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Oxford University says there's no evidence omicron will evade vaccines

  • FTSE 100 down 0.7pc after clawing back losses

  • Oil prices on course for worst month this year

  • Matthew Lynn: 

    The economy might need an omicron bailout - but it must be more targeted

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  • The FTSE 100 has clawed back much of its losses from earlier in the day as fears about the omicron variant began to recede.

    The blue-chip index dropped 1pc as markets opened this morning after Moderna’s chief executive warned current jabs wouldn’t protect against the new strain.

    But this was contradicted by BioNTech boss Ugur Sahin, who said that while the variant could lead to more infections among vaccinated people, they'll most likely be protected from serious illness.

    Oxford University and AstraZeneca have also played down fears that omicron will evade existing vaccines.

    This helped drive a recovery in London’s blue-chip index, which pared losses to 0.7pc closing at 7,059.

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    07:14 PMWrapping up

    That's all from us today, thank you for reading! Before you go, check out some of our most recent business stories:

    07:10 PMUS stocks pare losses but omicron concerns remain

    US stocks have pared some losses but indices are still firmly in the red.

    The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 1.4pc, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq are faring slightly better with a 1.3pc dip.

    Traders remain concerned over Jerome Powell's comment about ending tapering early alongside the potential restrictions to be implemented amid the spread of the omicron variant.

    © Seth Wenig /AP  New York Stock Exchange - Seth Wenig/AP 06:47 PMUS holds talks with Saudi officials over energy trade

    US officials have been holding meetings in the Middle East this week after a period of tension between Washington and Riyadh over high oil prices. 

    Amos Hochstein, the top American energy diplomat, has spoken to Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman today.  

    “We discussed areas where the US and Saudi Arabia can partner to invest in the energy transition and collaborate to build a 21st century clean energy architecture,” Hochstein was reported as saying by Bloomberg.

    The meetings come after US President Joe Biden released some oil reserves to push oil prices down, after the OPEC+ alliance led by Saudi Arabia and Russia refused to increase its oil production quickly. 

    Meanwhile, oil prices are in decline today after Jerome Powell's comments on tapering and widespread concerns over the omicron variant.

    Brent crude has extended its losses and is down 7pc to $68.3.

    06:28 PMTop Meta executive to leave social media group to focus on personal projects

    Top Meta executive David Marcus has announced plans to leave the social media group at the end of the year.

    He has been running Novi, the company's digital wallet launched last month, though he was in charge of Messenger for four years until 2018. 

    Marcus joined the Facebook parent in 2014 from PayPal and is also a co-founder of Diem, a digital currency previously known as Libra.

    While there’s still so much to do right on the heels of launching Novi — and I remain as passionate as ever about the need for change in our payments and financial systems — my entrepreneurial DNA has been nudging me for too many mornings in a row to continue ignoring it. (2/7)

    — David Marcus (@davidmarcus) November 30, 2021 06:10 PMRegeneron says Covid-19 antibody drug may be less effective against omicron

    Regeneron said its Covid-19 antibody drug may be less effective against the new variant, adding to concerns on existing treatment and vaccines sparked by the comments from Moderna's boss.

    Based on its study of Omicron's individual mutations, "there may be reduced neutralization activity of both vaccine-induced and monoclonal antibody conveyed immunity", Regeneron said. The analysis included its Covid-19 antibody cocktail, REGEN-COV.

    The pharma group said it continues carrying out analysis.

    © Provided by The Telegraph scientists work with a bioreactor  - Regeneron 05:50 PMBrent crude price plummets over 6pc

    The general malaise continues affecting oil prices, which plummeted further after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the central bank’s asset purchases could be ended sooner than planned next year, considering the strong US economy.

    Meanwhile, investors are also assessing warnings that existing Covid-19 vaccine can't protect against the omicron variant, potentially affecting OPEC+ to decide to shift its output policy when it meets later this week. 

    The price of Brent crude fell 6.2pc to $68.9.

    05:28 PMFTSE 100 posts worst monthly decline this year 

    It was a bad day for stocks back home as well, with the FTSE 100 posting its worst monthly decline in more than a year as concerns over the Omicron coronavirus variant hammered the sectors most vulnerable to the pandemic.

    London's blue-chip share index closed 0.7pc lower at 7,059 after dropping as much as 1.7pc through the day. It shed more than 2pc in November.

    Most sectors in the FTSE 100 retreated, though mining stocks staged a late recovery, helping the index pare some losses as they tracked a jump in iron ore prices.

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson said another lockdown was unlikely in light of the new variant, but would keep everything under review.

    Drugmaker AstraZeneca, which makes Covid-19 vaccines, fell 1.1pc, while budget airline easyJet slid 1.2pc after reporting some softening of trading in its first quarter due to the discovery of the Omicron variant. 

    05:14 PMUS stocks slump after Powell statement on bond tapering

    On the other side of the Atlantic, stocks slumped after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell weighed an earlier end to bond tapering, with traders boosting their wagers on the pace of rate hikes.

    The bets pushed the Treasury curve to its flattest level since January, with the premium of the 10-year rate over the two-year yield tumbling.

    Powell also told a Senate banking committee that inflation can no longer be considered “transitory”, adding to investors' woes about the Covid-19 omicron variant.

    The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 both lost 1.8pc, while the Nasdaq dropped 1.9pc.

