Elon Musk has disbanded Twitter’s entire office in Brussels after a row over the policing of the social network’s content in the bloc.
Julia Mozer and Dario La Nasa, who were in charge of Twitter’s digital policy in Europe, left the company last week, according to the Financial Times.
The executives were the driving force in getting the company to comply with the EU’s landmark Digital Services act, which came into force last week setting new rules for Big Tech firms to keep users safe online.
Other executives had already left the small Brussels office at the start of the month as Mr Musk sacked half of the company’s from 7,500 to around 3,750 in the weeks following his £38bn takeover.
The Tesla and SpaceX chief executive had tweeted that “the bird is freed” after completing his acquisition of the platform.
Shortly afterwards, European commissioner Thierry Breton issued a curt reminder of the EU’s content-moderation laws, saying: “In Europe, the bird will fly by our rules.”
Mr Musk had said that Twitter’s series of layoffs was over this week, as he launched a recruitment drive.
Read the latest updates below.
Greene King brewers to strike
Workers at brewers Greene King will go on strike in a row over pay.
Unite said 188 of its members based in Bury St Edmunds, Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, and Abingdon, Oxfordshire, will walk out for five days from December 5.
The workers brew and distribute Greene King’s products including IPA, Old Speckled Hen and Abbot Ale.
Unite said members voted for strike action after Greene King offered them a 3pc pay rise and a one-off payment of £650, which it described as a substantial real-terms wage cut because of inflation.
EU to approve Hungary’s recovery plan
The European Commission is likely to approve next week Hungary’s post-pandemic recovery plan to keep open the possibility of EU disbursements later, but hold back any payouts until Budapest fulfils all agreed conditions.
Under the EU recovery scheme, Hungary could get €5.8bn euros (£5bn) in grants to spend on making the economy greener and more digital – cash Budapest badly needs amid surging inflation, slowing growth and rocketing borrowing costs.
Separately, the Commission is also likely to recommend next week that EU governments suspend 65pc of transfers from the EU budget to Hungary, or some €7.5bn (£6.4bn), until many of the same conditions as for the recovery fund cash are met, sources at the EU executive told Reuters.
Top Hungarian officials said they were confident EU money would start flowing to Hungary next year because the government was committed to meeting all EU requirements, including the one on judiciary, by March 31.
‘Large majority’ on ECB backed rate increases
Investors appear unable to agree on the outlook for European markets after the European Central Bank published the minutes today from its most recent policy meeting.
The ECB minutes showed a “very large majority” of policy members supported the rate hike of 75 basis points that happened in October.
“The market’s main focus is on the pace of rate hikes going forward,” said a note by strategists at Dutch banking group ING.
“The ECB still hiked rates by 75bp last month, but subtle tweaks to the wording of the press statement were already interpreted as a dovish sign.”
Investors currently expect euro zone rates to top out around 2.8pc by the end of next summer.
Yet some strategists thought the ECB minutes were more hawkish:
Natural gas prices slump amid high cap talks
European natural gas prices have fallen by as much as 6.3pc as EU ministers try to resolve their differences on capping prices.
The European Commission had come up with a proposal to cap the price of gas this week after repeated calls from a large group of member states – even amid concerns from other quarters that the move could endanger supply.
The proposed emergency brake level of €275 (£236) per megawatt-hour is well above current levels, raising the question if it will ever be used.
A decision has been delayed until mid-December, with a group of countries pushing to toughen the price-cap plan, according to two EU diplomats.
Unseasonably mild weather over the past two months and the filling up of European storage sites had recently brought down prices from their summer peaks, although the risks of a disruption of supply during the peak winter season could drive prices higher.
Waitrose shuns purchase limits on eggs
Waitrose has pledged a £2.6m investment in its egg suppliers as it remains one of the few supermarkets not to impose purchase limits on customers.
Marks & Spencer and Morrisons are the latest grocers to join Tesco, Asda and Lidl in rationing the sale of boxes as the impacts of rising costs and bird flu continue to take their toll.
However Waitrose said it has no plans to introduce such limits, adding that it is confident it has “strong availability of British free-range eggs available for purchase both online and in our shops”.
Sainsbury’s and the Co-op have also not introduced any limits, with Co-op saying it is continuing to monitor the situation.
Waitrose said its £2.6m investment will go directly to farmers to support them with soaring production costs such as energy and chicken feed.
EU hopes to secure Russian oil price cap today
European Union diplomats are optimistic they can reach a deal as early as today on a price cap level for Russian oil exports despite sharp splits over the plan.
Poland on Wednesday rejected the EU’s executive arm’s proposed price of $65 per barrel as being too soft on Moscow, while Greece, whose shipping industry transports lots of oil, does not want to go below $70.
Identifying the ideal price – high enough to keep Russia’s oil flowing and avoid price spikes, low enough to cut funding for Russia’s war in Ukraine – is the final high hurdle in a months’ long process in shaping the G7-led plan, which US officials have pushed.
Ambassadors are scheduled for more talks this evening to continue their discussions, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.
Major new European sanctions kick in on Dec 5, creating an urgency to get the price and other details buttoned down.
Oil prices are slightly down today, with Brent crude dipping 0.6pc to $84.89 and WTI crude worth $77.78 a barrel, down 0.2pc.
Black Friday key as Christmas ‘pulled forward’
Black Friday could be more important for British retailers this year as they try to encourage shoppers to spend cash now before the cost-of-living crisis erodes their Christmas budgets.
Almost 70pc of British shoppers plan to participate in the discount event imported from the US, up from 57pc last year, according to McKinsey & Co.
Online searches for Black Friday sales have risen by a quarter since last year as customers look to save money, according to the Audit Lab, a data research firm.
Sales in the week leading up to Black Friday have increased by a third compared to last year, according to Klarna, the buy-now-pay-later firm.
However, strikes by postal workers at the Royal Mail have raised concerns that retail sales could take a hit during the shopping event.
“Black Friday is going to be even more key in the shopping calendar,” said Anita Balchandani, head of the UK consumer practice at McKinsey in London.
“All of Christmas has been pulled forward.”
Turkey cuts rates despite runaway inflation
Turkey’s central bank has bowed to pressure from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to take interest rates into single digits by the end of the year despite the country’s runaway inflation.
The monetary policy committee led by Governor Sahap Kavcioglu today lowered the benchmark to 9pc from 10.5pc, although it said this was the end of the easing cycle.
The lira was little changed after the decision, trading 0.1pc lower at 18.6309 to the dollar.
The MPC said in a statement that “the current policy rate is adequate and decided to end the rate-cut cycle that started in August”.
The fourth straight cut underscores Turkey’s extreme outlier status as the world’s central banks tighten monetary policy to get a grip on inflation.
Turkey has done the opposite, guided by Mr Erdogan’s unconventional belief that lower rates have the power to cool inflation.
Before the latest decision, the central bank had slashed its benchmark by 350 basis points since August despite price growth that has exceeded 85pc and will likely end the year as the second-highest in the G20 after Argentina.
Bank deputy governor ‘not yet confident’ inflation is easing
Sir Dave Ramsden, the Bank of England’s deputy governor, said he was “not yet confident that domestically generated inflationary pressures from increased costs and firms’ pricing pressures are starting to ease”, writes Szu Ping Chan.
He told a London conference he believed “further increases in the Bank rate” were needed to get inflation, which currently stands at 11.1pc back to the Bank’s 2pc target.
“If the outlook suggests more persistent inflationary pressures then I will continue to vote to respond forcefully,” he said.
Interest rates currently stand at 3pc. Investors believe rates will rise to 4.5pc by next Spring.
Sir Dave added that tax rises and spending cuts introduced by the Chancellor in the Autumn Statement were unlikely to materially change the Bank’s outlook because the bulk of the fiscal tightening will come into effect after 2025, outside its three year forecast horizon.
Bank of England forecasts too pessimistic, admits deputy governor
The Bank of England’s economic forecasts are too gloomy, according to its own deputy governor, who warned that Threadneedle Street may need to keep raising rates “forcefully” to keep a lid on price rises.
Our economics editor Szu Ping Chan reports:
Sir Dave Ramsden noted that the Bank was much more pessimistic about the outlook for growth and inflation than other City forecasters.
He said big changes to the economy following the pandemic, including a notable decline in the size of Britain’s workforce, meant it could no longer rely on old economic models to predict the future.
Sir Dave added that while an uptick in the jobless rate from the current rate of 3.6pc was likely as the economy cools, he said he was “materially less confident” about the Bank’s prediction for around half a million more people out of work by the end of next year.
While Sir Dave said he was not “advocating ignoring the forecast” made by the Bank this month, he added that policymakers should be more “sensitive to errors” given the heightened uncertainty surrounding the economy.
EasyJet urges empty-nesters to become cabin crew
Empty-nesters are being urged to consider a second career as cabin crew, as airlines try to shrug off the notion that the career is only for young jet setters and ease recruitment woes.
Hannah Boland has the details.
Budget airline easyJet has kicked off a new recruitment drive for adults over the age of 45 “to show a career as cabin crew is open to anyone with the right skills, regardless of age”.
It is particularly targeting people whose children have left the home or are looking for a new career later in life, following a survey that suggested more than three quarters of empty-nesters were on the hunt for a new challenge.
EasyJet said it had already seen a rise in the number of older people applying to become flight attendants in recent years, leading to a 27pc increase in the number of cabin crew over the age of 45 since 2018 and a 30pc increase in those over 60 in the past year.
Britain’s least and most popular railway stations revealed
An interesting one for commuters – a Nottinghamshire railway station has been named Britain’s least popular, with just 40 travellers using it in the last year.
Oliver Gill has the details:
Elton and Orston, which dates back to 1850, had two fewer visitors than Teesside Airport in Darlington, and four fewer than third place station Stanlow and Thornton in Cheshire, according to the list compiled by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).
The unstaffed Nottinghamshire station was opened more than a century and a half ago by the Ambergate, Nottingham, Boston and Eastern Junction Railway. It is now operated by East Midlands Railway.
Located off the A52 trunk road in between two small villages that bear its name the station’s website warns that it “is served by a very sparse train service, currently only one train a day in each direction”.
UK commercial property market to outperform Europe
Brexit will deliver a huge boost for the UK’s commercial property sector, according to a prominent US real estate investment firm.
The UK will be Europe’s best performing real estate market over the next five years because UK property yields are less vulnerable to rate increases than continental peers, according to a report published by AEW, which managed €87.8bn (£75.6bn) of property at the end of June.
Properties in the UK have been trading at a discount compared with European peers since Brexit and that has created a buffer.
The 2016 vote to leave the European Union prompted some international investors to pour more capital into other parts of Europe as the break by the UK from its biggest trading partner created uncertainty.
That helped stoke red-hot demand for buildings in cities including Paris, Berlin and Milan that forced prices to record levels, with the help of cheap debt.
Those elevated prices and anemic returns now look less attractive as interest rates and government bond yields rise, meaning some parts of Europe are more exposed to a real estate correction.
Postal workers walk out in wave of strikes
Postal workers, teachers and university staff across Britain have gone strike today to demand better pay, with warnings that there will be more industrial action and widespread disruption in the run-up to Christmas.
More than 70,000 staff at British universities, teachers across Scotland and 115,000 Royal Mail postal workers have walked out amid a growing number of disputes as workers and businesses grapple with a cost of living crisis.
The general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), Jo Grady, said the planned three-day walkouts were the “biggest strike action in the history of higher education” due to a dispute over a pensions, working conditions and pay.
Teachers across Scotland also began the first day of strikes in almost four decades after talks on a pay deal with the Scottish government and COSLA (the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) broke down.
Royal Mail postal workers took to the picket lines to begin strike action for two days, coinciding with the annual Black Friday sales.
Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said there needed to be fruitful negotiations between employers and unions. He told the BBC:
My first thought is for those people who are affected by the strike action, people who, whether it’s disruption to the Royal Mail or to transport, find that their everyday lives are disrupted.
What I want to see is people able to go about their daily lives without disruption.
Pound surge puts London back in No 1 slot
The rally in the pound which has taken it back about $1.20 for the first time since August has also put the UK stock market back on Europe’s top spot in dollar terms.
London’s markets lost the title 10 days ago to its French equivalent but now the UK’s total market cap is $2.9trn, about $63bn higher than France.
The pound is up 2.5pc over the last seven sessions against the dollar, although it is up just 0.7pc against the euro.
Also, luxury shares, which dominate the French market, have been stalling in the second half of this month amid mixed headlines about the reopening of China from Covid restrictions.
‘Probably’ more crypto collapses coming, says Binance chief
Changpeng Zhao said there would “probably” be some more crypto collapses as part of a “contagion” in the industry.
However, the Binance chief executive said he felt the crypto sector was safe long term as “each term there are cascading effects, the effects become smaller”.
Regarding FTX, Mr Zhao said he blames himself “for tweeting that too late” after his tweets raising concerns about the financial credibility of the platform precipitated its collapse.
Mr Zhao has faced criticism for asking questions about the liquidity of rival exchange Coinbase and digital currency investor Grayscale Investments in since deleted tweets.
I think as an industry we let FTX grow too big before we started questioning some of those things.
I’m taking the approach where we ask questions much earlier.
It does not mean any attacks on our industry peers. We just want to build more transparency and more scrutiny into the industry.
Having said that Coinbase has been operating 10 to 12 years. I am sure they have lots of audited financials but we don’t see that on the blockchain.
For people in the industry, we like to see data on the blockchain because it is the most transparent way to display information.
Binance aims to set up £1bn crypto rescue fund, says Zhao
Crypto giant Binance is aiming to set up a roughly $1bn (£830m) fund for the potential purchase of distressed assets in the sector and will make another bid for bankrupt lender Voyager Digital, its chief executive has said.
Changpeng Zhao, known as CZ, said there would be a blog post about the fund soon and that his company has spoken to a number of industry players about it.
“If that’s not enough ($1bn) we can allocate more,” Mr Zhao told Bloomberg Television.
“We are going with a loose approach where different industry players will contribute as they wish.”
This year’s deep crypto rout has lopped about $80bn off Mr Zhao’s personal fortune but at $15bn it still far exceeds anyone else in crypto, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
His tweets highlighting concerns about the health of Sam Bankman-Fried’s rival FTX exchange and trading house Alameda Research precipitated their collapse, leaving 80,000 creditors in Britain out of pocket.
Since then his exchange has been cementing its position as the world’s largest crypto trading platform following FTX’s chaotic slide into bankruptcy.
Mr Zhao announced plans last week for an industry recovery fund to help strong projects facing a liquidity squeeze.
The goal is to curb the contagion from FTX’s wipeout, he said, attempting to take on the role of crypto’s rescuer-in-chief.
Dr Martens slumps after profit warning
Shares of Dr Martens tumbled after the bootmaker warned of weaker demand ahead of the busy Christmas season.
The domestically-focused FTSE 250 midcaps is up 0.1pc but shares of Dr Martens were the biggest faller, tumbling 17pc after it warned that its annual core profit margin would be lower than last year.
Although revenues surged 13pc to £418.6m in the six months to the end of September, this was slower than analysts had predicted.
Meanwhile, the FTSE 100 has slipped as the strength of the pound hurts the export-focused market.
The blue-chip FTSE 100 is down 0.1pc, with shares of Vodafone, Imperial Brands and National Grid sliding as they traded without entitlement for dividend payout.
Overall, trading volumes were light as US markets were closed on account of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Hornby losses swell as it fills warehouses early for Christmas
Model maker Hornby suffered a 75pc increase in losses as it tried to avoid issues with its supply chain by bumping up stocks in its warehouse ahead of Christmas.
The company enjoyed a 3pc increase in revenues to £22.4m, although pre-tax losses climbed to £2.9m in the six months to the end of September.
Bosses said they have mitigated potential supply disruptions this Christmas “by bringing forward the shipping dates on key product lines, which are already available in our warehouse”.
Executive chairman Lyndon Davies said:
Revenues have marginally increased in the first half of a difficult 2022/23 trading period.
A year ago, sales in the second half were held back by supply chain disruption, but we are now in a stronger position, having taken strategic decisions to raise stocks to support sales and avoid shortages.
As we are heading into our key Christmas trading period it is hard to predict the outcome for the full year results, but we are well-placed, with our order book very strong and higher than it was a year ago.
Pound highest since August
The pound has continued its march against the dollar after the US Federal Reserve showed support for tapering interest-rate increases in its latest meeting minutes published overnight.
Sterling has increased 0.4pc this morning to reach close to 1.21, its highest level since August.
Minutes from the Fed gathering earlier this month indicated several officials backed the need to moderate the pace of rate increases.
This adds weight to expectations the central bank will raise rates by 50 basis points next month, ending a run of jumbo 75 basis point increases.
Apple supplier offers staff £1,150 to quit after factory riots in China
Apple’s major supplier Foxconn has reportedly offered staff $1,400 (£1,158) to quit after riots at one of its factories in China.
The company apologised to workers after it was rocked by fresh labour unrest, with hundreds of workers smashing equipment and clashing with hazmat-clad police over pay and living conditions.
Some workers complained they were forced to share dormitories with colleagues who had tested positive for coronavirus.
Others claimed their bonuses had been cut from 3,000 yuan (£347) to 30 yuan (£35), according to AFP.
The Taiwanese company said a “technical error” had occurred when hiring new recruits the Covid-hit iPhone factory and it would respect the wishes of new recruits who wanted to resign and leave the factory campus.
It would offer them “care subsidies” worth 10,000 yuan (£1,158) per worker, according to Bloomberg.
UK markets flat at open
The internationally-focused FTSE 100 has inched up 0.1pc at the open to 7,467.38.
The FTSE 250, which is more geared towards the domestic market, is also up 0.1pc to 19,574.72.
Jet2 took £50m hit from airport chaos
Holiday firm Jet2 has said full-year earnings will be better than expected after swinging to a first half profit, despite a hit of more than £50m from airport chaos.
But it cautioned that profit margins may come under pressure given soaring costs, including for fuel and staff wages, as well as from the weaker pound.
Jet2 reported pre-tax profits of £450.7m for the six months to the end of September, against losses of £205.8m a year ago.
It said profits before currency changes stood at £505m against losses of £195.1m.
The company said it was a “difficult return to normal operations”, with the costs of disruption at airports and staff shortages leaving it with delay and compensation costs of more than £50m in the first half.
Jet2 added: “With winter 2022/23 bookings encouraging and pricing remaining robust, but recognising that the important post-Christmas booking period is still to come, we are presently on track to exceed current average market expectations for group profit before FX revaluation and taxation for the year ending 31 March 2023.”
Working from home also boosts B&Q owner
After revealing higher sales, Thierry Garnier, chief executive of B&Q owner Kingfisher, said:
Our sales trends continued to be resilient, with like-for-like sales 15.3pc ahead of pre-pandemic levels in the quarter.
This was supported by continued market share growth, including strong gains at Screwfix, TradePoint and Castorama Poland.
While the market backdrop remains challenging, DIY sales continue to be supported by new industry trends such as more working from home and a clear step-up in customer investment in energy saving and efficiency.
DIFM (Do it For Me) and trade activity also continues to be well supported by robust pipelines for home improvement work.
Kingfisher boosted by DIY home insulation boom
B&Q parent firm Kingfisher has revealed higher sales over the past quarter as the DIY market was boosted by customers seeking to improve energy efficiency and the continued shift towards home working.
The company, which also owns Screwfix, revealed that total sales grew by 0.6pc to £3.26bn over the three months to October 31, compared with the same period last year.
Like-for-like sales were 0.2pc higher for the quarter.
Kingfisher added that it has seen a “good start” to trading in the new quarter, with like-for-like sales growth of 2.8pc over the three weeks to November 19.
The Government will have to pay nearly 21pc more towards the average household energy bill from the start of next year after regulators lifted the energy price cap.
The move does not affect household energy bills, which have been limited to an average of £2,500 from the Government’s energy price guarantee.
However, the increase in the price cap set by Ofgem has increased the cost to the Government, as this would have been the ceiling at which energy companies could charge households for their services.
Today, Ofgem raised the price cap from £3,549 to £4,279 from January, which leaves the Chancellor needing to pay an extra £730 on average per household to cover the cost of supplying gas and electricity to Britain’s homes.
It means the Treasury would need to fork out another £1,779 on average per home for the year to pay for the energy costs of Britain’s nearly 28m households.
The increase will cost taxpayers £42bn over 18 months, according to analysts Cornwall Insight.
Experts at energy consultancy Auxilione estimate the new cap will cost the Government around £15.1bn to subsidise household bills between January and March.
However, the Government has limited its bill should the cap rise again in Ofgem’s next announcement in February.
Jeremy Hunt announced in his Autumn Statement that the energy price guarantee will rise from £2,500 to an average £3,000 a year from April 1 until the end of March 2024.
5 things to start your day
1) Households must slash energy use to defeat Putin, says Hunt – Britain must cut energy usage by 15pc to defeat Vladimir Putin, Jeremy Hunt has said as the country scrambles to head off potential disruption this winter.
2) Sunak abandons plans to overrule City regulators after Bank of England backlash – Rishi Sunak has abandoned plans to give ministers the power to overrule City regulators in a major climbdown by the Prime Minister.
3) As Silicon Valley swings the axe, Ireland counts the cost of its tech addiction – When Google’s executives landed at Dublin Airport two decades ago on a scouting trip for a potential European head office, they were ferried by Irish government officials to the city’s down-at-heel docklands.
4) Middle-class outcry over wholemeal flour in ‘white’ sourdough – Ocado shoppers are up in arms after an upmarket sourdough overhauled white loaf recipe to include wholemeal flour, prompting the bakery behind it to deny cost cutting prompted by the war in Ukraine.
5) Rishi Sunak faces backbench rebellion over wind turbines amid energy crisis – Rishi Sunak is facing a rebellion from his MPs over onshore wind amid efforts to beat the energy crisis. Simon Clarke, the MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, has tabled a legislative amendment aimed at relaxing planning rules so turbines can get built more easily if communities want them.
What happened overnight
In the US, minutes from the Federal Reserve meeting at which officials raised rates by 0.75 percentage points for the fourth consecutive time suggested support for a slower pace of rate rises.
Central bank officials are seeking to stamp out inflation around the world.
Shares in the US closed higher as a result, with The S&P 500 up 0.6pc, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.3pc. The Nasdaq composite closed 1pc higher.
Bond yields declined. The yield on the 10-year benchmark US government debt, which influences mortgage rates, slipped to 3.69pc from 3.76pc.
Crude prices fell 3.7pc, which depressed energy stocks. US homebuilders rallied after a report showed that the housing market was healthier than previously thought.
Meanwhile, Asian shares were up on Thursday, buoyed by signals the US Federal Reserve may slow the pace of interest rate hikes and news of fresh economic stimulus from China.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan climbed 0.8pc in early trade, boosted by a 0.6pc gain in South Korean shares, a 0.5pc increase in China’s bluechips and a 0.9pc jump in Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index
Japan’s Nikkei rose 1.3pc, S&P 500 futures gained 0.2pc and Nasdaq futures inched up 0.3pc.
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