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Live Reporting

By Dan Ascher

All times stated are UK

  1. Goodbye

    That's it from Business Live for this week but we will be back bright and early at 06:00 on Monday.

    See you then for all the breaking business news.

  2. Brexit trade-off with the economy under way

    Douglas Fraser

    Scotland business & economy editor

    A woman picking fruit

    The UK government's post-Brexit immigration plans have the scope to fundamentally change the British economy.

    That's because:

    • The British economy has embarked on a historic change, involving at least some pain, some opportunities and an uncertain destination.
    • The immigration policy changes will have far reaching consequences.
    • Business has been served notice that the economy will take a lower priority than 'getting Brexit done'.

    Read more here.

  3. FTSE recovers

    After starting the day in the red, the FTSE 100 has now largely recovered and is trading roughly flat.

    The FTSE 250 is down 0.1%.

  4. Stamp price increases in two charts

    Chart showing the cost of a first-class stamp rising from 20p in around 1990.
    Chart showing the price of a second-class stamp increasing from around 15p around 1990
  5. 'Too much emphasis' on regenerating cities

    Brian Meechan

    BBC Wales business correspondent

    Aerian view of Rhyl

    Too much emphasis has been placed on investment in cities rather than towns, a leading expert in the regeneration of high streets has said.

    Prof Cathy Parker said successive governments prioritised funding for places such as Cardiff in the hope it would "trickle out" to surrounding towns, which "just won't happen".

    The Welsh Government said towns would benefit from a £90m fund.

    Ministers will also encourage public services to move into town centres.

    Read more here.

  6. Stamp prices to increase

    First and second class stamps

    Royal Mail has said it will increase the price stamps from March.

    The cost of a first-class stamp will increase by 6p to 76p and the price of a second-class stamp will rise by 4p to 65p.

    Stephen Agar, managing director of letters at Royal Mail said: "We are operating in a tough market at present, under the threat of making a loss by 2021.

    "These price increases will help us maintain the quality of service that is expected by our customers, while supporting the universal service."

  7. 'Pearson's US textbook sales in freefall'

    Textbooks in front of blackboard

    Pearson's decision to shift from textbooks to E-books was the correct one according to Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Nicholas Hyett.

    The company's boss told the BBC that US textbook sales had fallen by 90% since 2012.

    But Mr Hyett said: "Unfortunately, convincing customers to fork out top shelf prices for digital alternatives turns out to be quite a challenge and the transition has seen Pearson lose market share."

    "The pain of the last few years shouldn’t be underestimated," he said.

    "Funding the transition has called for the sale of trophy assets like Penguin Random House and the Financial Times and profits are not much more than half of what they were at the start of last decade."

  8. 'We watched our business go under'

    Chris Harrison

    Earlier we heard from Chris Harrison whose business, the Dale End Cafe in Coalbrookdale, was flooded twice in two days.

    He said: "We sat in a hairdressers across the road, which is slightly higher up, and we watched our business go under."

    The BBC's Lora Jones has followed up with Mr Harrison, who said that that thousands of pounds worth of damage has been caused, and that everything that was in the cafe will need to be replaced. But he doesn't have insurance.

    Here's his story.

  9. UK economy 'has turned a corner'

    UK manufacturing

    Andrew Wishart, UK economist at Capital Economics, says the latest PMI surveys prove that January's surge "wasn’t a flash in the pan", and thinks there is no reason for the Bank of England to cut interest rates.

    "The unchanged composite PMI reading of 53.3 (consensus 52.8) is consistent with quarterly growth of 0.4% in Q1, above our forecast of 0.2%. Either way, it’s clear the economy has improved relative to the stagnation in Q4 2019," he says.

    "The continued strength of the PMI confirms improved sentiment has helped the economy turn a corner at the start of this year, and a new chancellor who is more of a fiscal dove than his predecessor should mean fiscal policy reinforces the recovery in economic momentum.

    "That’s why, despite the external headwinds of weak growth in the euro-zone and the industrial shutdowns in China, we think quarterly growth will pick up throughout the year eradicating any reason for the Bank of England to cut rates."

  10. 'Plans for Arriva flotation delayed'

    Arriva buses

    German state-owned rail operator Deutsche Bahn has delayed plans to float Arriva, the international arm of its business, Reuters is reporting.

    Deutsche Bahn had planned to launch an initial public offering of Arriva - which employs 50,000 people and runs British rail franchises as well as buses around the country - in the first half of 2020.

    But a source has told Reuters that floating the business before the end of the year would be "challenging".

  11. PMI surveys 'reassuringly solid'

    Samuel Tombs, the chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, says this morning's PMI surveys are "reassuringly solid" given the impact of both the coronavirus and the bad weather in the UK.

    He says the survey findings "point to quarter-on-quarter GDP growth recovering to about 0.3% in Q1, slightly exceeding the MPC’s forecast".

    "We still look for growth of 0.4% in Q1, given that the consumer services activity should rebound in March, if the weather returns to seasonal norms.

    "Accordingly, we still think that markets, which are pricing in a 35% chance that the MPC will cut Bank Rate in the first half of this year, are overestimating the likelihood of easing."

  12. Borrowing set to undershoot forecast


    Although January's surplus in government finances was smaller than expected, the total deficit for the 2019-20 financial year is expected to come in below the Office for Budget Responsibility's (OBR) estimate of £47.6bn.

    January's figure is usually in surplus as many people pay their self-assessment tax bills during the month.

    Yael Selfin, chief economist at KPMG UK, said the data "paints a mixed picture for public finances".

    "With just two months to go until the fiscal year end, overall borrowing for the fiscal year to March is projected to fall below £50bn.

    “Despite that relatively good news, if the Chancellor intends to stick to the current fiscal targets, he will have relatively limited room to increase spending compared to the ambitious objectives the government has set.

    “With only days to go until the Budget is finalised, the Chancellor will need to balance the ambition of levelling up growth across the different parts of the UK economy and maintaining a semblance of fiscal rectitude."

  13. Coronavirus hitting supply chains

    While the PMI surveys point to steady growth in the economy, the survey also hints at companies having problems coping with the impact of the coronavirus.

    Tim Moore, associate director at IHS Markit, which complies the report, said: "Service providers often commented on reduced tourism-related bookings and cancellations from overseas clients in affected markets.

    "Manufacturers noted that abrupt shortages of components from China had reverberated through their supply chains and led to difficulties sourcing critical inputs.

    "The downward trajectory of the suppliers' delivery times index since January was the steepest since the survey began, exceeding the previous record set amid the UK fuel protests in September 2000.

    "Stocks of inputs dropped at the fastest pace for just over seven years in February as supply chain bottlenecks in Asia amplified the swing in the inventory cycle from Brexit-related destocking."

  14. GDP growing faster than debt

    Shoppers on High Street

    National debt now stands at 79.6% of gross domestic product (GDP), a decrease of 0.7% points from the same period last year, showing that GDP is growing faster than debt.

    "The difference between central government's income and spending makes the largest contribution to the amount borrowed by the public sector," the Office for National Statistics said.

    In January 2020, the central government had a surplus of £11.9 billion. But in the same period local government borrowed £2.4bn and and public corporations borrowed £200m.

  15. Public accounts benefit from £843m Airbus fine

    The UK's public accounts benefitted from a £843m fine paid by Airbus to the UK to settle a corruption probe. The allegations centred on the use of middlemen in plane sales.

    Nevertheless, the £9.8bn January surplus was still £2.1bn lower than last year. A surplus is typically recorded in January when some self-assessed income tax is received by the government.

  16. Manufacturing output picks up in February

    UK factory

    Manufacturing output has been growing at its fastest pace since April last year, according to a closely-watched survey.

    The latest Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) survey from IHS Markit/CIPS showed the UK manufacturing output index rising to 52.8 this month, which was a 10-month high and up from 50.1 in January. A figure above 50 indicates expansion.

    Overall the composite output index - which covers both services and manufacturing - was 53.3 this month, unchanged from January's reading. The index figures are preliminary - or "flash" - readings based on 85% of the usual monthly replies, so are subject to revision.

    The business activity index for the services sector slipped to 53.3 in February, down from 53.9 last month.

  17. Government runs smaller than expected surplus in January

    The public purse took in more than it received in January.

    But at £9.8bn that budget surplus was smaller than expected. A poll of economists by Reuters predicted an £11.3bn surplus.