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Business briefing: Pound drops to lowest in 35 years as stimulus fails

PANIC selling by investors drove the stock market further into the red yesterday as the chancellor’s stimulus measures failed to spark a recovery.

The strengthening dollar pushed the pound to its lowest point against the US currency in 35 years as global markets continued to reel from the pandemic.

However, the increasing spread of the virus in the UK meant multinational stocks were unable to benefit from the weakness in the pound.

The FTSE-100 closed 214 points lower — four per cent — at 5,080.

David Madden, analyst at CMC Markets UK, said: ‘The stimulus packages [from chancellor Rishi Sunak] have done little to reassure the markets as panic selling was witnessed today.

‘Government announced packages to help combat the crisis but they won’t kick in for a while, and there is the possibility they won’t be enough to stop a major slowdown in economic activity.’

Sterling also dipped significantly lower against the euro as the number of UK coronavirus deaths increased to 104.

The value of the pound fell 4.4 per cent versus the US dollar at 1.153 and was also down 2.7 per cent against the euro at 1.066. The major European markets all closed firmly in the red as traders continued their sell-off.

The German Dax decreased by 5.56 per cent while the French Cac moved 5.94 per cent lower.

Across the Atlantic, the Dow Jones closed down 1,333.61 points last night — more than six per cent.

Leisure stocks continued to tumble, with Mr Sunak’s announcement of financial support for companies in the sector doing little to impress traders.

However, Morrisons saw shares surge 18p after a jump in sales due to nationwide stockpiling.

The grocery group, which on Tuesday announced plans to hire 3,500 staff, said like-for-like retail sales rose five per cent in the six weeks since its year-end.

Increased demand helped to drive shares higher across the other listed supermarkets, with Tesco, Ocado and Sainsbury’s all shooting higher.

Gin makers give locals a hand with free sanitiser

Gin-ius idea: The distillers will transfer their skills into making cleansing gel PICTURE: LEITH GIN

A GIN distillery has entered into the community spirit by scrapping production to make hand sanitiser instead.

Leith Gin in Edinburgh will give away the antibacterial gel to locals in need.

Co-founders Karin and Derek Mair hope to make the sanitiser available in public places, including housing blocks, nurseries and police stations.

Ms Mair said: ‘It started when we made some up last week for staff covering a gin event in Glasgow, and then some for family and friends.

‘But as the situation seems to be escalating so rapidly, it just seems the right thing to do. Our community supports us, so it’s good to do something for them.’

The couple have set aside 1,000 litres of high-strength alcohol for their gel using ingredients recommended by the World Health Organization, including glycerin and demineralised water.

They are now asking for help sourcing bottles, as well as distributing the products.

‘The sanitiser will be absolutely free,’ Mr Mair said. ‘It’s not for sale and not for profit. We’ll take the hit.

‘It’s very labour intensive but nobody’s buying gin so we may as well do something with ourselves.’

Generation of renters face bleak retirement

HIGH house prices will keep a generation of tenants renting into old age, says a study.

Three in four over-65s currently own their home. But 30- and 40-year-olds are much less likely to be owners than in the past, said the Office for National Statistics’s Housing Tenure In Later Life report. ‘We expect to see far more older people renting from private landlords in the future,’ it said.

Mortgage expert Steve Wilkie warned: ‘We have a retirement poverty crisis brewing. And many pensioners will still be paying off mortgages well into retirement.’

Facebook fixes bug that deleted valid virus posts

FACEBOOK has confirmed a bug in its spam filter removed legitimate news articles about coronavirus.

Some users were alerted that their posts — often news stories from trusted sources — had been marked as spam and taken down.

Guy Rosen, an executive at the social network, tweeted that the problem was caused by ‘a bug in an anti-spam system’.

He later said an issue ‘with an automated system that removes links to abusive websites’ had been fixed. Mr Rosen denied suggestions it was Facebook relying more on artificial intelligence and automation after staff were sent home as part of social distancing efforts.

Facebook, Google, Microsoft and forums such as Reddit, are working together to keep people connected and banning posts that spread panic or fake news.