    “Investors may have expected Powell to run for cover as the omicron variant threatens growth,” Mike Bailey, director of research at FBB Capital Partners, was reported as saying by Bloomberg. “However he did an about-face and signaled faster tapering, spooking markets.”

    04:54 PMIssas' forecourt operator EG posts 20pc rise in sales after acquisition spree

    The Issa brothers’ petrol station empire has posted a quarterly sales rise to £7bn in the most recent quarter, boosted by food-on-the-go and takeaways. My colleague 

    Laura Onita has more:

    EG Group, which is owned alongside private equity firm TDR Capital, posted a 20pc increase in sales in the three months to Sept 30 from £5.9bn last year.  

    Group underlying profits were down 10pc to £428m from £476m. 

    Billionaires Zuber and Mohsin Issa said that its food arm, which includes Burger King, Greggs and Subway franchises, was “the stand-out performer” as it looks to open more Asda and Leon shops on its forecourts.

    Profits in its fuel division edged down to £511m from £513m compared to the same period last year. 

    04:41 PMHanding over

    That's all from me for today, thanks for following! 

    Giulia Bottaro is taking the reins for the rest of the day.

    04:34 PMViacomCBS sells LA film studios for £1.4bn © Columbia Tristar Television REUTERS Viacom CBS TV studio - Columbia Tristar Television REUTERS

    ViacomCBS has inked a deal to sell a vast LA film studio complex for $1.85bn (£1.4bn) as the media group looks to cash in on soaring demand for production space.

    CBS Studio Centre, which has hosted TV shows including It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Seinfeld, will be sold to Hackman Capital Partners and Square Mile Capital Management.

    The pair have been on a recent acquisition spree, pumping billions of dollars into its portfolio of entertainment real estate.

    ViacomCBS said the sale of the 55-acre site would free up cash as it looks to compete with streaming rivals such as Netflix and Disney.

    03:58 PMBioNTech founder: Vaccines will hold up against omicron

    There's another plot twist in the omicron saga now, as the inventor of one of the first Covid jabs has issued a reassuring verdict on the new strain.

    Ugur Sahin, founder and chief executive of BioNTech, said that while the variant could lead to more infections among vaccinated people, they'll most likely be protected from serious illness.

    He told the Wall Street Journal that although the virus may evade the antibodies produced in reaction to the vaccine, it would likely remain vulnerable to immune cells that destroy it once it enters the body.

    The comments come in stark contrast to gloomy predictions by Moderna's chief that the omicron strain would evade current jabs and that pharma firms would take a long time to roll out new versions.

    AstraZeneca and Oxford University have also insisted there's no evidence that their vaccine will be more vulnerable to the new variant.

    03:34 PMMusk says SpaceX at 'genuine risk of bankruptcy' © REUTERS/Michele Tantussi Elon Musk SpaceX - REUTERS/Michele Tantussi

    Elon Musk has warned staff at SpaceX that the company faces a “genuine risk of bankruptcy” if it cannot fix its rocket engines by next year.

    My colleague 

    Matthew Field has more:

    Mr Musk’s space venture, which is developing the superheavy Starship rocket that billionaire hopes will one day transport people to Mars, is said to be in crisis as it struggles to solve a problem with the craft’s engines.

    In an email to staff, the Tesla chief executive said issues with the engine were “far more severe than was reported” and that the company’s solvency was at risk if it could not achieve at least one launch every two weeks in 2022.

    The email, which was sent ahead of the Thanksgiving weekend in the US, came as Mr Musk demanded staff cancel holidays to get “all hands on deck” at its Hawthorne headquarters.

    Mr Musk, who is the world’s richest man, told staff: “I was going to take this weekend off, as my first weekend off in a long time, but instead I will be on the Raptor line all night and through the weekend.

    “Unless you have critical family matters or cannot physically return to Hawthorne, we will need all hands on deck to recover from what is, quite frankly, a disaster.”

    03:26 PMFTSE climbs back above 7,100 points

    After a sharp drop this morning, the FTSE 100 has been quietly clawing back losses.

    The blue-chip index has now pushed back above 7,100 points, limiting its losses to just 0.2pc.

    Oil majors 

    BP and 

    Shell are still the biggest drags on the FTSE. 

    AstraZeneca is also down despite assurances from partner Oxford University that there's no evidence its vaccine will struggle against the new variant.

    Meanwhile, miners are providing the biggest upward momentum alongside 

    GlaxoSmithKline, which announced it's poached Pfizer's vaccine guru.

    The FTSE 250 is down 0.4pc, with publisher 

    Future's 14pc surge bucking the trend.

    03:13 PMUS consumer confidence drops to nine-month low

    US consumer confidence slumped to a nine-month low in November as inflation fears lingered, while a resurgence of Covid cases worries could dent morale further

    The latest official gauge fell to 109.5 this month, down from 111.6 the previous month and below estimates.

    The Conference Board figures reflect worries about surging inflation and marked the fourth decline in the last five months.

    Consumers confidence expectations also fell to 87.6 from 89.0 last month as the emergence of the new variant sparked fresh jitters.

    02:52 PMSadiq Khan: Entire Tube line could close without more funding © Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire Mayor of London Sadiq Khan Tube Covid - Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

    Sadiq Khan has warned an entire Tube line could be shut down if the Government doesn't hand Transport for London (TfL) the emergency funding it needs to keep running services.

    The Mayor said TfL would consider the move as a last resort as it looks to plug a pandemic-induced black hole in its finances. Its current emergency funding deal is due to expire on Dec 11.

