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Summary

  1. US stocks climb after release of Fed minutes
  2. Ikea and B&Q appoint new bosses
  3. M&S profit tumbles as revamp costs bite
  4. Shares in M&S hit 12-month high
  5. Get in touch: bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk

Live Reporting

By Daniel Thomas

All times stated are UK

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Why did Ireland's longest criminal trial collapse?

More on the news that the longest criminal trial in the history of the Irish state collapsed after a judge ordered the acquittal of former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick.

Mr FitzPatrick was accused of misleading the bank's auditors about millions of euros in loans made to him. Newshour, on BBC World Service, has been asking why.

View more on twitter

New Ford boss eligible for $13.4m pay package

Jim Hackett
PA

Car giant Ford says new chief executive James Hackett is eligible for an annual pay package of at least $13.4m, according to Reuters.

Mr Hackett was named on Monday as the replacement for Mark Fields.

Hackett will earn a $1.8m annual salary. As chairman of the Ford unit developing self-driving cars he was on $716,000.

He will also receive $7m in shares and get a $1m bonus for becoming chief executive.

He is also eligible for an annual bonus of up to $3m, as well as pay from his time at Ford's mobility unit.

Wall Street closes higher

Wall Street sign with flags behind
Getty Images

All three key US stock indexes ended the day's trading ahead on Wednesday, following the release of minutes from the May meeting of the Federal Reserve's interest rate setting committee.

They seemed to indicate a more gradual approach to interest rate rises than had previously been expected.

The Dow Jones finished at 21,012.42, that's a rise of 74.51 points or 0.36%.

The S&P 500 was up 5.97 points or 0.25% at 2,404.39.

And the tech-heavy Nasdaq closed at 6,163.02, that's up 24.31 points or 0.40%.

The London effect

London skyline
Getty Images

New research from the ONS has provided further evidence of London's outsized impact on the UK economy, and of the yawning North-South divide that still exists in the country.

According to the study, in 2015/16 the city ran a £26.5bn budget surplus which was redistributed by the government to help less well-off parts of the country.

Every Londoner provided £3,070 more in tax revenues than they received in public spending, it added. By contrast, spending exceeded tax revenues by £5,440 per head in Northern Ireland, £3,820 in the North East, and £2,830 in Scotland.

Only two other regions - the south-east and the east of England - ran a budget surplus in the 2015-16 financial year, the latest year for which figures are available.

White House denies 'egregious' budget accounting error

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney
Reuters
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told Congress on Wednesday that he went through the budget "line by line"

The White House has denied the president's budget proposal contains an "egregious" maths error.

Former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers pointed out the spending plan double-counts $2 trillion (£1tn).

But White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told reporters: "We stand by the numbers."

Unveiled on Tuesday, the budget proposes deep cuts to welfare programmes.

Read more.

Shares in US accounting firm jump on demand from self-employed

Shares in Intuit have jumped as much as 7.5% after the accounting software provider posted better than expected earnings for the third quarter.

The company, which also raised its outlook, attributed the growth to demand from the self employed and freelancers, a group it has been targeting.

“We entered the tax season with a clear plan to extend our lead in the do-it-yourself category," said Brad Smith, chairman and chief executive.

Sales in the quarter ending 30 April rose 10% year on year to $2.54bn, while net profit fell 6% to $964m, with both results ahead of expectations.

Robot police officer goes on duty in Dubai

Dubai's first robot officer
Dubai Media Office

Now for some light relief from all that talk about interest rates,

Dubai Police have revealed their first robot officer, giving it the task of patrolling the city's malls and tourist attractions.

People will be able to use it to report crimes, pay fines and get information by tapping a touchscreen on its chest.

Data collected by the robot will also be shared with the transport and traffic authorities.

The government said the aim was for 25% of the force to be robotic by 2030 but they would not replace humans.

Read more.

Dollar slips

The prospect of having lower rates for longer never pleases currency investors, which perhaps explains why the dollar has slipped after the release of minutes from the Fed's last monetary policy meeting.

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Minutes show Fed cautious about economic growth

The Federal Reserve's monetery policy committee appears to be taking a more dovish tone in the light of weaker recent data on the economy.

US economic growth slowed sharply in the first quarter - something that concerned committee members - while a key measure of inflation also fell further below the bank's 2% target.

