Category: Markets

LV= Comments on UK Inflation Rate
Capital Markets (stocks and bonds)Markets

LV= Comments on UK Inflation Rate

Steve Lewis, LV= Head of Retirement Distribution commented: “The current economic environment creates a real challenge for someone retiring today. The Governor of the Bank of England has clearly stated that the outlook for inflation in 2015 may well be negative and yet in the next few years inflation will return to target and then rise a little further. The impact on interest rates in the short term has been negative and the knock on effect to annuity rates has been inevitable. Some may therefore take the view that higher rates in 3 to 5 years’ time may provide more attractive conditions for locking into long term guaranteed returns.

“The retiree has to recognise that inflation is perhaps the biggest risk to their retirement income plans. Setting out for a lifetime in retirement based on an expectation that today’s environment will continue would just be wrong. Individuals and advisers need to understand and plan for inflation.

“Pension Freedom regulations coming into force on the 6th April do offer a helping hand to anyone looking to access their pension funds today. The ability to secure a baseline income to cover the household essentials and use the balance of the retirement savings to provide a fund for lifestyle expenditure is now possible. It is still of course essential for individuals to make sure they are underwritten before they look to secure any annuity. Identifying health issues, or lifestyle factors, is not only a good thing to do, but can also result in a significantly higher guaranteed income from an annuity.

“One of the most popular solutions in the LV= portfolio today is the guaranteed income drawdown, commonly referred to as a fixed term annuity, as this offers the individual a guaranteed income for an agreed period of time, with a guaranteed maturity value. It is of course not without risk. Inflation is a very important factor, but predicting inflation for the next 5 years is a lot easier than for the next 25 years.”

UK Businesses Not Sufficiently Prepared for Future Workforce Challenges
Derivatives and Structured ProductsMarkets

UK Businesses Not Sufficiently Prepared for Future Workforce Challenges

The results of the research show that few businesses have comprehensive workforce strategies, with the majority taking a piecemeal approach to planning human capital. Only 15% of organisations polled said there is a clear link between their workforce planning and their overall strategic business plan, showing that where workforce plans exist, they often do so in isolation.

Organisations tend to react to workforce challenges, rather than plan for them. An alarming 47% of those surveyed said that recruitment forecasts for the next 12 months have not been undertaken in their organisations. This reluctance to identify workforce risks leads to poor succession planning, insufficient anticipation of recruitment needs and a lack of understanding of future skill requirements.

The research also reveals that HR departments aren’t segmenting workforces thoroughly enough. This leads to taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach to assessment, management and appraisal, which can be detrimental to the long term performance of a business.

David Knight, Associate Partner at KPMG comments: “One of the biggest issues that business will face in the coming years is the management of human capital. Workforce planning is now seen as critical to sustaining performance and growth, and the responsibility for this lies not only with HR Directors, but with the wider executive team. Poor planning can make it difficult to adapt to changing market conditions, as well as retain talent in competitive industries. The ability to forecast skills requirements, pre-empt workforce risks and deploy resources efficiently will underpin financial success for organisations in future.”

Manufacturing Growth Going Steady
Derivatives and Structured ProductsMarkets

Manufacturing Growth Going Steady

Output has been growing at a decent pace since last August, and despite easing slightly from the previous month, remained above average in March. Manufacturers expect to ramp up production even further in the next three months, just short of February’s robust prediction.

The survey of 468 manufacturers found that total order books climbed down a little from February’s six month high, but remained well above average, with fifteen of the survey’s eighteen sub-sectors reporting stronger than average orders.

Export orders weakened significantly from February’s half year high, falling below their long-run average.

Rain Newton-Smith, CBI Director of Economics, said:

“Our manufacturers lost some of their steam from last month, but they continue to move steadily along a decent growth track.

“Sluggish export performance seems to be a headache that won’t go away, with a still subdued Eurozone and headwinds from a stronger pound. But measures in the Budget to support exporters should be a welcome boost for the sector’s longer-term prospects.

“With emerging markets facing a tough time and uncertainty continuing to hang over the Eurozone, firms are having to work even harder for opportunities to sell their products and services around the world.”

How Much Are the UK's Natural Resources Worth?
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How Much Are the UK’s Natural Resources Worth?

Between 2008 and 2012 the value of the UK’s freshwater ecosystems, which covers inland wetlands and open water, rose by 26% from £29 billion to £37 billion.

These figures form part of ONS’s efforts to measure Natural Capital, which is aiming to place a value on the economic benefits of our natural resources.

ONS has become an international leader in developing natural capital accounting, which is highlighting the losses, gains and importance of the services provided by natural assets.

Alongside the new analysis of freshwater ecosystems, the ONS is also publishing an interim review of the work to measure natural capital, examining what has been achieved so far and what the project aims to produce by 2020.

The key findings uncovered from Natural Capital to date include:

A preliminary estimate valued the UK’s natural assets at £1.6 trillion, broadly equivalent to the UK GDP.

The value of UK’s non-renewable assets (oil & gas reserves, coal and minerals) reduced by 30% between 2007 and 2011.

The value provided by the UK’s woodlands for carbon storage and recreation was 13 times higher than if it were used solely for timber, an estimated £2.4 billion.

Urban land use increased by 5.4% between 2000 and 2010.

Glenn Everett, Director of the ONS Measuring National Well-being programme, said “The degradation of our natural resources and loss of the services nature provides to people and the economy in not accounted for in the nation’s balance sheet. So there is an important need to take stock of the economic benefits that we receive from our natural assets.”

British Land Exchanges £733 Million of Joint Venture Properties With Tesco
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British Land Exchanges £733 Million of Joint Venture Properties With Tesco

The transaction is in line with our strategy to evolve our retail portfolio. It further reduces our foodstore weighting and increases our exposure to multi-let retail parks and shopping centres. Our full ownership of these assets will provide significant potential to add further value through asset management and development.

Charles Maudsley, Head of Retail & Leisure, British Land, said: “This mutually beneficial transaction clearly demonstrates the great relationship we enjoy with Tesco. It plays to our strengths of managing multi-let assets and gives Tesco more control of their stand-alone portfolio. We see significant opportunity to add value and drive returns through asset management and development.”

Key transaction terms

Sale of 50% stake in the Tesco Aqua Limited Partnership (“Aqua”) comprising 21 stand-alone foodstores; portfolio value £352 million (50% share); weighted average lease length of 13.3 years; NIY 4.8%
Acquisition of 50% stakes in Tesco BL Holdings Limited (“TBLH”) and The Tesco British Land Property Partnership (“TBLPP”) comprising 3 retail parks and 3 shopping centres, all anchored by Tesco stores, and 3 stand-alone foodstores; combined portfolio value £381 million (50% share); weighted average lease length of 11.4 years; topped up NIY 5.2%
British Land will make a net cash payment of £96 million to Tesco reflecting the difference in net asset value (including mark to market on debt) for Aqua (£81 million) and the combined TBLH and TBLPP joint ventures (£177 million).
In line with strategy to evolve the Retail portfolio

Stand-alone foodstore weighting reduced from 10% of portfolio to 8%
Increases focus on multi-let assets; number of stand-alone foodstores reduced from 79 to 58
Reduces the number of British Land joint ventures by 3 and the number of assets held in joint ventures by 30
Opportunity to drive returns through asset management and development

Taking full ownership of 660,000 sq ft of retail parks and 730,000 sq ft of shopping centres
Potential to enhance returns through asset management notably at Serpentine Green, Peterborough, Beaumont Leys, Leicester and the Kingston Centre, Milton Keynes
Asset swaps in line with valuation and accretive to earnings

Property asset swaps in line with latest reported valuations
Transaction accretive to earnings
Group weighted average interest rate reduced by 15 basis points

Financial effects

Overall, the transaction is accretive to earnings in 2016 reflecting a £2 million increase in net rent and an £8 million reduction in net interest.

The assets acquired within the TBLH and TBLPP joint ventures generate annual accounting net rental income of £20 million. The assets sold within the Aqua joint venture generate £18 million.

The acquired debt held within the TBLH and TBLPP joint ventures currently bears interest of £5 million per annum. The Aqua disposal saves £14 million of interest per annum and including the £96m of net cash payable to Tesco the interest saving is £8m per annum. The net cash payable will be funded from existing resources.

The Group’s proportionally consolidated weighted average interest rate is reduced by 15 basis points. The proportionately consolidated weighted average debt maturity is unchanged at 8.9 years. The transaction increases LTV by 0.4%.

Net asset value per share is reduced by 3 pence per share principally due to the impact of mark to market on the debt.

 

 

Beer Duty – Brewers and Pubs Toast “Hat-Trick Hero” Chancellor
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Beer Duty – Brewers and Pubs Toast “Hat-Trick Hero” Chancellor

“The Chancellor really is a ‘Hat Trick Hero’. His third, successive beer tax cut shows he has listened to consumers, publicans and brewers.

“Beer tax is now ten pence lower than it would have been under the beer duty escalator, which he abolished.

“It will boost employment by 3,800 this year alone and attract new capital investment. It will put 180 million pounds in the pockets of beer drinkers and pubgoers. That is a huge difference.

