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Question: 28
Which of the following statements is TRUE about the adjudication form of dispute resolution? Select TWO
A. it is an informal process
B. it is quicker than going through the courts
C. a decision must be made within 28 days
D. the decision cannot be legally binding
Answer: A,B,C
adjudication is quicker than going through the courts and a decision is made within 28 days. These are the true
statements. Decisions can be legally binding and it's a fairly formal process. There's a full table of dispute resolutions
on p.169. Its pretty much exactly what you saw at Level 4 but worth revising as there are questions about this in the
Question: 29
During the transition period at the end of a contract, which of the following is usually the most difficult or
complicated to organise?
A. returning of physical assets
B. drawing up an exit strategy
C. document transfer
D. knowledge transfer and IP rights
Answer: D
Knowledge transfer and IP rights (Intellectual Property) is often the most difficult aspect of ending a contractual
relationship. It's necessary to identify which party is the owner of each, and this can often be difficult to agree on.
Question: 30
Freedom of association is a protected right under the ILO convention.
What does this allow workers to do?
A. have a second job
B. have work-life balance
C. join a union
D. avoid slavery
Answer: C
Freedom of Association is the right to join a union or workers group. P.179
Question: 31
Charlie is 13 years old and sometimes helps his parents in the corner shop that they run. He helps out stocking shelves
at weekends. Charlie attends school and completes his homework during weekdays. Is this an example of Child
A. yes- any work done by a person under the age of 16 is considered child labour
B. yes- Charlie should report his parents to the police
C. no- Charlie is old enough to not be considered a child
D. no- Child Labour doesn't apply to helping a family business
Answer: D
4 is correct. Child Labour laws do not prevent a kid helping with a family business, providing that they attend school
and the work doesn't harm them mentally, physically or socially. This is from p.182 of the study guide
Question: 32
Which of the following statements about the ILO (International Labour Organisation) is incorrect?
A. it is body of the WTO
B. the ILO has a representation and complaints process
C. the ILO sets standards on health and safety in the workplace and maternity protection
D. a principle of the ILO is to eliminate child labour
Answer: A
1 is incorrect- it's a body of the UN. All other statements are correct- these are from p.183-185. There's a lot in the
study guide on the ILO.
Question: 33
the WTO (World Trade Organisation) has several functions.
Which of the following is not a function of the WTO?
A. set trade rules between countries
B. deal with trade disputes between countries
C. to strive for full employment and high living standards
D. to ensure a high level of labour standards
Answer: D
The WTO doesn't deal with labour standards. It does not include labour standards in its guidelines. Labour Standards is
dealt with by the ILO. P.186
Question: 34
The Global Compact Principles of the UN are legally binding for the member states who have signed up. Is this
A. yes- reports must be filed regularly on process
B. yes- it is voluntary to join, but it is legally binding once signed up
C. no- it is voluntary to join and not legally binding
D. no- it is not legally binding and there is no requirement to publish any progress reports
Answer: C
The correct answer is no- it is voluntary and not legally binding. The other potential answer (because we discount the
ones that start with yes) is incorrect because participants ARE required to publish reports to the UN Global Compact
website. Organisations that don't comply are expelled. P.187
Question: 35
What forms of organisation form the Ethical Trading Initiative? Select THREE
A. private businesses
B. public sector businesses
C. governments
E. Trade Unions
Answer: A,D,E
Private Businesses, NGOs and Trade Unions form the ETI. P.190
Question: 36
Which of the following are principles of the Wine and Agricultural Ethical Trade Association (WIETA)? Select
A. prohibition of forced labour
B. working hours shall not be excessive
C. regular employment to be provided
D. a working environment free from risk
E. automatic sick pay
Answer: A,B,C
1 2 and 3 are correct. WIETA comes up on p.192 of the study guide. This isn't an organisation I'm familiar with but I
did google it and it's a real organisation in South Africa. CIPS aren't going to expect you to know the 9 principles of
the WIETA but you should be able to guess what they are, as they're pretty much the same as the ILO, ETI and other
similar ethical associations. Option 4 is incorrect because no workplace is ever going to be free from risk.
Option 5 is incorrect because sick pay is decided at government level in each country rather than by ethical
Question: 37
SA8000 measures an organisation's social accountability.
Which of the following is a disadvantage to this?
A. it is industry specific
B. it is not recognised in some countries
C. it requires a management system which can be costly to implement
D. it is only applicable to larger organisations
Answer: C
3 is the correct response. It requires a management system to be in place- this is because the system produces ongoing
reports. SA8000 is not industry specific and is a global standard. P.195
Question: 38
The MNE (Multi-National Enterprise) Declaration is designed to promote the ability of multi-national organisations to
operate in an ethical and sustainable manner.
Which of the following would be prioritised by the Declaration? Select TWO
A. formal economies
B. informal economies
C. immigrant labour
D. host country labour
Answer: A,D
Formal economies and host country labour are prioritised by the MNE Declaration. More on this on p.197
Question: 39
Which of the following is a disadvantage to the ISO14001 standard?
A. it is different across different industries
B. environmental targets are not set by ISO
C. organisations are mandated to have an Environmental Policy
D. All companies use this for is greenwashing
Answer: B
The correct answer is 2- environmental targets aren't set by ISO, they're set by the organisation. This means that an
organisation can set super easy targets, and nothing actually really improves. 1 is incorrect- it's standard across every
industry. 3 is incorrect as this isn't a disadvantage. 4 is incorrect because not every company is greenwashing, some
genuinely care about the environment. P.209
Question: 40
Vincent is a Procurement Manager based at a manufacturing organisation in France. His company are considering
signing up to the EU's EMAS system (Eco-Management and Audit Scheme).
Which of the following are advantages of doing this? Select THREE
A. it focuses the organisation on improving environmental performance
B. it will increase profits
C. it allows the organisation to prove it complies with environmental legislation
D. it will benefit the company's reputation
E. there is no cost to set up
Answer: A,C,D
1 3 and 4 are correct. EMAS will not increase profits and there is usually a set-up cost involved. See p.211 for more
information on this. This bit of the study guide is quite interesting, it's worth practicing up on EMAS and ISO140001 as it
may be useful to your job as well as exams.

