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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Schlumberger to buy oilfield gear maker Cameron in $14.8 billion deal

Wed Aug 26, 2015 | 4:53 PM EDT The exterior of a Schlumberger Corporation building is pictured in West Houston January 16, 2015. REUTERS/Richard Carson Schlumberger to buy oilfield gear maker Cameron in...X By Sneha Banerjee and Shubhankar Chakravorty (Reuters) - Schlumberger Ltd (SLB.N) will buy equipment maker Cameron International Corp (CAM.N) for $14.8 billion, as the world's top oilfield services firm scrambles to offer a broader range of products at lower prices to oil companies slashing budgets. The deal, which values Cameron around the market cap it had when oil prices were still $100 a barrel, marks the second big merger among energy services companies since crude prices LCOc1 entered a 60 percent slide last year. Halliburton and Baker Hughes, Schlumberger's rivals, agreed to a $35 billion tie-up in November. Schlumberger said the acquisition will allow it to bundle its offerings, which range from surveying a site to drilling wells, with ones from Cameron that include pressure valves and blowout preventers, one of which was at BP's Macondo well that exploded in 2010. The two companies know each other well. They set up a joint venture, OneSubsea, to target the deepwater industry in 2012. They have been eyeing each other since then, a person familiar with the deal told Reuters who spoke on the condition of anonymity, noting that Schlumberger has a history of acquiring its partners. "The deal should allow a more complete solution to customers and should allow SLB to grow market share," said BMO Capital Markets analyst Daniel Boyd. "Smaller companies offering discrete products and services will likely be at a disadvantage going forward." Schlumberger said the combined company would have pro-forma revenue of $59 billion in 2014. That is 20 percent more than Schlumberger's revenue for 2014 and compares with $57.42 billion generated together by Halliburton Co (HAL.N) and Baker Hughes Inc (BHI.N). The Halliburton and Baker Hughes deal is yet to close as U.S. antitrust enforcers believe the $35 billion merger will lead to higher prices and less innovation, according to a Reuters source. Billions in divestitures are planned in the hope of winning clearance. Schlumberger, in comparison, said it expects no antitrust hurdles and has no plans to divest any part of Cameron's portfolio to get regulatory approval. An anti-trust lawyer described the product lines as complementary. "With SLB-CAM, there is not much in the way of overlapping businesses ... we do not envision an overly difficult antitrust review," Oppenheimer analyst James Schumm said. Cameron's shares were up about 41 percent at $60, below Schlumberger's $66.36 per share cash-and-stock offer, in afternoon trading on Wednesday. Schlumberger's shares fell as much as 7.5 percent to $68.01, their lowest in two-and-a-half years. MACONDO CONNECTION The Macondo well explosion in April 2010 killed 11 workers and spilled millions of barrels of oil into the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. Investigators found Cameron's blowout preventer had battery and wiring troubles that hindered the proper functioning of the devices' blind shear rams, which are designed to slice through drilling pipes and cap a well in an emergency. Cameron agreed to a $250 million settlement with BP PLC (BP.L) to help pay for costs associated with the spill. Schlumberger's offer on Wednesday values Cameron at $12.74 billion, based on the company's diluted shares as of June 30. Cameron shareholders will get $14.44 in cash and 0.716 of a Schlumberger share for each share held. Schlumberger said it expects the deal to add to earnings by the end of the first year after the deal closes. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2016. Goldman Sachs & Co is Schlumberger's financial adviser and Baker Botts LLP and Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP are its legal counsel. Cameron's financial adviser is Credit Suisse and Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP is its legal counsel.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Great fall of China sinks world stocks, dollar: Wall Street's rally goes up in smoke, indexes end lower

Li Keqiang: China's economy there is no basis for the continued depreciation of the renminbi at a reasonable range of current Reuters, Beijing, August 25 - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said that China's economic operation in a reasonable range, the current basis for the continued depreciation of the yuan does not exist, it can be maintained at a reasonable and balanced level. CCTV News Network quoted him Tuesday night reported that the current world economic situation is complicated and confusing, the Chinese economy has been some impact, but the fundamentals of the economy has not changed the overall smooth running, good positive factor to support the economy on the rise. Li pointed out that, along with steady economic growth, enhanced