Putin prepares to stop propping up Russian markets - live updates

Vladimir Putin Russia rouble markets Moscow sanctions - Evgeny Biyatov, SputnikElon Musk offers to buy Twitter for $43bn

P&O suspends Dover-Calais ferry services as Easter travel chaos deepens

FTSE 100 stumbles as inflation surges

Ben Wright: Germany's cowardice over Russian gas makes a mockery of eurozone solidarity

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Vladimir Putin is said to be considering a gradual approach to rolling back the harsh capital controls that have propped up Russian markets since the invasion of Ukraine.

Officials are considering reducing the proportion of overseas earnings exporters must convert into roubles and giving them more time to do so, Bloomberg reports.

At the moment, they are obliged to sell 80pc of their forex revenues within three days of receiving them.

It would mark an easing of measures that have been in place for over a month as Russia scrambled to stave off a market collapse as western nations rolled out sanctions and investors fled.

It comes even as the US, UK and EU continue to ratchet up sanctions against Moscow, although the country’s key energy sector has remained largely unscathed so far.

01:04 PMCitigroup sets aside $1.9bn for Russia lossesCitigroup bank trading Russia - REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File PhotoCitigroup said it's set aside $1.9bn (£1.5bn) in reserves due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which was one factor driving a drop in the bank's quarterly profits.

The reserve build was "related to Citi's exposures in Russia and the broader impact of the conflict in Ukraine on the macroeconomic environment," the lender said.

The bank reported a 46pc drop in first-quarter profits to $4.3bn.

However, Citigroup delivered better-than-expected trading results as the conflict sparked volatility in markets.

12:57 PMLagarde: Ukraine war 'severely affecting' eurozone economyECB President Christine Lagarde has warned Russia's war in Ukraine is "severely" impacting the eurozone economy, with surging energy costs, supply chain disruptions and weaker consumer confidence weighing on growth.

She said in a press conference: "The war in Ukraine is severely affecting the euro area economy and has significantly increased uncertainty. The impact of the war on the economy will depend on how the conflict evolves, on the effect of current sanctions and on possible further measures."

It came after the ECB held interest rates steady, but confirmed its intention to end bond buying in the third quarter.

Officials have hinted at "gradual" interest rate hikes after asset purchases have ended, with the ECB lagging behind both the Bank of England and Federal Reserve.

Consumer prices surged by almost four times the ECB's 2pc target last month, but the central bank is also bracing for an economic slowdown as a result of the war.

12:15 PMGoldman Sachs profit nearly halves as dealmaking slowsGoldman Sachs chief David Solomon - Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagicGoldman Sachs’ profit nearly halved in the first quarter as markets returned to more normal levels of activity after last year’s dealmaking boom.

The Wall Street bank posted profits of $2.8bn (£2.9bn) in the first three months of the year, down from $6.7bn in 2021.

It came after rival Morgan Stanley reported an 11pc drop in profit to $3.5bn. However, it benefited from a near doubling of advisory revenues, driven by higher levels of completed M&A transactions.

After a flurry of dealmaking last year, Wall Street’s largest investment banks have battled turbulence stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which unsettled equity markets and forced companies to hold off on mergers, acquisitions and stock market listings.

12:07 PMReaction: Is the ECB acting quickly enough?Neil Birrell at Premier Miton Investors questions whether the ECB's slow and steady approach will be enough.

Coming into this meeting, the ECB had to deal with inflation being four times target. So it was no surprise to hear it say it will take whatever action is needed to fulfil its mandate.

Asset purchases should end in the third quarter, then we will see rates up at some point after that. It is sticking with a gradual and flexible approach, which is good, but will it act fast enough? It is clear that the war in Ukraine is a major concern for the bank.

11:56 AMECB: We'll take whatever action is needed to fulfil mandateIn a statement alongside its decision, the ECB's Governing Council said:

Inflation has increased significantly and will remain high over the coming months, mainly because of the sharp rise in energy costs.

The Governing Council will take whatever action is needed to fulfill the ECB's mandate to pursue price stability and to contribute to safeguarding financial stability.

11:53 AMECB leaves interest rates unchangedThe European Central Bank has left its key interest rates unchanged as policymakers weigh up surging inflation against the risks of an economic slowdown sparked by war in Ukraine.

The rate on the ECB's main refinancing operations remains at zero, its marginal lending facility at 0.25 percent and its bank deposit rate at negative 0.5 percent.

The central bank said its rates will remain at record lows and won't rise until projections show inflation sustainably at 2pc.

However, the ECB did confirm its plan to end its asset purchase programme in the third quarter. It plans to buy €40bn of bonds this month, falling to €30bn in May and €20bn in June.

The decision was expected, but all eyes will be on President Christine Lagarde for signs she's laying the ground for future interest rate rises.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.Update your settings here to see it.11:39 AMUkraine economy could contract by a third, warns central bankUkraine's central bank has warned that the country's economy could contract by at least a third and inflation could hit 20pc this year as a result of Russia's invasion.

In a statement, the central bank said it would postpone a decision on its key interest rate for the second time since the war started in February.

It added that maintaining a fixed exchange rate remained important for now, but that it would return to a floating rate as soon as the currency market could balance itself.

11:33 AMBoris Johnson: Sunak can be Chancellor for as long as he wantsBoris Johnson Rishi Sunak - Dan Kitwood / POOL / AFPCloser to home, Boris Johnson has offered an emphatic endorsement of Rishi Sunak despite recent revelations about his personal and financial affairs.

Asked at a press conference if the Chancellor – whose popularity among voters has tumbled – can stay in his job for “as long as he wants it,” the Prime Minister replied with an immediate and firm: “Yes.”

Speculation has been rife that Mr Sunak may be shuffled out of his post over the summer, following reports about his family’s tax affairs and the fact he held a US green card while already a cabinet minister. He’s also been criticised over his response to soaring living costs.

His bad month was capped off two days ago when both the Chancellor and the Prime Minister were fined for breaking the Covid lockdown rules by attending a party to mark Mr Johnson’s birthday in June 2020.

11:22 AMTwitter says it will 'carefully review' takeover offerIn a brief statement, Twitter has confirmed it's received Elon Musk's takeover offer.

It said: "The Twitter Board of Directors will carefully review the proposal to determine the course of action that it believes is in the best interest of the Company and all Twitter stockholders."

11:18 AMReaction: Musk deal likely has soap opera endingDaniel Ives, an analyst at Wedbush, says Musk's takeover of Twitter is now an inevitability.

Musk previously had a 9.2pc stake before the filing this morning and now ultimately we believe this soap opera will end with Musk owning Twitter after this aggressive hostile takeover of the company.

It would be hard for any other bidders/consortium to emerge and the Twitter board will be forced likely to accept this bid and/or run an active process to sell Twitter.

There will be host of questions around financing, regulatory, balancing Musk's time (Tesla, SpaceX) in the coming days but ultimately based on this filing it is a now or never bid for Twitter to accept.

The next step will be Twitter's board officially reviewing the Musk filing/letter and then its get out the popcorn time as we expect many twists and turns in the weeks ahead as Twitter and Musk walk down this marriage path.

11:07 AMTwitter shares set to lead Wall Street higherWall Street is set to open higher this afternoon, with Twitter leading risers in pre-market trading.

The social media company jumped 12pc after Tesla tycoon Elon Musk said he has tabled a takeover offer worth around $43bn.

Investors are also gearing up for a slew of results from major banks. Morgan Stanley edged lower ahead of its figures, while Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Wells Fargo all gained ground.

Futures tracking the tech-heavy Nasdaq ticked up 0.1pc. The Dow Jones rose 0.2pc, while the S&P 500 was largely unchanged.

10:57 AMHow will Musk raise takeover cash?Our tech editor James Titcomb raises the question of how Elon Musk would raise the $43bn in cash needed for the takeover.

Bloomberg data shows the world's richest man has less than $3bn in cash, with the rest held in shares. So would he have to sell some of his stake in Tesla, or could he borrow against his shares?

