Greece back in spotlight as EU talks begin again

Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, in Downing Street last week, has meetings in Brussels today. Picture: Getty

Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, in Downing Street last week, has meetings in Brussels today. Picture: Getty

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Greece is once again top of the agenda as its new government returns to the negotiating table with the complicated “troika” lenders and “bailers-out”.

Markets were content to see the talks postponed last week but may not be so patient again.

But Philip Shaw, economist at Investec, said: “It should be easy to reach certain cosmetic compromises, especially if a bailout extension can get repackaged as a ‘bridging loan’, as demanded by finance minister Yanis ­Varoufakis.

“Indeed the various EU institutions have become specialists in kicking the can down the road and a fudged temporary agreement seems to be the most likely outturn.”

WEEK AHEAD

Today

• Eurozone – Finance ministers from the currency block are due to meet to discuss the latest Greek crisis, while the new government in Athens has agreed to have aides sit down with officials from the EU, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Tomorrow

• Inflation – The CPI is widely expected to turn negative at some point and all eyes will be on figures for January. However, most economists think that deflation is still a month or two away, so the outcome is likely to be a record low for the current series but still positive year–on–year.

Wednesday

• Unemployment – The jobless rate fell to 5.8 per cent in December (on a three–month average basis), maintaining the strengthening momentum of the UK labour market. Further falls look likely, and both the benchmark rate and statistics on wages will be scrutinised for evidence of a coming rise in interest rates.

• MPC – Minutes of the monetary policy committee’s last meeting will reveal how the individual members reacted to projections in the inflation report.

Thursday

• Centrica – New boss Iain Conn is expected to report that profits at the residential energy division, which trades as Scottish Gas north of the Border, are down by more than a quarter. Across the group, operating profit is expected to plunge 29 per cent to £1.9 billion, according to City estimates.

• Go-Ahead – Half–year results are expected to give the transport operator a boost as it gears up for two important rail franchise bids later this year. The group, which runs more than 4,600 buses, is the only transport firm in the running for both the Northern and the TransPennine Express franchises.

• InnovationNation – A series of free public lectures gets underway at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, entitled InnovationNation and designed to promote new ideas. First up is professor Martin Tangney of Napier University, whose work involves biofuel production using whisky bi–products.

Friday

• Standard Life – JP Morgan Cazenove expects the Edinburgh–based company to report an earnings jump of 22 per cent to £570m, driven by asset management growth offsetting the UK government’s changes to the annuity market.

• Retail sales – Sales volumes rose by 0.4 per cent on the month in December, a third successive solid increase. Investec believes the data has got ahead of the real picture and is due a correction in January. It forecasts a drop of about 0.5 per cent month–on–month.

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