Friday, 29 April 2011

Hunt for the true Mona Lisa begins

Researchers have begun their hunt for the remains of the woman who might have been the model for Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, hoping to unravel a mystery that has baffled art historians for over five centuries.

A team of experts armed with a special radar device descended this week on a dilapidated convent in Florence where they believe the body of the woman who modeled for da Vinci back in the 16th century is buried.

The real Mona Lisa, Italian art historians say, was Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a rich Florentine silk merchant named Francesco del Giocondo who is thought to have commissioned the portrait -- although there is no definitive proof of this.

The researchers say that if they can find her skull, they will be able to reconstruct her face and compare it with the painting.

The true identity of Mona Lisa and her enigmatic smile have intrigued art lovers around the world.

According to the Louvre museum in Paris, where the painting is on display, the portrait was likely painted in Florence between 1503 and 1506 and could have been commissioned to mark one of two events: either when Gherardini and her husband bought their house or when their second son was born.

The key to solving the mystery may lie at the Saint Orsola convent, a structure in central Florence almost reduced to ruins.

Using radar equipment which can identify objects underground, scientists are scanning the floor in the small church to pinpoint areas where they may start digging for Gherardini's remains.

"We have a document confirming the burial of Gherardini in 1542 here in the convent" said Silvano Vinceti, head of the National Committee for the Promotion of Historic and Cultural Heritage.

Researchers say Gherardini spent the last years of her life at the convent, looked after by her two daughters who were nuns, and was buried there.

"To be sure we have to find the DNA in her bones, and once we have found that we can compare it with the DNA of her children who are buried at the Santissima Annunziata convent," said Professor Francesco Mallegni, a paleoanthropologist.

Vinceti has been studying the painting for months and recently claimed to have found symbols hidden in the portrait.

He says Gherardini might have been an early model for the Mona Lisa but that da Vinci was also probably inspired by the face of his young male apprentice, Gian Giacomo Caprotti, who some say was also his lover.

It is not clear how long the project to study Gherardini's remains will need before coming to any conclusion but some of her descendants have already expressed skepticism.

"Let her rest in peace. What could finding her remains change to the charm of Leonardo's painting? To look for her bones seems a sacrilege to me," said one of them, actress and writer Natalia Strozzi.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Royal Wedding Live
                                                                                                                                                             Prince William and Kate Middleton's fairytale romance begins a new chapter on April 29. So too does the business owned by the family of the future princess.Thanks to their entrepreneurial spirit, over the last two decades the company has gone from a little start-up to a family firm that today claims to be "the UK's leading online and catalog party company." And now with the royal nuptials pending -- Kate and William will marry in Westminster Abbey on April 29 -- the public profile of the venture has surged.

The royal engagement boosted traffic to the Party Pieces website tremendously, with U.K. visits surging 163% the week William and Kate made the announcement, according to data compiled for CNNMoney by Experian Hitwise.

James Murray, an analyst at the web metrics firm, expects traffic to keep rising in the run-up to the wedding, although it might not achieve that initial peak again. A family affair Carole Middleton was a stay-at-home-mom when she launched Party Pieces in 1987, when Kate was just 5.

She started it out of frustration at not being able to easily find affordable party bag presents for her own children's parties. The business grew to the point where Michael quit his job as a flight dispatcher to help run it, and it's evolved from a mom-and-pop outfit run out of a shed in the family's back garden into a venture operated out of three converted farm buildings in Berkshire, about an hour's drive from London.

The success of Party Pieces has afforded the Middletons a home in the affluent village of Bucklebury, where the average residence is valued at $1 million, according to property site Zoopla, as well as provided the means for them to send Kate to some of the priciest private schools in England.

The business has grown to about 30 employees, but it's "still very much a family business," Carole Middleton said in an interview with the company magazine in March 2010. "I am still actively involved and love sourcing and developing new party products," she said.

Kate and her younger siblings, Pippa and James, have grown up alongside the family business. "Both Pippa and Kate used to model for the catalogs, wearing t-shirts with their ages on them and holding cupcakes," Claudia Joseph, author of "Kate: The Making of a Princess," said in an e-mail. In that respect, Party Pieces is like most family ventures. "The rate of children working for the family business while students is virtually 100%," said Wayne Rivers, president of the Family Business Institute.

"There's always something to do." Kate's gone from catalog model to playing a role in expanding the business. In 2008 she spearheaded the launch of First Birthdays, a division that focuses on babies' parties, and according to Joseph, she was also responsible for getting Party Pieces to support the charity Starlight Children's Foundation. (The company helps host parties and provides party bags for seriously ill children in hospitals.) In fact, aside from a stint as a part-time buyer at British fashion retailer Jigsaw, the 29-year-old's professional career has consisted solely of her experience at Party Pieces, where her duties have also included designing and producing catalogs, marketing and taking photos.

'A beautiful opportunity' With the growing frenzy surrounding the royal wedding, Party Pieces has benefited from instant fame. In some ways, it's been "a bonanza for the family and for the family business," said CNN royal contributor Mark Saunders. "They are probably the most famous party planners in the world." It's unclear whether the increased awareness of the firm has boosted sales.

Since it's incorporated as a partnership in the U.K., Party Pieces isn't required to disclose its financials, and the family is famously tight-lipped when it comes to speaking to the press.
When seeking comment for this article, Party Pieces said it did not employ anyone to handle media requests. However, the engagement has undoubtedly given them a huge profile they never would have had before, noted Sandra Macleod, group CEO of Echo Research, a firm that specializes in reputation research. "Suddenly the organization has been put on the map," she said, adding, "it will survive on the oxygen of word of mouth."

But being thrust in the limelight can also have its drawbacks.Since the engagement, British tabloids have published reports claiming the Middletons are capitalizing on the royal wedding by stocking British-themed street party items, such as flags, streamers and other festive decorations. "The media profile can become toxic if they are seen to be overly profiteering or mercenary," Macleod said. "They just need to be careful that they don't step on the wrong side of tastefulness." There's also the question of whether, as a business, they'll have the capacity to meet demand if rising interest in the royal wedding does translate into more orders, said Tennant.

But Tennant noted, it isn't going away, and the Middletons will have to decide how to handle what she described as "a beautiful opportunity" for the business. "For a small business like theirs, the first priority is to respect the royal family and Kate's wishes. Once they get their wishes met, then they can look and see that in the long term everyone is going to know who they are," she said.

While the business is gaining newfound recognition, it's also losing a key member of staff. Party Pieces has been a central theme for nearly all of Kate's life, but as a royal, she'll be expected to focus her attention on charity work. She's already stepped down from her post at the company but isn't kicking her feet up -- after all, there is a party of the century to plan.

Kate's middle-class parents, Michael and Carole, are the owners of Party Pieces, a party supplies business that sells everything from balloons and bunting to cakes and confetti.
Royal Wedding explainer: Schedule of events

Facebook investors to sell $1 bln in stock: report

April 27, 2011, 5:56 p.m. EDT
A group of Facebook investors is looking to sell $1 billion worth of shares on the secondary market, which, if successful, would value the company at more than $70 billion, Reuters reported late Wednesday on its website, citing several sources familiar with the situation. The move highlights growing concerns among investors that Facebook's market valuation cannot keep up with its growth, according to the news service. The investors had initially hoped to sell the shares at a level that valued the company at $90 billion but had to slash the price after buyers balked, Reuters said.
By Sue Chang

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Say it ain't so for a cup o' joe: Price of coffee beans climb

Consumers got a jolt this week with news that the price of coffee was hovering near $3 a pound, the highest price in more than three decades, forcing many coffee houses to consider raising prices or cutting services.
Bad weather in the world's top coffee growing regions, a weak dollar and pressure from emerging coffee drinking markets is putting pressure on the industry, which saw coffee beans trading Tuesday at about $3 a pound -- just below its peak of $3.22 a pound on Friday.
The last time coffee prices were higher was in 1977 after bad weather in Brazil, one of the world's leading coffee producers, destroyed more than half of the country's coffee crops.
"We've been hit hard for close to year now," said Martin Diedrich, owner of Kean Coffee houses in Southern California. "I can't always ask what I need to because I get push back from my guests, from my customers. So I have to take a margin hit."
The issue of rising coffee prices was expected to take center stage Thursday when many of the nation's coffee retailers and distributors gather at the Specialty Coffee Association of America's annual symposium in Houston, Texas.
The price of coffee beans represent about 15 percent of the actual cost of a cup of coffee at most small coffee houses, with food, labor and operating costs making up the remainder, said Ross Colbert, the global strategist for beverages at New York-based financial services provider Rabobank.
That percentage, though, is significant enough to have forced small coffee shop owners to have hiked prices two or three times over the past year, Colbert said.
Big-time coffee companies, such as Starbucks as well as corporations behind Folgers and Maxwell House, also hiked prices over the past year to keep up with the rising cost of beans.
Diedrich, considered one of the pioneers of the coffee house culture, has tried to keep his cup prices stable. But he has been forced in recent months to pass on the increased costs of his roasted specialty beans to his customers.
"I'm paying upwards of six or seven dollars for my premium east African coffees," said Diedrich, who founded Diedrich Coffee. The company was later sold to Starbucks, which shuttered the stores.
The vast majority of coffee consumed in the United States is imported. Hawaii is the only coffee-producing state and cannot supply enough to meet the nation's needs.
The economic boom in Brazil has played particular havoc on the coffee industry with the country becoming more of an economic player on the world's stage.
"The fundamental thing that is going on is that Brazil is dramatically more prosperous. Their currency is going up, their wages are going up and they are the world's largest producer of coffee," said Richard Carlson, chairman of the Tucson, Arizona-based Spectrum Economics.
Carlson said Brazil's economy isn't showing any signs of slowing down. That, in turn, will likely keep coffee prices up, he said.
The coffee industry also took another hit with bad weather in Colombia, the world's second-largest coffee producing country, Colbert said.
Increased coffee consumption in China, Brazil and India has also put a strain on existing coffee supplies, Colbert said.
Though Colbert said demand for coffee would diminish somewhat at the conclusion of the coffee growing season in May, neither he, Carlson or Diedrich expected prices to significantly drop because of the length of time it takes for a coffee crop to mature.
"It's going to be another year or two before some of the production catches up with the market," Diedrich said.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

First royal wedding fan camps out by Westminister Abbey

LONDON | Tue Apr 26, 2011 2:48pm BST

LONDON (Reuters) - The first royal fan has reserved himself a spot outside the Westminster Abbey to watch the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

John Loughrey, 56, has set up camp on the pavement across the road from the famous abbey, equipped only with a sleeping bag and two Union Jack carrier bags, and intends to remain there all week to beat the tens of thousands of spectators expected and ensure a good view of the event on Friday.

"I am a royalist and there's a lot of royalists in this country," Loughrey, a long-time fan of Prince William's late mother Diana, told Reuters on Tuesday.

"I came here on bank holiday Monday, on the 25th of April, I came here exactly at five o'clock when the Big Ben chimed five times because it spells Diana's name, D-I-A-N-A," he added.

The diminutive former chef chatted happily with a swarm of reporters and television crews. Despite chilly weather, he wore only a t-shirt emblazoned with a picture of the royal couple, a banner printed with a similar image tied around his waist over his trousers, and sported a Union Jack knitted hat.

"I hope it doesn't rain on the day, but if it does, us British are very used to it," he said, adding that fans of the wedding would simply open up their Union Jack umbrellas.

Loughrey, whose partner died of skin cancer in 2003, said he had camped outside the Royal Courts of Justice for three days in October 2007 during an inquest into Diana's death in a car crash 10 years earlier.

"Diana would be very proud of her son Prince William and Catherine's marriage and Prince Harry as best man.

"She will be with them in spirit in Westminster Abbey on their special day and always," he said.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Gold investing: what to do and how to do it

By Myra P. Saefong,

Investors can still make a lot of money in the gold market — or prevent losing it, if they do their homework before they wade through a sea of investment choices.

Gold has been in a volatile trading environment, to say the least, with prices repeatedly climbing to new heights since 2008, only to lose big chunks of those gains in a single day. Deciding what to do with gold and how to do it has been a challenge even for seasoned investors.

After all, gold investment choices come in many different forms: bars, coins, jewelry, futures and options contracts, exchange-traded funds and gold mining shares. “The good news for gold and silver is the ‘mother’ of all bull markets has further to go,” said Peter Grandich, editor of The Grandich Letter. “The bad news is the opportunity to double or triple one’s money is behind us.”

So what’s an investor to do?

For one thing, don’t rush to sell. If you’re thinking of cashing out, carefully consider your options and have a good reason before you do, say most experts.

“While gold and silver have been relatively volatile in recent weeks, they have remained solid long-term uptrends,” said Brien Lundin, editor of Gold Newsletter. “These uptrends are based on fundamental economic and monetary issues — primarily too much currency floating around the world, the continuance of accommodative monetary policies, and governmental debt concerns so large that they cannot be addressed without higher levels of inflation to eat away at their values.”

