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Summary

  1. Chancellor defends plan for spending cuts
  2. Next cautious over 2015 sales growth
  3. Yahoo closes Beijing office

Live Reporting

By Russell Hotten

All times stated are UK

Get involved

Market update

The

FTSE 100 set new records today as signs that US interest rates will rise at a slower than expected pace resulted in further gains after a Budget-inspired rally in the previous session. London's top-flight reached a new all-time intraday high of 6982.8 points and though some of the fizz came out of its performance later it still closed 17.1 points up at 6962.3, just above its previous best finish earlier this month.

Greece

Yanis Varoufakis
AFP

When the new Greek government took over in January you'd have thought the outgoing administration might have left a copy of the country's original bailout deal. No so, according to new finance Yanis Varoufakis. He says he felt "almost infinite anger" when told that a copy of the agreement was missing. He got one a few days later. Mr Varoufakis blamed a tradition of ministers taking key documents with them when they left office, and promised to change the practice.

Ryanair

Ryanair plane taking off
PA

After a frenzy of media stories last week that Ryanair will start transatlantic flights, the airline says it, err... isn't. Here's the statement IN FULL. "In the light of recent press coverage, the Board of Ryanair Holdings Plc wishes to clarify that it has not considered or approved any transatlantic project and does not intend to do so."

Via Twitter

Adam Parsons

5 live Wake Up To Money presenter

tweets: Ryanair says it WON'T fly to United States

Interest rates

Sterling $ graph
BBC

Sterling has taken a hit against the dollar after dovish comments by a Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane that the direction of interest rates could be down rather than up. He stressed that this was a personal view, but the comments have clearly burst some assumptions that the next move will be a rise. Sterling, having made gains against the dollar earlier in the day, is now 1.51% down.

Interest rates

More on Bank of England economist Andy Haldane's surprising comments that interest rates were as likely to be cut as rise. Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, says: "Despite Andy Haldane's remarks, an interest rate cut by the Bank of England still looks highly unlikely as he looks to be pretty isolated in his views - at least for now."

Interest rates

Andrew Haldane, Chief Economist of the Bank of England
BBC

Most experts are speculating about a likely rise in UK interests rates, but the Bank of England's chief economist Andy Haldane is contemplating a possible cut. "Inflation has dropped like a stone over the past year, to close to zero," he says in a speech. "I think the chances of a rate rise or cut are broadly evenly balanced. In other words, my view would be that policy may need to move off either foot in the immediate period ahead." He stressed this was a personal view. But it's still likely to set off a debate.

Foie gras

geese
Getty Images

A French court has cleared a foie gras producer accused by animal rights activists of "acts of cruelty" for the conditions in which it force-fed its birds. The case targeted one of France's best-known producers, Ernest Soulard, a company based in the western Vendee province which supplies top restaurants including Le Fouquet's and George V in Paris.

Via Twitter

Robert Peston

Economics editor

tweets: David Cameron says five years ago the UK was almost as bust as Greece ("virtually in same boat"). Does he really think that?

Auto Trader

Auto Trader continues to shine after its stock market debut this morning. Shares in the online car marketplace rose as much as 16.5% from the offer price of 235p to almost 274p, and are now trading about 15% up.

Via Twitter

Douglas Fraser

Business and economy editor, Scotland

tweets: Oil revenue drop to £700m pa means Scottish deficit rises to 8.6% next year: UK on 4%. Gap of £7.6bn. Via @TheIFS: http://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/7652 …

Lufthansa strike

Lufthansa logo
Getty Images

A pilots' strike at Lufthansa will mean cancelling 700 short- and medium-haul flights on Friday, the German airline says in its latest update. Lufthansa says about 84,000 passengers will have travel plans disrupted. The cancellations affects 50% of the airline's 1,400 scheduled services. Long-haul flights will not be affected, the airline said.

Bordeaux

Chinese woman drinking wine
Getty Images

A poor harvest in 2013 and slowing Chinese demand hit Bordeaux sales last year. A total of 685 million bottles of Bordeaux were sold in 2014, 8% down on the previous year, says the CIVB winemakers' association. The total value of the wine sold last year was €3.74bn (£2.67bn), a 13% fall on 2013, But the value of wine sold to China was down 17%

Tag Heuer smartwatch

Cheese cutting at Tag Heuer press conference
Tag Heuer

If you're a journalist covering the watch business you might get the odd freebie. But the lucky hacks covering

Tag Heuer's launch of a smartwatch on Thursday got a piece of cheese. It's the best cheese in Switzerland, says Jean-Claude Biver (second left), president of LVMH's watch division, which owns Tag. It was made from the milk of 86 cows on his Alpine farm. And why the cheese-cutting? "It's about sharing tradition," he says.

Market update

Wall Street was in retreat at the start of trading in the wake of yesterday's rally after the Federal Reserve cut economic growth forecasts and hinted that it was in no hurry to raise interest rates. The Dow Jones was down 0.44%, while the S&P 500 was 0.34% lower. "Yesterday's rally has all the appearances of being a one-day pop," says Peter Kenny, chief market strategist at Clearpool Group, in New York.

Russell Hotten

Business reporter, BBC News

Thanks to Ben and Chris for keeping the live page going today. The afternoon team is in place. Don't forget, you can get in touch by emailing bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk or tweet @bbcbusiness.

Via Twitter

Joe Lynam

BBC Business Reporter

Neil Woodford

not as optimistic as @George_Osborne

Aldi/Team GB

Team GB
ALdi

Aldi, the budget supermarket chain, has announced a partnership to "support" Team GB athletes in the run-up to and during the Rio Olympic games next year. We'd love to tell you more, but sadly the press release fails to offer any details. Perhaps the athletes will get free groceries? Let's just hope they aren't forced to train in Aldi stores...

IFS Budget response

Chancellor George Osborne needs to spell out exactly how he plans to cut £12bn from welfare spending, the Institute for Fiscal Studies says. IFS director Paul Johnson says only £2bn of the cuts have been outlined - even though they are supposed to be in place by 2017-18. "It is time we knew more about what they might actually involve," he adds.

Album sales

Ed Sheeran and Beyonce
Getty Images

There's a bit of a Radio 2 flavour to the top-selling albums this decade, with just five selling more than 2 million copies. Adele's 21 is at the top of the tree, taking just 13 weeks to reach the milestone. She is followed by Take That's Progress, Christmas by Michael Buble, Emeli Sande's Our Version of Events, and

Ed Sheeran's X. In the 38 weeks since its release the record has sold an average of 7,555 copies a day, according to
Official Charts.

'Solar surge'

solar eclipse
Getty Images

National Grid is expecting a dip in electricity demand on Friday as people head out to witness the solar eclipse. In the north almost all of the sun will be covered by the moon at about 0930, with about 85% obscured even in London. Demand should spike as people head back inside after the event - hence the "solar surge". This
graphic shows the potential impact on demand.

Siemens shares slump

Siemens in Munich
Reuters

Shares in German engineering firm

Siemens have slipped 4.6% in Frankfurt. Chief executive Joe Kaeser said the fall in oil prices was affecting its business as oil-exporting nations are investing less in infrastructure. "That's something we are seeing already. It's not cancellation but it's pushing out orders and the bid activity has become quite ... slow," said Mr Kaeser and reported by Reuters.

Via Twitter

Mark Sweney

Media business correspondent, The Guardian

STV wins local TV licences for Aberdeen, Ayr and Dundee. Already has TV stations in Glasgow and Edinburgh

@marksweney

Via Twitter

Douglas Fraser

Business and economy editor, Scotland

Oil tax take
BBC

This chart, showing falling oil revenue, may get some attention during #FMQs at noon:

Digital tax

How you declare interest over £1,000 a year depends on the government's new digital tax system and "we don't have the full details of that yet", Mr Lewis says.

Savings allowance

More from Martin Lewis. The £1,000 tax free savings allowance is generous in this low interest rate environment. But when interest rates go back up, it will seem less generous he says. He says the first place you should put you money is still an ISA.

Budget 2015: 'Seismic' saving changes

Martin Lewis, moneysavingexpert.com
BBC

Martin Lewis from moneysavingexpert.com says the new personal savings allowance is a "seismic" change to the structure of taxation in this country. But he has concerns about the new pension freedoms. Far from being reckless, he thinks people may be too cautious with their pension savings. At least with annuities people got an income and spent it, he says.

Via Twitter

Mark Broad

Economics reporter, BBC News

'The Trumpet Tax' hits the Commons - @ChrisBryantMP claims new Orchestra tax relief excludes brass bands

Sky raises prices

Sky logo
PA

Sky is to increase its prices for sports and family entertainment packages in the UK. Sky normally raises prices in September. But today it announced the prices of its sports TV package would rise by £1 to £47 a month. Its family bundle will be priced at £36, a rise of £3. The increases come into effect in June. Analysts predicted prices rises

following last month's deal by Sky under which it paid £4.1bn to show Premier League football between 2016 and 2019.

Tax evasion

House of Commons

Parliament

On tax evasion and avoidance, Mr Alexander says the public will not tolerate such actions any more. Since 2010, he says, every year the government has put in more measures to tackle abuse of the tax system.

He saysthe law around tax evasion will be tightened to "strict liability", which means that pleading ignorance of the law - or your accountants actions - will no longer be a defence to offshore tax evasion.

A new offence of aiding and abetting tax evasion will be created by legislation. There will be more scope for tax evaders to be named and shame too, he says.

Lib Dem Budget

Danny Alexander is delivering his alternative budget to a quiet chamber. He says people watching Wednesday's Budget would have been wondering if there was another way. "Today I say yes there is," says the chief secretary to Treasury. The Lib Dem plan cuts less than the Tories and borrows less than Labour, he adds.

Lib Dem budget

Isabel Hardman

Spectator magazine

tweets: Excitement builds in the Commons Chamber ahead of Danny Alexander's alternative Budget.

House of Commons
Twitter

Greece: 'time running out'

Alexis Tsipras
Getty Images

Jean-Claude Juncker will tell Greece today that time and patience are running out for its government to implement reforms and avert a looming cash crunch. The European Commission president says he will tell PM Alexis Tsipras: "I will repeat to him what I've already told him twice. Greece must undertake the necessary reforms."

Nordic rates

Swedish krona
Visitsweden.com

Sticking with our Scandinavian theme for a moment, Sweden has cut rates even further into negative territory today, with a 15 basis point cut to minus 0.25% in a bid to combat the threat of deflation. "The bank will probably cut rates again," banking group Nordea said. However, Norway's central bank defied expectations to cut rates, keeping them on hold at 1.25% today.

Rovio slides

Angry Birds
Rovio

Finland's Rovio, the owner of the Angry Birds game, is riled. Declining popularity of Angry Birds sent sales down 9% last year to €158.3m (£113.5m), although revenue from mobile games rose 16% to €110.7m. Operating profit slumped 73% to just €10m.

Permira's Damon Buffini

Damon Buffini
Rushey Mead School

For

BBC School Report Day, students at
Rushy Mead comprehensive in Leicester invited Damon Buffini, boss of private equity firm
Permira, to speak to them. The son of a US African-American serviceman and a British woman, he grew up in a single parent family on a council estate in the city but went on to Cambridge University, Harvard Business School and a stellar career in the business world. The students wanted to know what it was like to grow up black in Leicester in the 1970s. Despite "casual racism" being everywhere, Mr Buffini says he "never felt it held him back - I knew where I wanted to go".

Savills profits up

Savills
Savills

Some decent results for estate agent chain Savills today, with annual pretax profits up 21% to £84.7m on revenues 19% higher at almost £1.1bn. Investors in the company will also be pleased, with the total dividend rising 21% to 23p a share.