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ICON SOLUTIONS EXPANDS PAYMENTS TEAM AFTER YEAR OF RECORD GROWTH

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ICON SOLUTIONS EXPANDS PAYMENTS TEAM AFTER YEAR OF RECORD GROWTH

Turnover increases 50% year on yearGrows from £3.3m to £14m in six years

Icon Solutions, the independent IT payment consultancy and specialist technology provider, has today announced two strategic hires to bolster its unprecedented growth, and support the expansion and development of its Global Payments Practice. Rob Hewitt joins as Senior Payments Consultant and Christopher Kong joins as Payment Consultant.

Icon is currently experiencing a period of rapid growth, with turnover increasing from £3.3m in 2010 to £14m in 2016, this also represents a 50 per cent increase in turnover within the last year. This stellar growth has enabled Icon to further establish its reputation for payments expertise.

To Hay, Head of Payments at Icon said: “We are delighted to welcome Rob and Chris to the team. Rob’s wealth of payments experience, particularly in the digital domain will reinforce the strength of our Global Payments Practice. While Christopher’s creative approach to product innovation, linked with his deep understanding of cutting-edge technologies in payments, will significantly enhance Icon’s ability to help customer and product development.”

Rob is an experienced international banking and technology consultant. He brings considerable business experience gained from senior management positions in First Rand Bank, Fiserv and ABeam Consulting US (previously Deloitte Tohmatsu Japan) and has led consulting engagements at top tier global financial institutions. He has significant experience in international and domestic payments and has delivered a multitude of projects across the globe.

“I am delighted to be joining such a dynamic and innovative team at a time of tremendous change and opportunity in the payments sector,” said Rob. “Icon has already established world-class expertise in the area of Instant Payments and I am looking forward to being part of building its Global Payments Practice into a global leader in payments consulting.”

Christopher joins Icon from RBS where he was Head of Innovation and New Product Development in its payment division. He has worked with major retail and mobile companies to deliver consumer facing payment products using PSD2-style APIs, Instant Payments and blockchain distributed ledgers.

Commenting on his appointment, Christopher said: “A big part of my role will be in building on Icon’s Global Payments Practice to tackle the major challenges facing banks in the digital and Instant Payments space. With billions of payment transactions processed in Europe during 2015, we see tremendous potential. This is a very exciting time for Icon.” ​

About Icon Solutions

Icon is an independent IT payment consultancy and specialist technology provider serving financial institutions across the globe. From IT strategy, architecture and design, to project delivery and software development, Icon allows institutions to rapidly capitalise on the latest technology and market drivers to reduce costs, boost revenues, and ensure compliance with regulatory and industry standards.

Instrumental in helping financial institutions efficiently deploy Faster Payments services in the UK, Icon’s world class advisory team has a proven track record and unparalleled payments knowledge. Icon recently launched the Instant Payments Framework, a technology solution to provide a faster and more cost effective path to instant payments services.

Trusted by institutions across the globe, Icon has the expertise to build technologies, the experience to transform businesses, and the vision to lead the industry.

To find out more, visit: www.iconsolutions.com

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Toyota beats Volkswagen to become World’s No.1 car seller in 2020

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Toyota beats Volkswagen to become World's No.1 car seller in 2020 1

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp overtook Germany’s Volkswagen in vehicle sales last year, regaining pole position as the world’s top selling automaker for the first time in five years as the pandemic demand slump hit its German rival harder.

Toyota said on Thursday its group-wide global sales fell 11.3% to 9.528 million vehicles in 2020. That compared with a 15.2 percent drop at Volkswagen to 9.305 million vehicles.

Automakers have suffered as coronavirus lockdowns have stopped people from visiting car showrooms and forced manufacturing plants to reduce or halt production.

Toyota, however, has weathered the pandemic better in part because its home market Japan, and the Asian region in general, have been less affected by the outbreak than Europe and the United States.

“Our focus is not on what our ranking may be, but on serving our customers” a Toyota spokeswoman said.

