eurozone

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.”

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USA 

Chinese finance minister: US must act fast. US Treasury secretary: Congress is ‘playing with fire’. Goldman Sachs: 4.2% wiped off US GDP without debt deal. The US AAA credit rating was downgraded by S&P two years ago after the last debt ceiling standoff…

 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “China warns US over debt ceiling, as markets fall again – live” was written by Graeme Wearden, for theguardian.com on Monday 7th October 2013 14.40 UTC

Oil price drops

The oil price is down today, with a barrel of Brent crude dropping by over one dollar to $108.44.

That doesn’t look to be related to the US standoff, though. Instead, it reflects relief that Tropical Storm Karen weakened over the weekend. That means oil work in the Gulf of Mexico is resuming, having been suspended a few days ago as Karen approached.

China’s warning to America to raise its debt ceiling swiftly comes as the issue becomes intertwined with Congress’s failure a week ago to agree a budget for the new fiscal year (triggering the partial government shutdown).

Terry Morris, senior vice president of National Penn Investors Trust Company in Pennsylvania, says the deadlock is a growing worry, telling Reuters:

Now you’ve got not only the budget but the debt ceiling and time is running out and everybody knows it..

The longer this goes on, the more the uncertainty, the closer the deadline and the more nervous investors are going to be.

Gold has risen to a one-week high, with the spot price gaining 1.3% to $1,327 a ounce.

Updated

Although shares are down on Wall Street, there’s no sign of panic in the US stock markets over the budget and debt ceiling deadlock.

Todd Horwitz of Average Joe Options is telling Bloomberg TV that traders don’t like the uncertainty caused by the ‘blowhards in Washington’, saying:

It’s not a panic selloff, it’s very controlled.

Horwitz added that trading volumes are light at the moment, but could pick up as the debt ceiling deadline approached

The closer we get to the 17th [October], the more action we’ll see.

Wall Sreet open: Dow falls

Shares are falling in New York as the echoes from the Wall Street opening bell fade away.

The Dow Jones industrial average is down 140 points in the first few minutes to 14931, a drop of almost 1%.

The other indices are also down, matching losses in Europe.

FTSE 100: down 51 points at 6403, – 0.8%

German DAX: down 73 points at 8549 ,- 0.85%

French CAC: down 28 points at 4136, -0.67%

Reaction to follow

Business is underway in Washington DC, with White Officials sticking to their position that President Barack Obama will not negotiate with congressional Republicans under the threat of a debt default.

Via Reuters:

“There has never been a period where you have a serious faction or a serious strategy by one political party … to use the threat of default as the main tactic in extracting policy,” White House National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling said at a Politico breakfast on Monday.

On asset class isn’t suffering from the looming debt ceiling today – US sovereign debt.

The price of 10-year Treasury bonds has actually risen this morning, showing stronger demand for America’s debt.

One-month bills are slightly weaker today, but are still changing hands at a yield (or rate of return) or just 0.147%. That doesn’t suggest bond traders are frantically dashing to sell them.

US debt is still being treated as a a place of safety, even though it’s at the centre of this particular storm.

Nick Dale-Lace, senior sales trader at CMC Markets, comments:

Ironically it seems one beneficiary of a risk off morning is US treasuries, with investors continuing to flock to the very bonds that are apparently at risk of default.

The ramifications of a default on bond markets are not clear cut, with much confusion about what the fallout would be given the dependency of the financial world on US debt markets. What are the legal triggers of such a default and are they irreversible? With every minute passed we edge closer to the unknown, and that is rarely good for the markets

US politicians get their chance to heed China’s chiding over the debt ceiling, when Congress returns to work today.

Both the House and the Senate will be in session, with votes scheduled for the afternoon.

However, none of the legislation on the table amounts to the ‘clean’ budget bill (stripped of cuts to the Affordable Care act) which the Democrats are demanding.

CBS’s News Mark Knoller is tweeting the state of play:

China warns US on debt ceiling crisis

China has raised the pressure on the US today, warning that time is running out to raise its debt ceiling.

Vice finance minister Zhu Guangyao told reporters in Beijing that America needs to take decisive steps to prevent hitting its debt limit in a fortnight’s time. The intervention came as European stock markets remained lower, on the seventh day of the US shutdown.

In the Chinese government’s first public comments on the deadlock, Zhu also urged Washington politicians to “learn lessons from history”. A reminder that the US AAA credit rating was downgraded by S&P two years ago after the last debt ceiling standoff.

Zhu said (quotes via Reuters):

The United States is totally clear about China’s concerns about the fiscal cliff.

We ask that the United States earnestly takes steps to resolve in a timely way before October 17 the political [issues] around the debt ceiling and prevent a U.S. debt default to ensure safety of Chinese investments in the United States and the global economic recovery

This is the United States’ responsibility.

As the biggest single holder of US debt, China would be in the front line to suffer if Treasury prices fell – and would obviously be hit if the US were to stumble into a technical default.

Beijing must have watched the deadlock in Washington with growing alarm (yesterday, Republicans continued to demand healthcare cuts as the Treasury Secretary warning Congress was playing with fire).

Analysts were already concerned about the lack of progress (round-up here). with Goldman Sachs warning of drastic cutbacks if America breaches the debt ceiling (details here).

Zhu’s warning added to the jitteriness in the City. Shares remain down across Europe’s trading floors, with the FTSE 100 down 50 points at 6402, a fall of 0.8%. The German and French stock markets are both down around 1%. Here’s a round-up:

Alastair McCaig, market analyst at IG, says there is an increasing ‘fear factor’ in the City as America moves closer to its debt ceiling:

The news that US politicians have again put self-interest ahead of the greater good of the country by failing to make any progress in sorting out the budget or tackling the debt ceiling will have surprised few.

As yet the US debt markets have remained calm but the closer we get to the mid-October deadline the less likely that is to remain the case.

And as mentioned earlier, the US dollar is still down against most major currencies. The pound has gained almost 0.5% to $1.608 so far today.

Updated

US showdown: What the experts are saying

Here’s a round-up of what City experts are saying about the deadlock in America over its budget talks, and the debt ceiling — which the US will hit on 17 October.

Louise Cooper of Cooper City:

As the disaster that is Washington continues, the world needs bond vigilantes to bring the political class to its senses. Sadly thanks to the Federal Reserve’s endless QE, that restraint and imposed market discipline is no longer in place. And that is dangerous. Without the market check, Washington is risking ruin.

So how are these “bond vigilantes” and how do they impose discipline on the ruling classes? They are simply the mass of investors in government debt who by their actions force governments back to the financial straight and narrow. If they think a Nation is spending too much without enough taxation, resulting in excessive deficits and ballooning debt, they will demand a higher interest rate. That is basic finance; higher risk is compensated by a higher return. So as a Nation’s debt rises rapidly, the nation has to pay higher interest rates. So bond yields – borrowing costs – rise. And that is the restraint imposed upon governments – borrowing becomes more expensive the more fiscally irresponsible the government becomes.

That is the check to stop politicians getting their country overly indebted.

And it is the same mechanism with irresponsible monetary policy too – a higher yield is required by investors to compensate for the loss in monetary value from inflation. So bond investors are really important for financially feckless nations, because they that drag the ruling classes back to sensible economic policies (by demanding higher interest rates).

But the problem is that the Federal Reserve is currently buying $85bn of bonds a month, manipulating America’s borrowing costs lower.

The Fed is the biggest player in the markets and if it wants bond yields down then few will bet they will go up. Thus there is no corrective mechanism. Without the Fed’s QE, the current Washington fiasco would have increased America’s borrowing costs and that would have helped to force politicians back to the negotiating table. It now looks likely that the Fed didn’t taper in September as it was concerned about the impact the shutdown would have on the economy. It is also likely that with no non farm payrolls figure being released on Friday, the Fed will not taper in October either.

Implicitly the Federal Reserve is bailing out the incompetency of Washington. The stick has been removed allowing the political class to play wild and threaten default.

Kit Juckes of Societe Generale

I have no vote and hope I am non-partisan in this debate but I think that this is a row about principles as much as about power, which argues for a drawn-out impasse, though the odds still favour last-minute resolution. A good question (from Joe Weisenthal) was what the Republicans would have used to justify the stalemate if Obamacare wasn’t there to argue over.

And while I am sure the GOP could have found a reason for disruptive politics, it also seems clear that Obamacare is too important to the President’s ‘legacy’ for him to compromise on that, while the right wing of the GOP is opposed on principle as much as anything else. But it’s also clear that the Republicans are
‘losing’ the public relations war. I don’t think that merely reflects my Twitter stream or choice of on-line reading.

The big winner of this mess will be Hilary Clinton. And that, in turn, means that a compromise, with tax cuts elsewhere, is likely to be found to get a deal through that allows the debt ceiling to be increased by 17 October.

Jane Foley of Rabobank

The rallying call of Republican House Speaker Boehner over the weekend that it is “time for us to stand up and fight” looks set to commit the shutdown of the US government into a second week.

The vote by Congress in favour of paying the government workers who has been sent home on leave will offset some concerns about the economic costs of the shutdown. Even so, with the October 17 deadline for a debt default looming, investors are likely to become increasingly nervous with every passing day.

Marc Ostwald of Monument Securities:

Shutdown Day 7 is unfortunately the theme for the day, and quite possibly for the week…

While mutterings ahead of the weekend suggested that Boehner said he would make sure that there was no default, and some hopeful whispers of a few Tea Party aligned members of the House softening their stance, positioning as the week starts appears to be even more entrenched.

The backlog of official US economic data is building quite rapidly with little obvious prospect of anything being published this week. One assumes that the end of week G20 meeting of finance ministers and central bank heads may have little else to discuss, though the protests about the US political impasse (assuming it has not been resolved) from other G7 and EM countries will be vociferous.

Elsa Lignos of RBC Europe:

The hard line on both sides has unsurprisingly been taken negatively by risky assets. The Yen and Swiss franc are outperforming, US equity futures are pushing down towards Thursday’s lows, while US Treasuries are still trading sideways.

It is still a case of waiting and watching on developments in Washington. Our US Strategists expect that the longer the government remains dark, the greater the likelihood that the shutdown and debt ceiling issues are resolved together, which would result in a better outcome

Investec Corporate Treasury

Some analysts have estimated that default is likely by November 1st when the Treasury Department is scheduled to make nearly $60 billion in payments to Social Security recipients, Medicare providers, civil service retirees, and active duty military service members.

With such a limited window of time available all eyes will be on the US this week to see if a resolution can be reached. In the meantime expect the US shutdown to dominate currency markets and be prepared for some volatility if a default starts to look more likely.

Updated

Greek budget predicts growth in 2014

Back to Greece, where the government has predicted a return to growth next year after a six-year slump.

The draft 2014 budget, announced this morning by deputy finance minister Christos Staikouras, also forecasts a surplus excluding debt financing costs. This is a crucial target for Athens as it aims to agree further assistance from its international partners.

Reuters has the details:

Greece will emerge from six years of recession next year, its draft 2014 budget projected on Monday, in one of the strongest signs yet that the country has left the worst of its crippling debt crisis behind.

The economy, which has shrunk about a quarter since its peak in 2007, will grow by 0.6% next year thanks to a rebound in investment and exports including tourism, the budget predicted. The economy is set to contract by 4 percent this year. Athens is also targeting a primary budget surplus of 1.6% of national output next year and is on track to post a small surplus this year.

Attaining a primary surplus – excluding debt servicing costs – is key to helping Athens secure debt relief from its international lenders.

“In the last three years Greece found itself in a painful recession with an unprecedented level of unemployment,” Deputy Finance Minister Christos Staikouras said as he unveiled the 2014 budget.

“Since this year the sacrifices have begun to yield fruit, giving the first signs of an exit from the crisis.”

These signs of recovery are encouraging hedge funds to buy stakes in Greek banks (see 9.12am) and fuelling rumours that Greece could swap some debt for new 50-year bond (see opening post).

The budget also shows that Greece will run a deficit of 2.4% (including debt costs). This will push its public debt to 174.5% of GDP, despite investors taking a haircut early last year.

How much damage would be caused if American politicians doesn’t raise the debt ceiling before the October 17 deadline?

Goldman Sachs has crunched the numbers, and told clients over the weekend that the Treasury would be forced into a drastic cutback in spending from the end of October which would wipe 4.2% off annualised GDP.

The research note (from Saturday, but still well worth flagging) showed how the Treasury is on track to hit its borrowing limit in two weeks.

After that point, the amount of money coming into the Treasury will equal only about 65% of spending going out, Goldman said. There are various ways that the US could play for time — such as prioritising some payments over others, or delaying payments altogether.

But officials would soon be forced to implement measures that would hurt growth badly, in a bid to avoid missing a debt repayment and triggering a downgrade to Selective Default status.

Here’s a flavour of the note:

If the debt limit is not raised before the Treasury depletes its cash balance, it could force the Treasury to rapidly eliminate the budget deficit to stay under the debt ceiling. We estimate that the fiscal pullback would amount to as much as 4.2% of GDP (annualized). The effect on quarterly growth rates (rather than levels) could be even greater. If this were allowed to occur, it could lead to a rapid downturn in economic activity if not reversed very quickly.

And more detail….

A very short delay past the October deadline—for instance, a few days—could delay the payment of some obligations already incurred and would create instability in the financial markets. This uncertainty alone could weigh on growth.

But a long delay—for example, several weeks—would likely result in a government shutdown much broader than the one that started October 1. In the current shutdown, there is ample cash available to pay for government activities, but the administration has lost its authority to conduct “non-essential” discretionary programs which make up about 15% of the federal budget.

By contrast, if the debt limit were not increased, after late October the administration would still have authority to make most of its scheduled payments, but would not have enough cash available to do so.

US deadlock hits euro investors

The US government shutdown debacle has hit investor confidence within the eurozone, according to the latest data from German research firm Sentix.

Sentix’s monthly measure of investor sentiment dropped to 6.1, from 6.5 in September. Analyst had expected the index to jump to 8.0, but it appears morale has suffered from the deadlock in Washington.

Sentix reported that investors’ current assessment of the United States, and the assessment of prospects in six-months time, has been noticeably damaged by the budget row and the debt ceiling fears. Its headline index for the US dropped to 16.8, from 24.8 last month.

Overall indices for the emerging markets regions rose, while those surveyed remain optimism for Japan’s prospects.

Over in Italy, Silvio Berlusconi is preparing to request a community service sentence, following his tax fraud conviction in August.

Berlusconi, whose efforts to bring down the Italian government (and reignite the eurozone crisis) failed last week, has now turned his attention to his legal troubles.

From Rome, Lizzy Davies has the story:

“Silent and humble manual tasks” are not something to which Silvio Berlusconi has ever felt naturally drawn. Before big business and politics he sold vacuum cleaners and sang on cruise ships.

Now, however, thanks to the Italian legal system, a very different kind of activity awaits him. His lawyer has said he intends to ask to serve his sentence for tax fraud in a community service placement.

Franco Coppi said that barring any last-minute changes, the former prime minister’s legal team would submit the request to the Milan courts by the end of this week. It would be then up to the judges to decide how to proceed.

More here: Silvio Berlusconi to request community service for tax fraud sentence 

Former Greek minister convicted over money-laundering charges

Court drama in Athens this morning, where a former defence minister has been found guilty of money-laundering.

Akis Tzohatzopoulos was one of 17 defendants convicted after a five-month trial. Associated Press reports that Tzohatzopoulos’s wife, ex-wife and daughter were also found guilty.

Tzohatzopoulos was charged with accepting bribes in exchange for agreeing military hardware contracts, in the 1990s and the early 2000s. The court heard that these kickbacks were laundered through a network of offshore companies and property purchases.

Sentences will be handed down tomorrow.

Greek journalist Nick Malkoutzis reckons this is the most serious conviction of a Greek politician in around 20 years.

In March, Tzohatzopoulos was convicted of corruption charges, after lying on his income statements and hiding luxurious spending. He was jailed for eight years following that case.

Updated

Some interesting stories about Greece this morning. First up: John Paulson, the hedge fund boss who made billions of dollars betting against America’s mortgage market before the crisis began, is a big fan of Greek banks.

Paulson is making a serious move into the Greek financial sector, as investors gamble that the worst of its woes are over.

The FT has the details:

Mr Paulson, best known for his successful wager against the US subprime mortgage market in 2007, praised Greece’s “very favourable pro-business government”.

“The Greek economy is improving, which should benefit the banking sector,” Mr Paulson told the Financial Times.

He confirmed his fund, Paulson & Co, had substantial stakes in Piraeus and Alpha, the two banks that have emerged in best shape from the crisis. “[Both] are now very well capitalised and poised to recover [with] good management,” he said in rare public comments.

More here: Paulson leads charge into Greek banks

The US dollar has also dropped this morning against most major currencies. This pushed the yen up around 0.5%, to ¥ 96.9 to the dollar. That won’t please Japanese exporters, who’d rather see the yen over the ¥100 mark.

America’s stock indices are also expected to drop around 0.8% when trading begins in about 6 hours, Marketwatch flags up.

The head of ratings agency Moody’s reckons America won’t default, even if it ploughs into the debt ceiling this month.

Raymond McDaniel told CNBC overnight:

Hopefully it is unlikely that we go past October 17 and fail to raise the debt ceiling, but even if that does happen, then we think that the U.S. Treasury is still going to pay on those Treasury securities.

Markets drop:

Europe’s stock markets have followed Asia by falling in early trading, as investors fret over the lack of progress over America’s government shutdown.

In London the FTSE 100 swiftly shed 46 points, or 0.7%, with 95 of the companies on the index . It’s a similar tale across Europe’s markets, with Germany’s DAX down 0.85% and the French CAC shedding 0.75%

Mike van Dulken of Accendo Markets sums up the mood in the City:

Sentiment is still dampened by USuncertainty as the partial shutdown moves into its second week and the more troubling debt ceiling of 17 October nears. How long will this drag on for? Only the politicians know.

The congressional stalemate shows no signs of progress with House Speaker Boehner adamant that a clean spending bill will not be approved while Treasury Secretary Lew says congress is playing with fire putting the nation’s sovereign reputation at risk, on top of President Obama’s highlighting of the potential impact on Q4 GDP.

It all adds up to another sea of red on the European markets:

Updated

World Bank cuts China growth forecasts

America’s deadlock isn’t the only issue worrying the City today. The World Bank has warned that East Asia’s economic growth is slowing as it cut its GDP forecasts several nations, including China.

In a new report, the Bank said weaker commodity prices means weaker growth in the region. It also urged Chinese policymakers to tackle the consequences of recent loose policy and tighten financial supervision.

Here’s a flavour:

Developing East Asia is expanding at a slower pace as China shifts from an export-oriented economy and focuses on domestic demand,” the World Bank said in its latest East Asia Pacific Economic Update report.

“Growth in larger middle-income countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand is also softening in light of lower investment, lower global commodity prices and lower-than-expected growth of exports,” it added.

It now expects the Chinese economy to expand by 7.5% this year, down from its April forecast of 8.3%. For 2014, the forecast is cut from 8% to 7.7%.

Full story here: World Bank cuts China growth forecasts

US deadlock continues to worry the markets

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

It’s the seventh day of the US government shutdown, and the lack of progress in Washington continues to cast a shadow over the financial world.

Shares have slipped in Asia overnight; in Japan, the Nikkei shed another 1.2%. European markets are expected to fall again.

America seems no closer to a solution to the deadlock, nearly a week after the Federal government began shutting services and sending workers home. It is, though, closer to its debt ceiling — the US is still on track to hit its maximum borrowing limit of $16.7bn on 17 October.

Yesterday, Treasury secretary Jack Lew warned that America would default if the ceiling isn’t raised. Congress, he said, was ”playing with fire”.

Lew said:

I’m telling you that on the 17th, we run out of the ability to borrow, and Congress is playing with fire.

But the Republican-controlled House of Representatives hasn’t blinked — continuing to demand concessions from President Obama.

House speaker John Boehner was defiant last night, saying his side would “stand and fight” for concessions on issues like healthcare reforms.

Boehner told ABC television:

You’ve never seen a more dedicated group of people who are thoroughly concerned about the future of our country.

The nation’s credit is at risk because of the administration’s refusal to sit down and have a conversation.

So the deadlock continues, with investors pondering whether this impasse really could turn into a catastrophic debt default.

Stan Shamu of IG explains that traders are more nervous than late last week:

While Friday’s modest gains in US equities were driven by a glimmer of hope that leaders are getting closer, this seems to have waned over the weekend.

House speaker John Boehner was quoted as saying he wouldn’t pass a bill to increase the US debt ceiling without addressing longer-term spending and budget challenges. This has really rattled markets and is likely to result in further near-term weakness for global equities.

Not much on the economic calendar today, although we do get the latest eurozone reading of investor confidence at 9.30am BST.

In the UK, the row over the Royal Mail privatisation continues, with critics warning that it’s being sold off too cheaply.

While in Greece, there were reports on Saturday that Athens is considering swapping some bailout loans for new 50-year bonds, as part of a third aid package.

Reuters had the story: Greece mulls swapping bailout loans with 50-year bond issue: source

I’ll be tracking all the action through the day….

Updated

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IMF Chief Christine Lagarde says “vital to raise US debt ceiling”. The US Treasury Department also weighed in, warning of dire calamity. US services sector showed growth was slowing, with the PMI coming in at 54.4 in September, down from 58.6 in August…

 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Lagarde demands urgent action over US debt ceiling as markets get jittery – as it happened” was written by Graeme Wearden, for theguardian.com on Thursday 3rd October 2013 16.51 UTC

The end

The big story tonight remains the US government shutdown - which my US colleagues are live-blogging here. So here’s a brief summary to finish with.

• Christine Lagarde has piled pressure on America’s politicians to raise the US debt ceiling quickly. The IMF chief said it was “mission-critical” to avert the danger of a US default. The country’s Treasury Department also weighed in, warning of dire calamity.

• Fears over a possible US default hit shares on Wall Street. There were also signs of investors moving money out of short-term US debt, pushing up bond yields. Encouraging US jobs data was cancelled out by weaker service sector growth. Here’s what analysts are saying about the debt ceiling….

• Europe’s private sector has posted its biggest rise in activity in 27 months. Italian firms reported a stronger month, boosting hopes that the country is pulling out of recession. Retail sales also picked up.

• China’s service sector performed well in September too, pushing activity to a six-month high.

• In Greece, the head of the Golden Dawn party is being held in custody ahead of the criminal trial into the party, as the clampdown continues to raise fears over the country’s political stability. Another GD MP appeared in court, as the party raged against the decision to jail its leader.

• A survey of a Cyprus gas field found smaller reserves than hoped, but the government will still push on with exploiting it.

Back tomorrow, hopefully for a more lively day. Goodnight. GW 

An uninspiring day in Europe’s stock markets is over.

The FTSE 100 finished up 11 points at 6449, but the other main markets all lost ground. The French CAC shed 0.7%, the German DAX closed 0.37% lower, Spain’s IBEX is down 0.7% and the Italian FTSE MIB dropped 0.5%. No boost from today’s decent eurozone economic data, while the US debt ceiling deadline gets closer…..

Updated

The Japonica Partners investment fund, which has a big holding of Greek debt, has been holding a conference call for City analysts to explain why Greece’s bonds are actually much better quality than people realise.

Here’s a screengrab of Bloomberg’s news flashes:

FT Alphaville’s Joseph Cotterill is on the call, and flags up that Japonica was asked whether it’s planning to buy Greek state assets with its Greek government bonds. The idea wasn’t ruled out….

Wall Street falls

Those warnings over the US debt ceiling from Christine Lagarde, and from the US Treasury, come as shares fall on Wall Street today.

US traders pushed down the Dow Jones industrial average, as they watched Barack Obama lay into the Republicans in a speech in Rockville, Maryland (details in our US liveblog).

The Dow Jones industrial average is down 130 points, or 0.8%, with 28 of its 30 members losing ground.

It’s not all because of the deadlock on Capitol Hill. A monthly survey of the US services sector showed growth was slowing, with the PMI coming in at 54.4 in September, down from 58.6 in August (anything over 50 shows growth).

There are already fears that the shutdown will cost jobs and hit growth.

United Technologies, which supplies helicopters and jet engines to the U.S. military, has warned that if there’s no deal by Monday it might tell 2,000 workers to down tools. Bloomberg has the details.

My US colleague Tom McCarthy has launched a new liveblog tracking Day Three of the government shutdown:

Government shutdown enters third day after talks fail to break deadlock – live

It includes details of a report from the US Treasury Department which warns that there would be catastrophic consequences if America doesn’t raise its debt ceiling on time.

It certainly sounds scary:

A default would be unprecedented and has the potential to be catastrophic,” the Treasury reported.

“Credit markets could freeze, the value of the dollar could plummet, U.S. interest rates could skyrocket, the negative spillovers could reverberate around the world, and there might be a financial crisis and recession that could echo the events of 2008 or worse.

Surely they’ll get a debt ceiling deal in time, right? Surely….

Heads-up, Alexis Tsipras, head of Greece’s Syriza party, is giving a press conference with European Parliament president Martin Schulz.

It’s being streamed here.

The Golden Dawn clampdown has been raised. Schulz said there was “no place” for those with Nazi views in a democratic society while Tsipras welcomed the EP’s plans for a special session on “Golden Dawn and right-wing extremism”.

Tsipras also slammed the Greek bailout programme, saying: “One shouldn’t be taking new loans to pay off old ones,” according to AP’s Jurgen Baetz.

I don’t think he’s arguing against rolling over sovereign debt….

The IMF are tweeting highlights from the Lagarde speech, where she’s warning about the looming debt ceiling:

Lagarde: Mission critical to resolve US government crisis now

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, urged America’s warring politicians to settle their differences as she warned that an escalation of the budget row would harm the entire global economy, our economics editor Larry Elliott writes:

Speaking ahead of the Fund’s annual meeting in Washington next week, Lagarde said it was “mission critical” that Democrats and Republicans raise the US debt ceiling before the October 17 deadline.

Financial markets have started to take fright at the prospect that America could go into technical default as a result of the impasse in Washington and the IMF’s managing director said the dispute was a fresh setback for a global economy that would take at least a decade to recover from the deep slump of 2008-09.

Lagarde said:

I have said many times before that the U.S. needs to “slow down and hurry up”—by that I mean less fiscal adjustment today and more tomorrow.

She added that the world’s biggest economy needed to put its finances in order, but favoured back-loaded measures to raise revenues and limit entitlement spending that did not jeopardise short-term growth.

Lagarde added:

In the midst of this fiscal challenge, the ongoing political uncertainty over the budget and the debt ceiling does not help. The government shutdown is bad enough, but failure to raise the debt ceiling would be far worse, and could very seriously damage not only the US economy, but the entire global economy.

So it is “mission-critical” that this be resolved as soon as possible.

We’ll have the full story online shortly

Some early snaps from Christine Lagarde’s speech, in which she also warns that America was too eager this year to cut spending and raise taxes:

03-Oct-2013 15:00 – IMF’S LAGARDE SAYS U.S. ECONOMIC GROWTH THIS YEAR WILL BE ‘TOO LOW,’ BELOW 2 PCT, DUE TO TOO MUCH FISCAL TIGHTENING

03-Oct-2013 15:00 – LAGARDE SAYS U.S. GROWTH WILL BE ABOUT 1 PERCENTAGE POINT HIGHER IN 2014 AS FISCAL STRAINS EASE – SPEECH TEXT

03-Oct-2013 15:00 – LAGARDE SAYS U.S. FAILURE TO RAISE DEBT CEILING COULD ‘VERY SERIOUSLY’ HURT U.S. AND GLOBAL ECONOMY, CRITICAL TO RESOLVE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE

03-Oct-2013 15:00 – LAGARDE SAYS MARKET TURBULENCE SINCE MAY OVER PERCEIVED END TO U.S. EASY MONEY POLICIES COULD REDUCE GDP IN MAJOR EMERGING MARKETS BY 0.5 TO 1 PCT

Christine Lagarde urges US politicians to end budget row

Breaking: Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, has urged politicians in Washington to act quickly to resolve the government shutdown before the global economy is hurt badly.

Speaking in Washington right now, Lagarde is warning that a failure to raise the debt ceiling could “very seriously hurt” the US and global economy.

It is critical to resolve the crisis soon, she said.

More to follow

Updated

The yield on America’s one-month debt has risen to the highest level in 10 months, suggesting investors are getting worried about the looming debt ceiling and selling bonds which mature at the end of October.

This has pushed the yield up to 0.129%, from just 0.028% a week ago. That’s still a very ‘safe’ level, of course, but it’s a sign that the US budget deadlock is starting to make traders more nervous, with the debt ceiling looming.

The cost of insuring US bonds against default is also up:

Updated

Some reaction to the Cyprus gas drilling results:

Updated

Cyprus gas results are in

Cyprus’s hopes of receiving a huge windfall from offshore reserves of natural gas received a knock today, after new drilling results found there is less recoverable gas at one field than hoped.

The Nicosia government announced the results of exploratory drilling off its coast a few minutes ago. Texas’s Noble Energy, which did the drilling in the Cypriot Aphrodite concession, also updated its shareholders.

And the news is that Noble Energy has estimated there is 5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (or between 3.6trn and 6trn) to be recovered at that particular gas field south of the Mediterranean island. That’s a disappointment, as earlier drilling in 2011 indicated there was 7 trillion cubic feet (or between 5trn and 8trn).

The Cypriot government is still pushing on with its plans to exploit the reserves, though:

Cypriot energy minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis told reporters:

It’s important to state from the outset that, despite the lower quantities we announce today compared to those of 2011, the confirmed reserves affirm a particularly important reserve of natural gas.

Keith Elliott, Noble Energy’s senior vice president for Eastern Mediterranean, also remained upbeat:

Results from the Cyprus A-2 well have confirmed substantial recoverable natural gas resources and high reservoir deliverability.

Cyprus has talked about recovering 60 trillion cubit feet of gas from its reserves – although some analysts are skeptical.

Separately, there are reports from Cyprus that the country is considering withdrawing from Eurovision as part of its financial plight.

Can we come too?

Updated

Here’s a handy graph putting today’s US jobs data into some context:

US initial jobless claims rise slightly

The weekly US jobless claims data is out…and it shows a small rise in the number of people signing on for unemployment benefit last week.

The initial jobless claims total rose by 1,000 last week to 308,000. That’s close to the recent six-year low, and better than expected.

The four-week average fell, to 305,000 – which is the lowest since May 2007.

That won’t include the effect of the US government shutdown (as this data runs to 28 September and the shutdown began at midnight on 1 October).

Oil giant BP helped push the FTSE 100 higher this morning, after a US court ruled in its favour in a case about compensation payments following the Deepwater Horizon diasaster.

BP share are up 1.5% in London, and are expected to rise a similar amount in New York. Last night, judges ruled that the company should not be forced to pay billions of dollars in compensation to those not directly affected by the environmental damage following the oil rig explosion in which 11 men died.

Angela Monaghan explains:

The British oil company welcomed a ruling by the US court of appeals which will force a rethink on how compensation claims related to the disaster will be assessed.

The supreme court also ordered that payments must be stopped to people who did not suffer “actual injury traceable to loss” from the spill until cases have been properly heard and decided through the judicial process.

More here: BP welcomes US court of appeal ruling on Gulf of Mexico oil spill payouts

Here’s the situation in Europe’s stock markets this lunchtime:

(I was incorrect to say the DAX was closed today for Germany’s Unity Holiday — but given it’s down 0.02% it may as well be :) )

Plenty of chatter in the City today about whether America will raise its debt ceiling in time.

Gary Jenkins of Swordfish Research reckons Washington DC will get its act together, before the US crashes into the $16.7bn borrowing limit, probably around 17 October.

He writes;

After all, would politicians really be so stupid as to go through a process in which the potential unintended consequences could be so harmful, where there is no precedent for their actions and where there is no clear plan of what exactly they are trying to achieve? (Unless it’s to do with military action…).

Jenkins adds, though, that the US should be careful about appearing so blasé about its priorities:

 If the US were a company and the shareholders were openly discussing whether or not they should pay their bills or not then I find it hard to believe that the agencies would be taking such a relaxed view of the matter.

So, even if the politicians step back from the abyss, unless the debt ceiling dynamic is dealt with we could see a recurrence of current events. I do not know what the unintended consequences will be, but then again nor do the politicians. What I do know is that if I had the major economic and political advantage of having the world’s reserve currency and most wanted debt instrument is that I wouldn’t play around with it.

There’s talk in Washington of carving out a ‘Grand Bargain’ (a wide-ranging fiscal program designed to lower America’s long-term borrowing needs). That’s a tough task, though, especially when the two sides can’t agree to reopen the government.

Louise Cooper of Cooper City reckons any deal will just be a temporary patch-up job

While Ishaq Siddiqi, market strategist at ETX Capital, isn’t 100% convinced Washington will manage a deal in time.

The fact that US lawmakers are tied in a game of political brinkmanship over a fresh budget leaves traders not feeling too confident that lawmakers will be able to find common ground on raising the debt ceiling.

Indeed, failure to do so could see a US default. President Obama warned Wall Street last night that a conservative faction of the Republicans is willing to allow the US to default on its debt, lifting fears in the market that such a scenario could be played out.

The euro has risen around 0.2% against the US dollar to $1.360, while Europe’s stock markets are pretty calm.

Another Golden Dawn MP in court

Back to Greece, another Golden Dawn MP has arrived in court as the courtroom drama over the last two days continues to reverberate.

Michaloliakos’ right hand man, Christos Pappas, was also arrested on charges of overseeing a criminal organisation. His hearing was due to start at 1pm local time, or 11am BST.

Earlier this week anti-terror units discovered “a heap” of Nazi paraphernalia in Pappas’s home, including a book titled “Hitler by my side”.

Golden Dawn itself is furious that judges decided to jail its leader, Nikos Michaloliakos, ahead of a trial over charges that the party is a criminal gang. It issued a statement calling the move “wretched plot” and blaming it on ”foreign centres.”

From Athens, Helena Smith reports:

In a move that has stunned Greeks, Ilias Kasidiaris, the party’s spokesman who emerged from court yesterday kicking and shoving journalists, has now used the media to denounce the imprisonment of Michaloliakos.

“The detention of our general secretary is totally unjust, unconstitutional and has been dictated by foreign centres of power,” he has told reporters gathered outside the court.

Yesterday’s courtroom drama (and the violence seen outside court afterwards) also gets plenty of coverage in today’s newspapers.

Reuters flags up:

“The leader’s in, the gang’s out!” top-selling daily Ta Nea wrote on its front page. “It is the state’s duty to go to the end: The criminals need to be revealed, they need to be tried, and they need to pay,” the newspaper said.

Kathimerini makes an important point. This is a live criminal trial, Due process needs to be followed.

The fact that certain Golden Dawn deputies were released from pretrial custody – conditionally – does not in any way represent evidence of their innocence, just as their being remanded to appear before a magistrate had not meant that they were guilty of the crimes being leveled against them.

Updated

More good news for the European economy: retail sales were much stronger than expected in August.

Eurostat reported that retail sales volumes rose by 0.7% in the euro area, and 0.4% across the wider European Union in August. July’s data was also revised higher, showing consumers weren’t as cautious about spending as first thought.

Eurostat’s data shows that non-food shopping was strong, rising by 0.6% in the eurozone. That covers items such as computers, clothing and medical products.

The data also showed an increase in fuel purchases, suggesting a rise in motor journeys. Spending on “automotive fuel in specialised stores” (that’s petrol stations to you and me) was up by 0.9% across euro members.

Nice result for Spain in the bond markets this morning, suggesting the political tensions in the euro area have eased following yesterday’s Italian confidence vote.

Spain sold its maximum target of debt in a strong auction, in which borrowing costs hit their lowest level in three years.

The auction saw the Spanish treasury shift €1.18bn of 10-year bonds at a yield (the rate of return on the debt) of 4.269%, a drop on the 4.5% paid last month.

Updated

UK service sector on a charge

The UK’s service sector has revival continues, with the strongest quarterly growth in 16 years - driven by the upswing in the housing market.

The monthly PMI survey shows that September was another strong month — with a reading of 60.3, close to August’s seven-month high of 60.5 and deep into expansion territory.

However, firms dependent on consumer spending aren’t doing quite as well as financial firms, it appears….

Reuters handily provides more details:

The sector saw jobs growth in September, something mirrored in surveys of manufacturing and construction earlier this week.

Over the third quarter as a whole, the index – measuring the change in activity, including income and chargeable hours worked, from the previous month – averaged its highest level since the second quarter of 1997, Markit said.

“Growth is being led by financial services – linked in part to increased housing market activity – and the business sector,” said Chris Williamson, chief economist at survey compilers Markit.

“Consumer-facing services continue to struggle, reflecting the ongoing squeeze on incomes due to weak pay growth and high inflation.”

Around half of firms surveyed in the service sector – which makes up more than three quarters of Britain’s output – expected even brisker trade in a year’s time, with the outlook index rising to 71.8.

Service providers reported that a jump in new business last month placed strain on resources, with backlogs of work rising at the fastest pace in more than 13 years.The workload, along with firms’ optimism about future business, led to a solid rise in employment and some pay rises.

Updated

Eurozone private sector output hits 27-month high

The eurozone recovery is gathering pace, with its private sector firms reporting the biggest leap in activity since June 2011 last month.

Data firm Markit’s monthly surveys of companies across the single currency showed a solid rise in activity.

New business has picked up, and the rate of job cuts may finally be slowing to a halt.

Markit’s monthly survey of activity came in at 52.2, up from August’s 51.5. Both service sector firms and manufacturers said conditions were better.

Here’s some key factoids from the report (online here)

Ireland: 55.7 2-month low
Germany: 53.2 2-month low
Italy: 52.8 29-month high
France: 50.5 20-month high
Spain: 49.6 2-month low

The news comes hours after China’s service sector output hit a 6-month high.

Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, said the eurozone data showed Europe’s recovery on track, despite Spain’s private firms faltering after a better August.

The final PMI confirms the message from the earlier flash reading that the eurozone enjoyed its strongest quarter of expansion for just over two years in the third quarter. With the rate of expansion picking up in September, the survey bodes well for ongoing growth in the final quarter of the year.

Growth is being led by Germany, but France has also now returned to growth. Even more encouraging are the upbeat survey data for Ireland and Italy, both of which show signs of returning to robust growth, and Spain has also stabilised, as ongoing weakness in the domestic economy is offset by a strong upturn in exports.

But don’t get the bunting out yet — this only suggests a weak recovery.

Williamson explains:

Growth remains only modest – the Eurozone PMI is consistent with GDP rising by just 0.2% on the third quarter, and the political instability that has reared up in Italy is a reminder that there remains plenty of scope for recoveries to be derailed.

Updated

Italian service sector finally growing

Good news from Italy this morning – its service sector has burst back into growth for the first time in 28 months.

This may suggest the Italian economy has finally stopped shrinking, a new boost a day after prime minister Enrico Letta faced down Silvio Berlusconi’s revolt.

Data provider Markit says it’s a welcome sign that the economic recovery could be underway, with the monthly PMI jumping to 52.7 in September, from 48.8 in August. It’s not been over the 50-point mark (which separates contraction from expansion) since May 2011.

Here’s the key points:

• Business activity lifted by increase in new work

• Job shedding continues, but at slower rate

• Future expectations highest in more than two years

Credit Agricole’s Frederik Ducrozet is encouraged:

Phil Smith, economist at Markit, said the data shows “the first signs” of recovery in the Italian economy after some grim months. But without political stability, he warned, it could quickly deteriorate.

He explained:

Should the data hold up, however, there may also be a return to growth in service sector employment, which showed its slowest fall for 16 months in September.

A significant improvement in businesses’ expectations for the year ahead will have no doubt also helped on this front.

The data, alongside those for manufacturing, show Italian GDP at least stabilising in Q3 and perhaps even rising slightly for the first time in more than two years. Political stability is key to this forward momentum being sustained into the later stages of the year and beyond.

Updated

Overnight in Greece, the head of the far-right Golden Dawn party was remanded in custody, hours after three of his MPs were released pending trial.

Another MP, Yannis Lagos, was also detained, as was Giorgos Patelis, the head of Golden Dawn’s local office in the area west of Athens where hip-hop star Pavlos Fyssas was stabbed two weeks ago. <updated, many thanks to reader Kizbot>

All the men faces charges of running a criminal gang, which they deny.

From Athens, Helena Smith reported:

Armed police led Nikos Mihaloliakos away from the courthouse in handcuffs in the early hours of Thursday after testimony lasting more than six hours.

His wife and daughter, also party members, and other Golden Dawn MPs, stood outside the building and shouted words of encouragement to him as he was led away.

“The ridiculous little men, they decided to jail the leader,” said party MP Michalis Arvanitis.

Golden Dawn leader jailed pending trial after Athens hearing

Updated

Just in – Spain’s service sector suffered a drop in activity in last month. Its PMI index has fallen into contraction territory again — at 49.0 in September, down from 50.4 (showing slight growth) in August.

Markit, which compiles the PMI data, also reported that new order growth slowed. On the upside, optimism hit a 41-month high.

Spain’s government ministers have been boldly declaring that the recession is over. This data doesn’t suggest much of a recovery yet.

Andrew Harker, senior economist at Markit, commented:

The Spanish service sector failed to show much sign of a recovery during September as activity fell back in response to weaker new order growth which itself had been supported by further sharp discounting.

One bright spot from the latest survey was that companies were at their most optimistic about the future for nearly three-and-a-half years, suggesting that Spanish service providers are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.

Markets edge higher

Shares are edging a little higher in early trading — suggesting China’s strong service sector data is trumping US deadlock woes.

Here’s the early prices: (German’s DAX is closed for a public holiday)

FTSE 100: up 20 points at 6458, + 0.3%

French CAC: up 7 points at 4,165, + 0.18%

Italian FTSE MIB: up 98 points at 18,191, +0.5%

Spanish IBEX: up 21 points at 9,371, +0.23%

Mike van Dulken, head of research at Accendo Markets, reckons there’s some “cautious optimism” in the City this morning, despite the lack of progress in Washington DC. He argues that, with America on track to smash into its debt ceiling on 17 October, there’s little chance of the Federal Reserve turning down its bond-buying stimulus programme soon:

Sentiment is still not quite ignoring, but nor is it pricing in the worst case scenario – which is no agreement until debt ceiling deadline, and possible sovereign default.

The possible assumption is that default won’t be allowed, but the longer the budget takes to sort out, the longer the Fed is held off from tapering. Happy days for easy money policy lovers and risk appetite.

Updated

Michael Hewson of CMC Markets says traders will be hoping for encouraging data from Europe’s service sector this morning:

As we enter the third day of the shutdown of the US government the various positions seem as inextricably entrenched as ever. On the plus side at least we don’t have to worry about the soap opera playing out in Italy as Silvio Berlusconi negotiated what could be politely called a tactical withdrawal and agreed to support Enrico Letta’s government after it became apparent he didn’t have his party’s support with respect to the confidence vote.

While he may have run into a brick wall on this occasion Berlusconi has never lacked the capacity to surprise, so I would doubt that we have heard the last of him in this regard.

In any case while the political uncertainty in Italy may have subsided for now it still remains quite likely that any type of reform is still set to remain slow and problematic.

As for the rest of Europe’s markets while the FTSE may get a slight boost from a positive China services PMI, they continue to have one eye on events in the US, finishing lower yesterday along with US markets, though after yesterday’s non event of an ECB press conference, todays focus is on the latest services PMI data for September for Italy, Spain, France and Germany. All are expected to show positive readings above 50, with the exception of Italy, which is expected to come in at 49.2, raising expectations of a continued recovery.

Chinese service sector output hits six-month high

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

Looks like a mixed day ahead . Growing concern over the US government shutdown have taken the shine of some encouraging Chines economic data earlier today.

While in Europe, Italy is waking up to front pages dominated by Silvio Berlusconi’s humiliating defeat in the Senate yesterday, where prime minister Enrico Letta swept home in his confidence vote. More on this shortly.

First the good news — growth in China’s service sector has surged to a six month high. Activity jumped to 55.4 in September, from 53.9 in August, as measured by the official Purchasing Managers Index (anything over 50 points = growth).

That suggests that Beijing’s efforts to pep up the Chinese economy is bearing fruit this autumn.

Craig Erlam, analyst at Alpari, explained:

This is just another sign that the government’s targeted stimulus efforts, which were announced a few months ago in order to combat the slowing growth in the economy and achieve its minimum 7% growth target, are having the desired effect on the economy.

That might normally give stock markets a boost, especially with more service sector data due from the eurozone and UK this morning.

But now the bad news — Wednesday was another day of deadlock in Washington, despite US bank chiefs urging politicians on Capitol Hill to get a grip before it’s too late.

Obama meets bank chiefs as economists warn of ‘deep and dark recession’ 

So it’s probably going to be a nervy day in the markets….

Updated

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House and Senate fail to reach deal before deadline. Estimated 800,000 federal workers told to stay at home. National parks and museums closed, Nasa affected. Signs of splits among Republicans over tactics. The President plans to make a statement today…

 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “US government shutdown begins as Congress fails to reach deal – live” was written by Tom McCarthy in New York, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 1st October 2013 16.12 UTC

Guardian Washington correspondent Paul Lewis (@PaulLewis) is in the streets of Washington DC, a city in which the government is not just the main employer, but the lifeblood of the city. The impacts of the shutdown were immediately visible, Paul writes:

By mid-morning, downtown Washington DC had the throng of a busy lunchtime, as furloughed workers from all the major government buildings trickled out onto the streets after closing down their offices.

Everywhere from obscure government agencies to the White House was operating on a slimmed-down staff, with all so-called ‘non-excepted’ employees ordered to return home after turning up to work on Tuesday morning.

DC’s mayor, Vincent Gray, immunised many staff working for the city’s government from the shutdown, by declaring them all ‘essential’ workers, a legally contentious measure. But it at least kept the city movement, and guarded America’s capital from less sightly impacts of the last shutdown, in the 1990s, when uncollected trash piled up on the street.

Later we’ll have Paul’s interviews with tourists and federal workers talking about how the shutdown is affecting them.

Updated

Veterans of World War II have stormed their own memorial on the National Mall, barricades be damned, reporter Leo Shane III of Stars and Stripes tweets:

Honor flight vets just knocked over the barriers at the WWII memorial to get inside, #shutdown or no.

No sign of folks leaving. The vets have control of the memorial. #shutdown

John McCain may be trying to make a point by publicizing polling showing Americans oppose the GOP strategy of tying the shutdown to health care cuts, but most national polls on who gets blamed are rather useless in understanding what’s going through the mind of the House GOP, Guardian polling analyst Harry J Enten (@ForecasterEnten) writes.

Harry argues that, district-for-district, Republicans really aren’t vulnerable to voter outrage in midterm elections in 2014 because the districts are rigged:

While there are a number of reasons why House Republicans were willing to shut down the government, no answer is probably as satisfying as the fact that majority of House Republicans don’t live in districts that look anything like the rest of the nation. Thanks to urban packing and gerrymandering, Republicans don’t have to worry about losing to a Democrat.

The average vote share for President Obama in 2012 in Republican House districts was only 40.4%. Only 17 members of the Republican House caucus are from districts that voted for Obama in 2012. More than half of Republicans in the House come from districts that are 10 points more Republican than the nation as a whole. The average Republican district is over a 11 points more Republican than the nation.

The thing that most worries most members is likely a primary challenge, not a general election. The fact that more Republicans support a shutdown to stop Obamacare, as Quinnipiac found, is what’s most important for them.

That analysis leaves open the question on whether blowback from the shutdown represents potential damage to a party’s national brand, with consequences for membership, fundraising, turnout, activism, public support in hard policy fights and more.

Shut down: Tweets from Voyager 2. 

Not to be confused with Voyager 1, which recently entered interstellar space. Voyager 2 is only 15.37bn km away, according to the Nasa site that tracks it, which interestingly is still online here.

Updated

Shut down: the US Census Bureau online. 

You can’t visit the web site here, but you can read a shutdown notice.

(h/t @kennelliott)

Updated

Senator Mike Lee of Utah, who with Ted Cruz of Texas led the charge to tie stopgap spending legislation to changes to Obamacare, is delivering a speech on the Senate floor calling for a focus on people whose livelihoods will be damaged by the government shutdown. “I want to focus our attention in the coming days and hours on those people,” Lee says, gravely.

It turns out however that mostly Lee wants to continue his critique of the Affordable Care Act. “I’d like to turn for a moment to people who are and for a number of months have been already [hurting],” he says. “Obamacare happens to be the No.1 job-killer in the country.”

Threatened by shutdown: airport efficiency(!).

Here’s a question from the comments:

Can someone tell me will airport be affected? Ie will take ages to get through security?

Answer, in short: Yes, expect some delays, but security will remain tight. The Transportation Security Administration, part of the department of Homeland Security, is expected to furlough certain nonessential employees, but those do not include most screeners. Air traffic controllers will report for work as usual.

John McCain, Republican of Arizona, argued Monday against the House Republican shutdown strategy, telling the House to accept fate and pass a “clean” spending resolution.

This morning McCain indulges in a preliminary bit of “I told you so,” directed at Republican colleagues:

From the Bloomberg story:

By 72 percent to 22 percent, Americans oppose Congress “shutting down major activities of the federal government” as a way to stop the Affordable Care Act from going into effect, the national survey from Quinnipiac University found. [...]

A majority of the public, 58 percent, is opposed to cutting off funding for the insurance program that begins enrollment today. Thirty-four percent support defunding it.

Note that the poll featured in the story McCain links to is from last week; while the Bloomberg story is from today, it does not reflect new polling from today.

Updated

Here’s the tabloid view, then and now:

Shut down: Freedom of Information Act requests.

The justice department claims it can’t meet FOIA deadlines in an Electronic Frontier Foundation lawsuit over phone metadata collection because of the shutdown, Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports:

Just hours after the partial government shutdown kicked in, Justice Department lawyers filed a motion Tuesday morning with a federal judge in Oakland, Calif. seeking to postpone all deadlines in connection with a suit brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The motion submitted to U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers (and posted here) says the government will be unable to continue reviewing documents for release because both DOJ lawyers and intelligence community personnel involved in the process are being furloughed.

Read the full piece here.

Senate minority whip John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, says Democrats are “whistling past the graveyard” in asserting that the Affordable Care Act is not negotiable:

“This is the law of the land. It’s perfect. Couldn’t be better,” Cornyn, on the Senate floor, ridicules his Democratic colleagues as saying. “That’s like whistling past the graveyard.”

Then Cornyn accuses Democrats of engineering the shutdown because polls show Republicans will take the blame:

They’re looking at polls…They’re willing to risk shutdown of the federal government just to gain political advantage… The Democrats have doubled down on their strategy, hoping to gain political advantage at the expense of people hurt.

Part of the difficulty this morning for 2m federal workers is that many did not find out until they showed up for work as usual whether they were part of the “essential” core that would be kept on the job. Some were told to stay. Others were sent home.

The Guardian’s Paul Lewis (@PaulLewis) and Dan Roberts (@RobertsDan) are watching the shutdown unfold in Washington:

Some federal workers were reportedly instructed to switch off their BlackBerry smartphones to prevent them from working remotely, a disciplinary offence.

From 7am, forlorn-looking commuters could be seen heading to government buildings and agencies across Washington DC, where they would learn their fate. The city, where the government is a huge employer, will feel the impact of the federal shutdown more acutely than anywhere else in the US. The White House said it estimates a one-week shutdown would cost the wider US economy $10bn.

Read the full piece here.

Dan also has the inside story of how the shutdown played out in the halls of Congress last night:

Unfortunately, much of Washington acted as if it had seen this movie before. The metaphorical tumbleweed blowing down the corridors of Capitol Hill reflected not a fear of being caught in the crossfire, but a cynical war-weariness that left many lawmakers on the sidelines until it was too late. After three years of similar standoffs over the federal budget that were resolved at the last minute, no one could quite believe that this one would finish with shots fired.

Read the full story here.

The Senate has killed the House GOP request for a budget conference, again along party lines, 54-46.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid is on the floor of the Senate decrying the House request as a cynical 11th-hour ploy meant to portray the GOP as being serious about making a budget deal when in fact the party has, Reid says, ignored six months’ worth of Senate requests for a conference. Here’s Reid:

Sen. Murray [Patty Murray, D-Washington, budget committee chairwoman] has asked to go to conference 18 times. [McCain] has asked eight times himself. This has gone on for six months.

But it’s a clock tick past midnight… Boehner demanded the very conference they shunned us with for six months.

This display I hope would be embarrassing for House Republicans and Senate Republicans… what a deal!

If the House passes the piece of legislation they have over there… to reopen government, we’re happy to go to conference – why wouldn’t we? We’ve been asking to do that for months and months.

Updated

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, sees the shutdown as a boon to the president because it distracts from the administration’s woes elsewhere:

“Obamacare is going to have a lot of problems in its rollout… the president’s poll numbers are falling in every category,” McCain told MSNBC. “Yet the story to the American people is Republicans are fighting Republicans – that’s not helpful.”

The president plans to make a statement today at 12.25pm ET in the Rose Garden, the White House advises.

As the two parties try to reach a spending agreement, they also are trying to pin the blame for the shutdown on the other side. In a statement in the briefing room yesterday afternoon the president said Republican maneuvers resulting in a government shutdown would be the “height of irresponsibility.” Expect the president to expand on that theme this afternoon.

Last time the government shut down, the Republican Congress caught the blame and the Democratic president emerged the stronger. That fact is not lost on the Obama administration, which is using president Clinton’s playbook, Bloomberg reports:

Five administration officials, including Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and budget director Sylvia Burwell, were central figures during the shutdowns of 1995 and 1996. That two-stage battle pitted a House Republican majority against Democratic President Bill Clinton and resulted in a public relations defeat for the Republicans.

Now, Like Clinton, Obama is casting his Republican rivals as partisan warriors willing to put the country’s economic future at risk to score political points with their base.

While Clinton chided Republicans for putting “ideology ahead of common sense” in a 1995 address, Obama told reporters yesterday that “House Republicans continue to tie funding of the government to ideological demands.”

Read the full piece here.

Updated

Are you a federal employee forced to stay home because of the shutdown? Is one of your family members an essential employee who has to work without pay? We want to hear from you:

* Where do you work? What is your role?

* What have your supervisors told you to expect in coming weeks? Please be specific. How will furloughs or payment delays affect you and/or your family?

* Is there anything you’d say to members of Congress? to President Obama or House Speaker John Boehner? Do you see the shutdown as necessary? Is there a silver lining?

Please share your views in the comments or reach out to us directly at ruth [dot] spencer [at] theguardian [dot] com. We’ll be featuring your comments here. Thanks for writing!

Welcome to our live blog coverage of the partial government shutdown, which went into effect at midnight. America is waking up to shuttered parks, silent call centers for veterans’ services, empty Pentagon offices and skeleton crews in White House and congressional offices. It’s the first government shutdown in 17 years.

The president signed a bill late on Monday defending against one of the most painful effects of a shutdown: the bill ensured there would be no delay in delivering paychecks to active-duty military personnel. The core services of other big government programs, including Medicare and social security, were expected to operate as usual.

The House and Senate played ping-pong on Monday with stopgap spending resolutions that would have kept the government open if they were able to agree on one. The last House resolution retained delays in the rollout of the Affordable Care Act that the Senate leadership had made clear would be rejected. The resolution was rejected, and at about 11.40pm ET the office of management of the budget sent out a memo ordering agencies to “execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations.” Read Jim Newell’s play-by-play of last night’s action here, and Graeme Wearden’s early-morning updates here.

Just before the shutdown, House Republicans made a significant move on the overall budget issue, electing to join a conference with the Senate to cut an actual budget deal, a step the House leadership had been resisting. Senate majority leader Harry Reid said he would not bargain over the current spending measure at a budget conference.

Updated

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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.

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Athens government seeks two-month extension. University of Athens ‘suspends operations. Germany’s firms more confident as recovery continues. UK mortgage approvals hit highest since Dec 2009. Long slog expected over German coalition…

 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Greece pleads for more time over public sector reforms – live” was written by Graeme Wearden, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 24th September 2013 17.06 UTC

Italian PM Enrico Letta is discussing the future of Telecom Italia, after Spain’s Telefonica announced plans to take a much larger stake in its parent company (up to 70%).

Fab Goria tweets the key points:

And here’s more details of the University of Athens’ decision to suspend operations, because (it says) public sector job cuts have made it impossible to continue: University of Athens, NTUA Suspend Operations

Updated

Greek government pleads for more time over public sector layoffs

Over in Greece our correspondent Helena Smith reports that the government has appealed for more time to press on with the troika’s most controversial of demands yet: public sector dismissals.

Inspectors from the EU, ECB and IMF have yet to respond, on a day in which Greek public workers protested again.

And in another worrying development, the University of Athens has suspended all its operations, saying it cannot keep functioning with so many staff laid off.

Helena writes:

Barely two days after negotiations with visiting troika representatives began, prime minister Antonis Samaras’ coalition government has upped the ante asking for yet more time to implement reforms.

At a meeting with mission heads from the EU, ECB and IMF, the administrative reform minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis appealed for a two-month extension to the deadline Athens presently has to transfer some 12,500 civil servants into a so–called mobility scheme where employees would see their salaries drastically reduced before being moved, if lucky, to another government department.

Insiders at the ministry described the atmosphere of the talks “as very positive” – in sharp contrast to the environment outside where thousands of demonstrators gathered to issue howls of protests.

To underline that point about a positive atmosphere the meeting was even cut short, apparently by a good 40 minutes. But a source close to the troika was not so confident.

He said:

They [auditors] made it clear that they would come back with an answer Friday.

Yes, Greece has made progress but there is a feeling that what we are seeing is yet more stalling of the inevitable with the government once again biding time.

After a mad dash scramble the ministry managed to complete the first phase of the scheme – identifying 12,500 civil servants who could be transferred to the programme by the end of the month. Most are from the education sector and have included teachers, administrative staff and school guards.

But the effects of the crude fiscal logic that has often guided those decisions has not been without consequence.

Earlier today the University of Athens repeated that with layoffs making its “educational, research and administrative operation … objectively impossible” it regretted to inform the public that it was “forced to suspend all of its operations.”

“There is a possibility that the next six months could be lost but the bigger issue is not to lose the university altogether,” its rector Theodosis Pelegrinis said. The academic insisted the dismissals had been handled “in an excessive manner” without foresight or any proper review.

Describing the job losses as “incomprehensible” the university’s senate said the cuts would lead with mathematical precision to “undermining higher education and the young generation of Greece, the only real hope for overcoming the social and economic crisis in the years to come.”

Syriza, the radical left main opposition party that has spurred on protests, announced that its leader Alexis Tsipras would hold talks with school teachers tomorrow.

A bad day for cruise firm Carnival, which has been keelhauled to the bottom of the FTSE 100.

Carnival shares fell by 5.6% today, after it warned that bookings are sharply lower this year.

As my colleague Nick Fletcher explains, Carnival spooked the markets by reporting a 30% fall in third quarter earnings after problems with a number of its ships. Most famously, Costa Concordia, which was finally refloated last week after crashing in early 2012.

Bookings for the rest of 2013 and the first half of 2014 are down on the previous year, the company admitted.

It admitted it could take three years for the Costa brand to recover its reputation, following the Concordia disaster in Italy and another setback involving Costa’s Triumph vessel which stranded passengers for five days. Mechanical problems have dogged some of its other vessels.

Video: Top banker under fire over Libor answers

The Libor scandal has taken another twist this afternoon. 

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Alex Wilmot-Sitwell, a former top UBS executive, is under fire over the testimony he gave to Parliament in January, regarding attempts by traders to fix the rate at which banks would lend to each other.

Wilmot-Sitwell told MPs on the Treasury Committee that he didn’t recall Tom Hayes, one of the traders at the heart of the scandal. But the WSJ’s David Enrich has discovered that Wilmot-Sitwell was included on various emails which discussed Hayes — who was charged over the Libor affair in June.

Mark Garnier MP, a member of the Treasury Committee, says Wilmot-Sitwell has “questions to answer”.

Here’s the full email chain

And here’s the WSJ’s story: Ex-UBS Executive Under Fire Over Libor Testimony

Greece threatened with demotion, again

FTSE Group, the stock market index company, has again threatened to expel Greece from its list of Developed Markets, and rank it as an Advanced Emerging market.

In its Annual Country Classification Review, published this afternoon, FTSE said it was leaving Greece on its Watch List, for yet another year. Greece was first placed on Watch for a possible downgrade in 2006. 

  • Argentina: Possible demotion from Frontier
  • China ‘A’ Share: Possible inclusion as Secondary Emerging
  • Greece: Possible demotion from Developed to Advanced Emerging
  • Kazakhstan: Possible inclusion as Frontier
  • Kuwait: Possible inclusion as Secondary Emerging
  • Mongolia: Possible inclusion as Frontier
  • Morocco: Possible demotion from Secondary Emerging to Frontier
  • Poland: Possible promotion from Advanced Emerging to Developed
  • Qatar: Possible promotion from Frontier to Secondary Emerging
  • Taiwan: Possible promotion from Advanced Emerging to Developed

Morocco and Qatar are new entries, while Ukraine has been booted off the list. It had been lined up for “possible promotion to Frontier market status”, but FTSE is now worried about:

…continuing delays in market developments and no timelines as to when the market developments regarding regulatory oversight, capital controls, treatment of minority shareholders and settlement will be implemented.

Updated

If you’ve not seen it already, do check out this article on Comment Is Free today about Greece’s neo nazi Golden Dawn party, and the investigation into links between the party and the Greek police.

Here’s a flavour:

For a period, Greece’s experience of general strikes, occupations and social movement protests came close to insurrection. This is as near to what Gramsci called a crisis of authority as one can get. The political control of the state has been breaking down. It is this breakdown of authority – which reactionaries blame on immigration, foreign control and communist agitation – that fuels Golden Dawn’s support.

The situation is toxic. Austerity has not run its course, any more than the recession, or the social misery engendered by it. The only recourse of the left is to render Golden Dawn useless by incapacitating it, obstructing its activities and shutting it down as an effective street-fighting fascist organisation.

More here (where regular reader Kizbot had been putting the world to rights in the comments):

Golden Dawn’s rise signals breakdown of the Greek state’s authority

Updated

A weak start on Wall Street, with the Dow Jones index dropping 55 points in early trading to 15345, –.35%.

Once again (again) traders are fretting over the question of when the Federal Reserve will start tapering its QE programme.

There are some big risers, though — particularly in the tech sector. Facebook are up 4% to a new lifetime high after an upgrade from Citi and predictions of a new access deal in China, while Yahoo’s up 3% to a six-year high.

No rush for the Bank’s probing Paul Tucker

Bank of England deputy governor Paul Tucker has joined the chorus of policymakers and it would appear he is singing from the same hymn sheet on forward guidance, reports my colleague Katie Allen.

She’s swiftly digested Tucker’s lunchtime speech (see 1.57pm for the snaps), and explains that Tucker’s speech matches other pronouncements from BoE policymakers this week, all defending the Bank’s new approach.

Katie writes:

Fellow Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member David Miles said earlier today that he believed the Bank’s promise to keep interest rates low until the recovery is well entrenched could help nurture the nascent upturn.

On Monday, their colleague Ben Broadbent defended tying policy to the unemployment rate.
Tucker’s view is that forward guidance can be particularly useful during a period when the recovery is beginning to take hold. And he wants people to know the MPC is in no rush to take away its economic crutches.

According to the text of his speech to the Association for Financial Markets in Europe (AFME), he said:

Saying more about the committee’s approach to policy in this way might be particularly valuable during a period when signs of recovery have become more apparent. These are conditions in which it would be very easy for the financial markets, businesses and households to jump to the mistaken conclusion that monetary stimulus will soon begin to be withdrawn. Given the slack in the economy, the Committee is not in a rush.

On the question of the Bank’s credibility when it comes to keeping inflation in check, Tucker draws a contrast with the pre-independence era. He argues that it was precisely that credibility of the independent BoE’s commitment to keeping inflation in check that “enabled us to provide such exceptional monetary support to help the recovery.”

Tucker adds:

It is unimaginable that, prior to Bank independence in 1997, any government would have been able to hold the policy rate at effectively zero and make a further monetary injection of £375bn without inflationary expectations – and government financing costs – spiralling out of control.

Still, he does concede that just having a 2% inflation target – that keen UK data watchers will know has been missed for 45 successive months now – is not a license to endless money printing.

Tucker again:

Credibility is not to be taken for granted. Even we cannot provide stimulus without limit, without a wary eye to inflation expectations.

And there is a further note of caution on that long-standing puzzle for the Bank, productivity:

Tucker says:

Let’s be clear: we do not understand why productivity has been so weak. And that means that we are highly uncertain about the amount of slack in the economy currently and prospectively; uncertain about the extent of the consequent downward pressure on domestically-generated inflation; and, thus, uncertain about the path of output and employment consistent with non-inflationary growth.

And where does all that leave policymaking?

Tucker sums it up: “Provide stimulus; pause to see whether inflation expectations remain anchored; if, but only if, they are and more stimulus is needed, provide it etc. A ‘probing’ approach.”

Another resignation in Germany… this time at the Pirate Party, where leader Bernd Schlömer has reportedly told party members that he won’t run again.

Not a surprise, given the Pirates captured just 2.2% of votes.

Updated

Paul Tucker, the Bank of England’s outgoing deputy governor with responsibility for financial stability, is giving a speech on monetary policy in London.

We’ll have full details shortly. In the meantime, here’s the newswire snaps:

24-Sep-2013 13:45 – BANK OF ENGLAND’S TUCKER SAYS BOE DOES NOT UNDERSTAND WHY UK PRODUCTIVITY SO WEAK, TAKING “PROBING” APPROACH TO POLICY

24-Sep-201313:45 – BOE’S TUCKER – MPC APPROACH HAS BEEN TO PROVIDE STIMULUS; PAUSE TO SEE IF INFLATION EXPECTATIONS STAY ANCHORED; IF, THEY ARE AND MORE STIMULUS IS NEEDED, THEY PROVIDE IT

24-Sep-2013 13:45 – BOE’S TUCKER – IF RECOVERY DOES GAIN TRACTION, MPC WILL NEED TO AVOID MISPERCEPTIONS ABOUT LIKELY COURSE OF POLICY

24-Sep-2013 13:45 – BOE’S TUCKER – BY ADOPTING A PROBING APPROACH MPC CAN PROVIDE BROADLY THE RIGHT DEGREE OF STIMULUS WITHOUT DILUTING COMMITMENT TO PRICE STABILITY

24-Sep-2013 13:45 – BOE’S TUCKER – FORWARD GUIDANCE DOES NOT COMMIT MPC TO KEEPING POLICY LOOSE BEYOND THE POINT THAT WOULD BE PRUDENT

24-Sep-2013 13:45 – BOE’S TUCKER – AS DATA COMES IN, BOE UNEMPLOYMENT FORECASTS MORE LIKELY TO CHANGE THAN FORWARD GUIDANCE 

Speaking of Germany, finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble has warned that Angela Merkel’s next government (once formed) will not change its approach to Europe’s economic problems.

Schäuble told the “Leipziger Volkszeitung” newspaper that Merkel will continue to push for rigorous budgetary discipline across the eurozone.

Appeals for countries to be allowed to relax their deficit targets and borrow more to stimulate growth will not be granted, insisted Schäuble, adding:

I’m also in favor of more growth and more jobs

But I believe that only through budget consolidation and accompanying structural reforms can you get there.

At this stage, though, it’s not clear whether Schäuble will remain as finance minister in the next administration. It all depends on the coalition talks….

More here.

The fallout from Germany’s election continues. Jürgen Trittin, co-leader of the Green Party, has announced that he won’t run for the leadership again.

Trittin added that he and co-leader Katrin Göring-Eckardt would continue to hold “exploratory talks” with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats.

From Athens, our correspondent Helena Smith reports that today’s protests were “quite raucous”.

Photos from the scene show the usual array of anti-Troika slogans, calling for an end to Greece’s austerity programme.

As expected, today’s 48-hour strike has hit many public services. Associated Press flags up, though, that some local services kept running. Here’s AP’s early take:

Greek civil servants walked off the job Tuesday at the start of a 48-hour public sector strike, the second in as many weeks, to protest job cuts required for the country to continue receiving international rescue loans.

State school, tax office and hospital workers joined the strike, while ambulances services were to run with a reduced staff. Journalists joined in with a three-hour work stoppage, pulling any non-strike related news of the air.

But participation appeared low, with many services remaining open in central Athens, including post offices and some schools and tax offices.

Thousands of people marched peacefully, chanting anti-austerity slogans through the center of the capital and in the country’s second-largest city of Thessaloniki in the north.

