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Summary

  1. Get in touch: bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk
  2. House of Fraser asks for rent cut
  3. FTSE 100 ends week at new record high
  4. Trump hails Wall Street rally
  5. UK car sales in first fall for six years

Live Reporting

By Dan Macadam

All times stated are UK

Good night!

That's all from Business Live for today and indeed the first week of 2018 - thanks for reading.

Do join us again on Monday from 06:00.

New highs for Wall Street

US flag
Getty Images

The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged further above 25,000 points on Friday as investors shrugged off disappointing US jobs figures.

The Dow ended 0.9% higher at 25,295.8 points - its third consecutive record close.

The S&P 500 gained 0.7% to 2,743.1 and the Nasdaq Composite Index added 0.8% to 7,135.5, both setting new closing records for the fourth straight day.

Morgan Stanley's tax hit

Morgan Stanley
Reuters

Morgan Stanley has become the latest US firm to outline the impact of President Donald Trump's tax reforms, pointing to a one-off $1.25bn (£922m) hit.

The US banking giant follows the likes of Goldman Sachs, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Barclays and Deutsche Bank in booking short-term hits following the change. All are expected to benefit in the longer term.

Mr Trump signed the $1.5 trillion tax overhaul into law last month, cutting tax rates for businesses and also offering temporary cuts for some individuals and families. It includes slashing corporation tax in the US from 35% to 21%.

Long-term visas for China top 'talent'

Simon Atkinson

Asia Business Reporter

A younger Simon Atkinson
BBC
Thinner, but no expert...

Almost 20 years ago, working as an English teacher in China, the most useful document to have was the Foreign Expert Card. It carried all sorts of perks (including, I seem to remember, free entry to museums).

It wasn't particularly hard to obtain. I was definitely foreign. And apparently speaking English also made you an expert in teaching it (which my former students will attest is not necessarily true).

Anyway these days Beijing is far more picky and has categorised jobs foreigners do to try and weed out the low-skilled laowei (foreigners) and attract the ones who really add something to the economy and society.

The latest step announced by Beijing is long-term visas valid for up to 10 years - which are free to get and quick to process.

Technology leaders, entrepreneurs and scientists from in-demand sectors are among those China hopes will be tempted to come and play a part in the country's development.

Clueless would-be teachers need not apply.

What problems is House of Fraser facing?

House of Fraser
Getty Images

Turning back to House of Fraser - Moody's credit agency set out some of its concerns last month when it downgraded the retailer's credit rating.

At the time Moody's pointed to the company's weak results in the first three quarters of the financial year, which it said were due to "both challenging market conditions and company-specific factors".

The disruption from House of Fraser's new web platform and the underperformance of its in-house brands had weighed on the business, Moody's said.

"Absent an unexpected general uptick in consumer demand, a recovery in HoF's profitability is dependent upon either an improvement in the company's product offering or in cost savings initiatives, which each involve execution risks," it added.

Don't fly with me

Chris Johnston

Business reporter, BBC News

You know things are grim when the private jet has to go, but let's face it, things are indeed pretty grim for Steinhoff International, the owner of chains including Poundland and Harveys.

Bloomberg reports that the South African conglomerate is in talks to sell its Gulfstream G550 that it only took delivery of last April for just under $25m.

Steinhoff confirmed plans to sell the plane but did not comment further.

Its shares crashed last month after announcing a probe into accounting irregularities and the departure of chief executive Markus Jooste.

Big week for retailers

House of Fraser
Getty Images

The news of House of Fraser seeking a rent cut comes just days before it's expected to reveal how it fared during Christmas trading.

Next week we'll also get figures from Marks & Spencer and John Lewis on the all-important festive period.

So far there's been a mixed picture from retailers. Next reported better-than-expected Christmas results, but that was largely due to its strong online performance.

Debenhams - one of House of Fraser's biggest competitors - fared much worse, and said profits would be lower than forecast because of poor Christmas trading.

