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  1. Get in touch:
  2. Carillion: Creditor talks are ongoing
  3. Jamie's Italian explores turnaround
  4. Pound hits highest since Brexit vote
  5. FTSE 100 ends the week at record high
  6. Euro climbs on German coalition hopes
  7. GKN rejects takeover offer from Melrose

Live Reporting

By Dan Macadam

All times stated are UK

Good night

That's all from Business Live. Thanks for tuning in. We'll be back at 6am on Monday.

US stocks close on fresh highs

US traders
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US stocks closed at record highs on Friday following positive earnings reports from several big banks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average index gained 0.9% at the closing bell to 25,801.95, while the S&P 500 jumped 0.7% to 2,786.13.

The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.7% to 7,261.06.

It followed strong quarterly results from JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, as well as the asset manager BlackRock.

Trump refrains from re-imposing Iran sanctions

BBC World Service

Donald Trump

President Trump has again refrained from re-imposing sanctions on Iran - keeping in tact the deal under which Tehran curbed its nuclear programme.

But Mr Trump said this was the last time he would issue a sanctions waiver.

Mr Trump has long railed against the deal, and talked of wanting to rip it up.

But other parties to the agreement - including Britain, France and Germany - believe it's working, and they've strongly urged Mr Trump not to pull out.

Iran's foreign minister has hit back at the US president's latest comments:

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Facebook in Europol talks


Facebook has taken part in key talks with European police agencies on how to deal with Islamic terror-related posts, according to police officials.

Representatives from the US social network travelled to The Hague for Thursday's unprecedented talks at Europol's headquarters in the city.

They were also joined by Instagram officials and police from the UK, France and Belgium, aiming "to identify and secure the swift removal of terrorist and violent extremism content uploaded" on both platforms, Europol said in a statement.

'Slap in the face' for the dollar

US dollar
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The pound has hit its highest level against the dollar since the Brexit - passing $1.37.

But it's not only a reflection of a strengthening pound. The dollar has fallen against other major currencies today as well, hitting a three-year low against the euro.

Connor Campbell at Spreadex attributes the dollar's fall to positive political news in the UK and Germany, as well as US Christmas retail sales and inflation data coming in lower than expected.

"Even on a normal afternoon the dollar likely would have been unimpressed by these numbers – on a day when it was already in trouble they must have felt like a slap in the face," he said.

Look, no hands...

General Motors car

It's the stuff of dreams, or nightmares, depending on your driving skills.

General Motors is seeking approval from US regulators for a self-driving car with no steering wheel or pedals (see the space-age photo above).

The carmaker says the vehicle - which could be on the road by 2019 - is "the first production-ready vehicle built from the start to operate safely on its own, with no driver, steering wheel, pedals or manual controls".

Goldman Sachs boss 'trolls' Trump

Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, has extolled American values and made an apparent reference to President Donald Trump's crude language about foreign countries.

Blankfein's own colourful language in his tweet is a reference to a word the president is reported to have used about African countries (sorry if it causes any offence).

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Why does it matter if Carillion collapses?

Dan Thomas

Business reporter

Battersea Power Station
Getty Images

Troubled construction firm Carillion is such a big supplier to the public sector that some fear it would cause major disruption if it can't resolve its financial difficulties.

Thousands of jobs hang in the balance. Unions have said workers do not deserve to be caught in the crossfire and have urged the government to safeguard their jobs and bring Carillion's contracts back in house.

The government has said that "contingency plans are in place" and it is closely monitoring the situation.

The big question is who would pick up the firm's loss-making public contracts if it went under - another outsourced services provider or the government itself?

Or would the government - which says Carillion continues to do good work on projects like Crossrail - be prepared to provide emergency financial support until it gets its house in order?

BreakingSterling pushes higher

Dollar and pound notes
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The pound has broken above $1.37 for the first time since the Brexit vote.

Sterling is up almost 2 cents against the dollar at $1.37210, the highest it's been since the EU referendum on 24 June 2016.

Analysts said it was given a big boost by a report that the Netherlands and Spain were open to a deal for Britain to remain as close as possible to the EU.

Both countries have denied they reached such an agreement, but that hasn't put the brakes on the pound's gains.

Also helping is that the dollar has fallen against other major currencies on the back of disappointing economic data.

Wall Street scales new heights

US stock markets are set to end the week at record highs, after the UK's FTSE 100 also pushed to new levels.

Heading into the final couple of hours of trading, the Dow Jones is up nearly 200 points at 25,773.

The S&P 500 is 0.6% higher at 2,783 points, and the Nasdaq is up 0.8% at 6,754.

PwC advising Cabinet Office - Sky News

Another update on the Carillion story. Sky's City editor says a 50-strong team from PwC is advising the Cabinet Office on what it means for government contracts.

