Afternoon Coffee: UAE's $3B Nuclear Fuel Supply Contracts, High-Risk Countries, Staples Cuts Outlook

UAE's getting nuclear.
UAE awards nuclear fuel supply contracts, worth $3 bln -- The United Arab Emirates awarded $3 billion in contracts to six foreign firms, including global miner Rio Tinto and France's Areva on Wednesday, to supply fuel for the Gulf Arab state's first nuclear power plant. The Barakah plant is slated to open in 2017 and the contracts, which range from the purchase of uranium to conversion and enrichment services, will cover its fuel supply for the first 15 years of operations, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp (ENEC) said. "These contracts will provide ENEC with long-term security of supply, high quality fuel and favorable pricing and commercial terms," Mohamed al-Hammadi, ENEC's chief executive, said in a statement.

The pallet.
The Single Most Important Object in the Global Economy -- Pallets, of course, are merely one cog in the global machine for moving things. But while shipping containers, for instance, have had their due, in Marc Levinson's surprisingly illustrative bookThe Box ("the container made shipping cheap, and by doing so changed the shape of the world economy"), pallets rest outside of our imagination, regarded as scrap wood sitting outside grocery stores or holding massive jars of olives at Costco. As one German article, translated via Google, put it: "How exciting can such a pile of boards be?"

"China and the US are ranked 15th and 16th most at risk."
Emerging Asia, supply chains face greatest natural hazards risk – Maplecroft -- "High exposure to natural hazards in these countries is compounded by a lack of resilience to combat the effects of a disaster should one emerge," said Helen Hodge, Maplecroft's head of maps and indices. "Given the exposure of key financial and manufacturing centres, the occurrence of a major event would be very likely to have significant implications on the total economic output of these countries, as well as foreign business with interests there." "The resulting impacts in the Asian growth economies of Bangladesh, the Philippines, Myanmar, India and Vietnam would not only include disruptions to the domestic economy, but also to the operations and supply chains of many of the world's largest corporations who invest in these locations," the company added. The highest ranked country is Andorra, although Scandinavian countries also ranked highly, given their wealth and limited exposure to catastrophes such as earthquakes, windstorms and drought.

"Sales at these chains have suffered as corporate customers and other shoppers cut back on discretionary spending amid uncertainty in the global economy."
Staples cuts outlook on weak global demand -- Many investors look at office supply retailers as a barometer of economic health because demand for their products is closely tied to white-collar employment rates. "The weakness in Europe was not a surprise, but the deterioration in the U.S. was more significant than anticipated," Janney Capital Markets David Strasser said. He tied the weakness in Staples' home turf to the slowdown in the U.S. economy, anemic employment trends and rising competition. Besides its office supply peers, Staples faces tough competition from mass merchants such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc , drugstores, dollar stores and online retailer Inc.

- Sheena Moore

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