Financial analysts fear that Britain could be among the countries that could follow Greece into a financial crisis. The uncertainty comes after Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned of economic “contagion” spreading across Europe.
The IMF urged politicians to finalise a bail-out for the debt-laden Mediterranean country, saying that every day lost in resolving the problems risked spreading the impact “far away”.
Strauss-Kahn’s comments came amid growing evidence of Europe’s mounting fiscal problems after Spain’s debt was downgraded following in the footsteps of Portugal as well as Greece.
Late Thursday Germany was holding out for more economic reforms from Greece before agreeing to an unprecedented multi-billion euro bail-out plan.
UK house prices increased by 1% month-on-month in April, according to the latest house price index.
Property experts pointed out that April’s figures did receive an additional boost from the fact that April was one of the weaker months of 2009. However with property values beginning to increase from May last year, it will be difficult to maintain this rate of growth in the coming months.
On the commercial property front, it appears that the appeal of London’s robust shopping demand continues attract the leading for international retail chains to the city. A recent survey has revealed how 58 percent of international retail brands have opened outlets not just in London but throughout the UK, spurred by strong consumer demand.
Preliminary assessments have revealed that the European air transport sector swallowed as much as €2.5 billion in losses from disruption caused by Iceland’s volcanic eruption. The loss assessment conducted by the European Commission could well be the model that an industry bailout will be based on. Some of the airlines affected have argued that flawed computer models used by member states were partially responsible for grounding planes, even when the airlines insisted that was safe for them to resume their services. A spokesman for the UK Department for Transport stated that while the “UK cannot unilaterally provide new aid to affected companies it continues “to explore options” with the Commission. Meanwhile, budget airline EasyJet have cautioned that governments should be prevented from providing aid to “ailing national carriers” who might use the financial damage caused by the volcanic disruption as a pretext for a bailout.
Royal Dutch Shell today announced a 49% surge in first quarter profits as the energy giant joined rival BP in benefiting from higher oil prices.
The Anglo-Dutch group reported earnings of £3.2 billion ($4.9 billion) for the first three months of the year – a day after BP posted a profit of £3.6 billion for the same period. The company’s chief executive explained that rising energy prices and an improved operational performance meant Shell’s profits were sharply higher than the $1.18 billion in the final quarter of 2009.
Shell’s performance has lagged behind BP as it has been forced invest heavily in finding new sources of oil and gas at a time when refining margins are under pressure due to global overcapacity and economic weakness.
Today’s results are back to the levels of the first quarter of 2009, when crude prices averaged just over $41 dollars a barrel, while the figure today stands at an average of $76 dollars a barrel.
Imperial Tobacco has reported a 15 percent rise in profits for the first half of their financial year. The increase comes through an increase in demand in some of their key European markets for cheaper roll-your-own tobacco. From factory-made cigarettes Bristol-based Imperial Tobacco, whose brands include Lambert & Butler and Davidoff reported a pre-tax profit of £974 million for the six months to March 31, on turnover up eight percent at £13.4 billion.
Sterling continues to grow in strength against the dollar closing on $1.5351, whilst falling back slightly against the troubled Euro on €1.155
There was a positive mood on the stock exchange on Thursday, with U.K. stocks mostly on the up. Among the most active were Unilever, the world’s second-largest food and detergent company, whose shares advanced by 3.2 percent. After BSkyB the U.K.’s biggest pay-television provider reported an increase in third-quarter profit their shares rose by the most in more than a year. Also shares in AstraZeneca, the U.K.’s second-largest drug-maker, advanced by 2.3 percent.
The FTSE 100 rose 30.89 points to 5,617.8. The market appears to be rebounding from two days of losses prompted by the downgrading the credit ratings of Greece, Portugal and Spain.
Stateside, the Federal Reserve have conformed their pledge to keep interest rates low for an “extended period”, while offering a slightly more upbeat assessment of the US economy. The Fed’s open market committee reiterated that its main interest rate would remain at its target range of 0-0.25 per cent. The figure has stood at this level since December 2008.
Analysts point out that the financial recovery appears to be gathering steam in the US in recent months, with most economic indicators in line or ahead of previous expectations. However, pressure on policymakers to start raising interest rates has not risen accordingly, with inflation remaining in control.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones made a recovery from early week falls, closing up 122.05 points to 11167.32, while the NASDAQ rose 40.19 points to 2511.92
It appears that American consumers have re-discovered the joys of shopping, with retail sales stronger than forecast. The US housing market, meanwhile, has shown fresh signs of a rebound, with home prices increasing on an annual basis for the first time in three years in February,
In the computer hardware world, the news is that Palm, one of the leading pioneer in the smart phone business, are to acquired by US computer giant Hewlett-Packard (HP) for £657 million ($1 billion)
A spokesman for HP said that Palm’s webOS operating system would help its expansion in the fast-growing market for smart phones and connected mobile devices. Although HP is paying a premium to Palm’s closing share price on Wednesday of $4.63, it is well below the company’s 52-week high of $18.09.