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Retail sales rose at their fastest rate in nine years in December, the Office for National Statistics reported yesterday. However, some City analysts immediately cast doubt on the reliability of the figures.

Britain’s deficit soars to its highest for 24 years

But stronger-than-expected growth was seen over the past two years

Upbeat forecasts adds to optimism over economic recovery

The UK recovery will pick up pace this week as official estimates reveal the strongest advance for the economy since last summer's London Olympic Games.

£1.6bn refinancing lifts the debt cloud for Thomas Cook

Travel giant Thomas Cook today took a huge step towards recovery with a £1.6 billion refinancing of its vast debt pile, just 18 months after the 172-year old company veered close to collapse.

Andy Murray is through to the quarter-finals of the BNP Paribas Open

Outrageous! Andy Murray loses it over 'extremely, extremely loud' grunting from opponent

The British number one came through his match against Carlos Berlocq in Indian Wells despite his annoyance

Argentina's tennis player Carlos Berlocq at the Davis Cup earlier this year

Outrageous! Andy Murray loses it over 'extremely, extremely loud' grunting from opponent

The British number one came through his match against Carlos Berlocq in Indian Wells despite his annoyance

Market Report: Vodafone powering Footsie on US buzz

The City was piling into Vodafone again today and it wasn't because of the FTSE 100 titan's new contract to supply smartphones to New Zealand's police officers. Welcome though the news may be to the Kiwi law enforcement fraternity, Voda has been the blue-chip story of the week for other reasons: namely speculation over its 45 per cent stake in United States operator Verizon Wireless.

Market Report: Sugar looks likely to sour ABF success

Flogging cheap clothes has been keeping punters in Primark owner Associated British Foods happy, but City scribblers think the shares are no longer quite so sweet. The Primark to Twinings tea group could be facing bitter times at its European sugar business.

Market Report: City spends energy on oil and gas talk

Oil and gas explorers on both sides of the Channel were flaring up on City takeover chatter. BG Group has been a takeover target since its shares lost around 20 per cent after warning on production forecasts at the beginning of the month.

CBI reveals worsening picture for UK output

Manufacturing output is at its lowest level in three years, in what could be a further blow to hopes for a swift economic recovery, according to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Market Report: Carphone in line for a Best Buy deal lift

With US retail giant Best Buy being targeted by its founder, the talk in the Square Mile yesterday was focused on what could lie ahead for its British partner Carphone Warehouse if a deal goes ahead.

Market Report: City backs ITV to benefit from penny-pinching Beeb

While Auntie penny pinches, ITV will feel the benefit. That was the theory pushing the Britain's Got Talent broadcaster higher yesterday as – with the BBC on a mission to save money – City scribblers argued its bitter rival will be in a prime position to take advantage.

The Market Report: BarCap a worry as US rivals pave way for 'weak results'

It was transformed into one of the world's top investment banks under his control. Yet yesterday Bob Diamond was being urged to undergo a massive overhaul of Barclays Capital amid claims that such a move would be for the good of the company as a whole. With Barclays' preliminary results little more than a fortnight away, poor figures from the investment-banking arms of its American rivals have raised serious concerns over the performance of BarCap.

Market Report: Reason to reconsider the Smith & Nephew story

Bargain-hunters moved into Smith & Nephew yesterday after analysts called on investors to reconsider the growth prospects for Europe's biggest manufacturer of artificial hips and knees. S&N shares haven't had the healthiest of years so far, falling by around 15 per cent since January. Results earlier this month did little to warm sentiment, with the stock easing in the hours after the company revealed lower trading profits for the third quarter.

British banks ordered to disclose debt exposure amid contagion fears

Turmoil on Europe's markets continues, as bank shares suffer rollercoaster ride

DTZ in turmoil as management walks out

The chief executive and finance director of DTZ yesterday walked out as a row with the commercial property agent's majority shareholder threatened to boil over.

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Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
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Lake Garda
Minoan Crete and Santorini
Prices correct as of 15 May 2015
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
8 best children's clocks

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Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there