Forex Research

Seven years following the banking crisis, senior bankers are still moaning about over-regulation, but with the government still owning major stakes in banks this is no time to water down the rules. This is not a normal state for the banking industry…

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “The banking crash seven years on: it’s not yet business as usual” was written by Jill Treanor, for theguardian.com on Monday 12th October 2015 11.25 UTC

Seven years ago this week, Gordon Brown – the then prime minister – was in full combat mode. Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and HBOS were on the brink of collapse and risked bringing down the rest of the financial system with them. Brown was left with little option but to step in with billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to act as a “rock of stability” to prevent the financial sector collapsing.

The intervening years have led to soul-searching through inquiries and changes in the rules about the amount – and type – of capital banks must hold to protect against collapse. Rules about the way bonuses are paid to top bankers have changed: deferral and payment in shares are now the norm for the most senior bankers. Changes are also being made to the way banks are structured following the recommendations by the Independent Commission on Banking, chaired by Sir John Vickers.

The government still owns 73% of RBS, down from 79%, and is yet to get rid of all its shares in Lloyds Banking Group, formed when HBOS was rescued by Lloyds TSB during the crisis. This is not a normal state for the UK banking industry.

Yet senior bankers are moaning about the difficulties their businesses face because of regulation. John McFarlane, the chair of Barclays, is again talking about national champions in investment banking. He raised it in July and again this week by suggesting that a merger of European investment banks (£) might allow a regional champion to be created to compete with US rivals.

Such remarks may help explain why, just a few weeks ago, Paul Fisher, a senior Bank of England official, issued a warning against watering down the post-crisis rules. “We probably won’t know for sure just how effective the new regime is until we reach another crisis. Meanwhile, we need to guard against the reforms being rolled back as a result of a period without crisis,” Fisher told an audience in London.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.


USA 

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Growth fears as UK and eurozone service sectors slow – live updates” was written by Graeme Wearden (until 2pm BST) and Nick Fletcher (now), for theguardian.com on Monday 5th October 2015 14.21 UTC

Meanwhile here’s the arrivals at the Eurogroup meeting to discuss the latest Greek bailout programme:

And here’s an extract from the roundtable discussion:

Dennis de Jong, managing director at broker UFX.com said:

With inconclusive economic data in recent weeks, the Fed is now split on the timing of an interest rate rise. That situation is unlikely to change in response to today’s non-manufacturing figures, which aren’t strong enough to sway Janet Yellen and Co towards a clear decision.

A decline on last month puts a dampener on what is actually quite a robust set of numbers. It’s not all doom and gloom, however, as Yellen’s reluctance to act may be seen as a positive move elsewhere.

Wall Street, which has been quiet as it awaits consistency among the financial uncertainty, may now be prompted into increased activity before the end of 2016.

Confirmation that the US services sector saw slowing growth in September comes from the Institute for Supply Management.

The ISM services index fell to 56.9 from 59 in August, and lower than analysts’ expectations of a reading of 57.5p. Both new orders and business activity slowed.

But the employment component showed an increase:

Updated

And shortly we will get the ISM indices…

US service sector growth slows

America’s service sector is growing by less than expected, according to the first of two rival surveys.

Markit’s final purchasing managers index for the sector came in at 55.1 for September, down from an early reading of 55.6, which was also what analysts had been expecting for the final figure. That compares to 56.1 in August.

Markit service sector PMI
Market service sector PMI Photograph: Markit/Markit

Markit’s final composite reading is 55 compared to 55.7 in August. Chris Williamson, Chief Economist at Markit said:

The US economic growth slowed in the third quarter according the PMI surveys, down to around 2.2%. But this largely represents a payback after growth rebounded in the second quarter, suggesting that the economy is settling down to a moderate rate of growth in line with its long term average.

Hiring also remains relatively robust, albeit down from earlier in the year, again suggesting that the economy has shifted down a gear but remains in good health.

“At the moment it remains unclear as to whether growth will weaken further as wemove into the fourth quarter. However, with inflationary pressures waning, policymakers may have some breathing space to gauge the extent of any slowdown. Lower fuel costs helped push average prices charged for goods and services dropping at steepest rate for nearly five years.

Markit composite index
Markit composite index Photograph: Markit/Markit

Updated

Wall Street opens higher

In tandem with other global markets, Wall Street is moving ahead strongly.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 164 points or 12%, while the S&P 500 has opened 0.5% higher.

Markets are being driven by hopes that central banks will not pull the plug on financial support in the immediate future. Friday’s poor US jobs numbers have convinced investors that the prospect of a Federal Reserve rate rise this year is looking less and less likely.

Another factor supporting the market is a rising oil price, which is boosting energy shares. Brent crude is up 2% after reports that Russia wants to meet other producers to discuss the market, where oversupply and falling demand have sent oil prices sharply lower. That could, believe some, presage production cuts. Meanwhile Friday also saw a fall in the number of rigs drilling for oil in the US.

China can manage its economic slowdown but needs to communicate policy more effectively, says the International Monetary Fund.

Ahead of its annual meeting the IMF said China’s exchange rate was in line with medium term fundamentals after the recent devaluations, Reuters reports.

Global corporations are avoiding tax to the tune of up to $240bn a year, according to a new report from the OECD, which has also announced reform measures to tackle the problem. Simon Bowers reports:

An unprecedented international collaboration on tax reform, led by the G20 nations and targeting many of the world’s largest global corporations, will wipe out much of the tax avoidance industry, it was claimed today.

The two-year reform programme, under the auspices of the OECD, was prompted by a spate of revelations in recent years about the tax affairs of multinationals including Starbucks, Google and Amazon.

Alongside the final batch of reforms, published today, the OECD released what it called “extremely conservative” estimates suggesting large global businesses were shifting profits and eroding the tax receipts of economies around the world at a cost of $100bn (£65bn) to $240bn a year — equivalent to between 4% and 10% of global corporation tax revenues.

In the face of increasingly aggressive tax avoidance, countries have been forced to rely more heavily on taxing income less able to be shifted abroad — such as workers’ pay and VAT.

“[The reforms will help] move away from an era when tax planning had become part of core business models,” said Pascal Saint-Amans, who has led the two-year OECD reform programme, backed by 60 countries representing more than 90% of the world’s economy. “Value creation [should be] the core business of industry. Tax planning should just be some supportive, marginal activity… The tax world will not be the same.”

Read more here:

Lunchtime summary: Growth fears after weak services data

A quick recap:

Britain’s recovery slowed last month, according to the latest survey of its dominant service sector.

Companies reported that activity grew at the slowest pace in two and a half years. Economists blame fears over China’s economy, and predict that GDP could grow by just 0.4% in the last three month of this year.

Expansion across the eurozone also eased back in September, data firm Markit reports. Firms in Germany, Spain and Ireland all said growth was slower, although France’s bucked the trend.

European stock markets are up. Shares are being driven by hopes that central banks will continue to stimulate the global economy, and resist early interest rate rises.

The FTSE 100 is now at its highest point of the day, up 132 points at 6262. The French CAC has soared by over 3%.

Two dozen Pacific-Rim countries are celebrating the creation of a major new trade partnership.

Workers have stormed the boardroom of Air France today, as the airline announced plans to cut 2,900 jobs. Two senior executives were forced to flee with ripped shirts.

TOPSHOTS Director of Air France in Orly Pierre Plissonnier, nearly shirtless, tries to cross a fence, helped by security and police officers, after several hundred of employees invaded the offices of Air France, interrupting the meeting of the Central Committee (CCE) in Roissy-en-France, on October 5, 2015. Air France-KLM unveiled a revamped restructuring plan on October 5 that could lead to 2,900 job losses after pilots for the struggling airline refused to accept a proposal to work longer hours. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARDKENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images
Air France director Pierre Plissonnier, nearly shirtless, tries to cross a fence after several hundred of employees invaded the firm’s offices today. Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images

The Greek government is preparing its new budget. Alexis Tsipras’s government must explain how it will implement tough tax rises and spending cuts demanded by lenders.

Finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos is meeting fellow eurozone finance ministers in Brussels today. They’ll discuss the various prior actions Greece must deliver to receive its next aid tranche, and to open talks on debt relief.

And in the UK, chancellor George Osborne has confirmed that he’s selling off shares in Lloyds Banking Group to the public at a chunky discount.

Updated

European commissioner Pierre Moscovici tweets from Brussels:

The Trans-Pacific Partnership deal is “a huge strategic and political win for US President Barack Obama and Japan’s Shinzo Abe,” says the FT’s Shawn Donnan.

He writes:

It represents the economic backbone of the Obama administration’s strategic “pivot” to Asia and a response to the rise of the US’s chief rival, China, and its growing regional and global influence.

It is also a key component of the “third arrow” of economic reforms that Mr Abe has been pursuing in Japan since taking office in 2012.

Here’s the FT’s take (£): Negotiators strike Pacific trade deal

Historic TPP trade deal agreed

Over in Atlanta, a dozen Pacific Rim nations have reached the most sweeping trade liberalization pact in a generation.

After late hitches over drugs monopolies, and New Zealand’s dairy market, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been hammered out. It is meant to lower trader barriers in the region, and set common standards in around 40% of the world economy.

My colleague Martin Farrer explains:

The TPP aims to lower trade tariffs between the signatory nations and bring in wide-ranging new regulations for investment, agriculture, intellectual property, labour and the environment. This in turn could mean cheaper food, medicine and everyday household goods for millions of people. It will also help the 12 countries to counter China’s rising economic influence in the region.

More here:

Updated

The Brussels press pack are assembling for today’s meeting of finance ministers, where Greece’s new bailout package will be discussed.

But it’s not as exciting as the eurogroup meetings we enjoyed (or was it endured?) this summer, so there’s more space outside:

Updated

Greeks brace for austerity budget

Prime Minister of Greece Alexis Tsipras in parliament last night.
Prime Minister of Greece Alexis Tsipras in parliament last night. Photograph: George Panagakis/Pacific Pres/BI/.

The Greek parliament is back in full force today with prime minister Alexis Tsipras outlining his newly elected government’s policy programme as the draft 2015 budget is also submitted.

Our correspondent Helena Smith reports from Athens

After a week of diplomacy abroad, the Greek prime minister must now face the music of applying what will be the most onerous financial rescue programme to date. It will not be easy.

From months of often fraught negotiations just getting to the point of reaching agreement over the bailout deal, the debate has shifted from the abstract to the real with Greeks now being bombarded with news of what the latest accord will entail. The draft budget is expected to outline an array of hard hitting levies, including the much-hated property tax known as Enfia, as well as pension cuts and structural reforms – the price of being bailed out for a third time to the tune of €86bn.

The measures will throw the debt-stricken economy into recession with the budget forecasting a return to growth in 2017 (for many a conservative estimate).

The Greek finance minister, Euclid Tsakalotos, who is on his way to Luxembourg, will outline the savings and government priorities when he meets euro area counterparts attending tonight’s Euro Group.

One insider tells us:

“He will present the prior actions lenders are demanding at the meeting,”

“These are the first package of measures we have agreed to apply [in exchange] for loans.”

The measures, which are expected to include deep cuts to monthly pensions over €1,000, have to be implemented in the coming weeks – before more than 60 others are enforced in November for international creditors to begin a review of the Greek economy.

All of which is going to require nifty explanation when Tsipras (whose radical left Syriza party was first catapulted into office vowing to “cancel” such measures) takes to the podium to present the policies of his second term in office at 7:30pm this evening.

Unions and leftists are already girding for battle. “We are organising the response of popular workers to the new wave of attack,” the communist Pame announced this morning, calling on Greeks to participate in a mass rally on October 22 and a strike on November 12.

Updated

Air France-KLM has criticised those responsible for today’s violence, and insisted that most staff were protesting peacefully before a group burst into its boardroom.

A spokesman said:

“This violence was carried out by particularly violent, isolated individuals, whereas the protest by striking personnel was taking place calmly up until then.”

Air France assistant director long-haul flight, Pierre Plissonnier, left, is protected by security guards as he flees the Air France headquarters at Roissy Airport, north of Paris, France, after scuffles with union activists. Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Union activists protesting proposed layoffs at Air France stormed the headquarters during a meeting about the job cuts, zeroing in on two managers who had their shirts torn from their bodies, scaled a fence and fled under police protection. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)
Air France assistant director long-haul flight, Pierre Plissonnier, left, is protected by security guards as he flees the Air France headquarters. Photograph: Jacques Brinon/AP

Associated Press has more details on the Air France protests this morning:

Union activists protesting proposed layoffs at Air France stormed the headquarters during a meeting, zeroing in on two managers who had their shirts torn from their bodies, scaled a fence and fled under police protection.

An Associated Press photographer saw about a hundred activists rush the building. The managers who fled included the head of human resources.

