Another bird flu death in China as number of infected grows to 95

Another bird flu death in China as number of infected grows to 95

Saturday, Apr 20, 2013

SHANGHAI – China reported another death and four new infections from a new strain of bird flu on Saturday, raising the death toll to 18, the official Xinhua News Agency said. The H7N9 virus has been found in 95 people, mostly in eastern China. The latest victim is a 69-year old man surnamed Xu from Zhejiang province who passed away Friday night after emergency treatment failed, Xinhua said. Zhejiang province reported three new infection cases with all three patients in critical condition. The eastern costal province of Jiangsu also reported another bird flu infection. On Friday health officials raised questions about the source of this strain of bird flu indicating that more than half of patients had no contact with poultry.

Read more of this post

Viruses move a lot faster than governments do. As new viruses emerge in China and the Middle East, the world is poorly prepared for a global pandemic

An ounce of prevention: As new viruses emerge in China and the Middle East, the world is poorly prepared for a global pandemic

Apr 20th 2013 | Bangkok and New York |From the print edition

IN FEBRUARY an 87-year-old man was admitted to hospital in Shanghai. What started as a cough progressed to a fever. One week later, unable to breathe and with his brain inflamed, he died. Shortly afterwards, a 27-year-old pork butcher was admitted to the same hospital with similar symptoms. He died too, within a week. A 35-year-old housewife who went to hospital in Anhui on March 19th lasted only slightly longer. On March 31st officials confirmed these were the first three cases of a strain of influenza, H7N9, that had never before been seen in humans. The government responded quickly—a far cry from its reaction, ten years ago, to a similar cluster of cases in Guangdong. That infection turned out to be SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). At first, officials tried to hide that disease. The deceit served to ensure its spread and it went on to kill nearly 800 people. Much has changed in the past decade. This time officials quickly posted H7N9’s genetic sequence, then published a detailed report in the New England Journal of Medicine. Even so, H7N9 has infected at least 82 people and killed 17 of them. The virus’s path of transmission is not well understood. The recent detection of H7N9 in a boy with no apparent symptoms suggests people can carry the virus unwittingly. Meanwhile a new coronavirus (the family of viruses that SARS belongs to) is circulating in the Middle East. It has killed 11 people since it was noticed in September. Though Saudi Arabia has welcomed some foreign investigators, other scientists claim the country should be more transparent. Read more of this post

Doraemon trumps Hello Kitty for Olympic Games ambassador

Doraemon trumps Hello Kitty for Olympic Games ambassador



Japan’s most lovable anime character, el gato cosmico (the cosmic cat) has been chosen to be Japan’s ambassador in Tokyo’s bid for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games. It’s the first time Japan has chosen an anime character for an Olympic ambassadorship. Congratulations Doraemon!

I know what you’re thinking: That’s a cat? He doesn’t look like a cat. His tongue is too smooth. He has no fur. And he’s blue! Well, he’s a cat of the future. A robotic feline of the 22nd century, to be exact. With the ability to travel back in time, which is why he is here now.

But just because Doraemon is a cat of the future doesn’t mean he doesn’t have experience in the past. He first appeared in Japan of 1969. In 2008 he was appointed by the Foreign Ministry to be their “anime ambassador.” No one really remembers exactly what Doraemon did while in office at that time, which at least means he did nothing scandalous. Read more of this post

Roast Peking duck restaurants have seen a sharp drop in business because of the ongoing bird flu outbreak; Quanjude, a brand with 136 years experience in making roast duck, havep lummeted 17% in 12 trading days

Duck restaurants hit by bird flu outbreak

Updated: 2013-04-20 07:47

By Wang Zhuoqiong and Ye Jun ( China Daily) Read more of this post

Chinese investors short gold in London as prices tumble while the retail public buys; Tianjin Precious Metal Exchange flooded with requests from investors looking to short gold

Chinese investors short gold in London as prices tumble

Staff Reporter, 2013-04-20

Members of the public have rushed to buy gold amid the current price drop, while investors have been actively short selling. (Photo/CFP)

Chinese investors in London are increasingly short selling gold shares as the price of the precious metal has lost about 30% of its value from a year and a half ago.

The price of gold in the city hit a low of US$1,385.70 an ounce at one point on April 15, a plunge of nearly 30% from a historic high of US$1,920.38 an ounce in September 2011, according to the Chinese-language National Business Daily, which quoted an official at the research unit of Donghai Futures.

An investment consultant at Mintai Precious Metals, a member of the Tianjin Precious Metal Exchange — one of two precious metal exchanges in China approved by the State Council — said his company was flooded with requests from investors looking to short gold. Read more of this post

Rob Arnott of Research Affiliates: Most hedge funds disappoint; Funds have underperformed at a time when they are drawing more and more money from middle class retirement accounts

Rob Arnott: Most hedge funds disappoint

By Stephen Gandel, senior editor April 19, 2013: 11:51 AM ET

Funds have underperformed at a time when they are drawing more and more money from middle class retirement accounts.


Blue bar shows what happened to the portfolios risk-adjusted returns when hedge fund were added. Source: Research Affiliates

FORTUNE — Hedge funds have been a bust.

That’s how Robert Arnott, one of the nation’s most successful investment managers, sees it. That’s also the conclusion of a piece of research posted on his firm’s website this week.

The research, which is titled “The Lure of Hedge Funds,” directly refutes one of the key claims hedge funds managers make when they try to attract investors.

“There are some outstanding hedge funds, but they are considerably outnumbered by the multitudes of lousy ones,” says Arnott, who heads Research Affiliates.

Hedge funds have traditionally been investment vehicles for the rich and universities. But in the past decade or so, they have drawn more and more money from public pensions and other accounts that hold the retirement funds of the middle class. Assets in hedge funds have more than tripled in the past decade to $2.25 trillion, according to Research Affiliates.

“The results have been a disappointment, and yet asset flows continue at an astronomical rate,” says Arnott.

Part of that has to do with the sales pitch.

On the face of it, hedge funds have had a rough go of it recently. The vast majority of funds have done worse than the market for the past four years. To add insult to injury, last year even mutual funds outperformed hedge funds, which charge much higher fees than their rivals.

But hedge fund managers and the industry in general have long contended that those criticizing the funds for not having the highest returns are missing the point. They say hedge funds achieve their investment returns with less risk. You hear of the benefits of diversification, and risk-adjusted-returns. The pro-hedge fund camp argues that when you factor in the lower risk, investing in hedge funds is a better bet than just blindly putting your money in the market.

But Arnott says that’s a bunch of baloney. Read more of this post

Jim Chanos’s New China Presentation Will Have You Convinced The Country Is Doomed For A Hard Landing

Jim Chanos’s New China Presentation Will Have You Convinced The Country Is Doomed For A Hard Landing

Sam Ro | Apr. 19, 2013, 12:26 PM | 58,050 | 14

Jim Chanos gave a devastating presentation on China at Mish Shedlock’s Wine Country Conference. Chanos has been bearish on China for quite a while.  However, his new presentation is particularly fascinating because it has some pretty graphic cartoons. “The cartoons/illustrations, gruesome/silly, as they are, are FROM Chinese sources!” said Chanos in an email to Business Insider.  “That’s why we put them in-so that people know that the media inside China is becoming more skeptical itself.”

the-chinese-economic-story-is-riddled-with-red-flags Read more of this post

What It Was Like To Be Psy’s Roommate When He Was Dropout At Boston University in 1996; “He missed classes all day long. Flunked everything.”

What It Was Like To Be Psy’s Roommate When He Was Dropout At Boston University in 1996

Jim Edwards | Apr. 19, 2013, 6:21 PM | 7,618 | 4


No other singer has made a music video that has been seen more than 1 billion times, as South Korea’s Psy has. By that measure, he’s the biggest pop phenomenon on the planet. His new song, “Gentleman M/V” has been seen 166 million times after just one week on YouTube. On its own, that’s a huge achievement. But Psy wasn’t born a pop star. He originally planned to go into business. His father is Park Won-Ho, the chairman of DI Corporation (which makes semiconductors) and his mom is Kim Young-hee, a restaurateur in the Gangnam district of South Korea. In the late 1990s he went to Boston University to study business administration, but dropped out when his interest in music eclipsed his willingness to study, or even show up to class on time. He then briefly attended Berklee College of Music, but didn’t complete that course either. He spent his leftover tuition money on a computer, a keyboard, and a MIDI, and ultimately returned to Korea. We received an email from someone claiming to be Psy’s former roommate during his time in Boston. While we can’t verify everything our source tells us — these are memories from 1996 – 1998, after all — they certainly dovetail with what we know about the pre-fame life of Psy (real name Park Jae-Sang). At the time, his disinterest in studying was legendary among his friends, the roommate tells us:

… I will tell you the broad strokes.
I lived with him 97-98.
He was still fat. Lazy. Messy. Typical Korean-male studying abroad.
His family had money so he lived well.
He missed classes all day long. Flunked everything. When we ate and drank he would put on shows at the karaoke spots.
We used to grab his chubby cheeks and tell him to “wake up! You’re never going to make it in entertainment with a fat ugly face like yours!”
He would always respond with resolve. “I will make it! I’m going to be a star! Just you watch!”

That’s pretty much everything.

Psy, apparently, has had the last laugh.

The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results [Hardcover]

Gary Keller (Author), Jay Papasan (Author)


Publication Date: April 1, 2013


You want fewer distractions and less on your plate. The daily barrage of e-mails, texts, tweets, messages, and meetings distract you and stress you out. The simultaneous demands of work and family are taking a toll. And what’s the cost? Second-rate work, missed deadlines, smaller paychecks, fewer promotions—and lots of stress.
You want more productivity from your work. More income for a better lifestyle. You want more satisfaction from life, and more time for yourself, your family, and your friends.
In The ONE Thing, you’ll learn to
• cut through the clutter
• achieve better results in less time
• build momentum toward your goal
• dial down the stress
• overcome that overwhelmed feeling
• revive your energy
• stay on track
• master what matters to you
The ONE Thing delivers extraordinary results in every area of your life—work, personal, family, and spiritual.
WHAT’S YOUR ONE THING? Read more of this post

Forget the long to-do lists and choose one thing to be good at

Forget the long to-do lists and choose one thing to be good at

By Vickie Elmer April 19, 2013

Success doesn’t come from a four-hour workweek or a list of seven steps. People who are extraordinarily successful are known for just one thing, one passion, one amazing skill, says Gary Keller and co-author Jay Papasan in their new book called The One Thing. That is true for Warren Buffett choosing investments or Bill Gates and computers. This notion comes partly from Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto’s principle, which showed that 80% of wealth was held by 20% of the people. This works elsewhere as the 80/20 principle, where a small portion of effort leads to oversized results. “Things don’t matter equally. …The smaller I make my life, the bigger it gets,” says Keller, the co-founder and chairman of Keller Williams Real Estate. Great bosses understand that businesses will succeed when staff are encouraged to excel in one domain. ”I want my phones answered extraordinarily. I want my contracts read extraordinarily. I want software done extraordinarily,” Keller said about his own real estate business. Here are three lessons from The One Thing:

1.  Success is sequential, not simultaneous.  Many people want it all. Yet when Keller coached “a lot of very successful men and women” in the 1990s, he would see them create a list of assignments to tackle. By their next conversation, they hadn’t accomplished the most important ones. Finally, he started making them choose one thing they would concentrate on between sessions. That led to dramatically improved results. He would ask them the focusing question: “What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” That question runs through the book, and can serve to focus on big picture goals as well as daily priorities.

2. Nail your “one thing” by lunch.  Schedule your time block—a minimum of two hours, three or more is better—for the first part of your day when your willpower is highest. “By noon or 1 o’clock at latest, you’ve had an awesome day,” he said. “You’ve done what mattered most. Now you deal with all the other stuff.” For executive meetings, know the one thing that drives your business’ success, and make that the first item on your agenda always.

3. Everyone blows it. Keller wanted his book to be grounded in research, so the first draft came in at 400 pages. His publisher said: “Why don’t you practice what you preach?” The authors ended up cutting it in half.

U.S. Hospitals Told to Be on Lookout for H7N9 Bird Flu

U.S. Hospitals Told to Be on Lookout for H7N9 Bird Flu

U.S. hospitals are being urged to head off a spread of the new H7N9 avian influenza by looking out for people exhibiting flu-like symptoms who have traveled to China or had contact with someone who has the illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention held a conference call with health-care professionals yesterday to review procedures for treating bird-flu patients and controlling infections, Erin Burns, an agency spokeswoman, said in an e- mail. The Atlanta-based agency today issued interim guidance on the use of antiviral agents to treat H7N9 infections. Issuing the guidance and holding the clinician calls “would be considered routine preparedness measures for an outbreak with pandemic potential,” Burns said.

China has recorded 92 human infections of the H7N9 strain of bird flu, with 17 of the cases fatal, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from national and provincial governments and the World Health Organization. The source of the infection hasn’t been identified and there is no evidence of person-to- person transmission, with many of the cases involving human contact with poultry, according to the CDC’s website. Read more of this post

CBRC Renews Push to Regulate Wealth Management as Credit Expands

CBRC Renews Push to Regulate Wealth Management as Credit Expands

The China Banking Regulatory Commission said it will scrutinize lenders’ wealth-management and short-term note sales, control increases in bad loans and focus on debts in an attempt to limit “severe risk.” The regulator has told banks to improve the accuracy of how they classify loans, to monitor non-performing loans and to control total lending to local government financing vehicles, according to a statement posted on the CBRC website yesterday. “The authorities are serious about the whole explosion of wealth management — and they must also be concerned at the scale of credit creation,” Michael Shaoul, chairman of New York-based Marketfield Asset Management LLC, said in an e-mail. First-quarter credit creation was about $1 trillion, he said.

Chinese banks rely on wealth-management products, which pay higher rates than regulated deposits, to retain clients who are diverting savings to other investments. The sales are transforming the stable and cheap deposit base that has supported lenders into one that is “more mobile, expensive and short-term,” creating repayment risk, Fitch Ratings has warned. The outstanding balance of banks’ wealth-management products may have been 13 trillion yuan ($2.1 trillion) at the end of 2012, compared with 8.5 trillion yuan a year earlier, according to Fitch. The pace of expansion is faster than during the 2009 credit boom and is taking place through wealth management and corporate debt-issuance systems, not through the better regulated bank-loan system, Shaoul said. Read more of this post

Jim Rogers’s daughter shows her Mandarin chops in Singapore

Jim Rogers’s daughter shows her Mandarin chops in Singapore

Xinhua and Staff Reporter, 2013-04-19


Happy Rogers recites Tang poetry in Singapore. (Internet photo)

Happy Rogers, the nine-year-old daughter of American investor Jim Rogers, showed off her proficiency in Mandarin Chinese at an event in Singapore on Wednesday.

The student of Nanyang Primary School recited a poem by Li Qiao, a poet who lived during the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

Although it is common for young Chinese language learners to recite ancient poems, Happy’s near native fluency won a round of applause from her Singaporean audience. “I actually haven’t studied it. I just picked it up listening to native speakers,” the girl said in Chinese in response to a question from her father.

Her five-year-old sister Baby Bee also showed off her language skills by singing nursery rhymes in Chinese. Read more of this post

By God’s Nails! Careful How You Curse

April 19, 2013, 8:41 p.m. ET

By God’s Nails! Careful How You Curse

Swear words are defined by our taboos—yesterday’s aren’t today’s, and today’s won’t be tomorrow’s


The English language has about a million words, give or take. Of these a very small number—10 or so, plus variants—are swear words, and they get a lot of play. They shock and offend us. They increase our heart rate and make our palms sweat. They can help us deal with emotional distress and even relieve physical pain. The words we use today to cuss someone out or to express our admiration are not the same ones people used in the past, however. Swear words are generated by cultural taboos, and these have changed over the years in some interesting ways. In the Middle Ages, cultural taboos were such that words we consider to be obscene today were perfectly acceptable, if direct. The c-word, for example, was found in medical texts, in literature, in the names of common plants and animals, in the names of streets and even in surnames.

Sard and swive were the medieval equivalents of the f-word—direct, non-euphemistic words for copulation. Far from being feared and censored, though, sard appears in a 950 translation from the Lindisfarne Gospels, in which Christ commands “Don’t sin, and don’t sard another man’s wife” (Matthew 5:27). Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales,” from the late 14th century, is full of words like these. Among the more printable examples is the ending of the “Miller’s Tale,” which sums up the story with: “Thus swived was the carpenter’s wife…And Absolon hath kissed her nether eye, and Nicholas is scalded in the toute” (his behind, where the nether eye is located). Read more of this post

The precious letters of DNA; For today’s newly rich elite it is all too easy to buy art, but grabbing a one-of-a-kind piece of ‘real’ history carries cachet

April 19, 2013 5:37 pm

The precious letters of DNA

By Gillian Tett

For today’s newly rich elite it is all too easy to buy art, but grabbing a one-of-a-kind piece of ‘real’ history carries cachet

Imagine for a moment that you have just stumbled on the secret of life, aka the structure of DNA. Thrilled, you pen a letter to your 12-year-old son, outlining the discovery and concluding with the words “lots of love, Daddy.” Then, 60 years later, your children decide to sell that seven-page missive. What would it be worth? £10,000, £100,000, £1m or £10m?

It is not an academic question. Last week the letter that Francis Crick, a British scientist, really did write to his son in 1953, after he and his fellow scientist James Watson discovered the double helix structure of DNA, went to auction in New York. Before the sale, Christie’s had estimated that the letter – which starts, “Jim Watson and I have probably made a most important discovery” and describes DNA as something “beautiful … by which life comes from life” – would fetch around $800,000. Read more of this post

The lucrative allure of the double helix; DNA is one of the most valuable discoveries in the history of science, writes Clive Cookson

April 19, 2013 7:15 pm

The lucrative allure of the double helix

By Clive Cookson

DNA is one of the most valuable discoveries in the history of science, writes Clive Cookson

When Francis Crick and James Watsonrevealed the DNA double helix to the world, in a paper published in Nature 60 years ago next week, scientific glory was on their minds. Making a fortune, for themselves or others, was not.

Yet the discovery has turned out to be one of the most valuable in the history of science, ranking alongside the transistor and laser. Cracking the mystery of how genetic information is transmitted biochemically between generations has generated more than $1tn of business activity.

The corporate value of DNA was thrown into the spotlight this week with the $13.6bn sale of Life Technologies, a US manufacturer of instruments that read the chemical “letters” encoded in the intertwined spirals of the double helix. Biotechnology companies that make DNA-based diagnostics and drugs, from Amgen to Ziopharm, are worth hundreds of billions more. Read more of this post

Here Comes the Next Hot Emerging Market: the U.S.

Updated April 19, 2013, 4:07 p.m. ET

Here Comes the Next Hot Emerging Market: the U.S.



The investment visionary who coined the term “emerging markets” and helped launch the first funds to invest in developing countries thinks he has spotted what you might call the next great emerging market. It is called “the United States.”

Antoine van Agtmael is arguably the founding father of emerging-markets investing. He still is an evangelist for investing in parts of Africa, Asia, Latin America and other less-developed regions, where he thinks the future remains bright. But he believes the U.S. is at the beginning of an industrial revitalization that most analysts only have begun to recognize. Read more of this post

One Way to Time the Market; VLMAP, Value Line’s Median Appreciation Potential, is used to project where the market will be in four years

April 19, 2013, 4:59 p.m. ET

One Way to Time the Market


The stock market in four years’ time is unlikely to be much higher than it is now. That sobering forecast comes from a simple stock-market timing model that has an impressive track record over the past five decades. Among the more than 100 market timing strategies tracked by the Hulbert Financial Digest, in fact, this model has turned in the best performance of any in forecasting the market’s four-year return. The clear investment implication is to begin reducing risk in your stock portfolio—either by building up cash or shifting your holdings toward more conservative stocks such as those with strong balance sheets and which pay high dividends.

This market timing system is based on a single number that appears each week in the Value Line VALU -1.20% Investment Survey, the flagship publication of Value Line, a New York-based research firm. The number represents the median of the percentage gains that Value Line’s analysts estimate the 1,700 widely followed stocks they monitor will produce over the next three to five years. Over the past five years, for example, this number—known as the VLMAP, for Value Line’s Median Appreciation Potential—has been as low as 45% and as high as 185%. It currently stands at 50%. Value Line itself doesn’t endorse using the VLMAP for market-timing purposes. Though the firm doesn’t actively discourage investors from relying on this number or any of the other data that it produces, Value Line instead showcases a market-timing model that has a shorter-term focus.

