LONDON (Alliance News) - The Bank of England reduced its 2014 wage growth estimate Wednesday and reiterated that the increase in interest rates, when it comes, will be gradual, with Governor Mark Carney warning that rate setters were also keeping a close eye on the increased threats to the world economy from geopolitical events.
The bank is using the slack in the economy - its measure of how much the UK economy is underperforming - as its yard stick for when to start raising interest rates. With the unemployment rate falling, a key component of the slack has become wage growth.
Carney said the central bank doesn't have a particular threshold for wage growth, and he expects wage growth to rise slowly as the slack in the economy is picked up, but the bank said it now only expects average salaries to rise by 1.25% this year, half its previous forecast.
The Office for National Statistics Wednesday said average wage growth, excluding bonuses, was just 0.6% in the three months to June, the lowest growth since records began in 2001.
Carney thinks the slack in the economy - the central bank's measure of how much the UK economy is underperforming - is currently about 1% of Gross Domestic Product, narrower than the range of between 1% and 1.5% the bank gave in February. Carney said he now thinks the bank underestimated the slack in February.
"A significant cut to the BoE's wage growth forecast saw sterling crash to a more than two month low against the US dollar, as traders took the revision to mean that the central bank won't hike rates this year, pushing back some forecasts to the start of 2015," said Alpari analyst Craig Erlam.
The UK unemployment rate continued to fall as expected by economists, hitting the lowest since late 2008, data from the Office for National Statistics showed. The jobless rate came in at 6.4% during April to June, in line with forecasts. There were 2.08 million unemployed people, which was 132,000 fewer than for January to March.
Markets: UK stock indices have moved higher Wednesday, but the pound has fallen to a ten-week low against the dollar after the Bank of England released a dovish quarterly inflation report and cut its wage growth forecasts, pushing back market forecasts for the first UK interest rate rise.
Wall Street is expected to open higher ahead of a number of pieces of data and speeches from Fed officials. Futures currently indicate that the DJIA will open up 0.4%, while the S&P 500 will open up 0.5%.
FTSE 100: up 0.3% at 6,650.86
FTSE 250: up 0.4% at 15,523.67
AIM ALL-SHARE: down 0.1% at 754.87
GBP-USD: down at 1.6704
EUR-USD: flat at 1.3363
GOLD: flat at USD1,308.43 an ounce
OIL (Brent): flat at USD102.88 a barrel
Top UK Corporate News
Metals giant Glencore reported higher copper, ferrochrome and oil production in the first half of the year as it ramped up output at some mines and oil facilities, although zinc and nickel production was down on the year as other mines depleted reserves or were placed on care and maintenance. The company said own-sourced copper production was up 13% on the year in the six months to June 30 to 741,000 tonnes, driven by a ramp up of its Mutanda mine and improved production at Collahuasi. However, output was down 12% on the second half of 2013 due to lower head grades caused by mine sequencing at Collahuasi and Antamina and planned maintenance shut downs at its Collahuasi, Mount Isa and Mopani mines.
AstraZeneca said it has seen positive top-line results from Phase III clinical trails of combination treatments of its compound lesinurad with xanthine oxidase inhibitors for the treatment of patients with symptomatic gout. The first two trials investigated the potential of a lesinurad combination with xanthine oxidase inhibitor allopurinol in patients not meeting target levels of serum uric acid. In both of these trials, the combination met its primary endpoint at both a 200 milligram and 400 milligram dose.
Petrofac said it has won a USD500 million contract from a subsidiary of Malaysia's national oil and gas company for a refinery package in the Pengerang project in Johor, Malaysia. The FTSE 100-listed oil services company said the engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning contract has been awarded by PRPC Refinery & Cracker Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Petroliam Nasional Berhad, or Petronas.
