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August 21 2018


Call for two years further freedom of movement after Brexit

Thinktank warns of labour shortages in London and the south-east without EU deal

Britain would face labour shortages in London and the south-east from a no-deal Brexit, according to a report calling for the government to extend freedom of movement for EU migrants to protect the wider economy.

The Centre for Cities thinktank urged the government to extend freedom of movement for two years after the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019, in the event of no deal on the terms of exit and future relations with the union.

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UK reports biggest July budget surplus for 18 years

Philip Hammond given more scope to increase NHS spending in autumn budget

Britain has recorded the biggest July budget surplus since the millennium, giving a boost to Philip Hammond as he considers ways to pay for greater NHS spending in the autumn budget.

The Office for National Statistics said public sector net borrowing, excluding the state-owned banks, went into surplus for July by £2bn, meaning the government received more in tax income than was spent on public services.

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Dollar falls after Trump lashes out at Federal Reserve - business live

US currency slips after comments from president, who also slams China and Europe as currency manipulators

8.32am BST

Back with Trump and his comments on the Fed, Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said:

Two months before he was elected President of the United States in September 2016, Donald Trump said Fed chair Janet Yellen should be “ashamed of herself” for keeping interest rates low and creating a “false stock market” saying that the central bank’s policies were hurting savers and pension plans.

It therefore seems rather strange that he should now be criticising the current incumbent, and his choice as Fed chair for not keeping rates low, and pushing rates higher.

If anything the President’s comments in driving down the US dollar could well make it easier for the Fed to hike rates, as they could mitigate the upside in the US dollar, as a strong currency tends to have a deflationary effect.

In any case, even before yesterday’s comments by the President, there was already a debate going on in the markets, as to the wisdom of the Fed going too quickly where rates are concerned. The crisis in emerging markets, concerns about trade, as well as geopolitics, were causing some to question as to whether the Fed should look at revising its guidance.

8.24am BST

The latest UK grocery market share figures are out:

Kantar Grocery Market Share Update 21/08/2018 pic.twitter.com/71uZLqGjxW

The grocery market experienced strong growth buoyed in particular by the recent heatwave. Over July, thirsty Brits spent an additional £67 million on alcoholic drinks, while non-alcoholic beers were cheered on by the sun with sales up 58% compared to this time last year. Soft drinks also increased – up 28%. Meanwhile, Love Island not only tugged on shoppers’ heartstrings but also their purse strings as men’s skincare products jumped by 16%.

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House of Fraser's Oxford Street store saved from closure

Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct strikes deal to keep store open despite collapse of chain

House of Fraser’s flagship store on Oxford Street in central London has been saved from closure.

The key site had been due to close under a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) announced by the troubled department store chain in June, before it went into administration.

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August 20 2018


UK households face hidden debt of almost £19bn – Citizens Advice

Missed bill payments and benefit repayments overtake credit cards as key money worry

British households owe almost £19bn in utility bills, missed council tax payments and overpaid benefits, according to figures revealing a hidden debt mountain facing the country.

Putting an estimate on the overall amount owed by people falling behind on essential bills for the first time, the estimate from Citizens Advice comes as UK households are under increasing financial pressure. The charity said missed bill payments had overtaken credit card troubles as the key money problem faced by consumers.

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Liam Fox's target for post-Brexit exports is wishful thinking | Larry Elliott

The UK increasing overseas sales to 35% of GDP is a nice idea but too few British firms are onside

The timing of the government’s latest export drive is far from accidental. With Theresa May intent on showing Brussels that Britain could not just survive but thrive in the event of a hard Brexit, Whitehall has come up with a plan for increasing the amount of goods and services sold overseas.

This is by no means the first attempt to broaden the horizons of UK plc. Back in 2015, the aim was to double exports to £1tn a year by 2020. That always looked a stretch and the target was dropped by the international trade secretary, Liam Fox, early last year.

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Pepsi to buy SodaStream for $3.2bn in shift to health-conscious drinks

Pepsi said the transaction, which is expected to close by January 2019, is another step in bid to promote wellness

Pepsi will buy household drink-machine maker SodaStream for $3.2bn as it battles chief rival Coca-Cola for an edge in the health-conscious beverage market.

Founded in the UK in 1903, SodaStream was a coveted device in British kitchens in the 1970s and 80s, allowing customers to create fizzy drinks by adding flavoured syrups to carbonated water, but it faded in popularity as soft drinks became cheaper.

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14m bolivars for a chicken: Venezuela hyperinflation explained

As South American country faces soaraway prices, what is hyperinflation and why is it bad for the economy?

Venezuela is introducing economic reforms including new banknotes that lop five zeros off its fast-depreciating currency as the country battles hyperinflation.

Banks will close on Monday as they prepare to release the new “sovereign bolívar” amid warnings from International Monetary Fund economists that Venezuela’s inflation rate could exceed 1,000,000% this year.

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EU says Greece can 'finally turn the page' as bailout ends

‘The worst is over’ after eight very difficult years for the country, commissioner says

Greece has turned the page to become “a normal” member of the single currency, European Union authorities in Brussels declared as the country finally exited its eight-year bailout programme.

Its three bailouts during the eurozone crisis totalled €288.7bn (£258bn) – the world’s biggest-ever financial rescue. During that time, as the crisis threatened to lead to the nation’s ejection from the single currency – “Grexit” – Greece has had four governments and endured one of the worst recessions in economic history.

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Greece exits bailout programme after eight years, but Turkish fears remain - business live

Greece is now able to raise money in markets after €289bn bailout ends

9.25am BST

As Greece exits its bailout, new government figures show a drop in the country’s current account surplus compared to a year ago, but a rise in tourist revenues. Reuters reports:

Greece’s current account balance showed a smaller surplus in June compared to the same month a year earlier on the back of a wider trade deficit, the Bank of Greece said on Monday.

Central bank data showed the surplus fell to 210 million euros ($240.18 million) from a surplus of 737 million euros in June 2017. Tourism revenues increased to 2.33 billion euros from 2.007 billion in the same month a year earlier.

“In June the current account ... (was) down by 527 million euros year-on-year, as a result of a deterioration principally in the balance of goods and to a lesser extent in the primary income account,” the Bank of Greece said.

It said the trade gap rose by 535 million euros as imports outstripped exports, mainly the result of a worsening in the oil balance.

#Greece central government debt +€1.64 bln QoQ to €345.38 bln at end-June from €343.74 bln at end-March (MoF). #economy

9.07am BST

And another reality check:

It's official! #Greece's tragedy is 'over' as its bailouts end. But #GDP still 25% smaller than before the start of the financial crisis! pic.twitter.com/iuDnh4XoAi

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Countrywide scraps bosses' £20m pay plan after investor revolt

Estate agency group operates under brands including Hamptons and Bairstow Eves

Countrywide has scrapped a pay plan that could have handed its top executives more than £20m after a shareholder revolt.

Earlier this month the beleaguered estate agent group, which has nearly 10,700 staff and operates under about 50 brand names including Hamptons International and Bairstow Eves, was forced to ask investors for £140m in emergency funds to save it from collapsing under the weight of its debt.

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Mulberry warns House of Fraser collapse will damage profits

Luxury bag firm, which operates 21 concessions in chain’s stores, expects £3m hit

The luxury handbag maker Mulberry has warned that it faces a slump in profits after suffering a £3m hit from House of Fraser’s collapse into administration.

Mulberry, which has already reported struggling sales as wealthy tourists favour Paris and Milan over London, operates 21 concessions in House of Fraser, employing 88 staff.

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Greece emerges from eurozone bailout after years of austerity

Milestone unlikely to be celebrated by many households feeling effects of crippling debt repayments

After years of tough austerity measures, Greece emerged on Monday from its third and last bailout, although officials warned the country still has a “long way to go”.

Related: Greece's bailout is finally at an end – but has been a failure | Larry Elliott

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August 19 2018


Rise in power bills expected despite government cap

Households likely to be paying £60 more for energy as suppliers pass on higher costs

Households are facing a further round of energy price rises despite the introduction of the government’s price cap, industry experts have warned.

Ministers have promised to protect 11 million households on default tariffs with a cap by the end of 2018. Ofgem, the regulator, is due to publish further details of the ceiling early in September. However, new analysis by the energy consultancy Cornwall Insight expects cost pressures to drive up bills by 5%, about £60 a year, by next April.

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British manufacturing output slips to ninth globally behind France

Data shows sector starved of investment and losing ground as Brexit uncertainty persists

Britain’s manufacturing industry has fallen to ninth in the world behind France, reversing a recovery in its performance since the financial crash.

The UK’s total manufacturing output stayed ahead of Brazil and Indonesia but slipped below France and remained well adrift of Germany in fourth position and Italy in seventh at the end of 2016.

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Billionaire racehorse owner launches court case against Lloyds Bank subsidiaries

Trevor Hemmings’ Manx Capital was among a group that secured a £200m settlement from RBS in 2017

The billionaire owner of of three Grand National winners has launched a court case against a collection of former allies, claiming they unjustly enriched themselves during their joint litigation relating to Royal Bank of Scotland’s 2008 rights issue.

Trevor Hemmings’ Manx Capital was part of a group of shareholders that secured a £200m settlement from RBS on behalf of thousands of people who say they were duped into investing into the now largely state-owned lender just ahead of its government bailout.

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August 18 2018


With Brexit looming, energy sector builds new links to Europe

Thanks to new interconnectors, imports could soon account for fifth of UK electricity needs

While Westminster attempts to deliver Brexit within months, the UK’s energy system is set to become dramatically more dependent on the EU just as Britain leaves.

Today, four cables – known as interconnectors – between the UK and Ireland, France and the Netherlands have a capacity of 4GW, providing around 6% of Britain’s power supplies. However, with 11 new connections linking the UK and other European countries either under construction or mooted by developers, imports could provide more than a fifth of the country’s electricity needs by 2025, the government expects.

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August 17 2018


House of Fraser owed £1bn to creditors including Liam Gallagher's label

More than half was owed to suppliers but new owner Sports Direct has no obligation to pay

House of Fraser had debts of close to £1bn when it collapsed, with more than half owed to suppliers ranging from Polo Ralph Lauren and Mulberry to Liam Gallagher’s Pretty Green label.

The department store, which has been forced to close down its website, cancel orders and reimburse customers after a dispute with its warehouse operator, XPO, owed the logistics company more than £30m when it went into administration last Friday.

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Cracking summer: UK insurers expect rise in subsidence claims

Heatwave has caused damage to walls of homes, with south-east particularly susceptible

Insurers are bracing themselves for a spike in subsidence claims after this summer’s heatwave led to cracks appearing in walls across south-east England.

Several big-name insurers have reported that subsidence incidents are up 20% on this time last year. The fear is that that those returning from holidays will see fresh damage and in September there will be an influx of substantial claims.

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Trump pushes for SEC to end quarterly earnings reports

President feels switching to twice-yearly disclosure of accounts would boost business

Donald Trump has told the US securities regulator to consider abandoning quarterly reporting – a practice criticised as too short-term by some businesses on both sides of the Atlantic.

Trump said a leading company boss told him switching to twice-yearly disclosure of accounts would reduce costs and be good for business. If enacted by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the change could allow more UK companies to join a trend away from quarterly reports.

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