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City Bulletin: Prices rise at slowest rate in almost 5 years


Last month’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme of cheap meals contributed to one of the largest falls in the UK inflation rate of recent years, official data shows. Consumer prices rose at an annual rate of 0.2 per cent in August, the Office for National Statistics said, the lowest rate in almost five years. In July, consumer price inflation was 1 per cent. Prices fell 0.4 per cent on a monthly basis between July and August.

Other factors also contributed to the falling inflation rate. The cancellation of the traditional summer holiday exodus meant air fares fell last month for the first time since records began. And there hasn’t been the usual increase in clothing prices as new season stock hits stores.

That could contribute to pressure on the Bank of England to take further action to stimulate the UK economy later in the year — though the Bank is expected to hold off acting when it meets on Thursday.

Briefly

Housebuilder Redrow only completed on 264 homes between April and June rather than the 2,345 it managed during the same period last year, showing the effect of lockdown on the industry. It fell to a loss in the second half of its fiscal year, though it still reported a pre-tax profit for the year to June of £140m (down from £406m in 2019). Redrow said that armed with a record order book, it expects to resume dividend payments next year.

Thomas Cook has relaunched as an online-only brand after extra investment from the Chinese conglomerate Fosun. Fosun bought the brand last year for £11m after the tour operator collapsed, with its shops sold to Hays Travel. The Chinese group will invest another £6m, with Thomas Cook starting selling holidays online on Wednesday with a team of just 50 staff.

The Premier League is stepping up a fight against piracy with extra powers to shut down pirate streaming services, our Sports Editor reports. the League has secured new High Court Orders known as a “Super Block” to help protect UK broadcasting deals worth £5bn.

Beyond the Square Mile 

TikTok logo
© REUTERS

ByteDance will place TikTok’s global business in a new US-headquartered company with Oracle investing as a minority shareholder, said people briefed on a plan presented to US officials. President Donald Trump issued an executive order setting a September 20 deadline for the sale of TikTok’s US operations and it is still unclear whether the new ownership and governance structure will satisfy his demands. Other US investors, potentially including the world’s largest retailer Walmart, which had launched a joint bid with Microsoft, would also own a minority stake, people briefed on discussions about the sale said.

Apple on Tuesday unveiled new versions of its watch and iPad, including the Apple Watch 6 which now has the ability to measure blood oxygen levels and can track elevation. It also revealed a mid-priced Apple Watch SE, as it tries to broaden the appeal of its accessories. Apple is the global leader in smart watches but only about 10 per cent of its almost 1bn iPhone users have an Apple Watch. The $2tn tech giant underscored its increasing focus on selling subscription services, with a new “Apple One” bundle including storage, games, music, movie streaming.

Snowflake has raised the largest initial public offering ever for a US software company. Investors agreed to purchase 28m shares in the cloud software business valued at $120 apiece, said people briefed on the offering. The share sale raised close to $3.4bn and would give the company a market capitalisation of more than $33bn, based on the number of shares outstanding. The shares will start trading on the New York Stock Exchange later on Wednesday.

Essential comment before you go

© James Ferguson/Financial Times

Sarah O’Connor
This year’s pandemic has underlined that to “WFH” in 2020 is a privilege confined mostly to the well paid. But there is a seemingly futuristic way to earn money from home without a professional job. It’s called crowd-work and people are flocking to it because of Covid-19.

Lombard
The High Court judgment on business interruption insurance handed down on Tuesday makes the Financial Conduct Authority look Fast, Competent and Adept. For once.

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