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  1. Get in touch:
  2. US Treasury Secretary gives first interview on economic policy
  3. John Lewis to cut hundreds of jobs
  4. Barclays annual profits almost triple
  5. Competition hits British Gas profits
  6. UK net migration falls

Live Reporting

By Russell Hotten

All times stated are UK

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That's all for another live page. We'll be back as usual from 6am tomorrow. Good night.

Trump-target Nordstrom sees sales rise

Ivanka Trump with her husband

US retailer Nordstrom, which came under fire from President Donald Trump, has reported a 2.4% rise in quarterly sales, sending its shares up 3.6% in after-market trading.

The company's net income rose to $201m in the fourth quarter ending 28 January, from $180m in the same period last year.

Net sales increased to $4.24bn from $4.14bn.

The retailer was criticised by Trump this month for saying that it would stop selling his daughter Ivanka Trump's fashion line, citing a drop in demand. 

Full stream ahead for Universal

Chris Johnston

Business reporter

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Univeral Music - one of the big three global record labels - chalked up revenue from recorded music of €4.2bn last year - an increase of 1.8%. 

And for the first time, revenue from streaming (almost €1.5bn) outstripped that from physical sales of CDs and the like (€1.22bn).

Downloads continue their death spiral: the total for Universal fell 26% to €755m.

Drake, Rihanna, Justin Beiber, Ariana Grande - and the Rolling Stones - were the Vivendi-owned label's biggest moneyspinners last year.

Tax cut hopes bolster shares

The Dow Jones and S&P 500 edged higher on Thursday, buoyed by energy stocks and a renewed pledge by President Donald Trump to chief executives of major US companies to bring back millions of jobs to America through an overhaul of the tax regime.

At the closing bell, the Dow was up 34.24 points, or 0.16%, to 20,809.84, and the S&P 500 gained 0.96 points, or 0.04%, to 2,363.78. However, the Nasdaq dropped 25.12 points, or 0.43%, to 5,835.51.  

UniCredit moves stop closer to plugging financial hole

UniCredit bank branch
Getty Images

UniCredit's bid to bolster its balance sheet has taken a big step forward. 

The Italian bank has that its record €13bn share issue had been almost fully subscribed, a boost for new boss Jean-Pierre Mustier's strategy to relaunch the country's biggest bank. 

In a statement, the bank said the cash call had been 99.8% subscribed. 

UniCredit will use the money to rebuild capital after a balance-sheet clean-up led to a €13.6bn fourth-quarter loss.

Razor wars

Belgian hairdresser Piet Satter
Getty Images

Here's a story that should interest men fed up with having to take out a bank loan every time they buy a razor.

Procter & Gamble has said it will sharply reduce prices of its Gillette brand. From April, prices will fall by as much as 20%. 

The move looks like a response to online rivals like Dollar Shave and Harry's, which have been eating in to Gillette's dominant market share.

You may also have noticed that there are also more beards around these days.

Sales of men's disposable razors fell 5.9% last year, according to data company Nielsen.

"We'll soon be making pricing interventions to better position our brands at all levels of the pricing ladder," finance chief Jon Moeller told a conference in Florida. The average price cut will be double-digits, he said.  

In case you're wondering about the picture. Nothing to do with Gillette, but it's a impressive 1.95-metre beard worn a few years ago by Belgian hairdresser Piet Satter.

Safran fires back at TCI hedge fund

Aero engine developed by Safran and GE

A war of words involving French jet engine maker Safran and a big UK hedge fund has intensified.

Safran has proposed a $9bn agreed takeover of Zodiac to create one of the world's biggest aerospace suppliers.

Last week The Children's Investment Fund (TCI) run by Sir Chris Hohn, launched a bid to block the takeover, saying it had "no strategic rationale".

Now Safran has fired back with a six-page rebuttal that accuses TCI of waging a public campaign to undermine it.

"The board is not for turning," Safran Chairman Ross McInnes told Reuters later.

It sounds like this row is far from over.

VW executive appears in US court

Oliver Schmidt
Getty Images handout

A Volkswagen executive who was arrested in the US before he could fly home to Germany has appeared in Detroit federal court on charges related to the company's emissions scandal.

A not-guilty plea was entered Thursday on Oliver Schmidt's behalf. He is charged with conspiracy and other offences in Volkswagen's scheme to sell nearly 600,000 diesel vehicles that did not meet US pollution standards.

Schmidt was manager of a VW office in Detroit from 2012 to 2015. He was arrested at the Miami airport on 7 January after a holiday in Florida and Cuba. 

His lawyer plans to seek his release. Five other VW executives charged in the case are in Germany.      

Boeing 'not competitive'

Trump at Boeing
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Boeing is one company that appears to be firmly on board the Trump wagon. 

