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FTSE 100 closes up on stimulus efforts; UK chancellor unveils £330bn rescue package

Britain's blue chip index closed up over 143 points, or 2.8%, at 5,294, just before the UK Prime Minister’s daily briefing

Antofagasta PLC -
UK Chancellor described the coronavirus pandemic as an 'economic emergency' as well as a health one
  • FTSE 100 index closes 143 points higher
  • Sterling plunges against the US dollar
  • Markets rally after the Fed sets up a commercial paper funding facility

5.25pm: FTSE 100 closes ahead

FTSE 100 index closed in positive territory on Tuesday and Wall Street also bounced back as markets cheered efforts to minimise the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Britain's blue chip index closed up over 143 points, or 2.8%, at 5,294, just before the UK Prime Minister’s daily briefing and UK chancellor Rishi Sunak announced more emergency economic measures to keep UK Plc afloat.

Saying the government would do 'whatever it takes', Sunak detailed new measures including £330bn of government-backed loans or credit to businesses, equivalent to around 15% of GDP.

Also extended for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) will be a loan scheme, which will offer credit of up to £5mln. Talks will take place coming days on how to aid airlines and airports, he added.

Despite these fiscal measures concentrating on the UK, the more domestically focused FTSE 250 index finished lower, shedding over 424 points to 13,924 as it benefits less from the pound's weakness.

Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at online trader IG, said European markets are on the rise thanks to "global efforts to minimise the long-term impact of this epidemic helping allay fears over huge unemployment and economic decline".

"Investors have started to strategically pick over the damaged pile of UK stocks today, with traders becoming more selective and strategic about their approach following a dramatic period of declines which has seen both risk and haven assets hit hard."

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones added over 442 points at 20,662, while S&P 500 added over 80 points at 2,467.

4.00pm: Fed finds silver bullet

It was the best of days, it was the worst of days but at the end of the day (nearly) it was a welcome rally.

The FTSE 100 was up 87 points (1.7%) at 5,239 with half an hour of trading to go, helped somewhat by sterling plunging two-and-a-half cents against the US dollar to US$1.2015.

The dollar has strengthened after the US Federal Reserve set up a commercial paper funding facility to make it easier for corporations to get debt-based funding.

“Just as investors were starting to seriously flag once again, the Fed actually managed to pull-off a market-boosting intervention after a string of false dawns.

“The central bank announced on Tuesday that it would be launching a Commercial Paper Funding Facility, i.e. a way for it to buy up short-term debt issued by struggling companies seeking to raise cash.

“It seems that, after being sceptical of the Fed’s rate cuts and trillion-dollar stimulus injections, the creation of this new special credit facility was the kind of thing investors were hoping for,” said Connor Campbell at Spreadex.

“The greenback went on a tear once the CPFF was revealed, surging 1.6% against the yen and pound, and 1.9% against the euro. Cable is now stuck under $1.2065 for the first time in close to six months,” Campbell noted.

3.20pm: Switchback ride continues

The topsy-turvy day continues with the FTSE 100 now in positive territory after the latest move by the US Federal Reserve to ease a corporate credit crunch.

The central bank has established a commercial paper funding facility to support the flow of credit to companies, whipping a tool out of its locker that it used during the 2008 credit crunch.

“Commercial paper markets directly finance a wide range of economic activity, supplying credit and funding for auto loans and mortgages as well as liquidity to meet the operational needs of a range of companies. By ensuring the smooth functioning of this market, particularly in times of strain, the Federal Reserve is providing credit that will support families, businesses, and jobs across the economy,” the Fed said.

The FTSE 100 was up 57 points (1.1%) at 5,208, driven higher in part by grocery delivery technology company Ocado Group PLC (LON:OCDO), which is doing a roaring trade in this period of “social distancing”. The online grocer has stopped processing “new customers’ bookings” until further notice.

Ocado’s shares were up 18% at 1,347.5p.

In contrast, the postponement of the Euro 2020 football tournament – we’re now going to have to refer to it as Euro 2021 – has dealt a blow to terrestrial broadcaster ITV PLC (LON:ITV), which is down 13% at 65.28p.

2.15pm: US markets open higher but swiftly duck for cover

Emulating what the Footsie did this morning, the US benchmarks opened higher but quickly went into retreat.

The Dow Jones index was down 228 points (1.1%) at 19,960 and the S&P 500 was off 7 points (0.3%) at 2,379.

Back home, the FTSE 100 was down 74 points (1.4%) at 5,081.

Gold is in favour, rising US$6.40 on futures markets to US$1,492.70 an ounce but the price of Brent crude has fallen below US$30 a barrel to US$29.42, down 63 cents.

“There has apparently been no progress in attempts to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Russia, with sources saying that an OPEC+ technical meeting planned for Wednesday had been called off. Neither side appears likely to blink in the short term, with Saudi Aramco stating in an earnings call that it was likely to sustain higher output through May and was ‘very comfortable’ with $30 oil,” said Jack Allardyce, an oil and gas research analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald Europe.

“The company had said it would raise production to a record 12.3mmbopd next month [millions of barrels of oil per day], including 300kbopd from existing stocks, as it looks to capture increased market share following the dissolution of the previous OPEC+ pact. With major Russian producers also suggesting they would up supply, and demand in freefall due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, April is expected to see record surplus production and we would expect downward pressure on prices to continue in the near-term,” he added.

“We believe that current prices are below achievable breakevens for the majority of producers, meaning that benchmarks will recover in the longer-term, although the impact on balance sheets even in the best case is likely to be significant,” Allardyce predicted.

1.30pm: Stocks try another rally as it waits for chancellor to mount his white charger

While investors wait for the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to emerge with his replica bazooka, the Footsie is making an attempt at a lunchtime rally.

London’s index of leading shares was down 51 points (1.1%) at 5,096, having started the afternoon session at around 5,044.

“The ongoing rout in equity markets raises an obvious question: what could break the circuit? Unfortunately, monetary or fiscal policy are less suited to break the circuit in a crisis of the real economy that stems from medical emergency than in a financial crisis,” said Holger Schmieding at Berenberg.

“The pandemic and the lockdowns to contain it are delivering a shock to the real economy on a scale that seems unprecedented in peacetime. Because of the unknown trajectory of the virus, with case numbers surging and lockdowns being tightened, it may be more difficult than during a financial crisis to deliver a policy announcement so stunning that it would restore market confidence and put an end to the equity bear market,” he added.

“Of course, a hypothetical central bank promise to buy almost unlimited amounts of equities and thus turn itself into a potential majority owner of a country’s productive capital could end the equity selloff. But we do not expect policy makers to go for this hypothetical variant of ‘whatever it takes’,” he added, possibly to the regret of those singing “The Red Flag” in the background.

Schmieding goes on to suggest that bailing out equity markets could “be at least as unpopular” as bailing out the banks was in 2008/9, although possibly not with anyone with a pension plan.

It’s not all doom and gloom on the Footsie, with a substantial minority of stocks defying the trend, including Paddy Power and Betfair owner Flutter Entertainment PLC (LON:FLTR), which is up 4.1% at 5,944p, having been hammered yesterday after it made its best guess at how much the cancellation of major sporting events is likely to cost it.

Otherwise, today’s winners include many of the usual suspects that people turn to in times of market turmoil, namely grocery sellers, such as Ocado Group PLC (LON:OCDO) – up 17%; essential household goods makers, such as Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC (LON:RB.) - up 7.2%; utilities, such as National Grid PLC (LON:NG.) - up 5.3%; and drugs companies, such as AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN) – up 6.7%.

12.15pm: US markets to try a rally

US markets are expected to open higher although spread betting quotes on the likely opening levels are changing rapidly.

The Dow Jones, which crashed by almost 3,000 points yesterday, is expected to open 421 points higher at 20,610.

The S&P 500, which plunged 325 points yesterday, is tipped to claw back 56 points of those losses this morning to open at 2,442.

In the UK, the FTSE 100 was down 84 points (1.6%) at 5,067.

The retail sector remains a war-zone, with Laura Ashley Holdings plc (LON:ASL) giving up the ghost and Shoe Zone Plc (LON:SHOE) seeking permission to rescind its final dividend payment after a reduction in footfall across its estate.

“Laura Ashley has collapsed, with the company laying the blame squarely on the immediate impact of the coronavirus outbreak. Shares are suspended and it looks to be the first domino to go. It's a classic case of being able to service high debt loads when cash flow remains steady but as soon as the revenues dry up, the debt crushes you whatever interest rate you may be able to get. It highlights the very real limitation in monetary policy right now - debt is about cash flow, not interest rates, for businesses,” said Neil Wilson at markets.com.

11.00am: The Footsie pares its losses

The Footsie has been “up and down like the Assyrian Empire” this morning as confusion and panic continue to reign.

The index is currently down 48 points (0.9%) at 5,103, having bottomed out at 4,979.

Somewhat lost in the torrent of coronavirus-related news this morning were the UK unemployment numbers.

The UK employment rate in the three months to January 2020 was estimated at a joint record high of 76.5%, 0.4 percentage points higher than a year earlier and 0.3 percentage points up on the previous quarter.

The unemployment rate was estimated at 3.9%, flat year-on-year but up from 3.7% in the previous quarter.

Estimated annual growth in average weekly earnings for employees in Great Britain was 3.1% for both total pay (including bonuses) and regular pay (excluding bonuses).

In real terms (after adjusting for inflation), annual growth in both total pay and regular pay is estimated to be 1.5% in the three months to January 2020, down from a recent peak of 2.0% in the three months to June 2019.

In real terms, annual growth in total pay is estimated to be 1.4% and annual growth in regular pay is estimated to be 1.8% in the three months to January 2020.

There were an estimated 817,000 vacancies in the UK for December 2019 to February 2020, which is 19,000 more than the previous quarter but 30,000 fewer than a year earlier.

“This could be as good as it gets – for quite some time,” warned Sarah Coles, a personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“Jobs in pubs, restaurants, hotels and other venues are at risk, airlines are warning of massive job losses, shops are under increasing pressure, and small businesses are laying off staff wherever they can, in an effort to keep going. For the 15% of the workforce who are self-employed, the prospect of losing work and getting ill without sick pay is particularly alarming.

“People working in the retail, hotels and restaurant industry were already seeing the slowest wage growth – at 2% for regular pay - so there’s a real risk they haven’t had the opportunity to put any savings aside to get them through the tough times,” Coles noted.

Samuel Tombs, the chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, concurs with Coles’s analysis, saying all was fine before the virus hit but now …

“Employment was 184K, or 0.6%, higher in the three months to January than in the prior three months, beating the consensus, 140K but the headline, three-month average, unemployment rate increased to 3.9% in January, from in 3.8% in December, above the no-change consensus.

“Meanwhile, the headline rate of year-over-year growth in average weekly wages, including bonuses, increased to 3.1% in January, from 2.9% in December, marginally above the consensus, 3.0%.

“Looking ahead, however, it won’t be long before employment starts to fall. The election does not appear to have had a major positive impact on firms’ appetite for labour. The three-month average measure of job vacancies was a mere 19K, or 0.1% higher in February than in the three months to November, and remained a hefty 5.1% below its January 2019 peak. Moreover, COVID-19 looks set to mean that firms in the travel and discretionary services sectors cut headcounts aggressively, while most firms will pause on hiring plans. Wage growth likely will slow over the next year too,” Tombs warned.

Talking of firms in the travel and discretionary services sectors, package tour operator TUI AG (LON:TUI) and sportswear seller JD Sports Fashion PLC (LON:JD.), down 14% and 10% respectively, are among the hardest hit blue-chips this morning.

Ferguson’s cautious outlook statement has had a knock-on effect on Ashtead PLC’s ([email protected]) shares, which are down 6.5%; like plumbers’ merchant Fergsuon, Ashtead and its tool hire business is heavily dependent on the US construction industry.

10.00am: Ferguson shares down the pan as company warns of cloudy outlook

London’s rally lasted barely half an hour and the Footsie is now sporting a loss that would have been regarded as severe a month ago.

The FTSE 100 is down 126 points (2.5%) at 5,025.

“Blink and you missed it. The FTSE very briefly moved higher on Tuesday before resuming the sell-off. The move lower comes after the Dow closed on Monday down 12.9% in its worst one day sell-off in over three decades. US futures are managing to cling onto gains,” reported Fiona Cincotta of GAINCapital.

“Central bank action and the prospect of further fiscal support are in focus on Tuesday. Rishi Sunak has announced a major bailout scheme and extra measures for businesses after Wall Street’s sell-off overnight. The new package will build on the £12 billion set out in last week’s budget.

“With new social distancing measures coming in and the prospect of businesses grinding to a halt over the coming weeks, the markets have made it clear that the original measures of support were inadequate. Given the resumed sell-off, doubts exist over whether these measures will be able to contain the coronavirus chaos,” she added.

Pantheon Macroeconomics in its daily coronavirus update – an hourly update is going to be needed soon at this rate – noted that the rate of the increase of cases in major western European countries has slowed from its peak pace in late February but the number of cases continues to rise rapidly.

“The UK has abandoned its previous policy of allowing the disease to spread in the hope of creating herd immunity. This was always a crazy idea, and the UK is headed towards restrictions just as aggressive as in other parts of Europe,” said Ian Shepherdson, Pantheon’s chief economist.

“With the resumption of broader testing, UK case numbers are likely to rise rapidly, but probably won't reach continental European levels because the infection rate is lower at the time restrictions are imposed.

“Reported US cases continue to accelerate as the pace of testing is ramped up, and the virus continues to spread. The number of daily US deaths is likely to rise for several more weeks, at least. City lock-downs are spreading, so the rate of increase of new infections ought to start slowing by early April,” he added.

Compass Group PLC (LON:CPG) is the worst-performing blue-chip with a 20% fall at 888.6p after it issued a profit warning this morning.

Results from plumbers’ merchant Ferguson PLC (LON:FERG) sent the shares down the pan.

"Given the strength of our first-half results, we had intended to confirm our full-year trading profit outlook for 2020; however, due to the dynamic situation unfolding with COVID-19 it is too early to understand its impact on current trading,” the company warned.

Ferguson shares were down 15% at 4,426p.

8.40am: Cautious rally

The FTSE 100 made a positive start to proceedings Tuesday, though you suspect it won’t take much to derail progress.

London's blue-chip shares opened 94 points to the good at 5,245.40 

The VIX, a measure of market volatility that is also known as the 'Fear Index', overnight topped levels seen during the maelstrom of the financial crisis.

Overnight on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrials Average closed 13% or almost 3,000 points lower, with broader-based US stock indices following suit.

“Until there is better knowledge of the situation on the ground, until the economic damage is known and until we see a genuine spike in cases in the US and Europe, volatility levels will remain extremely high,” said Neil Wilson, senior analyst at Markets.com.

“There had been chatter that regulators would start to think it's time to call a halt to this, that they will step in to shutter stock markets for a limited period in an attempt to regain control of the situation. Jay Clayton, the SEC boss, said otherwise, but it remains a possibility.”

Heading the risers were presumed beneficiaries of the coronavirus outbreak.

So, Pearson (LON:PSON), electronic publisher for higher education, will, the market is guessing, receive a boost as universities move online for the final term of the academic year. Its shares advanced 8%.

Just Eat Takeaway.com (LON:JET) was being touted as a winner, winner chicken dinner (quite literally), adding 5% after the nation’s restaurants were effectively (but not officially) shuttered.

Pubs operators Wetherspoons (LON:JDW) and Marstons (LON:MARS) were off 11% and 10% respectively with Britain’s high streets expected to host to tumbleweed rather than revellers after the latest stay indoors advice from the UK authorities.

Also on the decline was contract caterer Compass (LON:CPG) after warning on coronavirus closures. It lost 11%.

Proactive news headlines:

Bahamas Petroleum Company PLC (LON:BPC) has agreed a doubling of its existing zero-coupon, second-ranking, unsecured convertible loan note facility by £8mln to £16mln. The loan is provided by an institutional family-office investor based in the Bahamas The expansion of the facility will see immediate additional cash inflow of £1.8mln.

Bango PLC (LON:BGO) has launched carrier billing payment services for Hatch, a monthly subscription-based 5G games streaming platform. Hatch allows users to stream top tier gaming titles to their phone without the need to use storage capacity on their devices. In a separate announcement reporting its results for the year ended 31 December, Bango reported that adjusted earnings (EBITDA) had swung to £450,000 from a loss of £870,000 in the prior year while revenues jumped 41% to £9.3mln.

OptiBiotix Health PLC (LON:OPTI) said it has signed an agreement that will see the medical formulation of its weight loss product sold in some of the world’s richest countries. The group has inked a one-year deal with Lebanon-based Prosperous Pharma, a pharmaceutical distributor that also supplies nutraceuticals to doctors, pharmacies and consumers. It will have exclusive rights over OptiBiotix's SlimBiome Medical for the Gulf Cooperation Council States and the Levant.

Stobart Group Limited (LON:STOB) has responded to press speculation and confirmed it has had talks about selling a minority stake in London Southend Airport. No acceptable terms have thus far been agreed and discussions have been put on hold while both parties navigate the current coronavirus outbreak.

Nu-Oil and Gas PLC (LON:NUOG) is now considering reverse takeover targets in sectors other than oil and gas, following several months of commodity price volatility. The oil price has traded significantly down in recent weeks. The company has particularly focused its efforts on the environmental industries sector and is pleased to confirm that it is in discussions with several potential targets.

e-therapeutics PLC (LON:ETX) is in late-stage discussions regarding a number of exciting potential collaborations, Ali Mortazavi, the executive chairman has revealed. Mortazavi, the former chief executive of Silence Therapeutics, took the helm last month and revealed in his first full-year results statement with the company that he did due diligence for more than three months before purchasing his stake in the drug discovery company.

Shield Therapeutics PLC (LON:STX) has initiated an independent analysis of the nuanced datasets from last year’s AEGIS-H2H clinical trial of its lead product, an iron deficiency drug known as Feraccru here in the UK and Accrufer in the States. It will assess the methodology used around determining the treatment’s “non-inferiority” against a leading intravenous medication in treating iron deficiency anaemia in adults with inflammatory bowel disease.

Itaconix PLC (LON:ITX) (OTCQB:ITXXF) said it was making operational efforts to conserve its £300,000 cash reserves in the face of the mounting disruption to global business caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. It will maintain production, but reduce costs, negotiate payment terms and is assessing asset sales as well considering whether to maintain its AIM listing.

City Pub Group Plc (LON:CPC) has unveiled several measures to “reduce costs and preserve cash” as it moves to lessen the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on its operations. The AIM-listed group said it will reduce employee costs both at its head office and its pubs around the UK, which its directors will also have their salaries reduced by 25%.

Seeing Machines Limited (LON:SEE) says it is implementing several contingency plans and cost containment initiatives which it says leave it in “a strong position” to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on its business. The AIM-listed firm, which develops driver monitoring technology, said that while the short to medium-term outlook was “uncertain” and that it may be impacted by current market conditions, there was “positive momentum” across all transport sectors and the company had “significant confirmed order books for both its fleet and automotive divisions".

Echo Energy PLC (LON:ECHO) is to reduce costs at its Santa Cruz Sur assets in Argentina. In a statement, the AIM-listed firm said that, in light of the current weakness in oil and gas prices, the Santa Cruz Sur assets are no longer cash-flow positive. As a result, Echo is exploring all options available to it to preserve existing cash resources at a corporate level and, together with the operator of Santa Cruz Sur, has identified and prioritised a number of field operating cost reductions to seek to ensure that operations are sustainable at current commodity prices.

Condor Gold PLC (LON:CNR) (TSX:COG) announced that, following an exercise of warrants, it has issued 500,000 new ordinary shares in the company at a subscription price of 31p each, for which it received gross proceeds of £155,000.

Verona Pharma PLC (LON:VRP) confirmed that both its 2019 Annual Report and Accounts and Notice of Annual General Meeting (AGM) are available within the Investors section of its website, www.veronapharma.com. The AGM will be held at the offices of Shakespeare Martineau at 60 Gracechurch Street, London EC3V 0HR, United Kingdom at 10.30am on April 16, 2020.

6.50am: Small rebound predicted 

The FTSE 100 is expected to rally a little on Tuesday as the country prepares to go into quarantine for several weeks to limit the spread of coronavirus after a dramatic announcement by the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson on Monday.

London’s blue-chip stocks were being called 124 points higher by spread betters ahead of the open, though this is small beer after more than 2,000 points have been lost in the past month as the coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll.

Wall Street witnessed another bloodbath at the start of the week - the biggest sell-off in more than 30 years - with the Dow Jones Industrials Average losing almost 3,000 points or 13% to fall to 20,188.5 and the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite both down around 12%.

But Asian stocks were showing a bit more calm on Tuesday, with the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo flat, Hong Kong's Hang Seng up 0.1% and Singapore's Sensex index up 0.8%, though China's Shanghai Composite was down 0.6%.

Tuesday will see more of Britain take part in the drastic social distancing measures that are designed to step up the struggle to limit the coronavirus outbreak in the country as it accelerates towards a peak in a few weeks time. 

Boris Johnson announced what he called “a very substantial change in the way that we want people to live their lives and I can’t remember anything like it in my life time,” with the government calling for Britain to avoid going to pubs, clubs, restaurants, cinemas and theatres.

On Tuesday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak is expected to announce measures to help small businesses and workers hit by the government’s restrictions on people’s movement.

Among corporate news, there is likely to be more fallout from the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic for different companies, while UK labour market data for January will be released mid-morning, though it is made largely irrelevant by the spread of Covid-19 since.

FTSE 100 copper giant Antofagasta PLC (LON:ANTO) is due to publish its final results and there are likely to be comments from management over any visible impact on their business from the Covid-19 outbreak.

At plumbing and heating group Ferguson PLC (LON:FERG) it's half-year results time and, as well as coronavirus, the main interest is likely to be on any updates on the group’s planned demerger of its UK business, Wolseley.

Around the markets:

  • Pound down 0.2% at US$1.2236
  • Brent Crude Oil futures up 2% at US$30.65
  • Gold down 5.3% at US$1504.65

Significant announcements expected on Tuesday:

Finals: Antofagasta PLC (LON:ANTO), ContourGlobal PLC (LON:GLO), Gamma Communications PLC (LON:GAMA), Genel Energy PLC (LON:GENL), Harworth Group PLC (LON:HWG), Kape Technologies PLC (LON:KAPE), Polypipe Group PLC (LON:PLP), Smart Metering Systems PLC (LON:SMS), TI Fluid Systems PLC (LON:TIFS), Tritax Big Box REIT PLC (LON:BBOX), Vectura Group PLC (LON:VEC)

Interims: Ferguson PLC (LON:FERG), Softcat PLC (LON:SCT), ScS Group PLC (LON:SCS), Litigation Capital Management Ltd (LON:LIT)

Economic data: UK unemployment, US retail sales

City headlines:

FT

  • Businesses demand billions in help to avoid failures - leisure, transport and retail sectors warn hundreds of thousands of jobs are at risk.
  • US and UK hospitals vulnerable to surge in virus cases - nations with large elderly populations such as Germany and Japan likely to be hit.
  • Gold and platinum dive as investors dump liquid assets - yellow metal tumbles to levels last seen in early December while platinum hits 17-year low.

The Times

  • Normal life was put on hold for up to a year last night after Boris Johnson was told that it was the only way to save a quarter of a million lives. In restrictions unprecedented in peacetime, the prime minister urged Britons not to go to pubs and theatres, to work from home if they could, and to stop non-essential travel.
  • Most of the world’s airlines will be insolvent within ten weeks and governments grappling with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic are not acting together to save the aviation industry, according to the Centre for Aviation, an Australian consultancy.
  • Ellesmere Port, home of the Vauxhall Astra, and the Luton van factory have become the first British automotive plants to fall victim to the coronavirus.
  • Increased fears that banks may be left with bad loans from struggling airlines and leisure companies while retail customers could be in financial trouble if they lose their jobs or have their hours cut sent shares in the sector down sharply.

Telegraph

  • Rishi Sunak is expected to set out details of a major new bail-out scheme for businesses today as Wall Street suffered its biggest crash since the 1987 Black Monday sell-off last night.
  • Virgin Atlantic, backed by billionaire businessman Sir Richard Branson and US giant Delta, has asked for emergency loans from Whitehall - but the owner of long-term rival BA has insisted no further aid is needed for carriers. 
  • The UK’s pub industry will be “lost in days” without immediate and decisive Government action, its leaders warned.
  • Britain's railways could be returned to state control under radical proposals to combat the fallout from coronavirus.

Guardian

  • Energy companies have started preparing emergency plans to cope with coronavirus disruption, including the possibility of operating with only a fifth of their usual staff numbers.
  • Embattled lender Metro Bank has been hit with a fresh lawsuit by a group of Iranian customers who say their accounts were unfairly suspended without notice or explanation.

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