The new northern powerhouse – the home counties and Oxford | Letters

Guardian readers on the economic divisions facing Britain

Before anyone leaps with joy at the commercial prospects of the Oxford-Cambridge sprawl belt (Hammond urged to invest £7bn in transport links for new towns, 17 November), they should read Larry Elliott’s bleak exposition of the two nations we have become (No wonder the north is angry. Here’s a plan to bridge the bitter Brexit divide, 17 November). It’s curious how the greenfield sprawl lobby has always been obsessed with the northern home counties and south-east Midlands. Andrew Adonis’s enthusiasm for the Oxford-Cambridge axis is only the latest chapter in a saga stretching back to Letchworth Garden City in Edwardian times.

Low-density greenfield development is highly profitable for developers and really good at increasing traffic and greenhouse gas emissions. It’s also proved good at dragging wealth out of places that desperately need it to regions which lack the housing to support population growth. Backing economic “winners” just perpetuates an endless spiral of housebuilding, roadbuilding and destruction of our precious farmland. It also exacerbates the dangerous divide between rich and poor regions.
Jon Reeds
Smart Growth UK

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Household finances under strain as Nationwide warns of tough times ahead

Building society warns ‘sluggish’ economy, Brexit uncertainty, weak wage increases and rising inflation are hurting customers’ finances

Household finances are under worsening pressure, according to Nationwide building society, which reported a fall in profits and warned of tougher trading conditions ahead.

Total mortgage lending slipped from £17.5bn to £16.7bn, largely because of a steep decline in loans for buy-to-let following the tax changes. But as lending for landlords has fallen, loans granted to first-time buyers have surged.

Related: Nationwide sounds note of caution over lending in run-up to Brexit

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Mario Draghi: eurozone growth depends on central bank support – business live

The president of the European Central Bank warned in a speech in Frankfurt that although the eurozone economy was ‘robust’, recovery was still heavily reliant on stimulus from the European Central Bank

Over in Greece, EU auditors have given a mixed verdict on the handling of the country’s three bailouts. Helena Smith reports from Athens:

The three financial lifelines thrown Greece in 2010, 2012 and 2015 achieved their overarching goal of averting default but were far from successful in other respects, EU auditors have concluded.

The [EU] commission did not comprehensively consider Greece’s implementation capacity in the design process and thus did not adapt the scope and timing accordingly.

The FTSE 100 has reversed its earlier losses and is now up 15 points, partly because the pound’s earlier gains have largely been erased.

The FTSE tends to do better when the pound is weaker, because so many of the companies listed have significant overseas earnings.

The pound has lost some of its earlier sparkle and is now trading roughly flat against the dollar at $1.3197.

It has also slipped agains the euro, down 0.2% at €1.1186.

David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets, explains the gravity of the situation facing Carillion and its shareholders:

Shares in Carillion have collapsed yet again as the troubled construction company stated it will breach its banking covenants. The company also lowered its profit outlook again and stated that their asset sale programme isn’t going as fast as they had hoped.

Things have gone from bad to worse at Carillion, and the business is in dire need to cash to keep the lights on. Even though the business has plenty of work in the pipeline, it must scramble for cash in order to keep its head above water.

The UK government is one of Carillion’s biggest clients and is monitoring the firm’s troubles.

Reuters quotes a spokeswoman at the Cabinet Office:

The company has kept us informed of the steps it is taking to restructure the business.

We remain supportive of their ongoing discussions with their stakeholders and await future updates on their progress

“Carillion horror show continues”, is how Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, describes the latest developments at the construction firm.

He adds:

Some sort of recapitalisation was inevitable, but a possible debt for equity swap, with debt even higher than the group had anticipated, is probably as bad as anyone would have guessed.

The group has made some progress on asset sales, and it sounds like some cost savings are being made. It’s not what the group expected though, and it’s clearly not enough. It’s also probably irrelevant given the state of the balance sheet, with net debt already many multiples of the group’s market capitalisation.

Carillion shares plunged as much as 60% in early trading after the construction group involved in HS2 and Battersea Power Station issued its third profit warning of the year:

The group now expects that a combination of delays to certain PPP disposals, a slippage in the commencement date of a significant project in the Middle East and lower than expected margin improvements across a small number of UK Support Services contracts, partially offset by cost savings initiatives realised in the fourth quarter, will lead to profits for the year to 31 December 2017 being materially lower than current market expectations.

Whilst we continue to target cash collections, reduce costs, execute disposals and focus on delivering for our customers, it is clear that significant challenges remain and more needs to be done to reduce net debt and rebuild the balance sheet.

Constructive dialogue is continuing with our financial stakeholders, and I am grateful for their support. I remain focused on addressing this issue before my successor, Andrew Davies, takes up the role on 2 April 2018.

Related: HS2 contractor Carillion in fresh profit warning amid debt concerns

Love it or hate it, Black Friday is almost upon us.

In recent years Britain has embraced the American tradition where retailers slash prices the day after Thanksgiving.

Related: Black Friday 2017: where to get the best UK deals

News of Greggs controversial decision to replace the baby Jesus with a sausage roll in an advent calendar has rippled across the Atlantic:

Greggs, which specializes in the popular delicacy, apologized for replacing the baby Jesus with a pastry wrapped around sausage meat. https://t.co/R4lFlZWtZd

Draghi concludes by returning to one of his favourite themes, saying eurozone governments should do their bit to secure future economic stability by getting their “fiscal houses in order”.

The ECB will do our bit, you do yours, is the message:

ECB’s mandate is framed in terms of price stability, as this is the best contribution that we can make to the welfare of citizens. Ensuring price stability is a precondition for the economy to be able to grow along a balanced path that can be sustained in the long run. This is the guiding principle of all our monetary policy decisions.

With the recovery ongoing, now is the right moment for the euro area to address further challenges to stability. This means actively putting our fiscal houses in order and building up buffers for the future – not just waiting for growth to gradually reduce debt.

Speech Mario Draghi: Monetary policy and the outlook for the economy https://t.co/QmtGNrFobj

Here comes the “but” part of the ECB president’s speech.

Mario Draghi says that despite solid growth and rising employment, inflation is not at the point where it will pick up without stimulus from the central bank. (Eurozone inflation dipped to 1.4% in October from 1.5% in September.)

We are not yet at a point where the recovery of inflation can be self-sustained without our accommodative policy. A key motor of the recovery remains the very favourable financing conditions facing firms and households, which are in turn heavily contingent on our policy measures.

An ample degree of monetary stimulus remains necessary for underlying inflation pressures to build up and support headline inflation over the medium term.

Related: ECB to halve bond buying as it plans to scale back quantitative easing

Guardian Business has launched a daily email.

Besides the key news headlines that you’d expect, there’s an at-a-glance agenda of the day’s main events, insightful opinion pieces and a quality feature to sink your teeth into each day.

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Draghi is running through stats to illustrate how much the employment picture has improved in the eurozone.

Consumption is being supported by a virtuous circle between rising labour income and rising employment. Employment in the euro area has reached its highest level ever, while unemployment has fallen to its lowest rate since January 2009.

Importantly, this has taken place against the backdrop of a rising participation rate, which is now 2 percentage points above its pre-crisis level. This has been driven in particular by the increased entry of women into the workforce, whose participation rate has risen by 4 percentage points since 2008 and reached an all-time high.

Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, is speaking in Frankfurt at the European Banking Congress.

He begins on a positive note on the outlook for the eurozone economy:

The euro area is in the midst of a solid economic expansion. GDP has risen for 18 straight quarters, with the latest data and surveys pointing to unabated growth momentum in the period ahead.

From the ECB’s perspective, we have increasing confidence that the recovery is robust and that this momentum will continue going forward.

The FTSE is suffering from the stronger pound this morning, Spread Ex’s Connor Campbell says:

The pound’s up 0.4% against the greenback, with the dollar losing its House tax plan-passing buzz, as Robert Mueller subpoenaed more than a dozen Trump campaign officials. Against the euro, meanwhile, sterling nudged 0.2% higher, keeping above €1.12.

This meant the FTSE continued to founder around the 7380 mark, dipping 0.2% as it struggles to escape its 6-week lows. As has been the case all week, commodities are doing their part, with a smattering of red among the oil and mining stocks helping suppress appetite in the UK index.

The FTSE 100 is down 17 points this morning, and the biggest faller among its major European peers:

Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel prize-winning economist, has been interviewed by the Guardian’s economics editor, Larry Elliott, and it’s well worth a watch if you missed it:

Related: Joseph Stiglitz: ‘Trump has fascist tendencies’

Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.

The pound has a spring in its step this morning, hitting a two-week high against the dollar of $1.3252.

The passing of yesterday’s bill helped the US dollar close near its intraday peaks yesterday, while also helping push up US yields with the 2 year yield hitting its highest level since October 2008.

These US dollar gains were pretty short-lived and soon gave way to selling on reports that Trump officials had been subpoenaed by special attorney Robert Mueller as part of the investigation into Russian involvement in the Trump Presidential campaign.

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Now it’s official: the less you have, the more austerity will take from you | Frances Ryan

The government’s own figures have proved what has been obvious since 2010: minorities, women and disabled people are the ones being hit the hardest

If the point of government is to make the already disadvantaged worse off, then the Conservatives have used the last seven years in power exceptionally well. Today the Equality and Human Rights Commission released a major report calculating the impact austerity is having on Britain – painstakingly calculating the impact that changes to all tax, social security and public spending since 2010 will have on each of us by 2022.

Black households (as the report puts it) will lose 5% of income – more than double the loss for white households

Related: Women and disabled people hit hardest by years of austerity, report confirms

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Women and disabled people hit hardest by years of austerity, report confirms

Equalities watchdog says Tory tax and benefit reforms over seven years will slash incomes of poorest by 10%, while richest only lose 1%

Disabled people, single parents and women have been among the biggest losers under seven years austerity, according to a report by the equalities watchdog.

While the poorest tenth of households will on average lose about 10% of their income by 2022 – equivalent to £1 in every £8 of net income – the richest will lose just 1%, or about £1 in every £250 of net income, the study carried out for the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) reveals.

Related: New universal credit claimants ‘will get no money before Christmas’

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The ‘economicky words’ you need to bluff your way into No 11 Downing Street | Stefan Stern

The vultures are circling above Philip Hammond, and one of them is Gove-shaped. But with the right buzzwords, any of us could become chancellor

We’ve all done it. You’re in a job interview, or are trying to send a message to the boss that you are ready for a big step-up. You start using the words that the tall people in suits use. They sound good. They lend you authority – you hope. They make you come across like someone who is ready to play in “the big leagues”– which is precisely the sort of phrase that the tall people in suits use.

Someone in the cabinet has got cross with Michael Gove for doing just that, using “long, economicky words” to send a message that he is ready to take over from Philip Hammond should next week’s budget – God forbid – not be a complete triumph.

Related: Michael Gove and Boris Johnson: how did their friendship come out of the deep freeze?

Related: End austerity in public services, John McDonnell tells chancellor

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UK retail sales fall year on year for first time since 2013

Rising food prices and economic uncertainty are making shoppers cautious about spending, say analysts

Rocketing food inflation and uncertainty about the outlook for the UK economy have sent retail sales tumbling to their first year-on-year fall since 2013.

Food prices, which were 3.5% higher than a year earlier, helped push the volume of goods bought in shops and online down by 0.3% from October 2016.

Related: Business Today: sign up for a morning shot of financial news

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Poor productivity outside south-east England hurting UK economy

Worker output in London and satellite cities far outweighs that in places such as Stoke and Doncaster, says Centre for Cities thinktank

Britain’s economy would be more than £200bn bigger if all cities were as productive as those in London and the south-east, research from a thinktank has shown.

A report by the Centre for Cities revealed that the capital and its satellite cities were as productive as anywhere in Europe and that the UK’s recent weak productivity record was the result of a huge performance gap with other parts of the country.

Related: How UK cities compare for population, jobs, new businesses and house prices

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