Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria pushed natural catastrophe insurance costs to record high last year, study shows

Insured losses from catastrophes hit the highest level on record last year, rising to $144bn (£102bn), up from $56m in 2016, new research shows.
According to insurance giant Swiss Re’s latest Sigma report, insurance covered less than half of the total economic loss from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters, which hit $337m in 2017, almost double the $180bn loss recorded in 2016.
Read more How Texas is ‘building back better’ from Hurricane Harvey Of that total, $330bn came from natural catastrophe-related losses, mainly hurricanes and other weather events, while $7bn arose from man-made disasters such as terrorist attacks, major fires and explosions and maritime disasters.
More than half of the total insured losses last year were due to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria (HIM), which caused chaos in the US and Caribbean in the second half of 2017, which racked up estimated costs of $92bn. Hurricane Maria is now ranked as the third most costly event in terms of insurance lo..

British Gas customers should treat its latest price rise with the contempt it deserves

The energy provider's excuses are as leaky as a Thames Water pipe
You’d think British Gas would have worked out that kicking its customers in the teeth while blaming everyone but itself isn’t working out too well as a business strategy.
But apparently not. The UK’s largest energy supplier – a status that the company is doing its damnedest to rid itself of – has decided to hike prices by an average of 5.5 per cent for the four million or so customers on its standard variable tariff.
The rise apples to both gas and electricity, with the average dual fuel bill set to come in at £1,161 after its imposition. It follows the 12.5 per cent increase in electricity prices imposed last September.
Read more British Gas announces 5.5% price hike, affecting 4.1m UK households British Gas owner Centrica to cut 4,000 jobs British Gas owner Centrica loses 823,000 customers since June You may, by now, be familiar with the standard unvarying excuse that the company trots out in an attempt to..

As President, ‘Lula’ of Brazil Opened the Prison. Now He’s an Inmate.

As President, ‘Lula’ of Brazil Opened the Prison. Now He’s an Inmate. Photo Riot police blocked the entrance to the Federal Police headquarters in Curitiba, Brazil, on Sunday, as supporters of the former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva protested his imprisonment. Credit Rodolfo Buhrer/Reuters CURITIBA, Brazil — On his first morning as a prisoner, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva had a breakfast of bread, butter and coffee.
Later on Sunday, he watched a final soccer championship match between Corinthians, which he roots for, and its archrival, Palmeiras. His team won on penalties.
Mr. da Silva, 72, is no ordinary prisoner: Outside the building where he is confined is a plaque with his name on it, commemorating the opening of the building in 2007, during his presidency of Brazil.
The country, the largest and most populous nation in Latin America, has begun to absorb the reality of the downfall of Mr. da Silva, who surrendered to the police on Saturday night, two days after the country’s top..

Water watchdog OfWat gets punchy as patience with industry pours away

OfWat has responded to Michael's Gove firey rhetoric, but Jeremy Corbyn and Labour will deserve much of the credit if this results in a less awful industry
Water companies: You have a regulator after all.
OfWat, which had given every impression of being the Office for Doing Not Very Much, has outlined a packages of measures it wants to take to bring the embattled sector “back in balance”.
They are outlined in a letter to Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who seems to have recognised that beating up on the water industry might help him to create a counter narrative to the one that portrays him as a poisonous backstabbing brexiteer.
Read more Ofwat should be investigated like water companies over supply failings UK water firms criticised as homes left without water for fourth day Privatisation hasn’t improved the supply of our water Some of OfWat’s missive amounts to wagging its finger at the industry and telling it to do what it should have been doing for years now. In ..

Iceland to be first supermarket to remove palm oil from own-brand foods to help protect rainforest

Oil found in half of all supermarket products linked to destruction of rainforests and habitats for endangered species
Iceland will stop using palm oil in its own brand food by the end of the year, the supermarket chain announced on Tuesday.
It said it was removing palm oil, which is linked to the destruction of swathes of rainforest, from 130 food products and replace it with more environmentally friendly alternatives such as sunflower oil or butter. The move will reduce demand for palm oil by 500 tonnes, the company said.
Palm oil production results in widespread deforestation Indonesia and Malaysia, which has destroyed habitat for many critically endangered species such as the Orangutan and been a major contributor to climate change.
Read more Firms have 'no chance' of meeting pledges on palm oil deforestation Demand for palm oil has increased rapidly for use in a huge range of foods and toiletries. It is now thought to be present in around half of all supermarket p..

British Gas announces 5.5% price hike affecting 4.1m UK households

The price hike will add an average of £60 to the typical dual fuel bill
British Gas will hike its prices by an average of 5.5 per cent next month, taking the price of its standard tariff to £1,161 for a typical dual fuel customer.
The energy firm said the increase was due to rising wholesale and policy costs and blamed government policy for putting more pressure on customers' bills.
Read more British Gas owner Centrica to cut 4,000 jobs Centrica, the owner of British Gas, said the new price will affect 4.1m customers, who will see their bills go up by an average of £60 per year.
Mark Hodges, chief executive of Centrica Consumer, said: “We fully understand that any price increase adds extra pressure on customers' household bills. This increase we are announcing today is reflective of the costs we are seeing which are beyond our control.
“We continue to work hard to reduce our own costs and keep our prices as low as possible. We have seen other suppliers raise prices a..

Card Factory profits slump 12% thanks to increased National Living Wage and weak pound

Firm warns that earnings growth in 2019 will be limited amid continuing headwinds
Card Factory’s annual pre-tax profit fell 12.3 per cent to £72.6m thanks to an increase to the National Living Wage and higher import costs caused by a weaker pound.
The gift card retailer said costs rose £14.6m in the year to 31 January 2018, meaning profits were down despite a 2.9 per cent rise in like-for-like sales. The firm warned that earnings growth in 2019 will be limited amid continuing headwinds.
The National Living Wage rose to £7.50 per hour from £7.20 per hour for over-25s in April 2017 and rose again to £7.80 this month.
Read more Corbyn says millions on National Living Wage could miss out by £5,000 This has hurt the profits of a host of retailers, many of whose staff are among the UK's lowest paid.
Card Factory’s revenues for the year rose 6 per cent to £422.1m from £398.2m a year ago despite a “tough consumer environment” as the number of shoppers visiting the high street con..