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FTSE 100 Live: Bitcoin hits record high, Barclays shuffles leadership, Primark owner posts results

·16-min read

Bitcoin set a new record above $68,000 today as global inflation fears continue to stimulate interest in the leading cryptocurrency.

The latest surge comes ahead of tomorrow's inflation data in the United States, where economists predict a figure for October above 5%.

Global markets have been stuck in a narrow range prior to that release, although Tesla shares finished 5% lower last night after Elon Musk's Twitter followers urged him to sell a stake in the company worth about $21 billion.

In London, results from Primark owner Associated British Foods and an update from housebuilder provide the main corporate interest.

FTSE 100 Live Tuesday

  • Bitcoin above $68,000 for first time

  • Primark owner sets out expansion plan

  • Rolls-Royce secures £400m for nuclear reactors

  • Watches of Switzerland upgrades guidance

  • Barclays shuffles leadership after Staley exit

FTSE shuts mildly lower despite strong rally for ABF

17:45 , Oscar Williams-Grut

The FTSE 100 has closed down 26 points at 7274 despite a big rally for Associated British Foods. ABF closed 8% higher after a bullish update on subsidiary Primark.

Danni Hewson at AJ Bell says: “UK markets have failed to find lift-off today despite some decent company earnings and a headline grabbing update from Rolls Royce.

“Associated British Food topped the FTSE 100 leader board after tantalising investor expectations that Primark has well and truly got its mojo back.

“It’s been years since I first heard plans for mini nuclear reactors discussed around a dinner table full of energy sector suits but today Rolls Royce announced a big step forward, one that made markets sit up and pay attention. The plans certainly have their critics but as we all take a long hard look at our energy use and our bills this winter there will be many who feel nuclear does have a major part to play in the UK’s future.

“At the other end of the spectrum, Darktrace was back in the virtual doghouse despite yesterday’s rally, bargain hunters perhaps waiting to see how low the price might actually go.”

Our top stories today:

- Primark bounces back: Associated British Foods plans major US and European expansion and launches special divi

- Rolls-Royce secures £400 million for new nuclear power Small Modular Reactors

- Gatwick Airport leads calls to reinstate “use it or lose it” landing slot rules

- Bitcoin hits new all-time high above $68,000 amid inflation concerns

That’s all from us on the blog today. Join us again tomorrow.

Why bitcoin is rising

15:34 , Oscar Williams-Grut

Bitcoin has risen to a new all-time high above $68,000, meaning the world’s biggest cryptocurrency is now up over 110% since the start of the year.

It makes it the best performing asset year to date, according to Bank of America, and the sixth most valuable asset in the world, according to George Monaghan, a thematic analyst at GlobalData.

What’s driving the price higher?

There are plenty of theories but the dominant one at the moment is inflation. Find out why.

Full story: Why the price of bitcoin is pushing to new highs

Barclays shuffles leadership

14:46 , Oscar Williams-Grut

Barclays has announced changes to its leadership team in the wake of the shock exit of CEO Jes Staley.

Staley left last week after he and the bank viewed contents of an as yet unpublished report by regulators into disclosures about his relationship with pedophile financier Jeffery Epstein. Staley is challenging the contents of the report.

C.S. Venkatakrishnan, known as Venkat, was elevated to CEO last week in response to Staley’s exit. Venkat, a Staley lieutenant, was previously global head of markets at Barclays and co-president of Barclays Bank.

The bank said today:

“Paul Compton will become Global Head of the Corporate and Investment Bank (CIB), and President of Barclays Bank PLC. He was most recently Global Head of Investment Banking, and Co-President of Barclays Bank PLC. Paul will lead Barclays’ Investment Banking, Global Markets, Research, and Corporate Banking businesses and will continue to deliver Barclays’ successful CIB growth plan.

“Alistair Currie will become Global Head of Consumer Banking & Payments (CB&P). Alistair was most recently Head of Corporate Banking. Alistair will lead the ongoing transformation of the consumer banking and payments businesses as they become more digitally-focussed, efficient and returns-driven, whilst delivering excellent customer service.

“Ashok Vaswani, will take on a new role as Chief Digital Strategy Officer, reporting into Venkat. As technology shapes customers’ interactions with banks, Ashok will accelerate the strategy and execution of Barclays’ consumer-facing digital products and services. As part of his new role, Ashok will also lead Barclays’ strategic partnerships.

