FTSE 100 came close to hitting 7,000 points in its highest intra-day level since February 2020’s stock market crash – Jonathan Brady /PA
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That is all from us today – ICYMI, here are some of our top stories:
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World’s largest online travel firm backs jab passports
Bookings Holdings, the world’s biggest online travel agency, is in favour of vaccine passports that would make it safer and easier for people to travel, reported Bloomberg.
The news agency has more:
“We need a way that tourists can go to a country but prove that they are safe to travel so that governments are willing to let people come,” said chief executive Glenn Fogel in an interview on Bloomberg TV.
Mr Fogel added that taking a test three days prior to traveling is “not the greatest system” and a “technological solution” is needed. “We want to do something that is easier so we can bring back international travel.”
Booking Holdings – which owns brands including Priceline, Kayak, Agoda and OpenTable – has seen an increase in demand but is still “significantly below” 2019 levels.
While the outlook for summer travel looks bright, Fogel said fast-spreading variants pose a risk to a rebound. “It is a race between the virus and the vaccines.”
Asos launches £500m bond offering to go global
Following Asos’ stellar results this morning, the online retailer has announced a convertible bond offering of £500m to take place on April 16.
The proceeds will “provide Asos with the flexibility and agility to invest behind its global growth strategy”, and help refinance its buyout of the Topshop brands which was completed in February, it said.
Phoenix launches £100m+ VC fund
FTSE 100-listed insurer Phoenix Group has launched its first dedicated Venture Capital fund with an initial allocation of over £100m.
Developed and administered with Aberdeen Standard Investment, it will mostly invest in “disruptive and transformative” early stage UK-based fintech, green energy and healthcare startups and businesses.
Investments will “help business to scale-up their companies and enable them to focus on growing out their workforce, whilst giving them access to the expertise that they require”, it said.
James Mitchell, head of manager oversight, Phoenix Group said: “The new Venture Capital fund will support Healthcare, Green Energy and FinTech entrepreneurs up and down the country, providing them with the capital and the expertise they need to level up and grow their businesses.
“Subject to market conditions, we intend to increase this allocation in due course as we see this as an attractive asset class, consistent with our policyholder’s objectives and values.”
Double the pay for Reckitt boss
The boss of Reckitt nearly doubled his pay last year after trousering a £4.1m bonus in response to soaring sales during the pandemic.
My colleague Ben Woods reports:
Chief executive Laxman Narasimhan’s total pay reached £8.4m in 2020, rising from £4.6m the year before after the board hit a string of financial targets.
The jump was underpinned by an agreement for the Durex-to-Dettol maker to compensate Mr Narasimhan for lost executive pay awards following his exit from the drinks giant Pepsico.
Reckitt paid him £3.1m as part of the buy-out arrangement last year, topping up the £5.3m he earned in salary, pension and bonuses from the company.
The FTSE 100 firm also announced that they would increase his salary by 3pc to £979,000 this year in line with a company-wide pay rise and following a strong performance.
Despite the salary rise, Mr Narasimhan’s pay still remains well short of the amount earned by his predecessor Rakesh Kapoor, who accrued £25.5m in 2015 and £97m since 2011.
It came as Reckitt said it would not link the board’s pay to environment, social and governance targets despite a sharpened focus on ESG from The City.
“Whilst the committee determined that it was not appropriate to include ESG measures in incentives in the current policy, we will keep this position under review and may look to incorporate ESG measures into incentive schemes when it is appropriate to do so,” the company added.
UK eyes world’s first hydrogen power station
The world’s first hydrogen power station could be built in North Lincolnshire under plans being developed by Equinor and SSE.
My colleague Rachel Millard reports:
The companies say the proposed Keadby Hydrogen plant could come online within the decade with support from the Government, generating about 900MW of electricity.
They are also planning a gas-fired power station, Keadby 3, with carbon capture systems to stash its carbon emissions under the North Sea.
The developers say the projects can create thousands of jobs and “revitalise an industrial heartland.”
Johnson Matthey hints at offloading health arm
Johnson Matthey has hinted it could offload its health business, announcing a strategic review of the division as the chemicals company issued a trading update which upgraded its outlook.
My colleague Alan Tovey reports:
The FTSE 100 business said the review of the health business, which accounts for less than 10pc of its revenues and profits, was part of its “ongoing process… to maximise value by focusing on areas of greatest opportunity”.
Analysts at Jefferies estimate the health business, which makes “active pharmaceutical ingredients” – the constituents of pills and medicines which attack diseases or combat symptoms – could be worth £2bn.
The upgrade to forecasts was driven by the recovery in the worldwide car industry. which Johnson Matthey said was “better than previous expectations”.
Johnson Matthey is one of the world’s biggest producers of catalytic converters used to reduce emissions in cars and trucks.
The company is now predicting an underlying operating profit will be at the top end of market expectations, with the consensus coming to between £405m and £502m.
Bank of America plans to boost salaries for junior investment bankers
Bank of America
Bank of America will give its junior investment bankers a pay increase next month in what is the latest move by a Wall Street bank to address pressures on young staff.
“Given our ongoing remote work environment – coupled with the recent pace of market activity as well as client requests and transactions – your contributions and commitment have become more important than ever to the continuous success of our deal teams and client relationships,” the executive committee of Bank of America’s global corporate and investment banking unit wrote in a note to employees Thursday.
“Your efforts and well-being are critical to our success,” they added
While the lender didn’t specify the amount of pay increases for analysts, associates and vice presidents, a spokesman said the pay bumps will be meaningful.
‘The level of claims remains stubbornly high’
My colleague Louis Ashworth has a full report on the US jobless numbers. He writes:
The number of Americans making initial claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week, showing signs of continued choppiness in the labour market.
Claims made through regular state support programmes jumped by 16,000 to 744,000 in the week to April 3rd, defying expectations they would fall.
Data for the previous week was revised upwards to 728,000 reflecting climbs in both California and New York, two of America’s most economically-vital states.
The level of claims remains stubbornly high, defying signs that the US labour market is healing – including a strong jobs report last week that showed unemployment falling as the number of non-farm payrolls rose by 916,000.
The increase in claims came despite the US making significant progress in its vaccination efforts, with almost a quarter of its adults now inoculated against Covid-19. Consumer spending is picking up as restrictions ease and confidence builds.
Italy and Greece risk post-pandemic debt crunch
Italy, Greece and other heavily indebted eurozone countries risk a financial crunch after the pandemic because of the cost of fighting Covid, analysts have warned.
My colleague Tim Wallace reports:
Mounting debts risk spooking investors and driving up borrowing costs once normal conditions resume, particularly if post-pandemic austerity sparks a new wave of political populism, according to M&G fund manager Eric Lonergan.
Countries have been able to borrow hand over fist because the European Central Bank is buying €1.85 trillion (£1.6 trillion) of bonds under its Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme, while financial markets have backed spending to get through the lockdowns.
Mr Lonergan said: “Europe is ironically vulnerable to recovery because it seems you only get temporary elimination of credit risk in European sovereigns when you are in an emergency, in which case the ECB underwrites your bond market.
“The problem is that when you come out of an emergency, you are back to market forces in the bond market, and some of these numbers look really, really bad.”
The eurozone’s rules on government borrowing have been suspended to allow countries to run huge deficits through the pandemic. However, the measures are only temporary with the derogation limited to cases of “an unusual event outside the control” of a member state.
Sky News: Soho House eyes $ 3bn US float
Soho House has taken a significant step towards listing in New York after kicking off a formal registration process in the US, Sky News is reporting.
The private members’ club this week submitted a confidential filing for an initial public offering in New York that will value it at more than $ 3bn (£2.1bn).
A US listing would come as a further blow to the London market which is struggling to keep UK-based companies floating in the capital.
The flotation, which will crystallise a big paper windfall for the company’s founder, Nick Jones, could reach a valuation of as much as $ 4bn (£2.9bn), according to the report.
The filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is the first formal step towards Soho House making a long-awaited public markets debut on the New York Stock Exchange.
The company considered an IPO two years ago but opted to raise capital privately instead.
Wall Street opens at new record
US stocks have hit a new record at the open after the Fed’s commitment to a dovish monetary policy helped boost sentiment.
US market data – Bloomberg
GameStop plans to elect activist investor as chairman
GameStop said it intends to elect activist investor Ryan Cohen as chairman, putting him in the driver’s seat as he looks to transform the video game retailer.
Reuters has the details:
Since Chewy co-founder Cohen joined GameStop’s board in January, he has been pushing towards transformation of the brick-and-mortar retailer into an e-commerce firm that can take on big-box retailers such as Target and technology firms such as Microsoft.
The company also said on Thursday it was nominating six people, including Cohen, to stand for election to its board at the annual meeting of stockholders on June 9.
Shares of GameStop were up over 3pc in premarket trading, snapping a three-day losing streak.
The announcement comes after GameStop on Monday increased the value of the new stock it may sell to $ 1 billion from $ 100 million, as it seeks to capitalize on a surge in its shares from the Reddit-driven rally.
The GameStop stock has rampaged over 900pc higher since January in highly volatile trading as amateur investors organized on social media sites such as Reddit staged a stubborn buying spree, winning out over Wall Street hedge funds that had shorted its shares.
Construction hits seven-year high as rebound gains momentum
Here’s a full report on this morning’s construction PMIs from my colleague (formally of this blog) Louis Ashworth:
Housebuilding was the strong-performing sub-sector, with its strongest reading since last summer, while commercial construction and civil engineering posted the strongest gains since late 2014.
The housing sector was buoyed by March’s Budget, which included an extension to the Stamp Duty holiday and support for 95pc mortgages, while the Government has also laid out major plans for infrastructure spending.
Steve Plaskitt from accountancy firm MHA said such measures “will underpin performance in the sector for the months ahead”.
IHS Markit reported a “solid rise” in employment numbers, which rose at the fastest rate since late 2018, with companies also stepping up purchasing volumes in the face of growing workloads.
However, high demand led to longer waiting times for materials, and price rises that companies linked to Brexit and Covid led to the sharpest increase in purchasing prices since August 2008.
US jobless claims unexpectedly rise to 744,000
US jobless claims unexpectedly rose last week for the second consecutive week , highlighting the uneven nature of the recovery.
Initial claims in regular state programs increased by 16,000 to 744,000 in the week ended April 3, Labor Department data showed. Economists in a Bloomberg survey estimated 680,000 claims.
The prior week’s data was revised up to 728,000. California and New York led states with the biggest increases in unadjusted claims.
Cannes Lions goes digital
An advertising jamboree known for its lavish cocktail parties on the French Riviera has been forced to go digital.
My colleague Ben Woods reports:
Cannes Lions has made a volte-face on plans to hold an in-person event this summer, opting for a virtual festival from June 21 to 25.
The event on the Croisette is known for big corporates bank-rolling alcohol-fuelled parties to raise their profile with the advertising elite.
The International Festival of Creativity was poised to go-ahead as a physical event following an announcement in January, but those plans have fallen foul of the pandemic.
It comes as international travel has yet to return to levels seen prior the pandemic despite the ongoing roll-out of covid vaccines.
Chairman Philip Thomas said it was moving fully to a digital format after consulting customers over the past year.
He said the event would have “all the celebration, inspiration and participation of Cannes Lions – to unite the global community virtually”.
FTSE 100 achieves new Covid peak
The FTSE 100 hit its highest level since February 2020’s global stock market crash earlier today – JULIAN SIMMONDS
The FTSE 100 has climbed to a new post-pandemic high, hitting 6,926 points earlier today, its highest intra-day level in more than a year, before settling 0.42pc higher at 6,913 points in the early afternoon.
In the eurozone, Paris advanced but Frankfurt turned flat after an earlier advance.
“UK equities entered 2021 at a big discount to peers but have not enjoyed the same bounce as US or some European markets,” noted Markets.com analyst Neil Wilson.
“At last UK equities are bouncing strongly on a combination of strong UK growth expectations, ongoing monetary policy support and expectations for a strong global recovery.”
Asian markets mostly rose as traders also took heart from Fed meeting minutes reinforcing its intention to keep borrowing costs at record lows for an extended period.
“Optimism surrounding the global economic recovery, supported by an accomodative Federal Reserve, lifted European stocks,” said Oanda analyst Sophie Griffiths.
“The minutes from the March (Fed) meeting didn’t reveal anything new, but a reiteration of the Fed’s supportive stance appears to have been a tonic for the markets.”
Tax haven charts
Here are a couple of charts that help illustrate how popular tax havens have grown
This one shows Ireland is now one of the biggest:
And on this chart you can see tax havens generate a bigger percentage of US firms’ overseas profits than oil:
Revolut to allow staff to work abroad for two months each year
Revolut, the British digital banking app, will allow its more than 2,000 employees to work overseas for as long as two months per year once Covid travel restrictions have been lifted.
The bank said those who “wish to work outside their country of employment for personal and non-business related reasons will be able to do so for a period of up to 60 calendar days over a rolling 12 months”.
Employees can take advantage of this policy as soon as Covid travel restrictions are eased and must adhere to guidelines from health authorities in both their departing and arrival destinations.
Earlier this week, the government said civil servants will be able to drop into “hybrid” office spaces across the country. Meanwhile, HSBC has said that it’s moving 1,200 of its call centre staff to permanent home working to reduce office space by 40pc over the next few years.
A survey of Revolut’s staff found that over 56pc would prefer to work from home between two to four times a week, while 36pc wanted an entirely remote job, according to the statement. Only 2pc of respondents said they would prefer to come into the office every day.
Ireland and Netherlands set to suffer under new Biden tax plan
Ireland, the Netherlands and Switzerland are set to be the big losers under the Biden administration’s plans to link tax revenue from businesses to local sales.
My colleague Tom Rees reports:
The US has reportedly proposed a clampdown on companies using certain countries to avoid paying higher tax as part of its plans for a huge global shake-up.
The White House has argued that multinational giants should pay taxes to governments based on their local sales in each country in documents sent to the OECD, the Financial Times reported.
It is part of the Biden administration’s push for a global minimum corporate tax rate with European leaders swinging behind the plans in recent days.
However, the latest proposals from the US could ignite tensions in Europe as some countries benefit from American companies booking their profits in the tax havens.
Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Singapore and the Caribbean are the biggest beneficiaries from US companies profit shifting and using them as tax havens, research indicates. These countries have been able to undercut others with low rates, allowing them to generate more tax revenue.
Anglo-American to spin off thermal coal operations
FTSE 100 miner Anglo-American is spinning off its thermal coal operations into a new company amid rising concern from investors about climate change.
My colleague Rachel Millard reports:
The product is used to generate power but doing so emits vast amounts of carbon dioxide. Miners and power generators are under pressure to cut its use, with many economies switching to gas or renewables.
The demerged company, Thungela Resources, will be listed in Johannesburg and London, with each Anglo-American shareholder getting one share for every ten that they hold in Anglo.
Anglo American said it meant that shareholders could choose whether to sell out of or increase their shares in the company, depending on their views on thermal coal.
The mines are in South Africa and in 2019 accounted for about 6pc of Anglo’s revenue and 1pc of underlying EBITDA. They produced about 16.5m tonnes of thermal coal in 2020.
“The proposed demerger recognises the diverse range of views held by Anglo American’s shareholders in relation to thermal coal and therefore provides Anglo American’s shareholders, including those with specified investment criteria, with the choice to act on such views,” it said.
Everyman forced to seal rent cuts
Cinema chain Everyman has been forced to seal rent cuts with nearly all its landlords after swinging to a huge loss in response to the pandemic.
My colleague Ben Woods reports:
The Aim-listed company said it has now slashed property costs on 85pc of its estate after the crisis forced the industry into closure.
It came as the pandemic caused the firm to record a £22.1m loss for the year to December, in contrast to a £1.7m pre-tax profit 12 months earlier.
Revenues also dropped 62pc to £24.2m, as the prolonged closure of its 35-strong estate meant admissions tumbled 63pc to 1.2 million.
Chief executive Alex Scrimgeour said the chain had done an “excellent job” navigating an “unprecedented and extremely challenging year”.
“[The team has] minimised all costs during periods of closure, strengthened the group’s balance sheet, worked with our landlords to achieve rent concession and not least, remained actively engaged with our people and customers throughout,” he added.
“Moving forward we remain confident that the nation’s love of film remains and that our premium offering sets us apart.”
FTSE hits highest level in a year
City of London
Commenting on this morning’s rally, Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com, says:
The FTSE 100 hit its highest level in over a year this morning. Trading above 6,920 the FTSE is at its highest since the pandemic struck and global stock markets plunged at the end of February 2020. The blue chips are back at last: UK equities entered 2021 at a big discount to peers but have not enjoyed the same bounce as US or some European markets.
The FTSE 250 is also at a record high – at last UK equities are bouncing strongly on a combination of strong UK growth expectations, ongoing monetary policy support and expectations for a strong global recovery. The move comes after another positive session on Wall Street sent the S&P 500 to another all-time closing high. Yields are supportive after the minutes from the Fed’s meeting in March showed policymakers are no hurry to taper or tighten monetary policy.
Co-op refuses to repay £66m business rates relief
The Co-op will not repay £66m it secured in business rates relief from the Government during the pandemic but will repay £15.5m in furlough support.
The mutual made the decision despite profits more than doubling to £77m and revenues jumped 5.5pc to £11.5bn for the year to January 2.
More than £2bn has been handed back to the Government in business rates relief from other essential retailers that continued to trade during lockdown measures.
Allan Leighton, Co-op group chairman, said it had played a “vital and unique role in feeding and caring for the nation” during the pandemic.
“We were grateful for the Government support that allowed us to manage our businesses through the pandemic, particularly our Funeralcare business, which has been working with bereaved families in extraordinarily difficult circumstances, helping them mark the passing of loved ones at a time of national grief.”
Construction industry grows at fastest pace in 7 years
The construction sector grew at the fastest pace since September 2014 last month as the recovery kicks into gear.
The closely followed IHS Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers’ Index recorded a score of 61.7 in March with the fastest rise in commercial work for nearly seven years, alongside job creation at a 27-month high.
Any score above 50 indicates growth.
Housebuilding was the strongest performing sub-sector of the construction industry, but there was also growth in commercial construction and civil engineering.
Pound tumbles as vaccine roll-out hits hurdles
Sterling has tumbled almost 2pc this week against the euro as the UK’s vaccine roll-out hit a number of hurdles. However, analysts see the decline as “exaggerated” and expect it to bounce back.
Petr Krpata, a currency strategist at ING, says:
On vaccinations, the UK regulator pointed out that the balance of benefits and risks still favors the AstraZeneca vaccine.
We thus see yesterday’s sharp move in GBP lower as exaggerated, remain constructive on the currency and expect EUR/GBP to return to the 0.85 level. GBP to see some modest recovery today.
How many of Asos’ new customers will stick around?
Commenting on Asos’ bumper results this morning, Sophie Lund-Yates, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, says:
There aren’t too many businesses that can say the pandemic triggered record profits. ASOS is among that elite list, of course, because it’s a digital-only player. While its performance can’t be knocked, it’s not necessarily smooth sailing from here – a pandemic boon is good, but that doesn’t mean it’s good enough.
The tailwind provided by Covid is expected to unwind as the hospitality and tourism sectors reopen, and ASOS’ customers have more to do with their time than adding yet another loungewear set to their online baskets. The emphasis will be on how many of the new customers that joined during the last year plan to stick around, and keep shopping with the platform.
Operating margins came too close to the ground for comfort in recent years, and if return rates start to spike again, we could see some of the progress in margins come undone. Provided there aren’t any operational slip ups to boot, this won’t be the end of the world, but the comfortable margin position we’re looking at now should be taken with pinch of salt.
British Land leases 30pc of City office project to JLL
City of London
British Land has rented out almost a third of a major City of London redevelopment four years ahead of its scheduled completion, in a further vote of confidence for the capital’s office market.
Bloomberg has the details:
Real estate broker Jones Lang LaSalle has agreed to take 134,000 square feet of space at 1 Broadgate in the heart of the financial district, according to a statement Thursday. The building will house Chicago-based JLL’s flagship UK office upon its expected completion in 2025.
“1 Broadgate will be central to our plan as we recognise the importance that offices play in collaboration, innovation and fostering culture and wellbeing,” Stephanie Hyde, JLL’s head of UK and Ireland, said in the statement.
Bloomberg reported last month that British Land were also in talks to lease about 300,000 square feet of office space at 1 Broadgate to law firm Allen & Overy, according to people familiar with the negotiations. That would be the biggest office lease signed in London since the onset of the pandemic.
Large companies in London that want new state-of-the-art space are being forced to pin down new premises several years in advance due to the relative dearth of planned office projects. That’s creating a two-tier market, where rents for the best new buildings remain high even as older buildings suffer from a surplus of space being offered for sublet by firms that are shrinking.
Dunelm prepares for ‘strong consumer response’ to reopening
Home furnishing retailer Dunelm expects it will slightly outperform market expectations this financial year as it prepares for its stores to reopen again next week.
The company said it had been boosted by online sales in the last three months, and is on track to beat pre-tax profit forecasts, which analysts have set at between £120m and £125m.
It said it will be “modestly ahead” of these predictions once there are no further Covid restrictions on retailers.
Dunelm added that it expects a “strong consumer response” to shops reopening next week.
In the first three months of 2020, internet sales accounted for less than 23pc of Dunelm’s total revenues of £284m.
However, in the same period this year, online sales soared to more than 92pc of the total.
Shares rose 2.6pc to £13.83 in early trading.
FT: US offers new plan in global corporate tax talks
The US Government has proposed a new model for taxing multinational corporations, calling for the world’s biggest companies to pay levies to national governments based on their sales in each country as part of a deal on a global minimum tax.
The FT has the details:
In documents sent to the 135 countries negotiating international taxation at the OECD in Paris and obtained by the Financial Times on Wednesday, the US Treasury laid out a plan that would apply to the global profits of the very largest companies, including big US technology groups, regardless of their physical presence in a given country.
The goal of the plan is to catalyse negotiations at the OECD, the international organisation of wealthy countries, with the promise of a more stable international tax system that would stop the proliferation of national digital taxes and break the mould of tax avoidance and profit-shifting by many multinationals.
The US concession during the week of the IMF and World Bank spring meetings comes as the White House has called for raising US corporate taxes by about $ 2.5tn over the next 15 years to pay for more than $ 2tn in investments in infrastructure, clean energy and manufacturing.
FTSE opens higher
The FTSE 100 opened higher for a third straight day after markets were boosted by further evidence that the Federal Reserve remains committed to supportive monetary policy.
European market data – Bloomberg
Asos profits rocket
No surprise that Asos has been confirmed as one of lockdown’s winners. Revenues and profits at the ecommerce site jumped during the winter lockdowns.
Revenues climbed nearly a quarter in the six months to the end of February to £1.98bn compared with the same period a year ago, and pre-tax profits soared 253pc to £106.4m.
Sales in the UK were particularly strong during England’s second lockdown in November and also throughout the introduction of tiering and the subsequent current lockdowns in place throughout 2021: up 39pc, compared with growth of 18pc in the EU and 16pc in the US.
Chief executive Nick Beighton insisted that “ecommerce is here to stay”. “For a long, long time ecommerce has been growing; what we’ve seen in last 12 months is a step change,” he told the BBC Today programme. Read our report here.
Markets are feeling chipper this morning on the back of minutes of the Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting, released overnight. They showed members felt the economy was still far short of target and were in no rush to scale back their $ 120bn a month of bond buying.
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell speaks at an IMF event later today and is likely to reiterate the dovish outlook.
“This discussion is consistent with our view that it will be later this year before the Fed starts talking about talking about tapering, with actual changes to the purchase pace not occurring until Q1 2022,” said analysts at JPMorgan.
“Fed officials generally viewed the recent rise in longer-term Treasury yields as reflecting an improving outlook and some firming of inflation expectations, and not a risk to the outlook.”
Markets push higher
Good morning. The FTSE 100 is tipped to open up as US stock market futures hit another record high.
Overnight the Federal Reserve underlined its commitment to keeping policy loose even as the economy enjoys a rapid recovery, providing a boost to markets.
5 things to start your day
1) Brexit ‘cannot possibly be positive’ for UK, JP Morgan chief says: Jamie Dimon warned he could shift all bankers serving EU clients out of London as regulators on the Continent seek to steal the City’s business.
2) London airport expansion not needed until 2030s, says Gatwick: Gatwick said extra capacity will not be needed for many years following a near-total collapse in passenger travel triggered by Covid restrictions.
3) Worker exodus will be reversed if jobs come rushing back: Britain will be more attractive to foreign workers if the vaccine scheme prompts a stronger rebound, Goldman economist says.
4) Murdoch sues Flutter in row over US sports betting firm: Fox Corp claims it is entitled to buy a significant stake in FanDuel at a price that owner Flutter says is heavily discounted to its real value.
5) Scandi-chic helps Volvo steer to 30-year UK high: Once seen as fusty, the company appears to have shaken off its old image and caught up with the times, selling 40pc more cars from Jan-March.
What happened overnight
Asian markets mostly rose on Thursday with traders keeping tabs on the progress of US President Joe Biden’s huge infrastructure plan, while also taking heart from Federal Reserve meeting minutes reinforcing its intention to keep interests at record lows for an extended period.
The Nikkei 225 was down 0.4pc at 29,620.11 (break), the Hang Seng Index was up 0.8pc at 28,898.94 and the Shanghai – Composite was up 0.1pc at 3,482.69.
Coming up today
Corporate: Aviva, Chesnara, Direct Line, ONESAVINGSBANK, Sportech (Full year); Asos (Interim); CMC Markets, Dunelm, Entain, Ferrexpo (Trading update)
Economics: Construction purchasing managers’ index (UK, US), factory orders (Germany), jobless claims (US), producer price index (EU), trade balance (EU)