European stocks bounced back strongly as investors’ nerves settled following last week’s bond-driven panic. The FTSE 100 surged 1.6pc to 6,588.5, broadly in line with a wider recovery across the Continent from Friday’s sharp drop.
Bond yields fell as prices rose across Europe, with central bankers and politicians shrugging off the danger of a looming rise in inflation.
The FTSE 100’s gains were spearheaded by housebuilders, with Taylor Wimpey, Barratt Developments, Persimmon and Berkeley all among the biggest blue-chip risers. The sector was boosted by reports that Rishi Sunak will introduce a guaranteed mortgage scheme to help young people get on the property ladder.
Taylor Wimpey climbed 9p to 166.6p to become the FTSE 100’s second-biggest riser, behind British Airways owner IAG, which climbed 13.4p to 205.3p after Peel Hunt analysts raised its rating from “hold” to “buy” on reopening hopes.
Bunzl rose slightly, climbing 18p to £22.55, after the company released full-year results for 2020. Profits and revenue rose as the packaging and workplace products distributor saw high demand for protective equipment due to the pandemic. Revenues rose 8.4pc to £10.1bn during 2020, while adjusted profit before tax soared over a quarter to £715.6m.
Events group Informa was among the biggest blue-chip fallers, dropping 7p to 543.8p after non-executive director Gareth Bullock announced plans to step down this June.
The company, which has seen its operations battered by the pandemic, also announced Patrick Martell would be promoted to become an executive director.
Supermarkets fell ahead of new data on sales from Kantar, set for release on Tuesday.
On the FTSE 250, shares in asset manager Jupiter dropped 10.8p to 284.6p, leaving it among the biggest mid-cap fallers. Barclays analysts said the group’s business looked unbalanced following results last week, with inflow momentum overly concentrated in its Dynamic Bond fund during 2020.
Elsewhere, shares in The Restaurant Group closed up 3.6p at 112.5p after it agreed to a pair of new long-term debt facilities worth £500m in total, as part of efforts to shore up its liquidity and extend its headroom with existing debt. The company, which owns Frankie and Benny’s, said it is currently burning through £5.5m every four weeks due to the lockdown, but reported strong recent takeaway activity.
Shares in neighbourhood retailer McColl’s jumped 3.9p to 27.4p after the group extended its supply agreement with supermarket Morrisons.
Under the terms of the new deal, Morrisons will supply McColl’s 1,200-store estate, which includes the Safeway brand, until the start of 2027.
That is all from us today. Here are some of our top stories:
Thank you, as ever, for following along - Louis will be back with you bright and early.
What to expect (among more):
Updates from: Ashtead Group, Flutter, Fresnillo, Hotel Chocolat Full-year Apax Global Alpha, Croda International, Devro, Fisher (James) & Sons, Fresnillo, Intertek, Man Group, Robert Walters, Rotork, Signature Aviation, Taylor Wimpey, Travis Perkins, Weir, XP Power
Numbers on: Inflation (eurozone), unemployment (Germany)
US stocks continue to climb
US stocks are continuing their climb through trading in New York as confidence returned to markets and longer-dated treasuries resumed their sell off.
The S&P 500 - up over 2pc - is on track for its biggest advance in almost nine months. Companies linked to economic reopenings led the gains.
Meanwhile, GameStop is adding to last week's surge of over 150pc, and Zoom is rising ahead of its quarterly results later today. Both are up around 8pc.
Richest 100 Americans would pay $78bn under Warren's proposed tax
According to Bloomberg's calculations, the 100 richest Americans would hand over more than $78bn of their personal fortunes under the wealth tax proposed by Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren (see Louis' post at 14:10).
If the bill became law, the news agency has worked out that:
Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, would face an extra tax charge of at least $5.4bn this year
Elon Musk would pay $5.2bn
Bill Gates would shell out an additional $4bn
Mark Zuckerberg would have to fork over $2.9bn
The richest 100 Americans added $598bn to their wealth in 2020, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The tax would capture 13pc of that increase.
While President Joe Biden has proposed higher taxes on corporations and the rich, he and some Democrats in Congress don’t support a wealth tax.