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.Update your settings here to see it.10:39 AM$54.20 – a joke price?Our associate editor Ben Wright points out that Musk's $54.20 per share offer is likely a joke.

The outspoken billionaire has previously got himself in hot water over his obsession with 420 – a reference to smoking cannabis.

In 2018 he tweeted that he had secured funding to take Tesla private a $420 per share. The move cost him and the company $40m in an SEC settlement and lost Musk his role as chairman.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.Update your settings here to see it.10:33 AMMusk: This is not a threatIn correspondence published by the SEC, Elon Musk told Twitter bosses that he'd sell his shareholder in the company if his takeover offer wasn't accepted.

He's quick to point out, however, that this "is not a threat".

He wrote:

If the deal doesn’t work, given that I don’t have confidence in management nor do I believe I can drive the necessary change in the public market, I would need to reconsider my position as a shareholder.

This is not a threat, it's simply not a good investment without the changes that need to be made.

10:26 AMMusk: Twitter must be transformed as a private companyIn a letter to Twitter chairman Bret Taylor, Elon Musk said:

I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy.

However, since making my investment I now realise the company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form. Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company.

The Tesla boss adds that his offer is his "best and final" bid and that he would need to reconsider his shareholder if it's not accepted.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.Update your settings here to see it.10:20 AMElon Musk offers to buy TwitterElon Musk Twitter shares takeover - SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP via Getty ImagesElon Musk has tabled a bid to buy Twitter for around $41bn (£31bn).

The billionaire, who became Twitter's largest shareholder after taking a 9pc stake last week, has offered to acquired all the outstanding stock of the social media platform for $54.20 per share in cash.

The offer represents a 54pc premium to the company's closing price on January 28, the day before Mr Musk began investing in the company.

It's a 38pc premium on its closing price on April 1, the day for his investment was made public.

In a statement, Mr Musk said: "Twitter has extraordinary potential. I will unlock it." Shares jumped 12.5pc in pre-market trading.

10:05 AMRussia limits access to energy dataRussia is limiting access to its statistics on oil and gas production and exports as western nations explore tougher sanctions on the Kremlin's energy industry.

The energy ministry said it was "limiting the distribution of information, which could be used as an additional pressure on the Russian market and its participants".

The ministry unit which compiles the data, the CDU TEK, did not publish monthly data on April 2, Reuters reports. That's the first such delay in years.

The ministry added: "The industry's statistical data, amid the restrictions, is quite sensitive to manipulation, which endangers operations of CDU TEK's counterparties."

Russia's oil and gas condensate production on Monday fell below 10m barrels per day (bpd) to its lowest since July 2020, two sources told Reuters. The International Energy Agency has forecast that Russian oil production could fall by 1.5m bpd this month.

Oil majors including BP and Shell have cut ties with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, while calls are mounting for the EU to roll out a full ban on energy imports.

09:46 AMBritain will have enough gas for summer, says National GridThe UK will have enough gas to meet demand from April to September and will even ship more gas to Europe to help top up supplies on the continent.

That's according to National Grid, which said total UK gas demand is forecast at 34bn cubic metres (bcm) in the six months over the summer, compared to 31.9 bcm in the same period of last year.

Supply – which comes mainly from the North Sea and Norway – is forecast at 34 bcm compared to 31.5 bcm last year.

The UK only gets around 3pc of its gas from Russia, while the EU relies on the Kremlin for around 40pc of its needs.

The outbreak of war has forced several EU countries to reduce reliance on Russian gas, while Putin's demand for payments in roubles has sparked fears supplies could be cut.

In its annual summer outlook National Grid said: "This uncertainty, coupled with high gas prices and low EU storage, means that higher volumes of gas from alternative sources may be required to refill EU storage to minimum levels in preparation for winter 2022/23."

09:31 AMGas prices fall ahead of Putin energy meetingNatural gas prices declined this morning ahead of a meeting chaired by Vladimir Putin that could provide more clarity on his demands for energy payments in roubles.

Logistics issues and payments for Russian oil and gas exports will be discussed at the gathering, local media reported.

