The energy stock heavy FTSE 100 was dragged down by a steep fall in the price of oil on Thursday (25 March). The blue-chip index fell 0.57% to 6,647.83.
SECTOR IN FOCUS
The nation’s pub-goers are counting down the days until their local watering holes open their doors again.
Under the Government’s lockdown plans, pub beer gardens are set to reopen on 12 April as part of a phased return to normal life.
However, punters were left shocked this week after the Prime Minister suggested publicans may require proof of a coronavirus test or vaccine before allowing entry.
According to a report in the Guardian this week, ministers are also drawing up plans to allow pubs to ditch social distancing rules as long as they check punters’ coronavirus status before allowing entry.
If indeed that is true, it means pubs would be able to operate far more profitably than they would if they still had to abide by social distancing rules.
Regardless, the proposal has been met with a furious backlash, with critics arguing that it discriminates against those who have not yet been vaccinated.
Business activity grew at its fastest rate in seven months in March – and experts are expecting growth to accelerate once coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
Firms say the increase was fuelled by a rebound in sales ahead of the planned easing of lockdown measures, according to joint survey from IHS Markit and the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS).
Businesses also reported the first upturn in staff numbers in more than a year, a sign that they are gearing up for a surge in demand when the economy fully reopens.
The data suggests the UK economy is on the path to recovering ahead of Government plans next month to lift some of its lockdown measures.
Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, says: “The encouraging readings… all point to robust economic growth in the second quarter, especially if virus restrictions are lifted further.”
Thomas Pugh, an economist at Capital Economics, says: “The [rise in activity] suggests that the economy has started to pick up. And once the Covid-19 shackles start to be released next month, activity will probably rebound even more rapidly.”
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30 March – Increasing demand for parcel deliveries throughout coronavirus has seen investors pile into Royal Mail Group plc (RMG), whose shares are up nearly 210% in the past 12 months. However, long-term the group must find a way to cope with steadily decreasing letter volumes. It issues a trading update on Tuesday (30 March).
1 April – Broker Shore Capital has tipped Next plc (NXT) to come flying out of the blocks once coronavirus restrictions have been lifted and shoppers return to the High Street. The retailer, which earlier this month bought a 25% stake in fashion chain Reiss, reports its full-year results on Thursday (1 April).