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Oil hits six-month high as Israel braces for Iran attack

Israel Iran strike Middle East oil energy
Israel is bracing for potential strikes by Iran - Amir Cohen

Oil prices have jumped to their highest level in six months amid reports Israel is bracing for a potential attack by Iran.

Israeli authorities are said to be preparing for drone or missile attacks on government targets that could come within the next 48 hours.

The US is preparing defences and has moved additional resources to the region, while diplomatic efforts to de-escalate tensions are ongoing.

However, oil markets were sent into turmoil as traders feared a widening of the conflict in the Middle East.

Benchmark Brent crude rose towards $92 a barrel, marking its highest since October, when Hamas launched its attack on Israel.


Read the latest updates below.

06:16 PM BST

Signing off...

Thanks for joining us on the blog this week. We’ll be back next week with all the latest from the markets, but I’ll leave you with news that the the billionaire Bitcoin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss have become co-owners of a semi-professional football team in England.

American twins Cameron, left, and Tyler Winklevoss row as part of the Oxford University Blue Boat team during a training session in Putney, 2010
American twins Cameron, left, and Tyler Winklevoss row as part of the Oxford University Blue Boat team during a training session in Putney, 2010 - Ben Stansall/AFP

06:13 PM BST

Husband and wife behind Charles Tyrwhitt pay themselves £20m

The husband and wife behind the shirtmaker Charles Tyrwhitt bagged a windfall of more than £21m last year as a return to offices revived demand for tailoring. Hannah Boland reports:

The £21.2m payout for the year to July 2023 to founder Nicholas Wheeler and his wife, Chrissie Rucker, is the first since 2020, latest accounts show.

Of that, £11.7m was paid out to the couple during the year, with the remaining £9.5m used to offset a loan the shirtmaker provided to the pair’s holding company.

The shirtmaker is controlled by Mr Wheeler and Ms Rucker via their company Bectin Ltd. Ms Rucker founded The White Company, which is also owned by Bectin.

The payout comes after sales at the retailer jumped more than 45pc last year to hit £269m, significantly higher than pre-pandemic revenues of £189m.

It comes as demand for shirts rebounds with more companies pushing for employers to be in the office regularly, following the Covid remote working boom.

Read the full story...

05:46 PM BST

Footise closed close to all-time high

The FTSE 100 came within touching distance of an all-time high on Friday, driven by a rally for mining stocks and fresh evidence that the UK economy is edging its way out of recession.

The blue-chip index was a whisker away from surpassing 8,047 points, the record it reached in February last year, but retreated in the afternoon.

It closed or 0.91pc higher, reaching 7,995.58.

At one point in the day it was 1.5pc higher, lifted by mining giants including precious metals miner Fresnillo which saw gains of more than 7pc.

The stocks have been buoyed by gold prices hitting record highs and surging oil prices.

Investors were also in better spirits as official data showed that the UK economy grew in February, albeit by just 0.1pc.

But it signalled that the country was taking tentative steps out of the shallow recession it dipped into at the end of the year.

04:13 PM BST

Apple shares rise after reports of new Macs with AI-focused chips

Apple shares could be back in favour with the markets after reports that the company is planning to refresh its range of Macs with new processors designed with AI in mind

Shares have performed poorly since the start of the year amid concerns that the computer and consumer electronics giant lacks a coherent strategy for artificial intelligence.

They are down more than 5pc since January 1. But yesterday they jumped 4.3pc, and they have edged up slightly today as well.

Anthony Saglimbene, chief market strategist at Ameriprise Financial, told Bloomberg:

Any announcement that pushes AI into consumer hardware could be very beneficial for Apple. However, the impact is yet to be determined.

Daniel Skelly, head of Morgan Stanley’s wealth management market research and strategy team, said:

We think Apple will come back ... It is hard to bet against some of the perennial winners forever ...

It has all these defensive qualities, like its cash flow, balance sheet and buybacks. It will start outlining more clarity and visibility around its AI pipeline, and while it may not be this year, expectations are building for an AI-enabled iPhone. In other words, it is becoming increasingly attractive.

Apple chief Tim Cook announces a new Mac Pro in June 2019
Apple chief Tim Cook announces a new Mac Pro in June 2019 - Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

03:47 PM BST

US consumers still confident in the American economy despite inflation challenge

Consumer sentiment about the US economy has ticked down but remains near a recent high, according to new data released today.

The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index slipped to 77.9 this month, down from March’s figure of 79.4. Sentiment is about halfway between its all-time low, reached in June 2022 when inflation peaked, and its pre-pandemic averages.

