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General Finance

Speculators pare U.S. 10-year T-note net shorts before Fed minutes

(Reuters) – Speculators’ net bearish bets on U.S. 10-year Treasury note futures fell a tad earlier this week before Federal Reserve’s release of minutes from its policy meeting last month, according to Commodity Futures Trading Commission data released on Friday.

The Treasuries market had stabilized earlier this week from heavy losses in the previous two weeks due to jitters about rising inflation and a faster pace of interest rate increases from the Federal Reserve.

The Fed’s record of its Sept. 25-26 meeting suggested a few policymakers are open to raising short-term interest rates above a “neutral” level as the economy has been growing faster than their forecast.

The latest minutes sparked a dramatic selloff in the money markets that caused a sharp spike in key short-term rates on Thursday. Bond yields however were buffered by safe-haven demand from losses on Wall Street.

The amount of speculators’ bearish, or short, positions in 10-year Treasury futures exceeded bullish, or long, positions by 615,970 contracts on Oct. 16, according to the CFTC’s latest Commitments of Traders data.

A week earlier, speculators held 622,422 net short positions in 10-year T-note futures.

In addition to the FOMC minutes, big swings in global equity prices and worries about Italy’s budget, Brexit negotiations and strained relations between United States and Saudi Arabia have stoked volatility in the bond market the latter part of this week, analysts said.

On Friday, benchmark 10-year Treasury yield ended up 2 basis points at 3.196 percent, holding below the 7-1/2 year high of 3.261 percent reached last week.

By investor groups, asset managers increased their net longs in 10-year T-notes to 987,547 contracts, while hedge funds raised their net 10-year T-note shorts to 833,471 contracts.

Bond dealers’ 10-year net shorts slipped to 231,145 from prior week’s 232,818, which was the highest level since late August, CFTC data showed.

Among other bond contracts, speculative net shorts in ultra bonds reached a record peak of 244,975 contracts on Tuesday.

On the other hand, speculators pared their T-bond net shorts to 103,937 contracts from previous week’s 138,382, which was the highest since June 2007.

Among interest rate futures, speculators rebuilt their net shorts in Eurodollar to 2.59 million contracts from 2.47 million contracts which were the fewest since late December.

They increased their net shorts in federal funds for first time in four weeks to 30,038 contracts.

Reporting by Richard Leong in New York; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Matthew Lewis

General Finance

ZF takes 35 percent stake in autonomous driving specialist ASAP

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Car parts maker ZF Friedrichshafen said on Friday it acquired a 35 percent stake in ASAP, a Germany-based maker of software and testing systems for autonomous driving applications and electric vehicles.

ASAP specializes in car-to-x communication, human-machine interfaces and electronic architecture and last year generated sales of 84 million euros. It employs 1,100 staff.

ZF’s Chief Executive Officer Wolf-Henning Scheider recently said ZF will invest about 12 billion euros in electromobility and autonomous driving over the next five years.

A purchase price for the ASAP stake was not disclosed.

Reporting by Arno Schuetze, editing by Riham Alkousaa

General Finance

Comcast says its fastest internet reaches more U.S. homes than any other provider

(Reuters) – Comcast Corp said on Thursday that its fastest-speed gigabit internet service now reaches more homes than any other provider in the United States after it completed rollout to nearly all 58 million homes and businesses it serves.

The milestone widens its greater coverage over telecoms rivals. Competitor Verizon Communications Inc races to deploy its next-generation 5G wireless service on mobile phones and in the home with speeds theoretically rivaling cable company products. Verizon launched its home internet 5G service in October, the first commercial offering of its kind in the United States.

Comcast’s high-speed internet business is one of its biggest contributors to revenue and profit as customers for its video services decline. The segment has helped prop up the media and communications conglomerate’s finances.

So-called cord cutters, many of whom continue to rely on broadband providers such as Comcast for internet services, have started defecting to video-streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Youtube TV for television programming.

That trend sparked a wave of media company mergers. Walt Disney Co struck a deal to buy 21st Century Fox for $71.3 billion and AT&T Inc bought Time Warner for $85 billion, and both have vowed to build streaming video services for consumers looking for a lower-cost alternative to traditional pay television services.

