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Budget wishlists: ‘We should be talking about tax cuts for the public as well as for business’

Category : Business

Business leaders say what they’d like to see the 2013 budget – and boosting consumer spending comes high on most lists

Rooney Anand, chief executive of Greene King

It should be no surprise that the company behind Greene King IPA, Old Speckled Hen and Abbot Ale, plus a substantial estate of pubs, is calling for an end to the beer duty escalator, which automatically increases the price of a pint at 2% more than the rate of inflation each year.

Greene King blames the regime for contributing to the demise of 7,000 pubs in the escalator’s four-year history – but its chief executive, Rooney Anand, is also keen to see more general measures to fire up the economy.

“Anything that puts more money into the pockets of consumers to stimulate growth would be welcomed,” he says, “such as an increase in the personal tax allowance for the lower paid, a freeze in the increase in fuel duty and a reversal of the 20% VAT levy back to 17.5%.”

He says the chancellor should also be focusing on getting more young people into work. “Greene King has over 1,700 apprentices and many employees within the 18- to 24-year-age group, so I would like to see initiatives such as national insurance holidays for employing young people. The overall employment figures mask the serious malaise represented by youth unemployment. It is vital we get young people into work, rubbing shoulders with older adults, and learning how to take their rightful place in the broader society. An exemption on national insurance for employer and employee for all new jobs created for three years would not cost the exchequer a penny, would save unemployment expenditure and get young adults into the work habit.”

Anand also would like to see £15bn-£20bn spent on projects such as the expansion of the A14 from Felixstowe to the Midlands. “Surely improving existing infrastructure to make Britain more efficient is money well spent, rather than risky, totemic projects such as HS2, the high speed train link?”

James Ferguson, capital markets partner, Deloitte

The services sector makes up 75% of the UK economy, a strikingly high figure, which is why you hear so much about rebalancing the UK back towards other areas.

But even if that trick is pulled off – and a massive financial crisis in the City doesn’t seem to have had much of an affect on the overall ratios – it is not going to happen for a considerable period of time. So with the health of services firms remaining among the most crucial factors in our economic welfare, what does the sector want to see the chancellor do this week?

One of the answers is lower taxes – but rumoured trimming of corporation tax would not so much be welcomed as a way for services firms to pay less tax themselves. Rather, they would see it as a way of attracting more overseas companies to relocate to the UK, thereby providing more customers for them to sell accounting, legal and financial services. At least, that’s what they hope.

“There are loads of examples over history when you have mergers, you have big a British company and a big American company coming together and somebody has to decide what that group is going to look like at the end of it,” says Ferguson.

“Putting companies together has always been a challenge as to which tax regime, at the headquarter level, gives the right environment for the group to operate under. If you look at a lot of those battles when they have been fought, the UK has done pretty well.

“I would say though, in the past six or seven years, particularly under the last Labour government, there was a tightening of the tax rules that were quite unpopular that discouraged companies coming to the UK. But if you look at what the chancellor has done over the last few years, he’s been very clear that reducing the headline rate of corporation tax is about sending a message that the UK is encouraging business to come.”

Lowering the headline corporation tax rate doesn’t actually change a huge amount – it’s all the other facets of the tax legislation that really determine what businesses pay – but the message is clear. Also, behind the scenes, there is a sense that complex tax laws have been simplified.

Ferguson adds: “What do we want to see [in the budget]? The answer is more of the same. There has been some very good policy that has come out in terms of simplifying our tax system. Any government, of whatever political persuasion, has to decide whether they want to encourage international companies to come to the markets.

“We’ve got a very strong services sector economy in the UK generally, specifically in London, which relies upon the vibrancy of those markets. If you take that away, whatever hue of government you tend to be, you’re in danger of losing jobs, which no politician likes to see.”

Gilad Tiefenbrun, managing director, Linn Products

Founded by Ivor Tiefenbrun in 1973 to produce hi-fi turntables, the Glasgow-based Linn Products designs and manufactures high-end digital music players, alongside a download service.

With a 21% increase in pre-tax profit to £2.2m in its last financial year it is not making desperate demands of the chancellor this week. “We don’t have any big complaints,” says Ivor’s son, Gilad Tiefenbrun, who now runs the company. “The R&D tax credit scheme is very good for businesses like ours. Innovation is key to our business. We think in general R&D is something we can be best at in this country.”

He says the government should be taking a longer-term view in encouraging more children to study engineering, and make the UK an R&D and manufacturing and engineering economy – but changes to the tax system in the budget, particularly the rumoured cut in corporation tax, would help.

“People are always going to be grateful for initiatives that help business. The question is how does the chancellor get companies to invest their cash?

“Ways of doing that could be a national insurance holiday, for, say, a year on new hires. It is like going to DFS in January when the sales are on. Businessmen are no different: if you offer us a good deal – and the chancellor could do that – it is a way to get things moving.

“We all rely on UK consumers to put their hands in their pockets and spend money on retail. So how do we get money into people’s pockets so they will put that money into the economy? That’s really where we get our money from.”

So, does he have any suggestions about how that could be done? “Yeah,” he says. “We should not only be talking about business tax cuts but also tax cuts for the great British public.”

Brendan Flattery, UK and Ireland chief executive, Sage

Newcastle-based Sage is one of the few UK technology groups in the FTSE 100, and the only software company. It sells its products all over the world, claiming more than 6 million customers, so the recent drop in the pound should prove a boon. Still, on Wednesday it is looking for Osborne to make changes that will strengthen its business at home.

“Measures targeting small business growth are essential for the country’s overall economic health,” says Flattery. “Small businesses are cited as the engine to drive the UK out of recession, but with the threat of a triple-dip grabbing headlines, measures to improve infrastructure and encourage innovation are equally important. Ensuring the UK is at the forefront of the global digital economy should be a priority.

“We are looking to George Osborne to introduce measures that promote IT skills at the grassroots as well as a continued commitment to the delivery of superfast broadband nationwide. Interest rates and rates for business should also be kept low to ensure that the UK is an attractive place for big businesses to set up and invest in the UK.”

The company is also making that perennial cry “to reduce red tape and make it easier for business owners to take on staff” – while adding that a survey it conducted of 1,000 small business owners reveals growing discontent with Osborne’s economic policy. It suggests that only one in 10 businesses support continued deficit reduction measures, and two-thirds do not have confidence in the chancellor to get Britain’s economy growing. Meanwhile, 90% of respondents said they didn’t believe the government was doing enough to help small businesses.

David Giampaolo, chief executive, Pi Capital

An American who has worked in the UK for 25 years, Giampaolo runs Pi Capital, a private equity club that invests in British businesses. Made up of entrepreneurs and executives on more than 600 company boards, it holds stakes in firms ranging from the Fitness First gym chain to the satellite communications group Intelsat. Asked what he wants from the budget, his answer is uncomplicated. “Lower taxes. In the main, business people are pushing for lower taxes not because of selfish reasons but because they genuinely believe this is what the country needs. Wealth creators are so good for the country.

“I just don’t see the state being the answer to how you get the country into growth mode. It has to be the private sector, which needs incentives and visibility, the second of which is probably more important than the first. People need to make investment decisions, whether hiring people or buying plant and machinery. Stability is a major factor in that. Obviously that is a delicate balance, but I’m one of those weirdos who thinks we can grow our way out of this given the right political and economic environment.” He does not have any specific tax cuts or initiatives on his wishlist, but feels that the chancellor needs to show business people that tax cuts are the overall “direction of travel”.

“My fear is that budgets are created around the populus. I think that sometimes you have to have ultimate conviction in what you believe in and, despite what the newspapers are saying, take the right long-term decisions. All governments are still managing economies in crisis mode and on a short-sighted cycle – at most a four-to-five-year election cycle. Time will either be what cures the current economic problems or, if combined with bad policies, crushes the country.”

Greene King and Spirit sales rise

Category : Business, World News

Pub chains Greene King and Spirit boost sales over the summer despite the wet weather and disruption caused by the Olympics.

Read the rest here: Greene King and Spirit sales rise

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Royal Mail fears downward spiral

Category : Business

Royal Mail faces a “spiral of decline” unless conditions are placed on firms competing with it, chief executive Moya Greene warns.

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Eurozone crisis live: Greek bailout gets final approval as markets mark time

Category : Business

FTSE 100 hits eight-month high despite storm clouds ahead
Pimco: Greek deal will come under pressure soon
Two new political parties in Greece

4.25pm: While I was away, the market rally rather ran out of umph. The euro has lost ground again — hitting a low of $1.3012. That reflects a general strengthening of the dollar, after last night’s upbeat report from the Federal Reserve.