It comes as retailers are already facing continued cost rises, with moves like rent reduction being explored as a way of easing those pressures.

A cannibalistic cannabis investment?

Chris Johnston

Business reporter, BBC News

Cannabis
Getty Images

Robert Sands, chief executive of Constellation Brands, said on Friday the company was seeing no real impact on alcohol sales following the legalisation of recreational cannabis in six US states.

Nevertheless, it recently took a near-10% stake in Canada's biggest cannabis producer Canopy Growth Corp, becoming the first major beer and spirits company to invest in legal cannabis.

Mr Sands said it was too early to tell whether Constellation's investment in the Canadian company would be "cannibalistic or complementary", adding: "There's just not enough information I think to really say how that's going to affect beverage alcohol in general going forward."

Constellation missed estimates for third quarter revenue on Friday and said wine and spirit sales for the full-year would be at the low end of a previous forecast, sending its shares lower.

House of Fraser looks to cut rent bill

House of Fraser
PA

UK department store chain House of Fraser has written to the landlords of some of its stores asking for rent reductions, the BBC understands.

Sky News first reported that the company made an "informal" request to an undisclosed number of owners of its 59 UK stores.

“We can confirm that we have contacted some of our landlords asking for their support as we drive forward with our transformation programme," the company said.

It comes at a difficult time for High Street stores, with rival Debenhams this week issuing a profit warning after weaker-than-expected Christmas sales.

Netflix gets Letterman boost

Barack Obama and David Letterman
Reuters

The US talk show host David Letterman is making his TV comeback in a new Netflix show later this month, with former President Barack Obama as his first guest.

It'll be called "My Next Guest Needs No Introduction" - and investors clearly agree. Shares in the TV streaming service are up nearly 2% to $209.64, valuing the company at more than $90bn.

The six-episode series will also feature interviews with actor George Clooney, rapper Jay-Z, radio shock jock Howard Stern, comedian Tina Fey and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, the streaming service said.

Letterman left his job as host of "The Late Show" in May 2015 after more than 30 years on late night television.

Ousted Uber boss 'sells 30% of his stake'

Travis Kalanick
Reuters

Reports continue to come in that Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick is selling off a chunk of his stake in the taxi-hailing company.

Kalanick was ousted as chief executive last year but remained on the firm's board.

The Wall Street Journal is the latest media outlet to report that he's selling nearly 30% of his shares as part of a broader investment deal led by Japanese tech group Softbank.

Kalanick owns 10% of the company - and the stake up for sale would earn him about $1.4 billion, according to the WSJ.

How does the FTSE compare?

We mentioned earlier that the UK's FTSE 100 share index has lagged other major global stock indexes.

Here's a handy chart from BBC economics editor Kamal Ahmed comparing it with Germany's Dax, the US Dow Jones and Japan's Nikkei.

View more on twitter

Watch: The 'latte levy' explained

MPs are calling for coffee chains to charge 25p on disposable cups to help reduce waste. Caffeine lovers told us what they think...

Is the PPI boom behind slowing car sales?

Car forecourt
AFP

Here's a novel explanation for why UK car sales have seen their first annual fall in six years.

Michael Bills, a director at financial advisers Duff and Phelps, says demand is waning because the payouts for PPI claims are slowing down.

"The banks have paid out [about] £28bn pounds since 2011 which is now coming to an end," he told the BBC.

"And we feel there's no real surprise as that's running its course, we are starting to see a softening in consumer demand for cars."

...but the UK index lagged behind Europe

Deutsche Boerse
Getty Images

Yes the FTSE 100 finished the week at a new record high. But its 0.4% rise today was smaller than the gains seen by major European stock markets.

Germany's Dax and France's Cac enjoyed bigger increases, as they have done for most of the week - the Dax rising by 1.2% and the Cac finishing the day 1.1% higher.

"International stock markets are riding high at the moment, driven by continued strength in the US and the prospect of global growth picking up," said Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Laith Khalaf.

"However the FTSE was held back compared to European counterparts thanks to two of the biggest companies in the market, HSBC and Shell, exerting downward pressure to the benchmark index."

BreakingFTSE ends week at record high

City of London
PA

The FTSE 100 saw a late surge as it closed at a new record high of 7,724.22 points.

The index of leading UK shares rose by 28.34 points, or 0.4%, on the back of optimism about the economy and a rally in US stocks.

British Gas owner Centrica was the biggest winner - rising 3.1% - after it was upgraded by analysts. Insurance group Admiral saw the heaviest fall - dropping 2.9% - following an analyst downgrade.

Sign of faith?

Sound of fury

White noise
Getty Images

The sound of white noise - indistinct electronic hissing which helps to block out other sounds - has driven a group of litigants to distraction.

A musician who made a 10-hour long video of continuous white noise has said five copyright infringement claims have been made against him.

Sebastian Tomczak, who is based in Australia, said he made the video in 2015 and uploaded it to YouTube.

The claimants, which include publishers of white noise intended for sleep therapy, are accusing him of infringement.

"I will be disputing these claims," he told the BBC.

Deustche Bank takes Trump tax hit

Deutsche Bank
Reuters

Germany's biggest lender Deutsche Bank has warned it will make a "small" loss this year, largely due to recent changes in the US tax system led by Donald Trump.

The bank said it would take a €1.5bn hit as a result of the tax changes, which came into effect at the start of the year.

Although the tax reform slashes the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, several large firms such as BP and Goldman Sachs have reported that it will bring short-term pain.

That's partly because the lower rate means that some tax breaks for companies will be correspondingly smaller.

Deutsche Bank shares have fallen more than 4% on the back of the news.

Good for baa-nking tips?

UK stocks and economy 'starkly different'

City of London skyline
Getty Images

The FTSE 100 is on course for another record high as we head into the final hour of trading, albeit slightly below the peak of 7,727.73 points it hit at lunchtime.

It comes despite annual car sales - often seen as a bellwether for the British economy - falling for the first time in six years.

"The UK stock market and UK economy are quite starkly different," said Edward Park, investment director at Brooks Macdonald.

The FTSE has been boosted this week by a US-led rally in global stock markets, although analysts noted that the UK's blue-chip index has lagged behind major European markets.

Trump White House 'operating smoothly'

Fire and Fury book
EPA

The publication of a controversial book on Donald Trump's White House - dubbed "phony" by Trump - has rocked Washington and put his presidency under the spotlight again.

Trump's chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, has come out swinging, telling Bloomberg TV that the White House is "operating smoothly".

"Look at what we just accomplished," he said, pointing to the major tax reform signed less than two weeks ago - "something that's not been done for 31 years".

This came from President Trump's leadership, he said. "Think about that - that tells you how the White House is operating."

US stock rally will continue - Trump aide

Gary Cohn
Getty Images

"The stock market is not expensive right now," according to Gary Cohn, chief economic adviser to President Donald Trump

He told Bloomberg TV that US tax cuts which passed shortly before Christmas would fuel further gains in stock markets.

Wall Street once again opened at fresh highs today after a record-breaking year. It's prompted some economists to predict a "correction" - or crash - in 2018.

Mr Cohn doesn't share that view. Stocks are high because of the growth in the global economy and US companies' earnings, he said.

But investors haven't fully appreciated the investment that Donald Trump's tax reforms will encourage in the US, he added.

Trump basks in Dow record

Donald Trump
EPA

A couple of hours before Wall Street opened to fresh record highs, Donald Trump celebrated the Dow Jones index's latest milestone of breaking through 25,000 points.

The rise in the Dow "is all about the Make America Great Again agenda" he tweeted, before adding "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs".

View more on twitter

BreakingDow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq push higher

Wall Street's main indexes have pushed further into record territory at the opening bell, despite weaker-than-expected US job growth in December.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average - which broke through 25,000 points for the first time yesterday - rose a further 0.2% to 25,127.13.

The S&P 500 gained 0.3% to 2,732.2, while the Nasdaq Composite added 0.4% to 7,105.62.

