Archive for August, 2011

Euro crisis may be over in 2-3 years – Regling

Sunday, August 28th, 2011 | Finance News

VIENNA (Reuters) – The euro zone can conquer its crisis in the next few years if countries get their financial houses in order, the head of the bloc's rescue fund was quoted saying in Der Spiegel magazine, scolding Germans for being too pessimistic about the region's outlook.

"There is good reason to hope that the crisis is over in two to three years' time," European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) chief Klaus Regling said, according to a preview of the weekly German magazine.

But this depended on member states continuing to implement reforms aimed at sorting out their budgets, he said.

Regling dismissed the idea that the euro zone could break apart. Both weaker and stronger countries had a collective interest in seeing it survive, he said.

"The risk that the euro is discarded, from whatever quarter, is zero," he said, criticizing occasional "hysteria" in Germany on this topic.

He said his fellow countrymen expected everything to get worse, but that this was the wrong attitude.

"The signs point to an improvement," he said, adding that the economic fundamentals in euro zone countries appeared to be improving.

(Reporting by Sylvia Westall; Editing by David Holmes)


Some stores close but New Yorkers continue to shop

Saturday, August 27th, 2011 | Finance News

NEW YORK – Many stores in New York were closed on Saturday as Hurricane Irene neared, with some posting comical signs like "Blame the weatherman. Not us" and "Evidently `The Show Must Go On!' means nothing to Irene." But New York's shopping districts still were bustling as people piled into any store that was open.

Merci Market in Chelsea had long lines as people bought deli sandwiches and fancier fare. People filed into The Container Store in Midtown to grab plastic boxes so they can use their indoor time constructively to organize. And parents crowded into Toys `R' Us in Times Square to snag toys and games so their children won't get bored.

"It's business as usual," a store official at Harry Winston, the exclusive jewelry retailer, said shortly after the store opened.

The hurricane, which could hit New York on Sunday morning, comes in the thick of the critical back-to-school shopping season, a time between mid-July and September that is typically the second biggest shopping period of the year. For some big retailers, Manhattan is particularly important because it can account for as much as 10 percent of their annual revenue. A washout could have a huge impact on retailers' top and bottom lines: Nationally, weather research firm Planalytics estimates that Irene will stop 80 million shoppers from hitting the malls this weekend.

"This is a worst-case scenario," said C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group. "This was supposed to be a prime weekend for apparel retailers."

On Saturday, some big chains like Macy's and J.C. Penney conceded defeat and kept their doors closed. Meanwhile, some mom-and-pop shops and specialty retailers tried to salvage sales during the weekend. Regardless of what they did on Saturday, though, most stores planned to stay closed on Sunday.

Angel Estrada, who works at the Harlem wine shop Lot No. 125, said on Saturday that he planned to keep the store open until midnight as usual. The store did more than double its usual business on Friday, and Estrada echoed other small-business workers when he said he didn't want to lose out on the sales on Saturday night. By 10 a.m., about a half dozen customers had filtered through the shop, including Latonya Robertson, who picked up four bottles of wine for $20 because the price was right.

"This is nothing for me," said Estrada, who is from the hurricane-prone Dominican Republic. "And yesterday was a really nice day for the store."

On Fifth Avenue and other midtown shopping areas, major department stores like Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Saks Fifth Avenue and J.C. Penney had closed their doors. Some boarded up their windows, while others like furniture store Ethan Allen used masking tape to keep them from shattering. Even so, the district still hummed with tourists and locals.

At the midtown location of The Container Store, which planned to close at 2 p.m. on Saturday, shoppers were buying picture albums and shoe organizers. One woman was consulting with a salesperson about organizing her closet. Another shopper left with $54 worth of photo albums. Diana Goldberg left with a laundry basket.

"It was top of my list," Goldberg said.

Times Square was bustling with tourists as if it were a usual Saturday, though many of the stores were closed. The ones that were open, including the Gap and Toys "R" Us, were packed. On one block of Times Square, the only store open was called Cute Souvenirs (hash)2 and it was filled with tourists snapping up postcards and t-shirts — but not the umbrellas at the front.

Friends Esther Henze, Katherine Cosma and Linda Gagne wandered down the block and lamented how their Fifth Avenue shopping day had been deterred. They figured they could pamper their skin if they couldn't go shopping, so they went to Duane Reade to buy face masks for the storm. Those were sold out. They said they had already bought wine, but laughed when another customer told them to stock up on peanut butter as well.

"We still need to go grocery shopping," Henze said. "But I don't think you're going starve in Manhattan."

At Fantastic Kids Toys in the Upper East Side, Steve Reis, the store's owner, said by late morning that he'd had a steady stream of customers since opening at the usual 7:30 a.m. He planned to stay open until the weather made it impossible.

Joju Thomas, 36, left the store with $100 worth of toys, including stickers and games, for his 16-month-old daughter Grace. "She's an outdoor baby," he said. "I wanted to keep her occupied."


Exchanges expect normal stock trading despite Irene

Saturday, August 27th, 2011 | Finance News

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq repeated on Saturday that, despite the arrival of Hurricane Irene in New York, both expect to conduct a normal trading session on Monday.

With the powerful storm roaring up the U.S. East Coast, setting off evacuations in parts of New York City and across the Eastern Seaboard, the NYSE Euronext (NYX.N) and Nasdaq have said several times that they plan to open trading as usual next week.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and exchange officials will discuss the storm's impact and plans for opening trading at the start of the week in a conference call on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m., according to a source familiar with the plan.

After completing additional reviews, the NYSE said Saturday afternoon: "Preparations are complete on our trading floor and in our data centers," in a market status note. Another NYSE status update will be posted Sunday afternoon.

A spokesman for the all-electronic Nasdaq Stock Market also said on Saturday that they expect to open on Monday.

The NYSE and the broader U.S. marketplace are mostly automated, quietly running out of powerful data centers in New Jersey and across the country. Barring large-scale power outages, electronic trading is expected to function normally next week.

The New York Mercantile Exchange, a few blocks from the NYSE, has "contingency plans in place to ensure the proper functioning of our markets," said parent CME Group Inc (CME.O) on Friday.

Inside its downtown Manhattan building, Big Board staff on Friday were prepping a backup power generator located well above the Wall Street-level trading floor. Extra fuel is in the basement and extra food is in the kitchen.

Utility Consolidated Edison Inc (ED.N) also said on Saturday it does not plan a widespread shutdown of New York City's power ahead of Hurricane Irene, although it may impose precautionary power cuts early on Sunday in low-lying areas of downtown Manhattan, where flooding threats are higher.

Any cut in power lasting through Monday will not impact NYSE trading, spokesman Rich Adamonis said, since the exchange has back-up power generating capabilities to run its trading floor and business operations.

(Additional reporting by Chris Sanders; Editing by Padraic Cassidy)