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SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesPlane ticket prices will rise this summer due to high demand for European beach holidays, Ryanair has said.Airline boss Michael O’Leary said he expects prices for flights to rise by a “high single-digit per cent”.He said the airline’s lower fares were currently driving an increase in passenger numbers, helping the company’s recovery from the pandemic.He said he hoped the airline would return to “reasonable profitability” in its current financial year.The firm reported annual losses of €355m (£302m) on Monday, saying its recovery from Covid restrictions being lifted had been impacted by the Omicron variant and the war in Ukraine.The conflict in Ukraine has driven up global oil prices with concerns supplies from Russia, a major exporter of fossil fuels and jet fuel, could be disrupted.The group’s loss for the year to 31 March was smaller than expected and narrowed from the €1.02bn (£867m) losses seen the previous year.’So much demand’Mr O’Leary said he expected prices to be lower up to June compared to pre-pandemic levels, but added “based on about 50% of all bookings, we expect prices will be up high single-digit per cent” over the Summer.”It seems to us that there will be higher prices into that peak summer period because there’s so much demand for the beaches of Europe and those price rises going to continue,” told the BBC’s Today programme.”I think prices will be low next winter. But it’s too early to say, there’s clearly going to be an economic downturn, there’s some fear of recession and in a recession the lowest-cost provider, which in the UK and in Europe is Ryanair, will do better, but will do better because we can sustain lower prices.”In its results the airline stated customers were still booking their trips later than usual and said the “booking curve” looked more like pre-Covid times.Ryanair said traffic recovered strongly as it carried 97.1 million guests, up from just 27.5 million the year before thanks to the lifting of pandemic restrictions.It said it hopes to boost this further to 165 million passengers this year – ahead of the 149 million record level seen pre-Covid.Elsewhere, Holiday giant Tui has said it expects summer bookings to “almost reach” 2019 levels this year, but warned there will be “no last minute” deals.”There will be practically no last minute offers at low prices this summer,” said Fritz Joussen, Tui’s chief executive.Mr O’Leary said he hoped to see “pinch points” at UK airports such as Manchester or Heathrow eliminated by the end of June in time for the peak summer period. He said: “There’s no doubt I think getting through airports this summer is going to be challenging and we’re encouraging all of our customers to show up earlier and allow more time to get through airport security”. However he claimed this was less the case at other airports Ryanair uses, such as Glasgow, Stansted, and Bristol.He said Ryanair didn’t face the same recruitment challenges as some competitors because it had kept people on. Ryanair asked staff to take pay cuts during the pandemic to avoid job losses.More on this storyAir fare rises are unavoidable, warns airline bossRyanair set to cut winter fares to boost demand

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesChina’s jobless rate rose to 6.1% in April, the highest level since the 6.2% peak seen in the early part of the Covid-19 pandemic in February 2020.It comes as widening lockdowns led to a sharp slowdown in activity for the world’s second largest economy.Official figures also show retailers and manufacturers were hit hard.Full or partial lockdowns were imposed in dozens of cities in March and April, including a long shutdown of the commercial centre Shanghai.Chinese Premier Li Keqiang recently described the country’s employment situation “complicated and grim” following the worst outbreaks of the virus since 2020.Still, the government aims to keep the jobless rate below 5.5% for this year as a whole.How China’s lockdowns could hit UK pricesThe hard life of a homeless Shanghai deliverymanThe rise in unemployment came as lockdowns had an impact across the Chinese economy.Retail sales saw the biggest contraction since March 2020 as they shrank by 11.1% in April from a year earlier, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics.That was much worse than March’s 3.5% drop and missed the economists’ expectations of a 6.1% fall.At the same time industrial production fell by 2.9% from a year earlier, as measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus had a major impact on supply chains.That was the largest decline since February 2020 and marked a reversal of the 5% gain in March.However, Shanghai on Monday set out plans for the return of more normal life from the start of next month and the end of a lockdown that has lasted more than six weeks and contributed to the sharp slowdown of China’s economy.In the clearest timetable yet, Deputy Mayor Zong Ming said the reopening of the financial, manufacturing and trading hub would be carried out in stages, with movement curbs largely to remain in place until 21 May to prevent an increase of infections, before a gradual easing.There are no more positive cases reported outside of quarantine centres in Shanghai – and that was a key target. Although state media has blithely reported that the “hustle and bustle” is returning, it’s difficult to verify that. Despite claims that the majority of residents are free to roam, anecdotal reporting on the ground is very different. I am still confined to my home. Other members of the BBC team here, in various places, face similar restrictions. Access to food and healthcare remains limited for some. Some shops are opening, but only “offline” business will resume initially. The daily reported positive case numbers are also down to three figures now, but this is not a place that’s opening up so that everyone is free to at least walk around.You might also be interested in:This video can not be playedTo play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.More on this storyHow China’s lockdowns could hit UK pricesThe hard life of a homeless Shanghai deliverymanWhy Shanghai has changed its approach to CovidChina spending and employment hit amid lockdowns

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesThe price of wheat has jumped on international markets after India banned the export of the staple cereal.The benchmark wheat index rose as much as 5.9% in Chicago, the highest it has been in two months.The export ban comes as a heatwave has hit India’s wheat crops, taking domestic prices to a record high.Wheat prices have soared by around 60% on world markets this year, pushing up the cost of everything from bread to noodles.India’s government said it would still allow exports backed by letters of credit that have already been issued, and to countries that request supplies “to meet their food security needs”.Government officials also said the ban was not permanent and could be revised.This video can not be playedTo play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.However, the decision has been criticised by agriculture ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) nations meeting in Germany.”If everyone starts to impose export restrictions or to close markets, that would worsen the crisis,” German food and agriculture minister Cem Ozdemir said.The G7 is an organisation of the world’s seven largest so-called “advanced” economies, which dominate global trade and the international financial system. They are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States.Although India is the world’s second-biggest wheat producer, it has not previously been a major exporter as most of its crop is sold on domestic markets. But Ukraine’s wheat exports plunged after the Russian invasion. And with droughts and floods threatening crops in other major producers, commodity traders were expecting supplies from India to make up for part of the shortfall.Before the ban, India had aimed to ship a record 10 million tonnes of wheat this year.Britons skip meals as food prices rise – charityShoppers could face £271 rise in annual food billsUkraine war causes ‘giant leap’ in food pricesGlobal food prices hit a fresh record high in March after the Ukraine war caused a “giant leap”, according to the United Nations (UN).That came as the conflict cut off supplies from the world’s biggest exporter of sunflower oil – Ukraine – which means the costs of alternatives also climbed. The country is also a major producer of cereals such as maize and wheat, which have risen sharply in price too.The UN said that global food prices eased slightly in April but remain almost 30% higher than the same time last year.Rising food prices, along with a jump in the cost of energy, have been pushing up inflation around that world.That has forced major central banks, including the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England, to raise interest rates in an attempt to rein in rising prices.That, in turn, has triggered concerns that the higher cost of borrowing could hit global economic growth, with some high-profile commentators warning of a recession.On Sunday, Lloyd Blankfein, the senior chairman of Wall Street investment banking giant Goldman Sachs, said there is a “very, very high risk” of recession in the world’s biggest economy.Mr Blankfein’s comments on CBS’s Face the Nation came on the same day as Goldman Sachs economists cut their US economic growth forecasts for this year and next.More on this storyBritons skip meals as food prices rise – charityShoppers could face £271 rise in annual food billsUkraine war causes ‘giant leap’ in food pricesFood boss says prices could rise by up to 15%

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Lucie GrechLending to smaller firms has hit an all-time low, according to a study by the Federation of Small Businesses.The industry group accused banks of “pulling up the drawbridge” to small companies.One beauty clinic owner told the BBC she had to “jump through hoops” to get a business loan.Lucie Grech applied to five banks for loans since setting up The Laser Lounge in October 2019 but has only just succeeded in securing any money.Ms Grech had been seeking a business loan in order to expand her clinic in Manchester from one room to five rooms, but says the whole process was a “nightmare”.”This was mainly because I was a sole trader and no loan companies or banks would entertain me, even though my business is highly profitable despite the pandemic.”Businesses need post-Covid loan help, say expertsSmall firms’ account delays are over, insist banks’My bank account request disappeared down a hole’She says she made multiple applications to banks trying to borrow anywhere between £5,000 and £50,000, but with no luck.”I was jumping through hoops,” she says. “I couldn’t get any financial support at all.”Lucie’s experience is far from unique, a report suggests.According to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), successful finance applications plunged over the first three months of this year. The survey, which heard from 12,000 of the group’s members, found that just 9% of small firms applied for new finance in the first quarter of 2022. Only around two-fifths of those who did apply were approved, a record low.Over the same period, according to the Bank of England, lending to large companies increased significantly.Image source, Press AssociationThe FSB also found that around a 10th of small firms planned to close, sell or downsize over the coming year. That equates to more than half a million businesses.Six in 10 small firms were being impacted by late payments of invoices, the study said.The FSB’s chair, Martin McTague, warned that without proper funding for small firms economic growth in the country will be stifled.”Lenders pulling up the drawbridge for small firms will threaten our already faltering economic recovery,” Mr McTague said.”Businesses are born every day across the UK – many need funding to get off the ground, ensuring they reach a stage where they’re profitable and creating opportunities.”Warning of economic downturn as interest rates riseHow high could interest rates go?Mr McTague said a “culture change” was needed, with lenders taking an objective approach to small business finance.Lucie has just managed to secure a loan, although she says it was £15,000 shy of what she was asking.Still, she says it is a relief to have the funds at all.”It wasn’t till the day I got the money into my account that I believed it,” she says.”The whole reason I wanted the money was to expand my premises and create more jobs,” she added. “Hopefully this can happen now.”More on this storyRecession fears grow as rising prices hit spendingWarning of economic downturn as interest rates rise

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, PA MediaEasyJet is to offer new and existing cabin crew a £1,000 bonus at the end of the summer holiday season, as airlines battle to retain and recruit staff.The airline said the payments would acknowledge crews’ contributions to what it expects to be a busy summer, with travel at near pre-Covid levels.It was revealed last month that British Airways is offering the same amount to new joiners as a “golden hello”.The UK’s ending of travel restrictions has seen demand for holidays soar.The aviation industry shed thousands of jobs during the pandemic and airports and airlines have been racing to recruit staff for months, as they plan for a bumper summer. However, some have struggled to hire new staff quickly enough.Both EasyJet and British Airways have cancelled hundreds of flights amid workforce shortages, which have been compounded by Covid absences.Some airports, including Manchester and Birmingham, have also blamed a lack of staff for incidents of long queues, some of which have resulted in passengers missing flights.The UK’s aviation watchdog the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) wrote to airports in April expressing concern over the impact of staff shortages.British Airways’ recruitment efforts this year have included inviting back some workers who previously left but had expressed an interest in returning.EasyJet said last week that it planned to take out the back row of seats on some aircraft, so they could fly with three cabin crew instead of four. This would still comply with the CAA’s regulations.The budget airline has so far hired 1,700 crew, up from its initial target of 1,500.However, getting new aviation staff trained and through security clearance can take months.The government is set to allow the training of new staff to begin before background checks have been completed, in an effort to speed up recruitment. The law change is due to come into effect from 20 May.More on this storyEasyJet to remove seats so it can cut down on crewBA tries to poach rival staff with £1,000 bonusWarning travel problems could continue into summerEasyJet boss: ‘Make difficult decisions in the morning’

