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April 1, 2013 at 5:59 PM
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Markets slide Monday

NEW YORK, April 1 (UPI) -- U.S. stock indexes started the second quarter with losses Monday amid conflicting reports on whether U.S. economic growth was accelerating or slowing down.

Markit Economics said growth accelerated in March but the Institute of Supply Management said its Purchasing Managers' Index slipped from February to March, suggesting manufacturing is growing, but at a slower pace.

The Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor's 500 slipped off of record closing highs.

By close of trading, the DJIA lost 5.69 points or 0.04 percent to 14,572.80 and the S&P 500 shed 7.02 points or 0.45 percent to 1,562.17. The Nasdaq composite index dropped 28.35 points or 0.45 percent to 3,239.17.

On the New York Stock Exchange, 948 stocks advanced and 2,092 declined on a volume of 2.7 billion shares traded.

Ten-year U.S. treasury bonds rose 6/32 to yield 1.834 percent.

Against the dollar, the euro rose to $1.2842 from Thursday's $1.2808. Against the yen, the dollar fell to 93.30 yen from 94.46 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index shed 2.12 percent, 262.89 points, to 12,135.02.

In London, markets were closed for Easter Monday.

Tax shelters licking their chops in Cyprus

NICOSIA, Cyprus, April 1 (UPI) -- The race is on among tax shelters to see what offshore financial center will walk away with the failing Cypriot banking business, a key financial leader said.

"We have been thrown to the wolves, and now the wolves have responded," said Parliament member Nicholas Papadopoulos, who heads the government's financial and budgetary affairs committee.

The New York Times reported Sunday there was seething resentment that bank depositors in Cyprus would be forced to pay a major portion of the country's $18 billion bank bailout.

That is a step the international community in Europe did not ask of Greece, Ireland, Portugal or Spain when those countries were given international aid.

Papadopoulos said the European Union was "punishing the whole country, just to hit Russia."

Depositors from Russia have parked billions of dollars in bank accounts in Cyprus, a well-known tax haven. Much of the Russian deposits are believed to be ill-gotten gains from Russian criminals -- hence the reluctance to bail out banks in Cyprus without asking for a contribution from depositors.

Meanwhile, financial firms from Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, Malta and other financial centers that boast of their ability to dodge tax authorities are sniffing around Cyprus looking for disgruntled depositors, the Times said.

A Swiss financial firm, the Gonthier Group, touted its ability help clients avoid paying taxes.

In an email, the firm said it offered an investment alternative, "which is extremely low-profile, not classified as a bank account or trust and thus very much under the radar of national fiscal authorities."

The financial firms are denying they are there to upset the apple cart or help clients break the law.

Tilly Schneeberger Gonthier, a principal of the Swiss firm, said in an interview Gonthier Group was "absolutely not" in the business of helping clients avoid taxes.

Another group, Bateman Financial, said the Cayman Islands was the place to park money.

"Given the inherent pressure banks will be placed under in Cyprus, your firm may see a need to consider other jurisdictions when consulting clients," the company said in an email.

"The Cayman Islands can offer the stability that is currently desired."

Cyprus, meanwhile, has a lot to lose. Bank assets in Cyprus are about eight times the size of the country's gross domestic product, the Times said.

Toshiba to hire 100 female executives

TOKYO, April 1 (UPI) -- Japanese electronics giant Toshiba said it would hire 100 female managers within the next two years in an effort to diversify their executive ranks.

The Japan Times reported Monday that 270 or 3.7 percent of Toshiba's managers are women. The company is trying to boost that number to 5 percent.

The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development says 95 percent of company boards in Japan are comprised of men, close to the highest concentration of men among its 34 member nations.

In Japan, the larger the business, the smaller the odds that an executive is a woman.

Among firms with 5,000 or more workers, only 2.9 percent of the executives are women. Among companies with 100 to 299 workers, 6.5 percent of executives are women.

The rate rises to 12.1 percent among companies with 30 to 99 employees and to 16.9 percent in companies with 10 to 29 employees, the Japan Times said.

Two PMIs head in two directions

NEW YORK, April 1 (UPI) -- U.S. manufacturing grew in March, but two reports contradicted each other on whether growth was accelerating or slowing.

Markit Economics said growth accelerated in March with their purchasing managers' index rising from 54.3 in February to 54.6 in March.

That indicates a slightly faster pace of growth.

The Institute of Supply Management, however, said their PMI slipped from 54.2 in February to 51.3 in March, which indicates manufacturing is still growing, but at a slower pace than the previous month.

Figures above 50 in the PMI indicates growth, while below 50 indicates contraction.

Markit said the index for new factory orders was unchanged from February's 55.4. The ISM estimated new orders at 51.4, a drop from February's 57.8.

Markit left its employment index unchanged at 54.6, while ISM said the employment index showed faster growth in March at 54.2 after a posting of 52.6 in February.

"Manufacturers enjoyed another month of strong output and order book growth in March, finishing off the best quarter for two years. The sector will have provided a firm boost to the economy in the first quarter, with output possibly growing by as much as 2 percent -- roughly 8 percent on an annual basis -- compared to the final quarter of last year," said Markit Chief Economist Chris Williamson.

The ISM, meanwhile, said 14 out of 18 business sectors reported growth in March, with the fastest gains in the wood products industry, followed by furniture production, plastic and rubber products, electrical equipment and appliances.

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