Commodities

So far, 2016 has seen some dramatic falls already, but Bank of Japan’s negative interest rates put some hope back into the global economy. The yen fell and markets reacted positively to the news of more support from a major central bank…

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Global markets end tumultuous month on a high” was written by Justin McCurry, Dominic Rushe and Katie Allen, for The Guardian on Friday 29th January 2016 20.24 UTC

Global markets have ended a difficult month on a stronger note after the Bank of Japan stepped in to boost its economy with negative interest rates.

However, weak economic growth figures in the US underscored the scale of a global slowdown that has rattled investors.

Policymakers at Japan’s central bank stunned markets with a narrow vote to impose a 0.1% fee on deposits left with the Bank of Japan (BoJ) – in effect a negative interest rate. The central bank was spurred into action as volatile markets, flagging global growth and a downturn in China threatened major economies around the world.

In the US, news that the economy barely grew in the final three months of 2015 prompted speculation that its central bank would rein in plans to raise interest rates this year, having tightened borrowing costs for the first time in almost a decade in December. GDP rose at an anaemic annual rate of 0.7% as consumers and businesses cut back on spending, while US exports were hurt by weaker overseas markets.

Rob Carnell, economist at ING Financial Markets, said: “All in all, these GDP data support the sense given by recent monthly numbers that the US economy lost momentum into the end of 2015. We are struggling to see how this story is reversed in the coming quarters.”

Stock market investors were cheered by the prospect of US interest rates rising at a slower pace and by the Japanese move, which followed the similarly aggressive precedent set by the European Central Bank (ECB) in June 2014. The negative rate is designed to encourage commercial banks to use excess reserves – which they normally keep with the central bank – to lend to businesses instead.

The radical intervention provided an immediate boost to stock markets around the world after a dramatic start to the year that saw trillions of dollars wiped off their value in a matter of days. On Friday, the FTSE 100 in London closed up 2.6% at 6,084, to be back within a whisker of its starting level for 2016 of 6,242. That rise was mirrored around European bourses and followed a rally in Asian stock markets, where Japan’s Nikkei jumped 2.8% to a two-week high. At the time of the London close, Wall Street was also higher, with the Dow Jones industrial average up 1.7%.

Chinese shares also rallied following the Japanese rate move but still suffered their biggest monthly fall for seven years. The Shanghai Composite Index has lost 22.6% since the start of the year.

The surprise negative rates decision came just days after the BoJ’s governor, Haruhiko Kuroda, suggested he had dismissed any drastic easing measures to boost business confidence.

On Friday, the bank said it had not ruled out a further cut. “The BoJ will cut the interest rate further into negative territory if judged as necessary,” it said in a statement.

It said the move was intended to lessen the risk to Japanese business confidence from turbulence in the global economy, a week after data showed the Chinese economy had grown at its slowest pace for a quarter of a century in 2015.

The ECB held back from injecting more electronic cash into markets at its meeting this month but it too fired up share prices with a promise to consider more action in March.

The prospect of central banks pumping more stimulus into a struggling global economy has also helped stabilise oil prices. Brent crude, which earlier in January hit a 13-year low below $28 a barrel, stood at about $33.86 on Friday. It is still down 30% from a year ago.

Highlighting global unease about the global outlook following China’s slowdown, gold prices have gained almost 5% in January.

Friday’s estimate of US GDP from the Commerce Department was less than half the 2% annual growth rate in the third quarter and was the weakest showing since a severe winter reduced growth to a 0.6% annual rate in the first quarter of 2015.

Economists cautioned that this early estimate could yet be revised but said it still pointed to global headwinds buffeting the world’s biggest economy and suggested the US Federal Reserve would not go ahead with all four interest rate rises slated for this year. Some said the latest signs of a US slowdown left the US central bank looking unwise after December’s rate rise.

“The GDP growth slowdown sheds a rather critical light on the Fed’s decision to raise interest rates in December,” said Nina Skero, economist at the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

“For the sake of credibility, it is unlikely that the Fed will reverse its December decision, but rates are likely to stay at their current level until 2017.”

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USA 

U.S. dollar strengthens along with emerging market currencies, euro and pound fall, and Wall Street extends gains following better-than-expected U.S. consumer confidence numbers, as markets reopen after the Christmas holiday break…

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Global markets climb on rising US confidence and higher oil prices – live” was written by Katie Allen and Julia Kollewe (now), for theguardian.com on Tuesday 29th December 2015 16.17 UTC

On Monday, the rouble hit its lowest level this year, pressured by sliding oil prices. The Russian economy is heavily reliant on crude and natural gas, which together account for almost half of state revenue.

But today, the Russian currency has recovered, boosted by higher oil prices and a Bloomberg report that former Russian finance minister and investor favourite Alexei Kudrin is in talks with Vladimir Putin about returning to a senior post to help deal with the country’s worsening economic troubles.

Let’s take a look at currency markets. The US dollar is up against the euro and other major currencies, but has slipped against the Russian rouble, which has been been lifted by higher oil prices. Brent crude is nearly 3% higher on the day.

Investors are snapping up riskier assets, including stocks and emerging market currencies, on the back of the rally in oil prices. This has hurt the euro, which is regarded as a safer currency, given its low yield.

Away from the markets, here’s some good news for UK consumers. Companies that plague householders with nuisance phone calls and texts face fines totalling more than £1m this year and next, a government watchdog has warned after tripling the financial punishment for rogue callers in 2015, our consumer affairs correspondent Rebecca Smithers writes.

The information commissioner’s office received about 170,000 complaints in 2015 from people who had received nuisance calls and texts – a slight decline on last year, when the total was 175,330.

You can read our full story here.

Nuisance call firms

Nuisance call firms Photograph: Richard Pohle/The Times/PA

The most recent fine came earlier this month when the ICO fined the Telegraph Media Group £30,000 for sending hundreds of thousands of emails on the day of the general election urging readers to vote Conservative, breaking the rules around direct marketing.

