Concerns about the price of oil have returned after a summer in which both crude and gasoline prices fell. Slow production from OPEC nations is not to blame. Libyan production is actually higher now that political issues have been partially resolved. Problems with the movement of oil between Canada and the U.S. have been cited as a reason for the increase. So has demand in China, which is almost always a culprit when crude rises. The worry is that if crude stays above $100, the price of gasoline will rise above $4 in America. If that happens, consumer spending on other goods and services will falter.
Spain is the most recent country to suffer from the panic over eurozone sovereign debt. The yield on newly issued 10-year notes rose to 6.97%. That is the highest since the eurozone was formed. Nothing has changed in Spain over the past two weeks. Its financial prospects are no different. Unemployment is above 21%, but has been at that level since the recession began. Either investors have dug deeper into Spain’s situation and suddenly found something that appears more dangerous that before, or a herd mentality has been the core cause of yield increase in Spain — and Italy, France and Greece. The herd mentality case is more likely, based on recent events. Europe’s problems have been Europe’s problems for years.
Nokia’s (NYSE: NOK) smartphones based on the Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows mobile OS may get an unexpected boost. AT&T (NYSE: T) is apparently in conversations with the world’s largest handset manufacturer about sales of the smartphone through its large retail network. The new Nokia products were supposed to be dead on arrival because of the popularity of Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android-based devices and the Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone. AT&T may be Nokia’s last and perhaps best hope to gain a foothold in the smartphone business.
The rogue trading culture at UBS (NYSE: UBS) may not have been stamped out, despite the number of traders and top executives who lost jobs. The Financial Times reports more accusations about unauthorized activity on the bank’s Africa trading desk. Since there is very little attention on paper issued by African nations, that desk may be the best place in the bank to conceal illegal sales.
Douglas A. McIntrye