October 20, 2020

Investors Bet on Olympic Construction Boom

TOKYO — Ever since a group of out-of-work samurai pooled their pensions to found Onoda Cement 130 years ago, the company has had its ups and downs: industrialization, a crippling war, Japan’s postwar economic miracle.

But after domestic cement demand peaked in 1990, at the height of Japan’s bubble economy, Taiheiyo Cement, the successor company, and the industry, fell into a seemingly permanent decline in a mature and shrinking Japan.

Tokyo’s victory on Saturday in the race to host the Summer Games for a second time, in 2020, is giving Taiheiyo a new lease on life.

On Monday, a day after Japan reveled in the good news, the stocks of general contractors, property developers and other long-suffering construction-related companies surged in Tokyo, as investors anticipated a construction boom before the 2020 Olympic Games.

Construction companies helped lead a 2.48 percent rise in the Nikkei index to 14,205.23, a one-month high. Taiheiyo’s stock jumped more than 7 percent to its highest level in six years, while Taisei, the contractor that built Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium in 1964, soared 14 percent. Both stocks continued their rapid ascent Tuesday morning.

“We expect Tokyo’s success in bidding for the Olympics to become a very positive catalyst” for Japanese stocks, Hiromichi Tamura, a strategist at Nomura, said in a note to clients.

Helping to elevate shares was a revision of Japan’s second-quarter economic growth figures to an annualized rate of 3.8 percent on the back of strong capital investment. Preliminary estimates had shown growth of 2.6 percent.

The government estimates that hosting the Olympics will increase the economy by 3 trillion yen over the next seven years, or 0.3 percentage points of Japan’s economic growth a year.

But that estimate is too modest, Robert Feldman, head economist for Japan at Morgan Stanley MUFG Securities, wrote in a report last week.

He said that the impact would most likely reach 6 trillion to 8 trillion yen over the next seven years, or 0.7 to 0.8 percent of gross domestic product.

The most visible impact will be in construction. Tokyo has promised to keep costs down by using as many as 15 “legacy” buildings, including three built for the 1964 Games. Still, it will build 22 more sites at an estimated cost of $3.1 billion.

Tokyo’s huge new Olympic Stadium, called the cycling helmet for its space-age design, will seat 80,000 people and cost at least $1.3 billion to build. It will feature a retractable roof – a first for an Olympic Stadium. The city also plans to spend $955 million on a waterfront Olympic Village complex capable of housing 17,000 athletes and trainers.

Naoki Inose, the governor of Tokyo, has called the project “Tokyo’s biggest housing development in decades.”

Investors hunted for more Olympics-related shares. Advertising and travel agencies gained on Monday, as did Japanese sports equipment makers, like Mizuno and Asics.

Sagami Rubber Industries, which says it makes one of the world’s thinnest condoms, with a thickness of only 0.022 millimeters, jumped more than 8 percent during Monday trade, and continued to climb Tuesday. Condoms have been distributed to Olympics athletes since the Seoul Summer Games in 1988. Last year, the London Games distributed more than 150,000 condoms to athletes, according to British media reports.

Taiheiyo Cement is also poised to be one of winners of the Olympic rally.

Analysts at Nomura said that building the stadiums for the Games would require more than three million tons of cement in 2016 through 2019. And total demand for cement could be even greater, as hopes for a tourist influx before the Games prompt developers to plow money into hotels and other commercial projects.

The tide is already beginning to turn at Taiheiyo, as it taps reconstruction demand after Japan’s tsunami and nuclear disasters.

For the fiscal year through March, Taiheiyo’s net profit surged 44 percent from a year earlier to 11.3 billion yen, or $114 million, and the company expects an additional 14.7 percent increase this year, to 13 billion yen.

But how long will an Olympics-fueled rally last? Strategists at Nomura, who studied market patterns after past Olympic announcements, are optimistic. Their analysis shows that stock markets tended to perform well over the longer-term after a successful Olympics bid.

“Once strong investor interest in Olympics hosting-related stocks wanes, the stock market as a whole appreciates,” Mr. Tamura said.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/10/business/global/investors-bet-on-olympic-construction-boom.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

ABC’s Evening News Bests NBC in Coveted Age Group

ABC’s evening newscast, “World News With Diane Sawyer,” bested the longtime leader, “NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams,” among 25- to 54-year-old viewers last week, ending a nearly five-year-long streak by NBC and renewing interest in the once-predictable ratings race.

