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Live Reporting

By Russell Hotten

All times stated are UK

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

Wall Street turns negative in late trading

US stocks turned negative and the dollar slipped on Wednesday after minutes from the Federal Reserve showed planned changes in its bond investment policy, reversing a rally spurred by a strong jobs report earlier in the day.

The Dow Jones fell 41.02 points, or 0.2%, to 20,648.22, the S&P 500 lost 7.25 points, or 0.31%, to 2,352.91 and the Nasdaq dropped 34.13 points, or 0.58%, to 5,864.48.

Criminal gangs use UK ports to defraud EU customs

Lorry driver at Customs
Getty Images

Systematic failures by UK customs officials have allowed criminal gangs to defraud the European Union of at least £2bn in just four years plus billions more in lost VAT, the EU anti-fraud office OLAF has claimed.

Olaf said failures by Customs and Excise had cost at least 5.2bn euros (£4.5bn) in lost duties and VAT.

The losses relate to clothing and footwear exported mainly from China.

An HMRC spokesman said its experts did not recognise OLAF's estimates. As a result it planned to challenge them, he added.

You can read more on this story here .

Pepsi ad: pushing the boundaries is risky


Advertising expert David Haigh says brands are right to push the boundaries, but news that Pepsi has pulled its latest ad, featuring reality TV star Kendall Jenner, shows the risks .

“Successful marketing campaigns have the power to add millions to the value of a brand," says Haigh,chief executive of Brand Finance.

"However, ill-conceived campaigns equally have the power to significantly erode hard earned brand equity. Pepsi, which already had a difficult 2016 with its brand value dropping by 4% to $18.3bn, could face further losses in the value and strength of its brand as a result of this ad."

Haigh adds: "Companies are right to push the boundaries and take risks when it comes to marketing products, but this proves that fallout from a single video can have a very damaging effect.”

British woman arrested in tax fraud crackdown

A British woman has been arrested and assets worth millions of euros have been recovered in a tax evasion probe in Britain and The Netherlands, apparently involving Swiss bank accounts, Dutch officials have said.

The news came after at least four European countries and Australia said last week they had launched a sweeping investigation, reportedly targeting the Swiss financial giant Credit Suisse. 

"A British woman, 46, was arrested after a joint investigation with the British Revenue and Customs Service into her and her 51-year-old Dutch husband. Assets of more than 6m euros ($6.3m) have been confiscated," the Dutch Fiscal Information and Investigation Service (FIOD) said in a statement. 

During Tuesday's raids, agents seized two villas in The Netherlands, luxury British and German cars and a speedboat, as well raiding the couple's business and homes in Austria, Britain and The Netherlands. Tax authorities became suspicious of the couple after they withdrew more than 300,000 euros in cash from Dutch banks using credit cards linked to foreign bank accounts, the FIOD said.

'Companies to blame' for restricting women's ambiton

Woman sitting among businessmen
Getty Images

Women are just as ambitious as men at the start of their careers but become less so if companies don't encourage them, a study has found. 

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) surveyed 200,000 employees (including 141,000 women) from 189 countries, and found that companies had the greatest impact on a women's attitude to her career - not family status or motherhood. 

Among the under-30s, there was little difference in ambition between the sexes, it found.

However, among those aged 30 to 40, the gap widened to 17% at firms thought not to be progressive about gender diversity, in turn impacting the number of women seeking promotions. 

By contrast there was almost no gap at more progressive companies. 

Matt Krentz, a senior partner at BCG, said: "Both genders are equally ambitious and equally rational.

"Ambition is not a fixed trait; it is an attribute that can be nurtured or damaged over time through the daily interactions and opportunities employees experience at work." 

Pepsi ad misses the mark

Kendall Jenner in the Pepsi

Pepsi has pulled an advert that sparked an outcry and accusations that the drinks maker was trivialising recent street protests across the US.

The advert featured reality TV star Kendall Jenner leaving a photo shoot to join a heavily policed demonstration.

She defuses the tension by walking to the police line and handing an officer a can of Pepsi, prompting cheers.

In a statement  posted on its website , Pepsi said they did not intend to make light of serious issues.

"Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding, the company said. "Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout." 

Tsipras to demand eurozone summit if creditor talks fail

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras
Getty Images

Talks over Greece's debt and reform plans are still hanging in the balance.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said he will demand a eurozone summit if creditor talks on Friday fail to break months of deadlock over the issue.

The impasse has held up the latest tranche of Greece's 86-billion-euro bailout, agreed in 2015, which it needs for debt repayments in July. 

The IMF has said Greece needs more leeway to pay its mountainous debts before further rescue funds can be released. But the eurozone, which has already given the country significant debt relief, is reluctant to go much further. 

"If the Eurogroup is not in a position to (produce a result) on Friday, I have asked EU President Donald Tusk to call a summit of eurozone countries," Mr Tsipras said on Wednesday. 

However, both he and Mr Tusk said they hoped there would be a breakthrough.

JP Morgan upgrades UK growth outlook

Women shopping
Getty Images

Investment bank JPMorgan has upgraded its growth forecast for the UK economy in 2017 after a stronger-than-expected start to the year.

It now expects UK GDP to expand by 1.9% this year, up 0.2 percentage points from its previous forecast.

Allan Monks, UK economist at the bank, cited a “slower than anticipated loss of momentum” in a year where rising inflation is expected to curb consumer spending and hit businesses.

The bank’s estimate is still below the 2% expected by the Bank of England in 2017.

Taser International to change its name

Getty Images

Taser International - the maker of the eponymous stun gun - is changing its name to Axon.

The company wants to signify that its product portfolio had expanded past weaponry to include a “much wider range of technologies”, including connected devices and software.

It also said it was also planning to offer free body cameras to all US police officers.

The Nasdaq-listed firm's ticker will change from TASR to AAXN at the start of trading on Thursday. 

Zuckerberg says AI tools will halt the spread of revenge porn

Mark Zuckerberg

Following news that Facebook is taking fresh action in a bid to halt revenge porn being spread across its platforms , Mark Zuckerberg has put a statement on his Facebook profile.

"We're focused on building a community that keeps people safe. That means building technology and AI tools to prevent harm," the Facebook founder says.

"Today we're rolling out new tools to prevent "revenge porn" from being shared on Facebook, Messenger and Instagram.

"Revenge porn is any intimate photo shared without permission. It's wrong, it's hurtful, and if you report it to us, we will now use AI and image recognition to prevent it from being shared across all of our platforms," he writes.

Wall Street update

Wall Street's main markets are extending their early gains, with investors cheered by strong US employment figures. All 30 Dow Jones stocks are higher. The index is up 0.76% at 20,046.5 points, lead by a 2% rise for Du Pont. The S&P 500 is up 0.66% at 2,375.6, and the Nasdaq has added 0.57% at 5,932.3.

PPG turns up the heat in pursuit of Dulux maker Akzo

Tins of Dulux paint

The chief executive of US paints company PPG Industries has said the management of Dutch takeover target AkzoNobel could face a shareholder revolt if it continues to avoid meeting with PPG to discuss a possible bid.

Michael McGarry said that he had been approached by "virtually all" of Akzo's top 20 largest shareholders after PPG proposed a €24.5bn takeover of AkzoNobel, maker of Dulux paint.

None of the shareholders were opposed to the idea, he said. "I think shareholders are dismayed at being placed last in all (Akzo's) stakeholder conversations," he told Reuters in an interview.

McGarry said he would push ahead with a draft offer for Akzo by 1 June, and would not rule out a bid that did not have the endorsement of Akzo's boards, although he said there were no current plans to make such an offer.       

Co-op sorry after 'outrageous sexism' complaint

Image of Co-op advert
Ronnie Morris, Twitter

There are probably a few red faces at the Co-op this afternoon after an attempt at humour (or what they think passes for it) came back to bite them.

The firm has changed its advert for chocolate Easter eggs after being accused of "outrageous sexism".

The advert's tagline for its Fairtrade eggs which appeared in national newspapers over the weekend said: "Be a good egg. Treat your daughter for doing the washing up."

 The Manchester-based supermarket said: "We are proud of our organisation's equality and diversity, we are sorry."

You can read more here .

FTSE 100 ends the day with a small gain

The FTSE 100 eked out a small gain on a lacklustre trading day. Miners were the biggest risers for much of the session, gaining on the back of higher oil and metals prices. But the biggest riser was restaurants and Costa Coffee owner Whitbread, up 2.95%.

South Africa-focused insurer Old Mutual continued to suffer amid concerns about political turmoil in the country. It's shares fell 4.38%.

At the close, the FTSE 100 was up 0.13% at 7,331.6 points.

Taking a gamble

BBC 5live business presenter tweets:

Tech incubator's shares slide

Dan Thomas

Business reporter

Lab worker

Shares in Allied Minds, the tech and life sciences incubator, continue to slide in afternoon trading after it announced plans to spin off seven portfolio companies.

The shares are now almost 26% down.

Allied said the businesses, which make up around a quarter of its portfolio, would be sold or liquidated, with cost savings of $14m (£11.2m) in 2017.

Allied helps to turn academic research into commercial products, and listed its shares on the London Stock Exchange in mid 2014. However, its stock has fallen 70% since hitting all-time highs in April last year.

The US firm has some high-profile shareholders on its roster, with Woodford Investment Management - run by star fund manager Neil Woodford - its top owner with 28%.

Williams & Glyn management to quit

Williams & Glyn

The management running RBS's Williams & Glyn division is stepping down just months after the lender ditched plans to sell the division. 

RBS said Jim Brown, chief executive of Williams & Glyn, would leave next month. Chief financial officer Leigh Bartlett, chief operating officer Chris Davis and chief risk officer Rick Hunkin are also stepping down.

It comes days after the European Commission launched an investigation in to a UK government plan to spare RBS from being forced to sell Williams & Glyn.

RBS had been looking to offload about 300 Williams & Glyn branches, or float the business, to meet EU rules.

But it struggled to sell them, and in February the Treasury and RBS proposed scrapping the sale in favour of an alternative plan to boost competition in the banking sector to appease EU officials. 

EU regulators are now asking for responses to the plan, which they will "carefully review".

Paul Fox, managing director of retail and business banking at Williams & Glyn, will step in as its interim chief executive.

Rail union to press ahead with 31st Southern strike

Southern sign on side of train

A strike by workers on Southern Railway will go ahead on Saturday after the rail union said "no specific proposals" were put forward by the company in talks.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union will walk out for 24 hours - the 31st day of action in a year-long dispute over staffing and driver-only trains. 

The two sides met on Tuesday to try to find a breakthrough to the bitter dispute, which has caused travel misery for hundreds of thousands of passengers, and said they were "considering" their positions. 

RMT leader Mick Cash told his members: "Regrettably there have been no specific proposals from Southern to justify suspending the industrial action." 

Boeing forms new venture capital arm

US engineering giant Boeing has formed a new ventures arm group called "Boeing HorizonX".

It says it has invested in two tech start-ups:

  • Upskill - an enterprise augmented reality software firm (augmented reality software overlays digital information onto the physical world via an electronic device)
  • Zunum Aero - which develops electric aircraft

Oil price heads higher

Oilfield pumps

The price of Brent crude oil has risen to a near one-month high on signs that US stockpiles are running down and a temporary supply problem at the Buzzard field in the North Sea.

Brent rose 1.6% to just more than $55 a barrel, a price not seen since 8 March. The US benchmark West Texas was also up 1.6% to $51.8 a barrel.

Wall Street starts the trading day with a rise

Wall Street stocks are on the front foot in early trading following solid US private-sector hiring data and better-than-expected earnings from agri-chemicals giant Monsanto. 

The gains came after payrolls firm ADP reported that US companies added 263,000 jobs in March, much better than expected. The figures come two days ahead of the closely-watched US government employment report.

Meanwhile, Monsanto rose 1.4% after reporting that second-quarter net income jumped 28.7% to $1.4bn on the back of stronger sales in seeds and in its herbicide and crop-protection business.

Soon after the opening bell, the Dow Jones was up 0.5%, the broader-based S&P 500 rose 0.4%, while the tech-rich Nasdaq advanced 0.3%.

Panera Bread Company surged 13.6% after the restaurant chain agreed to be acquired by investment firm JAB Holding for about $7.5bn.

Amazon rose 0.9% following reports it sealed an agreement to stream 10 National Football League games on Thursday nights for its Prime membership service.

Walgreens Boots Alliance lost 1.1% after reporting second-quarter sales of $29.4bn, less than the $30.2bn expected by analysts. 

What do Asian Americans in New York make of Trump?

Brexit: Theresa May suggests free movement extension

UK border control

Free movement of people from the EU to the UK could be extended after Brexit, Theresa May has suggested.

The prime minister said there would be an "implementation" phase once an exit deal had been struck, with business and governments needing a "period of time" to adjust to any new restrictions.

The government insists Brexit will give the UK greater control of its borders.

But Labour said Mrs May's comments showed she was trying to "downplay expectations".

Read more here .

Lloyds branch closures - is your town affected?

Brian Milligan

Personal finance reporter

Tesco reduces 24-hour trading

Tesco stores switching from 24-hour trading to 6am-midnight are:

  • Galashiels Extra
  • Holyhead Extra
  • Ilkeston Extra
  • Kilmarnock Extra
  • Falkirk Grahams Road
  • Folkestone
  • Edgware Road Metro
  • Worksop

Tesco tweaks trading hours and shelf stacking

Tesco sign

You might remember that back in January Tesco decided to end 24-hour trading in 76 stores.

Well another 8 stores are making that change - see the next post for the list of stores.

At 69 stores Tesco is switching from stacking the shelves during the night to, what it calls, "store replenishment" during the day.

It is also changing the staffing of its customer service desks.

All told, the changes will affect 3,000 staff, who will be consulted about the changes. Tesco expects the majority of them to remain at the company.

Oil prices hit one month high

The price of Brent crude hit a one-month high of nearly $55 per barrel after a fall in US crude inventories and an outage at one of the largest North Sea oilfields, Buzzard.

Spend your old fivers

Old £5 notes

In case you want an excuse to splash the cash - a month from today the old £5 note (with Elizabeth Fry on) will no longer be legal tender.

The Bank of England says that over 50% of all Fry fivers are already on their way to being destroyed, but there are still around 160 million notes left in circulation.

The Bank is encouraging anyone who still has the paper £5 notes to spend them by 5 May. That's another way of giving consumer spending a boost...  

List of Halifax branch closures

The Halifax branches to close are: Alton, Atherton, Banstead, Bexhill-on-Sea, Brighton London Road, Droitwich, Elland, Godalming, Heckmondwike, Hertford, Horley, Huddersfield Mkt St, Leatherhead, Leytonstone, Mill Hill, New Malden, Plymouth Mutley Plain, Sheffield Surrey St, Swansea Oxford St, Wallington, West Swindon, and Weybridge.

Lloyds Bank branches closures list

The list of Lloyds branches to close is: Bakewell, Baldock, Blackfield Southampton, Bordon, Bourton-on-the-Water, Brewood, Broadstairs, Broadway, Carterton, Clay Cross, Clifton Village Bristol, Colmore Row Birmingham, Corsham, Derby Road Ipswich, Droylsden, Garstang, Gonville Place Cambridge, Grayshott, Hawkhurst, Haxby Road York, Heckington, High Wycombe Business Centre, Langley, Lichfield Road Stafford, London Law Courts, Longridge, Lymm, Manchester University, Marton-in-Cleveland, Mere, Montpellier Cheltenham, Mosley Street Manchester, New Ash Gree, Nottingham Old Market Square, Pewsey, Pontypridd Treforest Ind Est, Portland, Settle, Southampton Row, Stokenchurch, Sturminster Newton, Tenterden, Tetbury, Three Bridges Crawley, Tidworth, Topsham, Tyldesley, Wadhurst, Wendover, West Dulwich, Wincanton Wirksworth, Wood Lane End Hemel Hempstead, and Yatton.

Lloyds confirms 100 branch closures

Lloyds logo

Lloyds Banking Group has confirmed 100 branches are to close between July and October this year, with 325 net job losses.

The bank said this was part of  200 closures announced in July 2016 .

The list of  Bank of Scotland branches is: 

Beauly, Beith, Bonar Bridge, Coldstream, Dalbeattie, Dalry (Kirkcudbright), Dornoch, Edinburgh Goldenacre, Edinburgh North Morningside, Fortrose, Gatehouse, Glasgow 235 Sauchiehall Street, Gorebridge, Gullane, Helmsdale, Kingussie, Lairg, Lauder, Newtown St Boswells, Port William, Stewarton, West Linton, Wigtown and Wooler.

