Procter & Gamble CEO defends plan at staid shareholder meeting

CINCINNATI, Tue Oct 9, 2012 – Procter & Gamble Co.’s CEO stood behind the company’s plan for increasing profit and sales at a drama-free annual meeting notable for the absence of William Ackman, the activist investor who has pushed hard for change in recent months at the world’s largest maker of household products.

Chief Executive Bob McDonald defended the strategy of developing major new products while the company at the same time seeks to cut $10 billion in costs.

Tuesday’s meeting, held in P&G’s hometown of Cincinnati, came as something of a respite for McDonald months after Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital Management took a stake in P&G, putting pressure on the CEO and the board to improve performance.

McDonald, who has been at the helm since July 2009, is refocusing on core categories, countries and innovations with both the $10 billion restructuring and a strategy laid out in June that homes in on the company’s 40 biggest businesses, 20 biggest new products and 10 key developing markets.

Ackman, who disclosed his stake in the maker of Tide detergent and Crest toothpaste too late to have any proposals on the agenda, was not in attendance, and only one shareholder referred to him, asking why it took the investment of an activist to boost P&G’s stock.

“If we remain focused on the plan I talked about, the 40/20/10 plan, with improved innovation from discontinuous innovation, with productivity improvement, then we are all convinced that shareholders will get an increase in value and the stock will reflect that,” McDonald replied, without mentioning Ackman directly. “We are focused like a laser, we are holding our own feet to the fire to do this.”

Fidelity launches two new stock funds to tap global dividends

BOSTON, Thu May 10, 2012 – Fidelity Investments has tapped one of its up-and-coming portfolio managers to run two new mutual funds geared toward finding companies around the world that have stable cash flow and a willingness to pay dividends.

Boston-based Fidelity, which manages $1.6 trillion in assets, said on Thursday that Ramona Persaud would run two global equity income funds.

It’s the first time Fidelity has offered an equity income fund with a global reach. It now offers 10 equity income-oriented funds with more than $32 billion in assets under management.

With near-zero interest rates in the United States and financial turmoil in Europe, Fidelity is betting that investors nearing retirement or already in retirement will embrace the two funds that seek income-producing stocks around the globe.

Global stocks excluding the United States have delivered a dividend yield between 2 percent and 3.5 percent over the past decade, compared with a dividend yield of 1 percent to 2 percent for U.S. stocks, according to Fidelity.

“The gap is even higher when a global equity income subset of global equities is compared with global and U.S. equities,” a research report from the money manager said.

New unemployment benefits claims fall 15,000 last week

WASHINGTON ― New claims for unemployment benefits fell by 15,000 last week in the latest sign the labor market was improving and could help the country resist the effects of a likely euro zone recession.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped to a seasonally adjusted 372,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The prior week’s claims data was revised up to 387,000 from the previously reported 381,000.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims falling to 375,000. A Labor Department official said there was nothing unusual in the data, although the figures for three states, including California and Virginia, had been estimated.

Claims have now fallen in four of the last five weeks, and the four-week moving average ― a better measure of trends – fell 3,250 to 376,500, the lowest level since June 2008.

Economists at Goldman Sachs said in December that weekly claims below 435,000 pointed to net monthly gains in jobs.

An improving labor market has boosted the view the economy wrapped up 2011 on better footing, leaving it well positioned to deal with headwinds from Europe’s debt crisis and fiscal tightening at home.

Still, a moribund U.S. housing market and persistently high unemployment threaten the recovery.

In the week ending December 24, the number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid fell 22,000 to 3.595 million. Economists had forecast so-called continuing claims holding about steady at 3.58 million.

As of Dec 17, a total of 7.223 million people were claiming unemployment benefits under all programs, down 8,311 from the prior week.

Data on Wednesday showed U.S. manufacturing growing at its fastest pace in six months during December, capping a late-year upswing.

Fourth-quarter growth is seen topping a 3 percent annual pace, rising from the July-September period’s 1.8 percent rate.