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Summary

  1. Sterling dips after retail sales decline
  2. Markets look ahead to French election
  3. UK 'heading for first day without coal power'
  4. Trump orders steel investigation
  5. Get in touch: bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk

Live Reporting

By Dearbail Jordan

All times stated are UK

Get involved

That's it for another week on the livepage. We return at 6am on Monday. 

Have a good weekend all.

Wall Street closes slightly lower

Wall Street's main markets fell slightly on Friday on mixed earnings and cautious investor sentiment ahead of the French presidential election this weekend.

With polls in France showing a tight contest ahead of Sunday's first round of voting and the chance of a run-off between two anti-eurozone candidates, "nobody wants to take any new position," said Karl Haeling, of LBBW. 

The Dow Jones dropped 0.2% to 20,547.55 points, while the broad-based S&P 500 shed 0.3% to 2,348.70. The Nasdaq Composite lost 0.1% at 5,910.52.

General Electric fell 2.4% as it reported $619m in profits in the first quarter of the year, up from a $61m loss in the same period a year ago.

Honeywell International jumped 2.7% as first-quarter earnings came in above analyst expectations. 

But Mattel slumped 13.6% after reporting a $113.2m loss in the first quarter, saying sales were damaged by a glut of toys after the holiday period. 

Greece: inching towards more debt relief

The International Monetary Fund has praised Greece's fiscal over-performance in 2016, but said it still needed clarification from eurozone governments on what debt relief Athens could expect before joining the latest Greek bailout.

Greek statistics office data showed on Friday that the country far exceeded its international lenders' budget demands, with a primary surplus of 3.9% of GDP last year.

"The number... is well above what we have been projecting, what anybody has been projecting," said Paul Thomsen, the head of the IMF's European department.

Greece is on its third international bailout since 2010, but it has to pass reviews of reforms demanded by the lenders in exchange for new cheap loans.  

French 'elite' neglect rural economy at their peril

Trump signs order to simplify tax

President Donald Trump has promised some "very, very major changes" to US taxes.

He has signed three new presidential directives "to further protect our workers and our taxpayers", the first of which centres on tax simplification.

The other two directives cover reviews of financial regulations introduced in the wake of the financial crisis.

He said today's action "is really the beginning of a whole new way of life that this country hasn't seen in really many, many years. I want to thank you and I want to God bless America".

The President is set to announce his tax cut plan next week as he heads towards his 100th day in office on 29 April.

Markets 'nervous' ahead of French election

French presidential hopefuls
Getty Images

France will hold the first round of voting in its presidential election on Sunday - and the stock markets are jittery.

Joe Saluzzi, co-manager of trading at Themis Trading, tells Reuters: "After Brexit everyone has to be concerned.

"People are not going to trade if they are nervous nowadays - there is a little nervousness, a lot of uncertainty, so let's wait and see." 

US denies ExxonMobil a waiver to resume Russian drilling

Rex Tillerson, former boss of ExxonMobil and US Secretary of State (L) and Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
Getty Images
Rex Tillerson, former boss of ExxonMobil and US Secretary of State (L) and Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

ExxonMobil - once led by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson - will not be given permission to bypass American sanctions against Russia and resume drilling with the Russian state-owned energy giant Rosneft. 

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said: "In consultation with President Donald J. Trump, the Treasury Department will not be issuing waivers to US companies, including Exxon, authorising drilling prohibited by current Russian sanctions."

The original agreement between ExxonMobil and Rosneft was signed when Mr Tillerson was president and chief executive of the US company. 

Trump tax plan boosts US stocks

US stock markets have trimmed losses after President Donald Trump said he will announce tax cuts next week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is now 8.8 points lower at 20,569.91.

The S&P 500 is down 5.72 points at 2,350.12.

The Nasdaq is off 9.22 points at 5,907.56. 

Trump to reveal tax cuts plan next week

Donald Trump
Getty Images

US President Donald Trump is set to announce a "massive tax cut" next week as he approaches the end of his first 100 days in office.

President Trump told the Associated Press that the cuts will be "bigger I believe than any tax cut ever" and they will be announced "Wednesday or shortly thereafter".

US traders send stocks lower

Verizon
Getty Images

The Dow Jones Industrial Average has reversed early gains and is now trading 45.25 points lower at 20,533.46.

Technology giant Microsoft is leading the risers, up 1.2% at $66.29.

Telecoms operator Verizon heads the fallers, down 2.4% at $47.21, after reporting disappointing first quarter customer retention numbers this week.

The S&P 500 is tracking 8.87 points lower at 2,346.97.

The Nasdaq is also down, 15.87 points at 5,900.90, with toymaker Mattel the major loser after it reported bigger losses and smaller sales for the first three months of the year.

Its shares are down 11.86% at $22.22. 

A selfie with a purpose

Selfie
BBC

Apparently, there is an app for everything - including one for voting.

A company called Smartmatic has developed an app which uses facial biometric data combined with a government-issued ID card to create a digital identity. This is then used to let people register for elections and cast a vote. 

Presumably, it also means governments or companies can track the way people vote.

What could possibly go wrong.

Read the full story here.

US to review tax inversion rules

Steve Mnuchin
Getty Images

US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said that US President Donald Trump will also seek a review of tax inversion rules that were put in place under the Obama administration.

The rules were written to discourage US companies from moving their headquarters overseas to cut their tax bill. 

On Friday, Mr Mnuchin said: "It's one of the significant things and one of the things we would be looking at."

RBS looms large over Lloyds triumph

RBS
Getty Images

Commenting on the government recouping the entire £20.3bn it was forced to pump into Lloyds, Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, says: "Of the UK banks, Lloyds has cleaned up its act fastest since the financial crisis.

"The share price was badly hit by Brexit [see graph below], but Lloyds has recovered much of its poise since, thanks to some decent numbers from the bank itself and from the wider economy."

Lloyds shares price
BBC

He continues: "For the Treasury, the elephant in the room is of course RBS, which required twice as much financial support from the taxpayer as Lloyds. The RBS share price needs to double from its current level before the taxpayer breaks even on the bailout, and that isn’t happening anytime soon.

"As a result the government seems to be coming round to the realisation that it might have to sell shares at a loss, which will be an embarrassment to say the least."

BreakingLloyds £20.3bn bailout 'repaid in full'

Lloyds
Getty Images

Chancellor Philip Hammond has announced that the £20.3bn taxpayers stumped-up to rescue Lloyds during the financial crisis has been paid back.

The government was forced to save the bank in 2008 after Lloyds rescued HBOS. The state began selling down its 43.4% stake in 2013 and expects to offload the remaining 2% later this year.   

The taxpayer retains a 72% holding in the UK's other major financial crisis casualty, Royal Bank of Scotland.

However Mr Hammond hinted earlier this week that the stake might be sold at a loss.

Trump to order review of 'too big to fail' measures

Donald Trump
Getty Images

Donald Trump is due to visit the US Treasury Department on Friday for the first time.

While he is there, he will order a review of measures that were put in place after the financial crisis of 2008 to police major banks and financial institutions.

Reuters reports President Trump will sign two memos.

One will temporarily bar regulators from identifying new non-bank financial institutions as "systemically important financial institutions” (SIFIs) needing tighter oversight as well as reviewing what constitutes a company that is "too big to fail". 

The other will temporarily halt to the use of “orderly liquidation authority” to unwind troubled financial institutions, unless directed by the president. 

US oil prices fall below $50

US oil rig
Getty Images

US oil prices have slipped under $50 a barrel as concerns about over-supply fail to dissipate.

West Texas Intermediate is down 2.2% at $49.61 a barrel.

Brent crude prices have stayed above $50 but only just after losing 1.9% today to fall to $51.99.

Labour attack the Tories on tax

BBC economics editor Kamal Ahmed tweets

A day without coal

UK coal miner
Getty Images

We will know at exactly 10.51pm this evening whether the UK has gone through the first full working day without coal power. 

In the meantime, check out why today is such a landmark moment for Britain's energy industry.

Barbie fails to prop up Mattel shares

Yoga Barbie
Getty Images
Yoga Barbie

Stock market traders are showing no mercy against Barbie-owner Mattel.

Shares in the toymaker have tanked 11.34% to $22.35 after reporting wider losses and a steeper fall in first quarter sales.

Mattel has been working to widen the appeal of its pneumatic blonde doll by introducing curvy, petite and tall versions.  However sales of Barbie fell 13% in the three months to March.

Volkswagen sentenced to three years' probation

Volkswagen
Getty Images

German car-maker Volkswagen has been sentenced to three years' probation following the diesel emissions scandal as part of a $4.3bn US settlement.

As he approved the settlement, US District Judge Sean Cox said: "This is a case of deliberate and massive fraud.

"This is a very serious and very troubling case involving an iconic automobile company. I just can't believe VW is in the situation it finds itself in today."

London stocks diverge at close

The FTSE 100 has ended the day up 3.76 points at 7,122.30.

The FTSE 250 has closed down 12.28 points at 19,366.47.

BreakingUnite boss wins re-election on narrow margin

Len McCluskey
Getty Images

Len McCluskey was re-elected as secretary general of Unite, the UK's largest union, with 59,067 votes.

Gerard Coyne got 53,544 votes and Ian Allinson won 17,143.

Turnout was 12.2%.

Unite acting general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “I congratulate Len McCluskey on his victory and would urge the entire union to pull together in the interests of our members, and not least to work for a Labour victory in the general election."

BreakingUnite's Len McCluskey is re-elected

Len McCluskey is re-elected as general secretary of Unite the union.

Mind control

Elon Musk
Getty Images

What is it with tech billionaires wanting to literally delve into our heads?

First it was Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, who said the business is working on technology to allow people to control computers with their brains.

And now Elon Musk, the rich-as-Croesus boss of electric car-maker Tesla, wants to link the human brain to machines.

Mr Musk tells website Wait But Why he hopes his company Neuralink can make a product that can help people with severe brain injuries.

Whatever next?

Government rejects law to stop workplace discrimation

Shoe
Getty Images

So much for equality.

The government has rejected calls to introduce a new law that would ban companies from telling women to wear high heels at work.

