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FTSE 100 Live: Blue-chips close down, Bitcoin at 20-month high, gold eases back from record price

FTSE 100 Live (Evening Standard)
FTSE 100 Live (Evening Standard)

Gold and bitcoin were in focus today as prices jumped in dealings linked to speculation over the outlook for US interest rate cuts.

The price of gold hit a record above $2100 an ounce while the cryptocurrency traded above the $40,000 threshold for the first time since April 2022.

The developments came during a downbeat start to the week for London’s FTSE 100 index.

FTSE 100 Live Monday

  • Gold and bitcoin rally on US rates outlook

  • Spotify to axe hundreds of jobs

  • Capita sells £60m stake in Defra venture

FTSE closes down 0.2% as miners drag index down

16:41 , Daniel O'Boyle

The FTSE 100 has ended the day down 0.2% at 7,512.96.

London's top flight fell as low as 7478 before a slight rally, but remained behind for the whole day.

Big risers included JD Sports and Rolls_Royce, while miners Anglo American, Glencore and Rio Tinto were the top three fallers.

United Utilities ‘misreported sewage pollution’ and received £5m bonus

15:59 , Daniel O'Boyle

North west water company United Utilities appears to have misreported its sewage pollution and received a £5 million bonus for meeting environmental targets, an investigation has revealed.

BBC Panorama said it has leaked documents suggesting that more than 60 cases were wrongly downgraded to the lowest level, meaning they are not counted as pollution incidents in the official figures.

These incidents are often sewage discharges caused by blockages or equipment failure which can kill wildlife and endanger human health.

United Utilities was rated as a top performer in the regulator Ofwat’s performance review this year, recording just 126 pollution incidents, or 16 per 10,000 kilometres (6,213 miles) of sewer.

Read more here

Market snapshot

14:15 , Daniel O'Boyle

Take a look at today's mid-afternoon market snapshot, with the FTSE 100 still down for the day.

Entain shares jump as US joint venture sees earnings at upper end of guidance

14:08 , Daniel O'Boyle

Shares in Ladbrokes owner Entain have jumped after BetMGM, the American joint venture it operates with casinos giant MGM Resorts, reported its earnings should be on the upper end of its guidance.

Shares jumped by 30p to 833p, as BetMGM provided an update in an investor day.

The strong news helped to reverse a decline in Entain's share price, and could ease pressure on management after activist investors built stakes in the betting firm. But analysts continue to warn that the joint venture is unsustainable, with a possibility that MGM will push for 100% ownership of the operation.

City Comment: Sorry Chancellor, share-buying Sid has moved on

13:43 , Jonathan Prynn

If Hunt really wants to revive the share-owning democracy he will have to try harder than flogging a stake in a part-nationalised high street bank, Jonathan Prynn writes

Jeremy Hunt had fun in his Autumn Statement speech with the possible return of Sid to the financial stage when the rest of the Government’s holding in NatWest is sold back to the public through a retail offer.

But Sid must be getting on a bit now — the original British Gas marketing campaign that spawned the mythical private investor dates back to 1986.

And unfortunately, there are few signs that dear old Sid’s children and grandchildren have in any way inherited his enthusiasm for direct investment in quoted company shares.

New figures from the Office for National Statistics show the proportion of shares held by UK resident individuals fell 1.2 percentage points to 10.8% last year. While not quite the lowest figure on record — it was 10.2% in the financial crisis year of 2008 — it is not far off.

Read more here

UK economy suffering ‘sprain not broken leg’ – Chancellor

13:20 , Daniel O'Boyle

The UK economy may be suffering from a “sprain”, Jeremy Hunt said, but rejected the diagnosis of a “broken leg”.

The Chancellor stressed the need for “positivity” about future growth prospects as he insisted that last month’s autumn statement would be “transformative” for reviving British productivity in the years to come.

His comments came during an appearance at the Resolution Foundation conference, as the influential think tank published a report detailing the scale of challenges facing the UK.

It found that the UK has seen 15 years of relative decline, with productivity growth at half the rate seen across other advanced economies and flatlining wages costing the average worker £10,700 a year in lost pay growth.

Read more here

Bitcoin price breaches 42,000 dollars for first time in nearly two years

12:09 , Daniel O'Boyle

The price of bitcoin breached over 42,000 dollars for the first time in around 20 months on Monday, buoyed by speculation that Americans might soon be able to invest in the cryptocurrency through more traditional means.

The price of one bitcoin hit as high as 42,089 US dollars during the morning, the highest it had been since early April 2022.

It means that the price of bitcoin has soared around 50% in less than two months.

Last week the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) met with asset manager Grayscale Investments to discuss its Bitcoin Trust.

Read more here

'Lived experience' of inflation much higher than CPI figures, new ONS data suggests

11:17 , Daniel O'Boyle

Average household costs are rising by 8.2%, much faster than the official inflation rate, according to new ONS figures that the Government stats bureau said more closely “reflect the lived experience” of the cost-of-living crisis.

“Household Costs Index” figures were published today, to offer “an insight into inflation as experienced by different types of households”.

Whereas the CPI measure of inflation, still the official measure of price rises, was 6.7%, the new figures suggest that costs are rising by 8.2%. One of the major differences is in housing costs, due to differences in how changing mortgage rates and rent prices affect the figures.

The ONS said mortgages were responsible for 1.2 percentage points of difference when compared to CPI.

Read more here

William Hill owner surges in FTSE 250, Boohoo higher as Frasers lifts stake

10:24 , Graeme Evans

Shares in William Hill owner 888 Holdings have surged 16% in the FTSE 250 index after the Sunday Times reported a £700 million bid approach by gambling technology firm Playtech.

Today’s rise of 11.2p left shares at 81.8p, which compares with the rumoured offer price of 156p that 888 rejected in July as undervaluing the company.

William Hill’s non-US operations cost 888 about £2 billion in 2021 but the benefits of the deal have been clouded by a series of challenges including regulatory headwinds.

Pressure on the shares intensified in the autumn following a run of customer-friendly results, meaning 888 will lose its FTSE 250 status in this month’s reshuffle.

Buyers also focused on Rolls-Royce today as the recent momentum for the engines giant continued after Tuesday’s well-received City briefing by CEO Tufan Erginbilgic.

The shares closed on Friday at a four-year high and added another 7.4p to 284.1p this morning, meaning they are up by more than 10% in the past week.

The latest improvement came during a poor session for the FTSE 100 index, which gave up a chunk of Friday’s 1% advance with a drop of 29.41 points to 7499.94.

Weaker mining stocks including Rio Tinto and Glencore were a factor in the poor performance, while BP and Shell dropped on Brent Crude at $78.32 a barrel.

On AIM, ITM Power shares snapped their losing streak after the Sheffield-based green hydrogen firm reported that its annual loss will be towards the lower end of previous guidance. The stock jumped 4.6p to 56.2p.

Boohoo shares also rallied 1.3p to 34.95p after Frasers Group revealed that it had increased its stake in the fast fashion chain to 17.2% from 16.5% previously. Frasers lifted 1.5p to 901p during a strong session for the retail sector.

Capita sells £60m stake in Government joint venture

09:17 , Daniel O'Boyle

Capita has agreed to sell its controlling stake in environmental research business Fera Science to UK private equity firm Bridgepoint.

The outsourcing giant said it has sold its 75% stake in Fera for an enterprise value of £60 million, valuing the business at £80 million.

Fera was set up in 2015 as a joint venture between Capita and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which holds the remaining 25% share.

The business specialises in environmental testing, research, and advisory and assurance services for both the public and private sectors.

Read more here

Market snapshot: blue-chip shares lower

08:22 , Daniel O'Boyle

Take a look at today's market snapshot as the FTSE 100 index fell back below the 7500 mark in the opening minutes of trading.

Rolls-Royce up another 4%, 888 shares jump on bid speculation

08:21 , Graeme Evans

The FTSE 100 index has given up some of Friday’s 1% advance, with London’s top flight down 0.35% or 26.11 points to 7503.24.

The retracement was led by the mining sector as Glencore surrendered 9p to 448.7p and Anglo American fell by 48p to 2263p. The stronger gold price meant Egypt-focused Centamin lifted 0.7p to 101.2p in the FTSE 250 index.

The blue-chip risers board was led by Rolls-Royce as shares added another 4% or 11.3p to 288p, while retailers JD Sports Fashion and Marks & Spencer rose 2% and 1% respectively.

Shares in 888 Holdings jumped 17% or 11.7p to 82.3p after the Sunday Times said that the William Hill owner had been the subject of an approach worth £700 million by gambling technology firm Playtech.

The report said July’s proposal at 156p was rejected by the 888 board as undervaluing the company and its prospects. Playtech shares were a penny cheaper at 415p in the FTSE 250 index today.

Little sign of Israel-Gaza conflict slowing low-cost airlines

07:55 , Daniel O'Boyle

Low-cost airlines Ryanair and Wizz Air reported bumper passenger numbers again for November, even despite the impact of the conflict in Israel and Gaza on their operations.

Wizz flew 4.8 million passengers during the month, up 29% on November 2022, despite having suspended all flights to and from Israel until 2024. The airline said it “continues to monitor the situation on the ground closely, and stands ready to redeploy capacity should conditions stabilise”.

Ryanair reported slower growth, but still flew 11.7 million passengers, up 4%, despite having cancelled 960 flights due to the conflict.

Spotify to axe hundreds of jobs

07:37 , Simon Hunt

Spotify is to axe around 1600 jobs or 17% of its workforce as the music streaming service seeks to become more efficient amid higher costs and slower growth.

In a note to staff, CEO Daniel Ek said: "Considering the gap between our financial goal state and our current operational costs, I decided that a substantial action to rightsize our costs was the best option to accomplish our objectives.

"Today, we still have too many people dedicated to supporting work and even doing work around the work rather than contributing to opportunities with real impact. More people need to be focused on delivering for our key stakeholders – creators and consumers."

Ek added that departing employees would receive an average of five months' severance pay plus pay in lieu of unused holiday.

Gold price hits record, Bitcoin above $40,000

07:24 , Graeme Evans

Gold traded at a record above $2100 an ounce early today, driven by a weaker US dollar and Federal Reserve interest rate expectations.

The price later settled at $2075, down from the peak of $2110 during Asia trading hours.

Bitcoin also surged through the $40,000 threshold for the first time since April 2022, a level that compares with $26,000 in mid-October.

The moves come with traders betting that the Federal Reserve will hold interest rates steady at next week’s policy meeting and consider cuts in the first half of next year.

The speculation comes ahead of Friday’s non-farm payrolls figures, which US economists expect to show growth of 180,000 jobs compared with last month’s 150,000.

Wall Street markets posted solid gains on Friday, while CMC Markets is expecting the FTSE 100 index to open broadly flat at 7527 after the 1% improvement at the end of last week.

Recap: Friday's top stories

Sunday 3 December 2023 21:18 , Simon Hunt

Good morning. Here's a summary of our top headlines from Friday: