GERMAN business confidence has unexpectedly climbed to its strongest level in two years in a sign that growth in Europe's largest economy may accelerate. A business climate index based on a survey of 7,000 German executives advanced to 111.3 in February from 110.6 in January for a fourth monthly gain and the strongest reading since July 2011. Economists had predicted a decline to about 110.5.
UKRAINE BONDS UP
AS UKRAINE'S new leaders announced the economy is in peril and a debt default possible, bond investors are looking for clues that fresh aid is on its way. The nation's benchmark dollar debt, due in April 2023, posted its biggest rally in two months on February 21 before lawmakers ousted Viktor Yanukovych as president. But while the removal of Mr Yanukovych raises the prospect of an end to clashes that plunged the economy into turmoil, it raises the question of how Ukraine will shore up the country's currency and pay debt.
HSBC has missed market expectations after reporting a 9pc increase in annual profit and warning of greater volatility in emerging markets for 2014, sending shares in Europe's biggest bank to a 15-month low. HSBC, which is based in London but made two-thirds of last year's profit in Asia, has axed more than 40,000 jobs over the past three years to cut costs, but has not yet reached its cost efficiency and profitability targets.
VW SPOOKS INVESTORS
VOLKSWAGEN'S drive to strengthen its trucks business has spooked shareholders, who have balked at a generous €6.7bn offer to buy the rest of Sweden's Scania, as well as at the carmaker's cautious 2014 outlook. VW shares dropped as much as 7.5pc yesterday after Europe's biggest carmaker said it would seek to buy the 37pc of Scania it does not yet own, aiming to reinvigorate an eight-year attempt to forge a truck alliance and build a global truck business.
'NEGATIVE RATE' PLAN
THE European Central Bank is ready to consider cutting its deposit rate into negative territory if needed, ECB Governing Council member Ignazio Visco has said. Whether the ECB will need to take policy action in March is "not obvious", the Bank of Italy chief said. The ECB Governing Council holds its next policy meeting on March 6. The ECB's deposit rate that it pays banks leaving their money with it overnight now stands at zero.