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Financial Focus

EUROZONE finance ministers sealed a second bailout for debt-laden Greece in the early hours of this morning that will resolve its immediate financing needs but seems unlikely to revive the nation’s shattered economy. After 13 hours of talks, euro zone officials said ministers had finalised measures to cut Greece’s debt to 120.5% of gross domestic product by 2020, a fraction above their original target of 120%, after negotiators for private bondholders accepted bigger losses to help plug the
funding gap.

DAVID LAWS, the former chief secretary to the Treasury, has mounted pressure on the UK chancellor George Osborne to raise the income tax threshold to £10,000 in next month’s Budget, saying it was time to signal the end of austerity on household budgets. Laws told BBC’s Newsnight yesterday that the Liberal Democrats would fund the move – which would
cost the Treasury some £9bn – by halving the higher rate of tax relief on pensions from 40% to 20%.

THE EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK’S government bond purchases came to a halt last week for the first time since August in a sign the emergency debt buying programme is being wound down. The ECB’s inactivity reflects improved market conditions, which have been aided by the central bank’s three-year liquidity operation in December that averted a credit crunch in
the Eurozone.

MARKETS:
A SURPRISE easing in China’s monetary policy drove the FTSE 100 within striking distance of a seven and a half month
closing high as miners rallied on the prospect of revived demand from the world’s most voracious consumer of raw materials.
Miners were the top gainers as London’s blue chip index climbed 40.18 points, or 0.7%, to end on 5,945.25 yesterday. China
said at the weekend it was cutting the amount of cash banks must hold in their reserves in another move to try to kick start
slowing growth.
ASIAN stock markets were subdued in spite of Eurozone finance ministers agreeing a second bail-out for Greece. The FTSE
Asia Pacific excluding Japan index was 0.3% lower; while the Nikkei 225 was 0.3% lower, the Hang Seng was down 0.5% and
the Kospi was 0.8%. “The relatively muted reaction shows that markets are taking [what happens to Greece] in their stride.
They’ve moved on and are focusing elsewhere,” said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital Investors in
Sydney.
CURRENCIES:
THE EURO climbed to a three-month high against the yen and reversed losses versus the dollar after euro-area finance
ministers reached agreement on a second bailout package for Greece to stave off a default next month. The 17-nation euro
advanced to the strongest level in more than a week versus the U.S. currency as Luxembourg’s Jean-Claude Juncker told
reporters the deal includes a 53.5% write down for investors in Greek bonds.
ENERGY:
OIL prices surged yesterday after a defiant Iran banned sales to Britain and France, amid growing fears over the country’s
nuclear ambitions. Brent crude nudged over $121 a barrel – the highest level for eight months – as the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) arrived in Tehran to assess first hand the Islamic Republic’s controversial nuclear

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