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With our investment news briefs, Money Morning provides investors with a quick overview of the most important investing news stories from all around the world.
Consumer Confidence Leaps; Hong Kong Injects More Stimulus; Virgin Atlantic Sees Cloudy Skies; South Africa Enters Recession; Experts: Supreme Court Nominee Neutral on Business; Hedge Funds Bet Big on Commodities; GM Gets Labor Concessions in Canada; Russian Firm Takes $200 Million Stake in Facebook
- The Conference Board's index of consumer confidence jumped to 54.9 in May, up from a revised 40.8 in April. The leap marks the biggest one-month gain since April 2003, and was set in motion by tighter credit and oversupply of homes pushing down prices, Reuters reported.
- Hong Kong's government will inject another HK$16.8 billion ($2.2 billion) into the economy via tax cuts, fee waivers and spending, Bloomberg reported. Added to previous stimulus measures, Hong Kong's government has pumped HK$87.6 billion, or 5.2% of the country's gross domestic product, into the economy.
- Virgin Atlantic said its annual profits nearly doubled, but gave a grim assessment the current fiscal year. "We have not seen conditions as tough as this, and we do not see any signs of recovery … for airlines to make a profit this year is almost impossible," Chief Executive Steve Ridgeway told Reuters. "The key now is to slow down capital expenditure and preserve cash."
- South Africa has slipped into its first recession in 17 years, as its gross domestic product fell an annualized 6.4% in the first quarter. Manufactures and miners have been scaling back output and letting workers go, as a result of tightening global demand, Bloomberg reported.
- Sonia Sotomayor, President Barack Obama's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, does not appear to be either particularly liberal or conservative on business issues, but four of her rulings have been overturned by the high court, according to legal experts interviewed by Reuters. Sotomayor has a lengthy record of rulings in business cases as a federal judge in New York, but her rulings appear to present a patchwork of decisions based more on the merits and facts of the cases than an ideological approach to the law, the experts said.
- Hedge funds are making big bets that commodity prices will rise as the global economy rebounds from its steepest slump since World War II, according to Bloomberg. An index of the net long positions in U.S. commodity futures held by hedge funds and other large speculators rose to a nine-month high. The index consists of 20 raw materials and is monitored by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
- General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM) received approval from its Canadian Auto Workers union to freeze pension payments until 2015 and cut new hires' pay to protect jobs, as it works on labor agreements to help speed its exit from a probable bankruptcy, Bloomberg reported. The union, representing about 9,000 hourly employees, ratified the accord yesterday (Tuesday) with 86% of the vote. The United Auto Workers (UAW) presented a tentative U.S. contract to plant-level leaders in Detroit yesterday as well.
- A Russian Internet investment firm has invested $200 million in Facebook, as the social networking site builds a cash buffer. The investment by Digital Sky Technologies, which has invested in leading Russian web properties like Mail.ru and Vkontakte.ru, values the social networking site at $10 billion. The Russian company took a 1.96% stake in Facebook in preferred stock in exchange for its investment, Reuters reported.