Europe’s leading central banks kept interest rates unchanged Thursday, but economists said the worsening near-term outlook for the region’s economy could lead both to relax monetary policy still further early next year.
The European Central Bank held its main interest rate at 0.75%, citing balanced risks to inflation, while the Bank of England kept rates at 0.5% and said it would not be adding to its £375 billion program of quantitative easing.
The European Commission slashed its forecast Wednesday for eurozone growth in 2013 to 0.1% from 1%.
Speaking after the ECB meeting Thursday, bank president Mario Draghi said overall economic activity in the eurozone would remain weak in the near term, signaling a downgrade to the bank’s own forecasts due next month.
“Most recent survey evidence extending into Q4 does not signal an improvement,” he said at a news conference in Frankfurt, adding the risks to growth were on the downside. “This is bound to influence our projections in December.”
Growth in Germany — Europe’s biggest economy — will fall to 0.8% in 2012 from 3% last year and maintain that subdued rate of expansion next year, according to the commission’s forecasts.
“Germany has so far been largely insulated from some of the difficulties elsewhere in the euro area. But the latest data suggest that these developments are now starting to affect the German economy,” Draghi said in a speech Wednesday.
Further evidence of a German slowdown came with figures showing exports fell 2.5% in September, compared with August.
The ECB has steadied investors’ nerves about the eurozone crisis with its plan to buy the bonds of heavily indebted governments such as Italy and Spain, provided they apply for a formal bailout program.
The bank’s Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) program, as the bond purchase scheme is known, has driven down yields on Italian and Spanish bonds, without it yet being activated, encouraging Madrid to hold off making a request for assistance quick payday loans.
Spain sold bonds Thursday to complete its financing for 2012, further easing the pressure for a bailout.
The ECB is reluctant to take any further measures until OMT has been given a chance to work, but Draghi said the bank stood ready to act with “the standard, normal monetary policy instruments” if necessary.
Some economists believe both the ECB and the Bank of England will have little choice but to provide further monetary stimulus for the European economy early next year.
“With the Eurozone facing a difficult fourth quarter after almost certainly suffering further GDP contraction in the third quarter, and with the underlying inflation situation in the eurozone looking far from alarming, we believe that the ECB will take interest rates down from 0.75% to 0.50% sooner rather than later,” said Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight.
The British economy emerged from recession with stronger than expected growth in the third quarter, helped by one-off factors such as the London Olympic Games, but recent data have painted a less optimistic picture and the external environment is deteriorating.
“We still expect real GDP to disappoint and for this to drive the [Bank of England] to deliver £50 billion of quantitative easing in February,” said Philip Rush, UK economist at Nomura.
James Knightley, economist at ING, pointed to weak European data and worries about the ability of the U.S. government to avoid driving the world’s biggest economy over a fiscal cliff of tax rises and spending cuts at year end.
“The longer it takes to reach an agreement on preventing a recession-inducing wave of austerity, the more damaging it will be for confidence, risk appetite and growth both in the U.S. and globally,” he said. “This is why we don’t believe the Bank of England is finished with its stimulus efforts,” he said.
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Automobile Magazine has named the Tesla Model S its “Car of the Year,” citing the car’s design and impressive speed.
“It’s the performance that won us over,” Automobile Editor-in-Chief Jean Jennings said in the magazine’s January 2013 issue. “The crazy speed builds silently and then pulls back the edges of your face. It had all of us endangering our licenses.”
The Model S is an all-electric luxury sedan that can accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 4.3 seconds. That’s fast for any car, but especially one with the size and roominess of the Model S. In a test arranged by the magazine, the Model S even beat a 560 horsepower BMW M5 sedan in a race to which could hit 100 miles an hour first.
Besides being electric, the Model S doesn’t have a key or a “start” button: Just sitting in the car with the key in your pocket turns it on. Put your foot on the brake, shift into “drive,” and the car is ready to go
Instead of dashboard and console buttons, everything from the stereo and air conditioning to the panoramic sunroof is controlled by a huge central touch screen that resembles a massive iPad. That same screen can also be used to check email and surf the Web.
“This was an electric car that felt very much like a real car,” Automobile senior editor Joe Lorio said. “It doesn’t feel like a science project personal business card. It doesn’t feel like a second or third car.”
