The world this week-Business
Europe's big banks followed the trend of their American counterparts with generally dismal first-quarter earnings. The share prices of UBS and Commerzbank fell sharply after each said net profit had fallen much more than had been expected compared with the same three months last year, to SFr707m (712m) at UBS of Switzerland and 163m (180m) at Commerzbank of Germany. HSBC's pre-tax income dropped by 14% to 6.1 billion, but the bank pointed out it was on track in restructuring its business to focus more on Asia.
A share issue by Banca Popolare di Vicenza flopped. Italy's tenth-largest bank had tried to raise capital to satisfy European regulators through a share sale, but few investors were interested, leaving a bank-rescue fund created by other Italian financial firms to underwrite the whole issue.
The European Central Bank decided to phase out the 500 banknote (570) by late 2018 because of the proclivity of criminals and terror groups to use them. The last time 500 bills were printed was 2014, but they are popular among law-abiding folk in Germany and some other European countries.
Intercontinental Exchange, which runs the New York Stock Exchange, decided not to bid for the London Stock Exchange, which has already agreed to a merger with Deutsche Borse. In March ICE announced that it was considering whether to make a rival offer; it says the London exchange displayed a “disappointing level of engagement”.
In a surprise decision Australia's central bank reduced its benchmark interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point, to 1.75%. It was the first cut in a year and came after one measure of Australia's inflation rate dipped to 1.5%.
Halliburton and Baker Hughes called off their 28 billion merger, which would have rivaled Schlumberger in size in the oilfield-services industry. The deal had run into opposition from antitrust officials, notably in America where the Justice Department recently signaled its intent to block the merger.