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Summary

  1. Wall Street's main markets heading for fresh record
  2. HSBC reports 62% fall in annual pre-tax profit
  3. Fall in HSBC shares drags other bank stocks lower
  4. FTSE 100 lower in morning trade
  5. Asda sales fall, but US owner Wal-Mart sees sales rise
  6. MPs question Carney on Bank forecasts
  7. Get in touch: bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk

Live Reporting

By Russell Hotten

All times stated are UK

Get involved

The live page is finished for the day. We'll be back as usual from 6am tomorrow. 

Wall Street sets new records

US stocks rose to fresh record highs, boosted by strong earnings reports from Wal-Mart and Home Depot, and continued optimism about the economic agenda of President Donald Trump.

Wal-Mart's shares were the top gainer in the Dow Jones, rising 3% after the world's largest retailer reported higher-than-expected US sales. Home Depot shares gained 1.4% after the home improvement retailer reported higher-than-expected quarterly profit and sales, boosted by a stronger US housing market.

The Dow Jones rose 0.58% to 20,743 points, the S&P 500 gained 0.6% to 2,365.38, and the Nasdaq added 0.47% to 5,865.95.

All three indexes ended at all-time highs, with the Dow notching a record for an eighth straight session. 

US Treasury's Mnuchin tells IMF to monitor currencies

Donald Trump and Steve Mnuchin
Getty Images

New US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (right) appears to be turning up the heat over Washington's concerns about alleged currency manipulation by its trade rivals. 

According to a Treasury spokesman, he has told International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde that he expects the IMF to provide "frank and candid" analysis of exchange rate policies.

Why does that matter? President Donald Trump has repeatedly accused countries like China of using trade and currency policies to cheat its trading partners. 

Trump also threatened during the election campaign to slap tariffs on imports from China and declare the country currency manipulator, which would set in motion a process that could allow the US to take retaliatory action.

Wall Street holding on to gains

US stocks are breaking records again as investors come back from a long weekend hungry for deals. With less than 30 minutes to go before Wall Street closes, the Dow Jones was up 0.5% to 20,730 points, and the Standard & Poor's 500 was also 0.5% ahead, at 2,363. The Nasdaq gained 0.3% to 5,858.

All three indexes are at record highs and are on track for their ninth gain in the last 10 days. 

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies added or 0.6% to 1,407, which put it in line for a record as well.

US markets were closed Monday for the Presidents Day holiday. 

Asset freezing: 'sending a strong message'

Criminal Finances Bill

More on the Magnitsky amendment mentioned earlier...

Security Minister Ben Wallace said the new powers allowing seizure of assets from human rights abusers would send a strong message around the world.

"We are putting on the statute book a new power to take action based on gross human rights abuse, torture, degrading treatment. We have not done that before.

"That's a major step and a major signal to countries around the world that if there is evidence presented we could interdict with their assets and make sure we send that very powerful message that London, the United Kingdom, is not a base for them to put their assets or ill-gotten gains from such behaviour," he said. 

Brexit and bendy bananas

Brexit Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

An art installation of bananas
PA

"Bananas," begins Labour's Lord Giddens.

He admits he is trying to get attention of the Lords but also says he wants to address the subject of EU regulations on "bendy bananas".

Such regulations, he says, are often held up as a reason for leaving the EU.

He suggests that when the UK leaves the EU it will still need similar regulations in order to trade bananas.

However, he adds, that without EU membership the UK will have "less clout" in negotiating these regulations. 

Campaigner hails asset seizure plan

Sergei Magnitsky
Magnitsky family

Earlier today, the UK government introduced proposals in the Criminal Finances Bill designed to target foreign individuals with assets in the UK who are guilty of human rights abuses. It was called the Magnitsky amendment, after Sergei Magnitsky (above), a lawyer who died in a Russian prison cell in 2009.

Bill Browder, an investor with Hermitage Capital and colleague of Magnitsky's, has led a global campaign to highlight claims the lawyer was jailed on trumped up fraud charges and tortured. 

Browder has been talking to the Press Association about the Commons move. He called it  "absolutely groundbreaking". Kremlin officials will be afraid of losing Belgravia mansions because of the new powers to freeze the assets of human rights abusers, he said.

He believes the move will be greeted with rage in Russia. "Right now, prior to this Bill being passed, every tin pot dictator and torturer from countries like Russia and other places felt totally comfortable committing crimes at home and having homes in London but with this law these people's assets are at risk.

"I think that this will cause apoplexy in the halls of the Kremlin as they worry about the safety of their Belgravia mansion. I think the law is absolutely groundbreaking. The only question now going forward is how robustly it will be implemented," he told PA.

The Bill now goes to the House of Lords for further scrutiny.   

Macy's profit drop

shoppers at Macy's
Reuters

More on those earnings from Macy's.

The US's largest department store chain said its earnings for the three month period that includes Christmas and the new year dropped nearly 13% as results were dragged down by, among other things, a dip in sales and store closures. The profit results beat Wall Street expectations, but Macy's said it would post another year of sales declines. Like many department stores, Macy's has been losing sales to online shops.

Wall Street breaks records again

Energy companies are rising with the price of oil and while Kraft Heinz stock is falling after it pulled a $143 billion offer for Unilever, other food makers are rising as investors bet Kraft will make an offer for one of those companies instead. 

The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 0.5%, to 20,719. The Standard & Poor's 500 index, or 0.4%, to 2,361. The Nasdaq composite advanced 0.2%t, to 5,852. All three indexes are at their highest values ever and are on track for their ninth gain in the last 10 days. 

Puerto Rico: debt D-day

The newly-appointed head of a board overseeing Puerto Rico's finances is warning that the US territory will be hit with painful austerity measures in upcoming months. Interim Director Ramon Ruiz says that there are no other options given the island's critical economic situation. 

Puerto Rico, sometimes called the Greece of the Caribbean, can't afford to pay its debts.

Mr Ruiz says that if the local government doesn't submit a fiscal plan by the end of the month with cuts needed to address a $7bn deficit, the board will implement its own plan.

Ruiz also said it is unlikely the board will extend a deadline that currently shields Puerto Rico from lawsuits from its creditors because it would not be fair to bondholders. 

His comments come just days after a federal judge ruled that he will hear arguments from bondholder groups opposed to a debt moratorium. 

Bag for life: UK's oldest carrier bag?

Andy Giddings

BBC Shropshire

How's this for a "bag for life" - a woman still has a plastic bag she was given in 1981.

Sue O'Dowd, from Much Wenlock, picked up the bag celebrating Tesco's 50th birthday at a store near Five Ways in Birmingham.

Describing it as better quality than modern bags, she said it was currently being used, 36 years later, to store wool.

Tesco bag
Frankie O'Dowd

Caravan use 'to rise 20% by 2020'

Caravan park
Getty Images

Caravan and motor-home use is expected to rise 20% by 2020, according to new industry figures.  

Harvey Alexander, head of the Caravan Club, an organisation representing caravanners, says: "In 2008 we saw a rise in people wanting to discover more of the UK and I think that has continued. 

"I also think people want to get back to nature... we're all so incredibly busy that it is really good to get back to those simple things in life."

He also says caravans are much better made than they used to be, with most of them having central heating and wi-fi.  

Russian and Libyan state oil giants sign deal

Libyan oil terminal
Getty Images

Russia's Rosneft oil giant has paved the way for investment in Libya's oil sector by signing a cooperation agreement with the National Oil Corporation of Libya.

Under the deal, the two companies will establish a joint working committee to explore possible cooperation in various fields, including exploration and production.

The deal underlines Russia's growing interest in Libya and support for eastern-based military commander Khalifa Haftar. 

His forces control most of Libya's oil resources, and have recently been cooperating with the Tripoli-based NOC despite earlier attempts by eastern factions to sell oil independently. 

Commodities trader Glencore is a shareholder in Rosneft and a trading partner for the Russian firm.

FTSE 100 falls

The FTSE 100 ended the day down 0.34% at 7,274.83, dragged lower by a 6.54% fall for HSBC. Capita and Rolls-Royce were the main gainers, up 3.89% and 3.46% respectively.

On the FTSE 250, Wood Group was the stand-out faller. Shares in the oil services provider fell 7.95% after it reported a 28% fall in annual profits.

Energy billionaire detained

Austrian authorities say they have detained Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash on a European arrest warrant linked to organised crime and illegal money laundering allegations in Spain.

