segunda-feira, 21 de agosto de 2017

Police: Man wearing bomb belt shot dead in hunt for Barcelona terror attacker

Spanish interior minister Juan Ignacio Zoido shows a picture of Younes Abouyaaqoub, believed to be the driver of the van in the Barcelona attack, during a press conference in Madrid, Spain, Aug. 21, 2017. EPA/J.J. GUILLEN

A man wearing an explosives belt has been shot dead in northeastern Spain as police hunted for suspected terror attacker who last week drove a van through Barcelona's Rambla boulevard, killing 13 people, police said Monday.

A manhunt for the Barcelona attacker had been active since Thursday, when he is believed to have left the scene in a hijacked car.

"The suspect in Subirats is wearing an explosives belt. The individual has been shot dead," said the Mossos d'Esquadra regional police on their official Twitter account.

All others believed to be linked to the attack have been detained or are dead.

Source: EFE

China launches probe into Brazilian broiler chicken imports

Image result for China launches probe into Brazilian broiler chicken imports

China on Friday launched an anti-dumping investigation into imports of Brazilian broiler chickens after a complaint from the domestic industry that the South American country has been selling its chicken below market value.

Brazil accounted for more than 50 percent of broiler product supplies to China, the world's No. 2 poultry consumer, between 2013 and 2016, according to a preliminary review, the Commerce Ministry said in a statement.

Any move to penalize imports, which are worth more than $1 billion a year, would be a major blow to Brazil's meat industry following a food safety scandal that threatened to tarnish the country's powerhouse protein industry.

ABPA, a group representing Brazilian chicken producers and exporters, denied they sell products below market prices, association president Francisco Turra told Reuters on Friday.

"We are very competitive and it is hard for the Chinese producer to understand," Turra said, reflecting on the surge of imports since the Chinese market opened to Brazilian poultry in 2009. "Such complaints are normal and we can defend ourselves."

Brazil faced similar claims from South Africa and Ukraine and won the cases, he said. Brazilian government officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Shares of Brazil's BRF SA, the world's largest chicken exporter, fell 1 percent on Friday as the benchmark Bovespa stock index gained 0.2 percent.

A BRF representative declined to comment.

Brazil replaced the United States as the top chicken supplier after China slapped anti-dumping duties on U.S. broiler chicken products in 2010.

China is the biggest national consumer of Brazilian meat.

China relies on imports for its supply of white feather broiler chickens, which are favored by fast-food chains like KFC (YUM.N) and McDonalds (MCD.N) for their more rapid development and plumper meat. Yellow-feathered birds, which are native to China, are generally sold at retail.

The investigation comes just months after Beijing slapped hefty penalties on sugar imports from top growers such as Brazil and Thailand after lobbying by domestic mills.

In 2016, Brazil accounted for 85 percent of China's frozen chicken imports - almost 600,000 tonnes valued at as much as $1.23 billion, according to customs data.

The push by China's domestic industry for an anti-dumping probe came as poultry farmers and processors recover from the nation's worst outbreak of bird flu in years and struggle with falling demand.

"This is good news for the domestic chicken market," said a chicken farmer in northern China who gave his surname as Tan.

"The chicken market has been not so good since the second half of last year. Brazil is selling a lot to China at a cheap price while China has ample supplies itself."

In 2017, demand and output are expected to hit their lowest since 2006, according to U.S. government estimates. Domestic supplies are being hurt by low availability of grandparent breeder stock needed to produce more meat.

Worries about the deadly virus hurt demand for chicken meat and sent some regional prices to more than decade old lows in February.

Live broiler chicken prices in Shandong province, one of the nation's major producing areas, have since more than doubled, and were around 7.7 yuan ($1.15) on Friday, as the crisis passed and concerns about infection eased.

Import prices from Brazil have remained low in comparison, making it hard for the local industry to compete, analysts said.

Still, any curb on foreign supplies would likely boost domestic prices further, potentially denting demand for chicken as a cheap alternative to pork, the nation's favorite meat.

Broiler chicken sells for 14 yuan ($2.10) per kg, according to government data, almost one-third less than pork and more than 70 percent cheaper than beef and lamb.

Source: Reuters


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Brazil's Democratas party will launch presidential candidate in 2018

Brazil's conservative Democratas party will launch a presidential candidate in 2018, ending the polarization between the PSDB and the PT parties started in 1994, House speaker Rodrigo Maia said on Monday.

Maia said he will not run for president, opting instead to seek re-election as a lower house representative for the state of Rio de Janeiro.

Source: Reuters

sexta-feira, 18 de agosto de 2017

US, Japan bolster alliance against N. Korea, keep military option open

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (2nd from right), US Defense Secretary James Mattis (right), Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono (2nd from left) and Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera (l) hold a press conference after meeting in Washington on Aug. 17, 2017. EFE/Shawn Thew

The United States and Japan on Thursday agreed to strengthen their cooperation against North Korea and promised to respond forcefully to any attack by Pyongyang after a close adviser to President Donald Trump said that a military solution to tensions with Pyongyang is not viable.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis welcomed their Japanese counterparts - Taro Kono and Itsunori Onodera, respectively - to Washington for the first bilateral security dialogue since Trump took office in January.

Source: Reuters

Minute of silence held in Spain for victims of Catalonia attacks

(L-R) Spanish Vice Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Spain's King Felipe VI, Catalonian Regional President Carles Puigdemont, Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau and Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido attend a ceremony to pay their respects for the terror attacks victims at Catalonia Square, in Barcelona, northeastern Spain, Aug. 18, 2017. EPA/ANDREU DALMAU
Spain's King Felipe VI led the nation in a minute of silence on Friday to remember the victims of two terror attacks in Catalonia that left 14 people dead and more than 100 injured.

