Andrew Bailey has warned the hit to living standards from surging energy prices in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will be worse than in any year in the 1970s.
Speaking at an event in Brussels, the Bank of England Governor said: “This really is an historic shock to real incomes. The shock from energy prices this year will be larger than every single year in the 1970s.”
Vladimir Putin’s warmongering and resulting sanctions have sparked a huge surge in oil and gas prices, piling further pressure on households at a time when inflation is at a 30-year high.
The Bank of England is tasked with balancing rising prices with the risk of an economic slowdown. Mr Bailey said the central bank had softened its language on interest rate rises to reflect the uncertain outlook, but insisted it was appropriate to tighten policy in the current circumstances.
It’s time to close the blog, thank you for following! Before you go, have a look at the latest stories from our business reporters:
Oscars show sees audience jump to 13.7m people
About 13.7m people watched a drama-filled Oscars, an increase from last year and a boost to an awards show whose audience has been in steep decline.
The ratings are preliminary and will change as audiences on the West Coast and online are counted. But the numbers are an improvement from a year ago, when a pared-down version of the event drew 10.5m viewers, a drop of more than half.
Sunday night’s telecast will perhaps be best remembered for actor Will Smith smacking comedian Chris Rock on live television minutes before winning the best actor Oscar. The incident overshadowed a milestone in Hollywood history, the first time a movie released primarily online won best picture. “CODA,” which took home the top prize, was released on the streaming service Apple TV+.
Lookers sells Battersea dealership for £28m
Car seller Lookers has sold its Battersea dealership site to property investment firm Urban Logistics for £28m.
Lookers, which sold a 20pc stake to We Buy Any Car owner Constellation earlier this year, said it will lease the site back on a 20-year deal for £1.25m annually.
The car dealership firm said the proceeds of the sale will be used to invest in its growth strategy and to strengthen its balance sheet. It added that it now holds property assets worth a total of £290m.
FTSE 100 closes lower
The FTSE 100 has ended lower, dragged down by weaker energy stocks as oil prices fell on China demand worries.
After rising as much as 0.75pc, the blue-chip index closed 0.1pc lower, with oil majors BP Plc and Shell Plc down nearly 2.5pc each.
Oil prices dropped more than $6 as fears grew over weaker fuel demand in China after financial hub Shanghai’s lockdown to curb a surge in COVID-19 infections.
“Europe is probably benefiting slightly from the pullback we’re seeing in energy markets… but ultimately, I don’t feel like positions have massively changed from late last week, which is kind of a sit-and-wait period,” said Craig Erlam, a senior analyst at OANDA.
New York City and Washington DC see reversed gender pay gap for women under 30
Women under 30 earn more than their male counteparts in 22 US metropolitan areas, such as New York City and Washington DC.
The reversed gender pay gap is only about 2pc, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data.
Nationally, women in that age group earn about 93 cents on the dollar compared to men. They earn 90-99pc of what their male counterparts make in 107 metros and 80-89pc in another 103 cities.
British Airways strikes deal to run commercial flights powered by chip fat
British Airways has taken delivery of its first batch of sustainable aviation fuel made from used chip fat and the contents of household bins. Gareth Corfield has the story:
The airline is the first to use the sustainable fuel produced in the UK following a deal it signed last year with US-headquartered oil company Phillips 66, which operates a refinery on the Humber.
Sean Doyle, chief executive of BA, said: “Progressing the development and commercial scale-up of sustainable aviation fuel will be a game changer and crucial to reducing the aviation sector’s reliance on fossil fuels.”
Phillips 66 said its fuel product was made from used cooking oil, “forestry residues” such as tree offcuts, and unwanted petrochemical industry byproducts, among other ingredients.
Cornish Metals raises £40m to redevelop tin mine in Cornwall
Miner Cornish Metals has raised more than £40m from a group of investors including industry veteran Sir Mick Davis.