“NBC Nightly News” remained No. 1 among total viewers, which is traditionally the bragging rights category in television. But ABC’s win is significant because television ads on news programs are bought and sold based on the coveted age group of 25- to 54-year-olds. Ms. Sawyer has been seeking to snap Mr. Williams’s streak in that category for years.

For ABC, it was a narrow victory: just 38,000 viewers ages 25 to 54 separated the two shows. Partly for that reason, people at NBC News cautioned that ABC’s evening show victory could be a one-time aberration. Last spring and summer, though, those same people saw their prized morning show “Today” fall to second place behind ABC’s “Good Morning America,” first in total viewers and then in the 25- to 54-year-old demographic. The “G.M.A.” streak is now nearly one year old.

As is the custom in these bitterly contested ratings competitions, NBC’s news release about the ratings made no mention of ABC’s gains; it simply excluded the 25- to 54-year-old viewership totals and emphasized that “Nightly News” has been winning among total viewers for years. “We are grateful for another consecutive win in total viewers and are focused on producing the best newscast for our audience,” an NBC News spokeswoman said Tuesday morning.

Among total viewers, “Nightly News,” which had an average of 7.54 million viewers last week, beat “World News” by about a quarter of a million. Among viewers ages 25 to 54, “Nightly” had about 1.88 million, 38,000 fewer than “World News.”

ABC said this was its first win since the week of Nov. 17, 2008, shortly after the election of President Obama.

The victory is shared between Ms. Sawyer, who has been the anchor of “World News” since 2009, and David Muir, one of her principal fill-ins. Last week Ms. Sawyer anchored on Monday and Tuesday while Mr. Muir anchored the rest of the week. Mr. Muir and another ABC anchor, George Stephanopoulos, are widely seen within the television industry as the two possible successors to Ms. Sawyer.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/31/business/media/abcs-evening-news-bests-nbc-in-coveted-age-group.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

French Air Traffic Controllers Set to Strike Over Pan-European Plan

PARIS — Air traffic controllers in France have planned three days of strikes beginning Tuesday, to protest a proposal by the European Commission to accelerate the integration of air traffic management systems across the Continent. In addition, their counterparts in several other European countries were expected to take more limited labor action this week.

France’s civil aviation authority made contingency plans over the weekend, asking airlines serving the country’s airports in Paris, Lyon, Nice, Marseille, Toulouse and Bordeaux to reduce their flight schedules by 50 percent from Tuesday morning until late Thursday to ease the burden on those airports, which were expected to face significant disruption.

Unions in more than a half dozen other countries, including Belgium, Hungary, Italy and Portugal, were likely to join in work-to-rule and other more symbolic actions on Wednesday, said Koen Reynaerts, a spokesman for the European Transport Workers’ Federation in Brussels, which represents more than 25,000 workers involved in managing air traffic across the region. Those actions were likely to provoke more limited delays, he said.

The moves are meant to coincide with a speech planned for Tuesday by the European Union’s transportation commissioner, Siim Kallas, in which he was expected to formally announce planned changes to European legislation to speed the transfer of responsibility for certain air traffic management functions to a central body in Brussels and away from the European Union’s 27 member states.

The proposals would also set stricter rules for compliance with a series of annual performance-improvement goals aimed at lowering air traffic management fees, reducing congestion in European skies and easing the burden on the environment.

Air France-KLM, which flew more than 226,000 passengers a day in May, said that it expected significant disruptions and was advising passengers with reservations Tuesday for a flight in France or on a European flight departing or arriving at a French airport to postpone their travel plans if possible. However, the airline said it was making arrangements to accommodate all passengers with intercontinental flight reservations Tuesday, either on its own flights or with another airline. Roughly 30 percent of the company’s flights are to or from cities outside Europe.

An Air France spokesman said schedule information for Wednesday and Thursday would not be available until Tuesday evening.

Ryanair, Europe’s largest budget airline by number of passengers, said on Monday that it planned to cancel 102 flights to and from French airports on Tuesday and warned that other flights passing through French airspace could face delays or disruptions. Also announcing plans to reduce flights serving France were easyJet and Deutsche Lufthansa.

