(Bloomberg) -- Good afternoon from Bloomberg’s UK finance team. Here are five news stories from the Square Mile and beyond that caught our eye this week.

1)   UK’s Pandemic Recovery Halts With Slowdown in Health and RetailThe UK economy shrank in the second quarter for the first time since the pandemic, driven by a decline in spending by households and on fighting the coronavirus.2)  Bailey Defends BOE’s Independence in Letter to MPsThe head of the Bank of England has warned again that curbing its independence could jeopardize its international reputation and signaled that draft rules over financial services shouldn’t be changed to give more power to politicians. 3)  Ping An’s HSBC Breakup Gambit Shows Peter Ma’s Thirst for ChangeThe gulf between HSBC and Ping An shows no sign of narrowing. Here’s a profile of Ping An’s chairman Peter Ma that will make for worrying reading for those hoping the dispute will simply fade away.

4)  Investors Flee Drug Giants as Zantac Cancer Trials ApproachPharma giant GSK — one of the UK’s biggest listed companies — tumbled amid fears that US juries could hold drug companies responsible for cancers allegedly caused by contaminants in a once-popular antacid.

5)  UK Finance Industry Suffers From Record Skills ShortfallUK finance firms are struggling with the worst job vacancy rates on record, underlining the skills shortage caused by digitization in banking, investing and insurance.

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