Friday, 23 October 2009

Stocks, oil slide on recovery worries

By Herbert Lash

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar rose and global stocks fell on Friday as energy shares followed crude prices lower and investors worried about the pace of a fledgling U.S. economic recovery.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed below the 10,000 mark, as weak results from industrials overshadowed robust earnings from bellwethers in technology.

The dollar and euro soared against sterling after data showed Britain was still mired in recession, with the economy shrinking 0.4 percent in the third quarter, which stunned investors who had expected a return to growth.

Sterling plunged nearly three cents against the dollar and notched its biggest one-day decline against the euro in six months as traders bet the Bank of England was more likely to expand its quantitative easing program to secure a recovery.

The euro retreated, falling below $1.50.

Oil stocks reversed early gains as U.S. crude futures settled almost 1 percent lower on scepticism that recovery was robust enough to spur demand.

"Any time the dollar shows signs of life, the stock market goes down. There's a flight to safety," said Joe Saluzzi, co-manager of trading at Themis Trading in Chatham, New Jersey.

"The (weak) UK GDP gave strength to the dollar. And when the dollar is up, oil falls."

World stocks fell, with the MSCI All-Country Word Index .MIWD00000PUS losing 0.76 percent.

Weak industrial sector earnings also made investors question the recovery's strength, which overshadowed robust results from technology heavyweights Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) and Inc (AMZN.O).

Shares of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp (BNI.N), the No. 2 U.S. railroad, slid 6.5 percent after it posted a 30 percent drop in quarterly profit. The stock helped drag an S&P industrials index .GSPI down 1.7 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI closed down 109.13 points, or 1.08 percent, at 9,972.18. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX slid 13.31 points, or 1.22 percent, at 1,079.60. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC fell 10.82 points, or 0.50 percent, at 2,154.47.

For the week, the Dow was off 0.2 percent, the S&P 500 shed 0.7 percent and the Nasdaq slipped 0.1 percent.

Stocks fell despite a surge in sales of previously owned U.S. homes to a two-year high in September. Analysts said the rise was partially driven by a soon-to-expire tax incentive for first-time buyers.

Weekly U.S. government data showing a decrease in stores of gasoline helped push crude prices lower, even as overall fuel inventories are still much higher than a year ago.

"Oil is holding around $80 but the decline in equities markets and a stronger dollar mean the rally in oil prices has been stalled for now," said Gene McGillian, analyst at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.

U.S. crude for December delivery settled down 69 cents a barrel at $80.50, while Brent crude settled down 59 cents to $78.92.

The dollar rose against a basket of major currencies, with the U.S. Dollar Index .DXY up 0.48 percent at 75.476.

The euro was down 0.18 percent at $1.4995, and against the yen, the dollar was up 0.74 percent at 92.07.

U.S. Treasury debt prices eased as investors positioned to cut prices ahead of next week's record sales of government notes.

The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was down 19/32 in price to yield 3.49 percent.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 .FTEU3 index of top shares closed down 0.6 percent at 1,008.88. The index is up 21 percent this year and has gained almost 56 percent from a record low hit in March after sliding 45 percent in 2008.

"If you go through the corporate earnings results, the top line is still suggesting it's a difficult environment for improving sales," said analyst Jane Foley of

Gold dropped in choppy trade. U.S. December gold futures settled down $2.20 at $1,056.40 an ounce in New York.

But copper climbed to a 13-month high on favourable economic data. Copper for December delivery rose 3.65 cents to settle at $3.0345 a pound, after touching $3.0620.

The MSCI index of Asia Pacific stocks traded outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was up 1.3 percent.

The Nikkei index .N225 in Tokyo finished up 0.2 percent.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

The Spooky World Of Quantum Biology
This is just too cool not to spread around. And since the article mentions solar cells, I think it's marginally eligible for inclusion here.

The Spooky World Of Quantum Biology

Quantum computation, a science still in its infancy, promises swiftness and efficiency vastly superior to anything possible with conventional silicon chips. Rather than relying on binary bits like contemporary systems, quantum computers use “qubits” that include all possible superpositions of a particle’s classical state. Instead of being “trapped” in a single configuration, the logic gates of a quantum computer employ multiple possibilities in synchrony -- using the entire set of alternative outcomes to arrive at an answer.

It’s a promising avenue for people with big plans for strong AI or virtual reality. The only complication is that coherence -- in which the many possible states of a particle or group of particles stay hung in superposition -- is something scientists have only been able to study under extremely controlled conditions. It’s only possible when that system doesn’t interact with anything else that might “collapse the wave function,” and so most of the major options for quantum computing involve impractical scenarios like creating a supercooled vacuum.