For more than a decade, the European Union has sought to unify a patchwork of national air traffic control systems — part of a master plan known as the Single European Sky. The aim is to streamline a system that officials say adds about 5 billion euros ($6.6 billion) in unnecessary costs each year, not to mention millions of tons of wasted fuel and added carbon emissions. Legislation passed in 2009 envisioned full alignment of operating procedures, technologies and fee structures by 2020.

As a first step, the law mandated that European Union member states merge their various national airspaces into nine “functional airspace blocs” by the end of 2012. The European Commission, however, argues that the blocs exist today largely on paper and that none of them are fully operational almost six months after the deadline.

In remarks prepared for Tuesday in Strasbourg, Mr. Kallas compared the Single European Sky to a desert mirage. “Each time you get close,” he said, “it seems to move farther away.”

Mr. Kallas’s proposed changes would confer more power on Eurocontrol, an agency in Brussels that is already responsible for coordinating the flow of air traffic across the European Union and an additional 12 nearby countries.

They also include a proposal to break up state-owned monopolies that are responsible for air navigation, meteorology, surveillance and other services in many member states. Such services would be separated from national regulatory and oversight tasks and opened to competition from private companies.

The European transport workers’ union has criticized the commission’s approach to air traffic reform as “dogmatic.” François Ballestero, political secretary for the union’s civil aviation sector, said in a statement that while its members supported the ultimate goal of a unified European airspace, they would not accept a performance program “dominated by cost reduction” that jeopardizes existing jobs or affects existing collective agreements.

The union also rejected the “mandatory unbundling” of support services like weather forecasts and flight routing information, he said.

Brussels claims that such services are among the biggest cost drivers in managing European air traffic.

“We need to boost the competitiveness of the European aviation sector and create more jobs in the airlines and at airports,” Mr. Kallas said.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/11/business/global/french-air-traffic-controllers-set-to-strike.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Cyprus Bailout Backlash Promises Crucial Test for Germany

The backlash in Cyprus and, indeed, around the world has prompted fresh concerns about solidarity in Europe and the ability of the currency union to hold together in the long run with such divergent economies and public interests.

If, despite the controversy, the bailout deal for Cyprus remains contained to the small Mediterranean island, with no significant implications for the rest of the euro zone, it could prove a validation of the German approach. However, a further fracturing of euro zone unity could show once and for all that Germany and its disciplinarian allies have overplayed their hand.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has thus far set the tone in Europe, wielding the country’s overwhelming economic strength and influence to ensure that austerity and budget consolidation dominate as the solution to a debt crisis now three years old. Recently, Italian voters sent a stiff rejoinder, rejecting the technocratic government of Prime Minister Mario Monti and giving more votes to the protest party of a comedian and even to the party of Ms. Merkel’s bête noire, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The struggles of ordinary savers in Cyprus strike a chord that resonates not only in Southern Europe but also here in Germany. The image of Cyprus within Europe and worldwide has quickly flipped from that of a shadowy refuge for Russian money launderers to the home of honest pensioners whose accounts are being raided to pay for banks’ missteps.

“It’s difficult to see how Germany comes out of this one strengthened,” said Jacques Cailloux, chief European economist at Nomura, the global investment bank, in London. “There is a point at which the conditionality they impose is so stretched that the other countries are not going to sign up for it anymore.”

Even after the Cypriot president, Nicos Anastasiades, revised the terms on Tuesday morning to exempt depositors with less than $26,000 in their accounts, Parliament rejected the bailout deal on Tuesday night, as Cypriot protesters demonstrated in the streets with anti-German banners. But German officials have not backed down, saying essentially that Cyprus has no choice but to come up with billions to cover its side of the deal.

“As long as there is no program, the liquidity assistance for the Cypriot banks is endangered,” said a German government official, speaking on condition of anonymity on Tuesday because the negotiations had not been completed. “That’s difficult,” the official added, “but that’s the situation.”

Many in Germany still advocate the hard line on bailouts that the government has taken, with the support of allies like the Netherlands, Finland and Slovakia. “We can’t go on the way we have been,” said Tilman Mayer, a professor of political science at the University of Bonn. “We have to set an example or this could know no bounds.”

