escrow


06 Nov 2008 02:44:12

TOKYO (AFP) –
Toyota Motor Corp. said Thursday annual profits are expected to plunge more than two-thirds to the lowest level in nine years, warning the global auto industry faced an "unprecedented" crisis.




The Japanese firm said it was reviewing its expansion plans as it became the latest car giant to reveal plunging profits due to the financial crisis, following on the heels of BMW, Nissan and Honda.



Toyota , vying with General Motors for the title of the world's top automaker, now expects earnings of 550 billion yen (5.6 billion dollars) in the current year to March, down from the 1.25 trillion yen previously projected.



That would mark a decline of 68 percent from the previous year -- the first drop in Toyota's annual earnings in nine years.



"The severity of the current situation is like nothing we have seen before," Toyota executive vice president Mitsuo Kinoshita said.



"The global financial crisis has affected the real economy, and the auto markets, particularly in developed countries, are suddenly decelerating."

Toyota said its first-half earnings tumbled 48 percent to 493.47 billion yen due to a stronger yen and weak global economy. Operating earnings fell 54.2 percent to 582.07 billion yen as revenue dropped 6.3 percent to 12.19 trillion.




"This is an unprecedented situation. It is difficult to predict where this will end," Kinoshita said.



The global slowdown has badly shaken Japan's automakers, which in recent years have cashed in on worldwide demand for their smaller and more fuel-efficient cars.



In North America, the epicentre of the global credit crunch, Toyota lost 34.6 billion yen excluding one-off gains from derivatives. Profits in Europe plunged.



"Most of these automakers are so dependent on the US market that it doesn't matter if they're doing well in China or other markets," said Ashvin Chotai, managing director of Intelligence Automotive Asia, a consultancy firm in London.



"It's hard to be optimistic about sales" in the US, he said.



"The economy is now in recession. You're seeing a lot of layoffs and most importantly the credit squeeze in the financial markets is seeping into credit decisions for vehicles purchases," he added.

But analysts noted that Toyota was still doing better than US rivals such as General Motors, which lost 15.5 billion dollars in the second quarter of 2008.




"At least there's no red ink at the moment. But if the situation deteriorates we could be looking at that," said Chotai.



Toyota shares dived 10.35 percent to 3,810 yen on fears of weak earnings, which were posted after the market closed.



Toyota had enjoyed brisk sales and profits as strong interest in its fuel-efficient vehicles put it on course to overtake ailing General Motors as the world's top-selling automaker.



Toyota said its top managers were reviewing its expansion plans in light of the slump.




"Planned factories, existing facilities, new projects; they are reviewing all of them," said Kinoshita.




"Capital investment will be lowered significantly. We are reviewing all of our costs and examining ways to maximise sales," he said.




The auto giant recently announced a plan to expand investment in India, where automobile sales are forecast to rise sharply as the economy expands and middle-class incomes rise.




It also said earlier that it was planning to resume operations of three factories in the United States after a three-month suspension for exports for growing Middle Eastern and Latin American markets, despite slower US sales.




Toyota sold 4.25 million vehicles globally in the first half, 51,000 fewer than a year earlier.






6.11.08 12:53, kommentieren

currency


05 Nov 2008 05:20:19

LOS ANGELES – A proposed ban on same-sex marriage in California — widely seen as the most momentous of the 153 ballot measures at stake nationwide — remained undecided early Wednesday.

The proposed constitutional amendment would limit marriage to heterosexual couples, the first time such a vote has taken place in state where gay unions are legal.

Sponsors of the ban declared victory early Wednesday, but the measure's opponents said too many votes remained uncounted for the race to be called.

Even without the wait, gay rights activists had a rough day Tuesday. Ban-gay-marriage amendments were approved in Arizona and Florida, and gay rights forces suffered a loss in Arkansas, where voters approved a measure banning unmarried couples from serving as adoptive or foster parents. Supporters made clear that gays and lesbians were their main target.

Elsewhere, voters in Colorado and South Dakota rejected measures that could have led to sweeping bans of abortion, and Washington became only the second state — after Oregon — to offer terminally ill people the option of physician-assisted suicide.

A first-of-its-kind measure in Colorado, which was defeated soundly, would have defined life as beginning at conception. Its opponents said the proposal could lead to the outlawing of some types of birth control as well as abortion.

