Burberry, the luxury retailer, has shut 24 of its 64 stores in mainland China as fears over a growing coronavirus outbreak continue to grip the country.

The company said it was taking action to ensure that staff remained safe. It warned investors that the outbreak was having a "material negative effect" on demand for luxury products.

Burberry said it supported efforts by the Chinese government to contain the virus. It also told shareholders that the effects on full-year financial results would be limited as the period is almost over.

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The business also relies on strong sales to Chinese tourists in Europe, and elsewhere. It said these sales have so far held up better, "but given widening travel restrictions, we anticipate these to worsen over the coming weeks".

Chief executive Marco Gobbetti said: "The outbreak of the coronavirus in mainland China is having a material negative effect on luxury demand. While we cannot currently predict how long this situation will last, we remain confident in our strategy.

"In the meantime, we are taking mitigating actions and every precaution to help ensure the safety and wellbeing of our employees. We are extremely grateful for the incredible effort of our teams and our immediate thoughts are with the people directly impacted by this global health emergency."

It is not the first time that Burberry has been hit by major events in the region in the last 12 months.

The retailer has taken a serious hit from the anti-government protests in Hong Kong. Its stores in the city state used to account for around 8% of global sales. That has since halved as Chinese tourists elected not to cross to the island while protesters were on the streets.

More than 630 people are thought to have died in the China's coronavirus outbreak, authorities said on Friday. On Thursday a doctor who was among the first to sound the alarm on the deadly virus succumbed to the illness.

Dr Li Wenliang, 34, had been in trouble with China's hard-line authorities for "spreading rumours" about the virus in December.

Japan announced it had identified a further 41 cases of the virus.

Bellway said it had built a record number of new homes in the first six months of the financial year.

The house builder said that 5,321 homes were finished in the half, a 6.3% rise on the year before.

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It maintained course, saying that profit before tax for the full year is expected to be in line with market expectations.

"Bellway continues to increase the supply of affordably priced, good value new homes, following another successful trading period in which it has achieved further volume growth," said chairman Paul Hampden Smith.

"Looking forward, a robust balance sheet, operational capacity for expansion and a strong order book should ensure that the group is well placed to deliver additional, long-term volume growth, thereby continuing our disciplined growth strategy."

Despite political uncertainty towards the end of the calendar year, Bellway's customers stayed interested, the company said.

With the election behind them, house buyers are coming out with "renewed consumer optimism" in 2020 which is helping the housing market.

The business has a mildly stronger order book of 4,598 homes, 11 ahead of last year. Yet he value of the same book is £8.2 million lower.

"There remains some cost pressure affecting the wider industry, however, trading conditions are encouraging and early indications suggest that there will be a return of the usual, traditionally strong spring selling season," the company said in a statement.

Earlier this week, statistics from the National House Building Council (NHBC), a warranty and insurance provider, showed that more new homes were registered in 2019 across the UK than at any point since the financial crisis.

Last year 161,022 new homes were recorded, the highest since 198,693 in 2007. Houses are registered before being built, which means many will come to market this year.

On Wednesday Barratt Developments said it is ready for tough challenges in 2020 as it showed off a 91% jump in completed homes in the first half of its reporting period.

Energy regulator Ofgem has cut the limit it puts on household bills by less than expected.

The regulator said bills would go down by £17 for around 15 million households after its half-year review of the price cap.

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Average households will now pay no more than £1,162 for their energy per year after the cap comes into effect in April.

Those with pre-payment meters will see their cap fall to £1,200.

Experts had been predicting a fall as wholesale energy prices were squeezed over autumn and winter. However their predictions that costs would drop by between £20 and £60 proved optimistic.

Ofgem said the cost for the raw materials on the average energy bill had fallen by £38 to £408 between August and January.

Jonathan Brearley, the newly installed chief executive of Ofgem, said: "Suppliers have been required to become more efficient and pass on savings to consumers.

"In its first year, the cap is estimated to have saved consumers £1 billion on average on their energy bills and switching rates have hit record levels."