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Financial Focus

GREECE has agreed on the details of a five-year austerity plan with EU and IMF inspectors hoping to steer the country away from bankruptcy. Greece’s new finance minister Evangelos Venizelos met with a delegation of EU and IMF officials in Athens yesterday to discuss�measures for extra tax rises and spending cuts to plug a 3.8bn funding gap.

Private sector activity slowed in Europe and China this month, according to data yesterday, which suggests a global slowdown is becoming more entrenched. The Eurozone private grew only modestly and, without the support of Germany and France, it would have shrunk. China’s factory sector barely expanded even as inflation eased, purchasing managers’ indexes showed. The data come a day after the Federal Reserve said the US pace of recovery was advancing more slowly than it had expected.

MARKETS:

European shares are set to rebound from multi-month lows hit in the previous session, after Greece reached a deal more money in return for austerity measures in a bid to stave off looming bankruptcy.

CHINA and Hong Kong shares bounced on Friday morning, poised to post gains for the week, as hopes that inflation could peak lifted hammered down banks and raised the possibility of a turnaround in the markets.

MARKETS tumbled in the UK, Europe and US late yesterday, following the IEA’s decision to release 60m barrels of emergency reserves. In the US, news of agreement by Greece of a 5-year austerity plan reversed the sell-off and helped stocks away from their session lows.

CURRENCIES:

Sterling slumped to its lowest versus the dollar in nearly three months on speculation the BoE may be more inclined towards additional quantitative easing than previously thought. Analysts feel that fair value lay around $1.55, which suggested the pound has more room to fall. THE EURO was set for a third weekly decline against the dollar, the longest streak in four months, before European Union leaders conclude a summit in Brussels today on financing needs for debt-saddled Greece.

ENERGY:

OIL dropped by over 6% yesterday, after the International Energy Agency said it would release 60m barrels of emergency reserves in the next month, “in response to ongoing disruption of oil supplies from Libya”. It marked only the third time that the IEA has unlocked emergency reserves since it was founded in 1974.

COMMODITIES:

GOLD came off lows overnight as the dollar eased on news that Greece has agreed a deal with international lenders on an austerity plan. Silver was steady after falling more than 4% yesterday.

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