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Equilibrium's Finance and Investment News Roundup

Our roundup this week features a plunge in German industrial output in December and increased retail sales in the UK in January, as well as figures suggesting a spike in the popularity of train travel and calls for £50 notes and other high-denomination banknotes to be banned.


German industrial output 'plummeted in December'

Industrial output in Europe's largest economy dropped in December, it has been revealed. According to figures from the Economy Ministry, output in Germany plummeted at its steepest rate in 16 months at the end of 2015, falling by 1.2%.

This represented the biggest dip since August 2014, while the figures also revealed that production from October to December tumbled 0.8% compared to the previous quarter.

In a statement, the Economy Ministry said: "Industrial production went through a dry spell at the end of 2015." The figures have therefore raised concerns about the future growth of such an important and influential economy. 

BRC: Strong start to 2016 for UK retail sales

UK retail sales were strong at the beginning of 2016, with spending hitting a four-month high in January. New research from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) revealed retail spending climbed by 3.3% in the first month of the year compared with the same period in 2015, with consumers making big-ticket purchases such as furniture.

The figures also revealed that home appliances, footwear and clothes sales - helped by the annual new year sales - performed strongly. The BRC noted that people in the UK appear willing to spend despite uncertainty regarding the global economy.

Helen Dickson, Chief Executive of the BRC, commented: "Following on from a somewhat disappointing Christmas period for retailers, the new year kicked off to a strong start." 

3.8% climb in UK train ticket sales in 2015

A 3.8% increase in UK train ticket sales in 2015 has been reported, suggesting an increase in popularity for this form of transport despite concerns over high fares. The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents Network Rail and other train operators, revealed that the 1.7 billion journeys made by rail in the UK between 4 January 2016 and 9 January 2016 represented a climb of more than 62  million on the previous year.

According to the RDG, cheap advance and off-peak tickets have proven particularly popular, which has helped to counter the higher prices at the other end of the scale. Indeed, both anytime fares and super off-peak tickets sales rose by 10%, while there were 5% climbs for both off-peak and advance tickets.

It was also reported, however, that sales in cash terms rose by 6% and regulated train fares increased by 3.5%. 

Banning £50 notes 'could help tackle crime'

Banning £50 notes and other high-denomination banknotes such as $100 and €500 notes could help to combat crime, it has been claimed. In a new report for the Harvard Kennedy School, Peter Sands, former Chief Executive of Standard Chartered bank, has urged the G20 - the 20 largest economies in the world - to target cash itself, rather than going solely after criminals.

Mr Sands called for central banks to no longer issue these banknotes because these are the notes of choice for criminals such as terrorists and tax evaders. He described the notes as the "currency of corrupt elites [and] crime of all sorts", adding: "They play little role in the functioning of the legitimate economy, yet a crucial role in the underground economy."