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19
Dec
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) speaks at a news conference after a Republican caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington on December 18, 2012. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

1 of 2. U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) speaks at a news conference after a Republican caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington on December 18, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON | Tue Dec 18, 2012 11:15pm GMT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans tried to wring more tax-rate concessions out of the White House on Tuesday as political manoeuvring intensified over an agreement to keep the U.S. economy from tumbling off the “fiscal cliff” next year. Markets rallied on hopes for a deal.

After important concessions in recent days from both President Barack Obama and House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, Republicans moved to increase pressure on the Democrats by vowing to vote in the House on a “Plan B” back-up measure that would largely disregard the progress made so far.

The Republican proposal was part of a political dance by both parties to try to spin the “fiscal cliff” narrative in their favour even as they edged closer together. The White House rejected the offer but remained confident of an agreement.

“The president has demonstrated an obvious willingness to compromise and move more than halfway toward the Republicans,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters, adding that Obama is making a “good faith” effort to reach a compromise.

House Republicans were still meeting to discuss the matter on Tuesday evening.

Global stocks advanced to their highest levels since September amid rare signs of compromise on Capitol Hill. Investors shifted funds to stocks and the euro and pulled away from safe-harbor assets such as bonds, gold and the U.S. dollar.

The benchmark Dow Jones industrial average of 30 industrial stocks closed at 13,232.4, up less than 1 percent on the day.

“They’ve still got a long way to go, but you can’t help but say that the odds are better today than they were on Friday that we’ll get some sort of agreement,” said Republican Representative Tom Cole.

While a bipartisan bargain could still fall apart, hopes of an accord rose on Monday night after Obama made a concession to Republicans by offering to limit tax increases to incomes exceeding $400,000 per household. That is a higher threshold than the $250,000 that the president had sought earlier.

Boehner, the top Republican in Congress, had earlier conceded on Obama’s insistence that tax rates rise on the wealthiest Americans, but the two have been unable to agree on what income levels should be included in that category.

Analysts said Obama and Boehner may strike a compromise at $500,000 or close to that, though time was running short.

Boehner told reporters that he planned to move a “Plan B” bill to the House floor, possibly this week, in a move that could spur forward his talks with Obama. The House is controlled by Republicans and the Senate by Democrats.

One House Republican aide, asked about prospects for “Plan B” on the House floor, said: “It wouldn’t be surprising … if a lot of conservatives balk at something like that.”

‘WE CAN DO BETTER’

If the back-up plan fails, Republicans supporting it could afterward tell constituents back home that at least they voted for it and, in doing so, did their best to try to block Obama’s agenda.

Even as he presented the Plan B measure, Boehner said he would continue to negotiate with Obama on a broader agreement.

“Plan B is Plan B for a reason. It’s a less-than-ideal outcome. I’ve always believed we can do better,” Boehner said.

The expiration of low tax rates enacted under former President George W. Bush is a key component of the “fiscal cliff” that lawmakers are trying to prevent from taking hold next month, along with deep automatic government spending cuts.

Left unchecked, these fiscal jolts could trigger another recession, economists have warned.

Often challenged by the conservative wing of his caucus, Boehner held Republican lawmakers together in support of his efforts to forge a deal with Obama. The speaker emerged largely unscathed from a potentially tough meeting with his fellow House Republicans on Tuesday morning.

Representative Darrell Issa, a key committee chairman, said his fellow House Republicans “were supportive of the speaker. … I saw no one there get up and say, ‘I can’t support the speaker.’”

With opinion polls showing broad support in the United States for raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans and Obama still buoyed by his re-election last month, the Republicans’ traditional opposition to tax hikes has waned somewhat.

The Obama-Boehner talks have largely overcome stark ideological differences and are focused increasingly on narrower disagreements over numbers.

COST-OF-LIVING INCREASES

Still, Obama could face unrest from fellow Democrats. Liberals were likely to oppose a key compromise he has offered to permit shrinking cost-of-living increases for all but the most vulnerable beneficiaries of the Social Security retirement program. His proposal calls for using a different formula, known as “chained Consumer Price Index,” to determine the regular cost-of-living increases, essentially reducing benefits.

“I am committed to standing against any benefit cuts to programs Americans rely on, and tying Social Security benefits to chained CPI is a benefit cut,” Democratic Representative Keith Ellison said in a statement.

Obama also moved closer to Boehner on the proportion of a 10-year deficit reduction package that should come from increased revenue, as opposed to cuts in government spending. Obama is now willing to accept a revenue figure of $1.2 trillion, down from his previous $1.4 trillion proposal.

Boehner’s latest proposal calls for $1 trillion in new tax revenue from higher tax rates and the curbing of some tax deductions taken by high-income Americans.

Missing from Obama’s latest offer was any extension of the so-called “payroll tax holiday” that ends on January 1, bringing an immediate tax increase on wage earners.

Possible plans to produce cuts in spending for Medicare and Medicaid, the government health insurance programs for seniors and low-income Americans respectively, remained to be discussed.

Boehner and Obama have made headway on the politically explosive question of the president’s ability to avoid constant battles over raising the nation’s debt ceiling, which controls the level of borrowing by the government. Boehner is ready to give Obama a year of relative immunity from conservative strife over the debt ceiling, while Obama is pushing for two years.

(Additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro, Rachelle Younglai, David Lawder, Richard Cowan, Matt Spetalnick, Roberta Rampton, Jeff Mason and Fred Barbash; Writing by Kevin Drawbaugh; Editing by Alistair Bell and Will Dunham)

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Category : Uncategorized
18
Dec
Japan's conservative Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) leader and next Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to the media at the Parliament in Tokyo December 18, 2012. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

1 of 2. Japan’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) leader and next Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to the media at the Parliament in Tokyo December 18, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Toru Hanai

TOKYO | Tue Dec 18, 2012 7:32am GMT

TOKYO (Reuters) - The Bank of Japan will ease monetary policy this week and consider adopting a 2 percent inflation target no later than in January, sources say, responding to pressure from next Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for stronger efforts to beat deflation.

Turning up the heat, Abe made a rare, direct push for a higher inflation target when BOJ Governor Masaaki Shirakawa visited the headquarters of his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on Tuesday.

“I told him that during my election campaign, I called for setting a policy accord with the BOJ and a 2 percent inflation target,” Abe told reporters. “The governor just listened,” he said when asked how Shirakawa responded.

The LDP swept to power in Sunday’s lower house election after campaigning for big fiscal spending to revive the economy and “unlimited” monetary easing to achieve higher inflation in a country mired in deflation for the past 15 years.

A day after the election, Abe called on the BOJ to boost its monetary stimulus at a two-day meeting that ends on Thursday and pressed it to adopt a 2 percent inflation target, double its current price goal, as soon as next month.

Under pressure, the central bank will likely ease policy this week amid looming risks to Japan’s economic outlook, sources familiar with its thinking have told Reuters, and may also start debating how to meet Abe’s calls to set a higher price target.

Abe will form a new cabinet on December 26 and is seen choosing Taro Aso as finance minister, Japanese media said, a former prime minister expected to toe the party’s line calling for aggressive easing and public works splurge.

That means the central bank will be under pressure to respond again at its policy-setting meeting on January 21-22, when it is set to cut its economic forecast for the year ending in March 2013 due to the widening pain from slowing global growth.

“Abe’s comments have really raised expectations for easing this week,” said Norio Miyagawa, senior economist at Mizuho Securities Research & Consulting in Tokyo.

“I think the BOJ will deliver with increased purchases of government debt. Next year could also be a big year for monetary policy easing, because of the inflation target debate and a change in leadership at the BOJ.”

Fourteen of 19 economists polled by Reuters last week said they expected the BOJ to ease this week, most likely by increasing its 91 trillion yen (616.8 billion pounds) asset buying and lending programme by up to 10 trillion yen.

The BOJ currently has a 1 percent inflation target but has said this is a goal for the time being, and that it considers a range of zero to 2 percent as long-term desirable price growth.

The central bank may thus opt to clarify that after the 1 percent inflation is met, it will aim for 2 percent inflation as a long-term policy goal, to meet demands from Abe for more aggressive monetary stimulus.

The BOJ and the government may issue a joint statement, similar to one crafted in October between the central bank and the outgoing government led by the Democratic Party, pledging to take measures to aim for 2 percent inflation in the long run, the sources said.

SEEK CLOSER TIES WITH U.S.

Shirakawa told reporters he did not discuss monetary policy with Abe, and that he only visited to pay respect. It is rare for a premier or a would-be prime minister to reveal what was discussed at a closed-door meeting with a central bank governor.

The BOJ has eased monetary policy four times so far this year via an increase in its asset-buying and lending programme. But politicians like Abe have criticised the central bank for not doing enough to end 15 years of grinding deflation in Japan.

Some central bankers are keen to boost stimulus again, with the world’s third-largest economy already in mild recession and unlikely to rebound strongly early next year due to weak exports to China and the potential impact from the U.S. “fiscal cliff.”

Any BOJ action on Thursday will likely take the form of a further increase in its asset-buying programme. But central bankers, feeling the heat, have been privately pondering options for next year including setting a higher inflation target and buying government bonds more aggressively.

Through such steps, they hope to stave off threats by Abe of revising the BOJ law guaranteeing its independence.

But there is strong resistance within the BOJ on setting a 2 percent inflation target in a country that has barely seen price growth exceed 1 percent in the past two decades. Japan’s core consumer inflation was flat in October from a year earlier after five straight months of declines.

BOJ officials close to the conservative Shirakawa are wary of setting a higher price target without having effective means of achieving it. They also fret that pumping too much money into the economy could brew seeds of imbalances, such as sharp rises in asset prices, in the long-term.

But Abe, whose LDP and its small ally New Komeito captured a two-thirds majority in Sunday’s landslide victory, has swiftly moved to press his agenda.

On Tuesday, Abe told reporters that he had agreed in a telephone call with U.S. President Barack Obama that the two would try to meet next month, part of a push to strengthen ties with Washington and give Japan a greater global security role.

The choice of Aso, 72, as finance minister suggests Abe is looking to experienced LDP lawmakers to fill key posts to avoid criticism that his ministers lack experience.

While Aso’s views on monetary policy are little known, as prime minister he launched massive stimulus packages to combat the global financial crisis in 2008.

The new finance minister, along with the economics minister, can attend or send subordinates to BOJ policy-setting meetings. They cannot vote on policy decisions but can voice opinions and request a delay in a vote.

(Writing by Leika Kihara, additional reporting by Yoshifumi Takemoto, Sumio Ito and Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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Category : Uncategorized
18
Dec
U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner (R-OH) walks to his office in the U.S. Capitol after meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington December 17, 2012. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner (R-OH) walks to his office in the U.S. Capitol after meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington December 17, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON | Tue Dec 18, 2012 6:54am GMT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The differences over how to resolve the “fiscal cliff” narrowed significantly Monday night as President Barack Obama made a counter-offer to Republicans that included a major change in position on tax hikes for the wealthy, according to a source familiar with the talks.

The move, which the source stressed was not Obama’s final offer, was welcomed, albeit with reservations, by a spokesman for Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, who met earlier in the day with Obama as the two hammered out a way to avert steep tax hikes and indiscriminate spending reductions set for the beginning of 2013.

Considerable work remains as both sides now try to bridge the gaps between them and then sell a package to their respective allies in the U.S. Congress.

In its most dramatic change in position yet, the White House proposed leaving lower tax rates in place for everyone except those earning $400,000 (246,670 pounds) and above, the source said on condition of anonymity. That’s up from the $250,000 threshold the president has been demanding for months, but still far from Boehner’s preference of $1 million.

Obama also moved closer to Boehner on the proportion of a ten-year deficit reduction package that should come from increased revenue, as opposed to cuts in government spending. Obama is now willing to accept a revenue figure of $1.2 trillion, down from his previous $1.4 trillion proposal.

Boehner’s latest proposal calls for $1 trillion in new tax revenue, which would come from raising rates and limiting deductions that the wealthiest can take.

Some of the savings in spending proposed by Obama would come from reducing the size of cost-of-living increases for all but the most “vulnerable” recipients of the Social Security retirement program, the source said, through the use of a different formula to calculate the regular raises called “chained Consumer Price Index.”

Obama and Boehner remained apart on the politically explosive issue of how and when to raise the government debt ceiling to permit the government to borrow more money.

Boehner has proposed a one-year boost in the debt ceiling, tied to spending cuts. Obama, as of Monday night, was pushing for a two-year increase, potentially a major concession that many congressional conservatives may find hard to swallow since they have used it to extract spending cuts from the White House.

