Oil prices pushed to highest point in three years by possible UK and US attack on Syria

Theresa May calls urgent cabinet meeting to discuss response to Douma incident
The price of oil has soared to a more than three-year high as the likelihood of the US and UK taking military action in Syria increases.
Brent crude oil surged past $72 (£51) per barrel on Thursday morning, while US benchmark West Texas Intermediate hit $67, although prices edged down mid-morning.
The oil price goes up when tensions heighten in and around the oil-rich nations of the Middle East, because it threatens supply levels. Also keeping the commodity's value elevated is the threat of an attack on Saudi Arabia by Yemen, and the continued risk that the US will re-impose sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme.
Read more Oil prices boosted as Trump promises ‘forceful’ response in Syria Theresa May called an urgent cabinet meeting to approve Britain’s response to the escalating crisis in the Middle Eastern state, prompting concern that the UK will launch military action without the app..

Mothercare sales drop even further as fewer people visit its stores

Poor footfall is denting Mothercare's UK sales
Mothercare’s woes continued on Thursday as it reported UK sales fell in the 12 weeks up to 24 March as it remains in talks with lenders over refinancing.
The retailer says sales declined by 2.8 per cent in comparison to the same period last year and blamed it on the fact fewer people are visiting its stores.
It offset poor footfall with growth in website sales, which represent almost half of Mothercare’s total UK sales.
Read more Carpetright to close 92 stores putting 300 UK jobs at risk In a fourth quarter trading update released on Thursday, Mothercare said its international sales performance was ‘encouraging’.
“My immediate priority is to ensure Mothercare is put back on a sound financial footing and to improve its financial performance,” said chief executive David Wood.
“In this competitive climate, promotional activity has been necessary to stimulate customer demand.”
He said the firm was reducing its store porfolio f..

WH Smith profits dented as spoof book trend falls out of favour

Sales in travel business boosted by growing passenger numbers
WH Smith has reported a dip in profits for the six months to 28 February, with a strong performance in its travel business not enough to withstand decline in high street sales.
The group blamed a “challenging” Christmas period, which was difficult in terms of book sales, “particularly given the success of colour therapy titles and spoof humour books over the past two Christmas periods”.
Read more WH Smith shows how to be a high street survivor WH Smith enjoyed strong sales of colouring books aimed at adults during the festive season two years ago, and in 2016 ranges like the Enid Blyton for Grown Ups series, featuring titles such as Five Give Up The Booze, boosted turnover.
As there was no similar new publishing trend over Christmas 2017, WH Smith said, sales dropped by seven per cent, pulling overall profit from high street stores down to £50m, compared with £53m the year before.
Business was booming in the compa..

Carpetright to close 92 stores putting 300 UK jobs at risk

Retailer struggling with debt and difficult trading conditions
Carpetright will close 92 shops across the UK, putting 300 jobs at risk as it seeks to combat increasing financial pressure.
Shares in the group tumbled by 19 per cent at the open after it announced its plan.
The retailer first announced its intention of making closures last month, when it revealed it was battling difficult trading conditions, and that it expected its financial performance for the year to the end of April to be worse than previously expected.
Read more Carpetright the latest retailer to run into very heavy going On Tuesday, Carpetright said it had identified 205 sites in the UK that are underperforming and/or on unfavourable lease terms,or “in certain cases, not expected to have significant strategic value to the company going forward”.
Under the terms of a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), which is deployed by firms who want to continue trading while dealing with debt problems, Carpetright wil..

Automation: A third of London jobs to be taken by robots within 20 years, says report

Brexit could accelerate the adoption of new technologies to replace human labour, according to Centre for London
Almost a third of jobs in London have high potential to be done by machines within the next 20 years, a new study has found.
Automation could be accelerated if immigration policy tightens after Brexit, causing labour shortages, think tank the Centre for London said.
It estimates that around one in five jobs have medium potential for automation, while 48 per cent have low potential.
Read more Automation will ‘improve our lives’, says Dyson founder People in low- and medium-skilled jobs are reportedly likely to bare the brunt of the impact from increased use of AI and other technologies.
The wholesale, retail, transportation, storage, accommodation and food sectors – which employ a million people in the capital – will be particularly hard hit.
These are also some of the sectors which are most dependent on migrant labour: 32 per cent of construction workers, and 35 pe..

Economists Say U.S. Tariffs Are Wrong Move on a Valid Issue

Economists Say U.S. Tariffs Are Wrong Move on a Valid Issue Photo A shipment of soybeans at the Chinese port of Nantong. Many economists say the use of tariffs to address trade grievances with China will backfire on the United States, raising costs to its businesses and consumers and inviting retaliation against its exporters. Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images WASHINGTON — President Trump’s economic advisers insist that the economics profession is solidly behind the administration’s threat to impose tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese imports. Many top economists say, no, they’re not.
Across the ideological spectrum, trade experts and former top economic advisers to presidents say Mr. Trump is right to highlight issues on which China is widely viewed as an offender, such as intellectual-property theft and access to its domestic market. But many of those experts say that Mr. Trump’s planned tariffs would backfire — by raising costs to American businesses and c..

EU plans to give consumer more rights against big companies

Consumers will be allowed to take collective legal action when wronged
EU consumers will get more powers to challenge big companies in the courts, and a right to clearer information about who they are buying from, under proposals unveiled by the European Commission on Wednesday.
The new package of measures comes on the heels of the Dieselgate scandal, that saw consumers sold cars that emitted up to 40 times more toxic fumes in real-world driving than claimed.
Under the proposals, consumer groups would gain powers to sue large corporations for collective redress on the behalf of those affected by such unfair commercial practices.
Read more Sticking to EU law 'vastly' better than making our own, say businesses Penalties for firms that break the law would also be increased, with a maximum fine of at least 4 per cent of the trader's annual turnover in any given member state – and national governments allowed to go higher if they want.
British consumers could miss o..

John Boehner: Ex-Republican speaker joins marijuana firm despite previously being 'unalterably opposed' to legalisation

'My thinking on cannabis has evolved'
A former senior Republican politician, who for many years was “unalterably opposed” to the legalisation of cannabis, is to join the advisory board of a marijuana company.
John Boehner, who served as Speaker of the House until 2015, announced he will be joining a cannabis company that has operations across 11 states, because his “thinking on cannabis has evolved”.
“I’m convinced de-scheduling the drug is needed so we can do research, help our veterans, and reverse the opioid epidemic ravaging our communities,” he said.
I’m joining the board of #AcreageHoldings because my thinking on cannabis has evolved. I’m convinced de-scheduling the drug is needed so we can do research, help our veterans, and reverse the opioid epidemic ravaging our communities. @AcreageCannabis https://t.co/f5i9KcQD0W
— John Boehner (@SpeakerBoehner) April 11, 2018 Mr Boehner, 68, was appointed to the board of Acreage Holdings, a business that aims to “make cannab..