“The FTSE 100 is drifting back towards the levels seen at the start of 2021 as any optimism over Brexit resolution and vaccine roll-out is swamped by the seemingly endless Covid-19 crisis,” says AJ Bell Investment Director Russ Mould.
“Among the biggest corporate victims of the lockdown restrictions is the retail sector and the latest official figures show it endured a miserable Christmas.
“It seems likely more high street retailers will disappear from the landscape – taking with them yet more industry jobs after 180,000 were lost to the pandemic in 2020.
“Sterling was weaker against major currencies as the deep scars the pandemic has left on the UK’s public finances were made clear once again.
“Fears lockdown could extend until the summer, after Number 10 refused to rule out such a scenario yesterday, will render any idea of Chancellor Rishi Sunak balancing the books more of a pipe dream, while also prompting serious concern among many businesses.
“After rising amid expectations the stimulus plans outlined by the new Biden administration in the White House could stoke inflation, oil and gold prices beat a retreat on Friday. The precious metal dipped 0.4% to trade around the $1,860 per ounce mark with Brent crude 1.5% lower though still above $55 per barrel.”
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