This is one of the reasons that many scientists have considered quantum biology both unlikely and unscientific. The thermal noise of biological systems seemed too great to allow for quantum weirdness; and even if it could, how on Earth would we study it? But science is the story of ingenuity’s victory over shortsightedness -- and one research team, led by Gregory S. Engel at UC Berkeley, has devised a way to directly detect and observe quantum-level processes within a cell using high-speed lasers.

They were trying to establish exactly how organic photosynthesis approaches 95% efficiency, whereas the most sophisticated human solar cells operate at only half that. What they discovered is nothing short of remarkable. Using femtosecond lasers to follow the movement of light energy through a photosynthetic bacterial cell, Engel et al. observed the energy traveling along every possible direction at the same time. Instead of following a single trajectory like the electrons on a silicon chip, the energy in photosynthesis explores all of its options and collapses the quantum process only after the fact, retroactively “deciding” upon the most efficient pathway. (My emphasis)

More at the link.

To quote J.B.S. Haldane, "The Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose."

1. And with our "one shot" thinking, we fell entire forests ('it'll all grow back'),
destroy fisheries and water quality and numerous "unimportant" species, pollute ecosystems with "one shot" pesticides and other gunk that we invent for ONE purpose, ignoring all other possibilities--most of them destructive--and proceed like silicon chips to decimate the web of life upon which we and everything else depends, by viewing Nature as merely a 'gold mine' from which corporate PR departments lie that we can extract single, high profit products, without ripping the web of life to shreds. I have great admiration for human cleverness--it gives me hope; and I think trade and "the marketplace" are a human need. But our conglomeration into corporate entities that live forever, accumulating vast wealth and power, will be the end of Nature and our own demise, if we do not beef up our national governments and our own democratic power to rein them in. We need to be like the photosynthesis cell, and explore every conceivable pathway to this end. And we need to do it yesterday.

3. This is what they're referring to
From CERN:

Efficiency of photosynthesis depends on quantum coherence

Photosynthesis is an amazingly efficient process, capturing 95% or more of the light energy that hits a leaf. Now a study led by researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California at Berkeley reveals at least part of how this is done. The trick, revealed by beat patterns in two-dimensional Fourier transform spectroscopy of a bacteriochlorophyll, seems to be that incoming light causes coherent excitation of many different states simultaneously in superposition. This then allows a very efficient search of the various possible reaction complexes into which the energy could be delivered.

The discovery hinged on the two-dimensional electronic-spectroscopy technique developed by the group, which is led by Graham Fleming at Berkeley. This enables the researchers to follow the light-induced excitation energy at it passes through molecular complexes, with a time resolution of femtoseconds. It involves flashing a sample sequentially with femtosecond pulses of light from three laser beams, with a fourth beam to amplify and detect the resulting spectroscopic signals.

The finding contradicts the classical description of the photosynthetic energy transfer process as one in which excitation energy moves step-by-step down the molecular energy ladder from pigment molecules to reaction centres. Instead, the process seems to depend on quantum coherence, which is also what underlies quantum computing. Further research into this effect could lead to a better understanding of how life uses quantum mechanics, and perhaps could also lead to new ways of making solar cells.
About the author

Compiled by Steve Reucroft and John Swain, Northeastern University.

7. Thanks for mentioning the "spooky' thing. I was gonna, but got off on another subject.
By calling it "spooky," they promote the kind of superstition that makes it oh-so-easy for corporate PR departments to manipulate public opinion on environmental issues, for instance, coining a brainwashing phrase like "trees, the renewable resource." But the intricate web of life that comprises the ecosystem in which high value trees grow is NOT "renewable" once they have driven key species to extinction. They can grow crap trees for wood chips, maybe. But the dense forest and rich ecosystem that is so vital for the health and continuance of the earth's biosphere is gone, along with high value older trees and the conditions that created them. Corporate logging has led to the extirpation of numerous forest species, including species that we never got to know much about--fungi and bacteria that interacted with everything else. That web of life is irrecoverable, and the trees it grew will never grow again in the same way.

The elaborately balanced, intricate web of species in a natural system is not "spooky." It is REALITY. It is how things are. It is how WE are--as individuals. It is how everything works. We sometimes think of it as a "mystery" because we don't understand the million filaments of the web and how they interact. I think "mystery" is an okay word, re Nature, because it implies respect. But "spooky" implies fear. Neither quantum physics nor quantum biology is "scary." It is merely the best description of certain phenomena that we have. Those phenomena may be quite surprising. They are not "spooky."

