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FTSE closes just shy of 7,000 points

·37 min read
Canary Wharf on the Isle of Dogs  - Paul Grover /Telegraph
Canary Wharf on the Isle of Dogs - Paul Grover /Telegraph

05:22 PM

Wrapping up

That is all from us today - here are some of our top stories:

Thank you for following along!

05:20 PM

Confirmed banning on unhealthy food promotions

The Government has confirmed that promotions on food and drinks high in fat salt or sugar will be restricted from October next year.

Rules will require medium and large firm - including those with 50 or more staff - to phase out the offering of multibuy deals such as “buy one get one free” or “3 for 2” offers on related products.

Less healthy promotions will also no longer be featured in key locations like checkouts, store entrances, aisle ends and online equivalents. Free refills of sugary soft drinks will also be banned in the eating-out sector

05:07 PM

Travel ups and downs

Scott Kirby, the chief executive of United Airlines, said he expects a recovery in travel demand to continue despite a resurgence in Covid cases, though warned of unpredictability until more people are vaccinated.

"There's going to be ups and downs between now and the time that enough of the world is vaccinated that this really proceeds into the background, which we look forward to," he said on an investor call.

The Chicago-based reported forecast-beating revenue for the three months to June late on Tuesday, on a strong domestic travel rebound and said it expects to return to profitability in the third quarter.

United said business and international travel have also picked up quicker than expected. It expects business demand to improve by the end of the third quarter to be down about 40pc to 45pc versus the same pre-pandemic period in 2019 as more businesses reopen.

04:47 PM

J&J forecasts $2.5bn in 2021 sales for Covid shot

Johnson & Johnson has forecast $2.5bn (£1.8bn) in 2021 sales for its Covid shot and set a lower production target as lengthy manufacturing problems took a toll.

It now expects to produce 500m to 600m doses of its one-shot vaccine this year, chief financial officer Joseph Wolk told CNBC, down from the original goal of a billion shots.

J&J expects to record more than half of the projected sales in the fourth quarter. It reported $164m in coronavirus vaccine sales for the second quarter, bringing total sales to $264m so far. It estimated its vaccine price at $5 per dose in the first half of the year, and said it would likely be as much as $8 by year end.

The health conglomerate - which has promised it would not make a profit on the vaccine during the pandemic - didn't offer a timeline for when it would resume production at a problematic Baltimore plant, which had been expected to produce vaccines for Europe and the US.

04:29 PM

Calm weather hits Scottish Power profits

Calm, still weather has hit profits at renewables business Scottish Power, as its onshore wind turbines generated less electricity, reports Rachel Millard.

The onshore turbines generated 16pc less power during the second half of 2021 compared to the same period last year, "mainly due to lower wind levels", bosses said.

It "more than offset" the boost in generation from a new offshore wind farm in the North Sea, and also meant that Scottish Power had to turn more often to the pricey wholesale market to supply its customers.

Overall, the still weather led to a 7.7pc fall in half-yearly profits for Scottish Power's renewables business, down £25m to £304m.

Keith Anderson, Scottish Power's chief executive, said: “A positive and steady performance in the first half has been underpinned by increased performance from our new offshore wind farm, East Anglia One, partially reducing the impact of lower output from onshore wind."

Scottish Powers onshore wind farms are in Scotland but also in Northern Ireland and parts of England. Production from its offshore turbines grew 36pc, helped by the new farm.

It is trying to harness higher wind speeds further out to sea, announcing last week that it is teaming up with Shell to bid to build floating offshore wind farms off the coast of Scotland.

04:01 PM

Company updates

Some updates from London-listed companies today...

  • Speedy Hire sees 'favourable' market

Tool rental firm Speedy Hire said market conditions have been 'favourable' since the start of the financial year and it is trading in line with expectations. Revenue in June was around 3pc higher than in the same month in 2019, pre-pandemic. Chief executive Russell Down said: "We have a strong balance sheet and our renewed banking facility gives the group substantial headroom to support future growth".

  • Qinetiq hails 'good start' to year

Defence tech firm Qinetiq cheered a "good start" to its financial year and said it remains on track to notch up mid-single digit growth in revenues, at 11pc to 12pc operating profit margins, which is set to rise up to 13pc in the medium term. It added its long-term plan to ultimately reach more than £2bn of group-wide revenues was "continuing to deliver well".

  • Bakkavor sales rise as shoppers pick pizza over salad

Food supplier Bakkavor hailed "strong sales momentum" after the easing of restrictions, as sales jumped 13pc for the 13 weeks to June 26 compared with the same period last year. This was a 0.7pc rise against the period in 2019. Sales of ready-to-eat salads, however, remain below pre-pandemic levels despite being buoyed slightly by more people returning to the office, while pizza, bread, ready meals and desserts are at 2019 levels.

