George Osborne unveiled a £140bn emergency scheme to try to avoid a second credit crunch caused by the on-going chaos in the Eurozone. The Bank of England is to offer money to high-street banks to kick-start mortgage and small business lending to prevent loans being rationed for many families and entrepreneurs, the Chancellor announced. It comes after sharp rises in the costs of mortgages and other loans in recent months as banks struggle to raise money in the midst of the single currency crisis. Sir Mervyn King, the Bank of England Governor, said that the “industrialised world have thrown everything bar the kitchen sink” at the global economic meltdown but that even “bolder action” was now required, The Telegraph reports.
Spain’s borrowing costs have surged to record highs and are perilously close to the point of no return, threatening a full-blown sovereign crisis unless the European Central Bank comes to the rescue. “We’re facing maximum tension. The situation is unsustainable over time,” said the country’s finance minister Luis de Guindos. Yields on 10-year Spanish bonds yields punched to almost 7%, above levels that triggered ECB intervention to back-stop Spain last November. “The ECB needs to intervene very quickly or it is game over,” said Nicholas Spiro from Spiro Asset Management. “There is a whiff of capitulation in the air,” according to The Telegraph.
Flagship proposals to make British banks safer ran into immediate trouble yesterday when their original architect suggested that they were not tough enough. Sir John Vickers, chairman of the Independent Commission on Banking, criticised the Government’s White Paper for allowing banks to lend a greater multiple of their capital cushions than he would like. “The proposals are far-reaching, but on some points, such as limits on the leverage of big banks, we believe they should go further,” he said. The proposed limit means that larger banks will be able to lend as much as 33.3 times their capital, far more than Sir John’s preference for a maximum multiple of 24.6 times, exposing them to a higher risk of failure if loans turn sour, writes The Times.
Surging prices for potatoes, lentils and fuel prompted an acceleration in Indian inflation last month. Official figures released yesterday showed the benchmark wholesale price index up by 7.55% in May from a year ago — higher than expected and faster also than the 7.23% rate reported for the previous month. The rise highlights the dilemma facing the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), which had been expected to cut interest rates next week in an attempt to boost the flagging economy. The increase was led by a dramatic rise in the cost of staples such as vegetables and pulses, which have risen by 49.4% and 16.6% respectively over the past year. The price of potatoes rose by an alarming 68%, increasing the pressure on the 700 million people in India who live on less than $2 a day. To compound their difficulties, the cost of fuel and electricity rose by 11.5% over the same period, The Times reports.
Mortgage lending fell off a cliff in April, after the end of the stamp duty concession for first-time buyers, new figures show. The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) said the number of loans to home buyers fell by 30% between March and April to 36,000. The biggest fall was among loans to first-time buyers, with lending at around half the levels of the previous month at just 12,600. The stamp duty holiday for anyone buying their first home for between £125,000 and £250,000 was withdrawn on March 24, because the Chancellor had deemed it “ineffective”. The CML’s figures confirm that a last minute rush to beat the deadline, precipitated last month’s slump, The Times says.
Insurance giant Standard Life has bolstered its management structure in preparation for a major move into emerging markets in Asia. David Nish, the group’s chief executive, said the changes would allow the business to target “exceptional opportunities” in the region. The group will also combine its UK and European businesses which are both facing economic challenges and increased regulation. Nathan Parnaby, a long-term employee of Standard Life, will become chief executive of a new division, Standard Life Asia and Emerging Markets. Parnaby was head of the firm’s European business in 2010 and was then handed additional responsibility for the Asian business. The reorganisation marks the beginnings of a shift in Standard Life’s business model as it targets the increasing levels of personal wealth in China and India – and as markets in UK and in particular, Europe, look set to lose traction under the European sovereign crisis and increasing regulation in the form of Solvency II, The Scotsman reports.