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- One of China's richest men reported to be missing
- IMF forecasts 'steady growth' for the UK
- Dow and Dupont agree $130bn merger
- Government 'hopeful' of airport decision by next summer
- 'Political fudge-arama' over Heathrow decision says Mayor
- Legal & General to stop quarterly reporting
- Copyright: Getty Images
The proposed merger between Dow Chemical and DuPontlooks set to get close attention from regulators. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said his committee will be studying the deal.
"DuPont and Dow are two titans of American industry and the proposed merger demands serious scrutiny," he said in a statement. "Vigorous enforcement of the antitrust laws is imperative to maintaining an open, fair and competitive marketplace. I'll be listening to Iowa farmers and consumers about any concerns they may have with this proposal."
Meanwhile, Wenonah Hauter, of the NGO Food and Water Watch, called on the Justice Department to block the merger. "Just a handful of large chemical companies including Dow and DuPont already control most of the seed supply used to grow crops like corn and soybeans, as well as the herbicides that genetically engineered seeds are designed to be grown with," she said.
"Any merger that consolidates this market into fewer hands will give farmers fewer choices and put them at even more economic disadvantage."
All three major US share indexes were down sharply in afternoon trading in New York. The markets are heading for their worst week in a month, as the price of crude oil dropped to around a seven-year low and investors braced for the first US interest rate hike in nearly a decade.
"It hasn't been any one thing today, it's been an accumulation of concerns as the week has worn on," said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities.
The Dow Jones is down 319.42 points, or 1.82%, to 17,255.33, and the S&P 500 had lost 40.21 points, or 1.96%, to 2,012.02. The Nasdaq dropped 106.33 points, or 2.11%, to 4,938.84.
- Copyright: Reuters
Reuters reports that Greece and its international lenders have agreed on a set of reforms needed for Athens to receive €1bn in fresh loans under its bailout.
The reforms relate to the structure of a new privatisation fund whose revenues will be used to boost investment and pay down the country's debt; a shake-up of the power sector; and how to open up the market for non-performing loans.
The latest reform bill is expected to be submitted to parliament on Saturday. The government aims to secure parliament approval for this set of reforms on Tuesday to get the tranche by 18 December.
The BBC's New York correspondent tweets:
Italy's Finmeccanica has not received any offer for its UK helicopter business AgustaWestland and would not sell it anyway, the aerospace and defence group's chief executive, Mauro Moretti, said on Friday.
"We didn't have any request and, even if we had, we wouldn't think of selling," Moretti said. The comments follow reports that Boeing made a bid earlier this year to buy Westland, an approach that was spurned.
- Copyright: BBC
Brent crude fell 3.1% on Friday, hitting a seven-year low. The further weakness was spurred by the International Energy Agency forecasting a continued decline in global oil demand. The IEA said it expects crude oversupply to continue at least until late next year.
Scotland business editor Douglas Fraser tweets:
- Copyright: AFP
A gauge of US consumer spending rose in November as the holiday shopping season got off to a brisk start, suggesting enough momentum in the economy for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates next week for the first time in nearly a decade.
The US Commerce Department said on Friday that retail sales, excluding cars, fuel, building materials and food services increased 0.6% after an unrevised 0.2% gain in October.
These so-called core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product. Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of US economic activity, surprisingly slowed in September and October.
- Copyright: BBC
European stock markets fell, with London's FTSE 100 shedding 2.2% to fall below the 6,000 mark, while Frankfurt and Paris lost more than 2%.
Old Mutual slumped 10.62%. The insurance firm has a close exposure to South Africa, where the surprise removal this week of Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister has caused unease among financial investors.
In Paris, French carmaker Renault lost 5.3% despite saying it had reached an agreement with its alliance partner Nissan and the Paris government to defuse tensions sparked by France raising its stake in the automaker.
The FTSE 100 index has closed at its lowest level for 10 weeks as investors dumped shares in companies focused on South Africa following a reshuffle in the country's government.
Anglo-African financial services firm Old Mutual slumped 10.6% as the rand hit a record low after President Jacob Zuma removed Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister.
Commodities shares also came under pressure on concern about the pace of economic recovery in China and a weakness in Chinese yuan, which could hit companies exporting to China.
Shares in BHP Billiton, BG Group, Royal Dutch Shell, Glencore and Rio Tinto fell between 4% and 5.3%.
The blue chip index closed 2.2% lower at 5,952.78 after falling as low as 5,949.84 earlier in the day, that was the lowest level since late September.
Just in time for the latest installment of the Star Wars' movie, Sotheby's is holding an auction in New York today of original and rare collectibles.
Two "Power of the Force" coin sets have estimates of between $25,000 and $35,000. And a Luke Skywalker figurine with double telescoping lightsaber has a pre-sale estimate of $12,000 to $18,000.
Dontcha just wish you hadn't cleared out that loft.
There 175 lots in total.
US markets opened more than 1% lower, tracking losses in Asian and European indexes.
Industrial heavyweights Dow Chemical and DuPont fell after they confirmed plans to merge, losing 3.9% and 5.8% respectively.
The Dow Jones index fell 1.26%, with the S&P 500 and the tech-rich Nasdaq down a similar amount.
Investors are concerned about the global economy, slower growth in China, and concerns about the impact of lower oil prices.
- Copyright: AFP
Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the IMF, is not a politician. And makes it clear that decisions on "specific projects" are a matter for others, engineers for one.
But even she found it almost impossible not to add her voice to those expressing frustration at the government's decision last night not to give the go-ahead to a new runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick.
The FTSE 100 has fallen below 6,000 points and is heading for its seventh day of losses. With the index closing in on a three-month low, only two stocks were in positive territory in mid-afternoon trading, Merlin Entertainments and Admiral Group.Copyright: BBC
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, tweets:
Supermarkets Tesco and Sainsbury's are now selling petrol at below £1 per litre, as the price of oil continues to head downwards. They join Morrisons and Asda in the price cut.
- Copyright: Getty Images
The oil price has fallen to a new seven-year low after the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecast a slowdown in growth in demand for oil.
The price of Brent crude oil fell below $39 a barrel at one point, its lowest since December 2008.
The IEA said demand in the current quarter was growing by 1.3 million barrels a day, down from 2.2 million barrels in the previous quarter.
The IEA predicts that will slip back to 1.2 million barrels a day next year.
- Copyright: Bloomberg terminal screenshot by BBC producer
London's FTSE 100 continues to head downwards - it is currently just above 6,000 points, or 1.3% lower. The last time it traded at that level was in September, as the pictured graph shows.
Old Mutual continues to be its biggest loser, down around 9%, as investors fret over the outlook for its sizeable South African business.
- Copyright: BBC
BBC business editor Kamal Ahmed interviewed IMF chief Christine Lagarde. He asked her for her view on the slow progress the UK has made in expanding aviation capacity. She replied:Quote Message: I think our report this year highlights very clearly the transportation bottlenecks in the UK and infrastructure projects that will eventually remove those bottlenecks would certainly be conducive to more mobility (and) better growth going forward... I wish I was an engineer to actually decide which project is best for the country, but in general we support infrastructure projects, yes."