“Stephen Dainton will become Co-Head of Global Markets – Distribution, alongside Adeel Khan as Co-Head of Global Markets – Trading. Stephen was most recently Deputy Head of Markets, and Adeel was most recently Global Head of Credit Products.

“JF Astier and John Miller will become Global Co-Heads of Investment Banking. They were most recently Co-Heads of Investment Banking.

“David Farrow will take on the role of Head of Corporate Banking, on an interim basis. David was most recently the Head of Client Coverage for Corporate Banking.”

Venkat said: “I consider myself very fortunate to take on my new role with a world-class team alongside me on the Group Executive Committee. We will work closely together on not only delivering an outstanding product and service set for our customers and clients, but in accelerating our growth and shareholder value.”

Barclays shares are little changed since the announcement, down half a percent.

New lifeline for business tenants ahead of evictions ban ending

13:50 , Joanna Bourke

A ban on business evictions has been in place since the start of the Covid crisis and is due to end in March 2022. The government today gave High Street firms more breathing space.

The government said commercial tenants will be protected from debt claims, including County Court judgements issued against them in relation to rent arrears from when they had to close for lockdowns.

The temporary measure is a move aimed at encouraging firms to negotiate £7 billion of debts accrued during the pandemic.

Read the full story HERE.

Bitcoin pulls back from record high

12:55 , Oscar Williams-Grut

Bitcoin has pulled back slightly after hitting a new all-time high above $68,000.

The world’s biggest cryptocurrency is currently trading up $1,725 or 2.6% at $67,598.

Jonas Luethy, Sales Trader at GlobalBlock, says: “Bitcoin made a new all-time high early this morning, peaking at $68,500. Analysts are suggesting that a lack of supply is a major factor as some reports show that 85% of existing supply has remained inactive for the past 3 months. This comes as supply held on exchanges also reaches a record low.

“Analysts are suggesting $75,000 as a target on the upside, but if the price takes a turn downwards, the price could fall to the 50-day moving average at around $56,000.”

Gatwick calls to swat slot-blockers

12:02 , Simon Freeman

Gatwick Airport today called on the government to reinstate rules that force airlines to either “use or lose” lucrative take-off and landing slots before next year’s summer peak.

Stewart Wingate, CEO of the UK’s second-busiest airport after Heathrow, said it was the “right time” to insist airlines hand back runway rights they do not intend to use as international travel recovers.

He has joined forces with bosses at Belfast and Edinburgh airports, alongside low-cost Hungarian airline Wizz Air, which is looking to expand its presence in the London market.

Full story here

Shepherd Neame upbeat despite loss

11:42 , Oscar Williams-Grut

Britain’s oldest brewer struck an upbeat tone today even as it warned that inflation and supply chain problems will continue to plague its business into next year.

Kent-based Shepherd Neame said sales were improving thanks to reopening, following a year to forget.

“We are greatly encouraged by the customer response since re-opening and are confident that beer and pubs remain every bit as core to British life as pre-pandemic,” said chief executive Jonathan Neame, the fifth generation to run the family business that was founded in 1698.

The optimism came as Shepherd Neame, which also has over 300 pubs across the UK, reported a loss for the year just gone. The company made a pre-tax loss of £10 million in the 12 months to 26 June on revenues of £86.8 million. Sales were down by a quarter of 2020.

CEO Neame said the business was going into 2022 “with optimism” but admitted: “We face challenges ahead, particularly with supply chain and inflationary pressures.”

The shortage of HGV drivers and threatened strike action by drivers added £250,000 to costs last year, the company said, while the brewer also grappled with shortages of everything from CO2 to bricks.

Shares rose 0.1p to 10.4p.

Savills reveals forecasts for London house prices

11:27 , Joanna Bourke

Plenty of news from agent Savills today, which alongside an update on profits, released its house price growth forecasts.

The company said the average UK figure of £327,838 as at July is predicted to reach £370, 785 by 2026, marking a more than £40,000 gain.

In London the firm has forecast prices rising to £713,987 from £676,124.

Read more HERE.

11:27 , Simon Freeman

Oxford Nanopore shares lifted by more than 5% today after the DNA sequencing pioneer signed a three-year deal with one of the Middle East’s leading labs.

The £4.5 billion biotech, which floated in London in September, said the $68 million contract with Abu Dhabi’s G42 Laboratory would lift 2023 full-year revenues for its research tools to £170-190 million, against previous forecasts of £165-175 million.

Nanopore’s devices have been used to track the spread of Covid-19 variants in 85 countries but the UAE project centres on a large-scale genome sequencing programme.