In the minutes from May's meeting, officials made clear they expect a return to stronger economic growth.

However, they said: "Members generally judged that it would be prudent to await additional evidence indicating that a recent slowdown in the pace of economic activity had been transitory before taking another step in removing accommodation."

Nearly all policymakers at the May 2-3 meeting also said they favoured starting the wind-down of the Fed's massive holdings of Treasury debt and mortgage-backed securities this year.

US stocks jump on Fed minutes

Dow Jones chart
Google

US stocks have jumped on news that the Fed may wait to raise interest rates.

The view, which the minutes said was "generally" shared by the nine officials who have a vote on policy this year, casts some doubt on Wall Street bets for a hike at the June 13-14 policy meeting.

The Dow Jones index (pictured) is now up 0.31%, the S&P 500 is up 0.2%, and the Nasdaq is 0.25% higher.

Fed 'may wait' to raise rates, minutes show

Janet Yellen, Fed chair
Getty Images

US central bankers say the time will "soon" be right to once more raise the benchmark interest rate, minutes of the Federal Reserve's last monetary policy meeting show.

However, policymakers may wait to see signs that the weak growth recorded early this year was merely temporary, they also showed.

Fed officials said planned spending by President Donald Trump's administration could boost the economy more than currently forecast, although the details and timing of the projects "remain highly uncertain".

The Fed kept interest rates on hold in May, in a range of 0.75-1%, many analysts have been expecting a hike in June.

Parties to resume campaigning on Friday

BBC political editor tweets....

US stocks edge higher ahead of Fed minutes

US stocks are slightly higher as investors await the release of minutes from the Fed's last meeting in May (due in about half an hour).

The Dow Jones index is up 0.18% at 20,974.93, the S&P 500 has gained 0.04% to 2,399.32, and the Nasdaq is up 0.08% at 6,143.47.

Aston Martin voted UK's 'favourite dream car brand'

Aston Martin car
Getty Images

More good news for Aston Martin. The firm has been voted the "ultimate dream car brand" by motorists, according to a Close Brothers survey of 1,200 drivers.

The luxury car maker, which has just posted its first Q1 profit in a decade, beat competition from the likes of Audi and BMW, as well as other quintessentially British brands such as Rolls-Royce.

According to the survey, the car brands the nation aspires to own are as follows:

1.Aston Martin

2.Audi

3.BMW

4.Jaguar

5.Mercedes

6.Land Rover

7.Ferrari

8.Lamborghini

9.Porsche

10.Bentley

Birmingham University to open Dubai campus

Dubai skyscrapers
Getty Images

The University of Birmingham's plan to open a campus in Dubai is the latest example of universities expanding with international branches.

Birmingham's new base will be in Dubai International Academic City, a purpose-built campus opened a decade ago, which already houses 26 universities from nine countries, with 25,000 students.

The first phase will open in the autumn, but most of the undergraduate and graduate courses will run from autumn 2018.

Students coming to the new university will be able to get a full University of Birmingham degree from courses taught in English, without having to leave the Gulf.

BNP Paribas slapped with $350m fine in US

BNP Paribas
Getty Images

French bank BNP Paribas has been hit with a $350m fine for failing to stop misconduct in its foreign exchange business.

According to regulators in New York, traders at the bank colluded to fix foreign exchange prices, executed fake trades and shared confidential customer information.

The bank should have spotted the ruse but failed to supervise its staff properly, they said.

In a statement BNP Paribas said it "deeply regrets the past misconduct" which occurred between 2007 and 2013, and has since strengthened its systems of compliance and sacked or disciplined those involved.

$70bn deal edges closer

Here at Business Live towers we are not going to pretend Linde and Praxair - industrial gases groups from Germany and the US respectively - are household names.

We mention them because the two firms have now agreed in principle the details of their proposed $70bn merger, Linde said today.

The all-share merger, intended to create a market leader that will overtake France's Air Liquide, had fallen behind schedule due to complex talks formalising the deal.

The agreement still needs the approval of Praxair's board, as well as Linde's management and executive boards, however, meaning the air could still seep out.

Moody's downgrades Hong Kong's credit rating

Hong Kong
Getty Images

Following its China downgrade, Moody's has now cut Hong Kong's credit rating citing headwinds from the mainland.

The ratings agency lowered the island's rating from Aa1 to Aa2, the third-highest level of investment grade, which is still above China's rating of A1, the sixth-highest.

