UK job vacancies dived in the three months to March as the labour market contracted in the face of the coronavirus. Before the coronavirus crisis gripped the UK and the nation was forced to lockdown to stop the spread of the killer disease, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the number of job vacancies plunged by 52,000 to 795,000 for the quarter.
Economists also revealed on Tuesday that unemployment increased by 22,000 to 1.36 million in the three months to February, before COVID-19 gripped the UK.
David Freeman, ONS head of labour market statistics, said: “Our final data wholly from before the coronavirus restrictions were in place showed the labour market was very robust in the three months to February.
“For the first time, we have brought forward information on the number of employees in work using PAYE data to cover a more recent period.
“These experimental statistics show a softening picture in March, but cover the month as a whole including the period before the coronavirus restrictions were in place.”
It comes as US oil prices recovered on Tuesday to trade in positive territory after sinking below $ 0 for the first time ever, but international benchmark Brent dipped as demand for crude dropped due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for May delivery was up $ 39.00 in thin trade at $ 1.37 a barrel by 3.56am (GMT) after settling down at a discount of $ 37.63 a barrel in the previous session. The May contract expires on Tuesday and the more-active June contract rose 96 cents, or 4.7 percent, to $ 21.39 a barrel. Global benchmark Brent crude for June delivery was down 20 cents, or 0.8 percent, at $ 25.37 per barrel.
Edward Moya, senior market analyst at broker OANDA, said: “Demand destruction from COVID-19 will see a slower than expected reopening of the US economy.
“The WTI crude June contract was able to hold the $ 20 a barrel level and is seeing a modest gain following the painful rollover of the May contract.”
Oil prices have skidded as travel restrictions and lockdowns to contain the spread of the coronavirus curbed global fuel use, with demand down 30 percent worldwide.
That has resulted in growing crude stockpiles with storage space becoming harder to find.
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9.32am update: FTSE 100 down
The FTSE 100 index at 9.15am was down 87.24 at 5725.59.
8.51am update: FTSE 100 update
The FTSE 100 index at 8.45am was down 114.71 at 5698.12.
8.37am update: UK shares dented by oil shock
Oil majors BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell fell more than 3 percent.
The dramatic fall sapped risk appetite globally, pushing the benchmark down 1.3 percent by 7.15am.
The world’s largest listed miner, BHP Group, fell 4.5 percent after it warned that global steel production excluding China could drop sharply this year due to the pandemic.
Shares in fellow miners Rio Tinto and Glencore fell about 4 percent.
8.19am update: FTSE down
The FTSE-100 index at 8.15am was down 79.33 at 5733.50.
8.08am update: Price of oil will stay low for ‘some time’
Former BP boss John Browne said the oil price will stay low for some time as supply exceeds demand and the current situation on global oil markets is reminiscent of the 1980s oil glut.
He told the BBC: “The prices will be very low and I think they will remain low and very volatile for some considerable time.
“This is very reminiscent of a time in the mid-1980s when exactly the same situation happened – too much supply, too little demand and prices of oil stayed low for 17 years.”
8.01am update: FTSE 100 opens
The FTSE 100 index opened at 5,812.83
7.47am update: FTSE index unchanged
The FTSE-100 index at 7.44am was unchanged at 5812.8
7.56am update: EU’s financial ruin exposed
European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Thierry Breton said €1.6trillion could be needed to help Europe’s economy recover from the coronavirus.
7.33am update: Australia’s economy to shrink by 10%
Australia will suffer its biggest economic contraction since the 1930s in the first half of 2020 due to coronavirus-driven mobility restrictions, the central banker governor said on Tuesday.
Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Governor Philip Lowe said in a speech in Sydney the country’s national output would fall by around 10 percent in the first half of 2020, with most of this decline taking place in the June quarter.
Unemployment is likely to be around 10 percent by June as total hours worked are likely to decline by around 20 percent, he added. The jobless rate was at 5.2 percent in March.
Mr Lowe said: “These are all very large numbers and ones that were inconceivable just a few months ago.
“They speak to the immense challenge faced by our society to contain the virus.”
7.09am update: Analysts say ‘little room for complacency’
DBS strategists Philip Wee and Eugene Leow said: “There is little room for complacency.
“Weak oil prices and China’s negative growth are reminders that the coronavirus has hurt demand.”
7.07am update: FTSE futures slump
FTSE futures lost 2 percent, as did the Nikkei, EuroSTOXX 50 futures and MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan.
E-mini futures for the S&P 500 fell 0.5 percent, while bonds and the dollar rose.