Shares rose 31.5p, or 5.8%, to 577.0p.

Rolls recovery picks up pace

10:47 , Graeme Evans

The revival of engines giant Rolls-Royce continues to fire up investor interest after shares today surged another 5% to hit their highest level of the year.

Government and private investor backing for the company's planned mini reactor business triggered the latest rally, which left Rolls shares above 150p for the first time in 2021.

It was a year ago this month that Rolls tapped shareholders for £2 billion in a heavily discounted rights issue, as it moved to shore up its balance sheet and offset the sharp reduction in engine flying hours during the pandemic.

Shareholders who took up their rights to these new shares will be smiling today, having now seen the stock rally by 70% since late July.

Sentiment has been further boosted by this week's resumption of transatlantic travel as well as recent progress on chief executive Warren East's disposal programme.

Another widely-held stock doing well today was BT after analysts at Berenberg upped their price target from 175p to 200p and returned to a “buy” recommendation after six months at hold.

Their move continues the positive momentum for shares since last week's interim results, when chief executive Philip Jansen accelerated cost savings targets. Shares today rose another 4.3p to 162.75p and have risen 15% in the past week.

Stocks moving in the other direction included housebuilders after declines of 1% for Taylor Wimpey and Berkeley Group.

The FTSE 100 index was broadly unchanged overall, up 9.11 points at 7309.67, as investors await tomorrow's US inflation figures before committing new money.

The figure is expected to show a rate above 5% in October, a trend that makes bitcoin more appealing to some investors. Whereas inflation decreases the value of money over time, bitcoin has a fixed limit on the number of coins which can be created.

The cryptocurrency traded above $68,000 for the first time today after adding another $2,000 overnight, having already doubled in value since July.

Shoppers fill freezers early for Christmas

10:00 , Joanna Bourke

Christmas has come early for a host of retailers, with shoppers already spending millions of pounds stocking up on mince pies and turkeys, new data shows.

Research firm Kantar said in the four weeks to October 31 frozen poultry sales were 27% higher than a year earlier and the spend was up by £6.1 million.

Read more HERE.

AB Foods 7% higher on dividend cheer

08:51 , Graeme Evans

The FTSE 100 index is broadly unchanged at 7303 but this masks some decent progress for a few well-known blue-chip names, including Associated British Foods.

Shares in the Primark-to-Ovaltine conglomerate jumped 7%, up 121.5p to 1980p, as full-year results promised the January payment of a final dividend worth 20.5p a share alongside a special dividend of 13.8p.

Rolls-Royce surged 3% or 4.6p to 146.36p, equalling September's post-pandemic high, after it secured £400 million of funds for developing small nuclear power generators.

The FTSE 250 index was 61.44 points higher at 23,601.36, led by Watches of Switzerland as the company behind the Goldsmiths and Mappin & Webb brands upgraded its full-year guidance. Shares surged 10% or 108p to 1242p.

Good times at Watches of Switzerland

08:50 , Joanna Bourke

Watches of Switzerland has seen sales soar (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Archive)
Watches of Switzerland has seen sales soar (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Archive)

Watches of Switzerland has seen “huge demand” for the latest James Bond Omega watch, the retailer’s chief executive said as annual sales guidance was upgraded.

The business Brian Duffy leads, which is behind brands including Watches of Switzerland, Mappin & Webb and Goldsmiths, saw total revenue in the half year to October reach £586.2 million.

That was 44.6% ahead of last year, and 40.8% higher than the same period pre-pandemic.

Read the full story HERE.

Order boost for Oxford Nanopore

08:32 , Graeme Evans

Stock market newcomer Oxford Nanopore Technologies continues to impress after the gene sequencing firm upgraded its revenues guidance for the second time in less than a month today.

The improvement reflects the university spin-off's activities in UAE, where it has been awarded a 36-month contract worth $68 million (£50.3 million).

Shares were initially priced at 425p in September, valuing the business at £3.4 billion in one of London's biggest listings of the year.

They surged to 600p a short time later but have fallen back since then. They rose 4% or 19.5p to 565p after today's upgrade.

The biotech's products enable the real-time analysis of DNA and RNA in laboratories as well as remotely.

BT momentum continues

08:21 , Graeme Evans

BT's half-year results continue to have a positive impact on the share price, with the stock up 14% in the past week and another City firm today backing them to go higher.

Berenberg has upped its pice target from 175p to 200p and also restored its “buy” recommendation after six months at hold.

The move follows some positive developments in last week's interim results, with chief executive Philip Jansen accelerating the telecom giant’s £2 billion cost savings target by a year to 2023.

BT shares today rose 3% or 4.45p to 162.9p.

In other broker commentary today, Deutsche Bank analysts cut their price target on British Airways owner IAG following Friday's results.

They still have a “buy” rating, but the target price is now 230p rather than 260p as higher fuel costs continue to cloud the improving outlook for the airline industry. The shares were 0.8p lower at 176.56p today.

Rolls-Royce secures funding for nuclear project

08:10 , Oscar Williams-Grut

Rolls-Royce has secured just over £400 million in funding to develop small nuclear power generators that the company claims can help meet the UK’s future net zero energy needs.

Rolls-Royce said on Tuesday it had agreed funding to get its small modular reactors (SMRs) through the design and regulatory clearance phase.

BNF Resources UK, a company backed by France’s billionaire Perrodo family, and Exelon Generation, a Chicago nuclear power giant, have agreed to invest £195 million over three years. The UK government is providing another £210 million, funding which was included in the Prime Minister’s recent Green Industrial Revolution plan.

Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East said: “The SMR programme is one of the ways that Rolls-Royce is meeting the need to ensure the UK continues to develop innovative ways to tackle the global threat of climate change.

“With the Rolls-Royce SMR technology, we have developed a clean energy solution which can deliver cost competitive and scalable net zero power for multiple applications from grid and industrial electricity production to hydrogen and synthetic fuel manufacturing.”

Read more about SMRs and why Rolls is so exited about them.

Primark bounces back: new stores plans

07:55 , Simon English

PRIMARK declared a return to form today after a tricky pandemic, with shareholders to enjoy a special divi and shoppers to see new stores springing up.

The fast fashion house, which famously doesn’t sell on the internet, suffered as much as any retailer with critics increasingly questioning its business model.

Today George Weston, CEO of parent ABF, said his confidence in Primark is “unaltered”.

The group plans to open another 132 stores in the next five years, with the US, France, Italy and Iberia the markets most ripe for expansion.

read more here

Eight in a row for S&P 500

07:49 , Graeme Evans

Wall Street's record-breaking advance continued last night, with the S&P 500’s gain of 0.1% the eighth consecutive rise for another all-time high.

It’s the longest winning streak since April 2019, while another day of progress today would mark the longest run of consecutive gains since November 2004.

Deutsche Bank analyst Jim Reid also notes that 17 positive days out of 19 is the best run since December 1971.

He added: “All these records for various equity indices might seem jarring when you consider that there are still strong inflationary pressures in the pipeline, and with them the prospect of a renewed hawkish shift by central banks.

“However, the prevalent view among economists (which continues to influence investors) remains that those pressures will prove transitory and we’ll see price pressures diminish as we move through next year, hence enabling a steady lift-off in rates from central banks.”

Bitcoin nears $70,000

07:39 , Graeme Evans

Bitcoin has moved to within sight of the $70,000 barrier after the cryptocurrency set a fresh record overnight, most likely fuelled by investors hedging against inflation.

The currency peaked at $68,525 in the early hours before falling back to $67,959. Ethereum, the world’s second biggest crypto token, yesterday reached its own all-time high.

Mainstream acceptance of bitcoin has been boosted in recent weeks by the launch of America's first exchange-traded fund linked to cryptocurrency and as more banks have offered crypto trading to their customers. The price has now doubled since mid-July.

The latest surge is being linked to inflation ahead of tomorrow's official data in the United States, where a figure of 5.3% is expected for October. Whereas this will decrease the value of money over time, bitcoin has a fixed limit on the number of coins which can be created.

Hargreaves Lansdown senior analyst Susannah Streeter said yesterday: “It’s a highly risky strategy given just how volatile the crypto currency is, amid other pressures on its valuation like clampdowns by authorities and even comments on social media.”

The developments in the crypto world have certainly been more dramatic than those in mainstream markets so far this week, with the FTSE 100 index set for a slightly negative start after closing 0.1% lower last night.

The prospect of the US inflation figures tomorrow appear to have kept investors on the sidelines, including in Asia where markets were lower.

The pound, meanwhile, has recovered in the past 24 hours to stand at 1.357 versus the US dollar. Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey is due to join other central bank leaders this afternoon for a webcast on diversity and inclusion in economics, finance and central banking.

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