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  1. Get in touch:
  2. IMF upgrades global growth outlook
  3. UK wages up 2.8% in the three months to February
  4. Unemployment rate drops to 4.2%, lowest since 1975
  5. JD Sports' profits up by a quarter
  6. China's economy grows 6.8% in first quarter

Live Reporting

By Daniel Thomas

All times stated are UK

Good night

That's it from Business Live. We'll be back at 6am sharp tomorrow.

How 'ninja polymers' are fighting killer superbugs

Woman scientist
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With advances in stem cell research and nanotechnology helping us fight illnesses from heart disease to superbugs, is the fusion of biology and technology speeding us towards a sci-fi future - part human, part synthetic?

In Ridley Scott's seminal blockbuster Blade Runner, humanity has harnessed bio-engineering to create a race of replicants that look, act and sound human - but are made entirely from synthetic material.

We may be far from realising that sci-fi future, but synthetics are beginning to have a profound effect on medicine.

Read more

Wall Street shares rally

Exterior of New York Stock Exchange
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All three key US share indexes have closed higher.

The Dow Jones ended the day at 24,786.83, a rise of 213.79 points or 0.87%.

The S&P 500 was at 2,710.43, that's up 32.59 points or 1.22%.

And the tech-heavy Nasdaq was at 7,281.10, a gain of 124.81 points or 1.74%.

Shares were boosted by gains in the technology and consumer sectors.

Netflix shares soared by 10% to hit a record high after it exceeded quarterly subscriber estimates.

New York state launches cryptocurrency investigation

A Bitcoin symbol
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The state of New York has launched an investigation into platforms that trade cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, warning of potential fraud and conflicts of interest.

The inquiry aims to increase "transparency and accountability" of the exchanges that retail investors rely on to trade in virtual currency.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said: "Too often, consumers don't have the basic facts they need to assess the fairness, integrity, and security of these trading platforms."

Citing reports of theft of vast sums of virtual currency from customer accounts, and sudden and poorly explained trading outages, his office sent letters to 13 major trading platforms requesting key information on their operations, internal controls, and safeguards to protect customer assets.

Is renting all bad?

BBC Radio 5 live

Big US banks 'made $2.3bn from Trump tax cuts'

Bank of America
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America's biggest four banks posted strong first quarter earnings this week, but the results would have looked very different if the impact of recent tax cuts had been stripped out, says Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Rapoport.

He argues the cuts boosted the combined earnings of JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Bank of America by more than $2.3bn.

"Without the tax savings resulting from the new lower corporate tax rate, Wells Fargo’s earnings would have declined from a year ago instead of increasing, and much of the year-over-year growth at Citigroup and Bank of America would be gone. At JPMorgan, losing the tax bump would have cut its earnings growth to 28% from 35%."

He also notes that other provisions of the tax law prompted some of the same banks to take big charges against their fourth quarter earnings.

"From that perspective, the first-quarter boosts merely help even things out."

Lloyds closures a 'real blow'

Cash machines
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Lloyds’ decision to close 49 more bank branches will come as a "real blow" to small businesses, the Federation of Small Businesses says.

National chairman Mike Cherry said: “Bank branches provide a number of vital services to small business owners, from cash floats and deposits, to support with access to finance, to assistance with opening new accounts.

“Withdrawing branches from communities comes with real risks to small firms. Without the ability to easily deposit cash, they have to hold more of it on site. That can make them targets for crime.

“Equally, bank branches are vital to encouraging high street footfall. Cash is still the preferred payment method for thousands of shoppers."

Tech stocks rally as results season gets underway

US tech apps
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US tech stocks are in rally mode after strong results from Netflix boosted shares in the video streaming platform by 10%.

Amazon, Apple, Twitter and Google-owner Alphabet - which all publish results in the coming weeks - are up by 3.9%, 1.46%, 10.7% and 3.5% respectively.

Analysts expect profits of S&P 500 companies to rise 18.6% in the first quarter, the biggest increase in seven years, largely as a result of new corporate tax cuts.

It's lifting Wall Street markets more generally, with the Dow Jones gaining 0.9% and the Nasdaq up 1.75%.

Starbucks to give staff 'racial bias' training

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Starbucks will give all of its 175,000 US staff racial bias training after what it called the "reprehensible" arrest of two black men for trespassing at one of its cafes.

The US firm said it would close its more than 8,000 company-owned stores on the afternoon of 29 May to give training geared toward "preventing discrimination".

“I’ve spent the last few days in Philadelphia with my leadership team listening to the community, learning what we did wrong and the steps we need to take to fix it,” said Starbucks boss Kevin Johnson.

“While this is not limited to Starbucks, we’re committed to being a part of the solution."

The men arrested were waiting for a friend at the Philadelphia branch.A manager called the police after complaining that they had not made a purchase. Both men were released shortly after their arrest and have each retained lawyers.

Starbucks has faced protests outside the store where the incident occurred.

Matthew Mellon: US billionaire dies in Mexico

Matthew Mellon

The US billionaire Matthew Mellon, who made a fortune in digital currency, has died at the age of 54, his family says.

Mr Mellon had struggled with drug addiction, and a family representative said he died at a rehabilitation centre in the Mexican coastal town of Cancun.

He was an early backer of the digital currency XRP, also known as Ripple.

The tycoon was the scion of two US banking dynasties and the ex-husband of the British co-founder of luxury shoe brand Jimmy Choo, Tamara Mellon.

Read more

South African government cuts ties with KPMG

Former South African president Jacob Zuma
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South Africa's spending watchdog the Auditor General is terminating all contracts with auditing firm KPMG over a string of recent scandals.

KPMG has been under close scrutiny since 2017 over work done for a company owned by the Gupta family - who have been accused of using their links to former president Jacob Zuma to influence government decisions - and for lender VBS Mutual Bank.

The Guptas and Zuma have denied any wrongdoing.

KPMG South Africa has previously said it was not involved in and did not condone any alleged money laundering activities linked to the Gupta-owned Linkway Trading company.

However, Auditor General Kimi Makwetu said in a statement: "Recent media reports relating to the external audit of VBS Mutual Bank and the conduct of KPMG audit partners are some of the reasons that prompted the decision to withdraw all KPMG audit mandates with immediate effect.

"These terminations are not a judgement on the capabilities or integrity of the professionals that work in the firms, but are recognition of the significant reputational risks associated with matters that affect them at present."

Regulators have referred a former KPMG employee to a disciplinary hearing over the work carried out for Linkway.

Pound slips below $1.43

Pound coins/ notes
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The pound has retreated from the post-EU referendum high seen earlier today.

It's currently trading at $1.4291 against the dollar, down 0.33% since the start of Tuesday.

Analysts blamed the slip on weaker-than-expected data, showing British workers' pay is still rising by less than inflation despite the lowest unemployment rate since 1975.

Sterling is flat against the euro at 1.1575 euros.

FTSE 100 closes higher

The FTSE 100 closed has closed 0.4% higher at 7,226.05 points.

Russia-exposed stocks recovered some of their sharp losses as investors grew less anxious about US sanctions.

Evraz was the top performer, gaining 6.6%, while Polymetal International rose 2%.

Meanwhile Primark-owner Associated British Foods gained more than 4% after reporting better than expected results.

US tax cuts: Are they the biggest in American history?

Kim Gittleson

New York business correspondent

Donald Trump
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It's tax day in America - something most Americans dread.

But this year, the filing of both personal and corporate taxes has become even more complicated due to the recently passed tax reform bill in the United States.

President Donald Trump touted the legislation in a speech on 16 April in Hialeah, Florida, saying: "We have the biggest tax cut in history, bigger than the Reagan tax cut. Bigger than any tax cut."

But while most Americans are filing for 2017 and so won't feel the biggest impact until next year - is the claim true?

Read more

T-Mobile fined over false ringtones

T-mobile logo
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Mobile phone network T-Mobile has agreed to pay $40m (£27m) after claims by the US government that it used false ringtones when calls could not be connected in rural areas.

This would have given the impression that the calls were going unanswered rather than not connecting.