structural adjustment to stimulate market dynamism, China has the ability to conditionally complete annual major economic objectives and tasks. Turning to the RMB exchange rate issue, he said, "Recently we improve the yuan central parity pricing, comply with the international financial market, the basis of the continued depreciation of the yuan does not currently exist, can be maintained at a reasonable and balanced level." RMB against the US dollar closing spot on Tuesday continued a four-year record low; also the end of the seven central parity rose, hitting near two-week low. Traders said the central bank highlights the central parity exchange rate market pricing intentions, but the session still figure the time is now to intervene, suggesting the yuan decline can be expected, but the material is not out of control. (Finish) =========== Tue Aug 25, 2015 | 4:46 PM EDT ‹ Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange August 24, 2015. Reuters/Brendan McDermid Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange August 25, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange August 25, 2015. Reuters/Brendan McDermid A specialist trader is reflected on his screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange August 25, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid By Noel Randewich A strong rally on Wall Street evaporated on Tuesday and stocks ended with deep losses as concerns about China's economy outweighed lower valuations that some saw earlier as bargains. In a dramatic trading session, major indices turned negative in the final minutes of trading after previously climbing almost 3 percent. Investors cited more worries that a slowdown in China could hobble global growth, even after the country's central bank cut interest rates on Tuesday for the second time in two months. The move came after Chinese stocks slumped 8 percent on Tuesday, on top of an 8.5 percent drop on Monday. "People are still nervous about overseas and what might happen tonight. Nobody wants to sit around and see what happens," said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago. Tuesday's drop followed steeper losses on Monday, when the Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 1,000 points at its lows and the S&P 500 recorded its worst day since 2011. Home sales increase, consumer confidence improves In the past week, the S&P has lost 11 percent. "Investors are still concerned about exogenous growth and shifting Fed policy, and both of those are still on the table," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 204.91 points, or 1.29 percent, to end at 15,666.44. The S&P 500 lost 25.59 points, or 1.35 percent, to finish at 1,867.62 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 19.76 points, or 0.44 percent, to 4,506.49. Earlier, the S&P rose as much 2.9 percent, the Dow as much as 2.8 percent and the Nasdaq as much as 3.6 percent. JPMorgan cut its year-end target for the S&P 500 to 2,150 from 2,250. All of the 10 major S&P sectors were lower, with the utilities index's 3.2-percent drop leading the decline. Pepco Holdings Inc fell 16.47 percent after a District of Columbia regulator denied Exelon Corp's $6.8 billion bid for the power utility, possibly delivering a knockout blow to the deal. Monday's pummeling pushed the S&P 500's valuation down to about 15 times expected earnings, compared to around 17 for much of 2015 and just above a 10-year average of 14.7, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine. Data on Tuesday showed U.S. consumer confidence increased to a seven-month high in August. New U.S. single-family home sales rebounded in July, adding to evidence of underlying strength in the economy that could allow the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates this year. Best Buy jumped 12.57 percent after the owner of the biggest U.S. electronics chain reported an unexpected increase in quarterly sales. Decliners outnumbered rising stocks on the NYSE by 1,721 to 1,384. On the Nasdaq, 1,480 issues fell and 1,379 advanced. The S&P 500 index showed just one new 52-week high and 47 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded seven new highs and 125 new lows. Volume was heavy, with about 10.4 billion shares traded on U.S. exchanges, far above the 7.5 billion average this month, according to BATS Global Markets. Bridgewater's Dalio: Next big Fed move will be to ease, not tighten (Additional reporting by Tanya Agrawal, Saqib Iqbal Ahmed and Sinead Carew in New York; Editing by Nick Zieminski) ============= Mon Aug 24, 2015 | 5:09 AM EDT Great fall of China sinks world stocks, dollar tumbles Asia down as China woes unnerve markets ... By Marc Jones LONDON (Reuters) - Alarm bells rang across world markets on Monday as a 9 percent dive in Chinese shares and a sharp drop in the dollar and major commodities panicked investors. European stocks .FTEU3 opened more than 3 percent in the red after their Asian counterparts slumped to 3-year lows as a three month-long rout in Chinese equities threatened to get out of hand. [.SS] Safe-haven government bonds [EUR/GVD] and the