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As part of our attempt to demystify the complex world of financial jargon, here is Part Two of the ABDS guide to current business terms.
Capital For investors, it refers to their stock of wealth, which can be put to work in order to earn income. For companies, it typically refers to sources of financing such as newly issued shares.
For banks, it refers to their ability to absorb losses in their accounts. Banks normally obtain capital either by issuing new shares, or by keeping hold of profits instead of paying them out as dividends. If a bank writes off a loss on one of its assets - for example, if it makes a loan that is not repaid - then the bank must also write off a corresponding amount of its capital. If a bank runs out of capital, then it is insolvent, meaning it does not have enough assets to repay its debts.
Capital adequacy ratio A measure of a bank's ability to absorb losses. It is defined as the value of its capital divided by the value of risk-weighted assets (ie taking into account how risky they are). A low capital adequacy ratio suggests that a bank has a limited ability to absorb losses, given the amount and the riskiness of the loans it has made.
A banking regulator - typically the central bank - sets a minimum capital adequacy ratio for the banks in each country, and an international minimum standard is set by the BIS. A bank that fails to meet this minimum standard must be recapitalised, for example by issuing new shares.
Capitulation (market). The point when a flurry of panic selling induces a final collapse - and ultimately a bottoming out - of prices.
Carry trade Typically, the borrowing of currency with a low interest rate, converting it into currency with a high interest rate and then lending it. The most common carry trade currency used to be the yen, with traders seeking to benefit from Japan's low interest rates. Now the dollar, euro and pound can also serve the same purpose. The element of risk is in the fluctuations in the currency market.
Chapter 11 The term for bankruptcy protection in the US. It postpones a company's obligations to its creditors, giving it time to reorganise its debts or sell parts of the business, for example.
Collateralised debt obligations (CDOs) A financial structure that groups individual loans, bonds or other assets in a portfolio, which can then be traded. In theory, CDOs attract a stronger credit rating than individual assets due to the risk being more diversified. But as the performance of many assets fell during the financial crisis, the value of many CDOs was also reduced.
Commercial paper Unsecured, short-term loans taken out by companies. The funds are typically used for working capital, rather than fixed assets such as a new building. The loans take the form of IOUs that can be bought and traded by banks and investors, similar to bonds.
Commodities Commodities are products that, in their basic form, are all the same so it makes little difference from whom you buy them. That means that they can have a common market price. You would be unlikely to pay more for iron ore just because it came from a particular mine, for example.
Contracts to buy and sell commodities usually specify minimum common standards, such as the form and purity of the product, and where and when it must be delivered.
The commodities markets range from soft commodities such as sugar, cotton and pork bellies to industrial metals such as iron and zinc.
Core inflation A measure of CPI inflation that strips out more volatile items (typically food and energy prices). The core inflation rate is watched closely by central bankers, as it tends to give a clearer indication of long-term inflation trends.
Correction (market) A short-term drop in stock market prices. The term comes from the notion that, when this happens, overpriced or underpriced stocks are returning to their "correct" values.
CPI The Consumer Prices Index is a measure of the price of a bundle of goods and services from across the economy. It is the most common measure used to identify inflation in a country. CPI is used as the target measure of inflation by the Bank of England and the ECB.
Credit crunch A situation where banks and other lenders all cut back their lending at the same time, because of widespread fears about the ability of borrowers to repay.
If heavily-indebted borrowers are cut off from new lending, they may find it impossible to repay existing debts. Reduced lending also slows down economic growth, which also makes it harder for all businesses to repay their debts.
Credit default swap (CDS) A financial contract that provides insurance-like protection against the risk of a third-party borrower defaulting on its debts. For example, a bank that has made a loan to Greece may choose to hedge the loan by buying CDS protection on Greece. The bank makes periodic payments to the CDS seller. If Greece defaults on its debts, the CDS seller must buy the loans from the bank at their full face value. CDSs are not just used for hedging - they are used by investors to speculate on whether a borrower such as Greece will default.
