Business Diary: 05/11/2009

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Join the queue for the quantitative cracker

Here's the sure-fire Christmas publishing sensation for eco-geeks and unemployed bankers with (lots of) time on their hands: Frequently Asked Questions in Quantitative Finance by Paul Wilmott.

Published by Wiley, this little gem contains everything you wanted to know about, well, whatever that is, but were afraid to ask. And with chapters such as "The Financial Modellers' Manifesto" and "The Black Scholes Formulae and the Greeks", it's bound to be a best-seller. There's even a section on popular quant books (surely a misnomer, that). And the really scary thing? It's now in its second edition.

Lloyds Banking Group goes all civil service

Diary was interested to note the pictures of Lloyds staff leaving their offices at 5pm sharp last night that appeared on the BBC after yet another multibillion-pound cash bung from the taxpayer. The state-employed bankers have obviously paid close attention to the working habits of Civil Service colleagues.

Gene Hunt and juicy birds at M&S results

Marks & Spencer has enlisted the help of Philip "DCI Gene Hunt" Glenister of Life on Mars fame, for this year's Christmas ads. No surprise that he takes the top prize for politically incorrect double entendres with references to a "big juicy bird" (turkey) and "the missus wakes up to a lovely big surprise" (Diary couldn't possibly comment) . The M&S chairman Sir Stuart Rose even got in on the act by repeating the "big juicy bird" line at yesterday's press conference. A blushing PR woman was heard to mutter: "I just hope that he's not pointing at me."

Sharp in defence of some really sad ads

Speaking of M&S, Waitrose's recent sales surge seems to be hitting a nerve. "There is some evidence that people think Waitrose is cheaper than us and it is simply not true. On 1,200 products we are considerably cheaper across a large basket," growled Steve Sharp, M&S executive director of marketing, trying to justify a wave of ads to correct the impression. For the record, Waitrose disputes the M&S data, but is less aggrieved. "The market is a bit grubby," said Mr Sharp. Whose hands are the dirtiest?

Number of the day: 4

The number of times that Next has upgraded its full-year profit forecasts since May as the high street recovers.