Anxiety drags down markets; Syria’s 11.5% killed or injured; Oil rebound unlikely in near future

1 Anxiety drags down markets (BBC) London’s top shares have fallen nearly 3%, while other European markets have seen even bigger falls, amid anxiety about the health of the global economy. In morning trading, the FTSE 100 index fell 165.16 points to 5,507.14. At the same time, share indexes in Frankfurt and Paris were down 3.2% and 3.9% respectively.

Analysts said US Federal Reserve boss Janet Yellen’s gloomy economic assessment on Wednesday had added to investors’ worries. In testimony to Congress, Ms Yellen said financial conditions in the US had become “less supportive” of growth and warned of the “increased volatility” in global financial markets.

On the FTSE 100, the biggest losers were a mix of banks, mining firms and energy stocks.

Mining giant Rio Tinto fell 4.7% after it revealed that it had made an annual loss of £596m. On the commodities markets, Brent crude was down 1.6% to $30.36, while US light crude fell 2.8% to $26.67.

2 Syria’s 11.5% killed or injured (Ian Black in The Guardian) Syria’s national wealth, infrastructure and institutions have been “almost obliterated” by the “catastrophic impact” of nearly five years of conflict, a new report has found.

Fatalities caused by war, directly and indirectly, amount to 470,000, according to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research (SCPR) – a far higher total than the figure of 250,000 used by the United Nations until it stopped collecting statistics 18 months ago.

In all, 11.5% of the country’s population have been killed or injured since the crisis erupted in March 2011, the report estimates. The number of wounded is put at 1.9 million. Life expectancy has dropped from 70 in 2010 to 55.4 in 2015. Overall economic losses are estimated at $255bn (£175bn).

The stark account of the war’s toll came as warnings multiplied about Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, which is in danger of being cut off by a government advance aided by Russian airstrikes and Iranian militiamen. The Syrian opposition is demanding urgent action to relieve the suffering of tens of thousands of civilians.

Of the 470,000 war dead counted by the SCPR, about 400,000 were directly due to violence, while the remaining 70,000 fell victim to lack of adequate health services, medicine, especially for chronic diseases, lack of food, clean water, sanitation and proper housing, especially for those displaced within conflict zones.

In statistical terms, Syria’s mortality rate increase from 4.4 per thousand in 2010 to 10.9 per thousand in 2015. The UN high commissioner for human rights – which manages conflict death tolls – stopped counting Syria’s dead in mid-2014, citing lack of access and diminishing confidence in data sources.

The shrinking of the population by 21% helps explain the waves of refugees reaching Turkey and Europe. In all, 45% of the population have been displaced, 6.36 million internally and more than 4 million abroad. Health, education and income standards have all deteriorated sharply. Poverty increased by 85% in 2015 alone.

3 Oil rebound unlikely in near future (Ian Bremmer in Straits Times) Oil prices are now down nearly 70 per cent from a high of $115 per barrel in 2014, and we must adjust to the reality that a strong rebound is unlikely for the foreseeable future.

Brent will probably climb back towards $45 a barrel this year as lower prices push some North American production offline, but only a bolt from the blue that cuts deeply into supply will boost the price much higher than that.

US production is slowing, but not as quickly or to the degree that many analysts expected, and new technologies ensure US production can be quickly ramped back up to take advantage of any price surge, limiting the lifespan of any major price recovery. In addition, the end of sanctions might well allow Iran to boost oil exports by one million barrels per day (bpd) by the end of this year. Iraq is producing more too. Despite its troubles, Libya will probably add 200,000 to 300,000 bpd in the spring.

Here’s the real bottom line: No government has an incentive to slow production in hopes of pushing the price higher. A Saudi cut is more likely to reduce Saudi market share than to boost prices, because others will step in to produce more. Russia, burdened with sanctions and in recession, has no reason to slow production. Iran has been waiting for years to sell more oil, and that’s exactly what it’ll do, even at the lower price.

Finally, at a moment when the world is chin deep in crude oil, demand growth is likely to slow from about 1.7 million bpd last year to 1.1 million to 1.2 million bpd this year. That’s mainly a result of the economic slowdown in China and other emerging market importers.

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Global banking fears hit shares; Oil glut threatens price recovery; India rupee free-fall to continue

1 Global banking fears hit shares (Jill Treanor in The Guardian) Growing anxiety about whether banks can withstand continued low interest rates and fears of a re-run of the 2008 financial crisis continued to stalk markets when shares fell to a three-year low and bank shares remained volatile.

As shares in Deutsche Bank plumbed new depths on Tuesday and the bank’s chief executive had to reassure its 100,000 staff that it was “rock solid”, concerns mounted about the health of the global banking sector. “Many are asking ‘crisis’ questions: ‘Is there risk of a financial crisis re-run’ and ‘can a large European bank face a liquidity event’?” said analysts at Goldman Sachs.

The Goldman analysts reckon the alarm bells are ringing too loudly. They recognise that market confidence is “fast deteriorating” but point to the €800bn (£625bn) of capital that European banks have raised since the 2008 crisis as evidence that the fears are overdone – together with the fact that customers are continuing to make deposits and there are no signs of strain in the crucial money markets.

The collapse in confidence in the banking sector since the start of the year has been dramatic. Shares in Deutsche Bank have slumped by almost 40%, UniCredit of Italy is down more than 40% while Credit Suisse is down 37%. The Europe-wide Stoxx 600 banking index is down 27%.

In the UK, Standard Chartered and Barclays bothfell more than 25% while Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley in the US were also caught up in the rout, down 17% and 25% respectively.

When the US banks reported their results last month, they barely met market expectations. Major European banks such as Deutsche and Credit Suisse have recorded their first losses since the 2008 crisis.

The last financial crisis was exacerbated by little-understood investment vehicles such as CDOs (collaterialised debt obligations), synthetic CDOs and monoline insurers. But this time the issues are more straightforward: they centre on concerns about economic growth and the impact of low oil prices. It is proving harder for banks to generate profits and is calling into question the business models of some banks – Deutsche and Barclays among them.

2 Oil glut threatens price recovery (BBC) A recent rise in oil prices is a “false dawn” and the oversupply of crude is set to worsen, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). The IEA expects oil stocks to grow by two million barrels a day in the first quarter and 1.5 million barrels a day in the following three months.

In January, Brent crude hit a 13-year low of $27.67. It recovered a bit, but on Tuesday was down 7.2% at $30.50. But that is still a long way from the $112 level reached in June 2014.

The IEA forecast that stock building could continue in the second half of 2016 at a rate of 300 million barrels a day. It said: “If these numbers prove to be accurate, and with the market already awash in oil, it is very hard to see how oil prices can rise significantly in the short term.”

Meanwhile demand for oil is expected to weaken. The IEA forecasts that demand growth will fall to 1.2 million barrels a day this year, from the 1.6 million barrels a day seen in 2015, the IEA said. The think tank also questioned whether the recent rise in prices was a “false dawn” and concluded that a number of conditions increased the risk of weak oil prices.

These included doubts that Opec, the oil cartel, was in talks with other oil producing nations to reduce supply. It also quashed speculation that Opec nations would cut output this year, stating that output from Iraq reached a new record in January. Iran has increased production ahead of sanctions being removed and preliminary data suggested that Saudi Arabia’s shipments had increased.

3 India rupee free-fall to continue (Abdul Basit in Khaleej Times) The free-fall of the Indian rupee against the US dollar is expected to continue for a couple of months for numerous reasons, according to an industry specialist. On Monday, the rupee closed at 67.93 versus a dollar while its exchange rate jumped from Rs17.96 on January 1 to Rs18.49 against the UAE dirham. The rupee opened this year at 66.17 against the greenback.

A weaker rupee will boost remittances in rupee terms from the UAE and other Gulf countries and at the same it will also help Indian exporters to remain competitive in international market where the greenback is strong against all currencies, UAE Exchange president Y. Sudhir Kumar Shetty said.

The global economic scenario is not good as large economies in Europe are not doing well in addition to China problem, Shetty said, adding that there is no point for a stronger Indian currency when other currencies are weak. He pointed out that it’s ideal if the rupee will remain weak, so Indian exporters will become competitive with other exporters in the international market.

Shetty explained that dollar strength was one of the causes of the rupee being very weak. Another reason is stock markets in India are going lower and lower so foreign investors have taken their money out of India resulting in strong demand for dollar, he added.

“None of the factors are helping the rupee to strengthen. It’s a fact that historically, the rupee gets weaker on average five per cent per annum. The trend will continue but it could be four per cent or three per cent.”

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What is holding back the world economy; Bad debt worries South Africa cities; How social media is transforming the fashion industry

1 What is holding back the world economy (Joseph Stiglitz in The Guardian) Seven years after the global financial crisis erupted in 2008, the world economy continued to stumble in 2015. According to the United Nations’ report World Economic Situation and Prospects 2016, the average growth rate in developed economies has declined by more than 54% since the crisis. An estimated 44 million people are unemployed in developed countries, about 12 million more than in 2007, while inflation has reached its lowest level since the crisis.