The Equalities Office claims that existing legislation is "adequate". 

However, just in case companies still think it is okay to dictate a woman's wardrobe, the Equalities Office said would issue guidelines to businesses this summer.

French elections weigh on markets

Markets appear to be in wait and see mode as France heads for the first round of voting at the weekend to find the country's new president.

The FTSE 100 is down 1.91 points at 7,116.63. 

The FTSE 250 is trading 39.23 points lower at 19,339.52.

France's Cac-40 is down 10.70 points at 5,067.21.

Germany's Dax is up 22.34 points at 12049.66.

Mark Dowding, partner at BlueBay Asset Management, says: "On the assumption that the French election will provide a market-friendly winner, we believe that euro zone assets may be poised to rally strongly in the next few weeks as political risk declines.

"But the sheer unpredictability of a four-horse race creates a real sense of uncertainty. As a result we believe that it may be appropriate to wait until the start of next week before adding to positions." 

Hammond: we need 'flexibility' on taxes

The Conservative Party's manifesto promise in 2015 not to raise taxes could be heading for the bin.

Chancellor Philip Hammond shares his view with the BBC's economics editor Kamal Ahmed - read it here.

May dodges pledge on pension triple lock

BreakingHammond hints at tax rises

BBC economics editor Kamal Ahmed tweets

Mixed opening for US stock markets

The Dow Jones Industrial Average has opened 15.98 points higher at 20,594.69.]

Traders have sent the S&P 500 a little lower, down 1.35 points at 2,354.49.

The Nasdaq is also down, falling 3.57 points at 5,913.20.

South Korea to raise US steel probe with WTO

South Korea steel-making
Getty Images

Given America's tensions with North Korea, presumably the US would want to keep its southern neighbor on side.

Not necessarily so. 

A decision by the Trump administration to launch an investigation into foreign steel imports risks exacerbating South Korea's unhappiness at the US over existing anti-dumping tariffs. 

South Korea now says it plans to raise the issue of US restrictions on steel imports at the World Trade Organisation next week.

A South Korea steel company official tells Reuters the government and the steel industry should consider all measures including filing a complaint with the WTO in response to "deepening US trade protectionism".

Wells Fargo to pay extra $32m to settle lawsuit

Wells Fargo
Getty Images

Wells Fargo, the scandal hit US bank, will pay an extra $32m to settle a class action lawsuit against the lender whose staff created fake accounts in customers names to hit sales targets.

The settlement will now include customer accounts going back to May 2002 and it means Wells Fargo will pay $174m. 

The bank's new chief executive Tim Sloan said: "The expansion of this agreement is another important step to make things right for our customers."

You can read the most recent development on the whole sorry episode here.

Coal-watch Live

National Grid status
BBC

It could be the UK's first coal-free day for the National Grid. 

If you want to track it live, you can look at the National Grid Status here. The coal dial is most certainly at 0 at the moment (as this screenshot shows).

Bank of England rate-setter open to higher rates

Michael Saunders is a member of the panel that sets interest rates at the Bank of England. He has made some comments which have grabbed the attention of economists. It seems Mr Saunders is open to a "modest" rise in interest rates.

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What's ahead for the pound?

Piggy banks
Reuters

The pound has rallied since Prime Minister Theresa May made her election announcement on Tuesday. Traders were betting that it could give her a bigger majority and perhaps mean a "softer" Brexit agreement.

Could it rise even further?

Jonathan Loynes, the chief economist at Capital Economics thinks not. Even with a stronger majority the government faces tough Brexit negotiations, he argues.

Meanwhile external forces work against a strong pound. In particular interest rates in the US are likely to head higher which will support the dollar.

He also says that the Bank of England may not like a rising pound, which could stifle growth. It may decide to keep interest rates lower than it otherwise would.

Sterling drop 'pretty contained'

Pound and euro currency
Getty Images

The pound has steadied after falling against the dollar and euro when data showed a sharp fall in retail sales last month.

It's down 0.1% against the euro at €1.1940 and slightly more against the dollar at $1.2780.

"There was obviously going to be a bit of a fall, but the drop was pretty contained," said Jake Trask, corporate dealer at OFX.

Coal power 'plummeting'

As recently as 2013, coal was still the UK's biggest power source.

But in recent years firms have been winding down the electricity generated from coal, spurred on by the government demanding all British coal plants close by 2025.

This chart from Simon Evans, policy editor of Carbon Brief, shows the decline...

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UK heading for 'symbolic' coal milestone

Cottam coal plant
Getty Images

The UK is on course to go its first full working day since the Industrial Revolution without generating electricity from coal, according to the National Grid. 

There was a morning in May 2016 when that happened, but this would be the first time it passes the "symbolic" milestone of a full working day, a spokesman told the BBC. 

Just under half the electricity today is coming from gas generators, 20% from nuclear, and the rest from solar, wind and energy brought in from Europe. 

It’s part of the industry’s wider move away from coal by 2025 – but it doesn’t mean the UK’s remaining coal plants will remain idle from now on. 

The UK could well see coal power come back on next week, the spokesman said.