Rolling economic and financial news, from the latest wealth report to the UK inflation data. Credit Suisse wealth report released. German investor morale hit by VW scandal. UK inflation turns negative. Chinese imports tumble 20%…
This article titled “Richest 1% now own half of all wealth, says Credit Suisse – business live” was written by Graeme Wearden (until 2pm) and Nick Fletcher, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 13th October 2015 13.41 UTC
Wall Street opens lower
US markets have fallen back in early trading, along with other global markets in the wake of poor Chinese trade figures, which cast new doubt over the prospects for the world’s second largest economy.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down more than 90 points or 0.5%, while European markets are also still firmly in the red.
After the Treasury Select Committee heard from the newest member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, Jan Vlieghe, who appeared in no hurry to vote for a rate rise, it was the turn of fellow rate-setter Ian McCafferty.
McCafferty was the only one of the nine-member monetary policy committee (MPC) to vote for a hike last week. Katie Allen reports:
McCafferty appeared less worried about the negative impact on the UK and the inflation outlook from a global economic slowdown.
“I place more weight on some of the upside domestic risks to to inflation over the three-year horizon,” McCafferty told MPs.
“It’s clear that we have seen UK wages pick up relatively smartly in nominal terms over the course of the last six months, to a rate that is higher then the MPC would have expected six or nine months ago.”
He also expects a tightening labour market will mean nonimal wage growth accelerates further over 2016 and 2017 and that is something that will only be offset to “some extent” by a pick-up in productivity growth. McCafferty described himself as not hugley optimistic about productivity growth improving.
Asked about the relative merits of using quantitative easing (QE) or changes in the Bank rate to influence the economy, McCafferty noted policymakers had more experience on Bnk rate. He also said he would like to see the Bank rate become an effective marginal instrument again. “Over time, I would like to see Bank rate get up to a point at which we could cut it again were we to need to do so were the economy to slow or inflation to dip below target.”
The latest official figures showed inflation dipped into negative territory in September, at a rate of -0.1%. But McCaffterty sought to reassure MPs “I do not think we are entering a form of deflation” and noted there were few signs of changes in consumer behaviour as a result of stagnant prices.
Asked whether the latest news on inflation might influence him, McCafferty said it would not.
Nor would the latest warning about weaker global growth from the International Monetary Fund.
“In isolation, those things would not on their own change my view of the last few months,” he said.
Dorsey’s promise of no “corporate speak” in his email to Twitter employees about the job cuts fell at pretty much the first hurdle:
Twitter announces job cuts
Over in California, Twitter has just announced plans to cut around 8% of its workforce.
Jack Dorsey hasn’t wasted much time since becoming CEO again. In a letter to staff, he says Twitter will “part ways” with up to 336 workers in an attempt to grow faster.
It’s a tough decision, Dorsey says, but necessary as “the world needs a strong Twitter”….
As usual, the sound of job cuts goes down well on Wall Street – Twitter shares have risen in pre-market trading.
One of the bankers blamed for the financial crash in Ireland due to over-lending to property speculators faces extradition from the United States later today.
David Drumm, a former senior figure in the now defunct Anglo Irish Bank, will appear in a court in Boston where he has been living in exile since the institution collapsed in 2009 and hundreds of millions of taxpayers money was spent to nationalise it.
An American judge will decide today whether his arrest at the weekend in Massachusetts at the weekend was lawful. If the judge rules it was then this will pave the way for Drumm’s extradition back to Ireland where he will face up to 33 criminal charges including seven counts of forgery and seven counts of falsifying documents.
Drumm’s re-appearance in the Irish media is a reminder on Ireland’s Budget Day of the bad old days before the crash and the international bail out when bankers loaned billions to property speculators which in turn dangerous overstretched not only key business figures in Ireland but also overheated the Republic’s economy.
Our economics editor, Larry Elliott, has taken a look at today’s UK inflation data, which showed prices were 0.1% cheaper in September than a year ago.
We haven’t seen such weak price pressure in the British economy for many decades, he points out:
This is going to be a record-breaking year for UK inflation. Not since the interwar period has upward pressure on the cost of living been as persistently weak as it has since the start of 2015.
But this is being driven by cheaper commodities, as emerging markets slow down.
The Bank of England is therefore confronted with a situation in which the inflation rate for goods is currently -2.4% while the inflation rate for services is +2.5%.
