Category Archives: Business

economy and business news

Italian Stocks Fall on Populist Government’s Spending Plans

Italy’s stock market fell sharply Friday after the new populist, euroskeptic government announced a sharp public spending increase that will push the budget deficit to 2.4 percent of gross domestic product next year, risking a collision with the European Union.

The benchmark FTSE MIB dropped 2.2 percent early Friday, hours after the government announced its first financial targets since taking office three months ago. 

Italy’s government partners, the 5-Star movement and the League, pressed for money to fulfill campaign pledges, namely a basic citizen’s income for job seekers and a flat tax. Finance Minister Giovanni Tria, who is politically unaligned, had wanted to keep the budget deficit capped at no more than 2 percent.

The leader of the 5-Star Movement, Luigi Di Maio, called the document approved early Friday by the Cabinet “a maneuver of the people.”

“The historic measures are a victory,” Di Maio said. “It is not the government that wins, but citizens. It is a maneuver that allows us to relaunch investments and growth.”

The 2019 deficit target is a significant jump from the 2018 target of 1.6 percent, set by the former center-left government, but still remains within the 3-percent ceiling set by the EU. The European Union has been pressing Italy to address its deficit in a bid to reduce the country’s debt, the second largest in the EU after Greece. 

The spending targets contained in the document calls for spending of 27 billion euros, including blocking an increase in value-added tax, launching the 5-Star Movement’s basic income scheme, undoing pension reforms and introducing a flat tax.

 

To pay for the new spending, the government has pledged a tax amnesty, a spending review and possible changes to tax breaks.

 

The government must submit a draft budget to the EU by Oct. 15.

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Puerto Rico Struggling, Still Open for Tourists, Governor Says

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello flew to New York this week on a mission: convince potential tourists that the hurricane-ravaged island was ready for their return.

But Puerto Rico’s recovery from last year’s Hurricane Maria has been a “mixed bag,” Rossello told Reuters on Thursday, acknowledging that the bankrupt U.S. territory, while improving, was far from out of the woods.

Puerto Rico has received only a small fraction of the federal funding it needs to get back on its feet, Rossello said in a 75-minute interview, and getting access to the rest could take more than a decade.

$4 billion or less

His administration estimates that fixing Puerto Rico fully will require $139 billion, but the federal government has earmarked only about $60 billion to $65 billion for the recovery, he said. Of that, only about $3 billion to $4 billion has actually flowed into the island’s coffers. 

Obtaining the remainder could take 10 to 11 years, he said, adding that his team was lobbying Congress for more money.

Compounding the problem is Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy in U.S. federal court, where it is trying to restructure $120 billion of debt and pension obligations. There are also ongoing spending disputes between the government and a federally appointed fiscal oversight board.

In the year since Hurricane Maria, Rossello has at times been diplomatic regarding the federal government’s response, while at other times — especially lately — he’s been more critical. He has also been criticized for sticking with an estimated death toll of 64 early on, when  strong evidence suggested it could be higher. A government-commissioned study by researchers at George Washington University eventually pegged the toll at around 3,000.

When asked whether his administration’s messaging strategies have been tied to an effort to maintain good relations with President Donald Trump, Rossello said a “critical part” of the island’s recovery “is making sure the federal  government responds to our petitions.”

“So ,yes, I have opted for a path that involves dialog, that involves collaboration,” Rossello said, adding that he has not been afraid to be critical.

If Trump does not sign the island’s request to extend the federal  government’s 100 percent coverage of repair costs, “I’ll be the first one to fight it,” Rossello said, “and I’ll be the first to point out that action, or lack of action, is one of the main obstacles to our recovery.”

Rossello said Puerto Rico still has as many as 60,000 homes with temporary tarp roofs. It also has hundreds of thousands of informally constructed homes with many owners lacking title to their property.

Rebuilding will require that the current ranks of about 45,000 construction workers to grow to 130,000, according to Rossello, who recently signed an executive order increasing the minimum hourly construction wage to $15 despite opposition from the oversight board and the private sector.

Power shift

The island’s government is still considering initiatives that could make the its troubled electricity grid more resilient, Rossello said. Ultimately, the island hopes to generate 40 percent of its electricity from renewables and steer away from fossil fuels. The shift would require a new regulatory policy, approval by the bondholders, and, potentially, investment from outside companies or organizations.

