Your commercial news round-up: interest rates, Ukraine, Apple, green tariff, NHS, Beijing and covid-19

updated on 15 December 2022

Reading time: four minutes

As temperatures plummeted this week and most of the UK was hit with snow, we sat down to bring you some of the week’s top commercial stories.   

  • The cost-of-living crisis continues to dominate most major news outlets with the Bank of England increasing interest rates to 3.5% today. The December rise in rates, which is at its highest level for 14 years, comes after the biggest hike since 1989 as the rate went from 2.25% to 3% in November. Analysts have forecast that rates could get as high as 4.5% by the middle of next year. The bank is under pressure to raise rates to keep inflation at its target of 2%, while prices are currently increasing at 10.7%.
  • The war in Ukraine has been ongoing for 10 months now, with Moscow stating that offers of a “Christmas ceasefire” haven’t been made. Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, confirmed that this “topic” – a Christmas ceasefire – “is not on the agenda”. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his address on Wednesday that there “is no calm on the frontline”. Zelenskyy had made calls for Russia to withdraw its troops by Christmas in what would be the first step towards a peace deal, but the hostility looks set to continue into the winter months, according to the Guardian. Earlier this week, Peskov called any progress “impossible” until the Ukrainian president accepted the “realities” on the ground, including Russia’s illegal invasion of four regions in eastern and southern Ukraine.
  • Tech giant Apple is set to permit rival app stores onto the iPhone and iPad in the EU in light of a new EU competition law, according to a report. Alex Haffner, competition and regulatory specialist at Fladgate LLP, called the move “potentially seismic”. The likes of Amazon, Microsoft and Epic (the company Apple has been in a legal battle with for several years) are in good positions to set up their own iOS app stores. That said, Angelo Zino, a stock analyst at research company CFRA, said the impact will be “minimal” given that “most consumers are creatures of habit and are very satisfied with the platform”. This move comes after Apple was forced to adopt a new charging standard which will see it replace its propriety lighting port with a USB-C by the end of 2024 due to the new EU competition law. Decisions about complying with other elements of the new law (eg, allowing alternative payment systems) are yet to be made by Apple.
  • The EU has become the first big economy to legislate for a “green tariff” on imports, which is part of the EU’s broader mission to cut greenhouse emissions by at least 55% by 2030. The charge will apply to goods produced with high carbon dioxide emissions and covers a range of sectors, including iron and steel, cement, fertilisers, aluminium, electricity, hydrogen and some chemicals. The world’s first carbon tariff, named the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, aims to improve environmental standards worldwide. While the agreement is provisional until a final set of negotiations takes place this weekend, before EU ambassadors have to approve it, the tariff has been described as a “win-win situation” by Mohammed Chahim, a socialist MEP who led the negotiations for the parliament.
  • As rail and postal strikes continue, nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are holding the largest strike in NHS history. The first of the two day-long strikes over pay has begun, and a walkout is also set to take place on Tuesday 20 December with routine services likely to be disrupted. The Royal College of Nursing has called for a 19% pay rise following concerns over attracting and retaining nurses, which the government has said is unaffordable.
  • Meanwhile, hospital staff in Beijing are being told to continue working, despite being infected with covid-19. Around 80% of hospital staff in Beijing hospitals are infected with coronavirus but, due to staff shortages, are being required to work, according to insight from a doctor in a large public hospital in the Chinese capital. Although restrictions were recently eased, Michael Ryan, a World Health Organisation emergencies chief, said: “The explosion of cases in China had started long before any easing of the zero-covid policy.” He added: “There’s a narrative that, in some way, China lifted the restrictions and all of a sudden, the disease is out of control.

“The disease was spreading intensively because the control measures in themselves were not stopping the disease.”

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