The Aim-listed tin mining firm, which is valued at £69m according to the latest share price, said Sir Mick’s Vision Blue Resources operation will invest about £25m.
The remaining £15.5m is being raised through a private placing including new and existing investors. The investment will give Vision Blue a roughly 25pc stake in the company and a seat on its board of directors.
Cornish Metals said the funds will be used for the redevelopment of the South Crofty tin mine site near Redruth.
That’s all from me today – thanks for following along! Handing over to Giulia Bottaro now.
Asda shakes up value range as growth stalls
Asda is launching a new and larger value range as customers grapple with the cost-of-living crisis, while the grocer reported a slowdown in growth due to customers returning to pre-pandemic habits.
The supermarket chain, which was bought by the Issa brothers and backers TDR Capital last year, said it will axe its Smart Price range and replace it with new Just Essentials by Asda products.
It said the new budget range will comprise 300 products – a 50pc increase on the current Smart Price range. Just Essentials products will initially arrive in stores from May and be rolled out to replace Smart Price over the summer.
Asda said it has designed the new range with consideration for customer concerns over the cost-of-living crisis.
Mohsin Issa, co-owner of Asda, said:
We understand that customers are increasingly worried about the cost of living and want help to keep their grocery bills in check, whilst still being able to buy healthy and nutritious food for their families.
Our new Just Essentials range has been specifically designed with this in mind, combing our lowest prices with a much larger and more diverse range of great value products to meet all household needs.
Fertiliser price hits new record high as supplies tighten
Fertiliser prices have jumped further to new record highs as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine puts a huge portion of the world’s fertiliser supply at risk.
A gauge of prices for the nitrogen fertiliser ammonia surged 43pc to $1,625 per metric tonne at the end of last week – a record for the 29-year-old index.
The soaring cost of natural gas – the main input for most nitrogen fertiliser – is forcing some producers in Europe to cut output. Markets also worry that potential sanctions on Russia, a big low-cost shipper of every major kind of crop nutrient, could disrupt global trade.
The price rises threaten to put even more pressure on farms and add to concerns over soaring global food inflation.
Sunak denies ‘tax-cutting Chancellor’ moniker
Labour MP Angela Eagle has asked Rishi Sunak about his self-styled title of the “tax-cutting Chancellor”.
Rishi Sunak hits back at this, saying: “I’ve not actually said that.”
He focuses instead on his role navigating public finances during the pandemic.
Rishi Sunak: Energy prices ‘very volatile’
Rishi Sunak is up in front of MPs on the Treasury Select Committee, facing a grilling over last week’s Spring Statement.
The Chancellor has defended his decision to cut income tax instead of focusing on soaring energy bills, saying it was a very volatile situation and it was hard to predict what the price cap will be in the autumn.
Mr Sunak also insisted that his decision to raise the National Insurance threshold was progressive as it targeted higher earners.
Amazon erases losses for the year
Amazon shares rallied again on Wall Street, making it the first US tech giant to erase losses for the year.
Shares rose as much as 2.2pc to their highest since January 4. They’re now flat on the year, having dropped more than 18pc earlier this month.
Tech stocks have staged a comeback over recent weeks despite a surge in Treasury yields, suggesting that improved earnings outlooks are offsetting concerns about higher interest rates and geopolitical tensions.
Apple and Google owner Alphabet are close to recouping their losses for the year with a 2pc decline each, while Microsoft is almost 9pc lower.
Both Facebook and Netflix have seen far sharper losses, dropping more than 30pc as they struggle to recover from weak forecasts as the pandemic boom eased.
Russia’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper suspends publication
Russia’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper, whose editor Dmitry Muratov was a co-winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, has said it’s suspending online and print activities until the end of Russia’s so-called “special operation” in Ukraine.
The investigative paper, which has already removed material from its website on Russia’s military action in Ukraine to comply with a new media law, said it had received another warning from regulator Roskomnadzor about its reporting, prompting it to pause operations.