Credit rating The assessment given to debts and borrowers by a ratings agency according to their safety from an investment standpoint - based on their creditworthiness, or the ability of the company or government that is borrowing to repay. Ratings range from AAA, the safest, down to D, a company that has already defaulted. Ratings of BBB- or higher are considered "investment grade". Below that level, they are considered "speculative grade" or more colloquially as junk.
Currency peg A commitment by a government to maintain its currency at a fixed value in relation to another currency. Sometimes pegs are used to keep a currency strong, in order to help reduce inflation. In this case, a central bank may have to sell its reserves of foreign currency and buy up domestic currency in order to defend the peg. If the central bank runs out of foreign currency reserves, then the peg will collapse.
Pegs can also be used to help keep a currency weak in order to gain a competitive advantage in trade and boost exports. China has been accused of doing this. The People's Bank of China has accumulated trillions of dollars in US government bonds, because of its policy of selling yuan and buying dollars - a policy that has the effect of keeping the yuan weak.
Dead cat bounce A phrase long used on trading floors to describe the small rebound in market prices typically seen following a sharp fall.
Debt restructuring A situation in which a borrower renegotiates the terms of its debts, usually in order to reduce short-term debt repayments and to increase the amount of time it has to repay them. If lenders do not agree to the change in repayment terms, or if the restructuring results in an obvious loss to lenders, then it is generally considered a default by the borrower. However, restructurings can also occur through a debt swap - a voluntary agreement by lenders to switch existing debts for new debts with easier repayment terms - in which case it can be very hard to determine whether the restructuring counts as a default.
Default Strictly speaking, a default occurs when a borrower has broken the terms of a loan or other debt, for example if a borrower misses a payment. The term is also loosely used to mean any situation that makes clear that a borrower can no longer repay its debts in full, such as bankruptcy or a debt restructuring.
A default can have a number of important implications. If a borrower is in default on any one debt, then all of its lenders may be able to demand that the borrower immediately repay them. Lenders may also be required to write off their losses on the loans they have made.
Deficit The amount by which spending exceeds income over the course of a year.
In the case of trade, it refers to exports minus imports. In the case of the government budget, it equals the amount the government needs to borrow during the year to fund its spending. The government's "primary" deficit means the amount it needs to borrow to cover general government expenditure, excluding interest payments on debts. The primary deficit therefore indicates whether a government will run out of cash if it is no longer able to borrow and decides to stop repaying its debts.
Deflation Negative inflation - that is, when the prices of goods and services across the whole economy are falling on average.
Deleveraging A process whereby borrowers reduce their debtloads. Primarily this occurs by repaying debts. It can also occur by bankruptcies and debt defaults, or by the borrowers increasing their incomes, meaning that their existing debtloads become more manageable. Western economies are experiencing widespread deleveraging, a process associated with weak economic growth that is expected to last years. Households are deleveraging by repaying mortgage and credit card debts. Banks are deleveraging by cutting back on lending. Governments are also beginning to deleverage via austerity programmes - cutting spending and increasing taxation.
Derivative A financial contract which provides a way of investing in a particular product without having to own it directly. For example, a stock market futures contract allows investors to make bets on the value of a stock market index such as the FTSE 100 without having to buy or sell any shares. The value of a derivative can depend on anything from the price of coffee to interest rates or what the weather is like. Credit derivatives such as credit default swaps depend on the ability of a borrower to repay its debts. Derivatives allow investors and banks to hedge their risks, or to speculate on markets. Futures, forwards, swaps and options are all types of derivatives.
Dividends An income payment by a company to its shareholders, usually linked to its profits.
Dodd-Frank Legislation enacted by the US in 2011 to regulate the banks and other financial services. It includes:
Double-dip recession A recession that experiences a limited recovery then dips back into recession. The exact definition is unclear, as the definition of what counts as a recession varies between countries. A widely-accepted definition is one where the initial recovery fails to take total economic output back up to the peak seen before the recession began.
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