    He warned that bus services would have to be reduced by almost a fifth and Tube services would need to be cut by nearly 10pc without further support.

    Mr Khan didn't say which of London's 11 Underground lines could be shuttered and TfL said it hadn't made any decisions on which services would be impact.

    The Bakerloo line has been touted as a potential victim after the Mayor said a proposed extension in the south east to Lewisham was “completely out of reach”.

    02:35 PMWall Street drops on Covid jitters

    It's a downbeat start to trading for US stocks as traders digest the latest warnings over vaccines.

    The S&P 500 fell 0.3pc at the opening bell, while the Dow Jones is down 0.2pc. The Nasdaq has dropped 0.4pc.

    02:21 PMMarston's slides as pub sales slow

    Pub chain Marston's has dropped into the red after reporting a slowdown in sales over the last month.

    The company, which runs 1,500 pubs across the country, said like-for-like sales since early October are up 1.3pc compared to 2019 – below the 2pc gain recorded from July to October.

    The figures suggest an initial rebound in demand from punters after restrictions were lifted may have eased, with the emergence of the omicron variant sparking fresh worries for the hospitality sector.

    Marston's tumbled as much as 7.1pc before moderating losses to trade down 4.5pc. FTSE 250 pub chain JD Wetherspoon also dropped 2.7pc.

    02:11 PMOxford University: No evidence omicron defeats our jab

    While Moderna is preaching doom and gloom over the omicron variant, there's a rather more optimistic line coming from the University of Oxford.

    The university said there was no evidence that vaccines would fail to prevent severe disease from the new strain, but that it was ready to rapidly develop an updated version of its jab if necessary.

    It added that there was limited data on omicron so far, but that it would carefully evaluate the impact on its vaccine, which it makes with AstraZeneca.

    Oxford said:

    Despite the appearance of new variants over the past year, vaccines have continued to provide very high levels of protection against severe disease and there is no evidence so far that Omicron is any different.

    However, we have the necessary tools and processes in place for rapid development of an updated Covid-19 vaccine if it should be necessary.

    02:01 PMOmicron could hurt recover, warns BoE's Mann © Thomas Karlsson/DN/TT Catherine Mann Bank of England - Thomas Karlsson/DN/TT

    Bank of England policymaker Catherine Mann has warned the omicron variant puts new question marks over the outlook for consumer confidence and demand.

    Ms Mann said the new development could also put a dent in the return to services spending by consumers.

    The comments will fuel speculation that the central bank may hold off on increasing interest rates amid due to fears a resurgence of the virus will harm the economic recovery.

    The rate-setter said the UK's labour market was “very tight”, adding that the Bank was “conscious” that wage growth might feed through to broader inflation.

    But Ms Mann also said that high levels of inflation were likely to moderate.

    01:28 PMExpert reaction: CMA lowers the bar with Facebook/Giphy verdict

    Peter Broadhurst, partner at Crowell & Moring, says the CMA's decision to block Facebook's takeover of Giphy is a "hugely important one".

    This is the first time the CMA has ever blocked a major digital tech deal and indicates the direction of travel for UK regulator’s oversight of similar deals going forward. But, this is especially significant in this case, where the parties don’t actually compete, but could do in the future.

    The decision also suggests that the CMA will not back down in the face of questions and criticism over jurisdiction and overreach – this is exactly the kind of deal that the CMA feels it should be scrutinising. [...] 

    The CMA has, I think, lowered the bar again and this gives a clear indication of how they are proposing to look at potential competition in the context of mergers going forward.  Let’s be clear: Giphy had no business at all in the UK; only aspirations to start generating revenue internationally, including in the UK. 

    This will cause quite a lot of uncertainty for companies trying to do deals where the parties don’t actually compete, but maybe could do in the future - particularly where one of them may be big in its own market.

    Read more: 

    Facebook ordered to sell Giphy by competition watchdog

    01:21 PMGSK poaches Pfizer's vaccine chief 

    GlaxoSmithKline is poaching Pfizer's vaccine guru after failing to produce its own Covid jab following a series of setbacks earlier in the pandemic.

    My colleague 

    Hannah Boland reports:

    GSK said Phil Dormitzer will join as its global head of vaccines research and development this Friday. He will be based in Boston, Massachusetts. 

    Mr Dormitzer has played a key role during the pandemic as Pfizer's vice-president and chief scientific officer of RNA and viral vaccines, heading up the team that developed Pfizer’s Covid jab in conjunction with Germany’s BioNTech. 

    That vaccine is one of the most widely used globally and accounts for about half of the doses administered in Britain.

    Hal Barron, GSK’s chief scientific officer, said Mr Dormitzer's appointment would be key to ensuring the company remains a leader in this field.

    "The importance of vaccines has never been clearer, and the pace of technological innovation has rarely been greater," he said.

    GSK is still awaiting the final data from its Covid jab trials but it is expected imminently. 

    01:19 PMDeutsche Bank says staffing 'balanced' between London and Frankfurt

    Deutsche Bank's chief executive has said he won't rule out more jobs moving from London to Frankfurt but that there's now a "balance" between the cities.

    Christian Sewing said Frankfurt had benefited from Brexit as it now hosts more financial institutions than ever before.

    He said other EU cities – including Paris, Madrid, Milan and Amsterdam – have also been given a boost.

    Still, some of the eurozone's most powerful banks have demanded long-term access to the City, dealing a fresh blow to Brussel's plans to wrestle power away from the Square Mile.

