January 13th, 2012
05:23 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – European markets were given a final-hour fright Friday upon reports of an imminent downgrade for eurozone countries by ratings agency Standard & Poor’s (the influential credit assessors declined to comment when approached by CNN.)

Although largely expected, a cut to the creditworthiness of eurozone countries would be worrying - not least because this week's successful bond sales by Italy and Spain had led many an investor to believe the eurozone was “turning a corner” and getting a grip on its issues.

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January 13th, 2012
06:28 AM GMT
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Hong Kong (CNN) – While ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests perceived excesses of the capital markets, brokers in Hong Kong took to the streets Thursday to demonstrate against cuts in the length of their lunch break.

About 1,000 brokers, stock exchange staff and restaurant workers spent their 90-minute lunch break protesting against plans to cut their lunch hour to – well, an hour. Until last year, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange had a two-hour lunch break – the longest in the world for major bourses.

Exchange officials say the move, which is planned for implementation in March, is to keep the exchange competitive with other major exchanges. Japan and Singapore made similar moves last year to reduce the time their exchanges are closed to trading for lunch.
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January 12th, 2012
05:15 PM GMT
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London (CNN) - Tesco has lost the price war it declared back in September – and the third-biggest retailer in the world (by sales) has issued a profit warning.

The UK company says its strategy of slashing 3,000 prices simply didn’t work, failing to entice enough shoppers through the doors to make up for smaller profit margins.

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January 4th, 2012
04:04 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – I have an Financial Times cartoon on my desk by Banx which shows a man reading a book of "Greek Myths" to a child, with the tag line "...and the EU got all its money paid back in full." I don't cut out many cartoons but this one sets the tone for 2012.

We've known since October that Greece won't have to pay back all the money it has borrowed. Banks are already in deep discussions to reach a deal for a 50% "haircut" on some of the Greek government bonds they hold. Once that is agreed to, Greece is a step closer to getting some of the $168 billion loan - part of its second bailout - agreed by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

So what do we know going into 2012?

Let's be clear: A 50% haircut will not be enough. Greece's budget deficit numbers are getting worse, not better. Greece is not increasing the amount of tax that is swallowed up in the country's black economy. The Greek people face another $8 billion or so in austerity measures for 2013-2015, that is, if the coalition government of Lucas Papademos can pass the new measures through parliament ahead of the expected Spring election.

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December 16th, 2011
03:56 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – As the countdown to Christmas continues, shoppers across the world are pounding the pavements in search of the perfect present.

The festive season is a veritable godsend for retailers, many of which make much of their profits in the final month of the year.
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December 14th, 2011
04:26 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – The latest developments in the euro crisis are just like the holiday parties we go to at this time of the year. We make merry, binge - and then suffer horrible hangovers in the days after. It hasn’t taken long for the euro-hangover to arrive. The bonhomie of the euro-deal has evaporated.

I decided to wait a few days before writing about the agreement in Brussels. It is easy to succumb to the enthusiasm of a late-night deal, believing that it will bring “peace in our time” and a “chicken in every pot.” To hear the EZ17+ leaders on Friday it was surely just a matter of dotting the Is and crossing the Ts. Only with the reflection of a few days can you see what works, what doesn’t - and who will change their mind.

Rise and fall of euro

The “fiscal compact”was a fine piece of German-French engineering, in the best traditions of euro-fudge. It establishes the “fiscal rule” requiring balanced budgets for all signatories to the new treaty, followed by automatic sanctions for those that fall foul.
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December 9th, 2011
09:50 PM GMT
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Brussels (CNN) - On late Thursday evening, there was an unusual loud cheer and round of clapping in the massive press atrium in the European Commission building.

The reporters were not clapping in the response to saving the euro.

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December 9th, 2011
10:50 AM GMT
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London (CNN) – Ten hours around the negotiating table were not enough to convince British Prime Minister David Cameron to back down on his demands for safeguards to his country’s interests.

As such, the leaders of France and Germany showed him to the door and decided to settle for closer budget discipline among eurozone countries. According to German Chancellor Angela Merkel: "David Cameron sat with us at the table, we made a decision for this text, we do not have time for weak compromises regarding the euro."

The result of round one of this week's "battle of Brussels" was widely expected but it does raise the worrying prospect of a two-tier Europe emerging, with the 17 euro-using members on one side and most of the remaining 10 non-eurozone states on the other.
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December 8th, 2011
02:40 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – The future of Europe’s single currency hangs in the balance, interest rates are moving and the debt crisis threatens to trigger a recession next year. Faced with such uncertainty, there’s only one option left for traders across London’s financial district: Look on the lighter side.

One broker sent me an email this morning suggesting Sir Alex Ferguson was now advising German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy on their European exit strategy. His message - sent in jest - poked fun both at Manchester United’s shock departure from the Champions League and the bailout fatigue setting in among Europe’s biggest economies. Jokes aside, the point is even the strongest teams can face relegation.

That’s a concept the leaders of France and Germany have become more familiar with in the past few days after ratings agency Standard & Poor’s cautioned it may cut their coveted AAA credit scores.

Make no mistake, as Europe’s 27 heads of government gather for this year’s final pow-wow in Brussels, they are playing a dangerous game and the stakes couldn’t be higher.
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December 7th, 2011
05:09 AM GMT
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(CNN) - Last week  Olli Rehn, Europe's Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, warned the eurozone was entering a critical phrase to solve its debt crisis, which has deepened since Greece took its first bailout in May 2010. Rehn said the region has "10 days to complete and conclude the crisis response of the European Union."

Quest Means Business has been counting down the 10 days leading to the eurozone summit meeting. Some key moments so far:
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