EU gas storage hits record high in blow for Putin

Gas storage in Europe is at an all-time high for this point in January - MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images
Gas storage in Europe is at an all-time high for this point in January - MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

European gas storage has hit an all time high for this time of year while natural gas prices have fallen for a third day as ample supplies and the return of milder weather deal a blow to Vladimir Putin.

EU gas storage sits above 75pc of capacity, having gone from the lower end of the historical range last winter, when Russian gas was flowing, to the higher end of the range this winter when virtually no Russian gas has flowed, according to Deutsche Bank Research.

Meanwhile, benchmark Dutch gas futures declined as much as 4.8pc today and have fallen 31pc in the last month.

Strong LNG shipments and healthy gas stockpiles — which are well above normal thanks to reduced consumption and a relatively mild winter — have significantly eased fuel prices over the past few weeks.

The fall in prices limit revenues to the Kremlin as Moscow is already squeezed by the G7 and EU price caps on oil.

Demand is expected to soften in the next few days, with temperatures forecast to rebound following a cold snap.

There are also expectations for more liquefied natural gas, as a key export terminal in the US takes steps to restart.

Read the latest updates below.

06:07 PM

Wrapping up

That's all from us for today – thanks for following! We'll be back bright and early tomorrow morning for more live updates.

05:53 PM

NYSE blames trading chaos on manual error

NYSE - REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo
NYSE - REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

The New York Stock Exchange has blamed a manual error for a technical glitch that caused chaos as markets opened earlier this week.

The glitch, which occurred on Tuesday, prevented opening auctions from taking place for some listed stocks, leading to widespread confusion among traders.

Companies including Verizon and Wells Fargo suffered wild swings in their share price as a result of the issue.

The NYSE said it had accidentally triggered a short selling restriction – an emergency measure designed to prevent traders from pushing a company’s share price down.

The exchange said it had cancelled more than 4,300 trades in over 250 stocks, though the exact cost of the error is still unclear.

05:23 PM

Global growth to slow to 1.9pc, warns UN

Global economic growth is forecast to slow this year amid a wave of challenges including the pandemic, Russia’s war in Ukraine and inflation.

The global economy will grow 1.9pc in 2023, down from 3pc in 2022, according to a United Nations Report.

If confirmed, this would mark one of the slowest growth rates in recent decades.

The report said: “Global growth is forecast to moderately pick up to 2.7 per cent in 2024, if, as expected, some macroeconomic headwinds begin to subside next year.

“The near-term economic outlook remains highly uncertain, however, as myriad economic, financial, geopolitical and environmental risks persist.”

In October, the IMF put a 25pc probability of global growth falling below 2pc next year – a phenomenon that has occurred only five times since 1970.

05:09 PM

Boeing posts sixth straight quarterly loss

Boeing - REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo
Boeing - REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo

Boeing has reported its sixth straight quarterly loss as a surge in costs weighed on the plane maker’s recovery.

The US company said its commercial plane business was hit by “abnormal costs”, while its defence and security division suffered from labour shortages and supply chain troubles.

Boeing posted a surprise $634m loss for the final three months of 2022, though this was smaller than the $4.1bn loss in the same period the previous year.

Revenues rose 35pc to $2bn, but came in below analyst forecasts.

But Boeing, which has been hit by production problems in recent years as well as certification delays following the 737 Max crashes, finished the year with positive free cashflow for the first time since 2018.

Boeing chief executive Dave Calhoun said: “We had a solid fourth quarter, and 2022 proved to be an important year in our recovery.

“Demand across our portfolio is strong, and we remain focused on driving stability in our operations and within the supply chain to meet our commitments in 2023 and beyond.”

04:57 PM

UK to subsidise semiconductor firms in chip push

The Government will reportedly provide taxpayer funding to support British semiconductor companies in a drive to make more chips domestically.

The support will include seed funding for startups, help for existing firms to scale up, as well as providing new incentives for private venture capital, Bloomberg reports.

Ministers will set up a semiconductor task force to coordinate public and private support to ramp up UK manufacturing of compound semiconductors in the next three years.

While an overall figure is yet to be agreed with the Treasury, the support is expected to be in single-figure billions.

Read more: Britain risks ‘losing status as tech hub’ to US and EU rivals

04:26 PM

Royal Opera House ends BP sponsorship deal

Royal Opera House BP - Andres Pantoja/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Royal Opera House BP - Andres Pantoja/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Royal Opera House has been forced to end its sponsorship deal with BP after more than three decades following pressure from climate activists.