Here is a list of other fines imposed this year:

  • A record £200,000 fine in September to Home Energy & Lifestyle Management Ltd (Helms), a solar panels company that made 6m nuisance calls to householders.
  • A £130,000 fine in October to Pharmacy 2U Ltd, a company that was selling customer details to postal marketing companies. Buyers of the details included a health supplements company cautioned for misleading advertising.
  • A £90,000 fine in November to Nuisance Call Blocker Ltd for making unsolicited marketing calls to sell cold-call-blocking devices. The Poole-based company was telephoning people to sell a call-blocking service and device to stop the same type of calls the company itself was making.
  • A £80,000 fine to UKMS Money Solutions Ltd, a PPI claims firm that sent 1.3m spam text messages to mobile phone numbers it had bought from list brokers.

Updated

Gold has benefited from the rally in oil prices, but gains were limited by a stronger dollar. Spot gold edged up 0.1% to $1,070.05 an ounce in thin trading.

The precious metal is still on course for its third year of losses, pressured by the prospect for more rate hikes in the US. It is likely to end the year nearly 10% lower from the previous year, mainly due to expectations that higher US interest rates will hit demand for gold.

ABN Amro analyst Georgette Boele said:

Gold’s down trend is likely to continue throughout 2016…. there are going to be more US rate hikes than the market is anticipating the next year.”

Brent crude is nearly 3% higher, rising more than a dollar to $37.70, after hitting 11-year lows.

Here is Connor Campbell again, financial analyst at Spreadex:

A slightly better than expected goods trade deficit (at $60.5bn against the $60.9bn anticipated, but still greater than last month’s $58.4bn) and a much better than forecast CB consumer confidence figure helped the Dow Jones open at, and maintain, a 170 point jump this Tuesday. That leaves the US index at a 12 day high, and with a slim chance of edging into the green in terms of year-long growth before the end of trading on Thursday.

This has given a further boost to eurozone stocks, already buoyant on the rising oil price. Germany’s Dax is nearly 180 points, or 1.66%, ahead, while France’s CAC has gained almost 70 points, or 1.45%.

The FTSE 100 index in London is some 33 points ahead, or 0.5%.

Campbell says:

The FTSE likely would have been higher if wasn’t for the gains made by its housing sector being effectively negated by the Scrooge-like commodity stocks and a renewed slide from the supermarket sector. News that the sale of its pharmacy business to Celesio would be undergoing an in-depth investigation, as ordered by the CMA, caused a specific headache for Sainsbury’s [down 1.2%].

More generally, news that Amazon intends to substantially expand its grocery delivery service Pantry in the New Year caused the likes of Tesco and Morrisons to tumble, with the online-only Ocado Group [plunging more than 4%] especially spooked by the announcement.”

Here is our story on Amazon.

Adam Button, currency analyst at Forex Live, says about the rise in US consumer confidence:

It’s strong but still well below where it was in September. The revision to the November reading meant it was the worst since July, not the worst since Sept 2014.”

Stocks on Wall Street are extending gains on the better-than-expected US confidence numbers, with the Nasdaq and the Dow Jones up around 1% and the S&P 500 0.8% ahead.

Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board, said:

Consumer confidence improved in December, following a moderate decrease in November. As 2015 draws to a close, consumers’ assessment of the current state of the economy remains positive, particularly their assessment of the job market.

Looking ahead to 2016, consumers are expecting little change in both business conditions and the labor market. Expectations regarding their financial outlook are mixed, but the optimists continue to outweigh the pessimists.”

The monthly survey is conducted for the Conference Board by Nielsen. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was 15 December.

You can read the full consumer confidence report here.

US confidence improves

The latest US consumer confidence numbers are out. The Conference Board consumer confidence index improved to 96.5 in December, from a revised 92.6 in November, beating expectations of a reading of 93.5.

Updated

Barclays Capital agrees $13.75m US settlement over mutual funds

Staying on the other side of the Atlantic for the moment, the US regulator FINRA has settled with Barclays Capital over mutual funds. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has ordered Barclays Capital to pay $13.75m for unsuitable mutual fund transactions and related supervisory failures.

The British bank’s investment banking arm will have to pay more than $10m in compensation, including interest, to affected customers, and has been fined a further $3.75m by the regulator. It said in a statement:

FINRA found that from January 2010 through June 2015, Barclays’ supervisory systems were not sufficient to prevent unsuitable switching or to meet certain of the firm’s obligations regarding the sale of mutual funds to retail brokerage customers….

In concluding this settlement, Barclays neither admitted nor denied the charges, but consented to the entry of FINRA’s findings.”

You can read the statement in full here.

Updated

Wall Street opens higher

Shortly after the opening bell on Wall Street, shares are higher, mirroring a rally in oil prices.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq index is up 0.7%, the Dow Jones industrial average is up 0.9% and the S&P 500 has added 0.8%.

In the UK, the FTSE 100 is up 0.6% while Brent crude is up 2% at $37.4, creeping further asway from an 11-year low hit last week.

US house price inflation edges up

Homes for sale

Figures just out in the US suggest home prices there rose at a slightly faster pace in October compared with September and a touch above economists’ forecasts.

The S&P/Case Shiller index of 20 metropolitan areas rose 5.5% on a year earlier in October. That was faster than 5.4% inflation for single-family home prices in September and beat the forecast for 5.4% in a Reuters poll of economists.

The survey authors said San Francisco, Denver and Portland continue to report the highest year-over-year gains among the 20 cities with another month of double-digit price increases of 10.9% for all three.

Commenting on the latest report [PDF], David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices says:

“Generally good economic conditions continue to support gains in home prices.

“Among the positive factors are consumers’ expectations of low inflation and further economic growth as well as recent increases in residential construction including single family housing starts.”

He also highlights the impact on sentiment among potential homebuyers from the US central bank’s move to raise interest rates earlier this month – the first increase for almost a decade:

“The recent action by the Federal Reserve raising the Fed funds target rate by 25 basis points and spreading expectations of further increases during 2016 are leading some to wonder if mortgage interest rate might rise. Typically, increases in short term interest rates lead to smaller increases in long term interest rates … From May 2004 to July 2007, the Fed funds rate moved up from 1.0% to 5.25%; over the same period, the mortgage rate rose from about 6% to 6.75% during a sustained tightening effort by the Federal Reserve. The latest economic projections published by the Fed following the recent rate increase suggest that the Fed funds rate will be around 2.6% in September 2017 compared to a current rate of about 0.5%. These data suggest that potential home buyers need not fear runaway mortgage interest rates.”

US mortgage rates and the Fed funds rate

Competition watchdog to probe Sainsbury’s pharmacy sale

Tablets

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the UK has confirmed it is referring the sale of Sainsbury’s pharmacy business for an in-depth investigation.

In a statement, the CMA says the proposed acquistion of the business by Celesio, the owner of Lloyds Pharmacy, will be probed further after Celesio had failed to address the watchdog’s concerns about competition being affected.

The CMA says:

The CMA’s initial investigation identified 78 local areas where customers may be affected by a loss of competition between Lloyds Pharmacy (a Celesio subsidiary) and Sainsbury’s pharmacies. The CMA also indicated that in other local areas it had been unable to reach a positive conclusion on whether the merger gives rise to a realistic prospect of a substantial lessening of competition.

Celesio has not offered any undertakings in lieu and the CMA will therefore now refer the merger.

A decision on the merger will be made by a group of independent panel members supported by a case team of CMA staff. The deadline for the final report will be 13 June 2016.

Sainsbury’s announced back in July that it had sold its 281-store pharmacy business to Celesio for £125m.

Under the deal, Lloyds will rent out and run Sainsbury’s 277 in-store pharmacies and take over four located in hospitals.

More pressure on Britain’s big supermarkets

Groceries

The focus will be firmly on retailers’ shares in coming days as the trading updates from the crucial Christmas season roll in.

We already know Britain’s supermarkets have been struggling as shopping habits change and as discounters like Lidl and Aldi take market share and intensify a fierce price war. Now Amazon is preparing to crank up the pressure on grocers by dramatically expanding the range of food products it sells.

My colleague Graham Ruddick has been talking to Christopher North, UK boss of the online retailer. North says Amazon plans to expand its Pantry service rapidly in the new year.

Here’s the full story:

Markets edge up, Wall St looks to open higher

On Wall Street the US futures market is pointing to a higher open, helped by a modest rise in oil prices, traders say.

In the UK, the FTSE 100 is up 0.4%, or 24 points, at 6278. Housebuilders are among the biggest risers while the miners again feature among the biggest fallers as aluminium and copper prices head lower.

Connor Campbell, analyst at spread betting company Spreadex highlights that the FTSE is underperforming its European peers:

“Whilst thin(ish) trading volumes appear to be enhancing whatever nascent positive sentiment there is in the eurozone, allowing the DAX and CAC to stretch out their legs to hit fresh 20-day highs, the FTSE hasn’t been so lucky this Tuesday morning.

“Despite a strong set of housing stocks (Persimmon and Berkeley Group leading the charge), lifted by both news of record high UK prices and the potential windfall from the cost of rebuilding and repairing the numerous homes damaged in the northern floods, and a stable oil price, the UK index is struggling to match its Eurozone peers, hampered by a still grumpy mining sector. There are no real signs that the latter issue could turn around this afternoon… As ever those same commodity stocks that have plagued the FTSE throughout 2015 are trying to ensure it ends the year not with a bang but a whimper.”

Saudi stocks hit after oil plunge swells deficit

Aramco Oil Refinery in Saudi Arabia.

Aramco Oil Refinery in Saudi Arabia. Photograph: MyLoupe/UIG via Getty Images

The plunge in oil prices this year has taken its toll on Saudi Arabia’s state coffers and today the fallout is being fell in its stock market.

Late on Monday, Saudi Arabia announced plans to cut government spending and reform its finances after the drop in oil prices resulted in a record annual budget deficit of nearly $98bn (£66bn).

The the world’s top crude exporter ran a deficit of 367bn riyals ($97.9bn) in 2015, or 15% of gross domestic product, officials said.

Today, the Saudi stock index dropped 3% in early trading and is currently down around 1.5% as traders digest the prospect of spending cuts and tax rises in the biggest shake-up to economic policy there for more than a decade. The finance ministry is also changing subsidies for water, electricity and petroleum products over the next five years.

Saudi Arabia’s stock index:

Saudi Arabia's stock market

Brent crude is still just about eking out some gains today after Monday’s sell-off. It is currently up around 0.3% or 0.1 cents to $36.7 per barrel. It is not far off an 11-year low of $35.98 hit last week.

There are signs that the global glut of oil will deepen in 2016 as a market already awash with oil from the two biggest suppliers – Saudi Arabia and Russia – receives additional supply from the lifting of sanctions against Iran and the ending of a 40-year US export ban.

Time for a quiz?

A turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce.

A turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

Trading volumes are particularly thin on European markets today and it seems many (sensible) people have taken a few days off between Christmas and the New Year. For those who are in the office today, dare we suggest the holiday lull might offer a chance to take an end of year quiz or two while you tuck into your turkey sandwiches.

We’ll keep it strictly business-related:

There is, of course, our own very broad business quiz covering (almost) everything from Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut bars to Libor-rigging and Greece’s brush with Grexit:

If central banks are your thing, this is from Bank Underground, a blog for Bank of England staff:

Deloitte’s chief economist, Ian Stewart, set the quiz for newspaper City AM. The questions are notably offbeat, including one on the world’s “most sleep-friendly airport”:

The BBC’s business team has put together these 10 questions, including some typically flowery Yanis Varoufakis quotes:

New floods threaten the UK with Storm Frank on the way and as we reported earlier, estimates of the costs so far are already in the billions.

For live coverage of the flooding and its fallout, you can follow our blog here:

While accountants have sought to put a figure on the cost of damage so far, economists note that counting up the economic impact overall is a very tricky task.

Howard Archer, economist at the consultancy IHS Global Insight, sends through these comments explaining that damage from extreme weather can dent some spending in the short term but then boost other areas of spending, notably repair work, further out:

https://twitter.com/HowardArcherUK/status/681082677676621824

“In purely economic/GDP costs, the net overall impact of the floods will be limited. There will be some near-term hit to the economy (but even this will be relatively limited given the overall size of the economy) but this will be offset by some gains further out). But this will not tell the whole story by a long way – especially for the poor individual people and businesses that are affected.

“Looking at the extent of the flooding, it could well shave 0.2-0.25 percentage point off GDP growth in the near term. As the flooding is occurring late on in the fourth quarter, some of this negative impact is likely to occur in the first quarter of 2016.

“This is the consequence of businesses not being able to open, loss of agricultural output, people not being able to get to the shops, travel etc. There is also the cost to insurance companies. There is also the loss of work from those people not actually able to get to work.

“However, damage to personal property does not affect GDP growth, although it is obviously a disaster for the poor people involved. And GDP measures do not capture the stress that the people/businesses affected incur.

“Further out there will be some boost to GDP growth through the construction work that will be generated by major repair work to buildings and infrastructure and replacement buildings. There will also be a positive impact to growth coming from the replacement purchases of furnishings, household goods etc lost or damaged during the flooding.

“The boost to growth from the construction work and replacement purchases will be spread out, but some will likely start occurring in the first quarter of 2016 which will at least partly offset the hit to activity at the start of the quarter.”

New record for UK house prices

  • The prospect of stamp duty changes in April has prompted a rush into the UK property market from buy-to-let investors and helped lift the average UK house price above £230,000 mark for first time, according to one estate agent chain today.
  • Haart, the UK’s largest independent estate agent, says the average UK house price was up 3.7% in a month and 13.4% on the year to reach £231,857 in November.
  • London property prices saw the fastest monthly increase for six months, up 3.4% to £525,780.
  • Overall, the number of new buyers rose 7.5% on a year earlier. There were signs, however, that the buy-to-let rush and related price rises were deterring first-time buyers from the housing market. The number of first-time buyers declined 7% on the month, haart said, using figures from some 100 branches around the UK.

Its chief executive Paul Smith comments:

“UK house prices rose 13.4% annually and 3.7% on the month to break records again in November. This is the steepest monthly and annual increase on record and follows a surge in registrations from buy-to-let investors since the Autumn Statement in anticipation of the 3% stamp duty surcharge which is effective from the 1st of April 2016. This could mean the stamp duty payable on a property worth £275,000 could rise from £3,750 to £12,000.

“Although first-time buyer house prices have remained relatively stable, up just 1.1% in the last month, I expect these to shoot up over the coming months as first-time buyers face fierce competition from buy-to-let investors. The pressure is already being felt by many with demand among first-time-buyers already down 7% in the last month alone. While first-time buyers may face a tough couple of months, once the stamp duty changes come into effect in April, demand from buy-to-let investors is likely to recede so we should see a recovery in prices at this level.”

Deutsche Bank shares are up this morning after news it is selling its 20% stake in Beijing’s Hua Xia Bank, making it the latest Western business to pare back its links to China.

As Reuters reports, Deutsche is selling the stake to Chinese insurer PICC Property and Casualty Co in a deal worth up to $4bn (£2.69bn).

It is the latest move in the German bank’s drastic restructuring by new chief executive, John Cryan.

Shares in Deutsche are up 2.4% while the wider German Dax index is up 1.6%.

High street banks.

As Britain’s big banks carry on with long task of patching up their reputations, they have new report cards to pore over from the body set up to improve standards in the wake of the Libor-rigging crisis.

Dame Colette Bowe, chair of the Banking Standards Board (BSB), has likened the assessments of the behaviour and culture inside the major banks to the reports delivered by auditors, which are signed off by the partner at the accountancy firm which has assessed their books and is included in their annual reports. The BSB will publish its own annual report in the spring.

The first such set of report cards have been sent to the founder members: Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander and Standard Chartered and Nationwide Building Society.

There is also talk of making bankers swear an hippocratic oath in the way that doctors do but that seems to be some way off.

My colleagues Jill Treanor and Larry Elliott have the full story:

Fitness trackers

Fitness trackers Photograph: Katherine Anne Rose for the Observer

It looks like it was a very merry Christmas for Fitbit, the US-listed maker of wearable health monitors. Reports that its app topped download charts on 25 December suggest plenty of people were unwrapping new gadgets from the firm on Christmas day and that helped lift its shares on Monday. They closed up 3.3%.

Back in November, Fitbit reported a 168% surge in revenues in its third-quarter earnings report.

In the UK, department store chain John Lewis recently highlighted Fitbits as it reported record Black Friday sales. Overall sales of wearable technology such as fitness monitors up 850%. Sales of Fitbit trackers were up 1,200%.

Puts a whole new spin on new year’s healthy living resolutions when your wristband can tell you when you are cheating…

Markets update: Oil steadies, FTSE bobs around unchanged mark

After its little Christmas break the FTSE 100 has re-opened this morning and struggling to find some direction. The bluechip index of London-listed shares is up around 8 points, that’s just 0.1%, at 6263.

That is down around 5% from where the index started 2015 at 6,566. With a sharp sell-off in global commodities, from copper to oil, providing much of the FTSE’s direction this year, it had climbed to a 2015 high of 7122.7 on 27 April but hit a low for 2015 of 5768.2 on 24 August. The index’s average level for the year is 6,592.6, according to Thomson Reuters.

