China’s leadership remains under pressure to rescue the world’s second-biggest economy from an ugly slowdown, despite a surprise leap in foreign trade last month. Exports surged by 15.3 per cent compared with May last year, while imports increased by 12.7 per cent thanks to a rise in demand for crude oil, iron ore and copper. In April, by contrast, exports grew by 4.9 per cent while imports edged up by only 0.3 per cent. Analysts said that their failure to predict the strongly positive trade figures was a result of the way that several holidays had fallen, distorting already volatile data. They were also quick to warn that strong trade figures did not mean that China could avoid a short-term slowdown, The Times explains.
An overwhelming majority of British people favour a referendum on Europe, according to a Populus poll for The Times. It indicates that 80% of voters now want a say, and 50% believe that there should be a public vote right away on Britain’s relationship with the EU, without waiting for European leaders to find a solution to the turmoil pushing continental economies to the brink of collapse. A third think that there should be a referendum “in the next few years”. Only 18% say that there is no need for one “in the foreseeable future”. Britain will feel the impact of the Eurozone crisis within days, when the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Lloyds Banking Group, both owned in part by the taxpayer, are expected to have their ratings downgraded by up to two notches by the credit agency Moody’s. Barclays is also likely to be hit, in a move that could result in the banks being made to pay more to borrow money to fund their operations, The Times reports.
The bloodshed in Syria resembles that of Bosnia in the 1990s, William Hague said yesterday, invoking the memory of a conflict in which 12,000 British troops were sent to help to stop the killing. The Foreign Secretary’s comments came as a key Syrian rebel medical group on the border with Turkey told The Times that the West was failing to provide the promised aid to help the opposition movement. Meanwhile, the new head of Syria’s main opposition group said that the regime was on its “last legs”. Abdel Basset Sayda, a Kurdish activist, said: “The multiplying massacres and shellings show that it is struggling,” The Times says.
Fraud involving current accounts soared to a new peak in the first quarter, it is disclosed in a survey today. The data shows 44 in every 10,000 applications for current accounts were found to be fraudulent, an increase of 23% on the fourth quarter last year. Experian, the information services company which compiled the data, believes financial pressures forced many people to resort to fraud to avoid falling into debt. Many are providing false or misleading information to justify an overdraft or open current accounts. The economic downturn and squeeze saw fraud in the financial services sector overall leap 16% in the first quarter compared with the final three months last year, The Telegraph reports.
Families will be forced to pay higher energy bills to fund subsidies to the French for a radical overhaul of the power market, the boss of one of the country’s largest energy companies has warned. Ian Marchant, the chief executive of SSE, said that subsidies demanded by the French state-owned EDF Energy to build new nuclear reactors in Britain would saddle consumers with higher bills for years to come. He will outline his concerns about the reforms of the electricity market, which were unveiled by the Government last month, to a committee of MPs tomorrow, writes The Times.
WPP is heading for a “car crash” showdown with investors over the near £13m pay package of its chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell at its annual general meeting on Wednesday, a leading investor group has warned. Pirc, which routinely talks to hundreds of major institutional investors, said it is “difficult to find shareholders likely to support the company” on the issue of executive remuneration. Any last minute adjustments to the executive remuneration report at the media conglomerate will do little to quell mounting anger, a spokesman added. The chairman of WPP has hinted for the first time that Sir Martin’s compensation package could be reduced if a majority of shareholders vote against it, according to The Telegraph.
Recessions in Britain and Spain, coupled with the deepening Eurozone crisis, will deliver a heavy blow to European airlines this year, when the Continent’s carriers are expected to suffer combined losses of $1.1bn, the International Air Transport Association warned today. The airline industry’s trade body expects the sovereign debt crisis to deteriorate further in the coming months, in the absence of a clear political strategy for dealing with financial turmoil across Europe. If the banking crisis in Spain spreads to other countries, the outlook could be even more bleak for an industry which has seen its global profits cut in half for three successive years, IATA warned, says The Times.