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Stocks Climb On Fed’s Rate Forecast, Earnings

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Stocks were rising Thursday after the Federal Reserve’s pledge to keep interest rates low for a prolonged period and strong earnings from several corporate heavyweights.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average  was rising 45.1 points at 12,802. The S&P 500  was up 3.3 points at 1,329, and the Nasdaq  was up 6.5 points at  2,824.

Stocks closed higher Wednesday after the Federal Open Market Committee announced its decision to hold interest rates low until late  2014.

Markets continued to receive some cheer from the Federal Reserve’s announcement to keep interest rates at very low levels until late 2014 to stimulate the U.S. economy. Although the announcement highlighted ongoing struggles in the economy, it also indicated that the Fed is willing to step in and help.

In corporate news, Caterpillar, the construction and mining equipment maker, handily beat expectations Thursday. The company’s fourth-quarter earnings, excluding items, came in at $2.32 a share, while analysts expected a profit of $1.73 a share. Caterpillar reported record revenue of $17.24 billion, higher than the forecast for $16.05 billion. For 2012, Caterpillar expects earnings of $9.25 a share, or a range of $68 billion to $72 billion.

Telco giant AT&T  beat estimates as sales of the iPhone soared to a record high. The company gained 717,000 subscribers on monthly contracts, while iPhone activations soared to 7.6 million. Earnings fell to 42 cents a share, slight short of the forecast for 43 cents. However, sales rose 3.6 percent to $32.5 billion, beating the expectation for $31.95 billion. AT&T withdrew its $39 billion proposal to buy T-Mobile USA in December after regulators said the deal would decrease competition in the sector.

Meanwhile,3M Co  reported higher-than-expected quarterly earnings on Thursday as demand from industrial and transport markets offset weak sales to makers of consumer electronics.

The maker of Post-It notes, Scotch tape and components for consumer electronics reported net earnings of $954 million, or $1.35 per share, compared with $928 million, or $1.28 per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average were expecting a profit of $1.31 a share, according to Reuters report.

Sales rose 6 percent to $7.1 billion, matching Wall Street estimates. 3M’s industrial and transportation segment sales jumped 14 percent, reflecting healthy auto, aerospace and energy markets, among others, as well as acquisitions. Sales at 3M segments that make office supplies and health and safety also rose.

Revenue fell, however, in the display and graphics segment, hurt by what 3M called “deteriorating” demand for consumer electronics. Its electro and communications also posted lower sales.

Minneapolis-based 3M affirmed its forecast of 2012 earnings between $6.25 and $6.50 per share, saying it would focus on its bottom line in the near-term in a slower growth environment .

3M has said acquisitions would boost this year’s results. This month, it moved to expand its office supply business with the $550 million cash purchase of Avery Dennison Corp’s office and consumer products unit, which includes Avery labels and HI-LITERS markers

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Crude Hits Seven-Year High On Recovery Hope … Equity Rally Runs Out

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Crude oil hit a more than seven-year high yesterday on optimism that the global recovery will ramp up demand.
However, concerns about the end of long-running central bank support and rising Treasury yields saw most equity markets reverse early gains.
After an almost uninterrupted rally from the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, world markets are showing signs of levelling out as global finance chiefs shift from economy-boosting largesse to measures aimed at reining in inflation.
Still, there is an expectation that equities will enjoy further gains this year as countries reopen and people grow more confident about travel, especially as studies suggest the more prevalent Omicron coronavirus variant appears to be milder and as vaccines are rolled out.
Analysts are also watching the corporate earnings season that is underway, with hopes that firms can match their stellar performances last year.
But while Asian markets started the day brightly after Monday’s travails, traders returned to selling, with US Treasury yields surging on expectations the Federal Reserve will have to unveil several interest rate hikes to tackle a worrying spike in inflation. Wall Street was closed Monday.
Tokyo, Hong Kong, Sydney, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei, Mumbai, Bangkok and Jakarta all fell.
There were gains in Shanghai in hopes of fresh economy-boosting measures, while Wellington and Manila also edged up.
London, Paris and Frankfurt all fell at the open.
But oil built on its early promise, with Brent climbing to $88.13 a barrel and WTI hitting $85.74, both levels not seen since October 2014.
The gains came thanks to demand optimism as the world reopens and concerns about Omicron ease. The loosening of travel restrictions in several countries has seen jet fuel costs soar.
Hopes for more monetary easing by major consumer, China, to reinforce its stuttering economy were also seen as key support for the oil market.

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NPA, MWUN, Others Synergise On Labour

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President General of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Comrade Adewale Adeyanju, has reaffirmed commitment to ensuring smooth working relationship with  management, Tin Can Island Port Complex (TCIPC) of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) on labour related issues.
Adeyanju, who made the commitment during a working visit to the Port Manager, TCIPC, Mr. Buba Jubril, in Lagos, noted that the union will continue to promote industrial peace and harmony in the  operational activities at seaports.
Noting that synergy among all the maritime stakeholders was key for port efficiency, he hinted that the union has changed the narrative from being tagged as hooligans to a more responsible and civil Institution in the maritime industry.
Earlier, the Port Manager, TCIPC, Buba Jubril, thanked the  PG of MWUN for the systematic approach on labour related issues at the port level
Disclosing that the PG has been instrumental to the existing peace in port operations, Jubril assured on the existing synergy the port authority and all the unions.
Jubril further said that “ Myself and the President General MWUN has come a long in the industry.
“I have known him (PG) for over 33years and that will tell you that he is my friend and friend to management of the Nigeria port authority”, he said.

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Osinbajo Wants More Stakeholders’ Involvement In Blue Economy … Inaugurates Committee

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Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has sought for wider participation of relevant stakeholders in the blue economy project to deepen participation and benefits of Nigerians from the country’s marine resources.
Making the call at the  inaugural meeting of an Expanded Committee on Sustainable Blue Economy in Nigeria at the Presidential Villa yesterday, the Vice President said “a viable blue economy project will offer vista of opportunities not only for littoral states where there are bodies of waters, but for the entire country”.
He identified areas to be exploited to include ports, terminals, fishing, training, environment, tourism, power,oil and gas.
While identifying possible challenges of sustainability, the VP urged all the ministries, departments and agencies to strengthen their collaborations in an atmosphere of inter ministerial working groups and advised all members to attend the meetings faithfully for maximum results.
Osinbajo , who formally inaugurated the expanded committee, identified the need for a legal framework that will be more robust than other international maritime conventions on blue economy, which Nigeria has been signatory to.
He said the scope and participation of the committee will be further improved upon to accommodate more members from government agencies and relevant private sector stakeholders
“There is no doubt that the blue economy is a new frontier for economic development and a means of diversifying the economy through the use of resources from oceans, seas, rivers and lakes for the well being of the people.
“It also provides positive contribution to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) 2052 Africa Integrated Maritime Strategy (2052AIM) and the UN 2030 agenda
“This concept for economic diversification is promoted by the international community and provides friendly means of livelihood in line with this administration’s agenda on job creation’, he said.
He continued that “the ocean economy as an emerging economic frontier applies to ocean-based industry activities and the assets, goods and services of marine ecosystems.
“Countries have to define the scope of their blue economy based on their priorities. For example, in Bangladesh, the ocean economy consists of the following broad and growing economic sectors; living resources, minerals, energy, transport, trade, tourism and recreation, carbon sequestration and coastal protection.
“These industries and ecosystem services do not develop in isolation, but rather interact as an economic ecosystem”, the VP said.
Earlier in his remark,Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi said the blue economy is capable of improving government revenue, create employments and grow the gross domestic product of Nigeria.
Amaechi, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Dr Magdalene Ajani, also expressed optimism in the benefits derivable from a well exploited marine environment
Speaking at the event,  Dr. Paul Adalikwu, Secretary General of Maritime Organisation of West and Central Africa (MOWCA) lauded the initiative of the expansion while recommending inclusion of financial institutions such as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and African Development Bank (AfDB), as well as key financial institutions that will contribute meaningfully to realizing Nigeria’s Blue Economy objective.
In addition to  maritime agencies such as the Nigeria Ports Authority, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, and Maritime Academy of Nigeria, the expanded committee also include ten state governors.
They the Governors of Rivers, Lagos, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Borno, Ogun, Ondo, Cross River, Bayelsa and Edo States.
Other members are Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Power, Finance, Environment, Trade and Investment, Agriculture and Water Resources , Chief of Naval Staff, Comptroller General of Customs, Lake Chad Basin Commission, Nigeria Economic Summit Group, etc.

By: Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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