About 100,000 families and roughly 1,000 billionaires would end up paying the proposed tax, according to an analysis by University of California at Berkeley economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman. They estimate it would raise about $3 trillion over a decade.
Ben Marlow's take on The Restaurant Group's refinancing
ICYMI: Our chief City commentator Ben Marlow has been writing about The Restaurant Group's £500m refinancing deal:
Here’s a menu that diners will feel they’ve seen before: another fundraising from the Restaurant Group, home of Wagamama, Garfunkel’s and other middle-of-the-road dining establishments. Only this time it’s an all-you-can-eat refinancing buffet from a company that was suffering from financial indigestion even before the pandemic arrived.
Management has persuaded lenders to tuck into a full monty of a new debt deal: a £500m loan that consolidates assorted borrowings under one roof and pushes out repayments to 2025 and 2026. [...]
With the £225m Wagamama bond falling due in June 2020, investors breathed a sigh of relief - the shares climbed 3pc - but analysts were divided on whether it would need to tap shareholders yet again.
This extract comes from our City Intelligence newsletter. You can sign up here to receive incisive analysis of the day's biggest corporate story.
Read the full article: Wagamama owner looks healthier after tucking into £500m deal
Daily Mirror publisher re-introduces dividends after digital revenue boost
The publisher of the Daily Mirror has fired-up shareholder payments after being emboldened by a double-digit rise in online advertising sales.
My colleague Ben Woods reports:
Reach secured an 11pc jump in digital revenue to £118.3m for the year to December 27, despite a pandemic-induced slump across the advertising market.
It prompted the board to re-introduce a dividend of 4.26p per share, underscoring its confidence in the "sustainability" of future cash.
The pandemic took its toll on the newspaper business, however, with total revenues down 15pc to £600.2m and pre-tax profits plunging from £120.9m to £400,000.
Chief executive Jim Mullen said the digital sales were "exceptional", with 26pc growth coming in the final three months of the financial year.
"We accept that there was a catalyst during lockdown because people were at home," he added. "But the engagement has seen 29pc uplift in average page views per user, and 32pc uplift in the average minutes spent per user.
"That's all because we are sending readers content when they want it, for what they are interested in."
Mr Mullen, a former boss of betting giant Ladbrokes Coral, has been using customer data to boost sales since he joined in August last year. That includes getting more readers to register online, with the company achieving 5.8m registered users - more than halfway towards hitting its 2022 target.
The bright online performance came as print struggled during the crisis. Print circulation and advertising revenues dropped by 12pc to £319.7m and 29pc to £108.4m respectively, but circulation improved during the second half of the year.
Biotech Oxular raises £27m
Oxford biotech Oxular has raised £27m to continue to develop a device allowing doctors to inject medication into a specific part of the eye, which is then slow-released over as long as 12 months, my colleague Julia Bradshaw reports.
“At the moment we have blind injections, so you don’t know where your needle is going and this can often lead to complications,” says chief executive Tom Cavanagh.
The fundraising was led by Dutch venture capital firm Forbion.
Kwarteng government ‘absolutely committed’ to secure manufacturing at Ellesmere Port
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng just spoke in Parliament, saying he has held “a number of meetings” with Vauxhall and parent company Stellantis over the future of its Ellesmere Port factory.
The government is absolutely committed to ensuring the future of manufacturing at Ellesmere Port and to secure the jobs and livelihoods for the workers at the plant.
He had been called to answer a question over what incentives the Government may be offering the car company to maintain the plant – which makes the popular Astra model – in the UK.
Mr Kwarteng said he will continue an “intensive dialog” with the company.
Ocado starts delivering orders from new Bristol warehouse
Ocado has started delivering orders from a new robotic warehouse in Bristol this week.
My colleague Laura Onita reports:
The depot is smaller than its larger sites and the first new opening since 2018. The online supermarket plans to have more “mini fulfilment centres” to deliver orders more quickly to customers up and down the country.
The additional 30,000 orders per week will assist Ocado with the capacity constraints it has had since the beginning of the pandemic.
It had to turn customers away and retool its website to cope with the number of orders coming in. While traditional supermarkets have hired extra staff to pick orders from the shelves, Ocado’s robotic depots cannot be built overnight.
The firm also lost some of its existing capacity when one of its warehouses was destroyed by fire two years ago. It plans to open another mini depot in Bicester in 2022.
Bitcoin jumps after Citi report
The price of Bitcoin has risen as much as 8.2pc following a Citi report that suggested the cryptocurrency could play a major role in the global financial system.
My colleague Michael Cogley reports:
Bitcoin could become “the currency of choice for international trade,” a paper published by the investment bank’s Global Perspectives & Solutions group said.
It added that Bitcoin could experience a “massive transformation” that catapults it into mainstream usage.That sent the price of the digital asset rising on Monday, with a single Bitcoin trading as high as $48,500 (£34,800).
Read more: Bitcoin rises 8pc after Citi backing
US manufacturing expansion fastest in three years
US manufacturing expanded at the fastest pace since early 2018 last month, despite supply shortages hitting factories.
The Institute for Supply Management’s PMI gauge rose to 60.8, from 58.7 a month earlier, where any reading above 50 indicates a pickup compared to the prior month.
Orders, production and employment all rose, but a measure of unfilled orders hit a 17-year high, and delivery times were the second-longest since 1979.
Workplace testing kits in demand as companies prepare to reopen
Demand for workplace Covid testing kits has jumped as businesses prepare to re-open and bring employees back into the office and restrictions are eased.
My colleague Julia Bradshaw reports:
Diagnostics company Excalibur Healthcare said demand for its fast-acting lateral flow test had increased and it had experienced a surge in calls from companies wanting advice on how to put into place workplace testing regimes.
Excalibur sold hundreds of thousands of lateral flow tests in the seven days after the Government announced its roadmap out of lockdown.
“We have new firms contacting us and are adding new customers every single week or day," said chief executive and founder Professor Sir Chris Evans. "Everybody now realises they will need to test. They are desperate and as soon as they can open up, they will."
Prof Evans said most of the new enquiries were from large customers in the hospitality and entertainment sectors who wanted to know how to carry out workplace PCR or lateral flow tests.
Wall Street rallies at the open
US stocks have surged at the open as bonds markets calm following last week's volatility.
S&P 500 +1.6pc
Dow Jones +1.6pc
Elizabeth Warren proposes ‘Ultra-Millionaire’ tax
Senator Elizabeth Warren, a former presidential candidate, has proposed a new wealth tax on households with a net worth of more than $50m.
Bloomberg has the details:
The lawmaker said Monday the new tax, dubbed the Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act, would create a “fairer” economy with a 2pc annual tax on households and trusts valued at between $50m and $1bn. All net worth over $1bn would be taxed at 3pc.
“The ultra-rich and powerful have rigged the rules in their favor so much that the top 0.1pc pay a lower effective tax rate than the bottom 99pc, and billionaire wealth is 40% higher than before the COVID crisis began,” Warren said in a statement. “A wealth tax is popular among voters on both sides for good reason: because they understand the system is rigged to benefit the wealthy and large corporations.”
A wealth tax would be difficult to pass in the current US Senate, which is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats control the agenda, since Vice President Kamala Harris can break ties, but most bills require support from 60 senators to advance.
Full report: Savings surge amid new lockdown
My colleague Tim Wallace has a full report on this morning’s consumer credit data. He writes:
Tumbling consumer credit underlines the extent of the economic harm of lockdown.“That was a faster pace of deleveraging than during November’s lockdown and so is another reason to think that the economic hit from January’s lockdown will be larger than November’s 2.3pc month-on-month drop in GDP,” said Ruth Gregory at Capital Economics.
Read more: Savings surge as families stay home
Entain raises bid for Enlabs
Online gambling operator Entain (formerly GVC Holdings) has raised its bid for Swedish rival Enlabs, winning backing from more major shareholders in the process.
The FTSE 100-listed group is offering 53 krona per share for Enlabs, up from a previous offer of 40 krona/share.
