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Thursday newspaper round-up: Google, Barclays, Insolvencies

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Google 'outraged' at alleged NSA hacking; Barclays probed over foreign exchange scandal; number of insolvencies continues to fall.
Thursday newspaper round-up: Google, Barclays, Insolvencies

Google on Wednesday declared that it was “outraged” by apparent US government attempts to siphon information about millions of its users from its network, as the latest revelations in the internet surveillance scandal left it struggling to reassure its global users about the security of their personal information. The strong denunciation followed a report by the Washington Post that the National Security Agency had sought to take information wholesale from Google by tapping into a weak point in its network architecture, according to the Financial Times.

Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund has quietly built a stake worth about $1bn in Bank of America, the country’s second-biggest bank, as it seeks exposure to the US economic recovery, people familiar with the plans said. Qatar Holding, the direct investment arm of Qatar Investment Authority, started to buy BofA shares about two years ago but bought more as the bank’s share price fell to $7-$8 last year, a person close to the fund said. The stock is now trading above $14, the Financial Times reports.

Barclays has been drawn into the global inquiry into the potential rigging of currency rates. The bank’s admission comes after Deutsche Bank, UBS and Royal Bank of Scotland said that they were co-operating with an investigation into the £3trn-a-day market. Barclays said yesterday that “various” authorities had indicated that they were investigating foreign exchange trading “including possible attempts to manipulate certain benchmark currency rates or engage in other activities that would benefit their trading positions”, The Times writes.

The number of people declared insolvent is continuing to fall, with an estimated 23% fewer people being made bankrupt in 2013 compared to last year. Official figures due to be released by The Insolvency Service on Friday are expected to show that personal insolvencies have fallen to their lowest levels since 2008. Accountancy firm Baker Tilly has compiled its own figures which have found that around 75,000 personal insolvencies were field in the first nine months of 2013, a fall of nine per cent on the first three quarters of 2012, The Daily Mail says.

Households in Britain have seen their living standards stagnate for the past four years and are spending an increasing share of their incomes on “essentials” such as fuel and housing.The Office for National Statistics says households’ true disposable income has flatlined since the end of the recession, in the autumn of 2009, even though national output has expanded by 4.2% over the same period, The Guardian reports.

A strike planned by Royal Mail workers in the aftermath of the company’s recent privatisation has been called off after unions and management said talks were progressing. The Communication Workers Union (CWU) had given notice of a one-day strike by its 115,000 members in the postal service next Monday over issues including pay, pensions and the legal protections offered to employees, The Guardian writes.

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