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FTSE 100 Live 12 March: UK GDP in focus after index closes up 1% to 2024 high, US inflation setback

FTSE 100 Live (Evening Standard)
FTSE 100 Live (Evening Standard)

Markets are digesting what the latest jobs and wages figures mean for the prospect of interest rate cuts, as ONS figures showed unemployment ticked up to 3.9% but annual wage growth remains higher than the Bank of England’s liking at 6.1%.

The FTSE 100 Index closed 1% higher, with UK traders undeterred by hotter-than-expected US inflation.

Elsewhere, the competition watchdog has launched a formal investigation into the veterinary sector and Persimmon and Domino’s Pizza UK have posted results.

FTSE 100 Live Tuesday

  • Vet chains facing CMA probe

  • Early interest rate cut in doubt amid ‘sticky’ wage growth

  • Persimmon profits down 50%

Focus turns to UK January GDP

18:16 , Daniel O'Boyle

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Attention now turns to the UK’s GDP figures after today’s big rise for the FTSE 100.

Official figures published tomorrow morning will show whether the UK appears to be on its way out of recession, after two consecutive quarters of decline to end 2023.

A survey of economists for financial data platform Refinitiv suggests that GDP is expected to rise by 0.2% in January.

Closing market snapshot

17:05 , Daniel O'Boyle

Take a look at our end-of-day market snapshot on one of the best days of 2024.

Highest FTSE close since May after 1% surge

16:42 , Daniel O'Boyle

The FTSE 100 closed at its highest level since May today after rising by more than 1%.

London’s top flight finished the day at 7747.81, up 1.02%.

The index has hit the low 7700s at multiple points in the last nine months, but fell right back down every time.

The top riser was Entain, while Persimmon led a shortened fallers’ board.

‘We don’t know’ how Chancellor will make budget spending plan add up, says OBR

16:20 , Daniel O'Boyle

The head of the UK’s official forecaster has warned that “we don’t know” how the Government will make its spending plans add up amid concerns over a lack of detail from last week’s Budget.

Richard Hughes, chair of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), told MPs at the treasury select committee that it is “difficult” for the fiscal watchdog to accurately forecast the outlook for public finances as a result.

It comes around two months after Mr Hughes said spending forecasts in November’s autumn statement were beyond “a work of fiction”, in a scathing criticism of the support received from the Treasury.

Read more here

Starling Bank names Ovo boss as new chief executive

15:52 , Daniel O'Boyle

Starling Bank has appointed the boss of Ovo as its new chief executive, after founder Anne Boden stepped down from the role last year.

Raman Bhatia will take over as group chief executive from John Mountain, who took over on an interim basis in May.

Mr Bhatia is currently the chief executive of Bristol-based energy supplier Ovo, but previously headed up the digital bank for HSBC’s retail and wealth management businesses in Europe.

Read more here

Market snapshot

15:39 , Daniel O'Boyle

The FTSE 100 is off its highs, but still up more than 1% for the day

TP ICAP defies City slowdown with record growth

15:30 , Daniel O'Boyle

There’s a dearth of fresh stock market listings and UK equities are in the doldrums, but City trading house TP ICAP is powering on.

Today the group said it had record revenues for the year of £2.19 billion, up a bit on last year, thanks to strong energy and commodities trading.

Profit slipped from £113 million to £96 million, but the group is strong enough to up the dividend from 12.4p to 14.8p.

Read more here

40% of companies calling staff back in the office five days a week

15:00 , Daniel O'Boyle

Two in five companies are returning to a five-days-in-the-office workweek, according to new data from Virgin Media O2, in the latest sign that Friday office working is on its way back.

The Telecoms giant’s ‘Movers Index’ found that 40% of firms now require five-day-a-week office work. Meanwhile, 92% of companies had some kind of mandatory in-office policy.

Wednesday remains the top day for office work, with about three quarters of office workers coming in for the midweek.

Read more here

US market snapshot: Wall Street stocks rise despite inflatiion disappointment

14:43 , Daniel O'Boyle

US stocks have climbed and are close to record highs again, despite this morning’s inflation setback.

