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Summary

  1. Sony Pictures abandons The Interview
  2. North Sea oil industry 'close to collapse'
  3. US Fed willing to remain 'patient' over interest rates
  4. Royal Mail was £180m "underpriced" says report

Live Reporting

By Ben Morris and Matthew West

All times stated are UK

Matthew West

Business Reporter

That's all folks! There are results from Carnival and the Bank of Japan will make its latest interest rate move or non-move. We'll see you at 06:00.

ECB to publish minutes

The European Central Bank has announced that it will publish minutes of the monetary policy discussions of its governing council from next year, starting with the meeting on 22 January. The minutes will be published four weeks after the meeting but won't give details of how individuals voted.

North Sea oil crisis

Apache facility, Wick, Scotland
APache

BBC Scotland reports another oil and gas firm is to cut the wages of its contractors. Apache, one of the North Sea biggest producers, is imposing a 10% reduction from 1 January. It comes the day after oil services company Wood Group announced it was cutting contractors wages by 10% and freezing staff salaries. A spokesman for Apache has refused to comment on the move.

Russia crisis

It's over! No not the economic crisis in Russia - Mr Putin's marathon annual press conference. At 3 hours and 20 minutes it's merciful that it happens just once a year. And the rouble? Well it's at 62 to the US dollar - so somewhat improved on earlier this week when it appeared to be in freefall.

Oil prices rebound

Kittiwake platform
EnQuest

Oil prices have rebounded again today.

North Sea Brent Crude is up 2.5%. That has boosted shares in oil firms.
Petrofac is leading the
FTSE 100 higher with a 5.2% gain.

Winter wonderland

Reindeer
Getty Images

It's not really Christmas until a "Winter Wonderland" has been criticised for smoking elves and sad reindeer. This year's contender could be Yorkshire Winter Wonderland. It shut after just 24 hours

reports the Daily Telegraph after visitors complained that it was rubbish-strewn and poorly constructed.

Russia crisis

Russian President Vladimir Putin
EPA

Asked if Russia is in a new Cold War by the BBC's world affairs editor Jon Simpson Mr Putin says Russia is not attacking anyone or encroaching on anyone else's interests. He argues Russia has only two military bases abroad and that the US defence budget is ten times that of Russia's.

He says sanctions against Russia have been introduced in a completely illegitimate and illegal way.

Via Blog

Antony Reuben

Head of Statistics, BBC News

Remember the £1.7bn extra bill the UK received from the European Union last October? George Osborne went into negotiations with the EU and claimed to have halved the bill, delayed payment and avoided punitive interest rates. But now we've had more details of that deal and it seems the benefits from it were negligible - although that is disputed by the Treasury.

Read more at BBC online.

Via Twitter

Sony cancels The Interview

Michael Moore

Filmmaker

"

Dear Sony Hackers: now that u run Hollywood, I'd also like less romantic comedies, fewer Michael Bay movies and no more Transformers."

Russia crisis

We're still monitoring Russian president Putin's press conference - it lasts a rather daunting four hours. Mr Putin has just said his government is working on mechanisms to legalise offshore capital returning to Russia, in another overture to ex-pats. Mr Putin says: "It's necessary to legalise not only offshore properties but properties where the rights are assigned to relatives (of business owners),"

Deutsche to sell Postbank?

Deutsche Bank says it is going to review its strategy in 2015 after a German business magazine said it was considering major changes, which could include the sale of its Postbank subsidiary and a revision of its profit targets. Deutsche refused to be drawn on the possible sale. Manager Magazin reported shareholder disquiet at Deutsche Bank's current progress and said Santander may be interested in buying Postbank. Santander has kept schtum.

Pork pie probe

A picture of a Sainsbury's Melton Mowbray Pork Pie
PA

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched an investigation into the merger of two pork pie makers. Pork Farms' plans to buy Kerry Foods' chilled savoury pastry (CSP) business, which includes pork pies, sausage rolls, pasties and slices, quiches and scotch eggs. The market is worth about £1bn a year. The CMA is worried the business will be too big will face competition from only 1 or 2 other suppliers.

Swiss interest rates turn negative

Switzerland doesn't want your money. That was the message earlier this morning when the Swiss central bank cut interest rates to minus 0.25%, cutting the value of large sums of money left on deposit in the country. The negative interest rate is being applied to "sight deposits" - a form of instant access account - of more than 10m Swiss francs (£6.5m).

Russia crisis

A thinly veiled threat for the European Union from President Putin. "Do they the [EU] want a stable guaranteed supply of energy resources from Russia that they desperately need?" he asks. "If they don't want it, well, then it's not going to happen. There are no other energy sources other than from Russia," he warns.

Via Email

Black Friday bonanza

Maeve Johnston

UK Economist, Capital Economics

While the effects from Black Friday should prove to be temporary, it is clear that the underlying picture is very strong. With consumers' discretionary spending power likely to be boosted by the drop in the oil price, confidence strong, and real incomes set to record their strongest growth in more than a decade in 2015, we remain optimistic on the prospects for retail sales over the next year.

Via Twitter

Office for National Statistics

"'Black Friday'

helped boost household electrical goods by 32% in Nov 14 compared to Nov 13"

Russia crisis

Mr Putin starts using hunting metaphors: "There are some people that want the Russian bear to lie down and eat berries," Mr Putin says. That way they can chain him and remove his "teeth and nails." The crisis should be an opportunity to change the structure of the economy otherwise Russia could end up "skinned and hanging from a wall" Mr Putin says.

Russia crisis

If you think the Russian government is bureaucratic you should see the bureaucracy of the European Union, says Mr Putin. Even the Russian president has started making jokes about the EU now. Nigel Farage will be delighted.

Rouble remains volatile

Rouble dollar
Bloomberg

The rouble has been bouncing around while President Putin has been speaking. It is trading around the lows for the session with a dollar buying more than 62 roubles, but earlier the rouble had strengthened to 58 to the dollar.

Russia crisis

Mr Putin's press conference continues. He says the country will be back on its feet within two years. Growth will be inevitable, he says. Growth in the world economy will increase the need for energy resources, he says. But Mr Purtin says the economy still needs to be more diverse. $419bn of reserves will not be wasted he says. The government will fulfil its social obligations, he adds.

Black Friday bonanza

John Lewis shop window
Getty Images

Retail sales surged at their fastest rate in more than a decade in November, according to the Office for National Statistics. Retail sales volumes grew 1.6% from October and showed annual growth of 6.4%, the fastest annual pace since May 2004. Those figures were helped by the popularity of Black Friday this year.

Russia crisis

Mr Putin says he hopes to see some strengthening of the rouble over the next few days. What happens if oil prices fall further? He says the government will focus its attention on those people that really need its help. He's guaranteeing to pay pensions and social security but he has just opened the door to "reduce some social spending".

Russia crisis

President Vladimir Putin
BBC

"I think everybody understands the most important situation of the day is that of the national currency," Mr Putin says. He blames "outside factors" for the fall in the rouble. Mr Putin says: "We have also failed to do a lot of what we had planned in terms of diversification over the last 20 years". "I think the central bank and the government are taking adequate measures to deal with the situation," he adds.

Russia crisis

President Putin's annual press conference has begun and he's getting straight to the point and talking about the economy. So far it's just the numbers, unemployment is low, he says, below 5% and Russia's industrial complex should have grown by 3% by the end of the year. The government budget is running a surplus of 1.9%, he adds.

Russia crisis

BBC Radio 4

Vladimir Putin
AP

Russian president Vladimir Putin holds his end-of-year news conference this morning. Anne Applebaum, a former editor of the Economist, says Mr Putin's legitimacy as leader is based on a pact with the Russia people that he will bring them stability and rising living standards. In return the Russian people will live with the fact they don't really have democracy and will tolerate a great deal of corruption by him and the people around him, she says.

Russia crisis

BBC Radio 4

Anne Applebaum suggests the Russian people are likely to begin to question whether

Mr Putin should stay in power if they are not getting anything in return, such as rising living standards. But there is no mechanism to remove him, she says. The test is whether he can keep the economy going over the next couple of months, in the meantime he can blame the West for the problems, or elements within Russia says Ms Applebaum.

GM suspends Russian sales

GM logo
Getty Images

GM has suspended sales of cars to Russian dealers, blaming the the "volatility of the rouble exchange rate", Bloomberg reports. Cadillacs, Opels and Chevrolets already ordered will be delivered at the agreed price, the reports says.

Newspaper review

Business pages
BBC

Let's have a quick look at the business pages.

The Financial Times leads with that thawing of relations between Cuba and the US. It also says plummeting oil prices have hit renewable energy firms.
The Telegraph says that BT is looking to raise £2bn by selling shares to fund its purchase of EE.
The Times says that investors have been spooked by Russia's crisis and are abandoning emerging market debt.

North Sea oil crisis

North Sea Oil platform
PA

North Sea oil firms and service providers

are cutting staff and investment to save money and the industry is "close to collapse" the independent explorers' association Brindex has said. Falling oil prices are now beginning to make North Sea oil production too costly it suggests. Brent Crude has now fallen below $60 per barrel and has fallen nearly 50% since the summer.

Sony cancels The Interview

A cinema in Texas is replacing The Interview with

"Team America: World Police" says
Radio 5 live presenter Rachel Burden. That might make Texans feel a bit better about the hacking of Sony Pictures, which North Korea is thought to be involved in. As well as satirising gung-ho Americans Team America World Police ridicules Kim Jong-il, the father of North Korea's current leader Kim Jong-un. Take that North Korea!

Royal Mail privatisation

Radio 5 live

"There's a huge opportunity for financial institutions to game the system," Lord Myners tells

Radio 5 live. He's talking about the process of "book building" whereby big investors like pension firms and insurers are approached and asked what they think a firm is worth. Transparent digital auctions would be a better way of fixing a price. says Lord Myners.

Royal Mail privatisation

BBC Radio 4

"I think actually the sale of Royal Mail was a well-balanced complex exercise and the government managed to achieve its objective, Lord Myners tells

Today. When asked why UBS forecast a price of 450p for Royal Mail shares, around the time the 330p a share price was set, Lord Myners argues that is an example of the so-called "Chinese Walls" within investment banks working.

Sony cancels The Interview

Movie poster for The Interview
AP

Jon Taplin who produced Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets and The Last Waltz makes some interesting points on

Radio 5 live
about Sony's withdrawing The Interview. He points out that the biggest US movie chain AMC is owned by a Chinese firm. Many movie theatres are in shopping centres and AMC says it was under pressure from those shopping centres who were worried that shoppers would stay away if The Interview was playing. (The hackers had warned of 911-style attacks).

Mobile phone coverage

Radio 5 live

mobile phone user
PA

There's been a "huge row" between mobile operators and companies says BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones on

Radio 5 live. The result is today's announcement that firms will invest £5bn in mobile kit to achieve 90% geographic coverage by 2017. That £5bn was going to be spent anyway says Rory, the companies wanted the government to abandon a "national roaming" scheme that they hated.

Local government pensions

BBC Radio 4

Local government pensions schemes are "staggeringly inefficient and a national embarrassment", according to the right leaning think-tank, the Centre for Policy Studies which has published a report calling for a radical overhaul of them. Currently 89 separate schemes in England and Wales are £47bn in deficit, it says. The report comes on the same day as the local government finance settlement.

Local council spending

Radio 5 live

Later this morning, councils in England will find out how much money they are likely to get from the government for the next financial year. Councils are expecting a 12% cut in their budgets. They are saying that the situation is "virtually unsustainable and services will start buckling under the strain", according to BBC political correspondent, Iain Watson. The government argues that councils have coped well with cuts so far, Iain says on

Radio 5 live.

Royal Mail privatisation

BBC Radio 4

Royal Mail Glasgow
PA

The big problem for the government was judging the price and ensuring interest from institutional investors in Royal Mail, CCLA Investment Management's James Bevan tells

Today. If shares were priced too high Royal Mail might not have attracted enough interest from institutional investors. That would have meant the shares would have lost value when they debuted on the stock market, and the government "gets accused of being greedy," Mr Bevan adds.

Royal Mail privatisation

BBC Radio 4

So the report into the stock market flotation of Royal Mail has been released but James Bevan, from CCLA Investment Management tells the

Today programme the report tells us "very little about what actually happened. It's more of blueprint for what should happen in the future." He says the report seems to focus more on how to deal with institutional investors in any future privatisations.

Sony cancels The Interview

Radio 5 live

A banner for "The Interview"is posted outside Arclight Cinemas
AP

Sony Pictures has now cancelled the release of the film that provoked a cyber attack on the company. On
Radio 5 live Steve Futterman, Los Angeles reporter for CBS Radio News, says it was primarily a business decision as five major theatre chains had abandoned the comedy (called The Interview), after the hackers made references to 911-style attacks. But Mr Futterman asks: Will the film have a video release or appear on a streaming service when the situation calms down?