Thursday Newspaper round up.

ICAP, the world’s largest interdealer broker, has reportedly become a focus of the UK Libor rate-rigging investigation and is being investigated by the Financial Services Authority for possible breaches of market conduct rules. The UK financial watchdog has asked seven of around 50 people working on its London Interbank Offered Rate investigation to focus on ICAP, according to an internal FSA memo seen by the Financial Times. The newspaper also reported ICAP has been under formal investigation since at least March 2012. The FSA could not be reached for comment last night and ICAP declined to comment. [The Telegraph]

Investors in Apple were left unimpressed with the tech giant’s share price slumping in after-hours trading after it missed Wall Street hopes for iPhone sales and revenues, reviving concerns about future growth that have already driven down its stock by more than a quarter since its peak in September. The Californian firm shifted 47.8 million iPhones in the 13 weeks to the end of December, against some analysts’ expectations of around 50 million, while it sold around 23 million iPads. Revenues, meanwhile, rose to $54.5bn, which though healthy – the figure was up by double digits – was lower than an average forecast of around $54.7bn. [The Independent]

Japan recorded a record Y6.9tn ($77bn) trade deficit in 2012 as the cost of importing fuel rose following the Fukushima disaster, and a strong yen and frictions with China weighed on exports. The trade deficit, announced by the finance ministry on Thursday, was the second in two years. Before 2011, the home of global manufacturing powerhouses such as Toyota and Panasonic had not bought more goods and services abroad than it sold since 1980.[Financial Times]

McDonald’s will create another 2,500 jobs in Britain this year as it opens up to 20 stores and extends its trading hours. The fast-food chain, which created 3,500 jobs last year, said that the vast majority of the new positions would be entry-level roles, with about two thirds going to people under the age of 21. Jill McDonald, chief executive of McDonald’s UK, said that having opened 16 stores last year, taking its total to more than 1,200, the group would “push up the pace”. She said that the company would continue to increase the number of stores moving to 24-hour opening, creating at least 15 additional jobs at each store. McDonald’s UK has created more than 20,000 jobs over the past five years. It said that this year’s hirings would push its workforce to 93,500, many of whom are completing apprenticeships and other vocational qualifications. [The Times]

Job vacancies have surged to their highest level since the global downturn began in 2008 as the labour market continues to confound commentators and defy the economic gloom. Despite a string of high street casualties and fears that the country is on the verge of tipping into a tripledip recession, the jobs market appeared yesterday to be alive and kicking. Vacancies jumped by 10,000 in the final quarter of last year to hit 494,000, the highest since the end of 2008. [The Times]

The pound could face sustained pressure on the foreign exchange markets, experts warned on Wednesday, as David Cameron pledged to hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU against the backdrop of a weak UK economy. Sterling had dipped to its lowest level against the dollar in nearly five months as Cameron spoke, although it bounced a little afterwards following the publication of data showing a fall in unemployment in the three months to December. But by setting out the case for Britain to remain in the 27-member union, the prime minister gave a small comfort to investors who have been selling out of sterling since the start of year and have made the UK currency one of the worst performers of any G10 country so far this year. [The Guardian]

Britain’s business leaders sympathise with the political pressures on David Cameron over Europe but warned the prime minister on Wednesday that he needed to tackle the uncertainty caused by the promise of an in-out referendum in 2017. Executives at the World Economic Forum in Davos responded cautiously to Cameron’s long-awaited speech, expressing concerns – but not widespread alarm. Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of the multinational advertising company WPP, was among the most anxious, identifying the possibility of Britain leaving the European Union as one of the five major threats to the global economy as it struggles to emerge from financial crisis, recession and a half-decade of weak growth. [The Guardian]

Britain’s shops are shutting at a record rate and the collapse of Blockbuster, HMV and Jessops will make the situation even worse in the coming months, according to data published today. The number of stores in the UK fell by 3.6 per cent year-on-year between October and December, the biggest drop since the British Retail Consortium (BRC) began issuing its retail employment monitor in 2008. In December alone, 573 shops shut their doors for the final time, with experts warning the figure could rise further. [The Scotsman]

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