Saturday, November 22, 2008

BANKING NEWS - 13 TO 21.11.2008


26TH Conference of AIBEA – a grand success.


v Procession participated by more than 10,000 employees.

v 2500 Delegates and Observers participated in the Conference

v 240 women participants – a special feature

v Conference inaugurated by Com Gurudas Dasgupta, G.S, AITUC

v Chief Minister of Delhi Mrs. Shiela Dixit participated as Chief Guest

v Labour Minister Sri Oscar Fernandes addressed the Conference as our Special Guest.

v Special Seminar on Global Financial Crisis was a very educative programme

v Special Women’s Convention discussed increasing role of women employees in AIBEA

v 63 Foreign Delegates from 14 countries participated

v Asian Regional Organisation of Bank, Insurance & Finance Unions (AROBIFU) launched.

v Com C H Venkatachalam (India) and Com M R Shah ( Srilanka) elected as President and Secretary General of AROBIFU.

v 430 Paged Report and Documents adopted unanimously.

v Record number of 118 Delegates spoke on the Report.

v 25 Important Resolutions adopted.

v Com Rajen Nagar and Com C H Venkatachalam unanimously re-elected as President and General Secretary for the next term.

Nationalise private banks, says bank employees union

The All India Bank Employees Association has demanded that banking reforms be stopped immediately while also seeking nationalisation of all private sector banks.
The federation made these demands at the concluding session of its three-day conference here, which was attended by delegates from all over the country as well as abroad.

Asked if the demand to nationalise private banks was feasible in the globalised economy, AIBEA general secretary C H Venkatachalam said, "Why not, when private banks are being taken over by the government I the US, why can't it be done in India."

Asserting that nationalised banks had played a major role in the development of the economy, he said in the past four decades, these banks had grown substantially. Venkatachalam said that in 1969, total deposits in PSU banks was Rs 4,665 crore which had grown to Rs 24,53,867 crore in 2008. Advances during the same period rose from Rs 3,609 crore to Rs 17,97,505 crore. The number of branches had increased from 8,268 in 1969 to 53,226 in 2008.

The conference also decided to fight for early wage settlement for bank employees which the office-bearers said was "overdue". The 2,500 delegates, including 63 from 19 foreign countries, have resolved to put pressure on their governments to halt further reforms in the banking sector.

RBI employees to strike over reduced pensions
by Steven Dignall 19 November 2008
Employees of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) are to stage a mass casual leave at the beginning of December, calling for restoration of pension arrangements for retired employees.
The country’s central bank, which has 22,000 employees, last month reduced monthly pension payouts for around a third of employees who retired before 1997 by between Rs700 (US$14) and Rs5,000 (US$100) per retiree.
The decision means employees and officers of the bank will go on mass casual leave on 1 and 2 December in protest over the revised pension provision.
In a statement, the United Forum of the Reserve Bank Officers and Employees explained the government had suddenly withdrawn the upgraded pension that the superannuated employees had received over a period of six years.
It read: “The decision to observe the mass casual leave was taken to protest against the huge reduction in pension of RBI retirees, demanding restoration thereof and immediate resolution of other superannuation-related issues.”
All India Reserve Bank Employees Association general secretary Samir Ghosh added: “Nearly 3,850 people are now subject to the pension reduction. If RBI sticks to its decision to discontinue the pension scheme, all its retirees will be deprived of pension revision.
“RBI is capable of meeting the financial liability arising out of its pension payout. Therefore, there is no reason why the scheme is being withdrawn.”