Services rebound 'eases fears'

Getty Images

Suggestions of a "rebound" in the dominant UK services sector have boosted hopes that the economic slowdown in the first quarter "may turn out to be less pronounced than feared", says Chris Saint, an analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

IHS Markit, which surveyed the sector , says that weaker consumer spending means economic growth is likely to be 0.4% in the quarter, down from 0.7% at the end of 2016.

May talks trade

Chris Johnston

Business reporter

Theresa May

Theresa May is in Saudi Arabia and has been banging the drum for the London Stock Exchange, which hopes to win the mega-listing of Aramco, the state-owned oil company, over rivals such as the New York Stock Exchange.

The PM was joined by LSE chief executive Xavier Rolet as she "set out the advantages" of doing business in the UK to Aramco boss, energy minister Khalid Al-Falih. 

About 5% of the company's shares are expected to be sold in the float.

A No 10 official said Mrs May "set out the wealth of investment opportunity and proven experience that we have".

UK 'loses India investment deal'

          Philip Hammond at the Fintech summit in Mumbai on April 5, 2017

The UK has lost a key investment deal with India after it lapsed on Friday, the FT reports .

The treaty gives investors protections should they face legal disputes in India, it said.

Chancellor Philip Hammond is in India at the moment trying to build up financial and trade ties.

The lapsing of the finance deal shows the level of the challenge facing the UK in trying to rely on Commonwealth ties to promote new trade deals, the FT article said.

Empire 2.0?

Karishma Vaswani

Asia business correspondent

          Chancellor Philip Hammond and Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley
Getty Images

UK chancellor Philip Hammond and a bevy of British businesses have been warmly welcomed on their two-day trip to India, but securing more trade might not be all that straightforward. 

The UK was not on the list of the top five countries that India bought goods and services from in 2015, and it's the  last on the list  of the top five nations India sells to, according to data from Observatory of Economic Complexity.

That's one of the reasons the UK is sending some of its heaviest hitters to India. The former colony in many ways is still seen as the proverbial jewel in the crown.

Britain wants to sell more of the UK's financial services to India.  The chancellor's message  is to "make in India, finance in the UK''.

Read more from Karishma's blog here.

Web billionaire's $100m journalism fund

Dearbail Jordan

Business reporter

Pierre Omidyar

Another internet billionaire has come to the rescue of the free press.

First Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought the legendary Washington Post in 2013 for $250m.

Now, Pierre Omidyar, the man who set up eBay, is contributing $100m to support investigative journalism. 

A number of groups will benefit from the fund including the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which broke the Panama Papers story .

The money will also be used to combat hate speech. Some will go to the Anti-Defamation League which plans to build a command centre in Silicon Valley to fight online hate.  

'Leg up' for sterling

Howard Archer, chief economist at IHS Markit, tweets:

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Losing its plaice?

BBC Radio 5 live

Fish & chips

Food for thought as we head towards lunch. Fish and chip shops "face an uncertain future" because younger customers are staying away, according to research from the NPD Group. 

The study shows that millennials - those in the 18 to 34 age group - only account for 15% of total visits to a local chippy, while they make up around 30% of visits to quick-service restaurants as a whole.

Jonathan Oswald, who owns the Hip Hop Chip Shop in Manchester, said his business was trying to buck the trend.

"I think that a lot of traditional chippies are stuck within the boundaries of tradition, they have a lot of older clientele... whereas we want to try and mix it up a bit. 

"Fish, chips and peas is still our main seller... but you want to keep people interested," he told Wake Up to Money.  

Rebound in the pound

Pound coins
Getty Images

The pound is trading higher after the UK's dominant services sector surpassed expectations in a closely-watched survey.

The "positive surprise" - which came after underwhelming data for UK manufacturing and construction earlier this week - was "enough to please the pound", said Connor Campbell, an analyst at Spreadex.

Sterling shook off its earlier losses to climb 0.3% against both the dollar and the euro. 

"This helped take the edge off the FTSE’s own growth, though with a solid set of gains in the commodity sector the UK index still rose," he said.