What to watch: All eyes on airlines, pound halts decline and oil extends losses

Kumutha Ramanathan
·Contributor
·4-min read
A medical worker collects a swab sample in the COVID-19 testing centre at Duesseldorf Airport, as EU countries impose a travel ban from the UK following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Duesseldorf, Germany, December 21, 2020. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay
A medical worker collects a swab sample in the COVID-19 testing centre at Duesseldorf Airport as EU countries impose a travel ban from the UK. Photo: Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters

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

All eyes on airlines

Airline stocks, alongside their leisure peers, have reversed the losses from Monday following news of a new variant of COVID-19 forcing the UK government to introduce additional lockdown measures and more than 40 countries banning travel to and from the UK.

British Airways owner IAG (IAG.L), which had slumped as much as 16% after the opening bell on Monday, was up roughly 4% Tuesday morning.

Jet maker Rolls-Royce (RR.L) ticked up 2.3%. EasyJet (EZJ.L) gained 2.3% while cruise-ship operator Carnival (CCL.L) rose 2.6%. This was even as the list of countries imposing travel bans on the UK continued to grow.

Lufthansa (LHA.DE) ticked up about 3% and Wizz Air (WIZZ.L) was up 1.4%.

Ryanair (RYA.L) was one of the few travel stocks that was down Monday morning, before ticking up 0.4%.

This comes as the airline announced it has cancelled some UK domestic services after it claimed the country’s Civil Aviation Authority imposed rules that made the operation of those flights impossible. However, the CAA has said the rules aren’t new.

Pound halts decline

The pound halted its decline on Tuesday as concerns about the looming Brexit deadline took a backseat to hopes that ongoing border chaos would soon be resolved.

Sterling was up 0.2% the euro at €1.1003 (GBPEUR=X) on Tuesday morning in London. The pound was down 0.05% against the dollar at $1.3436 (GBPUSD=X).

Britain’s currency fell sharply on Monday after Britain was cut off from the world following over 40 countries closing their borders to the UK over fears they would import the new COVID-19 strain.

Oil extends losses

Oil prices continued heading lower on Tuesday as the new fast-spreading strain of COVID-19 that originated in the UK has prompted fears that global travel will be curtailed.

The crude oil (CL=F) standalone price was down 1.6% at around 8.50am in London and the benchmark Brent (BZ=F) price was lower 1.3% at around $50.25 (£36.81) a barrel.

Fears are now focused on whether the global economic recovery will be further stalled with this strain’s rise, stoking fears of renewed restrictions on movement over the mid-term, which will undermine airline and car travel that requires fuel.

READ MORE: France and UK still in border talks amid food and medicine shortage fears

DFS pops on 19% sales increase

DFS Furniture (DFS.L) sales were up 19% against the comparable period in its latest trading update for the first twenty-four weeks of the financial year to date, ending 13 December 2020.

The stock was up 10% at around 9.30am in London.

Chart: Yahoo finance
Chart: Yahoo finance

The news comes despite other businesses experiencing disruption caused by COVID-19. In fact, the business said its strong performance was partly due to a “shift in spending to home categories” as more customers focus on improving their homes as they were forced to stay indoors with successive lockdown measures.

“We are working all hours focusing on what we can control to look after our people and our customers,” said Tim Stacey, group chief executive.

“I want to thank our customers for their patience given the ongoing disruption to our deliveries due to port congestion and raw material shortages, as well as apologise to those that have experienced delays.”

He added that “While the current environment is clearly unpredictable, our business model is resilient and we are well set for medium term growth.”

UK stocks fall as new COVID strain prompts economic paralysis concerns

UK stocks fell again on Tuesday as fears of a highly infectious new strain of COVID-19 — that has a 70% greater transmission rate than the original one — has caused a wave of travel bans and prompted fears of a delay to global economic recovery.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was lower 0.3% at market open. Its European peers had a stronger open, with Germay’s DAX (^GDAXI) having gained 0.6% in Frankfurt and the CAC 40 (^FCHI) was also higher 0.6% in Paris. The Europe-wide Stoxx 600 index (^STOXX) was up 0.6%.

US futures were in the red, with the S&P futures (ES=F) lower 0.4% and Dow Jones (YM=F) also down 0.4%. The Nasdaq (NQ=F) was 0.1%.

Asian markets also slumped amid the new virus fears. Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) fell 1%, the Hong Kong Hang Seng (^HSI) was down 0.7%, and the Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) fell 1.9%. South Korea’s KOSPI (^KS11) was lower 1.6%.

-With additional reporting by Oscar Williams-Grut and Saleha Riaz

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