Binance threatened with US trading ban after alleged terror payments
The world's biggest cryptocurrency exchange has been threatened with a US trading ban after allegedly hosting accounts linked to Hamas and Russian criminals.
Binance is being sued by regulators over claims that it sought to avoid regulations meant to prevent money laundering, while enabling high-risk trades by Americans.
The price of Bitcoin dropped 4pc after the lawsuit was announced amid fears that the crackdown could severely disrupt trading.
In a civil complaint, the Commodity Future Trading Commission (CFTC) accused Binance and its founder, Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, of encouraging Americans to evade compliance controls and break market rules, according to a Chicago court filing.
It claimed that employees of the business - an offshore cryptocurrency behemoth that facilitates trillions of pounds in digital asset trades - joked about terrorists using the platform in a sign of how lax the rules were.
The CFTC alleged that Samuel Lim, Binance's chief compliance officer, said in February 2019 after receiving information regarding transactions by the Palestinian group Hamas that terrorists usually send “small sums” as “large sums constitute money laundering”.
Mr Lim’s colleague replied: “Can barely buy an AK47 with 600 bucks.”
In another online chat about Russian customers of Binance, Mr Lim allegedly said: “Like come on. They are here for crime.”
Binance’s money laundering officer replied: “We see the bad, but we close two eyes.”
On another occasion, Mr Lim is said to have decided that a trader who was "very closely associated with illicit activity" and responsible for $5m (£4.1m) of questionable transactions should be told to close their account and open a clean new one.
The intervention is likely to cast a fresh chill over crypto markets following the collapse of Binance's biggest rival, FTX, whose founder Sam Bankman-Fried is facing trial in the US on fraud charges.
The CFTC said that Binance was guilty of seven regulatory breaches by offering the trading of Bitcoin and Ethereum derivatives without obeying US rules or properly registering its operations.
It claimed that the company had fallen short on its compliance controls, such as requirements to effectively vet potential customers and ban suspicious accounts, while seeking to boost its profits.
The allegations will pile further pressure on the cryptocurrency titan, which is facing multiple US investigations, including a criminal case brought by the Justice Department.
In a letter to Mr Zhao earlier this month, US senators accused Binance of facilitating a hotbed of illegal financial behaviour and enabling up to $10bn in payments to criminals or in avoidance of sanctions.
The cryptocurrency company’s auditor resigned in December. In the UK it has faced scrutiny from the Financial Conduct Authority, which in 2021 blocked it from launching a British subsidiary.
British customers can still interact with Binance through its offshore exchange.
While Binance operates a separate North American operation, Binance.US, the CFTC complaint alleged it subtly directed its most valuable customers to instead trade with its main international division, which had fewer controls in place.
In the legal filings, the CFTC claimed Binance had relied on a “maze of corporate entities” to hide its true ownership, while Mr Zhao had repeatedly failed to confirm where Binance was truly headquartered. The regulator said: “Zhao answers to no one but himself.”
The CFTC claimed Binance had grown its US customer numbers, with 18pc of traders based in America even after it officially started restricting US access.
In one case, when it was required to do a more detailed audit by a business partner, Binance allegedly hired a firm that would do a “half assed” job, according to messages from one executive.
The regulator said it would seek permanent trading and registration bans against Binance in the US, and an injunction blocking Binance and its executives from controlling or directing the trading of digital assets.
Officials quoted internal Binance emails and encrypted messages from the app Signal, which it claimed showed the company instructing US users how to access the site without alerting authorities, such as through a virtual private network.
Mr Lim allegedly said in one chat the company’s customer support teams appeared to be “teaching [people] how to circumvent sanctions”.
According to the charges, Mr Lim also said Binance would engineer ways for VIP customers to be fast-tracked around any potential compliance roadblocks. He said customers doing “sick ass volumes” could get special treatment, adding: “We always have a way for whales”.
Rostin Behnam, chairman of the CFTC, said: “This should be a warning to anyone in the digital asset world.”
Gretchen Lowe, chief counsel at the regulator, said: “Binance’s compliance efforts have been a sham and Binance deliberately chose - over and over - to place profits over following the law.”
A Binance spokesman said: "The complaint filed by the CFTC is unexpected and disappointing as we have been working collaboratively with the CFTC for more than two years. Nevertheless, we intend to continue to collaborate with regulators in the US and around the world."
That's it from me. We'll be back tomorrow morning with the latest.
Teachers' union to vote on 'insulting' pay deal
The National Education Union has urged members to reject an improved pay offer from the Government.