“Cutting beer duty supports a great British Industry which contributes £22 billion to GDP and supports almost 900,000 jobs. It’s also a boost for pubs, as beer accounts for seven out every ten alcohol drinks sold in our pubs.

“The renewed confidence in our sector is reflected in rising beer sales in 2014, for the first time in a decade.

“There is of course more work to de done, and we look forward to persuading MPs in the next Parliament that further action is needed to encourage consumers towards our lower-strength, British-made national drink.”

 

FireChat Takes Home SXSW Innovation Award
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FireChat Takes Home SXSW Innovation Award

Open Garden announced that its app, FireChat, won the prestigious SXSW Innovation Award at this year’s event. FireChat, the first off-the-grid messaging app, took home the coveted award in the “Innovation in Connecting People” category. The winners were announced yesterday at the 18th Annual SXSW Interactive Innovation Awards Ceremony in Austin, TX.

Previously called the Interactive Awards, the SXSW Interactive Innovation Awards showcase the evolving and broadening scope of the digital industry by reflecting the increasingly multifaceted and diverse ecosystem of platforms, software, apps and devices.

“We’re ecstatic that FireChat was chosen for such a respected award at this year’s festival,” said Micha Benoliel, cofounder and CEO of Open Garden. “Our mission is to connect people around the world. The recognition from this team of judges and our peers is wonderful and exciting for our team as we continue our efforts.”

FireChat is a free application for Android and iOS devices. It is available here.

About Open Garden

Open Garden Inc. is a San Francisco based startup dedicated to connecting the next billions of mobile devices with peer-to-peer connections. Open Garden is the publisher of FireChat, the first messaging app that works off-the-grid. Launched in March 2014, FireChat has reached the top 10 amongst social networking apps in 124 countries around the world. 

How the Chancellor's Budget Will Affect UK Businesses Trading Abroad
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How the Chancellor’s Budget Will Affect UK Businesses Trading Abroad

“Trade with China dominated the Chancellor’s coverage of exports in his 2015 Budget. He promised to double UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) resources to support exports to China, and posed the reminder that the UK is the first Western country to seek to become a founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Bank in Beijing.

“I would have liked to hear further detail about how the Chancellor expects to achieve the Government’s target of £1 trillion UK exports by 2020. It is encouraging that the Government aims to encourage exports to areas outside of the beleaguered Eurozone, which is currently still the UK’s largest exports market. China is in the process of opening its doors, and is an exciting market to consider. However, although all currencies are subject to national and global uncertainties and risk, China’s currency is less predictable, given that it is in the process of moving towards a free-floating currency. Without the right guidance, companies could see significant currency losses given unfavourable exchange rates.

“Seen this way, it could be said to be risky to place all of our eggs in one basket if the Government is to focus pumping new resources into opening up China to UK exporters. It would seem prudent to spread or extend resources to help UK businesses export to a wider range of overseas markets, so that UK exporters can make the most of other markets in addition to China and the Eurozone.”

 

BT Opens 'Alexander Black' Concept Store in Milan to Showcase the Future of in-Store Retailing
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BT Opens ‘Alexander Black’ Concept Store in Milan to Showcase the Future of in-Store Retailing

BT today announced the opening of a concept store in Milan that gives retailers a vision of how creative use of technology can radically transform the in-store shopping experience. Designed as a real shop branded ‘Alexander Black’, it showcases more than 40 innovative technologies that create a personalised experience for customers who do their shopping in ‘brick and mortar’ stores.

The Alexander Black shop also demonstrates how the in-store experience can be seamlessly integrated with the brand’s online, mobile and customer service channels to create an intelligent and consistent experience across all channels.

The Milan shop, opening six months after the launch of the first Alexander Black store in New York, contains live, real time demonstrations of BT solutions that:
• improve individual customer engagement and the overall in-store experience
• improve the retailer’s in-store operations and support their omnichannel strategy
• provide shop floor staff with real-time visibility of inventory across all channels and global supply chain
• enable shop floor staff to quickly access customer and product information
• provide innovative ways to verify product authenticity and identify counterfeited goods
• make all those solutions accessible through managed mobile devices
• provide in-store security with innovative video surveillance and anti-theft systems, and help manage the flows of cash.

“Bricks and mortar stores are challenged by the very deep changes in customer expectations created by the rise of online shopping,” said Hubertus von Roenne, vice president, Global Industry Practices, BT Global Services. “Successful retailers absolutely need to orchestrate new technology in a creative way and blend the digital and physical worlds so that their customers have the same amazing experience regardless of the place or time of their shopping.”

The Alexander Black store shows how technologies such as RFID, NFC (Near Field Communications), BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy), beacons and Wi-Fi can transform the in-store shopping experience.

“From interactive displays to digital screens where the content is personalised by relevant criteria, such as individual shopping history and demographics, there is a huge range of new ways to engage and delight the customers. Being able to integrate these multiple experiences to provide a consistent, joined up brand experience across all channels has become a key priority for retailers. We are delighted to open this new showcase store in Milan, home of some of the world’s most creative retailers,” added von Roenne.

BT’s solutions for in-store retail are globally managed end-to-end solutions, supported by a single global multilingual help desk.

The new Alexander Black concept store is located within BT’s Customer Innovation Showcase in Milan. BT owns a global network of 18 Showcase facilities providing interactive live demonstrations of all the latest solutions that BT is developing and delivering to improve business efficiency, support enterprises’ critical applications and keep ICT services secure.

Specialist Travel Security Team to Take Aviation Data Security to New Heights.
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Specialist Travel Security Team to Take Aviation Data Security to New Heights.

The new division is already working with global travel organisations, such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and a number of other key organisations within the travel sector; with the experience gained in years of travel-sector related security work, the team works to protect the world’s largest airports, airlines, associations, data processing centres, global distribution system suppliers and travel agents.

The dedicated airline team will provide comprehensive professional security guidance and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance support for the common use environment and the various organisations operating within the BSP, as well as advice and guidance for the complex challenges the industry faces daily.

Commenting on the launch of this specialist division, Pascal Buchner, Director ITS & CIO at IATA, said:

“As the association that represents 250 of the world’s airlines, we keenly support the development of more intelligent and robust data security within our sector.

“The travel-sector-specific experience that Foregenix has developed and brings to the airline industry will certainly benefit the airlines and our partners in improving their payment security. “

Speaking about announcement, Benjamin Hosack, Director at Foregenix, said:

“We have been working in the travel sector for years with organisations such as IATA and many other large multi-nationals. The payment card data security challenges in the sector are complex and require a very good understanding of the travel industry ecosystem in order to be able to provide guidance.

“Our division is made up of experienced industry professionals who have a background of working with some of the leading travel organisations in the industry. We have the experience and credentials to support our clients in such a complex, yet highly valued sector.”

Accountancy Firms Must Evolve and Innovate to Survive Says ICAEW
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Accountancy Firms Must Evolve and Innovate to Survive Says ICAEW

Tomorrow’s Practice, which launched yesterday at ICAEW, is considering the opportunities open to accounting firms if they want to evolve and innovate.

The Tomorrow’s Practice initiative is looking to raise awareness of the areas of change affecting the profession. It is based on conversations across the UK with people in the profession and business, collecting their views on the needs of small businesses and the future of accountancy practices.

The report has identified four key factors driving a shift in the accountancy landscape:

  • Technology has made basic accounts preparation and bookkeeping easier for businesses. This has the potential to change the role of the accountant, creating different opportunities to add value.
  • Competition is coming from consultants, professional services firms, other accountants, and even the internet – firms need to maintain their position as trusted advisers to clients, while ensuring they do not compromise the quality of their service to reduce costs.
  • Regulation – changing audit rules, the evolving pensions landscape, and new opportunities in legal services mean accountants can develop new propositions
  • Clients’ expectations are changing – companies want a ‘one stop shop’ for their business support, so accountants need to think about how they can play more of an advisory role. Flexibility to provide a tailored service to clients is key


In addition to thinking about what their clients want, practitioners should consider the needs of their staff. Practices are having problems in finding and keeping good staff, made harder by changing priorities – fewer managers aspire to become partners and many staff are seeking an improved work/life balance.

In identifying the challenges, Tomorrow’s Practice seeks to help practices make informed choices about their future. Firms and sole practitioners can all take advantage of new opportunities, but they need to choose the path that’s right for them. This could mean developing their own niche markets, building up their expertise or network to provide a ‘one stop shop’, or even providing specialist assurance services.

Arthur Bailey, ICAEW President, said: ‘The accountancy landscape is changing, and smaller practices need to embrace the opportunity. Our members should consider how they will react to changes in the marketplace and provide the added value clients are demanding. This could mean firms specialising in a particular area or providing additional services that make them indispensable to the businesses they serve. Whichever path our members choose to take, we’ll be there to support them, using our learnings from Tomorrow’s Practice to develop new guidance.’

Americans Take Advantage Of Lower Gas Prices And Tax Refunds To Pay-Off Debt
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Americans Take Advantage Of Lower Gas Prices And Tax Refunds To Pay-Off Debt, Cover Everyday Needs

The 22nd quarterly Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll revealed that nearly four-in-five Americans (78 %) are realizing savings at the pump, and 58 % of them are using these savings to cover basic necessities (31 %) or to pay off/avoid debt (27 %). Nearly one third of Americans (32 %) state that the decline in gas prices has had a “huge” or “significant difference” in their personal financial situations, according to Americans polled who benefitted from price savings.

In addition, more than half of Americans (55 %) expect to receive a refund on their taxes this year and nearly four-in-ten (37 %) of them will use their refund to pay off debt.

The Heartland Monitor poll surveyed Americans’ attitudes, expectations, and personal financial situations amidst lower gas prices and as the country approaches the height of tax season. The results reveal a population that is more optimistic for the future but continuing to struggle despite the broader economic recovery.

In a positive sign, for the first time in Heartland Monitor’s polling since June 2013, Americans are now more likely to say that the national economy will improve over the next twelve months (32 %) than they are to say it will get worse (25 %). However, an overwhelming majority of Americans express deep concerns over the cost of living for necessities and wages and income with nearly 80 % of the country claiming the U.S. economy rates “Fair” or “Poor” on these factors.

“While many Americans still face financial challenges, these poll results also indicate the great progress made in turning around our economy,” said Tom Clarkson, president, West Territory, Allstate Personal Lines. “As a network of small businesses, we understand that middle class Americans have been incredibly resilient to overcome these challenges and local institutions and small businesses will continue to play an important role in our economic growth.”

“Americans indicate in the poll that they still plan to be cautious with their savings at the pump and any tax refund they might receive,” said Ronald Brownstein, Atlantic Media’s editorial director. “That fits with the pattern of restrained optimism we see throughout the poll. While Americans’ attitudes about their personal prospects and the country’s direction have clearly brightened since last fall, most Americans remain skittish about the economy’s overall performance and concerned about its ability to generate rising wages and living standards.”

Impact of Lower Gas Prices

– Among the 78 % of those polled who’ve benefitted from savings at the pump, nearly half of those polled (43 %) say that the decline in gas prices has had “only a slight difference” or made no impact on their personal financial situations.

– Americans who say that lower gas prices have made a huge or significant difference in their personal finances are more likely to believe that their personal finances will improve by this time next year.

Impact of Tax Refunds and Property Taxes

– The top priority for spending anticipated tax refunds is paying off debt (37 %) followed by saving or investing (29 %) and spending on necessities (20 %).

– The highest expectations for a tax refund come from households that earn between $30k and $75k per year and among younger age groups.
– Individuals under 50 years old expressed a higher degree of commitment to pay off debt than older Americans.

– Four-in-ten (40 %) Millennials and 45 % of Gen X’ers plan to use their tax refunds to pay off debt. Across the nation, just 8 % of respondents say they will spend their tax refund on non-essential purchases.

– When polled on different factors about the community they live in, Americans gave a substantial “fair” or “poor” rating for the amount they pay in local and property taxes (63 %), followed by wages and incomes (62 %), and costs of living (60 %).

New Report Debunks the EU Jobs Myth
Capital Markets (stocks and bonds)Markets

New Report Debunks the EU Jobs Myth

Jobs are associated with trade, not membership of a political union, and there is little evidence to suggest that trade would substantially fall between British businesses and European consumers in the event the UK was outside the EU.

Politicians who continue to claim that three million jobs are linked to our EU membership should be publicly challenged over misuse of this assertion. Jobs are associated with trade, not membership of a political union, and there is little evidence to suggest that trade would substantially fall between British businesses and European consumers in the event the UK was outside the EU.

In a new report from the Institute of Economic Affairs, author Ryan Bourne calls for a rational debate, acknowledging how the structure of the UK labour market is fluctuating constantly; prior to the financial crisis, the UK saw on average 4 million jobs created and 3.7 million jobs lost every single year.

Leaving the EU would see a multitude of new policy decisions which would affect trade flows and the composition of the workforce, from trade arrangements through to the regulatory policies adopted. Whatever the policy climate, it can be said with certainty that three to four million jobs are not at risk if the UK leaves the EU. There may well be net job creation or a range of other possible outcomes which should be debated reasonably.

Five reasons why three million jobs are not dependent on our membership of the EU:

1. Import substitution
The three to four million number is calculated as the number of jobs linked – both directly and indirectly – to exports from the UK to customers and businesses in other EU countries. Even in a hypothetical world where trade completely broke down between the UK and EU, there would still not be the loss of this many jobs, as ‘import substitution’ would partially offset the fall in exports and trade would develop with other parts of the world.

2. Trade is more important than political union
The worst case scenario would be a failure to negotiate a free trade deal in the result of Brexit. If this were the case, both parties would be bound by the World Trade Organisation’s ‘most favoured nation’ tariffs paid by other developed countries, which would prevent the imposition of punitive tariffs by the EU following the UK’s exit. Job losses would not be significant.

3. The UK labour market is incredibly dynamic
It would adapt quickly to changed relationships with the EU. Prior to the financial crisis, the UK saw on average 4 million jobs created and 3.7 million jobs lost each year – showing how common substantial churn of jobs is at any given time. The annual creation and destruction of jobs is almost exactly the same scale as the estimated 3-4 million jobs that are associated with exports to the EU.

4. A move away from a customs union could boost free trade
The UK’s trade patterns shifted significantly after joining the EU, focusing on intra-EU trade at the expense of the rest of the world. Whilst not facing tariff barriers within the EU, the UK currently faces high external tariffs on importing goods from many other countries. In the event of a Brexit, Britain would be likely to divert more trade outside the EU. The overall economic impact would thus depend on what new trade relationships could be negotiated.

5. A changing policy framework
Ultimately, whether EU membership is a net positive or negative for jobs and prosperity in the UK depends on what policies the UK pursues outside of the EU in relation to employment regulation, welfare and tax, the way the UK decides to use its saved contribution to the EU budget, and the extent of new trade deals adopted with third parties. For a healthy labour market, liberal economic policies in each of these areas should be pursued.

Confidence and Competition Sees Investors Shift Strategy
Capital Markets (stocks and bonds)Markets

Confidence and Competition Sees Investors Shift Strategy

KPMG surveyed investors, who together control real estate assets in excess of €580 billion, about their investment strategies for 2015.

The results showed that competition over prime real estate has prompted investors to look further afield and diversify their portfolios. 64% of respondents are now targeting investments globally, rather than in just one continent, compared to just 39% in 2014.

Suburban offices and high street retail are also back on the acquisition agenda, with 44% and 68% of investors stating they planned to invest in these asset classes over the next 12 months.

However, competition is already pricing out some players from property hot spots in Western Europe. One in ten investors said they planned to reduce their holdings in the region this year.

“Western Europe is slowly heating up and investors are keen to realise their gains and free up capital to invest elsewhere,” said Richard White, UK head of real estate at KPMG. “Intense competition over prime assets has already forced some investors out of the market if they are unable to meet, or justify, the pricing levels.”

However, barriers to growth remain. 48% of investors surveyed said a sustainable supply of suitable stock is the main threat facing their business and this had the greatest potential to constrain growth. One in four also cited the performance of the global economy as an area of concern.

“The prolonged economic downturn caused a halt in speculative development and there are simply not enough finished assets to satisfy investor demand. This mismatch between demand and supply is prompting fears of a price bubble in certain markets, which are simply becoming overcrowded,” said White.

“While investor confidence has significantly improved, it remains vulnerable to shocks.The recent slowdown in GDP across a number of the key global real estate markets has caused understandable concern within the real estate industry. Poor economic performance could cause investors to suddenly retrench to perceived safe havens of Western Europe, rather than venture further afield.”

New Business Models Will Steer Revenues in Chinese Automotive Aftermarket
Capital Markets (stocks and bonds)Markets

New Business Models Will Steer Revenues in Chinese Automotive Aftermarket, Finds Frost & Sullivan

 The total number of passenger, light and mini commercial vehicles in China is likely to reach 282 million by 2021, opening up opportunities for the automotive aftermarket in the country. To tap into this potential, however, aftermarket participants must address the challenges stemming from fragmented distribution networks, regulatory uncertainty, and the presence of counterfeit parts.

“The increasing demand of end users and the enforcement of anti-monopoly policies are expected to strengthen the independent aftermarket channel in China,” said Frost & Sullivan Automotive and Transportation Research Analyst Will Wong. “Automakers are opening authorized workshops and fast-fit chains in order to compete with lower-priced independent workshops.”

Increasing competition and changing consumer behavior will steadily boost the sale volumes of vehicle parts and services. Intense competition will also create a wider range of product and service options for end users to choose from, requiring participants to deliver more than just basic services to consumers and installers.

While vehicle owners demand high-quality products and services, their limited product knowledge and low brand awareness inhibits market growth. In order to sustain profits, service providers and parts suppliers must train end users on the identification of counterfeit parts.

“Further, deploying business models such as ‘bricks and clicks’ will be vital to market success,” concluded Wong. “Foreign suppliers should also consider partnering with eCommerce channels such as Alibaba to develop brand loyalty with consumers in the Chinese market.”

BP Finalises Deal to Develop Egypt's West Nile Delta Gas Fields
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BP Finalises Deal to Develop Egypt’s West Nile Delta Gas Fields

The project underlines BP’s commitment to the Egyptian market and is a vote of confidence in Egypt’s investment climate and economic potential.

Production from WND is expected to reach up to 1.2 billion cubic feet a day (bcf/d), equivalent to about 25 per cent of Egypt’s current gas production and significantly contribute to increasing the supply of energy in Egypt. All the produced gas will be fed into the country’s national gas grid, helping to meet the anticipated growth in local demand for energy. Production is expected to start in 2017.

“BP is proud of its record in Egypt over the past 50 years and we are looking forward to many more years in the country. The WND project investment is the largest foreign direct investment in Egypt, and demonstrates our continued confidence in Egypt and our commitment to unlock its energy potential. WND production is key to Egypt’s energy security,” said Bob Dudley, BP Group Chief Executive.

Gas will be produced from two BP-operated offshore concession blocks, North Alexandria and West Mediterranean Deepwater. BP believes that there is the potential through future exploration to add a further 5-7 tcf which could boost WND production with additional investments.

Commenting on the project, Hesham Mekawi, BP North Africa Regional President said, “This is a critical milestone in the Egyptian oil and gas history. It marks the start of a major national project to add significant production to the domestic market. BP expects to double its current gas supply to the Egyptian domestic market during this decade when the WND project reaches its peak production. BP will also continue to invest in our existing oil operations at the Gulf of Suez (through GUPCO) and gas operations in the East Nile Delta (through Pharaonic Petroleum Co.), as well as progressing our recently discovered resources to allow for the next new major development after WND.”

The scale of investment and activities of the WND project are expected to significantly contribute to the growth of petroleum-related industries and to Egyptian employment. During the construction phase, the project is projected to employ thousands of direct and indirect personnel. In line with BP’s commitment to support the development of Egyptian capability, the WND project will encourage technology transfer and know-how through training and on-the-job development. This will help to create strategic national capabilities to unlock the country’s future hydrocarbon potential.

As part of the WND project, BP will also undertake a social investment programme directed to various sustainable development projects in coordination with the local communities and utilizing local service providers.

This will be in addition to the project’s principal approach, which is focused on increasing local labour, with a commitment to employ significant local labour during operations.

Colour Cosmetics Market Worth $47 Billion by 2019
MarketsStock Markets

Colour Cosmetics Market Worth $47 Billion by 2019


The report also identifies the driving and restraining factors for colour cosmetics market with an analysis of drivers, restraints, opportunities, and strengths. The market is segmented and the value has been forecasted on the basis of important regions, such as Asia-Pacific, North America, Europe, and Rest of the World (RoW). Further, the market is segmented and the demand and value are forecasted on the basis of various key applications of colour cosmetics, such as nail products, lip products, eye make-up, and other applications.

Innovations in colour cosmetics and rising consumer disposable income is leading the growth of this market in North America and Europe

One of the biggest manufacturers in the colour cosmetics field is Coty which is situated both in the U.S. as well as Europe. The rise in disposable incomes in these developed regions, and new product launches in the colour cosmetics market has made the U.S. and the U.K. the largest markets for colour cosmetics.

The U.K. is the largest market for colour cosmetics in Europe that is projected to register over 20% growth in Western Europe between 2010 and 2015. The developing economies of Asia namely China and India are also projected to register high growth rate in the colour cosmetics market in the next five years. The prestige products registered strong growth in 2013 as consumers traded prestige brands over mass products and this trend is projected to continue for the next five years.

The colour cosmetics is a flourishing market as consumers continue to explore new looks and manufacturers are producing more pleasing formulas and textures to cater to the rising demand from these consumers.

Asia-Pacific countries such as China and India are expected to account for highest colour cosmetics market, in terms of value, by 2019. The region is projected to register high growth rate in the Colour Cosmetics Market in the next five years mainly due to increasing consumer incomes and rise in the awareness about personal care products in the region.
The increasing consumer spending in colour cosmetics, innovation of new products, rise in conscience about appearance, growing beauty and personal care industry, technological advancement in colour cosmetics, and rise in demand for colour cosmetics due to age related imperfections are few of the drivers of this market in the Asia-Pacific countries.

China and India, the growing economies and demographics of the Asia-Pacific region are projected to have high growth potential in the colour cosmetics market in the next five years. The rise in consumer awareness and changing lifestyles of the population is leading to the growth of colour cosmetics in India.

Wind Turbine Composites Material Market Worth $5.5 Billion by 2020
CommoditiesMarkets

Wind Turbine Composites Material Market Worth $5.5 Billion by 2020

“Asia-Pacific: The biggest market of composites used in wind turbines”

The Asia-Pacific region was the world’s largest Wind Turbine Composites Material Market in 2014. China is the key consumer of wind composite in Asia-Pacific. Growth of installed wind power capacity in China and India is one of the biggest drivers for this market in Asia pacific region. China set a new record for annual installations in 2014, by increasing the new wind generating capacity by more than 45% as compared to 2013. Various product launches, and expansions have in turn made the regions a potential growth market for wind composite.

“Glass Fiber Composite is the biggest material type”

Glass fiber composite is the biggest composite material used in wind turbine driven by its high demand for manufacturing wind turbine blades. Carbon fiber composite finds its usage mostly in spar and structural element of wind blades, whereas its usage in longer blades is limited primarily because of its high cost. Carbon fiber composite are projected to grow at a healthy rate in the projected period.

Toray Industries (Japan), Cytec Industries Inc. (U.S.), Royal TenCate nv (Netherlands), Gurit Holding AG (Switzerland), Hexel Corporation (U.S.), and Teijin Limited (Japan) are some of the major supplier of wind composites material. Company profiling and competitive strategies adopted by top composites wind turbine blade manufacturers such as HT blades (China), TPI Composites (U.S.), Vestas Wind Systems A/S (Denmark), Gamesa (Spain), LM Wind Power Group (Denmark) etc. are also covered in the report.

The report also defines driving and restraining factors for the global Wind Turbine Composites Material Market with the analysis of trends, opportunities, burning issues, winning imperatives, and challenges. Additionally, the market is forecasted on the basis of major regions, such as North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Rest of the World (RoW) by both value and volume. The regional wind turbine composite market is further segmented on the basis of major countries such as China, U.S., Germany, Spain, U.K., India, Canada, France, Brazil, etc.

Euro Suffers Further Losses against the US Dollar
Capital Markets (stocks and bonds)Markets

Euro Suffers Further Losses against the US Dollar

Sterling also suffered losses against the greenback but it is the euro that is always going to feel the brunt as today Mario Draghi will reveal the ECB’s plan to execute its €1 trillion quantitative easing program. Whilst debates have been raging about the hows and whens of the QE program, the most significant aspect is that it is due to carry on until late 2016, but is open-ended so it could go on well beyond then if inflation is not back near the 2% target. This element of the QE will be closely watched to see just how flexible the ECB will be when it comes to the amount, timing and duration of the program.

The ECB is also going to have to adjust lower its forecast for inflation in 2015, which currently sits at an unrealistic 0.7% and expectations are for an increase to the current growth forecast of 1%. These forecasts could also influence how EURUSD trades later today as a downward adjustment to inflation and no corresponding uplift in the growth forecast could lead to more downward pressure on the euro.

Either way the euro’s downward trend looks to be intact and weakness for EURUSD continues this morning with the rate trading at 1.1045 at the time of writing. Despite the usual spike in Eurozone bond yields one would expect ahead of the commencement of QE, yields are likely to remain at their historical lows, but with signs on the economic data front that indicate the worst is over for Europe, one can’t help feel this is all coming a little late.

Falling Oil Prices Have Global Implications
CommoditiesMarkets

Falling Oil Prices Have Global Implications

Topping the list of political risks facing emerging market investors is the increasing instability in already-fragile oil producing countries such as Iran, Iraq, Libya, Russia and Venezuela as a consequence of the low oil price. The effectiveness of extremist groups in the Middle East & Africa will be amplified in afflicted countries that lack the resilience to absorb economic shocks.

The map illustrates that 2015 will be a particularly challenging year for oil producers in the Middle East and Africa several of which already have High or Very High country risk ratings. Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, which should otherwise stand to benefit from cheaper oil imports, face increased security risks because of the power vacuums in Iraq, Libya and Syria.

The low oil price continues to cast an economic shadow over the CIS region, particularly for Russia’s larger regional trading partners such as Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Matthew Shires, Head of Political Risk said “By using the latest data and analytics, the political risk map helps organisations determine their emerging market investment strategies. Businesses need to constantly monitor their exposure to political risk such as the impact of oil price uncertainty and political instability. The Aon Political Risk Map allows our clients to do exactly that.”

Paul Domjan, Managing Director, Roubini Country Insights, said “Roubini Global Economics is proud to continue its partnership with Aon for its clients. During 2014 political risks in the emerging markets rose, particularly in oil exporting regions. The quarterly updates to the risk icon scores and the country ratings highlight developing risk-trends, allowing investors to respond quickly to deterioration and to better hedge their exposure or take advantage of new opportunities. Once again, the map demonstrates the power of combining RGE’s country analysis and benchmarking with Aon’s expertise in country risk.”

London's Status as Leading Global City Under Threat
Capital Markets (stocks and bonds)Markets

London’s Status as Leading Global City Under Threat

AECOM, the global integrated infrastructure services company, today published its manifesto for the London City Region entitled “Big, Bold, Global, Connected-London 2065”, which sets out ideas for the long-term growth of the city and wider South East region, and contributes to the wider debate on housing, economy and infrastructure. The manifesto warns that London’s status as a leading global city is under threat and calls for a collaborative, region-wide approach to tackle major challenges in housing, infrastructure, transport and planning.

AECOM’s manifesto calls for a new vision of the city as the London City Region, which looks beyond the 50-year-old boundaries of Greater London to ensure that London and the UK retain their position as a global leader.
The London City Region, broadly an area within 90 kilometres, or one hour’s commute, of central London, is now home to more than 20 million people and is expected to grow to 30 million by 2065. AECOM calculates that the growth in the London Region’s population will lead to a shortfall of one million homes by 2036 unless new sites are found and building is accelerated.

With around one million people commuting into and out of London every day, strong economic links between industrial and learning ‘clusters’ both within and beyond the capital are essential. Jobs will be created in one area and homes needed in different and often distant districts. Addressing the housing shortfall therefore needs region-wide collaboration and vision.

The drivers affecting change are not just local. London is at risk of losing its competitive position within the next 50 years compared with Dubai, Shanghai and other emerging global mega-cities that, unlike London, are not burdened with ageing infrastructure, some of which dates back more than 150 years.

UK could lose out in global competition for talent

Many of the world’s emerging mega-cities that compete with London for talent have bold visions and buoyant economies that will entice leading global companies to relocate. Living standards and quality of life, as well as modern transport infrastructure, will tempt a mobile and highly skilled workforce from the UK.

By the mid-2020s, nearly half of the world’s leading companies will be based in emerging regions, compared to one-fifth today. In 10 years’ time, Asia will be home for nearly two-thirds of the global middle class, compared to one-third today. These mega-cities will compete with London for trade and talent, as the global map of influence shifts away from the London-New York City axis.

Looking to these diverse and long-term challenges, the manifesto calls for the creation of a wide-ranging London City Region Board – encompassing government, local authorities, developers, communities and infrastructure providers – to take a co-ordinated approach to address the multiple challenges in infrastructure, planning and transport, as well as a growing housing crisis.

Andrew Jones, who led the development of the manifesto and is AECOM’s UK leader for design, planning & economics, said:

“We need to think differently about London – not just as a city, but as a city region if we are to meet the multiple challenges to infrastructure, planning, transport and housing that are crucial to London’s competitiveness and quality of life.

“Over two centuries, the governance structure in London and South East England has adapted to the challenges of larger, more complex urbanisation. Today, a rethink is needed – it is time for a fresh vision and approach that goes beyond traditional boundaries. While many of the pressures on London have been actively debated and initiatives outlined, we believe there has been a lack of joined-up thinking.

“Today we are calling for the creation of a new body spanning the public and private sectors, which will create a coherent regional growth strategy. The future, long-term success of London and the wider London City Region depends on the decisions taken in the next Parliament.

“Our manifesto identifies 10 actions to meet the challenges, as there is no single solution to meeting housing demand and achieving balanced economic growth. It is critical that within the next five years real progress is made to deliver region-wide collaboration, planning and delivery.”

Recent plans don’t go far enough

The Mayor’s Infrastructure Plan to 2050 and London First/London LEP’s Economic Plan begin to frame the debate, but this picture needs to be combined with a complementary approach to planning that goes beyond the current boundaries of London. It also needs a long-term horizon – looking 50 years ahead to 2065. Whilst we welcome many of these proposals, including George Osborne and Boris Johnson’s recently announced long-term economic plan for London which demonstrates commitment both at city level and nationally, they do not adequately address the challenges in a broader context. For each of these initiatives, the scope stops at the edge of Greater London – a boundary conceived 50 years ago and no longer reflective of the scale and reach of the London economy.

Partnership approach and refreshed system of governance is needed

AECOM’s manifesto calls for a refreshed system of governance in which government, local authorities, developers, communities and infrastructure providers think at the scale and with the ambition that London needs. A bold, integrated approach to regional growth is required that recognises the interdependent relationship between London and its region.
The current ‘Duty to Co-operate’ across local authority boundaries does not work. Delivering growth in the London City Region requires a more joined-up approach to implementation, which involves the public and private sector working in partnership in order to manage the pace of change that is forecast.

The approach needs to balance local decision-making and influence within a framework capable of creating and implementing an integrated spatial London City Region plan. The forecast population and economic growth, together with a redefined position amongst global cities, provide the opportunity for London’s – and the UK’s – future success. But this will only be effective if stakeholders coordinate strategic planning and growth at the London City Region scale.
Boundary reform may play a part in the solution, particularly for those districts that are functionally and culturally connected to the capital, but the call is to join up more widely.

New Generation of Entrepreneurs Riding UK's Economic Recovery
Capital Markets (stocks and bonds)Markets

New Generation of Entrepreneurs Riding UK’s Economic Recovery


In 2014 one in five working age individuals in the UK were running their own business, were actively trying to start a business or intended to start a business within the next three years.

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) UK 2014 report, written by a team of entrepreneurship researchers from Aston and Strathclyde Business Schools, compares entrepreneurial activity, attitudes and aspirations in the UK, France, Germany and the US, reveals that the UK has pulled ahead of France and Germany in the entrepreneurship stakes.
Figures show that the total early-stage entrepreneurial activity (TEA) rate now stands at 8.6 per cent in the UK in 2014, a significant increase in the 2013 figure of 7.3 per cent. This compares with 5 per cent in France and Germany where the TEA rate has not changed since 2011.

Professor Jonathan Levie, of the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship at Strathclyde Business School, said: “Compared with the early 2000s, the UK now looks very different from other EU countries such as France and Germany in terms of early-stage entrepreneurship. For the last four years it has significantly outperformed both of these countries in the number of early-stage entrepreneurs.”

This growth in early-stage entrepreneurial activity in the UK is mainly because more men, especially those aged between 50 and 64 years old, are taking the first steps to running their own business.

Professor Levie added: “While this means that the ‘gender gap’ in early-stage entrepreneurship has risen this year, this is not due to any fall in the proportion of women starting their own business and a longer term view reveals that the TEA rate of 5.7 per cent for women in 2014 has almost doubled in ten years.”

The report identifies that the percentage of non-entrepreneurs of working-age in the UK who agreed there were good opportunities for starting a business in their local area in the next six months has now risen to 37 per cent in 2014. This marks a return to pre-recession levels of 2007 and suggests a growing sense of optimism among the wider population for business start-up.

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) UK 2014 Report also reveals that a record number of people aged between 50 and 64 years are now starting their own business, with a highest ever recorded TEA rate of 7.1 per cent.
The GEM UK analysis has revealed the number of early-stage entrepreneurs aged between 50 and 64 years has grown steadily since the onset of the recession in 2008.

Professor Mark Hart, of Aston Business School, said: “This age group has historically had a TEA rate significantly lower than for those in the younger age groups but the recent recession seems to have changed that long-term trend. This is particularly the case for men and one possible interpretation is that older men find it difficult to get back into the labour market after the recession and some are now looking to start their own businesses as a result.”

A look at the sub-national picture of TEA rates in 2014 showed that the rate for Scotland at 5.4 per cent was significantly lower than the rate for England (9.1%). The rates for Wales and Northern Ireland were 7.1 per cent and 6.7 per cent.
Total early-stage entrepreneurial activity (TEA) is defined in the GEM UK report as a combination of nascent entrepreneurs – individuals who are committing resources, such as time or money, to starting a business – and new business owner-managers, whose business has been paying income, such as salaries or drawings, for more than three, but not more than forty-two, months.

Professor Mark Hart will be presenting the GEM UK analysis on 3 March at the BIS Small Business Research Conference 2015: Unlocking Greater Growth. At this event, BIS will also be presenting the latest findings from its Small Business Survey. This reveals confidence amongst existing small and medium-sized businesses is growing as more are achieving profits and many expect larger turnovers and workforces in the next 12 months.

A full copy of the GEM UK 2014 Monitoring Report will be uploaded at www.aston.ac.uk/gem.

Global Action Camera Market Experiencing Rapid Growth
MarketsStock Markets

Global Action Camera Market Experiencing Rapid Growth

Action cameras are used to capture extreme action sports or activities. These cameras can capture high-speed and high-quality images. Regular cameras are incapable of capturing high-speed actions and are not designed for rugged conditions, including extreme weather. By contrast, action cameras are compact, lightweight, designed for rugged conditions, and can be worn by the person or mounted on vehicles.