yen JPY= and the euro EUR= rallied as widespread fears of a China-led global economic slowdown and currency war kicked in. "It is a China driven macro panic," said Didier Duret, chief investment officer at ABN Amro. "Volatility will persist until we see better data there or strong policy action through forceful monetary easing." With serious doubts now emerging about the likelihood of a U.S. interest rate rise this year, the dollar .DXY slid against other major currencies. It was last at 120.25 yen JPY= its lowest in three months. The Australian dollar AUD=D4 fell to six-year lows and many emerging market currencies also plunged [EMRG/FRX], whilst the frantic dash to safety pushed the euro EUR= to a 6-1/2-month high. [FRX/] "Things are starting look like the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s. Speculators are selling assets that seem the most vulnerable," said Takako Masai, head of research at Shinsei Bank in Tokyo. Commodity markets took a fresh battering. Brent and U.S. crude oil futures hit 6-1/2-year lows as concerns about a global supply glut added to worries over potentially weaker demand from China. [O/R][GOL/] U.S. crude was down 3 percent at $39.20 a barrel CLc1 while Brent LCOc1 lost 2.4 percent to $44.40 a barrel. Copper, seen as a barometer of global industrial demand, tumbled 2.5 percent, with three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange CMCU3 hitting a six-year low of $4,920 a tonne. Nickel CMNI3 slid 4.6 percent to its lowest since 2009 at $9,730 a tonne. GREAT FALL OF CHINA The near 9 percent slump in Chinese stocks .CSI300.SSEC was their worst performance since the depths of the global financial crisis in 2009 and wiped out what was left of the 2015 gains, which in June has been more than 50 percent. The latest rout was rooted in investor disappointment that Beijing did not announce expected policy support over the weekend after its markets shed 11 percent last week. Compounding the real-time falls all index futures contracts <0#CIF:> <0#CIC:> <0#CIH:> slumped by their 10 percent daily limit, pointing to more bad days ahead. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS fell 5.1 percent to a three-year low. Tokyo's Nikkei .N225 was down 4.1 percent and Australian and Indonesian shares .JKSE hit two-year troughs. "China could be forced to devalue the yuan even more, should its economy falter, and the equity markets are dealing with the prospect of a weaker yuan amplifying the negative impact from a sluggish Chinese economy," said Eiji Kinouchi, chief technical analyst at Daiwa Securities in Tokyo. There was further evidence that developed markets were becoming synchronized with the troubles. London's FTSE .FTSE which has a large number of global miners and oil firms, was down for its 10th straight day, its worst run since 2003. The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 .FTEU3, meanwhile, was down 3.1 percent by 0830 GMT (0430 EDT) at 1,382.15 points, wiping around 260 billion euros ($298.61 billion) off the index and taking its losses for the month to more that 1 trillion euros. [.EU] U.S. stock futures also pointed to larger losses for Wall Street's main markets, with the S&P 500 ESc1, Dow Jones Industrial 1YMc1 and Nasdaq NQc1 expected to open down 1.8, 2.2 and 3.1 percent respectively. "We are in the midst of a full-blown growth scare," strategists at JP Morgan Cazenove said in a note. (Additional reporting by Pete Sweeney in Beijing and Shinichi Saoshiro Hideyuki Sano in Tokyo; editing by John Stonestreet and Anna Willard)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Burning Kuwaiti oil wells still drains Iraqi budget

As Iraqi troops retreated to Baghdad after conceding defeat to U.S.-led coalition forces in Kuwait, they unleashed one final act of aggression when they set fire to nearly 789 Kuwaiti oil wells near the border. This left Kuwait in days of darkness as black smoke engulfed the skies. This act would not only leave Iraq accountable for ecological damage in Kuwait, but more importantly responsible for repaying financial losses. Kuwait’s economy suffered a heavy drop in export revenues immediately after the Gulf War due to the damaged oil wells. Years later, Kuwait would win reprieve when major powers on the ruling body of the U.N. Compensation Commission (UNCC) granted it nearly $52.4 billion in war reparations from Iraq. Analysts tell Al Arabiya News that only now, nearly 25 years on, are Iraq and Kuwait recovering from the incident. “The exit of Iraqi oil from the markets in 1990 created a new regional dynamic as other producers, mainly Saudi Arabia, stepped in to fill the gap,” said Ruba Husari, managing director of Iraq Insight Advisory. “Today Iraq is producing the same volumes it did before invading Kuwait, but it has to fight for the lost market share.” Richard Mallinson, a geopolitical analyst at Energy Aspects, says it has not always been easy for Iraq to catch up on payments. “Oil exports provide almost all revenue for the Iraqi government. These revenues were falling behind government spending even before global oil prices collapsed and fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [ISIS] captured Mosul last summer,” he said. Payment deferral Under a cash-strapped budget, Iraq today has to allocate its funds to a number of other obligations, including the fight against ISIS, contractual payments to oil companies, public salaries and transfers to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Under pressure to make its payments last year, Iraq requested a deferral of its final payment of $4.6 billion in reparations for destroying Kuwait’s oil facilities. Analysts say while Kuwait was reluctant over the deferral, it had no choice but to accept. “Kuwaiti insistence on being paid war reparations is misguided” in the short run, said Jean-Francois Seznec, a political scientist at the Middle East Institute. “Iraq is desperate for cash to invest in modernizing its fields, develop its infrastructure and redevelop the country. It’s the only way the tensions between Iraqis will improve.” The burning of the oil wells caused a Saudi military plane to crash amid heavy smoke on approach to Ras Mishab airport, Saudi Arabia. At least 92 Senegalese soldiers and six Saudi crew members were killed, the deadliest accident at that point among coalition forces. Environmental damage It would take until Nov. 6, 1991 - nearly eight months after Iraqi troops left Kuwait - before the last burning oil well was capped and extinguished. This resulted in hundreds of oil lakes being formed. “These were initially called oil lakes, referring to the spills caused from extinguishing the fires at the oil wells. Now after all these years most of these lakes have turned into contaminated soil,” Redha al-Hasan, program manager for Kuwait Environmental Rehabilitation, told Reuters in 2011. “The total amount for environmental rehabilitation projects that will be executed by [the Kuwait Oil Company] from the environmental reparation money exceeds $2 billion.” Paying for past mistakes Asked whether present-day Iraqis should be held responsible for Saddam-era mistakes, analysts held mixed views. “From an ethical standpoint, Kuwait as a war victim is entitled to compensation. That’s why the delay of reparation payments is an important development,” said Ibrahim al-Marashi, assistant professor at California State University and researcher on modern Iraqi history. “In this manner, Kuwait says while it’s entitled to reparations for the actions of Saddam, it’s willing to forgo payments for the sake of Iraq’s security,” he added. Seznec said: “If Kuwait continues to force payments, Iraq may become so dependent on Iran, and daily tensions become so intense, that Kuwait could get hurt in the long run.” Mallinson said: “Kuwait will want the repayments to resume and for the missed payments to be made up. Given the state of Iraq’s finances, even if oil prices recover next year Baghdad may struggle to find the money to do so.”

Islamic State claims huge truck bomb attack in Baghdad's Sadr City

Islamic State claims huge truck bomb attack in Baghdad's Sadr City Thu, Aug 13 07:59 AM EDT image 1 of 2 By Ahmed Rasheed BAGHDAD (Reuters) - At least 76 people were killed and 212 wounded on Thursday in a blast claimed by Islamic State in Baghdad's Sadr City, police and medical sources said, one of the biggest attacks on the capital since Haider al-Abadi became prime minister a year ago. "A refrigerator truck packed with explosives blew up inside Jamila market at around 6 a.m. (0300 GMT)," police officer Muhsin al-Saedi said. "Many people were killed and body parts were thrown on top of nearby buildings." A statement circulated online by supporters of Islamic State said the blast had targeted what it called a stronghold of the "charlatan army" and Shi'ite Muslim militias. The market in the Shi'ite neighborhood is one of the biggest in Baghdad selling wholesale food items. A Reuters witness at the site saw fruit and vegetables mixed with shrapnel littering the blood-soaked blast crater. Smoke rose from charcoaled debris. Rescuers pulling bodies from the rubble stumbled over sheet metal that had formed the walls and roofs of vendors' stands. People gathering at the scene cried and shouted the names of missing relatives; others cursed the government. "We hold the government responsible, fully responsible," witness Ahmed Ali Ahmed said, calling on the authorities to dispatch the army and Shi'ite militias to man checkpoints in the capital. Abadi took office last summer following the army's collapse in the face of Islamic State's takeover of the northern city of Mosul that left the Baghdad government dependent on militias, many funded and assisted by neighboring Iran, to defend the capital and recapture lost ground. Security forces and militia groups are fighting Islamic State in Anbar province, the sprawling Sunni heartland in western Iraq. In Baghdad, Abadi has proposed sweeping reforms aimed at reducing corruption and patronage, the biggest changes to the political system since the end of U.S. military occupation. (Additional reporting by Saif Hameed and Reuters TV in Baghdad and Omar Fahmy in Cairo; Writing by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Louise Ireland and Robin Pomeroy)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The day of settlement

What happens on settlement day? Melbourne home owner Alice Hodges recently settled two properties within an hour of each other. “I’d never done that before and was worried that the funds needed to ‘clear’ from one settlement to the other,” Hodges says. Hodges’ conveyancer, Jo Richmond from Law554, says all the documentation is organised well before the settlement date. “We like to do this so we can check the paperwork and make sure it’s executed by all parties,” Richmond says. “Where there’s a bank involved we start talking to the bank to figure out if there’s any shortfall that the client needs to provide at settlement. “We let the client know that they’ll need ‘x’ amount of money and they need to nominate a bank account from which to withdraw the shortfall. On our advice the bank will withdraw those funds.” These were the funds that Hodges was worried about. Despite assurances from Richmond and her bank that everything was in order, she was still slightly stressed prior to settlement day. “I’m now slightly embarrassed at how much I was stressing beforehand. I bet conveyancers and mortgage brokers see this all the time,” she says. I’m slightly embarrassed at how much I was stressing beforehand. Woman signing paperwork How do you prepare for settlement? According to Richmond, the hardest part of settlement day for her clients is packing up and cleaning the home and disconnecting and connecting the utilities. “We take care of the paperwork so they can get on with the cleaning.” “Probably two weeks out from settlement we’re trying to finalise our figures in relation to council and water rates. “We write to the council and water authorities advising them of a change of ownership, but they will have to ring up and get their gas and power connected,” Richmond says. You’ll also have the opportunity to do one final inspection of the property before settlement day. If you can’t do it yourself, or don’t feel confident that you’ll know what to look for, you can hire a professional to conduct the inspection for you. The point of the final inspection is to ensure the house is in the same condition as it was when sold. The final inspection is a chance to check everything is in working order. You don’t actually need to be present on settlement day if you don’t want to as your representatives can take care of all documentation and financials. However, you will be needed to oversee the removals process. “We let clients know 7-14 days beforehand when the settlement times are scheduled so their can organise their moving company,” Richmond says. “I let our removalists know that they’d have a couple of hours rest in between loading our truck from our old place, and delivering it to our new place (pending settlement),” Hodges says. “They were fine with that and had done it before.” Hodges says her best preparation was making sure her conveyancer and mortgage broker had absolutely everything they needed. “You really need to do everything they say, and give them everything they need. Then it’s out of your control.” Hodges was notified no more than ten minutes after both scheduled appointments and told everything had gone through. “What a relief. The best bit was being told, ‘congratulations – go and get your keys!’” More advice: 6 property settlement tips for home buyers What can go wrong? Richmond says hiccups rarely occur but when they do it is usually be resolved on the same day. “There have been instances of clerks turning up at settlement missing a document. If those things happen everyone scrambles together to try and solve the problem as soon as possible. “Sometimes settlement is pushed back to allow the offending parties to rectify the problem. We always work to settle it on the same day that it has been scheduled because we know that most of the time people need to move into the property.” What happens after settlement? After settlement your lender will draw down your loan – debiting the amount they’ve paid at settlement from your loan account. Richmond says she sends a final reporting letter to her clients after settlement, informing them that settlement was completed and the money was received on their behalf. “We will also write to the authorities advising them of the change in ownership. Where there is a bank involved, the bank will report a breakdown of the loan distributions. “There’s not much to do for them except enjoy the home.” Hodges says aside from a couple of minor things like nominating a bank account for the sale proceeds, there was nothing left to do except celebrate. “Once you’ve got the keys, you’re in, can unpack and enjoy your new home.” Follow us on Twitter for more news, tips and inspiration. Become our mate on Facebook and explore our Pinterest boards. Like this article or found it helpful? Share it! Tags: buyingfirst homemortgage Alice Bradley About Alice Bradley As part of the Content & Social team at realestate.com.au, Alice works behind the scenes to keep our blog machine in motion. She’s a long-time inhabitant of Melbourne’s inner north, but is constantly pushing herself to explore different parts of the city (especially if there’s French toast involved). ProfileWebsite

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Saudi crown prince calls for vigilance after Islamic State bombing

Saudi crown prince calls for vigilance after Islamic State bombing Sun, Aug 09 05:05 AM EDT image RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's crown prince has called for higher vigilance and better preparedness in the kingdom after a suicide attack claimed by Islamic State on a security forces mosque killed 15 people, state news agency SPA reported late on Saturday. Thursday's attack followed two bombings in May of mosques used by the kingdom's Shi'ite Muslim minority that killed 25, several shootings of policemen in Riyadh and a car bomb outside a prison in the capital in July, all claimed by Islamic State. The jihadist movement regards Riyadh's ruling family as having betrayed Islam through its close ties with the West, and wants to replace all Muslim states, including Saudi Arabia, with a single caliphate. "His Highness Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz called on the need to intensify preparedness and raise the level of caution in the face of any developments that, God forbid, may arise," the official Saudi Press Agency reported. The crown prince is also interior minister. Islamic State's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called last year for supporters in Saudi Arabia to launch their own attacks on Shi'ites, government targets and Westerners instead of traveling to Iraq or Syria to join his group. Saudi Arabia has joined the U.S. and other Arab states in airstrikes against the group in Syria, has mobilized state-affiliated clergy to denounce the group and has detained hundreds of its suspected supporters. Thursday's blast took place during noon prayers at the mosque in the Special Emergency Forces Centre in Abha, the capital of the southwestern Asir province, killing five members of the force, six trainees and four Bangladeshi workers. Islamic State claimed responsibility for attacking what it called "a military camp" on Thursday and the Interior Ministry on Saturday named the bomber as 21-year-old Saudi national Yousef bin Sulaiman Abdullah al-Sulaiman. (Reporting By Angus McDowall; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Attacks on army, police, U.S. special forces kill 50 in Kabul

Reuters Top News Sat, Aug 08 09:47 AM EDT image 1 of 9 By Mirwais Harooni and Jessica Donati KABUL (Reuters) - A wave of attacks on the Afghan army and police and U.S. special forces in Kabul killed at least 50 people and wounded hundreds, dimming hopes that the Taliban might be weakened by a leadership struggle after their longtime leader's death. The bloodshed began on Friday with a truck bomb that exploded in a heavily populated district of the capital and ended with an hours-long battle at a base used by U.S. special forces. It became the deadliest day in Kabul for years. The Islamist insurgents claimed responsibility for both the police academy attack and the battle at the U.S. special forces base, though not for the truck bomb. The scale of the violence heightened obstacles to reviving the stalled peace process and conveyed a no-compromise message from the Taliban at a delicate time following last week's revelation of Mullah Mohammad Omar's death and a dispute over the leadership of the insurgency. "The question is, who is sending the message?" Thomas Ruttig of the Afghanistan Analysts Network said. The U.N. mission in Afghanistan said the incident was the worst since it began recording civilian casualties in 2009, with 355 civilians killed or injured. The U.N. Special Representative, Nicholas Haysom, called it "extreme, irreversible and unjustifiable in any terms". On Saturday, NATO-led coalition forces confirmed that one international service member and eight Afghan contractors were killed in the attack on Camp Integrity, a base used by U.S. special forces near the main airport. The blast outside the base was powerful enough to flatten offices inside, wounding occupants who were airlifted by helicopter to military hospitals during the night. "There was a big explosion at the gate ... (The gunfire) sounded like it came from two different sides," said a special forces member who was wounded when his office collapsed. The initial blast caused by a suicide car bomb at the gate was followed by other explosions and a firefight that lasted a couple of hours, he said. Camp Integrity is run by U.S. security contractor Academi, which was known as Blackwater before being sold to investors. Academi did not immediately respond to requests for comment. "The helicopters went on for hours... medevacing people out," a U.S. contractor at a camp nearby said. POLICE UNIFORM The Camp Integrity assault followed a suicide bombing at a police academy on Friday evening that killed and wounded more than 40 people, the Afghan Interior Ministry said on Saturday. A police source said the final tally was higher -- 26 killed and 28 wounded. "The bomber was wearing a police uniform and detonated his explosives among students who had just returned from a break," a police official said. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the insurgents launched both the police academy and Camp Integrity attacks, but he earlier refused to comment on Friday's early morning truck bomb that tore through buildings in central Kabul, killing at least 15 people and wounding 248 others. The Taliban, who were toppled from power by the U.S.-led military intervention in 2001, rarely admit to attacks that kill a high number of civilians. Divisions have broken out within the Taliban high command following last week's appointment of Mullah Akhtar Mansour as new leader. Previously seen as open to reviving peace talks, he has since pledged to press on with the insurgency that has killed and wounded thousands this year. Analyst Ruttig said that with the latest attacks in Kabul, Mansour could be sending a message of resolve to the militant rank and file as well as to the Afghan government. On the other hand, Taliban factions opposing Mansour's leadership could be seeking to kill off any hope of future talks by launching their own wave of violence. "The hope of some people was that the death of Mullah Omar would put the Taliban in disarray and possibly weaken them," Ruttig said. "I think that was a little over-optimistic." The coalition death at Camp Integrity marked the second of an international service member in Afghanistan this year after most foreign troops withdrew at the end of 2014. The service member's nationality was not released. The conflict between the Western-backed government and the Taliban has intensified since the NATO combat mission ended last year, but Afghan security forces and civilians have borne the brunt of the violence. There have been almost 5,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan in the first half of the year, U.N. figures show. (Additional reporting by James Mackenzie and Kay Johnson; Editing by Alison Williams) Email Article Next Article in Top News Search | Quotes | Videos | Currency | Slideshows | Top News | Oddly Enough | Business | Entertainment | Sports | Deals | Hot Stocks | Technology | Politics | More Categories

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

RBA Rates to HOLD in Australia: Banks are lowering their property valuations

Rates hold following changes for investors August 04, 2015 SYDNEY and Melbourne property prices are likely to be monitored closely following the Reserve Bank of Australia’s decision today to keep interest rates unchanged, according to the nation’s leading real estate network LJ Hooker. LJ Hooker CEO, Grant Harrod, said while a rate cut would benefit other capital cities such as Perth, Adelaide, Hobart and Darwin, changes to investor lending could help to cool down east coast prices. “I just don’t think there is enough compelling reasons for a reduction whilst it would be favourable for markets outside of Sydney,’’ he said. “A rise at this stage is also not justified with latest economic figures and with consumer sentiment being a bit depressed, I think the safe haven for the RBA is to just stay where they are at.’’ Mr Harrod has not ruled out a rate cut by the end of the year, but believes any reduction now would be counter productive to the tightening of investment loans. He sees the changes implemented by the main banks, as a positive for the market as it will reduce any possible future risk should there be any adverse economic event. In addition, he believes the banks are lowering their property valuations in an attempt to contain prices, which will also deter some investors and ensure people do not over commit. “The biggest positive of increasing investor lending rates is that they have done this to de-risk the market, it will make it more stable from speculative investors, ’’ Mr Harrod said. “Moving forward it will make the buying pool more stable and less risky if there is any correction, so the effects on the property market and banking are not so great.’’ Sydney is expected to be protected from any `housing bubble’ due to its significant shortage of properties, strong employment opportunity and growing population. Listings in the Harbour City remain at historical lows as homeowners wait to buy before selling, which has kept pressure on prices during the winter selling season. Most in demand, and increasingly rare, are houses in the sub $900,000 price bracket. LJ Hooker National Research Manager, Mathew Tiller, believes an improving US economy and a softer Australian dollar are also having a positive impact on the housing market and acting like an interest rate cut. “It is helping exporters and that side of the economy which has been sluggish and so while the dollar remains soft and falling it will have a stimulatory effect on the market,’’ he said. Read more at http://www.ljhooker.com.au/property-news/rates-hold-following-changes-for-investors?utm_campaign=Property+News&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter#0T0wHHs5Eboetm5Y.99