Dozens Feared Dead In Fire At Azerbaijan Oil Rig

 

BAKU, Dec 5 (Reuters) – Thirty-two workers have died after an offshore oil platform operated by Azerbaijan‘s state energy company SOCAR caught fire in the Caspian Sea, the head of an independent committee said on Saturday.

 

SOCAR declined repeated requests for comment from Reuters.

 

“According to our information, 32 workers died, while 42 workers were rescued last night. … The fire on the platform was finally extinguished,” said Mirvari Gakhramanly, head ofAzerbaijan‘s Oil Workers’ Rights Protection Committee.

 

SOCAR said on Friday that the fire on a platform in Azerbaijan‘s Guneshli oil field had started after a gas pipeline on the platform was damaged in heavy wind. It said rescue attempts were being complicated by a severe storm.

 

One worker called a Reuters correspondent from the platform and said there were 84 people trapped there. The worker did not want to be named. It was not clear whether his statement was now out of date.

 

SOCAR said on its Facebook page on Saturday that 26 workers had been rescued from the platform. It did not give details on whether there had been deaths or how many people were initially on the platform.

 

Around 60 percent of SOCAR’s oil production passes via the platform where the fire broke out, meaning the company’s output will be temporarily hit.

 

The bulk of Azerbaijan‘s oil is produced elsewhere, however, including on fields operated by British oil major BP.

 

BP Azerbaijan was not available for comment on Saturday on whether adverse weather in the Caspian or the fire on SOCAR’s platform had affected its production.

 

In a separate incident, SOCAR said on Friday that three workers were missing from another of its offshore oil platforms in the Caspian after an accident during the storm. The workers were still missing as of Saturday.

 

Fourteen workers were killed in accidents on SOCAR’s oil and gas platforms in 2014.

 

Also on HuffPost:

 

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Trailblazing Women: Kelly Hoey, LP at Laconia Capital Group & Angel Investor

This interview is part of a series on Trailblazing Women role models (Entrepreneurs and Leaders) from around the world and first appeared on Global Invest Her. You have to see what you can be.

 

 

 

 

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“Stay positive and keep moving forward. It’s the only way we are going to make a change. There are too many things we can look back on, overanalyse and study. Enough of the negative introspection, let’s move into action”.

 

 

 

Connections and opportunity, explain how Kelly Hoey has become an investor in emerging tech companies and sought-out speaker. She’s a networking expert whose first book, a modern roadmap to networking is being published by Tarcher Perigee (Penguin Random House). With a reputation for providing practical and actionable networking guidance, Kelly empowers with frameworks to take opportunities to the next level of growth. “Stop committing random acts of networking” is her frequent (and favorite) advice.

 
 

Co-founding a startup accelerator in 2011 then an interim CMO role with a startup are part of her career journey of reinvention into the world of startups and innovation. In addition to her portfolio of angel investments (Levo League, Hullabalu, Smigin, CloudPeeps, SQL Vision, flowthings.io, Jekudo), she is a LP in Laconia Capital Group.

 
 

Kelly is an Inc.com columnist and appears regularly as an investor panelist on CNBC’s Power Pitch. A skilled moderator, she has guided conversations with leaders in technology, investment and innovation part of Apple’s in-store Meet The Innovator speaker series. Kelly is sought out for her unique perspective into networking and community building, addressing members of the European Commission and audiences at SXSW, IEEE Women in Leadership, PGA Championship, The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, Bank of America, Disruptors (Dublin), MoDev, MINC (Malmo), ArabNet (Beirut), ATECH (Aruba), Tech Venture Conference, TiECon (Ottawa) and Women In Tech Summit, amongst others.

 
 

Listed by Fast Company and Business Insider for her social influence, she has been sought out by for projects with brands such as The New Yorker, HSBC, Coca-Cola, ECCO, P&G, PBS, L’Oreal, HBO and New York Life.

 
 

Kelly’s motto is “invest in the change you want to see in the world.” She is an acknowledged leader in the startup community for actively investing in women. In 2011, Kelly co-founded the first startup accelerator focused exclusively on fast-tracking the growth of early-stage mobile technology ventures with gender-diverse founding teams. Kelly continues to advise emerging technology companies and actively mentors startups through select startup programs and initiatives. She is an adjunct professor at LIM College in New York City. In addition to these professional pursuits, Kelly is the Chief Tech Ambassador for the YWCA of NYC’s Girls Geek Club.

 
 

Previously, Kelly was immersed in the professional services world, initially as a corporate attorney, and then in management, leading the development of a global law firm’s alumni, professional development and women’s initiatives. In 2009, Kelly became the first president of the women’s business networking group 85 Broads

 
 

Visit her website: http://jkellyhoey.co or follow her on twitter @jkhhoey

 
 

 

 

 

 

Who is your role model as a leader?

 

 

 

One of the most important things for me, is seeing other people succeed. That’s where I truly get happy. My role model as a leader is Glenda Bailey, the Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar. I had the good fortune of hearing her speak about when she took the job at Harper’s Bazaar. It was the first time in her career that she had not worked for a British or European fashion publication. She took the job at Harper’s, moved to New York City then immediately had to fly back to London for Fashion Week. Arriving at the shows Glenda found she was now sitting on the opposite side of the runway (to where she had always sat), because now she was employed by a U.S. publication. As Glenda tells the story, she looked across the aisle and upon seeing a familiar face, she waved. What happened next, shocked her. The entire front row waved back at her! It was at that moment Glenda realised what she had done in her career. Sitting across the aisle were all the editors-in-chief of all the important British/European fashion magazines and she had mentored all of them! I’d like to have that career legacy. The other thing I love about Glenda, is that she is always dressed in a party dress. When she was asked why, Glenda replied: ‘I always dress for cocktails!’ So for me, the greatest leader is anyone who pulls up other people to succeed.

 

 

 

 

 

What is your greatest achievement to date?

 

 

 

 

“To date, my greatest achievement has been my ability to ride the career waves, shift direction and navigate change. We always fear change, but if I look back on my life, it’s all about shifting tectonic plates. So my greatest achievement has been reinventing myself.”

 

 

 

The second greatest achievement, is finally believing that I can be that leader. When I was younger, there was a question I would say to people: Picture a rockband. Who are you in the band? Lead singer? Drummer? I used to say that I was the roadie or the backup singer, because I never wanted or sought the limelight. Whether that was my own belief or one that people put in my head, who knows, but on the basis of that I think my second greatest achievement is I now need to be the role model other people see in me. Believing I am that leader is a big achievement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What has been your biggest challenge as a woman leader?

 

 

 

Now, it feels like the challenges for me are fewer, as my career has had many twists and turns. I consistently give these pieces of advice to younger women:

 

 

 

 

    1. Build your expertise, be that expert in whatever field you choose
 
    1. Build your network
 
  1. Build your bank account
 

 

 

What’s more powerful than being able to pursue your own ideas because you don’t need somebody’s money? Because I have built those 3 things, I can say what I want. Knowing I have the expertise and the network, what’s the worst thing that can happen? I’m currently writing a book, so what’s the worst case scenario? For example that my book flops or that my investments don’t work? Fine, I’ll get a job (and yes, an executive recruiter called recently to offer me a job which sounded awfully close to what I was doing back in 2004). For me, my worst case scenario, is tossing in the towel and doing something my heart isn’t invested in.

 

 

 

I get asked a lot about sexism in the tech industry. I’m 50, so I’ve got a lot less problems about being a woman in tech than many women younger than me! How you eliminate challenges is to put yourself in a position of strength and there were times when I was not in a position of strength. One of the challenges for me earlier in my career was the role people assumed I filled (i.e. was I working on the weekend because I was the “secretary” or was I there to be the lawyer?

 

 

 

 

“The challenges of staying strong when there are things that are constantly chipping away at you and making you doubt your leadership, are particularly hard for women. It may be someone doubting your ability or asking why you are in the room. Those things can chip at you and knock you off your true north of where you are supposed to be headed.”

 

 

 

I have the biggest crush in the world on Warren Buffet. Here’s why: he knew what he needed to do and where he needed to be, in order to be successful. That’s why he went back to Omaha because he couldn’t do what he wanted to do in NY. I try to cultivate that intense self awareness of how and where I need to be in order to succeed. As a woman leader, I want to be taken as seriously at his age as he is! When I look at women leaders, I see that we diminish their power with age. I would like to see a change to that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you grow people in your organization?

 

 

 

At this point, it’s by example. That’s all I can do. I really like to see people succeed and I want to show them how they can do it for themselves. I don’t want to tell people how to do their jobs, I want to inspire them to do it their way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you could do 1 thing differently, what would it be?

 

 

 

We won’t talk about my two marriages! The one thing I would do differently: I would have become technologically savvy a lot earlier. A smart short-term career strategy for me was to not be tech savvy. I graduated from law school in ’91, when technology with respect to women in the workplace, was very much looked upon as the support, administrative word-processing function. I had a situation, where other than the senior partner on the deal, the guys on the team assumed I was there to be the secretary. The senior partner looked at these guys and said ‘if you idiots didn’t get a secretary, you’d better learn how to type fast, because Kelly is not here to be the secretary’. Plan A is where my mentor stepped in. Plan B was utter ignorance of anything technology – from arranging a conference call to assembling a spreadsheet. In hindsight, I should have taken an enthusiastic interest in technology much sooner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What differences do you notice between men and women’s leadership styles?

 

 

 

How we describe them – that’s a big issue. When people describe a woman leader in gender terms, eg ‘she’s a b****, she was shrill,’ I say to people – “tell me in non-gender terms what it is you do not like about this person”. Give me something other than a stereotype.