In a statement on its website, the paper wrote: “We are suspending the publication of the newspaper on our website, social media networks and in print until the end of the ‘special operation on Ukraine’s territory’.”
In a separate message to readers, Mr Muratov and his reporters said the decision to halt their activities had been difficult but necessary. The note said: “There is no other choice. For us, and I know, for you, it’s an awful and difficult decision.”
It marks the latest crackdown on independent media by Vladimir Putin, who’s already shut down a number of broadcasters and news websites since his invasion of Ukraine.
The day after the invasion began, @novaya_gazeta ran the headline “Russia is bombing Ukraine.” Then they attempted to comply with military censorship, without doing so in spirit. Now they’re suspending publication. What a terrible loss. pic.twitter.com/cs8UA28k2X
— Eilish Hart (@EilishHart) March 28, 2022
Wall Street opens flat
Wall Street’s main indices have opened broadly flat, while Tesla jumped 5pc after it said it will seek investor approval for another stock split.
The S&P 500 and Dow Jones both fell marginally, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq inched slightly higher.
OBR: UK would be in recession without post-Covid bounce
Britain would be in recession this year due to the global inflation surge if it weren’t for a sharp rebound in growth following the pandemic.
That’s according to the Office for Budget Responsibility, which last week downgraded its growth forecasts from 6pc to just 3.8pc as a sharp rise in energy costs squeezes household budgets.
David Miles at the OBR told MPs that a downgrade on that scale “in any ordinary year” would have left the economy in recession. It would be the third recession in 14 years.
Soaring energy pries are expected to drive inflation to a 40-year high of 8.7pc later this year and trigger the worst decline in living standards for more than 50 years.
Mr Miles said the squeeze “hits consumption and that’s the biggest part of the downgrade in growth… it’s a hit to the standard of living of this country, it is a terms of trade shock. We are spending more on stuff we import and less on stuff we produce in the UK.”
G7 rejects Putin’s demand for gas payments in roubles
The G7 has agreed to reject Moscow’s demand to pay for Russian energy in roubles.
Robert Habeck, Germany’s energy minister, told reporters that “all G7 ministers agreed completely that this [would be] a one-sided and clear breach of the existing contracts.”
Mr Habeck said “payment in rouble is not acceptable and we will urge the companies affected not to follow Putin’s demand.”
The Russian leader said last week that the country will make “unfriendly” countries pay for natural gas in the local currency, and ordered the central bank to work out a system for doing so.
Pound slumps to 10-day low
Sterling has slid to a 10-day low against the dollar, with investors focusing on a divergence in monetary policy approaches in Britain and the US.
Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey stuck to his dovish tone in a speech earlier today, saying the central bank had softened its language on interest rate rises due to the economic uncertainty.
Money markets are pricing in 135 basis points of rate hikes by the end of the year – down from 145 bps just before Mr Bailey’s speech – including a 55pc chance of a 50 bps rate hike in May.
By contrast, expectations are growing that the Federal Reserve will move to tighten monetary policy aggressively in a bid to curb surging inflation.
The pound fell 0.6pc to $1.3103 – its lowest since March 17 and just above its lowest since November 2020. Against the euro, it fell 0.4pc to 83.65 pence.
Carlsberg follows Heineken with Russia exit
Rounding off the latest string of Russia exits is Carlsberg.
The Danish beer giant said it will withdraw from the country and take a substantial non-cash impairment charge as a result.
The brewer said: “We have taken the difficult and immediate decision to seek a full disposal of our business in Russia, which we believe is the right thing to do in the current environment. Upon completion we will have no presence in Russia.”
It follows a similar move by Heineken, confirmed this morning.
Credit Suisse stops new business in Russia
Credit Suisse has stopped pursuing new business in Russia and is reducing its exposure to the country.
