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Christmas strikes: workers warn over ‘end of Royal Mail as we know it’

Royal Mail workers will strike in the run-up to Christmas, as they did in September - TOLGA AKMEN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Royal Mail workers will strike in the run-up to Christmas, as they did in September - TOLGA AKMEN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Royal Mail strikes will go ahead in the run up to Christmas as the union representing postal workers is expected to reject a renewed pay offer.

The FTSE 250 company confirmed today that it had offered a 9pc pay rise spread over 18 months, rather than two years, as previously tabled.

However, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) is understood to be preparing to announce it will reject the terms in its dispute over pay and conditions.

It means the CWU's 10 days of strike action will go ahead, meaning its 115,000 members will walkout on Nov 24, 25, and 30 as well as Dec 1, 9, 11, 14, 15, 23, 24.

Royal Mail bosses have warned union leaders that if the strikes go ahead, previously tabled deals on pay and working conditions will be withdrawn.

Bosses say Royal Mail is losing £1m-a-day and needs to be overhauled in order to balance the books and avoid a greater number of job losses.

Read the latest updates below.

06:11 PM

Good night

That's all for today, please join us tomorrow for more live business updates.

06:09 PM

All Volkswagen brands cease paid Twitter posts

All Volkswagen brands, including Volkswagen itself, Audi, Bentley and Porsche, have stopped advertising and other paid-for Twitter activity, a spokesman told Reuters,

WirtschaftsWoche had previously reported that Audi had halted all activities on the social media platform.

The move expands the number of brands shying away from an Elon Musk-controlled Twitter.

05:55 PM

Amazon in cinema film splurge

Director Rian Johnson and producer Ram Bergman pose with cast members Kate Hudson, Madelyn Cline, Jessica Henwick, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Edward Norton and Janelle Monae at the premiere for the film Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, California, U.S., November 14, 2022. - Reuters
Director Rian Johnson and producer Ram Bergman pose with cast members Kate Hudson, Madelyn Cline, Jessica Henwick, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Edward Norton and Janelle Monae at the premiere for the film Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, California, U.S., November 14, 2022. - Reuters

Amazon will spend more than $1bn a year to make films to screen in cinemas, according to Bloomberg. It will make 12-15 films for a theatrical release a year, it said, citing sources close to the internet giant.

The move is the biggest by a tech company in backing cinemas, which suffered during the pandemic and have been in decline with the rise in larger and larger televisions and better home sound.

Cinemas are still big business, however, particularly in the US, where tickets are often cheaper, averaging less than $10 apiece last year.

The news pushed cinema chain share prices higher, with AMC stock up 8pc.

05:41 PM

UK markets close higher

The FTSE 100  and broader FTSE 250 index closed higher, led by mining and industrial companies.

The buoyancy among UK-listed shares came after a Supreme Court ruling that Scotland cannot trigger an independence referendum without Parliament's say so.

Glencore gained 3pc after Metals Acquisition agreed to an new agreement to buy the global miner's Cobar copper mine in Australia.

Rotork, which makes equipment for the oil and gas and water industries rose 4.4pc as it declared higher sales.

04:41 PM

Rolls asks government to join new nuclear funding talks

Rolls-Royce has urged the UK government to enter negotiations over funding for building its small nuclear reactors.

Rolls-Royce SMR boss Tom Samson told Parliament's Science and Technology Committee that for the UK to avoid blackouts reliable generation is needed.

Each SMR will generate about 470MW of power for at least 60 years. The company wants to open 30 of them on former nuclear sites across England and Wales.

He told MPs: “We are really keen to now move with the government into negotiations, to begin discussions on a structure for how we can deploy the technology in the UK.”

Negotiations would probably take a year, and after that the company could start building the factories it needs to mass-produce the reactors, he said.

Otherwise, with ever-increasing reliance on wind and solar power which are not as reliable as other forms of power, the dependability of the grid could suffer.

He added: “By 2030, the access to baseload capacity in the electricity market will be a very sparse commodity. And so we need to be thinking today, how do we replace and provide a baseload backbone to this country's grid as we increase the dependency - and rightly so - on more intermittent renewables.

“Regardless of net zero, regardless of the war in Ukraine, we should be building nuclear capacity to maintain a strong and stable and reliable backbone and baseload.”

