The UK’s GDP is still 2.1% below pre-pandemic levels. Britain’s economy gained just 0.1% in July, despite a 9% boost in the entertainment sectors as social distancing restrictions eased. Meanwhile, construction contracted for a fourth consecutive month and output from consumer-facing services fell by 0.3%, thanks to a 2.5% fall in UK retail sales.
According to the latest figures, UK companies added a record 241,000 new staff in August, taking the total number of pay-rolled employees to just above pre-pandemic levels. Even so, the jobless rate only moved from 4.7% to 4.6% in the three months to July while the total number of UK job vacancies exceeded one million for the first time.
The figures released on Tuesday (14 Sep) reflect an uptick in the UK economy after July’s washout caused by hundreds of thousands of workers being notified of the need to stay home. Meanwhile, Britain’s furlough scheme, which at one point supported around a third of UK employees, ends on 30 September. Last month, it was still supporting some 700,000 full-time UK workers.
The news, which raised the spectre of UK interest-rate rises, pushed UK gilt yields to their highest since the start of the pandemic.
Shares in the Chinese platform giant Alibaba plummeted 6% in trading on Monday (13 Sep) when the latest government restructure of Jack Ma’s burgeoning business empire, which includes Ant Group and Alibaba, was announced. The Hang Seng Tech index, which tracks China’s biggest Hong Kong-listed tech groups, recoiled more than 3% at news of the crackdown.
According to reports, Chinese regulators are intent on breaking up Ant Group’s, Alipay, into two separate entities. Alipay is the monster payments app with more than one billion global users whose loan businesses issued around 10% of China’s (non-mortgage) retail loans last year.
Beijing now wants a separate app for the loans businesses in a new joint venture that will have state-owned companies as majority stakeholders. Ant Group has already been forced to separate its two lending businesses, Huabei and Jiebei, from the rest of its holdings.
Late last year, the Chinese authorities torpedoed Ant Group’s planned $37bn IPO and in April they imposed a record $2.8bn fine on Alibaba to settle an investigation by Chinese regulators.