When equipped with an optional pair of rear-facing children’s seats, the Model S can hold up to seven people. Since there is no engine, both the back and front of the car can be used for cargo.
The Model S ranges from $50,000 for a car that can go 160 miles on a charge to almost $100,000 for a richly equipped model that can go 300 miles. It went into production this summere, and by the beginning of October, Tesla said it had sold about 250 Model S sedans. It expects to sell about 3,200 by end of this year.
Chief Executive Elon Musk has said he expects ) to become profitable in November. Tesla has accepted $465 million in Department of Energy loans, which the automaker expects to begin repaying in December.
Tesla’s start-up status was one factor that gave Automobile judges pause when making this selection, Lorio said.
“What if we give the car this honor, and a year from now the company disappears in a ball of flakiness?” he said “Are we going to feel foolish?”
In the end, Lorio said, the judges decided the award must be for the car and not necessarily the business, which will stand or fall on its own.
“This car is here now, and we think it’s a significant milestone,” he said.
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With nearly 1 billion users, Facebook is a prime target for cyberattackers looking to steal usernames and passwords.
Simple attacks known as “phishing” are surprisingly effective at fooling users into handing over their login credentials. By creating malicious Facebook messages or emails made to look like they’re coming from Facebook itself, cyberthieves lead unsuspecting users to log in to malicious sites posing as legitimate ones.
) has gotten pretty good at rooting out phishing attacks within its own virtual walls, but it hasn’t been able to do anything about attacks that land in its users’ e-mail inboxes.
That’s why the social network has launched email@example.com, an email address that users can forward suspected phishing messages to. Facebook will analyze the message and determine where and from whom the malicious e-mail came.
“We have a pretty robust team here to deal with bad actors,” says Mark Hammel, a Facebook engineer and malware researcher. “This will give us extra visibility into people’s e-mail inboxes, where there wasn’t a good feedback mechanism in place.”
After a user sends a suspected phishing e-mail to Facebook, the company’s e-crime team will note the URL of the spoofed log-in site the attackers were trying to send the user to. They’ll then send that URL to third-parties like browser makers and search engines, in an attempt to blacklist the site. Facebook will also work with Internet providers and hosts to get the site removed from the Web entirely.
It’s like a game of Whac-a-Mole. Phishers rarely keep their sites up for more than a few days, switching URLs to avoid blacklists and takedowns. That’s why Facebook works with outside parties like the Anti-Phishing Working Group, a global consortium of technology companies and law enforcement agencies, to track down serial bad actors.
Once Facebook knows who is behind an attack, it will send out cease-and-desist orders or file criminal complaints.
Facebook said it’s hard to determine how many attacks its users are being hit with. It hopes the new e-mail address will help it figure out the scope of the problem.
According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group’s biannual report, it’s pretty massive. As of February, the group was tracking 56,859 unique phishing sites. The single largest method for malicious attacks on PCs is through phishing schemes, according to the latest Security Intelligence Report from , Fortune 500).
Nearly half of clicked-on phishing attempts targeted social networks such as Facebook, according to Microsoft’s report.
Facebook is far from the only Internet company working on a phishing solution. , Fortune 500) has a phishing form users can fill out to report malicious websites. , Fortune 500) encourages customers to email firstname.lastname@example.org when they suspect a phishing attack. Twitter controls an @spam handle for reporting accounts that are set up for phishing.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said policy makers are studying options for further easing that could be deployed in case economic growth remains too feeble to produce a lasting decline in unemployment.
Bernanke, responding to questions during testimony today to the Senate Banking Committee in Washington, said easing tools include further purchases of assets, such as mortgage-backed securities, reducing the interest rate that the Fed pays on reserves banks keep with the Fed, and altering its communications on the outlook for interest rates.
Greek President Karolos Papoulias has called the leaders of Greece’s political parties to meetings on Sunday, in a last-ditch effort to broker a deal for a coalition government.
Papoulias’ office announced Saturday that the president would meet initially with the heads of the three parties that won the most votes in Sunday’s inconclusive elections _ the conservative New Democracy, radical left-wing Syriza and socialist PASOK. He will then meet individually with the leaders of the other four parties that won enough votes for parliamentary seats.