Read more of this post

Congestion pushes Chinese on to their bikes

April 19, 2013 5:14 am

Congestion pushes Chinese on to their bikes

By Patti Waldmeir in Hangzhou, China

For decades under communism, owning a private car was an impossible dream inChina. Now that the dream has come true for tens of millions of Chinese, they are waking up each day to a life of traffic jams and smog. Beijing’s air pollution has been so bad recently that it has captured headlines around the world – yet the capital has far from the dirtiest air in China. More and more mainland cities can boast world-class traffic congestion, parking shortages and commuting times, auto analysts say.

Under Chairman Mao Zedong, schoolchildren were taught that these were the ills associated with capitalism, but China’s urban planners were no match for half a century of pent-up demand from first-time car buyers. The country, whose showpiece industry event – the Shanghai Auto Show – starts this weekend, is now the world’s largest car market. And it is paying the price. With more than half of all Chinese living in cities, “smog and clog” are becoming big political issues. Even washing all those cars is exacerbating the country’swater shortage, according to a report last week from a Chinese NGO. The impact is so high that some cities are even thinking the unthinkable: sending China back to its roots as a nation of cyclists. Read more of this post

The Trade in the Tools of Tech Tyranny; Repressive governments around the world have been getting some help from Western technology

April 19, 2013, 8:02 p.m. ET

The Trade in the Tools of Tech Tyranny


Repressive governments around the world have been getting some help from Western technology.

Filtering devices built by Blue Coat Systems, an Internet-security company in Sunnyvale, Calif., have been used by the Syrian government to try to suppress the civil unrest engulfing the country. The company has acknowledged this happening but says it never sold the product to the Syrian government.

Amesys, a unit of French technology company BullBULL.FR +1.76% provided the Internet surveillance system deployed by Gadhafi’s regime to harass local journalists and dissidents before the Libyan government was overthrown in 2011. (The system’s workings were detailed in a 2011 series on censorship by the Journal.) In February of this year, a French judge refused to dismiss claims filed by human-rights groups that Amesys served as an accomplice to torture by selling its wares to Libya. Read more of this post

Eric Schmidt: The Dark Side of the Digital Revolution; Google’s Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, fresh from a visit to North Korea in January, on why the Internet is far from an unalloyed good to the citizens of dictatorships around the world

Updated April 19, 2013, 2:59 p.m. ET

The Dark Side of the Digital Revolution

Google’s Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, fresh from a visit to North Korea in January, on why the Internet is far from an unalloyed good to the citizens of dictatorships around the world.


Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas, talk with WSJ’s John Bussey about what they hoped to accomplish from a visit to North Korea, and their observations about the country’s technological potential and its likelihood of embracing the Internet. Photo: Getty Images

How do you explain to people that they are a YouTube sensation, when they have never heard of YouTube or the Internet? That’s a question we faced during our January visit to North Korea, when we attempted to engage with the Pyongyang traffic police. You may have seen videos on the Web of the capital city’s “traffic cops,” whose ballerina-like street rituals, featured in government propaganda videos, have made them famous online. The men and women themselves, however—like most North Koreans—have never seen a Web page, used a desktop computer, or held a tablet or smartphone. They have never even heard of Google GOOG +4.43% (or Bing, for that matter). Read more of this post

1,424 listed firms in China got RMB57bn in subsidies last year

1,424 listed firms in China got RMB57bn in subsidies last year

Staff Reporter,  2013-04-20

The production line of Chongqing Iron & Steel, which got US$320 million in subsidies in 2012. (Photo/Xinhua)

The Chinese government last year provided 57 billion yuan (US$9.2 billion) in subsidies to 1,424 listed firms, with state enterprises receiving 70% of the funds.

BOE, a major flat panel display maker, took over 1.6 billion yuan (US$259 million) in government subsidy last year, when its accumulated net loss topped 8 billion yuan (US$1.3 billion), compared with total capital of 30 billion yuan (US$4.8 billion). China Ocean Service received 900 million yuan (US$145 million) last year, just a fraction of its staggering net loss of 9.6 billion yuan (US$1.55 billion).