Updated

Back in the markets, the Italian stock markets is the best performer this morning.

That’s after Spain’s Telefonica announced plans to take a bigger stake in Telecom Italia’s parent company.

Here’s the lunchtime prices:

David Madden, market analyst at IG, says traders are still pondering when the Federal Reserve might start to taper its bond-purchase scheme, and fretting about Germany.

He also flags up the comments from ECB senior policymakers today, and yesterday, about the possibility of another round of cheap loans for euro-area banks (see 11.07am for details)

The Federal Reserve is trying to keep investors in the dark as to what its next move will be. The decision to keep the bond-buying programme unchanged at $85 billion per month pushed equities higher, but speculation is mounting about what the next meeting will bring. As always, the Fed members are divided: James Bullard is hinting at tapering, while William Dudley isn’t convinced the US economy is strong enough yet.
Just as the Fed is looking to ease up on its stimulus package, the ECB stated it is on standby to pump cash into the banking system if required. Traders are becoming too dependent on stimulus packages, but they can provide a boost to equities in the short term.
Mineral extractors have lost the most ground today, due to softer commodity prices. Meanwhile, European equity traders are sitting on their hands while Angela Merkel puts together a new coalition government.

Back in Greece, one demonstrator is carrying a flag with a German slogan on it — clearly looking for an overseas audience (see below – it’s the blue banner in the background) .

It reads “Nein zu Spardiktaten und Nationalismus” or “no to austerity diktats and nationalism”

Here’s the full details of the OECD’s warning about the eurozone, from Reuters:

 The European common currency area remains “a considerable source of risk” even though the systemic risk from its debt crisis is scaling back, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s chief economist said on Tuesday.

The OECD’s Pier Carlo Padoan told a conference in Lisbon positive economic growth in the euro zone should return only in 2014, expecting growth to be still negative this year despite a recovery in many countries, including Portugal.

He said that while pursuing structural fiscal consolidation in 2014, euro zone countries should allow automatic stabilisers to work and focus on fighting high unemployment rates.

OECD chief: global economy is slowly recovering

Some quotes from the OECD’s chief economist, Pier Carlo Padoan, just flashed up on the Reuters screen.

He’s warning that the eurozone economy is still poses significant risks to the global economy, but also sees signs of recovery:.

11:15 – OECD CHIEF ECONOMIST SAYS GLOBAL ECONOMY SLOWLY EXITING RECESSION, BUT FAR FROM SUSTAINABLE GROWTH

11:16 – OECD CHIEF ECONOMIST SAYS EURO AREA “STILL REMAINS CONSIDERABLE SOURCE OF RISK” 24-Sep-2013

11:20 – OECD CHIEF ECONOMIST SEES EURO AREA ENTERING POSITIVE GROWTH IN 2014, 2013 STILL SEEN NEGATIVE 

11:22 – OECD CHIEF ECONOMIST SAYS GROWTH IS COMING BACK FOR MANY COUNTRIES INCLUDING PORTUGAL 

Greek photojournalist Nikolas Georgiou is tweeting some photos from today’s protests. Here’s a couple:

The European Central Bank could help the eurozone banking sector with a third injection of ultra-cheap loans, ECB governing council member Ewald Nowotny said this morning.

Speaking in Venice, Nowotny (who’s also the head of Austria’s central bank) said it was too early to consider stopping the ECB’s ‘non-standard’ stimulus measures.

Asked about the prospects of another Long Term Refinancing Operation (in which the ECB would offer huge quantities of low-priced loans to banks), Nowotny replied:

It is certainly important to show all that we have in the way of instruments, which are flexible.

The ECB offered almost a trillion euros to eurozone banks in two LTROs, at the end of 2011 and in early 2012. Yesterday, ECB president Mario Draghi told MEPs that a third LTRO was a possibility, if conditions required it.

Updated

Greek public sector workers have marched towards the country’s parliament in Athens, at the start the 48-hour strike that began this morning. Syntagma metro station has been temporarily closed.

The public sector ADEDY union has declared, as it’s said so many times before, that the protest is an attempt to push the government to change course.

We call on the workers … the self-employed, the unemployed, the pensioners, the youth and everyone affected by these policies to give their resounding presence.

But the Greek government is more worried about the Troika’s visit this week. There are murmurs from Athens that the debt inspectors are pushing for progress on privatisations, where Greece is already facing a €1bn shortfall this year.

Kathimerini explains:

During a meeting at TAIPED’s headquarters, the mission chiefs of the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund called for more action so that this year’s revenue shortfall, amounting to 1 billion euros, can be covered in 2014.

At the troika’s focus were the privatizations of ports, water and sewage companies, and Hellenic Post. According to plans drawn up in January, these sell-off projects should have started in the second quarter of the year, while the aim now is for them to get started in the last quarter, given that the third will be over in a week’s time.

Another reason for optimism about this morning’s IFO surveyit’s the best reading of German business confidence since April 2012.

Here’s AP’s take:

A closely watched index of German business optimism rose for the fifth month in a row in September, reflecting the improved prospects for Europe’s largest economy.

The IFO institute’s index edged up to 107.7 points from 107.6 in August. Market analysts had expected it to rise slightly more, to 108.0

The index is based on a survey of 7,000 companies about how they think the situation is now, and how they see things going in the coming months. It’s a leading indicator, meaning it suggests where the economy is going in the months ahead.

Germany’s economy expanded 0.7% in the second quarter, helping the 17-country euro currency union return to growth after six quarters of shrinking output.

Reminder — there’s analyst reaction here.

Updated

UK mortgage approvals at highest since December 2009

Just in: UK mortgage approvals have hit their highest level since December 2009, in another sign of a revival (some would say a boom) in Britain’s housing market.

A total of 38,228 loans were approved in August, up from 37,428 in July. That’s nearly a 26% jump on a year ago, according to the British Bankers Association.

Last week, chancellor George Osborne insisted that Britain isn’t gripped by a housing boom. But clearly the market has been revived by signs of economic recovery, and by Osborne’s Help To Buy scheme.

Prices are particularly rampant in the UK capital. As the FT’s Alphaville site points out, the average house price increase over the last 12 months (£38,729) is bigger than the average net income of a London household (£38,688).

Houses beating households, London edition

Those income figures include people who can’t afford to get on the housing ladder, of course:

Updated

IFO: What the experts say

Here’s that reaction to the news that Germany’s IFO business conditions index rose this month, if only marginally (see last post).

Analysts broadly agree that Germany is on the road to recovery, particularly as firms are more optimistic about future prospects.

However, there’s also a little bit of concern that the current conditions index fell (from 112 to 111.4), showing that firms are finding life a little harder.

I’ve taken the quotes off the Reuters terminal:

Thomas Gitzel, VP Bank:

“The somewhat worse conditions index reading is offset by the improved expectations index. Everything is pointing to a faster pace of growth for Germany in the coming months. But what is especially pleasing is that the improved indicators in Germany are based on a more positive international climate. These include improved prospects for the stricken euro zone countries, the recovery in the U.S. economy and the brightening situation in China.”"This leads us to conclude that the current upward movement can be seen sustainable.”

Ralf Umlauf, Helaba:

This is good news. The German economy is gaining speed and growth in the third quarter should again be robust. It’s a little disappointing that the rise in the business climate is only due to higher expectations. The European Cental Bank is likely to feel confirmed in its wait-and-see stance. On the political side, it’s now important to form a government able to act in order to prevent potential strain on the mood from a cliffhanger.

Christine Volk, KfW

German growth is on course for recovery, with business expectations brightening. Europe, as Germany’s most important export market, is beginning to stabilise after a very long lean period and Germany is benefiting from that. Growth in 2014 could even reach 2 percent.

We are less optimistic about Europe. There is a lack of growth stimulus and the debt sustainability of some countries is still in doubt. Here there is potential for disappointment.

Ben May, Capital Economics

The further rise in German Ifo business sentiment confirms that the economy is recovering, but we continue to expect growth to be reasonably sluggish. The rise in the headline business climate indicator was a touch smaller than the consensus forecast, but it left the index at its highest level since April 2012.

Updated

German business climate improves, but misses forecasts

German firms have reported that the business climate improved slightly in September, but they’re not as upbeat about the situation today as economists had expected.

That’s the top line from the monthly IFO survey, which was released a few minutes ago.

The IFO German Business Climate index came in at 107.7 in September – up from 107.6 in August, but lower than the 108.2 which the City had expected.

The Current Conditions index missed expectations, at 111.4 versus a consensus of 112.5. That’s also a fall compared with August’s reading of 112.0.

And IFO’s Future Expectations index came in at 104.2, just above the 104.0 that was pencilled in.

So, a mixed picture in Europe’s largest economy.

A year ago, the IFO business climate index was just 101.4 — so today’s 107.7 does show how the situation’s improved now Germany has left recession. But the fact firms aren’t as confident about current conditions as expected may show that growth this quarter will be a little weaker than hoped (although still quite robust)

Reaction to follow….

Updated

The most interesting corporate story this morning involves Spain’s Telefonica and Telecom Italia, whose shares jumped 4% in early trading.

Last night, Telefonica announced that it would raise its stake in Telecom Italia’s parent company, Telco, to 66%, and then eventually to 70%. It’s a complicated deal (see here) , but the upshot is that Telefonica will have a rather tighter grip on its Italian rival.

And as mrwicket flags up in the comments, the Italian press see it as a Spanish takeover:

Morning all.

The Italian papers are leading with ‘Telecom Italia becomes Spanish’. The deal was announced at midnight but seems a little more complicated than it appears.

At another midnight meeting, in a hotel in Palermo that used to be owned by the Graviano brothers, the Democratic Party decided to withdraw its support of its Governor of Sicily, Rosario Crocetta. Eleven months after the historic victory which ended the centre-right/mafia domination of the island, they pulled the plug.
Crocetta is openly (and genuinely) anti-mafia and a grass has said a boss has ordered his killing.

European stock markets have inched higher this morning, as traders await developments in Germany, or more clarity over when the Federal Reserve will start to slow its money-printing stimulus.

  • FTSE 100: up 12 points at 6569, +0.2%
  • German DAX: up 27 points at 8663, +0.3%
  • French CAC: up 18 points at 4190, +0.4%
  • Spanish IBEX: up 13 points at 9122, +0.14%
  • Italian FTSE MIB: up 48 points at 17962, +0.25%

Today’s public sector walkout in Greece is the second 48-hour strike in as many weeks.

It’s expected to hit schools and hospitals, and is timed to coincide with the Troika’s visit to Athens. As before, the unions are protesting about the government’s ‘mobility scheme’, part of the drive to cut thousands of public sector jobs.

The private sector GSEE union has called a four hour stoppage, from 11am local time (9am BST) – so it’ll be joining a protest rally in Athens.

While workers march through the streets, officials from the IMF, ECB and EU will be taking a close look at Greece’s budget for 2014. Greece’s Kathimerini newspaper reckons the Troika don’t share the Athens government’s optimism:

High-ranking Finance Ministry sources said that while the representatives of the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund agree that Greece will produce a primary surplus at the end of the year, they think it will be minimal. The troika is also skeptical about Greek projections for a primary surplus of 1.5 percent of GDP at the end of next year.

It is thought that one of the reasons Greece’s lenders are downplaying the possibility of Athens producing a sizable surplus is that they are alarmed by the debate in Greece about how this amount will be allocated and whether social spending could be increased.

With regard to the 2014 budget, the troika still has doubts about the effectiveness, in terms of revenue raising, of the unified property tax. Next year will be the first time the levy, which combines several property taxes into one, is applied.

Jürgen Baetz, AP’s man in Brussels, agrees that an alliance between Angela Merkel and the Greens looks increasingly unlikely.

Merkel’s coalition struggle

Looking at the German newspapers, Der Speigel has an interesting article about how Angela Merkel will find it difficult to reach a deal with the Green party, the only plausible alternative to a Grand Coalition with the Social Democrats.

It explains that some of Merkel’s advisors would prefer a Black-Green alliance, rather than a Black-Red deal with the SPD. But Horst Seehofer, party chief, is strongly opposed to a deal [Here's Spiegel's piece (in German)].

Seehofer told reporters last night that:

I have not heard anyone today calling on me to talk to the Greens.

Which leaves the SPD. But they remain nervous of another alliance with Merkel, having been burned by their first partnership eight years ago. That led to them posting their worst election results since the second world war in 2009.

Having seen history repeat itself last weekend when the Free Democrats were given the order of the boot from the Bundestag, the SPD may not want to risk it again.

As Bloomberg puts it:

The SPD, the second-place finishers in the Sept. 22 vote, may be reluctant to try again, picking up what its chairman suggested yesterday was a poisoned chalice.

The SPD won’t stand in line or make an application after Merkel ruined her current coalition partner,” Sigmar Gabriel told reporters yesterday in Berlin.

Updated

Caution over German coalition talks

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

Uncertainty abounds today, as Europe hunkers down to await progress on Germany’s coalition talks and Greece continues to told talks with its lenders in an atmosphere of tension and strife.

Ongoing confusion over the US Federal Reserve’s plans to slow its bond-buying stimulus programme (maybe next month? Maybe not until 2014?) are also casting a shadow over Europe, just when we’d hoped for some real clarity and progress.

As Michael Hewson of CMC Markets puts it:

If investors had been hoping that the latest Fed meeting and the result of the German elections would help bring much needed clarity to the uncertainty that has bedevilled markets for weeks now, the events of the last few days have soon dispelled that notion with the result that the current state of affairs is becoming quickly like the proverbial itch that you just can’t scratch.

This has inevitably meant that investors have become much less inclined to take on risk and has seen them start to once again err on the side of caution, pulling stocks down from recent all-time highs.

As we covered yesterday, the German coalition talks are going to be a long grind. Angela Merkel reached out to the Social Democrats yesterday, but their leadership group aren’t expected to meet until Friday.

This process could take several weeks, as the SPD is sure to drive as hard a bargain as it can in return for supporting Merkel’s CDU party

We’ll be watching for any developments in Germany through the day.

We’ll get another insight into the state of the German economy this morning, with the release of the monthly IFO survey. Due at 9am BST, it will show how confident businesses are about current conditions, and future prospects.

While in Greece, public sector unions have called another anti-austerity strike for today — with the usual protests in the streets of Athens.

There’s also a platoon of central bank officials holding speeches today — including no fewer than five members of the European Central Bank’s governing council. That’s Ewald Nowotny, Yves Mersch, Jorg Asmussen, Vitor Constancio and Benoit Coeure.

Two members of the Fed’s governing council are also due to speak later today – Sandra Pianalto and Ester George.

Updated

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Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Mrs. Merkel wins 41.5% of the vote but fell short of an overall majority. A coalition with the SPD seems the most probable outcome. European markets in the red. Merkel press conference in Berlin- highlights. How Merkel stormed to victory…

 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Markets fall as Merkel faces ‘difficult’ coalition talks – live” was written by Graeme Wearden, for theguardian.com on Monday 23rd September 2013 15.21 UTC

Here’s CMC Markets’ Michael Hewson with an update from the City (pretty much reinforcing what I posted at 4pm)

While we now know that Angela Merkel won the German elections over the weekend, such are the idiosyncrasies of the German electoral system that it could well be another two months before we have any idea as to what form the new government will take.

Mrs Merkel may have won 41.5% of the vote but she fell short of an overall majority and it seems likely that a coalition with the SPD seems the most probable outcome.

This could well be complicated as they are more sympathetic to the idea of a banking union, something that Mrs Merkel has been reluctant to countenance, and any disagreements are likely to complicate the decision making process at a time when key decisions are needed with respect to Greece, and the ESM in the coming months.

We’ve also seen some residual softness in European markets as a result of comments last week from St. Louis Fed President James Bullard about the possibility of an October taper as well as concerns over political deadlock surrounding the raising of the debt ceiling and this has translated into further weakness despite some encouraging PMI data from China, while French and German PMI’s were somewhat mixed.

Apologies – our comments system seems to be broken. Hopefully a temporary problem — it’s being looked into.

Markets fall

The prospect of lengthy coalition negotiations in Germany has helped to push European stock markets down, with the major indices all in the red.

The German DAX has fallen almost 0.5%, while the Spanish market is off around 0.8%

Here’s the details:

Not major falls, of course. But at the same time, there is no relief rally at all. Markets don’t like uncertainty, and paradoxically Merkel’s success – and the failure of the Free Democrats to get into the Bundestag — has created doubts over Germany’s next government.

Shares are also down because of confusion over US monetary policy, after the Federal Reserve chose not to start slowing its huge asset-purchasing scheme last week. Last Friday, St Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard suggested ‘tapering’ could begin as soon as October if economic data was strong enough.

Other analysts reckon it might not happen until 2014….

Updated

JP Morgan: Coalition talks will take some time

Angela Merkel faces a “difficult few weeks” as she attempts to pull together a new administration, warns JP Morgan.

They reckon there’s a 70% chance of a Grand Coalition between the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats, and a 25% chance of a deal between the CDU and the Greens. They’re not totally discounting the idea that CDU might govern alone, although without a Bundestag majority that would be a bold move.

JP Morgan said:

The process will take some time…

The reality is that the SPD’s willingness to engage or not with the CDU will be crucial. By early next week we should have more of a sense of the approach they are likely to take. For now, Gabriel and Steinbruck are playing down the chances of a deal in the near-term.

