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  1. Get in touch:
  2. US markets muted on Fed minutes
  3. Mike Ashley dismisses lawsuit claims
  4. JP Morgan rules out rival Worldpay bid
  5. Volvo promises all electric motors

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By Dearbail Jordan

All times stated are UK

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Thank you for joining us on Business Live today.

We're back on Thursday morning at 6.00am with all the breaking business and economics news.

Enjoy the rest of your evening.

Wall Street steady after Fed minutes

US stock market trader
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There was little change on Wall Street on Wednesday following the release of the Federal Reserve's most recent minutes.

They revealed that the Fed's policymakers were split on the outlook for inflation and how it might affect the future pace of interest rate rises

Investors had been hoping for insight on the central bank's plans for interest rate hikes or possible balance sheet reduction. "I see a murky, opaque message," Stephen Massocca, senior vice president at Wedbush Securities in San Francisco, said of the Fed minutes.

The Dow Jones edged down to 21,478.17, a fall of 1 point or 0.01%.

The S&P 500 was at 2,432.54, up 4 points or 0.15%.

And the tech-heavy Nasdaq closed up 41 points or 0.67% at 6,150.86.

IMF urges world's biggest economies to work together

BBC World Service

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has urged leaders of the world's major economies to avoid what it called short-sighted nationalist policies and work together to resolve their trade and economic differences, reports BBC World Service.

In a pointed message ahead of the G20 summit in Hamburg, the IMF said that a rule based and open trading system was vital for a stable world economy.

The BBC Economics correspondent says that the strongly worded remarks appear to be implicitly directed at the US.

The Trump administration is considering to impose new barriers to imports in an effort to reduce the country's trade deficit. (Such a move is seen by many other G20 member countries and the IMF as potentially damaging to the global economy).

China and Germany to make a 'new start'

Xi Jinping and Angela Merkel
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China's President Xi Jinping and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have promised to work more closely together.

Speaking ahead of the G20 summit on 7-8 July, which Germany is hosting in Hamburg, President Xi said "Chinese-German relations are now about to have a new start where we need new breakthroughs."

Mrs Merkel said: "We will have difficult discussions, since bringing 20 states together with all their developments and ideas is not easy" Merkel said.

President Donald Trump has criticised both China and Germany over trade with the US.

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BBC journalist Sofia Bettiza explains more about the Snap Maps feature.

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BA cabin crew to stage new strike

Hackers issue fresh ransom demand

IT worker

The perpetrators of a recent cyber-attack that disrupted businesses across the world appear to have accessed the ransom payments they raised.

Just over £7,900-worth of virtual currency has been moved from the Bitcoin address listed in the blackmail demand that appeared on hacked PCs.

And it seems they have now made a fresh ransom demand.

Read the full story here.

Sainsbury's chairman admits mistake over country house

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Sainsbury's chairman David Tyler was also questioned at its annual general meeting on Wednesday about his decision to use the supermarket group's staff and suppliers to revamp his country house.

Mr Tyler told shareholders: "I fully accept that I made a mistake in doing that.

"I volunteered this matter to the board, they investigated and they concluded that my failure to comply with company policy was unintentional, that I didn't act dishonestly and I made no financial gain."

Progress on US inflation 'has slowed'

Dollars changing hands
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More on the US Fed minutes and the outlook for inflation which is currently at 1.5% compared to the central bank's target of 2%.

The minutes of the June Federal Open Market Committee meeting read: "Most participants viewed the recent softness in these price data as largely reflecting idiosyncratic factors...however, several participants expressed concern that progress...might have slowed and that the recent softness in inflation might persist."

Last month, 8-1 voted to lift the benchmark interest rate another quarter percentage point - a third rise in six months.

US stock markets fall

The Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen 15.76 points to 21,463.51 after the US Federal Reserve released the minutes from its June interest rate-setting meeting.

The S&P 500 trimmed gains to 1.51 points at 2,430.52.

The Nasdaq also fell back marginally to rise 34.10 points at 6,145.17.

US Fed supports gradual rate rises

Janet Yellen chairs the US Federal Reserve
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Janet Yellen chairs the US Federal Reserve

Members of the US Fed's Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) expressed their support for gradual rises to interest rates, according to minutes from the June meeting.

Last month, the FOMC voted to lift interest rates by a quarter point, the second increase this year.

US Fed rate-setters debate inflation

Minutes from the US Federal Reserve's rate-setting meeting in June have been released and show that there was a debate on where inflation is heading.

Several rate-setters expressed concerns that the softer rate of inflation in the US will persist. Inflation has fallen to 1.5% compared to the Federal Reserve's target of 2%.

US markets rise ahead of Fed minutes release

US stock market trader
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The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 0.98 points at 21,480.25 ahead of the US Federal Reserve releasing minutes of the June interest rate setting meeting.

At that meeting, the Federal Open Market Committee voted to lift rates by a quarter point.

The S&P 500 is ahead 3.95 points at 2,432.96 and the Nasdaq is flying, up 43.71 points at 6,153.77.

Qatar crisis: Restrictions to continue

Restrictions on Qatar will continue after it rejected the ultimatum made by its Middle East neighbours, Saudi Arabia has said.

The foreign ministers of four Arab countries, meeting in Cairo, said they regretted Qatar's "negative" response to their list of demands.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE severed ties with Qatar last month.

Read the full story here.

EU and Japan close to agreeing trade pact

Cecilia Malmstrom (R) with Fumio Kishida (L)
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Cecilia Malmstrom (R) with Fumio Kishida (L)

Japan and the European Union are close to agreeing a free trade pact.

Following a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told Reuters: "We ironed out the few remaining differences."

The G20 nations are due to hold a summit in Hmaburg on Friday and Saturday.

Reuters reports that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should now sign the "political agreement" with EU institutional chiefs Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk on Thursday in Brussels.

The three men will then head to the G20 summit where the EU and Japan will urge Trump not to weaken US free trade traditions.

Oil prices fall by 3%

Offshore oil rigs
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Oil prices have fallen further.

Brent crude fell 3% to $48.13 a barrel and West Texas Intermediate also declined by 3% to $48.13.

Carsten Fritsch, senior commodity analyst at Commerzbank, said: "The air is getting thin for oil prices. The price increase just ran out of steam, which is not very surprising, given the news flow of rising OPEC supplies."

New data showed that OPEC experts were higher than expected in June.

Investors question Sainsbury's profits

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Sainsbury's has been questioned by investors about falling profits at its annual general meeting.

Reuters reports that one shareholder questioned the board about a decline in key performance indicators, which include profits and operating margins.

Mr Muriel said Sainsbury's KPIs over the last five years were "quite alarming in every way".

Chairman David Tyler said: "Our objective is to improve on last year's profitability but I'm sure you recognize the world has changed over the last five years - it's very competitive and we have done rather better than a number of our competitors."

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The BBC's Joe Miller took a ride in the company’s latest prototype...

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BA rounds on further strike action

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British Airways cabin crew are to launch another round of strikes in a long-running dispute over pay.

Reuters reports that members of Unite will walk out for 14 days from July 19, just three days after completing a 16-day stoppage.

BA said it "will ensure all our customers reach their destinations"

It added: "Instead of calling further completely unnecessary strikes, Unite should allow its members a vote on the pay deal we reached two months ago.

"It seems extraordinary that a trade union should ask its members to give up their pay and benefits for virtually the whole of July, trying to target the holidays of hard-working families, rather than give those members a chance to settle the central issue of the dispute."

Ashley: I am not Obe Wan Kenobe

BBC business editor Simon Jack tweets...

Tesco lifts FTSE 100

Tesco sign
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The FTSE 100 closed up 8.34 points at 7,365.57.

Supermarket giant Tesco ended Wednesday as the biggest riser, with its share price up 3.47% at 172.90p following a strong first quarter trading update from wholesaler Booker Group. Tesco is paying £3.7bn to buy Booker.

Worldpay Group led the fallers.

Its share price fell 9% to 371.20p after JP Morgan decided not to enter a bidding war for the payments processing group which is now being taken over US rival Vantiv.

The FTSE 250 closed up 135.34 points at 19,436.81.

The pound is trading up 0.11% against the dollar at $1.2933.

Sterling is also up 0.11% against the euro at 1.13990 euros.

Markets rattled but not rocked by North Korea tensions

North Korea ICBM: US and South Korea conduct missile drills after launch

Tensions between the US and North Korea have "rattled" markets, according to Kathleen Brooks, research director at City Index, but there are other more pressing issues.

She says: "North Korea has rattled markets but central bankers are more important."

"While North Korea's military ambitions are a background threat for markets, we don't think that this particular geopolitical event is at the stage yet where it will cause a spike in volatility."

Opel deal will create European car giant

Opel and Peugeot logos
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PSA Group, which owns Peugeot and Citroen, has agreed to pay around 1.3bn euros for German car maker Opel.

The combination of Peugeot and Opel will create Europe's second-largest car maker after Volkswagen.

Opel is being sold by General Motors which is also offloading the UK's Vauxhall.

On approving the deal to buy Opel, the European Commission said: "The commission concluded that the transaction would raise no competition concerns in the relevant markets."

Moment of faith

True Religion jeans
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Upmarket jeans maker True Religion has filed for bankruptcy protection in the latest sign of the woes of the US retail market.

The Californian company - which has 16 outlets in the UK - said it hoped that filing for Chapter 11 would help to cut its debt by $350m.

“After a careful review, we are taking an important step to reduce our debt, reinvigorate True Religion’s iconic brand and position the company for future growth and success,” said chief executive John Ermatinger.

BreakingEurope gives go ahead to Peugeot's takeover of Opel

The European Commission has approved Peugeot's acquisition of Opel.

Ashley: share deal claim is nonsense

Sports Direct
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Mike Ashley has told the High Court that a claim that he agreed to pay investment banker Jeffrey Blue £15m to double Sports Direct's share price is "nonsense".

Mr Ashley told Mr Justice Leggatt, in a witness statement, how he met Mr Blue and three other finance specialists at the pub in January 2013.

"When we got to the pub we started drinking heavily at the bar and consumed a lot of alcohol during the evening," he said.

"I can't remember the detail of these conversations but I do remember that we had a lot of drinks and a lot of banter

He added: "I find it incredible that Mr Blue is actually suggesting that I made a binding agreement for £15m. It's nonsense.

"If I did say to Mr Blue that I would pay him £15m if he could increase (Sports Direct's) share price to £8, it would be obvious to everyone, including Mr Blue, that I wasn't being serious."

Higher oil exports weigh on prices

Oil prices are heading downwards again.

Brent crude fell 2.8% on Wednesday to $48.23 a barrel while West Texas Intermediate slid 3.3% to $45.52.

New data showed that Opec nations exported 25.92m barrels per day in June, up 450,000 barrels per day from May and 1.9m more than a year earlier.

Ashley: How much did you drink?

Business Insider UK senior reporter Oscar Williams-Grut tweets...

Sports Direct founder and owner of Newcastle United Football Club owner Mike Ashley is being questioned in the High Court, and the focus at the moment is alcohol:

View more on twitter
View more on twitter

Trump critcises China

The President of the United States has tweeted the following. He will be meeting with leaders of the G20 nations later this week in Hamburg.

View more on twitter

Ashley: An unorthodox approach to business

BBC business correspondent Emma Simpson tweets...

The barrister acting for investment banker Jeffrey Blue is questioning Sports Direct's founder and billionaire Mike Ashley:

View more on twitter
View more on twitter

US Fed to release June minutes

Stock market trader
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The rise on the Dow Jones Industrial Average was short-lived.

The US index is now down 34.22 points at 21,445.05.

The S&P 500 has also given up gains and is off 3.06 points at 2,425.95.

The Nasdaq is the only one of the three to hang onto a rise, and is up 9.61 points at 6,119.67.

Later on Wednesday, the Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee will release the minutes from its June meeting when it voted to raise interest rates by a quarter point.

Arnaud Masset, an analyst with Swissquote, said: "It has been a relatively light week in terms of economic data so far and investors are desperately looking for drivers.

"Given the recent weakness in inflation and lacklustre households' consumption data, it is more likely that the minutes highlight the concerns of FOMC members (about growth)."

Ashley: Just drinks down the pub

Mike Ashley arriving at court
Mike Ashley arrives at the High Court

Mike Ashley has hit back at suggestions that he struck an agreement with investment banker Jeffrey Blue to double Sports Direct's share price to £8 in three years.

In his witness statement, Mr Ashley characterises the evening at the Horse and Groom pub when the deal was allegedly made as "drinks down the pub - I was expecting to have a few drinks and a good time with the brokers, nothing more".

Volvo plan highlights innovation

Volvo logo
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The RAC Foundation is backing Volvo's "bold" plan to build all new cars with electric motors from 2019.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, says: “This is a bold move by Volvo whose reputation for producing solid, workaday cars can mask a long tradition of being automotive innovators.

“The announcement marks the beginning of the end of the company’s relationship with fossil fuels.

“While the leap to pure electric vehicles might still be too much for many motorists, hybrids have become increasingly commonplace with around 320,000 of them on Britain’s roads at the end of last year – ten times the number of battery-only cars.”

US stocks make lacklustre start to trading

The Dow Jones Industrial Average opened just 5.45 points higher at 21,484.72 on the first full day of trading since being closed for Independence Day.

The S&P 500 added 2.37 points in early trading to reach 2,431.38 and the Nasdaq rose 18.15 points to 6,129.07.

Five guys walk into a pub...

Mike Ashley is the founder of Sports Direct and owns Newcastle United FC
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Mike Ashley is the founder of Sports Direct and owns Newcastle United FC

Today is the day that the billionaire founder of Sports Direct, Mike Ashley, testifies at the High Court in a dispute with investment banker Jeffrey Blue.

BBC business correspondent Emma Simpson is there and has been listening to two bankers who attended a meeting at the Horse and Groom pub in London at the centre of a £14m lawsuit against Mr Ashley.

Referring to an alleged agreement by Mr Ashley, who also owns Newcastle United Football Club, to pay Mr Blue £15m if he helped to double Sports Direct's share price, Peter Tracey, the former head of corporate broking at Espírito Santo Bank, said: "I thought it was all a bit of a joke.

"It was five guys and a barman in a pub. I wish you could've been there. It was a great night. ... a billionaire owner of a football club, sitting down talking about life, it was great."

Mr Tracey said he "utilised the office sofa bed" at the end of the evening.

Another one bites the dust

Card transaction
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The deal between Worldpay and Vantiv is described by both payment processing companies as "a merger". However, it is just another in a long line of post-Brexit takeovers that have seen UK companies falling into the hands of overseas owners.

These include Arm Holdings £24bn takeover by Japan's Softbank, SNC-Lavalin of Canada's £2bn purchase of engineering group WS Atkins and Kraft Heinz's ultimately unsuccessful £115bn tilt at consumer goods giant Unilever.

Charles Drucker, currently president and chief executive at Vantiv, will become executive chairman and co-chief executive of the merged group. The US company's chief financial officer Stephanie Ferris will hold the role in the enlarged group and Philip Jansen, boss of Worldpay, will be co-chief executive of the combined business.

The board will consist of four Worldpay directors and seven from Vantiv.

Worldpay shares slump after JP Morgan rules out counter bid

From flying high on Tuesday, Worldpay's shares are now down 7.5% at 377.4p after JP Morgan Chase said it does not intend to make an offer for the payments processing group.

Earlier on Wednesday, Worldpay's US rival Vantiv reached an agreement to combine the two businesses in a deal valuing the British group at £9.1bn or 385p a share.

Investors had been hoping that JP Morgan Chase could engage in a bidding war for the business - which would push up Worldpay's share price - but the US investment banker has dashed those hopes.

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