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Oil prices tumbled and then recovered in volatile trading yesterday

   News / 22 Feb 2022

Published: 22 February 2022
Location: London, UK

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight

Oil prices tumbled and then recovered in volatile trading yesterday after French president Emmanuel Macron said the US and Russian presidentshad agreed in principle to a meeting over Ukraine. Hopes of a resolve provided some relief as Brent crude (rose 1.8% to $95.20 (£69.95) per barrel, while West Texas Intermediate initially fell as much as 2.7% before recovering most of its slump on the news, rising 1.3% to $92.46 per barrell. US officials said Joe Biden agreed to meet with his Russian counterpart Vladmir Putin later this week, provided the Kremlin did not attack its neighbour. Russia issued a cautious response saying there were "no concrete plans" in place for the talks.
Lufthansa and Swiss Airlines are the latest companies to cancel flights to Ukraine's capital. KLM suspended flights on 12th February. The Foreign Officehas advised against all travel to the region and says British nationals in Ukraine should leave immediately while commercial means are still available.
The UK public sector borrowed £138.5 billion in the financial year-to-January 2022, half of that borrowed in the same ten-month period a year ago but still the second-highest financial year-to-January borrowing since monthly records began in 1993, The Office for National Statistics says this morning. Borrowing in the financial year-to-January 2022 is currently in line with that of the financial year-to-January 2010, when at the height of the global financial crisis it was £136.7 billion. Public sector net debt excluding public sector banks was £2,317.6 billion at the end of January 2022. At around 94.9% of gross domestic product, this maintains a level not seen since the early 1960s.
The UK economy bounced back strongly in February from an Omicron-induced slump.  According to the latest figures from IHS Markit business activity was the strongest since last June, led by a recovery in consumer spending on travel, leisure and entertainment. IHS Markit's composite purchasing mangers' index (PMI), which comprises services and manufacturing activity, jumped to 60.2 from 54.2 in January, marking an eight-month high. Any value over 50 indicates an overall expansion in the services sector, a value of 50 means that there is no change in activity and anything below 50 is a contraction.
TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady has criticised the government'sdecision to limit statutory sick pay for workers who fall ill with Covid-19. Those sick with coronavirus will be forced to wait until the fourth day of their illness before they can claim statutory sick pay, which provides workers with £96.35 per week for up to 28 weeks. More than 7.8 million workers currently rely on this kind of sick pay. Calling the change reckless and self-defeating, O’Grady said yesterday: "Nobody should have to wait till their fourth day of being sick to receive support. The government is creating needless hardship and taking a sledgehammer to public health. If people can't afford to stay home when they're sick, they will take their infections into work. Ministers' inability to grasp this fact will leave the UK vulnerable to future variants and pandemics". The £500 self-isolation support payment will also end.
Ofwat says water bosses whose companies dump sewage in UK rivers should have their bonuses reined in. In a letter to company boards, David Black, head of the UK’s water regulator, said in a letter that firms had to ensure chief executives were not handed bonuses that "reward poor performance". His comments come after a report from MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee found that only 14% of rivers in England met food ecological status. The Water Quality in Rivers report blamed the government, regulators and water firms for allowing "a Victorian sewerage system to buckle under increasing pressure”.
A government-backed review has found that nearly 40% of the board positions at the UK's biggest companies are now held by women. The FTSE Women Leaders Review found 414 women held company board roles at FTSE 100 firms last year, up from 374 in 2020. But the review also exposed a lack of women in executive director roles, the BBC says. Just 13.5% of the executive director positions were held by women in 2021, down from 14.2% the year before. The government suggested that the findings demonstrate a "major sea-change" in "attitudes to getting women leaders to the top table of business".
Barclays is said to be lining up its first female finance director. Sky News has learnt that the bank is preparing to name Anna Cross as group CFO in the coming months.
British Airways has apologised to customers facing delays of several hours to retrieve their luggage, saying items of machinery needed to offload bags could not be operated in high winds. The airline has also struggled to land and restock its planes on time, affecting inbound and outbound plane movements. BA said it was sorry for "letting people down".
Britain's largest oil refinery, owned by ExxonMobil, faces potential shut-downs as Unite union members ballot for strike action over pay, Sharecast Newssays. The union said it was balloting around 100 contractors at the Fawley refinery in Southampton following an "insulting" pay offer of 2.5% for the next two years. Unite is representing 100 workers - about a third of the workforce - employed by contractors Trant Engineering, Veolia Services and Altrad Services.
HSBC more than doubled its annual profits to $18.9bn (£13.9bn) and announced plans to repurchase shares worth up to $1bn as the lender was helped by lower bad loans and operating expenses. The London-based bank said in an earnings statement this morning that profit before-tax was up $10.1bn to $18.9bn, with 65% of the profit generated in Asia. HSBC said its UK arm recorded a leap in profits to $4.8bn during 2021 following earnings of $300m over the previous 12 months.
Specialised trade publication Autocar says Norfolk-based sportscar manufacturer Lotus plans to float its Lotus Technology division as early as next year, in a move valuing the company at between £5bn and £6bn. Meanwhile, The Times and the Financial Times say that Lotus is moving to open a production plant in China to increase annual sales to 100,000 by the end of the decade. The Lotus Group, which is majority owned by China’s Geely, said that of those sales, 90,000 will be electric saloons and SUVs produced by Lotus Technology. Lotus currently produces 1,500 sportscars a year.
A £3m investment by Bentley Motors will see the carmaker double its Additive Manufacturing (AM) capacity at the company’s headquarters in Crewe, where all Bentley models are built. The expansion will enable Bentley to utilise advanced technology to create 3D printed vehicle components and greater personalisation in cars. Bentley’s AM system converts 3D CAD models into physical components and is recognised as one of the fastest developing technologies in the world.
Gambling software development company Playtech said on Monday that CEO Mor Weizer plans to team up with Asia-based suitor TT Bond Partners (TTB)on a potential offer for the group. The company said Weizer and Thomas Hall, a former director of Playtech, have approached TTB with their interest in participating in the investor group. Earlier this month, Playtech shares surged after the company confirmed it had been approached by TTB about a potential takeover, just hours after investors voted against a deal with Australia's Aristocrat Leisure.
Next Fifteen Communications has confirmed In a brief statement in response to press speculation that it is in talks to buy Engine Group's UK operations. Sky News city editor Mark Kleinman tweeted yesterday about a potential deal, saying that Next Fifteen was planning to partly fund the acquisition by selling new shares.
Made.com has announced the immediate departure of chief executive officer Philippe Chainieux for family reasons. COO Nicola Thompson will assume the position of interim CEO with immediate effect, working closely alongside CFO Adrian Evans.
A hacker has stolen hundreds of NFTs from dozens of people on the popular trading platform OpenSea, the company's chief executive has confirmed. Sky News says the thefts have prompted a scare in the cryptocurrency community, where many people are attempting to realise enormous gains by investing in largely unregulated assets. Devin Finzer confirmed on Twitter that the company believed the hacker made $1.7m (£1.25m) from selling the stolen non-fungible tokens (NFTs) but stressed that rumours "this was a $200 million hack are false".

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