Daily Business Live: 140k apply for furlough cash on day one
9.30pm: Oil price turns negative
The price of US oil has fallen below zero for the first time in history as the coronavirus pandemic slashes global demand.
5pm: Sunak updates on furlough claims
Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, said that since 8am this morning 140,000 businesses had applied for help through the job retention scheme to source wages for furloughed workers.
The grants they receive will help pay the wages of more than a million people,
He told the daily briefing from Downing Street they should receive the money in six working days.
He rejected calls for a 100% guarantee on loans, saying that while other countries are doing this “ours is more in scope and scale” and other countries are not doing things such as the furlough scheme.
The Bank of England has said a 100% guarantee would speed up the issuance of loans to small firms facing a cashflow crisis, by removing the need for banks to conduct credit checks for the 20% of lending they must underwrite under the current scheme.
Mr Sunak said 12,000 loans had gone out to small firms, more than double last week’s figure, and there were between 80-90% acceptances. He is looking to strip out bureaucracy to improve the system.
4.45pm: Market close
The FTSE 100 closed at 5,812.83 +25.87 (0.45%)
2.10pm: Scheme applications surge
HMRC said that employers had made 67,000 claims for workers through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in the first 30 minutes after it opened for applications at 8am.
2pm: Branson appeal
Sir Richard Branson has warned the government that his Virgin Atlantic airline will collapse unless it receives taxpayer support.
1.30pm: Markets reverse
Stocks reversed earlier gains on concern over the oil price and the worst corporate quarterly earnings season since the 2008 financial crisis.
Oil prices were at their lowest since 1998 as sluggish demand and a continuing over-supply takes it toll. Brent was down $1.62, or 5.8%, at $26.46 a barrel by 1211 GMT, while WTI futures fell $6.22, or 34%, to $12.05.
Richard Dunbar of Aberdeen Standard Investments said: “We are starting to get a reality check in terms of what companies are saying to us and markets are navigating that at the moment.
“It feels like a lot of the benefits of the central bank intervention appears to have passed and all eyes are now on the damage that has been done to company earnings and their ability to pay dividends.”
Noon: Metro penalised
Metro Bank will repay more than £10.5 million after it failed to send texts warning people about unarranged overdraft charges.
All banks are required to alert customers warning them about charges for unarranged overdrafts, to give them the chance to try and avoid them.
Metro Bank also offered to pay back 8% interest on the charges and will look into covering claims for any extra costs incurred by those affected. It brings the expected total cash being handed back to about £11.4m.
11.30am: Markets lifted by Covid boost
European stocks have pushed higher amid hopes that the worst of the pandemic may be over in Italy, Spain and France, with the lowest number of new cases reported in weeks.
Germany will allow smaller shops to reopen and the Czech Republic plans to lift all restrictions by 8 June, allowing bars, restaurants and hotels to start operating as normal.
The positive mood lifted FTSE-listed retailers and consumer goods firms – Next and Unilever in particular – while house builders and miners lost ground.
On the FTSE 250 Aston Martin Lagonda gained nearly 10% as the firm plans to restart production (see below).
9.15am: London open
Investors remain optimistic over the reporting of coronavirus cases and the return to work. The FTSE100 was treading water at 5,791.64 +4.68 (0.081%).
7.30am: Leslau on Travelodge
Property investor Nick Leslau is threatening legal action in a rent dispute with hotel chain Travelodge
7am: Aston Martin brand plan
Aston Martin’s new chairman hailed a ‘hugely exciting opportunity’ for the company as he outlined a plan to re-invigorate the brand.
Trading in new shares in the company commences today after it raised funds in a 4 for 1 rights issue announced on 13 March.
As previously announced, Lawrence Stroll takes up his role as executive chairman and Penny Hughes steps down as a director and chairman.
Mr Stroll said: “The rights issue and the investment that I, and my co-investors in the consortium, have made has underpinned the financial security of, and our confidence in, the business.
“We can now focus on the engineering and marketing programmes that will enable Aston Martin to become one of the preeminent luxury car brands in the world.
“In this first year we will reset the business. Our most pressing objective is to plan to restart our manufacturing operations, particularly to start production of the brand’s first SUV, DBX, and to bring the organisation back to full operating life.”
In 2021, Aston Martin will take its place on the Formula 1 Grid for the first time in more than 60 years.
“This will give us a significant global marketing platform to strengthen our brand and engage with our customers and partners across the world,” said Mr Stroll.
“In the longer term we intend to commit to producing electric cars to combine performance and luxury with environmental sustainability.”
“There is a hugely exciting opportunity for Aston Martin, and an enormous amount of hard work to be done to achieve our ambitions.”
Dante Razzano, who has served as a director of the company since 7 September 2018, is leaving the board with immediate effect.
Omega: Covid test kit
Omega, the medical diagnostics company focused on food testing, has signed an agreement to manufacture up to 46,000 Mologic coronavirus antibody test kits a day at a facility in Cambridgeshire.
Another antibody test which could be used ‘at-home’ will be manufactured at Omega’s facility at Alva, Clackmannanshire.
Colin King, CEO of Omega commented: “We are pleased that Omega has been able to support Mologic with the development and scale up of their ELISA test.
“This is another example of the UK diagnostics industry working in collaboration to bring effective solutions in the fight against this global pandemic.”