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Pound wipes out gains

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Louise Moon
·29 min read
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Pound
Pound

London’s mid-caps reversed course to rise to their best day in two weeks, led by shares in construction company Morgan Sindall hitting an all-time high.

The group topped the FTSE 250 leaderboard after it said this year’s profits would be “significantly ahead of previous expectations”. Bosses said all divisions – including property maintenance, infrastructure development and housebuilding – enjoyed a “positive” start to the year. Its construction business order book increased by 10pc and total secured workload came in at £8.1bn for the first three months of the year.

Brokerages raised their price targets on the stock after it raised its annual outlook, and shares shot up 367p to £22.35, more than 20pc above its previous high. The gains boosted the FTSE 250 up 279.14 points to 22,364.87.

A weaker pound and higher footfalls, which helped retail stocks, pushed the FTSE 100 higher to consolidate the previous session’s gains. It ended up 42.95 points at 6,938.24, just short of the 7,000 level it breached at the end of last week.

The pound fell 0.6pc against the US dollar to $1.385, wiping out the week’s gains as investors weighed up the outlook of Britain’s economic recovery ahead of retail sales and flash PMIs due today. The currency had strengthened against the dollar in the last few weeks, as US Treasury yields came down from recent highs and America’s currency weakened, hitting a six-week high earlier this week. The dollar pushed higher yesterday on improved weekly jobs figures.

Sterling was also down by 0.4pc at €1.153 against the euro, buoyed by the European Central Bank saying there were “clear signs of improvement” in the eurozone economy.

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said: “European markets have managed to consolidate the gains we saw [on Wednesday], though there’s been a slightly more defensive bias than was the case yesterday, with utilities amongst the better performers, while energy has once again lagged due to lower oil prices.”

Among the top risers was Russian gold miner Polymetal International, which gained 55.5p to £16.34 after its first-quarter production grew 3pc. It was followed by energy firm SSE, which rose 50.5p to £15.09.

Airlines performed well with easyJet gaining 45.3p to £10.11 after it announced a new flight from Cornwall to Gatwick. A “domestic bias” meant the low cost airline outperformed British Airways’ owner IAG, according to Mr Hewson, “probably down to the fact that the smaller airlines don’t have exposure to international travel”. FTSE 100 IAG still rose 6.5p to 200.5p as one of the top risers on the benchmark.

Separately, BAE Systems slid to the bottom of the ranks after reports it could face an investor revolt over a pay deal for its boss. Shares closed 26.5p lower at 499.9p.

05:11 PM

Wrapping up

That's all from us today - catch up on some of our top stories:

Thank you for following along. Do join again tomorrow!

04:55 PM

Sales soar for lux group Hermes

Hermes
Hermes

French luxury goods group Hermes has said sales jumped 38pc in the first quarter of the year compared with 2020, bolstered by a strong performance in Asia.

The figures highlight how the luxury sector is shrugging off the pandemic, which has acted as a forceful headwind for the retail sector.

Revenues for the maker of Birkin handbags revenues reached €2.1bn (£1.8bn) from January to March, even higher than the same period in 2019.

The sharp rise was mainly driven by increased demand for the Hermes' bags, clothing and watches in China and other Asian markets, with consumers turning to online shopping despite the hefty price tags.

04:43 PM

Stanlow oil refinery owner on track to conclude refinancing

The owner of the Stanlow oil refinery has replaced a financing facility and says it is on track to conclude further financing, calming fears about the future of the strategic asset.

My colleague Rachel Millard reports:

The new facility will replace funding provided by Lloyds to speed up the time in which owner Essar Oil UK is paid for sales.

Talks about wider refinancing are ongoing and Essar said it was confident this will be "concluded swiftly based on the proposals it has received" and by the end of June.

Apollo has been in talks with the company about a potential financing deal, Sky News has reported. Government officials are understood to have been in talks with the company over its finances, given the importance of the refinery to the UK economy.

Refineries have been hit hard by the pandemic which has lowered demand for fuel and also harmed margins.

Essar said demand was growing as lockdown restrictions ease, and the refinery made EBITDA of about $40m [£28.7m] for the second quarter, compared to minus $18m during the same quarter last year.

