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  1. Get in touch:
  2. Sterling falls against dollar and euro
  3. Charlotte Hogg quits Bank of England
  4. Children's scooters and gin go into inflation basket
  5. FTSE 100 closes lower
  6. Oil price falls as global stocks rise

Live Reporting

By Daniel Thomas

All times stated are UK

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Student loan defaults jump in US

The US economy may be gathering steam, but not everyone is reaping the benefits it seems.

According to new analysis from the Consumer Federation of America, the number of Americans in default on their student loans jumped nearly 17% last year. 

It found that at the end of 2016, 4.2 million borrowers were in default, meaning they had not made a payment in more than 270 days. 

That's up from 3.6 million at the end of 2015. 

"Despite all improvements in the economy, student loan borrowers are still struggling,'' said Rohit Chopra, senior fellow at the Consumer Federation of America.

E-book sales falling as print rises

Amazon e-reader

E-book sales are falling in the UK while sales of paper books are rising, according to industry research group Nielsen.

It said more than 360 million books were sold in 2016 - a 2% increase - with sales through physical shops up 7%. However, e-book sales fell for second consecutive year, by 4%.

It is only the second time that annual e-book sales have slipped since monitoring began a decade ago.

Nielsen attributed the rise in print sales to children’s fiction and to younger generations preferring physical books to e-readers. 

Tillerson 'used email alias to discuss climate change'

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
Getty Images

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson used an email alias to discuss climate change with other executives when he was head of Exxon Mobil, officials have claimed.

New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman is investigating whether the firm deceived investors and the public by hiding what it knew about the link between fossil fuels and climate change. 

He said Exxon had failed to disclose that Tillerson used an account, under the alias "Wayne Tracker", to send and receive emails between 2008 and 2015.

Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers said the account was created for secure communication between Tillerson and senior executives about a range of topics. 

Saudi Arabia 'committed to stabilising oil prices'

Saudi oil field
Getty Images

Saudi Arabia has said it is committed to stabilising global oil prices after crude prices slumped to as low as $48 a barrel after fresh oversupply fears. 

It follows an Opec report which showed global crude inventories rose in February, despite efforts to curb supply, with Saudi Arabia itself reporting an increase.

The country's energy ministry said it was "committed and determined to stabilise the global oil market by working closely with all other participating Opec and non-Opec producers".

It also pointed out that, despite over-producing in February, it had curbed what it supplied to the market.

"The difference between what the market observes as production, and the actual supply levels in any given month, is due to operational factors that are influenced by storage adjustments and other month to month variables," it said. 

US markets end lower

US traders
Getty Images

US shares ended lower after investors showed caution ahead of an expected rate rise tomorrow, and falling crude prices hit oil stocks.

The Dow Jones index lost 0.21% to 20,837.37, the S&P 500 fell 0.34% to 2,365.45, and the Nasdaq was 0.32% lower at 5,856.82.

Oil firms fell as fresh fears about oversupply pushed West Texas Intermediate crude to as low as $48 a barrel.

Chevron Corp  and Marathon Oil lost 1.82% and 3.28% respectively. 

Airlines also fell after thousands of flights were cancelled due to storm Stella. United Continental shed 4.72% while Delta dropped 2.26%.

Looking smart

If smart phones and smart watches weren't enough for you, Levis has partnered with Google to create an interactive denim jacket. 

It features an interface on the cuff through which you can access directions, the time, and music via Google's search platform. 

It's not cheap though, as BBC technology correspondent Dave Lee discovered:

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Pound still down against dollar

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Sterling is still down against the dollar after Parliament gave the prime minister permission to trigger Article 50 late yesterday.

It's fallen 0.53% to $1.21550, although has pared some losses against the euro to trade just 0.09% lower.

Workplace headscarf ruling discussed

Earlier the European Court of Justice ruled that banning headscarves in the workplace need not constitute direct discrimination. 

So how did it come to that conclusion? World Business Report explains: 

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Waitrose applauds ONS changes to inflation basket

Chocolate biscuits
Getty Images

The Office of National Statistics was right to reorganise the basket of goods it uses to calculate inflation, says Waitrose.

