Economic Calendar

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Copper, Sugar, Rubber Futures Drop Limit in China as Wen Vows Price Curbs

Copper, sugar and rubber futures slumped their daily limit in China, with copper set for its biggest four-day slide since 2008, on speculation the government will take steps to cool inflation, damping commodity demand.

Copper for February delivery dropped 5 percent, the maximum allowed by the Shanghai Futures Exchange, to 61,550 yuan ($9,259) per metric ton before trading at 61,560 yuan. Soybeans fell 4 percent and cotton, sugar and rubber declined 5 percent.

China is drafting measures to curb excessive price gains, Premier Wen Jiabao said yesterday, suggesting the government may raise interest rates and introduce price controls. Inflation in October was 4.4 percent, boosted by a 10.1 percent increase in food costs, statistics bureau data show. The futures exchanges have already announced moves to cool speculation.

“The precipitous fall indicates investors have become increasingly risk-averse, as the strong rally in the past few months seems vulnerable,” Wang Ning, an analyst at Xiangyu Futures Co., said by phone from Shanghai.

Commodities worldwide capped the biggest five-session slide since July 2009 yesterday. The Thomson Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index of 19 raw materials fell 3.2 percent to 296.22, bringing its decline since Nov. 9 to 7.2 percent. Three-month copper lost 0.3 percent to $8,124 a ton today on the London Metal Exchange after tumbling 5.7 percent yesterday.

Investor Retreat

A Chinese consumer confidence index fell for the first time in six quarters on expectations that the price of goods and services will keep increasing. The measure dropped to 104 in the third quarter from 109 in the previous three months, according to a statement from Nielsen Co. and the Chinese statistics bureau’s Economic Monitoring and Analysis Center.

“What I’ve seen was a lot of liquidation of long positions as investors retreat from the market and wait until they get a clearer macro picture,” Wang said.

Soybean futures jumped as much as 12 percent in Dalian this month and dropped 9.2 percent in the past four days, the biggest such decline since October 2008. Rubber soared as much as 28 percent in Shanghai, and fell 12 percent in the past four days, the most since December 2008.

Copper futures in Shanghai declined 10.4 percent in the past four sessions, heading for the biggest four-day slide since December 2008. Zinc slid 15 percent in the period, and was poised for the largest drop since November 2007.

Rate Speculation

China’s central bank may raise rates as soon as Nov. 19 because of sustained inflationary pressure, the China Securities Journal said today. Earlier announcements also indicate that rate decisions are often released on Fridays or around the 20th of the month, the newspaper reported.

Exchanges have introduced measures to cool speculation. The Dalian bourse said last week it will curb “abnormal” trading to prevent price manipulation and other activities that disrupt an orderly market. The Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange and Shanghai Futures Exchange have announced similar steps.

Stocks in China declined, with the Shanghai Composite Index, which tracks the bigger of China’s stock exchanges, down 1.3 percent to 2,856.96. Aluminum in London gained 0.5 percent to $2,254 a ton, while zinc declined 1.8 percent to $2,100 a ton.

Corn for March delivery on the Chicago Board of Trade fell as much as 3.3 percent to $5.22 a bushel today, the lowest level for the most-active contract since Oct. 8, and traded at $5.29.

--Helen Sun, William Bi. Editor: James Poole

To contact the Bloomberg News staff on this story: Helen Sun in Shanghai at


Gold Imports by India Already Surpass 2009 Levels, World Gold Council Says

Gold imports this year by India, the largest consumer, have already exceeded 2009 levels as consumers boost jewelry purchases, according to the World Gold Council.

Imports totaled 624 metric tons by the end of the third quarter, compared with 559 tons in all of 2009, according to data released in a report by the London-based industry group today. India bought 214 tons in the third quarter, up from 176 tons a year earlier, it said.

Jewelry demand in India surged 36 percent in the third quarter even as gold prices gained, the council said. Bullion futures in New York reached a record $1,424.30 on Nov. 9 and are up 22 percent this year.

“Given the dual purpose of Indian jewelry, as both an adornment and an investment, the rising price helped to support demand for jewelry,” the council said in the report. “Furthermore, consumers have adjusted their price expectations and are anticipating yet higher prices.”

Consumers in India purchased 184.5 tons of gold in the third-quarter for jewelry, up from 135.2 tons a year ago, the report said. Total gold demand in India rose 28 percent in the period, it said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Madelene Pearson in Mumbai on


Oil Declines a Fourth Day on China Rate Speculation, Europe Debt Concerns

Oil fell for a fourth day as speculation that fuel demand will drop on China’s steps to cool its economy outweighed signs that U.S. consumption is rising.

Futures retreated as much as 1.4 percent, extending the biggest three-day decline since August, after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said the government was drafting measures to counter inflation in the world’s biggest energy consumer. Prices also fell on concern Europe’s debt crisis is worsening as ministers considered a rescue package for Irish banks. U.S. crude inventories dropped the most since September 2008 and gasoline demand increased, reports showed yesterday.

“Finally we have some good news on the fundamental front and everything else is undermining it,” said Ben Westmore, a minerals and energy economist at National Australia Bank Ltd. in Melbourne. “Part of it seems to be some concern that China might tighten policy. You have what markets perceive to be an increased probability of a further loss of global confidence with the European debt concerns resurfacing.”

Crude for December delivery fell as much as $1.16 to $81.18 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was at $81.46 at 3:52 p.m. Singapore time. Yesterday, the contract fell $2.52 to $82.34, the lowest settlement since Oct. 29. Prices are up 2.7 percent this year.

Oil dropped as Wen’s comments, broadcast yesterday on state television, stoked speculation the government may raise interest rates to damp economic growth. The Bank of Korea yesterday increased borrowing costs after inflation surged past the central bank’s ceiling.

Europe’s Crisis

European finance ministers started work on possible aid for Ireland’s debt-laden banks, stopping short of an immediate bailout package. The country’s crisis is stoking concern that Europe’s debt problems are spreading, weakening the euro versus the dollar and reducing investor demand for commodities priced in the U.S. currency.

The dollar climbed as much as 1 percent to $1.3448 against the euro yesterday, the highest level since Sept. 28. It was little changed today.

Brent crude for January settlement traded at $83.81, down 92 cents, on the ICE Futures Europe exchange in London. Yesterday, the contract lost $2.03, or 2.3 percent, to $84.73.

U.S. Demand

Crude inventories dropped 7.7 million barrels last week, the American Petroleum Institute said yesterday. An Energy Department report today will probably show that supplies were unchanged, according to a Bloomberg News survey. Oil-supply estimates from the two organizations have moved in the same direction in seven of the past eight weeks.

U.S. travel during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend will rise 11 percent from last year on improved economic conditions, AAA, the nation’s biggest motoring organization, said yesterday. Gasoline consumption at the pump climbed for the first time in four weeks, MasterCard Inc. said in its SpendingPulse report.

U.S. gasoline inventories dropped 1.65 million barrels to 214.6 million last week, the API report showed. Supplies probably fell by 750,000 barrels, according the survey of the Energy Department report.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Sharples in Melbourne at; Christian Schmollinger in Singapore at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Alexander Kwiatkowski in Singapore at


S&P 500 Drops Most Since August on Concern Over Irish Debt, China Growth

U.S. stocks sank, sending the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index to the biggest slump since August, amid concern that the debt crisis in Ireland and Greece is worsening and that China will act to slow its economy.

Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. and Nucor Corp. fell at least 3.5 percent as metals plunged. Travelers Cos. dropped 3.6 percent, leading losses in the Dow Jones Industrial Average as it slipped below 11,000 for the first time in a month, after declines in municipal bonds hurt its investments. Regions Financial Corp. slumped 4.5 percent after three executives overseeing risk and souring assets at the bank quit.

The S&P 500 decreased 1.6 percent to 1,178.34 at 4 p.m. in New York. The drop follows a late-day selloff yesterday triggered by growing criticism of the Federal Reserve’s plan to spur growth using a technique called quantitative easing. The Dow fell 178.47 points, or 1.6 percent, to 11,023.50. The MSCI World Index of shares in 24 developed nations slumped for a seventh straight day, the longest losing streak since January.

“It will be a choppy ride before we find some footing,” said Burt White, who helps oversee $284 billion as chief investment officer at LPL Financial Corp. in Boston. “The market is really trying to get its arms around a few lingering questions -- China, Europe, or whether or not QE2 is going to work or if it’s even necessary.”

Restraining Prices

The S&P 500 slid to the lowest level since Oct. 20 after the China Securities Journal reported that the country will introduce measures to control rising food prices in the world’s fastest-growing major economy. Equities extended losses as Austria threatened to block its next transfer of financial rescue funds to Greece.

The Fed has begun a second round of quantitative easing, known by investors as QE2, with plans to buy as much as $600 billion of Treasuries in coming months to lower long-term interest rates and boost the economy.

Fed Bank of Boston President Eric Rosengren said today in an interview with Bloomberg News that he expects the central bank to buy the entire $600 billion of Treasuries authorized Nov. 3, while St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said there’s a possibility that all of the purchases may not be needed or the Fed could even add to the easing program.

On U.S. stock exchanges, 5.7 companies fell for each that rallied, the most since Oct. 19, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Declines in the 10 main S&P 500 industries ranged between 2.2 percent for raw-material companies and 1.1 percent for consumer staples.

Freeport, Nucor

Freeport, the largest publicly traded copper producer, slumped 4.3 percent to $97.61. Nucor, the biggest U.S. steelmaker, sank 3.5 percent to $37.97.

Stocks also fell on growing concern that Europe’s debt crisis is worsening.

Ireland is in talks with European and International Monetary Fund officials about a bailout that would enable it to inject capital into the country’s banks, said a European official with direct knowledge of the talks. The two-part funding package would mean Ireland wouldn’t have to tap the bond market for an extended period as it tries to cut the budget deficit, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Concern about China tightening and the Ireland debt situation is hitting sentiment big-time,” said Michael Mullaney, who helps manage $9.5 billion at Fiduciary Trust Co. in Boston. “We’re in the middle of a pullback.”

Austria Threat

Stocks extended declines as Austria threatened to block its next transfer of rescue funds to Greece unless the government gets a deficit-cutting plan back on track.

“We are getting indications that the Greeks can’t stick to their plan in a sufficient manner, in particular on the revenue side,” Finance Minister Josef Proell said, according to a government e-mail that confirmed remarks made after a cabinet meeting today. “The data we have at the moment doesn’t give any reason to approve the December tranche from the Austrian point of view.”

Travelers sank 3.6 percent to $54.73 after a selloff in municipal bonds. The New York-based insurer held municipal debt valued at $41.4 billion at the end of third quarter.

Regions Financial dropped 4.5 percent to $5.92. The lender said Chief Risk Officer Bill Wells resigned. The Birmingham, Alabama-based company also said Michael Willoughby, director of credit risk, retired and Tom Neely, head of problem asset management, left the company. Chief risk officer duties are being divided between Barb Godin and John Haley.

Wal-Mart, Home Depot

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. rose 0.6 percent to $54.26 after the world’s largest retailer reported a 9.3 percent gain in third- quarter profit as growth abroad helped make up for sales declines at U.S. stores.

Home Depot Inc. advanced 1 percent to $31.71 after reporting third-quarter profit that topped analyst estimates and increasing its earnings forecast for the year after curbing expenses.

U.S. closed-end funds fell the most in five months as a weeklong selloff in stocks and bonds convinced buyers they were paying too much for the assets that underlie the investment products.

The S-Network Composite Closed-End Fund Index lost 1.7 percent, the biggest retreat since June 4 and its seventh day of declines, data compiled by Bloomberg show. John Hancock Investors Trust dropped 6.3 percent, the most since Nov. 21, 2008, and Pimco Corporate Income Fund fell 3.7 percent, the biggest decrease since May 6.

Closed-end mutual funds, unlike their open-ended competitors, sell common shares to investors that are publicly traded on exchanges and often borrow to boost returns. The tumble over the last week reflected declines in their holdings as well as a widening discount in the funds’ market price compared with the value of the assets they own.

“It’s like a fire spreading,” said Richard A. Barone, chairman of Cleveland-based The Ancora Group Inc. which manages about $3 billion. “There’s a general sense that risk is coming back into to certain areas of the bond market, and perhaps that we’ve come to the end of the line in terms of interest rates coming down. So there’s profit-taking going on.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Rita Nazareth in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nick Baker at


McDonald's Raises Prices in China Restaurants on Higher Raw Material Costs

A customer at a McDonald's in Shenzhen

McDonald's employees serve a customer in Shenzhen. Photographer: Kevin Lee/Bloomberg

McDonald’s Corp., the world’s largest restaurant chain, increased prices for its burgers, drinks and snacks in China to offset costs after the country’s inflation surged to a two-year high.

Product prices were raised by 0.5 yuan to 1 yuan (15 cents) today at the more than 1,200 McDonald’s restaurants in the country because of higher raw material costs, said Sophia Luan, the Oak Brook, Illinois-based company’s China spokeswoman. She declined to provide an average percentage increase when interviewed by phone today.

Premier Wen Jiabao said China’s Cabinet is drafting measures to counter excessive price increases, according to state television yesterday, and inflation grew to 4.4 percent last month, the highest in more than two years. McDonald’s opened its first 1,000 restaurants in China in 19 years, faster than in any other country outside the U.S., and plans to have 2,000 within four years, according to Asia President Tim Fenton.

“Everybody is getting used to price increases nowadays,” said Zhang Chen while ordering a fish burger and grapefruit tea at a McDonald’s restaurant at the Shanghai International Finance Center. “One yuan or half a yuan isn’t a big deal.”

Big Mac Index

Zhang, a 27-year-old administrative assistant at a financial company, said she didn’t notice the increase in prices. The restaurant raised the price of its cheese burger by 0.5 yuan while a corn cup was 1 yuan more expensive than yesterday.

McDonald’s fell 2.1 percent to $77.42 yesterday in New York trading.

China has the world’s cheapest Big Mac burgers partly because of a weak yuan, according to The Economist’s Big Mac Index as of Oct. 14. The sandwiches cost $2.18 each on average in Beijing and Shenzhen, compared with $3.71 in the U.S.

Big Macs are most expensive in Switzerland at $6.78, according to the magazine’s index, which uses the concept of purchasing power parity that states the dollar should buy the same amount in all countries.

“If consumers see justifications for price increases, such as value and product safety, they will be willing to pay for it,” Vinay Dixit, senior director of Asia consumer centers at McKinsey & Co., said in an interview in Shanghai.

Consumer Confidence

A Chinese consumer confidence index fell in the three months ended September, the first decline in six quarters, on expectations the costs of goods and services will keep rising.

A total of 76 percent of Chinese consumers expect prices will increase over the next year, up from 70 percent in the previous quarter, according to a statement from Nielsen Co. and the Chinese statistics bureau’s Economic Monitoring and Analysis Center today. Concerns about inflation are strongest among rural and first-tier city consumers, the survey said.

China may impose price limits on food and toughen punishment of those found speculating on agriculture futures including corn and cotton, the China Securities Journal reported, citing an unidentified person.

The Shanghai Composite Index, which tracks the bigger of China’s stock exchanges, fell 1.9 percent to 2,838.86 at the 3 p.m. close of trading, the lowest level in a month.

--Michael Wei, Li Yanping and Stephanie Wong. Editors: Frank Longid, Stephanie Wong

To contact the Bloomberg News staff on this story: Michael Wei in Beijing at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Frank Longid at


Euro Trades Near Seven-Week Low on Concern Ireland Debt Crisis May Spread

The euro traded near a seven-week low against the dollar amid concern a failure to craft a rescue package for Ireland will allow the nation’s banking crisis to spread to other member states of the common currency.

The dollar rose versus the yen for a seventh straight day, marking a six-week high and the longest run of gains since 1995. The Australian and New Zealand dollars traded near the lowest levels in more than two weeks as declines in stocks and concern that China will take measures to cool inflation damped demand for higher-yielding assets.

“Concerns about the region’s debt crisis weigh on the euro,” said Jeremy Stretch, executive director of foreign- exchange strategy at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in London. “That’s given the dollar a boost, and the euro stays under pressure. Ireland’s problem is not so much a sovereign issue as a banking issue.”

The euro was at $1.3487 as of 8:01 a.m. in London from $1.3489 in New York yesterday, when it touched $1.3448, the weakest level since Sept. 28. The shared currency traded at 112.55 yen from 112.38 yen after dropping 0.4 percent yesterday. The greenback fetched 83.43 yen from 83.29 yen. Yesterday, it reached 83.59 yen, the highest level since Oct. 5.

“The rebound in the dollar is beneficial for the Japanese economy,” Stretch said. “Dollar-yen is squeezing up and that will help alleviate some of the nation’s export pressures.”

EU, IMF Talks

Ireland is negotiating with the European Union and International Monetary Fund about aid to shore up the state’s finances, furnish capital for the country’s banks and spare the nation from tapping the bond market for an extended period, a European official said on condition of anonymity.

European finance ministers started work on possible aid for Ireland’s debt-laden banks, stopping short of an immediate bailout package. Finance chiefs from the 16-country euro region lauded Ireland’s budget cuts, echoing the rhetorical support offered in the early stages of Greece’s debt trauma before a rescue became necessary. Ireland said it doesn’t need EU money.

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen told Parliament in Dublin the nation hasn’t lodged an aid request and the goal is “a credible, efficient and above all workable solution that will provide assurance to the markets.”

Dollar ‘Bias’

“Investors are poised to unwind their positions rather than adding new ones amid Europe’s lingering issues, and the bias is for the dollar to be bought,” said Kuniyuki Hirai, manager of foreign-exchange trading at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd., a unit of Japan’s largest lender. “The euro will struggle to rise toward year-end.”

Austrian Finance Minister Josef Proell said he’s considering withholding his country’s share of the next part of Greece’s 110 billion-euro ($148 billion) rescue, saying the Athens government missed a revenue-raising target. Greece’s near-default in May triggered Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis.

The euro has lost 7.4 percent this year against its developed-nation counterparts, Bloomberg Correlation-Weighted Currency Indexes show. The dollar is down 1 percent, while the yen has gained 12 percent, the indexes show.

The dollar was supported as Atlanta Federal Reserve President Dennis Lockhart said additional bond purchases by the central bank aren’t intended to weaken the greenback.

Fed Outlook

Lockhart said the program to buy $600 billion in Treasuries is not intended to weaken the dollar or monetize the debt. The effect of the policy would be “measured,” Lockhart said in remarks prepared for a speech in Montgomery, Alabama.

The Fed announced on Nov. 3 it would make the bond purchases, a program known as quantitative easing, through June. Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren is set to speak at a chamber of commerce breakfast in Providence, R.I., and St. Louis Fed President James Bullard will speak in St. Louis today.

The dollar’s gains may be limited as reports today are forecast to show U.S. inflation was contained and housing starts dropped to a three-month low.

“Employment and housing haven’t recovered much at all,” said Tetsuya Inoue, chief researcher for financial markets at Nomura Research Institute in Tokyo, a unit of Japan’s largest brokerage. “Weak credit conditions in the U.S. may prompt people to invest money abroad. As a result, the dollar will be under downward pressure.”

Inflation, Housing

U.S. consumer prices, excluding food and fuel costs, rose 0.7 percent in October from a year ago after gaining 0.8 percent in September, according to the median estimate of economists in a Bloomberg News survey before today’s data. Housing starts grew at a 598,000 annual rate last month, the least since July and down from a 610,000 rate in September, another survey showed.

The euro gained against the yen as the common currency climbed above the so-called cloud of the daily ichimoku chart after entering it yesterday.

Ichimoku analysis, developed by a Japanese journalist, is used to predict a currency’s direction through analyzing the midpoints of historical highs and lows.

Australia’s currency touched 97.25 U.S. cents yesterday, the weakest since Oct. 29, after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said the cabinet is drafting steps to counter excessive price gains.

“The Aussie dollar has been directly affected by the movement we’ve seen in risk appetite because of China tightening concerns and news from the euro zone,” said Ray Attrill, head of macro strategy in Sydney at Tallship Investments, a currency fund manager.

Australia’s currency traded at 97.38 U.S. cents from 97.67 cents. New Zealand’s dollar was at 76.41 cents from 76.78 cents. The so-called kiwi reached 76.39 cents earlier today, the lowest since Nov. 2.

The MSCI World Index of shares fell for the eighth straight day, dropping 0.3 percent.

To contact the reporters on this story: Keith Jenkins in London at; Yoshiaki Nohara in Tokyo at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Tilles at