    Read more on this story: 

    EU banks demand access to City markets in blow for Brussels

    12:34 PMOfgem mulls stricter hedging rules for energy suppliers

    Energy regulator Ofgem said it may bring in stricter capital requirements for suppliers following the collapse of more than 20 companies in just a few months.

    A surge in wholesale gas prices has wreaked havoc through the sector. Many of those that have gone bust were partially or totally unhedged, leaving them exposed to price volatility.

    Ofgem boss Jonathan Brearley said the retail market had to adapt to high prices for the long term, but said "clear and sharp" rules were needed on how suppliers buy energy in advance to hedge against price rises.

    He told MPs: “I don’t see necessarily that this goes away and we carry on as before. We will be in a different reality and we need to make sure the sector is resilient.”

    The sheer number of failures risks leaving just a few players in the market, and questions have been raised over whether companies should be allowed to be so unhedged.

    Mr Brearley added: “Your commercial strategy is your own – how much you want to hedge and how much risk you want to take. If you take that risk you will need to have the capital available to underpin a wide range of scenarios.”

    12:25 PMLooming diesel bans help electric truck maker Volta win record order  © Richard Parsons Volta electric van -  Richard Parsons

    Looming bans on diesel vehicles in European cities such as Paris have helped Volta Trucks win a record order for electric lorries, writes

    Howard Mustoe.

    The Swedish company has struck a deal to sell 1,500 trucks to German logistics firm DB Schenker, which will start using them next year at a list price of about € 200,000 (£170,000) apiece.

    The order means Volta now has orders for about 4,500 16-tonne trucks worth a total of about €1bn, said the chief executive, Essa Al-Saleh.

    It is able to charge a premium of about €80,000 over a truck with a combustion engine because the cities being targeted by Volta will soon ban conventional vehicles. Even now they have to pay high fees for their polluting diesel engines, Mr Al-Saleh added.

    Paris will ban diesel engines from 2024 and he believed more cities will follow suit, generating huge demand for electric trucks.

    12:11 PMUS futures slump after Moderna warning

    Wall Street is set to follow the FTSE into the red this afternoon after Moderna's chief executive sparked another market rout with his gloomy comments about the new Covid variant.

    Futures tracking the S&P 500 and Dow Jones are both down 1pc, while the Nasdaq has dropped 0.5pc.

    Travel and energy stocks are leading losses amid concerns fresh restrictions could hit demand. Major Wall Street banks also lost ground in pre-market trading.

    Moderna chief Stephan Bancel told the FT that current vaccines were unlikely to be effective against the new omicron strain and that rollouts of modified jabs would be a lengthy process.

    12:03 PMNot our job to enforce mask wearing, say retailers © Peter Byrne/PA Wire Retail face masks England - Peter Byrne/PA Wire

    New mask rules have come into force across England today, but retailers have made it pretty clear they're not going to enforce them.

    From today face coverings have become compulsory again in shops and on public transport in a bid to stem the spread of the new variant. They were already still mandatory in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

    Lobby group the British Retail Consortium said businesses supported the new measures for the safety of staff and customers, but that it was the responsibility of authorities – not them – to enforce the rules.

    Retailers echoed this stance, with some saying they feared abuse of their staff.

    Richard Walker, boss of supermarket chain Iceland, said: "What I won't be doing is asking my store colleagues to police those who refuse to adhere to the rules. They're already working under significant pressure, especially as we hit the busiest trading month of the year."

    Tesco and Sainsbury's said they were bringing in new signs and posters asking customers to wear masks. 

    11:53 AMPoll: Oil prices to stay high as Opec limits supply

    Oil prices may be back in the red today, but analysts reckon they'll remain high into next year.

    A survey carried out by Reuters (before the omicron jitters set in) forecast Brent crude to average $71.25 a barrel in 2021, up from the $70.89 consensus in October and the $70.57 average this year.

    The 2022 Brent outlook was raised to $75.33 from $74.04 – the highest projection this year for the benchmark.

    John Paisie at Stratas Advisors said: "We expect that Opec+ will remain cautious in adding barrels, but does not want oil prices to move past $80 for any sustained period of time.

    "Opec+ is also still worried about shale producers in the US ramping up production in response to higher prices."

    Oil's recent ascent has been dented in recent days as the omicron variant sparks concerns over future demand.

    This will play into Opec's decision this week when it meets to determine if it will adjust its current output plans.

    11:38 AMModerna boss: Vaccines will take 'material hit' from omicron

    Here's a bit more detail on those Moderna comments that are rattling markets from the Telegraph's global health security correspondent 

    Sarah Newey.

    Existing vaccines are likely to be significantly less effective against the omicron variant, Moderna’s chief executive has predicted, sounding fresh alarm bells in the financial markets.

    Stéphane Bancel warned he expects there to be a “material drop” in the effectiveness of vaccines against the variant because of the high number of mutations in the spike protein, which the virus uses to latch on to human cells.

    Of the 50 mutations detected in omicron, 32 are in the spike protein – which the current crop of vaccines target to boost the body’s immune system.

    “There is no world, I think, where [the effectiveness] is the same level... we had with [the] delta [variant],” Mr Bancel told the Financial Times.

    “I think it’s going to be a material drop. I just don’t know how much because we need to wait for the data,” he said. “But all the scientists I’ve talked to... are like, ‘This is not going to be good’.”

    Mr Bancel added that the all-important data indicating just how well existing vaccines perform against omicron – and whether the variant causes more severe disease – should be available within a fortnight.

    Read more: 

    Vaccines will take a ‘material’ hit against omicron, predicts Moderna boss

    11:25 AMHow to weather the omicron market storm

    The pandemic is once again at the forefront of investors' minds, with the emergence of the new omicron variant sending shockwaves through markets.

    But what should you do with your money?

    There are bound to be more stock market shocks, but there is no guarantee the winners will be the same as last year when the virus first spread. The Telegraph's Money team asked experts how investors can profit from the omicron variant.

    Read their findings here: Buy these stocks to protect yourself from omicron market falls

    11:19 AMNational Grid and Scottish Power fined £158m over power project delay

    National Grid and Scottish Power Transmission have been slapped with a £158m fine for a two-year delay to a major subsea power cable project.

    Ofgem said its investigation had found the two companies were ultimately responsible for lengthy delays to the £1.2bn Western Link project, which connects Scotland and Wales.

    It added that the delay made it difficult for renewable energy generators in Scotland to export clean electricity to England and Wales.

    The regulator said £15m of the fine will be paid into its redress fund, which allows companies to pay a sum of money to charities, trusts, organisations or consumers as a result of breaches of licence conditions.

    The remainder will go towards reducing system charges, which is set to benefit consumers as they are paid for as part of their overall electricity bill.

    11:10 AMTSB to close 70 branches amid online banking shift © Gareth Fuller/PA Wire TSB branch high street - Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

    TSB has said it will close 70 branches next year as more and more customers switch to online banking.

    The high street bank said demand for its brick-and-mortar presence was declining, but stressed it would still have the seventh largest branch network in the UK, at more than 200.

    It said 150 jobs will be affected by the move, but that all staff will be offered alternative roles at TSB.

    Robin Bulloch, chief customer officer, said:

    Closing branches is an incredibly difficult decision to take, but we have to respond to the changes in the way people bank and provide the right mix of services for all our customers now and into the future.

    These changes allow us to maintain an extensive branch presence across the country. They are accompanied by a significant investment programme to upgrade branches to better suit customer needs. And, where it takes longer to get to the nearest branch, we will introduce more 'pop-up' services in communities.

    11:05 AMEU dependence on UK clearing 'not sustainable', says commissioner

    The EU's commissioner for financial services has said the bloc's reliance on UK clearing houses isn't feasible in the medium term, marking the latest salvo in a row over post-Brexit arrangements.

    Mairead McGuinness said the reliance on third parties "isn't sustainable", adding that the European Commission would keep pushing for activity to move to the continent.

    It comes after the EU said it would extend a temporary waiver that allows its banks and money managers to clear trades in the UK.

    Ms McGuinness reiterated that the decision was made to prevent any short-term financial instability and wasn’t a strategic change of heart.

    Read more on this story: EU forced to hand London lucrative post-Brexit boost

    10:26 AMTurkey's economy booms but inflation risks mount © REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan - REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo

    Turkey's economic growth eclipsed most of its peers to expand 7.4pc in the third quarter, but surging inflation and a currency crisis means the boom could be short-lived.

    Growth in the three months to the end of September was in line with forecasts. On an adjusted basis, the figures showed an expansion of 2.7pc from the previous three months, when GDP surged 22pc as the economy bounced back from the worst phase of the pandemic.

    The lira weakened after the data release, trading 0.5pc lower at 12.89 against the dollar. It's hit a series of record lows in recent weeks as a string of interest rate cuts boosts growth but takes its toll on incomes.

    Economists have urged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has pushed through rate cuts at the central bank, to reverse course, arguing that uncontrolled inflation would ultimately act as a brake on growth, and even drag the economy into recession. 

    But he's doubled down on his position, vowing victory in his "economic war of independence".

    10:13 AMEurozone inflation surges to record 4.9pc

    Inflation in the eurozone has rocketed to its highest level since the launch of the single currency in 1999, piling further pressure on the European Central Bank to act ahead of its meeting next month.

    Consumer prices rose 4.9pc on an annual basis in November, topping forecasts of 4.5pc. A separate figure that excludes volatile components such as food and energy also hit a record high.

    It comes after Germany reported inflation of 6pc this month – the fastest since the early 1990s – while French prices leapt at the fastest pace in more than a decade.

    The ECB has resisted calls for a tightening of monetary policy, insisting that the current spike in inflation will be short-lived.

    While President Christine Lagarde is sticking to the script, some officials have warned that price pressures could take longer to subside.

    The central bank meets on 16 December, when it's set to announce the end of its pandemic bond-buying plan and outline how regular purchases and interest rates will develop.

    Euro area #inflation up to 4.9% in November: energy +27.4%, services +2.7%, other goods +2.4%, food +2.2% - flash estimate https://t.co/akdo6EUq8b pic.twitter.com/PkNsUmYd7F

    — EU_Eurostat (@EU_Eurostat) November 30, 2021 10:06 AMCompetition watchdog orders Facebook to sell Giphy

    Regulators have ordered Facebook to undo its $400m (£290m) takeover of Giphy after concluding the deal would reduce competition between social media firms.

    The Competition and Markets Authority said the merger would enable Facebook to increase its market power by requiring rivals to hand over more data in exchange for access to gifs, or even blocking their access altogether.

    It also said the deal would harm social media users, as well as the UK advertising market.

    The verdict is the first time the CMA has blocked a Big Tech takeover and comes as the watchdog launches a crackdown on anti-competitive behaviour by Silicon Valley giants.

