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Oil prices soared as much as 12% on February 12 after new suggestions that OPEC nations were set to cut oil production.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the United Arab Emirates’ energy minister said that OPEC members were ready to reduce output.
Meanwhile, Venezuela’s oil minister said oil-producing nations were on a “very good path” to clinch a deal.
However, traders said sharp falls on February 11 may have triggered some bargain-hunting.
Eulogio Del Pino, the Venezuelan minister, who recently visited Russia and Saudi Arabia as part of a global tour to drum up support among both OPEC and non-OPEC producers, said “we’re on a very, very, very good path” to reducing production.
Brent crude closed up $3.30 at $33.36 a barrel in New York after falling below $30 on February 11.
After sinking to a 12-year low of $26.05 on February 11, US crude settled up 12%, or $3.23, to $29.44 a barrel – its biggest one-day rise since 2009.
Many traders were skeptical about the Journal‘s report, pointing out that Venezuela and Russia had tried in vain earlier this week to stir Saudi Arabia and other major producers into agreeing to output cuts.
However, some believe that prices would rebound sooner or later if production tightened or demand rose.
Commerzbank analysts said: “We expect declining US oil production, in particular, to drive the oil price back up to $50 per barrel by the end of the year.”
Friday’s price rises were also aided by figures from oil services company Baker Hughes, which said that US energy companies cut the number of oil rigs for the eighth consecutive week to the lowest levels since January 2010.
Drillers removed 28 oil rigs, bringing the total rig count down to 439, Baker Hughes said.
The jump in oil prices helped to boost sentiment on stock markets.
Wall Street was trading higher on February 12, with the S&P 500 rising 1.8% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average up close to 2% in late trading.
Japan’s shares plunged on February 12, following global markets, after a stronger yen against the dollar hurt the country’s big exporters.
Nikkei 225 fell as much as 5.4% in early trade. By the close, the benchmark index had recovered slightly, but was still down 4.85% to 14,952.61 points.
That was below the psychologically important level of 15,000 points and its lowest close since October 2014.
Today’s losses end what has been a turbulent week of trade for Japan.
The index has shed more than 11% over the trading week, which was short because of a public holiday on February 11.
Japan’s big exporters were hurt on February 12 as the dollar fell to a 15-month low against the yen. A stronger yen against the dollar hurts Japan’s exporters, as it makes their products more expensive to purchase overseas.
Auto maker Toyota finished Japan’s trading day down 7%, while Honda lost 5.5% and Nissan shed 5.8%.
Overnight, benchmark indexes in London, the US and Europe posted sharp declines amid continued worries about oil prices and over the strength of the global economy – particularly the outlook for the world’s largest economy, the US.
US Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen’s gloomy economic assessment on February 10 was continuing to hurt investor sentiment around the world, analysts said.
Janet Yellen said financial conditions in the US had become “less supportive” of growth, dousing hopes of a second rise in interest rates in the near future.
Eddie Jordan, Sabine Schmitz, Chris Harris and Rory Reid will join Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc in presenting the new series of Top Gear.
The BBC Two program returns in May.
The new presenters were signed after Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond left Top Gear in 2015.
German racing driver Sabine Schmitz will become Top Gear’s first female presenter in 15 years. The last was Vicki Butler-Henderson in 2001.
Speaking about her new role, Sabine Schmitz said: “The chance to combine both driving and filming was too good an opportunity to pass up.”
“I’ve appeared on Top Gear a few times in the past, so I know we’re going to have a lot of fun,” she added.
Photo Top Gear
Sabine Schmitz has already been filming a sequence with Chris Evans for the new series that “will leave even the most hardened speed-demons gasping for breath when it debuts on TV”, the BBC said in a statement.
Her fellow co-presenter motor journalist Chris Harris is well known for fronting various motoring programs on YouTube.
Referencing Top Gear‘s cheeky and irreverent style, Chris Harris said: “I’m quite gobby and happy to get into trouble, so I’m hoping I can underpin the program with journalistic credibility but still cause some mischief.”
Rory Reid was recruited to Top Gear from the show’s 2015 public auditions, but previously presented for CNET’s Car Tech channel, and also had a starring role in Sky 1’s Gadget Geeks series.
He said: “When I submitted my 30-second audition tape, I knew the odds were very firmly against me, as the auditions were open to absolutely everybody.
“To be the only person to make it through the open audition process makes me immensely proud.”
The head of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, has warned financial conditions in the US had become “less supportive” of growth.
The Fed released Janet Yellen’s prepared comments ahead of her latest appearance before Congress.
The central bank raised interest rates by 0.25% for the first time in nine years in December 2015.
In the prepared testimony, Janet Yellen said: “Financial conditions in the United States have recently become less supportive of growth, with declines in broad measures of equity prices, higher borrowing rates for riskier borrowers and a further appreciation of the dollar.
“Against this backdrop, the [Federal Reserve] Committee expects that with gradual adjustments in the stance of monetary policy, economic activity will expand at a moderate pace in coming years and that labor market indicators will continue to strengthen.”
Janet Yellen added China’s “unclear” currency policy was fuelling global stock market volatility.
She said the decline in China’s currency, the yuan, had “intensified uncertainty about China’s exchange rate policy and the prospects for its economy”.
“This uncertainty led to increased volatility in global financial markets and, against the background of persistent weakness abroad, exacerbated concerns about the outlook for global growth.”
While Janet Yellen said she was confident China’s economy was not facing a “hard landing”, the Fed chief said the overall uncertainty created by the world’s second-largest economy was behind some of the steep falls in global commodity prices, which in turn were creating stress for exporting nations.
Janet Yellen added that “low commodity prices could trigger financial stresses in commodity-exporting economies” as well as in commodity-producing firms around the world.
If such problems materialized, she added, “foreign activity and demand for US exports could weaken and financial market conditions could tighten further”.
Following her prepared testimony Janet Yellen responded to questions in Congress about the new way in which the central bank implemented its last rate rise.
Congress is concerned the new policy benefits the country’s banks more than the American public, because banks receive a higher interest rate on the reserves they hold at the Fed.
Supporters of the interest rate on excess reserves (IOER) policy say it allows the Fed to maintain control of the market.
Janet Yellen has called the policy a “traditional tool” for adjusting rates, citing its use by other central banks around the globe. The Fed was given the power to offer IOER by Congress in 2006.
US stock markets opened higher after the comments.
Recent stock market turmoil has prompted most Wall Street analysts to push back their forecast of when the next US Federal Reserve interest rate rise will occur, from March to June at the earliest.
US stock markets have taken a battering in recent weeks over concerns caused by the economic slowdown in China, which has in turn led to lower commodity and oil prices, while the weaker yuan has made Chinese exports cheaper than those from the US.
The Dow Jones is down some 8.5% since the start of the year, the S&P 500 is down more than 9% since January 1 and the NASDAQ is lower by 14%.
US economic growth in the last three months of 2015 also slowed dramatically, to 0.7% compared with the same period a year earlier, falling from 2% three months earlier.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai has become the highest-paid chief executive in the US after being awarded $199 million in shares, a US Securities and Exchange Commission filing has revealed.
Sundar Pichai became Google’s chief executive following the creation of its parent, Alphabet.
Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, have amassed fortunes of $34.6 billion and $33.9 billion, according to Forbes magazine.
Sundar Pichai, 43, was awarded 273,328 Alphabet shares on February 3, worth a total of $199 million, according to a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
The new award of shares takes Sundar Pichai’s total stock value to approximately $650 million.
Sundar Pichai’s share award will vest incrementally each quarter until 2019. In other words, full control over the shares will pass to him on a gradual basis.
He joined the company since 2004, initially leading product management on a number of Google’s client software products, including Google Chrome and Chrome OS, as well as being largely responsible for Google Drive. He also oversaw the development of Gmail and Google Maps.
Sundar Pichai previously worked in engineering and product management at Applied Materials and as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company.
Last week, Alphabet – Google’s parent company – surpassed Apple as the world’s most valuable firm after it reported a profit of $4.9 billion in Q4 of 2015, an increase from $4.7 billion a year ago.
On an annual basis, Alphabet made $16.3 billion, but the figures showed that the “Other Bets” business lost $3.6 billion during the period, while Google’s operating income rose to $23.4 billion, as online advertising increased.
According to official figures, the Indian economy grew at an average rate of 7.5% in 2015, faster than the 6.9% growth in China.
In recent history it has been unusual, but not unprecedented, for India to grow faster than China.
It happened in 1981,1989,1990 and 1999, and 2015 was the first instance in this millennium, according to the IMF.
India’s government said growth in the October to December quarter was 7.3%, a slight drop on previous quarters which were revised sharply higher.
Even though the economy lost steam in the last quarter, its pace of expansion was faster than the growth posted by China in the same quarter.
India measures its economy over a fiscal rather than a calendar year.