Despite the rigorous financial screening for IPO plans, there are still over 700 firms lining up to list their shares on China’s stock market. “Share listing enables a company to raise funds by floating new shares and entitles it to various incentives from municipal governments, amounting to millions, tens of millions, or even one hundred millions of yuan,” said an executive with a listed securities firm. Read more of this post

Graduate schools stung by drop in Chinese applications

Graduate schools stung by drop in Chinese applications

Fri, Apr 19 2013

(Reuters) – Slowing graduate-school enrollments, including a 5 percent decline in applications from China for fall 2013, are hurting the revenues of many U.S. universities, Moody’s Investors Service said on Friday.

In a commentary, Moody’s said graduate school enrollments for the coming autumn term increased by just 1 percent, or the smallest increase in 11 years, according to data from the Council of Graduate Schools.

Private universities took the biggest blow, with applications from typically higher-paying international students off 4 percent. Public universities saw international applications go up 3 percent, Moody’s said.

Applications from China, the largest exporter of graduate students to the United States, were off 5 percent. Read more of this post

Luxury Slumps in Switzerland; glut of high-end developments and shrinking employment in the banking industry have led to a downturn in the upscale real-estate market

April 18, 2013, 10:45 p.m. ET

Luxury Slumps in Switzerland

A glut of high-end developments and shrinking employment in the banking industry have led to a downturn in the upscale real-estate market; slow sales at the Löwenbräu high-rise

Mobimo Tower is a luxury high-rise with units priced between $1.4 million and $7.4 million. After two years, about one-third of the residences remain unsold.


When Mobimo Holding AG MOBN.EB +0.48% opened a 24-story luxury tower in one of Zurich’s trendiest neighborhoods, Chief Executive Christoph Caviezel expected the building’s glitzy condominiums to sell fast.

Snapshot: Zurich

  • Population: 380,500
  • Cost of living: Switzerland is currently experiencing mild deflation. Prices fell on average 0.7% in 2012, compared with a gain of 0.2% the year before.
  • Average high-low temperatures: January: 37.8°/26.4°F July: 77°/55°F
  • Biggest deal: Two detached houses sold for more than $32 million apiece last year.
  • Notable neighbors: Singer Tina Turner lives along the Gold Coast of Lake Zurich. Swiss bank UBS board member Rainer-Marc Frey reportedly bought a condo in the Mobimo Tower.
  • Conversation pieces: Zurich West, where the Mobimo Tower and the Löwenbräu high-rise were built, was formerly the city’s industrial center. Now it’s peppered with bars, restaurants and boutiques. Cultural events are often hosted in refurbished industrial sites. The Gold Coast along Lake Zurich has lured wealthy residents drawn to its quiet neighborhoods and stunning water views. The area got its nickname from the evening sunshine that bathes the area year-round.

Two years later, a third of the Mobimo Tower’s 53 units remain unsold even though they sport panoramic views, high-end fixtures and access to an on-site health club. Mobimo hopes the condominiums, which reportedly cost between 1.3 million and 7 million Swiss francs ($1.4 million and $7.4 million), will be sold by the end of 2014, a year later than previously expected.

Poor sales at the $268 million tower, its flagship property, have prompted the Lucerne, Switzerland-based developer to scrap plans for a similar luxury complex on the shores of Lake Zurich. Mobimo has already sold the land earmarked for that development, which was planned for a sun-splashed area dubbed the Gold Coast.

“It makes no sense to build more apartments in the high-price range,” Mr. Caviezel said in an interview.

Mobimo and other Swiss developers have been caught by a sudden swing in Zurich’s real-estate market. A glut of high-end developments and shrinking employment in the banking industry have hit high-end real estate hard. Efforts by the central bank, which began requiring banks in February to put an additional 1% of mortgage-related exposures aside as part of a capital cushion, are also weighing on the market. The Swiss franc is little changed compared with other currencies.

The shift has come fast for Zurich, which has been among the world’s most buoyant markets for several years. Historically low interest rates—about 1.5% for a five-year, fixed-rate mortgage—and an influx of wealthy foreigners helped push prices of upscale condominiums to nearly $2,000 per square foot, according to analysts at Credit Suisse CSGN.VX +1.03% . Confident that prices would keep rising, buyers often committed to purchases before construction of a site was completed.

