TOP NEWS SUMMARY: UK Economic Growth Slows In Fourth Quarter

LONDON (Alliance News) - The following is a summary of top news stories ...

Alliance News 11 February, 2019 | 11:19AM
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LONDON (Alliance News) - The following is a summary of top news stories Monday.
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COMPANIES
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BP said first gas has commenced from the second stage of the West Nile Delta project offshore Egypt. The deepwater project is taking gas from the Giza and Fayoum fields, and is the second upstream project to come online for BP in 2019. BP is expecting peak production of around 700 million cubic feet of gas per day. "This important project start-up benefitted from the excellent working relationship between BP and the Egyptian government. We simply could not have delivered it successfully without the steadfast support of the Minister of Petroleum, his excellent team and the entire government," said BP's Chief Executive Bob Dudley.
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Acacia Mining said it "stabilised" its operational performance across its three mines, with gold production ahead of guidance, and swung to an annual profit but did not recommend a dividend, amid continued difficulties in Tanzania. For the twelve months to December 31, the gold miner reported pretax profit of USD96.8 million versus a USD709.7 million pretax loss in 2017. Acacia had taken a USD850.2 million impairment charge in 2017 compared to USD28.9 million in 2018. The company - which has operations in Tanzania, Kenya, Burkino Faso and Mali - reported a 12% decrease in revenue to USD663.8 million from USD751.5 million the year before. Acacia said the decrease was to the miner achieving less sales than the year before, despite higher gold prices.
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MARKETS
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London shares were higher amid optimism over the next round of trade talks between the US and China. The pound was down against the dollar following weak UK GDP data. Wall Street was pointed to a higher open.
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FTSE 100: up 0.9% at 7,134.85
FTSE 250: up 0.6% at 18,756.69
AIM ALL-SHARE: up 0.2% at 907.45

GBP: down at USD1.2902 (USD1.2937)
EUR: down at USD1.1304 (USD1.1328)

GOLD: down at USD1,306.88 per ounce (USD1,314.70)
OIL (Brent): flat at USD61.82 a barrel (USD61.72)

(changes since previous London equities close)
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ECONOMICS AND GENERAL
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UK economic growth slowed more-than-expected in the fourth quarter of 2018, and the full year growth was the weakest since 2009, preliminary figures from the Office For National Statistics showed. Gross domestic product grew 0.2% from the third quarter, when the economy expanded 0.6%. Economists had expected the pace of growth to halve to 0.3%. On a year-on-year basis, GDP rose 1.3% in the fourth quarter, which was the weakest pace since the second quarter of 2012. In the third quarter, annual growth was 1.6%. Economists had expected growth of 1.4%.
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The UK in 2018 saw its weakest annual services growth since 2011, the Office for National Statistics showed. The ONS's monthly Index of Services provides an indicator of growth in the output of the services industries, a sector which accounted for almost 80% of UK GDP in 2016. For 2018 as a whole, the index of services grew 1.7% on 2017, the weakest growth since 2011. In the fourth quarter alone, services output increased by 0.4%, on a quarter-on-quarter basis, slowing from 0.5% growth in the third quarter.
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The UK trade deficit gapped to GBP10.4 billion in the final quarter of 2018, the ONS showed. In the third quarter, the UK had posted a GBP9.5 billion trade deficit. The wider deficit in the final three months of 2018 was due mainly to a GBP1.5 billion rise in goods imports, driven by cars, material manufactures, and chemicals. Total trade imports came in at GBP169.3 billion for the quarter, outstripping exports of GBP159.0 billion. For 2018 as a whole, the trade deficit widened to GBP32.3 billion from GBP23.9 billion in 2017, which the ONS said was largely down to a GBP7.2 billion increase in services imports.
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The trading relationship between Switzerland and Britain will not change after Brexit, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox will say. Britain and Switzerland are expected to sign on Monday a deal ensuring a rollover of the current arrangements between the two countries following Britain's exit from the EU on March 29. "Switzerland is one of the most valuable trading partners that we are seeking continuity for, accounting for more than GBP32 billion worth of trade a year," Fox is expected to say in Bern.
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UK Prime Minister Theresa May has offered further talks with the opposition Labour party in an attempt to secure cross-party support for a Brexit deal. May questioned Corbyn's key call for the UK to remain in a customs union with Brussels but offered concessions in other areas and said she wanted talks between Labour and Tory teams "as soon as possible". Her offer came as Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay prepared for talks with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier as the government stepped up efforts to secure changes to the Irish backstop measure in the Withdrawal Agreement. In her letter to Corbyn, responding to the conditions for a Brexit deal set out by the Labour leader, the prime minister said she wanted the Tory and Labour teams to consider "alternative arrangements" to the Irish backstop. In response to his demand for a customs union, May insisted her deal met many of the conditions he had set.
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A delegation from the US will visit China on Thursday this week in a bid to resolve the ongoing trade dispute between Washington and Beijing, the White House said on Friday. The delegation led by US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will take part in two days of talks ahead of a March 1 deadline to resolve the trade dispute. The talks will be preceded by deputy-level negotiations beginning on Monday, the White House said. Among the big issues are US allegations of Chinese theft of intellectual property and market access for US companies. US President Donald Trump has said he expects a final deal could only be sealed once he meets Chinese President Xi Jinping, with whom he repeatedly says he has a very good relationship.
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A partial shutdown of the US government remains on the table as lawmakers have yet to reach a deal that meets Trump's demand for money to build a border wall with Mexico, a senior White House official said. The US Congress faces a Friday deadline to agree on government funding or face another shutdown. Trump agreed to fund the government for three weeks to allow for negotiations after no progress was reached during the longest federal shutdown in US history, which ended on January 25. Speaking to broadcaster NBC on Sunday, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said "you absolutely cannot" take a shutdown off the table.
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Trump said Friday he will hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam later this month. The two-day meeting scheduled for February 27 and 28 comes as little progress has been made in dismantling the North Korean nuclear program since Trump and Kim met in Singapore for a landmark summit in June.
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By Arvind Bhunjun; arvindbhunjun@alliancenews.com

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