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Summary

  1. FTSE 100 rises 0.6% to 6,261 points
  2. Primark owner ABF is biggest faller on FTSE 100, down 2.9%
  3. Archie Norman to help revive Homebase
  4. IMF warns US over high poverty levels

Live Reporting

By Chris Johnston

All times stated are UK

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Over and out

That's all we have time for today on Business Live - thanks for reading. We're back at 06:00 tomorrow - EU referendum day lest anyone could forget - so do join us then.

Brexit: A look back at the four month campaign

BBC World Business Report editor, Martin Webber, has been looking at how the arguments on both sides of the debate have been presented over the past four months of campaigning.

Martin Webber reviews the arguments made on both sides of Britain's EU referendum debate.

Streaming ahead

Some interesting stats on US broadband usage from Peter Kafka of Recode:

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Stairway to Heaven jury goes out

Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin
Getty Images
Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin

The jury in the copyright trial involving Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven, which the group is accused of stealing from a long-defunct Los Angeles rock band, has begun its deliberations.

Zeppelin songwriters Robert Plant and Jimmy Page deny that they stole part of a little-known instrumental by 1960s group Spirit and used it as the basis for their multimillion-selling signature song. 

Witnesses called by the plaintiffs admit there are substantial similarities between key parts of the two songs, but those for the defence testified that the chord pattern used in the introduction to Stairway is so common that copyright does not apply. 

David Woirhaye of Rhino Entertainment, which distributes the Led Zeppelin catalogue, testified the song had made $3.4m during the five-year period at issue in the trial in Los Angeles. 

Read more about the case here.

'A whole lot of nothing'

Wall Street fell slightly on Wednesday, with the Dow shedding about 0.2%, while both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were down less than 0.1%. 

"Today is a whole lot of nothing," said Art Hogan at Wunderlich Securities in New York. "We are clawing back some of the losses from last week and are in a bit of a holding pattern ahead of tomorrow's vote."

It wasn't a great day for Tesla Motors, which closed 10.4% lower in the wake of Elon Musk's proposal to buy his other company, the solar installation firm SolarCity for $2.8bn. Its shares added 4.1%.

Ex-Credit Suisse banker pleads guilty

A former Credit Suisse banker has pleaded guilty in US District Court in Virginia to charges of helping US taxpayers evade income tax, the Justice Department said. 

Michele Bergantino, 48, a citizen of Italy and resident of Switzerland, admitted that from 2002 to 2009, while working for Credit Suisse in Switzerland, he participated in a wide-ranging conspiracy to aid US taxpayers in concealing assets and income in secret Swiss bank accounts, the department said. 

Tensions mount

Back to more serious matters for a moment. This is the front page of tomorrow's Financial Times in the UK as voters prepare to vote in the referendum on the country's EU membership.

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Anyone for Mac N' Cheetos?

Right or wrong? You decide - though I'm guessing these "delights" (or heart attacks on a plate) won't be available at any Burger King in the UK. Mind you, I wouldn't mind a taste test, so you don't have to... 

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Risk vs reward

Tesla
Getty Images

As well as Jim Chanos, other analysts have also poured cold water on Elon Musk's plan to merge Tesla and SolarCity. 

"Tesla's double-down on solar energy raises important questions on strategy, capital adequacy and governance. Is the increased risk worth the potential reward?" ask Morgan Stanley analysts in a note.

Mr Musk (pictured) owns about 20% of both companies and will not participate in a shareholder vote on the proposal later this year. 

Moody's shipping gloom

Container ship
Getty Images

Still on the subject of shipping, credit rating agency Moody's warns that profits for the big shipping companies will be "much worse" than it previously thought. 

It's predicting a drop in profits of between 7% to 10% across the industry, which includes companies like Maersk and Stena.

Moody's singled out low freight rates caused by a slowdown in demand from China as a major cause of the slide.

Bidders line up for RBS shipping business

Piraeus port in Athens
Getty Images

Bet you didn't know that RBS has a Greek ship finance business. Well, it does, but it doesn't want it anymore. According to people in the know, the bank has had bids for the business, but a rise in bad debts means it may no longer be worth $3bn or so. 

