Archive for July 2011

Twitter to serve up ads with 'Promoted Tweets'

Saturday, July 30, 2011 · Posted in

Twitter said Thursday that it will begin placing advertisements known as "Promoted Tweets" in the timelines of users who follow a particular brand or company.

Twitter said it will begin testing the new advertising offering with a number of companies including Dell, Gatorade, Groupon, JetBlue, LivingSocial, Microsoft, Red Bull, Starbucks and Virgin America.

Promoted Tweets from non-profits such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the American Red Cross will also be shown, the San Francisco-based Twitter said in a blog post.

"When we decide to follow a favorite brand, business or charitable organization, we expect to be among the first to get a special announcement, access to exclusive content or a great offer," Twitter said.

"That's why starting today, we're introducing a way to ensure that the most important tweets from the organizations you follow reach you directly," it said.

Twitter has enjoyed explosive growth since it was founded in 2006 but it is unclear how successful it has been in translating its popularity into profit.

Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo, speaking at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colorado, last week declined to reveal whether the privately held company is profitable.

But he said the number of advertisers on the platform is up 600 percent this year over last year, when it numbered in the hundreds.

Twitter said the new advertising scheme will involve placing "Promoted Tweets" from accounts that a user follows "at or near the top" of their timeline, or stream of messages, when a user logs in.

"These Promoted Tweets will scroll through the timeline like any other tweet, and like regular tweets, they will appear in your timeline just once," Twitter said.

"Promoted Tweets can also be easily dismissed from your timeline with a single click," Twitter added.

The advertiser-sponsored tweets will only be shown on the accounts of users of the website, not the scores of third-party applications used to access the service.

Facebook beats Google as the most commonly typed domain in the address bar

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"" is by far the most common URL that people type into the address bar of their internet browser.

People are typing "" almost three times more often than ""

The URL statistics were published on July 25 by Christopher Finke, a software engineer and the creator of URL Fixer, a browser add-on that fixes human errors that are typed in the address bar on your internet browser. is the most popular domain and accounts for 9 percent of all typed domains. is the second most typed address and accounts for 3.3 percent of all typed domains.,,,,,, and also feature in the top ten most typed domains according to Finke.

According to website traffic monitoring company Alexa, the top 10 sites on the web by the amount of traffic they receive are, in order: Google, Facebook, Youtube, Yahoo, Live, Baidu, Wikipedia, Blogger, MSN and Tencent.

Finke notes in the comments on his blog that while "All of Facebook's properties (* combine [to make up] 9.4% [of all typed domains]; all of Google's (*, YouTube, Blogspot, etc.) combine for at least 9.7%."

"The only locales where neither Google nor Facebook control the most popular domain are ru-RU (Russia -, fi-FI (Finland -, a gaming website), ko-KR (Korea -, an e-sports website), and zh-CN (China -," reveals Finke.

Not surprisingly, people often make mistakes when entering addresses into their URL bar and end up with all kinds of typos. Frequent variations on the top level domain ".com" include .com\, .ocm, .con, .cmo, .copm, .xom, ".com,", .vom, .comn, .com', ".co,", .comj, .coim, .cpm, .colm, .conm, and .coom.

"The website that appears to benefit the most from users mistyping a legitimate URL is (count the o's)," says Finke.

Scammers have taken advantage of the common typing error (which is typed once for every 7,930 times that is correctly typed), setting up a website that makes visitors think they have been chosen as a "Facebook Winner."

Google tablets seen overtaking iPad in 5 years

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Tablet computers running Google's Android software will catch up with Apple's iPad and surpass it in 2016, research firm Informa said.

Informa said it expects Apple's current 75 percent market share to fall to 39 percent in 2015, when Android market share will grow to 38 percent.

"From 2013, as cheaper and more advanced Android tablets enter the market, we forecast that sales will pick up considerably, eventually surpassing iPad sales in 2016," analyst David McQueen said in a statement on Wednesday.

Samsung Electronics Galaxy Tab has been the best-selling Android tablet so far, but also other vendors including Motorola Mobility use it on their devices.

"We have seen a huge explosion in the tablet market in recent years, driven primarily by the iPad, and we estimate that the market will go from strength to strength, growing from under 20 million tablets sold in 2010, to over 230 million in 2015," McQueen said.

(Reporting by Tarmo Virki; Editing by Andrew Callus)

S. Korea economic growth slows in second quarter

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 · Posted in

South Korea's economic growth slowed in the second quarter from three months earlier due to weaker exports and sluggish construction investment, the central bank said Wednesday.

Asia's fourth-largest economy grew 0.8 percent quarter-on-quarter in April-June compared to a 1.3 percent expansion in January-March, according to an advance estimate from the Bank of Korea.

Gross domestic product (GDP) rose 3.4 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, slowing down from a 4.2 percent increase in January-March.

"Private consumption steadily increased and facilities investment rose. But growth in exports slowed while construction investment remained sluggish," the central bank said in a statement.

The second-quarter performance was slightly below the central bank's initial estimate early this month and the market's expectations.

For the whole of this year, the bank expects the export-dominated economy to grow 4.3 percent, while the finance ministry's forecast is 4.5 percent. GDP grew 6.2 percent in 2010, the fastest rate for eight years.

Analysts said the economy would largely remain on a firm growth track for the rest of the year thanks to robust exports, rising local consumption and a recovering job market.

FAA shutdown portends protracted fight in Congress

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawmakers dug in Tuesday for what is shaping up to be a protracted fight over legislation necessary to end a partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration even as the economic and social consequences of the shutdown widened.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he was unaware of any negotiations to end the legislative stalemate between the House and Senate that permitted the FAA's operating authority to expire at midnight on Friday.

The administration hopes to persuade House Republicans to reach a compromise by publicizing the airport projects that have been halted and workers that have been laid off in their districts due to the shutdown, he told The Association Press in an interview.

Thus far, there's been no movement, but he remains hopeful, LaHood said.

The FAA has furloughed nearly 4,000 workers, stopped the processing of about $2.5 billion in airport construction grants, and issued stop work orders to construction and other contractors on more than 150 projects, from airport towers to runway safety lights.

The agency issued dozens more stop work orders on Tuesday. At least hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of private sector workers have been affected.

"It's frustrating," said Mike MacDonald, regional vice president of an FAA union representing nearly 1,200 engineers, architects, technicians and other workers who have been furloughed. "Why are we being used as pawns in this political game that has nothing to do with us?"

Most of his union's members "are like me — middle-aged with mortgages, kids in college and car loans," said MacDonald, 54, who has also been laid off. "It's scary."

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., said he's concerned that Washington officials and the public have been so focused on the national debt crisis, that the FAA shutdown — which is unrelated — isn't receiving the attention it deserves.

"This is a very serious problem, but it is hard to rise above the din," he told reporters. More than 600 furloughed FAA employees worked at the agency's research and technical center in Egg Harbor, N.J.

GOP senators confirmed their intention to continue to block legislation to restore FAA's operating authority unless Democrats give ground on Republican proposals to cut air service subsidies to rural communities and to make it more difficult for airline workers to unionize.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said he will use Senate procedures to hold up the legislation unless it also includes cuts to the Essential Air Service program, which was set up more than three decades ago to ensure airline service on less profitable routes to remote communities. Critics complain that in some cases the subsidies are too high — more than $1,000 per person — or that some the communities are now within 90 miles of a hub airport, reducing their need for subsidies.

A Republican-sponsored bill passed by the House last week to extend FAA authority through Sept. 16 included a provision to cut $16.5 million in air service subsidies. FAA has a $16 billion budget this year.

Senate Democrats objected, saying Republicans were trying to use the subsidies provision to enact policy changes that haven't been agreed to by negotiators and to prod Democrats to compromise on the labor provision.

The labor provision is contained in a long-term funding plan for the FAA passed by the House in April. The Senate passed a similar bill in February without the provision. Democrats have insisted Republicans drop the labor provision before they will negotiate on a handful of other contentious issues in the long-term funding plan, including the air service subsidies.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who blocked a Democratic effort Friday to extend FAA's operating authority without cutting subsidies, told reporters he doesn't expect to change his position "until they quit playing around with labor law."

Also Tuesday, Democratic Sens. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, chairman of the Senate committee that oversees FAA's budget, and Maria Cantwell of Washington, who chairs the aviation subcommittee, sent a letter to airline industry officials complaining that airlines have raised fares during the tax holiday created by the FAA shutdown.

Airlines' authority to collect ticket taxes expired at midnight Friday along with FAA's operating authority. By Saturday night, nearly all the major U.S. airlines had raised fares to offset taxes that expired the night before, including American, United, Continental, Delta, US Airways, Southwest, AirTran and JetBlue.

Among the few airlines that didn't raise fares were Virgin America, Frontier and Alaska. The expiring taxes can total $25 or more on a typical $300 round-trip ticket.

"Consumers pay these taxes and fees to support the aviation system and it is patently unfair for the industry to charge them to travelers and not have them see any benefit," the senators wrote.

They urged airlines to either put their profits into an account to be used to support federal aviation programs or roll back the fare increases.

Industry officials were unrepentant.

"Customers are not impacted and are paying the same ticket prices they were last week," Air Transport Association spokeswoman Jean Medina said.

U.S. likely to lose top rating: economists

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U.S. likely to lose top rating: economists
WASHINGTON/LONDON (Reuters) - The United States will lose its top-notch AAA credit rating from at least one major rating agency, according to a Reuters poll that also found wrangling over the debt ceiling has already damaged the economy.

A small majority of economists -- 30 out of 53 -- surveyed over the past two days said the United States will lose its AAA credit rating from one of the three big ratings agencies -- Standard & Poor's, Moody's or Fitch.

Respondents saw a 20 percent chance of a new recession over the next year, a prospect that some economists say has been compounded by the acrimonious political fight over what is normally a procedural legislative vote on the debt.

Lawmakers have one week left to hash out a deficit-cutting plan without which Republicans in Congress have said they will not raise the legal $14.3 trillion debt limit, risking a potentially devastating government debt default in August.

"We believe that Congress will act with an 11th hour deal to raise the debt ceiling. However, the risk of that deal failing increases with each passing day," said Guy LeBas, director at Janney Capital Markets.

"I would say that the chance of a U.S. ratings downgrade is now more likely than not."

Economists still see the probability of an outright default on U.S. Treasury bonds as remote -- 5 percent on median.

Downgrade and default would have vastly different consequences. A ratings cut might raise the risk of recession by hurting confidence, but might allow financial markets to muddle through the next few months without incident. A default, however, would send shockwaves through the global financial system that could kick-start a new financial crisis, analysts say.

Even if this worst-case scenario is not borne out, a firm majority of respondents -- 38 out of 54 -- said the uncertainty brought about by the political acrimony over the debt has already hurt economic growth.

The U.S. economy had already been under stress in recent months. Gross domestic product expanded just 1.9 percent in the first three months of the year, and the second quarter is not expected to have fared much better. Industrial production has slowed and employment nearly ground to a halt in the last two months. The jobless rate climbed to 9.2 percent in June.

"This whole debt ceiling debate doesn't seem to be making anyone any more confident," said Sean Incremona, economist at 4Cast Ltd. in New York.

Goldman Sachs argued in a research note recently that the decline in consumer sentiment over the last few months has been disproportionate to the economy's slowdown, pegging the debt battle as a culprit.

The government's first reading on GDP in the second quarter will be released on Friday.

(Reporting by Andy Bruce, Polling by Bangalore Polling Unit; Editing by Ruth Pitchford, Leslie Adler, Chizu Nomiyama and Dan Grebler)

Europe considers Greek default, leaders to meet

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 · Posted in

Europe considers Greek default, leaders to meetEurope considers Greek default, leaders to meet

European Union leaders are poised to hold an emergency summit after finance ministers acknowledged for the first time that some form of Greek default may be needed to cut Athens' debts and to stop contagion spreading to Italy and Spain.

"There will be an extra summit this Friday," a senior euro zone diplomat told Reuters, suggesting policymakers have been seized with a new sense of urgency after markets started targeting Italian assets.

Worsening political tensions between Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti have caused markets to focus on Italy's shaky banks and chances its budget deal could stumble, and to look afresh at Spain, the euro zone's fourth largest economy.

Willem Buiter, chief economist at Citi and a former UK central banker, said there now was a clear danger of the debt crisis spreading beyond Greece, Ireland and Portugal, the three nations bailed out so far.

"We're talking a game changer here, a systemic crisis," he said. "This is existential for the euro area and the EU."

Sucking Italy and Spain into the vortex would be hugely costly. He estimated that the European rescue fund would have to be expanded to a 2 trillion euro ($2.8 trillion) to help out struggling euro-zone countries if they are locked out of capital markets.

The International Monetary Fund called on Italy to take "decisive" steps to cut its fiscal deficit below 3 percent by 2012 and said its medium-term package is an "important step.

Underscoring the difficulty in bringing the crisis under control, Moody's Investors Service downgraded debt of Ireland to junk status on Tuesday, warning that nation may need a second bailout before it can sell bonds to investors.

The prospect that European policymakers will require the private sector to share the burden of any future bailouts, a bone of contention in EU leaders' talks, weighed on Moody's decision, since that would drive up borrowing costs, the agency said.

Increasingly, EU leaders are looking at how to restructure Greece's debt, but ratings agencies warn that the measures would amount to default. Investors fear that a Greek default would ripple through markets, pushing up sovereign debt yields and weakening Europe's banking system -- requiring more bank bailouts that would stretch public finances to breaking point.

A French government source said Paris was in favor of another summit, although the timing was not yet fixed, and in Spain, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said he had not ruled out a meeting.

Earlier, Germany's finance minister had said a second Greek rescue package could wait until September after euro zone finance ministers effectively accepted that private creditor involvement meant a selective debt default was likely, despite the European Central Bank's vehement opposition to such a move.

"We have managed to break the knot, a very difficult knot," Dutch Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager told reporters.

Asked about whether a selective default was now likely, he replied: "It is not excluded any more. Obviously, the European Central Bank has stated in the statement that it did stick to its position, but the 17 (euro zone) ministers did not exclude it any more so we have more options, a broader scope."

Participants said a buy-back of Greek debt on the secondary market and a German proposal for a bond swap for longer maturities were under consideration after a complex French plan to roll over bonds made no headway.

Both would likely be regarded by ratings agencies as a default, or at best a selective default, which, although it would not necessarily cover all Greek debt and could be lifted quickly, would have major repercussions for financial markets.

The Institute of International Finance, the lobby group representing private creditors, said the EU and IMF needed to deliver a plan for Greece, including a debt buyback, within days to avoid markets "spinning out of control.

The increased likelihood of some form of default, and a lukewarm response from the IMF, hit European bank stocks and debt markets and propelled the euro sharply lower against the dollar though markets later settled down.

Ten-year bond yields in Italy, the euro zone's third-largest economy, shot above six percent for the first time since 1997 but then subsided to around 5.7 percent, still at a level which bankers say will put heavy pressure on finances.

Borrowing costs at an Italian 12-month bill sale surged to their highest since the 2008 financial crisis, putting a Thursday bond auction firmly in focus.

In Rome, Berlusconi tried to calm fears Italy could be swept into full-scale crisis, pledging to accelerate debt-cutting measures and run a primary surplus this year.

The euro fell to a four-month low against the dollar before recovering, in part because IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said the lender and its EU partners were not yet ready to discuss terms for a second Greek bailout.

"Nothing should be taken for granted," she told reporters in Washington.

Moody's cuts Irish debt rating to junk status

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 · Posted in

Moody's cuts Irish debt rating to junk status
Moody's said it was increasingly likely that Ireland would need further rounds of official financing

Ratings agency Moody's has cut the Republic of Ireland's debt rating to junk status.

Moody's said its decision was based on the "growing possibility" that Ireland would need a second bail-out before it can return to capital markets.

The current European Union and International Monetary Fund support programme is due to end in late 2013.

It comes at a time when markets fear the debt crisis in the eurozone could spread to Italy and Spain.

Ireland, Greece and Portugal have all been downgraded by ratings agencies several times in recent months.

Last week, the European Commission raised the issue of the "appropriateness of behaviour" of agencies, and Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis said the agencies had exacerbated an already difficult situation.

In its latest downgrade, Moody's cut Ireland's ratings by one notch to Ba1 from Baa3.

And the agency warned that further downgrades were possible if the Irish government failed to meet its deficit reduction targets, or if Greece were to default, thereby causing further market disruption.

News Corp plans $5bn share buy-back

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News Corp plans $5bn share buy-backRupert Murdoch's News Corp has faced a growing phone-hacking scandal in the UK

News Corp has announced plans to buy back $5bn (£3.2bn) of its shares as it attempts to contain the phone-hacking scandal that has sent its share price down in recent days.

News Corp shares have fallen 14% since 4 July after the scandal broke, wiping about $5bn off the company's value.

The group said in a statement that it would increase an existing buy-back programme of about $1.8bn to $5bn.

The move followed investor pressure to support the stock.

It came a day after News Corp's bid to take full control of British broadcaster BSkyB was referred to the Competition Commission in the UK.

The bid has faced growing opposition since it emerged that the News of the World, which was owned by News Corp, hacked the phones of murder victim Milly Dowler and relatives of dead soldiers.

The News of the World has since closed.

Shares in News Corp rose more than 2% when the buy-back was announced, but later fell back.

US trade deficit widens to more than $50bn in May

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US trade deficit

The US trade deficit widened to $50.2bn (£31.7bn) in May, the highest level for 31 months, as oil imports surged.

The trade gap rose from a downwardly revised $43.6bn in April, according to Commerce Department figures.

Oil prices helped push imports to the second highest level on record, while exports fell slightly from April's record high.

The unexpected 2.6% rise in imports to $225.1bn may prompt economists to revise US domestic growth figures.

The data shows that the trade gap with China jumped more than 15% to $25bn.

US companies imported $32.8bn of goods and services from China and exported $7.8bn to the country.

Warren Buffett donates another $1.78bn to charity

Sunday, July 10, 2011 · Posted in

Warren Buffett
Billionaire US investor Warren Buffett has donated another $1.78bn (£1.1bn) to several charities, with most going to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Mr Buffett has given the charity run by the co-founder of Microsoft 23.31 million shares in his investment company Berkshire Hathaway.

The shares were passed to the foundation on Wednesday, when they closed trading at $76.52.

Mr Buffett, 80, plans to give away 99% of his wealth.

He first announced this in 2006, and this week's giant donation is his sixth since then.

Other shares transferred on Wednesday have gone to four charities run by his family.

These include the Susan Thompson Buffet Foundation, which was named after Mr Buffett's late first wife, and charities run by their children, Howard, Peter and Susan.

Mr Buffet has now donated more than $11bn of shares in Berkshire Hathaway.

Described as the "Sage of Omaha" because of his investment acumen, Mr Buffet is the world's third-richest person, worth an estimated $50bn.

China's imports slow down as domestic demand dips

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China's imports slow down as domestic demand dips

The pace of growth of imports to China slowed down in June as the government's efforts to rein in growth hit domestic demand.

Imports to China grew by 19.3% in June, compared with a year ago, a sharp decline from the 28.4% surge in May, latest government data showed.

Meanwhile exports rose by 17.9%, a slowdown compared to the 19.4% rise in the previous month.

China is the world's second largest economy and the biggest exporter.

The weaker-than-expected numbers resulted in a trade surplus of $22.3bn (£13.8bn) in June.

"Imports were below expectations," said David Cohen of Action Economics in Singapore.

"We are perhaps seeing some reflection of loss of momentum in China's growth," he added.

Mr Cohen said that the recent measures by China to tighten its monetary policy were starting to have an impact on the pace of growth in the country.

"The numbers are consistent with decelerating growth, with the soft landing that many people are looking for," he said.

Analysts are concerned that domestic demand is also being hit by rising consumer prices in the country.

Data out on Saturday showed that inflation in China hit its highest level in three years as prices rose by 6.4% in June, compared with a year ago.

First solar park due to power up

Saturday, July 9, 2011 · Posted in

First solar park due to power up
The first solar park in Wales is expected to start converting sunlight into electricity later at the Rhosygilwen estate in Pembrokeshire.

Almost 10,000 solar panels have been imported from the United States and are placed in 12 lines in a six-acre field.

The £2.5m investment will be onstream three weeks before the UK government lowers the subsidy for large-scale solar energy investors.

The site's owner Western Solar still hopes to double its size.

It is run by Dr Glen Peters who owns Rhosygilwen mansion and art centre with his family.

He said: "There are 10,000 panels here. They are very cutting edge from the States.

"They are thin film, particularly suited to our climate here of largely cloudy skies."

He has planning consent for a development twice the size but had to rethink his plans.
Continue reading the main story

"There was no bank financing available. I then had to take a total act of faith and said 'okay, we will halve the scheme, we will do one megawatt initially' and I basically raided my pension fund."

The development would be enough to power 300 homes.

Other applications for three and five megawatt solar parks at Cynheidre and Ffos Las in west Wales are said to be still in planning.

But while Rhosygilwen has beaten the government's closing of a lucrative loophole, developers like Nigel Payne of Allied Renewables in Swansea are setting their sights lower.

His company hopes to complete three much smaller, 50 kilowatt, solar parks by September.

Expansion concern

Another 10 are in the planning stage and, by reducing the size of the output, will still be able to generate a return of 30.7p per kilowatt hour.

"It spreads the feed-in tariff to what it was designed for - not supporting large-scale solar farms where subsidies would be absolutely gobbled up," he said.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change has said from 1 August tariffs would be reduced for large solar panel investors.

Any large-scale solar farms above 250 kilowatts, and up to 5 megawatts, will be able to claim 8.5p per kilowatt hour.

Schemes between 150 kilowatts and 250 kilowatts will be able to claim 15p per kilowatt hour and schemes ranging from 50 kilowatts to 150 kilowatts 19p per kilowatt hour.

Solar installations below 50 kilowatts are unchanged.

The average household installation, less than 4 kilowatts, will still be claiming the highest bracket of 43.3p per kilowatt hour.

With the solar industry increasing over the past 12 months from generating 4 megawatt of power in Britain to 96 megawatts, Dr Owen Guy, Swansea University's senior lecturer in nano technology, said there were some concerns that expansion could slow down.

"It's still available for the small-scale projects. Individuals will be able to install four kilowatt systems on their homes and will still be able to get a good return on their investment," he said.

"But the large scale companies wont be able to make the profit they have been."

Euro debt market jitters worsen

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Euro debt market jitters worsen
The cost of borrowing for debt-laden Portugal, the Irish Republic and Italy hit new highs on Friday.

Greek debts also sold off, reversing a recent rally on hopes of a new rescue.

Financial markets were reacting to the European Central Bank's decision to raise interest rates, as well as political developments in Italy.

Italian economy minister Giulio Tremonti, a key figure in shoring up the country's finances, has been drawn into a corruption scandal.

Corruption charges

There is growing speculation that the economy minister may have to step down after Neapolitan prosecutors requested an arrest warrant for his close associate, Marco Milanese, on corruption charges.

The minister - who is seen as a stalwart defender of budget discipline - is seen as increasingly isolated within the Italian government.

Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has said he will amend Mr Tremonti's draft budget in parliament, criticising his own minister:

"He is worried about the markets, I understand him. But I always remind him that in politics the result is made up of consensus and votes. He isn't interested in consensus, but we are."

Italy has seen a sharp rise in its 10-year cost of borrowing over the last week, rising from 4.85% to 5.3% - suggesting markets now view the country as almost as risky as recession-hit Spain, which must pay 5.65%.

Short-lived respite

Meanwhile Greece, the Republic of Ireland and particularly Portugal have seen the value of their debts in financial markets plummet further.

Their implied costs of borrowing in markets for three years now stand at 28%, 16.3% and 18.6% respectively.

The latest sell-off comes as it became increasingly clear that the European Central Bank was more concerned with fighting inflation - which required an interest rate rise from 1.25% to 1.5% on Thursday - than in holding down borrowing costs for embattled governments.

It follows what had been a short-lived respite in the market. Borrowing costs had fallen briefly on expectations that the eurozone would arrange a second bail-out package for Greece after the parliament in Athens pushed through further painful austerity measures.

Chinese inflation hits three-year high

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Chinese inflation hits three-year high
Inflation in China has risen to its highest level for three years, despite a series of interest rate rises and curbs on bank lending.

Prices in June rose 6.4% from a year earlier, well above the rate for May.

Analysts say Chinese authorities are concerned that the rising cost of basic foodstuffs could fuel social unrest.

The price of pork - a staple of the Chinese diet - has reached a new high, while crop-growing regions have been hit by severe flooding.

The Chinese government has made tackling inflation its top priority and interest rates have been raised three times this year.

Many economists expect China's inflation to cool in the second half of the year as world oil prices ease.

However, they are watching for evidence that higher costs are filtering into a broader swathe of the economy.

A report from China's CCBIS bank released earlier suggested that inflation would peak at 6.2% in June.

Earlier this month, Premier Wen Jiabao promised that pork prices would begin to fall in the coming months.

"With the implementation of government measures, price rises will be curbed effectively," he said during a visit to a market.

US jobs creation stalls in June

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US jobs creation stalls in June
The number of new jobs created in the US in June was the lowest in nine months as the employment recovery stalled, new data has shown.

Only 18,000 new jobs were created in the month, way below expectations of a 90,000 rise, which had been raised by strong private sector hiring figures released on Thursday.

The unemployment rate also rose, to 9.2% from 9.1% a month earlier.

President Obama said the report showed the US still had "a long way to go".

"We have added two million new private sector jobs over the last 16 months, but the recession cost us 8 million," he said in a statement at the White House.

"That means we still have a big hole to fill."

The worse-than-expected numbers sent global stock markets lower.

US markets opened lower, with the Dow Jones down 87 points, or 0.7%, at 12,633. The dollar also fell a cent against the euro.

The main European markets all closed more than 1% down following the release of the figures.

'Unemployment crisis'

"Every aspect of this disappointing report points to the US facing an unemployment crisis," said Mohammed El Erian, the investments head at giant US fund manager Pimco.

Total unemployment in the US was largely unchanged versus a month earlier, at 14.1 million, although this is up by well over half a million since March.

Long-term unemployment at 6.3 million was similarly stagnant, as was the total of 8.6 million people working part-time because they could not find full-time work.

"Everyone was looking for a bounce this month to try to confirm the fact that May's slowdown is an anomaly," said Alexander Hoder, economist at investments firm FTN Financial. "But it appears it will be longer than just one month."

The figures show that fewer than 50,000 jobs were created in the US economy in May and June. This represents a sharp slowdown from the 217,000 net new jobs created in April.

The poor June result was driven by continuing layoffs by the public sector - where 39,000 jobs were lost - and a much weaker-than-expected 57,000 jobs created in the private sector.

Employment by the federal government fell 14,000 - its sharpest fall since temporary workers hired for the census finished work last year.

"Employment in most major private-sector industries changed little over the month," said the Bureau of Labor Statistics in its release.

The financial sector saw 15,000 job losses. Meanwhile, manufacturing has not seen any significant hiring in 13 months.

The data also showed that average hourly earnings fell one cent to $22.99, as did the average number of hours worked per week, by 0.1 to 34.3 hours.

The weak data has increased speculation that the US Federal Reserve may ultimately have to adopt a third programme of "quantitative easing" - buying up debts in order to pump cash into the economy - just as its second such programme has come to an end.

US jobs creation stalls in June

Baidu and Microsoft tie-up for English search in China

Tuesday, July 5, 2011 · Posted in

Baidu and Microsoft tie-up for English search in ChinaBaidu, the biggest web company in China, will partner with Microsoft to provide English-language search results.

English search queries will be directed from Baidu to Microsoft's Bing search engine, the Chinese company said in a statement late on Monday.

Baidu dominates search in China with more than 75% of the market.

The move is aimed at increasing Microsoft's small web presence in the biggest internet market in the world.

Baidu said that it expected the service to start later this year.

The two firms have already co-operated on mobile platforms and page results.

Some analysts say this partnership is aimed at taking market share from Google, which has already retreated from the Chinese market because of a censorship spat with the government.

Despite that Google is still the second biggest search engine in China.

"The co-operation between Baidu and Microsoft will further strengthen Baidu's dominance in China's search engine market, and will also make Google's business in China more difficult," said Dong Xu, an analyst with Analysys International.

Japan's cabinet approves $24.7bn for disaster relief

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Japan's government has approved a second budget of 2tn yen ($24.7bn; £15.4bn) for reconstruction after the 11 March earthquake and tsunami.

The money will be spent on rebuilding, and on compensating victims of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Japan is facing huge public debts and will not borrow money from the market for this budget.

This second emergency budget, announced on Tuesday, will be sent to parliament for approval later this month.

Crisis continues

In May parliament passed a 4tn yen emergency budget following the 11 March earthquake and tsunami.

That money is to help fund new housing for tens of thousands of people who have lost their houses. It will also support businesses hit by the disaster.

The quake and tsunami that hit Japan's north-eastern coast has left more than 20,000 people dead or missing.

It is thought to be the country's worst disaster since World War II.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has been leaking radiation since the quake and tsunami crippled reactor cooling systems.

About 85,000 people have been forced to evacuate the area around the plant.

Mounting pressure

The government said it plans to use money left over from the annual budget for the last fiscal year to March for this new budget.

"With this budget we aim to ensure steps towards restoration and pave the way for reconstruction," Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda told reporters.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who has been facing increasing pressure to resign for his handling of the nuclear crisis, had said the passage of this extra budget was one of his conditions after which he would keep his promise to resign.

Opposition parties have so far signalled they will support the emergency spending.

China broke trade law on metals, says WTO

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China broke trade law on metals, says WTOThe World Trade Organization (WTO) has ruled that China broke international rules by restricting the exports of certain metals.

The case, which dates back to 2009, was brought after China imposed quotas, saying it had to conserve resources of magnesium and other exports.

The US said this left non-Chinese manufacturers with shortages of the necessary metals.

The US was supported in its case by the EU and Mexico.

It told the WTO that restrictions on nine mineral exports, which also included zinc, coking coal and manganese, discriminated against foreign manufacturers and gave an unfair advantage to domestic producers who use them.

All the metals are key inputs for products throughout the steel, aluminium and chemical sectors.

A WTO statement said: "The panel found that China's export duties were inconsistent with the commitments that China had agreed to in its protocol of accession [when it joined the WTO in 2001]."

The EU said export prices for some raw materials more than doubled compared to prices within China because of limits to supply.

EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said: "This is a clear verdict for open trade and fair access to raw materials.

"It sends a strong signal to refrain from imposing unfair restrictions to trade and takes us one step closer to a level playing field for raw materials."

China is a rich source of certain raw materials, importantly so-called rare earth minerals.

It provides 97% of these, which are essential for making many electronic goods, such as TVs and PC monitors, but has limited their export saying it needs to conserve its own supply.

Ms De Gucht said expectations now are for China to "bring its export regime in line with international rules. Furthermore, in the light of this result, China should ensure free and fair access to rare earth supplies."

Average pay gap between public-private sectors 'widens'

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The gap in average pay between workers in the public sector and those in the private sector has widened.

Public sector employees were paid 7.8% more on average than private sector staff in April 2010, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

This was a bigger gap than the 5.3% difference in 2007, the figures show.

Other benefits such as bonuses and pensions could alter the gap. The ONS added that many lower skilled jobs had been outsourced to the private sector.

Other factors that could account for commanding higher pay were the average age of public sector workers, and their qualifications.

The statistics are likely to feed into the debate and dispute over public sector pensions, which led to a walk-out by teachers and some other public sector workers last week.

The analysis is drawn from two pieces of research from the ONS about pay and the UK workforce.

It does not include some factors that could influence people's remuneration and standard of living, such as pension contributions, company cars and health insurance.

The timing of the research, related to April, meant that payments made in the bonus season of January to March were ignored - as were the earnings of the self-employed.

Key to the difference in pay was the higher proportion of higher-paid jobs in the public sector, the ONS said.

Over the past 10 years, the trend for low-skilled jobs to be outsourced to the private sector has continued, pushing up the average wage among public sector workers.

The public sector also employed a larger proportion of older workers, whose pay has increased over time.

In 2010, some 38% of workers had a degree or equivalent qualification in the public sector, compared with 23% in the private sector.

Comparing the pay of these graduates flips the pay gap around, with public sector workers earning 5.7% less than those in the private sector.

Within the two sectors, the gap between the highest earners - in the top 5% - and the lowest 5% of earners is greater in the private sector than in the public sector.

"What the figures show is that the public sector is fairer than the private sector," said TUC general secretary Brendan Barber.

"Public sector high-flyers are paid 6% less than those at the top of the private sector, while those in less skilled jobs on lower pay earn 6% more in the public sector."

Japanese industry bounces back from earthquake disruption

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Japan's economy today showed signs of bouncing back from the earthquake and tsunami that left the country devastated in March.

Industrial output jumped 5.7 per cent in May, rapidly accelerating from a gain of 1.6% in April, official data showed.

It was also better than the 5.5 per cent figure expected by economists.

One of the biggest blows to the economy in March - which had a ripple effect on global trade - was the disruption to supply chains. Toyota and Honda both suspended car production in the immediate aftermath.

Today's figures suggest steady progress in restoring those crucial supply chains.

The recovery is expected to continue before a slowdown in mid-summer. Manufacturers surveyed by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry expect output to rise 5.3 per cent in June and increase 0.5 per cent in July.

The government upgraded its assessment on output, saying that it appears to be recovering from the impact of the earthquake.

Previously, it said that output remained at a low level due to the impact of the disaster but was expected to recover.

Figures for Japanese car industry on Monday underlined the recent impact on industry.

Toyota's May domestic production was down 54.4 per cent on a year earlier at 107,437 vehicles, while its global production was off 49.3 per cent at 287,811 vehicles. However, that was a big improvement on a 80 per cent fall in April.

Honda's Japanese production was down 53.4 per cent and global production declined 50.4 per cent. But Nissan's Japanese output rose 0.8 per cent, with worldwide production rising 19.3 per cent.

Japan, previously the world's second largest economy, was leapfrogged by China earlier this year, before the earthquake disrupted its economy.

The country has suffered two decades of lacklustre economic growth and steadily falling asset prices with the stock market and house prices both suffering. The government has a colossal debt mountain but has so far avoided a Greek-style debt crisis by borrowing cheaply from Japanese citizens.

A return to healthy economic growth would help Japan meet its obligations.

Is Larry Page the Answer to Google's Problems?

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Is Larry Page the Answer to Google's Problems?Last April, 38 year old co-founder of Google (GOOG), Larry Page, took back the reins of leading his company as CEO from Eric Schmidt. Other than a few sentences at the last earnings call, he has yet to make a public statement or speech about Google or his planned strategy.

Ten years ago, he had to give up the CEO title because his investors – some of the most prestigious venture capitalists in Silicon Valley like Kleiner Perkins and Sequoia Capital – insisted that Wall Street would not accept Page as the company’s CEO when the company planned on holding an IPO in the coming years.

Of the two Google co-founders, Page and Sergey Brin, Larry had always been drawn to leading the company. He served as CEO from the company’s founding in 1998 until 2001. He grudgingly accepted his investors’ advice and the conventional wisdom at the time that he was too young. (This was before the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, refused to step down as CEO.)

They chose to hire the professorial Schmidt who had last been CEO at an unsuccessful company called Novell. Page liked that Schmidt was an engineer who also had a PhD in computer engineering from University of California at Berkeley. Both drop-outs of the doctoral program in computer engineering at Stanford, Page and Brin respected people of the highest intellect. Google later created elaborate IQ tests in order to screen potential hires to the company. Schmidt passed their test.

However, deep in his heart, you can tell that Larry never really wanted to stop being CEO. In 2001, a few weeks after hiring Schmidt, Page and Brin did an extensive interview with American host Charlie Rose. At one point in the interview, Rose jokes about the recent hiring of Schmidt, asking if the two co-founders needed adult supervision. Sergey laughs it off, but you can easily read the body language of Page to grimace and look down, as if to say “I could have kept doing the job.”

Now Page has his chance. In January, Google announced on its last earnings call that Page would replace Schmidt. Although it was presented in the typical corporate fashion suggesting that Schmidt had been thinking about this for a long time, the simple truth was that Page was anxious about the state of Google and its competitive positioning in the next 5 years.

Schmidt made it clear later in interviews that Page wanted to see faster decision-making at the company. Page wants Google to be more entrepreneurial – like it was back in 2001 when he was in charge – in order to better compete against the likes of Apple (AAPL), Microsoft (MSFT), as well as the increasingly powerful Facebook.

A few years ago, the smartest kid in a college computer science class wanted to go and work for Google. Today, many want to go to Facebook. A significant number of talented Google employees have left to join Facebook in the last couple of years.

It also used to be every young private company’s dream to be bought by Google. Within the last few years, all the hottest American tech private companies – Facebook , Twitter, and Groupon – have all turned down offers to be bought by Google. This is deeply troubling for Page. Frankly, none of this has changed yet during his 3 month tenure as CEO.

Larry Page’s biggest fans within the company extol his virtues. They talk about how he is brilliant, intellectually honest, and has a vision of where the industry is going that is better than anyone else they know.

It’s clear that between Page and Brin, Page is the leader. He has the drive and desire to lead. He accepts the responsibility that comes with it and pushes his employees and the company very hard. Sergey has more of a passing interest in all the company’s actions. He would rather come and go as he pleases in terms of the day-to-day decisions at the company.

Page is most comfortable is discussing the company’s products. Google announced that it would be revamping its YouTube service to place a much greater emphasis on premium paid-for content and less on user-generated, ad-supported free content. The company launched its answer to Facebook -- Google + -- last week, which tries to leverage its search home page against the social networking gorilla. These decisions have Page’s fingerprints all over it.

Page also isn’t afraid to hurt people’s feelings and make tough decisions if it helps push the company forward. In one of his first actions, he fired former SVP of Product Management Jonathan Rosenberg. It’s clear that the role was redundant with Page’s strengths. Even though Rosenberg had previously had a high-profile public role under Schmidt, Page didn’t hesitate.

So will Larry Page be a boost for Google’s stock in the way that Steve Jobs was for Apple or will he be more like Jerry Yang running Yahoo! (YHOO)? Unfortunately, I think he’s in for more than he bargained for.

Google is a much bigger and more complex company today than it was in 2001. And, even though it is in a much stronger position today than Yahoo! was in 2007, Google needs a turnaround. That is a very different type of leadership situation than the one Page was in back in 2001. It’s like taking a pilot with a license to fly a small plane and asking him to take over flying a jumbo plan in the middle of a trans-pacific crossing. It’s a different animal.

Larry also has a great disdain for the more human and emotional aspects of being a leader. He’s much more comfortable analyzing a product or business, than giving a speech or interacting with Wall Street analysts. I suspect his first few public speeches as CEO will be disasters. And there will be intense media scrutiny of his performance, critiquing everything from the funny sound of his voice to the quality of his answers. For a technical guy like Page, I suspect it will be frustrating and he will pull back from doing more investor appearances, which will only increase investor unease with him.

Frankly, by now, I expected him to have made a couple of speeches to investors. He hasn't. That speaks volumes and doesn't bode well for him or the company's future stock price.

Remember that – prior to Google’s IPO in August 2004 – Wall Street was deeply concerned about whether the co-founders were serious enough. There was a warning in the IPO prospectus that Google’s motto was “Don’t Be Evil” and that Google wouldn’t be afraid to make strange long-term R&D investments (like in a space program, or a current initiative involving driverless cars) just to placate short-term oriented Wall Street investors. It was only after Wall Street met with Eric Schmidt that they became comfortable that the company wouldn’t do anything too crazy.

Now, with Page back in charge, prepare to see all those old fears brought back to life from many investors.

Also, one thing to keep in mind is that Page has only had 3 bosses in his life: his parents, his doctoral advisor at Stanford, and Eric Schmidt (who always deferred to him because he was a co-founder). He doesn’t know how to be a good boss from mentoring. He is going to be making it up as he goes – and most people, even really bright ones, make lots of mistakes in that kind of situation.

Larry Page does have many talented people around him, including a Rhodes Scholar, the CFO Patrick Pichette. If he listens to others' advice, he can likely succeed as Google’s CEO. But I expect a continued bumpy ride for investors in the next 6 months as he grows into the position.

[At the time of publication, Jackson had long positions in AAPL and YHOO.]

The apps that eat your wireless data

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The apps that eat your wireless dataIf you have a cellphone with a monthly limit on how much data you can use, here are some tips on what types of phone use will gobble up your precious megabytes:

— Streaming video and videoconferencing. The biggest offender. One minute of YouTube-quality video eats up 2 megabytes. If you're on a plan that gives you 200 megabytes per month, you can't even watch Lady Gaga's "Telephone" video once per day. If you're on a 2 gigabyte plan you can, but don't make your iPhone a replacement for a TV. In either case, it's fine to indulge in YouTube and Netflix if you're on Wi-Fi.

— Streaming audio. The second biggest offender, and potentially more serious. While video is something we need to see to enjoy, Internet radio is more of an accompaniment to other activities, such as jogging or doing dishes. That means some people like to keep it on for hours. Audio consumes about a quarter of the data that video does, but 10 minutes a day will break the bank if you're on a 200 megabyte plan. One hour a day of Pandora consumes nearly a gigabyte, which you can afford if you're on a 2-gigabyte plan and don't use other data-hogging apps.

— Photos. If you're a real shutterbug, photos can consume significant amounts of data. Sending and viewing photos both count toward your monthly limit. Posting 10 photos per day eats up most of a 200 megabyte plan. If you're on a 2-gigabyte plan, you probably don't have to worry about photos.

— Maps. Navigation apps consume lots of data when they retrieve map images, up to a megabyte a minute. You're also likely to use them for long periods of time when you're away from Wi-Fi, such as when you're driving. Watch out for these.

— Web surfing. Web pages vary widely in size, so this will depend quite a bit on whether you like to visit graphically rich sites (lots of data) or spare, text-oriented ones (less data). But roughly speaking, ten pages a day will eat up about half of a 200 megabyte plan. Again, those on 2-gigabyte plans don't need to worry much about surfing.

— Facebook. Roughly equivalent to Web surfing. Status updates won't take much data, but sending photos and viewing friends' pictures will.

— Email. Most emails are tiny, in terms of data. Basically, you can send and receive email all you want, as long as they don't have attachments such as photos.

— Twitter. Like email, these short messages don't use much data, but if you follow a lot of people and click on links, usage adds up.

— Weather apps. Small, focused apps that report simple but useful things, such as the weather forecast, save data (and time) compared with looking up the same information on a Web page.

Nokia to launch Microsoft platform phones in 2011

Friday, July 1, 2011 · Posted in

Nokia to launch Microsoft platform phones in 2011Finnish handset maker Nokia Corp. says it plans to introduce this year its first mobile phone using the Microsoft Windows platform.

Chief Executive Stephen Elop said in a speech Tuesday in Singapore that Nokia will start to deliver the models in bulk during 2012.

Nokia also unveiled its N9 smartphone model, which is based on the MeeGo platform. Elop said the N9 would be launched later this year, but declined to specify the date or price.

Nokia is facing steep competition at the top end of the market against smartphones such as Apple Inc.'s iPhone, Research in Motion's Blackberry as well as Android, and on the lower end against emerging market phone makers who are dropping their prices on devices.

Google unveils latest social networking feat

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Google unveils latest social networking featOnline search leader Google Inc. is taking yet another stab at social networking, as it tries to go up against Facebook in this wildly popular and lucrative segment of the Internet. This time the project is called Google+ and it aims to make online sharing more like real life.

"We think people communicate in very rich ways," said Vic Gundotra, senior vice president of engineering at Google. "The online tools we have to choose from give us very rigid services."

Other social networking tools make selective sharing within small groups difficult. They don't allow or the nuances that people are used to in offline communication and because they call so many acquaintances "friends," said Gundotra in a blog post announcing the service.

Many Facebook users, for instance, find it difficult to limit their status updates to small groups of people so that their coworkersaren't exposed to party photos or their parents aren't privy to flirtatious posts on their "wall." Though Facebook has tried to address this with a much-hyped "Groups" feature, it's not clear how many people use it.

Gundotra's criticism seems aimed squarely at Facebook, the world's largest online socia network. Facebook has become synonymous with online sharing since its founding seven years ago.

In a prepared statement, Facebook said only that "we're in the early days of making the web more social, and there are opportunities for innovation everywhere."

Google, which dominates Internet search wit a firm hold on two-thirds of the U.S. market, has been experimenting with different social tools since late 2009 with limited success. "Buzz" was one major mishap. The product was a social network attached to Google's popular Gmail service, and it wound up exposing email contacts that users did not want to share. Google eventually agreed to submit to independent audits of its privacy controls every other year for the next two decades as part of a Federal Trade Commission settlement.

Google shut down another attempt at online sharing, Google Wave, last August after unveiling it with much fanfare in 2009. The service, which let users chat, share files and collaborate on documents in real time, didn't gain enough fans.

More than a year in the works, the project Google unveiled Tuesday lets users share things with smaller groups of people through a feature called "Circles." This means only college buddies, say, or your favorite co-workers can see the photos, links our updates that you post.

Another feature called "Sparks" aims to make it easier to find online content you care about, be it news about surfing or barbecue recipes. You can then share this with friends who might be interested in it. In an online video, Google calls it "nerding out" and exploring a subject together.

There's also a group messaging service called "Huddle" and a feature that lets users instantly upload photos that they take with mobile phones. The photos are stored in a private photo album on Google's remote servers, and users can access them and share them as they see fit.

Altimeter Group analyst Charlene Li has high hopes for the friend grouping feature. She said that her biggest pet peeve with Facebook is its existing friend management tools. She noted that millions of people already use Google to share things with others via email, and Google+ looks like a natural extension of this type of sharing, making it more functional and organized.

"I think Facebook is going to have to up its game," she said.

Google+ is undergoing what the company calls a "field trial," so it's accessible by invitation only and not yet available to the public. The company declined to say when it'll be more widely available.

Lou Kerner, a social media analyst with Wedbush Securities, believes the game is over in the competition to become the world's global social network. With 700 million users, Facebook has won, he said.

There's a lot more to the social Web than just creating a successful social network, though, and Kerner thinks that with Google+ the search leader is trying to make its existing product offerings more social.

"I don't think they're seeing this as a direct competitor to Facebook," he said.

Google+ does have its skeptics.

"People have their social circles on Facebook," said Debra Aho Williamson, principal analyst with research firm eMarketer. "Asking them to create another social circle is challenging."

And Google is still best known for its flagship service, online search.

"The whole idea of a Google social network...they've been throwing stuff against the wall for several years and so forth nothing has stuck." Going to Google to be social, she added, is like "going to Starbucks for the muffins. Or, for that matter, going to Facebook for search."

Geithner says he'll stay for 'foreseeable future'

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CHICAGO — Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Thursday he'll stay in his job for the "foreseeable future," addressing speculation he might leave the Obama administration following the current round of budget negotiations.

"I live for this work. It's the only thing I've ever done. I believe in it," Geithner said when questioned about his plans by former President Bill Clinton onstage at a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative.

"We have a lot of challenges in the country and I'm going to be doing it for the foreseeable future," he said.

Geithner, 49, acknowledged the interest in his plans, noting that he'd been commuting back and forth from New York and had a son who was going to be finishing high school there. Earlier a person familiar with his thinking told The Associated Press that Geithner saw an opening to potentially leave once a deal was reached on raising the nation's borrowing limit, but the source emphasized no decisions had been made. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.

Geithner reiterated his warnings Thursday of financial chaos if the federal government's debt limit is not raised by Aug. 2. Along with other administration officials, Geithner is deep in negotiations to make it happen alongside spending cuts demanded by congressional Republicans.

Geithner has been at President Barack Obama's side since the beginning of his administration. If he did depart he would be the latest in a series of economic advisers to do so more than halfway through Obama's term, as often happens around the two-year mark of a presidency. Earlier this month the White House announced the departure of Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Prior to joining Obama's administration, Geithner served for about five years as chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, a job that put him on the front lines of the central bank's efforts to battle the financial crisis and to get credit flowing more freely. He has a close working relationship with Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Geithner also worked at the Treasury Department during the Clinton administration, dealing with international financial crises.

His possible departure was first reported by Bloomberg News.

Australian currency firms charged with bribery

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Australian currency firms charged with briberyAustralian federal police charged two currency printing firms and several of their former senior managers on Friday with bribing foreign officials to secure bank note supply contracts.

The charges against Securency International Pty Ltd. - one of the world's leading currency printing firms - and Note Printing Australia Ltd. relate to alleged bribes paid to officials in Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam between 1999 and 2005.

The Australian Federal Police have been investigating the companies for two years. It says senior managers from both firms used international sales agents to bribe the officials to win contracts to print money for those countries.

Police arrested six former senior employees of the companies in a series of early morning raids in Victoria state. Malaysian authorities working in conjunction with Australian police also arrested two people in Malaysia following an investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission. Australian police did not release the identities of those arrested in either country.

Securency, based in Craigieburn, north of Melbourne, is half-owned by the Reserve Bank of Australia, the nation's central bank. The company is a pioneer in the production of plastic-based bank notes, known as polymer notes, which are used in 31 countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam and Brazil. Note Printing Australia, also based in Craigieburn, is fully owned by the RBA and was the first currency printer in the world to print on polymer substrate.

RBA Gov. Glenn Stevens said no one in the central bank has been accused of wrongdoing, and stressed that none of the people charged are still working for the companies.

"The Reserve Bank condemns in the strongest terms corrupt or questionable behavior of any kind," Stevens said in a statement.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard declined to comment on the charges.

In a statement, Securency Chairman Bob Rankin said the company is considering its legal position. Rankin said its board asked police to investigate allegations of bribery in 2009 and has fully cooperated with the probe since then.

"Securency is committed to the highest standards of ethics and governance and the board and management condemn any form of corrupt behavior," Rankin said.

Australian Federal Police managing officer Chris McDevitt said the investigation is continuing, and additional charges are expected.

The six people charged were expected to appear in a Melbourne court later Friday. They face up to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to 1.1 million Australian dollars ($1.2 million) if found guilty.

China manufacturing slows: omen for weaker growth

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China manufacturing slows: omen for weaker growthChina's manufacturers suffered sluggish growth in orders in June as inflation-fighting curbs on credit took a toll on demand, according to a survey released Friday.

The China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said its monthly purchasing managers index fell to 50.9 in June from 52 in May, 52.9 in April and 53.4 in March. The index has remained above 50, the benchmark for expansion, for 26 straight months.

The report said the trend likely augurs a further slowdown in growth brought on by inflation-fighting curbs on credit.

Declines were greatest in the production, new orders, purchasing volume and prices for raw materials indices, it said. The survey also showed a contraction in production of chemicals, textiles, and transportation equipment. Imports and new export orders also slowed.

The survey "indicates that future economic growth may continue to decrease," federation analyst Zhang Liqun said. But he said the results of the survey did not suggest China would face a "deeper correction."

After months of forecasting that inflation would moderate by midyear, China is expected to announce inflation in June surged above 6 percent, partly due to rising food costs due to drought and floods that have damaged crops across much of the central part of the country.

Many inside China expect authorities to raise key interest rates sometime soon, in a fifth hike since October, to counter surging costs. Beijing has repeatedly ordered state-owned banks to boost their reserves, aiming to curb excess credit.

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