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesSaudi Aramco has posted its highest profits since its 2019 listing as oil and gas prices surge around the world.The state-owned energy giant saw an 82% jump in profits, with net income topping $39.5bn (£32.2bn) in the first quarter.In a press release, the firm said it had been boosted by higher prices, as well as an increase in production.The invasion of Ukraine has seen oil and gas prices skyrocket. Russia is one of the world’s biggest exporters but Western nations have pledged to cut their dependence on the country for energy.Oil prices were already rising before the Ukraine war as economies started to recover from the Covid pandemic and demand outstripped supply.Other energy firms including Shell, BP and TotalEnergies have also reported soaring profits as a result, although many are incurring costs exiting operations in Russia.Energy security ‘vital’Aramco’s president and chief executive, Amin Nasser, said on Sunday that the company was “focused on helping meet the world’s demand for energy that is reliable, affordable and increasingly sustainable”.”Energy security is vital and we are investing for the long-term,” he added.In March, the oil and gas producer pledged to ramp up investment and boost output significantly over the next five to eight years.Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited the world’s biggest oil exporter that month to try to persuade it to release more oil into world markets in the short-term.Why won’t the world’s big oil producers lower prices?Saudi oil giant to ramp up energy productionApple loses position as world’s most valuable firmSaudi Arabia is the largest producer in the oil cartel Opec (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) and by raising production it could help to reduce energy prices.But the country has been condemned for a range of human rights abuses: its involvement in the conflict in neighbouring Yemen, the murder in 2018 of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, for jailing dissidents and for widespread use of capital punishment.Aramco itself also faces security challenges because of the conflict in Yemen, with Huthi rebels targeting some of its sites and temporarily knocking out a big portion of the kingdom’s crude production.Its latest set of results come days after Aramco reclaimed the top spot as the world’s most valuable company from Apple for the first time in almost two years.Aramco also announced on Sunday it would issue 20 billion bonus shares to shareholders – one share for every 10 shares already owned.More on this storySaudi oil giant to ramp up energy productionWhy won’t the world’s big oil producers lower prices?Apple loses position as world’s most valuable firm

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharing”Eating and petrol. That’s what I use the money for,” says Zach. The 30-year-old from Chester is explaining how he spent the money he got after pawning his laptop.As the cost of living rises, a new report suggests people on low incomes are pawning their possessions to pay for everyday essentials.The National Pawnbrokers Association (NPA) says it will meet with the UK’s finance watchdog next week to discuss the research.The NPA is worried banks are shutting down pawnbroker accounts because of money laundering concerns and it wants the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to work with banks to resolve the issue.The number of pawnbrokers has fallen from more than 2,000 in 2014 to fewer than 900 last year.The report from independent think tank the Social Market Foundation, which was paid for by the NPA, says pawnbroking is an “essential source of credit for some customers, who feel they have no alternative ways to borrow”.Why are prices rising so quickly?’My tears over pawned jewellery’Pawnbroker warns probe could spark loan shark rushZach, who lost his job as a plumber during the pandemic and now works as a roadside labourer, agrees. “I’m not alone. There are a lot of people out there who are really struggling and facilities like this [pawnbrokers] are the only facilities that can help you [get finance],” he says.”The only reservoir of finance I could find for my assets was the pawnbrokers. That was the only resource I had and if these guys weren’t here I would have gone for weeks without [being able to pay for] food.”The NPA says the most common items pawned are electrical goods (phones, laptops and games consoles) and jewellery, with the average loan being around £300. Across the industry about 85% of items are redeemed by customers.How does pawnbroking work?A pawnbroker is an individual person or shop which offers secured loans against people’s personal possessions – most often items like electronics or jewellery.The customer and pawnbroker agree an amount that can be loaned against the item and how much interest will be charged on the loan.The customer then has up to six months to redeem the item and pay the agreed interest or, if it’s not redeemed, the pawnbroker has the legal right to sell the item to recoup the original loan and interest.Any surplus money earned from such a sale should be given to the customer.More information is available from the National Pawnbrokers Association. Consumer advice on pawnbroking is available from Citizens Advice and the Money and Pensions ServiceVicki, who describes herself as long-term disabled and is unemployed, receives around £480 a month in benefits.The 36-year-old has just redeemed her son’s Xbox after pawning it a few weeks earlier to be able to pay for some food shopping.”Basically [we use the pawnbrokers] so we can buy food and just survive,” she tells the BBC. “The living situation is just horrible.”Vicki says a poor credit history and no permanent address means getting cheaper credit from something like a bank loan would be impossible. If she wasn’t able to use pawnbrokers she says the only alternative would be doorstep lending or loan sharks – illegal moneylenders who often charge very high interest rates. It’s something Vicki has been forced to use before but never wants to do again.”I used a loan shark for £100. I fell behind on one of the payments and the people came to my door and I was threatened,” she says.”For that £100 I ended up paying £700 back… because I missed one payment [so] I’d much rather use a pawnbrokers than a loan shark because you know what you’re dealing with and I know I’m safe.”Critics of pawnbrokers point out the high interest rates and low valuation of people’s possessions as reasons why they’re not a good source of finance for people on low incomes.Around 10% a month interest is typical but it is charged by the day and the average length of a loan is four months.Debt charity StepChange says it would rather have more alternatives available to people than high-cost credit but that pawnbroking can be a lot safer than many of the alternatives.Paul Smit, a former president of the National Pawnbrokers Association, will take part in the meeting with the FCA next week.He says the Social Market Foundation report “highlights the societal role that pawnbrokers play in providing finance to those who would otherwise be excluded from legitimate finance and would be left with no alternative than illegal, unregulated loan sharks”.”We hope and believe that, once the FCA appreciate that the loss of access to pawnbroking services would have a devastating effect on these people, that the FCA will work with the pawnbroking and banking industries, both of which they regulate, to agree an approach that will stop the closure of pawnbrokers’ bank accounts by banks,” he adds. UK Finance, which represents the banking industry, said it recognised the “valuable role” played by pawnbrokers in providing credit.”All banks must follow strict regulations to deal with the risks of money laundering and financial crime,” it said in a statement.”Any decision to close an account is only taken after extensive review on a case-by-case basis.”You can hear more on this story on BBC Radio 4’s Money Box programme at 12:00 BST on Saturday or listen to the podcast on BBC Sounds by clicking here shortly after broadcast.Follow Money Box and Dan on Twitter.More on this storyPawnbroker warns probe could spark loan shark rushPawnbroker shuts shops as it seeks lifeline’My tears over pawned jewellery’

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesRussian energy supplier RAO Nordic says it will suspend deliveries of electricity to Finland from Saturday, citing problems with payments.The company said it had not been paid for previous deliveries.The Finnish grid operator said Russia provided only a small percentage of the country’s electricity and that it could be replaced from alternative sources.On Thursday, Russia threatened to take “retaliatory steps” after Finland said it planned to join Nato.Finland shares a 1,300-km (810-mile) border with Russia, and has previously stayed out of Nato to avoid antagonising its eastern neighbour. However, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine there has been a surge in public support for Nato membership.On Sunday Finland is expected to formally announce its plan to join.The decision by Rao Nordic has not been explicitly tied to Finland’s decision.The Russian state-owned firm said: “This situation is exceptional and happened for the first time in over twenty years of our trading history”.Neither Rao Nordic nor the grid operator in Finland, Fingrid, explained what was behind the payment difficulties.Last month Russia cut supplies of gas to Bulgaria and Poland after they refused to comply with a demand to pay in roubles, a change they said would contravene western sanctions. This week Russia’s Gazprom announced it would stop supplying gas via the Polish part of the Yamal-Europe pipeline.Russia threatens retaliation for Finland Nato moveRussia halts gas exports to Poland and BulgariaCould the world cope without Russian oil and gas?Fingrid said it did not expect electricity shortages as a result of the shut off, as only around 10% of Finland’s electricity is supplied from Russia.”The lack of electricity import from Russia will be compensated by importing more electricity from Sweden and by generating more electricity in Finland,” said Reima Päivinen, senior vice president of power system operations at Fingrid.Demand is also decreasing as the weather gets warmer, while a significant amount of extra wind power generation is expected to come on stream. A new nuclear power station, expected to open this summer, would more than make up for the lost supplies from Russia, Fingrid added.More on this storyRussia threatens retaliation for Finland Nato moveRussia halts gas exports to Poland and BulgariaCould the world cope without Russian oil and gas?

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesThe government’s decision to reject mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting for firms has been criticised as “nonsensical” by MPs.Conservative MP Caroline Nokes said it also showed a lack of will “to foster a fairer and more equal society”.She chairs a parliamentary committee which has called for pay gap rules to be extended to include race.But the government has said it does not want to impose any new reporting burdens on business.Companies with more than 250 employees have been required to publish their gender pay gap statistics since 2017, revealing stark differences at some firms between the amount women and men are paid per hour on average.Earlier this year the cross-party Commons women and equalities committee called on those firms to also publish pay differences between ethnic groups in their employment.The government rejected the proposal, pointing to a report that found publishing statistics on the ethnicity pay gap “may not” be the “most appropriate tool for every type of employer seeking to ensure fairness in the workplace”.Do you want to know how much your colleagues earn?Little change in gender pay gap, study finds’We need to reflect on why women still do most of the childcare'”There are significant statistical and data issues that would arise as a result of substituting a binary-protected characteristic (male or female) with a characteristic that has multiple categories,” the government said. Ms Nokes condemned the government’s decision, saying in a statement: “What is lacking in this administration is not resource or know-how, but the will or care to foster a fairer and more equal society”. “Introducing mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting for larger businesses would set the ball rolling, reducing inequalities between different ethnic groups,” she said.The committee said research suggested that addressing race inequality in the UK labour market could boost the UK economy by £24bn a year. Companies already reporting gender pay gap figures were “already well resourced” to gather data on ethnicity and pay, the committee added, noting the government was providing detailed information on how firms could publish these statistics on a voluntary basis.Dianne Greyson, founder of the #EthnicityPayGap campaign group, told the BBC that the government’s decision was “not acceptable”.Previously, the trade union Unison has called for mandatory ethnic pay gap reporting, saying it is “essential to recognise the interrelation between the ethnic pay gap and career progression.” More on this storyDo you want to know how much your colleagues earn?Women warned home working may harm their careersGender pay gap has widened, panel finds’We need to reflect on why women still do most of the childcare’Little change in gender pay gap, study finds

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, ReutersElon Musk has said his $44bn (£35bn) deal to buy Twitter is temporarily on hold after he queried the number of fake or spam accounts on the social media platform.He said he was waiting for information “supporting [the] calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users”.Following the announcement, Twitter shares fell 25% in pre-market trading.Mr Musk has been vocal on cleaning up spam accounts.Twitter reported nearly two weeks ago that fake accounts accounted for less than 5% of its daily active users during the first three months of this year. The billionaire, who is the richest person in the world according to Forbes magazine, is now examining that figure.Under the terms of the deal, if either Twitter or Mr Musk walk away they must pay the other side a termination fee of $1bn.Twitter deal temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 13, 2022
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on TwitterTwitter has long had an issue with automated, fake accounts being used to relentlessly post content.Mr Musk has called for “defeating the spam bots” on Twitter as well as several other changes including bringing back some banned accounts, including that of former US President Donald Trump.More on this storyTwitter executives ousted ahead of Musk takeoverElon Musk lines up $7bn backing for Twitter deal