Credit Suisse and China Merchants are among the interested parties, sources told Reuters. 

"RBS has held preliminary discussions with a number of interested parties," one source said. "The big difference here is they are not selling a portfolio of loans but a business, with staff in it able to do the debt collection stuff." 

RBS and Credit Suisse declined to comment.  

Are we all irrational?

BBC World Service

Behavioural economist and bit-part movie star Richard Thaler talks to Ed Butler on BBC World Services Business Daily about market bubbles and co-starring with Selena Gomez in the Big Short.

Behavioural economist and movie star Richard Thaler on market bubbles and Selena Gomez.

Irrational exuberance?

Given that the FTSE 100 has added some 350 points in the past three days of trading, Rebecca O'Keeffe at online broker Interactive Investor questions whether investors are being just a touch overconfident ahead of tomorrow's referendum.

Markets are now pricing in virtually no risk of an exit vote, which begs the question as to whether the euphoria is being overdone and how much upside still exists for investors -- or whether this is irrational exuberance and investors are ignoring the risks?"

Rise of the robots

robot
Getty Images

The number of industrial robots sold last year reached a new high of 248,000 units - 12% more than 2014 - as the global automation boom continues, according to the International Federation of Robotics.

Asia remains the biggest market for industrial robots, with a 16% rise in the number of units sold to 156,000. China bought 68,000 - more than the whole of Europe.

The IFR expects some 2.3 million units to be deployed on factory floors by 2018 - more than twice the total for 2009.

Wall Street erases gains

New York has erased most of its earlier gains at lunchtime, with the Dow now in negative territory and the S&P 500 just 0.1% higher. It's a similar story for the Nasdaq as well.

"Equity indices are mixed ... having lost some of yesterday's bullish momentum," said Mike van Dulken, head of research at Accendo Markets, said, adding that a "pause" was to be expected. 

SolarCity deal slammed

Elon Musk
Reuters
Telsa founder Elon Musk

Jim Chanos, the prominent US investment manager, has had a pop at the proposed Tesla/SolarCity deal, describing it as a "shameful example of corporate governance at its worst".

He said SolarCity is a company in trouble. "It is burning hundreds of millions in cash every quarter, a burden that now Tesla shareholders will have to bear, at a total cost of over $8 billion," Chanos tells CNBC

"And if you don't want to believe me, consider this: the combined market drop in the value of both companies is more than the equity value of the deal itself, which means that Tesla shareholders think SolarCity shares are essentially worthless," Chanos said. "Finally, it is hard for me to believe that this deal was not being contemplated when Tesla, and Mr [Elon] Musk himself, sold shares just a few weeks ago."

Asda responds to ruling

Asda trolleys
Getty Images

Further to the post earlier about the Asda equal pay ruling from the Court of Appeal, a spokesperson for the supermarket says:

"The ruling from the Court of Appeal relates solely to the way the case will proceed in the courts - it has nothing to do with the merits of the case itself. Whilst we respect the Court's decision, we continue to strongly dispute the claims being made against us in the employment tribunal. This is a legal case about different rates of pay for different jobs. We believe that jobs in question are very different in terms of their demands, and we strongly dispute the claims being made. 

"At Asda people doing the same job are paid the same. Men and women doing the same job in our retail stores are paid the same. Men and women doing the same job in our distribution and logistics centre are paid the same. Pay rates in stores and depots differ for legitimate reasons, including the different market rates for different jobs."  

Unilever vows 'less sexist' advertising

Unilever ad
Unilever

Adverts showing women unable to resist the lure of chocolate, slaving in the kitchen and going giggly at the sight of a man will be no more if consumer goods giant Unilever has its way.

The consumer goods giant, which owns more than 400 brands from Ben & Jerry's ice-cream to Dove soap, has pledged to remove sexist stereotypes from its own ads and called on rivals to follow suit.

Some 40% of women did not identify with their portrayal in adverts, Unilever said.

Read more here.

Yellen on Brexit watch

Janet Yellen
Getty Images

US Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen says she has not scheduled special meetings for Friday or Saturday following the UK's EU referendum vote. 

"Brexit is a risk that we are monitoring. We will be watching closely to see what the vote is and what possible repercussions it might have," she said in testimony to Congress in Washington DC today.

Too much too soon?

The Times financial editor Patrick Hosking tweets:

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BreakingFTSE back above 6,303

The FTSE 100 has closed 1.2% higher back above 6,300 points, while Germany's DAX jumped 1.1% and France's Cac 40 rose 0.9%. 

Sterling jumped about 0.4% against the dollar, climbing above $1.47. The pound has risen 5% since dropping to a three-month low of $1.401 on Thursday. 

"Part of it is gradually more and more the risk from Brexit being removed, something that started last week when we saw the polls changing around," said Charles St-Arnaud at Nomura. 

Chiqui treats

Times business reporter Dominic Walsh tweets:

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Profits please...

BlackBerry
Reuters

Poor old BlackBerry. Its top priority this year is making its devices business profitable, says chief executive John Chen sagely. "The device business must be profitable, because we don't want to run a business that drags onto the bottom line," he tells the Canadian company's annual meeting today. "We've got to get there this year."

Does rather beg the question as to what will happen it it fails. Selling its hardware business perhaps?

BlackBerry shares fell slightly in New York, valuing the company at a frankly remarkable $3.7bn (£2.5bn).

Archie Norman helps Homebase

Homebase store
Homebase

Bit more on that Homebase makeover plan. New owner Wesfarmers says that Archie Norman, the former Asda boss who revived the supermarket in the 1990s, will be part of an advisory board for the DIY retailer, which it plans to rebrand as Bunnings.

Also on the board will be Michael Mire - who like Mr Norman is involved with boutique advisory firm - as well as Matt Tyson, a former executive at Kingfisher, the owner of rival DIY chain B&Q.

Mr Norman is not unknown to Wesfarmers - he is a director at its Australian supermarket chain Coles.

Further, Wesfarmers now plans to keep open 16 of the 23 Homebase stores it had previously planned to close.

A dull day of trading ahead?

Connor Campbell, financial analyst at Spreadex, comments:

LSE
Getty Images

After a largely positive week of trading it will be interesting to see how investors behave on Thursday, when the anxiety over the referendum will potentially be at its most acute. Bar that super surge on Monday the markets have proved to be resistant to the kind of wild swings that could have been expected this week, a pattern that could very well extend into Thursday to create a purposefully dull day of trading as investors sit on the side-lines. So, with people taking to the ballot boxes tomorrow, and the perception of polling still suffering from a case of post-general election scepticism, what kind of trends have the spread-betters seen in the run-up to the referendum? While Spreadex has seen a late flurry of Leave bets, clients have been consistently putting their money behind Vote Remain in the last fortnight or so. In terms of vote share betting suggests anywhere up to 54% for Remain, a stark contrast to the majority of polls which have the two sides within 1% of each other."

Sterling prediction

Financial Times commentator John Authers tweets:

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Tesla shares tank

Elon Musk
Getty Images

Tesla investors are unimpressed about chief executive Elon Musk's proposed acquisition of his troubled SolarCity venture. Shares in the electric car maker are down more than 8% in New York, while SolarCity has bounced 9% higher. 

Barclays analyst Brian Johnson said the proposed merger had "little in the way of synergies [and] much in the way of cash burn", with "uncertain growth/cash prospects" for a combined Tesla/SolarCity. 

Mr Musk, unsurprisingly, sees things somewhat differently, given he is a major shareholder in both companies. "As a combined automotive and power storage and power generation company, the potential is there for Tesla to be a trillion-dollar market cap company," he told analysts on a call this morning. 

Shareholders of both companies are expected to vote on the deal later this year. 

Judges rule against Asda

Asda sign
Getty Images

Asda has failed to block an employment tribunal equal pay claim brought by more than 7,000 workers. The group - overwhelmingly women - work in hourly-paid jobs in its supermarkets and want the same pay as their counterparts in Asda's distribution depots, who are overwhelmingly men and paid substantially more.

