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Summary

  1. All of the morning's business headlines and breaking news.
  2. Chancellor warns of further cuts to welfare spending
  3. British Gas will pay £11.1m to regulator over environmental targets
  4. Sky sells Sky Bet to private equity firm

Live Reporting

By Joe Miller and Ben Morris

All times stated are UK

Get involved

Joe Miller

Business Reporter

That's it for today. Tomorrow, we're expecting news of rises in UK rail fares. Join us from 06:00, and if you're commuting, do tell us what you think of the prices, and if you feel you're getting value for money.

Turner price

Turner
AFP

A painting by JMW Turner has fetched a record price at Sotheby's auction house in London. The work, entitled "Rome, From Mount Aventine", was bought for just over £31m - the most ever paid at auction for a piece by a pre-twentieth century British artist.

Sony Pictures attack

Sony Pictures theatre, Los Angeles
Getty Images

There could be a development today in the extraordinary story of the hacking of Sony Pictures.

Computer systems at the movie studio were shut down and unreleased films were made freely available on the internet.
The tech site Re-code says Sony Pictures will confirm that North Korea was behind the attack - perhaps as early as today. Sony Pictures denied that is close to making such an announcement.

BreakingBreaking News

The European Central Bank has kept interest rates on hold at a record low of 0.05%.

Listen again

World Service

The BBC's

Russell Padmore has your latest business news update, in which Nebert Rugadya, a Ugandan economic commentator, tells him that lower oil prices will not mean cheaper airline fares in Africa.

FTSE newbies

In a sign of the strength of the housing market, house builders Barratt Developments and Taylor Wimpey have entered the flagship FTSE 100 index. Engineering firm IMI and oil company Petrofac are demoted to the FTSE 250. Bakers Greggs and fashion house Jimmy Choo enter the FTSE 250.

European Central Bank

Euro sign
Getty Images

The European Central Bank announces the result of its latest interest rate policy meeting at 12:45 GMT. Interest rates are close to zero, so the big question is: Will the ECB expand its stimulus programme to boost stagnant European economies? ECB chief Mario Draghi holds his press conference at 13:30 GMT and investors and policy makers will be paying close attention.

State pension

The rise in the basic state pension will happen in April, and give the equivalent of £2.85 more a week for a single person. This is in line with the government's "triple-lock" commitment to raise the state pension in line with the highest of either average earnings, prices or 2.5%.

Mulberry

Mulberry
Getty Images

Luxury handbag-maker Mulberry says it made a pre-tax loss of £1.1m for the six months to end of Sep, down from £7m profit the year before. UK retail sales were down 16%. The company has been rudderless since losing its creative director last year. Johnny Coca, her replacement, is due to take up the position in 2015.

State pension

The basic state pension is to go up by 2.5% next year, Steve Webb, the pensions minister confirms.

Via Email

Sean Curran, BBC Parliamentary Correspondent

"The debate on stamp duty has not yet started in the House of Commons because no Treasury Minister has turned up to open the debate."

BreakingBreaking News

The Bank of England has held interest rates at a record low of 0.5%. The benchmark rate has been at that level since March 2009.

As recently as October the Bank's chief economist said rates could "remain low for longer".

Biotech broccoli

Broccoli
Science Photo Library

Evgen Pharma, which is developing a cancer treatment based on a compound found in broccoli and other greens, is planning to raise £20m on the stock market. In case you are interested, the compound in question is sulforaphane. Evgen is based at the Liverpool Science Park.

TUI Travel

Thomson jet
Thomson

Shares in

TUI Travel, the owner of Thomson Holidays - are up almost 4%. The market liked the
company's full-year results. TUI said it was "pleased" with current trading for the winter and said "strong" trading continues for summer 2015.

Best Buy?

Best Buy
Best Buy

Best Buy - the world's largest consumer electronics chain, according to Reuters -

is leaving China. It will sell its Five Star brand, which has 184 stores in the country, to a real estate group, after struggling to compete with domestic rivals. This isn't the first time Best Buy has pulled out of non-US markets. It sold its stake in Carphone Warehouse last year for well below the buying price.

Lufthansa

Lufthansa
EPA

Pilots of the German airline Lufthansa have started their second strike in a week, grounding half of all scheduled long haul flights. The dispute is over the firm's retirement scheme, which currently allows pilots to retire at 55, and which the 5,400 pilots represented by the VC union want to maintain.

Steve Rosenberg

BBC News, Moscow

"Russia is entering recession, the country battered by falling oil prices and Western sanctions. The underlying message from the country's president today - it's not his fault."

Via Twitter

Douglas Fraser

Business and economy editor, Scotland

"842m air passengers in EU last year: UK 1/4 of that: Heathrow busiest w 72m: Edinburgh 30th busiest, 1 of fastest growing: via @EU_Eurostat"

Greene King

Pub
Greene King

British cask ale brewer and pub-owner Greene King reported a 3.5% drop in pre-tax profits, but said it had enjoyed sales growth of 3.3% in the 24 weeks to mid-October - amounting to £615m. Christmas bookings are up 7.2%, but the group said it expected people to spend less on food and drink this year.

Eurozone retail

German shopping
Reuters

At last, some slightly better news from the eurozone. Retail sales are falling at the slowest rate in five months, with growth in Germany, and smaller falls in France and Italy. Markit's data shows a reading of 48.9 for November, up from 47 in October. A reading above 50 indicates growth.

Stamp duty calculator

Stamp Duty Calculator
HMRC

If you are in the process of buying a house and are wondering what stamp duty is going to cost you,

HMRC has a handy calculator.

Putin speech

Mr Putin adds that after the events in Cyprus, and the introduction of the sanctions, "it must have become clear to our businesses that they are not valued abroad; indeed, that they can be swindled of their money abroad". He adds, bafflingly, "the safest place to keep your money is in Russia".

Putin speech

The Russian president suggests a "full amnesty of capital returning to Russia", i.e. no criminal or tax checks. The Business Live Page wonders what London's Russian oligarchs will make of that offer.

Putin speech

Steve Rosenberg

BBC News, Moscow

Putin: "Russia will be open to the world, to foreign investment, joint projects. But most important - our development depends on ourselves. We have a hard time ahead, much depends on each of us at our workplace. Sanctions is a stimulus..."

Putin speech

Steve Rosenberg

BBC News, Moscow

Mr Putin accuses the West of attempting a "Yugoslavia scenario" for Russia, the "collapse" of the country. "It didn't work out. We didn't let them. Just like Hitler didn't manage to destroy Russia. Everyone should remember what such attempts end in," the president said.

Putin speech

Putin
BBC

If there had been no Crimea/Ukraine, the West would have come up with a different pretext to impose sanctions and contain rising Russia, Mr Putin tells parliament. But he says Russia will not stop co-operating with Europe - whatever that means.

Putin speech

Moscow
BBC

It's a packed hall for President Putin at the Federal Assembly in Moscow. The Russian president begins by claiming that sanctions - imposed by the West - are "harmful for all countries".

£9bn UK investment

London city skyline
Getty Images

A group of six pension funds and insurers will invest up to £9bn in British roads, schools and business over the next five years, according to the Investment Management Association. A change in the tax on long-term, non-bank debt announced in the Autumn Statement is behind the move. The six firms are: Allianz Global Investors, Aviva, Friends Life, Legal and General, Prudential and Standard Life.

Ryanair soars

Ryanair jet
PA

Ryanair shares have jumped more than 8% this morning. That's after the airline raised its full year profit forecast. It expects to make up to €830m in the current financial year, a significant rise from its previous forecast of up to €770m. Ryanair is crediting an improvement to its customer service for boosting bookings.

BBC Monitoring

Federal Assembly
Getty Images

As President Putin is about to start delivering his annual address to the Federal Assembly, state-run Rossiya 24 TV says this year it is being delivered "under unprecedented circumstances such as the international situation, the pressure from sanctions and the situation on the energy markets which, let's face it, is not the best for our country at the moment".

Markets update

EasyJet is an early winner on the London markets - up more than 3% after the low cost airline announced a rise in the number of passengers carried during November. TUI Travel - owner of Thomson travel brand - is also up by nearly 3%, after reporting a rise in profits for the year to end of September. The FTSE is down 0.02% at 6715.

House prices

House prices in the three months to November were just 0.7% higher than the preceding three months, according to the Halifax. The quarter rate of increase has declined for four months in a row. "Receding buyer interest combined with a revival in private housing completions has brought supply and demand into better balance," said Martin Ellis, Halifax housing economist.

Chancellor Osborne

BBC Radio 4

Now on his third BBC interview and perhaps a little fed up, the chancellor objects to a line of questioning about his record of cutting welfare spending. "Questions aren't an attack!" protests presenter John Humphrys.

Chancellor Osborne

BBC Radio 4

The chancellor comes out swinging - at the BBC. "Nonsense" is how he describes a warning from the BBC's Norman Smith that Britain could resemble George Orwell's Road to Wigan Pier, after swingeing spending cuts. "I would have thought the BBC had learnt from the last four years that its totally hyperbolic coverage of spending cuts has not been matched by what's actually happened," the chancellor says.

Labour's fiscal plan

BBC Breakfast

Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls
BBC

"This is complete fantasy," says shadow chancellor Ed Balls about the government's pledge to cut taxes in the future - announced at the

Conservative Party conference. On BBC
Breakfast, Mr Balls says that Labour will review every pound spent by government if it wins power. People earning over £150,000 can expect to be on a 50% tax rate, he says.

Chancellor Osborne

BBC Radio 4

George Osborne is doing the rounds - he is now on

Today. "Tax reciepts have disappointed," he says, "partly because we're not getting as much money from the City of London".

Chancellor Osborne

Radio 5 live

The chancellor is now on

Radio 5 live. He says "of course" he knows that the country has been through a very difficult period and "we've still got difficult decisions to take". Adam Parsons asks the chancellor whether houses are becoming unaffordable. "The Bank of England now has weapons it can deploy if its sees there is a problem emerging," he answers.

Putin economy speech

President Vladimir Putin takes part in a pro-am hockey game
PA

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin,

delivers his annual State of the Nation address at 09:00 to parliament. He is expected to focus on the economy, which has been pushed to the brink of recession by falling oil prices and Western sanctions. Over the last year, the rouble has lost around 40% of its value against the dollar and inflation is expected to reach 10% early next year.