Cuba reports more cholera among foreign visitors

BY JUAN O. TAMAYO
JTAMAYO@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM

Cuba-born New York high school teacher Alfredo Gómez says it was bad enough that he contracted cholera during a family visit to Havana this summer. Then he got a bill from the government hospital — $4,700.

Gómez’ complaint came as Havana reported that a total of 12 foreign tourists and 151 Cubans have come down with cholera in recent months – though Gómez says his hospital ward alone had six to 15 foreigners on every one of the six days that he spent there.

The Havana report on cholera, the second in August alone, seemed to hint at a growing transparency by Cuban officials who previously kept quiet about the disease in a bid to avoid damaging the island’s $2.5 billion-a-year tourism industry, experts said.

A bulletin Friday by the Pan American Health Organization said Cuba that same day had reported 163 cases in the provinces of Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Camagüey. PAHO, the hemispheric branch of the World Health Organization, indicated that those cases took place this year but gave no specific time frame.

Among those cases were 12 persons who had travelled to Cuba from other countries – three from Italy, two each from Germany, Spain, Chile and Venezuela and one from the Netherlands, PAHO noted. Cuba had reported six of those cases to PAHO earlier this month.

Independent journalists and visitors like Gómez have been reporting hundreds more cases never confirmed by Cuba, where the state-run news media virtually never uses the word “cholera” and instead refers to cases of “acute diarrheic diseases.”

Gómez, 49, who left Cuba in 1997 and now teaches math at the William Nottingham High School in Syracuse, N.Y., said he and two relatives were hit by intense diarrheas two days after they ate together at a state-run restaurant in Havana in late July.

Doctors at the Manuel Fajardo Hospital told them they had cholera, Gómez said, and transferred him to the Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine, where the fourth floor of the hospital is reserved for foreigners who contract the disease.

Gómez said at least six and up to 15 foreigners were on the floor each of the six days he spent there, Aug. 4-10, receiving antibiotics and intravenous fluids for the disease, which is easily transmitted through water and can kill through dehydration.

That same week more than 60 Cubans were being treated in Kouri hospital wards reserved for island residents with cholera, he said, and a nephew told him that a large number of people had been struck by the disease in the Havana suburb of Mantilla.

The treatment fore foreigners at the hospital was very good and much better than the treatment for island residents, he added, but problems started when the foreign patients received huge bills as they were about the leave the hospital.

He heard two Spaniards on the phone with their insurance companies in Madrid trying to figure out how and what to pay, Gómez said. And he was pressured strongly to pay his own bill with his credit cards or through his U.S. health insurance policy.

“They really want to charge me, and they tried by all means that I should pay,” he said in a phone interview from Syracuse. “It was a rude, abusive attitude. They would not let met leave without paying.”

The bill he was shown was for $4,700 but he left without paying, he added, arguing that the U.S. embargo banned him from paying and that in any case his bill should be paid by the government-run restaurant where he contracted cholera.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/08/26/3587434/cuba-reports-more-cholera-among.html#storylink=CPU

Andres Oppenheimer: Weaker currencies may hurt Miami, a bit…

Judging from the Miami Herald’s latest headlines, home prices in Miami keep soaring and tourists from Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela keep flooding this city thanks to their countries’ strong currencies. The big question is how much longer the fiesta will last.

If you look at the latest economic figures, you may conclude that it’s about to be over. Latin American currencies have depreciated rapidly in recent weeks, making it more expensive for Latin Americans to travel and buy properties abroad.

Over the past month, Brazil’s currency fell by nearly 10 percent relative to the U.S. dollar. Brazil’s Central Bank announced Friday that it will inject up to $60 billion into the economy over the next four months to keep the Brazilian currency from falling further.

Over the past 12months, Brazil’s currency fell by nearly 22 percent relative to the U.S. dollar, Argentina’s by 21.4 percent, Peru’s by nearly 8 percent, Chile’s by almost 7 percent, Colombia’s by 6 percent, and Mexico’s by 1.4 percent, according to the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB).

In the Caribbean, Jamaica’s currency fell by nearly 14 percent and the Dominican Republic’s by 8.4 percent over the same period, the IADB says.

The depreciation of emerging countries’ currencies has accelerated since Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke suggested June 19 that the U.S. economic recovery may allow the government to scale down its stimulus funds. That has led to the belief that U.S. interest rates will rise, and has moved investors to begin shifting money back from emerging countries to the United States, economists say.

Most international financial institutions tend to think that the decade of super-strong Latin American currencies has come to an end.

“The party is going to be over soon, if it’s not over already,” senior IADB economist Andrew Powell told me. “World interest rates that have been at historically low levels will not remain there; the growth rate of China in recent years is not sustainable, Europe still has its problems, and commodity prices will likely come down.”

The change could help Latin American countries in the long run, among other things because weaker currencies could make their exports more competitive abroad, economists say. But it will make their imports — as well as trips to Miami — more expensive.

“If the trend of depreciation of Latin American currencies of the past few weeks continues, we could see a drop in Latin American tourism and property purchases in the United States,” says Daniel Lederman, a senior World Bank economist specializing in Latin America.

But some private sector economists disagree, saying that they don’t expect a continued drop of Latin American currencies, nor a dramatic decline in tourism or real estate purchases in the United States.

“Miami shouldn’t lose any sleep,” says Alberto Bernal, head of research of Bulltick Capital Markets. “What we have seen in recent weeks is a normal correction within an ongoing boom.”

Bernal’s logic is that the fundamental factor behind Latin America’s strong currencies — the rapid urbanization of India and China, whose new middle-classes are consuming more Latin American commodities — remains unchanged. People in India and China will continue migrating to the cities for the foreseeable future, he says.

“This boom will end when China’s urbanization rate reaches 70 percent of its population, from the current 51 percent, and that process could last another fifteen years,” Bernal told me. “In the meantime, Latin America’s commodities will continue to be much coveted products.”

My opinion: I wouldn’t be surprised to see a further depreciation of Latin American currencies, especially in South America’s commodity exporting countries.

A recovering U.S. economy will draw more capital from emerging economies to the United States. And while China’s middle class will keep growing and consuming Latin American commodities, a trip to China a few months ago makes me wonder whether the country’s social tensions over corruption, pollution and other issues won’t result in political turmoil, and slower growth than currently expected.

Latin America’s commodity exporters should roll up their sleeves, increase productivity, draw investments and diversify their economies promoting non-traditional exports — all of which they should have started doing years ago.

Fortunately, many of them have built healthy foreign currency reserves, and have not incurred massive debts like the ones that led to the 1980’s financial crisis.

The party is over, but if they handle it well, it doesn’t need to be a traumatic awakening, neither for them nor for Miami.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/08/24/3581784/andres-oppenheimer-weaker-currencies.html#storylink=cpy

If you qualify for Medicare, new insurance marketplaces aren’t for you While the Obama administration is stepping up efforts encouraging uninsured Americans to enroll in health coverage from the new online insurance marketplaces, Kaiser Health News reports officials are planning a campaign to convince millions of seniors to please stay away – don’t call and don’t sign up.

While the Obama administration is stepping up efforts encouraging uninsured Americans to enroll in health coverage from the new online insurance marketplaces, Kaiser Health News reports officials are planning a campaign to convince millions of seniors to please stay away – don’t call and don’t sign up.
To reinforce the message, the 2014 “Medicare & You” handbook – the 100-plus-page guide that will be sent to 52 million Medicare beneficiaries next month — contains a prominent- notice: “The Health Insurance Marketplace, a key part of the Affordable Care Act, will take effect in 2014. It’s a new way for individuals, families, and employees of small businesses to get health insurance. Medicare isn’t part of the Marketplace.”

Enrollment in health plans offered on the marketplaces, also called exchanges, begins Oct. 1 and runs for six months. Meanwhile, the two-month sign-up period for private health plans for millions of Medicare beneficiaries begins Oct. 15. In that time, seniors can shop for a private health plan known as Medicare Advantage, pick a drug insurance policy or buy a supplemental Medigap plan.
And in nearly two dozen states, some Medicare beneficiaries who also qualify for Medicaid may be choosing private managed care plans. None of these four kinds of coverage will be offered in the health law’s marketplaces.
Since many of the same insurance companies offering coverage for seniors will also sell and advertise policies in the marketplaces, people may have a hard time figuring out which options are for them.
While Medicare officials steer seniors away from the marketplaces, there is nothing in the health law that prevents beneficiaries from signing up for markertplace plans. f they do, they will not qualify for premium tax credits for the marketplace plans.
These plans may appeal to wealthy seniors – about 5 percent of Medicare beneficiaries — who pay higher premiums for Medicare based on their income and assets, said Cubanski. But for the vast majority of seniors, Medicare’s benefit package is better and more affordable compared to marketplace coverage.
Here are answers to the most common questions about Medicare and the new healthcare marketplaces:
— Will I lose Medicare coverage? No.

— Do I need a new Medicare card? No.
— Do I have to re-enroll in my Medicare Advantage or supplement plan through the marketplace? No, these policies are not sold in the marketplaces.
— Will seniors in Medicare have to buy supplemental insurance? No.

— Will I be fined if I don’t buy coverage in the health marketplaces? No. As long as you have Medicare Part A, which is free and covers hospitals, nursing homes and hospice, you already have insurance, so you are not subject to the penalty that most uninsured adults under 65 will have to pay. Read the story.

Posted by Patricia Borns at 11:18 AM in Healthcare Reform, Insurance

Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/health/2013/08/if-you-qualify-for-medicare-new-insurance-marketplaces-arent-for-you.html#storylink=cpy

Reminder: Employee Notices of Coverage Options Are Due October 1

On July 2, 2013, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced that penalties under the Employer Shared Responsibility provisions of Internal Revenue Code (“Code”) § 4980H and related reporting requirements under § 6055 and § 6056 of the Code have been delayed until 2015. IRS Notice 2013-45 provided details on this transitional relief, confirming that the relief is limited to the Employer Shared Responsibility penalty provisions and information-reporting requirements.

This transitional relief did not delay the requirement to provide notice to employees of Exchange coverage options. These notices must still be provided to all current employees by October 1, 2013.

By way of background, under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), individuals will be able to enroll in state or federally facilitated Health Insurance Marketplace (aka “Exchange”) coverage beginning October 1, 2013, with initial coverage beginning effective January 1, 2014. The ACA requires employers to provide a notice to current employees with information regarding their coverage options, including information on the Exchange by October 1, 2013, and, thereafter, to each new employee at the time of hire, or no later than within 14 days of an employee’s start date.

As a reminder, almost all employers are subject to the notice requirement, unlike the Employer Shared Responsibility provisions, which generally apply only to employers with at least 50 full-time equivalent employees. Employers must provide these notices to all employees, regardless of their plan enrollment status or whether they are part-time or full-time. Notices are not required for dependents or other individuals who are not employees.

The notices must include specified information about the services provided by the Exchange and how to contact the Exchange; information about the employer and any employer-sponsored coverage available; and must advise the employee of information he or she will need to gather in order to apply for coverage through an Exchange. Notices must be free of charge and can be sent by first-class mail, or electronically if the U.S. Department of Labor’s electronic disclosure safe harbor rules are met.1

For More Information

IRS Notice 2013-45
For additional details, see the May 10, 2013 Eye on Washington coverage of the ACA Section 1512 notice requirement
U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Technical Release 2013-02
Model Notice to Employees of Coverage Options (for employers who offer health plans)
Model Notice to Employees of Coverage Options (for employers who do not offer a health plan)
Additional information for employers regarding the Affordable Care Act is available at http://www.healthcare.gov and http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/healthreform

Brazil Insurer Continues Outperforming After World’s Largest IPO

August 23, 2013

by Francisco Marcelino and Ney Hayashi

BB Seguridade SA, the Brazilian insurer that held the world’s largest initial public offering this year, is outperforming every other IPO from an emerging- market financial company this year. The rally isn’t over yet, according to a survey of analysts.

Since it started trading on April 29, BB Seguridade has climbed 8.6 percent, the biggest gain among the 12 financial firms from developing economies that held an IPO of at least $100 million this year, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The Brasilia-based insurer may rise 22 percent more in the next 12 months, according to a Bloomberg survey of seven analysts.

BB Seguridade is gaining market share by taking advantage of the distribution network at Banco do Brasil SA, its controlling shareholder and Latin America’s biggest bank by assets. Revenue for the industry has been expanding at about 20 percent a year, according to the Brazil insurance federation, sustained by rising employment, higher wages and the expansion of Brazil’s middle class.

“BB Seguridade is rising because of fast growth, an amazing margin and dividends,” Rodolfo Amstalden, an equity analyst at consulting firm Empiricus Research in Sao Paulo, said in a telephone interview. “BB isn’t a cyclical case. It isn’t a commodities case. It’s sheltered from economic conditions.”

