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Feb. 28, 2013 at 11:43 AM
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U.S. markets push higher

NEW YORK, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- U.S. stock indexes pushed ahead tentatively Thursday morning after the Commerce Department nudged a gross domestic product estimate higher.

The department estimated fourth quarter growth at 0.1 percent, a revision from a 0.1 percent contraction reported a month ago.

In late morning trading Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average added 0.12 percent, or 16.78 points, to 14,092.15, staying within reach of its all-time closing high of 14,164.63 points, which occurred in October 2007.

The Standard and Poor's 500 added 2.86 points, or 0.19 percent, to 1,518.85. The Nasdaq composite added 9.16 points, or 0.29 percent, to 3,171.42.

The 10-year U.S. treasury rose 3/32 to yield 1.895 percent.

Against the dollar the euro fell to $1.3079 from Wednesday's $1.3136. Against the yen, the dollar rose to 92.35 yen from 92.23 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 soared, climbing 2.71 percent on a gain of 305.39 points, to 11,559.36.

Proposal in Europe would limit bankers pay

BRUSSELS, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- The European Union could adopt a banking law that would put a cap on bonus pay for bankers starting in 2014, a top-ranking finance official said.

Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan said in a statement he would present a proposal for bank capitalization to finance ministers at the next meeting of European Union finance ministers next week. That proposal includes a stipulation that would restrict bank bonus pay to no more than the size of a banker's salary, The New York Times reported Thursday.

Huge bank bonuses have been frequently cited as the underlying cause for the risk taking that led to the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, which in turn triggered a nearly global economic slowdown.

Details of the proposal have yet to be finalized but the goal is to "limit bankers pay while maintaining a competitive European banking sector," Noonan said.

The bonus pay cap would be part of a set of banking laws known as Basel III that would require banks to beef up their capital holdings as a cushion against any future crisis in the banking industry.

The goal for that law is to "make sure that banks in the future have enough capital, both in terms of quality and quantity, to withstand shocks," Noonan said.

The bonus pay cap would apply to employees of European banks who are working abroad, in New York City, for example, the Times said. It would also have a clause allowing lawmakers to rescind the measure if it causes harm to Europe's banking industry.

Boeing pitches Dreamliner fix to Japan

TOKYO, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- A Boeing official in Japan said he was working on a definitive solution to returning grounded 787 Dreamliner passenger jets back into service.

"What we did today was discuss these solutions that we are looking at that could be final solutions," said Raymond Conner, the head of Boeing's commercial airplane operations, after meeting with Akihiro Ota, Japan's transportation minister, The New York Times reported Thursday.

Japanese regulators, however, are concerned that an electrical short could trigger another emergency situation in the new jets, 50 of which have been sold to eight airlines, including two airlines in Japan.

The incidents that prompted the grounding of 787s around the world occurred in Japan and in Boston. In a Jan. 7 incident, the lithium-ion batteries aboard a Japan Airlines 787 caught fire while the plane was on the runway. In the other incident, an All Nippon Dreamliner had to make an emergency landing due to smoke that involved the jet's batteries.

Boeing says it has a fix for the problem, and U.S. investigators have said no electrical surge caused the fires.

Japanese officials may or may not buy into Boeing's fix. It has added protections, but they do not match Japanese concerns, the Times reported.

The batteries were made by a Japanese firm, GS Yuasa.

Japanese nuclear safety costs put at $10B

TOKYO, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- It would cost Japan's nuclear power companies about $10.87 billion to comply with new safety standards, operators told an Asahi Shimbun survey.

The safety standards relate to disaster preparedness by nuclear power plant operators. A draft of the standards prepared last month by Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority requires operators to take broad measures against natural disasters and accidents.

The operators in the newspaper survey said the final cost to comply with the standards could rise as they cannot accurately estimate the expenses because parts of the standards are yet to be determined.

Since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster that crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, 48 of Japan's 50 nuclear reactors have been idled.

The Asahi Shimbun said the reactors can't be restarted until utilities comply with the safety standards, which are expected to go into effect in July.

The newspaper said the companies in its survey estimated the costs at $10.87 billion for 15 plants, which don't include the Fukushima plant.

The report said the estimates mainly cover expenses for emergency safety measures, such as construction of levees to guard against tsunami, and provisions for emergency power supply vehicles.

One utility said it needs to restart its idle reactors soon to improve its financial performance.

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