Now condominium prices in the canton of Zurich, which houses Switzerland’s biggest city and the country’s financial hub, are slowing. Condo prices rose 6.5% last year, but that was down from 9.4% the previous year and 7.1% in 2010, according to Wüest & Partner, a property consultant. Analysts at Credit Suisse say price growth will “slow considerably” this year, although it will remain positive.

Properties listed for $2 million or more stayed on the market for more than 90 days in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared with more than 60 days in the third quarter, according to Wüest & Partner.

“The golden times of the last two or three years are gone now,” said Thomas Rieder, a senior economist at Credit Suisse, who says slimmer paychecks in the financial industry have weighed on the market. “It’s not so easy anymore to sell property at any price you want.”

PSP Swiss PropertyPSPN.EB +0.96%a Zug-based developer, is also struggling to complete sales in its Löwenbräu high-rise, a 20-story tower built on the site of a former brewery and just down the road from the Mobimo Tower.

Though sales opened nearly three years ago, roughly 22% of the complex’s 58 units remain empty. PSP even chopped the tower’s glamorous 6,028-square-foot penthouse in two, hoping the smaller units would be easier to sell. So far, neither of the condominiums has found a buyer.

PSP CEO Luciano Gabriel said his company wasn’t planning to cut prices yet but acknowledged prices in the luxury segment have been “not very realistic.” PSP is shifting back to commercial developments, its historic strength.

AllrealALLN.EB +0.90% a developer with commercial and residential properties in the greater Zurich area, is also changing tack, moving back to the midlevel residential market after a luxury project overlooking Lake Zurich struggled to attract buyers. Just seven of the project’s 23 units have sold, despite a desirable location in the leafy village of Meilen, about 10 miles outside of the city center.

“Looking back a few years, such a project would have been sold out in no time,” said Matthias Meier, a company spokesman. Allreal also has another luxury project along the shore of the lake that will be completed in 2014. Prices for condos there go from about $1.4 million to $5.2 million.

Mobimo, too, is refocusing on projects that will appeal to middle-class Swiss families, a move that means a lower price point. The company is working on a complex of 50 apartments in Zurich that will likely sell at about $1,000 per square foot, roughly half the price tag for luxury developments.

Mr. Caviezel, the Mobimo chief executive, says he’s bracing for a more challenging environment. With tighter credit and fewer high-paid banking jobs, he says it will take longer for the company to sell out its big projects. Amid regulatory changes in the banking industry, UBSUBSN.VX +3.23% the country’s biggest bank by assets, has reported that its head count in Switzerland fell to about 22,400 as of the end of last year, from roughly 23,200 in 2011. Credit Suisse, too, has cut jobs as it restructures its operations, reducing head count world-wide by 2,300 jobs during past year.

“We’ve been a little bit spoiled in the past, with apartments that could be sold even before they were finished,” said Mr. Caviezel. “Now it takes more time.”

Low-interest-rate environment exposes seniors to fraudsters; “Right now, because of interest rates, the fraudulent sellers aren’t having any issues finding a buyer who wants to believe the lie.”

Low-interest-rate environment exposes seniors to fraudsters

By Ylan Q. Mui, Friday, April 19, 2:37 AM

Senior citizens are being lured into riskier investments — and often outright scams — as carefully laid retirement plans have been scuttled by five years of low interest rates.

Government regulators and advocacy groups say unscrupulous dealers are taking advantage of a growing fear among seniors that they will run out of money in their final years of life. That’s in large part because many seniors have parked their cash in safe investments, such as government bonds, where returns have barely kept pace with inflation. As a result, their savings are stagnating as their life expectancy grows — and that is making many older Americans increasingly desperate.

In Georgia, state regulators nabbed a man last year who bilked seniors out of nearly $16 million by promising to generate high returns with investments in foreign currencies. In South Carolina, regulators are pressing charges against a former insurance agent who they say was able to scam 17 people out of more than $1 million by advertising certificates of deposit with returns of just 4 percent. A similar scheme in Virginia attracted more than $11 million from seniors hoping to beat bank interest rates that have fallen below 1 percent.

“What we really have now is a combination of the fraudulent seller with the needy buyer,” said A. Heath Abshure, commissioner of the Arkansas Securities Department and president of the North American Securities Administrators Association. “Right now, because of interest rates, the fraudulent sellers aren’t having any issues finding a buyer who wants to believe the lie.” Read more of this post

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