Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Day of the Scot vote; US interest rate to stay near zero; Alibaba IPO to spur more Chinese firms; UK joblessness lowest since 2008

1 Day of the Scot vote (BBC) Ahead of the day Scotland decides on independence, chief counting officer for the referendum Mary Pitcaithly says she will announce the result at "breakfast time" on Friday 19 September. The result is most likely to be between 06:30 BST and 07:30 BST, according to Elections Scotland.

In a national referendum, there is only one result - the total number of votes cast in favour of "Yes/No" to the referendum question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?" across the whole country. There will not be a result in Highland or a result in Perth, only totals for those areas. The national result is the aggregate of 32 local totals.

When the final result comes in, that will be it. Even if there is only one vote in it. Scotland is remote and sparsely populated in places, so some areas have to factor in geography and the weather. But bad weather could delay the receipt of ballot boxes at a count, and as a consequence, delay the overall national result.

Voter turnout is also a consideration. More than 4.2 million people have registered to vote in the independence referendum, making it the largest electorate ever in Scotland. The 4.2 million registered voters suggests that 97% of the total number of people eligible to vote have registered.

2 US interest rate to stay near zero (Sydney Morning Herald) The US Federal Reserve has renewed a pledge to keep interest rates near zero for a "considerable time" and repeated concerns over slack in the US labour market, standing firm against calls to overhaul its policy statement.

Many economists and traders had expected the central bank to alter the rate guidance it has provided since March, given generally improving data on the economy's performance. But the Fed repeated its assurance that rates would stay ultra-low for a "considerable time" after a bond-buying stimulus program wraps up. In a statement after a two-day meeting, it announced a further $US10 billion reduction in its monthly purchases, leaving the program on course to be shuttered next month.

The policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee also repeated its assessment that a "significant" amount of slack remains in the US labour market, a further sign it is no rush to raise benchmark borrowing costs. "The labour market has yet to fully recover," Fed Chair Janet Yellen said. "There are still too many people who want jobs but can't find them." She added that "inflation has been running below the committee's 2 percent objective." In July, the Fed said inflation was "somewhat closer" to its goal.

3 Alibaba IPO to spur more Chinese firms (Melissa Sim in Straits Times) The months leading up to e-commerce giant Alibaba's initial public offering (IPO) - expected to happen this week - have been a watershed moment for Chinese technology companies seeking a listing in the US.

Excluding the Alibaba IPO, which is expected to raise $21.8 billion, Chinese technology company IPOs have already brought in about $3.3 billion this year - the highest annual total in the last decade, according to financial data and technology company Dealogic.

Companies that listed here last year include China's Twitter equivalent Weibo, which raised $286 million, and online retail company, which took in $1.7 billion. This year, "not a single Chinese IPO has traded down," said Ms Kathleen Smith from IPO exchange-traded fund manager Renaissance Capital.

4 UK joblessness lowest since 2008 (Larry Elliott in The Guardian) The City is ruling out a rise in interest rates this year amid evidence that a fresh fall in unemployment to its lowest levels since the height of the financial crisis has failed to reignite pay growth. Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that joblessness on the internationally agreed yardstick was 468,000 lower in the three months to July than in the same quarter of 2013 – the biggest annual decline since the Lawson boom was raging in 1988.

George Osborne said the 146,000 fall in joblessness marked "another step on the road to full employment". ONS figures showed unemployment on the "labour force survey" measure fell to 2.02m in the three months ending in July.

The rate fell more sharply than expected, with the drop from 6.4% to 6.2% taking it to levels not seen for almost six years. The alternative "claimant count" measure, which looks at the number of people out of work and claiming jobseeker's allowance, fell by 37,200 to 966,500 in August, the first time it has been below a million since September 2008, when the global financial crisis began with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers.

Between May and June this year there were 774,000 more people in work than in the same three months of 2013, but the ONS said that in the three months ending in July, employment rose by just 74,000, the smallest increase for more than a year. It said that of the 74,000 jobs created, 68,000 were part-time.

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