    Stuart McIntosh, chair of the CMA's investigation, said:

    The tie-up between Facebook and Giphy has already removed a potential challenger in the display advertising market.

    Without action, it will also allow Facebook to increase its significant market power in social media even further, through controlling competitors’ access to Giphy GIFs.

    By requiring Facebook to sell Giphy, we are protecting millions of social media users and promoting competition and innovation in digital advertising.

    09:54 AMActivist investor pushes Glencore to spin off coal mines © Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images Glencore coal mining - Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images

    Glencore is coming under fierce pressure from an activist investor to spin off its coal business amid concerns it's putting off environmentally-conscious investors.

    Hedge fund Bluebell Capital said the mining giant could create more value for shareholders if it separates that business, simplifies its asset base, disposes of non-core asset Viterra, and tackles governance issues.

    In a letter to the company, seen by Bloomberg, Bluebell's partners wrote: “Due to its coal business, Glencore is not an investible company for investors who place sustainability at the heart of their investment process.

    “A clear separation between carbonised and de-carbonised assets is needed to increase shareholder value and remove the ‘coal discount’, whilst simultaneously ensuring that coal assets will be managed responsibly.”

    It described Glencore's plans to keep thermal coal as part of its portfolio until 2050 as both “morally unacceptable and financially flawed”.

    It's the latest intervention by London-based Bluebell, which has launched activist campaigns at a string of companies including GlaxoSmithKline.

    09:37 AMAccenture banks on Britain with 3,000 new tech jobs

    Accenture will create 3,000 new jobs in the UK over the next three years as part of a push into technology services, with half of the roles to be based outside London. 

    Simon Foy has the details:

    The professional services firm said the new jobs are being driven by increased client demand for services in cybersecurity, cloud engineering, data, intelligent operations and platforms. 

    Half of the positions will be based in the capital, with the rest split across Accenture’s offices in Newcastle, Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh and Glasgow in a boost for the country’s regional economies. 

    The move represents a vote of confidence in Britain's tech industry as firms increasingly seek advice on how to boost their digital offerings. 

    The move is the latest example of a major international employer boosting their workforce in the UK’s regions. 

    In April, the US investment bank Goldman Sachs announced it was opening a new office in Birmingham, its biggest site in the UK outside of London, creating hundreds of tech jobs in the process.

    09:35 AMSterling slumps to two-week low against euro

    Sterling has dropped to a two-week low against the euro as traders fear the new omicron variant will lead the Bank of England to keep interest rates unchanged.

    The pound slipped 0.3pc to 85.02p after touching a two-week low earlier today. Against the dollar, it's up 0.5pc at $1.3366 after crashing to an 11-month low at the end of last week.

    Markets have come under further pressure today after Moderna's chief executive warned existing Covid vaccines were unlikely to be effective against the new strain.

    09:30 AMUK gets new clearing bank with $1bn valuation © Provided by The Telegraph Bank of London founder Anthony Watson

    The UK is getting a new clearing bank for only the second time in the last 250 years – and it's launching with valuation of $1bn (£750m).

    Bank of London, founded by former Barclays executive Anthony Watson, is aiming to compete with the Big Four UK banks that dominate the market for approving and processing payments, the Financial Times reports.

    The new upstart says it will offer cheaper, faster and safer transactions that the incumbents. Its services will include moving money around the world, cash management and compliance.

    Bank of London secured its $1.1bn valuation following a $90m funding round led by New York-based investment company ForgeLight,

    09:20 AMGas prices jump ahead of Russian auctions

    Natural gas prices are on the rise again, with Europe's benchmark rising above €100 (£85) ahead of a series of auctions for Russian supplies.

    Day-ahead auctions for space on Ukrainian pipelines and capacity at a German station are being seen as a key test of how willing Moscow is to increase flows to Europe.

    While Russia has said it aims to keep refilling storage sites on the continent until the end of December, it so far hasn't used short-term auctions to turn up supplies.

    Dutch benchmark prices extended yesterday's gains to as much as €101 per megawatt-hour, while the UK equivalent jumped 6.5pc.

    09:14 AMShaftesbury resumes dividend as it trims down loss © AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali) Shaftesbury property London - AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

    West End landlord Shaftesbury has brought back its dividend after a rebound in footfall for restaurants, bars and retailers helped it cut its annual loss.

    The FTSE 250 group, which owns swathes of properties in Soho, Carnaby and Chinatown, has bounced back strongly since the easing of restrictions in July, with footfall at weekends now back to pre-Covid levels and weekdays at around 80pc.

    This helped it narrow losses to £195m from £696m a year earlier, and the company recommended a final dividend of 4p per share.

    But in a sign of the pandemic's lingering impact, Shaftesbury said net asset value per share – a key measure of the value of its buildings – had fallen 15pc to £6.19, while overall portfolio valuation declined 5.4pc on a like-for-like basis.

    Shares fell 2.5pc in early trading.

    Brian Bickell, chief executive of Shaftesbury, said:

    There has been great progress on Shaftesbury's road to recovery in recent months.

    Although there is still further to travel before certainty and confidence fully returns, we believe that the combination of our exceptional and adaptable portfolio, and our culture, people and relationships will deliver a sustained return to growth and prosperity, and ensure we live up to the expectations of our shareholders and other stakeholders, for many years to come.

    09:01 AMFrench inflation hits 10-year high

    French inflation accelerated at its fastest pace in more than a decade in November as surging energy costs offset a fall in fresh food prices.

    Inflation in the eurozone's second-largest economy hit 3.4pc this morning – ahead of economists' expectations and the sharpest annual increase since 2008.

    It comes after Germany recorded a 6pc increase in its price index, marking the highest level in more than three decades.

    The numbers will put even more pressure on the ECB, which is reluctant to increase interest rates, saying the spike in inflation is only temporary.

    Data for inflation across the eurozone is due out later this morning.

    08:53 AMZara owner hands over reins to daughter © MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP via Getty Images Inditex Zara Marta Ortega  -  MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP via Getty Images

    Zara owner Inditex has appointed Marta Ortega as its new chairman in a generational change that hands over the reins of power to its founder's daughter.

    Ms Ortega will replace current chairman Pablo Isla, who is stepping down at the age of 57. Oscar Garcia Maceiras will become chief executive immediately, replacing Carlos Crespo, who held the position for two years.

    The executive reshuffle marks the long-awaited handover of power to the 37-year-old daughter of Inditex founder Amancio Ortega.

    But the appointment of a new chief executive at the world's largest fashion retailer took analysts off guard, and shares fell more than 3pc.

    08:33 AMFTSE risers and fallers

    It's a rather miserable start to the day for the FTSE 100, which has shed 1pc on renewed worries about the omicron variant.

    The blue-chip index had staged a modest rebound from last week's rout, but this appears to have been short-lived and it's now on course for its worst month in more than a year.

    Warnings from Moderna's boss over vaccine efficacy dragged 

    AstraZeneca down 1.5pc.

    Banking stocks fell as Covid jitters dented expectations of an interest rates rise, while oil majors 

    BP and

    Shell  also lost ground as crude prices tumbled once again.

    EasyJet rose 0.8pc even as it warned the new variant was denting travel demand, with its full-year loss coming in at the better end of expectations.

    The domestically-focused FTSE 250 has fallen 0.7pc, with published 

    Future jumping 16pc after upgrading its profit forecasts.

    08:23 AM888 to close William Hill takeover early next year © Marina Imperi William Hill 888  - Marina Imperi

    Online gambling group 888 said it expects to complete its £2.2bn takeover of rival William Hill's European business in early 2022.

    The two firms agreed the tie-up, which will return the group's 1,400 betting shops to British hands, in September.  888 said it's now received all the relevant regulatory approvals, with a shareholder vote expected next year.

    The merger will see 888 take over William Hill's international arm from Las Vegas casino operator Caesars Entertainment, which had acquired the gambling giant in April for £2.9bn.

    888 said the deal will create a combined group with more than 12,000 employees and annual revenues of $2.5bn (£1.8bn).

    The online betting firm – which will make its first foray into physical betting shops through the deal – has said it also plans to raise around £500m in equity before the acquisition is completed.

    Itai Pazner, chief executive of 888, said:

    This transaction will create one of the world's leading online betting and gaming groups with superior scale, leading technology, increased diversification, and a platform for strong growth, supported by a portfolio of iconic brands [...]

    Given the strong progress we have made, we now expect the transaction to complete in the first quarter of 2022 and are excited about the opportunities ahead of us as we combine two powerful and complementary businesses.

    08:17 AMMagazine group Future soars after profit upgrade

    It's not all bad news this morning...

    Shares in Future have jumped after the media group hailed another strong year of growth and lifted its forecasts for both revenue and profit.

    The FTSE 250 company, which owns Go Compare and magazine titles including Country Life, posted a 79pc increase in revenue to £606.8m and more than doubled its pre-tax profit to over £100m in the year to the end of September.

    Chief executive Zillah Byng-Thorne said: "As we transition from the Covid-19 boosted comparators, we expect the growth to accelerate in the second half next year. We expect our operating model to drive enhance scalability and operating leverage, leading to further margin expansion."

    As a result, Future said results for the 2022 full year would come in materially ahead of expectations.

    Shares jumped as much as 15pc to the top of the FTSE 250.

    08:06 AMEasyJet boss: We're not writing off winter

    EasyJet has insisted it's not writing off winter just yet, despite fresh travel curbs that are piling further pressure on the sector's recovery.

    Boss Johan Lundgren said the Government had been clear it would review its restrictions and wanted to remove them as soon as possible.

    He told the BBC: "Clearly they want to have the ability as soon as it is safe to do so to remove all the restrictions. So we take a lot of comfort in that... So we're not writing off the winter.

    "But having said that, we thought always that this year was going to be a year of two halves, where the winter was going to be, you know, something that had a lot of uncertainty... and that assumption seems to be the right one."

    08:01 AMFTSE 100 falls back into the red

    The FTSE 100 is back in negative territory this morning, undoing its modest rebound at the start of the week.

    The blue-chip index is down 1pc at the open at 7,041 points.

    07:53 AMVirgin Atlantic's £400m rescue funding in doubt

    In more grim airline news, Virgin Atlantic's future has been plunged into uncertainty by the latest travel bans.

    Hannah Boland has more:

    An effort by Virgin Atlantic to raise £400m in rescue funding has been thrown into doubt by fears of new travel curbs, raising concerns among industry observers about its prospects over winter.

    Sir Richard Branson’s airline has been in talks with existing shareholders and lenders over a cash lifeline in recent weeks, after extended restrictions on travel from the UK to the United States forced it to shelve plans for a public listing.

    Now Virgin Atlantic’s finances face yet more strain as the omicron variant prompts the suspension of some long-haul routes and renewed testing and quarantine obligations for travellers.

    The airline, which has already made deep cost cuts and borrowed heavily, is viewed as especially vulnerable to a resurgence of coronavirus compared with listed rivals such as International Airlines Group, the owner of British Airways.

    Gerald Khoo, an analyst at Liberum, said omicron "certainly doesn’t make it any easier" for airlines to raise cash. Unlike Virgin Atlantic, “the major listed airlines have done what they need to do”, he added.

    Read Hannah's full story

    07:50 AMEasyJet warns on omicron hit as it posts £1.1bn loss © Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg EasyJet airline travel Covid omicron - Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

    EasyJet has said the resurgence of the virus has hit bookings as it posted a £1.14bn loss for the year.

    The budget airline has pulled back capacity plans for the first quarter as some passengers postpone or cancel their travel plans, with boss Johan Lundgren warning that "many uncertainties remain as we navigate the winter".

    EasyJet had planned to hit 70pc of 2019 capacity over winter, but cut this to 65pc. It now expects 70pc in the second quarter, with summer 2022 close to pre-Covid levels.

    It comes after Britain brought in fresh travel restrictions in the wake of the omicron strain, threatening to derail the sector's fragile recovery.

    The company's loss was at the better end of its forecasts, but still marked the second year in a row with losses of more than £1bn. It did not give full financial forecasts.

    07:40 AMModerna chief sparks jitters

    Market rebounds have been cut abruptly short, and it's all because of one man's comments...

    Stephane Bancel, chief of pharma giant Moderna, poured cold water over hopes that current vaccines will be able to handle the omicron variant.

    He told the FT: "There is no world, I think, where [the effectiveness] is the same level . . . we had with [the] Delta [variant].

    “I think it’s going to be a material drop. I just don’t know how much because we need to wait for the data. But all the scientists I’ve talked to . . . are like, ‘This is not going to be good’.”

    Mr Bancel said scientists were worried because 32 of the 50 mutations in the new strain were on the spike protein, which current vaccines focus on to boost the human body’s immune system to combat Covid.

    07:30 AMMarkets braced for more omicron woe

    Good morning. 

    It looks like it could be another tricky day on the markets, with sentiment over the new omicron Covid strain souring overnight.

    While oil and stocks regained some ground on Monday following last week's sell-off, it seems the rebound may be short-lived.

    It comes after downbeat comments from Moderna boss Stephane Bancel, who shunned the more optimistic noises coming from rivals such as Pfizer and BioNTech and warned current vaccines could struggle with the new strain.

    5 things to start your day 

    Video: MSCI Keeps Dropping Japan Stocks From Its Indexes (Bloomberg)

    MSCI Keeps Dropping Japan Stocks From Its Indexes Bloomberg See more videos SHARE SHARE TWEET SHARE EMAIL What to watch next UP NEXT

    1) 

    Accenture to create 3,000 cybersecurity jobs  Half of the roles will be based outside London in a vote of confidence in Britain's growing tech industry

    2) 

    Twitter boss Jack Dorsey steps down  He said the social media platform needs to "break away" from his grip as its founder

    3) 

    AJ Bell woos young investors with no-commission trading app  The broker follows in Robinhood’s footsteps in wake of meme stocks trading frenzy

    4)

    German inflation hits post-reunification high  The figure jumped to 5.2pc in November, up from 4.5pc the previous month, as energy bills rocket 

    5) 

    Afiniti founder quits investment firm in wake of sex assault claims  Zia Chishti stepped down from TRG Pakistan ahead of a board meeting to consider his future

    What happened overnight 

    Asian share markets weakened sharply in late trading Tuesday, giving up earlier gains as investors worried the Omicron variant will prove more resistant to vaccines and could cause more widespread global economic disruption.

    The region's trading followed a brighter lead from Wall Street on Monday which reacted positively to news from US President Joe Biden that new lockdowns as a result of the variant were off the table for now.

    Positive sentiment though was replaced swiftly with a sudden burst of risk aversion in most major asset markets across Asia after the head of drugmaker Moderna told the Financial Times that Covid-19 vaccines are unlikely to be as effective against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus as they have been against the Delta variant.

    MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was 0.45pc lower on Tuesday.

    In Australia, the S&P/ASX200 closed up 0.22pc after earlier being up 1.15pc. Japan's Nikkei retraced all of its 1.2pc gains notched earlier in the session and turned negative later on Tuesday.

    Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index shed 1.86pc while China's blue chip CSI 300 index was off 0.3pc.

    Activity in China's services sector grew at a slightly slower pace in November, official data showed on Tuesday, as the sector took a hit from fresh lockdown measures as authorities raced to contain the latest outbreak.

    Coming up today
    • Corporate: EasyJet, Shaftesbury, Future, Greencore, Countryside Properties, Topps Tiles 

      (Full-year results); Pennon, Discoverie 

      (Interims); Micro Focus (

      Trading update)

    • Economics: PMI 

      (US, China); consumer price index 

      (EU); house price index

       (US); consumer confidence 

      (US)

      Source : https://www.msn.com/en-gb/money/other/oil-slides-towards-70-a-barrel-as-omicron-fears-mount-live-updates/ar-AARhTZf

      Oil slides towards $70 a barrel as omicron fears mount - live updates
      FTSE 100 rebounds after BioNTech boss says omicron will not defeat vaccines - live updates
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