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  1. Get in touch:
  2. US markets turn negative
  3. Pound rises after UK interest rate decision
  4. FTSE 100 hits record closing high
  5. Euro jumps on Dutch election result
  6. Toyota to invest £240m in UK

Live Reporting

By Daniel Thomas

All times stated are UK

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Thanks for reading Business Live. Do tune in again tomorrow if you can. We'll be back from 6am. 

The perils and pratfalls of the business lunch

People having lunch
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You might think that going for a business lunch is a simple thing, but it is in fact beset with a whole menu of potential perils and pratfalls.

From the choice of venue, to what food you pick, whether you order alcohol, and how you share the bill, any number of things can go wrong.

Talking politics and religion is almost always a complete no-no, but what if an innocent chat about current affairs quickly turns to President Trump, Brexit or Scottish independence?

We asked some etiquette experts and business coaches to guide us through the minefield.

Read more here

Trump's 'skinny budget'

Donald Trump's first budget was presented to Congress earlier, and it proposes hefty cuts to most departments, as this chart from the Washington Post shows:

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Germany's Stada rejects €3.7bn takeover bids


German pharma company Stada has rejected two competing private equity takeover bids which valued the firm at €3.7bn. 

In a statement, the generic drug maker said: "The executive board and the supervisory board mutually agree that the indicative bids do not yet reflect the fundamental value of Stada. 

"Thus, the company, for the time being, wants to provide the bidders the opportunity to increase their offers."

According to the Financial Times , two consortia made bids - one comprising Advent International and Permira and another Bain Capital and Cinven. 

Each had offered to pay €58 per share for the Frankfut-listed group.

US stocks end lower

US traders
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US markets broadly ended lower after poor performances from energy and healthcare stocks.

The Dow Jones index lost 0.07% to 20934.55, the S&P 500 was 0.16% lower at 2,381.38, and the Nasdaq was flat at 5,900.76.

Oil prices eased back after Wednesday's surge, sending shares of ExxonMobil, Chevron and other oil producers lower. 

And healthcare stocks sagged due to mounting uncertainty over Donald Trump's policy proposals. The S&P healthcare index lost 0.9% 

Dutch vote eases investor fears

SFO aware of French Airbus investigation

The UK's Serious Fraud Office tells the BBC it is aware of the French investigation into Airbus. 

"We are aware of Parquet National Financier's investigation and we continue to work with and assist our overseas law enforcement partners whenever it is appropriate to do so,” a spokesperson said.

The Parquet National Financier is France's financial police unit.

France to investigate Airbus over fraud claims

Airbus planes

French authorities have initiated a preliminary investigation against Airbus over alleged fraud, bribery and corruption claims, the firm has said. 

France is investigating the same allegations made by Britain's Serious Fraud Office, the aerospace company said in a statement. 

"Airbus will cooperate fully with both authorities," it said.  

Firms divided over when driverless cars will hit roads

Driverless car
Getty Images

One of the biggest questions about driverless cars is when, if ever, they will hit public roads, and it seems the industry itself is divided on the issue. 

Today, Chipmaker Nvidia (whose tech is used in autonomous vehicles) forecast that the cars could be on the road as early as 2025. 

"Because of deep learning, because of artificial intelligence computing, we've really supercharged our roadmap to autonomous vehicles," chief executive Jen-Hsun Huang said.

But Germany's Bosch, the world's biggest automotive supplier, declined even to forecast when a totally self-driving car might take to the streets.

"We still have to prove that an autonomous car does better in driving and has less accidents than a human being," Bosch chief Volkmar Denner said at a news conference.

Regulators to examine Lloyd's purchase of US credit card firm

Regulators are to investigate Lloyds Banking Group’s £1.9bn purchase of US credit card firm MBNA,  the Telegraph reports .

It was the bank's first acquisition since the financial crisis in 2008. 

Lloyds' share of the UK credit card market will increase from about 15% to 26% after the transaction.  

Regulators are examining whether it will hurt competition.

Toyota plant investment 'long-term'

Toyota plant investment 'huge part of preparing for long-term future'

More on Canada Goose...

Just perusing the document filed by the high-end jacket firm Canada Goose as part of its listing on the stock market.

It says it is to be considered an "emerging growth company" and that it intends to grow by expanding - including in China, where it currently has a minimal presence.

