Business and City in Brief

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Financial services confidence up

Business confidence in the financial services industry has improved for the eighth consecutive quarter, but at a slower rate than at any time since September 1992, according to the Confederation of British Industry.

Most optimistic are the banks, securities traders and insurance brokers. Least optimistic are life insurers, fund managers and building societies.

Paperless progress

Paperless trade confirmation took another step forward this week when the electronic inter-vendor links went live between the London Stock Exchange, the International Securities Markets Association (ISMA) and Thomson Financial Services.

IBM's bite of Apple

Apple Computer, recently the subject of takeover rumours, may accept a small equity investment from IBM, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The newspaper said the deal would be aimed at challenging Intel and Microsoft, which dominate microchips and software for personal computers.

Industry plea

Leaders of seven industry associations including the Confederation of British Industry have signed an open letter to the Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, urging action to promote investment in next month's Budget.

The letter warns of 'further boom and bust cycles' without permanently higher levels of investment. It seeks changes on capital allowances and capital gains tax as well as increased spending on infrastructure and training.

Temporary change

Employers are increasingly looking for temporary rather than permanent staff, according to Reed, the employment agency. The company, which calculates an index of temporary employment, said the last time it had been so high was during the third quarter of 1989. But its index of permanent employment is only just above half its 1990 level.

BICC in India

BICC, the cables group, has signed a collaboration agreement with RPG, the Indian industrial conglomerate. The two groups will work on the production of optical telecommunication cables for the Indian market. BICC will supply RPG, which plans an optical cable plant at Mysore, with plant, machinery and technical and training support.

Chinese boom

China's consumer markets are entering a significant and sustainable boom, according to the consultants DRI/McGraw- Hill. The firm predicts that total consumer spending in China will triple from dollars 261bn last year to dollars 743bn by 2003.

German blackspot

While the recovering European economy means bills are being settled more swiftly, Germany remains a blackspot for late payment of debts, according to a survey by NCM Credit Insurance.

The value of payment delays fell by 24 per cent in the year to the end of September compared with a 14 per cent reduction in the 12 months to the end of June. But the value of payment delays by German firms rose in the last quarter and the proportion of UK businesses suffering a loss as a result of non-payment of bills has increased progressively since 1992.

Steady Kuwait

The Kuwaiti dinar was steady against the dollar despite increased cash market demand for the US currency amid concern over the troop build-up in Iraq. The central bank set Kuwait's currency at 297.59/69 fils to the dollar, only 0.19 points softer than on Thursday, the last day of the banking week in the Gulf.

Scots luxury (First Edition)

The highest quality of life for Britain's middle managers continues to be enjoyed by the Scots, according to a study by the Reward Group of pay consultants. The lot of those from East Anglia and the East Midlands has improved over the past six months, but many others have seen their quality of life deteriorate and middle managers in the West Midlands remain at the bottom of the national league table.