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Monday, September 8, 2014

Lagarde urges Germany to spend more, as eurozone confidence slides

Rolling business and financial news, as the latest Halifax survey shows house price growth running out of steam in AugustLatest: Lagarde tells Germany to spend moreSentix: Eurozone recession fears growScottish fears knock two cents off sterlingSpanish house prices show first gain since 2008Halifax: UK prices up just 0.1% last monthAnalyst: prices will keep rising at restrained paceIntroduction: Pound under pressure 1.03pm BST Over in Greece, prime minister Antonis Samarass promise of tax cuts and growth this year have failed to wow his critics.The reality is that nearly two million are unemployed, 6,500 have taken their own lives, pensions and wages have been cut dramatically, insurance funds are collapsing and people are losing their jobs. These cuts, which wouldnt even take effect until 2016-1017, bear no connection to any of that. We all believe that elections will be early and this is part of blackmailing Greeks into thinking that this government not only offers stability but something even better.Nothing could be further from the truth. 11.57am BST Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, is going round Europe trying to stir up enthusiasm for a German investment splurge to help the eurozone.Lagarde told daily Les Echos in an interview the process could be aided by Germany, which is borrowing at record-low rates and on track to record a public sector surplus for the third year running. We think that public or private investment (in Germany) to finance infrastructure would be welcome, she said, stressing this did not mean making the German economy less competitive.I think structural reform is necessary in terms of labour market regulations, excessive regulations in some areas, of areas of economic activity that are too protected and which need to be opened up to competition.This goes for everyone... its true for France, its true for Germany, its true for Italy. 11.54am BST Irelands Finance Minister Michael Noonan begins a long week of lobbying across Europe this week.Noonan and the Fine Gael-Labour coalition believe that if Ireland is allowed to repay the IMF bailout bill first before paying back loans from the European Central Bank it could result in annual savings of 375m to the Irish Exchequer.His logic is that with Ireland now enjoying low borrowing costs on the international markets -a sign of renewed global investors confidence in the Republic - Dublin should be allowed to go first to the private markets to pay off the IMF side of the debt. The IMF debt burden is greater than that Ireland owes to the ECB. 11.08am BST Currency trader tells me that selling off the pound is like shooting ducks in a barrel today. "Wonderful few hours" of trade, he says 10.58am BST The selloff in sterling has deepened, as Scottish independence jitters reverberate around the financial markets.The pound is down two cents against the US dollar, to $1.6118, cementing its position as the weakest major currency today. Thats a new 10-month low.The rationale behind Scotland continuing to use the pound is to promote stability and remove uncertainty for trade. Domestically that might be true, but internationally the opposite is happening. Markets dont like uncertainty. We can expect at least a 5% drop in the pound in the face of Yes vote and it could be considerably more.The prospect of protected negotiations will create a period of volatility in exchange rates, bonds and equities which will continue until concrete decisions over debt and currency are made. 10.39am BST This is worrying. Economic confidence in the eurozone has fallen sharply, as the European Central Banks efforts to stimulate growth and inflation fail to calm the region. The Sentix research group reported that morale among investors slumped this month, to -9.8 on its index. Thats the lowest reading since July 2013, and a big drop on Augusts 2.7.Thats remarkable because ever since President (Mario) Draghi took office, the ECB has always managed to boost investors economic expectations with a variety of measures. This doesnt seem to be working anymore.The indicator points to another recession in the euro zone, it added. 10.17am BST The oil price has just slipped to its lowest level in 14 months. The cost of a barrel of Brent crude is changing hands for $99.96 per barrel, the first time below the $100 mark since June 2013. 10.05am BST British banks have been warned against dodging the EUs bank bonus cap.Michel Barnier, a vice-president of the European commission, has threatened the City with a a co-ordinated policy response, if they circumvent rules banning staff from bonuses worth more than 100% of base salary, or 200% with shareholders permission. 9.52am BST While Britains housing boom slows, Spains long property slump may be over.House prices in Spain rose by 0.8% year-on-year in the second quarter of 2014, the first annual rise since the financial crisis began six years ago. 9.52am BST The pounds 1% tumble against the US dollar makes it the worst performing major currency today.fastFT adds:If one includes exotic, tiny currencies then only the Afghan afghani, Sierra Leones leone, the Tongan paaanga, the Vanuatu vatu and the Malawi kwacha have done worse than sterling today, according to Bloomberg data. 9.36am BST Heres another sign that Britains housing market may be easing: more than half of the most expensive houses put up for sale in London recently have been withdrawn, due to weak demand.The Financial Times reports:Tax rises on high-value properties, along with the prospect of a mansion tax and the uncertainty caused by a looming general election, have made homes that are worth more than £2m much harder to sell, according to research for the Financial Times.More than half of all properties in Londons most expensive central areas have been withdrawn unsold in the six months to the end of June, the research by the property data company Lonres and analysts Dataloft shows. 9.30am BST 6 of top 10 biggest fallers on FTSE this morning are Scottish based - RBS, Weir, SSE, Lloyds, Standard Life, Aberdeen Asset Management 9.30am BST One last word on Scotland... this chart, from Neville Hill of Credit Suisse, shows how the Citys fears over independence are interlinked.A potential Scottish negative feedback loop, by @NevilleHill 9.16am BST Sterling continues to be hit hard by the prospect of Scotland voting for independence, falling to a four-month low against a basket of currencies.As this chart shows, the pound remains at a 10-month low against the US dollar at $1.6175.#Cable #GBPUSD absolutely smashed when Asia woke up last night. About 160 points lower than Friday close now at 16160. #indyref to blame 9.06am BST The surge of support for Scottish independence has sent jitters through the stock market this morning.Shares in companies with large Scottish interest suffered sharp falls in early trading, my colleague Fiona Walsh reports:Royal Bank of Scotland was the biggest faller in the FTSE 100, falling more than 3% in early trading. Energy group SSE (Scottish & Southern Electricity) were down 2.5%, Lloyds Banking Group dropped 2.2%, Standard Life were down 2% and Aberdeen Asset Management fell 1.5%.The FTSE 100, which last week reached a 14 year high, was down 18 points, at 6837. Biggest fallers today on #FTSE, Standard Life, Lloyds, RBS, Babcock, Scottish and Southern and Weir Group in wake of w/e #indyref poll 8.56am BST Halifax also flags up that Britain is (not before time) building more homes. Although probably not at a fast enough rate to tackle the demand shortages.The number of new homes built in April-June was 7% higher than in the same period last year, it reports.A continuation of this upward trend in housebuilding could also help to bring demand and supply into better balance. 8.50am BST Despite Augusts slowdown, house prices are still up by 3.0% over the last quarter, according to Halifaxs survey.Halifaxs monthly data can be a little erratic, but Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight reckons a slowdown is underway:The Halifax data tie in with our view that house prices will keep on clearly rising overall through the coming months, but at a more restrained rate.Halifax: Annually, house prices were 9.7% higher in the three months to August than in the same three months last year 8.36am BST After a strong run, Britains housing market took a breather last month with prices barely rising.Halifaxs monthly survey of the sector found that prices inched up by just 0.1% in August, sharply down on the 1.2% recorded in July.Earnings growth that remains below consumer price inflation, and the prospect of an interest rate rise at some point over the coming months, are likely to curb demand. 8.36am BST Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the financial markets, the economy, the eurozone and business.Coming up today..... a new house price survey from the Halifax building society will show whether Britains housing boom is running out of steam. 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