King Felipe and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy were in Barcelona for the commemoration, along with other political leaders, Catalan regional authorities and thousands of citizens.

Source: Reuters

China launches probe into Brazilian broiler chicken imports

Image result for China launches probe into Brazilian broiler chicken imports

China on Friday launched an anti-dumping investigation into imports of Brazilian broiler chicken and products after a complaint from the domestic industry that the South American country has been selling its chicken below market value.

Brazil accounted for more than 50 pct of broiler product supplies to China, the world's No. 2 poultry consumer, between 2013 and 2016, a Commerce Ministry statement said on Friday, according to a preliminary review.

Any move to penalize imports worth more than $1 billion a year would be a major blow to Brazil's meat industry following a scandal over its beef exports earlier in the year, which threatened to tarnish the country's powerhouse protein industry.

Brazil replaced the United States as the top supplier of chicken after China slapped anti-dumping duties on U.S. broiler chicken products in 2010.

China is the biggest national consumer of Brazilian meat.

China relies on imports for its supply of white feather broiler chickens, which are favored by fast-food chains like KFC and McDonalds for their more rapid development and plumper meat, compared with yellow-feathered birds, which are native to China and generally sold retail.

The investigation comes just months after Beijing slapped hefty penalties on sugar imports from top growers such as Brazil and Thailand after lobbying by domestic mills.

In 2016, Brazil accounted for 85 percent of China's frozen chicken imports. which totaled almost 600,000 tonnes valued at as much as $1.23 billion, customs data shows.

The push by China's domestic industry for an anti-dumping probe comes as poultry farmers and processors recover from the nation's worst outbreak of bird flu in years.

Chicken is a cheap alternative to pork, the nation's favorite meat. The outbreak hurt demand for chicken meat as people worried about catching the deadly virus and sent prices <0#JCI-BROILER> to more-than-decade lows in February.

Live broiler chicken prices in Shandong province, one of the nation's major producing areas, have since more than doubled, and were around 7.7 yuan ($1.15) on Friday, as the crisis passed and worries about infection eased.

Import prices from Brazil have remained quite low in comparison, making it hard for the local industry to compete, analysts said.

Shan Xuewei, a broiler chicken trader based in Shandong, said he believed the probe was unnecessary.

"Brazilian chicken is indeed cheap ... and people of course will go for the cheaper stuff."

Source: Reuters

quarta-feira, 16 de agosto de 2017

Brazil softens budget deficit goals through 2020

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Brazil's government loosened its budget targets for all years through 2020 on Tuesday, delaying prospects for a drop in the federal deficit after legislators repeatedly refused to raise taxes in the recession-hit economy.

Cost-cutting measures were announced along with the new targets, in a bid to demonstrate President Michel Temer's commitment to fiscal discipline even after his economic team cut forecasts for economic growth next year.

The revision, announced weeks earlier than expected, underscored the uphill battle for Temer to gather support for austerity measures as a corruption scandal simmers and next year's general elections approach.

Market reaction was muted as investors did not expect a surge in government spending despite the new targets. Ratings agency Standard & Poor's spared Brazil from a downgrade, saying after the announcement that it would maintain the country's debt rating at BB with a negative outlook.

Brazil's government set a new primary deficit target for this year and next of 159 billion reais ($49.7 billion), up from 139 billion reais this year and 129 billion reais for 2018.

The country will target a deficit of 139 billion reais for 2019, up from 65 billion previously. For 2020, it will aim for a 65 billion reais deficit compared with a 10 billion reais surplus previously - raising prospects of a seven-year-long period of consecutive budget deficits, started in 2014.

Brazil lost its investment-grade credit rating in 2015 after missing the goals for years. Temer, who replaced impeached President Dilma Rousseff in 2016, pledged to set realistic targets and meet them to regain credibility with investors.

Members of Temer's economic team, including Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles, previously wanted to wait until September to consider a looser budget target, but agreed to move up talks under pressure from a fractious coalition in Congress.

Most cost-cutting measures announced by Meirelles and Planning Minister Dyogo Oliveira on Tuesday will need Congress' approval. They include postponing public sector salary hikes by one year and reducing the entry salary for incoming civil servants.

Despite strong opposition to tax hikes, Meirelles said the government would still seek to roll back payroll tax breaks and would raise taxes on some investment funds.

The government did not announce expected infrastructure concessions. It forecast 2 percent growth in 2018, down from a previous estimate of 2.5 percent.

Source: Reuters

Russian FM: US threats of military intervention in Venezuela are unacceptable

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) and his Bolivian counterpart Fernando Huanacuni Mamani (L) hold a bilateral meeting in Moscow, Russia, Aug. 16, 2017. EPA/SERGEI ILNITSKY
Russia's foreign minister on Wednesday described the threats of a military intervention in Venezuela made by the United States president as unacceptable.

Sergey Lavrov was at a joint press conference in Moscow following bilateral talks with his Bolivian counterpart, Fernando Huanakuni Mamani, as he rebuked recent comments by Donald Trump regarding a possible US military intervention in the South American country.

Source: EFE

segunda-feira, 14 de agosto de 2017

GoDaddy boots white supremacist web site after offensive post

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The web hosting company GoDaddy said on Sunday it had given The Daily Stormer 24 hours to move its domain to another provider after the extremist web site posted an article denigrating the woman who was killed at a white nationalist rally in Virginia.

"We informed The Daily Stormer that they have 24 hours to move the domain to another provider, as they have violated our terms of service," GoDaddy posted on its official Twitter page.

The Daily Stormer post in question denigrated Heather Heyer, 32, who was fatally struck by a car allegedly driven by a man with white nationalist views, for her physical appearance and what it said were anti-white male views.

The Daily Stormer is a neo-Nazi, white supremacist website associated with the alt-right movement, which was spearheading the rally on Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia which resulted in violence, including Heyer's death.

GoDaddy, founded in 1997 and based in Arizona, has some 6,000 employees worldwide.

Source: Reuters

Brazil president weakened by graft charge, losing fiscal battle

Image result for President Michel Temer

Brazilian President Michel Temer has burned through political capital fighting corruption charges and is struggling to push forward his economic agenda meant to rein in a gaping budget deficit.

Even allies in Congress now doubt he can achieve anything but watered-down measures, likely delaying any fix to Brazil's fiscal crisis until the economy recovers from deep recession.

With continued deficits, Brazil risks further downgrades in its credit rating. It lost its investment grade two years ago, adding to the cost of financing mounting public debt.

In a sign of Temer's failure to restore fiscal health, the government is expected to revise upward its 2017 and 2018 deficit targets on Monday due to falling tax revenues in an economy that is barely growing.

More pessimistic analysts worry the insolvency already faced by some Brazilian states that cannot pay employees or provide basic services will reach the federal government.

Temer had a window to pass a pension overhaul earlier this year, but it closed in May when allegations emerged that he condoned bribes in a taped conversation with the then CEO of the world's largest meatpacker JBS S.A.."We are dancing samba at the edge of the precipice," said Sao Paulo-based wealth manager Fabio Knijnik. "I don't see the political class at all concerned with resolving this."

The deeply unpopular president won enough backing in Congress on Aug. 2 to block a corruption charge that could have led to his suspension pending trial by the Supreme Court. To survive, he approved about $1.5 billion in pork barrel spending to keep lawmakers happy.

His closest ally in Congress, the center-right Democrats Party of Speaker Rodrigo Maia, does not believe Temer has the 308 votes, or three-fifths of the lower chamber, needed to pass pension reform, the key measure in his fiscal rescue plan.

Speaking in Rio on Friday, Maia said Temer's political troubles and lower-than-expected tax revenues had created the crisis. He said Brazil had no alternative but to seek whatever pension fix it could, given Congress would not raise taxes.

Congressman Efraim Filho, the Democrats whip, told Reuters Temer must dilute the pension bill to get it past Congress. He said the measure had to be stripped down to its most important provision, a minimum age for retirement of 65 years for men and 63 for women in a country where people only work on average until age 54.


Temer's government coalition is in disarray. Parties who stood by the president are now demanding they be rewarded with cabinet positions, such as the big-budget Cities Ministry. It is now controlled by the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), which split over whether to abandon the scandal-plagued president.

Until they get their way, the allies at the core of his coalition have said they will not put his proposed pension bill to the vote. Maia said the "climate" was not right to move to a floor vote and the bill could languish and miss a legislative window likely to close in December as an election year approaches in 2018.

The government has already made concessions on the pension bill provisions that will reduce planned fiscal savings by up to 25 percent in 10 years and nearly 30 percent in 30 years, according to Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles.

The pension overhaul is vital for Brazil to comply with a 20-year spending cap that was Temer's first move to restore fiscal discipline, albeit without a full impact on accounts until 2019.

"That ceiling was like saying you are going on a diet two years from now," said Daniel Freifeld of Callaway Capital, a Washington D.C.-based investment firm.

Source: Reuters

Woman killed in Virginia attack identified as anti-racism demonstrator

epa06142741 People place flowers at the corner of Fourth and East Water Street in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA, 13 August 2017. A woman killed when a car slammed into counter-protesters at that intersection following the cancelation of a planned white supremacist march in that city was identified on 13 August 2017 by authorities as 32-year-old Heather Heyer. EPA/TASOS KATOPODIS

A woman killed when a car slammed into counter-protesters following the cancelation of a planned white supremacist march in this eastern US city was identified Sunday by authorities as 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

The paralegal at a law firm and resident of Charlottesville, a college town of 50,000 people, was "struck down by a vehicle while exercising her peaceful first-amendment right to speech," city officials said in a statement.

Source: EFE

sexta-feira, 11 de agosto de 2017

Brazil central bank chief says economy set to recover gradually

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The Brazilian economy has stabilized and is set to recover gradually in coming months as interest rates continue to fall, Central Bank President Ilan Goldfajn said on Friday.

Speaking at an event in São Paulo, Goldfajn said economic consequences of increased political uncertainty have been limited. The central bank has cut its benchmark Selic interest rate by 500 basis points since October, helping Latin America's largest economy recover from the deepest recession in decades.

Source: Reuters

Trump issues new ominous warning to North Korea

A file photo showing US President Donald Trump. EFE
The president of the United States issued a fresh stark warning to North Korea on Friday, saying a military solution to the nuclear threat posed by the Asian nation had been completely prepared.

"Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!" Donald Trump wrote on Twitter.

The tweet marked yet another step in the escalating verbal back-and-forth between Trump and Kim.

Pyongyang said Thursday it was preparing a plan to fire two intermediate-range ballistic missiles that would fly over Japan and land near the territorial waters of the US Pacific territory of Guam - the location of a strategic US naval base.

North Korea said the plan would be ready by mid-August.

Trump replied that same day that if Kim were to order an attack on Guam, the US response would be "an event the likes of which nobody's ever seen before - what will happen in North Korea."

"It's not a dare. It's a statement," the US president added.

Amid the mounting tensions with North Korea, which US intelligence says may already possess a nuclear warhead that can be inserted inside one of its intercontinental ballistic missiles, Trump pledged to increase missile defense spending.

"We're going to be increasing our budget by many billions of dollars because of North Korea and other reasons," Trump told reporters Thursday, saying he would make an announcement next week.

Source: EFE

China should not back US in case of war with North Korea, Global Times says

South Koreans watch a television displaying news broadcasts reporting on North Korea at a station in Seoul, South Korea, Aug. 10, 2017. EPA/JEON HEON-KYUN

China should stay neutral if North Korea initiates an armed conflict with the United States, but must prevent any attack by South Korea or the US, said Global Times, a mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China, Friday.

In its latest editorial, the Times acknowledged Beijing's failure to persuade Washington or Pyongyang to back down, but must respond firmly if its regional interests are jeopardized by a possible conflict.

Source: EFE

quarta-feira, 9 de agosto de 2017

Japan Display to save $455 million a year from structural reforms

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Japan Display Inc on Wednesday said it would reduce 50 billion yen ($455 million) in annual fixed costs through restructuring steps, including consolidating production sites and cutting jobs.

The liquid crystal display (LCD) maker said it would cut about 3,500 jobs overseas and 240 jobs in Japan.

It also received a new line of credit worth 107 billion yen from its main lenders, the company said.

Source: Reuters

Brazil president's lawyers demand removal of top prosecutor

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Lawyers defending Brazilian President Michel Temer against corruption allegations asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to remove the prosecutor general from the investigation, arguing he is no longer fit to lead it.

In a filing to the top court, Temer's lawyers said Brazil's top federal prosecutor Rodrigo Janot, who has charged the president with taking bribes and has said more charges are imminent, was acting "beyond his constitutional limits."

"We are not, it has become clear, confronting mere institutional action," Temer's lawyers wrote in the document seen by Reuters. "Everything indicates that the motivation is personal."

Janot's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The request will be decided by Supreme Court Justice Luiz Edson Fachin, the judge in charge of a massive investigation into political kickbacks. Legal experts said it was unlikely he would agree to remove Janot in the middle of the biggest corruption investigation in Brazilian history.

Temer, the first sitting Brazilian president to face formal corruption charges, got some relief last week when the lower house of Congress voted to block a bribery charge filed by Janot.

But Temer's opponents hope a second or even third charge from Janot could be based on more solid evidence of Temer's links to political bribes. That could push lawmakers to vote against protecting Temer from a trial as they worry about voters turning on them in next year's elections.

Under Brazil's constitution, any criminal charges leveled against a president must be approved by two-thirds of the lower house, and only then can the Supreme Court decide whether to put a leader on trial.

Temer was charged in June in connection with a graft scheme involving the world's largest meatpacker, JBS SA. Executives said in plea-bargain testimony the president took bribes for resolving tax disputes, freeing up loans from state-run banks and other matters.

Janot alleged that Temer arranged to eventually receive a total of 38 million reais ($12.14 million) from JBS in the coming nine months.

The prosecutor has said on several occasions that he is likely to soon file obstruction of justice and racketeering charges against Temer.

The case against the president is part of an unprecedented anti-corruption push that Brazil's federal police, prosecutors and some judges have pursuing for over three years.

Investigators have uncovered stunning levels of graft engulfing Brazil's political and business elites. Much of it centers on companies paying billions of dollars in bribes to politicians and executives at state-run enterprises in return for lucrative contracts.

Temer and one-third of his cabinet, as well as four former presidents and dozens of lawmakers, are under investigation or already charged. More than 100 people have been convicted, including former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is free pending appeal.

Source: Reuters

Good, bad or ugly? China's commodity imports conundrum

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Were China's commodity imports in July a continuation of the trend of robust growth, a pause from the recent strength, or early signs of a slowdown?

When numbers aren't unequivocally pointing in the same direction it often becomes possible to interpret them in different ways.

Take the following three quotes from respected analysts in the wake of Tuesday's July trade figures.

1. "China's imports of commodities for July came in better than expected, with the normal seasonal downturn seemingly delayed for another month."

2. "China's July commodity import numbers were a mixed bag as year-on-year growth in energy commodity imports remained strong while iron ore dipped and copper remained steady."

3. "China's commodity import volumes were generally weak in July. High stocks of many commodities and growing domestic production dampened demand for imports. What's more, the prospect of cooling domestic demand points to further weakness ahead."

There is nothing wrong with a diversity of views when it comes to analyzing the state of the market in the world's biggest buyer of commodities, but it doesn't help in offering a definitive picture.

The safest route is to acknowledge that July's data was somewhat mixed, but this by itself isn't enough to call an end to the positive story of China's commodity demand so far this year.

Crude oil provides a good example of the mixed view, with imports in July coming in at 8.18 million barrels per day (bpd).

This was the lowest since January and down from 8.79 million bpd in June, seemingly a bearish outcome.

But imports are also 12 percent above the level of July last year and the growth rate in the first seven months of the year is a strong 13.6 percent.

The short-term driver for the lower crude imports in July is likely to have been lower refinery production and a drawdown in commercial inventories, which had risen to the highest level in nine months at the end of June.

