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Wall Street edges higher during earnings flurry
By Rodrigo Campos NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks advanced slightly in choppy trading on Thursday after three days of gains, as underwhelming results from tech bellwethers Google and IBM were offset by upbeat quarterly numbers, including those from Morgan Stanley and General Electric. The latest data showed the U.S. economy's health was improving. The combined reported and expected earnings-per-share growth estimate for S&P 500 components rose to 1.7 percent from Wednesday's 0.6 percent, Thomson Reuters data showed, indicating most companies that reported results in the past 24 hours exceeded expectations. The technology sector capped the S&P 500's gain, with Google shares down 3.2 percent at $545.81 and IBM off 3.2 percent at $190.28 after both reported earnings late Wednesday that failed to impress Wall Street.
Jobless claims, factory data put some shine on economy
By Lucia Mutikani WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New claims for jobless benefits hovered near their pre-recession levels last week and manufacturing in the Mid-Atlantic region accelerated in April, suggesting an upswing in economic activity after a brutally cold winter. Coming on the heels of fairly bullish data on retail sales and industrial production, Thursday's reports also hinted job growth may be picking up slightly. "The data add further evidence to the notion that the economy has exerted positive momentum at the start of the second quarter," said Sam Bullard, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits ticked up 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 304,000 for the week ended April 12, the Labor Department said, but stayed close to a 6-1/2 year low touched the prior week.
Fed bond buying twice as effective on growth as BoE's - research
By David Milliken LONDON (Reuters) - Bond purchases by the U.S. Federal Reserve have been twice as effective at boosting economic output as those by the Bank of England, research by a Bank policymaker showed on Thursday. The findings are likely to be of interest to the European Central Bank, which is weighing whether to start an asset purchase programme in the euro zone to ward off the threat of deflation. Martin Weale, who sits on the BoE's rate-setting committee, looked at growth and inflation data from March 2009 to May 2013 to assess the impact of bond purchases by the Bank and the Fed. Fed purchases of bonds equivalent to 1 percent of gross domestic product raised U.S. GDP by 0.36 percent, while Bank purchases on the same scale raised gross domestic product by only 0.18 percent, Weale said. The findings also suggest Bank asset purchases were slightly more effective than estimated in a Bank paper in 2011.
South Africa rand halts 5 straight losses, boost from dovish Fed
South Africa's rand was in firmer territory against the dollar on Thursday after five prior straight losses, reaching its strongest in nearly a week as dovish comments from the U.S. Federal Reserve weighed on the greenback. The local unit climbed to as high as 10.4705, a level last reached on April 11 according to Thomson Reuters data, and was trading at 10.4750 by 1530 GMT, up 0.87 percent from Wednesday's close. Trading volumes were fairly thin, with most traders reluctant to take meaningful positions ahead of financial market closures in South Africa on Friday and Monday for the Easter holiday, dealers and analysts said. The rand tracked a generally firmer trend among emerging market assets, which carry more risks but offer investors higher yields, and benefited from comments overnight by Fed Chair Janet Yellen that low interest rates are needed to support the U.S. economy.
Twitter broadens advertising reach through app-install ads
By Gerry Shih SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Twitter Inc took a significant step Thursday towards broaden its advertising business by offering mobile ads urging people to install apps on its social network as well as through MoPub, the mobile-advertising network it acquired last year. As the mobile app economy grows, app developers have been willing to pay increasing amounts to advertise on major sites like Facebook to boost their app downloads. Twitter said Thursday it could reach 1 billion unique mobile devices through its MoPub network, which places ads inside of hundreds of apps. Twitter, which acquired MoPub last year for roughly $350 million, reaches a more limited audience of 240 million users through its own Twitter.com Web site and mobile apps.
Yemen's foreign minister says will push donors for promised billions in aid
By Mohammed Ghobari SANAA (Reuters) - The Yemeni foreign minister said on Thursday he would use a meeting in London this month to push donor countries to release billions of dollars in promised aid that Yemen desperately needs to address its ailing economy and volatile security situation. The Friends of Yemen group pledged around $7.9 billion in aid in 2012, but most of the funds have been delayed because of technical issues and lagging approvals by donor heads of state, a Yemeni government minister previously told Reuters. Yemen's economy nearly collapsed during the year-long revolt that toppled former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Stability in Yemen is seen as key by Washington and Gulf countries because of the country's location next to the world's top oil exporter Saudi Arabia and on the important Red Sea oil shipment route.
