Stocks flat after Wall Street reaches record highs – business live
UK house prices at new record to mark year since first lockdown
The UK average house price hit a new record high in March – a year on from the start of pandemic lockdowns.
The average price hit £254,606, according to Halifax, which tracks the prices of house on which it offers mortgages.
House prices gained 1.1% in March compared to February. March was initially set to be the final month of a stamp duty holiday, before it was extended by chancellor Rishi Sunak.
It means that prices are 6.5% higher than they were in March 2020 – when the extent of the pandemic’s effect on the UK economy was only starting to become clear.
March was the first house price rise since November, said Russell Galley, Halifax’s managing director. He said:
Following a relatively subdued start to the year, the housing market enjoyed something of a resurgence during March.
Casting our minds back 12 months, few could have predicted quite how well the housing market would ride out the impact of the pandemic so far, let alone post growth of more than £1,000 per month on average.
The continuation of government support measures has been key in boosting confidence in the housing market. The extended stamp duty holiday has put another spring in the step of home movers, whilst for those saving hard to buy their first home, the new mortgage guarantee scheme provides an alternative route onto the property ladder.
It looks like economic data out of Germany this morning may be contributing to the glummer mood that appears to have taken hold of European equity markets: industrial production unexpectedly fell in February.
Production fell by 1.6% in February, against economists’ expectations of a gain of about that amount. German production is down by about 6.4% over the year, according to Germany’s federal statistics office.
Carsten Brzeski, global head of macro at ING, an investment bank, said:
February industrial data makes it hard to see how the economy could still escape a contraction in the first quarter.
It would need an explosion of manufacturing and construction activity in March to prevent the German economy from falling into contraction in the first quarter of the year.
The drop in industrial production is somewhat surprising, given strong orders and confidence indicators. Besides some possible and temporary supply chain disruptions, the only other explanation for the disappointing performance can be the harsh winter weather in February.
Sanjeev Gupta criticises bank ‘endangering thousands of jobs’
The Liberty Steel owner Sanjeev Gupta has criticised creditors pushing to wind up his business, saying they are risking “tens of thousands” of jobs with “dangerous and cavalier behaviour”.
Gupta’s GFG Alliance, the parent company of Liberty Steel, is being pursued in court in the UK and Australia by Credit Suisse. Credit Suisse is trying to recoup money from the collapsed Greensill Capital, the financial firm that extended as much as $5bn (£3.6bn) in loans to GFG.
Although Credit Suisse was not named in the article, Gupta said he was prepared to defend claims against his businesses in court if necessary.
I am concerned that short-term, aggressive tactics by some of Greensill’s creditors are threatening tens of thousands of long-term jobs here in the UK and elsewhere.
These creditors are at risk of destroying their own chance of recouping value by taking these knee-jerk actions. They undermine profitable businesses and ultimately put at risk thousands of skilled, industrial jobs in communities with limited alternative employment opportunities.
GFG’s collection of steel, aluminium and energy businesses employ 35,000 people worldwide, with 5,000 in the UK – about 3,000 of which are in Liberty Steel.
Gupta said the business’s greatest challenges were in the UK because of its reliance on the aerospace and automotive markets, where demand has fallen during the pandemic.
He also pledged to overhaul the way his businesses are financed. Gupta has been scrambling to find new lenders since Greensill collapsed, but has so far not secured any backing.
Credit Suisse declined to comment.
The FTSE 100 has dipped at the opening bell. It’s down by about 0.1% in the opening few minutes – futures trades in the hour before the open had pointed to gains.
The broad Stoxx 600 index has gained 0.1% across Europe’s biggest companies, while the even more exclusive Stoxx 50 is flat.
France’s Cac 40 is up by 0.1%, while Germany’s Dax has dipped by 0.1%.
Introduction: Stock markets in Goldilocks mood
Good morning, and welcome to our live, rolling coverage of business, economics and financial markets.
Stock markets around the world have continued their push into uncharted territory in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic shock. The MSCI World index, the US benchmark S&P 500 and the large-cap European index, the Stoxx 600, all hit record highs on Thursday.
European stock markets are (for the most part) expected to follow up this morning, albeit with gentle gains.
The Federal Reserve’s loose stance on monetary policy, the pace of vaccine rollouts and hopes for a spending blowout from consumers with big savings are all helping. Concerns about variants of the coronavirus do not appear to be getting much of a look-in.
Deutsche Bank analysts led by Henry Allen and Jim Reid said:
It was yet another buoyant day for financial markets yesterday as remarks from Fed Chair Powell helped to sustain the ongoing strength in risk assets, whilst also putting downward pressure on Treasury yields. Although Powell’s comments stuck to his dovish messaging of late, they offered fresh reassurance to investors who’d begun to price in earlier rate increases on the back of some very strong economic data in recent weeks, not least with last week’s jobs report.
There’s more feeling of what JP Morgan boss Jamie Dimon described as a Goldilocks economy (comments that just beg for bear metaphors to counteract them). Ian Williams, an analyst at Peel Hunt, a stockbroker, said:
Equity markets remain in a sweet spot: greater confidence in post-pandemic growth prospects supports risk appetite; while central banks remain dovish, and bond yields have yet to reach a level that provides relative valuation competition.
Looking ahead for today, in the UK the travel industry is eagerly awaiting the government’s new plan to allow holidays abroad this summer. Airlines have been hammering home their desire to get Britons flying again soon, and their complaint that mandatory testing for travellers will price families out.
- 8:30am BST: UK Halifax house price index (March; previous: 5.2% growth)
- 9am BST: Expected release of UK travel plans
- 12pm BST: Bank of England quarterly bulletin
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