Hello and welcome to our ongoing coverage of the global economy, financial markets, eurozone and business.
NatWest Group has agreed to buy back shares worth £1.2billion from the UK government, in a deal that means the bank is majority private for the first time since being bailed out during the financial crisis.
The bank, formerly known as Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), said it had agreed to buy off-market 550 million shares, or 4.91% of its share capital, from HM Treasury in Friday’s closing price of 220.5p.
In markets, oil prices fell and Asian stocks stumbled as a new coronavirus lockdown in Shanghai hit economic activity.
The Moscow Stock Exchange will resume normal trading in Russian stocks 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. Russian shares fell on their second day of trading on Friday with losses led by flag carrier Aeroflot.
Non-residents will still have to wait, however – they will not be able to sell Russian ruble-denominated stocks and government bonds, called OFZ bonds, until April 1. The ban on short selling also remains.
Shanghai has told all businesses to suspend manufacturing or have people work remotely under a nine-day, two-step lockdown. Brent crude fell more than $4 to $116.55 a barrel while US light crude fell to $109.64 a barrel.
The Japanese Nikkei closed down 0.7% while China’s CSI 300 blue chips lost 0.9%, the Shanghai Composite edged down 0.1% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 1%. %. European stocks are expected to open slightly higher.
Gold prices fell and the dollar strengthened as investors took hope for renewed 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 today, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy hailed the new talks ahead, saying he hoped they would bring peace “without delay”.
Profit growth for Chinese industrial companies accelerated from January to February, led by rising profits in the energy and materials sectors. Profits rose 5% from a year earlier, compared with a 4.2% gain in December, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. However, Goldman Sachs analysts have warned that Covid outbreaks in several provinces will weigh on industrial profits.
In the UK, Grant Shapps writes to the managing director of P&O Ferries urging him to announce a reversal of the decision to lay off 800 workers without notice, as unions pledged to ‘step 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 apparent retaliation for Swiss sanctions banning exports of luxury goods, Bloomberg reported, citing Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag.
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