03:55 PM

Oil sinks as EU discusses Russian price cap

Oil prices have tumbled today after the European Union discussed imposing a cap on the price of a barrel of Russian oil.

Brent crude has dropped 4.5pc to $84.38 a barrel, while US-produced WTI crude has slumped 4.7pc to $77.16.

It comes as the EU debates imposing an upper price limit of between $65 and $70 on Vladimir Putin's oil.

However, the range would be well above Russia's cost of production and higher than some countries have been paying for its oil.

03:49 PM

Hunt wants UK to be 'world's next Silicon Valley'

Jeremy Hunt spoken to MPs of the Government's "long-term plan for the UK to become the world’s next Silicon Valley".

The Chancellor pointing to Brexit opportunities to set the country’s own regulations on life sciences, gene-editing, technology and AI.

Appearing in front of the Treasury select committee, he said he wants to make the UK the "must go-to" destination for research for companies that want to invest.

The Chancellor also said that a major factor for Britain's long term economic growth will be "stable, cheap, green energy" as he backed the Sizewell C nuclear power station.

03:33 PM

Hunt wants to stick with Johnson's Brexit deal

Jeremy Hunt has backed Boris Johnson's Brexit deal - Aaron Chown/PA Wire
Jeremy Hunt has backed Boris Johnson's Brexit deal - Aaron Chown/PA Wire

Jeremy Hunt has been appearing in front of the Treasury select committee this afternoon and has said he wants to stick to Boris Johnson's Brexit deal.

The Chancellor distanced himself from reports that the Government is pursuing a Swiss-style relationship with the bloc, which give access to the EU market but involve some free-movement of people.

He said he would "not contemplate any agreement which means moving away" from the former prime minister's deal with the EU, struck barely a month after his landslide victory in December 2019.

Mr Hunt added that he would not compromise on free-movement of people, aligning with EU laws or making payments into the EU's budget.

03:23 PM

Audi halts Twitter activities as Musk mocks #StayWoke t-shirts

German carmaker Audi has reportedly halted all activities on Twitter until further notice, on the day Elon Musk has courted more controversy on the social network.

The Tesla and SpaceX chief executive has come under fire after posting a video making fun of old t-shirts at the social media service that date back to the early days of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Mr Musk wrote that he found the shirts with #StayWoke printed in a closet at the company's San Francisco headquarters.

In a post he later deleted, he said the shirts stem from the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, that followed the 2014 fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

The tweets risk further unsettling advertisers being pressured to stay away from Twitter due to concerns about hate speech and misinformation on the platform.

The move by Audi, reported by WirtschaftsWoche, comes after its owner Volkswagen, which also owns the VW, Seat, Cupra, Lamborghini, Bentley, Ducati and Porsche brands, said it had recommended they pause paid advertising on Twitter until further notice following Mr Musk's takeover of the social media platform.

03:10 PM

Crypto crisis will send users to 'safe and trusted' companies, says Galaxy Digital chief

Bitcoin - Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
Bitcoin - Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Crypto billionaire Mike Novogratz said the "crisis of confidence" in the digital asset world will drive more cryptocurrency users to seek out institutional players like Fidelity Investments.

The founder of Galaxy Digital, a crypto financial services firm, told CNBC that more people will put their money in "safe and trusted custodians".

"The big winners in this are going to be people like Fidelity who have just come out with their crypto product," said Novogratz.

He previously touted Fidelity's involvement in the industry in September when Bitcoin had lost about half its value. The largest digital currency is now down 65pc so far this year.

He added that he sees a buying opportunity for crypto in the long run, but it will take the industry time to rebuild trust.

02:54 PM

Pound surges to highest level since August

The pound has hit its strongest valuation against the dollar since August in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling that said Nicola Sturgeon cannot hold a second Scottish independence referendum.

Sterling surged by 1.1pc to take it past $1.20 for the first time since August 17.

It comes after the Supreme Court ruled that Holyrood does not have the power to hold a breakaway vote without the permission of the UK Government.

SNP leader Ms Sturgeon has not called the next general election as a "de facto referendum" on Scottish independence.

It also comes as the US Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates at the slower pace of 0.5pc this evening.