An increase in the number of new vendors is one of the major trends in the market. The market is experiencing rapid growth and is attracting many new players. The entry of new players is expected to have a subsequent effect on the price, features, and quality of action cameras. This is expected to be beneficial for consumers, as action cameras with enhanced quality and features are expected to be available at low prices.

According to the report, the popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, is one of the major drivers of the Global Action Camera market. End-users share images and videos of their sports activities captured through action cameras on these sites, thus increasing the demand for these cameras. Vendors provide advanced product features to give an enriching customer experience. This helps to boost sales of action cameras.

Further, the report states that the popularity of smartphones is one of the major growth inhibitors. The declining prices of smartphones, coupled with enhanced features that offer better image and video quality, are the main factors responsible for the popularity of smartphones.

The report was conducted by ResearchAndMarkets.com, and more info can be found here.

£3.5bn Music Industry Can Be 'Poster Boy' for UK Exports
Capital Markets (stocks and bonds)Markets

£3.5bn Music Industry Can Be ‘Poster Boy’ for UK Exports

The UK’s creative industries are together worth £36bn in Gross Value Added and supports around 1.5 million jobs. With competition from abroad, to sell albums or producing new video-games, on the rise, the leading business organisations stresses that it has never been more important to set the foundations for future economic success in this sector.

Katja Hall, CBI Deputy Director-General, says: “The UK’s creative industries are global leaders, whether it is providing great film locations and production skills, or video game developers and fashion designers. It is essential to over one million jobs that this remains the case.

“As artists gathered for The Brits 2015, the music industry alone is worth £3.5 billion and with the right help can become the ‘poster boy’ for UK exports. With the likes of Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran riding high in charts around the world, the UK must keep thinking big to help even more of our music artists crack new markets.”

How the Rising Dollar Ripples Across the US Economy
Capital Markets (stocks and bonds)Markets

How the Rising Dollar Ripples Across the US Economy

The dollar has risen about 15 percent since its low of June 2011, allowing Americans to enjoy lower prices for imported goods, and helping keep inflation in check. It can also lead to lower commodity prices, allowing Americans to pay less for energy and food.

But it has made exports more expensive, reducing U.S. manufacturers’ competitive advantage abroad. As domestic manufacturers reduce expenses, that can lead to job losses and restrain economic growth. And it can hurt stock prices of U.S. companies that do business abroad, as sales of their products in weakening currencies fetch fewer dollars.

“Many U.S. Treasury secretaries, administration officials and financial pundits have touted a strong dollar policy, but the impacts of such a policy are a mixed bag,” said Bob Hughes, lead author of Business Conditions Monthly, an AIER report which provides an outlook for the U.S. economy, and a read on inflationary pressures. This month’s edition, which focuses on the impact of the rising dollar, suggests a slightly weaker economy than last month, but forecasts continued growth in the quarters ahead, as well as subdued inflationary pressures.

In addition to the impact on the economy and inflationary pressures, the report highlights the strong dollar’s potential impacts and risks for investors in global fixed income markets and commodities, as well as U.S. equities and global equities.

Hughes said the dollar is likely to head even higher, as this country’s economy gains strength, and U.S. interest rates begin to rise while foreign central banks ease their own monetary policies. Consequently, investors may still have time to review their portfolios and make appropriate adjustments to mitigate the risks from a stronger dollar, Hughes said. To read the full report, visit aier.org.

Oil Prices May Come Under Pressure as Storage Limits Begin to Hit
CommoditiesMarkets

Oil Prices May Come Under Pressure as Storage Limits Begin to Hit

“Oil prices remain volatile. The recent rally in the oil markets has seemingly run out of steam as bearish supply-side factors appear to be dictating the directional move in oil price.”

“The contango continues to act as a stimulus for demand in the short-term. The ‘storage play’ remains an attractive strategy for those with capacity to store, which in turn is helping the market maintain a quasi-equilibrium. However, as we approach storage limits, which are expected to be hit in the second to third quarter, oil prices may come under pressure as the supply glut can no longer be absorbed by storage tanks.”

“Fundamentally the market remains oversupplied with many still feeling the effects of Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ decision to maintain its 30/million barrels per day production quota, coupled with the burgeoning US shale production boom. For the market to successfully absorb the excess barrels, an increase in consumer-led demand is needed.”

'Invisibility' Central to $80bn Wearable Market by 2020
MarketsStock Markets

‘Invisibility’ Central to $80bn Wearable Market by 2020

The new report ‘The World in 2020 – A Technology Vision’ is being offered as a free download in celebration of the launch of its new online research platform.

The report argues that invisible wearables (i.e. wearables indistinguishable from non-smart technology) are likely to see significant adoption before the end of the decade. Within a wearables market that Juniper estimates will be worth approximately $80bn annually by 2020, fashion-first wearables will have a much greater appeal than tech-centric devices, as they will blend in with consumers’ lives more effectively.

However, the report points out that this will not be a strategy that every wearables company will pursue, as the appearance of tech may ultimately become part of an overall design aesthetic.

Meanwhile, dermally-attached wearables – such as biostamps – are in a more embryonic state, and require a more significant shift in consumer habits than accessories-based wearables, limiting their adoption among general consumers for the foreseeable future.

US Construction Climbs 9 Percent in January
MarketsStock Markets

US Construction Climbs 9 Percent in January

The increase for total construction was the result of an especially strong performance by the nonbuilding construction sector, which benefitted from the start of a massive liquefied natural gas terminal facility in Texas. Meanwhile, nonresidential building lost momentum for the second month in a row and residential building pulled back due to a slower pace for multifamily housing. On an unadjusted basis, total construction starts in January were reported at $43.2 billion, up 18% from the same month a year ago.

The January statistics raised the Dodge Index to 131 (2000=100), compared to 120 for December although still short of the most recent high of 143 reached in November. For the full year 2014, the Dodge Index averaged 122. “During 2014 and now early 2015, the month-to-month pattern for construction starts has often reflected the presence or absence of exceptionally large projects,” stated Robert A. Murray, chief economist for Dodge Data & Analytics. “For much of 2014, a substantial share of this work was petrochemical-related, such as a $3.0 billion Exxon petrochemical plant expansion in Texas. Towards the end of last year, a pickup in liquefied natural gas-related facilities emerged, led by the start of the $3.6 billion Dominion Cove Point Liquefaction Project in Maryland, and January included $6.0 billion estimated for the start of two segments of a huge liquefied natural gas export facility in Texas. The month-to-month variation for overall construction starts is taking place around what is still a rising trend. For nonresidential building, the continued improvement by its commercial and now its institutional project types should enable this sector to register more growth in 2015, notwithstanding a sluggish January. For residential building, the strengthening job market and some easing of lending standards for home mortgages are expected to help single family housing see moderate improvement relative to a flat 2014.”

Non-building construction jumped 87% in January to $231.8 billion (annual rate). The electric power and gas plant category soared 840%, led by the inclusion of these projects as January starts – $6.0 billion for two segments of a liquefied natural gas export facility on Quintana Island near Freeport TX, a $1.5 billion liquefied petroleum gas export terminal in Freeport TX, and a $1.0 billion liquefied natural gas receiving terminal in Ingleside TX. Other major January entries for the electric power and gas plant category were a $300 million wind farm in Texas and a $170 million segment of a solar power facility in Nevada. The public works portion of nonbuilding construction grew 7% in January. The miscellaneous public works category (which includes such diverse project types as pipelines, mass transit, and outdoor sports stadiums) advanced 49%, boosted by the $350 million modernization of Sun Life Stadium in the Miami FL area. Gains were also registered by sewer construction, up 30%; and water supply construction, up 12%; but river/harbor development retreated 33%. Highway and bridge construction held steady with its December pace, and featured the start of the $550 million Border Highway West project in El Paso TX.

Non-residential building, at $159.3 billion (annual rate), fell 17% in January. Much of the decline was related to a low volume for the often-volatile manufacturing plant category, which plunged 61% for the month. The largest manufacturing project entered as a January start was a $180 million tile plant in Tennessee, a smaller-scale project than the $500 million-plus projects that were frequently reported during 2014. The commercial categories as a group retreated a more moderate 13% in January. Although new hotel construction starts were down a steep 31%, both stores and offices registered only modest slippage. Store construction, down 5%, still included the start of a $200 million retail project at the South Street Seaport in New York NY. Office construction, down 3%, still included the start of three projects valued at $100 million or greater – the $190 million office portion of a $215 million mixed-use building in Charlotte NC, a $122 million corporate headquarters in New Hyde Park NY, and a $118 million office expansion in Hollywood CA. Warehouse construction, up 4%, was the one commercial project type that reported a January gain, supported by the start of a $70 million distribution center in San Antonio TX.

