Month: February 2019

Finance News Update, what you need to know

WORLD FINANCE UPDATE:

The Australian dollar is lower following falls in commodity prices overnight.

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At 0630 AEDT on Tuesday, the local unit was trading at 93.92 US cents, down from 94.02 cents on Monday.

And the Australian share market looks set to open lower despite a positive lead from Wall Street where The Dow and S&P 500 blasted to new records in early trade.

At 0648 AEDT on Tuesday, the December share price index futures contract was down eight points at 5,390.

ELSEWHERE:

FRANKFURT – The eurozone’s current account surplus narrowed to 13.7 billion euros ($A19.87 billion) in September from 17.9 billion euros in August, European Central Bank data shows.

PARIS – The US and British economies sped up slightly in the third quarter but expansion in several other economies slowed, leaving OECD-area growth at 0.5 per cent, the OECD says.

FRANKFURT – Too many European banks survived the financial crisis, the head of Europe’s banking regulator says.

MADRID – Bad loans at Spanish banks struck a new record high in September, official data shows, despite the near completion of a 41-billion-euro eurozone-financed bailout of the battered financial sector.

LISBON – Portugal’s government hopes to raise more than 400 million euros ($A580.09 million) via the sale of a 70 per cent stake in national mail company CTT – Correios de Portugal.

WARSAW – The bill from natural and weather disasters is nearly $US200 billion ($A213.81 billion) a year, four times higher than in the 1980s, the World Bank says.

VERSAILLES, France – Two executives at IKEA France are being questioned by police as part of a probe into allegations the company illegally used police files to spy on staff and customers, a judicial source said.

NEW YORK – Failed brokerage MF Global will pay $US1.2 billion ($A1.28 billion) in restitution plus a $US100 million penalty to resolve charges it took money from customer accounts as it collapsed in 2011, US regulators say.

ZURICH – Zurich Insurance Group said on Monday it would invest up to $US1 billion ($A1.07 billion) in projects to reduce the effects of climate change, marking the world’s biggest investment in so-called green bonds.

New York man dies during freedive competition in Bahamas

American diver Nicholas Mevoli of Brooklyn was conscious when he surfaced from his 72-meter (236-foot) dive, done without oxygen or fins, but blacked out about 30 seconds later, according to a statement by Vertical Blue, which runs freediving events in the Bahamas.

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“At the moment we are all extremely shocked and saddened and trying to establish what happened,” reads the Vertical Blue statement posted on Facebook. “Competition freediving has an enviable safety record but the sport can never be risk-free, something understood by all freedivers.”

His death appears connected to lung damage suffered during the dive and marks the first time a competitor has died during an officially sanctioned event in 21 years of more than 35,000 competitive dives, according to the Switzerland-based Association Internationale pour le Développement de l’Apnée, which governs breath-hold diving events worldwide.

Freediving is an extreme sport in which divers attempt to reach those depths without oxygen assistance, and in some cases with no fins or other aid.

AIDA does not keep statistics on amateur breath-holding dive incidents, but a report by the Divers Alert Network in the United States said some 34 fatalities were reported in 2006, the most recent study that was immediately available. The DAN report of breath-hold dive related fatalities includes people who were snorkeling, spearfishing, collecting and freediving.

The sport was rocked in 2002, when Audrey Mestre, one of the world’s top female freedivers, perished off the coast of the Dominican Republican during a record attempt widely criticized for planning errors. Her death sparked new safety regulations in the sport.

Her husband, world-famous freediver Francisco Ferreras, quit after her death but recently announced plans to return to the sport.

Mevoli was a talented diver who completed his dive successfully but appeared to have trouble breathing as he recovered on the water’s surface, according to a statement issued by AIDA.

Mevoli was trying to set an American freediving record on Sunday, according to the New York Times. He made the depth and resurfaced after three minutes and 38 seconds on a single breath and flashed the “OK” sign to safety officials, according to the Times, which had a reporter at the scene.

Signs of trouble came almost immediately, as the 32-year-old’s eyes were blank and his words incoherent, the Times reported. He was dragged onto a nearby platform and began vomiting blood into the sea, the Times reported.

“He lost consciousness, and in spite of great efforts by the doctor and paramedic on site, failed to recover after reaching the local hospital,” the AIDA statement said. “Nick appears to have suffered from a depth-related injury to his lungs.”

Mevoli, who officials said had set a freediving record shortly after taking up the sport competitively in 2012, was described by AIDA as an “extraordinary talent.”

This year, Mevoli took second place in the inaugural Caribbean Cup in Roatan, first place at the Deja Blue competition in Curaçao, and a silver medal at the AIDA Depth World Championship in Greece, the organization said.

His uncle, Paul Mevoli, said Nicholas took an interest in diving during trips with him to the Florida Keys. “He was a natural in the water,” he said By telephone from St. Petersburg, Florida. “He was very talented, mentally tough and physically fit.”

Paul Mevoli said his nephew moved to New York hoping to become an actor. Nicholas worked as a prop technician on several television programs including “Chapelle’s Show,” he said. “He was a simple, carefree guy who loved life,” he said.

Mevoli was competing in the 2013 Vertical Blue competition outside Bahamas’ Long Island, an annual challenge in which divers attempt to hit record depths at Dean’s Blue Hole, the world’s deepest “blue hole” or underwater cave.

The event, in its sixth year, featured nine days of competition with a prize pool of about $25,000, according to Vertical Blue

The competition was halted after Mevoli’s death.

(Additional reporting by Kevin Gray in Miami; Writing by Karen Brooks; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Chris Reese)

Mandela still ‘stable but critical’

Nelson Mandela remains in a “stable but critical” condition, but “continues to respond to treatment,” according to the South African government, issuing its first update on his health since September.

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“The health of the former president remains much the same,” according to a statement issued after President Jacob Zuma visited the anti-apartheid icon at his home on Monday.

The 95-year-old was discharged on September 1 to receive intensive care at home, after nearly three months in hospital for a lung infection.

The government has refused to give details about his condition, citing the need for privacy, but said “he continues to recover.”

Mandela’s former wife this week told a local newspaper that Mandela remains “quite ill” and is unable to speak because of tubes being used to clear his lungs of liquid.

He is using facial expressions to communicate, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela added.

The country’s anti-apartheid hero is under the care of 22 doctors, and while his pneumonia has cleared, his lungs remain sensitive, she said, adding that it was “difficult for him”.

“He remains very sensitive to any germs, so he has to be kept literally sterile. The bedroom there is like an ICU ward,” she told the Sunday Times.

“He remains quite ill, but thank God the doctors were able to pull him through from that (last) infection.”

Mandela, who spent 27 years in apartheid jails before becoming South Africa’s first black leader, has faced several health scares.

His most recent 86-day hospital stay was his longest since he walked free from prison in 1990.

Earlier this month, fellow Robben Island prisoner Tokyo Sexwale also said Mandela was “fine”.

Mandela has been in and out of hospital since last year with lung-related complications.

A globally admired figure for steering South Africa peacefully into democracy, Mandela’s health problems prompt outpourings of well wishes around the world.

South Africa’s presidency said that Zuma had conveyed the well wishes of South Africans and of leaders who attended a recent Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka.

Ikea execs questioned in spying scandal

Two executives at IKEA France are being questioned by police as part of a probe into allegations the company illegally used police files to spy on staff and customers, a judicial source said.

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Stefan Vanoverbeke, IKEA France’s CEO, and CFO Dariusz Rychert were formally detained for questioning by police in Versailles on Monday, the source said.

The questioning was expected to last until late Monday, the source said.

The company’s former CEO, Jean-Louis Baillot, was also being questioned, a police source said separately.

IKEA representatives confirmed the questioning was taking place but refused to comment further.

French prosecutors launched a criminal probe in April 2012 following allegations that IKEA paid for illegal access to secret police files to gain information about employees and clients.

Keen to repair its reputation, IKEA France subsequently fired four employees, launched an internal inquiry and established a code of conduct to avoid a repeat of the scandal.

The questioning follows police seizures at the company’s headquarters in the Paris suburbs earlier this month.

Several people have been charged in connection with the case, including IKEA France’s former risk management head Jean-Francois Paris.

Four civilian police employees have also been charged and are suspected of having been paid by IKEA in exchange for confidential police files.

Media reports have said sources were paid about 80 euros ($A117.60) in each case to hand over files from the police file system, which tracks millions of names and personal information about criminals, victims and even witnesses.

Reports alleged IKEA France requested information on its own employees, including union members, the owners of certain car registrations and names associated with a list of mobile phone numbers.

In one case the company allegedly asked for personal information on a customer who was suing it.