Missing entirely from Obama’s offer was an extension of the so-called “payroll tax holiday,” which comes to an end on January 1 with an immediate negative impact on wage earners.

Introduced by Obama two years ago as an economic stimulus, the tax holiday reduced an employee’s share of the payroll tax from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent. Because the tax supports the Social Security program, however, there have been divisions in both parties over continuing the holiday.

Because the details were incomplete and specifics vague, particularly on such issues as cutting the Medicare, the government health insurance program for seniors, it was uncertain how much resistance might come from Congress.

But the source stressed that Monday’s offer was by no means the final one from the White House.

The response from Boehner’s spokesman was also a positive signal. “Any movement away from the unrealistic offers the president has made previously is a step in the right direction,” the spokesman said, emphasizing that differences remain on spending levels in particular.

“We hope to continue discussions with the president so we can reach an agreement that is truly balanced and begins to solve our spending problem.”

The rapid developments Monday evening put a deal realistically within reach.

Obama and Boehner held talks at the White House earlier Monday, and aides from both parties said they were optimistic an agreement was shaping up.

Rank-and-file Republicans, however, could have trouble with the tax increases on the wealthiest Americans that are likely to be part of any deal, while Obama could have a tough time selling spending cuts to his fellow Democrats.

Investors were cheered earlier Monday, before news broke of Obama’s counter-offer, by signs of progress and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index of U.S. stocks rose 1.19 percent.

Economists warn that going over the fiscal cliff could push the economy into recession.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said his chamber will wrap up work on the issue after Christmas.

“It appears that we’re going to be coming back the day after Christmas to complete work on the ‘fiscal cliff,’” he said on the Senate floor.

Boehner faces a crucial test on Tuesday morning when he is expected to brief his party’s lawmakers in the Republican-controlled House. He is not expected to bring any deal up for a vote unless a majority of the 241 House Republicans support it.

Republicans have campaigned for decades on a promise to keep taxes low, but Boehner in recent days has edged closer to Obama’s demand to raise tax rates on top earners. In return, Obama could back a measure that would slow the rate of growth of Social Security benefits by changing the way they are measured against inflation, according to a Senate Democratic aide.

GETTING CLOSER ON TAXES

If there are no strong objections, he could try to finalize the deal with Obama on Wednesday, a Republican aide said.

Both sides declined to say what Boehner and Obama discussed at the meeting, which was also attended by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

The White House said Boehner’s latest proposal does not meet its standards.

“Thus far, the president’s proposal is the only proposal that we have seen that achieves the balance that is so necessary,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said at a news briefing.

Republicans understand that the clock is ticking and they are confident that Boehner will get a deal they can support in the coming days, a senior House Republican aide said.

Republicans want substantial spending cuts in return for increased tax revenue, but any proposal to trim popular benefit programs like Medicare will face fierce resistance from liberal Democrats, whose votes will be needed to get a deal passed.

Obama could also face strong opposition from Democrats if he agrees to Boehner’s proposal to slow the growth of Social Security benefits by changing the way the cost-of-living increases are measured against inflation, an approach that could save $200 billion over 10 years.

Obama also wants to head off another confrontation over the U.S. debt limit, which will need to be raised in the coming months. Republicans insist that any increase in the government’s $16.4 trillion borrowing authority must be paired with an equal reduction in spending.

(Additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro, Mark Felsenthal, Rachelle Younglai and Jeff Mason; Writing by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Alistair Bell, Eric Beech and Paul Simao)

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Category : Uncategorized
18
Dec

Tue Dec 18, 2012 6:01am GMT

* China bankers see policy easing ahead in PBOC survey

* Too soon to be optimistic about trade outlook, says MOFCOM

* Home price rises pick up; curbs seen staying in place

* China Jan-Nov FDI down as global headwinds crimp corp spending

By Kevin Yao and Aileen Wang

BEIJING, Dec 18 (Reuters) - China’s burgeoning economic recovery may need central bank easing to spur it along next year, as foreign investors scale back spending commitments in the face of a gloomy external outlook that clouds prospects for the world’s biggest exporter.

The People’s Bank of China’s (PBOC) fourth quarter survey of economic expectations, published on Tuesday, saw a jump in the number of bankers anticipating monetary easing in Q1 2013, even as recent hard data shows a mild rebound taking hold in Q4.

