1 Rising retails sales raise Eurozone hopes (BBC) Eurozone retail sales rose for a fourth consecutive month in January, indicating the zone’s economy may be picking up. Retail sales rose 1.1% from December and by 3.7% compared with the previous January, the European Union statistics agency Eurostat said. It is the biggest monthly increase since May 2013 and marks the highest annual increase since August 2005.
Spending on fuel was the biggest driver of the increase. However, there were sharp disparities between individual countries, with strong increases in monthly sales in Germany and Portugal offsetting weaker performances in countries such as France where monthly sales rose just 0.1%.
Consumer spending is a key element of economic growth, which has been held back in the eurozone by a mixture of high unemployment and economic uncertainty. “This reinforces our belief that eurozone growth will pick up markedly to 1.6% in 2015 as it benefits appreciably from very low oil prices, a much more competitive euro and substantial ECB stimulus,” said Howard Archer, chief European economist at IHS Global Insight.
2 Euro tumbles to lowest in 11 years (Straits Times) The euro wallowed at its lowest in over 11 years against the greenback on Thursday, having suffered a big setback as investors waited for the European Central Bank to announce more details of its massive bond-buying programme.
The euro zone common currency fell as far as $1.1061, a low not seen since September 2003, surpassing the previous trough of $1.1098 set on Jan 26. It also slid to a one-month low of 132.40 yen and came within a whisker of a seven-year trough against sterling. The euro last traded at 72.56 pence.
“There was little fundamental news to explain the weakness in the euro over the past 24 hours, but downward pressure remains and the break of some key technical support areas has provoked further selling,” said Mr Brian Martin, strategist at ANZ.
2 World’s super-rich swell to 173,000 (Julia Kollewe in The Guardian) The world’s super-rich continued their seemingly unstoppable rise last year with the number of people worth $30m (£19.7m) or more expanding to 172,850. Between them they control nearly $22tn in assets – more than the national output of the US and Germany combined.
Almost 5,300 people joined the ranks of so-called ultra high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs), adding $7bn to the wealth of the global elite. Their numbers are forecast to swell by another third over the next decade to 230,000, according to the latest wealth report from upmarket estate agents Knight Frank.
The swelling of UHNWIs promises increasing competition among buyers for vineyards, ski chalets and riding stables. Asia’s wealthiest are keen buyers of wine estates, those from Africa and the Middle East favour equestrian properties while Europe and North America’s super-rich stick to second homes in the Alps or the Rockies.
London has been home to more of the ultra-rich than any other city for the past three years (4,364 in 2014), with New York in second place. London should still be in the top spot 10 years from now, Knight Frank said, but Singapore will be snapping at its heels, with 54% growth in its wealth brigade over that period, against a 21% rise in the UK capital.
But the country with the fastest growing class of ultra-rich is forecast to be Vietnam, which since the 1980s has been moving from a planned to a market economy and where agriculture still accounts for 19% of national output. Mineral rich Kazakhstan, which has struggled with a reputation for corruption, is another country to watch with the numbers predicted to rise 114% – that far outstrips the 46% rise expected in neighbouring Russia, partly because many wealthy Russians are based overseas.