In California, the night had started out optimistically for many who believed that a large Democrat-voter turnout would help defeat the state's proposed ban on same-sex marriage.

With 90 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday, the ban had 4,922,675 votes, or 52 percent, to 4,577,453 votes, or 48 percent, against.

Late absentee and provisional ballots meant as many as 3 million ballots were left to be counted after all precinct votes were tallied.

Similar bans had prevailed in 27 states before Tuesday's elections, but none were in California's situation — with thousands of gay couples already married following a state Supreme Court ruling in May.

Spending for and against the amendment reached $74 million, making it the most expensive social-issues campaign in U.S. history and the most expensive campaign this year outside the race for the White House.

Some in San Francisco vowed to continue fighting for the right to marry if the proposition does pass. "My view of America is different today," said Diallo Grant, a gay man with mixed-race parents. "The culture wars will continue."

The South Dakota measure would have banned abortions except in cases of rape, incest and serious health threat to the mother. A tougher version, without the rape and incest exceptions, lost in 2006. Anti-abortion activists thought the modifications would win approval, but the margin of defeat was similar, about 55 percent to 45 percent of the vote.

"The lesson here is that Americans, in states across the country, clearly support women's ability to access abortion care without government interference," said Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation.

In Washington, voters gave solid approval to an initiative modeled after Oregon's "Death with Dignity" law, which allows a terminally ill person to be prescribed lethal medication they can administer to themselves. Since Oregon's law took effect in 1997, more than 340 people — mostly ailing with cancer — have used it to end their lives.

Elsewhere, the marijuana reform movement won two prized victories, with Massachusetts voters decriminalizing possession of small amounts of the drug and Michigan joining 12 other states in allowing use of pot for medical purposes.

Henceforth, people caught in Massachusetts with an ounce or less of pot will no longer face criminal penalties. Instead, they'll forfeit the marijuana and pay a $100 civil fine.

The Michigan measure will allow severely ill patients to register with the state and legally buy, grow and use small amounts of marijuana to relieve pain, nausea, appetite loss and other symptoms.


Nebraska voters, meanwhile, approved a ban on race- and gender-based affirmative action, similar to measures previously approved in California, Michigan and Washington. Returns in Colorado on a similar measure were too close to call.


Ward Connerly, the California activist-businessman who has led the crusade against affirmative action, said Obama's victory proved his point. "We have overcome the scourge of race," Connerly said.


Energy measures met a mixed fate. In Missouri, voters approved a measure requiring the state's three investor-owned electric utilities to get 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2021. But California voters defeated an even more ambitious measure that would have required the state's utilities to generate half their electricity from windmills, solar systems, geothermal reserves and other renewable sources by 2025.


Two animal-welfare measures passed — a ban on dog racing in Massachusetts, and a proposition in California that outlaws cramped cages for egg-laying chickens.


Amid deep economic uncertainty, proposals to cut state income taxes were defeated decisively in North Dakota and Massachusetts.


In San Francisco, an eye-catching local measure — to bar arrests for prostitution — was soundly rejected. Police and political leaders said it would hamper the fight against sex trafficking. And in San Diego, voters decided to make permanent a ban on alcohol consumption on city beaches.


____


Associated Press writer Paul Elias in San Francisco contributed to this report.






5.11.08 15:47, kommentieren

CNN News


03 Nov 2008 22:53:16

TAMPA, Fla. – Barack Obama radiated confidence and John McCain displayed the grit of an underdog Monday as the presidential rivals reached for the finish line of a two-year marathon with a burst of campaigning across battlegrounds from the Atlantic Coast to Arizona.

"We are one day away from change in America," said Obama, a Democrat seeking to become the first black president — a dream not nearly as distant on election eve as it once was.

McCain, too, promised to turn the page of the era of George W. Bush and said he sensed an upset in the making.

"This momentum, this enthusiasm convinces me we're going to win tomorrow," McCain told a raucous evening rally in Henderson, Nev., part of a seven-state campaign sprint that was to end in Arizona early Tuesday.

Republican running mate Sarah Palin was more pointed as she campaigned in Ohio. "Now is not the time to experiment with socialism," she said. "Our opponent's plan is just for bigger government."

Late-season attacks aside, Obama led in virtually all the pre-election polls in a race where economic concerns dominated and the war in Iraq was pushed — however temporarily — into the background.

While the overall number of early votes was unknown, statistics showed more than 29 million ballots cast in 30 states and suggested an advantage for Obama. Democrats voted in larger numbers than Republicans in North Carolina, Colorado, Florida and Iowa, all of which went for President Bush in 2004.

Democrats also anticipated gains in the House and in the Senate, although Republicans battled to hold their losses to a minimum and a significant number of races were rated as tossups in the campaign's final hours.

By their near-non-stop attention to states that voted Republican in 2004, both Obama and McCain acknowledged the Democrats' advantage in the presidential race.

The two rivals both began their days in Florida, a traditionally Republican state with 27 electoral votes where polls make it close.

Obama drew 9,000 or so at a rally in Jacksonville, while across the state, a crowd estimated at roughly 1,000 turned out for McCain.

The front-runner also choked up on the campaign's final day as he told a crowd in North Carolina of the death of his grandmother from cancer. Madelyn Payne Dunham was 86.

"She died peacefully in her sleep with my sister at her side," he said of the woman who had played a large role in his upbringing. "And so there is great joy as well as tears. I'm not going to talk about it too long because it is hard for me to talk about."

McCain and his wife issued a statement of condolence.

One day before the election, no battleground state was left unattended.

But Virginia, where no Democrat has won in 40 years, and Ohio, where no Republican president has ever lost, seemed most coveted. Together, they account for 33 electoral votes that McCain can scarcely do without.

Democratic volunteers in Maryland, a state safe for Obama, called voters in next-door Virginia, where McCain trailed in the polls. The Democratic presidential candidate's visit to Virginia during the day was his 11th since he clinched the nomination.

Unwilling to concede anything, McCain's campaign filed a lawsuit in Richmond seeking to force election officials to count late-arriving ballots from members of the armed forces overseas. No hearing was immediately scheduled.


Several hundred miles away in Ohio — the state that sealed Bush's second term in 2004 — voters waited as long as three hours in line to cast ballots in Columbus, part of heavily contested Franklin County. Poll workers handed out bottles of water to sustain them.


Lori Huffman, 38, a supervisor at UPS Inc., took the day off to vote early for her man, McCain. "It's exciting isn't it?" she asked, gesturing toward the long line of waiting voters.


"This is happening all over the state, from Cleveland to Dayton," said Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat trying to deliver his state to Obama.


Obama hoped so, after more than a year building an elaborate get-out-the-vote operation, first for the primary campaign, now for the general election.


The Democrat flew from Florida to North Carolina to Virginia, all states that went Republican in 2004, before heading home to Chicago on Election Eve.


Twenty-one months after he launched his campaign, he allowed, "You know. I feel pretty peaceful ... I gotta say."


On a syndicated radio program, "The Russ Parr Morning Show," he said, "The question is going to be who wants it more. And I hope that our supporters want it bad, because I think the country needs it."


If wanting it were all that mattered, the race would be a toss-up.


McCain, behind in the polls, set out on a grueling run through several traditionally Republican states that he has failed to secure. Florida, Virginia, Indiana, New Mexico and Nevada were on his itinerary, as was Pennsylvania, the only state that voted Democratic in 2004 where he still nursed hopes. His last appearance of the long day, past midnight, was a home state rally in Prescott, Ariz. Obama has been running television commercials in Arizona in the campaign's final days.


The surrogate campaigners included Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democrats and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for the Republicans. Both lost races for their party's presidential nomination earlier in the year, and both could be expected to try again if their ticket loses the White House.


Not so, President Bush.


Deeply unpopular, the man who won the White House twice was out of public view, an effort to help McCain.


Palin was racing through five Bush states Monday — Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada — in an effort to boost conservative turnout for McCain. The Alaska governor has been a popular draw for many GOP base voters, and already, there was speculation about a future national campaign should Republicans lose in 2008.


Joe Biden, Obama's running mate, campaigned in Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania. "We are on the cusp of a new brand of leadership," he assured supporters.


Biden didn't say so, but he was as close to guaranteed a victory as any politician in America. Whatever the fate of the Democratic presidential ticket, he was heavily favored to win a new Senate term from Delaware on Tuesday.


___


Eds: Espo reported from Washington. AP writers Nedra Pickler in Jacksonville, Fla., Meghan Barr in Columbus, Ohio, Joe Milica from Lakewood, Ohio, Christopher Clark in Lee's Summit, Mo., and Kristen Wyatt in Denver contributed to this report.






4.11.08 09:11, kommentieren