US group sues over deal
A nonprofit group filed suit on Monday over a record US$13 billion settlement between the US Department of Justice and JPMorgan Chase concerning high-risk mortgage securities it sold ahead of the housing bust. Better Markets, a non-governmental organiztion that advocates for US financial market reform, filed suit in a federal court in Washington asking for judicial review of what it called an “unprecedented” agreement, demanding an injunction to prevent its enforcement until then. “This contract was the product of negotiations conducted entirely in secret behind closed doors, in significant part by the attorney general personally, who directly negotiated with the CEO of JP Morgan Chase,” the organization said in its suit. The group believes the Department of Justice’s actions were “a violation of the separation of powers doctrine” that outlines the spheres of legislative, executive and judicial influence in the US.
Glencore output rises
Glencore Xstrata said yesterday that its copper production rose 26 percent and coal output was up 4 percent in the year to the end of December last year, offsetting a weaker performance in zinc and lead. The firm, which among the diversified miners has the biggest exposure to copper, said its own sourced copper production for the period rose to 1.5 million tonnes, driven by strong growth at its operations in Africa, South America and Australia. The company produced a total of 750,600 tonnes of copper cathode last year, up 21 percent on the year. Lead and zinc output saw reductions of 9 percent and 2 percent, respectively.
Chinese consumption soars
China’s gold consumption soared 41.36 percent last year, industry data showed, with Chinese state media reporting yesterday that the country has probably overtaken India as the world’s largest consumer of the precious metal. Last year, China consumed 1,176.4 tonnes of the yellow metal, the China Gold Association said in a statement. The surge in demand was partly led by frenzied purchases by “middle-aged” “bargain-hunting” Chinese women who bucked the international market trend of falling prices to get cheap deals, the Xinhua news agency said yesterday. In the first three quarters of last year, China’s demand for gold totaled 779.6 tonnes, compared with India’s 714.7 tonnes, according to figures previously released by the World Gold Council. The British-based council usually publishes its full-year Gold Demand Trends report in February.
Metro confident of targets
German retail and distribution giant Metro said yesterday that it was confident of meeting its full-year targets after profits were up strongly in the first quarter. Metro runs its business year from October to September, and in the three months to December, net profit leapt to 451 million euros (US$616 million) from 36 million euros a year earlier. The increase was largely because the year-earlier figure had been hit by one-off charges relating to the sale of French unit Auchan, the Real supermarkets in eastern Europe and the closure of the electronic goods stores in China. Underlying or operating profit, as measured by earnings before interest and tax, declined by 15.7 percent to 1.073 billion euros. Sales declined by 3.3 percent to 18.721 billion euros, weighed down largely by the strong euro. At constant exchange rates, first-quarter sales would have risen by 1.4 percent, Metro calculated.