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  1. Get in touch:
  2. FTSE 100 slips, sterling bounces above $1.29
  3. Lloyds Banking Group profits jump
  4. Pret a Manger sales soar as customers go coconut crazy
  5. Taylor Wimpey sets aside £130m for ground rent dispute
  6. Mediclinic shares soar 18%

Live Reporting

By Daniel Thomas

All times stated are UK

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Good night

Thanks for reading Business Live, we hope you enjoyed it. We'll be back tomorrow with more business news from 6am. 

Nasdaq hits record high

US traders
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The tech-focused Nasdaq index hit a record high ahead of earnings reports from Amazon and other technology giants after the market close.

It had climbed 0.39% to 6,048.94 points by the end of the day.

The other main indexes closed broadly flat as weakness in oil prices hit petroleum-linked equities. The Dow Jones gained 0.03% to 20,981.33 while the S&P 500 rose 0.06% to 2,388.77.

Cloud lifts Microsoft profits

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Microsoft has reported a 27.8% rise in quarterly profit after robust demand for its cloud computing services.

The company's net income rose to $4.8bn (£3.7bn) or 61 cents per share, in the third quarter to 31 March, from $3.76bn, or 47 cents per share, a year earlier.

Sales at Google parent climb 22%

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Sales at Alphabet - Google's parent company - have climbed 22.2% thanks to a surge in advertising on mobiles and the YouTube video service. 

The firm's net income rose to $5.43bn in the first quarter ended 31 March, while sales rose from $20.26bn to $24.75bn.

Intel's profits jump 45%

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It's not just Amazon's whose profits have bounced - Intel's are up 45% for the first quarter too.

Income at the world's largest chip maker rose to $2.96bn from $2.05bn a year earlier. Revenue rose to $14.80bn from $13.70bn.

The results were helped by strength in the firm's data centre business and a stabilising personal computer market. 

Amazon posts 41.1% profit jump

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Amazon has posted a whopping 41.1% jump in first-quarter profits thanks to growth in its online retail sales and its cloud business. 

The world's biggest online retailer said net income rose to $724m from $513m a year earlier. Net sales climbed 22.6% to $35.71bn from $29.13bn. 

It marks the eighth straight quarter Amazon has posted a net profit.   

Starbucks posts record second quarter results

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Starbucks has posted record second quarter results, with consolidated net revenues rising 6% to $5.3bn.

Meanwhile, consolidated operating income increased 8% to a Q2 record of $935m.  

The firm said like for like sales were up 3% globally, 3% in US and 7% in China.

“With our US business accelerating throughout the quarter and strong performance in China, we are poised to deliver strong revenue growth in the second half and into the future,” said Kevin Johnson, Starbucks' president and chief executive. 

Passenger dragged off United Airlines plane wins settlement

Dr David Dao
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The Kentucky doctor dragged off a United Airlines flight from Chicago earlier this month has received a financial settlement from the airline.

Lawyers for Dr David Dao, 69, say a condition of the payout is that the "amount remain confidential".

United boss Oscar Munoz "said he was going to do the right and, and he has", Dr Dao's lawyers said in a statement.

Dr Dao was violently removed by airline law enforcement officers after refusing to give up his seat to United staff.

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Pound ticks upwards

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The pound is still above $1.29, it's highest level for seven months, trading 0.44% higher at $1.29040.

It comes on the back of a CBI survey which showed retail sales for April at their strongest level in nearly two years. 

Alternative milks go mainstream

UK sandwich chain Pret A Manger has said that coconut is driving its sales forward.

Dairy-free coconut milk sales now exceed soya at Pret - so we went out to conduct a "taste test" to see what flavours get you licking your lips. 

Up to a third of new cars electric by 2030, says oil firm

Tesla car
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Total SA, one of the world’s biggest oil firms, has said electric vehicles could account for up to a third of new-car sales by 2030.

The firm's chief energy economist, Joel Couse, said the rise of electric vehicles would also cause demand for oil-based fuels to peak in the 2030s.

He said electric vehicles would constitute 15% to 30% of new vehicles by 2030, after which fuel “demand will flatten out, maybe even decline".

