Banks are squeezing the supply of loans to European businesses and households in expectation of higher bad loans due to the impact of lockdowns, a European Central Bank report showed. The ECB’s quarterly survey of banks found a growing proportion of them are tightening lending conditions, particularly in France.
Hong Kong’s unemployment rate hit a 16-year high as its economy was battered by the coronavirus epidemic. The jobless figure for October to December rose to 6.6 per cent, a 0.3 per cent increase from the previous three months. The retail, accommodation and food sectors suffered from stringent social distancing measures.
The United Arab Emirates is accelerating the rollout of its coronavirus vaccines as the Gulf federation seeks to overtake its newfound ally Israel as the world’s most inoculated nation. The UAE, which has vaccinated around 20 per cent of the population, is starting to catch up with Israel, which leads with a 29 per cent rate.
Australia’s chief medical officer has said the country will return to ‘some sort of normal’ this year following its Covid-19 vaccination programme, but international travel is still some time away. Paul Kelly said the vaccine effort would not allow Australia to reopen its borders, due to high infection levels elsewhere.
The Ring at the London Metal Exchange
The London Metal Exchange is to propose permanently shutting its Ring, where metals have been traded since its founding in 1877, a move that would mark the end of in-person trading of commodities in Europe. The exchange’s decision would come after it temporarily halted trading in the Ring last year because of the pandemic.
Halliburton, one of the world’s three biggest oilfield services companies, reported a fourth-quarter decline in income to $160m, or 18 cents per share, from $285m a year ago. That marked a 60 per cent rise from the previous three months, when oilfield activity in the company’s key US market remained depressed.
Bank of America’s fourth-quarter net income rose by almost $600m, driven by the release of loan loss reserves, capital markets revenues and net interest income that climbed for the first time in more than a year. Quarterly net income rose to $5.5bn but total revenue, at $20.1bn, fell short of expectations of $20.5bn.
Travel restrictions, store closures and fewer festive gatherings dented Swiss chocolatier Lindt & Sprüngli’s business. Organic sales dropped 6.1 per cent to SFr4.02bn ($4.52bn) in 2020, which resulted in an almost 11 per cent year-on-year decline. Shares in Lindt dropped 2 per cent on Tuesday.