Asian Banks, Once Thought Safe From Crisis, Are Now Hurting
Bankers in Asia had been largely immune to the fallout from the global financial crisis. But as the economic malaise consumes country after country, those jobs are no longer viewed as safe.
Skip to next paragraph On Tuesday, the British banking giant HSBC announced that it would cut 500 jobs in Asia. And Citigroup’s roughly 50,000 employees in Asia were faced with the reality that some of job cuts announced Monday could hit them.
In addition, Mitsubishi UFJ reported that its profit had plummeted 61 percent in the three months that ended Sept. 30. The bank made no comments about any possible job cuts, but the weak report highlighted how Japan’s banks were being squeezed.
Strong growth in most Asian economies and a lack of exposure to the subprime mortgage market have helped shield Asian banks from the large number of layoffs of those on Wall Street and in London. But Asian banks are coming under pressure as the crisis drags on.
“The financial crisis is well and truly here now,” said Andrew Oliver, managing director at Profile Search and Selection, an executive search firm in Hong Kong.
So far, Tokyo has been less affected by job cuts than other major financial centers, mainly because the Japanese banks have appeared comparatively healthy.
However, Japan and Hong Kong slipped into recession during the third quarter of this year, data released in recent days showed, while the sharp fall in the stock markets this year also has taken its toll on Japanese banks.
“As one of the world’s financial centers and with the Japanese economy sliding into recession, Tokyo will inevitably feel the effects of the intensifying turmoil in global financial markets,” said Matt Robinson, an economist at Moody’s in Sydney.
At HSBC, most of the 500 job cuts in Asia are planned for Hong Kong, where the unemployment rate in the financial capital edged up to 3.5 percent from August through October, from 3.4 percent in the July through September period, figures released Tuesday showed.
Citigroup also shocked the financial industry this week when it said it would lay off 52,000 employees, or 14 percent of its global work force, much more than the roughly 25,000 jobs cuts the bank had previously announced.
Citigroup declined to provide a regional breakdown on the job cuts on Tuesday. But most of the losses will be focused on the United States, leaving Asia-Pacific relatively unscathed, a person with direct knowledge of the situation said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because affected employees have not yet been notified.
The sheer magnitude of the losses announced by Citigroup late on Monday drove home the message about how the global financial industry is being dragged down.
Likewise, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse, which have also recently announced job losses — though on a smaller scale than at Citigroup — would not provide any geographical breakdowns, officials at the banks in Hong Kong said on Tuesday.
Most of the Asia-based jobs at Lehman Brothers, the Wall Street stalwart that collapsed in mid-September, are safe since Nomura took over the bank’s Asian operations and some 2,600 staff members. And job losses on the back of the collapse of Bear Stearns also were limited, because the bank only had 500 employees in Asia when JPMorgan acquired it.
This month, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, based in Melbourne, said it would cut more than 500 jobs to contain costs. And DBS, based in Singapore, said it would eliminate 900 jobs, or 6 percent of its work force, in Singapore and Hong Kong after a steep fall in quarterly profit.
Recruiting firms like Michael Page, Robert Walters and Profile Search and Selection all report that they have received considerably more résumés from potential job candidates in recent months.
Most inquiries “have come from people who have already been laid off or from those who see a lay off as imminent,” said David Swan, director of financial services at Robert Walters in Tokyo. “The sentiment of those who are currently employed has become much more conservative, and we see very few employed people seeking new opportunities in the finance industry.”
Statistics of the number of job losses in the sector in Asia are hard to come by. Still, Mr. Swan estimates that “most of the major foreign institutions in Tokyo appear to have cut around 10 percent of staff numbers, which equates to about 100 to 200 on average per company.”
With all this, there are widespread expectations — in Asia as much as in the United States and Europe — that bonuses will be minimal. “At this stage, most people in the finance industry are expecting little to no bonus for 2008,” said Mr. Swan.
Job losses are also increasing in Sydney and Melbourne, where several financial institutions are making large cut backs. The unemployment rate in New South Wales jumped to 5.2 percent last month, from 4.8 percent, in part because of the downturn in Sydney’s financial sector.
“I have been here during the Asian financial crisis, the downturn during SARS and the dot-com bubble bursting, and the feeling is very similar now,” said Mr. Oliver of the Profile Search and Selection recruitment firm.
But some recruiters are hiring for certain strategic positions in Asia.
“Not everything is doom and gloom,” said Dan Chavasse, managing director for Greater China and Southeast Asia at Michael Page International in Hong Kong. “There are job opportunities out there, especially in areas like compliance, auditing and product control, where the need for quality staff is higher than ever before.”

