Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.
NatWest Group has agreed to buy back shares worth £1.2bn from the UK government, in a transaction that will mean the bank is majority private-owned for the first time since it was bailed out during the financial crisis.
The bank, formerly known as Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), said it had agreed to make an off-market purchase of 550m shares, or 4.91% of its share capital, from HM Treasury at Friday’s closing price of 220.5p.
Oil prices have fallen back and Asian shares stumbled as a new coronavirus lockdown in Shanghai hit economic activity.
The Moscow Exchange will resume normal trading of Russian shares and bonds today, for half a day. Last week it introduced limited trading. Today’s trading session will last from 7.50am to 11.50am BST. On Friday, Russian stocks fell on their second day of trading with losses led by flag carrier Aeroflot.
Non-residents will still have to wait, though – they will be barred from selling stocks and Russian rouble-denominated government bonds, known as OFZ bonds, until 1 April. A ban on short selling also remains.
Shanghai has told all firms to suspend manufacturing or have people working remotely in a two-stage lockdown over nine days. Brent crude fell more than $4 to $116.55 a barrel while US light crude dropped to $109.64 a barrel.
Japan’s Nikkei closed 0.7% lower while Chinese blue chips on the CSI 300 lost 0.9%, the Shanghai Composite edged down 0.1%, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 1%. European shares are expected to open slightly higher.
Gold prices have dropped and the dollar has strengthened, as investors took hope from the prospect of new peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. As demand for safe-haven assets faded, the price of spot gold fell more than 1% to $1,936. The dollar index hit its highest level in more than a week.
Russian and Ukrainian negotiators will resume face-to-face talks as soon as today, as the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy hailed the forthcoming new negotiations, saying he hoped they would bring peace “without delay”.
Profit growth at China’s industrial firms picked up in January to February, driven by surging profits in the energy and raw material sectors. Profits rose 5% from a year earlier, compared with a 4.2% gain in December, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. However, analysts at Goldman Sachs warned that Covid outbreaks in multiple provinces would weigh on industrial profits.
In the UK, Grant Shapps is writing to the chief executive of P&O Ferries urging him to announce a U-turn on the decision to sack 800 workers without notice, as unions pledged to “ratchet up the fight” after a weekend of protests.
It emerged yesterday that Russian agents seized millions of dollars worth of Audemars Piguet watches in Moscow in an apparent retaliation for Swiss sanctions banning luxury goods exports, Bloomberg reported, citing Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag.
- 12:00 BST: Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey speaks
- 1.30pm BST: US Trade in goods for February