Call centre in Sydney reopens under new management

A Cape Breton call centre that abruptly laid off hundreds of workers just weeks before Christmas is reopening today under new ownership.

Iowa businessman Anthony Marlowe bought the former ServiCom call centre in an auction that was part of ServiCom’s bankruptcy proceedings in the United States.

Todd Riley, the former director of operations who is now vice-president of the Sydney Call Centre, said “a solid 65 per cent” of the new centre’s 475 employees are starting today.

There will be some refresher training and staff will be going over their new benefits package, he said. 

The others will start next Monday. He said some other former ServiCom employees are still in talks with the company or are working at another call centre.

Most former ServiCom employees have returned to work. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

Marlowe Companies Inc. said earlier this week that if hired over the next month, workers with call centre experience from the last 90 days will receive a $300 starting bonus, along with the base pay and vacation levels from their previous employers and benefits.

“It’s a nice gesture just to say, ‘Hey, we understand that everyone has gone through this. We want to do a little bit but we want to do a lot more heading into 2019,'” Riley told Information Morning Cape Breton

The starting wage for newly hired workers will increase to $12 per hour from $11 per hour.

All work programs will restart by Jan. 14, and the company is still accepting applications.

MCI had been in negotiations to buy the call centre in the weeks before its sudden closure.

JEFFREY LIPTON in BARBADOS – https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/sydney-call-centre-reopens-new-management-1.4963059?cmp=rss

Tesla produced 61,394 Model 3s in fourth quarter

Jan 2 (Reuters) – Tesla Inc said on Wednesday it produced 61,394 Model 3s and delivered nearly 1,000 vehicles per day in the fourth quarter.

The company also said it delivered a total of 245,240 vehicles, including 145,846 Model 3s and 99,394 Model S and X in in 2018.

Reporting by Sonam Rai in Bengaluru

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After brutal 2018, world stocks nurse New Year’s hangover

LONDON (Reuters) – World shares began 2019 on a downbeat note, oil prices and bond yields skidded lower and the Japanese yen strengthened on Wednesday as data from China to France confirmed investors’ fears of a global economic slowdown.

The U.S. S&P500 and Dow Jones index futures slipped around one percent and Nasdaq futures fell 2 percent, signaling Wall Street would open in the red on the first trading day of the New Year after closing 2018 with the worst annual loss since 2008.

Weak manufacturing-activity surveys across Asia were followed by disappointing numbers in the euro zone, sending MSCI’s index of world shares 0.4 percent lower .

China in particular was in focus, after factory activity contracted for the first time in over two years. The gloom continued in Europe, where the Purchasing Managers’ Index for the euro zone reached its lowest since February 2016. Future output PMIs were at a six-year low.

The data suggests there will be no respite for equities or commodities after the 2018 losses.

A pan-European share index recovered some losses to stand 0.6 percent lower. The Paris bourse led losses with a 1.4 percent fall, as France’s PMI fell in December for the first time in two years.

“It’s a continuation of the worries over growth. You can see them in the Asian numbers, which all confirm that we have passed peak growth levels,” said Tim Graf, chief macro strategist at State Street Global Advisors.

The knock-on effects from China’s slowdown and global trade tensions were rippling across Asia and Europe, he said.

“I don’t think the trade story goes away, and Europe, being an open economy, is still vulnerable,” Graf added.

Copper, a key gauge of world growth sentiment, fell to 3 1/2-month lows , while Brent crude futures lost almost 1 percent after shedding 19.5 percent last year [O/R].

Commodity currencies’ losses were led by the Australian dollar. Often used as a proxy for China sentiment, the Aussie fell as much as 0.7 percent to its lowest since February 2016.

There were also renewed fears in Europe over the clean-up of Italy’s banks, with trading in shares of Banca Carige suspended. Carige failed last month to win shareholder backing for a share issue that was part of a rescue plan. An index of Italian bank shares fell 2.5 percent.

