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  1. US stocks brace for worst day in two months
  2. UK earnings fall below inflation
  3. British jobless rate lowest since 1975
  4. Labour's figures 'don't add up' says Chancellor
  5. Foxtons's sales tumble on cooling capital
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Live Reporting

By Daniel Thomas

All times stated are UK

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Thanks for tuning in to Business Live, we'll be back tomorrow from 6am.

Google owner Alphabet balloons connect flood-hit Peru

Dave Lee

North America technology reporter

Project Loon
Getty Images

“Tens of thousands” of Peruvians have been getting online using Project Loon, the ambitious connectivity project from Google's parent company, Alphabet.

Project Loon uses tennis court-sized balloons carrying a small box of equipment to beam internet access to a wide area below.

The team told the BBC they had been testing the system in Peru when serious floods hit in January, and so the technology was opened up to people living in three badly-hit cities.

Until now, only small-scale tests of the technology had taken place.

Read more

Ralph Lauren names new chief

Models wearing Ralph Lauren
Getty Images

Ralph Lauren has appointed Patrice Louvet, a French executive from the beauty industry, as its new chief executive.

It comes months after previous boss, Stefan Larsson, announced he was stepping down after little over a year with the firm, following disagreements with chairman Ralph Lauren over how to position the brand.

Louvet was most recently president of global beauty at Procter & Gamble, where he oversaw fashion brands including Gucci and Hugo Boss.

He will answer directly to Mr Lauren as well as to the company's board of directors.

Wall Street ends lower as Trump turmoil intensifies

US traders

US stocks saw their worst day in monthsafter the White House found itself engulfed in fresh controversy.

It follows allegations the president asked former FBI director James Comey to drop an inquiry into the former national security adviser Michael Flynn - a potentially impeachable offence.

Mr Trump's plans to cut taxes and loosen regulation may now be delayed, or simply not come to fruition, some investors fear.

By the closing bell all the major indices were sharply lower, with the Dow Jones down 370 points or 1.76% at 20,609,the S&P 500 down 43 points or 1.81% at 2,357, and the Nasdaq was 158.63 points or 2.57% lower at 6,011.

Bank stocks - which have outperformed the rest of the market in recent months - suffered most.

Bank of America was down 5.9%, Goldman Sachs lost 5%, and Wells Fargo slipped 1.9%.

Trump 'odds on for impeachment', says Ladbrokes

Donald Trump, US president
Getty Images

Donald Trump is now odds-on to be impeached before the end of his first term, according to the bookie Ladbrokes.

It follows allegations that the president asked former FBI director James Comey to drop an investigation into his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Ladbrokes said the odds in favour of impeachement had narrowed from from 11/10 to 4/5.

Jessica Bridge of Ladbrokes said: “Political punters are wondering how many more scandals can Trump overcome.

“And despite the short price on offer, money has poured in for the President to be impeached, leaving us with little option but to cut the odds.”

Zany YouTubers give investment lessons

Central banker silence 'can limit uncertainty'

Mark Carney, BoE governor
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Bank of England Governor Mark Carney may appear reticent at times, but there could be a good reason why.

In an article published this week, Gaetano Gaballo, an economist at the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, says that silence may be the best option for central bankers if the alternative is sending out ambiguous messages that stoke uncertainty.

If investors get the wrong message, he adds, they can make risky bets, creating excess volatility in financial markets.

“Releasing information that is open to subjective interpretation may increase market uncertainty, especially in periods of already high financial turbulences," he writes.

“In such a case, communication may not improve on silence.”

Trump to face public committee over Comey claims

Referendum take two?

Wall street update

US stocks are headed for their worst day in two months, after reports yesterday claimed that Donald Trump had tried to interfere in an FBI investigation into his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The Dow Jones index is down by 1.3%, the S&P 500 has dropped 1.37%, and the Nasdaq has shed almost 2%.

Bank stocks, which have generally outperformed since Donald Trump's election, have been hit worst.

The S&P 500 financial sector is down 3.3%, with Bank of America down 6.38%, Goldman Sachs 5.22% lower, and Wells Fargo down 2.8%.

Russian economy shows further signs of recovery

Vladimir Putin, Russian President
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The Russian economy grew 0.5% in the first quarter of 2017, as the country continued to recover from its drawn out financial crisis.

Thanks to plummeting oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine, Russian GDP contracted 0.2% overall last year, having shrunk 2.8% in 2015.

The economy expanded for the first time in two years in the fourth quarter of 2016, the Rosstat agency said in March.

"The picture here is of a slow but steady recovery," Neil Shearing of Capital Economics said of the latest figures.

"Our view is that growth will continue to edge up over the coming months and quarters as lower inflation and looser monetary police strengthen demand."

Reality Check: Could legalising cannabis raise £1bn?
The Liberal Democrat manifesto says that legalising cannabis would raise £1bn per year.

Lidl promises huge discounts for US shoppers

Lidl logo
Getty Images

Discounter Lidl has said its first US stores - which open this summer - will charge up to 50% less than competitors, Reuters reports.

Lidl, along with German peer Aldi, has already disrupted Britain's grocery market, hurting incumbents like Tesco. It plans to open 100 stores within its first year in the US, and analysts believe it could have 300 stores by 2020.

"This is the right time for us to enter the US," Brendan Proctor, chief executive for Lidl US, told Reuters. "We are confident in our model. We adapt quickly."

US investors fear delay to Trump tax plans

Poltico tweets...

Yorkshire and Humber sees biggest leap in employment

BBC Radio 5 live

We found out today that employment is the lowest it's been for 42 years according to official figures. The economy's beaten expectations for job creation, but wage growth is stagnant.

5 live Money's Colletta Smith has been out and about meeting businesses in Leeds today.

I'm in Leeds at #buyyorkshire on the day Yorkshire and Humber see the biggest jump in employment figures. Up a whop……

Irish PM to step down

Enda Kenny

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny has resigned as leader of the Fine Gael party, kicking off a succession contest.

Mr Kenny had already announced he would not lead Fine Gael into an election late next year.

View more on twitter

'Trump trauma' hits Wall Street

Donald Trump, US president
Getty Images

David Madden, analyst at CMC Markets, says the Trump administration has put the stock market in a tailspin, with all the major indices currently down more than 1%.

"Throughout the day the chatter of Donald Trump being impeached was largely confined to social media, but now that Congressman Al Green of the Democratic Party has called for it, traders are taking it more seriously," he says.

"The latest controversy Mr Trump has got himself into could see him be on the receiving end of a 'you’re fired' from the US government."

He adds: "There was so much bullish sentiment behind Trump’s economic policies, but now that he may not even be around to execute them, investors are scrambling to get out.

"Traders would want to be very brave to try and buy into this dip as the downside is potentially very big."

Economy takes centre stage in Iran election

BBC World Service

Iranians vote on Friday in their first presidential election since sanctions were lifted. The BBC's Amir Paivar tells World Business Report how the economy has been centre stage throughout the campaign.

View more on twitter

Scammers using Branson's name to dupe investors

Richard Branson
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Sir Richard Branson has said criminals are using his name to scam people into buying fake investments.

The billionaire entrepreneur said victims, who were led to believe he was involved, had discovered their investments were worthless or nonexistent.

Sir Richard, who is worth £4.9bn, according to the latest Sunday Times rich list, said: “I am determined to prevent anyone being confused into giving money or their personal information away on a false pretence.

"These scams can be terrifyingly deceptive, and I would urge everyone to look out for these stories and report them as soon as you see them.”

FTSE 100 closes lower

London Stock Exchange
Getty Images

The London market has closed lower, bringing its recent record-breaking run to an end.

Following Wall Street's lead, the FTSE 100 fell in late afternoon trade, ending Wednesday 0.25% lower at 7,503.47.

The biggest loser was Ashtead Group, an equipment rental company with a large US arm, which lost 3.82%. Building supplier CRH, which has a secondary listing on the New York Stock Exchange, shed 3.48%.

The best performer was Fresnillo, which climbed 2.75% thanks to a continued revival in commodities prices.

Banks struggle in Wall Street sell-off

The FT tweets...

BP shareholders approve CEO pay cut

Bob Dudley, CEO
Getty Images

BP shareholders have overwhelmingly approved a pay cut for chief executive Bob Dudley at the firm's AGM.

As per the firm's recommendations, he will receive $11.6m for 2016, down 40%. His bonus and long term incentives will also be curbed over the next three years.

Last year, around 60% of shareholders opposed BP's pay policy after a record loss amid a sharp slump in oil prices.

At the AGM, chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg said: "At our meeting last year, you, our shareholders, sent us a very clear message on how we approached paying our executive directors."

Politics and stocks 'a volatile combination'

Kathleen Brooks, an analyst at CityIndex, says the fall in US stocks today highlights the volatile relationship that exists between markets and politics.

US indices are down by around 1% as the market wonders how Congress will react to reports that the President tried to pressure the head of the FBI to drop an investigation into his National Security Advisor, as well as passing official secrets to the Russian Foreign Minister, she says.

Overall, events in Capitol Hill this week highlight the tricky relationship between politics and financial markets. When politics turn sour Washington does not offer financial markets a lifeline, which can lead to a spike in volatility and a sell off in risky asset prices. If the Trump scandal continues to unfold, then it could be good news for the yen and gold, but bad news for investors looking for higher stock prices.

Bank shares slide as Trump trade falters

Donald Trump, US president
Getty Images

Banks are among the biggest casualties of Wednesday's sell-off on Wall Street, as investors fret about whether Donald Trump can get his key policies through Congress.

Bank of America has shed 4.3%, Goldman Sachs is down 3.7%, and JPMorgan, Wells Fargo and Citigroup have all slipped more than 2%.

Banking shares have performed strongly since Mr Trump's election on hopes that his fiscal policies will drive economic growth and lead to looser regulations.

But as the US president grapples with yet another scandal - this time over claims he tried to stop an FBI investigation into his former national security adviser - some fear these plans will be delayed.

IKEA to boost UK workforce 'by over 12%'

Ikea shop
Getty Images

Ikea says it will create more than 1,300 new jobs in Britain, boosting its UK workforce by more than 12%.

The retailer said it would open new stores in Sheffield later this year and Exeter and Greenwich in 2018.

The new jobs will increase the company's workforce in to about 11,700, the company said.

BMW strikes suspended

Mini factory
Getty Images

Strikes by BMW workers are being suspended while a new offer on pensions is considered.

Members of the Unite union have staged a series of walkouts and were due to strike again on Thursday, Sunday and next Wednesday as part of a campaign against the closure of their final salary pension scheme.

Workers at BMW plants in Cowley, Goodwood near Chichester, Hams Hall in the West Midlands and Swindon will now be balloted on the offer.

VW chief Matthias Mueller probed over emissions scandal

Porsche car
John MacDougal

Prosecutors in Stuttgart say they are investigating the chief executive of Volkswagen, Matthias Mueller, in connection with the emissions scandal that erupted at the firm in late 2015.

It is the first time he has been named in connection with official investigations into the affair.

His predecessor, Martin Winterkorn, and the current VW chairman, Hans-Dieter Poetsch, are also under scrutiny.

Mr Mueller became VW chief executive after the scandal broke.

Read more.

FTSE 100 follows Wall Street lower

FTSE 100 chart

UK stocks have followed Wall Street lower, with the FTSE 100 now down by 0.33% at 7,497.27.

US stocks fall sharply on Trump turmoil

US traders
Getty Images

Wall Street has opened sharply lower, after the turmoil surrounding President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey intensified.

The Dow Jones and S&P 500 indexes are both down by almost 1%, while the Nasdaq has lost 0.79%.

It comes after a leaked memo by the former FBI boss caused alarm in Washington, raising questions about whether President Donald Trump tried to interfere with a federal investigation.

Japan and New Zealand vow to uphold TPP deal

Shinzo Abe, Japanese PM
Getty Images

Japan and New Zealand have vowed to work together to implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), even after the US pulled out of the free trade pact.

Ministers from both countries are among the remaining pact members gathering in Hanoi this weekend to find ways to revive the agreement.

After joint news conference. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters: "As the flagbearers of free trade, we will maintain close cooperation and aim at early realisation of TPP."

New Zealand premier Bill English added: "At this time of international uncertainty, it's more important than ever for outward-looking trading countries like New Zealand and Japan to state their principles clearly".

TPP rules have to be changed so it can take effect without US participation. This would include dropping a rule requiring ratification by at least six countries accounting for 85% of the combined GDP of the original 12 member nations.

Italy says 'no case to answer' over Fiat emissions

FIAT logo

Italy has responded to news that the European Commission has launched legal action against the country for allegedly failing to respond to allegations of diesel emissions cheating by Fiat.

The defence seems to be that Italy didn't know it had to respond.

"Considering that after the end of the mediation process, we did not receive any request for further information... we ask that you delay starting the infringement procedure while we await a letter asking for clarification on issues raised by your relevant offices," Transport Minister Graziano Delrio says in a letter to the EU.

He continues: "Contrary to what your offices have stated, the Italian authorities have from the start ruled out the presence of any illegal devices in Fiat's models, both the original ones and those that have been refitted."

US investors fret about White House drama

BBC business presenter tweets...

Equities investors seem to be getting nervous as the pressure mounts on Donald Trump in Washington. Some Congressmen have called for Donald Trump to be impeached over his firing of former FBI chief James Comey and over allegations he gave classified information to the Russians.

View more on twitter

EU will work 'very calmly' with the UK on Brexit

Michel Barnier
Getty Images

Whoever wins the general election will not get much of a breather before Brexit talks begin.

European chief negotiator for Brexit Michel Barnier said on Wednesday that discussions would being withing hours of the result.

He told the European parliament: "Our aim is to achieve an agreement. "I certainly don't intend to have no agreement, no deal or a bad deal. We want to conclude a deal with the UK, not against the UK. "

Mr Barnier said the the European Council will "work with the Brits, very calmly" to reach an deal.

FTSE 100 flatlines

ftse 100 graph

The FTSE 100 has been flatlining for the last few hours, and is now 0.08% off at 7,515.87 points. Lloyds, up 2.38%, remains one of the main gainers as the bank basks in the news that it is officially out of public hands. Meanwhile, the FTSE 250 is 0.16% down at 19,843.2.

EU acts against Italy over emissions tests

Fiat logo

The European Commission has begun legal action against Italy for failing to respond to allegations of emission-test cheating by Fiat Chrysler, in a procedure that could lead to the country being taken to court.

"The Commission decided today to send a letter of formal notice asking Italy to respond to concerns about insufficient action taken regarding the emission control strategies employed by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles group," the Commission said in a statement.

Italy now has two months to respond. The Commission may eventually decide to take the country to court if it is not satisfied with the answer.