UK TOP NEWS SUMMARY: UK Could Be Heading For Two-Week October Lockdown

(Alliance News) - The following is a summary of top news stories ...

Alliance News 18 September, 2020 | 10:58AM
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(Alliance News) - The following is a summary of top news stories Friday.

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COMPANIES

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Ryanair Holdings said it will cut its capacity for October beyond the reduction already announced in mid-August. The Irish low-cost carrier said that it will slash its October capacity by 20%, on top of the 20% cut that was announced earlier. The capacity reduction was blamed on the damage caused to forward bookings by changes in government travel restrictions and policies, most of which Ryanair considers being introduced at short notice, undermining the willingness to make forward bookings. Looking ahead, Ryanair said it now expects its capacity for October to fall to 40% of levels seen the same month the year before from 50%, but it still expects to maintain a load factor of more than 70%. Ryanair argued that in some countries - meaning the UK and Ireland - where "excessive and defective" travel restrictions have been in place since July 1, Covid-19 rates have risen in recent weeks to 50 per 100,000, more than Germany or Italy, where intra-EU air travel has been freely allowed.

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London Stock Exchange Group confirmed that it has entered into exclusive discussions with peer Euronext over the sale of Borsa Italiana, the operator of the Milan stock exchange. "There can be no certainty that a transaction will result from these discussions and any potential sale will be dependent upon the outcome of the European Commission's review of the Refinitiv transaction and that transaction closing in accordance with its terms," the stock exchange operator cautioned, however. In a short statement, LSEG also said that it had received and reviewed a number of competitive proposals from several parties for each of MTS and the Borsa Italiana group as a whole, but went ahead with Euronext. Borsa Italiana is 99.99% indirectly owned by LSEG. In addition to operating the Milan stock exchange, Borsa Italiana operates a number of other trading platforms, and its group includes clearing house Cassa Di Compensazione e Garanzia, MTS, central securities depository Monte Titoli and Elite.

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AstraZeneca said updated results from its Pacific phase 3 trial of Imfinzi showed a sustained and clinically meaningful improvement in overall survival and progression-free survival in lung cancer. The trial was of patients with unresectable, stage 3 non-small cell lung cancer who had not progressed after concurrent chemoradiation therapy. One in three patients with non-small cell lung cancer are diagnosed at stage 3, at which point most tumours are unresectable - meaning they cannot be removed with surgery. Before Imfinzi in this setting, there have been no new treatments past chemoradiation therapy in decades. Results from the updated post-hoc analyses showed an estimated four-year survival rate with Imfinzi of 50% compared to 36% with placebo after chemoradiation therapy. Median overall survival was 47.5 months for Imfinzi and 29.1 months with placebo. At the maximum treatment course of one year, around 35% of patients treated with the drug had not progressed four years after enrolment compared to 20% with placebo.

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Amid a looming deadline set by US President Donald Trump, negotiators scrambled to find a new ownership structure for the popular video app TikTok that would pass muster in both the US and China. A deal appeared to be taking shape this week that would allow Silicon Valley-based Oracle to be the US technology partner for TikTok to allay Washington's concerns that the platform could be used for Chinese espionage. But details of the deal remained unclear. Some reports said Oracle would be a minority stakeholder in TikTok, with the Chinese parent firm ByteDance keeping a majority. A US government national security panel was reviewing the Oracle Corp bid while Republican lawmakers warned against accepting a deal that keeps the Chinese firm in control. "We'll make a decision soon," Trump said Thursday, a day after saying he was undecided and still considering the national security implications of any new structure for the wildly popular app, which has an estimated 100 million users in the US and as many as one billion worldwide.

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MARKETS

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London stocks were mixed on Friday morning, though with travel stocks the worst performers as fears gathered over a nationwide UK lockdown. Despite the lockdown worries, the pound was higher against the dollar. Wall Street is on course for a similarly mixed session, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average called down 0.5% while the S&P 500 is seen up 0.1% and the Nasdaq up 0.6%.

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FTSE 100: flat at 6,051.72

FTSE 250: down 0.7% at 17,616.70

AIM ALL-SHARE: down 0.1% at 969.03

GBP: higher at USD1.2990 (USD1.2955)

EUR: higher at USD1.1859 (USD1.1821)

GOLD: higher at USD1,955.40 per ounce (USD1,946.60)

OIL (Brent): firm at USD43.52 a barrel (USD43.22)

(changes since previous London equities close)

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ECONOMICS AND GENERAL

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A second national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus has not been ruled out but the "great hope" is that people will heed current advice to help manage a "very serious" situation, the UK Health Secretary has said. Matt Hancock said a national lockdown was the "last line of defence" as he responded to reports that ministers are considering further national measures, even for just a two-week period, such as imposing a curfew on bars and restaurants. It comes as the UK government comes under fire over the NHS Test & Trace system, which has seen up to four times the number of people trying to book a test as the number of tests available. Hancock told BBC Breakfast the latest data showed that hospital admissions are now doubling every eight days, amid warnings that deaths will rise in the coming weeks. Scientists from the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies have reportedly proposed a two-week national lockdown in October to tackle the rising number of Covid-19 cases. The Financial Times reported that they had said a lockdown could coincide with the October school half-term.

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UK retail sales registered their fourth straight month of growth in August, but the pace of improvement is slowing, the Office for National Statistics showed. Sales were up 0.8% month-on-month in August, slower than the 3.7% growth posted for July but ahead of expectations, according to FXStreet, of 0.7%. The strength of the retail rebound has been fading since lockdown measures began to be eased, with sales having risen 12% in May and 14% in June. Annually, sales grew 2.8% in August, accelerating from a rise of 1.4% in July. The ONS said sales in August were up 4.0% compared to February's pre-pandemic level. The statistical body noted that there was a "mixed picture" across store types in August, with non-store - such as online - retailing volumes 39% above February, while clothing stores were 16% below pre-pandemic levels.

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German producer prices of industrial products remained stable in August compared to July, but dropped on the prior year, figures from Destatis showed. In August, the index of producer prices for industrial products decreased by 1.2% compared with the same month a year ago. In July, producer prices fell by 1.7% year-on-year, as reported by the Federal Statistical Office. When compared with July, the index remained unchanged in August after a 0.2% increase month-on-month in July from June. Energy prices declined by 3.9% in August from a year before. Also on an annual basis, prices of petroleum products were down 14%, while prices of natural gas decreased by 9.9%. Prices of non-durable consumer goods increased by 0.3% compared to August 2019.

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The European Commission president has said she is "convinced" a trade deal remains possible with the UK but called Boris Johnson's attempt to override the Brexit treaty an "unpleasant surprise". Ursula von der Leyen, in comments made to reporters on Thursday, said Downing Street's controversial UK Internal Market Bill had "distracted very strongly" from the two sides being able to secure fresh trade terms before the looming deadline. The post-Brexit transition period, during which relations between the EU and the UK have remained static, is due to end after December 31 and leaders on both sides of the Channel have warned that an agreement is needed by October if a deal is to be ratified in time for the start of 2021. With the cliff edge only a month away, the prime minister has faced criticism domestically and on the world stage for pursuing legislation that would defy the Withdrawal Agreement brokered with the EU last year, breaking international law in the process. Johnson was forced on Wednesday to agree to table an amendment to the Internal Market Bill, giving MPs a vote before the government can use the powers related to Northern Ireland which would breach the treaty.

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