Published: 24 November 2021
Location: London, UK
The UK is joining several countries in a coordinated effort to try to bring down global oil prices by increasing supply, the Express reports. The move is being led by the US which has announced it will release around 50 million barrels of crude oil from its 605-million-barrel reserves. China, India, South Korea and Japan have also got involved in the plans making this the first coordinated effort of its kind. The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has so far resisted calls from President Biden’s administration to release more oil onto the market, as it is concerned that a resurgence of coronavirus cases could drive down demand, as happened at the height of the pandemic. Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, was critical of the move, describing it as an "attack" on the US's Strategic Oil Reserves, saying: "Those reserves are meant to be used for serious emergencies, like war, and nothing else”. A UK Government spokesperson said the release of UK reserves “does not impact UK oil reserves which are significantly above the 90 days required by the International Energy Agency". Some analysts suspect OPEC may simply restrict release of oil to make up for the releases.
Budget changes boosting the income of some working people on universal credit will come into force today, the government has announced. Workers will now take home 8p more of any extra pound earned, owing to a shift in the so-called taper rate, the BBC reports. Chancellor Rishi Sunak said in October's Budget that the change would take effect "within weeks" and no later than December 1. About two million people will benefit by an average of £1,000 following the move, the government said. However, the Resolution Foundation think tank calculated that 3.6 million families will remain worse off because the alterations failed to offset the loss of a £20 a week uplift in universal credit provided during the pandemic.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has confirmed that the BBC licence fee is up for review. She told the Culture Select committee yesterday that "there are huge changes coming" and the nature of public service broadcasting was likely to need to adapt in the years ahead. She said new technologies such as gigabit broadband meant the way people now consume TV content was changing and MPs risked being seen as "dinosaurs" if they were unwilling to shift the BBC's remit to account for the changing climate. The current funding model is guaranteed until 2027 as part of the Royal Charter which sets out the objectives and governance of the broadcaster. Dorries said no decision had yet been made about how the BBC should operate beyond the end of the current agreement.
Customers will have to cover the cost of the recent spate of UK energy company failures through higher bills, the boss of Scottish Power has warned. Keith Anderson told the BBC's Today programme. He said the energy market was broken and the government's price cap was largely to blame. "We've already seen the price cap go up by £150-180 [to accommodate the rising prices] and everybody is predicting that in April the price cap will go up by several hundred pounds," he said. "Then we're going to have the cost of all of these market failures, all these regulatory failures and company failures. They'll come through and all of the customers are going to have to pay for those as well," he said. Bulb Energy, the UK’s 7th largest supplier with 1.7 million customers is the latest casualty. It announced yesterday that it will go into special administration, meaning it will be run by the government through the regulator Ofgem. Meanwhile, leading US investment bank Lazard is to be hired to find a buyer for Bulb via an auction of the business. One energy company executive has told Sky News that the prospect of taxpayers funding Bulb during the winter months, coupled with the possibility of more normalised wholesale gas prices by next spring, would make Bulb an attractive takeover opportunity.
More than 90% of Black Friday deals were the same price or cheaper in the six months before the sales event last year, a Which? investigation has found. The consumer association warned shoppers to make sure the discounts were "truly genuine" ahead of this year's sales, after it found 184 out of 201 items from six retailers – Amazon, AO, Argos, Currys, John Lewis, and Richer Sounds - were priced the same or cheaper before Black Friday in 2020. The research led the Chartered Trading Standards Institute to suggest a deal "may not be what it's all cracked up to be".
Complaints about “authorised” scams in the UK increased by 30% in the second quarter of this financial year, when compared to the same period in 2020/21, according to the Financial Ombudsman Service. In a report published this morning, the service said it received a total of 4,488 complaints about fraud and scams from July to September 2021 and upheld over 60% in the consumers’ favour. Of this figure, 2,243 complaints were about “authorised” scams compared to 1,725 in July - September 2020.
Bank of England (BoE) officials have said that if a central bank digital currency (CBDC) was introduced, 20% of deposits could move out of the commercial banking system as a result. Speaking to the Economic Affairs Committee in the House of Lords on Tuesday, Sir Jon Cunliffe, the bank's deputy governor for financial stability, said it had made a "prudent assessment" of the 20% move. He also said banks could potentially lose a revenue stream from payments because of its implementation but that if they are healthy and competitive, they will adjust to this change, just as they had been nimble in the face of change in the past. A potential digital pound, dubbed 'Britcoin' by the press, has been in the offing since April this year. In September, the bank brought in representatives from ASOS, Spotify and PayPal, among other companies, to consult on its CBDC Engagement and Technology forums, Yahoo Finance UK says.
New data from HMRC has shown that month-on-month, home sales in the UK more than halved in October, with 76,930 residential transactions taking place. The 52% dip reflects a cooling housing market, following months of high turnover as stamp duty was waved to support the market during Covid-19 lockdowns. Overall, the market saw the slowest October since 2012.
