Morning Business Memo

Dec 19, 2011 7:44am

A decision by the British government could give a boost to reforms of the US banking system. Many critics of Wall Street say giant banks should be broken up with traditional retail operations separated from riskier investment banking.

That’s exactly what the British government is proposing. Treasury Secretary George Osborne is to tell Britain’s Parliament how the government will restructure UK banks to reduce the risks of another crisis in the financial sector. The Independent Commission on Banking, chaired by former Bank of England chief economist John Vickers, recommended in September that banks should separate retail activities from investment banking.

Business Secretary Vince Cable says the government will follow the main recommendations of the Vickers report. Online sales are strong for the holidays, up 15 percent compared with this time last year, says research firm comScore. Sales surpassed $1 billion on four days last week. Total online sales for the week climbed 15 percent to $6.31 billion compared to last year. The five days that ended on Friday “will almost certainly be the heaviest week of the online holiday shopping season,” said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. But the numbers for brick and mortar retailers could be mixed. December sales at several big department store chains may be disappointing. High-end luxury goods retailers are expected to have a strong Christmas.

The housing market has been a stumbling block for an economic recovery. This week we’ll get some clues on whether builder sentiment has improved from recent depressed levels. Tomorrow the Commerce Department releases a report on construction starts…. The monthly report on existing home sales will be released Wednesday.

Europe’s debt crisis drags on. Last week, concerns helped lead US stocks lower. US stock averages closed down more than 2 ½ percent. European Union finance ministers have to figure out today how they will split up the euro200 billion ($261 billion) in extra loans they have promised the International Monetary Fund in an effort to boost the eurozone’s crisis firewall. Spain’s new conservative prime minister Mariano Rajoy warns his parliament very tough times lie ahead.

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC NEWS Radio twitter.com/daviesabc

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