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Financial Focus

At least seven people were killed and dozens injured on Monday when a powerful explosion ripped through a metro station in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. The attack came amid an unprecedented political crackdown on the opposition in Belarus, a country that the United States has called Europe’s last dictatorship.

JAPAN raised the severity rating of its nuclear crisis to the highest level, matching the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, after increasing radiation prompted the government to widen the evacuation zone and aftershocks rocked the country.

GLOBAL banking regulation took a step towards convergence on Monday as a UK commission proposed measures that will bring the country’s financial rules closer to the US, reducing fears that British lenders will flee London for New York. The ICB recommended that banks’ retail operations should be protected by a “firewall” from the investment banking division, and that retail activities should maintain a standalone capital ratio of 10%.

SPENDING on the UK high street fell at a record rate last month, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) reported. “This year’s later Easter is a factor but this fall goes way beyond anything that can be explained by that alone,” said BRC director Stephen Robertson. Total sales were down 1.9% compared to March 2010, the sharpest monthly fall since the survey began in 1995.


EUROPEAN markets lacked any great direction yesterday, and news of further Japanese aftershocks and Tsunami warnings did little to encourage investors who were already nervous about Portugal’s debt problem and Credit Suisse’s note on Europe’s car industry, which lowered its rating for the sector from “outperform” to “benchmark”.

The MSCI Asia Pacific index fell 0.6%, the most in a week, after Japan raised its assessment of the Fukushima nuclear accident to the most serious level on a seven-step international scale, equivalent to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

EUROPEAN shares are set to fall on Tuesday, tracking Asian markets lower and after Japan raised the severity of its nuclear crisis to the highest level.  UK investors will watch March inflation data, with analysts forecasting it to be steady at 4.4%, though another surprise rise would fuel talk of an imminent rate hike.


THE YEN gained sharply overnight as profit-taking in bets against it gathered momentum after aftershocks in Japan, and declines in oil prices prompted investors to exit from commodity currencies. The dollar gained too as speculators locked in profits from their bets against the low-yielding currency in favour of the euro, though traders said both the yen and the dollar looked set to resume sliding after the profit-taking had run its course.


BRENT and US crude fell more than $1.50 a barrel on concerns demand may wane on high fuel prices, and after Goldman Sachs’ advice to lock in profits before markets reverse.


COMMODITIES fell across the board after Goldman Sachs told its clients there is a strong chance of key commodity prices reversing and recommended they take profits.

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