News Column

TOP NEWS: Sunni Militants Extend Control Over Eastern Iraq

June 13, 2014



LONDON (Alliance News) - The following is a summary of top news stories Friday.

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COMPANIES

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Petra Diamonds Ltd shares jumped to the top of the FTSE 250 index after saying it has recovered another exceptional 122.52 carat blue diamond at the Cullinan mine in South Africa. The diamond mining company with operations in Tanzania, Botswana and South Africa said the stone will require further analysis in order to assess its potential value, but once this is completed, the company will make a decision on its sale plan for the stone. It said that the diamond will therefore not be sold until after the end of the company's current financial year, which ends on June 30.

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Tullow Oil PLC said it has refinanced its USD330 million Norwegian exploration loan facility, increaing the facility to USD500 million and extending the loan availability to the end of 2017. The FTSE 100 oil and gas exploration company said the arrangement replaces a previous facility arranged by Spring Energy before it was acquired by Tullow Oil in January 2013. It was due to expire in December 2014.

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GlaxoSmithKline PLC said a late stage study of its drug eltrombopag for the treatment of chronic immune thrombocytopenia in paediatric patients had met its primary endpoint. Immune thrombocytopenia is a bleeding disorder where the blood does not clot properly. The drug, which its marketed as Promacta in the US and Revolade in Europe, showed a statistically significant improvement in platelet counts compared to a placebo.

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AstraZeneca PLC said late Thursday the US Food and Drug Administration'sAnalgesic Drug Products Advisory Committee has recommended the FDA not require cardiovascular outcomes trials for a class of drugs including AstraZeneca's movantix treatment. Movantix is a mu-opioid receptor antagonist for the treatment of opioid-induced constipation in patients with chronic non-cancer pain. Opioids assist with chronic pain relief by binding mu-receptors in the brain, but also bind nu-receptors in the bowel, which means patients taking opioids for chronic pain can develop opioid-induced constipation.

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UK women's clothing retailer Bonmarche Holdings PLC reported strong profit and sales growth in its most recent financial year, driven by market share gains, price increases and growth in its online business. In its maiden results as a listed company, the clothing retailer targeting women over 50 years old, reported a pretax profit of GBP11.2 million for the financial year ended March 29, up from GBP6.1 million a year earlier, as the company posted a 12% increase in revenues to GBP164.3 million from GBP146.8 million the prior year. Like-for-like sales also grew strongly, up more than 10%. The retailer declared its first dividend of 2.1 pence per share for the year.

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MARKETS

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UK stocks are lower as investors show concern over the deteriorating situation in Iraq, while housebuilders are underperforming after Bank of England Governor Mark Carney gave his clearest warning yet, late Thursday, that UK interest rates may rise sooner than previously guided.

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FTSE 100: down 1.1% at 6,770.87

FTSE 250: down 1.9% at 15,826.89

AIM ALL-SHARE: down 0.9% at 788.18

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Brent oil has risen by more than 4% over the past three days since the situation in Iraq started to deteriorate reaching a nine-month high of USD114.04 a barrel.

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GBP-USD: up at USD1.6962

EUR-USD: up at USD1.3565



GOLD: up at USD1,273.69 per ounce

OIL (Brent): up at USD112.82 a barrel



(changes since end of previous GMT day)

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ECONOMICS AND GENERAL

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Sunni militants have captured at least one town in eastern Iraq, broadening their domination over portions of the country as they press south toward the capital Baghdad, reports said. Their lightning advances have sparked international fears that Iraq is falling apart, making room for the emergence of a radical enclave. Fighters from the radical Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), backed by local insurgents, seized the town of Jalula, 125 kilometres north-east of Baghdad, Dubai-based broadcaster Al Arabiya said. However, local officials said Jalula was under the control of Peshmerga - military troops of Kurdistan - after government forces abandoned their outposts in the town.

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The US is not considering sending troops into Iraq to stop advances by Islamist militants, a State Department spokeswoman said. Describing the situation as "alarming" and saying there has been a "clear structural breakdown" in Iraq, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the US and Iraq "share a commitment to addressing threats from groups such as ISIL." Psaki spoke at a briefing after US President Barack Obama said his administration was "looking at all options" on how to respond to the latest violence in Iraq.

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Bank of England governor Mark Carney signalled that interest rate could rise sooner than forecast, due to strong economic growth. In a speech at the annual Mansion House in the City of London to financial and political leaders on Thursday, the governor said that interest rate "could happen sooner than markets currently expect." "There's already great speculation about the exact timing of the first rate hike and this decision is becoming more balanced. However, the decision would be dependent on data and is not a pre-set course", he added. There remains more spare capacity in the economy that would need to be used up first, he said.

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Fitch Ratings affirmed the sovereign ratings of the UK with 'stable' outlook, citing its favourable macroeconomic trends. The long-term ratings were maintained at 'AA+'. Strong GDP growth, falling unemployment and inflation close to the 2% target continued in the economy since the last review in December 2013, Fitch said.

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UK APR CB LEADING INDEX UP 0.5% VS. 0.3% IN MARCH

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UK APRIL CONSTRUCTION OUTPUT UP 4.6% ON YEAR, UP 1.2% ON MONTH

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Eurozone employment grew for the second straight quarter in the first three months of the year, figures from Eurostat showed. The number of employed rose 0.1% from the fourth quarter of 2013, when there was a similar gain. In the third quarter of 2013, the reading was flat. Year-on-year, the number of employed increased 0.2% in the first quarter, after a 0.4% slump in the previous three months.

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The euro area trade surplus increased slightly in April as the decline in imports exceeded the fall in exports, data from Eurostat showed. The seasonally adjusted trade surplus rose to EUR15.8 billion from EUR15.4 billion in March. On an unadjusted basis, the trade surplus fell to EUR15.7 billion in April from EUR16.7 billion in March. It was forecast to fall to EUR16.3 billion.

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China's industrial production and retail sales growth accelerated in May, suggesting that measures adopted by the government to kick start the recovery finally started to bear fruit. Industrial production grew at a pace of 8.8% year-on-year in May, following April's 8.7% increase, figures from the National Bureau of Statistics showed. The rate came in line with economists' expectations. At the same time, retail sales advanced by a more-than-expected 12.5% annually in May, faster than the 11.9% rise seen a month ago. Sales were expected to rise by 12.1%.

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The Bank of Japan retained its monetary policy unchanged while raising its view on overseas growth. The policy board of the BoJ unanimously decided to increase the monetary base at an annual pace of about JPY60-JPY70 trillion as widely expected by economists. "Overseas economies -- mainly advanced economies -- are recovering, albeit with a lackluster performance still seen in part," the bank said. With regard to the Japan outlook, the bank said the economy is expected to continue a moderate recovery as a trend, while it will be affected by the subsequent decline in demand following the front-loaded increase prior to the consumption tax hike.

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Japan industrial production was revised to show a steeper decline in April, final figures from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry showed. Industrial output declined 2.8% on month in April, a faster rate of decline than the preliminary estimate of a 2.5% fall. In March, production rose 0.7%. On a year-over-year basis, industrial output rose by a revised 3.8%, down from the preliminary estimate of a 4.1% rise. This follows the 6.4% increase in March.

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EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger says he expects gas talks between Russia and Moscow to resume on Saturday. "My hope is that we can continue tomorrow," he told journalists on the margins of an EU energy ministers' meeting in Luxembourg, adding that he expects Ukraine and Russia to be represented by their energy ministers and the chiefs of their respective gas companies. He said he is flexible on the location, whether it be "Brussels or Berlin or Kiev or Moscow."

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Ukraine said late Thursday that separatists in eastern Ukraine had obtained heavy armour from neighbouring Russia. Pro-Russian militants had brought at least three tanks across the border, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov told journalists in Kiev. President Petro Poroshenko had voiced "extreme concern" over the tanks and the wider clashes in eastern Ukraine, in a phone call, said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, speaking at a press conference in Georgia. Moscow made no immediate comment.

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Neymar's two goals, some help from the Japanese referee, and big support from the local fans have given hosts Brazil the perfect start to the World Cup. The 3-1 victory over Croatia in the tournament opener Thursday sparked widespread celebrations in the country, and coach Luiz Felipe Scolari is relieved that his team can book a place in the last 16 as early as Tuesday if they beat Mexico, and other results go their way. "This victory gives us a chance to breathe and another victory gives me room to breathe," Scolari said, describing his players as excellent.

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Source: Alliance News


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