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Stocks fall after mixed economic data, earnings

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A disappointing report on housing starts made investors nervous about the economy Tuesday and sent stocks lower even as profits at many companies exceed expectations.

Stocks fell from 2009 highs after the Commerce Department said home building rose less than expected in September, a discouraging signal for future construction activity.

The market will get another measure of the housing market’s health Friday with a report on existing home sales. After several months of encouraging data on housing, investors have become disappointed in recent weeks with signs that a recovery in home building and home sales is starting to falter, which could bode poorly for the broader economy.

A rebound in the dollar from a 14-month low against other major currencies also hurt stocks by driving down commodity prices and, in turn, hurting energy and materials companies.

The housing data and the stronger dollar overshadowed strong earnings reports from Apple Inc., Caterpillar Inc. and health insurer UnitedHealth Group Inc.

There was more trouble for stocks from a Labor Department report finding that energy prices pushed U.S. wholesale prices lower in September, leaving a larger-than-expected monthly drop in the producer price index. That report helped lift the bond market, however, which tends to rise on signs of muted inflation and slow economic growth.

But Schaeffer’s Investment Research analyst Todd Salamone said the market’s ability to avoid a big slide is an encouraging sign.

“We’ve got a report that’s disappointing and the bears haven’t really gained control here,” he said. “It’s a good excuse just to take a breather.”

According to preliminary calculations, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 50.71, or 0.5 percent, to 10,041.48.

The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 6.85, or 0.6 percent, to 1,091.06, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 12.85, or 0.6 percent, to 2,163.47.

Treasury prices rose, pushing their yields lower, after the drop in producer prices. Inflation is a worry for bond investors because rising prices can eat into returns. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 3.34 percent from 3.39 percent late Monday.

The dollar and gold rose. Crude oil lost ground for the first time in a week, falling 52 cents to settle at $79.09 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil rose to $80.05 during the day, its highest level in a year.

The day’s slide came as investors navigate a busy week of corporate earnings reports for signals about the economy. Profits have topped expectations but many companies have relied on slashing costs to boost profits as they did in the first half of the year. That has some analysts worried.

Dan Cook, senior market analyst at IG Markets in Chicago, is concerned that companies aren’t bringing in more revenue. He noted that reducing costs by laying off workers adds to the problems facing the overall economy.

“We call it cost-cutting because that’s kind of the nice term, but in reality a lot of those are consumers,” he said.

Cook said companies won’t be able to keep coming up with earnings that top expectations if improved profits don’t translate to a stronger economy.

“Right now we’re on a divergent path,” he said, referring to earnings and the economy. “It’s only a matter of time before that has to catch up.”

Russell Croft, portfolio manager at Croft Leominster Investment Management in Baltimore, contends that for now, any improvement in profits are good.

“In these tough times any kind of earnings power that these companies are talking about whether it’s revenue growth or cost-cutting — we’re happy about it,” he said.

Apple reported much stronger profits after the markets closed on Monday, citing big gains in sales of iPhones and Mac computers. Texas Instruments’ results came in above the improved forecast the chip maker issued last month.

Apple closed up $8.90, or 4.7 percent, at $198.76, after trading at a 12-month high of $201.75. Texas Instruments rose 14 cents to $23.66.

Caterpillar rose $1.76, or 3 percent, to $59.61, while UnitedHealth Group jumped $1.04, or 4.2 percent, to $25.96.

Two stocks fell for every one that rose on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.2 billion shares compared with 1.1 billion Monday.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 8.93, or 1.4 percent, to 613.41.

Overseas, Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.7 percent, Germany’s DAX index lost 0.7 percent and France’s CAC-40 fell 0.5 percent. Japan’s Nikkei stock average rose 1 percent.

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Business

More Youths Engage In Artisanal Refining

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As unemployment bites harder amidst rising cost of living, more youths in rural communities in Rivers State are now going into artisanal refining business to earn a living.
The Tide reliably gathered that some youths residing in Port Harcourt City were gradually moving to rural communities for bunkering business otherwise known as ‘kpo-fire’ 
Narrating his experience to The Tide, Mr Godwin Ibeneme who resides in Rumuekini in Akpor, said he was introduced into the kpor-fire business by his father.
Ibeneme, who hails from Ibaa/ Obelle area of Emohua Local Government Area, said his father compelled him to join other youths who were thriving in the business in the community.
“My father came to my house here in Rumuekini, and told me to come to the village, that other young men are making it through kpo-fire’ bunkering since I have lost my job.
“ I didn’t waste time to give it a trial, because I had really looked for what to do, since I lost my job at a fast-food company. Since then, I can tell you that I have been taking care of myself, unlike before when everything looked hopeless”, he explained.
The Tide also learnt that the kpo-fire’ business was currently thriving in Isiokpo axis of Ikwerre Local Government Area of the state.
A resident of the community who pleaded anonymity, told The Tide that there was a high level of discrimination in the business.
According to him, he decided to engage himself at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, to hustle for his daily bread, instead of staying idle.
The Tide recalls that the Federal Government had promised to build modular refineries in the Niger Delta region since 2019 as an alternative to illegal oil bunkering in the region as well as to create employment for the youth. 
The Tide also reports that three years after the promise was made, nothing has been done in that regard.

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Oyigbo Cassava Plant, Legacy Project   -Akawor

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The Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State, Amb. Desmond Akawor, says the cassava plant project, being executed by the Rivers State Government in Oyigbo is a legacy project that will generate huge employment for Rivers people.
He said the project was well thought out and would stand the test of time to tackle unemployment as well as ensure food availability in the state.
Akawor made the remarks during an interaction with journalists at the weekend in Port Harcourt.
According to him, the cassava plant which was supposed to be executed by the previous administrations, was initially planned to be a joint venture between the state government and some organisations, but that the other partners did not pay their counterpart funding.
“The steps taken by the Wike-led administration to bring this project to life without the counterpart funding is commendable, because of the huge economic benefits it will give to the state.
“Many people have also been employed at the construction sites of flyovers being executed by Julius Berger. Eighty percent of those working there are indigenes, while the company provides the expatriates”, he said.
The  PDP chairman also hinted on the plans of the state government to privatise the Buguma fish farm and banana farm, among others, so as to make them more viable.
He said that the state government had not abandoned the projects initiated by the previous administration, but was thinking on what to do with them. 
Akawor maintained that the employment of 5,000 persons into the civil service was still ongoing, saying the government is only taking time to ensure that indigenes of the state are employed.

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PH Airport Resumes Skeletal International Flight Operations

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Skeletal flight operations have resumed at the international wing of the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa.
This follows the lifting of the curfew that was imposed in the state by the Rivers State Government to check cases of insecurity in the state.
The Tide’s checks show that many of the airlines that operate international flights are yet to resume flight operations, even though the coast is clear for them to resume operations.
The Cronaux Airline, it was gathered, is the only airline at the moment that has fully resumed international flight.
Other airlines that operate at the international wing, like the Lufthansa Airline, Turkish Airline, and Ethiopian Airline are yet to resume operations. 
The Acting Head of Corporate Affairs, FAAN, Kunle Akinbode, confirmed the resumption of international flight operations at the airport, last Friday, saying the international wing is now open for international airlines to operate.
He explained that the curfew that was imposed in the state delayed the resumption of international flights operations, even when issues of Covid-19 standard protocols had been addressed.
“Now that the curfew is over and the international wing is open for flight operations, it is left for each of the airlines to work out its own schedule for operations.
“It will not be the duty of the airport management to sort things out for them and know when to resume. I know that some have started. Lufthansa has said they will resume next month, August”, Akinbode said.
The Tide reports that the international wing of the Port Harcourt Airport had been shut since the Covid-19 lockdown, and did not reopen when other international airports in Lagos, Abuja and Kano among others reopened for international operations.

Stories by Corlins Walter

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