Manufacturing outlook sunniest since 1973 as reopening boosts prospects

Britain’s economic reopening has helped create the strongest pick-up in optimism among manufacturers for nearly half a century, according to new figures.

A balance of 38% of firms surveyed by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said their outlook on the business situation had improved in the past three months.

It was the first positive reading since January, last year, before the pandemic shut down much of the UK economy and the highest since April 1973.

Factories are also stepping up hiring, with the measure of firms looking to grow their workforce over coming months at the highest since 1974.

The survey found that manufacturing output was broadly flat in the past three months but orders for new work were picking up and investment plans were being accelerated to take advantage of a “super-deduction” tax break announced in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s budget.

Yet the outlook is being tempered by rising … Read the rest

Britain set for best growth since 1988 as covid restrictions are eased

Britain is set for its sharpest economic growth since 1988 this year as the easing of Covid-19 restrictions encourages consumers to start spending, according to a monthly survey of independent economists by the Treasury.

City analysts have upgraded their GDP projections for 2021 amid signs that households are itching to get out and spend the “accidental” savings they have built up during lockdown.

The average of growth forecasts collected by the Treasury this month was 5.7 per cent, a big jump from the average of 4.7 per cent in March. If the 19 City and independent economists are right, growth this year will be the fastest in 33 years. JP Morgan, Oxford Economics and Bloomberg Economics expect an even swifter recovery, with growth of 7 per cent or more, which would be the quickest economic advance in the postwar era.

Deutsche Bank said its real-time data showed that the recovery … Read the rest

Rishi Sunak urged to boost green spending or miss net zero target

The UK chancellor, Rishi Sunak, must radically overhaul the Treasury’s response to the climate crisis, reforming the department’s longstanding hostility to green spending and resetting its priorities, experts said.

The Treasury is poised to introduce its long-awaited review of the government’s net zero strategy, and its recommendations will help determine whether the UK meets stringent targets on greenhouse gas emissions in the next 15 years.

Boris Johnson has already agreed to accept tougher climate targets – a 78% cut in carbon compared with 1990 levels by 2035 – as advised by the Climate Change Committee in its sixth carbon budget last December.

The prime minister said: “We want to continue to raise the bar on tackling climate change, and that’s why we’re setting the most ambitious target to cut emissions in the world. The UK will be home to pioneering businesses, new technologies and green innovation as we make progress … Read the rest

Quarter of UK SMEs worried they won’t survive the year

New research finds that a quarter of small businesses think it is unlikely they will be in business beyond the end of the year as a result of the pandemic.

The analysis, undertaken just after the Government announced its roadmap out of lockdown in March, looks to uncover how SMEs are feeling about business conditions and what this might mean for their employees.

The study reveals that since tightened restrictions came into force in November 2020, a significant majority of those surveyed had to make operational changes to adhere to tightening coronavirus restrictions, including reducing the number of employees in the workplace or furloughing staff. Worryingly, one in 10  were forced to shut down completely and are still unsure when they’ll be able to open their doors again.

Three-fifths of SMEs surveyed don’t think they can stay afloat without securing additional funding over the next six months. Just over three-quarters … Read the rest

Ocado makes £10M investment to develop autonomous vehicles

Ocado has announced that it has commercially partnered with Oxford based Oxbotica to collaborate on autonomous vehicles

The use cases range from vehicles that operate inside of Ocado’s Customer Fulfilment Centre (“CFC”) buildings and the yard areas that surround them, all the way to last-mile deliveries and kerb-to-kitchen robots. This will be a multi-year collaboration, and the ultimate ambition is to enable Ocado’s partners that use the Ocado Smart Platform (“OSP”) to reduce the costs of last-mile delivery and other logistics operations.

The Ocado/Oxbotica relationship began in 2017, when we conducted a two-week trial using an early prototype delivery vehicle doing autonomous deliveries in Greenwich, London. Since that initial trial, Oxbotica has made significant progress in developing its platform, leading to today’s announcement of a broader relationship that includes both Ocado’s financial investment and a commercial collaboration agreement.