$1.30, though, is one of those key ‘support’ levels that chartists and traders are fond of. Drop through that, the theory goes, and the euro could soon lose more ground (the last time this happened, at the start of January, the euro didn’t climb back for almost three weeks).

4.16pm: I”m back from the Open Europe debate at CMC Market’s offices (writes Graeme Wearden). There was an interesting discussion, with Megan Greene of Roubini Global Economics and Julian Callow of Barclays Capital taking opposing positions over the future of the Eurozone, and Raoul Ruparel of Open Europe slamming Greece’s latest aid package and the European Central Bank’s handling of parts of the crisis.

My earlier tweets summarised some of the action (not that 140 characters is the best format to explain the future of the Europe). So here’s a proper summary:

Greene argued that Greece and its lenders will muddle along together within the eurozone until Germany has held its next Federal elections in the autumn of 2013. Greece will probably miss some targets, and the troika will probably reluctantly keep funding it. Then, once Germany’s elections are over (and Europe has reinforced its firewall) Greece will refuse to implement further austerity and the Troika will refuse to hand over more funding.

Consequence — a ‘divorce’ in which the Troika extends Greece a bridging loan to cushion the impact of quitting the euro.

Greene didn’t claim that this would be easy or painless, but pointed out that:

Many of the consequences of default — sovereign default…and bank runs, are happening anyway.

Ultimately, Greene predicts that the eurozone will end up as a ‘rump’ dominated by Northern Europe, with Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Spain and maybe Cyprus all leaving.

This process would take many years — a reinforced firewall would be big enough to take Italy and Spain out of the financial markets for a couple of years if needed, but not the decade that structural reforms need to work.

Julian Callow, though, argued that the consequence of a Greek exit were too serious for European leaders to allow it. He believes that this means the eurozone will continue (although it faces a turbulent few years). He warned that Portugal and Ireland would immediately feel intense pressure if Greece quit, probably leading to a capital flight from those countries, and possibly even Italy and Spain too.

He agreed that Greece will probably need another rescue package, but believes that “from the perspective of the Greek public” it is best to continue with the current plan.

We are clearly going down the road of [further] debt restructuring in Greece, and possibly elsewhere. That is the lesser of two evils.

Ultimately, Callow’s argument is that eurobonds and closer fiscal integration will hold Europe together, as this will be in the best interests of Germany. He added:

Currency unions need political union and that is where we are heading now. It will take many years, and there be many challenges, but that is the way we will go.

Returning to Megan Greene’s prediction that a Troika bridging loan would help Greece in its return to the drachma. She argued that this would put even greater pressure on Greece to make reforms, as it could not cope without the funding if it were withdrawn (as could happen if Greece match whatever commitments were made).

Greece isn’t self-sufficient in food. You could see mass starvation in Greece if it was cut off from this bridging loan. It’s far-fetched but possible.

At this point Simon Nixon of the Wall Street Journal, who was chairing the event, said he had heard similar concerns from one European official.

Open Europe’s Raoul Ruparel warned that the upcoming Greek elections would present an early hurdle, with voters unlikely to deliver a clear winner:

It now appears that New Democracy cannot win a majority, and it has suggested that it won’t work with Pasok. Will there be a stable Greek government that can implement reforms?

We have to question where a stable Greek government will come from.

He also argued that, despite all the noise and fury over Greece’s second financial package, the actual net debt restructuring was relatively small.

2.12pm: More from Greece, where the cabinet is about to convene to formally endorse the latest rescue package. Helena Smith in Athens reports:

Going into the meeting, officials were tight-lipped about the EuroGroup’s decision to mete out installments in “doses” (as reported earlier) so as to keep the pressure up on Greece.

Evangelos Venizelos, the country’s finance minister who lead negotiations on the part of Athens, is expected to give cabinet colleagues a detailed analysis of the €130bn loan agreement. “He will send over his signature electronically [approving the package] tomorrow,” said a finance ministry official.

Once effected into law by the cabinet, the deal will have to be ratified by the 300-seat parliament, hopefully officials say, before the end of the month.

Well-briefed sources said the cabinet will also discuss the “measures needed to compensate for the destruction” wrought on Athens last month when thousands of hooded youths went on the rampage to protest a vote in parliament on further spending cuts in exchange for aid. More than 180 buildings — mostly shops and banks — were damaged in the mayhem with at least 500 people losing jobs as a result.

1.49pm: From the Open Europe conference, Graeme has tweeted the following:

At @OpenEurope event, Roubini’s Megan Greene predicts Greek euro exit in 2013 after German elections + Portugal following 12 months later

— Graeme Wearden (@graemewearden) March 14, 2012

On Italy and Spain, Megan Greene predicts two years of ‘appalling’ economic data. They have ‘fighting chance’ of staying in euro

— Graeme Wearden (@graemewearden) March 14, 2012


Raoul Ruparel of @OpenEurope sees Greek political trouble ahead with election looming: ‘Where will stable government come from?’

— Graeme Wearden (@graemewearden) March 14, 2012

1.43pm: Wall Street has edged higher as the US market joins in with the general mood of cautious optimism.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up around 14 points in the first few minutes of trading, following its gains yesterday after the US Federal Reserve’s positive comments on the country’s economy. There has been little impact from US import price figures, which showed a 0.4% month on month increase in February compared to predictions of a 0.5% rise. Benign, is the word being used.

The FTSE 100 is up around 19 points at 5975, but has not yet crossed the 6000 threshold for the first time since early July last year. Germany’s Dax is 1.3% higher while France’s Cac is ahead by 0.8%.

Hopes that the eurozone crisis has stabilised, at least for the moment, has combined with the upbeat comments about the US to give investors some relief from recent economic traumas.

But to continue with the storm clouds theme, Spanish bond yields are edging higher, with concerns about the country ditching its tough budget deficit targets. Where Spain goes, others may follow.

12.07pm: As the crisis has abated, I’m heading off to an event called “Will the euro survive 2012 and beyond?”, organised by Open Europe.

Will leave the blog in the capable hands of my colleagues – back mid-afternoon.

12.05pm: Meanwhile, says Helena, skyrocketing crime in Greece is such that the newly installed public order minister (also known as the minister for citizen protection) will hold talks with Athens’ mayor today to discuss the issue.

Helena writes:

The soaring crime rate is yet another offshoot of the financial crisis and with tourist-dependent Greece also preparing for its first flux of visitors, security concerns have taken centre stage. Aides close to Michalis Chyrsohoidis, who took over the post of public order minister in a mini-reshuffle last week, say criminal activity has assumed epidemic proportions especially in Athens where break-ins, robberies and murders (one every 48 hours) have skyrocketed. Robberies shot up by 125 % alone in the greater Athens region in 2011.

The minister, who has ordered that convoys of police on motorcycles be immediately increased, is worried that extremists may also exploit the social turmoil that has come with galloping unemployment (youth joblessness has exceeded 50%) and deepening poverty. Without giving any warning, leftwing urban guerrillas recently left an explosive devise on a subway train in Athens.

The device, which almost certainly would have left casualities had it exploded, only failed to detonate because of a fault.

There are some details of that incident here.

Helena continues:

On Tuesday, the culture and tourism minister Pavlos Geroulanos revealed that German bookings had nosedived by 30 % compared to this time last year (German visitors normally top the league tables of arrivals in Greece) while British bookings had dropped by about 10 % – in both cases because of the bad image that has come with media coverage of repeated riots sparked by outrage over austerity.
The culture ministry, itself facing more cuts, has appealed to the finance ministry for funds to recruit international PR firms in the hope of improving the country’s image before the tourist season begins.

On a personal note, Helena says, potential tourists should not be worried about security. Outside of Athens, especially on islands (which continue to remain idyllic) there is little sense of the crisis. Given that around 18 % of GDP is derived from the sector, which also provides one in five jobs, Greece needs “solidarity” tourism more than ever.

11.51am: Here’s another sign that the eurozone has entered a more tranquil phase — the media couldn’t manage a single question at the EC’s regular midday briefing today (reports Luke Baker, Reuters Brussels’ bureau chief).

The #eurozone crisis must be over – not one question at the European Commission’s midday briefing. Embarrassed spokespeople all round. #euco

— Luke Baker (@LukeReuters) March 14, 2012

11.16am: Jean-Claude Juncker has confirmed that Greece’s will now start to receive the funds from its second rescue package.

Here’s the full statement, issued in the last few minutes:

The euro area Member States have today formally approved the second adjustment programme for Greece. All required national and parliamentary procedures have been finalised. Member States have also authorised the EFSF* to release the first instalment for a total amount of €39.4bn, which will be disbursed in several tranches.


