Strong support for the Chancellor's assertion yesterday that the economy is not on the brink of recession comes from the world of women's fashion. As any serious student of economics knows, a grave economic slowdown would send hemlines dipping. The 1973 oil price shock, which was followed by a steep recession, brought that hemline nadir, the maxi skirt. The early 80s slump saw hems below the knee again. But the swinging 60s boom gave us the mini skirt and the late 80s boom the short, sharp suit. According to the current autumn collections issue of Vogue: ''Nineties girls go 60s.'' Skirts will not be true minis, but they are firmly above the knee. Surely a sign of the steady, sustainable growth Mr Clarke hopes for?

German Ancochea, chief executive of the Spanish telephone company Telefonica, yesterday launched what ought to be a bomb-proof pounds 900m international share offer.

The dining room at the company's 1920s head office building in Madrid had been used by the Republican top brass in the Spanish Civil War and had come under heavy shelling from the hills in the distance.

Recently the surviving generals from both sides were asked to a reunion in the same room. There was a sharp reminder of the past when two unexploded Civil War bombs were found at about the same time in the basement.

"It shows the solidity of the foundations on which this company is built," Mr Anchochea proudly told journalists.

Good news for hard pressed Lloyd's names. Yesterday the Council of Lloyd's appointed Lazard Brothers, the merchant bank, as its general financial adviser. Lazards chairman David Verey and executive director David Anderson will lead a team dedicated to sorting out the restructuring and other thorny matters. Lloyd's will now have plenty of advisers; JP Morgan and SBC Warburg are already working on raising corporate capital. No doubt the names will be reassured that Lloyd's money is being well spent.

Readers of this column may recall yesterday's piece about Richard Branson challenging investment giant Fidelity to keep down its prices to customers.

On Wednesday Mr Branson, a brash newcomer to the personal finance scene, had smuggled Virgin steward Freya Sones into Fidelity's New York press conference, held to launch Fidelity's latest PEP. Ms Sones startled Fidelity's chairman Barry Bateman by issuing the challenge - but Mr Bateman quickly recovered himself and yesterday responded in kind.

He confirmed that the annual management fee of the new MoneyBuilder Income PEP "will not rise above 0.7 per cent over the next five years" - and went on to offer pounds 35,000 of units in any Fidelity fund to the charity of Richard Branson's choice if the performance of his UK Growth PEP does not beat the Virgin Index Tracking PEP over 10 years.

We now look forward to Mr Bateman's challenges on transatlantic ballooning and speed boating.

This year's City shake-up, which has seen five top British investment houses falling into overseas hands, has prompted a multi-million pound game of musical chairs amongst the auditors.

The tune goes like this: Ernst & Young may lose their pounds 3.6m audit of SG Warburg if it switches to Coopers & Lybrand, who are auditors to Warburg's new owners, Swiss Bank Corporation.

According to the bean-counters' weekly Accountancy Age, E&Y may also lose out as auditors to fund managers Jupiter Tyndall, now owned by the German Commerzbank, which is also audited by Coopers. Bang goes another pounds 350,000 annual fee.

But Coopers have themselves already been eclipsed at Barings, which has opted for KPMG, auditors to its new owners, ING. Coopers could also lose Smith New Court to Deloitte & Touche, auditors for the new owners, Merrill Lynch. Touche could reap pounds 900,000 if they win the Smiths audit. Touche could, however, lose the Kleinwort Benson audit, since new owners Dresdner Bank use KPMG.

Exciting times in the accountancy world.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Life and Style
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Austen Lloyd: Law Costs HOD - Southampton

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £21000 per annum + uncapped commission: SThree: As a graduate you are...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn