What to watch: OPEC+ deal lifts oil and energy stocks, Primark sales hit, US stimulus

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·3-min read
CARSON, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 22: An aerial view shows Marathon Petroleum Corp's Los Angeles Refinery, the state's largest producer of gasoline, as oil prices have cratered with the spread of the coronavirus pandemic on April 22, 2020 in Carson, California. Crude oil prices dropped into negative territory for the first time on April 20 with millions of barrels going unused after travel restrictions and widespread social distancing measures brought on by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic all but obliterated global energy demand. Today marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the annual celebration of the environmental movement. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Marathon Petroleum Corp's Los Angeles Refinery as oil prices rise. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images.

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

OPEC+ deal lifts oil prices and energy stocks

Oil prices headed higher and energy stocks made gains after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies (OPEC+) agreed to only a limited increase in production.

Brent (BZ=F) and West Texas Intermediate crude futures (CL=F) were both trading 1.3% higher on Friday after the OPEC+ announcement.

Brent was trading at $49.36 (£36.71) a barrel and crude at $46.24 in mid-morning trade in London.

The news also lifted energy stocks, with European oil and gas firms on the Stoxx 600 index (^STOXX) up 2.3%. BP (BP.L) shares jumped 2.9% and Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB.L) shares more than 2.6%, among the biggest risers on the FTSE 100 (^FTSE) on Friday.

Stocks rise as hopes grow over bipartisan US stimulus deal

European stocks edged upwards on Friday and Wall Street futures were trading higher amid growing hopes of a bipartisan US stimulus deal.

The FTSE 100 hit a new nine-month high, rising 0.7% in Britain at the open as health authorities prepare to start a vaccine rollout next week. France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) and the Europe-wide Stoxx 600 benchmark rose 0.2%. Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) was down 0.1%.

In the US, S&P 500 futures (ES=F) were up 0.3%, Dow Jones futures (YM=F) 0.2% higher and the Nasdaq (NQ=F) up 0.4% after hitting a new record high on Thursday.

“Momentum continues to gather on the bipartisan stimulus deal that the Democratic leadership supported yesterday,” wrote Deutsche Bank analysts in a note.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democrat leader Chuck Schumer said they “could come to an agreement” based on a $908bn (£674bn) plan devised by a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

Overnight in Asia, Pfizer’s vaccine production issues knocked the Nikkei (^N225) in Japan off a 29-year high, with the index closing down 0.2%.

The Hong Kong Hang Seng (^HSI) gained 0.2%, while the Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) rose 0.1%, while the Shenzen Component (399001.SZ) 0.4%.

Primark endures £430m hit to sales due to COVID lockdowns

Budget retailer Primark unveiled a £430m ($577m) hit in sales from autumn COVID-19 restrictions across the UK, the lockdown in England and the rest of Europe.

But despite the higher than expected knock, its owner Associated British Foods (ABF.L) said that the chain remains on course to deliver improved profits.

It revealed that it recovered some of the costs, with overheads falling 25% during the autumn lockdowns, and early signs that reopened shops are “seeing strong sales.”

ABF said it expected this financial year, which runs from September, to produce higher sales and profits compared to the previous 12 months.

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