Comcast lost to Disney on a bid to buy Fox this year but prevailed against Disney in an auction to buy satellite television broadcaster and media company Sky.

Reporting by Kenneth Li; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

General Finance

Robot market growth slows as trade war hits industrial spending: robot industry chief

TOKYO (Reuters) – An escalating trade war between the United States and China has dampened manufacturers’ appetite for investment in equipment, causing growth in the industrial robot market to slow, the chief of the global robot industry group said.

Many global manufacturers “are now in a wait-and-see mode, wondering whether to shift production (away from China) to, let’s say, Vietnam or the United States,” said Junji Tsuda, chief of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), in an interview on Thursday.

IFR, which brings together nearly 60 global robot suppliers and integrators, predicts worldwide industrial robot sales this year to grow 10 percent compared to last year’s 30 percent jump.

China is the world’s largest robots market with a 36 percent global share, with its sales volume exceeding the total of Europe and the Americas combined.

Tsuda, also the chairman of Japan’s Yaskawa Electric Corp, said the manufacturers would move out of the wait-and-see mode by the end of this year.

It will take a while for the direction of the trade war to be clear, Tsuda said. “But global demand for smartphones, semiconductors and autos have been solid, and the time will eventually come that they can wait no longer and will resume investment to meet the demand.”

Yaskawa, one of the world’s top robot manufacturers, last week cut its annual operating profit forecast to 59 billion yen ($524.40 million) from 65.5 billion yen, citing a slowdown in smartphone-related demand in China and growing caution over the trade dispute.

From next year onwards, however, IFR expects the robot market growth to pick up again, forecasting an average 14 percent increase per year through 2021.

($1 = 112.5100 yen)

Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

General Finance

Insurers call for delay in prising open ‘black box’ accounts

LONDON (Reuters) – Insurers from across the world have called for amendments and a two-year delay to a change in accounting rules aimed at increasing visibility of how they earn their money.

Nine national and regional insurance industry bodies from Europe, Canada, Korea, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa want the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) to amend and delay its “IFRS 17” book-keeping rule by two years to January 2023.

Twenty years in the making, the rule seeks to make it easier for investors to compare how much insurers earn from policies by prising open a “black box” of opaque national practices. IASB rules are used in over 100 countries, though the United States has its own accounting standards.

The industry bodies said in a letter to the IASB that preparatory work has confirmed that a number of important issues need to be resolved to make the new rule practical.

“As a result, we strongly believe a two-year delay in the effective date of the standard is required,” the letter to IASB chair Hans Hoogervorst said.

“There is no expectation that a delay will result in insurers stopping or slowing their implementation project.”

The CFO Forum of chief financial officers from major European insurers like Allianz, Aviva, Generali and Axa has said the new rule leads to inconsistent reporting, and requirements that are unnecessarily complex.

Implementation costs range from 50 million euros to 320 million euros per CFO Forum member, it said, with ongoing operational costs expected to be significantly greater than for applying existing insurance book-keeping rules.

The IASB board will discuss staff reports about a potential delay and amendments next week, but no decision is expected at that time.

“In determining what amendments, if any, to make to IFRS 17, the board will need to balance the potential benefit of any amendments against the effect of an undue delay to a standard that is needed to address many inadequacies in the existing wide range of insurance accounting practices,” an IASB staff paper for the meeting said.

Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Jan Harvey

General Finance

Kangaroo attacks couple in northeastern Australia, injures woman

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian wildlife carers Jim and Linda Smith are lucky to be alive, an ambulance official said, after they were attacked by a kangaroo in northeastern Queensland state.

The Smiths were feeding wild kangaroos on their property in the Darling Downs when a grey kangaroo buck struck out at Jim Smith, knocking him to the ground.

The kangaroo attacked his wife, Linda, when she ran to help him, leaving her with a collapsed lung, broken ribs, cuts and scratches.

“It’s scary, it knocked me over once or twice and once they grab you, you can see what they do”, Jim said, showing his injuries.

It was only when their son came out and hit the kangaroo with a piece of wood that the marsupial stopped the attack and returned to nearby bushland, Australian media reported.

Linda Smith was taken to Toowoomba Hospital, where she underwent surgery, media reports said.

