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  1. Next reports 7.7% rise in sales in the year to 24 December
  2. Nationwide says house prices rose 7.2% in 2014
  3. Brent crude oil falls below $57 per barrel to a new five a half year low

Live Reporting

By Matthew West and Ian Pollock

All times stated are UK

Matthew West

Business Reporter

BBC TV test card.

Right, that is it from the us at the livepage for this week and, indeed, for 2014. But never fear, we will return. We'll see you in 2015.

Take it back Tuesday

The Apple logo

Another day, another new name for it. Not content with simply calling Tuesday, Tuesday, some marketing person has decided that this particular Tuesday will be known as Take it back Tuesday (or TIBT we suppose). This is because, apparently, today is the day many of us will take our unwanted presents to the shops in order to get refunds. And that now includes online books, music and apps bought through the Apple iTunes platform.

According to the Daily Telegraph this is because new European legislation requires Apple to offer exchanges or refunds. But hurry, you only have two weeks to return your unwanted items from the date of purchase.

House prices

Linda Yueh

Chief business correspondent

Our chief business correspondent

Linda Yueh has blogged on the topic of UK house prices. " The UK is ranked as the fourth fastest-growing housing market in the world," she says.

Ice cream crisis


In Venezuela, apparently. The country's tourism ministry has rejected the idea that a shortage of milk is behind the closure of a famous ice-cream shop - Coromoto - in the city of Merida. Four days ago it said it was closing to due to a lack of milk. The government says, in effect, that this "shortage" is nonsense.

What euro crisis?

The prospect of a left-wing anti-austerity government in Greece does not bother some people - like bond investors. According to the Reuters news agency, the yield on Italian government 10-year bonds has now fallen below 1.9% for the first time. Likewise, the yield on Spain's 10-year bonds is now below 1.6%. That signals great confidence by investors in the ability of those euro-using governments to repay their debts.

Australian mangoes

Getty Images

How much do mangoes cost in your High Street? Spare a thought for mango lovers down under. According to the

Australian Financial Review a tray of the fruit now costs as much as 50 Australian dollars in Sydney and Melbourne. Last year they were selling for 34 Australian dollars per tray. The rise is being blamed on both droughts and flooding, which has damaged the mango trees of Northern Queensland, though
they are grown in other states.

City Link

City Link depot in South London.

A rival to the now defunct City Link is offering some jobs to the courier firm's redundant staff. APC Overnight, based in Staffordshire, has 100 vacancies at its Cannock sorting depot and says it will give priority to any former City Link staff who apply.

Network Rail

Mr Carne told Sky News: "I am accountable for the railways and the performance (over Christmas) was not acceptable so I have decided that I should not take my bonus this year." Yesterday he said he might have expected to be a paid a 5% bonus, worth about £34,000. But not now.

Network Rail

Mark Carne
Network Rail

Gosh, is this a

BBC exclusive? Or have we just "learned" about it? Either way, Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne says he will not take his bonus, following recent major rail disruption. Yesterday he fudged the issue in spectacular fashion on the World at One.

Tesco to sell Blinkbox?

Tesco trolleys

Could Tesco be on the verge of selling its video streaming service Blinkbox?

According to the Daily Mail it is. The sale may not come as a huge surprise to many retail analysts who had already suggested Tesco will need to offload assets - such as Blinkbox - this year as part of efforts to slim down and reorganise following what can best be described as a pretty dismal year. According to the newspaper, TalkTalk is in line to buy the service, which has 4 million customers, in order to help it compete with much larger rival BT, which is in talks to buy mobile phone provider EE for £12.5bn.

Christmas tax returns

Had nothing to do on Christmas Day? Maybe you were one of the 1,773 people who submitted their online tax returns to stave off the boredom. HMRC says that was 13% more than on the same day last year. Christmas Eve was much busier though, with 17,644 online tax filings that day, and then 4,811 on Boxing Day. Overall there were 5% more festive online tax submissions than in 2013.

Land Registry

And where in England & Wales have prices been rising fastest? London, unsurprisingly, where prices are up 17% on the past year, and the South East (up 11%). The smallest increases have been in Wales (up 1.7%) and North East England (up 1.8%).

Land Registry

Sold sign

The Land Registry suggests that house price inflation (for England & Wales) is slowing down too. Prices still rose in the year to November, it says, by 7.1%. But that was the slowest rate of increase since June, corroborating the Nationwide's earlier report of a slowdown.

Wage rises

When will wages rise? It's been one of the most persistent questions of the past year. And earlier this month it was reported that wage rises finally overtook inflation for the first time in around six years. But, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) thinks we shouldn't get too excited by that. According to

a report in the Guardian, the TUC is warning that real wages - that's wages versus inflation - will take another decade to recover to the level they were at before the financial crisis kicked in, in 2008.

Italian recession over

Italy's economy minister Pier Carlo Padoan has said the slowdown in the Italian economy has ended. He told daily Corriere della Sera: "After three years of recession ... employment is starting to grow again," Mr Padoan said the increase in employment would boost consumer and business confidence and kick start growth in the third-largest economy in the euro zone. He added government would approve a package of measures in January to boost investment.

Market update


FTSE 100 Index is 0.5% lower this morning at 6596.78 as share indexes across Europe fall back on a new drop in oil prices. Brent crude is currently trading at $56.90 per barrel. That's its lowest level since May 2009.
Next is up nearly 4% to 6775.00p on the back of its trading update earlier today.


Next store
Getty Images

Despite churning out all that cash to shareholders by way of special dividends, the company is still happy to have "net debt" of £550m, which is more than a year ago. Intriguing. Why not pay off that debt instead?


Shareholders in Next have every reason to be feeling smug this morning. The company is generating so much spare cash that it is going to pay a fourth special dividend this year. That will be another 50p per share, bringing the total payout this year from special dividends and share buy-backs to more than £400m. A reminder of why you might like to consider

investing for dividends, rather than share price growth. But it all begs the obvious question: how come other retailers can't compete with Next?

Greek crisis

BBC Radio 4

Greece's debt to GDP ratio is now just around 2% to 3%, according to Ms Pryce. That's down from 15% in 2009, which she points out is a huge achievement for the country and its people, who have suffered an enormous amount of pain over the last six years. It's also a better debt to GDP ratio than the UK, she points out. Whether Greece exits the bailout in two months' time is debateable, Ms Pryce says. Greece's budget wasn't austere enough to achieve the deficit reduction the Troika wanted to see, which is why Mr Samaras didn't get the deal on the bailout he wanted. The Troika is highly likely to demand further €2bn worth of austerity, Ms Pryce adds.

House prices

Estate agent's window

"The slowdown in housing market activity is surprising given further steady gains in employment, a pickup in wage growth (albeit from low levels) and the continued low level of mortgage rates," says the Nationwide's chief economist Robert Gardner. "If the economic backdrop continues to improve as we and most forecasters expect, activity in the housing market is likely to regain momentum in the months ahead," he adds. The average UK house now costs £188,559, by the way.


Next store
Getty Images

Next has kicked off the traditional flurry of post-Christmas trading statements. Total sales for the whole year to 24 December were up 7.7%. And the clothes retailer expects pre-tax profits for the year to the end of January to be £775m, which would be a 12% rise on last year.

Greek crisis

BBC Radio 4

Greek economist Vicky Pryce tells the

Today programme she is "amazed" European politicians let Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras go away from bailout negotiations empty handed last month. He had wanted Greece to exit the bailout agreed with the international Monetary Fund (IMF), European Union (EU) and European Central Bank (ECB) - otherwise known as the Troika - at the end of this year. Instead the bailout has been extended to the end of February. "It is extraordinary that they didn't see the implications that this would have on the political climate in Greece and that it would bring about the possibility of a complete eurozone crisis as a result," she says.

Black Britain

BBC Radio 4


Today programme's guest editor, Lenny Henry, has been exploring the lives and experiences of some of Britain's most successful black people. The first person we meet is Andrew Ramroop, who became the first black business owner on London's Savile Row, when in 1988 he bought the tailoring business he had worked at since his arrival in the UK in 1970, from Maurice Sedwell. He describes how at first he was kept away from working directly with customers because of his skin colour.

House prices

The Nationwide says annual house price growth has now slowed for four months in a row. And it means prices have risen slightly less in 2014 than they did in 2013. Quite a surprise given the way prices were shooting up earlier in the year.

House prices

For Sale signs

The growth of average house prices across the UK still appears to be slowing down, says the Nationwide building society. Its latest monthly report says prices in the year to December rose by 7.2%, but that was less than the 8.5% rise in the year to November.

The "deficit"


CBI says that
cutting the deficit should be the government's priority in 2015. But is that the annual Budget deficit or the national debt? The past year has seen a very long queue of people, especially journalists and politicians, who airily talk about "the deficit" while clearly confusing the two.

Russia crisis

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev

Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev has signed an order boosting the capital of the country's second-biggest bank VTB by 100 billion roubles ($1.7bn). The funds will be transferred from the National Wealth Fund as a part of wider plans to support Russia's banking sector, which is suffering from Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over its role in the Ukraine crisis.

More jobs

As many as half a million more jobs may be created in the UK this coming year, predicts the

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). Hurrah! But in its 2015 forecast it says this probably won't translate into real wage increases. Boo!


BBC Radio 4

Laura Lambie of Investec tells the

Today programme: "There is no doubt that there will be [stock market] uncertainty until the election in late January or early February [in Greece]." But she doesn't seem to think this will create the same level of panic as in previous crises. Claims that the left wing, anti-bailout, Syriza party will win an overall majority in the election are about as overdone as they were three years ago she adds. Ms Lambie says uncertainty will continue this year because there are several European general elections, not least of which is our own in the UK. Spain and Portugal also elect new governments this year.

Dividend investing

Financial trader views financial information including the FTSE 100 index.

The real attraction of stock market investing? Dividends, and the power of reinvesting them. BBC personal finance reporter Brian Milligan explains it in

How to make money despite the FTSE's 15-year losing streak .

City Link

Radio 5 live

City Link's former owner Better Capital hopes to recoup 50% of its investment in the parcel delivery firm - that's £20m in case you were wondering. Ian Senior, an independent postal economist, tells Wake Up To Money: "It looks as if the pain will be avoided by Mr Moulton… the one thing to look at is does City link have assets that other firms might want to take over." But he adds that those firms will need to move quickly because most of those assets are human and will be looking for work in the New Year.

Ian Pollock

Business reporter, BBC News

We are here again, before we head for the end-of-year duvet and remerge in 2015. If you have any views on what the next year will bring us, let us know on or via twitter


Matthew West

Business Reporter

Morning folks. We have some house price data out later this morning as well as trading updates from posh cooker maker Aga, and Next. And Lenny Henry is guest editing the Today programme from 06:00 and has interviewed French economist Thomas Piketty, so plenty to come.