What to watch: Pound gains as border trouble eases, oil slumps and travel stocks rise despite COVID-19 fears

Kumutha Ramanathan
·Contributor
·4 min read
A couple of walkers view lorries queueing to pass through border and security checks as they arrive by ferry from France at the Port of Dover, Britain, February 14, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville
France and the UK have struck a deal to restart lorry traffic after the border was closed on Sunday for fear of importing a new strain of COVID-19. Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters

Here are the top business, market, and economic stories you should be watching today in the UK, Europe, and around the world.

Pound gains as border trouble eases

The pound rose on Wednesday thanks to news of an agreement between the UK and France to reopen border traffic.

France and the UK have struck a deal to restart lorry traffic after the border was closed on Sunday for fear of importing a new strain of COVID-19. A mass testing programme for lorry drivers will be rolled out from Wednesday as part of a new protocol to restart the flow of trade.

Sterling was up 0.3% against the euro (GBPEUR=X) to €1.101 in early trade in London. The pound was up 0.5% against the dollar (GBPUSD=X) to $1.3428. It marked an end to a two-day losing streak for both pairings.

Oil slumps

Oil prices continued their overall descent for a third day on Wednesday following a surprise rise in US crude oil inventories and US president Donald Trump threatening to undermine his nation’s highly-anticipated second COVID-19 relief bill.

Oil markets are also still facing pressure from the novel coronavirus strain that has hit the UK, leading many countries around the world to close its borders to the country, further undermining gasoline-powered air and car travel. Coronavirus cases are also continuing to surge in the US, with more than a million new cases reported in six days, leading to warnings by US lawmakers for citizens to avoid Christmas travel, which will further dampen fuel demand.

Brent (BZ=F) is down 0.3% at $49.92 (£36.57) a barrel at around 9.30am in London. Crude (CL=F) has been wavering in early trading, up slightly 0.1% at around 10am.

Travel stocks rise despite COVID-19 fears

Travel stocks are continuing to head higher despite the newest strain of COVID-19 in the UK potentially bringing fresh restrictions in an effort to control the new variant, according to the UK’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

EasyJet (EZJ.L) was up 2.6% at around 10.15am in London.

EasyJet has been gaining since early trading on Wednesday. Source: Yahoo Finance
EasyJet has been gaining since early trading on Wednesday. Source: Yahoo Finance

Ryanair (RYA.L) has also been gaining, up 1.6%.

Ryanair shares are on a path to recovery after a steep decline on Monday, following news of the novel COVID-19 strain hitting the UK. Source: Yahoo Finance
Ryanair shares are on a path to recovery after a steep decline on Monday, following news of the novel COVID-19 strain hitting the UK. Source: Yahoo Finance

They are recovering along with other shares on the FTSE (^FTSE) as analysts argue that the initial shock of the new COVID-19 variant has worn off, and focus among investors now returns to the long-term demand that will come once restrictions are lifted and more people are immunised.

FTSE slides on more impending COVID lockdowns amid Brexit and US stimulus concerns

The FTSE slid lower at market open as the UK braces for more potential COVID-19 lockdowns and US president Donald Trump potentially derailing pandemic relief efforts.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was down 0.2% at the market open in London. However, Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) gained 0.6% in Frankfurt and the CAC 40 (^FCHI) was also higher 0.4% in Paris. The Europe-wide Stoxx 600 index (^STOXX) was up 0.4%.

US futures were in the green, with the S&P (ES=F) higher 0.2% and Dow Jones (YM=F) also up 0.2%. The Nasdaq (NQ=F) further gained 0.2%.

More areas in the UK could see fresh restrictions placed on them in an effort to control the new variant of COVID-19, according to the UK’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

A tougher Tier 4 of coronavirus restrictions for London and much of south-east England is already in place. The whole of Wales has entered another lockdown. Mainland Scotland and Northern Ireland will start new lockdowns on Boxing Day.

Asian markets retraced losses earlier in the session. Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) gained 0.3% at market close, the Hong Kong Hang Seng (^HSI) was up 0.9%, and the Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) was up 0.8%. South Korea’s KOSPI (^KS11) headed up 1%.

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