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Financial Focus

MOODY’s became the first ratings agency to cut Portugal’s credit standing to junk, warning the country may need a second round of rescue funds before it can return to capital markets.

GREECE’s bondholders will meet with officials in Paris today to discuss their role in a second rescue of the indebted nation.

GROWTH in economic output across the Eurozone hit a 20-month low in June, data revealed yesterday, while a steep drop in retail sales also shook the single-currency area.

CHRISTINE Lagarde, who took office as IMF managing director yesterday, has signed up for tougher ethical rules than her predecessor as the lender seeks to alter its reputation in the wake of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s resignation.

UK SHOP price inflation jumped last month to its highest rate since October 2008, led by a sharp rise in food prices, a British Retail Consortium survey shows today. Higher petrol and commodity prices lifted inflation to 2.9% in June from 2.3% in May.

MARKETS:

THE NIKKEI rose to a four-month high overnight, poised to climb higher for a seventh straight day, as worries about slower global growth are slowly easing. Many Asian stocks declined, however, after an investor sold $3.63 billion worth of shares in two banks on concerns credit quality in the Chinese economy will deteriorate.

US stocks ended a thinly traded session mostly flat yesterday as investors paused after last week’s surge, though continually light volume suggested the market could encounter choppier trading.

EUROPEAN shares are seen rising today for the eighth straight session, with energy stocks likely to receive a boost from a rise in crude prices, although Eurozone debt woes are likely to cap gains after ratings agency Moody’s cut Portugal’s credit rating to junk status.

CURRENCIES:

STERLING jumped roughly a full a cent to a session high of $1.6128 yesterday after the PMI index for the UK service sector in June nudged up to 53.9 from a three-month low of 53.8 in May, bucking forecasts for a fall.

ENERGY:

CRUDE for August delivery gained overnight, following a 2.1% jump yesterday as investors bet on higher demand in the months ahead, and tighter US inventories.

SHARES in North Sea oil and gas firms rallied after the UK chancellor performed a partial U-turn on his decision to raid their profits. The Treasury said that it would raise the annual rate of Ring Fence Expenditure Supplement from 6% to 10% to support firms working in less profitable fields.

CHINA’s government aims to sign contracts with explorers this month so that they can improve drilling efficiency when tapping gas trapped in shale fields. China is estimated to hold 12 times the country’s conventional natural gas deposits, and almost 50% more than the shale gas in the US.

COMMODITIES:

COPPER for three-month delivery lost 0.3% on the London Metal Exchange, following a six-day, 6.4% gain. Zinc slipped 0.5%, while lead retreated 0.4%.

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