Dow Jones hits record milestone as US bets on faster rate cuts

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Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange yesterady – Brendan McDermid/Reuters

The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a record 40,000 this afternoon, seen as a major milestone for the index which tracks 30 of America’s top companies.

It represented the blue-chip index’s fastest 10,000-point climb, powered by strong quarterly results and rising bets of interest-rate cuts by the Federal Reserve.

The index surpassed its previous record high of 39,935.04, hit on Wednesday, and has recovered nearly 40pc from its October 2022 lows.

The market is back to betting on two quarter-point interest rate cuts from the US Federal Reserve this year, with traders seeing a 72.6pc chance of the first reduction in September, according to the CME FedWatch Tool.

Investors were also optimistic following signs that China was finally looking at the kind of measures that might ease its property crisis.

The two other main American indexes are also up today. The S&P 500 the Nasdaq Composite index, which heavily represents technology businesses, are both up around 0.2pc.

All three major American indexes notched record closes yesterday after a smaller-than-expected rise in consumer inflation fueled optimism that inflation was easing after three months of hotter numbers.

Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities, said: “At these levels, the market needs to take a breather and needs to rest.

“So it’s very possible that maybe not today, but we are approaching a level of consolidation, somewhat of a small pullback and a sideways movement.”

Read the latest updates below.

06:17 PM BST

Signing off…

Thanks for joining us today. US stocks advanced, pushing the Dow Jones Industrial Average up above 40,000, passing a highly symbolic threshold. Chris Price will be back in the morning with all the latest.

06:15 PM BST

Stock market adage ‘sell in May and go away’ is wrong this year, says analyst

With the Dow Jones Industrial Average above 40,000 for the first time, some might consider it a good time to sell out. But not accrosing Bret Kenwell, US analyst at investment platform eToro. He told The Telegraph:

Sell in May? Not this year. Like the S&P 500 and Nasdaq, the Dow has found its way to new all-time highs and has climbed above the psychologically key level of 40,000.

The Dow has benefited from increased exposure to tech, but the broad-based rally driving equities to new highs has helped immensely. Tech continues to be strong this year, but so are other sectors like industrials and financials — all of which are key components of the Dow.

05:05 PM BST

GSK to sell out of Sensodyne maker Haleon

GSK told investors this afternoon that it is to sell its remaining 4.2pc stake of of Haleon, representing GSK’s entire shareholding.

Haleon began life as a consumer healthcare joint venture between GSK and Pfizer, and the two companies started selling off their stakes in 2022.

04:58 PM BST

Flat close for the FTSE 100

The FTSE 100 closed down virtually unchanged today. BT was the biggest riser, up 17.2pc, followed by Burberry, up 3.5pc. The biggest faller was Sage, down 9.4pc, followed by easyJet, down 6pc.

Meanwhile, the FTSE 250 rose 0.2pc. The biggest riser was Watches of Switzerland, up 19.9pc, followed by magazine publisher Future, up 18.4pc. The biggest faller was precision instrumentation business Spectris, down 4.7pc, followed by Wizz Air, down 4.6pc.

04:49 PM BST

Toshiba to cut up to 4,000 jobs in Japan

Japanese industrial giant Toshiba is to cut up to 4,000 jobs in its home countries by encouraging employees aged over 50 to take early retirement.

The announcement follows the delisting of the firm’s shares in December after being taken private in an £11bn deal by a consortium of around 20 Japanese banks and other firms.

Toshiba traces its roots back to 1875 and evolved into a vast conglomerate in the 20th century synonymous with Japan’s postwar economic revival.

But it has lurched from crisis to crisis in recent years, including an accounting scandal in 2015 and losses from now-former US nuclear subsidiary Westinghouse.

The company said on Thursday that it was using its exit from the public markets as an “opportunity to fundamentally resolve Toshiba’s structural issues”.

Toshiba president Taro Shimada speaks during a press conference in Tokyo today – STR/JIJI Press/AFP via Getty Images

04:47 PM BST

Sony tells AI companies not to use its artists’ music to train bots

The record label behind artists including Beyonce and Adele has told tech giants not to use its songs to train artificial intelligence (AI). James Warrington reports:

In a letter to more than 700 companies, Sony Music Group said it prohibited any unauthorised use of its music to train, develop any AI system.

It also accused the companies of having already made unauthorised use of its copyrighted material and asked them to provide information of any instances where this had happened.

