Archive forMarch, 2015

Consumer confidence in UK rises in March

GfK, an economic polling company, stated the monthly consumer confidence index in the UK rose to +4 in March, the highest since June 2002, from + 1 in February. The continued increase in the index was ascribed to falling inflation and a gain in real wages, along with declining energy prices.

BoE and ECB strike deal over central counterparties in euro trade

Following a ruling by the EU’s General Court on 4th March, the ECB and Bank of England (BoE) reached an agreement on centrally cleared markets within the EU to provide greater financial stability in the region. The deal includes information exchange and cooperation between the two banks while extending the swap line to support multi-currency central counterparties with large euro-denominated business.

Retail sales balance in UK rises in March

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI)’s retail sales balance increased to +18 in March from +1 in February. The rise was ascribed to robust sales growth for chemists, along with strong growth in the furniture and carpet businesses. However, the sales expectations for April contracted to +21 from +27 in March.

Mortgage approvals in UK rise to five-month high

The British Bankers’ Association stated mortgages approved for house purchases increased to a seasonally adjusted 37,305 in February compared to 36,517 in the previous month. However, the value of mortgage approvals remained unchanged at £6.2bn for the month.

Annual inflation in UK at zero in February

The Office for National Statistics revealed inflation in the UK fell to zero in February on an annual basis following a 0.3% y-o-y rise in January. The decline was ascribed to a sharp fall in oil prices and an ongoing price war among supermarkets. However, the UK’s consumer price index (CPI) increased 0.3% m-o-m in February after dropping 0.9% in January.

ECB upholds unemployment projections despite bond-buying programme

According to the European Central Bank (ECB), the unemployment rate in the region is expected to remain in double digits despite the complete implementation of the €1.1tn quantitative easing programme. The current unemployment rate is 11.2% as a sharp rise in economic growth to boost employment appears unlikely.

Spain refuses cash disbursement to Greece until reform implementation

Luis de Guindos, Spain’s Economy Minister, refused to approve any cash disbursements to Greece unless all reforms proposed by the Eurozone in February are approved and implemented. He maintained that a member should abide by the rules of the single currency bloc.

Merkel abstains from setting date for funds to Greece

German Chancellor Angela Merkel maintained Germany and other EU members were willing to help Greece, subject to the implementation of the new bailout agreement and financial reforms. However, she refused to comment on a date for releasing funds to the Greek government.

Chancellor George Osborne unveils UK’s budget

George Osborne, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, presented the national budget to the House of Commons yesterday. Aided by falling oil prices, the chancellor introduced important tax cuts, especially in the oil & gas sector. He trimmed the target size of the budget surplus and increased the UK’s economic growth forecast for 2015 to 2.5% from 2.4% in December.

IMF warns against economic instability in emerging markets

Christine Lagarde, Head of the International Monetary Fund, fears that an interest rate hike in the US later this year may lead to economic volatility in the emerging markets. As a result, the emerging economies are likely to face capital flight and accelerated currency depreciation.

Minimum wage in the UK to rise 3%

The UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron stated the minimum wage would be increased 3% to £6.7, per hour from October 2015, the largest real increase since 2008. The rise in the minimum wage follows the recommendation of the Low Pay Commission in February. Moreover, the minimum wage for apprentices would rise 20% to £3.30 per hour.

Asking price growth for homes in UK slows

According to Rightmove, the asking price for homes between 8 February and 7 March increased 5.4% y-o-y compared with a 6.6% y-o-y gain in the previous month. The slowdown was ascribed to tougher controls on mortgage lending implemented by the UK regulators. Moreover, the price growth was impacted due to a rise in interest among investors that intend to use their pension money to acquire a buy-to-let property.

UK seeks membership of China-backed Asia bank

Britain says it wants to become a “prospective founding member” of a new China-backed bank that could rival the likes of the World Bank. The UK would be the first big Western economy to apply to become a prospective member of the institution. Launched in Beijing last year, it is called the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Its aim is to lend money to regional infrastructure projects.

Deutsche Bank and Santander fail stress test in the US

The US divisions of Deutsche Bank and Santander Holdings failed the Federal Reserve ‘stress tests’ due to deficiencies in their plans to tackle adverse market conditions and an economic downturn. The US Federal Reserve conducted ‘stress tests’ on 31 banks.

Carney rejects the idea of stimulus to boost inflation

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney stated it would be imprudent to use monetary stimulus against inflation plunge driven by lower oil prices. According to him, the impact of the additional stimulus would kick-in much later and add needless volatility.

Modest growth in UK retail sales in February

The British Retail Consortium reported retail spending in the UK rose 1.7% y-o-y in February compared with a 1.6% y-o-y gain in January. Retail sales grew 0.7% m-o-m in February. The improvement in sales was ascribed to falling inflation, which boosted consumer spending for the month.

China’s trade surplus surges to record high in February

China’s customs office revealed trade surplus for February increased to US$60.6bn from the previous month’s record high of US$60bn. Exports climbed 48.3%, whereas imports fell 20.5%, driven by the holiday season (Lunar New Year).

Osborne calls for an early sale of RBS

UK Chancellor George Osborne said he plans to sell the government’s 79% holding in Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) at the earliest opportunity. The government had bailed out RBS in 2008.

Juncker states premature to discuss third bailout for Greece

Yesterday, the European Commission’s President Jean-Claude Juncker clarified that the key focus of ongoing talks with Greece was the implementation of measures previously agreed between Greece and the Eurozone. Moreover, he stated that it was too early to discuss another bailout programme for the country.

Scottish government goes back on assurance to cut corporation tax

The Scottish government decided to shelve the plan to reduce corporation tax, which was assured during the Scottish National Party (SNP)’s campaign for independence referendum last year. Instead, the party plans to put forward a new economic strategy to promote equality.

Greece to unveil reform measures on 9th March

Greece’s deputy prime minister has stated the government would share the details of reforms as agreed with the country’s international lenders on 9th March in a meeting of the Eurozone’s finance ministers. In February, Greece had availed a four-month extension of its bailout programme and agreed on an initial list of reforms.

Greece PM refuses third bailout

Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declared that the country would not require another debt bailout after the closure of the current programme in four months. He stated the government will work hard to change the country’s situation and raise revenues through various measures while tackling the adversity being faced by the citizens.