Today’s news headlines

Economics
The debt-stricken island of Cyprus is being given an £8.7billion bailout. The decision to raid people’s savings to fund a bail-out for Cyprus sets a “worrying precedent” that could jeopardise the European economic recovery, financial experts warned yesterday. The island’s government has announced that, following pressure from finance ministers in the Eurozone, it is introducing a levy on all bank deposits in the country to pay for a rescue package for its trouble economy. Cover of the Daily Telegraph, cover of the Daily Mail, and others.

Marks and Spencer has found itself in the middle of a fresh bid after rumours this weekend that the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the Gulf state’s sovereign wealth fund, was in the early stages of putting together an £8bn bid. Big players in the investment banking world, including Goldman Sachs and Barclays Capital, are also said to have been knocking on the door of M&S to offer the high-street retailer support in the event of a takeover bid. Cover of City A.M.

George Osborne has been served notice by Conservative MPs that his budget on Wednesday is one of the last opportunities for him to restore his economic and political credibility before the countdown to the general election in 2015 begins. Osborne is said to have gone to great lengths to ensure that the budget runs smoothly. P.4 of The Guardian.

However, in Wednesday’s Budget, Osborne is set to admit that it will take even longer for public sector debt to begin to fall. Having originally committed to reduce the burden of public debt by 2015-16 at the latest, the chancellor extended that target by a year in December and is now preparing to concede another delay to 2017-18. Cover of the FT.

Property
At least 20 big housing developments have been imposed on open countryside over the past year, much to the dismay of local opposition. One tear on from the introduction of the Government’s controversial planning guidance, more than 8,000 homes are to be built against local wishes on previously undeveloped greenfield sites, campaigners say in a report today. P.15 of The Times.

Britain’s homes have boomed to a record high with prices rising an average of £142 a day over the last four weeks. New figures show that values have eclipsed the previous peak of 2008 and a resultant wave of optimism is sweeping through the housing market, experts say. With mortgages becoming cheaper thanks to the Government’s lending scheme and greater availability of loans, buyers are more confident that properties will keep their value. Cover of the Daily Express.

Personal Finance
George Osborne has announced that the new simplified state pension will be introduced a year ahead of schedule in 2016. He also intends to bring forward the cap on social care costs. Originally due to be introduced in 2017 with a cap of £75,000, it will now be implemented in 2016 at the £72,000 level. The single-tier state pension is set to provide a guaranteed income of around £144-a-week to all retirees by combining all existing benefits and credits. The decision to implement the new pension system earlier than planned will mean thousands more retires are able to enjoy the new system, which the chancellor hopes will please elderly voters. P.7 of City A.M., p.2 of The Independent and p.4 of the Daily Mail.

Recruitment
One in five young people will need to become an engineer if the UK has any chance of addressing severe skills shortages and rebalancing the economy towards advanced manufacturing, new research has warned. A report by the Social Market Foundation warns that the Government’s aim to divert the economy away from financial services is “inconceivable” due to the shortage of home-grown graduates in science, technology, engineering and maths. Cover of the Daily Telegraph Business Section.

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