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Heathrow loses 1.3m passengers | Economy expands

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5pm: London shows weekly rise

Blue chips added 1.9% this week although the FTSE 100 index closed down 11.38 points, or 0.2%, today at 7,661.02.

British American Tobacco rose 3% after the cigarette maker reported an annual pretax profit of £9.16 billion, up 5.7% from £8.67bn a year prior.

On AIM, Omega Diagnostics, which announced the sale of its Scottish manufacturing plant and a £7m capital raising, fell 1.38p (18.97%) to 5.87p in 50m trades.


8.45am: Fintech fundraising

FNZ, the global wealth management platform, has secured $1.4 billion in one of the largest ever primary equity raises in the sector.

Full story here


7am: Heathrow traffic

Heathrow

Heathrow airport says it lost 1.3 million passengers who cancelled or chose not to travel following the Omicron restrictions. Travel demand in January was more than 56% down on pre-pandemic levels, weaker than expected.

The company said it is· maintaining its forecast for the year at just over half of pre-pandemic levels on the basis that strong demand for outbound summer holidays can offset a weaker start to the year, and are working with airlines and ground handlers to increase resources across the airport ahead of the summer peak

CEO John Holland-Kaye said: “After a tough Christmas, Omicron has continued to bite and this has been a weak start to the year. As short-lived as the additional travel restrictions were, they ruined the travel plans of more than 1.3 million passengers in the last two months.

“Today’s removal of restrictions for vaccinated passengers in and out of the UK offers a ray of hope, but the Omicron hangover proves demand remains fragile, and at risk to new variants of concern and Government needs to set out a playbook for managing future variants that allows travel and trade to keep flowing.”


7am: GDP rises

Britain’s economy expanded by 7.5% in 2021 as it recovered from a 9.4% collapse in 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Services output fell by 0.5% in December but remained 0.5% above pre-virus levels. The sector was dented by the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in December, which saw a wave of hospitality cancellations as jitters over the virus grew ahead of Christmas and swathes of the population had to self isolate.

“GDP fell back slightly in December as the Omicron wave hit with retail and hospitality seeing the biggest impacts. However, these were partially offset by increases in the Test and Trace service and vaccination programmes,” said Darren Morgan, ONS director of Economic Statistics.

“Despite December’s setback, GDP grew robustly across the fourth quarter as a whole,” he added.

In the fourth quarter of 2021, GDP grew 1.0% on a sequential basis, at this level 0.4% below pre-pandemic times. However, the ONS noted that December’s monthly GDP figure matched pre-coronavirus levels.

November 2021 remains the first month that GDP recovered to above its pre-coronavirus levels, by 0.3%.


7am: Omega sells factory

Drug and food testing company Omega has confirmed a £7m placing and open offer and is selling its manufacturing facility in Scotland to reduce its losses, largely incurred as a result of the UK government failing to licence its Covid test kits.

The £1 million cash sale to Accubio, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Zhejiang Orient Gene Biotech, will see 109 full-time employees based in Alva transferring to the new owner.

Full story here


Global markets

Share prices in Asia were mixed early today after US inflation hit a 40-year high and hawkish comments from a Federal Reserve official fuelled bets on US interest rates being hiked more aggressively.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.59% though Japan’s Nikkei was 0.42% higher.

The three main benchmarks on Wall Street were lower on the back of data showing inflation hit 7.5% in January, its highest level since February 1982 and exceeding a consensus forecast of 7.3%.

Investors are braced for the US Federal Reserve to use aggressive measures to combat rampant price growth and speculation is rising that the central bank could order its first 50 basis-point interest rate rise in more than two decades.

Higher food, electricity, and housing costs were amongst the biggest contributors to the hike.

The broadly based S&P 500 index fell 1.8%, while the technology-focused Nasdaq closed down 2.1%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average  fell 1.47%.



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