The settlement was negotiated by the Federal Communications Commission.

T-Mobile said the issue was "unintentional" and had been "corrected" in January 2017.

The FCC banned false ringtones in 2014.

Read more

The Lloyds branches that could close:

  • Alford, Lincolnshire
  • Bishops Cleeve, Cotswolds
  • Bovey Tracey, South Devon
  • Bridgend Industrial Estate, South Wales
  • Brierley Hill, West Midlands
  • Brightlingsea, Essex
  • Butler Place, West End
  • Chatteris, The Fens
  • Clare, Essex
  • Cockermouth, North Lancashire & Cumbria
  • Colchester University Of Essex, Essex
  • Coningsby, Lincolnshire
  • Cricklade, Cotswolds
  • Croydon George Street, South East London
  • Dawlish, South Devon
  • East Wittering, Surrey & South Downs
  • Frinton-on-Sea, Essex
  • Hassocks, Sussex
  • Hednesford, South Staffordshire
  • Henley-in-Arden, Cotswolds
  • Hull Derringham, North & East Yorkshire
  • Keswick, North Lancashire & Cumbria
  • Lakenheath, The Fens
  • Ledbury, East Wales & Borders
  • Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire
  • Midhurst, Solent
  • Ottery St Mary, Somerset & Devon
  • Plymouth Southway, South Devon
  • Royton, Central Lancashire
  • Rye, Kent
  • Selsey, Surrey and South Downs
  • Soham, The Fens
  • St Leonards-on-Sea Silverhill, Kent
  • Stalybridge, Manchester
  • Stevenage High Street, Hertfordshire
  • Teddington, South West London
  • Upton-upon-Severn, Severn
  • Watton, East Anglia
  • Wealdstone, North West London
  • West Ealing, West London
  • Wingham, Kent

Lloyds to cut 300 jobs and close branches

A Lloyds bank branch
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Lloyds says it will cut a further 305 jobs and shut 49 branches as part of a cost cutting plan announced in February.

The lender said it would cut more than 1,200 roles but also create 925 jobs elsewhere to limit the impact on employees.

"The group's policy is always to use natural turnover and to redeploy people wherever possible to retain their expertise and knowledge within the group," it said.

It is part of wider efforts to overhaul the lender as more customers bank online.

It follows the announcement of 930 job cuts in February.

M&S to close Hardwick distribution centre

M&S logo
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Marks & Spencer is to close its Hardwick distribution centre near Warrington which handles clothing and homeware.

The site is operated by a third party, XPO Logistics, and uses DHL lorries to distribute goods.

About 450 staff who work for XPO and DHL could lose their jobs.

M&S is in the process of moving to using a smaller number of larger distribution centres.

European markets jump but FTSE trails

Man outside London Stock Exchange
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Mainland European markets have followed a buoyant Wall Street higher.

France's Cac 40 is up 0.9% to 5,360.54 points while Germany's Dax is 1.6% higher at 12,591.60.

The FTSE 100 is only 0.4% higher, however, held back by the strong pound (This is because firms' international profits will be worth less when converted back into sterling).

Conor Campbell of SpreadEx said: "While the pound stalled following a slightly disappointing, but still promising, wage growth reading, it is only just off of its post-Brexit high against the dollar, and is actually knocking on the door of €1.16 against the data-weakened euro, itself a fresh 11 month peak."

Twitter back up...

Twitter is now back up and running, at least as far as we can see...

According to Down Detector, a site that monitors outages, people first started reporting problems around 2.50pm, mostly in the UK, US and Japan.

Twitter goes down

Twitter error page

The social media site has been down for about 15 minutes (at least here at New Broadcasting House). Tweetdeck appears to be working though.

Are you having problems? If so drop us a line :

China to open up car market

China car imports
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China will scrap a limit on foreign investment in domestic car companies in a major shift to open up the world's biggest car market.

The government said it would remove restrictions for companies making fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in 2018. It will do the same for makers of commercial vehicles in 2020 and the wider car market by 2022.

Currently foreign carmakers can own no more than a 50% share of any local venture, forcing many to partner with Chinese firms.

