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  1. Get in touch:
  2. Bitcoin has lost third of value in a week
  3. Retailers brace for Christmas shopping rush
  4. Ladbrokes Coral bought by rival GVC
  5. FTSE 100 closed lower at 7,592.66

Live Reporting

By Mary-Ann Russon

All times stated are UK

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Merry Christmas!

Father Christmas
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That's it for this year on Business Live.

We'll be back bright and early at 06:00 on Tuesday 2 January 2018.

Do join us then for all the latest breaking news and analysis from the business world.

Have a wonderful Christmas and a great new year.

Coinbase says buying and selling disabled

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Coinbase, one of the biggest Bitcoin marketplaces on the internet, says that buying and selling has been temporarily disabled.

"Due to today's high traffic, buys and sells may be temporarily offline. We're working on restoring full availability as soon as possible," Coindesk posted at 08:35 PST (16:35 GMT).

On Friday, the cryptocurrency's price fell below $11,000, according to the Coindesk exchange website, before recovering to about $12,000.

This puts it on track for its worst week since 2013.

AT&T and Time Warner extend merger deadline

AT&T and Time Warner logos

US telecommunications provider AT&T and entertainment group Time Warner have decided to extend the deadline for their $85bn merger until 21 June 2018.

The US Department of Justice is opposed to the merger and sued in November over antitrust concerns.

The original deadline for the merger was 22 April.

The trial is due to begin on 19 March 2018 and the presiding US District Court judge has said he would likely only be able to rule in either late April or early May.

Housing boom in the US?

worker carries lumber as he builds a new home on January 21, 2015 in Petaluma, California
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Newly-built single-family homes sold in the US at the fastest pace since 2007 in November.

The purchases flew at an annual rate of 733,000 last month, up 17.5% from October and 26.6% from 12 months earlier, the US Census Bureau said.

The sales level remains significantly lower than it was before the housing crisis and recession.

New home sales are a tiny slice of the overall housing market in the US, and can vary significantly from month to month.

But they are considered an important indicator of economic health, in part because of spillover effects in industries such as construction and retail.

Steel pensions: Stephen Kinnock calls for flexibility

US tax bill signed into law

As expected, President Donald Trump has signed the Republicans' $1.5 trillion tax overhaul bill into law.

In addition to finalising the tax bill, President Trump has also signed off on a short-term government spenidng bill that includes funds for missile defence.

View more on twitter

Where's the hold up on inflation?

A trader signals an offer in the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index options pit at the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) on July 30, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois.
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What's the hold up on inflation?

A central puzzle in the US economy looks like it will remain unresolved headed into the new year.

Inflation rates in America are not rising at the pace that typically accompanies a strong labour market.

Some economists, including outgoing Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, argue the slowdown is temporary, while others say it could be part of a long-term trend, driving by factors such as globalisation.

New Commerce Department data will not settle the matter.

It reported on Friday that the Fed's preferred inflation measure - a price index for consumer spending that excludes food and energy - rose just 0.1% in November, down from 0.2% in October.

The year-on-year picture, however, was a bit brighter, showing a 1.5% increase, compared to 1.4% in October.

Wells Fargo analysts write:

"At some point ... tightening labour markets and stressed resource markets will reassert themselves. For now, however, consumers are enjoying their increased purchasing power."

Niki airline staff to get December salaries

Niki Airline

Staff of the troubled Austrian airline Niki will receive their December salaries, according to the head of Niki's works council.

Niki's administrators are currently working to sell its remaining assets after the airline filed for insolvency last week.

Lufthansa was meant to buy Niki along with other parts of Air Berlin, but was forced to scrap its plans after the European Commission said it was concerned about anti-competition.

Niki Lauda, a former Formula One world champion who started Niki in 2003, said that he offered to buy the airline back.

Exploding beer on M40 prevents Christmas getaways

Exploding beer bottles on the M40
Matt Taylor

Drivers starting the Christmas getaway faced long tailbacks on the M40 as a lorry-load of beer caught fire.

It happened at about 11:30 GMT, closing the southbound carriageway between Cherwell Valley Services and Bicester. Highways England reopened one lane southbound at about 12:40.

Witnesses said bottles of Stella were exploding in the flames.

Wall Street opens flat

Wall Street at Christmas
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US shares opened flat on Friday, with gains in financial stocks offsetting losses in Nike and technology shares.

The Dow Jones is down 0.08% or 20.87 points to 24,761.42. The top loser is Nike, down 4.2% to $62.08 on the news that its quarterly sales fell short of analyst estimates in the US, despite the fact it beat estimates on sales abroad in Europe and China.

The S&P 500 is flat, down just 0.02% or 0.56 points to 2,684.01. Nike is also the top loser on this index.

And the tech-heavy Nasdaq is down 0.11% or 7.45 points to 6,957.92, dragged down by Net Element Inc, which fell 27.5% to $13.60, after its stock soared 300% on Wednesday.

Frantic Friday begins

Cars on the motorway

The Christmas getaway - dubbed "Frantic Friday" - is under way as workers contend with congested roads and train delays.

An estimated 1.3 million drivers on leisure trips are fighting for road space with regular commuters on the last working day before Christmas.

Highways England has reported 46 traffic incidents on motorways and major A-roads.

Meanwhile, a number of train operators have reported delays and cancellations. South Western Railway said around 30 services could be cancelled and run short due to "sickness among train crew".

Your guide to the Christmas getaway

Good Afternoon

Oxford Street at Christmas
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Thanks to Dearbail and Kate for this morning's live coverage of all things business.

Mary-Ann Russon with you until 17:00 for the rest of the day's news and views from Britain and beyond.

Have you got all your Christmas shopping done yet? Three days and counting.

It's a jungle outside on Oxford Street.

Got a point of view? Tweet me at @concertina226 and @BBCBusiness

Birckenstock kicks off over Amazon fakes

A pile of sandals
AFP/Getty Images

Birkenstock has accused Amazon of being an "accomplice" to fraudsters who sell fakes of its leather sandals online.

The German shoemaker plans to stop selling on Amazon Europe websites from January, in protest at what it says is the online retailer's lack of action against counterfeit Birkenstocks.

"The truth is that Amazon makes money with these fakes," Birkenstock's chief executive Oliver Reichert, told the German newspaper Spiegel. "As far we're concerned, Amazon is an accomplice."

Amazon has said in the past that is has "zero tolerance" for fraud.

Bitcoin offloading 'panic'

Bitcoin logo
Getty Images

Kerim Derhalli, chief executive of investment app Invstr, wonders if Bitcoin "panic" has set in.

"Bitcoin’s meteoric price rise is mostly due to the highly illiquid nature of the current market. There are very few Bitcoin available to buy on the open, which pushes prices up.

"It’s not clear yet what happened here, but it is possible that someone with a large stockpile of Bitcoin made it available to the market.

"This increase in availability could have initially driven prices down, with other holders - especially those that bought at the top of the market - panicked into offloading as a result."

Retailers brace for Super Saturday

Oxford Street

Earlier, Sainsbury's chief executive Mike Coupe told the BBC that he expects today to be the busiest in the company's history.

While that might be the case for Sainsbury's, the last Saturday before Christmas is usually the busiest shopping day of the year.

Forecasts from ShopperTrak suggests that footfall (the number of people visiting shops) will be up 63% on the average day.

"Today [Friday] is many retailer’s last day for pre-Christmas online deliveries, so shoppers will be forced to head in-store to make last minute buys or pick up any final click-and-collect orders in-store," said Steve Richardson, Director at ShopperTrak.

British passports

The 'iconic' design will replace the burgundy passports that have been in use for almost 30 years.

Read more

Ryanair strike delays flights

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The strike by Ryanair pilots in Germany affected 9 out of 36 early flights according to the Irish airline.

"We are grateful to all of our Ryanair pilots for putting our customers first and largely ignoring this VC strike," the company said, referring to the Vereinigung Cockpit union.

Science's way forward

No Santa rally for the FTSE 100

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So that's it from the London Stock Exchange for Christmas and the FTSE 100 has closed down.

The blue chip index finished 11.32 points lower at 7,592.66.

The FTSE 250 ended up 58.34 points at 20,481.07.

Oil prices head lower

Oil prices ticked lower on Friday.

Brent is down 0.3% at $64.73 a barrel while West Texas Intermediate fell 0.4% to $58.12.

Can your online reputation be bleached?

Household cleaners
Science Photo Library

Are companies "bleaching" their online reputations clean?

Legislation that protects websites from lawsuits is cleansing negative comments from online forums,BBC Radio 4's You and Yourshas been told.

Companies that threaten Section 5 defamation notices say they are a legitimate defence against false statements.

But one forum claims they lack the resources to challenge them, and criticisms are being "bleached".

Read more here.

Staycations behind spending boost

People on a sandy beach

UK tourism and "staycations" could partly explain why household spending picked up despite a squeeze on incomes, says Howard Archer, chief economic advisor to the EY ITEM Club.

He explains: "Consumer spending may well have been lifted in the third quarter by the weak pound leading to more tourists visiting the UK and spending, in addition to more people holidaying at home."

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) also suggested spending on cars had picked up between July and September, after being held back by tax changes in the previous quarter.

Striking pilots fire warning shot at Ryanair

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Ryanair was hit by its first-ever pilot strike on Friday.

Pilots in Germany held a four hour walk-out. Ryanair had hoped to avert strike action by giving up its long-held opposition to recognizing unions.

However, Markus Wahl, a spokesman for Germany’s Vereinigung Cockpit union, told Reuters: "This was a warning shot and we started small. However, there is potential for much more.”

Catalan vote hits Spanish stocks

Catalan flag being waved

On a fairly humdrum day for European stock markets, Spain is proving an exception after Catalan separatist parties won a slim majority in regional elections.

The Ibex share index in Madrid was down more than 1% by late morning.

Catalonia's ousted separatist leader, Carles Puigdemont, has hailed the result as a victory for the "Catalan republic".

However, the Citizens party, which wants Catalonia to remain a semi-autonomous part of Spain, is the biggest party. As a result, it is unclear who will be given the right to form a government.

"This result will be a thorn in the side of the Madrid administration as it keeps the independence issue on the table," said David Maddon, an analyst at CMC Markets UK.

"While the political uncertainty hangs over Catalonia, investors will be looking to steer clear of Spanish stocks."

Next leads the FTSE 100

Next is heading into Christmas on a high note.

Shares in the retailer are the biggest riser on the FTSE 100, up 2.8% at £45.42.

Drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline led the fallers with its share price down 1.26% at £13.04.

The FTSE 100 is up 6.61 points at 7,610.59.

On the FTSE 250, GVC Holdings, which confirmed this morning that it would pay up to £4bn for Ladbrokes Coral, saw its share price slide by 2.5% to 910.5p.

Ladbrokes Coral's share price is up 1.32% at 176.3p.

The FTSE 250 is ahead 65.98 points at 20,488.71.

Putting things in perspective

YouGov's head of political and social research Joe Twyman tweets...

Lotte Group founder jail sentence suspended

Lotte Group founder and patriarch Shin Kyuk-ho
Lotte Group founder and patriarch Shin Kyuk-ho is free on health grounds

A South Korean court has sentenced the 95 year old founder of Lotte Group to four years in prison for embezzlement.

Shin Kyuk-howas indicted last year, along with three members of his family, on charges including tax evasion and fraud.

His son and successor Shin Dong-bin was given a suspended 20-month prison sentence on Friday.

Read more here.

It's not all doom and gloom

Man working in a factory
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The latest growth figures are "rather better than the 'gloomy talk' would suggest" says Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte.

He says growth has come in stronger than expected a year ago and the pace of activity has edged up since July.

"A whopping sterling devaluation certainly has squeezed spending power and incomes, just as you'd expect, but it's also helped reboot manufacturing output.

"Overall, growth has slowed modestly, not collapsed.

"Talk of an end to UK growth has been somewhat exaggerated."

Services output growth in four-year low

BBC economics editor tweets...

Household spending 'can’t be sustained'

Graph showing the household savings ratio
Pantheon Macroeconomics

The recent boost in household spending "can’t be sustained", says Samuel Tombs, Pantheon Macroeconomics' chief UK economist.

He says: "Households funded most of the rise in real spending by reducing their saving rate to 5.2%, from 5.6%.

"With consumers set to struggle with a further fall in real wages, more austerity measures and rising borrowing costs, growth in households’ spending must slow over the coming quarters."

Disposable income shrinks

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Bad news for retailers - households's disposable income is not so robust.

Figures from the ONS, show that household disposable incomes, adjusted for inflation, grew by 0.2% in the third quarter, down from 2.3% between April and June.

However, the third quarter was an improvement on the first three months of 2017 which showed negative growth.

Compared to the third quarter of 2016, disposable income rose by 0.4%.

Prices rise for households

Household spending as measured by volume rose by 0.5% in the third quarter of the year compared to the same period in 2016.

However, prices are surpassing volumes according to the ONS which says that the value of household spending rose by 3.2%.

A nation of borrowers


Households have been net borrowers for four successive quarters for the first time since records began in 1987, the Office for National Statistics says.

This means we’re borrowing more money in order to fund activities, amid a wider trend where consumer spending has outstripped growth in disposable incomes.

Between July and September, households’ net borrowing increased by £1.2bn to £2.8bn, from the previous quarter.

We're also saving less: the savings ratio, which measures the outgoings and incomings that affect households, fell to 5.2% in the last quarter from 5.6%.

UK business investment grows

Annual economic growth steps up

The Office for National Statistics says that GDP grew by 1.7% in the three months to September compared to the same period last year.

This an improvement on its previous estimate of 1.5% growth.

It is the first time that the ONS has included VAT returns in the figures.

Darren Morgan, head of national accounts, says: "This is the first time we have used VAT returns from hundreds of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses to help us calculate GDP. These returns improve the quality of our estimates and will allow us to paint a much more detailed picture of the UK economy.”

BreakingUK GDP confirmed at 0.4%

The UK economy grew at 0.4% in the third quarter, according to the Office for National Statistics, unrevised from its second reading.

FTSE 100 hits high

It didn't have to move much but the FTSE 100 hit a record high of 7,606.94, after rising by 2.96 points.

One festive food delivery a second

Today Programme

BBC Radio 4

Lorries on a motorway
Getty Images

Supermarkets will be anxiously waiting for updates on their trading figures for today and the weekend.

Friday is expected to be the "busiest ever day for our business", according to Sainsbury's boss Mike Coupe, as householders do their festive food shops.

"Because Christmas Day is on a Monday, it means we have a short trading day on the Sunday, so people bring forward their expenditure," he says.

Today, the supermarket will deliver groceries to one UK household every second, he says. "That's something the discounters don't do," he adds.

Kobe Steel shares hit by latest twist

Japan's scandal-hit Kobe Steel was one of the big fallers in Asia today - down 2.4%.

Investors were reacting to the announcement late on Thursday that three executives knew the company had been falsifying data over quality control issues.

Despite that slide, overall the Nikkei 225 index gained 0.2% to close at 22,902.8 points on a day of quiet trading ahead of the holidays.

In Hong Kong the Hang Seng gained 0.7% while Shanghai's key index edged slightly lower.

French GDP revised higher

Dior store front in Paris
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Ahead of the final reading of UK GDP figures for the third quarter at 9.30am, new data from France shows that its economy grew by 0.6%, up from a previous estimate of 0.5%.