Published: 21 April 2021
Location: London, UK
The UK inflation rate rose to 0.7% in the 12 months to March, up from 0.4% in February, pushed up by the increased cost of fuel, transport and clothes, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said this morning. The rise is lower than expected because food prices are lower than at the start of the pandemic. The Bank of England has forecast that inflation could reach 1.9% by the end of 2021, with other experts saying it will exceed 2% before the end of year, due to higher domestic energy bills and rising oil prices.
Behind yesterday’s positive top line employment figures lie less welsome figures showing that young people are bearing the brunt of the UK's COVID jobs crisis. Just over half of people who dropped off the UK payroll in the last year were under 25, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show. 80% were under the age of 35. Of the 813,000 jobs that have disappeared from the UK payroll since March 2020, 436,000 (53.7%) of the roles were done by people under the age of 25. The number of under-25s on the payroll has now hit just 3.4m, which youth charity Impetus said was a record low.
London has emerged as the unemployment capital of the UK. The capital's unemployment rate hit 7.2% in the three months to February 2021, according to yesterday's ONS stats, the highest in the country. All regions saw a rise in unemployment, but London saw the largest jump, with an increase of 2.7 percentage points. The capital's workforce decreased by 60,000 in just the final 3 months of 2020, the ONS said.
Major European stock markets tanked yesterday, closing down as much as 2%. "Traders appear to be caught between the optimism of a gradual reopening at home and pessimism over the growth in more worrying strains around the world," said Joshua Mahony, a senior market analyst at IG. The FTSE 100 closed down 2% in London, knocking around £37.3bn off the index's value according to analysts at AJ Bell and Refinitiv data.
Almost £6bn was wiped off the total value of the UK's top tobacco companies British American Tobacco and Imperial Brands, after Florida Man Joe Biden threatened stricter regulation, including forcing tobacco firms to reduce the nicotine content in their products to levels that it deems are non-addictive. Both were the FTSE's top fallers, down roughly 7% yesterday afternoon.
The Environmental Audit Committee has renewed calls for the government to replace the Green Homes Grant scheme, scrapped months after it was announced, after reaching just a tiny fraction of homes. “We have been clear all along: the Green Homes Grant was a good initiative but was poorly implemented," Philip Dunne MP, EAC chairman, said. “This Government has shown its willingness to be an environmental world leader, but I fear its green credentials risk being undermined by poor policy decisions."
The Labour party has called on the government to step in to save Liberty Steel before it collapses to save thousands of supply chain jobs and millions of pounds. Liberty Steel and its parent firm GFG Alliance have been in distress since its main financial backer Greensill Capital went bust in early March. Labour drew parallels between Liberty Steel and British Steel: the then government's decision to wait until British Steel was insolvent to put it in the hands of the Official Receiver for five months cost the taxpayer £500m before it was sold to Chines firm Jingye for £50m. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has repeatedly defended his rejection of requests from GFG Alliance for a £170m bailout.
Johnson & Johnson has been told by the European Medicines Agency that rare blood clots should be added to the vaccine's information sheets as a the rare side effect, but the vaccine should continue to be used as the benefits outweigh the risks. The EMA made the statement following incidents in the US, noting however that a clear cause or a trend in risk factors has not yet been identified. J&J unpaused shipments to European countries yesterday following the announcement.
Argos is to close its Somerset distribution site as part of owner Sainsbury’s plans to integrate the logistics networks of the two brands. The Unite union has warned the move will put 230 jobs at risk” at the retailer’s Bridgwater warehouse. The supermarket group said it will look to redeploy workers impacted by the announcement elsewhere in its operations.
The Competition and Market Authority (CMA) says the £6.8bn takeover of Asda by the billionaire Issa brothers, who amassed a fortune with their petrol station business EG Group, could lead to higher petrol prices in some parts of the country, as the combination of fuel stations could give the combined business too much power. The Issa brothers operate 395 petrol stations in the UK, while Asda owns 323. Joel Bamford, CMA's senior director of mergers, said the parties involved were both "key players in the market.” The Issa brother have five days to offer proposals to the CMA to "provide a clear-cut solution" in order to avoid "an in-depth phase 2 investigation."
Primark's owner has pledged to hand back £121m claimed under the furlough scheme despite announcing plunging profits as stores remained closed for much of the autumn and winter season, Yahoo Finance UK reports. Associated British Foods - which also owns Twinings tea and Ryvita - reported a 50 per cent fall in operating profits in the six months to 27 February.
Aldi has put Cuthbert the Caterpillar cake back on the shelves despite moves by rival Marks and Spencer to sue for copyright infringement. Aldi said on Twitter yesterday: “Hey Marks and Spencer we’re taking a stand against caterpillar cruelty. Can Colin and Cuthbert be besties? We’re bringing back a limited edition Cuthbert next month and want to donate all profits to cancer charities including your partners Macmillan Cancer Support and ours Teenage Cancer Trust. Let’s raise money for charity, not lawyers #caterpillarsforcancer.”
A major £2bn UK commercial property fund that has been suspended since December 2019 - locking in investors' money - will resume trading next month, the BBC reports. Investment firm M&G said investors would be able to access its property portfolio fund again from 10 May. The fund had been hit by the effects of Brexit uncertainty and troubles in the retail sector, and was suspended after investors consistently took money out.
Royal Dutch Shell is conducting a feasibility study to trial the use of hydrogen fuel cells for ships in Singapore. If successful, the trial will pave the way for cleaner, hydrogen-powered shipping, the company said, adding that its analysis points to hydrogen with fuel cells as the zero-emissions technology having the greatest potential to help the shipping sector achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, a goal set for the shipping industry by the United Nations.
Oil prices have slumped again as a resurgent virus in some of the world’s top oil importing countries highlighted the uneven road to recovery, Bloomberg reports. West Texas Intermediate fell 1.5% to the lowest in a week as the S&P 500 Index posted its first back-to-back decline since late March. However, Vitol Group, the world’s biggest independent oil trader, expects demand to come roaring back, echoing optimistic views from OPEC and the International Energy Agency.
The sale of beach huts has rocketed in the past year, and Brits should expect to pay 41% more on average to secure one than last year, according to research by hotel booking platform Hoo. Hoo says it now costs an average of £36,034 to buy a beach hut in the UK, however three beach huts in Mudeford are sold subject to contract at an asking price of £325,000.
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