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Grim start to the week

The FTSE is trading lower and US futures are pointing to a weaker opening in the face of the inexorable corona spread on both continents. With the US now rising to the third highest place in terms of the number of diagnosed cases the forecast for the country’s economy is being frantically revised lower.

EIA crude oil stocks on Wednesday and initial jobless claims on Thursday will be the most relevant indicators this week because they are the quickest to reflect what has happened on the ground last week, when movement restrictions came in and a number of US cities brought in closures of cafes, bars and restaurants. The bigger economic indicators have a time lag and are showing February data which has, for the moment, become as good as irrelevant.

On the FTSE ITV took a 10% hit to its shares after it suspend the filming of some of its most watched soaps because of the social distancing restrictions and also decided to not to pay out a dividend. The UK government is mulling bringing in even stricter measures which could potentially include banning all non-essential shopping, a move that would hit fashion retailers and sportswear makers like Next and JD Sports. 

A ciggie in a crisis?

Among the very few stocks still trading in the black are tobacco firm Imperial Brands and retailers Sainsbury's and Morrisons which are still struggling to restock their shops emptied during the corona panic buying. Supermarkets are also one of the few industries currently hiring staff rather than firing. 

The pound perked up at the start of the day but the optimism didn’t survive the onslaught of news and the currency nudged lower quickly to challenge the $1.16 level.

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