Weakness in the external environment - to which the world’s second biggest economy is levered - remains a drag, according to the Ministry of Commerce, which on Tuesday revealed data showing foreign direct investment extended its longest run of year-on-year falls in three years.

“Next year, there are still many uncertainties for external demand and the prospect of a slowly growing global economy will last for a while,” ministry spokesman, Shen Danyang, said.

“In addition, there is also increasing trade protectionism emerging. So we cannot be optimistic about the external trade environment next year,” Shen told a scheduled news conference.

China is on course to end 2012 with the slowest full year of growth since 1999 and while the 7.7 percent rate forecast in a benchmark Reuters poll is way above the world’s other major economies, it is far below the roughly 10 percent annual growth seen for most of the last 30 years.

<———————————————————–

China bankers see easing ahead-PBOC Q4 survey

Too soon for optimism on China trade -MOFCOM

China Jan-Nov FDI falls 3.6 pct y/y

China economic recovery intact, exports drag

———————————————————–>

Private sector economists, such as ING’s head of Asian economic research Tim Condon, believe Beijing will act to drive the economy forward in 2013 as new leaders at the top of the ruling Communist Party get a firmer grip on the policy reins.

The government so far has relied on fine-tuning policy settings in its efforts to combat the worst downturn China has faced since the 2008-09 global financial crisis, studiously avoiding any hint of repeating the 4 trillion yuan ($640 billion) stimulus package it launched back then.

China cut interest rates in both June and July and has lowered banks’ reserve requirement ratio (RRR) by 150 basis points since late 2011, freeing an estimated 1.2 trillion yuan ($193 billion) for lending.

Many analysts believe room for further interest rate cuts is limited as inflation and property prices start to pick up. Any easing is thought likely to be directed through money market operations that inject liquidity into the financial system.

POLICY EASING PROPECTS

The PBOC survey showed a rising proportion of Chinese commercial bankers it questioned are joining those outside the system who anticipate more policy easing in Q1 2013.

Some 19.8 percent of survey respondents said they expected easier policy during the first three months of next year, up sharply from 5.9 percent who had expected easing in Q4 2012.

The vast majority of survey respondents - 75 percent - said current policy setting were appropriate.

The survey’s findings also detected a rise in inflation expectations and particular concern about the risk of a rebound in home prices.

It found 29 percent of respondents expect home prices to rise in the first quarter of 2013, 11.3 percentage points higher than the earlier survey result, with 66.6 percent saying home prices were unacceptably high.

Data on Tuesday showed Chinese home prices displaying fresh signs of recovery taking hold in November, the fourth month in the last five to show a rise as a two-year long government campaign to curb prices frays.

Real estate, which directly impacts around 40 other business sectors in China, has been a key concern for government policies aimed at reining in property speculation which has pushed prices well beyond the reach of many middle-class Chinese and sowed social discontent.

“The risk of tightening property curbs is accumulating due to rising home prices along with a reviving economy and stabilising investment,” said Zhao Xinkui, a property analyst with Huarong Securities in Beijing.

That leaves the policy backdrop finely balanced and the government likely hoping that enough momentum has been generated by its cautious easing so far to sustain a recovery.

DOMESTIC DEMAND MOMENTUM

Engendering an upswing in domestic demand could be as important to near term economic prospects as to the longer term rebalancing Beijing desires.

“There are increasing signs showing the domestic economy is stabilising, which is the most important factor driving retail sales next year,” the Commerce Ministry’s Shen said.

“Meanwhile, the government also pledged to raise personal income and increase fiscal spending to improve education, healthcare and social security systems. All these measures will provide more scope of growth for retail sales in 2013,” he said.

China’s retail sales grew 14.9 percent year-on-year in November, ahead of the 14.6 percent forecast in a Reuters poll, and has been one of the most consistent indicators of the year.

The PBOC survey detected a rise in business confidence, a reading of 60.4 percent up 1.2 percentage points from the previous survey.

But its export order index dipped 0.4 percentage point on the previous quarter to 47.1 percent and the index of corporate expectations on export orders slipped to 47.9 percent from 49.5 percent in Q3.

Those findings reflect concerns about the external sector expressed at the Commerce Ministry’s news conference and which November trade data, published last week, showed to be well-placed.

China’s exports growth in November slowed sharply to 2.9 percent, much lower than the 9.0 percent expected and far behind October’s 11.6 percent pace, underscoring the global headwinds dragging on an economy showing otherwise signs of a pick-up in domestic activity.

Despite efforts to rebalance the economy towards domestic consumption, exports generated 31 percent of gross domestic product in 2011, World Bank data shows, and supported an estimated 200 million jobs.

Foreign direct investment inflows have been crucial to job creation in China for years. Its 3.6 percent fall to $100 billion in the first 11 months of 2012 from a year earlier extends the longest run of year-on-year falls in three years as global economic headwinds crimp corporate spending plans.

Inflows have held steady above $8 billion for each of the last four months now, a signal that long-term investors are attuned to the prospects for a mild recovery.

But the rate of fixed investment remains below the record level hit in 2011 when China drew $116 billion in FDI and is likely to fall shy of the $120 billion the Commerce Ministry aims to attract in each of the four years from 2012 to 2015. (Additional reporting by Xiaoyi Shao; Writing by Nick Edwards; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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Category : Uncategorized
18
Dec

Tue Dec 18, 2012 5:40am GMT

(Updates with comments, details)
    By Victoria Thieberger
    MELBOURNE, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Australian shares rallied 0.5
percent on Tuesday to a 17-month high, boosted by a rise in iron
ore prices, hopes for further rate cuts in 2013, and investor
optimism of a resolution to the U.S. "fiscal cliff" budget
talks.
    Top miners led the gains, with Rio Tinto up 1.9
percent, third-ranked iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group
 up 2.9 percent, while mid-tier miners also benefited.
    The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index advanced 21.8 points
to 4,595.2, the highest close since July 22, 2011.
    New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index closed 0.3
percent higher at 3,979.3.
    "The market is showing early signs of a 'fear of missing
out', as more cash is pushed into equities from the sidelines,"
said Ben Taylor, sales trader at CMC Markets.
    Taylor said the minutes of the Reserve Bank's Dec. 4 meeting
has also given investors reason to believe that further cuts in
interest rates will be seen next year to support the
underperforming sectors of the economy.
    Investors are factoring in a 60 percent chance of a quarter
point easing to 2.75 percent in February, when the central bank
next meets.
    Still, the Australian market is languishing 33 percent below
its all-time high, underperforming many regional peers as
investors have been fixated on European fiscal worries and the
slowdown in the U.S. economy.
    Among the mid-tier miners, Atlas Iron ended up 5.2
percent and Northern Iron up 7.6 percent after iron ore
prices hit the five-month high.
    Uranium miners rallied for a second session, boosted by  the
pro-nuclear  Liberal Democratic Party Japan's election
landslide. Paladin Energy jumped 12.4 percent to
A$1.08, helped by an upgrade from UBS analysts to buy, while ERA
Resources rose 7.3 percent to A$1.33.
    Toro Energy shares fell 4.4 percent when the
Western Australian state government delayed a decision on the
Wiluna uranium project until March.
    Top mortgage lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia
moved to expatend its hold on the mortgage market, taking
majority control of former independent lender Aussie Home Loans,
for an undisclosed sum. Its shares rose 0.3 percent to A$61.45.
    Qantas Airways gained 2.9 percent to A$1.435 on an
unsourced report in the Australian Financial Review that
Australia's competition regulator was looking favourably on
Qantas's planned alliance with Emirates. 

 (Editing by Eric Meijer)

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Category : Uncategorized
18
Dec
A HSBC logo is seen above the entrance to a HSBC bank branch in midtown Manhattan in New York City, December 11, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar

A HSBC logo is seen above the entrance to a HSBC bank branch in midtown Manhattan in New York City, December 11, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Segar

TOKYO | Tue Dec 18, 2012 5:36am GMT

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s Sumitomo Life Insurance Co is close to agreeing to buy HSBC Holding’s 18 percent stake in its Vietnam insurance business for about 30 billion yen $360 million (222 million pounds), a source familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

Sumitomo Life, one of Japan’s top four life insurers, and HSBC are likely to agree on the deal by the end of this week, said the source, who declined to be named.

A Sumitomo Life spokesman declined to comment.

(Reporting by Taiga Uranaka and Mayumi Negishi)

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Category : Uncategorized

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