Here’s how the FTSE looks for the year:

The FTSE 100 in 2015

The FTSE 100 in 2015 Photograph: Thomson Reuters

Oil prices meanwhile look set for further falls after already plunging this year. Brent crude shed another 1.3% on Monday but this morning the price per barrel has edged back up 0.5% to $36.8 with traders citing colder temperatures in Europe as boosting demand prospects.

Brent crude in 2015:

Brent crude in 2015

Brent crude in 2015 Photograph: Thomson Reuters

Elsewhere, Asian stock markets edged up overnight on the steadier oil price, there is a small boost to European stock markets from firmer financial stocks this morning and copper prices are falling again.

Introduction: Floods impact, FTSE re-opens

Good morning and welcome back to our live blog covering financial markets and business and economics news from around the UK and the world.

As the north of England and Scotland brace for the arrival of yet another storm later, towns, households and businesses are counting the cost of the flood damage so far.

The morning newspapers put varying figures on the devastation, citing estimates from insurers, accountants and economists.

Here is our own main story overnight that the cost of the winter floods across the UK will breach £5bn, with about a fifth of the bill falling on those with inadequate or non-existent insurance policies.

That’s according to accountants at KPMG, who warn the insurance policies of many of the worst hit would not cover the full losses. Here’s the full story:

As pressure mounts on the UK government over its spending on flood defences, the Mirror condemns a “£6bn Floods Shambles”:

The i newspaper goes with the £5bn figure and like others, highlights pressure on prime minister David Cameron:

We’ll be following updates on the expected economic impact of the storms throughout the day.

Also on the agenda, the FTSE 100 re-opens after the Christmas break and it is looking like the bluechip index will end the year pretty close to where it started it, after gains in the first half were wiped out by losses for heavyweight commodity-related stocks since the summer. The FTSE 100 has just opened up 0.1%.

After some choppy trading sessions for global oil prices, Brent Crude is fairly flat this morning, at $36.7, and its movements today will again be providing some direction to stock markets. It’s worth keeping in mind that thin holiday trading could make for some volatile moves.

We will also be keeping an eye out for updates from retailers as they tot up takings from the all-important Christmas shopping and sales season.

In the US later there are a handful economic releases: November’s trade balance (at 1.30pm GMT), October home prices from Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller (at 2pm GMT) and consumer confidence figures from the Conference Board (at 3pm GMT).

Updated

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A £500m rise in cars shipped abroad fails to ease prospects of huge UK trade deficit in third quarter fueled by strong pound plus eurozone woes and declining oil industry. The significant improvement seen in Q2 now considered as “only temporary”…

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Car exports cut monthly UK trade deficit but quarterly gap is growing” was written by Phillip Inman Economics correspondent, for theguardian.com on Friday 9th October 2015 11.47 UTC

A rise in car exports helped improve Britain’s trade deficit in August, according to official figures.

The monthly shortfall in the trade balance for goods narrowed to £3.3bn from £4.4bn in July. However, the UK was still heading for a huge deficit in the third quarter of the year after an upward revision to July’s shortfall.

Paul Hollingsworth, UK economist at Capital Economics, said: “Even if the trade deficit held steady in September, this would still leave the deficit in the third quarter as a whole at around £11bn, far higher than the £3.5bn deficit recorded in the second quarter.”

He said this suggests that net trade is probably making “a significant negative contribution to GDP” at the moment.

Hollingsworth warned that the strong pound and weakness in demand overseas as the US economy stuttered and the eurozone remained in the doldrums meant the government’s hopes of a significant rebalancing towards manufacturing exports would be dashed in the near term.

Alongside the £500m rise in car exports in August, the chemicals industry sent more of its production to the US, the ONS said. Total goods exports increased by 3.5% to £23.6bn in August 2015 from £22.8bn in July 2015.

But this positive news was offset by the continued decline in Britain’s oil industry, which has been a major factor holding back progress this year.

Lower production and the lower oil price have dented exports, and though oil imports are likewise cheaper, they continue to rise in volume.

The mothballing and subsequent closure of the Redcar steel plant could also have had an impact as the export of basic materials dived in August by more than 10%.

The services sector recorded an improvement in its trade balance, but the ONS pointed out that the UK continued to rely heavily on the financial services industry to pay its way in the world.

Figures for the second quarter showed that the surplus on trade in services was £22.8bn, of which almost half – £10.1bn – was contributed by banks, insurers and the fund management industry.

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said the narrowing of the deficit in August was welcome, but taking the July and August figures together pointed towards a deterioration.

“This confirms our earlier assessment that the significant improvement seen in the second quarter was only temporary.

“The large trade deficit remains a major national problem. This is particularly true when we consider that other areas of our current account, notably the income balance, remain statistically insignificant.”

Kern urged the government to adopt measures that will “secure a long-term improvement in our trading position”.

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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.

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FTSE 100 falls 2.4% as sovereign debt selloff drives UK government borrowing costs to 15-month high. Traders blame the sell-off on Ben Bernanke’s prediction on Wednesday night that the Fed will start to ease its bond-buying program later this year…

 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “World stock markets fall after Ben Bernanke hints at easing stimulus” was written by Graeme Wearden and Nick Fletcher, for theguardian.com on Thursday 20th June 2013 15.54 UTC

More than £48bn was wiped off the value of Britain's biggest companies as world stock markets fell sharply on Thursday and UK government borrowing costs hit a 15-month high.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index tumbled by 189 points, or nearly 3%, in its biggest percentage fall since September 2011, after the chair of the Federal Reserve gave the clearest signal yet that America's huge stimulus package will be slowed this year.

Fears that China's economy was running out of steam were also blamed for heavy losses across all major markets. On Wall Street, shares picked up where they left off on Wednesday night with the Dow Jones index falling 200 points in early New York trading, adding to Wednesday's 206-point decline as the global sell-off turned full circle.