That all means the long-term picture looks bullish for both gold and silver, “although the wiggly lines that make up the bigger uptrend will provide better times to buy and sell the metals,” he said.

He wouldn’t recommend that investors sell their core holdings in the metals. He advises investors to “hold some gold and silver bullion as financial ‘insurance’ — a core holding that they shouldn’t trade.”
That seems to be great advice, given the mostly upbeat outlook for higher gold prices.

Gold has reached record levels, but it “remains a long way from its real inflation-adjusted high of $2,400 an ounce seen 31 years ago,” said Mark O’Byrne, executive director at international bullion dealer GoldCore. And “whether gold will fall or not, at some stage, is irrelevant if one is buying for portfolio diversification, safe haven and store of value reasons.”
Big decision

So the best way to make the right decision to buy, sell or hold gold is to first fully understand investment goals.

Are you looking at gold as a short- or long-term investment and why?

“Sell out completely if you believe that gold is in a bubble and any slowdown in worldwide economic growth will cause commodity prices, including gold, to tumble as inflationary expectations come down,” said Robert Barone, a partner and portfolio manager at Ancora West Advisors in Reno, Nev. Or “stay completely in (or even add to your holdings) if you believe that the U.S. dollar will continue to get weaker due to inflationary economic policies.”

“If you aren’t sure, take some off the table,” he said. “Sometimes, it is a good idea to take your investment out (or reduce it) and ‘play’ with the house’s money,” and you can do that by selling part of your holdings outright, setting stops underneath the current market price or using options.

That gradual approach may be a good choice.

If you’re not so confident over where gold prices will head next, you can “average in,” said Edmond Bugos, director of mining finance at Strategic Metals Research & Capital.

If you want to buy $100,000 worth of gold, but think gold prices are too high and aren’t sure prices will come down, you can buy $20,000 today, $20,000 in a week and $20,000 in another week and so on, he explained. “This lowers your risk a little … and can get you a good average price,” he said. So “averaging in” is “a good way to get your feet wet if you don’t have the patience to wait out the dips and corrections.”
Selling with confidence

But some investors will feel they have no choice other than to sell their gold for some quick, much-needed cash.

“If you need cash, now is the time to take gold off the table,” said Tom O’Brien, chief executive officer of investor educational services provider

If you do decide to sell, getting a fair price won’t be easy.

“It is imperative that the investor do their homework when selling gold,” said O’Brien, who’s also editor of The Gold Report. “If the investor owns an ETF, or gold company … they will get fair market value.” Gold ETFs include the SPDR Gold Trust /quotes/comstock/13*!gld/quotes/nls/gld (GLD 144.06, +0.25, +0.17%) , ETFS Gold Trust /quotes/comstock/13*!sgol/quotes/nls/sgol (SGOL 146.58, +1.90, +1.31%) and iShares Comex Gold Trust /quotes/comstock/13*!iau/quotes/nls/iau (IAU 14.41, +0.18, +1.26%) . Year to date, all three have gained nearly 4%, close to the rise seen in gold futures prices for the period.

John O’Donnell, chief knowledge officer at the Online Trading Academy, referred to ETFs as “safe,” but said he’d prefer to own coins rather than gold mining shares. “Gold is money. A mine is a business [that] can suffer operating losses.”

Indeed, there’s a lot besides the actual price of gold that may move the stock price for gold mining companies, said Ancora’s Barone, including the company’s financial condition, debt levels, the quality of its management and existing mines, its exploration outlook, environmental issues and taxes.

Year to date, Barrick Gold /quotes/comstock/13*!abx/quotes/nls/abx (ABX 53.42, +1.26, +2.42%) , the world’s largest gold producer, has seen its shares climb about 0.5% compared with a nearly 4% rise in gold futures /quotes/comstock/21e!f:gc\m11 (GCM11 1,477.90, +5.50, +0.37%) .
The real thing

When it comes to physical representations of gold, selling and buying become trickier.

Selling an ETF is as simple as calling a broker. But “a little more research may be warranted if you have a coin,” said Mike Savage, a chartered financial consultant and founder of Savage Financial Group in East Stroudsburg, Pa. “There are many different values for the same coin based on the condition and scarcity of the coin. While buying and selling coins, the person with the most knowledge will usually win the negotiation.”
A coin dealer has overhead and needs to make a profit, according to Barone, so investors would need to “pay anywhere from a 3% to a 20% (or more) premium to buy and suffer a similar discount when selling.”

David Beahm, a vice president at precious-metals retailer Blanchard & Co., says gold and silver bullion coins are “sold for only a small margin above the spot price.”

Some dealers, however, advertise new bullion products as numismatic investments — in other words, they have special value to collectors — and so charge a much higher premium than is typically charged for a bullion product, he said.

“The reality is that these new mint products should have a value that correlates close to their precious metal content.” Read more about gold investment basics.
Melt value

Meanwhile, with gold prices at historic highs, consumers are starting to look at their old jewelry as a source of cash.

Cash4Gold, an Okinawa, Fla.-based mail-in refinery that buys precious metals directly from consumers, has become a popular, sometimes criticized, means for consumers to monetize unwanted jewelry.

A company spokesperson said Cash4Gold “bases its offers to consumers on daily gold prices, the quality of gold being offered and the quantity,” and consumers have 12 days from the date on the check to accept its offer or request their items back, promptly returned, insured and free of charge. Read more about selling jewelry.

Gold Newsletter’s Lundin said consumers should not be tempted to simply cash the check they get from mail-in services, but take their time and “check with a number of local dealers” to get the best price.

When it comes to selling that old jewelry for its gold,’s O’Brien said the client should be getting about 80% of the melt value.

“The majority of dealers give way below that level because the public just doesn’t understand what they have is valuable,” he said. But “a very small amount of gold is worth big dollars. It doesn’t matter what shape it’s in.”

Myra Saefong is a MarketWatch reporter based in San Francisco.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

J.P. Morgan quarterly profit jumps 67% Lower credit costs buoy results of banking bellwether

By Alistair Barr and Greg Morcroft,
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. reported a 67% jump in quarterly profit Wednesday, as credit costs dropped at the second-largest U.S. bank by assets.

The bank also increased its quarterly dividend to 25 cents a share from 5 cents a share and set plans to buy back $8 billion in stock this year as part of a $15 billion stock-repurchase program.

J.P. Morgan /quotes/comstock/13*!jpm (JPM 46.42, -0.23, -0.48%) said its first-quarter net income rose to $5.6 billion, or $1.28 a share, from $3.3 billion, or 74 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Quarterly revenue fell to $25.2 billion from the year-earlier $27.7 billion.

On average, analysts expected the investment bank to earn $1.15 a share on revenue of $25.2 billion, according to a survey by FactSet Research.

“We strengthened our fortress balance sheet, ending the first quarter with a strong Tier 1 Common ratio of 10.0%,” said Chief Executive Jamie Dimon in a press release. “Looking forward, we intend to operate the business with the objectives of maintaining a Basel I Tier 1 Common ratio of at least 9.0% and meeting the Basel III requirements substantially ahead of time.”

J.P. Morgan is the first major U.S. bank to report first-quarter results. The company is a big player in all major banking businesses, including investment banking and trading, retail banking, credit cards, mortgages, commercial lending, treasury and securities services and asset management. That means its results are closely watched for clues on how such rivals as Bank of America Corp. /quotes/comstock/13*!bac (BAC 13.31, -0.16, -1.19%) , Citigroup Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!c/quotes/nls/c (C 4.49, -0.06, -1.32%) and Wells Fargo & Co. /quotes/comstock/13*!wfc/quotes/nls/wfc (WFC 30.92, -0.48, -1.53%) performed in the same period.

Big banks like these have recovered from the 2008 financial crisis, with help from hundreds of billions of dollars in government support and monetary stimulus.

As the U.S. economy has recovered, defaults on mortgages and other loans have declined. That has boosted earnings at the banks, which have set aside less money to cover bad loans and have even released cash from loan-loss reserves.

J.P. Morgan’s Retail Financial Services unit reported a net loss of $208 million, compared with a net loss of $131 million in the prior year. Net revenue was $6.3 billion, down 19% from a year ago.

The provision for credit losses was $1.3 billion, down $2.4 billion from a year ago and down by $1.1 billion from the prior quarter.

J.P. Morgan’s Investment Bank reported first-quarter net income of $2.4 billion, down 4% from the year-ago quarter.

Net revenue generated by the company’s investment bank was $8.2 billion, just shy of the year-ago $8.3 billion.

Alistair Barr is a reporter for MarketWatch in San Francisco.
Greg Morcroft is MarketWatch's financial editor in New York

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Commodities indexes keep rolling along

Indexed commodity investments are much different from stock or even bond indexes, and those differences could throw you if you do not know what is happening behind the curtain.
Commodity indexes track futures contracts, which are not securities and which expire (or “mature”) after a specified period, typically several months. At that point, the commodity underlying the futures contract — be it 5,000 bushels of corn or 1,000 barrels of crude oil — is delivered by the seller to the buyer.
Of course, investors do not want truckloads of grain or freighters of fuel, so if they have bought contracts in anticipation of rising prices they need to sell them before the delivery day.
If they want to remain in the market, moreover, they need to buy futures contracts that still have a life span ahead of them. This process is called the “roll” because investors are rolling their money out of the expiring contract and into another that will terminate at some point down the road.

Backward and forward

Investors in indexed commodity vehicles do not have to handle the roll; the portfolio managers do that for them. But the roll itself — apart from whether commodity prices are rising or falling — has a great deal to do with the returns investors get. As a result, those returns sometimes are different than what investors might expect.
It all depends on the prices of the contracts being rolled out of and into. If you sell an $80 contract and roll into a $75 contract, you made $5, or 6%, on top of whatever the commodity price did. But if you sell an $80 contract and have to buy an $85 contract to stay in the market, you lose 6%. Whether positive or negative, this is the “roll yield.”
When contracts whose expiration is further into the future are lower priced than the soon-to-be expiring (or “nearby” or “front month”) contract, that market is said to be in “backwardation.” When those more distant contracts are higher priced, the market is in “contango.” Both terms apparently originated on the London Stock Exchange in the 19th Century, but meant different things then.
Commodity indexes are comprised by these markets. For instance, the Dow Jones UBS Commodity Index covers 19 commodity markets, of which 15 currently are in contango and four are in backwardation. This count suggests that when the index rolls into new contracts each month, its returns are penalized by contango.
That is true, but oversimplified. For one thing, not all contracts in the index roll every month. Some roll only four times a year. For another, sometimes the roll is into the contract that matures next and sometimes it is into a more-distant contract – all according to the index’s methodology.
This detail is important, because neither backwardation nor contango show up as straight-line price decreases or increases. The price curves across the contract months often flatten out or even reverse. And from month to month the backwardation or contango can become steeper or flatter, or flip from one to the other.

Supply and demand

It’s important to understand why these conditions exist. Backwardation and contango represent the market’s current expectations of future supply and demand for the individual commodities.
For example, crude oil is in contango because global demand is rising faster than oil companies can find new supplies for the foreseeable future. Cotton is in backwardation because current high prices, caused by weather-reduced crops last year, should encourage farmers to plant more this year and thus increase the supply.
An indexed investor following the commodity markets might be puzzled by his quarter-end statement. In the first three months of this year, the Dow Jones UBS Commodity Index rose 6.94% based on the 19 components’ price movements relative to their weights in the index. However, the roll yields in those three months were negative, reducing the return to 4.41%.
But that is not the end of it. Buying futures requires only about 10% or so of the value of the contract to be paid in cash initially; if prices fall, more cash is required. Meanwhile, the unspent money (the difference between the “list value” of the contract — the number of specified commodity units times the price — and the amount of cash paid at purchase) earns the auction rate of Treasury Bills. That is currently a minuscule amount, but someday it might amount to something.
All those measurements together produce the total return to the investor, which is what the broker reports. In the case of the Dow Jones UBS Commodity Index in the first quarter, that total return was 4.45%. An investor who diligently followed the course of commodity markets during the quarter ends up with a return that is one-third less than the markets seemed to deliver.
Is this a rip-off? No, it is just the way an indexed, futures-based commodity fund has to work. Investors who play the futures market directly face the same problem, except they can be more nimble and roll into a distant contract with a flatter contango curve, thereby softening the roll yield hit.
Some newly developed commodity indexes are designed to do the same thing, and as long as they do not become popular they can successfully whittle contango. The more distant-maturing contracts almost always have very low liquidity and could not absorb a lot of assets flowing in from a big indexed commodity fund. Trading costs are higher in low-liquidity contracts, too.
So, while you might reduce the effects of contango on your portfolio, you cannot eliminate it while benefiting from exposure to commodities. What benefits? Portfolio diversification is one. Over the decade ended March 31, a combination of 55% stocks, 35% bonds and 10% commodities delivered a bigger return with similar risk to a blend of 60% stocks and 40% bonds.
Commodities also are a hedge against inflation, which lots of people seem to think lies in wait — and may already be starting. Not a perfect hedge, but better than that afforded by the traditional asset classes. According to Francisco Blanch, head of global commodity research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, commodity prices are roughly 75% correlated to U.S. inflation.
Whether these benefits outweigh contango-clipped returns is a matter of personal opinion. But it is clear that index-based commodity investment vehicles have opened this asset class to a far broader spectrum of investors than ever before. That is tremendously important in a world where demand for commodities will be generated by billions of people striving to raise their standards of living. 

John Prestbo is editor and executive director of Dow Jones Indexes, a joint venture of CME Group, Inc., and Dow Jones & Co., Inc., publisher of MarketWatch. Jeffrey Fernandez contributed research to this report.

U.K. inflation slows unexpectedly; sterling drops

April 12, 2011, 4:35 a.m. EDTThe British pound /quotes/comstock/21o!x:sgbpusd (GBPUSD 1.6256, -0.0083, -0.5079%) extended a decline versus the U.S. dollar after the Office for National Statistics said U.K. annual inflation slowed to 4% in March from a reading of 4.4% in February. Economists had forecast the annual inflation rate to remain at 4%. On a monthly basis, consumer prices rose 0.3% in March versus expectations for a 0.5% rise. The pound changed hands at $1.6248 versus the dollar, a loss of 0.5% from Monday.

Forex: AUD/USD bounces at 1.0390, returns to 1.0500 area

Australian Dollar rally was capped at 28-year high 1.0585 yesterday, and the pair plunged on US and Asian session as sentiment deteriorated, to find support at 10390, and bounce up strongly on early European session, returning to 1.0500 area.

On the upside, the Aussie might find resistance at 1.0500/10 (day highs) and above here, 1.0555 (intra-day level) and 1.0585 (Apr 8/11 highs). On the downside, immediate support lies at 1.0390 (day low), and below here, 1.0315/20 (intra-day level) and 1.0285 (Apr 5 low).

AUD/JPY recovery from post-quake low at 74.70 was capped at 90.00 yesterday, fresh 2, 1/2 year high, and the pair plunged to 86.80 low in Asia to bounce up on European session regaining the 88.00 level, and trading at 88.50 at the time of writing.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Goldman bets on China insurance with $900 mln Taikang stake buy

(Reuters) - Goldman Sachs (GS.N) has bought a 12 percent stake worth more than $900 million in China's Taikang Life Insurance Co Ltd, giving the Wall Street giant a foothold into the world's biggest insurance market.

Goldman's long-overdue purchase could pave the way for Taikang's planned initial public offering next year, bankers and analysts said, as the insurer seeks more capital to fund its rapid growth in China.

Credit Suisse estimates China's life insurance market --which generated $124 billion premium income in 2009 -- will grow more than 20 percent per annum for the next decade.

But some analysts doubt if Goldman can earn the same big returns that Carlyle Group CYL.UL and TPG Capital TPG.UL reaped from their investments in Chinese insurance companies.

"Goldman has come in pretty late into the game relative to Taikang's planned IPO timeline, so the returns might not be as high as previous investors have got," said Sally Yim, senior analyst of financial institutions group at Moody's.

Carlyle's investment in China Pacific Insurance (Group) Co (2601.HK) is already on course for its best ever exit, after it sold down a $2.6 billion stake over the past few months.

Last year, TPG sold a $2.4 billion stake in China's Ping An Insurance Group Co (2318.HK), which analysts estimate delivered strong profits for the buyout fund.


Goldman is not new to the China insurance industry, having previously bought a stake in Ping An along with Morgan Stanley (MS.N) in 1994. But Goldman is using its balance sheet to buy the Taikang stake, while the previous investment was made through its private equity arm.

Goldman acquired the Taikang stake from French insurer AXA SA (AXAF.PA), which last month said it agreed to sell its 15.6 percent in Taikang to a group of investors for $1.2 billion.

Goldman beat several bidders, including Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co (KKR.N), Blackstone Group (BX.N) and Singapore's Temasek Holdings TEM.UL, to win the Taikang auction.

China Guardian Auctions Co. and New Deal TEDA Investment Co., Ltd were the others who bought the shares sold by AXA, the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) said on its web site. AXA put its stake on the block nearly two years ago and Goldman was picked as the preferred bidder last year.

The stake purchase was approved by CIRC, Goldman and Taikang said in a joint statement.

Taikang and New China Life Insurance Co. are among insurers which are looking to tap the public market over the course of the next year or so. Taikang has about $44 billion in assets and 54 million clients across China.

"The regulators are a bit reluctant to allow insurance companies to raise subordinate debt to replenish capital. So all these companies are looking to shareholders to help inject capital to support growth," Yim of Moody's added.

(Editing by Michael Flaherty and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

Gold hits fresh record; silver tops $40 an ounce

By Nick Godt and Claudia Assis , MarketWatch

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — Gold futures traded at fresh record levels and silver topped $40 an ounce Friday, with investors chasing the safety of precious metals as turmoil in the Middle East lifted crude-oil futures above $111 a barrel, while the euro jumped and the dollar sank.

Gold for June delivery /quotes/comstock/21e!f:gc\m11 (GCM11 1,471, +11.40, +0.78%) was up $11.40, or 0.8%, at $1,470.70 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. It earlier tapped a high of $1,474.50 an ounce. Gold on Thursday settled at a record close of $1,459.30 an ounce, after hitting a intraday high of $1,466.50 an ounce.

Silver has also been climbing alongside gold recently. Silver for May delivery /quotes/comstock/21e!f1:si\k11 (SIK11 4,022, +66.80, +1.69%) , which has settled higher the past four sessions, gained 70 cents, or 1.8%, to $40.26 an ounce.

The run among precious metals has followed that in oil futures, which traded above $111 a barrel on Nymex, amid supply concerns from oil-rich countries in or around conflict zones throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

“Gold continues to draw support from the ongoing geopolitical uncertainty ... dollar weakness, elevated oil prices, concerns over inflation and .... Portugal’s request for financing from the European Union,” analysts at Barclays Capital wrote in a research note.

Citing World Gold Council data, the Barclays note said Portugal holds 81% of its reserves in gold.

On Thursday, the European Central Bank also hiked interest rates, lifting the euro and putting pressure on the dollar.

A weaker dollar tends to lift the price of dollar-denominated commodities.

The dollar index /quotes/comstock/11j!i:dxy0 (DXY 75.06, -0.53, -0.70%) , which compares the U.S. unit to a basket of six currencies, traded at 75.072 versus 75.553 late Thursday in North American trading. Read more about currencies.

