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FINANCE

Swedish markets drop as crisis fears mount

The Stockholm stock exchange suffered a sharp slide on Monday, dragged down by steep share price drops for Swedbank and the Carnegie investment bank, while the Riskbank took further measures to shore up liquidity, adding to fears that the effects of the global financial crisis may be hitting Sweden.

Swedish markets drop as crisis fears mount

By 4pm, Stockholm’s OMXS-index was down 5 percent on the day, with Swedbank shares down more than 15 percent to 85.25 kronor ($12.56).

The bank’s stock, which was Sweden’s third most-widely held as of July with 316,000 shareholders, has shed more than half its market value since the start of the year.

Carnegie’s stock price had also plummeted, down around 18 percent. Shares in SEB were down 11 percent, while the stock price for Nordea and Handelsbanken were down 4 percent and 6 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Riksbank announced it was tripling the size of its previous reciprocal currency arrangement with the Federal Reserve Bank in the United States from $10 billion to $30 billion kronor.

“It is the responsibility of the central banks to cooperate and together safeguard financial stability,” the Riksbank said in a statement announcing the expanded swap facility.

The move will allow the Riksbank to lend more dollars to struggling Swedish banks in the hopes of avoiding further stress on already tight credit markets.

Despite the move, the Riksbank stressed that there was no need for panic.

“The Riksbank’s assessment is still that financial stability in Sweden is satisfactory. The Swedish banks are well-equipped to withstand the increased unease that is now also apparent here. We are carefully following developments and have a close cooperation with the Swedish banks and government agencies as well as with other central banks,” said the Riksbank.

“The market is very quick to shift its focus and today the focus has shifted from the American market over to Europe,” said Swedbank’s Ronny Jacobsson to the TT news agency.

“The latest development in European trading raises questions about the preparations for dealing with the financial crisis over here.”

Jacobsson added that the US bailout package, currently in the final stages of approval, is an important piece of the puzzle, but that a US solution doesn’t mean the crisis is over.

For members

EUROPEAN UNION

Pensions in the EU: What you need to know if you’re moving country

Have you ever wondered what to do with your private pension plan when moving to another European country?

Pensions in the EU: What you need to know if you're moving country

This question will probably have caused some headaches. Fortunately a new private pension product meant to make things easier should soon become available under a new EU regulation that came into effect this week. 

The new pan-European personal pension product (PEPP) will allow savers to take their private pension with them if they move within the European Union.

EU rules so far allowed the aggregation of state pensions and the possibility to carry across borders occupational pensions, which are paid by employers. But the market of private pensions remained fragmented.

The new product is expected to benefit especially young people, who tend to move more frequently across borders, and the self-employed, who might not be covered by other pension schemes. 

According to a survey conducted in 16 countries by Insurance Europe, the organisation representing insurers in Brussels, 38 percent of Europeans do not save for retirement, with a proportion as high as 60 percent in Finland, 57 percent in Spain, 56 percent in France and 55 percent in Italy. 

The groups least likely to have a pension plan are women (42% versus 34% of men), unemployed people (67%), self-employed and part-time workers in the private sector (38%), divorced and singles (44% and 43% respectively), and 18-35 year olds (40%).

“As a complement to public pensions, PEPP caters for the needs of today’s younger generation and allows people to better plan and make provisions for the future,” EU Commissioner for Financial Services Mairead McGuinness said on March 22nd, when new EU rules came into effect. 

The scheme will also allow savers to sign up to a personal pension plan offered by a provider based in another EU country.

Who can sign up?

Under the EU regulation, anyone can sign up to a pan-European personal pension, regardless of their nationality or employment status. 

The scheme is open to people who are employed part-time or full-time, self-employed, in any form of “modern employment”, unemployed or in education. 

The condition is that they are resident in a country of the European Union, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein (the European Economic Area). The PEPP will not be available outside these countries, for instance in Switzerland. 

How does it work?

PEPP providers can offer a maximum of six investment options, including a basic one that is low-risk and safeguards the amount invested. The basic PEPP is the default option. Its fees are capped at 1 percent of the accumulated capital per year.

People who move to another EU country can continue to contribute to the same PEPP. Whenever a consumer changes the country of residence, the provider will open a new sub-account for that country. If the provider cannot offer such option, savers have the right to switch provider free of charge.  

As pension products are taxed differently in each state, the applicable taxation will be that of the country of residence and possible tax incentives will only apply to the relevant sub-account. 

Savers who move residence outside the EU cannot continue saving on their PEPP, but they can resume contributions if they return. They would also need to ask advice about the consequences of the move on the way their savings are taxed. 

Pensions can then be paid out in a different location from where the product was purchased. 

Where to start?

Pan-European personal pension products can be offered by authorised banks, insurance companies, pension funds and wealth management firms. 

They are regulated products that can be sold to consumers only after being approved by supervisory authorities. 

As the legislation came into effect this week, only now eligible providers can submit the application for the authorisation of their products. National authorities have then three months to make a decision. So it will still take some time before PEPPs become available on the market. 

When this will happen, the products and their features will be listed in the public register of the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA). 

For more information:

https://www.eiopa.europa.eu/browse/regulation-and-policy/pan-european-personal-pension-product-pepp/consumer-oriented-faqs-pan_en 

https://www.eiopa.europa.eu/browse/regulation-and-policy/pan-european-personal-pension-product-pepp_en 

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK. 

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