So what happens next? Larry reckons prices will pick up in 2016, pushing inflation back towards the 2% target. Unless the global economy sours….
Global rich are getting richer
The top 1% of wealth holders now own half of all household wealth.
And that includes 120,000 “ultra-high net worth individuals” across the globe who own at least $50m of wealth each.
That’s according to Credit Suisse’s latest wealth report, which is packed with details about the distribution of wealth across the globe.
This year’s report shows that China’s stock market boom has helped to create more ultra-rich people there. Chinese multimillionaires and billionaires make up 8% of all UHNWI’s.
The group of millionaires below the $50m mark make up another 0.7% of global population, but owns 45.2% of global wealth.
But while the ultra rich have got even richer, others aren’t keeping pace.
Credit Suisse’s chief executive Tidjane Thiam says:
Notably, we find that middle-class wealth has grown at a slower pace than wealth at the top end. This has reversed the pre-crisis trend, which saw the share of middle-class wealth remaining fairly stable over time.
Here are some charts from the report, which is online here.
The top slice of this pyramid group is made up of 34 million US dollar millionaires, who comprise less than 1% of the world’s adult population, yet own 45% of all household wealth.
Credit Suisse estimates that 123,800 individuals within this group are worth more than $50m, and 44,900 have over $100m.
BoE’s new policymaker: It’s not time to raise rates yet
UK parliament’s Treasury Committee has been hearing from the newest member of the Bank of England’s rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee, Jan Vlieghe, and it appears he is in no hury to vote for a hike.
This is the first time financial markets are getting a chance to hear what the new MPC member thinks about the UK economy, the global outlook and what should come next for interest rates in the UK.
After the Bank’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, recently raised the prospect of a rate cut – from what is already a record low of 0.5% – in the face several risks to the economic outlook, Vlieghe too is not ruling out even lower borrowing costs.
He is worried about the Bank meeting its government-set target for inflation at 2% on the consumer prices index (CPI), which fell to -0.1% this morning.
Asked if the BoE had run out of tools, Vlieghe said “we can cut rates if we judge it necessary” and that the Bank could also re-start its asset purchase programme, also known as quantitative easing (QE).
But he did also say “the next move in interest rates is more likely to be up than down.”
Vlieghe highlighted what he saw as risks to the UK from China’s downturn and the wider global slowdown.
“Clearly, the UK is an open economy, it has very important trade and financial links to the rest of the world. The UK is in reasonably good shape, growth is solid but not fantastic.
But we absolutely have to take into account we are operating in a global environment which is adverse, so to speak, and it’s a headwind to growth and it is one of the things that will prevent, I think, the UK economy from accelerating meaningfully from the pace we are seeing currently.”
He set out some upsides and downsides in the current domestic situation.
The “headwinds” were:
- A strong pound
- That the UK is operating in a weak global environment
- An ongoing fiscal headwind:
But on the plus side:
- There had been some improvement to productivity growth
- A housing market recovery
- Some improvement in real wages
“What we are trying to judge is how these play off against each other,” Vlieghe added.
As for when he might vote for rates to go higher, after already more than six years at their record low, the former hedge fund economist highlighted a host of low inflation numbers from the core rate to people’s inflation expectations.
Speaking after official figures showed headline inflation turned negative in September, Vlieghe said other prices indicators too were “all a little bit below where you’d want them to be to be confident of meeting the 2% inflation target in the medium term”.
“We need them to rise… I am not confident enough right now that they will rise in order to vote for an immediate rate hike. I think we have time. We can wait and see how this plays out and I would want to see a more convincing broad-based upward trajectory before I say OK, now I am confident enough that we will get to 2% eventually and therefore vote for a rate rise.”
Despite the evidence of today’s ZEW survey, German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel has claimed the diesel emissions scandal at Volkswagen won’t permanently damage the German economy.
Asked whether the VW crisis would hit the economic outlook for Germany, Europe’s largest economy, Gabriel said:
“No, I don’t expect the problems at Volkswagen to have lasting effects on the German economy.”
It may be too early to be sure, though. Yesterday, Britain’s transport secretary said Volkswagen deserves to suffer “substantial damage” because of the diesel emissions scandal.
“They have behaved in an appalling way,”
“These [defeat] devices were made illegal in 1998 and it is unbelievable to think a company the size and reputation of VW have been doing something like this. They are going to suffer very substantial damage as a result and they deserve to.”
Pre-election giveaways expected in Irish 2016 budget
For the first time in seven years an Irish budget will actually be giving away something for its citizens after the years of tax hikes, brutal spending cuts, the humiliation of an IMF-EU bail out and the crash of the Celtic Tiger.
Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan will get to his feet after 2pm inside the Dail and deliver a budget that is expected to include:
- An increase in €3 to the weekly Old Age Pension
- Tax cuts for the average worker that are expected to put €1000 back into their pockets
- A cut of to the hated Universal Social Charge tax which was brought in to help plug the gap in public finances during the bail out times.
- A €550 tax credit for the self-employed
- The promise of 20,000 new public homes taken from the portfolio of properties nationalised after the financial crash and the bankruptcies of property speculators. Increases in child benefits and a freeze on prescription charges.
Of course it is hardly a coincidence that the Fine Gael-Labour goverment are facing into an election year in 2016 and will no doubt face accusations from opposition parties of trying to bribe their way back into power. In return the coalition will argue that they have done the “heavy lifting” after four years in office, carried out the painful adjustment policies that restored the nation’s finances and oversaw growth in the economy, and managed an exit from the bail out.
One thing is for sure – Enda Kenny and his administration are going to wait for at least three months before today’s budget measures sink into the public’s consciousness. The Taoiseach has finally decided that he won’t call the election until late February/early March. The wisdom of that decision to go late rests an awful lot on the impact of today’s Budget 2016.
VW emission scandal hits German morale
The Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal and economic problems in emerging markets have become a toxic cocktail for confidence within Germany, new data shows.
Morale among German investors and analysts fell sharply in October, according to the ZEW think tank, pulling its economic sentiment index down from 12.1 to just 1.9.
ZEW President Professor Clemens Fuest pinned the blame on VW, and troubles overseas:
“The exhaust gas scandal of Volkswagen and the weak growth of emerging markets has dampened economic outlook for Germany.”
ZEW’s assessment of the current situation in Germany also fell, by 12.3 points to 55.2 points.
Despite that, Fuest reckons Germany will not fall back into recession.
For the survey, ZEW asked analysts and institutional investors about their current assessment of the economic situation in Germany, as well as their expectations for the coming months.
VW to slash investment by €1bn/year
Over in Germany, Volkswagen has just announced that it is cutting its investment programme by €1bn per year, as it grapples with the fallout from the diesel emissions scandal.
In a statement just released, VW announced a range of changes including shifting all its diesel cars to cleaner exhaust emissions systems, and making the next generation of its Phaeton car run on electricity..
Dr. Herbert Diess, who runs Volkswagen’s Passenger Brand, says:
“The Volkswagen brand is repositioning itself for the future.
We are becoming more efficient, we are giving our product range and our core technologies a new focus, and we are creating room for forward-looking technologies by speeding up the efficiency program.”
Here’s the key points from VW’s new strategic plan:
- Accelerated implementation of the efficiency program creates room for reorientation
- Streamlined processes leverage further cost-saving potential, including cuts in fixed costs
- Investments to be reduced by 1 billion euros per year compared with planning – combined with prioritization of projects for the future
- • Product decisions formulated
- • New Phaeton will be electric
- • New Modular Electric Toolkit planned
September’s inflation rate is used to calculate a range of benefits payments in the UK.
Consumer expert Paul Lewis reports that these payments will now be frozen, as will other payments linked to the headline inflation rate.
Britain’s return to negative inflation isn’t a great surprise or a great calamity, says Jeremy Cook, chief economist at the international payments company, World First:
He reckons inflation will pick up sharply in 2016, once the recent slump in oil prices fades into history.
Headline inflation has been pressured for nearly a year now from falling energy and commodity prices but we must remember that base effects will see that initial drop in oil prices fall out of the calculations in the coming months.
Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight also sees UK interest rates on hold for longer.
With inflation back below zero, it’s hard to see Britain’s interest rates rising from their current record low before 2016.
Peter Cameron, Associate Fund Manager at EdenTree Investment Management, explains:
“Inflation is back in negative territory again and it’s very unlikely that we’ll see the Bank of England raise interest rates this side of Christmas. Although wage pressures are emerging and the impact of the falling oil price will soon start to drop out of the numbers, a rate hike would have a deflationary effect by pushing up Sterling.
