Category Archives: Business

HSBC launches first sub-2% five-year fixed mortgage

The bank could be starting a price war with its 1.99% deal – but a deposit of 40% is required

One of the country’s biggest lenders has launched the latest salvo in what could become a new mortgage price war by releasing the first ever five-year fixed-rate home loan with an interest rate below 2%.

Related: Mortgage lending dips 16% in February

Related: Ignore the ‘experts’ and split your mortgage two ways

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Argentina launches legal action to prevent Falklands oil and gas drilling

Daniel Filmus, Buenos Aires’s minister for the Malvinas, confirms lawsuit against UK companies, insisting oil resources around the Falklands belong to Argentina

Argentina’s minister for the Falklands has claimed his country “harbours not the least desire to use force” to regain the islands as it started legal action against companies drilling for oil and gas nearby.

Daniel Filmus, Buenos Aires’s minister for the Malvinas, as Argentina refers to the British overseas territory, gave a speech in London in which he said the country was “forced to resort to defensive measures” to protect its natural resources.

Related: Falkland Islands will always be defended by UK, says David Cameron

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George Osborne sounds alarm over Greek crisis – live updates

UK chancellor has warned that one misstep in the Greek debt negotiations could return Europe to the ‘perilous state’ of 2011 and 2012

5.02pm BST

After a day of heavy selling, European stock markets have all closed deep in the red tonight.

The German DAX, Spanish IBEX and Italian FTSE MIB all tumbled more than 2%, as fears over Greece stalked the trading floors. The French CAC wasn’t far behind, down 1.6%.

Europe’s stock markets extended a week of heavy losses on Friday, spooked by changes in Chinese trading regulations, an outage in Bloomberg terminals and Greece drifting closer to the brink.

Having failed to hold onto new record highs yesterday, Britain’s FTSE 100 joined in on the selling frenzy and headed back below 7000, its lowest in over a week.

What is this thing on my desk? A *phone*, you say? How does it work? #BloomiesOutage

4.51pm BST

Another flurry of newsflashes from Washington.

This time, from Yanis Varoufakis following his meeting with ECB president, Mario Draghi.

Greek FinMin Varoufakis: Draghi meeting lasted an hour, he said he wants a resolution soon to help #Greece grow. /via @livesquawk #ECB

4.34pm BST

Bloomberg has denied that today’s system wipeout was caused by a can of Coke being spilled on a server, as was rumoured earlier today:

@Bloomberg has stressed that Coke was not to blame for the outage today not was cyber crime.They’re in talks with customers re compensation

4.23pm BST

A weak end to the trading week:

Stocks selling off as global jitters grip the market:

4.22pm BST

Service has been fully restored. We apologize to our customers for the disruption.

4.18pm BST

The selloff is accelerating in late trading; Germany’s DAX is now down almost 2.5%, or 290 points.

The Greek crisis is partly to blame. R.J. Grant, associate director of equity trading at KBW, has told WSJ that:

“Obviously Greece is back in focus today, and there’s a little bit of trepidation heading into the weekend.”

The “Brussels Group” of #Greece bailout negotiators to meet tomorrow (Saturday), according to @EU_Commission spokeswoman

4.11pm BST

Just in: Bloomberg has said that its service is now “fully restored” after today’s global wipe-out.

4.03pm BST

It’s not clear that Greece has enough funds to reach this new May 11 deadline, without any funds from its creditors.

The government must pay public sector wages and pensions at the end of this month; Reuters is hearing that this will pretty much clear Athens’ cash reserves out.

***Greece needs to tap all remaining cash reserves of 2 bln Euros to pay salaries, wages at end-April – finance ministry sources – RTRS

3.46pm BST

The Greek stock market has just posted a 3% tumble, as growing anxiety over Greece’s future in the eurozone hit shares in Athens.

Bank shares led the selloff, finishing the day down 5.5%.

3.33pm BST

Here are George Osborne’s full quotes on Greece’s debt negotiations today, via our man in Washington, Phillip Inman:

I would say that the situation in Greece is the one that at the moment is the most worrying for the global economy, and the discussions about Greece have pervaded every meeting. The mood is notably more gloomy than at the last international gathering and it’s clear now to me that a misstep or a miscalculation on either side could easily return European economies to the kind of perilous situation we saw three to four years ago.

The crunch appears now to be coming in May, and it would be a mistake to think that the UK would be immune to a return to this instability in European financial systems and the European economy, and of course it would be therefore the very worst moment for there to be any confusion about the direction of British economic policy or for a change of direction from the plan that we have pursued. That plan in the UK is building up resilience, and we need resilience for moments like this.

It’s important to help countries affected by Ebola and I’m proud that the UK is the largest contributor to the IMF trust. You will have heard the very positive comments about the British economy, and British economic policy, from the managing director of the IMF, Christine Lagarde and indeed from my German opposite number Wolfgang Schauble.

And I agree with them that the British economy is one of the brighter spots in the world economy at the moment, and that’s confirmed by the IMF forecasts which show the UK as the second fastest growing economy in the G7 in the next two years, having been the fastest growing in 2014.

And of course all of that has been more than reinforced by the employment figures we saw this morning, which show a record number of people in work. They show the claimant count at its lowest level since 1975 and they confirm that under this government two million jobs have been created. So the British economy is a job creating machine, and we have set out, as the Conservative Party, plans today to go on creating jobs – two million further jobs – in the next Parliament.

2.57pm BST

IMF’s Poul Thomsen says Grexit risks should not be underestimated, would like to simplify/ slim down the Greek program further

2.54pm BST

The International Monetary Fund is adding its weight to the pressure on Greece to produce credible reforms soon.

But crucially, one of its top officials – Poul Thomsen – has said that the programme also needs to be changed. Thomsen, as regular readers will remember, used to be the IMF’s top man in the Troika:

IMF Economist: Greek Bailout Talks Need to Gain Momentum Now >>> get. on. with it.

At presser, #IMF European dept chief Poul Thomsen acknowledges #Greece programme should be “simplified” and “slimmed down”.

#IMF official: June-August period has significant rise in Greek payments; important to reach deal before payments rise. #Greece

2.47pm BST

Shares are falling sharply on Wall Street in early trading, matching the selloff in Europe today.

ALERT: Dow slides 260+ points »

2.44pm BST

European Commissioner Pierre Moscovici has thrown down a challenge to Greece; you must produce a concrete set of reforms by May 11.

Moscovici told the Financial Times that Athens must speed up its work, and deliver acceptable plans by the time finance ministers gather next month. There’s not chance of a deal next week, he confirmed.

In intw w/@FT econ editor @ChrisGiles_, @PierreMoscovici sez May 11 #eurogroup will be the “decisive” one for #Greece

We’ve got two meetings which are important. The April 24 meeting in Riga must not be a wasted moment; it must be a useful moment in which we see concrete progress in catching up with those reforms, and then the next meeting on May 11, which certainly must be decisive”.

“We are not talking about nothing. We are talking about things, but now we need to make progress”.

2.33pm BST

Over in Athens, meanwhile, the Greek media is full of accounts of Yanis Varoufakis’s meeting with US president Barack Obama at the White House last night.

“There has never been a key date. We have to see everything in combination and cumulatively. On the 24th there will not be a solution, there will be progress,”

“We have to be absolutely committed to our goal and absolutely integrated in the process in which we are participating with the IMF, ECB and EU.”

2.28pm BST

Wolfgang Schäuble also argued that the Greece’s problem is the weak state of its economy, not its huge debt pile.

He also downplayed the dangers posed by a potential Grexit:

2.16pm BST

More gloom on Greece. Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, has just warned that there is “no expectation” of a solution to the Greek situation soon.

Schaeuble says all quiet on the Greek front

Nice to see Schaeuble being conciliatory and uncontroversial

2.08pm BST

Another line from Osborne:

1.50pm BST

George Osborne also told reporters in Washington that the UK would not be immune from the problems caused by a worsening in the Greek crisis.

1.46pm BST

European stock markets remains deep in the red this afternoon, with Germany’s DAX down 2% and the FTSE 100 off 0.9%, or 60 points.

Arnaud Masset, market analyst at Swissquote, says Greece is to blame:

Investors are worried that Greece may default after rumors spread that Greece asked to delay its next debt payment to the IMF.

1.24pm BST

Breaking: George Osborne has warned that the deadlock over Greece’s bailout programme could trigger a repeat of the crisis which gripped the eurozone in 2011 and 2012.

Speaking in Washington, at the IMF/G20 Spring Meeting, the UK chancellor declared that the mood is much more gloomy than last year, adding that one “misstep” by either side could cause calamity.

George Osborne: “Situation in Greece is most worrying for global economy. Discussions have pervaded every meeting. Mood notably more gloomy”

1.16pm BST

The Financial Conduct Authority, which regulates the City, says it is monitoring the effect of the Bloomberg crash.

A spokesman says:

“We are aware of the issue and are monitoring the impact on our firms.”

1.06pm BST

I just chatted with Steve Collins, global head of dealing at asset management firm London & Capital, about the Bloomberg crash.

He says the outage was the worst he’s seen in the City in over a decade.

“I haven’t seen it go down like this for ten or fifteen years. Bloomberg is usually the one stable thing; it’s the thing that everyone can’t live without.”

“Big banks will pump thousands of orders across Bloomberg, so the outage had quite an effect on the market.”

Stop trading!

“It was annoying that we lost the facility to trade bonds across the Bloomberg platform. Price discovery took longer, as we had to phone Deutsche Bank and Bank of America and say “make me an offer”.”

A SPILLED CAN of coke is apparently to blame for Bloomberg outage

Related: UK delays £3bn debt sale after Bloomberg terminals crash worldwide

12.33pm BST

It’s business as usual at the Bank of England despite the Bloomberg outage:

12.00pm BST

Back in the financial markets, a chunky selloff is breaking out across the main European bourses.

Germany’s DAX has slipped by over 1.7%, while Spain’s IBEX shed 2%. The FTSE 100 of leading blue-chip shares has also been hit, down 0.6%.

* Spain, Italy 10-year bond yields rise 13 bps to 1.48 and 1.50 percent, respectively – Tradeweb

11.50am BST

Don’t miss economic editor Larry Elliott’s analysis on the jobs data:

11.40am BST

The Bloomberg system crash I mentioned earlier has forced the UK’s debt management agency to suspend a £3bn debt sale. Here’s the full story.

UK halts £3bn debt sale after Bloomberg terminals crash worldwide

11.33am BST

My colleague Katie Allen writes:

Britain’s unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest level since 2008 but earnings growth has slowed, according to the final official labour market figures to be published before the election.

The Office for National Statistics said the jobless rate dropped to 5.6% in the three months to February, down from 5.8% in the previous three months. That was the lowest rate since the onset of the financial crisis in July 2008….

11.22am BST

The CBI, which represents British firms, is also notably cool about raising wages faster.

Neil Carberry, CBI Director for Employment and Skills argues that firms need to become more productive first:

“It’s great to see 248,000 more people in work, the fastest rise in employment in just under a year – thanks to our flexible jobs market.

“With real wage growth rising people have a little more money in their pockets. But we need to see a recovery in productivity before wages can rise faster.”

11.12am BST

Britain’s bosses aren’t keen to open up their wallets, it appears.

James Sproule, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, argues that:

“While many people would like to see greater pay increases, wages are now rising in line with historic productivity growth, making them sustainable in the long term and allowing UK companies to remain competitive.”

11.05am BST

Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte, predicts that workers may finally see larger pay rises soon:

“Despite these buoyant job numbers earnings growth has drifted up only slowly from last year’s lows. But with skills shortages emerging, and the jobless rate set to fall further, we see earnings growth accelerating through this year and next.”

10.52am BST

John Hawksworth, PwC’s chief economist, points out that while employment has grown rapidly since 2010, wage growth has not. That’s not a coincidence either:

“Looking back over the past five years, average real earnings are around 4.4% lower, but employment has risen by around 6.5% over the same period. In this way, the pain of recession has been spread more widely than in past downturns in the early 1980s and early 1990s, with more jobs being created but at lower average rates of pay.”

10.42am BST

The pound has jumped almost a cent against the US dollar to a four week high of $1.5028 on the back of the jobs data.

10.35am BST

Here’s Rachel Reeves, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, responding to today’s Labour Market Statistics:

“Today’s fall in overall unemployment is welcome, but with working people earning on average £1,600 less a year since 2010 and the biggest fall in wages over a parliament since 1874, it’s clear the Tory plan is failing.

“Labour has a better plan to reward hard work, share prosperity and build a better Britain. A Labour government will raise the minimum wage to more than £8 an hour by October 2019 and give tax rebates to firms who pay a Living Wage. We will protect the tax credits that millions of families rely on, get at least 200,000 homes a year built by 2020, extend free childcare from 15 to 25 hours for working parents of three and four-year-olds and guarantee apprenticeships for everyone who gets the grades.”

10.27am BST

This chart confirms that the unemployment rate is now at its lowest since July 2008, the quarter before the financial crisis erupted.

10.06am BST

At 5.6%, Britain’s unemployment rate is almost as low as America’s (which hit 5.5% in February).

And it’s half the rate in the eurozone, where 11.3% of adults are out of work. Across the whole EU, the rate is 9.8%.

Probably one of the best charts for Coalition: jobless record detached from Europe now as good as US

9.56am BST

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, questions the quality of the jobs being created in the UK today:

“Most of these new jobs are mainly low-skilled, low-paid and zero hours…..

“Most workers have seen little or no evidence of any recovery in living standards due to the Tories not promoting real economic growth based on investment and productivity gains.”

9.53am BST

The prime minister tweets that today’s employment report shows his economic plan is delivering:

More strong jobs figures show our plan is working – helping put Britain back to work:

9.51am BST

You can see the jobs report yourself, here on the ONS website:

UK Labour Market, April 2015

9.49am BST

Unemployment has continued to fall and a record 31 million people are in work, the last jobless figures before the general election have shown.

9.46am BST

Economists are welcoming the news that Britain’s jobless rate has fallen to 5.6%, the lowest since the run-up to the financial crisis.

But there is some concern that wage growth isn’t accelerating.

More good jobs figures – employment up nearly 250k in three months to record 73.4% of workforce; unemployment rate down to 5.6%.

Pay still relatively subdued – 1.7% including bonuses, 1.8% ex bonuses, though well ahead of inflation.

Regular pay growth at 1.8%, unemployment down, employment rate at record high – strong set of labour market stats.

Employment growth driven by full time employee positions. Labour market composition shifting towards that over last year.

UK wages growth in February alone fell to 1.3% so after 1.4% (Jan) and 2.4% (Dec) there is sadly a clear slowing evident #GBP

9.39am BST

With inflation at zero, today’s data also shows that real wages continued to rise in the three months to February, after years of falling real pay.

For Dec-Feb 2015 wages including bonuses up 1.7% on a yr earlier. Wages excl bonuses up 1.8%

9.37am BST

The UK unemployment rate has fallen to 5.6%, its lowest level since July 2008.

And the number of people in employment has risen by almost a quarter of a million in the December-February quarter, to the highest rate on record. A pre-election boost to the Conservatives?

#Employment rate 73.4% for Dec-Feb 2015, highest figure on record

9.27am BST

Heads-up: it’s nearly time for the latest UK unemployment data to be released.

9.17am BST

Grexit talk in the analyst notes rising. Worth remembering though that faced with reality of a bank run, Greek govt compromised last time.

9.14am BST

The Greek stock market is also calm, up 0.7% in early trading.

9.08am BST

Fortunately my Reuters terminal is working perfectly this morning (thanks guys), so we can see that Greek bonds are trading at worryingly high levels.

The two-year Greek bond is yielding 27.2%, broadly unchanged today, suggesting a high risk of default.

9.05am BST


9.05am BST

The technical problems at Bloomberg are a major problem for City types. There are more than 300,000 terminals around the globe, used for both news and trading.

CNBC has a good early take:

Bloomberg’s trading terminal experienced an outage on Friday morning, with some users saying they were unable to perform their usual trading activity.

The company confirmed to CNBC that its terminal was currently unavailable worldwide, with traders from the U.K. and Singapore complaining on Twitter that they had been affected by the issue.

Bloomberg terminals hit by global outage; “could well” affect trading volumes:

8.50am BST

Alarm is sweeping the City this morning as traders and analysts realise that their Bloomberg terminals have crashed.

It looks like a serious outage:

Bloomberg helpdesk not answering phones

Bloomberg problems argggghhh

Come on @yanisvaroufakis and @tsipras_eu ! With Bloomberg down, this is your chance to default and exit the EMU without any repercussions.

8.47am BST

The Greek crisis is also helping to drive money into German government debt.

The yield (or interest rate) on 10-year bonds has fallen even closer to 0.0%. That means Berlin could effectively borrow for almost nothing and repay the money in 2025.

German 10Y yields drop to 0.076%, record low – growing concerns over Greek debt crisis

8.39am BST

Greece’s Kathimerini newspaper is also gloomy, suggesting that a deal might not come before mid-May.

If so, we can scrap hopes of a breakthrough at the April 24th eurogroup meeting

With negotiations between Greece and its creditors effectively deadlocked, a potential deal that could unlock crucially needed funding appeared more distant than ever on Thursday with doubts appearing about whether an agreement can be reached in time for a Eurogroup planned for May 11, well after the next scheduled eurozone finance ministers’ summit in Riga next Friday, which had been the original deadline.

8.29am BST

Darren Courtney-Cook, head of trading at Central Markets Investment Management, confirms that the Greek crisis is lingering over the City:

“I think the Greece situation will be resolved but we’ve had a massive up-turn on the stock markets so far this year, and the underlying concerns are causing some people to take a bit of money off the table.”

8.27am BST

European markets have opened mixed, with Germany’s DAX extending yesterday’s falls but the FTSE 100 rising a little:

8.14am BST

Investors are underplaying the risk posed by Greece, according to Chris Weston of financial spread betting firm IG this morning:

The Greek government have a mandate to stay in the European Monetary Union and they simply can’t leave. However a view from certain parts of the market is [Greece’s plans] to distance themselves from the rest of Europe and to actually be forced out.

Markets still believe Greece will stay within the union in some form, but the risks are growing and a full ‘Grexit’ won’t be pleasant. The market is not prepared at all for this.

Citi: “investors continue to bank on last minute Greek solution. This complacency likely understates tail risk for EUR”

8.07am BST

Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.

It looks like another day dominated by the Greek debt crisis, which ratcheted up another notch yesterday when the IMF effectively sunk the idea that Athens could be granted a payment delay.

Related: Greece pushed a step closer to Grexit after IMF snub

“We will compromise, we will compromise and we will compromise in order to come to a speedy agreement, but we are not going to be compromised.”

Toying with Grexit, or amputating Greece, is profoundly anti-European. Anybody who says they know what will happen if Greece is pushed out of the euro is deluded…..

Our only rational pro-European response is to spend every waking hour… trying to reach an honourable agreement.”

#UK daybook: Euro Area Inflation, U.K. Unemployment

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Brompton Bicycles – the unfolding saga of a two-wheeled success story

A growing army of urban devotees has transformed the folding bike from a niche product into a cult classic boosting turnover 15-fold in just 13 yearsAbdul El Saidi peers over the shoulder of a young trainee as he delicately traces the white-hot tip of …
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Rio Tinto: we’ll thrive on lower iron ore prices while others suffer, says boss

Chief executive Sam Walsh has defended his decision to boost production, which has led to falling prices and threatens to put some competitors out of business Continue reading…
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Syriza can’t strike Riga deal and keep poll promise

Germany seems prepared to take the risk on Greece leaving the eurozone – but the consequences of a Grexit for the single currency’s survival are impossible to predict

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Some shop-bought sandwiches more calorific than burgers

Lunch items from Pret a Manger, Caffè Nero, Marks & Spencer and Asda among those found by Which? to contain high levels of fat and sugar

Supposedly healthy lunchtime sandwiches and salads from supermarkets and high street coffee shops can contain more calories and fat than burgers and pizza, consumer group Which? has warned.

At a time when many people are trying to make healthier eating choices, new analysis by the organisation has found that some sandwiches, pastas and salads have high levels of fat, sugar and salt, for example because of the addition of mayonnaise-based dressings. Just one tablespoon (around 15g) of mayonnaise contains 101 calories and 11g of fat.

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‘Have u tried cow dung?’ Smartphones help Kenyan farmers text their way out of trouble

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BP promises more transparency on climate issues

Motion to publish more information on emissions, low-carbon investments and lobbying passed by 98% at oil company’s shareholder meeting

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Greece moves step closer to Grexit after IMF snub

Christine Lagarde’s refusal to allow any delay in bailout repayments heightens fears that the US and Europe are preparing for Greece to leave eurozone

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