Morning business round-up: EU-US free-trade talks

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What's making the business news in Asia and Europe this morning? Here's our daily business round-up:

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The European Union and the US are to begin formal talks on a free-trade agreement, paving the way for the biggest trade deal in history.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso made the joint announcement following President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.

A deal would bring down trading barriers between the two biggest economies in the world.

EU-US trade is worth around 455bn euros (£393bn; $613bn) a year.

Dutch banking and insurance group ING has announced a further 2,400 job cuts as it prepares to split its banking and insurance operations.

It that 1,400 jobs would go from its retail banking business in the Netherlands, with a further 1,000 jobs going at ING Belgium.

ING hopes the move will eventually result in combined cost savings of 270m euros ($364m; £230m) a year.

It takes the total job cuts at the bank to 7,500 in the past 15 months.

The announcement came as ING reported a 21% rise in net profit for the fourth quarter to 1.43bn euros, thanks to gains from asset sales.

French carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroen has reported a net loss of 5bn euros ($6.7bn; £4.3bn) for 2012, compared with a 588m euro profit a year earlier.

The loss was mainly due to asset write-downs of 4.7bn euros which Peugeot took to reflect the worsening state of Europe's car market.

Last year, Peugeot announced a programme to cut its costs by 1bn euros in response to falling sales, including the closure of one factory.

The US has approved the sale of Canadian oil firm Nexen to China's state-owned CNOOC, clearing the way for the deal to be completed.

The deal had been backed by Canadian authorities but needed US approval as Nexen has operations in the country.

There have been concerns over China's access to key US assets, and regulators had previously blocked an attempt by CNOOC to buy a US-based firm.

The $15.1bn (£9.4bn) deal is China's largest foreign takeover.

In the UK, the governor of the Bank of England has said that the economy has "cause for optimism".

Sir Mervyn King, presenting the Bank's latest Quarterly Inflation Report, said a recovery was "in sight", but added that the outlook for inflation had worsened since November.

He now expects the inflation rate, currently 2.7%, to rise to at least 3% by the summer and to remain above the Bank's 2% target for two years.

The Bank's last report in November said that inflation would fall back towards its 2% target in the second half of this year.

In the latest Business Daily podcast from the BBC World Service - the three lives of Ping Fu. Beginning life as an orphan, she became a Chinese political prisoner, then relaunched as a pioneer of the high-tech revolution. Today she is one of America's top business entrepreneurs and she tells us her story.

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BBC Business Live

  1.  
    LISTEN AGAIN 12:15: World Service
    Russia

    The conflict in Ukraine is intensifying and the EU is preparing a new wave of sanctions against Russia, but what leverage does it have left? Business Daily talks to Lilit Gevorgyan, senior Russian analyst at IHS, who says Europe's dependence on Russian gas will limit their room to move.

     
  2.  
    GERMAN SURPLUS 12:00:

    Germany posted a surplus in its public finances for the first six months of 2014, while economic growth faltered. The country's local and national budgets had a surplus of 16.1bn euros (£12.7bn), helped by high employment.

     
  3.  
    TRUCK WARNING 11:40:
    Trucks

    The Daily Mail reports that lorry drivers are being ordered to avoid the French port of Calais, because of confrontations with migrants - some of them armed - who are trying to get to Britain. The Times says Britons returning from summer holidays with caravans and motor-homes are also being targeted by groups of migrants trying to break into their vehicles.

     
  4.  
    UK MANUFACTURING Via Email Robin Johnson head of diversified industrials at law firm Eversheds

    "Everything still points to a strong and sustainable recovery in manufacturing in the UK. The weakness of the eurozone is a negative impact as is the strength of sterling. Long term investment in training and research and development must also be maintained... While today's numbers may show a slight dip, the overall long term prognosis is very positive."

     
  5.  
    RAIL OVERTIME BAN 11:12:

    Rail managers plan a three-week ban on weekend overtime which they say may disrupt travel across the network. More than 2,000 members of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) are protesting at a below-inflation pay offer and will begin industrial action on Friday.

     
  6.  
    RUSSIAN SANCTIONS 10:55:
    Russian President Vladimir Putin

    Russian President Vladimir Putin said he hopes "common sense" will win the day concerning the prospect of more sanctions, according to Russian news agency Interfax. "I hope that common sense will prevail and we will work in a normal modern way, and that neither we nor our partners will bear the costs of these mutual jabs," the agency reported him as saying.

     
  7.  
    SCHOOL COMPUTING Via Twitter Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

    tweets: New computing curriculum in England comes in this term and will mean children as young as 5 will learn about algorithms - blog from me later

     
  8.  
    NATO COMES TO NEWPORT 10:25:
    Celtic Manor Resort, Newport

    "Every hotel between Swansea and Swindon" will be fully booked as a result of the Nato summit coming to Newport in Wales. That's according to Simon Gibson, director of the Celtic Manor resort, where the event will take place on Thursday. He added there could be "lucrative benefits if Wales showcases itself correctly" and that the summit was a "massive opportunity" for the Welsh economy.

     
  9.  
    EUROZONE MANUFACTURING 10:10:
    Flags

    News from the Eurozone is no better, alas. Manufacturing growth slowed to a 13-month low in August, as the PMI reading dipped to 50.7 - down from 51.8 in July. New orders dwindled and factories suffered amid rising tensions between the EU and Russia over Ukraine.

     
  10.  
    HEADLINES
    • UK and EU manufacturing growth slows
    • Fund manager abandons HSBC over fines
    • Mortgage approvals fall in UK
     
  11.  
    UK MANUFACTURING 09:56:

    The UK's manufacturing industry grew at the slowest rate in 14 months in August, following a drop in new orders. The Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index, or PMI, fell to 52.5, the lowest since June last year. A reading above 50 indicates growth.

     
  12.  
    WOODFORD ABANDONS HSBC 09:39:
    HSBC

    Neil Woodford, one of the UK's most well-known fund managers, has sold his stake in HSBC. "I am worried that the ongoing investigation into the historic manipulation of Libor and foreign exchange markets could expose HSBC to significant financial penalties," he said on his website. Mr Woodford had 2.68% of his fund's assets invested in HSBC, a package worth £64m at the time of sale.

     
  13.  
    UK MORTGAGES 09:33:

    The Bank of England says British mortgage approvals fell slightly in July compared with the previous month, to 66,569. In January, the measure reached 76,000, but has been wavering as the housing market shows some signs of cooling.

     
  14.  
    MARKET REPORT 09:26:

    The major European stock markets have had a muted start this morning.

    • The FTSE 100 is down 0.12% at 6811.88
    • The Dax is up 0.02% at 9472.17
    • The Cac 40 is down 0.12% at 4375.75

    BAE Systems is the biggest winner in London, up almost 3%, while Morrison Supermarkets has dropped 2.25%.

     
  15.  
    ISLAND FLING 09:11:
    Apia

    Some conferences are more appealing than others. The third UN Conference on Small Island Developing States begins in Apia, Samoa today. Some 50 countries are invited, and the agenda covers a wide-range of topics, including sustainable energy, water and sanitation, and biodiversity.

     
  16.  
    Via Twitter Jamie McGeever, chief markets correspondent for Europe, Reuters

    tweets: "Italian manufacturing sector contracts for first time in over a year. PMI falls to 49.8 in Aug from 51.9 in July, expected 50.8."

     
  17.  
    PERFORM BUYOUT 08:50:

    Perform Group, which owns the Omnisport sport news agency, rose 26% to 256.7 pence in London after Access Industries Group said it would buy the company. It already owns 42.5%.

     
  18.  
    SAMSUNG EXPANDS 08:35:
    Samsung

    South Korean giant Samsung Group is to become even bigger, Bloomberg reports, after merging its shipbuilding and engineering units. Shares in both firms rose as a result of the announcement.

     
  19.  
    ECUADOR'S BITCOIN 08:19:

    Ecuador says its new digital currency will begin circulating in December. The electronic money will be the first backed by a central bank, and will work alongside the country's current currency - the US dollar. The president says it will help poorer people gain access to banking.

     
  20.  
    MICROSOFT ULTIMATUM 08:06:
    Microsoft China

    The clock is ticking for Microsoft in China. Competition authorities have given the firm 20 days to reply to questions over the compatibility of some of its software, Reuters reports. Microsoft is one of several foreign companies that have come under scrutiny in the country in recent weeks.

     
  21.  
    PUTIN SEEKS PARTITION 07:51:
    Putin

    The Financial Times leads with Vladimir Putin's call for talks on "statehood" for south-east Ukraine. The paper calls it a provocative comment, which will heighten fears that Moscow is seeking partition for Ukraine. The Daily Telegraph says David Cameron and Barack Obama are to respond to the Russian president by urging NATO allies to increase defence spending. In a leader article the paper also recommends fresh sanctions.

     
  22.  
    BERKELEY PERFORMANCE 07:37:

    Berkeley Group, the home builder, is having its annual meeting today. The firm is "well positioned to continue to invest in the business and deliver returns to shareholders. Earnings this year are anticipated to be in line with current market expectations," chairman Tony Pidgley will say.

     
  23.  
    KIER CONTRACT 07:23:

    Kier Group, the builder, says it is the preferred bidder to design and build a new £50m residential tower in London. The company says it will "design and construct 224 luxury apartments arranged in four blocks".

     
  24.  
    GOING SOUTH 07:11:
    St Andrews

    The Guardian reports that Scotland's top universities are bracing themselves for a "brain drain" of their most talented scientists if there's a "yes" vote for independence. The paper says senior figures believe Scotland's best known universities would lose access to billions of pounds of funding - the subjects most at risk are said to include advanced computing and genetic research. However a source close to the Scottish government says the concerns are misplaced and research funding will be maintained.

     
  25.  
    CUBAN IMPORTS 06:57:

    New rules are coming into force in Cuba, limiting the amount of goods people can take into the country in their luggage. For example, Cubans will be allowed only 10 kilos of detergent rather than 40, 24 bras rather than 48, and just two flat screen televisions. Many Cubans see the new restrictions as throttling one of the few sources of high-quality consumer goods.

     
  26.  
    RAC LISTING 06:47: Radio 5 live
    RAC rescue vehicle

    Holly Cook, of Morningstar, was on 5 live too, talking about the car breakdown specialists RAC, who are said to be considering a stock market flotation. How come? It shows "more confidence in the market" and may be seen as a good investment as its business is easily understood, she says.

     
  27.  
    FINANCE LITERACY 06:41: Radio 5 live

    Tracey Bleakley adds that the first rule of money management is "knowing the difference between something you need and something you want." Think about that in the lunch queue.

     
  28.  
    FINANCE LITERACY 06:35: Radio 5 live
    Classroom

    Tracey Bleakley, chief executive of the Personal Finance Education Group is talking about the government's new plan to provide education on financial planning. "We've all got to talk about it," she says, adding that children could educate their parents. That way people can see through "the marketing" that lots of debt is a good idea.

     
  29.  
    TESCO PERFORMANCE 06:30: Radio 5 live

    Tesco is struggling to compete with the likes of Aldi and Lidl because the smaller supermarkets stock fewer lines and focus on keeping prices low. "Tesco are giving people far too many reasons to go elsewhere," Steve Dresser, retail analyst, tells Wake up to Money.

     
  30.  
    TESCO'S NEXT MOVE 06:27: BBC Radio 4

    Tesco's new boss, Dave Lewis, starts work today at the beleaguered supermarket chain, and Holly Cook, of the investment site Morningstar, tells Today that his first move may be to slash prices. Tesco, she says, "used to be a value proposition," but is now "not that much cheaper" than its rivals.

     
  31.  
    EU REVOLT 06:20:
    Cameron

    In its main front page story, the Independent says David Cameron is facing a damaging new revolt over Europe. It says up to 100 Conservative MPs are planning to defy him by declaring that they'll vote to leave the EU - regardless of what concessions he wins for Britain.

     
  32.  
    NETWORK RAIL 06:17: Radio 5 live

    Philip Haigh, railway writer, is still on Wake up to Money. Why is Network Rail in £33bn of debt? It's been spending lots of late, he says. Railway stations, for example, have never looked better. "You just have to look at King's Cross and see what they've done there," he says.

     
  33.  
    BORIS TAKES OFF 06:14:

    Boris's comments come as we await news on whether the Airports Commission will put his favoured plan for a Thames estuary airport back onto its shortlist of options. Incidentally, Mr Johnson is seeking nomination as the Conservative parliamentary candidate in Uxbridge and South Ruislip - where Heathrow expansion is widely opposed.

     
  34.  
    BORIS TAKES OFF 06:07:
    Plane over Heathrow

    The Telegraph carries a piece by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, in which he warns that expanding Heathrow, and ditching his plan for a new airport in the Thames estuary, would be a "disaster". But Mr Johnson, who has previously called for the closure of Heathrow, now suggests it could remain open as a secondary airport.

     
  35.  
    NETWORK RAIL 06:03: Radio 5 live

    Philip Haigh, railway writer, is on Wake up to Money, talking about Network Rail's move to the government's balance sheet. On the one hand, he says, it means the state-owned company can borrow more cheaply from the government, but the government will also be able to appoint directors and intervene in things like executive pay.

     
  36.  
    06:01: Howard Mustoe Business reporter

    Morning! Get in touch via email bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk or via Twitter @BBCBusiness

     
  37.  
    06:00: Joe Miller Business Reporter

    Good morning. It's a good day for current account holders - particularly those who have experienced the maddening misfortune of being charged for going overdrawn by a few pennies. Banks will now have to give customers until 2pm to cover funds before slapping on a levy. Stay tuned for reaction to that news, and the rest of the business headlines.

     

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