Archive | February, 2015

Gas Prices Rise in Western States as Supply Diminishes

Gas Prices Rise in Western States as Supply Diminishes

gas refinery california

After two months of lower than expected prices at the gas pump, car owners are seeing a different trend this week as pricing has jumped almost 25 cents a gallon in some western states.  Reports of gasoline supplies dropping to low levels has spawned an increase in gas prices.

Retail gas prices on average have jumped from $2.98 per gallon to about $3.23 as of Friday.  The increase of regular gas prices has jumped almost 60 cents per gallon since the end of January.  Gas station owners incurred a huge 24 cent per gallon increase last week which left car owners frustrated at the swing in prices over the last few months.

California is especially hard hit as the state requires the producers of gas to create a special blend to meet with environmental requirements for the state.  Adding to the higher gas prices in California was an explosion at one of the refineries that produces product for Exxon Mobil.  The plant produces the special blend of gasoline required for California and has been shutdown putting reserves low in the state. The explosion caused several people to be injured while covering the area in ash which officials are checking for toxic matter.  Further events at another facility in Martinez, California has shut down production  due to ongoing labor problems.

Companies are looking to other refineries to have them produce the special blend of gas but many are unwilling as it requires more work and is expensive to ship as well as produce.  Changing to the California blend restricts them from producing other types of gasoline and hurts profits.


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Looking to Invest in Automotive Stocks? Try the High-End Markets

If you are looking for some solid returns in automotive stocks, investors might want to step away from typical run-of-the-mill car stocks.  Most automotive stocks service a wide spectrum of consumers, and most actually fall into the mid-range. Unfortunately, consumer-focused mid-range automotive stocks are not performing above average these days. While these stocks have appreciated in value, they are lagging against companies like Daimler-Benz and BMW.

What do the maker of the Mercedes-Benz and the maker of BMW have in common? Both make vehicles that are in the upper end of the market. These companies produce high-performance luxury vehicles that have always been the pride and envy of the upper middle-class as well as the young and ambitious.   Considering the very uneven wealth growth in the United States and everywhere else, these stocks are doing quite well.  There is a huge demand for very expensive Mercedes-Benz and BMW cars, especially among traders and those in the finance industry. Thanks to all the cheap stimulus money, there is a huge boom of both income and net worth of people making over $500,000 a year. This is precisely the market upscale BMWs and Mercedes focus on.

Outside of the developed markets in the United States and Europe, the demand for luxury cars in China is strong.   BMW sold 456,000 units last year in China alone.  Mercedes didn’t do quite as well selling over 282,000 units.   Time will tell whether the Chinese market will remain strong due to its recent economic slowdown.  What the statistics prove is that when it comes to automotive stocks, the action is in the upper end of the market.   Experts suggest that investors looking for solid returns should look past companies such as Ford Motors and General Motors and focus on BMW and Mercedes.

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Record Setting Levels of Exporting Shown in 26 States

Record Setting Levels of Exporting Shown in 26 States

exportsGoods exported in 26 U.S. states during 2014 showed record setting levels over 2013 statistics as announced by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.  Eight states grew in merchandise exports over their 2013 numbers as well.  In total, all of the exports from the United States set another record in 2014 for the fifth year in a row with reports indicating a total of $2.35 trillion.

With these impressive numbers, nine states had exports higher than 10% over 2013 figures.  Leading the states was Hawaii which recorded growth of 143 percent over 2013 for goods shipped to other countries last year.  Exports of goods from the U.S. has grown every year since 2009.

The 26 states hitting new record exports in 2014 include:

Texas ($289.0 billion);
California ($174.1 billion);
Washington ($90.6 billion);
Illinois ($68.2 billion);
Louisiana ($65.1 billion);
Ohio ($52.1 billion);
Georgia ($39.4 billion);
Indiana ($35.5 billion);
Tennessee ($33.0 billion);
North Carolina ($31.3 billion);
South Carolina ($29.7 billion);
Kentucky ($27.5 billion);
Wisconsin ($23.4 billion);
Minnesota ($21.4 billion);
Arizona ($21.1 billion);
Oregon ($20.9 billion);
Virginia ($19.2 billion);
Iowa ($15.1 billion);
Maryland ($12.2 billion);
Nebraska ($7.9 billion);
North Dakota ($5.3 billion);
New Hampshire ($4.4 billion);
New Mexico ($3.8 billion);
Rhode Island ($2.4 billion);
Wyoming ($1.8 billion); and
Hawaii ($1.5 billion).

President Obama is aiding this growth by announcing a new program titled “Made in Rural America” which will help small rural businesses better find information about exporting as well as offering assistance to those companies that request help.  These federal resources will help the smaller, rural businesses find new markets for products both in the U.S. as well as overseas.  Included in this program are ways for these businesses to meet buyers from foreign nations as well as assist rural businesses to attend international trade shows in order to bring new business opportunities.  Other highlights of the new Obama initiative are forming relationships with the U.S. Postal Service as well as community bank  relationship building.

“Exports are critical to economic growth and job creation in communities across the country,” said Secretary Pritzker. “With 95 percent of the world’s consumers living outside the United States, opening more markets to ‘Made in America’ goods and services is fundamental to our nation’s competitiveness, job creation, and the economic security of our families.”




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Apple Spending 1.7 Billion Euros on Renewable Energy Data Hubs

Apple Spending 1.7 Billion Euros on Renewable Energy Data Hubs

Apple Inc. released news about how the company is prepared to spend 1.7 billion euros on two new renewable data hubs located in Europe. These new hubs, to be built in Denmark and Ireland, will be powered exclusively by renewable energy.

The new sites will power the company’s App Store, iTunes Store, Maps, iMessage and Siri for European customers. Apple’s investment marks its biggest project in Europe in company history. The new project will create hundreds of new jobs for local residents.

The 1.7 billion euro investment will be split equally among the Ireland and Denmark sites. According to Apple, the centers will each be 166,000 square-meters. Operations are expected to begin in 2017.

Data centerRepresentatives from Ireland and Denmark were pleased with the news of Apple’s investment, citing that the project will boost local economies. Apple has also said it will carry out local benefit schemes, such as an outdoor educational space for Irish schools. Denmark’s data center will capture the heat from the facility’s equipment and distribute it to local heating systems that will warm homes.

Apple’s plans to open centers in Europe echoes moves from other U.S.-based companies, including Amazon and Google, to open European data centers. The moves come amidst concerns of the surveillance operations of the U.S. National Security Agency. Officials of the European Union state that the increase in U.S. companies investing in European data centers shows that Europe is becoming a safe haven for data. Meanwhile, lawmakers are pushing to form data protection laws.

At present, Apple has 18,300 employees in 19 European countries. The company also spent 7.8 billion euros on suppliers and companies in Europe, which helped support roughly 670,000 jobs.

The new data centers will be based in Denmark’s Jutland region and Ireland’s County Galway. Apple, who is focused on renewable energy, says the centers will have the lowest environmental impact of any of its data centers.

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European markets ended six consecutive growing sessions

European markets ended six consecutive growing sessions

Deutsche BorseThe European markets took a break from the positive movement in the last six sessions, which had sent the leading Stoxx Europe 600 index to its highest value for the last seven years. The focus of investors today focused on enterprise data. The broad benchmark reported a decline of 0.13% to a level of 386.76 points after companies from the areas of energy, consumer goods, financial services and communications, part of the index ended the session with a fall in its share price.

The most serious cuts, however recorded Greek banks, part of the Stoxx Europe - Piraeus Bank and National Bank of Greece. Although the Eurogroup to give approval of extension of the loan to Greece, the media in Europe, doubts that German lawmakers will not support this request. This caused a distrust of investors in bank shares. The shares of Piraeus lost a little over 13% of its value and closed the trading price of 0.64 EUR per share. NBG for the decrease is within 11% to 1.49 EUR per share.

Meanwhile, shares of Moller-Maersk rose more than 9% to 15,260 DKK per share, after the company said it would sell its 20% in Danish bank Danske Bank. The German DAX 30, however, still green series, although today its growth is the minimum level of 0.04% to 11,210.27 points. Session one of the leading indices on the London Stock Exchange - FTSE 100 ended in red and he retreated from its highest closing level since December 1999, reached Tuesday. Index lost 0.21% of its value and closed at 6,935.38 points. French SAS40 recording a decline of 0.09% to 4,882.22 points.

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Energy Union will reduce EU dependence on suppliers

Energy Union will reduce EU dependence on suppliers

energy union EUEC should be in solidarity and to reduce its dependence on energy suppliers, and the parties must be able to rely on their neighbors (by linking markets) when faced by disruptions of supply. This concept provides for the creation of the Energy Union, presented today by the Commissioner for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič and Commissioner of the Environment and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete.

In the center of the energy Union are citizens also pointed out the two Commissioners. Prices paid they should be affordable and competitive. Energy should be secure and stable, more competition and more choice for consumers. The Energy Union is a project that will bring together 28 European energy markets would make Europe less energy dependent and will give investors the predictability so they need to create jobs and growth, was adamant Šefčovič.

The new Union will pledge more and increased transparency when EU countries enter into agreements to purchase electricity or gas from third countries, writes the press office of the European Commission. The Energy Union will allow free movement of energy across borders, but in strict application of the rules. One such example is the separation of the energy sector and the independence of regulatory bodies, if necessary, take legal action. It is envisaged that a thorough review of state intervention in the internal market and the gradual removal of subsidies harmful to the environment.

Energy Union is a transition to a low-carbon, which is formed so that it is durable. This will happen by ensuring that domestic energy production - including renewables - can easily and effectively be borne by the grid, to contribute to EU leadership in technology through the development of next generation technologies for renewable energy sources and the Union to become a leader in the field of electric mobility, while European companies expand their export and compete successfully in the global market. Energy Union is one of the most ambitious projects of the Commission “Junker”. Statistics show that the EU is the largest energy importer in the world - about 400 billion EUR per year to cover 53% of its consumption. At the same time wholesale price of electricity in Europe with 30% and natural gas - 100% higher than in USA.

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Federal Regulators to Crack Down on Unaffordable Payday Loans

Federal Regulators to Crack Down on Unaffordable Payday Loans

Debt consolidationPayday loans have long come under scrutiny from watch dogs and federal regulators. But now, in February 2015, the regulators are going to ensure that payday loans are more stringently checked. This is in the face of mounting debt within the US.

In the US, payday loans have been subject to individual state law. Now, the federal regulators are going to crack down on the loans. They are going to ensure that short term loans of all kinds are closely checked and safeguarded. States, for years, have been hoping to get laws passed to this type of debt. After all, payday loan providers have been able to exploit weak links in the system for the course of the last decade. The introduction of regulation can ensure that the payday loan industry is not taking advantage of those who are vulnerable to the system.

A Need for Change

The payday loan sector, in the US alone, is worth nearly £46 billion. Many banks and debt companies have stated that there needs to be more done about this soft lending.

The unaffordable nature of the loans is leaving many people in financial hardship. On a larger economic scale, it could leave the US wide open to another financial crash. It’s imperative that consumers of these loans are protected. Robust regulation, it seems, is the key to ensuring that this problem is minimised.

The Realities of Payday Loans

Debt Consolidation USA, an online based debt consolidation loan provider, has stated that they have seen a sharp increase of people using their services.

This is due to the unrealistic nature of interest and terms that are associated with payday loans and expensive short term lending. Low income households tend to be the ones that opt for these kinds of loans. The reality is that payday loans are quick and easy to obtain. With instant money being provided, people are not looking at the facts of what these loans can do.

Often, people apply for these loans when they are in desperate circumstances. A typical payday loan can be in excess of 400% APR. When it comes to paying the loans back, many families are left struggling to repay. What’s more, they are then hit with court orders and debt collection agencies.

The aim of the federal regulator is to ensure that people are not caught up in these unscrupulous tactics. These are often used in the face of short-term lending. What’s more, those who take out this kind of high interest, short-term loans have a limited success rate when it comes to getting out of debt. The key is to ensure that regulation, alongside the CFPB, is upheld.

A Lack of Regulation

Latest figures show that 35 states have no laws directly relating to the provision of payday loans. However, some states have made these loans illegal or have more stringent checks and balances in place. The new rules as espoused by the CFPB and the federal regulators could be just what the US needs.

With more US families facing debt, this could be the perfect solution to ensure monetary stability

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A.P. Moller Maersk Reports 5.2 billion USD Profit for 2014

A.P. Moller Maersk Reports 5.2 billion USD Profit for 2014

Maersk 2014 profitA.P. Moller Maersk reported 5.2 billion USD profit in 2014, which is strong financial report mostly impacted by the sale of majority share of Danks Supermarked Group for 2.8 billion USD and other divestment gains worth at 600 million USD. Maersk Line also delivered higher than expected profit for the group amounting to 2.3 billion USD with higher volumes as well as lower unit costs and bunker prices. The underlying profit was also higher than expected and amounted to 2.2 billion USD.

“In line with expectations, the underlying profit increased by 33% to 4.5 billion USD compared to 3.4 billion USD from 2013 and the return on invested capital was 11% compared to 8.2% from 2013. We are very satisfied with the result for 2014 where we achieved the highest ever profit of 5.2 billion USD. Despite challenging market conditions we saw good progress in underlying performance across the Group”, commented the CEO of A.P. Moller Maersk Nils Smedegaard Andersen.

The APM Terminals also supported the financial report of the group for 2014, account a profit of 900 million USD, which is 22% higher than the result during the previous reporting period, when the profit was 700 million USD. The company supported their financial results with costs cut and improvement of the fleet. Also should not be negledged that company create an alliance with Mediterranean Shipping Co, which saved millions for the company and decreased the freight costs.

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British retail sales sharply dropped in February

British retail sales sharply dropped in February

British retail SalesBritish retail sales sharply dropped in February, as their volume reached its lowest level since November 2013. The key reason for this weaker sales of food, showed a study published on Monday. The volume of retail sales and orders disappointed in February, but shopkeepers are still optimistic that they will increase in March. This new study shows the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

In its monthly distributive trades survey for CBI notes that poor sales of food and department stores led the monthly balance of sales to fall to +1% to +39% last month and well below expectations.

“After a strong start of the year traders were disappointed by the unexpected loss of sales growth. Mostly continued strong reduction of prices in the food sector seems interfere with activity. Looking forward, the outlook for the sector, with retail sales is relatively positive, the increase in household income due to slowing inflation will most likely continue to encourage spending. However, research shows that overall trading conditions remain challenging”, said the CBI report.

CBI survey is the first look at the data for the sector in February. Official data will be published in March.

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Azerbaijan Devalues Currency 35%

Azerbaijan Devalues Currency 35%

Azerbaijani ManatAnother member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) devalue its currency. Azerbaijan devalued its currency with 35%. The official rate of the Azerbaijani Manat against the USD set by the Central Bank on 21st February 2015, was 1.05 manats for 1 USD, compared to 0.7862 manats for 1 USD a day earlier.

“This decision was taken in order to promote diversification of the economy of Azerbaijan, to strengthen the international competitiveness and export potential, to ensure the sustainability of the balance of payments”, said in a statement the central bank. The course Azerbaijani Manat against the single EUR also fell. The official exchange rate for 21st February 2015 was 1.1950 per EUR at 0.8934 per EUR a day earlier.

The devaluation of Azerbaijani currency was expected by the market, as representatives of the central bank has repeatedly stated that the plan more flexible exchange rate for its currency. However, the governor Elman Rustamov said that any weakening of Azerbaijani Manat will be soft. In his words, there is no reason for a prolonged weakening of the currency. The institution simply seek to follow global trends in devaluation to boost exports.

On 16th February 2015 the Azerbaijan Central Bank moved to using a basket of currencies in determining the amount of manat. The USD share in it is 70%, while the remaining 30% goes towards the EUR.

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