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Markets News Afternoon: Standard & Poor's downgrades outlook on US debt to negative; Ernst & Young seeks to halt loans inquiry
By Finfacts Team
Apr 18, 2011 - 5:10 PM

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Members of the press cover President Barack Obama’s meeting with Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, co-chairs of the Fiscal Commission, in the Oval Office, April 14, 2011. Seated on the couch, from left, are Sen. Simpson, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew.

US Debt: Standard & Poor's Ratings Services today downgraded its outlook on the US to negative, saying the US fiscal outlook may become "meaningfully weaker" than that of other major countries if lawmakers cannot control the budget deficit, thereby increasing the risk of a potential downgrade from its triple-A status.

The ratings move came as a surprise and in New York stock indices dipped. 10-year Treasury bonds fell 6/32 to yield 3.432% and the 30-year note dropped 31/32 to yield 4.526%.

Gold futures rose towards the $1,500 level.

Citi: Citigroup, the third-largest US bank, today reported a 32% dip in first-quarter earnings, a smaller drop than analysts expected, as the bank cut reserves for future losses.

Net income was $3bn, or 10 cents a share, compared with $4.43bn, or 15 cents, in the same period last year, the firm said today in a statement.

$3.3bn was transferred from reserves for future losses to generate Citi’s fifth straight positive earnings quarter.

Ernst & Young: TheHigh Court today reserved judgment in a challenge brought by the Big 4 accountancy firm to an investigation into its conduct as auditor when loans to directors of Anglo Irish Bank were concealed over a period of 8 years.

The firm is seeking orders to end an inquiry by special investigator John Purcell, the former Comptroller and Auditor General who was appointed by the Chartered Accountants Regulatory Board of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ireland.

The committee formed the opinion the matter was "one which gave rise to questions of public concern and was also one of complexity and importance."

The court was told that the firm had been co-operating with the investigation but at the end of last month discovered that no actual complaint had been made against it as was required under by-laws governing the board's process.

When the firm sought clarification about the exact nature of the complaint of misconduct being investigated, it discovered no clear issue had been identified. Instead, the investigator's initial findings merely referred to media reports.

The firm wants the decision to appoint the special investigator voided or, alternatively, orders which would allow the firm access to the investigator's findings and the right to make submissions before the findings are finalised. Judgment is due on the challenge on Tuesday May 3.

US Markets

In New York Monday, the Dow fell 205 points or 1.66% to 12,137.

The S&P 500 slid 1.51% and the Nasdaq slipped 1.76%.

Live US Indices

European Markets

The pan-European Dow Jones Stoxx 600 has dipped 1.70% Monday.

In Dublin the ISEQ has fallen 1.74%.

CRH is down 4.06%; Elan is up 2.88%; AIB is off 7.87%.

European benchmarks

Irish share prices

Euribor Interest Rates

Commodities

Crude oil for May delivery is currently trading on the Chicago York Mercantile Exchange (CME/Nymex) at $106.82 per barrel down $2.82 from Friday's close. In London, Brent for May delivery is trading on the International Commodities Exchange at $121.14.

Currencies

The euro is trading at $1.4219 and at £0.8762.

Gold

Gold is trading at $1.494.20 per oz in New York.

The Finfacts Gold Page

Austan Goolsbee & US Economy: Austan Goolsbee, White House Council of Economic Advisers chairman discusses S&P's negative outlook for the U.S.economy, and reaffirms the government's ability to issue or pay debt. CNBC's Steve Liesman weighs in:

Finland in Debate over Portuguese Bailout: “This election result as it is now does not necessarily mean that the Portuguese bailout will be driven down by Finland,”Arild Moen, reporter at Dow Jones Newswire told CNBC about the recent election in Finland. There are four parties in Finland that have said they will support the Portuguese bailout. “With the Social Democrats openly supporting bailouts, that would give a 70 percent majority, or 140 out of 200 seats in Parliament,” Moen said.


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