The institutional categories as a group were also down 13% in January. Educational facilities construction, the largest nonresidential building category by dollar volume, dropped 12% as it receded from the improved activity reported during the latter half of 2014. Even with this decline, there were still several large high school construction projects that began in January, including a $77 million high school in Olathe KS and a $76 million high school in Houston TX. Healthcare facilities construction in January was down a more substantial 31%, despite the start of a $170 million hospital tower expansion in Detroit MI. Of the smaller institutional categories, similar declines were reported for public buildings, down 18%; and transportation terminals, down 19%. On the plus side, amusement and recreational work increased 29% with the boost coming from the $350 million expansion of the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco CA and a $115 million casino in Glendale AZ. Church construction improved 57% from a very low December amount, due to the start of a $60 million church in New Canaan CT.

 Residential building dropped 9% in January to $230.0 billion (annual rate). The decline reflected a 30% pullback for multifamily housing from December’s elevated activity, continuing an up-and-down pattern around what is still viewed to be a strengthening trend for this structure type. January witnessed groundbreaking for several large multifamily projects, including a $500 million expansion to an apartment building in New York NY, the $141 million multifamily portion of a $174 million mixed-use project in Washington DC, and the $99 million multifamily portion of a $165 million mixed-use project in Austin TX. The leading metropolitan areas in terms of the dollar amount of new multifamily projects in January were New York NY, Miami FL, Boston MA, Washington DC, and Denver CO. Single family housing in January was unchanged from December, as the result of this pattern by major region – the Midwest, up 8%; the Northeast, up 5%; the South Atlantic, up 2%; and the South Central and West, each down 5%. Over the course of 2014, single family housing was essentially flat, and that pattern has continued into early 2015. Murray stated, “On a positive note, the most recent survey of bank lending standards conducted by the Federal Reserve indicated that the fourth quarter of 2014 saw a slight easing of standards for residential mortgage loans, which may help single family home sales and construction regain some upward momentum in the coming months.”

The 18% gain for total construction starts on an unadjusted basis for January 2015 relative to January 2014 was the result of this performance by sector – nonresidential building, down 10%; residential building, down 3%; and nonbuilding construction, up 85%. By geography, total construction starts for January 2015 relative to January 2014 showed an increase for one region – the South Central, up 83%. The other four major regions witnessed decreased activity compared to the same month a year ago – the South Atlantic, down 1%; the West, down 3%; the Northeast, down 7%; and the Midwest, down 11%.

Useful perspective is made possible by looking at twelve-month moving totals, in this case the twelve months ending January 2015 versus the twelve months ending January 2014, which lessens the volatility present in one-month comparisons. For the twelve months ending January 2015, total construction starts were up 9%, due to this pattern by sector – nonresidential building, up 18%; residential building, up 8%; and nonbuilding construction, up 1%. By geography, the twelve months ending January 2015 showed the following behavior for total construction starts – the South Central, up 21%; the South Atlantic, up 11%; the West, up 8%; and the Northeast and Midwest, each up 1%.

Deregulation
Capital Markets (stocks and bonds)Markets

Deregulation, Distributed Generation, and Environmental Concerns Are Expected to Shape the Smart Grid Industry in 2015 and Beyond, According to Navigant Research

With breakthroughs and innovation emerging on an almost daily basis, the smart grid technology industry is burgeoning. For the electric utilities expected to deliver reliable and efficient grid systems, however, the pace is considerably slower. Electric utilities worldwide are facing upheaval on a number of fronts, influencing industrywide trends. Click to tweet: According to a recent white paper from Navigant Research, a combination of factors that includes deregulation, the proliferation of distributed generation (DG) installations, and environmental concerns are expected to mold the smart grid industry in 2015 and beyond.

“Deregulation is occurring globally, even as distributed generation (DG) cuts into the utility’s core business of selling electricity to businesses and consumers,” says Richelle Elberg, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. “Further, the increase in DG installations, along with electric vehicles (EVs), is changing the load profile of distribution circuits, often in concentrated neighborhoods, which can mean reduced grid stability and increased need for infrastructure upgrades.”

One way utilities are adapting to this changing landscape is by maximizing investment in advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) networks for a host of new applications, from consumer engagement to analytics, and from demand response (DR) to time-of-use (TOU) pricing. As utilities leverage this last mile of connectivity, and intelligence morphs and spreads across the grid, the need for increasingly complex and interoperable IT systems, more robust communications networks, and greater collaboration between formerly siloed teams, also grows.

The full white paper is available for free download on the Navigant Research website.

Where Next for Euro Government Bonds?
Capital Markets (stocks and bonds)Markets

Where Next for Euro Government Bonds?


 Tom Sartain, fixed income fund manager at Schroders, comments on what investors can expect from the euro government bond markets after the expanded QE begins:

“In January, the ECB announced a bold expansion of its asset purchase programme. Now that markets have had time to digest the news, investors want to know where eurozone government bonds will go next and where the opportunities lie in today’s low yield environment.

In summary, our views are that:

• The sheer size of the expanded stimulus plan and the quasi open-ended nature of the schedule came as a surprise to the market. We believe this will prove more impactful in raising inflation expectations than markets are anticipating.

• Markets are too pessimistic on the near-term growth outlook for the eurozone. Prior to January’s announcement data were already starting to turn. The asset purchases will act as a further boost to economic progress.

• The ECB’s decisive action could shift the supply-demand balance for certain parts of the European bond market; some assets will be clear beneficiaries from the programme.

• Although the monetary policies of the eurozone and stronger economies like the US and the UK are moving apart, key aspects of bond pricing will remain closely linked. Historically, inflation risk premium (the amount of return demanded by investors for offsetting inflation risk) and term premium (the return demanded for moving further along the yield curve) are highly correlated between these markets.

There remain many unanswered questions regarding the practicalities of the expanded asset purchases. Exactly how the purchases will be undertaken is not yet fully understood; it could be via reverse auction or directly in the secondary market. The split of the bonds to be bought in terms of maturity is also not clear. Finally, there is little detail on how the ECB will avoid causing dislocations in the yield curve. Some bonds will be easier to buy than others, and market participants are likely to try to capitalise on the ECB’s buying activity. This could lead to some significant distortions.

When the small print is digested, we think 2015 should present a number of opportunities for active managers. Long dated bonds in non-core economies, inflation linked euro bonds, bonds issued by government agencies and covered bonds are all on our radar as potential major beneficiaries from the presence of a large buyer in the market.

Against a backdrop of very low or even negative yields on many eurozone bonds, Italian and Spanish yields offer a positive yield and a steep curve. This is attractive when combined with a central bank which has committed to significant asset purchases in these markets. We expect yield spreads – the differential between a bond’s yield relative to Bunds – will continue to converge between eurozone countries, but will stay wider than the levels experienced in the years leading up to the financial crisis.

In the medium term, yields are likely to move higher, but will remain lower than historical standards. European yields will stay lower than those of faster growing economies such as the US, but if the market begins to demand higher yields from US Treasuries, because the Fed Funds rate is moving higher, then investors in European assets will demand the same.

The principal systemic risk from a euro perspective comes from Greece and its possible ‘Grexit’. The market remains nervous of the situation in Greece, and should events unfold in a disorderly fashion, any expanded asset purchases will not be enough to prevent investors seeking a meaningfully higher risk premium on euro area assets.”

Nordic Region Rivals US and Europe for Process Excellence Adoption
MarketsStock Markets

Nordic Region Rivals US and Europe for Process Excellence Adoption

He went on to say that while some industries might be lagging behind, it seems that the Nordic Region is toe-to-toe with the US and the rest of Europe when it comes to process excellence.

In light of this and in preparation for the Process Excellence Nordics Summit PEX Network conducted research into where process excellence in the Nordic region is heading. The ebook explores observations, trends and industry insights into the current Process Excellence climate in the Nordics. 

Jarkko Pellikka was quoted saying, “We have major differences between the industries within the Nordic Region. At the same time we have many best-in-class large companies in all verticals, particularly within the process industry (for example Oil/Gas and Pharmaceuticals) due to the extremely high requirements on quality and safety.” Whilst other companies such as Tetra Pak give their opinion on the state of process excellence in the Nordic region.

PEX Week Nordics, taking place in Copenhagen 17th – 19th March, will bring together the regions most influential decision makers and process excellence leaders to strategize and innovate on topics such as: how to build a customer-centric model, building an integrated toolkit of methodologies and how to utilise data insight to identify opportunities for process optimisation.

Attendees will hear a wealth of wealth of success stories and lessons learnt from other organisations that have already embarked upon these paths, and meaningful structured break-out discussions with their peers. Case studies being presented include Coca-Cola, LEGO, Arla Foods, Dinex, Heineken, Nokia and more.

Eurozone's GDP Boost Should Ease Negotiations
Capital Markets (stocks and bonds)Markets

Eurozone’s GDP Boost Should Ease Negotiations

A number of countries helped the Eurozone to beat forecasts this quarter. German output increased by 0.7% quarter-on-quarter over Q4, powered by exports and consumer spending. While exports have long been the engine of German growth, consumer spending had been out of line with other members. Spain and Portugal have returned to expansion and posted increases of 0.7% and 0.5% respectively. Italy and France continue to dampen the currency union’s overall reading with zero and 0.1% growth respectively, while Greece has shown again the mercurial nature of its recovery by contracting 0.2% over Q4.

It may be tempting to wonder why these small changes in output matter. Athens has only a fortnight until its next IMF payment is due and mere days to agree the conditions for a further line of credit to avoid outright default. Politics seem to have taken over, and the focus has moved away from GDP to wrangling over debts and austerity. But it matters because at root this crisis is about growth. The Eurozone has seen virtually no expansion in output since the recession, and some predict a “new normal” state of low growth where an ageing population and high debts cause virtual stagnation for decades as in Japan. Under such conditions, the currency union would remain under severe strain, with impoverished electorates unable to agree on the fiscal transfers that are needed to maintain balance in a group of economies with variance in competitiveness.

The recovery in growth should aid negotiations for Monday’s crucial showdown, where the sides need to find a compromise. It is easier to be generous when the pie is expanding. Perhaps Germany’s sizeable export boost will remind Merkel what Germany gains from the euro and why it has expended so much effort already in supporting weaker members. Certainly she would be unable to sell a more lenient deal to her own voters if their own standards of living were falling, no matter how parlous the situation further South. In addition, both parties appear to be making concessions since the disappointing Eurogroup meeting of Eurozone finance ministers on Wednesday, when negotiations broke down without even finding common starting ground.

Today’s figures give grounds for cautious optimism. They show that even amid great uncertainty and the deflation that prevailed in Q4, the Eurozone achieved growth and its largest underwriter also boosted output. The low oil price has helped bolster spending and the European Central Bank may even receive some credit for its various preliminary efforts in late 2014 before pulling the quantitative easing lever. Much more is needed to help Europe out of its stagnation, especially on fiscal policy where there remains untapped resource for stimulating demand. Tentative signs of growth make the potential for compromise stronger, though Europe is still some way from a mutually acceptable solution. The next Eurogroup meeting on Monday remains decisive.

 

eDreams
MarketsStock Markets

eDreams, the Largest Distributor of Online Flights in the World, Arrives in Japan

Starting this January, the company, which is the largest online travel agency in Europe and the fifth-largest worldwide (as well as being Europe’s largest e-commerce company) will offer flights from more than 440 aircraft operators, with over 150,000 different combinations and over 550,000 hotels in 40,000 destinations, plus car rentals, for Japanese travellers.

The company’s aim is clear: to achieve the leading position in Japan, just as it currently has in Europe, thereby covering an international presence in a total of forty-four countries around the world. To do this, eDreams has focused all its efforts on adapting its range of services to the tastes and needs of the Japanese market, from the language to the currency, through a wide range of domestic and low-cost flights. All of this, while keeping its prices and customer service at the same level, which has allowed eDreams to achieve one of the highest rates of customer satisfaction and repetition. Additionally, the company has a dedicated, local team in Spain with different profiles for marketing and call centre, among others.

The Director of Business Development at eDreams, Pablo de Porcioles, emphasizes that “although price is the main reason why our over 15 million customers worldwide first used our service, eDreams’ levels of quality and service have always managed to exceed their expectations, making clients faithful to the company, and turning the company into the clients’ traveling companion.” And the quality of pre- and post-sales service is highly valued by customers. That’s why the expert team of eDreams agents helps users to have an unparalleled travel experience, and why millions of euros a year are invested in technology that facilitates the process of searching, booking, payment, billing and post-sale control.
With these services, Porcioles acknowledges that “we hope that, in the not-too-distant future, Japan will be the largest travel market in the region. For this to happen, we have created competitive content that is able to successfully meet the demands of this market.” Porcioles notes that “eDreams has a wide range of airlines that will allow it to compete, both in regard to international flights, as well as domestic flights and low-cost, with key players of the moment.”

In recent years, according to JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization), both international and domestic flights have grown significantly in Japan. The first, accounting for 20% of the total, has grown by over 20% since 2004. Meanwhile, domestic flights, which account for 80% of flights, have increased almost 11%. In addition, there is ample room for growth in the segment of low-cost airlines, which are relatively new to the Japanese market.

With this release, eDreams, the online travel agency, continues to work on one of its key pillars, internationalization as the basis of its success. This comes after having expanded to ten new countries in 2012, to Greece and the Netherlands in 2013, and to Russia last June. These are operations that have allowed the company to geographically diversify its business and position itself as an attractive option for users on five continents thanks to its combination of supply, price and service.

Economist Keith Wade Gives Outlook on US Economy
Capital Markets (stocks and bonds)Markets

Economist Keith Wade Gives Outlook on US Economy

“Recent robust US economic data has heightened the prospect of the Federal Reserve raising interest rates by mid-2015. The strength of the recovery in the jobs market has begun to add some inflationary pressures to the economy, which have offset the impact of lower energy prices. But while we put the probability of a rate rise in June at close to 60%, the market is pricing in just a 25% chance.”

In this 60 second video, Schroders economist Keith Wade gives his broad overview of the US economy: “The US has reached take-off velocity and is on a self-sustaining path. We are seeing jobs increase, we are seeing household incomes rise and that is supporting consumer spending, so we do believe the US is set fair for 2015.”

“If that scenario continues to play out then the odds of a rate hike in the US by mid-2015 could shorten further. So investors will keep a close eye on upcoming economic data out of the US including; retail sales figures out on Thursday and consumer confidence numbers due for release on Friday.”

A Warming Trend: US Consumers Step into the Sunshine
MarketsStock Markets

A Warming Trend: US Consumers Step into the Sunshine

After seeking shelter for years following the storm of the Great Recession, consumers of all income levels are finally equipped to step out into the sunshine.

“the Federal Reserve on the sidelines until the third quarter; we still see the fed funds rate ending the year at 0.5%.”

Diane Swonk explains what has changed. “It wasn’t until this summer, a record-breaking five years into the expansion, that the pace of consumer spending reaccelerated…(because) Employment growth finally gained momentum. Incomes picked up. Prices at the pump fell.” She predicts that newly empowered consumers will lift the entire U.S. economy in 2015. “Real GDP is expected to average a solid 3% in the second and third quarters, then rise to the fastest pace since 2005.”

Decision makers on the Federal Open Market Committee will surely take notice, but don’t expect them to hike interest rates soon. Swonk is sticking to a more dovish view. Our forecast has “the Federal Reserve on the sidelines until the third quarter; we still see the fed funds rate ending the year at 0.5%.” To find out why, and understand how the pace of consumer spending supports growth, read the latest issue of Themes on the Economy. Archived issues can also be found at mesirowfinancial.com.

Mesirow Financial is a diversified financial services firm headquartered in Chicago. Founded in 1937, it is an independent, employee-owned firm with approximately 1,200 employees globally. With expertise in Investment Management, Global Markets, Insurance Services and Consulting, Mesirow Financial strives to meet the financial needs of institutions, public sector entities, corporations and individuals. For more information about Mesirow Financial, visit its website at mesirowfinancial.com.

China's Solar Power Boom Creates Opportunities for UK Businesses
MarketsStock Markets

China’s Solar Power Boom Creates Opportunities for UK Businesses

Strong government support has sparked a boom in solar power in China – the country’s installed PV capacity leapt to 18.6GW in 2013 from just 0.8GW in 2010 – and this fast growth is expected to continue as the rising superpower attempts to contain carbon emissions, reduce air pollution, and improve its energy security.

China is now expecting to reach 70GW of installed PV capacity by 2018 after the National Development and Reform Commission (NRDC) raised targets once again in May 2014, which will almost certainly make China the world’s largest market for solar power. CCM’s research indicates that this goal should be achieved comfortably, meaning that China’s solar market should grow at least 40% per year over the next five years.

Almost all of this new capacity will be manufactured and installed by Chinese companies, but these companies are still dependent on imports for several key materials and technologies, which will provide excellent opportunities to UKbusinesses.

Materials that are in short supply in China include silver paste, TPT backsheets, EVA encapsulant film, and slurry material, and although China has made progress in developing large-scale polysilicon production facilities, 40-50% of its polysilicon needs are still filled through imports.

Moreover, China is still yet to develop the high-end equipment capable of producing high-purity polysilicon, so UK manufacturers of hydrogenation furnaces, large-scale casting furnaces, PECVD coating equipment, automatic screen printing presses, and other key technologies could also benefit.

Michelle Li, CCM’s renewable energy market analyst, commented: “Solar power is the fastest-growing renewable energy market in China and has huge potential for further growth. China has already made great progress developing solar technology since 2009 and will ramp up its R&D investment further in the coming years, but there will still be opportunities for UK companies in several areas.

“Over the next five years, focus is likely to shift more towards distributed PV power generation, and China also needs to improve its grid connection as currently over 70% of its grid-connected PV capacity is situated in Northwest China, where grid systems are underdeveloped and cannot cope with the amount of power being generated.”

Further insight into China’s renewable energy market will be available in CCM’s upcoming report, China Renewable Energy Market and Future Prospects, which will be published in late February 2015.

The report will offer a comprehensive overview of the state of renewable energy in China, including detailed analyses of the solar, wind, hydropower, biomass, geothermal, and ocean power markets.

The report will also provide key insights into how each market will develop over the medium to long term and the potential investment opportunities this development will create.