In theory, the president’s talks with the party leaders could drag until the scheduled date for the opening of the new parliament, on May 17th. In practice, precedent shows that talks could take two or three days, George Katrougalos, a professor of constitutional law, told the Associated Press. It is also possible that an impasse could be reached Sunday.
If Papoulias fails to broker a coalition agreement, Greece will have to hold new elections next month.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
Greece’s socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos officially gave up the mandate to form a coalition government Saturday after three rounds of negotiations proved fruitless, bringing the crisis-struck country one step closer to new elections.
The country’s wrangling politicians will have one ultimate chance at reaching an agreement for a government, when President Karolos Papoulias convenes the party leaders to try to broker a deal. If he fails, new elections will have to be called for next month, prolonging the political uncertainty and bringing Greece’s euro membership into question.
Venizelos was the third party leader to try to cobble together a governing coalition after elections last Sunday gave no party enough parliamentary seats to form a government. Voters furious at two years of harsh austerity measures taken in return for international bailouts worth (EURO)240 billion ($310 billion) rejected Greece’s two formerly dominant parties, Venizelos’ socialist PASOK and the conservative New Democracy, in favor of smaller parties on the left and right.
The turmoil has alarmed Greece’s international creditors, who have stressed that the country must stick to the terms of its rescue deals if it hopes to continue receiving the funds that have been keeping it afloat since May 2010 business cards design.
Whether Greece should adhere to the strict austerity measures required for the bailout loans or pull out of the deal has been at the heart of the wrangling over creating a coalition government.
Alexis Tsipras, head of the Radical Left Coalition, or Syriza, that made massive gains to come second in Sunday’s election, campaigned on an anti-bailout platform and insists any new government must cancel the austerity measures. He argues the terms are so onerous that they are giving the country’s battered economy no chance of recovery.
But both Venizelos and Antonis Samaras, head of New Democracy, have slammed Tsipras’ position as irresponsible. They say his policies would lead to disaster and force Greece out of the European Union’s joint currency _ something that none of the political leaders say they want.
Hopes had been raised that a solution could be found in the form of a partnership between New Democracy, PASOK and the smaller Democratic Left party of Fotis Kouvelis, whose 19 seats put it in a potential kingmaker position. But all three parties have insisted they cannot join forces without the support of Syriza, given its strong performance in the elections.
Handing back the mandate to the president, Venizelos said that while there had been a meeting of minds between his party, Democratic Left and New Democracy, Tsipras was sticking to his position.
Papoulias could break the deadlock when he calls the party leaders for a last-ditch attempt at a solution, but chances are slim. Recent opinion polls show Syriza would win new elections if they are called. Although it would not get enough votes to form a government on its own, it would benefit from regulations that give the first party a bonus 50 seats in the 300-member parliament, putting it in the dominant position to seek coalition partners among other anti-bailout parties.
Facebook’s hotly anticipated stock market debut is growing near. The company is aiming to begin publicly trading on May 18, according to the Wall Street Journal.
That date is a moving target: IPO-related plans frequently change, and Facebook is still finalizing its regulatory paperwork. A company representative declined to comment on Facebook’s IPO timing.
The next step on Facebook’s IPO journey will be its "road show," a series of presentations at which company executives get a chance to pitch big investors privately. The company is reportedly planning to start that process next week.
Soon after the road show, Facebook will update its IPO registration paperwork with a proposed price range for its shares.
Facebook said in a filing last month that it currently values its shares at $30.89 each, as of January 31 — up from $29.73 a month earlier. Anticipating heavy demand, analysts expect the shares to command a premium when Facebook’s underwriters (including lead banker Morgan Stanley) sell them to their clients during Facebook’s IPO Internet Payday loans.
Ordinary investors looking to get a piece of Facebook will have to wait until the next morning. Unlike Google (, Fortune 500), whose IPO used a "Dutch auction" to allow direct bidding by investors, Facebook’s setup doesn’t give regular folks access until shares begin trading publicly.
Facebook’s original filing said the company plans to raise $5 billion in its IPO, but that’s another number that’s subject to change. Facebook will set its final target shortly before it completes its offering.
Facebook will also update its filing to list which stockholders are selling shares — and how much they’re unloading. Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg plans to sell some of his holdings, but Facebook says that "substantially all" of his proceeds will go to cover a hefty tax bill from exercising stock options.
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