Oil prices tumble, the UK’s €2bn rap on the knuckles and Hollande’s economic legacy

A climb in inventories of US crude stocks causes drop in oil price and energy shares

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Oil prices have dropped amid renewed concerns of a supply glut, with West Texas Intermediate, the US benchmark, dropping below $50 for the first time since last year. The sudden price slide hammered energy shares and the currencies of major oil exporters.

The fall in prices comes after the Energy Information Administration on Wednesday revealed that inventories of US crude stocks had climbed by 8.2m barrels, far more than analysts expected, as refinery oil purchases declined. The previous day, Saudi oil minister Khalid al-Falih warned that an agreement struck by Opec and non-member countries was boosting the US shale market and could undermine efforts to stabilise oil prices. (FT)

In the news

Hawaii challenges new travel ban Hawaii is the first state to challenge Donald Trump’s new executive order restricting entry for refugees and travellers from six Muslim-majority countries. The state argues that the travel ban violates the constitution and claims that its state universities and tourist industry would be harmed by the ban. The hearing is set for March 15. (Reuters)

UK’s €2bn rap on the knuckles Britain risks a €2bn bill from Brussels for failure to crack down on customs fraud by Chinese clothing importers. Results of the three-year investigation have been handed to the European Commission to decide whether to pursue the UK for lost customs duties, one of the main sources of revenue for the EU budget. (FT)

Franco’s legacy Spain’s parliament has called for the tomb of Francisco Franco to be removed from a sprawling underground basilica where 33,000 men who were killed in the 1936-39 civil war are buried. There is broad political support for the move, as part of a belated effort to confront the dictator’s legacy. (FT)

Grandees to stay put The transfer of power at two of Britain’s top financial institutions has been put on hold for two years after John McFarlane and Sir Gerry Grimstone committed to continue as chairmen of Barclays and Standard Life until 2019. (FT)

Uber vows to stop greyballing. In an effort to defuse its latest controversy, the car-hailing app has vowed to stop using Greyball, a tool used to identify and avoid local regulators who were investigating the service. (FT)

It’s a big day for

The ECB The European Central Bank’s governing council is set to meet in Frankfurt and President Mario Draghi will try to tread a careful path between telling a positive story about the region’s economy while insisting the outlook is not bright enough to scale back stimulus. (FT)

Donald Tusk The EU will vote on whether to renew his term as European Council President. He has overwhelming support in Brussels but the government of his native Poland has backed a rival. (Politico)

Food for thought

Hollande’s French lessons France’s president François Hollande will leave the Élysée palace this May as the most unpopular president in recent French history. His poor standing is partly because of his failure to deliver on promises to revive the economy, curb unemployment and rein in public spending. The FT takes a hard look at the data to see if his reputation is deserved. (FT)

Goldman’s lessons from the ‘quant quake’ Nearly 10 years after its nadir, quantitative investing is again the hot trend in finance, and it is enabling banks to make bets informed by futuristic levels of detail. This explosive growth of algorithmic investing has transformed the markets and Goldman Sachs’ quants in particularly have had a renaissance. But some analysts fear that another 2007-style meltdown would be more severe due to the proliferation of quant strategies. (FT)

After the caliphate With Isis reeling from an offensive an Iraq and Syria, the outlook is uncertain for its foreign fighters. Many cannot return to their home countries and could regroup to form a transnational “Isis 2.0”. Meanwhile, as the group retreats from Mosul, grieving families are uncovering their dark legacy in mass graves. (Atlantic, FT)

A drone’s eye view Six years ago, a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan’s northeastern coastline. Today, reconstruction is progressing — patchily. The Nikkei went out and got a unique view of what remains a complicated situation. (NAR)

Mole control A bitter debate is raging in Britain’s mole-catching community. Mole control became a national policy in 1566 and the current divide is between those sanctioning a violent and prolonged death of the vermin, and those who do not. There’s even a Guild of British Molecatchers that has weighed in. (Guardian)

Video of the day

Five takeaways from the UK’s Budget Chancellor Philip Hammond has presented his supposedly first and last Spring Budget against a backdrop of economic resilience since the Brexit referendum. Here are the main points. (FT)


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