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The FTSE 100 hit a new post-pandemic high on Friday as rising oil and banking stocks helped it shrug…

   News / 18 Oct 2021

Published: 18 October 2021
Location: London, UK

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight


The FTSE 100 hit a new post-pandemic high on Friday as rising oil and banking stocks helped it shrug off supply chain and inflation worries. London's leading share index ticked up to 7243.8 points during trade, taking it above a previous peak in August to hit the highest level since February 2020. It is down just over 12 points (-0.17%) to 7221.69 at the time of writing this morning.
 
Two members of the Bank of England’s (BoE) Monetary Policy Committeehave spoken out against interest rate hikes, a move Yahoo Finance UKsuggests will widen a split about how to combat rising inflation. Catherine Mann and Silvana Tenreyro have warned against an early rise due to a recent surge in energy prices and ongoing supply chain disruptions, saying the inflationary effects of these issues needs to be seen before they will vote for a rise in borrowing costs. According to the Office for National Statistics, inflation is currently at 3.2%. The BoE predicts it will rise temporarily to 4% by the end of the year but fall back to the 2% target in the medium-term. Therefore, Tenreyro said, a rate hike could be “self-defeating” if inflationary pressures turn out to be temporary. The former London School of Economicsprofessor pushed for negative interest rates earlier this year.
 
The hospitality sector outpaced the rest of the economy for the first time in more than nine years during September. The Lloyds Bank UK Recovery Tracker showed that tourism and recreation – which includes pubs, hotels, restaurants and travel agents – had a reading of 62.2 last month, the highest of the 14 sectors monitored. A reading above 50 signals output is rising, while a reading below 50 indicates contraction. Demand for large-scale events, such as concerts and music festivals, and the easing and simplification of international travel rules in England gave tourism a significant boost, says Yahoo Finance UK. The manufacturing sector did not fare so well. The output of automotive (44.5) manufacturers and metals and mining (49.2) and household goods (46.6) producers contracted sharply during September due to materials and staff shortages. Meanwhile, the rate of input cost inflation last month was the second highest in the tracker’s history, as energy prices spiked and demand for labour intensified. This led all 14 sectors to raise prices, with transport operators and manufacturers of chemicals, food and drink, industrial goods and metals and mining products recording the sharpest month-on-month increases.
 
The government is proposing to allow hauliers from abroad to make more frequent deliveries in the UK to help ease supply chain issues caused by a shortage of lorry drivers. Ministers said thousands more deliveries could be made each month under plans to temporarily extend ‘cabotage’ rights, which dictate how often foreign drives can come into the country and then pick up and drop off goods while within UK borders. A consultation launched on Friday proposes the current two trips within seven days limit will be scrapped, and drivers allowed to make an unlimited number of cabotage journeys for two weeks before returning home. Rod McKenzie of the Road Haulage Association told the BBC his organisation would oppose the move. "Allowing overseas haulage companies and drivers to come over for up to six months on a fortnightly basis to do unlimited work at low rates, undercutting UK hauliers who… are facing an acute driver shortage, rising costs, staff wages," he said. “This is about taking work from British operators and drivers and giving it to Europeans who don't pay tax here and pay peanuts to their drivers." "I've been talking to our members and they've been using words like 'gobsmacked' and 'appalling'," he also told Sky News.
 
Nightclub industry bosses are warning about ‘threats to public safety’ because of a shortage of bouncers, Sky News reports. Some venues are struggling to find security staff because many left the industry while clubs were closed during lockdowns and other restrictions, plus exiting EU workers exacerbated the problem. Nightclub operator Rekom UK and bar chain Revolution both say the shortage is now a pressing concern. Last month, the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) said one in five nightlife and hospitality businesses closed or reduced operating hours due to a shortage of security staff, but says the situation has since "deteriorated further" as customer demand recovers. NTIA stressed security staff are "fundamental to public safety" and called for government action. Michael Kill, CEO of the trade body, said: "There are steps the Government can take to ease the problem, whether that be funding training initiatives, streamlining new training requirements, or tackling shortages through legislation - and I would also like to see them revisit the issue of temporary visas to assuage the crisis."
 
Vodafone says regulators’ plan for a “regressive tax” on the airwaves that underpin Britain’s mobile communications industry will force companies to levy an additional £300m per year on bills, amounting to around £5 per person. Ofcom plans to expand annual licence fees for the 2100 MHz spectrum from January, a move Vodafone also says will reduce investment at a time when mobile operators are ploughing billions into eradicating connectivity “not spots” and upgrading the UK to faster 5G mobile signals. In its response to Ofcom’s consultation exercise, Vodafone said: “The fees represent a regressive tax on UK mobile users, with the potential to widen the digital divide. “We do not believe that Ofcom’s impact analysis has sufficiently addressed the impact of annual licence fees on vulnerable customers or on investment.” Vodafone is suggesting a charge of 29p per Mhz to access the spectrum, against Ofcom’s proposal of 56.7p. Vodafone also argues the money raised should be ringfenced to tackle the digital divide and help operators cope with the cost of using alternative equipment following the ban on China’s Huawei. Ofcom’s proposal comes after an auction of 5G airwaves in March raised only £1.3bn for the Treasury compared to analyst predictions of £2.5bn.

Central, northern, and western Europe has the biggest cryptocurrency economy in the world, receiving more than $1tn worth of the digital coins over the last year, according to a report from blockchain data platform Chainalysis.The UK meanwhile, has the largest crypto economy in Europe, with $170 billion (£123bn) worth of cryptocurrency transactions taking place here over the last year. Bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency, made up 27% of the UK’s transaction value, while ethereum and wrapped ethereum made up 40%. The second-largest cryptocurrency economy in the world was North America, receiving more than $750bn in the period. When analysed country by country, Chainalysis concludes that Vietnam tops the cryptocurrency tables, followed by India, Pakistan, and the Ukraine.
 
The UK’s legal and accounting sectors contributed £20.5bn in tax last year, up 5.4% from 2018, new data from TheCityUK reveals. During the past decade, growth in these sectors has consistently outpaced the rest of the economy, with tax contributed by them making up 2.8% of total UK tax receipts, the report said. This is equivalent to the combined capital spending budgets for the departments of health, education and housing, communities and local government. In total, the sectors employ 755,800 people, or 2.3% of the total UK workforce.
 
Around two in five (39%) employees have experienced an increase in worries about their financial health, according to the latest personal wellbeing survey data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). In the year to the end of March 2021, the ONS recorded the greatest decline in personal wellbeing since the survey started a decade ago. The survey, which looks at life satisfaction, the feeling that the things done in life are worthwhile, and happiness and anxiety saw average ratings drop across all indicators. In terms of finances, female employees (44%) were significantly more impacted than their male colleagues (34%), while those aged 18-34 felt hit hardest, with more than half of them (51%) experiencing greater money worries. This is the first personal wellbeing survey the ONS has conducted since the onset of the covid pandemic and associated restrictions on life and work.
 
Vietnam's defence department has just awarded contact to ABI Electronics, a Barnsley-based supplier of test and measurement equipment as well as a contract electronics manufacturer.
 
Ford has announced plans to invest £230 million converting its Halewood plant to build power units for the manufacturer's all-electric passenger and commercial vehicles sold in Europe. The huge investment will safeguard more than 500 jobs on Merseyside, following speculation about the future of the factory.
 
Essar has submitted plans to build two new hydrogen production plants at its Stanlow Refinery site in Ellesmere Port. The development is expected to attract £750 million of investment to the region.
 
The electric power cable running between the UK and France, damaged by a fire on the Kent side in September, will not be fully restored for another two years, National Grid says. The grid had aimed to restore it by next March but in an update published on Thursday night, it said "extensive work" was needed in order to return it safely to service.
 
Amazon has appealed a record fine handed down by the EU privacy watchdog. The online retail giant was found to have broken GDPR data protection rules. According to City AM, the American technology behemoth filed the appeal to the €746m fine at the Luxembourg Administrative Tribunal. Amazon claims data was collected to improve its customer experience, and that it has clear internal rules about how its employees and workers could use the data. The fine was issued in June, on the same day the UK's Competition and Markets Authority launched a probe into the way Amazon uses customer data, and the methods by which products subsequently appear in search results.
 
Reuters reports that Facebook Inc plans to hire 10,000 new staff within the European Union over the next five years to help build the so-called metaverse- a nascent online world where people exist and communicate in shared virtual spaces. In September, Facebook committed $50 million towards building the metaverse, where companies like Roblox Corp and "Fortnite" maker Epic Games have an early foothold. The company has also launched a test version of a new virtual-reality remote work app where users of the company's Oculus Quest 2 headsets can hold meetings as avatar versions of themselves. In July, Facebook said it was creating a product team to work on the metaverse which would be part of Facebook Reality Labs, its augmented reality and virtual reality group.
 
People targeted by fraudsters often speak of suffering from anxiety and ill-health after being scammed, and the cost to their wellbeing has now been calculated at a monetary total of £9.3bn a year, according to the consumer group Which?. That is the equivalent of £2,509 a year for each victim, although the typical financial loss is much lower at £600. Which? appointed consultants to study the Office for National Statistics' Crime Survey for England and Wales, and then applied an approach to assessing social impacts approved by the Treasury earlier this year to the data to value changes in wellbeing in monetary terms. The research suggested scam victims faced a drop in life satisfaction, significantly higher levels of anxiety, and lower levels of happiness. It was also associated with people self-reporting worse general health, although to a much smaller degree.
 
Women working in the financial sector are likely to leave their workplaces while going through the menopause, according to a report by Standard Chartered Bank and the Financial Services Skills Commission. Their survey found 25% of research participants had considered leaving because of symptoms and “the culture of silence around it.”  The survey also found 22% of respondents said menopause made them more likely to retire early and almost half (47%) said they were less likely to apply for a promotion because of their experiences with the menopause. 52% said it made them less likely to take on extra responsibilities despite almost two in five (38%) stating they wanted to progress to a more senior role.
 
China's economy grew 4.9% in the July to September quarter from a year earlier, the slowest pace in a year and worse than analysts had predicted. Growth was almost 8% in the previous quarter, suggesting the country’s recovery is weakening, most likely as a consequence of power shortages, Covid-19 outbreaks, flooding, and pressure from Beijing on a number of industries. These developments may dampen growth for the rest of the year and should not be underestimated, the BBC quoted one expert as saying.


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