A survey by Citizens Advice (CA) has found that all parcel deliverycompanies are failing customers. No delivery firm received more than three out of five stars overall, exposing "huge cracks" in the sector, the CA said. Hermesand Yodel performed the worst, scoring 1.5 and 1.75 stars respectively
Amazon Logistics scored highest, but with just 2.75 stars overall. DPD scored lowest when consumers were asked if they'd had a problem with their last delivery. When trying to resolve issues, 48% of people polled couldn’t get the help they wanted, rising to 56% for Yodel and 43% for Amazon Logistics.
AstraZeneca yesterday opened a new £1bn research facility in Cambridge. The Discovery Centre (DISC) laboratories include the most advanced robotics, high-throughput screening and AI-driven technology and will accommodate over 2,200 research scientists. The new facility will further AstraZeneca’s work on specialised and precision medicines and the development of next generation therapeutics, including nucleotide-based, gene-editing and cell therapies, the company said. The DISC will be part of the Cambridge life sciences cluster — a hub of over 400 companies, employing around 20,000 people and contributing almost £3bn annually to the UK economy. It is situated within the Cambridge Biomedical Campus and is close to leading hospitals, the University of Cambridge, the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cancer Research UKand other research institutions and biotech companies.
Marks & Spencer has bought a 25% stake in eco-conscious womenswear brand Nobody's Child for an undisclosed sum, having worked with the business for a year. Nobody's Child will continue to operate independently but with the opportunity to use M&S's investment and infrastructure to scale the business. Marks said it will benefit from the agility of Nobody's Child, including the brand's focus on near-sourcing supply, which has previously been identified as a growth opportunity.
FTSE 100 chemicals company Johnson Matthey said this morning it had sold its advanced glass technologies business to Fenzi Holdings for £178m, as it reported a half-year loss and announced a £200m share buyback. The company, which last week issued a profits warning and said it was exiting its battery business, swung to a pre-tax loss of £9m compared with a profit of £26m a year ago.
Kensington Mortgages yesterday launched a mortgage product with a fixed rate of up to 40 years, the BBC reports. The non-bank mortgage provider is offering the new product with the backing of Rothesay, the huge pensions insurance specialist, and will allow borrowers to fix their rate for anything between 11 and 40 years, with the cost dependant on the length of repayment and the size of the loan compared to the value of the home. Applicants must not be older than 70 at the end of the mortgage term. Online lender Habito also launched a deal for up to 40 years earlier this year. Lenders are now also offering a selection of 158 different 10-year products, according to financial information service Moneyfacts, amid expectations the Bank rate will rise soon. "A [longer] fixed-for-term mortgage - already very popular in some parts of continental Europe - is likely to become increasingly attractive in a rate rising environment," said Mark Arnold, chief executive of Kensington Mortgages. This view is backed by the government which has said it wants to see more certainty for borrowers.
Durham based Atom Bank has introduced a voluntary four-day work week for its 430 staff without cutting their pay. Employees can now work 34 hours over four days and get Monday or Friday off, when previously they clocked up 37.5 hours across the whole week. However, employees will have to work longer hours on the days that they are in. Boss Mark Mullen told the BBC the change was inspired by the pandemic and would help improve wellbeing and retain staff. Atom was one of the UK's first digital challenger banks and had £2.7bn of loans on its books in the last financial year. Its new working arrangements kicked in on 1 November after a review found they would not affect customer service or productivity.
The Turkish lira nose-dived 15% yesterday after President Tayyip Erdogandefended a controversial plan to cut interest rates to boost the economy, the BBC says. The currency hit a record low of just over 13 lira to the dollar, before recovering slightly, marking 11 straight days of falls. Erdogan has pushed Turkey's central bank to make three rate cuts since September, a move blamed for driving up inflation which is now at 20%. Investors are losing confidence and the lira has shed some 45% of its value this year, making it the world's worst performing currency. Despite this, Erdogan vowed to stick to his policies on Monday, arguing that high interest rates would not lower inflation - an unorthodox view he has repeated for years.
Apple is suing Israeli spyware firm NSO Group and its parent company for allegedly targeting iPhone users with a hacking tool, the BBC reports. NSO's Pegasus software can infect both iPhones and Android devices, allowing operators to extract messages, photos and emails, record calls and secretly activate microphones and cameras. NSO Group said its tools were made to target terrorists and criminals, but it has allegedly also been used on activists, politicians and journalists. Earlier this month, US officials placed the company on a trade blacklist, saying the software had "enabled foreign governments to conduct transnational repression, which is the practice of authoritarian governments targeting dissidents, journalists and activists". The action from Apple follows criticism from other tech firms including Microsoft, Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook), Google-owner Alphabet and Cisco Systems.Apple is also seeking a permanent injunction to ban NSO Group from using any Apple software, services, or devices.
Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart, America's three largest pharmacies, have been found to be liable for helping fuel a painkiller crisis, in a landmark Ohio case. The scale of compensation to be paid will be decided at a future hearing. CVS said it would appeal against the judgement. The other retailers, who all contested the cases, did not immediately comment, the BBC says. Over the last two decades, millions of Americans have become addicts through over-prescription and abuse of legal opiate-based painkillers such as Fentanyl and OxyContin. Nearly 500,000 deaths were attributed to painkiller overdoses between 1999 and 2019. There are around 3,300 other cases being brought to recoup the costs of tackling the public nuisance that resulted from the firms profiting from sales of the painkillers.
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