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  1. Get in touch:
  2. FTSE 100 and sterling edge higher as markets await Article 50
  3. Wood Group to buy Amec Foster Wheeler
  4. Bovis in talks with Galliford Try
  5. HSBC appoints new chairman

Live Reporting

By Daniel Thomas

All times stated are UK

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A shocking statistic

Lush warns of Brexit skills shortages

Lush products
Getty Images

Cosmetics firm Lush has said it may choose to expand in foreign markets rather than the UK because of a "lack of clarity” over Brexit.

The company, based in Dorset, warned that leaving the EU would mean higher import duties and could jeopardise its growth in Britain.

It added: "With Britain close to full employment and with a severe skills shortage we are concerned that restrictions on free movement of people will impact the availability of both the skilled and the unskilled, restricting future growth in both our UK manufacturing and buying facilities."

It said more than 80 workers took up an offer to move to its new factory in Germany as a direct reaction to the referendum result.

US stocks end flat

US traders
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US stocks have ended flat ahead of an expected interest rate rise on Wednesday. 

The Dow Jones shed 0.10% to 20,881.48, the S&P 500 gained 0.04% to 2,373.47, and the Nasdaq closed 0.24% higher at 5,875.78.

Fallers included pharma firm  Merck & Co. Inc , down 2.23%, and Intel, 2.09% lower after its $15bn bid for Mobileye.

Among the risers were Walt Disney, up 0.57%, and  Chesapeake Energy Corp , up 3.5%.

US airline stocks fall ahead of blizzard

Airport covered in snow
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US airline stocks have fallen after carriers canceled thousands of flights ahead of a huge blizzard due to hit the North East on Tuesday. 

United Continental has led the fall, dropping 3.43%, followed by American Airlines, down 3.38%, Southwest Airlines, down 2.36%, and Delta - the country’s largest carrier by market value - losing 1.13%.

It comes amid tougher trading conditions for airlines which face higher fuel costs as oil prices rebound.

Merkel reschedules Trump visit

Angela Merkel's meeting with Donald Trump - reportedly with the heads of BMW and Siemens in tow - tomorrow has been postponed due to travel disruption.

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Transport disruption in northeastern US

          An United Express plane departs during the snowstorm at O"Hare International Airport in Chicag

US airlines have cancelled more than 5,000 flights on Monday and Tuesday with blizzards forecast to dump snow in New York on Tuesday. 

Airports in New York, Boston, Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia are likely to be the hardest hit by the storm.

Chicago's O'Hare International (pictured) was hit by snowfall on Monday. is among the websites with details of cancelled flights.

US shares tread water

Getty Images

Wall Street stocks are treading water ahead of a widely expected interest rate hike later this week.  

In mid afternoon trade the Dow Jones and S&P 500 indexes are still down, trading 0.11% and 0.02% lower.

And the tech-heavy Nasdaq remains in positive territory, up 0.2%.

Verizon asked Yahoo for $1bn discount

Yahoo News logo
Getty Images

Last month, the owners of Yahoo agreed to sell the business to Verizon at a $350m discount, for $4.48bn, although it could have cost them much more it transpires. 

In a regulatory filing today , Yahoo said Verizon had initially demanded a $925m cut to offset the damage from a series of major data breaches.

It is not clear why Verizon accepted the lower figure.

Monday's filing also revealed that Altaba - a firm comprising Yahoo assets not sold to Verizon - has appointed Thomas McInerney as its chief executive. 

McInerney has been on Yahoo's board since April 2012 and previously worked at InterActiveCorp and Ticketmaster. 

Asda should go further - Living Wage Foundation

Asda sign
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As we reported earlier, Asda is offering staff a higher wage in exchange for a new contract which will introduce unpaid breaks and a requirement to work over Bank Holidays.  

Unions have given the deal their approval, but the Living Wage Foundation told us Asda should go further. 

"Large national retailers like Ikea, Lush and Majestic Wine are already paying all their staff the real Living Wage or above at £8.45 in the UK and £9.75 in London for every hour worked," said Katherine Chapman, director of the campaign group.

"By signing up with the Living Wage Foundation they are ensuring that all their staff will have a pay rise that meets the rising cost of living year on year."

Treasury Committee to release critical report on Hogg

Charlotte Hogg
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The Treasury Committee is poised to publish a highly critical report about Charlotte Hogg, the incoming deputy governor of the Bank of England, although it will not call for her to go, the FT reports

Last week, Ms Hogg, who was formerly chief operating officer at the Bank,  admitted failing to disclose  that her brother was a director at Barclays, which is regulated by the BoE - a potential conflict of interest. 

The bank has said it has faith in Ms Hogg, although the committee's report could increase the pressure on it to take action. 

The report is due to be published some time this week, earlier than expected, the FT reports. 

What's behind falling rents?

As we reported earlier, the rent on newly-let properties has fallen for the first time since late 2010, according to estate agents Countrywide .

Here, buying agent  Tracy Kellett  explains how a reduction in London and the South East has driven the trend.

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Fuel duel

Fuel pump

Asda and Morrisons are cutting fuel prices to reflect lower crude oil prices/a none-too-subtle bid to attract more customers (delete as you see fit).

Both supermarket chains are reducing the price of petrol and diesel by "up to 2p per litre" from tomorrow.

Latest government figures show the average price of petrol in the UK is 120p a litre, while diesel is 122.9p. 

Fuel prices in recent weeks have been higher than at any point since December 2014. 

Singapore bans ex-Goldman banker from trading

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Singapore has banned former Goldman Sachs banker Tim Leissner from working in the securities industry for 10 years over his connection to the 1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal.

It said Mr Leissner, former South East Asia chairman at Goldman Sachs, had made false statements on behalf of his bank without its consent. 

Singapore has previously cracked down on alleged money-laundering activities connected with 1MDB, an investment fund owned by the Malaysian government. 

Last year it ordered Swiss banks Falcon Private Bank and BSI Bank to cease operations in Singapore, and it plans to sanction several of their bankers. 

1MDB has denied any wrongdoing. 

FTSE 100 closes higher

London Stock Exchange
Getty Images

The London market has closed higher thanks to a strong performance by miners. 

The FTSE 100 gained 0.33%, or 24.00 points, to 7,367.08.

Four of five best-performing companies were miners, boosted by a jump in the price of copper, which gained 1% on Monday on fears supply could be disrupted by a strike in Peru.

Rio Tinto, Anglo American, Antofagasta and Fresnillo climbed within a range of 3.9% to 5.6%.

VW diesel compensation stalls in UK

Theo Leggett

BBC Business News Reporter

VW badge
Getty Images

It has been a year and a half since the diesel emissions scandal at the German carmaker Volkswagen first came to light.

Since then, the company has agreed to pay substantial  compensation to people in the US  who bought cars equipped with illegal software, capable of disguising their true emissions levels.

But Volkswagen has not yet made any payments to buyers in the UK or elsewhere in Europe, even though millions of cars sold in the region were also fitted with similar software.

Nor does it have any plans to do so.

However, efforts are now being made to force the company to change its mind, orchestrated by the European Commission. The Department for Transport has been involved in the discussions.  Read more here

Waitrose criticised for cost of empty jam jars

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Waitrose has been criticised for selling empty jam jars for £2 a pop - more than the cost of a full jar of the stuff. 

In a tweet yesterday, shopper John Kilbride pointed out that remarkably similar looking jars of Bonne Maman preserve were retailing at £1.71 - 29p cheaper than the decorative jars.

The tweet went viral, prompting Waitrose to issue a statement. 

"Our Bonne Maman conserves are on a temporary promotion and represent great value for money," it said.

Article 50 likely to be triggered 'end of March'

Huffington Post political editor confirms rumours...

'Theresa May will not trigger Article 50 tomorrow'

Sun political editor tweets....

'Politics not a game', PM tells Sturgeon

German firms to join Merkel on Trump trip

Angela Merkel
Getty Images

Bosses of major German firms including Siemens and BMW will join Angela Merkel on her trip to meet Donald Trump on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

Concerned about the president's protectionist trade proposals, the group will stress how many US jobs are linked to German firms.

Siemens employs more than 50,000 people in the US, its single biggest market, while BMW's South Carolina plant is its largest factory anywhere in the world.

It follows criticism of Germany by the Trump administration, which has suggested the country profits unfairly from a weak euro and has threatened to impose tariffs on imported cars.

Asda offers staff a pay rise for 'flexible' contract

Asda worker

Asda is offering staff a higher wage in exchange for a new contract which will introduce unpaid breaks and a requirement to work over Bank Holidays.

The supermarket group will pay its workers £8.50 an hour, above the £7.50 National Living Wage rate due to come into force in April.

The "flexible" deal means Asda's 135,000 staff can work around the store, on different days and hours.

Asda says signing is voluntary and it is not a zero hours contract.

Read more.

Don't forget your staff

BBC business reporter tweets

Draghi: Eurozone can improve productivity levels

Mario Draghi, ECB chief
Getty Images

Productivity in the eurozone is still below pre-crisis levels, but ECB chief Mario Draghi says it needn't be that way.

First, he believes that "simply by diffusing better the technology we already have... we could make sizeable gains in productivity". 

That would help more local firms to catch up with their tech-savvy peers in the US.

He also said the process of opening and closing a business could be sped up, and that R&D spending should be increased. 

'Indyref2 could still hit the pound'

Pound coins and a £5 note
Getty Images

Nicola Sturgeon's call for a second Scottish independence referendum has not affected sterling today, but it still might, says FXTM Analyst Lukman Otunuga.

"It should be kept in mind that the live threat of an independence vote in Scotland, destabilising the UK, while it is in the critical process of leaving the EU could weigh heavily on sentiment," he says.

"Markets will be paying very close attention to how the Brexit negotiations take place with any early complications exposing the unstable sterling to further losses." 

Cambodia's female construction workers

Cambodia's female construction workers
Charles Fox

Cambodia's construction industry is booming, and high-rises are being built across the capital of Phnom Penh. With the city's population doubling over the past four years, it has begun its transformation into a sprawling metropolis.

The industry employs a large number of migrant workers who flock to the capital in search of work.

Around a third of these workers are women, and photographer Charles Fox's latest project documents them on the building sites.

See Charles's photographs here.

US markets lower ahead of Fed meeting

US traders
Getty Images

US shares have broadly opened lower as investors hold fire ahead of a likely interest rate hike later this week. 

The Dow Jones is 0.19% lower at 20,863.37 and the S&P 500 has lost 0.07% to 2,370.87. The Nasdaq has gained 0.06% to 5,865.

Traders believe there is a 94% chance that Fed Chair Janet Yellen will announce an increase on Wednesday.  

Spend spend spend...

Financial Times reporter Arash Massoudi tweets:

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Could weak oil prices scupper indyref2?

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One of the main arguments against Scottish independence has been the country's reliance on the North Sea oil industry, which has struggled since global prices dived in 2014.

As BBC presenter Andrew Neil points out, the issue has not gone away. 

Despite Opec efforts to curb supply, prices are still under pressure as US shale producers ramp up supply. 

How will he cope?

Chris Johnston

Business reporter

Mark Cutifani
Getty Images

Well that's alright then: Anglo American will cap chief executive Mark Cutifani's bonus at a mere 300% of his basic salary, down from 350%, following a shareholder revolt last year in the wake of a crash in the miner's share price.

That means poor old Mr Cutifani (pictured) stands to make a mere £13.1m ($16m) at best. 

Anglo is also capping the value of long-term incentive plans (LTIP) at twice the face value of the award at the time of vesting. 

"We were determined to address investors' concerns about the potential windfall gains for executive directors," said Philip Hampton, chairman of the remuneration committee, in the annual report. 

The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) is unimpressed. "While Anglo-American's direction of travel is to be welcomed, an annual bonus potentially worth 300% of a salary, on top of fixed pay approaching £2m, still seems far too generous," said Luke Hildyard, a PLSA spokesman.

A wee dram before ye go?

Scotch whisky

What would the result of any forthcoming Scottish referendum mean for the whisky industry?