03:25 PM

Brewdog falls to £13m loss as founder grapples with 'toxic workplace' claims

A Deliveroo rider outside an empty Brewdog pub in Liverpool city centre in October 2020  - Asadour Guzelian 
A Deliveroo rider outside an empty Brewdog pub in Liverpool city centre in October 2020 - Asadour Guzelian

Scandal-hit Brewdog slumped into the red last year as its founders grappled with toxic workplace claims, writes my colleague Laura Onita.

The company, founded by friends James Watt and Martin Dickie in 2007, sank to a £13.1m pre-tax loss in 2020 despite posting a 10pc rise in sales to £238m compared with 2019.

Mr Watt said the revenue increase was “the most significant achievement in our short history” given that its bars and restaurants were forced to shut for months.

The co-founder and chief executive called 2020 “without a doubt the toughest year in our 13-year history”. He said the company’s employees “galvanised in the fire and adversity of the last nine months, is also stronger than it has ever been”.

His remarks came only weeks after the company apologised to former staff following an open letter, which circulated on Twitter, accusing Mr Watt and Brewdog of fostering a "rotten culture" that made staff feel "burnt out, afraid and miserable".

Despite the hospitality industry’s travails due to Covid, Brewdog said it plans to open more venues in addition to its existing 100 bars. It is working on 30 new locations – including hotels – in cities such as Manchester, Mumbai and Milan.

03:19 PM

Precious metals propel Royal Mint back to profit

Surging interest in precious metals and commemorative coins during the pandemic has driven coin maker the Royal Mint back to an annual profit despite demand for new coins plunging, reports Lucy Burton.

The taxpayer-owned group, which last year sent a coin honouring David Bowie into space and back, said its precious metals business saw record revenue growth for the year to March 31 as investors flocked to safe haven assets during the Covid crisis.

The 1,100-year old organisation said it attracted over 25,000 new investors to its precious metals division over the period while sales of gold and silver doubled, helped by a rush of millenials investing via its online platform DigiGold.

It added that commemorative coins "with international appeal" such as its David Bowie coin also became its fastest growth area over the period, particularly in the US and Asia.

The rush of interest in both divisions helped the business swing to a £12.4m pre-tax profit for the year, compared with losses of £200,000 the year before. That triggered a bonus for all employees, equivalent to £3.2m in profit shares.

The rise comes despite the falling demand for coins during the Covid crisis. Access to cash is being increasingly limited as usage plunges, with the Royal Mint last year saying it will not produce any new £2 or two pence coins for at least a decade, and reducing the number of staff working on making coins by a fifth.

03:12 PM

Expert reaction: FTSE rises 1.7pc

Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG, comments:

Tuesday’s rally has extended into a second day, and Monday’s sudden drop looks more and more like a sudden air pocket that produced excitement but little lasting impact.

At present it appears growth is being left behind, or at least technology stocks are, in part due to caution after Netflix’s results last night.

European indices are sharply higher, recovering from a tough few sessions, led by the FTSE 100, which has managed to top the 7000 level once more.

If Monday does turn out to have been a sudden summer squall the strength of this current bull market will be reaffirmed once again, and will also bolster the ongoing parallels with 2013 and 2017, which both followed on the heels of volatile years but were themselves examples of quiet but relentless equity market rallies.


[...] Rolls-Royce, IAG and Compass Group are all good names to pick for those looking for a renewed economic recovery, while REITs like Land Securities and British Land should see further inflows if more retailers post updates like the one from Next this morning.

03:05 PM

Netflix shares slides as growth slows

The Netflix logo is seen on their office in Hollywood, Los Angeles - Lucy Nicholson /Reuters
The Netflix logo is seen on their office in Hollywood, Los Angeles - Lucy Nicholson /Reuters

shares fell as much as 5pc today, its worst stock decline since April, as the streaming giant said customers are watching less TV as the pandemic subsides.

The company is facing a slowdown after pandemic lockdowns sent its membership soaring in 2020.

The company added 1.54m customers in the second quarter. That was above the 1.12m forecast by analysts - and Netflix’s own estimate of 1 million - however it marks a steep drop compared to the company’s previous growth of 5.5m in the first quarter.

“Theres still a bit of choppiness to our growth,” Chief Financial Officer Spencer Neumann said in a pretaped interview with Nidhi Gupta of Fidelity Management. “Overall, the business is performing well.”

Netflix is hoping it can snare new customers by adding video games to its streaming service in the next 12 months at no additional cost to its customers..