Asda, which says there has been no discrimination and the claim should fail on its merits, wanted the employment tribunal to halt the proceedings. However, the employment tribunal said it had no power to do so. The retailer had challenged that decision in the Court of Appeal and today two judges ruled against the chain.

Giving the appeal court's ruling, Lord Justice Elias said that Asda's counsel, Lord Falconer, claimed it was the most important, complex, and financially significant equal pay claim ever pursued in the private sector. If successful, it would have an enormous effect not only on Asda and its 150,000 employees, but the retail trade generally. 

Counsel also said there were very complex points of law and a High Court judge would be more suited to decide them. 

IMF warns US

US flag
Getty Images

The International Monetary Fund has warned the United States over poverty and rising inequality, saying both could constrain the country's economic potential. The IMF also cut its outlook for US economic growth this year to 2.2%, down from the 2.4% forecast at the start of the year, blaming slower global growth, the contraction in the energy industry and lower consumer spending. 

BreakingWall Street opens higher

New York has followed London and continental markets higher at the open, though the gains are fairly muted. The S&P 500 is up almost 0.2% and the Dow is 0.15% higher. 

Holiday cash queues

Personal finance correspondent Simon Gompertz tweets:

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The Bunnings revolution...

Bunnings
Bunnings

It's the beginning of the end for the Homebase brand. Australia's Wesfarmers, which bought the ailing DIY chain from Home Retail Group earlier this year, plans to rebrand its first Homebase store as Bunnings in October under the same name as its highly successful DIY chain Down Under.

The Guardian reports that a pilot Bunnings store will open in October, with another couple before Christmas and more in early 2017 before Wesfarmers spends hundreds of millions rebranding the whole chain.

Afternoon shift

Chris Johnston

Business reporter

Thanks to Tom and Karen for this morning's coverage - Chris Johnston here with you for the rest of the day. Do get in touch with me on Twitter at @cajuk or bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk

Disney pursues Cars case

BBC World Service

Disney Shanghai opening ceremony
Reuters

Disney is taking three Chinese firms to court in Shanghai, accusing local filmmakers of copying elements of its hit movie Cars, the World Service reports.

The US entertainment giant said some elements of the Chinese film The Autobots, released last year, closely resembles some parts of Cars, from 2006. 

The director of The Autobots denies any similarities.

Disney has significant business interests in mainland China - just last week it opened a $5.5bn (£3.7bn) theme park in Shanghai.

VW supervisory board 'considers damage claims against current and former execs'

Volkswagen's supervisory board is looking into the possibility of claiming damages from current and former members of the carmaker's management board in relation to its diesel emissions scandal, Reuters reported chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch as saying.

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam...

Londonist tweets ...

Engineering firm cuts 430 oil and gas jobs

Subsea 7 logo
BBC

Offshore oil and gas firm Subsea 7 has announced it is to cut up to 430 UK jobs, most of them in Aberdeen.

The global subsea engineering company said the move was in response to "continued difficult business and economic conditions" in the oil and gas market.

It plans to axe 1,200 roles worldwide, out of a total workforce of 9,200.

The company said it was cutting more than £200m from its costs, and taking some ships out of its fleet.

It has begun consultation about redundancies with staff in the UK and Norway.

Read more here

Take note ...

BBC personal finance correspondent tweets

Sterling notes and coins
PA
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On Tuesday another money transfer site - Transferwise - said it will suspend pound transfers on Thursday in anticipation of currency volatility caused by Britain's referendum on European Union membership.

It'll resume its service following the announcement of the outcome on Friday. 

It plans to suspend incoming pound transfers on Thursday morning and outgoing transfers at 6pm. 

The rush for travel money

BBC business correspondent tweets...

A dozen Homebase stores 'to be rebranded as Bunnings'

Homebase
HRG

Australian retail giant Wesfarmers is to rebrand a dozen pilot Homebase stores as Bunnings as part of a plan to turn Homebase around, the Financial Times reports.

It will also reverse some planned Homebase closures and rethink its online strategy, the FT article says.