Daily Business Live

PO workers’ victory; Biden tax hike plan hits markets


4.30pm: Shares recover from early caution

Top shares recovered from the effects of Joe Biden’s capital gains tax plans. The FTSE 100 index closed just 0.32 of a point higher at 6,938.56. However, they ended the week 1.2% lower.

Evraz shares closed 2.6% higher while Rio Tinto gained 1.9%. Amongst financials, Lloyds closed up 1.6% and NatWest was up 1.4%, ahead of their first quarter results on Wednesday and Thursday next week.

The FTSE 250 closed up 7.39 points. FirstGroup traded 18% higher in early trade and closed up 4.47% after agreeing to sell its US bus operations to Swedish private equity firm EQ (see below).

10.50am: Post Office workers’ convictions quashed

The Court of Appeal has quashed the convictions of 39 former Post Office workers who were found guilty of stealing money from the company.

The former sub-postmasters and postmistresses had been convicted of theft, fraud and false accounting.

It was later revealed that the Post Office’s defective Horizon accounting system was to blame.

However, there was disappointment for three claimants today as the judges decided that the cases brought against Neelam Hussain, Stanley Fell and Wendy Cousins did not depend on data from the flawed Horizon IT system. Therefore it said their convictions were safe.

8.45am: FirstGroup soars

Shares in the FTSE 250 firm FirstGroup surged 19% in early trade to hit a one year high of 101.3p following the sale of its US bus business. They later fell back to 94p.

Aberdeen-headquartered FirstGroup began the sale process for the FirstStudent and FirstTransit businesses a year ago, following pressure from major shareholder Coast Capital Management.

AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould described the sale as “another win for the activist investor community.”

He added: “FirstGroup will certainly be in a better financial shape thanks to the US disposals. That will be quite a relief for the company after a long period of management first being distracted by shareholder pressure and then having to deal with the brutal impact of Covid-19 on transport demand.”

Full story here

8.15am: London falls despite data

The FTSE 100 opened 19 points lower at 6918 despite a flurry of data (see below) showing improved consumer sentiment.

7am: Retail sales rise

high street shopping at Easter

UK retail sales rocketed last month as consumers prepared for a partial lifting of coronavirus lockdown restrictions across much of the country, official data shows.

Sales volumes jumped by 5.4% in March from February, the Office for National Statistics said, with clothing stores benefiting especially.

Separate data showed Britain’s government borrowed £303.1 billion in the financial year which ended last month, a surge of £246 billion on the previous year and the biggest share of the economy in peacetime.

Borrowing stood at 14.5% of economic output, the highest such ratio since 1946, after World War Two, when it was 15.2%.

Financial analyst Danni Hewson of AJ Bell said: “Clothing sales were up 17.5% in March as people readied themselves to socialise and garden centres reported above average sales for the time of year as people readied their gardens to provide a comfortable backdrop for that socialising.

“What will cheer bricks and mortar retailers is the slight slow-down in online spending, sales fell 1.5% from February though they are still 23.1% higher than the same period last year.”

7am: FirstGroup sells US buses

Transport company First Group has announced that it has sold its yellow school buses in the US in a deal worth £3.3 billion.

Full story here

4am: India on red list

British airports were mobbed as thousands rushed into the UK from Covid-hit India – including the super-rich in private jets – to get back to Britain before today’s 4am ‘red list’ quarantine deadline.

Full story here

Global marketsBiden tax hike expected

Equity markets in the US fell yesterday after the Biden administration said it is looking to increase the rate of capital gains tax to 39.6% for those Americans earning $1m or more.

The Dow Jones industrial Average fell 321 points while the S&P 500 shed 38 points.

The report also hit cryptocurrencies. Ether pulled back sharply from a record high and rival Bitcoin also fell.

Ether plunged more than 10% to as low as $2,140, a day after climbing a record $2,645.97. It last traded down 6.5% at $2,243.95. Bitcoin fell 3.62% to $49,824.97.

Asian markets are mixed. Japan’s Nikkei 225 is showing a 226 point fall while in Hong Kong the Hang Seng was 259 points higher.

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