02:55 PM

Foxtons confirms possible sale of mortgage business

London-based estate agent Foxtons has confirmed it is "reviewing strategic options" for its mortgage broking business, Alexander Hall Associates, which could include selling the division.

PA has the details:

The news was first reported by property website Mortgage Solutions, which said several mortgage advice firms had been approached by third parties on behalf of the estate agent in the last two months.

Revenues in Foxtons' mortgage broking business fell 5pc in 2020, compared with a year earlier, due to reduced market volumes.

The mortgage sector took a heavy hit at the start of the Covid-19 crisis but the Government's stamp duty holiday saw it return with gusto as homeowners looked to take advantage of the tax break.

02:49 PM

Barclays predicts homeworking boom for high streets

People chat on the High Street in Merthyr Tydfil - Ben Birchall /PA
People chat on the High Street in Merthyr Tydfil - Ben Birchall /PA

As many as 17,000 new stores could open on local high streets over the next year as retailers try to take advantage of more people working from home, according to Barclays Corporate Banking.

A new report by the bank found that home and hybrid working patterns are likely to help local high streets over town and city centres, with 16pc of workers expecting to work entirely from home and 28pc anticipating a part-home, part-office model.

The research added that around 18pc of retail businesses with 10 or more employees are eyeing community store openings, with each looking at five new premises on average. Barclays said cumulatively, this could see 17,000 more stores in local high streets across the UK.

Karen Johnson, head of retail and wholesale for Barclays Corporate Banking, said:

Our report shows how innovative UK retail businesses are looking to build back better to meet the challenges of a reshaped and revitalised retail landscape.

Ecommerce has been the undisputed winner of the pandemic but not far behind are community high streets, as shoppers seek to 'look local' and support the stores on their doorstep.

With the continuation of home working, this shows no sign of slowing down, and retailers are now looking at evaluating their store estates to meet local demand.

02:28 PM

Brent rises 3pc

Brent oil has rallied 3pc today to $71.48, recouping some of its losses from earlier in the week amid speculation that global markets will eventually tighten.

Despite the virus’ threat to demand and plans by the OPEC+ coalition to revive supply, analysts widely expect global inventories will continue to contract as economic activity picks up during the rest of the year.

02:10 PM

Money round-up

Here's the day's best from The Telegraph's Money team:

01:56 PM

FTSE back above 7,000

The FTSE 100 has lifted 1.8pc to 7,006.20 points.

01:47 PM

Upbeat earnings boost US stocks

US stocks have edged higher today, as a series of corporate earnings took away focus from virus variant concerns.

More than 85pc of the S&P 500 companies reporting results so far have beaten analysts estimates, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Earnings estimates for the S&P 500 have surged because of a “huge explosion” in profit at economically sensitive firms, according to Michael Purves, chief executive officer at Tallbacken Capital Advisors.

The S&P 500 extended gains into a second day, led by commodity, financial and industrial shares. The index rose 0.5pc, unwinding Monday's sharp sell off.

The Dow Jones inched 0.6pc higher while the tech heavy Nasdaq lifted 0.3pc.

01:30 PM

Outdoor cook book drives up sales at Bloomsbury

Tom Kerridge outside his pub the Hand and Flowers in Marlow - Andrew Crowley /Telegraph
Tom Kerridge outside his pub the Hand and Flowers in Marlow - Andrew Crowley /Telegraph

Popular chef Tom Kerridge's latest book, Outdoor Cooking, boosted sales for publisher Bloomsbury as families spent more time around the barbecue during lockdowns and balmy weather, reports Rachel Millard.

The burger and pudding manual joined the publisher's bestseller list alongside Lisa Taddeo's novel Animal and JK Rowling's Harry Potter series - nearly 15 years since the last book was released.

They helped propel Bloomsbury's sales up 28pc to £63m during the four months ending June 30 compared to the previous year. Bosses said they were "pleased with the performance."

During the four months, sales of children's books rose 32pc to £24.8m, while sales of adult books rose 17pc to £15m. Sales of academic and professional books rose 35pc to £15.7m, and the special interest category rose 23pc to £7.6m.

This year Bloomsbury has bought academic publisher Red Globe Press as well as genre and children's publisher Head of Zeus. Bloomsbury said the new divisions had added £1.3m combined to revenues so far.

Bloomsbury said it was "actively targeting further acquisition opportunities in line with our long-term growth strategy."

It expects performance for the full-year ending February 2022 to be in line with market expectations of £193.4m sales and £19.3m profits.

01:09 PM

NatWest chairman says London office life will never return

NatWest chairman Howard Davies said today he believes Covid has permanently altered office life in London.

“The days when 2,500 people walked in through our office door at Bishopsgate at 8.30am and then walked out again at 6pm, I think that is gone,” Davies said, speaking in a Bloomberg TV interview.

While some roles such as traders may remain desk-bound, the majority of the banks staff are expected to come in only intermittently, he said.

“We are looking at having a minimum expectation of a few days a month where people will definitely have to be in the office, and then it will vary by teams, but I suspect there won’t be many people doing five long days in the office,” he said.

Davies also welcomed the decision by the Bank of England this month to lift its restrictions on bank dividends and said he expected payouts at lenders to return to a “sustainable level.” Last year, Davies criticised the central bank’s ban on payouts, saying the sector isn’t investible otherwise.

He also warned Wednesday that the U.K. may have “an incipient inflation problem,” citing the presence of bottlenecks in the economy such as increasing wages.

12:52 PM

Ford, Lyft and Argo join forces to roll out robo-taxis

Ford Motor and technology company Argo AI have announced plans to join forces with ride-hailing service Lyft to launch the biggest commercial rollout of robot rides later this year.

The robo-taxi service will start out with fewer than 100 self- driving hybrid Ford Escape sport utility vehicles. Each vehicle will be accompanied by two human minders: a backup driver who can take control if necessary and a worker who monitors the technology in action.

The vehicles, which will operate in Miami and Austin, won’t be restricted to preapproved routes and passengers will be able to choose the self-driving vehicle option in their Lyft app at no extra charge.

“It will be just like a vehicle you would hail today except that a robot is driving," said Bryan Salesky, Argo’s chief executive officer.

The plan is to begin significantly expanding the initiative in 2023, with the ultimate goal of dispatching 1,000 self-driving vehicles across US cities.

As part of the deal, Lyft is getting a 2.5pc stake in Argo. Lyft isn’t making a cash investment but is instead giving Argo access to fleet and safety data that will provide a detailed road map to help establish a large-scale robo-taxi service.

Jody Kelman, the head of Lyft’s autonomous unit, said in an interview: “We really want to help consumers on this transition to self-driving technology as a transportation option... We think the easiest way for a consumer to think about that is it’s priced the same. It’s just like any other ride on Lyft.”

12:32 PM

Daimler warns microchip crisis will drag on

A visitor passes an EQA Power all-electric automobile in a Mercedes Benz AG dealership in Berlin, Germany - Liesa Johannssen-Koppitz /Bloomberg
A visitor passes an EQA Power all-electric automobile in a Mercedes Benz AG dealership in Berlin, Germany - Liesa Johannssen-Koppitz /Bloomberg

Mercedes-Benz owner Daimler expects the semiconductor shortage to mean the latter part of the year will wipe out the strong sales its upmarket cars enjoyed in the first half, writes Alan Tovey.

The German automotive business forecast full-year sales are now likely to be flat on 2020’s level as it continues to be hit by the shortage of computer chips which is causing havoc in the car industry.

Manufacturers are having to focus supplies of semiconductors they can get hold of on their most profitable models, and the shortages have caused car makers around the world to halt production lines when stocks run out.

Daimler chief executive Ola Kallenius said: “The entire industry is currently struggling with longer delivery times, which unfortunately also affect our customers. We are doing what we can to minimise the impact.

He added that the cars and vans divisions, “posted double-digit margins for the third quarter in a row and thus demonstrated the resilience of our business - despite the persistently low availability of semiconductors”.

Despite issues with computer chips, Daimler beat analysts’ forecasts for the second quarter. Sales rose almost 44pc on the last time round to €43.5bn, with a net profit of €3.7bn, reversing the €1.9bn loss a year ago.

12:20 PM

JP Morgan boss offered millions in stock to stop him retiring

JP Morgan has offered its long-standing boss Jamie Dimon a "special award" to encourage him to stay for longer, stopping potential successors such as British banker Marianne Lake from taking over, writes my colleague Lucy Burton.

America's biggest bank has told investors that the award of 1.5m share options, which could be worth tens of millions of dollars, reflects the board's desire to keep the banker for a "further significant number of years". He was paid $31.5m (£23m) last year.

The move is a blow to the executives regarded as frontrunners to replace him, including Ms Lake, following a recent round of key promotions sparked speculation that JP Morgan was preparing for Mr Dimon's departure.

It has been positioning Ms Lake as a potential future leader for years, making her jointly responsible for running JP Morgan’s biggest division in May and putting her office next door to the chief executive.

The longer Mr Dimon remains in the job, the less likely it is for number two Daniel Pinto to take over, lowering the odds for JP Morgan’s younger cohort of senior executives such as Ms Lake.

