Merkel quickly replaces fallen minister
German Chancellor Angela Merkel quickly replaced popular Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg on Wednesday, hoping to put his plagiarism affair behind her to focus on three state elections.
Merkel told a news conference that Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere would take over the defence portfolio and Hans-Peter Friedrich, the parliamentary leader for the Christian Social Union (CSU), would succeed de Maiziere as interior minister.
It's important to quickly show clarity and our ability to act, Merkel said of the changes that were announced faster than expected. It's right, it's good and helpful that this quickly answers the questions that you would otherwise be asking us.
Guttenberg quit on Tuesday after admitting to copying part of a doctoral dissertation, stunning Merkel and depriving her conservatives of their brightest star ahead of three important regional elections in late March.
Merkel, who had ardently defended Guttenberg against the plagiarism charges, admitted she was surprised by his resignation. Her Christian Democrats (CDU) were routed in an election in Hamburg last month and face more defeats this month.
The CSU, Bavarian sister party to Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), retained the rights to propose a replacement for Guttenberg, one of three CSU ministers in Merkel's cabinet.
Originally CSU leader Horst Seehofer said a decision would be made within a few days. The timetable was accelerated -- in part due to elections in Saxony-Anhalt and Baden-Wuerttemberg where the CDU could lose power in late March.
CLOSE RACE IN KEY STATE
An opinion poll published on Wednesday showed Merkel's centre-right coalition falling into a dead-heat with the opposition Social Democrats-Greens in Baden-Wuerttemberg, the most important of seven state elections for Merkel this year.
The CDU has ruled Baden-Wuerttemberg, a conservative bastion in the southwest, since 1953 and a defeat there on March 27 would cause major problems for Merkel. The SPD are expected to retain power in a third state on March 27, Rhineland-Palatinate.
Merkel had been eager to avoid any turbulence ahead of the state elections and two summit meetings in Brussels, where European Union leaders are expected to agree to raise the size and scope of a euro zone bailout fund.
The opposition has accused Merkel of taking a tough position on the fund, which is expected to be agreed at a summit on March 24-25, because of the state elections.
Any perceived relaxation of terms for euro zone stragglers is likely to meet public opposition because German taxpayers fear they would have to pay a large portion of the bill.
Guttenberg, who had been accused of copying parts of the dissertation without correct attribution, was stripped of his doctorate last week.
At first Guttenberg rejected the charges as fanciful. Later, after scores more copied passages were discovered, he acknowledged having copied sections but said this had been unintended, an oversight caused by pressure of work, and never deliberate.
Gunman kills two U.S. soldiers at Frankfurt airport
A gunman shot dead two U.S. soldiers and injured two people seriously in a U.S. Army bus at Frankfurt airport Wednesday, said Boris Rhein, interior minister for the state of Hesse.
The gunman was apparently a Kosovo national, he said.
Security round the airport has been tightened and an investigation is under way, Rhein said.
Whether the incident was linked to terrorism I cannot say at this stage, he told journalists.
A spokesman for Frankfurt airport operator Fraport said the shooting took place in a U.S. Army bus in front of Terminal 2.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking in Berlin, confirmed the deaths.
We don't know the details but I would like to express how upset I am. We have to do everything we can to find out what happened, she told a joint news conference with Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates.
The U.S. Army and Air Force and German police at the airport were not immediately available for comment
Australian market ends higher on Wall Street cues; resource, bank stocks gain
RTTNews - The Australian stock market ended higher on Friday, led by resource stocks on higher commodity prices. A positive closing on Wall Street, where easing concerns about higher bond yields, higher commodity prices, and better-than-expected industrial output data from Japan lifted market sentiment.
In the U.S., easing concerns about rising bond yields, the $26.0 billion seven-year note auction conducted by the Treasury Department in the U.S. attracted a high-yield of 3.30% while seeing modestly strong demand, with the bid-to-cover ratio coming in at 2.26. A report from the Commerce Department showed that orders for durable goods jumped 1.9% in April following a downwardly revised 2.1% decrease in March. Another report from the Commerce Department revealed that new homes sales edged up 0.3% to an annual rate of 352,000 in April from a downwardly revised 351,000 in March. A separate report from the Labor Department showed that initial jobless claims in the week ended May 23rd came in at 623,000. This was down 13,000 from a revised mark of 636,000 in the previous week. However, continuing claims, which measure the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment help, climbed 110,000 to 6.788 million.
The Dow closed up 103.78 points or 1.3% at 8,404, the Nasdaq closed up 20.71 points or 1.2% at 1,752 and the S&P 500 closed up 13.77 points or 1.5% at 907.