The firm said sales of newly included items had jumped at its shops, with gin sales up by 16% year on year, non dairy milks by 170%, and chocolate biscuits by 28%.

Michael Andrews, director of ambient buying, said gin had "consistently been our fastest growing spirit" while once-niche alternative milks had "gone mainstream".

“With Britain's obsession with biscuits it makes perfect sense to broaden the variety included in the basket of goods," he added.

Viral fame take two

BBC journalist tweets...

Come dine with me?

Dinner party
Getty Images

New research has found that hosting a dinner party now costs more than going out.

A study of 1,000 UK adults carried out by retailer found that the average dinner party costs its hosts £75, compared to a night out which typically costs just £60.

Based on four dinner guests, Brits spend £28 on drinks and £42 on food, on average.

Despite this, 62% said they would prefer to go to a dinner party than on a night out and 85% would be happy to contribute to the dinner party by bringing a dish or a bottle of wine.

The survey found that 15% of Brits host a dinner party at least once a month, which equates to an annual spend of £900. 

However, this could be halved if guests brought a contribution.

Unilever calls for changes to takeover rules

Paul Polman, Unilever CEO
Getty Images

Unilever has said the UK's Takeover Code should be updated following a failed attempt by the US firm Kraft to buy the business, the FT reports

The Anglo-Dutch firm said target companies should have more time to defend themselves and that regulations governing takeovers should be changed to consider the interests of stakeholders beyond shareholders.  

Paul Polman, chief executive of Unilever (pictured), said: “We’re not talking about protection; we are saying that when you have a situation like this, with a national champion, there should be a level playing field.”  

Unilever highlighted the Netherlands where takeovers are subject to a broader stakeholder interest test. 

In Britain, company boards' primary responsibility is to their shareholders.  

Oil price hits fresh lows

Oil price chart

As we reported earlier oil has fallen sharply today hitting stocks in the US and the UK.

It comes after the Opec cartel reported a rise in global crude stocks, including a self-reported jump by its largest member Saudi Arabia.

It reflects a big rise in US shale oil production, and runs counter to an Opec plan to support prices by curbing supply. 

As the chart shows, Brent has lost 1.8% to $50.44 a barrel, after touching $50.25, its lowest since 30 November.

West Texas Intermediate Crude has fallen 2.2% to $47.32, after dropping to $47.09, also its lowest since November.

Hogg a 'loss to public life' - Osborne

Former chancellor tweets after Charlotte Hogg quits the BoE...

The interview panel will see you now

Two dogs behind a desk
Napier University

Are you dogged by interview nerves?

Edinburgh Napier University academics interviewing for places on a veterinary nursing course, have come up with a novel way of combating the jitters - three dogs on the interview panel.

They reckon it creates a "tension-free" atmosphere. Of course it also helps interviewees demonstrate how they communicate with both animals and human beings.

Can new management revive F1's appeal?

BBC World Service

This content only works in the UK.

Can new management revive F1's appeal? Is the solution to give small teams a bigger cut?

FTSE 100 closes lower

Getty Images

The FTSE 100 finished lower with markets cautious ahead of an expected US interest rate rise and the Dutch elections.

The index shed 0.13% to 7357.85 points, with RBS down 2.53%, M&S 2.16% lower and Standard Life down 1.7%.

Oil stocks also took a hit after Saudi Arabia revealed it had let oil production creep above the cap set by Opec, sending Brent Crude to a fresh 2017 low. Shell and BP both fell. 

Brent Crude is currently trading 1.7% lower at $50.48 a barrel. 

Mafia targets Italy's food industry

Men making mozarella
Getty Images

Organised crime gangs are increasingly infiltrating Italy's farm and food markets, an industry group has warned. 

The Coldiretti group said the mafia was targeting Italy's world-famous food sector as it was one of the few areas of the economy that had grown during the financial crisis.    

The volume of business controlled by criminal interests jumped 30% in 2016 to 21.8bn euros, it said. 

Recent examples include a fraud perpetrated by the `ndrangheta clan of southern Italy, where cheap olive oil residues from the Middle East were labeled as extra virgin and shipped to the US.

The Casalese crime clan of Naples was also said to control much of local buffalo mozzarella industry.

Coldiretti said unscrupulous companies often worked in partnership with mobsters and called for tougher "agri-mafia laws". 

C4 boss switches off

Guardian reporter Mark Sweney tweets:

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New pound coin in circulation within two weeks

New pound
Royal Mint

The new 12-sided pound coin will be in circulation within two weeks, the Royal Mint confirms.

For those interested in such things, the coin is designed to resemble the old threepenny bit and has improved counter-forgery features, including a hologram. 

It is being made at the Royal Mint in Llantrisant, South Wales, at a rate of three million per day. 

The coins might take a while to appear in your change as they gradually filter into general use.

However, the current one pound coin will no longer be legal tender from 15 October.

Facebook system 'not working'


A senior Facebook executive has told MPs that a BBC investigation into failures in its content moderation process showed the company's system "was not working". 

Simon Milner, the social media giant's head of policy, was giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee. He admitted that the BBC had exposed flaws in the system, but said "we have now fixed that problem". 

Using Facebook's own reporting system, BBC News had reported 100 images and posts, featuring sexualised images and comments about of children. 82 were not removed because according to the company they did not "breach community standards". 

Facebook asked the BBC team for examples of the content that wasn't removed - when that was provided Facebook reported the BBC to the police. 

Mr Milner said the company believed one of those images was illegal and as a result they were "clearly under an obligation to let the authorities know about that". 

He also told the committee "the journalist had indeed identified something where our system was not working".  

Germany threatens €50m fines for fake news

Justice Minister Heiko Maas

Social media firms in Germany could face fines of up to 50 million euros if they take too long to remove illegal content including fake news.  

According to a new draft bill , individual executives could also be fined up to  €5m euros for failing to act.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas (pictured) said: “We have to increase the pressure on social networks. Too little illegal content is deleted, it’s not deleted quickly enough and it looks like the operators of social networks aren’t taking their users seriously enough.”

The bill would among the toughest regulation social media companies face in any country. 

No payoff

Economics editor Kamal Ahmed tweets:

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Neiman Marcus puts itself up for sale

Neiman Marcus
Getty Images

A rare and expensive jewel has popped up on the market.

Neiman Marcus, the upmarket US department store, has put itself up for sale.

In its second quarter results announcement, where it reported a 6.1% fall in sales, Neiman Marcus said it had appointed a financial adviser to help undertake "a process to explore and evaluate potential strategic alternatives, which may include the sale of the company or other assets". 

It was last sold in 2013, for $6bn to Ares Management and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

This time around, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Hudson’s Bay, the Canadian company which bought Neiman Marcus's rival Saks in 2013 for $2.4bn, is interested in the business. 

Mayer entitled to $23m payoff if made redundant

Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO
Getty Images

The chief executive of Yahoo will be entitled to a $23m payoff if she is fired without cause after Verizon takes over the business. 

Marissa Mayer would be paid about $3m of this in cash and the rest in stock, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

Verizon last month agreed to pay $4.48bn for Yahoo's core business, and Ms Mayer has said she intends to stay with the business, however reports suggest her future may be in doubt.

US airline stocks snowed under

Airport under snow
Getty Images

It's another bad day for US airline stocks after carriers cancelled thousands of flights due to a huge blizzard that has engulfed the country's North East.

United Continental Holdings led the fallers, shedding 3.9%, followed by American Airlines, down 3%, Southwest, down 2.68%, and Delta - the country's largest carrier by market value - down 2.24%.

US wholesale inflation rises

Cash register
Getty Images

In what will add weight to expectations of a rate rise tomorrow, wholesale US inflation continued to post solid gains in February.

According to the Labor Department, the Producer Price Index, which measures prices from the seller's perspective, rose 0.3% for the month - down from January's 0.6% but above the 0.1% analysts had been expecting. 

For the 12 months ended in February the index gained 2.2%, the biggest increase since March 2012. 

Services accounted for most of February's increase while goods prices also climbed.

US markets open lower as Fed meeting kicks off

US trader
Getty Images

US stocks opened lower on Tuesday as the Federal Reserve convened for a key monetary policy meeting.