Alexandre de Juniac, the CEO of Air France-KLM, announced Friday the company would have to cut jobs after failing to reach an agreement with pilots. French media reported a proposal to slash 2,900 jobs.

De Juniac said the company was being squeezed by low-cost airlines in Europe and Gulf carriers for long-haul flights. Monday’s meeting was intended to detail the cuts, which he told Europe 1 radio would be “significant.”

Employees of Air France shout slogans inside the company headquarters in Roissy-en-France, on October 5, 2015, interrupting the launch of the plan at a central committee meeting.
Employees of Air France shout slogans inside the company headquarters in Roissy-en-France, on October 5, 2015, interrupting the launch of the plan at a central committee meeting. Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images

Fortunately, Xavier Broseta and Pierre Plissonnier did manage to escape the demonstrators, sans chemises.

Air France director of Human Ressources, Xavier Broseta, right, and Air France assistant director long-haul flight, Pierre Plissonnier, center, are protected by a police officer as they flee Air France headquarters at Roissy Airport, north of Paris, after scuffles with union activist, Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Union activists protesting proposed layoffs at Air France stormed the headquarters during a meeting about the job cuts, zeroing in on two managers who had their shirts torn from their bodies, scaled a fence and fled under police protection. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)

Air France execs lose their shirts as workers storm HQ

Over in Paris, two Air France executives appear to have had their shirts ripped from their backs after the airline announced plans to cut up to 2,900 jobs.

According to local media reports, several hundred workers stormed the airline’s headquarters this morning, after it announced the cutbacks.

Photos from the scene show Pierre Plissonnier, Air France’s assistant director for long-haul flights, leaving the scene in a disheveled state.

Director of Air France in Orly Pierre Plissonnier, nearly shirtless, runs away from the demonstrators, helped by security officers, after several hundred of employees invaded the offices of Air France, interrupting the meeting of the Central Committee (CCE) in Roissy-en-France, on October 5, 2015. Air France-KLM unveiled a revamped restructuring plan on October 5 that could lead to 2,900 job losses after pilots for the struggling airline refused to accept a proposal to work longer hours. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARDKENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images
Pierre Plissonnier, the director of Air France in Orly, running away from the demonstrators, helped by security officers, after several hundred of employees invaded the offices of Air France. Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images
Director of Air France in Orly Pierre Plissonnier, nearly shirtless, walks away from the crowd, helped by security and police officers, after several hundred of employees invaded the offices of Air France, interrupting the meeting of the Central Committee (CCE) in Roissy-en-France, on October 5, 2015. Air France-KLM unveiled a revamped restructuring plan on October 5 that could lead to 2,900 job losses after pilots for the struggling airline refused to accept a proposal to work longer hours. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARDKENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images
Plissonnier walking away from the crowd. Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images

Human resources boss Xavier Broseta is pictured trying to climb a fence to flee.

Xavier Broseta, Executive Vice President for Human Resources and Labour Relations at Air France, is evacuated by security after employees interrupted a meeting at the Air France headquarters building in Roissy<br />A shirtless Xavier Broseta (C), Executive Vice President for Human Resources and Labour Relations at Air France, is evacuated by security after employees interrupted a meeting with representatives staff at the Air France headquarters building at the Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Roissy, near Paris, France, October 5, 2015.” width=”1000″ height=”662″ class=”gu-image” /><br />
<figcaption> <span class=Xavier Broseta, Executive Vice President for Human Resources and Labour Relations at Air France, is evacuated by security. Photograph: Jacky Naegelen/Reuters
Human Resources Assistant Manager of Air France Xavier Broseta, shirtless, tries to cross a fence, helped by security and police officers, after several hundred of employees invaded the offices of Air France, interrupting the meeting of the Central Committee (CCE) in Roissy-en-France, on October 5, 2015. Air France-KLM unveiled a revamped restructuring plan on October 5 that could lead to 2,900 job losses after pilots for the struggling airline refused to accept a proposal to work longer hours. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARDKENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images
Broseta then tried to cross a fence, helped by security and police officers. Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images

It’s not clear exactly what happened. But the AFP newswire reports that CEO Frederic Gagey “made a hasty exit, according to two members of the committee”, after workers broke into the meeting.

Unions have also called a strike to protest at the job cuts, which were announced after pilots turned down a proposal to work 100 more hours per year for the same salary.

It could see 300 pilots, 700 air hostesses and stewards, and 1,900 ground staff laid off by 2017.

Le Figaro reports that Air France is planning to file a complaint of “aggravated violence”. More here.

Updated

European stock markets aren’t panicking at today’s service sector slowdown.

Instead, they continue to rally –– catching up with Wall Street’s late jump on Friday night.

France’s CAC index is the best performer, following the news that its services firms actually caught up (a little) with the rest of the eurozone last month.
But other markets are also gaining ground, with the FTSE 100 jumping over around 2%, despite warnings that the economy may be slowing down.

European stock markets, 11am October 05 2015
European stock markets, 11am today. Photograph: Thomson Reuters

So what’s going on?

Well, investors do seem confident that the US Federal Reserve won’t raise rates this month, and probably not before 2016.

That’s bullish for shares, and also weakens the US dollar — which has a positive effect on commodity prices and oil. And that’s why mining shares are up today, while Royal Dutch Shell has gained 4%.

Jasper Lawler of CMC says:

UK and European markets were higher across the board on Monday, playing catch-up from the biggest turnaround on the Dow Jones Industrial Average in four years on Friday.

The French CAC was higher by over 2.5% supported by positive French service sector data. Missed expectations for Germany’s service sector took the edge off gains on the DAX, which was still higher by over 1.5%.

A new survey of Britain’s top finance chiefs confirms that the UK economy may be weakening.

Our Katie Allen reports this morning:

China’s downturn, the prospect of rising interest rates and uncertainty about the global economic outlook have knocked confidence among bosses of the UK’s biggest companies, according to a survey.

Chief financial officers (CFOs) polled by the consultancy Deloitte reported a sharp rise in uncertainty facing their businesses and have scaled back their expectations for investment and hiring over the coming year.

Almost three-quarters of the 122 CFOs, or 73%, said the level of financial and economic uncertainty was either above normal, high or very high. That was up from 55% in the second quarter of this year and is the highest proportion for more than two years.

More here:

Deloitte survey of CFOs
Uncertainty is rising…. Photograph: Deloitte/Guardian

Economist Howard Archer, of IHS Global Insight, fears UK economic growth could stumble in the last quarter of 2015:

UK "recovery at risk" from Chinese chill

The slowdown across Britain’s service sector is putting the recovery at risk, says David Noble CEO at the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply.

He blames the knock-on effect of China, which sparked global market panic in August after Beijing devalued the yuan.

Noble says:

The further softening of growth in the services sector must now be causing some concern for the sustainability of the recent recovery in the UK economy….

It appears that when China sneezes, the world catches a cold as some companies cited the region as a cause for worldwide concern.

Some instant reaction to the slowdown in Britain’s services sector:

UK service sector growth hits 2.5 year low

Britain’s service sector suffered a sharp slowdown last month, new data shows, raising fears that the economy may be faltering.

Data firm Markit reports that activity across the sector grew at its slowest rate since April 2013 in September. Its service PMI fell to 53.3, from August’s 55.6 (where 50=stagnation).

Firms reported that new business slowed, with some clients unwilling to place new contracts in the current “global economic uncertainty”.

More encouragingly, firms did keep hiring staff, but business investment is also under pressure.

And with Germany, Ireland and Spain’s service sectors also slowing (see last post), signs are building that the European economy may be faltering.

UK service PMI, September 2015
The blue line = today’s PMI survey Photograph: Markit

Markit’s Chris Williamson fears that “the economy sank further into a soft patch at the end of the third quarter”, and is only growing at 0.3% per quarter.

Services makes up around three-quarter of the UK economy, so any slowdown has serious consequences.

Williamson says:

“Weakness is spreading from the struggling manufacturing sector, hitting transport and other industrial-related services in particular.

There are also signs that consumers have become more cautious and are pulling back on their leisure spending, such as on restaurants and hotels.”

Updated

Eurozone service slows, putting more pressure on ECB

Growth across Europe’s private sector is slowing, according to the latest healthcheck of the region’s service sector.

Markit’s Eurozone PMI, which measures activity at thousands of companies, dipped to a four-month low of 53.6 in September, down from 54.3 in August. That shows the sector kept growing, but at a slower rate.

Growth in the service sector hit a seven-month low, with the Services PMI dropping to 53.7 from 54.0.

Growth in Spain hit its lowest level since January, although France – usually a laggard in these surveys – clawed back some ground:

Here’s the detail:

Eurozone PMIs, September 2015
Eurozone PMIs, September 2015 Photograph: Markit

Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, reckons that the slowdown could raise the chances of fresh stimulus measures from the European Central Bank:

“The final PMI reading came in slightly below the earlier flash estimate but still leaves a signal of the eurozone economy having expanded 0.4% in the third quarter.

“However, the failure of the economy to pick up speed over the summer will be a disappointment to the ECB, especially with job creation sliding to an eight-month low.

“The weakening of the pace of expansion in September raises the risk of growth fading further in the fourth quarter, which would in turn boost the likelihood of the ECB opening the QE taps further.

Mining stocks are packing the top of the FTSE 100 leaderboard:

Top risers on the FTSE 100
Top risers on the FTSE 100 this morning. Photograph: Thomson Reuters

That shows optimism that central banks will do more to stimulate the global economy, now that the US labor market appears to be weakening.

Tony Cross of Trustnet Direct explains:

Consensus is building that the Federal Reserve won’t now be in a position to hike interest rates before the end of the year. This gives emerging markets a little more breathing room and it’s the mining stocks that are forging their way to the top of the table.

Updated

European markets jump on stimulus hopes

Shares are rallying across Europe this morning, fuelled by hopes that central banks keep topping up the punchbowl for longer.

France’s CAC index is the biggest riser, up nearly 2%, and Germany’s DAX gaining 1.3%.

The FTSE 100 is close behind, up almost 100 points, as traders shake off their disappointment over Saturday night’s rugby.

European stock markets, October 05 2015

Investors have had a weekend to ponder Friday’s disappointing US jobs report, and concluded that a weak labor market means the Federal Reserve will resist raising interest rates in 2015.

And that’s encouraging them back into the market.

Kim Young-jun, a stock analyst at SK Securities in Seoul, explains (via Reuters)

“Risk aversion weakened today as the weak U.S. employment data supported expectations that the Fed would put off the timing of rate hikes.”

Glencore’s shares have rallied by 8% in early trading in London, fuelled by that takeover talk and speculation that it could sell its agricultural business.

They’re up 7.8p at 108.6p, having briefly jumped 20% to 114.45p. That’s quite a recovery, given they slumped to 66p last week.

However, it’s a weaker rally than in Asia, though, where they spiked 70% at one stage today.

Glencore has just issued a statement to the City, saying it is:

…the Board confirms that it is not aware of any reasons for these price and volume movements or of any information which must be announced to avoid a false market in the Company’s securities or of any inside information that needs to be disclosed…

That could dampen some of the chatter that a big deal is close…..

Updated

Treasury to sell £2bn Lloyds stake to public

Lloyds Bank shares to go on sale to the British public<br />epa04963989 (FILE) A file photograph showing a sign outside a Lloyds bank branch in London, Britain, 23 October 2014. According to news reports, on 05 October 2015 the British Chancellor of the Exchquer, Geroge Osbourne, has announce that 2 billion GBP or 2.7 billion euro worth of Lloyds Bank shares to go on sale to the British public. EPA/WILL OLIVER” width=”1000″ height=”631″ class=”gu-image” /> </figure>
<p><strong>Seven long years after bailing out Lloyds Banking Group, the UK government is finally selling some of its remaining stake to the public.</strong></p>
<p><a href=The Treasury has announced plans to sell £2bn of Lloyds shares in a retail offering. Anyone taking part will get a 5% discount, plus a bonus shares for every 10 they hold for at least a year.

The value of the bonus share incentive will be capped at £200 per investor. People applying for investments of less than £1,000 will be prioritised.

The move brings a bit of Thatcherite glamour (?!) to the Conservative Party conference, where delegates fondly remember the “Tell Sid” privatisation fetish drive of the 1980s.

But as the Economist’s Stan Pignal points out, discounted share sales benefit some rather more than others….

Updated

Reports that Glencore is in talks to sell its entire agriculture business are helping to drive its shares higher.

That would provide fresh resources to tackle its $30bn debt mountain, and to handle a further drop in commodity prices.

Glencore shares surge on sale talk

Something is going on at Glencore, the troubled commodity trading and mining company.

Shares in Glencore leapt by over 70% in Hong Kong overnight, and are currently up over 30%.

This comes after the Daily Telegraph reported that Ivan Glencore is prepared to listen to takeover offers for the company he has created, following the recent slump in its value.

Their commodity editor Andrew Critchlow wrote:

Glencore would listen to offers for a takeover of the entire company but its management does not believe there are any buyers willing to pay a fair value for the business in the current market.

That report appears to have sparked a wave of buying into Glencore, whose shares have lost around three-quarters of their value in the last year.

Glencore itself, though, says it’s “unaware” of the reason behind the surge, according to Bloomberg’s Jonathan Ferro.

American Apparel files for bankrupcy

Big news breaking in the retail sector — American Apparel, supplier of ethical clothing and god-awful adverts, has filed for bankruptcy protection.

The move follows a steady slide in sales, and ever-more disturbing antics by ex-chairman Dov Charney, who was forced out a year ago.

The Agenda: US jobs report lingers

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

A new week begins with investors digesting still last Friday’s disappointing US jobs data.

September’s Non-Farm Payroll was a bit of a shocker, with just 142,000 new jobs created, and wages unchanged month-on-month. That suggests America’s economy is being hit by the slowdown in emerging markets such as China, raising fears that a new downturn is looming.

And that has actually pushed shares higher in Asia this morning on speculation that monetary policy is going to stay loose for even longer.

Japan’s Nikkei gained 1.6%, while the Indian market is up around 1.5%:

We’ll get a fresh insight into the health of the global economy today, when new surveys of the world service sector are released.

Those Purchasing Managers Surveys will show if growth speeded up or slowed down; we get the eurozone report at 9am BST and the UK at 9.30am BST.

And over in Greece, Alexis Tsipras’s new government will be presenting its new budget, ahead of a vote on Wednesday.

We’ll be tracking all the main events through the day….

Updated

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

U.K. Manufacturing Sector growth slows in September, prompting manufacturers to lay off workers, against backdrop of uncertain global outlook. Eurozone manufacturing also lost momentum and output from Chinese factories continued to fall…

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “UK manufacturing sector suffers job losses for first time in two years” was written by Julia Kollewe and Katie Allen, for theguardian.com on Thursday 1st October 2015 18.52 UTC

Tough export markets and weaker consumer spending continued to take their toll on UK factories last month, prompting the first job losses for the sector in more than two years, according to a survey that echoed signs of manufacturing weakness around the world.

The performance at UK factories was lacklustre in September, when growth slipped to a three-month low. Against the backdrop of warnings about the uncertain outlook for global growth, eurozone manufacturing also lost momentum and output from Chinese factories continued to fall.

For the UK, the first snapshot of manufacturing performance in September continued a downbeat trend. The key measure of factory activity slipped back to within a whisker of June’s two-month low, according to the Markit/CIPS manufacturing PMI report.

At 51.5 the main balance was still above the 50-mark that separates growth from contraction, but it marked a slowdown from 51.6 in August and economists said it would further convince policymakers at the Bank of England to hold off from raising interest rates from their current record low of 0.5%.

The survey reported manufacturing job losses for the first time since April 2013.

“Job cuts send a signal that manufacturers are becoming more cautious about the future, which may lead to a further scaling back of production at some firms in coming months,” said Rob Dobson, senior economist at Markit.

“The ongoing malaise of the manufacturing sector will add to broader growth worries and supports dovish calls for a first rise in interest rates to be held off until the industry returns to a firmer footing.”

The manufacturing sector has been growing for 30 months, according to the survey, but the pace has slowed since the start of the summer. While output growth improved slightly last month, growth in new orders tailed off to the weakest rate seen this year.

Manufacturing growth
Manufacturing growth in the UK. Illustration: Markit/CIPS

Manufacturing growth across the eurozone slowed to a five-month low, according to separate reports from Markit. Its factory PMI for the currency bloc slipped to 52.0 from 52.3 in August. Activity slowed in Germany and Spain, while the French factory sector is expanding again.

The slump at China’s factories also continued, but there were some signs of stabilisation. The Caixin China general manufacturing PMI found that production was still falling, forcing firms to lay off more people. The official manufacturing PMI published by the Beijing government also showed that manufacturing was still contracting, but at a slower rate.

Economists drew links between China’s downturn and the pressures on UK manufacturers already grappling with a relatively strong pound, which makes their goods more expensive to overseas buyers.

“Manufacturing continues to face headwinds from weaker demand from China and emerging markets – where the UK sends up to 15% of its exports – in addition to strength in sterling which is up 15% in effective terms compared to its February 2013 low,” said Kallum Pickering, senior UK economist at Berenberg bank.

He saw little prospect of manufacturing having boosted the wider economy in recent months but was optimistic EU and US demand would help the sector.

“For now, UK manufacturers might see export demand dwindling as the developing world struggles with slowing Chinese demand and weak commodity prices, but in the medium term rising demand from the UK’s biggest and closest trading partners should help underpin a recovery in UK manufacturing,” Pickering added.

Separate UK figures on productivity also pointed to recent weakness in the manufacturing sector. There was a 0.5% fall in factory output per hour in the second quarter, bucking the improving trend for the wider economy, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Across all sectors, productivity grew by 0.9% from the first to the second quarter on an output per hour measure. That took productivity to the highest level on record, but it was still 15% below where it would have been had pre-downturn trends continued, the ONS said.

Zach Witton, a deputy chief economist at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, said: “Today’s data suggests the challenging export environment and weak demand for investment goods in the oil and gas sector has started to take a toll on business confidence.”

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Financial markets focused on the more downbeat indicators of construction and industrial production that some say might be a sign that the UK economy may be losing steam along with its largest trading partner the eurozone…

– >

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Official data points to loss of momentum in UK economy” was written by Katie Allen, for The Guardian on Friday 9th January 2015 16.30 UTC

Further evidence of a slowing British economy came on Friday as official figures showed a surprise drop in construction in November and falling industrial output as oil and gas output declined sharply.

But the data showed a bounceback in factory output that buoyed hopes for the manufacturing sector and good news on exports suggested UK companies could weather troubles in their biggest trading partner, the eurozone.

Financial markets focused on the more downbeat indicators, taking them as the latest evidence the economy lost steam in the final months of 2014. The pound lost ground against the dollar as traders bet the Bank of England would be in no hurry to raise interest rates from their record low, given the mixed signals on the economy.

“Disappointing official data are adding to survey evidence which indicate that the rate of UK economic growth slowed towards the end of last year,” said Chris Williamson, chief economist at data analysts Markit.

“Looking at all of the official statistics and survey evidence currently available, the data collectively point to the economy growing 0.5% in the fourth quarter, down from 0.7% in the third quarter,” he added.

While economists said it was too soon to say whether the slowdown at the end of the year continued into 2015, the latest figures will be unwelcome to the Conservatives as they seek to convince voters that the recovery remains on track.

“On balance, there is further evidence that UK growth is slowing as we head towards the general election,” said Simon Wells, chief UK economist at HSBC.

Among the bright spots for the economy in a clutch of reports from the Office for National Statistics was the news that manufacturing output rose by 0.7% in November, reversing October’s fall and beating economists’ expectations for growth of just 0.3%. On the year, output was up 2.7%.

But the wider industrial sector which also includes utilities, mining and oil and gas production, fell 0.1%. That drop was driven largely by a 5.5% fall in oil and gas output. The ONS said the weakness was partly down to maintenance work at two North Sea oil fields.

Respected thinktank the National Institute of Economic and Social Research said following the latest industrial production numbers it estimated growth slowed to 0.6% in the final three months of last year, after 0.7% in the three months to November 2014.

Separate official figures from the construction sector showed output fell by 2.0% on the month in November, defying economists’ forecasts for growth and contrasting with surveys of the sector.

The news on trade was more encouraging, however, as the ONS reported the narrowest trade deficit since June 2013.

The manufacturing sector is still not back to its pre-crisis strength and exports have not grown as fast as the government would have hoped. Progress has been slow in the government’s push to rebalance the economy away from overdependence on domestic demand, but some economists are predicting a strong 2015 for manufacturing.

A drop in oil prices to their lowest level in more than five years has buoyed hopes for the sector. Maeve Johnston at the thinktank Capital Economics cautioned it was far from certain oil prices will remain so low, but the fall should help “reinvigorate the recovery”.

“Indeed, if low oil prices are sustained, it should greatly reduce costs for the manufacturing sector, providing some welcome support over 2015. And sustained low oil prices would also ensure that the improvement in the trade deficit proves to be more than a flash in the pan,” she said.

The trade numbers beat expectations as the ONS reported the goods trade gap narrowed by £1bn to £8.8bn in November, as exports edged down but imports fell faster. Economists had forecast a £9.4bn gap. The less erratic figures for the three months to November showed exports grew by £2bn and imports shrank by £0.5bn.

The details showed exporters continued to benefit from targeting markets beyond the deflation-hit eurozone. Exports to countries outside the European Union increased by £2.1bn, or 6.0%, in the three months to November from the previous three months. Exports to the EU decreased by £0.1bn, or 0.3%. At the same time, the UK recorded its largest ever deficit with Germany, reflecting a decrease in exports and a slight increase in imports.

The trade gap for goods and services taken together fell to its lowest since June 2013, at £1.4bn in November.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

It’s not clear what the European Central Bank can do about the problem. Mario Draghi and his colleagues are faced with a stubborn inflation which remains stuck at 0.8%, well below the central bank’s 2% target for the currency zone…

 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Inflation is too low in Europe” was written by Phillip Inman, for The Guardian on Wednesday 5th March 2014 22.48 UTC

Mario Draghi is faced with a dilemma. All the signals from the eurozone show a gentle recovery is gaining momentum. Tills are ringing from Madrid to Berlin, while manufacturing in Portugal is beginning to show signs of life. Yet inflation is stuck at 0.8%, well below the 2% target for the currency zone.

The European Central Bank chief is under pressure to follow the Fed and the Bank of England by turning on the cheap money taps. Only a dose of quantitative easing (QE) will boost demand.

Draghi hinted strongly last month that low growth and low inflation reflected a form of economic stagnation he wanted to avoid. Action was necessary, maybe this month. He said: “Right now we have a level of inflation which is way below 2% … We know that the longer it stays at the current level, the higher will be the risk that it will not go back to 2% in any reasonable time and we don’t want that.”

Most likely he will ease the situation a little. Will there be a rate cut ? Probably not. And QE is out of the question. Maybe a little behind-the-scenes fiddling with ECB bond purchases to cut lenders’ costs.

It’s a nice problem to have, though. A better economic scenario would also avert a row brewing with the Germans over his OMT lifeboat scheme for bankrupt eurozone members. Portugal will exit its rescue scheme in May, and Greece seems solidly ring-fenced. Still, it’s not clear how Draghi can, by himself, create enough demand to push up inflation.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Financial policy committee ‘concerned about potential risks to financial stability’ from possible housing bubble. Bank of England policy makers agree to “closely monitor housing market indicators covering house price affordability and sustainability”…

 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Bank of England committee flags up housing market concerns” was written by Jill Treanor, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 3rd December 2013 12.58 UTC

The Bank of England is continuing to closely monitor the affordability of mortgages and the lending policies of banks after taking steps last week to cool the housing market.

The record of the November meeting of the financial policy committee, set up inside Threadneedle Street to spot bubbles in the financial system, shows that concerns about the housing market had risen since their last meeting in June.

“Committee members had become more concerned about the potential risks to financial stability that might arise from developments in the UK housing market,” the record said.

After the meeting the Bank announced last week that the flagship Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS), which supplies cheaper money to banks and building societies, would end a year early for mortgages to focus on small businesses.

The record of the meeting shows that Bank of England governor Mark Carney informed the committee – made of Bank of officials and external members – that he and the Treasury had agreed to amend the FLS to focus on business lending.

“The governor informed the committee that HM Treasury and the Bank agreed that an amendment to the FLS to remove the incentive for new lending to households would be sensible … committee members welcomed this,” the record states.

The FPC, a key element of the coalition’s regulatory changes to avert another financial crisis, also discussed other options to dampen the mortgage market by forcing banks to hold more capital. This could be done “to specific types of mortgage lending, just to new lending or to the entire portfolio of loans”.

It could also take action if it was concerned about the affordability of mortgages by limiting the loan-to-value or loan-to-income ratios for mortgages.

“The committee agreed that it would closely monitor housing market indicators covering house price affordability and sustainability, indicators of indebtedness, underwriting stands, exposures of lenders to highly indebted households and the reliance of lenders on short-term wholesale funding,” the record said.

It also noted that borrowers might start to switch to fixed rate mortgages which, while helping households when interest rates rise, could cause problems for banks.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

While jobs growth and output are rising fast in the construction industry, retail offers a more mixed picture of the UK economy. Forecasting groups have modest expectations for growth in 2014: a 2% increase in GDP following 1.4% in 2013…

 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Construction and retail – contrasting perspectives on UK economic recovery” was written by Larry Elliott, economics editor, for The Guardian on Tuesday 5th November 2013 00.01 UTC

Construction and retailing offer contrasting perspectives on Britain’s economic recovery. On the UK’s building sites, things are looking up . The monthly construction industry health check from CIPS/Markit showed jobs growth and output rising at their fastest for six years. Although that may be more a reflection of the deep hole the sector plunged into during the recession, sentiment has certainly improved. The Government’s Help to Buy scheme has boosted house building, but Monday’s report suggests demand for commercial property is also on the up.

Tuesday’s report from the British Retailers Consortium is more mixed. After a strong summer, spending growth in the high street has cooled in the last couple of months. That could be because sales of new winter fashions have been hit by unseasonally warm weather, or it could be that consumers are saving up for a big splurge at Christmas. It could be that individuals are finding it hard to make the sums add up during a prolonged period when prices have been rising more quickly than wages. In all probability, the cautious mood is a combination of all three.

Rising consumer spending is the reason economic activity picked up in the second and third quarters of the year. There was little boost from the other components of growth -– investment, exports and the state – so the expansion was the result of higher household spending. How is this possible when real earnings are falling? In part, spending has been encouraged by rising employment. In part, it has been aided by stronger consumer confidence, which has led to people running down the precautionary savings they built up when they were more pessimistic about the future.

Clearly, consumers will be unable to continue dipping into their savings to fund their spending for ever. That’s why forecasting groups such as the National Institute for Economic Research have only modest expectations for growth in 2014: a 2% increase in GDP following 1.4% in 2013. NIESR sees little prospect of stronger investment kicking in, and with the prospects for exporters decidedly mixed that means consumers will again bear the strain.

Even so, the NIESR forecast looks too low. There will be some recovery in investment in response to stronger consumer spending. More significantly, perhaps, the housing market now has real momentum and that will lead to some further drop in the savings ratio to compensate for squeezed incomes.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Bank of England governor’s move to persuade markets that interest rates will not immediately rise has provoked skepticism. His first 100 days as Bank of England governor have been a noisy medley of speeches, impeccably tailored photo-calls and pzazz…

 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Is Mark Carney’s forward guidance plan a step backwards?” was written by Heather Stewart, for theguardian.com on Monday 7th October 2013 14.00 UTC

If Mark Carney was going to live up to his billing as a “rock star central banker” – and his £874,000 a year pay package – he had to arrive in Threadneedle Street on a crashing crescendo. His first 100 days as Bank of England governor have been a noisy medley of speeches, impeccably tailored photo-calls and pzazz.

From the need for more women on banknotes to his love of Everton football club, Carney has had plenty to say on a range of subjects since his appointment on 1 July this year. However, it’s the Bank’s new policy tool of forward guidance that has provoked the most interest, and a good measure of scepticism, among seasoned Bank-watchers.

Honed by Carney in Canada and adopted by the US Federal Reserve and the ECB in different forms, forward guidance is a way of signalling to the public and financial markets how the Bank will respond to shifts in the economy. In this case, the monetary policy committee has pledged to keep interest rates at their record low of 0.5% at least until the unemployment rate falls to 7%.

“Forward guidance is an attempt to persuade the markets that interest rates are not immediately going to go up,” says John Van Reenen, director of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics. “It’s one more tool in the toolbox.”

However, as implemented by Carney and his colleagues in the UK, guidance is hedged about with three separate “knockouts” – rates would rise if inflation, financial stability or the public’s inflation expectations got out of control. Moreover, the governor has stressed that the 7% unemployment rate is not a trigger for a rate rise, but a “staging post”, which will not necessarily prompt tighter policy.

During a somewhat fraught hearing with MPs on the cross-party Treasury select committee last month, in which Carney sought to clarify the policy, chairman Andrew Tyrie expostulated that it would be a hard one to explain “down the Dog and Duck”.

Financial markets have also been less than convinced. The yield, or effective interest rate, on British government bonds – partly a measure of investors’ expectations of future interest rates – has risen rather than fallen since the Bank’s announcement. That is partly because the latest data suggests the economic outlook is improving, but rapidly rising bond yields can be worrying because they tend to push up borrowing costs right across the economy. Carney, though, has insisted he is not concerned.

Meanwhile the pound has risen almost 4% against the dollar since Carney took the helm – again signalling markets expect rates to rise sooner than the Bank is indicating. Last week sterling hit a nine-month high, although it came off that peak as investors began to question if the UK’s recovery could continue at its current pace.

“I don’t think in practice forward guidance is very successful,” says Jamie Dannhauser of Lombard Street Research. He believes Carney has failed to convince the City he means business, because he has failed to back up forward guidance with action, such as the promise of a fresh round of quantitative easing – the Bank scheme that has pumped £375bn of freshly minted money into the economy.

“[Forward guidance] doesn’t work if you’re not willing to take on the markets if you don’t get your way,” says Dannhauser.

David Blanchflower, a former member of the MPC, is more blunt: “He looks already, within a hundred days, to have lost control. Bond yields are rising, the pound is rising like mad, and they’ve got no response.”

He argues that the hedged nature of the new policy is likely to reflect “horse-trading” between Carney and his fellow MPC members. Unlike in Canada, where what the central bank governor says goes, decision-making on the MPC is by vote. With a recovery now under way, its various members are known to have differing views on what are the most pressing risks to the economy.

Another former MPC member said: “Had I been on the MPC I would have let him do it [forward guidance], because I don’t think it does any particular harm; but I don’t think it does much good either.”

It’s not just the Bank’s approach to monetary policy that has changed on Carney’s watch. When outgoing deputy governor Paul Tucker, who missed out on the top job, leaves for the US later this month, it will mark the latest in a number of personnel changes that are starting to make Carney’s Bank look quite different from Lord (Mervyn) King’s.

Blue-blooded banker Charlotte Hogg joined as the Bank’s new chief operating officer, a post that didn’t exist under the old regime, on the same day as Carney. Meanwhile Tucker will be replaced by former Treasury and Foreign Office apparatchik Sir Jon Cunliffe. With long-serving deputy governor Charlie Bean due to leave early in 2014, Carney will be given another opportunity to bring in a new broom.

Insiders say the atmosphere in the Bank’s Threadneedle Street headquarters has already changed. Carney is often seen eating lunch in the canteen or showing visitors around. His approach is less hierarchical than that of King, who was derided as the “Sun King”, by former chancellor Alistair Darling – though Carney is said to be no keener on intellectual dissent than his predecessor.

He will need all the allies he can get both inside and outside the Bank, if he is to deal successfully with what many analysts see as the greatest threat facing the economy: the risk that an unsustainable bubble is starting to inflate in Britain’s boom-bust housing market.

Carney and his colleagues on the Bank’s Financial Policy Committee (FPC), the group tasked with preventing future crashes which partly overlaps with the MPC, have new powers to rein in mortgage lending if they believe a bubble is emerging, and the governor has said he won’t hesitate to use them.

But the FPC is untested and largely unknown to the public, and bubbles are notoriously hard to spot. Using the FPC’s influence to choke off the supply of high loan-to-value mortgages, for example, would be hugely controversial at a time when large numbers of would-be buyers have been frozen out of the market. Meanwhile, the government’s extension of the Help to Buy scheme, with details to be laid out on Tuesday, is likely to increase the demand for property, potentially pushing up prices.

Van Reenen warns that if property prices do take off, Carney could find himself in an unenviable position. “We have this terrible problem in this country that house prices have got completely out of kilter with incomes. I would be very reluctant to see interest rates start pushing up. Using other methods, such as being tougher on Help to Buy, and trying to do things through prudential regulation is better – but the fundamental thing is lack of houses, and Carney can’t do anything about that.”

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Greece ‘backsliding in democracy’ in face of joblessness, social unrest, corruption and disillusion with politicians, says thinktank. The report, commissioned by the European parliament, noted that Greece was the most corrupt state in the 28-nation bloc…

 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Greece’s democracy in danger, warns Demos, as Greek reservists call for coup” was written by Helena Smith in Athens, for The Guardian on Thursday 26th September 2013 19.27 UTC

No country has displayed more of a “backslide in democracy” than Greece, the British thinktank Demos has said in a study highlighting the crisis-plagued country’s slide into economic, social and political disarray.

Released on the same day that judicial authorities ordered an investigation into a blog posting by an elite reservist group linked to Greece’s armed forces calling for a coup d’etat, the study singled out Greece and Hungary for being “the most significant democratic backsliders” in the EU.

“Researchers found Greece overwhelmed by high unemployment, social unrest, endemic corruption and a severe disillusionment with the political establishment,” it said. The report, commissioned by the European parliament, noted that Greece was the most corrupt state in the 28-nation bloc and voiced fears over the rise of far-right extremism in the country.

The report was released as the fragile two-party coalition of the prime minister, Antonis Samaras, admitted it was worried by a call for a military coup posted overnight on Wednesday on the website of the Special Forces Reserve Union. “It must worry us,” said a government spokesman, Simos Kedikoglou. “The overwhelming majority in the armed forces are devoted to our democracy,” he said. “The few who are not will face the consequences.”

With tension running high after a crackdown on the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, a supreme court public prosecutor demanded an immediate inquiry into who may have written the post, which called for an interim government under “the guarantee of the armed forces”.

The special forces reservist unit who issued the social media call – whose members appeared in uniform to protest against a visit to Athens by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel – said Greece should renege on the conditions attached to an international bailout and set up special courts to prosecute those responsible for its worst financial crisis in modern times. Assets belonging to German companies, individuals or the state should be seized to pay off war reparations amassed during the Nazi occupation.

Underscoring the social upheaval that has followed economic meltdown, the blog post argued that the government had violated the constitution by failing to provide adequate health, education, justice and security.

Insiders said the mysterious post once again highlighted the infiltration of the armed forces by the extreme right. This week revelations emerged of Golden Dawn hit squads being trained by special forces commandos.

Fears are growing that instead of reining in the extremist organisation, the crackdown on the group may ultimately create a backlash. The party, whose leaders publicly admire Adolf Hitler and have adopted an emblem resembling the swastika, have held their ground in opinion polls despite a wave of public outrage over the murder of a Greek rap musician, Pavlos Fyssas, by one of its members. Golden Dawn, which won nearly 7% of the vote in elections last year and has 18 MPs in Athens’ 300-member parliament, has capitalised more than any other political force on Greece’s economic crisis. “Much will depend on how well it will withstand the pressure and they are tough guys who seem to be withstanding it well,” said Giorgos Kyrtos, a political commentator.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Polls point to grand coalition between Angela Merkel’s CDU, Bavarian sister party the CSU and the Social Democrats. One of Europe’s most important elections in years will be likely to go to the wire as the closeness of the contest becomes clear…

 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “German election goes to the wire with no clear winner in sight” was written by Kate Connolly in Berlin, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 18th September 2013 11.21 UTC

The final stretch of the German general election is turning into a nail-biting race between the main parties, with latest polls showing that neither Angela Merkel‘s conservatives together with her liberal coalition partner, the FDP, nor a leftwing-Green party alliance is set to obtain an overall majority.

The opinion polls indicate that one of Europe’s most important elections in years will go to the wire, with the most likely outcome to be a so-called grand coalition between the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, together with the Social Democrats (SPD).

The poll by the Forsa Institute put the CDU on 39%, the SPD on 25%, and the liberal Free Democrats on 5%, the threshold needed for it to get into parliament.

The Left (Linke) is on 10%, and the Green party on 9%.

Arithmetically the possibilities would be a grand coalition or a conservative-Green union, though the latter is unlikely, having more or less been ruled out by those involved.

As the closeness of the contest became clear, all parties were scrambling on Wednesday to try to garner the support of the large number of undecideds, estimated to be up to a third of voters.

The CDU was keen to warn its voters that splitting their two votes – a “local” vote for a constituency MP, and a second for the party list – would risk huge losses for the CDU.

The party had its fingers burned at a regional poll in Lower Saxony in January when so many second votes were given to the FDP that the CDU was narrowly defeated.

The FDP, meanwhile, whose survival in parliament is in grave doubt after it failed by a considerable margin to enter the Bavarian assembly in last Sunday’s election, was canvassing CDU voters to “lend” their second vote to the FDP to ensure a continuation of the conservative-FDP alliance. It was also trying to rally its core supporters by wheeling out its former star and foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher.

The SPD, buoyed by a solid if not spectacular result in Bavaria, was also trying desperately to motivate its core voters, particularly as experience shows the higher the voter turnout is, the better its prospects have been. The SPD’s leadership has been gathering in recent days to discuss its position in a grand coalition, as its chances of re-entering government loomed ever larger.

An unknown quantity remains the Alternative für Deutschland, a new Eurosceptic party. Although polls show it is expected to get just 3%, analysts say the party should not be underestimated, not least because of the 1 million clicks its YouTube campaign video has received, and the €430,000 of donations it collected just last weekend. The party could yet benefit from the high number of undecided voters, and the growing number of “closet” anti-Europeans.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.