The government of Narendra Modi said the Indian economic growth for the fiscal year ending March 2016 is forecast to accelerate to 7.6%.
However, some economists say the latest growth figures are at odds with other data for Asia’s third largest economy, including weak exports, railway freight, cement production and investment and flat order books.
A year ago India’s statistics ministry revised GDP growth rates higher – closer to that of China – by updating the base year used for price comparisons.
VW has announced that it will not release its results nor hold its shareholders’ meeting on time, as it needs more time to work out its accounts as a result of 2015’s emissions crisis.
The automaker was due to release results on March 10 and hold its shareholders’ meeting towards the end of April.
Volkswagen has not said by how much these events will be delayed.
The company says results will be about the same as in 2014, although the cost of the crisis will eat into those.
VW said it was working on “valuation calculations”.
Sales in VW-branded cars dipped last year after the scandal – which affected 11 million cars – came to light in September. Deliveries fell 5.3% in October, 2.4% in November and 7.9% in December compared with those months in 2014.
It was its first drop in VW-branded sales in 11 years as the company continues to cope with the emissions scandal.
VW has promised it will have a fix in the coming weeks for the millions of US cars with defeat devices that disguised emission levels in diesel cars.
Sales of VW-brand cars fell 4.8% in 2015 to 5.82 million cars from 6.12 million a year earlier.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is suing the company over what it says were 600,000 affected vehicles and a US law firm is conducting an investigation into who made the decisions to cheat.
VW says it is sticking to its plan to publish the findings of its investigation into the scandal in the second half of April.
Results from Porsche, which is owned by Volkswagen, are also being delayed.
According to the new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US economy added 151,000 jobs in January 2016.
The new jobs helped to push the US unemployment rate down to 4.9%.
The number was lower than expected and is a sharp slowdown from December 2015, when 292,000 jobs were added.
Job losses in transport and education weighed on the numbers, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said.
Last week, figures showed that US economic growth slowed to an annual rate 0.7% in the final three months of 2015, from 2% in the previous quarter.
Early trading on Wall Street suggests investors are concerned that the slowdown in job creation could be a further signal of a weakening US economy. The main Dow Jones was down 189 points, or 1.2%, at 16,227.43 in early-afternoon trading.
Photo Getty Images
However, some analysts focused on the positive – that weaker job numbers meant another rise in interest rates was unlikely for now.
President Barack Obama highlighted the low unemployment rate as he plugged aspects of his spending bill to be proposed next week. He plans to push for greater investment in clean energy, where jobs growth has been strong.
The president acknowledged that there was still anxiety among Americans, but said the US economy was “stronger and more durable” then before the financial crisis.
Retailing saw the highest number of jobs created in January, at 58,000, with healthcare adding 37,000 and manufacturing 29,000.
Some 39,000 jobs were lost in private education services, however, with a further 20,000 lost in transport and warehousing.
The net job creation pushed the unemployment rate below 5% – where it had stood for the previous three months – to its lowest level since early 2008.
The labor participation rate was unchanged, suggesting fewer people are dropping out of the labor market – a key problem during the financial crisis.
The average hourly rate rose by 12 cents, or 0.5%, to $25.39.
Toyota has reported a 4.7% year-on-year rise in net income for Q4 of 2015, to 627.9 billion yen ($5.37 billion), due in part to stronger sales in the US.
The Japanese company, the world’s biggest automaker, also raised its North America sales forecast for the full year to March, because of the higher US demand.
However, operating profit for the quarter fell by 5.3%, missing forecasts.
The car industry has been hurt by a global slowdown, particularly in China.
Toyota said net income for the year to March was still likely to come in at 2.27 trillion yen.
“Our latest forecast remains unchanged from the previous forecast, having reflected both positive factors – such as progress in cost reduction and the weaker-than-expected yen so far,” managing officer Tetsuya Otake said.
In the nine months to December, Toyota said consolidated vehicle sales came in at 6,492,784 vehicles – a decrease of 246,374 compared with the same period last a year earlier.
It said sales in North America had increased by 33,032 vehicles to 2,140,655 because of strong demand from the US.
In Asia, however, vehicle sales fell by 112,478 vehicles to 1,016,235 over the nine months.
In the face of slowing global growth, Toyota has been trying to cut costs and improve productivity at its factories. It has also faced a string of recalls in recent months.
Earlier this week, Toyota announced a recall of 320,000 trucks and SUVs over problems with airbags, saying they could inflate without a collision.
In November 2015, Toyota recalled 1.6 million vehicles equipped with faulty airbags. In October 2015, Toyota recalled 6.5 million vehicles over a faulty window switch.
The company has recalled about 15 million vehicles fitted with the bags since 2013.
On February 5, Toyota also announced a share buyback of about 150 billion yen worth of outstanding shares.
Despite the recall worries, Toyota won back the crown of the world’s largest automaker by sales in the first nine months 2015 from Germany’s Volkswagen.
Credit Suisse is planning to cut 4,000 jobs after the bank made a pre-tax loss for the year of 2.4 billion Swiss francs ($2.4 billion), which was its first annual loss since 2008.
The bank said that included “substantial charges which are not reflective of our underlying business performance”.
Credit Suisse has written off 3.8 billion Swiss francs linked to its acquisition of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette in 2000.
It said it planned to save 900 million Swiss francs “from workforce strategy and the rightsizing of the bank’s London presence”.
The bank said that the job losses announced with the results were an acceleration of cuts that were already planned.
Credit Suisse’s shares fell 9% in early trading in Zurich to their lowest level since 1992, because of a gloomy outlook for the current year.
CEO Tidjane Thiam said: “Market conditions in January 2016 have remained challenging and we expect markets to remain volatile throughout the remainder of the first quarter of 2016 as macroeconomic issues persist.”
Shell has confirmed it would cut 10,000 jobs after a sharp fall in its annual profits.
The Royal Dutch Shell shares rose 4% as it said it made $1.8 billion for Q4 of 2015, compared with a $4.2 billion profit for the same period the year before.
Full-year earnings have seen their steepest fall in 13 years, from $19 billion in 2014 to $3.8 billion in 2015.
Oil prices have fallen steadily, from more than $100 a barrel 18 months ago to around $30 a barrel now.
Nevertheless, Shell has maintained its dividend payout to shareholders, a move that relieved investors.
Oil companies and their suppliers have been cutting back hard on investment and jobs as the low price eats into profits and makes investment less worthwhile.
Shell’s rival, BP, announced a profits slump of 51% to $5.9bn for 2015 and a further 3,000 job cuts earlier this week.
Shell had already made clear when investors were preparing to vote on its planned takeover of BG that its profit figures for 2015 would be hit.
The company also said thousands of job would go, because of its takeover of BG.
Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said the company was entering a new phase: “The completion of the BG transaction, which we are expecting in a matter of weeks, marks the start of a new chapter in Shell, rejuvenating the company and improving shareholder returns.
“We are making substantial changes in the company… as we refocus Shell, and respond to lower oil prices. As we have previously indicated, this will include a reduction of some 10,000 staff and direct contractor positions in 2015-16 across both companies.”
Ben van Beurden added he would take further action if necessary: “Shell will take further impactful decisions to manage through the oil price downturn, should conditions warrant that.”
Some analysts question whether Shell can continue to keep paying investors at the rate it does on the back of a shrinking business.
At the time of the proposed BG tie-up, oil was trading at about $55 a barrel, but it is currently trading at about $35 a barrel, leading some shareholders to oppose the plan.
Standard Life, a key investor in Royal Dutch Shell, said last month that the price of oil needed to be $60 a barrel for the takeover to make financial sense, but in January, the majority of shareholders in Shell, which is Europe’s largest oil company, voted in favor of that deal.
Shell said it had cut operating costs over the year by $4 billion, or around 10%, and expected to cut costs by a further $3 billion in 2016.
The company also cut back hard on investment over the year, with capital spending slashed by $8.4 billion from a year ago to $28.9 billion.
Shell sold $5.5 billion worth of assets in the course of 2015 and is planning to sell another $30 billion of assets.
Ford has announced it is cutting jobs and save $200 million a year in Europe.
The US car giant said it was launching a voluntary redundancy program and improving manufacturing efficiencies.
The company also said it would focus on its most profitable models, such as sports utility vehicles (SUVs).
Ford Europe returned to profit for the first time in four years in 2015, as the parent group recorded record profits of $10.8 billion.
This represented a “good first step”, said Ford Europe executive vice-president Jim Farley.
“We are absolutely committed to accelerating our transformation, taking the necessary actions to create a vibrant business that is solidly profitable in both good times and down cycles.”
The jobs are likely to go at Ford’s main European centers in the UK and Germany.
Ford also said it would be launching seven new or redesigned vehicles this year, including a Focus RS and new Kuga and Edge SUVs.
Ford Europe has closed a number of plants as it struggles to turn around heavy losses. Last year, the company made an operating profit of $259 million in Europe, compared with a loss of $598 million in 2014.
Yahoo has announced its plans to cut 15% of its workforce as the company pursues an “aggressive strategic plan” to return to profitability.
The company says the job cuts will reduce the number of its employees to about 9,000 by the end of 2016.
Yahoo’s announcement came as the company reported a $4.3 billion loss for 2015.
In a statement, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said: “This is a strong plan calling for bold shifts in products and in resources.”
Marissa Mayer added that it would “dramatically brighten our future and improve our competitiveness and attractiveness to users, advertisers, and partners”.
The head-count reduction is the latest part of Marissa Mayer’s attempt to turn around Yahoo, which is struggling to compete against the likes of Facebook and Google.
In December, Yahoo announced it was reversing a plan to sell its stake in the Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba, and would instead look to spin off its core internet business.
Marissa Mayer was forced to change course on the Alibaba sale following pressure from several activist investors.
The focus on cutting costs and raising profits is being seen as the latest sign that Yahoo is becoming more serious about selling its core internet business.
As well as shedding much of its workforce, Yahoo plans to sell off some of its product lines – such as Yahoo TV and Yahoo Games – so that it can focus on its search business, email and Tumblr blogging site.
Yahoo is also closing offices in Dubai, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Madrid, and Milan.
That should lead to “modest and accelerating growth in 2017 and 2018,” the company said.
Yahoo has estimated the cutting back of its product line alone could generate $1 billion.
Marissa Mayer has been under pressure from investors to step down as chief executive.
Yahoo’s shares fell 1.4% in after hours of trading.
Credit Suisse and Barclays have been fined a total of $154 million over their “dark pool” trading operations in the US.
“Dark pool” operations allow investors to trade large blocks of shares but keep the prices private.
Barclays has admitted misleading investors and violating securities law in the way it operated the pool. The bank will pay a $70 million fine.
Credit Suisse will pay $60 million and another $24.3 million relating to other violations.
The fines will be split between the State of New York and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The New York Attorney General and the SEC have both censured the two banks for their misconduct.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said: “These cases mark the first major victory in the fight against fraud in dark pool trading that began when we first sued Barclays.”
He added that “co-ordinated and aggressive government action” had led to “admissions of wrongdoing, and meaningful reforms to protect investors from predatory, high-frequency traders”.
“We will continue to take the fight to those who aim to rig the system and those who look the other way,” Eric Schneiderman said.
Andrew Ceresney, director of the SEC’s enforcement division said: “Dark pools have a significant role in today’s equity marketplace, and the firms that run these venues must ensure that they do not make mis-statements to subscribers about their material operations.”
Credit Suisse will neither admit nor deny the allegations.
A spokeswoman said the bank was “pleased to have resolved these matters” with the SEC and the New York attorney general.
A Barclays representative said: “The agreement will enable us to focus all of our efforts on serving our clients.”
In 2015, Barclays lost an attempt to have the case dismissed.
Part of the point of dark pool trading systems is to allow institutions to sell large numbers of shares privately, helping to make sure their actions don’t result in a cut in the price they can get.
Japan’s stock market traded sharply higher on February 1 as investors continued to cheer January 29 surprise move by the central bank to cut its rates.
Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 closed up 1.98% to 17,865.23 – its highest close since early January.
The benchmark closed up almost 3% on January 29 after the BoJ cut its rates to -0.1%.
The move is designed to spur inflation, investment and spending. Analysts said it was a turning point for the bank.
Elsewhere, manufacturing activity in China, the world’s second biggest economy, shrank more than expected in January from a month earlier, which dented confidence among investors.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index closed 0.5% lower at 19,595 in afternoon trade, while the Shanghai Composite was down 1.8% at 2,688.
China’s official Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) came in at 49.4 for the month compared to December’s reading of 49.7. The data marks the sixth month of contraction in the sector.
Expectations were for a reading of 49.6 for the month. A reading of above 50 indicates activity has grown, while a reading of below 50 indicates activity has contracted.
In South Korea, the Kospi index closed up 0.67% to 1,924.82, reversing earlier losses.
Disappointing trade numbers released on February 1 showed exports contracted 18.5% in January from a year earlier. It marks the 13th month in a row the nation’s exports have shrunk and is the worst result for exports since mid 2009.
Imports also contracted for the period by 20.1%.
In Australia, the ASX 200 finished the day up 0.76% at 5,043.60 following gains in the US.