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Consumption growth in China is likely to slow further this year, a commerce ministry official said on Tuesday, adding that slower growth last year was due to “periodic” weak car sales and housing-related spending.

However, retail sales this year would still be growing at a steady, relatively fast pace, Wang Bin, a commerce ministry official told reporters during a briefing.

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RBS earnings Q1 2019

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The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) reported a net profit of £707 million ($912.2 million) for its first quarter on Friday, down 11% from the £792 million posted over the same period last year.

The figures exceeded expectations of £546 million according to a company-provided average of analyst forecasts. However, RBS shares fell 5% Friday morning as the bank warned of upcoming challenges due to continued Brexit uncertainty.

The news comes following the announcement Thursday that CEO Ross McEwan will step down in 2020. The bank has now launched a global hunt for his successor, with RBS executive Alison Rose tipped as favorite for the job.

Here are the key figures:

  • Net profit dropped 11.3% to £707 million from £792 million in the first quarter of 2018, but exceeded a prediction of £546 million.
  • The group’s net interest margin decreased by six basis points to 1.89%.
  • Total revenue was £3 billion, with total operating costs coming to £1.9 billion.
  • The bank’s impairment losses totaled £86 million, up from £78 million in the same period last year.

In the earnings statement, RBS said the “ongoing impact of Brexit uncertainty on the economy, and associated delay in business borrowing decisions, is likely to make income growth more challenging in the near term.”

The bank has long warned of the possible impact of the U.K.’s departure from the European Union, along with a highly competitive mortgage market. In the third quarter of 2018, RBS set aside £100 million to deal with economic uncertainties, including the fallout from Brexit.

The figures come amid what is proving to be a difficult earnings season for the European banks, with fellow British giant Barclays reporting a 10% drop in profits Thursday.

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Moldova will build highways with China firms

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Moldova is set to sign infrastructure deals with two Chinese contractors, according to the country’s State Secretary at the Ministry of Economy and Infrastructure — marking the first time Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative has expanded into the eastern European country.

In an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Friday, Vitalie Iurcu said negotiations started several years ago, “and most probably this year, we should sign contracts” to build “almost 300 kilometers of roads in the Republic of Moldova.”

The Belt and Road is a massive infrastructure network involving roads, railways and ports that seek to connect China to more than 60 countries across three continents: Asia, Europe and Africa.

The two Chinese companies — which some reports say are China Hyway Group and China Railway Group — will finance the bulk of Moldova’s highway project. “85 percent will be financed by the Chinese partners, and 15 percent will be (the) contribution of the Moldovan government,” Iurcu told CNBC.

Critics have said that the Belt and Road project not only benefits Chinese firms and helps Beijing gain political leverage, but the high costs of some investment projects could also weigh on the national debt and economies of developing countries.

When asked about some of these concerns — sometimes referred to as a “debt trap” — Iurcu said Moldova has already conducted “deep feasibility studies” to ensure that these projects are “feasible” and “payable.”

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Bitcoin price falls on NY AG Bitfinex probe

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A visual representation of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin on November 20, 2018 in London, England.

Jordan Mansfield | Getty Images News | Getty Images

A visual representation of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin on November 20, 2018 in London, England.

Cryptocurrencies fell amid reignited regulatory worries and questions around the legitimacy of so-called “stablecoin” tether.

The entire market shed about $10 billion in value in the space of an hour late Thursday, CoinMarketCap data showed. This after the New York attorney general accused the operator of bitcoin exchange Bitfinex and tether issuer Tether Limited of hiding an $850 million loss.

The state’s top lawyer alleges Bitfinex used at least $700 million from Tether’s cash reserves to cover up the apparent loss of $850 million of client and corporate funds. Its findings were detailed in papers filed with the Manhattan Supreme Court.

Tether is a cryptocurrency that is meant to be pegged to the U.S. dollar — otherwise known as a stablecoin. Worries have been raised over whether Tether Limited holds enough dollars to back all the tokens in circulation.

The price of bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency, has fallen 4% over the last 24 hours, according to industry website CoinDesk. In the same time period, the prices of ethereum and XRP — the world’s second and third-largest virtual currencies by market value — also dropped 6% and 3%, respectively. Tether’s price fell over 1%, coming off its dollar peg.

The attorney general’s office said Thursday that Bitfinex handed $850 million to a Panama entity called Crypto Capital without disclosing it to investors. Executives at Bitfinex and Tether then allegedly “engaged in a series of conflicted corporate transactions” — where Bitfinex gave itself access to Tether’s cash reserves.

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