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Financial Focus

Close to half a million jobs were created in the year to March, according to official UK data released yesterday. Employment was up by 118,000 people, compared to the final quarter of 2010, and up 416,000 on the same time last year. The total number of jobs, 29.24m, was the highest since the three months to January 2009.

DOMINIQUE Strauss-Kahn has resigned as head of the IMF after being charged with attempting to rape a New York hotel maid. He informed the Executive Board of the IMF of his intention to leave his job as managing director with immediate effect.

THE ECB has rejected a softening of the EU’s stance towards Greece. In a sign of the divisions at the heart of the Eurozone, ECB board member Juergen Stark said that Greece would be “solvent” if it implements fiscal cuts and privatisations, and that a restructuring would “create a catastrophe” for Greek banks.

THE BANK of England is no closer to raising interest rates, minutes of its latest rate-setting meeting showed yesterday, as mixed jobs data highlighted the patchy nature of Britain’s economic recovery.

MARKETS:

THE FTSE came within a nudge of 6,000 yesterday as risk appetite returned to the market, helped by positive economic data showing UK unemployment fell for a second consecutive month in April. US markets also closed in the black after a series of positive earnings announcements from companies such as Abercrombie and Fitch.

ASIAN stocks rose overnight, with the MSCI Asia Pacific Index set for its biggest two-day rally in a month, as Citigroup raised global profit estimates and news of Japan’s shrinking economy lifted chances of more stimulus. While China’s Shanghai Composite Index gave up some early gains, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng made good gains in the property and energy sectors.

EUROPEAN stocks are set to rise today, adding to the previous session’s tentative rebound, and buoyed by strong gains on Wall Street and a rally in commodities as investors seek out risky assets after the recent sell-off.

CURRENCIES:

THE DOLLAR fell against the euro for a fourth day before data forecast to show US existing home sales grew at a slower pace, adding to evidence the US Federal Reserve will need to maintain stimulus for longer. The US currency dropped against 15 of its 16 major counterparts after Goldman Sachs lowered its forecasts for the dollar, citing poor growth prospects for the world’s largest economy.

ENERGY:

OIL traded up by around 0.5% during the night, after a government report showed an unexpected drop in US crude inventories on increased refinery operating rates and supply disruptions. The price eased during later trading.

COMMODITIES:

GOLD demand rose 11% in the first quarter as China helped boost investment and jewellery usage, while demand will remain “firm” throughout this year, the London-based, World Gold Council said yesterday. Accelerating inflation, Europe’s debt crisis, a weakening dollar and global unrest boosted gold to a record $1,577.57 an ounce on May 2nd. Central banks are adding to their reserves for the first time in a generation, helping prices extend a 10-year rally, the longest run of gains in at least nine decades.

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