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FTSE 100 drops 2pc on recession worries
Ben Wright: Germany’s economic foundations are collapsing
Norway has moved to prevent strikes that would have put Britain’s gas supplies at risk.
In an extraordinary intervention, the Norwegian government halted the industrial action, ending a stalemate that could have worsened Europe’s energy supply crunch.
The developments mean that Britain’s gas supplies are unlikely to be disrupted on Saturday.
The Sleipner field, a North Sea hub for British fossil fuel, was at risk of being shut down at the weekend owing to a dispute over pay.
Norwegian oil and gas workers had already closed three fields by yesterday and three more were expected to follow today, affecting about 13pc of Norway’s total gas exports. A further three fields, including Sleipner, were due to shut on Saturday.
“Workers are going back to work as soon as possible. We are cancelling the planned escalation,” Lederne union leader Audun Ingvartsen told Reuters. Asked whether the strike was over, he said: “Yes”.
The labour ministry separately confirmed it had exercised its right to intervene.
“Norway plays a vital role in supplying gas to Europe, and the planned escalation [of the strike] would have had serious consequences, for Britain, Germany and other nations,” Labour Minister Marte Mjoes Persen told Reuters.
Alfred Hansen, the director of system operations for Gassco, Norway’s state-owned pipeline operator, said closures risked choking off the business’s supplies to the Easington terminal off the Yorkshire coast.
About 80-90pc of Gassco’s supply to the UK is delivered via Easington, with the rest going through a terminal at St Fergus. The closure of the Sleipner field would also affect supplies to Belgium, Mr Hansen said.
Norway is the UK’s largest gas supplier, providing 32 billion cubic metres (bcm) of the 76bcm of gas consumed by the UK last year, with demand strongest in winter.
Tuesday evening, about 30pc of Britain’s gas was being supplied through the Easington terminal.
Josef Pospisil, utilities specialist at Fitch Ratings, argued that a short-term fall in supply would not have a major impact on the UK, given the large volumes it receives from other countries shipped in from around the world.
However, the strike action comes amid heightened fears over gas supplies following Russia’s war on Ukraine amid fears Russia’s supplies to Europe will be cut off.
That's all from me today – thanks for following! Laura Onita will take over from here.
Whiskas and Pedigree pet food pulled from Tesco shelves in new price row
Whiskas and Pedigree pet food is disappearing from Tesco’s shelves in a fresh row over prices, writes Laura Onita.
The items are running low in supermarkets and online after Mars, the US owner of the brands, paused supplies. The company also owns the Sheba and Cesar pet food brands. Mars’ chocolate and confectionery products are not affected by the dispute.
A Mars spokesman said they were aware that some of their pet products were currently out of stock at Tesco stores, but declined to comment “on individual commercial relationships and situations”.
A Tesco spokesperson said they were “laser-focused on keeping the cost of the weekly shop in check”. The supermarket will continue to sell its remaining stock of Mars pet food.
Major brands are seeking to pass on rising costs to supermarkets as they grapple with higher raw materials, energy and labour costs.
Supermarkets, meanwhile, are trying to keep price increases to a minimum in the face of rising inflation and a slump in consumer confidence.
Zimbabwe to sell solid gold coins after local currency collapses
Zimbabwe will begin selling gold coins to the public in an attempt to rid the crisis-wracked country of triple-digit inflation after a collapse in the local currency.
Tom Rees has more:
The "Mosi-oa-tunya" coins, which are named after the Victoria Falls, will act as an alternative store of value and can be converted into cash and traded as officials attempt to shore up the crumbling Zimbabwean dollar.
The country is desperately trying to battle the crisis caused by inflation hitting almost 200pc in June and a slump in the local currency.
The Zimbabwean dollar has shed more than two-thirds of its value against the US dollar this year.
The deteriorating situation in the African country has echoes of the economic collapse and hyperinflation suffered during ex-dictator Robert Mugabe’s reign. It has one of the highest inflation rates in the world.
The gold coins will be available for sale from July 25 and their cost will be based on international gold prices and the cost of production. They will contain one troy ounce of gold and can be bought in local or foreign currencies.
Pound drops to two-year low against dollar
It's not just a bad day for the euro – the pound is struggling, too.
Sterling slumped to a two-year low against the dollar as traders flocked to safe-haven currencies amid renewed recession fears.
Strikes in Norway rekindled worries about energy supplies to Europe and pushed natural gas prices higher, spurring on more fears about inflation.
The pound fell 1.4pc against the dollar to $1.1930 – its lowest level since the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020.
Wall Street slumps on recession woes
Wall Street's main indices have started the day firmly in the red as investors fret about rising interest rates and the risk of a recession.
The benchmark S&P 500 and tech-heavy Nasdq fell 1.8pc. The Dow Jones was down 1.6pc.
FTSE 100 extends losses
The FTSE 100 has extended its losses in early afternoon trading as recession fears returned to markets.
The blue-chip index dropped just shy of 2pc. There were losses across the board, but oil giants BP and Shell and miners such as Glencore were among the biggest drags as commodity prices fell.
Financial stocks including HSBC, Barclays and Prudential also sank after the Bank of England told lenders to brace for an economic storm.
Strikes threaten to cut Norway's gas exports by 60pc
A strike by workers in Norway could cut the country's gas exports by more than half by the end of the week – just as Europe grapples with lower supplies from Russia.
The Norwegian Oil and Gas Association said almost 60pc of exports could be hit when the industrial action is ramped up later in the week.
Energy giant Equinor today said it had shut down production at three oil and gas fields after oil workers walked out following failed wage negotiations, and warned that more closures were expected.
UK gas prices jumped 7.7pc, while the European benchmark was up 2.7pc
The group said:
Norwegian deliveries account for a quarter of European energy supplies, and Europe is entirely dependent on Norway delivering as a nation at a time when Russian supply cuts have created a very tight market for natural gas.
A strike on this scale poses huge problems for countries which are wholly dependent on filling up their gas stores ahead of the autumn and winter.
City bank sublets offices after home working leaves them deserted
UBS is subletting two floors of its London headquarters after remote working left the bank with an excess of empty desks, writes Patrick Mulholland.
Switzerland’s largest lender introduced a global flexible working policy last summer, allowing two-thirds of its total 73,000 employees to permanently combine remote and office working.
It has now decided to sublet two of the 12-storeys at 5 Broadgate, reported the Financial Times, as staff stay at home post-pandemic.
UBS moved the majority of its 6,200-strong UK workforce into the building - which overlooks Liverpool Street Station and is one of the biggest in the City - in 2015, and has a lease until 2035. It is understood the bank is still seeking tenants for the vacant floors.
The decision comes after three-quarters of London’s workers say they will never return to their old routine of commuting into the office every day, with an aversion to rush-hour traffic being cited as the top reason, according to a study last month from the Policy Institute and King’s College London.
40pc of travel insurance policies don't cover strikes
If you're planning a holiday this summer, you may want to check your travel insurance.
Four in 10 UK policies don't protect against strikes, meaning insurance may not save you from summer travel misery.
That's according to consumer group Which?, which also warned that if your airline goes bankrupt, only half will refund your holiday costs.
Which? analysed 199 policies offered by 71 providers and based their ratings on 61 different features per policy.
While travel insurance can soften the financial blow from a cancelled trip, the findings suggest many travellers could still be left disappointed.
Copper sinks to 17-month low amid gloomy outlook
Copper has dropped to its lowest level in 17 months, with metals extending losses as global recession fears hit the commodity market.
Sentiment remains sour for the industrial materials used in everything from construction to new energy vehicles.
Copper, widely considered an economic bellwether, is trading solidly below $8,000 a tonne after metals posted their worst quarterly slump since the 2008 financial crisis.
Copper fell as much as 2.3pc to $7,825 a tonne on the London Metal Exchange – its lowest since February 202. All metals declined, with aluminum down 2.7pc and tin falling 3pc.
Wall Street to fall on recession jitters
Wall Street looks set to follow the FTSE 100 into the red this afternoon as traders return after the July 4 celebrations.
Markets were initially higher this morning amid reports Washington may roll back some of the trade tariffs imposed on China by former President Donald Trump.
But positive sentiment soon fizzled out, with investors turning their attention back to the dual threats of surging inflation and a looming recession.
Futures tracking the S&P 500 were down 0.5pc, while the Dow Jones lost 0.4pc. The tech-heavy Nasdaq shed 0.6pc.
How Nicola Sturgeon is squandering the Scottish economy's trump card
In frigid waters 110 miles east of Aberdeen, a discovery was made that changed Scottish politics forever, writes Tom Rees.
BP struck “black gold” in the Forties oil field in the North Sea in October 1970 – the first major finding of crude in the region.
Less than four years later, the SNP emblazoned “It’s Scotland’s Oil” across posters as they wasted little time in staking their claim on the vast reserves. The nationalists’ breakout performances in the two 1974 general elections then became the economic blueprint for the 2014 independence vote.
But since the defeat that year, Nicola Sturgeon has ditched what was once fertile ground for the nationalists, over climate concerns, as she eyes another referendum in October 2023.
Royal Mail managers announce strike dates
We've got another update on the summer of discontent now, courtesy of the striking posties.
Trade union Unite said 2,400 Royal Mail managers will work to rule from July 15-19, followed by strike action on July 20-22.
The union said its members had no choice but to strike over what it branded "ruinous" proposals to cut 700 jobs and slash pay by up to £7,000.
Sharon Graham, United general secretary, said:
This business is awash with cash but it is putting profits and dividends for the few at the top ahead of its duties as a public service.
There is not a single aspect of these cuts which is about improving customer service. They are being driven entirely by a culture of greed and profiteering which has seized a 500 year-old essential service, driving it close to ruin.
Shell invests in Qatar's $29bn LNG project
Shell has become the latest energy company to invest in Qatar's $29bn (£24bn) project to boost exports of liquefied natural gas as Europe races to wean itself off Russian energy.
The FTSE 100 company will take a 6.25pc stake in the North Field East expansion project, which will increase Qatar’s LNG production capacity from 77m to 110 million tonnes annually by 2026.
TotalEnergies and Exxon will also hold 6.25pc stakes.
It comes as Europe rushes to find new sources of energy as it looks to cut ties with Moscow following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Putin last week signed a decree that seizes full control of the Sakhalin-2 gas and oil project in Russia's Far East – a move that could force out major investor Shell.
UK services sector struggles as new orders slump
The UK services sector suffered the worst growth in new orders since February 2021 in June as surging inflation and wider economic gloom hit spending.
The S&P Global Services PMI index registered 54.3 in June, up slightly from 53.4 in May. However, the average reading in the second quarter was well below that seen in the first three months of the year.
Higher inflation and worries about the economic outlook led to hesitancy in relation to new orders during June. The overall rate of new business expansion was only marginal and the weakest seen for 16 months
The economic gloom is taking its toll on businesses, with bosses reporting the lowest degree of optimism since May 2020.
BoE calls for tougher crypto rules after $2 trillion crash
The Bank of England has also used its Financial Stability Report to call for tougher regulation of the crypto market.
It said a $2 trillion plunge in the value of cryptoassets highlighted vulnerabilities in the market and the need for tougher law enforcement and regulation.
The market capitalisation of the sector has tumbled to about $900bn from a peak of almost $3 trillion late last year.
The Bank said "extreme volatility" in recent months showed weaknesses in the market that led to fire sales, warning that further declines in prices could be amplified.
Regulators in the UK and Europe have been toughening their rhetoric against the crpyto industry, warning fallout from a market crash could hurt the broader financial system.
Read more on this story: Crypto meltdown triggers feeding frenzy for jobless tech talent
Bank of England tells lenders to brace for economic storm
The Bank of England has warned that the economic outlook for Britain and the world has darkened and told banks to ramp up capital buffers to ensure they can weather the storm.
"The economic outlook for the UK and globally has deteriorated materially," the BoE said in its latest Financial Stability Report, adding that developments around the war in Ukraine would be a key factor.
The central bank said British lenders were well-placed to weather even a severe economic downturn, although it noted their capital ratios – while still strong – were expected to decline slightly in the coming quarters.
Members of the Financial Policy Committee confirmed that the BoE will double the counter-cyclical capital buffer rate to 2pc July next year, and said it could vary the rate in either direction depending on how the global economy pans out.
The CCYB rate represents an extra buffer for banks that varies depending on the economic outlook.
Six towns and cities shortlisted for Great British Railways HQ
Six English towns and cities have been shortlisted to host the headquarters of Great British Railways.
The Department for Transport revealed that Birmingham, Crewe, Derby, Doncaster, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and York are all in the running.
GBR will be a new public sector body that will oversee Britain's railways as part of an overhaul announced in the Queen's speech.
An online public vote on the six shortlisted locations has now been opened, though Grant Shapps will make the final decision later this year.
The Transport Secretary said:
Our world-leading railways have served this country well for 200 years and this is a huge step in the reforms, which will shape our network for the next 200.
Great British Railways will create a truly sustainable, modern and fair railway network for passengers and freight customers.
I'm calling on people across the country to play a key part in this once-in-a-generation reform and vote for the new home of our railways.
Want to know who’s been shortlisted to become the headquarters for Great British Railways? Watch the video to find out! 👇
The public vote to help decide who will now take the crown is open! https://t.co/j2aJ8NQUX7
— Department for Transport (@transportgovuk) July 5, 2022
Euro drops to lowest against dollar since 2002
The euro has slumped to a 20-year low against the dollar as investors scaled back bets on further interest rate rises amid a growing threat of recession.
The single currency fell as much as 0.9pc to $1.0331 – its weakest since December 2002. So far this year it's shed more than 8pc.
Money markets trimmed their bets on further rate rises by the ECB after France's services PMI was revised lower this morning.
The pound also fell against the dollar, shedding 0.3pc to $1.2083.
China's BYD overtakes Tesla for electric car sales
BYD, the Chinese car giant backed by Warren Buffett, has usurped Elon Musk's Tesla as the world's biggest electric car producer by sales.
The Shenzhen-based company sold 641,000 vehicles in the first six months of the year – a more than 300pc jump from the same period a year earlier.
That's compared to 564,000 sold by Tesla, which had a tough second quarter amid supply chain troubles and sales disruption in China.
The shake-up highlights China's growing dominance in the sector as it boosts its renewable energy capabilities.
Saga sets sights on profit as cruise demand bounces back
Over-50s group Saga has said it is on track to return to a profit thanks to a rebound in demand for cruises and holidays.
The company said it expects to swing to an underlying pre-tax profit of between £35m and £50m for 2022-23, having slumped to a £7m loss the previous year.
It said cruise bookings for this summer had been "exceptionally strong" with the load factor – how well it fills its ships – expected to hit 75pc for the full year.
Saga's holidays business is set to report a small loss for the first half and the full year, although it said this was a "much-improved" result against the previous year.
Still, Saga acknowledged the challenging backdrop of surging fuel costs, inflation and wider economic uncertainty.
The company also said it's tapped ITV chairman Sir Peter Bazalgette as senior independent non-executive director as part of a wider strategy overhaul.
Sanctioned oligarch Potanin starts nickel mega-merger talks
Russia's second richest man Vladimir Potanin has said he's ready to discuss merging his mining giant Nornickel with rival Rusal as sanctions take their toll on both companies.
Potanin, who was sanctioned by the UK last week, controls about 35pc of Nornickel and has led the company since striking a deal with aluminium producer Rusal, the company's second-largest investor.
He told Russian media a merger would create a "national champion".
Potanin said Nornickel was not under sanctions despite the measures imposed against him by the UK. The billionaire also said he wouldn't step down as chief executive.
Around 20pc of the world's nickel comes from Russia, with nearly all of that from Nornickel. The company also produces around 40pc of the world's palladium, which is used in anti-pollution devices in cars.
German gas giant Uniper in €9bn bailout talks
German energy group Uniper is said to be in talks with the Government over a potential bailout package of up to €9bn (£7.7bn).
Berlin is looking at applying a set of measures, including loans, taking an equity stake and also passing part of the surge in costs onto customers, Bloomberg reports.
Shares in the company rose as much as 9.5pc, after sinking almost a third yesterday in a move that dragged its market value to about €4bn.
Uniper, which is one of the biggest importers of Russian gas, said last week it was in talks with the Government to secure liquidity.
Germany's heavy reliance on the Kremlin's gas has left it scrambling to refill storage sites ahead of winter amid fears Putin could turn off the taps.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz has activated the second phase of the country's three-stage emergency gas plan, with the threat of rationing if the situation worsens.
Scandinavia's largest airline files for bankruptcy
Scandinavian airline SAS has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to tackle its debt burden for a second time in two years as it struggles to recover from the pandemic.
The region's biggest airline has been in talks with its creditors to convert 20bn Swedish krona (£1.6bn) of outstanding debt and hybrid notes into shares, and to raise additional equity for about $1bn.
SAS said it was in "well advanced" discussions with a number of lenders to secure additional financing. Shares fell as much as 9pc to a record low.
It comes a day after the SAS pilots' union announced they would start striking with immediate effect – a move the airline warned could put its future at stake.
FTSE risers and fallers
The FTSE 100 swung between gains and losses in early trading as recession fears were tempered by hopes of a winding back of some US tariffs on China.
The blue-chip index initially edged higher before slipping 0.2pc into the red.
Sainsbury's was the biggest riser, gaining as much as 2.6pc despite a fall in sales in the first quarter and warnings on further pain to come. Ocado also pushed higher.
Standard Chartered was the biggest faller, down 1.4pc after it was cut by analysts at KBW.
Banking stocks will be in focus when the Bank of England publishes its Financial Stability Report later this morning.
The domestically-focused FTSE 250 rose 0.5pc, putting it on track to snap a four-day run of losses.
Cost-of-living crunch hits car demand
Lisa Watson at Close Brothers Motor Finance says the cost-of-living crisis remains the biggest concern for consumers, with electricity, petrol and diesel costs all on the rise.
This means prospective car buyers are having to think not just about the upfront cost, but also the ongoing maintenance and running expenses of a vehicle. It’s clear from June’s registration data that this is dampening demand for new cars.
Alongside this contraction in demand, supply issues continue to cause huge delays. Stellantis is pulling the handbrake on production in several Citroen and Peugeot factories in France, and Ford has recently closed its order book for the new Fiesta due to production difficulties.
This follows recent difficulties for Toyota, Mini, and VW Group, worsened by the ongoing chip shortage. In reality, even customers keen to buy might be waiting until next summer for a car to land on their driveway.
UK car sales suffer worst June since 1996
There's more misery for car makers as well this morning after they recorded their worst June sales in decades.
New car registrations declined by almost a quarter to the lowest for the month since 1996, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
First-half sales fell 12pc to around 800,000 vehicles – the second-weakest results in 30 years. The full figures will be released later on today.
The dire showing reflects ongoing supply chain troubles that have led to severe shortages of key parts. The SMMT has also called for government support to help soften the blow of surging energy costs amid the shift to electric vehicles.
Sainsbury's warns worse to come as sales drop
If your travel plans are cancelled, things don't look much better at home either...
The boss of Sainsbury's has warned the pressure on household budgets "will only intensify" after the supermarket chain suffered a 4pc drop in quarterly sales.
Grocery sales fell 2.4pc over the 16 weeks to June 25, while general merchandise sales fell 11.2pc as cash-strapped consumers cut back on discretionary spending.
Chief executive Simon Roberts said Sainsbury's was doing everything it could to keep prices low.
He added: "The pressure on household budgets will only intensify over the remainder of the year and I am very clear that doing the right thing for our customers and colleagues will remain at the very top of our agenda."
The UK's second biggest supermarket said it still expected underlying pre-tax profit for the year to be between £630m and £690m.
The company also said its chief financial officer Kevin O'Byrne would retire in March 2023 and would be suceeded by commercial and retail finance director Blathnaid Bergin.
British Airways cancels July flights for 105,000 holidaymakers
It's planes, trains and automobiles when it comes to travel chaos this summer.
After motorists staged protests over fuel prices and with more rail strikes looming, now British Airways is axing flights for up to 105,000 holidaymakers this month.
Britain’s biggest airline has told airport slot authorities that it is cancelling more than 650 flights from Heathrow and Gatwick in order to avoid a repeat of last month’s travel chaos.
More than 76,000 seats are being axed from Heathrow and 29,400 from Gatwick on flights to more than 70 destinations including Malaga, Ibiza, Palma, Faro and Athens.
That's ahead of a further series of cancellations to summer flights, due to be announced this week and aimed at minimising disruption in the peak holiday season.
FTSE 100 opens higher
The FTSE 100 has edged higher at the open as markets continue to rebound from last week's sell-off.
The blue-chip index was up 0.3pc to 7,251 points.
Can the strikes be stopped?
The threat of more strikes comes amid an escalating dispute over pay and conditions as inflation heads towards 11pc later this year.
The RMT annual general meeting is taking place in Birmingham this week. Talks with train operators and Network Rail to find a breakthrough are scheduled to restart next Monday.
Results from the TSSA ballots to train companies and Network Rail are due in the next two weeks. Meanwhile, the union’s workforce at Avanti West Coast has already voted in favour of industrial action.
The Government is threatening new "minimum service agreements" that would require a certain number of services to run, though these laws could take months to finalise.
A Government spokesman said:
We want to see rail unions engage fully with their employers, instead Aslef are first seeking to cause further misery to passengers by joining others in disrupting the rail network.
The rail industry is in desperate need of modernisation to make it work better for passengers and be financially sustainable for the long term.
Passengers brace for new wave of rail strikes
It looks like more misery is ahead on Britain's railways as three major unions plan a fresh wave of strikes.
Aslef is balloting drivers at 10 train companies. It said staff at three of these had already voted for industrial action, meaning the walkouts will likely be coordinated to create a national strike.
What's more, the RMT and TSSA are also planning more action, and the unions are expected to stagger strikes to inflict maximum pain for passengers.
Rail bosses fear there could be as few as one in 10 trains running on strike days. Even if there are gaps between strikes, passengers face reduced service on so-called “shoulder days” when only 60pc of trains typically run.
Read more here from my colleague Oliver Gill.
Train drivers threaten first strike since 1995
The summer of discontent looks set to worsen after UK train drivers threatened their first national strike in more than 25 years.
Aslef, the drivers’ union, will ballot on industrial action at 10 train companies to coincide with similar action by the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), which represents station and ticket office workers.
That follows a walkout by the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union last month, which sparked the biggest disruption on British railways in a generation.
The Telegraph reported over the weekend that the unions will coordinate strike action over the summer in a move that could leave just one in 10 trains running and cause disruption for days on end.
It's the latest example of unrest over the cost-of-living crisis as inflation soars. Strikes are also planned at companies including BT and Royal Mail, while motorists yesterday blocked motorways in protest over surging fuel prices.
5 things to start your day
1) Approve a mini nuclear reactor or delay green revolution, Johnson told: Rolls-Royce warns it will miss target to deploy technology unless Government acts fast
2) Church of England borrows money to fund net zero drive: The church hires several wall street giants to gauge market interest about a bond sale
3) The secret billionaire scrap dealer making a killing on car shortages: Scrap merchant founded by 'god of metal recycling' emerges as one of the UK’s largest private companies
4) Milk does not make cereal healthier, High Court rules: Judges rule against Kellogg's after it took the Government to court over plans to tackle childhood obesity
5) Kremlin slashes spending by £24bn as West's sanctions batter Russia: Defence, technology and transport budgets are all set to be trimmed, according to Russian media
What happened overnight
Hong Kong shares opened with gains this morning amid speculation that US President Joe Biden is preparing to wind back some of the tariffs imposed on Chinese goods by Donald Trump.
The Hang Seng Index rose 1pc.
The Shanghai Composite Index climbed 0.2pc, while the Shenzhen Composite Index inched up 0.2pc. Tokyo stocks also opened higher, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 index gaining 0.7pc.
Coming up today
Corporate: J Sainsbury, Saga (Trading updates)
Economics: Composite PMI, services PMI (UK, EU); financial stability report (UK); factory orders (US)