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Germany’s jobless rate hits record low, reflecting robust labour market

Germany’s jobless numbers dropped more than expected in May, pushing down the unemployment rate to a record low, data showed on Wednesday, reflecting the robustness of a labour market that has become a key driver of a consumer-led upswing.

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European shares slide as Italian election risk reignites euro break-up anxieties

European shares slumped for a second day on Tuesday as investors took flight on renewed fears of euro zone break-up risk as Italy embarked on a new election campaign which could become a proxy referendum on euro membership.

Italy’s main stock index sank to a nine month low in early deals, down 1.6pc by 07:25 GMT.

Italian bank stocks slumped another 2.5pc, having lost 4pc in the previous session, bruised by a sell-off in government bonds, a core part of the banks’ portfolios.

Read more: Fears fresh Italian election will be a ‘euro referendum’
Intesa Sanpaolo, BPER Banca, Unicredit and UBI Banca fell sharply, down 3.4 to 3.7pc, while Poste Italiane also tumbled 4.5pc.

Reawakened anxieties over a potential collapse of the euro zone caused Sentix’s euro zone break-up index to climb to its highest since April 2017, when investors feared a eurosceptic Le Pen presidency in France.

The pan-European STOXX 600 fell 0.8pc, with banks the worst-performing.

The euro zone’s banks index sank 2pc and was on track for its biggest monthly drop since the Brexit vote in June 2016.

The stress in Italy spread to other peripheral euro zone markets, with Spanish and Portuguese bank stocks firmly in the firing line.

Banco Comercial Portugues fell 4.5pc, while Spain’s Santander led the IBEX down with a 3.1pc drop.

British retailer Dixons Carphone plunged 21pc after a profit warning. The new chief executive warned the company needed to close stores at a time of a contracting UK electrical market.

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Fears fresh Italian election will be a ‘euro referendum’

Chaos ruled the Italian markets yesterday as the nation plunged deeper into political turmoil, with knock-on effects for other highly-indebted eurozone countries – including Ireland.

Italy’s borrowing costs for two-year bonds surged to the highest level in four years on Monday – a holiday in much of Europe – while stocks slumped for a fourth day as President Sergio Mattarella asked economist Carlo Cottarelli to form a government.

The former IMF official will be a caretaker leader until new elections, possibly next autumn. However, he said yesterday he’d try to push that out until early 2019.

Earlier, Matteo Salvini – leader of the League, which had been on the verge of forming a coalition with the Five Star Movement – said it made no sense for Italy to remain in the EU unless the bloc rewrote its rules. In response, markets ricocheted yesterday – from early relief that euro-sceptic economist Paolo Savona would not become Italy’s finance minister, and fear that the political impasse may plunge the eurozone’s third-biggest economy and largest borrower into an even bigger crisis.

Italian assets initially surged early in the day after President Mattarella vetoed the choice of Mr Savona for finance minister.

However, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement said it was considering proposing impeachment of the president, while the League’s Matteo Salvini reiterated his support for Mr Savona’s candidacy and made a thinly-veiled call for fresh elections.

Analysts at Societe Generale said the outcome of any fresh vote looked “more threatening than ever”.

At Berenberg bank, the view is that fresh elections could become a referendum on membership of the single currency – after this year’s ballot focused heavily on migration.

Rene Albrecht, a rates and derivatives analyst at DZ Bank AG in Frankfurt, said a fresh election was unlikely to break the current impasse.

“There’s a high probability that Five Star and the League could get a majority again, and we would be back at this point where we get a government which wants to spend a lot more than they earn and clashes with EU rules,” Mr Albrecht said.

On the markets, the yield on two-year Italian bonds – a guide to how much the country would have to pay to borrow on the market – has doubled since Friday to 0.99pc. Italy’s 10-year bond yield climbed to 2.70pc. Italian 10-year bonds are a big driver of the rest of the market. Spanish and Portuguese borrowing costs moved higher in the wake of Italy yesterday. Low-risk borrowers, such as Germany, saw their yields drop thanks to a so-called flight to quality. An analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald in Dublin said Ireland’s bonds, along with Belgium’s, were treading water between the two camps.