The cynical reading is that Ms. Merkel has stayed tough out of concern for her re-election chances in September’s parliamentary elections. “The rescue package for Cyprus is written in the handwriting of German domestic politics,” said Thomas Poguntke, professor of comparative politics at the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf. “But taking the savings breaks a taboo.”

Along with the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, the Germans are sticking to the principle that countries that mismanage their banks and government finances must endure pain as the price of financial help — even if ordinary citizens are the ones who suffer.

Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund and one of the officials who worked out the Cyprus plan in Brussels last week, said Tuesday in Frankfurt that she was in favor of changing the plan to burden ordinary depositors less. But she quickly added that Cyprus would still need to contribute $7.5 billion to the bank rescue, as promised.

“Now is the time for the authorities to deliver on what they have committed,” Ms. Lagarde said.

Nicholas Kulish reported from Berlin, and Jack Ewing from Frankfurt. James Kanter contributed reporting from Brussels.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/20/world/europe/cyprus-bailout-backlash-promises-crucial-test-for-germany.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: Rich and Proud of It, Saudi Billionaire Prefers Bloomberg’s To Forbes

It’s report card time for the world’s billionaires and one contender is balking about his grades. But as journalism about the world’s wealthy grows, this billionaire now can take his complaints to a competitor.

Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal of Saudi Arabia who appeared in the Forbes annual billionaire’s list published this week said that he will no longer cooperate with Forbes on its lists and asked that he no longer be included in the rankings. As a dig to Forbes, he has promised to continue to cooperate with Bloomberg on its far newer billionaire rankings.

After the Forbes rankings were posted online on Monday, the prince announced in a news release that his team has worked with Forbes for the last six years and uncovered what they called “intentional biases and inconsistencies in the Forbes valuation process.” The prince added that “he could no longer participate in a process which resulted in the use of incorrect data and seemed intended to disadvantage Middle Eastern investors and institutions.”

A spokeswoman for Forbes Media noted that the prince has plenty to be pleased about: his ranking rose to 26 for a $20 billion net worth from a ranking of 29 the year before for a net worth of $18 billion. The spokeswoman said it’s just $9.6 billion less than the prince claims he is worth.

On Tuesday morning, Forbes released an article that showed just how long this battle has been simmering between Forbes and its editors. Kerry A. Dolan, who reports on the wealthy and the Forbes billionaire’s list, wrote that Forbes has engaged with the prince over “a quarter century of lobbying, cajoling and threatening when it comes to his net worth listing.” Ms. Dolan added that “of the 1,426 billionaires on our list, not one — not even the vainglorious Donald Trump — goes to greater measure to try to affect his or her ranking.” In one case, the prince grew so upset about a prior ranking that “he called me at home the day after the list was released, sounding nearly in tears. ‘What do you want?’ he pleaded.”

Ms. Dolan said that Forbes had started to further investigate the prince’s net worth based on the guidance of former employees who noted that, based on fluctuations in his company’s stock price, that he was using the public company to inflate his net worth. In fact, the magazine tracked how the prince’s company’s stock price seems to rise in the ten weeks before Forbes locks in its values for the billionaire’s list.

A Forbes spokeswoman said that it would continue to feature the prince on future lists. Mike Perlis, president and chief executive officer of Forbes, added that the prince had an amicable interview with Steve Forbes before a crowd of several hundred tycoons during the Forbes Global CEO conference in Dubai in October.

But moving forward, the prince announced he would cooperate with Bloomberg on its billionaires list. Bloomberg just started publishing a billionaires’ list last March after Matthew G. Miller, former global wealth editor at Forbes Media, moved there and started tapping into Bloomberg’s 2,400 journalists to contribute. The prince said in a statement that he would continue to work with Bloomberg because they use “a more accurate method of calculating financial holdings.”

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/05/rich-and-proud-of-it-saudi-billionaire-leaves-forbes-list-for-bloombergs/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Fed Chairman Defends Stimulus Efforts

Mr. Bernanke, in written testimony submitted to the Senate Banking Committee, also urged Congress and the Obama administration to replace the sequestration cuts scheduled to begin Friday with a plan to reduce federal deficits more gradually.

“Although monetary policy is working to promote a more robust recovery, it cannot carry the entire burden of ensuring a speedier return to economic health,” Mr. Bernanke said. He warned that the combination of previous spending cuts and sequestration “could create a significant headwind for the economic recovery.”

Still, Mr. Bernanke was relatively upbeat about the health of the broader economy, which he described as growing at a “moderate if somewhat uneven pace.”

He said disappointing growth in the fourth quarter “does not appear to reflect a stalling-out of the recovery.” Consumer demand kept rising and, he said, “Available information suggests that economic growth has picked up again this year.”

Mr. Bernanke, who reports to Congress on monetary policy twice each year, used his written testimony to strongly defend the Fed’s expansion of its economic stimulus campaign in September and December to reduce unemployment more quickly. He will answer questions from the Senate committee Tuesday morning, then testify before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday morning.

The Fed, which has amassed almost $3 trillion in Treasury and mortgage-backed securities, is expanding those holdings by $85 billion a month until it sees clear improvement in the labor market. It plans to hold short-term interest rates near zero even longer, at least until the unemployment rate falls below 6.5 percent.

“In the current economic environment, the benefits of asset purchases, and of policy accommodation more generally, are clear,” Mr. Bernanke said. “Monetary policy is providing important support to the recovery” while keeping inflation in check.

The asset purchases and the interest-rate policy are designed to reduce borrowing costs for businesses and consumers. Mr. Bernanke said the recovery of the housing market and higher sales of automobiles, among other durable goods, demonstrated the benefit of the Fed’s campaign.

Fed Governor Jeremy C. Stein and some other Fed officials have expressed concern in recent months that low interest rates are encouraging excessive risk-taking by investors pursuing higher returns. Mr. Stein in a recent speech highlighted rising demand for junk bonds and certain kinds of real estate investments, and shifts in bank balance sheets, as areas of potential concern.

Mr. Bernanke said Tuesday that the Fed takes these concerns “very seriously,” noting that the central bank has significantly expanded its efforts to monitor financial markets, and has given greater priority to financial regulation.

But he noted that low interest rates also were helping to strengthen the financial system, by encouraging companies to increase reliance on long-term funding, allowing debt levels to decline and strengthening growth.

He added that he saw no reason to consider a change in course.

“To this point we do not see the potential costs of the increased risk-taking in some financial markets as outweighing the benefits of promoting a stronger economic recovery and more rapid job creation,” Mr. Bernanke said.

He also downplayed the concern expressed by some Fed officials and analysts that the central bank’s plans to control inflation as the economy recovers could be complicated by a political backlash because it may lose money as it sheds some of its vast holdings of Treasuries and mortgage bonds.

Such losses could be large enough to prevent the Fed from transferring profits to the Treasury Department for the first time since 1934, according to a Fed analysis.

Mr. Bernanke, noting the Fed has transferred $290 billion to Treasury since 2009, said it was “highly likely” Treasury still would see a net benefit from the purchases because any losses would not exceed those profits.

“Moreover, to the extent that monetary policy promotes growth and job creation, the resulting reduction in the federal deficit would dwarf any variation in the Federal Reserve’s remittances to the Treasury,” he said.

When Mr. Bernanke last appeared before Congress in July, he identified three major obstacles to faster growth: the depressed housing market, the financial crisis in Europe, and American fiscal policy. In his prepared testimony Tuesday, he did not mention Europe and barely touched on housing. But he warned that government policy was continuing to slow the pace of economic growth.

The recent agreements to reduce deficits, Mr. Bernanke said, focused on short-term spending cuts while doing little to address longer-term imbalances.

“To address both the near- and longer-term issues,” he said, “the Congress and the administration should consider replacing the sharp, front-loaded spending cuts required by the sequestration with policies that reduce the federal deficit more gradually in the near term but more substantially in the longer run.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/27/business/economy/fed-chairman-defends-stimulus-efforts.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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

Wheels Blog: Toyota to Pay Record $17.35 Million Fine for Delaying Recall

For the fourth time in two years, Toyota has agreed to pay fines related to allegations of delaying safety recalls.Kimimasa Mayama/European Pressphoto Agency For the fourth time in two years, Toyota has agreed to pay fines related to allegations of delaying safety recalls.