Essar said: “We are delighted to report on the positive developments at the refinery.

We are grateful for the support we have received, and continue to receive, from our customers, suppliers and the Government through the last year."

04:26 PM

Pound wipes out gains

The pound fell 0.6pc against the US dollar by late afternoon, to $1.3844, wiping out the week's gains as investors weighed up the outlook of Britain's economic recovery.

Sterling was also down on the Euro, by around 0.5pc at 86.85 pence.

The currency had strengthened against the dollar in the last few weeks, as US Treasury yield came down from recent highs and America's currency weakened.

Earlier this week it hit a six-week high after the UK's unemployment rate unexpectedly fell for a second month in a row from December to February (when the country was under tight lockdown).

But traders are speculating things like how great the rebound in consumption will be and what household savings will look like. UK retail sales and flash PMIs are due on Friday

04:05 PM

US markets waver

US markets are relatively flat today as traders weighed mixed economic data which highlights an uneven rebound in activity, while there is some concern over a flare-up of coronavirus cases.

Just before midday in New York, here is how the main indices stand:

  • S&P 500: flat, down just 0.01pc

  • Dow Jones: -0.2pc

  • Tech-heavy Nasdaq: +0.2pc

Fresh data showed sales of previously owned US homes slid in March to a seven-month low. Jobless claims posted an unexpected decline last week. Investors are also sifting through a batch of corporate earnings.

03:23 PM

Co-op shake up to affect 2,000 staff

Co-op
Co-op

The Co-op retail chain has said it is overhauling its store management structure, affecting 2,000 jobs.

Co-op is cutting four layers of managers in each store to three, after a trial in 300 stores over the past two years. The role of team manager will be axed across its 2,600 stores.

There will be no compulsory redundancies, with affected workers offered an alternative role as team leaders. Alternatively they can apply to become trainee store managers with the potential to take part in a development programme.

Those who choose to be a team leader will have their pay protected for six months, it said.

02:49 PM

Ford announces further global shutdowns

Ford
Ford

Ford has announced further shutdowns to a swathe of plants worldwide as the chip shortage hits its vehicle manufacturing operations.

My colleague Alan Tovey reports:

Plants in Spain, Germany, Romania and Turkey which have already begun or are due to halt work, or operate at lower levels have had these measures extended.

The Craiova plant in Romania which builds the EcoSport and Puma vehicles as well as engines, has added six extra days of closure, and for about a month will work with two shifts instead of three.

In Valencia where models including the Kuga, Mondeo and S-Max are made, the plant will have 20 “down days” between now and July 31. Production of the Transit Connect van will stop from April 28 to July 2.

At Saarlouis in Germany, there will be an additional 20 down days in addition to existing shutdowns affecting production of the Focus.

The Cologne site, where products include the Fiesta, closures are scheduled for April 21 to 23 and April 28 to 30. Further production cuts at the facility will be “investigated” Ford said.

Ford Otosan, the company’s joint venture in Turkey, will temporarily stop production at its Gölcük facility from April 19 until June 13, which includes a moving forward two planned weeks of annual summer shutdown and a national holiday week.

02:24 PM

Odey takes short position in Deliveroo

Hedge fund Odey Asset Management has taken a short position in Deliveroo.

Odey fund managers James Hanbury and Jamie Grimston took the bet on Deliveroo’s first day of trading, according to investor documents seen by the Financial Times.

Deliveroo’s shares have dropped more than 40pc since the food delivery app’s disappointing initial public offering last month.

Odey Asset Management declined to comment.

The FT reported that the position may have been taken on March 31, the day of Deliveroo’s IPO, citing investor documents it had seen. The size of the position isn’t clear.

02:05 PM

Informa swings to £1.1bn loss as firm is battered by Covid event cancellations

Trade show giant Informa has warned it will take up to three years to recover from the pandemic-induced upheaval hammering the events industry as it swung to a huge loss.

My colleague Ben Woods reports:

The FTSE 100 firm behind the China Beauty Expo recorded a £1.1bn statutory loss last year, plummeting from a £319m pre-tax profit in 2019 as covid put events out of bounds.