"The economic and financial linkages between Hong Kong and China are close and broad-based," it said.

"Combined with political linkages, this means that any erosion in China's credit profile, such as that reflected in the 24 May downgrade of China's rating to A1 with a stable outlook, will ultimately affect Hong Kong's credit profile and will be reflected in the Special Administrative Region's rating."

China accounts for more than half of Hong Kong's exports of goods, three quarters of tourist arrivals and 40% of exports of services in general, said Moody's.

FTSE 100 closes up but Kingfisher slides

A trader
PA

London's stock market was slightly ahead at the close of trade on Wednesday after sliding on Tuesday.

The benchmark FTSE 100 gained 29.6 points or 0.4% to 7,514.90

Retailer Kingfisher was the worst hit, down 7%, after reporting a first-quarter drop in revenues of 0.6% on the back of weak trading in France.

But High Street retailer Marks and Spencer recovered from a fall at the start of trading and was up 1.47%.

Read more.

Aston Martin sales speed ahead

Aston Martin boss Andy Palmer
Getty Images
Aston Martin boss Andy Palmer unveils the Aston Martin Vulcan model at the 2015 Geneva Car Show

Aston Martin says it expects its full-year sales to grow more than 30% in 2017, heralding a turnaround at the luxury carmaker.

The British firm, which is famed for making the sports car driven James Bond, has made an annual loss in each of the last six years.

But it has now raised its outlook for the year after posting its first Q1 profit for a decade. Pre-tax earnings were £5.9m in the first three months of 2017, while revenues more than doubled to £188m thanks to strong demand for its new DB11 model.

"The amount of customers who are buying these cars... has doubled year on year," chief financial officer Mark Wilson told Reuters. "We're now in an area and an environment where we are generating demand in excess of supply."

Barclays UK chairman pares directorships after criticism

Sir Ian Cheshire, Barclays UK chair
Getty Images

Sir Ian Cheshire, the chairman of Barclays' ring fenced UK bank, has quit the board of Whitbread after criticism about the number of directorships he held outside the bank.

He will step down as senior independent director of the Costa Coffee owner on 21 September, to be replaced by outgoing ITV chief executive Adam Crozier.

Barclays has overhauled its operations, to comply with new post-crisis rules forcing British banks to ring-fence their retail operations from their riskier investment banking business.

'Be alert but not afraid'

BBC Radio 5 live

If you missed how Manchester businesses have reacted to Monday night's terror attack on Wake Up to Money this morning, download the podcast here.

Euribor rigging trial delayed

Financial data on a screen
Getty Images

The trial of six traders accused of trying to rig the global interest rate benchmark Euribor has been delayed until next year, the FT reports.

The five men and one woman were due in court on 4 September, but on Wednesday Judge Gledhill QC ruled the trial would now start on 9 January 2018.

All of the traders have pleaded not guilty to one single charge of conspiracy to defraud between January 1 2005 and December 31 2009 by making or procuring false or misleading Euribor levels to boost trading profits.

Euribor - short for euro interbank offered rate - is the average interest rate at which eurozone banks lend to each other and is used to set trillions of dollars of financial contracts.

The traders include Christian Bittar, once one of Deutsche Bank’s most profitable traders, as well as Philippe Moryoussef a former trader at Barclays. Defendants also include Carlo Palombo, Sisse Bohart, Colin Bermingham and Achim Kraemer.

Strike!

A man bowling
Getty Images

Bowling alley chain Hollywood Bowl has seen its half-year earnings surge thanks to rising sales and a revamp of its sites.

Profits at the group, which has 56 centres across the UK, were up 18.5% to £13m for the six months to 31 March. The firm also chalked up a 7.9% rise in revenues to £59.3m.

Bitcoin hits new record

Bitcoin logo
Reuters

Speaking of Bitcoin, the digital currency has hit a new record high today above $2,400.

Bitcoin hit a record of $2,409 on the BitStamp platform and was last up 4.3% at $2,363. The price of bitcoin has more than doubled since the start of the year.

"Bitcoin up 100% in under 2 months. Shanghai down almost 10% in same timeframe, compared to most global stocks up. Probably not a coincidence!" tweeted Jeffrey Gundlach, chief executive at DoubleLine Capital.

Strong demand for bitcoins in Japan has also fueled the rise of the virtual currency, which can be moved quickly and anonymously.

Bitcoining it

Natalie Sherman

New York business reporter

Bitcoin
Reuters

The price of Bitcoin, a digital currency once located at the fringe of finance, has been rising to new records in recent months as digital assets move into the mainstream.

Yesterday the crypto-currency shot past $2,200 (£1,700), more than doubling from just two months ago. And a newer currency, Ethereum, has climbed even faster.

Industry members say uncertainty surrounding the value of global currencies, including the pound, is driving demand for alternative currencies.

The kind of technology that underwrites Bitcoin and newer entrants such as Ethereum, is also gaining, well, currency, as it gets put to new uses by developers and others looking to beef up cyber-security.

Read more here.

Britvic sales squashed by weak pound

Robinsons squash
Youtube

Soft drinks giant Britvic has seen its profits dive 4.9%, due to one-off charges and the recent collapse of the pound.

The Robinsons squash owner said pre-tax profits fell to £38.6m in the 28 weeks to 16 April, from £40.6m in the same period last year. That was despite revenues climbing 11.5% to £756.3m, although with currency effects stripped out the figure was 3.7%.

Britvic, which also bottles Pepsi in the UK, said the recent collapse of the pound was weighing on the firm.

"In all our markets, we have experienced rising costs from underlying cost inflation and in Great Britain we have faced the additional burden from the weakening of sterling leading to further cost increases for raw materials we purchase in either euro or US dollar."

The pound has fallen by about 16% against the dollar since June 2017, pushing up import costs for UK-based businesses.

British sports car maker Lotus bought by China's Geely

A Lotus car
Lotus

Lotus, the British sports car maker, is being bought by China's Geely.

The purchase is part of a deal by Geely to buy a 49.9% stake in Malaysian carmaker Proton, which owns Lotus.

Geely, which also owns the London Taxi Company and Sweden's Volvo Car Group, will take a 51% stake in Lotus.

Jean-Marc Gales, who became Lotus chief executive in 2014, has been trying to return the Norwich-based company to profit after two decades in the red.

Read more

US stocks flat ahead of release of Fed minutes

US traders
Getty Images

US stocks have opened without a bang as investors await the release of minutes from the Federal Reserve's last meeting.

The Dow Jones index is up 0.01% at 20,940.14, the S&P 500 is 0.05% higher at 2,399.65, and the Nasdaq has gained 0.06% to 6,144.19.

The Federal Open Market Committee decided not to raise interest rates at its last meeting in May, but many analysts expect a hike at its next meeting in June.

As such, they are likely to scour the minutes of May's meeting for evidence to support that theory - and for clues as to when the Fed could raise rates over the course of 2017.

Why a $1.6bn car plant has been left to decay

FTSE 100 climbs

FTSE 100 chart
BBC

After falling this morning on fears of an economic slowdown in China, the FTSE 100 is now up 20.75 points, or 0.28%, at 7,506.04.

The top two risers are carrier EasyJet, up 3.46%, and Travel firm TUI, up 3.07%.

B&Q owner Kingfisher remains in a slump, having fallen 6.85% after reporting a 0.6% fall in sales at stores open for more than a year.

And Mediclinic International is down 5.12% after it reported a 19% drop in underlying annual earnings.

Wood Group takeover in doubt

Oil rig workers
Amec Foster Wheeler

Engineering firm Wood Group's attempted £2.2bn takeover of rival Amec Foster Wheeler could be in jeopardy after both companies were dragged into an international corruption investigation, the Telegraph reports.

According to a circular seen by the newspaper, Amec is co-operating with the Serious Fraud Office over its criminal investigation into alleged bribery and money laundering at Monaco-based Unaoil.

The investigation has already dragged Petrofac into the mix, and investigators want to discover whether bribes were made via third parties to Unaoil.

It could hold up the takeover, although there is no suggestion of wrongdoing from either party.

Sean FitzPatrick cleared as Anglo Irish trial collapses

Former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick
PA

The longest criminal trial in the history of the Irish state has collapsed after a judge ordered the acquittal of former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick.

Mr FitzPatrick was accused of misleading the bank's auditors about millions of euros in loans made to him.

The 68-year-old had pleaded not guilty to 27 charges from 2002 and 2007.

On day 126 of the trial, the judge said he would direct the jury to acquit the defendant on Wednesday.