The Swiss bank is also helping its clients unwind their Russia exposure, according to a memo seen by Bloomberg. The lender added that it has moved roles out of the country and is helping employees relocate elsewhere.
Credit Suisse’s Moscow office has around 125 employees working across wealth management and the investment bank.
Abu Dhabi sovereign fund halts Russia investments
Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund is pausing investments in Russia, raising questions over whether the UAE is turning on Putin over his invasion of Ukraine.
Khaldoon Mubarak, chief executive of the Mubadala Investment Company, said: “What is happening in this crisis between Russia and Ukraine is a travesty, with catastrophic consequences, in terms of human life and in terms of the impact it’s having on economies all over the world.
“Obviously, in this environment, we have to pause investment in this market, in Russia.”
Mubadala, has strategic ties with Russia’s sovereign fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, and has invested about $3bn (£2.3bn) in about 50 companies in the country.
However, Mr Mubarak said Russia now represented less than 1pc of the overall $243bn sovereign wealth fund.
Bailey says Bank of England rate guidance softened
In his first comments since the Bank of England’s March decision, Andrew Bailey said the central bank has softened its language on future interest rate increases to reflect the heightened uncertainty.
The MPC has raised rates at the last three meetings – most recently to 0.75pc. Mr Bailey said it had been appropriate to tighten policy in the circumstances.
But he said the wording has been changed the reflect uncertainty over Russia’s war in Ukraine and a potential economic slowdown.
Officials now say a further tightening of policy “might be” appropriate in the coming months, a softening from previous wording that such a move was “likely”.
Bailey: Brits facing ‘historic shock’ to incomes
Here’s a bit more context to Andrew Bailey’s stark warning, courtesy of my colleague Louis Ashworth:
The Office for Budget Responsibility predicted last week that household disposable incomes per person will fall 2.2pc this year, the sharpest drop on record. Meanwhile, UK inflation is at a 30-year high as the cost of fuel, food and clothing soar.
The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee has increased interest rates at its last three meetings, taking the Bank Rate to 0.75pc, its pre-pandemic level.
It has moved more quickly than the US Federal Reserve or European Central Bank, with the former increasing rates two weeks ago, the first time it had done so since the start of the pandemic.
At the MPC’s decision earlier this month, deputy governor Sir Jon Cunliffe rebelled, warning of the impact increasing the cost of borrowing could have on activity.
That was a surprisingly dovish outcome, dealing a blow to sterling. Traders have been repeatedly wrong-footed by the MPC over recent months, leading to allegations that policymakers are making communication errors.
Kamal Sharma, a foreign exchange strategist at Bank of America, said BoE comms “continues to be a challenge for the markets”.
“Simply put, the Bank of England is hiking for the wrong reasons and sounding defensive whilst the Fed is hiking for the right reasons and sounding increasingly hawkish,” he said in a note released on Friday.
Markets expect officials to maintain a brisk pace, with six further hikes priced in between May’s meeting and February 2023. That would take interest rates to around 2.25pc.
US futures fall as outlook darkens
Wall Street is set to lose ground this afternoon amid rising concerns about higher interest rates and a looming economic downturn.
A key part of the Treasury curve inverted for the first time since 2006, as the yield on the five-year note rose above that on the 30-year bond.
This suggests fixed-income investors anticipate an economic downturn and perhaps even a recession as the Federal Reserve hikes interest rates.
Futures tracking the S&P 500 and Nasdaq fell 0.1pc and 0.4pc respectively, while the Dow Jones as little changed.
Read more on this story: US recession indicator flashes red in fresh blow for President Biden
Ted Baker shares tumble as it slaps down £250m bid
Shares in Ted Baker have gone into reverse after the fashion brand slapped down two takeover offers from a private equity firm.
The retailer today said it had rejected two unsolicited bids from Sycamore Partners – the most recent valuing it at £254m.
It said the offers “significantly undervalued” the company and insisted it would plough ahead with its own turnaround plan.
But the move appears to have disappointed investors. Shares tumbled as much as 8.9pc, before paring losses to trade down 5.5pc.
UK to enforce minimum wage for seafarers after P&O scandal
The Government will ensure seafarers are paid at the least the UK minimum wage amid a backlash over P&O’s decision to summarily fire 800 workers.
In a letter to P&O boss Peter Hebblethwaite, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he will introduce a package of measures and intends to “block the outcome that P&O Ferries has pursued”.
He also reiterated calls for the chief executive to resign, saying his admission that P&O had knowingly broken the law “demonstrated beyond doubt your contempt for workers who have given years of service to your company”.
Mr Shapps wrote: “With the above in mind, you have one further opportunity to reverse this decision by immediately offering all 800 workers their jobs back on their previous terms, conditions and wages.”
My letter to P&O boss makes clear that this government will not stand by while the requirement to treat seafarers with due respect and fairness is brazenly ignored. pic.twitter.com/4ozBsydJPC
— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) March 28, 2022
Tesla shares jump as it plots stock split
Shares in Tesla have surged after the electric car giant said it will seek shareholder approval for another stock split.
Tesla said on Twitter it will ask investors to vote at this year’s annual meeting on whether to authorise additional shares.
In a filing, the company said increasing its number of common shares will enable a split in the form of a stock dividend.
Shares rose as much as 5.4pc in pre-market trading.
Tesla previously announced a stock split in August 2020, sparking a sharp rise in shares at the time. The move is designed to make the stock less expensive for individual shareholders, allowing it to tap into demand from retail investors.
Tesla will ask shareholders to vote at this year’s annual meeting to authorize additional shares in order to enable a stock split.
— Tesla (@Tesla) March 28, 2022
US recession indicator flashes red in fresh blow for President Biden
One of the market’s most closely watched harbingers of a US recession has flashed red for the first time in 16 years in a further blow for Joe Biden as his struggling presidency faces a stalling economy.
Tom Rees has the details:
Signs that central banks will need to act aggressively to clamp down on inflation deepened the global bond rout on Monday morning, sending yields on short-dated government debt soaring.
Usually longer-term bonds have a higher yield than short-term bonds to compensate for investors keeping their money locked in for longer.
However, part of the US Treasury yield has inverted, meaning that some short dated government debt has a higher yield than longer-dated sovereign bonds.
This inversion is a sign that investors think a recession in the world’s biggest economy could be close as it predicts that the central bank may need to cut interest rates in response to a downturn.
Read Tom’s full story here
Tobacco stocks slide as Walmart halts cigarette sales
Tobacco stocks dipped following reports that Walmart is ending sales of cigarettes in some US states.
The US supermarket giant is halting cigarette sales in some stores in states such as California, Florida and Arkansas, the Wall Street Journal reported.
British American Tobacco fell as much as 0.9pc while Altria, which sells Marlboro cigarettes in the US, dropped 1.7pc in pre-market trading.
Huawei posts record profit despite US sanctions
Chinese telecoms giant Huawei has reported a fall in sales but a record profit, despite the impact of US sanctions.
The controversial tech giant unveiled its annual results at a briefing led by finance chief Meng Wanzhou, who was released in September after three years in house arrest over allegations of fraud.
The company reported 2021 revenue of 636.8bn yuan (£76bn) – down 29pc from 2020. However, profits surged 76pc to 113.7bn yuan.
Huawei has taken a heavy hit to its smartphone business since Washington imposed sanctions over allegations of spying – something that company has always denied.
It’s since shifted its focus to serving hospitals, mines and other industrial customers.
Ms Meng said: “Our overall financial resilience is strengthening. The company is more capable of dealing with uncertainty.”
Gas prices turn positive as colder weather looms
There’s been an about-turn in gas prices this morning, which have wiped out earlier losses to push higher.
Pressure on natural gas prices had been easing amid reports a host of European companies were beefing up their facilities to receive more imports of liquefied natural gas.