It also plans to expand its product range in "key categories such as knitwear, fleece, footwear, travel gear and bedding". 

In terms of risk factors (an obligatory part of any filing) it warns, amongst other things, that it "may be unable to maintain the strength of our brand" and "may not be able to manage our growth effectively". 

US 'does not want trade wars'

Wolfgang Schaeuble and Steve Mnuchin
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The US Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin has said he and his German counterpart, Wolfgang Schaeuble will work together to boost global growth and achieve a balanced trading relationship. 

The two were meeting in Berlin on Mr Mnuchin's first trip abroad since taking office - ahead of a meeting of the 20 leading industrial nations on Friday. Mr Mnuchin sought to allay concerns sparked by President Trump's America First policy. 

He said the US did not want to get into trade wars, but wanted to redress imbalances in trading relations where they existed. Germany currently has one of the largest trade surpluses with the US. 

Russia denies Yahoo hack

The Kremlin has denied allegations by US authorities that its intelligence agency was involved in a huge data breach affecting Yahoo.

Two FSB officers were accused of conspiring with two alleged criminal hackers in a Department of Justice indictment announced on Wednesday.

The charges are believed to be the first that the US has filed against Russian government officials.

Yahoo's 2014 breach affected 500 million user accounts.

"As we have said repeatedly, there can be absolutely no question of any official involvement by any Russian agency, including the FSB [intelligence agency], in any illegal actions in cyberspace," said spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Market update

A choppy day for the Dow Jones. The index opened higher, the turned negative and now has climbed back up and is virtually flat.

As of about 1800 gmt it traded just 12 points lower at 20937.44.

Ferrero Rocher-maker to buy US confectioner for $115m

Ferrero Rocher chocolates

Italian confectioner Ferrero (of Ferrero Rocher fame) is paying $115m to buy US peer Fannie May (the chocolate firm not the mortgage company - that's Fannie Mae).

Fannie May, founded in Chicago in 1920, makes chocolate bars, praline and chocolate snacks, which are mainly sold online. 

"The US represents an important market with a high growth potential for Ferrero and we are excited to support the development of a great American brand," said Ferrero boss Giovanni Ferrero in a statement.

The US is the fifth-biggest market for the Italian firm, which also produces Nutella chocolate spread. 

Brexit 'could screw up' Toyota deal

BBC 5 Live's Colletta Smith tweets:

Latin America's top airline makes first profit since 2011

Latam plane
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Latin America's largest airline, Latam, has turned its first profit in five years thanks to improving operating margins.

The Chilean-Brazilian firm made a profit of $69.2m in 2016 - the first since 2011 - despite a 5.9% drop in sales, to $9.5bn. 

The firm said that despite a deterioration of the region's economies, its margins in Brazil, its main market, improved late last year.

The company, which is 10% owned by Qatar Airlines, serves 140 destinations in 24 countries. 

BP in talks to sell largest North Sea oil pipeline

North Sea oil rig
Getty Images

BP is in talks with chemicals firm Ineos to sell the North Sea’s largest oil pipeline. 

The 100 mile pipeline transports oil from the offshore Unity platform to the terminal at Cruden Bay near Ineos’s Grangemouth refinery.

The firms both confirmed the talks, which first emerged last year but were believed to have failed last summer due to an disagreement over how to price the assets.  

FTSE record due to 'powerful mix' of factors

Richard Dunbar of Aberdeen Asset Management.

Today's record FTSE close was due to a "powerful mix of politics, interest rates and profits", says Richard Dunbar of Aberdeen Asset Management.

First there was the "benign" outlook from the US Federal Reserve yesterday, which showed interest rates going up, "but not by very much", and inflation and job creation "under control", he says.

The Dutch election result also helped, as it "puts back some of the worries and angst about the continued rise of populism" in Europe.

And then there's the fact that UK companies are generally "producing good profits and good dividends", he says.

FTSE 100 hits record closing high

London Stock Exchange
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The FTSE 100 has hit a record closing high thanks to a US decision to hike interest rates and gains in mining stocks.

Analysts also said there was relief in the market at the defeat of the anti-immigration Freedom party in the Dutch election.  

The UK's blue-chip share index ended at 7,415.95 points - its highest since 1 March - having touched 7.444.4 points earlier in the session. 

Miners were among the best performers, with  Anglo American  jumping 8.54% after after Indian billionaire Anil Agarwal said that he would buy a stake of up to £2bn in the firm.

Rio TintoFresnilloAntofagasta  and  Glencore  also did well, rising within a range of 3.35% to 4.84%.

French populist reacts to Dutch elections

BBC World Service

As Geert Wilders falls short in the Netherlands, fellow populist Laurent Jacobelli in Paris tells the Ed Butler on Business Daily what he sees as the way forwards for euro-scepticism across the continent.

As Geert Wilders falls short, a fellow euro-skeptic in Paris charts the way forwards.

US markets turn negative

Getty Images

After opening higher US markets have turned negative thanks to a poor performance by healthcare and energy stocks.

Pharma giant Biogen lost 5% after two brokerages downgraded its stock, while the S&P 500 healthcare index slipped 1.11%.

The price of oil was down 0.8% at $48.46 a barrel as oversupply concerns lingered. Shares in oil companies suffered, with Chevron and Transocean both down.

The Dow Jones index was 0.17% lower at 20,914.50, the S&P 500 shed 0.21% to 2,380.25, and the Nasdaq was 0.05% lower at 5,897.34.

MPC needs to 'tread carefully' on rates

Today’s interest freeze is no surprise, the Bank of England won’t budge on interest rates for a while yet. With our world thrown into uncertainty by Brexit, wage growth stalling and inflation creeping up they need to tread carefully even with the drop in unemployment. A rate rise today would have put extra pressure on household finances and queued up trouble by stopping stretched households spending at a time when it’s important they continue.

Hannah Maundrell Editor in chief,

US home-building up; unemployment claims down

Construction site
Getty Images

More good news for the US economy.

According to official statistics, US home-building jumped 3% in February to a rate of 1.29 million units, beating forecasts of 1.26 million units.

Meanwhile, claims for state unemployment benefits dropped by 2,000 to 241,000 for the week ended 11 March. It was the 106th straight week that claims remained below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy jobs market. 

It comes a day after the Federal Reserve raised interest rates citing stronger jobs growth and inflation. 

Canada Goose shares take flight

CBC presenter tweets...

Unite wishes Carney an unhappy birthday

Mark Carney, BoE governor
Getty Images

With all the attention on monetary policy today, we forgot to wish Mark Carney a happy birthday. The Bank of England governor is 52.

However, not everyone is wishing him well.

Unite, the country’s largest union, says it plans to escalate a dispute over "a derisory below-inflation pay offer for staff" at the bank.

It said the BoE had not entered negotiations with Unite despite having a recognition agreement with the union.

Unite regional officer Mercedes Sanchez said: "It has not been a good week for The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street with the Charlotte Hogg affair and now, on Mark Carney’s birthday, we have put down a marker that this dispute is set to escalate.”

'BoE not likely to raise rates soon'

BoE building
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As we have been reporting the pound spiked today after the Bank of England kept interest rates on hold. That's largely because one MPC member dissented, suggesting others might follow, says Kathleen Brooks, an analyst at City Index. 

However, she says it is unlikely that the BoE will change tack and raise rates soon. 

Firstly, two spots are about to become free on the Monetary Policy Committee's board, and we have no idea who will fill them.

Secondly, there is still considerable uncertainty about the UK's economic prospects because of Brexit.

"[This] makes the prospect of a rate hike unlikely for the next nine months or so, in our view," she says.

No EU trade deal 'not the best way'

The World at One

BBC Radio 4

The former director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Pascal Lamy has said the UK government's suggestion that leaving the EU with no trade deal is better than a bad deal, is "not the best way" to start negotiations. 

The former EU trade commissioner told The World at One's Martha Kearney that if the UK were to use WTO rules instead of a bilateral free trade agreement, trade would be "less open and then more costly".  

Animal rights activists protest as Canada Goose IPO kicks off

PETA activists outside the NYSE

Animal rights group Peta has been protesting outside the New York Stock Exchange as shares in the fashion brand Canada Goose began trading.

Peta objects to the firm using coyote fur in its famed parka jackets, and plans to buy the minimum number of shares necessary so that it can be admitted to Canada Goose’s shareholder meetings. (That way it can pressure the brand to stop the practice). 

Canada Goose aims to raise $255.31 million by listing on the New York and Toronto stock exchanges.  

Edinburgh Woollen Mill 'in pole position to buy Jaeger'

The Duchess of Cambridge wearing a Jaeger dress
Getty Images

Edinburgh Woollen Mill is in pole position to buy the struggling fashion chain Jaeger (said to be one of the Duchess of Cambridge's favourite brands), the Press Association understands. 

It is up against a range of other bidders thought to include Mike Ashley's Sports Direct and Jaeger's former owner Harold Tillman. 

Jaeger, which has around 25 standalone stores, has been struggling with a slowdown on the High Street, and last year saw annual sales fall from £84.2m to £78.4m, while booking a pre-tax loss of £5.4m.

Its current owner, the private equity firm Better Capital, is seeking £30m for the chain, PA reports.

MPs ponder price cap

MPs are debating energy prices - and whether a cap should be imposed - in the Commons this afternoon.

Times energy editor Emily Gosden tweets:

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Would you like fries with that?

Chris Johnston

Business reporter

Wired's Nate Goldman managed to grab this rather naughty tweet from the McDonald's corporate account before it was deleted...

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US markets climb after Fed hike

US traders
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US stocks are up this morning after the Federal Reserve raised interest rates on Wednesday.

A short while ago the Dow Jones had gained 0.14% to 20,979.18, the S&P 500 was up 0.02% at 2,385.74, and the Nasdaq had climbed 0.11% to 5,906.26.

The central bank raised rates by a quarter point to 0.75-1%, responding to the continued pick-up in US inflation and job creation.

Tech and bank shares have benefited, with the S&P 500 IT and financials indices up by 0.45% and 0.79% respectively. 

You gotta have faith...

May: 'Now not the time for Scottish referendum'

Speaking of Scotland, UK Prime Minister Theresa May has said "now is not the time" for a second independence referendum.

Mrs May said it would be "unfair" to hold a vote until the UK's future relationship with the EU became clear.  

In response, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland should have a "right to choose".

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No rate rise 'anytime soon'

Bank door
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It's still probably some way off before the Bank of England raises interest rates, points out Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Laith Khalaf. 

"The pound has jumped up on the currency markets because one member of the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) thinks base rate should rise, and that had led to a slight uptick in expectations going forward," he tells the BBC. 

"I wouldn’t get too excited though, the MPC still voted to keep rates on hold by a margin of 8-1 and weak pay growth is not forcing their hand anytime soon.

"Meanwhile the ongoing Brexit process and the prospects of a Scottish referendum aren’t exactly going to encourage the Bank to peek its head above the parapet."

Schauble wants a strong City

Joe Miller

Business reporter

Asked about Brexit, and its effect on Europe's finances, Mr Schauble says: "I am very concerned, to be very frank". 

He then adds, "I am convinced that Europe as a whole - and I'm not sure this will be very beloved in Paris - it's in our own interests to have a strong financial centre in London."

Mr Schauble says it is not feasible to move all of the City's operations, and to do so would be a huge upheaval. 

But, he says, it has not been easy to "brainstorm" with his British counterparts. 

Schauble defends banking regulation

Joe Miller

Business reporter

Wolfgang Schauble
Getty Images

Germany's finance minister, Wolfgang Schauble, is addressing the great and good of the business world in Frankfurt ahead of the G20 meeting tomorrow.

In a thinly disguised broadside at the new US administration, which has signalled it intends to roll back Wall Street regulation, Mr Schauble says: "I'm fully aware that many of you in the room are not fans of regulation".

After some nervous laughter, he adds that the regulation big banks have had to bear is "far less" than the burden that taxpayers have had to shoulder due to lax regulation.

'Markets now expect earlier rate rise'

Bank of England
Getty Images

As we've been reporting, while one member of the Monetary Policy Committee voted to raise interest rates, some others said it wouldn't take much more strength in growth and inflation to persuade them to do the same.

“Overall, today’s policy announcement was more hawkish than the market had been expecting, says Adam Chester, head of economics at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking. 

"Economists had  been widely predicting another unanimous verdict, with the emphasis again on the uncertainties facing the outlook," he added.

Immediately following the publication of the MPC minutes the pound and UK government bond yields jumped.

"In the money markets, expectations are now fully priced to a rise in UK interest rates by the end of 2018, compared with early 2019 before today’s announcement," said Mr Chester.