Record labels have railed against the rapid development of AI, warning that the technology risks widespread breaches of copyright that will harm songwriters and artists.

However, Sony said it was open to discussions with tech firms about licence agreements for the use of its music.

Beyonce accepts an award during the iHeartRadio Music Awards in Los Angeles last month – Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

04:12 PM BST

Investors increasingly confident of a soft landing as they send US stocks higher

US shares are being sent higher because investors are seeing signs that the fight against stubborn inflation is being won, according to Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets at Hargreaves Lansdown. She says:

The Dow Jones has sailed past the psychologically important 40,000 mark, buoyed by the feel good factor amid signs that the fight against stubborn inflation is being won. The latest labour market snapshot indicates that more heat is coming out of the US economy.

Continuing jobless claims numbers increased, a sign that those out of work are taking longer to find new employment, which should limit the pace of wage growth, and ease inflationary pressures further.

This is another piece of the picture indicating that the Fed will feel more comfortable cutting rates multiple times this year, as its famous dot plot suggested. With the US economy still showing remarkable resilience, hopes are increasing that a soft landing will be achieved.

04:09 PM BST

The market ‘may have overreacted’ on Sage shares, says analyst

Shares in software company Sage suffered their biggest daily drop since 1993 this morning, falling more than 20pc at the start of trading today. They are still down by over 8pc.

Although the business, best known for its accounting software aimed at small and medium sized business, reported rising sales and profits, the market was concerned that Sage’s given outlook for the year was a downgrade on previous expectations.

But Kathleen Brooks, research director at trading platform XTB, said that the market might have overreacted to their half year results because of “fears about the outlook for small and medium sized UK businesses that are a key customer group for Sage software”. She said:

The market may have overreacted to these results, as the Lloyds Bank Business Barometer for April showed that UK businesses still have pricing power, and sentiment remains close to recent highs. Businesses also remain relatively optimistic, the 12-month business activity index is in positive territory and is well above the lows reached in mid-2020.

Thus, Thursday’s price action could be a moment of profit taking before the uptrend continues. Sage’s profit downgrade highlights how markets are priced for perfection.

Sage’s stock price made a record high at the end of April, and a weak outlook obviously could not sustain this elevated valuation, so some weakness on the back of the … earnings report is to be expected.

03:46 PM BST

Consumers can’t afford to buy new gadgets, warns Country Life publisher

People have stopped buying new gadgets as the cost of living crisis piles pressure on household finances, the boss of publisher Future has warned. James Warrington has more on the company’s prospects following their company results this morning:

Jon Steinberg, chief executive of Future, said consumer confidence remained low in the UK unlike across the Atlantic.

Future, which owns magazine titles including Country Life and The Week, generates revenues through affiliate products, where readers click through from its websites to e-commerce sites.

While this division has been hit by lower sales, the group’s price comparison website GoCompare saw sharp growth in the first half of the year as consumers sought out cheaper deals.

Mr Steinberg said: “People are under budget pressure. They’re not buying laptops, they’re not buying headphones, but they are going to GoCompare to try to shop for the best auto insurance value at a time when premiums are going up.

“So I just think the UK consumer is under a bit more pressure right now than the US consumer.”

Shares surged as much as 22pc following the update, taking Future’s market value to around £1.1bn. However, this remains well below the peak of £4.7bn reached in 2021 as more people read and shopped online during the pandemic.

03:43 PM BST

Dow Jones hits record milestone as US bets on faster rate cuts

The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a record 40,000 this afternoon, seen as a major milestone for the index which tracks 30 of America’s top companies.

It represented the blue-chip index’s fastest 10,000-point climb, powered by strong quarterly results and rising bets of interest-rate cuts by the Federal Reserve.

The index surpassed its previous record high of 39,935.04, hit on Wednesday, and has recovered nearly 40pc from its October 2022 lows.

The market is back to betting on two quarter-point interest rate cuts from the US Federal Reserve this year, with traders seeing a 72.6pc chance of the first reduction in September, according to the CME FedWatch Tool.

Investors were also optimistic following signs that China was finally looking at the kind of measures that might ease its property crisis.

The two other main American indexes are also up today. The S&P 500 the Nasdaq Composite index, which heavily represents technology businesses, are both up around 0.2pc.

All three major American indexes notched record closes yesterday after a smaller-than-expected rise in consumer inflation fueled optimism that inflation was easing after three months of hotter numbers.

Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities, said: “At these levels, the market needs to take a breather and needs to rest.

“So it’s very possible that maybe not today, but we are approaching a level of consolidation, somewhat of a small pullback and a sideways movement.”

03:30 PM BST

Handing over

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a whisker away from breaking the 40,000 point for the first time as investors ramp up bets on interest rate cuts.

The flagship index of 30 leading American companies is enjoying a record run on Wall Street after data on Wednesday showed inflation in the US fell last month.

As a result, traders are betting there will be two interest rate cuts by the US Federal Reserve this year.

The broad-based S&P 500 and tech-heavy Nasdaq have also built on gains from the day before, when all three of New York’s main markets closed at record highs.

That’s all from me today. I will leave you in the hands of Alex Singleton, who will make sure you are kept up to speed.

03:15 PM BST

US industry flat in April as high rates hit manufacturers

US factory output missed analyst expectations last month, according to Federal Reserve data, indicating that the manufacturing sector is struggling with high interest rates.

Industrial production was steady in April, falling from a revised 0.1pc uptick in March.

Analysts have been looking towards a gradual recovery in the manufacturing sector, but the latest report did not provide such reassurances.

Manufacturing output dropped 0.3pc from the month prior, reversing two earlier months of growth, the Fed said.

In particular, the sector was bogged down by noticeable declines in the indexes for motor vehicles and parts and electrical equipment and appliances.

02:57 PM BST

Wegovy-maker Novo Nordisk hit by fire at plant site

Europe’s most valuable company was hit by a fire at a construction site where it is planning to expand production of its popular weight-loss drugs.

Novo Nordisk said the fire had been put out from the area in Kalundborg, where it is investing to boost capacity to make its Wegovy and Ozempic treatments.

Shares in the company dropped by 3.4pc after news of the blaze emerged.

Novo Nordisk said no-one was injured in the blaze.

Firefighters try to extinguish the blaze at a Novo Nordisk construction site – EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Thick black smoke could be seen rising from the construction site where Novo Nordisk wants to expand production of its blockbuster Wegovy and Ozempic drugs – EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

02:39 PM BST

US markets subdued amid hangover from record highs

Wall Street’s main indexes were little changed at the open a day after hitting all-time highs amid falling inflation.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 4.34 points, essentially flat, at the open to 39,912.34.

The S&P 500 opened fractionally higher by 1.92 points to 5,310.07, while the Nasdaq Composite dropped 4.28 points, less than 0.1pc, to 16,738.11 at the opening bell.

02:25 PM BST

Climate protesters disrupt Lloyds shareholder meeting

Lloyds Banking Group’s annual shareholder meeting was disrupted by pro-Palestinian and climate activists.

Several protesters stood up one by one to disrupt the AGM at the SEC Armadillo auditorium in Glasgow from the moment it started.

In a statement, campaign group Tipping Point said they had disrupted the meeting to demand the bank divest from fossil fuel companies and firms “complicit in Israeli genocide and occupation”.

As the incident unfolded, chair of Lloyds Banking Group Sir Robin Budenberg attempted to speak over the protesters, telling the AGM he was “really pleased” to be back in Glasgow.

Sir Robin was forced to stop speaking as the disruption continued.

A female protester could be heard referring to Lloyds “funding genocide in Gaza” and “funding climate catastrophe”.

“Everywhere you look, you can see it happening,” the protester added, referring to “wildfires and floods” before being removed by security guards.

Other attendees shouted: “Oh, shut up” and appeared to want to get involved, with Sir Robin asking them to leave the removal of the protesters to the stewards.

02:05 PM BST

US jobless claims stay at historically low levels

Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week as layoffs remain at historically low levels.

Jobless claims for the week ending May 11 fell by 10,000 to 222,000, down from 232,000 the week before, according to the Labor Department.

Last week’s applications were the most since the final week of August 2023, though it is still a relatively low number of layoffs.

The four-week average of claims, which evens out some of the week-to-week fluctuations, rose by 2,500 to 217,750.

Weekly unemployment claims are considered a proxy for the number of US layoffs in a given week and a sign of where the job market is headed.

They have remained at historically low levels since millions of jobs were lost when the pandemic hit the US in the spring of 2020.

In April, US employers added just 175,000 jobs, the fewest in six months and a sign that the labour market may be finally cooling off.

01:53 PM BST

EY manager ‘was sacked after taking holiday for wedding’

EY has been sued by a former employee who claims he was sacked by the Big Four accountant after taking holiday for his wedding.

Our reporter Adam Mawardi has the details:

Konrad Jeczewski, a former EY business consulting manager, has filed a legal claim against the company’s Australian arm after allegedly being made redundant two days after returning from his honeymoon.

The Melbourne-based accountant also claimed he was let go after complaining about 80-hour working weeks and going off sick with the flu.

EY, which operates as a global network of independent member firms, has denied any wrongdoing.

The former employee was among the 230 redundancies made across EY Oceania last November in response to a slowdown in the consulting sector.

Read on for the claims in court documents filed with Australia’s Federal Court.

01:31 PM BST

Sage has no plans to leave UK market, says boss

The boss of accounting software company Sage has said he has no plans to join the exodus from the London stock market, but cautioned that high-growth businesses may struggle to access the capital they need with a UK listing.

Steve Hare, chief executive of Sage, said the group was “very proud of its UK roots” and was not considering switching its listing away from London thanks to a lack of any barriers to it accessing the capital it needs to grow.

Sage is one of only a very small number of major tech companies remaining on the London market, although around 40pc of its shareholders are based in the US and America accounted for 45pc of its first half sales.

But Mr Hare said less well established companies that are scaling up may struggle to find the capital they need on the UK stock market and called for measures to help boost institutional investment from the likes of pensions funds into UK stocks, and to increase retail personal investing.

It comes amid fears of a mounting crisis on the London stock market as swathes of firms are defecting abroad or being bought up by overseas rivals.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is reportedly holding a gathering on Thursday of bosses of some of the UK’s biggest private companies at his weekend country residence, with aims to entice more firms to the London market.

Mr Hare told PA: “We’re very proud of our roots in the UK and in Newcastle and very proud to be a UK tech success story.”

Sage shares are the worst performer on the FTSE 100 today, declining 8.1pc after investors were unimpressed with its annual sales outlook.

01:17 PM BST

Pound falls as policymaker says rate evidence ‘going in right direction’

The value of the pound has slipped after Bank of England policymaker Megan Greene said the evidence on interest rates was “going in the right direction”.

Sterling has fallen 0.2pc against the dollar to $1.266, even as Ms Greene said more evidence is needed before interest rates can be cut from their 16-year highs.

She suggested a “gradual path” is needed when it comes to cutting interest rates from 5.25pc.

01:12 PM BST

Greene: I want more evidence that inflation persistence is waning before rate cut

Bosses have been telling the Bank of England they have been reluctant to pass on higher costs to consumers this year.

Rate setter Megan Green said that businesses were experiencing a compression in their margins this year.

She said there was a risk to inflation as policymakers did not know how long businesses can cope with the squeeze on their margins and “when they determine that is unacceptable”.

She said there is “no way to measure where that capitulation point comes”.

She said she wants to see “more evidence” of inflation persistence falling before she would vote for an interest rate cut.

12:59 PM BST

‘Persistent hoarding’ may slow inflation returning to target, says Greene

Bank of England policymaker Megan Greene said labour hoarding explains why unemployment has stayed historically low despite weak economic growth.

However, she appeared to warn companies that a sharp reversal of the practice could lead to inflation drastically undershooting the Bank’s 2pc targed.

She told Make UK:

Persistent hoarding may slow the return of inflation to target by preventing the labour market from loosening.

But if firms suddenly capitulate and stop hoarding labour, unemployment could jump and inflation could undershoot the target.

12:53 PM BST

‘Labour hoarding’ could keep interest rates higher, warns policymaker

Interest rates could stay higher for longer because businesses have been keeping hold of staff despite falling demand, a Bank of England policymaker has said.

Megan Greene, an external member of the Monetary Policy Committee, said companies appear to have been “labour hoarding” since the pandemic due to the difficulty and cost of hiring skilled staff.

She told Make UK that if the practice persists, “this could mean employment and wage growth remain resilient despite our restrictive policy stance and inflation takes longer to converge to target”.

She added: “This would mean that monetary policy would need to be more restrictive for a longer period of time to impact labour market slack and wages and ensure that overall inflation converges to target, compared to periods when measured productivity is increasing.”

Interest rates have been held at 16-year highs of 5.25pc since August in an effort to bring down inflation, which stood at 3.2pc in March.

Bank of England policymaker Megan Greene has warned ‘labour hoarding’ could keep interest rates high – Julia Nikhinson/Bloomberg

12:27 PM BST

Love Island stars charged with promoting unauthorised trading scheme

Stars of reality TV shows Love Island and The Only Way is Essex have been charged with promoting an unauthorised trading scheme on their social media accounts.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has brought charges against former Love Island stars Biggs Chris, Rebecca Gormley and Eva Zapico, former Towie stars Lauren Goodger and Yazmin Oukhellou, ex-Georgie Shore star Scott Timlin and actress Jamie Clayton.

It alleges that the stars were paid to promote the @holly_fxtrends Instagram account to their millions of followers.

The FCA alleges that the account was used to provide advice on buying and selling contracts for difference (CFDs), when it was not authorised to do so.

CFDs are a high-risk investment product used to bet on the price of an asset, in this case the price of foreign currencies.

It has charged Emmanuel Nwanze with running an unauthorised investment scheme and issuing unauthorised financial promotions.

Holly Thompson is also alleged to have used the account to provide advice and faces one count of issuing unauthorised communications of financial promotions.

They will all appear before Westminster Magistrates’ Court on June 13.

Former Towie star Lauren Goodger has been charged – Lia Toby/Getty Images

11:56 AM BST

Oil prices fall amid rising global stockpiles

Oil prices have slipped amid growing global stockpiles.

Brent crude, the global benchmark, has fallen 0.4pc towards $82 a barrel  after climbing 0.5pc on Wednesday.

US-produced West Texas Intermediate was down towards $78.

The International Energy Agency said on Wednesday that global oil stockpiles jumped by 34.6m barrels in March.

Meanwhile, data from the Opec cartel on Tuesday showed that many countries that are supposed to be cutting output are actually producing more than their quota.

The risk to supply chains from the conflict in the Middle East is also thought to be waning.

11:34 AM BST

Chevron eyes sale of last North Sea oil assets

Chevron is expected to launch the sale of its last remaining oil and gas assets in the North Sea, sealing the US energy giant’s departure from the waters after 55 years.

The sale will include its 19.4pc stake in the BP-operated Clair oilfield in the West of Shetland region, the largest in the North Sea with production of 120,000 barrels per day, according to Reuters.

It comes as Chevron prepares for the $53bn acquisition of rival Hess, which it said will include up to $20bn in assets sales around the world.

Chevron plans to sell its remaining assets in the North Sea – Igors Aleksejevs/iStockphoto

11:27 AM BST

Eurostar to order 50 new trains in race to expand

Eurostar is to order 50 new trains as the Channel Tunnel rail operator races to cater for more than 30 million passengers a year.

Our transport industry editor Christopher Jasper has the details:

The investment will increase the fleet size by 16 trains, or 30pc, once older models are axed. The first trains are expected to enter service in the early 2030s.

Bosses intend to put the contract out to tender, a decision expected to trigger a bitter battle for the work between French business Alstom and Germany’s Siemens.

Having launched its services with a fleet based on Alstom’s TGV model, Eurostar opted to switch to the rival Velaro express made by Siemens 10 years ago, allowing the German company to break into the French high-speed market for the first time.

This map shows the remaining Eurostar destinations.

11:08 AM BST

Wall Street poised to extend record at open

US stock markets inched higher from their all-time highs before the opening bell after easing inflation bolstered hopes of interest rate cuts.

All three major indexes notched record closes after a smaller-than-expected rise in consumer inflation fuelled optimism.

The market is back to betting on two quarter-point interest rate cuts from the Federal Reserve this year, with traders seeing a 72.4pc chance of the first one in September, according to the CME FedWatch Tool.

The Dow is on track to cross the 40,000-mark for the first time, marking the blue-chip index’s fastest 10,000-point climb, powered by strong quarterly results and rising bets of rate cuts.

In premarket trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average Was up 28 points, or 0.1pc, the S&P 500 was up 3.5 points, or 0.1pc, and Nasdaq 100 futures were up 28.25 points, or 0.2pc.

10:54 AM BST

Ozempic demand doubles Denmark’s economic growth

Denmark has nearly doubled its growth prediction for this year as the clamour to invest in weight-loss drugmaker Novo Nordisk boosts its economy.

Its economy ministry raised its forecast for gross domestic product (GDP) this year to 2.7pc, compared to an estimate of 1.4pc in December.

