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MARKET REPORT: FTSE 100 in worst month since March

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market report ftse 100 in worst month since march

The FTSE 100 has suffered its worst month since March as fears of a second wave shook investor confidence. 

Britain’s index of leading companies has slid by 282 points throughout October – most notably over the last week, as coronavirus cases have shot up and countries around Europe have begun to impose strict new lockdowns.

Even upbeat results from the UK’s major banks over the last week have been unable to support the blue-chip index. 

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029257D400000578 6865851 image a 1 1562603221949

Astrazeneca, still the FTSE’s most valuable listed company, acted as a drag on the index as it slipped 1.4 per cent, or 110p, to 7766p, after selling heart failure drug Atacand in around 70 countries to German firm Cheplapharm. 

The FTSE 100 fell 0.1 per cent, or 4.48 points, to 5577.27 points yesterday, contributing to a sea of red on traders’ screens as global markets tumbled. 

In the US, the Dow Jones was down 1.4 per cent, the Nasdaq down 2.8 per cent and the S&P down 1.8 per cent as traders wrapped up a tricky week dogged by rising coronavirus cases, the breakdown of fiscal stimulus talks, and rising election tensions. Asian stocks also tumbled – Japan’s Nikkei fell 1.5 per cent, the Shanghai Composite by 1.5 per cent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index by 2 per cent. 

And closer to home, Germany’s Dax index slipped by 0.4 per cent – although traders in France seemed to be coming to terms with new lockdown restrictions as the CAC edged up 0.5 per cent. 

David Madden, an analyst at CMC Markets, said: ‘A mixture of rising Covid-19 cases and the announcement of tougher restrictions clobbered stocks. 

‘Last month, the DAX 30 and the CAC 40 hit multi month highs, while the FTSE100 reached multiweek highs. Back then, optimism was doing the rounds as economies reopened and there were hopes that US politicians would agree a coronavirus relief package. 

‘Now, dealers are bracing themselves for stricter lockdowns, and lawmakers in the US haven’t reached a compromise with respect to the stimulus package.’ 

The biggest drag on the FTSE was Ocado, which slipped 3.2 per cent, or 74p, to 2276p as investors pocketed some of their profits. 

The mid-cap FSTE 250 index just managed to pull back some gains before the end of the month, climbing 0.2 per cent or 36.7 points to 17214.38 points. 

It was boosted by a 9.9 per cent rise at Cineworld, where shares climbed 2.56p to 28.51p as investors hunted for a bargain at the closed cinema chain. And Aston Martin climbed 5.4 per cent, or 2.8p, to 54.25p, as it successfully priced its new bonds. 

However, in order to attract investors, the 007 car maker had to increase the yield on the $1.1billion (£840m) of bonds to 10.5 per cent, making it one of the highest-yielding bond issues in Europe this year. 

IT company Computacenter edged down 1 per cent, or 24p, to 2274p as it updated the market. 

Traders took the chance to sell up and take their profits after the company hit a record high earlier this month, even as the company said it was comfortable with its full-year expectations and had a strong backlog of orders. 

Mining firms, which have had a difficult time during lockdown as demand for materials has fallen, had another lacklustre day. 

Glencore, following a third-quarter update, edged up just 0.3 per cent, or 0.4p, at 155.9p, as it admitted coal production would undershoot guidance due to a strike at its Cerrejon mine in Colombia. 

And Petropavlovsk slid 2.7 per cent, or 0.75p, to 26.7p, as it lowered its expectations for full-year gold production. The firm has been continually dogged by internal disputes after a shareholder coup in August ousted the miner’s chief executive and several directors.

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Northern regions battle to host new National Infrastructure Bank

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northern regions battle to host new national infrastructure bank

The race is on across the north of England as leaders compete for their regions to become the seat of two economic hubs.

Rishi Sunak yesterday unveiled plans to set up a National Infrastructure Bank that will be based in the North.

The move comes on top of the Chancellor’s proposal to build a Treasury output in the region. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday unveiled plans to set up a National Infrastructure Bank that will be based in the north

Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday unveiled plans to set up a National Infrastructure Bank that will be based in the north

Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday unveiled plans to set up a National Infrastructure Bank that will be based in the north

Northern leaders are now pushing the case for their areas to host the two hubs, with the North East and North West thought to be pushing particularly hard.

The infrastructure bank will fund projects that promise to help the UK reach its ‘net zero’ carbon targets by 2050 and its ‘levelling up’ agenda.

The plans were outlined as part of Sunak’s wider spending review, which laid out how the Government aims to repair the UK economy in the wake of the Covid crisis.

The bank will be up and running by next spring but Sunak did not say where it would be based or how much money it will have.

Conservative MP Jake Berry, former Northern Powerhouse minister and head of the Northern Research Group of MPs, said: ‘There’s likely going to be a lot of stiff competition from regions and leaders.

‘What’s important is that it’s being placed in the North, which shows a commitment by this Government to the region and the levelling up agenda – and a move away from Government jobs and departments focused almost entirely on London.

‘It is also good news when you consider the recent announcement that 22,000, well-paid civil service jobs will be moving out of London and the South East.’

The Chancellor has also promised to build a Treasury outpost in the North.

Designs for the ‘economic campus’ are thought to have been submitted for buildings in areas including Darlington and around Teesside, but a final location has not been confirmed. The plans are some of the firmest commitments yet that the Government will shift power out of London.

Pressing his case: Middlesbrough mayor  Andy Preston

Pressing his case: Middlesbrough mayor  Andy Preston

Pressing his case: Middlesbrough mayor  Andy Preston

Ministers have also promised to put £4billion towards a fund, which could back local projects in all regions.