The NEU said that the Government offered a one-time payment of £1,000 to teachers for the current tax year, alongside a 4.3pc rise for most teachers next year.
Commenting on the pay offer, Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint general secretaries of NEU, said
This is an insulting offer from a Government which simply does not value teachers.
This offer is less than teachers in Scotland and Wales have been offered. It does nothing to address the long-term decline in teacher pay and therefore does nothing to solve the problems in teacher recruitment and retention.
NEU members have until Sunday to vote on the offer.
Your deal does not serve children or teachers @GillianKeegan:
❌ No extra funding
❌ No plan for pay restoration
❌ No offer for Sixth Forms
This is a bad deal.
❗️Teacher vacancies UP 93% on pre-covid
‼️ Schools will have to make cuts to pay for your weak offer#PayUp
— Niamh Sweeney (@Niamhms23) March 27, 2023
Barrett Steel buys majority of collapsed rival Aartee Bright Bar for £13m
Barrett Steel has bought the majority of collapsed rival Aartee Bright Bar for £13m, after rescue talks with Liberty Steel’s owner failed.
The UK's largest independent stockholder and supplier of steel has acquired Aartee’s distribution operations in Rugby, Bolton, Newport and Southampton.
The deal will save 173 jobs, according to administrators at Alvarez & Marsal.
However, the takeover will close Aartee’s steel rolling plant in Dudley, resulting in 45 redundancies.
The West Midlands steel distributor, a key client of Sanjeev Gupta’s Liberty Steel, entered administration in February.
Last week, English courts placed Aartee’s UK holding company into compulsory liquidation, paving the way for a third-party acquisition.
It comes after GFG Alliance, owned by Mr Gupta, bought Aartee’s parent company last month in hopes of merging the struggling business with Liberty Steel.
Wind power boom faces supply crunch amid parts shortage
The development of wind farms in Europe and the US is at risk from supply chain bottlenecks, a global trade group has warned.
Energy correspondent Rachel Millard reports:
Shortages of parts and assembly capacity risks holding back the technology required to cut carbon emissions, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC).
Politicians need to “act now” to prevent constraints emerging in the second half of the decade, the body added.
It comes as several wind farm developers and manufacturers have sounded the alarm over rising costs and slow grid connections.
Morten Dyrholm, chairman of the GWEC, said: “Scaling up wind energy requires healthy industries and healthy industries require thriving markets.
Here's how much electricity wind farms need to generate in order to hit net zero goals
Further tightening could be required if inflation persists, says Bailey
The Bank of England governor has also warned that further monetary tightening would be required if "signs of persistent inflationary pressures" emerge.
Andrew Bailey said:
The adjustment and response to the shocks we have experienced must return CPI inflation to the 2pc target sustainably. We must avoid these very large shocks leading to persistent inflation, and that is why we have raised the official interest rate eleven times, to 4.25pc.
Recently, the evidence has pointed to more resilient activity in the economy, and likewise employment; signs that nominal wage growth has been rather weaker than expected; and two months in which there was first some downside news on inflation relative to our expectation and then a bit more upside news.
This reminds us that the path of inflation will not be entirely smooth and cost and price pressures remain elevated.
Bank of England expects inflation to begin falling within months
The Bank of England governor expects inflation to sharply fall this year, starting within the next couple of months.
Andrew Bailey, the governor of Britain's central bank, has shared updates on latest monetary policy ahead of his lecture at London School of Economics this evening.
In his written speech, Mr Bailey said:
The economy has been subjected to some very large and overlapping shocks. The largest impact has come from the effect of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This appalling act had a massive impact on energy prices last year, and has substantially affected other prices, notably food. For a variety of reasons, particularly in energy markets, those effects are now unwinding.
It is primarily for this reason that we expect to see a sharp fall in inflation during the course of this year, starting probably in a couple of months or so from now.
The impact on terms of trade has harmed economic growth and also national real income, he added. However, a sharp fall in energy prices has helped the economy become more resilient.
Bitcoin tumbles as Binance faces US ban
The price of Bitcoin has slight recovered after falling sharply in response to news that the world’s largest cryptocurrency company faces a US ban.
The digital token touched a 10-day low after sinking below $27,000 (£22,000) shortly after the announcement, but has now slightly recovered. Bitcoin is down 2.81pc today.
Disney to reach 7,000 job cuts by summer, says chief executive
Disney's plans to terminate 7,000 jobs as part of cost cutting measures will conclude by the summer.
Chief executive Bob Iger told employees by letter that the process will create a more "streamlined" business, Reuters reported.
Mr Iger said Disney would begin notifying the first group of employees who are impacted by the workforce reductions over the next four days.
The restructuring will reportedly impact several divisions of the company, including Disney Entertainment, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, and corporate. Sports channel ESPN is expected to be targeted in later rounds.
A second, larger round of job cuts will commence in April, "with several thousand more staff reductions." The final round will start before the beginning of the summer to reach its 7,000 target, the letter said.
Disney announced in February that it would eliminate 7,000 jobs as part of an effort to save $5.5 billion in costs and make its money-losing streaming business profitable.
"The difficult reality of many colleagues and friends leaving Disney is not something we take lightly," Iger wrote, noting that many "bring a lifelong passion for Disney" to their work.
FTSE 100 closes in the green after banks boost
The FTSE 100 has climbed 0.90pc today to close at 7,471.77, while the FTSE 250 midcap index grew 0.19pc to end at 18,529.62.
Both indexes were boosted by bank stocks which rose on renewed hopes that the turmoil in the sector will be contained following the buyout of Silicon Valley Bank. The FTSE 350 Banks index jumped 1.25pc today.
Barclays' plan to close more branches worsens issues facing cash-reliant customers
Banks have been closing branches for years as more and more people choose to do their banking online, reducing the need for physical banks.
However, closures will create issues for customers unable to bank online, according to the UK's consumer champion.
Jenny Ross, money editor at Which?, said:
Bank branch closures don't just make access to cash more difficult for the millions of people across the country who rely on it, but also cuts vital in-person banking services, which are particularly important for customers who are not ready or able to bank online.
Schemes introduced by the banking industry to protect these services, such as banking hubs, are a good start in plugging gaps left by the removal of physical branches, but they must be rolled out much more quickly if consumers are to feel their benefits.
Mr Ross called on the Government to reconsider proposals to introduce guaranteed minimum levels of free access to cash.
It comes as Barclays announces plans to close 14 more branches at sites across the UK.
The bank will close two branches in Wales and 12 across England. It marks the third time this year that Barclays has announced a set of branch closures. The latest batch, announced on Friday, brings the total number to 58 so far.
Barclays, Nationwide, Virgin Money, NatWest, Lloyds, Halifax and TSB have announced 132 closures between them, data from Link, a cash machine company, said.
Binance and chief executive sued by US derivatives regulator
The world’s largest cryptocurrency company is facing a US ban after being sued by regulators for allegedly dodging restrictions on trading in America.
Binance has been sued by the Commodity Future Trading Commission (CFTC), which has demanded damages and a possible trading and registration ban.
The price of Bitcoin sharply dropped by 4pc in the wake of the announcement as the market reacted to the possible ban.
The regulator accused Binance of failing to properly register with it and claimed its founder, Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, had encouraged Americans to “evade compliance controls” and break US law.
The watchdog accused Binance of seven regulatory breaches, including failing to follow anti-money laundering rules.
Binance was contacted for comment.
Lord Ashcroft’s publishing company quits the Shard
Lord Ashcroft’s publishing company has left its offices in the Shard skyscraper amid a wave of post-Covid cutbacks in central London.
Business reporter Riya Makwana has the details
The Conservative donor's business Merit Group pulled out of its lease in Europe's tallest building three years early as part of a turnaround plan.
Merit, which publishes The Parliament Magazine, The House Magazine and others, is paying its landlord £2.9m upfront to leave the 16,893 sq ft office on the 11th floor, which will now be assigned to another tenant by the site's operator Real Estate Management.
It had been tied into paying £2.1m a year for the office until 2026.
The deal follows growing fears about an exodus from office blocks. Here's why.
That's all from me today. Adam Mawardi will take things from here and will keep you up to speed with what Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey says in a speech at 6pm.
I leave you with an update on the pound, which has risen 0.5pc against the dollar today and is heading towards $1.23.
We will see how it moves after Mr Bailey speaks. Traders are pricing in a 73pc chance of a 0.25 percentage point increase at the Bank of England's next meeting in May.
Bond yields rise as banking sector fears ease
A stunning statistic on bond yields pointed out by Cambridge University's Queen's College president Mohamed Aly El-Erian.
Over the last month, the two-year yield on US Treasuries has traded across a range of 100-basis points. That is huge.
It illustrates the scale of uncertainty about the direction of interest rates and the economy over the period in light of the global banking turmoil.
At present, two-year US bonds yield 3.974pc, an increase of more than 20 basis points on the day.
Bond yields rise as bond prices fall. Bond prices tend to fall when interest rates are expected to move higher.
The anchorless 2-year
After the recent low of 3.58% recorded as late as the end of last week, the yield on 2-year US Treauries is nearing 4% again.
Even more remarkable, just over the last month it has traded in a range of 100 basis points.#markets #economy #bonds #investing pic.twitter.com/dYBleddc1q
— Mohamed A. El-Erian (@elerianm) March 27, 2023
Chelsea says Abramovich sanctions contributed to losses
Chelsea say government sanctions imposed on former owner Roman Abramovich were a factor in the club's losses of £121.3m for the 2021/22 season.
Russian billionaire Mr Abramovich was sanctioned by the UK government in March last year following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
He was described by ministers as part of Vladimir Putin's inner circle.
Chelsea were placed under a special licence that restricted their ability to sell tickets, accept event bookings and even sign contracts with players.
The restrictions remained in place until May 30 last year when a new consortium led by American businessman Todd Boehly completed its takeover of the club.
Chelsea said in a statement on Monday that turnover had increased to £481.3m from £434.9m the previous year despite the sanctions. Commercial revenue increased to £177.1m.
The financial results do not cover Chelsea's acquisitions in the past two transfer windows, when they are reported to have spent around £600m on new players.
Shares surge in Silicon Valley Bank's new owner
First Citizens shares rocketed by 49pc at the opening bell on Wall Street after its takeover of Silicon Valley bank's assets and loans.
Indeed, it has been a very strong start to the day for the US banking sector:
banks are up pic.twitter.com/OhFWw0Yw6M
— Sam Ro 📈 (@SamRo) March 27, 2023
Wall Street rises following Silicon Valley Bank takeover
US markets have opened higher as the takeover of Silicon Valley Bank restored some confidence in markets that had been rattled by concerns over a potential global financial crisis.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average has begun the day 0.8pc higher at 32,500.96 while the broad-based S&P 500 has climbed by 0.6pc to 3,995.19.
The Nasdaq Composite rose by 0.6pc to 11,850.92 shortly after the opening bell.
Cineworld creditors 'plot new management team'
Cineworld's creditors are reportedly drawing up plans for a new board and executive leaders as they seek to bring the world's second largest cinema chain out of banktruptcy.
Its lenders have begun the search for a new management team after nine years under chief executive Mooky Greidinger and his brother, deputy chief executive Israel Greidinger, according to Bloomberg.
The Greidinger family trust owns 20.1pc of the company's equity but its ownership is expected to be wiped out as part of the company's bankruptcy.
Cineworld filed for bankruptcy protection in the US in September and is expected to emerge from it by the beginning of June.
Deutsche Bank's headquarters in London sold for £257m
Malaysian construction firm Gamuda has bought Deutsche Bank's soon-to-be-vacated London office for £257m in one of the City's biggest property deals this year.
Gamuda partnered with UK private equity firm Castleforge for the purchase of Winchester House.
The buyers plan to refurbish the premises into a sustainable office for global financial institutions, legal firms and tech corporations.
Deutsche Bank's current lease is set to expire in April 2024, with the German lender due to move to a new headquarters above Moorgate in the City of London this year.
Britain’s commercial real estate market has been in flux lately as rising interest rates reduce the spread between prime property yields and government bonds.
The new London headquarters Deutsche Bank is soon moving into was sold for £809m last year — a sharp discount to its initial valuation.
Russian oil flows defy pledge to cut output
Russia's pledge to cut its oil production sharply is yet to feed through to the market as flows of its seaborne crude remain strong.
The nation's shipments slid by 123,000 barrels a day to 3.11 million barrels a day in the seven days to March 24, according to tanker tracking by Bloomberg.
The less-volatile four-week average dipped by a similar amount. It is the sixth straight week they've held above 3m a day.
Russia had pledged to lower output by 500,000 barrels a day from this month through to June in response to G7 price cap on its crude sales.
However, since the reduction was announced oil prices have fallen sharply, with concerns about a global financial crisis outweighing any anxiety about the threat to limit supplies.
Government gives go-ahead to North Sea gas field
The Government has given its consent for a new gas development in the North Sea as it seeks to reduce its reliance on overseas energy following the Russian war in Ukraine.
Harbour Energy, the largest producer in the North Sea, has been given the green light to develop the Talbot field about 173 miles off the coast of Scotland.
The company aims to begin production next year, according to its website.
