FIFA World Cup 2014 logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When Brazil was selected to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup, many Brazilians hoped the event would jump-start many needed infrastructure improvements – especially things like airport capacity and traffic congestion. While in most cases any upgrades in those areas have fallen short of expectations, the World Cup may still provide at least one tangible improvement to residents of São Paulo, the country’s biggest city.
With next year’s World Cup in mind, the city mayor’s office published a list this week of 120 public spaces, including parks, squares, and public transit stations, where it plans to install free WiFi access.
According to Prodam, the IT and telecoms company run by the city of São Paulo, the hotspots would cover 6.7 million square meters (more than 4,000 square miles) and would allow 24,200 simultaneous users. The WiFi will have to be available 24 hours a day, with a minimum speed of 512 kbps per user for downloads and uploads. Moreover, the connection must be sufficient to ensure access to streaming video and VoIP telephone services. Companies will now have to bid for the contracts to implement the service.
If things proceed according to schedule, the city government hopes to conclude bidding for the project by July, and intends to start the WiFi installation by October. The mayor’s office plans to spend R$45 million ($22 million) over the initial 36-month contract.
Some of the world’s biggest oil companies may have a new mess on their hands.
The European Commission raided the offices of Shell, BP and Norway’s Statoil this week as part of an investigation into suspected attempts to manipulate global oil prices spanning more than a decade.
None of the companies have been accused of wrongdoing, but the controversyhas brought back memories of theLibor rate-rigging scandal that rocked the financial world last year.
UBS (UBS), Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Barclays (BCS) have already reached settlements with regulators in the U.S. and U.K. over Libor-rigging, paying over $2.5 billion in fines after admitting to attempts to manipulate interest rates to appear more credit-worthy and to benefit trading positions. Roughly a dozen other global banks remain under scrutiny over rate-rigging, and three people have been arrested so far.
A review ordered by the British government last year in the wake of the Libor revelations cited “clear” parallels between the work of the oil-price-reporting agencies and Libor.
Libor-setting is overseen by the British Bankers Association, an industry trade group, though U.K. law was changed last month to allow financial regulators to supervise the process.
Oil-price benchmarks are set by independent “price-reporting agencies,” the most influential of which is Platts, a division of McGraw-Hill (MHFI). Platts’ data is used help set prices for billions of dollars’ worth of physical oil and derivatives contracts.
As the Libor scandal gathered force last year, Platts and its fellow price-reporting agencies, Argus and ICIS, issued a joint statement emphasizing what they called the “fundamental differences” between their “reliable and robust” methods and those used in calculating Libor. Some observers, however, say the processes are similarly vulnerable.
There are also concerns about the fact that reporting to Platts is done by traders voluntarily. In a report issued in October, the International Organization of Securities Commissions — an association of regulators — said the ability “to selectively report data on a voluntary basis creates an opportunity for manipulating the commodity market data” submitted to Platts and its competitors.
Responding to questions from IOSCO last year, French oil giant Total said the price-reporting agencies, or PRAs, sometimes “do not assure an accurate representation of the market and consequently deform the real price levels paid at every level of the price chain, including by the consumer.” But Total called Platts and its competitors “generally… conscientious and professional.”
“While there is the risk of market actors voluntarily submitting false data to the PRA assessment process, most PRAs have effective processes to verify submissions and generally avoid this problem,” Total said.
Platts describes its methods as “structured” and “highly transparent,” saying the submissions it collects must reflect verifiable transactions or executable bids and offers. The agency vets submitters and restricts them from altering their bids and offers beyond defined increments to mitigate against sudden price swings.
Platts declined to comment in detail on the European Commission investigation, saying only that investigators visited its office in London on Tuesday and that it is “cooperating fully” with the probe.
Us dept of commerce building (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Ground-breaking for new U.S. homes plummeted more than expected in April from an almost five-year high, but applications to build new homes shows the housing sector could still contribute to the strengthening economic recovery.
The Commerce Department said on Thursday that starts at building sites for homes fell 16.5 percent last month to a 853,000-unit annual rate. That was below analysts’ expectations of a 945,000-unit rate.
The housing recovery, driven by growing demand and record-low mortgage rates, has started to boost other sectors of the economy in the first part of the year.
Builders appear to be ramping up for more construction projects. Newly issued building permits, a gauge of future construction, rose 14.3 percent from a month earlier to an annual rate of 1.017 million, the highest level since June 2008.
Permits for single-family homes, which comprise about two thirds of the total, rose 3 percent to a 617,000-unit rate, the highest since May 2008.
The Obama administration is forecast to turn a record $51 billion profit this year from student loan borrowers, a sum greater than the earnings of the nation’s most profitable companies and roughly equal to the combined net income of the four largest U.S. banks by assets.
Figures made public Tuesday by the Congressional Budget Office show that the nonpartisan agency increased its 2013 fiscal year profit forecast for the Department of Education by 43 percent to $50.6 billion from its February estimate of $35.5 billion.
Exxon Mobil Corp., the nation’s most profitable company, reported $44.9 billion in net income last year. Apple Inc. recorded a $41.7 billion profit in its 2012 fiscal year, which ended in September, while Chevron Corp. reported $26.2 billion in earnings last year. JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo reported a combined $51.9 billion in profit last year.
The estimated increase in the Education Department’s earnings from student borrowers and their families may cause a political firestorm in Washington, where members of Congress and Obama administration officials thus far have appeared content to allow students to line government coffers.
The Education Department has generated nearly $120 billion in profit off student borrowers over the last five fiscal years, budget documents show, thanks to record relative interest rates on loans as well as the agency’s aggressive efforts to collect defaulted debt. A spokesman from the Education Department did not respond to a request for comment. A Congressional Budget Office spokesman could not be reached for comment after normal business hours.
At $1.1 trillion, student debt eclipses all other forms of household debt, except for home mortgages. It’s also the only kind of consumer debt that has increased since the onset of the financial crisis, according to the New York Fed. Officials in Washington are worried that overly indebted student borrowers are unable to save enough to purchase a home, take out loans for new cars, start a business or save enough for their retirement.
English: Fraz Wahlah receiving the International Asia Pacific Information & Communications Technology Award (APICTA), known as technology Oscar, in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Fraz Wahlah won the technology Oscar for the first time for Pakistan in the eHealth Category. Each year World’s leading economies contest for APICTA including Australia, Malaysia, China, Korea, Thailand, Pakistan, Brunei , Taiwan, Singapore, etc. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Asia continues to outpace the rest of the world in growth of healthcare spending. With growing incomes, populations, and average age, the region’s demand for healthcare services is huge, and so is the opportunity for medical suppliers and providers. India has made expansion of primary care a policy priority and its spending is expected to rise by an average of 16.1% a year in US-dollar terms over the forecast period. China aims to create a system that provides “safe, effective, convenient and affordable” healthcare to rural and urban residents by 2020; its healthcare spending is expected to reach US$831.6 bn by 2016. Indonesia and the Philippines are also likely to see double-digit annual growth as they expand their health insurance systems, while Thailand, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore and South Korea will be around the 8% mark.
Dell’s board of directors wants more information from Carl Icahn and Southeastern Asset Management before considering their pitch for buying the world’s third-largest PC maker.
Icahn and Southeastern—which, combined, hold about 13 percent of outstanding Dell stock—in a letter to the board May 9 harshly criticized the $24.4 billion bid by CEO Michael Dell and Silver Lake Partners to buy Dell and take it private, calling it a “giveaway agreement” that benefits Michael Dell at the expense of shareholders.
In the letter, they proposed a plan that would keep the company public, return more money to investors and essentially remove Michael Dell from the company.
The special committee that Dell’s directors created to review proposals for the company, in a letter to Icahn and Southeastern May 13, said more information is needed before considering their proposal. One thing they want to know is whether the two are actually making a bid for the company.
Backed by its own survey data, Microsoft asserts that consumers value their online privacy. Will Web services providers heed the warning?
The majority of Web users are concerned about their online privacy, according to new survey results from Microsoft.
The software giant polled 4,000 consumers in the U.S., France, Germany and the U.K. as part of the Your Privacy Type campaign, which launched in April. Mary Snapp, deputy general counsel for Microsoft, said in an April 22post in the Microsoft on the Issues blog that in addition to targeted ad campaigns in Washington, D.C., and Kansas City, Mo., the company had implemented “a new online resource for consumers that will help them learn about their privacy behaviors and take steps to shape their online personas.”
The online resource includes a quiz to help visitors determine their “privacy type”—from a carefree Web surfer to a locked-down, privacy-conscious social media user and points in between. After taking the quiz in her own home, Snapp reported: “I’m a ‘Privacy Please’ individual, while my husband is more of the ‘Carefree Surfer’ type.”
Microsoft’s latest data indicates that most Web surfers side with her, at least in spirit.
Major central banks did not face calls to do more to boost the world economy when Group of Seven finance officials met on Saturday, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said.
Before the meeting Britain’s finance minister, George Osborne, said ministers would “consider what more monetary activism can do to support the recovery” – something that he is keen for the Bank of England to do.
But Draghi said the ECB, which cut interest rates to a record low last week, did not come under pressure to take further steps.
“There wasn’t any call to do more,” he told reporters after the meeting. “It is quite clear that all central banks have done a lot, each one within its own mandate. So (the meeting) was just taking note of this … All of us have really been active.”
The ECB is also looking at whether it can do more to promote small business lending in the euro zone via asset-backed securities (ABS), but Draghi said the central bank was better placed to assist other European institutions rather than take a leading role itself.
ABS allow banks to move some credit risk off their balance sheets by packaging loans up and selling them on to other investors. Credit markets were paralyzed during the financial crisis when such securities became toxic due to the default of housing loans that underpinned them.
“What is the role of the ECB in this? I think it is mostly catalytic, because the ECB works with the European Investment Bank and the (European) Commission, and I think it will be very much up to these actors to act, rather than the ECB,” Draghi said.
He played down suggestions that the ECB was considering a program similar to the Bank of England’s Funding for Lending Scheme, noting that the ECB already allowed banks to use small business loans as collateral in its financing operations.
The FCC announcement said more options for in-flight broadband are likely to increase competition, improve the quality of service, and lead to lower prices. The Commission proposes to establish an air-ground mobile broadband service, using a ground-based network to communicate with planes, by taking advantage of technical innovations to expand sharing of certain spectrum among users.
In addition, improved connectivity benefits business and leisure travelers alike in their desire for ubiquitous broadband access to keep in touch with work, family, and friends while flying. Expanded availability of in-flight WiFi will also help meet demand from travelers to connect to a full range of communications services while flying in the contiguous United States.
There are two types of current in-flight broadband service: satellite-based and air-to-ground and both are licensed by the FCC. The satellite systems, known as Earth Stations Aboard Aircraft (ESAA), use satellite antennas installed on the top of planes to communicate with satellite space stations. This service, operated by multiple licensees, shares 1 GHz of spectrum among the licensees and with many other Fixed-Satellite Service operators. Air-to-ground systems deliver in-flight broadband through a ground-based network that communicates with an antenna on the bottom of a plane, which connects to an onboard WiFi system providing service throughout the cabin.