Shares Rally

BB Seguridade raised 11.5 billion reais ($4.7 billion) in its April IPO, selling shares at 17 reais apiece. They dipped below the offer price two months later, before rallying to as high as 20.10 reais on Aug. 12. The shares gained 0.4 percent to 18.55 reais at 10:36 a.m. in Sao Paulo.

“BB Seguridade’s IPO was a great opportunity for larger investors willing to get into Brazil’s insurance market,” Marcelo Labuto, the firm’s chief executive officer, said in a telephone interview from Brasilia. “BB Seguridade standalone was bigger than all publicly traded insurance companies in Brazil.”

Gains since the IPO outpaced the 5 percent advance of UPDC Real Estate Investment Trust/Nigeria, the second-best performing emerging-market IPO from a finance company this year. Seven of the 12 companies have declined since their IPOs. The data excludes MPHB Capital Bhd, which sold shares in June to existing investors.

The MSCI Emerging Market Insurance index of 24 companies has dropped 4.8 percent since BB Seguridade started trading on April 29. China Life Insurance Co., the biggest company by market value on the gauge, dropped 8.7 percent in the same period.

Insurance Offerings

BB Seguridade controls all of Banco do Brasil’s insurance businesses, including joint ventures with Madrid-based Mapfre SA. The firm offers life, health and property insurance.

Insurance premiums climbed 37 percent to 11.5 billion reais in the second quarter from a year earlier. In the first six months of this year, insurance revenue nationwide increased 20 percent from a year earlier and may expand 19 percent in 2013, Brazil’s insurance federation CNseg said this month.

Demand for insurance is rising after Brazil added about 35 million people to its middle class in the past decade, according to research-company Datapopular. In the same period, the jobless rate declined by half to 5.6 percent in July.

BB Seguridade’s second-quarter adjusted net income rose 31 percent to 550.3 million reais from a year earlier, the company said last week. The insurer plans to pay 817.8 million reais in dividends to shareholders, or 41 centavos a share, on Aug. 30, according to its earnings statement. The company’s policy is to pay shareholders 80 percent of net income in dividends.

‘Strong Earnings’

“BB Seguridade posted very strong earnings,” Banco Bradesco BBI SA analysts including Carlos Firetti wrote in a note to clients last week. The analysts, who rate BB Seguridade their top pick among banks and insurance companies they cover, are “confident that results may continue improving in the coming quarters.”

Brazil’s insurance industry will continue growing faster than the overall economy, pushed by the growing middle class, said BB Seguridade’s Labuto, who expects the company to outperform the market. Since 2003, Brazilian consumers have been opening bank accounts and tapping credit to buy cars and houses, and they want to protect those purchases, he said.

“We have the appropriate products and Banco do Brasil’s powerful network distribution with branches in almost every Brazilian city,” he said. “Brazil is still forming a huge middle class, which gives us the confidence growth is certain and sustainable in coming years.”

Other Options

Other companies are better poised to benefit should Brazil’s economy rebound, said Joao Pedro Brugger, a portfolio manager at Leme Investimento. He cited brewer Cia. de Bebidas das Americas and retailer Cia. Brasileira de Distribuicao Grupo Pao de Acucar.

“We still have the same opinion we had in the IPO, that in terms of price the stock is not attractive,” Brugger, who helps manage about 350 million reais, said in a telephone interview from Florianopolis, Brazil. “It’s a good company with a strong market position, but you’d have to get it for the right price.”

BB Seguridade trades at 16.6 times its 2014 forecast earnings, which compares with a ratio of 9.5 for the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

BB Seguridade increased its share of Brazil’s insurance- market revenue to 25.2 percent in the second quarter from 21.6 percent a year earlier, it said last week. The company expects return on equity, a measure of profitability, to range from 37 percent to 41 percent. ROE was 39 percent last quarter.

“The strong second quarter and the 2013 guidance leave us more bullish,” Grupo BTG Pactual analysts including Eduardo Rosman wrote in a report to clients last week. BB Seguridade offers a “unique combination of strengths,” with “solid growth prospects” and “juicy dividends,” the analysts wrote

Editors: Steve Dickson, Steven Crabill

European stocks slide ahead of confidence data

By Sara Sjolin

LONDON (MarketWatch) — European stock markets moved lower on Friday, with oil firms leading the way south, ahead of the latest reading of consumer confidence in the euro zone, due in the afternoon. The Stoxx Europe 600 index XX:SXXP +0.01% lost 0.4% to 302.45, after posting the biggest gain in three weeks on Thursday. Oil firms added pressure on the index, tracking oil prices lower. Shares of Total SA FR:FP +0.85% TOT +1.11% dropped 1.1% in Paris and BP PLC UK:BP +0.31% BP +0.27% shaved off 0.5% in London. On a more upbeat note, shares of FLSmidth & Co. AS DK:FLS +6.92% climbed 4% after the engineering firm reported second-quarter earnings. Among country-specific indexes, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 index UK:UKX +0.27% dropped 0.4% to 6,423.61, while France’s CAC 40 index FR:PX1 -0.37% lost 0.8% to 4,028.82. Germany’s DAX 30 index DX:DAX -0.01% fell 0.3% to 8,370.77.

Female Travelers To India Beware

Journalist Gang-Raped in Mumbai
Victim, 22 years old, is hospitalized; one man arrested.

By SHREYA SHAH

NEW DELHI—Five men raped a 22-year-old woman in an abandoned textile mill in central Mumbai Thursday, Indian police said, casting further doubt over the safety of women in the country.

The woman, an intern at an English-language magazine in Mumbai, was on assignment taking photographs of dilapidated buildings in the Mahalaxmi area of the city, Mumbai’s police chief Satyapal Singh said at a news conference Friday.

The woman was with a 21-year-old male companion. The assailants tied his hands with his belt and raped the woman from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., an official at N. M. Joshi police station said. Medical tests confirmed the rape, he said.

The woman, who cannot be named according to Indian law, was admitted to Jaslok Hospital Thursday evening suffering internal injuries. In a news release, the hospital said her condition is stable.

Mr. Singh said one man has been arrested and four other suspects identified. The arrested man admitted he was present during the attack, Mr. Singh said, without elaborating. Friday morning, police questioned as many as 25 people, the officer at N. M. Joshi station said.

The attack comes as the trial of five people accused in the December gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student on a moving bus in Delhi enters its final phase. That crime, in which the student’s male friend was also badly beaten, sparked nationwide protests and prompted the government to introduce harsher penalties for crimes against women.

There were 24,915 reported rapes in India in 2012, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, including 233 in Mumbai. The victims in almost half the Mumbai cases were between 14 and 18 years old.

Activists say the number of rapes is much higher, as many go unreported. India also has a poor record on convictions, with only around a quarter of alleged rapists convicted in 2010. Rape trials can also drag for years.
Journalist organizations in Mumbai said they will hold a “silent protest” rally Friday afternoon at Hutatma Chowk, a square in the south of the city. A joint statement by the city’s Press Club and other journalist groups said the protest will be against the deteriorating law and order situation in Maharashtra and Mumbai.

According to the statement, a delegation of Press Club representatives and other journalists met Mr. Singh, the police commissioner, Thursday night, telling him that the police had failed to provide safety and security to ordinary citizens.
“The police chief was also told that the perception gaining ground was that in most cases the perpetrators of such crimes were never traced, and the victims were left without justice,” the statement said.

It added that journalist organizations will also meet Maharashtra’s home minister R. R. Patil and chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to press for swift action in this case.

Brazil launches $60 bln program to boost real

By Karen Friar

LONDON (MarketWatch) — Brazil’s central bank will begin a $60 billion currency-intervention program on Friday, aimed at supporting the real USDBRL +0.0383% , which recently fell to its lowest level against the U.S. dollar since December 2008. Under the program, announced Thursday, the central bank will offer $3 billion on the spot market and in currency swaps each week until the end of 2013, according to media reports. On Friday, the real slipped 0.2% to $0.4097, according to FactSet.

Reminder: Employee Notices of Coverage Options Are Due October 1

Although I rarely blog about subjects that are not internationally related. I believe that The Affordable Care Act being one subject that affects us all, and since its requirements become effective October 1st, this information needs to be disseminated to as many companies and individuals as possible.

On July 2, 2013, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced that penalties under the Employer Shared Responsibility provisions of Internal Revenue Code (“Code”) § 4980H and related reporting requirements under § 6055 and § 6056 of the Code have been delayed until 2015. IRS Notice 2013-45 provided details on this transitional relief, confirming that the relief is limited to the Employer Shared Responsibility penalty provisions and information-reporting requirements.

This transitional relief did not delay the requirement to provide notice to employees of Exchange coverage options. These notices must still be provided to all current employees by October 1, 2013.

By way of background, under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), individuals will be able to enroll in state or federally facilitated Health Insurance Marketplace (aka “Exchange”) coverage beginning October 1, 2013, with initial coverage beginning effective January 1, 2014. The ACA requires employers to provide a notice to current employees with information regarding their coverage options, including information on the Exchange by October 1, 2013, and, thereafter, to each new employee at the time of hire, or no later than within 14 days of an employee’s start date.

As a reminder, almost all employers are subject to the notice requirement, unlike the Employer Shared Responsibility provisions, which generally apply only to employers with at least 50 full-time equivalent employees. Employers must provide these notices to all employees, regardless of their plan enrollment status or whether they are part-time or full-time. Notices are not required for dependents or other individuals who are not employees.

The notices must include specified information about the services provided by the Exchange and how to contact the Exchange; information about the employer and any employer-sponsored coverage available; and must advise the employee of information he or she will need to gather in order to apply for coverage through an Exchange. Notices must be free of charge and can be sent by first-class mail, or electronically if the U.S. Department of Labor’s electronic disclosure safe harbor rules are met.1

For More Information

IRS Notice 2013-45
For additional details, see the May 10, 2013 Eye on Washington coverage of the ACA Section 1512 notice requirement
U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Technical Release 2013-02
Model Notice to Employees of Coverage Options (for employers who offer health plans)
Model Notice to Employees of Coverage Options (for employers who do not offer a health plan)
Additional information for employers regarding the Affordable Care Act is available at http://www.healthcare.gov and http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/healthreform

This information was obtained from a ADP Eye on Washington Tweet.

Europe stocks drop as tapering concerns hit mood

By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch

LONDON (MarketWatch) — European stock markets dropped on Monday, tracking losses seen overnight in Asia and last week in the U.S., where worries over rising Treasury yields and jitters over monetary policy spooked investors.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index XX:SXXP -0.44% gave up 0.4% to 305.17, erasing a 0.3% gain from Friday.

Banks posted some of the biggest losses in the pan-European index, with UniCredit SpA IT:UCG -3.93% off 1.5%, Deutsche Bank AG DE:DBK -1.05% DB +0.89% down 1% and Banco Santander SA ES:SAN -2.10% SAN +2.23% 0.9% lower.

Shares of Glencore Xstrata PLC UK:GLEN -2.30% erased 1.7% after reports said the resource giant is expected to write down the value of assets from recently acquired Xstrata. A representative from the firm declined to comment. Glencore Xstrata reports first-half earnings on Tuesday.

On a more upbeat note, shares of Atlas Copco AB SE:ATCOA +3.66% climbed 2.1% on news the Swedish engineering group will buy Edwards Group Ltd. EVAC +1.20% for $10.50 a share in cash, valuing the transaction at around $1.6 billion, including debt.

More broadly, investors were cautious of placing any big positions amid uncertainty over the U.S.’s monetary-easing program. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has said any tapering of the bank’s $85-billion-a-month asset purchases will only happen if data improve, and recent jobless claims and an improvement in core retail sales have added to speculation it could happen as soon as September.

Reuters Enlarge Image
European stocks drop on Monday amid concerns the U.S. Federal Reserve will taper its easing program.
The concerns pushed the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury to hit the highest level in two years on Friday. In return, the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA -0.20% suffered its biggest weekly percentage drop and point loss of 2013.

The negative mood also spilled over into the new trading week in Asia, where most markets closed lower.

On Wednesday, minutes from the Fed’s latest policy-setting meeting will be released, which could provide more information about the central bankers’ view on the tapering process.

Among country-specific indexes in Europe, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 index UK:UKX -0.39% dropped 0.3% to 6,481.84, while France’s CAC 40 index FR:PX1 -0.73% lost 0.7% to 4,093.81. Germany’s DAX 30 index DX:DAX -0.31% shaved off 0.7% to 8,331.95.

Sara Sjolin is a MarketWatch reporter based in London. Follow her on Twitter @sarasjolin.