The euro climbed to its highest level against the dollar since January 2010 as investors feared a potential U.S. government shutdown. Government operations are funded through Friday at midnight, and would partially shut down Saturday morning without a spending deal. Read about what would be shut down in a government shutdown .

Nick Godt is a MarketWatch reporter based in Mumbai. Claudia Assis is a San Francisco-based reporter for MarketWatch.

China data spark chorus of upgrades

By Chris Oliver , MarketWatch

HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — China stocks could be bright spots in coming weeks and months, according to analysts, who say strong earnings momentum and a potential peaking of inflationary pressures bode well for the outlook. HSBC Holdings joined other big brokerages in upgrading China on Thursday, saying the view was its first positive one on the mainland market since the second quarter of 2010.

Data that showed lending by Chinese banks fell 25% in January to February from the year-earlier period pointed to a cooling in the credit cycle, HSBC said. Money supply was also showing signs of easing, with M2 expanding 15.7% in February, compared with February 2010, on track with the People’s Bank of China’s 16% target.

“Monetary tightening is working and should increase the odds of a soft landing,” wrote HSBC strategists in a quarterly research report on the region.

HSBC said inflation should peak in June, with the CPI reading at 5.5% to 6%. That view was backed by recent surveys of Chinese manufacturing which showed wholesale inflation beginning to flatten in March from the levels of February, HSBC said.

The PBOC was likely to tighten in one additional quarter-point move this year, capping off a tightening cycle that began in October.

Citgroup underscored its upbeat view, urging investors Thursday to buy China stocks, including machinery makers that appear set to benefit as wage inflation fosters automation.

Citi added that China could pause in its policy tightening later this year, becoming the first of several economies in Asia to exit the rate-hike cycle.

It noted that recent policy tightening, including a surprise quarter-point move Tuesday, had brought China’s interest rates closer to neutral. “China is trading Cheap compared to both its history and valuations in the region,” Citi’s Hong Kong–based analysts said in a report dated April 6.

Meanwhile, Credit Suisse joined the chorus of upbeat voices, saying key indexes of China stocks could rally by as much as 25% in the coming year.

On average, profits for the approximately 1,400 mainland Chinese companies that had reported results by the end of March were up 38%, while sales were 34% higher, the research showed.

Credit Suisse said it had amended its previous outlook in favor of a more optimistic view, lifting its target on three key China stock indexes. Read more about Credit Suisse’s outlook for China.

Also Thursday, Goldman Sachs upgraded its China equity stance to overweight from market weight, saying it favored mainland banks and property stocks.

The brokerage said recent inflation and macroeconomic activity suggested that the nation’s policy tightening “is beginning to bite,” which in turn has led its economists to expect less further tightening.

Chris Oliver is MarketWatch's Asia bureau chief, based in Hong Kong.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Japan struck by single 7.1-magnitude earthquake

By Wallace Witkowski
A 7.1-magnitude quake struck off Japan's ravaged northeast coast at 7:32 Pacific time, or 11:32 local time, according to the U.S. Geological Survey Thursday. Earlier, the USGS reported that a pair of 7.4 quakes had struck the region. The quake, which occured at a depth of 30 miles, was centered 41 miles east of Sendai and 205 miles north-northeast of Tokyo. A local tsunami warning was reportedly issued, but the U.S. National Weather Sevice did not issue a tsunami warning for Hawaii or the U.S. mainland.

ECB Kicks Off Its Tightening Cycle

As widely expected, the ECB hiked its main policy rate by 25 bps. Although another rate hike does not appear imminent, we look for a modest pace of tightening in the quarters ahead.

As widely expected, the European Central Bank (ECB) raised its main policy rate today by 25 bps, its first rate hike since July 2008 (top chart). The move had been telegraphed at last month’s policy meeting when the ECB said in the policy statement that “strong vigilance is warranted with a view to containing upside risks to price stability.” In the past, the words “strong vigilance” were used to signal that a rate hike was imminent.

In the policy statement that was released this morning, the ECB gave no indication that another rate hike is just around the corner. That is, the ECB did not say that “strong vigilance” was required. However, it did indicate that it expects the economic expansion to continue in coming quarters, and the statement noted that “risks to the medium-term outlook for price developments remain on the upside.” There is little evidence so far that recent increases in food and energy prices are spilling over into more broad-based inflationary pressures (middle chart). However, the ECB, which has a single mandate of “price stability,” will remain alert to the potential pass-through to other prices.

In our view, the ECB will continue to hike rates over the course of the year, but we expect it to remain on hold for the next month or two. Growth in the euro area is positive at present, but it is not very strong. (Real GDP was up only 2.0 percent on a year-ago basis in the fourth quarter of 2010.) Moreover, we forecast that growth will remain sluggish for the foreseeable future as fiscal tightening in many countries continues to exert strong headwinds on economic growth. Our forecast calls for the ECB’s main policy rate to reach 1.75 percent by the end of 2011.

Portugal Seeks Bailout Package
The ECB’s move today follows the announcement yesterday that Portugal would seek financial assistance from the European Commission. The rise in borrowing costs for the Portuguese government in recent weeks made the decision almost inevitable (bottom chart). The size of the request has not yet been announced, but we expect it to be more or less in line with the bailout package that Ireland received last year (€85 billion). Because most investors had already expected Portugal to seek a bailout package, the announcement had very little effect on financial markets. Importantly, government bond yields in Spain and Italy have not followed Portuguese rates higher in recent weeks. However, it would be premature to declare Spain and Italy as completely out of the woods. Slow economic growth in these two countries will make it difficult for their respective governments to quickly grow their way out of their financial difficulties. Therefore, Spanish and Italian bond yields likely will remain elevated as investors remain alert to the possibility of eventual debt restructuring in those countries.
Thu, Apr 7 2011, 13:35 GMT
by Jay Bryson - Wells Fargo Investments, LLC

Gold Investments Market Update

Gold’s two consecutive days of nominal record highs have seen some profit taking as oil is flat, the dollar is marginally higher and the euro has fallen. The ECB’s 0.25 % interest rate hike may lead to further profit taking today but rising interest rates in an increasingly inflationary environment will be positive for gold as it was from 1965 to 1981 (see charts below).

It is only when real interest rates turn positive (nominal interest rates are again above the nominal rate of inflation) that gold and silver’s secular bull markets may be challenged. Inflation in the eurozone is 2.6%. Today’s interest rate rise will leave eurozone interest rates at 1.25% well below the 2.6% rate of inflation meaning that savers continue to lose out due to very low yielding deposits.

Similarly in the US, the cost of consumer goods and services has climbed 2.1% (as measured by the CPI) over the past year while Ben Bernanke has kept interest rates at 0% for over two years now.

These inflation numbers are official government statistics and are subject to hedonic and other peculiar statistical adjustments which underestimate the real rate of inflation as being experienced by the public who are feeling the pinch from rising food, energy, insurance, healthcare and other costs.

Negative real interest rates will likely lead to precious metal prices continuing to rise or rather very low yielding fiat currencies falling in value versus non yielding finite gold. Rising interest rates are bullish for gold also as they may see the primary asset classes of equities, bonds and property come under pressure again.

The safe haven, inflation hedging, liquidity and diversification benefits of gold have never been more needed by the investment and savings public.

Gold’s Two Consecutive Days of Nominal Record Highs Ignored by Non-Financial Media
Despite this need for gold as a safe haven and diversification to protect from inflation and negative real interest rates, most of the non-financial media has ignored and barely reported gold’s record nominal highs in recent days, despite the incredibly uncertain geopolitical and macroeconomic conditions facing people internationally.

Total Known Gold ETF Holdings GoldCore
Total Known Gold ETF Holdings

In the same way that sections of the media ignored and downplayed the risk posed by debt, derivatives and property bubbles prior to the subprime debt crisis and bursting of various property bubbles, so today the monetary and macroeconomic risks and the risks posed by inflation to the public and our economies are being downplayed and largely ignored.

What little coverage there is of gold, it continues to often be slightly biased with negative terminology such as “gold hits new peak”, “gold peaked today”, “investors piled into gold”, “investors flock to gold” and “speculators hoard gold”. All of which are factually inaccurate and misleading.

Headlines regarding “gold peaking” have abounded since gold rose above $700/oz. Given our inability to forecast the future movement of any asset it is always best not to predict if something has ‘peaked’ - especially in a headline.

Also, many journalists continue to fail to report the important fact that the record highs are nominal highs and that adjusted for the significant inflation of the last 31 years, gold remains well below its inflation adjusted high of $2,400/oz.

The primary indicators of investment demand for gold - the Commitment of Traders (COT) data and Total Gold ETF Holdings continue to clearly show that little or no one is “piling into” gold – not even the speculators.

It is interesting that such negative terminology is rarely used with regard to equities and bonds – especially as bonds are likely the largest bubble in the world today.

When the non-financial press cover gold, they often quote bankers, stock brokers, CFD providers and other financial service providers warning about gold and suggesting gold is a bubble and is risky. It is interesting that these same individuals never advised their clients to own gold but now they believe they are experts on the gold market and can advise people not to buy or to sell.

Instead of urging diversification, they give simplistic reasons as to why gold may or “will fall”. Diversification is what they should have been advising for years and their clients would be in a far better position if they had.

Since gold rose above $800/oz in 2007 there have been umpteen definitive statements that gold was in a “speculative” bubble and would fall. If I had an ounce of gold for every time I have heard such “experts” warn regarding gold being a bubble, I would be as rich as Croesus.

To be fair, it is likely that part of the reason for the very limited coverage and somewhat negative treatment of gold is that some journalists and editors genuinely believe that gold is a speculative bubble. They may be being cautious after the experience of recent bubbles when much of the media failed to warn regarding, and indeed cheer led, recent equity and property bubbles.

They are right to be cautious in this regard. At the same time, they have a duty to report all of the facts in a non biased manner and to offer a plurality of opinion regarding all markets – including the gold market. Focusing on any one asset class and ignoring others is a failure to report the markets.

Lack of knowledge regarding financial markets, investments and savings is detrimental to the wealth of individuals, families and nations. In the coming years many will look back at the lack of and biased coverage of the gold market and wonder as to how it could have been so biased and myopic.


Gold is trading at $1,457.87/oz, €1,021.49/oz and £894.34/oz.


Silver is trading at $39.47/oz, €27.65/oz and £24.21/oz.

Platinum Group Metals

Platinum is trading at $1,783.00/oz, palladium at $778/oz and rhodium at $2,350/o

US: Weekly Jobless Claims decline another 10K

Initial jobless claims declined another 10K the week ended Apr 2, registering 382K compared to the prior upwardly revised 392K. Continuing claims similarly edged to 3.723M the week ended Mar 26 vs the prior 3.732M.

The Initial Jobless Claims released by the US Department of Labor is a measure of the number of people filing first-time claims for state unemployment insurance. In other words, it provides a measure of strength in the labor market. A larger than expected number indicates weakness in this market which influences the strength and direction of the US economy. Generally speaking, a decreasing number should be taken as positive or bullish for the USD.

Initial Jobless Claims

382K Actual 385K Consensus 392K Previous

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

How small business can avoid becoming the next GoDaddy

Social media is great for spreading the word but sometimes its content can become the elephant in the room, quite literally.

Just ask Bob Parsons, the flamboyant founder and CEO of Web hosting site GoDaddy, who posted a video link of his elephant shoot in Kenya on his Twitter account last month.

The controversial dispatch was the latest in a string of high-profile social media gaffes, highlighted recently by insensitive remarks about the Egyptian uprising by fashion designer Kenneth Cole and Japan's earthquake by comedian Gilbert Gottfried. Gottfried's behavior cost him a longstanding gig as the voice of the Aflac insurance duck.

The move by Parsons, known for provocative tactics that include Super Bowl ads with scantily-clad women, was also not without fallout. His personal blog is replete with customers threatening to pull their GoDaddy business. Meanwhile, the company lost high-profile accounts such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

"Did you miss the fact that your customer base includes people who would be disgusted by this? It was so incredibly childish, egotistic and in very poor taste, I can hardly believe it," said "Russell," a respondent on the blog.

Parsons, who has more than 30,000 Twitter followers (, hasn't apologized. Instead, he stridently defends his actions, leading many to believe he relishes the attention.

"The video was posted on my personal channel ( and came with a warning that it was graphic," he wrote. "I posted it because I wanted people see what the people over there endure and how problem elephant are dealt with. Doing what I did is the best way I know of to help those subsistence and starving farmers."

Most small business owners, whether or not they buy Parsons' line of reasoning, will never be caught up in such a public spectacle. Even so, the wide-reaching impact of Twitter, Facebook and other online channels represents dangerous waters. Small businesses, which often rely heavily on social media for customer awareness, can't afford costly mistakes.


"My advice to small business is don't do a Parsons," said branding strategist Jonathan Salem Baskin. "Don't confuse customers' interest in knowing about the products and services they buy or could buy with an interest in you personally."

"You make no money from humiliating yourself publicly," he said. "Your customers don't care about your vacation."

Baskin is a proponent of keeping social media content - all marketing for that matter - related to the business at hand. It's fine to engage customers in a dialogue, he said, but make sure the topic pertains directly to the product or service.

"I'd like to hear from Joe's Dry Cleaners that he's getting into environmentally responsible solvents and what his customers think," he said. "Talk to your customers about what matters to them. The technology shouldn't change what you talk about and why you talk."

The lure of social media and its ability to quickly and inexpensively share with the masses are often too tempting to adhere to strict boundaries.

In response to slowing sales in late 2009, entrepreneur Sonny Ahuja, who owns Milwaukee-based retail site GrandPerfumes (, began hosting a regular Saturday morning Twitter show that included "dumb blonde" jokes that offended some viewers."I realized this was something serious, not funny," said Ahuja, who also received threatening direct messages. He still hosts "FunSat" but has sanitized content to exclude potentially controversial topics. "Jokes on marriage and relationships are the best," he said. "Nobody has ever complained."


FeeFighters (, a Chicago-based startup that lets companies comparison shop for the best deals in credit card processing, learned quickly that discretion goes beyond content when it comes to social media.

The fledgling operation used to contact all its site users - whether or not they ultimately contracted a service provider - by locating them on Twitter and thanking them publicly for considering the business. One user, who ran a small computer-consulting firm, didn't want his followers knowing about his use of the auction service and protested.

"He felt it was an affront to his privacy," said FeeFighters' Stella Fayman, who oversees the site's marketing efforts. "We decided we wouldn't tweet our customers until they tweeted us first." Ultimately, through an apology and subsequent dialogue, FeeFighters turned the disgruntled user into a paying customer.

Sima Dahl, a Chicago-based social media consultant, said the limits of appropriate social media content and methods vary greatly from business to business, with industry type frequently setting the tone.

"The conversation itself is an opportunity," said Dahl, adding the transparency fostered by these emerging channels should be embraced as a chance to improve operations and when feedback is negative, work hard to address problems one-on-one. "I encourage people to take thoughtful risks, engage in the conversation, be courteous, conscientious and aim to serve your customers."
By Deborah L. Cohen(REUTERS)

Email theft: 5 ways to avoid phishing attacks

With the extraordinary theft of millions of email addresses collected by some of the nation’s biggest companies, it’s time to think about the likely result — phishing attacks — and how to avoid becoming a victim.

If you have accounts with Citigroup, Capital One, The College Board, Walgreen, HSN or TiVo there’s a reasonable chance some con artist is trying to figure out how to get in touch with you — and not to be Facebook friends. They want to dupe you into giving them more information than they have right now.

Here’s what they’ve got: Your name (maybe just your first name) and your email address. Here’s what they want: The good stuff like your home address, phone number, Social Security Number and — of course — account numbers. Now they’re going to release a hailstorm of somewhat targeted emails intended to get you to believe they’re real, perhaps even referencing the theft itself.

Don’t just assume you’re too smart to become a victim. Thousands of consumers every month fall victim. These are not just people who are gullible or lack web savvy.

All sorts of people fall victim because the crooks have gotten very sophisticated, perfectly (sometimes) mimicking real communications from companies you do business with.

The big difference — and what you need to watch out for — is that the phishing emails are going to be angling for information from you. The real companies would never ask you for that kind of information in an email. Sometimes their attempts to con you will be well masked, like asking you to click on a link to go to their site to “update” your account information or some such rouse. Here are five ways to avoid phishing attacks.

Don’t click links in your emails. In most browsers, you can run your mouse over a link to see where it really goes. The crooks will often create URLs intended to confuse you — instead of they might use yourbank/accounts/and hide the real URL somewhere way over to the right.

Get a good virus protection program installed and then make sure to update it regularly.

DO NOT call phone numbers in the emails and DO NOT click the links in them. If you have a question about a credit card communication, for instance, call the customer service number on your card or bill. If you need to update to account information online, do that only by logging into an established site that you’ve already used.

NEVER email personal or financial information. Be sure to read your credit card and bank statements immediately. Fraud protections on cards, in particular, are good but are time-limited. So raise a red flag as soon as you see suspicious charges. You’ve typically got 60 days from the time the fraudulent charge appears on your bill.

If you get a phishing email, notify the company or agency that was being impersonated and forward the email to this federal government email address: That’s the Federal Trade Commission, which collects the complaints to determine whether action can be taken, but does not deal with an individual consumer’s situation. You should also complain to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, an anti-internet crime venture involving the FBI, the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National White Collar Crime Center.

Gold hits record high on safe-haven demand

Wed, Apr 6 2011, 13:44 GMT
Gold reached a record high in trading today (April 6th) as the falling dollar and continued unrest in the Middle East and North Africa increased investor demand for safe haven assets.

According to the Guardian, the precious metal touched $1,458.80 per ounce in commodities trading, with the US dollar's slump largely responsible for the price.

Minutes from the Federal Reserve's interest rate deliberations last month revealed that an interest rate hike is unlikely in the near future, which put pressure on the greenback.

The spot gold price is being pushed up by the situation in Libya and fresh concerns over the state of eurozone debt, meaning those in commodity trading are likely to see demand for the metal remain healthy in the short term.

"Tensions in the Middle East and North Africa are not solved yet. Secondly, there are new uncertainties in the eurozone. These all will benefit gold," Ronald Leung, of Lee Cheong Gold Dealers, told the newspaper.

SEB Commodity Research analyst Bjarne Schieldrop made a similar point to the Associated Press, stating that while conflicts continue in oil producing nations, the gold price will remain high.

Forex: AUD/USD rises above 1.0400, tests historic highs

Wed, Apr 06 2011, 14:20 GMT |

The Aussie rose back above 1.0400 and reached a fresh high at 1.0415. The pair is testing historic highs at the 1.0415 area and a break above would take the Aussie to the highest level since it was allowed to float freely in 1983.

The AUD/USD has been rising since Asian hours and is posting a daily gain of almost a hundred pips supported by risk appetite and rising commodity prices as gold trades at record highs above $1,460 an ounce. Recent gains were enough to erase previous losses; the Aussie finished lower on Monday and on Tuesday but currently is trading above Friday’s closing price.

Resistance levels lie at 1.0415 and 1.0500 while support is located at 1.0370; 1.0340 and 1.0285.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Manchester United's April Fool's Exploits

My thinking is that Sir Alex Ferguson should write a business manual customised for today's executives in light of the recessionary and austerity measures.He knows about fighting when your back's against the wall.patent the hair dryer treatment...

Manchester United's April Fool's Exploits