CIPS Procurement mission - BingNews Search results CIPS Procurement mission - BingNews Starbucks' latest Stanley cup collaboration causes mayhem at Target

An insulated tumbler with a cult-like following is causing chaos at a department store chain with an even bigger cult-like following.

On Jan. 3, Stanley, the company behind the viral, unbreakable, 40-ounce, double-wall, vacuum-insulated tumblers, released a collaboration with Starbucks, in a “Winter Pink” hue, sold exclusively at Target stores — and it caused long lines, overnight campouts and mayhem in stores.

"For the launch of Starbucks winter menu on January 3, Starbucks and Stanley collaborated on an exclusive, limited-edition, pink Starbucks x Stanley Quencher available in Starbucks stores at Target locations in the U.S,” a Starbucks representative tells, adding that this is the third release of a Stanley Quencher co-branded with the coffee chain.

Starbucks, which just debuted its winter menu and announced it would allow personal cups to be used for drive-thru and mobile orders, says that the 40-ounce, stainless steel, pink, vacuum-sealed Quencher can be purchased for $49.95 for a limited time, while supplies last. And by the looks of things, supplies did not last long.

“We are seeing an enthusiastic response to the Starbucks x Stanley Quencher and many stores have sold out,” says the Starbucks rep. “It will not be restocked.”

But Stanley fans knew that already, so they made it their mission to secure one — or two, or 10, depending on how many they were permitted to purchase.

“Come with me to get the Starbucks x Stanley cup,” reads the on-screen caption of a TikTok by @meaganfetchhappen, showing a very long line outside of a Target.

When the TikToker asks how many cups her store received in stock, a Target employee tells the her, “I’m not at liberty to tell you.” 

Other TikToks show long lines, with people waiting before dawn for their local Target to open. TikToker @ivey_huerta notes that this Stanley drop marks the “first time” she’s had to wait overnight for the product, showing off the cot-style camp bed she set up in the parking lot of her local Target.

“Pulling up to target to wait in line since 10pm the night before for the new Stanley,” wrote @ivey_huerta. “Store opens at 8am. It’s now 1:45am. Wish us luck.”

There have even been fights breaking out over the tumblers, according to videos posted on TikTok. One video from user @reyahthelastdrago documents a dispute between a man and a woman over alleged line-cutting. Another from TikToker @4rayah.sunshine shares footage of a man jumping over a counter and attempting to steal some Stanley cups before another customer tackles him to the ground. According to the user, the police were called.

And now, some of the Stanley cups that were scored today have already been listed on resale sites like Mercari, eBay and Poshmark for as much as $300.

Stanley did not respond to’s request for comment.

A Target representative confirmed that the Stanley cups have been extremely popular with the store’s customers.

In fact, mere days ago, on Dec. 31, a limited-edition Stanley Valentine’s Day collection launched at Target stores and on its website, offering Cosmo Pink and Target Red versions of Stanley’s iconic tumbler for $45. The cups were extremely popular, and Target quickly sold out of them, with no plans to restock.

The bumrush for the store’s Stanley supply was also documented on TikTok at the time. Some users reported long lines and posted photos of signs about purchasing limits from Target.

Given the popularity of these collabs, Target says it plans on dropping new Stanley items in its stores throughout 2024, including new colors, prints and brand crossovers.

At this point, it’s normal for a Stanley drop to lead to long lines, purchasing limits and high resale prices. This past November, Starbucks released a holiday red Stanley Quencher, which led to similar mayhem. Some customers camped out, pitching tents in Starbucks parking lots, in the hopes of securing one, while employees complained about customers “harassing” them and “cussing” them out.

This story first appeared on More from TODAY:

Wed, 03 Jan 2024 23:52:00 -0600 en-US text/html
Covid costs push government borrowing to highest since WW2

The cost of measures to support the economy during the coronavirus pandemic has pushed government borrowing to the highest level since the end of World War Two.

Government borrowing - the difference between spending and tax income - hit £303.1bn in the year to March, the Office for National Statistics said.

Compared to the previous year, borrowing is nearly £250bn higher.

Measures such as furlough payments have hit government finances hard.

Borrowing hit £28bn in March alone - a record high for that month.

Despite the record figure, Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, told the BBC's Today programme the annual borrowing figure was "slightly better than expected a month ago".

But, he added: "The big story in a sense is they [the borrowing figures] are £250bn more than a year ago.

"And that, of course, is because of to some extent the recession of the last year but mostly because of the huge amount of additional government spending to support the economy over the last year."

Government borrowing of £303bn is at the same time, an extraordinary record, but also something a relief.

For starters it is not £400bn, as anticipated only a few months ago, though this number will go up when some Covid support loans fail to be repaid.

But its cause has been primarily an active government decision to spend more to support incomes during the pandemic. Of the £250bn difference in borrowing between this year and last, over £200bn comes from extra spending, the rest on a reduction in taxes.

In the latest reported month, March, taxes were barely down on last year. Whereas VAT, fuel duty and business rates were down, self assessment, PAYE, stamp duty and capital gains taxes were up.

That is part of a wider trend of the economy riding the second lockdown much more effectively than the first. It is epitomised by this morning's separate retail sales figures showing a boost even ahead of the physical reopening of shops.

The ONS suggested Britons wanted to look good and deck out their gardens ahead of some restrictions being lifted. Others, less charitable, suggested lockdown excess meant our clothes no longer fit.

The chancellor's slimming regime for the public finances is a gentle one. Borrowing is predicted to continue at high levels this year, as jobs support continues until the autumn, and massive tax cuts are meant to persuade companies to invest in plant and machinery.

It is a rebound in growth that will most effectively shrink these record borrowing numbers. That is why amid the sea of red ink, there is some reason for relief.

Measures to support individuals and businesses during the pandemic contributed to a £203.2bn, or 27.5%, increase in central government day-to-day spending in the year to March, the ONS said.

Meanwhile, tax and National Insurance receipts fell by £34.9bn, down 5% compared with the previous 12 months.

The ONS also said public borrowing as a percentage of GDP, or national output rose, to 14.5% - also the highest since the end of the second world war when it reached 15.2% in 1946.

The huge amount of borrowing over the past year has now pushed public sector net debt up to £2.142 trillion, which is 97.7% of GDP - a rate not seen since the early 1960s.

Michal Stelmach, senior economist at KPMG, said: "Rising debt is largely an unfortunate consequence of the government's focus on shielding the economy as much as possible from the impact of Covid-19.

"However, doing otherwise could have created long-lasting scars which would be far worse for fiscal sustainability."

Despite the record annual figure, the ONS said it was £24.3bn lower than the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the fiscal watchdog, had forecast in March.

Ruth Gregory at Capital Economics said: "If we are right in thinking the economic recovery will be faster and fuller than the OBR anticipates, borrowing will probably fall more quickly than most expect."

Separate research published on Friday added to hopes of a swift rebound for the economy, as it suggested that the easing of lockdown measures this month has triggered a surge in activity among UK businesses.

A closely watched survey, produced by IHS Markit/CIPS, indicated that the looser pandemic restrictions had led to the fastest UK private sector growth since late 2013.

The IHS Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) rose to 60 in April, according to initial findings, up from 56.4 in March. Any figure above 50 indicates expansion.

The service sector grew faster than manufacturing for the first time since the Covid pandemic began, the survey found, largely because of the reopening of non-essential shops in England and Wales from mid-April.

"Companies are reporting a surge in demand for both goods and services as the economy opens up from lockdowns and the encouraging vaccine rollout adds to a brighter outlook," said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit.

"Business activity should continue to grow strongly in May and June as virus restrictions are eased further, setting the scene for a bumper second quarter for the economy.

