CHINA MOVES TO MORE FASHIONABLE GOLD

China’s robust appetite for gold may have abated this year, but sales are still hot in one market niche — 18 carat gold jewelry — the kind of gold preferred by fashion conscious buyers.

“The motive is just to buy a piece of jewelry, much like you would buy a very pretty dress or a handbag,” says Albert Cheng, managing director of World Gold Council’s Far East office.

The material is 75% gold blended with other metals that is more versatile for creating new designs and for setting different kinds of gems, although it’s not as easy to sell back as pure gold jewelry that often doubles as a tool of investment. It’s also cheaper than pure 24-carat gold!

“This year, the overall market has slowed down. Therefore, retail manufacturers have time to produce something different, and they are doing it to attract customers,” says Mr. Cheng.

China’s third quarter gold jewelry sales tumbled by 39% year-on-year to around 147.1 metric tons, according to the World Gold Council.
Mr. Cheng reckons that the segment for 18 carat gold jewelry was nearly zero around a decade ago, but now comprises 10%-15% of the total jewelry market.

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Banks Looking At New Fees

Banks, in an attempt to wring more revenue out of customer accounts, are planning new ways to raise fees on basic products like debit cards, cash machines and checking accounts.

As regulation curtailing financial institutions from levying certain charges on consumers has mounted over the past year, banks have had to come up with new fees to replace those trimmed by laws. Credit-card users have experienced new inactivity fees and foreign-exchange charges, while checking accounts have gotten hit with new monthly maintenance fees.

Banks are considering additional fees on credit cards and checking accounts. But they also are looking at new ways to make money on cash machines and especially debit cards as regulators pinch the cards’ conventional revenue streams.

Some experts believe that to counter that lost revenue, banks are thinking about imposing annual fees of $25 or $30 on debit cards.

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MicroLenders, Once Honored, Now Struggling

Microcredit is losing its halo in many developing countries.

Microcredit was once extolled by world leaders like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, as a powerful tool that could help eliminate poverty, through loans as small as $50 to cowherds, basket weavers and other poor people for starting or expanding businesses. But now microloans have met with political hostility in Bangladesh, India, Nicaragua and other developing countries.

In December, the prime minister of Bangladesh,Sheik  Hasina Wazed— who had championed microloans alongside Mr. Clinton at talks in Washington in 1997, while Mr. Clinton was president — turned her back on them. She said microlenders were “sucking blood from the poor in the name of poverty alleviation,” and she ordered an investigation into Grameen Bank, which had pioneered microcredit and which, along with its founder, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.

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Dozens of Jackdaws Found Dead in Sweden

Officials say about 50 birds have been found dead on a street in Sweden

Veterinarian Robert ter Horst says the cause of jackdaws’ deaths was unclear but that fireworks were set off near the scene Tuesday night.

The birds were found dead on Wednesday.

Ter Horst says cold weather, difficulties finding food and possible shock from the fireworks could be responsible, leading to the stressed birds either dying from the stress or being run over by vehicles.

Mass bird deaths aren’t uncommon.

In the U.S.,New Year’s Eve fireworks were blamed in Arkansas for killing thousands of blackbirds, and a few days later power lines likely killed about 450 birds in Louisiana.

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C.F.T.C. Pushes Compromise on Trading Limits

Banks Looking At New Fees

Banks, in an attempt to wring more revenue out of customer accounts, are planning new ways to raise fees on basic products like debit cards, cash machines and checking accounts.

As regulation curtailing financial institutions from levying certain charges on consumers has mounted over the past year, banks have had to come up with new fees to replace those trimmed by laws. Credit-card users have experienced new inactivity fees and foreign-exchange charges, while checking accounts have gotten hit with new monthly maintenance fees.

Banks are considering additional fees on credit cards and checking accounts. But they also are looking at new ways to make money on cash machines and especially debit cards as regulators pinch the cards’ conventional revenue streams.

Some experts believe that to counter that lost revenue, banks are thinking about imposing annual fees of $25 or $30 on debit cards.

Embedded link’
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703808704576062251813426390.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_sections_personalfinance

MicroLenders, Once Honored, Now Struggling

Microcredit is losing its halo in many developing countries.

Microcredit was once extolled by world leaders like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, as a powerful tool that could help eliminate poverty, through loans as small as $50 to cowherds, basket weavers and other poor people for starting or expanding businesses. But now microloans have met with political hostility in Bangladesh, India, Nicaragua and other developing countries.

In December, the prime minister of Bangladesh,Sheik  Hasina Wazed— who had championed microloans alongside Mr. Clinton at talks in Washington in 1997, while Mr. Clinton was president — turned her back on them. She said microlenders were “sucking blood from the poor in the name of poverty alleviation,” and she ordered an investigation into Grameen Bank, which had pioneered microcredit and which, along with its founder, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.

Embedded link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/06/business/global/06micro.html?ref=business

As regulators propose hundreds of new rules for banks, hedge funds and other big financial players, trading limits for wheat and corn are proving the most resistant to change..

The Commodities Futures Trading Commission was supposed to set so-called position limits on agriculture products and the like weeks ago. But they’ve been at an impasse, as the agency’s commissioners batlle over how tough the limits should be.

The stalemate may soon be over as a compromise proposal finally emerged.

Commissioner Bart Chilton, who refused to support an earlier phased-in proposal that he found too weak, has now agreed to a temporary position “points” plan, which would alert the agency when a trader becomes overexposed. This method would help the C.F.T.C. monitor the exposure firms have to certain commodities, such as wheat, oil and metals.

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Landlords Pay New Attention To Rent Monitoring

Landlords are beginning to act more like airlines — using supply and demand to make quick adjustments to rent prices.

In fact, some landlords are now using sophisticated computerized models to monitor competition, upcoming vacancies and seasonal patterns to determine optimal rent. While the results are not as fast as for the airlines, rents can change quickly, sometimes day to day.

For landlords, it is about “being able to react quicker, changing your pricing more effectively to capture that incremental dollar,” says Haendel St. Juste, a senior REIT analyst with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods.

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