The gas magnate was held in Vienna shortly after an appeals court in the city authorised his extradition to the US where he is wanted on bribery charges, in a shock decision overturning an earlier ruling.

Firtash, one of Ukraine's richest men and a one-time ally of former president Viktor Yanukovych, had already been detained in Austria in March 2014 over the US allegations. He was however freed after paying a record Austrian bail of 125m euros ($130 million), but had to stay in the country until the appeals ruling.

FBI pressed on iPhone hacking cost

Inside of an iPhone
Reuters

Three news organisations have asked a US judge to force the government to reveal the amount it paid for technology to unlock an iPhone used by the San Bernardino gunman.

In the court filings, the organisations said that there was "no adequate justification" for the FBI to continue to withhold the information.

They added that they did not seek information that would jeopardise national security.

The groups sued the FBI last year.

Associated Press, Vice Media and Gannett, the parent company of USA Today, are seeking to learn more about the circumstances surrounding the event.

The FBI has never named the security firm or group of hackers who helped unlock the phone, which was used by killer Syed Rizwan Farook.

The process would have involved finding a way to bypass the passcode on a locked phone. In normal circumstances, if 10 incorrect attempts at the code are made, the device will automatically erase all of its data.

Burger King group buys Popeyes

Restaurant Brands International is buying fried chicken chain Popeyes for $1.8bn, bringing it under the same corporate umbrella as Burger King and Tim Hortons.

Restaurant Brands was created after Burger King, controlled by Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital, bought Tim Hortons in 2014. 3G is a big investor in Kraft Heinz, which has just tried - and failed - to buy Unilever.

Lord Darling: Government needs to be 'grown up' in negotiations

Brexit Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

Lord Darling
BBC

Peers are debating the Brexit bill again this afternoon, and Lord Darling of Roulanish, chancellor under Gordon Brown, is one of the first to speak.

He calls for the government to be "grown up" about Brexit. 

In reference to negotiations with the EU, he says that there will be a need for rational conversations over issues relating to migration and security. The government white paper laid out broad ideas, but the 27 remaining EU members will have different ideas, he says.

He also claims that a trade deal with the US should not be seen as an "alternative" to the EU, saying "if someone is going to come first, someone has to come second".

He therefore believes that those who wanted to remain in the EU should not "sit down and be quiet" giving the government a "blank cheque", but to act as a rational voice.

US stocks set new records

Traders on NYSE
Reuters

US stocks have opened at record highs as oil prices rose and investors cheered strong results from big US retailers.

Wal-Mart's shares provided the biggest boost to the Dow Jones index, rising more than 3% after the company reported better-than-expected quarterly numbers.

Department store bellwether Macy's and home improvement chain Home Depot also rose after the companies posted profits that topped estimates.

Investor sentiment was boosted by a more than 1.5% rise in oil prices, after Opec said the group was hopeful its deal to cut production was being implemented by member countries.

The S&P 500 energy sector jumped 0.75%, led by gains in Schlumberger and Chevron.

About 30 minutes into trading, the Dow Jones was up 0.5%, and the Standard & Poor's 500 was 0.4% better. The Nasdaq also rose 0.4%.

All three indexes are at record highs, and the S&P 500 and Nasdaq have risen for eight of the last nine days. 

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies added 0.6%, which put it in line for a record as well. 

Who spends $150,000 on a kid's birthday party?

Children's birthday parties are getting expensive in some countries - but how much would you spend keeping up with the Joneses?  

Cheers

Dougal Sharp, founder Innis & Gunn
Innis & Gunn

Scottish craft brewer Innis & Gunn has signed a deal with Dxcel International to distribute its beer in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

Sales will focus on Innis & Gunn's flagship ale Original and Ossian golden ale, which will be distributed to a network of premium bars, restaurants, hotels and supermarket chains across the destinations. 

Dougal Sharp (above) founder and master brewer at Innis & Gunn, said: "Exports have always been very important to us since we started 13 years ago. We've seen our products do exceedingly well in Canada, the US and Sweden, and we thought it was about time we head into the largest beer market in the world. 

"China excites us not only because of its size, but also its growing passion and thirst for great craft beer," he says.

MPs agree 'Magnitsky' amendment

Criminal Finances Bill

House of Commons

Parliament

The House agrees to the government amendment allowing the freezing of the assets of people implicated in human rights abuse abroad.