SAFETY FIRST

The stock market rout drove investors into the safety of bonds. Ten-year German Bund yields slumped to 20-month lows of 0.16 percent, their biggest one-day fall in two years.

Gold and the yen benefited too.

While gold topped six-month highs, the yen extended its rally against the dollar to seven-month highs around 108.9. It strengthened to 19-month peaks against the euro.

“Traditional safe-haven type flows are going into the yen. As we see increased volatility (on world markets), Japanese (investors) are probably repatriating foreign assets,” said Charles St Arnaud, senior investment strategist at Lombard Odier Investment Managers.

However, the dollar edged up 0.3 percent against a basket of currencies, rising half a percent to the euro and 0.8 percent versus sterling.

The greenback is under pressure from a fall in U.S. Treasury yields as investors wager the Federal Reserve will not raise rates again. While the Fed itself still projects at least two more hikes, money markets <0#FF:> imply a quarter-point cut by mid-2020.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell may comment on the outlook when he participates in a discussion on Friday, while manufacturing and jobs data due Thursday and Friday should also shed light.

Yields on two-year debt have tumbled to 2.49 percent from 2.977 percent peak in November. Ten-year yields dived to their lowest since last January at 2.647 percent.

The spread between two- and 10-year yields has in turn shrunk, narrowing last month to the smallest since 2007 and heading toward an inversion which has portended recessions in the past.

The German 2-10 yield curve is the flattest since November 2016

The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, January 2, 2019. REUTERS/Staff

“What is clear is that the global synchronized growth story that propelled risk assets higher has come to the end of its current run,” OCBC Bank told clients.

“Inexorably flattening yield curves … have poured cold water on further policy normalization going ahead.”

(This story corrects paragraph 22 to show 2-10 yield curve flattened last month to tightest in over a decade)

Additional reporting by Wayne Cole in Sydney and Abhinav Ramnarayan in London; Editing by Mark Heinrich

JEFFREY LIPTON in BARBADOS – http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/IjXTHKIhKwc/after-brutal-2018-world-stocks-nurse-new-years-hangover-idUSKCN1OW01N

CORRECTED-GLOBAL MARKETS-After brutal 2018, world stocks nurse New Year’s hangover

LONDON (Reuters) – World shares began 2019 on a downbeat note, oil prices and bond yields skidded lower and the Japanese yen strengthened on Wednesday as data from China to France confirmed investors’ fears of a global economic slowdown.

The U.S. S&P500 and Dow Jones index futures slipped around one percent and Nasdaq futures fell 2 percent, signaling Wall Street would open in the red on the first trading day of the New Year after closing 2018 with the worst annual loss since 2008.

Weak manufacturing-activity surveys across Asia were followed by disappointing numbers in the euro zone, sending MSCI’s index of world shares 0.4 percent lower .

China in particular was in focus, after factory activity contracted for the first time in over two years. The gloom continued in Europe, where the Purchasing Managers’ Index for the euro zone reached its lowest since February 2016. Future output PMIs were at a six-year low.

The data suggests there will be no respite for equities or commodities after the 2018 losses.

A pan-European share index recovered some losses to stand 0.6 percent lower. The Paris bourse led losses with a 1.4 percent fall, as France’s PMI fell in December for the first time in two years.

“It’s a continuation of the worries over growth. You can see them in the Asian numbers, which all confirm that we have passed peak growth levels,” said Tim Graf, chief macro strategist at State Street Global Advisors.

The knock-on effects from China’s slowdown and global trade tensions were rippling across Asia and Europe, he said.

“I don’t think the trade story goes away, and Europe, being an open economy, is still vulnerable,” Graf added.

Copper, a key gauge of world growth sentiment, fell to 3 1/2-month lows , while Brent crude futures lost almost 1 percent after shedding 19.5 percent last year [O/R].

Commodity currencies’ losses were led by the Australian dollar. Often used as a proxy for China sentiment, the Aussie fell as much as 0.7 percent to its lowest since February 2016.

There were also renewed fears in Europe over the clean-up of Italy’s banks, with trading in shares of Banca Carige suspended. Carige failed last month to win shareholder backing for a share issue that was part of a rescue plan. An index of Italian bank shares fell 2.5 percent.

SAFETY FIRST

The stock market rout drove investors into the safety of bonds. Ten-year German Bund yields slumped to 20-month lows of 0.16 percent, their biggest one-day fall in two years.

Gold and the yen benefited too.

While gold topped six-month highs, the yen extended its rally against the dollar to seven-month highs around 108.9. It strengthened to 19-month peaks against the euro.

“Traditional safe-haven type flows are going into the yen. As we see increased volatility (on world markets), Japanese (investors) are probably repatriating foreign assets,” said Charles St Arnaud, senior investment strategist at Lombard Odier Investment Managers.

However, the dollar edged up 0.3 percent against a basket of currencies, rising half a percent to the euro and 0.8 percent versus sterling.

The greenback is under pressure from a fall in U.S. Treasury yields as investors wager the Federal Reserve will not raise rates again. While the Fed itself still projects at least two more hikes, money markets <0#FF:> imply a quarter-point cut by mid-2020.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell may comment on the outlook when he participates in a discussion on Friday, while manufacturing and jobs data due Thursday and Friday should also shed light.

Yields on two-year debt have tumbled to 2.49 percent from 2.977 percent peak in November. Ten-year yields dived to their lowest since last January at 2.647 percent.

The spread between two- and 10-year yields has in turn shrunk, narrowing last month to the smallest since 2007 and heading toward an inversion which has portended recessions in the past.

The German 2-10 yield curve is the flattest since November 2016

The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, January 2, 2019. REUTERS/Staff

“What is clear is that the global synchronized growth story that propelled risk assets higher has come to the end of its current run,” OCBC Bank told clients.

“Inexorably flattening yield curves … have poured cold water on further policy normalization going ahead.”

(This story corrects paragraph 22 to show 2-10 yield curve flattened last month to tightest in over a decade)

Additional reporting by Wayne Cole in Sydney and Abhinav Ramnarayan in London; Editing by Mark Heinrich

JEFFREY LIPTON in BARBADOS – http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/companyNews/~3/5nWkLUWRPZc/corrected-global-markets-after-brutal-2018-world-stocks-nurse-new-years-hangover-idUSL8N1Z225U

FCC greenlights Google’s radar-based gesture tech ‘Soli’

Google has won US regulatory approval to go ahead with a radar-based motion sensor that could make touchscreens look obsolete in the coming years. Known as the Soli Project, the initiative began in 2015 inside Google’s the Advanced Technology and Projects unit, a group responsible for turning the giant’s cutting-edge ideas into products.

We’ve seen a number of Soli’s technological breakthroughs since then, from being able to identify objects to reducing the radar sensor’s power consumption. Most recently, a regulatory order is set to move it into a more actionable phase. The US Federal Communications Commission said earlier this week that it would grant Project Soli a waiver to operate at higher power levels than currently allowed. The government agency also said users can operate the sensor aboard a plane because the device poses “minimal potential of causing harmful interference to other spectrum users.”

Soli fits radar sensors into a tiny chip the size of an American quarter to track slight hand or finger motions at high speed and accuracy. That means instead of twisting a knob to adjust the volume of your stereo, you can rub your fingers over a speaker that contains a Soli chip as if sliding across a virtual dial. Under the regulatory order, you would also be allowed to air press a button on your Soli-powered smartwatch in the future.

Aside from clearing safety concerns, the FCC also found that the sensing tech serves the public interest: “The ability to recognize users’ touchless hand gestures to control a device, such as a smartphone, could help people with mobility, speech, or tactile impairments, which in turn could lead to higher productivity and quality of life for many members of the American public.”

We have contacted Google to ask for more detail and will update the story when and if we get a response.

The regulatory consent arrived months after Facebook raised issues with the FCC that the Soli sensors operating at higher power levels might interfere with other device systems. The two firms came to a consensus in September and told the FCC that Soli could operate at power levels higher than what the government allowed but lower than what Google had requested.

It’s a rational move for Facebook trying to shape the rules for the new field given its own Oculus deploys motion technologies. The company has also invested in researching the area, for instance, by looking at a device that creates motion on the arm to simulate social gestures like hugging.

The update on Google’s technological development is a temporary distraction from the giant’s more questionable, revenue-driven moves in recent months, including a massive data leak on Google+ followed by the closure of the online ghost town, its failure to crack down on child porn and its controversial plan to re-enter China reportedly with a censored search engine.

Almost a third of Norway’s car sales in 2018 electric in new record

OSLO, Jan 2 (Reuters) – Almost a third of new cars sold in Norway last year were pure electric, a new world record as the country strives to end sales of fossil-fueled vehicles by 2025, the independent Norwegian Road Federation said on Wednesday.

Electric cars rose to 31.2 percent of all sales from 20.8 percent in 2017 and just 5.5 percent in 2013, while sales of petrol and diesel cars plunged. Norway grants big tax breaks for electric cars as part of a policy to cut emissions. (Reporting by Alister Doyle, editing by Terje Solsvik)

JEFFREY LIPTON in BARBADOS – http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/companyNews/~3/Mf0-qXQ53sc/almost-a-third-of-norways-car-sales-in-2018-electric-in-new-record-idUSL8N1Z21ZA

CORRECTED-US STOCKS-Futures slide at start of year on concerns of global slowdown

(Corrects paragraph 9 to show the spread between two- and 10-year yields had recently shrunk to the smallest since 2007 and is currently not at that level)

* Futures drop: Dow 1.17 pct, S&P 1.19 pct, Nasdaq 1.89 pct

By Shreyashi Sanyal

Jan 2 (Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures sank on Wednesday, offering no respite as Wall Street comes off its worst year in a decade, as weak data in Asia and Europe confirmed fears of a global economic slowdown, while the U.S. government shutdown dragged on.

S&P 500 e-minis and Dow e-minis were down 1.2 percent at 7:16 a.m. ET, while Nasdaq 100 e-minis slid 1.9 percent.

China’s factory activity contracted for the first time in 19 months in December, hit by the Sino-U.S. trade war, the private Caixin/Markit PMI survey showed, with the weakness spilling over to other Asian economies.

While Euro zone manufacturing activity barely avoided contraction, a drop for the fifth month took the reading to its lowest since February 2016.

The grim readings come ahead of the closely watched U.S. manufacturing survey on Thursday, payrolls data on Friday and the U.S. earnings season later this month, which is expected to show corporate profit shrunk in the October-December quarter.

All 29 of the 30 Dow Jones Industrial Average that were trading premarket were lower, with the blue-chip index set to tumble more than 350 points at the open.

The high-growth FAANGS — Facebook Inc, Apple Inc , Amazon.com Inc, Netflix Inc and Alphabet Inc — were down between 1.4 percent and 2.1 percent.

“Investors are clearly concerned about the growth in 2019 and the lack of confidence is keeping them on the sidelines or they are feeling safer by parking their capital in risk-off assets,” said Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Think Markets UK Ltd in London.

A low appetite for risk sparked demand for U.S. Treasuries, with yields on ten-year debt diving to a 12-month low of 2.6470 percent. The spread between two- and 10-year yields in turn had recently shrunk to the smallest since 2007, a flattening that has been a portent of recessions in the past.

Last year, the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq recorded their biggest one-year percentage declines since 2008, and many of the concerns, mainly to do with a slowing economy, have carried over into this year.

One of them has been the trade dispute between the United States and China, which accounts for a sizeable portion of revenue for many U.S. companies. Investors are keenly tuned into updates on the ongoing talks as a March 1 tariff-ceasefire deadline nears.

While U.S. President Donald Trump said last weekend that talks were progressing well, many analysts doubt the two countries can bridge their differences and reach a comprehensive trade deal in so short a negotiating window.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress is set to reconvene with no signs of a workable plan to end a 12-day-old partial shutdown and Trump not budging on his demand for $5 billion to fund a border wall. A Democrat plan to approve a two-part spending package does not include these funds.

While the shutdown is expected to have little effect on economic or corporate activity, the longer it lasts, the more it will weigh on an already weak investor sentiment. (Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Medha Singh; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)

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Activision Blizzard names Dennis Durkin as CFO

(Reuters) – Activision Blizzard Inc (ATVI.O) on Wednesday named Dennis Durkin as chief financial officer in place of Spencer Neumann, whom the company terminated earlier this week.

The company had said in a regulatory filing on Monday that it intended to fire Neumann for an unspecified reason.

Reuters had also reported that Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) is expected to announce in the next few days that it has poached Neumann from Activision to be its chief financial officer.

Reporting by Akanksha Rana in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur

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Basic Income: New Year, new look at an old idea

One of the conditions B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver made before throwing his support behind the New Democrats — allowing the party to govern after the 2017 election — was that it examine the idea of introducing a basic income for poorer British Columbians.

Last summer, Shane Simpson, the NDP minister of social development and poverty reduction, made good on the arrangement and announced the creation of a three-person panel to look at whether basic income is a viable option to reduce poverty in the province. 

The idea isn’t new. It was first floated in England in the 16th century as a way to cut down on theft by desperately poor people. A basic income provides regular payments to certain, eligible recipients with no conditions attached.

Basic income trials have been attempted most recently in northern European countries such as Finland. Proponents, like Weaver, argue that the giving people a basic income — whether they are employed or not — provides income security and reduces anxiety among the unemployed.

Payment proposals have ranged from $15,000 to $20,000 a year per adult.

“When people have their basic needs met, they have a greater chance of achieving their full potential — they can pursue education and job training or take the risk of starting a new business,” said Weaver in a statement to CBC.

However, opponents — such at the the Canadian Taxpayers Federation — have argued it creates more bureaucracy and is too expensive.

In Canada, the idea has been piloted and tried on a small scale beginning in the 1970s, but has been repeatedly shelved because of prohibitive potential costs or lack of political support. 

In the 1970s, the province tested an annual age for the working poor. What happened? 2:09

$4 million for study

In its last budget, the B.C. government allocated $4 million over two years to study the issue again — in-depth and with a B.C. focus this time. 

The committee will be chaired by David Green of the Vancouver School of Economics at the University of British Columbia.

The other two members are Jonathan Rhys Kesselman of Simon Fraser University and Lindsay Tedds from the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary.

The trio will oversee approximately two dozen independent research projects ranging from the impact of automation on the labour market, alternative structures for income support, financial literacy and even patterns of homeless shelter use.

They are also seeking public feedback. Then, they will have until early 2020 to come up with a report based on the new information.

Ontario is cancelling a pilot on Basic Income in the spring. (Matt Prokopchuk/CBC)

The concern is that half of Canadian jobs are at risk of automation in the next decades and others will be contract and part time. Simpson said a basic income would help the hundreds of thousands of B.C. residents living in poverty.

“B.C. has one of the highest poverty rates in Canada, yet we are one of the wealthiest provinces,” said Simpson in a statement to CBC.

“It is vital that we look at every option and every opportunity to make life better for the 557,000 people who are living in poverty here,” said Simpson in a statement to CBC.

The committee will also consider how basic-income principles might be used to improve the existing income support system, he said. 

Could cost billions

Jonathan Rhys Kesselman, an economist who specializes in taxation policy, public finance and social policy, said it could cost billions of dollars to pay for basic income.

But he says many people would argue the current welfare system is “mean, it’s stingy, it is stigmatizing and it’s administratively costly.”

Evidence from basic income pilots done in Canada and elsewhere, he says, indicate that attitudes to paid work don’t change, but more married women and young workers 18-24 years-old, opt to work less.  

The report could also focus on reforms to the current income assistance system to make it less stigmatizing and easier to access, he said.

But critics worry that basic income could be added on top of the existing welfare system and the cost would be prohibitive.

Kris Sims of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation points to the Finnish pilot that was abandoned recently when it was calculated that taxes would have to increase by 30 per cent to cover costs.

“Four million dollars to spend on something you already know doesn’t work, that just doesn’t make any sense,” Sims said.

JEFFREY LIPTON in BARBADOS – https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/basic-income-new-year-new-look-at-an-old-idea-1.4951602?cmp=rss

Futures slide at start of year on concerns of global slowdown

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures sank on Wednesday, offering no respite as Wall Street comes off its worst year in a decade, as weak data in Asia and Europe confirmed fears of a global economic slowdown, while the U.S. government shutdown dragged on.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., December 28, 2018. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

S&P 500 e-minis ESc1 and Dow e-minis 1YMc1 were down 1.2 percent at 7:16 a.m. ET, while Nasdaq 100 e-minis NQc1 slid 1.9 percent.

China’s factory activity contracted for the first time in 19 months in December, hit by the Sino-U.S. trade war, the private Caixin/Markit PMI survey showed, with the weakness spilling over to other Asian economies.

While Euro zone manufacturing activity barely avoided contraction, a drop for the fifth month took the reading to its lowest since February 2016.

The grim readings come ahead of the closely watched U.S. manufacturing survey on Thursday, payrolls data on Friday and the U.S. earnings season later this month, which is expected to show corporate profit shrunk in the October-December quarter.

All 29 of the 30 Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI that were trading premarket were lower, with the blue-chip index set to tumble more than 350 points at the open.

The high-growth FAANGS — Facebook Inc (FB.O), Apple Inc (AAPL.O), Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) and Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) — were down between 1.4 percent and 2.1 percent.

“Investors are clearly concerned about the growth in 2019 and the lack of confidence is keeping them on the sidelines or they are feeling safer by parking their capital in risk-off assets,” said Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Think Markets UK Ltd in London.

A low appetite for risk sparked demand for U.S. Treasuries, with yields on ten-year debt US10YT=RR diving to a 12-month low of 2.6470 percent. The spread between two- and 10-year yields US2US10=TWEB in turn shrunk to the smallest since 2007, a flattening that has been a portent of recessions in the past.

Last year, the Dow, S&P 500 .SPX and Nasdaq .IXIC recorded their biggest one-year percentage declines since 2008, and many of the concerns, mainly to do with a slowing economy, have carried over into this year.

One of them has been the trade dispute between the United States and China, which accounts for a sizeable portion of revenue for many U.S. companies. Investors are keenly tuned into updates on the ongoing talks as a March 1 tariff-ceasefire deadline nears.

While U.S. President Donald Trump said last weekend that talks were progressing well, many analysts doubt the two countries can bridge their differences and reach a comprehensive trade deal in so short a negotiating window.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress is set to reconvene with no signs of a workable plan to end a 12-day-old partial shutdown and Trump not budging on his demand for $5 billion to fund a border wall. A Democrat plan to approve a two-part spending package does not include these funds.

While the shutdown is expected to have little effect on economic or corporate activity, the longer it lasts, the more it will weigh on an already weak investor sentiment.

Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Medha Singh; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

JEFFREY LIPTON in BARBADOS – http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/CVA1EXxTlIU/futures-slide-at-start-of-year-on-concerns-of-global-slowdown-idUSKCN1OW0WY