More worryingly, advanced countries’ growth rates have also become more volatile. This is surprising, because, as developed economies with fully open capital accounts, they should have benefited from the free flow of capital and international risk sharing – and thus experienced little macroeconomic volatility. Furthermore, social transfers, including unemployment benefits, should have allowed households to stabilise their consumption.

But the dominant policies during the post-crisis period – fiscal retrenchment and quantitative easing (QE) by major central banks – have offered little support to stimulate household consumption, investment, and growth. On the contrary, they have tended to make matters worse.

Neither monetary policy nor the financial sector is doing what it’s supposed to do. It appears that the flood of liquidity has disproportionately gone towards creating financial wealth and inflating asset bubbles, rather than strengthening the real economy. Despite sharp declines in equity prices worldwide, market capitalization as a share of world GDP remains high. The risk of another financial crisis cannot be ignored.

There are other policies that hold out the promise of restoring sustainable and inclusive growth. These begin with rewriting the rules of the market economy to ensure greater equality, more long-term thinking, and reining in the financial market with effective regulation and appropriate incentive structures.

But large increases in public investment in infrastructure, education, and technology will also be needed. These will have to be financed, at least in part, by the imposition of environmental taxes, including carbon taxes, and taxes on the monopoly and other rents that have become pervasive in the market economy – and contribute enormously to inequality and slow growth.

2 Bad debt worries South Africa cities (Shenaaz Jamal & Penwell Dlamini in Johannesburg Times) South Africa’s low economic growth is squeezing the life out of municipalities as ratepayers fail to pay for council services.

In Gauteng, which boasts higher job opportunities, the three metros have about R30-billion of irrecoverable debt. Although Ekurhuleni, Tshwane and Johannesburg got unqualified audit opinions, the a uditor-general expressed concern about the money he considers irrecoverable.

This is debt the cities are unlikely to recover and has been on the books for more than one year. A City of Johannesburg source said its irrecoverable debt is about R17-billion. Its capital budget for 2014-15 is R10.8-billion. For Ekurhuleni, which received a clean audit, the auditor-general identified R9.1-billion of irrecoverable debt. The metro’s budget is R3.9-billion. Tshwane had a capital budget of R4.1-billion and irrecoverable debt of R800-million.

SA Local Government Association’s Nhlanhla Ngidi said: “Once you alleviate the poverty levels in your supply area, a lot of people will be able to pay their bills. In a place where you have people who can afford to pay and choose not to, when you cut their energy, they find a way to [pay]. But, if you cut energy of a person who cannot afford to pay, they will connect illegally.”

3 How social media is transforming fashion industry (Katie Hope on BBC) When Brooklyn Beckham revealed on his Instagram feed that he would be photographing Burberry’s latest fragrance ad campaign, the outrage was palpable. Commentators rushed to criticise the fashion house’s choice of the 16-year-old son of David and Victoria Beckham for the shoot, instead of an established industry professional.

But Burberry boss Christopher Bailey suggested it might have been Brooklyn’s 5.9 million Instagram followers, rather than his parents, that got him the gig. This is the new reality: the choice of Brooklyn as photographer was less about how well-connected famous people can get their kids into competitive professions than a reflection of just how much social media has shaken up the fashion industry.

It’s now the number of followers on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter, rather than your experience necessarily, that can secure you a top job. The influence of social media has rapidly changed how models are chosen. Kendall Jenner, who shot to fame thanks to the Keeping Up with the Kardashians reality TV show, has been dubbed the “ultimate Instagirl” for her huge social media fan base: 48 million followers on Instagram and 15.3 million on Twitter.

Behind-the-scenes pictures and videos shared on its Instagram and Snapchat feeds of the Brooklyn shoot had some 15 million impressions in the eight hours the shoot was live. The fashion retailer has nearly 40 million followers across 20 different social media platforms and openly admits that it has become as much a media content producer as a design company.

Yet not all the big fashion houses have embraced social media due to concerns over the potential loss of control over their brand image. This may be a risky approach, however. Online sales in 2014 accounted for just 6% of the $250bn global market for luxury goods, but they’re growing at a much faster rate than shop sales, according to management consultancy McKinsey.

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China currency reserves plunge; US debt crosses $19trn; A quarter of North Sea oil platforms could be scrapped in 10 years

1 China currency reserves plunge (BBC) China’s foreign currency reserves plunged by $99.5bn in January, the People’s Bank of China reported. China has been running down its vast foreign currency reserves in an attempt to boost the value of its own currency and stem a flow of funds overseas.

At $3.23 trillion, China still has the world’s biggest reserve of foreign currency holdings. But that has declined by $420bn over six months and stands at the lowest level since May 2012. The Chinese authorities fear a rapid devaluation of their currency, as it could destabilise the economy.

Many Chinese businesses hold debt in dollars and managing those debts with a severely weakened yuan could cause problems and some companies to fail. So China has been trying to engineer an ordered devaluation of the yuan, but that is proving hard to deliver.

Investors have been trying to pull funds out of investments priced in yuan and speculators have been betting on further falls in the currency. To stabilise the situation China has been selling dollars and buying yuan.

Commenting on the decline, veteran economist, George Magnus noted that there is “confusion” over China’s foreign currency policy. “Clearly this can’t go on for long,” he tweeted, referring to the fall in currency reserves.

2 US debt crosses $19trn (Khaleej Times) The US is now officially a whopping $19 trillion in debt – that’s T for trillion which translates to nearly $19,000 billion. According to the latest figures released by the US Treasury Department, technically the US federal government is in debt, The Washington Times reported.

According to the report, President Obama took office in 2009 with $10.6 trillion, adding up to $8 trillion during his two terms – taking the national debt to $19 trillion at a ‘record pace’. The Congressional Budget Office has said that this is likely to increase further.

As of February 5, the total federal government debt stood at $19.01 trillion. Of this $13.7 trillion is debt held by the public and the rest is internal government borrowing, including the IOUs the government has left in the Social Security trust fund over the last three decades.

So how much is the US citizen in debt? According to a popular US national debt counter site, Debt per US citizen is $58,853 and debt per taxpayer is $158,836.

3 A quarter of North Sea oil platforms could be scrapped in 10 years (The Guardian) Almost 150 oil platforms in UK waters could be scrapped within the next 10 years, according to industry analysts.

Douglas Westwood, which carries out market research and consultancy work for the energy industry worldwide, said it anticipated that “146 platforms will be removed from the UK during 2019-2026”, around 25% of the current total.

The North Sea has been hit hard by plummeting oil prices, with the industry body Oil and Gas UK estimating 65,000 jobs have been lost in the sector since 2014. But Douglas Westwood said that decommissioning could provide an opportunity for the specialist firms involved in the work.

A paper on its website predicted that the “UK will dominate decommissioning expenditure”. This is due to the “high number of ageing platforms in the UK, which have an average age of over 20 years and are uneconomic at current commodity prices, as a result of high maintenance costs and the expensive production techniques required for mature fields”.

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Weak US job growth shows rate rise was a mistake; ArcelorMittal slumps to $8bn loss; Apple’s spaceship-like campus

1 Weak US job growth shows rate rise was a mistake (Larry Elliott in The Guardian) It is hard to imagine that the Federal Reserve would have raised interest rates in December had it known then what it knows now. News that employment growth as measured by the increase in non-farm payrolls was up by 151,000 is just the latest piece of evidence to suggest that the US economy is going through a tough period.

Growth in the fourth quarter was weak, sales of durable goods suggest that businesses are reluctant to invest, and consumers are saving rather than spending the windfall from lower oil prices. Even so, Janet Yellen, chairman of the Fed, is not going to hit the panic button and reverse December’s increase – at least not yet.

There are two reasons for that: a U-turn would be a considerable blow to the central bank’s reputation; and the Fed will want to see more evidence before it decides that the world’s biggest economy is heading for a recession rather than simply going through a temporary soft patch.

When the Fed raised rates in December, there was an assumption it would move for a second time in March. Two months of market turmoil and indifferent economic news means that is now completely out of the question. Employment is a lagging indicator of economic performance: it says more about what was happening a few months ago than it does about the present state of activity.

The Fed will sit tight and wait to see whether the strong jobs data in the last few months of 2015 was as good as it gets. If that is the case, the US is heading for a bumpy, perhaps even a hard, landing. And it will be time for Yellen to panic.

2 ArcelorMittal slumps to $8bn loss (BBC) ArcelorMittal has slumped to an annual loss of almost $8bn as the world’s biggest steelmaker was hit by plunging commodity prices. The net loss included $4.8bn of writedowns, mainly in its mining division, and $1.4bn of exceptional charges in its steel operations.

