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FTSE 100 Live: Halfords skids on big ticket warning, pound at $1.27, 5.2% US GDP growth

FTSE 100 live (Evening Standard)
FTSE 100 live (Evening Standard)

Shares in Halfords have slumped after the retailer's interim results included a warning over slower demand in big ticket categories.

The caution came during another poor session for the London stock market, with the FTSE 100 index spending another session in the red.

Meanwhile, expectations that the next move for US interest rates will be down meant the pound stood near to a three-month high of $1.27 today.

FTSE 100 Live Wednesday

  • Halfords shares slide amid volatile trading

  • Oppenheimer out as Hargreaves Lansdown chair

  • Deliveroo unveils retail expansion plan

Government should reform ‘costly’ triple lock to free up money, OECD says

Wednesday 29 November 2023 16:22 , Daniel O'Boyle

The UK Government should consider reforming the “costly” pensions triple lock to free up more money and boost growth, a group of top economists has said.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said it is an urgent task for the UK to address its tax and spending policies.

The globally recognised organisation, incorporating 38 member countries, included the recommendations as part of its global economic outlook.

It forecast Britain to have the second-slowest growth of the world’s G7 advanced economies this year and next.

Read more here

Telegraph sale presents potential national security threat, Tory MPs say

Wednesday 29 November 2023 15:47 , Daniel O'Boyle

A host of Conservative MPs have written to the deputy prime minister urging him to use national security powers to review the potential sale of the Daily Telegraph.

Ministers are being asked to intervene after RedBird IMI, an investment fund owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, vice-president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), reached a deal to purchase the broadsheet newspaper and The Spectator magazine.

In a letter co-ordinated by Neil O’Brien, who was a health minister until the reshuffle a fortnight ago, the 18 MPs said they believed that the proposed transaction “presents a very real potential national security threat”.

Read more here

The whole world needs to know what is really going on at OpenAI

Wednesday 29 November 2023 15:07 , Daniel O'Boyle

The organisation development the most important tech of all is caught in a fast-moving social media soap opera, writes professor Stefan Allesch-Taylor

OpenAI has had a rough couple of weeks. It imploded, then un-imploded in a fast-moving social media soap opera. Elon Musk, the lead benefactor and a co-founder of the organisation (who quit in 2018), tweeted about Board Member Ilya Sutskever: ‘Something scared Ilya enough to fire Sam [Altman CEO]. What was it?’ At the recent UK Artificial Intelligence Safety Summit, Musk also said, ‘AI could kill us all.’ So, we should be paying attention.The organisation development the most important tech of all is caught in a fast-moving social media soap opera.

OpenAI is a US-based not-for-profit research organisation founded in 2015 to collaboratively build ‘value for everyone rather than shareholders’ through the development of AI. It was established to share ideas and technology with other technology companies for the benefit of mankind. That seems nice. I suppose technology has been very handy for those sections of humanity that can afford it.

Read more here

Work must always mean more than just paying the bills - it should also stimulate us

Wednesday 29 November 2023 14:20 , Daniel O'Boyle

Nearly half of British employees say the poor quality of their work environment is hindering their performance. That needs to change, writes Enrico Sanna

The pandemic has changed the way people work in London; four in ten Londoners work to a hybrid pattern, which is the highest in the country. In that context, London’s near empty offices on a Monday and Friday are not a reflection of a healthier work-life balance, but rather a symptom of how the one-size-fits-all approach to office life isn’t suitable for most workers anymore.

The office debate seems to have become one of those polarising topics and is often categorised into a discussion over whether or not workers are sitting at their desks. At Fora, which is part of The Office Group, we have long championed the belief that conformity has always led to compromise.

Read more here

US GDP revised upwards to 5.2% annualised growth

Wednesday 29 November 2023 14:05 , Daniel O'Boyle

The US's blockbuster third-quarter GDP reading has been revised upwards, meaning the world's largest economy is now estimated to have grown by 5.2% on an annualised basis.

That would be the fastest growth in nearly two years.

It further supports the "goldilocks" narrative, the hope that inflation could come down without crashing the economy.

German inflation falls to 3.2%

Wednesday 29 November 2023 13:25 , Daniel O'Boyle

Inflation in Germany has fallen from 3.8% to 3.2%, as Europe's largest economy gets a step closer to bringing price rises back under control.

By the ECB's measure, inflation fell even lower, to just 2.3%, almost in line with the central bank's target.

The decline in the pace of price rises in such an important economy will help the ECB turn its mind towards interest rate cuts, but with prices still running hotter in many other European nations, rates are still likely to stay high in the Eurozone for some time.

Carsten Brzeski, global head of macro at ING, said the pace of German disinflation has been 'remarkable': "A year ago, inflation was still at double-digit levels. And while falling inflation is not the same as actually falling prices, the disinflationary process is remarkable.

"In November, as much as in previous months, the main drivers behind falling inflation rates were favourable base effects across almost all sectors of the economy as well as actually falling energy prices and price cuts in leisure, entertainment and hospitality services. The only worrisome development was the monthly increase in food prices."

Greggs launches first ‘fine dining’ bistro in Newcastle

Wednesday 29 November 2023 13:20 , Daniel O'Boyle

Greggs is launching its first “fine dining” bistro with a menu combining its popular festive bake alongside duck fat roasties, smoked pancetta, chestnuts and sprouts.

Bistro Greggs, a “Parisian-inspired” pop-up within Fenwick’s Newcastle department store, will serve an a-la-carte, multi-course menu of “enhanced interpretations” of the high street bakery chain’s bakes and sweet treats.

Greggs said the cordon bleu menu, created in collaboration with Fenwick’s executive chef Mark Reid, would “elevate Bistro Greggs into one of the hottest new restaurant openings this Christmas”.

Read more here

UK mortgage approvals increase after interest rates held at 5.25%

Wednesday 29 November 2023 12:25 , Daniel O'Boyle

The number of mortgages approved for home buyers picked up last month after interest rates were held steady and mortgage increases eased.

Bank of England figures showed that 47,400 mortgages were approved for house purchases in October.

The Bank’s monthly Money And Credit report revealed the improvement from the eight-month low of 43,300 recorded in September.

Read more here

Lunchtime market snapshot

Wednesday 29 November 2023 12:06 , Daniel O'Boyle

The FTSE 100 has recovered slightly but remains down for the day

US hedge fund loses £360m legal challenge against London Metal Exchange

Wednesday 29 November 2023 11:50 , Daniel O'Boyle

The High Court has rejected an attempt by a US hedge fund to sue the London Metal Exchange for nearly half a billion dollars over its decisions when nickel prices spiked dramatically last year.

The court disagreed with Elliott Management’s claims that the LME did not have the power to cancel a series of trades.

The move cost Elliott about 456 million US dollars (£360 million) in lost net profits, the court in London heard. A second claimant, Jane Street Global Trading, said that it had lost around 15 million dollars (£11.8 million).

Elliott said it would make a bid to appeal against the decision.

Read more here

Grocery brands accused of unjustified price rises

Wednesday 29 November 2023 11:35 , Daniel O'Boyle

Top grocery brands put their prices up more aggressively than could be justified by rising costs during the inflation crisis, the competition watchdog found today.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said there was evidence that average profit per unit sold for staples such as beans, mayonnaise and pet food, has increased for branded products.

However, it also found that supermarket customers simply switched to cheaper own branded alternatives and so were not paying higher prices at the till.

Read more here

Average new mortgage rate paid by buyers hits 5.25%

Wednesday 29 November 2023 11:02 , Daniel O'Boyle

The average interest rate paid on new mortgages jumped almost a quarter of a point last month to a new record high of 5.25%, according to latest Bank of England data.

Figures going back to 2016 showed that the rate on new home loans bottomed out at 1.5% in November 2021 and has risen sharply since. In September it was 5.01%.

The data comes after a series of warnings from the Bank’s Governor Andrew Bailey that interest rates will not fall soon or quickly from the current level, also 5.25%.

Net mortgage approvals for house purchases rose from 43,700 in September to 47,400 in October.

Net approvals for remortgaging increased from 20,600 in September to 23,700 in October.

Property firms set to expand London flexible office portfolios

Wednesday 29 November 2023 10:45 , Joanna Bourke

A host of property companies are exploring expanding their London flexible office footprints in 2024 as demand for space climbs, a Knight Frank survey has found.

The real estate consultancy polled 25 landlords and operators in the capital.

Read more HERE

Deliveroo targets retail expansion as shares continue recovery

Wednesday 29 November 2023 10:31 , Graeme Evans

Deliveroo shares kept up their recovery today after founder Will Shu revealed the meal delivery app is moving into DIY, electricals and homewares.

The retail expansion includes plans for a partnership with Screwfix, which will initially cover orders on up to 500 home improvement products.

The launch of the shopping section on the Deliveroo app comes 11 years after Shu and Greg Orlowski set up the food delivery service. It now works with 183,000 restaurants and grocers, with 135,000 riders in 10 markets.

Customers who backed Deliveroo’s March 2021 stock market float at 390p are nursing big paper losses, although the shares are now at 147.6p compared with 83p in the spring.

The turnaround includes today’s rise of 2.1p after the retail launch was accompanied by the release of growth targets at Deliveroo’s first ever capital markets day.

The City presentation included unchanged guidance for this financial year and a better-than-expected medium-term target for mid-teens percentage transaction growth.

Shu said: “I am excited as ever about the future of the business - there continues to be significant headroom for growth.”

The improvement for Deliveroo shares came during a mixed session for the London market, with the FTSE 100 index down 16.63 points to 7438.61. A stronger pound meant the FTSE 250 index rose 58.15 points to 18,445.15.

Investment advisers could be made to keep cash aside to cover bad advice

Wednesday 29 November 2023 09:54 , Daniel O'Boyle

Investment advisers could be forced to keep money aside to compensate customers should their advice turn out to be bad under new proposals from the City watchdog.

The Financial Conduct Authority unveiled a plan which would force firms to ensure they are able to pay redress, should it be needed.

The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) paid out nearly £760 million to poorly advised customers between 2016 and 2022, the FCA said.

Read more here

City Comment: A fraught few days for the Telegraph

Wednesday 29 November 2023 09:48 , Simon English

A crunch few days for the Telegraph Group, which could have new, controversial, owners by Monday.

If all goes to plan for mooted lead bidder RedBirdIMI, it satisfies the £1.2 billion debts owed to Lloyds Bank by the Barclay family on Friday.

A delayed court hearing to ratify the sale goes ahead on Monday, December 4, then a new era begins for one of the UK’s premier news groups.

The complicating factors are many. One is that while RedBird says the Telegraph will be run by former CNN man Jeff Zucker, the money for the bid comes from Abu Dhabi.

Not every Telegraph reader is delighted by that and culture secretary Lucy Frazer is “minded” to intervene on public interest grounds.

In the background, rival bidders shall scheme away. Lord Rothermere of the Daily Mail Group is unlikely to go down without a fight.

Paul Marshall, the hedge fund king who owns GB News, no more likely to shrug his shoulders and walk away.

Goldman Sachs, which is being very quiet just now, might also be on manoeuvres, since it wants a fee for handling a sale. It’s no use to Goldman if RedBird, Lloyds and the Barclay family sort it out for themselves.

It is assumed that once the Barclay debts to Lloyds are satisfied, they are out. But, as Lloyds Bank might say, assuming anything about the Barclay family tends to lead to disappointment.

RedBird’s point – and it is a good one – is that it has no desire to ruin the Telegraph’s franchise by changing its editorial stance.

It wants to own the business because of what it already is, not what they might turn it into.

For Lloyds Bank, the favoured option, after 14 years of dilly-dallying with the Barclays, is something quick and relatively painless.

No one involved wants this deal to drag into a general election period, which might come as soon as May.

And the way to bet is that RedBirdIMI gets its way. It is likely to be a fraught few days though.

Oppenheimer out as chair of HL

Wednesday 29 November 2023 09:27 , Simon English

The turmoil at Hargreaves Lansdown continued today when it swapped one chairwoman foranother.

Alison Platt, the chair of Dechra Pharma who is also on the board of Tesco, will replace Deanna Oppenheimer, who will step down in December after six years as chair.

She has faced criticism from co-founder Peter Hargreaves, who complained that thecompany costs are rising while the shares are falling. He still has a 20% stake. Hargreavessaid the company has “at least 1000 people they don’t need” with board memberson “ridiculously high salaries”.

Oppenheimer said: "I'm honoured to have overseen the Board during a period of significant change for the industry and for HL.” HL shares rose 4p to 707p today.

The company manages more than £120 billion on behalf of 1.7 million customers.

It has been criticised for high profit margins which are likely to come under attack from a new breed of cheaper rivals, notably Robin Hood.

Oppenheimer was paid £334,500 last year.

Platt said: “I look forward to working closely with my new Board colleagues to guide HL's nextphase of growth."

Investor groups including Glass Lewis had already advised shareholders to vote against there-appointment of Oppenheimer. Glass Lewis said it was "concerned with the paucity of disclosure surrounding the significant level of dissent to the re-election of directors"

Market snapshot

Wednesday 29 November 2023 09:11 , Daniel O'Boyle

Take a look at today's market snapshot with the FTSE 100 lower

Ocado up 6% in weaker FTSE 100, Halfords shares fall 18%

Wednesday 29 November 2023 08:45 , Graeme Evans

Shares in Halfords have slumped 18% after the retailer's interim results included a warning over slower demand in big ticket categories.

The FTSE All-Share stock skidded 40p to 188.6p, unwinding the gains seen since mid-October.

The FTSE 100 index fell 24.94 points to 7430.30, with Aviva among the fallers after Deutsche Bank removed its “buy” recommendation. The shares dropped 8.2p to 416.4p.

Renewed hopes that US interest rates will fall in the first part of next year helped Ocado shares to rally 6% or 33p to 600p, while property-focused stocks also fared well after gains of 1.5% for Land Securities and Segro.

A stronger pound benefited the FTSE 250 index, which rallied 0.3% or 60.45 points to 18,447.45.

Alongside gains for British Land and easyJet, the risers board featured a 4% or 190p jump to 4525p for US-focused corporate merchandise firm 4imprint.

Sales up at Halfords but trading patterns have been volatile

Wednesday 29 November 2023 08:12 , Joanna Bourke

Halfords has recorded a strong first half sales rise with growth at the motoring and cycling services chain led by essential services, but the company cautioned that trading patterns have been volatile.

The firm saw sales increase 13.9% to £873.5 million, with comparable sales up 8.3%. A year earlier the like for like figure was 13.3%. Read more HERE

Saudi wealth fund to buy 10% Heathrow stake

Wednesday 29 November 2023 08:01 , Daniel O'Boyle

The Saudi wealth fund is set to buy a 10% stake in Heathrow Airport, in a deal worth around £1 billion.

The Public Investment Fund, which the country uses to invest the profits from one of the world’s largest oil sectors, will buy the stake from Spanish firm Ferrovial, which is selling off its 25% stake. The other 15% will go to French private equity firm Ardian, which grew out of Axa.

The PIF said: “PIF is pleased to be investing in Heathrow, a world-class airport, which acts as a key gateway to the world. PIF’s investment in Heathrow is in line with its strategy to support the business as a long-term partner.”

Read more here

Sterling above $1.27 on US rates message, FTSE 100 seen flat

Wednesday 29 November 2023 07:17 , Graeme Evans

Pressure on the dollar has continued after a Federal Reserve official said monetary policy is well positioned to slow the US economy and get inflation back to target.

The remarks by Fed governor Christopher Waller fuelled expectations that interest rate hikes are over. He went on to say that if disinflation starts to become a concern, then rates could be cut in response.

Sterling stood at its highest level since August at $1.27 this morning, with demand also reflecting more warnings from Bank of England policymakers that UK interest rates need to stay higher for some time in order to tame inflation.

A weaker dollar has boosted gold in recent sessions, with the yellow metal today trading at $2,043 an ounce.

Wall Street closed modestly higher last night, while the FTSE 100 index finished down 5.46 points at 7455.24. CMC Markets expects London’s top flight to open broadly unchanged this morning.

Recap: Yesterday's top stories

Tuesday 28 November 2023 22:32 , Simon Hunt

Good morning. Here's a summary of our top stories from yesterday: