The Royal Mint will not produce any new £2 or 2p coins for at least a decade, as its stocks remain high because of the slump in use of cash, a trend that has accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic.

The rapid decline in demand for coins has left the Mint, which has been producing coins in Britain for more than 1,000 years, with a mountain of excess stock.

It reported in March 2020 that it had stocks of £2 coins 26 times over its target, and was eight times over target for 2p coins.

The fall in the use of cash has been detailed by a report from the National Audit Office (NAO), which monitors the effectiveness of public bodies.

A decade ago, cash was used in six out of 10 transactions, but by 2019 that had fallen to less than three in 10, and some forecasts suggest it may … Read the rest

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Disney’s long-awaited and controversial live-action film Mulan hit theaters in Hong Kong on Thursday after a disappointing debut in mainland China on Sept. 11.

The film generated $23.2 million in its opening weekend at the mainland China box office, sinking below analysts’ estimates that it would rake in $30 million to $40 million. Early indications suggest the movie’s reception in Hong Kong will be underwhelming too.

The film’s mainland China debut was considered a failure not just because it missed analysts’ expectations, but also because Disney had poured five years and $200 million into the film, in part, to ensure it appealed to a Chinese audience. Disney cast actors popular in China, hired Chinese consultants, shared the script with Chinese authorities, and cut scenes that Chinese … Read the rest

Ministers are considering a half-term lockdown as they scramble for a plan to stem rising infection rates.

Boris Johnson has been told that he has little more than a week to find a plan B if the “rule of six” does not bring the epidemic under control. He has accepted advice from the chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, that rising case numbers must be reversed in the coming weeks but has not decided how to do this.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, this morning refused to rule out a second national lockdown, saying that it was “the last line of defence” but one that was proven to work.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies is understood to have modelled a two-week “circuit breaker” lockdown to break chains of infection and prevent a return to rapid exponential growth.

It came as further restrictions are due to be announced across the North … Read the rest

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The reception area at the Aston Martin Red Bull Formula 1 Racing team’s headquarters in the English city of Milton Keynes, a commuter-belt town about 55 miles north of London, features a soaring two-story display case packed with silver, gold, and glittering glass cups, tombstones, and trophies—a visual, in-your-face reminder of the team’s prowess since the energy-drinks company took over the team in late 2004.

Last season, the team’s top driver, the brash 22-year-old Dutchman Max Verstappen, finished third overall, behind Mercedes’s two drivers, Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton—who, for most of the past decade, has dominated his sport the way Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods once dominated theirs.

The Red Bull team thought they were coming into this season with a shot at displacing Mercedes … Read the rest

Some of Britain’s biggest travel and leisure companies retreated sharply this morning as the government confirmed that it was considering a second national lockdown.

The number of new coronavirus cases is doubling every seven to eight days, and Boris Johnson and his team are mulling the reintroduction of tougher restrictions. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said that the government would do “whatever is necessary to keep people safe”.

Travel and leisure companies bore the brunt of the first lockdown, with many starved of income for months. Investors, wary of a repeat, were quick to ditch airlines, pubs groups and restaurant owners this morning.

IAG, the British Airways owner, dropped 12¾p, or 9.9 per cent, to 116¾p; shares in Restaurant Group, Wagamama’s parent, fell 3½p, or 6.2 per cent, to 52½p; and JD Wetherspoon, the no-frills pub chain, was marked down 39p, or 4.5 per cent, to 822½p.

Banking stocks … Read the rest

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Happy Friday, everyone. Can stocks stage a comeback to avert another down week? It’s not looking promising.

Asia is higher, Europe is mixed and Nasdaq futures are off their lows. That’s good news, particularly for tech bulls, as the Nasdaq flirts with a new correction and some FAAMG stocks even threaten to fall into bear territory.

Let’s check in on the action.

Markets update

Asia

  • The major indexes are solidly in the green with Shanghai leading the way, up 2%.
  • President Trump has yet to give the green-light (nor has Beijing, for that matter) to the OracleTikTok tie-up, but there’s already talk of an IPO as early as next year.
  • Coronavirus hit a grim toll in the past day, topping 30
Read the rest

Business owners have been the target of a new email phishing scam purporting to be from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

The scam, which was uncovered by accountancy outsourcing specialists Lanop Outsourcing, uses official HMRC branding and graphics to convince victims that their VAT deferral application has been rejected. At least 100 company owners have reported receiving the realistic scam email through Lanop Outsourcing clients.

To aid struggling businesses during Covid-19, HMRC allowed payments of VAT between March 2020 and June 2020 to be deferred until 31st March 2021. Cyber criminals have used the scheme to trick business owners into revealing sensitive information, such as account names, passwords and payment details.

The phishing email begins: “Dear customers, Your request for a deferral of VAT payments due to coronavirus (COVID-19) has been rejected… Summary of reject justification: ‘the claimant is in arrears.”

The email then attempts to convince the recipient of … Read the rest

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden delivered a warning to Boris Johnson, ruling out any U.K.-U.S. trade deal if the prime minister’s plan to renege on parts of the Brexit agreement threatens peace in Northern Ireland.

“We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit,” Biden said on Twitter. “Any trade deal between the U.S. and U.K. must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period.”

Johnson has long touted a free-trade accord with the U.S. as one of the key prizes of Brexit. However, Biden’s intervention underscores how the prime minister is struggling to contain the political fallout from his plan to unilaterally rewrite the divorce treaty he signed with the European Union less than a year ago.

By overriding parts of the accord that deal with Northern Ireland, Johnson is … Read the rest

The success of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme meant that people bought fewer groceries to cook meals at home last month, according to new figures.

Supermarket food sales fell by £155 million in August compared with the previous month. The year-on-year growth in sales fell from 14.4 per cent in the 12 weeks to August 9 to 10.8 per cent in the 12 weeks to September 6.

Alcohol sales at supermarkets also dropped, with wine down by 5 per cent and beer falling by 10 per cent, as more people returned to pubs, bars and restaurants to make use of the government’s half-price offer on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in August, rather than drinking at home during virtual pub quizzes on Zoom.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insights at Kantar, said that “resocialising” had spurred renewed demand for personal grooming items, too, with sales of hairstyling … Read the rest

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Good morning. The rally in global equities continues on Wednesday as investors await the Fed’s big policy briefing later today.

Let’s check where investors are putting their money.

Markets update

Asia

  • The major Asia indexes are mixed in afternoon trading, with Japan’s Nikkei up 0.1%.
  • The Shinzo Abe era is official over, but don’t expect much of a policy change in Japan. The country has a new prime minister this morning in Yoshihide Suga, Abe’s close former aide, who pledges to keep the spending taps open.
  • Blackstone’s Tony James spoke at CNBC’s Singapore Summit this morning and gave an incredibly bearish call on stocks, saying investors should brace themselves for “a lost decade in terms of equities appreciation.” He’s worried
Read the rest