Europe

An obscure clause in government bond contracts may help the European Central Bank clear a key hurdle to launching a fresh stimulus programme by allowing it to own even more government debt, according to central bank officials, the International New York Times reported on a Reuters story. With the euro zone's growth and inflation prospects dimming, ECB President Mario Draghi has strongly hinted at more monetary easing in the form of interest rate cuts or new asset purchases.

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Norwegian oil and gas rig operator Dolphin Drilling filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday, leading creditors to seize its key assets in a restructuring that will see the company maintain operations, Reuters reported. Formerly known as Fred. Olsen Energy, Dolphin Drilling ASA had debt of just over $1 billion at the end of 2018 and a net loss for the year of almost $300 million, its annual report shows.

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Ireland faces 85,000 potential job losses and a sharp economic slowdown if the UK crashes out of the EU in October, the country’s finance minister has said, in a stark warning about the effect of a no-deal Brexit, the Financial Times reported. Paschal Donohoe said 50,000 to 55,000 jobs could be lost within two years of the UK exiting the EU without a deal, with another 30,000 at risk in the medium term if there were no resolution to political chaos in Westminster over Britain’s departure from the bloc.

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Two years ago Austria broke records in debt markets by selling €3.5bn of 100-year bonds, the Financial Times reported. Now the central European country is eyeing another “century bond” as investors clamour for long-dated instruments in a world awash in ultra-low, and even negative, sovereign yields. Vienna plans to issue €3bn of five-year bonds and also test investor demand for up to €1bn of 100-year bonds, according to one banker close to the deal. Last time, in September 2017, the century bond was heavily oversubscribed, drawing bids of €11.4bn.

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UK financial services companies have racked up a Brexit bill of close to £4bn as they prepare to shift people and capital to the EU, according to EY, the consultancy, the Financial Times reported. Some of Britain’s biggest financial services groups have disclosed £1.3bn in relocation costs, legal advice and contingency provisions since Britain voted to leave the EU three years ago, plus an extra £2.6bn in capital injections as they set up non-UK headquarters, EY’s quarterly Brexit tracker said.

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Fashion retailer New Look more than doubled full-year losses and revealed it had discovered historical accounting irregularities within the account used to track supplier payments, the Financial Times reported. The company, whose biggest shareholder is the Brait investment vehicle controlled by South African billionaire Christo Wiese, reported £402m of charges, largely related to its move private some years ago.

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Falling morale among Germany’s business leaders has added to the gloom surrounding the eurozone’s biggest economy, as a leading index showed that the mood among managers has weakened to its lowest level in nearly five years, the Financial Times reported. “The German economy is heading for the doldrums,” said the Ifo institute, which recorded a decline in its business climate reading this month to 97.4. That compares with 97.9 a month earlier and in line with economists’ predictions. June’s reading was the fourth decline and the lowest since November 2014 when it touched 96.1.

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Switzerland’s thrift, contrasting with neighbors struggling to fix bloated budget deficits, is exposing the country to other longer-term problems, Bloomberg News reported. The country of 8 million runs surpluses every year and its debt ratio is far below a level that would even begin to raise alarm bells. In fact, critics warn that the aversion to leverage risks making life harder than necessary, with wide-ranging economic implications. It looks like a model of fiscal prudence in a world drowning in debt.

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The eurozone’s anemic growth and inflation mean it’s probably already experiencing its own “Japanification,” and escape could prove hard if the Asian nation’s track record is any guide, according to ING Group, The Japan Times reported. Europe’s situation has long left it open to comparisons with Japan in the 1990s. In a report Monday, ING lists similarities including an increase in government debt, a buildup of bad loans at banks, an aging population and huge monetary policy loosening.

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The European Commission could give Italy until January to make fiscal policy changes under an EU debt procedure, minutes of an EU meeting show, setting a relatively long deadline to help avert fines and any backlash from Rome’s eurosceptics, Reuters reported. Unless the government makes concessions this week on its spending plans for 2019 and 2020, the EU executive is expected to propose on July 2 that a disciplinary procedure be opened over Italy’s rising debt.

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