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What to watch: BP gains on debt news, airline stocks mixed, AstraZeneca under pressure

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·4 min read
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Here are the top business, market, and economic stories you should be watching today in the UK, Europe, and abroad:

BP gains on positive debt news

Storm clouds form near a BP station in Alexandria, Virginia,US. Photo: Molly Riley/Reuters
Storm clouds form near a BP station in Alexandria, Virginia,US. Photo: Molly Riley/Reuters

BP (BP.L) stock gained 3.2% on Tuesday morning in London after it said it expects to reach its $35bn ($25bn) net debt target in the first quarter of 2021.

This followed earlier-than-expected proceeds from disposals and a “very strong” quarter.

Stocks rose on expectations that the oil major is paving the way for share buybacks. 

This was accompanied by a buoyant oil market, which pared losses from a day earlier, amid strong economic data from the US and China and news of easing lockdown restrictions in the UK.

Brent futures (BZ=F) were up 0.8% to $62.63 (£86.87) and crude futures (CL=F) were 1% higher to $59.21.

Oil was down about 4% across both measures a day earlier. This was partly due to OPEC and allies agreeing to monthly production hikes from May to July.

A survey from the Institute for Supply Management on Monday showed activity in the US services industry reached its highest level on record in March amid growth in new orders. This indicated the economy is being boosted by vaccinations and fiscal stimulus.

Airlines mixed on reopening news 

Airline stocks were mixed, as UK prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed the nation would move on to its next phase of reopening on 12 April, and optimism that foreign holidays would be allowed to return seeped back. 

The government's roadmap currently would allow foreign travel to return on 17 May at the earliest. 

In a press conference on Monday Johnson confirmed a new traffic light system, however warned people it is still too soon for the government to commit to allowing holidays abroad. 

International Airlines Group (IAG.L), parent company of British airways, was trading around 1.5% higher by mid-morning in London. 

Rolls-Royce (RR.L) also rose around 3.7%, while Wizz Air (WIZZ.L) and EasyJet (EZJ.L) rose tentatively. 

Meanwhile, budget carrier Ryanair (RYA.L) stock was trading down 1.3% following an update which showed that traffic for March was down 91% from the same month the previous year. The airline said it was operating at approximately 5% of its normal capacity for March. 

AstraZeneca under pressure as UK considers under-30s ban

AstraZeneca's (AZN.L) share price came under pressure on Tuesday after the Netherlands stopped its rollout of the drug company's COVID-19 vaccine and UK medical authorities considered blocking the vaccine for use in under-30s.

The Netherlands became the latest country to pause rollout of the AstraZeneca jab over the weekend amid concerns about possible blood clotting complications.

The UK's Channel 4 News reported on Monday evening that UK medical regulators were also looking at the safety of the vaccine. The report claimed regulators were considering blocking the vaccine for under-30s, amid concerns that the jab could put young women particularly at risk of a rare form of blood clots.

READ MORE: AstraZeneca woes continue as the Netherlands halts vaccine

Britain's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) confirmed in a statement it was investigating "very rare and specific types of blood clots" but emphasised that people should continue to get their jabs.

Shares in AstraZeneca were down 0.4% on Tuesday, the first day of trading in London since last Thursday. The broader FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was up 1.4% on the day.

FTSE rallies as Boris Johnson confirms reopening plans

European markets were higher on Tuesday morning as traders returned from the long bank holiday weekend, and had the first chance to digest positive news of lowered coronavirus caseloads in the UK and a solid US jobs report.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was 1.2% higher by 9.30am in London, while the DAX (^GDAXI) was up 1%. In France, the CAC 40 (^FCHI) was up 0.7%.

Equities rose despite news of rising COVID-19 cases across Europe and Germany, alongside prolonged supply issues hampering the vaccine rollout across the continent.

US futures pointed to a lower open, following a record close for the S&P 500 (ES=F) on Monday on signs of an economic rebound stateside. The S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrial Average (YM=F) and the Nasdaq (NQ=F) all looked set to open around 0.3% lower.

READ MORE: Brexit: Retail investors continue flight from UK equities

In Asia, equities had a mixed day. Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) closed 1.30% lower while the Hong Kong Hang Seng (^HSI) was up 2%. The Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) fell 0.1%; and the South Korean’s KOSPI (^KS11) was down 0.2%. The moves come following reports that China's central bank had asked the nation's major lenders to curtail loan growth for the rest of the year.

With additional reporting from Oscar Williams-Grut and Saleha Riaz

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