What's behind Branson's fightback?

Richard Westcott

Transport correspondent

Sir Richard Branson and his team
Virgin Trains East Coast

Sir Richard Branson has hit back at critics who say the government has bailed out Virgin Group and its partner in the East Coast rail franchise. BBC Transport Correspondent Richard Westcott explains:

Virgin and Stagecoach were meant to pay around £1.6bn to the government in the final years of the East Coast contract.

That contract has been ripped up three years early because Virgin/Stagecoach are losing money. A new public-private company will run the franchise instead.

So why couldn't Virgin/Stagecoach make money?

They overbid for the contract. Promising huge amounts of money based on a certain amount of passenger growth. But that growth's not going to happen.

It's not all their fault though. When they bid for the franchise, they were promised major track and power upgrades that would let them run new trains and services from 2019.

Saudi oil giant steps closer to listing

Saudi Aramco
Reuters

The world's biggest stock market listing has taken a step closer to happening.

The Gulf state has converted state-owned oil company Aramco into a joint stock company - an initial step that's required so that it can be floated on the stock market later this year.

The sale of a 5% stake in the petroleum giant is the centrepiece of an ambitious reform plan to reduce the Saudi economy's dependence on oil by raising money to invest in other areas.

London, New York and Hong Kong are all vying for the listing which - Saudi Arabia believes - could value Aramco at $2 trillion.

What do the US job figures tell us?

Ford car factory workers
Getty Images

US unemployment stayed at a 17-year low of 4.1% in December, but fewer jobs were added that month than analysts had expected.

So what does it mean for the world's biggest economy?

It ended on a "mixed note" in 2017, according to Kully Samra, UK managing director at Charles Schwab. Although the job numbers were "disappointing", hourly earnings gained by 2.5%, he said.

"In addition, the economy grow quarter on quarter, manufacturing and services indices rise and other factors such as business confidence and housing are also picking up," he added.

Thomas Simons, an economist at Jefferies in New York, takes a similar line: "Payrolls came in below expectations, but the details are generally fine."

Oil prices on the retreat

Man at an oil pump
Reuters

Oil prices have fallen after hitting a two and a half year high of over $68 a barrel on Thursday.

Soaring US production has undermined a rally that was driven by tightening supply and political tensions in Iran.

The price of Brent crude has fallen 1% to $67.41 a barrel, while West Texas Intermediate has slipped 0.9% to $61.43 a barrel.

BreakingUS unemployment unchanged in December

Latest data from the US Labor Department shows that unemployment was unchanged at 4.1% in December 2017.

For all of 2017, the economy created 2.1 million jobs, below the 2.2 million added in 2016.

In December, the US economy created 148,000 more non-farm jobs. Retail jobs were down by 20,300 jobs, the largest drop since March, despite a strong holiday shopping season.

Harsh weather in some parts of the country likely contributed to some of the job growth slowdown in December

Average hourly earnings rose 9 cents or 0.3% in December, lifting the annual increase in wages to 2.5%, from 2.4% in November.

Jaguar Land Rover reports strong growth

Jaguar Land Rover
Jaguar Land Rover

Jaguar Land Rover has said it sold 35,541 Jaguars in 2017 in Britain - more than it sold in both 2011 and 2012 combined.

But December figures show that like-for-like UK sales fell 17.3% from the previous year.

“Our business has continued to see strong growth in the UK in 2017, with new models entering the marketplace helping us to sell more than 118,000 vehicles and our retail network investing more than £500m in building brand new or renovated Jaguar Land Rover sites," said Jeremy Hicks, the managing director for Jaguar Land Rover UK.

"We are delighted with this performance amidst what has undoubtedly been a tough marketplace with ongoing Brexit negotiations and continued misconceptions around clean, modern diesel technology causing consumer uncertainty during 2017."

Branson puffs into East Coast franchise row

Richard Branson
PA

Virgin entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson has written a blog post prompted by a political row over East Coast rail franchising.