But supply concerns have now reemerged as forecasts for lower temperatures over the next two weeks threaten to delay the refill of facilities for next winter.
Benchmark European prices gained 3.2pc, while the UK equivalent jumped 6.3pc.
Elon Musk says he’s ‘supposedly’ got Covid again
Tesla boss Elon Musk’s has said he “supposedly” has Covid again, but that he has virtually no symptoms.
The world’s richest man tweeted: “I supposedly have it again (sigh), but almost no symptoms.”
He added that Covid was the “virus of Theseus”, referring to the philosophical debate over whether an object that has had all its components replaced is still the same object.
He said: “How many gene changes before it’s not Covid-19 anymore?”
Mr Musk questioned the accuracy of Covid tests last year after claiming that results showed he tested positive twice and then negative twice all on the same day.
Covid-19 is the virus of Theseus.
How many gene changes before it’s not Covid-19 anymore?
I supposedly have it again (sigh), but almost no symptoms.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 28, 2022
Fuel duty cut: Pump price savings still fall short
Motorists are still not benefitting from the full effect of the cut to fuel duty, despite calls for retailers to pass on savings at the pump.
Average petrol prices across the UK have fallen about 4pc since Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the 5pc tax reduction on Wednesday. With the VAT charged at the pump, the full reduction is worth 6p.
Diesel drivers have seen a saving of just 2.5p at the pump, according to the AA.
Luke Bosdet at the AA said:
Why are drivers not surprised that on average a third of the petrol saving has yet to be passed on at the pumps? The fuel trade always disputes the accusation that pump prices shoot up like a rocket and fall like a feather. Now we know the truth.
Even with Friday’s wholesale cost of petrol (72.17p a litre) heading back towards the heights of a fortnight ago (7-11 March, average 72.71p), the Treasury must have expected more from UK forecourts in general.
Diesel has some excuse, with wholesale costs that had averaged 86.40p in the second week of March reaching 90.3p on Friday, although that should be taking a few days to filter through to the pumps.
Government looks at cutting ties with Russian suppliers
The Government will look at ending all contracts with Russian and Belarusian companies in the latest response to the invasion of Ukraine.
The Cabinet Office has issued new guidance calling for public bodies – including government departments and hospitals – to identify and relevant contracts and look to switch suppliers,
Steve Barclays, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said:
Public money should not fund Putin’s war machine. We are asking hospitals, councils and other organisations across the public sector to urgently look at all the ways they can go further to sever their commercial ties to Russia.
The government will continue to work closely with these organisations, ensuring they are able to take the necessary steps as quickly as possible, including taking legal routes where necessary.
Gas prices fall as Europe prepares for more LNG
Natural gas prices fell back as Europe gears up to increase imports of liquefied natural gas amid concerns about Russian supply.
France is looking to build a new floating LNG import terminal in Le Havre, local media reported. Croatia plans to expand its existing facility, while other countries including Germany and Italy are pushing for more plants.
It comes after the EU and the US inked a deal last week to increase shipments as the bloc tries to reduce its reliance on Russian energy.
Benchmark European prices fell as much as 8.2pc, while the UK equivalent was down 1.7pc.
Brighton Pier owner plans price rises amid staycation boom
The owner of Brighton Pier has said it’s planning “targeted price increases” as it continues to cash in on higher demand for staycations.
Brighton Pier Group, which also owns Lightwater Valley theme park and a string of London bars, said it had enjoyed record summer trading thanks to pent-up demand and international travel restrictions.
Revenue for the six months to Boxing Day jumped to £22.8m from £8.2m the year before, while profit surged from £1.9m to £7.9m.
The company warned of inflationary pressures ahead, but said these could be mitigated by price rises.
Anne Ackord, chief executive of Brighton Pier Group, said:
The underlying trend for the first half is well above 2019 levels – a more meaningful comparison due to the pandemic. The period has also been boosted further by one off VAT and rates benefits. These factors combined have resulted in the group trading ahead of market expectations.
Looking forward, we expect the sales trends to continue, benefiting also from the opportunistic Lightwater Valley acquisition.
Pound falls ahead of key speeches
Sterling has lost ground against the dollar as traders turn their attention to two key speeches later today.
Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey will take part in a Bruegel institute discussion, while Chancellor Rishi Sunak will testify in front of MPs about his Spring Statement.
Expectations are rising that the Federal Reserve will make sharp interest rate increases this year, while there are signs the Bank of England will opt for more gradual rises.
The pound fell 0.3pc against the dollar to $1.3148. Against the euro, it was little changed at 83.31p.
Russian stocks extend slide after suspension
Russian stocks extended their slide on the third day of trading on the Moscow Exchange since its almost month-long suspension.
The Russian market is gradually reopening and returning to normal after a record shutdown as authorities tried to limit a sell-off following the invasion of Ukraine and sweeping western sanctions.
Stocks resumed trading in full today, albeit for a shorter timeframe and with restrictions including a ban on short selling and foreigners withdrawing their investments still in place.
The Moscow Exchange fell more than 2pc, extending its losses from Friday. Aeroflot, which has seen a quarter of its value wiped out since trading resumed, regained some ground with a rise of 5.8pc.
Meanwhile, the rouble strengthened, rising 2.3pc against the dollar to approach a four-week high.
JP Morgan’s digital bank launches savings account
JP Morgan’s nascent digital bank is going after more customers in the UK with a new savings account.
Chase, which launched in September, will offer a variable interest rate of 1.5pc. That’s more than double the rate offered by similar online banks including Goldman Sachs’ Marcus.
The bank said deposits will be capped at £250,000 and no fees or charges will apply to move money out.
Chase is hoping to take on the likes of Monzo and Starling in the UK, while high street stalwarts such as NatWest, Lloyds and Barclays have also invested heavily in their digital offerings.
Oil falls as Shanghai goes back into lockdown
Oil prices fell sharply this morning after a fresh lockdown in Shanghai raised concerns about demand in the world’s biggest importer of crude.
Benchmark Brent crude and West Texas Intermediate both tumbled more than 3pc after the Chinese financial hub said it will lock down half of the city in turns to conduct mass Covid testing to try and stem an outbreak.
In a further easing of price pressures, rebels in Yemen also announced a temporary pause in hostilities against Saudi Arabia.
Still, oil is poised for its fourth monthly gain as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparks havoc in global markets.
HSBC censors references to Ukraine ‘war’ in analyst notes
HSBC is said to have edited research notes by its analysts to remove any reference to a “war” in Ukraine as the bank resists pressure to sever ties with Russia.
HSBC committees that review externally published research and client communications have changed multiple reports to soften the language, including changing the word “war” to “conflict”, the Financial Times reported.
It’s said to be an extremely sensitive issue for the bank because it has about 200 staff in Russia, where Vladimir Putin has brought in strict laws threatening jail terms for people who spread what it deems to be false information about the war.
Wall Street rivals including Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and JP Morgan have been pulling out of Russia. While HSBC has said it will implement sanctions and not take on any new business in the country, it’s stopped short of a full exit.
FTSE risers and fallers
It’s an upbeat start to the week for the FTSE 100, which has now pushed 0.4pc higher.
The blue-chip index was boosted by financial and consumer staple stocks, although a decline in energy firms put a cap on gains.
Asia-focused HSBC rose more than 1pc, while NatWest was up 1.7pc after the Government’s latest sale of shares took its stake below 50pc.
Gains for Unilever and Reckitt Benckiser also provided momentum.
Oil majors BP and Shell fell 0.7pc and 0.5pc respectively as oil prices fell more than $3 after China announced a two-stage lockdown in Shanghai.
Rolls-Royce was the biggest faller, losing more than 6pc after surging last week amid takeover speculation.
The domestically-focused FTSE 250 also rose 0.4pc.
Heineken to sell off Russian business
Heineken has said it will sell off its business in Russia, after previously saying it would halt new investments and exports there.
The Dutch brewing giant, which also owns Amstel and Birra Moretti, said it doesn’t expect any profit from the sale, and it expects impairment and non-cash related charges of around €400m (£333m).
Heineken said: “We have concluded that Heineken’s ownership of the business in Russia is no longer sustainable nor viable in the current environment.”
Ted Baker rejects £254m takeover bid
Ted Baker has revealed it rejected two takeover bids from private equity firm Sycamore Partners – the most recent one valued at about £254m.
Sycamore offered 130p a share on March 18 and raised that to 137.5p a share on March 22, the retailer said. The second bid was 9pc higher than Friday’s closing price.
But the board rejected the approaches, saying they “significantly undervalued Ted Baker and failed to compensate shareholders for the significant upside that can be delivered by Ted Baker as a listed company”.
The fashion group argued it could boost its share price via its own turnaround plan. Chief executive Rachel Osborne has been looking to revive Ted Baker by cutting debt and product markdowns, boosting online sales and refreshing the brand.
Barclays warns of £450m hit from bond error
Barclays has warned it expects to take a £450m hit and delay its share buyback after a mistake in the number of bonds it issued.
The lender said it had issued almost twice as many structured notes and exchange trade notes as it had registered for sale over a year-long period. This means it has to repurchase affected instruments at their original purchase price.
Barclays said its “best estimate at this time” indicated a loss of about £450m. The £1bn share buyback, originally expected to start in the first quarter, has been pushed back to the second quarter.
Shares fell 2.3pc following the announcement.
FTSE 100 edges higher
The FTSE 100 has started the week in positive territory, edging higher at the open.
The blue-chip index gained 0.2pc to 7,496 points.
Government cedes control of bailed-out NatWest
More than a decade after it stepped in to prop up NatWest during the financial crisis, the Government has finally ceded control of the lender.
In a symbolic moment, the Treasury sold £1.2bn worth of shares in NatWest, taking its stake to below 50pc.
At its peak, the Government owned 84pc of the banking group, which was formerly known as Royal Bank of Scotland.
It’s been gradually selling down its holding, with the latest sale pushing its stake from 50.6pc to 48.1pc.
Shapps tries to stave off Easter ferry chaos
Grant Shapps’ latest intervention comes as ministers try to avoid chaos at ports over the Easter holidays.
The Telegraph revealed the Transport Secretary will hold crisis talks with P&O’s rivals DFDS and Stena Line this week as he prepares to rush through new legislation to enforce minimum wage for all UK ferry companies.
Oliver Gill has more on the story:
Shapps to hold crunch talks with ferry operators to stave off Easter holiday chaos
Shapps tells P&O to rehire sacked workers
Grant Shapps is ramping up the pressure on P&O to reverse its controversial decision to sack 800 workers.
The Transport Secretary will tell the ferry company to rehire the staff, arguing that new legislation will undermine its plans to replace them with low-paid agency workers.
P&O has come under fire for sacking 800 employees without notice earlier this month. It plans to halve its labour costs by employing agency workers on an average of £5.50 an hour instead.
Mr Shapps is expected to introduce new legislation this week forcing all ferry firms operating out of UK ports to pay the minimum wage.
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What happened overnight
Asian stocks and US equity futures fell as Russia’s war in Ukraine grinds into a second month and the risk of an economic downturn from tightening US monetary policy hangs over markets.
Shares lost ground in Japan, while S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 contracts retreated, signaling a pause in the global rally in equities from the lows sparked by the conflict. A gauge of the dollar pushed higher.
The Covid-linked lockdown in Shanghai sapped the mood in Hong Kong and China, sending equities lower.