Last Friday, Moody’s put Italy’s credit rating on review for a possible downgrade, citing risks to its fiscal strength from the government plan put forward by the populists.

President Mattarella became the target of populist rage when he said he rejected their choice for finance minister for “the good of the country” and the financial “savings of families” that had been endangered by rising bond spreads and market concerns. (Additional reporting Bloomberg and Reuters)

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Calls made for urgent law changes to prevent car insurance market ‘cartel’

Urgent legislative changes have been called for to prevent cartel-type operations in the motor insurance industry.

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Ireland’s largest Tesco to open creating 175 new jobs

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Poor credit history? Late payers now facing extra charges on credit cards

Customers with poor credit histories will be charged more than people who have always paid their bills promptly, as “personalised pricing” is introduced in Ireland for the first time.

Provider Avantcard is introducing the tiered interest rates, the first personalised pricing for any form of consumer borrowing in this country. It is likely to spur other card providers to follow its lead.

Leitrim-based Avantcard, which used to be called MBNA, said there would be three rates based on customers’ credit profiles – great, good and OK.

The Carrick-on-Shannon company offers the Mastercard credit card, but has some of the highest interest rates in the market, with 22.9pc charged for making purchases on its card.

The new individualised pricing will also apply for those taking out a personal loan with Avantcard, with the amount to be borrowed also to be a factor in the interest rate charged.

Customers rate themselves, and this is then cross-checked by the card provider with the Irish Credit Bureau.

Those confirmed as having a “good or OK” risk profile will get a 22.9pc annual percentage rate (APR) on card purchases.

Those regarded as having a “great” credit profile will get a 20.9pc rate. These are people who settle their card bill on time, and save each month.

Avantcard is pushing hard for new business by offering 0pc on purchases for three months on all new credit cards. There is also 0pc on balance transfers for six months, and 0pc charged on money transfers for nine months.

People borrowing between €10,000 and €20,000 will be charged interest rates of between 8.9pc APR and 11.9pc, depending on their credit record.
Head of credit risk for Avantcard Tadhg Ó Súilleabháin said personalised pricing “rewards customers who have a better credit profile with lower rates, and opens the door to those who may find themselves declined by other lenders, to avail of credit at interest rates that are still competitive”.

Avantcard managing director Chris Paul insisted the new approach increases transparency, rather than pitting people with good credit histories against those with poor records.

“We believe this new approach to product pricing increases transparency, which will further build customer confidence and trust in Avantcard as their preferred provider of loans and credit cards.”

But Dermott Jewell, of the Consumers’ Association, questioned whether card holders would benefit from new incentives for them to take on debt.

“It remains a fact of financial prudence that no consumer should have access to a credit card unless they have the means to clear the balance without penalty, and especially when the penalties are calculated at outrageously high percentages,” he said.

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Insurance now the biggest bill for GAA clubs

The cost of insurance has doubled for GAA clubs in the past five years.

Tom Ryan, the director general of the Gaelic Athletic Association, told an Oireachtas committee that the cost of insurance premiums is a major challenge for the organisation.

The sports body is one of a number of community groups that appeared before the Finance Committee which is looking at the impact of surging insurance premiums on community groups and businesses, such as livestock marts and men’s sheds associations.

Mr Ryan told the TDs and senators: “The increased cost of claims and the increased volumes of claims we are seeing are a challenge for us. The legal process and how it operates is also a challenge.”

The GAA provides property and liability insurance to all the clubs in the State and also operates an injury fund.

A combination of self-funding, based on levies on gate receipts, and commercial insurance is used to cover clubs.

“The biggest single bill for any GAA club is the insurance bill. Insurance is arranged centrally and recharged to the clubs.”

He said most of the claims faced by clubs did not relate to injuries to players and trainers. Instead, they were mostly due to injuries incurred at social events in club houses.

The cumulative cost of claims in the past five years has been €45m, Mr Ryan told the committee. Premiums have jumped by 20pc in cost in the past year alone, and have doubled in five years.