Government sovereign debt also suffered losses, driving up the yield on Britain's 10-year gilts to 2.29%, a level last seen in March 2012.

Commodity prices also joined in the rout, with the gold price falling below the ,300 an ounce mark for the first time since September 2010.

Traders blamed the sell-off on Ben Bernanke's prediction on Wednesday night that the Fed will start to ease its bond-buying programme later this year, having seen evidence that the US economy is recovering.

"Ben Bernanke has put the cat well and truly among the pigeons with his statement that asset purchases would begin slowing by the end of this year," said Yusuf Heusen, sales trader at IG. "It does feel as if the Fed chairman has pulled the rug from underneath the stock market rally, and he certainly seems to have dealt a killer blow to gold."

Mining stocks led the fallers in London, following disappointing data from China where factory output fell for the second month running.

Matt Basi, head of trading at CMC Markets in London, said rumours of a clampdown on lending in China had also hit share prices.

The Fed is currently buying bn (£55bn) of US debt, and mortgage-backed securities, each month in an attempt to bring down America's unemployment rate. That regular surge of liquidity has helped reassure the markets, and also been blamed for fuelling asset prices in developing markets.

Amid the sell-off, the Indian rupee hit a record low against the US dollar, prompting the country's chief economic advisor to hint at government intervention to strengthen the currency.

"We aren't short of actions or instruments as and when the need arises," Raghuram Rajan told reporters in New Delhi. "We do not like volatility and will take actions when necessary."

Bernanke had already suggested last month that the Fed would start to slow, or 'taper', its bond-buying programme. But the Fed chair's upbeat assessment of the US's economic prospects appeared to catch investors off-guard.

"Virtually every financial asset has been sold. Equity, credit, bonds, commodities; all have suffered," said Mike Ingram, market strategist at BGC Brokers. "Ominously, the bonds of Europe's troubled periphery seem to have been singled out for particular punishment," Ingram added.

The yield, or interest rate, on Spanish, Greek, Italian and Portuguese shares all rose sharply.

The increase in the yield on Britain's 10-year gilts implies that it will cost more to service Britain's debts, with the country on track to borrow £120bn this year.

The French and German stock markets also fell by around 3%. Overnight, Japan's Nikkei fell 1.75%, while China's CSI300 slid 3.3% to a six-month low, and the Seoul stock market hit its lowest level in nearly 11 months.

The Turkish stock market fell into bear market territory, down over 21% since its peak last month.

Economist Paul Krugman suggested that Bernanke could be making a tragic mistake by preparing to 'taper' the Fed's bond purchases now, with employment levels still weak. He compared it to "snatching away the punch bowl before the party even starts".

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Gold hits levels last seen in April 2011. 3.5% fall to $1,410 following 5.8% fall on Friday. China GDP at 7.7% versus 8% expectations. Industrial production 8.9% against expected 10.1%. Brent crude hits nine-month low. US housing data disappoints…

 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Eurozone crisis as it happened: Gold slumps to a two-year low as China data disappoints” was written by Simon Neville and Nick Fletcher, for theguardian.com on Monday 15th April 2013 13.34 UTC

5.27pm BST

European markets fall as gold tumbles

With gold on the slide again – thanks to disappointing Chinese growth and fears of countries flooding the market by selling their reserves to boost their finances – stock markets were also under pressure. Michael Hewson, senior market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said:

Anyone hoping for a quiet start to the week in the lead up to this week’s G20 and IMF meetings got a rude awakening as European markets dropped sharply on the open in the wake of disappointing Chinese economic data which showed that economic growth for the first quarter only came in at 7.7%, well below expectations of a rise to 8%.

Mining stocks and commodity prices have got absolutely battered with gold prices falling though a key technical support level and silver prices also doing the same thing.

But by the close, many European markets had come off their worst levels:

• The FTSE 100 finished down 40.79 points at 6343.60, a 0.64% fall

• Germany's Dax dropped 0.41%

• France's Cac closed 0.5% lower

• Italy's FTSE MIB lost 0.96%

• Spain's Ibex fell 0.33%

• The Athens market dipped 0.11%

And with downbeat US manufacturing and housing data, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is currently down around 120 points.

On that note, it's time to close up for the evening. Thanks for your comments and we'll be back tomorrow.

5.23pm BST

Recently appointed Cypriot finance minister Haris Georgiades insists there is no anti-EU feeling in the country despite criticisms of the bailout terms.

In an interview with the Financial Times he said there was frustration at the remedy offered, but also a realisation that the problems were self-inflicted rather than coming from outsiders.

Cyprus's finance minister Haris Georgiades.  Photograph:  AFP/Getty Images/Yiannis Kourtoglou
Cyprus’s finance minister Haris Georgiades. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images/Yiannis Kourtoglou

Updated at 5.24pm BST

3.38pm BST

Portugal’s banks unlikely to need more capital says banking head

Portuguese banks may not need extra capital despite what a leading ratings agency suggested, according to the head of the country's Banking Association.

Moody's warned last week the country's banks might need an extra €8bn as non-performing loans had risen more than expected.

But Fernando Faria de Oliveira told Reuters that "nothing points to those figures" and at the moment there was no need for more capital. He said:

I respect Moody's but I don't believe we will need to raise such [an] amount of capital at all. We are confident about the solidity of Portuguese banks.

3.26pm BST

US housing data disappoints

The latest US data has added to the gloom engendered by disappointing Chinese growth figures and the continuing pressure on the gold price.

Following worst than expected New York manufacturing figures comes a downbeat US housing survey. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo index fell to 42 in April from 44 in March, the third dip in a row. Analysts had been expecting a small rise to 45. Builders reported increasing costs of materials and worries about the supply chain.

With that, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has added to opening losses and is now down nearly 100 points or around 0.7%.