"There's also good news for the job market," he added. "Firms have been encouraged to take on extra staff at a rate not seen for over three-and-a-half years.

"There are some causes for concern, however, as export performance remains relatively lacklustre, often linked to post-Brexit trading conditions, and prices continue to rise sharply."

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Thu, 22 Apr 2021 21:31:00 -0500 text/html Shopping trips set to fuel economic rebound

Britain is set for a "sharp snap back" in spending by shoppers as restrictions ease, according to experts at Deloitte.

The firm found "going to a shop" topped the list of leisure activities people are most likely to do after lockdown.

Separate research suggested that the UK's economy will grow at its fastest rate on record this year, helped by the rebound in consumer spending.

The EY Item Club said the economy had "proven to be more resilient than seemed possible".

The forecasting body has upgraded its 2021 growth forecast from 5% to 6.8%, which would mark the fastest rate seen since Office for National Statistics (ONS) records began.

The UK's GDP, which measures all the activity of companies, governments and individuals in the economy, shrank by a record 9.9% last year as coronavirus restrictions hit output, according to the ONS.

But EY expects that the UK economy will return to its pre-pandemic size in the second quarter of 2022 - three months earlier than previously forecast.

Deloitte's research also suggested that the UK could be on track for a faster economic rebound than previously thought.

Consumer confidence increased at the fastest rate in a decade in the first three months of 2021, according to its survey of 3,000 adults between 19 and 22 March.

The survey found that six out of 10 people said they planned to return to the shops within a month of restrictions lifting.

Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte, said: "The UK is primed for a sharp snap back in consumer activity.

"High levels of saving, the successful vaccination rollout and the easing of the lockdown set the stage for a surge in spending over the coming months."

The economists at EY's Item Club also revised down their unemployment forecasts. The rate is now expected to reach 5.8% towards the end of this year, down from the 7% predicted in January.

EY's chief economic adviser, Howard Archer, said that the latest forecast suggested the economy would "emerge from the pandemic with much less long-term 'scarring' than was originally envisaged and looks set for a strong recovery over the rest of the year and beyond".

He added : "While restrictions have caused disruption, lessons learned over the last 12 months have helped minimise the economic impact."

Shopper in Liverpool: "It means life has come back to normal again"

In England and Wales, non-essential retail was allowed to reopen on 12 April.

Shops in Scotland will be allowed to reopen fully from Monday, while Northern Ireland is due to see non-essential retail reopen on 30 April.

Separate research published last Friday suggested that the latest easing of lockdown measures had triggered a surge in activity among UK firms.

A closely watched survey, produced by IHS Markit/CIPS, indicated that the looser restrictions had led to the fastest UK private sector growth since late 2013.

The IHS Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) rose to 60 in April, according to initial findings, up from 56.4 in March. Any figure above 50 indicates expansion.

The service sector grew faster than manufacturing for the first time since the Covid crisis began, the survey found, largely down to the reopening of non-essential shops seen in April.

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In case of conflict between these Beta Terms and the BBC Terms of Use these Beta Terms shall prevail.

Tue, 27 Apr 2021 06:49:00 -0500 text/html ALEX BRUMMER: Savings need a tax break
  • Autumn statement did little for savers and entrepreneurs
  • Chancellor could re-ignite City by reversing changes in capital gains tax break 
  • Jeremy Hunt should remember damage done to investment by Labour in 1997

Under pressure: Chancellor Jeremy Hunt

Killjoys at the Bank of England are in danger of smothering the optimism of consumers and business about UK prospects.

One fully understands that the interest rate setting Monetary Policy Committee wants to banish the lurgy of inflation. But it would be a dreadful shame if Britain is plunged into unnecessary recession.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt began the process of lightening the tax burden in last month's autumn statement.

The benefit of the two-point cut in national insurance contributions will be seen in January payslips when it is most needed after the seasonal splurge.

Business hopefully will be ramping up investment plans given the decision to make 'full expensing' of new plant and equipment permanent, allowing it to be written off against tax.

Tories find themselves in a bad place on small boats and Rwanda, and caught in the headlights when it comes to making the most of their tax changes and the better picture emerging from surveys.

The latest S&P/CIPS purchasing managers index shows services firms are regaining confidence. Despite the best efforts of governor Andrew Bailey and his less than merry gentleman (and ladies), the UK should swerve recession. Powered by services, the overall index is at its highest level for six months and in positive territory. There are also signs that the cost of services, although still high, is on the way down.

Contrary to much conventional wisdom, consumers are feeling better about life. Confidence rose for the second month in a row in December, auguring well for nervous retailers, according to researchers at GfK.

Fears about the impact of borrowing costs on the housing market and spending are dissipating. Mortgage brokers from around the country are reporting strong enquiry numbers in November and December.

The Chancellor could do much more to boost output. As helpful as the autumn statement may prove, it did little for savers and entrepreneurs. Rather than waiting for pension fund reform, he could help reignite the City by reversing baked-in-the-cake changes in the capital gains tax break. It is scheduled to shrink to just £3,000 in April 2024 from £12,000 two years ago.

Similarly, he needs to look again at the reduction in the tax relief for dividends. Somebody should remind Hunt of the damage done to pension funds and investment in UK stocks by Labour's removal of tax breaks on dividends way back in 1997. It is time to shed pessimism about the cost of living and growth and get behind policies which can pull the nation out of despond.

Sanctions pain

Sanctions as a weapon of war are a slow burn, but can do real damage. President Putin used a rare press conference this week to reiterate determination to prosecute his reconquest of Ukraine. He has been emboldened by stalemate over future military and economic assistance to Kyiv in Washington and Brussels.

But it is comforting that not all is going well for the Kremlin. Russia's central bank has just hiked interest rates by a full percentage point to 16 per cent. In spite of diverting energy exports to India and China, Moscow faces surging inflation, labour shortages, high borrowing and a weak rouble. Rates have been raised by 8.5 percentage points since July.

After a latest trip to the Middle East, David Cameron is tightening the sanctions screws on Iran over its support for terror.

The Government has taken powers to target Iran's decision makers, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, Quds Force and individuals linked to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Enforcement has been complicated by crypto-currencies – a gift to terror groups.

The latest sanctions include an assets freeze preventing any UK citizens or firms from doing business with named groups or individuals including Mahmoud Zahar, the Gaza-based leader and co-founder of Hamas. The noose is tightening.

Soft touch

Another woolly review on NatWest from lawyers Travers Smith. It acknowledges that regulations were breached when the accounts of Nigel Farage and others were shut, but the law wasn't broken.

Accounts were closed because a customer was deemed 'inconsistent', though decisions taken were said to be not political but clashed with Coutts' 'corporate purpose'.

Coutts showed overt wokery, accusing Farage of having 'xenophobic, chauvinistic and racist views'. That is pretty political.

Fri, 15 Dec 2023 07:54:00 -0600 text/html
Rebound in UK growth opens gulf with Europe No result found, try new keyword!All eyes turn to next week when inflation data is released. The S&P Global CIPS Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) – which covers the manufacturing and services sectors – rose to 51.7 this month ... Thu, 14 Dec 2023 10:00:00 -0600 en-us text/html UK house prices to ‘fall up to 4%’ in 2024; business activity picks up in December – as it happened

UK business growth rises to six-month high – PMI

The UK has fared better.

Business output growth edged up to a six-month high in December, led by a faster recovery in the service economy while factories continued to cut back production, according to the latest flash estimate from the S&P Global / CIPS purchasing managers’ index (PMI) survey. It said:

UK private sector output expanded for the second month running in December, which continued a modest recovery from the downturn seen during the three months to October. Higher levels of business activity were supported by a renewed improvement in order books, alongside efforts to work through post-pandemic backlogs.

The main index rose to 51.7 in December, from 50.7 in November, the highest since June and pointing to a faster expansion.

  • Flash UK PMI Composite Output Index at 51.7 (Nov: 50.7). 6-month high

  • Flash UK Services PMI Business Activity Index at 52.7 (Nov: 50.9). 6-month high

  • Flash UK Manufacturing Output Index at 45.9 (Nov: 49.2). 2-month low

  • Flash UK Manufacturing PMI at 46.4 (Nov: 47.2). 2-month low

Independent economist Julian Jessop tweeted:

Key events

Closing summary

UK house prices will fall by up to 4% next year as high interest rates continue to affect mortgage affordability and sales completions, according to Halifax.

Britain’s biggest mortgage lender said the price of an average UK property would fall by between 2% and 4% but it expected a part-recovery in the market as interest and mortgage rates eased next year.

“Overall, with the combination of cost of living pressures and interest rate levels that are still much higher than even two years ago, we will likely see continued mild downward pressure on house prices,” said Kim Kinnaird, the director of Halifax Mortgages.

A separate forecast by Nationwide was slightly more upbeat about prospects for 2024. The UK’s biggest building society said it expected UK house prices to similarly suffer a “low single digit decline” but added that they could remain “broadly flat”.

Business output growth edged up to a six-month high in December, led by a faster recovery in the service economy while factories continued to cut back production, according to the latest flash estimate from the S&P Global / CIPS purchasing managers’ index (PMI) survey. This means the UK probably avoided recession, at least for now, economists said, despite a 0.3% contraction in GDP in October, according to official figures.

The eurozone is headed for recession, as the downturn in business activity deepened, according to a sister survey.

Thames Water’s parent company has been hit by a second downgrade to its credit rating in six months, with Moody’s warning of “materially” increased risks that regulators will block the flow of dividends.

An independent review has found no evidence that NatWest Group’s private bank Coutts has been closing customer accounts due to their political views, but found it may have breached rules by failing to deliver due notice or explain why they were being shut.

The energy watchdog has set out plans that would result in households paying an extra £16 on top of their energy bills to help suppliers recover almost £3bn in bad debts from customers struggling to pay bills.

Almost 200 homes in London have been sold for £10m in the past year as the super-rich’s pandemic-inspired desire for a place in the country wanes compared to their wish for swish bolt-holes in the capital.

Pearson’s biggest shareholder has said it should be relisted in the US, arguing that leaving London would be better for shareholders as most of the education publisher’s business and rivals are based in North America.

Thank you for practicing folks. We’ll be back next week. – JK

Chris Williamson, chief business economist at S&P Global Market Intelligence said:

The early PMI data indicate that the US economy picked up a little momentum in December, closing off the year with the fastest growth recorded since July.

Looser financial conditions have helped boost demand, business activity and employment in the service sector, and have also helped lift future output expectations higher. However, the increased cost of living and cautious approach to spending by households and businesses means the overall rate of service sector growth remains far short of that witnessed during the travel and leisure revival back in the spring and summer.

Manufacturing meanwhile remains a drag on the economy, with an increased rate of order book decline prompting factories to reduce production, cut back on headcounts and scale back their input buying. “Despite the December upturn, the survey therefore signals only weak GDP growth in the fourth quarter.

Business activity growth ticks higher in December

Business activity growth ticked up in December, rising at the fastest pace for five months.

This was supported by the sharpest increase in new orders since July. However, rates of expansion remained historically subdued. Growth was driven by the service sector, while manufacturers suffered a further downturn in new orders and a renewed drop in production.

Meanwhile, cost pressures gained momentum as input prices rose at the fastest pace since September. Although firms continued to pass higher costs on to customers, and at a strong rate, the overall pace of prices charged inflation softened from November.

  • Flash US PMI Composite Output Index at 51.0 (November: 50.7). 5-month high

  • Flash US Services Business Activity Index at 51.3 (November: 50.8). 5-month high

  • Flash US Manufacturing Output Index(4) at 49.0 (November: 50.5). 4-month low

  • Flash US Manufacturing PMI (3) at 48.2 (November: 49.4). 4-month low

Also in the US, manufacturing output rebounded 0.3% in November but Paul Ashworth, chief North America economist at Capital Economics, said this was, in reality, a disappointment, because it included a 7.1% rebound in motor vehicle output, after the UAW union ended its strike at the big three automakers. Excluding motor vehicles, output fell by 0.2% month on month.

That 7.1% monthly rebound last month didn’t quite fully reverse the 9.9% decline in October, so there is a bit more upside to come in December.

The manufacturing sector has been in a slump for some time now, with output down by 0.8% over the past 12 months. Moreover, that decline would have been even bigger if not for the 2.4% increase in motor vehicle output, as the impact of earlier supply shortages eased. That weakness in the factory sector obviously hasn’t held back the economy much, however, with real GDP growth of 3% over the same 12-month period.

That’s because the manufacturing weakness partly reflects a post-pandemic shift back to services spending and away from goods. Moreover, there are some bright spots in manufacturing, particularly the hi-tech sectors, where output increased by 1.7% month on month in November and is up by 14.4% year on year.

Aside from manufacturing, utilities output fell by 0.4% month on month and mining output increased by 0.3%. It’s remarkable that crude oil output is surging without any meaningful rise in drilling activity. Overall industrial production increased by 0.2% month on month.

Fed official says talk of imminent rate cut 'premature’

A top US Federal Reserve official has sought to dampen expectations of imminent interest rate cuts as “premature”.

John Williams, president of the Fed’s New York branch and a member of the rate-setting federal open market committee, spoke a couple of days after the bank signalled strongly that the debate was shifting towards cutting rates, sparking a rally in US stocks and bonds that also boosted other markets.

Williams said in an interview with CNBC:

We aren’t really talking about rate cuts right now.

We’re very focused on the question in front of us, which as chair [Jerome] Powell said... is, have we gotten monetary policy to sufficiently restrictive stance in order to ensure the inflation comes back down to 2%? That’s the question in front of us.

The Dow Jones Industrial average jumped to a record high and the 10-year Treasury bond yield fell below 4.3% after the Fed on Wednesday forecast three rate cuts next year, which traders interpreted as a sign that the central bank is changing its tough stance and will start cutting rates sooner than expected next year.

BOE's Ramsden tells banks to keep testing failure procedures

More comments from Bank of England deputy governor Dave Ramsden, who is in charge of markets and banking. He told an event hosted by the accountancy firm Deloitte that Britain’s banks should keep testing their failure procedures and never assume they are ‘too big to fail’, following the collapse of Credit Suisse and Silicon Valley Bank.

After taxpayers had to bail out lenders during the 2007-9 global financial crisis, regulators introduced rules to “resolve” a failing lender without causing market mayhem.

However, during the Swiss authorities’ rescue takeover of Credit Suisse by bigger bank UBS public funds were used, raising doubts about the global resolution framework.

The banking crisis in March also prompted the Bank of England and Treasury to engineer a takeover of Silicon Valley Bank’s UK subsidiary by HSBC.

Ramsden said:

We have done a lot to overcome the problem of ‘too big to fail,’ but it’s really important to stress that this isn’t a done-and-done thing. You need to keep testing that conclusion.

That banking crisis showed the need to Excellerate regulators’ “toolkit” for smaller bank failures, and to enhance the readiness to “bail in” banks using their own resources.

The Bank will publish an update next summer on how it would close down a big UK bank without disruption to customers.

Scottish ministers face £1.5bn black hole

In Scotland, ministers are facing a £1.5bn black hole before next week’s draft budget, as a combination of surging inflation and expensive public sector pay deals put extreme pressure on government spending.

The independent Fraser of Allander Institute describes the situation facing the finance minister, Shona Robison, as “one of the most challenging fiscal backdrops in the history of Scottish devolution” in its annual budget report.

But the institute, part of the University of Strathclyde, warns that plans to create a new higher band of income tax are “nowhere near enough” to balance the books.

With severe cuts anticipated across the public sector to protect frontline areas such as health and social security, Robison, who is also deputy first minister, has already warned there is “no doubt” that staffing for public services will have to be reduced.

Scotland's deputy First Minister Shona Robison speaking during First Minster's Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh. Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA

Here’s our full story on the NatWest review:

An independent review has found no evidence that NatWest Group’s private bank Coutts has been closing customer accounts due to their political views, but found it may have breached rules by failing to deliver due notice or explain why they were being shut.

A report compiled by external lawyers, hired by NatWest after a dispute with the former Ukip leader Nigel Farage, said their team “found no evidence of discrimination in any of the exit cases, including no evidence of a customer’s account being escalated for exit, or ultimately being exited, due to their political views or party-political affiliations, or any other protected characteristic”.

However, it said Coutts may have breached City regulations by failing to deliver 60 days’ notice before closing accounts, and by failing to tell clients why they were being ousted.

The law firm Travers Smith also urged the lender to create more formal rules and procedures for cases where accounts are closed for reasons other than financial crime. That includes commercial decisions, where maintaining an account is actually loss-making for the lender.

The report is the last expected from the Travers Smith review. The review was launched in July after Farage started a campaign against Coutts – which caters to the very wealthy – for threatening to close his accounts without explanation. The scandal snowballed after Farage obtained internal documents showing that Coutts was concerned about his alleged “xenophobic, chauvinistic and racist views”.

The report released on Friday said lawyers did identify two cases where NatWest closed the accounts of customers who it believed were unaligned with its “purpose” – which includes promoting diversity and addressing the climate crisis. However, Travers Smith said there were other factors at play in those cases, including the fact that they were too costly to manage, or posed a reputational risk for the bank, and both were ultimately escalated to the bank’s reputational risk committee.

Thames Water owner hit by second credit rating downgrade in six months

Thames Water’s parent company has been hit by a second downgrade to its credit rating in six months, with Moody’s warning of “materially” increased risks that regulators will block the flow of dividends.

The watchdog Ofwat is considering whether to investigate Thames for a potential breach of its licence when it paid a £37.5m dividend in October, as revealed by the Guardian last week. The cash was paid from the core operating company that serves 16 million customers across London and the Thames Valley to a holding company.

The market price of a £400m bond issued by Thames Water (Kemble) Finance, one of the key financing entities that sits above the regulated water company, hit an all-time low of less than 50p in the pound after Moody’s unpublicised downgrade on Wednesday. The dividend was part-used to service its debt obligations.

The move comes in a week in which Thames appointed a new chief executive but its chair revealed he was speaking “two or three times a week” to shareholders to “jolly them along” before their crunch decision next year on whether to inject more equity to prop up a group with overall debts of £16bn.