The oil giant has sponsored the Royal Opera House, which is based in London’s Covent Garden, since 1988.

However, the organisation said the deal had not been extended beyond December 2022, when the existing contract came to an end.

A spokesman for the ROH said: “We are grateful to BP for their sponsorship over 33 years which has enabled thousands around the country to see free opera and ballet through our BP Big Screens.

“Over the last three years, BP’s support has focussed on sustainability initiatives, supporting the Royal Opera House’s recovery post-pandemic and supporting our drive towards net zero.

“We would like to thank BP for their support, but agreed that the partnership would not extend beyond December 2022, when BP’s contract came to an end.”

04:06 PM

Handing over

That's all from me today. The one and only James Warrington will take things from here.

03:46 PM

Less than third of trains to run during strikes

Rail passengers are being urged to check before travelling next week because of strikes by drivers which will leave large parts of the country without trains.

Members of Aslef and the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) will walk out on February 1 and 3 in a long-running dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.

Special timetables will be published on Friday by the 14 train operators involved, with passengers warned to expect disruption.

Trains will start later and finish much earlier than usual on strike days - typically between 7.30am and 6.30pm - and train companies said they expected that nationally around 30pc of services will run.

Commuters have been urged to check before they travel ahead of strikes - TOLGA AKMEN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Commuters have been urged to check before they travel ahead of strikes - TOLGA AKMEN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

03:24 PM

US stocks retreat as mixed earnings add to angst

Wall Street stocks fell in early trading as another round of lacklustre quarterly earnings added to investor caution after a strong start to 2023.

Aviation giant Boeing reported a quarterly loss on revenues that missed analyst estimates while in tech, Microsoft offered a disappointing outlook on its Azure cloud computing business.

Briefing.com analyst Patrick O'Hare said Microsoft's Azure forecast "laid bare an understanding that growth is slowing and that business conditions have gotten more challenging".

He added: "Investors are grappling with valuation concerns and the notion that the market might have gotten ahead of itself with the January rally effort.".

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.9pc to 33,423.

The broad-based S&P 500 lost 1.4pc to 3,961 while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite dropped 2.2pc to 11,093.

03:07 PM

Germany may avoid recession, says minister

The situation in Europe's biggest economy is expected to improve over the course of the year from spring onwards, the German ministers said.

The country's government has revised up its forecast for economic output and now expects the economy to grow by 0.2pc this year, up from its autumn forecast of a 0.4pc decline.

Inflation is now seen at 6pc in 2023, down from the previous 7pc forecast.

Economy minister Robert Habeck said: "We now expect the recession to be shorter and milder, if it happens at all."

He added that a severe economic crisis has been averted despite the risks of energy shortages and high inflation.

02:49 PM

Microsoft services 'recovered and remain stable'

Microsoft has said it has finally got on top of the outage that has gripped its services (and gave so many people a torrid start to their working day):

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02:45 PM

US markets fall at the open

Wall Street's main indexes opened lower as downbeat quarterly updates from Microsoft and Boeing added to fears of a recession, with technology shares leading the declines.

The Nasdaq Composite dropped 1.7pc to 11,146.53 at the opening bell.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.6pc to 33,538.36, while the S&P 500 opened lower 0.9pc at 3,982.71.

02:20 PM

Huge gas supplies signal 'remarkable turnaround for Europe'

The findings by Deutsche Bank Research will make for grim reading for Vladimir Putin. It says:

It became increasingly clear towards the end of 2022 that unseasonably warm European weather and an impressive sourcing of non-Russian gas was going to remove the worst-case scenario for growth in the continent this winter.

It has been a remarkable turnaround for Europe... EU gas storage has gone from the lower end of the historical range last winter, when Russian gas was flowing, to the higher end of the range this winter when virtually no Russian gas has flowed.

German gas storage could be full again in July. Even if we revert to persistent cold weather this and next winter, storage levels should be adequate to get through next winter as well.

So, the near-term recession risk has largely gone away, also helped by China's rapid reopening.

Looking further into the year, the note suggests the ECB can't take its foot off the hawkish pedal and that headwinds will re-emerge later in the year from the expected H2 US recession and the lagged impact of the ECB's tightening.