Chief financial officer Greg Smith says its commercial plane division is "not competitive" under current US tax rules and the company is using its access to the Trump administration to press for changes. 

Tax reform is "going to drive growth, it's going to drive our US economy, it's going to create jobs, it's going to allow us to make more investments in our people, in our factories, in our products", he told an investor conference organised by Barclays today. 

"We're not competitive today ... and we're thankful to have the opportunity to have the podium and talk about it and, hopefully, help the administration think that through as they're deciding on where they want to go with this."  


Simon Gompertz

The new 12-sided pound coin is launched next month.

The Royal Mint is already striking them and has been showing them to our personal finance correspondent.

Mint unveils new 12-sided pound coin

Wall Street falters

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Wall Street has lost ground in afternoon trading, with the Dow Jones still just in positive territory, up 24 points at 20,799, while the S&P is also in the black at 2,363 points.

The Nasdaq Composite, however, is down 0.4% and set for its worst day this month. 

John Lewis axes jobs

John lewis store

John Lewis has announced plans to cut hundreds of jobs in a reorganisation of its soft furnishings retailing business and the way it runs its in-store restaurants. 

Britain's biggest department store group said it would be creating 386 other jobs, which will be offered to the 773 staff who face redundancy.

Its estimation and fitting service for curtains and carpets will move out of individual stores to a central location that can also serve online customers. 

It will also reduce on-site preparation of foods in its restaurants.

Old economics

BBC statistics guru Anthony Reuben tweets:

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Trump plots policies to return jobs from China

Donald Trump
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After his meeting with chief executives from some of the biggest names in corporate America, it was clear President Trump still has China and Mexico in his sights.

Promising to get companies to bring back jobs to the US, he singled out the two countries. "The United States lost one third of our manufacturing jobs since NAFTA, an unbelievable number," he said, pointing to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

He added that "70,000 factories closed since China joined the WTO (World Trade Organisation)." 

 "When I used to hear that statistic, I used to talk about it, and I always thought it was a typo; I said 'it has to be a typo'."

Tax reform and jobs

General Electric chief Jeff Immelt tweets:

Not much detail has emerged so far from President Trump's meeting on Thursday with the bosses of major US companies. Trump has been telling them how he plans to stop companies shifting work abroad. Now, one of the biggest of America's big corporate chiefs who was at the meeting has suggested what may have been top of the meeting's agenda.  

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Ex-IMF boss sentenced

Rodrigo Rato

Former International Monetary Fund chief Rodrigo Rato was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison by Spain's High Court on Thursday following a scandal over the widespread misuse of company credit cards during his tenure at lender Bankia.

Rato, who was economy minister in Spain and a prominent figure in the ruling People's Party before moving to the IMF, chaired Bankia for two years until just before its state bailout in 2012.

Rato, seen here in 2015, had been on trial along with 64 other executives and former board members of Bankia and its founding savings bank Caja Madrid.

The case is one of several high-level corruption investigations now coming to fruition and seen as a test of whether Spain's rich and powerful are accountable to the law.

Last week, a Spanish court found the king's brother-in-law guilty of using royal connections to overcharge regional governments through public contracts. 

Trump meets corporate chiefs

Donald Trump
Getty Images

President Donald Trump told about two dozen chief executives of major US companies on Thursday that he plans to bring many millions of jobs back to the US.

He held a meeting with chief executives that included bosses from General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Dow Chemical, Ford, United Technologies, Dell, Johnson & Johnson and Merck.

Trump is expected to roll out a series of proposals that could have big ramifications for companies, including a plan to overhaul the tax code that he has promised within weeks and an infrastructure package that was part of his 2016 presidential campaign promises.  

BHS: Court needs time to consider Retail Acquisitions winding up

BHS store
Getty Images

The High Court has adjourned a bid by the administrators of BHS to take control of the company that Dominic Chappell used to buy the failed department store chain.

Duff & Phelps is calling for Retail Acquisitions to be wound up. Mr Chappell used the company to buy BHS for £1 from Topshop billionaire Sir Philip Green.

The administrators argued there was "overwhelming evidence" that the company was insolvent and the petition to wind up should proceed. 

But, following an application by Mr Chappell's legal team, a judge in London ruled there should be an adjournment for further evidence to be filed.  

FTSE 100 closes down

The FTSE 100 closed down 0.42%, or 30.88 points, at 7,271.37 after having drifted lower in afternoon trading.

There were, however, some big movers.

Intu Properties was the biggest riser, finishing 6.75% better. EasyJet and Rio Tinto, down 6.1% and 5.2%, were the main losers. Both went ex-dividend on Thursday. 

In Paris, the Cac 40 was almost unchanged at 4,891.2 points. Frankfurt's Dax finished 0.42% lower at 11,947.8 points.

Parking sector fears over new pound coin

BBC Radio 5 live

New pound coin
Getty Images

There's a month to go until the new 12-sided pound coin comes into circulation, and not everyone is happy about it. 

David Smith, head of the British Parking Association, tells Radio 5 live: "It's a concern for our members and we have been working with the Royal Mint for about 18 months to get the parking sector ready for this." 

The challenge will be the cost and hassle of upgrading machines, he says. The fact the new polymer £5 note has also just entered circulation doesn't help matters. 

However, he says it may also spur the rise of contactless payments in the sector. 

"Motorists are demanding this a lot more, and it's much easier when the technology works."

John Lewis cuts jobs

John Lewis shop sign
Getty Images

John Lewis is cutting nearly 400 jobs across its restaurants and home fittings service as it grapples with the acute pressures facing the retail sector.

The department store chain said 387 jobs would be lost as it shifts home fittings administration roles to a central hub in Manchester and outsources food preparation for its 'The Place to Eat' restaurants. 

Around 773 staff have now entered redundancy consultation and been given the opportunity to apply for 386 new roles.

It comes after the high street bellwether said last month that it expects its renowned staff bonus to be "significantly lower" than last year in the face of a challenging market outlook. 

Will Coca-Cola back bottle deposits UK-wide?

BBC 5 live presenter tweets:

VW: UK minister promises to press for compensation

VW badge on car
Getty Images

UK ministers have vowed to leave "no stone unturned" as they seek to secure compensation from Volkswagen for motorists affected by the emissions scandal.

Transport minister John Hayes told MPs on Thursday that he and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling will travel to Berlin to discuss the issue with their German counterparts.

Mr Hayes said the car manufacturer was yet to fully meet any of the Government's four main demands on the issue: compensation, a quick retrofit for affected vehicles, a retrofit warranty and for VW to cover the costs incurred by consumers as a result of the scandal.

Earlier this week the company's UK boss Paul Willis told the Transport Select Committee that fewer than half of the UK vehicles affected by the scandal have been fixed. 

He said about 470,000 of the 1.2 million vehicles fitted with software to cheat environmental tests have now been dealt with.

FTSE 100 update

The FTSE 100 continues to drift lower in afternoon trading. The index is down 0.17% at 7,289.6 points. Intu Properties and RSA Insurance are the big winners, with both up more than 6%. 

Easyjet and Rio Tinto, down 6.2% and 3.8% respectively, are the main losers. Both have gone ex-dividend.

Ad blocking usage 'not growing'

Web page for Adblock

Less than a quarter of UK online adults use ad blocking software, according to a report from the Internet Advertising Bureau.

The figures have remained at around 22% for the last year, it suggested.

The IAB puts this down to publishers increasingly denying access to users who have ad blockers turned on.

Charlotte Palfrey, from analysts Ovum, said that 22% was not "an insignificant amount" and called on advertisers to up their game.

Ad blocking programs are designed to protect consumers from intrusive web ads that slow down browsers and vacuum up personal data.

British Gas: 'We no longer have the highest prices'

Wall Street shares rise on tax change hopes

The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average opened at record highs on as a rally in oil prices added to rising optimism about US President Donald Trump's proposed tax reforms.

New Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has been giving a round of interviews in which he says he wants "very significant tax reforms".

The Dow Jones was up 0.19% at 20,815.09, the S&P rose 0.21% to 2,367.76, and the Nasdaq was up 0.04% at 5,862.93.

Mnuchin spells out financial plans

Steven Mnuchin has been giving his first big media interviews since taking over as US Treasury Secretary. Here's a wrap-up of some keys points: 

  • Wants to see "very significant" tax reform passed before Congress' August recess
  • The Trump administration is "primarily focused on a middle income tax cut and a simplification for business"
  • Does not see any changes to NAFTA in short-term   
  • US national debt is a longer-term issue, not a shorter-term one 
  • Asked about benefits and entitlement programmes, he says President Trump's priorities are defence and border security
  • Says it's a "good assumption" that a Trump budget will boost military spending
  • He wants to make sure that US banks are lending
  • Says the Volcker Rule - part of restrictions on Wall Street after the financial crisis - has reduced market liquidity and he wants more clarity on its definitions
  • Short term increases in the dollar's strength reflect optimism over Trump's economic plans.

France and Germany share PSA deal job concerns

Michel Sapin and Brigitte Zypries

French and German economy ministers Michel Sapin and Brigitte Zypries called on the management of General Motors and PSA Group to give a "long-term perspective" for all production sites in the proposed acquisition of Opel from the US carmaker.

After a press conference expressing their shared concerns about the impact on jobs from the proposed tied-up, they issued a statement.

"The merged company needs a sustainable strategy for the future with a long-term perspective for all production sites, development centres and staff," the ministers said.  

"Workers from both companies need clarity quickly and have to be involved in further talks", they added. 

PSA and Opel should maintain autonomy says Sapin

Michel Sapin

French economy minister Michel Sapin is holding a news conference with German economic minister Brigitte Zypries, on the proposed takeover of Opel by Peugeot owner PSA Group.

Mr Sapin says an agreement should benefit both France and Germany, and that both PSA and Opel have to maintain their autonomy.

Military spending to rise in US budget

US army
Getty Images

Steven Mnuchin has dropped heavy hints that the US budget will include an increase in military spending. 

The US Treasury Secretary told Fox Business: "The president's priority and his comment on this is we've got to focus on our defense and make sure our military has the capabilities that they need, that our borders have the capabilities they need to protect the American citizens."

While he refused to comment on specifics, he said the budget reflects "the president's priorities in what he has campaigned on and what he believes in".

US 'committed' to 3% GDP growth

Donald Trump(L) Steven Mnuchin (R)
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US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin admits that it will take some time for the administration's economic policy to take effect but he is sticking to a the target for sustained economic growth.

He told Fox Business: "We're going to have limited impact on our policies in 2017. But what I will tell you, and you see this in the markets, the markets are up very strong since Trump's become president and you can see both the dollar and the stock market.

"I think this is a huge vote of confidence in the Trump economic plan."

He added: "We have a great team, we are very focused on economic growth. As I've talked about before we're committed to getting to 3% sustained economic growth and we think we can do that."

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Peugeot-Opel merger could create 'European champion'

PSA chairman Carlos Tavares

The chairman of French car-maker PSA Group says he wants to create a "European car champion'' by buying GM's European business Opel (which includes Vauxhall in the UK).

Carlos Tavares also pledged to work with governments and unions worried about jobs, although didn't explicitly rule out cuts.

He said a deal could reverse Opel's losses, expand PSA's market, and keep both companies competitive globally. 

The combined company would be Europe's second largest car-maker after Volkswagen, he added. 

Mnuchin sets out timetable on tax reform

Steven Mnuchin
Getty Images

At last, some clarity on the new US administration's economic policy.

Steven Mnuchin, the newly anointed Treasury Secretary, tells CNBC that he wants to see some "very significant" tax reform passed before Congress's recess in August.

"We are committed to tax reforms," he said. "We've been working closely with the leadership in the House and the Senate and we're looking at a combined plan."

He said the administration was "primarily focused on a middle income tax cut and a simplification for business."

A fly in the ointment for Barclays

Although full-year profits at Barclays almost trebled in 2016, it still has to resolve claims in the US that it knowingly sold mortgage bonds that included poor quality debt. So far, Barclays is refusing to settle.

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Mnuchin takes diplomatic approach to China

Steven Mnuchin
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US President Donald Trump happily called China a currency manipulator but his new Treasury Secretary is taking a more diplomatic approach.

In an interview with CNBC, Steven Mnuchin said: "I've had a terrific conversation with my counterparts [in China], I look forward to meeting them.

"We have a process within Treasury where we go through and look at currency manipulation across the board and we'll go through that process. We'll do that as we have in the past. We're not making any judgments until we continue that process."

FTSE slightly lower

Man outside the London Stock Exchange
Getty Images

The FTSE 100 is still slightly lower just after midday, having fallen 0.10% to 7294.84.

A number of big firms have gone ex dividend today, which means their shares fall by a corresponding amount to the dividend due to be paid.

Easyjet is down 5.6%, Rio Tinto has shed 3.19%, and HSBC is 2.18% lower.

Barclays is now trading 1.93% higher after a particularly strong set of results sent its shares up more than 3% earlier.

Shopping centre operator Intu Properties has jumped 6.43% after earnings beat expectations and it hiked its dividend.

Amazon keeps schtum in murder case

The internet giant is refusing to hand over data from an Echo smart speaker in a US court case.

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Rising costs cast gloom over retailers

Retail sales rose in February according to the CBI's quarterly Distributive Trades Survey, but the prospect of rising costs means businesses are anxious about short-term trade. 

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Faulty tumble dryers: More than 35,000 sign recall petition

Burnt tumble dryer
London Fire Brigade

More than 35,000 people have signed a parliamentary petition to force Whirlpool to recall three million potentially dangerous tumble dryers.

The manufacturer has advised millions of owners to unplug their machines, but has refused to issue a safety recall.

The dryers, sold under the Hotpoint, Creda and Indesit brands, have been blamed for a number of fires, including one in a London tower block.

The government must respond to petitions that get 10,000 signatures.

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