Investors believe the central bank is highly likely to raise interest rates tomorrow as the US economy continues to show signs of heating up. 

The Dow Jones lost 0.34% to 20,809.78, the S&P 500 was down 0.54% at 2,360.68, and the Nasdaq shed 0.65% to 5,837.72.

'Pound has not recovered from Brexit vote'

Economics columnist Philip Coggan tweets:

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Pound takes a pounding

Pound vs dollar
Getty Images

The pound is down today after Parliament granted the government permission to trigger Article 50.

It's lost 0.57% against the dollar to $1.21490 and 0.38% against the euro to 1.14270 euros.

After having little effect yesterday, the Scottish First Minister's call for a second independence referendum also appears to be having an impact. 

Neil Mellor, a Bank of New York Mellon currency strategist, said: "The [market] focus for quite some time has been very short term and very headline driven.

"Today was a classic example of European markets catching up with yesterday's news."

Time for a comeback?

Tag Heuer watch
Getty Images

Demand for Swiss watches is on the rise again thanks to renewed interest from Chinese buyers, says the owner of the TAG Heuer brand. 

"There's a real rebound in mainland China and, thanks to Chinese tourists, this will help watch sales elsewhere," said Jean-Claude Biver, head of LVMH's watch business.

The firm has also just launched a TAG Heuer new smartwatch in partnership with Intel Corp and Google.

It's good to talk

Getty Images

What a difference a week makes.

Only a few days ago Matthias Mueller, chairman of Volkswagen's board of management, was firmly against merger talks with Sergio Marchionne, boss at rival carmaker Fiat Chrysler.

Now, however, Mr Mueller says: "I am not ruling out a conversation."

At first glance, things are looking a little rosier at Volkswagen. Revenue for 2016 is up 2% at euro217.3bn and operating profit jumped 14% to euro14.6bn. However, that is before special items, euro6.4bn of which relate to the diesel emissions scandal.

Perhaps now is the time to begin talking.

Another quirky item added to inflation basket

BBC personal finance correspondent Simon Gompertz tweets...

Coty plans factory closure

RMT says strike action was 'rock solid'

RMt union member
Getty Images

The RMT union has put out a statement in reaction to Southern's one saying that it ran 90% of its train services during Monday's strike.

“Nobody believes a word that comes out of Southern Rail as they appear to live in a parallel universe whereas back in reality they are running the worst rail service in Britain while hoovering up fare payers money by the shed load," said a union spokesman.

"RMT’s action remains rock solid and disruption was significant as Southern themselves reported on their twitter feed. The union executive will discuss the next steps in the dispute in due course.”

Southern 'runs 90.5% of services'

Southern train in station

Rail operator Southern has said it ran 90.5% of its normal train service during Monday's strike. 

It said more than half of Southern's conductors and on board supervisors reported for work. 

"We’re pleased we were able to provide a comprehensive train service for our passengers during the RMT strike," said Southern passenger services director Angie Doll.

"The unions should now recognise that continuing with their industrial action is unnecessary and pointless,” she added.

The Gym Group powers ahead

Woman lifting weights

Low-cost fitness chain The Gym Group says it will open nearly 20 new gyms in 2017.

The announcement came as the company announced its first full-year profit.

Its pre-tax profits came in at £6.9m 2016, compared with a loss of £12.4m the previous year.

The Gym Group floated at the end of 2015. Last year it opened 15 gyms taking it to a total of 89. It has 448,000 members. 

Shares, which  rose 3% after the results, are now 1.7% higher.

'Vanishingly rare' action by Treasury select committee

How significant was the criticism of Charlotte Hogg?

FTSE slightly behind in midday trade

FTSE midday 14 March

The London stock market was down 15 points, or 0.2%, at 7351.91 in early afternoon trading.

The German Dax and French Cac were also behind, as markets take in the impact of the UK Parliament passing the Brexit bill, paving the way for the government to trigger Article 50 enabling the UK to leave the European Union.

Investors are also awaiting signals later from the US central bank as to whether it may be ready to increase interest rates.