The market has a close eye on looming deadlines for Putin's demand that gas supplies be paid for in roubles. Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak last week said most payments for April shipments – which are subject to the new order – are due next month.

Putin has threatened to cut off gas supplies if Europe fails to comply with his demands, which the West has rejected. The EU has reportedly concluded that paying in roubles would breach sanctions.

Benchmark European prices fell as much as 5.6pc, while the UK equivalent dropped 7.6pc.

09:13 AMHays warns of £5m hit from Russia exitRecruiter Hays has hailed a record start to the year, but warned its withdrawal from Russia would cost it around £5m.

The group posted a 32pc surge in like-for-like fees in the three months to the end of March, with record-breaking results across 19 countries and its highest-ever monthly fees in March.

It said wages were rising around the globe in response to steep rises in the cost of living.

Hays said the closure of its offices in Russia will result in about £5m in one-off costs. The sites in Moscow and St Petersburg accounted in half-year results for around £5.9m in group fees and about 1pc – or £800,000 – of overall earnings.

The firm says it remains on track for full-year operating profits of between £210m and £215m, excluding the Russia hit.

08:57 AMNo one wants to buy an NFT of Jack Dorsey's first tweetJack Dorsey Twitter NFT auction - Marco BELLO / AFPThe man who paid $2.9m (£2.2m) for a non-fungible token (NFT) of Jack Dorsey's first ever tweet is struggling to drum up any interest in it whatsoever.

Sina Estavi received just seven bids during an auction for the digital token, with the highest coming in at $280. That's somewhat shy of the $48m price tag he'd been hoping for.

Mr Estavi has two days to accept the bid or it will expire. He told Coindesk: “The deadline I set was over, but if I get a good offer, I might accept it, I might never sell it.”

The tweet, which says "just setting up my twttr," was posted in March 2006 and was auctioned off last year by the Twitter founder to raise money for charity.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.Update your settings here to see it.08:44 AMInflation drives pound higherSterling has pushed higher for a second day amid rising expectations that the Bank of England will raise interest rates to tackle the inflation surge.

The pound ticked up 0.1pc against the dollar to $1.3180. Against the euro, it was stable at 83.08p.

Fresh data released yesterday showed consumer prices jumped 7pc in March – ahead of expectations and a fresh 30-year high.

Money markets are betting that the Bank of England will raise interest rates to 1pc from 0.75pc at its May meeting, before taking them to at least 2pc by the end of the year.

08:33 AMRussia to attend G20 meeting virtuallyG20 host Indonesia has said Russia's finance minister Anton Siluanov will attend next week's summit virtually.

Indonesian authorities said they were also considering whether to invite Ukraine to the meeting, which will be held on in Washington April 20, to discuss the impact of the war in Ukraine.

The US has called for Russia to be expelled from the G20 and threatened to boycott meetings if Russian officials show up.

08:18 AMRouble falls as Putin prepares to ease controlsThe rouble has declined in early trading amid expectations that Russia will further relax its tough capital controls.

The Russian central bank is said to be considering easing requirements for mandatory foreign currency revenue sales by export-focused companies.

The rules were part of a string of emergency measures designed to stave off a market collapse.

The Russian currency fell 2pc against the dollar to 81.50 after hitting a recent high of 71 last week. Against the euro it fell 2.5pc.

The Moscow Exchange also fell 1.2pc as Putin vowed to plough on with his war and the West ramped up sanctions.

08:12 AMDunelm sales soar after store reopeningsDunelm retail costs Covid lockdown - REUTERS/Peter Cziborra/File Photo/File PhotoDunelm has posted a sharp rise in sales for the third quarter as the homeware retailer cashed in on store reopenings after lockdown.

The company reported a 69pc increase in sales to £399m for the 13 weeks to March 26. It also reported a better-than-expected rise of 30 basis points in gross profit margin thanks to a smaller proportion of sales from discounting.

Dunelm, which earlier this year said it would increase prices, said it was still battling cost pressures over the quarter.

