News Archive

JPMorgan probes possible cyber attack; reports other banks hit

(Reuters) – JPMorgan Chase Co is investigating a possible cyber attack and working with law enforcement authorities to determine the scope, a company spokeswoman said on Thursday morning.

The bank was taking additional steps to safeguard sensitive or confidential information, though it did not see unusual fraud activity at this time, company spokeswoman Trish Wexler said.

JPMorgan disclosed the investigation after the FBI said Wednesday evening it was investigating media reports earlier in the day that several U.S. financial companies have been victims of recent cyber attacks.

“We are working with the United States Secret Service to determine the scope of recently reported cyber attacks against several American financial institutions,” FBI spokesman Joshua Campbell said in a statement late Wednesday.

Campbell did not name any companies or give more details, although media reports had named JPMorgan as one victim of the attacks. Other potential victims have yet to be named.

Officials with the Secret Service could not be reached for comment.

JPMorgan launched its investigation after malicious software was recently discovered in the bank’s network, signaling it was the victim of a cyber attack, two people familiar with the incident told Reuters. The bank has yet to determine the severity, said the sources, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

Bloomberg News reported Wednesday that Russian hackers were believed to have carried out cyber attacks against JPMorgan and another unnamed U.S. bank in mid-August, resulting in the loss of sensitive data. Authorities were investigating whether the breaches were linked to recent attacks on major European banks, Bloomberg reported.

The New York Times reported late Wednesday the networks of JPMorgan and at least four other U.S. banks had been infiltrated in a string of coordinated attacks this month, citing four people familiar with the investigation.

The attackers stole large quantities of data, including checking and savings account information, though their motivation was not yet clear, the Times reported, adding that several private security firms were hired to conduct forensic reviews of infected networks.

Reuters was not able to independently verify the details in the Bloomberg and Times reports.

(Reporting by Jim Finkle in Boston and David Henry in New York; Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by David Gregorio, Jeremy Laurence and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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Pending home sales point to stronger market

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Americans signed more contracts in July to buy previously-owned homes than in any month in almost a year, suggesting the housing market was pulling out of its slump more quickly than expected.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) said on Thursday its Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed last month, rose 3.3 percent to 105.9, the highest level since August 2013.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected an increase of 0.5 percent last month.

The index plunged last summer after mortgage interest rates spiked, but it has been mostly rising since March of this year.

Contracts signed last U.S.month rose in the Northeast, the South and the West of the country, but fell in the Midwest.

(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Paul Simao)

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Benmosche says he sped up exit amid year-to-live prognosis: Bloomberg

(Reuters) – Robert Benmosche, the outgoing Chief Executive of American International Group Inc (AIG.N), sped up his exit from the insurer after learning that he had at most a year to live, Bloomberg reported.

Benmosche, originally scheduled to retire in 2015, was diagnosed with cancer in 2010. He learnt in May that he had nine months to a year to live.

He wants to enjoy the time he is left with after outliving earlier prognoses and repaying the insurer’s $182.3 billion U.S. bailout, Benmosche told Bloomberg TV.

“You know what, I’m not going to play the odds” Benmosche said at his villa in Croatia. “So let’s accelerate my retirement. And the board was happy to do that”

AIG could not immediately confirm the news.

The company said in June that Peter Hancock would succeed Benmosche as CEO and president, effective Sept. 1. Hancock joined AIG in 2010 and has headed the company’s property-casualty business since March 2011.

(Reporting by Avik Das in Bangalore; Editing by Joyjeet Das)

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BP says Whiting refinery still in production after fire

HOUSTON (Reuters) – BP Plc (BP.L) said its largest U.S. refinery, at Whiting, Indiana, continued to operate on Thursday morning following a blaze the night before that was expected to have a minimal impact on production.

One worker was taken to an area hospital for treatment, but was later released, the company said.

BP said operations at the 413,500 barrel per day (bpd) Whiting refinery “were minimally impacted as a result of the incident and the refinery continues to produce products for customers.”

Genscape, an energy information service provider, said all monitored units were operating normally except for the Blending Oil Unit, which shut at 9:04 p.m. That unit removes sulfur from distillate and gas oil streams, according to Genscape.

This incident comes nearly a decade after a 2005 explosion at a BP refinery in Texas City, Texas, killed 15 people and resulted in multi-million dollar settlements and tens of millions in fines for the company. The company sold that plant in 2013.

However, operational incidents, including small fires, at refineries are reasonably common, said Daniel Horowitz, the spokesman for the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. The Board, which investigates larger refinery fires, drew that conclusion after a report into a fire at a Chevron refinery. The CSB will follow-up with BP, but is unlikely to investigate a case that doesn’t involve fatalities or offsite damage, Horowitz said.

The Whiting refinery is the seventh-largest refinery in the United States and the largest outside of the Gulf Coast.

The plant is the centerpiece of BP’s shift over the past two years to emphasize using cheaper, heavy crude oil from Canada’s tar sands fields in Alberta.

In November, BP completed a $4-billion revamp of the Whiting refinery to boost its intake of Canadian crude oil from 85,000 bpd to 350,000 bpd.

On July 29, BP’s Chief Executive Bob Dudley said during a conference call that Whiting had been refining 270,000 bpd in heavy crude oil in the second quarter of this year and could likely run up to 300,000 bpd.

In its statement on Thursday, the company did not specify which unit was affected by the blaze, but said it was located in the north end of the refinery.

BP said the fire broke out at 9 p.m. Wednesday local time (0200 GMT Thursday). The fire was out by 10:55 p.m. local time Wednesday.

Firefighters from the city of Whiting were placed on stand-by to assist in battling the blaze, but the fire was contained and extinguished by BP’s firefighting unit at the refinery.

(This story refiles to remove repeated text at bottom of story)

(Reporting by Erwin Seba with additional reporting by Jessica Resnick-Ault; Editing by Mark Potter, Pravin Char and Meredith Mazzilli)

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Research yields results

One of the lead researchers at Curtin University’s internationally respected minerals research centre in Perth, Western Australia, has been recognised for development of a new gold plant carbon meter that could help gold producers cut costs and boost yields.

Adjunct professor Bill Staunton and his team won first prize at the 2014 Curtin Commercial Innovation Awards for the metering unit, which Staunton says is ultimately designed to lift gold extraction rates by enabling metallurgists to optimise the gold extraction process in carbon-in-pulp (CIP) plants (plant pictured above).

This could help reduce costs, increase efficiency and improve yields.

Instead of sampling a litre of carbon from the top of a one-million-litre tank, the robust meter underpins an automated approach to the process, measuring 20-litre samples regularly throughout the day. This potentially makes it less labour intensive and more accurate. The simplicity of the approach and promotion of continuous testing means a previously labour intensive and often inaccurate process could soon be obsolete, according to Curtin.

“Currently the carbon concentration isn’t well monitored or controlled,” Staunton says.

“The [Curtin metering] device … provides vastly improved data from which metallurgists can optimise the process more effectively, reducing costs, using carbon more efficiently and reducing the amount of gold lost to waste.”

A prototype is currently being trialled in Victoria and the university, which has successfully spun out several mineral technology enterprises into private hands, is looking to market the technology to gold mines worldwide “in the near future”.

The Curtin Commercial Innovation Awards were established in 2007 and aim to identify new technologies, products or services from research at Western Australia’s largest minerals tertiary education institution.

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Dollar General says not to abandon Family Dollar pursuit

(Reuters) – Dollar General Corp (DG.N) said it remained committed to acquiring rival Family Dollar Stores Inc (FDO.N), pointing to a prolonged battle for dominance of the deep discount retail sector in the United States.

Family Dollar last week rejected a $9 billion buyout offer from Dollar General, the No. 1 U.S. deep discount retailer, saying the deal could run foul of competition law and opted for a smaller bid from Dollar Tree (DLTR.O).

Dollar General’s chief executive, Rick Dreiling, played down antitrust concerns on Thursday and said the company’s offer was both achievable and superior to Dollar Tree’s offer.

“We continue to believe the potential antitrust issues are manageable … The financial benefits of our offer to Family Dollar shareholders are indisputable,” Dreiling said.

Dollar General also reported lower-than-expected second-quarter sales and cut the top end of its full-year comparable-store sales forecast on Thursday.

The slowdown in same-store sales in recent quarters and continued gross margin deterioration underscores the importance of consolidation in the dollar store space, Sterne Agee Co analysts wrote in a note.

Dollar General’s same-store sales growth slowed for the third straight quarter, while gross margins have failed to grow in the last six quarters.

The retailer has been struggling to shore up margins after it slashed prices to keep its lower-income shopper base from being lured by retail giants Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) and Target Corp (TGT.N) as well as by Family Dollar and Dollar Tree.

Low and middle income consumers have also been cutting back on spending, leading to weak quarterly sales at several retailers.

Investment adviser Neev Capital’s Rahul Sharma said Dreiling’s comments suggested that Dollar General was not under any pressure to move immediately.

“They can afford to pay a lot more. It sounds like they don’t want to say that just now,” said Sharma, the managing director of the firm.

Dollar General’s shares were up 1 percent $64.33 in early trading. Up to Wednesday’s close, they had risen almost 11 percent since the company offered to buy Family Dollar.


The company also reported same-store sales growth of 2.1 percent for the quarter ended Aug. 1, below the 2.9 percent estimated by analysts polled by research firm Consensus Metrix.

“The volatility of the macroeconomic environment continues to pressure the consumer and impact the company’s cost of purchasing and delivering merchandise,” Dreiling said.

The company said it expects same store sales to grow 3.0-3.5 percent in the year ending January, down from its previous forecast of 3-4 percent.

Dollar General’s gross margins shrank 53 basis points to 30.8 percent in the quarter, as it sold more lower-margin products such as tobacco and discounted more.

Dollar Tree also reported a lower-than-expected second-quarter profit last week as gross margins shrank by about 80 basis points to 34.2 percent.

Dollar General’s quarterly net income rose 2.4 percent to $251.3 million, or 83 cents per share, matching the average analyst estimate.

Net sales rose 7.5 percent to $4.72 billion, falling short of the average analyst estimate of $4.77 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

(Editing by Savio D’Souza and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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Jobless claims fall for second consecutive week

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell for a second straight week last week, underscoring the strengthening labor market fundamentals.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 298,000 for the week ended Aug. 23, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Claims for the prior week were revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims climbing to 300,000 last week. A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors influencing the state level data.

The four-week average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 1,250 to 299,750, pointing to sturdy job gains and an economy that is growing above its potential.

Job growth has topped 200,000 for six consecutive months, a stretch last seen in 1997, while the economy expanded at a 4.2 percent annual pace in the second quarter.

The jobless claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid increased 25,000 to 2.53 million in the week ended Aug. 16.

The so-called continuing claims covered the period the government samples households to calculate the unemployment rate for August. Continuing claims increased 19,000 between the July and August household survey weeks, suggesting little change in the jobless rate, which was at 6.2 percent last month.

The unemployment rate for people receiving jobless benefits was 1.9 percent for the seventh consecutive week.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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Bruised euro holds ground ahead of inflation test

NEW YORK Aug 28 (Reuters) – Stock markets around the world fell on Thursday after Ukraine said Russia moved more troops into the country, escalating the risk of the region’s crisis spreading, as nervous investors shifted money into gold and U.S. and German government bonds.

The euro hit a 21-month low against the Swiss franc and fell against the yen as worries about intensified fighting between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian separatists drove investors to seek safe-haven currencies.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Russian forces had entered Ukraine, and he convened his security and defense council to decide how to respond.

“Geopolitics is driving the market again, and this latest escalation in Ukraine comes as European stocks were ripe for a pull-back,” said Alexandre Baradez, chief market analyst at IG France.

The tensions put riskier assets firmly under pressure with the Standard Poor’s 500 index .SPX falling below the 2,000 threshold following a record close on Wednesday.

In midday U.S. trading, The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI fell 52.24 points, or 0.31 percent, to 17,069.77, the SP 500 .SPX shed 3.99 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,996.13 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC declined 10.15 points, or 0.22 percent, to 4,559.47. [.N]

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index .FTEU3 snapped its three-day winning streak, falling 0.7 percent at 1,369.15 points. Tokyo’s Nikkei closed down 0.5 percent at 15,459.86. [.EU] [.T]

The MSCI world equity index .MIWD00000PUS, which tracks shares in 45 nations, fell 1.81 points or 0.42 percent, to 430.44.

Meanwhile, ten-year German Bund yields DE10YT=RR hit a record low of 0.868 percent, and 30-year U.S. bond yields US30YT=RR touched 3.059 percent, the lowest in 14 months. [GVD/EUR] [US/]

Bond yields worldwide have fallen in recent days as traders bet on new stimulus from the European Central Bank as soon as next week in a bid to avert deflation in the euro zone.

German inflation came in at a steady 0.8 percent ahead of Friday’s euro zone number. Corresponding Spanish figures saw a slightly smaller-than-forecast drop as revised second quarter GDP held steady.

These weak inflation readings overshadowed an upwardly revised U.S. second-quarter economic growth reading.

In the currency market, the dollar and euro softened against safehaven yen, though the greenback retraced much of its earlier decline on the surprise upward GDP revision.

The dollar was down 0.05 percent to 103.79 yen JPY= but flat against the Swiss franc at 0.9148 franc CHF=.

The euro fell 0.3 percent to 136.62 yen EURJPY= and declined 0.1 percent versus the Swiss franc to 1.2055 francs EURCHF=, close to a 21-month low. [FRX/]

Safe-haven demand pushed spot gold prices higher for a third day, rising 0.5 percent at 1,289.50 an ounce. [GOL/]

London oil prices held above their recent 14-month lows on short-term supply concerns. Brent crude LCOc1 for October delivery was last up 19 cents or 0.18 percent at $102.91 a barrel, while U.S. crude futures CLc1 were up 72 cents or 0.77 percent, at $94.60 per barrel. [O/R]

(Additional reporting by Karen Brettell in New York; Marc Jones, Sujata Rao and Marius Zaharia in London; Editing by John Stonestreet and Meredith Mazzilli)

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Judge rejects Apple bid for injunction against Samsung

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – A U.S. judge rejected Apple Inc’s latest bid for a permanent injunction against Samsung Electronics Co Ltd in another sign of the diminishing impact of the smartphone patent wars.

Apple won a $120 million jury verdict against Samsung earlier this year over three Apple patents. However, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, on Wednesday denied Apple’s request to stop Samsung from selling infringing features on its smartphones related to those patents.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment. In a statement, Samsung said it welcomed the ruling. “We remain committed to providing American consumers with a wide choice of innovative products,” Samsung said.

Until this year, the two leaders in mobile technology had been engaged in global patent litigation over Samsung’s phones that use Google’s Android operating system. However, Apple and Samsung agreed earlier this month to drop all patent lawsuits outside the United States.

In her ruling on Monday, Koh ruled that Apple’s reputation as an innovator “has proved extremely robust” despite Samsung’s patent infringement.

“Apple has not demonstrated that it will suffer irreparable harm to its reputation or goodwill as an innovator without an injunction,” Koh wrote.

Samsung is still appealing the result of a blockbuster 2012 trial over a separate batch of patents, with Samsung seeking to undo $930 million in damages. And while Apple says those damages should stand, the iPhone maker is no longer asking an appeals court to revive its bid for a permanent sales ban against several older Samsung phones.

The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California is Apple Inc vs. Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, 12-630.

(Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Bernard Orr and Cynthia Osterman)

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