What's Important in the Financial World (12/27/2012)
Longshoremen's Strike Looms
A strike by the The International Longshoremen's Association's (ILA), which would begin Sunday, appears very likely. A number of companies that rely on the ports for their inventory have expressed alarm. Matthew Shay, the president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, recently wrote to several members of Congress and the Obama Administration:
We cannot afford further supply chain disruptions as we enter 2013. The two sides must remain at the negotiating table until a deal is reached. We fully believe the two sides can reach an agreement that will ensure the continued competitiveness of these ports for the foreseeable future.
At this point, however, we believe that a strike will only be averted through immediate intervention by the administration. Allowing a strike to occur for even one day could have a negative impact on all of those downstream businesses and employees who rely on the ports. The U.S. economy cannot afford to wait for a strike to occur before we see administration action. We urge you to get engaged now with these parties to ensure a strike does not occur.
Gmail Free Calls Extended
Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) has upped the ante in the competition among major e-mail suppliers, which would include, at least, Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT), Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO) and AOL Inc. (NYSE: AOL). Each has tens of millions of users, most of whom have had accounts for so long they do not want to change addresses. Google has gotten many people to convert to Gmail, though, largely because of a number of attractive new features. One of these is the ability to make free phone calls in the United States and Canada. Google announced it would extend that feature for another year. Mayur Kamat, product manager for Gmail, said on the Official Gmail Blog:
Many of you call phones from Gmail to easily connect with friends and family. If you're in the US and Canada, you'll continue to be able to make free domestic calls through 2013. Plus, in most countries, you can still call the rest of the world from Gmail at insanely low rates.
Monti Support Grows
Mario Monti, who recently resigned as the prime minister of Italy, may be back again. For proponents of the current austerity plans, that would be good news. The balance of Europe sees these plans as a way for Italy to cut its debt and deficit. If Italy's economy does not plunge into recession, Monti's programs could be a template for the balance of the region. The Financial Times reports:
Italy's centrist politicians are gathering around Mario Monti following his offer to lead an alliance into elections in February, setting the stage for a confrontation with Silvio Berlusconi in his attempt to return to power.
Mr Monti, who was appointed technocrat prime minister 13 months ago and has never fought an election in his life, is due to meet with prospective coalition partners on Thursday to discuss strategy and candidate lists, politicians said.
Douglas A. McIntyre
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