Chef executive Nick Wilkinson said: "Whilst the macro environment remains uncertain, with significant headwinds and increasing pressures on the consumer, our wide product range offers choice for every budget."

07:58 AMEricsson warns of fines over Islamic State scandalEricsson has warned it's facing new fines after admitting it may have paid off terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq.

The Swedish telecoms giant said the penalties would related to the corruption scandal and its failure to properly inform US authorities.

It said the size of the fines "cannot at this time be reliably estimated".

It came as Ericsson reported adjusted operating profit of 4.8bn krona (£387m) – short of analysts' estimates. Profits were dented by charges related to exiting Russia.

The scandal has taken its toll on Ericsson's share price, while boss Bjorn Ekholm is facing an investor backlash over his role.

07:47 AMWizz Air boosted by jump in demandWizz Air Covid demand summer - Cristi CroitoruWizz Air has narrowed its loss in the first three months of the year as the easing of travel restrictions boosted demand.

The budget airline said it expects to report losses of between €190m (£158m) and €210m in its fourth quarter – better than the €214m loss it forecast in January.

Wizz Air said demand had been encouraging over the last few weeks, echoing similar comments by rivals such as easyJet. Shares jumped more than 8pc.

Jozsef Varadi, chief executive of Wizz, said the airline was on track to expand this summer despite the omicron outbreak and surging fuel prices as a result of the Ukraine war.

The company said it's hedged 36pc of its fuel needs between April and August. It's adding more aircraft to its fleet as it looks to boost seat capacity in the crucial summer period.

07:34 AMFTSE risers and fallersThe FTSE 100 has started on the back foot, putting it on track to break five straight weeks of gains.

The blue-chip index fell 0.3pc, with energy giants BP and Shell losing ground as oil prices declined.

There were also losses for pharmaceutical firms AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline, while Unilever, Diageo and British American Tobacco all fell as a stronger pound hit large dollar-earning companies.

The FTSE 250 fell 0.2pc. Wizz Air bucked the trend, rising 6.9pc after stronger demand as travel restrictions eased helped it narrow its loss.

07:24 AMPutin's roubles-for-gas demand would breach sanctions, warns EUThe EU has warned member states that Putin's demand that "unfriendly nations" pay for gas in roubles would violate sanctions.

Putin's order stipulates that buyers open two accounts – one in a foreign currency and one in rubles – with Gazprombank responsible for converting the foreign currency into roubles and transferring that to Gazprom.

The Russian leader has threatened to cut off supplies if Europe doesn't comply with the convoluted payment method.

But the European Commission's initial legal analysis has found that the demand alters the procedure and could introduce new costs for the buyer, Bloomberg reports.

Crucially, it would be in breach of western sanctions and could also have an impact on other bans that could be introduced by Gazprombank, the EU found.

07:15 AMP&O cancels all Easter ferries as crisis deepensP&O Ferries Dover Calais - Finnbarr Webster/Getty ImagesMeanwhile, the Easter travel chaos looks set to worsen after P&O Ferries said it was cancelling all passenger services over the Bank Holiday weekend.

The company, which has suspended sailing since its controversial decision to sack 800 workers without notice, had hoped to resume service in time for Good Friday.

But the beleaguered firm confirmed there will be no ferries between Dover and Calais this weekend, threatening to ruin holiday plans for thousands of passengers.

It comes after the Maritime and Coastguard Agency detained a second P&O ferry yesterday after an inspection found safety "deficiencies".

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.Update your settings here to see it.07:11 AMNational Grid cashes in on energy price surgeNational Grid has upgraded its profit forecasts after cashing in on the recent surge in energy prices.

The utilities giant said it expects underlying profits in its UK business to be above the guidance given in November, mainly driven by higher inflation.

It comes after the price cap on energy bills soared 54pc from the start of this month, while a further rise is expected at the next review in October.

07:03 AMFTSE 100 falls at the openThe FTSE 100 has lost ground at the open, as investors focus on surging inflation and the war in Ukraine ahead of the long weekend

The blue-chip index slipped 0.3pc to 7,555 points.