Joanne Hsu, director of the consumer survey, said:

Consumers are reserving judgment about the economy in light of the upcoming election, which, in the view of many consumers, could have a substantial impact on the trajectory of the economy.

An increase in petrol prices likely contributed to the decline in consumers’ outlook, according to Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. The average national price of a gallon of petrol has jumped about 7pc from a month ago.

Americans’ perceptions of future inflation also edged up, probably reflecting still-elevated prices. Consumers expect inflation to be 3.1pc a year from now, which would exceed the Federal Reserve’s 2pc target. Still, that would be below the current level of 3.5pc.

A Shell petrol station in Los Angeles, earlier this month
A Shell petrol station in Los Angeles, earlier this month - Eric Thayer/Bloomberg

03:40 PM BST

Fed won’t cut rates more than twice, BlackRock chief says

BlackRock chief Larry Fink said today that he expects the Federal Reserve to cut rates at most twice this year.

The investment giant boss said that it would be tricky for the Fed to curb inflation, according to comments made on CNBC and reported by Bloomberg.

“I think 2pc is a hard number” to achieve, Mr Fink said. “We have restructured how we frame our economic policy.”

Larry Fink, boss of BlackRock, speaks during an interview with CNBC in April 2023
Larry Fink, boss of BlackRock, speaks during an interview with CNBC in April 2023 - Brendan McDermid/Reuters

03:27 PM BST

Asda fails to fix payroll crisis as swathes of workers remain out of pocket

Asda is yet to resolve a payroll crisis that has left swathes of workers out of pocket, piling further pressure on boss Mohsin Issa.

Luke Barr has the story:

The supermarket’s internal systems have been overwhelmed by complaints since The Telegraph first revealed details of the IT meltdown last month.

An internal memo shows that almost 10,000 workers received incorrect payslips as a result of the botched systems update, with some still missing hundreds of pounds as a result.

It is understood that store managers were permitted to make £200 payments to affected staff – not enough to make up for the full shortfall, with workers up to £500 out of pocket.

Some employees were forced to use food banks or rely on payday lenders as a result.

Read Luke’s full story here


02:40 PM BST

Wall Street opens lower after bank earnings

Wall Street has opened lower this afternoon as tech stocks fell and results for some big banks disappointed investors.

The benchmark S&P 500 dropped 0.5pc, while the Dow Jones was down 0.4pc. The tech-heavy Nasdaq dropped 0.9pc.

01:50 PM BST

Apple loses bid to throw out app store lawsuit

Apple app store
Apple app store

Apple has lost its bid to throw out a lawsuit worth almost £800m over allegations the tech giant charged unfair fees on its app store.

The case, brought by 1,500 developers, alleges that Apple abused its dominant market position by charging third-party developers commissions of up to 30pc on purchases of apps or other content.

It was brought by economist Sean Ennis in the Competition Appeals Tribunal last year seeking damages for UK-based developers.

Apple has said 85pc of developers on its app store do not pay any commission at all.

Lawyers argued that developers cannot have a claim in the UK unless they were charged on purchases made through the UK app store, and attempted to have the case thrown out.

But judge Andrew Lenon rejected the bid, saying that the claim had a realistic prospect of establishing that the overcharging of commission did amount to conduct implemented in the UK.

12:52 PM BST

JP Morgan warns on lingering inflation as profits rise

JPMorgan Chase reported higher profits in the first quarter thanks to elevated interest rates and service fees as the bank’s chief executive cautioned about geopolitical uncertainty and the risk of persistent inflation.

Profits rose 6pc to $13.4bn, boosted by higher net interest income as it charged more for loans.

JPMorgan, which also cited increased asset management and investment banking fees as positive drivers, reported revenues of $41.9bn, an increase of 9pc

Markets were a weak spot, with trading revenue dropping for fixed income and flat for equities. The net interest income was also slightly short of analyst forecasts, sending shares down.

Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JP Morgan, touted “strong results” in the period, but flagged a number of concerns including “terrible” ongoing wars, a large number of “persistent inflationary pressures” and shifting monetary policy.

He said: “We do not know how these factors will play out, but we must prepare the firm for a wide range of potential environments to ensure that we can consistently be there for clients.”

12:39 PM BST

Dozens of VIPs’ phones targeted by spies

Apple has sent warnings to dozens of iPhone users in more than 90 countries that they may have been hacked by “mercenary spyware”.

Matthew Field has more:

The tech giant told customers that they are likely to have been targeted because of their jobs or public profile.

Its warning notice said: “Apple detected that you are being targeted by a mercenary spyware attack that is trying to remotely compromise the iPhone associated with your Apple ID.”

The notification warns that victims may have been targeted because of “who you are or what you do”. Reuters reported that at-risk users in 92 countries would be receiving the warning.

Apple did not name the spyware or what countries were at risk. The Economic Times reported users in India were among those who had been contacted.

However, on a support page on its website, it said similar attacks required “exceptional resources” and have historically been directed by “nation state actors” against politicians, journalists and activists.

Read more here

12:16 PM BST

BoE failings blamed on old IT

Here’s another factor that’s been blamed for the Bank of England’s dodgy forecasts - outdated IT systems.

12:13 PM BST

How the Bank of England got its forecasts wrong – again and again

The Bank of England is today seeking to get better at forecasting following a review by the former US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke.

It follows an underwhelming history of predictions by the Old Lady, from underestimating inflation and then overestimating it, to wild errors on pay growth and economic output.

Melissa Lawson explores five of its biggest recent blunders. Read her story here.

12:06 PM BST

Andrew Bailey: We don’t do hindsight

While Andrew Bailey vowed to learn from mistakes, the governor stopped short of apologising.

He said: “We do not do hindsight. I don’t think it is appropriate to consider whether we would have made different decisions.”

“Would we have communicated our decisions differently? I think the answer to that is yes we would.

“I am not using the word blame. It is not about blame. It is about causes. We went through some huge global shocks. They had an effect. We used monetary policy as appropriate to take into account and offset the effects of them.”

11:45 AM BST

Why Silicon Valley has Rishi Sunak in its sights

Rishi Sunak Silicon Valley
Rishi Sunak Silicon Valley

Rishi Sunak was all smiles in February as he gripped a shovel alongside Stephen Schwarzman, the chief executive of Blackstone, to break ground on the private equity giant’s new Mayfair base.

The Prime Minister hailed the headquarters, which will see Blackstone move from a constellation of London offices to a 10-storey site, as a “vote of confidence” in the UK economy.

There is nothing out of the ordinary about politicians brandishing digging tools at photo ops. But Sunak’s appearance alongside Schwarzman – who also recently received an honorary knighthood – set tongues wagging that he might one day occupy an office in the new building.

Our tech editor James Titcomb reports. Read his full story here.

11:12 AM BST

Pound hits five-month low

The pound has slumped to a five-month low even as new figures showed the UK economy is on track to exit recession.

Sterling was down 0.5pc against the dollar at $1.249, the lowest since mid-November, and is on track for a weekly loss of 1.1pc.

It comes amid a surge in the dollar after hot US inflation data led to markets slashing expectations of interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve.

All eyes will now turn to inflation and jobs figures due next week for signs of how the Bank of England is likely to act.

10:55 AM BST

Fiat dynasty snubs Giorgia Meloni by building flagship car outside Italy for first time

Alfa Romeo Milano
The Alfa Romeo Milano - Stellantis

The owner of Fiat has become embroiled in a fresh row with the Italian government after announcing plans to build Alfa Romeo cars outside the country for the first time.

Michael Bow has more:

Stellantis’ decision to build the new Alfa Romeo Milano in Tychy, Poland, earned a sharp rebuke from Italy’s industry minister Adolfo Urso.

Mr Urso said on Thursday: “A car called Milano cannot be produced in Poland. This is forbidden by Italian law,” referencing a 2003 law that prevents the sale of “Italian sounding” products that are not made in the country.

The minister continued: “This law stipulates that you cannot give indications that mislead consumers. So a car called Milano must be produced in Italy. Otherwise, it gives a misleading indication which is not allowed under Italian law.”

The decision to build the new vehicle in Poland marks the first time an Alfa Romeo has been entirely assembled outside of the country since the brand was founded in 1910 in Milan.

The row over the car’s assembly marks the latest spat between Stellantis, which also owns brands including Peugeot and Vauxhall alongside Fiat and Alfa Romeo, and the government of Giorgia Meloni.

Read Michael’s full story here

10:34 AM BST

Housebuilder shares jump on election hopes

UK housebuilders have enjoyed their biggest share boost so far this year amid hopes of a boost from the upcoming election.

JP Morgan upgraded its ratings on several major housebuilders, saying it expects a positive outcome for the sector regardless of who wins.

Analysts said the topic of affordable housing and reforming the planning system will continue to gain traction. “We expect the sector to continue to be at the forefront of conversations in order to attract votes,” they wrote.

A further boost to completions is expected from upcoming interest rate cuts by the Bank of England.

JP Morgan’s upgrades included Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey, Vistry and Barratt Developments.

A FTSE index tracking householder shares gained as much as 3pc, the most since December.

10:11 AM BST

China tells telecoms firms to rip out foreign chips

Beijing has ordered telecoms companies to rip out foreign chips from their core networks, in a move that mirrors the Western crackdown on Huawei.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued the directive to tear out foreign equipment by 2027 earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The move mark a major blow to US chipmakers such as Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, whose shares fell in pre-market trading.

Authorities told state-owned operators such as China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom to inspect their networks and come up with timelines to replace them.

It comes after countries including the UK and US ordered telecoms companies to remove all equipment made by Chinese tech giant Huawei from their network amid concerns about espionage, which the company has always denied.

09:47 AM BST

AstraZeneca hit by investor backlash over chief Pascal Soriot’s £19m pay deal

ICYMI - AstraZeneca has suffered an investor backlash over a £19m pay award for its chief executive, in a vote that will deepen concerns of an exodus of UK companies to the US.]

Hannah Boland has more:

Around 35pc of investors voted to reject AstraZeneca’s remuneration report and changes to its bonus plan at the company’s AGM on Thursday. The changes increase chief executive Pascal Soriot’s total reward package to £18.7m.

His remuneration was up from £16.9m in the prior year, which already made the French-born executive the highest paid boss on the FTSE 100.

Investor advisory groups had labelled Mr Soriot’s pay deal “excessive” ahead of the vote and the executive’s remuneration has become a flashpoint in a broader debate about how much to pay London Stock Exchange executives.

City figures including the boss of London’s stock market have claimed that lower pay for UK executives compared to US rivals is holding back the market.

Read Hannah’s full story here

09:32 AM BST

Attacks on Russia may disrupt diesel market, warns IEA

A wave of of Ukrainian drone attacks on Russia’s oil refineries risks disrupting global fuel markets, the International Energy Agency has warned.

Ukraine has ramped up attacks on Russia’s oil industry this year in an attempt to disrupt fuel supplies to the military and curb the Kremlin’s revenue.

About 500,000 to 600,000 barrels a day of the country’s crude processing capacity could be offline this quarter on a gross basis before offsets, according to the IEA’s monthly report.

The IEA warned the shutdown of damaged refineries of up to two months for repairs “could mean a significant loss” of Russian oil exports.

It comes after US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned that Ukrainian attacks “could have a knock-on effect” on the global energy market.

09:05 AM BST

Samsung to unveil $44bn US chip drive

Samsung chipmaking US
Samsung has received $6bn in US grants - Jung Yeon-je / AFP

Samsung is preparing to unveil a $44bn investment in US chipmaking as soon as next week as Washington tries to bring production back to the US.

The world’s biggest chipmaker plans to outline the project in Texas alongside Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Bloomberg reports.

Samsung has secured more than $6bn of government grants for an investment that’s expected to total $44bn over multiple years.

It comes as Joe Biden’s administration tries to revitalise US chipmaking after decades of production shifting to Asia and challenge the technological rise of China.

08:54 AM BST

UAE weighed up bid for BP

Here’s some more on those BP reports:

The United Arab Emirates’ state-owned oil company recently considered buying BP, but the conversations did not progress beyond preliminary discussions.

Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) ultimately decided BP would not be the right fit for its strategy while political considerations also weighed on the potential move, Reuters reported.

Shares in BP are up around 2.4pc this morning.

08:40 AM BST

FTSE 100 set for weekly gains

UK stocks are on track for weekly gains amid growing optimism about the health of Britain’s economy.

The blue-chip index rose as much as 0.8pc in early trading, while the domestically-focused FTSE 250 was up 0.7pc. Both are on track for a weekly rise.

Precious metal miners including Fresnillo led the gains as gold prices rose to an historic high. Industrial miners also rose as aluminium prices hit a two-year high.

BP shares were up more than 2pc following reports that the United Arab Emirates’ state-owned oil company recently considered buying the energy giant.

08:28 AM BST

Fortnite maker proposes Google app store reforms

Epic Games Fortnite
Epic Games is best known for Fortnite - CRISTOBAL HERRERA-ULASHKEVICH/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Fortnite maker Epic Games has asked a US judge to force Google to make some changes to its Play Store.

The request, made to a judge in California, comes after Epic won a blockbuster trial against Google over claims the tech giant abused its power as a gatekeeper for apps on the Android mobile platform.

08:16 AM BST

Watchdog tells car loan firms to brace for costs

The City watchdog has told car finance firms to start preparing for extra costs from its review of the market.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which has been reviewing historical commissions for car loans since January, said all companies need to “plan for any additional operations costs from increased complaints and, where applicable, to meet the costs of resolving those complaints”.

Lloyds, which is the biggest provide of car finance, has set aside £450m to pay possible fines and other costs. Close Brothers has said it won’t pay any dividends in 2024 as it looks to shore up its balance sheet.

By contrast, Barclays has opted not to make a provision for the probe as it has a relatively low market share and hasn’t received a material number of complaints.

08:08 AM BST

Sam Bankman-Fried appeals fraud conviction

Sam Bankman-Fried FTX crypto
Sam Bankman-Fried was handed a 25-year prison sentence - REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli/File Photo

Disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried has appealed his conviction and 25-year prison sentence for stealing $8bn from customers of his now-bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange.

The 32-year-old former billionaire was convicted in November on seven counts of fraud and conspiracy in what federal prosecutors have called one of the biggest financial frauds in US history.

His appeal could take years, and he faces a tough challenge persuading the courts that US District Judge Lewis Kaplan made significant errors that deprived Bankman-Fried of his legal rights and made the trial unfair.

08:02 AM BST

FTSE 100 opens higher

The FTSE 100 has started the day on the front foot after the latest ONS data showed the economy grew in February.

The blue-chip index rose 0.8pc as markets opened to 7,986 points.

07:54 AM BST

Oil rises as Israel braces for possible Iran attack

Away from GDP, oil prices are back on the rise this morning as Israel braces for a potential strike by Iran.

The US believes an attack on Israel is imminent in response to a strike on Iran’s diplomatic compound in Syria last week. The Wall Street Journal reported that authorities are preparing for an assault in the next two days.

Benchmark Brent crude rose above $80 a barrel after closing 0.8pc higher yesterday. West Texas Intermediate rose towards $86.

Traders are also looking ahead to a report from the International Energy Agency, due later today, which will give a view on the outlook for global supply and demand.

07:46 AM BST

Comment: Economy is still fragile

Dr Roger Barker, director of policy at the Institute of Directors, is also gloomy about the outlook:

The economy barely grew in February, which suggests that the economy is still in a fragile state. After a strong start to the year, the consumer-facing parts of the economy – particularly accommodation and food services – took a backward step.

Construction was also surprisingly weak, although there were encouraging signs of revival in production and manufacturing output.

It appears that the UK’s ascent out of the mild technical recession of last year is a relatively shallow one. Although the latest figures suggest that the UK is likely to generate positive economic growth in the first quarter, there are few signs of a strong economic rebound.

The assertion that the UK economy has decisively turned the corner, as recently asserted by the Prime Minister, is still yet to find confirmation in the data.

The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee is next due to meet on the 9 May. The weakness of February’s GDP figures will give them food for thought as they seek to determine the future course of UK interest rates.

Based on today’s figures, the case for cutting Base Rate sooner rather than later is a relatively strong one.

07:36 AM BST

Comment: UK economy ‘stuck on low-growth treadmill’

The British Chambers of Commerce has a somewhat less positive take on the situation.

Here’s head of research David Bharier:

Today’s data confirms once again that the UK economy is stuck on a low-growth treadmill.

With GDP growth of 0.2pc in the three months to February, and 0.1pc on a monthly basis - there’s little sign of the landscape changing soon. However, it may indicate that the technical recession ended at the end of last year.

Boosting business investment is fundamental to securing stronger economic growth. While business confidence remains buoyant, our latest Quarterly Economic Survey published yesterday showed continued tough business conditions with most SMEs not increasing their investment.

Firms are still facing significant cost pressures from historically high inflation and interest rates, skills shortages, and even more trade barriers with EU. Businesses desperately need a long-term economic plan that drives investment and innovation.

07:30 AM BST

Construction holds back growth

It’s not all good news though.

Construction was the real laggard in the UK economy in February, with output contracting by 1.9pc.

ONS officials blamed heavy rainfall, which delayed planning work and decreased output.

The Met Office confirmed that the southern half of the UK in particular saw more than twice the average rainfall in February 2024, and it was the fourth wettest February on record in England.

07:27 AM BST

Comment: BoE might start cutting sooner rather than later

Neil Birrell, chief investment officer at Premier Miton Investors, says:

The UK economy grew, albeit very modestly, in February, suggesting that any sort of meaningful recession will be avoided.

With inflation tracking back, the Bank of England might be persuaded to start cutting rates sooner rather than later and after the CPI data out of the US and the ECB meeting over the last week, we could well see the Fed being the last of the three to take any action on rates.

That would quite a shift over a period of a few months.

07:25 AM BST

Comment: Recovery underway, but inflation will still fall

Paul Dales, chief UK economist at Capital Economics, is more focused on interest rates.

The 0.1pc rise in GDP in February and the upward revision to the gain in January from 0.2pc to 0.3pc all-but confirms the recession ended in the fourth quarter.

But while we expect a better economic recovery than most, we doubt it will be strong enough to prevent inflation (and interest rates) from falling much further as appears to be happening in the US.

GDP would need to fall by an unlikely 1.0pc or more in March for the economy to contract in the first quarter as a whole. As a result, we can safely say that, after lasting just two quarters and involving a total fall in GDP of just 0.4pc or so, the recession ended in the first quarter.

But while we expect the recovery to be stronger than the Bank and the consensus, our sense is that it won’t be strong enough to prevent inflation from falling much further, which appears to be happening in the US.

As a result, we think CPI inflation in the UK will fall below US CPI inflation in April and that the Bank of England may first cut interest rates from 5.25pc in June and reduce them to 3pc next year rather than to 4pc as investors expect.

07:22 AM BST

Comment: Recession exit a ‘racing certainty’

Suren Thiru, economics director at ICAEW, is confident Britain is out of recession.

February’s uptick in GDP suggests that the UK economy is gaining some momentum from the boost to people’s incomes and confidence from falling inflation.

It’s a racing certainty that the UK exited recession in the first quarter with output likely to have picked up further in March, particularly with the earlier Easter holiday lifting activity in key sectors, including retail.

While recession concerns are disappearing into the rear-view mirror, the longer-term outlook is still difficult, with the lagged impact of earlier interest rate hikes and chronic supply side constraints likely to continue limiting the UK’s growth potential.

This GDP increase may give those rate setters still concerned about persistent price pressures sufficient reassurance on the economy to keep interest rates higher for longer than many expect.

07:18 AM BST

UK economy grows in February

It’s an upbeat start to the day as the latest ONS stats show the UK economy grew 0.1pc.

Liz McKeown, ONS director of economic statistics, said:

The economy grew slightly in February with widespread growth across manufacturing, particularly in the car sector. Services also grew a little with public transport and haulage, and telecommunications having strong months.

Partially offsetting this there were notable falls across construction as the wet weather hampered many building projects.

Looking across the last three months as a whole, the economy grew for the first time since last summer.

07:10 AM BST

5 things to start your day

5 things to start your day

1) AstraZeneca hit by investor backlash over chief Pascal Soriot’s £19m pay deal | Vote to reject remuneration deepens concerns over London stock market exodus

2) BP draws takeover interest from UAE oil giant |

3) No evidence diverse management teams boost profits, says study | New research disputes claims diversity is a ‘business imperative’ that drives financial results

4) Fiat dynasty snubs Giorgia Meloni by building flagship car outside Italy for first time | Industry minister claims building new Alfa Romeo in Poland is ‘forbidden by Italian law’

5) Telegraph faces financial stability threat from Barclay family | Lloyds’ knowledge of suspicious transactions could prompt it to withdraw financing

What happened overnight

The S&P 500 rose 0.7pc, to 5,199.06. The Nasdaq Composite charged up by 1.7%, to a record 16,442.20. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which has less of an emphasis on tech, was the laggard. It slipped by less than 0.1pc, to 38,459.08.

Meanwhile, the yield on the 10-year Treasury bonds rose to 4.57pc from 4.55pc late on Wednesday.

Shares fell at the open of business in Hong Kong on Friday as tech firms suffered early selling, while traders shrugged off a positive lead from Wall Street.

The Hang Seng Index slipped 0.68pc, or 116.33 points, to 16,978.70, the Shanghai Composite Index was flat, nudging up 1.33 points to 3,035.58. And the Shenzhen Composite Index on China’s second exchange also barely moved, inching down 0.60 points to 1,721.00.

Tokyo stocks opened higher, the benchmark Nikkei 225 index up 0.65pc, or 257.37 points, at 39,700.00 in early trade, while the broader Topix index added 0.50pc, or 13.77 points, to 2,760.73.