By Chuck Mikolajczak NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks slid on Thursday, putting the S&P 500 on track for a third straight fall as economic data did little to give investors clarity on how soon the Federal Reserve would begin to scale back its stimulus program. Concerns that the Fed would taper its stimulus earlier than expected have weighed on the market for days. The budget agreement removed a potential economic hurdle cited by the Fed in September when it chose to keep its stimulus intact. The Fed has said it would slow its $85 billion a month in bond purchases when certain economic measures meet its targets, including a drop in the U.S. unemployment rate.
By Lucia Mutikani WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. retail sales rose solidly in November, adding to signs of a strengthening economy that could draw the Federal Reserve closer to reducing the pace of monetary stimulus. The Commerce Department said retail sales increased 0.7 percent last month as Americans stepped up spending on a wide range of goods from automobiles to electronics. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales advancing 0.6 percent last month. So-called core sales, which strip out automobiles, food services, gasoline and building materials and correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product, rose 0.5 percent after gaining 0.7 percent in October.
RENO, Nev. (AP) — Governors in 16 states are unveiling a high-tech wildlife habitat mapping project they hope will encourage economic development across the West while protecting the region's environmental treasures from Puget Sound to the Rocky Mountains.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu made Turkey's first high-level visit to Armenia in nearly five years on Thursday, raising the prospect of a revival in peace efforts between the historical rivals which stalled in 2010. Muslim Turkey and Christian Armenia signed accords in October 2009 to establish diplomatic relations and open their land border, trying to revive relations frozen by the legacy of the World War One mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks. "I hope my Yerevan visit will contribute to efforts for a comprehensive peace and economic stability in the BSEC region and the Caucasus in particular," Davutoglu, who traveled to Yerevan for a Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) group meeting, wrote on Twitter.
By Elisabeth O'Leary and Teresa Larraz Mora MADRID (Reuters) - Separatist parties in Spain's Catalonia region set November 9 next year as the date for a proposed independence referendum on Thursday and agreed the wording, but the Spanish government immediately poured cold water on the plan. Catalan regional government head Artur Mas said the vote, which the Spanish government says would be unconstitutional, would ask two questions: "Do you want Catalonia to be a state?" and "Do you want that state to be independent?" Calls for independence in Catalonia, a wealthy industrial region of northeastern Spain which accounts for a fifth of the country's economic output, have grown as a prolonged Spanish recession and cuts in public spending have hit the area, creating a headache for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
By John Tilak TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian stock market may deliver its best performance in four years in 2014 as a global economic recovery gathers steam, driving up sagging commodity prices and natural resource shares, a Reuters poll found. The median forecast in a poll of 40 market analysts taken in the past week showed the benchmark Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index gaining over 9 percent from current levels to reach 14,363 by the end of next year. While investors in Canadian equities have been largely left out of the global stock market party of 2013 - the TSX's 5.6 percent growth this year compares with the S&P 500's 25 percent - many strategists see a rebound in sentiment. He noted significant contributions from the heavyweight financial, energy and material sectors will be required to take the index higher: "The expectation is that all three of those groups will contribute nicely to earnings growth next year." Their performance this year has been mixed.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Cisco Systems Inc on Thursday cut its longer-term revenue growth target to a range of 3 percent to 6 percent per year from its previous range of 5 percent to 7 percent. Chief Financial Officer Frank Calderoni cited macro-economic pressure in emerging markets, conservative customer budgets and service provider market dynamics for the change. (Reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick)
China's capital Beijing, regularly shrouded in hazardous air pollution, plans to replace its oil-burning buses with greener models by 2017 to help clear the smog, state news agency Xinhua said. Nearly 14,000 new buses powered by electricity or natural gas will be bought to replace two-thirds of Beijing's bus fleet and halve carbon emissions, Xinhua said on Thursday, citing the city's environment and transportation authorities. Air pollution in Beijing hit unprecedented levels in January when an index measuring particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) shot up to a staggering 755 - 38 times the level recommended by the World Health Organisation. China's worsening air quality is a result of it chasing economic growth at all cost in the past 30 years, a pursuit that turned it into the world's second-biggest economy, but which also poisoned much of its air, water and soil.
(Reuters) - Pimco, home to the world's largest bond fund run by co-founder Bill Gross, said on Thursday that it expects U.S. economic growth to run between 2.25 and 2.75 percent in 2014. Pacific Investment Management Co, better known as Pimco, also said in a research report to clients that the firm expects the global economy to grow between 2.5 percent and 3 percent in the next year. "Many of the challenges faced during 2013 have either progressed toward a point of self-exhaustion or are being overcome via alternatives to yield a brighter outlook for global growth in 2014," portfolio manager Saumil H. Parikh said in the report. A spokeswoman said Parikh's report represents the views of Pimco, which oversees roughly $2 trillion in assets under management.
By John Tilak TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index dropped on Thursday to its weakest point in nearly eight weeks after a flurry of economic data from the United States raised fears that the Federal Reserve might soon begin rolling back its monetary stimulus program. The market also was dragged lower by a fall in the shares of Fortis Inc after the company on Wednesday agreed to acquire Arizona-focused utility UNS Energy Corp for about $2.5 billion in cash. U.S. retail sales rose in November as Americans bought automobiles and a range of other goods, but the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits also climbed last week, according to two separate reports. Investors have been trying to figure out the implications of the economic data for the Fed's next monetary policy move.
Visitor arrivals to Mauritius rose by 3.1 percent between January and November this year to 876,020 from a year earlier, buoyed by an increase in tourists from United Kingdom and China, official figures showed on Thursday. The number of visitors from United Kingdom to the Indian Ocean island increased by 12.9 percent to 89,896 although arrivals from Europe as a whole fell 1.6 pct to 487,339. Struggling with a festering debt crisis and stagnant economic growth, Europeans have cut down on the number of long-haul holidays taken to destinations like Mauritius, hurting a key pillar of the Mauritian economy. Wary of its reliance on Europe, Mauritius and regional rivals like the Seychelles islands are increasingly looking to new markets in Asia to drive growth in tourism.
South African stocks suffered their biggest daily drop in almost six months on Thursday, led by gold firms like AngloGold Ashanti as global equities fell on speculation the U.S. Federal Reserve may start trimming stimulus next week. The stimulus programme has helped equities hit multi-year highs, including in South Africa, shrugging off sluggish economic growth, labour unrest and other domestic clouds over investor sentiment. "It's a risk-aversion or risk-off trade now and so all of the cyclical stocks like gold are getting whacked," says Abri du Plessis, chief investment officer at Gryphon Asset Management. Johannesburg's Gold Mining Index, which has lost over half its value this year, shed 6.50 percent to 1,028.00 as spot gold fell over 2 percent.
By Richard Balmforth KIEV (Reuters) - Thousands of anti-government protesters gathered in central Kiev, rebuilding barricades torn down by police, as a delegation headed for Brussels to seek crucial European Union and International Monetary Fund aid. Russian President Vladimir Putin, concerned protests could yet induce Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovich to seal a trade agreement with the EU to Moscow's detriment, painted a picture of a secure future for Ukraine in a Russian-led alliance. "Our integration project is based on equal rights and real economic interests," said Putin, referring to a customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan which he plans to develop into a political and trading bloc to be known as the Eurasian Union.
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumers ramped up spending in November on cars, appliances and furniture and made more purchases online, signaling growing confidence in the economy at the start of the holiday shopping season.
NEW YORK (AP) — Stock futures slid Thursday as prospects for a budget deal and a stream of healthy economic news upped the odds that the U.S. will begin weaning the economy off of its aggressive monetary policies.
By Joe Brock ABUJA (Reuters) - One of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's predecessors and mentors has turned against him, penning a scathing denunciation that could deepen division in the ruling party and potentially embolden Jonathan's rivals. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo, once Jonathan's principle sponsor, wrote in a letter that it would be "fatally morally flawed" for Jonathan to seek re-election in 2015. Obasanjo, 76, lays down a damning appraisal of 56-year-old Jonathan's leadership, chiding him on his performance on everything from corruption and insecurity to the economy, in the 18-page letter entitled "before it is too late". "Nigeria is bleeding and the hemorrhage must be stopped," Obasanjo says.
By Timothy Heritage MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin made a new attempt to woo Ukraine on Thursday after the European Union and United States stepped up efforts to pull Kiev out of its former Soviet master's orbit. A day after European and U.S. officials held talks with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich in Kiev, Putin used a state of the nation address to tout the economic benefits of joining a customs union that he wants Ukraine to be part of. Yanukovich - who is seeking the best possible deal for his country of 46 million as it tries to stave off bankruptcy - provoked street protests in Kiev by spurning the chance to sign a free-trade pact with the EU last month and saying he wanted to revive ties with Russia instead.
U.S. retail sales rose solidly in November as Americans bought automobiles and a range of other goods, adding to signs of a strengthening economy that could draw the Federal Reserve closer to reducing the pace of monetary stimulus. The Commerce Department said on Thursday retail sales increased 0.7 percent last month after rising by a revised 0.6 percent in October. November's retail sales increase was the largest in five months. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales, which account for about 30 percent of consumer spending, advancing 0.6 percent after a previously reported 0.4 percent gain in October.
"The chances of them doing something next week are certainly rising," said Paul Kavanagh, a partner at Killik. U.S. data releases were being watched for clues on the strength of the economy, since greater strength means the Fed can act with less risk of curtailing economic growth. This week's budget pact eased some of the fiscal drag on the U.S. economy and improved the chances the Fed's will scale back its bond-buying operations at the December 17-18 meeting.
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