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The Business Matrix: Thursday 12 January 2012

Online financial products soaring

Consumers are flocking online to take out financial products, says Moneysupermarket.com, which has credited higher marketing spend for keeping sales growing over the festive period. The website, which adopted the slogan "You're so Moneysupermarket" last year, said it expected a 20 per cent surge in annual revenues to £178m.

German economy shrinks by 0.25%

Germany, the main engine of European growth, crunched into reverse in the final quarter of last year as its economy shrank by 0.25 per cent. The data is the starkest evidence yet of the impact of the sovereign debt crisis on the 17-member eurozone, which is plunging towards recession. Germany still managed 3 per cent growth in 2011.

N Brown dreams of a good spring

The catalogue and online shopping group N Brown is pinning its hopes on its spring range after extra discounting squeezed profit margins in the run-up to Christmas. The company, which also owns the lingerie seller Figleaves and High & Mighty, said like-for-like sales rose 2 per cent in the 19 weeks to 7 January after trading picked up in December.

Greggs to roll out more branches

Ken McMeikan, chief executive of Greggs bakeries, yesterday unveiled plans to open another 90 shops this year. It presently has 1,571 across Britain, with 199 in London. McMeikan said Greggs enjoyed spectacular trading over Christmas. In the five weeks to 7 January, sales rose 10 per cent in all and 5.1 per cent on a like-for-like basis.

Oil prices 'could spike above $130'

Oil prices will average between $115-$120 a barrel this year, the highest annual level on record, and could briefly spike above $130 if Iran blocks the Strait of Hormuz, the chief economist for the trading house Trafigura said yesterday. The Swiss-based firm is the world's third largest trader of crude oil.

Hildebrand keeps salary for a year

The former Swiss National Bank chairman, Philipp Hildebrand, is to receive his salary for the next 12 months. Mr Hildebrand, whose salary of SFr862,000 (£589,000) made him the world's best-paid central banker, stepped down on Monday after accusations that his wife had profited from insider trading.

Page counts cost of eurozone crisis

A crisis in corporate confidence thanks to the eurozone and wider economic turmoil hit fees at recruitment specialist Michael Page in the final three months of 2011. However, Page still expects to post a pre-tax profit of £85m for last year, an increase on 18 per cent.

Vodafone eyes Bundesliga

Vodafone is looking into bidding for the rights to show top-flight German football league matches on internet-based television and on mobile devices, potentially adding a new dimension to its rivalry with Deutsche Telekom. No decision has been made yet, Vodafone told Reuters.

Italy lengthens ban on shorts

Italy has extended the ban on the short selling of financial stocks by six weeks as the eurozone debt crisis continues to rattle markets at a time when banks are faced with the need to raise fresh capital. The ban was set to expire next week.

Galliford Try on course to hit target

Galliford Try said it was trading in line with expectations after its southern-biased housebuilding business performed strongly. It said more long-term work had underpinned the resilience of its construction arm in challenging market conditions.

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