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Chase Bank Limits Cash Withdrawals, Bans International... Before you read this report, remember to sign up to for 100% free stock alerts Chase Bank has moved to limit cash withdrawals while banning business customers from sending...

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Richemont chairman Johann Rupert to take 'grey gap... Billionaire 62-year-old to take 12 months off from Cartier and Montblanc luxury goods groupRichemont's chairman and founder Johann Rupert is to take a year off from September, leaving management of the...

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Cambodia: aftermath of fatal shoe factory collapse... Workers clear rubble following the collapse of a shoe factory in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, on Thursday

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Spate of recent shock departures by 50-something CEOs While the rising financial rewards of running a modern multinational have been well publicised, executive recruiters say the pressures of the job have also been ratcheted upOn approaching his 60th birthday...

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UK Uncut loses legal challenge over Goldman Sachs tax... While judge agreed the deal was 'not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue', he ruled it was not unlawfulCampaign group UK Uncut Legal Action has lost its high court challenge over the legality...

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FTSE 100 continues winning streak as Antofagasta gains ground after update

Category : Business

Investors continue to support markets with miners leading the way on hopes of further central bank moves

Investors are not selling in May so far, defying the old stock market adage.

Despite the FTSE 100 recording its eleventh monthly rise in a rose – the best performance since the index began in 1984 – it has added another 24.17 points to 6454.29. Early days yet of course, but the continuing hope of further moves by central banks to stimulate the global economy continue to spur the market on.

Later comes the US Federal Reserve and on Thursday is the monthly update from the European Central Bank, which is widely expected to cut rates. Any disappointments from these meetings are likely to be taken badly. The US non-farm payrolls, an important indicator of the state of the world’s largest economy, are out on Friday.

The mining sector was among the gainers despite China’s manufacturing index slipping from 50.9 in March to 50.6 last month, adding to concerns about economic growth in the region. Most analysts however said the new Chinese government’s plans for infrastructure investment should keep things ticking over.

Chilean mining group Antofagasta added 29p to 926.5p after a 13% rise in first quarter copper production and strong cost control. Mining investors have been concerned about soaring costs but Antofagasta said they were flat in the first three months of the year. Canaccord Genuity said:

Total copper produced in the quarter was 183,800 tonnes ahead of our 177,900 tonnes estimate. Cash costs were a lot better than we had expected with gross cash costs at 172c cents a pound, well below our 187 cents estimate.

Randgold Resources has risen to the top of the leading index, up 175p at £52.35 ahead of an update on Thursday and despite a pay revolt by investors on Monday.

An exception to the sector optimism was controversial Kazakh miner Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation, 7.4p lower at 267p on news of another possible investigation by City regulators.

A number of companies went ex-dividend including insurer Admiral, down 40p at £12.41, Reed Elsevier, 21p lower at 731p and ITV, off 3.4p at 122.5p.

Home Retail, the owner of Argos and Homebase, dipped 0.1p to 155.7p as profits fell for the fifth year to £91m but met analyst forecasts.

Rival Dixons Retail has risen 1.07p to 36.17p after Deutsche Bank raised its price target from 36p to 41p with a buy recommendation. Ahead of an update on 16 May analyst Charlie Muir-Sands said:

We expect sales for the 16 weeks to end April to follow a similar pattern to the third quarter: robust sales growth in markets where Dixons is market leader (mainly UK and northern Europe) offset by ongoing weakness in peripheral divisions. We make no material changes to our forecasts. However, recent (admittedly small) disposals [equanet and Webhallen] increase our conviction that management is serious about restructuring/ disposing of these loss-making businesses.

Cyprus sell-off fears send gold price tumbling

Category : Business

Precious metal slides below $1,500 an ounce for the first time since July 2011 – a ‘make-or-break moment’, analysts say

The price of gold fell to its lowest level in more than 18 months on Friday night amid fears that sales of the precious metal forced on Cyprus by its desperate financial plight would lead to wholesale dumping by hard-pressed countries in the coming months.

At the end of a week dominated by the plight of the troubled Mediterranean island, gold slid below $1500 an ounce for the first time since July 2011 in anticipation that Cyprus would seek to raise €400m (£340m) by offloading a chunk of its reserves.

Share prices also fell on the major European bourses after the gathering of EU finance ministers in Dublin made it clear that there would be no increase to the €10bn earmarked for Cyprus – even though the expected cost of the bailout has been raised by €6bn to €23bn.

A Cyprus government spokesman said the increase would not lead to more money being taken from savers in the country’s banks.

Although both Portugal and Ireland were granted an additional seven years to pay back their loans as a reward for sticking to their austerity programmes, help for Cyprus will be limited to extra investment from Europe’s structural fund.

A spokesman for the German government said the contribution to Cyprus’s bailout would not change despite the deteriorating financial health of the country, but Angela Merkel’s government supported easier terms for Portugal – which tabled fresh measures to save more than €1bn from its budget – and Ireland.

Portugal’s prime minister, Pedro Passos Coelho, said tentative cuts had been outlined. “We have already presented to our partners some possibilities that will require further work next week when the Troika visits Portugal,” he said. “We have a [bailout] agreement with our partners and we need to stick to it.”

Most major European stock markets saw falls of more than 1%, with weak economic news from the US adding to the downward pressure on gold.

While Cyprus’s gold sale in itself is small, heavily indebted eurozone nations such as Italy and Portugal could also find themselves under increasing pressure to put their bullion reserves to work.

“If Cyprus can break the gold market, then [there are] many reasons to be worried, with Slovenia, Hungary, Portugal, Spain and Italy in line,” Milko Markov, an investment analyst at SK Hart Management, said. “It is a make-or-break moment for gold … if the market can’t handle the reallocation and Cyprus, then there is really a need for a bear market.”

David Owen, chief European economist at investment bank Jefferies, said: “As with Greece, we should not be under any illusion that we have seen the last of the Troika warning about Cyprus’s debt dynamics. The draft EC report [that suggested another €6bn from Cyprus] saw as a worst case scenario Cypriot GDP falling by around 15% in the next two years before output stabilises. However, Greek GDP has now fallen for three years since its bailout, to date by around 20%, with forward looking indicators still pointing down.”

Figures released on Friday showed that European industrial production rose by 0.4% in February, but analysts said the outlook remained bleak.

David Brown, of New View Economics said: “Annual growth remains in deep negative territory pulled down by severe recession forces sweeping through the eurozone. ECB hopes that the eurozone economy will pick up later this year are simply wishful thinking while a large part of the eurozone economy is suffering such serious austerity and economic sentiment remains so vulnerable.”

HTC profit slump confirms Samsung and Apple as smartphone leaders

Category : Business

HTC has reported a 98% drop in profits, leaving the top market tier to be dominated by Samsung androids and Apple iPhones

The divergent fortunes within the $200bn (£130bn) global smartphone market were laid bare this week when Taiwan’s HTC reported a 98% slump in profits, confirming Samsung and Apple’s seemingly unassailable lead over their rivals.

In 2010, HTC was the world’s biggest maker of smartphones that used Google’s Android operating system. Now it has joined two other former titans, Nokia and BlackBerry, in a desperate search for profit and growth.

As HTC reported a slump in first-quarter profits to £0.9m, Samsung Electronics, the world’s largest maker of mobile phones and smartphones, was basking in a forecast that its quarterly operating profit would be around 8.7trn (£5bn).

The market is splitting into three tiers that allow only for high-end products in developed markets, a bevy of barely profitable products in the middle, and a hugely competitive low-cost segment in developing markets such as China.

In the last quarter of 2012, the last period for which figures are available, Apple and Samsung together shipped 111.5m smartphones, according to researcher IDC. That’s more than 50% of a market that has tripled in volume over that time – and compares to a combined share of less than 20% back in the second quarter of 2010, when the once mighty Nokia had 37%.

The plight of HTC is even more stark when its market position is viewed through the prism of Google’s Android software. Android is the leading operating system thanks to Samsung, beating Apple’s iOS system and Microsoft’s Windows Phone, which is used by Nokia. If consumers are flocking to Android phones, they are choosing Samsung and not HTC.

Benedict Evans, technology and telecoms analyst at Enders Analysis, calls the Android smartphone market “Samsung and the seven dwarves” – a reference to the 1960s when IBM dominated the mainframe market, and its seven rivals fought for scraps. The modern equivalents are China’s Huawei, Lenovo and ZTE, Korea’s LG, Japan’s Sony, the now Google-owned Motorola, and HTC.

But Steve Brazier, chief executive of the research company Canalys, thinks that the HTC One phone, launched in February, offers a way back. “The HTC One is hot,” he said. “The problem is it’s not really shipping yet, which is why their first-quarter figures were bad. The product was delayed.” Nonetheless, it faces a significant challenge from the Samsung Galaxy S4 phones, which also hits retailers’ shelves this month.

Brazier adds that there is hope too for the other also-rans. For BlackBerry, he thinks it first needs to calm its US government clients, who have been eyeing the iPhone as an alternative. For Nokia, the solution is easier said than done: “It needs something radically different from what’s out there.”

HTC, BlackBerry and Nokia are fighting against a rapid decline. Since 2010, they have been squashed down from an aggregate market share of 61% to barely 10%. Now, none has more than 4% of the market. Samsung is at the top with 29%, ahead of Apple with nearly 22%.

HTC’s problems sum up the difficulties that competitors face when they are trying to overcome two players that dominate half the market. The One was delayed because, reports say, it couldn’t get enough cameras at the required specification to satisfy its needs.

Brazier said: “The big issue in the smartphone business is that Samsung and Apple are cornering the supply chain, so HTC can’t get ‘tier-one’ components.”

To be tier one you have to order in large enough volumes to demand quality and timeliness along with price discounts. Once you slip from that position, it’s hard to recover it.

A decade ago, Apple cornered the markets in small hard drives and then solid-state storage to build its iPod, and then iPod nano, and dominate the music player market. Now it uses its growing cash pile to hire factories and production well ahead of time – locking rivals out. “HTC has a real scale problem,” says Evans, the Enders analyst. “It’s a problem that Nokia is starting to face as well. It’s a problem of the reach and power that Apple and Samsung can bring to the market.”

Samsung, meanwhile, is completely vertically integrated, owning the factories that make everything from the memory chips to the screens, and writing its own apps and code to go on the only element of its smartphones that it doesn’t make – Google’s Android operating system. And even that is free. Buoyed by colossal advertising and marketing spend which dwarfs even the likes of Coca-Cola, and with worldwide distribution, it is determined to control the mobile phone market. It aims to ship 500m smartphones this year, more than the whole market in 2011.

Analysts argue that Apple needs to do something radical too to catch the growth in emerging markets as the west becomes saturated. A low-cost iPhone is widely expected. That could consolidate the Apple-Samsung duopoly more firmly.

Even, so Brazier thinks things can turn around. “The smartphone business is very dynamic. I don’t think it’s played out. HTC could bounce back.”

Does he think that bounceback will happen by the end of the year? He paused. “Well, no,” he said.

Wall Street sours on gold

Category : Business, Stocks

Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank analyst cut their targets on the precious metal, citing an improving U.S. economy.

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Analyst: UGG maker’s stock could hit $100

Category : Business, Stocks

Deckers shares surged Thursday after an analyst boosted his outlook for the seller of fuzzy sheepskin boots. But some traders are skeptical.

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Investors switch off Cisco

Category : Business

Shares fell 4% after an analyst at FBR Capital Markets cut his rating on Cisco to underperform and slashed his price target.

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J.C. Penney’s friend list grows by one

Category : Business, Stocks

BTIG analyst William Frohnhoefer issued a “buy” rating, saying the troubled retailer’s assets are undervalued.

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Apple: Wall Street’s whipping boy gets flogged

Category : Business, Stocks

Stock under pressure after Jefferies analyst Peter Misak issued an unflattering report on Apple, adding to a string of negative research published on the company this week.

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VIDEO: Barclays’ millionaires ‘no surprise’

Category : World News

The 428 employees at Barclays earning more than £1m is “no surprise” to banking analyst and chairman of the Financial Services Club Chris Skinner.

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JP Morgan boss Jamie Dimon tells investors: ‘the company will be fine’

Category : Business

At annual meeting, chief executive tries to show investors and analysts that last year’s London Whale trade was an anomaly

JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon has dismissed fears over last year’s huge trading loss at the company, insisting to investors: “Whatever it is, the company will be fine.”

That’s a long way from the fears around JP Morgan just 10 months ago, when metastasizing losses around the risky London Whale trade dented the bank’s aura of invincibility compared to its rivals. Dimon, who spoke at JP Morgan’s annual investor meeting in front of about 250 investors and research analysts on Tuesday, made a point of treating the incident as an anomaly.

Last year, several JP Morgan executives, including Ina Drew, announced their departures as news of the whale losses leaked out. But on Tuesday Dimon underplayed the effect of trading mistakes on staffing.

“No one at JPM ever, ever worries about losing their job for making a mistake,” Dimon said, asking: “Why would you work there?” He went on to denounce infighting and sniping among colleagues that he said hurts rivals. “You worry about getting shot in the back of the head. That is what destroys these companies.”

Still, some analysts were skeptical. Mike Mayo, a famously pugilistic analyst with CLSA, asked Dimon about functioning under a higher level of scrutiny: “If you chew gum and throw it on the sidewalk, you’re ‘in trouble’ because of the whale loss,” Mayo said. Dimon parried by saying that the bank has navigated through tougher times, including the financial crisis.

Some of those tougher times may be coming again. Dimon identified several “black swans”, as random and devastating financial events are known, that could hurt the bank.

Dimon also talked about potential shocks to JP Morgan and the financial system, including the eurocrisis, which he called a “roller coaster”. He recalled his trip to the World Economic Forum at Davos last month. “When I was at Davos everyone was benign” he said, contrasting that with this week’s queasy market reaction to Italian elections.

On the euro, Dimon said, “You are going to feel good sometimes, other times you will feel sick to your stomach. Sometimes you feel that the euro will be saved, other times no way.”

Dimon also weighed in, indirectly, on the current congressional fight over taxes and the batch of deep spending cuts known as the sequester. He called fiscal uncertainty “a legitimate thing to be worried about”.

While many in the financial markets have been worried about whether interest rates will rise, JP Morgan’s co-head of investment banking, Daniel Pinto, said the bank will only make money if they do. He estimated that every percentage point rise in interest rates would benefit JP Morgan by $400m.

The company did, however, talk about its plans to rein in expenses.

During the day, JP Morgan announced that it would be reducing headcount, with 17,000 jobs lost over the next two years. In 2013, the bank expects to save about $1bn by reducing 6,000 jobs in its division that deals with consumers, then adding back 2,000 jobs in the credit card business. The bank stressed that it does not plan on layoffs, but will instead depend on attrition for this year’s job cuts or will redeploy some workers.

In 2014, about 15,000 job cuts will come from the mortgage division, which executives said has fewer foreclosures and delinquent mortgages to process. Chase held mortgages on 640,000 homes between 2009 and 2012, and 60% of those were either paid off or on track to be while 9% were either in foreclosure or default. The bank plans to cut expenses in its mortgage business by $3bn compared to 2012.

Dimon defended JP Morgan’s plan to release reserves that it has been holding in case of more foreclosures or delinquencies. Instead, JP Morgan will allow that money to boost its profits. “It’s not that I’m trying to manipulate our earnings,” Dimon told analysts. His argument hinges on the expectation that foreclosures will continue to decline.

Those reductions are in line with rivals including Bank of America, which announced last fall that it would be cutting 16,000 jobs, and Citigroup, which announced 11,000 job reductions.

Dimon also argued against splitting up the roles of chairman and CEO, which he currently occupies. He argued that chairmen and CEOs often team together “in cahoots” and intimidate the other members of the board of directors, who become afraid to disagree. He suggested that the aftermath of the London Whale, in which an outside director was appointed to run a particular crisis inquiry, was an ideal arrangement.

After a long day of complex charts and numbers, Dimon, in a stylish suit and his trademark New York accent, came onstage at the end to take questions. He won favor with the crowd with lighthearted asides and sparring with analysts including CLSA analyst Mike Mayo.

After Mayo asked Dimon why JP Morgan did not imitate UBS in keeping a bigger buffer of cash, the two went back and forth until Dimon retorted: “Well, I’m richer than you.”

Dimon also quipped to laughs from the crowd that JP Morgan’s chief risk officer, John Hogan, was a “son of a bitch” for taking a sabbatical for a few months as the bank is still honing the ways it manages risk in the wake of the whale trade.

Other executives who presented during the day also spoke about some of the larger pressures on the bank, including regulation. Dimon said the bank lost money because of the Durbin amendment, which reduced the amount of fees that payment processors can collect.

Daniel Pinto, the co-head of JP Morgan’s investment bank, took a parting shot at the Volcker Rule, a regulation that is part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform act and currently in draft form. It will encourage banks to separate their investing activities from their advice to clients. Pinto said that JP Morgan would be currently in compliance with “the letter and spirit” of the Volcker Rule.

“I think we will see the effect of Volcker two or three years down the road,” Pinto said. But he predicted it would reduce the amount of cash available to support trading by banks. “It will hurt market liquidity in some way.”

Dimon’s airy assurance in front of the crowd underscores the confidence the bank brought to its annual investor meeting. He was the closing act, and his final speech and Q&A with investors often sounded like a particularly well-honed sales pitch.

He assured the crowd that not only is the banking sector safe, but that new regulatory rules mean that “Banks are going to have too much capital in two years. They won’t know what to do with it.” He touched upon the sometimes controversial issue of compensation and bonuses by telling the crowd that the bank refused to sign guaranteed contracts with it bankers: “There are no special deals in this company,” he said, adding in an urgent stage whisper: “Zero!”