Mounting signs of protracted world recession
By Mike Head . 19 November 2008
Global share markets have continued to slide downward because of growing indications that the world economy is heading into a prolonged recession, far worse than previously predicted by financial analysts and commentators. So far this year, more than 51 percent of the value of world stock markets has been wiped out, according to Bloomberg data.
US stocks ended slightly up yesterday, after falling to five-year lows during the day. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index added 1 percent to 859.11, although about six stocks retreated for every five that rose on the New York Stock Exchange.
Compounding the volatility were the failure of last weekend's G20 meeting in Washington to produce any answers to the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, the specter of deflation and uncertainty over the fate of the US auto giants, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, which are pleading for multibillion-dollar government bailouts to avoid bankruptcy.
"It's a foregone conclusion that we're in a global recession. The markets are telling you that, and the biggest fear is further labor market deterioration," Andre Bakhos, president of Princeton Financial Group in Princeton, New Jersey, told Reuters. "Without clarity on General Motors, the market is only going to drift lower."
A Bloomberg business survey warned that, after contracting at a 0.3 percent annual pace in the third quarter, the American economy could shrink again this quarter and in the first three months of 2009, producing the longest slump since 1974-1975. The forecast came on top of the previous day's announcement that Japan, the world's second largest economy, had joined Europe in entering recession last quarter.
Perhaps the sharpest warning sign came with the release of US producer prices data, showing a record drop in October, sliding downward for a third straight month, as raw material and energy prices continued to fall. The producer price index for finished goods dropped 2.8 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis in October, the Labor Department said Tuesday, substantially more than the 1.8 percent fall predicted by economists in a Dow Jones Newswires survey.
Along with a UK government report showing that Britain's inflation rate fell the most in at least 11 years (down from 5.2 percent to 4.5 percent), the figures reveal a rising threat of deflation—a downward spiral of prices, demand and production.
Business leaders fear that plummeting prices will slash profit rates, leave real interest rates above the deflation rate—making money even more costly to borrow—and cause consumers to postpone spending and wait for cheaper prices. Concerns are being expressed about Japanese-style stagnation, lasting a decade or more, with serious deflation feeding off itself, driving down output and employment.
Already, falling demand is spreading from the auto industry and other sectors initially hit by the fallout from the financial meltdown. Dow Chemical, the largest US chemical maker, said it had been forced to cut prices for two of the most-used plastics, polyethylene and polypropylene, as much as 40 percent since September. The announcement by Midland, Michigan-based Dow foreshadowed the closing of more factories as sales decline.
Earlier in the day, shares dropped on the New York Stock Exchange after the National Association of Realtors reported that prices of existing single-family homes fell 9 percent in the third quarter compared with the same period a year ago. The figures confirmed that the housing implosion is far from over. The trade group said 35 percent to 40 percent of home transactions in the third quarter were distress sales that took place through either foreclosure or "short sales" where the holder of the mortgage agrees to take a loss.
The third-quarter results of two major retailers reflected a sharp cutback in consumer spending. Same-store sales at luxury retailer Saks dropped 11.5 percent for the quarter compared to last year, while those at Home Depot, the home improvement retailer, fell 8.3 percent. The Pepsi Bottling Group, meanwhile, announced restructuring plans that would eliminate some 3,150 jobs
After a topsy-turvy day, European shares also ended marginally higher, with London's FTSE 100 index up 1.85 percent, despite more gloomy news. In an unprecedented turnaround, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the peak employers' group, warned that Britain is set to enter a recession as severe as that of 1991, with the economy shrinking by 2.5 percent and unemployment to hit 9 percent by 2010, leaving nearly 3 million people out of work.
The CBI said it was compelled to issue a sharply revised forecast that the British economy would contract by 1.7 percent next year, against its growth prediction of 0.3 per cent made just two months ago in September. Ian McCafferty, chief economic adviser to the CBI, said the financial crisis had dramatically changed the picture for business.
"Since October's financial turmoil, companies have started to report that, for the first time, they are finding it increasingly difficult to access capital. If this were to be more than a temporary phenomenon, it would result in otherwise healthy companies going to the wall for lack of short-term finance. This would have serious implications for both employment and investment."
Credit analysts at Citigroup reported that the yields on bonds of investment-grade non-financial groups—some of the CBI's biggest companies—had risen sharply, implying a risk of default even higher than that from 1931 to 1935, during the Great Depression. As well as indicating actual default risk, the yield rates point to evaporating credit for the corporate sector.
The job cuts hitting British workers—more than 20,000 were announced last week—worsened when Wolseley, a major supplier of plumbing and heating goods, unveiled 2,000 more layoffs, accompanied by branch closures. The company had previously announced 5,000 job cuts, mainly in North America.
Sir Tony O'Reilly's Independent News & Media said it would axe a quarter of the editorial staff on the Independent newspaper and its Sunday sister title in order to seek savings of £10 million. Of the 90 job losses, 60 will come from the 250 or so editorial staff.
Earlier yesterday, news of Japan's recession and Citigroup's announcement of another 52,000 job cuts sent stock markets tumbling across Asia, with Hong Kong's Hang Seng index down 4.5 percent and Japan's Nikkei 225 lower by 2.3 percent. South Korea fell 4.1 percent, and Shanghai lost 6.3 percent.
Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Japan's largest bank, posted a 61 percent decline in second-quarter profits. Once reputed to be relatively immune to the global credit crisis, Mitsubishi UFJ and other Japanese banks are now scrambling to raise cash, hurt by corporate bankruptcies—which rose 13.4 per cent in October from a year earlier—and heavy exposure to the domestic stock market. Mitsubishi UFJ shares have fallen 48 percent so far this year, in line with a similar decline in Tokyo's bank index.
The Australian share market slumped about 3.5 percent yesterday to fresh four-year lows, with the heaviest losses stemming from the resources sector. Lower commodities prices affected the big miners: as Rio Tinto lost 7.40 percent to $68.00, and rival BHP Billiton dropped 3.58 percent to $24.20.
The international rout of mining shares worsened amid reports that the world's largest steelmakers in India and China are suspending iron ore and coal contracts, or refusing to take deliveries because of collapsing demand for everything from cars and appliances to bridges and buildings.
Indian giant ArcelorMittal, for example, sent a letter to its German scrap-metal suppliers, saying it had been forced by the global downturn to suspend contracts with the suppliers as of the end of last month. India's state-owned Rashtriya Ispat Nigam wrote to several of its metallurgical-coal suppliers this month, asking them to cut prices 68 percent for the contract year ending next June.
Child hunger in US rose by 50 percent in 2007
By Kate Randall 20 November 2008
Some 691,000 children went hungry in America in 2007, a rise of 50 percent over the previous year, while one in eight Americans overall struggled to feed themselves. The figures are reported in a study on food security conducted annually by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Of the 36.2 million people who struggled with hunger during the year, almost a third of these adults and children faced a substantial disruption to their food supply, meaning they went hungry at some point. The number of these most hungry Americans has grown by more than 40 percent since 2000, rising to 11.9 million individuals in 2007.
These statistics are all the more alarming since they do not reflect the impact of the current economic crisis. James Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center, predicted the 2008 numbers would show even more hunger.
"There's every reason to think the increases in the number of hungry people will be very, very large," Weill said, "based on the increased demand we're seeing this year at food stamp agencies, emergency kitchens, Women, Infants and Children clinics, really across the entire social service support structure."
The USDA study covered about 45,600 households, selected as representative of the approximately 118 million households in the US. Households were classified as being "food secure," having "low food security" or having "very low food security," according to their answers to a set of questions, including:
• In the last 12 months, were you ever hungry, but didn't eat, because there wasn't enough money for food?
• Did you or other adults in your household ever not eat for a whole day because there wasn't enough money for food?
Households with children up to 18 years of age were asked additional questions, such as:
• In the last 12 months, did you ever cut the size of any of the children's meals because there wasn't enough money for food?
• In the last 12 months, did any of the children ever skip a meal because there wasn't enough money for food?
Children were identified as having "very low food security" if they lived in households that answered "yes" to 25 percent or more of the questions asked (calculated according to a formula designed by the study).
Some 691,000 children met the criteria. At some point during the year, these children went to school without breakfast, ate meals providing inadequate calories and nutrients, or went to bed hungry. Their families could not provide for them because they did not have the financial resources to do so.
These statistics translate into real and lasting suffering for society's youngest members. Research has shown that hunger and malnourishment have a profound impact on the mental and physical development of preschool and school-aged children. They are more likely to exhibit higher levels of chronic illness, anxiety and depression, and behavioural problems than well-fed children.
Uncertainty about the ability to provide adequate food is devastating for parents and families, both physically and mentally. Of the 4.7 million families estimated to suffer from very low food security, 98 percent worried that their food would run out before they got money to buy more. Some 94 percent reported that they could not afford to eat balanced meals.
Close to a third of these households reported that on occasion an adult did not eat for an entire day because there was not enough money for food. In 45 percent of these households an adult had lost weight because he or she could not afford enough food. Often parents went without so that the children could eat, or the youngest children ate at the expense of older siblings.
Conditions of hunger for these households were not adequately counteracted by assistance from the three largest federal food and nutrition programs—the Food Stamp Program, the National School Lunch Program and the Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)—or by help from food pantries or soup kitchens.
Not surprisingly, the study showed that poverty is the greatest contributing factor to hunger. In 2007, the federal poverty line was set at $21,027 for a family of four, an amount woefully inadequate to provide for sufficient food and nutrition, let alone pay for housing, utilities and other necessities. In households where income fell below this line, food insecurity stood at 37.7 percent.
The rate of food insecurity was 22.2 percent for African-American households and 20.1 percent for Hispanic households. Food insecurity was also more prevalent in households headed by a single parent where there were children—30.2 percent for those headed by women, 18 percent for those headed by men.
Southern states saw the highest rates of food insecurity. Measured over three years, from 2005 through 2007, the states reporting the highest figures were Mississippi (17.4 percent), New Mexico (15 percent), Texas (14.8 percent), and Arkansas (14.4 percent).
Food insecurity is not restricted to inner-city or urban metropolitan areas, but is prevalent in rural and less-populated areas as well. The highest growth in food insecurity over the last nine years has been in the states of Alaska and Iowa, both of which saw a 3.7 percent increase in families who faced substantial food disruptions.
A majority of US households are concerned about the cost of food. A study released last month by the Opinion Research Group, commissioned by Minnesota-based Hormel Food Corp., showed that 84 percent of Americans are worried about rising food prices and 58 percent have had to make cuts in their food purchases as a result.
More than half of those surveyed have had to take steps to reduce food costs, including using more generic or store brands, eating out less often, buying less expensive cuts of meat and increasing their purchases of cheap staples such as potatoes and rice.
Of those polled, 14 percent said they or an immediate family member had received food from a food bank, soup kitchen, shelter or other charitable organization in the past year due to a lack of money for food.
Among those who had not, 21 percent said it is very or somewhat likely that rising food costs, a job loss or other circumstance might force them to seek help for food from a charitable organization in the future. These conditions will inevitably worsen as the economic crisis intensifies.The growing hunger crisis should be seen within the context of the massive use of taxpayer funds to bail out Wall Street bankers and financiers. Hundreds of billions are being handed over to these interests, while no serious measures are being contemplated to confront a social crisis that will intensify rapidly over the coming months as layoffs mount and the recession deepens.

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