PwC declined to comment when contacted earlier by the BBC.

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Ministers monitor Carillion's problems

Carillion hospital

Tensions around Carillion - a 200-year-old company which can trace its roots back to Tar Mac - have been ratcheting up for weeks.

On Thursday ministers overseeing everything from justice to transport, health and education met to discuss how they should respond to the possible demise of a key UK contractor.

"Ministers did meet yesterday, there are ongoing meetings," a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said. "We are monitoring this situation closely and will continue to do so."

Carillion shareholders to take a hit


Carillion - whose projects include schools, prisons and HS2 - has said shareholders are likely to suffer losses from the rescue plan it is seeking to agree with creditors.

A proposed debt-for-equity swap "would result in significant dilution to existing shareholders", the company said.

"As part of its engagement with stakeholders, Carillion is in constructive dialogue in relation to additional short term financing while the longer term discussions are continuing," it added.

BreakingCarillion denies rescue plan doubts

Troubled construction firm Carillion - which is a major government contractor - has denied reports that its creditors have rejected a rescue plan.

Carillion shares dropped 29% on the back of a report that its lenders knocked back a restructuring plan for the business put forward in behind-closed-door talks on Wednesday.

The company said: "Suggestions that Carillion’s business plan has been rejected by stakeholders are incorrect."

It said talks were ongoing and that any agreement with creditors was likely to involve swapping Carillion's debt for shares in the company.

Ministers look to take over jail contracts

UK prison

We've been reporting all this week on the major financial difficulties facing key UK contractor Carillion, which has debts of £1.5bn and a market value of only £65m.

The firm, which manages hundreds of prisons, schools and government homes, has been locked in talks with its creditors and government officials.

The BBC understands that ministers are preparing to take over £200m of prison contracts from Carillion as a safeguard, as Home Affairs correspondent Danny Shaw reports.

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More Jamie's Italian restaurants to close?

Jamie Oliver signs cookbooks
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Some Jamie's Italian restaurants are likely to close in the UK if a restructuring of the business goes ahead, according to Times business reporter Dominic Walsh.

It would come after six Jamie's Italian sites were shut last year, with Brexit and "tough" competition blamed for the closures.

The Jamie Oliver Restaurant group said no final decisions had been taken yet.

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Jamie's Italian looks at restructuring

Jamie Oliver
Getty Images

Jamie Oliver's Italian restaurant chain is exploring plans to restructure its UK business after reporting a £10m loss and closing six sites last year.

It comes after reports in November that the firm had hired a company to draw up turnaround plans after the Jamie Oliver Group had to inject more cash into the business.

The TV chef's holding company said it was talking to stakeholders as it looks to ensure the "business is in good shape for the future".

"No final decisions or proposals have been made at this stage," the company said.

The review does not affect Jamie’s Italian international franchises or Jamie Oliver's media and licensing businesses, according to the company.

Snapchat refresh gets thumbs down

Snapchat logo
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The BBC tech team is reporting that Snapchat's redesign, which was rolled out at the end of last year, has not gone down well with users.

The refreshed look for the vanishing messaging app has proved unpopular, with up to 83% of reviews on the App Store being negative.

Many have complained that feeds are no longer chronological and are confusing, according to this report.

Key UK contractor's 90% fall

There's a chance you won't have heard of Carillion, but the company is crucial for hundreds of homes, schools, prisons, and major infrastructure projects across the UK.

And it's in trouble. The heavily indebted company - which employs nearly 20,000 people in the UK - is trying to persuade lenders to back a rescue plan.

It comes after shares in Carillion have lost 90% of their value in the last six months following two profit warnings and the exposure of a £1.5bn debt pile.

The chart below shows the scale of the share price fall. Carillion dropped another 29% today, leaving it worth about £65m.

Carillion share price

FTSE ends the week on a high

City of London skyscrapers
Getty Images

The UK's 100 share index has finished at yet another record high despite tailing off towards the end of trading.

The FTSE 100 rose 0.2% to 7,778.64, after earlier coming close to passing 7,800 points.

It appears the British index is "following in the footsteps of the American markets" - which are also trading at record highs, said CMC Markets analyst David Madden.

"One notable difference between the FTSE and the US indices is the London market is making relatively small strides higher, which suggest a canned excitement," he added.

Pound rebounds

Earlier, sterling hit its highest point against the dollar since the EU referendum on 24 June, as the chart below shows.

It's steadily made gains over the last 12 months, helped by the progress of Brexit talks and the first interest rate rise in a decade.

Pound since 2016

Fed fines US banks

Federal Reserve

The Federal Reserve has fined five large US banks a combined $35.1m.

The central bank announced the fines against Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, CIT Group, US Bancorp and PNC Financial.

It's part of a crackdown against large banks for mortgage servicing shortcomings dating back to 2011.

FTSE set for strong finish

GKN workers

The UK's FTSE 100 index is on course to end the week at an all-time high for the third time in a row.

The index has been trading at record highs amid a wider rally in world stock markets, fuelled by optimism about the US and global economies.

It's been given another boost today by a 26% rise in the shares of GKN, one of the UK's biggest engineering firms.

GKN, which makes wing tips for Airbus planes and parts for Porsche cars, turned down a £7bn takeover bid and announced plans to split its aerospace and automotive divisions.

Spain and Netherlands 'deny Brexit report'

Luis de Guindos

The pound hit its highest level since the Brexit vote earlier after a report suggesting that Spain and the Netherlands are open to a so-called "soft Brexit".

Bloomberg reported that Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos (pictured) and his Dutch counterpart Wopke Hoekstra agreed to push for a Brexit deal that keeps Britain as close to the EU as possible.

But officials from the two ministries have now denied the countries were breaking ranks from the EU27, according to Katie Martin at the Financial Times.

An official from the Spanish economy ministry said that the two ministers at Monday’s dinner underlined "the importance of UK ties for both countries, they agreed to keep track of this common interest, but while offering full support to Michel Barnier’s negotiating efforts", she reported.

Carillion shares plunge

Carillion share price

Troubled construction firm Carillion has seen its shares drop sharply after a report that its lenders have rejected a rescue plan.

A Press Association report said that restructuring plans tabled by the heavily indebted group on Wednesday were knocked back.

Carillion, the UK's second largest construction firm with about 20,000 British workers, is struggling under £1.5bn of debt, raising fears about its future.

As the chart shows, Carillion's shares dropped by a quarter after midday when the PA report came out. They have already fallen by 90% over the past year.

Will the pound go higher?

Pound coin stack
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It's good news if you're heading for a holiday in the US anytime soon.

The pound has hit its highest level against the dollar since the EU referendum - a turnaround from this time last year when it fell as low as $1.21.

But can it go above $1.37, or are we in for more of a bumpy ride?

The pound remains "uniquely sensitive to the Brexit process", cautions Neil Wilson at ETX Capital.

He also thinks the Bank of England is unlikely to be in a hurry to raise interest rates again, which tends to give the pound a boost.

Wall Street in record breaking mood again

NYSE traders

Trading on Wall Street has just got under way and the Dow is hitting record highs once again.

Bank stocks helped to lift the market, with JP Morgan Chase up 0.2% after its fourth-quarter results beat expectations.

In early trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose by more than 100 points, or 0.4%, to 25,676.26.

The S&P 500 index climbed 0.7% to 2,767.56, while the Nasdaq Composite edged up slightly to 7,214.69.

Pound boosted by 'soft Brexit' report

Big Ben

So what led the pound to hit its highest level against the dollar since the EU referendum, at just shy of $1.37?

Analysts are pointing to a report from Bloomberg which said Spanish and Dutch foreign ministers had agreed to work together for a Brexit agreement that maintains close ties with Britain.

Others noted that the dollar had fallen against other currencies amid jitters over the strength of US government bonds.

We shouldn't to read too much into the Bloomberg article, analysts added.

"It's not so significant as the rally would suggest. Just because two of the 27 members say this, it doesn't mean a softer Brexit will happen," said Neil Jones, Mizuho's head of hedge fund currency sales.

BreakingPound hits post-referendum high

Chris Johnston

Business reporter, BBC News

sterling and dollar notes
Getty Images

Sterling has jumped to its highest level against the US dollar since the Brexit vote.

It follows a media report that the Netherlands and Spain are open to a softer exit deal for the UK.

The pound rose more than 1% to $1.3691, its highest since 24 June 2016, when the currency slumped after the narrow vote in favour of leaving the European Union.

Sterling has since eased back a touch to $1.3649.

Bonds: A step into the unknown

BBC World Service

Mohammed El-Erian
Getty Images

A bit more from Mohamed El-Erian - a former economic aide to President Obama - and his views on the turbulent bond markets.

Mr El-Erian, who is chief economic adviser at Allianz, the owner of the world's biggest bond trader, says there's more volatility to come as central banks turn off the taps of their massive stimulus programmes.

"Inflation is well behaved and there’s still a lot of technical demand for government bonds despite the low yields. We should expect some increase in volatility but it will be taking us back to historic norms rather than be a disorderly process,” he told BBC's Marketplace Morning Report.

"If you ask what is the biggest risk, it is that yields go up much faster than yields collapse because we may go through something we’ve never experienced before which is that four systemically-important central banks normalised their policy at the same time,” Mr El-Erian added.

Why are bonds in the news?