At a time when the ECB is signalling it is ready to expand QE and the Fed is likely to delay its own rate lift-off into 2016, the Bank will be fearful of allowing Sterling to appreciate too much.”
There’s no sign of deflation in the British housing market. New data shows that prices rose by 5.2% across the country in August:
Osborne: This isn’t damaging deflation
UK chancellor George Osborne insists that Britain is not entering a period of ‘damaging deflation’:
Deflation is a protracted period in which prices fall in a downward spiral, and people stop spending because today’s items are going to be cheaper tomorrow.
The bigger picture is of a broadly flat inflation rate since the beginning of the year, says Richard Campbell, head of CPI at the Office for National Statistics.
“The main downward pressures on CPI came from clothing, which rose more slowly this September than in recent years, and falling petrol and diesel prices.”
The three reasons why UK inflation is negative again
Clothing and footwear prices rose by 2.8% between August and September this year, compared to 4% between the same 2 months a year ago. That pushed the inflation rate down, to 0.1% in September.
Fuel prices fell by 2.9% between August and September this year compared with a smaller fall of 0.6% between the same 2 months a year ago.
The ONS says:
The largest downward contribution came from petrol, with prices falling by 3.7 pence per litre between August and September this year compared with a fall of 0.8 pence per litre between the same 2 months a year ago. Diesel prices are now at their lowest level since December 2009, standing at 110.2 pence per litre.
And a price cut by British Gas also helped cut the cost of living.
Over to the ONS again:
Gas prices fell by 2.1% between August and September this year, compared with no change between the same 2 months a year ago, with price reductions from a major supplier.
Food and fuel have played a key role in dragging UK inflation down in the last year.
Over the last year, food prices fell by 2.5% and prices of motor fuels fell by 14.9%, according to the ONS.
This chart confirms that the UK’s inflation rate has been bobbing around zero for most of this year.
Clothing and fuel prices push inflation negative
Here’s the key points from today’s inflation report:
- The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) fell by 0.1% in the year to September 2015, compared to no change (0.0%) in the year to August 2015.
- A smaller than usual rise in clothing prices and falling motor fuel prices were the main contributors to the fall in the rate.
- The rate of inflation has been at or around 0.0% for most of 2015.
UK in negative inflation again
Here we go! UK inflation has turned negative again!
The Consumer prices index fell by 0.1% in September, the Office for National Statistics reports. That’s weaker than the zero reading that economists had expected.
It’s the first sub-zero reading since April.
More to follow
Crumbs! The pound has just taken a dive in the foreign exchange markets, dropping almost one cent against the US dollar.
Traders may be calculating that September’s UK inflation reading, due in a moment, is weaker than expected. Could the inflation number possibly have leaked??
More signs of weakness in Germany – Berlin is expected to trim its estimate for growth this year to 1.7%, down from 1.8%.
Economy minister Sigmar Gabriel could announce the new forecast tomorrow, according to Reuters.
This follows a hattrick of bad economic data last week, with factory orders, industrial production and exports all declining, as emerging market problems hit Germany.
Inflation, a preamble
Just 30 minute to go until we get the Britain’s inflation date for September.
City economists broadly expect that the consumer prices index will remain flat for a second month, leaving inflation at zero. But a negative reading can’t be ruled out.
My colleague Katie Allen explains:
Falling pump prices and a cut in energy bills by British Gas are expected to have kept inflation at zero last month, putting little pressure on the Bank of England to raise interest rates from their record low any time soon.
Official figures on inflation due at 9.30am are forecast to show no change in the consumer prices index measure. Against the backdrop of tumbling global commodity prices, from food to oil, inflation in the UK has been at or close to zero since February, well below the Bank’s target of 2%.
While some have described low inflation as a sign of economic fragility, it relieves the pressure on household budgets after several years of wages falling in real terms following the financial crisis. The latest official figures on the jobs market on Wednesday are expected to put pay growth at 3.1%.
Here’s her preview:
MPs could give Gertjan Vlieghe, Britain’s newest interest rate setter, a rough ride when he appears before them in an hour’s time.
Vlieghe should expect some tough questions about his previous role as economist at a hedge fund (Brevan Howard Asset Management).
Vlieghe was appointed to the Bank of England in late July. He had originally hoped to remain a member of Brevan Howard’s long-term incentive plan, but was forced to exit it to avoid “any mistaken impression” of a conflict of interest.
Alan Clarke, an economist at Scotiabank in London, reckons that those concerns may dominate today’s hearing — as Brevan Howard Asset Management (like any hedge fund) could potentially make or lose money due to decisions taken at the BoE.
Clarke told Bloomberg:
“It’s probably right that happens because financial markets have not had a great reputation recently. Sadly, I think, that will overshadow what is an otherwise great appointment.”
Bloomberg economist Maxime Sbaihi predicts that today’s ZEW survey, due at 10am BST, will show economic confidence deteriorated in Germany this month.
Mining stocks hit by Chinese gloom
European stock markets are all falling this morning, as the 20% slide in Chinese imports last month spooks traders.
In London, the FTSE 100 has lost 36 points, or 0.6%, led by mining stocks such as Glencore (-4.5%).
The French CAC shed 1%, while Germany’s DAX is down 0.6%.
Conner Campbell of SpreadEX explains:
A whopping 20% fall in Chinese imports in September didn’t get the day off to the best start, with that drop in demand sure to cause ripples of worry the world over.
Shares in SABMiller have jumped by 9% at the start of trading in London, to around £39.50.
That’s short of the £44 per share proposal which its board have accepted; the City may not be 100% convinced that AB InBev will pull this deal off.
AB InBev now has until 5pm on the 28th October to file a firm offer for SAB, having won the board round with its latest proposal.
The key is whether Colombia’s Santo Domingo family, which owns 14% of SABMiller, feels £44 per share is enough.
You know a deal is big when it moves the pound.
Here’s how sterling reacted to the news that AB INBev and SABMiller have agreed terms.
AB InBev and SABMiller agree terms on £68bn deal
One of the biggest takeover battles in the City in recent years is heading to a climax this morning.
Anheuser-Busch InBev, the brewing giant behind Stella Artois and Budweiser, has announced it has “reached an agreement in principle on the key terms of a possible recommended offer” for its rival, SABMiller (producer of Grolsch, Peroni, Pilsner Urquell…).
At £44 per share, the deal values SABMiller at around £68bn — making it the biggest takeover of a UK company ever.
It’s not signed and sealed yet, though – it still needs the support of SAB’s shareholders. Yesterday, SAB rejected £43.50 per share, but the board has now calculated that it can’t turn down this new higher offer.
The impact of China’s slowdown will be felt around the globe, warns economist Cees Bruggemans.
The 20% tumble in Chinese imports last month means that growth is continuing to slow, says Yang Zhao, China economist at Nomura Holdings Inc. in Hong Kong.
He said (via Bloomberg)
“Import growth remained sluggish, suggesting weakening domestic demand, particularly investment demand
We maintain our view that GDP growth will decline to 6.7 percent in the third quarter.”
GDP growth was measured at 7.0% in the second quarter of 2015.
Chinese imports slump 20% as slowdown continues
The latest trade data from China has sent a shiver through the markets this morning.
Chinese imports slumped by over 20% year-on-year in September (in dollar terms), a worse performance than economists had expected. That means imports have now fallen for 11 months running, as the country’s economy has slowed.
Exports dipped by 3.7% — better than the 6% slide which was expected. But it’s the slump in imports that is alarming analysts, as it hints at more problems building in China.
Imports plunged 20.4% in September from a year earlier to $145.2bn, customs officials said, due to weak commodity prices and soft domestic demand.
These factors will complicate Beijing’s efforts to stave off deflation, one of the headwinds threatening the world’s second biggest economy.
The news helped to drive shares down in Asia, where Japan’s Nikkei fell over 1% overnight.
Commodity prices also weakened, as investors calculated that China would be importing less raw materials in the months ahead.
Introduction: Has UK inflation turned negative again?
Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.
After the glamour and drama of yesterday’s Nobel economics prize, we’re back into the gritty world of data this morning.
At 9.30am, the latest UK inflation figures for September could show that the cost of living is falling again (at least according to the Consumer Price Index).
It was 0% in August, mainly due to cheaper energy costs, and some economists think it could have fallen below zero last month.
Then at 10am, Germany’s ZEW economic sentiment index will highlight if the emerging market slowdown and the Volkswagen emissions scandal is hurting Europe’s largest economy.
Also coming up…
At 10am, MPs on the Treasury Select Committee will grill Gertjan Vlieghe, the newest member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee.
And the banking reporting season will kick off later, with results from JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo.
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