A JP Morgan spokesman declined to comment further on Mr Dimon's award.

12:16 PM

Future worth more than easyJet as magazine ad sales surge

chief executive Zillah Byng-Thorne £40m  - David Rose /Telegraph
chief executive Zillah Byng-Thorne £40m - David Rose /Telegraph

The magazine publisher behind Country Life and Horse & Hound is in sight of a spot in the FTSE 100 after its shares jumped again on the back of surging ad sales, reports Simon Foy.

Future said it expected full-year profits to be “materially ahead” of market expectations, driven by “robust” digital advertising and e-commerce revenue in its media division.

Its magazine arm performed in line with expectations, according to its trading update.

Shares rose by nearly a tenth to £35.27, valuing the company at £4.25bn, which means it is now worth more than airline easyJet.

The FTSE 250 media company said it was able to achieve continued growth despite “macro-economic uncertainties” during the pandemic.

In the last year, Future’s share price has climbed by more than 165pc and by more than 3,000pc in the last five years.

The company’s meteoric rise has been driven by a raft of acquisitions of specialist magazines and websites, stripping out the costs and refashioning them as online-focused titles that guide readers towards buying products from ecommerce sites. In May, Future snapped up the US edition of Marie Claire.

On Wednesday, the company also said its integration of Go Compare, which it bought for £600m last year, is progressing well and on track to achieve £15m in synergies.

12:10 PM

US futures: Earnings season calm concerns about Covid

US stock futures are mixed this morning in New York as corporate earnings distract from concerns about coronavirus flare ups around the world.

Dow futures are currently up 0.2pc or 60 points, S&P futures are flat while Nasdaq futures dropped 0.3pc or 43 points.

Netflix slipped in pre-market trading after reporting a disappointing start to the year. Vaccine maker Moderna also declined before its inclusion on the S&P 500.

However Coca Cola jumped more than 3pc in the pre-market after reporting a surge in second-quarter sales, while Verizon Communications and Johnson & Johnson also advanced after upbeat earnings.

Rising cases of the delta strain and the re-introduction of curbs to fight infections in a number of nations spooked investors this week, prompting a selloff in risk assets on Monday.

However loose US monetary policy, still-high levels of economic expansion and robust corporate earnings growth remain props for sentiment, with investors quick to buy the dip.

12:00 PM

BHP in talks to sell $12bn oil and gas assets to Australian suitor

A worker from Billiton's Escondida, the world's biggest copper mine, is pictured inside a copper cathodes plant in Antofagasta - Ivan Alvarado /REUTERS 
A worker from Billiton's Escondida, the world's biggest copper mine, is pictured inside a copper cathodes plant in Antofagasta - Ivan Alvarado /REUTERS

Australia's top independent gas producer is said to be eyeing BHP's portfolio as the global mining giant seeks to move away from fossil fuels, writes Rachel Millard.

Woodside Petroleum is in talks to buy some or all of BHP's oil and gas assets, according to reports in Australia hours after Bloomberg revealed BHP was considering selling off the $10bn-$15bn [£13bn] package.

Shares in Woodside fell on Wednesday following reports of its interest in The Australian newspaper, amid concern it may have to issue new shares to fund any deal or be lumbered with decommissioning costs.

BHP and Woodside both declined to comment on the sales reports. A Woodside spokesperson told Reuters it was focused on running a project in Senegal and reaching investment decisions on projects in Western Australia.

It already has stakes in two of BHP's Australian projects - the North West Shelf liquefied natural gas project and the Scarborough gas field.

BHP's oil and gas portfolio includes assets off Australia and Trinidad and Tobago and in the Gulf of Mexico. They are forecast to earn more than $2bn this year, and produced more than 102.8 million barrels of oil equivalent in the year ending June 30.

Like other miners, BHP needs to cut down on carbon-intensive parts of its portfolio and wants to boost its presence in commodities set to be in growing demand in line with the shift to electric cars and electric heating, such as copper and nickel.

BHP said: “We do not comment on market rumour and speculation”.

11:51 AM

FTSE risers and fallers

Retailer Next remains the top riser on the FTSE 100 after it raised its profit outlook following robust earnings, with its shares currently up 7.6pc or 560p to £79.54.

Shares of engine maker Rolls Royce have also gained 6.5pc or 5.9p while British Airways owner IAG has lifted 5.1pc or 7.9p.

Trailing the blue-chips is Royal Mail, down 2.5pc, after it said UK parcel volumes fell by 7pc in the three months to the end of June.

Cybersecurity company Avast has also dipped 2pc as excitement about a potential merger with NortonLifeLock fades. The stock however is still 17.5pc higher compared to last month.

