The Bank of England on Thursday ramped up its UK economic growth forecasts for the next three years, despite the threat of Brexit storm clouds. The bank voted unanimously in its February meeting to keep interest rates at the record low level of 0.25% and keep its quantitative easing (QE) purchase targets at up to £10 billion ($12.6 billion) for corporate bonds and £435 billion for U.K. government bonds. Then, the British central bank lifted its 2017 economic growth prediction to 2.0% from a 1.4% forecast signalling the better-than expected performance of the UK economy since the June referendum. The BOE still believes growth will slow as Brexit negotiations begin, predicting GDP growth of 1.6% in 2018 and 1.7% in 2019. That was up from growth estimates of 1.5% and 1.6% respectively.
“The most interesting part of Thursday’s events will be Mark Carney’s press conference. The Bank will probably revise up their forecasts for inflation and growth in the short term. So Mr Carney is bound to be asked why he’s not planning on raising interest rates in response. The answer will be that the central bank looks beyond this kind of inflation because it thinks it won’t last.
The number of EU students applying to study in the UK has dropped by 7% sparking fears that the impact of the Brexit vote is starting to bite in the university sector, official figures released today by UCAS reveal. UK applicant figures have also decreased to a total of 469,490, a fall of 5% on this time last year; among EU students, there have been 42,070 applicants, compared to 45,220 at the same point last year, around 7% drop. It is the third fall in applicant numbers since 2002, and the biggest since 2012 - the year that tuition fees in England were trebled to £9,000 (CFF 11,216). The other drop was in 2006, when fees were raised to £3,000 (CHF 3,730).
The Swiss financial markets regulator (FINMA) ordered private bank Coutts & Co to pay back 6.5 million Swiss francs for having “seriously breached” money laundering rules by failing to fully monitor its business with indebted Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB. Coutts, owned by Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, "failed to adequately clarify the circumstances surrounding a number of business relationships and unusually large, high-risk transactions," FINMA said in a statement. It said a total of $2.4 bn in 1MDB-related assets moved through Coutts accounts in Switzerland, referring to a probe of operations conducted between 2009 and 2015.
Deutsche Bank posted a loss of €1.4 billion (£1.2 billion) for 2016 on Thursday, citing restructuring and "negative news flow" around a fine from the US Department of Justice. In the final three months of 2016 alone the bank lost €1.9bn, mainly thanks to a record penalty in the US. Earlier this week, it was fined £500m in connection with a Russian money laundering plan. Looking beyond the net result, Deutsche saw revenues shrink by 10% in 2016 compared with the previous year, at just over €30 billion, "as a challenging market environment and persistent low interest rate environment negatively impacted the business", the bank wrote in the statement. Meanwhile, the bank's underlying, or operating result before interest and taxes was €810 million in the red.
Swiss watch and jewelry maker Swatch Group Thursday reported that its fiscal 2016 net income declined 47% to 593 million Swiss francs from 1.119 billion francs in the year-ago period. Swiss watchmakers have been grappling with eroding sales in their biggest markets, Hong Kong and the United States, and tourist shoppers avoiding Europe for fear of extremist attacks, but recently mainland China sales turned the corner. Operating result for the year fell 44.5 percent to 805 million francs from 1.451 billion francs last year. The group's operating profit margin deteriorated to 10.7%, from 17.2% last year.
The OTC Swiss Blockchain Consortium announced a new Ethereum-based “encryption module” for their blockchain-based transaction platform for securities that are traded over-the-counter (OTC), as reported in the press release. Launched in September, the consortium includes Swisscom (Switzerland’s largest Telco Company), SIX (the Swiss Market Exchange operator), and Zürcher Kantonalbank (Switzerland’s 3rd largest bank), but also do the young and innovative companies ti&m, Inventx and Incore Bank. The group is receiving support from Switzerland’s Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI), a research organization supported by the federal government.
The statistical office of the European Union has taken a survey of 440 comparable foods across Europe to create an index of food, beverage, and tobacco prices categorized by nation. According to purchasing power, their 2015 data concludes that Switzerland has Europe's most expensive food and drinks. They're followed closely by Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. For fruit and vegetables, including potatoes, Switzerland is the most expensive country in the EU, then Denmark and Ireland.
Pharma industry leaders, including Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez and Merck & Co. chief Kenneth Frazier, got their marching orders from President Donald Trump on Tuesday morning. Lower your prices, deliver "better" innovation and "move your companies back" to the U.S. In a "pharma" meeting in the Oval Office, the President told executives from companies that they have done a "terrific job over the years" but that prices for drugs must come down. "Our trade policy will prioritize that foreign countries pay their fair share for U.S.-manufactured drugs, so our drug companies have greater financial resources to accelerate development of new cures, and I think that's so important," Trump said.
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