The pound jumped on Wednesday after a better-than-expected US inflation report spurred expectations the Federal Reserve will slow the pace of interest rate hikes.
Sterling jumped as much as 1.6pc in afternoon trading, after data showed US consumer prices rose 8.5pc in the year to July, a fall on June’s 9.1pc reading.
The slowdown, which was sharper than expected, sparked hopes that America may have passed the peak of the worst inflationary storm since the 1980s. The drop was driven by a sharp decline in road fuel prices.
President Joe Biden seized on the figures, saying: “We're seeing some signs that inflation may be beginning to moderate.”
Traders adjusted their expectations for the Fed’s future interest rate path following the reading. Markets are now pricing in a 0.5 percentage point increase at next month’s meeting, rather than the 0.75 point rise previously predicted.
A smaller increase would ease pressure on the Bank of England, which has faced calls to support the pound by trying to match the Fed’s pace in increasing rates. Central bank rate rises tend to strengthen domestic currencies by making them more lucrative to hold.
Wednesday's rally a small relief for sterling, which is one of the worst-performing major global currencies this year, down 9.5pc against the dollar.
Jane Foley, a foreign exchange strategist at Rabobank, said investors remained focused on the UK’s poor growth potential.
“Long-term issues over low productivity growth in the UK and a lack of clear direction… likely contributed to weak investment levels and a lacklustre performance of the pound,” she said.
Steven Blitz, chief US economist at TS Lombard, said the Fed’s path was still unclear.
“There is still a lot more data to come and dynamics to play out – and the Fed likes to see at least three-months of data moving in the same direction before declaring a trend,” he said.
The report buoyed Mr Biden, who has been boosted in recent days after a breakthrough for his flagship economic legislation in congress, including a major bill to tackle climate change.
That's all from us, thank you for following! Before you go, have a look at the latest stories from our reporters:
Wall Street on the rise
Over in the US, Wall Street's main indices rose more than 1pc after the latest inflation reading.
US consumer prices were unchanged in July due to a sharp drop in the cost of gasoline, delivering the first notable sign of relief for weary Americans who have watched prices climb over the past two years.
Traders are now pricing in a 41.5pc chance of a 75-basis-point increase in fund rates at the Fed's next meeting in September, compared with 67.5pc before the data.
"(Inflation at) 8.5pcis still very high, but there is optimism that perhaps June was the peak," said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab.
However, he warned that producer prices data for July on Thursday, and August's inflation and employment data next month are still pending before the central bank meeting that could alter the course of the Fed again.
FTSE 100 ends in the green
The FTSE 100 has closed higher as investors cheered signs of moderating inflationary pressures in the US.
The index edged up 0.3pc to 7,507 to close at a fresh two-month high, even though strength in sterling and weakness in healthcare stocks weighed on it.
Wall Street rallied after data showing a slower-than-expected rise in US consumer prices prompted traders to cut their bets on aggressive interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve next month.
"The market is thinking the Fed won't be hiking as aggressively so sterling has jumped and because the FTSE 100 has a lot more multinational companies - it's got dollar revenues and earnings - it is underperforming," said Patrick Armstrong, chief investment officer at Plurimi Wealth.
Prudential hit by Covid lockdowns in Hong Kong
Moving on to another insurer, Prudential’s pivot to Asia has been hit by draconian “Zero Covid” lockdowns in China, while rival insurer Aviva enjoys booming demand for its products in the UK and Ireland. Simon Foy reports:
Prudential said its Hong Kong business was badly hit by Chinese lockdowns and warned that market conditions will remain “challenging” for the rest of the year.
The Asia-focused insurer reported a 31pc drop in new business profits at its Hong Kong division during the first half of the year, while profits from new mainland China customers fell to almost zero.
Before the pandemic hit in 2019, Pru made profits of nearly $700m (£572m) from customers in mainland China travelling to the city state to buy insurance policies but this has ground to a halt as communist officials have kept the border closed for more than two years.
Mark FitzPatrick, Prudential’s interim chief executive, said: “Although there are signs that Covid-19-related impacts in many of our markets are stabilising, over the remainder of the year we expect that operating conditions may continue to be challenging.”
Aviva raises dividend as results beat expectations
Aviva has increased its dividend following better-than-expected figures and said it is planning more share buybacks.
The insurance giant already dished out £4.75bn to shareholders after selling off chunks of the business in recent years. It is now increasing its interim dividend payout by 40pc to 10.3p a share.
It came as the group reported a 14pc rise in half-year profits to £829m.
The FTSE 100 group has come under pressure from activist investor Cevian, which has been pushing for £5bn in cash returns by the end of 2022.
E.on slashes value of its Nord Stream stake as Russia cuts gas supplies
German energy giant E.ON has cut the value of its stake in a key gas pipeline from Russia to Europe, citing “heightened uncertainty” amid the war in Ukraine. Rachel Millard writes:
E.ON has written down the value of its stake in Nord Stream 1 by €700m as the conflict throws its future into doubt.
The company owns a 15.5pc stake in the Nord Stream 1 pipeline under the Baltic Sea between western Russia and Germany, which has become a flashpoint for tensions over gas supplies since the war began.
In March it valued the stake at €1.2bn (£1bn) but it has now cut that to about €500m, chief financial officer Marc Spieker told reporters on Wednesday.
Boeing delivers first 787 Dreamliner since April 2021
American Airlines has taken delivery of its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner since April 2021, a milestone for the planemaker.
The airline's chief Robert Isom confirmed the delivery in an Instagram post, saying, "This is the first of nine 787s we expect to receive this year."
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) earlier this month cleared the way for the delivery of the first plane. Boeing halted deliveries in May 2021 after the FAA raised concerns about its proposed inspection method.
That's all from me for today – thanks for following! Giulia Bottaro is in the hot seat for the rest of the day.
EDF calls for more energy bill support
EDF has called on the Government to do more to support households ahead of a meeting with ministers to discuss soaring energy bills.
The French utility giant, which is the UK's fourth-biggest supplier, said the Government needs to work with the industry to find a "viability solution" for customers this winter.
Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng are due to meet energy bosses tomorrow.
It comes after the latest forecasts showed energy bills are set to top £4,200 in January, deepening the crisis for British families at a time when many are already struggling to pay.
Germany raises income tax thresholds as UK families brace for £30bn stealth raid
Germany is preparing €10bn (£8.5bn) of relief for families battling the rising cost of living as British households brace for a £30bn stealth tax raid spurred by price increases.
Louis Ashworth has more:
Finance minister Christian Lindner said the country would raise income tax thresholds while millions of UK taxpayers are dragged into higher bands, costing them £30bn a year.
Germany will increase the base tax-free allowance and also bring up the level at which the country’s 42pc top income tax rate kicks in to help counter soaring inflation.
Mr Lindner said: “To allow for a tax increase during these times is not fair, and is dangerous for economic development." Families with dependent children would also get further relief, he said.
Mr Lindner said the action – dubbed the inflation compensation law – would support the “broad middle” of families, giving people €192 extra on average.
He warned of the dangers of “bracket creep”, in which rising salaries tip people into higher tax brackets.
Treasury picks four new directors in BoE shake-up
Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi is said to have approved four new directors to the Bank of England's governing body.
The appointments, reported by Sky News, could be announced in the coming days as part of a shake-up. It comes amid growing political scrutiny over the Bank's efforts to tackle inflation.
The new directors are:
Former investment banker Jitesh Gadhia
Soumen Das, chief financial officer at Segro and a non-executive director at Next
Sabine Chalmers, BT's general counsel
Tom Shropshire, Diageo's general counsel
Wall Street jumps as rate rise fears ease
Wall Street's main indices have opened sharply higher after softer-than-expected US inflation eased worries about further interest rate rises.
The benchmark S&P 500 jumped 1.7pc, while the Dow Jones was up 1.4pc. The strongest gains were on the tech-heavy Nasdaq, which leapt 2.4pc.
Reaction: Services inflation still 'very hot'
There's a more cautious response from analyst Callie Cox, who warns inflation in the services sector is still surging on an annual basis.
Services inflation making me🥴the more I look at it.
Yes, slowing month over month, but VERY hot year over year (and rising).
That's pure demand -- and services inflation can stick around.
— Callie Cox (@callieabost) August 10, 2022
Falling fuel prices bring inflation relief
The main factor behind July's inflation slowdown is a decline in petrol prices in the US.
