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What to watch: Halfords repays £10m in furlough, stocks rise as bond markets stabilise, Daily Mirror owner sees profit fall

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LaToya Harding
·Contributor
·4-min read
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In the seven weeks to 19 February, bike sales soared 43%, while its car servicing and repair business also performed well, growing more than 13pc during the period. Photo: Peter Cziborra/Reuters
In the seven weeks to 19 February, bike sales soared 43%, while its car servicing and repair business also performed well, growing more than 13pc during the period. Photo: Peter Cziborra/Reuters

Here are some of the top business, market, and economic stories you should be watching today in the UK, Europe, and around the world.

Halfords repays £10m in furlough

Halfords has announced that it will repay the £10.7m ($14.9m) it received through the government's furlough scheme as the retailer upgraded its profit forecasts following a COVID-induced biking boom.

The company said it now expects full-year pre-tax profit to be between £90m and £100m, up from £52.6m a year earlier.

In the seven weeks to 19 February, bike sales soared 43%, while its car servicing and repair business also performed well, growing more than 13pc during the period.

It added that although supply disruption has eased, overall bike supply “remains sub-optimal”. Full year results will be released on 17 June.

Peel Hunt analysts raised their annual profit estimate from £76m to £95m after the unscheduled trading update and suggested that Halfords was likely reinstate its dividend sometime this year.

READ MORE: Halfords to hire 1,100 temporary workers amid surge in bike demand

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: "Halfords just needs to ensure it is flexible enough to meet fluctuating demand and remains the cycling retailer of choice.

“On the auto side Halfords could be a beneficiary of a reopening of the economy as people get their cars on the road or at least consider longer journeys for the first time in months and want to get their vehicles checked over to ensure they are road-safe and ready.

“It also seems to be picking up market share as the footprint of less resilient competitors likely begins to shrink.”

The news sent Halford's share price soaring more than 20% on Monday.

Shares rose as much as a fifth on the back of the unexpected update. Chart: Yahoo Finance
Shares rose as much as a fifth on the back of the unexpected update. Chart: Yahoo Finance

Europe rises as bond markets stabilise

European stocks jumped on the open on Monday as a level of calm returned to bond markets after last week's sell-off.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) climbed 1.32% after suffering its biggest plunge since October on Friday.

Housebuilders are leading the rally in London, anticipating positive news for house buyers in Wednesday’s budget, with British Airways owner IAG (IAG.L) also among the top risers, gaining 4.4% in early trade.

The CAC (^FCHI) rose 1.48% and the DAX (^GDAXI) was 1.27% higher.

Watch: European stocks climb

Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor, said: “There has been a pause for breath after the bond market sell-off stabilised, although inflation concerns remain near the surface. Those fears of inflation have certainly not gone away but attention has shifted back, perhaps temporarily, to the immediate positive drivers which could propel a strong economic rebound.

"More generally, the success so far of the vaccine rollouts and the pent-up consumer demand which has partly been due to enforced savings are preparing the ground for a spending spree later in the year."

WATCH: First cases of Brazil COVID variant detected in UK

Daily Mirror owner sees profit fall

Reach (RCH.L), the owner of the Daily Mirror and the Express, posted a 12.8% fall in profit on Monday as it reported a stronger second half of the year.

The newspaper publisher said that profit fell to £133.8m ($186.6m), however, this was in line with expectations.

It revealed a recovery in print revenue and digital demand, which delivered a stronger second half despite a fall in advertising yields in the first half. It added that its registered users now stood at 5.8 million, more than halfway towards its end-2022 target.

READ MORE: Mirror and Express group company shares hit highest in a decade as digital revenues jump 25%

Jim Mullen, chief executive, said he would increase investment to meet the medium-term objective of doubling digital revenue.

"Reach has become a stronger business in 2020 thanks to the ongoing hard work and commitment of our people during this unprecedented year," he said.

"Resilience in print circulation is the foundation for the strong cash generation which underpins strategic investment, our pension commitments and growing returns to shareholders."

The company added that it would pay a final dividend of 4.26p per share.

WATCH: What UK government COVID-19 support is available?