Car manufacturers are facing more than 1.2m compensation claims following allegations that “defeat devices” were fitted to diesel vehicles to get around emissions tests, judges have been told.

Four judges overseeing a preliminary High Court hearing in London today heard that Mercedes-Benz was facing around 350,000 claims - and that manufacturers including Opel, Nissan, Jaguar Land Rover, Ford, Volvo, Hyundai, Toyota and Mazda were also among defendants in a “group” legal action.

Motorists are suing the car makers for allegedly deceiving them over emissions standards, which - they argue - has resulted in knocking thousands off the value of their cars. Lawyers said in April that the claims against Mercedes alone, if successful, could be worth as much as £3bn.

A barrister representing some claimants told judges that the litigation involved 1.25 million claimants and about 1,500 defendants, once dealerships were included.

The legal action follows the “dieselgate” scandal uncovered in 2015 in which it first emerged that Volkswagen had installed software designed to deceive official testing, reducing polluting NOx emissions in laboratory conditions that were not matched by real world driving.

Read the latest updates below.

06:34 PM GMT

Signing off

Thanks for joining us today as we’ve blogged the latest news from the markets and the world of business. My colleague Chris Price will be back on Monday morning from around 7am. Do join us.

I’ll leave you with a link to news that a Russian oligarch has ended eight-year legal feud over disputed Leonardo da Vinci painting.

06:21 PM GMT

British Gypsum owner secures £3.4m overdraft

The French building materials giant Saint-Gobain has renewed a €4bn (£3.4bn) revolving credit line, available until 2028, according to Bloomberg, after selling its UK builders merchants.

The company, which was founded in 1665 and is listed on the Euronext Paris stock market, has been a major player in the British construction industry in recent decades. It owns British Gypsum, which dominates plasterboard manufacturing, and until recently owned chains of 600 building merchants, predominently under the Jewson and Graham brands.

It sold its British building merchants to Stark Group in Denmark for £740m in March.

In October, the group reported that, for the nine months to September 30, overall sales were down by 4.9pc compared with the same period in 2022, at £37bn. However, the company said there was no difference in sales on a “like-for-like” basis.

The company predicted a “new record operating margin expected in 2023”, and shares rose 1.06pc.

05:58 PM GMT

Strikes threaten Christmas food shortages at Asda

Asda is facing walkouts from lorry drivers over Christmas in a fresh blow to the supermarket’s billionaire owners, the Issa brothers. Daniel Woolfson reports:

Around 80 lorry drivers at the retail giant’s operations hub in Rochdale are plotting strike action over the festive break.

Union chiefs at Unite said the industrial action, which is due to take place across several dates in December and on January 2, could lead to shortages of chilled foods on supermarket shelves.

The workers, who are employed by the supply chain company Wincanton, have argued they are being paid £1.24 an hour less than counterparts doing the same role at a different Asda facility in Lutterworth.

Read the full story...

05:49 PM GMT

Government hands £30m to US rival of Rolls-Royce

Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho has handed £30m in government funding to a US designer of mini-nuclear reactors which plans to accelerate operations in the UK, writes Howard Mustoe:

Holtec, based in Florida, has been competing with Rolls-Royce and other companies to secure taxpayer backing to explore low-carbon energy sources.

Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are seen as a potential supplier of green energy to rival wind farms and solar energy.  

They are smaller than full-size nuclear power plants and can be factory-built, cutting costs through mass production.

Holtec is developing a reactor that can be cooled in an emergency without external power.

Read the full story...

05:45 PM GMT

Nationwide launches redundancy round in the run-up to Christmas

Roughly 200 employees are to be let go amid a heightened focus on streamlining, writes Michael Bow:

Nationwide have put nearly 500 roles at risk just weeks before Christmas in the latest round of cuts to hit the finance sector.

The lender is slimming down three divisions, which will affect more than 1,000 employees, with approximately 470 being placed at risk of redundancy and around 200 of those expected to leave the society.

The affected divisions are the chief operating office, retail, and mortgages and financial wellbeing.

Nationwide has started a three-month consolation with the Nationwide Group Staff Union. Employees made redundant are expected to leave in April.

Read the full report...

05:33 PM GMT

AJ Bell shares up 20pc in two days after strong results

An online broker popular with retail investors has risen 19.7pc in the past two days of trade after reporting soaring profits.

Revenue for the year to September 30 was up 33pc to £218.2m, while profit before tax rose 50pc to £87.7m. The investment platform said that it added 50,880 customers, reaching 476,532 and had a customer retention rate of 95.2pc.

Michael Summersgill, chief executive, said:

The growth in customers enabled us to deliver over £4bn of net inflows, an excellent result which again highlights the benefit of operating our dual-channel platform [supporting both DIY and advised investors] ...

The strong financial performance of the business has led the Board to propose a final ordinary dividend of 7.25p per share, increasing the ordinary dividend for the year by 46pc to 10.75p per share. This extends our record of ordinary dividend increases to 19 years.

05:17 PM GMT

FTSE closes up

It was on balance a positive day for shares listed in London today. The FTSE 10 rose 0.54pc, with mining company Antofagasta up 4.23pc and InterContinental Hotels Group up 3.64pc. The biggest faller was Anglo American, down 18.97pc after it announced plans to slash production, while housebuilder Berkeley Group dropped 4.05pc.

The FTSE 250 index of mid-cap stocks rose 0.45pc. The biggest riser was cyber security company Darktrace, up 4.31pc, followed by industrial and research tools group Oxford Instruments, up 4.05pc. The biggest decline was by gold miner Centamin, down 3pc, followed by life science investment trust Syncona, down 2.73pc.

05:10 PM GMT

Stoxx 600 closes at highest level since February 2022

The Stoxx 600 index of leading European companies has reached its highest level for nearly two years.

The pan-European index, which includes GSK, Shell, HSBC, ARM and Aviva among other British companies, closed up 0.74pc today at 472.26. So far in 2023 it has risen 10.10pc, despite concerns that European exchanges, including the London Stock Exchange, are failing to secure initial public offerings especially of in-fashion technology companies.

05:01 PM GMT

Commodity trader Trafigura hands record $5.9bn pay out to partners after surge in oil prices

Senior traders and partners at commodities giant Trafigura will share a $5.9bn (£4.7bn) dividend after the energy crisis triggered a surge in profits. Jonathan Leake has more:

The huge payout is a direct consequence of last year’s surge in the prices of oil and gas, linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The trading company posted net profits of $7.4bn in 2023, up from $7bn a year earlier, to mark the fourth successive year of record earnings. 

In a statement it said the stabilising of global energy markets since Russia’s invasion meant profits looked set to fall in 2024. 

However, it added: “Markets and supply chains remain fragile and prone to turbulence linked to heightened geopolitical tensions, low stock levels and weak elasticity of supply and that could change this outlook.”

It comes as the price of oil is on track for its worst downturn in five years. Global benchmark Brent is on track for a seventh consecutive weekly fall despite pledges by the Opec+ cartel to reduce production in a bid to prop up prices. It is currently trading at around $71 per barrel, having hit close to $100 in September.

Trafigura, founded in 1993, employs more than 12,000 people based in 60 offices around the world. Its headquarters are in Singapore but most staff are based in Geneva. The employee-owned company has become one of the world’s leading suppliers of gas, oil refined products, plus metals and minerals

Its metals, minerals and bulk commodities division reported an operating profit before depreciation and amortisation of $1.6bn, down from $1.9bn a year earlier after it was hit hard by a major nickel fraud scandal resulting in an impairment of $590m. Without the impairment it would have reported an operating profit of $2.2bn.

The company is dealing with investigations by regulatory authorities in Brazil, Switzerland and the United States.

It set aside $127m to cover a possible US Department of Justice (DOJ) fine to end an investigation into “improper payments” by the company in Brazil roughly a decade ago.

04:56 PM GMT

EU mulls action against Trump-era steel and aluminum tariffs

The EU is considering how to end its dispute with the US over tariffs imposed in 2018 on steel and aluminium exports from the EU.

At the time Mr Trump slapped on the tax, a seemingly agast columnist in the Washington Post wrote :

Trump has put more tariffs on longtime US allies than he has on China, his supposed ‘bad guy’ on trade.

America’s allies are stunned, stocks slid on Wall Street as trade-war fears returned, and economists are warning that Americans will soon face higher prices on a wide variety of products. A slew of Republican lawmakers immediately trashed the move as bad for the economy and foreign relations.

According to a Bloomberg report, the European Commission is considering reopening a case at the World Trade Organisation against the US. But it is apparently against reimposing retaliatory tariffs on American goods - at least for the time being - for fear of politicising the issue ahead of US Presidential election.

Since June 2022, UK exporters have been allowed to export up to 500,000 tonnes of steel a year duty-free. Aluminium exporters also received duty-free allowances.

At the time, the Government said: “The lifting of tariffs has been hailed as a huge win by UK steelmakers and will bring new business opportunities for companies across the supply chain.”

04:38 PM GMT

Opec urges Cop28 to reject 'politically motivated' pressure against fossil fuels

A top Opec official has urged members of the oil cartel to reject any deal emerging from the Cop28 climate summit that targets fossil fuels specifically, rather than emissions.

According to letter seen by Reuters, Haitham al-Ghais, who joined the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation in 1993 and currently serves as Secretary General of the oil cartel, wrote:

It seems that the undue and disproportionate pressure against fossil fuels may reach a tipping point with irreversible consequences, as the draft decision still contains options on fossil fuels phase out.

I avail of this opportunity to respectfully urge all esteemed Opec member countries and non-Opec countries participating in the CoC [Charter of Cooperation] and their distinguished delegations in the COP 28 negotiations to proactively reject any text or formula that targets energy i.e. fossil fuels rather than emissions.

While Opec member countries and non-Opec countries participating in the Charter of Cooperation (CoC) are taking climate change seriously and have a proven record on climate actions, it would be unacceptable that politically motivated campaigns put our people’s prosperity and future at risk.

04:29 PM GMT

US consumer confidence rises

Consumer confidence in the US has jumped according to new statistics from the University of Michigan, supporting the idea that America would be able to flush out inflation without causing a recession.

According to a preliminary release of data from the Consumer Sentiment Index, the positive sentiment about their finances and the state of the economy reached 69.4, the highest since August, from November’s final reading of 61.3. The consensus of economists in a Reuters poll had been for the index to edge up toonly  62.0.

Survey director Joanne Hsu said: “Consumer sentiment soared 13pc in December, erasing all declines from the previous four months, primarily on the basis of improvements in the expected trajectory of inflation.”

American consumers are also expecting inflation to drop to 3.1pc next year, down from their expectation in November when they were expecting prices to rise by 4.5pc.

04:19 PM GMT

Major Tesla shareholder turns up the heat in collective bargaining row

Tesla’s seventh-largest shareholder has waded into a row occurring in Sweden, Denmark and Norway between unions and the American electric carmaker.

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund told Reuters that: “We expect companies in which we invest to respect fundamental human rights, including labour rights.

“In 2022 we supported a shareholder proposal at Tesla that asked the company to introduce a policy to respect the right to organise.”

According to Reuters, the fund, known as Norges Bank Investment Management, owns 0.88pc of Tesla, worth $6.8bn (£5.4bn).

The comments will add pressure on the electric vehicle manufacturer, which finds itself in the middle of a furore in the Nordic region, where collective bargaining is the norm.

The row began with Tesla mechanics, who are members of the IF Metall union in Sweden and who service the cars, walking out after Tesla failed to agree to jointly set wages and working conditions with the union. Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, described their decision to strike as “insane” and said: “I disagree with the idea of unions. I just don’t like anything which creates a lords-and-peasants kind of thing.”

Dockworkers joined in secondary action against Tesla, refusing to unload the Tesla cars, while postal and courier businesses refused to deliver Tesla licence plates.

Now the strikes have spread to neighbouring Denmark and Norway, with dock workers and drivers refusing to transport Tesla vehicles.

Tesla was approached for comment.

04:16 PM GMT

Heathrow plans easier expansions before third runway

Heathrow has launched a review into how it can increase capacity with its existing runways, prior to deciding on the future of its proposed third runway, according to the FT.

Business leaders and Heathrow alike pushed strongly in the 2010s for airport expansion around the capital. In 2015, a government-commissioned Airports Commission came out in favour of a new runway at Heathrow combined with environmental mitigation would offer the best economic benefits, adding some 40 new destinations from the airport and creating more than 70,000 new jobs by 2050.

Plans were developed but the collapse of passenger numbers during Covid, however, derailed the scheme. The FT said that people familiar with Heathrow’s thinking pointed out that construction and financing costs had risen sharply since the pandemic.

Heathrow has been contacted for comment.

03:34 PM GMT

Qatar's stake in Barclays drops to 2.78pc

On Monday we reported on plans by the Qatar Investment Authority to cuts its stake in Barclays. This afternoon, in an announcement to the London Stock Exchange, it has been confirmed that Qatar’s holdings in Barclays has dropped to 2.78pc, down from above 5pc.

Qatar’s investment in Barclays came in the financial crisis of 2008, when the British banking giant sought funds to prevent it being subjected to a state bailout.

Barclays shares are up 3.8pc at present.

03:31 PM GMT

Handing over

I’ll hand you over to Alex Singleton now, who will make sure you are kept up to speed with everything you need to know.

As you head into the weekend, I will leave you with some assessments of what the latest jobs figures mean for the US economy:

03:19 PM GMT

Strike laws setting out minimum service levels come into force

The first regulations aimed at ensuring minimum levels of service during strikes have come into force, the Government has announced.

Ministers said the regulations are set to apply in the rail sector, border security and ambulance services.

For the railways, minimum service levels will mean that rail operators can aim to run 40pc of their normal timetable during any strike.

For a strike affecting infrastructure services, certain key routes will also be able to stay open and for longer than is normally the case during strikes, said the Government.

A Statutory Code of Practice has also come into force which sets out the “reasonable” steps trade unions should take to ensure their members comply with work notices.

03:11 PM GMT

UK bond yields rise as US economy adds 199,000 jobs

Government borrowing costs have risen after data showed the US economy added more jobs than expected last month, putting a dampener on expectations for rate cuts from the Federal Reserve early next year.

The yield on the 10-year UK gilt has tipped back above 4pc while Germany’s 10-year yield was last up 7.5 basis points at 2.27pc.

However, German bunds are still on track to record its biggest biweekly fall since banking turmoil in mid-March after money markets ramped up bets earlier this week on European Central Bank rate cuts. 

It hit 2.17pc on Thursday, its lowest level since April 6.

Money market traders have priced in the first ECB rate cut by March next year, while the Bank of England is not expected to do so until as late as June.

02:50 PM GMT

Anglo American suffers steepest slump since first Covid lockdown

Mining giant Anglo American has suffered its worst day since the first Covid lockdown after it revealed plans to significantly cut production at a number of mines in a bid to slash costs.

Shares in the FTSE 100 company slumped as much as 15.1pc - its worst fall since March 2020 - after it announced the slowdown, which is set to result in a 4pc drop in production next year.

Anglo American said it took action earlier in the year to reduce costs “in the face of ongoing economic and geopolitical volatility and the current cyclical weakness in PGMs (platinum group metals) and diamonds”.

The company has said it will now go further in the face of continued inflationary pressure, as it shares price has dropped by around 30pc over the past year.

The latest cuts will lower its capital expenditure by $1.8bn (£1.5bn) between the current year and 2026.

Despite its poor performance, the FTSE 100 remains up 0.5pc on the day and is on track to rise 0.3pc for the week.

02:33 PM GMT

Wall Street falls as US adds 199,000 jobs

Wall Street opened lower as traders trimmed their bets on the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates early next year after stronger than expected employment figures.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.1pc after the opening bell to 36,075.72 while the S&P 500 dipped 0.1pc to 4,580.31 as the US economy added 199,000 jobs in November.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite fell by 0.3pc to 14,294.70.

Meanwhile, the FTSE 100 has climbed 0.5pc on the day after the latest US employment data sent the value of the dollar downward.

02:20 PM GMT

US will narrowly avoid recession, say economists

The larger-than-expected increase in US employment in November was partly as a result of striking union members returning to work, economists have pointed out.

The 199,000 increase in November payrolls included 47,000 workers returning from strikes - 30,000 UAW members in the car industry and 17,000 SAG Aftra members involved in the Hollywood writes’ dispute. 

Excluding those sectors, the economy added only 26,000 jobs, which adds to the evidence that, after a very strong third quarter, “growth is slowing to a crawl in the fourth quarter” according to the consultancy Capital Economics. 

Chief North America economist Paul Ashworth said:

Overall, the gain in payrolls and drop back in the unemployment rate were broadly in line with our own forecasts.

Trend employment growth, particularly in cyclical sectors, continues to weaken, but there are few signs of any labour market capitulation. 

We expect the economy to narrowly avoid a recession. But, with core inflation rapidly normalising, the Fed will pivot to rate cuts next spring.

02:09 PM GMT

Petrol should be 9p per litre cheaper after oil price slump, says RAC

Petrol prices should have fallen by an extra 9p per litre after the sharp drop in oil prices, the RAC has said.

The average price of petrol across the UK is now 145p a litre after a dramatic fall in the price of Brent crude to around $75 a barrel.

It cost around 157p per litre in September, when crude was trading near $100.

However, the RAC has said prices at the pump should have fallen to 134p “if retailers play fair with drivers and pass on the savings they are benefitting from”.

It comes after competition regulators accused petrol retailers of “taking advantage” of drivers at the pumps after a report showed motorists were hit with “significant increases” in fuel sellers’ margins.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said in November that over the previous two months, the difference between pump prices and the wholesale cost of petrol and diesel were “significantly above the long-term average”.

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “While wholesale fuel prices have been coming down for weeks on the back of the falling oil price, unfortunately prices at the pumps have not been cut nearly as far as they should have been, which is very disappointing considering how much focus there is on retailers from the Competition and Markets Authority.”

He added: “Those who drive diesel vehicles are also losing out. If there was true competition in the market, the current price of 155.5p would have been far lower. We should really see the average price fall to 145p in the next fortnight if retailers decide to play fair.”

01:52 PM GMT

US jobs growth pushes back bets of early interest rate cut

Money markets have pushed back their bets on the first interest rate cut from May to June after employment was stronger than expected in November.

The US Federal Reserve is expected to keep interest rates unchanged at its next meeting on Wednesday. 

It has raised its policy rate by 525 basis points to the current 5.25oc-5.5pc range since March 2022.

Employment gains are well above the 100,000 jobs per month needed to keep up with growth in the working age population.

The unemployment rate dropped to 3.7pc from nearly a two-year high of 3.9pc in October. It had risen from a 53-year low of 3.4pc in April. 

The increase, however, was driven by a rise in labour supply rather than companies laying off workers.

Average hourly earnings increased 0.4pc after gaining 0.2pc in October. That kept the annual increase in wages at 4pc in November.

01:42 PM GMT

Jobs data 'may derail' early US interest rate cut, says Charles Schwab

As US employment came in higher than expected, Charles Schwab UK managing director Richard Flynn said:

Today’s jobs report has exceeded expectations, indicating to investors that demand in the labour market remains strong. 

Recent economic data has suggested that the labour market could be cooling off, but today’s figures may derail hopes that the Fed will cut rates sooner, rather than later. 

Slower job growth and slower inflation growth would show central bankers that they are fulfilling their dual mandate. 

Today we have seen that, for employment, this month’s job’s report does not reflect the cooling that the market is likely hoping for, so it might push the needle in terms of what we can expect from Fed policy in coming months.

01:38 PM GMT

Pound slides as US jobs market tightens

The pound has dropped sharply against the dollar after employment in the US increased by 199,000 in November - ahead of analyst expectations.

Sterling has dropped 0.5pc toward $1.25 as the figure calls into questions hopes of early interest rate cuts next year by the Federal Reserve.

01:32 PM GMT

US payrolls increase by more than expected

US employment jumped by more than expected in November, official figures show, potentially dampening expectations that the Federal Reserve will begin cutting interest rates early next year.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 199,000 last month, ahead of October’s rise of 150,000 and up on analysts’ expectations of an increase of 185,000.

The unemployment rate fell to 3.7pc from its previous two-year high of 3.9pc.

01:13 PM GMT

Tesla must respect union rights, says world's largest stock market investor

Tesla should respect fundamental rights like trade union negotiations, Norway’s $1.5trillion (£1.2trn) sovereign wealth fund has said.

The world’s biggest single investor in stock markets has waded into the furore surrounding the electric car maker over its attitude to workers’ rights.

The US company on Thursday lost a legal challenge against postal workers holding sympathy strikes with Swedish mechanics, who have been demanding collective bargaining rights covering wages with Tesla.

Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), which operates the Norwegian fund, is Tesla’s seventh biggest shareholder with a 0.88pc stake worth some $6.8bn (£5.4bn) according to LSEG data.

NBIM told Reuters: 

We expect companies in which we invest to respect fundamental human rights, including labour rights.

In 2022 we supported a shareholder proposal at Tesla that asked the company to introduce a policy to respect the right to organise.

Tesla, which has revolutionised the electric car market, has managed to avoid collective bargaining agreements with its roughly 127,000 workers, and chief executive Elon Musk has been vocal about his opposition to unions.

12:52 PM GMT

Abu Dhabi-backed Telegraph bidder rejects plan to ease press freedom fears

The prospective owners of The Telegraph have rejected a plan to reduce the share of Abu Dhabi cash behind the takeover and ease concerns over press freedom.

Our business editor Christopher Williams has the latest:

Jeff Zucker, the former CNN chief leading RedBird IMI, has ruled out restructuring or bringing in new investors to appease regulators, insiders said.

Some 75pc of the $1bn (£790m) fund is provided by International Media Investments (IMI), an Abu Dhabi vehicle controlled by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the Manchester City owner and vice-president of the United Arab Emirates. The rest is derived from RedBird, a US private equity firm with institutional and family office backing.

It is understood The Telegraph’s independent directors proposed that reducing IMI’s interest to a minority or even 25pc of The Telegraph’s £600m price would help them win a crucial recommendation from Ofcom to the Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer.

However, multiple sources confirmed that Mr Zucker firmly rejected the idea.

Read what happens now.

12:22 PM GMT

Gas prices fall as mild weather eases demand

Wholesale gas prices have fallen amid high stock levels and strong supplies from Norway.

Europe’s benchmark contract has edge down 0.9pc to below €39 per megawatt hour, while the UK equivalent has dropped 0.4pc to less than £1 per therm.

Mild weather is returning over the weekend, dampening demand, with overall gas demand expected to be 8pc below 2022 levels.

Meanwhile, the EU will discuss the supply of Russian gas, with some countries potentially due to announce bans on fuel from Moscow.

The UK and Germany as well as several Baltic states have already stopped using Russian gas.

12:04 PM GMT

Mortgage rates tipped to fall below 4pc as early as next week

Mortgage rates are tipped to fall below 4pc as soon as next week, after swap rates fell to levels not seen since May.

Our money reporter Ruby Hinchliffe has the latest:

Swap rates, a leading indicator for mortgage rates, fell to 3.99pc on Tuesday before dipping further – to 3.94pc – on Thursday.

On Friday, the average rate for two-year fixed mortgages also dropped below 6pc for the first time since mid-June, according to Moneyfacts.

Major banks including Nationwide, Santander and Halifax all cut their fixed rates on Friday, in what some brokers have called “the next chapter of the mortgage rate war”.

Read which other lenders are cutting rates.

12:01 PM GMT

Car makers face 1.2m claims over emissions scandal, judges told

Car manufacturers are facing more than 1.2m compensation claims following allegations that “defeat devices” were fitted to diesel vehicles to get around emissions tests, judges have been told.

Four judges overseeing a preliminary High Court hearing in London today heard that Mercedes-Benz was facing around 350,000 claims - and that manufacturers including Opel, Nissan, Jaguar Land Rover, Ford, Volvo, Hyundai, Toyota and Mazda were also among defendants in a “group” legal action.

Motorists are suing the car makers for allegedly deceiving them over emissions standards, which - they argue - has resulted in knocking thousands off the value of their cars. Lawyers said in April that the claims against Mercedes alone, if successful, could be worth as much as £3bn.

A barrister representing some claimants told judges that the litigation involved 1.25 million claimants and about 1,500 defendants, once dealerships were included.

The legal action follows the “dieselgate” scandal uncovered in 2015 in which it first emerged that Volkswagen had installed software designed to deceive official testing, reducing polluting NOx emissions in laboratory conditions that were not matched by real world driving.

11:35 AM GMT

Trafigura triples dividend to £4.7bn after record profit

The commodity trading giant Trafigura will pay its staff shareholders $5.9bn (£4.7bn) in dividends after making a record profit.

The unprecedented payout means an average of $5m (£4m) will be paid to each of the privately-owned trading house’s 1,200 top traders and executives.

Trafigura has managed record profits for three years in a row and comes despite a turbulent year in which it has faced allegations of a huge nickel fraud.

Annual profits rose 5pc to $7.4bn, driven by surging earnings in its energy divisions.

11:19 AM GMT

Spotify finance chief leaves days after cutting 1,500 jobs

Spotify has ousted its finance chief as founder Daniel Ek overhauls the streaming service in a bid to strip out costs.

Our reporter James Warrington has the details:

The Swedish music company said chief financial officer Paul Vogel will step down at the end of March.

It marks the latest effort by Mr Ek to shake up Spotify, which has struggled to deliver consistent profits.

The company earlier this week announced it would slash 17pc of its workforce – around 1,500 jobs – in the third round of job cuts this year.

The overhaul comes as tech companies face pressure from investors to demonstrate profitability after years of growth funded by low interest rates.

Read what Mr Ek said about Mr Vogel’s departure.

11:00 AM GMT

Wall Street anxiously awaits US jobs figures

US stock indexes were subdued in premarket trading as investors prepared for the crucial monthly payrolls report to gain more insight into the Federal Reserve’s stance on monetary policy for the upcoming year.

The Labor Department’s closely watched report, due at 1.30pm UK time, is expected to show US job growth likely picked up steam in November as workers in sectors ranging from cars to casinos returned after their hard-fought strikes.

Economists think nonfarm payrolls likely increased by 180,000 jobs last month after rising 150,000 in October. The unemployment rate is forecast to remain unchanged at nearly a two-year high of 3.9pc.

A series of data this week has indicated a softening jobs market, fuelling bets that the Fed was at the end of its tightening campaign and could cut rates soon.

Some analysts have warned that a stronger-than-expected reading could throw cold water on such hopes.

Jefferies chief economist Mohit Kumar said:For rates, we see a slightly higher number having more of an impact than a slightly lower number.” 

Optimism around peaking interest rates and upbeat quarterly earnings have led to a strong rebound in stocks towards the end of the year, with the S&P 500 rising 19pc so far in 2023.

In premarket trading,  the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 were up 0.1pc, while futures on the Nasdaq 100 were flat.

10:45 AM GMT

Microsoft denies it has control of OpenAI

Microsoft has denied that it has taken control of OpenAI after Britain’s competition regulator said it was reviewing the nature of their partnership.

After the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it was seeking views on the tie-up, Microsoft president Brad Smith said:

The only thing that has changed is that Microsoft will now have a non-voting observer on OpenAI’s board, which is very different from an acquisition such as Google’s purchase of DeepMind in the UK.

We will work closely with the CMA to provide all the information it needs.

10:35 AM GMT

Prince Harry loses legal challenge in libel claim against Mail on Sunday

The Duke of Sussex has lost a bid to have The Mail on Sunday publisher’s defence to his High Court libel claim thrown out by a judge.

Our royal editor Hannah Furness has the latest:

Harry, 39, is suing Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) over a February 2022 article about his legal challenge against the Home Office following a decision to change his publicly funded security arrangements when visiting the UK.

The duke’s lawyers have said the story, which claimed Harry “tried to keep details of his legal battle to reinstate his police protection secret from the public”, was “an attack on his honesty and integrity” and would undermine his charity work and efforts to tackle misinformation online.

ANL is contesting the claim, arguing the article expressed an “honest opinion” and did not cause “serious harm” to his reputation.

In March, the High Court heard the duke’s bid to strike out ANL’s “honest opinion” defence or grant judgment in his favour on it.

Read how, in a written ruling today, Mr Justice Nicklin refused to “strike out” ANL’s defence.

10:26 AM GMT

Microsoft and OpenAI put under spotlight by UK regulators

Microsoft’s partnership with ChatGPT maker OpenAI has come under scrutiny from regulators weeks after the turmoil sparked by the ousting and then rehiring of Sam Altman as the latter’s chief executive.

The Competition and Markets Authority said it is seeking views on whether a merger between the two would impact competition in the UK.

It comes after OpenAI’s co-founder Sam Altman agreed to return as chief executive after a power struggle with the ChatGPT-maker’s board, less than five days after his dramatic sacking.

Microsoft, OpenAI’s largest investor, had pledged to hire Mr Altman in the days after his removal, before he was reinstated after hundreds of staff rebelled.

10:14 AM GMT

Nearly half of Britons expect rates to rise over next year

The Bank of England’s survey on people’s thoughts about inflation showed that 44pc of Britons expect interest rates to rise over the next year, down from 63pc in August.

Some 29pc said they expected rates to stay about the same over the next twelve months, up from 19pc in August.

Money markets think UK interest rates have peaked.

Asked what would be “best for the economy”, 11pc of people survey by Ipsos thought interest rates should “go up”, down from 13pc in August.

Some 40pc thought that interest rates should “go down” while 29pc thought interest rates should “stay where they are”.

09:56 AM GMT

Britons expect inflation to remain above target in five years, says Bank of England survey

People think inflation will still be above the Bank of England’s 2pc target in five years’ time, according to a survey for the institution.

Britons fear prices will still be rising at 3.2pc in 2028, the Bank’s inflation attitudes survey showed.

The research, conducted by Ipsos, showed the public’s fears about the cost of living are growing.

October’s survey showed people expected prices in the shops to be rising by 2.9pc in five years.

People think the rate of inflation over the coming year will be 3.3pc, down from 3.6pc in August 2023.

The consumer prices index measure of inflation dropped from 6.7pc in September to 4.6pc in October.

09:41 AM GMT

Fresh blow for London stock market as Marex prepares for New York listing

A member of the London Metal Exchange has decided to list in the US rather than Britain in yet another blow to the beleaguered stock market.

Michael Bow has the details:

Marex has submitted preliminary documents with the US Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering (IPO), two years after abandoning plans to list in London.

The company ditched a London Stock Exchange IPO in 2021, citing difficult market conditions. At the time, the listing would have valued the group at about £500m.

Marex’s decision to turn to New York rather than revive plans to list in London delivers another dent to the reputation of Britain’s financial centre.

Read why companies are attracted to the US.

09:25 AM GMT

Pound poised for worst week against the yen this year

The pound is on track for its largest weekly fall against the yen in a year, driven by a strong cash flow into the Japanese currency after authorities in Tokyo hinted at a long-awaited increase in interest rates.

Sterling is also heading for its worst weekly performance against the dollar in a month, but was firm against the euro.

Trading this week has been dominated by rate expectations, with those concerning the outlook for interest in Japan providing the strongest catalyst.

The yen has risen across the board, particularly against higher-yielding currencies such as the pound and the New Zealand dollar.

The next risk event for markets will be the monthly US employment report later on Friday, which is expected to show 180,000 workers were added to non-farm payrolls in November.

Sterling was last down 0.2pc on the day at $1.25. Against the yen, sterling was down 0.1pc at 181, after a fall of nearly 3pc on Thursday. The pound is set for a weekly decline of 2.8pc against the yen, its largest fall in a year.

The Bank of England is among the major central banks that meet next week to discuss interest rates. 

Traders do not expect the Bank to make any changes to interest rates, leaving the focus on what policymakers think about the outlook for growth and inflation and what that might suggest about the timing of the first cut.

09:10 AM GMT

Average two-year fixed mortgage rate drops below 6pc

The average rate on a two-year fixed mortgage has fallen below 6pc for the first time since mid-June this year.

The rate peaked at 6.86pc in late July when money markets feared the Bank of England could raise interest rates as high as 6.5pc, with JP Morgan Chase suggesting there was a risk rates could reach 7pc.

Today the average two-year fixed residential mortgage rate fell to 5.99pc, while the average five-year fixed rate is 5.6pc, according to Moneyfacts.

Spokesman James Hyde said rates “have been gently falling since early August due a combination of factors including falling inflation, base rate pauses, and reductions in swap rates”.

He added:

In recent weeks, a number of lenders have again begun to offer sub-5pc two-year fixed deals; with lowest rates available UK-wide sitting around 4.75pc at present.

It remains to be seen if the recent rate reductions will continue, as any further rises in inflation, base rate, or swap rates may lead to a reversal.

09:00 AM GMT

Berkeley Homes slips as housebuilding slows

Berkeley shares have fallen 2.4pc despite the housebuilder extending its profit guidance for three years and pointing to tentative signs of recovery in the property market.

The company revealed pre-tax profits increased 4.6pc to £298m in the six months to the end of October.

However, it only built 1,785 homes during the period, 295 less homes than last year.

Andy Murphy of investment research consultancy Edison Group said: 

Net reservations are a third lower than the previous year reflecting the increased interest rates and ongoing political and macro volatility of the property market. 

However, the company’s net cash continues to increase to £422m, with £1.2bn of borrowing capacity resulting in a total liquidity of £1.6bn.

The group’s uniquely long-term business model has kept the company competitive and continuing to show economic growth despite these difficulties, which puts Berkeley in good stead for when the macroeconomic environment betters.

08:47 AM GMT

FTSE 100 rises as oil rebounds

The FTSE 100 index gained in early trading as energy stocks were lifted by higher crude oil prices.

The blue-chip index rose 0.2pc, while more domestically-focussed FTSE 250 midcap index was 0.3pc higher.

Heavyweight energy stocks gained 0.7pc, tracking strength in crude oil prices after Saudi Arabia and Russia called for more Opec+ members to join output cuts.

The exporter-heavy FTSE 100 is set to log marginal weekly losses, while the midcap index eyes sharp weekly gains.

Anglo American lost as much as 7.3pc after the global miner said it aimed to reduce capital expenditure by $1.8bn across its businesses by 2026 as it deepens spending cuts across all its units. 

Sainsbury’s gained 3.3pc after Goldman Sachs upgraded the supermarket group’s rating to “buy” from “neutral”.

The focus will shift later to the crucial US November nonfarm payrolls report, which is expected to show job growth in the world’s biggest economy likely picked up in the previous month.

08:36 AM GMT

Anglo American shares in a hole as miner scales back production

Mining behemoth Anglo American has unveiled plans to scale back production over the next two years as it seeks to reduce costs.

Shares in the company have slumped 6.4pc to the bottom of the FTSE 100 as it said it would decrease production by 4pc next year and a further 3pc in 2025.

The business has been hit by falling commodity prices, while operations have been impacted by extreme weather.

Chief executive Duncan Wanblad said: 

The prospects for mined products have rarely looked better.

In the near term, given continuing elevated macro volatility, we are being deliberate in reducing our costs and prioritising our capital to drive more profitable production on a sustainable basis.  

08:22 AM GMT

Wave of redundancies triggers biggest jump in jobless since lockdown

A wave of redundancies has triggered the biggest jump in job seekers since lockdown, new data shows.

Our economics reporter Melissa Lawford has the details:

The number of people looking for work rose for the ninth month in a row in November, surging at the fastest pace since December 2020, according to the latest KPMG and REC report on jobs, compiled by S&P Global.

The total staff availability index rose from 59 in October to 61.9 in November, the highest reading in nearly three years.

Recruiters said this was due to an increase in redundancies and a rise in people looking for new roles because they were concerned about their job security.

Hiring fell sharply with permanent staff placements dropping for the fourteenth month in a row and at the second fastest pace since June 2020.

It is the latest sign that the labour market is turning after a shortage of workers during the pandemic pushed unemployment to a record low.

Clare Warnes, partner in skills and productivity at KPMG UK, said: “Employers are reining in hiring and continuing with redundancies in response to the sustained economic slowdown.”

08:15 AM GMT

Washington Post hit by strikes as it tries to cut jobs

Staff at the Washington Post staged a day of strike action outside its offices in the US capital in a dispute over pay.

The daily newspaper suffered a $100m (£79.6m) loss in 2023 and is attempting to cut 240 jobs, but only about half that number have accepted severance offers.

Sir William Lewis, the former editor of The Telegraph, was named publisher and chief executive of the Washington Post last month.

08:05 AM GMT

UK markets muted at open

The FTSE 100 edged upwards ahead of crucial US jobs data which will give an indication of the speed with which the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates.

The UK’s benchmark index was up 0.1pc to 7,520.87 while the domestically-focused FTSE 250 was flat at 18,624.09.

08:01 AM GMT

Japan's markets in turmoil ahead of expected interest rate rise

Japanese markets were reeling as investors raced to make bets on rising interest rates.

In a chaotic day of trading, the Nikkei is heading for its biggest weekly drop in a year while bonds have been battered and the yen is eyeing its largest weekly gain in five months.

The Nikkei was down 1.8pc on the day, for a weekly drop of 3.6pc, with exporters such as carmakers falling hardest.

The yen leapt more than 2pc on Thursday and was well-supported on Friday as short sellers fear that a long-awaited rally may have finally begun.

The yen hit its strongest on the dollar in four months at 141.6 on Thursday and steadied at 144 to the dollar on Friday, having gained about 5pc in three weeks.

In the past year the Bank of Japan has twice widened and then relaxed its tolerance band for 10-year yields.

On Thursday Governor Kazuo Ueda said an “even more challenging” year is ahead, which traders took as a sign of change in its interest rate policy is in the office. The Bank of Japan is due to set policy rates on December 19.

State Street’s Tokyo branch manager Bart Wakabayashi said: “This move and the speed of this move have blown away my expectations.”

07:49 AM GMT

IG Group names former head of Paddy Power Betfair as new boss

The former chief executive of Paddy Power Betfair has been named as the new boss of trading broker IG Group.

Breon Corcoran, who led the 2016 merger between Paddy Power and Betfair to form the world’s largest gambling company worth £1.75bn, will take up his new role on January 29.

In October, IG announced plans to cut 300 jobs in a cost cutting drive amid a downturn in investors speculating.

IG Group chairman Mike McTighe said: 

I am very pleased to announce Breon’s appointment following a comprehensive global search. 

He is a proven leader of high performing teams within multinational organisations, with an ability to deliver results for all stakeholders.

The board is confident that Breon is the right person to lead IG and deliver the next phase of growth. I look forward to working with him.

07:36 AM GMT

Berkeley boosts profits despite slump in housebuilding

Housebuilder Berkeley Group has seen profits lift for the past half-year despite completing fewer homes in the face of a “challenging” market backdrop.

The London-listed company said it delivered 1,785 homes, as well as 204 through joint ventures, over the six months to October 31.

It dropped from 2,080, and 251 from joint ventures, over the same period last year, as the housing sector has been impacted by soaring interest rates and high construction costs.

In the firm’s update to shareholders, bosses were also critical of UK planning and regulation rules.

Rob Perrins, chief executive, said: 

Despite urban regeneration being a clear national priority, it has become increasingly difficult to progress this form of development as changes to planning, tax and regulatory regimes have created an increasingly uncertain, unpredictable and burdensome environment.

This is driving investment away from urban areas, restricting growth and preventing homes and other tangible benefits being delivered.

07:31 AM GMT

Flutter confirms commitment to London listing

The gambling group behind Sky Bet, Paddy Power and Betfair has announced it aims to list on the New York Stock Exchange next year - and confirmed it will not be delisting from London in the process.

Flutter said it would delist from Dublin’s stock market by January 23 so that it can launch its US listing by January 29.

There had been concerns that the gambling group would shun London, where concerns have been raised about investor returns.

In a statement to shareholders, the company said: “Flutter’s premium listing on the London Stock Exchange (“LSE”) and inclusion in the FTSE 100 index will not be affected by the addition of this US listing.”

07:19 AM GMT

Oil price heading for longest downturn since 2018 in fuel boost

The price of oil is on track for its worst downturn in five years in a potential boost for drivers.

Global benchmark Brent is on track for a seventh consecutive weekly fall, raising pressure on fuel suppliers to pass on savings to drivers.

Brent, which is trading at around $75 a barrel, had slumped 11pc before Thursday’s session despite pledges by the Opec+ cartel to reduce production in a bid to prop up prices. It had traded near $100 in September.

Crude has closed every session lower since last week’s meeting between the Opec+ as the group’s plans for deeper cuts were met with scepticism. 

Vladimir Putin and Saudi leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman issued a joint statement this week urging countries to follow through with proposed supply cuts in an effort to prop up prices.

However, concerns about demand from China and weak factory data from Germany are outweighing the impact of supply cuts.

 Ravindra Rao, head of commodity research at Kotak Securities said: “The oil demand outlook remains bleak. 

“China’s recovery failed to gain traction, while Western factory activity continues to be in contraction.”

In early trading, Brent crude has gained 2pc to more than $75 while US-produced West Texas Intermediate was up 1.9pc to trade above $70 after retreating by 11pc over the past six sessions.

06:58 AM GMT

Good morning

Thanks for joining me. The price of oil is on track for its worst slump in five years in a sign that petrol prices should be falling.

Brent crude is on track for a seventh consecutive weekly decline, its worst run since 2018, amid concerns about global demand and doubts over the commitment to supply cuts by members of the Opec+ cartel.

5 things to start your day 

1) Hunt and Sunak are to blame for forecasting errors, says OBR chief | Economic predictions could be off by as much as £30bn, warns Richard Hughes

2) Labour recruits City grandees as it declares it is ‘no longer sneering at business’ | Move aims to erase the anti-business era and shore up support in the Square Mile

3) Hunt’s Edinburgh Reforms are a ‘damp squib’, say MPs | Chancellor’s efforts to champion post-Brexit regulatory reforms remain ‘unconvincing’

4) Saudi Arabia turns to British expertise as it seeks to turn oil rich Kingdom into the next Dubai | The Gulf state races to build the infrastructure and attractions needed to draw visitors

5) Half of first-time buyers in their 20s get help from Bank of Mum and Dad | Young people getting on the property ladder are being gifted an average of £25,000

What happened overnight 

Asian shares were mostly higher on Friday ahead of a US government jobs report, after Wall Street rose Thursday to snap its first three-day losing streak since Halloween.

In Tokyo, the benchmark Nikkei 225 index closed down 1.7pc, or 550.45 points, to 32,307.86, as investors speculated that the Bank of Japan may end its negative interest rate policy.

Before meeting Thursday with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Bank of Japan Governor Kazuo Ueda told parliament the central bank would face an “even more challenging” situation at the year’s end and in early 2024. 

The pound has fallen 0.2pc to 181 Japanese yen. It was trading above 188 yen in late November.

Updated data showed Japan’s economy shrank by 2.9pc year-on-year in the July-September quarter, worse than estimated earlier.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.3pc to 16,394.90 and the Shanghai Composite index was up 0.4pc at 2,977.83. 

The Kospi in Seoul gained 1pc to 2,519.07. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 edged up 0.2pc to 7190.70. India’s Sensex added 0.4pc and Bangkok’s SET gained 0.2pc.

In the US, the S&P 500 rose 0.8pc to 4,585.59, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average of 30 leading American companies rose 0.17pc to 36,117.38. The technology-focused Nasdaq Composite index rose 1.37pc to 14,339.99.

The yield on 10-year US Treasury bonds rose to around 4.15pc, up three basis points. This came amid snetiment on Wall Street that the market had given too much credence to the idea that major central banks are gearing up to cut rates. This was fuelled by comments by Bank of Japan Governor Kazuo Ueda, who gave an indication that Japan could raise rates on December 19.


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