As demand for cars rebounds, particularly in China, Toyota, Volkswagen and other manufacturers are scrambling to tap growing demand for electric cars. Toyota said that the ratio of electric vehicle it sold last year grew to 23% of total sales from 20% in 2019.

(Reporting by Tim Kelly and Makiko Yamazaki; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Jacqueline Wong)

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Dollar stands stall as global stock rally fizzles

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Dollar stands stall as global stock rally fizzles 2

By Stanley White

TOKYO (Reuters) – The dollar extended gains against most currencies on Thursday as a stock market rout triggered by concerns about excessive valuations boosted safe-harbour demand for the U.S. currency.

The euro nursed losses after a European Central Bank member warned that interest rate cuts are possible to curb the common currency’s recent gains.

The Australian and New Zealand dollars, two currencies considered a barometer of risk appetite, also fell against their U.S. counterpart in a sign of waning market confidence.

Concerns about a short-squeeze among hedge funds, worries about corporate earnings, and delays in coronavirus vaccinations have slammed the brakes on a heady rally in global equities, which could continue to lift the dollar in the short term.

“Risk aversion supporting the dollar is a healthy correction after a one-way rise in risk assets,” said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief currency strategist at Mizuho Securities.

“The base scenario of economic acceleration in the second half of the year remains intact. The Aussie will recover but the euro will struggle.”

The dollar edged up to 104.27 yen following a 0.4% gain on Wednesday.

Against the euro, the dollar stood at $1.2094, close to a one-week high.

The British pound fell for a second consecutive session to $1.3673.

The dollar index stood at 90.742, holding onto a 0.6% gain on Wednesday.

Asian stocks were awash in a sea of red and futures pointed to a weak start to European trade on Thursday after U.S. stocks suffered their biggest one-day percentage drop in three months on Wednesday.

In addition to concerns about corporate earnings and the economic outlook, worries that hedge funds squeezed out of short positions in GameStop Corp and similar companies will take profits on other assets also fuelled risk aversion.

The U.S. Federal Reserve kept monetary policy unchanged as expected on Wednesday but did signal some concern about the pace of economic recovery, which some traders said is another negative factor.

U.S. gross domestic product data is due later on Thursday to gauge the strength of the world’s largest economy as it struggles with the coronavirus pandemic.

The onshore yuan briefly touched a one-week low of 6.4946 per dollar and other Asian currencies also fell against the dollar, highlighting strength in the greenback.

The Australian dollar fell to $0.7634, while the New Zealand dollar slid to $0.7135 as investors sold currencies with close ties to the global commodities trade to trim riskier positions.

========================================================

Currency bid prices at 2:20PM (0520 GMT)

Description RIC Last U.S. Close Pct Change YTD Pct High Bid Low Bid

Previous Change

Session

Euro/Dollar $1.2094 $1.2114 -0.16% -1.01% +1.2110 +1.2081

Dollar/Yen 104.2750 104.0900 +0.19% +0.97% +104.3650 +104.1500

Euro/Yen 126.12 126.07 +0.04% -0.63% +126.2400 +126.0000

Dollar/Swiss 0.8893 0.8889 +0.03% +0.51% +0.8904 +0.8889

Sterling/Dollar 1.3673 1.3692 -0.14% +0.08% +1.3692 +1.3651

Dollar/Canadian 1.2823 1.2806 +0.17% +0.74% +1.2835 +1.2800

Aussie/Dollar 0.7634 0.7664 -0.39% -0.77% +0.7666 +0.7621

NZ 0.7135 0.7159 -0.34% -0.64% +0.7161 +0.7131

Dollar/Dollar

All spots

Tokyo spots

Europe spots

Volatilities

Tokyo Forex market info from BOJ

(Reporting by Stanley White; Editing by Sam Holmes and Jacqueline Wong)

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Fed still in crisis-fighting mode as recovery appears to moderate

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Fed still in crisis-fighting mode as recovery appears to moderate 3

By Howard Schneider and Ann Saphir

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve on Wednesday left its key overnight interest rate near zero and made no change to its monthly bond purchases, pledging again to keep those economic pillars in place until there is a full rebound from the pandemic-triggered recession.

That hasn’t happened, and in the statement released after the end of their latest two-day meeting, U.S. central bank policymakers flagged a worrying slowdown in the pace of the recovery.

In a news conference after the meeting, Fed Chair Jerome Powell noted the economy’s resilience, with major industries like housing, financial services and others adapting to the coronavirus pandemic with new technologies and strategies.

But the economy also lost jobs in December, a large chunk of the workforce will likely remain sidelined until the health crisis eases, and Powell said the Fed’s rescue effort will not end until those Americans are working again.

“You cannot adapt motels, sports venues, movie theaters, restaurants, bars,” to function during a pandemic, Powell said. “That is millions and millions of people. You are just going to have to defeat the pandemic … We have not done it yet. We need to finish the job. It is within our power to do that as a country this year.”

His language marked a shift in the Fed’s rhetoric to both take full account of the potential boost to the economy that could come through widespread vaccinations and immunity, and to acknowledge the long slog the country faces on the road back to full employment.

Coronavirus vaccines were just being approved when the Fed held its last policy meeting in December. About 25 million doses of vaccine have been administered since then – Powell said he had taken the first of two shots – and the Biden administration is moving to accelerate distribution.

The sense of an approaching endgame to the crisis prompted the Fed to remove a reference in its statement to “medium term” risks from the pandemic, the most tangible incorporation so far of the impact of the vaccine into the central bank’s thinking.

“The risks are in the near term, frankly,” as the U.S. vaccine program ramps up and new disease variants threaten to spread more quickly, Powell told reporters. “There is good evidence to support a stronger economy in the second half of this year.”

The Fed’s decision to leave its benchmark overnight interest rate in a target range of 0 to 0.25% and to keep buying at least $80 billion of Treasury bonds and $40 billion of mortgage-backed securities each month was unanimous.

‘ACCOMMODATIVE’ STANCE

The Fed’s worries about the pace of the recovery put even more weight behind its pledge to keep monetary policy in an “accommodative” stance for what may be months or even years to come.

While largely hailed as a new and welcome commitment to the country’s labor force, the promise of cheap and plentiful credit has also sparked criticism that Fed policy has inflated asset prices, and stock markets in particular, to unsustainable levels.

Powell said on Wednesday that efforts by a central bank to “lean against” potential asset bubbles could do more harm than good.

He specifically declined to comment on the soaring share price of video game retailer GameStop Corp, which has surged in recent days as the result of a battle between retail investors and professional investors shorting the stock.

The Fed chief stressed that the central bank prefers to use macroprudential tools, including stress tests and liquidity levels, to address financial stability risks, and did not think those risks were presently outsized.

“We don’t really think we’d be successful in every case in picking the exact right time to intervene in markets,” Powell said. “We monitor financial conditions very broadly, and while we don’t have jurisdiction … over many areas in the non-bank sector, other agencies do.”

‘NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT’

The United States lost jobs in December, and many indicators of hiring and spending have stalled since the surge in coronavirus infections began in the fall.

The Fed said again that it would leave its bond-buying program untouched until there has been “substantial further progress” towards recovery and would keep the federal funds rate near zero until inflation hits its 2% target and is expected to stay there.

U.S. stocks fell further after the release of the Fed statement and Powell’s comments, with the benchmark S&P 500 index closing down about 2.6%, its biggest one-day percentage drop in three months.

Yields on U.S. Treasury securities remained lower on the day, and the dollar ticked higher against a basket of trading partner currencies.

“Both dials of Fed policy, forward guidance on rates and asset purchases, will be left on an ultra-dovish setting for ‘some time,'” said JP Morgan economist Michael Feroli. “It’s a long way to taper-ary,” he said of any Fed decision to trim bond purchases.

(Reporting by Howard Schneider; Additional reporting by Stephen Culp and Jonnelle Marte in New York and Ann Saphir in San Francisco; Editing by Dan Burns and Paul Simao)

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