 

 

 

 

“I think our biggest problem is that we describe the actions of men and women differently (and therefore value contributions differently). We have this perception of who a leader is, based on all sorts of attributes that have nothing to do with actual leadership (height, gender, race, age). It’s about time we started focusing on actual actions of leadership.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How would you describe your leadership style?

 

 

 

Being a leader is a privilege and a responsibility. I don’t take it for granted. I haven’t sought leadership, but now realizing that people see me as a leader, I feel a responsibility to be the leader people see, and continue to lean in. If we want to change things, women have to stay in the game. Whatever else happens in my life, I feel a responsibility to stay active and involved in the business community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What advice would you give to your younger self?

 

 

 

“Dear Kelly, we know how much you like shoes, but maybe you should put more money into your investment account!”

 

 

 

 

“Actually, I would have told myself ‘create some more options for yourself’. I would have become a lot more investment-savvy earlier in my career. I’m from the era of “put money aside for your retirement”. I think now the era is one where you put money aside for your life, in terms of what is the life you want to lead and pursue. If I go back to my 3 key pieces of advice, having the expertise, network and bank account makes life a lot different. It leads to many more choices.”

 

 

 

 

 

What would you like to achieve in the next 5 years?

 

 

 

When I look back on my journey so far and all the changes and transitions, I realize I’m now back in the building blocks of a new phase. The next phase is getting book one out and seeing what I can build from that. I think about how I can continue to support the issues, values and initiatives I care about in new and expanded ways. I’m looking on the horizon to what the next phase can be, because there’s probably some other career transition in the cards for me!

 

 

 

 

 

3 key words to describe yourself?

 

 

 

 

    • optimistic
 
    • mentor
 
  • role model
 

 

 

 

 

Watch Anne Ravanona’s TEDx talk on Investing in Women Entrepreneurs.

 

 

 

For other interviews with Trailblazing Women leaders on Huffington Post Read More Here

 

 

 

Follow Anne Ravanona at @anneravanona, and learn more about Global Invest Her www.globalinvesther.com

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The First Insider Trader in Commodities

(Note: this post was originally published at the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation.. It is based upon a paper available for download here)

 
 

The Second Circuit’s decision in United States v. Newman has led many commentators to predict fewer insider trading enforcement actions, a prediction quickly validated by Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for Manhattan, who has both unwound guilty pleas and dropped active prosecutions. For Newman‘s critics and defenders alike, it is obvious that insider trading prosecution in the stock market is now in a period of stumbling retreat.

 
 

Yet the stock market is not the only financial market, and the trajectory of insider trading law looks very different if other asset classes are considered. Commodities markets are the world’s largest and oldest markets, and Wednesday marked the very first time an individual was sanctioned for insider trading in commodities.

 
 

Commodities are primarily regulated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), a once timid regulator now inclined to muscular enforcement actions. On December 2, the CFTC issued an order filing and simultaneously settling charges against Arya Motazedi, a trader of gasoline and oil futures. The Order asserts that Motazedi had prior knowledge of the timing, size, and prices of his employer’s trades. He used this proprietary information to trade in anticipation of market price movements. Because of this insider trading (and a few more charges discussed below), Motazedi will pay almost $350,000 in fines and restitution, and he will be forever banned from his chosen profession.

 
 

This Order is significant for three reasons.

 
 

First, it is simply the first insider trading case brought for commodities trading. Despite numerous Congressional hearings, insider trading in commodities avoided the legal restrictions visited upon securities traders during the twentieth century. As recently as 2009, the CFTC could assert, “the CFTC has no jurisdiction over insider trading in any way….” Much changed when Dodd-Frank gave the CFTC a new anti-fraud authority akin to the Securities Exchange Act’s § 10(b). In the preamble to its subsequent anti-fraud rules, the CFTC quietly noted that “trading on the basis of material nonpublic information in breach of a pre-existing duty … may be in violation of [this rule].” This statement was a hint of the Commission’s possible intentions and authority, but nothing became of it until now.

 
 

Second, the CFTC Order unmistakably adopts the language of securities insider trading law, rather than charting some new path. For example, the Order reports

 
 

“Motazedi accomplished his fraud by misappropriating non-public, confidential and material information. Motazedi and his employer shared a relationship of trust and confidence that gave rise to a duty of confidentiality…. Motazedi routinely had access to material non-public information…. Motazedi breached his duties to his employer by using this information to trade in personal trading accounts and by failing to disclose such trading to his employer.”

 
 

By incorporating the key elements from a securities insider trading claim, the Commission has endorsed the view that securities and commodities markets are enough alike that the logic of one can rationally apply to the other. This is a view that many — including prior Commissions — have resisted. Can anyone really have a secret about the price of corn, given that farmland is visible from the road? Can such secrets be material, given the vast size of commodities markets? To whom is the secrecy owed, given that there is no “shareholder” of corn? If the CFTC wanted to address these questions and embrace the rationales and doctrine of securities insider trading, Motazedi offered an excellent opportunity. Motazedi really did trade using pilfered and important information, just like any executive trading in her own company’s stock before a public disclosure.

 
 

Third, the Commission chose to brandish its new authority here, even though it could have achieved the same result more conservatively. Motazedi’s insider trading behavior could easily have been punished as mere front-running, a form of market abuse long prohibited (and associated with insider trading). Nor was that Motazedi’s only sin. He also caused his employer to make dozens of unnecessary trades on unfair terms against dummy accounts he himself secretly owned. That conduct gave the Commission ample ammunition to exact a tough settlement even without mention of insider trading. By tacking on insider trading charges where the results are already overdetermined, the CFTC puts traders on notice of its expanded authority without putting that authority to a strenuous legal test.

 
 

Those interested in insider trading should pay close attention to trading in non-securities. Especially in recent years, some of the most important enforcement events have far from public equity exchanges. Commodities such as oil, currencies, and interest rate benchmarks (e.g. LIBOR) have been the epicenter for brazen market abuse and assertive experiments in enforcement.

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Can You Turn Your Investment Loss Into Tax Savings?

Dear Carrie,

 
 

I’ve heard people talk about balancing out their capital gains with capital losses before the end of the year, but I’m not sure how that works. Can you explain?

 
 

–A Reader

 
 

Dear Reader,

 
 

This is a great question and a perfect time to be asking it. It’s always smart to review and rebalance your portfolio at year-end to make sure your asset allocation is still on target. It’s also a good time to consider harvesting some capital losses. By doing so, you may ultimately be able to trim your losses and your taxes — as long as you complete any sales by the end of the year.

 
 

So before your holiday to-do list gets too overwhelming, take the time to review your investments — both winners and losers — to see if balancing capital gains and losses could lower your tax bill. It’s not a difficult process, but it does take some careful calculations. Here’s a step-by-step guide and an example to help you get started.

 
 

Categorize your investments as either short term or long term

 
 

For tax purposes, investments are considered either short-term or long-term. A short-term investment is one that you’ve held for one year or less. A long-term investment is one that you’ve held for more than a year.

 
 

This time difference is important because realized gains on short-term holdings are taxed at your ordinary income tax rate. Gains on long-term holdings are taxed at a much lower rate — from 0 percent to 20 percent depending on your tax bracket.

 
 

Calculate your long- and short-term gains and losses

 
 

Of course, you only realize a capital gain (or loss) when you sell an investment in a taxable account. But once you decide what to sell, you’ll want to carefully calculate your estimated gains and losses. That’s because you can use up to $3,000 of losses to offset any gains in a particular year to potentially bring your tax bill down. Any losses above the $3,000 may be carried forward indefinitely to offset gains in future years.

 
 

Because both capital gains and capital losses are categorized as either short-term or long-term depending on how long you’ve held the investment, almost every sale will create one of the following four results: a long-term capital gain (LTCG), a long-term capital loss (LTCL), a short-term capital gain (STCG), or a short-term capital loss (STCL).

 
 

How these net out will determine if you ultimately have a capital gain or loss, and what kind.

 
 

Net out your gains and losses to come up with a single number

 
 

This is a three-step process:

 
    1. Net your LTCGs against your LTCLs.
 
    1. Net your STCGs against your STCLs.
 
  1. Net your long-term result against your short-term result to come up with a single taxable figure.
 

Here’s an example of how this works: This year Sam decided to sell several investments in his taxable account. His sale of long-term investments resulted in a LTCG of $11,000 and a LTCL of $6,000, which netted out to a LTCG of $5,000. He also made short-term sales that resulted in a STCG of $5,000 and a STCL of $6,000, which netted out to a STCL of $1,000.

 
 
 

Sam was then able to net out his capital gains and losses–$5000 in long-term gains against $1,000 in short-term losses–to come up with a $4,000 long-term capital gain. This provides a valuable benefit for Sam because he was able to make the sales he wanted, lower his capital gains, and end up paying only the lower long-term capital gains tax rate.

 
 

If Sam had ended up with a net capital loss, he’d be able to deduct up to $3,000 against his ordinary income and carry over any remainder as a deduction in future years. Either way, he’s ahead in terms of taxes.

 
 

Watch out for the wash-sale rule

 
 

Sometimes it can make sense to sell a stock or mutual fund to take a tax loss even if you think it’s ultimately a keeper and figure you’ll buy it back at a future date. Seems like a smart move, but watch out for the wash-sale rule. If you sell a security at a loss and buy the same or a “substantially identical” security within thirty days, the loss is generally disallowed for tax purposes. The IRS doesn’t miss a trick!

 
 

Be sure to specify shares on a partial sale

 
 

Here’s another potential catch. When you sell, your broker is required to report the cost basis for stocks purchased after January 1, 2011. When you make a partial sale, the default method is FIFO, or “first in, first out.” FIFO may not be the most tax-efficient method, however, especially if you bought additional shares later at a higher cost. But you do have the option to specify which shares you want to sell, so if you’ve purchased shares of the same investment at different prices, you may be able to lower capital gains and minimize taxes by selling shares with a higher cost basis.

 
 

This year-end maneuver can potentially make a difference in your tax bill, but don’t let it cloud your long-term perspective. Always keep your goals and your asset allocation top of mind as you consider what and when to buy and sell. To me, that’s the real key to smart investing.

 
 

For more updates, follow Carrie on LinkedIn and Twitter.

 
 

Looking for answers to your retirement questions? Check out Carrie’s new book, “The Charles Schwab Guide to Finances After Fifty: Answers to Your Most Important Money Questions.”

 
 

This article originally appeared on Schwab.com. You can e-mail Carrie at askcarrie@schwab.com, or click here for additional Ask Carrie columns. This column is no substitute for an individualized recommendation, tax, legal or personalized investment advice. Where specific advice is necessary or appropriate, consult with a qualified tax advisor, CPA, financial planner or investment manager. Diversification cannot ensure a profit or eliminate the risk of investment losses.

 
 

COPYRIGHT 2015 CHARLES SCHWAB & CO., INC. (MEMBER SIPC.) (1215-7089)

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Global Solar Alliance Sets $1 Trillion Investment Goal For 2030

The Paris COP21 climate summit is turning out to be quite effective as several major agreements and initiatives have been announced in the past few days. Among them was the pledging of around $20 billion in clean energy funding by 19 countries that included the United States, China, Brazil, Canada, South Africa, UK and others.

 
 

Another major development included the creation of a Breakthrough Energy Coalition – a vehicle for investing in clean energy projects backed by billionaires Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. In short, all these developments point towards the rising relevance of renewables especially solar power.

 
 

Yet another major catalyst that could have a long term impact on global renewable energy investments: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with the French President Francois Hollande, launched a ‘Global Solar Alliance’ that consists of 120 nations most of them tropical countries (who receive abundant sunlight throughout the year) but also from European countries, the U.S. and China.

 
 

“The solar alliance we are setting up today is an alliance of countries that want to seize the abundant resource of sun energy. It is a partnership of states with private stakeholders from around the world,” said French President Hollande.

 
 

What this solar alliance will specifically do?

 
 

The new solar alliance would have its headquarters near New Delhi for which the Indian government would be investing close to $30 million. This headquarter will work towards raising close to $400 million through membership fees and its collaboration with other international agencies and institutes. This initiative could be a ‘game changer’ for the global solar energy sector as no less than 120 nations have joined forces to combat climate change. Members of the alliance commit to specifically work towards expanding the market for solar energy, reduce the cost of financing, and reduce the overall cost of solar technology. The members of the new solar alliance would ‘push’ for new solar projects globally with an aim of ultimately mobilizing around $1 trillion of solar energy funds by 2030.

 
 

As the solar energy market can only be expanded through new investments, India (which is spearheading the alliance) has already set a target of installing close to 175 GW of renewable by the year 2020 where solar energy would contribute close to 100 GW. That is an ambitious target considering the fact that India’s current installed capacity is just 4 GW. In the UAE, the Dubai government has announced a $27 billion program, requiring every building in the city state to have a solar panel by 2030.

 
 

Related: Saudi Cash Crisis Intensifies As Interbank Rates Soar

 
 

“Solar technology is evolving, costs are coming down and grid connectivity is improving. The dream of universal access to clean energy is becoming more real. This will be the foundation of the new economy of the new century,” said the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who also called the formation of this new alliance as his ‘long cherished dream’.

 
 

The biggest strength of the new solar alliance is that it brings the developing and developed countries, industries, laboratories and institutions under a common umbrella. “With the U.S. and China joining India, along with over 100 other nations, to support this solar alliance on the first day of the U.N. climate negotiations, the majority of greenhouse gas emitters are demonstrating tremendous leadership to develop sustainably while curbing climate change,” said China Program Director for the Natural Resource Defence Council, Jing Jing Qian.

 
 

Conclusion

 
 

What sets this initiative apart from others is that it involves the participation of both governments (120 nations) and the private sector. Engie, Enel, HSBC France, Areva and Tata Steel are examples of this. It is likely that more players from the private sector will join this alliance. Now the seed has been planted, the alliance will receive the full support of governments of developing countries, along with their respective private sectors. Putting all the pieces together, the initiative could accelerate the adoption of solar power.

 
 

By Gaurav Agnihotri of Oilprice.com

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3-2-1: Liftoff! Nothing in Today’s Solid Jobs Report to Stop the Fed

Payrolls were up 211,000 last month and the unemployment rate held steady at 5%, giving the Federal Reserve little reason to rethink their chartered course to commence interest-rate liftoff later this month. The prior two months’ job gains were revised up 35,000, with October’s gains now registered at 298,000, the strongest month so far this year. While soft spots remain in the job market — see “watchlist” below — and we are not at full employment, we are clearly on that path, as payrolls have settled into a steady growth groove, slightly north of 200,000 per month.

 
 

The JB Jobs Smoother, which takes averages of job gains over 3, 6, and 12 months to iron out some of the monthly noise, shows gains between a narrow range of 210 and 220 thousand per month over these intervals. That’s fast enough job growth to continue to draw the remaining slack out of the job market. (Nerds: yes, I’m mixing surveys. The payroll numbers in the smoother come from the survey of establishments while the unemployment rate comes from the survey of households. But they generally move together.)

 
 

2015-12-04-1449243386-5776322-dfdhjgffgsmoother_12_4_15.png

 
 

Variables on the watchlist:

 
 

While employers have been creating jobs at a steady clip, there are still soft spots in the job market. Here are the variables you want to watch if, like me, you’re still concerned that there’s some distance between here and full employment.

 
 

Underemployment, or U6: This more comprehensive measure of labor under-utilization is now one of the most important variables to watch as it is more representative of remaining slack then the official rate. It clocked in at 9.9% in November, a tick up from last month, but still well above my preferred guesstimate of U6*-the underemployment rate commensurate with full employment, which I’d put around 8.5%.

 
 

Part-time for economic reasons: This metric is the main difference between the official jobless rate and U6 and at 6.1 million (about 4% of the labor force), it remains elevated (i.e., that’s the number of people with part-time jobs who want full-time jobs). There were about 320,000 more involuntary part-timers last month, though the variable is still on a downward trend, 765,000 below last November’s level.

 
 

Labor force participation: It ticked up a point, to 62.5% but is still 3.5 percentage points below its 66% peak way back before the downturn. Maybe 2 of those points can be ascribed to retiring boomers, but that leaves 1.5% of the labor force — over 2 million people — missing in action, i.e., not counted in the jobless rate because they’re not looking for work (some are picked up in U6 but most probably aren’t).

 
 

Wage growth: It’s up 2.3% over the past year, a tick down from last month’s 2.5% pace, but it’s fair to say at this point that nominal wage growth has picked up a bit, as we’d expect given the tightening job market. That’s a good thing-no cause for alarm! We want faster wage growth, and there’s certainly little evidence it’s bleeding into prices, which remain stagnant. Weekly hours ticked down slightly, so weekly earnings fell a bit in November and are up 2% over the past year.

 
 

Manufacturing: The sector continues to be visibly hurt by impact of the strong dollar on the competitiveness of our exports. Factory employment ticked down slightly, by 1,000, but over 2015 thus far, average manufacturing job gains have been 1,500 per month, compared to about 18,000 last year through November. Note that raising interest rates at the Fed will slightly strengthen the dollar in international markets, exacerbating this problem.

 
 

On the plus side, construction has picked up in recent months, up 46,000 last month and 259,000 over the year so far.

 
 

I’ll have more to say about the Fed later, but at this point, were they not to raise, it would be downright weird, odd, and inconsistent with forward guidance (telegraphing their important punches). Even while I do not see much rationale for an increase, especially given elevated underemployment and the stark lack of inflationary pressures, given their recent messaging, a non-liftoff in December would suggest the economy is a lot worse than they thought in some secret way they’ve been keeping from us. Such a negative surprise would be ill-advised.

 
 

Presuming that they won’t want to go there, it’s now all about the “path to normalization:” how fast they raise. I know she hears way too much unsolicited advice from way too many people, but if I’m Chair Yellen, my message to the hawks is: “OK, you got your rate liftoff even though the data weren’t really there for it. Now back the @&$! off and let’s go back to being data-driven about future increases.”

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The Pursuit of Imperfection

Pushing ourselves to do our best is clearly one of the keys to success. However, don’t confuse the noble act of trying our best with the noble act of pushing ourselves to perfection. They may sound similar but they are dramatically different. Doing our best requires a discipline to take no shortcuts in our effort, and perform at our very finest. But perfection is a whole different story, and the pursuit of it can do far more to destroy what we are putting forward than to perfect it.

 
 

We can control our effort, but we cannot control our outcome. Remembering this helps us to optimize both.

 
 

It’s not a crime to pursue perfection; it’s just a mistake. If even one shred of evidence existed to prove otherwise, I’d be a fan of perfection, but in fact, the pursuit of perfection only works against us. After all, one of the greatest strengths we possess — when we perform at our highest level — is the ability to perform unencumbered by tension. Do you believe, for one second, that focusing on perfection will decrease tension?

 
 

Perfection happens on rare occasions, but it is not something that the best of the best actively try to achieve. If you ask someone who actually achieves perfection, he or she will almost always tell you that they did not even contemplate perfection while attempting to accomplish it. They knew that the mere thought of it would create tension, and so that moves them further away from it. When a pitcher is pitching late in a ballgame, and in the position to possibly pitch a perfect game, watch how carefully the other players do all they can to not focus on the potential feat at hand. Other than pitching performances and bowling, there is almost no sport or occupation that even allows for perfection and yet, instinctively, we seem determined to pursue it.

 
 

I say, let’s pursue imperfection! Let’s give ourselves a pep talk and remind ourselves of this: Our imperfections, and our ability to deal with what happens when we are outside of our comfort zone, is what will truly impress people. Instead of fearing what might go wrong, why not embrace what might go wrong as an opportunity to show others the real you?

 
 

When things go wrong, we allow those who are judging us to see a more intimate, and unrehearsed, side of us. Typically, these moments cannot be planned for because they often happen organically, but that spontaneous side of ourselves is what many really want to see. When we have to deal with an unforeseen situation, it shows others how we behave under pressure, in the real world. This human side lets others see your true character. Fashion designer and author Lauren Conrad once said:

 
 

“Imperfection is relatable.”

 
 

I once heard a story about Richard Harris that truly illustrates this point. He had played the part of King Arthur in Camelot, countless times over the course of his career. During a performance in his later years, he actually forgot the words to one of his signature songs. Although the orchestra attempted to cover for him, he signaled the orchestra to stop playing the song. For a brief moment, the audience gasped as he walked towards them and said, “I must confess, I have forgotten the words. Perhaps, if it is not too much trouble, you could help me to remember them.” There wasn’t a dry eye in the building as the audience stood in unison and sang, together, the immortal “Camelot.” I’m quite sure it was an experience that no one in attendance would ever forget. I wish I had been there.

 
 

The pursuit of perfection is a noble cause, but the acceptance of imperfection can actually give you a wonderful opportunity to just be you. If you can embrace the imperfections when they make their surprise appearances, you will find that it will bring you closer to those around you. Your smile and easygoing attitude will be on display and will win over everyone there… and they’ll love you for it!

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Pay Down Student Loans and Save for Retirement: You Can Have It All

2015-12-03-1449171799-7530978-14222252894_8b8e7c0729_k.jpg

 
 

You might think it’s impossible to save for retirement while you pay down student loans. Think again.

 
 

Saving for retirement in your 20s is crucial; put away even a small amount now, and it will have decades to grow into a strong foundation for when you retire.

 
 

Keep in mind that while you’re addressing other areas of your financial health, it’s vital to stay current on your loans and to send the minimum required payment to your student loan servicer every month. The right student loan repayment plan will keep your payments affordable.

 
 

Follow these simple steps to prepare for retirement while you pay down your loans.

 
 

Get the employer match on your 401(k)

 
 

No matter how much student loan debt you have, take full advantage of a company match on your retirement plan contributions. When your company offers a match, it puts its own money into your employee-sponsored retirement account, depending on how much you contribute. The most common employer-sponsored accounts are 401(k) plans (available at for-profit companies) and 403(b) plans (offered by nonprofits, schools and hospitals).

 
 

Say your human resources representative tells you at orientation that your company offers a 3% match toward your 401(k). That means if you elect to redirect 3% of your paycheck to a retirement account each pay period, your company will put in the same amount. So an amount equal to 6% of your pretax, biweekly pay will show up in your account, even though you contributed only half. You’ll pay taxes on that money when you withdraw it during retirement.

 
 

While the company will match your contributions if you put in 1% or 2% instead, you’d lose out on free money if you went that route. Get the full match and you’ll be glad later when you have more in your account than you could have saved on your own.

 
 

Don’t have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan? Set aside what you can spare in a Roth IRA, an individual retirement account. You can put up to $5,500 a year in a Roth IRA if you earn an annual income of $116,000 or less. You contribute to a Roth IRA after taxes have been taken out of your income, so you won’t be taxed on that amount when you withdraw it at retirement.

 
 

Prioritize paying down high-interest loans

 
 

The decision whether to invest beyond your 401(k) match will come down to how much you pay in interest on your loans. It’s best to pay off loans that carry interest of 7% or more before you put additional funds toward retirement. That will free up money you’d otherwise pay in interest in the future. Once your high-interest loans are paid off, continue to pay the minimum on low-interest loans while you invest.

 
 

Or you could use the following rule of thumb when deciding which loans to pay off. The expected average return on long-term stock investments for retirement — meaning the amount an investor’s stocks will increase in value — is about 7% a year (though that can vary widely year to year based on market conditions). So you can assume that’s what you’ll earn on average when you invest mostly in stocks as a 20-something with a 401(k) or a Roth IRA.

 
 

Pay off a loan with a 4.29% interest rate, for instance, and you’ll earn 4.29% of your loan’s value each year it’s paid off. That’s less than the 7% you’d earn by investing in stocks for retirement. If your loans have low interest rates, you could make more money if you invest instead, perhaps in a Roth IRA after you’ve maxed out your employer match in a 401(k).

 
 

What’s next?

 
 

If you’re ready to pay extra toward your loans: Call your student loan servicer and find out how to make a larger payment. In most cases, it’s easiest to log in to your online account and pick the loan or loan group you want to apply your additional payment to. Check out NerdWallet’s tips on how to work with these four loan servicers:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Private lenders, including Wells Fargo, Citibank and Discover, have their own systems for applying extra payments toward your loans. Contact your lender to make sure your money goes where you want it to.

 
 

If you’re ready to put extra toward retirement: Increase your contributions to your company’s retirement plan beyond the employer match. Consider additional 1% increases to your contributions whenever you get a raise or at the start of each year.

 
 

NerdWallet’s resources can also help you pick a Roth IRA account provider if you don’t have a 401(k), don’t get an employer match or have the means to save extra. Make sure to choose a plan with low fees, and with a small or $0 initial account minimum if you don’t have much to put in the account to start.

 
 

Most importantly, congratulate yourself for thinking critically about how to spend the money you’re earning now that you’ve graduated. It’s not easy to choose saving for retirement or paying off your loans over vacations or dinners out. But once you’re on the right track with your savings, you’ll feel empowered knowing your future self is taken care of.

 
 

Brianna McGurran is a staff writer at NerdWallet. Email: bmcgurran@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @briannamcscribe.

 
 

Photo credit: COD Newsroom/Flickr.

 
 

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Global Solar Alliance Sets $1 Trillion Investment Goal for 2030

The Paris COP21 climate summit is turning out to be quite effective as several major agreements and initiatives have been announced in the past few days. Among them was the pledging of around $20 billion in clean energy funding by 19 countries that included the United States, China, Brazil, Canada, South Africa, UK and others.

 
 

Another major development included the creation of a Breakthrough Energy Coalition – a vehicle for investing in clean energy projects backed by billionaires Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. In short, all these developments point towards the rising relevance of renewables especially solar power.

 
 

Yet another major catalyst that could have a long term impact on global renewable energy investments: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with the French President Francois Hollande, launched a ‘Global Solar Alliance’ that consists of 120 nations most of them tropical countries (who receive abundant sunlight throughout the year) but also from European countries, the U.S. and China.

 
 

“The solar alliance we are setting up today is an alliance of countries that want to seize the abundant resource of sun energy. It is a partnership of states with private stakeholders from around the world,” said French President Hollande.

 
 

What this solar alliance will specifically do?

 
 

The new solar alliance would have its headquarters near New Delhi for which the Indian government would be investing close to $30 million. This headquarters will work towards raising close to $400 million through membership fees and its collaboration with other international agencies and institutes. This initiative could be a ‘game changer’ for the global solar energy sector as no less than 120 nations have joined forces to combat climate change. Members of the alliance commit to specifically work towards expanding the market for solar energy, reduce the cost of financing, and reduce the overall cost of solar technology. The members of the new solar alliance would ‘push’ for new solar projects globally with an aim of ultimately mobilizing around $1 trillion of solar energy funds by 2030.

 
 

As the solar energy market can only be expanded through new investments, India (which is spearheading the alliance) has already set a target of installing close to 175 GW of renewable by the year 2020 where solar energy would contribute close to 100 GW. That is an ambitious target considering the fact that India’s current installed capacity is just 4 GW. In the UAE, the Dubai government has announced a $27 billion program, requiring every building in the city state to have a solar panel by 2030.

 
 

Related: Saudi Cash Crisis Intensifies As Interbank Rates Soar

 
 

“Solar technology is evolving, costs are coming down and grid connectivity is improving. The dream of universal access to clean energy is becoming more real. This will be the foundation of the new economy of the new century,” said the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who also called the formation of this new alliance as his ‘long cherished dream’.

 
 

The biggest strength of the new solar alliance is that it brings the developing and developed countries, industries, laboratories and institutions under a common umbrella. “With the U.S. and China joining India, along with over 100 other nations, to support this solar alliance on the first day of the U.N. climate negotiations, the majority of greenhouse gas emitters are demonstrating tremendous leadership to develop sustainably while curbing climate change,” said China Program Director for the Natural Resource Defence Council, Jing Jing Qian.

 
 

Conclusion

 
 

What sets this initiative apart from others is that it involves the participation of both governments (120 nations) and the private sector. Engie, Enel, HSBC France, Areva and Tata Steel are examples of this. It is likely that more players from the private sector will join this alliance. Now the seed has been planted, the alliance will receive the full support of governments of developing countries, along with their respective private sectors. Putting all the pieces together, the initiative could accelerate the adoption of solar power.

 
 

By Gaurav Agnihotri of Oilprice.com

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