Gas prices rise amid French strikes
European natural gas prices have risen as strikes in France prolongue outages at the nation's energy infrastructure, increasing worries about supply.
Nuclear reactor availability in the country has dropped to 57pc, driving up local power prices. The strikes have also hit oil refineries and liquefied natural gas import terminals.
A short cold spell is passing through Europe this week, adding to the frequent chilly bouts that are keeping gas prices above normal levels for the time of year.
Dutch front-month futures, Europe's gas benchmark, have risen 5.5pc and are trading around €42.50 per megawatt hour. UK gas for April has increased 5.6pc.
US markets on track to open higher
Wall Street is expected to move higher at the opening bell after a buyout deal for failed Silicon Valley Bank's deposits and loans helped soothe some jitters around severe stress in the banking sector.
First Citizens said today it will acquire parts of Silicon Valley Bank, the collapse of which earlier this month marked the largest bank failure since the 2008 financial crisis, unleashing fears about a liquidity crunch in the sector.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average is on track to open 0.6pc higher, while the broad-based S&P 500 is poised to begin the day up 0.7pc.
In pre-market trading, the Nasdaq 100 had risen 0.4pc.
Oil rises as global recession fears ease
Oil has rallied amid the calm being restored to markets as concerns ease about a global financial crisis, which would impact demand.
Brent crude, the international benchmark, has risen by 1.1pc toward $76 a barrel, while US-produced West Texas Intermediate has also gone up 1.1pc to tip back over $70.
Oil remains on track for its steepest first-quarter loss since 2020 as a potential US recession, French strikes, and resilient Russian output weigh on the outlook.
The rout might not be over just yet, with JPMorgan Chase forecasting Brent could break below $60 a barrel in the near term.
Today’s rise comes as Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil producer, has agreed to buy a 10pc stake in a giant oil complex in China for 24.6 billion yuan (£2.9bn), in a deal that will significantly expand its refining presence in China.
Aramco will also supply 480,000 barrels of crude oil per day to Rongsheng Petrochemical's refinery in the eastern province of Zhejiang over a 20-year period, according to a statement from the Chinese company.
London Stock Exchange marks 50 years of female traders
Quite a milestone for the London Stock Exchange:
Today we celebrated the 50th anniversary of women's admittance to the LSE #trading floor. London’s markets were opened by special guests Hilary Pearson (ne'e Root) and Susan Shaw, two of the first women members of the LSE trading floor. #WomeninFinance https://t.co/mAC0SN8KKc pic.twitter.com/2Wq2Otc67P
— London Stock Exchange (@LSEplc) March 27, 2023
Tortilla suffers loss as Ukraine war increases food prices
Burrito chain Tortilla Mexican Grill has revealed it swung to a loss last year as it came under pressure from "unprecedented" food and energy costs, and avoided raising its prices above inflation.
The fast-casual restaurant chain insisted its sales have benefited from consumers opting for value-for-money meals over dining out at restaurants.
Its revenues jumped by a fifth to a record-high £58m in 2022, after it opened 18 new restaurants across the UK.
But the company, which acquired rival Mexican chain Chilango last year, revealed that it made a pre-tax loss of £600,000 over the year, from a profit of £1.4m in 2021.
It took a hit from food inflation which drove up protein costs by 30pc, an ingredient which accounts for about a third of the cost of all the food it sells.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine in March came to "shape our year", Tortilla said, worsening food and drink inflation following the pandemic and impacting the business and its customers.
The cost implications "inevitably" had an impact on profitability, the group said.
Travelodge bids to team up with councils to build 300 hotels
Hotel chain Travelodge is writing to 220 local authorities across Britain proposing a joint development partnership aimed at stimulating regeneration and economic growth.
Travelodge said it has identified that it can expand its UK hotel network with a further 300 locations for new hotels.
The company said the expansion programme could represent an investment of around £3bn for third-party investors and create more than 9,000 jobs across the UK.
Steve Bennett, Travelodge's chief property and development officer, said:
In the current climate, local authorities are under extreme pressure to invest in their economy and support regeneration projects.
This is why we are today writing to 220 local authorities to offer our support, as we can make a real difference.
Our effective, innovative co-partnership development deals are spearheading regional economic growth and providing a solid long-term revenue stream.
Britain is now a nation of budget travellers, with more of us choosing to stay in budget hotels than any other hotel type, and this trend is set to grow, which is why we are looking to expand our UK hotel network with a further 300 hotels.
Pound rises as traders expect more interest rate increases
The pound has inched up against the dollar as traders expect more increases in interest rates from the Bank of England.
Money markets imply there will be another 34 basis points of interest rate increases from the Monetary Policy Committee before they stop raising borrowing costs.
On Friday this figure stood at 27 basis points.
It comes as Barclays raised its terminal rate forecast by a quarter point to 4.5pc.
The pound has risen 0.2pc against the dollar and is worth more than $1.22. The euro has dropped 0.2pc against sterling and is worth around 88p.
Bond yields rise as Silicon Valley Bank takeover soothes concerns
Bond yields have risen as concerns about the global financial turmoil ease following the takeover of Silicon Valley Bank in the US.
The yield on two-year UK Government gilts have climbed 11 basis points to 3.283pc, while 10-year bond yields rose nine basis points to 3.367pc.
In the US, the two year yield is up nearly 12 basis points to 3.883pc, with the 10-year yield up six points to 3.436pc.
Two major bank failures in the US and the emergency takeover of Credit Suisse in Europe have knocked market confidence, sending investors to the safety of bonds and causing a major reversal of bets on how high central banks can now lift interest rates.
However, the mood brightened somewhat after First Citizens bought all the loans and deposits of failed US lender Silicon Valley Bank, sending bond prices falling.
The UK arm of SVB was bought by HSBC in the days following its takeover by US regulators earlier this month.
Bank turmoil has potential to trigger financial crisis, warns lender
The turmoil that has led to the takeovers of Silicon Valley Bank and Credit Suisse could become a global financial crisis, the head of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group has warned.
Shayne Elliott, chief executive of ANZ, said the cause of the failures that have rocked markets worldwide has been inflation and central banks raising rates "very quickly in order to combat that".
It comes as Silicon Valley Bank, which triggered a selloff in banking stocks when it was taken over by US regulators earlier this month, was taken over today by rival First Citizens.
Markets have rallied following the news, with banks across the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 rising by 1.2pc by this afternoon.
Mr Elliott said it was early to predict where today's crisis could bring one similar to that in 2008.
In an interview on ANZ's website, he said:
It's a crisis for some obviously, but is it a financial crisis, who knows?
Does it have the potential to be one? Yes, it does have the potential to be one.
Alibaba founder Jack Ma returns to China
Alibaba founder Jack Ma has returned to China, ending a more than year-long sojourn overseas that was viewed by industry as reflecting the sober mood of China's private businesses.
Mr Ma, one of China's best known entrepreneurs, left mainland China in late 2021 and has been seen in photographs in Japan, Australia and Thailand in the months since.
Once one of the country's most outspoken businessmen, he retreated from the public limelight in late 2020 after criticising China's regulatory system that was later blamed for triggering a wide-ranging regulatory crackdown by Beijing.
While Chinese authorities said in recent months they had ended the crackdown and would look for ways to support the private sector, Chinese entrepreneurs said they saw Mr Ma's decision to stay overseas as a factor hindering confidence.
Alibaba shares in Hong Kong rose more than 4pc after the South China Morning Post reported his return.
Prince Harry arrives at High Court for action against Mail publisher
The Duke of Sussex has arrived at the High Court in London for a hearing in his claim against Daily Mail publisher Associated Newspapers over allegations of unlawful information gathering.
He is among a group of high-profile individuals bringing the claims, including Sir Elton John and his husband David Furnish, and actresses Liz Hurley and Sadie Frost.
Their lawyers said at that time the group have "become aware of compelling and highly distressing evidence that they have been the victims of abhorrent criminal activity and gross breaches of privacy" by Associated Newspapers, which is also the publisher of The Mail On Sunday and MailOnline.
In a statement announcing the launch of the legal action in October, released by Hamlins law firm, it was alleged the unlawful acts included hiring private investigators to secretly place listening devices inside cars and homes and the recording of private phone conversations.
The publisher hit back at the allegations, describing them at the time as "preposterous smears" and a "pre-planned and orchestrated attempt to drag the Mail titles into the phone-hacking scandal".
A spokesperson for Associated Newspapers also said the allegations were "unsubstantiated and highly defamatory claims, based on no credible evidence".
German airports closed during travel strikes
German airports and rail services have ground to a halt as workers stage a one-day strike over pay.
The industrial action began at midnight Sunday for 24 hours and also affects some ports, with the Verdi and EVG transport and railway unions expecting severe disruption to travel.
Major airports including Frankfurt and Munich will not operate today as Verdi demands a raise of 10.5pc for public sector workers.
Frankfurt Airport advised passengers changing planes to avoid the hub. Long-distance, regional and local trains operated by Deutsche Bahn and other railway will also come to a standstill, EVG said.
Verdi Hamburg on Saturday said it has made agreements with all affected companies in order to guarantee safe passage in the event of accidents, emergency landings or medical or patient transport.
China stocks fall as industrial profits slump
Chinese and Hong Kong's stock markets have closed lower after they were dragged down by state-owned enterprises and tech shares following a slump in China's industrial profit.
China's blue-chip CSI300 Index and the Shanghai Composite Index both closed down 0.4pc, while Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng Index was down 1.8pc, and the China Enterprises Index lost 2.2pc.
Profits at industrial firms in China declined 22.9pc in the first two months of 2023 from the year before, as the factory sector struggles to claw its way out of the slump caused by Covid-related disruptions.
Levelling up has 'gone backwards,' says L&G boss
The UK has "gone backwards" in its effort to level up the regions and spread prosperity outside of London, according to Legal & General chief executive Nigel Wilson.
A series of shocks, sky-high inflation and a lack of investment have left vast swathes of the UK suffering through a historic fall in living standards, Mr Wilson said.
His comments came as L&G – the UK's largest investor – published its quarterly Rebuilding Britain Index, which showed that the prosperity gap between London and the poorest parts of the country was widening.
This will come as a blow to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, who billed unveiled his "Budget for growth" earlier this month.
It included several measures designed to improve regional inequality, such as plans for 12 low-tax "investment zones" across the country and more than £760m for local projects.
Mr Wilson called on the Government to "stop playing on the fringes" and push ahead with planning reform and investment partnerships "if it is serious about levelling up". He said:
Levelling up hasn't really started, has it? It's gone backwards.
When we launched the index we thought going forward we'd be calibrating the progress that's been made. But it turns out it's been negative.
Three companies behind 70pc of forced prepayment meter installations
Three UK energy suppliers were responsible for more than 70pc of prepayment meters installed under court order, government figures show.
There has been outrage at the practice of forcing vulnerable households to use the pay-as-you-go meters, which typically turn out more expensive than paying by direct debit.
A government ban on court-ordered installations was introduced last month but is set to end in April.
British Gas, which is owned by Centrica, Iberdrola's Scottish Power unit and Ovo Energy accounted for almost three-quarters of the 94,000 prepayment meters installed under warrant in 2022, the figures show.
An average of more than 7,500 such meters were forcibly installed each month.
US faces recession this year, economists predict
The United States will likely enter a recession this year and face high inflation well into 2024, a majority of economists predicted in their response to a major survey.
More than two-thirds of respondents to the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) Policy Survey also see inflation remaining above 4pc at the end of this year.
The survey summarized the responses of 217 NABE members, and was conducted between March 2 and March 10, the organisation said in a statement.
The US Federal Reserve has raised rates 4.75 percentage points in a bid to tackle rising inflation, which reached its highest level in decades last year.
Price rises slowed slightly to an annual level of 6pc in February, which is well above the Fed's long-term target of two percent.
Amid the gloomy economic forecast, there was also some good news, with just five percent of respondents believing the US is currently in the midst of a recession, "far fewer" than the 19pc in its previous economic survey, the NABE president Julia Coronado said in a statement.
Surge in bank stocks boost FTSE 100
Shares have surged in early trading, helped by a gain in bank stocks on renewed hopes that the turmoil in the sector will be contained following the buyout of Silicon Valley Bank.
Overall, banks rose much as 2pc across the FTSE 100 and 250, as US lender First Citizens said it would purchase the loans and deposits of Silicon Valley Bank.
Meanwhile Standard Chartered jumped after agreeing to sell its Jordanian business.
It rose rose as much as 2.2pc after the lender said it would sell the business to Arab Jordan Investment Bank (AJIB) as part of its plan to narrow its focus to faster-growing markets in the region.
The blue-chip FTSE 100 gained as much as 1pc, while the domestically-oriented FTSE 250 added as much as 0.8pc.
Bucking the trend, Genel Energy tanked 8pc after the Iraq-Turkey pipeline was shut down, despite the Iraqi Kurdistan-focused firm expecting the shutdown to be temporary.
Saudi National Bank chairman quits after triggering Credit Suisse turmoil
The chairman of Credit Suisse's largest shareholder has quit after his comments helped trigger the slump in its shares that led to its rescue.
Ammar Al Khudairy has resigned from Saudi National Bank "due to personal reasons," days after saying he would "absolutely not" inject more cash into the struggling Swiss bank.
Credit Suisse's stock plunged to its lowest level on record following his comments during an interview.
That helped drag all European banks lower as investors shied away from risk following the collapse of three lenders in the US.
It also hammered Saudi National Bank's 9.9pc stake in Credit Suisse, which it acquired for 1.4bn Swiss francs (£1.3bn) in November last year.
UBS later agreed to buy Credit Suisse for 3 billion francs (£2.7bn) in an historic, government-brokered deal aimed at containing the crisis of confidence that had started to spread across markets worldwide.
The chief executive of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group said today that the banking turmoil has the "potential" to lead to another global financial crisis.
Mr Al Khudairy will be replaced as chairman by Saudi National Bank chief executive Saeed Mohammed Al Ghamdi.
Markets jump at the open
Markets have begun the day higher after the deal for Silicon Valley Bank eased concerns about the banking sector.
The FTSE 100 has climbed 1pc after the open to 7,482.20 and the FTSE 250 has climbed 0.8pc to 18,642.04.
Barclays increases forecast for peak of interest rates
Barclays has raised its prediction for the peak of interest rates following the Bank of England's 11th straight hike last week.
The lender lifted its terminal rate forecast by a quarter point to 4.5pc, having expected a pause in the series of rate rises last week following the global banking sector concerns.
Amid rising inflation, the British bank retained its call for another quarter percentage point hike in May.
Barclays also raised its forecast for UK economy, with its economists led by Marian Cena saying its predictions now imply a "minimal recession".
They expect 2023 GDP to contract by 0.3pc year-on-year.
Following the hikes this year, Barclays projects 100 bps of cuts to the BoE's bank rate in the second half of next year, 50 bps more than its previous prediction. It sees the rate ending at 3.5pc next year.
Silicon Valley Bank bought by rival amid banking turmoil
A buyer has been found for Silicon Valley Bank, the troubled US regional lender which sparked global turmoil in the banking sector following its sudden collapse earlier this month.
First Citizens has agreed to purchase all loans and deposits from the Californian lender in a deal which it is hoped will restore calm to financial markets.
SVB, a key lender to the tech industry since the 1980s, became the biggest US bank to fail since 2008 when regulators seized it after a sudden run on deposits.
Its UK arm was bought by HSBC for £1 in the days afterwards.
US regulators created Silicon Valley Bridge Bank from SVB after the collapse, and that entity will be taken over by First Citizens from Monday.
First Citizens said it had agreed to purchase "substantially all loans and certain other assets, and assume all customer deposits and certain other liabilities of Silicon Valley Bridge Bank."
"The transaction is structured as a whole bank purchase with loss share coverage," it said in a statement.
It said the 17 former branches of SVB will open on Monday as "Silicon Valley Bank, a division of First Citizens Bank."
The US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) said Sunday the transaction covers $119 billion in deposits and $72 billion in assets.
SVB's collapse sparked a crisis of confidence among the customers of similarly sized US banks, with many withdrawing their money and depositing it into bigger institutions seen as too big for the government to not bail them out in a crisis.
The turmoil also spread to Europe, where troubled Swiss lender Credit Suisse was taken over by UBS.
Most recently, shares in long-troubled Deutsche Bank fell heavily on Friday on the lender's surging cost of default cover, reigniting fears about a widening banking sector crisis.
Despite global contagion fears, central banks have pushed on with monetary tightening as they focus on fighting inflation - even though the troubles in the banking sector have been linked to their rate hikes.
The buyer for large chunks of Silicon Valley Bank's deposits and loans has helped cast an uneasy calm over fragile markets, which have been roiled by worries of a credit crunch and systemic bank stress.
First Citizens Bank bought all the loans and deposits of SVB and gave the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp equity appreciation rights in its stock worth as much as $500m in return, the FDIC said in statement.
Seventeen former SVB branches will open as First Citizen branches on today.
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What happened overnight
Asian shares fluctuated in cautious trading, with the deal for Silicon Valley Bank easing the turmoil on markets.
Tokyo stocks closed higher, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 index rising 0.3pc to end at 27,476.87, while the broader Topix index also added 0.3pc to 1,961.84.
However, Chinese markets declined after the government reported that industrial profits fell nearly 23pc in the first two months of the year from a year earlier.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng gave up 0.5pc to 19,815.03 and the Shanghai Composite index lost 1.1pc to 3,231.28.