In 2025, it thinks GDP will rise by 1.8pc, up from 1pc previously predicted.

It said the growth of Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk has bolstering Danish exports, as Novo Nordisk ramps up production of its blockbuster diabetes treatment Ozempic and weight loss medicine Wegovy.

It raised its export growth forecast for Denmark to 7pc this year, from 4.2pc previously.

Tore Stramer, chief economist at the Danish Chamber of Commerce, said: “It’s an absolute rarity that the government makes such a significant upward adjustment of the forecast.”

Boxes of Ozempic and Wegovy made by Novo Nordisk – REUTERS/Hollie Adams

10:26 AM BST

Thames Water’s largest shareholder quits board

The largest shareholder in Thames Water has withdrawn its executive from the struggling utility company’s board as the supplier continues to grapple with an £18bn debt pile.

Michael McNicholas, a managing director at Canadian pension fund Omers Infrastructure, has quit his role as non-executive director of Thames Water.

Omers is the biggest investor in the utility company’s parent Kemble Water Holdings, which defaulted on its debts earlier this year.

Thames Water said his departure was a result of its business plan being considered “uninvestable” as it battles with regulator Ofwat about raising bills.

The company, which provides water and sewage services to 16m households, is plotting to increase household bills by up to 45pc under a revised business proposal which could see customers pay up to £627 a year by 2030.

Omers Infrastructure’s representative on the Thames Water board has resigned – Carlos Jasso/Bloomberg

10:03 AM BST

Roche jumps after ‘highly encouraging’ weight loss drug trial

Swiss drugmaker Roche said an early-stage trial showed its obesity drug led to significant weight loss as competition in the booming sector heats up.

Shares in the company gained as much as 4.7pc after it revealed the results for the obesity drug candidate developed by newly acquired Carmot Therapeutics.

It said the study – the first of three trial stages required for regulatory approval – showed the compound, known as CT-388, resulted in weight loss of 18.8pc, when adjusted for a placebo effect, after 24 weeks in healthy adults with obesity.

Roche’s chief medical officer Levi Garraway said the results were “highly encouraging”.

The shares were on track for their best one-day performance since September 2022.

Roche in December agreed to take over unlisted obesity drug developer Carmot for $2.7bn (£2.1bn) upfront, joining a list of contestants seeking to challenge the dominant makers of weight-loss drugs Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly.

09:43 AM BST

EasyJet boss refuses to reveal why he is quitting

EasyJet boss Johan Lundgren has said he has “no idea” what he will do once he steps down as chief executive early next year.

In a conference call with reporters, the Swede, who became chief executive in December 2017, would not be drawn on why he was stepping down.

He said he will have been at the company for more than seven years, which is “probably longer than most FTSE 100 CEOs have been in place”.

He said:

The next thing I’m going to do is focus on the summer and focus around all the initiatives that we have.

When the time comes in early 2025 then we’ll see.

He will be succeeded by chief financial officer Kenton Jarvis, who has been with the group since February 2021.

Mr Jarvis said he is “very sad” that Mr Lundgren will leave his role but is “absolutely delighted” to be succeeding him.

09:23 AM BST

Future tops FTSE 250 after announcing £45m buyback plan

Magazine publisher Future surged to the top of the FTSE 250 as it shares began trading after announcing a fresh £45m share buyback.

The company,  which owns titles including The Week and Country Life, jumped as much as 24pc despite revealing a 30pc drop in pre-tax profits to £46.6m and revenues down 3pc to £391.5m.

Chief executive Jon Steinberg said:

In December we set out plans to ensure that Future is best positioned to capitalise on opportunities in our markets.

These plans are centred on growing a highly engaged audience, diversifying and increasing revenue per user and optimising our portfolio.

I’m pleased to report that in the early stages of this two-year plan we have made good progress, which will enable us to drive accelerating revenue growth.

Future boss Jon Steinberg said the publishing market environment ‘remains challenging’

09:13 AM BST

Gas prices edge higher as stockpiles refilled

Natural gas prices have risen as Europe begins to restock is supplies ahead of next winter.

The continent’s benchmark contract has gained 0.5pc in early trading but has been wavering around €30 per megawatt hour for most of the month.

Prices remain higher than before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but have been steadily easing.

Stockpiles are at robust levels for the time of year, with strong wind generation and mild weather easing demand.

08:50 AM BST

FTSE 100 falls amid wave of companies trading ex-dividend

The FTSE 100 opened lower as multiple companies including oil giant BP traded without the right to a dividend.

The benchmark FTSE 100 was down as much as 0.4pc as a result of the trading quirk after gaining for two days, while the mid-cap FTSE 250 rose 0.2pc.

The spotlight will later be on Megan Greene, an external member of the  the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, who will speak later in the day.

Shares of BP fell 2pc, GSK was down 0.8pc, Kingfisher slumped 3.6pc and Tesco dropped 2.1pc as these companies traded without the entitlement to their latest dividend payouts, known as being ex-dividend.

BT Group surged 8.6pc to the top of the FTSE 100 after the telecoms giant’s boss said she aims for a more than double free cash flow over the next five years.

Sage Group shares plunged as much as 20pc and were temporarily halted from trading after it missed analyst estimates for profits in the first half of its financial year.

EasyJet fell 5.8pc after it reported a first-half loss largely in line with company expectations ahead of a busy summer season.

08:39 AM BST

Rolex seller Watches of Switzerland surges as it expands showrooms

Watches of Switzerland has surged to the top of the FTSE 250 after it revealed sales growing faster than expected and gave an optimistic forecast for next year.

The used Rolex retailer leapt 13.7pc after it said luxury watches revenue was up 5pc on a constant currency basis in its fourth quarter as it continued to gain market share in both the UK and US.

It comes after a sharp sell-off in January which wiped about a third off the value of the business after it warned that the deterioration in luxury demand is unlikely to improve this year.

However, today, chief executive Brian Duffy said the company entered its next financial year with “cautious optimism”. He said:

We have a terrific programme of showroom developments on both sides of the Atlantic with the Rolex flagship boutique on Old Bond Street, London, a 3,000 sq ft Rolex boutique replacing the Mayors multi-brand in Atlanta, Georgia, and our first Rolex showroom in Texas in Plano.

We are also looking forward to the Audemars Piguet Town House and the Mappin & Webb luxury jewellery showroom both in Manchester, and the expanded Patek Philippe space in Greenwich, Connecticut.

08:27 AM BST

Siemens sells electric motor business to US private equity for £3bn

German industrial giant Siemens said it will sell its electrical motors business to private US equity firm KPS Capital Partners for €3.5bn (£3bn).

The company will offload Innomotics, a subsidiary whose motors and other systems are used in a variety of industries including chemicals, oil, utilities and automotive, employs around 15,000 people.

The group, which in the UK designs and makes products from traffic lights to trains, said the sale is expected to close in the first half of fiscal year 2025.

Siemens had announced late last year that it was planning a public listing of Innomotics, but it has dropped those plans by selling it to KPS.


08:09 AM BST

FTSE 100 falls at the open

The FTSE 100 stumbled at the open after its recent record-breaking run amid the rising value of the pound.

The exporter-focused index was down 0.2pc to 8,426.78 after trading began, while the midcap FTSE 250 was flat at 20,785.07.

The pound gained 0.7pc against the dollar on Wednesday after US inflation eased, boosting hopes for two interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve before the end of the year.

The pound was last down 0.1pc on the day at $1.268.

08:04 AM BST

Mr Kipling maker reveals exceedingly good profits

The maker of Mr Kipling cakes and Oxo cubes has revealed a meaty increase in profits as consumers switched to its brands to make affordable meals.

Premier Foods revealed revenues increased 15.1pc to £1.1bn in its annual results, while pre-tax profits grew by 34.7pc to £151.4m.

Ambrosia became become its fourth £100m brand as a new porridge variety drove sales.

Chief executive Alex Whitehouse said the company was helping consumers “cook and prepare nutritious and affordable meals during what has been a challenging time for many people”.

Premier Foods makes Oxo cubes and Mr Kipling cakes among many household names – REUTERS/Phil Noble

07:49 AM BST

EasyJet boss to step down next year

Budget airline easyJet has said chief executive Johan Lundgren will step down early in 2025 after seven years at the helm as it reported improved half-year losses.

The carrier said Mr Lundgren, who took on the job in December 2017, will be succeeded by chief financial officer Kenton Jarvis, who has been with the group since February 2021.

Details of the planned change at the top came as the group reported a headline pre-tax loss of £350m for the six months to March 31, narrowed from losses of £411m a year ago.

It carried 36.7m over the period, up 11pc compared to last year. Mr Lundgren said:

EasyJet’s targeted growth and focus on productivity has delivered a reduction in winter losses, boosted by our trusted brand and network that we continue to invest in.

Our two newest bases, Alicante and Birmingham, are achieving passenger numbers well above the network average and we have announced a tenth UK base at London Southend from next March, continuing the growth of our leisure network in the UK where easyJet holidays plays an increasingly important role.

We are now absolutely focused on another record summer which is expected to deliver strong FY24 earnings growth and are on track to achieve our medium term targets.

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren will step down early next year – REUTERS/Johanna Geron

07:43 AM BST

BT profits tumble as it aims to save £3bn in costs

BT’s new chief executive has set out plans to save another £3bn in costs annually after the telecoms giant revealed profits slumped by nearly a third.

Allison Kirkby said the company had “reached the inflection point” on its long-term strategy, after cutting £3bn in costs ahead of schedule.

Her predecessor Philip Jansen said last year that the company would cut 55,000 jobs by the end of the decade, including replacing around 10,000 workers with artificial intelligence (AI).

The telecoms giant said it has now built fibre broadband to 14 million homes and started building on a further six million, as part of a plan to reach 25m homes by late 2026.

The company has come under pressure for hiking customer prices of late as it seeks to pay for the aggressive infrastructure upgrade push. That process has also involved cutting tens of thousands of jobs.

Nonetheless, BT pre-tax profits fell 31pc to £1.2bn last year while revenue was up 1pc to £20.8bn.

Ms Kirkby said: “As we move into the next phase of BT Group’s transformation, we are sharpening our focus to be better for our customers and the country, by accelerating the modernisation of our operations, and by exploring options to optimise our global business.”

BT has published its latest annual results – Hollie Adams/Bloomberg

07:33 AM BST

Good morning

Thanks for joining me. Microsoft has been accused of asking hundreds of employees in China to consider transferring outside of the country amid growing tensions between Washington and Beijing.

The US tech giant is asking about 700 to 800 people in its China-based cloud-computing and artificial-intelligence operations if they want to transfer to the US, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The move by Microsoft, which is a major investor in ChatGPT developer OpenAI, comes two days after the White House ramped up tensions with Beijing by imposing tariffs on $18bn (£14.6bn) of imports from the world’s second largest economy.

The Biden administration is seeking tighter restrictions on China’s capability to develop AI and is considering creating rules which would require companies like Microsoft to have a licence before giving access to AI chips to customers from the country.

5 things to start your day

1) Royal Mail set to be taken over by Czech billionaire for £3.5bn | Company ‘minded to accept’ Daniel Kretinsky’s improved cash offer

2) Ben Marlow: Czech sphinx must offer Royal Mail guarantees that protect the consumer | A national security review is warranted if company directors wave through the takeover

3) Hobbyist computer company prepares £500m London listing | Raspberry Pi to float on British stock market in rare boost for the City

4) I can work with pro-business Labour, says JP Morgan chief | Jamie Dimon vows to ‘help’ Sir Keir Starmer if Opposition wins election

5) China plots to buy millions of unsold homes amid property crisis | Plans suggest Communist Party could commit $280bn a year to purchasing empty homes

What happened overnight

Asian stock markets rallied after Wall Street’s surge to all-time peaks overnight after a milder US inflation report raised expectations the Federal Reserve will deliver two interest rate cuts this year.

The dollar remained on the back foot, sagging to fresh multi-week lows against peers including the euro and sterling.

US Treasury yields extended their retreat in Tokyo trading, sinking to six-week troughs. That helped the beaten-down yen to continue its recovery, even as data showed the Japanese economy contracted more than expected in the first quarter.

Gold marched back toward record levels and crude oil added to gains after rebounding strongly overnight from a two-month trough.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan climbed 1.5pc. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng and Australia’s stock benchmark each rallied about 1.6pc.

Japan’s Nikkei advanced more than 1pc.

In America, shares surged to fresh records yesterday after data showed a moderation in US consumer prices in April, boosting the chances for Federal Reserve interest rate cuts.

All three major indexes hit all-time highs. The S&P 500 jumped 1.2pc to 5,308.15, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average of 30 leading companies gained 0.9pc to 39,908.00. Meanwhile, the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite index advanced 1.4pc to 16,742.39.

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