It appears that Chinese refiners, particularly the smaller, independent operators, took advantage of lower prices to stock up on crude in the second quarter of 2017.

This implies that growth in imports in year-on-year terms may moderate in coming months, but doesn't yet point to a reversal in the overall trend for rising imports.

For that to occur, China would have to scale back purchases for its strategic storage, refiners would have to curtail exports of refined products and domestic demand would have to weaken.

While these three scenarios are all possible, it's unlikely that they are the base case of the majority of analysts.


Iron ore imports also took a breather from recent strength, coming in at 86.25 million tonnes in July, down 8.9 percent from June's strong 94.7 million and 2.4 percent below the 88.4 million from July last year.

However, in the first seven months of the year China imported 625 million tonnes or iron ore, up 7.5 percent from the same period in 2016.

That's by no means a weak outcome, but concerns are mounting that China has bought too much of the steel-making ingredient in recent months, given the rise in port stockpiles to near record levels and expectations that some heat will come out of the steel sector in the second half of the year.

By itself, the drop in July imports of iron ore isn't enough to call an end to the recent bullish trend, but a couple more months of soft outcomes will be cause for a re-assessment.

It's a similar story for coal, with imports dropping 9.9 percent to 19.46 million tonnes in July from June, and 8.3 percent from July last year.

But coal imports are still 18.2 percent higher in the January to July period, given higher demand for both thermal coal for power generation and coking coal for steel production.

However, as with iron ore, the outlook for coal for the rest of the year is becoming less certain, given some new regulations banning imports at smaller ports and a more thorough inspection process.

Overall, China's commodity imports in July do raise some question marks about the strength and sustainability of this year's growth rate, but not yet to the point where it's time to turn bearish.

Source: Reuters

segunda-feira, 7 de agosto de 2017

South Korea prosecution seeks 12 years in jail for Samsung scion

Lee Jae-Yong (R) vice chairman of Samsung Group, attends his final trial on his alleged bribery charge related to a nation-rocking scandal that led to the ouster of South Korean President Park Geun-hye at the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul, South Korea, Aug. 7, 2017. EPA/KIM MIN-HEE / POOL

The South Korean Prosecution Monday sought a 12-year prison sentence for Samsung Group heir, Lee Jae-yong, over charges of bribery, embezzlement and concealment of foreign assets as part of the massive Rasputin scandal.

The prosecution's petition was filed during the last session of Lee's trial that began early March in Seoul's Central District Court.

Source: EFE

Brazil's president expects weaker pension bill to pass

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Brazilian President Michel Temer expects Congress to water down his proposal to overhaul pension rules and approve the new legislation by a slim majority this year, he said in a newspaper interview published on Saturday.

It was the first time Temer acknowledged there would be further changes to the proposal.

Legislators had already softened the bill earlier this year. Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles and other officials had been reiterating the importance of approving the overhaul without further changes to avoid a potential budget crisis.

Temer said he believed Congress will change the bill to have it merely set a minimum retirement age and cut public servants' benefits. The original proposal would also limit survivors' pensions, set tougher rules for rural workers and change the way retirement payments are calculated.

Another pension overhaul would probably be necessary within six years, newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo quoted Temer as saying.

Temer sees up to 310 votes in the Lower House of Congress, slightly more than the 308 needed, in favor of the proposal.

"We will do what is possible, and a possible reform will not be as thorough as it should," O Estado quoted Temer as saying.

Temer added that he saw no need to fire cabinet ministers to punish coalition parties that have not given their full support in Congress.

"Those who have not voted in line with the government will feel uncomfortable to participate in an administration that they are not supporting," Temer said. "I have the impression that they will end up leaving."

Temer said he expected interest rates to continue falling in coming months from the current 9.25 percent, with a 7.5 percent rate "very possible" by year-end.

Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot charged Temer last month with taking bribes from meatpacker JBS SA (JBSS3.SA), which the president denies. Congress voted on Wednesday to block those charges from proceeding to the Supreme Court, but Janot may still bring additional charges in the case.

Temer said the prosecutor general was motivated politically and was not complying with his institutional role. Janot's term ends in September, and his successor, Raquel Dodge, was hand-picked by Temer in June.

Dodge will put the corruption investigations on the "right path", Temer was quoted as saying.

"The right path is to obey the law," he added. "Rigorously, to obey the law."

Source: Reuters

Oil slides from nine-week highs as market looks to OPEC

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Oil prices edged down from nine-week highs on Monday, pressured by worries over high production from OPEC and the United States.

Global benchmark Brent crude futures LCOc1 were down 67 cents, or 1.28 percent, at $51.75 a barrel at 1344 GMT. They traded as low as $51.56 a barrel earlier in the day.

U.S. crude futures CLc1 were down 67 cents, or 1.35 percent, at $48.91 per barrel, but up from the day's low of $48.78 a barrel.

Both contracts stood more than $1 below the levels hit last week, which marked their highest since late May, when oil producers, led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, had extended a deal to reduce output by 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) until the end of next March.

Doubts have since emerged about the effectiveness of the cuts because OPEC output hit a 2017 high in July and its exports hit a record.

"The market is looking for comment from Saudi Arabia signaling OPEC will meet its agreed target," Hans van Cleef, senior energy economist with ABN AMRO, said. "The possibility for (price) movement seems limited unless OPEC comes out with a statement."

Officials from a joint OPEC and non-OPEC technical committee are meeting in Abu Dhabi on Monday and Tuesday to discuss ways to boost compliance with the deal.