Three arrested in SFO probe into alleged £76m fraud

14:26 , Daniel O'Boyle

Fraud investigators have arrested three people as part of a probe into a property developer whose 2019 collapse forced some elderly people to move out of their homes and left 600 investors out of pocket.

The Carlauren Group had offered its investors annual returns of 10% as it raised cash to buy properties, renovate them and turn them into high-end care homes.

Over four years it bought 23 sites, most of them old hotels, including Windlestone Hall in Durham.

Read more here

Tim Berners-Lee blasts 'exploitative business model' of big tech on Web's 35th anniversary

13:57 , Daniel O'Boyle

Sir Tim Berners-Lee has taken aim at what he called the ‘exploitative business model’ of big tech as the inventor of the web marked its 35th anniversary.

Writing on the blogging website Medium, the technology veteran said that the internet had become dominated by the “self-interest” of large corporations that have “eroded the web’s values and led to breakdown and harm”.

“Power concentration...has segmented the web, with a fight to keep users hooked on one platform to optimise profit through the passive observation of content. This exploitative business model is particularly grave in this year of elections that could unravel political turmoil,” he wrote.

Read more here

Mortgage rates: Bank of England reveals sharp rise in arrears as interest rate hikes hit homeowners

13:53 , Daniel O'Boyle

The Bank of England revealed a sharp rise in people falling behind on their home loan payments today, as its long run of interest rate hikes pushed up mortgage arrears.

Official figures from Threadneedle Street showed that the value of outstanding mortgage balances that are behind on payments in the final quarter of 2023 hit £20.3 billion, up by over 50% year-on-year and 9% from the third quarter of last year.

And the proportion of the UK’s total outstanding home loans that were in arrears in the period rose to the highest since 2016 at 1.23%.

Read more here

'Last mile' on US inflation is the hardest

13:21 , Daniel O'Boyle

Daniele Antonucci, chief investment officer at Quintet Private Bank, said the latest US inflation numbers are proof that the ‘last mile’ of the country’s inflation battle is the hardest. Will the same be true in the UK?

She said: “The latest inflation figures are being released just when investors were starting to get some tentative signs that the US job market, while still quite healthy, was becoming less hot.

“The upside inflation surprise is a reminder that the last mile to the 2 per cent Fed target could be bumpy.

“We’ve always disagreed with earlier market expectations of deep, early and numerous Fed rate cuts this year. Rather, we’d argued for more measured, delayed and fewer rate reductions. This is why we moderated our US Treasury holdings last month.”

Inflation figures make things complicated for Powell & Co

13:07 , Daniel O'Boyle

Kathleen Brooks at XTB says the latest US inflation figures ‘complicate’ the picture for the Fed: “US inflation data was a touch stronger than expected for February, rising by 3.2% on an annual basis for the headline rate, the core rate fell to 3.8% from 3.9% in January, but that was still higher than the 3.7% expected. On a monthly basis, core inflation rose by 0.4%, which is a fairly hot reading and is the same level as January’s increase.

“This complicates the picture for US interest rates and makes next week’s Fed meeting even more important for the future direction of financial markets.”

 (AFP/Getty Images)
(AFP/Getty Images)

US inflation hotter than expected

12:36 , Daniel O'Boyle

Core inflation in the US came in a little hotter than expected and headline inflation rose, in a setback to the world’s largest economy’s battle to bring prices back under control.

Headline inflation ticked up to 3.8%. Core inflation was down slightly, at 3.8%, but higher than expected.

The US had made strong progress on inflation last year, but in recent months it has struggled to bring the headline figure back to the 2% target.

The figures likely mean that the Federal Reserve is unlikely to cut rates soon.

Heathrow launches renewable biofuel breakfast

12:33 , Daniel O'Boyle

A breakfast cooked with oil that is then recycled into renewable biofuels is being offered to passengers at Heathrow Airport.

The west London airport said it has partnered with chef Heston Blumenthal’s The Perfectionists’ Cafe in Terminal 2 to create the full English, which it has named the Fly Up.

The £15.95 meal is aimed at raising awareness of sustainable aviation fuel (Saf), which the sector hopes will play a key role in it reaching net zero for carbon emissions by 2050.

Read more here

Attention turns to US inflation

12:02 , Daniel O'Boyle

After this morning’s UK jobs data, focus now turns to US inflation figures, which are set to be published at 1:30 this afternoon.

The headline CPI rate is set to reaccelerate, in the latest sign that price pressures have got stickier than expected in recent months and that the Federal Reserve’s battle with inflation is not over.

However, economists expect more progress on core CPI, which is set to dip to 3.7%.

US Federal Reserve boss Jerome Powell (REUTERS)
US Federal Reserve boss Jerome Powell (REUTERS)

Are we close to reaching superhuman AI? Investors are losing patience

11:58 , Simon Hunt

Rebecca Gorman, founder and CEO of Aligned AI, writes in the Standard:

Behind the doors of R&D offices at major enterprises, a different narrative is unfolding than the one Elon Musk has brought to the media. C-suites earmarked large investments in GenAI projects with high hopes, building on the promises of ChatGPT’s hype.

Exciting prototypes and proofs of concepts were developed. Yet, one by one, enterprises are finding it challenging to eke out high enough levels of reliability and accuracy from these systems to deploy them autonomously into real-world use.

Whispers of a possible coming ‘AI winter’, a period of decreased interest and investment in artificial intelligence, already haunt the halls of venture capital. Intelligence as inaccurate and unreliable as the average human being is not sufficient for building robust software products.

Read more here

FTSE 100 up more than 1% -- market snapshot

11:36 , Daniel O'Boyle

The FTSE 100 is now up by more than 1% - take a look at today’s market snapshot

50% annual jump in mortgage balances with arrears – Bank of England figures

11:29 , Daniel O'Boyle

The value of outstanding mortgage balances with arrears jumped by just over 50% in the fourth quarter of 2023 compared with a year earlier, according to Bank of England figures.

The Bank said the value of outstanding mortgage balances with arrears increased by 9.2% from the previous quarter, to reach £20.3 billion, which was 50.3% higher than in 2022.

The proportion of the total loan balances with arrears, relative to all outstanding mortgage balances, increased on the quarter from 1.12% to 1.23%, marking the highest proportion recorded since the fourth quarter of 2016.

Read more here

City Comment: Bank of England won’t cut interest rates soon enough to help Sunak and Hunt

11:13 , Daniel O'Boyle

Slowly, painfully slowly, the heat is coming out of the labour market.

But will it cool off enough in time for the string of pre-election interest rate cuts that Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt are counting on to shore up what is left of the Tory vote? Probably not.

Working on the assumption of an October polling day (Tory strategists are unlikely to want to be boxed into December of January, and November clashes awkwardly with the US Presidential election) that leaves five Monetary Policy Committee meetings until we all troop to the ballot boxes.

Read more here

Banks given extra time to ‘break the spell’ of scammers before sending payments

11:06 , Daniel O'Boyle

Payment service providers such as banks will be given more time to contact customers, police and others when they have reasonable grounds to suspect fraud before they send a payment, under draft legislation published on Tuesday.

It will give providers a further 72 hours to investigate payments, but only where there are reasonable grounds to suspect fraud or dishonesty and more time is needed to contact the customer or other parties such as law enforcement, the Government said.

The legislation will generally apply to authorised push payments (APPs).

Read more here

Public sector employment highest since 2012

10:30 , Daniel O'Boyle

Public sector employment is at its highest level in over a decade, the ONS said:

HSBC drives FTSE 100 progress, FirstGroup upgrade lifts shares

10:28 , Graeme Evans

Asia-focused HSBC and Prudential today powered the FTSE 100 index in a rare session of outperformance by London’s top flight.

Shares in the heavyweight duo rallied 2% as they mirrored the optimism of Hong Kong dealing rooms following a 3% jump for the Hang Seng index.

The FTSE 100 index responded with a rise of 1% or 73.11 points to 7742.34, whereas European markets were closer to breakeven after a subdued Wall Street handover.

The risers board was led by Prudential’s rise of 23.8p to 812p, with HSBC up 12.1p to 587.9p and fellow Asia-focused lender Standard Chartered ahead 15.2p to 675.2p.

They were joined by BAE Systems, which advanced another 20p to 1280p, and Lloyds Banking Group after an improvement of 0.7p to 49.7p.

The UK-focused FTSE 250 index rose by a more modest 64.01 points to 19,594.10, aided by some robust results-day performances.

City trading house TP ICAP was the pick of the bunch as the strength of energy and commodities markets helped to fuel record annual earnings of £300 million.

The interdealer broker upped its dividend by 27%, announced a fresh £30 million buyback of shares and said it was mulling plans to unlock the value of its data business Parameta, including through the flotation of a minority stake.

The shares jumped 11% or 21.5p to their highest level in three years at 220.1p, although Peel Hunt sees further upside to 250p after today’s better-than-expected figures.

Investors also warmed to the prospects of highways infrastructure business Hill & Smith and pipework firm Genuit as their shares added 60p to 1910p and 10p to 412p respectively.

Other mid-cap risers included transport giant FirstGroup after it reported strong trading by open access rail operations Hull Trains and Edinburgh-based Lumo.

The shares rose 2.2p to 163.6p as the UK’s second largest regional bus firm said 2024 profits are running slightly ahead of City hopes.

Early interest rate cut in doubt amid ‘sticky’ wage growth

10:13 , Daniel O'Boyle

Wages are still growing far faster than inflation, putting the chances of an early interest rate cut at risk, latest official figures reveal today.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said regular wages rose at an annual rate of 6.1% in the November to January quarter, down only from 6.2% previously.

The rate of increase was 5.6% if bonuses are included. After inflation is taken into account, pay went up in real terms by 1.8%, or 1.4% if bonuses are added. While workers will welcome the boost to living standards, the only slow easing of wage growth will cause headaches at the Bank of England where the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) will be looking for irrefutable evidence that pay pressure is being squeezed out of the labour market before cutting rates.

Read more here

Does Domino's want a slice of Greggs' business?

09:52 , Simon Hunt

Pizza chain Domino’s today unveiled plans to take a slice out of rival Greggs’ business model as it eyed opening another 700 stores over the next decade.

The London-listed firm said it hoped to pivot towards more in-store customer collection with the offer of new £4 lunchtime deals for office workers as it sought to open dozens of new sites in city centre locations.

CEO Andrew Rennie told the Standard: “We’re quite excited about the £4 lunch – we’ve never played in that space before and there is huge upside potential.

“Only about 35% of our orders are in-store collections whereas in the US it’s 55%.”

It comes as Greggs announced plans to open another 160 stores in the next year as boss Roisin Currie said pizza slices had become one of the most popular items on its menu.

Last year Britain’s biggest bakery chain opened a new pizza-making plant in Enfield with the capacity to produce as many as 1.5 million slices of pizza per week.

Persimmon hits bottom of the FTSE 100

09:50 , Michael Hunter

Persimmon’s shares were the biggest fallers London’s main stock market in morning trade, with losses also kicking in across the wider sector.

The selling came after the UK’s second biggest house builder revealed a 50% fall in annual profit for 2023, but also sounded a downbeat note on the year ahead.

Persimmon also warned that trading in the “southern and eastern counties remains more challenging with weaker pricing” and it  was “prepared for 2024 to be another challenging year”.

The drop took profit before tax of £351.8 million. Revenue fell almost  30% to £2.8 billion for 2023.

Shares were down almost 4%, or 49p, to 1325p. Barrett Developments, Persimmon’s bigger rival, was down 3p to 476p. London-focused builder Berkeley Group lost 13p to 4594p.

Hunt hails wage growth

09:49 , Daniel O'Boyle

Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt echoed DWP secretary Mel Stride’s comments on the latest jobs data:

He said: “Our plan is working. Even with inflation falling, real wages have risen for the seventh month in a row. And take home pay is set for another boost thanks to our cuts to National Insurance which in total are putting over £900 a year back into the average earner’s pocket.”

Jeremy Hunt (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA) (PA Wire)
Jeremy Hunt (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA) (PA Wire)

Unemployment figures in line with other surveys amid survey concerns

09:41 , Daniel O'Boyle

Investec economist Ellie Henderson said that while low response rates have cast doubt on recent joblessness figures, the current numbers are in line with other surveys.

She said: “Although we have to take the specific numbers on employment and unemployment with a pinch of salt due to low response rates which question the accuracy of the data, today’s report does chime with alternative releases, such as the KPMG/REC survey released this week, which has also suggested a slowing momentum in the labour market.”

City Spy: The Icelandic bankers behind London’s ‘craft beer’ industry

09:16 , City Spy

For some bankers, the financial crash of 2008/9 was a very difficult period. At Icelandic bank Landsbanki, the former CEO was even thrown in jail for his role in its collapse.

But other Landsbanki directors seem to have had a better time of it. Two former MDs, Alan McLaren and Brent Osborne, got together after the recession and assembled their own private equity business called Breal, using their experience of being in a financially distressed business to their advantage...

Read more from City Spy here

DWP secretary says 'Our plan is working' as payrolled employees grow

09:05 , Daniel O'Boyle

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mel Stride MP said: “Our plan for the economy is working. Employment is up on the year, the number of people on payrolls is at a record high, and inactivity is falling.

“But our work is not done. Our Back to Work Plan will help a million people to find, stay and succeed in employment. With the next generation of welfare reforms, we’re reducing the number of people on the highest tier of incapacity benefits by 371,000 – people who will now receive support back into work.                

“And with the tax cuts announced in last week’s Budget we will boost the labour force by the equivalent of 200,000 workers, while putting £900 back into the pockets of 27 million hardworking people.”

Nasdaq-listed Recursion to open European office in Kings Cross

09:00 , Simon Hunt

US biotech company Recursion is set to open its first European office in Kings Cross as it gears up for expansion.

The Nasdaq-listed business, which is involved in AI-powered drug discovery, is moving into a 6,700 square foot site at 3 Pancras Square with plans to bring on dozens of new recruits.

The district is rapidly evolving into a hub for artificial intelligence and is already a base for Google’s Deepmind office and pharma giant GSK’s AI unit.

Recursion CEO Chris Gibson told the Standard: “There were a number of different spots in Europe that were interesting to us but what we found in London was a real nexus of tech and bio talent.”

Prudential leads stronger FTSE 100, Domino's Pizza down 7%

08:46 , Graeme Evans

The FTSE 100 index is 54.93 points higher at 7724.16, led by Asia-focused Prudential, HSBC and Standard Chartered following a 3% jump for the Hang Seng index.

The Pru lifted 21.4p to 809.4p, HSBC by 8.5p to 584.3p and Standard by 13.4p to 673.4p, whereas Persimmon shares are down 49p to 1325.5p following the builder’s results.

The FTSE 250 index improved by a modest 35.02 points to 19,565.11, with interdealer broker TP ICAP up 19.2p to 217.8p after announcing plans for the partial float of data business Parameta alongside a 27% dividend hike.

Domino’s Pizza moved the other way, falling 7% or 27.2p to 341p after boss Andrew Rennie set out longer-term expansion plans at the same time as annual figures.

Other big results-day movers included chemicals company Synthomer with a rise of 15% or 21.7p to 165.3p and pawnbroker H&T, up 20p to 360p.

Market snapshot as FTSE 100 jumps

08:32 , Daniel O'Boyle

Take a look at today’s market snapshot as the FTSE 100 is off to a very strong start

Vet shares tumble

08:27 , Daniel O'Boyle

Shares in listed vet firms tumbled after the CMA announced a probe into the sector this morning.

Pets at Home, known mostly as a retailer but with a large and growing vet arm fell by as much as 6.1% to 258.6p.

Shares in CVS Group are down almost 20% to 1176p.

Read more on the prove here

 (CVS)
(CVS)

DWP secretary says 'Our plan is working' as payrolled employees grow

07:34 , Daniel O'Boyle

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mel Stride MP said: “Our plan for the economy is working. Employment is up on the year and the number of people on payrolls is at a record high.

“But our work is not done. Our Back to Work Plan will help a million people to find, stay and succeed in employment. With the next generation of welfare reforms, we’re reducing the number of people on the highest tier of incapacity benefits by 371,000 – people who will now receive support back into work.                

“And with the tax cuts announced in last week’s Budget we will boost the labour force by the equivalent of 200,000 workers, while putting put £900 back into the pockets of 27 million hardworking people.”

'Encouraging signs' for June rate cut

07:24 , Daniel O'Boyle

Paul Dales, Chief UK Economist at Capital Economics, says: “The easing in wage growth in January is probably still a bit too slow for the Bank of England’s liking. But there are encouraging signs that a more marked slowdown is just around the corner and that an interest rate cut in June is possible.

“The easing in employment growth from +72,000 in the three months to December to -21,000 in January (consensus +10,000, CE -70,000) and rise in the unemployment rate from 3.8% to 3.9% (consensus 3.8%, CE 4.0%) suggests the labour market loosened a tad more than the consensus forecast.”

“What’s more, the further fall in the number of job vacancies from 928,000 in the three months to January to a 32-month low of 908,000 in the three months to February suggests the labour market continues to loosen more than the unemployment rate is letting on.”

House market slowdown sends Persimmon profit plunging by over 50% for 2023

07:22 , Michael Hunter

Profit before tax at the UK’s second biggest house builder slumped by over 50% for 2023, as the slowdown in the house market took hold.

Persimmon also said that 2024 trading in the “southern and eastern counties remains more challenging with weaker pricing”. It added it was “prepared for 2024 to be another challenging year.”

The FTSE 100 firm made £351.8 million in profit before tax for 2023, down from £730.7 in 2022.

The decline came as interest rates rose to a 16-year peak by August at 5.25%, after 14 consecutive hikes from the Bank of England. The slowing demand in the market for new homes meant Persimmon completed just over 9,900 properties, a drop of third.

Nonetheless, the average selling price rose by 3% to £255,752.

The York-based firm said the number of 2023 completions was ahead of expectations, while 2024 had started as it expected.

Dean Finch, CEO, said:

“ Although the near-term outlook remains uncertain, the significant pent-up demand for homes remains unchanged.

“Customers want quality homes in the places where they want to live and work, and affordability is crucial. During the year we have continued to take further steps to strengthen the business and we are well placed to meet this demand.”

Domino's Pizza eyes expansion to 2,000 stores

07:21 , Simon Hunt

Domino’s Pizza today said it was eyeing growing its estate to as many as 2,000 stores by 2033 with sales increasing to £2.5 billion annually as it charted a course for rapid expansion. It currently has 1,300 stores.

The firm posted sales growth of 5.8% to £1.57 billion in 2023, with underlying profits flat at around £100 million. Net debt decreased by £20.5 million from the start of the year to £232.8 million.

CEO Andrew Rennie said: “We have alignment with our franchisees and there is a strong, motivated second generation talent coming through the franchisee ranks to help drive this growth."

(Fabio De Paola/PA) (PA Archive)
(Fabio De Paola/PA) (PA Archive)

Monopolies watchdog bites back on vets

07:21 , Daniel O'Boyle

The Competition and Markets Authority is to launch a formal Market Investigation on the vet sector after an “unprecedented response” to its initial review.

It said it heard concerns about prices not being displayed on websites or made available until after treatment has happened, and potential overpayment.

Larger vet chains have rapidly been buying up independent practices in recent years. The CMA noted that vets rarely change branding when this happens, so it is not always clear who owns an individual practice.

Sarah Cardell, Chief Executive of the CMA, said: "We launched our review of the veterinary sector last September because this is a critical market for the UK's 16 million pet owners. The unprecedented response we received from the public and veterinary professionals shows the strength of feeling on this issue is high and why we were right to look into this.”

The proportion of vet practices run independently has halved in less than a decade (Jacob King/PA) (PA Wire)
The proportion of vet practices run independently has halved in less than a decade (Jacob King/PA) (PA Wire)

FTSE 100 seen higher ahead of US inflation, Bitcoin at new record

07:18 , Graeme Evans

London’s FTSE 100 index looks set to make a strong start, bucking uncertainty elsewhere as traders await this afternoon’s release of US inflation figures.

IG Index reports that futures trading is pointing to a rise of about 70 points to 7738, following on from yesterday’s rise of just under ten points.

The improvement comes even though the S&P 500 index fell modestly for the second session in a row, driven by weakness for high value technology stocks.

Wall Street traders stayed on the sidelines ahead of the inflation print, which Deutsche Bank economists expect will show an unchanged annual rate of 3.1%.

The core inflation reading is likely to be around 3.7%, which the Federal Reserve may consider still too high to allow the first cut in US interest rates.

In Asia trading, the Shanghai Composite and Nikkei 225 have posted small declines in contrast to the 3% surge for Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index.

Bitcoin, meanwhile, continues to set new records after going through the $72,000 barrier for the first time.

' Bank of England may want to see more signs of stabilisation before any moves'

07:16 , Daniel O'Boyle

George Sweeney at personal finance site Finder.com, says that while the jobs and wages data shows signs of cooling, the Bank of England will likely need more evidence before cutting interest rates.

He says: "The British economy continues to cool, and some more cold water has just been poured onto the smouldering UK jobs market. The latest research from the ONS shows annual wage growth (including bonuses) dropping from 5.8% in the 3 months to December 2023 to 5.6% in the 3 month period ending January 2024.

“These figures, combined with the recent news of a technical recession, points towards an overall economic slowdown. However, the Bank of England may want to see more signs of stabilisation before making any moves with regards to the base rate. The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) could need further, consistent data over the coming months to prove we’re out of the woods - which might mean some more pain ahead before things get better and rates start to drop.”

Vacancies falling but above pre-pandemic

07:07 , Daniel O'Boyle

ONS director of economic statistics Liz McKeown said: “Recent trends in the jobs market are continuing with earnings, in cash terms, growing more slowly than recently but, thanks to lower inflation, real terms pay continues to increase.

“The number of job vacancies has also been falling for coming up to two years, though the total remains more than one hundred thousand above its pre-pandemic level.

“Over the last year, there was little change in the proportions of people who are employed, unemployed or neither working nor looking for work, though the overall number of people in work is still rising.”

UK unemployment at 3.9%

07:02 , Daniel O'Boyle

The UK unemployment rate came to 3.9% in the three months to January.

Wage growth excluding bonuses ticked only slightly down to 6.1%. That represents more gains for employees who saw the real value of their pay deteriorate last year but is still faster than the Bank of England would like

The number of payrolled employees grew by 20,000, a little below expectations.

06:47 , Simon Hunt

Good morning from the Standard City desk.

Yesterday, two thick reports landed on the desk of Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer, one from media regulator Ofcom, the other from competition watchdog the CMA.

Only she and a handful of officials will know the contents of the tomes — and none of them are talking today.

The reports, into the RedBird IMI takeover bid for Telegraph Media Group, were originally commissioned by her in November, when she issued a Public Interest Intervention Notice into the Abu Dhabi ruling family backed offer.

Since then a chorus of Tory party grandees, including voices as varied as former prime minister Sir John Major, and ex-home secretary Suella Braverman, as well as figures such as the former head of MI6, have warned against allowing ownership of one of Britain’s key media assets to pass from the Barclay family to “an autocratic state”.

It is the hottest of hot potatoes for Ms Frazer and her boss Rishi Sunak, landing at a time when the Conservative party can ill-afford any more negative headlines.

Given the intense political sensitivities, and the timing, it seems highly unlikely that the takeover can go through in its current form, despite all the assurances about editorial independence that have been given by the bidders.

Here’s a summary of our other top stories from yesterday: