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  1. All of the morning's business headlines and breaking news.
  2. Universal mail service 'not at risk'
  3. Russia forecasts economic contraction next year
  4. FBI warns over destructive cyber attacks

Live Reporting

By Ben Morris and Joe Miller

All times stated are UK

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Ian Pollock

Business reporter, BBC News

Old BBC TV test card

That's all the business news from us today. Tomorrow is the big day - the chancellor's Autumn Statement. We wonder, will anyone be able to use the word "deficit" accurately?

Bench mark

Sung Woo Park

If you've ever sat down on a bench only to rise with a dampened derriere,

you'll appreciate this new design. The seat rotates, so that wet surfaces can be removed with a simple twist.

Sinclair rebooted

Sinclair ZX Spectrum Vega
Retro Computers

Sinclair Spectrum. If those words bring back warm memories then you might be interested to hear that Sir Clive Sinclair is raising money to build a new computer - 32 years after launching the Sinclair Spectrum. The new

Sinclair ZX Spectrum Vega will cost £100 and come with 1,000 pre-loaded games and will be compatible with old favourites like Chuckie Egg and Jet Set Willy.

Russia's economy

A Russian rouble coin is pictured in front of the Kremlin in central Moscow

BBC economics correspondent Andrew Walker says the warnings of the Russian economy minister, Alexei Vedev, on the country's financial outlook "reflect the two big blows to have hit the Russian economy this year - international sanctions and lower oil prices". Sanctions have "damaged confidence and undermined business investment," Andrew adds.

Ambient food

A colleague who knows more than me says that ambient food is the sort of stuff that hangs around at the back of your cupboard. You know: baked beans, marmite, peanut butter. Stuff that doesn't need a fridge or freezer and can be stored at room temperature.

Ambient food

Groceries and bill

The price of food is falling in the run up to Christmas, the first annualised fall since December 2006. Says who? The latest shop price index from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and market researchers Nielsen, that is who. Food prices in general are a thrilling 0.2% down on November last year. But - get this - fresh and ambient are down by 0.3% and 0.2% respectively. Is ambient food what young people eat at "raves"?

Aviva/Friends Life

It was only yesterday that Aviva said it would pay £2m in compensation to 40,000 investors. They had lost money after putting it in the firm's cash-based "Deposit" fund. The company had wrongly implied in its literature that the fund could not lose money. In reality the fund lost around 2.5% of its value over five years.

Jimmy Choo

Jimmy Choo
Jimmy Choo

Luxury shoemaker Jimmy Choo could enter the FTSE 250 index this week, the London Stock Exchange says. The firm, which was founded in 1996, was a favourite of Princess Diana, and its products often adorn the legs of Hollywood celebrities and global elites. A final decision on its promotion to the index will be taken tomorrow.

Lufthansa pilots strike

Lufthansa pilot's strike badge

Pilots at Lufthansa are more militant than those in Portugal! A colleague reminds me that the German pilots are today in the throes of a second day of strikes, the ninth such event this year in their long-running dispute about pensions.

Aviva/Friends Life

The stock market has reacted positively to the Aviva/Friends Life takeover deal. Shares in both companies are up - Aviva by 2.6% and Friends Life by 4.6%.

Air Portugal strike

Air Portugal staff
Getty Images

Could this be some kind of record?

Portugal's national airline is enduring its fifth walkout of the year. A 24-hour strike by cabin crew has grounded around 200 flights. Industrial action has been taken over pay and working conditions, but according to news agency AP, unions are also unhappy about government plans to privatise Air Portugal.

Latitude festival

Latitude website

Enjoy pretentious PR nonsense? The press release announcing next year's

Latitude festival in Suffolk is a classic. Choice phrases include "hugely excited", "10th birthday edition", and "cream of acts from across the festival's genres". It doesn't actually tell us who the headliners will be, but does promise an "Inbetweeners" area. The mind boggles.

Construction industry

A little economic titbit for you. The British construction industry expanded again in November, but at its slowest pace in more than a year. That's the view of the latest Markit/CIPS construction purchasing managers index. The index fell to 59.4 in November, its lowest reading since October 2013.

Via Twitter

Gavin Hewitt

Europe editor

tweets: "Russia is scaling back growth forecast for 2015. Instead of growth of 1.2% they are now forecasting a drop in GDP of 0.8%.#Russia"

Lessons of failure

Comedy characters Basil Fawlty and Manuel the waiter

The undercover economist, Tim Harford, tackles the fascinating subject of survivorship bias on his website. It's a timely reminder that we (and particularly the media) focus on winners and don't look enough at what fails. "If we don't look at life's losers too, we may end up putting our time, money, attention... in entirely the wrong place," he says.

Swiss franc falls

Gold bars and Swiss Franc notes

Switzerland's currency has fallen to a three week low against the euro, after a failed gold referendum in the Alpine country. The vote was on whether the central bank should increase its gold reserves from 8% of its assets to 20% - and keep them in Switzerland. The vote was part of the referendum on whether or not to impose stricter immigration controls.

The true price of jade

New York Times

Jade, a green ornamental stone, is wildly popular in China - especially among the growing middle class. But the mineral's origins are less glamorous. In Myanamar, the jade industry leaves death and drug addiction in its wake, as this

New York Times feature reveals.

White buses

An interesting factoid courtesy of Bloomberg. The reason

the vast majority of London buses have white roofs is that it reflects sunlight, thus keeping the vehicles cooler. This small adjustment is just one example of the capital's green credentials - London has "one of the most advanced climate-adaptation plans in the world," according to a UN official.

Via Twitter

Douglas Fraser

Business and economy editor, Scotland

tweets: "New chairman of Scotch Whisky Association is French: Pierre Pringuet, CEO of Pernod Ricard. It's moving HQ too (no, not to Paris)."

Oil prices


This chart shows the wild trip that oil prices have been on over the last three trading sessions. On Monday Brent crude dipped as low as $67.67 a barrel, but today we're back at $72.80. As a result shares in oil companies and the Russian rouble have also bounced back today.

Phone scams

Banks and police are advising the public how to avoid falling for telephone scams. A newspaper advertising campaign comes as figures reveal a threefold rise in phone fraud - such as criminals calling people and tricking them into thinking they are speaking to their banking card provider. The banks say they would never ask customers to give their four-digit PIN code over the phone.

Kingfisher Airlines

Vijay Mallya
Getty Images

One of India's best known entrepreneurs has suffered a set back. The Indian government has rejected the reappointment of Vijay Mallya (pictured) as head of Kingfisher Airlines,

the carrier that he founded. Kingfisher has not made a profit since it started in 2005 and has been grounded since 2012.

Black Friday sales

John Lewis, Oxford Street

Last week was the busiest in John Lewis's 150-year history. Sales were up 21.8% and online sales jumped 42.4% on last year. Electrical goods were the fastest sellers, up almost 41% for the week on the previous year. All helped by Black Friday.

Markets update

European markets are all slightly up in early trading. In London,

Tullow Oil is doing well on news of a slight recovery in oil prices - shares are up 3.6%.

Christmas food and booze

Vanessa Henry, Instiute of Grocery Distribution

The average household will spend £745 on food and drink in the coming weeks, says Steph McGovern on BBC

Breakfast. Instead of pushing a trolley around one supermarket, shoppers are expected to spread their grocery purchases around this year, says Vanessa Henry from the Institute of Grocery Distribution. Discounters are likely to do well, partly because of word-of-mouth recommendation from friends and family, she said.

Ferry fury

Daily Mail
Daily Mail

The Daily Mail's main story is that families taking a ferry across the English Channel in the New Year face a 30% rise in ticket prices. It says the European Union is bringing in tough rules forcing shipping firms to buy expensive low emission fuel. Britain's biggest ferry operator, P&O Cruises, has warned that a return ticket for a family of four from Dover to Calais will jump from £160 to £210.

Sony Pictures cyber attack

BBC Radio 4

More on the mysterious hacking of Sony Pictures. North Korea is being blamed, because it promised "retribution" over a Sony Pictures comedy in which there's a CIA plot to kill the country's leader Kim Jong Un. Arik Hesseldahl, senior editor at ReCode, tells

Today that North Korea is a "rather sophisticated' practitioner of cyber warfare.

New rocket

Getty Images

European research ministers will meet later today to approve a multi-billion dollar project to develop a new rocket. Ariane 6 - as it would be known - would replace the current Ariane 5 rocket, which has launched half the world's telecommunication satellites. Nick Spall, from the British Interplanetary Society, says this is good news for the UK, because we manufacture satellites "in Stevenage, Portsmouth and Guildford".

'No new money'

BBC Radio 4

"There is no new money," says BBC assistant political Norman Smith about tomorrow's Autumn Statement. The deficit "completely defines" what the chancellor can do. All the projects announced over the last few days may be "deeply vulnerable" to deficit reduction, Norman says.

Royal Mail

Royal Mail's response to Ofcom? It says it is reviewing the announcement and "will provide a more detailed response later today".

Aviva deal

Insurer Aviva has outlined details of its proposal to acquire Friends Life. Shareholders in the latter will receive 394p per share - roughly 8% more than what they are currently worth.

Royal Mail

Ofcom has concluded that the UK-wide postal service "is not currently under threat". But the regulator will conduct a broader review of factors affecting Royal Mail's ability to deliver a service to all addresses in the country, according to a statement. Last week Royal Mail's chief executive warned that providing the universal service was too costly.

Indian rates

Sameer Hashmi, BBC India Business Report

"The Indian Central Bank has left key lending rates unchanged, but has added that its policy stance may change in early 2015 - if inflation continues to ease. There has been huge pressure on Raghuram Rajan, the Reserve Bank of India's governor, to cut rates - a move that many argue would boost economic growth in the country."

Northern Ireland tax

Northern Ireland parliament building

Northern Ireland could be given the freedom to set its own corporation tax rates,

according to the Financial Times. The newspaper says George Osborne will make the announcement in Wednesday's Autumn Statement. The Chancellor believes Belfast should receive that power because it shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland which has a much lower tax rate of 12.5%.


BBC Radio 4

Dog on a bed

Inventor Amber McCleary, who is 19 years old, wanted to invent an odourless dog bed. She came up with a fabric which has copper woven into it. That gives it anti-bacterial properties. Now she wants to patent the material and sell it to the NHS, she tells

Today. A study out today from BT showed that many adults think young people are less inventive these days.

Oil price slump

BBC Radio 4

"I'd much prefer to see oil at $70 a barrel than $140, which is where it was precisely before the financial crisis," says Dominic Rossi, chief investment officer at Fidelity Investments, on

Today. "This is an effective tax cut for the consumer and for industry," he says.

Sony Pictures cyber attack

BBC Radio 4

There's no hard evidence that North Korea is behind the

cyber attack on Sony Pictures, says BBC Los Angeles correspondent, Alastair Leithhead. But the nation has threatened Sony over a film about North Korea, so people are naturally making that link.

Strong shares

Radio 5 live

"The market has just continued to shrug off bad news," says Martin Gilbert, of Aberdeen Asset Management on Wake Up to Money. He's talking about why equities - that's shares to you and me - have generally been doing well in the UK and US, despite setbacks in the global economy. Investment in businesses has remained strong, says Mr Gilbert.

Via Twitter

Adam Parsons

Business Correspondent

tweets: "Leader of Surrey County Council tells #WUTM £196m for Thames flood defences 'is simply not enough'."

FBI malware warning

Sony Pictures Theatre
Getty Images

The FBI has warned US businesses that hackers are using a particularly malicious piece of software to attack computer systems. According to the US agency, the malware wipes out computer records, making retrieving data costly and in some cases impossible. The FBI is investigating last week's cyber attack on Sony Pictures, which shut down the company's computer systems.