Morning papers: US deficit falls below $700bn

The years of vast US budget deficits appeared to be at an end after the gap between revenues and spending fell to just 4.1 per cent of gross domestic product in the last fiscal year, reports the Financial Times.

According to the US Treasury, in the fiscal year ended September, the deficit was $680bn (£424bn), compared with $1.09trn – or 6.8 per cent of economic output – the year before. The figure came in substantially below budget projections earlier this year.

The declining deficit shows how much the fiscal environment has improved since the immediate aftermath of the recession. A less alarming deficit may also start to change a Washington debate that is still fixated on taxes and spending.

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Households are no better off than during recession

Ordinary households are not benefiting from the economic recovery because their incomes have flat-lined and they are having to spend a greater share of their money on essentials such as gas and electricity, according to official figures, reports the Daily Mail.

Confirming what cash-strapped families have known for some time, the Office for National Statistics reported that “real household disposable income has changed little since Q2 2009, in spite of cumulative real GDP growth of 4.2 per cent over this period”.

Energy firms will have to open up their books - Ed Davey

Energy companies will be forced to “open up their books” to justify their profits and prices under plans to be set out by ministers on Thursday, reports the Daily Telegraph.

Ed Davey, the energy secretary, will announce plans for an annual review of competition and standards in the energy sector, to be carried out by industry regulators.

Barclays drawn into foreign exchange scandal

Barclays has become the latest bank to reveal that it is being investigated over attempts by its traders to manipulate the $4trn-a-day foreign exchange markets, reports the Independent.

The breaking scandal over dealers’ attempts to inflate their profits by fixing some of the key benchmarks used in the forex market has all the potential to be as big if not bigger than the Libor-fixing scandal.

Plans to lift ‘cloak of secrecy’ off ‘shell company’ owners

All British-registered firms will soon have to reveal their true ownership to prevent criminals from using shadowy “shell companies” as a front for terrorist funding, money-laundering or tax evasion, David Cameron will announce today, reports the Independent.

Invesco to cut Rentokil stake just weeks after Neil Woodford resigns

Invesco Perpetual is slicing its stake by 11 per cent in pest control company Rentokil just two weeks after its star fund manager Neil Woodford announced his resignation from the firm, reports the Daily Telegraph.

Shell profits drop on Nigeria and refining woes

Royal Dutch Shell blamed weak refining margins across the industry and the deteriorated security situation in Nigeria for 31 per cent drop in third-quarter profits to $4.25bn, reports the Daily Telegraph.