For the fourth time, Toyota has agreed to pay a fine to settle allegations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that the automaker delayed a safety recall.

In a news release Tuesday morning, the safety agency said Toyota would pay $17.35 million, the maximum allowed by law.

Toyota did not admit any wrongdoing and said it was paying the fine to avoid a continued dispute with the safety agency. The automaker said the same thing when agreeing to pay the three previous fines, which totaled $48.8 million.

The recall the safety agency says was delayed occurred last June and covered 154,036 sport utility vehicles — the 2010 Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h — to fix a problem that might allow the floor mat to become snagged on the gas pedal.

The safety agency contends that those vehicles should have been included in an October 2009 recall of 3.8 million vehicles for the same issue.

But the agency says it wasn’t until early this year — after it contacted Toyota about consumer complaints of floor-mat problems on the two 2010 Lexus models — that the automaker agreed the recall should be expanded.

In a statement Toyota said it was “dedicated to the safety of our customers and we continue to strengthen our data collection and evaluation process to ensure we are prepared to take swift action to meet customers’ needs.”

The safety agency described the $17.35 million fine as a record. That is the maximum currently allowed by law; the amount is periodically increased to reflect inflation.

Some consumer safety advocates, like Clarence Ditlow, the executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, have long argued that such amounts are no more than a “rounding error” for automakers and that to make companies take their responsibility more seriously, auto executives should face criminal penalties.

The previous fines occurred in April 2010 and twice in December 2010.

Toyota routinely describes its recalls as “voluntary,” but under federal regulations once a manufacturer is aware of a safety problem it has five business days to inform the agency of its plan for a recall.

Article source: http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/toyota-to-pay-record-17-35-million-fine-for-delaying-recall/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: The Breakfast Meeting: Nielsen Buys Arbitron, and Instagram’s New Ad-Friendly Rules

Nielsen Holdings announced Tuesday morning that it would be acquiring Arbitron, the radio ratings company, for $1.26 billion, Michael de la Merced reported. The acquisition price amounts to $48 a share in cash for each outstanding share of Arbitron, or a 26 percent premium to Arbitron’s closing price on Monday. The deal was described by Nielsen as part of its effort to track how people view and listen to media programs, which can be delivered in an increasing array of formats.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

NBC News’ chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, was freed after being held for five days by gunmen in Syria, an ordeal he detailed on Tuesday morning on the “Today” show. He described how he and his crew were traveling with Syrian rebels and were captured by a group who emerged suddenly from behind the bushes. The release came at the hands of rebels, who stopped the kidnappers at a checkpoint — by the time he and two of his crew members appeared on “Today” they were in Turkey.

  • The kidnapping, Brian Stelter and Bill Carter write, once again highlights the perils of reporting from Syria, which is said by the Committee to Protect Journalists to be “the world’s most dangerous place for the press.” Mr. Engel has made frequent trips to Syria — on Thursday, NBC News aired a report of his from Syria’s commercial center, Aleppo, where the fighting has been intense.

While lacking a breakout hit like last year’s biography of Steven Jobs, independent bookstores are reporting that sales are up this year, Leslie Kaufman reports. Rather, they say a range of unexpectedly popular titles, including Barbara Kingsolver’s “Flight Behavior” and Chris Ware’s complex graphic novel “Building Stories” have made up the slack. The picture was more mixed at Barnes Noble, the nation’s largest book chain, which is investing heavily in digital books, and solid but not stellar growth in digital sales.

The photo-sharing site Instagram announced new terms of service for its users as part of its integration within Facebook, which acquired the company in April. The new terms, Jenna Wortham and Nick Bilton write, give Facebook great latitude in using pictures that are shared through the service starting Jan. 16, when they go into effect. They provide a list of the changes, which include: “Instagram can share information about its users with Facebook, its parent company, as well as outside affiliates and advertisers,” and “Ads may not be labeled as ads.” And a final term: “The only way to opt out of the new Instagram terms is to not use the service.”

  • The anger at the changes is fast growing, with Instagram users taking to Twitter to vent.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/the-breakfast-meeting-nielsen-buys-arbitron-and-instagrams-new-ad-friendly-rules/?partner=rss&emc=rss

President Delivers a New Offer on the Fiscal Crisis to Boehner

The offer is close to a plan proposed by the speaker on Friday, and both sides expressed confidence that they were closing in on a major deficit-reduction plan that could be passed well before January, when more than a half-trillion dollars in automatic tax increases and spending cuts would kick in.

Senior Republican aides said the speaker was to meet with House Republicans on Tuesday morning to discuss the state of negotiations. But they cautioned that obstacles remained.

“Any movement away from the unrealistic offers the president has made previously is a step in the right direction,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner. “We hope to continue discussions with the president so we can reach an agreement that is truly balanced and begins to solve our spending problem.”

The two sides are now dickering over price, not philosophical differences, and the numbers are very close.

Mr. Boehner had offered the president a deficit framework that would raise $1 trillion over 10 years, with the details to be settled next year by Congress’s tax-writing committees and the Obama administration. In response, Mr. Obama reduced his proposal to $1.2 trillion from $1.4 trillion on Monday at a 45-minute meeting with the speaker at the White House. That was down from $1.6 trillion initially.

The White House plan would permanently extend Bush-era tax cuts on household incomes below $400,000, meaning that only the top tax bracket, 35 percent, would increase to 39.6 percent. The current cutoff between the top rate and the next highest rate, 33 percent, is $388,350.

On spending, the two sides are also converging.

The White House says the president’s plan would cut spending by $1.22 trillion over 10 years, compared with $1.2 trillion in cuts from the Republicans’ initial offer. Of that, $800 billion is cuts to programs, and $122 billion comes from adopting a new measure of inflation that slows the growth of government benefits, especially Social Security. The White House is also counting on $290 billion in savings from lower interest costs on a reduced national debt.

Of the $800 billion in straight cuts, the president said half would come from federal health care programs; $200 billion from other so-called mandatory programs, like farm price supports, not subject to Congress’s annual spending bills; $100 billion from military spending; and $100 billion from domestic programs under Congress’s annual discretion.

To make all this happen, Mr. Obama proposed fast-track procedures to help Congressional tax writers overhaul the individual and corporate tax code and make changes to other programs.

Senior Republican aides made it clear that differences remain. For instance, they say the president is still pressing for $1.3 trillion in higher taxes because the change in the way inflation is calculated would not only slow the growth of spending but also raise more revenue by slowing the rate at which tax brackets rise each year with the cost of living. That would mean that incomes would probably grow faster than the rise in tax brackets, pushing people more quickly into higher tax rates.

They also disagree with the president over counting lower interest payments on the national debt as savings.

“A proposal that includes $1.3 trillion in revenue for only $930 billion in spending cuts cannot be considered balanced,” said another spokesman for Mr. Boehner, Michael Steel, using the Republicans’ calculation for the president’s offer.

The president is also insisting on some protections for what he has called the “most vulnerable populations,” which Republican aides said they had not been expecting. The new inflation calculations, for instance, would probably not affect wounded veterans and disabled people on Supplemental Security Income.

And Mr. Obama is sticking by his request for additional upfront spending on infrastructure and an extension of expiring unemployment benefits.

He would also secure some tax and policy changes long sought by both parties but unattainable in the context of smaller budget deals. His proposal would permanently extend popular business tax breaks like the credit for corporate research and development, permanently stop the expansion of the alternative minimum tax so it does not affect more of the middle class, and stop a long-planned and deep cut to Medicare health providers, which Congress has never had the stomach to allow to kick in.

To keep the country from returning to fiscal showdowns, Mr. Obama wants the government’s borrowing limit to rise high enough to take the issue off the table for two years, although he said that Congress could periodically weigh in and try to override a presidential lifting of the debt ceiling, should it want to.

Senior Republican aides made it clear on Monday night that the plan was not what the speaker had wanted. He had proposed higher income tax rates on income over $1 million. That revenue would be supplemented by reinstating a provision in the tax code — phased out by the Bush-era tax cuts — that automatically limits tax deductions and credits for the affluent. The speaker was also ready to accept a White House proposal from Mr. Obama’s first days in office that would limit tax deductions to 28 percent, trimming back deductions for charitable giving and other activities from the top rate paid by the giver, 35 percent currently.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/us/politics/president-delivers-a-new-offer-on-the-fiscal-crisis-to-boehner.html?partner=rss&emc=rss