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Live Reporting

By Nell Mackenzie and Howard Mustoe

All times stated are UK

  1. Goodnight

    the end sign

    It was a busy morning, thank you for reading today. See you tomorrow morning bright and early at 06:00.

  2. Walmart employees braced for the axe - report

    walmart shop front

    American workers at Walmart have told the Washington Post that they are prepared for swathes of cuts.

    A year into an internal program that the US retail giant has called its "Great Workplace" initiative, the Washington Post has spoken with several employees who believe they will be replaced with cheaper staff.

    Similar claims have been made of Morrisons and Asda which both have plans in place to cut certain management positions and re-allocate responsibilities.

    Morrisons said this was to emphasise and improve its service.

    All the big four UK supermarket chains are battling to retain market share amid fierce competition, particularly from discount chains Aldi and Lidl.

    Sainsbury's said it was shedding hundreds of managers at its head office,but did not confirm the number.

    Asda has reportedly begun consultations with more than 2,800 staff over cutbacks. Reports say those working in administrative, cash office and personnel roles have been told their jobs are at risk.

  3. Oil gives back gains

    oil chart

    After reaching a high of $57.67 Brent crude oil traded lower on Tuesday on news that big energy companies were stockpiling reserves.

    A note posted on official Wechat account of industry consultant Oilchem China said China’s commercial crude oil stockpiles at ports rose to 28.44m tons in week of Feb. 13, according to a Bloomberg report.

    Front month oil futures tanked 2% to $56.43.

  4. Bulgaria asks the UAE to return its richest criminal

    a soviet monument in Sofia, bulgaria

    The Justice Ministry of Bulgaria has asked the United Arab Emirates to extradite Vasil Bozhkov, according to a Bloomberg report.

    Mr Bozhkov was charged in Bulgaria last month as the head of an organised crime group.

    Aside from his 3,000 archaeological artifacts, paintings and sculptures he also owns several gambling operations.

    Mr Bozhkov denies all charges.

  5. FCA bans Rix motor company on its adverts

    View more on twitter

    The FCA said it banned online adverts and an Instagram ad for three reasons:

    • credit costs were not disclosed in their ads
    • whether customers would be dealing with a broker or a lender was unclear
    • the advert needed to show the legal name of the firm as it appears on the Financial Services Register

    The UK watchdog said in a statement that Rix has now withdrawn the adverts and they have been told not to break the rules again.

  6. Why Amazon knows so much about you

    Leo Kelion

    Technology desk editor

    View more on twitter

    The BBC's technology desk editor Leo Kelion has investigated how much data Amazon collects from all its customers.

    It's a long read, but well worth your time - for example, Leo discovers that one of the company's databases has transcripts of all the 31,000+ interactions they have had with their Alexa smart speaker.

  7. Asda's sales fall during Christmas quarter

    Asda store

    UK supermarket chain Asda has said its sales fell over the crucial Christmas trading period, with shoppers remaining "highly budget conscious".

    Like-for-like sales in the final three months of 2019 fell 1.3% as the retailer experienced "challenging market conditions - particularly in clothing". Asda added that its core food business had "proved more stable".

    Asda chief executive Roger Burnley said: "We know that our customers' mindsets during the quarter were cautious and whilst customers were enthusiastic for Christmas, they were more mindful in their spending – with many choosing to pare back gift lists and focus presents on kids rather than adults and extended family.

    "Our monthly Income Tracker showed that whilst disposable income remained stable at around £217 a week during the fourth quarter, previously seen trends of growth are starting to slow and consumers remain highly budget conscious."

  8. Walmart sales growth falls short of expectations

    Walmart store

    Sales at US retail giant Walmart grew at a slower pace than expected in the fourth quarter, following disappointing trade in the run-up to Christmas.

    At Walmart's US stores that have been open for at least a year, sales rose 1.9% in the three months to 31 January, which was below analysts' forecasts of 2.35%.

    Adjusted earnings per share dropped to $1.38 per share, below expectations of $1.43 per share.

    Walmart chief executive Doug McMillon said "sales leading up to Christmas in our US stores were a little softer than expected".

  9. Jobs market proving 'resilient'

    Office workers

    More reaction to today's unemployment figures - this time from Debapratim De, UK economist at Deloitte.

    “The UK labour market continues to defy the recent slowdown in economic activity," he said.

    "With employment growth exceeding expectations and vacancies rising for the first time in a year, the jobs market appears more resilient than many expected.

    "The continued rise in real wages should also boost consumer spending power.”

  10. Labour market 'showed impressive strength'

    Office workers

    Howard Archer, the chief economic adviser to EY's Item Club, says the latest jobs data is "impressively strong given the heightened uncertainties facing the economy in the final months of 2019 (heightened domestic political, Brexit and a difficult global economy) as well as a stagnating economy over the fourth quarter".

    “Even allowing for employment being a lagging indicator, a rise of 180,000 in the number employed in the three months to December looks impressive."

    However, he adds that current levels of pay growth are likely to "stabilise around current levels".

    "With businesses likely still cautious over the outlook, we suspect that they will increasingly look to contain pay increases. Meanwhile, still notable consumer concerns and uncertainties may facilitate companies’ ability to limit earnings."

  11. Recruiter group calls for delay in tax changes

    person confused with calculator

    Sophie Wingfield, head of policy at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, said the job rate figures show growing economic confidence after a year of political and economic uncertainty.

    However, she cautions that the government should delay new rules that may require businesses to tax freelancers like full-time staff.

    “The government should take care in what is a crucial ten months ahead. Delaying the ill-conceived IR35 tax changes to 2021 to ensure they can be properly and fairly implemented is extremely urgent. The flexible labour market is already being stifled, and that’s not good for employers or our economy.

    “Today’s increase in vacancy numbers means that as businesses start to look for more staff, an evidence-based immigration system will be crucial to supplying the skills that are needed across the economy. A sensible immigration plan that allows employers to recruit from abroad for sectors such as construction, health and technology where skills shortages are high is essential.”

  12. Hong Kong jobless rate reaches highest in four years

    hong kong protester runs from tear gas

    Hong Kong's jobless rate jumped 3.4% in January, for the fourth month in a row and reached its highest level since 2016.

    The city, which has grappled with political unrest has now seen its businesses disrupted by the spread of the coronavirus.

    The newly released numbers are from November to January and will not reflect the true effect of the shutdowns caused by virus which intensified at the end of January.

  13. Demand for labour strong, says NIESR

    Canary wharf

    Economists at NIESR remain upbeat for the economy despite the fact that data was weaker than they expected.

    Quote Message: “Earnings data for the final quarter of 2019 was slightly weaker than expected due to weaker bonus payments in the private sector. With demand for labour strong, we expect a slight rebound in earnings growth over the first quarter of this year.” from Arno Hantzsche, principal economist at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research
    Arno Hantzsche, principal economist at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research
  14. 'The Monetary Policy Committee got it right'

    Bank of England

    Employment rose by 336,000 to another record high of 32.93 million, while unemployment stayed at 1.29 million.

    And that will sit well with members of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee, who set interest rates, according to Thomas Pugh from Capital Economics.

    "Overall, the strength in the labour market in Q4 will give some comfort to the MPC that it was right to keep rates on hold at 0.75% at its meeting on 31st January," he said.

    "Of course, this is all old news, but the most recent surveys are suggesting that employment growth will continue to pick-up in Q1, which we think will contribute to the MPC keeping rates on hold at its next meeting on 26th March as well."

  15. Unite calls for talks on HSBC job cuts

    HSBC branch

    The workers union Unite has demanded talks with HSBC executives to discuss how UK staff might be affected by the bank's impending job cuts.

    Unite represents 20,000 of HSBC staff who work in branches and contact centres, back office and processing roles.

    Unite national officer for finance Dominic Hook said: “Despite HSBC still making billions of dollars of profit, once again hardworking and dedicated staff have woken up to the news that their job could be at risk."

    As part of its results presentation this morning, the UK lender said it would scale back headcount from 235,000 to 200,000 over the next three years and that there would be 'serious implications' for UK staff.

  16. Will slowdown in wage growth bring on the doves?

    bank of england

    Commenting on today’s UK earnings data, Tom Stevenson, investment director at Fidelity International says:

    "The bigger than expected slowdown in wage growth to just 2.9% in the three months to December re-kindles speculation that the next move in UK interest rates might be down.

    "The Bank of England is likely to continue sitting on its hands, however, with new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, expected to bow to the Prime Minister’s desire to boost Government spending in next month’s Budget."

    Quote Message: