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While retail chatter should subside after this week, there is no end to the debate over where the price of oil is heading.

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Wells keep pumping

While retail chatter should subside after this week, there is no end to the debate over where the price of oil is heading.

Iranian crude oil could start to flow on to the market next week, adding further to fierce downward pressure on prices, the Times wrote this morning.

Brent crude slipped below US$30 on the back of that prospect, while BHP Billiton added to the unease by writing down in US shale business by US$7.2bn.

An 11% yield is a clear indication the market sees BHP as a dividend cut waiting to happen and though this was a non-cash write-down it felt like a bit of ground preparation was underway.

Of course, a low oil price is great news for petrolheads and Europe saw a 9% rise in car sales last year to 13.7mln.

Unsurprisingly, the one loser was VW following its emissions rigging antics with its market share down to 22.5% from 25% the year earlier.

Otherwise it was doubles all round as VW’s rivals cashed in with above 10% sales gains across the board, though yesterday’s confirmation by Renault of a fraud probe and raids on its sites by the French police over its emissions technology suggests the scandal may be  far from over.

One scandal that may be drawing to a close is the sale of mortgage-backed instruments, one of the most toxic of the cocktail of elements that brought financial markets to their knees in 2008.

Goldman Sachs has reached a US$5.1bn settlement the US government for its part in mis-selling of these type of securities.

Back to oil and gas prices and Ofgem’s chief executive Dermot Nolan telling the BBC that said gas and electricity prices should be cheaper "for the vast majority of people" sparked the usual online nods of agreement.

Wholesale energy costs have fallen by about a third in the last 12 to 18 months, he said, but prices have not as 70% of consumers remain on standard variable tariffs that have barely changed.

On the retail front, investors took advantage of today’s  break in the deluge of updates to assess the store chains had done well or not over the Christmas break.

Among the big boys, Tesco among was deemed a winner by pretty much everyone as was Morrison’s, which was more of surprise.

There was even talk of halting the advance of the no-frill discounters Aldi and Lidl, and a 10% rise in Tesco shares this week may indicate a mood shift underway.

Burberry, JD Sports, Debenhams Shoe Zone and Moss Bros also all earned mentioned in dispatches for various reasons.  

On the downside, Poundland, Game Digital and Sports Direct were obvious disappointers but Sainsbury’s and Greggs also earned few brownie points.

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