(AP Photo / Chris Ratcliffe)(Credit: AP) The International Monetary Fund has given a boost to George Osborne by raising its growth forecasts for the UK in both 2013 and 2014. In its half-yearly World Economic Outlook (WEO), the Washington-based fund said national output in Britain would expand by 1.4% this year and by 1.9% in 2014. Upbeat data since the IMFs last set of forecasts in July led to estimates of growth being upgraded by 0.5 points in 2013 and by 0.4 points in 2014 the highest for any developed economy. The fund embarrassed the chancellor in its last WEO, when it called on the UK to ease up on its austerity plans in order to boost the recovery prospects. It repeated the call for higher public spending in its latest assessment. In the UK, recent data have shown welcome signs of an improving economy, consistent with increasing consumer and business confidence, but output remains well below its pre-crisis-peak, the fund said. A spokesperson for the Treasury said: The IMF has confirmed that the UK economy is turning a corner, by revising up its forecast for growth over the next two years by more than for any other G7 economy. But risks to the global economy remain high, and the recovery cannot be taken for granted. That is why the government will not let up in implementing its economic plan, which has already cut the deficit by a third, kept interest rates near record lows and created over a million and a quarter jobs. Official figures due out later this month are expected to show that the UK grew by close to 1% in the third quarter following expansion of 0.7% in the three months to June, but GDP will still be below the peak reached before the deep slump of 2008-09. The fund said growth was expected to return to its long-term trend of 2-2.5% in the medium term but added that output levels would remain below potential for many years. It added that further repair work was needed to the UK banking system in order to boost credit and demand, and urged the government to come up with a strategy for returning Royal Bank of Scotland to the private sector following its sale of part of its stake in Lloyds. Noting that the health of Lloyds and RBS was crucial for credit growth, the WEO said: A clear strategy is needed for the Royal Bank of Scotland with a view to returning both to private ownership. The fund gave its backing to the Bank of Englands policy of forward guidance , under which Threadneedle Street has pledged to hold interest rates at 0.5% at least until unemployment comes down to 7%. Monetary policy should stay accommodative in the UK, and the Bank of Englands recently adopted forward guidance framework is an important step toward greater transparency about the factors that will guide policy rates. But the fund encouraged Osborne to take advantage of cheap borrowing costs to improve the UKs infrastructure, something it said could be done without jeopardising the governments budget plans. In an environment of still low interest rates and underutilisation of resources, public investment can also be brought forward to offset the drag from planned near-term fiscal tightening, while staying within the medium-term fiscal framework. This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk Allen Walker/Oceans of Life 2013 Oceans of Life 2013 Gannets dive for anchovies at Port St. Johns, on South Africa’s Transkei Wild Coast.
UK financial firm optimism highest for 17 years – CBI
With Malala in the spotlight, Taliban issues new threat Tim Craig and Saleem Mehsud Amid Nobel buzz, the group warns the Pakistani teen it will harm her again if she keeps speaking out. Most if not all the arrests took place within a couple of days of last weeks capture of Silk Roads alleged mastermind, Ross Ulbricht, in San Francisco, suggesting that authorities may now be busy unraveling the network of drug dealers who made fortunes peddling illicit substances through the site. Britains National Crime Agency said it had seized millions of pounds (dollars) worth of bitcoins, the electronic currency used on the site, and the agencys director general, Keith Bristow, said in a statement that other online drug dealers should expect a knock on their door. These latest arrests are just the start; there are many more to come, he said. Silk Road gained widespread notoriety two years ago as a black market bazaar where visitors could buy and sell hard drugs using bitcoins, a form of online cash which operates independent of any centralized control. A so-called hidden site, Silk Road used an online tool known as Tor to mask the location of its servers. While many other sites sell drugs more or less openly, Silk Roads technical sophistication, its user-friendly escrow system and its promise of near-total anonymity quickly made it among the best known. Officials say the black market website brokered more than $1 billion in sales before the FBI collared Ulbricht at a public library on Oct. 1. In its complaint, the bureau said it had managed to copy the contents of the sites server something one expert said would likely provide international authorities with detailed information about the sites dealers. Any large sellers on Silk Road should be very nervous, said Nicholas Weaver, a researcher with the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley and the University of California, San Diego. Silk Roads eBay-style customer review system means that months worth of sales history are now in law enforcement hands, Weaver said in an email, while the traceable nature of bitcoin transfers means the FBI can now easily follow the money. Britains Crime Agency said its arrests were carried out only hours after Ulbricht was detained. It called the suspects significant users of Silk Road and described them as three men in their 20s from the northern English city of Manchester and a man in his 50s from southwestern England. U.S. authorities have charged two people in Bellevue, Washington, a city just east of Seattle, after identifying one of them as a top seller on Silk Road.
Credit: Reuters/Ki Price LONDON | Mon Oct 7, 2013 12:06am BST LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s banks and other financial firms are at their most optimistic for almost 17 years, according to an industry survey. Some 59 percent of UK financial services firms said they felt more optimistic about their business situation, compared to 6 percent who were less optimistic, according to the latest quarterly CBI/PwC financial services survey, released on Monday. The positive balance of 53 is the highest since December 1996. The survey, covering the three months to early September, also showed a net 24 percent of financial firms increased staff in the period, the biggest rise for six years. A net 14 percent of firms expect to increase staffing again in the current quarter. The CBI/PwC survey is based on the balance of firms reporting an increase and those reporting a decrease. The survey findings indicate about 10,000 jobs were added in the third quarter and another 2,000 will be created this quarter, taking UK financial services jobs to 1.14 million, CBI/PwC estimated. Business volumes fell in the latest quarter, however, mainly in banking. The CBI said 22 percent of financial firms reported a rise in business volumes, but 32 percent said they were down. A big majority of firms expect volumes to increase this quarter, it said. “Banks’ optimism is increasingly buoyant despite seeing a slight seasonal blip in commercial and industrial volumes. Activity and profitability are expected to grow as the economy recovers, and investment in new products and infrastructure is increasing,” said Kevin Burrowes, PwC’s UK financial services leader. Profitability rose for the fourth consecutive quarter, as companies managed to offset the fall in business volumes by increasing their margins, the survey showed. With costs expected to fall, profitability should increase further in the current quarter, firms said.
UK Tracks Of The Week: Little Simz, Smiler, SP
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UK police arrest 4, seize currency over Silk Road
Artists include Little Simz, Smiler, and SP. Little Simz “Deranged” The latest female MC to prick up the ears of the UK’s urban music industry is 19-year-old Little Simz, whose flow is cutesy while the bars are feisty. Her fourth mixtape, Black Canvas, has been co-signed by the likes of BBC Radio 1’s Zane Lowe and the legendary music exec that is Sylvia Rhone, and she continues to tick boxes for many-a-tastemaker. Taken from the aforementioned mixtape, “Deranged” sees Little Simz “blurring the lines between reality and madness” over the instrumental used for Earl Sweatshirt’s “Hive.” And the visuals are just as trippy. Smiler Feat. Blade Brown & Black The Ripper New Day What happens when you put a back-in-the-day-style lyricist, a road rapper, and a conscious-minded MC on a mellow hip-hop production? Smiler, Blade Brown, and Black The Ripper with “New Day” thats what. On Smilers The Coming mixtape track, each rhymer opens up about their climb in music, with Black The Ripper taking the prize for standout line: “You dont know about my independent grind/Underrated, underestimated, and Im unsigned.” SP & FuntCase Feat. Hitman Liars V.I.P Nothing beats screwface-inducing grime like SP, FuntCase, and Hitmans “Liars V.I.P”: straight-up raw aggression, unashamed braggadocio, and the dirtiest beat. The Midlands seems to finally be getting the recognition it deserves for its grime talent. About time, too.