Morning business round-up: Fears of 'currency wars'

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France is set to voice concerns about the strength of the euro at a meeting of eurozone finance ministers later.

French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici is worried that the rising single currency is making the country's goods less competitive.

The euro has risen by 6% against a basket of other currencies in the past six months, but with other countries also wanting to weaken their exchange rates, there are renewed fears of "currency wars".

Last week, European Central Bank president Mario Draghi was deemed to be trying to talk down the euro at his press conference following the bank's latest rate decision.

This appeared to have some effect, with the euro dropping sharply. However, on Monday morning the euro rebounded, jumping more than 1% against both the yen and the pound.

The euro was up 1.1% at 125.30 yen, while against the pound it rose 1% to 85.41 pence.

Barclays misled shareholders and the public about one of the biggest investments in the bank's history, an investigation by the BBC Panorama programme has found.

The bank announced in 2008 that Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour had agreed to invest more than £3bn.

But the BBC found that the money, which helped Barclays avoid a bailout by British taxpayers, actually came from the Abu Dhabi government.

Barclays said the mistake in its accounts was "a drafting error".

French ministers are to hold talks with key players in the meat industry as the horsemeat scandal widens to up to 16 countries.

Seven French supermarket chains have withdrawn frozen beef meals made by Findus and Comigel.

The move followed the discovery that foods sold in Europe labelled as beef contained horsemeat.

The scandal has raised questions about the complexity of the food industry's supply chains across the EU, and it has already had an impact on distributors in the UK, France, Sweden, Ireland and Romania.

It is feared that food products in a further 11 EU countries may be affected.

Technology giants Apple, Microsoft and Adobe have been called by the Australian parliament to appear before a committee looking at pricing levels.

The House of Representatives launched an investigation in July last year to see if some goods were more expensive in Australia than in other parts of the world.

Consumer bodies have often complained that Australians are overcharged.

The firms have previously made written submissions to the committee, but have so far declined to appear in person. They are now scheduled to appear before the committee on 22 March.

Staying in Australia, figures have shown that home-loan approvals in the country have fallen for a third month, despite the central bank cutting its main interest rates.

Approvals fell 1.5% in December from November.

Australia's central bank cut interest rates four times in 2012 in an attempt to boost investment and growth in non-mining sectors such as construction.

However, analysts said many mortgage lenders had not passed on the lower borrowing costs, while consumers feared that rates may climb again.

In the UK, confidence among businesses hit its lowest level in at least 21 years last month, a survey has suggested.

Accountancy firm BDO, which published the survey, says its findings indicate that the economy will struggle to grow in the first quarter of this year.

That is despite signs of improvement in the labour market, it says, with firms intending to hire more staff.

On the latest Business Daily podcast from the BBC World Service, Uganda's central bank governor speaks of his frustration with the banks who refuse to lower their high interest rates. The programme also looks at debt problems in Uganda, and the scourge of inflation - how it affects ordinary people.

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BBC Business Live

  1.  
    'SICK' FRANCE 10:36:
    Emmanuel Macron

    "France is sick," the country's new economy minister Emmanuel Macron has told French radio. He said France has no choice but to "reform the economy". Unemployment is currently at a record 10% and there's been no growth for two quarters. Meanwhile the government budget deficit is expanding. The Business live page wishes Mr Macron good luck.

     
  2.  
    UNEMPLOYMENT 10:14:
    Iain Duncan Smith

    Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith tells the BBC News Channel that pay in the financial services industry is distorting current average wage growth statistics. He says pay rises in the manufacturing industry are up 2% year on year. He also points out that food prices are coming down and inflation generally is falling.

     
  3.  
    Via Twitter Andrew Sentance, former member of Monetary Policy Committee

    tweets: "UK unemployment rate at 6.2% & still falling sharply. At current rate of decline it'll be <5% next summer - pushing up pay & inflation."

     
  4.  
    WAGE GROWTH 09:58:
    Hand and coins

    The ONS data shows average pay was 0.6% higher in the three months to July, compared to a year earlier. That's an improvement on the previous figure which showed a 0.2% decline. Pay excluding bonuses also rose slightly by 0.7%, the previous figures was 0.6%. Pay rises are still running well below the rate of inflation. On Tuesday data showed consumer price inflation running at 1.5% in August.

     
  5.  
    INTEREST RATES 09:35:

    There was no change in voting patterns at the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee at September's meeting. Two members voted in favour of raising interest rates to 0.75%.

     
  6.  
    UNEMPLOYMENT 09:32: Breaking News

    The unemployment total fell by 146,000 to 2.02 million in the three months to the end of July, official figures show. The Office for National Statistic said the unemployment rate for the period was 6.2%, down from the previous level of 6.4%.

     
  7.  
    EUROPEAN CAR SALES 09:27:
    The new body of the Volkswagen Passat

    Car sales across Europe rose for the 12th month in a row industry figures show today. They were 1.8% higher at 701,118 in August, from 688,464 a year-earlier the Association of European Carmakers (ACEA) says. Volkswagen, Ford and Opel all benefited from improved demand in Spain, Portugal and Ireland. But car sales in Germany - Europe's largest car market - were 0.4% lower.

     
  8.  
    INTEREST RATES 09:20:

    At 09:30 the Bank of England publishes minutes from the interest rate policy meeting in September. In August's meeting two members of nine-strong monetary policy committee voted to raise interest rates. Will others have joined them in September? Watch this space.

     
  9.  
    Via Twitter Kevin Peachey Personal finance reporter, BBC News

    tweets: "Hold music among biggest consumer service irritations says @WhichUK survey - any views on the most annoying?"

     
  10.  
    TECH SHARES ARE UP 09:04:
    imagination technologies

    Shares in two of Britain's most successful technology companies are sharply higher this morning. Imagination Technologies, which designs chips for mobile devices, has seen its shares jump 6%. That's after the company forecast a strong performance in the second half of the year. Fellow chip designer, ARM Holdings is leading the FTSE 100 higher with a 1.9% gain.

     
  11.  
    HEADLINES
     
  12.  
    MARKET UPDATE 08:34:

    Shares in London are higher in early trading with the FTSE 100 up 16 points

    • Smiths Group slumps 5.4% after sales fall
    • JD Sports up 2.7% following half year results
    • Pound slightly higher at $1.6296
     
  13.  
    SCOTTISH REFERENDUM 08:26: BBC Radio 4

    Former Bank of England Deputy Governor, Sir John Gieve says the Bank is "a creature of Westminster" and will be an adviser in any currency negotiations. "I think it could work, " he says of currency union but adds it "relies on careful negotiation". A lot of policy decision would remain in London, he adds. If the economies of Scotland and the rest of the UK began to diverge more than they do at present that could be a problem.

     
  14.  
    INTERNET OF THINGS 08:17: BBC Radio 4

    The Internet of Things is a phrase bandied around. ARM Holdings boss, Simon Segars is fresh from a conference about it - but it all sounds a bit pedestrian. Mr Segars says one example is a coffee cup that has a microchip in it that could tell you if you're consuming too much coffee. There is already a fork that can tell you if you are eating too quickly. On Today he also mentions apps that help you find a parking space.

     
  15.  
    JD SPORTS 08:11: Radio 5 live

    We're not far off being saturated with sports shops in the UK says Peter Cowgill, executive chairman of JD Sports on Radio 5 live. But the company is having "significant success" competing in Spain, German, France and the Netherlands.

     
  16.  
    PHONES 4U RESCUE 07:57: BBC Radio 4

    It is "perhaps not surprising" that Vodafone and EE are looking at buying parts of Phones4U now that it is in administration, says Laura Lambie of Investec Wealth and Investment on Today. Both EE and Vodafone had been approached by Phones 4U which tried to interest them in buying the retailer, she says. After refusing that approach, Vodafone and EE are now looking "to pick up assets on the cheap", according to Ms Lambie.

     
  17.  
    SONY PROFIT WARNING 07:50:
    xperia phones

    The profit warning at Sony is the result of a review of its mobile phone business. It says there has been "a significant change in the market and competitive environment". As a result, it has taken a £1bn charge to reflect the loss of value of the mobile business. It is reducing the number of models it produces and is concentrating on a premium lineup.

     
  18.  
    JD SPORTS PROFITS 07:36: BBC Radio 4

    "The high street is alive and well," says Peter Cowgill, executive chairman of JD Sports on Today. The retailer has a strong presence in shopping malls and online but Mr Cowgill says a high street presence is "still very important to JD Sports". The retailer has a contingency plan if Scotland votes Yes to independence. But he adds: "We don't think there will be a major impact on our trade. We think there will be no change to prices [if Scotland votes Yes]."

     
  19.  
    SONY PROFIT WARNING 07:32: Breaking News
    Sony office

    Sony expects to report a much deeper loss this year than originally forecast. The firm now expects a loss of 230bn yen (£1.3bn) for the year which ends 31 March. Its previous forecast was for a 50bn yen loss.

     
  20.  
    JD SPORTS PROFITS 07:29:

    Profits at retailer JD Sports doubled in the first half of the year. Before exceptional items it made a pre-tax profit of £19.9m. Sales at stores open for more than a year rose 13% from the same period a year ago. But its fashion business which includes Scotts and Bank had a "disappointing" first half, the company said.

     
  21.  
    INDITEX RESULTS 07:10:
    Zara store

    The world's biggest clothing retailer, Inditex has posted a 2.4% fall in first half net profit. The owner of Zara, made 928m euros (£738m). That was not as bad as some analysts were expecting. The company also said that sales for the start of the third quarter rose 10%.

     
  22.  
    SPACESHIP CONTRACT 06:56: Radio 5 live
    Space X Capsule

    Nasa has awarded up to $6.2bn (£3.8bn) to Boeing and SpaceX to develop space vehicles that can take crew into space. The firms are aiming to have their spaceships ready by 2017. Since the space shuttles were retired in 2011, the Americans have relied on Russia and its Soyuz vehicles to get to the International Space Station.

     
  23.  
    SCOTTISH REFERENDUM 06:38: BBC Radio 4
    Scottish bank notes

    Former Bank of England deputy governor Sir John Gieve tells the Today programme he expects Bank staff to be at work very early on Friday morning to try to calm markets, whichever way Scotland votes in the independence referendum. In particular, the Bank will be busying itself with the possibility of "deposit flight" so that "we don't get the sort of panic that there was with Northern Rock". That means for starters making sure that cash machines remain fully stocked.

     
  24.  
    ARM CHIEF EXECUTIVE 06:27: Radio 5 live
    Arm processor

    It's arguably Britain's most successful technology company, but you may have never heard of it. ARM designs computer chips and is worth almost twice as much as Marks and Spencer. On Wake Up to Money chief executive Simon Segars says most of the firm's customers are in California, China, Taiwan and South Korea. "It's a shame" there are not more technology companies in the UK, he says. People have been keener to go into financial services, Mr Segars says.

     
  25.  
    SCOTTISH REFERENDUM 06:16: Radio 5 live

    Whichever way the Scottish independence vote goes, the business impact "remains unclear" says Nora Senior, chair at Scottish Chambers of Commerce on Wake Up to Money. Big questions over currency, Europe, debt, pensions and tax were raised in the run up to the vote, she says. "Business wants a decision that is clear and swiftly executed," Ms Senior says.

     
  26.  
    BEREAVEMENT AND WORK 06:10: Radio 5 live

    A third of employees who have suffered bereavement in the past five years felt that they had not been treated with compassion by their employer, according to a survey by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS). It is launching guidance for companies. "Managers need appropriate training and support," said Sir Brendan Barber, ACAS chair on Wake Up to Money.

     
  27.  
    PHONES 4U RESCUE 06:00:
    Phones 4U sign

    The Financial Times is reporting that Vodafone and EE have approached the administrators of Phones 4U about buying parts of the failed business. Around 550 shops and 6,000 jobs are at risk. The private equity owners of Phones 4U and its founder, John Caudwell have blamed the aggressive tactics of EE and Vodafone for the collapse of the firm. Both network operators deny those accusations.

     
  28.  
    05:59: Matthew West Business Reporter

    Morning everyone. As always you can get in touch with us via email on bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk or twitter @bbcbusiness.

     
  29.  
    05:59: Ben Morris Business Reporter

    We'll get the latest unemployment figures and data on earnings at 09:30 this morning. Plus the Financial Times says that Vodafone and EE are looking to buy parts of their former customer, Phones 4U. Stay with us.

     

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