“If the kangaroo was able to continue to inflict further injury, her life was, yes, in danger,” Queensland Ambulance Service’s senior operations supervisor Stephen Johns said.

Australia has roughly 45 million kangaroos and it is not unusual for them to come into conflict with people as housing has expanded to areas where the marsupials live.

They are even more likely to be driven into populated areas in search of food and water in drought-stricken areas.

Reporting by Stefica Nicol Bikes; Writing by Karishma Singh

General Finance

Selling Or Buying A Home? You’ll Know What Comps Are Soon.

It’s all about Location, Location, Location they say in real estate, but to a buyer or a seller it may be Price, Price, Price.  You may be buying your first starter home or selling the family home to move into retirement in Florida either way you’ll need to know “How much is it actually worth?”  In real estate lingo “Comps” is a second word that comes with little ambiguity, but to the laymen that same word could leave you wondering.  Comparables are reports on similar houses in the area and how much they went for when they were recently sold.  These reports give insight into the value of the home you wish to sell or buy and allow you to determine if it is really a dream home or it is actually a home you can afford.

Sites like Zillow.com attempt to determine a comparable price for a home through open records and information about a home provided over the years in these open records. Ask any realtor and they’ll tell you they hate Zillow.  Not because it takes their clients, the site doesn’t facilitate home sales but due to the inaccuracies made when determining a home’s value without firsthand knowledge of the area or the home.

Real estate agents usually determine these with local knowledge and understanding of the area.  These are performed though after a home buyer or seller has contacted a real estate agent.  Sometimes you’d just like to know without beginning a search with someone who’s commission based.  The perceived pressure that comes with a real estate agent may make Zillow more attractive than an accurate price or at least get you by until you absolutely have to contact an agent.

Other sites are now offering a blended opportunity that borrows the best of both previous options and provide accurate real estate comps but free of the pressure of working with an agent.  RealEstateCompsToday.com is one of these services that offers national coverage but contracts with local agents to provide investors, sellers and buyers with the best possible comparable home price reports.

Too often in life we see black and white or right and wrong and forget that life choices don’t have to be bilateral.  More often a third method is available that includes the best of both original options and today it seems there is a third option in real estate comps.  Consider this next time you search for comps in my area.

General Finance

Purrfect job; Russian town hires cat chief to attend to strays

MOSCOW (Reuters) – It was an unusual job advert. Wanted: Cat chief. Location: Zelenogradsk, Russia: Duties: Tending to the town’s approximately 70 stray cats.

Some 80 applicants applied for the new role with the municipality in the small town in the Kaliningrad region, which has also erected a cat statue and added a feline to its emblem in a bid to rebrand itself as Russia’s foremost cat-loving community.

In the end, local resident Svetlana Logunova was appointed guardian of the town’s felines. To help her with the task, she was given a bicycle and uniform, including a bright green jacket, black bow tie and hat.

She has been given a budget of 5,700 roubles ($85) a month to ensure all the seaside community’s cats are happy, dishing out food, strokes and free rides in the basket on her bike.

“I alone cannot care for every single one and a helping hand would go a long way,” Logunova said.

($1 = 66.1257 roubles)

Editing by Patrick Johnston

General Finance

Europe’s sprawling new financial law enters into force

A disaster-free launch of MiFID 2 is not the end of the worries

AFTER years of rule-drafting, industry lobbying and plenty of last-minute wrangling, Europe’s massive new financial regulation, MiFID 2, was rolled out on January 3rd. Firms had spent months dreading (in some cases) or eagerly awaiting (in others) the “day of the MiFID” when the law’s new reporting requirements would enter into force. One electronic-trading platform, Tradeweb, even gave its clients a “MiFID clock” to count down to it.

Apprehension was understandable. The new EU law, the second iteration of the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (its full, unwieldy name), affects markets in everything from shares to bonds to derivatives. It seeks to open up opaque markets by forcing brokers and trading venues to report prices publicly, in close to real time for those assets deemed liquid. It also requires them to report to regulators up to 65 separate data points on every trade, with the aim of avoiding market abuse.

Title: Europe’s sprawling new financial law enters into force
Publication: The Economist
Publisher: The Economist Group Limited
Date: Dec 31, 1969
© The Economist Group Limited, London 1969