After opening unchanged from its previous close at 3,754, Australia's All Ordinaries Index surged sharply higher to 3,780 in initial trading, led by banks, on positive cues from Wall Street. The index continued its northward march following the release of better-than-expected industrial production data from Japan, before closing at 3813, with a gain of 59.40 points, or 1.58%. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index followed a similar trend and ended up at 3,818, with a gain of 62 points, or 1.65%.
On the economic front, the Reserve Bank of Australia revealed that credit issued to private borrowers in the country increased a seasonally adjusted 0.1% in April month-over-month. Year-over-year, private sector credit rose 4.6% in April, the bank noted.
Commodity prices led the gains in the market. A measure of six commodities traded in London Metals Exchange rose 1.3% on Thursday. Among the commodities, copper prices advanced 1.8%, while nickel and zinc added 0.8% and 1% respectively.
Resource stocks advanced on higher metal prices. BHP Billiton advanced 1.88%, Iluka Resources added 1.60%, Orica gained 1.41%, Oz Minerals surged 4.17% and Rio Tinto edged up 0.86%.
Crude oil prices ended 21 cents higher at $65.29 in Asian trading. Light crude oil price for July delivery closed at $65.08 in New York Mercantile Exchange, following an unexpected drop in weekly inventory data in the U.S. and a decision by OPEC not to tinker with output rates.
Woodside Petroleum added 0.84%, Santos advanced 1.46% and Oil Search gained 2.06%.
Banking stocks advanced as concerns about high yields eased. ANZ Bank gained 3.38%, Commonwealth Bank advanced 3.51%, National Australia Bank rose 1.81% and Westpac Banking increased 2.23%. Macquarie Group surged 3.63% after stating that it is planning to acquire an energy advisory firm based in Canada for about US$132 million in cash and stock transaction to boost its operations in the energy sector.
Gold stocks also moved higher, helped by higher bullion prices. Lihir Gold advanced 1.55%, New crest Mining added 1.85% and Sino Gold rose 2.19%.
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Australian And New Zealand Dollars Surge Up As Equities Advance
RTTNews - Friday, the Australian and New Zealand dollars strengthened against their key counterparts as a jump in Asian stocks boosted demand for higher-yielding currencies.
Benchmark interest rates are 2.5 percent in New Zealand and 3 percent in Australia, compared with 0.1 percent in Japan and as low as zero percent in the U.S., attracting investors to the South Pacific nations' higher-yielding assets. The risk in such trades is that currency-market moves will erase profits.
Asian stocks were modestly higher after today Japanese industrial production jumped at its fastest pace in 56 years, in the latest sign recession was easing in major economies. It was evidence that manufacturers in the world's second largest economy are starting to heal amid the country's steepest recession since World War II.
Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index gained 1.7 percent to 3,818.10 at the close in Sydney. It rose 1.5 percent for the week, bringing its total gain for the month to 1 percent. New Zealand's NZX 50 index advanced 1.6 percent to 2,764.17 in Wellington. Over the week the index gained 0.1 percent. It has risen 0.9 percent for the month.
The Australian and New Zealand dollars gained this week against the greenback as prices of commodities, which account for more than half the nations' exports, climbed by the most this month since 1974.
The currencies also strengthened after Japan's industrial output rose 5.2 percent in April, the most in 56 years and faster than the 3.3 percent economists forecast. In South Korea, industrial production increased for a fourth straight month in April and India's economy grew 5.8 percent in the first quarter.
Bank lending in Australia increased in April for a fourth month adding to signs that record low interest rates and government handouts are spurring demand. Loans provided by banks and other finance companies climbed 0.1 percent from March, the Reserve Bank of Australia said in Sydney today.
During early deals on Friday, the Australian dollar climbed to near an 8-month high of 0.7944 against the U.S. currency. The next upside target for the Australian dollar is seen at the 0.80 level. At yesterday's close, the aussie-greenback pair was quoted at 0.7847.
The U.S. dollar weakened against most major currencies after South Korea said its national pension fund plans to hold fewer U.S. Treasuries relative to other assets, renewing concerns that record U.S. debt sales will undermine the country's creditworthiness.
The Australian currency tumbled to a 5 1/2 -year low of 0.6012 against the greenback in October 2008. The aussie-greenback pair then gained 17% and reached a 3-month high of 0.7271 on January 07, 2009. Although the aussie lost 14% thereafter it bounced back after hitting a 2 1/2 -month low of 0.6251 on February 02. Since then, the aussie-greenback pair has advanced more than 21%.
After a brief slide, the Aussie strengthened against the Japanese yen in early deals on Friday. The pair moved from 75.70 to 76.95 at 3:10 am ET. This set the highest point for the Australian currency since October 06, 2008. On the upside, 80 level is seen as the next target for the aussie. The aussie-yen pair was worth 75.99 at Thursday's close.
Australia's dollar is the second-biggest gainer against the U.S. and Japanese currencies this month as the S&P 500 stock index added 3.9 percent since April 30 for a third straight monthly advance. Asian stocks are poised for the longest streak of monthly gains since the credit crisis began in 2007.
The aussie-yen pair slumped to a new multi-year low of 55.12 in October 2008. Thereafter, the pair showed volatile trading until breaking the long-term resistance level of 68.3 in March 2009. Thus far this year, the Australian currency has strengthened 18%.
During early deals on Friday, the Aussie climbed to a 9-day high of 1.7637 against the euro. This may be compared to yesterday's close of 1.7781. If the Aussie edges up further, it may test resistance around the 1.755 level.
The Aussie has appreciated 2% against the euro since reaching an 8-day low of 1.8013 earlier this week.
The Aussie, which closed yesterday's trading at 0.8741 against the Canadian dollar rose to a 2-dayhigh of 0.8793 during early deals on Friday. The next likely resistance for the aussie-loonie pair is seen at the 0.881 level.
In early trading on Friday, the New Zealand dollar jumped to new multi-month highs of 0.6343 against the U.S. currency and 61.42 against the yen. If the kiwi advances further, it may likely target 0.64 against the greenback and 62 against the yen. The kiwi-greenback and the kiwi-yen pairs were worth 0.6233 and 60.36, respectively at Thursday's close.
New Zealand's dollar is this month's best performer against the 16 most-traded currencies after Standard & Poor's raised the outlook on the country's sovereign debt rating to stable.
New Zealand's Finance Minister Bill English yesterday unveiled a budget that deferred tax cuts to avert the threat of a credit- rating downgrade that would have driven borrowing costs higher and delayed a recovery from the worst recession in three decades.
Extending last year's 25% slide, the kiwi plummeted to a 6 1/2 -year low of 0.49 against the greenback on March 04, 2009. But the kiwi reversed direction thereafter on the back of strong equities and it has surged up 23% thus far.
The NZ dollar has been in an upward channel against the yen after falling to more than an 8-year low of 44.29 on February 02. Since then, the kiwi-yen pair has appreciated 28%.
Against the euro, the New Zealand currency soared to a new multi-month high of 2.2091 during early deals on Friday. The next upside target level for the kiwi is seen at 2.125. At yesterday's close, the euro-kiwi pair was quoted at 2.2371.
Germany's Federal Statistical Office announced today that the retail sales in real terms increased 0.5% month-on-month in April, compared with a 0.4% drop in the preceding month. The April retail sales came in line with economists' expectations.
Year-on-year, retail sales decreased 0.8% year-over-year in April, marking the same pace as in the previous month. Economists were looking for a decline of 0.3%. A year earlier, retail sales were up 0.1%.
In early deals on Friday, the New Zealand dollar climbed to 1.2528 against the Aussie. On the upside, 1.251 is seen as the next likely target for the kiwi. The aussie-kiwi pair closed Thursday's North American session at 1.2603.
Looking ahead, Euro area flash consumer price inflation data as well as unemployment details are due at 5.00am ET. Annual inflation is forecast to ease to 0.2% in May from 0.6%, while the jobless rate is forecast to rise to 9.1% in April from 8.9% last month.
In the meantime, a preliminary report for Italian consumer prices is due. Annual inflation is seen at 0.9%, down from 1.2% in April.
From U.S., the Bureau of Economic Analysis is due to release its preliminary first quarter GDP report at 8:30 am ET. The report is likely to show that the U.S. economy contracted at a 5.5% rate in the quarter.
The results of the Institute of Supply Management-Chicago's business survey for May are scheduled to be released at 9:45 am ET. Economists expect the business barometer index based on the survey to come in at 42.
At 10:00 am ET, the Reuters/University of Michigan's final report on the consumer sentiment index for May is scheduled to be released. Consumer confidence is expected to rise in the month, with economists forecasting an increase in the index to 68 from the mid-month reading of 67.9.
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Art Monk is just the latest former NFL player to sue the league over the effects of football injuries.
The Hall of Famer is suing the NFL over concussions from numerous head injuries he suffered while playing in the league.
Monk is one of many former players to file suit against the league.
Here are five NFL players that have sued the NFL because of concussions they suffered during their playing careers.