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  1. Get in touch:
  2. FTSE drops from 2017 record high
  3. Pound hits $1.36 and nears €1.13
  4. Growth in UK manufacturing sector slows
  5. Rail fares rise by 3.4% on average
  6. Ryanair applies for 'hard Brexit' licence

Live Reporting

By Dan Macadam

All times stated are UK


That's all for tonight from the Live page. See you tomorrow from 06:00 for more business news and views.

How will the economy fare in 2018?

BBC World Service

This content only works in the UK.

We'll leave you with Nobel prize winner Professor Joseph Stiglitz and his predictions for the world economy in 2018.

The US economist explains how people are fed up with big companies setting the agenda.

And he gives his view on whether Donald Trump's plans for protectionism will continue throughout the year.

Prince Harry asks about mental health impact

Prince Harry guest edits Today

Is there a link between mental health and the nation's productivity?

When Prince Harry was editing BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he asked us to look into this question.

Business presenter Rob Young heard from the boss of a construction company who found counselling helped him to turn his firm around after the deaths of his father and best friend.

Rob also spoke to researchers who said the evidence is incontrovertible: happier staff are more productive.

Read more of Rob's findings here.

Wall Street hits record highs (again)

Wall Street sign

US stocks have carried on their seemingly unstoppable momentum from 2017 - when they set record after record.

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq indexes closed at all-time highs in the first session of the new year amid investor optimism that 2018 will bring more gains for the market.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.4% to 24,824, the S&P 500 gained 0.8% to 2,696 and the Nasdaq Composite added a whopping 1.5% to 7,007.

Watch: UK vs European rail fares

With average rail ticket prices seeing the biggest increase in five years, BBC News asks: Are we paying more to travel than our European neighbours?

Lost and found

Bob the Builder
Getty Images

What does a bath full of jersey potatoes have in common with 20 Bob the Builder costumes?

They were both left behind at Travelodge hotels last year, according to the hotel chain. Other bizarre lost and found items included an urn containing a husband's ashes and a World War Two bravery medal.

We can't work out if this is a particularly successful PR story, or a suggestion that customers tend to leave the hotel with undue haste. It's up to you which one it is...

Sterling hits three-month high

Pound coins
Getty Images

The pound has hit $1.36 - its highest level since September - as investors shrugged off weaker-than-expected manufacturing data to focus on upcoming Brexit talks.

UK factory activity dipped slightly last month from a four-year high - but was still a "stunningly good" number, according to Jane Foley at Rabobank.

"I get the sense with sterling that there is a 'wait and see' attitude," she added. "We all know that Brexit remains an enormous theme for sterling, particularly the start of the trade talks."

Currency strategists at MUFG agreed that progress in the Brexit talks was key, and predicted the pound would break above $1.40.

The Pink 'Un arrives

Here's a first look at the Financial Times' front page for tomorrow.

They lead with the news that trade ministers are looking at joining a Pacific trade bloc (see our post at 19:35).

There's also a focus on Eurozone manufacturing, which the paper says is growing at the fastest pace since records began.

View more on twitter

UBS Libor chats 'were company policy'

Andy Verity

BBC Economics correspondent

UBS London office
Getty Images

Practices for which some traders have been prosecuted, jailed or banned were company policy at the Swiss bank UBS, a court has heard.

UBS staff were expected to take into account the bank's commercial interests when setting the benchmark Libor rate, the High Court was told.

Lawyers for former trader Arif Hussein cited evidence to support that claim.

They are seeking to overturn a Financial Conduct Authority decision to ban him from the industry.

The regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, claimed it was "obvious" that the bank should not take into account the bank's commercial interests when setting Libor.

Read more here.

Grayling regrets rail fare rise

BBC Radio 5 live

Chris Grayling

The Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has responded to accusations by Labour he's gone "into hiding" on the day of the biggest increase in rail fares since 2013.

He told BBC Radio 5 live Drive that he "regrets the level of train fare increase" and defended his trip to Qatar, saying he makes no apology for trying to win jobs for Britain.

Mr Grayling said he wished the rise "wasn't as high as it is", but added he couldn't unpick decades of arrangements within the rail industry.

Regulated rail fares rise in line with the RPI measure of inflation - and Mr Grayling said the government would like to link them instead to the CPI measure, which tends to be lower.

UK to join Pacific trade deal?

TPP signs
Getty Images

The UK government has held informal talks about joining the Trans Pacific Partnership - the trade deal of 11 Pacific countries which the US left last year, according to the Financial Times.

Trade minister Greg Hands told the paper there was no geographical restriction on Britain joining TPP. “With these kind of plurilateral relationships, there doesn’t have to be any geographical restriction,” he said.

In a further statement, the Department for International Trade told the BBC:

We have set up 14 trade ‘working groups’ across 21 countries to explore the best ways of progressing our trade and investment relationships across the world. It is early days, but as our Trade Policy Minister has pointed out, we are not excluding future talks on plurilateral relationships."

Department for International Trade spokesperson

How much are the railways subsidised?

Reality Check

Chart showing train subsidies

There's been much discussion of railway funding today, with fares rising.

This is the chart you need to tell you how much the government is contributing.

It's the subsidy in pence per passenger kilometre, adjusted for inflation, going back to 2008-09.

It shows the result of the government deciding to get more of the cost of running the railways paid for by passengers rather than taxpayers.

The problems with a crypto-currency's value

Rory Cellan-Jones

Technology correspondent

"Forget Bitcoin, that's old hat - it's time to get into Ethereum, Litecoin and Ripple."

So goes the message from the crypto-currency enthusiasts when critics mention Bitcoin's failings as a currency and its profligate use of energy in the mining process.

They also like to use a dubious measure - market capitalisation - to show just how significant a force a crypto-currency like Ripple, or rather its crypto-currency XRP, has become.

Ripple's market cap has been calculated by multiplying the number of XRP coins in existence by the current dollar exchange rate.

But unlike a company such as Apple, Ripple has no reliable assets or revenue streams backing up that rate, and changing it into "fiat currency" - that dreary old concept that is supposedly heading for extinction - may prove tricky if everyone heads for the exit at once.

So as with everything connected with crypto-currencies it's best to take their market caps with a sackload of salt.

The next Bitcoin?

Ripple crypto coin
Getty Images

Bitcoin was the big story on the financial markets last year, after its sharp, but also volatile, ascent saw it almost hit $20,000 - a rise of nearly 1,900% - before falling back.

Now a rival crypto-currency, called Ripple, has become the second most valuable virtual cash system. Over the weekend the value of Ripple hit more than $100bn (£74bn) according to some market monitors.

This valuation is higher than the other popular crypto-cash system - Ethereum.

Each Ripple coin, called an XRP, is now worth about $2.34 - far higher than the half a US cent they were worth a year ago.

However, that's still far below the price of one Bitcoin - which is currently around $14,400.

Trade deal 'short on realism'

Chuka Umunna

Pro-EU campaigners have been quick to criticise the government for reportedly looking at joining a trade deal of major Pacific nations (see earlier post).

Open Britain, which campaigns for the UK to remain in the single market and customs union, says a Pacific trade deal won't make up for lost trade with the EU.

“Ministers have started 2018 as they ended 2017 - high on hopes but short on realism," says Labour MP Chuka Umunna (pictured left). “The EU already has or is negotiating trade deals with most of these countries, all of which are being unnecessarily put at risk by the government’s decision to leave the single market and the customs union," he adds.

Sterling starts 2018 on a high

Dollar and pound notes
Getty Images

If you go back 12 months, analysts were predicting the pound would hit parity with the euro.

But as the new year gets underway, sterling is heading in the other direction. It's pushing towards €1.13 - having risen by 0.2% in the first day of full trading.

Against the dollar, it's fared even better - rising by 0.6% to just shy of $1.36.

The rise had a negative effect on the FTSE 100, though, which fell back from a record high as dollar-earning exporters took a hit.

Consumer staples took the most points off the UK's blue-chip index, just over 19 points, as shares in British American Tobacco, Diageo and Unilever declined. They all make a significant chunk of their revenues overseas.

UK 'could join Pacific trade deal'

The Financial Times has news of an audacious - and unexpected - move that the UK is reportedly looking at as a way of boosting post-Brexit trade.

It says the government has held informal talks about joining the Trans Pacific Partnership - a trade deal involving North American, Asian and Australasian countries.

If the UK joined, it would be the first member that didn't border the Pacific Ocean or South China Sea. It would also come after Donald Trump pulled the US out of the deal, which was a key Obama initiative.

The 11 remaining members, including Australia, Japan and Mexico, agreed in November to continue with a successor deal - and it's this which the UK could look to join.

View more on twitter

Tobacco firm 'tries to give up cigarettes'

Cigarette stub

Speaking of New Years' resolutions, tobacco firm Philip Morris has placed an ad in some newspapers promoting its "ambition to stop selling cigarettes in the UK".

The text of the advertisement runs: "Our New Year's resolution: we're trying to give up cigarettes". It is part of the company's drive to achieve a "smoke-free future".

The owner of the Marlboro brand has also written to Theresa May asking to be allowed to print information about quitting and switching on its cigarette packs.

However, anti-smoking campaigners described the campaign as a "PR stunt".

Read more here.

Music to its ears

DJ Khaled
Getty Images

With everyone stoically sticking to their New Year's resolutions, at least for a few weeks, it's perhaps no surprise that slimming firm Weight Watchers is doing well on the stock market.

BBC business presenter Susannah Streeter suggests it also has something to do with the company signing up US music producer DJ Khaled as its latest celebrity ambassador.

DJ Khaled - whose songs have featured Rihanna and Justin Bieber - is looking to bring some of his big social media following to the dieting programme.

On a web page announcing his involvement, he extols the virtues of high-energy foods like eggs, chicken, and sashimi and says they enable him to "focus on what I love—being the best".

View more on twitter

FTSE suffers New Year's hangover

London fireworks

There were no fireworks on the first day of trading in London. Having finished 2017 at a record high, the FTSE 100 has endured a rough start to the year.

The UK's blue-chip stock index closed 40 points - or 0.5% - lower at 7,648, with insurers and miners among the worst-performing stocks.

The market finished on a "downbeat note ... as if feeling the effects of the party from the day before", said analysts at The Share Centre.

It is only the fifth time in the last 15 years that the market has finished lower on the opening day of the year, they added.

Virgin Trains apologises for 'sexist' tweet

Train companies are already in the spotlight today because of the biggest increase in rail fares for five years.

Now Virgin Trains has come under fire for a different reason: a tweet which some social media users have described as "sexist".

In response to a passenger complaint about being referred to as "honey", the official Virgin Trains East Coast Twitter account asked if she would "prefer 'pet' or 'love' next time".

The company has since "apologised unreservedly" and deleted the original tweet (which is pictured below).

Virgin Trains EC tweet

Ryanair seeks 'hard Brexit' licence

Ryanair plane
Getty Images

Ryanair said it is seeking a licence from British regulators in case the UK leaves the European Union next year without a new deal on aviation.

The Irish budget airline - which has been a vocal critic of the Brexit vote - said it had applied for an Air Operator’s Certificate with the UK's Civil Aviation Authority shortly before Christmas.

"This may be required for Ryanair’s three UK domestic routes in the event of a hard Brexit in March 2019," a spokesman for the airline said.

Airlines currently fly between the UK and EU as part of the European Common Aviation Area, and have called for the UK to clarify those arrangements before March 2019.

'Watershed' for City regulation

City of London skyline
Getty Images

One of the final packages of reforms following the banking crisis will come into force tomorrow, putting investors and financial firms in line for a major regulatory shake-up.

The Markets in Financial Instruments Directive - which has the catchy moniker MiFID II - is an attempt to provide greater protection and transparency for investors.

The new rules have meant big changes for banks, overhauling the information traders use, share with regulators, and provide to clients.

City of London Corporation's Catherine McGuinness said: “MiFID II marks a real watershed moment for financial regulation. It will be the last major piece of regulatory reform following the financial crash of 2008."

Who owns Britain's trains?


Rail ticket prices have seen the biggest increase in five years - rising by 3.4% on average across the UK.

Labour has renewed its call to take the railways back into public ownership - saying the system isn't working for passengers and that too many rail franchises are held by non-UK companies.

Press Association reporter Ian Jones says the number of services owned by foreign countries or governments now accounts for more than half of UK rail journeys.

View more on twitter

No longer a Dane deal

Shell logo
Getty Images

Oil giant Shell has decided not to sell its refining business in Denmark for $80m (£60m), the company announced.

The sale of the refinery - which pumps out 70,000 barrels a day - to Dansk Olieselskab had been due to go through last year as part of a $30bn sale programme.

However, Shell said on Tuesday that Dansk Shell will remain under its ownership and "continue business as usual". It added that the divestment programme was still on track.

Wall Street off to a strong start

Wall Street bull
Getty Images

The main US indexes have picked up where they left off and opened higher on the first trading day of 2018.

Wall Street set record after record last year on the back of rising global growth and hopes that Donald Trump's tax cuts would boost the US economy.

At the start of trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is pushing towards 25,000 points - rising by 0.3% to 24,803 points.

The S&P 500 is up 0.4% to 2,685 points, while the Nasdaq Composite has added 0.7% to 6,955.

Smell the coffee

Pret A Manger

Pret A Manger has doubled its discount on hot drinks for customers who use reusable cups.

The sandwich chain announced it would take off 50p (up from the current 25p discount) last month, and the increase has now come into effect - as announced by chief executive Clive Schlee.

Academics at Cardiff University have estimated that 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are used in the UK every year.

Just one in 400 of the cups is recycled as it is difficult to separate the cardboard from the plastic lining that makes them waterproof.

View more on twitter

'Easing themselves back in'

City trader
Getty Images

It seems Europe's financial markets have that first-day-back-at-work feeling.

The UK's FTSE 100 is down 0.7% from the record high at which it finished 2017, and Germany and France's main stock indexes are suffering similar falls.

Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell says there is "the definite sense that the markets are not at full force just yet". Instead, they are "gradually easing themselves back into a full-time schedule," he says.

Gains for the pound and euro - which are both higher against the dollar - aren't helping stocks either, he adds.

Changes to manuka honey

Manuka honey
Getty Images

The New Zealand government is to release a new scientific definition for manuka honey in early February. All manuka honey exported will need to be tested and meet the new criteria before it can be sold overseas.

The new definition is made up of four chemical markers from nectar, as well as one DNA market from manuka pollen.

Beekeepers will be required to register with the government and keep detailed records of all honey they produce and the locations of their hives. They will also need to provide full documentation with each batch of honey that is exported.

Is technology fueling workplace harassment?

workplace harassment
Getty Images

Professional social media networks are enabling sexual harassment in the workplace, the Financial Times has found.

The Financial Times surveyed its readers who reported that communication tools such as Slack and Facebook's Workplace - meant for cross-company collaboration - facilitate online stalking, together with the information available on public social networks like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Even standard office tools like Outlook and gmail can be used to spy on someone, given that your calendar is often available to colleagues.

Most apps allow you to block users, but that may not be straightforward if these tools are central to the way you collaborate.

Star Wars crowned top 2017 Hollywood earner

Daisy Ridley as Rey in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi has succeeded in beating Emma Watson's live-action Beauty and the Beast to become the top grossing film in North America in 2017.

The latest Star Wars film has earned over $1bn worldwide in less than three weeks at the box office, and is currently the eighth highest-grossing movie of all time in the US.

Potentially offensive company names binned

Rejected stamp

In case you missed this:

The BBC has obtained a list of proposed company names that were rejected by Companies House over the last year because they were deemed potentially offensive.

(With apologies) these include:

  • Sod it Systems Ltd
  • Titanic Holdings Ltd
  • Wags to Bitches Ltd

You can read more of them here (if you can face it).

Oil shows slick start to 2018

Oil mining machinery

Anti-government rallies in Iran and Opec-led supply cuts gave oil prices an early boost on the first trading day of the year.

However both West Texas Intermediate and Brent fell back after initial gains.

Brent reached $67.29, its highest price since May 2015, earlier in the day before dipping sharply. It is now back at $66.89.

West Texas Intermediate followed a similar pattern rising to $60.74 but now back at $60.47.

Share boost for British Airways owner

British Airways planes

Shares in IAG - the airline group that owns British Airways and Iberia - are up 1.5%, making them the biggest riser in the FTSE 100.

Late last Friday, the company announced that it was buying Niki, Air Berlin's insolvent Austrian holiday airline, for €20m (£17.8m).

Despite IAG's rise, the FTSE 100 index is down 33.57 points at 7654.2, having failed to add to Friday's record closing level of 7687.77.

Euro strong on manufacturing data

Graph of euro against dollar over least month
The euro has strengthened against the dollar over the last month

The very positive manufacturing data from the eurozone has boosted the value of the euro.

It's up 0.5% against the dollar at €1.2068 since last week's close, but as you can see from the graph above it also has a good couple of weeks behind it.

The pound is also up against the dollar, but just 0.31% higher.

New electrified trains enter service

Great Western Railway Electrostar trains

New trains have entered service between London and the Thames Valley following electrification work.

Great Western Railway's (GWR) electric Electrostar trains are operating from Didcot Parkway, Oxfordshire, and Reading, Berkshire, for the first time.

More seats will be available on the new trains, which are longer than the diesel ones used previously.

Why not freeze train fares?

BBC Radio 5 live

Bridget Fox, a Liberal Democrat campaigner who has won awards for helping to improve local transport and protecting the environment in London, has told BBC 5 Live's Wake Up to Money programme that the government should intervene with rail fares.

View more on twitter

'Looming price war' at convenience stores

A Nisa convenience store

Good news in store for consumers: analysts are predicting a price war in the convenience food and grocery sector, similar to the battle between supermarkets in recent years.

"Just as we saw from 2012-2016 with the discounter-led price war, as soon as one party moves to bring prices down, everyone moves," said Molly Johnson-Jones, a senior retail analyst at GlobalData.

She thinks the tie-up between the Co-op's takeover of independent chain, Nisa, will "precipitate a homogenisation of convenience stores" as they shift to appeal to younger shoppers who are increasingly using the smaller stores to do their weekly grocery shop.

Time travel

Thanks to a 10 minute delay, Hawaiian Airlines Flight 446 took off from Auckland, New Zealand, at 12.05 on 1 January 2018 on its way to Honolulu.

When it landed in Hawai (on the other side of the international dateline) it was 10.16 a.m. on 31 December 2017, as spotted by ABC reporter Sam Sweeney.

That's one way to keep the New Year's party going, I guess.

View more on twitter

Manufacturing growth 'will be hard to sustain in 2018'

Graph comparing eurozone and UK PMI
Pantheon Macroeconomics

According to Samuel Tombs at Pantheon Macroeconomics UK manufacturing growth momentum won't necessarily be sustained in 2018.

He says British manufacturers are failing to make the most of the rebound in global trade.

The UK's PMI is now four points below the eurozone’s - the biggest gap in performance since June 2008.

"UK manufacturers have cut investment since the Brexit vote and are struggling to find skilled workers," he said.

"As result, work backlogs are increasing quickly and supply chain delays are worsening. These constraints will only worsen as the recovery continues, unless manufacturers suddenly ramp up investment."