Press Round-Up Short (Premium)
The rise of nationalism and governments that interfere in markets pose a threat to the global economic system, the boss of BHP, the world’s biggest mining company, has warned. Despite announcing a 124% rise in profits to $US8. 31bn (£6. 84bn), helped by booming iron ore sales to China, Andrew Mackenzie said on Tuesday that there were “a number of things abroad” that were causing concern for the Anglo-Australian behemoth. – Guardian.
British house hunters have launched a surprise August buying spree before the scheduled Brexit date, with new data showing sales reached their highest point since 2015 during the usually sleepy summer period. The number of agreed sales rose by 6. 1% year on year in the month to 10 August, according to property website Rightmove, which claims to track nine in 10 UK house purchases. – Guardian.
Environmental groups have voiced fears that the government is preparing to row back on fracking regulations after officials said they were considering reviewing earthquake safeguard rules. The limits affecting shale gas fracking are strongly contested by the industry because they bring an immediate halt to fracking if even a minor tremor of 0. 5 on the Richter scale is recorded. – Guardian .
The Turkish pension fund poised to buy British Steel was accused of corruption by a parliamentary commission, and jointly owns a car plant where striking workers were allegedly mistreated. A subsidiary of Oyak, a £15bn pension scheme chaired by an army general, is on the verge of being named the government’s preferred bidder to take over British Steel, including the Scunthorpe steelworks where more than 4,000 people work. – Guardian.
Campaigners and unions have warned that ever higher train fares risk driving passengers off the railway, as a fresh increase of about 2. 9% is expected to be confirmed on Wednesday and after a decade when fares have risen at double the rate of wages. The fare rise, to take effect in January but dictated by the July inflation figure that will be published by the Office for National Statistics on Wednesday, will add more than £100 to many annual season tickets. – Guardian.
More than 50 major UK retailers, including Marks & Spencer, Harrods and Iceland, have demanded tax cuts from the government to safeguard the future of the high street amid intense pressure from online rivals. In a letter to the chancellor, Sajid Javid, the bosses of some of the nation’s biggest retail chains called for an urgent reform of the business rates system, which taxes companies based on the buildings they occupy. – Guardian.
Britons have spent £4bn stockpiling goods in preparation for a possible no-deal Brexit, new research suggests. One in five people are already hoarding food, drinks and medicine, spending an extra £380 each, according to a survey by the finance provider Premium Credit. The survey found that about 800,000 people have spent more than £1,000 building up stockpiles before the 31 October Brexit deadline. – Guardian.
Hundreds of schoolchildren have been drafted in to make Amazon’s Alexa devices in China as part of a controversial and often illegal attempt to meet production targets, documents seen by the Guardian reveal. Interviews with workers and leaked documents from Amazon’s supplierFoxconn show that many of the children have been required to work nights and overtime to produce the smart-speaker devices, in breach of Chinese labour laws. – Guardian.
Rebel MPs are working on a plan to thwart Boris Johnson pursuing a no-deal Brexit on 31 October that involves forcing parliament to sit through the autumn recess, amid growing outrage about the power and influence of his controversial aide, Dominic Cummings. The cross-party group of MPs is looking at legislative options with mounting urgency because of the hardline tactics of Cummings, who one Conservative insider described as running a “reign of terror” in No 10 aimed at achieving Brexit on 31 October at any cost.
Amazon won praise when it raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour in October 2018. Since then, the company has responded to criticism over its working conditions by claiming it is an industry leader in compensation, but a Guardian investigation has revealed many workers take issue with this messaging, as serious workplace issues remain that they say are still not being addressed. They include claims workers are being punished for injuries; the elimination of bonuses and stock options, which has lessened the impact of the wage rise; poor working conditions; higher productivity demands and the hiring of temporary workers who do not have the same benefits as Amazon staff.
British retailers have recorded the worst month for sales in July since records began, as consumers tighten their belts with Brexit approaching. According to British Retail Consortium sales data compiled by the accountancy firm KPMG, total sales increased by 0. 3% in July, compared with a rise of 1. 6% in July last year. – Guardian.
Low-income households in Britain are more vulnerable to recession than they were before the financial crisis, the Resolution Foundation has warned, amid the mounting risks of a Brexit downturn. According to the thinktank, a decade of weak wage growth has left the poorest UK households and middle-income families less prepared for another downturn. It also warned the gradual dismantling of the benefits system under the policy of austerity imposed over the past decade by Conservative-led governments has left people without the same degree of support.
Asian stock markets plunged on Friday after Donald Trump's surprise threat of tariff hikes on additional Chinese imports. In early trading, Tokyo's main index tumbled 2. 2% and Hong Kong's benchmark lost 2%. Markets in Shanghai, Sydney and Seoul also fell. The US president's announcement of 10% tariffs on $300 billion of Chinese goods, due to take effect on September 1, surprised investors after the White House said Beijing promised to buy more farm goods. China's foreign minister said on Friday tariffs were "not a constructive" way to solve the US trade war.
House prices have risen by just £650 over the past year, new figures from Nationwide Building Society revealed today. Annual property inflation remained sluggish in July, with the average home up just 0. 3 per cent on a year earlier, from £217,010 to £217,663. Nationwide's chief economist Robert Gardner said while new buyer inquiries have increased a little, 'key consumer confidence indicators remain subdued', however, first-time buyers have been taking advantage of the slower property market.
Boris Johnson has said that the UK could stay in the customs union and single market for another two years, as he appeared to suggest what a Brexit deal struck by his Government could look like. The Prime Minister described the chance of a no-deal Brexit as “vanishingly small” as he visited farmers in Wales on his tour of the UK. However, he stressed that the cost of no-deal preparations - such as building new customs facilities - will not be a “wasted effort” even if the UK manages to agree a deal with the European Union.
The pound has slumped to a 28-month low as investors reacted with alarm to the escalation of no-deal rhetoric by Boris Johnson’s government. Sterling dropped below $1. 23 against the US dollar and fell sharply against the euro to below €1. 10 on the international currency markets on Monday, as cabinet ministers began meetings to prepare for a no-deal Brexit. But while the pound suffered, there was confusion from Johnson’s government about whether a no-deal Brexit is the main working assumption.
Sports Direct did not tell its auditors that it faced a £605m tax demand until the day it was due to release its annual results. Accountants at Grant Thornton were only informed of the claim for VAT and penalties from Belgian authorities early on Friday, according to well-placed sources. - The Daily Telegraph.
The former Tory chancellor Philip Hammond held private talks with Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer shortly before Boris Johnson entered Downing Street last Wednesday, to plot cross-party moves aimed at preventing the new prime minister agreeing to a no-deal Brexit.
The US government will pay American farmers hurt by the trade war with China between $15 and $150 per acre in an aid package totaling $16bn with farmers in the South poised to see higher rates than in the midwest. As US and Chinese negotiators prepare to meet face-to-face for the first time since talks on the dispute collapsed in May, the agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue, said the package showed that Donald Trump knew farmers were “fighting the fight”. – Guardian.
Most Nationwide banking customers will pay more for going into the red after it became the first major current account provider to respond to a ban on excessive fees. Nationwide, which has almost 8 million current account holders, said that following a clampdown by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), it would be introducing a single overdraft interest rate of 39. 9%, and removing many fees. That rate is more than double the 18. 9% that the building society now charges holders of its FlexAccount for an authorised overdraft.