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Thread: World News from Forex Forum Nigeria.

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    UK MPs seek answers from regulator on Sainsbury's/Asda probe

    British lawmakers said on Thursday they were seeking information from Britain’s competition regulator regarding concerns over Sainsbury’s’ (SBRY.L) proposed 7.3 billion pounds takeover of Walmart (WMT.N) owned rival Asda.

    In a letter to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) the chairs of two parliamentary committees said their members had concerns over the impact the deal would have on the grocery supply chain, particularly as the new business, combining the No. 2 and No. 3 players, and current market leader Tesco (TSCO.L) would dominate the market.

    The chairs of Parliament’s Business select committee and the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee said their members also had concerns about the impact of the deal on consumer choice.

    The CMA said on Monday it was likely to review the sector’s biggest deal since 2003.

    The two grocers want the CMA to fast track to a “phase 2” examination so that the transaction can be completed in the second half of 2019.

    The committee chairs said they wanted information on the anticipated timing and length of the CMA’s investigation and the scope of the probe, including whether evidence will be sought from suppliers to grocery retailers.

    They also want to know the criteria to be used for determining acceptable distance between stores belonging to the combined business and of avoiding local monopolies, and the tests that will be used to determine whether any required divestment of stores should be to competitors or other businesses.

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    Insurers hit shift button despite Brexit grace period

    Lloyd’s of London, AIG, Allianz and other insurers are ignoring assurances and establishing new hubs in Britain and the European Union before Brexit in March 2019 to ensure access to customers.

    The moves come despite a “standstill” transition agreement struck between Britain and the European Union in March of this year which is meant to avoid any such hasty relocations.

    “We have urged firms not to wait for and rely on a political process to deliver the answers. This is particularly true of relocation plans, which take two years or more to complete,” Hugh Savill, of the Association of British Insurers, said.

    Insurers are being driven by the fact that after Brexit, European firms selling policies in Britain, as well as British and other non-European Union insurers with UK bases selling into Europe, will need to have local regulated entities.

    Many contacted by Reuters have said they are starting to implement the second phase of their Brexit plans - submitting licence applications, hiring staff and shifting policies.

    “We are prepared for a hard Brexit,” said Joachim Wenning, chief executive of Germany’s Munich Re, the world’s biggest reinsurer, which has applied for UK licences.

    Such planning has been encouraged by EU regulators who say transition will not be ratified until October and could be derailed without agreement on other parts of Britain’s divorce.

    “I don’t think there is any going back,” Paul Merrey, a partner specialising in insurance at consultants KPMG, said.

    American insurer AIG said it will open new subsidiaries in Britain and Luxembourg by December, and has begun moving policies from one jurisdiction to another.

    Meanwhile, Japanese insurer Sompo’s international unit last week received approval for its Luxembourg subsidiary, which it said would start operating before the end of the year.

    Even Lloyd’s of London, the world’s largest commercial insurance market which is synonymous with the capital’s financial centre, will have its new Brussels subsidiary ready by January for the policy renewal season kick-off.

    “Companies must take their futures into their own hands, and Lloyd’s is no different,” its Chief Executive Inga Beale said, while Lloyd’s market operator CNA Hardy’s CEO Dave Brosnan said it is obtaining a licence for a Luxembourg subsidiary.

    EARLY CERTAINTY
    The Bank of England says that transition, which is meant to give financial firms breathing space until the end of 2020, can be relied on immediately so that EU insurers do not have to seek reauthorisation for UK operations by next March.

    It has also eased the rules for deciding if operations of insurers from outside Britain can continue as branches or must convert into subsidiaries with their own capital, an expensive process which only a small number face.

    The BoE says UK and EU legislation is needed to ensure 10 million British policyholders with 27 billion pounds in liabilities and 38 million European Economic Area policyholders with 55 billion pounds of liabilities are not hit.

    Swiss insurer Zurich is talking to UK regulators about the licence for its general insurance business, which has its EU headquarters in Dublin. Its UK CEO Tulsi Naidu said she welcomed the Bank of England and UK government’s stance, in “providing early certainty for in-bound branches”.

    Germany’s Allianz (ALVG.DE) also told Reuters it was applying for a branch licence for one of its units in Britain and after requests from brokers, Munich Re said it applied in March for UK licences as well, at a cost of “low double-digit million figure”.

    Insurers are also moving policies from London to new EU hubs, to ensure that customers can still pay premiums and receive payouts on cross-border contracts after Brexit Day. One-year policies taken out after March 29 this year are at risk.

    “NORMAL THIRD COUNTRY”
    Insurers may be implementing Brexit plans, but staff moves are so far modest, far fewer than the several thousand banking jobs expected to shift, according to a Reuters survey.

    Thirteen insurers who gave details of job numbers in the survey in March said a total of 173 jobs would be created in or moved to the EU, mainly in Dublin and Luxembourg.

    The BoE said in response to a Freedom of Information request from Reuters that it had received contingency plans from 170 insurers regulated by its Prudential Regulation Authority and 519 such responses from European Economic Area insurance firms and their home state regulators.

    A lack of clarity on future trading links after transition is also hastening insurers’ Brexit moves.

    While Britain wants a bespoke trade agreement based on “mutual recognition”, the bloc is pushing its existing system of market access for “third countries”, or non-EU members.

    “We are working under the assumption that Britain will be a normal third country in the future,” Wenning said.

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    Britain awards £2.4 billion in submarine work to BAE Systems

    Britain on Monday awarded defence firm BAE Systems (BAES.L) 2.4 billion pounds to work on two submarine programmes, the company said in a statement.

    The Ministry of Defence gave BAE a 1.5 billion pound contract for delivery of the seventh Astute class submarine, and a further 900 million pounds for the next phase of the Dreadnought submarine programme, the company said.

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    UK employment jumps but strong wage growth still elusive

    British employers hired many more workers than expected in early 2018 but wage growth has yet to accelerate sharply, according to figures that leave the Bank of England still waiting for signs the economy is ready for a rise in interest rates.

    Employment rose by 197,000 during the first three months of this year, the biggest jump since late 2015 and far exceeding the 130,000 consensus expectation of a Reuters poll of economists.

    Sterling and British government bonds were little moved by the figures, which showed a familiar picture of solid growth in jobs, unemployment at its lowest level in decades, but only a modest pick-up in pay for most British workers, who have been hit by higher inflation since the 2016 Brexit vote.

    Annual growth in earnings, excluding bonuses, edged up to 2.9 percent in the three months to March after a 2.8 percent rise in February, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said on Tuesday, as expected in the Reuters poll.

    While this was the biggest increase since the three months to August 2015, it represented only a 0.4 percent increase in pay in inflation-adjusted terms.

    Including bonuses, total pay growth cooled to 2.6 percent from 2.8 percent in the three months to February, as expected.

    Last week the BoE left interest rates on hold, despite saying in February that borrowing costs were likely to go up more quickly than it had previously thought. It said it wanted to be sure the economy was bouncing back after barely growing in the first quarter.

    Economists said the strength of hiring in Tuesday’s figures suggested Britain’s economy did not have such a bad start to 2018 as portrayed by the preliminary official data.

    “On balance, the combination of robust employment growth, falling unemployment and stronger underlying earnings growth — as well as a clear relapse in productivity in the first quarter — looks supportive to a Bank of England interest rate hike in August,” said Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY ITEM Club consultancy.

    “However, much is likely to depend on whether the UK economy sees clear signs of marked improvement over coming months.”

    The ONS published new figures for employment of foreign nationals and for productivity, a long-term problem for Britain’s economy.

    Output-per-hour fell by 0.5 percent quarter-on-quarter in the three months to March after a 0.7 percent rise in the fourth quarter of 2017, marking the biggest fall since late 2015 and denting hopes that British productivity was on the mend.

    Less than a year before Britain is due to exit the European Union, the ONS said the number of EU nationals employed in Britain fell by 1.2 percent from a year ago to 2.292 million — the biggest drop in percentage terms for eight years.

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    Britain to renationalise rail line sparking new row over ownership

    The British government is renationalising the rail route between London and Edinburgh, taking back the line from a private company after it over-estimated profits, in a step likely to reignite a debate over public ownership of the UK’s railways.

    The government said on Wednesday it was scrapping the contract with London-listed Stagecoach STG.L five years early and would operate the line, which carries 22 million people annually, for 2-3 years before setting up a new public-private partnership.

    It is the third time since 2007 that the 393-mile (632 km) flagship route between the English and Scottish capitals has been returned to government hands after contracts failed, giving ammunition to the opposition Labour party which opposes privatisation.

    The Labour party has pledged to nationalise industries like rail and water, policies which have been popular in the polls, and which helped Labour deny the pro-privatisation Conservatives a majority government at last year’s election.

    Transport Minister Chris Grayling tried to appeal to both parties on Wednesday with a promise that after a spell under government control, he would set up a new “partnership between the public and private sectors” to run the line.

    The franchising model, also part of the reason for delays on a contract in the London area, has come under fire recently with a cross-party parliamentary committee calling it “broken” in April.

    Rail union Unite called for all rail lines to be nationalised.

    “It would be best for the economy, the treasury and the hard-pressed rail traveller paying through the nose for their tickets, if ministers blew the whistle on rail privatisation,” Unite rail industry officer Hugh Roberts said.

    CONTRACT LOSSES
    Rail services in Britain were privatised in the 1990s with routes grouped into franchises and operators contracted to run services for a set number of years, promising payments to the government at the same time as making profits for themselves.

    Grayling had said late last year that the East Coast franchise run since 2015 by Stagecoach, which owns 90 percent alongside Virgin, would need to end early after lower than forecast passenger numbers led to losses of about 200 million pounds for Stagecoach.

    “What’s gone wrong is that the parent company offered to pay government more money than it can actually afford, so it’s run out of cash, the business has run out of money,” Grayling told Sky News.

    Grayling said that the scrapping of the contract did not mean that government had lost out, because East Coast had already delivered 1 billion pounds to the public purse, and continued to generate returns, plus passenger satisfaction was high.

    The contract will end on June 24, Grayling said, adding that passengers would not be impacted by the ownership change.

    Explaining the contract’s difficulties in February, Stagecoach said that some of its forecasts for growth on the line were based on enhancements expected to be carried out by state-backed rail infrastructure company Network Rail, but those actions had been either delayed or abandoned.

    It said on Wednesday it hoped to continue to play a role in Britain’s rail network in the future, and continues to be involved in running other UK rail franchises including the West Coast line between London and Manchester.

    The company’s shares traded up 1.8 percent after the news.

    Grayling said he would review Stagecoach and Virgin’s right to operate rail services in Britain once the current East Coast contract was terminated.

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    Britain seeks 30 billion pounds investment to boost economy after Brexit

    Trade secretary Liam Fox will invite overseas investors on Thursday to submit bids for financing 30 billion pounds of projects to help the world’s sixth-largest economy cope with the upheaval of leaving the European Union.

    Britain is trying reinvent itself as a global trading nation and improve economic ties with countries outside Europe as the government prepares to leave the EU next year.

    Investors will be offered the chance to fund 68 projects across 20 sectors of the economy, including technology, housing and retail, and many of the projects are outside London in less affluent parts of Britain.

    The Department for International Trade will promote the projects to investors overseas and more will be added in the coming months.

    “This is a bold and ambitious programme, building on the UK’s position as the leading destination for foreign investment in Europe,” Fox said in a statement.

    Prime Minister Theresa May has made infrastructure spending a cornerstone of her industrial strategy, a hands-on approach to business that had largely been abandoned by her Conservative predecessors from the time of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

    Britain lagged every other G7 country in terms of growth last year and has been outpaced by the euro zone ever since the referendum to leave the EU in 2016.

    Global foreign direct investment into Britain shrank by 90 percent to $19.4 billion (£14.3 billion) last year, according to United Nations data. However, this did come against unprecedented investment in 2016 led by some mega-deals.

    The Confederation of British Industry’s Director General Carolyn Fairbairn welcomed the Department for International Trade’s announcement.

    This will “be a vital tool to attracting even more capital to the UK, enabling the benefits of free trade and investment to flow into our communities,” Fairbairn said.

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    Lloyds sells Irish mortgage business to Barclays for £4 billion

    Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L) has sold its Irish residential mortgage portfolio to Barclays (BARC.L) for around 4 billion pounds in cash, as part of a plan to focus on its core British market.

    The deal was the last action Lloyds needed to take to complete its exit from the Irish market, following its closure of its retail banking operation there in 2010.

    Lloyds is left only with around 4 billion pounds worth of additional Irish mortgages that it will allow to expire over time.

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    UK households turn cheerier about their finances in May - IHS Markit

    British households became much cheerier about their financial situation this month, according to a survey on Monday that will hearten Bank of England officials who think the economy’s weak start to the year was temporary.

    The IHS Markit Household Finance Index (HFI) rose to 44.7 in May from 43.4 in April, its highest level since the end of 2016 and indicating an easing financial squeeze for Britons, who have been hit by higher inflation since the 2016 Brexit vote.

    “A welcome combination of rising incomes, falling inflation perceptions and fading concerns around job security all contributed to the strongest HFI survey results in nearly a year-and-a-half,” said Sam Teague, an economist at financial data firm IHS Markit.

    Earlier this month the BoE held interest rates steady and said it wanted to be sure the economy was recovering from a tepid beginning to the year before it raised borrowing costs again.


    BoE Governor Mark Carney, who said he expected to see an interest rate hike before the end of the year, mentioned the household finance index as one of the gauges of the economy that the central bank looks at.

    The latest survey showed more than half of households expect interest rates to rise before the end of the year, little changed from the previous month’s report.

    But only one in four see a rate rise by August, which is when most economists polled by Reuters expect rates to go up.

    Households’ worries about job security also fell this month to the lowest since the 2008/09 recession, IHS Markit said.

    Last week official data showed British employers hired many more workers than economists had expected in early 2018, a tentative sign that the economy’s weak start to the year may be temporary, as the Bank of England hopes.

