Isnin, 30 Disember 2013

The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Looking for work, US jobless prod Congress for action

Posted: 30 Dec 2013 06:04 PM PST

WASHINGTON: Four miles from Capitol Hill, Michael Tate was looking for a job – any job – as he cringed at the prospects of losing unemployment benefits and appealed to lawmakers who left him and others in the lurch.

"I've got rent to pay, and it will be a crisis if I don't find a job. I don't want to go back out to the street," a sombre Tate told AFP as he emerged from an unemployment centre in Washington where every computer screen was taken by a job-seeker.

Tate, a Vietnam war veteran in his 50s, said he has been unemployed since July.

While the US economy has improved slightly, with the jobless rate now at a five-year low of 7%, millions of Americans are taking longer to find work.

Tate's jobless benefits, which amount to about US$1,400 per month, will end in January unless Congress approves an extension of the federal government's emergency unemployment compensation.

He will then join the 1.3 million Americans who were cut off from the extended unemployment benefits just three days after Christmas.

The White House warns that by the end of 2014, another 3.6 million people will lose the benefits that kick in beyond the 26 weeks provided by most states.

Congress is debating whether to renew the programme, which began under the George W. Bush administration as a way to cushion the blow for millions of Americans who lost their jobs in the recession that started in 2008.

A bipartisan bill that extends the insurance for three months will be introduced when lawmakers return to work on Jan 6, and President Barack Obama has prodded Congress to pass it.

But there could be pushback in a divided legislature where lawmakers prepare for mid-term elections next November.

The programme is costly – the federal government has spent more than US$200bil on it in five years – and some Republicans have argued that extending it is the wrong way to go about reining in government spending.

But the Obama administration stresses the payments have kept more than 11.4 million people out of poverty, and failure to extend benefits could have a significant economic impact.

The Congressional Budget Office says inaction could shed 0.2 percentage points or more off gross domestic product; experts say that could cost 240,000 jobs.

Tate said it was shameful for Congress to leave town without extending the benefits.

"This is America, we still have to help people," argued Tate, who spent an hour at an American Job Center on Monday searching online databases for job opportunities.

"We have worked, and paid taxes. We can't find a job, so what are we supposed to do?"


"People are definitely in crisis mode," said Monica West, a specialist at Washington's Department of Employment Services where Tate and others look for leads.

"It's taking people longer to find employment," she said. "To send out 100 to 200 resumes and not get one call back, that's pretty frustrating."

But Alex Brill of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning think-tank, downplayed effects that non-extension of benefits would have on the economy.

"More important is the fact that we have a very serious problem with the long-term unemployment in the United States and that this program is a very poor tool for helping these people get back to work," Brill told AFP.

The benefits allow some to stay on the dole longer while looking for better-paying jobs, while accepting lower-wage work would reduce unemployment.

By contrast, the benefits are fed back into the system in the form of consumer purchases, stimulating the economy and generating jobs.

Corey Joyner is counting on the support. The 43-year-old Washingtonian has been looking for construction work for months, but keeps getting turned away.

Joyner is straining to get by with his son on a weekly benefit of US$359. He does not know where he'll turn when that aid runs out.

"I got to do what I got to do," he said. "Food's got to be on my table" – AFP. 

Venezuela says inflation hits 56%

Posted: 30 Dec 2013 07:11 PM PST

CARACAS: Venezuela's inflation soared to 56.2 percent in 2013 but slowed in the last two months of the year after the socialist government forced stores to cut prices, officials said Monday.

The national consumer price index decelerated from 5.1 percent in October to 4.8 percent in November and 2.2 percent in December, the central bank said in a report that was 20 days late.
President Nicolas Maduro said the figures led to annual inflation of 56.2 percent - the highest in Latin America - which he blamed on a "parasitic capitalist economy."
"If Venezuela was not subjected to this economic war, we would have single-digit inflation, not 56 percent," Maduro told a news conference.
Inflation is nearly three times as high as in 2012, when it hit 20.1 percent.
Maduro ordered appliance stores in November to slash prices, sent troops to enforce the move and threatened to arrest store owners who refused to comply.
Analysts attribute the nation's high inflation to rigid currency and price controls that were launched in 2003 by late president Hugo Chavez, who died in March this year.
The government has fixed the exchange rate at 6.3 bolivars for $1, fueling a black market where the US currency is obtained at nine times the official rate.
The oil-rich country, which is heavily dependent on imports, has been plagued by shortages of basic goods ranging from meat to toilet paper.
The central bank's report lacked its usual "scarcity" index, a gauge of the country's chronic shortages.
Maduro said authorities found food prices inflated by more than 3,000 percent and that, had it not been for government-subsidized food programs, "there would have been a famine."
The central bank's report said food prices jumped 7.5 percent in November compared to 5.6 percent a month earlier.

"As has been the case in Venezuelan history, political tension and economic destabilization mixed in the form of a real economic war against the Venezuelan people," the central bank said- AFP

Petrobras in US$1.6bil offshore selloff to Shell, Videsh

Posted: 30 Dec 2013 07:02 PM PST

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazilian state oil giant Petrobras said Monday it had sold Shell and India's ONGC Videsh its 35 percent stake in the Parque das Conchas offshore project for $1.636 billion.

Petrobras said the deal followed through on an August agreement with Anglo Dutch Shell and ONGC Videsh, the overseas unit of India's biggest oil explorer, to sell off its stake in the "BC-10" zone, comprising five fields located in the south-east Campos Basin area.

The deal was approved by Brazilian regulatory authorities.

"Shell and ONGC Videsh have exercised their pre-emption rights for the retrospective acquisition of 23 percent (for Shell) and 12 percent (for ONGC Videsh) of the Petrobras stake," the Brazilian giant said in a statement.

The Parque das Conchas blocs produced an average of 8,600 barrels per day in 2013, Petrobras added.
Last month Petrobras sold off its Peruvian subsidiary to China's CNPC for $2.6 billion as part of a $9.9billion program of divestments.

The company wants to concentrate its 2013-2017 plans on tapping huge deepwater 'pre-salt' deposits off the country's Atlantic coast.

Though gearing up for the pre-salt bonanza - the deposits buried beneath several kilometers of ocean, bedrock and hot salt beds may hold up to 100 billion barrels of high-quality recoverable crude - Petrobras has seen its share price buffeted.

Its price has slumped 34 percent in 2013 over production falloffs and also a government policy of subsidizing fuel, hitting the firm's profitability.

The fall off has seen the oil giant's market capitalization slide from $124.7 billion to $90.5 billion. - AFP


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