, including mobile apps, access via video game console, and through select so-called "smart TVs" that can access the internet directly.
Executives at a launch event in Toronto were coy on the timing, but said they expect the service to be available to Rogers and Shaw television customers soon.
"We think this is a service their customers are going to be clamouring for," Bell Media president Kevin Crull said.
It will not, however, be available to anyone with just a high-speed Internet connection, meaning it's not an obvious alternative to so-called cord cutters who have left cable behind in favour of online-based content services.
That also likely means it's not a true rival to Netflix, the U.S.-based streaming service that has gobbled up customers in Canada by offering thousands of hours of TV shows and movies for a monthly fee of $9. Netflix is available to anyone with an internet connection; there's no need to pay for any sort of television service.
A few months ago, Rogers and Shaw teamed up to create Shomi, a streaming service that offers thousands of hours of programming in much the way Netflix does. The catch with Shomi was that you must be a Rogers or Shaw customer to get it — but you could do it just with an internet connection, making it a little closer to the Netflix model.
At least in the early going, Bell is clearly going in a different direction with its streaming service.
"Ninety per cent of Canadians have a TV subscription," Crull said at Wednesday's Bell launch. "We think that gives us a fantastic base of customers to subscribe to," he said, noting that more Canadians pay for some sort of television service than pay for an Internet connection.

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