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Financial Focus

US new job openings rose to their highest level in two-and-a-half years in March, the Labour Department said in its monthly Job Openings and Labour Turnover Survey. Job openings – a measure of labour demand – rose 99,000 to 3.12m, the highest since September 2008. It was the first time since November 2008 that job openings have been at or above 3m for two consecutive months.

The government is on track to virtually eliminate the UK’s budget deficit – currently almost 10% of GDP – by the next election, chancellor George Osborne has said. While the path to full economic recovery may be tough, the coalition remains strong and committed to restoring the UK’s public finances, Osborne told the Institute of Directors. Osborne added that he saw no need to raise taxes or cut spending beyond the cuts to spending already announced.

THE UK’s goods trade deficit widened more than expected in March, giving back some of the strong improvement seen in the first two months. The Office for National Statistics said that the goods trade gap widened to £7.66bn from £6.99bn in February, some way above the £7.25bn economists had expected.

The US trade deficit widened more than forecast in March as the highest oil prices in more than two years boosted imports, eclipsing record exports. The trade gap rose 6% to $48.2 billion, the biggest since June, from $45.4 billion in February, the Commerce Department reported today in Washington.

MARKETS:

UK stocks declined for the second time in three days as mining and energy companies declined with commodities and ITV plc forecast that its advertising revenue growth will slow.

TOKYO stocks slipped overnight, led by declines in energy and other commodity shares after sharp falls in commodities prices, but rebounding prices of silver and oil in early Asia trade and a strong performance by bellwether Toyota Motor Corp limited the losses.

CURRENCIES:

STERLING advanced on Wednesday after the Bank of England revised up its medium-term inflation forecast, raising the prospect that UK interest rates might increase before the end of the year.

ENERGY:

OIL fell below $100 a barrel in New York yesterday, and gasoline tumbled more than 20 cents a gallon after an Energy Department report showed that US crude supplies rose to the highest level in two years. “We have a tremendous glut,” said Todd Horwitz, chief strategist at Adam Mesh Trading Group in New York. “The rally in commodities appears to be over. We’re going to see prices work their way lower in coming weeks.”

COMMODITIES:

CORN plunged yesterday by the most allowed, and wheat and soybeans fell, after the government said US stockpiles will be bigger than analysts expected, easing concern about tight supplies of food and fuel. The Standard & Poor’s GSCI Index of 24 raw materials dropped 11% last week, the most since 2008, as slower growth in US services and fewer German manufacturing orders stoked concern the economic recovery is faltering.

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