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There will be only a moderate pick up in global economic growth during 2017, the World Bank has predicted.
Its Global Economic Prospects report is forecasting 2.7% growth compared with the 2.3% seen last year. That slight strengthening will be driven mainly by improvements in emerging markets and developing economies, the Bank says. But there is heightened uncertainty after the US Presidential election, according to the report. The World Bank’s new forecasts suggest we can expect the unconvincing global economic revival following the financial crisis to continue.
Last year’s growth figure was described as a “post-crisis low”, with “anaemic” levels of investment and a further weakening of global trade.
President Barack Obama has called on Americans to defend their democracy in his farewell speech in Chicago.
“By almost every measure, America is a better, stronger place” than it was eight years ago when he took office, he told thousands of supporters. But he warned “democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted”.
He implored Americans of all backgrounds to consider things from each other’s point of view, saying “we have to pay attention and listen”. The country’s first black president, now 55, was first elected in 2008 on a message of hope and change. His successor, Donald Trump, has vowed to undo some of Mr Obama’s signature policies. He will be sworn into office on 20 January.
Volkswagen said on Tuesday it was in advanced talks to pay $4.3bn in penalties and plead guilty to criminal charges to settle with the US Department of Justice over the German carmaker’s diesel emissions scandal. The company would also be subject to supervision by an independent monitor for the next three years. VW said that the settlement could result in the company’s financial obligations stemming from the scandal exceeding its “current provisions”. In October it said it had set aside more than €18.2bn. The final agreement is subject to approval by VW’s management and supervisory board, which are expected to meet on Wednesday.
A leading German industry chief has warned the UK against expecting any softening of Berlin’s increasingly tough stance on Britain’s plans to leave the EU. Dieter Kempf, who took over this month as president of the BDI, the German employers’ federation, told journalists on Tuesday there could be no question of Europe bowing to British demands for immigration controls, saying the EU’s four freedoms — including the freedom of movement — must not be “put into danger”. His message appears to damp any hopes held by UK “soft” Brexit supporters that German industry could press Chancellor Angela Merkel for a more flexible approach to protect business ties, under which the UK might be allowed to combine migration control with single market access.
The advance of the self-driving car may be the most important technological breakthrough of the coming decades. Even generally well-informed people I meet regard driverless vehicles as being still pretty “out there”. And I doubt that the hundreds of millions of people who steer vehicles for a living will start giving it much thought until too late. But major car companies are vying to get consumer-ready autonomous cars on the market by around 2020. Professionals, from economists to town planners to traffic engineers to legislators to insurers, are starting to grapple with the massive changes this will bring.
Oil companies prepare to ramp up investment again
Oil companies are preparing to ramp up spending this year as the recovery in crude prices gives them confidence to revive some of the projects postponed during the investment freeze of the past two years. Brent crude has been trading at about $55 per barrel — double the 12-year low hit in early 2016 — after producer nations both inside and outside Opec, the oil producers’ cartel, agreed last December to their first output cut for more than a decade.
The number of cars clamped has more than doubled since paper tax discs were abolished, leading to warnings that the reform has left a significant black hole in the government’s finances. Figures obtained by The Times under the Freedom of Information Act show that vehicles clamped or impounded for non-payment of road tax peaked at more than 12,200 a month last summer, up from 5,530 before the change two years ago. The amount of vehicle excise duty collected across the country dropped from an average of just under £510 million a month in the year before the change to less than £476 million a month in the year after. In the six months from October 2015 it was £484.6 million a month.
Small business confidence has returned to levels last seen before June’s referendum, reversing the negative sentiment that followed the vote to leave the European Union. The Federation of Small Businesses said small exporters in particular were enjoying a “strong rise” as a weaker pound made their goods and services more competitive overseas.
The group’s Small Business Index for the final quarter of 2016, a survey of more than 1,245 companies, also revealed a decline in the number of businesses operating below capacity and more organisations expanding operations and boosting their workforce.