Oxbotica’s two core products are Selenium and Caesium. Selenium is an on-vehicle … Read the rest

Made in Britain – Cheese on Towcest’

Having been made redundant during the Covid-19 pandemic, Mark Rodgers of Cheese on Towcest’ in Northamptonshire took the plunge and decided to launch his very own online cheesemonger business.

What’s the story behind your business?  

I’ve always been obsessed with cheese and have always wanted to be a cheesemonger – I just love cheese and everything about it! A few years ago I started making cheese for friends and family, experimenting with different types and processes. By researching different cheeses and how they were made I developed a deeper understanding of artisan cheeses and the stories behind them including the amazing people who make it.

It was during the first lockdown in 2020 and being on furlough that gave me the push I needed to realise a lifelong dream to become a cheesemonger. I became aware of how the pandemic was affecting the cheese industry with stories of farmers having … Read the rest

FTSE 100 rises above 7,000 for first time in over a year

The FTSE 100 rose above 7,000 this morning for the first time since the end of last February, shortly after the pandemic triggered sharp falls in global stock markets.

The index rose for the fourth session in a row, adding another 46.02 points, or 0.7 per cent, to reach 7,029.52. It was led higher once again by its travel, banking and mining companies, which have been revitalised over winter in anticipation of a sharp bounceback in the global economy.

IAG, the British Airways owner, rose 5½p, or 2.6 per cent, to 212¼p; the high street bank Barclays rose 4½, or 2.5 per cent, to 189¼p; and the Russian steelmaker Evraz gained 12p, or 2.0 per cent, to 626p.

Ivan Sedgwick, investment director at the boutique finance house LGB & Co, said: “With the FTSE’s big weighting in resource stocks and financials, and its exposure to old economy companies, it isn’t … Read the rest

Naked Wines see huge boost from US consumers buying wine online

Naked Wines delivered forecast-beating full-year sales yesterday as the pandemic drove a sea-change in the willingness of American consumers to buy their wine online.

Sales in the United States surpassed £150 million, making it Naked’s biggest market, as lockdowns and other restrictions persuaded American consumers to buy wine over the internet.

In the past wine has been seen in the US as a highly regulated product and Naked said that until the pandemic a lot of people did not realise that they could buy it online. America now represents about 45 per cent of group revenues. Sales growth for the group as a whole reached 68 per cent, implying second-half growth of 60 per cent. Analysts said that while this was below the 79 per cent delivered in the first half, a moderation from the early lockdown highs had been expected.

Nick Devlin, 36, chief executive, said: “Whilst in some … Read the rest

‘Scraping’ the barrel? The risks of publicly available data

The social media giants have found themselves in the news again, and not for positive reasons.

Earlier this month, it was widely reported that details of more than 530 million Facebook users worldwide have been made available online, including phone numbers and some email addresses. The data supposedly even included CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s own mobile number. And just days later, the data of up to 500 million LinkedIn users was alleged to have been put up for sale online.

The companies’ reactions were similar. Both denied any wrongdoing on their part or even that there had been any breach of their security. Instead, they argued that the data came from publicly available sources. Nevertheless, a number of regulators around the world have opened investigations into the Facebook incident. So what exactly is going on?

In a detailed response, Facebook argued that this data had been ‘scraped’ from publicly available information, … Read the rest

Value of bitcoin climbs 5% to record high of $63,000

The value of the cryptocurrency bitcoin has surged to a record high, reaching $63,000 (£45,800).

The cryptocurrency, which has risen in value by 450% in the last six months, continued to climb by a further 5% during trading on Tuesday.

Bitcoin’s price has more than doubled since the start of 2021. The digital currency has been on a rollercoaster ride in the last year, and was trading at about only $7,000 in April 2020.

The smaller, rival cryptocurrency Ethereum also rose on Tuesday, reaching its own record high of $2,205.

The fresh records were set a day before the launch of the US’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, Coinbase, on Wall Street’s tech-heavy Nasdaq stock exchange.

Coinbase’s listing has been viewed by cryptocurrency fans as another sign of its growing mainstream acceptance among investors and financial institutions, and as a means of payment.

The price of bitcoin soared towards $60,000 in February … Read the rest