Published: 30 April 2021
The FTSE100 broke through the 7,000 mark yesterday for the first time since it collapsed back in March last year in response to the covid pandemic. It ended the day lower however, at 6961.48, down 2.19 points or -0.03%.
US stocks hit record highs yesterday as it was revealed that the American economy grew 6.4% in first quarter, the second-fastest GDP growth pace since the third quarter of 2003.
In his first address to Congress yesterday, US President Joe Biden pledged to ‘reset decades of aversion to taxes and government spending,’ Sharecast News reports. He intends to increase corporation taxes and increase the top marginal rate of tax for the wealthiest Americans to 39.6% from 37% to make the country’s richest pay their "fair share" He has also proposed a near-doubling of capital gains tax for Americans who earn more than $1m a year. "Wall Street didn't build this country," he said. "Trickle-down economics has never worked. It's time to grow the economy from the bottom up and the middle out." Critics say Biden’s spending plans – he proposes a $1.8tn programme to boost education and $2.3tn of infrastructure spending on top of $1.9tn of Covid-19 measures - combined with ultralow US interest rates, could lead to runaway inflation.
Heathrow airport said yesterday that it made a further loss of £329m in the first three months of the year and again slashed passenger forecasts - to between 13 and 36 million, compared with 81 million in 2019 - blaming “continuing uncertainty over government policy”. The airport’s total losses since the start of the pandemic now stand at almost £2.4bn.
EasyJet has urged the government to declare most of Europe “green” when it publishes its list of permitted destinations for the summer, citing research commissioned from epidemiologists at Yale University in the US which showed unrestricted travel from much of Europe would increase hospital admissions by only 4%, or six cases in the UK on the current daily average. The government is expected to confirm where and when leisure travel will be allowed in the coming weeks, with hopes that holidays could restart from 17 May.
Ryanair has lost a High Court case adjudicating on whether or not the airline acted lawfully when it refused to compensate tens of thousands of passengers when flights were cancelled due to a series of walkouts by pilots and cabin crew during the summer of 2018. The Dublin-based carrier claimed it was exempt from awarding compensation because the disruption was due to “extraordinary circumstances” but the Civil Aviation Authority disagreed and took legal action against the airline. The regulator said Judge Nigel Gerald agreed with its position in a verbal judgment on Thursday. The CAA advised customers to “await further information before pursuing their claims” as Ryanair has the right to seek to appeal the judgment.
German airline Lufthansa made a €1.1bn first-quarter loss as revenue fell 60%. The company, which also includes Austrian Airlines, Swiss and Eurowings, revealed that it now expects to offer only 40% of its pre-pandemic capacity for 2021 – below the level it said is needed to generate positive cash flow.
The chief executive of Airbus, Guillaume Faury has warned that the “crisis is not yet over” for the aviation industry. His comment came as Airbus swung to a profit of €362m in the first quarter of the year, compared with a €481m loss in the same period the year prior. It was the company’s third profitable quarter in a row and came in ahead of analysts’ estimates. Airbus also announced it plans to increase jet production.
Uber plans to sign up another 20,000 drivers in the UK by the end of the year, having seen a 50% increase in trips since bars, restaurants and ‘non-essential’ shops opened on 12th April. The increase will take the app's UK driver network to 90,000.
After more than a year of forcing cruise ship operators to remain in port, and facing a lawsuit from the state of Florida over its "arbitrary and capricious" decision not to lift its conditional sail order, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has finally told cruise lines they can begin sailing again by mid-July under a new set of relaxed guidelines. The Wall Street Journal reports the agency will allow voyages to begin so long as the operators attest at least 98% of their crew and 95% of their passengers have been vaccinated.
Moderna announced it will increase its annual production capacity of Covid-19 vaccines to 3bn doses in 2022. Drug substance manufacturing will double at Lonza's Switzerland-based facility, Rovi's Spain-based facility, and Moderna's US facilities.
Amazon's profit in the first three months of 2021 came in at $8.1bn (£5.8bn) - more than triple what it was in the same period last year.
There are now 5,000 fewer stores on the UK’s high streets since the start of the pandemic, meaning one in seven shops now lie empty, according to the British Retail Consortium. Shopping centres, many of which were forced to close for a large portion of the pandemic, were the worst-hit of all retail locations, with over 12% of units lying empty for a year or more.
Asda is to start selling second-hand clothes in 50 of its UK stores following a successful trial in Leeds last year. Asda’s George clothing brand has partnered with specialist wholesaler Preloved Vintage Kilo on the venture to “give a new lease of life” to pre-worn garments.
Kitchen supplier Howden Joinery says UK revenues increased 47.1% year-on-year during the 16 weeks ended 17 April, with sales growth driven by increases in both prices and volume. The FTSE 250-listed firm has opened three new UK depots in the past twelve months; has refurbished seven older UK depots; and plans to open around 35 new depots in the UK and 11 in France before the end of the year.
Unilever has announced it will buy back €3bn (£2.2bn) of its shares in 2021 as it predicts first-half sales growth near the top of its target range. Underlying sales rose 5.7% in the first quarter, although turnover fell 0.9% to €12.3bn because of currency movements, Unilever said.
Vodafone and Qualcomm Technologies have announced plans to join forces to develop the technical blueprint for more equipment suppliers to help build the 5G networks of the future using Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) technology. The move aims to lower the entry barrier for many companies and drive diversification of network equipment vendors, said Qualcomm in a statement yesterday, as well as benefit customers by more easily extending 5G networks in specific geographical areas where they are most needed.
The Grosvenor Group, a property company owned by the Duke of Westminster, swung to a loss in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, but still paid out a dividend of £47m, up from £46.3m the previous year, which will go to the duke’s family and its trusts. Hugh Gosvenor inherited the title from his father, who died in 2016, and is a major shareholder of Grosvenor Estates, which has an £11.1bn portfolio of assets.
Almost all car makers in the UK are having a hard time figuring out new trade rules post-Brexit, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said yesterday, as it announced that UK car production rose for the first time in 18 months.“Automotive businesses are working incredibly hard to maintain output, with some nine-in-ten (91%) firms spending more time and resource managing UK/EU trade than in 2020,” the body said. More than a third (36%) are devoting more resources to ‘rest of the world’ trade.
Daimler Trucks and Volvo AB say they aim jointly to cut the costs of hydrogen fuel cells by a factor of five or six by 2027 as they seek to make the zero-emission technology commercially viable for long-haul trucking. However, even if cellcentric, the fuel-cell joint venture the two companies formed in March, brings down costs, Martin Daum, head of Daimler AG's truck unit, said he doesn't see hydrogen-fuelled trucks reaching cost parity with diesel models for at least 15 years. Both companies are asking the EU to provide subsidies and tax breaks to help make hydrogen trucks affordable for customers who want zero-emission models. "We can't save the planet if we're bankrupt," Daum told Reuters.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has accused Tesla last week of failing to prove it is in compliance with federal emission standards for hazardous air pollutants. According to the US Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the EPA is seeking specific details about how Tesla handles "surface coating" of its vehicles. Tesla said the company "has responded to all information requests from the EPA and refutes the allegations," and does not company expect any "material adverse impact" on its business over the issue. The company is defending itself against similar allegations by the German authorities.
McDonald's global sales are back above pre-Covid levels, despite Covid restrictions remaining in place in many countries. Profits in the last three months jumped almost 40% to $1.54bn (£1.1bn), driven largely by the return of customers in the US, the UK, Australia and Canada, partly offset by declines in Germany and France. In January the fast food giant described 2020 as one of its "most challenging" years.
Cryptocurrency Ethereum's price rallied yesterday, crossing $2,700 (£1,936), as the European Investment Bank (EIB) announced it will launch its first-ever digital bond on the crypto's blockchain network. Ethereum is the world's second largest cryptocurrency in terms of market capitalisation with a market cap of some $320bn, making it more valuable than payments giant PayPal, which currently has a market cap of $313bn, says Yahoo Finance UK. The EIB, the lending arm of the European Union, used ethereum technology to issue €100m (£86.8m) in two-year digital notes bonds, working in collaboration with Goldman Sachs, Santander and Societe Generale.
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