China plans similar reforms for the shipbuilding and aircraft industries in 2018.

RBS to pay £3.5bn into pension scheme

RBS cash machines
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Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) says it plans to pay a total of £3.5bn into its pension scheme due to new ring-fencing legislation.

The bank said it planned to pay in £2bn this year, with a further £1.5bn in 2020.

The bank's chief financial officer Ewen Stevenson said the payments "substantially addressed the historical funding weaknesses that existed in the fund and brought clarity to future funding arrangements,"

Netflix shares jump on strong results

Stranger Things

As we have reported, Netflix shares are up almost 7% after the video streaming platform posted the fastest revenue and subscriber growth in its history.

Netflix now has 125 million subscribers, after adding 7.4 million more between January and March.

It also said it expects its overseas sales to overtake those in its US home market for the first time in the next three months.

Nearly three quarters of its new subscribers in the first quarter came from outside its home market in the US.

US markets open higher

Wall Street sign
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US stock markets have opened higher as strong results from Netflix, Goldman Sachs and health companies lifted investor confidence.In early trade, the Dow Jones was up 0.9% at 24,782.83 points. The S&P 500 had gained 0.6% to 2,695.02 and the Nasdaq was up 1% at 7,230.94.

Netflix shares jumped as much 7% after the video streaming site reported a rise in subscriber additions for the fourth straight quarter on Monday.

UnitedHealth rose 3.4% after the largest US health insurer raised its earnings forecast and posted results that beat analyst expectations.

IMF sounds alarm on trade

Steel worker
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While the IMF's 2018 forecasts are generally positive, it lists a number of risks that could lead to weaker performance.

One would be increased trade barriers - tariffs or other restrictions - that might harm sentiment in financial markets, disrupt global supply chains and slow the spread of new technology.

It said protectionism also affected consumers by making tradable goods more expensive.

Looking further ahead, it warned that ageing populations and low productivity growth would make it hard for developed economies to achieve the per capita growth rates they managed before the 2008 financial crisis.

UK will trail European peers in 2018

Despite upgrading Britain's outlook for 2018, the IMF said the country would still perform worse than the rest of Europe, except Italy, over the next two years.

The organisation blamed Brexit but said the Bank of England should still raise interest rates to keep inflation under control.

“The unemployment rate in the UK is close to historic lows; further declines could add to inflation pressure by triggering faster wage growth in a context of inflation that is already above target following currency depreciation after the June 2016 Brexit referendum,” the IMF said in the twice-yearly economic forecast.

“Gradual monetary tightening is therefore needed to ensure that inflation returns to target.”

Jamie Oliver shuts Canberra restaurant

Jamie Olver
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Jamie Oliver has put his Canberra restaurant into administration, resulting in the loss of more than 40 jobs.

The Essex cook has sold five of his Jamie's Italian restaurants in Australia to Hallmark Group, but was unable to sell the Canberra outlet.

He bought back his restaurants in Australia in 2016 when their previous owner, Keystone Group, went into administration.

IMF predicts stronger growth but warns of risks

Container ship

The International Monetary Fund has forecast that 2018 will be the strongest year for global growth since 2011.

In its new assessment of the World Economic Outlook, the IMF predicts growth this year and next of 3.9%, up from a previous projection of 3.7%.

However, it warned that performance could be curtailed by trade barriers.

For the UK, the IMF has made a modest upgrade for growth this year to 1.6% from 1.5%. For next year, the forecast has been slightly reduced.

World Cup ticket warning

Moscow football stadium
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Planning a trip to the World Cup? Be careful where you buy your match tickets.

Football fans risk paying inflated prices for World Cup tickets that might not be valid if they use secondary ticketing sites, Which? has warned.

The consumer group found tickets for the England vs Tunisia match priced as high as £11,237.

Football's governing body Fifa has warned it can void any ticket purchased on an unauthorised ticketing website.


Canadian firm takes over BiFab yards

Workers at BiFab in Methil

The closure-threatened BiFab engineering firm in Scotland has been taken over by a Canadian company in a move that could save 260 jobs in Fife and on Lewis.

Redundancy notices had been handed to workers at the BiFab yards in Methil, Burntisland and Arnish in February.

But JV Driver, through its subsidiary DF Barnes, has now acquired BiFab as part of an agreement brokered by the Scottish government.

The Scottish government will remain a minority shareholder in BiFab.

BP and Sports Direct have no women on board

Old BP logo
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BP and Sports Direct are among 35 of the UK's biggest companies slammed for failing to meet targets to increase the number of women in the boardroom.

The Investment Association and the Hampton-Alexander Review have written to the FTSE 350 businesses which have no or low female representation on the board.

BP and mining firm Fresnillo were among 14 firms in the FTSE 100 blasted for still having an all-male board as of last June.

Meanwhile the housebuilder Persimmon and travel group TUI were named for having low numbers of women on their combined executive committees and direct reports.

Another 11 firms in the FTSE 250 were also found to have all-male boards, such as Sports Direct and support services firm Stobart Group.

Goldman Sachs trumpets 25% revenue rise

Goldman Sachs' head office in New York
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Goldman Sachs' head office in New York

Revenues and profits at US investment bank Goldman Sachs have risen strongly.

First quarter revenues jumped 25% to $10.04bn, while net earnings for the three months to the end of March climbed 27% to $2.74 billion.

The bank increased its quarterly dividend to 80 cents a share.

Chairman Lloyd Blankfein said: "We are broadening our client base and further diversifying our businesses to drive more revenue and earnings growth."

Cancer drugs lift Johnson & Johnson sales

Science Photo Library

Increasing demand for its cancer drugs has helped to lift sales at US pharmaceuticals and medical goods giant Johnson & Johnson.

The company reported first-quarter sales of $20.01bn, up from $17.77bn last year, although net earnings slipped to $4.37bn from $4.42bn.

J&J's results were helped by its pharmaceuticals division, where revenues rose 19.4% to $9.84bn, Its cancer drugs, which includes brands such as Zytiga, Darzalex and Imbruvica, saw sales jump 45% to $2.31bn.

A popular tax? Surely not

A scene from Blue Planet II

The plastic bag charge is one of the most popular taxes ever introduced by any government, the Environment Secretary has claimed.

The 5p-per-bag levy, introduced in England in 2015, has reduced the number of single-use plastic bags bought by around 90%, showing an environmentally-conscious public will pay more to reduce pollution, Michael Gove said.

Public opinion is now firmly behind reducing waste since the success of the tax and last year's Blue Planet II series, Gove added. He called the BBC show a "very effective wake-up call".

Primark bucks online trend

Primark store
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Who needs an online store? Not Primark, according to Sofie Willmott, retail analyst at GlobalData.

She said: "Primark has demonstrated once again that it does not need a transactional website to thrive in the UK market.

She pointed out that as shopping habits shift online, clothing and footwear spend in physical locations is forecast to decline.

"But Primark continues to buck this trend, benefitting as shoppers with squeezed disposable incomes trade down, and stealing share from its high street competitors," she said.

Building firm Lagan Group sold for £455m

Builder with planks
Breedon Group has said the acquisition will allow them to enter the Irish construction market

The construction firm Lagan Group has been sold to one of the biggest construction firms in the UK for £455m.

Breedon Group said the acquisition would allow it to enter the Irish construction market.

Lagan Group employs 750 people and made a profit of £46m last year.

The Lagan family business was formed in the 1960s but it was broken into two parts several years ago, with brothers Michael and Kevin Lagan going their separate ways.


Fascinating! How the pound has reacted to events

BBC data journalist Daniele Palumbo has produced this annoted graph...

Pound/dollar graph

AA faces £225m claim from former chairman

Bob Mackenzie
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The AA has said it is fighting a £225m claim from its former boss, Bob Mackenzie, who was sacked for gross misconduct last year.

Mr Mackenzie, former executive chairman at the AA, filed a claim at the High Court against the company and a number of its directors on 6 March.

The AA said it faces legal costs of £1m over the next two financial years as it fights the claim, but that it will try to recover the costs from Mr Mackenzie when the case closes.