Europe

Italy’s deal with the European Union to defuse its simmering budget dispute is adding to concerns about the country’s real economic problem: a lack of growth, the Wall Street Journal reported. By reining in its spending plans under pressure from financial markets and the EU’s Brussels-based executive, the European Commission, Rome has avoided EU disciplinary proceedings for now. But Italy’s antiestablishment government is also left with few policy plans for boosting growth in a stagnant economy.

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U.K. regulators proposed sweeping changes to rules governing British audit firms on Tuesday in moves designed to increase competition, prevent conflicts of interest and restore public confidence in an industry tarnished by an accounting scandal that led to the collapse of one of Britain’s largest construction companies, the Wall Street Journal reported. The measures, if implemented, would see audit firms separate their auditing and consulting operations, introduce two-firm audits for large companies and replace the current auditing regulator.

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The Irish government has unveiled further contingency plans to cope with a potential no-deal Brexit, identifying affected sectors that would require up to 45 pieces of emergency legislation, the Irish Times reported. The plans, published yesterday would include the purchase of land at Dublin Port and Rosslare to prevent congestion from new customs, sanitary and animal health checks at the sea ports.

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Global equity markets gave up earlier gains and continued a weeklong sell-off on Wednesday after the U.S. Federal Reserve announced a fresh interest rate hike and said “some” further rate hikes would be necessary in the year ahead, Reuters reported. The decision slashed more than 700 points off of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and sent MSCI’s index of global stocks down nearly 0.9 percent for the day. The index is down nearly 13 percent since the start of December due to concerns that global economic growth is slowing.

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European Union lawmakers and governments yesterday reached a political agreement on new rules for the money that banks should set aside against possible losses from new loans that turn sour, Reuters reported. The compromise softens an initial proposal by the European Commission, but less than sought by the EU parliament, which accepted a stricter provisioning calendar for banks. The rules are meant to avoid a future build-up of bad loans at banks, which have hampered the EU’s economic recovery after the 2007-08 financial crisis.

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Italy’s finance ministry said that it has agreed on a compromise with European Union authorities over the country’s budget deficit, resolving a dispute between Rome’s populist government and EU fiscal enforcers that has vexed financial markets for months, the Wall Street Journal reported. The agreement, which wasn’t confirmed yesterday night by the EU executive, the European Commission, would allow Italy to avoid an EU disciplinary procedure for now.

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The International Monetary Fund approved a new $3.9 billion bailout program for Ukraine to help stabilize the economy and help the government pay back its debts, according to President Petro Poroshenko, Bloomberg News reported. The board of the Washington-based lender agreed on Tuesday to provide the eastern European country with the first $1.4 billion disbursement. It’s part of the stand-by program which replaces a bailout that suffered long delays as the government failed to implement the reforms necessary to release the cash.

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Music Stops for HMV in Hong Kong

HMV Retail, part of what was once the U.K.’s biggest seller of music and movies, will wind up its stores in Hong Kong after a quarter century as the rise of streaming services from Spotify Technology SA and Netflix Inc. make CDs and DVDs obsolete, Bloomberg News reported. The chain’s owner, HMV Digital China Group Ltd., said yesterday that it appointed liquidators for the unit. The decision came after the music-store chain, known for its logo of a cock-eared dog listening to a gramophone, defaulted on various payments and became insolvent, it said.

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Last week, the Swiss Federal Council announced a report on the legal framework for Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) for the financial services industry, CrowdfundInsider.com reported. According to the Council, the Swiss legal framework “is well suited to deal with new technologies including blockchain.” Even while noting the benefits of DLT, Council believes there is “an occasional need for adjustment,” including the monitoring and review of the potential for money laundering (AML) and terror financing risk pertaining to the usage of digital assets.

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A no-deal Brexit would almost certainly mean Britain’s credit rating would be cut again early next year, rating agency Fitch warned yesterday, the Irish Times reported. Fitch’s top sovereign analyst, James McCormack, said that crashing out of the European Union next March without a transition deal was likely to send Britain into a recession. While it could be mild one if the turmoil gets resolved quickly, a more pessimistic outcome was expected to see the British economy contract 0.6 percentage point for 2019 as a whole.
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