The doubts about the OPEC production deal outweighed the impact of a protest at Libya's Sharara oilfield, which led to a brief shutdown starting late on Sunday. The country's National Oil Corp. said production at the 270,000 bpd field was restarting on Monday.

High oil output in the United States counteracted other bullish factors, including a Baker Hughes report on Friday that showed a cut of one drilling rig in the week to Aug. 4, bringing the total count down to 765. RIG-OL-USA-BHI

U.S. weekly oil production hit 9.43 million bpd in the week to July 28, the highest since August 2015 and up 12 percent from its most recent low in June last year. C-OUT-T-EIA

Still, some analysts said strong words from OPEC could help to shore up prices.

"The negative price impact at the start of the week coming from OPEC and compliance focus will probably dissipate," SEB Markets chief commodities analyst Bjarne Schieldrop said.

"Saudi Arabia will restate that they will export only 6.6 million bpd (six-year low) in August and inventories will continue to draw down."

Source: Reuters

sexta-feira, 4 de agosto de 2017

A year after Olympics, Brazil's army called to quell violence in Rio

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The deployment of 8,500 soldiers to Rio de Janeiro last week and the funeral on Monday for an unborn baby killed in one of numerous shootouts there were not part of Brazil's plan for marking the one-year anniversary of the Olympic Games held in the city.

Escalating violence, fueled by a deep economic crisis and a shrinking state budget, shows how far Rio has fallen since international athletes flocked to its stadiums, many now vacant, in August 2016. Growing allegations of graft involving Olympic projects are also tarnishing memories of the Games.

Official data shows murders in Rio de Janeiro state rose 14 percent to 3,755 in the first half of 2017 from a year earlier. The number of people killed by Rio's police, long criticized for their tactics, spiked more than 45 percent to 581.

"We see clearly that the Olympic promise of a safe city has not been fulfilled," Amnesty International research coordinator Renata Neder said at an event on Thursday. "Public safety in Rio de Janeiro has deteriorated dramatically."

The situation is a stark reversal of gains made after police began a "pacification" program in 2008 for some of the city's more than 1,000 slums.

Police pushed drug gangs out of those favelas, where they held sway with impunity for decades, and then set up permanent posts in the communities for the first time.

That program was meant to increase security in Rio ahead of the 2014 World Cup and last year's Olympics, and it temporarily succeeded in doing that.

But the economic crisis dried up funding to expand the program, and critics say the government did not make good on promised social advances for the slums. As a result, near-daily shootouts roil the areas as gangs battle each other and openly attack the police outposts to try to regain full control.

The Hospital da Posse on Rio's violent northern outskirts has treated 410 patients for bullet wounds so far this year, compared with 480 for all of 2016, surgeon Alessandry Bastos said.

"This thing is growing in such a way that we can never say we've reached the peak," Bastos said. "The peak will be tomorrow."

The situation is unlikely to improve anytime soon, with Rio state facing a 21-billion-real ($6.73 billion) deficit this year.


The city has also become a symbol of the graft that helped cause the country's worst recession in more than a century after revelations that builders inflated contracts to bilk Rio-based state-controlled oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA out of billions of dollars.

Prosecutors say the scheme extended directly to the Olympics, whose price tag rose to 43.3 billion reais ($13.88 billion) from 28.8 billion budgeted. Police arrested former Rio head of infrastructure Alexandre Pinto this week on suspicion that he and other officials took 35.5 million reais in bribes from companies involved in Olympic projects.

Former Rio governor Sergio Cabral was found guilty in June of corruption and money laundering involving infrastructure contracts for the Games.

Rio has also been sharply criticized for the fate of its Olympic infrastructure.

Some of the venues were abandoned soon after the closing ceremony, and the Arena of the Future has yet to be transformed as planned into a useful building like a school.

Officials say the economic crisis left them hamstrung.

"There are legacy projects that we want to follow up on, but we don't have the resources," Rio Deputy Sports Secretary Patricia Amorim said.

But for many, the Games' worst legacy is the deep slide into violence.

In late June, Claudineia dos Santos, who was nine months pregnant, was struck by a stray bullet that also hit the spine of her unborn boy, Arthur, in a northern Rio slum as police and a drug gang battled nearby.

Arthur died on Sunday, a month after an emergency cesarean, and was buried the next day.

Deploying the army will not solve such problems, said security expert Ignacio Cano, a professor at the Rio de Janeiro State University, which has been closed due to lack of funding.

"Under the best-case scenario, the armed forces will leave, and everything will continue normally," he said.

The worst case? "There is the possibility of more aggressive offensive operations that could lead to more shootings and more insecurity."

($1 = 3.1207 Brazilian reais)

Source: Reuters

Global refiners brace themselves as China cements its oil market dominance

Image result for Global refiners brace themselves as China cements its oil market dominance
China is on pace to overtake the United States as the world's biggest oil importer this year, cementing its status as Asia's most pivotal oil market actor that will increasingly dominate the region's fuel trade.

For the first time, China imported more crude oil in the first half of the year than the U.S., government statistics showed. China averaged 8.55 million barrels per day (bpd) versus 8.12 million bpd in the U.S., a trend that is expected to last.

The shift highlights the change in the center of gravity in global oil markets from West to East. Chinese state-run oil trader Unipec is now the world's biggest physical oil trader. By drawing more of the world's oil to its shores, China, the second-biggest oil consumer after the U.S., will play a crucial role in setting the global price of the commodity, especially as the crude futures market in Shanghai develops.

