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Summary

  1. Marks & Spencer reports 2.7% slide in clothing sales
  2. Co-operative Group annual profits fall
  3. Wall Street lower after global growth concerns resurface

Live Reporting

By Tom Espiner

All times stated are UK

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Good night

That's all from the Business Live page for tonight. Catch up with us again tomorrow from 06:00.

VAT to be shaken up?

BBC World Service

Finally, another story from World Service - European Union officials have proposed a major overhaul of the way that sales tax - or VAT - operates among member states, to combat fraud and inefficiencies. 

They reckon revenue from the tax is $190bn (£135bn) a year lower than it should be. 

As well as short term measures to combat fraud, the proposals would allow countries more freedom to reduce rates on specific items if they want to.

Nigerian publisher opens in Britain

BBC World Service

A successful Nigerian publishing house, Cassava Republic, has launched a branch in Britain, BBC World Service reports.

The founder told the BBC it was high time for a Nigerian publisher to set up in London. Most African writers are published in the West. 

One writer (Sarah Ladipo Manyika) said it was important to expand audiences for African writers. She said she had made an ideological decision to give world rights to her work to an African publishing house. 

Cassava Republic will publish fiction and non-fiction, as well as children's books and romance novels written by Africans and largely set on the continent.

Wall Street closes lower over rising global growth fears

Wall Street has closed lower after oil prices slid and investors worried that measures taken by central banks may not be enough to put the global economy back on track.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 174.09 points, or 0.98%, at 17,541.96, the S&P 500 was down 24.75 points, or 1.20%, at 2,041.91, and the Nasdaq Composite was down 72.35 points, or 1.47%, at 4,848.37. 

Senators ask Treasury to probe US links to 'Panama Papers' firm

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown have urged the US Treasury to investigate whether any US or US-linked entity was involved with the law firm at the heart of the "Panama Papers" leak on offshore wealth.

"As the primary agency charged with protecting the integrity of the US financial system and enforcing our laws against money laundering and terrorist financing, we strongly urge the Treasury Department to conduct its own inquiry into Mossack Fonseca's activities and its clients," the senators, both Democrats, wrote in a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. 

Putin denies links to offshore accounts

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Getty Images

President Vladimir Putin has denied having any links to offshore accounts and described the Panama Papers document leaks scandal as part of a US-led plot to weaken Russia.

He said: "They [the US] are trying to destabilise us from within in order to make us more compliant."

What if we were all open about our tax affairs?

BBC business correspondent tweets

Panama Papers and Norway transparency

BBC business correspondent tweets...

Deputy Labour leader: Cameron admission 'extraordinary'

Tom Watson
Getty Images

Tom Watson MP, deputy leader of the Labour Party, has responding to David Cameron's admission he had a stake in father's offshore trust:

After days of repeatedly avoiding the issue, this is an extraordinary admission from the Prime Minister. David Cameron, who described the use of complex tax avoidance schemes as 'morally wrong', has been forced to admit that he held shares in a fund now linked to tax avoidance. Far from being the end of the matter, the questions keep coming. Did the Prime Minister know that this fund was linked to tax avoidance? If so, when, and if not, why not? Given that he claimed that 'sunlight is the best disinfectant', why has it taken six years for this to come to light? The time has come for David Cameron to put the record straight rather than having details dragged from him in installments - that is the absolute minimum in terms of getting this in the meantime, I'm sure the Prime Minister will be considering voluntarily paying the money that, in his own words, should morally belong to the exchequer. People want a government that clamps down on tax avoidance and they want a Prime Minister who upholds the highest standards. At the moment we seem to have neither."

Proportion of PM's £300,000 inheritance may have come from offshore funds

Some of David Cameron's inheritance may have come from offshore sources, he has told ITV political editor Robert Peston.

The Prime Minister said his father "had investments in Blairmore", a unit trust that was one of the offshore firms revealed in the Panama Papers leak.

I obviously can't point to every source of every bit of the money, and dad isn't around to ask the questions now."

David CameronUK Prime Minister

Cameron 'challenging Corbyn'

BBC political correspondent tweets...

Offshore firm use from 'legit' to 'deeply dodgy'

The Economist tweets...

Putin 'rejects Panama Papers claims'

The Financial Times tweets...

Video: Doom creator honoured with Bafta

White House: Treasury working on more steps to counter tax avoidance

The White House has said that the Treasury Department is working on taking additional steps to counter corporate tax avoidance after it issued major new rules on tax inversions on Monday.

"I know that they are working on any future actions," White House spokesman Eric Schultz said.

Cameron admits profiting from offshore fund

David Cameron
Getty Images

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has revealed that he and his wife sold shares worth £30,000 from an offshore tax haven fund set up by his late father.

He said he did not have "anything to hide" about his financial affairs, and that he had paid UK taxes on the transaction, in an interview with ITV News.

Mr Cameron has faced intense pressure to give information about his interests since the Panama Papers leaks, which included details of Blairmore Holdings - which used "bearer shares" to protect investors' privacy. 

Why EDF chief financial officer Thomas Piquemal jumped

BBC business editor tweets...

US Treasury chief criticises Metlife court opinion

US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has criticised a federal court for striking down as "arbitrary and capricious" a decision by regulators to designate MetLife as a "systemically important" financial firm.

"In overturning the conclusions of experienced financial regulators, the court imposed new requirements that Congress never enacted, and contradicted key policy lessons from the financial crisis," Mr Lew said. 

The value of your housework

BBC personal finance reporter tweets...

Rock and roll?

BBC Scotland business and economy editor tweets...

Tata steel will be a 'responsible seller', Javid tells unions

Port Talbot
Paul Webb/Pickled Images

Union leaders have said the UK business secretary told them Tata steel will be a "responsible seller", in talks with Sajid Javid at its Port Talbot plant.

The community Union described the discussions as "positive".

Mr Javid met Tata chairman Cyrus Mistry in Mumbai on Wednesday. The UK factories go up for sale on Monday.

Sanjeev Gupta's Liberty group, seen as a front runner to buy parts of Tata's British operations, met First Minister Carwyn Jones on Thursday.

Read more here.

Brexit concerns hit sterling

Pound v Euro
BBC

Sterling has dropped to its lowest since June 2014 against the euro, amid persistent concern that the UK will vote to leave the European Union in a referendum in June.

£1 bought €1.237, a drop of 0.16%.

FBI director says unlocking method 'won't work on newer iPhones'

A woman walks past a sign advertising the iPhone 5C in 2013
Getty Images

The Federal Bureau of Investigation's secret method for unlocking the iPhone 5c used by one of the San Bernardino killers will not work on newer models, FBI Director James Comey said.

"We have a tool that works on a narrow slice of phones," Mr Comey told a conference on encryption and surveillance at Kenyon University.

Tesla says it's received over 330,000 Model 3 orders

BBC technology correspondent tweets...

Marks & Spencer shares close up 3%

Marks & Spencer shares have closed up 3%, making it one of the top FTSE 100 risers, after the high street stalwart reported a 2.7% fall in clothing sales and a flat food performance.

The FTSE 100 share index closed down 0.40%, or 24.74 points, at 6,136.89.  

Pound volatility rises to a 2009 high

BBC business presenter tweets...

IMF appoints new historians

Christine Lagarde
Getty Images

The International Monetary Fund has appointed two new historians to replace IMF historian James Boughton.

Professor Harold James of Princeton University and Atish Rex Ghosh, assistant director in the IMF research department, as the new IMF historians.

“Professor James and Mr Ghosh will write the Fund’s official history from 2000 to 2015, a period characterised by the global financial crisis, the crisis in Europe, and the growing role of emerging and developing countries in the world economy - all defining moments in the Fund’s history,” said IMF managing director Christine Lagarde.    

CML members vote in favour of joining

Members of the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) have voted in favour of forming part of the new trade association for financial services firms.

The trade body is expected merge the CML, the British Bankers' Association, Payments UK, and the UK Cards Association.

Three quarters of CML members voted in favour of the proposal.

Savile Row's first female master tailor

BBC business presenter tweets...

Swiss banks told to fight money laundering

A piece of Emmental cheese
Getty Images

Swiss banks must clamp down on money laundering, the country's financial watchdog has said. The Geneva prosecutor has opened a criminal probe after a document leak indicated how offshore companies are used to stash clients' wealth.

Four decades of documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which specialises in setting up offshore companies and has offices in Zurich and Geneva, showed widespread use of those instruments by global banks and triggered investigations across the world.

"Do I think we are where we should be in fighting misuse in the financial system? No," said Finma chief executive Mark Branson. "We think in some ways the risks in Switzerland have risen, not fallen, and that there is more that can be done. We don't want to see large scandals involving Swiss banks."

ECB 'needs to be wary of missing inflation target' says governing council member

Governor of the Bank of Italy Ignazio Visco
Getty Images

The European Central Bank needs to be wary of jeopardising its credibility if it fails to achieve its inflation objective for a long time, ECB governing council member Ignazio Visco has said.

"The credibility, if you miss your target for a long time, or the fact that you try to (attach) too much precision to the objective that you won't really attain need to be given consideration," Mr Visco said.

Wall Street opens lower as global growth concerns resurface

Wall Street has opened lower after investor concerns about weak global growth came back to the fore, and after uncertainty surrounding the Federal Reserve's plans to put up interest rates this year.

Minutes from the Fed's March meeting released on Wednesday pointed to concerns about the central bank's limited ability to tackle a global economic slowdown, reducing the odds of a rate increase before June.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 114.10 points, or 0.64%, at 17,601.95, the S&P 500 was up 11.65 points, or 0.55%, at 2,055.53 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 22.48 points, or 0.46%, at 4,897.94.

Rothschild defends Poroshenko trust

Petro Poroshenko
Getty Images

The wealth management arm of Rothschild Group has said a trust it handles for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (pictured) was set up in line with international standards.

Mr Poroshenko has been subject to accusations that he tried to avoid tax after the Panama Papers data leak on Sunday showed he had placed his Roshen confectionary business assets in an offshore account.

"The trust has been modelled on international standards for politicians requiring trusts to hold their assets while they are in office," Rothschild said.

Mr Poroshenko's financial and legal team said on Monday that the offshore company did not violate Ukrainian law.

David Cameron

David Cameron defends a £9m leaflet campaign promoting EU membership after Leave campaigners accuse him of wasting money on biased propaganda.

Read more

On your marks...

737 v Tesla
Qantas

Apologies if you've seen this before, but our rev-head readers might appreciate this somewhat pointless but amusing video of a Qantas 737 racing a Tesla Model S. Guess which one wins?

BreakingFCA seeks Panama answers

The Financial Conduct Authority has asked 20 banks and other financial firms to declare any links to Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca by next week.

The City watchdog said it had written to banks earlier this week. 

HSBC, Britain's biggest bank, has rejected suggestions it had used offshore structures to help clients avoid tax. The bank has said the documents from Panama predated a thorough reform of its business model. 

Kenya's chief justice publishes his earnings and assets

In an act that Kenya's Chief Justice Willy Mutunga says upholds "the values of transparency and accountability", he has published photographs of his wealth declaration on Twitter.

Some of the pictures detail expense claims, including a $3,300 (£2,300) living allowance for a 13-day trip to the US in 2012.

Justice Mutunga also gives salary details, which show that in 2015 he earned a gross salary of more than 16m Kenyan shillings ($160,000 , £113,000), and paid 4.8m shillings ($47,000, £33,000) in tax.

View more on twitter
View more on twitter

The documents also show that he has 33m shillings ($326,000, £230,000) worth of property.

Justice Mutunga says he will soon be subject to a forensic audit.  

ECB minutes reveal discord

European Central Bank governors broadly agreed that strong action was needed when they met to loosen monetary policy on 9 and 10 March, according to minutes released on Thursday, but some disagreed on elements of the package. 

The minutes showed that governors had been told that the global economic outlook had got worse and widely supported action although some had reservations. "While, overall, members widely agreed on the need for comprehensive policy action, different views were expressed with regard to the individual components of the proposed package," officials wrote. 

Citing the example of the charge imposed on banks for depositing money with the ECB, the minutes said: "Concerns were raised about possible undesirable side effects that could arise from moving further into negative territory. A further cut ... could unduly increase the pressure on banks' profitability." 

The ECB cut its three interest rates, expanded its asset purchases by a third and launched a new round of cheap loans for banks at its March meeting. 

Clothing still out of fashion for M&S

M&S Macao
M&S

Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, comments on today's M&S trading statement.

"Marks and Spencer now takes £1 out of every £25 spent on food in the UK, putting it in the same basket as players like Aldi, Lidl and Waitrose. This is testament to how well their food business has grown, with 80 new stores opened over the last year.

"Clothing continues to be a rather large millstone around Marks and Spencer’s neck, with yet another quarter of declining sales. New boss Steve Rowe intends to tackle this problem head on, but we have to wait until May to get details of his strategy to revitalise the brand."

At least the shares are up close to 4% in afternoon trading.

Aussie grass is greener...