Read more

Zoopla enjoys a boost

House signs
Getty Images

The housing market might be struggling, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders, but that isn’t stopping people having a look for a new home, according to the bosses behind Zoopla and Prime Location.

Parent company ZPG said revenues jumped 22% to £117.9m for the six months to end of March, with record breaking traffic of more than 314 million website visits.

The site now hosts 14,271 estate agent branches – up 6%.

However, pretax profits for the period dropped 20% to £22.5m due to takeovers of market intelligence tool HomeTrack and online software provider Expert Agent.

Chief executive Alex Chesterman said: “We remain incredibly excited by the underlying growth across each of the business divisions, our recent acquisitions and the significant cross-sell opportunities to our highly engaged consumer audience and our unrivalled partner base.”

Shares are up 2% to 365.4p.

Mining troubles in Tanzania

gold mine in Tanzania
Acacia Mining

It seems to all be kicking off in Tanzania today as president John Magufuli sacked his mining minister and chief of the state-run mineral audit agency.

Mr Magufuli is angry at the mining industry over allegations that mining firms have been shipping out undeclared precious metals in an alleged tax evasion scam.

He said an investigation found that Acacia Mining – which is listed on the London Stock Exchange – declared gold, copper and silver in its export itinerary, but were “under-invoicing the actual gold, copper and silver content in those shipping containers”, according to the president.

“The committee [investigating the exports] found that there were many other minerals in those shipping containers that were not declared, such as sulphur, iron, iridium, titanium and zinc,” he added.

The report said it found that in one case a declared 1.1 tonne shipment of gold actually contained up to 15 tonnes.

Acacia Mining deny wrongdoing and say it hasn’t seen the report yet.

Investors are piling out, with shares plunging 12.4% to 380.15p to a five month low.

Tiffany fails to shine

Tiffany store
Getty Images

Diamond and jewellery purveyor, Tiffany, has revealed a surprise 3% fall in sales in the three months to the end of April.

However, Tiffany’s UK business outperformed its other European operations, with bosses saw an increase in spending by tourists and locals alike.

In the US, the company said the 3% like for like drop was due to the exact opposite reasons – lower spending by tourists and US shoppers.

Worldwide net sales grew 1% to $900m (£694m) thanks to growth in its Asia-Pacific markets and a boost in the wholesale diamond market.

Perhaps suggestions that millennials aren’t buying diamonds isn’t quite true – at least for Tiffany…?

Meet the new Ikea boss

Jesper Brodin and Peter Agnefjall
Ikea
New and old: Jesper Brodin (right) replaces current Ikea boss Peter Agnefjall (left) later this year

Jesper Brodin will soon take the helm of the flat-pack kings, Ikea, but what do we know about him?

He's definitely an Ikea lifer.

The married father-of-three has been with the firm since 1995, starting out as a purchasing manager in Pakistan, before getting promoted to purchase manager for the whole of South East Asia.

Obviously impressed, the Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad brought him into head office as his executive assistant, where he also helped then chief executive Anders Dahlvig (who would go on to join prestigious boards including Kingfisher and H&M as a non-executive).

Since then he has also been supply and range manager for Ikea Sweden, working there since 2011, before his elevation, which will see him based in Ikea's Dutch headquarters.

According to Ikea, his passion is "music and the sea!" although probably not at the same time.

He has tended to keep himself out of the media spotlight, although Mr Brodin broke cover earlier this month to unveil an initiative in Jordan to employ Syrian refugees to make Ikea rugs.

Housing market slowdown?

Brian Milligan

Personal finance reporter

London houses
Getty Images

New figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders reveal something of a collapse in mortgage lending in London.

Homebuyers in the capital borrowed £5.4bn in the first quarter of 2017 – 22% less than in the same period a year ago.

Among people moving house – which excludes first-time buyers – the figure was even more extreme, falling by 35%.

However the figures are distorted by a buying boom in March 2016, just before new stamp duty rules came in. Buy-to-let landlords piled into the market to beat the changes.

Could you cope with a retro phone?

Nokia 3310: How long could you survive with a retro phone?

The revamped Nokia 3310 phone goes on sale today - but for those of us who are used to smartphones, how easy is it to carry out daily tasks like buying a coffee and finding our way around?

The BBC's technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones finds out.