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Live Reporting

By Howard Mustoe and Joe Miller

All times stated are UK

Howard Mustoe

Business reporter

That's all for today folks. Join us tomorrow from 06:00 and we'll bring you the business news, including an update from BP and results from Ocado.

Via Email

Numbers game

Alex Woolfenden has hit back at Robert Curtis' comments - see earlier. "If you can't type the right numbers in to a calculator you have bigger problems than reciting times tables!"

Oil rise


Some good news for those watching the falling price of oil with trepidation. Bad news if you're holding out for £1-per-litre unleaded. For the first time in more than three weeks,

Brent crude has reached $54.46 per barrel, rising almost 3% on Monday alone.


Today's Dilbert is for anyone who has observed that

absolute power corrupts absolutely. You also get the maximum-allowed 10 kudos points if you know to whom that phrase is attributed
without cheating.

Capitalism = democracy?

Getty Images

Marxist academic Slavoj Zizek may not be the most obvious Financial Times columnist, but his

thoughts on the links between capitalism and democracy grace the pink 'un today. "Economic models have proved more portable than political ideas, and capitalism has triumphed," he laments. Market-based economics, he adds, is now "arguably divorced" from Western values in places such as Singapore, China and India.

Paper review



Daily Telegraph reports that borrowing costs for the government will fall by £30bn by 2019. A loophole which exempts developers from building affordable homes could bring windfall profits to home builders,
says the Guardian. The Times leads on
Labour's proposal to cut university fees. And the FT splashes on
eurozone officials' concerns about Greece's proposals to deal with its debts.

Via Email

Multiple problems

The times tables debate is hotting up. Derek Howard emails: "Not having basic computational skills is, for many children, a barrier to understanding the many mathematical concepts to which these skills are then applied. Knowing basic maths facts gives them confidence instead of the often-heard 'I'm no good at maths'."

Waste not


The BBC's Emily Young has

interviewed Tom Szaky, the anti-waste campaigner behind social enterprise TerraCycle. Mr Skazy has worn the same pair of jeans every day for the past year and wants us all to consume less. Do you agree?

Multiple problems

Getty Images

Ralph Formstone emails: "Did you know that Samuel Pepys didn't learn his multiplication tables until he was 29 - having already got his Cambridge degree." We've fact checked this - and it seems Mr Pepys did indeed begin to learn the "multiplication-table" in 1662.

Greece on tour

(Corrected) Fun fact: Greece

actually has a budget surplus - well, before you take its debt repayments into account, anyway. Not a very big surplus, admittedly, but one wonders whether Mr Osborne will want to broach the topic with finance minister Yanis Varoufakis.

More ECB stimulus?

The European Central Bank will "do more" if its current fiscal stimulus programme doesn't fix the eurozone economy, a senior official has told Reuters. Executive board member Benoit Coeure said the ECB's bond-buying scheme "is an open-ended programme" and will be "reassessed when we come closer to September 2016", if inflation is not near enough the targeted 2%.

Via Email

Arrows arithmetic

Tim Weston

Live Page reader

Getty Images

"Took up darts about a year ago and play in a local pub team - I was actually quite shocked at how bad my mental arithmetic was when I started. It's still not great but definitely improving. However, let's not underestimate what's involved when you're chalking a darts match… You're having to multiply (doubles & trebles), add the three dart score and subtract from the total in a very short space of time... I work with numbers all day but I do it in spreadsheets - it's no wonder I struggle with chalking."

Market update

The benchmark

FTSE 100 share index rose 0.3% in London, while the
French Cac gained 0.32% and the
German Dax advanced 0.62%.

  • CRH gained 5.7% after saying it will buy about £4.9bn worth of building material businesses from rivals Lafarge and Holcim
  • Ryanair fell 4.9% despite again raising its profit forecast
  • Rival easyJet followed Ryanair down,
    declining 4.6%

UK manufacturing

Ford plant
Getty Images

The manufacturing sector in the UK is off to a good start in 2015. One measure, the Purchasing Manager's Index - or PMI - rose to 53 in January. A reading above 50 indicates growth. Cheaper oil prices have brought costs down for producers, boosting output.

Via Blog

Robert Peston

Economics editor

"If there were ever a formal decision that Greece is in breach of bailout conditions, at that point

Greek banks would no longer have access to money from the ECB. And at that point, pretty much everything would fall apart in a financial sense for Greece."

Via Email

Multiple problems

"Re Alex Woolfenden's comments," writes Robert Curtis, "that's exactly why so many people give the wrong answer, because it's what the calculator said. They have no idea what answer even roughly to expect so can't spot a mistake when it occurs".

Via Email

Multiple problems

Alex Woolfenden is first out of the gate on the times tables debate. He says they "are totally irrelevant" and that "99.9% of jobs and business life will involve calculators and spreadsheets". He adds: "Let's get real it's 2015. You can ask your phone to sum for you."

Nut rage trial

Cho Hyun-ah

The BBC's Stephen Evans has this report from Seoul: "The Korean

heiress who had a tantrum on a flight over nuts, forcing it to turn back on the runway, has been likened to 'a beast looking for its prey' by a cabin crew member. Due to her shouting and snarling with bared teeth, according to the testimony, it was difficult to engage in any form of conversation. She hammered a tablet computer down on his hands numerous times. He said through tears that he was treated like a feudal slave."

Boots criticism

BBC Radio 4

More from Mr Balls on Today. He's asked about criticism from Boots boss Stefano Pessina, who

told the Telegraph Ed Miliband would be a "catastrophe" for Britain. He's ready for this question. "The idea that somebody who doesn't pay any tax in Britain should be telling British people how to vote will stick in the craw of many people," says Mr Balls.

Uni fees

BBC Radio 4

Ed Balls

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls is on Today defending Labour's proposal to cut higher education fees to £6,000 from £9,000 a year. "It's not working well at the moment for students, taxpayers," he says. He argues the current system costs the taxpayer more as, he claims, "half of students aren't repaying the fees" because they aren't earning enough to trigger repayments, and "it's all being hidden off budget".

Market update

Tokyo stocks lost 0.66% following disappointing US growth figures. The benchmark

Nikkei 225 index at the Tokyo Stock Exchange fell 116.35 to 17,558.04. In Hong Kong, the
Hang Seng index dropped 0.3% to 24,438.50 points.

Free banking

BBC Radio 4

Kevin Burrowes of accountants PwC is on

Today talking about free current accounts. They've published a report reckoning they aren't sustainable. "Banks have to recover the costs [of free accounts] elsewhere and the mis-selling scandal has roots in this issue," he says. Most customers want to pay nothing, or at most £5, he says. ATMs, clearing payments, statements all cost money, he adds.

Repeat after me...


Ms Morgan's times table gaffe has led to some heated discussions on the Business desk. Is it important to learn basic maths by rote? Our venerable sub-editor, Nick, says there is nothing more annoying to a darts player than someone who can't score because they don't have adequate mental arithmetic skills. Do you think knowing 11 x 12 by heart is important in life or business? Let us know @BBCBusiness on Twitter or by emailing

Via Email

Ryanair share buyback

Chris Johnston

Business reporter

No word from Ryanair today about its intentions for the 29.8% stake it holds in Irish rival Aer Lingus - the subject of a €1.4bn takeover bid by British Airways owner IAG. The airline said only that it had received no formal offer for its holding and that it would "carefully consider" any approach. The company also highlights the tricky business of fuel hedging - it has to pay $95 a barrel for 90% of its fuel for the 2015 financial year. As a result, Ryanair says any rise in profits for 2016 will be "modest".

CRH Tarmac deal

CRH says it is

buying a load of assets up for sale as a consequence of building material giants Holcim and Lafarge's merger. It will fund the £4.9bn purchase with cash, debt and the sale of shares. The assets include Tarmac in the UK, the Daily Telegraph reports. Competition authorities ordered Holcim and Lafarge to sell some businesses if they were to merge.

DSK on trial


The former head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Khan, goes on trial in the French city of Lille today, accused of helping to hire prostitutes for a string of parties. He was forced to abandon his political career after being accused of attempted rape by an American chambermaid in 2011, a case that was later dropped.

Greece on tour

Radio 5 live

Wake up to Money sheds some light on what Greece's new finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, might talk about with George Osborne. Bond consultant Georg Grodzki says "there will be some common ground in the sense that the UK has an interest that the eurozone does not run into another crisis". He adds that Mr Osborne could play the role of intermediary between Greece and other EU states.

Chinese manufacturing


Chinese factory activity shrank in January for a second consecutive month, according to a survey. This comes a day after the government announced the first official decline in the sector in more than two years. HSBC said its final purchasing managers' index (PMI) reading for January edged up to 49.7, from 49.6 in December. That's an improvement, but a reading below 50 shows a contraction.

Bad loans?

Radio 5 live

On reading news in The Independent that Britain's

bailed out banks are set to "offload billions of pounds of bad loans", Adam and Mickey on Wake up to Money ponder why anyone would want to buy distressed debt - essentially the debt of troubled firms and households. Guest analyst Nicla Di Palma has the answer: those betting they will make a big return, especially hedge funds.

British Steel

Radio 5 live

"The fact we've had this great wave of Chinese steel - imports rose by 120% last year - means we've been looking at [the imports] a lot more intently," says Ian Rodgers, the director of trade body UK Steel, on

Wake up to Money. The steel has quality control problems, he says. "There's a serious risk" that steel plants in the UK will close if the amount coming in isn't reduced, says Mr Rodgers.

Howard Mustoe

Business reporter

Good morning! Get in touch via email or on twitter @BBCBusiness