The loss was more than four times worse than the $1.86bn posted for 2014. The company plans to axe the dividend and cut costs in response. ArcelorMittal’s Amsterdam-listed shares have sunk more than 60% in the past 12 months.

Lakshmi Mittal, chairman and chief executive, said 2015 was a very difficult year for the steel and mining industries, with steel prices falling because of excess capacity in China. The crisis in the steel industry has hit the UK. Last month, Tata Steel said it was cutting more than 1,000 UK jobs. They came on top of the 1,200 jobs that went last October.

ArcelorMittal is also one of the world’s largest producers of iron ore and coal. Sales fell 20% to $63.6bn, largely because of sinking iron ore prices, even though steel shipments only fell slightly. It produced 92.5 million tonnes of crude steel last year and 62.8 million tonnes of iron ore.

The company aims to raise $3bn in new capital and sell a minority stake in automotive engineering company Gestamp to reduce its debt. The debt pile stood at $15.7bn, down $1.1bn, to the lowest level since the ArcelorMittal merger.

3 Apple’s spaceship-like campus (Emily Price in San Francisco Chronicle) It looks like Apple’s new Cupertino headquarters is getting closer to becoming a reality. A new video shows a bird’s eye view of the office building under construction, and it’s starting to look a lot more like a building (and a spaceship, but that’s neither here nor there).

The video, recorded by local videographer Duncan Sinfield using a drone, captures some of the first shots of the inside of the structure, including a look at the headquarter’s underground auditorium (with a circular space-like roof). The office space is truly massive, something that comes across in the filming.

Apple’s new headquarters is being built on a 176-acre site, which equates to it being essentially a 2.8 million-square-foot office building. Once completed, the space is expected to house close to 13,000 employees and include 300,000 square feet of research facilities, as well as underground parking.

Glass on each side of the ring will allow employees to look out from both sides. Solar panels will be used as backup power for the building, while it will get most of its power from the Cupertino power grid.

Originally Apple employees were expected to start moving into the structure last year. That move-in date has been adjusted to sometime in 2016. Employees are expected to move in to the main structure, while construction continues on other pieces of the building. The project is expected to cost Apple roughly $5 billion before it is completed.

New drone video shows progress on Apple’s spaceship-like campus

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UK interest rates to stay at record low; Indonesia growth slows for fifth year; Shell confirms 10,000 job losses

1 UK interest rates to stay at record low (Katie Allen in The Guardian) The prospect of a UK interest rate rise has receded further after the Bank of England cut its forecasts for growth, wages and inflation. However, the governor, Mark Carney, warned borrowers against getting too comfortable with rock-bottom rates.

Carney quashed recent market speculation that a global economic slowdown could prompt a rate cut. But at the same time, the Bank revealed that its policymakers had voted unanimously to hold borrowing costs this month and they gave little indication that there would be an early increase.

The Bank governor used his quarterly inflation report briefing to say that after almost seven years at a record low of 0.5%, interest rates were “more likely than not” to need to go up over the next two years. He also cautioned against repeating the mistakes of the past, when rate rises had come as a shock to indebted households and businesses.

After a tumultuous start to the year on financial markets thanks to jitters over China’s economic slowdown, the Bank predicted that emerging economies were likely to grow more slowly than in recent years and that global growth would be “only modest”.

2 Indonesia growth slows for fifth year (BBC) Growth in South East Asia’s largest economy, Indonesia, has come in at 4.76% for 2015, marking the fifth consecutive yearly decline. Weaker commodity prices and consumer spending, together with a slowdown in its key trading partner, China, has hurt growth.

Towards the end of last year, however, the economy expanded by just over 5%, boosted by government spending. President Joko Widodo had promised to lift annual growth to 7% on average. However, the country has seen an average of just under 6% growth over the past decade and analysts have said growth is unlikely to improve for some time.

Mr Widodo made his promise to raise growth when his five-year term began in 2014, but he has faced problems boosting government spending and has seen several large infrastructure projects delayed.

A $5.5bn high-speed railway project, funded by China, was signed last year and is scheduled to be up and running by 2019. But the project has faced widespread objections from transport experts and its long-term viability has been questioned.

Mr Widodo has also faced international condemnation for the country’s man-made forest fires, which have caused serious economic and environmental damage. In December, the World Bank said Indonesia’s forest fires last year had likely cost the country more than twice the amount spent on reconstruction efforts after the 2004 Aceh tsunami. In its quarterly report, the bank said the fires had cost some $15.72bn.

