US president Donald Trump will meet about 150 business leaders over dinner when he visits the UK next week.
The meeting is expected to be held at Blenheim Palace and Britain’s richest man – Sir Jim Ratcliffe – owner of the Ineos chemicals group will be among those attending.
However, Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho, the co-founder of lastminute.com, turned down the invitation.
“I understand why the government have to entertain Trump, but I certainly don’t have to,” she said.
Top of the agenda is likely to be US tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese imports which took effect this morning and were expected to trigger a similar response from Beijing.
China’s state media accused the White House of behaving like a “gang of hoodlums” as the world’s two biggest economies headed towards an outright trade war.
The immediate effect is expected to be limited, with some companies vowing not to pass the tariffs on in higher prices for consumer.
However, today’s tariffs, plus a follow-on list worth $16 billion, are expected to cut China’s economic growth by 0.2 percentage points. It called on European countries to help safeguard a globally free trade system.
While Asian markets came under more pressure, European and US markets rose as some analysts questioned whether the tariff threats on EU goods will come about. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was keen to head off any tariffs on German car exports.
Mrs Merkel said she would be in favour of opening talks with trading partners on lowering automobile tariffs with all countries.
Gains for shares in car companies and makers of car parts helped European shares rally.
The FTSE 100 closed up 30.13 points at 7603.22, while other major European markets were also higher. The Dow Jones was 0.65% higher near the closing bell, the Nasdaq was 0.95% higher and the S&P0.75% up.
Asian markets had been reacting with alarm to the prospect of a US-China trade war. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index slipped 1.1% on Wednesday night, while Tokyo’s Nikkei was showing a 0.9% decline. Indexes in Shanghai, Seoul and Taipei also registered losses.
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney warned of the potential costs of a trade war and raised expectations of a UK interest rate hike next month by saying he had become increasingly confident that the British economy’s weak start to the year mostly reflected bad weather. Sterling hit a day’s high against the dollar.
Mr Carney, speaking in Newcastle, said: “Domestically, the incoming data have given me greater confidence that the softness of UK activity in the first quarter was largely due to the weather, not the economic climate.”
Online estate agency Purple Bricks reported an annual operating loss of £21.3m, against £5m in the previous 12 months.
The losses were partly a result of a doubling of marketing costs.
Chief executive Michael Bruce said: “We have doubled revenues in tough markets, taking market share as we continue to win over consumers to the modern way of buying and selling property.”
Persimmon sold 4,900 homes in the six months to the end of June at an average price of £236,700, up 2% on the same period last year, it said in an update.
Bovis managed an average private sale price of £335,000, barely changed from £334,000 a year ago.
Ed Monk, associate director from Fidelity Personal Investing’s share dealing service, said Persimmon’s prices represents a slowing since its update in April, where prices had been growing by 3%.
“The general slowdown in house prices can be seen in the flat-lining values of privately sold properties reported by housebuilders Persimmon and Bovis today,” he said.
“Prices have been weak in London for some time and this may be evidence that the weakness is bleeding out to other parts of the country.
“It has been a rocky time for investors in housebuilders and they will want to see that companies can reduce costs and hit profits targets, particularly as the outlook for house prices generally looks as though it is weakening.”