Japanese shares continued to rally, jumping to a seven-year peak on Tuesday after last week’s surprise stimulus move by the country’s central bank.
EU threatens to fine Britain £70 m a month
The European Union will hit Britain with punitive fines of almost £70 million a month next year if David Cameron refuses to pay a £1.7 billion bill from Brussels.
Cameron last month said he will refuse to pay the “completely unacceptable” bill and warned that it will reduce the chances of Britain staying in the EU, The Telegraph reported.
The EU is now threatening to charge Britain an annual interest rate of 52 percent, equivalent to £823 million, if it refuses to pay the full amount by December 1.
George Osborne, the chancellor, will travel to Brussels on Friday for a meeting of EU finance ministers in an attempt to reduce the bill ahead of the deadline.
Tory MPs described the £2.3 million a day of interest payments as so exploitative that they would make “the most predatory payday loan shark blush”.
It came as senior Tories clashed with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, over plans to reduce the number of immigrants coming to Britain.
Merkel suggested she would rather see Britain leave the European Union than change the rules on freedom of movement, describing that the principle as “non-negotiable”.
However, Osborne said that “Europe is not working” for Britain and pledged to drive through freedom of movement reforms.
He suggested that European migrants should not move to Britain unless they have a job lined up and insisted that Germany “understands the disquiet” that people in Britain feel about the high levels of immigration.
Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, said that foreigners could be barred from claiming tax credits to boost their wages for three years, a move which could be achieved without new regulations.
He said that Britain and a number of other European countries including Germany, Spain, France, Holland and Denmark are united in the belief that “something has gone wrong” with the current rules.
He said: “Most of that can be done by changing the regulations and the rules within the existing agreements. We are already pressing on others and getting a remarkable degree of agreement. Even Merkel agreed with that.”
Details of the fine, however, are likely to further strain relations with Europe. According to EU officials, the fine for the first month will be charged at 2.5 percent of the outstanding bill, equivalent to £41 million.
It will then rise by 0.25 percent a month, hitting 5.5 percent by December 2015 – equivalent to £90 million. The European Commission made it clear on Monday that the Government will be legally obliged to pay the extra interest if its does not pay up the extra money on 1 December following a “correction” of Britain’s EU contributions.
“All these corrections have to be reimbursed by 1 December,” said a commission spokesman. “Everybody has to pay what is due. If payment is not made by 1 December then there is the process of interest rates.”
The extra budget demand follows a revision of the value of Britain’s wealth, a statistic known as gross national income (GNI) over the period 1995 to 2013. Under the revision, which applies to all EU countries, France will receive cash back worth £790 million because its economy has performed worse than Britain’s.
Dominic Raab, a Conservative backbencher, said: “This unscrupulous rate of interest would make the most predatory payday loan shark blush. To many hardworking Britons, this just makes the EU look like an exploitative scam.
‘The government should fight the idea of fines for economic success and rewards for failure to reform tooth and nail. If not, it just strengthens the case of those arguing the UK should leave altogether.”
US final October manufacturing PMI down
The US manufacturing sector slowed in October to its lowest rate of growth since July, while a gauge of new orders hit its lowest level since January, an industry report showed.
Financial data firm Markit said its final US Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index fell to 55.9 from September’s final reading of 57.5. The reading showed an even sharper slowdown than initially estimated in Markit’s preliminary or “flash” PMI reading of 56.2 on Oct 23 and was the index’s largest decline since February, Reuters reported.
The new orders subindex was unchanged from the flash reading, dropping to 57.1, its lowest level since January, from a final reading of 59.8 in September.
Output, meanwhile, fell more than earlier estimated, sliding to 57.8, the lowest since March, from 59.6 in September. Output had initially been estimated at 58 in the flash reading.
“The latest figures indicate that the recovery has lost some intensity at the start of the fourth quarter, reflecting subdued export demand from the euro area and key emerging markets,” said Tim Moore, senior economist at Markit.
“Meanwhile, a solid rate of manufacturing job creation was sustained in October, which provides an early indication that domestic labor market conditions have continued to strengthen through the final quarter of the year,” Moore said.
Still, the employment subindex eased more than earlier estimated from September’s level, which was the strongest reading of labor conditions in the manufacturing sector since March 2012.
Singapore best place to do business
It only takes two and a half days to get a business permit in Singapore.
No wonder, then, that the tiny island nation tops the World Bank’s ranking of the best places to do business in the world — for the ninth year in a row. New Zealand and Hong Kong ranked second and third on the list.
The report notes that business owners in Singapore spend an average of 82 hours a year trying to resolve tax issues. That’s half as much as the 175 hours that business owners spend dealing with tax issues in the US, which ranked seventh on the list, CNN reported.
It praises New Zealand for an efficient planning system that makes it easy for people to get a business off the ground and cites Hong Kong’s low corporate tax rate.
Switzerland entered the top 20 for the first time after it passed new rules protecting minority shareholders.
The good news is that 80 percent of the 189 countries the World Bank ranked have improved their scores since last year.
Tajikistan, Benin and Togo are three countries that showed the most improvement.
Benin, which jumped 16 spots to number 151, passed new laws protecting minority shareholders, while Togo climbed 15 spots to 149, after making it easier to get a construction permit. Tajikistan moved up nine spots to 166.
Indonesia to streamline trade permits
Indonesia will streamline the government’s permit process by combining ministry licenses in a one-stop service, as the country seeks to attract investment to narrow a trade deficit.
Permits from ministries such as mining, forestry and transport will be moved to the investment coordinating board, said Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Sofyan Djalil in an interview with Bloomberg TV Indonesia in Jakarta. Indonesia needs to improve its bureaucracy so regulations don’t get in the way of development, he said in his first week on the job after being appointed by President Joko Widodo.
The plans signal the first efforts by Widodo, known as Jokowi, to tackle the red tape that led the World Bank to place the country 155th out of 189 economies for the ease of starting a business. Investors have bought nearly $4 billion of Indonesian stocks this year on hopes Jokowi will replicate his policies as governor of the capital in shaking up the bureaucracy, moving tax collection online and kick starting infrastructure in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.
“The President wants a one-stop service to be one stop in reality,” Djalil said in the interview at his ministry in central Jakarta, adding that he aims to complete coordinating this with ministries in two to three weeks. “Right now, regulations are very expensive. People doing business require so many licenses.”
Currently, foreign investors need dozens of permits from different departments including the investment board for approval to start operating. They have to go to various ministries for permits for land use, duties and exports. Companies that want to explore for oil in the archipelago need 289 permits, according to the country’s main energy regulator.
The government will raise subsidized fuel prices “as soon as possible” as that’s another reform urgently needed, Djalil said. Finance Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said last week the government will raise the prices before the end of the year to trim subsidies and create more fiscal space in the budget.
RBA keeps record-low interest rate
Australia’s central bank kept its key interest rate at a record low as the sustained strength of the currency slows an economic transition and hampers hiring.
Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Governor Glenn Stevens left the overnight cash rate target at 2.5 percent for a 15th month, as expected, and said the currency “remains above most estimates of its fundamental value, particularly given the further declines in key commodity prices.”
He also said it “will probably be some time yet” before unemployment falls consistently. Hours earlier, the statistics bureau said in a review of labor market data that 24,400 fewer Australians were employed than estimated in September, Bloomberg reported.
Policy makers are playing a waiting game for low rates to gain traction beyond housing, where speculators are distorting the market, prompting a review of lending to investors. Stevens wants growth to switch to domestic drivers as a mining investment boom winds down, easing labor demand.
“The RBA’s desire for a period of stability has been reinforced in recent months,” said Michael Blythe, chief economist in Sydney at Commonwealth Bank, the nation’s biggest lender. “One key change is that the RBA is now promoting macroprudential measures to take the heat out of key parts of the housing market. This shift indicates a greater reluctance to use interest rates than we had thought likely.”
The RBA upped its rhetoric on housing from mid-September, when it said that measures were planned to target people buying residential property as an investment. That was a U-turn on past dismissals of macroprudential measures, including Stevens’s description of them in August as an “international fad.”
Data released this week showed the property market is showing signs of a two-speed nature.
Prices jumped 1.3 percent in Sydney in October and were up 13.1 percent from a year ago, RP Data’s CoreLogic Hedonic Home Value Index showed. Prices advanced 1.9 percent in Melbourne and 0.6 percent in Brisbane. In contrast, they fell 2.3 percent in Canberra, 2.4 percent in Hobart, 1.1 percent in Adelaide, 0.4 percent in Darwin and 0.1 percent in Perth. Across all capital cities, prices rose on average 1 percent, RP Data said.
“Credit growth is moderate overall, but with a further pick-up in recent months in lending to investors in housing,” Stevens said. “Dwelling prices have continued to rise.”
The nation’s unemployment rate rose to 6.2 percent in September from a previously estimated 6.1 percent, the statistics said.
It ordered the data review last month as it was unable to explain a sudden bout of volatility in the labor figures. The bureau said anything from new survey questions to a waning mining boom prompted the seasonal adjustment of raw data to show a record 121,000 jobs gain in August, and if applied in September, a 172,000 loss.