FTSE sinks as oil prices slide



a large ship in the water: oil


© Provided by The Telegraph
oil

Oil prices have dropped over 2pc in afternoon trading over growing fears of rising infections in Europe and India. That has pushed markets into a decidedly risk-averse mentality, with the FTSE 100 sinking by around 1pc by the mid-afternoon.

Commodity stocks such as Shell and Glencore were among the biggest fallers as investors reacted to the fall in Brent crude and WTI oil prices. Cases are rising again in France and Germany among other eurozone countries, leading to fears of delayed reopenings and longer ongoing travel restrictions.

Meanwhile, retailers such as Burberry, Adidas and Nike are in traders cross-hairs after China threatened a ban on their goods over their boycott of cotton linked to Xinjiang labour camps.

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06:14 PM

US stocks fluctuate



a close up of a street sign on a pole: Wall Street


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Wall Street


US stocks are fluctuating, though mostly in the red, as investors weigh up the outlook for vaccinations, economic growth and inflation. US 10-year yields also climbed higher after an auction of seven-year notes.

By early afternoon:

  • S&P 500: -0.1pc
  • Dow Jones: +0.04pc
  • Tech-heavy Nasdaq: -0.7pc

05:57 PM

LSE taps bond market to help refinance Refinitiv debt

London Stock Exchange Group is tapping the US high-grade bond market for $4.5bn to help refinance debt it took on related to its acquisition of Refinitiv.

Bloomberg has the details:

  • The company is selling bonds in five parts, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. 
  • It will use the funds to refinance debt connected to its $27bn purchase of Refinitiv completed earlier this year.
  • It also plans to offer bonds in euros and sterling in its first foray into international debt markets since 2018.

05:29 PM

Beckham’s Guild Esports signs deal with Subway



a close up of David Beckham wearing glasses and looking at the camera


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David Beckham


David Beckham-backed Guild Esports has signed a two-year, multimillion-pound sponsorship deal with Subway, which will see its players wear the sandwich chain’s logo on their shirts.

Subway’s logo will also be displayed at the online computer game team’s London headquarters when it opens later this year.

Financial details were not disclosed, just that the deal ran into the millions of pounds.

Chief executive Carleton Curtis said in a statement: “This partnership is particularly exciting as we are completely aligned with Subway’s commitment to helping people make better choices. These shared values also provide a strong foundation for a unique relationship and participation in our Academy. 

“The deal keeps Guild Esports on track to generate significant sponsorship revenues in its first full year since the IPO. As we build a young, dynamic community and fanbase that is much sought-after but hard to reach, our new business momentum continues to grow, and we look forward to announcing new sponsors in due course”.

04:54 PM

Retailers hit by Chinese backlash over statements on Uighur forced labour



Xinjiang


© GETTY IMAGES
Xinjiang


Burberry ended trading in London down 4.8pc, while H&M lost 1.8pc in Stockholm as investors fear a Chinese boycott against their products.

Shares of Adidas lost over 6pc in Germany, while those of Nike are currently down around 4pc in New York after Chinese social and state media blasted the companies over their concerns about forced Uighur labour in the cotton-producing region of Xinjiang.

Some of the statements – like H&M’s – were old, and resurfaced on Wednesday as they were picked apart by social media users.

China’s state-led media outlet Global Times criticised the firms’ stance and Chinese celebrities have also cancelled their contracts with some brands.

Nike last night released a statement that read:

“Nike is committed to ethical and responsible manufacturing and we uphold international labor standards. We are concerned about reports of forced labor in, and connected to, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Nike does not source products from the XUAR and we have confirmed with our contract suppliers that they are not using textiles or spun yarn from the region.”

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, told the Telegraph there is now fear of a possible ban of the retailers’ products in China.

04:36 PM

US unemployment claims fall



Joe Biden holding a sign


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Biden


The US economy showed fresh signs of renewal as the number of Americans making new claims for unemployment benefit fell to its lowest level since the pandemic began.

A total of 648,000 initial claims were filed last week, according to the Department of Labor, down almost 100,000 on the week before.

My colleague Tim Wallace reports:

Economists hailed a combination of the vaccine rollout and stimulus payments which are kickstarting the recovery.

“Roughly 2.5m vaccine doses are being administered every day, and 32pc of the adult population has received at least one dose,” said Gregory Daco at Oxford Economics.