02:42 PM

Wall Street opens higher

US markets have opened fairly strongly as investors await the US Federal Reserve's interest rate decision, due at 7pm UK time.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 are both up 0.2pc to 34,179.84 and 4,012.70 respectively.

The tech-focused Nasdaq Composite has enjoyed a slightly stronger start, up 0.3pc to 11,207.63.

02:33 PM

Social housing landlord's shares hammered

Home REIT's share price has plummeted - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Home REIT's share price has plummeted - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Shares in social housing landlord Home REIT have plummeted after short-sellers questioned its financial health and governance.

A series of alleged risks have been highlighted in a 27-page report released by Viceroy Research, prompting shares in Home REIT to plunge by as much as 31pc, its largest fall on record.

Viceroy queried the company’s receivables, the quality and diversity of its major tenants and its outsourced management arrangements.

In response, Home REIT said in a statement that the report is “inaccurate and misleading”, given it was not engaged with before the report was issued.

The landlord is the largest faller on the FTSE 250, dragging down the index to a 0.1pc fall on what might well have been a positive day.

02:20 PM

Royal Mail workers confirm strike starting tomorrow

Postal workers have confirmed they will go on strike, warning the public of the "end of Royal Mail as we know it".

Some 115,000 employees will strike tomorrow and on Black Friday.

Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) – which represents postal workers – will walk out, as part of a longstanding dispute over pay.

CWU general secretary Dave Ward said:

We are disappointed that instead of reaching a compromise to avoid major disruption, Royal Mail have chosen to pursue such an aggressive strategy.

We will not accept that 115,000 Royal Mail workers - the people who kept us connected during the pandemic, and made millions in profit for bosses and shareholders – take such a devastating blow to their livelihoods.

These proposals spell the end of Royal Mail as we know it, and its degradation from a national institution into an unreliable, Uber-style gig economy company.

Make no mistake about it: British postal workers are facing an Armageddon moment.

We urge every member of the public to stand with their postie, and back them like never before.

02:16 PM

Scotsman owner decides against bid for Mirror publisher

The floated tie-up between two of the country's biggest newspaper publishers has been scrapped as the Scotsman's owner decided against a bid for its larger rival Reach, which owns the Mirror and Express.

National World, which also owns the Yorkshire Post, said today that the "circumstances are not aligned", after announcing it was exploring a potential bid for its larger rival three weeks ago.

The deal would have combined two major publishers of local and regional newspapers in the UK.

Reach, formerly known as the Mirror Group, owns more than 130 titles across the UK, many of which it bought from the Guardian over a decade ago.

They include the Liverpool Echo, the Daily Record, the Manchester Evening News, the Star and OK! Magazine, as well as many more local publications.

02:07 PM

Sir Jim Ratcliffe refusing to rule out move to buy Manchester United

 Ineos Group chairman Sir Jim Ratcliffe - VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images
Ineos Group chairman Sir Jim Ratcliffe - VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images

Sir Jim Ratcliffe's Ineos is declining to comment on potential interest in buying Manchester United after the Glazers formally put the club on the market.

Sports news correspondent Tom Morgan has the latest:

Ratcliffe, one of Britain's richest men and a United fan, had been the first billionaire to declare interest when rumours first surfaced of a potential sale over the summer.

However, a spokesman at petrochemicals giant Ineos said the group was not immediately commenting after United confirmed on Tuesday that they had called in brokers.

That position marks a significant shift from the quick dismissal earlier this month that Ratcliffe would have any interest in buying Liverpool.

Read how Ratcliffe has previously been knocked back in attempts to buy United.

01:40 PM

UK firms most pessimistic in quarter of a century

Higher taxes and energy prices have left businesses at their most pessimistic about the economy in a quarter of a century, a survey has shown, as Britain heads for its biggest non-Covid decline since the financial crisis.

Our economics editor Szu Ping Chan has this analysis:

New orders across manufacturing and services fell at the fastest pace for almost two years as businesses across the economy felt the squeeze from higher prices, according to S&P Global.

Jeremy Hunt hit businesses and workers with a raft of higher taxes in the Autumn Statement, including a big jump in corporation tax next year.

The survey, which received responses in the wake of the Chancellor's announcement, showed "fiscal tightening" was one of the factors driving pessimism among corporate Britain, alongside higher prices driven by Russia's war in Ukraine, a jump in the cost of borrowing and heightened political uncertainty.

Chris Williamson, chief business economist at S&P Global market intelligence, said: "While the recent change of government has resulted in improved business confidence, the business mood remains among the gloomiest seen over the past quarter century amid the numerous headwinds."

While the S&P Global flash purchasing managers' index (PMI) inched up to 48.3 in November from 48.2 in October, it remained firmly below the 50 level that divides growth from contraction.

01:28 PM

UK suspends import tariffs on Brazilian orange juice

Brazilian orange juice tariffs lifted - Barcin
Brazilian orange juice tariffs lifted - Barcin

Britain will suspend import tariffs on Brazilian orange juice in a trial period aimed at capitalising on the nation's Brexit freedoms.

The two-year scheme, beginning in January next year, is expected to cut costs on Brazilian concentrated and non-concentrated juices by $5m (£4.1m).

The UK does not produce orange juice but is the fourth biggest market for the South American country's producers, behind the US, Germany and France.

CitrusBR executive Ibiapaba Netto said: "Orange juice supply is very tight, but we hope this measure can be renewed to further increase the competitiveness of Brazilian juice."

01:05 PM

Welsh microchip firm staff head to Parliament to protest possible Chinese takeover

Newport Wafer Fab staff, from left, fabrication operator Lynda Lawson, equipment engineer Rob Harrison, and fabrication team leader Gaynor Clark with their letter to MPs - Jamie Lorriman
Newport Wafer Fab staff, from left, fabrication operator Lynda Lawson, equipment engineer Rob Harrison, and fabrication team leader Gaynor Clark with their letter to MPs - Jamie Lorriman

Newport Wafer Fab workers gathered outside Parliament today to protest against the potential Chinese takeover of the Welsh microchip maker.

They are handing in a petition to MPs to try and stop the takeover.

Here is a reminder from Matthew Field of how Newport Wafer Fab became a flashpoint in Britain's showdown with China.

12:55 PM

Cowgill back in retail as new chairman of The Fragrance Shop

Peter Cowgill with the King, then the Prince of Wales, on a tour of a JD Sports store in Walworth earlier this year - Paul Grover
Peter Cowgill with the King, then the Prince of Wales, on a tour of a JD Sports store in Walworth earlier this year - Paul Grover

Peter Cowgill is returning to the front line of retail as the new chairman of the Fragrance Shop, just six months after he was ousted from JD Sports.

The industry veteran has joined the perfume and aftershave retailer with immediate effect, and said he would be working closely on its expansion plans, particularly online, overseas and as it broadens out what it sells.

It comes just weeks after Mr Cowgill struck a £5.5m exit deal with his former employer JD Sports, following his shock departure earlier this year amid concerns over governance.

As part of the exit deal, Mr Cowgill was blocked from joining a rival of JD Sports - in a move the retailer said was to protect its commercial interests and which came following speculation that he could be set for a role at Footasylum.

He has also been kept on as an adviser to JD Sports executives for the next three years.

Mr Cowgill said he was taking up his new post at The Fragrance Shop as it pushes ahead with growth plans, with both profits and revenues on the rise.

Accounts released last month revealed that revenues at its parent company were up 42pc in its latest financial year to hit £157m, while profits more than doubled.

12:37 PM

Rioting iPhone workers smash surveillance cameras and clash with China Covid police

Hundreds of workers joined protests at one of the world's biggest iPhone plants in China, smashing surveillance cameras and windows and clashing with hazmat-clad police over Covid restrictions and poor working conditions.

My colleague Simina Mistreanu has the details on the unrest at the Foxconn site.

The skirmishes broke out at the plant in Zhengzhou after workers marched out of their dormitories in a rare show of open dissent, verified videos which have been published on social media show.

In one video verified by AFP, a man is shown with a bloodied face, while someone off-camera says, "They're hitting people, hitting people. Do they have a conscience?"

Another video shows overturned cars and smashed up Covid-testing booths.

The trigger for the protests appeared to be a plan to delay bonus payments, many of the demonstrators said on livestream feeds.