MPs are now considering a series of amendments strengthening the system of Suspicious Activity Reports, the way financial institutions flag up potential instances of money laundering or fraud to the authorities to allow investigation.

Budget: Why green shoots will not mean a change of direction

Kamal Ahmed

Economics editor

Philip Hammond is not a man known for political surprises.

Spreadsheet Phil, as he probably doesn't like to be called, prefers to keep any rabbits that might be hopping around Whitehall stuffed deep in the Treasury's public spending hat.

So, anyone thinking that today's better news on the state of government's finances will lead to any Budget largesse is likely to be disappointed.

The public sector net borrowing numbers showed a surplus in January, a month when the government receives a significant proportion of its tax receipts.

With those receipts higher than expected and economic growth stronger than expected, the government earned more than it spent to the tune of £9.4bn.

Taking a year to date comparison, these are the best borrowing numbers the government has achieved since the financial crisis.

But, Mr Hammond does not want to be a "political chancellor" in the style of one George Osborne, moving rapidly to plug political holes with Treasury gold.  

Read Kamal's blog in full.

Wal-Mart shares jump on sales news

inside wal-mart store
Getty Images

Asda's sales may have slipped (see earlier items), but the supermarket's US owner Wal-Mart seems to be doing better than expected.

Stronger in-store and online sales beat analysts' forecasts, sending Wal-Mart's shares rising more than 3% in pre-open trading.

Wal-Mart said sales at US stores open at least a year rose 1.8%, excluding fuel price fluctuations, during the fourth quarter ending on 31 January.

"We've now seen nine consecutive quarters of traffic growth in our stores," said finance chief Brett Biggs. "Clearly, we're gaining traction."

Revenues for the three months rose 1% to $130.9bn. 

FTSE 100 struggles to make gains

Mediclinic hospital
Getty Images

The FTSE 100 index is struggling to break back above 7,300, weighed down by HSBC shares but also private hospital operator Mediclinic.

Shares in the South African firm, which treated Nelson Mandela, are down more than 5% after forecasting a revenue hit from its Middle East expansion. 

Mediclinic took over a hospital group in Abu Dhabi last year, but has decided to cut costs after patient numbers were lower than expected.

On the FTSE 250, newsagent WH Smith is up more than 3% after analysts at Investec upgraded its stock to a buy.

Scottish oil services provider Wood Group is the biggest faller on the index after reporting a 28% drop in annual profits.

Verizon trims $350m off Yahoo deal

Verizon logo
Getty Images

US telecommunications giant Verizon has revised its deal to buy Yahoo in light of several major cyber attacks at the internet firm.

Verizon will now pay $4.48bn for Yahoo's core internet business, a $350m discount to the original price. 

Yahoo's current owners have also agreed to split any future liabilities and costs that arise from the data breaches, which may have affected up 1.5bn user accounts.    

Verizon had been trying to persuade Yahoo to amend the terms of the deal to reflect the data breaches, which only came to light after it submitted its initial bid. 

HSBC sucks bank shares lower

HSBC office
Getty Images

HSBC is the heaviest faller on the FTSE after reporting a steeper-than-expected fall in annual profits.

Analysts have expressed worries about what the results mean for other banks' profit margins, which continue to be hit by low interest rates.

Connor Campbell of Spreadex said: "The update also impacted HSBC’s UK peers, though RBS – which is expected to reveal its umpteenth yearly loss on Friday – fared worse than Lloyds and Barclays, both of whom are set to see sharp jumps in profit on Wednesday and Thursday respectively." 

All this "helped drag on the FTSE" which remains the "wrong side of 7,300" points, he added.

Who are the UK's main trading partners?

The ONS has pulled together a load of interesting data on who the UK currently buys and sells to. All very useful for explaining which countries it might be worth pursuing trade deals with after the UK leaves the European Union.

No surprise that the EU as a bloc is the UK's biggest trading partner at the moment, accounting for 47% of UK goods exports.

But the UK also buys more than it sells - a trade deficit - from the biggest EU economies, the ONS says. When it comes to trade surpluses, the UK has them with the US, Ireland, Australia and Brazil, among others.

View more on twitter

Is Bank 'stuck in a pre-2008 mindset'?

Kit Malthouse MP
Getty Images

Towards the end of the parliamentary committee hearing, Conservative MP Kit Malthouse wonders whether the central bank is trapped in a "pre-2008 mindset".

"We're in a post-2008 economy" as the job market changes and inflation rises, he says. "Most of the population are struggling to catch up." 

But Bank governor Mark Carney strongly disputes this. 

He says the central bank has not been a "passive observer" of the new challenges in the economy, whether it's "the nature of the job market... how that is affecting wage bargaining... or the impact of machine learning and artificial intelligence".

He adds that some of these things do not immediately affect the inflation rate, but eventually will, which is why the Bank is getting ahead of the curve.

'A lot to do'

Asda store sign
PA

In case anyone's in any doubt about the challenge facing the UK's third largest supermarket, senior executives at Asda and US owners Walmart all used the same four words: "a lot to do".

Walmart chief executive Doug McMillon says he's "glad [comparable] store sales improved during the fourth quarter, but we have a lot of work to do".

The US firm's chief financial officer also feels there's "a lot of work to do", even if he is "encouraged by some early signs of traction".

And Asda chief executive Sean Clarke shares their awareness of the task ahead. He said - you guessed it - that while the supermarket has "a lot to do, it is great to see our colleagues, who really make the difference, engaged in this change in doing what’s right for customers".

Growing lettuce in the desert

BBC World Service

Adel El Shentenawy, co-founder of Egyptian Hydrofarms, shows Ed Butler around his start-up - a farm that grows lettuce in the Egyptian desert using water-saving technology.

Egypt is one of the biggest food importers in the world. Farmers like Adel hope these techniques can make the country more self-sufficient.  

'BoE not responsible for runaway house prices'

Any Haldane
BBC

Labour MP Helen Goodman points out the inequality that exists between UK regions, which she says has been largely driven by the rising cost of housing.

Has the Bank of England's quantitative easing (QE) policies - which have pushed up asset prices - fueled the trend, she asks?

"For me, the reason we have seen a rise in the price of houses over decades, in relation to people's wages, is fundamentally a supply side problem," says Andy Haldane, the Bank's chief economist.

Ultimately the Bank can't do much to get more homes built, he adds.

He also says that QE has, net net, improved the prosperity of every region in the UK.

BreakingAsda slows sales decline

Asda store
Reuters

Sales at Asda declined 2.9% in the last three months of 2016, its tenth straight quarter of falling sales on an underlying basis (namely at stores open for more than a year).

But that was an improvement on the previous three quarters when sales had fallen by greater margins. 

Asda chief executive Sean Clarke, who was brought in last July to turn around the supermarket chain, said it added 140,000 customers in the fourth quarter.

'Interest rate rises unlikely to affect inflation'

Ian McCafferty
Parliament TV

If the Bank of England was to raise interest rates over the next few years, how would that affect the inflation rate, asks SNP MP George Kerevan of the Treasury Committee.

Ian McCafferty from the Bank's rate setting committee says "it won't do much to the consumer price index", because the CPI currently does not include mortgage costs, which mirror central bank interest rates. 

He also says: "Since the explicit targeting of inflation targets [by the Bank of England], inflation expectations have been rather calmer than they were prior to that and I think we can expect that to continue." 

However, he does accept that if unemployment were to rise, or workers started demanding higher wages to counteract rising inflation, then it could pose an "upside risk". 

"It's a risk and one we will continue to monitor closely," he says.

ITV 'to rebuild London HQ'

ITV studios
Getty Images

UK broadcaster ITV is to close its London-based studios and build a new headquarters on its current site, the Press Association news agency reports.

An ITV spokesman said: "After giving careful consideration to all London property options, we are planning to build a modern, purpose-built HQ on our existing South Bank site, bringing together all of our London-based staff in one location for the first time."

ITV is proposing to close the studio business, but use new studios in its HQ, PA reports.

Haldane: Bank could explain forecasting risks better

Andy Haldane
Parliament TV

Should the Bank of England give stronger caveats around its forecasts, given its previous errors, asks MP Jacob Rees Mogg. 

His concern is that bad forecasts still impact monetary policy decisions. 

Andy Haldane, the Bank's chief economist, accepts the public often doesn't understand the margin for error around economic forecasts.

And he says the Bank do more to address this - learning from meteorologists, who communicate the risk of error in their forecasts very well.