Iceland

Iceland is confronting the trouble that comes with having a pension system so successful in amassing savings for future retirees that it was recently rated the best in the world, Bloomberg News reported. With assets now at about double the size of the north Atlantic island’s economy, the government is considering allowing investment managers to diversify by buying up more securities abroad, prompting the central bank to urge caution. The rules currently limit the share of overseas holdings in pension assets at 50%.
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Iceland‘s central bank raised borrowing costs for the third time this year, citing a continued housing price rally and concerns of growing inflation expectations, Bloomberg News reported. Policy makers lifted the seven-day term deposit rate by a quarter-point to 1.5%, the highest level since March 2020. In May, Iceland became the first country in western Europe to tighten monetary policy since the pandemic struck. One of the main drivers for inflation is housing prices which have surged close to 15% in the last 12 months, helped by lower borrowing costs.
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Britain has clinched post-Brexit trade agreements with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein as it seeks to forge new global trading relationships after leaving the European Union, Reuters reported. The three nations, which are part of the European Economic Area allowing them access to the single market, have relied on temporary trade arrangements with Britain since the end of a Brexit transition period on Dec. 31.
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In retrospect, it was probably not a fantastic idea to leave Iceland’s economic fortunes tethered to an airline called WOW. Before it collapsed in March, WOW Air delivered more than one-fourth of all international visitors to this ruggedly spectacular island nation. Its credulity-straining fares — $199 round trip from New York and San Francisco — were key elements of a tourism bonanza that lifted Iceland from its catastrophic 2008 financial crisis, the International New York Times reported.

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Iceland is preparing for a deeper recession this year amid dropping tourism arrivals and a failed capelin season, central bank Governor Mar Gudmundsson said, Bloomberg News reported. “We are prepared for the possibility of a deeper recession, and the numbers we are getting on tourist arrivals seem to indicate that that may happen,” Gudmundsson said in an interview on the sidelines of a conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

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Iceland is returning to global bond markets for the first time in more than 18 months, marking another step in its recovery after the 2008 crisis that bankrupted its biggest banks and depressed the economy, the Financial TImes reported. The Nordic island is aiming to raise €500m in a five-year euro-denominated bond, according to people familiar with its plans, similar to a bond sale of December 2017. Proceeds will be used to buy back €352m of outstanding bonds. Running a budget surplus, Iceland has no immediate need for the remaining money raised.

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It’s not often that an entire economy is thrown off course by a single corporate event. But that’s what appears to have happened in Iceland. The recent bankruptcy of budget airline Wow Air has delivered such a blow to the Icelandic tourist industry, and the wider economy, that the central bank on Wednesday cut its main interest rate by half a point to 4%, Bloomberg News reported. It also said that the economy is now set to contract 0.4%, compared with a previous estimate for growth of 1.8%.

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The collapse of budget airline WOW Air last month will dent Iceland’s economic growth this year and cause some losses in the banking system, the country’s central bank said in a Financial Stability report on Thursday. WOW Air, which had 1,000 employees, halted operations and canceled all future flights on March 28 after efforts to raise more funds had failed, Reuters reported. It was the latest budget airline to collapse as the European airline sector grapples with over-capacity and high fuel costs.

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The chief executive of Iceland’s low-cost Wow Air, which collapsed on Thursday, has said his “fatal” mistake was trying to turn the airline into a global business, the Financial Times reported. Speaking to the Financial Times, Skuli Mogensen said Wow, which offered cheap flights between Europe and the US via Iceland, had started off with narrow-body planes, but “we wanted to use Iceland as a global hub connecting three continents” so the airline ordered expensive wide-bodied jets, which can fly further, in late 2016. Wow briefly flew a route between India and Iceland.

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Wow Air Hf has gone out of business, stranding thousands of passengers and creating potentially huge risks for Iceland’s tiny economy and its growing reliance on tourism, Bloomberg News reported. The discount carrier is the eighth European airline to have failed since the summer as margins are pinched by fluctuating fuel costs and over-capacity that’s sparked a continent-wide fare war. Wow’s demise should bring short-term relief to local rival Icelandair Hf.

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