01:46 PM

US markets expected to fall at the open

Wall Street looks headed towards losses at the bell as investors await more earnings and economic data that may reveal whether inflation has slowed enough to satisfy Federal Reserve officials.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 0.6pc, while contracts on the S&P 500 tumbled 0.8pc.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq was down 1.3pc, one day after Microsoft reported a 12pc drop in profit for the October-December quarter, reflecting the economic uncertainty it said led to its decision to cut 10,000 workers.

The company has also dealt with a global outage affecting its Outlook and Teams services.

01:20 PM

German cyber agency looking into source behind attacks

Germany's federal cyber agency BSI is looking into digital attacks by hackers targeting websites in the country, an interior ministry spokesman has said, following the Microsoft outage today.

The spokesman said: "The scope and source of these attacks are currently being clarified."

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks work by directing high volumes of internet traffic towards targeted servers in a relatively unsophisticated bid by so-called "hacktivists" to knock them offline.

12:37 PM

Pound dips against the dollar

The pound has lost more ground against the dollar after the government's spending watchdog warned the country is facing a multi-billion pound hole ahead of the Budget in March.

Sterling has lost 0.1pc against the dollar but is back above $1.23 after dipping below the mark earlier.

It comes after the Office for Budget Responsibility privately warned Jeremy Hunt to expect a bleaker economic future.

It plans to revise growth forecasts down by between 0.2 and 0.5pc.

12:12 PM

Microsoft says it has recovered services hit by outage

Microsoft has said it has recovered all of its cloud services after a networking outage took down its cloud platform Azure along with services such as Teams and Outlook used by millions around the globe.

Azure's status page showed services were impacted in Americas, Europe, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa. Only services in China and its platform for governments were not hit.

By late morning Azure said most customers should have seen services resume after a full recovery of the Microsoft Wide Area Network (WAN).

An outage of Azure, which has 15m corporate customers and over 500m active users, according to Microsoft data, can impact multiple services and create a domino effect as almost all of the world's largest companies use the platform.

11:57 AM

Bitcoin Suisse cuts jobs as crypto winter continues

Bitcoin Suisse, the crypto trading, brokerage and storage company, has announced it is cutting jobs and streamlining its boardroom amid the rout in cryptocurrency investment.

Its finance chief and head of Bitcoin Suisse Liechtenstein will leave the business as part of measures aimed at deepening
the focus on institutional clients.

The job cuts, made earlier this month, were "substantially below" the industry average of about 30pc of headcount, according to spokesperson Verena Schwarz, who declined to give an exact number.

The company's main offices in Switzerland, Denmark and Liechtenstein were all affected by the reductions.

Bitcoin Suisse grew staff in Europe by more than 60pc to almost 300 people by the end of 2021, the company said at its
annual general meeting in July.

It comes amid deep cuts across the industry, which has been hit by the fall of FTX and a general downturn in crypto prices.

11:38 AM

Jaguar Land Rover back in profit

Jaguar Land Rover is back in the black after sales of luxury cars enjoyed a bounce back and the microchip shortage eased.

Tata Motors, its Indian parent company, revealed net income of 28.6bn rupees (£290m) in the final three months of 2022, compared to a loss of 15.2bn rupees (£150m) over the same period a year earlier.

Jaguar Land Rover reported pre-tax profits of £265m over the period, compared with a £9m loss a year earlier.

Revenues climbed by 28pc to £6bn.

Jaguar Land Rover's interim chief executive Adrian Mardell said the company had "returned to profit as chip shortages eased in the quarter and production and wholesale prices increased".

Jaguar Land Rover is back in profit - Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
Jaguar Land Rover is back in profit - Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

11:23 AM

Bank of England will cut rates this year, traders believe

Traders are betting the Bank of England will reverse course and cut interest rates later this year to shore up the economy.

Wagers on the money markets show a quarter-point rate cut is fully priced in by the end of the year, after a string of economic data pointed to growth stalling and inflation easing.

Figures out today revealed UK factory price inflation rose at the slowest pace in almost a year, following separate releases Tuesday that signaled weak services industry sentiment and factories curtailing production at record rates.

Market pricing still implies a half-point increase from the Bank of England next month, with its rate peaking around 4.5pc in the summer.

Yet the bets on cuts in 2023, made for the first time since August, show some doubt that the Bank will be able to keep rates that high for long.

Mohit Kumar, a rates strategist at Jefferies, said:

We are turning more positive on the economic prospect for Europe, but still remain negative on the UK.

For the BOE, even if we get a 50 basis-point hike in February, it would be a dovish 50 basis points.

11:02 AM

Oil prices steady after gains

Oil prices have steadied as traders await fresh signals on the state of Chinese crude demand after the nation ditched Covid restrictions.

Brent crude, the international benchmark, is down barely 0.1pc today and hovering above $86 a barrel. It lost 2.6pc on Tuesday.

US-produced West Texas Intermediate for March delivery was little changed above $80 a barrel after swinging between gains and losses on Monday.

Futures trading volumes are likely to remain subdued during Asian hours, with many investors across the region on breaks to mark the Lunar New Year.

Oil has been driven higher over the past two weeks on expectations that the swift pivot in the world's largest crude importer may spur daily consumption to hit a record in 2023.

10:52 AM

Microsoft says 'some customers supporting mitigation'

We have an update on the efforts to fix the Microsoft outage, with the company's social media team using some delightful/frustrating/complex/mind-boggling language to describe their progress.

I think it means they are getting there but there are still problems:

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10:48 AM

Twitter sued after failing to remove anti-Semitic content

Twitter has been hit with a lawsuit in Germany by an anti-hate speech organisation and group of Jewish students in a bid to force the platform to remove anti-Semitic content.

HateAid and the European Union of Jewish Students filed the suit against Twitter to require the platform to clarify basic obligations when moderating criminal content.

The suit, which was filed in a Berlin court, refers to six anti-Semitic posts that were not deleted despite being reported.

In one example, the claimants argue, a report of a post denying the Holocaust was explicitly rejected. In Germany, holocaust denial is a criminal offense.

Avital Grinberg, President of the EUJS, said:

What starts online doesn't end online. Twitter broke our trust.

By allowing the distribution of hateful content, the company fails to protect users and especially young Jews.

10:37 AM

Times and Sunday Times office closed after suspicious package found

Staff at the Times and Sunday Times are unable to get into their office after a suspicious package was discovered.

The News UK building, which is also home to the Sun and TalkTV, was partially evacuated by police following the discovery.

Some staff have returned but the 11th floor remains closed off due to the incident:

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10:17 AM

Azure and Xbox also hit by Microsoft outage

Microsoft's networking outage has also hit gamers using Xbox online and cloud platform Azure, potentially affecting millions of users globally.

Azure's status page showed services were impacted in Americas, Europe, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa. Only services in China and its platform for governments were not hit.

An outage of Microsoft's cloud computing platform Azure can impact a variety of services and create a domino effect as almost all of the world's largest companies use the platform.

10:05 AM

Natural gas prices continue slump

European natural gas is headed for a third day of declines as ample supplies and reserves, along with the return of milder weather, help to ease the region’s energy crisis.

Benchmark futures fell as much as much as 3.1pc in early trading and was below €56 per megawatt hour.

The continent's gas demand is expected to soften in the next few days, with temperatures forecast to rebound following a cold snap. There are also expectations for more liquefied natural gas, as a key export terminal in the US is taking steps to restart.

Dutch front-month gas, Europe's benchmark, has fallen more than 30pc over the last month.

09:40 AM

Microsoft thinks 'network change' caused outage

Microsoft has given an update on the outage affecting Outlook and Teams users:

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09:35 AM

Bank of England swerves strike as staff accept below inflation pay rise

The Bank of England has avoided the prospect of a strike by agreeing a below inflation pay rise for staff with union leaders.

Workers will receive a 3.5pc pay rise and a one-off 1pc salary boost this year in a deal agreed by the Unite union.

The lowest paid staff will receive the largest increases, in order to shield them better against the cost of living crisis, while senior staff will only see their pay packets increase by 1pc.

Andrew Bailey, the governor of the Bank, declined a pay rise, keeping his compensation at around £598,000.

Read on for details.

09:15 AM

Ascential break-up sends shares surging

The owner of the Cannes Lions advertising festival is to be carved up and split into three after a strategic review of its assets.

Ascential, formerly known as EMAP, which owns multiple events brands, a marketing data division, and a forecasting business, confirmed the split in an update to investors.

It sent shares up 24pc, making it far and away the biggest gainer on the FTSE 250, which is up 0.5pc.

Ascential's events division, which includes the Cannes Lions and Money 20/20 events, will be split out and listed in London. The company said this business had revenues of £177m and profits of £65m in 2022.

Its Digital Commerce division, which includes data, marketing and digital optimisation, will be listed in an initial public offering in New York. A third strand, its forecasting team, will be sold off separately.

It came as Ascential posted results ahead of market expectations. Revenues increased by 49pc to £520m, while profits were up 33pc to £118m.

Duncan Painter, Ascential chief executive, said: "Our plan of action will create the best structure for each distinct business to thrive."

09:05 AM

Musk defiantly defends himself for three hours in Tesla tweet trial

Elon Musk spent another three hours in the witness box defending himself against a class-action lawsuit that alleges he misled Tesla shareholders with a tweet claiming he had "funding secured" to take the electric car company private.

It is unlikely the Tesla and Twitter chief executive will be summoned back to the witness stand during the civil trial expected to last until February.

The 51-year-old spent much of Tuesday depicting himself, while being questioned by his own attorney, Alex Spiro, as an impeccably trustworthy business leader.

He testily sparred with a shareholder lawyer, Nicholas Porritt, who had raised his ire earlier in the trial.

Mr Musk left no doubt about his contempt for Mr Porritt with a remark expressing doubt that the lawyer was looking out for the best interests of Tesla shareholders. The remarks drew a quick rebuke from the judge and were stricken from the record. "It's inappropriate," US District Judge Edward Chen admonished.

The trial hinges on whether a pair of tweets Mr Musk posted on August 7, 2018, damaged Tesla shareholders during a 10-day period leading up to his admission that the buyout he had envisioned was not going to happen. The statements resulted in Mr Musk and Tesla to reach the $40m settlement without acknowledging any wrongdoing.

Elon Musk, left, is questioned by shareholder attorney Nicholas Porritt in a San Francisco courtroom - Vicki Behringer via AP
Elon Musk, left, is questioned by shareholder attorney Nicholas Porritt in a San Francisco courtroom - Vicki Behringer via AP

08:50 AM

Microsoft investigates outages on Teams and Outlook

Microsoft is investigating an issue with its Teams and Outlook services, with reports of outages and that the platforms were down for thousands of users globally.

Microsoft did not disclose the number of users affected by the disruption, but data from outage tracking website Downdetector showed more than 4,000 incidents in Britain, 3,900 incidents in India and over 900 in Japan.

Outage reports also spiked in Australia and the United Arab Emirates.

Microsoft Teams, used by more than 280m people globally, forms an integral part of daily operations for businesses and schools, which use the service to make calls, schedule meetings and organise their workflow.

Outages have been reported on Microsoft Teams and Outlook - Gabby Jones/Bloomberg
Outages have been reported on Microsoft Teams and Outlook - Gabby Jones/Bloomberg

08:36 AM

Amazon workers: Robots 'treated better than us'

Amazon workers today started their first official UK strike action, walking out of the online retail giant's Coventry warehouse in protest against a 50p pay rise.

Around 300 Amazon workers were expected to down tools and join picket lines. The strike action began at Amazon's Coventry centre at midnight last night.

Union members told the BBC robots in the warehouses were "treated better than us".

Darren Westwood and Garfield Hilton said their work around the warehouse was tracked and monitored, adding that "idle time" of a few minutes would be admonished. Amazon said its system was designed to "recognise great performance".

Many workers braved the cold and the dark to join the picket this morning:

Amazon workers with the GMB union outside the Coventry warehouse - Jacob King/PA Wire
Amazon workers with the GMB union outside the Coventry warehouse - Jacob King/PA Wire
Amazon workers with the GMB union outside the Coventry warehouse - Jacob King/PA Wire
Amazon workers with the GMB union outside the Coventry warehouse - Jacob King/PA Wire
Amazon workers with the GMB union outside the Coventry warehouse - Darren Staples/Bloomberg
Amazon workers with the GMB union outside the Coventry warehouse - Darren Staples/Bloomberg

08:28 AM

Markets rise as Aviva and EasyJet deliver boost

The FTSE 100 has pushed higher, boosted by a positive earnings update from insurer Aviva, although worries about Britain's gloomy economic outlook and interest rate rises weighed on the overall mood.

The blue-chip index edged up 0.2pc at one point, although it has since fallen back, mirroring a cautious mood across European markets.

Aviva has climbed 1.8pc after the insurer maintained its dividend guidance and capital returns outlook as it reported a positive end to trading for the year in its general insurance unit.

Airline stocks also got a lift after EasyJet said it expected to beat current market expectations for 2023 based on the strength of bookings into summer and was set to deliver a full-year profit.

EasyJet jumped 6.6pc, while Wizz Air has added 5.2pc.

The midcap FTSE 250 index has risen 0.3pc.

Limiting further gains in markets, Britain's official economic forecaster has told the government that it overestimated the prospects for medium-term growth and that it intends to revise down its outlook.

08:16 AM

Egyptians forced to take out loans to buy books as currency plummets

Egyptians are resorting to taking out loans to buy books as inflation rockets in the country.

Book prices have more than doubled as the value of the Egyptian pound has plummeted by about 43pc against sterling over the last year.

Egyptian authors say they have cut back on characters and descriptions to be more economical in their writing as the cost of paper and ink surges.

Speaking at the Cairo International Book Fair, Mohammed El-Baaly of Sefsafa Publishing House told the BBC: "A book has become a luxury item here in Egypt.

"It's not a basic commodity like food and people are saving on luxuries."

The Egyptian Publishers Association said customers can now choose to take up to nine months to buy a book, paying 1.5pc interest.

08:02 AM

Markets mixed at the open

The markets are struggling for direction with corporate earnings season in full swing.

The FTSE 100 began the day down 0.4pc to 7,757 while the FTSE 250 lifted 0.2pc to 19,837.

07:52 AM

Weatherspoon sales surge but costs remain high

JD Wetherspoon has revealed its sales at the end of 2022 were far higher than the previous year, but still lagging slightly behind pre-pandemic levels.

The pub chain said like-for-like sales surged by nearly 18pc over the last three months of 2022, compared with the same period in 2021, but remained 2pc lower than the pre-pandemic period in 2019.

Costs in the hospitality sector were far higher than before Covid-19, Wetherspoon stressed, especially for labour, food, energy and maintenance, which has weighed heavily on pub and restaurant groups.

The group's chairman, Tim Martin, stressed he felt the biggest threat to the hospitality industry is pubs and restaurants being "overtaxed", while supermarkets pay no VAT on food sales.

Wetherspoon's net debt was £745m in late January, around £60m lower than it reported in the same stage in early 2020.

JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin - Heathcliff O'Malley
JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin - Heathcliff O'Malley

07:45 AM

Aviva hit with £50m claims bill after cold snap

Insurance giant Aviva has revealed a claims bill of around £50m from last month's freezing weather.

The group said it had been focused on supporting its customers during the recent big freeze, which saw households across Britain suffer from burst pipes and water tanks, as well as other damage.

But Aviva said its group-wide weather experience was only marginally above the long-term averages in the fourth quarter.

In an update ahead of an investor and analyst briefing on its UK general insurance personal lines business, the group said it continues to "price appropriately" given soaring cost pressures.

Aviva said it was "responding at pace to emerging data and trends".

Snow in Consett, County Durham, during December - Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
Snow in Consett, County Durham, during December - Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

07:39 AM

Amazon workers on strike over pay

Hundreds of Amazon warehouse workers are going on strike today as part of unprecedented industrial action by the company's British employees.

Members of the GMB Union working at the retailer's Coventry depot held a strike ballot in December after Amazon offered a 50 pence-per-hour increase in pay. About 98pc of workers who voted were in favour of taking industrial action.

GMB senior organizer Stuart Richards said: "After six months of ignoring all requests to listen to workers' concerns, GMB urges Amazon UK bosses to do the right thing and give workers a proper pay rise."

The strike follows a series of unofficial walkouts and slowdowns at warehouses across the UK last year after the pay raise was announced.

The strike will not directly affect customers, and Amazon is "proud" of the wages it offers, the company said earlier in January.

It said its packages start at a minimum of £10.50 to £11.45 per hour, depending on location. The national living wage, for adults 23 years old and above, will rise to £10.42 in April from £9.50.

Matthew Field has the details.

Amazon workers on strike outside the fulfilment centre in Coventry - Jacob King/PA Wire
Amazon workers on strike outside the fulfilment centre in Coventry - Jacob King/PA Wire

07:32 AM

EasyJet upbeat as bookings stay strong

EasyJet expects to beat its profit expectations for the year after revealing strong bookings continued into the second quarter and the crucial summer months.

The discount airline filled 20.2m seats in the first quarter and expects the figure to be 38m for the first half and then rise to 56m for the second half of its financial year, which runs through to September.

The company reported a pre-tax loss of £133m for the first quarter, down from losses of £213m a year earlier.

Chief executive Johan Lundgren said: "We have seen strong and sustained demand for travel over the first quarter, carrying almost 50pc more customers compared to last year."

EasyJet - REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
EasyJet - REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

06:59 AM

Australian battery maker makes bid for Britishvolt

An Australian based start-up has launched a rescue bid for the failed electric battery maker Britishvolt, which collapsed into administration this month.

Recharge Industries has lodged an eleventh-hour bid for the business which was planning to build a £3.8bn gigafactory at a site near Blyth, Northumberland.

Britishvolt collapsed after it failed to meet the conditions to secure £100m in funding from the Government via its Automotive Transformation Fund.

It had been hoped the company would become a homegrown source to power electric cars, reducing manufacturers' reliance on imports from markets such as China, which has emerged as one of the world's largest battery makers.

Recharge Industries lodged its takeover bid late on Tuesday. It was first reported by the Australian Financial Review.

Administrators EY said last week that of Britishvolt's 232 employees, around 206 have been made redundant. The remaining 26 staff were being kept on to assist with the sale of the company's business and its assets and the wind-down of the business.

The Australian rescue bid for Britishvolt is the latest twist in the electric battery maker's already turbulent short history.

At one stage, Britishvolt had played up its prospects for a bumper initial public offering in pitches to investors.

However, this month it was reported that investors were considering bailing out the company at a 96pc cut to its previous £774m price tag.

The company was backed by mining giant Glencore and narrowly avoided collapse in November after an injection of funds. Staff were asked to take pay cuts to keep the business afloat.

Its potential rescuer, Recharge Industries, is based in Geelong and holds exclusive licensing of intellectual property and advanced battery technology within Australia through its US technology partner C4V.

Britishvolt, which had hoped to build a gigafactory in Blyth, illustrated here, could be rescued from administration by an Australian start-up - Britishvolt
Britishvolt, which had hoped to build a gigafactory in Blyth, illustrated here, could be rescued from administration by an Australian start-up - Britishvolt

06:50 AM

Good morning

Britishvolt could be rescued from administration after an eleventh hour bid from an Australian start-up.

Recharge Industries describes itself as at the forefront of battery technology, opening up opportunities and powering the transition to a greener world.

Meanwhile, EasyJet is due to publish its financial results today.

A key economic bellwether, the finanical health of airlines serves as a marker of how the wider economy is doing.

Rising airline flight sales tends to mean more disposable income and greater prosperity; the reverse can often signal harder times.

5 things to start your day

1) Don't let Greta Thunberg's flight shaming movement end air travel, say Tory MPs | Chris Grayling and Sir Graham Brady among MPs backing sustainable fuel policies

2) Treasury turns to households for cheaper borrowing as UK debt interest bill spirals | Premium Bond prize rate hits 15 year high as Treasury scrambles for cheap cash

3) Britain sends energy to Ireland as households asked to switch off | Figures reveal growing interconnectedness of UK’s electricity market amid tight supply

4) US government sues Google in attempt to smash advertising dominance | Federal lawsuit alleges tech giant has used 'unlawful' means to eliminate competition

5) Electric Ferraris to roar like its petrol cars thanks to new tech | Sports car giant recreates revving engine for electric era to preserve ‘driving pleasure’

What happened overnight

Asian stocks eked out small gains amid downbeat investor sentiment following mixed corporate earnings.

South Korea’s Kospi index surged more than 1pc in a catchup move after Lunar New Year holidays.

Tokyo stocks ended higher as worries eased about a global economic slowdown while traders waited for corporate earnings season to get into full swing.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index added 0.4cp to close at 27,395.01, while the broader Topix index rose 0.4pc to 1,980.69.

Shanghai and Hong Kong markets remained closed for the Lunar New Year holidays.

In Australia, stocks dropped amid reports of higher than expected inflation figures setting off expectations for another interest rate hike. Consumer inflation rose 8.4pc in December, higher than the forecast of 7.6pc.

Oil rose after a drop on Tuesday and gold inched higher to extend recent gains, pushing the precious metal to the highest level since April.