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Financial Focus

President Obama proposed slashing the US budget deficit by $4tn over 12 years with a mix of spending cuts and tax rises. His plan includes $3 in spending cuts and interest savings for every $1 from tax increases. Republicans argued that it did not go far enough to reduce the $14 trillion US debt, and reiterated their opposition to any tax increases.

A US SENATE panel official report on Wall Street’s role in the financial crisis accuses Goldman Sachs of misleading clients and manipulating markets. It also criticises Deutsche Bank and credit rating agencies Moody’s and Standard & Poors. The report will be presented to the US Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

BRITAIN’S labour market has rallied in recent months, official data unexpectedly revealed yesterday. Employment shot up by 143,000 from December to February, compared to the previous three months, the ONS revealed. Unemployment is down to 7.8%, having dropped by 17,000 over the same period.

CONSUMER confidence in the UK picked up in March, following an all time low the previous month, the respected Nationwide survey revealed today. The index is still considerably below the same point last year, and the improvement is not enough to offset the fall from the previous month.

GERMAN finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said for the first time yesterday that Greece may need to restructure its debt, but that any move before 2013 would need to be on a voluntary basis.

MARKETS:

UK and European markets posted good gains yesterday, recovering from the panic selling on Tuesday, which followed news of increased nuclear incident levels in Japan. US stocks finished mostly flat after a choppy session.

HONG KONG shares were weaker overnight, while China was little changed as trading volume fell ahead of inflation data and caution over a possible increase in the reserve requirement for Chinese banks. The Nikkei gained as Japanese companies resumed production and cautious optimism returned to the markets.

EUROPEAN shares were seen opening slightly lower on Thursday, reversing the previous day’s gains, with heavyweight mining shares set to slip as copper prices ease on tightening worries in China.

CURRENCIES:

THE DOLLAR fell towards a 15-month low against the euro on speculation that the Fed will continue to trail behind the ECB in raising interest rates. A report due out tomorrow is expected to say that Europe’s inflation quickened last month, increasing the chances of a further ECB rate rise and increasing the differential with the US.

ENERGY:

OIL rose for a second day in New York after a US government report showed gasoline supplies plunged the most in 12 years, increasing speculation demand is rising in the world’s biggest crude-consuming nation.

COMMODITIES:

COPPER dropped for a fourth day, the longest period of decline since January, on concern that China may step up its credit tightening measures to cool asset prices.

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