While the competition to attract the bank and Treasury outpost will be fierce among MPs, mayors and councils, the race could also create friction if ministers opt to place them in major cities.

Ben Houchen, Conservative mayor for Tees Valley, which is a major hub for heavy industries, said: ‘It’s important that the Government takes the bold decision to base the bank outside of a northern city.

‘Having officials from the bank based outside one of our metropolitan centres will give them a new mindset and allow them to understand the whole country so much better and the different challenges our towns and villages face – which would not happen if the bank was set up in a city like Newcastle, Leeds or Manchester.’

Andy Preston, the independent mayor of Middlesbrough, said: ‘Levelling up is decades overdue so it is fantastic to finally see it being tackled. 

‘Middlesbrough has suffered more than anywhere from political neglect and incompetence. We deserve to host this new bank. 

‘The Government should invest in Middlesbrough now and I guarantee them a huge and positive return.’

Under Sunak’s plans, an additional £27billion will be spent next year on infrastructure such as roads, cycle paths, railway lines and power stations, in many areas tying in with the green strategy Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last week.

The push is part of plans to plough £100billion into areas such as schools, hospitals and banks in total next year, and £600billion over the next five years. 

The Government, in rebounding from Covid, wants the UK to ‘build back better’ by improving motorways, laying better internet cables and building more wind farms.

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Taxpayer faces £40bn bill as cost of emergency loan schemes soar

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taxpayer faces 40bn bill as cost of emergency loan schemes soar

The taxpayer could be saddled with a £40billion bill as thousands of loans handed out under emergency government schemes turn sour.

The Treasury watchdog confirmed that losses under the Bounce Back loan scheme, the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and the larger CLBILS will be greater than feared.

In the worst-case scenario, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) thinks the taxpayer could end up covering £40billion that companies fail to repay.

Loans burden: Treasury watchdog the Office for Budget Responsibility  has confirmed that losses under emergency business loan schemes will be far greater than first feared

Loans burden: Treasury watchdog the Office for Budget Responsibility  has confirmed that losses under emergency business loan schemes will be far greater than first feared

Loans burden: Treasury watchdog the Office for Budget Responsibility  has confirmed that losses under emergency business loan schemes will be far greater than first feared

This is much worse than the £33.7billion of losses the watchdog predicted as possible in July. 

Even under the OBR’s more moderate base-case scenario, losses will hit £29.5billion – £12.6billion more than was predicted. 

It comes as banking industry bosses warn that billions of pounds of Government money is being lost to fraudsters.

Virgin Money chief executive David Duffy said yesterday that his bank had decided to only hand out Bounce Back loans to existing customers in order to reduce fraud.

He added: ‘There is an environment out there where we know there’s been a lot of fraud, and what we’ve been very happy to do is lend to those customers who we have a relationship with and know.’

The Bounce Back loans, aimed at businesses with turnover of up to £200,000, involve banks carrying out few checks but come with a 100 per cent government guarantee.

The scheme has so far lent £42.2billion to 1.4m small companies. 

The Treasury was warned multiple times about the risk of fraud, but pushed ahead because it worried businesses were going to the wall during lockdown and desperately needed the cash.

Part of the reason that losses under the three emergency loan schemes are now expected to be higher is because the British Business Bank (BBB), which is administering the schemes, expects more businesses to go bust. 

The government-backed BBB estimates that a staggering 5 per cent to 20 per cent of the large businesses who have borrowed under CLBILS could default on their debt.

Less surprisingly, it thinks 10 per cent to 25 per cent of smaller CBILS borrowers and 35 per cent to 60 per cent of Bounce Back borrowers will become unable to pay back their debt. 

The Government has agreed to cover 80 per cent of any losses which lenders suffer under the CBILS and CLBILS schemes and 100 per cent of losses under the Bounce Back scheme.

The other reason why losses are higher is because the schemes have been extended.

When Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a second lockdown for England at the start of this month, Chancellor Rishi Sunak pushed back the deadline for applications under the three loan programmes from the end of November to the end of January, to help businesses stay afloat.

The OBR now thinks total borrowing under the three schemes could hit £87billion by the time they close, up from the £65.5bn which had been lent on November 15.

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Use British steel for £27bn infrastructure spree, industry chiefs urge

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use british steel for 27bn infrastructure spree industry chiefs urge

Industry chiefs have urged the use of British steel for infrastructure work.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak plans to spend an extra £27billion on projects next year, and billions more in coming years on roads, railways and power stations.

Huge volumes of raw materials will be needed and steel bosses want the Government to prioritise procuring metal from the UK, to create and sustain jobs and help repair the damage that Covid has wreaked.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak plans to spend an extra £27bn on projects next year, and billions more in coming years on roads, railways and power stations

Chancellor Rishi Sunak plans to spend an extra £27bn on projects next year, and billions more in coming years on roads, railways and power stations

Chancellor Rishi Sunak plans to spend an extra £27bn on projects next year, and billions more in coming years on roads, railways and power stations

UK Steel director general Gareth Stace said: ‘The huge levels of promised spending must now deliver the largest possible return fortaxpayers’ money by maximising the UK content of these major projects.’

It comes a week after Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled a green strategy to build eco-friendly homes, wind turbines and nuclear power plants.

Both plans could reinvigorate ‘foundation’ industries that produce the raw materials.

UK steel has struggled over the past few years and some firms, such as British Steel, have collapsed. 

The UK makes 7.3m tonnes of steel a year. Around 32,600 people work in the sector.

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