Market News

National Grid scrambles to secure enough power to keep lights on amid nuclear fleet outage


A farmer works in a field surrounded by electricity pylons – Reuters

National Grid has narrowly avoided activating its emergency blackout plan for the first time this winter as low wind speeds and nuclear outages push supply closer to the danger zone.

The company in charge of keeping the lights on said on Monday morning that it may need to pay households to switch appliances off during tea-time on Tuesday evening because of a looming power crunch.

By Monday afternoon it said the unprecedented action would not be necessary after surging power prices in the UK helped pull supply from the continent.

However, the tightness of the market at this stage in the year raises questions over market resilience. The electricity network has traditionally smoothed out peaks and troughs in demand with gas and coal but Britain’s power supplies increasingly depend on intermittent wind speeds as the West shifts away from fossil fuels and Russia chokes off gas supplies to Europe.

There have been fears about blackouts this winter due to the loss of Russian fuel, as well as outages on France’s nuclear fleet, which has traditionally supplied power to the UK in times of need.

In October, National Grid warned of the prospect of rolling blackouts in the UK if gas-fired power plants cannot get enough fuel to run and the UK cannot import power from the continent.

In response, the Grid set up its so-called “demand flexibility scheme” under which it will pay households to curb demand at peak times.

Households will need to have signed up with their supplier beforehand to get payments of £3 per kilowatt-hour of electricity saved – potentially yielding up to £20 per day if they cut their typical energy usage.

Monday’s notice that the scheme may be called upon is the first time it has been seriously considered.

This week’s problems are not as a result of gas shortages. Instead, National Grid was faced with forecasts of colder weather on top of low wind speeds on Tuesday evening, as well as lower output from both the French and UK nuclear fleet, which ware both owned by EDF.

Several of France’s nuclear stations are offline due to maintenance or corrosion problems, which affects the UK’s power supplies as France has less to export and also needs imports.

Cold weather in France creates a particular pull on electricity supplies as so many of their homes are heated with electric heaters, rather than gas-fired boilers.

Meanwhile, two large ageing nuclear power stations in the UK have shut down this year and two reactors are down for maintenance, one for longer than planned.

Wind speeds in the UK were particularly low on Monday and are expected to increase on Tuesday, but will still be below seasonal averages.

National Grid ultimately decided it did not need to enlist households to curb demand after Britain secured enough orders for tomorrow evening from France, which in turn is importing more power from elsewhere.

Phil Hewitt, director at market specialist EnAppSys, said: “[France] is taking power from Spain, Germany, a bit from Switzerland and some from Belgium, and they are sending it across the cables to us.

“They’re actually scheduled to import power from Italy, which is very rare. So power from Europe is going to route through France and into Britain.”

This has been managed through high prices in Britain, however. Prices in Britain for tomorrow’s peak are £1,066.47-£1,205.70 per megawatt hour, compared to £418.89 per megawatt hour in France, Belgium and Holland.

Mr Hewitt believes it is now highly likely that, before winter is over, National Grid will need to use its new scheme under which households are paid to curb demand at peak times.

07:07 PM

Elon Musk accuses Apple of pulling adverts from Twitter

Elon Musk has accused tech giant Apple of pulling advertising from the social network and threatening to block the Twitter app.

The Telsa chief executive launched a Twitter tirade against Apple and its chief executive Tim Cook, pitting the world’s richest man against the world’s most valuable company.

Mr Musk said: “Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter. Do they hate free speech in America?”

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He added: “Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why.”

Earlier this month Phil Schiller, Apple’s top marketing executive, deleted his Twitter account, although Mr Cook continues to post regularly.

Read the full story here

05:42 PM

Facebook-owner fined over 2019 hack

Facebook’s parent company has been fined €265m (£229m) by Ireland’s data privacy watchdog after more than half a billion people’s personal details were leaked by a hacker who targeted the website, Gareth Corfield reports.

A penalty notice handed down by the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) to Meta imposed the fine alongside “a range of corrective measures”.

The penalty follows a breach that saw personal details of 533m Facebook users posted on a hacker forum last April. Phone numbers, full names, locations, email addresses, and other personal information were included in the data dump.

The stolen Facebook data is thought to have been scraped in 2019 by unidentified hackers who exploited a security loophole in the social network’s systems. Scraping refers to automated reading and saving of data from servers. Typically such activity is against the rules of social media websites.

In a statement a Meta spokesman said the company had “cooperated fully” with authorities, adding: “We made changes to our systems during the time in question, including removing the ability to scrape our features in this way using phone numbers.

The company said it was “reviewing” the DPC’s judgement “carefully.”

A DPC spokesman said: “There was a comprehensive inquiry process, including cooperation with all of the other data protection supervisory authorities within the EU.”

05:34 PM

Cyber Monday orders to top $11.6bn

Spending on sales day Cyber Monday is predicted to top $11.6bn in the US this year, according to analytics company Adobe, an increase of 8.5pc on the previous year.

Shoppers have put off big ticket purchases amid a squeeze on consumer spending thanks to rising inflation, but Adobe predicted the promise of deep discounts could tempt shoppers into bargain hunting ahead of Christmas.

05:18 PM

World Cup wagers to hit $35bn in boom for bookies

Football fans will make a total of $35bn worth of wagers on the World Cup, a 65pc increase on the previous tournament.

The pandemic led to a surge in the popularity of online gambling, analysts at Barclays said, who predicted a boost in profits at bookmakers including Entain, which owns Ladbrokes, and Paddy Power owner Flutter.

Barclays said the timing of the World Cup, which is taking place in winter for the first time, has helped boost bookies takings as fewer people in Europe are away on holiday and can place wagers without distractions.

The analysts added the results so far had largely played in the favour of bookmakers. The tournament has had five draws so far, which tend to boost income for bookmakers since most punters bet on a win for either side.

Harry Kane of England salutes the fans following the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 – Getty Images Europe

04:41 PM

Germany ‘losing attractiveness’ for battery investment, says VW

Surging energy costs will leave the European Union unable to attract electric car battery plants to the continent, a top Volkswagen executive has warned.

Thomas Schäfer, chief executive of Volkswagen Passenger Cars, said Germany and the EU were “rapidly losing their attractiveness and competitiveness” for electric vehicle battery investment.

Mr Schäfer said electricity and gas prices needed to be brought under control, but EU bureaucracy and state aid rules risked hamstringing measures.

In a LinkedIn post, he said: “Unless we manage to reduce energy prices in Germany and Europe quickly and reliably, investments in energy-intensive production or new battery cell factories in Germany and the EU will be practically unviable.”

Volkswagen is planning to build six gigafactories to supply millions of batteries to its electric vehicles, breaking ground on the first factory, GigaSalz near Salzgitter in Germany. It plans for the first facility to be operational by 2025.

04:25 PM

Yahoo buys stake in ad tech outfit Taboola

Yahoo, the former tech giant, has extended its push into digital advertising by taking a 25pc stake in Taboola.

The internet giant will become Taboola’s largest shareholder as part of a 30-year exclusive advertising partnership.

Taboola specialises in so-called native advertising and is known for attention-grabbing sponsored links on the websites of publishers including CNBC.

Shares in the New York-listed firm surged as much as 78pc – the most on record – after the deal was announced.

03:53 PM

BlockFi collapsed after ‘significant exposure’ to FTX

BlockFi, which last year was valued at $3bn, had already admitted it had “significant exposure” to FTX and planned to “explore all options” following the collapse of the crypto exchange.

It paused withdrawals in the wake of FTX’s sudden collapse and said it can “not operate business as usual”.

Based in the Bahamas and founded by 30-year-old Sam Bankman-Fried, FTX allegedly used customer funds to drive billions of pounds in trades at its sister hedge fund, Alameda Research.

This chart shows how users raced to withdraw their funds following the collapse of the exchange:

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03:41 PM

Crypto lender BlockFi files for bankruptcy

BlockFi – Gabby Jones/Bloomberg

The fallout from the collapse of crypto exchange FTX has claimed another victim as BlockFi filed for bankruptcy.

The crypto lender, which allowed users to earn yield by placing idle cryptocurrencies on the platform, said on its website it had “voluntarily filed petitions for Chapter 11 reorganization”.

It said:

This action follows the shocking events surrounding FTX and associated corporate entities and the difficult but necessary decision we made as a result to pause most activities on our platform.

Since the pause, our team has explored every strategic option and alternative available to us, and has remained laser-focused on our primary objective of doing the best we can for our clients.

These Chapter 11 cases will enable BlockFi to stabilise the business and provide BlockFi with the opportunity to consummate a reorganisation plan that maximizes value for all stakeholders, including our valued clients.

The collapse comes a little over a fortnight after the fall of FTX, the crypto exchange valued at $32bn (£26bn) just months ago, leaving more than a million creditors out of pocket.

03:33 PM

Regulators ‘concerned’ over Twitter’s ability to meet privacy rules

Twitter’s offices in Dublin – Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

The lead privacy regulator for Twitter in the European Union said it was concerned about the potential impact of layoffs at the social media company on its ability to meet privacy obligations.

However, Ireland’s Data Privacy Commissioner (DPC) said it was so far getting answers to its questions.

Twitter has fired top executives and enforced steep job cuts with little warning following billionaire Elon Musk’s tumultuous takeover of the company last month. About half of the workforce – around 3,700 employees – has been laid off, while more than 1,000 have resigned.

Prior to the cuts, Twitter employed around 500 people at its European headquarters in Dublin where – like many other tech giants – Ireland’s DPC is the social media platform’s lead privacy regulator within the EU.

“We are concerned and we’re tracking it very closely. So far we’re getting answers to our questions,” DPC head Helen Dixon told Irish national broadcaster RTE.

Dixon said the DPC was in contact with Twitter several times a day to establish what roles remain in place and had “a range of contacts” still based at Twitter in Dublin.

03:14 PM

BT to give 16pc pay rise to all but highest-paid staff

BT – Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

BT has announced plans for a pay rise to all but its highest paid staff in a move aimed at resolving a long-running dispute which has led to strikes.

Discussions with the Communication Workers Union (CWU) and Prospect have led to both unions recommending agreement.

The company said it will give a £1,500 pay rise for all UK workers who currently earn £50,000 or less from January 1.

The increase covers all frontline staff and half of managers in the UK.

Combined with an increase made in April, the total pay rise for the lowest paid will be over 15pc since this time last year.

BT Group chief executive Philip Jansen said:

It gets help to as many of our colleagues as possible, favours our lower paid colleagues, and gives people the security of a built-in, pensionable increase to their pay.

Crucially, it has been worked on in conjunction with the CWU. As I’ve said throughout, whatever our differences, our unions are vital partners. We will now build on this collaboration.

We have agreed with both our union partners that we will all lean into the opportunities and challenges the future will bring, specifically our transformation plans and the delivery of the £3bn cost savings.

03:03 PM

National Grid cancels warning for tomorrow

Britain’s electricity network operator has stood down plans to pay households to avoid using electricity tomorrow evening after securing enough power to keep the lights on.

The notification published at 10am said that National Grid was considering implementing its Demand Flexibility Service, raising concerns for several hours that Britain would struggle to meet demand tomorrow evening, rising blackouts.

National Grid decided at 2.30pm it would not to run its first-ever real-life initiative to pay households to reduce their electricity use.

The scheme launched at the start of this month and is set up to pay households and businesses to reduce the amount of electricity that they use. This can help take strain off the system when supply is tight, as it was expected to be on Tuesday.

02:48 PM

Travelodge reveals record quarter following Queen’s funeral


Budget hotel chain Travelodge has revealed a record third quarter thanks to a surge in bookings after it saw soaring demand from mourners following the Queen’s death.

The group – which has 595 hotels across the UK, Ireland and Spain – said that by the end of the three months to September, it had already beaten the full-year result notched up in 2019 before the pandemic struck.

It said underlying earnings hit a record £93.8m for the quarter, up from £87m a year ago, after revenues jumped to £278.6m – up 21.5pc on a year earlier and 33.5pc higher than the same period in 2019.

It came as more Britons booked for leisure stays and so-called blue collar workers such as those in the construction and manufacturing sectors looked for budget accommodation.

Travelodge also saw its hotels in high demand in the weeks leading up to the Queen’s funeral, with many of its hotels in and around London and Edinburgh fully booked.

02:35 PM

Wall Street falls at the opening bell

US markets immediately came under pressure in the wake of the protests in China that have raised concerns about demand in the world’s second largest economy.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average began the day down 0.2pc at 34,266.09, while the S&P 500 shed 0.5pc to 4,006.60.

The tech-focused Nasdaq Composite slipped 0.4pc to 11,181.22.

02:31 PM

Over 55s most likely to lose their jobs to robots, study finds

Staff aged over 55 are more likely than any other group of workers to lose their jobs to robots, the first study of its kind has found.

Home affairs editor Charles Hymas has the details:

The research by University College London (UCL) economists found nine in 10 workers aged over 55 were made redundant as robot technology replaced humans for “routine” tasks.

By contrast, 70pc of younger workers kept their jobs after retraining and switching to higher skilled more “abstract” jobs either within their own firm or another business, according to the study of 16,000 firms employing millions of staff.

It follows industry estimates that as many as 10m UK workers are at risk of being replaced by robots within 15 years as the automation of routine tasks gathers pace.

The report by consultants PWC found that 30pc of jobs in Britain were potentially under threat from breakthroughs in artificial intelligence.

Read why researchers think companies were ditching over 55s.

02:19 PM

Ikea to hand workers cost-of-living pay rise

Ikea workers in the retailer’s Hammersmith store – Ikea

Ikea is to hand its workers a pay rise and improved benefits as part of a £12m investment in cost-of-living support.

The Sweden-based retail giant said its hourly paid staff will receive an increase in earnings to £10.90 an hour, or £11.95 for those based in London.

Salaried workers will also receive a pay rise of 6pc on average.

It is the latest retailer to boost its pay for staff, following all the UK’s major supermarket chains, as staff face continued rises in the cost-of-living.

Ikea also said it will ramp up its existing benefits package for workers, including doubling the staff discount to 30pc across over 2000 home-furnishing items which reduce energy water and food waste.

02:14 PM

National Grid cancels capacity warning

The operator of Britain’s electricity grid has cancelled its warning that supply margins may be slimmer than wanted this evening.

National Grid’s Electricity System Operator issued a so-called Capacity Market Notice at 1.33pm, saying that the difference between the amount of electricity available and the amount households and businesses will use would be tight at 6pm.

The notice was cancelled at 2.04pm after the network secured extra electricity for the grid. The alerts are sent out automatically when expected margins drop below a certain level.

Over the last six years all 11 capacity market notices that the grid has put out have been cancelled without issue and around half of those were cancelled within half an hour of being raised.

02:05 PM

Drugs developer surges 30pc after AstraZeneca deal

Shares in a drug discovery company surged 30pc after it signed an exclusive worldwide licensing agreement with AstraZeneca worth up to £333m.

C4X Discovery will allow AstraZeneca to develop and commercialise an oral therapy for the treatment ofinflammatory and respiratory diseases under the deal.

The Manchester-based company, listed on the London Stock Exchange’s AIM index of small and medium-sized businesses, will receive pre-clinical milestone payments worth up to £13.2m ahead of the first clinical trial, including £1.7m upfront.

Shares in AstraZeneca are up 0.7pc on the FTSE 100.

01:48 PM

National Grid warns of potential shortage tonight

National Grid has issued a warning about a potential electricity shortage from 6pm tonight.

The electricity network operator issues capacity warnings when “there may be less generation available” than operators expect will be needed “to meet national electricity demand”.

It comes as the price of powering the UK’s homes and economy surged today as a sudden decline in wind output heightened the need for gas.

Day-ahead trading – the auction price for electricity for the following day – cleared at the highest price in almost three months, with contracts for some peak hours priced at more than £1,200 per megawatt-hour, on the European Power Exchange, known as Epex Spot SE.

Wind generation is set to fall away to almost nothing before rising on Thursday.

Britain is the second-biggest market for offshore wind in the world and is particularly exposed to troughs in generation as it relies heavily on expensive gas for back up.

It comes with the network already poised to pay households to cut their power demand tomorrow to avert power cuts.

That is part of its new winter emergency electricity plan.

01:25 PM

Crypto fraud up a third in UK

Crypto fraud has jumped by nearly a third in Britain as scammers increasingly target more inexperienced investors.

The value of UK cryptocurrency fraud leaped 32pc to £226m from £171m in the year to September 20, according to data from Action Fraud.

The number of reported frauds also increased by 16pc.

Hinesh Shah, a financial crime investigator at law firm Pinsent Masons, said:

Whenever times are tough, fraudsters always seek to prey on less experienced investors by promising huge returns.

Scams involving cryptocurrencies can be especially potent for smaller investors who may be desperate to make a quick buck.

The surge in crypto crimes highlight a wider problem with fraud, which ramped up after the Covid-19 pandemic.

UK Finance, a trade body, called the problem an “epidemic” and estimated £1.3bn was stolen through general fraud and scams in 2021.

01:08 PM

Eurozone ‘likely had second month of double-digit inflation’

The eurozone will probably have endured a second month of double-digit inflation this month, according to analyst forecasts.

While the overall pace of consumer-price increases is likely to have slowed for the first time in one and a half years, it has still stayed above 10pc in November, almost all economists predict.

The average of 32 estimates in a Bloomberg survey is for an outcome of 10.4pc in the latest inflation report for the eurozone due Wednesday.

Marco Valli, Loredana Maria Federico and Tullia Bucco, economists at UniCredit in Milan, said:

Both headline and core inflation are likely at, or close to, their peaks.

We expect disinflation to start early next year.

12:52 PM

British Steel pension mis-selling pay-out to be £20m less

The British Steel blast furnace in Scunthorpe – Lindsey Parnaby/AFP/Getty Images

The financial regulator has said the total pay-out to British Steel pensioners hit by a mis-selling scandal is set to be some £20m less than previously expected.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said more than 1,000 former British Steel Pension Scheme members are set to receive redress payments.

It said the bill to compensate workers will now be around £49m. In March, it was estimated to cost slightly over £71m.

Steelworkers impacted by the scandal will receive an average redress payment of around £45,000, compared with a previously predicted pay-out of £60,000.

The FCA said the reduction was because less money was needed to fund the compensation following an improvement in annuity rates.

The scandal dates back to 2017 and 2018 when members of the plan transferred defined retirement benefits to a riskier arrangement following a restructuring prompted by Tata Steel.

Around 54pc of transfer recommendations by financial advisers were unsuitable, the FCA said, exposing members to losses in retirement funds.

12:40 PM

Credit Suisse shares hit fresh record low

Credit Suisse – Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg

Shares in troubled Swiss lender Credit Suisse have slipped as much as 5.4pc today, hitting a fresh record low and putting them on track for their longest losing streak since 2011.

The stock has fallen for ten straight days, losing as much as 27pc, with last week’s warning about massive outflows of money from its core wealth management business stunning investors.

News that the lender agreed a sale of a large part of its securitised products business to Apollo Global Management was also received negatively, with analysts saying many details were lacking.

The developments add to woes in recent years as a succession of big losses and management chaos shattered Credit Suisse’s status as one of Europe’s most prestigious lenders.

The bank last month announced a restructuring that included breaking up the investment bank, separating the advisory and capital markets unit and thousands of job cuts.

