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UK manufacturing activity contracted in April for the first time in three years, a survey has indicated, adding to fears over the economy’s strength. The Markit/CIPS manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index fell to 49.2 from 50.7 in March. A reading below 50 indicates falling output. It is the first time that activity in the sector has fallen since March 2013. Firms blamed soft domestic demand, a fall in new business from overseas and uncertainty ahead of the EU referendum. A slowdown in the oil and gas industry, a major customer for UK companies, is also hitting production.
Leaving the EU would mean “difficult and lengthy negotiations” that could take years to complete, peers say.
The Lords EU Committee said determining the rights of two million UK nationals living in the EU would be a “complex and daunting” part of exit talks. While they do not recommend a vote either way, peers say trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Leave campaigners argue a UK-EU Treaty should be wrapped up in two years.
The Financial Times
Britain’s largest manufacturers’ organisation has added its voice to the chorus of complaints from employers about the apprenticeship levy, which is due to be introduced next year. The EEF said on Wednesday that just 1 per cent of the 156 manufacturers it surveyed last month supported the roll-out of the levy in its current form and called on the government to delay its launch until at least September 2017.
Volvo Cars booked more profit in the first three months of 2016 than the first half of 2015 as booming consumer demand for larger vehicles across Europe and China fuelled the company’s sales. The Swedish carmaker moved into the black in the first quarter, with an operating profit of SEK3.1bn (€341m), compared to a loss of SEK11m (€1.2m) one year earlier.
The French government has threatened to change the law if the board of Renault does not amend the pay of chief executive Carlos Ghosn following a shareholder revolt last week. On Friday, 54 per cent of investors in the French carmaker voted against Mr Ghosn’s €7.3m pay package — the first time this has happened in France.
The development of driverless cars has put the brakes on profits at BMW, with the German carmaker blaming a shortfall in earnings at least in part on its spending on new technologies. In his quarterly report yesterday, BMW said that earnings would “increase slightly” over the course of the year, but it suggested that such growth could be offset by mounting costs. This included “high levels of upfront expenditure for new technologies, intense competition and rising personnel expenses”. Figures showed that earnings before interest and tax dropped to €2.46 billion in the first quarter of this year.
About one in four owners of premium cars would buy a self-driving vehicle, according to Volvo’s chief executive, who has vowed to make the technology affordable. Håkan Samuelsson said Volvo had had a deluge of interest in its “Drive me” trial in London next year, when 100 drivers will test its new autonomous driving technology on motorways and major roads. The Swedish carmaker plans to start selling vehicles equipped with the technology as early as 2020. Volvo will test the technology in Gothenburg this year. It is also looking into conducting a trial in China, where congestion and road safety are major issues.
The Daily Mail
Families are enjoying a living standards boost from lower petrol prices that have helped deliver three years of falling shop prices, it is claimed today. Drivers are saving £18.57 every time they fill up their car compared to when petrol prices peaked in the spring of 2012, according to a new fuel calculator from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).
This equates to a saving of more than £45 a month for someone who has a daily 60-mile round-trip commute to work.