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  1. Sterling hovers around $1.26 on Brexit hints
  2. Dow Jones hits record closing high
  3. Brent crude at around $54 a barrel
  4. FTSE closes 0.49% lower at 6.750.60
  5. Ofcom dials up landline cost review
  6. House price growth slows
  7. Get in touch:

Live Reporting

By Karen Hoggan

All times stated are UK

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Good night

That's it for Thursday's Business Live page.

Today we've focused on the upward march of the oil price and sterling.

Do join us tomorrow morning from 6am for all the latest commodity and currency market developments - and, indeed, all the other business stories. 

Pound maintains strength against the dollar

Meanwhile, against the dollar the pound is at $1.2592 - that's up 0.68%.

Earlier it hit a three week high against the dollar of $1.2696.   

Oil price still ahead

Just before we go for today, a final update on the oil price. 

Both Brent and West Texas have lost some of their earlier gains, but are still well ahead, following Wednesday's announcement of a cut in output 

Brent crude is now trading up 3.7% at $53.76.

West Texas Intermediate crude is up 3.1% at $50.95.

Starbucks announces new boss

Starbucks logo

Starbucks has announced chief executive Howard Schultz is to step down next April.

He will be replaced by Kevin Johnson, currently president and chief operating officer, who will become president and chief exeucitve. 

Mr Schultz will become executive chairman and "focus on retail innovation and accelerating growth of Starbucks ultra-premium retail formats". 

Breitbart at 'war' with Kellogg's

Various boxes of Kellogg's cereals

The right-wing website Breitbart, which has been accused by some of being a hate site, is calling for a boycott of Kellogg's products after the cereal maker pulled its advertising from the news outlet.

Using the hashtag #DumpKelloggs to promote a petition through social media, Breitbart is urging its readers to "ban bigotry from the breakfast table".

The media organisation, previously run by US President-elect Donald Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon, said the move by Kellogg's to cease advertising was "an escalation of war".

On Tuesday Kellogg's removed its adverts from Breitbart on the basis that the site did not "align with our values as a company". Read more here

Dow closes at record high

Wall Street sign
Getty Images

Rising bank and energy shares helped drive the Dow Jones to a record high close on Thursday.  

However, a sharp fall in technology stocks meant the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 indexes ended the day down.

The Dow Jones was at 19,191.93 - a rise of 68.35 points or 0.36%.

The Nasdaq fell 1.36% or 72.57 points to 5,251.11.

And the S&P 500 closed at  2,191.08, a fall of 7.73 points or 0.35%.

Talking turkey?

Turkeys have been an integral part of Christmas dinner table in the UK since the 1950s when they became an affordable treat. 

About 10 million are consumed in the UK over the festive season - often providing meals for days after -including the notorious sandwiches and curries.

The business of rearing the birds, however, isn't as easy as you might think with natural predators like foxes providing a constant threat, but one farmer has found a novel way of protecting his turkeys - alpacas. 

View more on twitter

Good day at the office

Workers at a Tennessee car parts factory have won nearly $421m in a lottery jackpot - among the top 10 largest prizes in its history.

Twenty colleagues, including Amy O'Neill, at the North American Stamping Group in Portland held the winning Powerball ticket after the prize money grew for two months.

View more on twitter

Switzerland to tighten banking secrecy laws

Swiss flag waving above water
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Switzerland has promised to dramatically increase the number of countries it shares private banking information with, in a bid to end its decades-long culture of banking secrecy.

The Swiss government said it wanted to extend the automatic exchange of information on bank accounts to 21 more countries, including Argentina, Brazil and India among others. 

It's hoped this will bring an end to claims that foreigners abuse the country's laws to stash undeclared income in Swiss banks. 

The government said consultations on the move would be held over the next four months and that it expected the accords to enter into force by January 2018.

Mandelson's Titanic undertaking

Peter Mandelson
New Titanic

What do the Titanic, Peter Mandelson and the People's Republic of China have in common? More than you might think, it seems. 

Chinese firm Qixing Energy Investment is building a full-scale replica of the doomed cruise liner, which will be the centrepiece of a high-end tourist resort near  Daying, a village in Sichuan province.

And Lord Mandelson - one of the key architects of the New Labour movement - attended an event in Sichuan yesterday to promote the project. 

The peer held cabinet positions under Tony Blair and was one Labour's chief spin doctors.

He is the president of the Great Britain China Centre, which promotes ties between the two countries, as well as founder of consultancy Global Counsel, which advises international investors. 

The New Titanic project has been criticised for trying to profit from 1912 Titanic disaster, but its backers claim the replica will boost the local tourism sector. 

Brent hits 16 month high before retreat

Brent crude intraday price graphic 19:30GMT Thursday

A short while ago Brent crude was up by 4.6% at $54.22 per barrel, but earlier it hit $54.36 a barrel - that's a rise of 4.8% - and its highest level for 16 months. 

Firm steps in to print children's Christmas cards

School children's artwork converted into Chrismas cards

Let's get a quick update on a story we brought you on Wednesday. It was about a company that converted schoolchildren's artwork into Christmas cards which had gone out of business.  

Edinburgh-based Schoolcardshop ceased trading putting thousands of orders under threat. 

Well, now it seems the children and their parents will get to see their art in print after all.

A photo-gift supplier has stepped in to take over the Christmas card orders. 

Devon-based Harrier LLC, which owns the Truprint brand, has promised to deliver all the cards before Christmas.

Harrier said the move was "a goodwill gesture". Read more here

Drumming up support for small stores

Small Business Saturday balloons from 2015

In case you'd missed it, this weekend sees a repeat of "Small Business Saturday". 

It's the fourth year the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has organised this event to try to promote small local shops and other firms and get people spending their money with them, rather than with bigger rivals. 

The FSB reckons that for every £1 spent with a small or medium-sized firm, 63p is re-spent in the local area, against 40p for every £1 spent with a chain or bigger enterprise. 

Apparently last year more than £600m was spent with small firms on "Small Business Saturday" - up from less than £500m the previous year. 

Small firms make a big difference to their community and the life of the nation, with many going above and beyond to help their small business neighbours and local start-ups. We hope even more people will turn out this year, to value the diversity and vibrancy of the UK small business community.

Mike CherryNational chairman, Federation of Small Businesses

Number of Americans seeking UK visas slips on Brexit fears

London skyline
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The number of US nationals applying for highly skilled work visas has fallen by 9% in the past year because of fears about Brexit, a recruitment firm says.

DHR International said the figure represented the lowest total since 2011/12, and was likely due to skilled US workers in sectors such as banking reconsidering moving to the UK as it prepared to leave the EU.

Stéphane Rambosson, managing partner at DHR International, said: “US companies typically headquarter their European operations in London, but the advantages of that have been put in doubt by Brexit.

“Whilst the corporates consider their next moves, at a personal level the citizens are more dubious over London as their next posting. They may be starting to see London’s global competitors like Singapore and Hong Kong as safer bets.”

Pound still trading higher

Pound vs dollar
Pound vs euro

Sterling is still trading higher despite paring earlier gains. It jumped this afternoon after Brexit minister David Davis hinted the UK could pay for single market access after it left the EU. 

Against the dollar sterling is up 0.59%, at $1.258, while against the euro it's 0.17% higher at €1.1831. 

Currency crystal ball gazing?

Pound, dollar and euro notes
Getty Images

November was the pound's best month of gains since 2009, but the big question currency analysts are asking, of course, is what the future holds.

The real question facing markets is where will the pound go next. There are a number of upcoming international events that will affect global markets. Mainly the outcome of the Italian referendum, Trump’s unpredictable first 100 days in office as well as the elections in Germany and France – all of which could hold positive prospects for the pound. Analysts will be most eager to discover if sterling will be able to withstand the formal initiation of the Brexit process in 2017, which remains the currency’s ultimate test.

Paresh DavdraChief executive and co-founder, RationalFX

Southern Railway launches legal bid to stop Christmas strikes

Southern Rail worker
Getty Images

Govia Thameslink Railway, parent company of Southern Railway, has said it will seek a High Court injunction to stop industrial action by the union Aslef.

The union is planning drivers’ strikes for the run-up to Christmas, including a 48-hour strike on 13-14 December and a 24-hour strike on 16 December.

It has also threatened a week-long walkout in the New Year and will begin a continuous overtime ban from next Tuesday, 6 December.

Charles Horton, chief executive of GTR, said:  “Passengers now face the prospect of 40 days of continuous industrial action by Aslef, and, on top of months of travel misery they’ve already suffered, it is totally unacceptable.

“The proposed industrial action called by Aslef is unjustified, unnecessary and we believe unlawful.”

Another reason the oil price hike might not last

And if you want a clear statement of intent – just look to BP’s announcement today that it will proceed with its Mad Dog Phase 2 project in the Gulf of Mexico. This is just one of several schemes that will see BP add a net 800,000 barrels per day of oil production between 2016 and 2020. OPEC can cut output but there are many willing and able to fill the void.

Neil WilsonSenior market analyst, ETX Capital

Snack attack?

How long will oil price rally last?

Opec headquarters
Getty Images

Let's get some more comment on the rising oil price - Neil Wilson at ETX reckons there are still many doubts around Opec's cut in output.

There are still many doubts around OPEC’s cut. Will members stick to the task or will they revert to type and pump as much as they please? OPEC members don’t have a great track record on sticking to quotas and enforcement of this agreement is going to be very tough indeed. For now bulls [are] in charge but this rally has the potential to come undone pretty swiftly. We know that OPEC announcements tend to have a pretty short-term impact on prices and we also know members usually produce more than they claim. This rally is based on the premise that both will be different this time.

Neil WilsonSenior market analyst, ETX Capital

FTSE shares slip as pound climbs

Trading on the FTSE has settled down, so let's have a look at how individual stocks got on.

The rise in sterling put pressure on internationally facing firms, with Coca-Cola HBC AG (CDI), a leading bottler, slipping 3.94% and DCC down 3.43%.

Water utility Severn Trent also slipped 3.38% after its shares traded without rights to their latest dividend payouts. 

On the FTSE 250, shares in TalkTalk closed down by 4.51%, on the news that telecoms regulator Ofcom has launched a review of landline-only rental prices after concerns that people may not be getting value for money. Read more here

But oil firms saw a boost following Opec's decision on Wednesday to cut production from 1 January.

Royal Dutch Shell ended the day 2.81% higher while BP was up 2.93%.

Brent crude hits 2016 high

Oil bulls rejoice - Brent crude oil just hit its highest level of the year, with the February contract breaking through the $54 barrier and is now testing levels not seen since the sharp falls of July 2015. We’ve had a touch more clarity about the nature of the Russia’s involvement, with Kremlin energy minister Novak saying it will cut 300,000 from output at today’s levels.

Neil WilsonSenior market analyst, ETX Capital

Do you believe in the 'Santa rally'?

The probability of indices rising each month chart

Stock markets are more likely to rise in December than any other month, according to analysis of nearly three decades of data.

Fund manager Schroders pooled data from the FTSE 100, S&P 500, MSCI World and Eurostoxx indices to show the frequency, in aggregate, with which they rose in each month since 1988.

It found December to be the strongest performing month, with markets rising 75% of the time. This was in contrast to the months of June, August and September which saw falls more often than a rise.

Schroders said the analysis lent weight to the existence of the so-called "Santa Rally” - an alleged effect often dismissed by seasoned investors.  

However, it also urged caution: "Simply put, stock market superstitions are true… until they fail to be. 

"Those looking to gamble simply on Santa spreading his goodwill around the markets again this year do so at their own risk. Investing should be for the long term - not just for Christmas."

Oil price marches upwards

There seems to be no stopping Brent crude - the price is now ahead by 4% at $53.89 a barrel.

West Texas Intermediate has also gained more ground, trading at $51.33 a barrel - a gain of 3.8%. 

Gig economy under scrutiny

MPs have launched an inquiry into whether UK welfare system "adequately supports" the growing numbers of self-employed and gig economy workers, and how it might be "adapted to suit their needs". 

In a statement the Work and Pensions Committee said: "The 'gig economy' has come to prominence recently with high profile issues over the hours, pay and conditions of workers in large online courier and cab services like Hermes, Deliveroo, Amazon and Uber."

The committee reckons nearly 5 million people, 15% of the workforce, are now self-employed. It's now calling for written evidence on areas including Universal Credit, Job Centre Plus, and pensions for self employed people.

FTSE 100 closes down

The FTSE 100 has managed to claw back some of the losses it suffered following the sharp rise in sterling, but has still ended the day lower at 6,752.93, a fall of 30.86 points or 0.45%.

Climate change 'could make UK a leading wine producer'

Map of UK wine growing regions in 2100

Warmer temperatures in the UK due to man-made climate change could make the country a leading wine producer by the end of the century, new research claims. 

The study, by two UCL researchers, looked at the average temperature and rainfall conditions required for growing different grape varieties and at likely changes in Britain’s climate over the next 85 years. 

It then forecast how this might impact British viticulture and found that popular grape varieties, such as SauvignonBlanc and Chardonnay, would be able to be grown in unfamiliar areas such as Peckham and Milton Keynes by the year 2100 (see map above). 

Davy Zyw of Laithwaite’s Wine, which commissioned the study, said: “It’s not long ago that experts scoffed at the idea of English, let alone wider British wine. Now thanks to a changing climate... we could see wine buyers from all over the world coming to taste the latest UK vintages in a few generations.”

Carry on paying?

More on the story that's led to a jump in sterling today - Brexit Secretary David Davis saying the UK may pay get single market access. 

Now, the BBC's political editor, Laura Kuenssberg  tweets the chancellor of the exchequer is adding to the speculation.  

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US construction spending hits October high

US construction workers
Getty Images

US construction spending hit a seven-month high in October amid gains in home building and public sector projects. 

According to the Commerce Department, construction spending rose 0.5% during the month to $1.173 trillion, the highest since March 2016. Year on year it was up 3.4%. 