They also suggest that Wolfgang Schauble is likely to remain as finance minister:

It is too early to tell precisely what the trade-offs will be in the formation of a new coalition. However, the Chancellor will be in a much stronger position to demand that she keep the finance ministry than we would have expected a week ago. Continuity looks significantly more likely than it once did.

This might not please readers in countries hit hard by the eurozone debt crisis, where Schauble is blamed for Europe’s austerity push.

Here’s the full research note

Updated

Draghi also surprised the markets by telling MEPs that the ECB is ready to offer the banking sector more help by launching a third round of ultra-cheap loans (or long term refinancing operation) if necessary.

That has knocked the euro down to $1.3485, a fall of around one third of a US cent.

Updated

Draghi: too early to discuss another Greek bailout

Back at the European parliament, Mairo Draghi has been asked about whether Greece needs a third bailout.

He replied that it’s “premature to ask this”, as the European side of the readjustment for Greece runs until the end of 2014.

In our view it’s too early to discuss a follow-up programme now, or an extension of the current one.

Any decision on further aid would also depend on whether Greece can return to the financial markets by the end of next year, he added.

Earlier, Draghi appeared to defend the ECB’s role in the Troika — telling MEPs that while it provided help and advice, the Eurogroup (eurozone finance ministers) takes the decisions. In the long term, Draghi added, the ECB doesn’t see itself as part of the troika.

This prompted committee chair Sharon Bowles to joke: “The Eurogroup may or may not accept advice.”

MEP Sylvie Goulard wasn’t impressed, comparing the Eurogroup to a group of children who’ve generated a mess – it can be hard to know which one is really to blame .

Updated

Reuters has filed a full story about how Angela Merkel won cheers from the press pack in Berlin, by joking about how she decided what to wear today (as mentioned at 12.55pm)

Relishing a thumping election victory for her conservatives in Germany’s Sunday election, a smiling Angela Merkel said on Monday that conjecture about looming coalition talks presented her with a dilemma on what to wear.

With speculation swirling about her coalition options – which Germans tend to describe in terms of party colours – a relaxed-looking Merkel told reporters how she had tried to choose a neutral colour for the news conference.

“This morning I stood in front of my wardrobe and I thought red is no good, bright green is no good, blue was yesterday, what are you going to do?” said Merkel, who wore a dark jacket with a blue-green hue.”I decided for something very neutral,” she chuckled, raising a cheer and applause from reporters.

The Social Democrats (SPD), with whom she seems most likely to share power, have red as their colour while green represents the Greens who may offer Merkel another coalition option. Her own conservatives’ colour is black.

Updated

Back to the German elections…and the Open Europe thinktank has published a handy guide to the Key Players To Watch in the coalition discussions.

As I’ve suggested already today, the process could be slow …

Little progress is expected before the end of the week, with the SPD holding a small party conference on Friday where it will determine its strategy for the negotiations.

Open Europe suggests the Social Democratic Party chairman Sigmar Gabriel could become vice-chancellor if a grand coalition between the CDU and SPD is agreed, or he might get the defence or labour brief.

The SPD’s leader in the Bundestag, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, is likely to become foreign minister.

But what if the Greens form a coalition with CDU? It’s already in flux, with several senior players offering their resignations today after the party’s vote share fell to 8.4%, from 10.7%.

Open Europe explains:

The party’s chief whip, Volcker Beck, has already announced his resignation while the double party chairmanship, Claudia Roth and Cem Özdemir, offered their resignation this morning.

Both lead candidates, Katrin Göring-Eckar and Jürgen Trittin, seem to be dedicated to stay even though internal party pressure is increasing on the latter. Finally, the leader of the Green parliamentary group, Renate Künast, would need to be considered among the key players in a potential coalition with the CDU/CSU. What ministerial posts they could or would push for is unclear, but one would assume environmental and energy related posts would be top of the list

More here: As focus shifts to German coalition negotiations, who are the key players to watch? 

Updated

Heads-up: Mario Draghi is testifying at the European parliament’s committee on economic and monetary affairs (livestream here)

He’s starting by reading out a statement, largely reiterating what the ECB said at its monthly meeting at the start of this month.

inflation is still subdued, credit conditions are still poor, the eurozone economy remains weak (although now recovering) …

Updated

America’s manufacturing sector is expanding at a slower pace this month, according to data released a few minutes ago.

Markit’s “flash” manufacturing PMI came in at a three-month low of 52.8 – mirroring the slower growth reported in Germany and France this morning.

Updated

Protests over closure of Greek police service

There have been extraordinary scenes in Greece this morning, where police officers held a symbolic funeral for the municipal police service that’s being closed as part of the government’s austerity cuts.

Our Athens correspondent, Helena Smith, reports that municipal policemen and other public sector workers took to the streets to protest job dismissals today.

She writes:

At the start of a second week of intense industrial action in the public sector, Greek municipal police took drama to another level this morning, holding a mock funeral in the centre of Athens to protest internationally mandated cuts that have marked the death of the sector.

Hundreds of black clad protestors marched solemnly behind a hearse carrying a coffin before opening the casket outside the administrative reform ministry and dumping uniforms once worn by municipal police into it.

The images, captured on TV, appeared to take even hardened program presenters by surprise.

Under pressure from its troika of creditors at the EU, ECB and IMF, the government announced the disbandment of the force two months ago saying staff would be redeployed into a mobility scheme on reduced pay.

Protestors denounced the scheme as a euphemism for jobs cuts in a nation which, with about 1.4 million out of work, has already been hit by explosive levels of unemployment.

“A lot of us have no one working in our families. This is insane,” said one protestor standing outside the reform ministry, the government department in charge of implementing public sector cuts.

Meanwhile teachers, who have also thrown their weight behind a second week of strikes, demonstrated outside the education ministry where they have draped banners denouncing the dismissals and promising to “overturn” the deeply unpopular policies.

These protests could escalate tomorrow when ADEDY, the civil servants union, begins another 48-hour work stoppage.

All this comes as the Troika continue to conduct their audit of the Greek finances (see 8.57am)

Updated

Interesting … Social Democrats’ chairman, Sigmar Gabriel, has declared that there’s “nothing automatic” about forming a coalition with the Christian Democrats.

The comments come after Angela Merkel told reporters that she’d contacted Gabriel to begin coalition talks with the SPD (see 12.44pm for the details).

Here’s the Reuters newflash:

23-Sep-2013 13:07 – GERMAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATS’ CHAIRMAN SAYS NOTHING AUTOMATIC ABOUT COALITION WITH CONSERVATIVES, UP TO MERKEL TO FORM A MAJORITY 

The SPD’s losing candidate for the chancellorship, Peer Steinbrück, has also insisted that the ball is in Merkel’s court. He added that the issue of eurozone banking union (where Merkel’s government has taken a slow approach), must be part of any coalition talks.

Updated

Merkel also expressed “sincere respect” to the Irish people for what’s been achieved since the financial crisis struck. Prime minister Enda Kenny has shown a passionate commitment to reforms, she added.

When not slapping down impudent questions about her fashion sense, Angela Merkel also reiterated that her commitment to tough reforms in other parts of Europe has not weakened.

Asked about the Irish bailout, chancellor Merkel said Ireland was an example of a country where conditions are improving (it exited recession last week).

Its progress, though, was based on people recognising the mistakes of the past:

Chancellor Merkel caused much amusement among the press pack in Berlin when she was asked if there was any symbolism in her outfit at today’s press conference.

Does the choice of a blue-greenish teal jacket suggest an imminent coalition alliance with the Greens?

Not at all, insists Merkel (already famous for her wide range of coloured jackets). She jokes that she stood at the wardrobe this morning, thinking:

Red doesn’t go, green doesn’t go, blue was yesterday.

So she chose a “neutral” colour instead.

Updated

Angela Merkel appears to be on top form at her post-victory press conference – neatly avoiding a question from one hack about whether Europe needs a Marshall plan to stimulate a recovery.

Updated

Ok, here’s the key quotes from Angela Merkel about her coalition plans (via Reuters’ Berlin office)

We conservatives have a clear mandate to form a government and Germany needs a stable government, so we will carry out this mandate

We are, of course, open for talks and I have already had initial contact with the SPD chairman* who said the SPD must first hold a meeting of its leaders on Friday.

* That’s Sigmar Gabriel (rather than Peer Steinbruck, who was the SPD challenger for the chancellorship). 

Updated

Merkel says she wants to study the reasons for the rise in support for the eurosceptic Alternative for Germany party, but won’t change CDU policy on Europe in response.

Updated

Merkel: Europe must become more competitive

The election result is a strong vote for a united Europe, says Angela Merkel as her post-victory press conference continues.

The chancellor also underlines that there will be no let-up in Europe’s economic strategy. We are not at the end of the reform process in Europe, she declares. Europe must become more competitive.

Merkel also indicates that her CDU-CSU party will not govern alone, saying wants a “stable” government to run Germany for the next four years.

Merkel press conference highlights

Angela Merkel had told reporters that she has opened coalition talks, by making her first contact with the chairman of the Social Democrats (who came second to the CDU with 192 seats).

This does not exclude talks with other parties, she adds (such as the Greens, who came third with 63 seats, I imagine).

On Europe, she says that Germany’s current policy is “integration friendly”, and she sees no need to change it.

More to follow …

Updated

ECB president Mario Draghi has flown to Brussels today for an appearance at the European parliament.

Chiara De Felice, ANSA’s EU correspondent, reports that Draghi’s first priority was to catch up with the latest Italian sports news. Suggests he’s not worried about the German election.

Heads-up: Angela Merkel is giving a press conference now. Let’s see what she says about coalition plans…..

Updated

Spain’s tourism industry has notched up its busiest August ever, offering hope to one of the eurozone’s most hard-pressed members.

A record 8.3 million holidaymakers from abroad visited Spain last month, a 7.1% increase on the same month last year. It appears that this was partly owing to people avoiding unrest in Egypt and Turkey.

Total visitor numbers are up 4.5% this year, suggesting Spain’s on track to beat 2012′s record number of visitors.

The number of French visitors jumped by 9% to 1.8 million. while Russian tourist numbers jumped by 30% to 1.1 million (according to Reuters).

As the image above shows, Angela Merkel’s election dominated the Spanish papers today.

Updated

Video: Inside the campaign headquarters

This video clip, from the Wall Street Journal, shows the scene at Germany’s various party headquarters last night as the election results came in.

There’s a wide spectrum of emotion – from jubilation at CDU HQ to open-mouthed shock at the Free Democrats bash.

Updated

Peter Schaffrik, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, explains that the stock markets are subdued today because it could take weeks to agree a new German coalition.

He warned:

The formation of a government is not straightforward at all.

If finding a new government takes too long, markets might get jumpy as regards the stability of the German government, particularly with key European issues coming up for a negotiation.

The Bundesbank has predicted this morning that the German economy is on track for further growth in the months ahead, although the pace of expansion may have faltered this quarter.

Germany’s central bank said growth in the third quarter of 2013 would not match the previous three months, but still sounded fairly upbeat in its new monthly report. Here’s a flavour:

A noticeable improvement in expectations for production and exports as well as a slow increase in incoming orders point to growth in coming months

The extraordinarily good consumer sentiment continues, supported by slowing inflation and an overall good situation on the labour market.

Updated

Merkel’s win: what the analysts say

Here’s some more analyst reaction to the German election results (see 9.49am for Saxo’s early take).

Jonathan Pryor of Investec Corporate Treasury:

 The significance for the euro of Merkel being re-elected is that currency markets are generally quite precious when it comes to political change so a third term for Merkel is likely to be euro positive.

The fact that her party will also be forced to enter into a coalition should be received well by markets considering that it’s likely, left to their own devices, the Conservative party would yield a firm austerity first view to the peripheral member states.

 Steven Englander of Citigroup:

This is a vote in favour of Merkel rather than a vote in favour of big changes

It’s most likely Merkel will govern in a grand coalition with the Social Democrats, so that’s a slight euro positive because the government would be somewhat more friendly to the peripheral nations in the currency bloc.

Barclays:

Chancellor Merkel’s CDU/CSU won about 42% of the vote in the federal elections, according to the latest estimates, but a poor showing by the FDP means a CDU/CSU/SPD “grand” coalition of the largest parties looks the most likely outcome, providing limited near-term implications for markets …

We do not expect much change from Merkel’s current stance and continued support for weaker euro area member states. The relatively strong showing of the euro-critical AfD, however, is likely to limit the room for any new financial concessions from the next German government.

Kit Juckes of Société Générale:

Angela Merkel won a resounding endorsement of her policies from the German voters, with the highest share of votes for the CDU since 1990, but she didn’t win enough to avoid a painful period of coalition-building and uncertainty.

The outcome leaves markets somewhat in limbo.

Monex Capital Markets:

Critically, the future shape of Germany’s government will dictate how the eurozone works through its problems. Anything that is seen to deviate too far from the harsh austerity measures of recent years could inject a degree of fear, not just in Europe but in markets worldwide.

And here’s some more media reaction:

Updated

Forgot to mention earlier, but China’s manufacturing activity has hit its highest level since March, bolstering hopes that its economy is performing well this month.

China’s manufacturing activity hits six-month high.

Updated

Although Alternative For Germany (AfD) didn’t quite hit the major 5% mark to win Bundestag seats, the eurosceptic party still made a pretty decent impact in the election.

In the Financial Times, Peter Spiegel reckons AfD could still influence Angela Merkel’s thinking over Europe:

The future of AfD

Although it failed to reach the 5 per cent threshold to get into the Bundestag – it ended up with 4.696 per cent of the vote – the anti-euro Alternative for Germany party (known by its German initials AfD) surprised many in Brussels by getting as close as it did.

It was once conventional wisdom that no anti-Europe party could attract significant support in Germany, but if AfD is able to use this result as a base to grow, it could force Ms Merkel to keep an eye over her shoulder as she gets into bed with the SPD. Exit polls show that AfD drew most heavily from disaffected FDP voters, assuaging some of the fears within the CDU that they would pull voters away from them.

But if the AfD emerges as the alternative conservative force in Germany amid the rubble of the FDP, that could shape the way Ms Merkel approaches Brussels.

More here: What does the German result mean for the EU?

Interestingly, AfD appears to have won support from across the political spectrum. This chart, via Alberto Nardelli, shows how it won 330,000 from the Free Democrats (helping to drive them out of the Bundestag) and 230,000 from the Green party:

Market update

The news that eurozone private sector output hit a 27-month high this month has pushed stock markets a little higher this morning (see above), led by the French CAC.

The euro is flat at $1.314 to the US dollar.

There’s still no real relief that Angela Merkel secured such a strong result, particularly as we don’t know whether she’ll hammer out a credible coalition.

John Hardy, head of FX Strategy at Saxo Bank, suggests that a Grand Coalition with the SPD might lead to further tensions over eurozone strategy, and prevent rapid progress on issues like banking union and closer political ties.

Hardy writes:

Germany’s election was good for Angela Merkel, but leaves Europe and the euro in extreme state of uncertainty. Merkel’s landslide victory comes with a twist as much of her party’s strength was due to voters abandoning ship from the coalition partner FDP. Thus, the election result leaves Merkel in need of forming an awkward coalition with either the SPD or the Greens.

The storyline goes that one of these coalitions will be more “EU friendly” as the parties to the left tend to lean toward more generosity toward the EU project than Merkel. But even a “grand coalition” with the SPD if likely to be anything but grand and the greater risk from here is that Germany’s leadership in Europe risks being as weak as Merkel’s victory in the elections was strong. That’s at least in part because every EU-related decision in Germany will be a nervous exercise in calculating the effects of domestic politics within an uncomfortable coalition.

From here, Merkel is likely to try to continue the approach that has brought her relative success so far, making small concessions here and there, such as a small third bailout in Greece, to stem the risk that any individual crisis triggers a wider contagion. What we won’t see is a new overall vision for Europe. The on-going Big Question for Europe is the fundamental tension that will tear Europe apart if it is not eventually addressed: the single currency and single central bank within a multiple-sovereign union.

The EU is a house without a foundation, and such a house can’t stand forever. And a new Merkel-led coalition will not put Germany on a path toward building that foundation, it will merely see Germany continuing to send out the repairmen to plaster over the cracks that are appearing in the walls as the house continues to destabilize.

Francesco Papadia, who used to run market operations for the European Central Bank, believes the German election results could be good news for the eurozone.

He tweets that Angel Merkel will no longer be ‘captive’ to right-wing views, should she form a grand coalition with the Social Democrats:

Graph: Eurozone recovery gathers pace

Here’s the graph showing how Europe’s private sector is growing at its fastest pace in 27 months (see previous post):

Markit says it shows the eurozone recovery is ‘gathering pace’ – with both services sector and manufacturing firms reporting a rise in activity:

• Flash Eurozone Services PMI Activity Index at 52.1 (50.7 in August). 27-month high. 

• Flash Eurozone Manufacturing PMI(3) at 51.1 

The revival is being driven by Germany, where activity is growing at its fastest rate since the start of this year (details)

although Markit also believes the wider eurozone private sector continues to grow this month:

And Europe’s jobs crisis continues, with another small fall in manufacturing employment. The full report is here.

Eurozone business activity at highest since June 2011

Just in: business activity in the eurozone is growing at its fastest rate in over two years, due to a surge in new orders.

That’s according to data provider Markit, which reports that its composite purchasing managers index has jumped to its highest level since June 2011. It hit 52.1 this month, up from August’s 51.5 (anything over 50=growth).

This follows the better than expected data from France (8.25am) and Germany (see 8.39am) this morning, which showed a service sector revival.

Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, says the data is very encouraging:

These surveys show a real underlying swell of improvement. It’s all looking very positive.

More to follow….

Updated

While Germany was gripped by election fever, the Greek government was beginning a new round of talks with its lenders.

Troika officials are in Athens to assess whether Greece’s financial aid programe is on track. Overshadowing the talks is the question of whether Greece will get a third bailout in 2014.

The Wall Street Journal has a good take:

After a meeting lasting almost four hours with senior officials from the European commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank– known locally as the troika – and the Greek finance minister, Yannis Stournaras, a senior finance ministry official said initial discussions focused on a broad range of issues including the execution of the 2013 budget.

‘We will continue to work through the week,’ said the official.

While the negotiations represent the latest round in the regular quarterly inspection visits that have accompanied Greece’s almost four-year-long debt crisis – and will decide on whether to unlock the country’s next aid tranche of €1bn ($1.35bn) – new budget and growth data also show Greece may be turning a corner.

Senior officials in Athens have spoken of gradually exiting the draconian austerity program tied to the bailouts, but they also warn that the turnaround has yet to be felt by the average Greek, and that extremism in the country is rising.

More here: Greece, Creditors Begin Talks on New Bailout

Meanwhile, Greek journalist Kostas Karkagiannis sums up the mood:

Updated

Here’s a nice montage of how German newspapers are reporting Angela Merkel’s success, via the invaluable Electionista

Updated

The key point from this morning’s French and German economic data could be that manufacturing output in both countries was weaker than expected.

Here’s some instant reaction:

German private sector picks up speed

German service sector companies, like the country’s chancellor, are enjoying a pretty successful September. Activity has reached its highest levels since the start of this year.

The monthly ‘flash’ survey of purchasing managers, just released, showed firms in Europe’s largest economy reporting stronger growth this month. This pushed the German PMI up to 53.8, up from August’s 53.5, and the best reading since January.

As in France (see last post) the service sector led the way:

• Flash Germany Services Activity Index at 54.4 (52.8 in August), 7-month high.

• Flash Germany Manufacturing PMI(3) at 51.3 (51.8 in August), 2-month low.

It indicates that Germany’s economy is continuing to expand this quarter, despite problems elsewhere in the euro area. A key factor in Angela Merkel’s victory last night.

Tim Moore, senior economist at Markit, suggested Germany could pull weaker neighbours forwards:

Germany’s economy remained firmly in recovery mode during September, and its strengthening performance should continue to reverberate across the euro area. Positive signs from the German economy are a crucial factor underpinning global business confidence at present, especially while some momentum has been lost across emerging markets.

German manufacturing and services output both rose again on the back of improved new business levels during September.

French private sector returns to growth

Encouraging economic news from France this morning – its private sector has returned to growth this month for the first time since February 2012.

The monthly ‘flash’ PMI (a survey of purchasing managers across the country) came in at a 19-month high 50.2 – up from August’s 48.8. That’s the first time it’s been above the 50-mark, which indicates growth, since the early months of last year.

(reminder, we get German PMI data in a few minutes)

Markit, which conducts the research, said French industry appears to have stabilised this month thanks to its service sector, where growth was a 20-month high. However, manufacturing output did fall slightly (to 49.5, worse than expected).

Jack Kennedy, senior economist at Markit, explained:

The latest Flash PMI data point to stabilising business conditions in France during September. A return to expansion for the service sector counterbalanced a weaker manufacturing performance, but new business trends were broadly flat across both sectors.

Employment also moved closer to stabilisation, which should help the economy remain on a firmer footing.

Updated

European markets open

As expected, there’s no sign of a Merkel rally in Europe’s stock markets after her historic election win over night.

In Frankfurt, the DAX index is up a measly 0.1%, as is the French CAC in Paris. In London, the FTSE fell 8 points at 6592.

Traders may be waiting to see how the coalition negotiations progress, and there’s talk that Merkel might struggle to strike a deal with the Social Democrats.

Via FT Alphaville:

As JP Morgan’s Alex White said, ‘One can hardly escape the fact that Merkel’s coalition partners in her last two terms lost double digit shares of the vote.’

Merkel’s win also means that the eurozone crisis may flare up again this autumn, as Mike van Dulken, Head of Research at Accendo Markets, points out:

With the election behind us, prepare for revival of discussions on tough eurozone issues put on hold for the summer.

Gary Jenkins of Swordfish Research agrees:

Updated

Angela Merkel’s election success made the front page of the Guardian today:

Here’s our full story of the German election: Merkel secures third election win

And if you missed the action, my colleague Mark Rice-Oxley live-blogged it all here: Germany election results – live updates

Updated

Our Europe editor, Ian Traynor, writes that Angela Merkel’s triumph is her reward for protecting German’s from the effects of the euro crisis:

Her victory demonstrates the gulf between Germany and the rest of the EU and the eurozone, although it is not clear what impact her third term will have on the direction of the crisis.

Merkel’s second term coincided exactly with the euro crisis. As she was forming her coalition with the Free Democrats (FDP) in October 2009, Greece went belly-up, prompting deep doubts about the euro and the survival of the EU.

She has been resented and criticised across Europe for her crisis management and responses. Berlin became alarmed at the resurrection of the “ugly German” stereotype in neighbouring countries. But German voters have voiced their approval.

More here: Angela Merkel’s election win is reward for weathering the euro crisis at home

Angela smashes her rivals

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

What a triumph for Angela Merkel, eh? Germany’s chancellor stormed to a third term last night, leading the Christian Democrats to their best election result in two decades. The CDU-CSU alliance have scooped 311 seats out of 630, just five seats short of an overall majority.

At one stage last night it looked like Merkel might win enough seats to govern alone. Instead, she will now start coalition talks with her rival parties — but not her old partners, the Free Democrats, who have been dramatically ousted from the Bundestag after failing to win 5% of the vote.

That 5% threshold proved a stretch too far for the new eurosceptic force in German politics, Alternative für Deutschland, on an impressive debut performance.

Forming a coalition with one of her left-wing rival could be tricky for Merkel, who admitted last night that “Maybe we won’t find anyone who wants to do anything with us”.

A grand coalition with the SPD (192 votes) is a possibility — but could take some time to hammer out (as in 2005, when coalition talks took two months).

The SDP could demand some serious concessions from Merkel, including possibly new finance minister.

As Reuters sums up:

During the campaign, the center-left party argued for a minimum wage and higher taxes on the wealthy — both opposed by Merkel. The party could also demand the finance ministry, pushing out respected 71-year-old incumbent Wolfgang Schaeuble.

Don’t expect a decision imminently, though.

And this uncertainty over Germany’s next government means there will be no relief rally in Europe’s financial markets, where the euro has inched a little higher this morning to €1.354.

The German DAX might rise a few points this morning , but other markets are expect to fall (the FTSE is being called down 15 points by IG).

From the City, Michael Hewson writes:

The likely outcome [for Merkel] looks set to be a grand coalition with the SPD. In any event her old coalition partners the FDP appear to have missed out badly, with the new euro sceptic party Alternative for Deutschland, the AfD, doing particularly well, coming in as it did from a standing start.

Whatever the look of any government that is formed, and this might take several days, one of the key factors that did come out of the campaign was the increasing opposition of a rising number of German voters to further bailouts of what they perceive as fiscally irresponsible peripheral European economies. Any new government that chooses to ignore this rising scepticism in subsequent months is likely to come unstuck at the ballot box in any new state or European elections.

And speaking of bailouts, Greece’s “Troika” of lenders returned to the country yesterday to start a new assessment of its financial programme. New public sector strikes have been called for later this week — putting more pressure on the Athens government.

We also get new survey data this morning which will show how Germany and France’s manufacturing and service sectors are performing this month.

I’ll be tracking all the action through the day as usual….

Updated

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Polling data shows that Sunday’s German elections will be close, and could determine eurozone economic policy for the next stage of the crisis. Tight fight expected. Latest polling shows election is neck-and-neck. Grand coalition probably the most likely option…

 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Markets await German elections; India surprises with interest rate rise – live” was written by Graeme Wearden (earlier) and Nick Fletcher (now), for theguardian.com on Friday 20th September 2013 16.11 UTC

Here’s some Friday night ratings action:

On Malta Fitch said:

There has been significant fiscal slippage. Malta’s general government deficit was 3.3% of GDP in 2012, well above both the government’s target (2.2%) and Fitch’s September 2012 forecast (2.6% of GDP). This slippage has carried over to 2013, when Fitch forecasts a deficit of 3.6% of GDP, compared with 2.7% in the original 2013 budget. The European Commission has re-opened the excessive deficit procedure (EDP) against Malta, with the deadline for correcting the excessive deficit set for 2014. In its previous rating review (September 2012), Fitch identified material fiscal slippage in 2012 as a negative rating trigger.

And on Croatia being cut to junk:

Croatia’s fiscal outlook has deteriorated since Fitch’s previous sovereign rating review in November 2012. The agency has revised up its forecast for this year’s general government deficit to 4.7% in 2013 from 3.9%, while general government debt/GDP is now expected to peak at 66% of GDP in 2016, up from our previous forecast of 62%.

A structurally weak growth outlook has impaired the prospects for fiscal consolidation and the attainment of public debt sustainability.

A look at the possible problems facing Angela Merkel should she win the German election this weekend, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal. A taster below with the full story here:

Angela Merkel has become Europe’s most popular leader by telling Germans they don’t need to change, and by shielding them from much of Europe’s debt-crisis pain at the same time.

But as Ms. Merkel heads into a likely third term as Germany’s chancellor, there are increasing calls from the business community, which she has counted among her most loyal supporters, and others for her to move more quickly to confront simmering domestic problems that they worry will eventually endanger German prosperity.

The time to fix the problems—energy costs, worn-out roads and gaps in education among them—is now, they say, while the economy is healthy.

In the corporate world, Vodafone has received clearance from the European Commission for its takeover of Kabel Deutschland, and with that final hurdle passed, the deal is expected to be completed on 14 October.

Eurozone consumer confidence rose to a two year high in September, according to new figures from the European Commission, but is still in negative territory.

The index rose to -14.9 from -15.6 in August, compared to expectations of a figure of around -15. The news that strong German and French growth had helped pull the eurozone out of recession clearly helped sentiment, although the recovery remains fragile, as evidenced by Italy cutting its growth forecasts earlier today. Annalisa Piazza at Newedge Strategy said:

Consumer confidence is expected to have supported by the relative good news on the development of the EMU economy (that has finally emerged from a 6-quarter recession). News that the ECB is willing to maintain the current accommodative policy might have also played a role as households see reduced risks to their disposable income in the future. On the other hand, the still high unemployment rate and geopolitical uncertainties are likely to have put a lid on a more pronounced uptick in September.

Dow Jones opens lower after Fed taper comments

Wall Street has opened lower, not surprisingly given Fed official James Bullard’s comments that tapering might begin in October. The Fed gave markets at boost following Wednesday’s surprise decision by the US central bank to maintain its $85bn a month bond buying programme.

But after Bullard’s hint, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 22 points or 0.14% in early trading. However the Nasdaq had edged higher, up 0.15%, helped by a near 3% rise in Apple shares on the day queues form for the tech giant’s latest iPhones.

More German polling figures, showing the SPD and AfD edging up:

Updated

Across the Atlantic, observers are still trying to get their heads around Ben Bernanke’s decision on Wednesday not to start scaling back the US Federal Reserve’s $85bn a month bond buying programme.

Most economists had expected a move to wean the markets off the quantitative easing fix this month, but Bernanke pointed to the US economy still being too fragile.

But today Fed official James Bullard suggested to Bloomberg that the so-called tapering might now start in October. So we have all the “will-they-won’t-they” speculation to look forward to for another few weeks yet.

Updated

Budget airline Ryanair has promised to mend its ways, after being rebuked about its “abrupt” culture by shareholders today.

Reuters writes:

Ryanair, Europe’s biggest budget airline, has promised to transform its “abrupt culture” in a bid to win customers from costlier rivals, admitting for the first time that a reputation for treating its passengers badly might have become a problem.

The Irish firm, this week voted the worst of the 100 biggest brands serving the British market by readers of consumer magazine Which?, said on Friday it would become more lenient on fining customers over bag sizes and overhaul the way it communicates.

“We should try to eliminate things that unnecessarily piss people off,” chief executive Michael O’Leary told the company’s annual general meeting, after several shareholders complained about the impact of customer service on sales.

That’s the spirit.

More here: Ryanair must stop ‘unnecessarily pissing people off’, says O’Leary

And on that note, I’m going to fly home. Nick Fletcher has the controls. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Maybe see you online on Sunday night for the election excitement? Our foreign team will be all over it, and I’ll be on Twitter as @graemewearden as usual.

Updated

Forsa: German election is neck-and-neck

New polling data from Germany has just been released, showing that Sunday’s election is neck-and-neck with neither side on track for a clear majority.

The poll from Forsa found that the current CDU/CSU-FDP coalition would win 45% of the vote, as would their main rivals. Another key point, the eurosceptics Alternative For Germany would not hit the 5% threshold.

  • CDU/CSU 40%.
  • SPD 26%. 
  • Greens 10%.
  • LINKE 9%. 
  • FDP 5%
  • AfD 4%
  • Pirates 2%

I didn’t mention earlier, but the SDP has ruled out forming a government with the more left-wing Linke party, given its views on foreign affairs and its opposition to NATO. That could change in the heat of coalition talks, of course.

Today’s UK public finance figures mean George Osborne is on track to hit his fiscal targets for this year.

My colleague Katie Allen explains all:

A drop in government spending helped cut Britain’s borrowing last month, prompting economists to forecast that the chancellor is on track to meet his fiscal target for this year.

Borrowing for the last financial year as a whole was also revised down slightly by the Office for National Statistics as it published data on the public finances.

As mentioned earlier, Britain ran a deficit of £13.2bn in August – smaller than last year’s £14.4bn.

Katie continues:

The government’s progress on cutting Britain’s deficit – the gap between the government’s income and spending – was described as “painfully slow” by one business group. But analysts said the public finances appeared to be on an improving trend.

More here: Osborne on track to meet fiscal target as UK public borrowing falls

In the City, the Foxton’s estate agent chain continues to enjoy a stellar first day on the stock market. Its shares are up 20% this morning, at 277p from the 230p it floated at.

The FT says it shows “a recovery in both share offerings and the residential property market in the UK”.

Joshua Raymond, chief marketing strategist of Cityindex.co.uk, calls it a “hugely impressive” debut, and deliciously timed, too.

With London house prices shooting in the midst of a pricing bubble thanks in part to the Help to Buy Scheme, investors are trying to gain exposure to firms that directly benefit from this and as such the Foxtons IPO could not have been better timed in terms of its attractiveness.

Or as one fund manager puts it:

Updated

Thanks to BigBlue80 for flagging up the polling data which suggests Angela Merkel’s current CDU-CSU/FDP coalition would not get enough votes to return to power.

In the past, the most reliable of the large pollsters was the Institut für Demoskopie (IfD) Allensbach

They predict the following:
CDU/CSU 39,0%
SPD 26,0%
Grüne 11,0%
Linke 9,0%
FDP 6,0%
AfD 3,5%
Piraten 2,0%
Sonstige 3,5%

I.e. 45% for the current CDU/FDP coalition and 46% for the three major left parties.
It’s quite certain that Merkel stays chancellor although I would not completely discount the option of a SPD-Left-Green coalition. Which sounds like change but would mainly lead to too much instability to get anything done.

AfD might only influence politics in the sense that Merkel will have to watch her right-flank in the next few years. While these one-trick ponies usually don’t last long, they would have 4 years to embarass Germany abroad.

Updated

Speaking of eurosceptics….

Italy cuts growth targets

The Italian government has bowed to the inevitable today, tearing up its growth targets and admitting that its budget deficit is heading over target.

Enrico Letta’s government cut its forecast for 2013 to a contraction of -1.7%, down from -1.3% before. In 2014, it expects growth of 1%, down from 1.3%.

Both forecasts remain more optimistic than the IMF’s own targets — the Fund expects a 1.8% contraction in 2013 and a 0.7% expansion in 2014.

That difference could matter — on Letta’s calculations, the Italian deficit is on track to hit 3.1% this year. That’s over the EU’s target, and econony minister Fabrizio Saccomanni told reporters that it will be “corrected quickly”.

Sounds like the EU are putting pressure over the deficit too:

Saccomanni also predicted that Italy’s two-year recession will end soon, with GDP flat this quarter and then rising in the last three months of this year.

Updated

Tony Connelly, Europe Editor for RTE News, reports that the eurosceptic Alternative für Deutschland party are in good spirits ahead of Sunday’s election.

Party loyalists are confident they’ll win enough support to claim seats in the Bundestag. They’re also looking ahead to next year’s European elections.

Emma Tunney, an intern with Open Europe, attended one of Angela Merkel’s campaign rallies this week, and writes that Europe was only raised late in the chancellor’s speech:

Here her stance was clear – Germany must hold the course. Germany’s continued commitment to help its friends is necessary, that said she was quick to add that Germany had every right to expect those receiving assistance make meaningful changes to their financial systems.

Her assertion of a CDU rejection of the possibility of mutualizing European debt was well received, and was perhaps the most definitive statement on what we could expect should she become Chancellor once again.

Parish notice: my colleagues on the foreign desk have been tracking the twists and turns of the German general election in their own blog: German Elections Blog 2013.

Updated

From Berlin, my colleague Philip Oltermann flags up that the unfolding story of how US intelligence have been accessing Europe’s electronic communications was raised by Peer Steinbrück yesterday,

The NSA affair became a German election issue on Thursday when Social Democrat candidate Peer Steinbrück accused Angela Merkel of “negligent” treatment of the issue.

He said the revelations of US internet surveillance represented a “far-reaching interference with our basic democratic rights and personal self-determination”, and that Merkel had failed to “protect German citizens’ freedoms and interests”.

More here: Peer Steinbrück accuses Angela Merkel of negligence over NSA revelations

Electionista has crunched the recent polling data and concluded that Angela Merkel’s CDU-CSU/FDP coalition has just a 50.5% chance of winning a majority on Sunday:

On that point….

Updated

AP: Tight fight in Germany

Here AP’s latest dispatch from the German political frontline. It explains how the Free Democrat party are battling to hit the crucial 5% mark to get into the Bundestag.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and her struggling coalition partners were fighting over votes Friday in the final stretch of campaigning for Germany’s election as polls pointed to a tight outcome.

Merkel is heavily favored to emerge from Sunday’s election with a third term, but her hopes of continuing the current coalition of her conservatives and the pro-market Free Democrats are in the balance.

A ZDF television poll conducted Wednesday and Thursday showed a statistically insignificant one-point lead for the alliance over the combined opposition in line with other recent surveys showing a dead heat.

The Free Democrats are pushing hard for Merkel supporters’ votes after being ejected from Bavaria’s state legislature in a regional vote last weekend. In national polls, they’re hovering around the 5 percent support needed to keep their seats in Parliament.

Merkel and her conservative Union bloc are pushing back, saying they have no votes to give away. If the coalition loses its majority, the likeliest outcome would be a “grand coalition” between Merkel’s party and the center-left Social Democrats and the conservatives want to be as strong as possible.

“I would advise us all in the final hours before the election to fight our political opponents and not argue over each other’s votes,” Bavarian governor Horst Seehofer, who led Merkel’s conservative bloc to victory there, told the daily Die Welt.

The Free Democrats have “potential of well over 5 percent,” he was quoted as saying. They won nearly 15% at the last election.

“I think it’s a very strange understanding of democracy when the impression is raised that citizens’ votes belong to the chancellor,” the Free Democrats’ general secretary, Patrick Doering, shot back on n-tv television.

ZDF’s poll of 1,369 people gave Merkel’s conservatives 40 percent support and the Free Democrats 5.5%. Challenger Peer Steinbrueck’s Social Democrats polled 27%, their Green allies 9% and the hard-line Left Party with which the center-left parties say they won’t work 8.5%.

The poll showed a new anti-euro party, Alternative for Germany, at 4% not enough to win parliamentary seats. It gave a margin of error of plus or minus up to three percentage points.

But do note the caveat from earlier – some analysts think AfD are doing better than that…..

Looking back at the German election… here’s a handy graphic showing how last night’s polling data would translate into seats in the Bundestag:

The CDU’s 266 seats,plus the FDP’s 37, would give the current coalition a small majority –which could make for some tight votes on future eurozone policy.

Updated

On a lighter note, there’s a correction in the Financial Times today that deserves a wide audience (with many thanks to Luke Baker of Reuters)

Updated

Britain’s public finances were a little better than expected in August. The monthly deficit came in at £13.157bn, compared with estimates of around £13.3bn. Government revenues rose by 1.4%, and spending dipped by 2.2%.

So far this year, the UK had borrowed £46.8bn to balance the books, compared to £50.5bn for the first eight months of 2012. More to follow.

Updated

Corporate news

In the UK business world, the Office for Fair Trading has launched an investigation into possible price fixing on sports bras.

More here: OFT probes sports bra price fixing

And everyone’s favourite (?!) estate agent, Foxtons, has launched on the London stock market. Floated at 230p a share (valuing the firm at nearly £650m), its shares have leapt to 280p. Even London house prices aren’t going up that fast.

More here: Foxtons share price soars on debut

Adidas profits warning pushes DAX down

European stock markets are mostly lower today, but there’s not much afoot.

The initial rally sparked by the Federal Reserve’s decision on Wednesday not to taper its stimulus package has worn off, and traders appear to be hunkering down ahead of the German election.

The German stock market has been pulled down by a profit warning from Adidas last night.

Adidas blamed adverse currency effects, a distribution problem in Russia and poor trading at its golf business.

• FTSE 100: down 6 points at 6618, down 0.1%

German DAX: down 9 points at 8681, down 0.12%

French CAC: down 5 points at 4200,-0.12%

Italian FTSE MIB: down 1 point at 18056, – 0.01%

Spanish IBEX: up 11 points at 9,165, +0.13%

Updated

Here’s some early reaction to India’s surprise interest rate decision, which I’ve taken from Reuters.

Anjali Verma, chief economist at PhillipCapital:

Hiking the repo rate was unexpected. The governor is clearly worried about inflation. He is saying the improved international conditions will take care of the current account deficit funding and his focus will shift to fiscal deficit and inflation, which were taking a backseat.

Anubhuti Sahay, economist at Standard Chartered:

The statement clearly has a strong hawkish bias as it states that with a relatively more stable exchange rate, monetary policy formulation will be determined once again by internal determinants viz inflation and fiscal deficit.

Abheek Barua, chief economist at HDFC Bank:

The long-term signal is that the RBI is still concerned with inflation.

Easing short end of the curve, which it has done by cutting the MSF (marginal standing facility), reducing CRR requirements and etc. is a strong pro-growth signal. I think it (MSF) might be reduced even further.

India battles inflation with surprise rate hike

India’s new central bank governor Raghuram Rajan made a splashy debut in the monetary policy world this morning.

The Reserve Bank of India surprised the markets by announcing a quarter-point rise in India’s headline interest rate, from 7.25% to 7.5%.

However, the RBI also announced that it will unwind some of the “exceptional measures” put in place to support the Indian Rupee, after it slumped to record lows against the US dollar this summer.

Rajan’s message with today’s rate hike is that the RBI will make fighting India’s inflation problem its top priority. The cost of living is rising at 6.1% in India.

As Rajan put it in today’s statement:

Bringing down inflation to more tolerable levels warrants raising the repo rate by 25 basis points immediately.

The RBI raised rates despite recognising that the Indian economy is weakening, with “continuing sluggishness in industrial activity and service.”

Clearly, Rajan is showing that he’s taking price stability as his mantra. The minutes point out that that the RBI has struggled with this in the past:

What is equally worrisome is that inflation at the retail level, measured by the CPI, has been high for a number of years, entrenching inflation expectations at elevated levels and eroding consumer and business confidence. Although better prospects of a robust kharif harvest will lead to some moderation in CPI inflation, there is no room for complacency.

A rate hike usually pushes currencies up. However, the rupee promptly dived as the news hit the wires, as traders realised that the RBI was also cutting some of the exceptional measures introduced to support its currency. The rupee fell from 61.7 to the dollar to as low as 62.55.

Stocks also fell on the Indian stock market — with the Sensex sliding over 2.1% so far today.

* – for the record, the RBI trimmed its marginal standing facility rate by 75 basis points from 10.25 to 9.5 per cent, and cut the minimum proportion of the cash reserve ratio that banks must maintain at the RBI from 99 per cent to 95 per cent.

Updated

Interest in the German election extends to the Asian markets, reports IG’s man in Melbourne, Chris Weston.

There’s no panic, but investors are calculating how the result will affect eurozone crisis policy. He writes:

The market sees the election really going one of two ways; either the status quo is resumed (i.e. CDU, CSU and FDP remain in power) or perhaps a grand coalition with the SPD party is put together after a short period of negotiations.

Given the SPD’s previous positive stance on backing a redemption fund, backed by Eurobonds, if they did help govern in future we could see a spike in EUR/USD on the prospect of a more euro-friendly government in place. On the other hand if the AfD (right wing, anti-euro party) get over 5% of votes and thus gain representation in parliament, we could see EUR and US futures gap lower on Monday.

Eurozone concerns have had limited influence on price action of late, but the prospect of having the AfD party having representation in parliament could have implications on eurozone policy going forward. The first thing that springs to mind is Greece.

We know the Greeks have a funding problem; the IMF talked openly about it July; highlighting a €4.4bn funding gap in its current program for 2014 and €6.5bn in 2015.

Given all new loans have to be fully agreed on in the Bundestag (German lower house of parliament); AfD representation in parliament could cause disruptions and uncertainty here.

Updated

On the campaign trail….

Angela Merkel and Peer Steinbrück, the SPD’s candidate for the chancellorship, held election rallies last night in a late drive to win votes before Sunday’s election (see opening post)

Both politicians attracted a healthy turnout of supporters, as these photos show:

Updated

German election looms

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

Germany’s general election has loomed over the eurozone for most of 2013. Finally, it’s all-but upon us.

Germans head to the polls on Sunday in a crunch poll that will determine how Europe’s largest countryeconomy is governed for the next four years. There’s no doubt that Angela Merkel’s CDU-CSU party will win the most votes. But there’s real uncertainty over whether her coalition with the Free Democrats can be repeated, or whether we’ll see a grand coalition with left-leaning rivals.

Poll after poll this week have confirmed that it’s just too close to call (do make your predictions in the comments).

The latest survey, released last night by FGW, suggested that Merkel’s coalition would just win enough votes to take power again.

It put CDU at 40%, the Social Democrats at 27%, FDP at 5.5%, Linke at 8.5%, the Greens at 9%, and then the eurosceptic Alternative for Deutscheland at 4% (not enough to win seats).

So, that’s the CDU-FDP on 45.5%, and other major parties at 44.5%.

The key factor is that a party needs 5% of votes to actually get into the Bundestag. And the whisper in Germany (and in the comments section of this blog this week) is the AfD might be doing better than the pollsters believe.

If AfD clear the 5% mark, as some polls have suggested, then German politics will be dramatically shaken up.

Here’s what some respected euro journalists have been tweeting:

So, the eyes of Europe could be on Germany this weekend, and for sometime after if it’s an unclear result.

Traders in the City are already watching with interest, as CMC’s Michael Hewson writes:

It still remains uncertain as to what the electoral maths will be with respect to any new coalition government.

A rising Eurosceptic movement in Germany could well complicate things significantly after a poll by German newspaper Bild showed that the AfD party could well be on course for more than 5% of the vote in the election this weekend.

A move above this threshold would mean that the party would gain seats in the Bundestag and as such would mean that they would have much greater influence over policy as well as make the likelihood of a less stable coalition a real possibility as neither the CDU, or the SPD would have enough votes to form a government with any prospective coalition partners.

I’ll be tracking events through the day as usual. We’ve already had one piece of interesting news outside Europe — India’s central bank has surprised the markets by raising interest rates. More on that shortly…. 

Updated

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New governor tells MPs his pledge to keep interest rates at record lows for up to three years has reinforced recovery. Carney points out that he is the only serving central bank governor among the G7 countries to have increased rates while heading the Bank of Canada…

 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Bank of England governor Mark Carney rattled as he defends forward guidance” was written by Heather Stewart, for theguardian.com on Thursday 12th September 2013 11.17 UTC

The Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, has launched a staunch defence of his pledge to keep interest rates at record lows for up to three years, claiming that it has “reinforced recovery”.

Carney faced tough questioning from the cross-party Treasury select committee of MPs about the likely consequences of the monetary policy committee’s new “forward guidance” strategy.

But he insisted: “Overall, my view is that the announcement has reinforced recovery. It’s made policy more effective, and more effective policy is stimulative at the margin.”

The new governor also stressed that despite the MPC’s expectation that rates will remain on hold for up to three years, he would be ready to push up borrowing costs if necessary.

“I’m not afraid to raise interest rates,” he said, pointing out that he is the only serving central bank governor among the G7 countries to have increased rates – in his previous post, in Canada.

City investors have pushed up long-term borrowing costs in financial markets sharply since the MPC announced its new pledge to leave borrowing costs unchanged at 0.5%, at least until unemployment falls to 7%.

But Carney, who was handpicked by George Osborne to kickstart recovery and took over in Threadneedle Street at the start of July, at times appeared rattled. He said the recent increase in long-term rates, which sent 10-year government bond yields through 3% last week for the first time in more than two years, was “benign”.

He also repeatedly refused to be drawn on whether the new approach represented a loosening of policy – equivalent to a reduction in interest rates – in itself.

Carney denied that the new framework, involving “knockouts” if inflation appears to be getting out of control, is too complex. But Andrew Tyrie, the committee’s Tory chairman, complained that Carney’s account of the Bank’s new approach would be difficult to explain “down the Dog and Duck”.

Asked about the plight of savers, whose savings are being eroded by inflation with interest rates at rock bottom, the governor said he had “great sympathy”, but the best thing the Bank could do to help was to generate a sustainable economic recovery.

“Our job is to make sure that that’s not another false dawn, and ensure that this economy reaches, as soon as possible, a speed of escape velocity, so that it can sustain higher interest rates.”

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FTSE 100 finished 53.25 points higher at 6583.99, a near four week high, helped by Chinese industrial production hitting a 17 month high in August and signs of a possible compromise to defuse the prospect of an imminent US attack on Syria…

 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “FTSE hits four week high as Syrian tensions ease, but GlaxoSmithKline falls on competition fears” was written by Nick Fletcher, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 10th September 2013 16.01 UTC

Leading shares moved higher on more good economic data from China and hopes of a resolution to the Syrian dispute.

But GlaxoSmithKline missed out on the gains, falling 41.5p to 1598.5p on the prospective arrival of generic copies of its lung treatment Advair in the US, after draft guidance from regulators set out requirements for competitors.

Savvas Neophytou at Panmure Gordon said Glaxo’s prospects were still dependent on Advair, which accounted for around 18% of revenues and 25% of profits. He said:

Following the investigation on selling practices in China and the failed trial on cancer candidate MAGE-A3 last week, the group’s risk profile is increased with news overnight that the FDA had published draft guidance for the development of substitutable generic copies of combination inhaled drugs. This may result in increased competition to Glaxo’s biggest selling product Advair. In recent years, the risk of a directly substitutable generic in the US had subsided, with a number of draft recommendations withdrawn. To boot, GSK’s management has been more confident in dismissing the risk as relatively low probability.

Clearly generics will have to still undertake some sort of clinical trial (the length of which is yet to be determined) and that is onerous in the case of many generic manufacturers. Thus, in a worst case scenario, more competitors may enter the market but this is unlikely to become an 80%-90% discount generic market which is often the case when multiple generics are launched in pharmaceutical markets.

He kept his buy recommendation and £18.50 target:

Although not the cheapest, the company has been through the majority of its patent expiries, big liability settlements and boasts a strong balance sheet and very little M&A risk. With shareholder returns remaining strong, we remain buyers.

Reckitt Benckiser rose 81p to £44.45 despite a sell note from Liberum on worries about competition for its suboxone heroin substitute. Liberum said:

Orexo’s Zubsolv tablets, competition for Reckitt’s Suboxone film, will start retailing on September 16 with list prices as much as 25% below the price of Suboxone. We think consensus is wrong to assume no impact on Suboxone film earnings by 2014.

Overall the FTSE 100 finished 53.25 points higher at 6583.99, a near four week high, helped by Chinese industrial production hitting a 17 month high in August and signs of a possible compromise to defuse the prospect of an imminent US attack on Syria. The other major concern troubling the market – when the US Federal Reserve might end its bond buying programme – could become clearer after next week’s Fed meeting.

Airlines benefited from the relaxation of Syrian tensions, as the oil price dipped. British Airways owner International Airlines Group climbed 14.3p to 319.8p while easyJet jumped 81p to £13.58.

A fall in precious metal prices – a traditional haven in times of worry – saw Randgold Resources lose 225p to £46.89 and Mexican miner Fresnillo fall 44p to £12.25.

But Glencore Xstrata added 7.45p to 328o.75p after revealing higher than expected cost savings from its recent merger.

Glencore finally completed its $46bn takeover of Xstrata four months ago and promised last year the deal would provide $500m of synergies, partly through selling Xstrata’s minerals and metals through Glencore’s marketing outlets. In a presentation to the City, the company said the savings would be quadrupled to $2bn. Not only will it cut costs, it will shelve risky projects and reduce capital expenditure.

Elsewhere Whitbread dropped 78p to £31.38 after investors took profits following signs of a slowdown at its Costa Coffee chain.

BG continued to slide after Monday’s production warning which accompanied a City presentation. Its shares fell another 12p to £12.05, and Neill Morton at Investec said:

This interesting seminar essentially expanded on themes set out in BG’s recent strategy presentation in May. As such, there was little to change our earnings forecasts. Unfortunately, the ‘new news’ on the day was the production warning for 2014 (Egypt, Norway, US) with possible knock-on effects into 2015. We lower our earnings forecasts by around 4% and expect BG’s latest warning to cast a cloud over near-term share price performance.

Among the mid-caps fund management group Ashmore was 19.3p better at 382.2p after full year profits rose 6% to a better than expected £257.6m. Chip designer Imagination Technologies rose 14.9p to 302p ahead of the launch of the new Apple iPhone while larger rival Arm added 23.5p to 941p.

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