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Italian bill to make firing workers easier

ITALIAN prime minister Mario Monti's cabinet have approved a bill to overhaul Italy's labour laws and make it easier to sack workers. The government passed the changes as a draft law, after Monti decided against resorting to a decree that would have implemented the measures immediately and limited parliamentary debate on changing the draft.

Sales of new homes in US fall again

US ECONOMY

PURCHASES of new homes in the US unexpectedly fell in February for a second month, a sign the recovery in the housing market may be uneven. Sales dropped 1.6pc to a 313,000, weaker than expected. A pick-up in jobs, growing incomes and mortgage rates near a record low are making houses more affordable, which may help underpin the market.

British consumer confidence weakens

RETAIL

UK CONSUMER confidence declined in February as rising joblessness and weak economic growth made Britons more pessimistic about the future, Nationwide Building Society said. An index of sentiment fell to 44 from 47 in January, when it jumped nine points. A gauge of consumers' expectations for the economy fell four points to 60 as unemployment hit a 16-year high.

Receiver appointed to WorldSpreads

BETTING

A RECEIVER was appointed to the Dublin-based spread betting company WorldSpreads. The appointment came less than a week after administrators were appointed last week. A statement from WorldSpreads said it was unlikely that shareholders would now get anything for their shares which were suspended last week.

Investors in UK hit by hidden fund fees

INVESTMENT

UK INVESTORS are paying twice as much for mutual funds as those in the US and getting worse returns as a result of hidden fees costing as much as £18.5bn a year, industry executives said yesterday. Opaque fee structures, which exclude trading charges that can double the cost of owning a fund, make it difficult for customers to compare products and hurt competition, according to Fidelity Worldwide Investment.

Irish Independent