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BUSINESS NEWS JAN 18, 2008
Due to a technical problem on Wednesday Jan 16, we are upgrading the news management system which will be completed in coming days.

Business News Headlines to Jan 16 2008

News Links Thurs Jan 17 and Fri Jan 18th

Jan 18 2008 News Links

Average weekly earnings in Irish distribution and business services were up by 4.2 % in September 2007

European Central Bank reports tightening in Eurozone bank lending in the fourth quarter of 2007

Markets News Friday: Shares of leading US bond insurer plunges 51% triggering fears of deepening in credit crisis

Trichet says underlying Eurozone productivity trends are a “disgrace”

Japanese consumer confidence plunges to more than four year low

Friday Newspaper Review - Irish Business News and International Stories

China becomes world's top Gold producer ending South African dominance dating from 1905

Markets News Friday: Shares of leading US bond insurer plunges 51% triggering fears of deepening in credit crisis

Thursday was another grim day in the markets in New York as fears mounted about bond insurers - - key players in a $2.4 trillion market. Stocks had their worst three-day decline since 2002.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 306.95 points, down 2.5%, at 12159.21. All 30 of its components closed lower. The Standard & Poor's 500 lost 2.9%, or 39.95 points, at 1333.25, including slides in all its sectors while the technology-dominant Nasdaq Composite Index was down 2%, or 47.69 points, at 2346.90.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke gave testimony to the House Budget Committee regarding the state of the economy.

Bernanke supported the passing a $150 billion fiscal stimulus package, without backing specific proposals by Republicans or Democrats. The Fed Chief also referred to the risks to economic growth in recent times.

"A number of factors, including continuing increases in energy prices, lower equity prices, and softening home values, seem likely to weigh on consumer spending as we move into 2008,"  Bernanke said.

Also on Thursday, both Moody's Investor Services and Standard & Poor's credit rating unit signaled a likelihood of downgrades of big bond insurers' AAA credit ratings. This would be a serious development.  Credit markets would simply become "illiquid" if firms can no longer be certain that their counterparties can reliably deliver cash and securities, the meaning of good credit.

Shares in bond insurer Ambac Financial Group plunged 52% while competitor MBIA was down nearly 31%. Both are in risk of a downgrade.

The pressure on the traditional bond insurers rose on Wednesday when Ambac said it planned to raise $1bn in equity. Just hours later, Moody’s said it was putting Ambac’s triple-A rating on review for a downgrade.

On Thursday, Moody’s said MBIA’s triple-A rating could also be cut, including ratings of $1bn worth of capital that it raised just last week.

Standard & Poor’s said on Thursday that losses for bond insurers could be 20% higher than previous estimates, raising expectations that it, too, might consider lowering its triple-A credit ratings for Ambac and MBIA.

Jamie Dimon, Chief Executive of JPMorgan, said this week when asked about bond insurers: “What [worries me] is if one of these entities doesn’t make it . . . the secondary effect . . . I think could be pretty terrible.”

Merrill Lynch reported a fourth-quarter net loss of $9.8 billion, as the company took charges of $16.7 billion in losses related to subprime mortgages and other debt instruments. Merrill shares fell 10.24%.

Bank of New York Mellon reported a 68% profit plunge after taking a $118 million write-down related to collateralized debt obligations and a $180 million charge for bringing a conduit onto its balance sheet. The company's shares rose 0.71% Thursday.

Also on Thursday, the US Commerce Department said December housing starts fell 14.2% to a seasonally adjusted 1.006 million annual rate -- the lowest pace since May 1991 -- after falling a revised 7.9% in November. Year over year, housing starts during December were 38.2% below the level of construction in December 2006.

Asia-Pacific stocks were mixed on Friday with little movement in the regional index, the MSCI Asia Pacific.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 rose 0.6% while in Australia, India and Hong Kong, benchmarks fell.

European stocks fell for a third day Thursday by US recession worries.

The Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index fell 0.5 percent to 331.07 and national benchmarks fell in 12 of the 18 markets in western Europe. Germany's DAX fell 0.78% and France's CAC 40 dropped 1.31%. The UK's FTSE 100 dropped 0.68%.

In Dublin, the ISEQ Index rose 0.61%

Most European markets have fallen in early trading Tuesday.

National benchmarks -  Europe

Irish Share Prices

Euribor Rates

AIB Daily Report

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Currencies

The euro is trading at $1.4617 and at £0.7427.

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

Commodities

Crude oil for March delivery is trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange (Nymex) at $90.32 up 19 cents overnight. In London, Brent is trading on the International Commodities Exchange at $89.11 up 36 cents.

Gold spot price

The spot price of gold is at $877.80 per ounce, down $2.10 cents overnight.

China becomes world's top Gold producer ending South African dominance dating from 1905

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