Security company G4S said it swung back to a profit in the first half of the year as revenue rose and it didn't repeat the write offs and impairments that weighed on last year's results, but Chief Executive Ashley Almanza said the company's turnaround remains a work in progress. The company swung to a pretax profit of GBP85 million in the six months to June 30, compared with a loss of GBP94 million a year earlier when it had booked GBP124 million of impairment charges after a review of its operations and a writedown on some unprofitable contracts. Excluding those charges and restructuring costs, its profit before interest, tax and amortisation rose to GBP185 million, from GBP175 million, as revenue rose to GBP3.37 billion, from GBP3.25 billion. The company kept its interim dividend unchanged at 3.42 pence a share.
Two of London's biggest listed property firms, British Land Company and Land Securities Group, said they have reshaped their shopping centre portfolios. Land Securities said it has sold its 50% stake in Cabot Circus Shopping Centres, Friars Quake and surrounding shops in Bristol to AXA Real Estate in a deal worth GBP267.8 million. FTSE 100-listed Hammerson owns the remaining stake. Meanwhile, British Land said it has fully pre-let its new GBP19 million extension at Clifton Moor Shopping Park in York, increasing the occupancy and value of the park.
Admiral Group Chief Financial Officer Kevin Chidwick is handing his duties over to his deputy in order to focus on his role in the US as chief executive of the group's Elephant Auto Insurance business, as the insurer looks to build up its international business. News of the change came alongside interim results for the six months ended June 30, in which Admiral reported an increase in pretax profit to GBP183.3 million, from GBP181.4 million a year earlier, helped by an 8% increase to GBP207.7 million in UK car insurance pretax profit. Admiral increased its interim dividend to 49.4 pence per share from 48.9p.
UK Chancellor George Osborne will rule out a pre-election sale of Lloyds Banking Group shares to retail investors, Sky News reported on Wednesday. Sky News said it has learnt that the Treasury has decided that stock market volatility and the time needed to conduct a public share sale would create an "unacceptable level of risk for ministers to undertake a mass retail offering", and it's also concerned about Lloyds' plan to restart dividend payments, Bank of England stress tests, and next month's Scottish independence referendum. The report said that it is "conceivable" that Osborne will continue to sell shares to City institutions ahead of the election, but that the news on the retail front means the government is unlikely to complete the return of Lloyds to private hands ahead of the general election next May.
Michael Page International reported higher profit and revenue for the first half of the year as the economic recovery drove improved hiring in its major markets, although its overseas earnings took a big hit from the strength of sterling. The recruitment company reported a pretax profit of GBP35.6 million for the six months to June 30, up from GBP32.0 million a year earlier, as revenue rose to GBP512.2 million, from GBP503.2 million, and it felt the benefit of cost savings and efficiency programmes it undertook last year. The company said it grew in all four regions in which it operates at constant currencies.
Shares in Getech Group are trading higher after the company expressed confidence in a "substantially improved" performance in its new financial year, on the back of a strong second-half of last year and the signing of contracts worth over USD5 million. Vipera is up after its Codd & Date Srl subsidiary got a contract for the use of its technology by IfItalia, part of the BNP Paribas Group. Amara Mining is also up after the miner reported exceptional drilling results from the Yaoure gold project in CÔte d'Ivoire. Also trading higher is Flowgroup, after the firm said it has signed a heads of agreement with Mears Group for Mears to provide installation and after-care services for Flowgroup's microCHP boiler. At the other end of the market, President Energy is the leading faller on the AIM All-Share index after it suspended drilling at the Jacaranda-1 well in Paraguay, despite expressing optimism that the results from the well de-risks the remaining two wells in the drilling campaign. Hutchinson China MediTech is down after the company said that an independent data safety and monitoring committee had recommended that a Phase III trial of its HMPL-004 treatment for ulcerative colitis be terminated following an interim analysis of the trial.
Top Economics And General
Eurozone industrial production declined for the second straight month in June, figures from Eurostat showed. On a monthly basis, industrial production dropped 0.3% in June, much slower than May's 1.1% decline. Economists had forecast a 0.4% growth for the month. Industrial production remained flat year-on-year in June. That followed by a 0.6% growth seen in May, which was revised up from 0.5%. Economist had forecast a 0.2% growth for June.
German inflation eased as estimated to its lowest level since early 2010, final data from Destatis showed. The overall consumer price index went up 0.8% yearly in July, after the 1.0% increase in the previous month. The rate came in line with the flash estimate. Food prices grew 0.1% annually in July and that of clothing and footwear rose by 0.8%. Household energy costs dipped by 0.7%. Month-on-month, consumer prices increased 0.3% in July as expected, same as in the previous month.
A convoy of Russian aid was en route to embattled eastern Ukraine on Wednesday, amid requests from Kiev that the 280 trucks be searched for military gear and threats to block the delivery. The lorries left the city of Voronezh and were heading to the Belgorod region on the border with Ukraine, the RIA Novosti state news agency reported, citing its own correspondent travelling with the convoy. The Russian Foreign Ministry has said that the convoy, which is destined for the city of Luhansk, would pass into Ukraine's Kharkiv region - a concession to Kiev, which has demanded that the trucks are unloaded and inspected before crossing the border.
Iraq's outgoing Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki moved Tuesday to quell worries that he would use the armed forces to hold onto power. The Shiite strongman, who has insisted he is entitled to form the next government, told army officers that they should not intervene in Iraq's political crisis, according to a report of the meeting on his office's website. Rival politician Haidar al-Abadi was asked Monday to form a new government by the new President Fouad Massoum. Al-Maliki, who has served two terms as prime minister since 2006, is widely blamed for failing to unite Iraq's religious and ethnic groups. That failure, critics say, opened the way for Islamic State jihadists to take over much of northern Iraq.
Indirect negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian officials on a comprehensive and lasting ceasefire agreement resumed in Cairo on Tuesday, the second day of a 72-hour truce in the Gaza Strip. Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon warned that if no agreement was reached by Wednesday the ceasefire would have to be extended or fighting would resume.
China's industrial production and retail sales grew at slower pace in July, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed. Industrial production grew 9% in July from last year. The annual rate was forecast to ease marginally to 9.1% from 9.2% in June. Retail sales growth slowed for the second straight month in July. Retail sales advanced 12.2% on a yearly basis in July, following June's 12.4% increase. The rate was also below expectations of 12.5%. Another report showed that fixed asset investment in China increased 17% from January to July compared to 17.3% in January to June period.
Japan's gross domestic product contracted 6.8% on year in the second quarter of 2014, the Cabinet Office said in Wednesday's preliminary reading. The reading marked the country's worst decline since the earthquake and tsunami in 2011, due in large part to a sharp decline in consumer spending following the implementation of a consumption tax hike in April. Still, the headline figure beat forecasts for a decline of 7.1% following the downwardly revised 6.1% gain in the first quarter (originally 6.7%).
Afternoon Watchlist (all times British Summer Time)
13:30 US Retail Sales
14:05 US Fed's William Dudley speech
14:20 US Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President Rosengren Speech
15:00 US Business Inventories
15:30 US EIA Crude Oil Stocks change
Thursday's Key UK Corporate Events
Partnership Assurance Group Half Year Results
Zoopla Property Group Interim Management Statement
Centamin Half Year Results
Cineworld Group Half Year Results
Derwent London Half Year Results
Ophir Energy Half Year Results
Rank Group Half Year Results
The Vitec Group Half Year Results
Thursday's Key Economic Events (all times British Summer Time)
00:01 UK RICS Housing Price Balance
00:50 Japan Machinery Orders
06:30 France Gross Domestic Product
07:00 Germany Gross Domestic Product
07:45 France Nonfarm Payrolls
09:00 EU ECB Monthly Report
10:00 EU Consumer Price Index
10:00 EU Gross Domestic Product
13:30 US Export Price Index
13:30 US Import Price Index
13:30 US Jobless Claims
15:30 US EIA Natural Gas Storage change
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