China's import surge is being driven by the expansion of its refinery capacity. But, as the domestic demand has not materialized to soak up the fuel supply, China's exports of gasoline and diesel have climbed to record highs. This flood of products has caused headaches for competitors across Asia and depressed diesel profit margins to multi-year lows in 2016.

"China is putting a lot of pressure on the traditional export hubs of Taiwan, Korea and Singapore to capture the market share within Southeast Asia and Australia," said Joe Willis, senior research analyst, Asia refining, at energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie.

The trend of more refining capacity and higher exports is set to continue.

China plans to add at least 2.5 million bpd of refining capacity by 2020, according to a recent presentation from China Petroleum & Chemical Corp, or Sinopec. Sinopec is Asia's biggest oil refiner and the parent of Unipec.

This year, PetroChina Ltd will start a 260,000 bpd refinery in Yunnan in southern China while China National Offshore Oil Corp will start up a 200,000 bpd expansion at its existing Huizhou plant in Guangdong province. The start ups will add 350,000 bpd of new Chinese capacity in 2017 though both plants will not reach full capacity until 2018.

Exports of gasoline from China are expected to increase by at least 10,000 barrels per day this year from 2016, driving overseas gasoline sales to between 235,000 bpd and 240,000 bpd this year and about 330,000 bpd in 2018, estimates from consultants FGE and Wood Mackenzie showed.

Unipec is leading the way in targeting new overseas markets, moving jet fuel from Singapore to northwest Europe in June for the first time in several years. Meanwhile, Chinese diesel shipments in 2017 have more than doubled to France, more than quadrupled to Italy and the country shipped diesel to Kenya for the first time this year.


Export-oriented refiners in Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan will be most affected by the Chinese competition.

"We're trying to diversify and find new markets by increasing the number of our customers in existing countries," a South Korean refining source said, declining to be named as he was not authorized to speak with the media.

"It's affecting Korean refiners as we are having one more player in the market."

Japanese and Indian refiners will be less affected.

China and India have eclipsed Japan as Asia's biggest oil consumer. Japanese refiners are consolidating capacity because of a falling population and the increasing use of alternative fuels in the power and transportation sector has cut oil consumption.

Meanwhile, Indian refiners are focusing on meeting soaring domestic demand.

China's new modern refineries are competing with the region's exporters in producing fuels for countries with stringent fuel standards such as Australia. Diesel exports to Australia climbed seven-fold to 850,000 tonnes in 2016 and are on pace to nearly match that level this year.

A slowdown in Chinese domestic fuel demand as people use more electric vehicles or co-share bicycles and scooters has pushed refiners to export more gasoline.

China's gasoline demand is expected to slow to 3.5 to 4 percent in 2017 compared with last year's 6.5 percent growth, said Sri Paravaikkarasu, head of East of Suez oil at FGE.

Sales growth for automobiles, mainly powered by gasoline, has slowed to 0.7 percent in the first half of 2017, compared with 8.7 percent a year ago, while those powered by alternative fuels grew 52.9 percent, BMI Research said.

Source: Reuters

Venezuela's new legislative superbody opens despite wide criticism

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Venezuela on Friday inaugurated a new legislative superbody that is expected to rewrite the constitution and give vast new powers to the ruling Socialist Party, defying worldwide condemnation that the new assembly undermines democratic freedoms.

The 545-member assembly unanimously elected well-known allies of President Nicolas Maduro to its leadership in a show of unity, signaling that the socialists have put aside differences to focus on consolidating the all-powerful body.

Former Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez, a close Maduro ally was elected to the presidency while former Vice President Aristobulo Isturiz will serve as vice president.

The leadership notably excludes Socialist Party No. 2 Diosdado Cabello, a long-time rival for power to Maduro, who himself put Rodriguez's name forward.

"There is no humanitarian crisis here, what we have is love, what we have is a crisis of the right-wing fascists," said Rodriguez, dressed in a bright red pantsuit, in an opening speech that paid homage to late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.

"The people arrived with fighting spirit, on their feet."

The assembly will function in the same downtown Caracas palace complex as the existing opposition-run congress, which could potentially be dissolved by the new all-powerful body.

The two bodies are expected to hold sessions in parallel, separated by an ornate cobblestone courtyard.

The largely ceremonial installation of the constituent assembly offered few hints as what its first moves would be.

Leaders including Maduro and Cabello have in recent days suggested it would quickly move against Chief Prosecutor Luisa Ortega, who broke with the government this year and described the assembly election as a fraud.

Governments ranging from Latin American neighbors to the United States and European Union have condemned the assembly, with the Vatican making a last minute plea for authorities to suspend it.

Brazil on Friday recommended that Venezuela be suspended from trade bloc Mercosur until it returns to democracy.


Protests against the inauguration of the assembly by the opposition were relatively modest. Demonstrators have for four months been clashing with security forces, often building barricades and lobbing rocks at security forces. At least 125 people have been killed in the unrest.

"Today they're enjoying a pyrrhic victory, without a doubt," said opposition lawmaker Freddy Guevara, who joined a group of opposition sympathizers in an upscale neighborhood of Caracas.

"We're starting a new stage of the struggle, and we're finishing all the discussions within the coalition to put forward a new agenda."

Socialist Party officials arrived at congress carrying portraits of independence hero Simon Bolivar and Chavez, whose image was removed from the legislature's main hall by the opposition legislators when they took over in January 2016.

"The constituent assembly is love, peace and loyalty," said Raquel Rodriguez, a 57-year-old government worker who joined the march. "A lot of people have not been loyal to this (movement), but everyone here has."

The assembly's election on Sunday prompted U.S. President Donald Trump to label Maduro a dictator, a term the opposition has long used to describe the unpopular leader.

Opposition leader Antonio Ledezma, who had encouraged protests against the constituent assembly, on Friday morning was returned to house arrest after being briefly put back in prison.

Ledezma and fellow opposition figure Leopoldo Lopez had been taken to prison from house arrest early on Tuesday.

It was not immediately evident if Lopez would also be returned to his home.

Panama on Friday granted political asylum to two justices recently appointed by the opposition Congress to an alternative Supreme Court. Four other justices named to the alternate tribunal remain holed up in the residence of Chile's ambassador.

Source: Reuters

quarta-feira, 2 de agosto de 2017

Brazil, Argentina prosecutors say governments interfering in Odebrecht probe

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The top prosecutors of Brazil and Argentina are accusing their governments of interfering in the creation of a joint anti-corruption task force to investigate bribes by the Odebrecht engineering group so that politicians, many of whom are under investigation, can themselves control the exchange of evidence.

Brazil's Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot said on Tuesday the two countries had agreed in June to set up a task force to allow the rapid and simultaneous investigation of bribes paid by Odebrecht, but the joint effort has not taken off.

"The task force is an essential tool without which we cannot join forces regionally to fight corruption," he told reporters.

A statement issued late on Monday by Janot and his Argentine counterpart, Alejandra Gils Carbo, accused the governments of their countries of interfering in the effort to jointly investigate the Odebrecht bribe network.

"The main authorities for international legal cooperation -- Brazil's Justice Ministry and Argentina's Foreign Ministry -- have placed obstacles and made requisitions that are an undue interference in carrying out agreements signed by prosecutors of the two countries in the Odebrecht investigation," the statement said.

"We hope the central governments support our efforts and urgently remove the obstacles that have been imposed," it said.

They said Brazil's Justice Ministry has sought to establish the rules of the joint force so evidence was shared through government channels and not directly between the prosecutors.

In Argentina, they said, the Foreign Ministry wanted to turn the task force into a treaty signed by the government, undermining cooperation between the actual investigators.

Odebrecht, Latin America's largest construction firm, is at the center of a global graft scandal. As part of a $3.5 billion settlement with Brazilian, U.S. and Swiss authorities in December, the company admitted to paying bribes in 12 mostly Latin American countries, including $35 million in Argentina, to secure lucrative contracts. Prosecutors in Argentina are also investigating four projects involving Odebrecht, the largest construction firm in Latin America, for corruption.

U.S. prosecutors said Odebrecht paid approximately $788 million in bribes in association with 100 projects in 12 countries between 2001 to 2016, through carefully disguised payments routed through a network of shell companies.

Janot said it was not the first time prosecutors have run into hurdles in setting up binational task forces to investigate international connections of Brazil's massive graft scandal first centered on contracts at state-run oil company Petrobras.

A task force proposed by Swiss prosecutors a year ago and another sought six months ago by Spanish prosecutors never got off the ground. "And now this one with Argentina," Janot said.

Source: Reuters

Oil dodges bears, climbs back toward $52 per barrel

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Oil shook off a raft of bearish headlines on Wednesday, as investors and traders took advantage of earlier losses and pushed the price back toward $52 and this week's eight-week highs.

Brent crude futures LCOc1 were up 12 cents at $51.90 a barrel by 1325 GMT, recovering from a session low of $51.18. The price hit $52.93 on Monday, its highest since late May.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude CLc1 edged up 1 cent to $49.17 a barrel.

Both contracts fell sharply the previous day after Royal Dutch Shell said its 400,000-barrels-per-day (bpd) Pernis refinery in the Netherlands would remain offline for at least the next couple of weeks following a fire.

Petromatrix strategist Olivier Jakob said Wednesday's price recovery had more to do with technical trading than outright fundamentals, which had encouraged traders and investors to buy crude futures.

"There are some technical battles out there today. We are trading around the 200-day moving average and I think that is where a lot of the action of the last two days has been," Jakob said.

Brent futures fell through their 200-day moving average on Monday, but by Wednesday managed to vault above this trendline, which was last around $51.85 a barrel.

Traders are awaiting the release of official U.S. government data on weekly crude inventory levels after an independent survey on Tuesday showed an unexpected rise of 1.8 million barrels.

The Energy Information Administration is scheduled to release weekly stockpile data at 1430 GMT on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, production from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries hit a 2017 high of 33 million bpd in July, despite the group's pledge to restrict output along with other non-OPEC producers.

Energy consultancy Douglas Westwood reckons this year's oil market will be slightly undersupplied but that the glut will return next year, and last until 2021.

"Oversupply will actually return in 2018. This is due to the start-up of fields sanctioned prior to the downturn," said Steve Robertson, head of research for global oilfield services at Douglas Westwood.

Source: Reuters

Urban art of Elephant Parade comes to Brazil's largest city

A view of an elephant sculpture as part of the 'Elephant Parade' urban art exhibit at the Paulista Avenue in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Aug. 1, 2017. EFE/Sebastiao Moreira

About 85 colorful elephant sculptures starting on Tuesday are adorning the streets and public squares of Brazil's largest city in the Elephant Parade Sao Paulo 2017 urban art exhibit.

The open-air exposition is headed by Dutch artist Mike Spits, who was inspired to mount the project on a trip to Thailand when he got to know Mosha, a baby elephant that lost one of its legs at six months of age when he stepped on an antipersonnel mine.

Source: EFE