Well the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) is already mulling over the issue

"Scotch Whisky must be made in Scotland," they say. "The industry is rooted in Scotland and will continue to invest in its people, operations and world-famous brands.   

"However, it’s important that government works hard to ensure that the Scottish business environment is competitive, regardless of the constitutional debate.  We are also focused on making sure the industry’s Brexit priorities are understood and delivered.”

Who buys UK goods?

ONS tweets

French rugby union giants to merge

Bill Wilson

BBC business reporter

Racing 92 v Stade Francais
Getty Images

French rugby union giants Racing 92 and Stade Francais say they are planning to merge to create one Paris super club.

The pair, who have won the last two French Top 14 titles, plan to be one club by next season.

The creation of a new club will need the approval of French rugby union authorities the LNR.

"These two flagship clubs of Paris and the Hauts de Seine, beyond the sporting rivalry they have enjoyed, have many other similarities: a strong local and regional anchorage, a historic educational mission, ancestral ties with The Olympic movement or an inextinguishable will to progress in all areas," they said in a joint statement.

It remains to be seen what fans of the two clubs think of the idea.

Sterling shrugs off second Scotland vote

BBC personal finance correspondent tweets

Bidders trying to pre-empt rate rises?

View of Canary Wharf

So just why are we seeing an increase in bid activity? Nicholas Hyett has a theory ...

M&A is continuing to keep London’s investment bankers busy, the Amec deal alone involves teams from five different banks. Both the AMEC and Bovis approaches are all share offers, but we suspect the wider surge in acquisition activity is being driven by the looming prospect of interest rate rises in the US, leading companies to get their bids in now before rising rates increases the cost of financing deals.

Nicholas Hyett Equity analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown

Takeover bids drive up share prices

Let's check in the main movers and shakers in London this lunchtime, an not surprisingly it's bid activity that has been pushing up share prices.

Shares in Amec Foster Wheeler are up 13.3% this morning after oil services rival Wood Group made a £2.2bn all share bid for the group. Amec has been trying to shed the £1bn of debt it took on to buy Foster Wheeler back in 2014, just before the collapse in the oil price led oil & gas producers to slash spending. There have also been takeover rumblings in the UK housebuilding sector, which helped to send shares in Bovis Homes up 9.8% after the group rebuffed not one, but two takeover proposals. The interested parties, fellow FTSE 250 housebuilders Redrow and Galliford Try, are both looking to expand, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see a firm offer for the beleaguered group materialise in the coming weeks. Any deal would be worth well over £1bn and create another major player in UK housing.

Nicholas Hyett Equity analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown

Npower reduces losses

Pylon against darkening sky
Getty Images

Energy supplier Npower has published its full year results for 2016.

They show revenues fell by £922m or 13% to £6.1bn, while its operating result improved. It   made a loss of £90m compared with a loss of £99m in 2015. 

However, it managed to reduce complaints by 49% last year compared with the previous year. 

"Customer satisfaction has begun to improve and is the highest in three years," said Paul Coffrey, Npower chief executive. 

"Introducing greater pricing flexibility has meant that customer account losses significantly reduced compared to last year and we lost the fewest customers of any of the Big Six.  

"We have also halved the number of complaints we received and are now back at the level before we changed our customer service systems. The year-end Ofgem figures show we now receive the third fewest complaints per 100,000 customers among the Big Six, and we plan to reduce them still further," he added. 

Religion is groovy

The SXSW film festival is the centre for all things cool. So it should be absolutely no surprise to anyone that representatives of the Catholic Church have rocked up there this year. 

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Trump to welcome China's President to Florida

Chinese newspaper
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US President Donald Trump is preparing to welcome another world leader to America.

On Tuesday German Chancellor Angela Merkel, about whom Mr Trump has some pretty forthright views, is due in Washington.

Then next month, according to Reuters,  Chinese President Xi Jinping will be attending a two-day summit at Mr Trump's  Florida Mar-a-Lago resort. 

Mr Trump has also expressed some forthright opinions on China, such as accusing the country of "raping" the US.

Still, it's not all bad. Recently, Mr Trump won preliminary approval to register a number of new trademarks in China, according to the Associated Press .  

It should make for a fascinating meeting.