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News : International Last Updated: Feb 4, 2013 - 11:30 AM


Markets: Foxconn plans union vote in China; Robots may replace 1.2m workforce
By Finfacts Team
Feb 4, 2013 - 11:26 AM

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Terry Gou, president of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. of Taiwan, Foxconn’s parent, speaks to the media at the company's plant in Shenzhen, a major city in South China's Guangdong Province, May 26, 2010. Gou initiated a media tour at the 300,000 worker plant of Foxconn Technology Group as in the previous five months, 12 employees had jumped from high buildings and 10 died. The migrant workers live at the plant complex and Gou was showing the recreational facilities at the complex, which likely were used by managers. Photo: Xinhua

The Financial Times today reports that Foxconn, the contract manufacturer whose biggest customer is Apple, is preparing genuinely representative labour union elections in its factories in China for the first time, a powerful sign of the changes in the workshop of the world demanded by an increasingly restive workforce.

This would be the first such exercise at a large company in China, where labour unions have traditionally been controlled by management and local government. Foxconn is the country’s largest private sector employer with 1.2m mainland

In 2011, Terry Gou, president of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. of Taiwan, Foxconn’s parent, signed a letter of intent to build a robotic manufacturing hub in the Central Taiwan Science Park. This is reported to be where the robots to work in Foxconn’s factories will be built, and ground was broken on a Research and Design facility for robotics last Saturday. According to Gou, this was the first step towards Hon Hai building a “kingdom of robotics.” According to Gou, the project is expected to generate about $4bn in revenue over the next few years.

According to David J Hall of Singularity University:

"According to a translated page from the Chinese site Techweb, each robot costs between $20,000 to $25,000, which is over three times the average salary of one worker. However, amid international pressure, Foxconn continues to increase worker salaries with a 25 percent bump occurring earlier this year.

It’s worth noting that you can see automation is already part of the manufacturing process at Foxconn, but the new Foxbots are aimed to not merely complement factor workers, but replace them. As the world’s largest manufacturer of electronics, this move wouldn’t be happening unless the robots were ultimately cheaper than human beings."

Justin Doyle, Investec Bank Ireland, said today:

  • "The ECB deliver their monthly rate decision on Thursday. We expect Mr. Draghi et al to hold policy steady, with our view reinforced by President Draghi having dismissed talk that the Committee seriously discussed a downward move in rates last month;
  • With economic indicators having, if anything, strengthened modestly since that last meeting, a steady main refinancing rate at 0.75% seems the most likely outcome;
  • Staying with Europe, EU Leaders are set to meet for their first Summit of 2013. Top of the to do list will be the goal of agreeing a multi year financial framework for the EU, after the failed pre-Christmas negotiations;
  • In China, the first week of the month brings the usual flurry of Chinese economic releases, including CPI inflation, trade figures and new Yuan loans, all for January;
  • However the timing of the Chinese New Year always makes the interpretation of the New Year figures tricky. It landed in January last year but is due in February this year, so we would warn about running away with too much optimism from the year-on-year gains in the indicators."

Cathal Mac Coille, chief economist of Davy, comments: "Friday's US non-farm payrolls buoyed sentiment, with revisions indicating that the US economy has added 5.3m jobs since the beginning of 2010 against 4.2m previously.
Buoyant US non-farm payrolls helps risk appetite

Stock markets rose on Friday following positive news on the health of the US economy. Amongst the European indices, the FTSE 100 was up 1.1%, the CAC 40 1.1% and the Dax 0.7%. The S&P 500 gained 1%. US 10-year treasury yields rose to 2.04%, their highest level since April 2012, and the US dollar pared back losses, with the exchange rate against the euro falling back from a peak of $1.37 to $1.363.

Friday's US non-farm payrolls data indicated jobs growth of 157,000 in January. The January figure was behind expectations. But substantial revisions pushed up jobs growth in November and December to above 200,000. Overall, the revised data indicate that the US economy has added 5.3m jobs, compared with 4.2m previously.

To add to the buoyant jobs figures, the US ISM manufacturing survey rose to 53.1 in January. This suggests that the improvement in global manufacturing surveys through the turn of the year is now being felt in the US. Furthermore, a small rise in the Michigan measure of consumer confidence in January indicated that the impact of the 2% payroll tax rise on confidence, though substantial, may be limited."

Economic View: NTMA set to test market again? Juliet Tennent of Goodbody comments - - "The consequences of the failure of the government to secure a deal on the promissory note have been highlighted again, this time by the rating agency Fitch. The agency has stated that it is unlikely to raise its outlook on Ireland's credit rating without a "substantial deal" with the ECB in regard to the promissory note. By "substantial" the agency means a deal that results in a reduction in the overall gross debt of the sovereign. However, Fitch also made it clear that this is not the outcome it currently expects. Fitch raised its outlook on Ireland's rating from negative to stable last November, the first rating agency to upgrade its outlook on Ireland since the crisis began.

Negotiations surrounding the promissory note have been ongoing for some time and hit a speed bump last week when the ECB rejected a proposal from the government. Regardless negotiations are not focused on reducing the size of the promissory note but extending its maturity which does not meet the requirements of Fitch.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the negotiations on the promissory note, Irish yields have continued to tighten, leading to speculation that the NTMA will take advantage of the current positive market conditions to issue a new 'wish list' 10 year bond sooner rather than later."

Bank of Ireland: BOI commences sales process for New Ireland; Eamonn Hughes of Goodbody comments - - "Press reports over the weekend indicate that Bank of Ireland (BOI) is advancing preparations for the sale of New Ireland, its life and pension’s subsidiary which must be sold by the end of 2013 under the terms of its restructuring plan agreed with the EU in 2010.

Morgan Stanley and IBI have been mandated to manage the sales process with the reports indicating the opening of a virtual data-room and information memorandum in the pipeline. The reports indicate, however, that the sales process is unlikely until H213 with Standard Life a front runner. The Irish Life sale process now appears to be approaching completion, with much speculation of a disposal by the State to Great Western (Canada Life) before end February. The completion of the Irish Life process will be helpful for the timing of the New Ireland sale process. We estimate that New Ireland will be sold on a net asset value of 0.7-0.8x embedded value. The sale of Irish Life is expected to complete at c.0.75x embedded value which would imply no change to our capital estimates."

Asia Markets

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index added 0.7% in Tokyo Monday.

The Nikkei 225 rose 0.62%; China's Shanghai composite index advanced 0.38%; South Korea's Kospi fell 0.23%; Australia's S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.28%; in Mumbai, the Bombay Stock Exchange's Sensex 30 dipped 0.13%.

Europe Markets

In Europe, the Dow Jones Stoxx Europe 600 is up 0.06% in morning trading Monday.

In Dublin, the ISEQ  is up 0.32%.

CRH has slid 0.95%.

European Benchmarks

Irish Share Prices

Key Index Performance Statistics

Euribor Rates

AIB Daily Report

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Currencies

The euro is trading at $1.3589 and at £0.8635.

For live currency updates, check the right-hand column of the Finfacts home page.

The US dollar fell to $1.6038 per euro on Tuesday, July 15, 2008 - an-all time record.

Commodities

The Baltic Dry Index, a measure of shipping costs for dry commodities, hit an all-time High of 11,771 on the 21st of May, 2008. From that time it reversed and on the 5th of December, 2008 it hit a low of 663 - - close to a 1986 low.

On Thursday, July 15, 2010, the index fell for the 35th straight session, by 9 points, or 0.537%, to 1,700 points, Bloomberg report.

On Friday last week, the BDI fell 10 points  or 1.32% to 750 - -  the BDI is up 7.30% in 2013.

Crude oil for March 2013 delivery is currently trading on the Chicago York Mercantile Exchange (CME/Nymex) at $97.15 down 62 cents from Friday's close. In London, Brent for February delivery is trading on the International Commodities Exchange at $116.17. The North Sea benchmark accounts for two-thirds of the global market.

Bloomberg reports that for the first year since the futures were created, Brent crude is poised to overtake West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil as the world’s most-traded commodity.

Daily trading in Brent jumped 14% to average 567,000 contracts in the year to November 20 compared with all of 2011, while WTI fell 17% to 575,000, according to data from the ICE Futures Europe exchange in London and New York Mercantile Exchange compiled by Bloomberg. The number of Brent futures changing hands has exceeded those for WTI every month from April through October, the longest streak since at least 1995.

Brent, produced in the North Sea, is gaining favour among traders because of its role as the benchmark for energy prices from Saudi Arabia to Russia. Prices have climbed 34% in the past two years, reflecting everything from war in Libya to the embargo on Iran. WTI, the main grade in the US, has risen 9% as the nation, which prohibits crude exports, has struggled to clear a glut at Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for Nymex futures.

Gold spot price

The spot price of an oz of gold is trading in New York at $1665.40, up $2.20 from Friday's close in New York.

Gold had hit a record high of $1,921.05 a troy ounce on Sept 06, 2011.

Check out our subscription service, Finfacts Premium , at a low annual charge of €25 - - if you are a regular user of Finfacts, 50 euro cent a week is hardly a huge ask to support the service.

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