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Financial Focus

Gaddafi’s authority suffered a major blow last night as his foreign minister, Musa Koussa, resigned his post and flew to Britain. A Libyan government official was quick to deny the story, saying that he is on a diplomatic mission, but the UK Foreign Office confirmed that he had resigned and was being debriefed in Britain.

TRADING in the shares of Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Banks, the top two Irish lenders, will be suspended today pending the results of the banking ‘stress tests’.

MARKETS:

THE FTSE 100 made its sixth successive daily gain yesterday as investors moved their money into miners and industrials and away from troubled retailers. The index has gained 6% from its year low of 15 March. Wall Street also rose as investors positioned themselves for the quarter’s end, strategically pushing the S&P through 1,330 points, and to a Q1 gain of 5.9%.

ASIAN stocks mostly rose overnight, with the MSCI Asia Pacific Index erasing losses made since Japan’s earthquake, as a jobs report boosted optimism in the US economy and Chinese companies posted earnings that beat analyst estimates. The Hang Seng and Shanghai Composite lost ground to profit taking later in the session, however, as investors adjusted their portfolios on the last day of the quarter.

EUROPEAN markets are set to open slightly higher this morning, building on recent gains and supported by a strong finish on Wall Street yesterday.

CURRENCIES:

ASIAN currencies are poised for a third quarterly gain, led by HYPERLINK “http://topics.bloomberg.com/indonesia/”Indonesia’s rupiah, as regional central banks raise HYPERLINK “http://topics.bloomberg.com/interest-rates/”interest rates and allow appreciation to curb imported inflation.

EUROPEAN Central Bank Executive Board members gave strong hints of an April interest rate rise yesterday, lifting the euro 0.1% as investors see a small increase as more and more likely.

ENERGY:

GAS giant Centrica, oil explorer Valiant and French group Total all said yesterday they are reviewing current and future investments in the North Sea following the plan in last week’s Budget to increase the North Sea supplementary charge from 20% to 32% overnight. Centrica just last month pledged to invest £450m in two gas fields but has joined the growing number of firms lobbying the UK Chancellor to modify his plans.

COMMODITIES:

GOLD inched up overnight and remains on track to record its 10th consecutive quarterly rise since 2008 despite losing some ground earlier this year. A Reuters survey published yesterday revealed that investors expect the precious metal to plateau in the second quarter as “more downside risks for bullion emerge”.

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