Read how authorities tried to quell the unrest.

12:18 PM

Royal Mail confirms enhanced pay offer for workers

 Royal Mail - REUTERS/John Sibley
Royal Mail - REUTERS/John Sibley

Royal Mail has tabled a "best and final offer" aimed at resolving its dispute with the CWU union.

Confirming my colleague Oliver Gill's story from last night, it said the deal included an enhanced pay deal of up to 9pc over 18 months and a new profit share scheme for employees.

The CWU has announced industrial action by its 115,000 members on Nov 24, 25, and 30 as well as Dec 1, 9, 11, 14, 15, 23, 24.

12:15 PM

Wall Street awaits Fed rates decision

US stock index futures were flat today as investors focused on the minutes of the Federal Reserve's November meeting for a clearer picture of its monetary tightening policy.

Recent statements from Fed officials, including Cleveland President Loretta Mester and Kansas City President Esther George, have offered mixed clues about the future path of interest rate hikes, but have reiterated the central bank's resolve to stamp out inflation.

Traders are now placing their bets on a 50 basis-point increase in the central bank's next meeting in December. The minutes will be revealed at 7pm UK time.

Wall Street's three main indexes are on track for their second straight month of gains, riding on a better-than-feared earnings season and hopes of smaller increments in the Fed's rate hikes.

12:10 PM

Trafigura Group works on deals to supply Europe with fuel

Commodities trading giant Trafigura Group is working on deals to supply Europe with fuel once deliveries from Russia are all but cut off early next year.

As the European Union's ban on seaborne Russian barrels draws closer, buyers are under pressure to secure alternative supplies. That is a potentially lucrative opportunity for firms like Trafigura.

The company has played a pivotal role in supplying middle distillates - industry jargon for jet and diesel-type fuels - into continental Europe over the last year, through both term contracts and spot cargoes, a spokesperson said in response to emailed questions from Bloomberg.

"This role becomes increasingly important in 2023, given the supply disruption from the Russian embargo," the spokesperson said, adding that Trafigura complies with sanctions.

"We are working with our European customers on securing their supply for calendar 2023."

Trading houses have long played a significant role in supplying Europe, looking to profit from shipping in vast quantities of diesel and other fuels.

11:52 AM

Interest rate peak revised down by researchers

Jeremy Hunt's tight fiscal policies announced in his Autumn Statement have prompted an economic research group to revise down its estimates for the height of interest rates.

The Bank of England will raise rates to a high point of 4.5pc next year, rather than 5pc as previously expected, according to Capital Economics.

Chief UK economist Paul Dales said:

With fiscal policy no longer expected to be ultra-loose and some signs emerging that domestic price pressures will ease further ahead, we no longer expect the Bank of England to raise interest rates to a peak of 5pc.

Our new forecast of an increase from 3pc to a peak of 4.5pc is similar to that priced into the markets but is a bit higher than the peak of 4.25pc envisaged by the consensus.

Our view in 2024 is different to the market and the consensus in that we expect interest rates to be cut further.

As a result of the change in direction under the current Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, we now know that fiscal policy is not going to be very loose over the next couple of years and in fact is going to be much tighter, albeit not until 2024/25 and beyond.

11:36 AM

Fears G7 and EU Russian oil price cap 'not offensive' enough

The G7 nations are looking at a price cap on Russian sea-borne oil in the range of $65 to $70 per barrel, a European Union diplomat has said

Ambassadors from the 27 EU countries were also discussing the proposal with the aim of reaching a common position by the end of the day.

However, the $65-$70 range is well above Russia's cost of production and higher than some countries had been pushing for.

As Russia is already selling its crude at discounts, a high cap may have minimal impact on trading.

Robin Brooks, chief economist at IIF, is not impressed:

11:22 AM

Train strikes - everything you need to know

Train passengers have been hit with another wave of 48 hour strikes in the run up to Christmas.

Our chief business correspondent Oliver Gill has a complete round-up of what has happened and what you need to know.

At the start of November, rail union leaders appeared willing to strike a deal.

Calling off a walkout planned for the first week of the month, they announced "intensive talks" to break the deadlock in an industrial dispute that has prevented desperately overdue reforms to Britain’s railways.

It had been hoped that through negotiations, critical changes to working practices could be agreed upon. Changes that would save money and allow the wider rail industry to balance the books in the post-Covid world.

But on Tuesday, hopes of a truce were dashed.

Here are all the December and January walkout details, the train companies affected and how you can get a refund.

10:57 AM

Pound rises after Supreme Court ruling

The value of the pound has increased by 0.3pc this morning after the Supreme Court ruled that Nicola Sturgeon does not have the right to hold a referendum on Scottish independence next year.

Sterling tipped over $1.19 to its highest level in four days.

Supreme Court president Lord Reed announced the unanimous judgment after Scotland's top law officer referred a prospective Bill to the court.

10:39 AM

De La Rue warns over job cuts

De La Rue prints banknotes for the Bank of England - Peter Dazeley
De La Rue prints banknotes for the Bank of England - Peter Dazeley

Banknote printer De La Rue has warned over possible job cuts as it looks to ramp up cost savings after swinging to a loss and warning over full-year results for the third time this year.

Chief executive Clive Vacher told the PA news agency that moves to strip out another £12m in costs under an ongoing overhaul will impact its workforce.

He said it was too early to say how many roles would be impacted or give further details.

But he said the cost savings would be "global and right across the cost base".

"It will have an effect on employment and that will, again, be on a global basis."

Mr Vacher added that he would also look at "optimising" the group's manufacturing sites further in the UK and worldwide, but stressed there were no immediate plans for closures, having already trimmed its banknote print locations from five down to four.

The group - which prints banknotes for the Bank of England and other central banks across the globe - slumped to a £15.9m loss in the six months to September 24, against profits of £10.9m a year earlier.

10:26 AM

PMI figures suggest UK 'already in recession'

Today's purchasing manager's index (PMI) figures indicate that "the economy is already in recession", according to Ashley Webb, UK economist for Capital Economics.

Even though the PMI of 48.3 was marginally up on 48.2 in October, Mr Webb said that "very intense" domestic inflationary pressures mean "we don’t think that the weakening activity will convince the Bank of England to stop raising interest rates just yet".

Meanwhile, Rhys Herbert, senior economist at Lloyds Bank, said there is "little to find encouraging for the economy in this month's data". He said:

Consumers face several months of intense cost of living pressures while for companies, the costs of doing businesses is also increasing.

It is unlikely that these will ease until the second half of next year.

Markets have given last week's Autumn Statement a cautious welcome.

Gilt yields have declined from their peak in September, but with questions over both the UK and global economic outlooks, the next few months still look challenging.

09:57 AM

North East skyline changes forever as Redcar blast furnace blown up

The former steel blast furnace near Redcar is brought down - Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
The former steel blast furnace near Redcar is brought down - Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

The blast furnace at the former Redcar steelworks has been demolished - changing one of the best known skylines in the North East of England.

Crowds gathered to watch the furnace crumble, against the backdrop of the North Sea, in an explosion heard as far away as Hartlepool, around 23 miles away.

The destruction of the 365ft (111m) high 1970s-built structure this morning is the latest stage of the site clearance since the works closed in 2015 with the loss of thousands of jobs.

Twisted metal lies on the ground after the former steel blast furnace near Redcar was demolished - Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
Twisted metal lies on the ground after the former steel blast furnace near Redcar was demolished - Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

09:53 AM

Eurozone economic contraction eases in November

November saw business activity fall across the eurozone for a fifth month running, according to the flash PMI data.

Output actually improved to 47.8 from 47.3 in October, according to CIPS and S&P Global, although a figure below 50 still shows a contraction in the economy.

Within the euro area, Germany again reported the steepest downturn, the composite PMI at 46.4 to register a fifth monthly drop in output in as many months.

Output fell in France, with a PMI of 48.8 signaling the first drop in business activity since February 2021.

09:41 AM

Manufacturers suffer worst drop in new orders for nearly two years

British companies faced the worst drop in new orders for nearly two years in November, the flash purchasing manager's index (PMI) data suggests.

The UK's PMI for new orders increased from 39.9 to 41, although it remains the sixth straight month of contraction.

The figure for manufacturing output in November is unchanged from the previous month and ahead of some economists' expectations.

However, the figure of 46.2 is a dramatic decline from 58.1 a year ago, when showing manufacturing output was still growing, according to CIPS and S&P Global which compile the data.

It is the fourth consecutive contraction in Britain at a time when the Office for Budget Responsibility has forecast that the country is already in recession.

09:32 AM

Manufacturing output continues to shrink

Britain's manufacturing output has continued to contract, new data show.

The UK's Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) stood at 46.2 this month.

Any figure below 50 indicates output is shrinking, while I figure above shows it is expanding

09:15 AM

Sunak and Starmer have 'closed their ears' on migrant workers

Rishi Sunak addressed the CBI annual conference on Monday - TOLGA AKMEN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Rishi Sunak addressed the CBI annual conference on Monday - TOLGA AKMEN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The head of a London business group has accused MPs of neglecting the UK's need for more workers, after both Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer resisted calls for higher migration.

The Labour leader told the CBI annual conference this week that he would "help the British economy off its immigration dependency" if elected to power.

Meanwhile, speaking at the same conference, the Prime Minister said he wanted the UK to attract "the best and the brightest" but stressed his determination to clamp down on illegal immigration.

Richard Burge, chief executive officer of the London Chamber of Commerce, said:

It has become clear from their remarks at the CBI conference that the prime minister and the leader of the opposition have closed their ears to this obvious and practical solution to a perennial problem

He said the group's surveys show a "dire need for immigration reforms that will help close these yawning skills gaps".

09:08 AM

Pets at Home shares plunge

Despite announcing sales ahead of expectations, Pets at Home is the biggest faller on the FTSE 250 this morning.

The pet retailer's adjusted pre-tax profit of £59.2m - a year-on-year fall - was a "touch softer" than markets had hoped, according to RBC Capital Markets.

Its shares have been hit by as much as 9.1pc as it also faces economic headwinds from higher energy, staff and product costs.

08:55 AM

Redcar steelworks due to be demolished

Redcar's former steelworks will be demolished today - Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
Redcar's former steelworks will be demolished today - Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

The sun rises for the final time over the former steel blast furnace near Redcar that is due to be brought down in an explosive demolition today.

Redcar's former steelworks has dominated the Teesside skyline for four decades.

Finished in 1979, the blast furnace stands 365ft tall and was ranked the second largest of its kind in Europe.

The site was mothballed in 2010 before being restarted by SSI UK when it took over ownership from Tata Steel in 2012, but it entered liquidation three years later with the loss of more than 2,000 jobs.

The site is being cleared as part of regeneration plans on the Teesworks site.

08:40 AM

Miner Glencore expected to take advantage of gas shortage

Glencore is the top performer on the FTSE 100 this morning after Bernstein analysts said they expect the miner to outperform the market.

The company is best positioned to take advantage of coal prices amid the gas shortage in Europe. European gas prices have increased 9.4pc this morning.

The blue-chip index is up 0.5pc at 7,487.92.

Britvic was the biggest gainer on the FTSE 250 after the soft drinks company reported revenues of £1.6bn, ahead of market estimates.

Its shares were up 2.8pc as it reported adjusted pre-tax profits of £180.3m.

The FTSE 250 is down 0.3pc to 19,369.33 in early trading.

08:14 AM

Openreach to limit investment in ultrafast fibre broadband

Openreach is part of BT - Joe Giddens/PA Wire
Openreach is part of BT - Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Boris Johnson's pledge to rollout gigabit broadband across the UK appeared under threat today with Openreach to limit its investment in the rollout of the ultrafast fibre network.

The web infrastructure division of BT is reportedly seeking to curb costs and get "bang for its buck" with UK inflation running at its highest level in four decades.

The group has contacted suppliers to say that it will build its fibre broadband network "narrower and deeper" and "tighten the timing of investment" to a just-in-time approach.

Openreach would not be committing capital to projects further than six months out, according to a letter seen by the Financial Times.

Clive Selley, chief executive of Openreach, told the FT in the note that BT would be focusing on finishing off fibre networks in areas where work has already begun.

He added this would not affect Openreach's target of reaching 25m homes with full fibre by 2026, which is expected to cost it £12bn.

08:05 AM

Halford profits dip as shoppers cut back

Halfords profits fall - Matt Alexander/PA Wire
Halfords profits fall - Matt Alexander/PA Wire

Halfords has seen interim profits halve and warned that the full-year result will be at the bottom of its expectations as under-pressure consumers cut back on non-essential spending.

The car parts to bicycle chain retailer reported underlying pre-tax profits of £29m for the six months to the end of September, down from £57.9m a year ago, with the previous year's results boosted by £9.2m of business rates relief.

Revenues rose 10.2pc to £765.7m over the first half.

Halfords said since the first half it was seeing "resilient trading in the more needs-based categories, but there has been a softening in the more discretionary areas".

"It remains challenging to predict consumer confidence for the remainder of 2022-23, but we don't expect the challenges that businesses are facing to dissipate soon," it added.

The group cautioned it is now expecting full-year underlying pre-tax profits at the lower end of its previous guidance for between £65m to £75m.

08:02 AM

UK markets open higher

The FTSE 100 opened 1pc higher at 7,452.84 as the internationally-focused index expects a smaller interest rate rise from the US Federal Reserve later today.

The FTSE 250 started the day up 0.7pc to 19,427.33.

07:59 AM

Pets at Home hit by higher freight and energy costs

Pets at Home profits fall - iStockphoto
Pets at Home profits fall - iStockphoto

Pets at Home has revealed a dip in profits for the past six months as it was impacted by higher freight and energy costs.

The retailer and veterinary services firm said underlying pre-tax profit dropped by 9.3pc to £59.2m over the period to October 13, compared with the same period last year.

The company said this was in line with expectations as it held profit targets for the year and hailed a "resilient" pet care market.

Chief executive Lyssa McGowan said:

In my first six months as CEO, I have spent my time forming a deep understanding of the business and sector, learning from the ground up how the business operates.

I am more convinced that Pets at Home is well-positioned to capitalise on an attractive growth opportunity in our structurally-growing pet care market, supported by our unique blend of products and services, deeply-embedded culture and expert, passionate colleagues and partners.

Our first-half performance shows progress and resilience across the business.

In a challenging macro-environment, the pet care industry remains in growth across all channels and we have continued to acquire new customers at an impressive rate, setting new records for customer numbers in recent months.

07:53 AM

Sam Bankman-Fried's apology to staff

Here is the full letter Sam Bankman-Fried sent to FTX staff:

07:50 AM

Good morning

Sam Bankman-Fried has issued a mea culpa in a letter apologising to FTX staff for the collapse of his crypt empire.

It comes as US bankruptcy proceedings have revealed that tens of thousands of British traders have been left out of pocket by the implosion of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX.

Some 8pc of FTX's users were based in the UK, a Delaware court heard, suggesting that 80,000 Britons may have lost money. FTX left around one million creditors, the vast majority of whom were unsecured users of the exchange.

Matthew Field has the details.

5 things to start your day

1) FTX collapse leaves 80,000 UK crypto traders out of pocket Some 8pc of FTX's users were based in the UK, a Delaware court heard, suggesting that 80,000 Britons may have lost money. FTX left around one million creditors, the vast majority of whom were unsecured users of the exchange.

2) Royal Mail sweetens pay offer in 11th-hour bid to avoid Christmas strikes The FTSE 250 company is understood to have offered a 9pc pay rise spread over 18 months, rather than two years, as previously tabled.

3) Twitter to resume hiring after Elon Musk sacks more than 4,000 staff  Mr Musk said that employees were encouraged to make referrals, but he did not specify the roles Twitter was hiring for. The company currently has no open positions listed on its website.

4) RMT announces series of strikes in the run-up to Christmas and New Year Rail passengers will be hit by waves of strikes after talks to avoid festive travel chaos collapsed.

5) Danish Crown to build £100m gammon plant in UK despite Brexit red tape The 30,500 square metre factory, in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, will be completely powered by renewable energy and will create 300 jobs once it is operational.

What happened overnight

Asian share markets had mostly positive gains on Wednesday despite rising Covid cases in mainland China leaving investors uncertain.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.3pc, after US stocks ended the previous session with gains. The index is up 12pc so far this month.

Australian shares climbed 0.7pc, with most gains coming from mining and resources giants as a result of higher oil prices.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 0.6pc in early trade.