• Travelex falls into administration, shedding 1,300 jobs Link
    Guardian Business Thu 06 Aug 2020 19:19

    Foreign exchange firm Travelex has collapsed into administration, with the immediate loss of more than 1,300 job.

    Advisory firm PwC has been appointed to carry out a complex restructuring deal and pre-pack administration, which allows buyers to cherry pick the best assets and ditch those they don’t want.

    The administrators said the impact of a cyber attack in December and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic had “acutely impacted the business.”

    A special purpose vehicle made up from a group of its creditors have bought the UK business which serves major corporate and supermarket customers,and the ATMs located outside UK airports. They have also acquired Travelex operations in Brazil, Middle East and Turkey, Nigeria and Asia Pacific.

    However, a number of other locations had not been sold, including some of its airport sites, as the majority of the UK retail business is no longer trading. The foreign currency business has been hit hard by...

  • Affordable housing 'will diminish due to UK planning changes' Link
    Guardian Business Thu 06 Aug 2020 18:19

    Big changes to the planning system that provides nearly half of England’s affordable housing were criticised on Thursday as “potentially disastrous”, as moves to radically overhaul planning also created unease among some in the Conservative ranks.

    Changes envisaged in a long awaited White Paper published on Thursday were criticised by the umbrella body for London councils, which joined others in warning that the amount of new affordable housing could be reduced.

    A fresh spotlight also fell on the Tory party’s relationship with developers as Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, found himself once again on the defensive over a recent personal controversy involving the billionaire Richard Desmond.

    The publication of Planning for the Future, a plan aimed at delivering a target of 300,000 new homes a year in England, kickstarted a 12-week consultation process.

  • Making Christmas wishes come true | Brief letters Link
    Guardian Business Thu 06 Aug 2020 17:19

    In 1986 a friend asked her class of six-year-olds to write letters to Father Christmas. Most of the class asked for a My Little Pony or a Transformer, but one boy just wrote a column of seven-digit numbers. It seems he had memorised the Argos catalogue numbers for the items he wanted and thought it would save Father Christmas some time (The Argos catalogue: why Britain’s love affair with The Book of Dreams had to end, 6 August).Dee ReidTwyford, Berkshire

    • The idiotic “eat out to help out” scheme (Editorial, 5 August) has a further shortcoming. Restaurants that automatically add service to the bill calculate this after subtracting the government discount. Some of the worst-paid workers are being robbed of up to half of their tips.Richard PlattHastings, East Sussex

    • When I was in the army, my copy of the Guardian was delivered to the guardroom – and committed to a cell for collection (Letters, 5 August).Gavin GreenwoodBrighton

    • “Velveteen breeches” (Letters,...

  • Why England's planning overhaul has sparked an outcry Link
    Guardian Business Thu 06 Aug 2020 15:24

    A once-in-a-generation transformation of planning law has been unveiled by the government as it launched a 12-week consultation on its white paper: Planning for the Future.

    But the proposals, which promise to “replace the entire corpus of plan-making law”, have sparked an outcry. Here are some of the details and areas of controversy:

  • If it's all about the economy, why are the Tories still polling better than Labour? | Larry Elliott Link
    Guardian Business Thu 06 Aug 2020 14:24

    On Monday the job axe fell at Hays Travel and DW Sports. On Tuesday it was the turn of Pizza Express and Currys PC World. On Wednesday it was WH Smith and M&Co delivering the grim news. A brutal shake-out of Britain’s labour market, caused by the deepest slump in three decades, has begun.

    Unemployment will carry on rising as companies that have kept staff on thanks to the furlough scheme are now having to make a contribution to their employment costs. Wage subsidies will be history by October, even for those businesses that remain shut. With the benefits bill rising and tax receipts falling, a Conservative party that once accused Gordon Brown of maxing out on the nation’s credit card is on course to borrow upwards of £300bn this year, comfortably a peacetime record.

    So what, it might be asked, has happened to the notion that “it’s the economy, stupid”? If things are so bad, why do opinion polls show that support for the Conservatives is holding up? Why is Labour...

  • Watchdog warns UK high-cost lenders about exploitation Link
    Guardian Business Thu 06 Aug 2020 13:54

    The UK’s financial watchdog has warned high-cost lenders about irresponsible repeat lending and exploitative marketing that risks pushing vulnerable borrowers into a cycle of debt.

    The Financial Conduct Authority warnings follow a review of the high-cost, short-term credit industry that involved the borrowing history of 250,000 customers who had taken out payday loans, guarantor loans, doorstep credit or rent-to-own products.

    The watchdog said it had “significant concerns” over repeat borrowing, which is cheaper for firms than on-boarding new clients, and accounts for about 80% of high-cost credit customers.

    It explained that the profitable practice can cause “customer harm”, with some firms fast-tracking affordability applications by simply asking whether there had been any material changes to customer finances since their last loan.

    “We are concerned that firms are lending to customers beyond levels which they can sensibly manage and causing customer...

  • Glencore shares slide as it scraps £2bn dividend and post first-half loss Link
    Guardian Business Thu 06 Aug 2020 13:24

    Mining giant Glencore has scrapped its $2.6bn (£1.97bn) dividend after slashing the value of its coal assets and plunging to a loss for the first half of the year due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

    The miner and commodities trader was the FTSE 100’s biggest faller on Thursday after revealing a net loss of $2.6bn for the first half of the year, down from a profit of $226m a year ago.

    Glencore’s shares tumbled by almost 7% to 184.26p, from almost 240p before the outbreak, after its chief executive, Ivan Glasenberg, told investors that it would be “inappropriate” to pay a shareholder dividend in 2020.

    The company’s net debt has climbed by $2bn to $19.7bn, and it was forced to writedown $3.2bn on its assets including a $1bn downgrade to the value of its Colombian coal mines.

    “The board has concluded that it would be inappropriate to make a distribution to shareholders in 2020, instead prioritising the acceleration of net...

  • Another 1.18m Americans file for unemployment as benefits expire Link
    Guardian Business Thu 06 Aug 2020 12:54

    Another 1.18 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week as economists worry the expiration of enhanced unemployment benefits will lead to a sharp drop-off in household spending and set back the US economy’s near-term recovery.

    Claims dipped last week after two weeks of rises but the latest figure from the department of labor marked the 19th week in a row that claims have topped 1m. Before the coronavirus pandemic gripped the US, the record for weekly claims was 695,000 in October 1982.

    The figures come ahead of Friday’s monthly snapshot of the job market. Economists expect the unemployment rate to have dipped to 10.6% in July from 11.1% in June, a significant drop but still three times the pre-pandemic level.

    Americans have been receiving an extra $600 in emergency benefits since March as part of the government’s coronavirus stimulus package. But that agreement expired at the end of last month and Congress is split over a...

  • What would a negative interest rate mean for UK consumers? Link
    Guardian Business Thu 06 Aug 2020 11:29

    If it’s a fixed-rate mortgage, a cut in interest rates would mean no change. Most households are on this type of deal – in recent years about nine in 10 new mortgages have been taken on a fixed rate.

  • Negative UK interest rates were once unthinkable. But tough times lay ahead Link
    Guardian Business Thu 06 Aug 2020 10:59
  • Fifty million face masks bought by government cannot be used by NHS Link
    Guardian Business Thu 06 Aug 2020 10:34

    Fifty million face masks bought by the government as part of a £252m contract will not be used in the NHS due to safety concerns.

    The masks, ordered from Ayanda Capital, have ear loops rather than head loops and there are concerns over whether they are adequate. The government confirmed in court papers that the masks, which are in the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) logistic chain, will not be used in the NHS.

    The Good Law Project and EveryDoctor, which are suing the government over its Ayanda contract, estimate the 50m masks would have cost more than £150m.

    Court papers show the government awarded the £252.5m contract to Ayanda on 29 April, with £41.25m payable on commencement to secure the manufacturing capacity.

    Ayanda also supplied 150m masks of another type, which the government says are unaffected but will be subject to further testing in the UK before any are released for NHS use.

    The government also...

  • 'The economy is a bigger mess than Covid': Kentucky fears new shutdown Link
    Guardian Business Thu 06 Aug 2020 09:34

    Business is slow at Studio 23, a hair salon just off the main drag in Pikeville, a small city in rural eastern Kentucky, so barber Derek Harris is outside chewing the fat with two maskless police officers while waiting for his first client.

    The salon reopened at the end of May, but business is down by about 20%, and Harris fears another statewide lockdown could be on the cards if coronavirus infections continue to rise. In Kentucky Covid-19 may not, yet, be a big problem but the economic impact is everywhere.

    “The salon won’t survive another shutdown, look how empty the streets are already, we have to keep the economy open no matter how bad it gets,” said Harris, 40, who is still catching up on bills after 10 weeks of unemployment.

    Several small businesses – cafes, restaurants and clothes stores – have gone bust on Pikeville’s picturesque Main Street which by late morning is still largely deserted.

    Here, like many places in the...

  • Think 'sanctions' will trouble China? Then you're stuck in the politics of the past | Ai Weiwei Link
    Guardian Business Thu 06 Aug 2020 09:03
  • The Argos catalogue: why Britain's love affair with The Book of Dreams had to end Link
    Guardian Business Thu 06 Aug 2020 08:08

    The demise of the shopping catalogue has prompted mass nostalgia. But its closure after almost 50 years shows how our buying habits have changed – and how obsessed we now are with screens

  • 11m UK households in line for £100 savings on energy bills Link
    Guardian Business Thu 06 Aug 2020 05:08

    Home energy bills for 11m households could tumble by up to £100 a year from this winter, following record low energy market prices during the Covid-19 lockdown, according to analysts.

    The energy industry regulator is expected on Friday to announce a sharp reduction to its cap on standard dual-fuel energy tariffs, which could knock between £85 and £100 a year from the average energy bill.

    Ofgem’s energy price cap, which is designed to guarantee a fair price for energy customers, is expected to fall in line with weaker wholesale market prices following record low demand for gas and electricity during Britain’s Covid-19 lockdown.

  • Covid-19 job losses sees record numbers seeking temporary work Link
    Guardian Business Wed 05 Aug 2020 23:18

    Record numbers of people in Britain are looking for temporary work as job losses across the country mount, according to recruitment firms that have been flooded with CVs.

    The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and the accountancy firm KPMG said the number of people signing up to find temporary work rose in July at the fastest pace since records began in 1997.

    The lobby group for the recruitment industry said the record increase in available candidates was largely driven by redundancies stemming from the pandemic, as rising numbers of companies across the country cut jobs.

    For permanent staff, availability grew at the second fastest rate on record – with growth in the number of people looking for work in July only surpassed to November 2008 during the depths of the financial crisis.

  • Bet against the banks but don’t bet against the insurance companies Link
    Guardian Business Wed 05 Aug 2020 21:48
  • UK office workers slower to return to their desk after Covid Link
    Guardian Business Wed 05 Aug 2020 19:23

    British office workers have returned to their desks at a much slower pace than staff in France, Germany, Italy or Spain, as they continue to work from home following the lockdown.

    Only one-third (34%) of UK white-collar employees have gone back to work, lagging far behind their European counterparts, where almost three-quarters of staff (68%) have done so, according to analysis from US bank Morgan Stanley’s research unit AlphaWise.

  • After Covid-19, just how high will prices go in the 2020 gold rush? Link
    Guardian Business Wed 05 Aug 2020 18:23

    The price of gold soared to a record $2,047 (£1,538) on Wednesday as investors panicked by fears of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic rushed to buy the yellow metal as a safer place to store their wealth.

    The gold price has risen by 34% since the start of the year, and this week broke through the $2,000 an ounce barrier and kept rising, as investors worry about Covid-19, as well as rising geopolitical tensions and the weakening of the US dollar.

  • Disney opts for digital-first release of Mulan, shocking cinema owners Link
    Guardian Business Wed 05 Aug 2020 15:28

    Disney’s decision to bypass cinemas and offer its latest big budget film Mulan directly to streaming subscribers for $29.99 could signal the beginning of the end for the traditional movie-going experience – and forever change the long-established business model underpinning the Hollywood blockbuster.

    The surprise move has stunned cinema owners, who had been banking on the film, along with Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi thriller Tenet, to jump-start box office takings as theatre chains struggle to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

    The move is seismic given Disney’s utter dominance of the worldwide box office – the company made a record $13.2bn in ticket sales last year – with cinema owners believing it would be the last Hollywood studio to look at threatening the 70- to 90-day exclusive “theatrical window” they have enjoyed at the top of the pecking order for newly released films before they head to other platforms.

    The Hollywood studios...

  • China continues to exert damaging influence on Hollywood, report finds Link
    Guardian Business Wed 05 Aug 2020 14:58

    A new report has found that the Chinese government’s influence on Hollywood is posing a serious threat to free expression.

    The 94-page study, from literary and human rights group Pen America, details the many ways that studios and film-makers continue to change “cast, plot, dialogue and settings” in an “effort to avoid antagonising Chinese officials” in films including Iron Man 3, World War Z and the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick.

    “The Chinese Communist party is increasingly shaping what global audiences see,” said James Tager, deputy director of free expression research and policy at Pen America, also a lead author of the report. “While we are all well aware of the strict controls that China’s government maintains over dissent, independent thought, and creativity within its own borders, the long arm of Chinese censorship – powered by vast economic incentives – has also reached deep into Hollywood, shaping perceptions, inculcating sensitivities,...

  • Metro Bank office staff can work from home until after flu season Link
    Guardian Business Wed 05 Aug 2020 11:03

    Metro Bank will not urge staff to return to the office until the winter flu season is over but it is ramping up hiring to handle a surge in defaults linked to the Covid-19 crisis.

    The chief executive, Daniel Frumkin, said he would not ask its 1,400 head office and back-office employees to return to their desks before 2021, given the potential for a rise in coronavirus cases during the winter months.

    “Everybody tells me, you know, flu season will be difficult and it doesn’t seem prudent to let people back in the office in October, staring into a winter that could be very difficult. It seems much more prudent to revisit the topic once we see what the winter unfolds like,” he said.

  • The UK's private debt crisis will make this recession so much worse | Christine Berry Link
    Guardian Business Wed 05 Aug 2020 09:08
  • New York unveils landmark antitrust bill that makes it easier to sue tech giants Link
    Guardian Business Wed 05 Aug 2020 08:38

    New York state is introducing a bill that would make it easier to sue big tech companies for alleged abuses of their monopoly powers.

    New York is America’s financial center and one of its most important tech hubs. If successfully passed, the law could serve as a model for future legislation across the country. It also comes as a federal committee is conducting an anti-trust investigation into tech giants amid concerns that their unmatched market power is suppressing competition.

    Bill S8700A, now being discussed by New York’s senate consumer protection committee, would update New York’s antiquated antitrust laws for the 21st century, said the bill’s sponsor, Senator Mike Gianaris.

    “Their power has grown to dangerous levels and we need to start reining them in,” he said.

  • Thanks for the free Pret, Rishi: but let's not make a meal out of it | Joel Golby Link
    Guardian Business Wed 05 Aug 2020 08:08
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