On the FTSE 250 mid cap index, publisher Future was leading gains, up 9.2pc, after it said profitability was expected to be ahead of its guidance.

Cinema chain Cineworld has also received a 8pc boost after rival Odeon said yesterday that it had welcomed one million customers to its cinemas across Europe in the week to Friday 16th July.

11:33 AM

Property sales surge to three decade high

Property sales in June surged to their highest level in more than three decades ahead of the first stamp duty deadline and against a backdrop of increasingly low mortgage rates, reports my colleague Rachel Mortimer.

The latest data from HM Revenue & Customs recorded 213,120 residential transactions last month, a jump of more than 216pc on June last year, when the market had just reopened, and almost 109pc higher than May 2021.

It is the highest monthly figure recorded since October 1988 and the sixth highest in the past 40 years, according to analysis from estate agency Savills.

June is usually a big month for transactions as they increase in the run up to summer, but last month’s figures were driven even higher by the impending stamp duty holiday deadline at the end of the month. Buyers had until June 30 to save the maximum amount of £15,000 in tax.

Lucian Cook, of Savills, said the numbers showed how a pre-announced stamp duty measure could distort market activity.

“This time that impact has been magnified because of an urgency among buyers in the middle to upper part of the housing market to upsize given their experience of successive lockdowns, further fuelled by an ability to lock into low mortgage rates,” he added.

Mortgage borrowers are now able to access Britain's cheapest-ever deals after lenders slashed rates for those with large deposits. Earlier this month TSB and HSBC launched deals at 0.94pc - the cheapest mortgages since records began.

11:06 AM

Volvo buys out Geely joint ventures

Swedish carmaker Volvo has bought out its parent company's joint ventures in China, paving way for a potential initial public offering later this year.

Volvo said it would buyout its parent company Geely's Chinese factories. Geely has said it is considering its options for the Swedish company after it scrapped plans to merge its auto unit in Hong Kong with Volvo Cars.

"These two transactions will create a clearer ownership structure within both Volvo Cars and Geely Holding," Geely's CEO Daniel Li said.

Hakan Samuelsson, Volvo's chief executive, said in June the company was working towards a possible float in late 2021, but that it would continue to share some operations with Geely "at arm's length".

10:33 AM

Gains at Future on magazine outlook

Magazine ads and affiliate revenues from Amazon have bolstered the outlook at digital publisher Future, sending shares up more than 9pc this morning.

In a trading update, Future said it expected profitability to be materially ahead of its guidance.

Zillah Byng-Thorne, its chief executive, said: "We are delighted that the Group's strong performance has continued throughout the period, which is testament to the strength of our diversified revenue streams and global reach."

The publisher of Country Life and TechRadar said it had achieved £15m in synergies from the integration of GoCompare for £594m earlier this year.

09:41 AM

M&S warns that some shelves could be left empty in Northern Ireland

The chairman of M&S Archie Norman has warned that stockings could be missing items this Christmas in Northern Ireland as he lambasted "pointless" checks.

Speaking on Radio 4, Norman warned M&S was already cutting back its Christmas list for its shops in the region amid concerns they could be blocked crossing the Irish Sea.

He said: "This Christmas, I can tell you already, we're having to make decisions to delist product for Northern Ireland because it's simply not worth the risk of trying to get it through.

"We've already made that decision. We're waiting to see how serious it's going to be but if it's anything like southern Ireland (the Republic of Ireland), and at the moment it's set to be, then it's going to be very, very serious for customers."

Sausages - PA
Sausages - PA

He warned that sandwiches were requiring up to three vets checks to get into the market. The sort of foods likely to be missing from shelves include food products with different ingredients that are subject to tougher checks.

He has written to Brexit minister Lord Frost to express his concerns.

M&S shares are up 3.7pc so far today. Fellow fashion retailer Next reported strong results this morning boosting outlook for the high street.

09:34 AM

JP Morgan's Dimon gets 'special' award worth tens of millions of dollars

Jamie Dimon is in line for a stock award potentially worth tens of millions of dollars after being granted 1.5m share options as part of the Wall Street bank's desire to keep the chief executive at the bank “significant number of years”.

The stock rights will allow him to exercise the shares at Tuesday's price of $148, meaning he will profit if the shares rise above that price in the coming years. The Financial Times reported the 65-year-old would be in line for about $49m after their 10 -year vesting schedule expires.

“In making the special award, the board considered the importance of Mr Dimon’s continuing, long-term stewardship of the firm, leadership continuity and management succession planning amidst a highly competitive landscape for executive leadership talent,” the bank said.