Egypt central bank to keep interest rates on hold -survey
Egypt's central bank will keep interest rates on hold next Thursday as it balances the need to fight inflation while supporting the currency and stimulating an economy battered by more than three years of upheaval, a Reuters poll showed. Annual urban consumer inflation remains high despite slowing for three consecutive months before holding steady at 9.8 percent in March, but it may still be too early for the central bank to cut rates to spur on economic activity. Six economists polled by Reuters said they expect the central bank to keep rates on hold on April 24. Moustafa Bassiouny, an economist at Signet Institute, said the central bank's Monetary Policy Committee was likely to wait until next month before cutting rates.
Iran cuts sensitive nuclear stockpile, key plant delayed: IAEA
By Fredrik Dahl VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran has acted to cut its most sensitive nuclear stockpile by nearly 75 percent in implementing a landmark pact with world powers, but a planned facility it will need to fulfill the six-month deal has been delayed, a U.N. report showed on Thursday. The monthly update by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has a pivotal role in verifying that Iran is living up to its part of the accord, made clear that Iran so far is undertaking the agreed steps to curb its nuclear program. Japan has made two more payments totaling $1 billion to Iran for crude imports, two sources with knowledge of the transactions said. Under the breakthrough agreement that took effect on January 20, Iran halted some aspects of its nuclear program in exchange for a limited easing of international sanctions that have laid low the major oil producer's economy.
ECB hardliner Weidmann comes in from the cold as deflation threatens
By Paul Carrel FRANKFURT (Reuters) - As recently as last November, Jens Weidmann steadfastly opposed any move by the European Central Bank to print money to buy assets and buoy the euro zone economy. The Bundesbank chief, known for his hardline stances at the ECB and as head of the German central bank, is now ready to support such quantitative easing (QE) if he and his ECB colleagues deem it necessary. Euro zone inflation has slowed to 0.5 percent from 0.9 percent in November, falling far below the ECB's target of just under 2 percent and stoking fears the bloc could become stuck in a prolonged period of so-called "low-flation", or even sink into outright deflation. Seeking to head off such a drop in inflation expectations, the ECB's governing council said earlier this month it was unanimous in its commitment to use unconventional tools - central bank-speak for things like QE - to counter a protracted period of low inflation.
Total strikes oil for second time offshore Ivory Coast
By Michel Rose and Joe Bavier PARIS/ABIDJAN (Reuters) - France's Total said on Thursday it had discovered oil in a deep offshore area in the west of Ivory Coast, the company's second oil find in a year in the West African country. "This well is the first discovery in the San Pedro Basin, a frontier exploration area in Ivory Coast," Total senior vice president for exploration Marc Blaizot said in a statement. "Having confirmed the presence of a petroleum system containing light oil, we will next evaluate this very promising find and focus on its extension to the north and east." Oil and gas exploration in West Africa's Gulf of Guinea has risen sharply since Ghana discovered its giant Jubilee field in 2007 and brought it to production in record time in late 2010. Ivory Coast, French-speaking West Africa's largest economy, is seeking to accelerate development of its energy sector, neglected during a decade-long political crisis that ended in a brief civil war in 2011.
Japan vice economy minister: Economy remains on firm footing after tax hike
Japanese Vice Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said on Thursday that the economy remains on a firm footing after the April 1 sales tax hike and that the impact of the higher consumption tax was within expectations. Nishimura was speaking to reporters after the government cut its overall economic view due to a pullback in demand caused by the April 1 sales tax hike, its first downgrade since late 2012. He said investors should focus on the real state of economy rather than fretting over additional monetary stimulus by the Bank of Japan and added that the government and the BOJ share the view on the economy and financial environment.
Obama, Abe to battle negative images at U.S.-Japan summit
By Linda Sieg and David Brunnstrom TOKYO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When U.S. President Barack Obama meets Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a summit next week, they will be battling negative undercurrents that could undermine their message that Asia's most important security alliance is firm. Obama, stopping in Tokyo at the beginning of a four-nation Asian trip, must counter worries in Japan that his commitment to its defense in the face of an increasingly assertive China is weak. Abe will be trying to soothe U.S. concerns that his conservative push to recast Japan's war record with a less apologetic tone is overshadowing his pragmatic policies on the economy and security. The two leaders will also need to demonstrate at least the prospect of progress on the economic centerpiece of what the Obama administration calls its strategic "rebalance" to Asia - a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact that would bring together Japan, the United States and 10 other economies.
BOJ keeps upbeat view on regional Japan, sees limited tax hike impact
By Leika Kihara TOKYO (Reuters) - The Bank of Japan maintained its upbeat view on most of the country's regional economies, adding to reassurances from its governor that the world's third-largest economy can ride out the pain from a sales tax hike without additional stimulus. Also on Thursday, a Reuters survey showed manufacturers were more confident about business conditions in April and saw a more moderate dip over the next three months, suggesting the damage from the tax hike may be less pronounced than thought. The optimism may add to a growing consensus in financial markets that the central bank will hold off on easing policy until around July to spend more time scrutinizing the impact from the April 1 tax hike on domestic consumption. In a quarterly report analyzing nine regional sectors of Japan, the BOJ raised its assessment for one and left unchanged its view for the rest to say they are all recovering moderately.
Beijing's bid to move polluting firms watched warily in nearby regions
By David Stanway BEIJING (Reuters) - China's capital has ordered more than 50 companies to shut down this year in an effort to cut pollution but pushing factories out could raise objections in surrounding areas reluctant to host Beijing's polluters. Smog-shrouded Beijing and the surrounding province of Hebei have become a front in a "war against pollution" declared by Premier Li Keqiang last month. But experts say efforts to cut coal consumption and industrial output in big cities like Beijing is likely to put pressure on other regions to endure more pollution to keep the economy growing, with overall coal consumption expected to rise by a quarter from 2011 to 2015. "Moving Beijing's plants to Hebei isn't the best way," said Yang Fuqiang, a former government researcher and senior energy and environment adviser with the National Resources Defense Council, a U.S.-based think-tank.
Japan's Abe dubs China vital partner amid territorial disputes
By Kiyoshi Takenaka TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe criticized Beijing for trying to "change the status quo" with force in maritime disputes but said China was a vital economic partner, as a series of visits suggested a possible thaw in ties between the Asian rivals. Sino-Japanese ties have been strained by a territorial row over tiny disputed isles in the East China Sea and perceptions in Beijing that Abe wants to rewrite Japan's wartime history and tone down past apologies. "China's growth is a chance for Japan, and for the world as well. China is Japan's largest trading partner and we are in inseparable relations economically," Abe said at a symposium.
Google, IBM results raise questions about other tech-sector companies
By Alexei Oreskovic and Noel Randewich SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Disappointing results from Google Inc and IBM may unnerve investors shaken by a strong recent selloff in tech stocks, underscoring the challenges the Internet and IT sectors face as corporate report cards come due in coming weeks. IBM blamed weak hardware sales for its lowest quarterly revenue in five years, worsened by an 11 percent slide in overall sales in emerging markets including China, Brazil, Russia and India. Like IBM, they have struggled to grow their businesses, particularly in China, whose economy is down-shifting after years of hyper-growth.
Asia stocks subdued, Nikkei weak on profit taking
HONG KONG (AP) ? Asian stock markets were subdued on Thursday, with Japan's Nikkei faltering as investors locked in profits after a strong rally.
China economy stronger than data suggests: government
By Aileen Wang and Adam Rose BEIJING (Reuters) - China's economy is doing better than official data suggests, the Commerce Ministry said a day after figures showed growth at an 18-month low, adding that targets for exports and imports this year should be met despite some caution over the trade outlook. Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang said a rise in export deliveries, a customs department poll of exporters and growth in trade in individual provinces all showed that the economy was in good shape.
IBM's quarterly revenue sinks to 5-year low as hardware sales fall
IBM Corp, the world's biggest technology services company, reported its lowest quarterly revenue in five years on Wednesday, as Big Blue struggles with falling demand for its hardware and faces challenges in growth markets like China. That has undercut business at some U.S.-based multinationals operating in the world's second-biggest economy.
Asia stocks fail to match Wall Street gains
HONG KONG (AP) ? Asian stock markets were mostly lower Thursday, with Japan's Nikkei leading the retreat as investors locked in profits after a strong rally.