November 24, 2020

Shares Turn Lower

Shares fell on Wednesday, as weakness in energy and materials sectors weighed on Wall Street indexes.

In afternoon trading, the Standard Poor’s 500-stock index was down about 0.4 percent, and the Dow Jones industrial average was 0.1 percent lower. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.5 percent.

Data released on Wednesday indicated that the economy continued to show modest improvement. Groundbreaking to build new homes in the United States fell 8.5 percent in January, but new permits for construction rose to a four-and-a-half-year high. In addition producer prices rose in January for the first time in four months.

“It’s hard in any given data point to take a strong conclusion that we are moving dramatically forward,” said Robert Lutts, chief investment officer at Cabot Money Management in Salem, Mass. “But over time, clearly things are getting better.”

Mr. Lutts described an economy that was addicted to stimulus.

“The bottom line,” he said, “is the economy is on heroin today and we will at one-time move to a diluted form of heroin, but it’s very important for people to remember we are still on an unbelievably aggressive, never-seen-before accommodative policy and this economy is going to improve.”

On Wedensday afternoon, the Fed will release the minutes from the January meeting of its Open Market Committee.

Devon Energy, an American oil and gas producer, reported a fourth-quarter loss as it wrote down the value of its assets by $896 million because of weak gas prices. Its shares were down 3.2 percent.

Toll Brothers, the luxury homebuilder, lost 5 percent after it reported first-quarter results well below analysts’ estimates.

SodaStream dropped 4.8 percent after the seller of home carbonated drink maker machines posted fourth-quarter earnings and provided a 2013 outlook.

According to Thomson Reuters data through Tuesday morning, of the 391 companies in the S.P. 500 that have reported results, 70.1 percent have exceeded analysts’ expectations, compared with a 62 percent average since 1994 and 65 percent over the last four quarters.

Fourth-quarter earnings for S.P. 500 companies are estimated to have risen 5.6 percent, according to the data, above a 1.9 percent forecast at the start of the earnings season.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/21/business/daily-stock-market-activity.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Memo to Exxon: Business With Russia May Involve Guns and Balaclavas

A day after Exxon, the American oil giant, struck a strategic alliance with Russia’s state-owned oil company, police agents in Moscow staged a vivid reminder of what can happen to foreign petroleum partners that get on bad terms with the government.

Commandos armed with assault rifles raided the offices of the British oil company BP on Wednesday, in one of the ritual armed searches of white-collar premises that are common enough here to have a nickname: masky shows (so-called because of the balaclavas the agents often wear, although this time they reportedly burst in bare-faced.)

Whether the Russians intended to send a signal or not, the episode seemed to serve notice to Exxon that, when it comes to dealing with the state-run business world of Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin, Exxon isn’t in Texas anymore.

“That incident, I’m sure, made Exxon very uncomfortable the day after they signed their deal,” Matthew Lasov, director of research at Frontier Strategy Group, a consultancy for companies operating in the developing world, said of the raid.

Exxon, though a spokesman, declined to comment.

BP, during its long involvement in Russia, has had so many police run-ins that its stock price often nudges up or down in response to raids or the arrests of employees. Russian oil and natural gas accounts for about a quarter of BP’s output — about the same portion as from the company’s fields in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.

Until now, Exxon’s involvement in Russia has not been as extensive as BP’s. But that could change, based on the joint venture deal Exxon signed Tuesday with the state company Rosneft to explore for oil in the Russian sector of the Arctic Ocean and in the Black Sea. Rosneft, in turn, is to gain access to Exxon operations, including oil fields in Texas and the Gulf of Mexico.

Partner beware was the watchword Wednesday in a note to clients by the Eurasia Group, another risk analysis organization.

“The politics of the Russian energy sector remain treacherous, as the 31st of August raid on BP’s Moscow office demonstrates,” the note said. Exxon, it said, “will now be deeply engaged in those politics for many years.”

Wednesday’s BP raid stemmed from a lawsuit filed by minority shareholders of the company’s Russian joint venture TNK-BP. They contend BP damaged their stock’s value by entering into a deal earlier this year with Rosneft that unraveled after opposition by the main Russian partners in TNK-BP. That debacle was an embarrassment to Prime Minister Putin, who had originally blessed the BP-Rosneft deal.

An arbitration court, a type of Russian civil court, in the Siberian city of Tyumen authorized Wednesday’s search of the Moscow offices, according to both BP and a lawyer for the minority shareholders. The target of the search was apparently documents subpoenaed in the lawsuit, which BP had balked at surrendering, according to Vladimir Buyanov, a BP spokesman.

The agents who raided BP’s offices on the 17th and 18th floors of the Lotte Plaza, a high-rise on Moscow’s Garden Ring, wore commando-style uniforms with yellow shoulder patches saying “Special Forces,” according to BP employees.

The agents were escorting two investigators from the Russian federal bailiff service, who were not armed. The police ushered employees out, and began rifling through papers.

Despite the assault rifles, “there was no great panic,” one BP employee said. “I was able to come up and get my keys” even after the armed men arrived.

The employee, who insisted on anonymity, described the armed police as polite and not overtly intimidating. “They were just a group of comrades with the badges of special forces, in black outfits, with assault rifles — nothing extraordinary.”

One policeman “slightly” pushed an employee with the butt of a rifle, to encourage him to get out of his chair faster, according to two employees who were present.

“We believe that these legal actions are without merit and appear to be part of a pressure campaign against BP’s business in Russia,” Jeremy Huck, the president of BP Russia, said in an interview.

It is not the first time BP has been the star of a masky show.

In 2008, the Federal Security Service, a successor agency to the K.G.B., arrested an employee in the headquarters of the TNK-BP venture, just up Arbat Street from the BP offices, on charges of industrial espionage that were later dropped.

That same year, labor and immigration authorities stripped visas and work permits from BP’s expatriate executives — including Robert Dudley, who was then the director of TNK-BP and is now BP’s chief executive. Mr. Dudley was compelled to leave Russia and run TNK-BP from an undisclosed location.

Whatever the legal issues, and the relative merits, foreign businessmen in Moscow have for years implored the government to refrain from conducting such raids in white-collar cases. Their protests have had little effect.

In February, masked and armed law enforcement agents raided Deutsche Bank’s main office in Moscow, looking for documents related to a commercial mortgage.

In November, masked police officers armed with automatic weapons raided a bank belonging to the billionaire Aleksandr Y. Lebedev, a part owner of the national airline Aeroflot.

“It’s fine to do business there,” Mr. Lasov, the risk consultant, said in a telephone interview from Washington. “But you should do business with those sorts of expectations.”

Olga Slobodchikova contributed reporting from Moscow.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/01/business/global/bp-russia.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Memo to Exxon: Business With Russia Might Involve Guns and Balaclavas

A day after Exxon, the American oil giant, struck a strategic alliance with Russia’s state-owned oil company, police agents in Moscow staged a vivid reminder of what can happen to foreign petroleum partners that get on bad terms with the government.

Commandos armed with assault rifles raided the offices of the British oil company BP on Wednesday, in one of the ritual armed searches of white-collar premises that are common enough here to have a nickname: masky shows (so-called because of the balaclavas the agents often wear, although this time they reportedly burst in bare-faced.)

Whether the Russians intended to send a signal or not, the episode seemed to serve notice to Exxon that, when it comes to dealing with the state-run business world of Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin, Exxon isn’t in Texas anymore.

“That incident, I’m sure, made Exxon very uncomfortable the day after they signed their deal,” Matthew Lasov, director of research at Frontier Strategy Group, a consultancy for companies operating in the developing world, said of the raid.

Exxon, though a spokesman, declined to comment.

BP, during its long involvement in Russia, has had so many police run-ins that its stock price often nudges up or down in response to raids or the arrests of employees. Russian oil and natural gas accounts for about a quarter of BP’s output — about the same portion as from the company’s fields in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.

Until now, Exxon’s involvement in Russia has not been as extensive as BP’s. But that could change, based on the joint venture deal Exxon signed Tuesday with the state company Rosneft to explore for oil in the Russian sector of the Arctic Ocean and in the Black Sea. Rosneft, in turn, is to gain access to Exxon operations, including oil fields in Texas and the Gulf of Mexico.

Partner beware was the watchword Wednesday in a note to clients by the Eurasia Group, another risk analysis organization.

“The politics of the Russian energy sector remain treacherous, as the 31st of August raid on BP’s Moscow office demonstrates,” the note said. Exxon, it said, “will now be deeply engaged in those politics for many years.”

Wednesday’s BP raid stemmed from a lawsuit filed by minority shareholders of the company’s Russian joint venture TNK-BP. They contend BP damaged their stock’s value by entering into a deal earlier this year with Rosneft that unraveled after opposition by the main Russian partners in TNK-BP. That debacle was an embarrassment to Prime Minister Putin, who had originally blessed the BP-Rosneft deal.

An arbitration court, a type of Russian civil court, in the Siberian city of Tyumen authorized Wednesday’s search of the Moscow offices, according to both BP and a lawyer for the minority shareholders. The target of the search was apparently documents subpoenaed in the lawsuit, which BP had balked at surrendering, according to Vladimir Buyanov, a BP spokesman.

The agents who raided BP’s offices on the 17th and 18th floors of the Lotte Plaza, a high-rise on Moscow’s Garden Ring, wore commando-style uniforms with yellow shoulder patches saying “Special Forces,” according to BP employees.

The agents were escorting two investigators from the Russian federal bailiff service, who were not armed. The police ushered employees out, and began rifling through papers.

Despite the assault rifles, “there was no great panic,” one BP employee said. “I was able to come up and get my keys” even after the armed men arrived.

The employee, who insisted on anonymity, described the armed police as polite and not overtly intimidating. “They were just a group of comrades with the badges of special forces, in black outfits, with assault rifles — nothing extraordinary.”

One policeman “slightly” pushed an employee with the butt of a rifle, to encourage him to get out of his chair faster, according to two employees who were present.

“We believe that these legal actions are without merit and appear to be part of a pressure campaign against BP’s business in Russia,” Jeremy Huck, the president of BP Russia, said in an interview.

It is not the first time BP has been the star of a masky show.

In 2008, the Federal Security Service, a successor agency to the K.G.B., arrested an employee in the headquarters of the TNK-BP venture, just up Arbat Street from the BP offices, on charges of industrial espionage that were later dropped.

That same year, labor and immigration authorities stripped visas and work permits from BP’s expatriate executives — including Robert Dudley, who was then the director of TNK-BP and is now BP’s chief executive. Mr. Dudley was compelled to leave Russia and run TNK-BP from an undisclosed location.

Whatever the legal issues, and the relative merits, foreign businessmen in Moscow have for years implored the government to refrain from conducting such raids in white-collar cases. Their protests have had little effect.

In February, masked and armed law enforcement agents raided Deutsche Bank’s main office in Moscow, looking for documents related to a commercial mortgage.

In November, masked police officers armed with automatic weapons raided a bank belonging to the billionaire Aleksandr Y. Lebedev, a part owner of the national airline Aeroflot.

“It’s fine to do business there,” Mr. Lasov, the risk consultant, said in a telephone interview from Washington. “But you should do business with those sorts of expectations.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=b191c0376fcfef64b52f93dce88601cf