x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Jobs in UK up as hope glimmers for Greece

A ray of hope pierced the long-term gloom over Europe yesterday after a UK index of full-time employment rose and Greece delayed the deadline on a bond programme key to unlocking further aid.

A ray of hope pierced the long-term gloom over Europe yesterday after UKemployment rose and Greece delayed the deadline on a bond programme key to unlocking further aid.

British full-time hiring hit a 19-month high last month in a sign of "cautious optimism", KPMG and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation said yesterday.

"The negative outlook has been replaced by cautious optimism as employers gradually gain confidence," said Bernard Brown, KPMG's head of business services.

The gauge of permanent job placements reported by employment consultancies rose to 56 from 55 in October, the groups said yesterday. Readings above 50 indicate an increase in hiring.

A measure of hiring of temporary workers also climbed, to the highest since March last year, while full-time job vacancies rose at their fastest pace in 19 months.

However, "recovery is by no means certain and we need a few more months like this to suggest emerging trends are translating into a sustained period of growth in employment", said Mr Brown.

And the clouds of uncertainty are still very much in evidence over the rest of the United Kingdom.

Britain's economy is showing signs of cooling after emerging from recession in the third quarter with the strongest growth since 2007. A separate report yesterday showed Britons' confidence about keeping their jobs fell to its lowest level in four months last month, said Lloyds Bank. An index of job security dropped 5 points from October to minus 18, the lowest since July, the lender said.

In the euro zone, Greece, in an attempt to generate stronger participation in its key government bond buyback programme, yesterday extended the deadline for banks, funds and investors who own its debt to declare whether they will sell their holdings back at a heavy discount on their nominal value.

The public debt management agency (PDMA) said bondholders now had until 4pm today to make up their minds.

Greece was near its target in the buyback with the amount offered close to €30 billion (Dh142.32bn), an official at the Greek finance ministry said on condition of anonymity, referring to the face value of the securities.

The original deadline expired on Friday, with Greece's largest banks saying they would participate.

The programme aims to cut some €20bn from the crisis-hit country's debt load and ensure it continues to get its international bailout loans. The government plans to spend about €10bn in European funds on the buyback, offering between 30 and 40 per cent of the bonds' face value.

Stelios Papadopoulos, the head of the PDMA, insisted yesterday bondholders were being offered a good deal.

"Greece will continue to engage with its official sector creditors in considering further steps to put its debt on a sustainable path," he said. "Future measures may not involve an opportunity to exit investments in [designated Greek bonds] at the levels offered for this buyback."

Greece is hoping on Thursday to receive a €34bn rescue loan instalment, after a six-month delay caused by two national elections and long-dragging negotiations with the European Union, IMF and European Central Bank over further demanded cutbacks.

Although Athens has now adopted the spending, welfare and income cuts - coupled with new tax hikes - to get the money, it still has to tie up the debt buyback over the next few days and table new tax laws. Domestic and overseas investors offered to sell back to Greece as much as €27bn of their holdings of the nation's bonds, state-run NET TV reported. Greek banks submitted offers of about €10bn, while foreign investors, including hedge funds, offered as much as €16bn, Greece's Kathimerini newspaper said.

Antonis Samaras, the prime minister, was upbeat on Sunday about the buyback. "I am convinced that by Monday or Tuesday, one will be able to say with relative certainty things have gone very well," he said.


* with agencies