“Households are starting to feel more comfortable commuting and flying, thereby providing support to mobility. Employment is firming with fewer layoffs, more job postings, and increased small-business employment. At the same time, income gains and generous fiscal transfers continue to feed into stronger retail sales, more leisure activity, and steady housing demand.”

At the same time GDP growth in the final quarter of 2020 was revised up, indicating that even before the vaccine rollout got underway in earnest the world’s largest economy was springing back to life.

GDP grew at an annualised rate of 4.3pc in the closing three months of the year, revised up from earlier estimates of 4.1pc with stronger growth in exports and residential investment.

04:02 PM

Crowdcube / Seedrs £140m merger abandoned

Crowdcube and Seedrs’ £140m merger has been abandoned after regulators provisionally blocked the deal.

The companies are the two largest equity crowdfunding platforms in the UK, used by firms like Revolut and Monzo. The proposed deal would have led to at least a 90pc stake in the market, according to the Competition and Markets Authority.

The CMA has been investigating the merger and on Wednesday said it would result in small businesses and investors losing out over higher fees and less innovation. “The CMA’s initial view was that blocking the merger may have been the only way of addressing the competition concerns,” it said.

Merger plans were initially announced last October.

Read some of our previous reports here:

03:20 PM

Suez blockage can’t save oil prices



a large boat in a body of water: Two tugboats next to the Ever Given, a Panama-flagged cargo ship blocking the Suez Canal - Suez Canal Authority 


© Suez Canal Authority
Two tugboats next to the Ever Given, a Panama-flagged cargo ship blocking the Suez Canal – Suez Canal Authority 


While the Suez canal crisis could have been expected to lift oil prices by blocking the trade route, the delay is expected to be short-lived. A brief spike in prices yesterday had disappeared by this morning, and now oil prices are falling quickly over concerns about a delayed European recovery.

Rystad Energy’s head of oil markets Bjornar Tonhaugen sums it up well:

The destination of the oil tankers that can’t cross the Canal is mostly Europe, but Europe is also now the continent that is imposing the strictest lockdowns and where oil demand is decreasing rather than requiring more product.”He adds:

“Vaccine protectionism is becoming an increasingly tense debate and markets are concerned about not only the speed of vaccinations and their efficacy, but also about the risk of inflation down the road due to monetary and fiscal stimulus, holding risk appetite down across financial markets. What is preventing oil prices from dropping much further is the market anticipation that Opec+ (a Middle East oil cartel and its allies, who greatly influence supply levels) will again act next week to hold supply back when it decides its production targets for May.”

03:05 PM

FTSE 100 falls 1pc as oil slips over Europe reopening concerns

Oil prices sank in afternoon trading as fears of a long delay to a European reopening scared traders with infection rates rising around EU countries.

Brent crude fell 2.84pc to $62.58 while West Texas Intermediate, the US benchmark, plunged 3.4pc to $59.11.

That prompted the commodities-heavy FTSE 100 to slump by over 1pc in afternoon trading, shedding 67 points as oil and commodity stocks tumbled. 

Antofagasta fell 3.9pc to £16.19, miner Glencore dropped 4pc to 267p and Shell slumped 3.34pc to £14.14.

However, the biggest faller was Burberry, down almost 7pc to £18.59, over risks China could ban it and other retailers over their boycott from using cotton sourced from Chinese labour camps in Xinjiang, 

02:23 PM

US jobless claims hit lowest level in a year

A little more on those US jobless claims:

Analysts were bracing themselves for 730,000 new unemployment benefits claims last week but in fact the figure hit 684,000.

The sharp drop leaves the jobless claims figure at its lowest since the pandemic began over a year ago, despite the previous week’s reading being revised up by 11,000 to 781,000 by the Department of Labor.

It coincided with more positive US GDP data, which rose 4.3pc in the last three months of 2020, better than earlier estimates of 4.1pc growth.

This makes it trickier to work out why US stocks are having a bit of a tough week, though after Joe Biden’s whopping $1.9 trillion in stimulus was approved, it’s possible that huge injection of cash into a healthier economy could lead to a spike in inflation. 

02:04 PM

Wall Street opens lower



a statue of a horse on a city street: Wall Street opened lower on Thursday after a slide on Wednesday to continue an unremarkable week for US stocks - MARY ALTAFFER 


© MARY ALTAFFER
Wall Street opened lower on Thursday after a slide on Wednesday to continue an unremarkable week for US stocks – MARY ALTAFFER 


The tech-heavy Nasdaq took a tumble at today’s open, falling 0.91pc (or 117.31 points) to hit 12,844.58 as the bell rang on trading.

However, the index trimmed losses to stand 0.53pc down by 2pm. The Dow Jones slumped 0.74pc as new data revealed jobless claims actually fell last week in the US in a sign of economic recovery, while the S&P 500 slid 0.55pc.

In the UK, the FTSE 100 extended losses to fall by 1pc, or 67 points, by 2pm to leave it at 6,645 points. 

01:24 PM

Alan Turing £50 note unveiled



text: Alan Turing's £50 note is the last of the Bank's notes to switch from paper to polymer - Bank of England


© Bank of England
Alan Turing’s £50 note is the last of the Bank’s notes to switch from paper to polymer – Bank of England


Talking of cash, Alan Turing, the lauded codebreaker whose work at Bletchley Park helped Britain end the Second World War faster and saved lives, will appear on the new £50 note.

The Bank of England today revealed the new-look banknote featuring the mathematician and computer pioneer, whose Turing Test established an early theoretical test for artificial intelligence.

Fittingly, the banknote is due to be the most secure yet with its use of hologram images and two-colour foil making it incredibly difficult to forge, according to the Bank.

Governor Andrew Bailey said: “There’s something of the character of a nation in its money, and we are right to consider and celebrate the people on our banknotes. So I’m delighted that our new £50 features one of Britain’s most important scientists, Alan Turing. Turing is best known for his codebreaking work at Bletchley Park, which helped end the Second World War.

“However in addition he was a leading mathematician, developmental biologist, and a pioneer in the field of computer science. He was also gay, and was treated appallingly as a result. By placing him on our new polymer £50 banknote, we are celebrating his achievements, and the values he symbolises.”

The banknote will enter circulation from 23 June, Mr Turing’s birthday. 

12:49 PM

Hundreds of bank branch closures in 2021

We’ve charted British bank branch closures scheduled for this year, and the number is already at 357. 

That’s on top of thousands of branch closures announced since 2015, according to data from Which magazine. It’s a staggering number and reflects the ongoing shift to mobile and digital banking, especially since the pandemic began.

 See for yourself below:

  

12:22 PM

Britain gears up to reopen as 400,000 workers come off furlough



a bicycle parked on the side of a building: Pub 


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Pub 


The number of workers on furlough fell by more than 400,000 between mid-January and the end of February, indicating that businesses are proving resilient to lockdown, and are gearing up to reopen.#

My colleague Tim Wallace reports:

A total of 4.65m jobs were covered by furlough at the end of last month, HMRC said, down from the latest peak of 5.06m in mid-January, shortly after the current lockdown came into force.

There are indicators the hospitality industry is getting back to work as companies prepare for restrictions to be eased.

The number of furloughed workers in accommodation and food services firms is down by almost 140,000 on January’s highs, to 1.15m.

At the same time the Office for National Statistics found 69pc of hospitality companies reporting below-normal levels of turnover in late February and early March – a significant improvement from early January’s figure of just over 80pc.

It indicates a degree of resilience in businesses as they now know better how to operate in lockdown, as well as a boost from the reopening roadmap. Companies offering short-stay accommodation reported increased revenues from advanced bookings, as did some events catering firms.

Meanwhile the Confederation of British Industry found retailers anticipate a sharp surge in sales next month as reopening gets underway, with expectations much stronger now than they were before the first lockdown lifted last summer.

However it does not mean the economy or the jobs market are completely out of danger yet, and some may be coming off furlough and into unemployment.

12:04 PM

Ineos sells Norwegian oil and gas business to Polish state company



Jim Ratcliffe wearing a suit and tie: Jim Ratcliffe 


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Jim Ratcliffe 


Chemicals giant Ineos is selling its Norwegian oil and gas business to Polish state company PGNiG for $615m  (£529m). 

My colleague Rachel Millard reports:

The fields produce about 33,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day from the Norwegian Sea, mostly gas. 

It comes one week after Ineos splashed out $150m [£107m] on new oil fields on the Denmark side of the North Sea.

Owned by Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Ineos is re-shaping its portfolio to adapt to global changes in energy demand as economies try and shift away from fossil fuels. 

BP’s former finance chief Brian Gilvary has been hired to lead its energy division. 

He said:  “This will further balance our portfolio of oil and gas and open up new opportunities to reinvest further into the energy transition.”

11:39 AM

China lashes out at H&M over Western sanctions



H&M 


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H&M 


China’s ruling Communist Party is lashing out at H&M and other clothing and footwear brands as it retaliates for Western sanctions imposed on Chinese officials accused of human rights abuses in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

AP has the details: 

The attacks began when the party’s Youth League on Wednesday called attention on its social media account to an H&M statement in March 2020 that it would stop buying cotton grown in Xinjiang. The Swedish retailer said it was “deeply concerned” about reports of forced labor there.

On Thursday, a party newspaper, the Global Times, cited Burberry, Adidas, Nike and New Balance as having made “cutting remarks” about Xinjiang cotton as early as two years ago. Celebrities including Wang Yibo, a popular singer and actor, announced they were breaking endorsement contracts with H&M and Nike.

Beijing often attacks foreign clothing, auto, travel and other brands for actions by their governments or to pressure companies to conform to its official positions on Taiwan, Tibet and other sensitive issues.

Companies usually apologize and change websites or advertising to maintain access to China’s populous market. But Xinjiang is an unusually thorny issue. Western brands face pressure at home to distance themselves from possible abuses.

More than 1 million people in Xinjiang, most of them from predominantly Muslim ethnic groups, have been confined to work camps, according to foreign researchers and governments. Beijing denies mistreating them and says it is trying to promote economic development and stamp out radicalism.

11:17 AM

Denmark extends AstraZeneca suspension 

Denmark has extended its suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine for another three weeks despite European regulators giving it the green light.  

10:53 AM

UK must install 700 electric car charging points to meet 2030 target 



a car parked in a parking lot: EV 


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EV 


Britain must install 700 electric car charging points a day to make the 2030 ban on sales of new cars with petrol and diesel engines viable, the automotive industry has warned.

My colleague Alan Tovey reports: 

New research by the  Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) criticised the UK’s network for powering electric vehicles, warning that 10pc of public chargers are out of order.

It also warned that because one in three British households have no dedicated off-street parking, UK motorists are disproportionately dependent on public chargers. 

Speaking at an industry conference on electric vehicles, Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “ To deliver an electric revolution that is affordable, achievable and accessible to all by 2030, however, government and other stakeholders must put ordinary drivers at the heart of policy and planning. 

“We need incentives that tempt consumers, infrastructure that is robust and charging points that provide reassurance, so that zero-emission mobility will be possible for everyone, regardless of income or location. The trade body also hit out at the surprise cut in the subsidy for electric car buyers, which was reduced last week by £500 to a maximum of £2,500, with the price limit on cars it applies to cut from £50,000 to £35,000.

This means it now rules out the Tesla Model 3, the UK’s bestselling electric car, which starts at about £40,000.

Mr Hawes added: “The cut sends out the wrong message. While other countries are increasing support, we are cutting ours.”

10:31 AM

Oil retreats after Suez surge 

Oil retreated despite the blockage at the Suez canal continuing. 

Futures in New York slid 1.6pc, as work to re-float the container ship that’s stuck in the canal was expected to begin early Thursday in Egypt.

However, the best chance of freeing the vessel may not come until Sunday or Monday.

Brent crude fell 1.3pc to $63.30. 

“It all got a bit too excited earlier with talk about supercycles and massive stockdraws in the first quarter,” said Paul Horsnell, head of commodities research at Standard Chartered. That was “never on the cards, the big stock draws come later.”

10:05 AM

Profits soar at vet chain CVS 



a group of people posing for the camera: CVS 


© Provided by The Telegraph
CVS 


Veterinarian chain CVS saw its profits nearly double over the last six months of 2020 as the business avoided the hits the first lockdown brought while benefiting from a rise in pet ownership.

PA has the details: 

The company said profit hit £14.8m, up 95pc, on revenue of £245.6m, up 9pc.

Evidence has emerged in recent months that Britons bought more pets as they looked for company during the lockdown months.

Even before the pandemic pet ownership was rising, according to a survey by animal charity PDSA conducted in February and March last year. It showed there were 21 million cats and dogs in the UK.

It means a spike in demand for vets to neuter puppies and kittens or give them vaccinations – though not Covid-19 jabs.

“I don’t think our pet owners have yet started asking for (Covid) vaccinations,” said Ben Jacklin, the company’s chief operating officer.

But it will give CVS a longer-term boost as pets will need care throughout their lives, chief executive Richard Fairman added.

“Actually, it’s the later years of animals’ lives where they probably need most specialist intervention,” Mr Fairman said.

09:48 AM

CMC Markets jumps on forecast upgrade 



a man using a laptop computer talking on a cell phone: CMC Markets 


© Provided by The Telegraph
CMC Markets 


Shares in CMC Markets jumped after the spreadbetter said its operating income for 2020 will be higher than previously expected.

The trading platform said net operating income for its financial year was likely to be “slightly ahead” of the £399.6m it forecast.

Shares climbed 4.8pc to 465p, making it the biggest riser on the FTSE 250.

The company also praised the “quality” of trading from new customers despite the City watchdog warning on Tuesday that many new investors were engaging in risky activity. 

Chief executive Peter Cruddas said: 

I am delighted by the strong performance of the business so far during the last quarter of our financial year. Our relentless focus on supporting clients with market leading technology and service has fuelled record growth and puts us in a great position as we start the next financial year. 

Over the last 12 months, market volatility has driven up client activity across the industry. I am particularly pleased that our new clients are demonstrating similar behaviours to existing long-term, high value clients, which supports our longstanding strategy. Our client acquisition rates are very encouraging and reflect the advancements we have made in our technology, pricing and execution of trades.

09:27 AM

Santander axes 111 branches 



Santander 


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Santander 


Santander has announced plans to axe 111 branches by the end of August in a further blow to the UK’s beleaguered high street. 

The bank said the move comes as a response to the “ongoing shift by customers towards mobile and online banking, a long-term trend which has been accelerated by the pandemic”. 

It said branch transactions fell by a third in the two years before the pandemic hit and declined by a further 50pc in 2020.

Mobile and online transactions now represent almost two-thirds of overall transactions, it added.

The bank said it expects to retain a “significant” number of the staff affected. 

09:06 AM

Aberdeen Standard becomes latest investor to shun Deliveroo float 

Aberdeen Standard has the become the latest institutional investor to shun Deliveroo’s float next month due to concerns over the workers’ rights and the sustainability of its business model. 

It comes after Aviva vowed not to invest in what could be the City’s biggest listing in a decade, citing similar concerns.

08:51 AM

Sales fall at Compass 



a blue sign in front of a fence: Chelsea 


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Chelsea 


Sales at Compass Group fell by nearly third in the first half of the financial year.

The world’s largest catering company said revenues are expected to have contracted by 31pc in the six months to March, with its sports arm worst hit.

The company’s sports and leisure business, which runs the catering at Chelsea Football Club, took the biggest hit, suffering a 73pc revenue drop in the first half.

“The recurring theme from the last nine months – weaker revenue trajectory but a better than expected earnings before interest, tax and amortisation (Ebita) margin – is repeated again today,” said analysts at Jefferies, adding that market expectations for the company are likely to remain unchanged.

“We still believe Compass is the best-in-class industry operator but the share price assumes rapid recovery, and consensus margin recovery assumptions look optimistic,” they added.

Shares rose 1.1pc to £14.86 in early trading. 

08:29 AM

Boohoo severs ties with hundreds of suppliers



a woman posing for a picture: Boohoo


© Provided by The Telegraph
Boohoo


Fast-fashion website Boohoo has dramatically cut the number of clothes makers it works with after a sweeping review of its supply chain in the UK. 

My colleague Laura Onita reports: 

The company revealed it now has 78 approved factories in 100 locations, down from an estimated 200 main manufacturers. 

This is the first time Boohoo has published a full list of suppliers after the controversy around its supply chain in Leicester. 

The internet retailer was plunged into turmoil in July when an undercover  Sunday Times reporter visited a factory where staff were allegedly paid less than minimum wage.

Investigator Alison Levitt QC found no evidence Boohoo had committed any crimes last year, but said the company  failed to take action fast enough and warned that its supply chain was riddled with bad behaviour.

In her report, Ms Levitt said it was unlikely that Boohoo knew with any degree of certainty how many suppliers it had in total. She estimated the firm had 200 so-called tier one suppliers and used up to 300 tier two companies in Leicester, although some witnesses said “this was far too many” at the time.

08:14 AM

FTSE opens lower 



a group of people walking on a city street: City of London 


© Provided by The Telegraph
City of London 


London’s blue-chip index has started the day in the red following a weak session in Asia, which hit Chinese technology shares. 

  • FTSE 100 -0.2pc
  • DAX -0.4pc
  • CAC 40 +0.03pc

07:49 AM

Nationwide lets staff work from home

The UK’s biggest building society has told its staff they can work from anywhere in the country after finding that only 6pc wanted to return to their old routine.

Nationwide surveyed its 13,000 office-based employees and discovered that barely one in 20 wished to work from their old desks full-time. More than half (57pc) never wanted to go back to the office again.

The mutual, which for much of last year was receiving more than 100,000 calls from members every month due to the pandemic, said it was also testing out an initiative where those traditionally based in offices would work alongside colleagues in branches.

Chief executive Joe Garner said offices would have “fewer traditional meeting rooms and a range of wellbeing measures such as quiet areas and designated walking and cycling routes will be in place”.

Read Lucy Burton’s story here.

07:36 AM

‘Incredibly challenging year’

Mooky Greidinger, chief executive of Cineworld, has been putting a brave face on its results this morning: “For all of us across the world, this has been an incredibly challenging year,” he said.

He adds:

Covid-19 has created a huge amount of stress and uncertainty, both in business and in our personal lives. At Cineworld, I never imagined a time that we would see the closure of our entire cinema estate, nor that varying restrictions would remain in place for so long as we continue to navigate our way through this crisis.

We have worked hard to strengthen the long-term prospects of the business and, looking forward, Cineworld enters 2021 confident about the next chapter in our development; not least the intention to reopen our cinemas starting April 2.

The Regal owner, forced by the coronavirus lockdowns to shut most its nearly 800 theatres last October temporarily leaving 45,000 out of work.

The company, which recently agreed an exclusivity deal with Warner Bros, said it had secured commitments for a new $213m convertible bond to safeguard itself from a further hit due to the health crisis.

The London-listed company added that material uncertainty around its ability to continue as a going concern remained, as it reported an 81pc plunge in 2020 revenue to $852.3m.

07:34 AM

Cineworld posts huge loss

Good morning. Cineworld has unveiled a $3bn (£2.2bn) loss after being forced to close its screens for months on end during the pandemic.

The group swung to the mammoth loss from pre-tax profits of $155.2m in 2019 after revenues plummeted by 80pc.

But the company said it was hopeful of “strong pent-up demand” from cinema-goers once its theatres open in the US from April 2, in the UK from May 17, and the rest of the world.

5 things to start your day 

1) Cameron under investigation for breaching lobbying laws David Cameron is under investigation by the lobbying watchdog set up while he was prime minister over his interventions for Greensill Capital.

2) Boohoo severs ties with hundreds of suppliers The company revealed it now has 78 approved factories in 100 locations, down from an estimated 200 main manufacturers. 

2) Nationwide lets 13,000 staff work from home forever More than half the building society’s office-based workforce said they never wanted to go back to their desks again.

3) BBC under fire from independent producers over Covid costs TV production firms say broadcasters fail to cover higher expense of making shows since pandemic struck to the same degree as Netflix.

4) Bill Gates-backed solar start-up to power Rio Tinto mines Heliogen uses thousands of small, computer-controlled mirrors to harness energy from the sun to generate carbon-free power and heat. 

What happened overnight 

Asian equities bounced between gains and losses on Thursday as a selloff in Chinese technology shares due to concerns they will be de-listed from US bourses and worries about a semiconductor shortage rattled some investors.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.07pc. The index is close to wiping out all the gains it has posted so far this year.

Hong Kong shares fell sharply at the open but then erased losses to trade up 0.16pc. Alibaba Group , Xiaomi Corp, and Tencent Holdings all traded lower. Shares in China rose 0.28pc.

Elsewhere, Japanese stocks rose 1.33pc and Australian shares rose 0.17pc as bargain hunters bought shares of consumer goods, real estate and financial firms.

The US securities regulator is introducing measures that would kick foreign companies off U. stock exchanges if they do not comply with US auditing standards, and require them to disclose any government affiliations – measures widely expected to hit Chinese companies.

Coming up today

Trading updates: Cineworld, EN+, Funding Circle, S4 Capital, SIG annual/Compass, United Utilities

Economics: US jobless claims/final US GDP figures