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Ministers appeared close to sealing the world's biggest trade reform for two decades early on Saturday after India, the most vocal holdout, endorsed a draft text presented by the head of the World Trade Organization. The deal, thrashed out at talks on the Indonesian island of Bali, would lower trade barriers and speed up the passage of goods through customs. Failure would have represented a body blow to the 159-nation WTO, formed in 1995 and still without a major trade deal to its credit after many years of negotiating fiascos. "It is a victory for the WTO and for the global community to have arrived at a mature decision," Indian Trade Minister Anand Sharma told reporters.
Allianz (ALV.DE), Europe's biggest insurer, is confident its business model can withstand prolonged periods of low interest rates, the company's chief executive was quoted saying by a German newspaper. "We've found a mix where results remain relatively stable, regardless of whether interest rates go up or down," Michael Diekmann said in an excerpt of an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung to be published on Saturday. Low interest rates in the wake of the financial crisis have slashed the income insurers can earn from their investments in safe assets like government bonds, making the burden of meeting past pledges to policy holders increasingly onerous. Allianz earlier this year launched a new type of life insurance savings policy with more limited guarantees to the holder than traditional savings products.
Consumers have feasted on discounts this holiday season, but it means thinner profit margins for retailers from Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT) to Neiman Marcus, and car makers, a red flag for investors who have ridden a sector rally all year. This week, apparel retailers including Aeropostale Inc `(ARO) and Guess Inc (GES.N) lowered fourth-quarter earnings forecasts, and on Thursday, several major U.S. retailers posted disappointing sales for November. Prices are coming down in most cases," Jim McNerney, head of the Business Roundtable and chief executive of airplane maker Boeing Co (BA), said in releasing the Roundtable's survey of chief executives on Wednesday.
U.S. consumer sentiment surged in December as Americans' outlook on the economy and job prospects improved, a survey released on Friday showed. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's preliminary reading on the overall index on consumer sentiment jumped to 82.5 for December, up from a final reading of 75.1 in November. This was the highest reading for the index since July, and topped analyst forecasts for a reading of 76. "All of the improvement was among households with incomes below $75,000, with upper income households showing no gain from last month's reading," survey director Richard Curtin wrote in a statement.
Sanders Walker had been working for 13 years at a BWAY Corp factory in Macon, Georgia, when the word came down one September 2011 morning: The company, a maker of plastic and metal containers, was closing the plant. The private-equity firm that owned BWAY when Walker lost his job enjoyed a more satisfying relationship with the company. High-risk debt issued by BWAY helped Chicago-based Madison Dearborn Partners LLC acquire the manufacturer in June 2010 for $915 million. In that partially debt-financed buyout, Madison Dearborn put up just $294 million of its own cash.
U.S. consumer spending rose in October, but still benign inflation pressures offered a cautionary note for the Federal Reserve as it weighs the future of its bond-buying program. The Commerce Department said on Friday consumer spending increased 0.3 percent after rising 0.2 percent in September. Economists polled by Reuters had expected consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity, to gain 0.2 percent in October. When adjusted for inflation, consumer spending increased 0.3 percent in October, the largest advance since March, after gaining 0.1 percent in September.
SEOUL/SYDNEY (Reuters) - General Motors Co (GM) may consider shipping more South Korean-made cars to Australia, a source said on Friday, as part of a global restructuring that will see its Chevrolet brand in Europe dropped and production in Australia potentially scrapped. GM, which has been mulling its future in Australia for months, has decided to pull out as early as 2016, Australian media reported on Friday. One option that would be looked at was to supply Australia using factories in South Korea affected by GM's announcement on Thursday that it will drop the Chevrolet brand in Europe by the end of 2015. GM Korea shipped 187,000 Chevy cars to Europe last year but the brand has failed to gain significant share in the market.
(Reuters) - Eddie Lampert-controlled Sears Holdings Corp (SHLD), struggling with mounting operating losses and declining sales, said it would spin off its Lands' End clothing business, adding to the list of businesses sold off to raise cash. Sears, operator of Sears department stores and the Kmart discount chain, has been selling or spinning off assets over the past few years to try to turn around its business. The company, which had said it was considering selling Lands' End, spun off its Orchard Supply Hardware Stores unit in 2011 and its Sears Hometown and Outlet business last year. Sears had cash and cash equivalents of $599 million as of November 2, down from $671 million on August 3.
Consultancy Knight Frank's global house price index rose 4.6 percent over the 12 months to the end of September, taking it 4 percent higher than its previous peak in the second quarter of 2008. "The index's strong performance has been assisted not just by headline grabbing price rises in Dubai, China and Hong Kong, but also in a number of emerging markets," said Kate Everett-Allen, associate at the London-based property consultancy. Dubai topped the index, as house prices there rose more than a quarter over the last 12 months, followed by China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Struggling southern European economies filled the lower reaches of the index, with house prices falling steeply in Croatia, Spain and Greece.
The dollar rose and government borrowing costs from Japan to Germany hovered around fresh highs on Friday, on expectations of strong U.S. data that would back the case for an imminent scaling-back of Federal Reserve stimulus. U.S. non-farm payrolls, due at 1330 GMT, could tip the balance of when the Fed will begin to trim the $85 billion a month of bond purchases which have dominated trading across the globe and supported risk assets for months. In Japan, 10-year cash JGB yields were highest since early October, while U.S. Treasury yields on Thursday rose to levels not seen since mid-September - when Fed tapering was last seen as imminent. The market would tend to see anything over 200,000 on non-farm payrolls as greatly adding to the chances of a start to tapering this month, while a result under 150,000 would diminish the likelihood, likely prompting a relief rally in risk assets.
PERTH/PARIS (Reuters) - France's Total (FP.PA) has agreed to buy a stake in InterOil's (IOC) Papua New Guinea gas fields, which could include the construction of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plant in a deal worth up to $3.6 billion. Total will take a share of 61.3 percent in InterOil's petroleum retention license 15, which includes the Elk and Antelope fields, InterOil said in a statement. InterOil said payments could reach up to $3.6 billion depending on the size of the gas and condensate reserves and a final investment decision on the onshore LNG liquefaction plant expected by 2016. Disagreements with the Papua New Guinea government about the scope of InterOil's proposed Gulf LNG project, and a requirement that the company find a more experienced LNG player to develop the plant, have held back development of the fields.
A $6.4 billion gas project being built by Chevron (CVN.X) in China is facing further delays due to disagreements with partner PetroChina over how to develop the technically tricky fields, three industry sources said. The Chuandongbei project, the U.S. firm's largest investment in China, is now not expected to deliver first gas until the second half of 2014, nearly 7 years after the firms clinched a 30-year deal to produce 7.6 billion cubic meters of gas a year. The latest setback follows a series of delays for Chuandongbei, which Chevron has described as one of its larger capital projects for 2013. PetroChina initially expected first gas to be delivered in 2010, while its parent CNPC forecast just four months ago that production would start by end-2013.