Here are some of the top business, market, and economic stories you should be watching today in the UK, Europe, and around the world.
Stock markets continued to rally on Friday, as investors welcomed the prospect of more US fiscal stimulus and vaccine rollouts.
The prospect of Democrat control of both houses of Congress boosts the chances of a larger spending package, welcomed by investors who largely shrugged off Trump supporters’ assault on the Capitol.
US futures were trading higher on all three main indices, after stocks hit a record high on Wall Street on Thursday. S&P (ES=F) and Dow (YM=F) futures were up 0.5% as the European trading day began, while the Nasdaq (NQ=F) gained 0.4%, ahead of payrolls data later on Friday.
It comes after stocks on MSCI’s index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan hit a record high during the trading day overnight, ending 1.6% higher. Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) also hit a record high, and closed up 2.4%.
It came after Barratt revealed it sold more than 9,000 homes in the first half of the year on the back of the stamp duty holiday. The company said completions over the six-month period to 31 December were up 9.2%, with forward sales up 14.3%.
It also came after lender Halifax’ house price data showed property prices rising 0.2% in December month-to-month. Prices are 6% higher than a year ago, with the average transaction price in December £253,374 ($343,917) – marking a fresh record high.
But it marked a six-month low for price inflation, with signs of momentum cooling in Britain’s housing boom.
Marks & Spencer (MKS.L) has said the UK’s new free trade agreement with the EU will “significantly” impact its business in Ireland and franchises in the EU.
M&S on Friday said its business in Ireland and the Czech Republic and franchises in France would suffer due to tariffs on goods exported to the EU and “very complex administrative processes.” The company said it was “actively working to mitigate” the impact.
The warning comes a day after Debenhams took the decision to shut its Irish website due to the impact of the trade deal. John Lewis has also stopped serving Ireland.
M&S’s warning on the impact came as the retailer reported what it called “robust” trading over Christmas.
Total sales fell 3.6% in December and were down 8.2% across the third quarter. Sales were dragged down by Mark & Spencer’s clothing and homeware division, which slumped by 25% in its third quarter.
WATCH: First victim of Brexit? France’s M&S ready meals
UK hiring began to tick upwards in December, with a renewed rise in permanent placements, according to the latest KPMG and REC, UK Report on Jobs survey.
Increased market activity and COVID-19 vaccine hopes led some companies to press on with hiring plans at the end of 2020, the report found.
December saw the first increase in permanent staff appointments since September. Although the growth was only slight, it signals greater confidence among business chiefs as permanent hires are generally seen as a sign of greater employer confidence in their prospects.
Hiring of temporary staff also rose at the sharpest pace for over two years, as companies tended towards short-term staff due to lingering uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit.
According to a laboratory study conducted by Pfizer the vaccine appeared to work against a key mutation in the highly transmissible new variants of the virus, discovered in the UK and South Africa.
The positive news from the not-yet peer reviewed study comes as UK battles with soaring coronavirus cases and deaths, fuelled by the highly infectious new mutation.