The annual growth rate of the narrow measure money supply figure M0 - largely cash - fell from 5.4 to 5.1 per cent in November, pointing to a continued revival in consumer spending. This remains above the Treasury's 0-4 per cent monitoring range, with low interest rates removing the incentive for people to put cash into interest-bearing savings accounts.
The latest purchasing managers' index from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply suggested that the growth of manufacturing output may be accelerating.
Price Waterhouse, the former auditors of the Ferruzzi group, said in a letter published yesterday that the Italian conglomerate had set out to hide the true state of its accounts. PW accused former management of carrying out fraudulent deals through means conceived to avoid any check of its accounts. In July, Ferruzzi had to restate its 1992 losses after the discovery of 435bn lire ( pounds 171m) of extra losses for the year. A modified restructuring plan for the group has been agreed by Deutsche Bank.
Share and long-dated gilt prices rose strongly on the eve of the Budget yesterday, with the markets hoping the Chancellor will announce a small rise in taxes and a cut in public spending below the control total set by the Cabinet in July.
The High Court yesterday granted two Price Waterhouse accountants an extension to act as provisional liquidators of Nissan UK, the former car importer, which was at the centre of Britain's biggest tax fraud. The application was made by the Inland Revenue, which is seeking repayment of pounds 238m in tax and has applied for a winding-up order.
Card rates down
Lloyds Bank is cutting its Access credit card rate from 22.4 per cent to 21 per cent APR from 4 January. The Mastercard Gold Card rate for unsecured loans falls from 18.1 per cent to 16.7 per cent.
Inchcape, the motors to business services group, is slimming down at board level with the retirement of Simon Arnold, 60, and early retirement of Alan Marsh, 57. Reg Heath, 52, responsible for Inchcape's non-Toyota motor business, will step down next September.
Paramount investors are waiting for a date to be set for an appeal against last week's court decision that appeared to give the QVC bid the upper hand for the first time in the 10-week-old takeover battle.
New York: Blue chips eased after rallying on a sharp fall in oil prices. The Dow Jones Average ended down 6.15 at 3,677.80.
Tokyo: After at one stage plunging below 16,000 the Nikkei average ended 647.66 off at 16,078.71.
Hong Kong: Fears of a new Sino-British row over the colony's future dragged the Hang Seng index down 261.65 points (2.82 per cent) to 9,012.77.
Sydney: The weaker oil price and profit-taking in mining stocks sent the All Ordinaries index sliding 32.8 points to 2,010.3.
Bombay: With the exchange officially closed for a holiday after Friday's 5 per cent leap, kerb deals brought further gains.
Johannesburg: Weakness on other exchanges and a decline in the gold sector combined to lower the index 21 points to 4,183.
Frankfurt: Speculation about an interest rate cut made good most early losses. The DAX index ended 3.81 easier at 2,043.43.
Paris: Shares closed little changed, with the CAC-40 index down 1.32 points at 2,119.3.
Zurich: In lethargic trade the Swiss Performance Index gave up 1.81 points to 1,735.78.
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