Focus turns to U.S. data as China slowdown looms

After a dizzying two weeks that saw a rapid plunge and rebound in equity prices, investors are looking forward to a week of economic data that may provide clarity on the likelihood of a near-term U.S. interest rate hike and help tamp down the market's recent wild swings. The economic figures will culminate in Friday’s jobs report that should reveal more about the strength of the U.S. economy. Car sales, construction spending, the Federal Reserve's "beige book" and jobs growth may show the economy is strong enough to withstand the first rate hike in nearly a decade from the Federal Reserve, despite worries about a hard landing for China’s economy.


Buffett's Berkshire takes $4.48 billion stake in Phillips 66

The 57.98 million-share, or roughly 10.8 percent, stake was revealed in a Friday night filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Phillips 66 shares closed Friday at $77.23. Berkshire once held a large stake in the Houston-based company, but shed nearly two-thirds of it in February 2014 when it swapped $1.35 billion of shares for a chemicals business that it folded into its Lubrizol unit.


'Good reason to believe' inflation will rise: Fed's Fischer

U.S. inflation will likely rebound as pressure from the dollar and other factors fade, allowing the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates gradually, Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer said on Saturday. "Given the apparent stability of inflation expectations, there is good reason to believe that inflation will move higher as the forces holding down inflation dissipate further," he told a central bankers' conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The Fed has said it wants to be reasonably confident that inflation, which has been stuck below a 2-percent target for a few years, will rebound in the medium term.


Raising inflation target won't help much now: researchers

The Federal Reserve could have cut short the Great Recession by a year if it had set a 4 percent inflation target in 1984, but raising the target now would probably do little to help the economy, researchers said on Saturday. Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren and Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota recently have floated raising the U.S. central bank's current 2 percent inflation target to give it more room to cut rates during economic downturns. The idea has not gained much traction in part because the Fed does not want to be seen as fickle about its commitments.


Yellen ally pours cold water on rule-based monetary policy

For much of her tenure as head of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen has been pressured by Republican lawmakers who want the U.S. central bank to adopt a monetary policy rule, a straightforward formula connecting unemployment and inflation to a benchmark interest rate. On Saturday a Yellen ally and former adviser at the Fed delivered a provocative retort: the economic models underpinning those simple rules don't work that well, and the best policy decisions come when central bankers look beyond those models to the unexpected forces shaping the economy. Former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan famously did it in the 1990s when he argued against a rate hike at a time when rising productivity was holding down inflation, and arguably failed to do it when he ignored the impact of the tech and housing bubbles, Johns Hopkins University economics professor Jon Faust said in a paper presented at an annual Fed conference here.


IMF's Lagarde says restructuring should suffice for Greek debt

A form of debt restructuring rather than outright forgiveness should enable Greece to handle its "unviable" debt burden, the head of the International Monetary Fund was quoted as telling a Swiss newspaper. The IMF has yet to make clear if it will participate in the third 86-billion-euro ($96 billion) international bailout that Greece signed up to in early August, having argued in favor of a partial writedown of a debt burden it considers unsustainable in its current form. Asked about those differences, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde told Saturday's edition of Le Temps: "The debate on cancelling the debt has never been open I don't think it is necessary to open it if things go well...


Syngenta may seek partners, JVs after product review: chairman in paper

Syngenta AG (SYNN.VX) may seek partners to help improve its product lineup after a thorough review in the wake of a rebuffed takeover approach from Monsanto Co (MON.N), the agrichemicals group's chairman told a Swiss newspaper. Syngenta's board is under pressure from shareholders to show how it plans to generate value after turning its back on Monsanto's $47 billion cash-and-share offer, which it said undervalued the company and had too great an execution risk. In an interview with Finanz und Wirtschaft, Michel Demare said it was too early to discuss what steps Syngenta planned to boost its results.


Ashley Madison courted several buyers, landed none before attack

The owner of adultery website Ashley Madison had already been struggling to sell itself or raise funds for at least three years before the publication of details about its members, according to internal documents and emails also released by hackers as part of their assault on the company in recent weeks. Avid Life Media announced on Friday that CEO Noel Biderman, who founded the website in 2001, had left the company with immediate effect, the latest sign of the wrenching impact on the company of the attack that led to the disclosure of sensitive data about millions of clients.


Fed says rate hike next month hinges on market volatility

The Federal Reserve on Friday left the door open to a September interest rate hike even while several U.S. central bank officials acknowledged that turmoil in financial markets, if prolonged, could delay the first policy tightening in nearly a decade. Some top policymakers, including Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer, said recent volatility in global markets could quickly ease and possibly pave the way for the U.S. rate hike, for which investors, governments and central banks around the world are bracing. With a key policy meeting set for Sept. 16-17, at least five Fed officials spoke publicly in what amounted to a jockeying for position on whether increasing the Fed's benchmark overnight lending rate was too risky amid an economic slowdown in China, a rising U.S. dollar (.DXY) and falling commodity prices (XAU=) (CMCU3).


Unions set sights on e-commerce and manufacturing firms after NLRB ruling

On Thursday the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled the owner of a California recycling plant was a "joint employer" with the contractor that hired workers at the plant, essentially forcing both to bargain with the union together or risk violating U.S. labor law. Business groups, arguing that the ruling could lead to higher costs and hurt the economy, are pushing the Republican-led Congress to overturn it, in part it because the company named in the decision - Browning-Ferris - cannot challenge it in a federal court without overcoming a number of procedural hurdles. Unions see the decision as a breakthrough not just in efforts to help employees organizes at franchisees of McDonald's Corp (MCD.N) and other chains but also as a tool to counter the proliferation of subcontracting in other industries in which workers are one or two steps removed from the companies indirectly controlling them.

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