“We have received 10 to 12 unsolicited proposals for generation,” he said, while acknowledging the government has yet to find a private operator for the power utility’s transmission and distribution operations.

But changes at the electric agency known as PREPA, which Rossello called one of the most troubled organizations in modern history, will be gradual. The governor said he was working with a search firm to identify outside board members for the utility, after nearly the entire board quit in an uproar over appointment of a new chief executive.

Limited electricity was a major problem for the island’s small-business sector, according to a Federal Reserve Bank of New York report on Thursday. A survey of more than 400 businesses with fewer than 500 employees found 77 percent suffered losses as a result of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Broader effort

Meanwhile, Rossello is trying not only to restore tourism, but to expand it in such a way that it incorporates hundreds of square miles of seaside and mountain communities that are largely unvisited. Puerto Rico’s tourism is small compared with that of other Caribbean locales and tends to be centered in San Juan.

The island’s visitor lodgings hit a 2017 high of 204,025 in July, but fell to just under 30,000 in October following the hurricanes, according to Puerto Rico Tourism Company data.

Persuading tourists to leave the capital, though, will require easier travel. “Puerto Rico should be a multiport destination,” he said, discussing plans to beef up airport capacity in the south and west of the island.

He emphasized the possibility of capitalizing on Puerto Rico’s near-constant spate of community festivals. “We have flower festivals, orange festivals, plantain festivals, coffee festivals, music festivals,” he said.

Rossello pointed to so-called chinchorreos as a possible draw, events in which Puerto Rican foodies move from one inexpensive eatery to the next.

“A bar crawl for food — that’s the best way to put it,” the governor said, “and the island is small, so you start in one place and you’re on a beachfront, and 15 minutes later you’re in the mountains.”

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Puerto Rico Struggling, Still Open for Tourists, Governor Says

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello flew to New York this week on a mission: convince potential tourists that the hurricane-ravaged island was ready for their return.

But Puerto Rico’s recovery from last year’s Hurricane Maria has been a “mixed bag,” Rossello told Reuters on Thursday, acknowledging that the bankrupt U.S. territory, while improving, was far from out of the woods.

Puerto Rico has received only a small fraction of the federal funding it needs to get back on its feet, Rossello said in a 75-minute interview, and getting access to the rest could take more than a decade.

$4 billion or less

His administration estimates that fixing Puerto Rico fully will require $139 billion, but the federal government has earmarked only about $60 billion to $65 billion for the recovery, he said. Of that, only about $3 billion to $4 billion has actually flowed into the island’s coffers. 

Obtaining the remainder could take 10 to 11 years, he said, adding that his team was lobbying Congress for more money.

Compounding the problem is Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy in U.S. federal court, where it is trying to restructure $120 billion of debt and pension obligations. There are also ongoing spending disputes between the government and a federally appointed fiscal oversight board.

In the year since Hurricane Maria, Rossello has at times been diplomatic regarding the federal government’s response, while at other times — especially lately — he’s been more critical. He has also been criticized for sticking with an estimated death toll of 64 early on, when  strong evidence suggested it could be higher. A government-commissioned study by researchers at George Washington University eventually pegged the toll at around 3,000.

When asked whether his administration’s messaging strategies have been tied to an effort to maintain good relations with President Donald Trump, Rossello said a “critical part” of the island’s recovery “is making sure the federal  government responds to our petitions.”

“So ,yes, I have opted for a path that involves dialog, that involves collaboration,” Rossello said, adding that he has not been afraid to be critical.

If Trump does not sign the island’s request to extend the federal  government’s 100 percent coverage of repair costs, “I’ll be the first one to fight it,” Rossello said, “and I’ll be the first to point out that action, or lack of action, is one of the main obstacles to our recovery.”

Rossello said Puerto Rico still has as many as 60,000 homes with temporary tarp roofs. It also has hundreds of thousands of informally constructed homes with many owners lacking title to their property.

Rebuilding will require that the current ranks of about 45,000 construction workers to grow to 130,000, according to Rossello, who recently signed an executive order increasing the minimum hourly construction wage to $15 despite opposition from the oversight board and the private sector.

Power shift

The island’s government is still considering initiatives that could make the its troubled electricity grid more resilient, Rossello said. Ultimately, the island hopes to generate 40 percent of its electricity from renewables and steer away from fossil fuels. The shift would require a new regulatory policy, approval by the bondholders, and, potentially, investment from outside companies or organizations.

“We have received 10 to 12 unsolicited proposals for generation,” he said, while acknowledging the government has yet to find a private operator for the power utility’s transmission and distribution operations.

But changes at the electric agency known as PREPA, which Rossello called one of the most troubled organizations in modern history, will be gradual. The governor said he was working with a search firm to identify outside board members for the utility, after nearly the entire board quit in an uproar over appointment of a new chief executive.

Limited electricity was a major problem for the island’s small-business sector, according to a Federal Reserve Bank of New York report on Thursday. A survey of more than 400 businesses with fewer than 500 employees found 77 percent suffered losses as a result of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Broader effort

Meanwhile, Rossello is trying not only to restore tourism, but to expand it in such a way that it incorporates hundreds of square miles of seaside and mountain communities that are largely unvisited. Puerto Rico’s tourism is small compared with that of other Caribbean locales and tends to be centered in San Juan.

The island’s visitor lodgings hit a 2017 high of 204,025 in July, but fell to just under 30,000 in October following the hurricanes, according to Puerto Rico Tourism Company data.

Persuading tourists to leave the capital, though, will require easier travel. “Puerto Rico should be a multiport destination,” he said, discussing plans to beef up airport capacity in the south and west of the island.

He emphasized the possibility of capitalizing on Puerto Rico’s near-constant spate of community festivals. “We have flower festivals, orange festivals, plantain festivals, coffee festivals, music festivals,” he said.

Rossello pointed to so-called chinchorreos as a possible draw, events in which Puerto Rican foodies move from one inexpensive eatery to the next.

“A bar crawl for food — that’s the best way to put it,” the governor said, “and the island is small, so you start in one place and you’re on a beachfront, and 15 minutes later you’re in the mountains.”

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US Regulators Sue Tesla’s Musk for Fraud, Seek to Bar Him as Officer

U.S. securities regulators on Thursday accused Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Elon Musk of fraud and sought to ban him as an officer of a public company, saying he made a series of “false and misleading” tweets about potentially taking the electric car company private last month.

Musk, 47, is one of the highest-profile tech executives to be accused of fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Losing its public face and guiding force would be a big blow for money-losing Tesla, which has a market value of more than $50 billion, chiefly because of investors’ belief in Musk’s leadership.

Tesla shares tumbled 12 percent in after-hours trading. Company officials were not immediately available for comment.

The SEC’s lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal court, came less than two months after Musk told his more than 22 million Twitter followers on Aug. 7 that he might take Tesla private at $420 per share, and that there was “funding secured.”

“Neither celebrity status nor reputation as a technological innovator provides an exemption from federal securities laws,” Stephanie Avakian, co-director of enforcement at the SEC, told a news conference announcing its charges against Musk.

Musk has long used Twitter to criticize short-sellers betting against his company, and already faced several investor lawsuits over the Aug. 7 tweets, which caused Tesla’s share price to gyrate.

According to the SEC, Musk “knew or was reckless in not knowing” that his tweets about taking Tesla private at $420 a share were false and misleading, given that he had never discussed such a transaction with any funding source.

The SEC said he also knew he had not satisfied other contingencies when he declared unequivocally that only a shareholder vote would be needed.

Thursday’s complaint also seeks to impose a civil fine and other remedies. The SEC does not have criminal enforcement power.

On Aug. 24, after news of the SEC probe had become known, Musk blogged that Tesla would remain public, citing investor resistance.

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US Regulators Sue Tesla’s Musk for Fraud, Seek to Bar Him as Officer

U.S. securities regulators on Thursday accused Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Elon Musk of fraud and sought to ban him as an officer of a public company, saying he made a series of “false and misleading” tweets about potentially taking the electric car company private last month.

Musk, 47, is one of the highest-profile tech executives to be accused of fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Losing its public face and guiding force would be a big blow for money-losing Tesla, which has a market value of more than $50 billion, chiefly because of investors’ belief in Musk’s leadership.

Tesla shares tumbled 12 percent in after-hours trading. Company officials were not immediately available for comment.

The SEC’s lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal court, came less than two months after Musk told his more than 22 million Twitter followers on Aug. 7 that he might take Tesla private at $420 per share, and that there was “funding secured.”

“Neither celebrity status nor reputation as a technological innovator provides an exemption from federal securities laws,” Stephanie Avakian, co-director of enforcement at the SEC, told a news conference announcing its charges against Musk.

Musk has long used Twitter to criticize short-sellers betting against his company, and already faced several investor lawsuits over the Aug. 7 tweets, which caused Tesla’s share price to gyrate.

According to the SEC, Musk “knew or was reckless in not knowing” that his tweets about taking Tesla private at $420 a share were false and misleading, given that he had never discussed such a transaction with any funding source.

The SEC said he also knew he had not satisfied other contingencies when he declared unequivocally that only a shareholder vote would be needed.

Thursday’s complaint also seeks to impose a civil fine and other remedies. The SEC does not have criminal enforcement power.

On Aug. 24, after news of the SEC probe had become known, Musk blogged that Tesla would remain public, citing investor resistance.

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US, Japan Working Toward Free-trade Agreement

The United States and Japan have agreed to begin negotiations on a bilateral free-trade agreement, reducing the prospect that Washington might impose tariffs against another trading partner.

“We’ve agreed today to start trade negotiations between the United States and Japan,” U.S. President Donald Trump said at a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

“This was something that for various reasons over the years Japan was unwilling to do and now they are willing to do. So we’re very happy about that, and I’m sure that we will come to a satisfactory conclusion, and if we don’t, ohhhhhh,” Trump added.

Fast-track authority

The White House released a statement after the meeting, stating the two countries would enter into talks after completing necessary domestic procedures for a bilateral trade agreement on goods and other key areas, including services.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer called it a “very important step” in expanding U.S.-Japan relations. He told reporters that the U.S. and Japan were aiming to approve a full free-trade agreement soon. Lighthizer said he would talk to Congress on Thursday about seeking authority for the president to negotiate the agreement, under the “fast track” trade authority law.

Lighthizer said he expected the negotiations to include the goal of reaching an “early harvest” on reducing tariffs and other trade barriers.

Tokyo’s reticence

Tokyo had been reluctant to commit to a bilateral free-trade pact and had hoped that Washington would consider returning to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a broader regional trade agreement championed by the Obama administration that Trump pulled out of in January 2017.

Trump has complained about Japan’s $69 billion trade surplus with the U.S. and has been pressuring Abe to agree to a two-way agreement to address it, including during Abe’s visit to Trump’s Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, in April.

Japanese officials have expressed concern Trump might pressure Tokyo to open up its politically sensitive farm market. They also are wary Trump might demand a reduction in Japanese auto imports or impose high tariffs on autos and auto parts, which would be detrimental to Japan’s export-reliant economy.

Trump is expressing confidence the two sides will reach an agreement.

“We’re going to have a really great relationship, better than ever before on trade,” he said. “It can only be better for the United States because it couldn’t get any worse because of what’s happened over the years.”

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US, Japan Working Toward Free-trade Agreement

The United States and Japan have agreed to begin negotiations on a bilateral free-trade agreement, reducing the prospect that Washington might impose tariffs against another trading partner.

“We’ve agreed today to start trade negotiations between the United States and Japan,” U.S. President Donald Trump said at a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

“This was something that for various reasons over the years Japan was unwilling to do and now they are willing to do. So we’re very happy about that, and I’m sure that we will come to a satisfactory conclusion, and if we don’t, ohhhhhh,” Trump added.

Fast-track authority

The White House released a statement after the meeting, stating the two countries would enter into talks after completing necessary domestic procedures for a bilateral trade agreement on goods and other key areas, including services.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer called it a “very important step” in expanding U.S.-Japan relations. He told reporters that the U.S. and Japan were aiming to approve a full free-trade agreement soon. Lighthizer said he would talk to Congress on Thursday about seeking authority for the president to negotiate the agreement, under the “fast track” trade authority law.

Lighthizer said he expected the negotiations to include the goal of reaching an “early harvest” on reducing tariffs and other trade barriers.

Tokyo’s reticence

Tokyo had been reluctant to commit to a bilateral free-trade pact and had hoped that Washington would consider returning to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a broader regional trade agreement championed by the Obama administration that Trump pulled out of in January 2017.

Trump has complained about Japan’s $69 billion trade surplus with the U.S. and has been pressuring Abe to agree to a two-way agreement to address it, including during Abe’s visit to Trump’s Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, in April.

Japanese officials have expressed concern Trump might pressure Tokyo to open up its politically sensitive farm market. They also are wary Trump might demand a reduction in Japanese auto imports or impose high tariffs on autos and auto parts, which would be detrimental to Japan’s export-reliant economy.

Trump is expressing confidence the two sides will reach an agreement.

“We’re going to have a really great relationship, better than ever before on trade,” he said. “It can only be better for the United States because it couldn’t get any worse because of what’s happened over the years.”

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Report: Ford CEO Warns Tariffs Cut $1 Billion in Profit

Ford chief Jim Hackett on Wednesday ramped up his warnings about the tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump, saying his company was seeing profits slashed by $1 billion.

Hackett said the global automaker could face more damage if the trade confrontations were not resolved quickly.

“The metals tariffs took about $1 billion in profit from us,” Hackett said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “If it goes on longer, there will be more damage.”

Trump in June imposed steep tariffs on steel and aluminum and has hit $250 billion in Chinese products with tariffs, prompting retaliation from US trading partners and raising costs for many industries.

The company earlier this year estimated materials costs would be $1.5 billion over 2017, which had already seen a jump. 

And in the July earnings report Ford said it lost $500 million in China in the latest quarter due in part to the tariffs.

General Motors likewise warned the current trade wars should cost it $1 billion this year, mainly due to rising input costs.

Ford recently announced it was scrapping plans to import the compact Focus model from Chinese plants into the US market due to the tariffs.

Joseph Hinrichs, Ford’s executive vice president for global operations, said this week the company was speeding up plans to build some models in China since it was becoming less attractive to export amid the trade tensions.

He also said he did not see any easy resolution to the trade dispute between the United States and China. 

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Report: Ford CEO Warns Tariffs Cut $1 Billion in Profit

Ford chief Jim Hackett on Wednesday ramped up his warnings about the tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump, saying his company was seeing profits slashed by $1 billion.

Hackett said the global automaker could face more damage if the trade confrontations were not resolved quickly.

“The metals tariffs took about $1 billion in profit from us,” Hackett said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “If it goes on longer, there will be more damage.”

Trump in June imposed steep tariffs on steel and aluminum and has hit $250 billion in Chinese products with tariffs, prompting retaliation from US trading partners and raising costs for many industries.

The company earlier this year estimated materials costs would be $1.5 billion over 2017, which had already seen a jump. 

And in the July earnings report Ford said it lost $500 million in China in the latest quarter due in part to the tariffs.

General Motors likewise warned the current trade wars should cost it $1 billion this year, mainly due to rising input costs.

Ford recently announced it was scrapping plans to import the compact Focus model from Chinese plants into the US market due to the tariffs.

Joseph Hinrichs, Ford’s executive vice president for global operations, said this week the company was speeding up plans to build some models in China since it was becoming less attractive to export amid the trade tensions.

He also said he did not see any easy resolution to the trade dispute between the United States and China. 

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Somalia to Get First Direct World Bank Grants in Decades

Somalia’s finance minister says World Bank grants to the government are a sign the country has “trustable leadership” again after decades of chaos and corruption.

The World Bank said Tuesday it will provide $80 million in grants to Somalia’s federal government, the bank’s first direct grants to a Somali central authority in 27 years.

In an interview with VOA’s Somali service, Finance Minister Abdirahman Duale Beileh said the grants are “proof of Somalia’s merit.”

Beileh said $60 million will be used to increase the capacity of Somalia’s financial institutions, and $20 million will go toward education and energy projects to build the country’s resilience.

He said the grants show that international financial agencies have faith the government is capable of fighting against corruption.

“The work we have done and the trustworthiness we have earned brought us here,” he said. 

The World Bank cut ties with Somalia in 1991, following the collapse of the Mohamed Siad Barre government and the start of a long civil war.

Beileh said that in recent years, Somalia’s government has made tangible improvement in management of the economy and its institutions.

However, the latest global index of Transparency International put Somalia as the world’s most corrupt country.

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohammed, also known as Farmajo, took power last year in an election by parliament that observers said was characterized by bribes and vote-buying.

Beileh acknowledged the government’s fight against corruption is “far from over.”

“There is a perception that Somalia cannot be trusted because of its corruption history. Most of that is not perception,” he said.

He added: “We are proud that we made progress to at least a transparent level that both the World Bank and the IMF can notice.”

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