3 Shell confirms 10,000 job losses (Khaleej Times) Royal Dutch Shell on Thursday announced an 87-per cent plunge in annual net profits on slumping oil prices. The Anglo-Dutch group reported profit after tax of $1.94 billion for 2015, compared with almost $15 billion the previous year.

The slump had been expected after Shell announced two weeks ago that it foresaw annual profit of between $1.6 billion and $2.0 billion. The update comes as Shell is slashing thousands of jobs, selling assets worth billions of dollars and exiting projects as oil prices tumble on world markets. The company is meanwhile close to completing a mega-takeover of British rival BG Group.

“We are making substantial changes in the company, reorganising… and reducing costs and capital investment, as we refocus Shell, and respond to lower oil prices,” Royal Dutch Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden said in the earnings statement. “As we have previously indicated, this will include a reduction of some 10,000 staff and direct contractor positions in 2015-16 across both companies.”

The company is very near to finalising a $68-billion takeover of smaller British rival BG Group after the pair won shareholder backing and cleared regulatory hurdles. The deal is intended at strengthening Shell’s position in the liquefied natural gas market.

Oil companies have been downsizing staff and mothballing drilling rigs in response to a drop in oil prices from more than $100 a barrel in July 2014 to about $30 currently. On Tuesday, US energy giant ExxonMobil announced plans to slash its capital budget and suspend a share repurchase programme. The same day, British group BP posted its biggest loss in at least 20 years and announced plans to axe 3,000 jobs.

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Trans-Pacific Partnership deal signed; Lloyds Bank cutting 1,755 jobs; UAE seeks a minister under 25

1 Trans-Pacific Partnership deal signed (BBC) The Trans Pacific Partnership, one of the biggest multinational trade deals ever, has been signed by ministers from its 12 member nations in New Zealand. The ceremony in Auckland brings the huge trade pact, which has been five years in the making, another step towards to becoming a reality.

But the TPP continues to face opposition. The 12 nations account for some 40% of the world’s economy – they now have two years to ratify or reject the pact. The TPP involves the US, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru.

Those against the deal, particularly some Americans, fear it could mean jobs will move from the US to developing countries. However, US President Barack Obama said the agreement was a new type of trade deal “that puts American workers first”.

The trade deal looks to facilitate investment between 12 countries across the Pacific Rim, which together account for about 40% of the global economy. The US-led initiative is a key part of Mr Obama’s so-called pivot to Asia but has proved to be a controversial issue ahead of the US elections in November. US Trade Representative Michael Froman said the deal could add $100bn a year to US growth.

2 Lloyds Bank cutting 1,755 jobs (Jill Treanor & Sean Farrell in The Guardian) Lloyds Banking Group is cutting 1,755 jobs and closing 29 branches as part of a plan by its chief executive, António Horta-Osório, to cut costs as he prepares the bank for privatisation.

Staff at Britain’s biggest retail bank were told about the job losses, which cover large parts of the group, on Wednesday, but union officials said they hoped that the reductions could be achieved by voluntary means. The bank said it would add 170 new jobs in retail and commercial banking and in its legal team, taking the net figure for job losses to about 1,585.

Horta-Osório is continuing with the cost reduction programme even though the chancellor, George Osborne, has admitted that he cannot press on with a sale of the government’s remaining Lloyds shares to the public because of market turmoil, which has knocked the bank’s share price.

The posts that are being axed are part of the 9,000 job cuts announced by Horta-Osório in 2014, when he said that a need to “digitise” the business would also result in the closure of 200 branches. According to officials at the Accord union, which has 23,000 members, about 60% of those cuts have now been announced.

Lloyds, which operates under a number of brands, will close 19 Lloyds, seven Bank of Scotland and three Halifax branches in June. The bank employs about 77,000 people and has more than 2,000 branches.

3 UAE seeks minister below 25 years (Khaleej Times) Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has called for a young Emirati to represent the country’s youth as a cabinet minister. In a series of tweets, Shaikh Mohammed asked that universities nominate men and women under the age of 25 for the position.

“I would like to choose a young person under the age of 25 to represent our youth, their issues and ambitions as a UAE government minister,” he tweeted. Shaikh Mohammed noted that the large number of young people in the Arab World means that they deserve representation in the decision-making process.

“Our young country was built by the hands and achievements of youth. Youth is our strength and speed and is our treasure for the future,” he added. The decision quickly became a hot topic on social media, and rapidly topped the UAE’s ‘trending’ list.

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