In addition, figures for September were revised upwards, showing that spending was flat rather than lower as previously thought. August's figures were also revised upwards to show a gain rather than a fall.

Cost of living 'higher in remote areas' of Scotland

Scottish notes and pound coins
Getty Images

People in remote rural Scotland need up to 30% more income than the rest of the UK to have "a socially acceptable standard of living," according to a new report.

Its authors suggested better broadband could help create higher-paid jobs.

They have also highlighted the need for adequate provision of training and childcare to help support workers.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise, which was involved in commissioning the study, is supporting work to offer superfast broadband in rural areas. Read more here

E.on is latest energy supplier to freeze prices

E.on logo with gas ring

Energy supplier E.on has become the latest energy supplier to say it will not increase its residential standard energy prices until at least April 2017. 

“We have been working hard behind the scenes to make sure we could make a commitment to our customers before Christmas that we would not increase our residential standard energy prices until at least after winter," said a spokesperson. 

"We are pleased to be able to offer that reassurance to our customers. Therefore, there will be no change to E.ON’s residential standard prices until at least April 2017," they added.

Brent gains more ground

Brent crude intraday 1530 graphic

Brent crude has made further gains in Thursday trade - it's now up by 3.1% at $53.43.

UK finance firms applying for Irish licences

Central Bank of Ireland sign
Getty Images

Ireland's central bank is receiving applications for licences from UK-authorised financial firms following the UK's Brexit vote, reports Reuters, quoting the bank's head of financial regulation. 

"We're seeing applications throughout the whole spectrum. We have applications for new business, the licensing of firms who are not present here but we also see very significant indications from regulated firms that are small today but want to be big tomorrow," Cyril Roux told reporters.

"We see the whole gamut of firms inquiring for establishing or growing in Ireland, it is MIFID (markets in financial instruments directive) firms, insurance companies, CSDs (central securities depositories), payments institutions," he added.

Oil price 'may jump further'

Oil pump

Yesterday’s agreement has truly changed the landscape for oil over the coming years, putting a floor of $50 a barrel under oil prices. Prior to this agreement, the environment of sub $50 oil was likely to persist, but this move sufficiently addresses the supply/demand dynamics, with some 3.5% of supply being cut from January. It means 2017 will likely see prices around the $55-$60 a barrel mark, and we may yet see further jumps in prices as soon as next week if the non-OPEC members also agree a production cut at their meeting on Friday 9 December.

Sam WahabDirector of oil and gas research, Cantor Fitzgerald Europe

All quiet on Wall Street?

Wall Street sign
Getty Images

It's a pretty quiet start to the trading day in the US. On Wednesday gains in energy shares pushed the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 to all-time highs, but that wasn't enough to stop Wall Street slipping back after utility and technology stocks dropped. The Dow closed slightly higher on Wednesday, while the S&P and the Nasdaq finished in negative territory. 

Shortly after Thursday's open the Dow Jones was trading at 19,158.95, a rise of 35.37 points or 0.18%.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq was down by 12.88 points or 0.24% at 5,310.81. 

And the S&P 500 was also down to 2,198.47, a drop of 0.34 points or 0.02%.

Oil price still up on output cut

Brent crude intraday graphic for Thursday
West Texas intraday graphic for Thursday

Let's check in on what oil's doing - and it's still trading higher following Wednesday's agreement over the details of an output cut by producing nations. 

A short while ago it was up 2.4% at $53.08 a barrel.

Meanwhile West Texas Intermediate was also up. It was at $50.87 a barrel - a rise of 2.9%. 

Southern's Christmas Eve rail strike cancelled

Southern train at platform

A three-day strike planned for Southern rail over the Christmas break has been cancelled.

The RMT had originally scheduled the walkout from 22 December.

However, it announced a fresh strike from 19 December, which will last 48 hours.

The union said this was "following consultation with its members". 

What did Nissan deal cost?

Sky News political editor Faisal Islam tweets:

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Sterling gathers steam

Getty Images

Chris Saint, senior analyst at HL Currency Service, comments:

“Sterling’s rehabilitation is gathering steam, having broken through the €1.19 level against the euro today for the first time in almost three months. A surge of nearly 1% versus the US dollar has also lifted the pound back above US$1.26. 

"The pound had been trading below €1.18 after November’s UK manufacturing PMI fell short of expectations, although the headline reading of 53.4 is still above both June’s pre-referendum level and its long-term average.”

Will Renzi rue the referendum?

James Reynolds

BBC News, Rome

Italy often tries to change the way its government works. Its prime ministers often come and go. But then Matteo Renzi ran into 2016.

This year, it turns out, is a rather bad time for a sitting leader to hold a referendum. Italy's prime minister is a centrist politician in the year of the populist.

Read more from James here.

Italy referendum: What happens if voters say no to reforms?