ECB exterior
Getty Images

The European Central Bank is the latest central bank to suggest it might scale back its economy-boosting bond purchase programme (see earlier post).

Earlier this week the Bank of Japan slowed its bond purchases and reports have been doing the rounds that China might cut or cease its US debt purchases, although China has dismissed that as "fake news".

All this has helped to bring about a fall in bond prices, while US bond yields - the price governments have to pay to borrow money - have risen, hitting a ten month high.

Things have calmed down a bit today but is more volatility on the way?

Allianz chief economic adviser, Mohamed El-Erian, reckons more volatile trading probably is on the horizon for the bond market - but said that shouldn't be a headache for investors.

US data points to economic strength

US shoppers
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A measure of underlying US inflation recorded the biggest rise in 11 months in December.

Consumer Price Inflation, excluding food and energy increased 0.3%, according to official data.

Prices for used cars and trucks, new vehicles and vehicle insurance all rose in December.

Meanwhile US retail sales rose 0.4% in December compared to November.

For the whole of last year retail sales rose 4.2% - the biggest increase since 2014.

Wells Fargo boosted by tax reform

Wells Fargo
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US banking giant, Wells Fargo has reported a fourth quarter net income of $6.2bn.

It says that figure includes a $3.35bn benefit from the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act.

2017 was not a great year for the bank which admitted that millions of accounts had been created for customers without their permission.

"While we faced challenges in 2017, we are a much better company today than we were a year ago, and I am confident that this year Wells Fargo will be even better,” said chief executive Tim Sloan.

JP Morgan takes $140m hit on Steinhoff

JP Morgan had to write off the value of a loan to South African retailer Steinhoff by $140m.

That's according to the Financial Times.

Its latest results include a mark-to-market loss of $143m "on a margin loan to a single client".

The FT says that sources have confirmed the loss "was linked to the bank's exposure to Steinhoff shares".

In early December Steinhoff shares plunged by almost two-thirds in one day after it said that "accounting irregularities" would be looked into.

Steinhoff is an international retailer that owns, among other things, Poundland in the UK.

JP Morgan results reflect tax cuts

JP Morgan Chase flag
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US Banking giant JP Morgan has reported fourth quarter net income of $4.2bn, down 37% on the same period of 2016.

However, the bank says those results include a $2.4bn hit from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which was signed into law on 22 December.

Despite the negative impact on JP Morgan's results, the firm's chief executive was positive about the tax legislation: “The enactment of tax reform in the fourth quarter is a significant positive outcome for the country.

"US companies will be more competitive globally, which will ultimately benefit all Americans.

"The cumulative effect of retained and reinvested capital in the US will help grow the economy, ultimately growing jobs and wages.

Women's car showroom opens in Saudi Arabia

BBC World Service

Women touring showroom ahead of open
Getty Images

The first car showroom for women has opened in Saudi Arabia following the sweeping away of the Kingdom's ban on women drivers.

Potential customers have been inspecting the vehicles at a shopping mall in the city of Jeddah - climbing into the driving seats and getting a feel for the controls.

The authorities have decreed that women will be permitted to take to the roads by June.

In a further sign of the easing of the many restrictions on the Kingdom's female citizens, women are expected to be allowed to join the crowd at a professional football match for the first time later on Friday.

Banks like Trump's regulation stance

BBC Business Editor Simon Jack tweets:

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China's trade surplus with US hits highest ever

BBC World Service

China Shipping Line container
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China has recorded its highest-ever trade surplus with the US, an issue that has in the past angered President Trump, reports BBC World Service.

Beijing says the figure has risen to nearly $300bn (£220bn).

Mr Trump has previously accused China of using unfair practices to maintain the surplus, and has threatened retaliation.

Other trade figures show that Chinese imports from North Korea fell by more than 80% in December. This suggests China is complying with UN sanctions against Pyongyang - as demanded by President Trump.

Two big changes explained

Kevin Peachey

Personal finance reporter

Paying by credit card
Getty Images

Much discussion today about Open Banking - the system designed to put consumers "in control" of their financial data.

It has the potential to transform the way we manage our money, but there are lots of questions over whether people will really want to allow lots of businesses to see their spending history.

Here's my guide to the system.

Meanwhile, a ban of card surcharges also starts tomorrow - and there are questions over that too, primarily over how well it will be policed.

You can read more about that here.

Oil eases back

Oil pump
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Oil prices fell back on Friday, with Brent crude 15 cents lower at $69.11 a barrel after hitting $70 yesterday for the first time since December 2014. US crude shed 35 cents to $63.45.

"It is remarkable to see that most market analysts believe that prices have rallied too far since consensus forecasts is significantly lower than the current spot prices," says ABN Amro energy economist Hans van Cleef.

"On the other hand, most investors are still positioned to benefit from further price gains."