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FTSE 100 to open flat amid growing fears of delay to easing of Covid rules

·3-min read
<p>Delays would allow for more vaccines to be given </p> (PA Wire)

Delays would allow for more vaccines to be given

(PA Wire)

The FTSE 100 was set for another slow start to trading today amid increasing talk of a delay to relaxing the Covid lockdown rules in the UK.

Reports suggested ministers were becoming increasingly pessimistic about the data around the new strains of the virus, with various Cabinet sources today quoted as saying a delay of between two weeks and a month was now likely to allow more time for vaccines to be rolled out.

Boris Johnson is expected to make a formal announcement on Monday, when its social distancing review is published ahead of the June 21 plan to end social distancing in pubs and restaurants.

Government scientific advisers Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Valance yesterday expressed reservations about the timetable in a briefing to ministers described as “fairly grim” by sources speaking to The Times.

Leisure and retail shares could respond negatively to the news today although such pessimism may already be priced in, given that concerns have been repeatedly voiced about the current timetable.

Elsewhere in markets, concerns continue over the ever-present question of whether inflation will return to the US, forcing the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates. Inflation data later this week will give markets more direction.

Today the FTSE 100 was being called up 5 points to 7082 by traders on the CMC Markets platform.

The Dax in Germany was expected to be unchanged at 15,677 and France’s CAC 40 9 points up at 6550.

The main trading focus for the session is likely to be on Germany, which publishes its latest industrial production data and the ZEW survey of investors’ expectations. Figures on factory orders out yesterday in the country showed a decline of 0.2% so industrial production is likely to be similarly sluggish, CMC said.

Analysts expect to see a rise of just 0.2%, but anything significantly above or below could impact on the main stock indices.

Further survey evidence on the US jobs market this afternoon could also move markets. The JOLTs survey should show more job vacancies coming available, with roles available increasing from 8.12 million in March to 8.2 million in April.

Those on the right argue that two rounds of Covid fiscal handouts have reduced the economy from a worse plight and eased poverty. Last Friday’s payroll data showed there are 8 million fewer Americans in work now than before the pandemic, CMC’s Michael Hewson pointed out this morning.

Sentiment towards the banking sector in the UK may benefit from news that Boris Johnson gave City CEOs a sympathetic hearing in a private meeting yesterday.

In an apparent rapprochement with a sector miffed about Brexit, the talks were said to be more collaborative than before as he was reminded that Britain’s regulation and lack of government support meant UK banks were now valued 3.5 times lower than their US and European peers, the FT reported.

Hopes are now that the PM, Rishi Sunak and Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey may now listen to bank calls to remove the tax surcharge put on them as punishment for the global financial crisis.

Bitcoin fell nearly 6% to a two week low of $33,000, with the Bloomberg Galaxy Crypto Index showing a wider fall of crypto stocks, down 10%.

As ever, nobody knows why. Some trying to find a cause of Bitcoin’s meanderings blamed the US authorities’ recovery of most of the Bitcoin ransom paid to criminals who cyber-attacked the Colonial Pipeline last month.

This, the pundits suggested, showed the crypto was not as free from state intervention as libertarian fans hope.

Whatever the reason, Bitcoin has now underperformed commodities and many stock market indices around the world this year. It remains up 14% since January 1.

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