Chief financial officer Rob Wood said:
Entain is able to provide the scale and platform needed to further support Enlabs’ long-term growth, and we firmly believe that Entain will be the best home for Enlabs, its employees and customers.
Against this background, we have decided to make a final offer of SEK 53 to all shareholders, providing an opportunity to exit their investment at a very attractive valuation. We are pleased that shareholders with around 51 per cent have now irrevocably agreed to accept the offer and would urge other shareholders to do the same by 18 March.
That 51pc includes 8.7pc shareholders who have now given the takeover bid backing, following support from shareholders representing 42.2pc of Enlabs’ shares previously.
Informa falls after boardroom moves
Events group Informa is leading fallers on the FTSE 100 today, after non-executive director Gareth Bullock announced plans to step down this June.
The company, which has seen its operations battered by the pandemic, also announced Patrick Martell would become its executive director.
Mr Bullock had been on the board since 2014, and recently led the process to find a group chair.
In a statement, it said:
With Gareth departing, a search is underway to appoint an additional Non-Executive Colleague, ensuring the Board broadens its international diversity and maintains a strong mix of relevant knowledge and market experience.
Pound flat against dollar
Despite the recovery in equities today, sterling is basically unchanged against the dollar, with currency markets looking mixed. A lack of dollar selling suggests investors are feeling more reassured, by the pound has found itself firmly back below the $1.40 threshold, for now.
Bunzl profits jump on PPE demand
Profits and revenue at Bunzl jumped as the workplace products distributor saw high demand for protective equipment due to the pandemic.
The FTSE 100 company’s revenues popped 8.4pc to £10.1bn during 2020, while adjusted profit before tax soared over a quarter to £715.6m.
Growth was strongest in Europe and the rest of the world, with revenues in the UK and Ireland rising only a moderate 2.6pc, with demand for Covid-19 related products offsetting slowdowns elsewhere.
Chief executive Frank van Zanten said:
Overall in 2021 we expect robust revenue growth over the prior year at constant exchange rates, after excluding larger Covid-19 related orders which we do not expect to repeat.
We anticipate that the recovery in sales of other products, as restrictions ease, will broadly offset the decline of smaller Covid-19 related orders, with recent acquisitions making an increasing contribution to the group's performance.
McColl’s rises after extending Morrisons deal
Shares in neighbourhood retailer McColl’s have popped high this morning after the group extended its supply agreement with supermarket Morrisons.
Under the terms of the new deal, Morrisons will supply McColl’s 1,200 store estate, which includes the Safeway brand, until the start of 2027.
Chief executive Jonathan Miller said the agreement will allow the group to deliver sustainable profitable growth with a “leading convenience offer”.
With about three and a half hours of trading gone, European markets remain solidly higher. Gains have eased somewhat compared to earlier in the session, and the losses from Friday’s sell-off haven’t yet been recovered.
Sweeteners for Cheshire Vauxhall plant to come under scrutiny
What incentives the Government can offer to Stellantis to invest in a new model at the Vauxhall plant in Ellesmere Port will come under scrutiny in Parliament this afternoon.
My colleague Alan Tovey reports:
MP Greg Clark has placed an urgent question to the Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng about the plant as its future hangs in the balance.
Mr Clark, a former business secretary himself who was a big supporter of the UK car industry while the role, is asking Mr Kwarteng to “make a statement on the future of car manufacturing by Vauxhall at Ellesmere Port and the Government’s strategy for battery manufacturing”.
Mr Kwarteng is expected to speak at 3.30pm, as the almost 1,000 staff at the Cheshire car factory await a decision from Stellantis that could decide their future.
Read more (from Thursday): Vauxhall owner seeks incentives to keep Ellesmere Port open
Car chip shortage will continue to summer – live tech updates
Carmakers are set to suffer from more production setbacks as the difficulties around the production of new chips is set to continue into the summer.
My colleague Michael Cogley reports:
A surge in demand for personal computers and other electronics - driven by the widespread shift to remote work and learning - has led to a global shortage of semiconductors.