12:29 PM

Crypto slides as investors grow anxious

Cryptocurrencies have slid amid a bout of investor anxiety in global markets sparked by protests in China against Covid restrictions.

Bitcoin, the largest token, at one point shed 3.2pc and was trading at $16,214 (£13,421). Second-ranked Ether fell about 4pc, while the likes of Solana, Avalanche and Dogecoin suffered even sharper losses.

The concern stoked by China come during a period of vulnerability for crypto markets, which are on edge over the contagion spreading from the fall of Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX exchange and sister trading house Alameda Research.

Crypto watchers also pointed to worries about wrapped Ether, which is meant to have the same value as Ether while allowing access to more applications.

Some reports suggested the concerns stemmed from joke Twitter posts falsely claiming a break in the expected peg in the value of wrapped Ether and Ether.

12:19 PM

Wall Street expected to open in the red

US stock index futures fell today as protests in major Chinese cities against the country’s strict zero-Covid policy re-ignited concerns about economic growth.

Dow Jones futures were down 184 points, or 0.54pc, while S&P 500 contracts were down 31.75 points, or 0.79pc. Nasdaq 100 futures were down 105.25 points, or 0.89pc.

Meanwhile, Apple shares slipped on reports of disruption in China production.

Shares fell 1.8pc premarket after suggestions that the company will see a production shortfall of nearly 6 million iPhone Pro units due to unrest at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant.

12:07 PM

Signs of gloom for retailers in run-up to Christmas

Black Friday footfall increased but was still below levels in 2019 – REUTERS/Phil Noble

British retailers are cutting back on hiring and scaling back plans for investment amid growing signs that shoppers are tightening their belts, according to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

The sector’s headcount has slumped over the last year, marking the first decline since August 2021, according to the business lobbying group.

Furniture and carpet stores, grocers and online retailers have suffered the biggest declines in sales, it said, with a similar drop in revenue expected in the run-up to Christmas.

The downbeat findings come as consumers struggle through the cost-of-living crisis, leaving them less to spend on non-essential items.

Footfall on Black Friday was up on last year but still 18pc below the same day on 2019, according to retail analysts Springboard.

11:52 AM

World first as Rolls-Royce runs aircraft engine on hydrogen

Rolls Royce set a new aviation milestone by running a modern aero engine on hydrogen – Steve M Smith/Cover Images

Rolls-Royce has used hydrogen fuel to successfully power a modern aircraft engine in a world first for the aviation industry amid pressure to develop zero-emissions air travel.

The test was conducted with a converted Rolls-Royce AE 2100-A regional aircraft engine using hydrogen created by wind and tidal power, the company said today. The design originally powered Saab 2000 turboprops.

Following a series of ground tests, Rolls-Royce will move on to so-called rig tests, followed by a full-scale ground test with one of its Pearl 15 jet engines, according to the company, which is carrying out the project with easyJet as part of a partnership announced in July.

Airlines and manufacturers are pushing to use more-sustainable fuel as an alternative to kerosene, though technologies including electric and hydrogen propulsion remain years away from commercial adoption.

The ground test conducted by Rolls Royce and easyJet – Steve M Smith/Cover Images

11:30 AM

National Grid had already issued warning as wind power halved

You may remember that National Grid issued a surprise warning on its capacity last Tuesday night as British households were expected to increase energy consumption during the cold snap.

A ‘tight electricity margin’ notice was sent out warning of a potential shortage from 7pm.

The National Grid quickly cancelled notice as its contingency plans were activated, but experts said it was a signal of “much tighter days ahead”.

11:14 AM

Train company workers to vote on strikes

Avanti West Coast train workers will vote on whether to strike – Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Workers in seven train companies are to vote on whether they want to continue taking industrial action in a long-running dispute over jobs, pay and conditions.

The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) is balloting more than 1,600 operational, station, control and management staff, for strike action and action short of strike.

Ballots will be held throughout December with results due just before Christmas.

The companies being re-balloted are Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, LNER, Northern, Southeastern and Transpennine Express (TPE).

The re-ballot is necessary because legislation requires unions to re-run ballots every six months to keep them ‘live’, unless employers agree to extend for up to a further three months.

11:07 AM

Car dealership boss steps down as company says personal behaviour ‘fell short’ at event

Car dealership Inchcape said its finance boss has stepped down after his personal behaviour “fell short” at a recent event.

The business did not elaborate on what happened, but said that Gijsbert de Zoeten voluntarily resigned as chief financial officer.

He has been with the business since August 2019, having held the same job at Dutch fleet management company LeasePlan previously.

Before that, the Dutchman had a 27-year career at consumer giant Unilever, including six years as finance boss of Unilever Europe. The business said today:

Inchcape plc today announces that Gijsbert de Zoeten, group chief financial officer, has voluntarily tendered his resignation, and will be standing down from the board with immediate effect.

This follows an incident at a recent event where, through a lapse in judgment, he displayed personal behaviour falling short of the high standards expected of the leadership of the group.

His decision is unrelated to the company’s financial performance or strategic direction, including the Derco acquisition.

10:36 AM

Oil prices plunge to 11-month lows

Oil prices have slumped to 11-month lows as protests grip China amid concerns about demand in the world’s second largest economy.

Both Brent crude and US-produced West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude suffered drops of as much as 3pc in the price of a barrel today.

It comes as a wave of unrest in China punished risk assets and clouded the outlook for energy demand, adding to the stresses in an already-volatile global crude market.

WTI sank toward $74 a barrel following three weeks of losses, while Brent dipped below $81.

A barrel of Brent crude was last at this price in early February, while WTI crude is at its lowest level since January.

Protests over harsh anti-virus curbs erupted across the world’s largest crude importer over the weekend, including demonstrations in Beijing and Shanghai, spurring a broad sell-off in commodities as the week opened.

The rare show of defiance is raising the threat of a government crackdown.

10:27 AM

Barclays boss Venkatakrishnan to have cancer treatment

Barclays chief executive C.S. Venkatakrishnan – Barclays

Barclays’ chief executive will undergo cancer treatment, the lender said today.

C.S. Venkatakrishnan, who will be treated for non-hodgkin lymphoma, said in a letter to colleagues that “doctors have advised that my prognosis is excellent, and my condition is curable with their prescribed regimen,” according to a company filing.

The bank will “run normally” and he “will continue to be actively engaged in managing it”.

Mr Venkatakrishnan will have to work from home for some periods and will not be able to travel, the letter said.

His treatment is likely to last 12 to 16 weeks and will take place at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

10:15 AM

Talk of ECB easing off on inflation ‘a bit of a joke’ says council member

A council member of the European Central Bank has warned that any idea of easing off on curbing inflation is “a bit of a joke”.

However, Klaas Knot said risks to the outlook for consumer prices are still skewed to the upside, despite the euro area facing a recession. He said:

In our projections, we do assume that inflation will come back to values close to 2pc in the course of 2024,” the hawkish Dutch central bank chief said today in Paris.

But it is also fair to say that the risks to that projection are entirely tilted to the upside.

In Europe, we have to prepare ourselves for a protracted period in which policy makers and central bankers will have to be on it and focus on restoring price stability.

He called any talk of over-tightening at this point “a bit of a joke”.

Hawks like Knot have driven back-to-back rate increases of 75 basis points, with attention shifting to whether the ECB will opt for a third when it meets in mid-December.

Euro area annual inflation stood at 10.6pc in October.

09:43 AM

Pound steadies after turmoil in Asian markets

The pound has recouped its overnight losses against the dollar as traders digested the impact of the widespread protests against Covid restrictions in China.

Sterling is up 0.1pc to back above $1.21, although it has underperformed against the euro, down 0.5pc to make a euro worth 86p.

09:34 AM

Hopes rise for Christmas post

Union bosses have called for last-minute talks today with Royal Mail executives in a bid to save the Christmas post.

Matthew Field has the latest:

Postal workers are preparing for walkouts beginning on Wednesday and throughout December that threaten to delay Christmas presents and cards.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU), which represents 110,000 postal workers, wrote to Royal Mail chief executive Simon Thompson on Sunday calling for “intensive negotiations”.

Dave Ward, general secretary of the union, said in a letter workers were willing to reopen talks today and tomorrow to avert further strike action.

Mr Ward said he would also write to Royal Mail chairman Keith Williams and the company’s board with an alternative plan on working arrangements and pay.

Read on for details.

09:19 AM

China unrest ‘could be a disaster for German manufacturing’

Economists have been weighing up which countries could be hit hardest economically by the protests in China over Covid restrictions.

Robin Brooks, chief economist at IIF, has his worries about Germany:

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09:08 AM

Superdry shares slide amid restructuring talks

Superdry – David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Retailer Superdry has suffered a 1.6pc fall in its share price after it confirmed it is in talks with a company backed by US hedge fund Elliott Advisers to refinance the firm’s £70m debt package.

The business said it is negotiating with Bantry Bay following the Sunday Telegraph’s report over the weekend, but there can be “no certainty that an agreement will be reached”. It added that it is still talking to other lenders as well.

It comes a little over a month since Superdry said its future is uncertain if it does not manage to refinance the debt package that is set to expire at the end of January.

08:59 AM

Gas prices slide as Russia climbs down on shipments via Ukraine

Natural gas prices in Europe have fallen after Russia’s decision not to cut flows via Ukraine countered concerns that cold weather could boost demand.

Benchmark futures declined as much as 2.9pc after Russia’s Gazprom decided not to curb gas shipments to Moldova via Ukraine, easing concerns that it might eventually completely halt supplies through the route.

At the same time, weather forecasts point to temperatures below seasonal norms across Europe over the next weeks, which could increase gas use for heating.

Last week, Gazprom accused Ukraine of withholding gas supplies which pass through the country on the way to Moldova – something Kyiv denied – and said it could start reducing those flows from today.

Benchmark Dutch front-month futures were down 2.7pc at €122.5 per megawatt-hour.

08:42 AM

Sales figures point to falling prices, say Zoopla

Homes have been selling for 3pc below their asking price typically in recent weeks, according to Zoopla.

For much of 2021 and the first half of 2022, homes were typically achieving their asking price, the company said.

The property website said it expects discounts to increase further in 2023.

Its latest housing market report said:

History shows that when discounts reach 5-6pc this points to flat to falling prices.

It’s important sellers who want to achieve a sale are realistic on selling prices and speak to agents for the right advice for their home.

Since the start of September, one in nine homes (11pc) have had their original asking price reduced by 5pc or more, Zoopla said, and a quarter have had the price cut by any size, according to the index covering the month of October.

My colleague Alexa Phillips has the details.

08:28 AM

Oil and energy firms hit on UK markets

Britain’s oil producers suffered the biggest hit on the FTSE 100 amid concerns about demand in China as the nation is gripped by protests against Covid restrictions.

Shell was down 2.2pc, North Sea firm Harbour Energy dropped 2.1pc and BP declined 1.9pc, helping to drag the blue-chip index to a 0.5pc fall in early trading to 7,449.99.

Energy stocks fell 1pc, while base metal miners and precious metal miners dropped 0.6pc and 0.9pc, respectively.

Meanwhile, Asia-exposed lenders HSBC and Standard Chartered both fell more than 1pc.

The more domestically-focused FTSE 250 suffered contagion from the fallout, down 0.4pc to 19,476.91.

08:21 AM

Brent crude falls as low as 3pc

Brent crude oil has dropped as much as 3pc following the protests in China, amid concerns about global demand.

At the time of writing, a barrel is worth $81.33, a fall of 2.8pc.

The prospect of a hit to demand in the world’s biggest crude importer has hammered prices.

08:16 AM

Government watching China ‘with concern’, says Shapps

Grant Shapps, the business secretary, said the Government is watching what is happening in China with concern.

He added there was no excuse for media covering protests to be beaten by police, after the BBC said Chinese police had assaulted and detained one of its journalists in Shanghai.

“There can be absolutely no excuse whatsoever for journalists who are simply covering the protests going on, for being beaten by the police. I know that’s a considerable concern,” Shapps told Sky News.

08:09 AM

Revolution Beauty hires new chief amid accounting probe

Troubled cosmetics group Revolution Beauty has hired acting chief operating officer Bob Holt to the top job after its former boss quit amid an accounting probe.

The 68-year-old takes on the role after Adam Minto resigned earlier this month, following the launch in September of an independent investigation into the firm’s failure to complete its auditing quickly enough.

Its shares were suspended from the London Stock Exchange because it was unable to publish its financial results, which were pushed back a second time, while it also warned over lower profits.

Revolution Beauty said the independent investigation being carried out by consultants Forensic Risk Alliance and law firm Macfarlanes remains ongoing, adding that “no conclusions have been drawn”.

08:02 AM

UK markets hit by protests in China

UK markets have also been affected by the unrest in China, which has sparked fears over falling demand.

The internationally-focused FTSE 100 opened down 0.8pc at 7,426.78.

Even the FTSE 250 – which has less international exposure – was down 0.6pc to 19,420.63.

07:54 AM

China factory riot leaves Apple millions of iPhones short ahead of Christmas

Apple’s new iPhone 14 Pros and 14 Pro Max phones – BRITTANY HOSEA-SMALL/AFP via Getty Images

Riots at a key iPhone factory in China could cost Apple up to 6m premium handsets in the vital run-up to Christmas, according to concerned factory bosses.

Senior technology reporter Gareth Corfield has the details:

Increasingly violent unrest among workers at Apple supplier Foxconn’s factory in Zhengzhou, eastern China, will slow production of the iPhone 14 Pro, according to internal estimates prepared by managers.

Around one third of production capacity has been lost as angry staff protested against Covid-19 lockdown restrictions at the factory, Reuters reported citing a source with direct knowledge of the estimates.

Staff dissatisfaction with working conditions over the past few weeks has slashed production capacity by 6m phones, said the source.

Zhengzhou is the only location making the iPhone 14 Pro, meaning a hit to production there could leave global shelves empty as consumer demand ramps up ahead of the Christmas holidays. The plant employs around 200,000 workers.

Apple has already been struggling with falling demand for its budget iPhone 14 models, with the company considering cutting orders for cheaper handsets by up to 6m, as The Telegraph reported in September.

Riots at the Zhengzhou plant boiled over into full-scale violence last week, with police firing tear gas at protesters. A video from the site shows hazmat suit-clad riot cops kicking a protester after they had fallen to the ground.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

07:45 AM

Oil plunges amid China protests

Oil has tumbled to the lowest level since December as a wave of unrest in China punished risk assets and clouded the outlook for energy demand, adding to stresses in an already-fragile global crude market.

West Texas Intermediate sank toward $74 a barrel following three weeks of losses.

Protests over harsh anti-virus curbs erupted across the world’s largest crude importer over the weekend, including demonstrations in Beijing and Shanghai, spurring a broad selloff in commodities as the week opened.

The rare show of defiance is raising the threat of a government crackdown.

The unrest aided the dollar as a haven, making raw materials less attractive, while hurting mobility in China.

Things could be set to change even further, as European Union diplomats continue to be locked in talks over a cap on Russian crude prices, with negotiations set to resume later today.

07:38 AM

Chinese unrest hits stocks worldwide

The protests across cities in China at its Covid restrictions also prompted losses in stock markets in Tokyo, Sydney, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei, Jakarta, Bangkok and Wellington.

SPI Asset Management’s Stephen Innes said:

Sentiment has turned sour as unrest across China grows.

Protest of this extent is rare in the country and raises many uncertainties.

The best scenario is further easing and reopening, but the speed at how things deteriorated over the weekend suggests the government needs to act fast.

The risk of the situation escalating from here and short-term volatility remains high.

Ken Cheung of Mizuho Bank added: “It appears that the zero-Covid policy is reaching its tipping point. More easing or refinement on the Covid measures will be needed to curb discontent.”

07:28 AM

Amazon faces extra £29m in tax

Amazon’s warehouse in Rugeley, Staffordshire – Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Amazon could see its tax bill jump by £29m next year as a result of changes to business rates that is set to hit warehouses and online retailers the hardest.

The online retail giant is likely to be among the companies facing big tax hikes in the UK following the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, according to new analysis from real estate adviser Altus Group.

Meanwhile flagship department stores and hotels could shave millions off their tax bills as bricks and mortar retailers receive greater support.

This is because the Government is shaking up the business rates system and revaluing more than half a million retail properties across England and Wales.

It comes as Amazon revealed it will wind down parts of its Indian operations, showing that even the crucial growth market with 1.4bn consumers is not immune to chief executive Andy Jassy’s cost-reduction campaign.

07:18 AM

Commodities markets hit by China unrest

Commodities have sunk amid the worsening Covid outbreak in China and the series of stunning street protests in cities across the nation that threaten to derail economic activity and sap demand for energy, food and raw materials.

Base metals in London and Shanghai dropped, with Chinese copper futures declining as much 1.8pc.

Iron ore in Dalian fell as much as 2pc, before paring losses.

Crude oil in Shanghai followed international markets lower, plunging as much as 5.6pc.

Cooking oil futures in Dalian tumbled as much as 3pc on concerns over the threat to demand at restaurants and hotels already reeling from lockdowns.

07:01 AM

Stocks and oil prices slump as Covid protests in China spook investors

Chinese assets slumped overnight as a sense of chaos and uncertainty gripped traders amid growing Covid-19 protests across the country.

The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index declined more than 4pc in early trading before pulling back its losses by about half.

The Chinese yuan was consigned to a more than two-week low against the safe-haven dollar, down 0.6pc against the greenback, having plunged more than 1pc at the open, the most since May.

Protests spread over the weekend as citizens in major cities including Beijing and Shanghai took to the streets to express their anger on the nation’s Covid controls.

The rare show of defiance is raising the threat of a government crackdown, prompting investors to re-think their bets after jumping back in on reopening hopes.

“We might see some derisking around Chinese markets,” said Chris Weston, head of research at Pepperstone Group.

“We are seeing some outflows of the offshore yuan, which I think is a pretty good indication of how Chinese markets may fare.”

5 things to start your day

1) Banks accused of charging thousands of pounds extra on mortgage payments – Customers still paying much higher interest than before mini-Budget, even though markets have recovered

2) The battle to build Europe’s next generation fighter jet Questions remain over dualing fighter programs as Europe slides into recession

3) Traders brace for fresh stock market falls as protests grip China – Unrest expected to hit Chinese share prices when trading starts in Asia

4) British Airways to double operations at Gatwick Airport – Airline plans to increase planes based at Sussex site from 14 to as many as 28

5) Hopes rise for Christmas post as union offers last ditch talks with Royal Mail to avoid strikesThe Communication Workers Union proposed ‘intensive negotiations’ after rejecting Royal Mail’s latest pay deal

What happened overnight

Stocks and commodities prices slid sharply overnight as the rare protests in major Chinese cities against the country’s strict zero-Covid restrictions raised investors’ concerns about the growth implications for the world’s second-largest economy.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 1.5pc having slumped 2.2pc at the open, pulled lower by a selldown in Chinese markets.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index shed 4.16pc at the start of trade but recovered some territory to be off 2.32pc. China’s CSI300 Index was down 1.8pc after opening down 2.2pc while the yuan also retreated.

“Clearly the harsh China lock downs have been impacting their consumer and business sentiment for some time and the persistent downgrades to China GDP have been consistent for well over a year now with further downgrades to come,” said George Boubouras, executive direct of K2 Asset Management in Melbourne.

‘We see major stock markets plunging 25% from levels somewhat above today’s,’ Deutsche Bank says

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