Labour peer Lord Adonis resigned as head of the government-backed National Infrastructure Commission on Friday, saying that the government had agreed to bail out Virgin and Stagecoach to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds.

Sir Richard said in his blog post that Virgin and Stagecoach had agreed to pay the government £3.3bn over the eight year franchise, to 2023. However, he said there had been "considerable delays" to a promised line upgrade by Network Rail.

"A discussion with government had to take place and a pragmatic solution was needed to keep delivering improvements and investment in the line."

Exactly what that "pragmatic solution" was is not clear.

How bubble wrap became a million dollar idea

How Bubble Wrap became a million dollar idea

Bubble wrap has fast become the world's most popular protective wrapping for fragile items. Plus, there's the therapeutic joy of popping the bubbles.

But its inventors originally developed it to break into the home decoration business, as Aaron Heslehurst explains.

Stock markets hit record highs – here are three reasons why

Kamal Ahmed

Economics editor

Trader
Getty Images

Not too hot, not too cold - but just right.

Goldilocks' requirements for the perfect bowl of porridge are similar to the requirements of an attractive economy.

Not too hot - growth busting out the lights raising fears about sustainability and rampant inflation.

And not too cold - economic slowdowns and recessions pulling down business profitability and weighing on equity valuations.

Market investors certainly sense that 2018 will see a continuation of a global "Goldilocks economy".

Read more from Kamal here.

Admiral shares fall after downgrade

Shares in car insurance firm Admiral are down almost 5% in early afternoon trading after a downgrade from JPMorgan analysts.

But a decline in new car sales has also contributed to the fall, according to Chris Beauchamp of IG.

"A drop in car sales portends tougher times ahead for the car insurance business, and at over eight times book value versus a sector average of 2.8, the firm looks rather expensive going into a period of more difficult trading," he says.

Space robots on the horizon

Will bots soon be building space colonies for people?

Entrepreneur Michael Sims of Ceres Robotics tells the BBC's Ed Butler how he hopes his machines will soon be helping to build space colonies for people.

'Virtually every computer affected' by chip bugs

BBC News Channel

Apple phones
Getty Images

Nearly every computer on the planet is affected by two major flaws in computer chips, says technology journalist Rupert Goodwins. One of the vulnerabilities, "Spectre", will be "there for a long time to come", he says.

However, he adds: "People who will be most worried will be those running big data centres, or those with particularly secure and secret information, which has high value, and is very tempting to hackers... The trickle down to the rest of us will be quite slow and not that significant."

European markets 'driving higher'

European equity markets are pushing higher as "investor sentiment around the globe is running high" says David Madden, a market analyst at CMC Markets UK.

"Traders will be waiting for the non-farm payrolls report from the US at lunchtime," he says.

Centrica and United Utilities shares are higher after Credit Suisse upgraded the stock, he adds.

The euro and the pound are down against the dollar ahead of the US jobs figures at 1:30pm, he adds.

Wall Street records reflected in Asia again

Simon Atkinson

Asia Business Reporter

After more records on Wall Street - with the Dow Jones index going beyond 25,000 points for the first time - markets on Asia have once again rallied on Friday.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 ended up 0.9% at 23,714.5 points - that's a 26-year high and follows a jump of more than 3% on Thursday.

Meanwhile Hong Kong gained 0.3% - its ninth-straight day of gains, while Shanghai closed up 0.2%.

Can it continue next week? Join us here to find out.

Eurozone inflation rate falls

Shopper in eurozone
Getty Images

Inflation in the eurozone eased last month, according to preliminary data from the EU's statistics body, Eurostat.

The inflation rate across the 19-nation bloc slipped to 1.4% from 1.5% in November, taking it further away from the European Central Bank's (ECB) target rate of close to, but below, 2%.

In December, the ECB raised its inflation forecast for 2018, although it was still expected to remain below the official target rate.

The eurozone has been growing strongly in recent months, and the ECB expects the bloc's economy to grow by 2.4% this year.