Manufacturers from General Motors and Ford in the US to Germany’s Volkswagen have warned of production cuts due to the shortage.
Now the head Valeo, of one of the world’s largest car part suppliers, has warned the delays will last until at least the summer. “There should be a recovery in the second half of the year,” Jacques Aschenbrioch said in an interview with the Financial Times.
Read more and follow the latest live tech updates here: Chip shortages to plague carmakers into summer
Here are some of the day’s top stories from the Telegraph Money team:
Investors save £120m after switch from overcharging fund contracts: But just 51pc of funds with these expensive contracts have moved customers to cheaper alternatives.
Why investors should give fund launches a wide berth: Almost a quarter of funds launched five years ago have since closed.
Number of first time investors over 50 triples during pandemic: Many over-50s have put their spare cash into markets in a bid to generate returns.
Mortgage approvals remain high
Alongside those consumer credit stats, the Bank of England says mortgage lending remained strong in January, with 99,000 loans for house purchases approved.
That marked a continued dip from the 13-year high reached in November, but remained elevated by recent standards. The BoE said:
Individuals borrowed an additional £5.2bn secured on their homes, compared to the monthly average of £4.0bn in the six months to February 2020.
Households repaid £2.4bn in first month of new lockdown
UK households paid back £2.4bn in debt during January as borrowing fell sharply during the new lockdown.
The figure, dominated by paying down credit card debts, is the largest net repayment since May last year.
The Bank of England, which released the data, said:
As a result, the annual growth rate fell further to -8.9pc, a new series low since it began in 1994…Within consumer credit, the weakness on the month primarily reflected net repayments on credit cards (£2.2bn) with some repayments of other forms of consumer credit (£0.2bn). The annual growth rates of both components fell further, to -19.4pc and -3.9pc, respectively. For credit cards, this represents a new series low; for other forms of consumer credit, this is the lowest since October 2010.
Wagamama-owner signs £500m debt facilities
Wagamama’s owner has agreed to a pair of new long-term debt facilities worth £500m in total, as part of efforts to shore up its liquidity and extend its headroom with existing debt.
The Restaurant Group, which also owns Frankie and Benny’s, said it is currently burning through £5.5m every four weeks due to the lockdown, but reported strong recent takeaway activity – with Wagamama orders 2.5 times higher than pre-pandemic levels, and orders elsewhere in its leisure business five times higher.
It has around 200 sites currently operating for delivery and takeaway.
With this strong operating platform in place, the Group has good capability to deliver an accelerated reopening plan for dine-in trading, once the current restrictions for hospitality businesses end, with all viable sites being reopened within two weeks.
UK manufacturing activity continues to gain pace
Manufacturing activity in the UK continued to rise in February, at a slightly faster pace than initially thought.
The final PMI reading for British factories came in at 55.1, versus a flash estimate of 54.9.
IHS Markit warned the pace of gains had been constrained during the month as a result of supply-chain disruptions and rising cost pressures.
Here are some key points:
Output rose at the weakest pace during the current nine-month sequence of increase
Companies reported improved demand from several markets – including the US, Asia, Scandinavia and (in a few cases) mainland Europe – but noted that the ongoing impact of Covid-19, Brexit complications and shipping difficulties also constrained export order growth
Backlogs of work also ticked higher, increasing for the fourth month running
Input cost inflation accelerated for the tenth straight month in February and to its highest rate for over four years. Output prices subsequently rose at the fastest pace since January 2018.
IHS Markit’s Rob Dobson said:
With current constraints likely to continue for the foreseeable future, pressure on prices and output volumes may remain a feature during the coming months.
That said, improved domestic demand as lockdown restrictions ease and a further rise in manufacturers' optimism are reasons to hope brighter times are on the horizon, and have already supported a modest rebound in staffing levels since the turn of the year
Nvidia resist pledge on Arm jobs
The $40bn sale of the British technology giant Arm may come without a guarantee on jobs as the US microchip company Nvidia seeks to avoid signing a binding pledge on the matter.
My colleague James Titcomb reports:
Nvidia, which last year announced plans to buy Arm from Japan’s SoftBank, is in discussions with the Government and is prepared to make commitments on matters such as keeping the company’s headquarters in Cambridge.
However, the company is yet to sign up to targets on Arm’s headcount. Nvidia has said it will increase investment in Arm and Britain, but has been less committed to following SoftBank in a jobs target.
When SoftBank paid £24bn for the microchip design company in 2016, it entered into a “post offer undertaking” to double Arm’s UK staff over five years.
Spanish and Italian manufacturing picks up
Manufacturing purchasing managers’ index surveys for Italy and Spain both came in stronger than expected during February, with the former’s factory activity levels picking up while the latter returned to growth.
Italy rose to a reading of 56.9, building on January’s levels to mark the fastest pickup in activity since 2018. The figures, in which 50 is the no-change mark, reflect how activity compared with the prior month.
Spain’s manufacturing PMI climbed out of contraction territory to a reading of 52.9:
The final reading for the pan-European manufacturing gauage was slightly stronger than previously indicated, at 57.9 versus the ‘flash’ reading of 57.7. IHS Markit, which gathered the data, said factory costs across the bloc were rising at the fastest pace in a decade during February.
Trustpilot plans London float
Copenhagen-based review platform Trustpilot has announced plans to float on the London Stock Exchange, in a post-Brexit boost amid concerns that European bourses are looking to take ground from the UK.
Trustpilot – which allows consumers to rate and review a range of products and services, as well as communicate with businesses – said at least 25pc of its shares would be available for trading, and that it expects to be eligible for inclusion on the FTSE indices.
It made revenues of $102m last year, up 59pc since 2018, and has more than 19,500 subscribers.
Chief executive and founder Peter Holten Mühlmann said:
We believe that an IPO of the business will allow us to continue the momentum of recent years, providing a platform to deliver new products to more geographies, and succeed in our vision to become a universal symbol of trust.
Bank of Ireland to shut a third of branches
Bank of Ireland has decided to shut a third of its branches after it said the acceleration to digital banking had reached a “tipping point”.
My colleague Simon Foy reports:
The lender said it will close 103 branches on the island of Ireland by the end of September, including 15 in Northern Ireland – more than half of its total north of the border.
The bank said there will be no compulsory redundancies as a result of the closures.
The move comes after an increasing number of customers decided to shun their local branches for digital banking in the wake of the pandemic.
Bank of Ireland said: “We have seen a sustained decline in the use of our branches. Our customers tell us that they expect visits to branches to reduce further as they move away from cash towards digital and contactless payments.”
The lender swung to a €742m (£641m) net loss for 2020, after setting aside €1.1bn for an expected surge in toxic loans due to the pandemic.
Housebuilders and miners jump
Housebuilder stocks have risen strongly at the open, on reports at the weekend that Rishi Sunak will introduce a guaranteed mortgage scheme to help young people get on the property ladder.
As my colleague Harry Yorke reported on Friday:
Under plans to turn “generation rent” into “generation buy”, the Treasury will offer lenders a guarantee to ensure they can issue mortgages to first-time buyers and current homeowners covering 95 per cent of property value, up to £600,000.
This means buyers will need just a five per cent deposit. The proposals have been drawn up by Treasury officials in recent weeks, with discussions with banks well advanced.
It is expected to closely resemble the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme, introduced by David Cameron’s administration.
Taylor Wimpey, Barratt Developments, Persimmon and Berkeley are all among the biggest blue-chip risers at present.
Also climbing are mining companies, which appear to be catching another boost from the return of the inflation trade, which briefly went AWOL during last week’s bond panic.
FTSE jumps at open
European markets have jumped at the open, with the FTSE 100 up 1.3pc to shake off some of Friday’s nerves-driven drop.
OBR to predict faster recovery than feared – FT
The fiscal watchdog’s latest forecasts will show the UK’s rapid vaccine rollout has improved its economic trajectory and will produce a swifter recovery, the FT reports, citing a leak.
The paper says:
In its Budget forecasts, the independent Office for Budget Responsibility will set out optimistic and pessimistic scenarios for the economy, based on the likely path of the pandemic, and adjust its central forecast accordingly.
With the OBR failing to predict the huge rise in cases in December, the starting point will be worse than it thought at the time of the November spending review. But, having predicted the economy would grow 7.9 per cent in the final three quarters of this year, it will predict a faster recovery because the speed and efficacy of the vaccine rollout has surpassed even its most optimistic expectations from November. The growth rate for 2021 will be the fastest the UK has experienced in almost 50 years, with output likely to recover to the 2019 peak early next year.
Halfords to repay furlough borrowings
Halfords said it will repay the £10.7m it received through the furlough scheme as the retailer upgraded its profit forecasts following a Covid-induced bike boom.
My colleague Simon Foy reports:
The company said it now expects full-year pre-tax profit to be between £90m and £100m, up from £52.6m a year earlier. It previously declined to put a figure on its outlook, saying it would be inappropriate due to the Covid-19 crisis.
However, the pandemic has led to a surge in bicycle sales as Brtions continue to avoid public transport – a trend which has continued into the new year. In the seven weeks to Feb 19, bike sales soared 43pc, Halfords said.
It added that although supply disruption has eased, overall bike supply “remains sub-optimal”.
The retailer said overall trading was volatile in the first seven weeks of its final quarter, but it was stil stronger than initially anticipated. As a result, It has decided to pay back the £10.7m claimed through the Government’s furlough scheme.
Halfords’ car servicing and repair business also performed well, growing more than 13pc during the period.
BT seeks new chair with Du Plessis to retire
BT has launched a search for its next chair, after Jan DU Plessis announced his intention to retire from the role this year.
Mr Du Plessis, who has let the FTSE 100 group’s board since November 2017, will stay on until a successor is found.
In a statement, he said:
BT is a fantastic company and it is a huge privilege and responsibility to be its chairman. But after 17 years of demanding roles as chairman of significant FTSE companies, I know the time is now right for me to step down and focus on other interests.
Agenda: FTSE to open higher
Good morning. The FTSE 100 is set to rebound at the open as global bond markets stabilise following last week's turmoil.
Government debt stabilised after central banks from Asia to Europe provided reassurance that policy support remains in place.
5 things to start your day
1) Hospitality sector faces £9bn bill for reopening delay The delayed reopening of hospitality will cost the sector £9bn, bosses have warned, as MPs demanded the Chancellor ramp up support for businesses at the Budget on Wednesday.
2) John Lewis plans hundreds of mini-stores in Waitrose: John Lewis Partnership is planning to overhaul its presence on the high street by opening hundreds of mini-stores in Waitrose supermarkets.
3) Hold fire on tax rises, MPs warn Sunak: Chancellor Rishi Sunak should hold fire on tax rises in Wednesday's Budget to avoid jeopardising the UK’s post-Covid recovery, MPs have warned.
4) Inside the race to keep secrets safe from the quantum computing revolution: The algorithms that have kept state secrets safe and confidential messages private since the 1970s are about to be broken.
5) Economic growth to miss predictions as Budget looms: The Government’s official forecaster is set to warn of a stalling start to 2021 in revised growth predictions unveiled at Wednesday’s Budget following the third national lockdown.
What happened overnight
Asian shares rallied on Monday as some semblance of calm returned to bond markets after last week's wild ride, while progress in the huge US stimulus package underpinned optimism about the global economy and sent oil prices higher.
China's official manufacturing PMI out over the weekend missed forecasts, but Japanese figures showed the fastest growth in two years.
Investors are also counting on upbeat news from a raft of US data due this week including the February payrolls report.
Helping sentiment was news that deliveries of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine should start on Tuesday.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up 0.8pc, after shedding 3.7pc last Friday. Japan's Nikkei rallied 2.1pc, while Chinese blue chips added 0.5pc.
Coming up today
Corporate: Aggreko, Bunzl, Reach (Full-year)
Economics: Mortgage approvals, mortgage lending (UK), manufacturing PMI (UK, Japan, China, Germany, France, eurozone, Italy, Spain, US)