The regulator introduced a new licence condition in May that places stricter restrictions on dividend payments if a company is failing customers or the environment, or if its financial resilience could be harmed. Thames is among the worst-performing major water companies and also one of the most indebted, with borrowings of almost 80% of the value of its assets versus a regulatory norm of 60%.

Ofwat’s demand for information from Thames on the dividend prompted the Moody’s review, even though the Kemble company’s rating was cut from B1 to B2 as recently as July. The new rating is B3, a lower level of junk.

The agency wrote: “Because of the further tightened regulatory scrutiny of Thames Water’s distributions, Moody’s believes that the uncertainty around the operating company’s ability to make necessary distributions has increased materially.”

Back to the UK PMI, which showed an improvement at UK service sector firms, while manufacturing remained in decline. The headline index, measuring activity across all businesses, improved to 51.7 this month from 50.7 in November.

Martin Beck, chief economic advisor to the EY ITEM Club forecasting group, said:

December’s balance was still well down on the long-run average of 53.6. There was a divergence in prospects at a sectoral level – while services activity continued to recover, manufacturing output fell more significantly than in November. The detail of the survey was equally patchy, with a modest improvement in orders in the services sector, but employment falling in both sectors.

The scope for subsequent revisions is probably greater than normal this month. With the Christmas holidays fast approaching, S&P Global/CIPS published the flash PMIs for December a week earlier than in most other months, with the survey period running for just six working days from December 6-13. In contrast, November’s flash survey was open for nine working days.

The strength of these results adds to the likelihood that this week’s downside surprise for GDP in October will prove to be a blip in what is a very noisy series. Still, with more strikes likely to weigh on activity in December, it’s hard to see GDP being much better than flat in Q4 as a whole.

With fiscal policy settings tight and the lagged impact of monetary tightening continuing to emerge, the early part of 2024 will be equally challenging. But with the effects of inflation continuing to fade, and the Bank of England expected to start cutting interest rates before the middle of next year, the EY Item Club expects UK economic prospects to Excellerate in the latter part of 2024.

Pearson's biggest investor says it should re-list in the US

Pearson’s biggest shareholder has said that it should re-list in the US, arguing that leaving London would be better for shareholders as most of the education publisher’s business and rivals are based in North America.

The founder of Cevian Capital, Europe’s largest activist investor, said that joining the increasing number of London-listed companies moving out of the FTSE would be an “easy and effortless way” to increase the value of Pearson which has seen its market value flatline this year.

“Pearson is a US company with the majority of sales and executives there,” said Christer Gardell, managing partner of the Stockholm-based investor, in an interview with Bloomberg. “It is only due to historical reasons it is still listed in the UK.”

Pearson makes almost two-thirds of its £3.8bn annual revenues in North America.

Cevian, which successfully helped pressure building materials group CRH, one of the biggest companies on the FTSE 100, to move its primary listing to the US, after the UK-based plumbing equipment supplier Ferguson did the same last year.

Last week, Europe’s biggest package holiday operator, Tui, said it was considering moving its stock exchange listing from the FTSE 250 to solely Frankfurt.

Earlier this month, betting firm Flutter, formerly known as Paddy Power Betfair, said it is pursuing a secondary listing in the US, but will keep its premium listing in London.

H&M sales fall 4% in latest quarter

Sales at H&M have fallen, reflecting a slowdown in consumer spending and the impact of store closures in Russia.

Sales dropped 4% year-on-year between September and November, which was worse than expected. This piles pressure on the Swedish clothing retailer to ramp up discounts to clear stock, as it tackles the biggest buildup in unsold garments for more than seven years.

Excluding Russia and Belarus, sales declined by 1%. Last year, sales were boosted by a temporary reopening in Russia before H&M shut its shops there.

In late September, it said sales were down 10% that month and blamed the steep decline on an unusually warm start to autumn in Europe, even though its arch rival Inditex, the owner of Zara, did much better.

The Swedish company, which also owns the Weekday and Monki brands, and the more upmarket chains & Other Stories and Arket, is the world’s second largest fashion retailer with more than 4,000 stores, behind Spain’s Inditex, which owns Bershka, Massimo Dutti and Pull&Bear.

Inditex has fared better. On Wednesday, it reported a 15% rise for the nine months through October, and a 14% rise for the following six weeks.

H&M flagship store on the corner of Oxford Street and Regent Street. Photograph: Mike Kemp/In Pictures/Getty Images

Another tweet from economist Chris Williamson:

Fri, 15 Dec 2023 01:28:00 -0600 en text/html
U.K. Construction Purchasing Managers Index (PMI)

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