09:20 AM

Daimler shares down on semiconductor woes

Shares in the Mercedes-Benz maker are down 2pc this morning, after dropping 4pc in its first trades, on news we reported earlier that it has been hit hard by the ongoing semiconductor shortage.

“The entire industry is currently struggling with longer delivery times, which unfortunately also affect our customers,” chief executive Ola Kallenius said. “We are doing what we can to minimize the impact.”

In April, Daimler had said its business would be more profitable than it has been in years as vehicle demand surged. It raised its estimated return on car sales to 10pc to 12pc, up from 8pc to 10pc, but this quarter executives have warned headwinds are likely to intensify.

08:59 AM

Sterling still struggling

Sterling is on track for its fifth consecutive daily decline against the dollar amid rising numbers of Covid cases in the UK.

This week the pound fell to its lowest point since February 4 of $1.3572 after Boris Johnson's "freedom day" for England.

"Confusion on the removal of the lockdown measures remains a drag for the GBP in the near term," wrote UniCredit analysts.

Sterling is down 0.2pc at $1.3608 as it "is attempting to stabilise after what has been a poor week so far", says Jane Foley at Rabobank. "Another wave of news suggesting that the EU and the UK are at odds regarding the Northern Ireland protocol will not help sentiment today."

08:46 AM

Bridgepoint shares soar

Shares in Bridgepoint have soared on their stock market debut leaving the private equity firm worth £2.9bn.

The group, which was spun out of NatWest bank in 2000, prices its shares at 350p - at the top end of the 300p to 350p estimated range - for the start of conditional trading.

The stock quickly surged by more than a quarter to about 440p in early trading.

Bridgepoint raised £300m from the listing, which will be invested in growth plans, the next generation of funds, acquisitions and to allow it to pay down debts.

Unconditional trading starts on Monday.

Bridgepoint joins a small number of listed European buyout groups including FTSE 100 firm 3i Group and comes amid a boom in private equity deals.

08:38 AM

Australia to host its third Olympics

And in some breaking news, Brisbane has been awarded the 2032 Olympic Games by the IOC.

It will be the third time the Games have gone Down Under, following Melbourne in 1956 and Sydney in 2000.

Queensland state premier Annastacia Palaszczuk tweets:

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08:26 AM

Parcels boost Royal Mail

Royal Mail says the Covid online shopping boom is here to stay as the number of parcels being sent remains above pre-pandemic levels.

UK parcel volumes fell by 7pc in the three months to the end of June compared with the same period last year, but remain 35pc higher than 2019 levels.

Speaking ahead of the annual meeting on Wednesday, chairman Keith Williams said: "We are starting to see evidence that the domestic parcel market is re-basing to a higher level than pre-pandemic, as consumers continue to shop online."

International parcel sending remains weak due to reduced air freight capacity and increased conveyance costs, and the transition to a new trade deal with the EU, Royal Mail added.

Total revenues rose increased 12.2pc in the quarter and parcel revenues were up 3.4pc.

Letter sending also increased with volumes up more than a fifth but remain 18pc lower than two years ago.

Shares, however, dipped 3pc in early trading after the dip in parcel volumes.

07:49 AM

Bitcoin emerges above $30,000

Bitcoin has continued to recover, pushing to around $30,780 despite concerns of new regulations from Europe and a mining ban in China.

A crackdown in Asia has forced Bitcoin's mining industry, which mints news coins using computer power, to relocate from China and head to other regions such as Kazakhstan and Texas to avoid being shut down.

Meanwhile, in the UK the FCA is digging in on cryptocurrency rules, and this week Europe threatened to tighten up regulations around so-called stablecoins.

But despite this, Bitcoin appears to be steadying its falls. It pushed above $30,000 for the first time in a month with some of its best trading in weeks today, up around 3pc.

07:17 AM

Next smashes sales guidance, shares surge

Next has continued its strong run as one of the only high street names to weather the pandemic, reporting it had beaten its expectations for full-year sales, rising 19pc in the last 11 weeks compared to two years ago.

The clothes retailer added it was increasing its profit guidance, boosting its share price 9pc in opening trading today and making it one of the morning's biggest risers.

Next has been one of the only high street fashion brands to ride out the pandemic in style. Over the past 12 months its shares are up close to 60pc thanks to investment in its online operation.

The company also said it would repay £29m in business rates relief to the Government, while increasing its full year profits before tax by £30m.

"Our sales during the last eleven weeks have been materially ahead of our expectations and, as a result, we are increasing our profit guidance for the full year," Next said.

07:07 AM

FTSE recovery continues

The FTSE 100 has opened up 0.59pc, around 40 points, after Monday's falls, despite ongoing fears from the Delta variant spreading through the UK.

The FTSE 250 is also up, climbing 0.55pc, up 122 points to around 22,241.

06:54 AM

Daimler warns on chip shortage crisis

German car giant Daimler has warned chip shortages are set to continue through the second half of 2021 as automakers continue to bear the brunt of a semiconductor drought.

The maker of Mercedes-Benz cars said it expected its full year sales to remain in-line with 2020 levels, which were hit hard by the pandemic. Previously it had said it expected sales to be an improvement on the previous year.

Ola Källenius, its chief executive, said it still needed to improve "supply visibility" in semiconductors after becoming one of the major car sellers to cut production this year.

Mercedes-Benz car sales in the second quarter jumped 27pc, with a 54pc jump in Europe, Daimler's second market after China.

06:29 AM

Covid costs continue to outpace economic recovery

Rishi Sunak faces a battle to rein in spending with tax receipts still below previous levels -  Jacob King/PA
Rishi Sunak faces a battle to rein in spending with tax receipts still below previous levels - Jacob King/PA

My colleague Tim Wallace writes:

Rishi Sunak borrowed another £22.8bn last month as Covid costs are still running well ahead of the economic recovery, leaving tax revenues short of inflated government spending.

That is an increase from £20.6bn in May, indicating the economic crisis is far from over. This is the second-highest borrowing for any June on record - at £5.5bn below the deficit in the same month of 2020 - and takes the national debt to £2.2 trillion.

It is equivalent to 99.7pc of annual GDP, indicating the debt is almost as big as the economy’s annual output for the first time since 1961, when Britain was still overcoming its debts from the Second World War.

There are signs of the economy bouncing back. Government receipts climbed to £62.2bn for the month, up from £9.5bn a year earlier with income tax, fuel duty and VAT all giving the Chancellor sharply higher revenues as the reopening takes hold and economic activity ramps up.

But expenditure remains high with central government bodies spending £84.1bn in the month, a rise of £2.5bn on the year despite all of the virus-fighting progress in the past 12 months. A large share of this is thought to be the cost of the NHS Test and Trace programme, as well as the vaccines.

06:25 AM

June borrowing hits £22.8bn

Good morning. Borrowing last month totalled £22.8bn, coming in slightly above consensus estimates of £22.2bn. While the Government borrowed £5.5bn less than it did 12 months ago in the grip of the pandemic, this was still the second-worst June on record as Covid costs continue despite the economic recovery.

5 things to start your day

1) Channel 4 attacks 'very harmful' privatisation plans: Channel 4 has accused the Culture Secretary of failing to provide any evidence to support a sale that would have a “very harmful” effect.

2) MPs cut off funding to chip factory after sale to Chinese: UK Research and Investment (UKRI) has suspended grants to Newport Wafer Fab under Government instructions after its sale to Nexperia.

3) Sunak forced to hike taxes or cut spending, warns IFS: Institute for Fiscal Studies says Chancellor's goal of balancing the books is under threat without tax rises or lower spending.

4) GB News gets fewer viewers than Horror Channel before signing upFarage: First-night ratings show the former Ukip leader brought in almost 100,000 viewers for the upstart station.

5) World's largest asset manager steps up its game against climate issues: BlackRock voted against 255 board directors in the year to June 30 because they failed to act on climate issues, up from 55 in 2020.

What happened overnight

Asian shares and US Treasury yields rose on Wednesday, clawing back some of the week's losses as investors reassessed economic worries, but the dollar was firm on concerns over the impact of a fast-spreading coronavirus variant.

Rising Covid infections have rocked global markets this week as investors dumped risk assets, seeking stability in safe haven assets like bonds. That sent stocks tumbling and pushed the benchmark US 10-year yield to five-month lows on Tuesday.

But on Wednesday, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.17pc, trimming its losses for the week to around 2pc, while Japan's Nikkei rose 0.9pc after touching six-month lows a day earlier.

Sentiment in Japan was supported by a jump in exports in June, led by US demand for cars and China-bound shipments of chip-making equipment, boosting hopes for an export-led recovery.

Australian shares were up 1.21pc, Chinese blue-chips added 0.76pc and Taiwan shares rose 0.27pc.

Seoul's KOSPI slipped 0.14pc as South Korea reported a daily record of coronavirus cases.

Coming up today

  • Corporate: Nichols, Hochschild Mining (Interim); Antofagasta, Bakkavor, Close Brothers, PayPoint, QinetiQ, Royal Mail, Coca-Cola, Euromoney, Norcros (Trading update)

  • Economics: Government borrowing (UK)