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MARKET REPORT: Footsie clocks up its best quarter for a decade 

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The FTSE 100 has clocked up its best quarter for a decade as it rebounded from the Covid crash.

London’s premier index gained 8.8 per cent in April, May and June as investors took stock of what the pandemic would mean for the global economy.

It was the best quarterly performance since mid-2010, when markets were still recovering from the financial crisis and rose by 12.8 per cent. 

London’s premier index gained 8.8 per cent in April, May and June as investors took stock of what the pandemic would mean for the global economy

London’s premier index gained 8.8 per cent in April, May and June as investors took stock of what the pandemic would mean for the global economy

London’s premier index gained 8.8 per cent in April, May and June as investors took stock of what the pandemic would mean for the global economy

And it followed a staggering 25 per cent drop in value between January and March, when the disease spread to western Europe.

Shares have climbed even as normal life went into hibernation and the global death toll passed 500,000.

As well as initial panic-selling wearing off, it would indicate that investors were relieved during the last three months that government interventions such as loans, furlough schemes and money printing would stave off a sudden economic collapse. But it’s not all rosy. 

Stock Watch – Redx Pharma 

Biotech firm Redx Pharma climbed by 17.1pc, or 3p, to 20.5p, after announcing it will raise £24.5million.

This will be put towards paying off £5million of debt and to making further headway with drugs it is developing, including a cancer treatment that uses a patient’s own immune system to fight tumours.

AIM-listed Redx is raising some of the money from the Paris-based venture capital firm Sofinnova, which will be able to nominate a director to the board.

The Footsie is still down by around 18 per cent so far this year.

And, according to AJ Bell’s investment director Russ Mould, in June the FTSE had risen by as much as 5 per cent – but only finished the month 1.5 per cent higher, suggesting that caution is creeping back in.

The index closed 0.90 per cent lower last night, down 56.03 points, to 6169.74, as concerns about infection surges made traders jittery.

The FTSE 250 fell 0.46 per cent, or 79.5 points, to 17119.16.

Easyjet, which was recently demoted into the mid-cap index, slid 0.9 per cent, or 6.4p, to 680p as it released more detailed cost-cutting plans in which 1,900 jobs will go in the UK.

The airline has informed pilots’ union Balpa that 727 of their pilots are at risk of redundancy – and is proposing to close its bases at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle airports.

It also revealed its colourful founder has sold off more stock. In a separate update, it said Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and his family’s stake has gone from 33 per cent to 29.99 per cent, amid an ongoing row between the entrepreneur and the board.

Gold miner Petropavlovsk, meanwhile, sank 19 per cent, or 5.9p, to 25.1p as it suffered its third boardroom coup since 2017.

The chief executive, chairman and several other directors were flushed out in an annual general meeting vote by four shareholders in a shock move.

Petropavlovsk has asked The Takeover Panel to look into a possible breach of the takeover code by one of the shareholders, Uzhuralzoloto Group of Companies. 

Petropavlovsk has recently benefited from higher gold prices. Prices rose again yesterday, hovering at around $1,800 an ounce, the highest for about eight years, as the surge in coronavirus cases is pushing investors back to safe havens.

Struggling cinema chain Cineworld advanced 5.6 per cent, or 3.22p, to 60.54p after it delayed reopening its cinemas in the UK and US until the end of July.

The company had been eyeing a July 10 relaunch. 

But a combination of Hollywood pushing back blockbuster films such as Mulan and markets such as New York and Los Angeles potentially still being closed by mid-month has prompted the rethink.

Over on the AIM index, investors cheered as advertising group M&C Saatchi said the hit to trading in April and May was not as ‘severe’ as it expected.

The stock climbed by 7.8 per cent, or 3.8p, to 52.8p, as it delayed its financial results and said it is seeking a Government-backed coronavirus crisis loan.

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Search for elusive former boss of Wirecard intensifies

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The search for an elusive former boss of collapsed payments giant Wirecard intensified last night after it emerged his reported flight to the Philippines was faked. 

Jan Marsalek, Wirecard’s former chief operating officer, has not been seen since the firm filed for insolvency last week. 

It had been claimed he flew into the Pilipino capital Manila on June 23 and left for China the next day. 

Vanished: Jan Marsalek, Wirecard's former chief operating officer, has not been seen since the firm filed for insolvency

Vanished: Jan Marsalek, Wirecard's former chief operating officer, has not been seen since the firm filed for insolvency

Vanished: Jan Marsalek, Wirecard’s former chief operating officer, has not been seen since the firm filed for insolvency

But a probe by the country’s justice secretary, Menardo Guevarra, has now established that immigration records of his journey were bogus. 

CCTV footage was also reviewed and officials were unable to discover any trace of the executive arriving or departing. 

‘We have established that Jan Marsalek did not arrive in the Philippines on June 23 based on CCTV footage, airline manifests, and other records,’ Guevarra told the Financial Times. 

‘The investigation has now turned to the persons who made the false entries in the database, their motives, and their cohorts.’   

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Britain’s grocers gearing up for massive price war

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Britain’s grocers are gearing up for a massive price war amidst fears unemployment could rise above four million. 

More than 14,000 jobs were lost this week as a coronavirus jobs bloodbath hit the economy. 

The jobs cull has left supermarket bosses scrambling to show they are competitive on price as household budgets are squeezed due to the crisis. 

They are worried that the German discounters Aldi and Lidl will repeat the sort of market-share gains made after the 2008 financial crash. 

This week, one industry source said: ‘Price is going to be everything over the rest of the year.’ 

Food price inflation has risen to 4 per cent, running far ahead of the 0.5 per cent rate of inflation, putting yet further pressure on household budgets. 

Since the coronavirus pandemic has struck, Sainsbury’s have lowered prices on 300 products, on top of their eight-week ‘price lock’ on 1,000 of their items. 

Chief executive Simon Roberts said: ‘With rising unemployment pressure on consumer spending we’ve got to make sure our offer is really relevant. 

‘We’ve been putting a lot of emphasis on the value in our offer and invested in price. We have taken gains from discounters.’ 

Morrisons said it had cut ‘and held down’ the price of 450 customer favourites, adding in half-price promotions such as, this week, half-price beef brisket and mackerel. 

And last week Tesco, Britain’s largest supermarket, doubled down its price war expanding its ‘Aldi price match’ promise to 500 everyday items. 

Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis said: ‘I don’t see why anyone should pay more for a brand at Tesco than anywhere else.’ 

The supermarket claimed it had seen net switching gains of customers to Tesco from Aldi ‘for the first time in over a decade’. Aldi and Lidl have always claimed that, despite promotions, their products remain as much as a fifth cheaper than those offered by rivals. 

'Price lock': Sainsbury's chief executive Simon Roberts

'Price lock': Sainsbury's chief executive Simon Roberts

‘Price lock’: Sainsbury’s chief executive Simon Roberts

But the Big Four grocers have found a trump card during the pandemic in online shopping. 

They have been able to double their capacity during the lockdown gaining thousands of new customers, with many experts saying the trend of buying online will not go away soon. 

Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons are delivering to 2.8m households each week, while the discounters are close to zero. That compares to around 1.5m before the pandemic. 

Next week Chancellor Rishi Sunak will deliver his plan for rebooting the economy. 

Opposition leader Keir Starmer called it the ‘last chance to save hundreds of thousands of jobs’. 

But hundreds of thousands of jobs have already been lost during the lockdown, and this week some major companies went into administration, or shed staff, in an attempt to survive. 

There is a particular concern for the retail and the hospitality sector – that today takes its first steps out of lockdown with many pubs and bars opening – which have been starved of cash for the last 14 weeks. 

At the same time, businesses are facing up to the furlough scheme being pared back from August 1.

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Fuller’s boss urges Chancellor to cut VAT

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Fuller’s boss has urged the Chancellor to cut VAT to prevent thousands of job losses across the hospitality industry. 

As Britain’s pubs finally begin to reopen today, Simon Emeny said cutting the levy on goods and services is vital to entice punters back to their pubs and avoid wholesale redundancies.

Emeny, who said he would be heading straight into a pub as soon as they open at midday, is planning to reopen just 27 of Fuller’s 215 own-managed inns today. 

Stimulus: Simon Emeny said cutting the levy on goods and services is vital to entice punters back to their pubs and avoid wholesale redundancies

Stimulus: Simon Emeny said cutting the levy on goods and services is vital to entice punters back to their pubs and avoid wholesale redundancies

Stimulus: Simon Emeny said cutting the levy on goods and services is vital to entice punters back to their pubs and avoid wholesale redundancies

The remainder of its 177 pubs, which are run by tenants, should all be open by the end of next week. He told the Mail: ‘Pubs are an enormous employer, but clearly what none of us know is what demand will be like when we reopen. 

‘If we’re going to bring all of these employees back to work, we’re going to need the Government to bring in stimulus.’ 

He said that VAT should be temporarily lowered from its current rate of 20 per cent down to 5 per cent. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has come under pressure to cut VAT in his emergency summer statement on Wednesday, in which he will lay out plans to kick-start the economy. Sunak is said to have cooled on the idea, telling Tory MPs not to expect big tax cuts. But, according to the Financial Times, he will also study how England reacts to the reopening of pubs before making a final decision. If there is evidence of pent up demand then a VAT cut may be deemed unnecessary. 

Many worry that today, which has been dubbed ‘Super Saturday’, could see thousands descend on their local after weeks of being restricted to drinking at home.

Emeny is not too concerned: ‘People go to pubs to socialise with their friends and families, and I think they’ll behave well.’

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