3.15pm BST

More from Draghi:

3.09pm BST

There is not much new in Draghi's comments, according to Annalisa Piazza at Newedge Strategy:

In a nutshell, Draghi hasn't added much to what suggested in early April. The ECB is widely aware with problems with SMEs but it looks like it has no "magic wand" to solve the lack of transmission. Comments by Draghi suggest that some step in the direction of repairing SMEs lack of competitiveness have been made but it's not just the ECB policy that can work its way through the economy.

ECB president Mario Draghi addresses students at the University of Amsterdam. Photograph: AP/Peter Dejong
ECB president Mario Draghi addresses students at the University of Amsterdam. Photograph: AP/Peter Dejong

2.34pm BST

ECB Draghi speech in full

The European Central Bank has published a full copy of President Mario Draghi's speech. After a whimsical journey through Amsterdam's history and the crisis of 1763, he gave a stark warning:

In providing liquidity to our banking counterparties, we cannot and do not want to subsidise banks that are failing. Our liquidity support is not and should not be equity support. Likewise, in pricing out break-up risk in sovereign debt securities, we cannot and do not want to subsidise governments.

He added:

Unlike economies with a single fiscal authority or with a fully-fledged federal structure, the euro area comprises multiple sovereign states. The debt of each of these states has different liquidity and risk characteristics. In such a set-up there is no uncontroversial way to define the term structure of the risk-free rate. As a matter of fact, this means that there is no univocal measure of the term premium for the euro area as a whole.

The banking sector and the financial market of the euro area has become fragmented. This is harmful as the euro area is a bank-based economy. Around three quarters of firms’ financing comes from banks. So if banks in some countries will not lend at reasonable interest rates, the consequences for the euro area economy are severe.

And with that, I'm handing over to my colleague Nick Fletcher.

Updated at 3.10pm BST

2.23pm BST

More from Draghi's Amsterdam speech.

He says financial sector fragmentation in the eurozone has been receding but problems in the euro area's economic landscape still "loom large".

Mario Draghi met De Nederlandsche Bank President Klaas Knot (2nd L), Dutch PM Mark Rutte (centre L) and Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem (2nd R) in The Hague today. Photograph: REUTERS
Mario Draghi met De Nederlandsche Bank President Klaas Knot (2nd L), Dutch PM Mark Rutte (centre L) and Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem (2nd R) in The Hague today. Photograph: REUTERS

2.16pm BST

Draghi speech in Amsterdam – failing banks should not be supported

Over at the University of Amsterdam, ECB president, Mario Draghi, is giving a speech.

He said:

We do not want to support banks that are failing

Suggesting he has moved away from his position of unlimited funding to bolster struggling markets.

Here are tweets coming from the room

1.57pm BST

EU officials to give upbeat assessment to G20

EU officials are expected to tell the G20 finance ministers in Washington this week:

The euro area has made further progress in the implementation of its comprehensive crisis-response strategy.

With a

mild recovery setting in toward mid-2013 and strengthening in the second half of 2013 and in 2014.

That's according to Bloomberg who have seen a draft statement left over from a similar meeting in Dublin last Friday.

1.37pm BST

New York manufacturing data released

The pace of growth in manufacturing in New York state – an early indicator for the rest of the country – slowed more than expected.

The New York Federal Reserve's "Empire State" general business conditions index fell to 3.05, from 9.24 in Larch, short of forecasts of 7.

New orders dropped to 2.2 from 8.18, inventories improved to -4.55 from -5.68.

11.37am BST

Wealth tax to pay for EU bailouts?

The Telegraph has reported comments from Professor Peter Bofinger, an adviser to Angela Merkel, that he made in Der Spiegel.

In it, he suggests the rich in struggling eurozone countries, such as Spain and Italy, should face new property taxes instead of any future raids on depositors savings, as in Cyprus.

He told the German magazine:

The resourceful rich just move their money to banks in northern Europe and avoid paying.

Instead of taxing cash, European Union governments should in future target property and other, less mobile assets, he said.

For example, over the next 10 years, the rich should give up a portion of their assets.

The argument goes that the taxes should be used to fund future bailouts rather than relying on cash injections from the Troika. However, Merkel has yet to endorse the ideas put forward by Bofinger.

11.18am BST

10.54am BST

Eurozone trade surplus boost

The eurozone's trade surplus grew in February, but the positive balance was helped by lower demand for imports rather than export growth.

The trade surplus with €10.4bn in February, unadjusted, beating expectations of €3bn, and up from a €1.3bn surplus in February last year.

Eurozone exports were down 1.1% year-on-year in February, while imports were down by 7.1% year-on-year.
 
Seasonally-adjusted data show the trade surplus improved to €12bn in February, after dipping to €8.7bn in January from €10bn in December.

Howard Archer at IHS Global Insight said:

The eurozone is likely to have needed all the help it could get from net trade in the first quarter of 2013 as it looks highly likely that domestic demand contracted overall.
The eurozone will be fervently hoping that global growth improves as 2013 proceeds, thereby boosting exports and facilitating the single currency area’s exit from recession.

10.26am BST

Greek heart attacks increase

A new major study in Greece has found that heart attacks have increased during the economic crisis, giving an insight into the effects beyond monetary ones.

Open Democracy, which reports the findings, said heart attacks increased 29% after the crisis hit, compared with before, with women suffering hardest hit – up 39%. The researchers point out the unemployment rate for women is higher than men

Dr Emannouil Makaris, presenting his findings at a research talk at the American College of Cardiology’s annual meeting, said

Greek women have a higher unemployment rate than men, they are responsible for child care, and they also work outside the home – a formula for stress.

Unemployment is a stressful event and stress is connected with heart disease, but other issues also come with financial difficulties. In these times a lot of people do not have money to buy medications or go to their primary care doctor. The cost to society is high.

10.14am BST

Silver getting hit

10.11am BST

Sticking with gold, Pawelmorski has written an excellent blog post on the precious metal.

Here's an extract:

Gold – unlike bank deposits, equity or bonds, or even banknotes – it’s separate from the real economy; it’s what you invest in when you want to take a breather from what’s happening in the real economy. That’s actually only a sensible thing to do in pretty extreme circumstances. Gold returns are utterly crushed by equity markets in the long term – to a really astonishing degree for those economies where we have continuous equity markets. Compared with shares in pre-revolutionary China or pre-war Poland, gold returns look pretty good. Gold is less an index of how confident we are that our leaders a) want to b) know how to do the right thing as it is an index of how sure we are that they won’t completely and utterly screw the pooch.

So what can go wrong?

I’m sick of hearing about hyperinflation. The case for gold often starts off with a chart of narrow money or the Central Bank balance sheet, and skips over the (dead-in-the-water) dynamics of broad money. Economists like to use the parable of “helicopter money” (banknotes thrown from a helicopter), and sadly some people appear to be scanning the skies for scrip-dispensing helicopters. What’s actually happened is that the helicopter pilot suffered some nasty losses on US subprime debt and Greek Government bonds and is hoarding the new money, so it’s not having a lot of inflationary impact.

If inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon, hyperinflation is a political one. Without the political conditions – usually an-even-more-than-normally unpopular and illegitimate government – usually the harder choices do in fact get taken. Argentina and Russia (and Jamaica for that matter) defaulted on debt in local currency debt that they could print rather than face hyperinflationary consequences. Argentina and Iceland both imposed capital controls for similar reasons.

10.04am BST

10.01am BST

Gold reaction

So what has caused gold to fall 3% today, after a 5.3% fall on Friday?

Hitting a two-year low, gold, along with other commodities, have slumped.

Usually gold is invested in to hedge against inflation. Some bearish analysts have warning the past that it would be a good bet because of the fears of hyperinflation.

However, these haven't panned out.

Michael van Dulken at Accendo Markets said:

Gold took another leg down from its Friday weakness, although off its worst levels of 25 (2-year lows). Having decisively broken 18-month lows of 20 on Friday, this level could well revert to resistance on any rally attempt. Broker bearishness (optimistic on economic growth), uncertainty over duration of US Fed’s QE3 (again optimism on econ growth), ETF outflows and fears of Eurozone nations selling the metal to pay for bailouts all spooking markets.

A reminder – Cyprus said on Friday it would try and sell €400m-worth of its gold, leading to fears that other countries could turn to a gold selloff to fund its needs.

As RANSquawk points out, poor GDP numbers from China will temper inflation (as well as knock other commodity prices).

While, bad retail figures from the US last week, and a more determined effort by the eurozone to keep an eye on inflation means the need to hedge with gold looks less important by the day.

Joe Weisenthal wrote over at Business Insider:

So the collapse in gold is not about gold, but about vindication for a large corpus of belief and economic research, which has largely panned out. It's great that our economic elites know what they're talking about, and have the tools at their disposal to address crises without creating some new catastrophe.

Things aren't great in the economy, but the collapse/hyperinflation fears haven't panned out, and the decline in gold is a manifestation of that.

8.44am BST

Troika statement on Greek deal

The Troika group of lenders – the European Commission, ECB and IMF – have put out a statement on the agreement reached with Greece this morning.

You can read the statement in its entirety here, but in short, it's very much steady-as-she-goes missive.

The mission and the authorities agreed that the economic outlook is largely unchanged from the previous review, with continued prospects for a gradual return to growth in 2014, supported by inflation well below the euro area average and improved wage flexibility, which are helping to restore the competitiveness of the Greek economy.

It says debt reduction has been achieved, more autonomy has been given to tax collectors, tax evasion and corruption has been tackled.

It added:

The mission also discussed with the authorities progress in strengthening the social safety net, including through targeted employment and training programmes supported by the EU, pilot programmes to extend unemployment benefits and provide minimum income support, a programme to provide access to primary health care for the uninsured, and a scheme to reduce the financial burden on indebted low-income households which have been severely affected by the crisis.

8.22am BST

Greece/Troika meetings

Over in Athens, the Greek government has been meeting with the Troika group of lenders.

Finance minister Yiannis Stournaras told waiting reporters that a deal has been reacted on a review of the country's austerity programme, adding that the Cyprus crisis will not change Greece's macro-economic situation.

Finally, he revealed the cuts have seen a primary budget surplus this year, which will be used to pay down public debt.

8.17am BST

Gold to April 2011 levels

Spot gold prices continue to fall, hitting ,450 an ounce, the lowest level in two years.

8.12am BST

Mining companies down

Bang on time, the FTSE 100's biggest fallers on opening are all mining companies, reacting to the Chinese data and commodity price falls.

Randgold (down -4.9%), Fresnillo (down 3.8%), Polymetal (down 3.2%), Evraz (down 3.2%), Rio Tinito (down 3%), ENRC (down 2.1%), Anglo American (down 1.9%), Antofagasta (down 1.9%), BHP Billiton (down 1.6%) and Xstrata (down 1.6%)

8.06am BST

Key Chinese data disappoints

Good morning and welcome to another day of rolling coverage of the eurozone crisis.

After the excitement of Friday's finance ministers get-together in Dublin and Cameron and Merkel's weekend together, today is slightly quieter, but we wait to see if the tumbles in commodities continue. Gold fell to an 18-month low, with oil and silver both down too.

Overnight, disappointing numbers came out of China, with Q1 GDP at 7.7% missing expectations of 8% and down from 7.9% last time.

Industrial production in March fell from 9.9% to 8.9%, missing expectations of 10.1%.

However, retail sales remained strong at 12.4%, up from 12.3% in February.

Meanwhile, in Venezuela, results of the country's general election are through, but political uncertainly in the oil-rich country could also have an impact on commodities.

We will be keeping an eye on all the reaction to the results and any other events to break throughout the day.

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