Tuesday, February 16, 2010

BARCELONA: The ranks of cell phone subscribers will swell to five billion people this year thanks to the growth of smartphones in developed nations and mobile services in poor nations, a UN agency said.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) also said the number of mobile broadband subscriptions would exceed one billion this year after reaching 600 million in 2009.

"Even during an economic crisis, we have seen no drop in the demand for communications services," ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Toure said in a statement at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, the industry's biggest trade show.

The number of mobile subscribers had reached 4.6 billion people last year.

"I am confident that we will continue to see a rapid uptake in mobile cellular services in particular in 2010, with many more people using their phones to access the Internet," Toure said

In the developing world, the growth has been driven by the use of phones for mobile banking and health services, the ITU said.

"Good examples include sending reminder messages to patient's phones when they have a medical appointment, or need a pre-natal check-up," Toure said.

"Or using SMS messages to deliver instructions on when and how to take complex medication such as anti-retrovirals or vaccines," he said, adding that such uses can save millions of dollars and lives.

People with no bank accounts but mobile subscriptions are also increasingly able to do financial transactions with their phones in developing countries, he said.

Oil steady above $74

SINGAPORE: Oil was steady on Tuesday, trading near $74 in New York, as concerns over Greece's sovereign debt kept the euro close to nine-month lows against the dollar.

At a meeting in Brussels on Monday, euro zone finance ministers urged Greece to announce more deficit-control steps by mid-March if needed, without saying anything new of last week's pledge to bail out the southern European economy.

"There is definitely concern mounting about the sustainability of the recovery in Europe," said Ben Westmore, a commodities analyst at the National Australia Bank. "There is a lot of sitting and waiting; at $74 oil seems to be reasonably priced based on fundamentals at the moment."

U.S. crude for March delivery gained 7 cents to $74.20 a barrel at 0230 GMT, having traded close to $74 throughout Monday's session, which NYMEX will combine with Tuesday's because of the Presidents' Day holiday.

Activity was subdued during Asian trading hours as markets in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam remained shut for the Lunar New Year holiday. London ICE Brent for April climbed 34 cents to $72.85 a barrel.

Greece's debt woes and a weak euro were likely to keep some investors in the region away from oil as they try to offload commodity-related risk from their portfolios, according to Westmore.

"When there are so many concerns about depreciation, given that oil is denominated in dollars, it becomes more expensive to buy from the perspective of European investors," Westmore said.

Oil has traded in a relatively tight $15 range between $69 and $84 a barrel since the beginning of October. Prices crashed to less than $33 at the end of 2008 from a record in July of that year above $147. Expectations of an economic recovery have supported prices since then near OPEC's comfort zone.

"We would expect oil prices for the remainder of the year in the current range, perhaps with a slight upwards drift but no dramatic spikes," BP chief economist Christof Ruehl said on Monday in an interview with television of UK-based news agency on the sidelines of an industry conference in London.

U.S. oil inventory reports will be published a day later than usual this week because of Monday's holiday. The American Petroleum Institute will release statistics collated from industry on Wednesday, followed by government data from the Energy Information Administration on Thursday.

Oil hovers above $74 in Asia

SINGAPORE: Oil prices hovered above $74 a barrel Monday inAsia amid light trading volume for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Benchmark crude for March delivery was up 6 cents at $74.19 a barrel at midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.15 to settle at$74.13 on Friday.

Oil has crisscrossed the $75 a barrel level in recent months jumping to $84 last month before dropping to $69.59 earlier this month _ as investors’ eye weak crude demand from the U.S. and Europe offset by growing consumption in developing countries such as China.

In other Nymex trading in March contracts, heating oil rose 0.78cent to $1.9267 a gallon, and gasoline gained 0.33 cent to $1.9328 a gallon. Natural gas was steady at $5.47 per 1,000 cubic feet. In London, Brent crude was up 15 cents at $73.05 on the ICE futures exchange.

Euro sluggish in Asian trade

TOKYO: The euro remained under pressure in Asia Monday as investors focused on European moves to stave off a Greek debt crisis, and gave a muted response to Japan's latest economic growth figures.

The euro dropped to 1.3612 dollars in Tokyo morning trade from 1.3629 in New York late Friday, while edging up to 122.73 yen from 122.61.

The dollar rose to 90.18 yen from 89.96.

Dealers said the market's attention was turned to a meeting of European Union finance ministers on Monday and Tuesday in Brussels.

They are expected to back measures to instil some budgetary discipline in Greece amid concerns that its swollen public deficits and massive debt levels threaten the 16-nation eurozone as a whole.

"We are monitoring the meeting by EU finance ministers," said Hideaki Inoue, chief forex trading manager at Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking Corp. "Credit fears in Europe are still the biggest concern for the market.'

The European currency has been hit by worries that Greece's debt crisis will spread in the eurozone, and by EU data showing that Europe's economic recovery has stalled.

The heavyweight German economy ground to a halt in the fourth quarter of 2009 and Italy slumped back into contraction, while growth in the 16-nation bloc rose a meager 0.1 percent in the final quarter, new data showed Friday.

The market also focused on the People's Bank of China announcement that raises banks' deposit reserve ratio by 50 basis points as of February 25, the second increase since the start of the year.

The hike in the ratio -- the minimum amount of money that banks must keep in reserve and not use for lending or other purposes -- was seen as the latest sign that Beijing is moving to prevent its economy overheating.

The move prompted investors to buy the safe-haven dollar, dealers said.

China now leads the global economy," said Masatsugu Miyata, forex dealer at Hachijuni Bank. "Its impact is inevitably large."

Japan announced its economy grew 1.1 percent in October-December from the previous quarter, for an annualised pace of 4.6 percent. For the whole of 2009, Japan stayed just ahead of China as the world's number two economy.

But the market impact of the Japanese data was muted, even though the latest quarterly performance was slightly better than expected.

Asian trade was thin with many markets in the region closed for the Lunar New Year, and US markets shut for a national holiday.

KSE in grip of bears over govt-judiciary standoff

KARACHI: Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) witnessed bears overwhelming the trade on the first day of the business week with bench mark 100-index shedding 140 points at one point.

The market opened in negative territory as the standoff between the judiciary and the government surfaced on the political scene the day before yesterday with local and foreign investors preferring the selling at the market.

The trade commenced with the loss of 69 points and 100-index skidded below 9700-point level.

According to market analysts, if the confrontation between the institutions does not fizzle out soon, the bearish trend may continue further. Also, the foreign investors may prefer the selling of their shares in view of present political crunch in the country.

European stocks rally at open; London up 0.47pc

LONDON: Europe's main stock markets rose strongly at the start of trading on Tuesday, with London's benchmark FTSE 100 index of leading shares gaining 0.47 percent to 5,191.63 points.

Frankfurt's DAX 30 jumped by 1.12 percent to 5,573.07 points and in Paris the CAC 40 added 0.91 percent to stand at 3,641.97.

Nawaz withdraws nomination papers for NA-123

LAHORE: Chief of PML-N Nawaz Sharif withdrew his nomination papers for the NA-123 by-elections on Tuesday.

On Monday, the Lahore High Court had adjourned the hearing of Nawaz Sharif's eligibility case till Tuesday.

The hearing was adjourned after the court’s election tribunal was informed that Sharif's counsel did not receive the court’s summons and therefore could not appear for the proceedings. The court had ordered that the notice be served again on Nawaz Sharif.

On February 12, the Lahore High Court had issued a notice to Nawaz Sharif to appear on February 15 on a petition filed by a journalist, Shahid Aurakzai, with the Election Tribunal of the Lahore High Court.

The petitioner had challenged the PML-N chief’s eligibility to contest the NA-123 by-elections.

27 Taliban killed in Helmand offensive

KABUL: As the joint Afghan-NATO assault against Taliban bastion in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province entered its third day Monday, more than three-dozen people have been killed and hundreds of families fled home for safer places.

Twenty-seven militants and 12 civilians have been killed and the troops have secured major parts of the restive Marjah and Nad Ali districts, according to officials.

NATO-led troops while pounding militants' hideout fired two rockets on Sunday, which missed the target and hit a house killing 12 civilians.

"Two rockets from a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launched at insurgents firing upon Afghan and ISAF forces impacted approximately 300 meters off their intended target, killing 12 civilians in Nad Ali district, Helmand province," a press release of NATO-led forces issued Sunday said.

Some 15,000 Afghan and the NATO-led forces including U.S. Marines launched a major offensive dubbed "Moshtarak" which means "together" against Taliban bastion in Marjah district of southern Helmand province before dawn Saturday to restore government's authority there.

Addressing a joint press conference in Helmand's provincial capital Lashkar Gah on Monday, Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said that the troops had achieved the objectives without major resistance.

Flanked by Interior Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar and commander of U.S. and NATO-led troops General Stanly McChrystal, the Afghan Defense Minister also called on Taliban fighters to lay down arm and resume normal life.

Gen. McChrystal, who earlier apologized for tragic loss of innocent life, vowed to avoid harming civilians.

In order to avoid civilian casualties, Interior Minister Atmar stressed that the troops will be in constant contact with the community elders, besides evading heavy weaponry in the battle.

Sindh lawmakers slam Sharifs on Chashma power project

KARACHI: Describing the Chashma-Jehlum Link Canal Power Project as impractical, Sindh Irrigation Minister Murad Ali Shah has alleged that Pakistan Muslim League-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif and Punjab’s Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif were behind this project.

“We will also not respect the institution, which will disrespect the democracy,” he said.

Speaker Nisar Ali Khuhro presided over the Sindh Assembly session today.

Speaking at a point of order, MPA Kalsoom Chandio condemned the Dadu bomb blast and demanded to keep an eye on the movement of Afghan nationals and religious seminaries.

Following the question-answer session on a point of order, provincial minister Sassi Palejo urged Punjab to end its stubbornness on the issue of water.

Another MPA Humera Alwani said that the water released in Chashma-Jehlum Link Canal should be diverted to Kotri Downstream. It is Sindh’s water, she said.

Murad Ali Shah said that farmers of D.G. Khan and Muzaffargarh were also being punished along with farmers of Sindh and Blaochistan.

PCB deducts Rs7 million from Shoaib Akhtar’s dues

LAHORE: Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) sent Rs44,971 to Shoaib Akhtar after deducting Rs7,000,000.

As per details, the PCB deducted Rs4,250,000 as fine from the amount of his match fee and prize money.

Sources said that Shoaib Akhtar also did not receive Rs2,750,000 nor he got Rs3 million for his knee operation.

Sharapova eases past Perry in Memphis first round

MEMPHIS: Top seed Maria Sharapova dismantled Shenay Perry 6-0 6-2 in the opening round of the Memphis Championships to record her first victory on tour this year.

The former world number one needed just 51 minutes to dispatch her American challenger, breaking Perry's service six times.

The Russian will play American Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the next round.

Sharapova was coming off a disappointing performance at the Australian Open last month when she fell in the first round to compatriot Maria Kirilenko.

Govt to accept SC interpretation on consultation: PM

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani asserted that there is no room for the impression that the government wants to do away with the present judiciary, News reported on Tuesday, February 16, 2010.

Addressing the national Assembly, prime minister said he was sincere that is why estored the judiciary through executive order.

He said he held consultations with the legal experts for five hours before his speech on the issue of judges’ restoration, adding the experts opined that the PM may be sought to restore the deposed judges through an executive order after tabling a resolution at the House floor.

This needs endorsement of the Parliament, he added.

The PM Gilani said the former President Gen Pervez Musharraf used to say that consultations may be held over phone, as the matter relating the appointment of Governor Punjab was consulted over the phone.

He said if the judges want to have powers to appoint the judges without any interference from the President, the PM or the governor, the government is ready to do so provided that the Parliament gives a go-ahead on this.

Gilani observed that the Parliament is supreme with all powers to legislate.

The decisions of the Constitutional Committee has nothing to with the present judiciary or the appointment of judges, he said adding these amendments will be applicable once they are approved by the Parliament.

The government will accept whatever verdict the SC delivers on the judges’ appointments case.

Also he said the government will accept the SC standpoint on consultations over the recommendations regarding the judges’ appointments.

LHC dismisses plea challenging Nawaz electoral eligibility

LAHORE: An Election Tribunal of the Lahore High Court rejected on Tuesday a petition challenging the electoral eligibility of Pakistan Muslim League-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif.

The tribunal dismissed the plea and declared Nawaz as eligible to contest election.

The tribunal comprised of Justice Chaudhry Iftikhiar Hussain, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Nasir.

The petitioner, Shahid Orakzai, insisted that Nawaz Sharif was defaulter and was accused of attacking the Supreme Court.

On the other hand, defense lawyer argued that Nawaz Sahrif was not involved in any attack on the apex court.