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    Bank of England's Carney says his message on rates isn't misunderstood

    Bank of England Governor Mark Carney denied on Tuesday that the central bank had confused investors and households by not raising interest rates earlier this month.

    In February, the BoE said rates were likely to go up sooner and somewhat faster than investors had been expecting, prompting financial markets to price in a rate hike at the central bank’s May meeting as a near-certainty at one point.

    Carney, speaking to lawmakers on Tuesday, said a slowdown in the economy in the first three months of 2018 - when heavy snow and icy conditions hit Britain - would probably prove temporary. This echoed his comments from earlier this month when the BoE decided to keep rates at 0.5 percent.

    “Our view is not that circumstances changed in the first quarter. It’s more likely to have been temporary and idiosyncratic factors that slowed the economy,” he said.

    While investors scaled back their bets on a rate rise, Carney said surveys showed households and businesses largely expected a rate hike this year and more increases “at a very gentle pace relative to history” after that.

    Carney has in the past given several signals about when rates are likely to rise, only to be wrong-footed by twists and turns in the economy.

    Carney said his main message - that rates are likely to rise only slowly - has proven correct.

    Earlier on Tuesday, one of the nine members of the BoE’s Monetary Policy Committee, Gertjan Vlieghe, said he expected slightly more interest rate increases over the next three years than the market assumption of just under three 25 basis-point hikes during that period used by the BoE earlier this month.

    “Provided the headwinds from Brexit uncertainty do not intensify in the near term, and ultimately fade over the coming years, I think policy rates are likely to rise, in my central view, by 25bp to 50bp per year over the forecast period,” Vlieghe said in written answers to questions from lawmakers.

    “That is slightly higher than the conditioning assumption for interest rates in the May 2018 Inflation Report. That is a forecast, not a promise, and will depend on how the economy evolves,” he said.

    Sterling - which on Monday hit its lowest level against the U.S. dollar in nearly five months - rose against the euro and the dollar after Vlieghe’s comments before easing slightly.

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    Another surprise fall in UK inflation muddies Bank of England rates message

    British inflation fell unexpectedly in April, according to figures on Wednesday that added to doubts about when the Bank of England will raise interest rates again and pushed sterling to its lowest level against the dollar this year.

    Consumer price inflation cooled to 2.4 percent last month, its weakest increase since March 2017, and down from 2.5 percent this March.

    The figure was below economists’ average expectation in a Reuters poll for it to hold steady at 2.5 percent and represented the second surprise fall in a row after a drop in March’s figures.

    “It’s a conundrum for the Bank of England which has struggled to read the direction of price changes recently,” Ed Monk, associate director for personal investing at fund manager Fidelity International, said.

    “With inflation trending lower, it only makes it harder for the Bank of England to raise rates.”

    Investors were now pricing in a one-in-three chance of a BoE rate hike in August — the next time it updates its forecasts on the economy — down from 50/50 before Tuesday’s data.

    High inflation, caused by the pound’s drop after the 2016 Brexit vote, squeezed British consumers through last year, and although it has receded from its December peak of 3.1 percent, the BoE is keeping a close eye on price pressures.

    PIPELINE PRESSURE
    Wednesday’s data pointed to some signs of inflation pressure still in the pipeline.

    Prices of goods leaving British factories increased at a faster rate than expected last month. And while consumer price inflation cooled again, the timing of the Easter holidays and their impact on air fare prices was a big contributor.

    On Tuesday Bank of England Governor Mark Carney cited a new sugar tax on soft drinks, as well as higher utility bills and petrol prices, as reasons why inflation “probably tips up a bit” in the coming months before resuming a decline.

    The ONS said soft drink prices increased sharply over the last couple of months but the overall impact on inflation was minimal.

    The latest data on prices in British factories, which eventually feed through onto the high street, were stronger than anticipated.

    Manufacturers increased the prices they charged by 2.7 percent year-on-year, matching March’s increase. Economists had expected a fall to 2.3 percent.

    Among manufacturers, the cost of raw materials — many of them imported such as oil — was 5.3 percent higher than in April 2017, up sharply from an increase of 4.4 percent in March and suggesting a long run of weakening price growth has ended.

    A surprise drop in consumer price inflation in March, along weak economic growth figures for early 2018, had called into question whether the BoE would raise interest rates more than once before the end of the year.

    Earlier this month it refrained from an interest rate hike that had at one point been widely expected.

    The BoE’s latest forecasts show inflation dropping to 2.1 percent in a year’s time, and returning to its 2.0 percent target a year later — but only if interest rates rise by 25 basis points about three times over three years.

    The latest Reuters poll of economists suggests the BoE is most likely to raise interest rates at its August meeting.

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