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British stocks represent golden buying opportunity, says HSBC

An aircraft passes over the top of the global headquarters for HSBC in Canary Wharf, 2021
An aircraft passes over the top of the global headquarters for HSBC in Canary Wharf, 2021 - Hollie Adams/Bloomberg

British stocks represent a golden buying opportunity, HSBC has said.

The investment bank has told clients to buy UK-listed stocks, arguing that downward pressure on share prices from pension funds selling almost £2 trillion of assets has ended.

“The long-term structural overhang of UK pension fund selling is at an end; they simply have no more UK equities left to sell,” the bank’s research team said.

HSBC in fact expects retirement funds to start buying British stocks, amid political pressure to support the UK economy.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has repeatedly called for pension funds to buy British and introduced new rules forcing funds to publicly state how much money they put into London-listed stocks. Allocations to UK equities by pension funds have fallen from 53pc in 1997 to around 4pc today.

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HSBC is one of the most closely followed equity strategists globally and a positive re-rating could prompt more money to flow into the London market.

The bank’s rating upgrade, from neutral to overweight, means investors should consider putting a greater proportion of their money into the UK.

HSBC’s analysts said a likely Labour victory in the upcoming election was unlikely to unsettle the stock market, removing a potential roadblock for investors considering backing Britain.

The optimistic outlook is a major boost for the UK stock market, which has been mired in gloom because of a lack of flotations and a string of companies quitting for New York and Frankfurt.

The UK market is cheaper than other global benchmarks, with the discount to the US stock market 23pc wider than normal.

Stocks are cheap in part because of downward pressure on prices from pension funds selling. British retirement funds have pulled an estimated £1.9 trillion from the market over the past three decades, according to HSBC.

However, the bank said holdings were now so small that further mass sales were unlikely.

HSBC upped its target for where the FTSE 100 will end the year from 8,100 to 8,750. The index closed at 8,424 on Monday night and has risen almost 9pc so far this year.

The bank last upgraded its view on UK stock from underweight to neutral in September 2023.

HSBC’s recommendation is at odds with Coutts, the King’s bank, which last month decided to downgrade its rating and said it would pull £1.9bn from the London stock market.

Read the latest updates below.


06:02 PM BST

Signing off...

Thanks for joining us today on The Telegraph’s Markets blog. Chris Price will be up early in the morning tomorrow to report on the latest from the City ahead of the London Stock Exchange opening.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the new that the City minister has warned that Britain cannot afford to turn its back on Chinese money. Michael Bow reports:

Britain cannot afford to turn its back on Chinese money despite growing concerns about Beijing’s interference with the West, a top Treasury minister has warned.

Bim Afolami, the City minister, said Britain could not give China the “cold shoulder” because its banks and financial institutions were simply too large to ignore.

Mr Afolami said: “We are very clear that you simply cannot give the cold shoulder to an economy that is home to a fifth of the world’s globally systemically important banks, four of the world’s largest banks and almost a third of the world’s global leading financial sectors. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Read the full story...

Bim Afolami arriving in Downing Street, February 20
Bim Afolami arriving in Downing Street, February 20 - Lucy North/PA Wire

05:44 PM BST

British stocks represent golden buying opportunity, says HSBC

British stocks represent a golden buying opportunity after a wave of selling by UK pension funds comes to an end, HSBC said.

Bargain basement prices for UK listed companies and expectations that defined benefit pension funds will be lured back to British stocks has prompted the bank’s researchers to urge clients to shift more money into the London market.

The optimistic outlook is a major boost for the UK stock market, which has been mired in gloom due to a lack of flotations and companies quitting for New York and Frankfurt.

British pension funds have pulled an estimated £1.9 trillion from the market over the past three decades, according to HSBC, but the trend is set to reverse.

“The long-term structural overhang of UK pension fund selling is at an end; they simply have no more UK equities left to sell,” the bank’s research team said.

The bank’s upgrade on UK stocks, from neutral to overweight, means investors should consider putting a greater proportion of their investment portfolio into the UK.

The move is at odds with Coutts, the King’s bank, which last month decided to go underweight UK equities and pull £1.9bn from the stock market.

HSBC is one of the most closely followed equity strategists globally and a positive re-rating could prompt more money to flow into the London market. 

Allocations to UK equities by pension funds have fallen from 53pc in 1997 to around 4pc today.

HSBC expects allocations to increase rather than decline further after the government urged pension funds to spend more on UK equities.

The UK is also cheaper than other global benchmarks, with the discount to the US stock market 23pc wider than normal.

HSBC's Canary Wharf headquarters
HSBC's Canary Wharf headquarters - Pawel Libera/LightRocket via Getty Images

05:26 PM BST

Studio behind Harry Potter game surges after private equity bid

Shares in the London-listed video game company Keywords Studios rose by almost 60pc on Monday after it said it was prepared to accept a £2.2bn European private equity takeover. James Titcomb and Adam Mawardi report:

The Dublin-based video game services provider said it was in discussions over a £25.50 a share offer made by Swedish private equity giant EQT.

The bid comes at a nearly 75pc premium to the company’s closing price last Friday and led shares to soar as traders reacted to the news.

They closed at £23.37 on Monday, 59pc up although below the offer price.

The bid marks EQT’s latest attempt to acquire Keywords Studios having already made four unsolicited bids for the video game company, which were all rejected by its board.

However, Keywords Studios said the new bid represents a “significant increase from the initial proposal” and would be minded to recommend the deal to its shareholders if an official offer is tabled.

The potential takeover will be seen as another blow to the London stock market amid a surge of foreign buyers taking advantage of cheap British stocks to acquire London-listed companies.

Analysts at Peel Hunt said the offer undervalues Keywords, and that more suitors could emerge, raising the prospect of a bidding war. Meanwhile analysts at Jefferies said rival offers were unlikely.


05:21 PM BST

FTSE 100 is ‘range-bound’, says analyst

The FTSE 100’s rise is currently limited by “range-bound” trading, an analyst has said, referring to when share prices seem to be limited by some market resistance against further rises (or big drops).

Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG, said:

The triumphant advance of the FTSE 100 to its current record high has given way to dull, range-bound trading as upward momentum exhausts itself.

Having gained over 8pc in a month, the index now faces a tougher task, namely that of holding on to the ground won.

Latecomers to the rally need to be wary; strong gains from February into April were followed up by a very choppy period, one that could easily recur.


05:13 PM BST

Gordon Gekko inspiration Ivan Boesky dies at 87

A Wall Street trader who was an inspiration for Gordon Gekko in the film Wall Street has died, the New York Times has reported.

Ivan Boesky, 87, became worth hundreds of millions of dollars in the mid-80s prior to his downfall. In The Telegraph’s list of stock market scandals:

Ivan Boesky paid $100m to settle insider trading charges in 1986. By cooperating with US market regulator the Securities and Exchange Commision, he also got a shorter prison sentence of three-and-a-half years. He had built up a huge fortune buying stock in companies shortly before they received takeover offers, and the SEC believed his information came from insider tips.

Ivan Boesky leaves a Brooklyn half-way house shortly after 6am, on the morning of December 12, 1989, during the final days of his prison sentence
Ivan Boesky leaves a Brooklyn half-way house shortly after 6am, on the morning of December 12, 1989, during the final days of his prison sentence - David Cantor/AP

04:58 PM BST

Footsie closes up

The FTSE 250 rose 0.6pc today, while the big-cap FTSE 100 was virtually unchanged, up 0.05pc.

Among the 100 biggest companies listed in London, the top riser was Rolls-Royce, up 4.5pc after doing a £15m deal to trial manufacturing techniques for mini-nuclear reactors in Sheffield, which investors have seen as encouraging. Rolls was followed by mining company Fresnillo, up 4pc. At the other end of the leader board, easyJet dropped 3.2pc, followed by Burberry, down 3pc.

Amoung the FTSE 250, IT firm Kainos rose the most, up 17.3pc, followed by Wag Payments, up 10.7pc. The biggest faller was events business Ascential, down 37.8pc, followed by Octopus Renewables Infrastructure, down 2.5pc.


04:41 PM BST

Legal & General throws weight behind Anglo American’s management amid takeover risk

A top Anglo American shareholder has thrown its weight behind the miner and its plans to slim down as Anglo attempts to stave off a takeover from rival BHP, according to an FT report.

Anglo is racing to convince shareholders that its continued independence is in their interests by planning a break-up plan that will see some of its units, including the De Beers diamond business, sold off.

Legal & General Investment Management, which is one of the miner’s top 10 investors with 2pc of the shares, is backing Anglo American’s management.

Nick Stansbury, head of climate solutions at LGIM, told the FT:

“The plan outlined by Anglo American is a radical but attractive strategy to create value for long-term investors.

We agree the execution of this plan will be challenging for management to deliver on, but we are confident in their ability to do so over time.”

Anglo American's El Soldado copper mine in Chile
Anglo American's El Soldado copper mine in Chile - Third party/Reuters

04:25 PM BST

Rolls-Royce signs £15m deal to test mini-nuclear reactors in Sheffield

Rolls-Royce has signed a £15m deal with Sheffield University to trial manufacturing techniques for small modular reactors (SMRs), in the latest step towards making cheap nuclear power a reality. Industry editor Matt Oliver reports:

Under the agreement, the engineering giant will make the first working prototypes of SMR modules at the university’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.

It will then seek to work out efficient and repeatable processes that will let the company produce them in large numbers.

The investment was welcomed by Claire Coutinho, the Energy Secretary, who said: “Small Modular Reactors are the future of nuclear technology, and key to quadrupling the UK’s nuclear capacity by 2050 as part of the biggest expansion in 70 years.

Read the full story...

A mock-up of a Rolls-Royce small modular reactor
A mock-up of a Rolls-Royce small modular reactor - Rolls-Royce

04:21 PM BST

Think tank urges social housebuilding push with ‘fairness taxes’

A centre-Left think tank is urging Sir Keir Starmer to introduce “fairness taxes” to fuel the construction of hundreds of thousands of houses.

The Social Market Foundation said that Labour was missing a promise on its pledge card around social housing, noting that last year only 9,561 social homes were built in England, while 22,023 were sold or demolished.

It said that new taxes could help build hundreds of thousands of new homes. The think tank said:

Countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand levy greater charges on foreign buyers and empty properties than the UK, and (unlike the UK) they also tax houses sold soon after purchase .... [the] SMF finds that they have been effective at raising money.

Equally, if these taxes do not raise revenue but instead deter foreign ownership, leaving homes vacant and house flipping, this would still be a positive outcome for the UK’s housing market, as it would free up more properties for people looking to get on the property ladder.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer during a visit to a housing development in the Nightingale Quarter of Derby in April
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer during a visit to a housing development in the Nightingale Quarter of Derby in April - Joe Giddens/PA Wire

04:09 PM BST

AI already saving some bankers two to four hours a day

Artificial intelligence is already so useful in financial services that it’s saving some bankers two to four hours of grunt work a day, JP Morgan has said.

Mary Erdoes, chief executive of the banking giant’s asset and wealth management division, told Bloomberg that AI is eliminating “no joy work”.

She is now giving every new employee training in AI and the bank cuts down on “hunting and pecking”.

Mary Erdoes at World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, 2017
Mary Erdoes at World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, 2017 - Laurent Gillieron/EPA

03:56 PM BST

Ship that hit Baltimore bridge led to terminal

Recovery teams refloated a huge cargo vessel impeding shipping in the Port of Baltimore this morning and led it to a local marine terminal after a successful effort to make the container ship buoyant at about 11:40am (BST).

The removal of the Dali marked a significant step in the Port of Baltimore’s recovery from the boat’s March 26 collision with one of the harbour bridge’s support pillars.

The bridge’s collapse killed six road workers and hindered traffic through the busiest port for car shipments in the US.

Wes Moore, Maryland governor, told NBC on Sunday that workers were on track to completely clear the channel this month, which would restore full access to the port.

The Dali container vessel arrives at the Seagirt Marine Terminal at the Port of Baltimore in Baltimore, Maryland, today
The Dali container vessel arrives at the Seagirt Marine Terminal at the Port of Baltimore in Baltimore, Maryland, today - Al Drago/Bloomberg

03:44 PM BST

Auditors failed to warn of danger in three quarters of company collapses

Auditors failed to sound the alarm for three quarters of UK companies that collapsed over the past decade, a new study shows. Michael Bow reports:

High profile cases such as Carillion and BHS are just the tip of the iceberg of auditors failing to blow the whistle on companies teetering on the brink of collapse, according to the Audit Reform Lab, a research centre at the University of Sheffield.

A study of 250 stock market listed companies liquidated between 2010 and 2022 found that auditors failed to include a material uncertainty notice in about 75pc of cases.

Auditors include these notices when a company is at risk of failing to pay their debts and going bust.

The failure to flag the looming risk of liquidation has prompted criticism that audit firms are“failing to perform their core function”.

“The UK audit sector is plagued by poor standards, a toothless regulator, conflicts of interests and weak sanctions for malpractice,” said Prof Adam Leaver, the Audit Reform Lab director.

“Auditors are failing to show independent judgement or professional scepticism - both are non-negotiable features of their job. Reform has been long-promised and is long-overdue.”

Around two thirds of the cases analysed were audited by the “big four” - PwC, KPMG, Deloitte and EY - and they were singled out for their poor track record.

EY warned of going concern risks for just 20pc of companies that subsequently collapsed. PwC provided warnings in 23pc of cases, Deloitte 36pc and KPMG 38pc. Smaller auditors performed even worse, delivering warnings in only 17pc of collapses.

EY, PwC, KPMG and Deloitte declined to comment.


03:39 PM BST

UK manufacturing needs a ‘turbo charged boost’ to combat Chinese dominance, says expert

As we reported earlier today, the Government announced it will set up an independent UK Semiconductor Institute to promote Britain’s semiconductor sector.

It follows the Government saying last year that it wanted to “support the competitiveness of the semiconductor manufacturing sector that is critical to the UK tech ecosystem or the UK’s national security”.

But concerns have been growing more widely in the West over the need to maintain a manufacturing base for key technologies.

It’s not just chips. On Friday, Alicia Kearns MP, chairman of the Commons foreign affairs select committee, urged action on critical minerals, which are used in electric car batteries, amid news that China had made a major breakthrough in battery technology.

Robert Clark, an Armed Forces veteran who is a senior fellow at the think tank Civitas, told The Telegraph:

China’s dominance of both the electric vehicle market and its rare earth minerals - both upstream and downstream within supply chains and production - should be a cause for concern, not celebration.

Aside from the irregularities occurring within various Chinese claims of breakthrough technological advances, we must remember that such dominance of critical supply chains and technology is often used by Beijing as coercive diplomacy - as seen throughout the Covid-pandemic.

If anything, this news [of a Chinese battery breakthrough] should prove a much needed turbo charged boost to UK manufacturing, on the decline and in urgent need of revitalising with government funded capital investment projects and long-term sustainable development to reassure suppliers.


03:30 PM BST

Pictured: UK and Finland agree closer trade ties

The UK and Finland have signed a new partnership agreement vowing continued support for Ukraine and declaring Russia the most significant and direct threat to European peace.

Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron shook hands on a deal with his Finnish counterpart Elina Valtonen which also outlines the shared ambition to scale up collaboration on science and technology, trade and investment and tackling illegal migration.

That is all from me today but Alex Singleton will keep a close eye on the markets and keep you up to speed with developments.

Lord Cameron, the Foreign Secretary, shakes hands with Finland's Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen
Lord Cameron, the Foreign Secretary, shakes hands with Finland's Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen - WPA Pool/Getty Images

03:12 PM BST

OpenAI suspends voice that ‘sounds like Scarlett Johansson character’

The developer of ChatGPT is to disable one of its voices after users pointed out similarities to Scarlett Johansson’s character in the science fiction film Her.

Our technology editor James Titcomb has the latest:

OpenAI said it planned to suspend “Sky”, one of the five options available to users of the chatbot’s new voice system.

It insisted the voice was not intended to mimic Ms Johansson, whose artificial intelligence persona in the 2013 film partly inspired a new, more lifelike version of ChatGPT unveiled last week.

Last Monday, OpenAI unveiled an upgraded system that could hold real-time voice conversations and featured a far more natural and authentic human voice.

Several observers said the female voice assistant demonstrated by the company verged on flirtatious, giggling and joking with its human interlocutor, and sounded remarkably like Ms Johansson.

The Sky voice, one of five offered by OpenAI, has been available since last September.

However, the upgraded system’s more natural speaking patterns deepened the comparisons with Samantha, the AI assistant voiced by Ms Johansson in Her.

Sam Altman, OpenAI’s chief executive, tweeted the single word “her” after the event and later wrote: “It feels like AI from the movies”.

Scarlett Johansson starred in the AI-themed movie Her
Scarlett Johansson starred in the AI-themed movie Her - Paul Morigi/Getty Images

02:54 PM BST

High interest rates needed ‘some further time,’ says Fed official

The US Federal Reserve should keep interest rates at their current elevated levels for longer than previously expected due to disappointing recent inflation data, a senior bank official has said.

The Fed has raised interest rates to a 23-year high and held them there as it looks to bring inflation down to its long-term target of 2pc.

But despite significant progress last year, the Fed’s inflation fight has faced a setback this year, with the rate at which consumer prices are rising accelerating again in the first quarter.

Speaking at a conference in Florida, Fed vice chair for supervision Michael Barr said the bank had made “tremendous progress” in bringing inflation down from its 2022 peak, while unemployment - the other leg of its dual mandate - had remained low.

“We are not yet all the way to our target of 2pc,” he said in prepared remarks, noting the “disappointing” recent inflation data. He added:

These results did not provide me with the increased confidence that I was hoping to find to support easing monetary policy by reducing the federal funds rate.

This means that we will need to allow our restrictive policy some further time to continue to do its work.

Michael Barr is vice chair for supervision at the US Federal Reserve
Michael Barr is vice chair for supervision at the US Federal Reserve - Allison Robbert/Bloomberg

02:38 PM BST

Wall Street subdued ahead of Nvidia results

The main US stock indexes were almost flat at open as investors awaited quarterly results from tech giant Nvidia, which are expected to move markets.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 13.83 points, or less than 0.1pc, at the open to 39,989.76.

The S&P 500 opened higher by 2.08 points, or less than 0.1pc, at 5,305.35, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 16.06 points, or 0.1pc, to 16,702.02 at the opening bell.


02:19 PM BST

Saudi Arabia aims to triple air traffic by end of decade

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sees aviation as a key component of his “Vision 2030” reform agenda to remake the petroleum-centred economy.

The country aims to more than triple annual traffic to 330 million passengers by the end of the decade.

Vision 2030 “motivated our decision to secure this significant deal, which will create jobs, increase local content and contribute to the national economy,” Saudia Group director general Ibrahim Al-Omar said in the statement.

Last year Saudia announced a deal to buy 39 Dreamliner planes from Boeing with options for 10 more.

Riyadh Air, unveiled in March 2023, announced an agreement to buy 39 Boeing Dreamliners, with options for 33 more jets.

Saudi Arabia is also launching NEOM Airlines, to be based in the planned megacity.


01:52 PM BST

BT ‘still doesn’t know’ how many vulnerable customers will be hit by landline switch-off

BT has admitted it still does not know how many vulnerable customers are affected by the digital landline switchover, as it delayed the plan because of safety concerns.

Our reporter James Warrington has the details:

Ministers last year ordered telecoms companies to pause the rollout of internet-only landlines after a number of serious incidents where so-called “telecare devices” – personal alarms designed to be activated in a health emergency or after a fall – failed because of the switch.

BT on Monday said it has resumed moving customers from copper landlines to the new digital network and outlined a new timetable for the programme.

However, it warned there was still a lack of clarity over exactly how many elderly and vulnerable customers were at risk, blaming a lack of information from care providers and local authorities.

Read on for a guide to the “big switch”.


01:34 PM BST

Pound edges down ahead of inflation figures

The pound has slipped slightly against the dollar as investors await the crucial inflation figures due on Wednesday.

Sterling was last down 0.1pc at just under $1.27, having strengthened significantly last week.

The pound has risen 2.9pc over the last month and was boosted by lower-than-expected US inflation figures last week, which boosted hopes of interest rate cuts by the US Federal Reserve.

Sterling was up 0.1pc against the euro, which is worth 85p.


01:18 PM BST

Saudi Arabia orders 105 planes in challenge to Qatar and Emirates

Saudi Arabia has signed one of the biggest aircraft deals in the kingdom’s history as it sets out to challenge Qatar and Emirates’ dominance in the Gulf.

Flagship carrier Saudia has ordered 105 Airbus planes in what it called a significant moment not only for the Saudi aviation industry but also for the wider Middle East and North Africa region”.

It marks a further investment by Saudi airlines more than a year after new carrier Riyadh Air was unveiled. Both Saudia and Riyadh are owned by the oil-rich state.

Saudi authorities have also announced plans for a large new airport in the capital Riyadh capable of accommodating 120m passengers a year.

Jeddah-based Saudia, also known as Saudi Arabian Airlines, dates to 1945 when it received its first jet, a gift from US president Franklin Roosevelt.

The state-owned carrier is expected to increasingly concentrate its operations out of Jeddah once Riyadh Air begins its flights, a milestone expected next year.

Saudia has ordered 105 planes from Airbus
Saudia has ordered 105 planes from Airbus - REUTERS/Jamal Saidi

12:55 PM BST

Net zero foot-dragging is making Britain uninvestable, warns energy chief

Eight billion euros are waiting to help rebuild Britain’s energy systems – but it could all flow to European rivals unless ministers start making decisions on our future electricity supplies, a leading energy boss has warned.

Our energy editor Jonathan Leake has the details:

Mike Lockett, who runs the British assets of Uniper, the giant German state-owned electricity producer which produces 7pc of UK electricity, wants to clean up his fleet of six gas-fired power stations so that the millions of tonnes of CO2 they generate can be captured and buried underground.

But he says government delays in making crucial decisions, bringing in legislation and building key infrastructure are putting that investment in peril.

“This is the key challenge we face. We are happy to invest our earnings into decarbonisation. We can provide power generation and carbon capture on our sites.

“But we can only do it when there’s the proper infrastructure to take that CO2 away and dispose of it. And we have to have the financial incentive to do it as well.”

These charts show Britain’s progress towards its net zero targets.

Mike Lockett says the need for an actionable net zero plan from the Government has become 'critical'
Mike Lockett says the need for an actionable net zero plan from the Government has become 'critical' - Andrew Fox

12:33 PM BST

PM: Ofcom ruling ‘one for GB News to respond to’

Ofcom’s ruling the GB News broke impartiality rules with a programme featuring Rishi Sunak is “one for GB News to respond to” in the first stance, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

GB News has accused Ofcom of a “terrifying” attack on democracy after the regulator threatened the startup broadcaster with a fine.

The PM’s spokesman said:

From the Prime Minister’s perspective he will regularly undertake interviews in a range of formats for a range of different outlets.

He will continue to do so as it is clearly an important part of a free and democratic process that he and other Cabinet ministers and other politicians are interviewed in a wide range of formats from a wide range of broadcasters and media.


12:09 PM BST

Semiconductor institute to be launched to support UK chip sector

An independent institute to oversee national strategy on expanding the UK’s semiconductor industry is to be created, the Government has announced.

The UK Semiconductor Institute will bring together the Government, university researchers and the private sector to oversee growth in the computer chip sector, the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) said.

The increasing global reliance on technology has seen semiconductors become recognised as an area of global strategic significance, with the rise of artificial intelligence already sparking further demand for more powerful chips.

Currently, production in the sector is dominated by Taiwan, but last year the Government launched a £1bn strategy to boost UK innovation.

DSIT said the new institute would be tasked with ensuring chip researchers have the tools and infrastructure needed to carry out their work and create market-ready products.

It would also act as an entry point for tech businesses and international partners who wish to work with the UK market around the technology.


11:54 AM BST

Wall Street on track to rise at opening bell

US stock indexes edged higher in premarket trading ahead of likely tests from Nvidia’s quarterly results and the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting minutes.

All the three major indexes marked their fourth straight week of gains on Friday as upbeat corporate earnings and softer-than-expected inflation data supported hopes for interest rate cuts this year.

Both the benchmark S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq touched an all-time high last week, while the blue-chip Dow closed above the 40,000 level on Friday.

Investors are keenly awaiting quarterly results from artificial intelligence (AI) chip leader Nvidia and minutes of the Fed’s latest monetary policy meeting, both scheduled for Wednesday.

In premarket trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was flat, the S&P 500 was up 0.1pc and the Nasdaq 100 was up 0.2pc.


11:31 AM BST

Gas prices rise amid Asian heatwave

Gas prices have risen amid the potential for turmoil in the Middle East following a helicopter crash which killed Iran’s president and foreign minister.

Europe’s benchmark contract rose as much as 3.9pc in the wake of deaths of Ebrahim Raisi and Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

Prices were already rising amid what Citi described as “red hot demand” from Asia amid record-setting heatwaves, driving up demand for energy to power air conditioning.

The UK equivalent gas contract has risen as much as 4.3pc.


11:18 AM BST

Ofcom trying to silence us, says GB News

GB News has accused Ofcom of trying to “silence” the channel by not allowing the “public to question politicians directly” after the regulator ruled that it broke due impartiality rules with the broadcast of an episode featuring Rishi Sunak.

People’s Forum: The Prime Minister was a live hour-long programme on February 12 at 8pm and aired ahead of this year’s expected general election.

In a statement, GB News said:

Ofcom’s finding against GB News today is an alarming development in its attempt to silence us by standing in the way of a forum that allows the public to question politicians directly.

The regulator’s threat to punish a news organisation with sanctions for enabling people to challenge their own prime minister strikes at the heart of democracy at a time when it could not be more vital.

GB News also called itself the “people’s channel” and the “independently selected group of undecided voters” questioned Mr Sunak “robustly, intelligently, and freely”.

The channel also said that the Ofcom ruling was a “watershed moment that should terrify anyone who believes, as we do, that the media’s role is to give a voice to the people of the United Kingdom”.


11:00 AM BST

GB News at risk of fine after breaking impartiality rules

GB News faces a sanction from the media regulator after it found that the broadcaster broke impartiality rules.

Ofcom said it is “starting the process for consideration of a statutory sanction against GB News” after finding that a “People’s Forum” programme featuring Rishi Sunak represented “a serious and repeated breach”.

Ofcom received 547 complaints about the live, hour-long programme broadcast in February, in which the Prime Minister took part in a question-and-answer session with a studio audience about the Government’s policies and performance.

Ofcom said GB News' programme People's Forum: The Prime Minister broke impartiality rules
Ofcom said GB News' programme People's Forum: The Prime Minister broke impartiality rules - GB NEWS/MATT POVER

10:48 AM BST

Summer rate cuts ‘possible’, says Bank deputy Broadbent

The Bank of England is on course to cut interest rates as soon as this summer, its Deputy Governor has said.

Our deputy economics editor Tim Wallace has the details:

Ben Broadbent said: “If things continue to evolve with [Bank] forecasts - forecasts that suggest policy will have to become less restrictive at some point - then it’s possible Bank Rate could be cut some time over the summer.”

Rates have been on hold at 5.25pc since August of last year. Financial markets anticipate a cut to 5pc in June or August, with another to follow in the autumn.

Mr Broadbent is the longest-serving member of the Monetary Policy Committee.

Since he joined the panel of rate-setters in 2011, he has never been out-voted in his interest rate or quantitative easing decisions, so his intervention in the debate on borrowing costs is particularly significant.

He is leaving the MPC this summer, so has one last vote in next month’s policy meeting.


09:58 AM BST

Ryanair forced to slash summer fares to £17

Ryanair is being forced to sell tickets at a discount in the face of lower than expected demand from summer holidaymakers.

Our transport industry editor Christopher Jasper has the details:

The budget carrier said that a lack of mid-week bookings was forcing it to resort to special offers in order to fill some flights. The weekend market has been stronger.

It came as the company appointed Amber Rudd, a former Tory cabinet minister and leading critic of Brexit, as a non-executive director.

Neil Sorahan, chief financial officer, said that the company had launched a wave of  €19.99 (£17) ticket offers.

He said: “Bookings for the summer are strong and our load factors are good, but we’re having to run slightly more €19.99 offers than we’d expected to fill some of those midweek flights.”

Read how demand has been softer than expected.

Ryanair has slashed fares
Ryanair has slashed fares - Chris Radburn/PA Wire

09:49 AM BST

Keywords Studios shares surge as £2bn takeover offer deals fresh blow to City

Shares in video games services company Keywords Studios rocketed in early trading after it said it is in advanced talks to be taken private in a £2bn deal that delivers another blow to the City.

The company - which has worked on Fortnite, Call of Duty and Baldur’s Gate 3 - was up as much as 69.9pc to just below £2.50 after it confirmed the discussions about a possible £2.55p per share with European private equity group EQT.

Keywords Studios, established in 1998, floated in London in 2013.

Bosses said they were minded to accept EQT’s possible offer, having previously rejected four prior proposals.

The company said the latest offer represents a “significant increase from the initial proposal”.

It comes amid a flurry of foreign investor interest in UK companies amid suppressed market valuations in the City.

Last month, US private equity group Thoma Bravo agreed to buy UK cybersecurity company Darktrace for about £4.2bn.

Keywords Studios has worked on games franchises including Fortnite
Keywords Studios has worked on games franchises including Fortnite

09:36 AM BST

Victoria Plumbing buys arch rival in £22.5m deal

Victorian Plumbing has bought its arch rival online bathroom retailer Victoria Plum in a deal worth £22.5m.

The takeover comes just over six months after Victoria Plum plunged into administration and was bought in a so-called pre-pack deal to AHK Designs.

Victorian Plumbing said a cost-cutting plan was already under way at Doncaster-based Victoria Plum, given its recent administration process.

It brings together the two long-standing rivals, which met in court over a trademark dispute eight years ago.

Mark Radcliffe, chief executive of Victorian Plumbing, said the deal was “another exciting strategic milestone” for the company.

“The acquisition aligns with our ambitions to accelerate our growth,” he said.

“We are pleased to welcome the existing Victoria Plum team to our group and look forward to continuing to provide customers with a fantastic range of bathroom products and accessories.”

Victorian Plumbing is headquartered in Skelmersdale, Lancashire, and employs 600 staff across nine sites in Lancashire, Manchester and Birmingham.

The firm said it expects Victoria Plum to “broadly” break even in the second half of 2024.


09:21 AM BST

Uber to offer drivers £5,000 grant to switch to electric cars

Uber is making £5,000 grants available to its drivers in London who switch to an electric vehicle (EV).

The ride-hailing app company announced the measure to help it meet its previous commitment that all Uber vehicles in the capital will be fully electric by the end of 2025.

Drivers can spend their grant cash as a lump sum on an EV purchase, or on weekly payments for rental or rent-to-buy agreements.

Uber has also secured discounts of £12,000 to £17,000 on selected EVs for its drivers.

Around a quarter of miles for Uber journeys in London are in electric cars. There are more than 100,000 Uber vehicles in the UK, with around half in London.

Uber’s UK general manager Andrew Brem said:

Now is the time to speed up on electrification, not slow down.

We cannot reach our collective zero-emission goals without continued action from policymakers and investment across the industry.


09:10 AM BST

Clock ticking on BHP’s mining mega-deal with Anglo-American

Mining behemoth BHP must overcome major hurdles to salvage its faltering pursuit of rival Anglo American, analysts have said, as a midweek deadline for its takeover bid approaches.

UK-listed Anglo American has already knocked back two attempts by the Australian giant, which has until 5pm on Wednesday to up its offer, walk away, or launch a hostile takeover at enormous risk.

Any deal between two of the world’s largest resources companies would fundamentally reshape the sector, with far-reaching consequences for commodities markets and the global energy transition.

The latest bid sits at £34bn, which would rank as one of the largest mining deals ever seen.

MineLife analyst Gavin Wendt said Anglo American’s disinterested board had kept the larger competitor at bay for now. He said:

Firstly, the biggest challenge for BHP so far is Anglo’s unwillingness to engage within the context of a very tight timeline.

Anglo has already rejected two non-binding proposals from BHP, based on valuation and complexity.


08:58 AM BST

FTSE 100 rises after gold and copper records

The FTSE 100 has moved higher in early trading amid a boost from metal miners after gold and copper hit record highs overnight.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 was up 0.3pc, while the mid-cap FTSE 250 climbed 0.4pc.

Precious metal miners and industrial metal miners led gains, as gold prices surged and copper hit an all-time peak.

Safe-haven gold rose after a helicopter crash which killed Iran’s president, while copper has been boosted by China rolling out property stimulus measures and upbeat industrial output data. There are also concerns about supply.

Traders are looking forward to a speech later by the Bank of England’s Deputy Governor Ben Broadbent, which could offer clues that could signal the timing of the first interest rate cut.

In corporate news, shares of AstraZeneca lost 0.5pc as the pharma giant announced plans to build a $1.5bn (£1.2bn) manufacturing facility in Singapore.

Keywords Studios jumped 63.3pc as European private equity group EQT entered advanced talks to buy the Dublin-based video game services company for £2.2bn.


08:28 AM BST

Oil edges higher after Iran helicopter crash

The price of oil has inched upwards after the crash which killed Iran’s president.

Brent crude, the international benchmark, rose 0.4pc to a one-week high of $84.33 after the aircraft came down in a mountainous area in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province.

The Middle East also faces potential turmoil from Saudi Arabia.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman postponed a planned four-day trip to Japan due to concerns over the king’s health.

News of the cancellation came after the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported that Prince Mohammed’s father, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz, is suffering from inflammation of the lung and will be receiving antibiotics at Al Salam Palace in Jeddah.

MBS, who handles most day-to-day affairs in the kingdom, is next in line to the throne.

Warren Patterson, head of commodities strategy for ING, said:

The market has become increasingly numb to geopolitical developments, and the large amount of spare Opec production is likely contributing to this.

We may have to wait for further clarity from Opec+ on its output policy to break out of the range.


08:18 AM BST

UK markets open higher ahead of inflation figures

The FTSE 100 began the week higher as investors await key inflation figures this week which could pave the way for the Bank of England to cut interest rates.

The UK’s blue-chip stock index rose 0.2pc to 8,440.50 while the midcap FTSE 250 has risen 0.4pc to 20,831.97.

The latest inflation figures, which are expected to show a sharp drop towards the Bank of England’s 2pc target, will be published on Wednesday.


08:12 AM BST

Value of Meadowhall Shopping Centre halved after British Land deal

The value of one of Britain’s most prominent shopping centres has been cut in half in less than a decade, as British Land sold its stake in the site for £360m deal.

The commercial property developer has sold its share in the Meadowhall Shopping Centre in Sheffield to Norway’s sovereign wealth fund.

Together with the £7m sale of some land earlier this year, the deal values the 200-acre Meadowhall estate, which sits next to the M1 motorway, at £734m in total.

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund originally invested in the shopping centre in 2012, buying a 50pc stake in a deal which valued the site at £1.5bn.

British Land said the sale was in line with its aim to shift away from covered shopping centres in favour of investing in retail parks.

Simon Carter, chief executive of British Land, said:

We have had a successful partnership with Norges over many years and are delighted to continue to work alongside them as asset managers of the centre.

Following the sale of Meadowhall, 93pc of our portfolio is now in our preferred segments of retail parks, campuses and London urban logistics.

Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield was valued at £1.5bn in 2012, but is worth £734m now
Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield was valued at £1.5bn in 2012, but is worth £734m now - BBC/LION TV

07:49 AM BST

AstraZeneca to build £1.2bn factory in Singapore

AstraZeneca has announced plans to build a $1.5bn (£1.2bn) factory in Singapore as the drugs giant expands its manufacturing footprint around the world.

The plant will be Astra’s first antibody drug-conjugate facility to produce the medicines from start to finish.

It is part of a global shift by drugmakers to ensure they have local manufacturing capacity for their products.

The company two months ago committing to a new £650m vaccine factory in Liverpool.

AstraZeneca will open a new factory in Singapore
AstraZeneca will open a new factory in Singapore - REUTERS/Phil Noble

07:39 AM BST

Ryanair ‘optimistic’ air fares will not face sharp increase this summer

Ryanair said it was “cautiously optimistic” that air fares will not rise sharply this summer season despite it receiving fewer new planes than expected.

The Irish carrier revealed profits grew by 34pc to a record €1.9bn (£1.6bn) last year.

Ryanair said it would be 23 jets short of the number Boeing was due to deliver by the end of July and there remained a risk - although “unlikely” - that deliveries could slip further.

It also revealed that former home secretary Amber Rudd would join the company as a non-executive director.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary warned two weeks ago that summer airfares would likely be lower than the 5pc to 10pc rise it expected as recently as late April.

The airline said on Monday its weaker forecast was “heavily dependent” on last-minute summer bookings.

The low-cost carrier flew a record 184m passengers in the year to the end of March.

It also announced a €700m share buyback that it said it would formally launch later this week.

Ryanair expects air fares to remain flat or modestly ahead of last summer
Ryanair expects air fares to remain flat or modestly ahead of last summer - TOMS KALNINS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

07:26 AM BST

Copper hits record high amid fears of supply shortage

Gold was not the only metal hitting record highs overnight.

Copper jumped to a fresh all-time peak amid expectations that increased demand will lead to supply shortages.

The price of copper on the London Metal Exchange rose above $11,000 a ton for the first time.

Prices have gained more than a quarter since the start of this year.


07:18 AM BST

Good morning

Thanks for joining me. Gold jumped to fresh record highs after Iran’s president was killed in a helicopter crash.

Bullion jumped as much as 1.1pc to hit $2,440.59 an ounce after Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and all the other passengers onboard died when the aircraft came down in northwest Iran.

His death has added to tensions in the Middle East, which analysts said increases the appeal of the metal, which is considered a safe haven in times of turmoil.

However, in a sign that markets were less concerned about the threat of instability, the price of oil remained relatively steady at $84 a barrel.

Nicholas Frappell, global head of institutional markets at ABC Refinery in Sydney, said: “Gold’s rally is news-driven with uncertainty about what happened in Iran.

“There is bound to be an element of jumping to conclusions on the basis of very little information.”

The rise in gold also comes amid optimism that the US Federal Reserve will make two interest rate cuts this year after inflation figures last week were lower than expected.

That offered support for the precious metal, which is priced in the dollar.

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What happened overnight

Asian stocks advanced after the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 40,000 for the first time on Friday.

Gold hit a record high and oil prices edged higher as investors focused on the Middle East, where a helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and other officials crashed in the mountainous northwest reaches of Iran overnight.

China’s market extended last week’s gains after the central bank announced new support for the property industry, including cutting required down payments for housing loans, cutting mortgage interest rates for first and second home purchases and removing a mortgage rate floor.

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong added 0.5pc to 19,648.19, with its property index up 0.6pc by midday. The Shanghai Composite index advanced 0.3pc to 3,162.08.

China’s central bank left the one- and five-year loan prime rate unchanged at 3.45pc and 3.95pc, in line with expectations.

The one-year LPR serves as the benchmark for most new and outstanding loans in China, while the five-year rate affects the pricing of property mortgages.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index surged 1.4pc to 39,346.92. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.6pc to 7,862.70. The Kospi in Korea rose 0.6pc to 2,741.55.

Elsewhere, Taiwan’s Taiex edged 0.1pc higher after Lai Ching-te was inaugurated as Taiwan’s new president. Lai is expected to uphold the island’s de facto independence policy from China and seek to bolster its defenses against Beijing, which claims the island as Chinese territory.

In Bangkok, the SET was up 0.3pc.