'Apple in talks to launch digital payment service'

Apple pay
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Apple has held talks with third parties about introducing its own digital payment service, tech site Recode has reported, quoting sources.  

The move - which would take it into competition with Paypal and major banks - would allow iPhone owners to send money digitally to other iPhone owners.

One source told Recode they expect the company to announce the service later this year.

It would differ from the firm's existing Apple Pay service (pictured), which ties a user's phone to their debit card.

United Airlines promises further policy changes

United Airlines desk in an airport
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United Airlines has announced a series of policy changes following the forcible removal of a passenger from a plane earlier this month. 

In an interview with NBC, boss Oscar Munoz said the carrier would offer up to $10,000 in compensation to be bumped off overbooked flights, and reduce overbooking in the first place. 

It also said it would end the practice of asking passengers already seated on planes to give up their seats.

It follows a two-week internal investigation into the removal of Dr David Dao from an overbooked flight at Chicago O'Hare airport. A video if his ordeal went viral, sparking outrage worldwide.

US shares: Nasdaq heads for record

US technology shares continue to fly. The technology-focused Nasdaq Composite index is heading for another record close. It's up 0.36% at 6,047.

The S&P 500 is a touch higher at 2,389. Under Armour is the biggest winner on that index (see previous post).

The Dow Industrials has also edged into positive territory, to 20,991. Home Depot is leading that index with a 1% gain.

Investors will be keen to look at the latest results from Microsoft and Google-owner Alphabet, due after the close of trading.

Under Armour shares surge

Under Armour shoe
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Shares in sportswear maker, Under Armour have jumped 9%. 

That was despite reporting its first ever quarterly loss. During the three months to 31 March Under Armour lost $2.27m dollars.

However, that loss was not quite as bad as some analysts expected.

It also reported a 13% surge in sales at its shops and healthy sales in Asia.

Today's share price rise follows a bad run this year - shares had lost about a third of their value prior to the release of the latest results.

Cap on UK mobile phone bills

Brexit could 'damage car industry across Europe'

Cars to be exported
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Brexit could badly damage the car industry in both Britain and Europe, a European trade body has warned.

Erik Jonnaert, secretary general of the European Automobile Manufacturer's Association, said: "Today, the automotive industries of the EU and the UK are closely integrated, from the economic, regulatory and technical points of view.

"Any changes to this level of integration will most certainly have an adverse impact on automobile manufacturers with operations in the EU or the UK, as well as on the European economy in general."  

In 2016 some 1.7 million cars were assembled in Britain, 80% of which were exported, mostly to the EU. 

Persimmon pay report approved despite concerns

Persimmon sign
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Shareholders have overwhelming approved Persimmon's remuneration report, despite concerns it could hand boss Jeff Fairburn a potential package worth more than £100m.

At the housebuilder's AGM, investors holding 90.19% of the stock backed the report while 9.73% voted against. 

Royal London Asset Management - one of Persimmon's major institutional investors - was among the dissenters.  

Corporate governance manager Ashley Hamilton Claxton said: "We have long-standing concerns about pay at Persimmon. 

"The company's performance has been impressive, but we continue to believe that the sheer scale of remuneration available under Persimmon's current long-term incentive plan is excessive." 

AA boss shortlisted for Wolfson Economics prize

BBC Radio 5 live

The Kings, and a UK road
Deidre King/BBC

President of the AA, Edmund King, and his wife Deirdre have been shortlisted in a competition for their proposal to improve the UK's road network.

Their entry is one of five to have been shortlisted for the £250,000 Wolfson Economics Prize.

Entrants to this year's competition were asked to find a solution for "making roads better, safer and more reliable in a way that is fair to road users and good for the economy and the environment".

One of the ideas in the couple's proposal is giving drivers an annual road miles allowance. 

FTSE 100 closes lower

LSE , men outside it
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The FTSE 100 closed lower after weak oil and commodity prices weighed on the index. It fell 51.55 points, or 0.71%, to 7,237.17 points. 

Miners BHP Billiton, Fresnillo and Glencore were among the worst performers - down 4.75%, 3.82% and 3.15% respectively. 

Lloyds Banking Group and house-builder Persimmon gained 2.31% and 2.36% respectively, after both published strong results. 

Can Google do the right thing?

World Business Report

Google has become an indispensable part of everyday life, but it has also faced criticism over its tax affairs and data practices. 

Can the tech giant be the good corporate citizen it aspires to be? Its motto, after all, is "Do the right thing".

World Business Report investigates: 

Pound back above $1.29

Pound versus dollar

Sterling is above $1.29 again, its highest level in seven months, after CBI retail sales for April showed the biggest increase in volumes in nearly two years, confounding expectations of a consumer slowdown.

A short while ago it was trading 0.42% higher at $1.29020.

Pets in transit

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Another reader shares their experience of travelling with a pet on a plane.

He and his wife flew from New Zealand to the UK, taking their two dogs and two cats with them.

Due to the requirements of the pet passport scheme, the pets had to fly from Wellington to Auckland, then Sydney to Heathrow via Singapore. 

This whole trip took about 40 hours, and although we could have taken a quicker (and cheaper) route to the UK we had to be on the same flights as our animals. We were reunited at the animal arrival centre in Heathrow and although the animals were very excited to see us they seemed totally fine. In fact I'm certain to whole experience was far more stressful for us than it was for them.

Atlanta Federal Reserve cuts US growth forecast

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the US can achieve a 3% annual growth rate -  but comments from the Atlanta Federal Reserve suggest that may be a long way off. 

The bank cut its growth forecast for the US economy to just 0.2% for the first quarter, following weaker-than-expected data on durable goods orders and trade in March. A few weeks ago it estimated a rate of 0.5%. 

A poll of economists by Reuters produced an average estimate of 1.2% growth.

According to official figures, the US economy grew 2.1% in the fourth quarter of 2016.  

UPS cashes in on online shopping boom

UPS truck/ logo
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Delivery and logistics firm UPS saw sales jump in the first quarter as more people shopped online. 

Revenue climbed to $15.31bn, up 6.2% year on year, as it delivered more packages and raised some of its prices to offset higher fuel costs. 

Its net income was $1.15bn, beating Wall Street estimates of $1.12bn.

Should we keep the pension triple lock?

Pound coins and notes

The pension "triple lock" guarantees pensions rise by the same as average earnings, the consumer price index, or 2.5%, whichever is the highest.

Theresa May is yet to rule out scrapping it, while Labour say they will keep it.

But former Labour shadow pensions minister (and head of retirement at Aberdeen Asset Management) Gregg McClymont, says it is time we binned it while also improving support for the poorest pensioners:

The triple lock gives gold plated support to a generation that is already better off than others. [But] it is vital that those who would suffer the most from a scrapping the triple lock get proper support. The UK state pension is not generous by international standards and for this reason the UK is always far from the top of the global rankings. The lesson is, have a good state pension system. But a good pension system and the triple lock are not one and the same thing.”

Wall Street shares climb

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US stocks edged higher on Thursday as the European Central Bank kept interest rates on hold and investors awaited further corporate earnings reports.

A short while ago the Dow Jones was up 0.13% at 21,003.15 and the S&P 500 was 0.11% higher at 2,390.08. The Nasdaq had gained 0.35% to 6,046.44.

Quarterly earnings reports from Amazon, Google parent Alphabet and Microsoft are expected after the market closes. 

Uber offers UK drivers illness and injury cover

The Uber app
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Uber drivers in the UK will be able to access illness and injury cover under a new benefits scheme.

The US firm, which has faced legal challenges over its working conditions, said it would would co-fund the programme alongside drivers who are also willing to contribute.

The ride share firm is currently appealing a British tribunal ruling that it should treat drivers as employees and pay the minimum wage and holiday pay. 

Active drivers who have completed at least 500 trips will be able to join the system by paying £2 a week to access benefits such as sickness, injury and jury service cover.

The lap of luxury


Earlier, we asked Business Live readers to share their experiences of travelling with pets on planes. 

One says her partner brought their cat, Emille, from Mexico to the UK with Air Canada. They had a stopover in Toronto "where they relaxed in a nearby Holiday Inn and got given adjoining rooms".

She says that Emille had to travel in the hold for the UK leg but "everyone was very kind and organised".

She says: "We picked her up at the Heathrow Animal Reception Centre where they checked her over while we admired a very faded, signed photo of Elton John and his dogs - he must be a frequent flyer." 

Eurozone QE 'here to stay'

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Ranko Berich, head of market analysis at Monex Europe, says: “The crux of today’s press conference was the fact that even though macro growth has improved and certain ECB Governing Council members are more 'sanguine' about economic risks, the inflation outlook has not improved sufficiently for the ECB to formally consider an end to quantative easing (QE). 

"Barring a wholesale change in opinion among the Governing Council against Draghi’s position, ECB QE is here to stay for now.”

Draghi conference 'confusing and conflicting'

Old ECB headquarters
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James Athey, a senior investment manager at Aberdeen Asset Management, says Mario Draghi's press conference was pretty confusing.

"He’s had to acknowledge that the growth outlook has improved and the risks to the outlook are more balanced without following that through into the inflation outlook. 

"This is confusing the market and so it is whipping around as traders hang on every word." 

Looking forward, he says, there are signs we might see a material change in ECB policy in June, but "no one should get ahead of themselves" just yet. 

Draghi: Brexit is creating economic uncertainty

ECB chief Mario Draghi is giving a press conference after keeping the eurozone's benchmark interest rate on hold. 

Asked about the global risks faced by the eurozone economy, he mentions Brexit. Uncertainty over the shape it will take is already have "economic consequences", he says.

And while fears of a debt bubble in China have receded somewhat, the situation remains a concern, he says.

Euro slips further

Euro v dollar

Down it goes... The euro is now trading 0.3% lower against the dollar at $1.08710 after briefly spiking. 

Risk of protectionism under Trump 'has receded'

Mario Draghi, ECB chief
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Asked about what Donald Trump's presidency might mean for the world economy, Mr Draghi pulls his punches. 

However, he says he feels the risk of trade protectionism has "somewhat receded" in recent months.

He also says markets are "reassessing" America's fiscal policy (a nod to the end of the recent Trump rally). 

"I frankly wouldn't feel like going beyond that," he says.

Eurozone improving, says Draghi

Asked whether the ECB is slowly moving towards a "policy shift" on monetary policy, Mr Draghi won't be drawn.

But he does say things are improving in the eurozone - growth is no longer fragile but "solid and broad". 

The recovery has also spread to more countries and unemployment - at around 9.5% - is the lowest it's been for a long while (although still too high, he accepts).

Long term inflation expectations remain "anchored" and investment conditions have improved.     

But weaknesses remain - notably the vulnerabilities in the region's banking system.

Euro backtracks

Well that didn't last long. The euro is back below $1.09 after a brief spike above that level. 

Draghi bites back at Schaeuble

Mario Draghi (L) and Wolfgang Schaeuble
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Mario Draghi (L) and Wolfgang Schaeuble

Mario Draghi bared his teeth for a moment there.

Asked about comments by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble that the ECB's loose monetary policy was not helpful, Mr Draghi said he doesn't comment on politicians.

But then he said it was "pretty ironic to hear these comments from people who supported the independence of the central bank". 

Euro spikes on Draghi comments

Euro dollar

Comments from Mr Draghi have given the euro a kick. It's risen about a third of a euro cent since he started speaking.

Before he stood up it was around $1.0885 and it rallied as high as $1.0920. 

The single currency is close to its high for the year of $1.0949.

Draghi: QE can be extended

ECB president Mario Draghi says that quantitative easing can be extended if the economic outlook worsens. 

Draghi: recovery stronger but inflation is subdued

Mario Draghi
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European Central Bank president Mario Draghi says that since the central bank's governing council's meeting met in March the "cyclical recovery is becoming increasingly solid and downside risks have further diminished".

However, he said inflation pressure remains subdued and inflation is "yet to show an upward trend".