Revenues also fell 43pc to £1.7bn, with the American market - which counts for nearly half of events revenues - being hit by a spate of delays and cancellations in 2020.

Informa expects revenues to remain flat as the vaccine roll-out prompts Chinese and North American trade shows to reopen ahead of the MIddle East and Europe.

The world's biggest events organiser has survived the pandemic by slashing jobs, closing offices, curbing costs by £600m alongside a £1bn emergency share placement in April last year.

Shares fell 2.3pc to 551p in afternoon trading.

01:43 PM

Lagarde says ECB will keep buying bonds

Christine Lagarde said the ECB is not discussing the phasing out of its emergency bond buying programme even as it sees signs that the economy is starting to recover from the pandemic.

“Incoming economic data, surveys and high-frequency indicators suggest that economic activity may have contracted again in the first quarter of this year, but point to a resumption of growth in the second quarter,” she said.

“Any phasing out was not discussed and it is just premature.”

01:37 PM

Wall Street slides

Traders 
Traders

US stocks dropped again despite new data that showed a surprise decline in jobless claims amid mounting concern over a flare-up in coronavirus cases.

State unemployment claims decreased by 39,000 to 547,000 in the week ended April 17, a fresh pandemic low.

  • S&P 500 -0.2pc

  • Dow Jones -0.4pc

  • Nasdaq -0.01pc

01:21 PM

Nespresso fires up Nestlé sales

Nespresso
Nespresso

Home working and the absence of cafe society provided a shot in the arm for sales of Nespresso at the start of the year.

My colleague Jon Yeomans reports:

Sales of the coffee pod system shot up 17pc in the three months to March, helping owner Nestlé report organic growth of 7pc for the quarter, comfortably ahead of analyst expectations.

The Swiss consumer goods giant, which also makes Cheerios, Nesquik and Häagen-Dazs, credited a wider range of coffees from around the world, including limited edition pods, for Nespresso’s performance. Nestlé also enjoyed strong demand for its Nescafe brand and Starbucks products.

While "coffee was the largest contributor to growth”, dairy, baking products and pet food also performed strongly - the latter reflecting a lockdown-inspired boom in petcare as people stay home and pamper their pets.

In the first months of this year, "retail sales saw solid growth and out-of-home channels saw signs of improvement", added Mark Schneider, Nestlé chief executive. Online sales grew by 39.6pc to hit more than 14pc of total sales.

However one category continued to disappoint, with sales of bottled water still depressed as people stay home.

Nestlé shares rose 3pc in afternoon trade in Zurich.

12:44 PM

Carmaker shutdowns 'could spread'

My colleague Alan Tovey has a little more on the shutdowns affecting JLR. One senior source in the UK car industry said that shutdowns could spread to other British plants because of the wide-ranging nature of the computer chips crisis.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, they said: "All car manufacturers in the UK - and around the world - have very limited visibility on chip supplies, sometimes just a week. It's a combination of so many factors - Covid, Brexit and the Suez Canal blockage among them."

The warning came as Renault said that it did not expect supplies of chips to normalise until the third quarter of the year, extending its prediction for an easing of the crisis from mid-way through 2021.

The French carmaker has decided not to issue any production forecasts for the year as a result. Clotilde Delbos, chief finance officer of the French carmaker, said the company would not make production forecasts for the year because of the uncertainty.

“Two months ago we said we think the peak will be in the second quarter, but we think there will be a lingering effect in the third quarter if not further. Visibility is deteriorating.”

12:28 PM

ECB keeps rates on hold

The European Central Bank has kept its massive pandemic-fighting stimulus package in place, in a bid to help Europe's ailing economies overcome the devastating impact of the coronavirus crisis.

After calming jittery markets last month by promising to "significantly" step up the pace of its pandemic emergency bond purchases, the ECB's governing council said such buys will keep going at the same accelerated rate.

All eyes are now focused on ECB President Christine Lagarde, who is likely to use her press conference this afternoon to reiterate the message that there will be no premature end to "favourable financing conditions" until the crisis is deemed over and the rebound is firmly on track.

The Frankfurt institution on Thursday held interest rates at historic lows, including a deposit rate of -0.5pc - meaning banks pay to store excess cash with the ECB [via AFP].

12:22 PM

Ousting in the City

There's been a boardroom coup over at funeral company Dignity. Its largest shareholder has succeeded in ousting the firm's chairman after investors backed its calls for a changeover at the top.

Around 55pc of investors voted in favour of removing Clive Whiley at a general meeting held by Dignity after Phoenix Asset Management Partners, which holds a near-30pc stake in Dignity, called for him to be replaced.

Nearly two-thirds - about 61pc - also supported the appointment of Phoenix's founder and chief investment officer Gary Channon to the board.

Dignity said investors representing 88pc of its shares voted for the resolutions.

Mr Whiley has stepped down with immediate effect, with Mr Channon becoming executive director, following the result.

12:14 PM

JLR: 'common sense' decision

The decision to keep JLR's Solihull plant open while temporarily closing two others means it can keep producing its best-selling cars, Alan Tovey writes.

Solihull produces the Range Rover and Discovery models, which are more expensive and higher margin vehicles. This could be a signal that what chips JLR can source are being funnelled to what is known internally as its “heavy metal” vehicles, which are also its most profitable cars.

Ian Henry, of AutoAnalysis, said: “It’s a common sense decision. All companies are focusing on their biggest money-makers, stopping production of the low margin or low-selling models.”

A Range Rover at JLR's Solihull plant
A Range Rover at JLR's Solihull plant

Earlier this week Peugeot owner Stellantis said digital speedometers would be replaced by traditional analogue ones in one of its Peugeot models as a result of the chip shortage.

The car maker told Reuters that the move was a “nifty and agile way of getting around a real hurdle for car production, until the 'chips' crisis ends”.

Old-style speedometers will start appearing in 308 cars from the end of May, with Stellantis keeping chips for digital dashboards on more popular models.

12:08 PM

Spending rebounds

Spending on socialising surged last week as pubs and restaurants reopened for outdoor service, sending keen Britons scurrying back to their favourite haunts, Tim Wallace writes.

On reopening day itself social spending hit three-quarters of its pre-Covid level, despite the cold weather across much of the country and the continued ban on indoor seating.

This is up from March’s level of around two-thirds of February 2020's rate, according to an analysis of credit and debit card data by the Office for National Statistics.

It indicates spending is closer to “normal” levels than at any point since the pandemic struck - even last summer, with good weather and the Eat Out To Help Out scheme, social expenditure never rose above 71.2pc of usual volumes.

Shops are also benefitting now that they are allowed to open their doors to customers.

Spending on durables - goods such as clothes and furniture - rose to 89pc of pre-Covid levels by the end of the week, up from the 50pc to 70pc range seen through the latest lockdown.

It means shopping volumes are at the highest level since Christmas.

11:26 AM

'No pressure' to do financial services deal

The European Union’s commissioner for financial services said the bloc isn’t under any pressure to help London financial firms access the market and warned there won’t be any decisions soon while Britain plots different rules for the industry.

Mairead McGuinness said in an interview on Wednesday that the EU could hold a meeting on market access issues by the middle of the year, but it is still in the process of finalising the memorandum of understanding on post-Brexit regulatory co-operation agreed last month, Bloomberg reported.

“I know there probably is an appetite on the UK side for us to sit down and get going,” McGuinness said. “We are certainly very keen to do that, but we’re not under pressure to do it.”

McGuinness said that the EU’s interest is in protecting the financial stability of the bloc and authorities intend to scrutinise the UK’s plans to diverge from the EU’s financial standards. “There isn’t any haste here,” she said. “There is no pressure. There is no panic.”

Since Brexit took effect at the beginning of 2021, London-based financial firms haven’t been able to operate freely in the bloc, forcing banks like JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs to move billions of dollars in assets and thousands of staff to the continent.

The trade agreement signed by the two sides last year largely sidelined the finance industry, and the EU has said since that it’s in no rush to grant the equivalence rulings that would restore British firms’ trading rights.

11:16 AM

O'Neill: JP Morgan got Super League all wrong

Jim O’Neill has blasted JP Morgan for its financial backing of European soccer’s fleeting Super League. The former Goldman Sachs economist said chief executive Jamie Dimon needed to explain why his bank backed the deal.

“How on Earth did such an experienced CEO that is so good at connecting with the real world, how on Earth did they let themselves let this proposal get to where it got?” O’Neill said in an interview with Bloomberg Television today.

“It is ridiculous and epitomises everything that has gone wrong with modern sport, and in particular, football.”

JPMorgan had agreed to back Europe’s breakaway league to the tune of €4bn (£3.46bn), before the proposal collapsed after uproar from fans, politicians and even Prince William.

On that subject, read Oliver Gill's piece on how JP Morgan was left with some explaining to do.

11:05 AM

Why are chips so important?

Models affected by the stoppages at JLR include the Jaguar XE, XF and F-Type sports car at Halewood, and the Discover Sport and Range Rover Evoque at Halewood, Alan Tovey writes.

JLR is just the latest car company to be hit by the shortages, with automotive plants around the world being forced to shut down because of the issue.

The industry runs on “just in time” manufacturing, meaning that companies generally do not stockpile parts, often only receiving them to plants a few hours before they are assembled.

Even a single missing part can shut down lines as it is extremely difficult to go back and fit a missing component, especially with computer chips, which are deep inside a vehicle.

10:38 AM

Chip shortage hits car industry

Here's a little more on JLR's production halt, which comes into effect on Monday.

"We have adjusted production schedules for certain vehicles which means that our Castle Bromwich and Halewood manufacturing plants will be operating a limited period of non-production from Monday 26th April," the Tata Motors-owned company said.

The pandemic has driven up demand for semiconductor chips for use in electronics like computers, as people worked from home, and suppliers are struggling to adjust, hitting output at many carmakers. Trade flows have also been affected.

On Wednesday, carmaker Stellantis said it would replace digital speedometers with more old-fashioned analogue ones in one of its Peugeot models, as the fallout continues.

Renault's finance chief said on Thursday that car production fell by tens of thousands of vehicles in the first quarter as a result of the shortage.

Output at JLR's third British car factory in Solihull will continue, the company said.

"We are working closely with affected suppliers to resolve the issues and minimise the impact on customer orders wherever possible." [via Reuters]

10:29 AM

UK sees record jump in firms in financial distress

UK firms are increasingly vulnerable after the biggest surge in the number of firms in “significant financial distress” for at least seven years in the first quarter of 2021, according to insolvency practitioners Begbies Traynor.

My colleague Russ Lynch reports:

Its latest Red Flag alert showed a 15pc jump in distressed firms to 723,000 as the UK economy begins to unlock, with transport and logistics firms at most risk.

A ban on winding up petitions has artificially suppressed business failures after a 60pc slide in county court judgements issued against companies at the beginning of 2021.

Ric Traynor, the firm’s executive chairman, said: “Despite the unprecedented central government support offered to UK businesses it is now clear that many companies are struggling under the weight of increased debt combined with poor revenue streams.

“The termination of this support will leave many businesses exposed to the true scale of their debt, and in many cases this will be simply unsustainable.”

10:03 AM

Jaguar Land Rover to suspend work at UK plants amid computer chip shortage

Jaguar Land Rover is to temporarily suspend production at two of its main UK factories because of a shortage of computer chips, in the latest sign of the difficulties facing the global car industry during the pandemic.

The company have a “limited period of non-production” at its plants in Castle Bromwich in the West Midlands and Halewood on Merseyside starting on Monday, the Guardian reported.

It is understood the shutdown is scheduled to last at least a week, although the company will continue to monitor its chip supply before committing to a reopening date.

09:50 AM

Credit Suisse raises capital after Archegos hedge fund blow-up

Credit Suisse raising about $2bn (£1.4bn) to shore up capital after warning of another financial hit from the Archegos Capital Management collapse, adding to the Swiss bank’s woes after two blow-ups within a month left investors nursing losses and questioning its leadership.

Bloomberg has the details:

The bank, which exited about 97pc of its exposure to Archegos, expects a related 600 million-franc (£469m) hit in the second quarter and is tapping investors for about 1.8 billion francs of funding with two notes convertible into 203 million shares. Swiss regulator Finma has now started enforcement proceedings against Credit Suisse and the bank said it plans to cut back the prime brokerage business at the centre of the losses.

Thomas Gottstein is battling to rescue a terrible start to the year after Credit Suisse was hit harder than any other competitor by the collapse of Archegos, the family office of US investor Bill Hwang. The timing of the blow-up could hardly have been worse, coming just weeks after Credit Suisse found itself at the centre of the Greensill Capital scandal, when it was forced to suspend investment funds.

The double whammy wiped out a year of profit and left Mr Gottstein fighting to demonstrate to incoming Chairman Antonio Horta-Osorio that he can carry the bank through one of the most difficult periods in its recent history. The bank had already stumbled with other hits before Greensill shattered what was supposed to be a new era of calm. The uncertainty is now set to endure with the Finma investigation.

09:26 AM

Mario Draghi makes €221bn bet on reviving Italy's ailing economy

Mario Draghi
Mario Draghi

Mario Draghi is betting on a huge €221bn (£191bn) stimulus package of green investment and high-speed rail to jumpstart Italy's post-Covid recovery.

My colleague Russ Lynch reports:

The former European Central Bank president - now leading a government of national unity - is set to unveil the plans next week, the Financial Times reported.

The spending will be mostly financed by loans and grants from the European Union’s €750bn Recovery Fund, alongside €30bn of Italy’s own cash.

Mr Draghi’s plans come as the country, one of Europe’s worst victims of the pandemic, seeks to accelerate its fight back from a record 8.9pc slump last year.

Italy’s Confindustria business lobby group expects the economy will recover at less than half that pace this year and will have “barely bridged the gap” by the end of next year.

Alongside infrastructure spending, Mr Draghi is also targeting the modernisation of the Italian state through more digitisation as well as speeding up its painfully slow legal system, the report suggested.

08:57 AM

City firms warned by EU not to expect quick market access

Mairead McGuinness 
Mairead McGuinness

The EU’s commissioner for financial services has warned firms in the City of London not to expect quick market access to bloc and warned there won’t be any decisions soon while the UK plots different rules for the industry.

Mairead McGuinness said in an interview that the EU could hold a meeting on market access issues by the middle of the year, but it is still in the process of finalising the memorandum of understanding on post-Brexit regulatory cooperation agreed last month.

“I know there probably is an appetite on the UK side for us to sit down and get going,” McGuinness said. “We are certainly very keen to do that, but we’re not under pressure to do it.”

McGuinness said that the EU’s interest is in protecting the financial stability of the bloc and authorities intend to scrutinise the UK’s plans to diverge from the EU’s financial standards.

“There isn’t any haste here,” she said. “There is no pressure. There is no panic.”

08:34 AM

Here's a video from HSBC this morning..

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And some pictures. A London mayoral candidate, Valerie Brown (below), was arrested at the event.:

HSBC 
HSBC
HSBC 
HSBC

08:15 AM

Spain looks to crack down on high banker salaries

The Spanish government is concerned by the high salaries and other payments made to the country’s banking executives, its economy minister Nadia Calvino said.

“The high salaries and bonuses unacceptable,” Calvino told reporters outside parliament in Madrid on Wednesday. “It’s a concern we’ve shared with lenders and with the Bank of Spain,” she said, adding that the pay packages are not appropriate given the current economic situation and with some lenders announcing major staff cuts.

Earlier this week, CaixaBank began talks with unions on cutting more than 8,000 jobs and shuttering more than 1,500 branches as part of a cost-cutting drive following its takeover of smaller rival Bankia.

CaixaBank is the largest domestic lender in Spain, and the government owns about 16pc because it was Bankia’s largest shareholder.

Calvino also said Madrid will aim to minimize the impact on employment from the job losses in the banking industry. [via Bloomberg]

07:55 AM

AJ Bell enjoys surge in investors playing the markets

Andy Bell 
Andy Bell

Stockbroker AJ Bell was boosted by a surge in investors playing the markets during periods of high volatility in the first quarter.

The company said customer numbers rose 11pc in the three months to the end of March to 346,797, while assets under administration jumped 4pc to £65.2bn.

Chief executive Andy Bell said:

We continue to see growing numbers of younger people joining the platform as they look to take control of their long-term financial future via pensions and ISAs.

Shares fell 3.4pc to 450.8p in early trading.

07:34 AM

Domino's sales surge during lockdown

Domino's
Domino's

Domino's Pizza reported a surge in sales during the first quarter as demand for takeaways jumped during lockdown.

The takeaway chain reported an 18.5pc hike in UK and Ireland like-for-like sales – excluding stores opened near another outlet in so-called split territories – for the three months to March 28.

Domino's said overall UK and Ireland system sales were 18.7pc higher at £371.3 million.

The group said collections were seeing some recovery, now trading at around 65pc of pre-pandemic levels.

Dominic Paul, chief executive of Domino's Pizza Group, said:

We are pleased with the strong performance of the business in the first quarter of the year.

The investments we are making to deliver our multi-year strategic plan give us confidence in our ability to capitalise on the opportunities which lie ahead as the nation begins to emerge from the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

07:18 AM

FTSE opens higher

The FTSE 100 has opened in positive territory as European stocks continue to rally following a slow start to the week.

  • FTSE 100 +0.24pc

  • DAX + 0.36pc

  • CAC 40 +0.33pc

06:51 AM

Climate activists target HSBC HQ

Climate activists shattered at least 19 windows at HSBC's headquarters in London's Canary Wharf as part of a protest against the financing of what the group says is devastating climate change that threatens the planet.

The female activists from the Extinction Rebellion group used hammers to break the windows and pasted stickers on the windows before sitting down to wait for the police to arrive, a Reuters reporter at the scene said.

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"Despite HSBC's pledge to shrink its carbon footprint to net zero by 2050, their current climate plan still allows the bank to finance coal power, and provides no basis to turn away clients or cancel contracts based on links to the fossil fuel industry," Extinction Rebellion said.

A spokesman for HSBC declined immediate comment.

06:37 AM

Markets rebound

Good morning. The FTSE 100 is tipped to open around half a per cent higher as markets stage a rebound.

Meanwhile climate change activists have targeted HSBC's headquarters in Canary Wharf.

5 things to start your day

1) Tata sues Gupta over £100m speciality steel deal: The case relates to alleged missed ­payments linked to the sale of Tata’s Rotherham-based speciality steel division to Mr Gupta in 2017, sources say.

2) Bank of England to open Northern hub in Leeds: Senior executives, whole departments and a significant chunk of the Bank's 4,000 workers could be hauled away from Threadneedle Street.

3) Two-speed recovery as North steals a march on the South: Slough, Crawley and Luton have done particularly badly as their airports are deserted, while Aberdeen suffers from last year's oil bust.

4) Financial watchdog told to crack down on ‘greenwashing’: MPs warned the FCA must have the right powers to tackle the practice as part of wide-ranging efforts to cut carbon emissions.

5) Aggreko's £2.3bn takeover at risk after top shareholder opposition: Liontrust Asset Management has decided to vote against the 880 pence per share offer ahead of the deadline to decide on Thursday.

What happened overnight

Asian stocks rose on Thursday, extending a rebound in global markets following a sharp selloff earlier this week, while oil prices eased again on worries about rising Covid cases in some parts of the world.

Japan led gains, with the Nikkei 225 rallying 1.7pc, after sliding 2pc in each of the last two sessions.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.4pc following a 0.9pc decline the previous day. Chinese blue chips rose 0.3pc.

MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe added 0.2pc on Thursday, following a 0.4pc gain overnight.

Coming up today

Corporate: Informa (Full year); Domino's Pizza, AJ Bell, Anglo American, Segro, Rentokil, Taylor Wimpey, Gem Diamonds, Relx, Spectris, Centamin (Trading update)

Economics: Consumer confidence (UK); industrial sales (Italy); jobless claims, existing home sales (US)