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Indexes end down as financials slide

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks ended lower on Wednesday, hurt by a late-day sell-off in financial shares after an influential analyst recommended selling Wells Fargo (WFC.N).

Based on the latest available data, the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI fell 92.12 points, or 0.92 percent, to unofficially end at 9,949.36. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX was down 9.66 points, or 0.89 percent, to finish unofficially at 1,081.40. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC was down 12.74 points, or 0.59 percent, to close unofficially at 2,150.73.


Surprising Sell Off, Beige Book Positive, Unemployment Grows

Stocks traded in positive territory for the majority of the session then late day downgrades triggered a surprisingly sharp sell off. Positive words from the Fed's Beige Book report indicating that the economy has indeed grown modestly were offset by a climb in unemployment across 23 states. Wal-Mart's dire predictions for a difficult holiday season and a Wells Fargo downgrade sent shares tumbling in the final hour. The DJIA dropped -92.12 to 9949.36, the Nasdaq fell -12.74 to 2150.73 and the broad based S&P 500 gave back -9.66 to 1081.40.

Wells Fargo (): Shares tumbled 5.12% or $1.56 to $28.90 after an analyst at Rochdale Securities discovered that the positive results were due to fees rather than better business.

Boeing (): Warned it will cut prices to weather the coming stressful holiday season, sending the stock down by 2.07% or $1.07 to $50.63.

Knight Capital (): Missed analysts estimates resulting in shares tumbling 16.80% or $3.66 to $18.13.

Gold climbed $5.90 to 1064.50, oil added $2.25 to $80.97 and the VIX index climbed 6.31 to 22.22.

European Stocks Rise on Morgan Stanley Earnings; Natixis Gains

By Adam Haigh -

Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) -- European stocks rose as higher-than- estimated earnings at Morgan Stanley bolstered speculation that the seven-month rally in equities is justified.

Natixis SA surged 11 percent after Credit Suisse Group AG added the bank to its so-called focus list. Tesco Plc gained 2.3 percent as Nomura International Plc boosted its share-price estimate by more than 25 percent on prospects for increased profitability and foreign sales. Deutsche Bank AG, Germany’s largest bank, sank 2.4 percent after pretax profit missed some analysts’ estimates.

Europe’s Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index added 0.4 percent to 249.19, having earlier slid as much as 1.1 percent. The regional gauge has jumped 58 percent since March 9 as the French and German economies unexpectedly exited recessions, pushing valuations in the index to more than 52 times reported earnings, the most expensive level since 2003, Bloomberg data show.

“The market has gone up a little too quickly in a short period of time,” said Chirin Gill, a London-based fund manager at Daiwa SB Investments, which oversees $60 billion. “Following that we’re likely to see a rally through the seasonally strong November and December as strong earnings results lead to another round of upgrades” from analysts, he added.

In the U.S., Morgan Stanley posted third-quarter profit of 38 cents per share today, exceeding the 30-cent average analyst estimate in a Bloomberg survey. Boeing Co. posted a loss that was bigger than analysts estimated and reduced its full-year profit forecast.

U.S. Earnings

More than 130 companies in the S&P 500 are scheduled to report third-quarter results this week. Earnings have surpassed analysts’ projections for at 79 of the 97 companies that released results so far, according to Bloomberg data. More than 72 percent beat the average estimate in the second quarter, matching the highest proportion in data going back to 1993.

The S&P 500 has rebounded 62 percent since March 9 as the Federal Reserve lent, spent or guaranteed $11.6 trillion to combat the worst U.S. recession since the 1930s and companies from Alcoa Inc. to JPMorgan Chase & Co. reported earnings that beat estimates.

Natixis climbed 11 percent to 4.40 euros after Credit Suisse raised its price estimate on the shares 36 percent to 5.70 euros.

Tesco gained 2.3 percent to 392.45 pence. The U.K.’s largest retailer is a “disciplined, defensive, sustainable growth story that is significantly undervalued by the market,” Nomura analysts including Matt Truman wrote.

Russia, Sweden

Tele2 AB, Sweden’s second-largest telephone company, soared 5.1 percent to 101.80 kronor after reporting third-quarter profit rose as it added new customers in Russia and Sweden. Net income was 1.7 billion kronor ($244 million), from 831 million kronor a year earlier when the company booked writedowns in Austria. Analysts projected net income of 975 million kronor.

Deutsche Bank retreated 2.4 percent to 54 euros even after third-quarter profit more than tripled to 1.4 billion euros ($2.1 billion). Net income was boosted by tax credits and the resolution of tax audits related to prior years, the bank said. Pretax profit was about 1.3 billion euros.

“We saw a similar fairly ambivalent response to U.S. investment banking numbers and the headline pretax figure wasn’t a blow out,” said Matthew Clark, a London-based analyst at Keefe Bruyette & Woods Ltd. who has an “outperform” recommendation on the stock.

PSA Peugeot Citroen slid 4.8 percent to 23 euros as Europe’s second-biggest carmaker said third-quarter revenue dropped 7.7 percent to 11.8 billion euros from a year earlier.

PPR SA, the owner of the Gucci brand, sank 4 percent to 81.80 euros after sales declined 7.6 percent to 4.56 billion euros, missing the 4.63 billion-euro median estimate of three analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

SEB AB declined 4 percent to 45.10 kronor after posting net income of 25 million kronor in the third quarter, trailing the median estimate by analysts in a Bloomberg survey. The second- biggest lender in the Baltics also said it sees slowing growth of non-performing loans in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

To contact the reporter on this story: Adam Haigh in London at

Last Updated: October 21, 2009 12:57 EDT

Dos de cada tres empresas familiares posee un consejo de administración compuesto por accionistas y parientes


La mayoría de empresas familiares españolas (un 66%) se encuentra en un periodo de "transición", es decir, su consejo de administración está compuesto tanto por familiares como por consejeros externos, según se desprende de un estudio presentado hoy por el Centro de Gobierno Corporativo, una iniciativa conjunta de Bankinter, Iberdrola, el Instituto de Empresa (IE) y PwC.

Por el contrario, el 4,2 por ciento de las empresas familiares no posee Consejo de Administración mientras que un porcentaje idéntico cuenta con un consejo integrado por consejeros externos. En este punto, el estudio condiciona la mejora de la aplicación de normas de Buen Gobierno a la presencia de miembros familiares no externos, por lo que vaticina "la retirada de la familia en la gestión diaria de la empresa", según la experta del IE, Cristina Cruz. "Las empresas familiares van hacia la profesionalización", aseveró.

Por su parte, el profesor del IE, Joan Amat, destacó que gran parte de las empresas familiares han superado una primera fase en la que el Consejo de Administración no tiene actividad alguna, o "es inactivo". Posteriormente, se convierte en un "elemento ceremonial", para pasar por una etapa de transición, llegar a ser un 'Consejo activo', y finalmente un 'Consejo progresivo', compuesto por la mayoría de consejeros externos.

A pesar de ello, el 47 por ciento de las empresas encuestadas define de "inactivo" su Consejo de Administración, mientras que el 53 por ciento considera que es más bien "pasivo", o que existe "un protagonismo excesivo" de algún familiar.

A la hora de llevar a cabo este estudio, se analizaron un total de 24 empresas familiares españolas, con una plantilla de entre 50 y 1.000 trabajadores. Los encuestados dieron una valoración media sobre la utilidad de un Consejo de Administración de tres puntos sobre cinco.

El documento también sitúa la duración media de los cargos de presidente o máximo ejecutivo en 15 años lo que, en opinión de los autores del estudio, conlleva el riesgo de acomodarse, la posible pérdida del espíritu emprendedor y una influencia negativa en la aplicación de normas de Buen Gobierno.

Asimismo, el estudio determina que la existencia del Consejo de Administración es "más frecuente" cuando existe un accionariado disperso y está compuesto por miembros no familiares. Por otro lado, la mayoría de las empresas encuestadas no cuenta con un sistema de evaluación del Consejo y de los consejeros, mientras que las Comisiones existen en el 16 por ciento de los casos.

Respecto a la composición de los Consejos, la presencia de Consejeros Familiares es muy superior a la de no familiares. En este supuesto, se trata de personas cercanas al círculo de la familia, o con algún tipo de relación contractual. La entrada de accionistas no familiares está ligada con la incorporación de Consejeros Externos y con la profesionalización del Consejo.

En el capítulo de recomendaciones, los expertos abogan por incorporar Consejeros externos para potenciar el espíritu emprendedor y profesional de la empresa; incorporar un criterio en la selección de los Consejeros que representen a la familia, en el que pese más la profesionalidad que el carácter familiar; el cumplimiento de buenas prácticas de Gobierno Corporativo; fomentar la evaluación periódica del Consejo y de los Consejeros; y potenciar el uso del Consejo de familia, complementario del Consejo de Administración.