The who? What? Where? of business this week
The week in business: Who's blundered and who's blossomed under the business news spotlight this week?
This week's biggie has to be the European Central Bank's record interest rate move. The only main central bank to have negative interest rates. The bank get to use your money and you pay them for the privilege. Of course, what this tells us is they don't want yours or anyone else's money. They want it spent, and prices pumped up. Eurozone inflation is at 0.5% and at risk of dropping further.
Strange times, indeed. Especially as we in the UK are seeing the steady drip of warnings about interest rates, and their need to rise soon, beginning to turn into a stream.
May as well stay with the banking theme. Yet more concern over alleged price fixing. This time it's the £3 trillion a day foreign exchange market. That's big indeed and London is the main world centre of this. We learn the Treasury may announce measures to "clean up the market" soon. Join the club: The UK's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is already investigating such allegations, as is the US Department of Justice and the Bank of England and, who knows? Theresa May and Michael Gove?
Speaking of another market that doesn't seem to be working correctly, yes, it's housing - again. Advice comes from the European Commission: Action needs to be taken to contain it. What's it got to do with it? Well, it's not as totally out of the blue as it seems - once a year, the Commission gets busy and doles out advice to member states. Of course, other international bodies have their tuppence-worth on the topic regularly. The OECD and the IMF, for example. Although none of it may be useful coinage. Just two years ago, I recall the IMF warning that UK house prices could fall by as much as 15%.
To the shops now, where Tesco showed it is still struggling to remain the UK's number one supermarket. It said recent sales had fallen 3.7% - prompting this from Richard Hunter at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers: "[Investors] would need to ponder whether Tesco is a company showing glimpses of revival, given its turnaround plan, or whether it is past its sell-by date."
Best comes last: Morrisons. It, too, is suffering from the march of the discounters, Aldi and Lidl - although with a fall in sales of 7.1%, it's seeing rather more of this than Tesco. Son of the founder, Sir Ken Morrison, who had 55 years at the Bradford-based company before leaving as chairman in 2008, clearly thinks he still has a better handle on how the ailing supermarket should be run. He keeps a 1,000-strong herd of bullocks now. Which, he says, produce less manure than chief executive Dalton Philips speaks. He actually said "bullshit". In front of all the shareholders at the company's annual meeting.
Morrisons has modernised since Sir Ken's time. When Mr Philips took over four years ago, the business was still using pen-and-paper to check stock, while cash was counted manually at close of business. Maybe they would do better to return to that, making sure they keep the cash under the mattress - or in the bathtub - since that's where some people are said to keep valuables. After all, takings would probably fare more profitably there than in a bank that makes you pay interest to it on your own money, like the ECB.