Gasoline prices have dropped by almost a dollar from their peak earlier this year. Compare that to the UK, where petrol prices have started to ease back, but at a much slower rate.
Average US gasoline (petrol) prices peaked at $5.11 a gallon earlier this year - but are now back down to $4.15 pic.twitter.com/6PCeWWCywf
— Ben Chu (@BenChu_) August 10, 2022
Traders pare back bets on Fed interest rate rises
Markets are toning down their bets on further interest rate rises by the Federal Reserve after US inflation fell short of forecasts.
Traders are now betting on 59 basis points of hikes at the Fed's next meeting in September, suggesting a move of 0.5pc is considered more likely than an aggressive 0.75pc increase.
Meanwhile, the two-year Treasury yield briefly exceeded the 10-year rate by the most in around four decades, before ripping back lower after the data came through.
That suggests markets are now much less worried about the short-term prospects for economic growth as the Fed slows its tightening of monetary policy.
Reaction: Slowing inflation gives risk assets new lease of life
Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG Group, says the latest figures will give a boost to riskier assets such as stocks and the pound.
The softer inflation print has given risk assets the new lease on life they were looking for, and seems to confirm the idea that some sort of Fed pause might take place in the final months of 2022. Futures are surging and the dollar is firmly on the back foot.
It looks like the drop in commodity prices has done its job, and while inflation is still at levels that would be considered eye-watering a year ago, the turn in direction has been greeted with relief by risk assets.
Having struggled for a few days, equities seem well-placed to push on from here, extending their summer rally.
Market relief over cooling core inflation
Markets were expecting the consumer price index to ease in July, so the headline figures won't be much of a surprise.
What's more encourage, though, is that so-called core inflation – which strips out food and energy prices – was also below expectations at 5.9pc.
This will help to ease concerns that inflation is becoming embedded throughout the economy.
We knew headline inflation would slow in July because of falling gas prices. But "core" inflation (excluding food and energy) also cooled on a month-to-month basis: Prices up 0.3% in July, vs 0.7% in June. Year-over-year up 5.9%, same as a month earlier.
— Ben Casselman (@bencasselman) August 10, 2022
Reaction: Too early to declare victory over inflation
Mike Bell, global market strategist at JP Morgan Asset Management, also warns that the US isn't out of the woods yet.
Much will inevitably be made of the fact that US inflation appears to finally be peaking.
However, with core inflation still significantly above target, it is far too early for the Fed to declare victory and stop raising rates.
With the Atlanta Fed’s measure of wage growth now at 6.7pc, core inflation is unlikely to return to anywhere near target until wage pressures moderate significantly.
With unemployment at the lowest level in over 50 years and workers demanding pay rises to try to keep up with inflation, it’s hard to see wage growth moderating by enough to return inflation to target without first seeing a rise in unemployment.
So while a peak in inflation is welcome news, it’s probably not enough to allow the Fed to ease off its tightening or to put recession fears to bed.
Pound surges as US inflation slows
Sterling has surged against a weaker dollar after US inflation data came in lower than forecast.
The pound jumped 1.3pc against the US currency to $1.2232 – its highest level since August 2.
Reaction: Inflation levels still concerning
Richard Flynn, managing director of Charles Schwab UK, says the Fed will have to keep acting to tackle inflation, despite the slowdonw.
Whilst today’s inflation rate is below the rate recorded last month, the figure is far above the 2pc target. There’ll still be widespread concern about price rises across the economy.
In recent months, the Fed has been talking and acting tough on fighting inflation – twice raising interest rates by 0.75 basis points, taking its benchmark to 2.25-2.5pc. Investors are likely to ask how high will rates need to go to restore price stability.
The Fed is indicating it’s likely to keep hiking rates despite widespread signs of an economic slowdown. Indeed, first and second quarter real GDP growth was already negative.
Markets are pricing in half-percentage-point rate hikes or more at the Fed’s next four meetings. Whilst a recession isn’t the Fed’s ambition, it may have already tightened financial conditions enough for one to develop.
US inflation slows
US inflation eased back by more than expected in July – a welcome sign price rises may have peaked.
The consumer price index rose 8.5pc from a year earlier, but this was much cooler than the 9.1pc rise the previous month.
The driving force behind the decline was energy prices, which fell back sharply. This offset rises in food and accommodation costs.
🚨Cooler US CPI #inflation in July
Headline CPI: 0%
- Core: 0.3%
- Energy: -4.6% with gasoline -7.7%
- Food: 1.1%
⏩ Headline inflation: 8.5% y/y (-0.6ppt)
⏩ Core inflation: 5.9% y/y (flat) https://t.co/W6JJJWDBWe
— Gregory Daco (@GregDaco) August 10, 2022
Gas prices rise as Rhine crisis deepens
Natural gas prices surged as low water levels in the Rhine threaten to hamper energy shipments, adding to supply woes.
The Rhine is set to become virtually impassable at a key point in Germany on August 12, which could severely restrict the flow of coal and other fuels.
That comes as the continent is already grappling with a crunch in energy supplies after Putin slashed gas flows to the continent.
Benchmark European prices jumped as much as 5.4pc, ending a three-session slide.
Used car sales fall as drivers hold onto vehicles for longer
ICYMI – Used car sales are suffering from a shortage of vehicles as manufacturers continue to grapple with a lack of computer chips.
Howard Mustoe reports:
Sales of secondhand cars in the three months to the end of June fell 14 pc below pre-pandemic levels to 1.76m. That was 19pc below the high seen last year, equivalent to 407,820 fewer cars sold.
Last year saw the busiest quarter since records began, as buyers flocked to forecourts after an easing of coronavirus-related restrictions.
The drop-off in transactions comes as problems further up the supply chain put downward pressure on the number of cars coming onto the market. A dearth of computer chips around the world has slowed production lines and choked off the supply of new cars.
Supply problems mean about 2m cars have been "lost" due to production constraints since the pandemic began, according to Ian Plummer of Auto Trader. That leaves many car owners reluctant to sell their vehicles, with the waiting time for some new models currently over a year.
Government working on new support package for next PM, says Simon Clarke
The Government is working on new cost-of-living support measures for the next prime minister to consider, Treasury minister Simon Clarke has said.
Mr Clarke, who is backing Liz Truss in the leadership race, said: "Of course, the Government is working up a package of cost of living support that the next Prime Minister can consider when they take office."
But he said it was "absolutely right" to wait until the next prime minister is in place before acting.
It comes amid growing calls for the Government to provide more support for households as energy bills rise even further.
2/4 It is absolutely right to consider these options in the round when the new Prime Minister has taken office - rather than announce new un-costed policies, without sight of all the details of the pressures people could face, during a leadership election.
— Simon Clarke MP (@SimonClarkeMP) August 10, 2022
US futures edge higher ahead of inflation data
US futures posted modest gains this morning in cautious trading ahead of inflation data that will shape the outlook for further interest rate rises.
The figures are expected to show a cooling in the consumer price index for July, while the measure of core inflation may have accelerated.
The data will be taken as a key indication of how the Federal Reserve moves forward with its plans for tightening monetary policy.
Futures tracking the benchmark S&P 500 and Dow Jones were both up 0.2pc, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 0.3pc.
Ed Davey blasts 'cosy meeting' of energy bosses
Lib Dem leader Ed Davey is forthright in his assessment of how the Government is handling the energy crisis.
He takes aim at a "cosy meeting" between energy bosses and ministers, which is due to take place in Downing Street tomorrow.
Instead, he calls for the price cap rise to be scrapped to prevent a "social catastrophe".
We don’t need a cosy meeting with energy bosses in Downing Street - we need to cancel the energy price rise to stop a social catastrophe in our country, it is as simple as that.
— Ed Davey (@EdwardJDavey) August 10, 2022
Liz Truss backs new powers to override City watchdogs
Liz Truss has hinted she'll give ministers the power to override financial regulators if she becomes prime minister – a move that would further ignite tensions with the Bank of England.
Allies of Truss say she favours "call-in" powers allowing the Government to block or change the decisions of watchdogs including the Bank's PRA and the FCA.
Her position, first reported by the Financial Times, means regulators will be gearing up for a fight regardless of who wins the Tory leadership race.
Rishi Sunak has previously said that call-in powers are needed to ensure politicians – not "faceless regulators" – are accountable for regulatory decisions.
