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China February HSBC PMI at seven-month high but deflation risk persists
Activity in China's factory sector edged up to a seven-month high in February but export orders shrank and deflationary pressures persisted, a private business survey showed on Monday, underlying economic fragility that may need more policy support. China's central bank cut interest rates on Saturday, just days before the annual meeting of the country's parliament, in the latest effort to support the world's second-largest economy as its momentum slows. The new export orders sub-index dipped to 48.5 in February, the sharpest contraction in a year, while both input and output prices fell for a seventh month. "China's manufacturing sector saw an improvement in overall operating conditions in February, with companies registering the strongest expansion of output since last summer while total new business also rose at a faster rate," said Annabel Fiddes, an economist at Markit.
Oil falls 1 percent on weak China outlook, higher Libya production
The Chinese central bank cut benchmark lending and deposit rates a day before it released official data that showed a second consecutive month of shrinking manufacturing activity for February. Brent crude was down 52 cents at $62.06 a barrel by 0044 GMT after posting an 18-percent gain in February, the largest monthly rise since May 2009. Iraq's Oil Minister Adel Abdel Mehdi said on Sunday world oil prices were gradually rebounding and he expected to see a barrel of crude selling at around $65.
Asia edges up after China rate cut, euro sags
Asian stocks got off to a steady start on Monday as soft U.S. data was partially offset by a weekend interest rate cut by China, while the dollar hit a five-week high against the euro. China on Saturday stepped up its easing tempo and cut its lending and deposit rates as the world's second largest economy tries to ward off deflation. "News of China’ rate cut should help buyer mood this morning, compensating for a weak lead from the US market," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney. In some senses this rate cut is a technical response to the fact that lower inflation is making real borrowing costs more expensive in China," Spooner said.
Berkshire insurance 'superstar' could fill Buffett's shoes
Warren Buffett, at a news conference in Bengaluru in 2011, lavishly praised Berkshire Hathaway executive Ajit Jain for smoothly running much of the conglomerate's insurance businesses. Buffett, the billionaire chief executive officer and chairman of Berkshire, said he would also support Jain if ever he decided to seek Buffett’s post. Speculation has been mounting among Berkshire investors as to who will eventually succeed the 84-year-old Buffett. The field was finally narrowed when, in a letter to shareholders on Saturday, Buffett revealed that he and the board had found his successor, and his second-in-command, Charlie Munger, identified Jain and Greg Abel, the head of Berkshire's energy companies, as front-runners for the top job.
Bells toll for Europe's largest gas field
By Toby Sterling WESTERWIJTWERD, Netherlands (Reuters) - Dutch church bells that for centuries have tolled to warn of floods across the low-lying countryside are sounding the alarm for a new threat: earthquakes linked to Europe's largest natural gas field. "Money can buy a lot of things, but a building like this cannot be replaced," said Jur Bekooy, a civil engineer with the Groningen Old Churches Association, pointing to cracks in the ceiling and walls of the 13th-century Maria Church in the village of Westerwijtwerd. ...
Exclusive: NXP Semiconductors nears deal for Freescale Semiconductor - sources
(Reuters) - NXP Semiconductors NV is close to a deal to acquire smaller peer Freescale Semiconductor Ltd in a $40 billion cash and stock merger that will reshape the semiconductor industry, according to two people familiar with the matter. NXP is finalizing a deal to pay a little over Freescale's $11 billion current market capitalization, the people said. NXP and Freescale did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Nokia CEO sees 'business as usual'; no change to outlook
Nokia, the world's third-largest mobile equipment maker, has seen nothing in its business that would lead it to change its financial outlook, its chief executive said on Sunday. It is kind of business as usual," Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri said in response to a reporter's question during a press conference ahead of the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona. In late January, the company said that for its mainstay Nokia Networks’ business, it expected net sales and operating margins in the first quarter to decline compared to the fourth quarter of 2014, typically a seasonally stronger quarter.
Ferragamo CEO sees higher 2015 sales after 'excellent' February
Italian luxury group Salvatore Ferragamo expects its sales to grow this year after the Chinese New Year contributed to an "excellent" performance in February, Chief Executive Michele Norsa said on Sunday. Norsa said a weaker euro, lower oil prices, buoyant financial markets and the impact of the European Central Bank's bond buying program were all factors supporting the 2015 outlook, despite ongoing global threats such as Islamic extremism.
New Internet rules set up industry's next battle
Telecom companies such as AT&T and Vodafone have convinced U.S. and European regulators, finalizing so-called "net neutrality" rules, to allow them to dedicate network capacity to services such as providing connectivity to driverless cars and facilitating the exchange of medical data between patients and health professionals. The industry will be able to develop such "specialized services" as long as they do not hurt the delivery of the normal Internet to homes and businesses. Telecom and cable companies argue being able to charge for different services and speeds would help fund network upgrades and develop new industrial uses for the web, such as smart electricity meters. Silicon Valley and net neutrality activists counter that such treatment would lead to a two-speed system where telecom and cable groups could prioritize their own content and squeeze out start-ups who cannot pay.
Iraq minister sees oil at $64 to $65 per barrel
Iraq's Oil Minister Adel Abdel Mehdi said on Sunday world oil prices were gradually rebounding and he expected to see a barrel of crude selling at around $65. I can see that oil will be sold at $64 to $65 a barrel," he told a news conference in Baghdad. OPEC producer Iraq has been hit by the slump, with revenues falling sharply just as it faces a costly military campaign against Islamic State militants who have seized large parts of the north and west of the country. Iraq's oil revenues for February were just a fraction under $3.5 billion, on exports of 2.535 million barrels per day.
Despite Greece, euro zone is turning the corner
The latest episode of Greece's debt crisis has revived doubts about the long-term survival of the euro, nowhere more so than in London, Europe's main financial center and a hotbed of Euroskepticism. The heightened risk of a Greek default and/or exit comes just as there are signs that the euro zone is turning the corner after seven years of financial and economic crisis and that its perilous internal imbalances may be starting to diminish. A last-ditch deal to extend Greece's bailout for four months after much kicking and screaming between Athens and Berlin did little to ease fears that the euro zone's weakest link may end up defaulting on its official European creditors. U.S. economist Milton Friedman's aphorism - "What is unsustainable will not be sustained" - is cited frequently by those who believe market forces will eventually overwhelm the political will that holds the euro together.
ECB braces for QE as others shift rates
By Philip Blenkinsop BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Greek funding and quantitative easing in Europe, an expected rate cut in Australia and the buoyant U.S. labor market are set to be the focus of an economic week dominated by a host of central bank meetings. The European Central Bank's Governing Council convenes in Cyprus on Thursday and may take a decision on whether to accept Greek government bonds as collateral for its direct ECB funding, which it stopped doing at the start of February. If the ECB does not - and it most likely will not - it could be forced to prolong the provision of Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) to the Greek central bank. "The Greek question will be a hot topic," said ING Chief Eurozone Economist Peter Vanden Houte.
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