07:00 AMPetropavlovsk mulls asset fire sale as sanctions biteEmbattled miner Petropavlovsk is considering selling off its subsidiaries after sanctions against its main lender Gazprombank put the company's future in peril.

The London-listed firm said it's appointed AlixPartners to explore options, including the sale of its entire interests in its operating subsidiaries "as soon as practically possible".

The miner said it's still looking for options to sell its gold, including to other potential buyers, after sanctions against Gazprombank left it unable to make transactions.

Petropavlovsk had previously started talks with advisers for a potential debt restructuring. It was unable to make about $10m (£7.6m) of interest payments due last month.

The company has been hit hard by the war in Ukraine, with shares tanking more than 80pc since the start of the year.

06:49 AMHow has Putin propped up the market?Russia was forced to roll out a string of emergency measures in response to sanctions and an exodus of investors.

Facing a rapid sell-off and the sharpest fall in the rouble since 1998, authorities ordered the sale of foreign earnings alongside other steps including a ban on foreigners withdrawing their investments.

With sanctions blocking access to the central bank's international reserves, responsibility for defending the rouble was effectively shifted to exporters – mainly energy giants such as Gazprom and Rosneft.

But with the country raking in huge revenues in dollars from record commodities prices, there's now a mismatch between supply and demand of foreign currency.

Iskander Lutsko, an analyst at ITI Capital, told Bloomberg: "Russia is getting huge foreign currency inflow but the market can't digest this volume. Trade volumes are insignificant, there are no foreign investors, no offshore market, no algotrading, no big players, even local ones."

The central bank has already begun loosening some capital controls. It's eased restrictions on transfers abroad and last week said it would remove a commission on buying hard currency through brokerages and scrap a ban on the sale of foreign money to individuals.

06:39 AMPutin prepares to ease support for roubleGood morning.

Russian authorities are said to be preparing a step-by-step approach to rolling back capital controls that have propped up markets ever since the war began.

Discussions this week revolved around a potential extension of the deadline for exporters to convert their foreign earnings to roubles, and a lowering of the threshold below 80pc.

The move would raise questions over the efficacy of western sanctions, which were designed to bring the Russian economy to its knees.

Calls have been mounting for countries to target key imports of oil and gas from Russia to help cut off a crucial source of revenue, but Europe has so far been divided on the issue.

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2) How the Bank of England lost control of inflation Despite warnings about a looming cost-of-living crisis more than a year ago, rate-setters at Threadneedle Street failed to take action

3) £60,000 not enough for job at Treasury's new northern outpost Ex-government adviser says salary for labour market policy role based in Darlington is too low

4) Britain needs oil and gas, Kwarteng tells Extinction Rebellion protesters How Extinction Rebellion missed the mark with its attack on the City

5) Rail operator faces strike over ‘see-through’ uniforms Avanti is embroiled in a row with the RMT after giving workers 'flimsy new blouses and shirts'

What happened overnightAsian shares tracked Wall Street higher on Thursday.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.4pc in early Asian trading, buoyed by a 0.5pc gain in Australia's resource-heavy shares and a 0.6pc advance in mainland China's blue chip stocks. Japan's Nikkei was up 1.2pc.

South Korean shares were an outlier on Thursday. The KOSPI index fell 0.4pc as the central bank raised its policy rate to the highest since August 2019 in an unexpected move as it seeks to quell surging inflation.

Asian markets including Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia are on holiday on Friday for Easter, as are major European and US markets.

Coming up todayCorporate: THG (full-year results); Ashmore Group, DiscoverIE Group, Dunelm, Hays, Mediclinic International, Ninety One (trading statement)

Economics: ECB interest rate decision (EU), retail sales (US), jobless claims (US), Bank of England credit conditions survey (UK), Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index (US)

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de-list Russian companies' depositary receipts from foreign exchanges, according to two people familiar with the matter. The potential windfall is due to the fees that bank issuers of depositary receipts can contractually charge investors when they cancel the product. It is unclear how much companies and banks could make or if banks will charge the fees and risk angering investors who say it would be unfair given the extraordinary circumstances which have been triggered by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
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