Security staff at Leeds Bradford airport vote to strike
Amid the mounting wildcat strike action, there are also further official walkouts on the horizon.
Security staff at Leeds Bradford airport have voted 93pc in favour of strike action over pay.
The GMB union said its members will walk out at the end of August if a meaningful offer to increase pay isn't forthcoming. It said the move could leave thousands of passengers grounded.
The union called for an immediate, "substantial" increase in hourly pay after bosses implemented discretionary and performance related bonuses, which are inaccessible to many security staff.
GMB said work pressures caused by chronic understaffing also prompted the action.
Rhine to become impassable by Friday as German energy nightmare becomes reality
Germany’s Rhine river will become impassable for barges carrying coal, oil and gas later this week, in a devastating blow to factories upriver.
Louis Ashworth has more:
Levels at Kaub, a key point along the waterway west of Frankfurt, are predicted to fall to below 40cm on Friday, according to the German Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration.
At that chokepoint, the river becomes effectively impassable for many barges, which use the Rhine to move a range of goods including coal, oil and gas.
Water levels will then fall further to 37cm on Saturday, officials warned.
The river runs from Switzerland through France and Germany to the Netherlands, where it joins the North Sea.
It is a vital supply line for several major companies, providing transit and plentiful water for engine cooling. A typical barge has the same capacity as more than 100 lorries. Rental rates for the vessels have soared as navigation becomes more difficult.
These include BASF, the German blue-chip chemicals giant which has a huge facility at Ludwigshafen, electricity generator RWE and Swiss chemicals group Novartis.
Truss' tax cuts would boost UK earnings, says Barclays
Liz Truss' plans for tax cuts if she becomes prime minister would boost UK earnings but wouldn't be enough to "move the needle" for British stocks.
That's according to analysts at Barclays, who said the leadership candidate's policies would boost GBP by 0.5 percentage points and medium-term inflation by no more than 0.25 percentage points.
Scrapping the corporation tax hike would boost FTSE 250 earnings by about 6pc, while international FTSE 100 companies would get a 3pc uplift.
Mid-cap firms could also benefit from Ms Truss' plan to reserve the National Insurance hike and remove a green levy on energy bills, given the likely boost to household spending.
Still, the Barclays analysts said they weren't getting "more constructive" on UK stocks yet due to weak PMI data and low consumer confidence.
Musk sells $7bn of Tesla stock to avoid Twitter fire sale
Elon Musk has sold $6.9bn (£5.7bn) worth of shares in Tesla, saying he wanted to avoid a fire sale in the event he's forced to go ahead with his takeover of Twitter.
The world's richest person sold about 7.92m shares on August 5, according to regulatory filings. The Telsa chief tweeted that he was done selling and would buy shares in the electric-car maker if the Twitter deal doesn’t close.
Tesla rose 3.4pc in pre-market trading, while Twitter jumped 4.3pc.
In the (hopefully unlikely) event that Twitter forces this deal to close *and* some equity partners don’t come through, it is important to avoid an emergency sale of Tesla stock.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 10, 2022
Workers at Scottish oil refinery stage 'unofficial' strike
Workers at the Grangemouth oil refinery in Scotland are taking unofficial strike action as part of a nationwide protest.
Around 250 workers are said to have downed tools and temporarily blocked access to the site in a row over pay. Grangemouth supplies two-thirds of the petrol and diesel needed for forecourts in Scotland.
Operator Ineos said manufacturing and fuel disruption were unaffected.
INFO: Statement from INEOS Grangemouth pic.twitter.com/W5AKacwl2r
— INEOS_Grangemouth (@INEOS_GM) August 10, 2022
Germany plans €10bn relief package as inflation soars
Germany will offer tax relief worth €10bn (£8.5bn) to help workers cope with soaring inflation.
Finance Minister Christian Lindner said the package will raise base tax-free allowance as well as bring up the level from which the top income tax rate of 42pc will apply.
Families will also benefit from higher tax exemptions for dependent children.
Inflation in Germany reached 7.5pc in July – fractionally lower than the 7.6pc recorded in June – fuelled mainly by soaring energy prices.
Mr Lindner said his plan was aimed primarily at fighting the problem of employees who find themselves with a higher tax burden because they have received a pay increase to combat inflation. As a result, the gain the workers have received is wiped out essentially by the higher taxes due.
Households face £30bn stealth raid from Rishi Sunak's tax freeze
ICYMI – Families will pay an extra £30bn a year in tax as soaring inflation drags millions of people into higher income tax bands, according to a leading think-tank.
Szu Ping Chan has more:
Rising prices and former chancellor Rishi Sunak’s freeze on tax thresholds have left workers facing a stealth raid on their earnings, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said.
The change is due to so-called “fiscal drag”, which pushes people into higher income tax brackets as pay rises.
Tax allowances usually rise in line with inflation but were frozen last year by Mr Sunak until 2026.
The £30bn in extra income tax is almost four times as much as the Government was originally expected to raise from Mr Sunak’s policy and will wipe out any gains from tax cuts promised by leadership frontrunner Liz Truss.
Ms Truss has pledged to reverse a £14bn rise in National Insurance (NI) contributions introduced by her rival.
Eon writes down value of Nord Stream stake by more than half
Eon has slashed the value of its stake in the Nord Stream pipeline by around €700m (£591m) amid "heightened uncertainty" over the war in Ukraine and Putin's gas cuts.
Earlier this year the German company said its 15.5pc stake was worth €1.2bn, meaning the value has tumbled by almost 60pc. It comes after Moscow cut flows through the key gas link.
Eon also reported a 15pc fall in profits to just over €4bn in the first half of the year as it was squeezed by surging energy prices.
Leonhard Birnbaum, chief executive of Eon, said: "The current energy crisis finally makes clear that Europe needs to transform its energy system. To be independent of Russian gas. To ensure supply security."
Lord Wolfson steps down from Deliveroo board as losses widen
Lord Wolfson has stepped down from the board of Deliveroo as the food delivery company’s loss widened in the first half.
The Next boss said the time required to fulfil the role “was no longer compatible with my executive and other commitments”.
It came as Deliveroo posted a pre-tax loss of £147.3m for the first half of 2022, compared to losses of £95.4m a year earlier.
It also saw growth in group sales by gross transaction value slow sharply to 2pc in the second quarter – down from 12pc in the previous three months.
The slowdown reflects waning demand for takeaways as the cost-of-living crisis takes its toll on household budgets.
Deliveroo has increased customer fees and started selling ads on its app in a bid to increase revenue.
FTSE risers and fallers
The FTSE 100 has slipped into the red in early trading as caution gripped markets ahead of US inflation figures due this afternoon.
The blue-chip index was down 0.2pc, moving further away from a two-month peak hit earlier this week.
Asia-focused insurer Prudential fell 1.5pc as it warned of challenging conditions for the rest of the year as Covid curbs persist in some markets.
Insurer Aviva, however, rose 4.9pc after saying it planned to give more money back to shareholders as it posted a better-than-expected 14pc rise in first-half operating profit.
The domestically-focused FTSE 250 also fell 0.2pc, with Royal Mail down as much as 3.4pc after it warned a planned strike would push it to a full-year loss.
Tui takes £63m hit from travel chaos
Holiday group Tui has taken a €75m (£63m) from the recent travel chaos that's led to lengthy delays and cancellations at airports.
The German company said its customers were affected by about 200 cancelled flights in May and June, in particular due to woes at Manchester Airport amid staff shortages.
Tui remained loss-making in the three months to the end of June due to the costs of the airport disruption, reporting underlying pre-tax losses of €27m.
It said that, with the airport disruption impact stripped out, it would have reported underlying earnings of €48m – its first quarterly profit since the pandemic struck
Both Heathrow and Gatwick have told airlines to cut their flight schedules as staff shortages have left them unable to cope with the rebound in travel demand after the pandemic.
Tui's chief financial officer and incoming boss, Sebastian Ebel, said he will hold "intensive" talks with airports and airlines, as well as resorts, as he looks to improve the customer experience.
Royal Mail says strike will spark full-year loss
Royal Mail has warned it will crash to a full-year loss if 115,000 posties go ahead with a planned strike over pay.
The company said it will be "materially loss making" in the 2023 financial year in the event of walkouts by the Communication Workers Union over four days in August and September.
Royal Mail said it's ready to negotiate with the CWU to "try and avert damaging industrial action", though any talks must address changes to working practices as well as pay.
It said the union had "failed to engage meaningfully on the business changes required" despite more than three months of talks.
The CWU yesterday said it would go on strike in protest over a pay increase of just 2pc.
Read more on this story: Royal Mail workers announce biggest strike of the summer
UK energy debts hit record £1.3bn ahead of winter price surge
There's more data this morning highlighting the extent of the energy crisis facing households.
Tom Haynes reports:
Existing debt to energy providers will immediately swallow up half of Rishi Sunak’s cost of living crisis payment to households.
According to price comparison site Uswitch, six million households owe an average of £206 to providers. This figure is 250pc more than in September last year.
Overall, households owe a record sum of £1.3bn to energy suppliers, even though summer is usually a time when households build up their credit ahead of higher winter bills.
Mr Sunak’s cost of living payment, announced in May when he was chancellor, promised a minimum non-repayable grant of £400 to ease the impact of soaring energy bills. However, households will be left with less than half of this after existing debts to suppliers are paid off.
Uswitch said the number of homes in credit had dropped from 11 million to nine million since April, and now eight million households have no credit balances at all, leaving them most exposed to higher bills.
FTSE 100 opens lower
The FTSE 100 has lost ground at the open as investors turn their attention to US inflation figures due this afternoon.
The blue-chip index slipped 0.2pc to 7,473 points.
Sunak ally calls for expansion of windfall tax
Calls are mounting for the Government to expand its planned windfall tax on energy giants as the price cap continues to surge.
Former minister Theresa Villiers, an ally of Rishi Sunak, said the Government should "seriously consider" expanding the windfall tax, suggesting firms could play a bigger part in helping customers.
Rishi Sunak-supporter Theresa Villiers MP says the govt does "need to look at the huge levels of corporate income" to see if oil and gas companies "can play a part in further help for their customers who are suffering".
Cost of living latest: https://t.co/xOdJ0Y1FIX
📺 Sky 501 pic.twitter.com/gItydSsj1s
— Sky News (@SkyNews) August 10, 2022
Octopus boss calls for extra £500 energy support
Households need at least an extra £500 to survive soaring energy bills this winter as predictions for the price cap just keep going up.
That's according to Octopus Energy boss Greg Jackson, who said current plans for £400 help "clearly isn't sufficient" and urged the Government to go further.
He said direct help on energy bills would not only help families survive the winter, but also help to tackle inflation.
It comes after the latest predictions from Cornwall Insight found bills are set to top £4,200 a year by January.
Meanwhile, The Sun reports that energy bosses will meet ministers tomorrow amid plans to ramp up an existing 25pc windfall tax on the profits of major producers.
5 things to start your day
1) Heathrow’s Spanish owner considers selling stake amid airport chaos Ferrovial has previously warned about committing more funding following row over landing charges
2) Used car sales fall as drivers hold onto vehicles for longer Chip shortage chokes production lines, leading to a lack of supply on secondhand market
3) Taxpayer-backed tech startup falls into administration as investor writes off £79m stake Ticketing firm Pollen had received backing from Rishi Sunak’s Future Fund
4) The last thing we need to fight energy poverty is Soviet price controls or Macron’s coddling of the affluent Allowing the state to intervene could lead to damaging consequences
5) EDF sues French government for €8.4bn after Macron forces it to sell energy at a loss Nuclear giant estimates price cap could cost it €15bn over the year
What happened overnight
Asian shares fell and the dollar steadied on Wednesday as investors waited for a key US report on inflation to provide hints to the Federal Reserve's plans for future monetary tightening.
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) report will be released later today, with markets watching for signs that inflation eased in July despite last week's unexpectedly strong US jobs numbers.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.51pc, while Japan's Nikkei extended losses from the previous day and was down 0.65pc.
South Korea's KOSPI lost 0.64pc, Australia's AXJO dropped 0.12pc, and Taiwan's TAIEX fell 0.7pc.
Coming up today
Corporate: 4imprint Group, Admiral Group, Aviva, CLS Holdings, ContourGlobal, Gamesys Group, Quilter, TP ICAP (interims)
Economics: Consumer price index (US, China, Ger), monthly budget statement (US)