The politicians were also told that livestock marts and men’s sheds were threatened with closure due to soaring insurance costs.

The manager of the Donegal Co-operative Livestock Mart, Eimear McGuinness, said there were up to 70 marts around the country, but many were threatened with closure due to high claims volumes and soaring premiums for public liability insurance.

Barry Sheridan, of the Men’s Sheds Association, which covers 400 groups, said many of the member groups were struggling to get insurance cover.

“The cost is putting pressure on many sheds, which have limited resources.”

He said the groups played an important social and community service.

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Adrian Weckler on GDPR: A foolproof guide to what all those emails really mean

WE’VE all been getting the incessant emails. They say things like: “Let’s keep in touch!” And: “Important – if you want to keep receiving our emails …”

For weeks, they’ve been filling up our inboxes because of what is happening today.

Europe’s sweeping new data privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), came into full force at midnight.

It brings with it tough new penalties for organisations and individuals who fall foul of it, including fines up to millions of euro.

It also affords new rights to individuals, including an enhanced `right to be forgotten’ and the ability to get service providers to transfer your data between them. But most surveys show that many people here are still confused as to what exactly their new restrictions and rights are.

Listen: The Big Tech Show: An absolute idiot’s guide to GDPR

Does it mean you can’t send group emails any more? Is consent needed to keep in touch with people you’re used to contacting? And what if you’re involved in a community group or charity?

Here’s a beginner’s guide to some of the practical ways in which the GDPR might affect ordinary people in and out of work.

‘I’m the secretary of a sports club. Does GDPR mean I now can’t send group texts or emails to members any more?’

No. This is still mostly fine, assuming you’re to what all those emails really mean communicating with your club’s members about things lsuch as upcoming events or even raffles that go to support the club.
‘I’m raising money for a good cause and want to email and text everyone I know to tell them. Does GDPR’s introduction now stop me from doing this?’

No. You can do that to your heart’s content.

‘I keep CCTV in my shop. Do I have to provide video footage or photos of someone if they ask me?’

Yes. However, if your CCTV recorded someone but was on a 24-hour auto-delete loop and the person asks a week after the footage was automatically deleted, you don’t have to provide them with the (deleted) footage.

‘I am keen to contact someone about a job I have to offer. Am I allowed to email them having obtained their details from a site like LinkedIn?’

Probably. For example, if the person indicates on his or her LinkedIn page that they are open to job offers or “exploring new opportunities”, then you probably can. It’s a different situation if you go about ‘scraping’ people’s email addresses from websites in order to build up some sort of recruitment-related database.

‘I’m worried people might not click the box to `keep in touch’ when I email them and that my email database will be drastically thinned out. Should I throw in a competition to win some cash as an incentive?’

No. Some experts are very clear on this. “Doing this invalidates the consent,” said Daragh O’Brien, founder and chief executive of data protection firm Castlebridge. “Companies have been prosecuted in the UK for doing exactly this.”

‘My boss told me to handle GDPR. If I send an email to someone looking for their consent is it OK to say they’ll be kept subscribed unless they email me back. Or do I have to tell them their details will be removed unless they email me back?’

It depends on how you got hold of their contact details. For example, your company might do business with another company or individual, in which case you have their contact details on that basis. It’s not quite the same as consent in the case of other email databases.

‘This is all new to me. Surely there’ll be some bedding in period to let us get used to it.’

Nope. That `bedding-in’ period has been the last 18 months. Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon, whose office will enforce the new law, says that she will enforce the law fully and won’t be letting people off because it’s ‘all new’ to them.

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Eurozone data signals recovery has peaked

Eurozone economic growth slowed much more sharply than expected this month, a business survey showed. That fact, along with weaker inflation, has intensified concerns there will be no return to the bloc’s recent boom times.

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New data laws will be used as opportunity by cyber criminals: gardaí

Cyber criminals are planning to take advantage of new data laws with a fresh wave of scam phone calls and emails, gardaí have warned.

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