Europe

The European Union’s executive arm is likely to extend a suspension of the bloc’s debt rules through next year amid uncertainty over the region’s economic recovery, Bloomberg News reported. In its guidance on fiscal policy for the coming months, the European Commission outlined its parameters for assessing whether to prolong a waiver of the EU’s spending limits, signaling that it won’t reinstate them at least until 2023. The commission first scrapped the rules last year as governments sought to cushion the blow of the pandemic with extraordinary levels of support.
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Aon will face a list of objections by the EU’s antitrust watchdog which it must overcome with concessions to proceed with its $30 billion bid for Willis Towers Watson, Reuters reported. The negotiations may derail Aon’s goal of closing the deal in the first half of the year unless it offers concessions in the coming weeks to stave off the charge sheet. The deal, announced a year ago, would create the world’s largest insurance broker, putting the merged entity ahead of world No. 1 Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc.

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Britain’s big four banks amassed more than 200 billion pounds ($277.52 billion) of new deposits last year as customers reined in spending through pandemic lockdowns, far outstripping extra lending to struggling businesses and households, Reuters reported. Full-year earnings reported by HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds and NatWest last month revealed the extent to which lenders’ finances have been upended by the crisis. The banks now face a glut in savings, a Reuters analysis of the banks’ results show, as domestic customers of the four lenders deposited 221 billion pounds of extra cash.

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Norwegian Air has withdrawn requests to repudiate a total of 36 aircraft leases after reaching agreement with the lessors in question as part of a restructuring process, Ireland’s High Court heard on Tuesday, Reuters reported. The budget airline was late last year given protection from bankruptcy in both Norway and Ireland, where most of its assets are registered, and is aiming to emerge from the process with fewer aircraft and less debt.
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Irish public finances fell deeper into the red last month as spending on various pandemic-related supports rose and tax receipts fell, the Irish Times reported. The latest exchequer returns, published by the Department of Finance, show the Government’s budget deficit - on a rolling 12-month basis – swelled to just over €14 billion in February. This was fuelled by a combination of falling tax revenues and increased spending on financial supports for impacted workers and businesses.
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Poland’s government received an EU slapdown over its radical judicial reforms after the bloc’s highest court ruled Tuesday that changes to the way Polish Supreme Court judges are appointed may infringe EU law, Politico reported. The judgment comes amid growing concern about the independence of Poland’s judiciary, and forms part of a years-long legal and political conflict between Brussels and Warsaw over worries that the nationalist government is backsliding on the EU’s democratic standards.
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Interest rates have been negative in Europe for years. But it took the flood of savings unleashed in the pandemic for banks finally to charge depositors in earnest, the Wall Street Journal reported. Germany’s biggest lenders, Deutsche Bank AG and Commerzbank A , have told new customers since last year to pay a 0.5% annual rate to keep large sums of money with them. The banks say that they can no longer absorb the negative interest rates the European Central Bank charges them. The more customer deposits banks have, the more they have to park with the central bank.
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British consumer borrowing fell at its fastest pace in January since May last year as the country went back into a coronavirus lockdown, Bank of England data showed on Monday, Reuters reported. Unsecured lending to consumers fell by 2.4 billion pounds ($3.35 billion), the biggest fall since last May’s 4.6 billion-pound drop and more than a median forecast for a 1.9 billion-pound fall in a Reuters poll of economists. That took the year-on-year fall to 8.9%, the biggest decline since monthly records began in 1994, the BoE said.
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A rush to quickly spend a €5 billion European Union fund aimed to counteract the economic impact of Brexit may sacrifice quality for speed, and Ireland could end up having to pay some money back, the European Court of Auditors has warned, the Irish Times reported. Ireland is in line to receive at least €1 billion of the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR), by far the largest amount going to any country in the bloc due to the economy’s exposure to the impact of Britain’s exit from the EU.
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