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Oil prices at new low

Oil prices dropped to a fresh five-and-a-half year low of under $55 yesterday, as worries about a surplus of global supply and lacklustre demand dragged on markets.

Russia's oil output hit a post-Soviet high last year, averaging 10.58m barrels per day and Iraq's oil exports were the highest since 1980.

But OPEC has decided not to cut output, opting to let the market find its own level, hitting prices.

RBS to be hit with fine

Royal Bank of Scotland - the parent of Ulster Bank - could end up settling claims of misconduct in its handling of US mortgage debt within the coming months, and be hit with a hefty fine.

The lender is bracing to settle accusations from the US that it sold faulty mortgage bonds to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from 2005 to 2007. RBS could be hit with a fine of as much as $8bn, one analyst estimated.

Chief executive Ross McEwan has seen a series of fines undermine his plan to return the 80pc UK taxpayer-owned lender to private ownership.

UK construction slows

construction in the UK grew at its slowest pace in 17 months in December as house building and commercial work cooled and civil engineering declined.

Markit Economics said its Purchasing Managers' Index fell to 57.6 from 59.4 in November. House building remained the strongest-performing category, though expansion moderated to its least marked since June 2013. Residential construction had the strongest calendar year in 2014 since 1997, but the report adds to signs that economic growth is cooling.

Bond tabs to tumble

The world's biggest economies will need to refinance about 6.3pc less debt this year than last year as austerity measures help shrink budget deficits.

The amount of bills, notes and bonds falling due for G7 countries plus Brazil, China, India and Russia will drop to $6.96 trillion from $7.43 trillion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

As repayments in major developed economies drop, those in key emerging markets will rise.

BMW in €689m payout

BMW will pay €689m to car dealers in China who pressured Europe's top luxury car-maker to share the cost of overstocked showrooms.

Car sales growth in China was expected to halve to 7pc in 2014, bringing demands for compensation from dealer groups which had bought vehicles on expectations of rapid growth.

Irish Independent