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Greece, EU/IMF lenders reach deal on labour reforms, pension cuts – sources

Greece has agreed with its lenders on key labour reforms, spending cuts and energy issues, moving closer to clinching a deal before a meeting of euro zone finance ministers on April 7, sources close to the talks said on Wednesday. The European Commission could not immediately confirm the report of a preliminary deal. The report drove Greek government bond yields to multi-week lows. Negotiations between Athens, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund — which has yet to decide if it will participate in Greece’s current bailout — have ...

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Britain Sets Historic Brexit Process in Motion

The U.K. on Wednesday formally began the process of exiting from the European Union, starting on an unprecedented path to reshape its relationship with its closest allies in some of the most complex negotiations the country has ever undertaken. Nine months after Britain voted to leave the EU, Tim Barrow, Britain’s ambassador to the bloc, hand delivered a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk notifying the bloc that the U.K. will be the first country ever to leave. U.K. government officials say there is no going back from there. ...

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China’s first-quarter GDP growth seen at 6.8 percent: government think tank

China’s economy, the world’s second largest, will likely expand 6.8 percent in the first quarter of 2017, the official Xinhua agency quoted a government think tank as saying on Wednesday. The expected pace is on par with the 6.8 percent growth logged in the fourth quarter, which was better than market expectations due to higher government spending and record bank lending. The National Academy of Economic Strategy attributed the first-quarter expansion to a strong rise in factory-gate prices, rebounding corporate profits and increasing imports, Xinhua said. “The focus of macro-economic ...

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Germany Said to Seek Early U.K. Brexit Pledge to Pay Its EU Bill

A key German priority when Brexit talks get under way is locking in an early commitment by the U.K. to pay its European Union bills, two people familiar with the government’s strategy said. While the exact amount owed by the U.K. can be agreed later, Germany wants Prime Minister Theresa May’s government to acknowledge at the start that it can’t dodge what it owes, according to the people, who asked not be identified discussing private deliberations. With the European Commission tallying U.K. obligations of as much as 60 billion euros ...

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UK Mortgage Approvals Fall In February

UK mortgage approvals declined in February and consumer credit growth slowed from January, the Bank of England reported Wednesday. The number of loans approved for house purchases fell to 68,315 in February from 69,114 in January. Approvals were forecast to remain at 69,100. The dip in mortgage approvals fuels the belief that the housing market will come under increasing pressure over the coming months, IHS Markit Economist Howard Archer, said. Markedly weakening consumer fundamentals, likely mounting caution over making major spending decisions, and elevated house price to earnings ratios are ...

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Japanese Retail Sales Growth Slows as Wage Gains Stall

Japan’s retail sales rose less than economists forecast in February, signaling that consumer spending is struggling to gain traction. Key Points Retail sales increased 0.1 percent in February from a year ago (forecast +0.7 percent), after rising 1 percent in the previous month. Measured month-on-month, sales rose 0.2 percent (forecast +0.3 percent). Big Picture Japan’s recent growth has been mostly supported by exports, with tepid gains in wages limiting any recovery in domestic private consumption. Workers will receive a smaller increase in base pay this year, according to preliminary results ...

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French Consumer Sentiment Remains Stable In March

French consumer sentiment remained unchanged in March, survey results from the statistical office Insee showed Wednesday. The consumer confidence index came in at 100 in March, the same as in February and in line with expectations. Households’ opinion on the past standard of living in France improved marginally in March. The corresponding index rose to -21 from -22. Meanwhile, the index for households’ opinion on their future financial situation dropped to -8 from -6. While households’ opinion on current saving capacity rose by 1 point, their expectations for future saving ...

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Italy Consumer Confidence Improves Unexpectedly; Business Confidence Strengthens

Italy’s consumer confidence improved for the first time in three months in March, and business confidence strengthened to the strongest level in fifteen months, survey data from the statistical office Istat showed Wedenesday. The consumer confidence index climbed to 107.6 in March from 106.6 in the prior month. Meanwhile, it was forecast to remain stable at 106.6. Households’ expectations regarding the general economic situation of the country for the next twelve months improved in March. The corresponding index rose to 111.6 from 109.9 in February. Data also showed that the ...

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Lloyd’s of London picks Brussels for EU subsidiary – report

Lloyd’s of London, the world’s largest speciality insurance market, has picked Brussels for its planned European Union subsidiary, The Insurance Insider reported. It will ask its council to ratify the decision when it meets later, the publication said, on the same day British Prime Minister Theresa May triggers Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Lloyd’s has been one of London’s financial services firms most vocal about the need for a European Union subsidiary if Britain has no access ...

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London Office Values Could Fall by a Third, Morgan Stanley Says

Fears that Brexit will cause rents to fall could lead to London office values dropping between a quarter and a third, according to Morgan Stanley. If potential property buyers lose confidence in their ability to charge more for vacant space when it becomes available, prices will drop sharply, especially given the new supply of offices under construction, Bart Gysens, an analyst at the bank, wrote in a note to clients Wednesday. The U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union in June sent shares in the country’s biggest landlords plunging amid ...

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Germany’s Import Prices Rise Most Since 2011

Germany’s import prices increased at the fastest pace in nearly six years in February, figures from Destatis showed Wednesday. Import prices climbed by more-than-expected 7.4 percent year-on-year in February, the highest rise since April 2011, when prices surged 7.6 percent. Economists had forecast an annual growth of 7 percent. Prices had increased 6 percent in January and 3.5 percent in December. Month-on-month, import prices rose 0.7 percent in February after climbing 0.9 percent in January, but faster than the expected 0.4 percent rise. Excluding crude oil and mineral oil products, ...

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Pending home sales surge to 10-month high

Contracts to buy previously owned U.S. homes jumped to a 10-month high in February, pointing to robust demand for housing ahead of the busy spring selling season. The report on Wednesday from the National Association of Realtors suggested little impact on the housing market from higher home prices and mortgage rates, underscoring the economy’s resilience despite an apparent slowdown in growth in the first quarter. The National Association of Realtors said its Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed last month, surged 5.5 percent to 112.3. That was the ...

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Fed’s Evans: ‘Very Safe’ to Foresee Two Rate Rises in 2017

Chicago Fed President Charles Evans Wednesday left the door open to the Federal Reserve raising interest rates as many as four times this year, if the economy develops at a faster clip than expected. “Now we’re at the point where fundamentals are solid. I have a lot more confidence that two total rate increases in 2017… seems very safe,” he told reporters after a speech here. He said three rate rises would be possible if there’s more confidence in the outlook. “Four? Could work out that way if things proceed ...

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Fed’s Rosengren Says There Should Be Four Rate Hikes in 2017

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President Eric Rosengren said the central bank should be prepared to raise interest rates a total of four times in 2017 to guard against overheating the U.S. economy. The policy-making Federal Open Market Committee should be ready to move again in June, September and December, unless incoming data push them off course, he said. “The perception seems to be that the outcome of each FOMC meeting depends on nuances of incoming data, with the base case being no change in rates,” Rosengren said in the ...

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EU Leaders Vow to Seek ‘Orderly’ U.K. Withdrawal From the Bloc

European Union President Donald Tusk pledged to seek an “orderly” Brexit after U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May set in motion the process for the first withdrawal of a country from the bloc. Tusk spoke as the leaders of Britain’s 27 fellow EU nations signaled the challenges ahead while pledging to work “constructively” with the government in London and expressing hope that the U.K. would be a “close partner” after Brexit. The EU “will remain determined and united,” he told reporters in Brussels. “Our first priority will be to minimize the ...

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