* – That’s the European Financial Stability Facility (the bailout fund that will be merged with the European Stability Mechanism this summer.

The point about ‘several tranches’ is important too. To keep receiving the money, Greece will need to keep hitting targets set by its lenders.

Juncker continued:

This second programme constitutes a unique opportunity for Greece that should not be missed. The Greek authorities should therefore continue demonstrating strong commitment and to keep up the implementation momentum by rigorously pursuing the adjustment effort in the areas of fiscal consolidation, structural reforms and privatisation, strictly in line with the new programme.

This will allow the Greek economy to return to a sustainable path, which is in the interest of everyone.

10.45am: There weren’t many signs of turmoil in the Italian bond markets this morning, where an auction of three-year debt went well.

Italy’s borrowing costs fell to their lowest level since October 2010, as investors flocked to buy the €6bn of bonds on offer. The yield (effectively the interest rate) on the three-year debt dropped to just 2.76%.

Earlier this morning, Italy’s deputy economy minister welcomed the fact that Italian bond yields have moved closer to the German equivalent, attributing it to a return of “foreign buyers”….

…some, no doubt, looking to put the European Central Bank’s offer of cheap three-year loans to work.

10.36am: The most lively story of the morning is the news that a banker at Goldman Sachs has quit, and blasted the “toxic and destructive” environment that he claims exists at the Wall Street titan.

The departure of Greg Smith, who used to run the firm’s United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, was announced in the pages of the New York Times.

There’s one part of his allegations that could be relevant to the eurocrisis:

It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail. Even after the S.E.C., Fabulous Fab, Abacus, God’s work, Carl Levin, Vampire Squids? No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding. I don’t know of any illegal behavior, but will people push the envelope and pitch lucrative and complicated products to clients even if they are not the simplest investments or the ones most directly aligned with the client’s goals? Absolutely. Every day, in fact.

Notoriously, one of Goldman’s many clients was Greece (although the country isn’t mentioned directly in Smith’s letter) who received a helping hand to polish up its public finances before it joined the euro. That work, which appeared to disguise the full extent of Greece’s borrowings from Goldman, has been heavily criticised since.

10.19am: This morning’s UK unemployment data shows some early signs that Britain’s labour market is stabilising, and a glimmer of optimism for George Osborne. But there was also proof that the UK is suffering from the youth unemployment crisis gripping much of Europe.

The number of people claiming unemployment benefit rose by 7,200 last month, while the wider jobless total in the three months to January rose by 28,000 to 2,666m.

Unemployment among the under-25s also continued to rise, the ONS said, with 1.04 million 16 to 24-year-olds unemployed in the three months to January. That took Britain’s youth unemployment rate to 22.5%, a record high since records began in 1992.

9.59am: It’s official, folks. The European Union has formally approved the second financial aid package for Greece.

More to follow (we believe Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the eurogroup, may make a statement soon)

9.44am: There are intriguing political developments in Greece this morning, where two new political formations will shortly be announced.

Our correspondent Helena Smith explains that Greece’s great economic crisis has already begun reshaping the country’s political landscape. The announcement of the two parties is further proof that the nation’s entire political make-up may shift in upcoming general elections.

Helena writes:

Politicians expelled from the socialist Pasok and centre right New Democracy for opposing EU and IMF fiscal policies are behind the two forces.

Louka Katseli, the former national economy minister and a veteran Pasok MP is lined up to launch her party, expected to be called Democratic Socialism, at lunchtime today. Educated in the US, Ms Katseli, who taught economics at Yale, is hoping to lure at least ten dissident MPs from Pasok – the number of seats needed to win parliamentary representation. Her timing could not be worse for Evangelos Venizelos, the finance minister who is to be formally bequeathed the reigns of the party leadership this Sunday.

Panos Kammenos, a former conservative deputy who broke ranks with New Democracy over its endorsement of austerity in exchange for the aid now propping up the Greek economy, will also formally announce the birth of his own party, Independent Greeks, today. Media reports suggest that at least six MPs who were expelled from New Democracy for rejecting the terms of Greece’s latest EU-IMF sponsored bailout will sign up to the political formation.

Meanwhile, there is growing speculation that the elections may be put off until May (either the 6th or 13th) to enable the government to ratify the latest €130 billion rescue program in parliament and pass a raft of reforms demanded in return for the loans. Antonis Samaras, the leader of New Democracy, is pressing for the poll to be held on April 29 but with Easter also looming there appears to be a growing consensus that there may not be the time to enact the reforms that foreign lenders say are vital for near bankrupt Greece to regain its competitiveness.

9.16am: As I mention stormclouds in the headline (to callitwhatitis’s chagrin in the comments below), perhaps I should list a few.

For Greece, there are two immediate issues. One is the general election expected in late April or May. Based on current polling, no party will win a clear majority. That will mean a coalition, which might make it harder to implement austerity reforms.

The second potential hurdle is the next set of austerity measures. Yesterday, Reuters published a confidential memo that showed Greece must cut the equivalent of 5.5% of GDP from government spending in 2013 and 2014 to keep on track.

Government officials quickly claimed that this was ‘no news’ (see yesterday’s blog) as the latest ‘memorandum of understanding’ voted through parliament included the necessary 5.5% cuts. Without that agreement, as we understand it, Greece would not have got agreement for its second aid package.

However (as I should perhaps have made clearer at the time), Greece has not yet said where those cuts will take place. They are likely to fall on defence and welfare.

Newsmeeting calls – more storm clouds to follow.

8.46am: Asian markets were also upbeat today, with Japan’s Nikkei closing above the 10,000 mark for the first time in seven months.

That means the Nikkei has gained 17% during 2012. Good news? Perhaps, not, according to Okasan Online Securities chief strategist Yoshihiro Ito, who warned the WSJ that :

The market is technically overheated, but hopes for further gains are outweighing negativity thus far.

The Nikkei, though, still has some way to go before it reaches a new record high. That was set in late December 1989, when the index closed at 38,915.87.

8.35am: Mohamed El-Erian, who runs Pimco, the world’s biggest bond trading firm, is warning this morning that the Greek crisis has only entered a haitus.

In the Financial Times, he writes;

Many investors wish to wave a final goodbye to the disruption the Greek debt crisis has had on market valuations. Meanwhile, European politicians are already trying to move away from the dramas on the periphery and focus on restoring growth in Europe. Both impulses are understandable. Unfortunately, they are premature.

The debt reduction agreement put in place last week is the biggest sovereign restructuring ever. Yet it only goes part of the way in helping Greece overcome its core problem of too much debt and too little growth. And it won’t be long before this latest deal also comes under pressure.

So, El-Erian argues, European leaders need to use the window of opportunity created by the biggest sovereign restructuring ever to fix their firewall.

The Brussels top brass insist that we’ve entered a quiet patch. Yesterday, EC president Jose Manuel Barroso called for an end to “constant drama” over the euru.

We’ll see what we can do….

8.26am: In London, the FTSE 100 hit an eight month high at the start of trading. The blue-chip index jumped 24 points to 5980, levels not seen since last July, shortly before fears over the eurocrisis sent markets tumbling.

Other markets also rose, with Germany’s Dax breaking over the 7,000 mark with a 0.6% gain. The Stoxx Europe 600, which tracks financial stocks across the region, jumped by 1.2%.

So all very cheerful. Analysts reckons traders are taking heart from a clutch of good economic data on Tuesday (which culminated with the US Federal Reserve taking a more positive view of America’s economy):

Michael Hewson of CMC Markets explains:

The improving US economy has, in all probability, saved the Fed from finding itself in what could have been a very difficult political position, in an election year, and having to consider further QE.

As such any faint hope that markets might have had of further QE between now and the November elections appears to have gone….

…The situation in Europe will continue to act as a headwind

8.15am: Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the eurozone debt crisis.

After the drama of recent weeks, there’s an air of calm this morning. Stock markets are rallying on relief that Greece’s second rescue package has been agreed, and are also cheered by encouraging bank stress test results released by the US Federal Reserve last night.

EU policymakers may feel that they’ve put the worst of things behind them, for a while at least.

But the situation remains tense, with Spain, Italy and Portugal all facing challenging months ahead. Ditto Greece, where a general election campaign is gearing up.

And with UK unemployment data due this morning, the state of the British economy will also be under scrutiny.

We’ll be tracking the latest events and expert views as usual – let us know what you think too.

VIDEO: My Bottom Line: Rooney Anand

Category : Business

Chief executive of the pub retailer and brewer Greene King Rooney Anand says there are lots of valuable skills people can learn from running a pub

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